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PM's visit to Myanmar expected to enrich bilateral ties, take them to new plane

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will pay a three-day state visit to Myanmar from May 27-29 which is expected to enable the two countries to build on the new foundations of their multi-faceted relationship laid during Myanmarese President Thein Sein's visit to India last year.

File photo of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
File photo of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will pay a three-day state visit to Myanmar from May 27-29 which is expected to enable the two countries to build on the new foundations of their multi-faceted relationship laid during Myanmarese President Thein Sein's visit to India last year.

"We seek to leverage this to secure a stronger and mutually beneficial relationship with a neighbouring country that is integral to India’s Look East Policy," Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai told journalists during a briefing on the visit.
 
"Considerable progress has been made in implementing decisions and agreements emanating from the President’s visit in October, 2011," he said.
 
Dr Singh will be accompanied on the visit by his wife, Mrs Gursharan Kaur, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna and senior officials. A delegation of Indian CEOs will also visit Myanmar at the same time. 
 
The visit to Myanmar by Dr Singh will be the first by an Indian Prime Minister in 25 years after the visit by then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in December, 1987.
 
Mr Mathai said the visit followed the "very successful" state visit of President Thein Sein to India in October last year and comes at a time when Myanmar is undergoing rapid transformation.
 
"This visit will provide us an opportunity to review that progress and to discuss new initiatives that we would be taking in the furtherance of our relations. The new political environment in Myanmar also provides fresh opportunities to take our bilateral relationship to a new plane," he said.
 
Mr Mathai said the visit would provide an opportunity to enrich the substance of the bilateral relationship, both qualitatively and in scope and lays down a long-term vision and roadmap for mutually reinforcing bilateral cooperation in a wide range of areas including security, connectivity, infrastructure development, trade and investment promotion, capacity-building and human resource development, culture and people-to-people contacts, and academic exchanges. 
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He said the two sides hoped to sign a number of agreements and memoranda of understanding (MoUs) to further strengthen their bilateral cooperation. 
 
He said Dr Singh's discussions with President Thein Sein in Nay Pyi Taw would cover bilateral, regional and other issues of mutual interest. The President will host a banquet in honour of the Prime Minister on May 28. 
 
Apart from the official engagements in Nay Pyi Taw, the Prime Minister will also visit Yangon where he is expected to meet Ms Aung Sang Suu Kyi, the Chairperson of the National League for Democracy, and other prominent personalities. 
 
During his visit, Prime Minister will also deliver a public address on the theme “India and Myanmar: A Partnership for Progress and Regional Development”, at a function organized by the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry, and the Myanmar Development Resource Institute. There will also be interactions between the business delegations of the two sides. 
 
The Prime Minister will also visit the historic Shwedagon Pagoda and the Mazar of the Last Mughal Emperor of India Bahadur Shah Zafar, which is in Yangon. He will also have a separate interaction with the Indian community in Myanmar.
 
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At least 40 drowned, scores missing after ferry carrying 300 people sinks in Assam

Rescue teams continued to search for survivors on Tuesday after a ferry carrying about 300 passengers, capsized in the Brahmaputra river in the western Assam district of Dhubri Monday evening, killing scores of people and leaving many more missing.

Map of Dhubri district
Map of Dhubri district

Rescue teams continued to search for survivors today after a ferry carrying about 300 passengers,  capsized in the Brahmaputra river in the western Assam district of Dhubri yesterday evening, killing scores of people and leaving many more missing.

Official sources said at least 40 bodies had been fished out, but scores of people were missing and they felt the toll could be much higher. The sources also said about 60 people had managed to swim to safety.
 
Rescue efforts by personnel of the Army, the Border Security Force, the National Disaster Response Force, the state police and the district administration were hampered overnight because of the bad weather and darkness. 
 
Details about the tragedy remained sketchy because it happened in a very remote location and also because the bad weather had disrupted communication links with the area.
The ferry was filled with passengers far beyond its capacity, many of them returning from a weekly market, and they included several women and children. People of the area are known to be good swimmers, but, given the weather conditions at the time of the mishap and the strong undercurrents in the river, there are fears that not many would have survived, the officials said.
 
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The boat was said to be on its way from Dhubri town to Medertari ghat when it got caught in the storm. It was tossed around and finally broke into three parts around 5 pm, the sources said.
 
The weather had cleared considerably by this morning and more rescue teams were being rushed to the area and helicopters were being pressed into service to help them.
 
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has announced an ex-gratia assistance to the families of those who lost their lives in the tragedy.
 
An official press release said an assistance of Rs 2 lakh would be given to the next-of-kin of each of the deceased from the Prime Minister's National Relief Fund. 
 
Dr Singh had earlier spoken to Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and offered all possible help to the state government in the relief operations.
 
By late this evening, official sources said the final toll could be much lower than initially estimated.
 
They said the capsized ferry had been brought to the river bank and, contrary to fears, no bodies were found in it.
 
They also said that divers scoured the area where the ferry was found for hours today and did not find any body.
 
The officials said the entire downstream of the river was being searched for victims. At this stage, it would appear that many more people than initially thought had managed to swim to safety, on the one hand, and that the number of people on the boat could have been lower than given out yesterday, they added.
 
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Chidambaram says investigators have got "promising clues" in Delhi blast case

Home Minister P Chdidambaram said on Friday the investigations into Wednesday's powerful blast outside the Delhi High Court, which had claimed 13 lives and left about 72 people injured, had thrown up some promising leads but nothing conclusive yet.

Union Home Minister P Chdidambaram today said the investigations into Wednesday's powerful blast outside the Delhi High Court, which had claimed 13 lives and left about 72 people injured, had thrown up some promising leads but nothing conclusive yet.

11 killed, more than 75 injured in blast outside Delhi High Court

Terror struck the capital again when at least 11 people were killed and more than 75 others injured, many of them seriously, in a powerful blast that took place at a spot outside gates 4 and 5 of the Delhi High Court on Wednesday morning.

Terror struck the capital again when at least 11 people were killed and more than 75 others injured, many of them seriously, in a powerful blast that took place at a spot outside gates 4 and 5 of the Delhi High Court this morning. 

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, on an official visit to Dhaka, described the blast as a "cowardly act of a terrorist nature" and said the country would deal with it and never succumb to the pressure of terrorism.

Home Minister P Chidambaram at the blast site at Delhi High Court in New Delhi on September 7, 2011.Investigating officials at the blast site at Delhi High Court in New Delhi on September 7, 2011.Commandos with sniffer dogs searching for clues at the blast site at Delhi High court in New Delhi on September 7, 2011.
Home Minister P Chidambaram at the blast site at Delhi High Court in New Delhi on September 7, 2011. ; Investigating officials at the blast site at Delhi High Court in New Delhi on September 7, 2011.; Commandos with sniffer dogs searching for clues at the blast site at Delhi High court in New Delhi on September 7, 2011. UNI PHOTOS

Union Home Minister P Chidambaram told the Lok Sabha in a statement that the Government was determined to track down the perpetrators of the "horrific crime".

"I appeal to the House and to the people of the country that we must remain resolute and united. We must not show any vacillation. We shall never be intimidated by terrorist groups," he said.

The blast occurred around 1015 hours near the reception outside the court premises, where people form long queues to get passes made for entering the court premises. The explosion occurred just 15 minutes before court proceedings were due to begin at 1030 hours, a time when there is a huge crowd of people waiting to get inside.

The injured were rushed by ambulances and other vehicles to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) as well as the Safdarjung, Loknayak Jayaprakash Narayan (LNJP), Ram Manohar Lohia (RML), Moolchand and Sir Gangaram hospitals.

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Mr U K Bansal, Special Secretary (Internal Security) in the Home Ministry said most of the injured had been admitted to the RML Hospital.

"The condition of some of the injured is reported to be critical. In all cases of injured people where surgery was required the same has been performed or is being done now," he said.

Mr Bansal said two of the injured were in the Intensive Care Unit of RML Hospital, while as many as 51 had undergone surgical or orthopaedical procedures and were out of danger.

He said the investigation of the case has been transferred to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) by the Union Government in exercise of its powers under the NIA Act. The NIA has requested the Delhi Government and Delhi Police to associate with and assist them in the investigation.

Mr Bansal said an alert had been sent out to all States in the light of this incident for enforcing all possible precautions in sensitive areas.

He said a team from the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL), Delhi had collected evidence from the spot which was being examined for clues. The

The National Security Guard's (NSG) post-blast investigation team has also collected relevant traces, residue and so on from the spot and is conducting its own forensic examination. The reports of this scientific examination will be available to the NIA shortly, he said.

TV grab of veteran BJP leader L K Advani speaking in the Lok Sabha on the blast outside Delhi High Court, on September 7, 2011.One of the injured in a blast outside Delhi High Court being led away after being administered first aid, in New Delhi on September 7, 2011.A car, damaged in a blast outside Delhi High Court being towed away, in New Delhi on September 7, 2011.
TV grab of veteran BJP leader L K Advani speaking in the Lok Sabha on the blast outside Delhi High Court, on September 7, 2011.; One of the injured in a blast outside Delhi High Court being led away after being administered first aid, in New Delhi on September 7, 2011. ; A car, damaged in a blast outside Delhi High Court being towed away, in New Delhi on September 7, 2011. UNI PHOTOS

Mr Bansal said preliminary investigation revealed that the blast created a small crater, about 2- 3 feet wide and about one foot deep, at the place where the explosive charge is suspected to have been kept in a briefcase near the reception centre of the High Court.

"The examination of the scene of blast indicates towards the use of nitrate-based explosives with traces of PETN (explosive)," he said.

He said about two kgs of explosives appeared to have been used for the blast. He said most of the victims had been killed by the blast and not by shrapnels.

He said the Delhi Police had been put on high alert and vigorous investigations were in progress, including checking of guest houses, hotels, bus stands, railway stations and airports. All entry and exist routes are also being put under extensive surveillance and checking. Neighbouring States have also been asked to send their teams of Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) experts to examine the scene of the blast and assist in the investigation, he added.

Police vans, fire tenders and ambulances rushed to the spot immediately after the blast and the area was cordoned off. Police requested people to move out of the area so that the security personnel could scan the area and ensure there were no other explosives planted there.

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Intelligence officials, bomb disposal squads, disaster management personnel and other officials had rushed to the spot. Sniffer dogs were also deployed.

Heavy rains that began about 90 minutes after the blast hampered the work of the investigative agencies, especially in the matter of gathering evidence from the spot.

As news of the blast spread, relatives of those injured rushed to the hospitals to inquire about their loved ones.

Today's blast came less than four months after a minor explosion had occurred near a car in the parking lot of the High Court on May 25. No one had been injured in that incident.

In the evening, the Delhi Police released the sketches of two suspects in the case. One of them was said to be around 26 years, 5'9" tall with his hair parted in the middle. The other was said to be around 50 years with a light beard and shallow complexion and of stout build.

Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi at Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital to meet the injured in the Delhi High Court blast, in New Delhi on September 7, 2011. UNI PHOTO
Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi at Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital to meet the injured in the Delhi High Court blast, in New Delhi on September 7, 2011. UNI PHOTO

Mr Chidambaram, Delhi Lt Governor Tejinder Khanna, Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, BJP leaders L K Advani and Sushma Swaraj and Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi were amongst those who visited the scene of the blast and the hospitals.

Mr Chidambam was also in touch with the Prime Minister in Dhaka in this regard. Dr Singh is due to return to the capital this evening.

Dr Singh told journalists in Dhaka that fighting terror was a long war in which all political parties and the people of India had to stand united so that the "scourge of terrorism is crushed".

In the Lok Sabha, Mr Chidambaram said, "On behalf of the Government, I offer my sincere condolences to the families of those who lost their lives. I offer my sympathies to those who have been injured and I assure the House that we will extend the best medical treatment to the injured."

Mr Chidambaram said the objective of terrorist groups was to strike fear and to destabilise the country.

"We are clear in our mind that there is no cause that will justify terrorist acts. Government unequivocally condemns the terrorist attack that took place today," he said.

"Delhi is a target of terrorist groups. When Parliament is in session and during certain other times of the year Delhi is placed on high alert. Intelligence agencies constantly share intelligence inputs with Delhi Police. Intelligence pertaining to threats emanating from certain groups was shared with Delhi Police in July, 2011. At this stage it is not possible to identify the group that caused the bomb blast today.

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"In the last few years, several measures have been taken to strengthen Delhi Police. Despite the capacity that has been built and despite Delhi Police remaining on high alert, the tragic incident occurred today," he added.

United News of India adds:

Some reports said the Harkat-ul-Jehad Islami (HuJI) has claimed responsibilty for today's attack, citing Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru's death sentence as the reason for the act.

An email received by different media organizations said that HuJI takes responsibility for today's blast in Delhi. HUJI is a Pakistan-based terrorist group. "We take the mail very seriously," said NIA Chief S C Sinha.

The email states, "We own the responsibility of today's blast at high court delhi.....our demand is that Afzal Guru's death sentence should be repealed immediately else we would target major high courts & the Supreme Court of India..........".

Afzal Guru has been sentenced to death by the Supreme Court for his role in the attack on the Indian Parliament in 2001. His mercy petition that asks for his sentence to be commuted to life is pending with President Pratibha Patil. The Home Ministry has reportedly recommended that it be rejected.

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Chidambaram welcomes ULFA ceasfire; says it wil lead to peace, normalcy in Assam

The Centre on wednesday welcomed the announcement made by ULFA on Tuesday to cease all forms of armed campaign for an indefinite period to create a conducive atmosphere for the peace talks with the government.

File photo of Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram
File photo of Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram
The Government of India today welcomed the announcement made by the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) yesterday to cease all forms of armed campaign for an indefinite period to create a conducive atmosphere for the peace talks with the government and expressed confidence that it would contribute to peace and normalcy in Assam.

"It is expected that a Suspension of Operation (SoO) Agreement will be signed and ground rules for observing the agreement will be finalised in the near future. Government of India, in consultation with Government of Assam, will facilitate an early start to the talks," Union Home Minister P Chidambaram said in a statement here.

He recalled that, in February 2011, the leaders of ULFA, including its Chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa, had called on the Assam Chief Minister, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and him and expressed their desire to seek a political solution to their demands.

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"Subsequently, the government of Assam and the Government of India have been in touch with the leaders of the organisation. Government has always expressed its willingness to hold a dialogue with any militant group that will abjure violence, lay down arms and seek a solution through peaceful and democratic means.

"Government of India is confident that the announcement by ULFA will contribute to peace and normalcy in Assam," Mr Chidambaram added.

In a statement yesterday, Mr Rajkhowa had said that the ceasefire shall be with immediate effect and binding on all its cadres.

"The ULFA, with a view to explore a lasting peaceful resolution of the ongoing conflict, resolves to cease all forms of armed campaign for an indefinite period,'' he said.

''All members of the organisation are commanded hereby to scrupulously implement the decision in letter and spirit and any infringement thereof will be considered as an anti-organisational act and shall be dealt with accordingly," he said.

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The ULFA leader said he had declared the ceasefire in accordance with a decision in the 5th general council of the outfit on February 22, which had authorized him to make the announcement, whenever needed.

Mr Rajkhowa said the decision to declare the ceasefire was in keeping with the desire by all to create a conducive atmosphere for political dialogue.

Referring to the ULFA leadership’s meeting with the Prime Minister, the Union Home Minister and the Assam Chief Minister, among others, he said, ''In the course of such exchanges, everybody has expressed their earnest desire that an honourable, meaningful discussion should continue in a peaceful atmosphere conducive for political negotiations.''

Mr Rajkhowa is leading the ULFA faction that is engaged in formal talks with the government, though a section of the outfit, led by its elusive ‘c-in-c’ Paresh Barua, has stayed out of the peace process.

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PM reshuffles Cabinet, moves Jairam to Rural Development, Khurshid to Law

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday reshuffled his Cabinet, bringing in Jairam Ramesh as the new Rural Development Minister, V Kishore Chandra Deo as the Minister for Tribal Affairs and Panchayati Raj while leaving the key portfolios of Finance, Home, Defence and Foreign Affairs unchanged.

Jairam Ramesh
Jairam Ramesh

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today reshuffled his Cabinet, bringing in Jairam Ramesh as the new Rural Development Minister, V Kishore Chandra Deo as the Minister for Tribal Affairs and Panchayati Raj while leaving the key portfolios of Finance, Home, Defence and Foreign Affairs unchanged.

Apart from Mr Dayanidhi Maran, who resigned recently following allegations of involvement in the 2G spectrum scam, the Prime Minister has dropped Mr Murli Deora, Mr B K Handique, Dr M S Gill, Mr Kanti Lal Bhuria, Mr A Sai Prathap and Mr Arun S Yadav from the Council of Ministers.

Mr Veerappa Moily, who was handling Law and Justice, has been moved to Corporate Affairs. He will be succeeded by Mr Salman Khurshid, who also has additional charge of Minority Affairs.

Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma will hold additional charge of Textiles, which was being held by Mr Maran, while Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal has been given additional charge of Water Resources, held by Mr Khurshid so far.

Salman Khurshid
Salman Khurshid

Mr Vilasrao Deshmukh, who was shifted to Rural Development in the January reshuffle, has now been shifted to Science and Technology and Earth Sciences.

Mr Beni Prasad has been promoted and given charge of Steel in the Cabinet, while Mr Dinesh Trivedi of the Trinamool Congress will be the new Railways Minister, a portfolio held earlier by party supremo Mamata Banerjee, who has taken over as the Chief Minister of West Bengal.

The new Ministers will be sworn in by President Pratibha Patil at Rashtrapati Bhavan at 1700 hours today.

Mr Srikant Jena (Statistics and Programme Implementation, Chemicals and Fertilisers), Ms Jayanthi Natarajan (Environment and Forests), Mr Paban Singh Ghatowar (Development of North-Eastern Region) and Mr Gurudas Kamat (Drinking Water and Sanitation) will be Ministers of State with independent charge.

Veerappa Moily
Veerappa Moily

The new Ministers of State will be Mr Sudip Bandopadhyaya (Health and Family Welfare), Mr Charan Das Mahant (Agriculture and Food Processing Industries), Mr Jitendra Singh (Home Affairs), Mr Milind Deora (Communications and Information Technology) and Mr Rajiv Shukla (Parliamentary Affairs).

Among the Ministes of State, Mr E. Ahamed has been given Human Resource Development apart from External Affairs, Mr V Narayanasamy gets Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions; and Prime Minister’s Office, Mr Harish Rawat has been given  Agriculture and Food Processing Industries; and Parliamentary Affairs, Mr Mukul Roy has been given Shipping and Mr Ashwani Kumar has got Planning; Science and Technology and Earth Sciences.

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Death toll mounts to 67 in Kalka Mail mishap; 245 injured

The death toll in the derailment of 15 coaches of the 12311 Up Howrah-Kalka Mail near Malwan railway station in Uttar Pradesh yesterday reached 67 with the recovery of more bodies from the mangled bogies during rescue operations today.

A TV grab of Kalka mail, which derailed at Fatehpur-Kanpur (UP) on July 10, 2011. UNI PHOTO
A TV grab of Kalka mail, which derailed at Fatehpur-Kanpur (UP) on July 10, 2011. UNI PHOTO
The death toll in the derailment of 15 coaches of the 12311 Up Howrah-Kalka Mail near Malwan railway station in Uttar Pradesh yesterday reached 67 with the recovery of more bodies from the mangled bogies during rescue operations today.

Divisional Commissioner (Allahabad) Mukesh Meshram, who is camping at the scene of the tragedy, told UNI that the toll had gone up to 67 as 16 more bodies were recovered today.

He said the rescue operation was continuing and the Army jawans were searching for bodies inside S-2 coach, which was one of those worst affected in the derailment.

Unconfirmed reports put the death toll at 80.

Superintendent of Police Ram Bharose said 56 bodies were retrieved from the coaches while 11 died at the hospital during treatment.

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A total of 245 people were injured in the accident of which 190 have been admitted to the district hospital here.

Chief District Medical Superintendent Rakesh Kumar said most of the critically injured passengers had been shifted to Kanpur. He said more doctors and paramedical personnel had been called in from nearby districts.

A special train from Howrah, carrying the families of the victims, will reach the accident site later today, officials said.

Commissioner of Railway Safety P K Vajpayee, who will conduct an inquiry into the accident, was expected to reach the site today.

Railway employees engaged in salvage work on July11 following derailment of the Guwhati-Puri express at Bhatkuchi village on the night of July 10 after an explosion set off by suspected militants. UNI PHOTO
Railway employees engaged in salvage work on July11 following derailment of the Guwhati-Puri express at Bhatkuchi village on the night of July 10 after an explosion set off by suspected militants. UNI PHOTO
Meanwhile, Uttar Pradesh Governor B L Joshi visited the scene of the accident and also the district hospital to meet the injured people.

Railway officials camping at the scene of the derailment said the tracks were expected to be cleared by late tonight.

North Central Railway (NCR) General Manager J C Joshi said normal traffic would start only after repair of the overhead electric wires which could take some more time.

Two helicopters of the Indian Air Force were rushed from Allahabad to speed up the rescue efforts yesterday, but light showers had hampered the work last evening. The Army has also sent an air ambulance to ferry the injured to hospitals.

A 150-member team from the National Disaster Response Force is also at the spot to help in the rescue operations.

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Railway Board Chairman Vinay Mittal and other members of the Board as well as the Director General of the Railway Protection Force (RPF) had also reached the scene of the accident by last night and were monitoring the rescue efforts.

Due to the accident, train services on the busy Howrah-Delhi route have been severely affected and long distance trains were being diverted through Lucknow-Uchachar and other routes. Several down trains, including the Rajdhani Express, have been diverted through the Kanpur-Lucknow-Varanasi route. In all, 13 trains have been cancelled and 25 pairs diverted, Railway officials said.

The ill-fated Kalka Mail train, which left from Howrah on Saturday night, was scheduled to reach Kalka this morning via Old Delhi station.

This is the second major rail accident in the state during the past one week. On Thursday, 38 people were killed in a collision between a bus and a train at an unmanned level crossing in Kanshiramnagar district.

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Death toll mounts to 51 in Kalka Mail mishap; 247 injured

The death toll in the derailment of 15 coaches of the Howrah-Kalka Mail near Malwan railway station in Uttar Pradesh on Sunday has reached 51 after more bodies were recovered from the coaches during the night-long rescue operations.

A TV grab of Kalka mail, which derailed at Fatehpur-Kanpur (UP) on July 10, 2011. UNI PHOTO
A TV grab of Kalka mail, which derailed at Fatehpur-Kanpur (UP) on July 10, 2011. UNI PHOTO
The death toll in the derailment of 15 coaches of the 12311-Up Howrah-Kalka Mail near Malwan railway station in Uttar Pradesh yesterday has reached 51 after more bodies were recovered from the coaches during the night-long rescue operation which is continuing round the clock.

Superintendent of Police Ram Bhorase told UNI that 51 people had died so far in the accident. He said the bodies of 37 of the victims had been retrieved from the mangled coaches while 14 people had succumbed to their injuries in hospital.

Mr Bhorase said the rescue efforts were still underway and more bodies could be recovered as the Army personnel were yet to search two sleeper coaches.

A body was recovered from a coach at 0615 hrs today while several others are still trapped inside other coaches, particularly S-1 and S-2.

A total of 247 people were injured in the accident, of whom 190 have been admitted to the district hospital here.

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Chief District Medical Superintendent Dr Rakesh Kumar said most of the critically injured passengers had been shifted to Kanpur. More doctors and paramedical staff had been called in from nearby districts to cope with the crisis, he said.

Railway officials camping at the scene of the derailment said the tracks were expected to be cleared by late tonight.

North Central Railway (NCR) General Manager J C Joshi said normal traffic would start only after repair of the overhead electric wires which could take some more time.

Two helicopters of the Indian Air Force were rushed from Allahabad to speed up the rescue efforts yesterday, but light showers had hampered the work last evening. The Army has also sent an air ambulance to ferry the injured to hospitals.

A 150-member team from the National Disaster Response Force is also at the spot to help in the rescue operations.

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Railway Board Chairman Vinay Mittal and other members of the Board as well as the Director General of the Railway Protection Force (RPF) had also reached the scene of the accident by last night and were monitoring the rescue efforts.

Due to the accident, train services on the busy Howrah-Delhi route have been severely affected and long distance trains were being diverted through Lucknow-Uchachar and other routes. Several down trains, including the Rajdhani Express, have been diverted through the Kanpur-Lucknow-Varanasi route. In all, 13 trains have been cancelled and 25 pairs diverted, Railway officials said.

The ill-fated Kalka Mail train, which left from Howrah on Saturday night, was scheduled to reach Kalka this morning via Old Delhi station.

This is the second major rail accident in the state during the past one week. On Thursday, 38 people were killed in a collision between a bus and a train at an unmanned level crossing in Kanshiramnagar district

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37 killed, over 270 injured in two train accidents in UP, Assam

At least 37 people were killed and over 270 injured today when over a dozen coaches of two superfast Express trains got derailed in Uttar Pradesh and Assam.

A TV grab of Kalka mail, which derailed at Fatehpur-Kanpur (UP) on July 10, 2011. UNI PHOTO
A TV grab of Kalka mail, which derailed at Fatehpur-Kanpur (UP) on July 10, 2011. UNI PHOTO
At least 37 people were killed and over 270 injured today when over a dozen coaches of two superfast Express trains got derailed in Uttar Pradesh and Assam.

At least 37 people were killed and over 200 injured when 12 coaches of the 12311 Up Howrah-Kalka Mail derailed near Malwan railway station on the Howrah-Delhi route of the North-Central railway in Fatehpur, Uttar Pradesh.

In another mishap, at least 70 people were injured, 30 of them critically, when a suspected blast derailed four coaches and overturned four others of the Guwahati-Puri Express in lower Assam's Nalbari district this evening.

Police sources here said 37 passengers have been killed in Kalka Mail accident and the death toll could rise as many passengers were still trapped inside two derailed coaches.  However, unconfirmed report put the death toll at over 50.

More than 250 injured are undergoing treatment in different hospitals. As many as 190 of them were admitted to the district hospital here and 54 were admitted to private nursing homes in Kanpur and Fatehpur.

Four helicopters of the Indian Air Force (IAF) were deployed to help in the rescue operations. Several seriously injured passengers were rushed to hospital by army jawans.

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Passengers of the ill-fated train complained of delay in the rescue and relief efforts by the Railways.

A special train has been made available from Kanpur for the passengers of the Kalka Mail for their onward journey. Besides, food packets and water bottles have been provided to the passengers, railway officials said.

NCR spokesman Sandeep Mathur told UNI from Allahabad that the derailed coaches included two AC three-tier, one AC two-tier, two general, five sleeper, one pantry and an SLR coach.

He said 11 coaches had been totally damaged and gas cutters were being used to bring out the passengers from the derailed coaches. The train was running at a speed of 108 kms per hour when the accident occurred.

"A medical relief train with seven doctors and medical equipment has reached from Allahabad. A similar train from Kanpur has also reached the spot," Mr Mathur said.

All the derailed coaches either had overturned or climbed onto other coaches, he said.

Railway Board Chairman Vinay Mittal, along with some of the members of the Board and the Director General of Railway Protection Force (RPF), has rushed to the spot.

The Railways announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs 5 lakh for the next of kin of those killed in the mishap, Rs 1 lakh for the critically injured and Rs 25,000 for those with minor injuries.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati has expressed her grief over the accident and announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs 1 lakh for the kin of the deceased, Rs 50,000 for the critically injured and Rs 25,000 for victims with minor injuries.

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State Cooperative Minister and Bahujan Samaj Party state president Swami Prasad Maurya, along with UP Chief Secretary Anoop Mishra, have reached the spot and were supervising the relief and rescue operations.

Rescue efforts had picked up with Army jawans taking full control of the operation. A 150-member team from National Disaster Response Force had also reached the scene. Railway officials said the rescue work would continue overnight. Official said the restoration of the route would take at least 48 hours.

The railway officials were yet to establish the cause of the derailment.

In the district hospital, there was a shortage of beds and many of the injured were forced to lie on the floor. Most of the deceased were yet to be identified except for one Kallo Devi (35) of Kanpur. A woman died with her infant child on her lap.

The railways have asked Commissioner Railway Safety P K Vajpayee to inquire into the accident.

Regarding the second incident, Northeast Frontier Railway sources said it occurred at Bhatkuchi, between Rangiya and Ghograpar railway stations.

The train had left Guwahati railway station at 1915 hours on its way to Puri and the accident occurred at about 2020 hours, the sources said.

Four coaches of the train derailed and fell into a paddy field, while four more overturned. All the coaches involved were those immediately behind the engine.

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The sources said preliminary findings pointed towards a blast on the tracks, though confirmation is yet to be received. Passengers of the ill-fated train as well as people of nearby villages also claimed that they had heard a loud explosion just before the accident.

The injured were being rushed to Rangiya and Guwahati, where the state government has issued orders for treatment of the victims on a priority basis. The condition of at least 30 injured was stated to be critical.

Rescue and relief teams have reached the spot and were trying to ensure that no person was trapped in the coaches as well as providing medical aid to those injured.

The main railway line through the section has been blocked following the incident and trains were being diverted via Goalpara, the sources said.

The NFR has set up following helpline numbers after the accident: 0361-2737154/2737155/2731621/622/623 and 9957554804.

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40 killed, over 250 injured as Kalka Mail derails in UP

At least 40 people were killed and more than 250 injured when 12 coaches of the 12311 Up Howrah-Kalka Mail derailed near Malwan railway station in Uttar Pradesh on the Howrah-Delhi route of the North-Central Railway in Fatehpur on Sunday.

A TV grab of Kalka mail, which derailed at Fatehpur-Kanpur (UP) on July 10, 2011. UNI PHOTO
A TV grab of Kalka mail, which derailed at Fatehpur-Kanpur (UP) on July 10, 2011. UNI PHOTO
At least 40 people were killed and more than 250 injured when 12 coaches of the 12311 Up Howrah-Kalka Mail derailed near Malwan railway station in Uttar Pradesh on the Howrah-Delhi route of the North-Central Railway (NCR) here today.

Police sources here said the death toll could rise as many passengers were still inside two of the derailed coaches.

However, the Railways have put the toll at 22, while unconfirmed reports said more than 50 people had died.

More than 250 injured are undergoing treatment in different hospitals. As many as 190 of them were admitted to the district hospital here and 54 were admitted to private nursing homes in Kanpur and Fatehpur.

Four helicopters of the Indian Air Force (IAF) were deployed to help in the rescue operations. Several seriously injured passengers were rushed to hospital by army jawans.

Passengers of the ill-fated train complained of delay in the rescue and relief efforts by the Railways.

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A special train has been made available from Kanpur for the passengers of the Kalka Mail for their onward journey. Besides, food packets and water bottles have been provided to the passengers, railway officials said.

NCR spokesman Sandeep Mathur told UNI from Allahabad that the derailed coaches included two AC three-tier, one AC two-tier, two general, five sleeper, one pantry and an SLR coach.

He said 11 coaches had been totally damaged and gas cutters were being used to bring out the passengers from the derailed coaches. The train was running at a speed of 108 kms per hour when the accident occurred.

"A medical relief train with seven doctors and medical equipment has reached from Allahabad. A similar train from Kanpur has also reached the spot," Mr Mathur said.

All the derailed coaches either had overturned or climbed onto other coaches, he said.

Railway Board Chairman Vinay Mittal, along with some of the members of the Board and the Director General of Railway Protection Force (RPF), has rushed to the spot.

The Railways announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs 5 lakh for the next of kin of those killed in the mishap, Rs 1 lakh for the critically injured and Rs 25,000 for those with minor injuries.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati has expressed her grief over the accident and announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs 1 lakh for the kin of the deceased, Rs 50,000 for the critically injured and Rs 25,000 for victims with minor injuries.

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State Cooperative Minister and Bahujan Samaj Party state president Swami Prasad Maurya, along with UP Chief Secretary Anoop Mishra, have reached the spot and were supervising the relief and rescue operations.

Rescue efforts had picked up with Army jawans taking full control of the operation. A 150-member team from National Disaster Response Force had also reached the scene. Railway officials said the rescue work would continue overnight. Official said the restoration of the route would take at least 48 hours.

The railway officials were yet to establish the cause of the derailment.

In the district hospital, there was a shortage of beds and many of the injured were forced to lie on the floor. Most of the deceased were yet to be identified except for one Kallo Devi (35) of Kanpur. A woman died with her infant child on her lap.

The railways have asked Commissioner Railway Safety P K Vajpayee to inquire into the accident.

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100 injured in derailment of Howrah- Kalka Mail in Uttar Pradesh

More than 100 passengers were injured when 12 coaches of the Howrah-Kalka Mail derailed near Malwa
railway station in Uttar Pradesh on the Howrah-Delhi route of North-Central Railway on Sunday.

File photo of the scene after a train accident in Uttar Pradesh on January 2, 2010.
File photo of the scene after a train accident in Uttar Pradesh on January 2, 2010.
More than 100 passengers were injured when 12 coaches of the Howrah-Kalka Mail derailed near Malwa railway station in Uttar Pradesh on the Howrah-Delhi route of North-Central Railway near here today.

NCR General Manager H C Joshi, who has rushed to the spot, told UNI on telephone that two railway officials on the spot had informed him that it was a major accident.

"The total number of injured passengers could be around 100," he said.

The derailed coaches include three air-conditioned coaches along with the engine. The impact of the derailment was such that some coaches had climbed on to others. The derailment occurred at around 1215 hrs.

Mr Joshi said the injured passengers were being shifted to hospitals in private vehicles while relief trains have been rushed from Kanpur and Allahabad. "Local people are helping a lot to shift the injured to the hospitals," he said.

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As a result of the accident, train services on the busy Howrah-Delhi route have been paralysed.

The ill-fated train which left from Howrah last night was scheduled to reach Kalka early tomorrow morning via Old Delhi station.

The Railways have set up helplines at Kanpur station for providing information to relatives of the passengers.

The numbers are 0512-2323015,0512-2323016 and 0512-232318. The helpline number at Allahabad is 0532-2207353.

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Search operations resume for missing chopper carrying Arunachal CM Dorjee Khandu

Massive search operations were resumed early Sunday morning to trace the Pawan Hans helicopter carrying Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu, which went missing on Saturday while on a flight from Tawang to state capital Itanagar.

Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh Dorjee Khandu.
Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh Dorjee Khandu.
Massive search operations were resumed early this morning to trace the Pawan Hans helicopter carrying Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu, which went missing yesterday while on a flight from Tawang to the state capital, Itanagar.

Reports from Itanagar said four Indian Air Force (IAF ) helicopters had been deployed along the Tawang-Itanagar route to look for the chopper.


On the ground, men of the Army and para-military forces have begun search operations along the Indo-Bhutan border, where the helicopter was suspected to have headed.


Apart from Mr Khandu and the two pilots, J S Babbar and K S Malick, the Chief Minister's security officer Yashi Chadook and a female passenger, identified as Yeshi Lamu, sister of Tawang MLA Tsewang Dhondup.


The state government held an emergency meeting in Itanagar yesterday evening to review the situation.


The helicopter had left Tawang around 0950 yesterday and was due to land at Itanagr at 1130 hours. The last contact with it was around 20 minutes after it took off from Tawang and it had crossed the Sela Pass.


Mr Khandu was returning from Tawang after receiving Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, who flew to Tawang yesterday to participate in a Speakers' conference there.


The Chief Minister was scheduled to participate in a May Day rally in Itanagar today.


About three hours after the helicopter was reported missing, there were reports that it had landed safely inside Bhutan, but there was no confirmation of this from Pawan Hans or from Bhutanese authorities.


The Bhutanese government has also deployed several search teams in the border area to look for the helicopter.


"The state government has been in constant touch with the Central government and the government of Bhutan as the safe landing of the Chief Minister's chopper in Bhutan is yet to be officially confirmed," a UNI report quoted Arunachal Pradesh government spokesman Jarbam Gamlin as saying.


He urged the people not to panic and to pray for the safe return of the Chief Minister and the others.


(With inputs from United News of India)


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Cabinet okays recommendations of GoM on Bhopal Gas Tragedy

The Union Cabinet today approved the recommendations of the Group of Ministers (GoM) constituted to examine all the issues related to the 1984 Bhopal Gas Tragedy.

The Union Cabinet today approved the recommendations of the Group of Ministers (GoM) constituted to examine all the issues related to the 1984 Bhopal Gas Tragedy, including an enhanced ex-gratia payment of Rs 10 lakh to the next of kin of each of those killed in the world's worst industrial disaster.


The GoM has also recommended increasing the ex-gratia payment for those suffered permanent disability to Rs 5 lakh, cancer cases to Rs 2 lakh, total renal failure cases to Rs 2 lakh and temporary disability cases to Rs 1 lakh, after adjustment of the compensation amount already received by the victims.


As a result of the decision, more than 45,000 victims who were affected most severely by the tragedy would receive additional ex-gratia payment.


The disaster was caused by the leak of methyl isocyanate gas from the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal on the night of December 2-3, 1984.


The Cabinet also decided that additional material in support of the request for extradition of then Union Carbide Chairman Warren Anderson from the United States would be put together by the concerned agencies. The Ministry of External Affairs will thereafter press the request for extradition with the US Government.


An official press release said a curative petition would be filed in the Supreme Court for reconsideration of its judgment dated September 13, 1996 by which the charges under the graver sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) were quashed against the accused and the trial was confined to the offence under Section 304A.


It said a Revision Application will be filed in the High Court under Section 397 of Criminal Procedure Code (Cr. P.C.) against the judgement of the trial court for directing the trial court to refer the case under Section 323 of Cr.P.C. to the Sessions Court to try the case for offences under Sections 304 Part II, 324, 326 and 429 read with Section 35 IPC.


An appeal will be filed in the Sessions Court against the judgment of the trial court to correct the error in the sentences imposed on the accused under different Sections.  The errors pertain to the term of imprisonment (Section 338), the amount of fine (Section 304A), and the direction that the sentences shall run concurrently.


The Attorney General will examine whether a curative petition could be filed in the Supreme Court for reconsideration of the compensation amount earlier settled at $ 470 million.


Appropriate applications will be filed before the Courts concerned and request the Courts, especially the High Court, to expeditiously decide the question of liability of the Dow Chemicals Company and/ or any other successor to Union Carbide Corporation (UCC)/Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL).


The release said the Government of India would approach the Supreme Court to allow takeover of the Bhopal Memorial Hospital and Research Centre (BMHRC) by the Government through the Department of Biotechnology and the Department of Atomic Energy.  The Hospital should then be strengthened, upgraded and run as a super-specialty and research hospital, the GoM has recommended.


The release said the recommendations of the GoM would be implemented in a time-bound manner.


The GoM was reconstituted by the Government on May 26, with Union Home Minister P Chidambaram as its head, to examine all the issues relating to the gas leak, including remediation measures and make appropriate recommendations regarding relief and rehabilitation of the victims and their families.


 The GoM met over five sessions in four days from June 18 to 21 and discussed various issues relating to compensation, legal issues, extradition of Anderson, BMHRC, other health- related issues, environmental issues and the Plan of Action submitted by the Government of Madhya Pradesh.


As recommended by the GoM, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) will establish its 31st full-fldged Research Centre in Bhopal within 90 days.


The release said ICMR would  start conducting epidemiological studies and clinical research in areas identified by them, including following areas: respiratory diseases; eye related diseases; cancer; total renal failure; genetic disorders; congenital disorders; women-related medical issues; and second-generation children-related medical issues.


It said the reports of NEERI, NGRI and IICT will be subjected to a peer review by scientists jointly appointed by the Department of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Environment and Forests.


The Government of Madhya Pradesh will complete expeditiously the work relating to repairing/ re-erecting the compound wall around the UCIL premises to prevent entry and exit of unauthorized persons, children, and so on.


The State Government, which will have the responsibility of remediation actions, will  suitably empower the Department of Gas Tragedy, Relief and Rehabilitation, including granting enhanced financial powers and fixed tenure  for officers (at least up to 31.12.2012) so that the remediation and environmental cleanup is completed in a time-bound manner.


The release said an Oversight Committee will be established in the Ministry of Environment and Forests with representatives of the Ministries/Departments concerned of the Central and State Govrnments. The Union Minister for Environment will be the Chair and the Minister of Gas Relief, Madhya Pradesh, will be the co-chair.  Besides, NEERI, NGRI, IICT and CPCB may be associated in a suitable capacity.  The Oversight Committee will provide oversight and support to the Government of Madhya Pradesh in taking the necessary  remedial actions. Ministry of Environment and Forests will notify the Oversight Committee.


The release said the Central Government would bear the cost of remediation of approximately Rs 310 crore in the first instance. The Government will also take steps to claim restitution from the persons/companies found liable for the damage on the principle of "polluter pays".


The remediation works including disposal of the stored hazardous residues, dismantling the contaminated structure and remediation of the contamination of water and soil will be taken up and completed by 31.12.2012.  The Madhya Pradesh Government will arrange incineration of toxic wastes stored at UCIL plant site in the incinerator at Pithampur by 31.12.2010.


The release said the decision would result in the Centre providing a compensation package of Rs 650-700 crore, Rs 310 crore for environmental remediation and Rs 272.75 crore for medical, economic and social rehabilitation of the gas victims.


This will be in addition to Rs. 14.18 crore provided under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) for piped water supply scheme for 14 localities in and around UCIL plant site, Rs. 8.11 crore for renewal of basic infrastructure in the scrap market, Rs 721 crore for water supply augmentation and distribution network improvement covering the entire city of Bhopal, 7 projects costing about Rs. 1031 crore under JNNURM and Rs. 443 crore provided for the poor localities of Bhopal, by Ministry of Urban Development and Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation. Earlier, the Centre had approved an Action Plan for rehabilitation of gas victims which was implemented during 1990-99 with an outlay of Rs. 258 crore, the release added.


Last week, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had directed the GoM to meet immediately and submit its report to the Cabinet within 10 days as questions continued to be raised in the media and by the Opposition about the then Congress government's handling of the tragedy.


The GoM was originally set up during the first term of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government and was headed by Human Resource Minister Arjun Singh. It was meant to go into a range of issues, including the relief and rehabilitation of the victims and their families.


Apart from Mr Chidambaram, the other members of the GoM are Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, Law and Justice Minister M Veerappa Moily, Urban Development Minister S Jaipal Reddy, Urban Employment and Poverty Alleviation Minister Kumari Selja, Fertilisers and Chemicals Minister M K Alagiri, Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh and Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office Prithviraj Chavan. Madhya Pradesh's minister in-charge of rehabilitation is a permanent invitee to the GoM.


More than 25 years after the tragedy, which claimed thousands of lives, seven of those accused in the case were convicted and sentenced to two years of imprisonmnent on June 7 in a verdict that attracted widespread criticism from social activists, political parties and survivors of the tragedy.


The seven persons convicted by Bhopal Chief Judicial Magistrate Mohan P Tiwari were then Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) Chairman Keshub Mahindra, then UCIL Managing Director Vijay Gokhale, then UCIL Vice-President Kishore Kamdar, then Works Manager J Mukund, Production Manager S P Chaudhury, Plant Superintendent K V Shetty, and Production Assistant S I Qureshi.


Apart from being sentenced to undergo two years of imprisonment with a fine of Rs 1 lakh under section 304A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC); three months of imprisonment and fine of Rs. 250 under section 336 IPC; six months of imprisonment with fine of Rs. 500 under section 337 IPC; and one year of imprisonment with a fine of Rs. 1000 under section 338 IPC.


The eighth convict, UCIL, has been fined with Rs. 5 lakhs under section 304 A IPC and Rs. 250, Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 respectively under sections 336, 337 and 338 IPC.


In all, a criminal case was registered against twelve accused persons/companies in the case.


The gas leak had not only killed thousands but also affected several thousand more, many of whom are suffering the effects of the exposure to the deadly gas till today.


The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), in its chargesheet filed on December 1, 1997, said that, apart from proximate reasons, there were a number of design defects and other criminally negligent operational practices which resulted in the gas leak and that these were in the knowledge of the management and were deliberately ignored for commercial reasons.


Among those against whom the case was filed was Mr Andersen. The court had declared him as an absconder. A request for his extradition remains unexecuted and he never returned to face trial in India.


Among the questions being raised now are why Mr Anderson, who had come to Bhopal after the gas leak, had been allowed to leave Bhopal and then India by the then Congress governments in Madhya Pradesh and at the Centre.


This has led to much speculation about the role of Mr Arjun Singh, who was then the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, and the late Mr Rajiv Gandhi, who had then just taken over as Prime Minister barely a month ago after the assassination of his mother, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984.


Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said some days ago that Mr Arjun Singh had taken the decision to allow Mr Anderson to leave Bhopal due to law and order concerns in the aftermath of the disaster.


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India, Canada likely to sign civil nuclear energy pact during PM's visit

India and Canada are likely to sign an agreement for cooperation in civil nuclear energy during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's two-day visit to Toronto on June 26-27.

India and Canada are likely to sign an agreement for cooperation in civil nuclear energy during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's two-day visit to Toronto for the G-20 Summit on June 26-27 after which he will have a substantive bilateral engagement with his Canadian counterpart Stephen Harper.


The interaction between the two Prime Ministers is slated for the evening of June 27 in Toronto. The two sides have been discussing a number of agreements and memoranda of understanding (MoU) which are likely to be signed during the visit.


Apart from the pact on civil nuclear energy, the other MoUs are in the areas of mining, higher education, culture and social security.


Briefing mediapersons about the visit, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said Dr Singh would reach Toronto on June 26. His delegation will include Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, who is the G20 Sherpa from India, National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon and other senior officials.


This is the fourth summit of the G-20 in 20 months, starting with the Washington Summit in November 2008, followed by the London Summit in April 2009 and Pittsburgh Summit in September 2009.


"We believe this is indicative of the dynamism and importance of this grouping which since Pittsburgh has been designated as the premier forum for international economic cooperation," she said.


Mr Harper will preside over the Toronto Summit. Apart from the G20 countries, Canada has also invited Spain, the Netherlands, Malawi (as Chair of the African Union), Ethiopia (which holds the Chair of NEPAD) and Vietnam (the Chair of ASEAN) to the Summit.


In addition, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the President of the World Bank, the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Director General of the World Trade Organisation and the heads of the International Labour Organisation and the Financial Stability Board, among others, are likely to be present.


The G20 Summit will start with an official welcome and a reception, followed by a working dinner hosted by the Canadian Prime Minister. The first day's programme will conclude with a cultural event.


On June 27, the programme includes the Summit Opening Plenary followed by other plenary sessions, a G20 Family Photograph, a leaders’ working lunch, and finally the concluding Final Plenary in the afternoon.


Ms Rao said Dr Singh would interact with leaders of the participating countries at the Summit on a range of bilateral, regional and global issues of mutual interest.


Canada has organised some side events in conjunction with the G20 Summit. These include a G20 Business Summit (B20) on June 25-26. India will be represented at the B20 by CII and FICCI. The event will be hosted by Canada's Finance Minister.


The other event is the G20 Youth Summit, called "MY Summit" for which each country will send upto seven persons. India will be represented by a youth group selected by the Department of Youth Affairs. Select participants from the Youth Summit will also interact briefly with the G20 leaders on June 27 afternoon.


The theme of the Toronto Summit is "Recovery and New Beginnings". Its main focus will be on implementation of the previous Summit decisions. Therefore, the leaders are expected to take stock of the steps taken so far and chart the future direction. They will also review the current status of the global economic recovery as well as progress of implementation of past G20 Summit decisions.


Ms Rao said the Toronto Summit would decide on the mandate and direction of the G20’s future course of action. Some of the areas the leaders are likely to address are global recovery, its prospects and challenges; the framework for strong, sustainable and balanced growth; international financial institutions (IFI) reform; financial regulatory reform; protectionism; and looking ahead to Seoul the venue of the Fifth G20 Summit in November 2010.


The leaders are expected to issue a Toronto Summit Declaration or Communique. Ms Rao pointed out that the G20, in its previous Summit meetings and the meetings of the Finance Ministers, had tried to evolve a common understanding on the causes of the global financial and economic crisis, a reaffirmation of commitment to financial and economic stability and growth, to evolve common principles for reforming the financial markets, and launching of the national plans for information.


Ms Rao said the last G20 Summit in Pittsburgh had designated the grouping as the premier forum for international economic cooperation and had noted the success achieved in tackling the international financial and economic crisis by prompt and effective measures. It had mandated a framework for strong, sustainable and balanced growth in the 21st century through sound macro-economic policies; emphasised the need for sustained strong policy responses to growth until a durable recovery was secured; and to avoid any premature withdrawal of stimulus while preparing for coordinated exit strategies. It had called for implementing regulatory measures governing banks, financial institutions, capital markets, compensation standards, risk taking, over- the- counter (OTC) derivatives, credit rating agencies, hedge funds, non-cooperative jurisdictions, as well as, reiterated the fight against protectionism and all its forms. It was also decided to hold a Summit at Toronto and thereafter at Seoul, and to have Annual Summits thereafter starting with France in 2011.


The G20 brings together Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the European Union,  France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States.


Mr Vivek Katju, Secretary (West) in the Ministry of External Affairs, said Dr Singh's discussions with Mr Harper would give a fresh impetus to the bilateral relationship between India and Canada.


"The two countries have been engaged, over the past few years, in enhancing the substance of the bilateral relationship in areas that can directly contribute to the welfare of the people. Thus, there has been a focus on economic and commercial cooperation and cooperation in the field of science, technology, innovation, education, health and agriculture among others," he said.


Mr Katju said the visit of Mr Harper to India in November last year had imparted a new momentum to cooperation in these areas.


He said the agreement on cooperation in civil nuclear energy under discussion between the two countries covered the areas of research, of development of nuclear energy applications in the field of agriculture, healthcare industry and environment, in cooperation in the field of nuclear waste management, nuclear safety, radiation safety, and environmental protection, and so on.


In reply to a question, he said the two countries were cooperating in the field of counter-terrorism. He said there was a regular structured dialogue between the two countries in this area and discussions are held on a periodic basis. There is also continuing cooperation between the two sides in this regard, he added.


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GoM on Bhopal Gas Tragedy recommends enhanced compensation

The GoM on the Bhopal Gas Tragedy is understood to have recommended an enhanced compensation of Rs 10 lakh to the next of kin of each of those killed in the world's worst ever industrial disaster.

The reconstituted Group of Ministers (GoM) on the 1984 Bhopal Gas Tragedy is today understood to have recommended an enhanced compensation of Rs 10 lakh to the next of kin of each of those killed in the world's worst ever industrial disaster.


The GoM, which finalised its report at a meeting this morning before submitting it to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, is learnt to have recommended a Rs 1500 crore package in this regard, which also provides for Rs 5 lakh for those permanently disabled or suffering from critical ailments and Rs 3 lakh for those who have been partially debilitated.


The enhanced compensation will be paid after deducting the amounts already given to the victims earlier, official sources said.


Union Home Minister P Chidambaram, who heads the GoM, said the Prime Minister had indicated to him yesterday that the report would be considered by a special meeting of the Union Cabinet on June 25.


He told mediapersons after today's meeting that the GoM's immediate focus now was on bringing relief to those who had suffered as a result of the "ghastly tragedy". He said there were still thousands of people who continued to suffer due to the gas leak and the Union Government was "extremely sympathetic" to their plight.


"We have dealt with all issues, compensation, legal issues, including the issue of pursuing the extradition of (then Union Carbide Chairman) Warren Anderson, the legal options available to the government of India and, most importantly, remediation matters and health and health-related matters," he said.


"We think we have made significant recommendations. The GoM is not over. It will continue to address issues as and when they come up," he said.


Mr Chidambaram said the GoM had identified about half a dozen residuary issues that will be taken up by it in its future meetings.


Sources said the GoM's report also included a recommendaiton on filing a curative petition in the Supreme Court against the dilution of charges against those accused in the case.


The GoM's report also deals with disposal of the toxic waste at the site of the disaster, the sources said.


The reconstituted GoM, set up to look into all aspects of the December 2, 1984 tragedy, held its first meeting here on Friday and met again twice on Saturday and held one session yesterday.


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had earlier this month reconstituted the GoM and put Mr Chidambaram in charge. Last week, he had directed the GoM to meet immediately and submit its report to the Cabinet within 10 days as questions continued to be raised in the media and by the Opposition about the then Congress government's handling of the tragedy.


The GoM was originally set up during the first term of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government and was headed by Human Resource Minister Arjun Singh. It was meant to go into a range of issues, including the relief and rehabilitation of the victims and their families.


Apart from Mr Chidambaram, the other members of the GoM are Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, Law and Justice Minister M Veerappa Moily, Urban Development Minister S Jaipal Reddy, Urban Employment and Poverty Alleviation Minister Kumari Selja, Fertilisers and Chemicals Minister M K Alagiri, Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh and Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office Prithviraj Chavan.


Madhya Pradesh's minister in-charge of rehabilitation is a permanent invitee to the GoM.


More than 25 years after the tragedy, which claimed thousands of lives, seven of those accused in the case were convicted and sentenced to two years of imprisonmnent on June 7 in a verdict that attracted widespread criticism from social activists, political parties and survivors of the tragedy.


The seven persons convicted by Bhopal Chief Judicial Magistrate Mohan P Tiwari were then Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) Chairman Keshub Mahindra, then UCIL Managing Director Vijay Gokhale, then UCIL Vice-President Kishore Kamdar, then Works Manager J Mukund, Production Manager S P Chaudhury, Plant Superintendent K V Shetty, and Production Assistant S I Qureshi.


Apart from being sentenced to undergo two years of imprisonment with a fine of Rs 1 lakh under section 304A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC); three months of imprisonment and fine of Rs. 250 under section 336 IPC; six months of imprisonment with fine of Rs. 500 under section 337 IPC; and one year of imprisonment with a fine of Rs. 1000 under section 338 IPC.


The eighth convict, UCIL, has been fined with Rs. 5 lakhs under section 304 A IPC and Rs. 250, Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 respectively under sections 336, 337 and 338 IPC.


In all, a criminal case was registered against twelve accused persons/companies in the case.


The tragedy occurred on the intervening night of December 2-3, 1984 when methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas leaked from the UCIL factory in Bhopal. Apart from killing thousands, the leak affected several thousand more, many of whom are suffering the effects of the exposure to the deadly gas till today.


The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), in its chargesheet filed on December 1, 1997, said that, apart from proximate reasons, there were a number of design defects and other criminally negligent operational practices which resulted in the gas leak and that these were in the knowledge of the management and were deliberately ignored for commercial reasons.


Among those against whom the case was filed was Mr Andersen. The court had declared him as an absconder. A request for his extradition remains unexecuted and he never returned to face trial in India.


Among the questions being raised now are why Mr Anderson, who had come to Bhopal after the gas leak, had been allowed to leave Bhopal and then India by the then Congress governments in Madhya Pradesh and at the Centre.


This has led to much speculation about the role of Mr Arjun Singh, who was then the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, and the late Mr Rajiv Gandhi, who had then just taken over as Prime Minister barely a month ago after the assassination of his mother, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984.


Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said some days ago that Mr Arjun Singh had taken the decision to allow Mr Anderson to leave Bhopal due to law and order concerns in the aftermath of the disaster.


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CBI names 3 PCPA activists as suspects in Gyaneshwari Express derailment

The CBI has named three activists of the Maoist-backed PCPA as key suspects in the case relating to the May 28 derailment and collision involving the Howrah-Kurla Gyaneshwari Express in West Bengal.

Photos of Umakant Mahto, Manoj @ Bapi Mahto and Asit Mahto who are wanted in the Gyaneshwari Train Case by the CBI.
Photos of Umakant Mahto, Manoj @ Bapi Mahto and Asit Mahto who are wanted in the Gyaneshwari Train Case by the CBI.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) today named three activists of the Maoist-backed People's Committee against Police Atrocities (PCPA) as key accused in the case relating to the May 28 derailment and collision involving the Howrah-Kurla Gyaneshwari Express in West Bengal.

As many as 148 people were killed and about 150 others injured in the incident, which the authorities suspect was the handiwork of Maoists or one of their front organisations.

A press release issued by the CBI here today said the agency had declared a reward of Rs one lakh each for information leading to the arrest of the three "prominent accused" - Umakant Mahto, resident of village Banksole, Manoj alias Bapi Mahto, resident of village Rasua and Asit Mahto, resident of Krishnanagar.

Posters in English, Bengal and the local Alchiki language, with the pictures of the three suspects, were released today and will be displayed at prominent places for seeking information about them.

The press release said information about the suspects could be made available round the clock on telephone numbers 09674433351, 09051444405, 09051061000 and 033-23596119 or sent to fax number 033-23348713. The information can also be sent by e-mail to hobsckol@cbi.gov.in or by mail to Special Crime Branch, CGO Complex, A-Wing, DF Block, Salt Lake, Kolkata-64.

The release said the Director of CBI had also constituted a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to look into the professional investigation of the incident, which had also resulted in the loss of property worth crores of rupees.

The investigation involves close coordination and cooperation between several organizations, agencies and individuals, it said.
The JIT comprises three officers of CBI, three officers of State Police, two officers of Railway Protection Force, one officer of Railway Board and two forensic experts for carrying out the investigation in a time-bound manner. Mr Keshav Kumar, IGP & Joint Director, CBI, is the head of the JIT.

As many as 13 coaches of the superfast train had derailed around 1.30 am on May 28 near Kharagpur and three of them were rammed within minutes by a speeding goods train coming from the opposite direction.

Authorities said the derailment was an act of sabotage by Maoists, whose outfits had declared a "Black Week" in the region. Officials said the driver of the passenger train had reported hearing a loud noise before the Howrah-Kurla superfast train passed the spot.

Television pictures showed about 18 inches of the track missing at the spot where the derailment took place, apparently cut.

The incident occurred between the Khemasoli and Sardiya stations on the Kharagpur-Tatanagar section, about 135 km from Kolkata.

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Death toll in W. Bengal train mishap climbs to 114, could rise further

The death toll in yesterday's derailment and collision involving the Mumbai-bound Gyaneshwari Express in West Bengal has risen to 114 and officials said the figure could climb further.

Bogies of the Howra-Kurla Gyaneshwari Express which derailed in West Bengal on May 28, 2010.
Bogies of the Howra-Kurla Gyaneshwari Express which derailed in West Bengal on May 28, 2010.

The death toll in yesterday's derailment and collision involving the Mumbai-bound Gyaneshwari Express in West Bengal's West Midnapore district has risen to 114 and officials said the figure could climb further.

As many as 13 coaches of the superfast Howrah-Kurla train derailed around 1.30 am yesterday near Kharagpur and three of them were hit within minutes by a speeding goods train coming from the opposite direction.

Authorities have declared the derailment as an act of sabotage by Maoists, whose outfits had declared a "Black Week" in the region. Officials said the driver of the passenger train had reported hearing a loud noise before the Howrah-Kurla superfast train passed the spot.

Television pictures showed about 18 inches of the track missing at the spot where the derailment took place, apparently cut.

More than 40 hours after the incident, rescue teams continued their frantic efforts today morning to look for survivors and pull out bodies from the mangled bogies at the scene of the mishap.

The incident occurred between the Khemasoli and Sardiya stations on the Kharagpur-Tatanagar section, about 135 km from Kolkata.

At least 149 people suffered injuries in the incident and are being treated in hospitals in Kharagpur, Midnapore and Kolkata. About 38 of them have suffered grievous injuries.

The officials said efforts were being made to clear the tracks at the scene of the mishap with the help of two giant cranes which had finally managed to reach the spot.

The task of repairing the tracks and restoring normal trafic would take some more time, they said.

According to the officials, 34 of the passengers killed in the incident had been identified so far and the bodies of several of them had been handed over to their relatives.

Rescue and relief teams at the scene of the derailment of the Howrah-Kurla Gyaneshwari Express in West Bengal on May 28, 2010.
Rescue and relief teams at the scene of the derailment of the Howrah-Kurla Gyaneshwari Express in West Bengal on May 28, 2010.

The Railways have also started making payments of the compensation amount of Rs 5 lakhs announced for the next of kin of each of those killed. Out of the amount, Rs 25,000 was paid in cash and the remainder by cheque, they said.

As a result of the accident, the Railways had rescheduled or cancelled some trains. Many others were running way behind schedule.

The trains cancelled yesterday included the 2021/2022 Howrah-Barbil Jan Shatdbdi Express, 2871/2872 Howrah-Titlagarh Ispat Express, 2813/2814 Howrah-Tata Steel Express, 315/316 Howrah- Chakradharpur Passenger. 8003/8004 Jhargram-Purulia Bi-Weekly Express, 8005/8006 Howrah-Koraput-Howrah Express, 8615/8616 Howrah-Hatia-Howrah Express, 2865/2866 Howrah-Purlia-Howrah Express and 8645 Howrah-Hyderabad Express.

Furthermore, the Railways have decided to suspend running of trains between 2200 hours and 0500 hours till June 1 between Kharagpur and Rourkela and Kharagpur and Adra in view of the "black week" announced by some outfits.

Accordingly, many of the trains scheduled to leave from Howrah in the night will now leave in the morning hours.

An official press release here said the Railways had arranged for free travel facility for the next of kin of the victims of the mishap.

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Air India says to restore normal schedule from Friday

A day after its engineers and ground staff called off a two-day-old flash strike, national carrier Air India said on Thursday that it would restore its normal schedule from Friday.

Air India
Air India

A day after its engineers and ground staff called off a two-day-old flash strike, national carrier Air India today said that it would restore its normal schedule from tomorrow.

In a statement, the airline said it had operated more than 90 per cent of the flights scheduled for today till 1800 hours.

The two-day strike had forced the airline to cancel more than a hundred flights and had left thousands of passengers stranded at airports across the country.

The employees had resorted to the sudden action on Tuesday to protest delays in the payment of salaries and a gag order on talking to the media about last Saturday's crash of an Air India Express flight from Dubai at Mangalore, in which 158 people had been killed.

The decision to call off the strike came yesterday evening shortly after the Delhi High Court, on a plea by the National Aviation Company of India Limited (NACIL), the public sector company that runs Air India, directed the unions not to continue with the strike.

The court also directed the unions not to resort to strike with effect from May 31 in terms of a strike notice served by them to the Air India management on May 14.

The court further directed the members of the union not to cause any obstruction to the visitors and passengers at the airports and the Head Office / Registered Office / Booking Offices and the regional offices of the airline. The unions shall allow egress and ingress to visitors and goods, it directed.

Air India said that it would meet the leaders of all unions on June 1 at its headquarters when it will communicate the actual reasons leading to the present situation.

The statement also said wage disbursements would take place on June 1.

Meanwhile, the Air India management today withdrew the recognition granted to the All India Aircraft Engineers Association (AIAEA) and the Air Corporations Employees Union (ACEU).

The reasons for derecognition included the illegal strike resorted to by the two unions, which the airline said caused harassment to innocent passengers, caused revenue losses to the company and distrupted flights nationwide and to international destinations.

It said the AIAEA and ACEU had indulged in regular violations of the Code of Discipline and of the settlements and acted in a manner resulting in the disruption of the normal working of the company and breach of industrial peace and harmony.

It said that one of the most objectionable actions of theAIAEA was that, in breach of office order dated 27.7.2009, it approached media criticizing the systems and procedures of the company.

Air India said there were no statutory provisions for recognition of trade unions. The Trade Union Act 1926 does not provide for recognition of a trade union in respect of industry or establishment. The Industrial Dispute Act also does not provide for recognition of trade unions.

The statement said that, in fact, when the erstwhile Indian Airlines Corporation (IAC) recognised ACEU in May 1959, the terms and conditions stated that it "is clearly understood and recognised that IAC is a Public Utility Service operating round the clock everyday and has a duty of serving the traveling public."

The Code of Discipline in the industry which permits recognition of a union claiming membership of at least 15 % of workers in an establishment is also recommendatory and has no statutory force, the management said.

According to it, the recognition granted to AIAEA and ACEU by the management of erstwhile Indian Airlines, states inter alia that "they are committed to observe constitutional means and not to resort to agitational steps and/or concerted action or any other means which may have the effect of interrupting or disrupting the work of the Company and/or other normal functioning of various sections and departments and/or the operations of services of the Company which may have effect of causing the delays to the Company’s services or inconvenience to its passengers or public".

The airline said it had terminated the services of some employees in terms of Service Rule 13(a) of the applicable Service Regulations and Contract of Employment.

The strike by the employees of the loss-making airline came during the peak summer rush and the cancellation of flights had put thousands of passengers to great inconvenience. There are many domestic stations which are served only by Air India.

More importantly, the walk-out by the employees came at a time when the airline was still coping with Saturday's tragedy at Mangalore.

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PM says India, Pakistan must bridge trust deficit, improve ties

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday asserted that India and Pakistan must first bridge the trust deficit between them before they could engage in a substantive dialogue with each other.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressing a Press Conference, in New Delhi on May 24, 2010.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressing a Press Conference, in New Delhi on May 24, 2010.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today asserted that India and Pakistan must first bridge the trust deficit between them before they could engage in a substantive dialogue with each other and solve various issues that have bedevilled ties between the two countries.

"Pakisan is our neighbour. It is my firm belief that India cannot realise its full development potential unless it has good relations with all its neighbours," Dr Singh said at a press conference held here this morning to mark the completion of the first year of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government's second five-year term in power.

Dr Singh pointed out that Pakistan was India's largest neighbour and said there were problems between the two countries.

"It has been my effort to reduce the gap between our two countries without surrendering or affecting our vital interests," he said.

He said he was convinced that the major problem between the two countries and the main reason why they had not made any headway in their Composite Dialogue was the lack of adequate trust between them.

"There is a trust deficit and unless we tackle it we cannot make substantive progress in the dialogue between the two countries," he said.

Dr Singh said it should be the common endeavour of both countries to reduce the trust deficit between them. He said he made this clear to Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, when they met recently in Thimphu, Bhutan, and that is why they had decided to ask their Foreign Ministers and Foreign Secretaries to meet to work out ways of reducing the trust deficit.

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna is due to meet his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi in Islamabad on July 15 in pursuance of that decision.

The Prime Minister said India was willing to discuss all oustanding issues with Pakistan. "The only condition is that Pakistani territory should not be used for terrorism against India," he said.

He said the meeting between Mr Krishna and Mr Qureshi would mark a beginning in the effort to improve the relations betweeen the two countries after India had suspended the Composite Dialogue process in the wake of the November 26, 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai. As many as 166 people were killed in the attacks.

India blamed the attacks on elements based in Pakistan and has been insisting that Pakistan should bring those responsible for the horrific crime to justice and dismantle the terrorist infrastructure on Pakistani soil that is used for attacks on this country.

"This will the first major effort to deal with the underlying cause of the problems between the two countries," he said.

To a question about whether he thought the talks would succeed, Dr Singh said it was the Government's obligation to make every effort to normalise relations with all of India's neighbours. "Whether we succeed or not, future events will tell," he remarked.

In a prepared statement on his Government's acheivements in the first year of its second term, the Prime Minister said that, in foreign policy, it was a matter of satisfaction that India had been able to improve relations with all major powers.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressing a Press Conference, in New Delhi on May 24, 2010.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressing a Press Conference, in New Delhi on May 24, 2010.

"As a member of the Group of Twenty (G-20), our views are increasingly sought and heard. The world looks at India with confidence," he said.

Dr Singh said the recent SAARC Summit in Bhutan had once again underlined the fact that it was not just their shared past but also their shared future that bound the sub-continent together.

"Improving relations with neighbours continues to be of great importance to us. I have often said that our real challenges are at home and in our neighbourhood," he said.

At the largely-attended press conference, his first in the capital in four years and held in Vigyan Bhavan, the Prime Minister answered questions on a variety of topics, from terrorism and Naxalism, to the economy and inflation, corruption and the 2G spectrum controversy, and on Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi and his relations with Congress President Sonia Gandhi.

Dr Singh said the Government was determined to squarely tackle the threat of terrorism and ideological extremism of various kinds, including Naxalism.

"We are working on systemic changes in our national security system, paying due attention to the modernization and professional development of the police and security forces, investigating agencies and the law and order machinery. Judicial reform and transparency in the functioning of government will also receive priority in our agenda," he said.

Asked if the Government had underestimated the threat posed by Naxalism, he said that, on the contrary, he had been saying for more than three years now that Naxalites posed the biggest internal security challenge to India. "To say that we underestimated the magnitude of the problem is not correct," he said.

He said it was important to control Naxalism to ensure the country's progress and was confident that all States and the Centre would work together to tackle this menace.

He said terrorism was also a major national security issue and said the Government was determined to tackle it, irrespective of its source. "Terrorism has no religion," he said, in response to a question about the so-called Hindu terror groups.

In this context, to a question about the delay in deciding on the mercy petition of Afzal Guru, the man sentenced to death in the case relating to the terrorist attack on Parliament, he said the law of the land must be allowed to run its course in such matters.

On his planned visit to Jammu and Kashmir, Dr Singh said it was planned for reviewing the implementation of development programmes in the state. He said he would hold discussions with the State Government on ways of accelerating these programmes.

He used the opportunity to once again appeal to all groups in Jammu and Kashmir to shun violence and come forward for talks.

In reply to a question, he said the Government had a policy of "zero tolerance" in respect of human rights violations by security forces in the state and elsewhere.

About different opinions aired by his Ministers on various issues in public, Dr Singh said that, while it was health to have such debates and diverse views in a democracy of more than one billion people, it would be better if his colleagues voiced their thoughts at meetings of the Union Cabinet.

"I am pleased to tell you that the Cabinet, in the last six years, met almost every week. So, Ministers have plenty of opportunities to express their views," he said.

On the civil nuclear issue, he said India must have a comprehensive compensation arrangement if it wanted to become a major nuclear power and hoped the Bill in this regard would receive support from all political parties in Parliament.

"I am sure that all political parties interested in India's growth, interested in India's nuclear programme, will support it," he remarked.

About the proposal to include details of caste in the ongoing Census 2011, Dr Singh said he had already assured Parliament that he would take into account the views expressed by Members on the subject and place them before the Cabinet for a decision. "That process is on," he said.

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PM chairs 5th meeting of National Board for Wildlife

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh chaired the 5th meeting of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) on Thursday when a proposal for a separate lion conservation project was discused.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh chairing the 5th meeting of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL), in New Delhi on March 18, 2010. Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh and President of ICCR Karan Singh are also seen.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh chairing the 5th meeting of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL), in New Delhi on March 18, 2010. Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh and President of ICCR Karan Singh are also seen.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh chaired the 5th meeting of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) here today when a proposal for a separate lion conservation project and the idea of a separate cadre for wildlife veterinary officers, among other topics, were discussed.


According to official sources, the meeting is also understood to have discussed population control of spotted deer, delisting of corals from schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, and the accidental deaths of wild elephants when they are hit by trains passing through national parks and sanctuaries.


The sources said the meeting was also due to consider convening of a park managers' congress, instituting awards for the best managed protected areas and restriction of central funding to protected areas directly under the wildlife wing and managed by trained officers.


The idea of a separate scheme for conservation of lions, on the lines of Project Tiger, has been suggested by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, whose state is home to the Asiatic lions.


The Prime Minister is the chairman of the NBWL. It has 45 members, including Minister of Environment & Forests Jairam Ramesh. There are 15 non-official members. Four of the non-official members are also part of the 12-member Standing Committee of NBWL.


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh chairing the 5th meeting of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL), in New Delhi on March 18, 2010. Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh and President of ICCR Karan Singh are also seen.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh chairing the 5th meeting of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL), in New Delhi on March 18, 2010. Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh and President of ICCR Karan Singh are also seen.

Among others, Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) President Karan Singh and Mr T K A Nair, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, attended the meeting.


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PMO apologises over ex-PAF chief's photo in govt. ad

The Prime Minister's Office apologised to the public after the Government was embarassed by the use of a photograph of a former Pakistan Air Force chief in a government advertisement on Sunday.

The controversial advertisement which appeared in newspapers on January 24, 2010.
The controversial advertisement which appeared in newspapers on January 24, 2010.

The Prime Minister's Office (PMO) stepped in to control the damage by apologising to the public and ordering an internal inquriy after the Government was hugely embarassed by the use of a photograph of a former Pakistan Air Force (PAF) chief in a government advertisement today.

The half-page advertisement was issued by the Ministry of Women and Child Development to mark National Girl Child Day and was carried by leading newspapers today.

The picture of PAF chief Tanvir Mahmood Ahmed in uniform appeared alongside images of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Minister of State for Women and Child Development Krishna Tirath.

Also included in the half-page advertisement were photographs of former Indian cricket captain Kapil Dev, sarod maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan and star cricketer Virendra Sehwag.

"The Prime Minister's Office has noted with regret the inclusion of a foreign national's photograph in a Government of India advertisement," Mr Harish Khare, the Media Adviser to the Prime Minister, said in a statement.

File photo of former Pakistan Air Force Chief Tanvir Mahmood Ahmed.
File photo of former Pakistan Air Force Chief Tanvir Mahmood Ahmed.

"While an internal inquiry has been instituted, the PMO apologises to the public for this lapse," the statement added.

The advertisement was part of a campaign against female foeticide and was headlined, "Where would you be if your mother was not allowed to be born?"

"Suppose your mother was killed before she ever lived...because for many others like her, a lifetime of violence and discrimination begins before birth. Millions of girl children, as evidenced in the 2001 Census, never see the light of the day because they are murdered in the womb itself. Your mother could have been one of them. A declining sex-ratio is the bane of progress. Under the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Technique (Prohibition of Sex Selection) (PCPNDT) Act 2003, it is a crime to identify sex of the foetus. Female foeticide is a curse. It is time to wake up to reality. No girl means no future," the copy said.

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President accepts Tiwari's resignation as AP Governor

Andhra Pradesh Governor Narayan Dutt Tiwari resigned on Saturday, a day after a television channel aired a tape which showed him allegedly in a compromising position with three women.

File
File photo of N. D. Tiwari.

President Pratibha Patil has accepted the resignation of Andhra Pradesh Governor Narayan Dutt Tiwari, who sent in his papers yesterday a day after a television channel in the state aired a tape which showed him allegedly in a compromising position with three women in the Raj Bhavan at Hyderabad.

Mr Tiwari, 84, submitted his resignation on "health grounds" to the President, who had forwarded it to the Union Government for its recommendations. He had assumed office as Governor 26 months ago.

A press communique from Rashtrapati Bhavan said the President had accepted the resignation and had appointed Mr E S L Narasimha, the Governor of Chhattisgarh, to discharge the functions of the Governor of Andhra Pradesh in addition to his own duties until a successor to Mr Tiwari is appointed.

The President, who is on a visit to the Lakshadweep Islands, is due to visit Andhra Pradesh for a week from tomorrow, but indications today were that she might call off the trip.

On Friday, ABN Andhra Jyoti, a Telugu television channel, showed visuals of an old man it claimed was Mr Tiwari with two young women. The Governor's office got an order of restraint and managed to stop the telecast after about an hour.

The television channel said the tape was the result of a sting operation facilitated by a woman "broker" who claimed she had been promised a mining lease in Andhra Pradesh by the Governor. According to her, she decided to "expose" after he allegedly reneged on the promise.

Women's groups had gathered outside Raj Bhavan on that day to protest against Mr Tiwari and seek his resignation. Opposition parties in the state, led by the Telugu Desam party, had also sought his removal.

Meanwhile, Mr Tiwari's office had on Thursday issued a statement saying that the tapes were "nothing but a tissue of lies".

"Mr Tiwari is 86 years old and in the evening of his life. The office of the Governor is constantly under public scrutiny and entirely above board...It is is sad that constitutional functionaries are dragged into needless controversy with utter disregard to propriety," it said.

But the controversy and the protests refused to die and the new clip surfaced on YouTube, after its telecast was stopped on court orders, where it drew thousands of viewers.

Mr Tiwari's fate is understood to have been discussed at a meeting Congress President Sonia Gandhi had yesterday with her senior party colleagues, including Mr Pranab Mukherjee, Mr A K Antony and Mr Ahmed Patel. The Centre, meanwhile, had sought a report from the Andhra Pradesh government. Ms Gandhi is also learnt to have talked to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in this regard.

The controversy and the Governor's resignation come at a time when Andhra Pradesh is already going through a period of political turmoil because of the agitation by those who want a separate state of Telengana and those opposed to the idea.

Mr Tiwari was in the news some time ago after Rohit Shekhar, grandson of former Union Minister Sher Singh, filed a petition in the Delhi High Court claiming he was the "natural" son of the former Union Minister and sought a paternity test to prove his claim. The court did not accept the plea and said the suit was not maintainable.

Mr Shekhar had claimed that Mr Tiwari had an intimate relationship with his mother Ujjwala Sharma, a former General Secretary of the All India Young Women Congress.

Mr Tiwari has the distinction of serving as Chief Minister of two states -- Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand -- in a long political career. In fact, he had four stints as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh.

At the Centre, Mr Tiwari has served as Planning Minister and Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission in the early 1980s. He has also held the portfolios of Industry and Steel & Mines,

He has also served as External Affairs Minister in 1986-87 and as Minister for Finance and Commerce in 1987-88. In 1995-96, he left the Congress and became President of the All India Indira Congress (Tiwari) but returned to the party in early 1997. He went on to become the President of the Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee before becoming the first elected Chief Minister of the newly created state of Uttaranchal, now known as Uttarakhand.

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6 workers killed, 40 feared trapped in Kota bridge collapse

At least six workers were killed and several others were trapped in the debris after a road bridge that was under construction on the Chambal river collapsed in Kota, Rajasthan Thursday evening.

A photo of the accident site at Kota.
A photo of the accident site at Kota.
At least six workers were killed and about 40 others feared trapped in the debris after a road bridge that was under construction on the Chambal river collapsed in Kota, Rajasthan yesterday evening.

District Collector T Ravikant told NetIndian over the telephone from the scene of the mishap that six bodies had been extricated from the debris by this afternoon and efforts were on to bring out those who were still trapped under the rubble.

He said rescue teams could see some of the workers under the mangled metal and concrete but the task of cutting through the rods and reaching them was taking time.

Army jawans were on hand to help the civil administration in the rescue efforts. The fact that a part of the bridge had fallen into the river, at a time when many workers were working on it, had made the task even more difficult.

A team of divers from the Indian Navy in Delhi and another from Ahmedabad had been called in to help in the rescue operations. Apart from the state and municipal officials, personnel of public sector units in and around Kota, including the Railways, were also helping the civil authorities.

The incident occurred around 1745 hours yesterday and rescue teams were rushed to the spot as soon as information was received. Three bodies were recovered yesterday and one of the seven injured succumbed to his injuries in hospital last night.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot inspecting the accident site.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot inspecting the accident site.

Meanwhile, the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has announced an ex gratia payment of Rs 10 lakhs to the next of kin of those killed in the incident and Rs 2 lakh for each of those injured.

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, who visited the spot today, had separately announced an ex gratia payment of Rs 2 lakh to the next of kin of each of those killed in the accident, Rs 1 lakh for each of those seriously injured and Rs 50,000 for each of those with minor injuries. He also visited the hospitals and met the injured people.

Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Kamal Nath has been in touch with Mr Gehlot over the incident since yesterday.

Mr Gehlot said said the incident was "unfortunate" and ordered an inquiry into the reasons that led to the collapse. He said the inquiry would be conducted by experts of the National Highways Authority of India and the Transport Ministry. He also said that action had been initiated against the officials of Gammon India and Hyundai, the companies responsible for the construction of the bridge.

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6 killed in bridge collapse in Kota

At least six workers were killed and several others were trapped in the debris after a road bridge that was under construction on the Chambal river collapsed in Kota, Rajasthan Thursday evening.

A photo of the accident site at Kota.
A photo of the accident site at Kota.
At least six workers were killed and several others were trapped in the debris after a road bridge that was under construction on the Chambal river collapsed in Kota, Rajasthan yesterday evening.

District Collector T Ravikant told NetIndian over the telephone from the scene of the mishap that six bodies had been extricated from the debris by this afternoon and efforts were on to bring out those who were trapped in the debris.

He said rescue teams could see some of the workers under the mangled metal and concrete but the task of cutting through the rods and reaching them was taking time.

Army jawans were on hand to help the civil administration in the rescue efforts.

The incident occurred around 1745 hours yesterday and rescue teams were rushed to the spot as soon as information was received. Three bodies were recovered yesterday and one of the seven injured succumbed to his injuries in hospital last night.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot inspecting the accident site.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot inspecting the accident site.

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, who visited the spot today, has announced an ex gratia payment of Rs 2 lakh to the next of kin of each of those killed in the accident, Rs 1 lakh for each of those seriously injured and Rs 50,000 for each of those with minor injuries.

He said the incident was "unfortunate" and ordered an inquiry into the reasons that led to the collapse.

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Kakodkar says India has credible thermo-nuclear bombs in the "plural"

Former Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Anil Kakodkar has asserted that India has credible thermo-nuclear bombs, in the "plural", with a yield of "much more" than 45 kilotonnes each.

Dr. Anil Kakodkar.
Dr. Anil Kakodkar.

Former Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) Chairman Anil Kakodkar has asserted that India has credible thermo-nuclear bombs, in the "plural", with a yield of "much more" than 45 kilotonnes each.

"Why are you using singular? Make that plural," he said when asked if India had a credible thermo-nuclear bomb during an interview with journalist Karan Thapar on the Devil's Advocate show on television channel CNN-IBN.

When it was pointed out that former defence scientist K Santhanam had said recently that the thermonuclear device had not been weaponised even 11 years after the tests, Dr Kakodkar, who retired as AEC Chairman at the end of last month, asked, "How does he know? He is not involved."

About the yield, Dr Kakodkar said, "I told you we have the possibility of a deterrence of low kilotonne to 200 kilotonnes."

Referring to statements made recently by former Army Chief Gen V P Malik and others about doubts in the public arena and the neeed for an assurance to the Army on the yield and the efficacy of India's thermo-nuclear bomb, Dr Kakodkar said, "I think that is guaranteed. The Army should be fully confident and defend the country. There is no issue about the arsenal at their command."

Asked about the doubts raised by Dr Santhanam, former AEC Chairman P K Iyengar and others about India's nuclear tests of 1998, Dr Kakodkar said their was a totally erroneous conclusion.

"The yield of thermo-nuclear tests was verified, not by one method but several redundant methods based on different principles, done by different groups. These have been reviewed in detail and in fact I had described the tests in 1998 as perfect and I stand by that," he said.

Asked about the AEC claim that the yield of the tests was 45 kilotonnes and Dr Santhanam's statement that the DRDO seismic instruments had measured it as something between 20-25 kilotonnes, he said that the DRDO did dploy some instruments for measurements but they did not work.

"I myself had reviewed all the results immediately after the tests and we concluded that the instruments did not work," he said.

He assured that the AEC had proof that the yield of the test was 45 kilotonnes. "Yes. In fact we have. Within limits of what can be said and I must make it clear here that no country has given so much scientific details on their tests as we have given and this we have published with the maximum clarity which could be done," he said.

Dr Kakodkar said it was unfortunate that such doubts were stil being raised but said he was not worried by them because "facts are facts".

To another question about Dr Santhanam pointing out that the thermo-nuclear test did not create a crater when the fission device, which had produced a yield of 25 kilotonnes, had created a crater of 25 metres in diameter, Dr Kakodkar said that, in the first instance, the fission device yield was 15 kilotonnes.

He said that, although the two devices were about 1.5 km apart, the geology within that distance changed quite a bit, partly because of the layers that existed and their slopes but also because their depths were different. He said fission device was, thus, placed in one kind of medium and the thermo-nuclear device in another kind of medium.

"In fact, we have gone through detailed simulation. For example in simulation you can locate the thermo-nuclear device where the fission device was placed and you can locate the fission device where the thermo-nuclear device was placed. And you get a much bigger crater now because the yield is higher...And the fission device which is now placed in the thermo-nuclear position produces much less ground displacement," he said.

He offered similar explanations for the fact that the shaft and the a-frame were not damaged during the test.

About Dr Iyengar's views, Dr Kakodkar said his predecessor was nowhere involved in the 1998 tests, though he had been a key figure in the 1974 tests. He said information was given to many people on a "need to know" basis, and to to assume that Dr Santhanam knew everything was not true. "He knew everything within his realm of responsibility," he said.

Dr Kakodkar said there was no hiding of information and India was, perhaps, unique in that it had given out the maximum information and that, too, immediately after the tests.

"There is no hiding. There are limits to what can be revealed. These have been discussed in the Atomic Energy Commission in not one but four meetings after the 1998 tests. And there are people who are knowledgeable. Dr Ramanna was a member of the commission at that time. So where is the hiding?" he said.

He did not agree with Dr Santhanam's suggestion that a peer group of scientists should be formed to review the results of the 1998 thermo-nuclear test.

"There are methods through which one has assessed the test results. Each one of them is a specialisation in itself and there are different groups - not just individuals but groups - which have looked at these. The fact is that this is also on a need-to-know basis. Now, if all of them come to conclusions which are by-and-large similar, what other things can you do in terms of forming a peer group of scientists?" he asked.

He said the AEC had gone through the records once more recently after the controversy had cropped up again and later come out with an authoritative statement on the issue.

He said the important point to note was that the thermo-nuclear test, the fission test and the sub-kilottine test had all worked as designed.

"They are diverse. In terms of detailed design, their content is quite different. And so we think that the design which has been done is validated and within this configuration which has been tested one can build devices ranging from low kilotonne all the way to 200 kilotonnes. And that kind of fully assures the deterrence," he said.

Asked if India was right in maintaining that it did not need more thermo-nuclear tests when all the established nuclear powers had needed more than one test, he said, "Well if you go by 'Dil Maange More', that's another story.

"But we are talking about a time where the knowledge base has expanded, the capability has expanded and you carry out a design and prove you are confident that on the basis of that design and that test, one can build a range of systems right up to 200 kilotonnes," he added.

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