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Eight new cases of influenza A (H1N1) in India

Eight new cases of influenza A (H1N1) were reported today from India, including two each from Mumbai and Delhi, three from Bangalore and one from Hyderabad.

With these, the total number of confirmed cases of the virus reported from the country so far has gone up to 153, an official statement said.

The latest cases in Mumbai are of two youths, both aged 25, who travelled together from Singapore and reached the metropolis on July 5 via Bangkok by a Sri Lankan Airlines flight. Both of them were detected during the health screening at the airport with symptoms of the flu and admitted to hospital.

The case from Hyderabad is a nine-year-old boy who arrived on July 3 from Chicago in the United States by an Air India flight. He was brought to the hospital on July 5 with symptoms of fever and cough, the release said.

The two cases in Delhi are of a 25-year-old man who travelled from Frankfurt to Delhi via Dubai by an Emirates flight and a 51-year-old man who arrived from Melbourne by a Thai Airways flight. Both were found to have symptoms of the flu during the airport screening.

In Bangalore, a 33-year-old man who arrived on July 5 from Melbourne via Kuala Lumpur reported to hospital the next day with various symptoms. The second case is a 26-year-old youth who arrived from Singapore by a Singapore Airline flight yesterday and was detected at the airport with symptoms of the flu. Another 25-year-old youth who travelled from Sydney via Singapore was also detected at the airport with fever.

Of the 153 cases, as many as 106 patients have already been discharged while the rest are undergoing treatment in hospital, the statement added.

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Sibal to attend World Conference on Higher Education

Union Minister for Human Resource Development is leaving here tonight to attend the 2009 World Conference on Higher Education being organised by UNESCO in Paris.

Mr Sibal would be the keynote speaker at the plenary session on "Beyond Talk: What Action for Higher Education and Research", an official press release said.

The theme of the conference is "The New Dynamics of Higher Education and Research for Societal Change and Development". Some of the topics that will come up for discussion are the role of higher education in addressing major global challenges, equity access and quality and learning research and innovation.

Mr Sibal will interact with his counterparts form other participating countries on the sidelines of the event, the release added.

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Delhi Police to get modern communication network before CW Games

Delhi Police will get a modern communication network as part of a larger Rs 200 crore project for mega cities in the country that has been included for implementation in the XIth Plan.

The scheme, called "Developing of Traffic and Communication Network in the National Capital Region (NCR) and Mega Cities and Model System of Traffic Management", has two components---introduction of Intelligent Traffic System (ITS) and setting up of an Integrated Data Communication Network (Cyber Highway).

Minister of State for Home Affairs Mullapally Ramachandran told the Lok Sabha in a written reply that the proposed Cyber Highway would be the primary source of connectivity of Delhi Police Headquarters, offices of the Deputy Commissioners of Police, police posts and field units.

It will be used for connectivity for video conferencing, inventory management system, closed circuit television, web-based dossier system, automatic finger and palm print identification system, intelligent traffic management system, IP telephony, internal e-mail system, automatic vehicle tracking system, command and control system for Commonwealth Games 2010 as well as for crime and criminal data, he said.

Mr Ramachandran said the Home Ministery had sanctioned Rs 5.07 crore to Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL) for carrying out the pre-investment activity. The scheme is proposed to be implemented in the firt phase in the areas connected with the Commonwealth Games that Delhi will host in October next year.

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MPs pay tributes to Syama Prasad Mookerjee

Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar led parliamentarians in paying floral tributes at the portrait of Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee in the Central Hall of Parliament on his birth anniversary today.

Dr Mookerjee had been inducted by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in the Interim Central Government as Minister for Industry and Supply. He, however, quit the Cabinet in April, 1950 on the issue of the 1949 Delhi Pact with Pakistan Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan and launched the Jan Sangh in October, 1951. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the main opposition party today, is the successor organisation to the Jana Sangh.

Among those who offered floral tributes to Dr Mookerjee today were BJP leaders L K Advani and Arun Jaitley, several Union Ministers, MPs and former MPs. The Secretaries-General of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, Mr P D T Achary and Mr V K Agnihotri, respectively, also paid tributes.

A booklet containing the profile of Dr Mookerjee, brought out in Hindi and English by the Lok Sabha Secretariat, was also presented to the dignitaries who attended the function.

The portrait of Dr Mookerjee was unveiled by then President R. Venkataraman in the Central Hall of Parliament House on May 31, 1991.

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PM calls on President

A file photo of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with President Pratibha Patil at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
A file photo of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with President Pratibha Patil at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called on President Pratibha Patil at Rashtrapati Bhavan and discussed with her various matters of national and international importance, an official statement said here today.

In particular, Dr Singh briefed Ms Patil about his recent visit to Yekaterinburg in Russia for the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and the Brazil-Russia-India-China (BRIC) Summits in mid-June. The Prime Minister had also met Pakistan President in the central Russian city on the margins of the SCO Summit.

He also briefed her about his four-day visit to Italy beginning today for the G8/G5 Summit and to France later this month on the occasion of its National Day and to Egypt on July 15-16 for the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit.

The two leaders also discussed the ongoing Budget Session of Parliament, the statement added.

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Nine new cases of influenza A (H1N1) in India

Nine new cases of influenza A (H1N1) were reported today from India---two each from Delhi, Jalandhar and Mumbai and one each from Kochi, Bangalore and Gurgaon.

One of new cases in Delhi is a seven-year-old boy who had arrived here on June 26 from Bavaria in Germany by an Emirates flight. He was brought to hospital on July 4 with symptoms of fever, sore throat and cough. His brother, who had travelled with him, had reported positive for the virus earlier.

The second case in Delhi is of a 39-year-old man who arrived from Kuwait yesterday by a Kuwait Airways flight. He was detected at the airport with a running nose and fever and admitted to hospital.

The two cases in Jalandhar are of a couple, a 46-year-old man and his 39-year-old wife, who arrived here on July 3 from Bangkok by a Thai Airways flight. They reported to the hospital on the same day with symptoms of the flu.

Out of the two cases in Mumbai, one is a 29-year-old woman who arrived from Canberra, Australia via Bangkok on July 4. During screening at the airport she was found to be having fever and was admitted in the identified health facility. The other case is a 52-year-old woman, who arrived from Bangkok on the same day and was also detected with symptoms of the flu during the health screening at the airport.

In Bangalore, a 26-year-old man who arrived from Bangkok on July 4 has tested positive for the virus.

In Kochi, a 25-year-old youth who arrived from London via Doha on June 29 reported to hospital on July 3 with fever and cough. He, too, has tested positive for the virus.

A 29-year-old woman who arrived ihere from Singapore on June 28 reported to hospital in Gurgaon, near here on July 4 with symptoms of fever and cough.

Two cases---one in Delhi and another in Bangalore---which were not reported earlier by mistake, a 68-year-old man and a 46-year-old man, have also been added to the total list of confirmed cases in the country.

With these, the total number of confirmed cases of the flu in India has now gone up to 145. As many as 103 of them have already been discharged from hospital, while the rest are undergoing treatment in hospital, an official press release added.

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Raghu Menon appointed I&B Secretary

Raghu Menon being welcomed by the Addl. Secretary, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Stuti Kakkar at his office on Monday.
Raghu Menon being welcomed by the Addl. Secretary, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Stuti Kakkar at his office on Monday.
The Government today announced the appointment of Mr Raghu Menon as the new Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

An official press release said Mr Menon's appointment had been approved by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Mr Menon, an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer of the 1974 batch (Nagaland  cadre), will succeed Ms Sushma Singh, who has retired. Culture Secretary Jawahar Sircar was holding additional charge of the post of Secretary, I&B for some time.

Mr Menon was till recently the Chairman and Managing Director of Air India, but he was removed suddenly in the last week of April his year. The government gave no reasons for his removal, but media reports at that time suggested that it was unhappy with him over the slow pace of the process of merger and integration between Air India and Indian Airlines.

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Afghan army chief arrives on 4-day visit

Afghan National Army Chief of General Staff, General Bismillah Khan Mohammadi calls on the Defence Minister A K Antony while on a visit to India, on Monday.
Afghan National Army Chief of General Staff, General Bismillah Khan Mohammadi calls on the Defence Minister A K Antony while on a visit to India, on Monday.
General Bismillah Khan Mohammadi, Chief of General Staff of the Afghan National Army, arrived here today on a four-day official visit to India.

The general was given a guard of honour on his arrival at the South Block lawns, outside the Ministry of Defence. Before that, he paid tributes to martyrs at the "Amar Jawan Jyoti" at India Gate.

A Defence Ministry statement noted that India shared warm and friendly relations with Afghanistan, based on historical ties and traditional linkages. India supports a sovereign, stable, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan and is committed to building strategic partnership in all dimensions to this effect.

Gen Mohammadi's visit is part of the regular exchange of visits that take place between the two countries at the political, diplomatic and military levels.

During the visit, he is likely to interact with senior military and civilian defence officials to discuss various contemporary issues. He is also likely to visit the Taj Mahal at Agra, the statement added.

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PM says FM has done a commendable job

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee had, in his budget for 2009-10, done a commendable job in reconciling the short-term requirements of the economy to provide a stimulus to the growth process and simultaneously ensuring that country returned to a high growth path despite the recessionary tendencies in the world economy.

"He has therefore chosen a strategy to concentrate on increasing investments in the infrastructure sector, both in the public sector and in the private sector, through the public-private partnership (PPP) route," he told journalists after the budget was presented in the Lok Sabha.

Dr Singh said that Mr Mukherjee had, simultaneously, taken care to ensure that the government spent a lot more money in putting in place social safety nets and in increasing  the investment outlays in rural development, agriculture, healthcare and urban renewal.

"Overall the strategy of the budget is to ensure that our economy recaptures the rhythm of the accelerated growth process. Simultaneously it seeks to honour in large measure, the commitments that we have made to our people to work steadfastly for the well being of the 'aam aadmi' (common man)," Dr Singh said.

In reply to a question, the Prime Minister said the government was working towards the goal of achieving seven per cent growth rate this year.

“Well, we are working towards that goal and it is achievable. Seven per cent growth rate this year is an achievable growth target but it is not good enough for the medium term, we must move to a growth path of 8 to 9%.”

In response to another question, Dr Singh said the increased outlay in the budget for the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme was very significant. "It is a measure of our commitment to the well being of the poorer sections of our community," he added.

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OMR question papers for constables in para-military forces

The Union Home Ministry has approved a revised scheme for recruitment of constables in the central para-military forces, an official statement said here today.

The new scheme is aimed at making the process of recruitment more objective and maximizing the use of technology, it said.

Application forms will now be designed centrally in optical mark recognition (OMR) sheets so that they can be scrutinized promptly with computers.

The physical efficiency test will now be only qualifying in nature and will not carry any marks. The written test will consist of OMR-based objective type multiple-choice questions. The question papers will be set centrally. Interviews will be discontinued. A website will be opened along with a help line and a complaint line, giving telephone numbers and SMS-based assistance, the statement said.

No officer against whom departmental proceedings for major penalty is pending will be associated with the recruitment process. Similarly, an officer against whom charges of bungling in previous recruitment have been proved will not be associated with the recruitment process for the next five years. No officer belonging to the state in which the recruitment is being done will be a member of any recruitment board for that state. Biometric methods will be used at all stages of recruitment, it said.

The constabulary forms the major component of central police forces. In 2008, about 18,000 vacancies of constables were filled in various central police forces, the statement added.

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Five new cases of influenza A (H1N1) reported from India

Five new cases of influenza A (H1N1) were reported from India today---three from Kerala and two from Delhi.

The three cases in Kerala included two in Kozhikode and one in Kochi, an official press release said here.

With these, the total number of confirmed cases of the virus reported so far from India has gone up to 134, it said.

The two new cases in Kozhikode are of the 16 and 19-year-old daughters of a patient who had tested positive for the virus earlier. All of them had arrived in Kozhikode on June 27 from Abu Dhabi. The girls reported to hospital on July 1 with complaints of fever and cough.

The case in Kochi is of a 35-year-old man who had arrived from Cayman Island on June 29 by a Qatar Airways flight. He was detected at the airport with symptoms of the flu and admitted to the designated hospital, the release said.

Of the two cases in Delhi, one is the 34-year-old mother of a child who had tested positive earlier. They had travelled together from New Jersey by a Continental Airlines flight and reached here on June 29.

The other case is a 30-year-old man who arrived here on June 30 from Botswana via Johannesburg and Dubai. He reported to hospital on July 3 with various symptoms of the flu and was admitted for treatment.

Of the 134 positive cases, as many as 99 have already been discharged while the remaining are undergoing treatment in hospital, the release added.

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EC says amply satisfied that EVMs are fool-proof

The Election Commission said on Sunday it was amply satisfied about the non-tamperability and the fool-proof working of electronic voting machines which are now used across the country for elections to the Lok Sabha and state legislatures.
A file photo of an Electronic Voting Machine(EVM).
A file photo of an Electronic Voting Machine(EVM).
The Election Commission (EC) today said it was amply satisfied about the non-tamperability and the fool-proof working of electronic voting machines (EVMs) which are now used across the country for elections to the Lok Sabha and state legislatures.

"The Commission’s confidence in the efficacy of the EVMs has been fortified by the judgments of various courts and the views of technical experts," it said in a press note issued here today after some media reports had raised doubts about the technological vulnerability of the machines for possible manipulation.

The reports had referred to a letter handed over to Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Navin Chawla by Mr Omesh Saigal, a retired civil servant, on June 30.

Another report appearing today said Leader of the Opposition Lal Krishna Advani of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had demanded that ballot papers be reintroduced in elections, beginning with the Maharashtra Assembly elections in October and three other states later this year.

"We should revert to ballot papers unless the Election Commission is able to ensure that Electronic Voting Machines are fool-proof and every possibility of their malfunctioning is take care of," the Sunday Express quoted him as saying.

While acknowledging that it had received a letter from Mr Saigal, the Commission said that the former Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer had not given any demonstration about the tamperability of the EVMs to it. The note also stated that the Commission had not ordered any inquiry on the basis of the letter, as reported by a section of the media.
A file photo of an engineers inspecting an EVM during the 2004 General Elections.
A file photo of an engineers inspecting an EVM during the 2004 General Elections.

The press note said that the Commission receives complaints, petitions and letters from various quarters on electoral issues, including matters related to EVMs.

"All these complaints are looked into for taking necessary action, if any is required," the note said.

It said the Commission had also been receiving letters from time to time, from various individuals and other stake holders, about the possibility of EVMs being tampered with. In some of the cases, analogy is drawn to electronic voting systems adopted in various foreign countries and their experience with the electronic voting.

"The Commission has in the past, provided opportunities to the complainants to prove their points on the alleged vulnerability of the EVM. So far, no one has been able to demonstrate to the Commission that the EVM can be manipulated. The efficacy of EVM was also questioned in court cases in the past and the decisions of the courts [the Hon’ble Madras High Court, Karnataka High Court, Bombay High Court (Nagpur Bench), and the Kerala High Court, and as upheld by the Hon’ble Supreme Court] in these cases have confirmed the reliability of the EVM," the note said.

According to it, from the initial introduction in 1982, to the countrywide use of EVMs in 2004, the country took long and measured steps spanning over a period of nearly two decades, in the matter of electronic voting.
A file photo of counting of Assembly Election votes on EVMs, at a counting center in Kolkata.
A file photo of counting of Assembly Election votes on EVMs, at a counting center in Kolkata.

"In the meanwhile, general elections to various legislative assemblies, and numerous bye-elections and two general elections to the Lok Sabha have been conducted using EVMs at all polling stations," it said.

The Commission said the tamper-proof technological soundness of the EVM has been endorsed by a technical experts sub-committee appointed at the initiative of the Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms in 1990.

This committee was headed by Prof S.Sampath, then Chairman of the Recruitment and Assessments Committee, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), with Prof P.V.Indiresan, then with the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi, and Dr C. Rao Kasarabada, then Director, Electronic Research and Development Center, Thiruvananthapuram, as members.

Subsequently, the Commission has also been consulting a group of technical experts comprising Prof Indiresan and Prof D.T. Sahani and Prof A.K Agarwala, both of IIT Delhi, regularly, on all EVM related technical issues.

Besides, the note said, the Commission has in place elaborate administrative measures and procedural checks and balances aimed at total transparency and prevention of any possible misuse or procedural lapses.

These measures include rigorous pre-election checking of each EVM by technicians, two level randomization with the involvement of political parties, candidates and their agents, for the random allotment of the EVMs to various constituencies and subsequently to various polling stations, preparation of the EVMs for elections in the presence of the candidates/their agents, and the Election Observers, provision for various thread seal and paper seal protection against any unauthorized access to the EVMs after preparation, mock poll in the presence of polling agents and mock poll certification system before the commencement of poll, post-poll sealing and strong room protection, randomization of counting staff, micro-observers at the counting tables, and so on, it said.
A file photo of polling officers standing in queue to collect EVMs during the 2009 General Elections in Sikkim.
A file photo of polling officers standing in queue to collect EVMs during the 2009 General Elections in Sikkim.

"The Election Commission of India is amply satisfied about the non-tamperability and the fool-proof working of the EVMs. The Commission’s confidence in the efficacy of the EVMs has been fortified by the judgments of various courts and the views of technical experts. The honorable Karnataka High Court has hailed the EVM as ‘a national pride’ (judgment dated 5.2.2004 in Michael B. Fernandes Vs C.K.Jaffer Sharief and others in E.P No 29 of 1999)," the note said.

"The Commission will, however, consider all the points raised and apprehensions expressed recently by various political leaders and individuals regarding EVM and take all necessary measures to clear doubts about EVM elections in the country," the note added.

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One model school in each block, every year, for next 5 years: Sibal

HRD Minister Kapil Sibal said on Sunday that once the Right to Education Bill is passed it would guarantee one more model school in every block in the country every year for the next five years.
A file photo of Kapil Sibal during the press conference unveiling the 100-day agenda of the HRD Ministry.
A file photo of Kapil Sibal during the press conference unveiling the 100-day agenda of the HRD Ministry.
Union Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal today said that once the Right to Education Bill is passed it would guarantee one more model school in every block in the country every year for the next five years.

"You see once the Right to Education Bill comes in, this is automatically going to happen," he told journalist Karan Thapar on the Devil's Advocate show on television channel CNN-IBN.

When the interviewer suggested that the new schools might not happen automatically because the bill only guarantees the right to education, the minister said, "No, no, no. It guarantees that within three years these schools will be built."

Asked then why he had not made specific and special mention of this at his June 25 press conference called to unveil his 100-day agenda for his ministry, Mr Sibal explained that it was all included in policies enunciated earlier.

"I was taking about legislative initiatives. I was not extrapolating policies. I am reiterating that this is paramount as far as we are concerned. Schools in every habitation – model schools, quality schools, government schools and free schools are crucial," he said.

Asked clearly if he would fulfil this commitment, made in the Congress party's election manifesto, of one more model school in every block, every year for the next five years, Mr Sibal said, "I will fulfill the commitment under the Right to Education bill and that will encompass all of this."

The minister also said there would be a whole new programme on teacher training. "It is a major programme. We are going to overhaul the entire system."

Mr Sibal said that, contrary to what media reports said, he had, at his press conference, said very clearly that he would focus on the 88 per cent of the students in the country who are not able to go on for higher studies after school. "This education reform is for them," he said.

"I can honestly say that as a minister I can try my best and make the best possible efforts. A lot of these reforms are very difficult when you need to implement them at the village level and we need cooperation from the state government to make changes," he said.

He said he was not making excuses to explain possible failure in his efforts. "No excuses. We need cooperation from panchayats and I think if all stakeholders in this cooperate, this shall be done. But from my side, I will not leave a single stone unturned to make it happen," he promised.

Some of the reform measures that Mr Sibal had talked about at his press conference had attracted criticism, including from some of his own party colleagues. One of these was his proposal to make the Class X Board examination optional for students of schools affiliated to the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE).

Mr Sibal said some of the proposals he had made on that day were merely ideas, some were decisions, some were initiatives of policy and others related to legislation. He said the press misinterpreted all this by terming all that he had said that day as decisions.

"A Government functions by putting ideas and issues in the public domain through the ministry and then the minister comes and says this is my 100-day agenda, I would like some of these things to be discussed but some of these things I am doing anyway. This is how public discussions and debate take place in a democracy," he explained.

He also said that this meant that he was open to public debate and ready to alter his ideas on the basis of what the people felt.

"Absolutely. These things evolve when we put them out. One should understand that we did a lot of work, which means that a lot of public discussion has already gone into this," he said.

"Take for example, the National Curriculum Framework of 2005. In that itself there was a huge process of public interaction before the framework was put in place, so there is a public framework already in place. So if I am trying to take that forward, there is still public discussion and I am ready to listen to that," he explained.

He agreed, therefore, that some of the ideas thrown up at the press conference might not take off because they did not find favour with the public.

"Of course, it is in the domain of the possibility but at the same time when I have put these ideas in the public domain there is my initial prima facie conclusion that these are good for my country, these educational reforms are required. But if there is a public outcry that this is not possible and I feel there is a rationale in that I would certainly go ahead with it," he said.

Mr Sibal declined to say if he had discussed his ideas with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh or ruling United Progressive Alliance Chairperson Sonia Gandhi before he went public with them. But he said that many of the ideas were consistent with Congress policies. He pointed out that the Economic Survey released by the Finance Ministry a few days ago had talked about Foreign Direct Investment in the educational sector. Other ideas had figured in the President's address to Parliament or were part of the National Curriculum Framework, he said. He added that the Prime Minister himself was extremely keen on reforms in the educational sector.

Reminded about the criticism of his proposals by some Congress-ruled states, Mr Sibal said it was all related to one issue---Class X Board examinations.

"First of all let us be clear that the states have entirely misunderstood what I said. What I said in my press conference and press release that I am not going to touch the state board at all. I said the Class 10 exam option that I will give will apply to schools throughout India which are affiliated to the CBSE system which goes up to Class 12. So the state boards are not concerned with it. The states which think that I am tinkering with their state boards have either not read the press release or haven’t heard me make those statements in my press conference," he said.

To peristent question about whether the Prime Minister and Ms Gandhi had been consulted on such proposals, Mr Sibal said some of need not even be taken to the Cabinet because the CBSE is under the HRD ministry.

"So, whether I consulted them or not is a separate issue; there is no need to do it. What we discuss with the Prime Minister or Mrs Gandhi is not public disclosure," he said.

The minister said he had talked about starting the process of reforming the examination system in the context of the National Curriculum Framework 2005. "So it is across the board, you people have only talked about Class X," he said.

He said this included a change in the approach of teachers to education as well as a move away from examinations to grades and a continual assessment of the students. He said all this could take some time.

"Discussion, public debates should take place and then what we think is best for the students of this country to detraumatise them and to ensure that the examination system is more objective, that the marks are not the only basis on which you judge a person – all that will happen," he said.

He said some of the proposals, like the one on Class X examinations, could be implemented within a year. "The National Curriculum is already in place which suggests all these things," he pointed out.

On the criticism of his idea about a single examination for Class XII in the country, he said he was basically talking about uniformity in standards and not in teaching. In any case, he said it was a long-term goal, which he believed in. "In fact at my press conference I said it is not a part of the 100-day agenda. This is something India has to move towards. It will take at least five years to do because we’ll have to take state governments on board," he said.

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One new influenza A (H1N1) case reported from India

One new case of influenza A (H1N1) was reported from India today, taking the total number of confirmed cases so far to 129.

The new case was of a 23-year-old Thai national, who arrived in Mumbai from Bangkok by a Thai Airways flight on June 28. From there, he had reached the Kandla port in Gujarat, where he was supposed to board a ship of which he is a crew member.

He was detected during the health screening at the port with symptoms of the flu and was isolated at the hospital there on July 1. Four other crew members in close contact with him have also been placed under quarantine and put on chemoprophylaxis.

As many as 90 of the 129 positive cases have already been discharged, while the rest are undergoing treatment in hospital, an official statement added.

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Ansari inaugurates Brig. Mohd Usman Memorial Function at Naoshera

Vice President Hamid Ansari being presented a memento by the Lt. Gen. P C Bhardwaj at the bust unveiling ceremony of Late Brigadier Mohammed Usman, at Jhangar, Naoshera in Jammu & Kashmir on Saturday.
Vice President Hamid Ansari being presented a memento by the Lt. Gen. P C Bhardwaj at the bust unveiling ceremony of Late Brigadier Mohammed Usman, at Jhangar, Naoshera in Jammu & Kashmir on Saturday.
Vice-President Mohammad Hamid Ansari inaugurated the "Brigadier Mohd. Usman Memorial Function" at Jhangar, Naoshera in Jammu and Kashmir today.

The function was held to commemorate the sacrifices of Brig. Usman and other valiant soldiers who laid down their lives for saving their motherland in the 1947-48 operations in the Naoshera Sector.

During the solemn proceedings, Mr Ansari laid a wreath and unveiled the bust of Brig Usman. He also interacted with war veterans of the Naoshera sector as well as the troops deployed on the Line of Control in the sector.

An official press release said the troops were overwhelmed by the occasion and vowed to continue defending the frontiers with greater vigour and dedication.

Lt. General P. C. Bhagwaj, Army Commander, Northern Command and Lt. General R. K. Swami, General Officer Commanding White Night Corps, were amongst those present on the occasion.
Vice President Hamid Ansari laying a wreath at the bust of late Brigadier Mohammed Usman at Jhangar, Naoshera in Jammu & Kashmir on Saturday.
Vice President Hamid Ansari laying a wreath at the bust of late Brigadier Mohammed Usman at Jhangar, Naoshera in Jammu & Kashmir on Saturday.

The Vice President presented mementos and shawls to the Bal Sainiks and senior citizens of Naoshera region on the occasion. They included Honorary Captain Moti Ram, Naib Subedar Gyan Chand, Subedar Sita Ram, Hawaldar Baldev Singh, Subedar Major Dhyan Singh, Naib Subedar S. P Sahani, Kali Das, Mahendra Lal, Basant Singh and S N Randhawa. A large number of civilians also gathered to pay tributes to Brig Usman, the hero who saved Naoshera and reclaimed Jhangar from the enemy’s hand, the release added.

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EPFO Board recommends 8.5 % interest on PF deposits

The Employees' Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) today decided to give interest at the rate of 8.5 per cent for the year 2009-10 on the provident fund deposits of its subscribers.

The decision was taken at a meeting of its Central Board of Trustees presided over by Union Labour and Employment Minister Mallikarjun Kharge.

Mr Harish Rawat, Minister of State for Labour and Employment, was also present at the meeting as the Vice-Chairman of the Trust.

The decision means that the rate of interest on the deposits of the Fund's nearly 45 million subscribers will remain at the same level as last year.

An official press release said the employees' representatives at the meeting were in favour of a higher rate of interest and voiced their dissent when the Board took a decision. This was the fifth regular meeting of the newly-constituted Board.

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British magazine Spectator allowed to publish Indian edition

The Government today said it had approved the publication of an Indian edition of the British magazine Spectator, subject to conditions laid down by the Union Information and Broadcasting Ministry.

The edition, under the title of Spectator India, would deal with news and current affairs and would be published by Telegraph Publications Private Limited, an official press release said.

Telegraph Publications has been allowed to enter into financial arrangements, such as royalty payments, with the owners of the foreign magazine, subject to the rules and regulations of the government.

Telegraph Publications would have to inform the I&B Ministry within 15 days of effecting any changes in the composition of resident Indian directors or key executives and editorial staff. Such changes would be subject to post facto approval of the I&B Ministry, the release said.

The company is liable to intimate the names and details of any foreigners/non-resident Indians/persons of Indian origin proposed to be employed/engaged in the magazine for more than 60 days in a year, either as consultants or as regular employees or in any other capacity. The magazine will have to dispense with the services of such persons if they are subsequently found to be not cleared from the security angle.

The company will have to obtain prior clearance from the I&B Ministry of all persons who are not resident Indians and are proposed to be inducted in the Board of Directors or as key executives or editorial staff of the magazine.

At least three-fourths of the Directors of the Indian company and all key executives and editorial staff have to be resident Indians.

Spectator India is the second foreign magazine in the news and current affairs category to be allowed to publish an Indian edition. In May this year, Forbes India, published by Digital 18 Media Private Limited, had started publication.

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12 new cases of influenza A (H1N1) reported from India

Twelve new cases of influenza A (H1N1) were reported today from India---six from Bangalore, two each from Kozhikode and Delhi, and one each from Hyderabad and Amritsar.

With these, the total number of confirmed cases of the virus reported from India so far has risen to 128, an official statement said.

The new cases in Bangalore include a 27-year-old man, who arrived from Seoul, South Korea, on June 28 and was admitted to hospital after complaining of fever and cough.

Another 26-year-old youth, who arrived from Japan via Bangkok on June 28, reported to the hospital yesterday with complaints of weakness, cough and headache.

A 49-year-old man and a nine-year-old girl of the same family who arrived in Bangalore on June 25 from New Jersey in the United States on June 25, developed symptoms of fever, sore throat and cough on July 1. Two other members of this family who had travelled in the same group had tested positive for the virus earlier.

The other two new cases in Bangalore were a 23-year-old man and a 17-year-old girl, who are close relatives of the same family, who had no travel history.

The two cases in Delhi are of a 17-year-old boy, who arrived from Brisbane, Australia, via Bangkok on July 1 and was detected at the airport with symptoms of the flu, and a six-year-old girl, who had arrived from the US on June 29 and was brought to hospital with headache and fever on July 2.

The cases in Kozhikode are of an eight-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl who arrived there from Abu Dhabi on June 27. Their mother had tested positive earlier.

The case in Hyderabd is of a 30-year-old man who had arrived from Los Angeles in the US via London on July 1. He was detected with symptoms of the flu during the screening at the airport and admitted to hospital, the statement said.

In Amritsar, an 11-year-old boy who arrived on July 1 from Toronto was detected with symptoms during the airport screening and taken to hospital.

Of the 128 positive cases, as many as 82 have already been discharged, while the rest are undergoing treatment in hospital, the statement added.

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Kerala Tourism website to offer online hotel reservations

Kerala Tourism has announced plans to introduce online reservation of rooms at hotels and resorts in the state through its official website, www.keralatourism.org.

The online reservation system will be formally launched on July 8, a press release from Kerala Tourism said today.

The facility has been introduced as part of Kerala Tourism's efforts to assist travelers to plan and book rooms in Kerala much easier and faster. Besides hotels and resorts, properties like ayurvedic centres, homestays and houseboats are also available online.

Nearly 900 properties in Kerala have enrolled to avail of the online facility, out of which 92 have already started offering reservations through this platform.

With the facility in place, rooms can be booked online any time by visiting www.keralatourism.org. At present, 100,000 room nights are available for reservation. This covers destinations like Alappuzha, Kumarakom, Munnar, Periyar, Wayanad, Kochi and Kozhikode.

The rooms can be booked online by using major credit cards, debit cards, net banking and other facilities like Pay Pal, the release said.

The specialty of this reservation platform is that payment made for reservation is going directly to the account of the property. The online reservation engine was developed and is being maintained by www.webcrs.com.

According to Dr. Venu V., Secretary, Kerala Tourism, with the introduction of online reservation facility, the ten-year-old website - www.keralatourism.org has become more resourceful and user-friendly.

Bringing all the hotels, homestays, farm-stays, ayurvedic resorts and so on in Kerala under the purview of online reservation system is the next goal, Mr. M. Sivasankar, Director, Kerala Tourism, said.

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Govt denies Kerala NRI was victim of influenza A (H1N1)

The Union Government today denied media reports which said that a non-resident Indian (NRI) who had died in Kollam, Kerala, on July 1 was possibly a victim of influenza A (H1N1).

In a statement here today, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said the samples of the 51-year-old man had tested negative for influenza A (H1N1) at the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) in Delhi.

The statement said the NRI was a known case of diabetes for 30 years, hypertension, coronary artery disease and dyslipedemia. He had travelled from the United Kingdom and reached Thiruvananthapuram on June 12 after transiting through Dubai and Mumbai.

According to the statement, as per the database of the Airport Health Organisation, specifically maintained for influenza A (H1N1), he had reached Mumbai at about 0400 hours on June 12 by Air India flight IC 684 from Dubai and did not have any symptoms at the time of entry screening on that date.

The statement said the man had developed symptoms of fever and cough on June 23 and had taken medication for viral fever at his native place. When his condition deteriorated, he reported to a private hospital in Kollam district on July 1.

His condition deteriorated and he died within two hours of reaching the hospital on July 1, the statement said.

"There has been speculation in certain sections of the media that his death was due to influenza A (H1N1). This is not correct. His throat and nasal swab have tested negative for influenza A H1N1(swine) at the National Institute of Communicable Diseases, Delhi," the statement added.

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PM hails Rly Budget, says it focuses on passenger amenities, safety

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today hailed the Railway Budget for 2009-10 presented to the Lok Sabha by Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee and said that it focused on improving passenger amenities, safety and security.

He said Ms Banerjee had done a very competent job in the short period of time that was available to her for preparing the budget proposals.

"She has presented a budget without imposing any burden by way of increase in freight charges or passenger fare. At the same time she has, in keeping with our party’s election promise, focused on improving amenities for passengers, improving safety and security of railways and making rail travel a desirable experience.

"She has outlined a programme of modernizing 50 railway stations to world class standards. A large number of facilities have been included by way of using the innovative finance mechanism of public private partnerships to improve the productivity of the Railways and to finance more investment. I therefore compliment the Railway Minister for a very competent job she has done in a very short period," Dr Singh said.

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President, VP condole death of Tyeb Mehta

President Pratibha Patil and Vice-President M Hamid Ansari today condoled the passing away of well-known artist Tyeb Mehta, who died in Mumbai yesterday at the age of 84.

In her condolence message, Ms Patil said Mr Mehta was a celebrated artist and a role model for modern and contemporary Indian artists.

"He had exhibited a number of heart touching paintings such as 'Celebration', 'Kali' and 'Mahishasura'. He will be a source of inspiration for all those interested in art and culture. In his passing away the nation has lost a creative and acclaimed artist," she said.

Mr Ansari said he was deeply grieved to learn about the demise of Mr Mehta, whom he described as a brilliant artist who had contributed immensely to the world of painting.

"He will ever remain a major source of inspiration to younger generations. In his death, the country has lost an eminent artist," he said.

"My wife joins me in sending our heartfelt condolences to the members of the bereaved family and the wide circle of his admirers and friends. We pray to the Almighty to grant them strength and fortitude to withstand this tragedy," he added.

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Tripartite MoU to ensure effective tiger conservation

The Union Cabinet today gave its approval for implementing a new and improved tripartite memorandum of understanding (MoU) format linked to fund flows between the Union Ministry of Environment & Forests, State Governments and the Tiger Reserve Management.

The MoU seeks to ensure effective tiger conservation by laying out the respective responsibilities and reciprocal commitments linked to fund flows to foster public accountability.

According to an official press release, the MoU will strengthen tiger conservation initiatives in the country, reinforce the ongoing initiatives to conserve the tiger in the wake of poaching threats and demand for its body parts in the international illegal market, develop approaches to strengthen the ongoing efforts for conserving tigers in the designated tiger reserves and other tiger bearing forests of the country and address the growing concern among public for saving the tiger.

The implementation would be done through the ongoing Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Project Tiger in the 37 Tiger reserves in the country, it said.

The states covered under the scheme are Uttar Pradesh, Rajathan, Uttarakhand, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Chattisgarh, West Bengal, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka.

The Ministry of Environment and Forests said the MoU would foster public accountability relating to tiger conservation by ensuring reciprocal commitments between the Centre, the tiger States and the Field Director of Tiger Reserves. It also contains commitments like establishment of Tiger Conservation Foundation which would promote innovative practices for involving the local stakeholders in tiger conservation.

Mr Jairam Ramesh, Minister of Environment and Forests, said this will also ensure better utilization of funds and increases accountability and responsibility for all three parties. Over the next month,the Ministry is expected to sign these MoUs with 17 states listed above and 37 Project Tiger Reserves, he added.

The Tiger Task Force constituted by the Prime Minister, in the wake of tigers getting locally extinct from Sariska, recommended a system of MoU with Project States for better implementation.

An MoU format was approved by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) in February, 2008 during the revision of the ongoing Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Project Tiger. Central Assistance to States under the scheme is provided only after the MoU is signed by the authorised signatory of the state.

The CCEA in its meeting held on January 30, 2008 approved the continued implementation of f Project Tiger during the XIth Five Year Plan, at an estimated cost of Rs. 600 crores.

The CCEA, while approving the scheme further directed that the MoU contained in the proposal be suitably modified to reflect the responsibilities of the State Governments for delineating the buffer zones and filling staff vacancies.

The directions of the CCEA were duly complied with, and an MoU in the approved format was entered into with 16 out of 17 tiger states, except Bihar, for releasing the central assistance under the ongoing Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Project Tiger.

Keeping in view the directions of the CCEA and the serious concerns about the inadequacy of tiger conservation efforts by tiger states, the matter has been further examined and various generic as well as tiger reserve-specific suggestions were reviewed in a meeting of Field Directors of Tiger Reserves held at Kanha Tiger Reserve last year. Based on these discussions/consultations, a refined MoU was developed to include issues that emerged during the said meeting.

The Ministry earlier had a bilateral MoU between the Ministry of Environment and Forests and tiger reserve States, but a tripartite MoU was considered more effective than the earlier since the Field Director of a tiger reserve is the key functionary vested with the responsibility of day-to-day management, between the Ministry of Environment and Forests, the tiger reserve States as well as the Field Directors of Tiger Reserves.

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Cabinet gives nod for Plasma Fractionation Centre at Chennai

The Union Cabinet today gave its concurrence for setting up a Plasma Fractionation Centre at Chennai with a capacity to process more than 1.5 lakh litres of plasma at a cost of Rs 250 crore.

The centre will be a state-of-the-art facility with the latest technology and equipment and will meet international standards, an official press release said.

The centre will manufacture all important plasma derivatives which are presently being imported, reducing the country's dependence on imports. At present, the imported plasma derivatives are expensive and not accessible to all the needy patients

The centre will be operated on a self-sustained, non-profit model in the public sector, the release said.

Out of Rs 250 crore, Rs 25 crore will be for building construction; Rs.65 crore for procurement of equipments; Rs.20 crore for manpower and Rs.140 crore for consumables and other recurring expenses.

The time frame for setting up this facility will be co-terminus to Phase-III of National AIDS Control Programme, that is by 2012, the release added.

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Cabinet approves cost escalation of Command Hospital modernisation at Udhampur

The Union Cabinet toady approved a proposal for increase in the estimated cost of construction of a new multi-storeyed modern Command Hospital Complex and associated accommodation for the Army's Northern Command at Udhampur.

The project was earlier approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security on August 9, 2005 at an estimated cost of Rs.126.35 crore. The revised approved cost of the project is Rs.232.267 crore, an official press release said.

The Command Hospital would be a 650-bedded tertiary care and referral facility and is responsible for providing specialised medical care to personnel of the Armed Forces of the whole Northern Command.

"Since the hospital is presently housed mostly in old and dilapidated buildings of 1949 and 1960 vintage, there is an inescapable and urgent requirement of new hospital building," the release said.

The project will provide comprehensive medical care to troops and families of the Armed Forces, ex-servicemen and their families located in Northern Command and Jammu & Kashmir. It will also impart training to medical and paramedical personnel, the release added.

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