ADVERTISEMENT

National

US continues to mount pressure on Pakistan on 26/11 accused

US Ambassador Timothy J Roemer on Friday called upon Pakistan to impose "swift and lengthy" punishment on the six Mumbai terror attack suspects, including JuD chief Hafiz Saeed.

US Ambassador Timothy J. Roemer meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi on Friday.
US Ambassador Timothy J. Roemer meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi on Friday.

United States Ambassador Timothy J Roemer today called upon Pakistan to impose "swift and lengthy" punishment on the six Mumbai terror attack suspects, including Jamaat ud Daawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed.

"I think swift and lengthy punishment for six suspects of Mumbai attacks in Pakistan is important for the US and India," Mr Roemer told journalists after a meeting with Union Home Minister P Chidambaram and before he met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

"Going after Hafiz Saeed and dismantling the terror infrastructure in that region is extremely important," he added.

Mr Roemer had made similar remarks in Mumbai yesterday, describing the LeT as a "regional and a global threat".

His remarks have come days ahead of a likely meeting between the Foreign Ministers of India and Pakistan on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

A press release from the US Embassy said that Mr Roemer discussed with the Prime Minister a broad range of bilateral and global issues.

In particular, they discussed Dr Singh's planned visits to the United States in the coming weeks.

He conveyed US President Barack Obama's warm greetings and anticipation at seeing Dr Singh in Pittsburgh for the G-20 meeting and for the Prime Minister's official state visit in November.

"The upcoming official state visit, the first by a foreign leader during the Obama Administration, is a testament to the vital importance of the U.S.-India strategic partnership in addressing our

greatest global challenges," said Mr Roemer.

According to the release, Mr Roemer and Mr Chidambaram reviewed the important next steps which India and the US would be pursuing after the Home Minister's working visit to the US earlier this month.

During his visit, Mr Chidambaram had met with the full range of senior officials in Washington and New York to discuss America's homeland security initiatives following the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York as well as future initiatives for security and counter-terrorism cooperation between the two countries.

NNN

Jet Airways pilots end stir, normal flight operations to resume

Pilots of India's largest private carrier Jet Airways called off their five-day-old agitation in the early hours of Sunday, paving the way for the resumption of normal flight operations by the airline.

Pilots of India's largest private carrier Jet Airways called off their five-day-old agitation in the early hours of today, paving the way for the resumption of normal flight operations by the airline.

Jet Airways Executive Director Saroj K Datta and Mr Girish Kaushik, President of the National Aviators Guild (NAG), the unrecognised union of pilots of the airline, announced to journalists after marathon talks that the two sides had reached an amicable settlement.

Mr Kaushik announced that the 400-odd pilots, out of a total of 760, who had been on mass sick leave since Tuesday, would return to work immediately.

Mr Datta said the airline would begin normal services from Sunday morning and aim to restore normalcy in operations during the course of the day. The process is expected to take some time because of the time needed to complete the rostering of the pilots.

The NAG had launched the agitation to press their demand for the reinstatment of two of their colleagues who had been dismissed by the management, apparently for trying to set up a trade union of the airline's pilots.

The management acted tough and dismissed two more pilots during the course of the week. Under the agreement reached today, the four pilots will be reinstated in service.

The airline had also wanted the pilots to disband the NAG. The pilots kept saying that they would not agree to the demand, but the settlement reached between the two sides today says that a consultative group consisting of representatives of the management and the pilots would be set up to address issues of concern to the pilots.

The pilots are also learnt to have agreed that they would not challenge the decision of the Registrar of Trade Unions, which is reviewing the registration of the NAG.

Mr Kaushik and NAG General Secretary Sam Thomas faced a volley of questions from the media about whether this did not amount to a climbdown by the pilots but they insisted it was not.

Mr Kaushik explained that there was a "misunderstanding in the family" and now "there was the same affection and love" among them again.

He said the agreement indicated that the distance that had crept in between the management and the pilots had been removed. He said the pilots would work to maintain the image of the airline and help it become one of the best airlines in the world.

Jet Airways had been forced to cancel hundreds of flights in the last five days, affecting thousands of its passengers.

On Friday, for instance, at least 229 domestic flights and 28 international flights had been cancelled.

In reply to a question, Mr Datta said the management had not yet estimated the losses incurred as a result of the agitation. But he said the airline's daily revenue was in the region of $ 8 million, which had gone down substantially. He said the airline normally carried about 23,000 passengers a day, which had come down to about 7000 to 8000 in the last five days.

Mr Datta said the management had agreed not to pursue the writ petition and the contempt petition it had failed in the High Court in response to the pilots' agitation. The two sides also agreed that they would inform the Regional Labour Commissioner about the settlement reached between them at the next date of hearing on September 14.

NNN

Conciliation proceedings in Jet Airways pilots' stir fail to resolve dispute

Conciliation proceedings in the dispute between Jet Airways and its agitating pilots were adjourned on Friday without resolving the crisis that has forced the cancellation of hundreds of flights.

Conciliation proceedings held today as part of the efforts to end the four-day old agitation by pilots of Jet Airways, that has disrupted the airline's operations and forced the cancellation of hundreds of flights in the past four days, failed to resolve the crisis.

An official statement here said the proceedings in the dispute between the management and the pilots, represented by their unrecognised union, the National Aviation Guild (NAG), had been adjourned.

"Despite threadbare discussions and persuasions by Mr S.K. Mukhopadhyay , Chief Labour Commissioner, the dispute could not be resolved due to the inability of the NAG to accept certain portion in the proposed draft settlement," the statement said.

The next date of conciliation proceedings will be intimated to the parties in due course, the statement added.

But a spokesman for the NAG said there would be a meeting between its representatives and the management in Mumbai tomorrow and he was hopeful of an early settlement of the dispute.

A Government official said he was hopeful of a solution within the next 48 hours.

Today's eight-hour meeting in Delhi was the first occasion when the representatives of the agitating pilots, who are demanding the reinstatement of their two colleagues dismissed by the airline, and the management came face to face since the agitation began on Tuesday.

According to sources, the airline management was willing to reinstate the two dismissed pilots, as well as two others who were sacked after the agitation began, but wanted the NAG to disbanded. This is a condition the NAG is unwilling to accept.

About 400 pilots of the airline have been on mass sick leave since Tuesday, forcing the airline to cancel hundreds of flights, domestic and international, in the last four days, affecting thousands of passengers. Many of them were accommodated on other airlines. More than 200 flights were cancelled today.

The airline has described the mass sick leave by the pilot as a "simulated strike" and said it was a "planned sabotage of operations" that would damage its operations and inconvenience the travelling public.

The Union Government had on Tuesday expressed concern at the inconvenience being caused to the travelling public by the cancellation of the flights and Home Secretary G K Pillai has written to the Chief Secretaries of states to review the situation caused by the "wildcat" strike.

The letter asked the Chief Secretaries to, in consultation with their respective Home Secretaries and Labour Secretaries, see whether there is a necessity to invoke the provisions of the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) to ensure restoration of services so that general public are not put into inconvenience.

Meanwhile, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has written to the CMDs/CEOs of all scheduled airlines directing them to charge air travellers the tariff at the level which was prevalent in the week ending September 6.

In the letter, the DGCA said it had been brought to its notice through searches on the websites of airlines and media reports as well as feedback from air travellers that the airlines were charging "exorbitant high tariff, which is almost three to four times higher on various metro routes as compared to those prevalent in the week ending September 6."

"It is further noted by the DGCA that the cost of operation of scheduled airlines on account of various constituent elements have not undergone any significant change in the current week as compared to week ending September 6. Under these circumstances, the DGCA felt that the tariff being charged by the scheduled airlines were excessive in nature," it said.

An official statement all airlines had been asked to send compliance reports in this regard most urgently. Any violation of these directives will be dealt with under appropriate law, it added.

NNN

Jet Airways cancels more than 200 flights as pilots continue mass leave

Jet Airways cancelled more than 200 flights on Thursday as about 400 of its pilots stayed away from work for the third day demanding the reinstatement of two sacked colleagues.


Private sector carrier Jet Airways cancelled more than 200 domestic and international flights as about 400 of its pilots continued to stay away from work for the third day today demanding the reinstatement of two of their colleagues who were dismissed by the airline recently.

An announcement put up by the airline on its website http://www.jetairways.com listed as many as 169 domestic and 38 international flights that had been cancelled.

Sources in the airline said there had been no talks so far between the management and the National Aviators Guild (NAG), a union of pilots that has not been recognised by the management and which is spearheading the agitation.

Yesterday, Jet Airways said it had filed a petition in the Bombay High Court saying that the NAG was in contempt of the court because it had failed to comply with its order of September 8 restraining the members of the guild from going on "illegal strike" under sections 22 and 23 of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 till the next date of hearing of the petition.

After hearing the counsel for the airline, Dr Justice D Y Chandrachud directed the Registry of the High Court to issue a notice to NAG and its office-bearers and made the matter returnable on September 14.

The cancellation of the Jet Airways flights for the third day running has upset the plans of thousands of passengers.

In an indication of its resolve to act tough against the agitating pilots, the airline had on Tuesday night dismissed two more senior pilots associated with the NAG.

"Due to continued pilot agitation, disruptions are expected on the Jet Airways network and currently, we are unable to ascertain which flights will be operated. On disrupted flights, guests will get full refund or they can reissue/rebook flights without any penalty.

"Jet Airways will endeavour to make alternate arrangements on other airlines wherever possible and our airport teams will assist you to the fullest extent. Inconvenience caused is deeply regretted," the airline said in a brief statement put up on the website.

The pilots had on Monday called off a proposed strike from Tuesday but then started reporting sick from 2200 hours on Monday night.

The airline described the mass sick leave by the pilot as a "simulated strike" and said it was a "planned sabotage of operations" that would damage its operations and inconvenience the travelling public.

The NAG representatives have been saying that they were prepared for talks with the management but insisted that they would not disband their union as demanded by the management.

They said the guild had no demands on issues like pay and perks and only wanted the reinstatement of the two "illegally" dismissed pilots.

The Union Government had on Tuesday expressed concern at the inconvenience being caused to the travelling public by the cancellation of the flights and Home Secretary G K Pillai has written to the Chief Secretaries of states to review the situation caused by the "wildcat" strike.

The letter asked the Chief Secretaries to, in consultation with their respective Home Secretaries and Labour Secretaries, see whether there is a necessity to invoke the provisions of the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) to ensure restoration of services so that general public are not put into inconvenience.

According to the official statement, as part of the Civil Aviation Requirements, any act on the part of the pilots, which may result in last-minute cancellation of flights and harassment of passengers, "would be treated as an act against the public interest."

The Ministry has directed the airline management to set up control rooms at their headquarters, bases and airports.

The airline has also been asked to ensure that their passengers are accommodated in other airlines, depending on availability of seats.

Jet Airways have also been directed to put in place a full refund mechanism without any deduction - on passenger request. They have also been asked to adopt a method of combination/re-scheduling of flights for smooth transfer of passengers.

The Ministry has directed the management to ensure full facilitation of passengers and their amenities. The airline has been asked to minimize the inconvenience that is being caused to the traveling public, the statement added.

The two pilots had apparently been dismissed by the airline after they, along with others, formed a trade union in the company.

The NAG, which claims it has the support of about 650 of the pilots of the airline, had described the sackings as an act of vendetta and demanded their immediate reinstatement.

A meeting of the representatives of the guild and the management had been held on August 31.

Meanwhile, Air India has said in a statement yesterday that it was in constant touch with Jet Airways officials so that in the event of there being a need for operating special flights, the national carrier could do so.

"Air India has kept aircraft and crew on standby at major airports to enable the airline to mount additional flights at short notice, if required," a spokesman for the airline said.

He said Air India had accommodated Jet Airways passengers who were affected by yesterday's cancellations at various domestic airports on its scheduled flights.

He said Air India officials at various domestic airports had been directed to extend a helping hand so that passengers were not left stranded and inconvenienced.

"Air India has, in fact, integrated the capacity available on its IC coded domestic flights, domestic leg of Air India's international flights and seats on Air India Express so that maximum capacity available with it can be used for passengers affected by the cancellation of Jet Airways and Jet Konnect flights. The affected passengers were accommodated on flights operated by Air India on its domestic and international sectors," he added.

The following is a list of flights cancelled by Jet Airways on September 9 as per an announcement made by it on its website:

 National        
9W 106    Pune - Mumbai    Cancelled
9W 113    Mumbai – Aurangabad    Cancelled
9W 114    Aurangabad – Mumbai    Cancelled
9W 201    Mumbai - Kolkata    Cancelled
9W 202    Kolkata - Mumbai    Cancelled
9W 202    Mumbai - Pune    Cancelled
9W 301    Mumbai - Delhi    Cancelled
9W 302    Delhi - Mumbai    Cancelled
9W 305    Mumbai - Delhi    Cancelled
9W 306    Delhi - Mumbai    Cancelled
9W 317    Mumbai – Chandigarh    Cancelled
9W 318    Chandigarh – Mumbai    Cancelled
9W 327    Mumbai - Ahmedabad    Cancelled
9W 328    Ahmedabad - Mumbai    Cancelled
9W 331    Mumbai - Delhi    Cancelled
9W 332    Delhi - Mumbai    Cancelled
9W 333    Mumbai - Delhi    Cancelled
9W 334    Delhi - Mumbai    Cancelled
9W 336    Delhi - Mumbai    Cancelled
9W 336    Mumbai – Thiruvananthapuram    Cancelled
9W 337    Thiruvananthapuram – Mumbai    Cancelled
9W 365    Delhi - Pune    Cancelled
9W 366    Pune - Delhi    Cancelled
9W 379    Mumbai - Delhi    Cancelled
9W 380    Delhi - Mumbai    Cancelled
9W 352    Delhi - Mumbai    Cancelled
9W 405    Mumbai - Kochi    Cancelled
9W 406    Kochi - Mumbai    Cancelled
9W 406    Mumbai - Delhi    Cancelled
9W 411    Mumbai - Bengaluru    Cancelled
9W 412    Bengaluru - Mumbai    Cancelled
9W 453    Mumbai - Hyderabad    Cancelled
9W 454    Hyderabad - Mumbai    Cancelled
9W 457    Mumbai - Hyderabad    Cancelled
9W 458    Hyderabad - Mumbai    Cancelled
9W 459    Mumbai - Hyderabad    Cancelled
9W 460    Hyderabad - Mumbai    Cancelled
9W 463    Mumbai - Chennai    Cancelled
9W 464    Chennai - Mumbai    Cancelled
9W 465    Chennai – Bengaluru    Cancelled
9W 466    Bengaluru – Chennai    Cancelled
9W 469    Mumbai - Chennai    Cancelled
9W 470    Chennai - Mumbai    Cancelled
9W 471    Mumbai - Goa    Cancelled
9W 472    Goa - Mumbai    Cancelled
9W 475    Mumbai - Goa    Cancelled
9W 476    Goa - Mumbai    Cancelled
9W 479    Mumbai - Goa    Cancelled
9W 480    Goa - Mumbai    Cancelled
9W 481    Mumbai - Chennai    Cancelled
9W 484    Bengaluru - Mumbai    Cancelled
9W 488    Chennai - Mumbai    Cancelled
9W 602    Delhi - Bagdogra    Cancelled
9W 602    Bagdogra – Guwahati    Cancelled
9W 602    Guwahati - Delhi    Cancelled
9W 606    Srinagar - Delhi    Cancelled
9W 607    Delhi - Guwahati    Cancelled
9W 608    Guwahati - Delhi    Cancelled
9W 609    Delhi - Leh    Cancelled
9W 610    Leh - Delhi    Cancelled
9W 616    Kolkata - Mumbai    Cancelled
9W 665    Mumbai - Lucknow    Cancelled
9W 666    Lucknow - Mumbai    Cancelled
9W 723    Delhi - Khajuraho    Cancelled
9W 723    Khajuraho – Varanasi    Cancelled
9W 723    Varanasi - Delhi    Cancelled
9W 733    Delhi – Chandigarh    Cancelled
9W 734    Chandigarh – Delhi    Cancelled
9W 801    Delhi - Bengaluru    Cancelled
9W 802    Chennai – Bengaluru    Cancelled
9W 804    Bengaluru - Delhi    Cancelled
9W 827    Delhi - Hyderabad    Cancelled
9W 828    Hyderabad - Delhi    Cancelled
9W 829    Delhi - Chennai    Cancelled
9W 830    Chennai - Delhi    Cancelled
9W 831    Chennai - Delhi    Cancelled
9W 843    Chennai - Kolkata    Cancelled
9W 844    Kolkata - Chennai    Cancelled
9W 2005    Mumbai - Vadodara    Cancelled
9W 2006    Vadodara - Mumbai    Cancelled
9W 2007    Mumbai - Rajkot    Cancelled
9W 2008    Rajkot - Mumbai    Cancelled
9W 2012    Mumbai - Chennai    Cancelled
9W 2047    Mumbai - Bhuj    Cancelled
9W 2048    Bhuj - Mumbai    Cancelled
9W 2051    Mumbai - Jaipur    Cancelled
9W 2052    Jaipur - Mumbai    Cancelled
9W 2105    Mumbai – Bengaluru    Cancelled
9W 2111    Mumbai – Bengaluru    Cancelled
9W 2113    Bengaluru – Mumbai    Cancelled
9W 2119    Chennai - Mumbai    Cancelled
9W 2126    Bengaluru – Mumbai    Cancelled
9W 2201    Delhi - Mumbai    Cancelled
9W 2202    Mumbai - Delhi    Cancelled
9W 2228    Bhopal - Delhi    Cancelled
9W 2228    Delhi - Indore    Cancelled
9W 2228    Indore - Bhopal    Cancelled
9W 2251    Delhi - Chennai    Cancelled
9W 2278    Kolkata - Delhi    Cancelled
9W 2279    Delhi - Kolkata    Cancelled
9W 2304    Bengaluru - Goa    Cancelled
9W 2305    Goa - Bengaluru    Cancelled
9W 2351    Chennai – Bengaluru    Cancelled
9W 2351    Bengaluru - Pune    Cancelled
9W 2352    Pune - Bengaluru    Cancelled
9W 2352    Bengaluru – Chennai    Cancelled
9W 2451    Kolkata – Bengaluru    Cancelled
9W 2452    Bengaluru – Kolkata    Cancelled
9W 2478    Kolkata – Agartala    Cancelled
9W 2478    Agartala - Guwaha    Cancelled
9W 2479    Guwahati – Agartala    Cancelled
9W 2479    Agartala – Kolkata    Cancelled
9W 2480    Kolkata – Bagdogra    Cancelled
9W 2481    Bagdogra – Kolkata    Cancelled
9W 2482    Kolkata – Guwahati    Cancelled
9W 2483    Guwahati – Kolkata    Cancelled
9W 2501    Mumbai - Bhopal    Cancelled
9W 2502    Bhopal - Mumbai    Cancelled
9W 2505    Mumbai – Ahmedabad    Cancelled
9W 2506    Ahmedabad – Mumbai    Cancelled
9W 2509    Ahmedabad – Indore    Cancelled
9W 2509    Indore - Bhopal    Cancelled
9W 2509    Bhopal - Raipur    Cancelled
9W 2509    Raipur – Hyderabad    Cancelled
9W 2510    Hyderabad – Raipur    Cancelled
9W 2510    Raipur - Bhopal    Cancelled
9W 2510    Bhopal - Indore    Cancelled
9W 2510    Indore – Ahmedabad    Cancelled
9W 2571    Pune - Bengaluru    Cancelled
9W 2701    Chennai - Mumbai    Cancelled
9W 2735    Bengaluru – Mangalore    Cancelled
9W 2736    Mangalore – Benagaluru    Cancelled
9W 2761    Hyderabad – Tirupati    Cancelled
9W 2762    Tirupati - Hydera    Cancelled
9W 3301    Mumbai - Udaipur    Cancelled
9W 3301    Udaipur - Jaipur    Cancelled
9W 3301    Jaipur - Delhi    Cancelled
9W 3317    Delhi - Udaipur    Cancelled
9W 3318    Udaipur - Delhi    Cancelled
9W 3401    Delhi - Jaipur    Cancelled
9W 3401    Jaipur - Udaipur    Cancelled
9W 3401    Udaipur - Mumbai    Cancelled
9W 362    Delhi - Mumbai    Cancelled
9W 361    Mumbai - Delhi    Cancelled
9W 739    Delhi - Chennai    Cancelled
9W 705    Delhi - Ahmedabad    Cancelled
9W 706    Ahmedabad - Delhi    Cancelled
9W 363    Delhi - Pune    Cancelled
9W 364    Pune - Delhi    Cancelled
9W 825    Delhi - Hyderabad    Cancelled
9W 826    Hyderabad - Delhi    Cancelled
9W 832    Delhi - Chennai    Cancelled
9W 824    Chennai - Delhi    Cancelled
9W 725    Delhi - Lucknow    Cancelled
9W 726    Lucknow - Delhi    Cancelled
9W 727    Delhi - Patna    Cancelled
9W 728    Patna - Delhi    Cancelled
9W 2227    Delhi - Indore    Cancelled
9W 2227    Indore - Bhopal    Cancelled
9W 2227    Bhopal - Delhi    Cancelled
9W 2601    Delhi - Vadodara    Cancelled
9W 2602    Vadodara - Delhi    Cancelled
9W 2053    Mumbai - Jaipur    Cancelled
9W 2054    Jaipur - Mumbai    Cancelled
9W 2009    Mumbai - Rajkot    Cancelled
9W 2010    Rajkot - Mumbai    Cancelled
9W 101    Mumbai - Pune    Cancelled
9W 102    Pune - Mumbai    Cancelled
9W 309    Mumbai - Delhi    Cancelled
        
International        
9W 11    Singapore - Mumbai    Cancelled
9W 17    Singapore - Delhi    Cancelled
9W 18    Delhi - Singapore    Cancelled
9W 65    Bangkok - Kolkatta    Cancelled
9W 66    Kolkatta - Bangkok    Cancelled
9W 67    Bangkok - Mumbai    Cancelled
9W 68    Mumbai - Bangkok    Cancelled
9W 75    Hong Kong - Mumbai    Cancelled
9W 76    Mumbai - Hong Kong    Cancelled
9W 225    New York – Brussels    Cancelled
9W 225    Brussels - Chennai    Cancelled
9W 226    Chennai - Brussels    Cancelled
9W 226    Brussels - New York    Cancelled
9W 228    Mumbai - Brussels    Cancelled
9W 230    Delhi - Brussels    Cancelled
9W 271    Dhaka - Delhi    Cancelled
9W 272    Delhi - Dhaka    Cancelled
9W 273    Dhaka - Kolkatta    Cancelled
9W 274    Kolkatta - Dhaka    Cancelled
9W 521    Jeddah - Mumbai    Cancelled
9W 530    Thiruvananthapuram-Muscat    Cancelled
9W 533    Muscat - Kochi    Cancelled
9W 534    Kochi - Muscat    Cancelled
9W 545    Dubai - Chennai    Cancelled
9W 546    Chennai - Dubai    Cancelled
9W 549    Dubai - Hyderabad    Cancelled
9W 550    Hyderabad - Dubai    Cancelled
9W 555    Doha - Kochi    Cancelled
9W 556    Kochi - Doha    Cancelled
9W 561    Sharjah - Kochi    Cancelled
9W 562    Kochi - Sharjah    Cancelled
9W 573    Kuwait - Kochi    Cancelled
9W 574    Kochi - Kuwait    Cancelled
9W 581    Abu Dhabi - Delhi    Cancelled
9W 574    Kochi - Kuwait    Cancelled
9W 581    Abu Dhabi - Delhi    Cancelled
9W 121    London - Delhi    Cancelled
9W 122    Delhi - London    Cancelled

NNN

Passengers suffer as Jet Airways pilots go on mass leave

Thousands of passengers were inconvenienced on Tuesday as Jet Airways cancelled 119 flights after nearly 300 pilots took mass leave seeking the reinstatement of two of their sacked colleagues.

Thousands of passengers were put to great inconvenience today as private carrier Jet Airways cancelled scores of flights after 361 of its pilots and co-pilots stayed away from work today seeking the immediate reinstatement of two of their colleagues who were sacked by the airline recently.

As a result of the action by the pilots, a total of 186 flights --154 domestic and 32 international services--were cancelled or affected throughout its network, the airline said in a statement.

It said about 13,000 passengers were affected, a majority of whom were transferred to other carriers.

The airline said that the pilots had announced yesterday the withdrawal of a planned strike on the issue but then resorted to a "simulated strike" by reporting since.

It said that since 2200 hours last night, a total of 163 captains and 198 first officers had reported sick, disrupting the flight schedules.

The airline said the mass sick leave was a "planned sabotage of operations" that would damage the airline's operations and inconvenience the travelling public.

The pilots' action was spearheaded by the National Aviators Guild (NAG) which had yesterday called off a proposed strike but decided on the mass casual leave by its members.

A spokesman for the guild told television channels that he was "sincerely apologetic" for the inconvenience caused to passengers but maintained that the solution to the problem lay entirely in the hands of the airline's management.

He said the guild had no demands on issues like pay and perks and only wanted the reinstatement of the two "illegally" dismissed pilots.

Many of the airline's passengers who turned up this morning for their flights were shocked to learn about the cancellations and were seen running around to get seats on other airlines. Several of them complained that they had not received any intimation about the cancellation from the airline.

The Union Government expressed concern at the inconvenience being caused to the travelling public by the cancellation of the flights and Home Secretary G K Pillai has written to the Chief Secretaries of states to review the situation caused by the "wildcat" strike.

The letter asked the Chief Secretaries to, in consultation with their respective Home Secretaries and Labour Secretaries, see whether there is a necessity to invoke the provisions of the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) to ensure restoration of services so that general public are not put into inconvenience.

According to an official statement, about 145 captains and 154 co-pilots of the airline had reported sick en masse.
Efforts were being made to divert passengers to flights of Air India and other airlines, sources said.

According to the official statement, as part of the Civil Aviation Requirements, any act on the part of the pilots, which may result in last-minute cancellation of flights and harassment of passengers, "would be treated as an act against the public interest."

Jet Airways Chairman Naresh Goyal met Civil Aviation Secretary M Madhavan Nambiar and Director General of Civil Aviation N Zaidi to brief them about the developments.

The Ministry has directed the airline management to set up control rooms at their headquarters, bases and airports.

The airline has also been asked to ensure that their passengers are accommodated in other airlines, depending on availability of seats.

Jet Airways have also been directed to put in place a full refund mechanism without any deduction - on passenger request. They have also been asked to adopt a method of combination/re-scheduling of flights for smooth transfer of passengers.

The Ministry has directed the management to ensure full facilitation of passengers and their amenities. The airline has been asked to minimize the inconvenience that is being caused to the traveling public, the statement added.

The Jet Airways statement said that, as per the directions of the Regional Labour Commissioner, it had been in a conciliation process with the pilots.

The Regional Labour Commissioner had categorically stated that any strike by the pilots during the pendency of conciliation, would be deemed an illegal act under Industrial Disputes Act.

The statement said the number of pilots who reported sick represented nearly 40 per cent of the total airline pilot strength of 760 Indian pilots.

Out of the total domestic flights operated by the airline, approximately 25 per cent of the flights had operated until noon today, it said, adding that all JetLite flights had been operated as per the normal schedule.

"All Jet Airways wide body long haul flights are currently operating as normal having been crewed by foreign pilots, who have been pulled out from leave and standby.

"We would like to personally thank all those pilots who stood by the airline so that inconvenience to the traveling public is kept to the minimum possible," it said.

The airline said it had moved an application in the High Court to pass an order restraining the NAG and its members from going on any form of strike and the court had passed an order of such restraint.

"Jet Airways is expecting the written form of this restraining order and will take appropriate action," the statement added.

The statement said the airline's website, Call Centre and SMS alerts would provide updated information on the status of flights.

"All affected guests can get either a full refund or rebook themselves on an alternate date without any cancellation or reissue charges," it added.

The two pilots had apparently been dismissed by the airline after they, along with others, formed a trade union in the company.

The NAG, which claims it has the support of about 650 of the pilots of the airline, had described the sackings as an act of vendetta and demanded their immediate reinstatement.

A meeting of the representatives of the guild and the management had been held on August 31.

List of international flights departing on September 08, 2009

9W 117 London - Mumbai                  On Schedule
9W 118 Mumbai - London                  On Schedule
9W 119 London - Mumbai                  On Schedule
9W 120 Mumbai - London                  On Schedule
9W 121 London - Delhi                   On Schedule
9W 122 Delhi - London                   On Schedule
9W 225 New York - Brussels - Chennai    On Schedule
9W 226 Chennai - Brussels - New York    On Schedule
9W 227 Newark - Brussels - Mumbai       On Schedule
9W 228 Mumbai - Brussels - Newark       On Schedule
9W 229 Toronto - Brussels - Delhi       On Schedule                                            
9W 230 Delhi - Brussels - Toronto       On Schedule

List of flights which are cancelled / transferred on September 08, 2009

9W 15  Singapore - Chennai              Cancelled
9W 16  Chennai - Singapore              Cancelled
9W 31  Kuala Lumpur - Chennai           Cancelled
9W 32  Chennai - Kuala Lumpur           Cancelled
9W 101 Mumbai - Pune                    Cancelled
9W 102 Pune - Mumbai                    Cancelled
9W 102 Mumbai - Kolkata                 Transferred to S2 1102
9W 113 Mumbai - Aurangabad              Cancelled
9W 114 Aurangabad - Mumbai              Cancelled
9W 251 Colombo - Chennai                Cancelled
9W 252 Chennai - Colombo                Cancelled
9W 261 Kathmandu - Delhi                Cancelled
9W 262 Delhi - Kathmandu                Cancelled
9W 301 Mumbai - Delhi                   Transferred to 9W 333
9W 308 Delhi - Mumbai                   Cancelled
9W 309 Mumbai - Delhi                   Cancelled
9W 311 Mumbai - Delhi                   Cancelled
9W 312 Delhi - Mumbai                   Cancelled
9W 327 Mumbai - Ahmedabad               Cancelled
9W 328 Ahmedabad - Mumbai               Cancelled
9W 331 Mumbai - Delhi                   Cancelled
9W 332 Delhi - Mumbai                   Cancelled
9W 334 Delhi - Mumbai                   Cancelled
9W 336 Delhi - Mumbai                   Cancelled
9W 336 Mumbai - Thiruvananthapuram      Cancelled
9W 337 Thiruvananthapuram - Mumbai      Cancelled
9W 343 Mumbai - Vadodara                Cancelled
9W 344 Vadodara - Mumbai                Cancelled
9W 351 Mumbai - Delhi                   Cancelled
9W 354 Delhi - Mumbai                   Cancelled
9W 363 Delhi - Pune                     Cancelled
9W 364 Pune - Delhi                     Cancelled
9W 365 Delhi - Pune                     Cancelled
9W 366 Pune - Delhi                     Cancelled
S2 381 Mumbai - Indore                  Transferred to 9W 381
S2 382 Indore - Mumbai                  Transferred to 9W 382
9W 406 Kochi - Mumbai                   Cancelled
9W 406 Mumbai - Delhi                   Cancelled
9W 411 Mumbai - Bengaluru               Cancelled
9W 412 Bengaluru - Mumbai               Cancelled
9W 441 Mumbai - Bengaluru               Cancelled
9W 451 Mumbai - Hyderabad               Cancelled
9W 452 Hyderabad - Mumbai               Cancelled
9W 457 Mumbai - Hyderabad               Cancelled
9W 458 Hyderabad - Mumbai               Cancelled
9W 461 Mumbai - Chennai                 Cancelled
9W 462 Chennai - Mumbai                 Cancelled
9W 465 Chennai - Bengaluru              Cancelled
9W 466 Bengaluru - Chennai              Cancelled
9W 469 Mumbai - Chennai                 Cancelled
9W 470 Chennai - Mumbai                 Cancelled
9W 471 Mumbai - Goa                     Cancelled
9W 472 Goa - Mumbai                     Cancelled
9W 475 Mumbai - Goa                     Cancelled
9W 476 Goa - Mumbai                     Cancelled
9W 484 Bengaluru - Mumbai               Cancelled
9W 488 Chennai - Mumbai                 Cancelled
S2 511 Kolkata - Hyderabad              Cancelled
S2 511 Hyderabad - Bengaluru            Cancelled
S2 512 Bengaluru - Hyderabad            Cancelled
S2 512 Hyderabad - Kolkata              Cancelled
9W 521 Jeddah - Mumbai                  Cancelled
9W 522 Mumbai - Jeddah                  Cancelled
9W 523 Riyadh - Mumbai                  Cancelled
9W 524 Mumbai - Riyadh                  Cancelled
9W 529 Muscat - Thiruvananthapuram      Cancelled
9W 530 Thiruvananthapuram - Muscat      Cancelled
9W 533 Muscat - Kochi                   Cancelled
9W 534 Kochi - Muscat                   Cancelled
9W 539 Muscat - Mumbai                  Cancelled
9W 540 Mumbai - Muscat                  Cancelled
9W 541 Dubai - Mumbai                   Cancelled
9W 542 Mumbai - Dubai                   Cancelled
9W 543 Dubai - Mumbai                   Cancelled
9W 544 Mumbai - Dubai                   Cancelled
9W 547 Dubai - Delhi                    Cancelled
9W 548 Delhi - Dubai                    Cancelled
9W 555 Doha - Kochi                     Cancelled
9W 556 Kochi - Doha                     Cancelled
9W 571 Kuwait - Mumbai                  Cancelled
9W 572 Mumbai - Kuwait                  Cancelled
9W 573 Kuwait - Kochi                   Cancelled
9W 574 Kochi - Kuwait                   Cancelled
9W 583 Abu Dhabi - Mumbai               Cancelled
9W 584 Mumbai - Abu Dhabi               Cancelled
9W 591 Bahrain - Mumbai                 Cancelled
9W 592 Mumbai - Bahrain                 Cancelled
9W 605 Delhi - Srinagar                 Cancelled
9W 606 Srinagar - Delhi                 Cancelled
9W 607 Delhi - Guwahati                 Transferred to 9W 602
9W 608 Guwahati - Delhi                 Transferred to 9W 602
9W 609 Delhi - Leh                      Cancelled
9W 610 Leh - Delhi                      Cancelled
9W 615 Mumbai - Kolkata                 Transferred to 9W 201
9W 616 Kolkata - Mumbai                 Transferred to S2 616
9W 665 Mumbai - Lucknow                 Cancelled
9W 666 Lucknow - Mumbai                 Cancelled
 9W 706 Ahmedabad - Delhi               Transferred to 9W 705
 9W 723 Delhi - Khajuraho               Cancelled
 9W 723 Khajuraho -Varanasi             Cancelled
 9W 723 Varanasi - Delhi                Cancelled
 9W 725 Delhi - Lucknow                 Cancelled
 9W 726 Lucknow - Delhi                 Cancelled
 9W 727 Delhi - Patna                   Cancelled
 9W 728 Patna - Delhi                   Cancelled
 9W 733 Delhi - Chandigarh              Cancelled
 9W 734 Chandigarh - Delhi              Cancelled
 9W 739 Delhi - Chennai                 Cancelled
 9W 801 Delhi - Bengaluru               Cancelled
 9W 803 Bengaluru - Chennai             Cancelled
 9W 811 Delhi - Bengaluru               Cancelled
 9W 824 Chennai - Delhi                 Cancelled
 9W 825 Delhi - Hyderabad               Cancelled
 9W 826 Hyderabad - Delhi               Cancelled
 9W 827 Delhi - Hyderabad               Cancelled
 9W 828 Hyderabad - Delhi               Cancelled
 9W 829 Delhi - Chennai                 Cancelled
 9W 830 Chennai - Delhi                 Cancelled
 9W 832 Delhi - Chennai                 Cancelled
9W 2001 Mumbai - Ahmedabad              Transferred to S2 2001
9W 2009 Mumbai - Rajkot                 Cancelled
9W 2010 Rajkot - Mumbai                 Cancelled
9W 2012 Ahmedabad - Mumbai              Transferred to S2 2012
9W 2012 Mumbai - Chennai                Cancelled
9W 2047 Mumbai - Bhuj                   Cancelled
9W 2048 Bhuj - Mumbai                   Cancelled
9W 2053 Mumbai - Jaipur                 Cancelled
9W 2054 Jaipur - Mumbai                 Cancelled
9W 2055 Mumbai - Vadodara               Cancelled
9W 2056 Vadodara - Mumbai               Cancelled
9W 2101 Mumbai - Kochi                  Transferred to S2 2101
9W 2102 Kochi - Mumbai                  Transferred to S2 2102
9W 2103 Mumbai - Kochi                  Cancelled
9W 2105 Mumbai - Bengaluru              Cancelled
9W 2106 Bengaluru - Mumbai              Cancelled
9W 2107 Mumbai - Mangalore              Transferred to 9W 431
9W 2108 Mangalore - Mumbai              Transferred to 9W 432
9W 2111 Mumbai - Bengaluru              Cancelled
9W 2113 Bengaluru - Mumbai              Transferred to 9W 2117
9W 2114 Mumbai - Hyderabad              Cancelled
9W 2115 Hyderabad - Mumbai              Cancelled
9W 2116 Mumbai - Bengaluru              Transferred to 9W 2112
9W 2118 Mumbai - Chennai                Cancelled
9W 2119 Chennai - Mumbai                Cancelled
9W 2227 Delhi - Indore                  Cancelled
9W 2227 Indore - Bhopal                 Cancelled
9W 2227 Bhopal - Delhi                  Cancelled
9W 2303 Bengaluru - Mumbai              Cancelled
9W 2304 Bengaluru - Goa                 Cancelled
9W 2305 Goa - Bengaluru                 Cancelled
9W 2326 Bengaluru - Delhi               Cancelled
9W 2351 Chennai - Bengaluru             Cancelled
9W 2351 Bengaluru - Pune                Cancelled
9W 2352 Pune - Bengaluru                Cancelled
9W 2352 Bengaluru - Chennai             Cancelled
9W 2478 Kolkata - Agartala              Transferred to 9W 2478
9W 2478 Agartala - Guwahati             Transferred to 9W 2478
9W 2479 Guwahati - Agartala             Transferred to 9W 2479
9W 2479 Agartala - Kolkata              Transferred to 9W 2479
9W 2482 Kolkata - Guwahati              Cancelled
9W 2483 Guwahati - Kolkatta             Cancelled
9W 2503 Mumbai - Bhopal                 Cancelled
9W 2504 Bhopal - Mumbai                 Cancelled
9W 2505 Mumbai - Ahmedabad              Cancelled
9W 2506 Ahmedabad - Mumbai              Cancelled
9W 2507 Mumbai - Bhavnagar              Cancelled
9W 2508 Bhavnagar - Mumbai              Cancelled
9W 2509 Ahmedabad - Indore              Cancelled
9W 2509 Indore - Bhopal                 Cancelled
9W 2509 Bhopal - Raipur                 Cancelled
9W 2510 Raipur - Bhopal                 Cancelled
9W 2510 Bhopal - Indore                 Cancelled
9W 2510 Indore - Ahmedabad              Cancelled
9W 2543 Mumbai - Jodhpur                Cancelled
9W 2544 Jodhpur - Mumbai                Cancelled
9W 2573 Pune - Hyderabad                Cancelled
9W 2574 Hyderabad - Pune                Cancelled
9W 2601 Delhi - Vadodara                Transferred to 9W 705
9W 2602 Vadodara - Delhi                Transferred to 9W 705
9W 2631 Delhi - Amritsar                Cancelled
9W 2632 Amritsar - Delhi                Cancelled
9W 2701 Chennai - Mumbai                Cancelled
9W 2702 Hyderabad - Goa                 Cancelled
9W 2703 Goa - Hyderabad                 Cancelled
9W 2733 Chennai - Kochi                 Cancelled
9W 2734 Kochi - Chennai                 Cancelled
9W 2743 Bengaluru - Hyderabad           Cancelled
9W 2747 Hyderabad - Chennai             Cancelled
9W 2748 Chennai - Hyderabad             Cancelled
9W 2749 Hyderabad - Chennai             Cancelled
9W 2750 Chennai - Hyderabad             Cancelled
9W 3104 Kochi - Mumbai                  Cancelled
9W 3109 Mumbai - Aurangabad             Cancelled
9W 3110 Aurangabad - Mumbai             Cancelled
9W 3301 Mumbai - Udaipur                Cancelled
9W 3301 Udaipur - Jaipur                Cancelled
9W 3301 Jaipur - Delhi                  Cancelled
9W 3317 Delhi - Udaipur                 Cancelled
9W 3318 Udaipur - Delhi                 Cancelled
9W 3401 Delhi - Jaipur                  Cancelled
9W 3401 Jaipur - Udaipur                Cancelled
9W 3401 Udaipur - Delhi                 Cancelled
9W 8609 Delhi - Leh                     Cancelled
9W 8610 Leh - Delhi                     Cancelled

NNN

PM calls for greater security, dignity for vulnerable sections

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday called for effective strategies to ensure greater security, dignity and equality as well as more non-discriminatory treatment to the vulnerable sections.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh speaking at the inauguration of the Annual Conference of State Welfare/Social Justice Ministers. Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Mukul Wasnik is also seen.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh speaking at the inauguration of the Annual Conference of State Welfare/Social Justice Ministers. Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Mukul Wasnik is also seen.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said the Centre and the States must work out effective strategies to ensure greater security, dignity and equality as well as more non-discriminatory treatment to the vulnerable sections of the population.

"There can be no progress unless and until the pace of progress is also linked with the achievement of empowerment of the marginalized sections and our country moving towards a constitutional imperative of social justice," Dr Singh said while inaugurating the State Welfare Ministers' Conference here.

"It is our constitutional, social and moral duty to give high priority to the needs and concerns of the Scheduled Castes, Other Backward Classes, Persons with Disabilities and our Senior Citizens," she said.

Dr Singh said that the nation had not shown adequate sensitivity and understanding that are required to deal with the special problems of these disadvantaged groups.

He said some progress had been made in this direction but it was far below expectations and far below the needs of the country.

"They are and should be considered as equal partners in our development processes. Development processes must lead to that imperative necessity. We should therefore reflect on how to harness the largely untapped potential of people of disadvantage to become equal productive citizens of our great Republic," he said.

The Prime Minister said the root of the problem of exclusion from the national mainstream lay in social prejudices and associated discrimination.

"What can we do to become a more humane and socially progressive society and thereby a more developed society? It appears to me we can begin by changing a mindset that sees people of disadvantage not as a productive national resource that they are but as a marginal section of society at the fringes of our policy establishment. I urge you to carry out a concerted awareness programme that makes creative use of media, educational institutions and civil societies and places the well being of these marginalized section at the centre of the development agenda for our nation," he said.

Dr Singh said the first task was to provide physical security. He noted that reports of atrocities against Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and senior citizens unfortunately continued to appear all over the country with disturbing regularity.

He said he had, in fact, written to the Chief Ministers of all the States recently to enforce vigorously the provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. He said he had also had a separate meeting with Chief Ministers on the subject.

"It is shocking that the conviction rate for cases of atrocities against SC/STs is less than 30% against the average of 42% for all cognizable offences under the IPC. The State Governments therefore need to give more attention to this important issue. Meetings of State and district Vigilance and Monitoring Committees should be held more regularly. Court cases should be pursued diligently and on priority basis," he said.

Referring to the fact that many parts of the country had reported drought-like conditions, Dr Singh said that the experience so far had been that weaker sections tended to be the worst affected by such natural calamities.

He, therefore, stressed the need to step up monitoring and implementation of key welfare schemes like the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), "Annapurna" and Old Age Pension Scheme which target the weaker sections and said it was essential to ensure that these sections receive their proportionate share of these benefits.

The Prime Minister said that the Government proposed to take up, this year, on a pilot basis a new scheme called "Pradhan Mantri Adarsh Gram Yojana" (PMAGY) for integrated 1,000 villages having more than 50 per cent Scheduled Caste population.

The scheme is aimed at convergent implementation of various development schemes in these villages, with an additionality of Rs. 10 lakh per village to meet such of its basic requirements as cannot be met from the existing schemes. If the pilot scheme is successful, the government would expand it to more areas, he said.

Dr Singh said he had met groups representing persons with disabilities and had found in them a desire and a determination to live productive lives and make their own individual contributions to society.

"We should give them every possible opportunity to do so. They need equal opportunities as equal citizens with special needs. Our country has signed and ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) that came into force in May 2008. This Convention casts certain obligations on all the signatories towards enforcement of various rights of persons with disabilities. We propose therefore to comprehensively amend the Persons with Disabilities Act, in consultation with the State Governments and all stakeholders, so as to bring it in line with our obligations under the UN Convention," she said.

Pointing out that accessibility was a major issue for persons with disabilities, Dr Singh urged educational and healthcare institutions, government offices, banks and other places with public dealings to become more user friendly and accessible to the disadvantaged persons. Small steps like building ramps or designating officers to facilitate their work could go a long way in this direction, he said.

He said the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology needed to promote development of accessibility software in all Indian languages.

According to him, Government websites need to be more user-friendly for disabled persons. He said he was happy that the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment had made a beginning in this regard.

Similarly, he urged the National Institute of Design to encourage the design of everyday appliances and instruments that cater to the needs of people with various disabilities.

"These are the kinds of institutions that should, in my opinion, take the lead in building social consciousness in support of the legitimate aspirations of people with disabilities," he said.

Dr Singh said the Finance Minister, in the budget speech for 2007-08, had announced an incentive scheme to promote employment of persons with disabilities in the private sector.

He said that it was regrettable that, though this scheme had been in operation since April 1 last year, it had not made much headway in the last one and a half years.

"This may partly have been due to the economic slowdown of 2008-09. But as our economy is now emerging from its slowdown phase, I would urge the corporate sector to respond handsomely in the implementation of the Scheme. Central and State Governments and the corporate sector need to work hand in hand so that persons with disabilities get employment opportunities in the private sector through this scheme in large numbers. This is an important part of the social obligation of corporate enterprises," he said.

The Prime Minister said the estimated population of senior citizens in the country is projected to more than double by 2026 to 17.3 crore.

"India has a longstanding tradition of respect and service to elders. But with growing urbanization and nuclearisation of the family, we should reflect on the role of the community and the State in looking after the aged and the elderly persons. Our senior citizens must feel secure, valued and honoured," he remarked.

Dr Singh said Parliament had enacted the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act in December 2007. But individual State Governments have to bring the Act into force, notify rules under it, and establish and activate Maintenance Tribunals. Five States have yet to notify the Act, he pointed out. Even the States which have brought the Act into force have been slow in taking follow up action, which they need to do on high priority, he said.

The Prime Minister said a lot of good work had been done since the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment was set up but he felt much more could be and needed to be done both at the Central and the State levels.

For instance, he pointed out that more than half the identified beneficiaries of the "Self Employment Scheme for Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers" were yet to be rehabilitated. He said State Governments needed to be more pro-active in implementing the scholarships and hostel schemes for the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes. Issue of disability certificates should be expedited, preferably within a month of the date of application, he said.

Discussions at the meeting on such topics should be guided by a sense of compassion, by principles of social justice and by an obligation to care and provide for all disadvantaged sections, he added.

NNN

Andhra Pradesh bids tearful adieu to YSR

Thousands of people bid a tearful farewell on Friday to Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, who was killed in a helicopter crash on Wednesday morning along with four others.

UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi laying a wreath at the mortal remains of the former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S R Reddy, in Hyderabad.
UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi laying a wreath at the mortal remains of the former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S R Reddy, in Hyderabad.
In a spontaneous outpouring of grief, thousands of people turned out in Hyderabad and his home town of Pulivendula to bid a tearful farewell today to Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, who was killed in a helicopter crash on Wednesday morning along with four others.

Dr Reddy's wife Vijayalakshmi, their son and first-time Lok Sabha member Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy, their daughter Sharmila and grandchildren were amongst those present as the body was lowered into a grave on the family's Idupulapaya estate in Pulivendula near Kadapah a little after 5 pm.

The late Chief Minister, who was a Christian, was given a state funeral and was buried according to Protestant rites.

The Idupulapaya estate was chosen by his daughter because it was a particularly favourite spot of her father, where he often repaired to when he wanted to take a break from the hurly burly of politics.

Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and K Rosaiah, who was sworn in as the new Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh yesterday, were amongst those who attended the funeral.

Earlier, Dr Reddy's body was brought to Pulivendula in an Indian Air Force helicopter from Hyderabad around 4 pm.
Sonia Gandhi writing a condolence message. Rahul Gandhi and Y S R Reddy's son Jagan Mohan Reddy are seen in the background.
Sonia Gandhi writing a condolence message. Rahul Gandhi and Y S R Reddy's son Jagan Mohan Reddy are seen in the background.

The coffin containing his body was placed on a truck and carried for a short distance of about 250 metres to the grave. That journey took a very long time as the thousands of people gathered there surged forward in waves for a last glimpse of their leader and the security personnel had an extremely difficult time keeping the crowds back.

Throughout, Mr Jagan Mohan Reddy acknowledged the condolences of the people with folded hands while his mother, sister and scores of other close relatives sobbed in grief.

In the morning, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress President Sonia Gandhi and scores of other leaders from across India paid homage to Dr Reddy at his residence in Hyderabad.

Dr Singh and Ms Gandhi reached Hyderabad this morning and drove straight to Dr Reddy's residence, where the body was lying in state.

The Prime Minister and Ms Gandhi laid wreaths on his body and wrote messages in the condolence book. They also spent some time with members of Dr Reddy's wife Vijayalakshmi, his son and his daughter Sharmila.

Congress General Secretary and MP Rahul Gandhi also accompanied Dr Singh and Ms Gandhi to Dr Reddy's residence and paid his respects to the departed leader.

The three leaders were at Dr Reddy's residence for about three-quarters of an hour before they drove back to Begumpet airport to take the return flight to Delhi.

Several Union Ministers, Chief Ministers of states and leaders from across the political spectrum had also turned up to pay tributes to the late Chief Minister.
Sonia Gandhi with Y S R Reddy's son Jagan Mohan Reddy.
Sonia Gandhi with Y S R Reddy's son Jagan Mohan Reddy. NetIndian photo

They included Andhra Pradesh Governor Narain Dutt Tiwari, Leader of the Opposition Lal Krishna Advani, Defence Minister A K Antony, Home Minister P Chidambaram, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi, Corporate Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel, Minister of State for Defence M M Pallam Raju, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and Kerala Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala.

Law and Justice Minister Veerappa Moily and Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office Prithviraj Chavan, who have been camping in Hyderabad since Wednesday evening, were also present at Dr Reddy's residence as was Mr K Rosaiah, who was sworn in as Chief Minister yesterday.

Others who came to offer their condolences included former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda, his son and former Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy, Union Ministers A Raja, D Purandeswari and Sachin Pilot, Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Sitaram Yechury, Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan.

Mr Jagan Mohan Reddy was on hand to acknowledge the condolences offered by the leaders as well as by the thousands of people who had gathered outside their residence.
Women mourning the death of Y S R Reddy on Thursday in Hyderabad.
Women mourning the death of Y S R Reddy on Thursday in Hyderabad. NetIndian Photo

Later, Dr Reddy's body was taken in a long and slow procession to the Lal Bahadur Stadium, where it will be kept for a few hours before being flown to his home town of Pulivendula near Kadapah for the funeral.

Among others, former Test cricket captain Mohammed Azharuddin, who hails from Hyderabad and is now a Member of Parliament from Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh, was seen sitting close to Mr Jagan Mohan Reddy, in the convoy accompanying Dr Reddy's body to the stadium.

On the way to the stadium, the body, wrapped in the tricolour, was taken for about 15 minutes to Gandhi Bhavan, the Andhra Pradesh Congress Committee headquarters in Hyderabad, where a huge crowd of party supporters and workers offered floral tributes to him.

Huge surging crowds had gathered at the stadium and also lined the 6 km route from Dr Reddy's residence and camp office in Begumpet to the stadium. Thousands of them had taken up positions on flyovers, buildings, trees and hoardings to get a better view of the body as the truck carrying it drove past.

Dr Reddy, 60, a medical doctor-turned-politician, was on his way from Hyderabad to Chittoor when his helicopter, with four others -- his Principal Secretary, his Chief Security Officer, the pilot and the co-pilot--crashed into a densely forested hill about 40 nautical miles east of Kurnool at the edge of the Nallamalla range in turbulent weather on Wednesday.

After the helicopter lost radio contact with Air Traffic Control at 9.13 am that morning, an unprecedented search and rescue operation was launched but the wreckage of the helicopter was located only 24 hours later yesterday morning.

The discovery of the badly charred bodies plunged the state into grief and people across the country reacted in stunned disbelief as Dr Reddy's life came to a tragic end at a time just when he appeared to be reaching new heights in his three-decade-old political career.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh consoling a family member of the former Andhra Pradesh CM Y S R Reddy, in Hyderabad.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh consoling a family member of the former Andhra Pradesh CM Y S R Reddy, in Hyderabad.

Dr Reddy, who had led the Congress to an impressive victory in the recent Assembly elections to win a second term in office, was planning to make a surprise visit to villages in Chittoor district on Wednesday as part of a plan to meet people affected by the drought and see for himself how the state government's programmes for the people were actually implemented by officials on the ground.

Those who perished in the accident with him were his Principal Secretary P Subrahmanyam, his Chief Security Officer A S C John Wesley, the pilot Group Capt S K Bhatia and co-pilot Capt M S Reddy. There were no survivors.

The funerals of the two officials and the two pilots were also held today.

The bodies were flown yesterday first to Kurnool, where post-mortem examinations were conducted by doctors in a makeshift tent on a ground. Later, the bodies were put in coffins and carried by an Indian Air Force helicopter to Hyderabad.

The Central Government has ordered a formal Committee of Inquiry into the accident, which will submit its report within two months.

NNN

Related Stories

PM, Sonia pay tributes to YSR as final journey begins

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi were among those who paid homage on Friday to late Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, who died in a helicopter crash on Wednesday morning.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh paying homage at the mortal remains of the former Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh Y S R Reddy, in Hyderabad
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh paying homage at the mortal remains of the former Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh Y S R Reddy, in Hyderabad
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress President Sonia Gandhi and scores of other leaders from across India paid homage today to late Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, who died in a helicopter crash on Wednesday morning, as thousands of people came out on to the streets of Hyderabad in a spontaneous outpouring of grief.

Dr Singh and Ms Gandhi reached Hyderabad this morning and drove straight to Dr Reddy's residence, where the body was lying in state.

The Prime Minister and Ms Gandhi laid wreaths on his body and wrote messages in the condolence book. They also spent some time with members of Dr Reddy's wife Vijayalakshmi, his son and Congress Member of Parliament Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy and his daughter Sharmila.

Congress General Secretary and MP Rahul Gandhi also accompanied Dr Singh and Ms Gandhi to Dr Reddy's residence and paid his respects to the departed leader.

Several Union Ministers, Chief Ministers of states and leaders from across the political spectrum had also turned up to pay tributes to the late Chief Minister.

They included Andhra Pradesh Governor Narain Dutt Tiwari, Defence Minister A K Antony, Home Minister P Chidambaram, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, Corporate Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel, Minister of State for Defence M M Pallam Raju, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and Kerala Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala.

Law and Justice Minister Veerappa Moily and Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office Prithviraj Chavan, who have been camping in Hyderabad since Wednesday evening, were also present at Dr Reddy's residence as was Mr K Rosaiah, who was sworn in as Chief Minister yesterday.
Women mourning the death of Y S R Reddy on Thursday in Hyderabad.
Women mourning the death of Y S R Reddy on Thursday in Hyderabad. NetIndian Photo

Mr Jagan Mohan Reddy was on hand to acknowledge the condolences offered by the leaders as well as by the thousands of people who had gathered outside their residence.

Later, Dr Reddy's body was taken in a long and slow procession to the Lal Bahadur Stadium, where it will be kept for a few hours before being flown to his home town of Pulivendula near Kadapah for the funeral.

Among others, former Test cricket captain Mohammed Azharuddin, who hails from Hyderabad and is now a Member of Parliament from Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh, was seen sitting close to Mr Jagan Mohan Reddy, in the convoy accompanying Dr Reddy's body to the stadium.

Huge surging crowds had gathered at the stadium and also lined the 6 km route from Dr Reddy's residence and camp office in Begumpet to the stadium. Thousands of them had taken up positions on flyovers, buildings, trees and hoardings to get a better view of the body as the truck carrying it drove past.

Dr Reddy, 60, a medical doctor-turned-politician, was on his way from Hyderabad to Chittoor when his helicopter, with four others -- his Principal Secretary, his Chief Security Officer, the pilot and the co-pilot--crashed into a densely forested hill about 40 nautical miles east of Kurnool at the edge of the Nallamalla range in turbulent weather on Wednesday.

After the helicopter lost radio contact with Air Traffic Control at 9.13 am that morning, an unprecedented search and rescue operation was launched but the wreckage of the helicopter was located only 24 hours later yesterday morning.

The discovery of the badly charred bodies plunged the state into grief and people across the country reacted in stunned disbelief as Dr Reddy's life came to a tragic end at a time just when he appeared to be reaching new heights in his three-decade-old political career.
Women mourning the death of Y S R Reddy on Thursday in Hyderabad.
Women mourning the death of Y S R Reddy on Thursday in Hyderabad. NetIndian Photo

Dr Reddy, who had led the Congress to an impressive victory in the recent Assembly elections to win a second term in office, was planning to make a surprise visit to villages in Chittoor district on Wednesday as part of a plan to meet people affected by the drought and see for himself how the state government's programmes for the people were actually implemented by officials on the ground.

Those who perished in the accident with him were his Principal Secretary P Subrahmanyam, his Chief Security Officer A S C John Wesley, the pilot Group Capt S K Bhatia and co-pilot Capt M S Reddy. There were no survivors.

The bodies were flown yesterday first to Kurnool, where post-mortem examinations were conducted by doctors in a makeshift tent on a ground. Later, the bodies were put in coffins and carried by an Indian Air Force helicopter to Hyderabad.

The Central Government has ordered a formal Committee of Inquiry into the accident, which will submit its report within two months.

NNN

This story has been updated: Andhra Pradesh bids tearful adieu to YSR

YSR killed in chopper crash, state funeral Friday

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy and four others were killed when their helicopter crashed into a densely forested hill near Kurnool at the edge of the Nallamalla range in the state yesterday morning.

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy
All of Andhra Pradesh was plunged into grief when Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy and four others were killed when their helicopter crashed into a densely forested hill about 49 nautical miles east of Kurnool at the edge of the Nallamalla range in the state yesterday morning.

People all over the country reacted in stunned disbelief as news of the tragic end to the Chief Minister's life came in at a time when he appeared to be reaching the pinnacle of his three-decade-old political career.

State Finance Minister K Rosaiah,77, was sworn in as the Chief Minister in his place by Governor Narain Dutt Tiwari, though this is likely to be a temporary arrangement till the Congress leadership takes a decision on Dr Reddy's successor.

Mr Rosaiah and Chief Secretary Ramakanth Reddy made an official announcement about Dr Reddy's death at a press conference around 1230 hours in Hyderabad. Union Home Minister P Chidambaram also announced Dr Reddy's death around the same time at an interaction with the media in Delhi.

Dr Reddy, 60, is survived by his wife Vijayalakshmi, his son Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy, who was elected to the Lok Sabha in the recent elections in May, and his daughter, Sharmila.

A medical doctor by profession, Dr Reddy, who had led the Congress to an impressive victory in the recent Assembly elections to win a second term in office, was planning to make a surprise visit to villages in Chittoor district yesterday as part of a plan to meet people affected by the drought and see for himself how the state government's programmes for the people were actually implemented by officials on the ground.

Among those who were with Dr Reddy on the flight were his Principal Secretary P Subrahmanyam and his Chief Security Officer A S C John Wesley.

The helicopter was under the command of Capt S K Bhatia. The co-pilot was Capt M S Reddy. There were no survivors.

Search and rescue teams found the wreckage of the helicopter on the hill nearly 24 hours after the crash at around 8.30 am this morning.

Commandos who slithered down to the spot on the top of the Srisailam hill found the bodies of the Chief Minister and the four others.

Mr Chidambaram said that he had conveyed the news of the discovery of the wreckage of the helicopter and the bodies of the Chief Minister and the others to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi immediately after the Andhra Pradesh Government had confirmed the information.

He said an Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopter on the search mission had located the wreckage on the hill, after which more helicopters were rushed to the area.

The helicopters could not land anywhere near the scene of the crash because of the thick foliage, and finally army commandos slithered down a rope to the spot.

Mr Chidambaram said they found that the helicopter had broken into several pieces and was also badly charred, as were the bodies of the five people aboard.

The Air Force personnel, helped by several people who had reached the spot on foot, took several hours to extricate the bodies from the wreckage and then have them winched to the hovering helicopter one by one.

By about 2 pm, the bodies were flown to Kurnool, where post-mortem examinations of the bodies were conducted by doctors in a makeshift tent on a ground. By 3.30 pm, the bodies were put in coffins and put on an IAF helicopter and carried to Hyderabad.

Both at Kurnool and in Hyderabad, thousands of people had turned up to pay their last respects to Dr Reddy. People had lined up on the route from the airport in Hyderabad to the Chief Minister's residence in the city. Thousands more had converged outside the house, which was also Dr Reddy's camp office, where the body lay in state.

The Union Cabinet met in Delhi and adopted a resolution condoling Dr Reddy's death. It decided that he would be accorded a state funeral tomorrow. The Congress Working Committee also met and condoled Dr Reddy's demise.
File photo of a Bell 430
File photo of a Bell 430

"We are in deep mourning, there is a deep sense of grief, shock, loss at the passing away of Dr Reddy," Mr Chidambaram said.

In Hyderabad, Chief Secretary Ramakanth Reddy said preliminary information suggested that the helicopter had crashed into the hill and then exploded into flames.

He said the bodies were charred and also slightly decomposed, given the fact that there were incessant rains in the area throughout the past 24 hours.

Dr Reddy's body will be taken to the Lal Bahadur Stadium in Hyderavad tomorrow for people to pay their last respects. It will be later in the afternoon taken to his home town near Kadapah for the final rites as per his family's wishes.

Mr Reddy and Director General of Police S S P Yadav also said that the Chief Minister's helicopter appeared to have deviated some 18 km from the regular flight path. Other sources indicated that the pilot chose to change course to avoid turbulent weather and because of poor visibility.

According to reports, the wreckage was found at a place located between Rudrakoderu and Rollapenta in Kurnool district, some ten km from Atmakur, where villagers had last seen the helicopter yesterday morning around 9.15 am.

Earlier this morning, Indian Air Force helicopters managed to locate the wreckage of the chopper but confirmation about the deaths of those on board came more than two hours later after the commandos reached the spot.

Television pictures from the area showed hundreds of people, including security personnel, state ministers, media crews and others, making their way to the spot on the hill, crossing a canal.

Later, pictures of the crash site showed pieces of the helicopter strewn all over, providing some idea about the impact the aircraft suffered on crashing.

The twin-engined Bell 430 helicopter, with Dr Reddy and the others on board had taken off from the old Begumpet airport in Hyderabad at about 8.38 am yesterday and was scheduled to land in Chitoor at 10.40 am.

Before taking off from Hyderabad, Dr Reddy had told a television channel that he wanted to pay a surprise visit to some villages to see for himself the manner in which some of the programmes for the people were being implemented on the ground.

Air traffic control lost radio contact with the helicopter around 9.13 am and after that there was no contact with it.

The Central and the State Government mounted an unprecedented search and rescue operation that went on till yesterday evening when daylight faded, after which paramilitary and police personnel started a search effort on the ground that continued till late into the night.

The massive search and rescue operations saw the Central and the State Governments mobilising Indian Air Force Sukhoi 30 MKI aircraft, several helicopters and low-flying aircraft of the National Remote Sensing Agency.

Soon after news came in about the location of the aircraft, Mr Chidambaram went to meet Dr Singh and Ms Gandhi to brief them about the situation.

Later, Dr Singh and Ms Gandhi held a meeting with senior leaders such as the Congress President's Political Secretary Ahmed Patel, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Home Minister P Chidambaram and Defence Minister A K Antony.

Both Ms Gandhi and Dr Singh are expected to fly to Hyderabad tomorrow. Law and Justice Minister Veerappa Moily and Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office Prithviraj Chavan are already in the Andhra Pradesh capital.

Governor Tiwari said he was shocked by the news of Dr Reddy's death and described it as one of the saddest moments of his long career.

Congress leader and former Union Minister Renuka Choudhury told television channels the news had come as a terrible shock not only for her but for lakhs of Congress workers in the state. "It is such an unfortunate incident," she said, describing Dr Reddy as a larger than life figure who had a style of his own.

Thousands of people had gathered near Dr Reddy's residence in Hyderabad from early this morning and many of them broke down after hearing of his death.

Congress spokesperson Jayanti Natarajan said the party would take a long time to get over the loss of Dr Reddy, who was very dynamic and had his finger on the pulse of the people. "It is tragic that he lost his life while engaged in the implementation of his government's schemes," she said.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said in Delhi yesterday that Capt Bhatia had been endorsed with the type Bell 430 in June 2007 and Capt Reddy in January this year. Capt Bhatia had flying experience of more than 5600 hours and Capt Reddy more than 3200 hours.

The DGCA statement said the helicopter had fuel for a maximum endurance of 2 hours and 45 minutes.

"After taking off at 0838 Hrs IST, it remained in contact up to 0913 Hrs IST with Hyderabad Radar at 168 degree, 79 NM from Hyderabad," it said.

The DGCA also clarified that the helicopter had a valid Certificate of Airworthiness, putting to rest speculation in this regard.

It said the helicopter had flown for 2812.20 hours in all and 325.10 hours since the Certificate of Airworthiness had been renewed.

The aircraft was fitted with an Emergency Locator Transmitter, a type of distress beacon used in aircraft, but other sources said no signals had been picked up, which gave rise to some hopes that the chopper may not have crashed but made a soft landing somewhere.

The helicopter was to change over from Hyderabad to Chennai Air Traffic Control at 9.13 am but lost contact thereafter with both places.

President Pratibha Patil, Vice-President M Hamid Ansari, Dr Singh, Ms Gandhi, Leader of the Opposition Lal Krishna Advani, Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary Prakash Karat, Communist Party of India General Secretary A B Bardhan, Telugu Desam leader N Chandrababu Naidu and scores of other leaders, Governors and Chief Ministers across the country, cutting across political differences, paid rich tributes to Dr Reddy.

The Central Government has ordered a formal Committee of Inquiry into the accident, an official statement said.

NNN

YSR, 4 others killed in chopper crash, CM's funeral tomorrow

Andhra Pradesh CM Y S Rajasekhara Reddy and four others were killed when their helicopter crashed into a densely forested hill east of Kurnool at the edge of the Nallamalla range in the state Wednesday morning.

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy and four others were killed when their helicopter crashed into a densely forested hill about 49 nautical miles east of Kurnool at the edge of the Nallamalla range in the state yesterday morning, reports reaching here today said.

State Finance Minister K Rosaiah was appointed as the caretaker Chief Minister.

Mr Rosaiah and Chief Secretary Ramakanth Reddy made an official announcement about Dr Reddy's death at a press conference around 1230 hours in Hyderabad.

Union Home Minister P Chidambaram also announced Dr Reddy's death around the same time at an interaction with the media in Delhi.

The 60-year-old Chief Minister, who had led the Congress to an impressive victory in the recent Assembly elections to win a second term in office, was planning to make a surprise visit to the Rachabanda area yesterday to meet people affected by the drought and see for himself the state government's programmes for the people were actually implemented by officials on the ground.

Among those who were with Dr Reddy on the flight were his Principal Secretary P Subrahmanyam and his Chief Security Officer A S C John Wesley.

The helicopter was under the command of Capt S K Bhatia. The co-pilot was Capt M S Reddy.

Search and rescue teams found the wreckage of the helicopter on the hill nearly 24 hours after the crash at around 8.30 am this morning.

Commandos who slithered down to the spot on the top of the Srisailam hill found the bodies of the Chief Minister and the four others.

Mr Chidambaram said that he had conveyed the news of the discovery of the wreckage of the helicopter and the bodies of the Chief Minister and the others to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi immediately after the Andhra Pradesh Government had confirmed the information.

He said an Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopter on the search mission had located the wreckage on the hill, after which more helicopters were rushed to the area.
File photo of a Bell 430
File photo of a Bell 430

The helicopters could not land anywhere near the scene of the crash because of the thick foliage, and finally army commandos slithered down a rope to the spot.

Mr Chidambaram said they found that the helicopter had broken into several pieces and was also badly charred, as were the bodies of the five people aboard.

The Home Minister said the bodies were still at the scene, and efforts were being made to take them to some place nearby from where they could be put on board a helicopter and taken to Kurnool. Later, after post-mortem examinations of the bodies, they will be flown to Hyderabad. He said the Air Force would take some time to complete the exercise.

Mr Chidambaram said the Union Cabinet was scheduled to meet at 3 pm today when it will adopt a resolution condoling the death of Dr Reddy and convey its grief to the families of the late Chief Minister and the others who died in the mishap.

The Congress Working Committee is also scheduled to meet this afternoon.

"We are in deep mourning, there is a deep sense of grief, shock, loss at the passing away of Dr Reddy," Mr Chidambaram said.

In Hyderabad, Chief Secretary Ramakanth Reddy said preliminary information suggested that the helicopter had crashed into the hill and then exploded into flames.

He said the bodies were charred and also slightly decomposed, given the fact that there were incessant rains in the area throughout the past 24 hours.

According to him, the bodies were expected to be brought to Hyderabad by 5 pm today.

Dr Reddy's body will be taken to his residence in Hyderabad today and then taken to the Lal Bahadur Stadium in the city tomorrow for people to pay their last respects. It will be later in the afternoon taken to his home town of Kadapah for the final rites as per his family's wishes.

Mr Reddy and Director General of Police S S P Yadav also said that the Chief Minister's helicopter appeared to have deviated some 18 km from the regular flight path. Other sources indicated that the pilot chose to change course to avoid turbulent weather and because of poor visibility.

According to reports, the wreckage was found at a place located between Rudrakoderu and Rollapenta in Kurnool district, some ten km from Atmakur, where villagers had last seen the helicopter yesterday morning around 9.15 am.

Earlier this morning, Indian Air Force helicopters managed to locate the wreckage of the chopper but confirmation about the deaths of those on board came more than two hours later after the commandos reached the spot.

Television pictures from the area showed hundreds of people, including security personnel, state ministers, media crews and others, making their way to the spot on the hill, crossing a canal.

The twin-engined Bell 430 helicopter, with Dr Reddy and the others on board had taken off from the old Begumpet airport in Hyderabad at about 8.38 am yesterday and was scheduled to land in Chitoor at 10.40 am.

Before taking off from Hyderabad, Dr Reddy had told a television channel that he wanted to pay a surprise visit to some villages to see for himself the manner in which some of the programmes for the people were being implemented on the ground.

Air traffic control lost radio contact with the helicopter around 9.13 am and after that there was no contact with it.

The Central and the State Government mounted an unprecedented search and rescue operation that went on till yesterday evening when daylight faded, after which paramilitary and police personnel started a search effort on the ground that continued till late into the night.

The massive search and rescue operations saw the Central and the State Governments mobilising Indian Air Force Sukhoi 30 MKI aircraft, several helicopters and low-flying aircraft of the National Remote Sensing Agency.

Soon after news came in about the location of the aircraft, Mr Chidambaram went to meet Dr Singh and Ms Gandhi to brief them about the situation.

Later, Dr Singh and Ms Gandhi held a meeting with senior leaders such as the Congress President's Political Secretary Ahmed Patel, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Home Minister P Chidambaram and Defence Minister A K Antony.

Ms Gandhi is expected to reach Hyderabad later today, while Dr Singh is likely to go there tomorrow. Law and Justice Minister Veerappa Moily and Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office Prithviraj Chavan are already in the Andhra Pradesh capital.

Andhra Pradesh Governor Narain Dutt Tiwari said he was shocked by the news of Dr Reddy's death and described it as one of the saddest moments of his long career.

Congress leader and former Union Minister Renuka Choudhury told television channels the news had come as a terrible shock not only for her but for lakhs of Congress workers in the state. "It is such an unfortunate incident," she said, describing Dr Reddy as a larger than life figure who had a style of his own.

Thousands of people had gathered near Dr Reddy's residence in Hyderabad from early this morning and many of them broke down after hearing of his death.

Congress spokesperson Jayanti Natarajan said the party would take a long time to get over the loss of Dr Reddy, who was very dynamic and had his finger on the pulse of the people. "It is tragic that he lost his life while engaged in the implementation of his government's schemes," she said.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said in Delhi yesterday that Capt Bhatia had been endorsed with the type Bell 430 in June 2007 and Capt Reddy in January this year. Capt Bhatia had flying experience of more than 5600 hours and Capt Reddy more than 3200 hours.

The DGCA statement said the helicopter had fuel for a maximum endurance of 2 hours and 45 minutes.

"After taking off at 0838 Hrs IST, it remained in contact up to 0913 Hrs IST with Hyderabad Radar at 168 degree, 79 NM from Hyderabad," it said.

The DGCA also clarified that the helicopter had a valid Certificate of Airworthiness, putting to rest speculation in this regard.

It said the helicopter had flown for 2812.20 hours in all and 325.10 hours since the Certificate of Airworthiness had been renewed.

The aircraft was fitted with an Emergency Locator Transmitter, a type of distress beacon used in aircraft, but other sources said no signals had been picked up, which gave rise to some hopes that the chopper may not have crashed but made a soft landing somewhere.

The helicopter was to change over from Hyderabad to Chennai Air Traffic Control at 9.13 am but lost contact thereafter with both places.

NNN

YSR, 4 others killed in chopper crash

Andhra Pradesh CMY S Rajasekhara Reddy and four others were killed when their helicopter crashed into a hill about 40 nautical miles east of Kurnool at the edge of the Nallamalla range Wednesday morning.

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy and four others were killed when their helicopter crashed into a hill about 40 nautical miles east of Kurnool at the edge of the Nallamalla range yesterday morning, reports reaching here today said.

State Finance Minister K Rosaiah was appointed as the caretaker Chief Minister.

Search and rescue teams found the wreckage of the helicopter nearly 24 hours after the crash this morning.

Commandos who slithered down to the spot on the top of the Srisailam hill found the bodies of the Chief Minister and the four others who were on board the helicopter, including the pilot, the co-pilot, an official and a security official, the reports said.

According to the reports, the wreckage was found at a place located between Rudrakoderu and Rollapenta in Kurnool district, some ten km from Atmakur, where villagers had last seen the helicopter yesterday morning around 9.15 am.

The helicopter was found in a badly mangled and burnt state, the reports said. The bodies were retrieved from the site and will be taken to Hyderabad later today.

Earlier this morning, Indian Air Force helicopters managed to locate the wreckage of the chopper but confirmation about the deaths of those on board came more than two hours later after the commandos reached the spot.

Television pictures from the area showed hundreds of people, including security personnel, state ministers, media crews and others, making their way to the spot on the hill, crossing a canal.

The twin-engined Bell 430 helicopter, with Dr Reddy, 60, and the others on board had taken off from the old Begumpet airport in Hyderabad at about 8.38 am yesterday and was scheduled to land in Chitoor at 10.40 am. The trip was part of a month-long programme under which he planned to make on-the-spot inspections of implementation of various government schemes for the people.

Air traffic control lost radio contact with the helicopter around 9.13 am and after that there was no contact with it.

In Delhi, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said the helicopter, with call sign VT-APG, was under the command of Capt S K Bhatia. The co-pilot was Capt M S Reddy.

The other two on board were the Chief Minister's Principal Secretary P Subrahmanyam and his Chief Security Officer A S C John Wesley.

The Central and the State Government mounted an unprecedented search and rescue operation that went on till the evening, after which paramilitary and police personnel started a search effort on the ground that continued till late into the night.

The massive search and rescue operations saw the Central and the State Governments mobilising Indian Air Force Sukhoi 30 MKI aircraft, several helicopters and low-flying aircraft of the National Remote Sensing Agency.

Soon after news came in about the location of the aircraft, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram went to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi to brief them about the situation.

Later, Dr Singh and Ms Gandhi held a meeting with senior leaders such as the Congress President's Political Secretary Ahmed Patel, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Home Minister P Chidambaram and Defence Minister A K Antony.
File photo of a Bell 430
File photo of a Bell 430

Ms Gandhi is expected to reach Hyderabad later today, while Dr Singh is likely to go there tomorrow. Law and Justice Minister Veerappa Moily and Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office Prithviraj Chavan are already in the Andhra Pradesh capital.

Andhra Pradesh Governor Narain Dutt Tiwari said he was shocked by the news of Dr Reddy's death and described it as one of the saddest moments of his long career.

Congress leader and former Union Minister Renuka Choudhury told television channels the news had come as a terrible shock not only for her but for lakhs of Congress workers in the state. "It is such an unfortunate incident," she said, describing Dr Reddy as a larger than life figure who had a style of his own.

Thousands of people had gathered near Dr Reddy's residence in Hyderabad from early this morning and many of them broke down after hearing of his death.

Congress spokesperson Jayanti Natarajan said the party would take a long time to get over the loss of Dr Reddy, who was very dynamic and had his finger on the pulse of the people. "It is tragic that he lost his life while engaged in the implementation of his government's schemes," she said.

NNN

YSR's chopper traced, no news about fate of those on board

Search and rescue teams managed to locate the helicopter carrying the Andhra Pradesh CM and 4 others, that went missing Wednesday morning, on top of a thickly forested hill near Kurnool on Thursday morning.

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy
Search and rescue teams managed to locate the helicopter carrying Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy and four others, that went missing yesterday morning, on top of a thickly forested hill near Kurnool in the state this morning.

An Air Force official told reporters that helicopters were hovering over the spot, about 40 nautical miles east of Kurnool, at the edge of the Nallamalla range, and were trying to find a place to land.

The official said the Air Force helicopters could not see much because of the thick foliage around the spot and more details would be available only when rescue teams reached the place on foot.

The official said it was not possible to say anything about those on board the helicopter and about how the chopper had landed in that area.

Search and rescue teams were headed for the spot where the helicopter was found, he said.

The twin-engined Bell 430 helicopter, with Mr Reddy, 60, and four others on board -- including the pilot, the co-pilot, an official and a security officer -- had taken off from the old Begumpet airport in Hyderabad at about 8.38 am yesterday and was scheduled to land in Chitoor at 10.40 am.
File photo of a Bell 430
File photo of a Bell 430

Air traffic control lost radio contact with the twin-engined Bell 430 AP helicopter around 9.13 am and after that there has been no contact with the Chief Minister and the officials accompanying him. Reports said air traffic control had not received any distress signal from the chopper.

In Delhi, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said the helicopter, with call sign VT-APG, was under the command of Capt S K Bhatia. The co-pilot was Capt M S Reddy.

The Central and the State Government mounted an unprecedented search and rescue operation that went on till the evening, after which paramilitary and police personnel started a search effort on the ground that continued till late into the night.

The massive search and rescue operations saw the Central and the State Governments mobilising Indian Air Force Sukhoi 30 MKI aircraft, several helicopters and low-flying aircraft of the National Remote Sensing Agency.

Soon after news came in about the location of the aircraft, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram went to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi to brief them about the situation.

NNN

Chopper carrying YSR goes missing, search operations continue

A helicopter carrying Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy and four others went missing Wednesday morning, triggering an unprecedented search and rescue operation.

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy
A helicopter carrying Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy and four others went missing this morning, triggering off an unprecedented search and rescue operation that yielded nothing till late in the night, raising concerns about the safety of those on board.

The massive search and rescue operations saw the Central and the State Governments mobilising Indian Air Force Sukhoi 30 MKI aircraft, several helicopters, low-flying aircraft of the National Remote Sensing Agency and images from American satellites.

As daylight faded, the aerial searches, except for the low flying aircraft, were stopped and were slated to resume at first light tomorrow.

Meanwhile, thousands of paramilitary and police personnel as well as dozens of Army and other commandos were headed for the thickly-forested Nallamalla hills, where it was raining heavily and visibility was low. The helicopter was said to have been last seen over that area in Kurnool district.

The area was at one time infested with Naxalites, but National Security Adviser M K Narayanan told television channels that they were the least of the government's worries.

The twin-engined Bell 430 helicopter, with Mr Reddy, 60, and four others on board -- including the pilot, the co-pilot, an official and a security officer -- took off from the old Begumpet airport in Hyderabad at about 8.38 am and was scheduled to land in Chitoor at 10.40 am.

Air traffic control lost radio contact with the twin-engined Bell 430 AP helicopter around 9.13 am and after that there has been no contact with the Chief Minister and the officials accompanying him. Reports said air traffic control had not received any distress signal from the chopper.

In Delhi, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said the helicopter, with call sign VT-APG, was under the command of Capt S K Bhatia. The co-pilot was Capt M S Reddy.

The DGCA said Capt Bhatia had been endorsed with the type Bell 430 in June 2007 and Capt Reddy in January this year. Capt Bhatia had flying experience of more than 5600 hours and Capt Reddy more than 3200 hours.

The DGCA statement said the helicopter had fuel for a maximum endurance of 2 hours and 45 minutes.

"After taking off at 0838 Hrs IST, it remained in contact up to 0913 Hrs IST with Hyderabad Radar at 168 degree, 79 NM from Hyderabad," it said.

The DGCA also clarified that the helicopter had a valid Certificate of Airworthiness, putting to rest speculation in this regard.

It said the helicopter had flown for 2812.20 hours in all and 325.10 hours since the Certificate of Airworthiness had been renewed.

The aircraft was fitted with an Emergency Locator Transmitter, a type of distress beacon used in aircraft, but other sources said no signals had been picked up.

The helicopter was to change over from Hyderabad to Chennai Air Traffic Control at 9.13 am but lost contact thereafter with both places.

The DGCA said search and rescue (SAR) operations were initiated by the SAR Centre in Chennai and the sub-centre in Hyderabad as soon as the helicopter was reported missing.

It said two helicopters took off from Hyderabad to Kurnool at 1315 hours at an altitude of 2000 feet. Both returned after flying for 40 nautical miles from Hyderabad because of bad weather en route.

One helicopter was sent from Krishnapatnam to Chitoor but it also returned from Tirupati due to bad weather.

Another helicopter was sent from Yelahanka, Bangalore, to Kurnool. Yet another was sent from Tirupati to Pakkala at 1612 hours. One more helicopter flew towards Kaddapa.

"So far no significant outcome has been achieved," the DGCA said, adding that a senior officer from the Directorate of Air Safety Mumbai and two senior officers from DGCA headquarters in Delhi have rushed to Hyderabad for coordination.
File photo of a Bell 430
File photo of a Bell 430

"A General Manager from Airport Authority of India (AAI), Chennai is in charge of co-ordination of Search and Rescue," the statement added.

The Chief Minister, who had led the Congress to an impressive victory in the recent Assembly elections to win a second term in office, was planning to visit the Rachabanda area today to meet people affected by the drought as part of a month-long tour programme to boost the confidence of the farmers.

"There is no good news yet. We are keeping our fingers crossed," Union Home Minister P Chidambaram told reporters before going to brief Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi about the situation. Mrs Gandhi is understood to have talked to the Chief Minister's wife and son over the telephone.

"Our prayers are with Mr Rajasekhara Reddy and his family," the Home Minister said.

He said the search for the missing chopper by several helicopters had been stopped for the day because of bad weather and fading light and that it would resume at dawn tomorrow.

Meanwhile, a large force of paramilitary and police personnel have been rushed to the densely forested area where the helicopter had been sighted in the air by villagers around 9.15 this morning and Mr Chidambaram said he had requested the Andhra Pradesh Government to try and begin the search operations on the ground in the night itself with whatever light that could be arranged.

Mr Chidambaram said a large contingent of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) was expected to reach the area soon.

"Let's hope for the best, let's pray for the best," he said.

During the day, there was a fair bit of confusion with some reports suggesting that the helicopter had landed in Kurnool district, but these turned out to be incorrect later.

Late this evening, State Finance Minister K Rosaiah and Chief Secretary Ramakanth Reddy told the media, at their second press conference during the day, that there was no information about the missing helicopter so far.

Mr Reddy said the State Government had received information that some villagers had seen the aircraft between 9.15 and 9.30 am while it was flying over Atmakoor in Kurnool district and appeared to be heading towards Prakasam district.

He said the State Government had requested the National Remote Sensing Agency (NRSA) to use its low-flying aircraft in the area to try and locate the helicopter. The aircraft could fly at altitudes of just 1250 metres and cover an area of 250 sq km, he said.

Mr Reddy said the Government was also in touch with the US authorities, through the Central Government, for high-resolution satellite images of the area where the helicopter was last sighted. These satellites could provide real-time images, he said.

The Chief Secretary said the assistance of the Army had also been sought in the ground search operations.

Mr Rosaiah said President Pratibha Patil, who is currently in Moscow, had enquired about the Chief Minister, as had Vice-President Mohammad Hamid Ansari, the Prime Minister, several Central Ministers and Governors and Chief Ministers of different states.

Meanwhile, the Congress party is understood to have asked Union Law and Justice Minister Veerappa Moily to rush to Hyderabad. Mr Prithviraj Chavan, Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office, is also heading for the Andhra Pradesh capital, sources said.

The Chief Secretary said earlier in the day that seven helicopters from the Indian Air Force bases in Hyderabad and Bangalore and the State Government as well as a civilian chopper were deployed in the search operations.

He said the State Government was also in touch with the Prime Minister's Office and the office of the Congress President in Delhi.

Some of the helicopters had to return to base because of inclement weather in the densely forested area where the Chief Minister's chopper had gone missing. As daylight started fading, the search operations acquired a sense of urgency.

The State Government appealed to people in the Kurnool and adjoining districts to help the authorities in the search operations and report to the nearest police station if they found any information.

"It is possible that because of the strong winds and heavy rains, it is possible it may have landed in some unfamiliar area. If you land in an unfamiliar forest area, getting out will be very difficult," the official said.

In Delhi, Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari told newspersons that the party was in touch with the State Government as well as the party's state unit.

"It is an evolving situation and they are doing everything they can to see a successful resolution of the crisis," he added.

He said Ms Gandhi was concerned about the missing helicopter and was seized of the situation.

Mr Narayanan said the delay in locating the helicopter was not a good sign, but he pointed out that there were instances, especially in the North-East, where people involved in such mishaps were found days later safe and sound.

To a specific query, Mr Narayanan said it was extremely improbable that the chopper had been brought down by Naxalites, stressing that they did not have such capabilities.

NNN

Chopper carrying YSR goes missing, search continues till late night

A helicopter carrying Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy and four others went missing Wednesday morning and day-long search operations failed to yield any information, raising concerns about his safety.

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy
A helicopter carrying Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy and four others went missing this morning and day-long search operations failed to yield any information, raising concerns about his safety.

The helicopter, with Mr Reddy, 60, and four others on board -- including the pilot, the co-pilot, an official and a security officer -- took off from the old Begumpet airport in Hyderabad at about 8.30 am and was scheduled to land in Chitoor at 10.40 am.

Air traffic control lost radio contact with the twin-engined Bell 430 AP helicopter around 9.35 am and after that there has been no contact with the Chief Minister and the officials accompanying him. Reports said air traffic control had not received any distress signal from the chopper.

The Chief Minister, who had led the Congress to an impressive victory in the recent Assembly elections to win a second term in office, was planning to visit the Rachabanda area today to meet people affected by the drought as part of a month-long tour programme to boost the confidence of the farmers.

According to various reports, his helicopter was over the thickly-forested Nallamalla hills, where it was raining heavily and visibility was low, when it went missing. The forests are infested with Naxalites.

"There is no good news yet. We are keeping our fingers crossed," Union Home Minister P Chidambaram told reporters before going to brief Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi about the situation. Mrs Gandhi is understood to have talked to the Chief Minister's wife over the telephone.

"Our prayers are with Mr Rajasekhara Reddy and his family," the Home Minister said.

He said the search for the missing chopper by several helicopters had been stopped for the day because of bad weather and fading light and that it would resume at first light tomorrow.

Meanwhile, a large force of paramilitary and police personnel have been rushed to the densely forested area where the helicopter had been sighted in the air by villagers around 9.15 this morning and Mr Chidambaram said he had requested the Andhra Pradesh Government to try and begin the search operations on the ground in the night itself with whatever light that could be arranged.

Mr Chidambaram said a large contingent of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) was expected to reach the area soon.

"Let's hope for the best, let's pray for the best," he said.

During the day, there was a fair bit of confusion with some reports suggesting that the helicopter had landed in Kurnool district, but these turned out to be incorrect later.

Late this evening, State Finance Minister K Rosaiah and Chief Secretary Ramakanth Reddy told the media, at their second press conference during the day, that there was no information about the missing helicopter so far.

Mr Reddy said the State Government had received information that some villagers had seen the aircraft between 9.15 and 9.30 am while it was flying over Atmakoor in Kurnool district and appeared to be heading towards Prakasam district.

He said the State Government had requested the National Remote Sensing Agency (NRSA) to use its low-flying aircraft in the area to try and locate the helicopter. The aircraft could fly at altitudes of just 1250 metres and cover an area of 250 sq km, he said.

Mr Reddy said the Government was also in touch with the US authorities, through the Central Government, for high-resolution satellite images of the area where the helicopter was last sighted. These satellites could provide real-time images, he said.

The Chief Secretary said the assistance of the Army had also been sought in the ground search operations.

He said President Pratibha Patil, who is currently in Moscow, had enquired about the Chief Minister, as had Vice-President Mohammad Hamid Ansari, the Prime Minister, several Central Ministers and Governors and Chief Ministers of different states.

Meanwhile, the Congress party is understood to have asked Union Law and Justice Minister Veerappa Moily to rush to Hyderabad. Mr Prithviraj Chavan, Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office, is also heading for the Andhra Pradesh capital, sources said.

The Chief Secretary said earlier in the day that seven helicopters from the Indian Air Force bases in Hyderabad and Bangalore and the State Government as well as a civilian chopper were deployed in the search operations.

He said the State Government was also in touch with the Prime Minister's Office and the office of the Congress President in Delhi.
File photo of a Bell 430
File photo of a Bell 430

Some of the helicopters had to return to base because of inclement weather in the densely forested area where the Chief Minister's chopper had gone missing. As daylight started fading, the search operations acquired a sense of urgency.

The State Government appealed to people in the Kurnool and adjoining districts to help the authorities in the search operations and report to the nearest police station if they found any information.

"It is possible that because of the strong winds and heavy rains, it is possible it may have landed in some unfamiliar area. If you land in an unfamiliar forest area, getting out will be very difficult," the official said.

In Delhi, Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari told newspersons that the party was in touch with the State Government as well as the party's state unit.

"It is an evolving situation and they are doing everything they can to see a successful resolution of the crisis," he added.

NNN

Chopper carrying YSR goes missing, search on

A helicopter carrying Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy went missing Wednesday morning and, as search operations continued till late this evening, there were concerns raised about his safety.

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy
A helicopter carrying Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy went missing this morning and, as search operations continued till late this evening, there were concerns raised about his safety.

The helicopter, with Mr Reddy, 60, and four others on board, took off from the old Begumpet airport in Hyderabad at about 8.30 am and was scheduled to land in Chitoor at 10.40 am.

Air traffic control lost radio contact with the chopper around 9.35 am and after that there has been no contact with the Chief Minister and the officials accompanying him.

During the day, there was a fair bit of confusion with some reports suggesting that the helicopter had landed in Kurnool district, but these turned out to be incorrect later.

State Finance Minister K Rosaiah told a press conference that no contact had been made yet with the Chief Minister's helicopter. He said search and rescue operations were still on and that the State Government was in touch with the Central authorities.

A State Government official said the Union Home and Defence Ministries had been alerted about the crisis. He said seven helicopters, including Indian Air Force helicopters from Hyderabad and Bangalore, state government helicopters and a civilian chopper had been deployed for the search operations.

He said the State Government was also in touch with the Prime Minister's Office and the office of Congress President Sonia Gandhi in Delhi.

Some of the helicopters had to return to base because of inclement weather in the densely forested area where the Chief Minister's chopper had gone missing.

There was a sense of urgency to the search efforts because dusk was fast approaching.

The State Government appealed to people in the Kurnool and adjoining districts to help the authorities in the search operations and report to the nearest police station if they found any information.

"It is possible that because of the strong winds and heavy rains, it is possible it may have landed in some unfamiliar area. If you land in an unfamiliar forest area, getting out will be very difficult," the official said.

In Delhi, Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari told newspersons that the party was in touch with the State Government as well as the party's state unit.

"It is an evolving sitution and they are doing everything they can to see a successful resolution of the crisis," he added.

The Chief Minister was planning to visit the Rachabanda area today meet people affected by the drought as part of a month-long tour programme to boost the confidence of the farmers.

According to some reports, his helicopter was over the thickly-forested Nallamalla hills, where it was raining heavily and visibility was low, when it went missing. The forests are infested with Naxalites.

NNN

PM chairs meeting of Full Planning Commission

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh chaired a meeting of the Full Planning Commission here today, the first since the UPA Government began its second five-year term in May.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrives to preside over the Full Planning Commission meeting. Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Railways Minister Mamata Banerjee and Power Minister Sushilkumar Shinde are also seen.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrives to preside over the Full Planning Commission meeting. Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Railways Minister Mamata Banerjee and Power Minister Sushilkumar Shinde are also seen.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh chaired a meeting of the Full Planning Commission here today, the first since the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government began its second five-year term in May.

The meeting has two subjects on the agenda---an assessment of the economic situation in the country and a review of the status of implementation of the Integrated Energy Policy.

Dr Singh, in his opening remarks, said an assessment of the economic situation was relevant, not only because the Government was at the start of its second term but also because the country was at exactly the mid-point of the XIth Five Year Plan (2007-12).

"We have been through a difficult year because of the global economic downturn which is only now coming to an end with a slow return to normalcy in the months that lie ahead. The country has also seen a poor monsoon. I felt it would be useful for the Planning Commission to present its assessment of the overall economic situation to the Minister Members of the Commission," he said.

The Prime Minister said energy was vital for the country's economic growth and this was the area where India was a deficit economy.

He said India imported more than 70 per cent of its petroleum energy needs and was also moving to a deficit position in coal.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressing the Full Planning Commission meeting.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressing the Full Planning Commission meeting.

According to him, rational energy policies are also critical for rational responses to the threat of climate change.

"This is a new compulsion and we need to assess whether we are on track in critical aspects of our energy policy. In our situation each energy sub-sector is the domain of a different Ministry. This has often meant a non-symmetric policy stance – the principles being adopted to determine policy in one sector are not the same as in another.

"The Integrated Energy Policy document that was approved by the Cabinet in December 2008 contained a number of recommendations covering different sub-sectors. I thought it would be useful for the Planning Commission to present an assessment of how these recommendations have been implemented," he said.

Apart from Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia and other full-time Members, the meeting was also attended by, among others, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Home Minister P Chidambaram, Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal, New and Renewable Energy Minister Farooq Abdullah, Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee and Dr C Rangarajan, Chairman of the Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council.

The full-time Members of the Commission are B K Chaturvedi, Saumitra Chaudhuri, Syeda Hameed, Narendra Jadhav, Abhijit Sen, K Kasturirangan, Arun Maira and Mihir Shah.

NNN

Elections to Maharashtra, Haryana, Arunachal assemblies on Oct 13

The Election Commission announced on Monday that elections would be held on October 13 to elect new Legislative Assemblies in Maharashtra, Haryana and Arunachal Pradesh.

File photo of voters standing in queue for their turn in an earlier election.
File photo of voters standing in queue for their turn in an earlier election.
The Election Commission today announced that elections would be held on October 13 to elect new Legislative Assemblies in Maharashtra, Haryana and Arunachal Pradesh.

The notification for the elections will be issued on September 18 and the last date for filing nominations will be September 25. The nominations will be scrutinised the next day and the last day of withdrawal of candidatures is September 29.

Counting of votes in all three states will be taken up on October 22 and all the results are expected by that evening.

A press release issued by the Election Commission said that it had drawn up the schedule after taking into account all relevant aspects such as the climatic conditions, academic schedules, festivals, prevailing law and order situation in the states, availability of Central Police Forces, time needed for movement and proper deployment of forces, and assessment of other ground realities.

"The Commission after considering all relevant aspects has decided to recommend to the Governors of Arunachal Pradesh, Maharashtra and Haryana to issue notifications for the General Elections to the Legislative Assemblies of the respective States under the relevant provisions of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 as per the schedule given above," it said.

The terms of the Legislative Assemblies of Arunachal Pradesh and Maharashtra are due to expire on October 24 and November 3, respectively. The Legislative Assembly of Haryana has been dissolved by the Governor of Haryana on the recommendation of the Chief Minister on August 21.

Under the law, the new Legislative Assemblies have to be constituted within six months of the expiry of their term or within six months of premature dissolution.

There are 60 seats in the Arunachal assembly of which 59 are reserved for Scheduled Tribes. There are 288 seats in the Maharashtra assembly, of which 29 are reserved for Scheduled Castes and 25 for Scheduled Tribes. The Haryana assembly has 90 seats, of which 17 are reserved for Scheduled Tribes.

According to the release, the elections in Maharashtra and Haryana will be conducted on the basis of the electoral rolls revised with reference to January 1, 2009 as the qualifying date prepared in accordance with constituencies newly delimited by the Delimitation Commission and as per the earlier constituencies in Arunachal Pradesh.

As per the final rolls, there are 7,50,575 electors in Arunachal Pradesh, 1,20,63,257 (approximately) in Haryana and 7,56,34,525 electors in Maharashtra.

Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) will be used in all the polling booths in the three states, the release added.

There are 2,061 polling stations in Arunachal Pradesh, 12,894 in Haryana and 82,028 in Maharashtra. For the facility of physically challenged persons, instructions have been issued to ensure that all polling stations as far as practicable, are located at ground floor and ramps are provided. Facilitation shall also be provided for locating elector’s name against a polling station or a group of polling stations through help lines and facilitation centers.

Based on the assessment of the ground situation, Central Police Forces (CPF) and State Armed Police (SAP) drawn from other States will be deployed during the elections in the three states.

The CPF and SAP will be used generally for safeguarding the polling stations and for providing security to the electors and polling personnel at the polling stations on the poll day. Besides, these forces will also be used for securing the strong rooms where the EVMs are stored and for securing the counting centers. Wherever needed, the CPF will be deployed in advance for area domination and other election related duties. The identification of polling stations requiring static coverage by CPF in various assembly constituencies will be made by district election machinery in consultation with the observers of the Election Commission.

The Commission said it would deploy observers in adequate number to ensure the smooth conduct of the polls. In addition, micro-observers will be deployed to observe the poll proceedings in the polling station on the poll day in selected and critical polling stations.

The release said the Model Code of Conduct has come into immediate effect in all the three states with today's announcement. It will be applicable to all candidates, political parties, the State Governments concerned and the Union Government.

NNN

Chandrayaan-I loses radio contact

ISRO said on Saturday it had abruptly lost radio contact with Chandrayaan-I, its lunar orbiter at 0130 hours (IST), signalling the end of India's first moon mission.

Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft on top of PSLV-C11 fourth stage with Payload fairing partially covering it.
Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft on top of PSLV-C11 fourth stage with Payload fairing partially covering it.
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) today said it had abruptly lost radio contact with Chandrayaan-I, its lunar orbiter, at 0130 hours (IST) this morning, signalling the end of India's first moon mission.

An ISRO press release said the Deep Space Network at Byalalu near here received data from the spacecraft, during its previous orbit, upto 0025 hours.

"Detailed review of the telemetry data received from the spacecraft is in progress and health of the spacecraft subsystems is being analysed," it said.

Chandrayaan-I was launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota, on October 22 last year.

The spacecraft has completed 312 days in orbit, making more than 3400 orbits around the moon and providing large volume of data from sophisticated sensors like terrain mapping camera, hyper-spectral imager, moon mineralogy mapper and so on, meeting most of the scientific objectives of the mission, the release added.

Photo courtesy: ISRO

NNN

Related Stories



Krishna: Dialogue with Pakistan only if it honours pledges on fighting terror

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna made it clear on Monday that a meaningful dialogue with Pakistan was possible only if it fulfilled its commitments not to allow its territory to be used for terrorist activities against India.

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna inaugurates the HoMs conference in Delhi.
External Affairs Minister S M Krishna inaugurates the HoMs conference in Delhi.
External Affairs Minister S M Krishna today made it clear that a meaningful dialogue with Pakistan was possible only if it fulfilled its commitments not to allow its territory to be used for terrorist activities against India.

Inaugurating the second Conference of Heads of Indian Missions abroad here this morning, Mr Krishna said that Pakistan must honour the pledges made by it in this regard.

"With Pakistan we have maintained that a stable Pakistan at peace with itself and the region is a desirable goal. We wish to address our differences with Pakistan through dialogue," he said.

"On several occasions we have conveyed to the Pakistani leadership our desire to engage in meaningful discussions and to develop our bilateral relations in a positive manner," he pointed out.

He said that, following the November 26, 2008 terror attacks on Mumbai, Pakistan had taken some steps under the pressure of evidence presented to it.

"However, we are still to see Pakistan take effective steps to end infiltration and dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism," he said.

On India's relations with China, Mr Krishna said there was space for both countries to grow and meet their aspirations.

He said China was now India's largest trading partner and there was congruence in their views on many global issues. "But there are outstanding bilateral issues that should be resolved peacefully through dialogue," he said.

The five-day conference is expected to provide the Government an opportunity to give directions to the Ambassadors on major foreign policy objectives.

A similar conference was held in December last year, when it was decided to make this an annual event.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma and Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi are among those who will address the conference.

National Security Adviser M K Narayanan, Member of Parliament Kapila Vatsayan and other senior ministers and officials will also address the Heads of Missions (HOMs).

The HOMs will also have an interaction with Vice-President M Hamid Ansari, who, incidentally, is himself a former Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officer.

The various sessions during the conference will cover, inter alia, the global financial crisis, the Indian economy and climate change.

A new feature of this year's HOMs Conference will be the interactive sessions with some special topical themes. This will enable the Heads of Missions to provide the government with their own experiences gained during the last one year of implementing foreign policy in different countries and regions.

The Conference is being held just four months after the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government began its second five-year term in May.

Mr Krishna told the Ambassadors that development, inclusive economic growth and alleviation of poverty had to be the country's foremost strategic goals.

"The main purpose of our foreign policy is to assist in the fulfillment of these goals by providing an enabling external environment which ensures our security, promotes trade, nurtures our key bilateral relationships, safeguards our national interest and enhances our influence in the world. We should never forget that the aspirations of India’s people are the bedrock of India’s foreign policy," he stressed.

He said there were many challenges before the country and ways had to be found to manage, contain and eliminate them.

"There is the challenge of terrorism, and of ensuring that our neighbourhood is stable and peaceful and that our surrounding environment is conducive to the pursuit of our national goal of comprehensive socio-economic development," he said.

The Minister said India was committed to close and good neighbourly relations with all the countries in the Indian sub-continent, with whom it shared a special affinity and common destiny.

He pointed out that Bhutan was the first country he visited on assuming charge as Foreign Minister "and for good reason."

He said India had strongly supported Nepal’s transition to a democratic polity. "We recognize that the new government faces serious challenges in achieving stability and have been encouraging all political parties to cooperate with the new government in working towards early conclusion of the peace process on the basis of widest possible consensus," he said.

According to him, the conclusion of the military operations culminating in the defeat of LTTE in Sri Lanka provides it an opportunity for a future free from terrorism and conflict.

"We have been providing humanitarian assistance to Sri Lanka and hope that the internally-displaced persons (IDPs) would be rehabilitated soon. We look forward to the Sri Lankan Government bringing about a lasting political settlement that meets the political aspirations of all communities through effective devolution of power," he said.

Mr Krishna said an encouraging development in the neighbourhood had been the return of Bangladesh to multi-party democratic politics.

He said India had stood firm behind the Government of Afghanistan's efforts to stabilise the country. "This is natural given our age-old ties, our responsibility to a friendly country in our region and given our national security interest in a stable, independent and peaceful Afghanistan which will remain a priority," he remarked.

He said India had recently signed a Free Trade Agreement with the 10-member Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), describing it as another milestone in the country's "Look East" policy.

He noted that India's ties with Japan had entered a new phase in the last few years and said that significant elements of political, economic and security cooperation were behind added to the relationship.

He also said that a new South-South partnership was being built in the India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA) framework.

Mr Krishna said India's time-tested relations with Russia were being given a contemporary definition in areas such as nuclear energy, space and defence.

With the United States, he said the two countries were going to build on the positive momentum of the last few years.

"Our new dialogue architecture would reflect the increasingly global character of our bilateral dialogue. India’s established capabilities in high technology and our unimpeachable record of using these technologies in a responsible and transparent manner are creating opportunities for upgrading our access to high technology from the major powers," he said.

On the Doha Round of trade negotiations, he stressed that timely and successful conclusion of the round on the basis of its development mandate was even more important today, particularly in the backdrop of the global economic and financial crisis to restore confidence in the global economy and markets as well as to guard against emerging protectionist tendencies and to protect the livelihoods of the poor and marginalised, particularly in the rural areas.

Mr Krishna said the economic work of Indian missions abroad was increasing in importance as its engagement with the world had deepened and its global trade had grown substantially in recent years.

"In fact with many countries bilateral, economic and commercial relations have become the driving force for more intensive engagement and for many other relationships, are providing anchor for more stable relations. Our 'soft power' is a tremendous asset to promote India’s visibility and influence in the global arena today.

"This is manifest in the outreach afforded to us across the world by our culture, cinema, technology, diaspora and other important elements of our soft power. We need to develop our capabilities to utilize this asset to the fullest extent," he added.

Earlier, welcoming the 112 Heads of Mission, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao spoke of the role, the agenda and the challenges confronting Indian diplomats.

She said that the Indian diplomat today needed to introspect on how his or her practice of the art of diplomacy and the tools used for it, must adapt, or change, in response to the challenges in the world and the decentralization of the international landscape.

She said that the context in which Indian diplomats work today was defined not only by the external dimensions of India’s foreign policy but the country’s domestic needs and aspirations. She stressed the need for future-oriented strategies when it comes to addressing such issues as personnel strength and interaction with academic and research institutions as part of a "retooling" process.

Ms Rao dwelt on aspects like training, capacity-building, greater use of technology, inter-agency cooperation, security, media relations, effective communications, Indian community and consular matters,

During the interactive session that followed, HOMs made a number of suggestions on strengthening communication and exchanges between the Missions and the Ministry.

NNN

Jaswant says he did not realise BJP could be so "narrow-minded"

Former External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh, who was sacked by the BJP last week for his views on Jinnah and Sardar Patel, said on Sunday there was a degree of "simplemindedness" in his expulsion.

File photo of Jaswant Singh
File photo of Jaswant Singh
Former External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh, who was sacked by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) last week for his views on Pakistan founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah and India's first Home Minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, today said there was a degree of "simplemindedness" in his expulsion.

"There is a degree of simplemindedness in my expulsion because distinction has to be made between the late Mohammed Ali Jinnah's personal attributes as a human being and his politics," Mr Singh told journalist Karan Thapar on the Devil's Advocate programme on CNN-IBN.

"The first, which is the personal attributes are admirable. His equations with human beings of all communities were a real example even then. His politics were abhorable, particularly after 1940," he said.

He also said that he did not realise that the party, with which he was associated for three decades, would be so "small-minded" and "narrow-minded".

Mr Singh's views on Jinnah and Sardar Patel, contained in his political biography of the founder of Pakistan published on August 17, as well as the remarks he made in a similar interview to Thapar last week, got him into trouble with his party. He was seen as having eulogised Jinnah and denigrated Patel in his book and subsequent comments.

Among other things, Mr Singh said Jinnah was a "great man" and a "nationalist" who was misunderstood and demonised by Indians.

"Why should truth be provocative? Why should attempting to find what actually happened when Partition took place," he asked.

Mr Singh said that in personal expression, in finding out the trth about India's partition, no political party can lay down red lines. "We are not living in Stalinist Russia. We are living in India where the tradition of shastrarth is foremost even in Sanatan thought," he said.

Asked if he really believed that he could afford, in his personal capacity, to hold views and write opinions of Jinnah and Sardar Patel which the party itself does not endorse and whether he expected the party would not act against him, he said, "I did certainly."

"I didn't think my party is so narrow minded, so limited or so nervous about Jinnah and/or Patel as to get so riled by what I have written. I have a feeling which I voiced also that perhaps my former colleagues hadn't really read the book when they passed the sentence on me," he said.

At the same time, he maintained he had not been naive when he wrote the book. "These are the views that I hold. I reiterate and I have not stated an untruth. On the contrary, the party should be worried if untruth becomes the core of the party," he said.

Mr Singh stressed he had not denigrated Sardar Patel in the book. "I have not denigrated an icon, I have simply pointed out the facts of history. Late Sardar Patel had the secretary in V P Menon. V P Menon was his advisor as well as Lord Mountbatten's advisor, the plan for partition was sold to Patel by V P Menon. It's a fact of history. Jawaharlal Nehru, in the month of March 1947 asks Patel, it’s an transfer or power, 'please help me with the Congress working committee'".

Asked why, when he was writing a political biography of Jinnah, he had ignored the fact that Jinnah knew of, approved of and probably authorised the Tribal Pathan invasion of Kashmir, which led to the October 1947 war, Mr Singh said he had not overlooked it, but the book had ended with Partition and Jinnah's death.

"I know but that's a separate subject. Of course, he had authorised it. I have also pointed out the great killing of Calcutta in vivid detail. I don't overlook any of the mistakes of his public life," he said.

He said going into this subject would have required altogether a different and a separate book. "Already it was running into 900 pages. The book had to be cut down. There are limits to it," he said.

"It's a decision that an author has to make and a decision that is governed by many factors," he explained.

He said he had no qualms about leaving out this particular part. "I have no qualms at all, as a former soldier I say this because that is an inquiry that goes very deep and to not just Jinnah ordering the launching but the conduct of the entire operations by Indian leaders too," he said.

Asked what he thought was the difference between what he had said about Jinnah and what Leader of the Opposition L K Advani had said about the founder of Pakistan in 2005, Mr Singh said, "One expression is by Lalji Advani and the other is by Jaswant Singh."

He said the only other difference was some phraseology. "Hadn't this question best be asked to Advaniji," he asked.

Asked if he thought there were double standards at work, Mr Singh said he was now outside of the periphery of the BJP's radar screen. But he said he wished the party had not used the word "expelled" and that they had better choices of phrases to use. He said the "expulsion" had hurt him.

He also felt the expulsion could have been handled more gracefully, with the leaders personally coming to him and telling him about it. "He hasn't even telephoned but that doesn't matter, now it's too late," he said.

Mr Singh said that when BJP President Rajnath Singh had telephoned him to tell him about his expulsion, when they were both in Shimla, he had asked if the party leaders had read the book. According to him, Mr Rajnath Singh said some of the leaders had read the book and were very angry.

Pointing out that less than 36 hours had passed since the book was released, Mr Singh said, "I believe and apprehended that it was without really reading it."

"It's quite a feat in speedreading if you read almost 700 pages. I don't believe that my prose is fiction. It is not easy. It requires attention. It would be a remarkable feat," he remarked.

He, however, said he did not question Mr Rajnath Singh on this because it was undignified and not in his make-up. "I laughed," he remarked.

"I laughed ruefully and I did tell him with some pain, I believe, I rather really wish bhai Rajnath Singhji, Advaniji aur aap personally bula kar baat kar lete (I rather Advaniji and you could have called me personally for a talk)," he said.

"He kept quiet, and said, 'phir baat karenge' (we will talk about it) and put the telephone down...But woh mauka phir baat karne ka aaj tak nahi aya? (but that promise of calling up again hasn't taken place till today?)....Woh mauka kaahaan se aayega, woh sadak toh chali gayi (where will the time come from? It's already too late)," he said.

Asked if he had lost respect for people like Mr Rajnath Singh and Mr Advani, Mr Singh said, "I don't want to answer that question. It is highly personalised comment. May God give them whatever they are looking for."

NNN

8 more H1N1 deaths, 159 new cases reported in India

Eight more deaths due to swine flu have been reported in India since yesterday, taking the toll in the country so far to 36, an official statement said on Thursday. As many as 159 new cases have also been reported from different cities.

File photo of patients in Pune waiting at a local hospital to get tested for influenza A (H1N1).
File photo of patients in Pune waiting at a local hospital to get tested for influenza A (H1N1).
Eight more deaths due to swine flu have been reported in India since yesterday, taking the toll due to the influenza A (H1N1) virus in the country so far to 36, an official statement said here today.

Delhi has reported its first two deaths, while four more patients have succumbed to the flu in Bangalore and two more in Pune, it said.

Maharashtra now accounts for 21 of the deaths caused by the flu--15 of them in Pune, the city worst-affected in India by the pandemic. Mumbai and Nasik have reported 3 deaths each.

Bangalore has reported 9 deaths, Delhi 2 and Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Chennai and Thiruvananthapuram 1 each.

Meanwhile, as many as 159 new cases of the flu were reported today, 103 in Maharashtra. These include 66 in Pune, 18 in Mumbai, 6 in Aurangabad, 4 in Dhule, 3 in Nashik, 2 in Osmanabad, and 1 each in Washim, Solapur, Beed and Parbhani.

A central team is stationed in Maharashtra to assist the State Government in instituting appropriate public health measures.
Bangalore has reported 13 fresh cases, Chennai 12, Delhi 11, Udaipur, Visakhapatnam and Davangere 3 each, Hubli 2, and Idukki, Thiruvananthapuram, Ernakulam, Gadag, Chengalpattu, Noida, Bareily, Rohtak and Raipur 1 each.

Most of the fresh cases are indigenous in nature, with the patients having no history of recent travel abroad.

With these, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus reported in India has risen to 2401.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) had declared H1N1 as a phase 6 pandemic in mid-June. According to the latest WHO update, as many as 1,82,166 cases of the flu have been reported worldwide, with 1799 deaths.

NNN

BJP sacks Jaswant Singh for views on Jinnah

The BJP on Wednesday expelled former External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh from the primary membership of the party for his views on Pakistan founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah.

File photo of Jaswant Singh
File photo of Jaswant Singh
The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) today expelled former External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh from the primary membership of the party for his views on Pakistan founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah.

The views were expressed by Mr Jaswant Singh in his book, "Jinnah--India, Partition, Independence" which was released here on Monday.

The decision to sack Mr Jaswant Singh from the party was taken by the BJP Parliamentary Board this morning in Shimla, where the party's leaders have gathered for a three-day "Chintan Baithak" (brainstorming session) to take stock of the post-election scenario and work out a plan of action for the future.

BJP President Rajnath Singh, who had issued a statement yesterday completely dissociating the party from the contents of Mr Singh's book, told reporters in Shimla that he had put the matter before the Parliamentary Board today.

He said the Parliamentary Board had decided to expel Mr Singh from the primary membership of the party.

"Mr Jaswant Singh is, therefore, not a member or office-bearer of the party as of today," Mr Rajnath Singh said.

In his statement yesterday, Mr Rajnath Singh had said that the biography of Jinnah authored by Mr Jaswant Singh did not represent the views of the party.

"The important role of M.A. Jinnah in the division of India, which led to a lot of dislocation and destabilisation of millions of people, is too well-known. We cannot wish away this painful part of our history.

"Sardar Patel played a historic role in the unification and consolidation of India amidst serious threats to its unity and integrity. The entire country remains indebted and proud of the profound vision, courage and leadership of Sardar Patel," he had said in his statement.

Ironically, Mr Jaswant Singh had been invited to attend the three-day conclave. But sources said Mr Rajnath Singh had rung up Mr Jawant Singh yesterday, asking him not to attend the meeting, but the latter had by then already reached Shimla.

No BJP leader was present at the function in the capital on Monday to release Mr Jaswant Singh's book.

Ahead of the release, Mr Jaswant Singh had, in an interview to a television channel on Sunday, described Jinnah as a "great man" and a "nationalist" who was misunderstood and demonised by Indians because of the partition of the country in 1947.

"I think we have misunderstood him because we needed to create a demon... we needed a demon because in the 20th century the most telling event in the sub-continent was the partition of the country," he told journalist Karan Thapar in the Devil's Advocate programme on CNN-IBN.

Asked if he subscribed to the popular demonisation of Jinnah in India, Mr Jaswant Singh had said, "Of course I don’t. To that I don’t subscribe. I was attracted by the personality which has resulted in a book. If I was not drawn to the personality I wouldn’t have written the book. It’s an intricate, complex personality, of great character, determination."

To a question about whether he viewed Jinnah as a great man, Mr Jaswant Singh had replied, "Oh yes, because he created something out of nothing and single-handedly he stood against the might of the Congress Party and against the British who didn’t really like him ... Gandhi himself called Jinnah a great Indian. Why don’t we recognize that? Why don’t we see why he called him that?"

Mr Jaswant Singh, who also served as Finance Minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, had said that he thought Jinnah was a nationalist because he fought the British for an independent India but also fought resolutely and relentlessly for the interest of the Muslims of India. "...the acme of his nationalistic achievement was the 1916 Lucknow Pact of Hindu-Muslim Unity," he said.

Mr Jaswant Singh had said there was a lot in Jinnah's character that he admired. "I admire certain aspects of his personality. His determination and the will to rise. He was a self-made man. Mahatma Gandhi was the son of a Diwan. All these - Nehru and others - were born to wealth and position. Jinnah created for himself a position. He carved in Bombay, a metropolitan city, a position for himself. He was so poor he had to walk to work... he told one of his biographers there was always room at the top but there’s no lift. And he never sought a lift."

He said the view, held by many in India, that Jinnah hated Hindus was totally wrong. "That certainly he was not... his principal disagreement was with the Congress Party... he had no problems whatsoever with Hindus."

Speaking about the political events that led up to the partition of India, Mr Jaswant Singh had said Jawaharlal Nehru, who went on to become the country's first Prime Minister, believed in a highly centralised polity while Jinnah wanted a federal polity, which even Mahatma Gandhi had accepted. "Nehru didn’t. Consistently he stood in the way of a federal India until 1947 when it became a partitioned India," he said.

Mr Jaswant Singh said the popular Indian view that Jinnah was the villain of the partition or the man principally responsible for it was wrong. "It is not borne out of the facts... we need to correct it."

Reacting to his expulsion, Mr Jaswant Singh, 71, told journalists in Shimla that he was saddened by the decision and the fact that his 30 years of his political life with the BJP had ended this way suddenly.

He recalled that he had been among the first lot of members of the party and had served it to the best of his ability and with dedication. He said the fact that he had been expelled on the grounds of writing a book saddened him immensely more.

He said he could understand if the contents of his book had been disputed. "But the day you start questioning thought, questioning reading, writing, publishing, you are entering a very, very dark alley," he remarked.

Mr Jaswant Singh said it would have been better if he had been told about the party's decision in Delhi itself instead of being informed it after he had arrived in Shimla for the "chintan baithak".

He also said there should not be selectivity in the party in dealing with dissent and discussion. He said there were many members of the party who were upset about such things.

Mr Jaswant Singh also expressed sadness over the fact that Mr Rajnath Singh had informed him of the decision over the telephone and not in person. He said he would have appreciated it if Leader of the Opposition Lal Krishna Advani and Mr Rajnath Singh had shown him the courtesy of informing him of the decision in person.

The former minister, who was elected to the Lok Sabha from Darjeeling in West Bengal in the recent elections, however, made it clear that he would not appeal against the decision and that he would continue in public life.

In 2005, Mr Advani had caused similar consternation within BJP ranks when he had described Jinnah as "secular" during a trip to Pakistan. It led to him stepping down as president of the party but since then Mr Advani has managed to again acquire a pre-eminent position in the organisation.

NNN

Related Stories

PM calls for state-level action plans on climate change

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday urged all state governments to create their own state-level action plans on climate change consistent with the strategies in the National Action Plan.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh speaking at the inauguration of the National Conference of Ministers of Environment and Forests from States and UTs.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh speaking at the inauguration of the National Conference of Ministers of Environment and Forests from States and UTs.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today urged all state governments to create their own state-level action plans on climate change consistent with the strategies in the National Action Plan and stressed the need for much broader consultations with the states on this issue.

"I seek your cooperation in making a success of the eight National Missions and other initiatives that are the key components of our National Action Plan on climate change," he told the National Conference of Ministers of Environment and Forests here this morning.

"Climate change is today a major global challenge. The world is seriously concerned about it. So are we. There should be no doubt in anybody’s mind that we fully recognize not just how important this issue is to our country’s future but also our own obligation to address it.

"We are conscious of our responsibilities to both the present and the future generations and we seek to enhance the ecological sustainability of our development path, he said.

The meeting has been convened by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests for a comprehensive stock-taking of the implementation of the policies and programmes related to protection of environment, forests and wildlife.

Apart from Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh, the conference is being attended by ministers of environment and forests from all the states, senior officials of the Centre and the state governments, chairmen of the Central and State Pollution Control Boards, Principal Chief Conservators of Forests of the states, Chief Wildlife Wardens, Members of the Planning Commission and representatives of non-governmental organisations.

Dr Singh said the multiple environmental crises that confronted India had created in many ways an alarming situation.

"Climate change is threatening our fragile ecosystems. We are staring at the prospect of an impending drought. Water scarcity is becoming a way of life. Pollution is a growing threat to our health and to our habitats," he said.

He said the first task was to educate people not just on the impact of the crisis but also to encourage deeper reflection on what this obliges everyone to do.

"There are fundamental choices that we have to make about our lifestyles; about how we wish to produce and consume, the things we ought to do and the things we ought not to do. I sincerely believe that the greatest challenge facing humankind today is the challenge of arriving at a new equilibrium between man and nature," he remarked.

The Prime Minister said the challenges were not insurmountable and pointed out that India was blessed with nature's bounty and its people had a deep cultural sensitivity to the environment.

He said then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had set up the Ministry of Environment at the Centre, initiated Project Tiger in 1972, and was instrumental in the enactment of the Wildlife Protection Act and the Forest Conservation Act.

"These monumental measures were ahead of their times. It is this far-sightedness, commitment and concern for our natural heritage that we need to invoke as we deal with the challenges that confront us now," he said.

Dr Singh said there was a pressing need to modernise the existing forest and wildlife management system in the country. He said the forest departments had to be modernised with improved resources, communication and improved training of personnel.

He expressed concern at the large number of positions of frontline personnel lying vacant in many states in this sector and urged the state ministers to redress this situation on a priority basis.

He said it was also critical to ensure that local communities benefited from conservation so that they could be increasingly involved in the conservation efforts.

"Our tribals are our environmental foot soldiers. They have guarded our forests and evolved a sophisticated way of living in harmony with nature over the centuries. Their wisdom and their experience should be utilised to preserve our forests, to nurse them rather than making them orphans of the environment," he said.

The Prime Minister said the Tribal Rights Act was an opportunity to guarantee the legitimate rights of forest dwellers and to bring them in the frontline of the environment movement for regeneration.

Stressing that the Green India campaign was a major initiative that will have many spin-off benefits, he said the Compensatory Afforestation Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) needed to be quickly operationalised by constituting state-level authorities.

The Prime Minister said it was a matter of concern that the degradation of the country's rivers had not been reversed yet.

"We have decided to adopt a different and more holistic approach taking the river and not the city as the unit of planning as we have done until now. The essence of this approach is not just to focus on river pollution but more comprehensively on catchment area treatment, protection of flood plains, ensuring ecological flows and restoration of the river ecosystem," he said.

He said the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) had been established as an empowered body under the Environment Protection Act, 1986. He hoped that this model would be adopted for other major rivers in the country based on the experience gained from the Ganga project.

He said the Centre had substantially increased the allocation for river conservation programme in this year’s budget, including a special provision of Rs.250 crores for the river Ganga.

"It is vital that institutional structures are set up by all States for synergizing the river conservation efforts at the national and state levels. States should explore mobilizing additional resources for river cleaning through innovative models like Special Purpose Vehicles. I would also request State Governments to effectively enforce legal provisions through State Pollution Control Boards to curtail the discharge of untreated industrial effluents that account for nearly 25% of the total pollution load in our river systems," he said.

Dr Singh drew the attention of the meeting to the view that environmental clearances had become a new form of Licence Raj and a source of corruption.

"This is a matter that needs to be addressed head-on. There are trade-offs that have to be made while balancing developmental and environmental concerns. But the procedures must be fair, transparent and hassle free. Decisions must be taken within a specified time," he emphasised.

"I am told that some times there are discrepancies in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Reports. The September, 2006 Notification of the Ministry of Environment and Forests is a major attempt to rationalize the system of giving mandatory environmental clearance. I hope that we can improve the system further in the light of the experience gained," he said.

Dr Singh urged all the states which had not yet established State EIA Authorities to do so at the very earliest, pointing out that effective coordination between the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests and the state ministry was vital for building a credible and efficient system of assessment and clearance.

He said the recent introduction of the National Green Tribunal Bill in Parliament was a positive step forward, which would strengthen environmental adjudication and settlement of disputes. He suggested the setting up of a National Environment Protection Authority supported by regional Environment Protection Authorities.

The Prime Minister said that, in dealing with the challenge of climate change and environmental degradation, the country faced the burden of past mistakes not of its making. But he pointed out that it also had the opportunity to repeat those past mistakes.

"Our growth strategy can be and should be innovative and different. It must be different. We are still at early stages of industrialization and urbanization. Our energy needs will increase sharply in the decades to come. We can and we must walk a different road, an environment friendly road," he said.

"For this we need access to new technologies that are already available with the developed countries. We must also make our own investments in new environment-friendly technologies. We need to strengthen the scientific foundations of our environment policies and strengthen our capacity to deal with the challenges that lie ahead. We must involve more stakeholders particularly our youth to lead the movement for environmental protection and regeneration," he added.

NNN

Four more swine flu deaths in India, toll goes up to 21

Four more persons died of swine flu in India on Thursday---three of them in Pune and one in Bangalore, taking the number of deaths caused by the H1N1 virus in the country so far to 21

File photo of patients in Pune waiting at a local hospital to get tested for influenza A (H1N1).
File photo of patients in Pune waiting at a local hospital to get tested for influenza A (H1N1).
Four more persons died of swine flu in India today---three of them in Pune and one in Bangalore, taking the number of deaths caused by the H1N1 virus in the country so far to 21.

A 26-year-old school teacher became the first victim of the flu in Bangalore while an 11-month-old infant and two women, aged 37 and 75, died after testing positive for the virus in Pune, the city worst hit in India by the pandemic.

The situation arising out of the spread of the virus was discussed in detail at a meeting of the Union Cabinet here today, during which Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad made a presentation on the steps being taken to cope with the pandemic.

Sources said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stressed the need to maintain confidence among the people and not to create a panic.

Mr Azad told reporters after the meeting that the Government was taking all possible steps to handle the situation. He said places in government and private hospitals were being created to admit more patients, if necessary, and private laboratories were being short-listed for testing for the flu.

Meanwhile, as many as 90 new cases of the virus were reported from different cities, including 43 from Pune, 18 from Mumbai, 16 from Delhi, 9 from Bangalore, 2 from Kolhapur and 1 each from Mangalore and Gurgaon. Most of the cases are indigenous in nature with no history of travel abroad. With these, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus reported from India so far has gone up to 1283, an official statement said.

Maharashtra now accounts for  16 of the deaths so far, including 13 in Pune, 2 in Mumbai and 1 in Nasik. Ahmedabad and Vadodara in Gujarat, Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala and Chennai in Tamil Nadu accounted for one death each.

A central team is stationed in Maharashtra to assist the State Government in instituting appropriate public health measures, the statement said.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) had on June 11 declared the influenza A (H1N1) virus as a phase 6 pandemic.
 
According to the latest update from WHO, as on August 6, as many as 1,77,457 laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza A (H1N1) were reported from 168 countries, with a total of 1462 deaths.

Schools and colleges in Mumbai will be closed for a week and cinemas will be shut down for three days as a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of the flu. Similar measures are being put in place in some other cities also.
 
The "dahi handi" celebrations on the occasion of Janmashtami, at which thousands of people gather every year, will also be scaled down this year, officials said.

NNN

Six more swine flu deaths in India, toll rises to 17

Six more persons died of swine flu in India on Wednesday, five in Pune and one in Nasik, taking the number of deaths caused by the H1N1 virus in the country so far to 17.

File photo of patients in Pune waiting at a local hospital to get tested for influenza A (H1N1).
File photo of patients in Pune waiting at a local hospital to get tested for influenza A (H1N1).
Six more persons died of swine flu in India today---five in Pune and one in Nasik, taking the number of deaths caused by the H1N1 virus in the country so far to 17.

An official statement said the five patients who died in Pune, the city worst-hit in India by the pandemic, included three men aged 35, 41 and 40 and two women aged 29 and 50. In Nasik, also in Maharashtra, a 27-year-old male doctor, who had tested positive for the virus, died today of complications, it said.

A 33-year-old man from Thiruvananthapuram, who had travelled to Andaman and Nicobar Islands via Chennai, was admitted to the Kerala Institute of Medical Sciences in the state capital and died yesterday. In Pune, a 25-year-old man, who was admitted to hospital on August 6, died yesterday of complications, it said.

Meanwhile, as many as 115 new cases of influenza A (H1N1) were reported from different parts of the country today, including 61 from Pune, 24 from Mumbai, 10 from Bangalore, 8 from Delhi, 4 from Ahmedabad, 3 each from Hyderabad and Kolkata, and one each in Shillong and Goa.

With these, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus reported in India so far has risen to 1193. Of them, 589 have already been discharged while the rest are undergoing treatment in various hospitals.

All the new cases in Pune, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Goa, Delhi, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad today are indigenous in nature, with the patients having no history of travel abroad.

With the latest deaths, the flu has claimed 14 lives in Maharashtra---ten in Pune, two in Mumbai and one in Nasik. Chennai, Thiruvananthapuram, Ahmedabad and Vadodara accounted for one death each.

Schools and colleges in Mumbai will be closed for a week and cinemas will be shut down for three days as a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of the flu. Similar measures are being put in place in some other cities also.

The "dahi handi" celebrations on the occasion of Janmashtami, at which thousands of people gather every year, will also be scaled down this year, officials said.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) had on June 11 declared the influenza A (H1N1) virus as a phase 6 pandemic.

According to the latest update from WHO, as on July 31, as many as 1,62,380 laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza A (H1N1) were reported from 168 countries around the world, with a total of 1154 deaths.

NNN
Syndicate content
© Copyright 2012 NetIndian. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of NetIndian content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of NetIndian Media Corporation. Write to info[AT]netindian[DOT]in for permission to use content. Read detailed Terms of Use.