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President accepts Tiwari's resignation as AP Governor

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

File
File photo of N. D. Tiwari.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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6 workers killed, 40 feared trapped in Kota bridge collapse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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6 killed in bridge collapse in Kota

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Anil Kakodkar.
Dr. Anil Kakodkar.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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PM says no hasty steps on Telengana

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is understood to have assured a delegation of Congress MPs from Andhra Pradesh on Wednesday that the Centre would not act in haste on Telengana.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is today understood to have assured a delegation of Congress Members of Parliament (MPs) from Andhra Pradesh that the Centre would not act in haste in the matter of creating the new state of Telengana out of Andhra Pradesh.


The assurance came even as there were growing protests in the coastal and the Rayalaseema regions of Andhra Pradesh against the plan to split the state and more legislators, including many from the Congress, handed in their resignation letters to express their anger over the move.


Protests were staged in places like Tirupati and Kurnool, where markets were shut down, trains stopped and buses set on fire by angry mobs.


The MPs, who included Union Ministers M M Pallam Raju, D Purandeswari and Panabaka Lakshmi, are learnt to have told Dr Singh that the Government's announcement on Wednesday night that the process of forming the new state would be initiated, had led to a backlash.


Mr Pallam Raju told reporters that the delegation had conveyed to Dr Singh during the 40-minute meeting that the time was not congenial for the creation of a new state. He said the mood in the state was for it to remain united. He pointed out that most people in other parts of Andhra Pradesh had relatives in Hyderabad and many people from other regions came to the city to study.


The MPs told journalists that Dr Singh had taken note of their sentiments and told them that nothing would be done in haste.


Official sources, when contacted, did not give any details about the meeting, except to say that the Prime Minister gave the MPs a patient hearing. Union Law and Justice Minister M Veerappa Moily was amongst those present at the meeting.


Meanwhile, the Centre's announcement on Telengana has sparked off similar demands from those campaigning for Gorkhaland in West Bengal, Bundelkhand and Harit Pradesh in Uttar Pradesh, Vidarbha in Maharashtra and Maru Pradesh in Rajasthan.


Leaders of the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha, led by former External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh, now the MP from Darjeeling, met Mr Chidambaram and demanded an early decision on the creation of Gorkhaland. "We do not want to stay with West Bengal," they said. Mr Jaswant Sigh said the demand for Gorkhaland was the "oldest" such demand in the country. He also spoke out in favour of Maru Pradesh in Rajasthan, his home state.


Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati held a press conference in Lucknow to come out in support of the demands for separate states of Bundelkhand and Harit Pradesh, saying that she and her party, the Bahujan Samaj Party, had always been in favour of smaller states.


Many of the protests in Andhra Pradesh have got to do with the status of Hyderabad, which falls in the Telengana region. While those demanding the creation of Telengana assume it will be the capital of the new state, people in other parts of Andhra Pradesh are not willing to let go of the city. And then there are those who have suggested that Hyderabad should be made a Union Territory.


Union Home Secretary G K Pillai waded into the controversy today by telling reporters in Jammu, "Hyderabad, I think will always be the capital of Telengana." Later in the day, Mr Pillai retracted his statement, saying that he did not state that Hyderabad would be the capital of Telengana.


The Centre had announced late in the night on December 9 that the process of forming the new state of Telengana, out of the present state of Andhra Pradesh, would be initiated.


The announcement came as an agitation launched by the Telengana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) for a separate state threatened to spin out of control. TRS chief K Chandrasekhara Rao, 55, had been on a fast unto death in Hyderabad and his health was deteriorating, forcing the Centre to speed up its efforts to defuse the crisis.


Union Home Minister P Chidambaram told journalists on Wednesday night that an appropriate resolution on the formation of the new state would be moved in the Andhra Pradesh state legislative assembly.


Mr Chidambaram had said the decision had come after extensive consultations at the highest level in the Government earlier on Wednesday


He pointed out that the consultations were held after the return of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday night from his three-day visit to Russia. He said consultations were also held with Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister K Rosaiah, who was in the capital on Wednesday.


That same night, Mr Chandrasekhara Rao had called off his fast and the former Union Minister was discharged from hospital in Hyderabad today.


Telengana is that part of Andhra Pradesh which corresponds to the Telugu-speaking part of the erstwhile princely state of Hyderabad, which lies on the Deccan plateau to the west of the Eastern Ghats.


It includes the districts of Warangal, Adilabad, Khammam, Mahabubnagar, Nalgonda, Rangareddy, Karimnagar, Nizamabad, Medak and Hyderabad, the capital.


Andhra Pradesh was formed in 1956 and in the years that followed there were growing complaints in the Telengana region that the promises made to them had not been kept. These finally led to a students' agitation in 1969 that was marked by widespread violence and the deaths of scores of people.


The demand for a separate state was kept alive in one form or the other and in 1971 some leaders left the Congress to form the Telengana Praja Samiti, but they later returned to the party. In the 1990s, the National Democratic Alliance government at the centre could not take a decision on the issue because of the stand taken by its coalition partner Telugu Desam Party.


The TRS was formed with the single point agenda of creating a separate Telengana state with Hyderabad as its capital. In the 2004 elections to the Lok Sabha as well as the State Legislative Assembly, the Congress struck an alliance with the TRS with the promise of a separate state.


The Congress came to power in Andhra Pradesh and the party led the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) at the Centre, with the TRS as one of the coalition partners. Mr Chandrasekhara Rao also joined the Union Government as a minister, but the UPA remained indecisive on the issue, forcing the TRS leader to withdraw his party's support to the Government in September, 2006.


Telengana was an issue ahead of the General Elections this year and all the major parties in Andhra Pradesh came out in support of the cause.


The Congress returned to power both at the Centre and in Andhra Pradesh and the alliance of which TRS was a part lost badly in the state. On September 2, then Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, who had returned to power with a convincing mandate, died in a helicopter crash.


Mr Rosaiah, who took over as Chief Minister, is not considered to be politically tough the way the late Mr Reddy was and this, many believe, encouraged Mr Chandrasekhara Rao to start his indefinite fast demanding the formation of a separate Telengana state.


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President says all countries must deal firmly with terror

President Pratibha Patil said on Friday that every country had a responsibility, which it must fulfill, to deal firmly with individuals and groups involved in terrorism.

President of India Pratibha Patil launching the 'Secure the Girl Child Programme' in New Delhi on December 4, 2009 on the occasion of the inauguration of the Global Conference on Security Knowledge and Employability
President of India Pratibha Patil launching the 'Secure the Girl Child Programme' in New Delhi on December 4, 2009 on the occasion of the inauguration of the Global Conference on Security Knowledge and Employability

Stressing that terrorism is not a limited threat but a worldwide operation, President Pratibha Patil today said every country must fulfill its repsonsibility to deal firmly with the evil.


"The sustenance lines of terrorists must be completely dried up," Ms Patil said in her inaugural address at the Global Conference on Security Knowledge and Employability organised by the Central Association of Private Security Industry and the Association of Private Detectives and Investigators.


"Every State has a responsibility, and it must fulfill it, to deal firmly and immediately with any person, individual or group in its territory, involved in any manner with terrorism, be it training, financing, operating, indoctrinating, facilitating or masterminding acts of terror anywhere in the world," she said.


Ms Patil said the security environment in the world was complex, with threats to security and stability arising out of many factors, especially terrorism, apart from crime and other law and order situations.


She said the exposure of innocent civilian population to random incidents of violence had increased as terrorists had adopted more audacious and more insidious methods.


"While it is true that such factors have raised concerns about security and safety issues, it is also remarkable to note the determination of the people, not to be deterred by or to allow their lives to be disrupted by acts of terrorism. Any path to address security concerns requires measures that instill confidence in the minds of the public without creating alarm," she said.


The President pointed out that many countries in all parts of the world had been the targets of terrorists and it was a fallacy to think that any country or society could be immune to terror attacks.


"It is an ideology born out of hatred and its adherents belong to no religion, culture or civilization. An effective response to it would require a concerted, coordinated and cooperative effort by all Governments and by all citizens of the world who seek peace and development. The global compact against terrorism needs to be strengthened. In this context, the early conclusion of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism, which is currently being negotiated in the United Nations, will be important," she said.


Ms Patil said that, at the operational level, improved intelligence gathering, surveillance systems and intelligence sharing were essential steps.


The objective should be to work together in such a collective and unified manner, that the terrorists can get no leeway or support or encouragement from any quarter, she emphasised.


She said nations should strengthen their own structures to deal with terrorism. India, which has been a victim of terrorism for more than two decades, has taken steps to strengthen laws and institutions to respond to such attacks, she said, adding that it would . ontinue to keep this issue under constant review and take appropriate measures.


She also spoke about the implications terrorism had for the law and order situatio and othr crimes.


"The nexus between drug running, gun running and counterfeit currency and terrorists has deep security implications. The net is cast wide and it means that security issues would require each citizen to be vigilant and to adhere to security measures. There have been instances where due to the alertness of citizens, many incidents have been averted. It is, therefore important, that all citizens are given some basic training on security norms and they remain alert about any untoward happenings in their neighborhood," she suggested.


She said the security apparatus of the States, including the Armed Forces, the paramilitary forces, the border security forces and the police forces, were working to ensure security and law and order. According to her, private security agencies can contribute to their efforts.


The President said all private security agencies must function within the ambit of the Private Security Agencies Regulation Act of 2005. She noted that while many State Governments had passed the required rules in respect of this legislation, action was pending in some others.


"It is necessary that these States also complete the requisite procedures," she pointed out.


Apart from augmenting the efforts of Governmet agencies, private security agencies could also counsel and guide individuals and business organizations, regarding the installation of security features in their premises, which as precautionary measures can add to a sense of security, she said.


Ms Patil said that, on all these issues, a process of dialogue between the representatives of private security agencies and the Government must be maintained.


She also stressed the need for private security agencies to enhance their performance and accountability. In this context, she mentioned training and skills improvement as areas which need attention. She also spoke about ensuring better working conditions and welfare for the 55 lakh people working in this sector.


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Obama calls up PM, discusses Afghanistan, climate change

US President Barack Obama called Prime Minister Manmohan Singh this morning and discussed with him the situation in Afghanistan and the coming summit on Climate Change in Copenhagen.

United States President Barack Obama called Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over the telephone this morning and discussed with him the situation in Afghanistan and the further steps that could be taken to bring peace and stability in the strife-torn country.

During their brief conversation, the two leaders also discussed the coming summit on Climate Change in Copenhagen.

Dr Singh told Mr Obama that India would play a constructive role in the negotiations and looked forward to a successful outcome, an official statement added.

The telephone call came just days after Dr Singh had met Mr Obama in the White House in Washington on November 24 during his state visit to the US.

The call was part of Mr Obama's effort to brief key US allies and friends about the new strategy for Afghanistan that he is slated to outline in an address to the American people on Tuesday.

Among other things, there is expectation that Mr Obama will announce the deployment of about 30,000 additional US troops to strengthen security in the population centres in Afghanistan, push back the Taliban and provide training to Afghan security forces.

Mr Obama had discussed with Dr Singh, during their meeting in Washington, the review of his Afghanistan policy.

Ahead of his visit to Washington, the Prime Minister had said in an interview to Newsweek that it was very important, both for providing security and for providing sustained development, that the US and the global community should stay engaged with Afghanistan.

At their meeting, the two leaders had reiterated their shared interest in the stability, development and independence of Afghanistan and in the defeat of terrorist safe havens in Pakistan and Afghanistan. President Obama appreciated India’s role in reconstruction and rebuilding efforts in Afghanistan. The two leaders agreed to enhance their respective efforts in this direction.

From Washington, Dr Singh had travelled to Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago, where he told the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM 2009) that India was willing to sign on to an ambitious global target for emissions reductions or limiting temperature increase but made it clear that this must be accompanied by an equitable burden sharing paradigm.

He had emphasised the need for the outcome at the 15th Conference of Parties (COP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to be held in Copenhagen later this month to be comprehensive, balanced and, above all, equitable.

He had said it must be comprehensive in the sense that it must cover all the inter-related components of mitigation, adaptation, finance and technology.

He had said that this meant that a partial outcome must be resisted and that there must be balance and equal priority given to each of the four components.

"Mitigation is important but cannot take precedence over adaptation which, for many countries represented here, poses a greater challenge. And most important from our perspective, is the need to ensure an equitable outcome corresponding to the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities," he had said.

The Prime Minister had said that if the outcome at Copenhagen diminished rather than enhanced the implementation of the UNFCCC in respect of the specific components of mitigation, adaptation, finance and technology, it would represent a serious setback, no matter how the result was characterised.

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India offers Cape Verde technical cooperation, official development assistance

India Friday expressed its desire to expand and strengthen its relations with Cape Verde in various fields and has offered the sub-Saharan African country its continued support.

India today expressed its desire to expand and strengthen its relations with Cape Verde in various fields and has offered the sub-Saharan African country its continued support through technical cooperation and official development assistance in its quest for speedier development.

At a meeting with visiting Cape Verdean Foreign Minister Jose Brito here, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna suggested that the two sides identify specific areas of cooperation in this regard.

Mr Brito is on an official four-day visit to India from November. This is the first official bilateral visit at the level of Foreign Minister from either country.

During their meeting, the two ministers reviewed bilateral relations between their countries and exchanged views on various international and regional issues of mutual interest.

Earlier, Mr Brito held talks with Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor during which the two sides outlined ways and means of expanding and strengthening the bilateral economic relations between the two countries.

Mr Brito and Dr Tharoor signed a protocol on Foreign Office Consultations to promote regular interaction between senior officials of the Foreign Ministries of the two countries, a joint statement issued after the talks said.

The former Portuguese colony offered its support for India's candidature for a non-permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council for the term 2011-12, for which elections will be held next October. The two sides also agreed to cooperate and synchronise their efforts within the UN framework for adopting effective measures to combat the scourge of international terrorism.

Mr Brito and Dr Tharoor also co-chaired a business meeting organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). Mr Brito invited Indian entrepreneurs and business leaders to invest in Cape Verde in different sectors, especially infrastructure, information technology, health, education and tourism.

India has offered a concessional Line of Credit of $ 5 million to Cape Verde for setting up of a Technological Park and a grant of Rs 10 million in the education sector. India also offered to set up an Information and Communication Technology Centre of Excellence in Cape Verde on grant basis, the statement added.

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Winter session of Parliament to begin tomorrow

The winter session of Parliament beginning Thursday is expected to see the Opposition take the Government to task on a variety of issues, including rising prices.

The winter session of Parliament beginning tomorrow is expected to see the Opposition take the Government to task on a variety of issues, including rising prices, the increase in Maoist violence, the plight of farmers in the wake of the drought in many parts of the country this year and India's relations with Pakistan and China.

The session, that is scheduled to end of December 21, will have 23 sittings over 33 days, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal told reporters.

He said the session would be devoted mainly to essential Government legislative and other business, including financial business.

The financial business will include Supplementary Demands for Grants for 2009-10 in respect of the Railway and the General Budgets as well as the State Budget of Jharkhand, which is under President's Rule at present.

Mr Bansal had held a meeting with Secretaries and other senior offices of various ministries and departments yesterday to finalise the Government business for the session.

Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar had met leaders of various parties last week and got an assurance from them about their support for the smooth functioning of the House.

The Opposition is also likely to raise the question of the multi-crore scam allegedly involving former Jharkhand Chief Minister Madhu Koda, given that the issue will come in handy at a time when the state is due to go for elections in five phases from November 25.

Similarly, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) can be expected to raise the issue of the alleged scam in spectrum allocation involving Communications Minister A Raja of its rival Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK).

Several parties can also be expected to raise the recent Hindi-Marathi controversy involving the Mahrashtra Navnirman Sena in Maharashtra.

The ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) will be facing the session with a fair amount of confidence after its impressive performance in the recent assembly elections in Maharashtra, Haryana and Arunachal Pradesh. The main Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Left parties have, on the other hand, fared rather badly in the recent elections, including the bye-elections in West Bengal, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh and some other states.

Ahead of the session, Congress President Sonia Gandhi had a meeting here yesterday with some of her senior colleagues on the party's strategy to face the Opposition onslaught.

Those who attended the meeting included Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Defence Minister A K Antony and her Political Secretary Ahmed Patel.

The legislative and financial items identified by the Government for being taken up during the session--the third of the 15th Lok Sabha and the 218th session of the Rajya Sabha--include the Rubber (Amendment) Bill, the National Green Tribunal Bill, the National Commission for Minorities Educational Institutions (Amendment) Bill, the Workmen's Compensation (Amendment) Bill and the Land Ports Authority of India Bill, allof which are pending in the Lok Sabha.

Bills pending in the Rajya Sabha include the Seeds Bill, the Pesticides Management Bill, the Legal Metrology Bill, the National Commission for Heritage Sites Bill, the Labour Laws (Exemption from Furnishing Returns and Maintaining Registers by Certain Establishments) Amendments and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill, the Representation of the People (Second Amendment) Bill, the Constitution (108th Amendment) Bill and the Communal Violence (Prevention, Control and Rehabilitation of Victims) Bill.

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India, Canada to enhance cooperation in trade, investment and energy

India and Canada today signed two agreements to enhance cooperation in energy, trade and investment and decided to deepen their cooperation to counter terrorism and extremist ideologies.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Canadian counterpart Stephen Harper at the Joint Press Interaction in New Delhi on November 17, 2009.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Canadian counterpart Stephen Harper at the Joint Press Interaction in New Delhi on November 17, 2009.

India and Canada today signed two agreements aimed at enhancing bilateral cooperation in the areas of energy, trade and investment and reaffirmed their commitment to deepen their cooperation to counter international terrorism and extremist ideologies.

The agreements were signed at the end of official talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Canadian counterpart Stephen Harper here.

The first agreement was a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to launch a Joint Study Group to formulate the parameters of a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) which is expected to deliver commercial benefits across a variety of sectors.

The second is an MoU on Energy Cooperation that will foster increased cooperation on clean and renewable energy, energy efficiency, power generation, oil and gas exploration, research and development, energy policy and other areas.

Talking to reporters after the meeting, Dr Singh said the two sides also looked forward to cooperation in the field of civil nuclear energy.

He said relations between India and Canada were of a long standing nature and derived their strength from their shared values of democracy, respect for fundamental human rights and multi-culturalism. He noted that Canada was host to a large Indian origin community of over one million, which reflected the strong people-to-people links that existed between the two countries and which had enriched their relationship.

Dr Singh said the bilateral relations had greatly strengthened since Mr Harper assumed office as Prime Minister. He said this was particularly true in the areas of trade and investment. He pointed out that a large number of Indian corporate entities had invested in Canada and several Canadian companies had entered the Indian market. There were, however, vast opportunities for doing much more, he said.

"There is significant scope for greater investments by Canadian companies in areas of high technology and infrastructure development, and enhancing cooperation in the areas of science and technology, agriculture, mining, natural resources, education, and energy. The Memorandum of Understanding we have signed on Energy will facilitate greater cooperation in this very wide area. We look forward to cooperation in the field of civil nuclear energy," he said.

He said the decision to set up the Joint Study Group to examine the possibility of a bilateral CEPA was aimed at further boosting trade between the two countries, currently below $ 5 billion.

"We are also working to further strengthen the institutional mechanisms for cooperation such as a Bilateral Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement and a Social Security Agreement," he said.

The Prime Minister said India would organise a year-long Festival of India in Canada in 2011 to showcase India's culture and economic progress. India has invited Canada to organise a similar festival in India.

The two leaders reviewed the process of global economic recovery and how they could prepare for the next G-20 Summit which Canada will host.

Dr Singh said he and Mr Harper had a useful exchange of views on climate change, energy security, nuclear disarmament and regional issues.

"I conveyed to Prime Minister Harper India's grave concern over the scourge of international terrorism and the threat posed to pluralistic societies like India from extremist ideologies. We reaffirmed our commitment to deepen our cooperation to counter these threats," he said.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper </p>
<p>witnessing the signing of agreement between India and Canada in New Delhi on November 17, 2009.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper witnessing the signing of agreement between India and Canada in New Delhi on November 17, 2009.

"Prime Minister Harper's visit has imparted a fresh momentum to India-Canada relationship. We will take all the necessary steps to further intensify our interaction in all areas," he added.

Mr Harper said India's rapidly growing economy and its commitment to expand its investment regime would provide significant opportunities for investors in a variety of sectors, including infrastructure, education, life sciences, science and technology and natural resources, among others.

"In making India a priority market, our government’s commitment is translating into collaboration and progress in a number of important areas," he said.

Mr Harper said Canadian companies had an array of products and services to offer India's growing market of nearly 1.2 billion people.

"Economic partnership agreements in key sectors of interest will help expand trade, open doors for Canadian exporters, encourage economic growth and create jobs in both our countries," he said.

During their meeting, Dr Singh raised the issue of suspected Canadian-born LeT operative Tahawwur Rana, who is said to be the accomplice of American citizen David Headley, who has been arrested by the US authorities for alleged terror links. Both are said to be part of the conspiracy behind the November 26, 2008 terror attacks on Mumbai. Mr Harper, on his part, assured full cooperation to India in tracing the links of Rana.

Mr Harper called on President Pratibha Patil and Vice-President M Hamid Ansari during the day and also had meetings with External Affairs Minister S M Krishna, United Progressive Alliance Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Leader of the Opposition Lal Krishna Advani.

The Canadian Prime Minister will visit the Akshardham Temple in East Delhi and the Golden Temple in Amritsar before flying back home. He had visited Mumbai yesterday.

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India, Australia decide to enhance security cooperation

India and Australia have decided to create a comprehensive framework for the enhancement of security cooperation between the two countries.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with his Australian counterpart Kevin 

Rudd addressing a joint press conference in New Delhi on November 12, 2009.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with his Australian counterpart Kevin Rudd addressing a joint press conference in New Delhi on November 12, 2009.

India and Australia have decided to create a comprehensive framework for the enhancement of security cooperation between the two countries in a wide range of areas, including counter-terrorism, defence and disarmament and non-proliferation.

A Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation issued by the two countries after talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Australian counterpart Kevin Rudd said the framework would also include information exchange and policy coordination on regional affairs in the Asia region and on long-term strategic and global issues.

It would also cover bilateral cooperation within multilateral frameworks in Asia, in particular the East Asia Summit and ASEAN Regional Forum.

The two sides will under defence dialogue and cooperation within the framework of the Memorandum of Understanding on Defence Cooperation signed by them in March, 2006.

Other areas covered by the declaration include disaster management, maritime and aviation security and police and law enforcement.

The mechanisms of cooperation will include exchange of visits at high levels including by Foreign Ministers and defence cooperation, which will include defence policy talks at the level of senior officials and staff talks and service-to-service exchanges and joint exercises.

According to the declaration, there will be consultations between the National Security Advisers of the two countries, bilateral consultation to promote counter-terrorism cooperation through such means as the Joint Working Group on Counter-Terrorism and sharing of knowledge and experience in disaster prevention and preparedness and capacity-building.

It said the two countries would work towards developing an action plan with specific measures to advance security cooperation.

According to the declaration, the strategic partnership between the two countries is based on a shared desire to promote, regional and global security, as well as their common commitment to democracy, freedom, human rights and the rule of law.

It also affirmed their deep respect for each other's contribution to promoting peace, stability and development in Asia and beyond.

The declaration affirmed their common purpose in working together, and with other countries including through such regional fora as the East Asia Summit and ASEAN Regional Forum to achieve the objective of a prosperous, open and secure Asia, and recognising that strengthened bilateral security cooperation will make a significant contribution in this context.

It recognised that India and Australia are partners with a mutual stake in each other's progress and prosperity and that they shared a common interest in maritime security.

The declaration affirmed their common commitment to fight terrorism and recognised that counter-terrorism efforts by India and Australia constitute an important part of the international community's effort to eradicate terrorism.

It affirmed their common commitment to fight trans-national and organised crime and reiterated their common commitment to global, complete and universal disarmament and non-proliferation and seeking a peaceful world free of nuclear weapons.

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PM says quality, equitable education central to India's progress

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Wednesday that a system of education built on the premises of quality and equity was central to India's rapid progress. .

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh lighting the lamp to inaugurate the National Education Day Celebrations in New Delhi on November 11, 2009. Union Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal and Minister of State D Purandeswari are also seen.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh lighting the lamp to inaugurate the National Education Day Celebrations in New Delhi on November 11, 2009. Union Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal and Minister of State D Purandeswari are also seen.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said that a system of education built on the premises of quality and equity was central to India's rapid progress as a modern and dynamic society.

He said his Government was committed to the cause of education. "But in the mammoth task that lies ahead, we will need the contribution of all our citizens and all actors in the civil society," he said at the National Education Day celebrations here to mark the birth anniversary of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, India's first Union Education Minister.

Dr Singh said improving access to education was not enough and it had to be accompanied by efforts to ensure equity and improve quality.

"Our Government stands committed to provide good and quality education to each and every child in our country, especially those who belong to the underprivileged sections of our society," he said.

He said that it was with this end in view that the Government had launched several scholarship schemes for those who could not afford to study on their own, including the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, minorities and other disadvantaged groups.

He said the Government especially recognised the importance of educating women and they were being special attention in the "Saakshar Bharat" mission.

The Prime Minister said improvement in the quality of education at all levels was also receiving increasing emphasis. He said this would be achieved in higher education through structural reforms on the basis of the recommendations of the National Knowledge Commission and the Yashpal Committee.

He said the realisation of the the Right to Education did not depend merely on expansion of educational infrastructure but, equally importantly, on availability of trained and qualified teachers with commitment to their profession.

Dr Singh said that UNESCO, in its Oslo Declaration 2008 relating to Education for All, had projected a requirement of 18 million new primary school teachers throughout the world in the next seven years to achieve universal primary education at the global level.

In India too, an extra one million teachers would be needed to implement the Right to Education Act. For this purpose, apart from the need of augmenting teacher’s training institutes and use of information and communications technology (ICT) for mass learning, it is necessary to restore the prestige and status of the teaching profession, he said.

"The importance of good teachers cannot be over-emphasized. Good teachers not only educate- they also inspire. Good teachers make good students. Good teachers make good citizens. We must therefore find ways and means of improving the quality of our teachers. We must find ways of attracting the best talent as faculty in our premier institutions," he said.

He said the country today faced difficulties in finding top level professors and lecturers in the newly created Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (IISERs) and other such institutions.

"This state of affairs cannot be allowed to persist and I urge all of you to work to address these problems of deficiency in the quality of teaching in our schools, in our colleges, and in our universities," he said.

The Prime Minister described Maulana Azad as a great visionary, freedom fighter, scholar and educationist.

"Throughout his life, Maulana Azad served the twin causes of freedom and justice. He was a champion of liberal and secular values. He worked for the unity and integrity of India both during the freedom movement and after independence. It was he who laid the foundation of India's educational policy and planning," he said.

Dr Singh said Maulana Azad was also a great institution builder. He created the University Grants Commission (UGC), the National Academies-the Sangeet Natak Akademy, Sahitya Akademy, Lalit Kala Akademy, and the Indian Council for Cultural Relations. He strengthened the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and oversaw the establishment of a chain of top class technical institutions that now represent the best in the Indian Education System. Under his distinguished leadership, the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur was established in 1951, which was followed by a chain of IITs at Mumbai, Chennai, Kanpur and Delhi, he recalled.

He pointed out that education had received the highest priority from the Central Govt. in the last five years or so, during which the education system at all levels--primary, secondary, higher, professional and technical education--had been strengthened and expanded.

He spoke about the Government's flagship programme Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan for primary education and said the initiatives had now been extended the the secondary level. The Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) is aimed at achieving an enrolment ratio of 75 per cent for classes IX-X within five years and to provide universal secondary education by the year 2017.

He said the recently-passed Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009 created a legal entitlement for compulsory and free education for all children between the ages of 6 and 14 years. He also mentioned Saakshar Bharat, a new literacy initiative, with special focus on female literacy.

The Prime Minister said that the outlay for higher education had been increased by 10 times in the Eleventh Five Year Plan as compared to the Tenth Five Year Plan. A number of new institutions - Indian Institutes of Technology, Indian Institutes of Management, Indian Institutes for Science Education & Research, Indian Institutes of Information Technology and others - are being established.

He said a National Mission on Education through ICT had been launched in February 2009 with an outlay of about Rs. 5000 crore to provide internet connectivity to about 20,000 colleges and educational institutions.

He said the proejct would be a major harbinger of use of modern technology in the field of education.

Noting that UNESCO played a very important role as a global clearing house of ideas and knowledge and creation of knowledge based societies, he offer India's willingness to share with the organisation the e-learning material prepared under this technical mission by the IITs.

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PM says systemic failure in giving tribals a stake in modern economic processes

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Wednesday there had been a systemic failure in giving tribals in India a stake in the modern economic processes that inexorably intruded into their living spaces.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the inauguration of the two-day Conference of Chief Ministers and State Ministers (Forest/Tribal Development) to review the implementation of the Forest Rights Act, 2006 and tribal development/welfare programmes in New Delhi on November 04, 2009. Union Minister for Tribal Affairs Kantilal Bhuria, the Minister of State for Environment and Forests (Independent Charge), Jairam Ramesh and Minister of State of Tribal Affairs, Tusharbhai Chaudhary are also seen.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the inauguration of the two-day Conference of Chief Ministers and State Ministers (Forest/Tribal Development) to review the implementation of the Forest Rights Act, 2006 and tribal development/welfare programmes in New Delhi on November 04, 2009. Union Minister for Tribal Affairs Kantilal Bhuria, the Minister of State for Environment and Forests (Independent Charge), Jairam Ramesh and Minister of State of Tribal Affairs, Tusharbhai Chaudhary are also seen.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said there had been a systemic failure in giving tribals in India a stake in the modern economic processes that inexorably intruded into their living spaces.

"The alienation built over decades is now taking a dangerous turn in some parts of our country," he said in his inaugural address at the Conference of Chief Ministers on the Implementation of the Forests Right Act, 2006 here.

The conference, organised by the Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs, is also being attended by State Ministers of Tribal Affairs, Social Welfare and Forests and will review the implementation of the major tribal development and welfare programmes.

"The systematic exploitation and social and economic abuse of our tribal communities can no longer be tolerated," Dr Singh observed.

He said the fact was that no sustained activity was possible under the shadow of the gun and nor had those who claim to speak for the tribals offered an alternative economic or social path that is viable.

"The cult of violence will only bring greater misery to the common people. We have to counter this threat with determination. While violence cannot be tolerated, the tribals must be the primary beneficiaries of the development process. We have to win the battle for their hearts and their minds," he said.

The Prime Minister said the development of tribal areas and improvement in the economic and social condition of the tribal populations was fundamentally linked to our concept of inclusive growth.

He said there could not be equitable growth without guaranteeing the legitimate rights of these eventually marginalized and isolated sections of society.

"In a broader sense we need to empower our tribal communities with the means to determine their own destinies, their livelihood, their security and above all their dignity and self-respect as equal citizens of our country, as equal participants in the processes of social and economic development," he remarked.

According to Dr Singh, the Scheduled Tribe and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Rights) Act, 2006, has provided for a legally enforceable way of guaranteeing rights to forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes and others who have lived in the forests for centuries, but whose contribution to their protection was not acknowledged or recognized earlier. It also lays down duties for conservation and protection of biodiversity, ecological balance and wildlife resource.

He recalled that President Pratibha Patil had, in her address to Parliament on June 4, had called for the completion of the process of distribution of title deeds under the Forest Rights Act by the end of this year.

He said he had written to all Chief Ministers on two occasions on this subject urging them to speed up the process so that it could be completed in time. While some States have achieved remarkable progress in the distribution of titles, others are lagging behind. In a few States, even the process of receiving claims is yet to commence. This cannot be considered as an acceptable situation, he said.

Dr Singh, therefore, urged all the Chief Ministers and their colleagues to spare no effort to ensure effective implementation of the Act and expeditious distribution of titles well within the given timeframe.

"The distribution of titles is but an important and necessary first step. The Act recognizes the symbiotic relationship between the forest and the forest dweller. It attempts to deal holistically with the issue in terms not only of the recognition of rights but of livelihood opportunities and environmental protection and conservation. If implemented in its true spirit this Act will provide significant multipliers in the processes of economic development in some of our critical habitats," he emphasised.

The Prime Minister said those whose lives were dependent on the forests should be made essential partners in the processes of natural resource planning, conservation and protection.

In this context, he emphasised the importance of implementing in letter and in spirit the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act.

He said the livelihood concerns of the forest dwellers should be central to the development agenda in these areas.

According to him, the Government had to work on many fronts simultaneously and it was important to dovetail all development and welfare programmes in tribal areas so that the strategy was coherent, all embracing and there was a coordinated approach involving all departments.

"Education and health need priority attention. It is equally important to pay adequate attention to improve agricultural productivity of tribal lands," he said.

Dr Singh said the lack of quality education and vocational opportunities for tribals needed immediate attention.

He said the infrastructure in the residential schools for tribal children and in hostels was mostly inadequate. Scholarships were also given piecemeal and did not enable a student to complete his or her education in time, he said, urging the Tribal Affairs Ministry to come forward with concrete proposals that addressed these concerns.

He felt the the Skill Development Mission needed to take a special look at how skill development training could be enhanced in all tribal areas.

"Resources will have to be found and it is indeed small recompense for the neglect of the past. We must change our ways of dealing with the tribal affairs," he said.

He said there were a host of issues related to the losses suffered by tribals displaced as a result of acquisition of land for various purposes.

"It cannot be said that we have dealt sensitively and with concern with these issues in the past. It is not just the displacement and disorientation caused by separation from the land that is at issue. One can only imagine the psychological impact of seeing the cutting down of the vast very forests that have nurtured the existence of these communities for centuries," he pointed out.

Dr Singh said there was need to reflect on how to improve the laws and mechanisms through which compensation was provided to displaced tribal persons.

"More could be done, more should be done. The tribals must benefit from the projects for which they have been displaced," he observed.

He said resettlement and rehabilitation raised serious issues not just of monetary compensation. He said issues relating to creating sustainable livelihoods, preserving the traditional sense of community and helping the tribals cope with the trauma of dislocation and alienation needed to be addressed.

He noted that the Mungekar Committee on Inter-Sectoral Issues relating to Tribal Development had made several important recommendations pertaining to standards of public administration and governance in Scheduled tribal areas. He urged the Ministry of Tribal Affairs to examine these recommendations with speed.

The Prime Minister said the administrative machinery in some of the tribal areas was either very weak or virtually non-existent.

"Creating the right infrastructure is a key issue. But I would like to emphasise the importance of posting committed and competent officers in tribal areas. The States should consider offering strong incentives like hardship allowances, special housing and educational facilities or grants for officers who stay in tribal areas," he suggested.

Dr Singh also mentioned the fact that, over the years, a large number of cases had been registered against the tribals, giving rise to a good deal of harassment to those whose traditional rights were not recognised by earlier forest laws.

"The heavy hand of the criminal justice system has become a source of harassment and exploitation. Therefore, we need to take a more enlightened approach in line with current thinking on how to deal with such issues," he said.

He noted that the Jharkhand Government had recently withdrawn over one lakh such cases. The Government of Madhya Pradesh had also done something similar in the past. He said States needed to review such cases urgently and take similar action as appropriate, emphasising the need for a fresh start in this area.

He said he was happy that the Ministry of Tribal Affairs was evolving a consensus on a National Tribal Policy.

"The problems faced by our tribal communities are complex and they require sympathetic and systematic understanding. The policy should factor in the different nuances of tribal life as they exist in several parts of our great country. I would suggest that the Ministry of Tribal Affairs engage in wide public consultation so that the document that emerges after a meaningful debate on the many issues involved would be broadly acceptable to the people at large," he added.

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Chidambaram reaches out to Muslims in India

Home Minister P Chidambaram on Tuesday reached out to Muslims, saying that India could not view Islam as an alien faith and assured them that they were honoured citizens of the country.

Union Home Minister P Chidambaram today reached out to Muslims, saying that India could not view Islam as an alien faith and assured them that they were honoured citizens of the country.

"This is the land of your forbears; this is the land of your birth; and this is where you will live and work. It is a matter of pride for us that all major religions of the world, including Islam, exist and thrive in India," he said in his address at the 30th annual conference of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind (JUH) at Deoband in Uttar Pradesh.

Mr Chidambaram also said communalism must be deplored whenever and wherever it manifested itself in word or action and described the December 6, 1992 demolition of the Babri Masjid as a manifestation of relgious fanaticism and an act of extreme prejudice.

"Communalism is the negation of pluralism. Communalism also opposes modernity, rejects the idea of civil society, and opposes political freedom to the people," he said

The conference is being attended by about 10,000 Ulemas from all over India, and the Home Minister noted that the JUH was founded in 1919 to lend the support of the Muslim clergy to the anti-British movement. He said it was among the first organisations that stood firmly on the nationalist forces and resolutely opposed the two-nation theory espoused by the Muslim League.

Mr Chidambaram said the birth of free India was under circumstances that could only be described as traumatic.

"The scars of partition and of the largest migration in human history still remain. Post-Independence too, the country has witnessed numerous conflicts – caste against caste, religion against religion, language against language," he said.

He stressed that pluralism was India's inheritance and should be the country's strength. "It is only due to the thoughtless words and actions of some that we have, sadly, allowed our diversity to become differences," he remarked.

The Home Minister talked about the advent of Islam in the sub-continent that might have occurred during the liftime of the Prophet himself and mentioned the Cheruman Juma Masjid in Kodungallur in Kerala, constructed in 629 AD and believed to be the oldest mosque in the country. He said that, according to historians, the first ship bearing Muslim travelers was seen on the Indian coast as early as 630 A.D.

"India had always welcomed men imbued with high moral and spiritual ideas. It was a sign of our confidence in our innate strength. India thus became the most diverse multi-racial, multi-religious and multi-lingual society in human history. That is a matter of pride, especially when we see some countries struggling to come to terms with their new-found diversity," he observed.

Mr Chidambaram said India should not turn its back on its history and its heritage and should not discount or diminish its unique strength. It should not view its pluralism as a source of perennial conflict.

He dwelt at length on the contribution of Muslims to the freedom struggle as well as in modern India.

He stressed that a nation could ignore its minorities only at its peril. "The golden rule in a democracy is that it is the duty of the majority to protect the minority, be it religious, racial or linguistic. It is a self-evident rule. It is a rule that is firmly rooted in the universality of human rights. Hence, we have no hesitation in invoking that rule when Tamils are denied their rights in Sri Lanka or Indian students are assaulted in Australia," he said.

He pointed out that this golden rule also applied to Muslims and Sikhs, who were in a majority in Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab, respectively.

Mr Chidambaram regretted that some people thought this rule was dispensable or that it could be applied selectively, saying that it was a pernicious thought which sowed the seeds of communalism.

He said there were three lessons that flowed from a true assessment of the perils of communalism.

"Firstly, we must strive to build a modern nation. Secondly, we must reiterate the concepts of a civil society. And thirdly, we must expand the political freedoms and ensure that every person enjoys those undeniable and inalienable freedoms," he explained.

"I believe that all Indians share a common cause – to fight communalism. That cause cannot be advanced by rhetoric alone. We must confront communalism with the instruments that will defeat communalism," he said.

Underlining that moral and spiritual values formed the core of a civilisation, he said the education system must instill these values in its citizens, especially in its children.

"Education, however, has a larger purpose. It must empower the child. The education system must turn the wonder of the child into inquiry and the bewilderment of the adolescent into discovery. It is mathematics and science, and that fruit of a historical conjunction, English, that will equip our children to build a modern India. The implementation of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, especially the Scheme for Providing Quality Education in Madrasas (SPQEM) and Infrastructure Development in Minority Institutions (IDMI) and the setting up of Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas (KGBV) provide the best assurance of quality education to Muslim children," he said.

Mr Chidambaram emphasised the importance of tolerance in civil society. "The sharper the differences, the greater must be the degree of tolerance. When this compact is eroded, the foundations of civil society are shaken. It is our duty to spread the message of tolerance and strengthen the strands that bind civil society," he said.

According to him, it is the assurance of political freedom, and all the rights associated with such freedom, that will defeat communalism.

"Equality, equal status, personal liberty, freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, right to education, right to work, right to property, right to information, and the other freedoms are the hallmark of a civilized nation. The Prime Minister’s 15-point programme is intended to ensure that these freedoms are enjoyed by all minority communities, including the Muslim community," he said.

The Home Minister said the worst kind of communalism was unleashing communal violence. Violence and violent means to achieve any objective was the anti-thesis of a civilised society governed by the rule of law, he stated.

"The demolition of the Babri Masjid was a manifestation of religious fanaticism and an act of extreme prejudice. Likewise, taking to the path of violence in the name of religion must also be deplored in unequivocal terms," he said.

He expressed happiness over the fact that the Darul Ulloom at Deoband had issued a "fatwa" against terrorism on February 25, 2008 and categorically stated that "Islam rejects all kinds of unwarranted violence, breach of peace, bloodshed, killing and plunder and does not allow it in any form."

"I regard that decree as a call to duty to not only Muslims but to all right thinking people. I would urge that more voices be raised, loudly and clearly, against terrorism and all forms of violence," he added.

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Journalist Balraj Puri gets Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday presented the 24th Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration to well-known journalist Balraj Puri for building bridges between religions and communities

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today presented the 24th Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration to well-known journalist Balraj Puri, who he said had spent his life building bridges between religions and communities.


The award is given year on the death anniversary of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who was assassinated by her own bodyguards on this day 25 years ago.


"It is a small token of our deep sense of gratitude to one of the greatest leaders that modern India has produced," Dr Singh said.


He said Ms Gandhi's contribution to nation building and national integration was unparalleled.


"Her commitment to national unity and integrity and to the cause of secularism is too well known to need an reiteration. Even twenty five years after her martyrdom, her legacy remains as strong and durable as ever and her vision still guides and inspires us and it will continue to do so for ages to come," he said.


Dr Singh said Mr Puri's life has been one of selfless service to society and to the country. "It has been a life dedicated to the cause of promoting peace, good-will and communal harmony," he said.


In particular, the Prime Minister referred to Mr Puri's knowledge about Jammu and Kashmir and said he had learnt a great deal about the state from him.


He also noted that Mr Puri had written some of the most incisive books and articles on Jammu and Kashmir and the problems that the state faces.


"His writings display a deep understanding of the problems of the state and an ability to think out of the box. Not surprisingly, he has earned the great respect and admiration of the academic communities nationally as well as internationally, which has honoured him on many occasions. His book: ‘Kashmir: Towards Insurgency’ has become a primer for all those seeking to understand the cause for the troubles in the state, and the ways to move beyond them," he said.


He also said that, as an activist, many of Mr Puri's efforts had been low profile and had gone unsung. He said that it was Mr Puri who helped to reconcile many of the differences between Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah and later between Ms Gandhi and Sheikh Abdullah.


"The capital he built upon was his large circle of friends and comrades in every part of Jammu and Kashmir. It was not surprising, therefore, that even during the troubled years of the 1990s, Balraj Puri was among the few who carried credibility with all sides," he said.


Dr Singh recalled that Mr Puri began his work at a very young age and had participated in the Quit India movement as a young boy of 14 years.


He organized student movements in Jammu in 1946 and later founded the Peace Volunteer Corps in 1947 to work for preventing communal riots at the time of partition.


He has also worked in Punjab and certain volatile parts of Uttar Pradesh and helped to defuse charged communal situations and paved the way for a dialogue and non-violent conflict resolution.


"We would do well to remember that tolerance and secularism define the very idea of India. That is the legacy of Indiraji. For centuries we have existed as a multi-religious and multi-cultural society, always ready to accommodate newer ways of thinking and living. This liberal outlook needs to be nurtured and strengthened. It is our solemn duty to raise our voice against those who attempt to divide our society on communal lines for their selfish interest," he added.


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Singh says India should aim to sustain 9-10% growth

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Friday India's primary challenge in the next decade would be to sustain high rates of economic growth and called for increased investments in physical and social infrastructure.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said India's primary challenge in the next decade would be to sustain high rates of economic growth and called for increased investments in physical and social infrastructure, with particular attention to the needs of agriculture and the transformation of the rural economy.

"We should aim to sustain annual growth rates of 9 to 10 per cent per annum," Dr Singh said in his inaugural address to the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit here.

He said the challenges were also to ensure that the growth process remained equitable, to invest in the education and health of every child and adult, to generate gainful employment, to build modern, efficient and environment-friendly infrastructure and to ensure that government and public services were efficient and responsive to the people’s needs and functioned transparently.

"The fact that our savings rate is as high as 35% of our GDP suggests that what I am saying, is a realizable goal. The challenge for political leadership, at the national, at the state and local levels, will lie in ensuring the realization of this outcome," he said.

Dr Singh also said that the future of the country depended a great deal on the quality of political leadership and of government at the State and at the local levels.

In this context, he said there was great importance attached to the revitalisation of the institution of the Panchayati Raj.

"I submit to you that India cannot be built from Delhi alone. No doubt the Union government has an important developmental role, apart from its central role in providing national security. But with the growth of the market economy and with individual talent and enterprise being unleashed, no agenda for building a new India can any longer be imposed from Delhi. India lives in the States," he said.

The Prime Minister said some of the biggest challenges were to reduce regional disparities and to ensure the economic and social upliftment of the scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, other backward classes, less privileged sections of society and religious and linguistic minorities. "These challenges have to be addressed at every level of the policy pyramid," he stressed.

He said the Government had launched a series of developmental initiatives since 2004 which were aimed at investing in rural and urban infrastructure, at guaranteeing minimum employment and generating maximum employment.

"These initiatives are aimed at improving access to and the availability of education and health care to all our citizens. These initiatives need to be carried for they seek to improve the productivity of our farm economy and the income of our farmers where 65% of our population depends on agriculture," he said.

According to him, for each of these initiatives to be successfully implemented, there was need for pro-active and creative leadership at the State and district levels.

"We need a more active civil society and media focus on the quality of governance at the State and district levels. Urban governance has to vastly improve to make our cities and towns meet the needs of a burgeoning urban population. We need a creative entrepreneurial class that can compete both at home and abroad without artificial props. A visionary national leadership alone cannot do much when the challenge of development is in the realm of policy implementation and where States must be active partners," he said.

The Prime Minister said this challenge was compounded by the fact that the less developed regions are also the more populated ones.

He said this had contributed to the persistence of poverty and to the problem of internal migration and it was also sometimes driven by law and order problems.

He said the country needed a forward looking and development-oriented political leadership in these States.

"We need a committed and pro-active civil service. We need an active civil society. We need a professional middle class. We need a combination of all these participants to transform our less developed regions and take them forward on the road to sustained development," he said.

"Sitting here in Delhi we can endlessly debate the qualities of national leadership. But real change in India will come when we get the right kind of state level and local leadership – a forward-looking, modern and compassionate leadership that strengthens the foundations of our great Republic. The focus of the debate on leadership for building a new India should, therefore, shift to the States," he said.

Dr Singh said the South Asia region also needed an equally forward looking leadership. He pointed out that each of India's neighbours faced similar developmental challenges and some of them faced bigger existential challenges.

He said India sought a neighbourhood of peace and progress and wished its neighbours well. He said India would like to see them develop and wipe out poverty and overcome the burden of poverty. It would like to work with them to achieve these goals.

"India is always happy to extend a helpful and supportive hand to all our neighbours. We wish to see democracy take deep roots in all these countries so that the people of South Asia are truly empowered to take their destiny into their own hands," he said.

He said the region needed a leadership that could take a long-term view and which had the courage to take bold divisions.

"We must not allow our past to limit our future. To paraphrase Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, we must not allow ‘narrow domestic walls’ to confine us to ‘the dreary desert sand of dead habit’. Instead we should dip into the ‘clear stream of reason’ and walk forward ‘into ever-widening thought and action’ so that we can build not just a new India by 2020 but a new South Asia," he said.

Dr Singh noted that former United States President George W Bish was one of those scheduled to address the summit this year.

Describing Mr Bush as a great friend of the country, he said India recognised the very important role he played in the fruition of the civil nuclear cooperation initiative between the two countries.

"We are working now with our international partners to give a boost to our nuclear power programme. This will be an important contribution to our efforts to use cleaner fuels and thus combat climate change," he said.

The Prime Minister said today happened to be the birth anniversary of India's former atomic energy chief Homi Bhabha.

"In concluding the civil nuclear agreement we sought to realize Dr. Bhabha’s dream of tapping the atom for the welfare of our people. It is only fitting that we pay tribute to Homi Bhabha’s genius at this leadership Summit," he said.

Dr Singh recalled that he had been regularly attending the Summit for the past five years and noted that he had said earlier that India's challenges in nation-building were primarily at home, which were best addressed by ensuring sustained and inclusive economic growth and development.

"We do face external and global challenges. The global slowdown is a reality, rise of terrorism is also a reality and we have to face these challenges. But I sincerely believe that they are nowhere as daunting as the ones we face at home. If we get our house in order, if we can liberate each and every citizen of this free nation from the tyranny of poverty, ignorance and disease, there is no external challenge that we cannot overcome," he remarked.

He also stressed that freedom, democracy, pluralism and secularism went together and people could not have one without the other.

He also said that India sought to live in peace with its own neighbourhood and with the world at large.

"We have always been and wish to remain good neighbours and good global citizens. I do believe our destiny is intrinsically linked with that of all our neighbours. We seek good relations with each one of them. I have repeatedly said that we see our security and prosperity in their progress and stability. We sincerely wish to resolve all outstanding issues with our neighbours through dialogue and in the spirit of partnership and friendship that should rightly characterize our relations," he said.

The Prime Minister also said that, as responsible global citizens, India wished to be partners of all nations in humanity’s struggle for the preservation and protection of the environment and in giving meaning and substance to the notion of sustainable development.

"We will approach the international negotiations on global warming, climate change and carbon emissions as responsible global citizens. We will fulfill our obligations to nature and to humanity consistent with our commitment to the welfare and well-being of our people, and the poor of the world. Equally, we expect the developed nations, and those who have so far drawn unduly on nature’s bounty to bear their due share of the burdens as well.

"Ours is not an unreasonable stance. It is based on our worldview that the 'whole world is one family' and on our commitment to the principles of inclusive growth and development," he added.

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Singh says no pre-condition for talks with Pakistan, but terror must end

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Thursday he was not satisfied with the probe by Pakistan against the perpetrarors of the 26/11 attacks and hoped they would be brought to justice soon.

Prime 

Minister Manmohan Singh meeting CRPF and BSF soldiers at the Sainik Sammelan in Srinagar, 

Jammu & Kashmir on October 29, 2009.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh meeting CRPF and BSF soldiers at the Sainik Sammelan in Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir on October 29, 2009.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said he was not satisfied with the steps taken by Pakistan against the perpetrarors of the November 26, 2008 terror attacks on Mumbai and hoped that all of them would be brought to justice soon.

Addressing a press conference in Srinagar at the end of a two-day visit to the Kashmir valley, Dr Singh said that his statement yesterday that India was ready for discussions on all issues but Pakistan must first act against terror groups targeting India was not meant to be a pre-condition for any talks.

"It is not a pre-condition. But there is a practical way of looking at it. Negotiations cannot make headway unless Pakistan brings these terror groups under effective control," he explained.

The Prime Minister said India is a democracy and it would be difficult for the Government to create the right kind of atmosphere within the country for talks with Pakistan if terrorists continue to attack and kill and injure people.

In response to a question, Dr Singh said Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Mailk's allegation that India was abetting violence in Balochistan and financing the Taliban was far-fetched. "Nothing could be farther from the truth," he remarked, pointing out that, on the contrary, it was India which was a victim of terrorism aided and abetted from Pakistani soil.

"I have said earlier that India had no role in Balochistan and those who level these charges, the senior minister in Pakistan, knows jolly well that there is no truth in it," he said.

Asked about Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq's statement justifying the use of guns in a separatist movement, Dr Singh said, "One should not read too much into a statement made in anger."

He hoped that all those who had the good and well-being of the people of Jammu and Kashmir in their hearts would respond favourably to his appeal to all sections of people in the state to come forward for dialogue.

To a question about the recent comments by the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) on the Kashmir issue, Dr Singh said, "We regret the OIC has got into this business and we have lodged a protest with OIC on this count."

"We want a peaceful resolution to all problems facing J&K, both in their internal dimensions and also external dimensions," he said.

But he insisted that India was not acting under pressure from any other country and would not succumb to any such pressure in the future.

He said it was in the interest of the people of Jammu and Kashmir as well as the people of Pakistan and India that the relations between the two neighbouring countries become "what they ought to be between two neighbours."

Earlier, in his opening remarks, the Prime Minister hoped that his his appeal for dialogue in Jammu and Kashmir would be reciprocated in the spirit in which it was made.

Prime 

Minister Manmohan Singh meeting the Federation of Chamber of Industries Kashmir delegation, 

in Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir on October 29, 2009.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh meeting the Federation of Chamber of Industries Kashmir delegation, in Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir on October 29, 2009.

"We have to carry all stakeholders with us to achieve a permanent and peaceful reconciliation in Jammu and Kashmir so that we can concentrate on an ambitious development agenda that will lead to a full economic revival and reconstruction and create lot more jobs for the young people of Jammu and Kashmir," he said.

Dr Singh had made the appeal at a public rally in Anantnag yesterday before he inaugurated the Anantnag-Quazigund railway link and flagged off the first train on the section.

He noted that Kashmir was blessed with rich endowments of resources, natural beauty and a young population that yearned for a better and more secure future. Whether it is in the area of infrastructure, employment, or its traditional economy the State must not only keep pace with the rest of the country but should be ahead of it, he said, pointing out that, over the past few years, the Government of India had committed unprecedented resources for the development of the state.

He said the Anantnag-Quazigund rail link was a long-standing aspiration of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and he was confident that it would open new horizons in the development of the state.

He recalled that, earlier this month, on his directive, the Union Cabinet Secretary accompanied by 13 Secretaries to the Government of India had visited the State. The first priority is to tone up the administrative machinery so that development projects could be effectively implemented on the ground and the fruits of development reached the common man, he said.

Stressing that the power sector is critical for the development of the state, the Prime Minister said Union Power Ministry would set up a special monitoring group for the sector in Jammu and Kashmir, involving the Union Ministry of Finance, the Planning Commission and the State Government.

He said he had assured the State government that the Centre would allocate up to 500 MW of power in the winter months to Jammu and Kashmir, depending on the load pattern and its emergent requirements. The Ministry of New & Renewable Energy has prepared a Renewable Energy Plan for Ladakh region to minimize the use of kerosene, diesel and firewood, he said.

Pointing out the enormous possibilities of making the State one of the world’s top tourist destinations, Dr Singh said the Government had decided to commit additional funds of more than Rs. 350 crores for the rehabilitation of the Dal and Nigeen Lakes.

He said 200 youth would be trained and deployed as tourist escorts for the Vaishno Devi and Amarnath yatras. He said that under the National Mission on Sustaining the Himalayan Eco-System the Government would make all efforts to protect the Himalayan glaciers.

Urging the youth of Jammu and Kashmir to lend their hand in the development of the State, the Prime Minister said the Ministry of Youth Affairs would enroll and deploy around 8,000 young persons as volunteers on an honorarium basis. They can engage productively in public service, such as in the conservation of Dal Lake, he said.

He also said that the Ministry of Tourism would train up to 300 young persons under the scheme "Hunar Se Rozgar Tak". The Ministry of Labour will arrange to host up to 8000 youth from the State each year in various ITIs to take advantage of the modular skill development programmes in sectors with high employment potential.

Dr Singh said the Government would continue to give priority to developing the physical infrastructure of the State. He said the Centre would provide additional funds to ensure the timely completion of the Mughal road at a revised cost of about Rs.640 crores. It had earmarked Rs.125 crore to upgrade urban infrastructure in important towns in the Valley like Baramulla, Anantnag, Kupwara, Ganderbal and Sopore during the current year, he said.

"Industrial revival is critical for the revival of the economy and to increase employment opportunities for our youth. Dastakari, Handicrafts and Textiles are at the core of J&K’s economy. The Government of India will favourably consider the request of the State Government to provide financial assistance for the replacement of 40,000 carpet looms in the State over a period of five years," he said.

The Prime Minister said he had had very good discussions with Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and his cabinet colleagues yesterday, when they took stock of the development efforts in various sectors and discussed ways and means of expediting the implementation of various central projects.

He said he had held wide-ranging discussions with all major political parties in the State and various sections of civil society.

The Prime Minister said he had also had a very good interaction with the officers and the men of the paramilitary forces and the State Police.

According to him, the responsibility for maintaining law and order in the State would increasingly devolve on the J&K police.

"I commend the brave and heroic efforts of the security forces under very adverse circumstances. We have raised the standards of accountability and transparency in their working in order to enhance public trust and confidence," he said.

"I return today to Delhi fully satisfied with my visit. I believe that a new chapter is opening in the peace process in the State and we are turning a corner. We will extend full support to the efforts of the State Government to fulfill the high expectations of the people of Jammu & Kashmir," he added.

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Singh says India ready to discuss all issues, but Pakistan must curb, punish terorrists

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Wednesday that India was ready to discuss all issues with Pakistan but it must curb those engaging in terrorism against India.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said India was ready to discuss all issues with Pakistan but it must demonstrate its sincerity and good faith by curbing those engaging in terrorism and punishing those responsible for acts of terror against this country.

"If they are non-state actors, it is the solemn duty of the government of Pakistan to bring them to book, to destroy their camps and to eliminate their infrastructure," Dr Singh said at a public rally in Anantnag before  inaugurating the Anantnag-Qazigund railway line in Jammu and Kashmir and flagging off the first train on the section.

"The perpetrators of the acts of terror must pay the heaviest penalty for their barbaric crimes against humanity," he declared.

Dr Singh said it was a misplaced idea that one could reach a compromise with the ideology of the terrorists or that they could be used for one's own purpose.

"Eventually they turn against you and bring only death and destruction. The real face of the terrorists is clear for the people of Pakistan to see with their own eyes," he said.

The Prime Minister hoped the Government would take the ongoing actions against the terrorist groups in that country to their logical conclusion. He said they should destroy these groups wherever they were operating and for whatever misguided purpose.

India has been putting pressure on Pakistan for the past many months to bring to justice those responsible for the November 26, 2008 terror attacks on Mumbai, which claimed about 180 lives. India blames elements based in Pakistan for the attacks.

"I call upon the people and Government of Pakistan to show their sincerity and good faith. As I have said many times before, we will not be found wanting in our response," he said.

Dr Singh recalled that he had, upon taking over as Prime Minister for the first time in 2004, said that he was ready to discuss all issues with Pakistan. He said he had done that not because of weakness but from a position of strength.

According to him, India had had the most fruitful and productive discussions ever with the Government of Pakistan during the period 2004-07 when militancy and violence began to decline in Jammu and Kashmir.

He said intensive discussions were held on all issues, including on a permanent resolution of the issue of Jammu and Kashmir.

"For the first time in 60 years, people were able to travel by road across the LoC. Divided families were re-united at the border. Trade between the two sides of Kashmir began. In fact, our overall trade with Pakistan increased three times during 2004-07. The number of visas that we issued to Pakistanis doubled during the same period. An additional rail link was re-established," he said.

The Prime Minister said these were not small achievements given the history of India's troubled relationship with Pakistan.

"Inside the valley, as militancy declined, trade, business and tourism began to pick up. We were moving in the right direction. For the first time there was a feeling among the people that a durable and final peace was around the corner," he said.

Dr Singh said that, however, all the progress that was achieved had been repeatedly thwarted by acts of terrorism.

"The terrorists want permanent enmity to prevail between the two countries. The terrorists have misused the name of a peaceful and benevolent religion. Their philosophy of hate has no place here. It is totally contrary to our centuries-old tradition of tolerance and harmony among faiths," he remarked.

He said he strongly believed that the majority of people in Pakistan wanted good neighbourly and cooperative relations between India and Pakistan. They wanted permanent peace, which India also wanted, he said.

He said the cross-LoC initiatives had been well received on both sides of the border but he was aware that they were not as people-friendly as they could be. He said the trade facilities at the border were inadequate, there were no banking channels, customs facilities needed to be strengthened, there were no trade fairs, the lists of tradable commodities needed to be increased, and clearances for travel took time. He also pointed out that prisoners of India and Pakistan were languishing in each other’s jails even after completing their sentences.

"The fact is that these are humanitarian issues whose resolution requires the cooperation of Pakistan. We are ready to discuss these and other issues with the Government of Pakistan. I hope that as a result things will be made easier for our traders, divided families, prisoners and travelers. For a productive dialogue it is essential that terrorism must be brought under control," he added.

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India tells China Dalai Lama is honoured guest, can visit Arunachal

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Sunday he had explained to Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao that the Dalai Lama was an honoured guest in India who was free to visit Arunachal Pradesh.


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said he had explained to his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao that the  Dalai Lama was an honoured guest in India, implying that the Tibetan spiritual leader was free to visit Arunachal Pradesh.


Addressing a press conference in the Thai resort town of Hua Hin today after attending the 7th India-ASEAN Summit and the 4th East Asia Summit, Dr Singh said he had told Mr Wen that India did not allow Tibetan refugees to indulge in political activities.


"As proof of that last year we took resolute action at the time of Olympics when there were reports that some Tibetan refugees might disrupt the process. That is the position that I explained to Premier Wen," he said.


China has objected to the Dalai Lama's plans to visit Arunachal Pradesh, large areas of which it claims as part of its territory.


Asked if there was any change in the Dalai Lama's planned visit to the state next month, Dr Singh said he was not aware of the Tibetan spiritual leader's plans and had explained this situation to Mr Wen.


He said he and his Chinese counterpart had, during their talks yesterday, agreed that all outstanding issues between them would be discussed through the established Government channels.


"We have also agreed that whatever outstanding issues there may be between us - and there is the complex boundary question which cannot be wished away - there are established Government channels to exchange views on all these issues, and one does not have therefore to go to the media to accentuate or exaggerate the amount of differences that prevail. We both agreed that the boundary question is a complex question; that pending a resolution of the boundary question we both have an obligation to maintain peace and tranquillity along the border," he said.


Dr Singh said he had a "frank and constructive" exchange of views with Mr Wen, both during their formal meeting yesterday and at the gala dinner hosted by the Thai Prime Minister last night.


"We discussed all these issues and agreed that existing mechanisms for bilateral cooperation should be used to resolve all issues amicably in the spirit of the strategic and cooperative partnerships. As you know, the Chinese Foreign Minister will be visiting India in two days’ time and the Foreign Ministers will have an opportunity to discuss all issues which have bearing on our relationship," he said.


The Prime Minister said he and Mr Wen had reaffirmed the need to maintain peace and tranquility on the border pending a resolution of the boundary question.


"Both of us agreed that we should continue and strengthen efforts to build political trust and understanding," he said.


In response to another question, Dr Singh said he had also raised the issue about media reports about China planning to build dams on the upper reaches of Brahmaputra.


"I did raise this issue with Premier Wen Jiabao yesterday. I conveyed to him that cooperation in the area of trans-border rivers is of mutual benefit. Premier Wen said that keeping in mind the overall friendly relations and the humanitarian aspects, the Chinese side has been providing hydrological data during the flood season. He said that relevant discussion on trans-border river issues could be held through the expert level mechanism that we have constituted," he said.


Replying to a question, Dr Singh said he planned to visit Jammu and Kashmir soon to inaugurate railway projects.


He said it was the Government's sincere desire to engage all sections of political opinion in Jammu and Kashmir to find practical and pragmatic solutions to the problems facing the state.


"I recognise that there are some political groups who are outside the mainstream. We would like them also to engage in a constructive dialogue with us. I have already had two-three meetings with the Hurriyat people. They had promised to come back with specific suggestions. I am still waiting for them," he added.


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22 killed, 26 injured as Goa Express rams into Mewar Express near Mathura

At least 22 people were killed and 26 others injured when the Delhi-bound Goa Express rammed into the stationary Mewar Express near Mathura in the early hours today.

The scene near Mathura in Uttar Pradesh where the Goa Sampark Kranti Express rammed into the stationary Mewar Express in the early hours of October 21, 2009.
The scene near Mathura in Uttar Pradesh where the Goa Sampark Kranti Express rammed into the stationary Mewar Express in the early hours of October 21, 2009.Netindian photo by P. P. Sarkar.

At least 22 people were killed and 26 others injured when the Delhi-bound Goa Express rammed into the stationary Mewar Express, also heading for the capital, between Mathura and Vrindavan on the North-Central Railway (NCR) in the early hours today.

NCR spokesman Rajesh Vajpayee told NetIndian over the telephone that ten of those killed had been identified. They included four women.

The ten were identified as Priya Shrivastava (Ballabhgarh, Haryana), Geeta (Dheerpur, Delhi), Dinesh (Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh), Jai Tiwari (Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh), Hemant (54, Baran, Rajasthan), Brijesh Chaturvedi (41, Morena), Suman (42), Bhura Lal Chauhan, Nandlal Meena and Vijaylaxmi Roshan Lal (32, Ballabhgarh, Haryana).

A senior railway official at the scene of the accident told mediapersons that all the injured passengers had been brought out of the damaged coach of the Udaipur-Hazrat Nizamuddin Mewar Express and rushed to the Government hospital in Mathura and other hospitals in the Uttar Pradesh town, about 140 km from Delhi

He said the bodies of all those killed in the mishap had also been extricated from the wreckage of the coach.

Railway officials did not give any cause for the accident, saying their immediate priority was the rescue and relief operation and the restoration of rail traffic on the busy route that connects Delhi and Mumbai. However, media reports suggested that the Mewar Express had stopped because someone had pulled the emergency chain.

The official on the scene said it appeared that the driver of the 2779 Goa Express, which was on the same track, appeared to have ignored a signal and had failed to slow down to a cautious speed as required when there is a train not far ahead on the same line.

Officials said the rescue operations had been completed. The damaged bogie of the 2964 Mewar Express was detached, and the remainder of the train later reached Hazrat Nizamuddin in Delhi with passengers of both the trains. Buses had also been arranged to transport passengers of the two trains to Nizamuddin, he said.

Senior railway officials in Delhi told NetIndian that the accident occurred around 0445 hours, leading to considerable damage to the last coach of the Mewar Express.

A crane lifts coaches of Mewar express, which was hit by the Goa Sampark Kranti Express near Mathura on October 21, 2009.
A crane lifts coaches of Mewar express, which was hit by the Goa Sampark Kranti Express near Mathura on October 21, 2009. Netindian photo by P. P. Sarkar..

Rescue teams had to use flame-cutters to cut through the metal to extricate the injured passengers from the mangled coach.

About 150 Army personnel and hundreds of local people joined the railway and the civilian authorities in the rescue efforts.

The officials said Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee had announced an ex-gratia compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the next of kin of each of those killed in the accident, Rs 1 lakh for those who had suffered grievous injuries and Rs 10,000 for those who had simple injuries.

According to Mr Vajpayee, the Railway Minister was likely to visit the scene of the accident later this evening and also meet the injured passengers in hospitals in Mathura.

They said accident relief trains from Delhi and Agra had rushed to the spot as soon as news of the accident came in. Three medical relief trains had also been rushed to the scene, they said.

Senior officials, including the General Manager of North-Central Railway and the Divisional Railway Manager of the Agra Division had also rushed to the spot, they said.

As a result of the accident, two trains had been cancelled and five had been diverted. The up-line had been restored by mid-morning and the down line by this evening.

At Nizamuddin, the Railways had made arrangements to provide the passengers of the two trains with food, medical assistance and other facilities, they said.

A view of the accident involving the Goa Sampark Kranti Express and the Mewar Express near Mathura on October 21, 2009.
A view of the accident involving the Goa Sampark Kranti Express and the Mewar Express near Mathura on October 21, 2009.Netindian photo by P. P. Sarkar.

The Railways have also established telephone helplines in Delhi, Mathura, Agra and other places to provide information to the public.

The Commissioner of Railway Safety will conduct an inquiry into the accident, official sources added.

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India-China border issue among most complicated questions: Nirupama Rao

Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said on Friday the border issue between India and China was one of the most complicated boundary questions that existed anywhere in the world.


File photo of Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao.
File photo of Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao.

Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao today said the border issue between India and China was one of the most complicated boundary questions that existed anywhere in the world and asserted that both countries were determined to resolve it through dialogue.


"I can say it with all honesty, both governments are convinced that there is no other way to resolve this without dialogue. One has to resolve it through dialogue," she told public broadcaster All India Radio in an interview.


Ms Rao said there had to be a realistic view that there were differences between the two countries on their perception of the line of actual control (LOAC) in the border areas and also in terms of conflicting territorial claims.


"So this is a very complex issue. It is one of the most complicated boundary questions that exist anywhere in the world. But I think it is a good development and it is a positive factor that both countries are determined to resolve these issues," she said.


Referring to the recent media reports in India about incursions from across the border and also the Chinese statement on Arunachal Pradesh, Ms Rao said these developments had only intensified the need for the two sides to really sit down and resolve these issues with even more seriousess and determination.


"Because, I think, both governments understand that a peaceful relationship between India and China is not only good for the two countries but it is good for this region, it is good globally also," she observed.


Ms Rao, who was Ambassador to China before taking over as Foreign Secretary in August, said there were a number of issues on which the two countries could cooperate and were cooperating.


These included the Doha Development Round, climate change issues, cooperation in multilateral fora and reform of the international financial system in the weake of the global economic crisis.


"There are many many other issues in the relationship where we have common ground where there is a meeting of minds, so I think, we must look at this whole relationship in the larger perspective," she said.


About the Chinese statement last week protesting against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Arunachal Pradesh, Ms Rao said the Government had taken it very seriously.


"Of course we take this seriously, and we have been very very particular and very clear and unambivalent in expressing our position to the Chinese. In that way we have said that Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of India, it is an inalienable part of India," she said.


On the Dalai Lama's proposed visit to Arunachal Pradesh next month, about which also the Chinese side has protested, Ms Rao said that he was a spiritual and religious figure who did not indulge in political activities on Indian soil. She said the Dalai Lama was a guest in India and free to visit any part of the country.


Ms Rao said India took a long-term perspective in its relations with China, its largest neighbour and with whom it shared a very long boundary.


"There are outstanding issues relating to this boundary which are yet to be resolved. And, therefore, the whole issue that you referred to and the Chinese protests that have been made should be seen in the context of the unresolved boundary question between the two countries. We are very intensively focused on this issue. But at the same time, one must understand that the relationship with China has also been developed in many other areas," she said.


She said the bilateral relationship had developed over the last two decades and there was today good communication and better understanding between the governments of the two countries and between their academic institutions and business and industry.


"As far as boundary between the two countries is concerned, there is still a lot of ground that we have to cover in terms of narrowing differences and building more understanding. But progress in this regard is being made, albeit slowly but it is being made surely. We have the mechanism of the special representatives appointed by the two governments to look into these issues and they have held thirteen rounds of discussions so far. So, as far as the boundary question is concerned, even as we have had these reports of protests and the incursions, one must understand also that there is a situation in which both our countries are placed at the moment and that situation is this focus on trying to resolve the boundary question peacefully," she said.


The Foreign Secretary said the Chinese Foreign Minsiter was due to visit India shortly for the trilateral meeting between India, China and Russia and it would afford New Delhi the opportunity to touch upon various issues of mutual concern and mutual interest in the bilateral relationship.


"It goes without saying that whenever we have the opportunity to meet between the two countries, as we would on this occasion, the opportunity does arise for us to raise all issues including issues of concern because it is through discussion, through frank discussion and through open discussion and through discussion at that level, we can remove misunderstandings," she explained.


The trilateral meeting would discuss ways of strengthening the dialogue between the three countries, which are major powers in the region, she said. It would look at issues such as energy security, better connectivity and dialogue between the academic institutions and think-tanks of the three countries.


On Pakistan, Ms Rao said that at the recent meetings in New York between the Foreign Secretaries and the Foreign Ministers of the two countries, India had made it clear that there could e any meaningful dialogue between them only if Pakistan addressed the threat of terrorism seriously and effectively.


She said India had always maintained that its relations with Pakistan could be normalised only through dialogue.


"It is very essential and we were communicating this to the Pakistani side on behalf of the Government of India and also on behalf of the people of India that the threat and the effect of terrorism which has been directed against the people of India from Pakistani soil by groups, by institutions, by individuals that operate with impunity from Pakistani soil, is the cause of utmost concern for us, because we have been victims of terrorism," she said.


She said that this was particularly so in the context of the investigations in Pakistan into the November 26, 2008 terror attacks on Mumbai.


"A little more than a month from now, it will be one year and in Pakistan the trial of those accused and also the investigation into Hafeez Sayed and still we have not had satisfaction on that as yet from the Pakistan side. And we continue to emphasise this to the Pakistani authorities that it is essential that they move resolutely and meaningfully and they take action against these individuals because it is only through that process that we will see an end to these problems," she remarked.


Ms Rao said that, despite the lack of concrete progress by Pakistan in these investigations, India must continue to emphasise its concerns to Islamabad because it was for the good of Pakistan also.


"You see the effect of terrorism in Pakistan also, so I think it is time that Pakistan understood the danger, the clear and present danger that exists from terrorism. We are the voice of sanity, the Indian Government and the Indian people, and I think Pakistan must come round to understanding the sincerity and the seriousness that we attach to this," she said.


In reply to another question, she said the attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul last week and the attack in July last year had brought home to the countries in the region and the international community the threat and danger that existed from terrorism.


"The unhindered way in which terrorist groups have been allowed to operate in this region and we must understand that there is very very great urgent immediate need for the international community to be one on tackling this threat. And what has happened in Afghanistan, we are in Afghanistan to help the people of Afghanistan. Our development partnership with Afghanistan has won us hearts and minds in Afghanistan and there is no doubt about it," she said.


"I went to Afghanistan myself and had the opportunity to meet President Karzai, Foreign Minister and National Security Adviser, Dr. Rasool. All of them were unanimous in their appreciation of the role that India is playing in Afghanistan to help the Afghan people. We have no other agenda in Afghanistan, we are there to help," she said.


She said Pakistan must realise this and understand that India was in Afghanistan for legitimate reasons and to help the people of the strife-torn country.


On Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's state visit to Washington in November, Ms Rao said it would strengthen and consolidate the bilateral partnership.


"We have a global partnership with the United States. As President Obama said recently to our Prime Minister 'there are new well springs of cooperation in this relationship'.


She said that the two countries had, during US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to Delhi in July, announced a new dialogue architecture between the two countries that would cover not just strategic and security issues but also areas such as human development, agriculture, energy, gender empowerment, environment and education


"The visit of our Prime Minister to Washington will enable us to take this dialogue forward," she added.


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Chidambaram says govt to pursue quiet diplomacy in J&K

Union Home Minister P Chidambaram said on Wednesday the Government would follow a policy of quiet diplomacy to find a solution to the problem in Jammu and Kashmir.

Union Home Minister P Chidambaram today said the Government would follow a policy of quiet diplomacy to find a solution to the problem in Jammu and Kashmir.

Addressing the All India Editors' Conference on Social and Infrastructure Issues in Srinagar today, Mr Chidambaram said the Government recognised that there were different shades of opinion in the State and would hold consultations with all sections.

He said the whole effort would be conducted quietly until the contours of a political solution to the problem was found. This, he said, was essential to take the process forward.

Despite repeated questions, Mr Chidambaram declined to provide any further details on the process, saying the Government wanted to keep it quiet.

According to him, the ultimate solution must be honourable and acceptable to the vast majority of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and must recognize the unique history and geography of the state.

Mr Chidambaram said there had been a marked improvement in the security situation in the state, with the number of violent incidents in the first nine months of the current year standing at 395--the lowest during the period in the last eight-nine years.

The Home Minister said the Government's approach to violence in the state was one of zero tolerance. He said most of the violence could be attributed to infiltrators from across the international border and the Line of Control.

He said better systems to check infiltration had now been put in place and it had come down in recent months. He was confident that, thanks to increased vigil by the security forces, it would be possible to bring infiltration down to the barest minimum.

Mr Chidambaram said that, on the developmental front, mechanisms had been put in place to speed up the execution of various projects under the Prime Minister's Reconstruction Plan.

He recalled that a group of Secretaries, led by the Cabinet Secretary, had recently visited the state and held a detailed review of the progress of the projects.

He said Secretaries of individual departments would visit the state next month to hold discussions with the state government regarding the progress of the projects pertaining to their departments and also make field visits.

Earlier, Mr Chidambaram released the first issue of the Jammu & Kashmir Update, a publication of the Ministry of Home Affairs. It has been brought out in Hindi, English and Urdu.

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Naxalites gun down 17 cops in Maharashtra ambush

As many as 17 policemen were gunned down by a group of about 150 Naxalites who ambushed them in a thickly forested area under the Laheri police station of Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra Thursday afternoon.

As many as 17 policemen were gunned down by a group of about 150 Naxalites who ambushed them in a thickly forested area under the Laheri police station of Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra this afternoon.

Those killed included a police sub-inspector, District Collector Atul Patne told NetIndian over the telephone. He said two other policemen had been injured in the attack.

The men were part of a group of about 40 policemen who were conducting search operations in the area after intelligence reports had indicated that Naxalites had gathered there. The district is on the state's border with Chhattisgarh.

The police party was returning when they they walked into the ambush and came under heavy fire. The gunfight that followed lasted for nearly four hours and ended around 1600 hours, Mr Patne said.

He said the bodies of the slain policemen had been recovered and brought to the Laheri police outpost.

Today's attack on policemen by the Naxalites came just two days after a police inspector in Jharkhand was beheaded by Maoists after they kidnapped him on September 30.

The attack seemed to pose a direct challenge to the state after Union Home Minister P Chidambaram made it clear yesterday that the Government would have no option but to engage the Naxalites till they laid down their arms. At the same time, he said state governments could talk with Naxal groups on development-related issues if they abjured the path of violence.

As news of the ambush came in, the district administration sent reinforcements, consisting of paramilitary personnel, to the spot. They were able to save the rest of the policemen, sources said.

Elections to the state legislative assembly are due to be held in Maharashtra on October 13. Unlike earlier occasions, this time the polling is being conducted in a single phase on that date. It is understood that the state government has sought additional forces to cope with the latest situation.

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Flood waters recede in Andhra, Karnataka

The Union Government has sanctioned Rs 156.84 crore for Andhra Pradesh and Rs 52.26 crore for Karnataka as the second instalment of the Central share of the Calamity Relief Fund for flood relief operations in the two states.

Picture of the Puligadda Aquaduct in Krishna District.
Picture of the Puligadda Aquaduct in Krishna District.

The Union Government today sanctioned Rs 156.84 crore for Andhra Pradesh and Rs 52.26 crore for Karnataka as the second instalment of the Central share of the Calamity Relief Fund for flood relief operations in the two states.

With this, the total Central contribution, comprising Rs 313.67 crore for Andhra Pradesh and Rs 104.52 crore for Karnataka for the year 2009-10 stood released, an official press release said.

The decision to release the second instalment in advance was taken in view of the magnitude of the crisis caused by the floods, the requirement for relief operations and the fact that the two states had also been affected by drought during the current year.

The situation in the two states was reviewed at a meeting held here yesterday under the chairmanship of Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrasekhar.

Meanwhile, the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) as well as personnel of the Army, Navy and Air Force continued to be engaged in large-scale rescue and relief opeations, including distribution of food, drinking water and other essential items, even as the flood waters started receding in the affected areas.

Flood relief.
Flood relief.

The unprecedented floods in the two states have left more than 280 people dead and displaced tens of thousands of people.

In Karnataka, about seven lakh people were provided shelter in relief camps and Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa and his cabinet colleagues personally led a fund-raising campaign on the streets of Bangalore for relief operations.

In Andhra Pradesh, more than three lakh people were provided shelter in relief camps.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is likely to make an aerial survey of the flood-hit areas of the two states on Friday.

Andhra Pradesh Home Minister Sabhitha Indrareddy said 565 villages in five districts of the state had been affected by the floods, which claimed at least 53 lives.

Photos: Courtesy Information and Public Relations Department, Government of Andhra Pradesh

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Centre announces interim measures for flood-hit AP, Karnataka

The Union Government has advised the flood-hit states of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka to take various interim measures so that rescue and relief operations could continue without hindrance.

Aerial survey of the floods in Vijayawada.Photo taken on October 5, 2009.
Aerial survey of the floods in Vijayawada.Photo taken on October 5, 2009.

The Union Government has advised the flood-hit states of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka to take various interim measures so that rescue and relief operations could continue without hindrance.

More than 200 people have lost their lives in the unprecedented floods and tens of thousands have been displaced.

Among other things, the State Governments can utilise the Calamity Relief Fund (CRF) immediately. Once 75 per cent of the CRF is exhausted, the State Government may draw on the National Calamity Contingency Fund (NCCF). Advances from the NCCF will be provided to them.

The measures were announced here today by Union Home Minister P Chidambaram, who had accompanied ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Chairperson Sonia Gandhi on an aerial survey of some of the flood-affected areas of the two states.

Mr Chidambaram said in a statement that he had advised Chief Ministers K Rosaiah of Andhra Pradesh and B S Yeddyurappa of Karnataka of these measures after consulting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

He said that as soon as the State Government concerned was ready to receive a Central team, a team would be sent to the State to assess the damage according to well-established norms.

Aerial view of the floods in Vijayawada. Photo taken on October 5, 2009.
Aerial view of the floods in Vijayawada.Photo taken on October 5, 2009.

He said that Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who is abroad, would return tomorrow after which further measures would be considered.

"We have advised these interim measures in order that rescue and relief operations should continue without hindrance. I wish to assure the State governments that availability of funds will not be a constraint and that they should focus on providing relief to the affected people.

Mr Chidambaram said Ms Gandhi and he were deeply moved by the scale of the calamity that had hit the two states.

"The loss of life, property, cattle, and standing crops is enormous. Lakhs of people have been accommodated in camps. Rescue and relief operations are in full swing, and it may take a few more days for the situation to stabilize. There will be more work to be done in the days and weeks ahead," he said.

A view of the floods in Krishna district.Photo taken on October 5, 2009.
A view of the floods in Krishna district.Photo taken on October 5, 2009.

The Home Minister said the Centre had rushed aid and help to the affected States in the form of troops, rescue and relief forces, diving and swimming teams, boats and helicopters. "The Central Government stands ready to provide moe help, if needed," he said.

"The Central government offers its deepest sympathies to the affected people and assures that it will offer full assistance to provide them relief and rehabilitation.," he added.

Photos: Courtesy Information and Public Relations Department, Government of Andhra Pradesh

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