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Pakistani national arrested along international border in Samba


A mentally challenged man from Pakistan was arrested along the India-Pakistan international border when he inadvertently crossed over to the Indian side in Samba district of Jammu and Kashmir, official sources said here today.


"The man identified as Mohammad Buta, son of Mohammad Shafa, resident of village Narowal, Pakistan was arrested last evening from the forward border outpost near village Chaliran in Samba district when he crossed over to this side," official sources told UNI.


They said that the troops of 182 Bn of the Border Security Force (BSF) noticed the movement along the border and they apprehended the man, who inadvertently entered the Indian territory.


"He will be handed over to the Pakistan Rangers after complete verification and investigations," an official said.


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Census 2011: Indian population stands at 1.21 billion

Union Home Secretary, G.K. Pillai releasing the provisional population figures as per Census 2011, in New Delhi on March 31, 2011. The Registrar General of India and Census Commissioner of India, C. Chandramauli, the Addl. Registrar General of India, R.C. Sethi and the Principal Director General (M&C), Press Information Bureau, Neelam Kapur are also seen.
Union Home Secretary, G.K. Pillai releasing the provisional population figures as per Census 2011, in New Delhi on March 31, 2011. The Registrar General of India and Census Commissioner of India, C. Chandramauli, the Addl. Registrar General of India, R.C. Sethi and the Principal Director General (M&C), Press Information Bureau, Neelam Kapur are also seen.

India's population, as per the provisional figures of Census 2011 released today, is 1210.19 million, an increase of 181 million since the last census was conducted in 2001.

Of the total population, 623.72 mllion (51.54%) are males and 586.46 million (48.46%) are females, the figures, released by Union Home Secretary G K Pillai and Registrar General of India C Chandramouli, said.

The figures show that the percentage growth in population was 17.64 in the case of males and 18.12 in the case of females.

Mr Pillai and Mr Chandramouli said 2001-11 is the first decade (with the exception) of 1911-1921 which has actually added lesser population as compared to the previous decade.

Uttar Pradesh (199.5 million) is the most populous state in the country, followed by Maharashtra with 112 million.

The percentage decadal growth rates of the six most populous states have declined during 2001-11 as compared to 1991-2001. The figures are: Uttar Pradesh (25.85% to 20.09%), Maharashtra (22.73% to 15.99%), Bihar (28.62% to 25.07%), West Bengal (17.77 % to 13.93%), Andhra Pradesh (14.59% to 11.10%) and Madhya Pradesh (24.26% to 20.30%)/

The figures showed that during 2001-2011, as many as 25 States and Union Territories (UTs) with a share of about 85% of the country’s population registered an annual growth rate of less than 2% as compared to 15 States/UTs with a share of about 42% during the period 1991-2001.

They said 15 States/UTs have grown by less than 1.5 per cent per annum during 2001-2011, while the number of such States/UTs was only 4 during the previous decade.

The total number of children in the age-group 0-6 is 158.8 million (-5 million since 2001).

Twenty States and Union Territories now have over one million children in the age group 0-6 years. On the other extreme, there are five States and Union Territories in the country that are yet to reach the one hundred thousand mark.

Uttar Pradesh (29.7 million), Bihar (18.6 million), Maharashtra (12.8 million), Madhya Pradesh (10.5 million) and Rajasthan (10.5 million) constitute 52% children in the age group of 0-6 years.

Population (0-6 years) 2001-2011 registered minus (-)3.08 percent growth with minus (-)2.42 for males and –3.80 for females.

The proportion of Child Population in the age group of 0-6 years to total population is 13.1 percent while the corresponding figure in 2001 was 15.9 percent. The decline has been to the extent of 2.8 points.

New born babies lined up at the Sadar Hospital in Ranchi on March 31, 2011, as the 15th census report released today shows the population of India is placed at 121crores, an increase of 181 million in just a decade. UNI PHOTO
New born babies lined up at the Sadar Hospital in Ranchi on March 31, 2011, as the 15th census report released today shows the population of India is placed at 121crores, an increase of 181 million in just a decade. UNI PHOTO

The overall sex ratio at the national level has increased by 7 points to reach 940 at Census 2011 as against 933 in Census 2001. This is the highest sex ratio recorded since Census 1971 and a shade lower than 1961. Increase in sex ratio is observed in 29 States/UTs.

Three major States (Jammu and Kashmir, Bihar an Gujarat) have shown decline in sex ratio as compared to Census 2001.

Kerala with 1084 has the highest sex ratio followed by Puducherry with 1038, Daman & Diu has the lowest sex ratio of 618.

The child sex ratio (0-6 years) is 914. Increasing trend in the child sex ratio (0-6) was seen in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Mizoram and Andaman & Nicobar Islands. In all remaining 27 States/UTs, the child sex ratio show a decline over Census 2001.

Mizoram has the highest child sex ratio (0-6 years) of 971 followed by Meghalaya with 970. Haryana is at the bottom with ratio of 830 followed by Punjab with 846.

The literacy rate has gone up from 64.83 per cent in 2001 to 74.04 per cent in 2011 showing an increase of 9.21 percentage points. The percentage growth in literacy during 2001-2011 is 38.82; males : 31.98% and females : 49.10%.

Literates constitute 74 per cent of the total population aged seven and above and illiterates form 26 per cent.

This was the 15th Census conducted since 1872. It was carried out in two phases, covering 640 districts and 5924 sub-districts.

India's population is now bigger than the population of the United States, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan and Bangladesh combined together, says the Census report.

The combined population of UP and Maharashtra is bigger than the US.

While Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Puducherry have the highest population growth rate of about 55 per cent, Nagaland has the lowest.

The density of population is the highest in Delhi, followed by Chandigarh.

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PM says India, Pakistan must find pathways to resolve differences

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said that India and Pakistan had to find pathways to resolve their differences and described his meeting with his Pakistani counterpart Yusuf Raza Gilani at Mohali on Wednesday as a "very good beginning,

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with his Pakistani counterpart Yusuf Raza Gilani at the India-Pakistan World Cup semi-final at Mohali on March 30, 2011.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with his Pakistani counterpart Yusuf Raza Gilani at the India-Pakistan World Cup semi-final at Mohali on March 30, 2011.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said that India and Pakistan had to find pathways to resolve their differences and described his meeting with his Pakistani counterpart Yusuf Raza Gilani at Mohali yesterday as a "very good beginning,


Mr Gilani had flown down to Chandigarh to watch the India-Pakistan semi-final in the cricket World Cup at Mohali yesterday at the invitation of Dr Singh.


"I am very grateful to Prime Minister Gilani for having accepted my invitation to join me in watching this beautiful game of cricket. Cricket has been a uniting factor, it has brought our two Prime Ministers together and I dare say that’s a very good beginning," Dr Singh said.


"Whatever be the differences between our two countries we have to find pathways to resolve them," he said.


Dr Singh said he and Mr Gilani had had extensive discussions on all outstanding issues and had reaffirmed their resolve to make every honest effort to overcome the difficulties in this regard.


"And the message from Mohali is that the people of India and Pakistan want to live in peace and amity and that the two Prime Ministers have committed their governments to work in that direction," he said.


During their discussions, Dr Singh conveyed to Mr Gilani that there was need for an atmosphere free of violence and terror for normalisation of relations between the two countries.


Mr Gilani told journalists that his talks with Dr Singh covered all outstanding issues and focused on resolving them through dialogue.


He said the "Thimphu spirit", resulting from his meeting with Dr Singh in the Bhutanese capital in April last year, had paved the way for the successful Home Secretary-level talks in Delhi earlier this week.


Mr Gilani hoped that that coming talks at the level of the Commerce Secretaries, Foreign Secretaries and Foreign Ministers of the two countries would also be successful in the same way.


He said both countries had the will and the ability to resolve their problems and needed to give the world a positive message in this regard.


"We need to focus on dealing with our common enemy - the issues of inflation, poverty, hunger, disease and unemployment for the prosperity of two countries," he said.


Mr Gilani invited Dr Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi to visit Pakistan.


Mr Gilani congratulated the Indian team on winning yesterday's semi-final by 29 runs. He said victory and success were part of the game and said the match was, "in fact, the success of the two countries".


The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh and the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mr. Yousuf Raza Gilani cheering at the Indo-Pak World Cup semi-final, at the Punjab Cricket Association stadium, in Mohali on March 30, 2011.
The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh and the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mr. Yousuf Raza Gilani cheering at the Indo-Pak World Cup semi-final, at the Punjab Cricket Association stadium, in Mohali on March 30, 2011.

Dr Singh had hosted a dinner for Mr Gilani and his delegation on the sidelines of the match.


Speaking at the dinner, Dr Singh said cricket had become a uniting factor and the two sides could agree to normalise sporting links between them as early as possible.


He referred to the events in West Asia and sai they made it all the more necessary for India and Pakistan, placed as they are strategically in this region, to exchange views and evolve a cooperative strategy on how to eal with the highly uncertain regional and global environment.


"It goes without saying that if oil prices rise, if there is unrest in West Asia it would affect both of us, both our countries, enormously as I mentioned to you this afternoon. It is therefore very important that the two countries should increasingly look at all these developments from the point of view of our peoples' needs, their aspirations and how working together we can find cooperative strategies to deal with these massive challenges that we face," he said.


Dr Singh said destiny required that India and Pakistan should find cooperative solutions to all the problems they faced.


"When we met in Thimpu last year we both agreed that trust deficit is one area where we need to act, and act fast enough, to create a new climate in which cooperative modes of thinking will flourish and take us on the path of progress," he said.


He said India and Pakistan faced enormous challenges but also enormous opportunities.


"Our biggest enemy is poverty, ignorance and disease. If we work together to find cooperative solutions, if we do not allow ancient animosities to affect the possibility of working together in the contemporary setting of our region and the world, I dare say we can write a new chapter in the history of development cooperation in this subcontinent of ours," he said.


Dr Singh said he and Mr Gilani had a very elaborate and extensive exchange of views on all outstanding issues.


"The message that should go from Mohali is that the Prime Ministers of both countries are agreed that they are determined to find cooperative solutions to all the outstanding issues that we face. If there are difficulties we have the will to persevere, we have the will to overcome," he said.


"And in you we have a leader, a Prime Minister who inspires confidence. As I mentioned to you, you come from a family with the great tradition of Saint Miyan Mir who laid the foundation stone of the Golden Temple, the abode of peace. And God has given me this opportunity and I sincerely hope and pray that under your distinguished leadership democracy will flourish in Pakistan. And that we will find peaceful and productive ways of engaging our two countries in the diverse areas which have enormous bearing on the future of our two countries and the wellbeing of our two people," he told Mr Gilani.


"And if we have to bridge the trust deficit, it is essential that at all levels we should work together. Political personalities must visit each others countries more often. Official contacts must be increased; civil society contact must be increased. And I am very happy that the presiding officer of our Lok Sabha and the presiding officer of the Rajya Sabha have sent invitations to their counterparts in Pakistan to come and pay a visit. I dare say in moulding the future climate of opinion, parliamentarians have a very crucial role to play. I sincerely hope that parliamentarians from India and Pakistan would set in motion a process of permanent reconciliation between our two countries so that we can realize the aspirations of our people for a life of dignity and self-respect. Once again, my grateful thanks to you sir for accepting my invitation," he added.


Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao told reporters in Chandigarh that "just like we have been talking about the Thimphu spirit after the two leaders met in the Bhutanese capital last year and decided to carry forward the dialogue process, we can now speak of a Mohali spirit."


Mr Gilani had arrived in Chandigarh around noon yesterday at the head of a large delegation. He was joined by Dr Singh in the afternoon. The two leaders watched the match together for a few hours and then withdrew to hold talks.


India had suspended the composite dialogue process with Pakistan after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks.


In the last two years, the two Prime Ministers have met twice on the sidelines of international and regional meetings. They had a meeting at Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt in 2009 and again in Thimphu in April last year.


Talks between the Home Secretaries of the two countries that marked the formal resumption of dialogue between the two sides after a gap of over two years, ended on a positive note here yesterday.


Among those present from the Indian side at Dr Singh's dinner for Mr Gilani were Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, Punjab Governor Shivraj Patil, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Minister of State for Communications Sachin Pilot, ICC chief and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia and National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon.


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2773 candidates left in fray in Tamil Nadu Assembly elections


A total of 2773 candidates were left in the fray for the April 13 Assembly elections for 234 seats in Tamil Nadu after 313 candidates withdrew their nomination papers on the last date for withdrawal yesterday.


In all, 4,228 candidates filed their nominations and when the papers were taken up for scrutiny on March 28, a total of 1153 papers, mostly filed by independents were rejected for various reasons.


R K Nagar constituency in the city had the highest number of 31 candidates, while Nagapattinam had the lowest number of four contestants.


The actual list of contesting candidates would be known only on receipt of Form 7A later today.


In Tiruvarur, where Chief Minister and DMK President M Karunanidhi is seeking election for the record 12th time, 12 candidates were left in the fray, while in Srirangam, where former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa is contesting, 23 were in the fray.


In Kolathur in the city, where Deputy Chief Minister M K Stalin is contesting, 27 candidates were in the fray and ten candidates in Rishivandhiyam, where DMDK President Vikayakanth is seeking election.


Senior DMK leader and Finance Minister K Anbazhagan (Villivakkam), PMK President G K Mani (Mettur), BJP State President Pon Radhakrishnan (Nagercoil), former Union Minister Su Thirunavukakrasar (Aranthangi), Puthiya Tamizhagam leader K Krishnasamy (Ottapidaram) and Actor Sarat Kumar (Tenkasi) were among the others in the fray.


In Tirupur north, 140 candidates had filed papers, protesting against the closure of dyeing units and threatening to pose a  challenge to the Election Commission. However, after political parties promised to resolve their problem, they withdrew their papers yesterday. The nominations filed by some of them were rejected on March 28.


The Election authorities heaved a sigh of relief as only 10 candidates were left in the fray. Mr C Govindasamy, who shifted to the DMK from CPI(M), is seeking re-election from this constituency.


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Manmohan, Gilani discuss wide-ranging bilateral issues

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with his Pakistani counterpart Yusuf Raza Gilani at the India-Pakistan World Cup semi-final at Mohali on March 30, 2011.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with his Pakistani counterpart Yusuf Raza Gilani at the India-Pakistan World Cup semi-final at Mohali on March 30, 2011.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's cricket diplomacy seems to have borne fruit as his talks with his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani at Mohali today were described as very "positive" and "encouraging".

Mr Gilani had been invited by Dr Singh to watch the World Cup semi-final between India and Pakistan at the Punjab town today.

On the sidelines of the match, the two leaders held "very wide- ranging" talks, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao told reporters in Chandigarh after the dinner hosted by the Prime Minister in honour of Mr Gilani and his delegation.

"Just like we have been talking about the Thimphu spirit after the two leaders met in the Bhutanese capital last year and decided to carry forward the dialogue process, we can now speak of a Mohali spirit," she said.

Though no agenda had been set for the meeting, sources in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) had said in the capital yesterday that there could be a one-to-one meeting between the two leaders and anything concerning the bilateral relations between the two countries could be discussed.

Mr Gilani had arrived in Chandigarh in the morning at the head of a large delegation. He was joined by Dr Singh in the afternoon. The two leaders watched the match together for a few hours and then withdrew to hold talks.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at a dinner hosted by him in honour of his Pakistani counterpart Yusuf Raza Gilani during the India-Pakistan World Cup semi-final at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium in Mohali on March 30, 2011.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at a dinner hosted by him in honour of his Pakistani counterpart Yusuf Raza Gilani during the India-Pakistan World Cup semi-final at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium in Mohali on March 30, 2011.

The two countries are trying to resume the dialogue process and a meeting between their Foreign Ministers is scheduled for July.

India had suspended the composite dialogue process with Pakistan after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks.  

In the last two years, the two Prime Ministers have met twice on the sidelines of international and regional meetings. They had a meeting at Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt in 2009 and again in Thimphu in April last year.

Talks between the Home Secretaries of the two countries that marked the formal resumption of dialogue between the two sides after a gap of over two years, ended on a positive note here yesterday.

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970 candidates left in fray in Kerala assembly elections


A total of 970 candidates were left in the fray for the April 13 assembly elections in Kerala as the deadline for withdrawal of nominations passed this evening.


In all, 1,373 candidates had submitted their nominations for the 140-seat assembly, state election officials said.


Thuiruvananthapuram district has the largest number of 100 candidates in the fray while the least number of 17 candidates is in Wayanad.


Ernakulam district has the second largest number of candidates with 107 left in the fray. Kollam has 76 candidates, Pathanamthitta 40, Alappuzha 62, Kottayam 59, Idukki 41, Thrissur 84, Palakkad 75, Malappuram 97 Kozhikode 97, Kannur 71 and Kasargode 36 candidates.


The scrutiny of nominations was completed on Monday.


There are a total of 22,878,767 voters, including 11,919,652 women, as per the latest revised electoral list.


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Bye-elections for Bastar, Kadapa LS seats, 3 Assembly seats on May 8

The Election Commission today said bye-elections would be held on May 8 to fill up casual vacancies in the Bastar (Scheduled Tribe) and Kadapa parliamentary constituencies in Chhattisgarh  and Andhra Pradesh, respectively, and three casual vacancies in the State Legislative Assemblies of Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Nagaland.


The assembly constituencies are Pulivendla in Andhra Pradesh, Pipraich in Uttar Pradesh and Aonglenden in Nagaland.


An official press release said the notifications for the bye-elections would be issued on April 11 and the last date for making nominations will be April 18. Counting of votes will begin on May 13, along with the counting exercise for the Assembly elections in five states scheduled for April-May.


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2,500 candidates in fray in TN for April 13 polls


About 2,500 candidates were left in the fray for the April 13 polls to elect 234 members to the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly after the last date for withdrawals today.


In all, 4,228 candidates had filed their nominations and a total of 1,153 papers were rejected for various reasons when they were taken up for scrutiny on March 28.


A total of 3,075 papers filed by candidates nominated by various political parties and Independents were found in order. After about 575 candidates, mostly Independents withdrew their papers, about 2,500 candidates were left in the fray.


Apart from dummy candidates, some rebels and Independents, a majority of the 140 members of the Tiruppur Industrial Protection Committee (TIPC), who had filed their papers from Tiruppur North seat to express their anger over loss of jobs due to closure of dyeing units, withdrew from the fray today.


Some of the papers filed by TIPC members were rejected, while a majority of them withdrew today, leaving just 10 candidates in the fray, as the Election officials heaved a sigh of relief.


Those in the fray included DMK president and Chief Minister M Karunanidhi (Tiruvarur), AIADMK leader J Jayalalithaa (Srirangam), Deputy Chief Minister M K Stalin (Kolathur), Tamil Nadu Congress chief K V Thangkabalu (Mylapore) and DMDK founder and actor Vijayakanth (Rishivandhiyam).


According to reports received here, a total of 12 candidates were left in the fray in Tiruvarur, 22 in Srirangam, 27 in Kolathur and 10 in Rishivandhiyam.


Also in the fray were state Finance Minister K Anbazhagan (Villivakkam), PMK president G K Mani (Mettur), BJP state president Pon Radhakrishnan (Nagercoil), former Union Minister and Congress leader Su Thirunavukakrasar (Aranthangi), Puthiya Tamizhagam leader K Krishnasamy (Ottapidaram), and actor Sarat Kumar (Tenkasi).


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PM says security agencies must improve standards, infrastructure to handle terror threats

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today urged police and security authorities to improve their professional standards and build more appropriate and better infrastructure to handle more effectively the threat of terrorism, which had acquired new dimensions, recognising no borders and transcending geographical limits and constraints.

"The new generation of terrorists possesses far greater capability to create networks for sharing knowledge, skills and resources," he said in his address at the 26th Raising Day of the Special Protection Group (SPG), the agency that protects the Prime Minister and former Prime Ministers and their families.

Dr Singh noted that some terrorist groups had acquired State-like military capabilities in many of their fighting strategies and tactics. He said the number of important dignitaries at risk from terrorists had also been rising and this was a cause for major concern for Governments across the globe.

"India is no exception particularly since we have been fighting cross border terrorism for almost three decades," he said.

Dr Singh said the role of internal security agencies in ensuring peace and stability was better appreciated today than ever before.

"There is, however, no doubt that the police and security authorities can be much more effective in this work if they further improve their professional standards, and build more appropriate and better infrastructure," he said.

Dr Singh recalled the tragic circumstances under which the Government had recognised the necessity of setting up a dedicated and specialised VIP Protection Unit after the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984.

He said the assassination had made the Government realise sharply the "need for a committed, disciplined and highly trained security outfit for providing discreet but nonetheless effective security to the highest political leadership of the country."

He expressed happiness that the SPG had, in the past 26 years, evolved and developed into a formidable force, displaying a very high level of professionalism and an outstanding level of commitment to duty.

"I am happy to know that the SPG is one organisation that has been thinking ahead and making constant efforts to improve its tactical response to meet the ever changing threats. Following the sanction of the Special Intervention Unit, I am sure the SPG will go all out in its efforts to operationalise and put in place its new counter -terrorist arm at the very earliest," he said.

On a personal note, Dr Singh said that he had, over the last seven years, observed the SPG from very close quarters.

"Over these years, my appreciation of the very difficult task that you perform has only grown. I thank you not only for taking care of my and my family’s security and safety but for also ensuring our comfort and convenience. I have no doubt in my mind that other SPG Protectees present here have similar sentiments in respect of your organisation," he said.

"In a democratic polity like ours it is essential that the top political leadership should be visible and easily accessible. At the same time, the concerns of security also need to be taken care of. It is this contradiction that SPG needs to manage. While I am aware of the considerable efforts that the SPG makes in this direction, I would urge the force to do more to minimise the levels of inconvenience faced by the ordinary citizens," he added.

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Delhi HC upholds life sentence to hijacker


The Delhi High Court today upheld the life sentence awarded to former school teacher Hari Singh for hijacking an Indian Airlines flight in March 1993.


A Delhi trial court had convicted him with life sentence in August 2001.


A bench headed by Justice S Ravinder Bhat ordered, "This court finds no infirmity with the approach or the findings of the trial court. The conviction of the appellant has to be sustained."


The court, however, called upon the government to consider commuting his sentence appropriately as the convict, a former school teacher, had hijacked the plane to vent his frustration over the falling norms and values in the society.


"It would be appropriate for the government to consider the issue of suitably commuting or reviewing the appellant’s sentence in exercise of its constitutional power," the bench, said.


"The appellant was a misguided individual and perhaps wished to make a statement or a political point but such a conduct is impermissible and not in public interest as it amounts to an individual jeopardising the life and safety of several passengers and also disrupting vital services," the court added.


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Hype has not affected us, we are well prepared: Dhoni

Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni today promised a good showing by his side in the World Cup semi-final against Pakistan here tomorrow.

Talking to mediapersons on the eve of the match, Dhoni made light of the hype surrounding the match. "I do not know about the hype, we have not created it and it does not affect us.


"We are doing what we are supposed to do - play cricket. We are oblivious of the hype or hysteria which you say has been created. It depends what you mean by the hype created by media or sponsors. In any case this has been the part of Indian cricket," he said.


"We are focused about the match for which we are well prepared ... it depends how one looks at it, for me it is a one game at a time and you have to perform, hype or no hype," he added.


Asked whether it was going to be the biggest match of his career, Dhoni replied, "For me every game is important."


"It depends how one looks at the things. In 2007, when we were playing the final (T20), that was then regarded as the most important match. Even the triangular series final is often described as the most important game. Three days after this game, people will start saying that final is the most important game.


"At the end of the day, it remains a 50 over game, rules have not changed, yes it is now a knock out game, you will not get a second chance. You cannot allow your opposition to play outstandingly well even for 20 overs," he added.


He lavished praised on his counterpart from Pakistan Shahid Afridi saying, "He has been bowling very well and has been the pick of their bowling department."


Dhoni admitted that "Pakistan has a good bowling attack, their spinners are good and they have some excellent part-time bowlers and couple of bowling all-rounders" but added "it all depends on the batsmen, they have to play the delivery on the basis of the merit, irrespective of who the bowler is."


Asked about the fitness of the players, he said, "At the moment, every body seems to be fit."


He did not agree to a question that captaincy has been a distraction and has effected his batting. "No, I do not think so. It has been an honour to lead the national team. I am under no pressure. I am batting well, in a couple of games my shots went straight to fielders but that is part of the game," he explained.


"The last game (against Australia) was an ideal game for me to score but again I got out early. Things do not turn out your way every time," he said.


About the pitch, Dhoni said, "I have not seen it yet so cannot comment on it now."


He said he was not aware of what was happening on the political front. "We have not been watching TV and also my responsibility is to play, that is the role I have been assigned and I am doing it.


"Whatever is the political talk, at the end of day one team has to lose. Only one team will go to play final. This is what the sports is all about and this is applicable to all the games," he said.


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SC drops corruption case against Ramachandran Nair


The Supreme Court has dropped criminal proceedings against former Kerala Chief Secretary and the first Vice-Chancellor of Sri Shankaracharya Sanskrit university R Ramachandran Nair in a corruption case.


Mr Nair was appointed special officer for setting up the first Sanskrit university in the state on July 15, 1991 and was allocated 42.5 acres of land in Kalady in district Ernakulam.


An FIR was lodged against Mr Nair and four others on December 18, 1996 alleging that they indulged in corruption for illegal pecuniary gains to the tune of Rs 5,951,543 in collusion with the contractors.


The court of Inquiry Commissioner and special judge dismissed his application for discharge on the grounds that in a charge sheet the amount has come down only to Rs 268,358 from Rs 5,951,543 alleged in the FIR.


The State government directed the Director Vigilance and anti-corruption bureau to withdraw the cases against Mr Nair. Kerala High Court dismissed his criminal revision on July 12, 2010.


A bench comprising Justices P Sathasivam and B S Chauhan yesterday allowed the appeal of Mr Nair and ruled, "We are satisfied that the appellant has made a case for discharge from the criminal proceedings.


"Consequently, the appellant is discharged from all allegations


levelled aggainst him. The appeal is allowed."


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Pakistan marine security men arrest 12 Indian fishermen


Pakistan's marine security personnel arrested twelve Indian fishermen in three fishing boats from the Arabian Sea, off Jakhao port in Gujarat.


According to National Fish Forum Gujarat Unit Secretary Manish Lodhari, the fishermen were nabbed yesterday and their boats seized.


The arrested fishermen are from Porbandar and nearby villages, Mr Lodhari said. They were taken to Karachi, he said.


The Indian Coast Guards and the Fisheries Department have been informed about the incident, Mr Lodhari added.


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2G spectrum: CBI to file charge sheet on April 2 against Raja


The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) today informed the Supreme Court that it would file a charge sheet on April 2 against seven accused, including ex Communications Minister A Raja, in the 2G spectrum allocation case.


The CBI today filed a status report on its investigations in the case so far in the Supreme Court.


Earlier, the CBI had informed the Court that it would be filing a charge sheet on March 31 but now it will be filing it on April 2.


Others to be charge sheeted include four officials and two companies, Swan Telecommunication and Loop, which were given 2G spectrum licences. The CBI shall also file two supplementary charge sheets.


The Enforcement Directorate (ED), which is investigating the involvement of illegal money through money laundering in the alleged 2G spectrum scam, is due to file a charge sheet on May 31.


Mr Raja, who is in judicial custody at present, is to be charged with criminal conspiracy, forgery and under the Prevention of Corruption Act. Four other officials may also face similar charges.


A bench comprising Justices G S Singhvi and A K Ganguly is monitoring the CBI investigations in the case.


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CBI arrests Shahid Balwa's brother Asif in 2G spectrum case


The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) today arrested two people including Asif Balwa, brother of DB Realty promoter Shahid Usman Balwa, in connection with its probe into the 2G spectrum allocation case.


Asif and Rajiv Agarwal are the directors of Kusegaon Fruits and Vegetables Pvt Ltd, which reportedly loaned Cineyug a sum of Rs 212 crore. But it was not a straightforward loan and had passed through a maze of transactions.


Asif was arrested from his residence in south Mumbai, while Agarwal was apprehended from a hotel in the suburbs, sources said.


Shahid Balwa was arrested in February 8 for his alleged involvement in the 2G spectrum scam. He is currently lodged in Tihar jail.


Swan Telecom is believed to be one of the beneficiaries in the spectrum allotted during tenure of former Communications Minister A Raja, who was arrested prior to Balwa and is lodged in the same jail.


The others arrested in connection with the case are Raja's private secretary R K Chandolia and former Telecom Secretary Siddharth Behuria.


Asif and Agarwal were later produced in the designated CBI court, which granted transit remand to take them to Delhi, where the investigation is going on.


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India announces $ 1 million of assistance for quake-hit areas of Myanmar

India today announced an assistance of $ 1 million for relief and rehabilitation in the areas affected by the earthquake in the north-eastern part of Myanmar on March 24.


The announcement follows up on the assurance given by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in a message to Senior General Than Shwe, Chairman, State Peace and Development Council of Myanmar, the official spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs said in a response to a question.


Dr Singh had condoled the loss of lives and damage to property and infrastructure caused by the natural calamity and assured the Government of Myanmar of any assistance that Myanmar may require from India.


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Saudi Arabia's Prince Bandar briefs PM about developments in Middle East

The Secretary General of National Security Council of Saudi Arabia, Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud calling on the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, in New Delhi on March 28, 2011.
The Secretary General of National Security Council of Saudi Arabia, Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud calling on the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, in New Delhi on March 28, 2011.

Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Secretary General of the National Security Council of Saudi Arabia, called on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here yesterday and briefed him about the recent developments in the Middle East, North Africa and the Gulf regions.

An official statement from the Ministry of External Affairs said Prince Bandar, in particular, spoke about the efforts being made by Saudi Arabia and the member-states of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to bring peace, stability and prosperity for the people in the region.

He indicated the desire of the Gulf States to meet the genuine aspirations of the people in an atmosphere of peace and stability.

Prince Bandar also reiterated Saudi Arabia’s keen interest in further consolidating relations between India and the kingdom in all areas of cooperation, without reservation.

Dr Singh conveyed India's firm commitment to further developing its strategic partnership with Saudi Arabia.

He pointed out that the Middle East and the Gulf were regions of great interest to India because of the presence of almost six million Indians. He said the region was a major economic partner and source of energy for India.

The Prime Minister said cooperation between India and Saudi Arabia and the other GC states was a factor of peace and stability in the region.

Dr Singh emphasised that differences should be resolved through peaceful dialogue and countries should be free to determine their own pathways to national development.

He expressed confidence that the wisdom and leadership of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia would contribute to peace, stability and welfare of the people of the region.

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PM says concerns about safety of nuclear plants must be addressed

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh speaking at the presentation of the Lifetime Achievement Awards 2009 of the Department of Atomic Energy, in New Delhi on March 29, 2011.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh speaking at the presentation of the Lifetime Achievement Awards 2009 of the Department of Atomic Energy, in New Delhi on March 29, 2011.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said it was vitally important to address the worldwide concerns raised abut the safety of nuclear energy as a source of power by the tragedy at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan after the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit that country on March 11.

"The people of India have to be convinced about the safety and security of our own nuclear power plants," Dr Singh said after conferring the Department of Atomic Energ's Lifetime Achievement Awards for 2009 at a function here.

"We should bring greater openness and transparency in the decision-making processes relating to our nuclear energy programme and improve our capacity to respond to the public desire to be kept informed about decisions and issues that are of concern to them. I would like to see accountability and transparency in the functioning of our nuclear power plants," he said.

Dr Singh said the safety track record of India's nuclear power plants over the past 335 reactor–years of operation had been impeccable.

"I congratulate all our scientists and engineers for this achievement. But, we cannot be complacent," he said.

The Prime Minister said the Government would take all the necessary measures to ensure the safety of the country's nuclear plants.

He pointed out that he had already directed a technical review of all safety systems of the nuclear power plants using the best expertise available in the country.

"The future reactors that will be built in India will have to be certified by the Indian regulatory authority and meet its safety standards. This will apply equally to reactors and technologies that are imported from abroad," he said.

Dr Singh said the Government would strengthen the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) and make it a truly autonomous and independent regulatory authority. "We will ensure that it is of the highest and the best international standards," he declared.

'Our nuclear scientists and technologists are second to none. Your record proves that you have always risen to the challenge. I am confident that you will attain new heights of excellence for the welfare and benefit of our country. In this you will have the full support of the government," he said.

Dr Singh congratulated the winners of the awards, including Mr N Srinivasan, Dr. V. K. Iya, Professor Obaid Siddiqi and Mr V. K. Mehra and their families.

"They have individually excelled in their areas of specialization, in many ways they have become leaders and role models and it is for me a great sense of pride to be here on this occasion in the company of such dedicated and committed scientist from the Atomic Energy fraternity," he said.

Dr Singh said that India had fully demonstrated its capabilities in all the scientific and technological aspects associated with the design, development, construction, operation and maintenance of nuclear reactors and associated fuel cycle facilities. He said the country owed this success to the indigenous three-stage programme whose foundation was laid by Dr. Homi Bhabha.

"The decades of nuclear isolation under which our nuclear programme evolved has fortunately ended. India is now an active participant in international civil nuclear cooperation. This has brought with it new opportunities as well as new responsibilities. I have no doubt that the opening of the doors of international cooperation will help us in our efforts to enhance our energy security," he said.

Dr Singh said that it was imperative for a fast growing economy like India's to tap all sources of energy and diversify its energy mix.

"Nuclear energy has the potential of playing an increasingly important role in giving our country energy independence from traditional and often polluting sources of energy," he added.

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Karunanidhi denies Kalaignar TV involved in 2G spectrum scam

File photo of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi
File photo of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) President M Karunanidhi denied Kalaignar TV, in which his wife and daughter together have 80 per cent stake, was involved in any way in the alleged 2G spectrum allocation scam.

In an interview to CNN-IBN television channel, Mr Karunanidh said that Kalaignar TV had his name but he had no stake in it.

He said his daughter Kanimozhi had a 20 per cent stake in it while his wife Dayalu had 60 per cent, while the channel's Managing Director Sharad Kumar has 20 per cent.

"They had taken a loan from somewhere which they repaid along with interest and even have Income Tax papers to show for the money. After this, I don’t understand how it can be called a scam," he said.

Mr Karunanidhi said people were just adding zeroes and saying it was a big scam. "Some political parties are spreading rumours and that is the truth," he said.

The Chief Minister said he did not wish to comment on the matter further because the case is before the Supreme Court.

"Whether it is a scam or not is for the Supreme Court to decide and, therefore, I don’t want to interfere in that.

"To answer about Kalaignar TV, I have nothing to do with it and I am no director of the channel. A channel was launched using my name and that channel borrowed money, but the money was repaid. There could be cases on the person they borrowed the money from but because of that to say that I am also involved in the scam or that the money we borrowed itself is corrupt money is not right! All that will be known only after a long and proper investigation. And when that is known, it will be clear that we are innocent and have done no wrong," he said.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has arrested DMK leader and former Union Communications Minister A Raja in connection with the alleged scam and had searched the premises of Kalaignar TV.

There have been allegations that DB Realty, one of the beneficiaries of the 2G spectrum allocation, had paid around Rs 200 crore to Kalaignar TV in return for favours received, which the television channel has denied.

Mr Karunanidhi said his party would go to the electorate in next month's elections to the state legislative assembly on the strength of its performance in Government.

"Do you all believe in the DMK’s successful governance since 1967 or not? Have you understood that we are trustworthy or not? Have we fulfilled all our promises and all the schemes we announced or not? Do you feel the effort, care and determination we put in to fulfill these promises? Do you realize that we are a government, which worked for the poor people and downtrodden people of Tamil Nadu? These are the questions I would like to pose to the voters," he said.

He also claimed that the freebies, announced by him in the 2006 election manifesto and again ahead of this year's elections, were not for getting votes.

"There are a lot of poor and downtrodden people in Tamil Nadu and to make them live happily has been the DMK’s aim, not just today, but the whole movement was started only with the aim of providing a better life for the poor. 'We should find God in poor people's smile,' was our leader Annadurai’s motto...and to see that smile, we have taken several steps…these freebies are just one of those several steps," he said.

Talking about his party's relations with the Congress and the differences they had during the seat-sharing talks for the Tamil Nadu polls, Mr Karunanidhi said both the parties realised that the Congress, at the Centre, and the DMK, at the state-level, were both individually big parties and, therefore, had their own goals and ambitious.

He said the DMK needed the help of the Central Government to achieve some of its goals. He cited the example of the Centre's decision to recognise Tamil as a classical language, for which Congress President Sonia Gandhi had played a role along with then Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh.

"Therefore, if there are differences, between the Central Government and us, the differences could be in our ideologies, or because of our demands for more sanctions for our schemes. But we do not differ in fundamental ideologies such as stopping communalism and propagating social equality among Indians," he said.

Asked whether the DMK would look at forming a coalition government after the elections, if the results are favourable to the alliance led by it, Mr Karunanidhi said such matters could be decided only after the elections were over.

"I believe the people will accept the DMK as a single party rule. I hope they would want single party rule to continue in the state. But if, by any chance, the voting pattern changes, and there is a compulsion that a government can be formed only through a coalition, I'll discuss with the other parties and take a decision," he said.

Asked if everyone in the party would accept his son M K Stalin as the next leader, he said the DMK was a democratic party and the cadres and senior leaders would collectively select a person they feel is capable of handling the position.

To allegations that he is perpetuating family politics, he said, "The problem is that I have a family...Whoever talks about my family should see whether they have a family or not. Family means a man and woman getting married and having children and making a family. But there are also people who call those who have been with them for very long as family...I don’t have a family like that. I belong to a proper honest family."

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CCEA approves grant of Rs 378 crore for GAGAN project over Indian airspace

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) today approved a one-time grant-in-aid of Rs. 378 crores from the Government Budgetary Support for implementation of the GPS-Aided GEO Augmented Navigation (GAGAN) project over Indian airspace for seamless navigation.


The decision is subject to conditions imposed by the Expenditure Finance Committee (EFC), an official press release said.


The total project cost approved by CCEA is Rs.774 crore, out of which Rs.148 crore has been spent in the Technology Demonstration System (TDS) Phase.


This included a contribution of Rs 108 crore from the Airports Authority of India (AAI) and Rs 40 crore contributed by Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).


The release said the balance amount of Rs.626 crore has been earmarked for the Final Operational Phase (FOP), out of which AAI is required to contribute Rs.496 crore and balance Rs.130 crore is to be contributed by ISRO.


Out of its total commitment of Rs.604 crore to this project, AAI has already spent Rs.226 crore and is now seeking a one-time grant-in-aid from the GBS of Rs.378 crore to meet its balance commitment. This has been recommended by the EFC. GBS is to be provided in the current year for a sum of Rs. 171crores. For the next year appropriate provisions would be made for the balance amount, the release said.


The project is expected to be ready for operational use by May, 2013, it said.


According to the release, the project has multiple benefits to the aviation sector and would help in seamless navigation over Indian airspace. It would be an all-weather national infrastructure and can be used by defence services, security agencies, Railways, surface transport, shipping, telecom industry and personal users of position location based services.


The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) had, in 1993, endorsed a global satellite-based navigation system as the future of air navigation system in view of the limitations of the ground-based navigation systems.


In furtherance of this international commitment, AAI and ISRO had entered into a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in August, 2001 for implementation of the GAGAN Project.


Presently, similar systems are in operation in United States and European countries. It is being ensured that GAGAN system is interoperable with other similar systems operational in the world.


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India, Pakistan commit to fight terrorism, bring terrorists to justice

India and Pakistan today reiterated their commitment to fight terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and reaffirmed the need to bring those responsible for such crimes to justice.

Union Home Secretary G.K. Pillai and the Pakistani Interior Secretary Qamar Zaman Chaudhary at the Home Secretary level talks between India and Pakistan, in New Delhi on March 28, 2011.
Union Home Secretary G.K. Pillai and the Pakistani Interior Secretary Qamar Zaman Chaudhary at the Home Secretary level talks between India and Pakistan, in New Delhi on March 28, 2011.

India and Pakistan today reiterated their commitment to fight terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and reaffirmed the need to bring those responsible for such crimes to justice.

Both sides agreed to set up a hotline between the Home Secretary of India and Interior Secretary of Pakistan to facilitate real-time information sharing with respect to terrorist threats.

In a Joint Statement issued here after the two-day Home/Interior Secretary-level talks between the two countries, they agreed that it was important for both sides to remain engaged on outstanding issues and henceforth the Home/Interior Secretary-level talks would be held bi-annually.

The Indian delegation to the talks was led by Home Secretary Gopal K Pillai and the Pakistani team by Interior Secretary Qamar Zaman Chaudhary.

The meeting was held in pursuance of the decision taken by the two sides in February this year to resume the dialogue process and in the backdrop of the bilateral meeting between the Home Minister P Chidambaram of India and nterior Minister Rehman Malik of Pakistan in Islamabad on June 25-26, 2010.

According to the statement, the meeting was held in a cordial and friendly atmosphere. Both sides exchanged views on the decisions taken in the last round of talks held in Islamabad in 2008.

The Pakistani side provided updates on the ongoing trial and investigation in Pakistan on the November 26, 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai, which claimed 166 lives and which India blames on elements based in Pakistan.

Pakistan conveyed its readiness, in principle, based upon the principle of comity and reciprocity, to entertain a Commission from India with respect to the Mumbai terror attack investigations. Modalities and composition in this connection will be worked out through diplomatic channels, it said.

Dates for the visit of the Judicial Commission from Pakistan in connection with Mumbai attack trial will be conveyed by India within four-six weeks.

The statement said that India's National Investigation Agency (NIA) and Pakistan's Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) would continue to cooperate in the Mumbai terror attack investigations.

India provided information on the on-going Samjhautha Express blast case investigation. It was also agreed that after filing of report in the court, updated information will be shared with the concerned Pakistan authorities.

Both sides noted and welcomed the release of prisoners and fishermen by each other since the last round of talks. It was agreed that both sides would release by April 15, 2011 those civilian prisoners/fishermen who have completed their sentence, whose nationality status has been confirmed by the respective Governments and whose travel documents have been received. The complete list of prisoners in each others’ custody will be exchanged by both sides on July 1, 2011.

Both sides agreed that the problem and issues of the inadvertent crossers should be viewed sympathetically, and in a focused and sensitive manner.

Accordingly, both sides also agreed to task the Coast Guard of India and the Pakistan Maritime Security Agency to work on setting up a mechanism for release of inadvertent crossers (fishermen) and their boats on the same lines as the inadvertent crossers on land.

The Group will submit its report to the Home/Interior Secretaries before the next round of talks.

Both sides commended the work done by the Judicial Committee on Prisoners for the release, repatriation and humane treatment of prisoners and agreed on the need for its continuation. The next meeting of the Judicial Committee would be held from April 19-23, 2011 in Pakistan.

Both sides shared the concern of the growing menace of narcotics and drugs and agreed that cooperation between the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) of India and the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) of Pakistan should be enhanced to ensure an effective control on drug trafficking.

The meeting also agreed that talks between the Directors General of the NCB and ANF would be held annually. The Indian side accepted the invitation for the Director General of NCB to visit Pakistan in May 2011 for talks with the Director General of the ANF.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Drug Demand Reduction and Prevention of Illicit Trafficking in Narcotics Drugs/Psychotropic Substances and Precursor Chemicals and related matters as finalized will be formally signed at the next DG level meeting of NCB-ANF in May 2011.

The meeting decided that India's Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Pakistan's FIA would schedule a meeting to work out the technical details of moving forward on issues of, human trafficking, counterfeit currency, cyber crimes and Red Corner Notices (RCNs).

Both sides agreed to set up a Joint Working Group to examine the modalities for streamlining the visa procedure/modalities and for giving a final shape to revision of the Bilateral Visa Agreement.

The Interior Secretary of Pakistan invited the Home Secretary of India for the next Home/Interior Secretary-level Talks in Pakistan. The invitation was accepted.

Both sides agreed that the visit of the Interior Minister of Pakistan to India will take place on mutually convenient dates, to be decided through diplomatic channels, the statement added.

The talks were held just ahead of the meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yusuf Raza Gilai on March 30 at Mohali where India and Pakistan are slated to meet in the semi-final of the cricket World Cup.

In a major initiative at "cricket diplomacy", Dr Singh had invited Mr Gilani to join him at Mohali to watch the match and the Pakistan Prime Minister has accepted the invitation.

The two-day meeting was the first structured bilateral Secretary-level talks between the two sides on counter-terrorism after they decided to resume comprehensive talks.

India had suspended the composite dialogue with Pakistan after the 26/11 attacks. India had sought action against them before the dialogue could be resumed.

However, after a meeting between Dr Singh and Mr Gilani at Thimphu in Bhutan in April last year, on the sidelines of the SAARC Summit, the two countries had decided to resume their dialogue.

Since then, the Foreign Secretaries and the Foreign Ministers of the two countries have met. The Foreign Ministers are expected to meet again in Delhi later this year.

The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) had finalised the agenda for the talks between the Home Secretaries at its meeting here on March 24.

In a unilateral confidence-building measure ahead of the Home Secretary-level talks, India had announced on Saturday that it had decided to increase the stay period for persons visiting Jammu and Kashmir on entry permits from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (POK) to six months with multiple entries.

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EC asks Tamil Nadu intelligence chief to go on leave


The Election Commission (EC) has asked Tamil Nadu intelligence chief Jaffer Sait to go on leave till May 15, the end of the process for the State Assembly elections.


Mr Sait, along with State Director General of Police Letika Saran, was transferred by the EC, to which Chief Minister M Karunanidhi took objections and said it was done at the instance of opposition AIADMK without consulting the State government.


The EC had deputed Mr Sait as an observer for the West Bengal polls. He, however, refused to accept it on the ground that his presence was required in Tamil Nadu in view of the VIPs' visits for election campaigning.


He had sent a letter to the State government seeking to go on leave. It was forwarded to the EC for further action. The EC, after perusing it, has granted permission for Mr Sait, said to be very close to the Chief MInister, to go on leave till May 15.


Ms Saran has also gone on leave till May 15, while Chennai Suburban Police Commisioner S R Jangid who was also shifted along with Ms Saran and Mr Sait, was assigned a new posting yesterday.


The EC had justfied the transfer of IAS and IPS officials before the Madras High Court, stating it was vested with enough powers to decide on it without consulting the State government.


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Coast Guard Ships C-150, C-151 commissioned in Kochi

Indian Coast Guard Ships C-150 and C-151 were commissioned by Vice Admiral Anil Chopra, Director General Coast Guard, at a ceremony in Kochi today.

The two ships are the 8th and 9th of the 11 Interceptor Boat (IB) class, designed and built indigenously by ABG Shipyard, Surat. They are fitted with ultra-modern navigational and communication equipment, and will be deployed for enhancing the close coast surveillance capability of the Coast Guard.

The 28-metre ships displace 90 tons each, and have an endurance of 500 nautical miles with an economical speed of 25 knots. They can achieve a maximum speed of 45 knots for responding to urgent calls at sea, and are equipped with advanced navigational and communication equipment. In addition to small arms, the IBs are fitted with 12.7 mm ‘Prahari’ Heavy Machine Gun (HMG).

C-150 and C-151 are commanded by Commandant Ashok Kumar and Commandant RK Sinha, and will be based at Vizhinjam and Kakinada, respectively.


The commissioning ceremony was attended by Inspector General S P S Basra, Commander Coast Guard Region (West), senior officers from the Navy and Central and State Governments.


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496 candidates for second phase of Assam assembly polls


Altogether 496 candidates will fight for 64 constituencies that go to the polls in the second and final phase of the Assam Assembly elections on April 11.


As many as 537 nominations were filed for the second phase polls, of which 519 were found to be valid.


Out of the valid nominations, 23 were withdrawn till the end of the deadline for withdrawal of nominations today.


Among the 18 nominations that were rejected, the highest number of candidates was of All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF). Papers of three AIUDF candidates were rejected, followed by two of Bodoland People’s Front (BPF).


There are 482 candidates for 62 constituencies in the first phase polls, slated on April 4. Counting of votes will be taken up on May 13.


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Fire breaks out in reserve forest in Gujarat


A huge fire today gutted a wildlife sanctuary in the reserve forest at Nadabet, near the border district of Banaskantha in Gujarat.


The fire engulfed a major part of the sanctuary, spread over 2541 hectares, this morning, Range Forest Officer R F Tharad said. The fire was raging even after 10 hours of fire fighting efforts.


The sanctuary is the abode of chinkaras, blackbuck, wild boar, and jackals, Mr Tharad said.


The entire region being close to international border is a restricted area and the Nadabet region where the fire broke out is about 15 km away from human population. The last villages are Jaloya and Suigam, 15 and 30 km away, respectively, from the Nanabet.


Even the Nadeshwari Temple, located in the restricted area, is being looked after by Border Security Force (BSF) Jawans, Mr Tharad said.


As such there is no chance of fire being set by any local, he said. A BSF official said the fire was probably caused by an electrical short circuit. Strong winds helped the fire to spread quickly in the dry shrubs in the grassland, he added.


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