Sonia Gandhi: Land acquisition should not lead to loss of fertile tracts

NAC Chairperson Sonia Gandhi on Thursday called for a balanced approach in securing land for development and industrial projects to ensure that large tracts of fertile agricultural land were not lost.

NAC Chairperson Sonia Gandhi dedicating the National Capital Thermal Power Project at Dadri to the nation on September 9, 2010. Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and Minister of State Bharatsinh Solanki are also seen.
NAC Chairperson Sonia Gandhi dedicating the National Capital Thermal Power Project at Dadri to the nation on September 9, 2010. Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and Minister of State Bharatsinh Solanki are also seen.

National Advisory Council (NAC) Chairperson Sonia Gandhi today stressed the need for a balanced approach in securing land for development and industrial projects to ensure that large tracts of fertile agricultural land were not lost.

"New industries and infrastructure cannot be built without acquiring land. This is obvious and there is no argument about it," Ms Gandhi, who is also the Congress President and United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Chairperson, said while dedicating to the nation the 980 MW Stage II of NTPC's National Capital Thermal Power Project at Dadri near here.

"But land acquisition must be done in a manner that it does not result in the loss of large tracts of fertile and productive agriculture land," she said.

Ms Gandhi said that if this aspect were not taken care of it would compromise the production of food to feed the people of the country. The entire process should be such that it did not adversely affect the farmers and other sections of the people.

The 2 x 490 MW power project will supply power to the venues of the XIX Commonwealth Games that Delhi will host from October 3-14.

Ms Gandhi's comments on land acquisition come at a time when there is a raging debate on the issue in the country and only days after her son and Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi spoke out on the issue in Orissa. Mr Gandhi had also met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as part of a delegation and sought a new legislation on the acquisition of farmers' land.

The UPA Chairperson said farmers must get adequate compensation for their land, when it is acquired, and an alternative occupation. In this context, she referred to the progressive legislation formulated in some states like Haryana and felt other states could emulate them.

Ms Gandhi said electricity was important for the progress and development of the country and various sources needed to be tapped for generation of power.

But she stressed that power generation should not be at the cost of the environment and said the power production should be a "clean" process.

"In whatever we do, we must not forget that our lush forest , mountains are necessary... We have a responsibility to protect them," she said.

"It is our obligation to ensure that affordable electricity is provided to all sections of our population. It is, therefore, evident that if we have to sustain our pace of economic growth and lift all our people out of poverty, the power sector has to lead the way," Ms Gandhi said.

The Congress chief congratulated NTPC for completing the project in a record time of only 39 times.

Stage I of the project is alrady producing 840 MW through four units of 210 MW each and with the addition of Stage II, the project has acheived a total capacity of 2637 MW, including 817 MW produced by its gas-based unit.

Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said his Ministry had set a target of adding 62,000 MW during the XIth Plan, three times the capacity added during the Xth Plan.

He said that 9585 MW of capacity was added during 2009-10, which is the highest ever capacity addition achieved in a single year during the last 60 years. He was confident that the Ministry would exceed this level in the current year.


Judges of MP, Gauhati High Courts transferred

The President has, after consultation with the Chief Justice of India, transfered Mr Justice Arun Kumar Mishra, a Judge of the Madhya Pradesh High Court, to the Rajasthan High Court.

Similarly, Mr Justice Rangan Gogoi, a Judge of the Gauhati High Court, has been transferred to the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

The appointments will be with effect from the dates they assume charge of their respective offices, on or before September 14, an official press release said.

The President has also appointed Ms Vimla Jain and Mr Mohammad Anwar Siddiqui to be Additional Judge of the Madhya Pradesh High Court, in that order of seniority, for a period of two years with effect from the dates they assume charge of their respective offices, the release added.


Enumeration of castes to be done as separate exercise in Jun-Sep 2011

The Union Cabinet today decided that the enumeration of castes, other than Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, of all persons, as returned by them, would be conducted as a separate exercise in a phased manner between June and September, 2011.

This would be done after the Population Enumeration phase, to be conducted in February-March 2011, of the Census 2011 is over, an official press release said after the meeting of the Cabinet.

A suitable legal regime for collection of data on castes would be formulated in consultation with the Ministry of Law & Justice, it said.

The release said the Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner India would conduct the field operations of the caste enumeration. The Government of India would constitute an Expert Group to classify the caste/tribe returns after the enumeration is completed. The Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner India would hand over the details of the castes/tribes returned in the enumeration to the proposed Expert Group.

Caste-wise enumeration had been given up as a matter of policy after Independence in 1947. The last Census when caste-wise data was collected, tabulated and published in detail was the 1931 Census.

In response to the demands for enumerating castes other than Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the Census 2011 raised inside Parliament as well as by various groups outside, the Ministry of Home Affairs submitted a note to the Union Cabinet in May 2010 pertaining to this issue. The Union Cabinet in its meeting held in May 2010 had decided that "the matter would require further examination".

The Ministry of Home Affairs submitted a fresh note on this subject in May 2010. The Union Cabinet discussed the matter in its meeting held in May 2010 and decided that, "the matter may, in the first instance, be considered by a Group of Ministers".

Accordingly, a Group of Ministers (GoM) was constituted under the Chairmanship of Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee. The GoM deliberated on the matter in three meetings and gave its recommendations to the Union Cabinet, the release added.


Govt. to align norms of SSA with those of RTE Act

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) today approved a proposal to revise the existing norms of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, its flagship programme for the universalisation of elementary education country, so that they conform with the recently-enacted Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act.

The SSA will be the main vehicle for the implementation of the RTE Act, passed by Parliament last year.

Today's decision covers revision of SSA norms, including provisions for teachers and classrooms, support for academic supervision, research, evaluation and monitoring, opening of Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas (KGBVs) to bring them in conformity with the provisions of the RTE Act and implement the combined RTE-SSA programme.

New norms under SSA for uniforms, transportation costs and residential schools to implement the combined RTE-SSA programme have also been included.

The decision also covers revision of the funding pattern for the combined RTE-SSA programme between the Centre and the States in the ratio of 65:35 for all States/ UTs; in the case of eight States of the North-Eastern region, the existing sharing pattern of 90:10 would, however, be continued.

The RTE programme has a total cost of Rs 2,31,233 crore over the five-year period 2010-11 to 2014-15. The 13th Finance Commission has provided Rs 24,068 crore and the balance wuld be shared as per the new funding pattern.

Briefing journalists after the meeting, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram said 1073 KGBVs would be set up in the country. He said girls and Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe students as well as those from Below Poverty Line (BPL) families in Government schools would get two sets of uniforms each because many of them could not afford to pay for uniforms.

In areas where girls find it difficult to travel long distances to schools, a transport facility will be provided with a total outlay of Rs 400 crore over five years -- Rs 80 crore per year.

Most of the revised norms would be put in place by the end of the current year, he added.


India condemns US pastor's threat to burn copy of Quran

India today condemned the threat issued by a pastor in the United States to burn a copy of the Quran on Sepember 11 and said it was totally unbecoming of anyone who claims to be a man of religion.

The threat has been made by the leader of a small Florida church to mark the anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks in the US in 2001.

In a statement here, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram noted that the US authorities had strongly condemned the statement of the pastor and that religious leaders all over the world had also condemned his proposed action.

He said the threat was obviously calculated to increase bitterness and strife between different religious groups.

"No one who is interested in maintaining harmony and peace among different sections of the people can condone such action," Mr Chidambaram said.

He hoped the US authorities would take strong action to prevent such an outrage being committed.

At the same time, he appealed to the media in India - both print and visual media - to refrain from publishing photographs or telecasting visuals of the act.

He also appealed to the media to exercise great restraint over the next couple of days and help in maintaining communal peace and harmony.


CBI registers case of fraud against ex-Goa Minister Pacheco

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has registered a case against former Goa Minister Francisco Pacheco for allegedly helping two persons get visas for the United States on the basis of forged docuemnts and facilitating their travel to that country.

A CBI press release said the case against Mr Pacheco, who has already been booked in connection with the death of a close friend, related to criminal conspiracy, cheating, forgery and using forged documents as genuine in the years 2007-08.

"It is alleged that ex-Minister, Government of Goa, entered into a criminal conspiracy with two private persons along with other unknown persons during 2007-2008 and beyond and obtained crew members’ visas from the United States Consulate at Mumbai in the name of two private persons and other unknown persons on the basis of forged documents and hence facilitated the travel of such persons to United States by using forged documents as genuine," the release said.

"Further, it has been alleged that the accused persons obtained these crew men employment letters with the help of ex-Minister of Goa after paying hefty amounts," the release said, adding that searches and further investigations in the case were in progress.


NACO, Global Fund sign agreement on HIV/AIDS related services in India

The Government of India and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM) today signed a three-year grant agreement for $ 128.4 million (Rs 609.9 crore) to support the continuation of the flagship programmes of the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO).

The agreement was signed during a meeting between Mr K Chandramauli, Secretary and Director General, NACO and Dr Michel Kazatchkine, Executive Director, GFATM here.

The programmes covered under the grant agreement include Integrated Counseling and Testing Centres (ICTCs), Prevention of Parent to Child Transmission (PPTCT) services aimed at preventing new-born infants from contracting HIV from their mothers and HIV-TB collaborative services.

An official press release said the overall goal of the grant would be to reach and diagnose an estimated 65 per cent of the HIV-infected people in India and link them to care, support and treatment services. In order to achieve this, NACO through this grant aims to counsel and test 1.82 crore clients annually in as many as 10,700 ICTCs by the end of the project (2012). Special focus will be given to antenatal women, high- risk groups such as female sex workers, men who have sex with men, intravenous drug users as well as people with sexually transmitted infections and tuberculosis.

The release said NACO also intended to work in collaboration with the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) and increase the number of facility integrated ICTCs in Primary Health Centres from 1000 currently to 4755. The number of facility integrated ICTCs under the Public Private Partnership scheme in private sector will also be increased from 266 to 1600 by the end of the three-year period.

Of the estimated 65,000 HIV-positive pregnant women in the country, NACO will reach and identify 60 per cent of them to administer prophylactic treatment to prevent mother-to-child transmission under the PPTCT programme. In order to achieve this target, 83 lakh pregnant women will be annually counseled and tested in ICTCs.

In the three-year period an estimated 70 per cent of HIV-infected TB patients will be detected through an intensified package of HIV-TB collaboration services.

In addition, the capacity of the National Institute of Health and Family Welfare (NIHFW) and 20 State Institutes of Health and Family Welfare and five National Institutes under TB programme will also be built through the establishment of an HIV unit, with requisite infrastructure and human resource strengthening. Also, cold storage units will be set up in 110 warehouses across the country to store thermolabile products like rapid HIV diagnostic kits and so on. Further, to improve supply chain management, a nationwide logistics management and information system will be installed, the release said.

According to the release, NACO has recently applied for the Round 10 funding of the Global Fund. The proposal is to reduce vulnerability among most at risk migrant population, so that the HIV epidemic can be contained. India’s revised migrant strategy envisages identifying high out migration locations at source and transit (besides destination), providing the migrant population information about HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted infections (STI) and safe migration.

Linking this population to public health services for STI, ICTCs, anti-retroviral therapy, Rashtriya Swasthiya Bima Yojana (National Health Insurance Scheme), Village Health Nutrition Day and so on are the key areas expected to be addressed by the village level workers and Volunteer Peer Leaders in the revised migrant strategy, the release added.


ISRO successfully tests liquid core stage of GSLV Mark III

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) today said it had successfully conducted the second static testing of its liquid core stage (L110) of the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV Mk -III) for 200 seconds.

The test was conducted at ISRO's Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC) test facility at Mahendragiri at 15.50 hours today, a press release from ISRO said.

According to the release, L110 is one of the heaviest earth storable liquid stages ever developed by ISRO. L110 stage had two high pressure Vikas engines in a clustered configuration.

Nearly 500 health parameters were monitored during the test and the initial data acquired indicates its normal performance, the release said.

Today's successful test of L110 for its full flight duration of 200 seconds, is a major milestone in the earth storable liquid rocket programme of ISRO and a significant step forward in the development of GSLV-Mk III launch vehicle.

The GSLV-Mk III, which is currently under advanced stage of development, uses two solid strap-on boosters (S200), L110 liquid stage and a cryogenic upper stage C-25, the release added.


Sonia Gandhi inaugurates 31 Jahawar Navodaya Vidyalayas

National Advisory Council Chairperson Sonia Gandhi inaugurating 31 Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas across the country, in New Delhi on September 8, 2010. Union Minister for Human Resource Development Kapil Sibal is also seen.
National Advisory Council Chairperson Sonia Gandhi inaugurating 31 Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas across the country, in New Delhi on September 8, 2010. Union Minister for Human Resource Development Kapil Sibal is also seen.

National Advisory Council (NAC) Chairperson Sonia Gandhi today inaugurated 31 Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas (JNVs), which are fully residential co-educational schools providing education from Class VI to XII and affiliated to the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE).

The new schools are located across the country in the States of Kerala, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra.

Speaking on the occasion, Ms Gandhi underlined the need for education provided in schools to be in accordance with the changes taking place around the world, especially with regard to new technologies and techniques.

She said quality education was a right of all children and wondered why other Government schools were not as good as the Navodaya Vidyalaya.

She expressed concern that one-fourth of the teachers were absent in many schools, which also have many drop-outs from the weaker sections.

Ms Gandhi said information about scholarships and other facilities offered by the Government must reach all students. She felt other Government schools must learn from the JNVs.

Union Minister for Human Resource Development Kapil Sibal said late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi considered providing quality education for deprived children his foremost duty. It was in this context that the Government decided to open a JNV in every district of the country as part of the National Policy on Education, 1986. Today there are 593 JNVs in the country in which 2 lakh children are studying, he said.

He also said that special Navodaya Vidyalayas were being proposed to encourage children showing aptitude in sports, culture and in vocational streams. He pointed out that already Navodaya Vidyalayas were considered at par with the better schools of the country and alumni of these schools were excelling in various professions.

At least 75 per cent of the seats in a Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya are filled by candidates from rural areas. Reservation of seats for children belonging to SCs and STs is provided in proportion to their population in the concerned district. One-third of total seats are filled by girls.

Out of over two lakh students in Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas, 77.84 per cent are from rural areas, 36.67 per cent are girls and 41.61 per cent belong to SC/ST categories, an official press release added.


Air Force to get new digital communication network

The Indian Air Force (IAF) will get a modern state-of-the-art digital information grid next week when the new Air Force Network (AFNET) will be dedicated to the nation.

An official press release said AFNET is a fully secure and reliable network and will replace the IAF's old communication network set-up using the tropo-scatter technology of the 1950s.

The network, which will help make the IAF a true net-centric combat force, is being seen as a major achievement which also marks the successful clearance of one milestone for release of radio spectrum.

The new system will be launched by Defence Minister A K Antony at a special function next Tuesday that will also be attended by Communications and Information Technology Minister A Raja.

The release said the IAF project is part of the overall mission to network all three services. The mission comes in the backdrop of an IT Roadmap document of the Defence Ministry stipulating automation, simulated training and mandatory computer proficiency in the services, it said.

According to it, the IAF has taken up a mandate to create and maintain an assured, dedicated, secure and inter-operable communication network along with associated services to provide real time, instantaneous transfer of information between Sensors, Command and Control (C2) centres and Shooters. In addition, IAF aspires to use communication network and IT-enabled infrastructure for all other operational, techno-logistics and administrative functions to leverage development in this field to enhance efficiency, cost-effectiveness and ease of administration.

While all three services are engaged in large-scale automation and computer-based networking, the IAF is the first among the three to complete the project of interlinking major installations throughout the country on a high bandwidth network.

All major formations and static establishments have been linked through a secure Wide Area Network (WAN) and are accessible through data communication lines. The nationwide programme was launched by the IAF in collaboration with the private industry to accelerate the use of Information Technology (IT) as well as to link all field units using a dedicated satellite, it said.

The release said AFNET incorporates the latest traffic transportation technology in form of IP (Internet Protocol) packets over the network using Multi Protocol Label Switching (MPLS). A large VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) layer with stringent quality of service enforcement will facilitate robust, high quality voice, video and conferencing solutions, it said.

Integrated Air Command and Control System (IACCS), an automated command and control system for Air Defence (AD) operations will ride the AFNET backbone, integrating all ground-based and airborne sensors, AD weapon systems and C2 nodes. Subsequent integration with other services networks and civil radars will provide an integrated Air Situation Picture to operators to carry out AD role.

"AFNET will prove to be an effective force multiplier for intelligence analysis, mission planning and control, post-mission feedback and related activities like maintenance, logistics and administration. A comprehensive design with multi-layer security precautions for 'Defence in Depth' have been planned by incorporating encryption technologies, Intrusion Prevention Systems to ensure the resistance of the IT system against information manipulation and eavesdropping," the release added.


Two suspects held in Pune's German Bakery blast case

The Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) of the Maharashtra Police said on Wednesday they had arrested two persons for their alleged role in the February 13 bomb blast at the popular German Bakery in Pune.

The scene at the site of the blast in Pune on February 13, 2010.
The scene at the site of the blast in Pune on February 13, 2010.

The Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) of the Maharashtra Police today said they had arrested two persons from Pune and Nashik in the state for their alleged role in the February 13 bomb blast at the popular German Bakery in Pune.

At least 17 people were killed and 56 others suffered injuries in the blast which occurred during peak evening hours in the restaurant in Pune's Koregaon area, which was popular with foreigners and students.

One of the two persons, Mirza Himayat Baig, 29, was arrested from the Mahatma Gandhi Bus Stand in Pune yesterday afternoon while the other, Shaikh Lalbaba Mohammed Hussain alias Bilal, 27, was picked up from Subash Chandra Bose Marg, Ashok Nagar in Nashik last night, Maharashtra ATS chief Rakesh Maria said.

He said the ATS would produce the pair in a court today and seek their remand and continue investigations in the case.

The attack on the restaurant has been the only major terrorist incident in India after the November 26, 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai in which 166 people were killed.

Mr Maria said Himayat was the "present chief" of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in Maharashtra.

He said the police found two kg of RDX, soldering wires, LeT literature, mobile phone SIM cards procured with fraudulent papers and cash from the duo. He said the two had carried out a recce of some sites for the LeT.

Mr Maria said the painstaking investigations in the case had taken the police to places in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Daman & Diu, Tamil Nadu and Delhi.

He said Baig was named by the police in two earlier cases under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and under the Arms Act. "He s originally part of a module involved in the Aurangabad arms haul case of May 2006," he said.

"He is the present LeT chief of Maharashtra. He is the main who had merged the Aurangabad module with the Indian Mujahideen," he said.

The second person arrested, Bilal, is originally a resident of Sholapur and a failed first year student of a B.Sc. course. Mr Maria said the youth had undergone training in terrorist camps in Pakistan from January 2008 to early 2010, a period during which he had "unofficially" crossed into India thrice - twice from Bangladesh and once from Nepal.

Mr Maria said the conspiracy to carry out the blast at German Bakery, located near the Osho Ashram in Pune, was hatched in January this year. He said meetings in this regard were held at Udgir in Latur district of Maharashtra. After those, the duo carried out a recce of the place on January 31, before holding another meeting with their partnes on February 3, when the plans were finalised.

According to the ATS chief, the improvised explosive device (IED) used in the blast was put together from February 7 onwards at the Global Internet Cafe run by Baig. This task was completed on February 12 and the pair reached Pune the next afternoon.

Mr Maria said Baig was also involved in planting the bomb at the restaurant that evening. He said Baig had created a huge module in Maharashtra, the investigations so far had revealed.

At least four of those killed in the attack on the restaurant were foreigners, including a Sudanese, an Iranian, an Italian woman and a Nepalese youth who worked as a waiter in the place.

The blast occurred around 6.50 pm on February 13 when the restaurant was teeming with youngsters and foreigners. The explosion took place when a waiter noticed an unattended backpack under one of the tables and tried to open it.


Foreign tourist arrivals in India up 9 % in August

Foreign tourist arrivals (FTAs) in India grew by 9 per cent in August this year to 3.82 lakh as compared to 3.50 lakh in the same month of last year, an official statement said here today on the basis of data from the major airports in the country.

The number of tourist arrivals was 3.83 lakh in August 2008, the statement said.

According to it, the growth rate in August was more than twice the level of 4.1 per cent achieved in July this year over the same month of 2009.

The statement said FTAs during the period January-August 2010 were 34.67 lakh with a growth rate of 9.7 %, as compared to the FTAs of 31.60 lakh and a negative growth rate of 7.7 % during January-August 2009 over the corresponding period of 2008.

It said the Foreign Exchange Earnings (FEE) from tourism during August this year were Rs 4620 crore as compared to Rs 4115 crore in the same month last year and Rs 3626 crore in August 2008.

The growth rate in FEE in rupee terms in August 2010 over the same month of last year was 12.3 %.

The FEE during the period January-August this year were Rs 41,437 crore, with a growth rate of 22.6 % over the level of Rs 33,791 crore recorded in the corresponding period of 2009.

In dollar terms, the FEE in August this year were $ 992 million as compared to $ 851 million during the same month of last year, a growth rate of 16.6 %.

The FEE during the period January-August 2010 were $ 8.997 billion with a growth rate of 30.7 % as compared to $ 6.886 billion achieved in the corresponding period of last year, the statement added.


AIIMS to host conference on Healthcare Infrastructure and Medical Technology

The All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) here will host an international conference on "Recent Advances and Future Trends in Healthcare Infrastructure and Medical Technology" (HIMT) 2011 from February 2 to 5, 2011.

The event is being organised by the Department of Hospital Administration at AIIMS in collaboratin with the Academy of Hospital Administration (AHA) and the Indian Institute of Architects.

A press release issued by the organisers said the aim of the conference was to provide an enabling platform of synergy to promoters, healthcare providers, administrators, architects, engineers, project manager and consultants, equipment manufacturers, the pharmaceutical industry and other stake holders for knowledge enhancement, skill acquisition, and networking in the multiple dimensions and facets of healthcare infrastructure and medical technology.

Among other things, the conference will deliberate on recent advances and future trends in healthcare infrastructure and its impact on healthcare delivery. They will also discuss the advancements and future applications of medical technology in healthcare.

The participants will consider the impact of advancing technology on patient care provisioning, the release said.

The conference is expected to be attended by about 1200 healthcare and hospital administrators, medical directors/CEOs of public and corporate hospitals, clinicians, policy makers, hospital architects and engineers, project consultants, healthcare insurance providers, experts from healthcare infrastructure and construction industry, pharmaceutical and medical equipment industry, financers associated with healthcare industry, disaster management experts, and researchers and academicians.

Other participants will include nursing administrator, equipment and pharma industry executives , representative from health care industry and commerce , financial and banking institutions, IT industry, and medical architecture, health and hospital management students and trainees, the release added.


India, Poland agree to enhance bilateral trade, investments

India and Poland on Tuesday agreed to endeavour to enhance trade and investments in both directions with the target of doubling the value of bilateral trade by 2014.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Prime Minister of Poland, Donald Tusk, at a delegation level talks, in New Delhi on September 07, 2010.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Prime Minister of Poland, Donald Tusk, at a delegation level talks, in New Delhi on September 07, 2010.

India and Poland today agreed to endeavour to enhance trade and investments in both directions with the target of doubling the value of bilateral trade by 2014.

At talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Polish counterpart Donald Tusk here, the two sides reviewed bilateral relations, including ways of stepping up the bilateral economic engagement.

An official statement said the two leaders also discussed global issues like reform of the United Nations Security Council and climate change. They agreed to expand cooperation in the field of clean coal technology.

They also exchanged views on regional issues of common concern, including Afghanistan, it said.

Mr Tusk and his wife, Mrs Malgorzata Tusk, arrived yesterday on a three-day visit to India. They landed in Bangalore and reached the capital yesterday evening. Tomorrow, they will visit Agra before leaving for Hanoi.

The Polish Prime Minister was given a ceremonial welcome in the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan by Dr Singh this morning.

At the delegation level talks between the two countries this evening, Mr Tusk reaffirmed the support of Poland for India’s candidature for a non-permanent seat in the UN Security Council for 2011-12 as well as for a permanent seat in an expanded Security Council.

After the talks, the two sides signed a Cultural Exchange Programme for the years 2010-13 which is expected to give a further boost to exchanges in this field.

Mr Tusk was received by President Pratibha Patil and Vice-President M Hamid Ansari during the day today. Earlier, Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur and Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj called on him.


CBI arrests Customs official on alleged corruption charges

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has registered a case against a Joint Commissioner of Customs, Mr Hemant Kothikar, posted at the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) in Mumbai, for allegedly possessing assets disproportionate to his known sources of income.

A CBI press release said that the first information report (FIR) alleged that the official, while working in the Customs Department between September 6, 1993 and July 24, 2004, had amassed assets to the tune of Rs 3.67 crore in his name and in the names of his wife and relatives.

According to the release, the investigations had shown that the official's wife, the proprietor of a Nasik-based firm, had shown exaggerated income of Rs 45.48 lakhs from exports by the company in her Income Tax Return for 2002-03. The alelged export was made by the firm to Australia through Singapore and Malaysia. Letters rogatory have been issued for further investigation in those countries, it said.

The CBI had arrested the official last week and produced him before a Special Judge, who remanded him to custody, the release added.


I&B Ministry examining proposal for campaign against piracy: Soni

Union Information & Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni today said her Ministry was examining a proposal for launching a multi-media campaign involving all stakeholders against the menace of audio and video piracy.

Speaking at a seminar on "Anti-Piracy and Regulation of Content-Legal Issues" here, Ms Soni said the Government and the private sector would work in tandem to make the campaign effective.

She said celebrities would endorse the campaign so as to discourage people from buying pirated products and enhance its impact and outreach.

Ms Soni said a multi-pronged appraoch was necessary to tackle the menace of piracy, taking into account the demand and supply equation. According to her, a solution was possible if both the demand and supply of pirated content was reduced.

She said it was critical to position appropriate instruments and mechanisms at both the policy and implementation level to make piracy a risky proposition. In order to achieve the desired results, the deliverables had to be clearly earmarked on a roadmap that was implementable by all stakeholders involved in the process, she said.

On the issue of content regulation, the Minister recalled that her Ministry had set up a Task Force in November 2009 with representation from all key stakeholders. She said structured discussions had been held with all the stakeholders, including business organisations, consumer groups, media experts and statutory bodies such as the National Commission for Women (NCW) and the National Commission of Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) to evolve a way forward.

Ms Soni said it was necessary that civil society evinced confidence in the initiatives taken to redress the grievances vis-à-vis matters relating to content.

As regards self-regulation, the Minister stated that, as a concept, the idea had to be effective in addressing the given concerns. As far as the technology initiatives were concerned, the Minister mentioned that the Ministry was facilitating the digitalization process. Taking into account the priorities, the Ministry was looking into a feasible sun-set date for complete makeover. The objective was to address the concern of all stakeholders and establish a roadmap in an enabling environment. A case-in-point was the HITS policy which reduced the cost of makeover for the analog operators in the move towards digitalization.

Ms Soni also referred to the constitution of a committee under Dr. Amit Mitra on Television Rating Points (TRPs), which had been constituted in the backdrop of deficiencies in the present system of generation of TRPs in India, given its possible impact on the programming content of TV channels.

She said the committee would address issues related to accuracy, accountability, transparency and objectivity in the generation of TRPs. It was also expected to examine as to how misleading TRPs may not only impact broadcasters and advertisers but more importantly the viewing public. The report of the committee would offer critical inputs in comprehensively examining all issues related to TRPs in India, she added.


Poland gifts India bust of composer Fryderyk Chopin

Mrs Malgorzata Tusk, wife of the Prime Minister of Poland, Mr Donald Tusk, today presented a sculptural bust of eminent Polish composer Fryderyk Chopin to the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) here as a gift from Poland to India.

Mr Tusk and his wife arrived in India yesterday at the start of a three-day official visit to India.

The bust was received by Director, NGMA, at a function here today. The 28 kg. brass bust, painted in black, (32x25x61 cm) has been sculpted by well-known Polish sculptor and art historian Adam Roman.

The Ambassador of France to India, Mr Jerome Bonnafont, was also present on the occasion.

The Polish Parliament had unanimously passed a vote to celebrate 2010 as the year of Chopin. This year marks the 200th birth anniversary of this extraordinary composer and pianist.

Acknowledged as one of the greatest composers and musicians of the 19th century, Chopin was born on 1 March 1810 in the village of Zelazowa Wola near Warsaw.

From an early age, he was considered to be a child prodigy as he already had the talent of an adult skilled pianist. By the age of six, little Chopin tried to make up new melodies and he gave public performances by seven. When he was 11, Chopin performed in front of Alexander I, the Tsar of Russia. His composition included songs and chamber music too. At an early age he also showed remarkable abilities in observation and sketching, a keen wit and sense of humor, and an uncommon talent for mimicry. An anecdote describes how Chopin helped quiet rowdy children by first improvising a story and then lulling them to sleep with a berceuse (lullaby)- after which he woke everyone with an ear-piercing chord.

At the age of 20, on 2 November 1830, he left Warsaw for Austria, intending to go on to Italy. He was one of many expatriates of the Polish Great Emigration. Chopin moved to Paris in 1831 where he lived for the rest of his short life. In Paris, he made a comfortable living as a composer and a virtuoso pianist.

Chopin died on 17 October 1849 in Paris at the age of 33. He is considered to be one of the greatest masters of romantic music. He is remembered as one of the first nationalist composers of Poland, using the themes and dances of his native Poland as the sources for his pieces, specially the polonaises and mazurkas.


PM condoles passing away of nuclear scientist Homi Sethna

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today condoled the passing away of former Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) Chairman Homi N Sethna, describing him as a brilliant nuclear scientist whose contribution to the country's efforts to build energy security was immense.

Dr Sethna, the driving force behind India's first nuclear test at Pokharan on May 18, 1974, died at his residence in Mumbai on Sunday night at the age of 86 after a prolonged illness.

"It is with great sorrow that I learnt of the sad demise of your father, Dr. Homi Sethna," the Prime Minister wrote to the scientist's son, Mr Rustam Sethna.

"Dr. Sethna was a brilliant nuclear scientist and an exceptional human being. His contribution to the development and production of nuclear materials and thereby to the country’s efforts to build energy security is immense. He was a pillar of India's nuclear energy programme in the early years," he said.

The Prime Minister noted that Dr Sethna had, in his long and illustrious career, served the government and many other institutions with great distinction.

"He was widely respected and admired and had the ability to inspire young scientists to give their best in the national cause. His life’s work is a saga of dedication, brilliance and patriotic public service. I personally had a long and fruitful association with Dr. Sethna and benefitted greatly from his deep knowledge, insight and vision. He has left behind a void that would be very difficult to fill," he added.

Minister of State for Science and Technology Prithviraj Chavan expressed his grief at Dr Sethna's demise.

He recalled that Dr Sethna was responsible for developing the first spent fuel reprocessing plant in Asia and played a major role in India’s first successful nuclear tests at Pokhran in 1974.

The Minister said that in the passing away of Dr. Sethna, the country had lost a great scientist and the void left by him would be hard to fill.

Mr Chavan added that due to the pioneering work of personalities like Dr. Sethna, India proudly stands upright in the field of nuclear energy.


President to visit Laos, Cambodia from September 9-18

President Pratibha Patil will pay state visits to Laos and Cambodia from September 9-18 as part of India's pursuit of a closer and enduring partnership with the countries of the ASEAN region. .

President Pratibha Patil will pay state visits to two East Asian nations - Laos and Cambodia - from September 9-18 as part of India's pursuit of a closer and enduring partnership with the countries of the ASEAN region as part of its Look East policy.

An official statement from the Ministry of External Affairs said Ms Patil would be in Laos from September 9-13, along with an accompanying delegation of senior officials at the invitation of the President of Laos, Mr Choummaly Sayasone.

It will be Ms Patil's first visit to Laos and only the second by an Indian President since the two countries established diplomatic relations. Mr Sayasone had paid a state visit to India in August 2008.

Apart from the capital Vientiane, President and her delegation will also travel to Luang Prabang.

The statement said the visit was meant to reaffirm India’s commitment to further strengthen and consolidate relations between the two countries and enhance their economic engagement and assistance to the socio- economic development of Laos.

In Vientiane, apart from official talks between the two sides, the President will also have discussions with Mr Sayasone and Prime Minister of Laos, Mr Bouasone Bouphavanh.

After Laos, Ms Patil will travel to Cambodia from September 13-18 at the invitation of Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni. Apart from the capital Phnom Penh, the President will travel to Siem Reap where the world famous temples of Angkor Wat are located.

The statement said India and Cambodia enjoyed a long-standing shared historical affinity and close cultural ties.

It said Cambodia was an important partner of India among the ASEAN countries and the President’s visit would provide an opportunity to reaffirm and strengthen the multifaceted bilateral ties, including commercial and investment relations.

Cambodia is also currently the coordinator on the ASEAN side on India ASEAN relations.


SpiceJet to fly abroad with flights to Kathmandu, Colombo

Low fare carrier SpiceJet today said it would commence international operations with its first flights to Kathmandu and Colombo ready to take off in four weeks.

A press release from the airline said it would flag off its first international flight from Delhi to Kathmandu, Nepl on October 7. This will be followed by the first flight from Chennai to Colombo, Sri Lanka on October 9.

The release said bookings for flights to both sectors were open. The base fare on the Chennai-Colombo route begins from Rs. 999 (PSF, UDF, Fuel Charge & Govt. taxes extra) and that for New Delhi- Kathmandu route begins from Rs. 1499 (PSF, UDF, fuel charges & Govt. taxes extra).

It said SpiceJet would fly its 189-seater Boeing 737-800 aircraft on these routes.


128 H1N1 deaths in India in past week: Govt.

As many as 128 people have died of influenza A (H1N1) in India in the week ended September 5, an official statement from the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare said here today.

With this, the toll in the country since the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the swine flu as a pandemic in mid-June last year has gone up to 2241.

The WHO, on August 10, had declared an end to the pandemic but called for continued vigilance, pointing out that pandemics, like the viruses that cause them, are unpredictable.

Of the 128 deaths, 45 occurred in Maharashtra, 32 in Gujarat, 13 in Madhya Pradesh, 12 in Karnataka, 9 in Rajasthan, 5 in Andhra Padesh, 4 each in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh and 1 each in Punjab, Haryana, Uttarakhand and Chattisgarh.

A total of 1257 fresh cases of the flu were reported during the week, including 381 in Maharashtra, 316 in Delhi, 212 in Karnataka, 70 in Uttar Pradesh, 64 in Gujarat, 55 in Rajasthan and 51 in Andhra Pradesh.


Kolkata-Dhaka "Maitree Express" to be suspended on Sep 11-12

The Indian Railways today said the bi-weekly "Maitree Express" train service from Kolkata to Dhaka in Bangladesh will be suspended on September 11 and 12 on account of Eid.

This train normally runs from Kolkata on every Saturday and Wednesday while in the return direction it departs from Dhaka every Sunday and Tuesday.

According to an official press release, on a request from Bangladesh Railway, the Indian Railways has decided to cancel the trip of the train on September 11 from Kolkata and on September 12 from Dhaka to avoid operational complications arising due to non-running of trains in Bangladesh on Eid days.

Normal services of the train will resume thereafter, the release added.


Delhi Metro extends trial runs on CTST-Badarpur corridor to Nehru Place

A Delhi Metro train on a trial run from Lajpat Nagar to Nehru Place on September 7, 2010.
A Delhi Metro train on a trial run from Lajpat Nagar to Nehru Place on September 7, 2010.

The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) today extended the trial runs on its Central Secretariat (CTST)-Badarpur corridor to Nehru Place following the energisation of the overhead electrification (OHE) in the Lajpat Nagar-Nehru Place section.

The trial runs, which had commenced on July 23, were being so far carried out from CTST to Lajpat Nagar.

The extended stretch includes Moolchand, Kailash Colony and Nehru Place Metro stations, making for a total distance of 9.65 kms from the Central Secretariat station.

Of the eight stations between CTST and Nehru Place, four - Lajpat Nagar, Moolchand, Kailash Colony and Nehru Place - are elevated ones and the remaining - Central Secretariat, Khan Market, Jawaharlal Nehru and Jangpura - are underground.

During the trial runs, the interaction of the Metro train with physical infringements (civil structures) will be checked to ensure that there is no physical blockage during the movement of the train on the track.

The entire signaling system will also undergo rigorous testing. Subsequently, the response of the train at different speeds, braking of the train and the interconnection with the Operations Control Centre (OCC) will also be monitored during the trials. The behaviour of the track system and the Over Head Electrification (OHE) will be checked repeatedly during all the trials, a spokesman for DMRC said.

In the process, the Metro trains will also pass over the Moolchand cable-stayed bridge that is one of the milestones in the Delhi Metro construction. The bridge, which has been designed with the help of a French company – Systra, has been constructed at a height of 12 meters above the Ring Road passing beneath it and has been built on only two pillars (piers).

DMRC ensured that the traffic movement below the bridge, which witnesses over 20,000 vehicles crossing the flyover everyday, was not disrupted even for a single day during the entire construction process. It had adopted the extra-dosed technique of bridge construction as per which the 167.5 meters long bridge consists of three large spans with the central span being 65.5 meters and other two spans being 51 meters each.

To provide a better aesthetic look to the bridge, its supporting cables have been encased in painted tubular pipes. About 15 tonnes of 15.7 mm Galvanized, Greased and PE (Polyethylene) coated stands have been used in the bridge. The cables resting on top of the pylons have been fabricated in Hong Kong and China.

The spokesman said the the trial runs would continue for a few days after which the trials will gradually be extended upto Sarita Vihar in a phased manner for the 20.16 kms long Central Secretariat (CTST) – Badarpur corridor. This is the second Standard Gauge corridor after the Inderlok – Mundka corridor of the DMRC.

DMRC plans to commission the CTST-Badarpur line by this month before the XIX Commonwealth Games that Delhi will host from October 3-14.


Railways make "Jan Sadharan Ticket Booking Sewak" scheme more flexible

The Ministry of Railways has modified its "Jan Sadharan Ticket Booking Sewak" (JTBS) scheme to make it more flexible, give more benefits to the operators and improve the sale of unreserved train tickets in city areas.

The Railways had introduced the JTBS scheme in 2008 to appoint "sewaks" in various parts of big cities for the issue of unreserved tickets through its computerised Unreserved Ticketing System (UTS).

Under the new guidelines, which have become effective from August 26, 2010, the JTBS operators will be allowed to renew season tickets. Each season ticket will be treated as a single ticket/single passenger for the purpose of levy of service charge.

The service charges to be realized by JTBS shall be Re l per passenger instead of Re 1 per ticket.

According to an official press release, the bank guarantee has also been reduced to Rs 20,000 from Rs 40,000 and the security deposit from Rs 15,000 to Rs 5,000.

JTBS operators have been permitted to operate one additional counter, provided the sale of tickets is more than 800 per day on each counter for at least a period of one month. They have also been allowed to shift from the original location to a new location at their own cost with a view to increase sale of tickets.

The release said the present tenure of contract of two years is enhanced to three years, renewable by a tenure of three years subject to satisfactory performance of the JTBS operator and if the operator abides by all other terms and conditions prevailing at the time of renewal.

These instructions will be applicable to all JTBS operators including those who are existing JTBS licensees and also those who are appointed as outcome of the ongoing selection process.

The Centre for Railway Information Systems (CRIS), a public sector undertaking under the Ministry of Railways, has been asked to make necessary modification in the software accordingly, the release added.


Trivedi calls for National Health Service to address healthcare needs

Union Minister of State for Health & Family Welfare Dinesh Trivedi has suggested the creation of a National Health Service that would spawn a cadre of professionals with full commitment and accountability towards addressing the healthcare needs of the country.

Inaugurating a conference "FICCI Heal-2010: Healthcare for All: Global Standards with Local Touch", here yesterday, Mr Trivedi stressed the need for an overhaul of the existing governance structure for the implementation of healthcare projects.

"What we need is a separate cadre of personnel for manning health services, akin to the system that works in the Indian Railways, where nine different services and disciplines work in tandem to make the railway network tick. The railways run 11,000 trains that criss-cross the country through as many as 7000 stations," he said.

Mr Trivedi said that, just as the railways were the lifeline of the nation and were manned by technocrats, the health sector was critical for the well-being of citizens because it determined the real GDP of the country.

According to him, a cadre of health service professionals, from the bottom to the top of the governance structure, for whom healthcare delivery was a commitment, would go a long way in injecting all-round efficiency and efficacious service in the health sector.

The Minister said the Government had constituted a technical committee comprising members from Government departments, the National Informatics Centre (NIC), the Department of Information Technology and other agencies for suggesting ways and means for setting up and operationalising the National Health Portal.

The setting up of the portal, recommended by the National Knowledge Commission, would make the optimum use of technology for establishing a database for the medical records of all citizens and other health related issues, he said.

Mr Trivedi also underlined the need for setting up "neighborhood hospitals" in each municipality, where 50% of the beds would be reserved for the poor. For the remaining 50% beds, the private sector could charge hospitalization services at the market rate, he said.

Describing as "elitist" the present model of healthcare delivery, Mr. Trivedi said today 80% of healthcare spending came from the private sector and 20% from the Government and 80% of the total spend is on 20% of the cities.

Mr. Philip Hassen, President, ISQua & CNIS & former CEO, Canadian Patient Safety Institute, called for a culture of safety as hospitalization was high risk. A systemic approach, he said, was not about changing the human condition but rather the conditions under which humans work.

The inaugural session of the two-day conference was addressed by Mr. Harsh Mariwala, President, FICCI; Mr. Anjan Bose, Chairman, FICCI Health Services Committee; and Dr. Girdhar J Gyani, Secretary General, Quality Council of India.

The FICCI-Hosmac report on healthcare infrastructure, released by Mr Trivedi on the occasion, said that India fell behind all the other countries in the number of hospital beds per thousand population and the number of doctors per thousand population in spite of having a higher total number of hospital beds as compared to other countries.

The study evaluates the global and Indian healthcare scenario, identifies the growth drivers, showcases the trends and recommends an action plan that aims at achieving – "Available, Accessible and Affordable Quality Healthcare for All."

According to a FICCI press release, India’s performance was examined and compared against a fairly representative global sample of countries. Seven countries were studied based on the parameters of Healthcare Infrastructure, Healthcare Manpower, Medical Equipment and Healthcare Education. The purpose of the study is to acquaint India with models from across the globe, know how India fares against external benchmarks and examine if a few of these models can be adapted to our milieu, it said.

The release said the survey showed that India had a higher number of nurses per thousand population while the United Kingdom lagged in this area.

India also has the highest number of medical as well as nursing colleges as compared to other countries. Though India has a shortage of nurses, it has a comparatively high percentage of Nursing Colleges. This implied that either there is huge drain of nurses abroad or the nursing colleges have fewer numbers of seats as compared to the global average or both, the report said.

"India needs to invest more in building hospitals in order to increase the beds per thousand population to the world average for developing nations defined by WHO (i.e. at least 3 beds/1000 population)," Dr Vivek Desai, Managing Director, Hosmac, said.

Although India in total has more number of medical and nursing colleges, the number of colleges per lakh population is very low as compared to most nations in consideration, except China. This indicates that India still requires investing in medical education infrastructure to meet the needs of its constantly expanding population and burdening healthcare needs, the report said.

According to Mr Bose, "Lack of standardization of healthcare delivery across the healthcare segment is a major concern which is mainly due to the absence of a national health policy. This has led to the creation of pockets of excellence that are inaccessible to the rural and urban poor, and the BPL population. The recent clearance of Clinical Establishment Bill 2010 at the Parliament is a welcome step towards creating appropriate guidelines for the healthcare sector."

"Due to the galloping growth of health costs and demand, even if the government doubles its spending on Health to around 2% of GDP till 2020, it may not maintain the current 1:4 ratio of public to private spending on health; public-private partnerships with a clarity of purpose, ease of implementation, with built in systems of measurement and monitoring need to achieve a scale to provide capital and improve efficiency in the primary and secondary healthcare," Dr Desai added.

The conference is deliberating on issues such as Creating Successful Healthcare Models in Emerging Cities; Will Health Insurance Work? Transforming Healthcare with ICT; the Human Resources Challenge; Quality for Nursing Homes and Hospitals; Medical Tourism: The Wakeup Call; Medical Technology and Diagnostics; Healthcare Education; Role of AYUSH in Healthcare Delivery; Quality in Healthcare Delivery; Healthcare Innovations and Medical Ethics.


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