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Maoists blow up railway track near Bokaro

Suspected Maoists blew up a section of the railway track between the Bokaro Steel City and Jharandi stations of the Dhanbad Division of East Central Railway (ECR) in Jharkhand early this morning.

ECR spokesman Dilip Kumar told NetIndian from Patna that the blast took place around 0455 hours and blew up a metre-long section of the track. The bomb created a crater about half a metre deep, he said.

A light engine, which passed over the section a little later, was derailed but no one was injured, Mr Kumar said.

He said an accident relief train had reached the spot and was expected to complete repairs on the damaged section of the track by noon today and restore normal traffic.

While the route does not have too many passenger trains, there is heavy goods traffic.

The Maoists have called a two-day "bandh" in the area to protest against the Centre's plan to launch an offensive against the Naxalites after a series of incidents in recent days.

On October 5, Maoists in Jharkhand had beheaded police inspector Francis Induwar, who they had kidnapped five days earlier.

On October 8, as many as 17 policemen were gunned down by a group of about 150 Naxalites who ambushed them in a thickly forested aea under the Laheri police station of Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra.

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Election Commission tells INLD action taken on all its complaints

The Election Commission today told the Indian National Lok Dal, a state-level party in Haryana, that it had inquired into and taken action promptly on all complaints made by the party to it.

The Commission said this in a letter to the INLD after certain newspapers carried reports containing allegations by the party against it.

Haryana is scheduled to have State Assembly polls on October 13 along with Maharashtra and Arunachal Pradesh.

The letter said that, based on the INLD's complaints, Mr Radhey Shyam Mittal, Naib Tehsildar, Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA), Faridabad had been put under suspension. It said Mr Harish Kumar, Jail Superintendent, Kurukshetra and Ms Parmjit Kaur, DPRO, Hissar, had been transferred out of the districts. Besides, remedial action had been taken in several other cases.

"At the same time a large number of cases were found unsubstantiated after enquiry," the letter from the Commission said.

The letter recalled that an INLD delegation had met the Commission on September 5 in Chandigarh seeking the transfer of Mr R K Kataria, the then Divisional Commissioner of Gurgaon and Mr D S Malik, Commissioner, Hissar Division.

Mr Kataria's transfer was demanded on the ground that he is related to a senior leader of the Congress while the transfer of Mr Malik was demanded on the ground that he was previously transferred by the Commission during elections. Both these officers were changed on their own request.

The letter said the INLD had also complained that names of 2000 elecors were wrongly added in Kaithal district during continuous updation. The Commission got an inquiry conducted and found the complaint to be wrong.

The INLD had demanded that, on polling day on October 13, adequate central paramilitary forces should be deployed in Sonepat, Rohtak and Jhajjar districts.

The letter said the Commission had already directed election officials that central paramilitary forces, video cameras, micro-observers and digital cameras be deployed in all sensitive polling stations to ensure free and fair elections.

"The Commission is satisfied that it has addressed all apprehensions and complaints brought to its notice by your party functionaries and believes that the action taken by the Commission should satisfy the party as well. It may be noted that the Commission takes seriously the complaints received from all political parties taking part in the elections and, through its well laid out mechanism of grievance redressal at all levels, takes due and timely steps to address these," the letter added.

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EC acts on report about distribution of two-wheelers in Arunachal Pradesh

The Election Commission today said it had acted on a newspaper report which had said that two-wheelers had been distributed on a large scale to voters in in Arunachal Pradesh and that they were plying on the road without registration numbers.

Arunachal Pradesh is due to go to the polls to elect a new State Assembly on October 13, along with Maharashtra and Haryana.

An official press release said that, on the basis of the report in The Sentinel of October 5, the Commission had directed the Chief Electoral Officer of the state to forward a factual report and to ensure that the State Governmnent immediately took action under relevant provisions of the Motor Vehicle Act and register First Information Reports against the people concerned.

The release said the State Government had acted swiftly and as many as 494 unregistered motorcycles and other vehicles had been impounded and FIRs lodged. In addition, "challans" had been issued in respect of 255 vehicles, it added.

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4 more H1N1 deaths in India, toll rises to 389

Four more influenza A (H1N1) deaths have been reported from India, taking the toll due to the pandemic in the country so far to 389, an official statement said here today.

While no death occurred during the day today, two deaths in Karnataka and two in Maharashtra reported in recent days have now been confirmed as cases of swine flu by laboratory tests, the statement said.

Of the total deaths in India till now, Maharashtra now accounts for 160, while 110 people have lost their lives in Karnataka, 42 in Andhra Pradesh, 36 in Gujarat, 15 in Delhi, 9 in Kerala, 4 each in Tamil Nadu and Haryana, 3 in Goa, 2 each in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand and 1 each in Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan.

The statement said 96 new cases of the virus were reported from across the country today, including 44 in Maharashtra, 24 in Delhi, 9 in Kerala, 5 in Haryana, 4 in Rajasthan, 3 in Karnataka, 2 each in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, and 1 each in Andhra Pradesh, Chandigarh and Madhya Pradesh.

With these, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus reported so far in India has risen to 11,874, the statement added.

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Election Commission tells CEOs to ensure no campaigning after campaign period ends

The Election Commission has directed the Chief Electoral Officers of Maharashtra, Haryana and Arunachal Pradesh, where State Assembly elections will be held on October 13, to ensure compliance with its instructions that there would be no campaign within the constituency after the closure of the campaign period.

In particular, it said that political, procession and campaign functionaries and party workers from outside the constituency and who are not voters of the constituency should leave the constituency after the campaign ends.

Campaigning ended this evening in all three states on October 11. All the three states will have a single-phase polling on October 13.

The Commission, however, said this restriction may not be insisted upon in respect of the office-bearer of a political party who is in-charge of the state. Such office-bearer of the political party should declare his place of stay in the state headquarters and his movement after the campaign is over should remain confined normally between his party office and his place of stay, it said.

The Commission has told the Chief Electoral Officers of the three states that they should comply with these instructions and convey it to the District Election Officers/Superintendents of Police that it will be their responsibility to ensure strict compliance.

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5 more H1N1 deaths in India, toll rises to 385

Five more influenza A (H1N1) deaths---all in Maharashtra---have been reported in India, taking the toll due to the pandemic in the country so far to 385, an official statement said here today.


Two of the deaths occurred during the day today, while the other three were reported earlier but have now been confirmed as cases of swine flu by the results of laboratory tests, the statement said.


Of the total deaths in India till now, Maharashtra now accounts for 158, while 108 people have lost their lives in Karnataka, 42 in Andhra Pradesh, 36 in Gujarat, 15 in Delhi, 9 in Kerala, 4 each in Tamil Nadu and Haryana, 3 in Goa, 2 each in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand and 1 each in Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan.


The statement said 122 new cases of the virus were reported from across the country today, including 43 in Maharashtra, 39 in Delhi, 10 each in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, 6 each in Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh, 4 in Andhra Pradesh, 2 in Haryana and 1 each in Chandigarh and Punjab.


With these, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus reported so far in India has risen to 11,778, the statement added.


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Opinion, exit poll results banned between October 11-13

The Election Commission today prohibited the publication or dissemination of the results of opinion polls and exit polls in connection with the October 13 State Legislative Assembly elections in Maharashtra, Haryana and Arunachal Pradesh between October 11 and 13.

The ban period will begin from 1500 hours of October 11and will end at 1700 hours on October 13, the day of polling in all three states.

A press note issued by the Commission said that the ban was in keeping with the guidelines issued by it on February 17 with regard to results of opinion and exit polls in connection with elections.

Those guideline were issued in pursuance of the order passed by the Supreme Court on January 19 this year in a writ petition.

As per those guidelines, in the case of a single phase election, result of opinion/exit polls carried out at any time, cannot be published, publicized or disseminated in any manner, during the period of 48 hours ending with the hour fixed for conclusion of poll.

In the October 13 poll, the hour fixed for conclusion of poll in Arunachal Pradesh and in some constituencies of Maharashtra is 1500 hours. In Haryana, the hour fixed for conclusion of poll is 1700 hours.

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President, PM congratulate Obama on winning Nobel Peace Prize

President Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today joined other world leaders in congratulating United States President Barack Obama on being chosen for the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009.

"On behalf of the people of India, I write to congratulate you for winning the prestigious 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, in recognition of your extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and co-operation between peoples," Ms Patil said.

The President said she was sure this honour would inspire all those who believed in promoting international peace and justice to achieve enduring harmony and fraternity among nations.

"The award underscores the principle of mutual respect in international relations – with due respect to the diverse values of the civilizations that constitute the world of today – which is at the core of our own long standing foreign policy.

"The people of India join me in conveying to you our good wishes for the continued success of your mission for positive change," Ms Patil added.

Dr Singh said in a letter to Mr Obama that he was delighted at the news about Mr Obama being chosen for the award.

The Prime Minister said the citation for the Prize admirably reflected Mr Obama's personal qualitites of leadership and the new perspectives that he had brought to bear on the conduct of relations between different countries and cultures, and on some of the most burning issues of the present times.

"The world today is in need of a healing touch. Your pursuit of an inclusive approach to problem solving, and primacy to dialogue as an instrument of policy are setting new benchmarks for the world community. I am confident that the world will be the better for it," he said.

Dr Singh said peace and non-violence were part of India's ethos. He said Mr Obama's recent statement that the America of today had its roots in the India of Mahatma Gandhi, therefore, had a particularly evocative resonance in India.

"I look forward to working with you to advance the goals of a more secure, equitable and just world, and extend my best wishes for your success as the President of the United States of America," he added.

Earlier in the day, the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced it had decided to awar the Prize to President Obama for his "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples."

The Committee attached special importance to Obama's vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons, it said.

"Obama has as president created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play. Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts. The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations. Thanks to Obama's initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting. Democracy and human rights are to be strengthened.

"Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future. His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population.

"For 108 years, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has sought to stimulate precisely that international policy and those attitudes for which Obama is now the world's leading spokesman. The Committee endorses Obama's appeal that 'Now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges'," the Committee said.

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6 more H1N1 deaths in India, toll rises to 380

Six more H1N1 deaths have been reported in India, taking the toll due to the pandemic in the country so far to 380, an official statement said here today.


Four of the deaths in Andhra Pradesh and the other two in Karnataka had occurred in recent days and were confirmed as cases of swine flu by the results of the laboratory tests today, the statement said.


Of the total deaths in India till now, Maharashtra now accounts for 153, while 108 people have lost their lives in Karnataka, 42 in Andhra Pradesh, 36 in Gujarat, 15 in Delhi, 9 in Kerala, 4 each in Tamil Nadu and Haryana, 3 in Goa, 2 each in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand and 1 each in Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan.


Meanwhile, 149 new cases of the virus were reported from across the country today, including 47 in Maharashtra, 42 in Delhi, 24 in Karnataka, 10 each in Kerala and Haryana, 7 in Tamil Nadu, 4 in Gujarat, 2 each in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh and 1 in Rajasthan.


With these, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus reported so far in India has risen to 11,656, the statement added.


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Antony to visit Russia to discuss extension of military technical cooperation

Defence Minister A K Antony will pay a three-day official visit to Moscow from October 13 to attend the 9th meeting of the India-Russia Inter Governmental Commission on Military Technical Cooperation (IRIGC-MTC).


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


The meeting to be held on October14-15 will be co-chaired by Mr Antony and Russian Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov.


An official statement said the extension of the existing India-Russia Long Term Inter-Governmental Agreement on the programme for Military Technical Cooperation for a further 10 years, from 2011 to 2020, would be the main item on the agenda of the meeting.


The two countries had signed the agreement in December, 1988, which envisaged a programme of defence cooperation between them upto 2010.


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


Since then, the two countries have been working on finalising the programme for defence cooperation beyond 2011. The meeting in Moscow next week is expected to pave the way for conclusion of the agreement during Dr Singh's proposed visit to Russia in December this year for the annual summit meeting betweeen him and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.


The statement said that, apart from considering new areas for potential defence cooperation, the two countries would also look at ways of moving faster on important ongoing projects at next week's meeting.


These include the indigenous production of the Russian-origin T-90 S tanks at the Heavy Vehicles Factory, Avadi, under license from Russia. The Russian side is providing technical and product support for the indigenous production of the tanks.


The modernisation of the SU 30 MK1 aircraft is also expected to come up for discussion at the meeting. The aircraft, contracted in 1996, are due for overhaul shortly and the Russia side has offered an upgrade with incorporation of the latest technologies.


The continuation of the India-Russia joint venture BrahMos is also likely to be discussed, in the context of ongoing talks for the development of the next generation hypersonic cruise missiles – BrahMos-2 and a proposal to coordinate the BrahMos with the SU 30 MK1.


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


The co-development and co-production of the FGFA with Sukhoi Design Bureau Russia have been progressing, with several rounds of discussion already completed to finalize the technical requirements. During the discussions next week, Mr Antony will highlight New Delhi's interest in ensuring that the development phase of the FGFA is completed by 2016, as originally anticipated, and that induction of the aircraft into the Indian Air Force (IAF) can start by 2017.

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


Mr Antony will be accompanied on the visit by Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar, Defence Production Secretary R K Singh, Director General (Acquisition) S K Sharma, senior officials of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), the Defence Ministry and the Armed Forces.


A protocol incorporating the various aspects of current and future Indo-Russian bilateral defence cooperation will be signed at the end of next week's meeting, the statement added,


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Addl. Judges for Punjab & Haryana High Court

The President has appointed Mr Mehinder Singh Sullar, Mr Ram Chand Gupta and Mr Gurdev Singh to be Additional Judges of the Punjab & Haryana High Court.

An official press release said the appointment would be for a period of two years with effect from the dates they assume charge of their offices.

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17 killed in blast outside Indian Embassy in Kabul, 3 ITBP men hurt

At least 17 people were reported killed and about 80 others injured in a huge explosion caused by a suicide bomb attack outside the Indian Embassy in Kabul this morning, reports reaching here said.

Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao told journalists here that no Indian had been killed or seriously hurt in the blast which occurred at 0827 hours local time (0927 IST).

She said three men of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), who have been posted to Kabul to guard the Embassy, were slightly injured by flying shrapnel.

She said she had spoken to Indian Ambassador in Kabul Jayant Prasad, who informed her that all the personnel in the Embassy when the blast occurred were safe.

Reports reaching here said those killed in the blast included some Afghan policemen guarding the area.

Ms Rao said the attack clearly appeared to be aimed against the Indian Embassy from the manner in which the suicide bomber came to the outside perimeter wall of the Embassy in a car loaded with explosives and blew himself up.

She said the intensity of today's blast was similar to the suicide bomb attack near the gates of the Indian Embassy in the Afghan capital on July 7 last year, in which more than 40 people, including four Indians were killed and 140 others injured.

Among those killed in last year's attack were Defence Attache Brig Ravi Datt Mehta and Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officer V Venkateswara Rao, who was working as the press counsellor in the embassy. Two officers of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, Ajai Pathania and Roop Singh were also killed in the blast.

Ms Rao said that, after that attack, the Government of India had taken extra and very stringent measures to protect Indian personnel and the Embassy in Kabul. She said those measures had worked very effectively to prevent a tragedy similar to last year's attack from happening today.

She said the Government would taken whatever measures were required to ensure the safety and security of Indian personnel and the Embassy in Afghanistan.

Mr Prasad told Indian television channels that today's blast had caused some damage to the watch towers and to the doors and windows of the Embassy.

The blast occurred in a heavily fortified area that is also close to the Afghan Interior Ministry.

Today's incident is the latest in a series of attacks in Kabul in recent months targeted at international forces or government offices. Television pictures showed the charred and mangled remains of a vehicle that was apparently used by the suicide bomber and other damaged vehicles. Ambulances and police vehicles were seen rushing to the spot.

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8 more H1N1 deaths in India, toll increases to 374

Eight more persons have died of influenza A (H1N1) in India, taking the toll in the country so far due to the worldwide pandemic to 374, an official statement said.


Four of the deaths were reported today---three in Maharashtra and one in Karnataka. Besides, two deaths in Maharashtra and 2 in Karnataka reported earlier have now been confirmed as cases of swine flu by laboratory tests, the statement said.


Of the total deaths, Maharashtra now accounts for 153, while 106 people have lost their lives in Karnataka, 38 in Andhra Pradesh, 36 in Gujarat, 15 in Delhi, 9 in Kerala, 4 each in Tamil Nadu and Haryana, 3 in Goa, 2 each in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand and 1 each in Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan.


Meanwhile, 146 new cases of the virus were reported from across the country today, including 44 in Delhi, 35 in Maharashtra, 18 in Kerala, 13 in Karnataka, 12 in Haryana, 10 in Tamil Nadu, 9 in Andhra Pradesh, and 1 each in Chandigarh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.


With these, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus reported so far in India has risen to 11,507, the statement added. The figure includes 7 positive cases of the flu that were reported by the Andaman and Nicobar Islands administration on September 30--the first cases on the islands.


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US Ambassador condemns attack on Indian Embassy in Kabul

United States Ambassador Timothy J Roemer today expressed his country's concern about the suicide bomb attack outside the Indian Embassy in Kabul this monring, saying the incident was "deeply troubling".


"On behalf of President (Barack) Obama, I want to extend to the people of India the United States of America's support to India and its concern about this bombing in Afghanistan, which is deeply troubling," he told journalists after a meeting with Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao in South Block to discuss cooperation between the two countries in various areas.


"As we find out more details, we will have more to say. Our heart goes out to India, to the victims of terrorism, and our prayers are with the families of those injured and killed today," he added.


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J&K Riles to replace Assam Rifles in Changing of Guard Ceremony

The 15th Battalion of the Jammu and Kashmir Rifles will replace the 6th Battalion of the Assam Rifles in the ceremonial Changing of the Guard at Rashtrapati Bhavan on Saturday.


The colourful ceremony is held every Saturday and attracts tourists and people from Delhi in their hundreds every week. The ceremony can be watched free of charge.


The Changing of the Guard Ceremony has a very ancient tradition in which the Infantry Army Guards and the President’s Body Guards change guard with clock-work precision. This tradition days back to the raising of the Body Guards in 1773, an official press release added.


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PM congratulates Prof Ramakrishnan on winning Nobel Prize

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has congratulated India-born Prof Venkatraman Ramakrishnan on his being chosen for the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for 2009 along with two other scientists.


"I warmly congratulate you on the award of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for 2009. This high honour is just and due recognition of your exceptional scientific achievements in your chosen field of study," Dr Singh said in his message.


He said the work done by Dr Ramakrishnan and the other prize winnes in furthering the scientific understanding of one of life's core processes had major applications in the field of medical science and drug development.

"It is a matter of great pride for India that a brilliant scientist, who has gained the highest international recognition, should have done most of his education in India. It is a tribute to the educational system in our country and the dedication of the teaching community that we are able to nurture such international excellence in the sciences. The work that you have done to extend the frontiers of Molecular Biology will be an inspiration to thousands of Indian scientists, researchers and technologists, who strive to follow in your footsteps.

"I wish you all the very best in your future endeavours and hope that you will continue to make outstanding contributions to the scientific progress of humankind," the Prime Minister added.


Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi congratulated Dr Ramakrishnan, saying his pioneering work on ribosome would benefit humanity.


"The people of India are proud of his unprecedented achievement and the Indian diaspora all over the world is also overwhelmed by his accomplishment," he added.


The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences had announced yesterday that it had decided to award the prestigious Nobel Prize jointly to Prof Ramakrishnan of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, United Kingdom, Prof Thomas A Steitz of Yale University in the US and Prof Ada E Yonath of the Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel for studies of "the structure and function of the ribosome".


Prof Ramakrishnan, 57, currently a citizen of the United States, was born in 1952 in Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu. He took his B.Sc. degree in Physics from the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda in Gujarat and went on to do his Ph.D. in Physics in 1976 from the Ohio University in the United States. At present, he is a Senior Scientist and Group Leader at Structural Studies Division, MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge in the United Kingdom.


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Tourist arrivals decline 4.1 per cent in September

India recorded foreign tourist arrivals (FTAs) of 3.17 lakh in September this year, as compared to 3.31 lakh in September, 2008 and 3.02 lakh in the same month of last year.

The number of FTAs declined by 4.1 per cent in September this year as compared to the figure for the same month of last year.

However, there has been an improvement over the 8.6 per cent decline registered in August this year over the same month of 2008, an official statement.

The FTAs during during January-September 2009 at 35.75 lakh were lower as compared to 38.71 lakh in the corresponding period of last year.

The decline in this period of 7.7 per cent was less than the decline of 8.0 per cent during the January-August period, it said.

Foreign Exchange Earnings (FEE) from tourism during Sepember this year were Rs 3798 crore as compared to Rs 3143 crore in the same month of last year.

The FEE during January–September 2009 were Rs.37,589 crore as compared to Rs. 36,464 crore in the corresponding period of last year.

In dollar terms, the FEE during September htis year were $ 785 million as compared to $ 689 million in the same month of 2008.

The earnings were $ 7.671 billion in January-September this year as against $ 8..823 billion in the same period of last year.

The decline of 13.1 per cent in FEE in dollar terms during January-September 2009 was an improvement over the decline of 15.3 per cent in January-August this year, the statement added.

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US contributes $ 100,000 for assistance to flood victims

United States Ambassador to India Timothy J. Roemer today announced that the US would contribute $ 100,000 for assistance to the victims of the recent floods in southern and western India.

Mr Roemer also offered, on behalf of the American people, his condolences to the families of those killed and to those rendered homeless in the disaster.

"The heart-breaking personal loss, the destruction of homes and property, and the loss of cattle and crops have been devastating," the Ambassador said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families during this time of great loss and tragedy."

A US Embassy press release said that, over the past seven years, the US had provided over $16 million for disaster management activities in India, working in partnership with Indian disaster experts to share knowledge and expertise, improve disaster preparedness, and protect India's most vulnerable people.

The floods in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Goa have claimed more than 280 lives and left tens of thousands displaced.

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7 killed in blast outside Indian Embassy in Kabul, 3 ITBP men hurt

At least seven people were reported killed and more than 40 others injured in a huge explosion outside the Indian Embassy in Kabul this morning.


Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao told journalists that no Indian had been killed or seriously hurt in the blast, caused by a suicide attack that took place at 0827 hours local time (0927 IST).


She said three men of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), who have been posted to Kabul to guard the Embassy, were slightly injured by flying shrapnel.


She said she had spoken to Indian Ambassador in Kabul Jayant Prasad, who informed her that all the personnel in the Embassy when the blast occurred were safe.


Reports reaching here said those killed in the blast included some Afghan policemen guarding the area. It was difficult to find out the exact number of people killed or injured given the fact that victims were taken to different hospitals in the city.


Ms Rao said the attack clearly appeared to be aimed against the Indian Embassy from the manner in which the suicide bomber came to the outside perimeter wall of the Embassy in a car loaded with explosives and blew himself up.


She said the intensity of today's blast was similar to the suicide bomb attack near the gates of the Indian Embassy in the Afghan capital on July 7 last year, in which more than 40 people, including four Indians were killed and 140 others injured.


Among those killed in last year's attack were Defence Attache Brig Ravi Datt Mehta and Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officer V Venkateswara Rao, who was working as the press counsellor in the embassy. Two officers of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, Ajai Pathania and Roop Singh were also killed in the blast.


Ms Rao said that, after that attack, the Government of India had taken extra and very stringent measures to protect Indian personnel and the Embassy in Kabul. She said those measures had worked very effectively to prevent a tragedy similar to last year's attack from happening today.


She said the Government would taken whatever measures were required to ensure the safety and security of Indian personnel and the Embassy in Afghanistan.


Mr Prasad told Indian television channels that today's blast had caused some damage to the watch towers and to the doors and windows of the Embassy.


The blast occurred in a heavily fortified area that is also close to the Afghan Interior Ministry.


Today's incident is the latest in a series of attacks in Kabul in recent months targeted at international forces or government offices. Television pictures showed the charred and mangled remains of a vehicle that was apparently used by the suicide bomber and other damaged vehicles. Ambulances and police vehicles were seen rushing to the spot. Many of the injured were seen undergoing treatment in hospitals.


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1 killed, 21 injured in Bihar train accident

One person was killed and 21 others were injured when the engine and six coaches of the 5708 Amrapali Express from Amritsar to Katihar derailed between Gaudsar and Pasraha in the Sonpur divison of the East Central Railway (ECR) in Bihar's Khagaria district late last night.

ECR spokesman Dilip Kumar told NetIndian from Patna that the accident occurred around 2330 hours yesterday.

He said one person, identified as Puran Singh, 22, of Chainpura village of Purnea district in Bihar. One of the passengers, Ms Shanti Devi of Kishangunj district, suffered head injuries and was in a serious condition at the Khagaria government hospital.

Mr Dilip Kumar said 20 other passengers had suffered minor injuries and had been discharged after first aid.

A relief train had reached the spot and was trying to restore normalcy at the earliest. Mr Dilip Kumar said traffic on both the up and down lines had been disrupted because of the accident and five pairs of trains had been cancelled while eight pairs had been diverted.

Senior officials, including ECR Additional General Manager Varun Bharthuar, had rushed to the scene of the accident. Eastern Railway General Manager Deepak Krishan, who is holding charge of the General Manager's post on ECR, is also rushing to the spot from Kolkata, the spokesman added.

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Rao calls for global pressure on Pakistan to deal with terror groups

Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao today said the international community should put effective pressure on Pakistan to implement its stated commitment to deal with terrorist groups within its territory, including the members of Al Qaeda, Taliban’s Quetta Shura, Hizb-e-Islami, Lashkar-e-Toiba and other like-minded terrorist groups.

"Without this, the gains made over the past eight years will be compromised and it will become difficult to forestall the restoration of status-quo-ante, to a situation similar to what prevailed prior to 11 September 2001," she said in her concluding address at the International Seminar on Peace and Stability in Afghanistan: The Way Ahead.

Ms Rao said the world had come to realise, at considerable cost, that terrorism could not be compartmentalized, and any facile attempts to strike Faustian bargains with terrorists often resulted in such forces turning on the very powers that sustained them in the past.

"A sense of defeatism pervades certain sections of international opinion. This needs to be guarded against, because it runs the risk of encouraging insurgent groups, besides weakening the authority of the Central Government and its institutions," she said.

Ms Rao said there was a growing understanding that the increase in terrorist actions in Afghanistan was linked to the support and sanctuaries available in the contiguous areas.

She said that explained the particularly high-level of violence in the border areas of Afghanistan and was, perhaps, the reason why the United States Administration unveiled its new Af-Pak strategy on March 27 this year.

"The enunciation of objectives in the strategy is clear. The challenge is now about how to put this strategy into effect, for which there is no quick-fix solution," she remarked.

The Foreign Secretary's remarks assumed importance against the background of India's demand that Pakistan bring to justice the elements based in Pakistan who were responsible for the November 26, 2008 terror attacks on Mumbai, in which about 180 people were killed.

Ms Rao said that the existing process under the National Commission for Peace for reintegrating individuals in Afghanistan with the national mainstream must be both enlarged and accelerated.

"We support the Afghan Government’s determination to integrate those willing to abjure violence and live and work within the parameters of the Afghan Constitution, which provides the framework for a pluralistic and democratic society. This should, of course, go hand-in-hand with the shutting down of support and sanctuaries provided to terrorist groups across the border," she said.

Ms Rao said the post-election period in Afghanistan provided a fresh opportunity for a renewed commitment by the international community towards rebuilding the strife-torn country.

Noting that the result of the first round of election would be out around October 12, she said that, soon after the inauguration of the new Government, irrespective of whether the final result was settled in the first round or in a run-off, the international community and the Afghan Government would require to come together to configure the contours of their partnership for the next five years.

"Given the turbulence of the past eight years and the recent dramatic decline in security, there is need for an intensified focus on security, governance and development by the Afghan Government and here the international community should do what it can to assist," she said.

"Failure in Afghanistan’s stabilisation will entail a heavy cost for both the Afghan people and the world at large," she stressed.

Ms Rao said that the past compacts, such as those reached in London in January 2006 and Paris in June 2008, placed the responsibility for institution building and governance mainly on the shoulders of the Afghan people and government, without adequately resourcing that effort and eliminating the growing threat from terrorist groups destabilising the country.

"This is the last opportunity for the country to extricate itself from its endemic entanglement with violence and under-development and settle on a track of stability and sustainable progress," she underlined.

According to her, while the Afghan government should spell out its priorities, the international community should come forward to provide the resources for fulfilling them.

The Afghan leadership has itself stressed the need for a strong and genuine effort to improve governance, remove corruption and focus on development, especially in agriculture, rural development and infrastructure, with a shift in focus from the central to the provincial and district levels, she noted.

All stakeholders now agree on the need for greater Afghanisation of the development process. The Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) should be enlarged and developed in a professional manner, at a much faster pace. ANSF should be provided appropriate resources, combat equipment, and training, she said.

The Foreign Secretary said that Afghanistan, given its geographic location, had an immense potential to develop as a hub of trade, energy and transport corridors, which would help the long-term sustainability of development efforts in the country.

"There is a need for greater regional cooperation and economic integration of the Afghan economy with South and Central Asia," she said.

Ms Rao said what Afghanistan needed today was a long-term commitment, even while remaining mindful of the challenges.

"The Afghan people have displayed resilience and a survival instinct even against the greatest odds. We must do our utmost to support them," she said.

She said India had made its choice -- invest and endure -- because it believed in the cause of peace, democracy and development in Afghanistan.

The Foreign Secretary said the challenge from a resurgent Taliban and Al Qaeda was real and one that threatened all countries.

"When we speak of recommitting ourselves to helping Afghanistan defeat the forces that seek to destroy all that has been achieved since 2001, it is important to recognize that all of us have an abiding interest in the success of this endeavour," she observed.

Ms Rao said India and Afghanistan shared a strategic and development partnership based on historical, cultural and economic ties.

"We have an abiding interest in the stability of Afghanistan, in ensuring social and economic progress for its people, getting them on the track of self-sustained growth and thus enabling them to take their own decisions without outside interference. The binding factor in our relationship is that the interests of Afghanistan and India converge," she pointed out.

She detailed the efforts being made by India for the stabilisation of Afghanistan through a focus on development.

"India remains fully committed to assisting our Afghan partners in the process of reconstruction, and economic and human resource development, as they build a prosperous, democratic and pluralistic Afghanistan," she added.

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India rejoices as Ramakrishnan wins Nobel Prize

Venkatraman Ramakrishnan
Venkatraman Ramakrishnan

All of India rejoiced today on hearing that India-born Prof Venkatraman Ramakrishnan had been chosen for the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for 2009 along with two other scientists.

President Pratibha Patil congratulated Prof Ramakrishnan, saying she was very proud to hear of the news and happy that his pursuit of understanding the structure and function of the ribosome had been recognised.

She hoped the work would one day help in bringing better cure for those who suffer from incurable bacterial infections.

Prof Ramakrishnan, 57, currently a citizen of the United States, was born in 1952 in Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu. He took his B.Sc. degree in Physics from the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda in Gujarat and went on to do his Ph.D. in Physics in 1976 from the Ohio University in the United States. At present, he is a Senior Scientist and Group Leader at Structural Studies Division, MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge in the United Kingdom.

Earlier in the day, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced it had decided to award the prestigious Nobel Prize jointly to Prof Ramakrishnan of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, United Kingdom, Prof Thomas A Steitz of Yale University in the US and Prof Ada E Yonath of the Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel for studies of "the structure and function of the ribosome".

A press release from the Nobel Foundation said this year's prize in chemistry awards studies of one of life's core processes: the ribosome's translation of DNA information into life.

"Ribosomes produce proteins, which in turn control the chemistry in all living organisms. As ribosomes are crucial to life, they are also a major target for new antibiotics," it said.

The prize was given to the three scientists for "having showed what the ribosome looks like and how it functions at the atomic level. All three have used a method called X-ray crystallography to map the position for each and every one of the hundreds of thousands of atoms that make up the ribosome," it said

"Inside every cell in all organisms, there are DNA molecules. They contain the blueprints for how a human being, a plant or a bacterium, looks and functions. But the DNA molecule is passive. If there was nothing else, there would be no life.

"The blueprints become transformed into living matter through the work of ribosomes. Based upon the information in DNA, ribosomes make proteins: oxygen-transporting haemoglobin, antibodies of the immune system, hormones such as insulin, the collagen of the skin, or enzymes that break down sugar. There are tens of thousands of proteins in the body and they all have different forms and functions. They build and control life at the chemical level.

"An understanding of the ribosome's innermost workings is important for a scientific understanding of life. This knowledge can be put to a practical and immediate use; many of today's antibiotics cure various diseases by blocking the function of bacterial ribosomes. Without functional ribosomes, bacteria cannot survive. This is why ribosomes are such an important target for new antibiotics.

"This year's three Laureates have all generated 3D models that show how different antibiotics bind to the ribosome. These models are now used by scientists in order to develop new antibiotics, directly assisting the saving of lives and decreasing humanity's suffering," the release added.

The prize amount of SEK 10 million will be shared equally between the three Laureates.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, founded in 1739, is an independent organization whose overall objective is to promote the sciences and strengthen their influence in society. The Academy takes special responsibility for the natural sciences and mathematics, but endeavours to promote the exchange of ideas between various disciplines.

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India re-elected to the Executive Council of World Tourism Organisation

India has been re-elected to the Executive Council of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) for another four year term.

The election took place at the 18th Session of the General Assembly of UNWTO which is currently being held in Astana.

The Executive Council is the governing body of the UNWTO, which is responsible for ensuring that the Organisation carries out the work and adheres to its budget. It meets twice a year and is composed of 31 members elected by the General Assembly in a ratio of one for every five full members.

India is a member of the Executive council of UNWTO continuously for the last 19 years. During this period, India has been elected to the Chairmanship of the Council twice.

The Indian delegation to the session is being led by Mr Sanjay Kothari, Additional Secretary, Tourism, an official press release added.

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7 more H1N1 deaths in India, toll up to 366

Seven more influenza A (H1N1) deaths have been reported from India, taking the toll in the country so far due to the pandemic to 366, an official statement said here today.

One of the deaths occurred during the day in Maharashtra. Apart from that, four deaths in Kerala and two in Karnataka reported in recent days have now been confirmed as cases of swine flu, the statement said.

Of the total deaths, Maharashtra now accounts for 148, while 103 people have lost their lives in Karnataka, 38 in Andhra Pradesh, 36 in Gujarat, 15 in Delhi, 9 in Kerala, 4 each in Tamil Nadu and Haryana, 3 in Goa, 2 each in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand and 1 each in Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan.

Meanwhile, 101 new cases of the virus were reported from across the country today, including 46 in Maharashtra, 29 in Delhi, 14 in Haryana, 4 each in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, 2 in Uttarakhand and 1 each in Kerala and Uttar Pradesh.

With these, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus reported so far in India has risen to 11,354, the statement added.

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Two dead, 8 hurt in cracker blast at Sholavandan station in TN

Two persons were killed on the spot and eight others suffered injuries when a gunny bag which contained material for making crackers exploded at the Sholavandam railway station near Madurai in Tamil Nadu this evening.

The incident occurred around 1800 hours soon after the Mayiladuthurai/Erode-Tirunelveli Passenger train arrived at the station.

The Station Master on duty came out of his room after clearing the signal when there was a loud sound and a portion of the platform shelter fell down.

A spokesman for the Southern Railway said in Chennai that two persons died on the spot and eight others were injured in the incident.

Divisional Railway Manager Anil Singal and a team of medical officers, along with a medical relief van, reached the spot immediately. After being given first aid, all the injured persons were taken to the Government Hospital at Madurai for further treatment.

The spokesman said a gunny bag of raw material used for making cracker was found on the platform. Police have registered a case and are invetigating the incident.

Southern Railway General Manager M S Jayanth and other senior officials, including the Chief Security Commissioner and Inspector General, Railways, have rushed to the spot by a special train.

Mr Jayanth will visit the injured people at the hospital and inspect the Sholavandan Railway Station.

The spokesman said the General Manager had announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs 15,000 for the next of kin of those killed in the incident and Rs 5000 for each of those injured.

A special drive has been launched on a war footing by utilising ticket checking staff and Railway Protection Force personals to check the passengers carrying inflammable articles and crackers over Southern Railway, the spokesman added.

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