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More than 500 nominations for TN Assembly polls rejected


More than 500 nominations filed for the April 13 Tamil Nadu Assembly polls were rejected when the papers were taken up for scrutiny today.


Official sources said the nominations filed by Ms Jayanthi Thangkabalu, wife of Tamil Nadu Congress chief K V Thangkabalu and Congress candidate from Mylapore constituency in the city, were among those rejected by the returning officers as they were not found in order.


Two key documents filed as annexures by Ms Jayanthi were found missing, leading to the rejection of her nomination.


The papers of a PMK nominee in Vedaranyam were also rejected on scrutiny.


However, the nomination of Mr Thangkabalu, who had filed his papers from Mylapore as a "dummy" candidate, was found in order and he will now contest the polls as the official candidate.


The nomination papers filed by DMK President and Chief Minister M Karunanidhi (Tiruvarur), AIADMK leader J Jayalalithaa (Srirangam),


Deputy Chief Minister M K Stalin (Kolathur) and DMDK founder and actor Vijayakanth (Rishivandhiyam) were found in order.


The papers of State Finance Minister K Anbazhagan (Villivakkam), PMK President G K Mani (Mettur), BJP State President Pon Radhakrishnan (Nagercoil), former Union Minister and Congress leader Su Thirunavukakrasar (Aranthangi), Puthiya Tamizhagam leader K Krishnasamy (Ottapidaram), and actor Sarat Kumar (Tenkasi) were also found in order.


In all, 4,280 candidates had filed their nomination papers, including 1,879 on the last date for filing of papers on March 26.


A total of 161 papers were filed by 152 candidates in the Tiruppur North Assembly seat. Of them, 140 were filed by members of the Tiruppur Industrial Protection Committee (TIPC), to express their anger over loss of jobs due to closure of dyeing units.


Official sources said 91 of the 161 papers were rejected during scrutiny. On the last date for withdrawal tomorrow, the TIPC members would withdraw their papers, sources said.


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SC asks Haryana govt to compensate losses following Jat stir


Following the huge damage caused by Jat agitators to public property in connection with their road and rail blockade against the transfer of accused persons in the Mirchpur violence case to Delhi, the Supreme Court today asked the Bhupinder Singh Hooda government in Haryana why the state government should not be directed to make up the loss.


A bench comprising Justices G S Singhvi and A K Ganguly took serious note of the casual approach of the state government in the prosecution of members of Jat community, who were involved in violence against Dalits in Mirchpur village of Hisar district following which Dalits fled their homes and were too scared to go back to their village.


After going through the report of the Additional District and Sessions Judge, who was conducting the trial, the apex court has shifted the trial to a Delhi Court at Rohini.


The Jats were protesting against the shifting of 90 accused in the case from Haryana to Delhi.


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SC pulls up ED for not conducting proper investigation


The Enforcement Directorate (ED) today submitted a status report in Supreme Court giving details of the investigations carried out by it so far in the black money case and also the disclosures made by Pune-based businessman Hasan Ali Khan, who has been accused of evading taxes to the tune of crores of rupees.


The status report was submitted in sealed cover.


A bench comprising Justices B Sudershan Reddy and S S Nijjar asked the ED counsel whether the investigation is also being carried out from the angle of national security.


The Supreme Court also pulled up ED for not revealing the names of tax evaders and said "we cannot remain silent."


Hasan Ali is reported to have disclosed that he had helped several top


politicians and bureaucrats in illegaly stashing away national wealth in foreign banks through money laundering channel.


The apex court had earlier pulled up the investigating agencies for not interrogating Hasan Ali under stricter laws including the anti-terror laws.


Hasan Ali is also reported to have disclosed during his week-long custodial interrogation that he had helped several former Chief Ministers of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.


The apex court also told the ED counsel, "We cannot remain calm and quiet in this case."


Counsel for ED told the apex court that the life of Hasan Ali and his family members is under threat and he needs protection.


The apex court will examine the status report tomorrow.


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10 held for blackmarketing of tickets for India-Pakistan match


As many as ten people, including a software engineer, have been arrested so far for blackmarketing of tickets for the cricket World Cup semi-final between India and Pakistan to be played here on March 30.


While seven of them have been arrested by the Chandigarh Police, the three others were nabbed by the Mohali Police.


Inspector (Crime Branch) Amanjot Singh said a software engineer was nabbed for indulging in online blackmarketing. He was trying to sell five tickets of Rs 250 each for $ 3000 on an online auction site last night.


Police laid a trap and called him to Barista Coffee shop in Sector 11 where he was arrested. He was produced in a local court where he was remanded in 14-day judicial custody.


The Chandigarh police had yesterday arrested three youths for selling three tickets in black near IT Park. They were selling the student block ticket of Rs 250 for Rs 15,000 and Rs 500 ticket for Rs 25,000. Those arrested included a student and two marketing executives of a telecom company.


Another student was arrested from Sector 17 while making a deal for selling two Rs 250 for Rs 20,000 each. In another case, a resident of Mani Majra was caught selling a ticket valued at Rs 500 for Rs 18,000.


In Mohali, the police arrested three persons, including a student, for black marketeering yesterday.


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4 minors held for robbery in Delhi


Four minors were arrested in the capital for allegedly robbing a person to buy movie tickets last night.


When Noor Hasan, an ice-seller, was returning home last night from his shop, the juveniles allegedly waylaid him while he was crossing a secluded lane in Madhu Vihar area and assaulted him, a senior police official said.


"The four children were, however, overpowered by the complainant and the passers by and the robbed cash worth Rs 3000 was recovered from them," he said.


On interrogation, they told the police that they belonged to poor families and wanted to get money for watching movies at theatres.


"They used to take up strategic positions in dark lanes of the area and attack people returning from work or shops," the official added.


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India, Pakistan Home Secretaries begin talks on terror, other issues

India and Pakistan on Monday discussed terrorism and progress in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack trial, among other issues, on the first day of the two-day Home Secretary-level talks between the two countries.

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

India and Pakistan today discussed terrorism and progress in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack trial, among other issues, on the first day of the two-day Home Secretary-level talks between the two countries.

The Indian delegation to the talks was led by Home Secretary G K Pillai while the Pakistani team was headed by Interior Secretary Qamar Zaman Chaudhry.

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

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

After today's discussions, Pakistan's High Commissioner to India Shahid Malik said they had been positive. Mr Pillai also indicated that the talks were moving in the right direction.

According to sources, the talks also covered such issues as ways of curbing drug trafficking and counterfeit currency, smoothening the issuance of visas and progress in India on the investigations into the Samjhauta Express blast.

India has been asking Pakistan for voice samples of the masterminds in Pakistan behind the November 26, 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai, which had claimed the lives of 166 people. It has also been urging Pakistan to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure in Pakistan which is used for attacks against India.

The release of fishermen and other prisoners in each other's jails was also discussed, the sources said.

The meeting is understood to have discussed the procedures for the visit of a judicial commission from Pakistan to India to interview some of the witnesses in the Mumbai attack.

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

India had suspended the composite dialogue with Pakistan after the 26/11 attacks. India has blamed elements based in Pakistan for the attacks and had sought action against them before the dialogue could be resumed.

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

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

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

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

A statement from the Ministry of External Affairs had said this was done to encourage more people-to-people contacts across the Line of Control (LOC).

At present, the validity of the entry permit is for four weeks and the Designated Authorities for cross-LOC travel (Passport Office, Srinagar and Passport Office, Jammu) can extend the stay period by another two weeks.

Based on the recommendation of the Government of Jammu and Kashmir, the Ministry of External Affairs used to extend the stay for a further period of two weeks in certain cases such as health or family emergencies, the statement added.

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India's tiger population estimated at 1706, up 21% from 2006

Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Union Minister for Water Resources and Minority Affairs, Salman Khurshid and the Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh at the release of ‘India Tiger Estimate 2010’, at the International Conference on Tiger Conservation and Global Workshop on Implementation of the Global Tiger Recovery Program (GTRP), in New Delhi on March 28, 2011.
Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Union Minister for Water Resources and Minority Affairs, Salman Khurshid and the Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh at the release of ‘India Tiger Estimate 2010’, at the International Conference on Tiger Conservation and Global Workshop on Implementation of the Global Tiger Recovery Program (GTRP), in New Delhi on March 28, 2011.

India's tiger population has been estimated at 1706 in 2010, an increase of nearly 21 per cent from the 2006 estimate of 1411.

Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh announced the results for the latest Tiger Census in India at the three-day international conference on tiger conservation that began here today.

The International Conference on Tiger Conservation, Global Workshop on Implementation of the Global Tiger Recovery Program (GTRP) and General Assembly of the Global Tiger Forum (GTF) mark the first follow-up meeting of countries that still have wild tigers after their November 2010 Tiger Summit at St Petersburg in Russia.

The zonewise tiger population has estimated as: Shivalik-Gangetic Plains (353), Central and Eastern Ghats (601), Western Ghats (534), Brahmaputra flood plains, North-East Hills (148) and Sunderbans (70).

Giving details of the census process, Dr Y. V. Jhala of the Wildlife Institute of India said that the All India Tiger Estimation exercise is one of the most crucial components of India's national tiger conservation efforts.

"Since 2006, this monitoring exercise is being undertaken every four years. This report presents the results of the 2010 National Tiger Assessment, undertaken through a best-in-class scientific process. This presents an estimate of India’s current tiger population and a broader assessment of our tiger landscapes," he said.

Dr Jhala said the monitoring exercise was carried out between December 2009 and December 2010.

'The three phases of the tiger estimation procedure included field data collected at the beat-level (the primary patrolling unit) by trained personnel using a standardised protocol in the first phase. The second phase was analysis of habitat status of tiger forests using satellite data and the third phase dealt with camera trapping. It was the primary method used, where individual tigers were identified from photographs based on their unique stripe patterns. This information was analysed using a well established scientific framework. Camera trapping was carried out by teams of wildlife biologists and local forest personnel," he said.

Based on the tiger numbers recorded in sampled sites, an estimate for other contiguous tiger-occupied landscapes was made. For this, additional information such as tiger signs, prey availability, habitat conditions and human disturbance was used. Thus, the final estimates provide a comprehensive and statistically robust result for the whole country, he said.

Dr Jhala said more than 4,76,000 forest personnel were involved in data collection. He said that, in the first phase, about 30,000 forest beats samples were collected by a walking a total distance of about 6,25,000 km More than 27,300 mandays of researchers took part in this process.

He said the total camera traps were 800 in an area of 10,500 sq km and more than 550 individual tigers were trapped in camera during this census. He said the total cost of the census was Rs 9.1 crore.

The same scientifically robust methods were consistently used in 2006 and 2010, enabling comparison of results from both estimation exercises and in understanding the trend in tiger numbers. The results were collated for the larger landscapes within which individual tiger reserves fall.

According to an official press release, the 2010 National Tiger Assessment has several innovations over previous assessments. These include partnerships with civil society organizations such as Wildlife Trust of India, Aaranyak, and World Wildlife Fund for Nature-India.

Additional technical expertise from Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), local communities involved in data collection and analysis, genetic analysis to estimate tiger populations from faecal samples, assessment of co-predators, prey, and habitat quality with tigers, pioneering attempt to estimate tiger populations in Sunderbans Tiger Reserve (West Bengal) using satellite telemetry and sign surveys and first estimation of tiger population in Sahyadri Tiger Reserve (Maharashtra).

"New findings of 2010 national tiger assessment suggest that most tiger source sites continue to maintain viable tiger populations. Evidence of new areas populated by tigers, Kuno-Palpur Wildlife Sanctuary and Shivpuri National Park in Madhya Pradesh. New methodology for estimating population in Sunderbans was in place," the release added.

India is a key player in the global tiger conservation agenda and has established a leadership position with more than 45,000 sq km area under 39 designated tiger reserves,.

 The country is also on a rapid economic growth path, faced with the challenging task of striking a balance between conservation and development. Eliciting the support of communities living in and around tiger reserves is also an imperative for mainstreaming tiger concerns in India at the landscape level with livelihood options to reduce the resource dependency on wildlife habitats. 

The summit in Russia had drawn world leaders and produced the groundbreaking Global Tiger Recovery Programme (GTRP), a worldwide plan to bring the species back from the brink of extinction.

The GTRP adopted St. Petersburg outlines the priorities for national, regional, and global actions for the next 12 years. The GTRP Implementation workshop will set the stage for the first year actions. Participants from all tiger range countries will present their national priority actions for 2011 and the international partners will outline their support to assist Tiger Range Countries (TRCs) in their implementation needs. The overall goal is to have an essential on-the-ground impact in tiger conservation and management of tiger ecosystems in 2011.

Objectives of the conference include sharing of the refined methodology and best practices in conserving tigers in India, opening of the dialogue on conservation and infrastructure sector through Smart Green Infrastructure that promises adding value to rather than adversely impacting tiger ecosystems, experience sharing vis-a-vis the implementation of the GTRP/NTRPs across all Tiger Range Countries (TRCs).

The conference will discuss financial support to the TRCs and a framework of national tiger and prey monitoring systems through the GTF and plan for the first Annual GTRP Stocktaking meeting in December, 2011.

With sessions on the global programme’s implementation and monitoring scheduled, the conference will serve as an update on its progress, achievements and challenges, detailing the state of the tiger in 2011. Sessions on India’s challenges in achieving conservation and economic development, as well as experiences from the frontlines of tiger conservation are also scheduled.

in addition to high-level officials from the 13 countries that still have tigers, the conference is expected to hear from key NGOs and global partners in the GTRP, including the World Bank’s Global Tiger Initiative, the Global Tiger Forum, WWF, WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society), the Smithsonian Institute, the wildlife trade network TRAFFIC, CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).

The International Tiger Conference will be followed by a meeting of the General Assembly of the Global Tiger Forum (GTF). The GTF is the only inter-governmental body focused on promoting the conservation of the tiger. Currently, India is the host country for the GTF.

Numbering more than 100,000 at the turn of the last century, tigers have lost more than 97 percent of their population and 94 percent of their home range in just 100 years. They live in increasingly isolated habitats in Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand and Vietnam. The Global Tiger Recovery Programme marks the first formalized international initiative to save the species from extinction.

This conference is an important first step in bringing all 13 tiger range countries together again to build on the Global Tiger Recovery Programme and stop the tiger’s decline.

The conference is being hosted by the national Tiger Conservation Authority, Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India and co-organized and co-sponsored by the Global Tiger Forum (GTF) and Global Tiger Initiative (GTI).

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PM, VP attend dinner by Rahman Khan for Masjid-e-Haram Grand Imam


The Grand Imam of Masjid-al-Haram at Mecca in Saudi Araba, Sheikh Abdul Rehman Sudais, today said Islam's message was universal and not for Muslims alone.


The Grand Imam, who is on his first visit to India and is the first Imam to visit India, attended a dinner hosted by Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman K Rahman Khan.


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Vice President M Hamid Ansari attended the function briefly and interacted with the Grand Imam.


Sheikh Sudais was here as part of a five-day visit to India at the invitation of Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind Chief Maulana Arshad Madani.


The ceremony at the residence of Mr Rahman Khan was attended by several noted Islamic scholars, political leaders and diplomats.


Earlier during the day he attended the Azmat-e-Sahaba conference, a religious congregation organized by the Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind at the Ramlila Grounds.


He also visited Darul Uloom at Deoband in Uttar Pradesh on Friday and met Muslim students there. He called upon them to follow modern education for reform.


He said it was the responsibility of religious leaders to spread the message of peace in the world and end violence.


He is due to leave for Saudi Arabia tomorrow.


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Manpreet Badal launches People's Party of Punjab


Former Punjab Finance Minister and expelled Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Manpreet Singh Badal today launched his new political outfit named the People's Party of Punjab (PPP) in this native village of Shaheed Bhagat Singh.


Mr Badal, estranged nephew of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, said his party would work for the removal of corruption, poverty, unemployment, illiteracy and drug addiction in the state.


Mr Badal had yesterday resigned from his Gidderbaha Assembly seat, which he had won on the SAD ticket in 2007 elections.


Invoking the name of Shaheed Bhagat Singh, he announced the first ticket of his party for the next Assembly elections to the martyr's nephew Abhay Singh Sandhu who was present on the occasion.


He also announced that martyr Sukhdev's nephew Bharat Bhushan Thapar, who was also present at the rally, would get the second ticket of his new party.


Mr Badal was dropped by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal from his Cabinet and expelled by the SAD for anti-party activities six months ago after he criticised the economic policies of the government in public.


Mr Manpreet Badal is son of Mr Gurdas Singh Badal, a former MP and younger brother of the Chief Minister.


Mr Manpreet Badal also stressed the need for getting rid of the massive debt on Punjab, the issue on which his differences with Chief Minister Badal and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal had triggered his ouster from the SAD and the state cabinet.


He said every child that took birth in Punjab now carried a debt of Rs 28,000 on his head which was a matter of concern.


"To get the state out of the quicksand of debt is the need of the hour," he added.


He said his party would not act like a Third Front but a "New Front" which would take its decisions collectively in public meetings in a democratic manner.


He said the People's Party of Punjab would select honest people and leaders who would be fielded in all the 117 constituencies in the next Assembly elections in the state due in February, 2012.


He alleged that the state government had tried to thwart his rally today by putting obstacles in the way of his supporters through police, vigilance department and DTOs but his supporters made it to the venue depsite all odds.


Among those present on this occasion were Mr Manpreet Badal's father, his wife Veenu Badal, MLA Jagbir Singh Brar, ex-MLA Kushaldeep Singh and noted comedian Bhagwant Mann.


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Four women killed in train-tractor collision in Uttarakhand


Four women labourers died on the spot while two of their male co-workers were seriously injured this morning when the tractor-trolley carrying them was hit by a train at an unmanned level crossing near Rampura Sarkara village near here in Udham Singh Nagar district of Uttarakhand.


According to sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) Sincharam Chauhan here, the local labourers were going for work in a farmhouse when the driver of the tractor-trolley apparently could not see the oncoming Moradabad Kathgodam Passenger train, and tried to cross the unmanned crossing, resulting in the collision.


In the accident, Shamina, Gulbsa, Gulshan and Kausar died on the spot while two other labourers suffered serious injuries, he said.


According to official sources, ambulances were dispatched to the accident site within minutes of receiving the information at 0830 hrs.


The injured have been admitted to Sushila Tewari hospital at Haldwani.


Mr Chauhan said rail traffic was disrupted on the track after the mishap, but the Railway administration was able to remove the vehicle and restore the traffic in a short while.


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INLD leader killed in road accident in Haryana


Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) leader Maan Singh Barwa was among two people killed when their car collided with a truck on the Kurukshetra- Pehowa road today.


Police said Mr Barwa, senior vice-president of Kurukshetra district INLD, and Pandit Jiya Lal died on the spot when their car collided head-on with a truck coming from the opposite direction near Indabadi village.


Three people were injured in the accident and they were brought to civil hospital, Kurukshetra for treatment. One of them was later referred to the Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Education & Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh in a critical condition.


Police registered a case against the truck driver on the charges of rash and negligent driving. The truck driver fled away from the scene soon after the accident.


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2 held for black marketing of World Cup tickets in Mohali


Two people were arrested here for alleged black-marketing of tickets for the cricket World Cup semi-final between India and Pakistan to be played here on March 30.


Police today said a department store owner in Burail area of Chandigarh was arrested yesterday for selling a Rs 250 ticket for Rs 25,000.


Police inspector (crime branch) Amanjot Singh said a trap was laid and a decoy customer was sent to his store late last evening. He was caught red handed while accepting Rs 50,000 for two tickets of Rs 250 each.


The Mohali Police also arrested a man for blackmarketing of tickets today.


Cricket fans have been complaining about the unavailability of tickets for the Mohali match amid allegations of large scale black marketing.


However, the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) had claimed that all the 16,000 tickets of chair block, students block and VIP block had been sold out five days ago and no tickets are available now.


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India, France to launch two satellites; co-operate in astronomy


India and France will co-launch two satellites from the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) launch pad later this year and early next year for gathering data relating to climate in tropical areas and for the study of oceans.


The satellite for the study of oceans is to be called SARAL.


The data from the other satellite will enhance understanding of the tropical weather phenomenon, including the monsoons.


French Ambassador to India Jerome Bonnafont told UNI a satellite would be launched by the end of this year, while the second launch will take place early next year. The launch of the satellite for the study of tropical climate is slated for this year.


Mr Bonnafont said both the satellites would be launched from the ISRO launch pad.


SARAL is a joint project of ISRO and the French National Space Agency -- Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES).


SARAL, which stands for Satellite with ARGOS and ALTIKA, will carry an Altimeter (ALTIKA) for studying the sea surface heights; and an ARGOS payload, which is a satellite based data collection platform.


The ALTIKA and ARGOS payloads are to be built and supplied by the French National Space Agency. The satellite building and launching are the responsibility of ISRO.


In a related development, Uranoscope de France signed a co-operative agreement recently with the Hyderabad-based B M Birla Science Centre with a view to "vigorously promote" the study and practice of astronomy.


Located in the heart of the city of Hyderabad, the Centre is regarded as one of the most prestigious institutions in the country, both as a place for higher education as well as for research and development activities.


Under the pact, a C11 telescope will be installed by France in the newly built observatory of the Centre in the capital of Andhra Pradesh.


The two entities will jointly use the new facility for observation of events and astronomical phenomena, research, amateur astronomy and community awareness, which will have several positive spin-offs for the two countries.


The co-operation with France in the fields of space and astronomy is regarded as a testimony of India's advancement in these areas, its legendary traditions and the growing interest in these fields.


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Census of wild tiger in India to be unveiled on Monday

New population estimation figures on wild tiger numbers in India will be unveiled here tomorrow, when a three-day international conference on tiger conservation is due to begin here.


The International Conference on Tiger Conservation, Global Workshop on Implementation of the Global Tiger Recovery Program (GTRP) and General Assembly of the Global Tiger Forum (GTF) will mark the first follow-up meeting of countries that still have wild tigers after their November 2010 Tiger Summit at St Petersburg in Russia.


India is a key player in the global tiger conservation agenda and has established a leadership position with more than 45,000 sq km area under 39 designated tiger reserves, an official press release said here today.


"India is also on a rapid economic growth path, faced with the challenging task of striking a balance between conservation and development. Eliciting the support of communities living in and around tiger reserves is also an imperative for mainstreaming tiger concerns in India at the landscape level with livelihood options to reduce the resource dependency on wildlife habitats," it said.


The summit in Russia had drawn world leaders and produced the groundbreaking Global Tiger Recovery Programme (GTRP), a worldwide plan to bring the species back from the brink of extinction.


The GTRP adopted St. Petersburg outlines the priorities for national, regional, and global actions for the next 12 years. The GTRP Implementation workshop will set the stage for the first year actions. Participants from all tiger range countries will present their national priority actions for 2011 and the international partners will outline their support to assist Tiger Range Countries (TRCs) in their implementation needs. The overall goal is to have an essential on-the-ground impact in tiger conservation and management of tiger ecosystems in 2011.


According to the release, objectives of the conference include sharing of the refined methodology and best practices in conserving tigers in India, opening of the dialogue on conservation and infrastructure sector through Smart Green Infrastructure that promises adding value to rather than adversely impacting tiger ecosystems, experience sharing vis-a-vis the implementation of the GTRP/NTRPs across all Tiger Range Countries.


The conference will discuss financial support to the TRCs and a framework of national tiger and prey monitoring systems through the GTF and plan for the first Annual GTRP Stocktaking meeting in December, 2011.

With sessions on the global programme’s implementation and monitoring scheduled, the conference will serve as an update on its progress, achievements and challenges, detailing the state of the tiger in 2011. Sessions on India’s challenges in achieving conservation and economic development, as well as experiences from the frontlines of tiger conservation are also scheduled.


In addition to high-level officials from the 13 countries that still have tigers, the conference is expected to hear from key NGOs and global partners in the GTRP, including the World Bank’s Global Tiger Initiative, the Global Tiger Forum, WWF, WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society), the Smithsonian Institute, the wildlife trade network TRAFFIC, CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).

The International Tiger Conference will be followed by a meeting of the General Assembly of the Global Tiger Forum (GTF). The GTF is the only inter-governmental body focused on promoting the conservation of the tiger. Currently, India is the host country for the GTF.

Numbering more than 100,000 at the turn of the last century, tigers have lost more than 97 percent of their population and 94 percent of their home range in just 100 years. They live in increasingly isolated habitats in Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand and Viatnam. The Global Tiger Recovery Programme marks the first formalized international initiative to save the species from extinctin.

This conference is an important first step in bringing all 13 tiger range countries together again to build on the Global Tiger Recovery Programme and stop the tiger’s decline.


The conference is being hosted by the national Tiger Conservation Authority, Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India and co-organized and co-sponsored by the Global Tiger Forum (GTF) and Global Tiger Initiative (GTI).


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India, Pakistan to hold Home Secretary-level talks from Monday


India and Pakistan will hold Home Secretary-level talks for two dyas from tomorrow on a range of issues that will include terrorism and progress in the investigations in Pakistan on the November 26, 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai.


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


Dr Singh had invited Mr Gilani to join him at Mohali to watch the match and the Pakistan Prime Minister has acccepted the invitation.


According to official sources, the talks between Home Secretary G K Pillai and Pakistan Interior Secretary Qamar Zaman Chaudhry would also include such issues as measures to control smuggling of drugs and counterfeit currency, visas and progress in India on the investigations into the Samjhauta Express blast.


The Indian side is expected to once again seek voice samples of those suspected to be the masterminds of the 26/11 attacks.


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


India had suspended the composite dialogue with Pakistan after the 26/11 attacks, in which 166 people had lost their lives. India has blamed elements based in Pakistan for the attacks and had sought action against them before the dialogue could be resumed.


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


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


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


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


A statement from the Ministry of External Affairs had said this was done to encourage more people-to-people contacts across the Line of Control (LOC).


At present, the validity of the entry permit is for four weeks and the Designated Authorities for cross-LOC travel (Passport Office, Srinagar and Passport Office, Jammu) can extend the stay period by another two weeks.


Based on the recommendation of the Government of Jammu and Kashmir, the Ministry of External Affairs used to extend the stay for a further period of two weeks in certain cases such as health or family emergencies, the statement added.


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4 missing Delhi schoolgirls found in Haridwar


Four minor girls, who had gone missing from the East Delhi area four days ago, were recovered safely from Haridwar, police said today.


The girls, hailing from the Trilokpuri locality in East Delhi, had gone to appear in their examination last Wednesday but did not return, after which a complaint of kidnapping was registered.


However, police sources claimed the girls wanted to go for a picnic and so had left their homes with a male friend, aged 20.


"On the basis of mobile phone surveillance, a team of Delhi Police recovered the four girls along with a male friend from Bada Bazar area in Haridwar," a police official said. He said they were found in the market in that town.


The girls were students of class 8 at a school in Mayur Vihar Phase I and around 14 years of age.


They went to school at around 1300 hrs but when they did not return till 1730 hrs, the father of one of them went to enquire at th school, where he came to know that his daughtr and three of her friends had left some time earlier.


During the search, the parents found that the girls had visited a restaurant in Pandav Nagar area after school.


The restaurant staff told the girls' parents that they had left the restaurant at 1830 hrs. Police suspected that they left the capital from the New Delhi Railway Station.


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Ex-Maoist, TRS leader Sambasivudu murdered in Andhra Pradesh


Some unidentified people murdered former Maoist and Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) leader Sambasivudu at Valigonda mandal in Nalgonda district of Andhra Pradesh last night, police said.


According to the police, Sambasivudu alias Konapuri Ilaiah was returning in a vehicle along with a few others after attending a "Telangana dhum dhaam" programme at Sumgem when some unidentified persons, who came in two vehicles, waylaid his vehicle and attacked him.


Three others, who were with the Maoist were also injured in the attack. The profusely bleeding Sambasivudu was rushed to the Velingonda government hospital in a serious condition. But he succumbed to his injuries while being shifted to Gandhi Medial College Hospital in Hyderabad.


Sambasivudu, a resident of Dasireddy Gudem in Nalgonda district, had surrendered before the Special Intelligence Branch (SIB) headquarters at Begumpet in Hyderabad in 2009 due to ill health.


The former Maoist leader, who was attracted to Naxal movement at the tender age of 17, had also played a key role in the Maoist  wing. He was allegedly involved in 80 cases, notably the Balimela attack on June 29, 2008, in which 38 Greyhounds police personnel were killed, the Alipiri landmine blast attempt on former Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu and in the murder of Congress MLA C Narsi Reddy in Mahabubnagar District in 2005.


The former Maoist had recently joined TRS. Several Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) leaders, including its president K Chandrashekara Rao visited Gandhi Hospital, where the body was kept for post-mortem examination, and expressed anguish at the killing.


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2 killed in landslide in Darjeeling district of West Bengal


Two people were killed and as many injured in a landslide in the Sevoke area of Kurseong sub-division in Darjeeling district of West Bengal following heavy rains last night, police said.


Sub-Divisional Police Officer (SDPO) of Kurseong Nima Bhutia said Sundar Oraon (18) died on the spot, while Hiralal Mahato (26) succumbed to his injuries on way to hospital.


The incident occurred when two boulders fell on their car, which was passing through Sevoke area.


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Cross-LOC travel: India unilaterally increases stay period to 6 months

India today unilaterally decided to increase the stay period for the persons visiting Jammu and Kashmir on entry permits from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (POK) to six months with multiple entries.


An official statement from the Ministry of External Affairs said this was done to encourage more people-to-people contacts across the Line of Control (LOC).


At present, the validity of the entry permit is for four weeks and the Designated Authorities for cross-LoC travel (Passport Office, Srinagar and Passport Office, Jammu) can extend the stay period by another two weeks.


Based on the recommendation of the Government of Jammu and Kashmir, the Ministry of External Affairs used to extend the stay for a further period of two weeks in certain cases such as health or family emergencies, the statement added.


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PM writes to Than Shwe of Myanmar, offers assistance for quake victims

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today wrote to Senior General Than Shwe, Chairman, State Peace and Development Council of Myanmar and assured him that India stood ready to render any assistance for the relief and rehabilitation of the victims of the earthquake that hit that country on Thursday night.


In his letter, Dr Singh also conveyed heartfelt condolences to the people and government of Myanmar on the loss of lives and property in the earthquake.


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Hemraj's wife alleges Talwars murdered her husband

In a new twist to the Aarushi-Hemraj murder case which stunned the nation in May 2008, the wife of Hemraj today filed an application before a court and alleged that Aarushi's parents, Rajesh and Nupur Talwar, had murdered her husband along with their daughter.

Khoom Kala (43), wife of Hemraj, today filed an application before a special CBI court here and alleged that the dentist couple were "the real culprits" and had murdered her husband.

She further alleged that Hemraj, while he was working for the Talwars told her that Rajesh Talwar is an influential and short-tempered person who lived a lavish life.

Hemraj was also not given his salary on time and exploited by the couple, she added.

The court has posted the application for hearing on April 27.

Fourteen-year-old Aarushi Talwar was found murdered in her Noida flat on the night of May 15-16, 2008. Hemraj's body was later found on the terrace of the Talwars' house.

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Elections: Battleground readied in TN, Kerala and Puducherry


The battleground has been readied for the contest between DMK and AIADMK in Tamil Nadu and CPI(M)-led LDF and Congress-led UDF in Kerala as the filing of nominations for the April 13 Assembly election in the two states and Union Territory of Puducherry ended today.


Scrutiny of nominations would take place on March 28 and the last date for withdrawal of papers is March 29, after which a final list of the number of candidates in fray would be known.


In Tamil Nadu, over 2,500 candidates filed their papers for the 234-member Tamil Nadu assembly.


Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DMK President M Karunanidhi has entered the fray from Tiruvarur constituency while AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa has filed her papers from Srirangam.


Mr Karunanidhi's son and Deputy Chief Minister M K Stalin (Kolathur), State Finance Minister K Anbazhagan (Villivakkam), DMDK founder and actor Vijayakanth (Rishivandhiyam), BJP state president Pon Radhakrishnan (Nagercoil), former Union Minister and Congress leader Su Thirunavukakrasar (Aranthangi), Puthiya Tamizhagam leader K Krishnasamy (Ottapidaram) and actor Sarat Kumar (Tenkasi) are some other prominent persons who submitted their papers.


Dr V Dekal, who hit the headlines when news of his resignation broke out after he performed the autopsy on Sadiq Batcha, has also entered the fray as an independent candidate by filing his papers today. Batcha, an associate of former Communications Minister A Raja accused in the 2G spectrum scam, was found hanging at his residence on March 16.


With over 125 persons, including DMK candidate and former CPI(M) leader C Govindasamy contesting from Tiruppur North Assembly constituency, the Election Commission officials were in a fix on the mode of polling there.


Considering the large number of candidates, the EC might consider reverting to the ballot paper system for polling as electronic voting machines (EVMs) cannot accommodate the names of more than 64 candidates.


Chief Electoral Officer Praveen Kumar said a decision on using ballot papers instead of EVMs could be taken only after the last date for withdrawal of nominations on Wednesday.


The anger among the lakhs of dyeing unit workers, who have lost their jobs due to closure of the units, has led to the significant spurt in filing of nominations in this constituency.


It is not the first time such a large number of nominations were being filed. In 1996, 1,033 farmers in Modakurichi filed their nominations to protest the government's failure to provide them water.


Kerala Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan, Opposition leader in State Assembly Oommen Chandy and Kerala Congress president Ramesh Chennithala were prominent among about 780 candidates who filed nominations for the assembly polls in Kerala.


Election Commission sources said the exact figure of number of candidates filing their papers would be known only by late night.


Mr Achuthanandan filed his nomination papers in Malampuzha, Mr Chandy filed the papers in Puthupally, Mr Chennithala filed the papers in Haripad while former KPCC president and son of late Congress leader K Karunakaran, K Muraleedharan, filed his papers in Vattiyukavu.


Former Minister of State for Railways and BJP leader O Rajagopal filed his papers in Nemom.


Besides Mr Achuthanandan, his cabinet colleagues P K Gurudasan (Kollam), Minister M A Baby (Kundara), Minister Mullakkara Ratnakaran (Chadayamangalam), Minister Kadannappally Ramachandran (Kannur), Minister V Surendran Pillai (Thiruvananthapuram), Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan (Thalassery) and Kerala Congress-Mani leader P J Joseph (Thodupuzha) also filed their papers.


The CPI(M) is contesting in 93 seats, CPI 27 seats, JD(S) 5, RSP and NCP four each, Kerala Congress and INL three each and Congress (S) one.


In UDF, the Congress is contesting in 82 seats, IUML 24, KC(M)15, SJD six, JSS four, KC(J) and CMP three each, KC (B) two, RSP(B) one.


Heavy rush was witnessed in Puducherry where as many as 243 candidates have filed their papers in all the four regions of the Union Territory and a few others are still waiting.


Returning Officers issued tokens to candidates who turned up before 1500 hrs, the closing time, to tackle the rush.


Chief Minister V Vaithilingam(Congress), former Chief Ministers N Rangasamy (NR Congress), R V Janakiraman(DMK), M D R Ramachandran (Congress), S Ramaswami (Ind), Speaker R Radhakrishnan (Congress),


Ministers E Valsaraj, Namasivayam, Shajahan, Kandasamy, Malladi Krishna Rao(all Congress) are in the fray in the UT.


In a sudden development, the Congress today grabbed one seat from the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) and announced former Chief Minister M D R Ramachandran as its candidate for Mannadipet.


It was earlier announced the PMK will contest Manaveli and Mannadipet under the Congress-DMK combine while the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal(VCK) Nedumgadu (SC) in Karaikal.


Mr Arulmurugan, the sitting member, also filed his nomination from Mannadipet.


Mr M D R Ramachandran also filed his papers and today the Congress party, after discussions with the PMK leaders, gave form ''B'' to Mr Ramachandran,thus announcing him as the Congress candidate and forcing the PMK to go along with one seat.


Party sources here also said the Congress candidate for Thirubhuvani was changed and Mr Jayaraj filed his nomination papers today as the announced candidate, Mr Ponnusamy, preferred to keep away from elections.


Puducherry INTUC President Ravichandran today filed his papers to oppose the official Congress candidate K Lakshminaraynan at Raj Bhavan constituency.


Mr Ravichandran expressed his desire to contest the elections from Raj Bhavan and the Congress leadership here assured him the Uzhavarkarai seat as the sitting member Mr Namasivayam will be contesting from Villianur this time.


Mr Ravichandran camped at Uzhavarkarai for several months. However, Uzhavarkarai went to the DMK in the alliance and upset over this, he filed his papers for Raj Bhavan constituency today.


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Agnivesh manhandled, hit with eggs by tribal mob in Chhattisgarh


Social activist Swami Agnivesh was today manhandled and hit with eggs by an angry mob at Dornapal in Naxal-dominated Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh and was forcibly sent back to Sukma, along with his three-member team and mediapersons who were accompanying him on a visit to the troubled villages in and around Tadmetla.


According to eyewitness accounts, Agnivesh was pulled out of his vehicle, manhandled, abused and hit with eggs by the mob comprising members of Salwa Judum and widows of Naxal violence as his cavalcade reached Dornapal.


The mob also looted blankets and other relief materials he was carrying for the victims of Tadmetla, where security forces had allegedly torched nearly 200 houses of the tribal folk following the death of three of their colleagues in an encounter with the Naxals there two weeks ago.


Dubbing Agnivesh and his team members, including Acharya Rishi Milind of the Art of Living as "Naxal sympathisers" the agitators, who had gathered in large numbers, raised slogans against them and even snatched away the cameras of the mediapersons and stopped the team from proceeding further.


The angry mob, including widows, posed a volley of questions to the social activists as to why they failed to come to their rescue when Naxals set ablaze their houses and publicly executed their men and women a few years ago. They also accused the media of supporting the so-called social activists and Naxal movement in the state.


Following strong protest by the villagers and mounting tension, Agnivesh and his entire team returned to Sukma.


Later, the social activist had a telephonic conversation with Chief Minister Raman Singh regarding the incident and sought adequate police arrangements to ensure his safe visit to Tadmetla to take stock of the situation and distribute the relief materials among the victims.


Police have tightened security in all vulnerable areas in the entire Bastar region following the tension. Reports said mobs had gathered at Polpalli and other villages en route and blocked the National Highway-30 protesting against Agnivesh's plan to visit the affected villages again.


Condemning the police "atrocities" and the torching of houses of the tribal folk in Dantewada, Agnivesh who arrived at Jagdalpur last evening, demanded a judicial inquiry into the incident saying "It is a matter of concern when protectors become annihilators."


The state government has already ordered a magisterial inquiry into the incident and granted ex-gratia amounts to the affected families following villagers' allegations against the security personnel for having torched their houses.


The Naxals have announced their decision to observe "protest day" from April 11 to 15 and a two-day "Dandakaranya Bandh" from April 16 to protest against the ''police brutality" in Tadmetla.


In a statement today, South Bastar Dandakaranya Zonal Committee spokesperson Niti appealed to the political parties and media to visit the villages allegedly burnt down by security personnel.


When contacted over phone, Dantewada collector R Prasanna said, though there was tension in the area, the situation was under control and the national highway had been cleared for traffic.


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Jats clear rail tracks in Haryana after calling off quota stir


Jat agitators in Haryana demanding reservation in Government jobs finally cleared railway tracks in the state today following an assurance by Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda to consider their demand through a Backward Classes Commission.


The agitators announced the withdrawal of their three-week agitation following the settlement reached with the Haryana government late last night in Jind.


Mr Hooda said a Backward Classes Commission would be set up to consider their demand for job reservation under the OBC category. The proposed Commission would consider inclusion of Jats, Jat Sikhs, Tyagi, Bishnoi and any other classes who would wish to be part of the OBC category for this purpose.


In Hisar, Jat leaders including Haryana Jat Arakshan Samiti President Hawa Singh Sangwan got the Hisar-Bhiwani railway track cleared this afternoon. The nine agitators, who were sitting on an indefinite fast, ended their fast by having fruit juice.


Jat Arakshan Samiti national president Yash Pal Malik said they have achieved success after a long struggle.


Mr Sangwan said they would give a period of six months to the Chief Minister to materialise their dream into reality, failing which they would again take up their agitation.


In Jind also, the Jat agitators lifted their blockade on Jind-Bathinda and Jind Kurukshetra railway lines.


A division bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, had directed the Jat leaders on Thursday to desist from disrupting train services in the state. A Supreme Court bench also directed the Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh governments to ensure maintenance of supply of essential commodities to Delhi.


Train services had been disrupted in the region due to the Jat agitation and scores of trains were cancelled due to the blockade on the rail tracks.


Routes on which train services remained disrupted included Mumbai-Delhi-Rewari, Bhiwani-Hisar, Delhi-Ludhiana-Jind, Loharu-Jaipur, Narwana-Kurukshetra, Rohtak-Panipat, Rewari-Loharu, Bhiwani-Delhi-Rohtak, Hisar-Jaipur, Hisar-Bathinda and Delhi-Jind-Ludhiana.


The Jat community had, earlier, threatened to cut off supplies to Delhi from north India if their demand was not fulfilled by March 28.


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Pillai reviews situation in Haryana, UP, Rajasthan


In the wake of the Jat agitation in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan for a quota in Government jobs, the Centre today reviewed the situation with top administrative and police officials here today.


Official sources said that Union Home Secretary G K Pillai reviewed the law and order situation and also took stock of the rail and road transport in these three states against the background of the directions by the Supreme Court and High Courts.


The sources said the meeting also dicussed ways to ensure the regular supply of daily requirements like water, milk, fruits and vegetables to the capital from these states. Arrangements are also being made to supply coal for the Panipat power house.


After the Jat agitators withdrew their fortnight-long agitation today, the rail traffic is expected to be normalised soon.


Demanding reservation in government jobs, Jats had blocked the rail and road traffic in the three states which affected the supply of essentials in Delhi.


After the directive from Supreme Court to ensure smooth movement of rail and road traffic in the states, Jats in UP and Haryana had already withdrawn their blockade.


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