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PM discusses internal security situation with President

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called on President Pratibha Patil here today and discussed with her, among other things, the internal security situation in the country.

An official statement from Rashtrapati Bhavan said Dr Singh greeted Ms Patil on the occasion of Diwali.

It said the two leaders also discussed various issues of national and international importance, particularly internal security issues, agricultural production and food security.

The Prime Minister also briefed the President about his coming visit to Thailand where he will attend the ASEAN-India Summit.

The meeting between the two leaders lasted for about 30 minutes, the statement added.

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President urges doctors to work for healthcare for all

President Pratibha Patil inaugurating the General Assembly of the World Medical Association, in New Delhi on October 16, 2009. Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Ghulam Nabi Azad is also seen.
President Pratibha Patil inaugurating the General Assembly of the World Medical Association, in New Delhi on October 16, 2009. Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Ghulam Nabi Azad is also seen.

President Pratibha Patil has called upon doctors, global institutions such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) and associations of medical professionals to work for the cause of medical care for all.

"The question of equitable medical care to all people is a big human and ethical question," she said at the General Assembly of the World Medical Association here yesterday.

"It is inconceivable that at a time when sophisticated methods of disease-detection and effective medicines exist, there are millions of people who do not even have access to a medical facility or to a doctor," she said.

Ms Patil said that, in India, the Government was conscious of this and through policies and programmes, efforts were underway to reach populations including those in rural areas that face the highest degree of deprivation in terms of health facilities.

"All governments have responsibilities to take action, but global institutions also have a crucial role. The World Health Organization and other international organizations like yours, are major stakeholders in this endeavour. I would call on all of you present here today, to contribute, to further the cause of medical care for all," she said.

The World Medical Association is an organisation founded in 1947 and representing physicians. It was set up to serve humanity by endeavoring to achieve the highest standards in medical education, medical science, medical ethics and care.

This year's General Assembly is being hosted by the Indian Medical Association (IMA), the apex body of Indian medical professionals, with a membership of over 175,000.

The President said that since the dawn of civilisation, the biggest challenge has been to find ways of dealing with the various and varied diseases that afflict human beings. She said the outcome was evident in that the average longevity of life had increased, but the search was ongoing.

She said there had be a constant focus on research and development efforts in the medical field and called for high standards of education in medical colleges and institutions.

"Science and technology is the key not only to a better understanding of the functioning of cells, genes and enzymes of the human body and other organisms, but also to finding the treatment, cure and therapies of various disorders and dis-functionalities," she said.

"Research generates new knowledge, but its ultimate usefulness lies in how extensively it is used and the number of people it benefits. When effective linkages between research institutions and medical bodies are established, new strategies, technologies and interventions will be better understood and better employed by the medical community," she said.

The President stressed the need for doctors to keep pace with the discoveries of medical science and for innovation that would facilitate the provision of affordable health and medical care.

She said that, in this context, it could be useful to look at remedies contained in age old systems, like Ayurveda and other schools of medicine.

Ms Patil pointed out that small steps like cleanliness and hygiene could prevent many medical conditions. Similarly, adopting a healthy diet and well balanced lifestyle could contribute to a better life.

She said that it was important that there was widespread dissemination of information to the public so as to create awareness about steps that could be taken for prevention of diseases.

"Healthcare systems, on their part, must take steps such as timely inoculation. It is said that preventive vaccines can be one of the most cost effective means of combating some infections. Development of new vaccines for emerging pathogens, new antigen combinations and new methods to improve their quality, potency, safety and efficacy remain major challenges," she said.

The President also spoke about the need to gear healthcare systems to address challenges such as malnutrition and the high maternal mortality rates in developing countries.

"Diseases do not respect borders. In recent times, we have been reminded of this by the outbreak of HIV/AIDS, avian flu, SARS, mad-cow disease and most recently swine flu. The implications and impact of diseases without frontiers, in a world where people travel more frequently between nations, is far greater today than ever before. New viruses are mutating and generating new strains of infections. National and international healthcare systems not only need to respond rapidly to these new infections, but also have to co-ordinate their efforts," she said.

Ms Patil also noted that natural and man-made diasters were increasing across the world and providing medical assistance to regions which had been impacted could save lives.

"The challenge for the medical world is how to make health facilities available in an emergency, ensuring that health workers are trained to treat patients, who may not only be hurt, but may also be suffering from trauma. There should be continuous quality review in healthcare, for assessing whether it meets the demand for quality care, including in challenging circumstances," she said.

"Patients look to you with hope. You must work to keep up this trust. Doctors are a part of society and, therefore, must live up to the expectations of society at large and society should also respect them. They should follow the highest standards of medical ethics," she told the gathering, citing the example of the late Dr B C Roy, an eminent physician who became the Chief Minister of West Bengal but continued to examine patients free of charge every day.

Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad spoke about the proposed alternative model for education, primarily aimed for generation of rural health manpower.

He said that, in the proposed system, admissions would be given to those who qualify their examination from schools located in rural areas with an average population of less than 10,000. Upon procuring the qualification they will be asked to serve in rural areas for a prescribed period, he said.

He said that, due to concentration of healthcare professionals in urban and semi-urban areas, there was a huge gap in the availability of manpower at the grassroot level.

The minister outlined various short-term and long-term measures taken in consultation with Medical Council of India to meet the requirements of rural health manpower and for capacity building of health professionals in the country.

At the same time, there would be no compromise in any manner with the quality of teaching and training, he added.

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Toll in Tamil Nadu firecracker shop fire rises to 32

The death toll in the fire that destroyed a wholesale firecracker shop at Pallipattu in Thiruvallur district of Tamil Nadu on Friday night has risen to 32 with the rocovery of two more bodies.

Map of Thiruvallur District in Tamil Nadu.
Map of Thiruvallur District in Tamil Nadu.

The death toll in the fire that destroyed a wholesale firecracker shop at Pallipattu in Thiruvallur district of Tamil Nadu on Friday night rose to 32 after two more bodies were recovered from the scene today.

District Collector V Palani Kumar told NetIndian over the telephone that three persons, including the owner of the godown, had been arrested in connection with the incident.

He said three persons were injured in the devastating fire and were undergoing treatment in hospital.

He said those killed in the incident included two women. He said most of the bodies were charred beyond recognition. According to him, most of the victims were people who had gone to the shop to purchase crackers.

Mr Palani Kumar said the victims were being identified on the basis of a list of missing persons drawn up earlier after families of many people reported that they had not returned home after going out to buy crackers for the Diwali festival.

The fire had broken out at the godown around 1900 hours yesterday, located some 90 km from here.

He said as many as 27 of the victims belonged to the neighbouring Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh, and he was in touch with his counterpart there for help in identifying the next of kin of those killed in the fire.

Mr Palani Kumar said Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi had sanctioned an ex gratia payment of Rs one lakh for the next of kin of each of those killed in the incident.

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Map courtesy: Website of Thiruvallur District Adminstration.

India designates sites for N-power plants with US, France, Russia

The Government today said it had designated five sites in different states for setting up Light Water Reactor (LWR) based nuclear power plants in cooperation with France, Russia and the United States.

The decision is in furtherance of the implementation of the bilateral civil nuclear cooperation agreements India has signed with these countries.

The plant in cooperation with France will come up at Jaitapur in Maharashtra, the ones with Russia at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu and Haripur in West Bengal and the ones with the United States at Chhayamithi Virdi in Gujarat and Kovvada in Andhra Pradesh, an official statement added.

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119 new H1N1 cases in India, death toll remains at 405

As many as 119 fresh cases of influenza A (H1N1) were reported from India today, but there were no deaths and the toll due to the pandemic in the country so far remained at 405, an offficial statement said. 

Of the total deaths in India till now, Maharashtra now accounts for 171, while 112 people have lost their lives in Karnataka, 42 in Andhra Pradesh, 38 in Gujarat, 15 in Delhi, 10 in Kerala, 4 each in Tamil Nadu and Haryana, 3 in Goa, 2 each in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand and 1 each in Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan.

Of the 119 new cases, 40 were in Kerala, 27 in Maharashtra, 22 in Delhi, 9 in Andhra, 6 each in Haryana and Karnataka, 4 in Tamil Nadu, 2 each in Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh and 1 in West Bengal.

With these, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus reported so far in India has risen to 12,605, the statement added.

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Indian, Indonesian navies to conduct coordinated patrol Oct 18-Nov 5

The Indian and Indonesian navies will conduct the 14th cycle of their coordinated patrol from October 18 to November 5, an official press release said here today.

Codenamed "Ind-Indo-Corpat", the operation will be under the overall control of Vice Admiral Devendra Kumar Joshi, Commander-in-Chief of Andaman Nicobar Command (CINCAN) and Commander of Indonesian Western Fleet Command PANGARMABAR).

The units operating will be under the tactical command of the Naval Officer-in-Charge (Andaman & Nicobar) at Port Blair and DANGUSKAMLABAR (Commander of Sea Security Group of Western Fleet) located at Tanjung Pinang.

According to the release, the two countries share an International Maritime Boundary of about 300 nautical miles.

As part of the navy-to-navy cooperation in the Indian Ocean region, the Indian Navy and the Indonesian Navy conduct coordinated patrols of the International Maritime Boundary line.

The release said the purpose of the coordinated patrols is to prevent piracy, armed robberies, poaching, illegal immigration, drug trafficking and other illegal activities.

The Indian Navy will deploy one Landing Ship Tank (Medium) INS Mahish under the command of Cdr MVR Krishna and one Fast Attack Craft INS Trinkat under the command of Lt Cdr Pushkar Kumar. In addition there will be one Indian Naval Dornier. The Indonesian Navy will be deploying one corvette and a Dornier aircraft, the release said.

An opening ceremony for the CORPAT is scheduled on October 19 at Belawan, Indonesia and the Naval Officer-in-Charge (Andaman & Nicobar) Cmde P Suresh, will lead the Indian delegation. The closing ceremony will be conducted on November 4 at Port Blair, it added.

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Christy Fernandez to continue as Secretary to President

The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) has approved the appointment of Dr Christry L Fernandez as Secretary to the President of India on a contract basis after his superannuation, an official press release said today.

Dr Fernandez, an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer of the 1973 batch (Gujarat cadre), has been holding the position since Ms Pratibha Patil became President in July, 2007.

The ACC has approved his re-employment on contract basis for a period co-terminous with the tenure of the President, the release said.

The Committee also approved the appointment of Mr Anil Kumar, IAS (UP:73), at prsent Secretary, Ministry of Women and Child Development, as Secretary, Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs.

Mr K Chandramauli, IAS (UP:75), at present the Central Provident Fund Commissioner, Employees Provident Fund Organisation, Ministry of Labour and Employment, has been appointed as Secretary, Department of AIDS Control, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

Ms Stuti Narain Kackar, IAS (UP:78), currently Additional Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has been appointed as Secretary, Board for Reconstruction of Public Sector Enterprises, Department of Public Enterprises, Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises, in the rank and pay of Additional Secretary,

Mr V K Bhasin, at present Additional Secretary, Legislative Department, has been appointed as Secretary in the Department, the release added.

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Air India to operate special Haj flights

National carrier Air India will operate 137 special flights with Boeing 747-400, Airbus 310 and Airbus 330 aircraft to facilitate the travel of Haj pilgrims form India to Jeddah and Madinah from October 20.

In addition, the airline will operate 117 hub and spoke flights to connect passengers from within India to special Haj flights of Saudi Arabian Airlines and NAS Air.

A press release issued by Air India said it would fly approximately 40,000 Haj pilgrims on these special flights.

The release said the airline would also operate 30 extra section flights to meet the requirements of the pilgrims.

The Haj flights to Jeddah and Madina with its own aircraft will be operated by Air India from Kolkata, Nagpur, Guwahati, Jaipur, Indore, Aurangabad and Srinagar.

The hub and spoke flights will be operated from Patna, Ranchi, Varanasi and Mangalore. Connections to Saudi Arabian flights will be from Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Delhi, Lucknow, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Chennai and to NAS Air flights from Delhi and Kozhikode.

Haj flights will be operated from 19 stations out of India this year. The Phase I of the Haj operation to take pilgrims to Jeddah and Madina will be from October 20-November 21, 2009 and Phase II to bring them back will be from December 1, 2009 to January 1, 2010. the release added.

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President, VP, PM greet people on Diwali

President Pratibha Patil, Vice-President M Hamid Ansari and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today greeted the people on the occasion of Diwali.

"Diwali, the festival of lights is the celebration of the victory of good over evil. Let this year’s festival bring peace, prosperity and communal harmony amongst the people and illumine the lives of those who are in need of help," the President said in her message.

Mr Ansari said the festival also symbolised the triumph of light over darkness and of truth over untruth. "In celebrating this effervescent festival, we emphasise the importance of these timeless values in our lives," he said.

Dr Singh said Deepawali brought joy and hope to people all over the country. "It is an occasion for strengthening the bonds of friendship and goodwill between us. The festival of lights inspires us to fight darkness in all spheres of life," he added.

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Decison of BT-Brinjal only after consultations: Jairam Ramesh

Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh today said he would hold a series of consultations with all stakeholders before taking a decison on the Bt-Brinjal issue, on which the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) had submitted its recommendations to him.

Mr Ramesh said in a statement that he had studied the recommendations and decided that the report of the Expert Committee (EC-II), submitted to the GEAC on October 8, that formed the basis of the GEAC's decision of yesterday, would be made public with immediate effect.

The report had been posted on the website of the Ministry. All previous reports and studies on Bt-Brinjal are already in the public domain.

The minister invited comments on the EC-II report by December 31 this year.

He said that he proposed to have a series of consultations in different places with scientists, agriculture experts, farmers' organisations, consumer groups and NGOs during January and February, 2010. All points of view will be represented in these consultations, he said.

Mr Ramesh noted that strong views had already been expressed on the issue, both for and against. "My objective is to arrive at careful, considered decision in the public and national interest. The decision will be made only after the consultations process is complete and all stakeholders are satisfied that they have been heard to their satisfaction," he added.

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Govt waives fees for differently-abled children in Kendriya Vidyalayas

The Government today announced that differently-abled children studying in Kendriya Vidyalayas would be exempted from payment of fees with effect from October 1.

An official press release said these students would be granted exemption from payment of Vidyalaya Vikas Nidhi and tuition fee.

The order in this regard was notified today by the Kendriya Vidyalaya Sanghatan after a decision to this effect was taken by Union Minister for Human Resource Development Kapil Sibal, who is also Chairman of the organisation.

According to the release, the term "person with disability" means a person suffering from not less than 40 per cent of any disability as certified by a medical board of a Government hospital.

The release said the decision had been taken as a positive incentive and as part of the Government's policy towards greater encouragement and mainstreaming of differently-abled children.

About 2500 children are expected to benefit from the decision, the release added.

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William Burns in India to prepare for PM's visit

United States Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns is in Delhi for talks with Indian leaders and officials as part of the preparations for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's state visit to Washington on November 24.

Mr Burns met Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal and Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, among others, during the day.

At the meeting with Mr Sibal, the discussion centred around the India-US Education Council that the two sides are proposing to set up with representatives of industry and education.

The council will coordinate the efforts to move forward bilateral relations in the field of education between the two countries.

Mr Burns said many American universities were keen on finding out about India's roadmap for the education sector. The areas of collaboration that the two sides are looking at include research, distance education, vocational education, skill development, exchange of faculty, models of public-private partnership and expertise in setting up universities.

In his coming visit to the US, Mr Sibal will hold meetings with American policy-makers, including senators and Congressmen, officials and representatives of universities. The framework of the proposed council will be crystallised during that visit, an official press release said.

At the meeting with Mr Azad, the two sides discussed the proposed Regional Global Disease Detection Programme (GDDP) Centre in New Delhi.

The US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Indian National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) will collaborate on setting up the centre.

Mr Azad expressed happiness that bilateral cooperation in health and medicine was leading to the strengthening of infrastructure and transfer of technology.

He also pointed out that Indo-US collaboration had been successful in the areas of tuberculosis, cancer and HIV/AIDS as well as maternal and child health. He also expressed India's commitment to polio eradication.

Both sides expressed keenness in enhancing cooperation in health sector, the release added.

Mr Burns also had metings with External Affairs Minister S M Krishna and Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia. He will also meet National Security Adviser M K Narayanan and Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao during his two-day stay here.

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India says looking into report about Chinese dam on Brahmaputra

India today said it was looking into a newspaper report which said China had begun construction of a dam on the Brahmaputra river despite denials from Beijing in the past about any such plans.

"We are looking into the said newspaper report to ascertain whether there are recent developmetns that suggest any change in the position conveyed to us by the Government of China," Mr Vishnu Prakash, the official spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs, said in response to a question about the report by the Indian Express this morning.

The Brahmaputra flows for about 1625 km inside the Tibet Autonomous Region of China and for a further 918 km inside India.

Keeping in mind that the river is an economic resource for the development of the local communities in the two countries, the two countries agreed in November 2006 to establish an Expert Level Mechanism to discuss trans-border river issues in an institutional way. The mechanism has met thrice so far.

Mr Prakash said that, during these meetings, the Indian side had taken up with the Chinese side reports about the construction of a large-scale dam or diversion project on the Brahmaputra.

India conveyed that such a project might have significant impact on the socio-economic condition of people living downstream.

The Indian side had also expressed the hope that China would not undertake such a large-scale project or divert the waters of the Brahmaputra.

According to him, the Chinese side had categorically denied that there is a plan to build any such large-scale diversion project on the Brahmaputra.

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Domestic air passenger traffic grows 0.97 % in Jan-Sep

India's domestic airlines carried a total of 319.79 lakh passengers in the period January-September this year as compared to 316.71 lakh in the same period of 2008, showing a growth of 0.97 per cent, an official statement said here today.

This is the first time in the last one and a half years that domestic passenger traffic has shown positive growth, it said.

The airlines carried 107.32 lakh passengers during July-September this year as compared to 98.22 lakh during the first quarter and 109.38 lakh in the second.

Of these, Kingfisher accounted for 24.65 lakh passenger, Jet Airways 19.14 lakh passengers, Air India 18 lakh, IndiGo 15.08 lakh, Spice Jet 13.57 lakh, Jet Lite 9.18 lakh, Go Air 615 lakh and Paramount 2.16 lakh.

The scheduled airlines carried 35.05 lakh passengers in September, with Kingfisher accounting of 8.16 lakh, Air India 6.14 lakh, IndiGo 5.01 lakh, Spice Jet 4.61 lakh, Jet Lite 2.71 lakh, Go Air 2.04 lakh and Paramount 0.70 lakh.

Kingfisher had 23.3 per cent share in the number of passengers in September, followed by Air India with 17.5 per cent, Jet Airways 15.8 per cent, IndiGo 14.3 per cent, Spice Jet 13.2 per cent, Jet Lite 7.7 per cent, Go Air 5.8 per cent and Paramount 2 per cent.

In the third quarter, Kingfisher had a 23 per cent share of the passengers, followed by Jet Airways with 17.8 per cent, Air India 16.8 per cent, IndiGo 14.1 per cent, Spice Jet 12.6 per cent, Jet Lite 7.6 per cent, Go Air 5.7 per cent and Paramount 2 per cent.

Paramount had an 84.2 per cent seat factor in September, followed by Indigo with 77.3 per cent, Go Air 77.2 per cent, Spice Jet 75.3 per cent, Kingfisher 75.2 per cent, Jet Lite 71.4 per cent, Jet Airways 69.8 per cent and Air India 67.5 per cent.

The statement said September is normally a lean period and, by and large, the airlines were able to maintain their seat factors at the August levels.

The overall cancellation rate in the month of September was comparitively high due to the pilots' agitation first in Jet Airways and later in Air India.

The overall on-time performance of the airlines in September was 82.9 per cent, the statement added.

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6 more H1N1 deaths in India, toll crosses 400

Influenza A (H1N1) has claimed six more lives in India, taking the toll due to the pandemic in the country so far to 405, an official statement from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said here today.

Two of the deaths were reported from Gujarat and one from Maharashtra during the day. Besides, two deaths that occurred in Maharashtra and one in Kerala in recent days have now been confirmed as cases of swine fly by laboratory tests, it said.

Of the total deaths in India till now, Maharashtra now accounts for 171, while 112 people have lost their lives in Karnataka, 42 in Andhra Pradesh, 38 in Gujarat, 15 in Delhi, 10 in Kerala, 4 each in Tamil Nadu and Haryana, 3 in Goa, 2 each in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand and 1 each in Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan.

The statement said 152 new cases of the virus were reported from across the country today, including 46 in Delhi, 19 each in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, 17 in Karnataka, 14 in Haryana, 7 in Uttar Pradesh, 3 each in Uttarakhand and Puducherry, 2 in Jammu and Kashmir and 1 each in Bihar and Orissa.

With these, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus reported so far in India has risen to 12,486, the statement added.

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High level meet on Climate Change in Delhi Oct 22-23

The Government has organised a High Level Conference on "Climate Change: Technology Development and Transfer" here on October 22-23 in collaboration with the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA).

It is being organised by the Ministry of Environment and Forests in association with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) as conference partner, an official press release said.

According to it, the conference would be a step forward in the process of the international policy dialogue on technologies needed to address climate change.

It said the meeting would advance the discussions on technology development and technology transfer initiated at the Beijing High-Level Conference in November 2008.

The emphasis will be on defining a road map for technology development and transfer by bringing together the key players in the international climate change community, it said.

"Technology has a central and fundamental role in addressing climate change concerns with due regard to the imperatives of national economic growth, energy security, and sustainable development," the release explained.

It said the outcomes of the conference would support the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process and also help pave the way for a successful outcome in COP-15 to be held at Copenhagen in December, 2009.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will inaugurate the conference on October 22, while Maldives President Mohammed Nasheed will be the guest of honour. The inaugural function will be followed by a high level and ministerial session and panel discussions in thematic sessions designed to address relevant policy options and proposals.

An official press release said the Ministry of Environment and Forests will also organise an international exhibition alongside the conference in partnership with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). The show will provide an opportunity to developed and developing countries to showcase their climate-friendly technologies and services.

The release said participants in the conference and exhibition would include representatives of Governments, senior officials of UN bodies, climate change negotiators from developed and developing countries, industry, academia, civil society and other organisations.

"The High Level Conference will bring together high profile and accomplished experts from India and abroad to share their perspectives on issues relating to technology development and transfer in the context of climate change," the release added.

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Centre gives grant of Rs. 20 cr each to Karnataka, AP for flood relief

Union Minister of Rural Development C P Joshi has sanctioned a grant of Rs 20 crore each to Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh for flood relief measures.

An official press release said the grant was part of the Calamity Component of the National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP).

It would be used to restore the damaged drinking rural water supply system in the two states which were hit by floods recently, the release added.

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Cabinet approves renewal of CGHS facilities to accredited journalists

The Union Cabinet today approved a proposal for the renewal of Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS) facilities for journalists accredited with the Press Information Bureau (PIB) as per recommendations made by a Group of Ministers that went into the issue.

Accordingly, the CGHS cards issued to 1258 PIB-accredited journalists will be renewed at the rates determined by the Cost Accounts Division, Department of Expenditure. Arrears for past years will be recovered in three instalments.

An official press release said the CGHS cards of 337 family members of journalists, who are already availing the facility, would not be withdrawn provided the contribution at the rate fixed was paid for each member of the family.

The release said that, beyond these 337 family members, there would not be any further inclusion of family members of journalists in the scheme.

It said the subscription to be paid by the journalists every year would be as worked out by the Department of Expenditure on an annual basis.

The Cabinet also decided that the insurance scheme that is being formulated by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare on the basis of the recommendations of the Sixth Central Pay Commission, may be offered to accredited journalists also.

In addition, Cabinet has also recommended that an attempt should be made to bring a comprehensive Health Insurance Scheme which will also cover the journalists and their families.

Journalists accredited with the PIB have been entitled to out-patient facilities under CGHS and hospitalisation only in Central Government hospitals, even though they are not entitled to the facility, the release said.

It said the facility was intended only for journalists and not for their family members. By mistake, family members of a few journalists were also provided the facility. As of today, 1258 journalists and 337 family members are availing CGHS facility, it said.

The validity of CGHS cards of accredited journalists was extended from time to time after they paid their contribution of Rs 600 per annum, which was fixed in August, 1994. Since then, contributions made to the CGHS by Central Government employees and pensioners were revised twice.

The Cost Accounts Division of the Department of Expenditure advised the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to review validation of CGHS cards issued to journalists on a "Cost to Cost" basis, which was worked out at Rs.1,067 per annum for the year 2004-05.

As journalists resisted the increase in subscription rates, renewal of their cards was held up since March, 2008. Cards of those journalists who paid at the revised rates were renewed.

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India, Russia agree to extend military technical cooperation pact upto 2020

India and Russia have decided to extend their ongoing programme of military technical cooperation for another ten years from 2011 to 2020.

Defence Minister A. K. Antony and his Russian counterpart Anatoly Serdyukov co-chairing the 9th meeting of the India-Russia Intergovernmental Commission on Military Technical Cooperation in Moscow on October 14, 2009.
Defence Minister A. K. Antony and his Russian counterpart Anatoly Serdyukov co-chairing the ninth meeting of the India-Russia Intergovernmental Commission on Military Technical Cooperation in Moscow on October 14, 2009.

India and Russia have decided to extend their ongoing programme of military technical cooperation for another ten years from 2011 to 2020.

This was decided at the two-day meeting of the India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Military Technical Cooperation (IRIGC-MTC) which ended in Moscow today.

The meeting was co-chaired by Defence Minister A K Antony and his Russian counterpart Anatoly Serdyukov.

The two ministers said at the end of the meeting that they hoped that the Inter-Governmental Agreement on extending the Military Technical Cooperation would be signed during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Moscow in December for the annual India-Russia Summit with President Dmitri Medvedev.

Both sides also resolved that an agreement on after-sales product support for Russian origin defence equipment held by the Indian Armed Forces would be signed during the Summit.

In his opening remarks to the meeting, Mr Antony said India and Russia had an enduring strategic partnership and defence ties. He described Russia as a time-tested and dependable friend of India.

Mr Antony emphasised that the Indian Government was determined to strengthen the bond in all areas of bilateral relations.

According to him, over the years, defence relations between India and Russia had evolved from a simple buyer-seller relationship to a broad-based partnership where both countries are involved in joint design, development and production of defence equipment.

Taking note of the structured mechanisms for defence interactions with Russia, Mr Antony said Russia was the only country with which India had such a well-established multi-tiered mechanism which has contributed to the strengthening of bilateral ties.

An official press release issued here said the IRIGC-MTC meeting reviewed the status of various ongoing bilateral defence cooperation projects.

A protocol highlighting the various aspects of these projects was signed at the end of the meeting, it said.

The Indian delegation to the meeting included Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar, Secretary (Defence Production) Raj Kumar Singh and other senior officials of the Ministry of Defence and the Armed Forces.

The ninth meeting of the India-Russia 

Intergovernmental Commission on Military Technical Cooperation in progress in Moscow on October 14, 2009.
The ninth meeting of the India-Russia Intergovernmental Commission on Military Technical Cooperation in progress in Moscow on October 14, 2009.

The IRIGC-MTC meets annually, alternately in India and Russia, at the level of the Defence Ministers of the two countries to review and discuss matters relating to the bilateral defence cooperation between the two countries.

The two countries had signed the existing India-Russia Long Term Inter-Governmental Agreement on the programme for Military Technical Cooperation in December, 1988 which envisaged a programme of defence cooperation between them upto 2010.

The extension of this programme beyond 2010 has been under consideration by the two sides and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had discussed it with then Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting in Moscow in 2007.

Since then, the two countries have been working on finalising the programme for defence cooperation beyond 2011.

The two countries are also looking at ways of moving faster on important ongoing projects, including the indigenous production of the Russian-origin T-90 S tanks at the Heavy Vehicles Factory, Avadi, under license from Russia. The Russian side is providing technical and product support for the indigenous production of the tanks.

The modernisation of the SU 30 MK1 aircraft is another such project. The aircraft, contracted in 1996, are due for overhaul shortly and the Russia side has offered an upgrade with incorporation of the latest technologies.

The continuation of the India-Russia joint venture BrahMos is, similarly an important item of discussion between the two countries in the context of ongoing talks for the development of the next generation hypersonic cruise missiles – BrahMos-2 and a proposal to coordinate the BrahMos with the SU 30 MK1.

Among the new projects, high on India's priorities will be the proposal for joint design and development of the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) and the Multi-Role Transport Aircraft (MTA).

The co-development and co-production of the FGFA with Sukhoi Design Bureau Russia have been progressing, with several rounds of discussion already completed to finalize the technical requirements.

India wants the development phase of the FGFA to be completed by 2016, as originally anticipated, and the induction of the aircraft into the Indian Air Force (IAF) by 2017.

On the MTA, an Inter-Governmental Agreement had been signed during Dr Singh's visit to Moscow in November, 2007. Both sides have been discussing the formation of the joint venture company which would execute the project involving design, development and production of the Medium Transport Aircraft in the 15-20 tonne class to meet the requirements of the Russian and Indian Armed Forces. Both sides are likely to conclude the agreement to form the joint venture shortly.

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Govt looking at infusing equity of Rs 5000 crore into Air India: Patel

Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel today held separate meetings with the representatives of employees and the management of Air India in Mumbai and later said the Government was planning to infuse equity of Rs 5000 crore into the national carrier in phases over a period of three years.

Mr Patel said the loss-making airline was also aiming to cut costs by Rs 3000 crores and increase revenue by about Rs 2000 crore.

An official press release said Mr Patel reviewed the functioning of the airline at the meeting with the employees of various sections and discussed with them in detail the efforts being made by the Government to turn around the company.

He hoped the employees were aware of the problems facing the airline and the aviation industry in general. He also informed them about the government's plan to infuse equity into the airline and restructure its high-cost debt into low-cost debt.

He said a Committee of Secretaries, headed by the Cabinet Secretary, was looking into the entire turnaround plan. But he said any assistance from the Government was conditional upon the airline adopting cost-cutting and revenue-enhancement measures.

According to the release, the employees were in favour of a participatory process and have agreed to engage in a constant dialogue with the management to find viable and sustainable solutions to the ills affecting the airline.

Mr Patel said the aviation industry appeared to be on the road to recovery though the process was not as quick as expected. He said losses due to high oil prices alone added up to Rs 10,000 crore for the Indian aviation sector.

He said this situation had been further compounded by the global economic slowdown, the 26/11 terror attacks on Mumbai, and the various cost-cutting measures adopted by the corporate and the government sector.

The minister said the sector had seen a 30 per cent drop in air traffic though there had been a slight improvement in the last two or three months.

The release said Air India had set up a Turn-arond Committee (TC) with representatives of the Ministry and the employees' union. The committee will meet in Delhi tomorrow to discuss various options for cutting costs and increasing revenues.

The Government is also planning to name seven independent directors to the airline's Board. The Ministry is understood to have submitted a short-list of names to the Prime Minister's Office for clearance.

In July, Mr Patel had told Parliament that the accumulated losses of the National Aviation Company of India Limited (NACIL), which runs Air India after its merger with Indian Airlines, as on March 31 this year, were likely to be in the region of Rs 7200 crore.

He said that Air India and Indian Airlines had incurred losses of Rs 541.30 crore and Rs 230.97 crore, respectively, during 2006-07 before the merger.

He said that, in 2007-08, the combined airline posted a loss of Rs. 2226 crores and during 2008-09, the expected loss is approximately Rs.5000 crores.

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3 more H1N1 deaths in India, toll goes up to 399

Three more people have died of influenza A (H1N1) in Maharashtra, taking the toll due to the pandemic in India so far to 399, an official statement from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said here today.

One of the deaths was reported from the state during the day today. The other two deaths had occurred in recent days and have now been confirmed as cases of swine flu by the results of the laboratory tests, it said.

Of the total deaths in India till now, Maharashtra now accounts for 168, while 112 people have lost their lives in Karnataka, 42 in Andhra Pradesh, 36 in Gujarat, 15 in Delhi, 9 in Kerala, 4 each in Tamil Nadu and Haryana, 3 in Goa, 2 each in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand and 1 each in Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan.

The statement said 150 new cases of the virus were reported from across the country today, including 42 in Delhi, 23 in Karnataka, 21 in Kerala, 19 each in Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra, 16 in Haryana, 5 in Andhra Pradesh, 2 each in Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh and 1 in Gujarat.

With these, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus reported so far in India has risen to 12,334, the statement added.

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India, Argentina agree to work towards strategic partnership

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh holding delegation level talks with the Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez in New Delhi on October 14, 2009.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh holding delegation level talks with the Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez in New Delhi on October 14, 2009.

India and Argentina today agreed that their comprehensive dialogue should lead to a strategic partnership that would cover global issues of common concern.

Such partnership would include working together in the framework of the United Nations, its specialised organisations and other fora and groups of countries in which countries participate, a Joint Statement issued by the two countries after talks between visiting Argentine President Cristina Fernandez and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here said.

Both sides highlighted the importance of further enhancing the exchange of high-level bilateral visits, including at the level of Head of State and Head of Government.

The two sides reiterated their will to continue and expand bilateral dialogue and cooperation comprehensively.

"This comprehensive dialogue is based on common values and interests and will aim at mutually beneficiary cooperation in all spheres, including among others dialogue on political and strategic issues, economic and trade relations, consular issues, energy, investment, services and tourism as well as science and technology, culture and education," the statement said.

The two leaders directed their Foreign Ministers to energise their consultations and work out a plan of action to achieve concrete results flowing from their dialogue.

For this purpose, Foreign Office Consultations will be held in 2010 in India – the year of the bicentennial of the May Revolution, the statement said.

Dr Fernandez, who arrived here yesterday on a State Visit at the invitation of President Pratibha Patil, also had meetings with Vice-President M Hamid Ansari, ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and the Leader of the Opposition Lal Krishna Advani.

The official talks with Dr Singh covered bilateral, regional and global issues of mutual interest, the statement said.

Dr Fernandez' visit coincides with the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries and the two leaders expressed their desire to carry forward the bilateral realtionship to a higher level.

"The talks were held in an atmosphere of friendship, warmth and mutual understanding. The two sides expressed satisfaction with the mutually beneficial cooperation and partnership between India and Argentina encompassing political, economic, scientific and technological cooperation including Antarctic research and cultural cooperation. They agreed to work together for further enhancement of their multifaceted relationship to a higher level based on a long term perspective and shared democratic values, respect for human rights, mutual understanding and cooperation and similarity of views on major international issues," the statement said.

Dr Fernandez and Dr Singh decided to encourage regular interactions between the legislative bodies of the two countries.

They also agreed to expand exchanges between civil society and foster people-to-people contacts, promote tourism and develop closer cultural and academic ties.

The two leaders noted that the next Joint Commission meeting between the two countries is to held in Argentina in the first half of 2010.

In the trade and economic spheres, the two sides were satisfied at the growing engagement between both countries.

They noted that some Indian companies had made investments in Argentina and that bilateral trade increased from $ 694 million in 2003 to $ 1.328 billion in 2008, doubling in the last five years.

Dr Singh and Dr Fernandez agreed that the bilateral trade target should be $ 3 billion by 2012. They expressed keenness to expand and diversify trade and economic cooperation in areas in which Argentina and India have comparative advantages, and to utilize the untapped potential in this area.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh 

and Argentine President Cristina Fernandez witnessing the signing of an agreement on cooperation in science by 

Science and Technology Minister Prithviraj Chavan and his Argentine counterpart Jose Line Baranao in New Delhi on 

October 14, 2009.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Argentine President Cristina Fernandez witnessing the signing of an agreement on cooperation in science by Science and Technology Minister Prithviraj Chavan and his Argentine counterpart Jose Line Baranao in New Delhi on October 14, 2009.

In order to encourage greater trade between the two countries, the two leaders agreed that efforts should be made to facilitate the entry of Argentine agricultural and agro-industrial products into India and the entry of Indian pharmaceutical products into Argentina.

They expressed satisfaction that the Memorandum of Understanding on Agriculture and Allied Sectors and the Memorandum of Understanding on Sanitary and Phytosanitary standards were at an advanced stage of finalization.

Dr Singh and Dr Fernandez urged their competent authorities and technical teams to take the necessary measures to expand trade and investments They agreed to work together for enhancing bilateral investments in various sectors, including in knowledge-based industries and agro-industries.

According to the statement, Dr Fernandez welcomed Indian entrepreneurs to invest in her country and said they would find a conducive environment and skilled human resources. The Prime Minsiter acknowledged the growing importance of Argentine business in India. Both sides welcomed the increasing contacts among their entrepreneurs which stressed the ample business opportunities that existed.

Both countries agreed to facilitate, on reciprocity basis, five years' multiple entry gratis visas for businessmen of each other's country.

The Indian side welcomed the fact that the Argentine Consulate General and Trade Promotion Centre in Mumbai was already fully operational, reflecting Argentina's decision to increase its presence in the Indian market and opening up new opportunities for entrepreneurs from both nations.

The statement said both sides noted the opportunities for bilateral cooperation in various sectors such as science and technology, agriculture, small and medium enterprises and agro-based industries, mining and hydrocarbons and civilian nuclear cooperation. They agreed to enhance direct contacts between the business circles of the two countries, including through participation in trade/commercial exhibitions in both countries as well as through contacts between regions and cities of the two countries.

In particular, India and Argentina, as active countries with a long tradition in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, reiterated their intention to develop, promote and cooperate in this field in accordance with their respective international obligations and commitments. They will make use of the synergies existing between the two countries and the vast experience of their nuclear scientists and technologists.

Other areas where the two sides agreed to cooperate more closely included culture and education.

Dr Singh and Dr Fernadez expressed support for closer bilateral cooperation in the area of energy and for the utilization of renewable and alternative energy sources and respective technologies as a basis for sustainable development and as part of the global effort in addressing the challenges of Climate Change.

They shared the view that civil nuclear energy could play an important role as a safe, sustainable and non-polluting source of energy in meeting rising global demands for energy. Taking into account their respective capabilities and experience in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy both India and Argentina have agreed to encourage and support scientific, technical and commercial cooperation for mutual benefit in this field.

Taking note of the fact that the India-Mercosur Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) had come into force from June this year, the two leaders agreed that this would further facilitate trade and improve market access between India and Mercosur. The two sides also reiterated their desire to widen and deepen the PTA.

Dr Singh and Dr Fernandez discussed a broad range of regional and international issues of mutual interest, as well as issues of global concern such as the current global financial crisis, human rights, countering terrorism, climate change, disarmament and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, promoting sustainable development, addressing the environmental challenges and strengthening the social dimension of globalization.

They stressed the need to implement the process of reforms in the United Nations to make it more representative, legitimate and effective. Moreover, they agreed that any expansion and restructuring of the UN Security Council must reflect contemporary realities, increase transparency and democracy and include developing countries.

Both countries agreed on the need to give a new impulse to multilateral negotiations in the area of disarmament, especially weapons of mass destruction.

Dr Fernandez expressed deep shock and anguish over the November 26, 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai and reiterated the need for intensifying global cooperation in combating international terrorism.

She reiterated the condolences of the people and government of Argentina on these terrorist attacks.

The two leaders expressed the hope that the perpetrators of the heinous crime would be brought to justice. They strongly condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, committed by whoever, wherever and for whatever purpose and stressed that there could be no justification, whatsoever, for any acts of terrorism.

Both countries urged the international community to adopt the draft Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism which is before the UN General Assembly. They agreed to cooperate against international terrorism in the UN and abide by relevant UN conventions and resolutions in force in the fight against terrorism. They agreed to further expand the dialogue and cooperation in combating terrorism, organized crime and drug trafficking

The two sides expressed deep concern over the international economic and financial crisis and agreed that the current situation demands restructuring of the international financial and monetary system so that this can become a truly efficient tool for the promotion of sustainable development that would contribute to the reduction of inequalities and promote social inclusion. They underlined that the voice of emerging and developing economies, in the international financial and monetary system, should be heard in order to avoid new and potentially more calamitous crises in the future.

The two countries welcomed the statement issued by the G-20 Summit at Pittsburgh in the United States last month, which recognizes the need for continued coordinated actions internationally for rebuilding confidence in the global economy. They will endeavor together with the other members to ensure the implementation of the decisions taken at the Washington, London and Pittsburgh Summits of the G-20, particularly those related to reduction of poverty and the Millennium Development Goals.

They emphasized the importance of strong commitment to reform of international financial institutions (IFIs) and recognized that greater involvement of leading emerging economies in international financial institutions will be crucial for their ultimate success. Both sides recognized the strategic role played by the G-20 in promoting concerted and effective global actions towards sustainable recovery and expressed support of G-20’s new role as the premier forum for international economic cooperation.

Both sides underlined the importance of successfully concluding multilateral negotiations at the World Trade Organisation for an ambitious and balanced outcome, in line with the Doha Mandate and the principles guiding the negotiations with a thrust on addressing core developmental concerns.

Both sides recognized that negotiations must respect core Ministerial mandates such as Special and Differential treatment for developing countries, less than Full Reciprocity (LTFR) in tariff reduction commitments and a comparable level of ambition in Agriculture and Non Agriculture Market Access (NAMA).

They called on developed countries to show greater flexibility for resumption of negotiations to enable successful conclusion of the Round.

The two sides agreed that, in the fight against climate change, priority has to be given to mitigation and adaptation and this has to be supported by developed countries in terms of transfer of technology and finance to meet the incremental costs of adaptation and mitigation projects in developing countries.

Both sides reaffirmed their commitment to addressing Climate Change in accordance with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change [UNFCCC] and enhanced implementation of the Convention under the Bali Action Plan, so as to reach an agreed outcome at COP15 of the UNFCCC in Copenhagen.

India reiterated its support for negotiations to find a solution to the issue of the sovereignty of the Malvinas Islands in accordance with the resolutions of the UN General Assembly and the Special Decolonization Committee.

Dr Fernandez is accompanied on the visit by a high-level delegation, including the country's Foreign Minister and a large team of businessmen.

Tomorrow, the Argentine President is scheduled to visit Agra and Mumbai.

This is the first Presidential visit from Argentina in 15 years; the last visit was by President Carlos Menem in 1994. Then Prime Minister Narasimha Rao had visited Argentina for the G-15 Summit in 1995.

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India, Oman to conduct joint air exercises

The Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Royal Air Force of Oman (RAFO) wil conduct a week-long bilateral exercise at the RAFO Base at Thumrait in the Sultanate from October 22 to 29.

Codenamed Eastern Bridge, it would be the first ever air exercise between the two countries, an official press release said here today.

The release said six single-seater Darin-I Jaguars from the IAF would participate in the exercise along with Jaguars and F-16s from the RAFO. The two Air Forces are among the only ones that continue to operae the twin-engine Jaguar aircraft.

The IAF would also involve two IL-78 MKI air-to-air refueler aircraft for tanking the Jaguars en route to Oman. Meanwhile, an IL-76 will airlift the IAF air warriors to Oman.

The main IAF contingent comprises 33 officers and 65 personnel below officer rank (PBOR). The support team of IL-76 and IL-78 MKI additionally comprises 12 officers and 26 PBOR.

Group Captain V Dedgaonkar will be the team leader, while Group Captain K Kale will be the Exercise Director for the IAF, the release said. The Jaguar detachment will be led by Wing Commander A Mathur. The pilots belong to the two Jaguar squadrons - 16 (Cobras) and 27 (Flaming Arrows) that are based at IAF’s Gorakhpur air base under Central Air Command.

A senior Air Headquarter observer along with one staff officer will also visit the IAF contingent during the period of the exercise.

According to the release, the exercise in the Gulf region will enhance understanding of operational, maintenance and administrative procedures between RAFO and the IAF. The bilateral exercise would also be cost-effective in terms of benefit realization of operational and tactical preparedness over an unknown mixed terrain of land and desert.

It said Oman was among the IAF's "priority-one" countries listed for defence cooperation. It said cooperation between the Air Forces of the two countries was initiated in 2006 and had increased substantially in the current year. The cooperation was characterised by exchange of high-level visits, training and bilateral exercises between the two air forces.

The release said Oman had also been availing of courses in India on a self-financing basis. The Sultanate has also been providing turn-around facilities to transiting Indian military aircraft.

It said several rounds of Air Force Staff Talks with RAFO had now provided the necessary framework to expand defence cooperation with Oman the other five Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member-countries.

Oman is geographically India’s closest neighbor among the Arab countries in the strategically vital Gulf region. The presence of over 3,50,000 expatriate Indians and centuries of people-to-people contact further enhanced its importance in India’s security mosaic, the release added.

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Air India to operate special flights to Nanded

National carrier Air India will operate special flights between Mumbai and Nanded in Maharashtra for three days from October 18 to 20.

The flights are meant to facilitate the participation of followers of Guru Gobind Singh in the celebrations to mark 300 years of Guru Granth Sahib at Guru Hajoor Sahib in Nanded.

The flight, IC 165 operated with an Airbus A320 aircraft, will depart from Mumbai at 10.40 a.m. and arrive in Nanded at 11.40 a.m.

The return flight IC-166 will leave Nanded in the afternoon at 12.25 p.m. and reach Mumbai at 13.25 pm. These flights will originate and terminate at Delhi.

An Air India press release said the all inclusive one-way fare between Mumbai and Nanded would be Rs.2,730.

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India urges China to cease activities in POK

India today hoped that China would take a long-term view of their bilateral relations and cease activities in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK).

Responding to a question on Pakistan-China projects in POK, the official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, Mr Vishnu Prakash, said that the Government had seen Chinese news agency Xinhua's report quoting Chinese President Hu Jintao as stating that China would continue to engage in projects with Pakistan inside POK.

"Pakistan has been in illegal occupation of parts of the Indian State of Jammu & Kashmir since 1947. The Chinese side is fully aware of India's position and our concerns about Chinese activities in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. We hope that the Chinese side will take a long term view of the India-China relations, and cease such activities in areas illegally occupied by Pakistan," Mr Prakash added.

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