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PM says safety, security of women of highest priority to Govt.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Thursday the issue of safety and security of women was of the highest priority to the Government and stressed that there could be no meaningful development without the active participation of half the population.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressing the 57th meeting of the National Development Council, in New Delhi on December 27, 2012.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressing the 57th meeting of the National Development Council, in New Delhi on December 27, 2012.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said the issue of safety and security of women was of the highest priority to the Government and stressed that there could be no meaningful development without the active participation of half the population.

"And this participation simply cannot take place if their security and safety is not assured," he said in his address to the National Development Council (NDC), the nation's highest policy-making body, called to consider the draft 12th Five Year Plan (2012-17), which has set an overall growth target of 8 per cent for the economy during the period.
 
Speaking against the background of the brutal gang-rape of a 23-year-old girl in the capital on December 16 and other such reprehensive incidents across the country, Dr Singh said gender inequality was an aspect which deserved special attention.
 
"Women and girls represent half the population and our society has not been fair to this half. Their socio-economic status is improving, but gaps persist. The emergence of women in public spaces, which is an absolutely essential part of social emancipation, is accompanied by growing threats to their safety and security," he said.
 
"We must reflect on this problem, which occurs in all states and regions of the country, and which requires greater attention by both the Centre and the States," he said, referring to the Delhi incident.
 
He said that, in this particular case, the culprits had been apprehended, and the law would deal with them expeditiously. 
 
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"Government has decided to review the present laws and examine the levels of punishments in cases of aggravated sexual assault. A committee of eminent jurists, headed by the former Chief Justice of India, Justice J.S. Verma, has been constituted for this purpose. Let me state categorically that the issue of safety and security of women is of the highest concern to our Government. A Commission of Inquiry is being set up to look into precisely these issues in the Capital," he said.
 
He urged all Chief Ministers to pay special attention to this critical area in their states.
 
The Prime Minister said the draft 12th Plan presented a comprehensive assessment of the many challenges the country faces in achieving  the Plan objective of faster, more inclusive and sustainable growth.
 
"As we begin our Twelfth Plan journey, it is worth noting that we do so with an economy that has shown many areas of strength.
 
"We achieved an average of 7.9 percent growth in the Eleventh Plan period, despite the fact that there were two global crises in this period. This growth has also been much more inclusive than in the past," he said.
 
He said the percentage of the population below the official poverty line declined by about 2 percentage points per year after 2004-05, which is two and a half times faster than the rate of decline between 1993-94 and 2004-05. This basic finding that poverty declined faster would hold even if the poverty line is revised, he said.
 
Dr Singh said agriculture growth accelerated from 2.4 percent in the Tenth Plan to 3.3 percent in the Eleventh Plan. Real wages in agriculture have grown at 6.8 percent per year in recent years, compared with only 1.1 percent per year in the period before 2004-05. Better agricultural performance is an important reason why poverty declined faster, he said.
 
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"States that used to grow slowly in earlier periods have grown much faster. The average growth rate of the five poorest states exceeds the national average for the first time in any Plan. I think we may be reaching the stage when the term 'BIMARU States' can be relegated to history," he said.
 
He said that, while these developments indicated the strengths of the economy, it was also true that the current economic situation was difficult. 
 
"The continuing crisis in the global economy has reduced growth everywhere. It is expected to be zero in the Eurozone and Japan and emerging market countries have also slowed down," he said.
 
According to him, the global slowdown, combined with some domestic constraints, has meant that India's growth has also slowed down. 
 
"Our first priority must be to reverse this slowdown. We cannot change the global economy, but we can do something about the domestic constraints which have contributed to the downturn," he said.
 
Dr Singh said the most immediate problems the country needed to tackle were the implementation problems affecting large projects, including especially power projects, which were stuck because of delays in getting clearances and fuel supply agreements. 
 
He said the Government had taken a number of steps to deal with this problem, including the establishment of a new Cabinet Committee on Investment under his chairmanship. He was confident these steps would have a positive effect, but their full impact would take time. 
 
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Noting that the Planning Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia had indicated that in view of the latest assessment of the state of the global recovery, the overall growth target for the Twelfth Plan is being set at 8 percent.
 
"This is a reasonable modification but I must emphasise that achieving an average of 8 percent growth, following less than 6 percent in the first year, is still an ambitious target," he said.
 
He said the high growth scenario would definitely not materialise if India followed a “business as usual” policy. 
 
"The Plan identifies a number of areas where new initiatives and policy innovations are needed. Many of these are areas where the principal responsibility is that of the States. I look forward to hearing the views of Chief Ministers on these suggestions," he said.
 
"While we need to accelerate growth, we do not view growth as an end in itself. Our real objective must be to improve the condition of lives of the aam aadmi, which is why we emphasise that growth must be inclusive," he stressed.
 
Dr Singh said rapid growth was necessary to achieve inclusiveness for two reasons. "First, it is necessary to generate the revenues to finance our many programmes of inclusiveness. If growth slows down, neither the States nor the Centre will have the resources needed to implement inclusiveness programmes. We will either be forced to cut these programmes, or be pushed into tolerating a higher fiscal deficit, which will have other negative consequences," he said.
 
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"Rapid growth also contributes directly to inclusiveness because it provides greater access to income and employment opportunities. Policies aimed at stimulating growth in agriculture and in medium and small industries, combined with steps to promote education and skill development, will produce a growth process which is inherently more inclusive. The Twelfth Plan strategy contains many elements which will ensure that growth is as inclusive as possible. I welcome your comments on this strategy," he said.
 
Dr Singh also called for special attention to disparities between socio-economic groups such as Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs), Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and minorities.
 
"These groups lag behind the rest of the population in key socio-economic indicators. Fortunately, the gaps are closing but the pace at which this is happening is not satisfactory and certainly does not match expectations. We need to consider how we can do better," he said.
 
Dr Singh said agriculture is an area of critical concern. Although the share of agriculture in GDP has fallen to only 15%, about half of the population still relies on agriculture as its principal income source. 
 
"What happens in agriculture is therefore critical for inclusiveness. We need to build on the success of the last Plan by increasing land productivity in agriculture so that we not only meet our rising demand for food, but also increase incomes of those dependent on agriculture. Paradoxically, we should not aim at increasing total employment in agriculture. In fact, we need to move people out of agriculture by giving them gainful employment in the non agricultural sector. It is only when fewer people depend on agriculture that per capita incomes in agriculture will rise significantly and sufficiently to make farming attractive," he said.
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"Agriculture is a state subject and most of the policy initiatives needed are in the realm of State Governments," he pointed out.
 
Dr Singh said growth in manufacturing should be at double digit levels, but this has yet to happen. 
 
"The Plan mentions many new initiatives aimed at strengthening performance in the manufacturing sector. Small and medium industries are especially important as they generate more employment. Both the Centre and the States must give priority attention to creating an eco-system in which these industries can grow and flourish," he said.
 
According to him, better infrastructure is the best guarantee for rapid growth of the economy. "Infrastructure development is heavily capital intensive and both the Centre and the States are severely constrained by resource availability. The central government, and many state governments, have been successful in promoting infrastructure development through PPPs. India has the second largest number of PPP projects in infrastructure in the world. It will be necessary to continue this thrust in the Twelfth Plan," he said.
 
Dr Singh said the 11th Plan had paid special attention to the North-East and the states in the region had responded well, with a number of them achieving higher growth than the national average.
 
"We plan to step up the pace of investments in infrastructure, particularly roads, rail, airports, waterways and power transmission systems to support and stimulate economic activity in this vital region. I am hopeful that as a result of our Look East Policy, this region will fast become a major gateway to trade and economic activity with our neighbours," he said.
 
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He said the Centre and the States had to make determined efforts to mobilise resources to fund the plan.
 
"The Plan document points out that we need to increase the tax ratio as a percent of GDP through a combination of tax reforms and better tax administration. Early implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) is critical in this context. I hope we will have the co-operation of the States to introduce the GST as quickly as possible," he said.
 
He pointed out that the Plan also drew attention to the need to control subsidies. "Some subsidies are a normal and indeed essential part of any socially just system, but subsidies should be well designed and effectively targeted and the total volume must be kept within limits of fiscal sustainability. Failure to control subsidies within these limits only means that other plan expenditures have to be cut or the fiscal deficit target exceeded," he said.
 
"A common complaint against government programmes is that they suffer from leakages, corruption, delays and poor targeting. The Central Government is taking a major step to deal with this problem by shifting several beneficiary oriented schemes to a direct transfer mode, using the Aadhaar platform. This will begin to roll out for selected schemes in selected districts in the course of January 2013. In due course, a wide range of benefits like scholarships for students, pensions for the elderly, health benefits, MNREGA wages and many other benefits will migrate to direct transfer into bank accounts using Aadhaar as a bridge. This is an innovative step which will be watched by the entire global development community. The Central and State Governments must work together to make this a success," he said.
 
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"Energy is a critical input for any growth process and our domestic energy resources are not sufficient to meet our country's growing needs. We import oil, natural gas and in recent years even coal. If we want to keep our energy import requirement within reasonable limits, we must emphasise energy efficiency to moderate demand and we must increase domestic production of energy. Energy pricing is critical for both objectives. If domestic energy prices are too low, there will be no incentive to increase energy efficiency or to expand even supply.
 
"Unfortunately, energy is underpriced in our country. Our coal, petroleum products and natural gas are all priced well below international prices. This also means that electricity is effectively underpriced, especially for some consumers. Immediate adjustment of prices to close the gap is not feasible, I realise this, but some phased price adjustment is necessary. Energy experts are unanimous that we cannot expect to achieve rapid, inclusive and sustainable growth if we are not willing to undertake a phased adjustment in energy prices to bring them in line with world prices. The Central Government and the states must work together to create awareness in the public that we must limit the extent of energy subsidies," he said.
 
Dr Singh said India had been reasonably successful in what it had achieved so far, but it must remember that it is still a low income country.
 
"We need twenty years of rapid growth to bring it to middle income level. The journey is long and requires hard work and commitment. This meeting of the NDC is an opportunity to re-dedicate ourselves to the arduous task before us," he added.
 
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Virbhadra Singh takes oath as Himachal Pradesh chief minister for sixth time

Congress leader and former Union Minister Virbhadra Singh took oath as the Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh for a record sixth time at the historic Ridge Maidan in Shimla on Tuesday.

 
Virbhadra Singh takes oath as Himachal CM

Congress leader and former Union Minister Virbhadra Singh took oath as the Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh for a record sixth time at the historic Ridge Maidan here today.

Governor Urmila Singh administered the oath of office and secrecy to Mr Virbhadra Singh at a largely attended ceremony. Those present included the newly-elected MLAs, senior officials and other dignitaries.
 
Along with the Chief Minister, nine other Ministers also took oath today. They are Ms Vidya Stokes, Mr Kaul Singh Thakur, Mr G.S. Bali, Mr Sujan Singh Pathania, Mr Thakur Singh Bharmouri, Mr  Mukesh Agnihotri, Mr Sudhir Sharma, Mr Prakash Chaudhry and Mr Dhani Ram Shandil.
 
In the elections held on November 4, the Congress bagged 36 seats in the 68-member assembly while the ruling BJP had to rest content with 26 seats. Others got six seats.
 
Mr Virbhadra Singh, 78, was chosen leader of the Congress legislature party on December 22 after a meeting of the newly elected party legislators with the central observers of the Congress. 
 
He had earlier served as Chief Minister of the state from April 1983 to March 1990, December 1993 to March 1998 and from March 2003 to 2007. He was also Leader of the Opposition in the state assembly between 1998 and 2003.
 
Mr Virbhadra Singh, who belongs to the erstwhile ruling family of the princely state of Bushahr in Himachal Pradesh, has also been elected to the Lok Sabha five times. At the Centre, he has served as Cabinet Minister for Steel and later for Mico, Small and Medium Enterprises before resigning in June this year following allegations of corruption.
 
Mr Singh studied at the Bishop Cotton's School in Shimla before taking a B.A. (Hons.) from St. Stephen's College in Delhi and an MA from the University of Delhi.
 
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Modi poised for huge win in Gujarat, Congress wrests Himachal from BJP

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi appeared set for a third straight term in office as the Bharatiya Janata Party headed towards a huge win in the state but it lost Himachal Pradesh to the Congress as counting of votes progressed in the Assembly elections in both States today.

 
Counting begins in Gujarat, BJP secures early lead

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi appeared set for a third straight term in office as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) headed towards a huge win in the state but it lost Himachal Pradesh to the Congress as counting of votes progressed in the Assembly elections in both states today.

As results and counting trends became available for all the 182 seats in the Gujarat Assembly, the BJP had won 52 and was leading in 65 others, making for a total of 117 seats, the same number that it has in the outgoing house.
 
The Congress had won 27 seats and was leading in 32 others. The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), an ally of the Congress, had won two seats while the Janata Dal (United), an ally of the BJP, was leading in one constituency. Other parties were ahead in three seats.
 
Adding to the Congress' misery in Gujarat, its state unit chief Arjun Modhwadia and Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Shaktisinh Gohil lost their seats.
 
In Himachal Pradesh, the ruling BJP conceded defeat as the Congress won 34 seats in the 68-member Assembly and was leading in two others. The BJP had won 23 and was ahead in another three, while others had won four and were leading in two more.
 
Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal admitted his party had lost and congratulated the winners. He said the reasons for the BJP's defeat, despite his government's good record of governance, would be analysed at party fora in due course.
 
In Gujarat, Mr Modi retained his own seat, Maninagar, bagging 120440 votes against 34097 secured by his nearest rival, Shweta Bhatt, wife of suspended Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Sanjiv Bhatt.
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The controversial former Minister of State for Home, Mr Amit Shah of the BJP, won from Naranpura, garnering 103988 votes against the 40653 secured by his rival Jitubhai B Patel of the Congress.
 
In the Ellis Bridge constituency in Ahmedabad, Ms Jagruti Pandya, widow of assassinated former Minister of State for Home Haren Pandya, ended up in the third place. Ms Pandya, a candidate of the Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) floated by former Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel, could muster only 9075 votes against Mr Raesh Shah of BJP, who got 106631 votes. Mr Kamleshkumar Shah of the Congress got 29959 votes.
 
Mr Modhwadia lost in Porbandar, getting only 60458 votes against the 77604 votes secured by Mr Babubhai Bokhiria of the BJP. Mr Gohil lost from Bhavnagar (Rural) to Mr Purshottam Solanki of the BJP. Mr Solanki got 83980 votes as against 65426 secured by Mr Gohil.
 
The BJP had won 117 seats in the Gujarat Assembly in the last elections in 2007, while the Congress had 59 seats.
 
Counting of votes began in both states at 0800 hours today and all the results are expected by this evening.
 
Elections to the 182-member Gujarat assembly were held in two phases on December 13 and 17, when a record 71.3 per cent of the 38 million voters had exercised their franchise.
 
Polling for the 68 seats in the Himachal Pradesh assembly was held in a single phase on November 4, and about 74.7 per cent of the 4.60 million voters had cast their votes.
 
The supporters of Mr Modi, who has been in office since 2001, are hoping that, with yet another big win, he would be propelled to the centrestage of national politics and become the BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
 
Exit polls had predicted a huge win for Mr Modi again this year, while they had given a slight edge in a close contest in Himachal Pradesh.
 
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PM says universalizing access to energy requires innovative institutions

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Tuesday that universalizing access to energy will require innovative institutions, national and local enabling mechanisms, and targeted policies, including appropriate subsidies and financing arrangement.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh delivering the inaugural address at the 'International Seminar on Energy Access', in New Delhi on October 9, 2012.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh delivering the inaugural address at the 'International Seminar on Energy Access', in New Delhi on October 9, 2012.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said universalizing access to energy will require innovative institutions, national and local enabling mechanisms, and targeted policies, including appropriate subsidies and financing arrangement. 

"The necessary technologies to mitigate the problem are fortunately, available. These technologies need to be viewed as global public goods," he said in his inaugural address at the International Seminar on Energy Access here.
 
Dr Singh said governments and industry needed to be encouraged to engage in international cooperation in this area on an enlarged scale and work for enhancing the technological capability of developing countries. 
 
"The Intellectual Property Regimes applied to energy access technologies should balance rewards for innovators with the need to promote the common good of humankind," he said.
 
"Suitable mechanisms need to be found that will provide incentives for developing new technologies while also facilitating their deployment in developing countries at affordable cost," he said.
 
Dr Singh said that one of the principal development challenges confronting humankind today is to ensure that each person has affordable access to energy. 
 
"Lack of access to energy deprives millions of people of a basic minimum living standard. The problem is particularly acute for people living below the poverty line. The figures are quite staggering. Over 1.3 billion people in the world today lack access to reliable electricity. 
 
"Further, around 3 billion people rely entirely, or very substantially, on traditional biomass for their cooking energy needs. Women in 80% of rural households in our country and many other developing countries use firewood, agricultural waste and dung cakes to cook in poorly ventilated kitchens," he said.
 
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The Prime Minister said the World Health Organisation, among others, had studied the adverse effects of indoor air pollution caused by these traditional fuels. Thousands of premature deaths of women and children in rural areas are attributed to indoor air pollution apart from the incidence of eye infections and respiratory ailments, he said.
 
He said another important social aspect of the problem is the time and effort rural women spend in collecting and carrying these fuels. 
 
"According to one survey, Indian women spend nearly 30 billion hours a year in such activities. Not only does this excessive load carrying lead to problems of health but it also prevents girls from doing other productive work, including attending school," he said.
 
Dr Singh said the links between access to energy and the various Millennium Development Goals are now well established and well documented. Meeting these goals that are fundamental to an existence of minimum dignity and well being all over the world requires access to affordable energy, he said.
 
"In our planning processes in India, we consider access to energy services as vital to inducing rapid development, reducing inequality and making economic growth processes more inclusive," he said.
 
He said that, under the ongoing Rajiv Gandhi Rural Electrification Scheme, the goal was to electrify all the 600,000 villages of India. As a result of the efforts, more than 100,000 villages have been provided with electricity connections in recent years, he said.
 
"Now, only a few thousand villages in the country remain un-electrified. Besides, one million households in India are now using decentralized solar energy to meet their lighting energy needs. The Government of India aims to provide 24x7 electricity to all households in the country and affordable access to electricity in the next 5 years," he said.
 
Dr Singh said the Government's aim was to provide every individual household with clean cooking fuel. "This is a huge task but it is not unattainable. It is something we must do on a priority basis," he said.
 
"Most urban households cook with LPG. We have tried to introduce LPG for cooking in rural areas as well," he said.
 
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He said about 12 percent of around 190 million rural households today use LPG to meet their cooking energy needs. 
 
"Giving all the 240 million households in the country an entitlement of six LPG cylinders per year will require only around 25 million tonnes of LPG. This should be manageable for our country. But, extending distribution network to all villages may take time. To reduce the burden on women, fuel wood plantations within a kilometer of all inhabitations could be set up. Over one million households meet their cooking energy needs from biogas plants. Programmes that give incentives for use of renewable energies, therefore, have to be expanded," he said.
 
The Prime Minister said the Government recognized that the rural poor would need some subsidyto afford electricity and LPG.
 
"The issue is to target the subsidy as best as possible. We have launched an ambitious project to give every Indian resident a unique identification number that will facilitate targeting of subsidies under various welfare schemes. For example, in one pilot scheme in Mysore district of Karnataka, 27,000 deliveries of subsidized cylinders have been made by delivery boys after successful biometric authentication of any family member present at home. In the next phase it is planned to transfer the subsidy amount directly to the bank accounts of bona fide beneficiaries," he said.
 
According to him, renewable energy technologies provide probably the most sustainable and economic options for energy access. 
 
"At present renewable power represents about 12 per cent of the total installed generating capacity in India. The Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission, launched under the aegis of India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change aims to install 20 Gigawatt of grid connected solar power by 2022. We hope to light up around 20 million rural households with solar home lighting by 2022. Overall, we aim at accelerating the overall deployment of renewable energy in India to achieve around 55 GigaWatt of renewable power by the year 2017," he said.
 
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Dr Singh said providing affordable energy access to the poorer sections of the globe is a challenge that will severely test the capability of the global community, especially the developing countries to forge a common and effective path forward. It will require tremendous creativity and resourcefulness and also new ways of thinking and understanding. To this end, India is fully conscious of its responsibilities and our commitments, he said.
 
He said India was also conscious that south-south cooperation is vital to achieving universal energy access. 
 
"In this context, we have been vigorously supporting capacity building in other developing countries. Our experts have helped set up energy access projects in many developing countries. We are delighted to share our experience in policy-making, technological development and implementation by creating a global platform for information and experience sharing," he said.
 
He said the fact that representatives of such a large number of countries had congregated for the event kindled hopes and aspirations for a more prosperous and better future for everyone.
 
"Together we can drive out the pessimism about the future of those who are 'energy poor'," he said.
 
"This would require global cooperation on a gigantic scale for financing as well as implementing viable projects in energy-deficient areas. The path ahead is difficult but we have to persevere," he added.
 
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PM calls for more private investment in scientific research

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday pointed out that India, as a nation, had not succeeded in mobilizing enough private investment into science to raise its investment in scientific research to 2 per cent of the gross domestic product.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh speaking at the 70th CSIR Foundation Day celebration, in New Delhi on September 26, 2012.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh speaking at the 70th CSIR Foundation Day celebration, in New Delhi on September 26, 2012.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today pointed out that India, as a nation, had not succeeded in mobilizing enough private investment into science to raise its investment in scientific research to 2 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP).

"...with all our achievements, we cannot rest on our laurels....We need to recognize that excellence has not percolated across all our research and academic institutions," he said in his address at the 70th Foundation Day of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) here.
 
Dr Singh said India had not been able to make an impact on a world scale commensurate with its large scientific manpower pool. 
 
"CSIR, therefore,  will need to devote itself to these national challenges in the years to come. It will have to take up national leadership in science, engineering and technology," he said.
 
Dr Singh recalled the events around the time of partition and said it was, in many ways, a national tragedy far more poignant than people's personal losses.
 
"In those days of horror, it was easy to write off India, with its deep-rooted poverty, widespread ignorance, frequent epidemics and an economy that had remained stagnant in the five preceding decades.
 
"But we were fortunate to have in Jawaharlal Nehru a leader who saw science and technology as an elixir for India’s development, and in Dr. (Shanti Swarup) Bhatnagar a scientist of extraordinary organizational capacity and caliber to implement this vision of Jawaharlal Nehru," he said.
 
He said that, recognizing the potential of scientific research, Jawaharlal Nehru placed the Council under his personal charge, thereby beginning a tradition that successive Prime Ministers have continued. 
 
"Science has always commanded the utmost priority of our policymakers. I consider it a privilege to preside over this hallowed organization in the seventh decade of its outstanding service to our nation," he said.
 
Dr Singh said he was glad the CSIR had proven its professional worth in every phase of India’s growth, in line with prevailing national policies and national priorities.
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"In the early days of Independence, it was a champion of import substitution, rebuilding our industrial base in the face of shortages and resource crunch. When India became a victim of technology denial, CSIR laboratories created advanced products and technologies, such as India’s first super computer, radiation shielding glasses and components for aerospace and satellites, emerging as a credible partner for our strategic sector. During this time, the Council also catapulted India as the top generic drug producer," he said.
 
He said that, after India embraced globalization, introduced economic reforms and joined the World Trade Organization (WTO), the CSIR quickly emerged as the flag bearer of the intellectual property movement in the country and became the single largest holder of US and European patents. The Council, in recent years, has also become a world leader in specific domains of biotechnology and recombinant DNA products.
 
"I would like to particularly compliment the Council on its unique attempt to make healthcare affordable by exploiting the power of open source drug discovery. As a concept, this is a global first and the world has turned from skepticism to partnership. I am happy to learn that the Council has opened its patent chest for accelerated drug discovery for hitherto neglected diseases like tuberculosis and malaria," he said.
 
He said he was glad that the Council had remained firmly rooted in the social milieu of the country while selecting and implementing projects. 
 
"I commend the recent CSIR 800 programme which aims at affordable scientific interventions to improve the quality of life of the people at the base of the economic pyramid. The Council’s thrust on research and innovation in renewable energy, in water, environment and waste management also reflect its awareness of contemporary challenges that our country faces," he said.
 
The Prime Minister said that, in recent times, conventional scientific disciplines and approaches were proving unequal to dealing with complex developmental challenges. 
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"New disciplines are emerging at the interface of traditional boundaries. The newly created Academy of Scientific and Innovative Research promises to train our young scientists and engineers in trans-disciplinary skills by tapping into the entire resources and infrastructure of the CSIR fraternity. This is a good initiative and I look forward to early results," he said.
 
He also spoke about the power and potential of public-private partnership in scientific research and noted that, across CSIR laboratories, new ecosystems like Innovation Complexes are being created to foster innovation through partnership with industry, academia and other R&D institutions. 
 
"Mechanisms have been put in place to identify needs of India’s industries and to tap bright ideas of the CSIR’s young talent. The Council has announced policies to encourage scientists to create spin offs and new ventures. It is also partnering with the National Innovation Council to provide focused technology assistance to small and medium enterprises," he said.
 
"In this journey, young people like many of those gathered here are our nation’s hope and future. I congratulate the awardees for their talent, for their devotion to duty and for their aspirations for Indian science. Young scientists must dream big and refuse to despair. I would like to remind them of the exemplary determination and selfless patriotism of Dr. Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar that led to the establishment of one of the finest scientific institutions of our great country – The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research," he added.
 
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India reiterates support for independent Palestine with East Jerusalem as capital

India on Tuesday reiterated its firm support for the struggle of the Palestinian people to achieve a sovereign, independent, viable and united state of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital, living within secure and recognized borders, side by side and at peace with Israel.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh meeting the President of the Palestine National Authority, Mr. Mahmoud Abbas, in New Delhi on September 11, 2012.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh meeting the President of the Palestine National Authority, Mr. Mahmoud Abbas, in New Delhi on September 11, 2012.

India today reiterated its firm support for the struggle of the Palestinian people to achieve a sovereign, independent, viable and united state of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital, living within secure and recognized borders, side by side and at peace with Israel.

"Support for the Palestinian cause has been a cornerstone of India’s foreign policy," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told journalists here at a joint interaction with Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas after the two sides held delegation level talks.
 
Dr Singh said his talks with Mr Abbas were useful and aimed at further expanding and strengthening the India-Palestine partnership. This relationship is rooted in history and flows from the national ethos, he said.
 
He said India had played an active role in supporting the efforts of the State of Palestine to secure full member status at UNESCO. He said the country would continue to support Palestine’s bid for full and equal membership of the United Nations. 
 
"We also look forward to early resumption of peace talks between the Palestinians and Israelis leading to a comprehensive resolution between the two sides," he said.
 
Dr Singh said that, bilaterally, India would continue to support the development and nation-building efforts of Palestine. 
 
"The MOUs signed today are indicative of our commitment to contribute in the areas of Information & Communication Technology, vocational training and education," he said.
 
He announced a contribution of $ 10 million from India to Palestine’s budget for this year to help address its financial requirements. 
 
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Later today, President Mahmoud Abbas will inaugurate the new Palestinian Embassy building, which has been built with Indian support. "The building is a symbol of the enduring friendship between our two countries and our two peoples," he said.
 
Dr Singh said President Abbas and he had also exchanged views on regional developments, particularly the developments in the West Asian and the Gulf region. 
 
"There is a great degree of similarity in our views. We both agree that the developments in the region must be addressed through political dialogue and peaceful means without recourse to violence and outside interference, while taking into account the legitimate aspirations of all people. 
 
"I look forward to working together with President Mahmoud Abbas to further carry forward our very special bilateral relations," he added.
 
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Shinde urges States to develop capacities to tackle terrorism

Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said on Thursday that the Government was aware of the threats that various terrorist outfits still continued to pose and cognisant of the continuous thrust of Pakistan-based Islamist groups to infiltrate terrorists and hardware across the border.

Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde delivering the inaugural address at annual conference of Directors General and Inspectors General of Police, in New Delhi on September 6, 2012.
Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde delivering the inaugural address at annual conference of Directors General and Inspectors General of Police, in New Delhi on September 6, 2012.

Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde today said the Government was aware of the threats that various terrorist outfits still continued to pose and cognisant of the continuous thrust of Pakistan-based Islamist groups to infiltrate terrorists and hardware across the border and elevate the level of terrorist violence in different parts of India.

"I would urge you to take prompt notice of every piece of intelligence as it is received, develop capacities for addressing the threats posed by terrorism, share experiences and create an overall milieu of collaboration wherein there should be no distinction between Central agencies and State Police Forces as they work together towards achieving the common objective of curbing terrorism," he said in his inaugural address at the annual conference of Directors General of Pollice (DGPs) and Inspectors General of Police (IGPs) here.
 
"I draw comfort from the fact that, since January 2011, your collaborative efforts have resulted in the interdiction of 19 terrorist modules. Many of those involved have been exposed and will face trials," he said.
 
Mr Shinde said that, at the same time, there some cases like the serial blasts in Mumbai in mid-July 2011 and the blasts outside Delhi High Court in September 2011, wherein many perpetrators have so far managed to evade arrest.
 
"I would, therefore, call upon you to redouble your efforts for locating and apprehending such absconders so that the terrorist thrust can be blunted. It is my strong belief that every element of the security apparatus will strive hard for achieving these objectives we have in mind," he said.
 
Mr Shinde also stressed that threat-related intelligence should be carefully handled, and that should be worked upon diligently but discreetly. 
 
"Premature exposure of such intelligence can retard and even defeat the possibility of interdiction. Similarly, revealing of clues as collected by painstaking investigations to the print and electronic media alerts other conspirators and blunts the momentum of investigations. 
 
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"Lastly, effectiveness of novel techniques evolved by investigators is also quickly eroded by the indiscriminate disclosure of specifics in the public domain. Investigations must remain firmly focused on identifying precisely the perpetrators," he emphasized.
 
Mr Shinde said the serial bomb blasts in Pune on August 1, the day he assumed office, in which one person was injured, reflected the potential of terrorist groups, their ability to move swiftly across jurisdictional boundaries, maintain communication at the subliminal level, access hardware, and carry out terrorist actions with telling effect. 
 
He also said there was increasing evidence of resort taken by terrorists to the cyber-space domain. 
 
He said the recent incidents in Bangalore, Pune and other places, where motivated rumours and irresponsible use of social networking media led to the exodus of hundreds of people hailing from the North-East, posed a new challenge.
 
"Besides providing a pervasive infrastructure for discreet communication, cyberspace is proving to be a facilitator for malevolents seeking to enlist new recruits and to purvey a distorted version of the reality.  
 
"Anonymity that the user acquires in this medium can sometimes test the capacities of even the most experienced police investigator. Police forces will have to develop skills in this area not just for locating malicious content but also for identifying those responsible for posting it," he said.
 
Mr Shinde said Naxalism continued to pose a significant challenge. He said seven States are experiencing different levels of intensity of this problem, though nearly 80 per cent of Naxal violence is taking place in less than 30 districts, many of which are close to the inter-State boundaries.
 
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"There are indicators about increase in the number of trained and armed cadres, reorganisation of military potential for formation of new battalions, and the creation of well-developed indigenous capacity for accretions to their arsenal. 
 
"Confidence levels of the Maoists are exhibited in their ability to move in larger formations, hold Jan Adalats, obstruct thoroughfares, and recover levies. Jan Militia cadres are increasingly integrated into the armed forays of Naxal groups," he said.
 
The Minister said that, on its part, the Union Government is committed to providing every support required by the State Police Forces, and that is being done in a liberal way. 
 
"The approach of Central Government is to deal with left-wing extremism in a holistic manner, in the areas of security, development, good governance and public perception management. The Central Government is committed to deal firmly with left-wing extremism groups indulging in crime and violence.  The overall objective being to uphold the law of the land, provide security of life and property and provide a secure environment for development and economic growth," he said.
 
In this regard, he said that, with respect to security-related interventions, the Government of India provides financial assistance to States under various schemes like the Security Related Expenditure (SRE) Scheme, Special Infrastructure Scheme (SIS), the Fortified Police Station Scheme, and so on.  In addition, the Centre has also deployed 81 battalions of Central Armed Forces (CAPFs) to assist the State Governments.
 
In the development-related interventions, the Government is implementing the Integrated Action Plan (IAP) in 82 districts of India.  This is a specific scheme to address left-wing extremism problems with focus on creating public infrastructure and services.  
 
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"The implementation of this scheme at the State level has been extremely encouraging in most of the left-wing extremism affected States.  Also, an ambitious Road Requirement Plan-I to develop a total road length of 5477 kilometres in 34 most left-wing extremism affected districts is under progress.  This scheme is being implemented at a total cost of Rs. 7300 crore.  The Planning Commission also has a mechanism to monitor implementation of flagship schemes in  Integrated Action Plan districts," he said.
 
Mr Shinde said left-wing extremism affected States needed to improve the police-population ratio, strengthen the intelligence set-up, raise Special Forces to deal with the problem and enhance the state police budget by making adequate provisions for equipment, weaponry, mobility, communication, training, police station buildings including housing and forensic science. 
 
"You need to design operational strategies for optimal use of all resources. Central Armed Police Forces, particularly the CRPF, have developed tactics to deal with the threat posed by Naxals, particularly those that intend to operate close to inter-State boundaries. I would appeal to you to make use of this potential. The States should also give priority to effective implementation of developmental schemes leading to all-round development of left-wing extremism  affected areas, for a permanent solution to this problem," he said.
 
Turning to the North-East, Mr Shinde said the security situation there had, by and large, been improving because of the multi-pronged strategy adopted by the Central Government towards the demands of the insurgent groups operating in the region. 
 
"The insurgent groups are gradually realizing that the Central Government is serious about elevating the socio-economic status of the ethnic groups in the North Eastern States and providing funds through DONER and other infrastructural Ministries in the Central Government for the overall improvement of the North East in infrastructure, communication and connectivity.  Such confidence building measures over the years have induced more and more ethnic groups to come forward to shed violent means and to find solution to their problems through negotiations," he said.
 
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He said the Government was also strengthening the dispute resolution mechanism in the region.  Notifications for setting up of High Courts in Manipur, Meghalaya and Tripura have been issued.  More focussed administrative efficiency is also likely to be put in place by North Eastern Areas Reorganization (Amendment) Bill, 2011 to enable separation of All India Services Cadre of Manipur and Tripura, he said.
 
"However, it is unfortunate that the recent violence caused by the ethnic Groups in Assam has been given communal colour and has resulted in heavy loss of lives and displacement of people to relief camps.  I am happy to note that normalcy is restoring to Assam gradually and people are going back from relief camps to their native places due to security arrangements made by the State Police in vulnerable areas. I would request the State Governments to take all possible measures to prevent recurrence of such incidents in future," he said.
 
Mr Shinde said recent months saw an increase in communal incidents in the country, specially in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra as compared with the same period last year.  
 
"However, the communal situation in the country by and large withstood the attempts made to provoke communities by various fundamentalist groups/organisations.  It is a tribute to the maturity of our citizens and even handling of such challenges by our State Police Forces," he said.
 
On Jammu and Kashmir, he expressed happiness at the success of efforts made by all elements of the J&K Government in ensuring steady progress towards controlling terrorist violence and buttressing the confidence of the people about the bright future of their province. 
 
"Excellent arrangements led to a successful Amarnath Yatra this year and the number of tourists to J&K has increased significantly, with more than 9.1 lakh tourists having visited that State so far this year as against about 5 lakh last year. We realise that there are still sections of society in J&K, albeit small ones with limited influence, which have grievances. Such groups should realise that spirit of accommodation can create the backdrop for  democratic aspirations of the people to be achieved," he said.
 
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Mr Shinde told the States that they had a responsibility to ensure that funds provided by the Centre are properly used, vacancies in police forces are filled up and special capacities created for dealing with threats to peace ad security posed by terrorism and Naxalism.
 
"The reach of the Multi-Agency Centre is proposed to be increased and efforts are afoot, with your cooperation, for implementation of the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network System (CCTNS). With regard to CCTNS, over Rs. 298 crores out of the Rs. 421 crores released to States/UTs are lying unspent. This money needs to be spent expeditiously as per MHA guidelines to enable further releases. I would request your personal involvement and interest in this key initiative," he told the DGPs and IGPs.
 
Mr Shinde expressed concern over the continuous increase in serious crimes against women during the period 2009-11 and caled appropriate measures for swift and salutary punishment to those found guilty of violence against women.
 
He said the overall representation of women in police forces should be increased through affirmative action as there were only 83,829 women police in the country as on January 1 this year.
 
He also expressed concern about the fact that, in 2011 alone, nearly 60,000 children were reported to be missing in the country.  "This is such a large number that it merits some attention from the police at all levels," he said.
 
He said the National Informatics Centre (NIC) had developed "Track the Missing Children" portal, which has been successfully piloted in West Bengal for the last three years and would be available to all police stations in the country as well as all the child care institutions.  This would enable faster detection of matches of lost and found children which will enable recovery, he said.
 
"The people of this country need to be assured that continuous efforts will be made to ensure their safety and security and police will work as their friend to extend helping hand in any kind of situation," he added.
 
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Ramdev to protest outside Parliament, calls for boycott of corrupt politicians

As the Government continued to studiously ignore Baba Ramdev's fast against corruption and black money at the historic Ramlila Ground in the capital, that he began on August 9, the yoga guru on Monday announced he sit on a protest outside Parliament till his demands for steps against these evils are met.

 
Act on Black Money by Sunday evening: Ramdev to PM

As the Government continued to studiously ignore Baba Ramdev's fast against corruption and black money at the historic Ramlila Ground here, that he began on August 9, the yoga guru today announced that he would march towards Parliament and sit on a protest there till his demands for steps against these evils are met.

Ramdev had initially planned to sit on a fast at Ramlila Ground for three days, but when there was no response from the Government, he issued an ultimatum to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to announce decisive steps against corruption and black money by Sunday evening or face a revolution across the country from today.
 
That deadline also passed without any reaction from the Government, and Ramdev announced this morning that the next round of the agitation would be staged outside Parliament.
 
He made it clear that he was not staging a "gherao" of Parliament, because there were many good and honourable Members in both Houses.
 
But he called for a social and political boycott of those politicians who are selling the country's interests and amassing illicit wealth.
 
Ramdev had made three main demands at the start of his fast -- that the Government pass a strong Lokpal Bill (for an anti-corruption ombudsman), take steps to bring back to the country the illicit wealth allegedly stashed abroad by tax evaders and enact a citizens' charter.
 
Ramdev said the protest outside Parliament would be peaceful and non-violent and told the police to act against any "anti-social elements" who might try to cause disturbances.
 
Addressing the crowd at Ramlila Ground here this morning, Ramdev said the Government had failed to hear the voice of the poor and hungry, which he had tried to raise from the venue of his fast.
 
"The Government has become very deaf," he said.
 
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Among those who turned up to share the dais with Baba Ramdev this morning at Ramlila Ground were opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Nitin Gadkari, BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) convener Sharad Yadav and Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy. 
 
Yesterday, former Army chief Gen V K Singh and former Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Kiran Bedi, a key member of social activist Anna Hazare's campaign on similar issues, had turned up to express their support for Ramdev's movement.
 
Addressing the crowd at the venue of his protest yesterday, Ramdev said he had given the Government a full opportunity and ample time to act in the matter. "But if they cannot hear the voice of the people emanating from the Ramlila maidan, they cannot blame me for defaming them," he said.
 
"They are doing it themselves, they are digging their own graves with their own hands," he said.
 
Ramdev said the Prime Minister was personally a very honest person, but it was now time for him to show "political honesty", too.
 
He said he had written to Dr Singh in this regard and given him time till Sunday evening to announce decisive steps against corruption and black money.
 
He said that, if Dr Singh failed to act, there would be questions raised about his political honesty.
 
Ramdev said Dr Singh had not delivered on his election promise of bringing back black money from abroad within 100 days of assuming office. "Many 100 days have passed since then," he said.
 
The yoga guru had also said that he would expose, with full evidence, details of the misdeeds of Congress leaders.
 
"Why don't you act against black money? Why don't you declare the illegal money stashed abroad as national wealth? Is it because it is is your money?" he asked the Congress, which heads the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) at the Centre.
 
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Ramdev begins three-day fast, makes three demands in fight against corruption

Yoga guru Baba Ramdev on Thursday launched a three-day fast at the historic Ramlila Ground in the capital as part of his fight against corruption and black money, and made three demands -- that the Government pass a strong Lokpal Bill, bring back illicit wealth stashed abroad by tax evaders and enact a citizens' charter.

 
CBI and Lokpal on Ramdev's agenda
Yoga guru Baba Ramdev today launched a three-day fast at the historic Ramlila Ground in the capital as part of his fight against corruption and black money, and made three demands -- that the Government pass a strong Lokpal Bill, bring back illicit wealth stashed abroad by tax evaders and enact a citizens' charter.
 
The yoga guru, who was returning to the Ramlila Ground 14 months after the police had evicted him from there in a midnight swoop during a similar protest in June last year, told the crowd at the venue of his protest that he would outline his future course of action if the Government did not act on his demands.
 
He made it clear that his movement had no political agenda and said that his agitation was only aimed at making India a better place.
 
"If they cannot understand the voice of peace, then may be we have to make them listen to the voice of revolution but without violence," he said.
 
Speaking again in the evening at the end of the first day of the protest, he said that, if the Government acted on his demands, prices of all commodities would come down drastically, with petrol prices falling to Rs 35 a litre.
 
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"But for this, you need an honest and courageous Prime Minister," he said.
 
Ramdev also wanted a change in the process of appointing the director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the Central Vigilance Commissioner, the Comptroller and Auditor General and the Election Commissioners.
 
Referring to the reported remarks of Union Minister Harish Rawat that the Government was ready for talks, he said his doors were also open at all times.
 
None of the prominent supporters of social activist Anna Hazare, who had called off an indefinite fast for a strong Lokpal Bill, a few days ago at Jantar Mantar in the capital, was  present at the venue today.
 
Mr Arvind Kejriwal, a key member of "Team Anna" had announced the group's decision to form a political party before they broke their fast.
 
Ramdev appeared to be against such a move, and underlined this when he said today that he would support the social agenda of Mr Hazare.
 
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PM expresses shock, sadness over US gurudwara shooting

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday expressed shock and sadness at the loss of lives and injuries to people in the shooting incident at a gurudwara in Wisconsin in the United States, in which six people were killed during Sunday morning prayers.

 
Six killed in US gurudwara shooting

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today expressed shock and sadness at the loss of lives and injuries to people in the shooting incident at a gurudwara in Wisconsin in the United States, in which six people were killed during Sunday morning prayers.

“I am deeply shocked and saddened to learn of the shooting incident that has resulted in the loss of precious lives and injuries to devotees attending a prayer service at a gurudwara in Wisconsin, U.S.A.," Dr Singh said.
 
"That this senseless act of violence should be targeted at a place of religious worship is particularly painful. I send my deepest condolences to the families that have been bereaved in this incident. Our thoughts are with them in this moment of their grief," he said.
 
"India stands in solidarity with all the peace-loving Americans who have condemned this violence. We welcome the U.S. President's statement on the tragic incident. We hope that the authorities will reach out to the grieving families and ensure conditions that such violent acts are not repeated in the future," he added.
 
The six people were killed and several others suffered injuries in the attack that was carried out by at least one gunman, who was also shot dead, police said.
 
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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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