Foggy morning in Delhi, cold conditions continue

Delhi and many other parts of north India were enveloped by a thick blanket of fog for the third day today, slowing down road traffic, delaying trains and throwing flight schedules at the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) here out of gear.

The maximum temperature in the past 24 hours went up slightly to 20 degrees Celsius, up from yesterday's 18.6 degrees and one degree below normal.

Traffic moving slowly as road transport suffered a lot due to the thick fog in the morning, in New Delhi on January 21, 2010.
Traffic moving slowly as road transport suffered a lot due to the thick fog in the morning, in New Delhi on January 21, 2010.

The minimum temperature during the past 24 hours also went up a little to 7.4 degrees Celsius, 0.6 degrees below normal for this time of the year, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.

The IMD had forecast dense fog over the capital this morning and a mainly clear sky later. It said maximum and minimum temperatures in the capital today would be around 21 degrees and 8 degrees Celsius, respectively.

It has also forecast foggy mornings for the next two days. It said the maximum and minimum temperatures would be 22 and 9 degrees Celsius tomorrow and on Sunday.

The fog, which had started descending on the city late last night, had reduced visibility to around 50 metres in many areas. The visibility on the runways at the airport was around 100 metres in the wee hours this morning, affecting many early morning departures. Several flights were cancelled, rescheduled or diverted, and many more were delayed considerably.

The Northern Railway said seven trains were rescheduled and 34 others were running late by between 3 and 28 hours. At least nine trains were cancelled today, over and above the several trains already cancelled upto January 31 and some until January 23 because of the fog.


 Photo courtesy Press Information Bureau

Dense fog disrupts flights at Delhi airport

A blanket of dense fog enveloped the capital for the third day today, disrupting the schedules of scores of flights at the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) here.

The fog had started descending around midnight and reducing visibility in many parts of the city to near zero. By the wee hours of this morning, visibility at the airport had dropped to around 100 metres, affecting early morning departures, airport officials said.

Several flights were rescheduled and some were cancelled or diverted to other airports, they said. Besides, many flights were delayed.

By 1000 hours this morning, the visibility at the airport had improved to between 550 and 750 metres and the airlines were trying to clear the backlog of flights as quickly as possible.

The airport authorities had to use low visibility procedures for nearly 15 hours from 2058 hours on Wednesday to night to 1157 hours yesterday morning because of similar foggy conditions. At least 25 flights were cancelled, 22 were rescheduled and 28 - 26 domestic and two international flights - were diverted to other airports in this period.

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) had forecast fog over the capital this morning and has predicted similar conditions in the morning for the next two days.


Jet Airways launches daily Delhi-Doha flights

Private sector carrier Jet Airways today launched daily services from Delhi to Doha, its ninth destination in the Gulf.

This is Jet Airways' third daily flight to the capital of Qatar from India after the existing services from Mumbai and Kochi.

According to a press release from the airline, flight 9W 554, operated with a Boeing 737-800 aircraft, will depart Delhi at 1945 hrs, arriving in Doha at 2150 hrs. Flight 9W 553 will then depart Doha at 2305 hrs, arriving in Delhi at 0515 hrs the following morning.

"Doha has been among the more popular destinations in Jet Airways’ international network, and the airline’s services to and from India to the capital of Qatar have been much appreciated by travellers," Mr. Nikos Kardassis, Acting CEO, Jet Airways, said.

"The launch of our daily services to Doha from Delhi will cater to the strong customer demand for direct flights on the route, and will also connect travellers from Doha to Jet Airways' 61-destination strong network spanning the length and breadth of India and beyond," he said.

Jet Airways also flies from India to Kuwait, Bahrain, Muscat, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Jeddah, Sharjah and Riyadh in the Gulf.


India, US set up Joint Working Group on Aviation Security

India and the United States have set up a Joint Working Group on Civil Aviation Security which held its first meeting over the past two days here and signed two memoranda of understanding (MoU) on strengthening bilateral cooperation in this area, including one on deployment of sky marshals on flights between the two countries.

The Working Group comprises senior officers from the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and India's Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) and Ministry of Civil Aviation.

The group was conceived during the US-India Aviation Partnership Summit held in Washington last month.

"The launch of the US-India Aviation Security Working Group demonstrates our increasingly close cooperation on mutual commercial and security interests, matters of critical interest to the people of both our countries," US Ambassador to India Timothy J. Roemer said.

According to a US Embassy statement, the purpose of the group is to build upon the strategic partnership between the US Government and the Government of India to enhance international civil aviation security. The group envisions subsequent meetings to be hosted alternatively by each country.

The two sides also signed an MoU for cooperation in airport technical visits, a press release from the Ministry of Civil Aviation said.

The two sides agreed that while carriers flying out of India to the US were required to comply with the Emergency and Security Directives of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) of the US, such directives should essentially be routed through India's Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS). This would be applied reciprocally.

The Indian side requested that dual screening of baggage on US-bound flights be dispensed with. This would involve the US side surveying the security operations at the originating airports. The Indian side will facilitate an early visit by the TSA to enable this process, an official press release said.

The release said the meeting discussed concerns over matters vital and sensitive to both Governments.

Among other issues, the meeting discussed technical cooperation and training in best practices, visits to promote Indo-US technical cooperation and technical studies and visits.

The concept of an Aviation Security Force and adoption of best practices in security with cooperation of both sides was also discussed.

US cooperation for discussion on the need, technology and source identification of human body scanners and training on in-line X-Ray Baggage Inspection System and information on the latest technology also came up at the meeting.

The two sides also discussed cooperation on behavioural detection training, the release added.


Air India clears IATA operational safety audits for 2009

National carrier Air India today said it had successfully cleared the IATA Operational Safety Audits (IOSA) for 2009/

The combined National Aviation Company of India Limited (NACIL), formed after the merger of public sector carriers Air India and Indian Airlines, had successfully completed the audit and received confirmation of audit closure from the auditing company, AQS, based in Germany, the airline said in a press release.


NACIL-A (erstwhile Air India) has cleared its fourth IOSA Audit showing its compliance with the IATA operational safety and quality standards. NACIL-I (erstwhile Indian Airlines) has cleared its second IOSA Audit. IOSA had new standards in place, with various additional requirements to be met as per the new standards, effective July 2009, the release said.

IOSA is an internationally recognised and accepted evaluation system designed to assess the operational management and control systems of an airline. The integrated Quality Management System (QMS) of Air India has worked with all the functional areas in the airline to ensure compliance with the latest regulatory and international safety standards.

Air India was the first airline in India to obtain IOSA registry and one of the first in the world, in the year 2003. Subsequently, Air India has undergone renewal audits successfully, the release added.


CCEA okays PURA scheme on pilot basis

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) today approved the implementation of the restructured "Provision of Urban Amenities in Rural Areas" (PURA) Scheme on a pilot basis with a plan outlay of Rs 248 crore during the XIth Plan.

The fund would be utilised for providing capital grant upto 35 per cent of the pilot project to meet the viability gap for operations and maintenance (including investment by private party) in public private partnership (PPP) mode after dovetailing funds from other Central Schemes and investment from private developers, an official press release said.

It said the implementation of the restructured scheme in the manner proposed was an innovative initiative being taken for the first time in rural areas. Through the implementation of proposed pilot projects, the unique features of this scheme could be tested on the ground and would enable its upscaling in future, it explained.

According to the release, the primary objectives of the scheme are provision of livelihood opportunities and urban amenities in rural areas to bridge the rural – urban divide, thereby reducing the migration from rural to urban areas.

The core funding will be ensured from the Central Sector Scheme of PURA complemented by additional support through prioritized convergence of Central Government programmes, funding/managerial support from the private sector and participation of the local Panchayats.

The scheme would be implemented and managed by the private sector on viability and sustainability considerations which shall be fully aligned with the overall objective of rural development. This framework of bringing together public funds and private capital into creation of infrastructure in rural areas and leveraging upon private sector expertise to manage and maintain the same during the concession period forms the essence of the re-structured PURA Scheme.

Seven to eight pilot projects would be taken up during the XIth Five Year Plan. In order to assure constructive commitment of the stakeholders, separate agreements will be entered into between the stakeholders - Concession Agreement (between Gram Panchayat and private developer) and a State Support Agreement (among the Central Government, State Government and the private developer), the release added.


CCEA okays scheme for model colleges in 374 districts

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) today approved a new scheme to provide central assistance for setting up of a model degree college in each of 374 identified educationally backward districts where the gross enrolment ratio (GER) for higher education is less than the national GER.

An official press release said the Central Government would provide assistance to the extent of one-third of the capital cost for establishment of each college, limited to Rs 2.67 crore.

For Special Category States, the Central share shall be 50 per cent of the capital cost limited to Rs.4 crore for each college. The land shall be provided free of cost by the State Governments. The balance amount of the capital cost, and the recurring cost of running these new colleges shall be met by the concerned State Governments.

During the remaining period of the XIth Five Year Plan, assistance shall be provided for establishing 200 model colleges in identified districts, with priority being given to special category states and districts having concentration of weaker sections and minorities as well as other districts in Schedule V and Schedule VI areas, the release said.

The Scheme will have prospective effect and will be applicable to those colleges where admissions commence after January 21, 2010. A clear Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) will be signed with each State Government before any release of funds is made.

The Scheme will be implemented both through the University Grants commission (which can release funds to the concerned affiliating university for establishment of the college as its constituent college) and also alternatively by way of direct release of funds by the Ministry of Human Resource Development to the concerned State Government, which may like to set up the college either as an affiliated or a constituent college.

The total funds requirements will be Rs.2992 crore (for 374 colleges @ Rs.8 crore per college), and the Central share shall be about Rs.1079 crore. During the remaining period by the XIth Plan it is proposed to provide Central assistance for 200 colleges for which the financial requirement (central share) shall be limited to about Rs.615.13 crore.

Assuming that the average number of students in a college is 500, the total number of students who would be enrolled in the 374 colleges, shall be about 1.87 lakh, the release said.

The new scheme is meant exclusively for students in educationally backward districts, aspiring for higher education. It would help in increasing the GER in such districts.

The Scheme will be publicized among the State Governments immediately for inviting proposals from the States. All the identified 374 higher educationally backward districts in the country where the GER is less than the national GER shall be covered, it said.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had announced in his Independence Day address in 2007 that the Government would ensure that adequate numbers of colleges are set up across the country, especially in districts where enrolment levels are low.


India conducts flight trials of laser-guided bombs

India today said it had conducted two flight trials at the Integrated Test Range at Chandipur, Balasore in Orissa, to test the effectiveness of the guidance and control sytems of laser-guided bombs.

"On-board systems in both the trials worked satisfactorily and the mission objectives have been met," an official press release said.

Indian Air Force (IAF) officers flew the aircraft and released the bombs as per prescribed standard operating procedures, it said.

The Aeronautics Development Establishment (ADE), Bangalore has developed the guidance kit for the 1000 lb, laser guided bombs. These are designed to improve the accuracy of air-to-ground bombing by IAF.

The release said a number of tests had been performed both through simulation and flight tests over the last few years to reach the required performance levels.

The bomb, once released, by the mother aircraft at appropriate range, will seek the target and home on to it very accurately and with high reliability.

According to the release, all the necessary on-board components are sourced from Indian industry. Another Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) laboratory, the Instruments Research and Development Establishment, Dehradun, has partnered the ADE in this project.


Dense fog affects more than 75 flights in Delhi

At least 75 flights were affected as operations at the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) here were severely affected by a blanket of dense fog that covered the capital from last night till noon today.

Airport authorities introduced low visibility procedures for nearly 15 hours from 2058 hours last night till 1157 hours today because of the fog, airport officials said. During this period, 144 flights landed and took off using Instrument Landing System (ILS) procedures, they said.

At least 25 flights were cancelled, 22 were rescheduled and 28 - 26 domestic and two international flights - were diverted to other airports in this period.

Besides, scores of flights were delayed as the airlines cleared the backlog after visibility improved close to noon.

The visibility on the runways remained around 150 metres for most of last night and tilll about 1000 hours.

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has forecast foggy mornings for the next two days.


11 more swine flu deaths in India, toll rises to 1163

Eleven more deaths caused by influenza A (H1N1) have been reported from India, taking the toll due to the swine flu pandemic in the country so far to 1163, an official statement said here today.

Six of the deaths - five in Gujarat and one in Maharashtra - were reported during the day today.

Besides, reports of five deaths that occurred earlier - four in Karnataka and one in Gujarat - were conveyed by the health authorities of the states concerned to the Centre today, it said.

Of the total swine flu deaths in the country so far, Maharashtra now accounts for 303, while 205 lives have been lost in Gujarat, 172 Rajasthan, 141 in Karnataka, 90 in Delhi, 52 in Andhra Pradesh, 38 in Punjab, 36 in Kerala, 33 in Haryana, 19 in Madhya Pradesh, 17 in Uttar Pradesh, 13 in Uttarakhand, 8 each in Chandigarh and Himachal Pradesh, 7 in Tamil Nadu, 6 in Puducherry, 5 in Goa, 3 in Orissa, 2 each in Assam, Jammu & Kashmir and Chhattisgarh and 1 in Mizoram.

The statement said 64 new cases of swine flu were reported from different parts of India today, including 17 in Uttar Pradesh, 15 in Maharashtra, 12 in Gujarat, 6 in Karnataka, 3 in Delhi, 2 each in Punjab, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir and 1 each in Chandigarh, Chhattisgarh.and Himachal Pradesh.

With these, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus reported in the country so far has gone up to 28,465, the statement added.


Shivshankar Menon to be new National Security Adviser

File photo of Shivshankar Menon.
File photo of Shivshankar Menon.

Former Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon will be India's next National Security Adviser (NSA), official sources said here today.

The sources said Mr Menon's name was cleared by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC), which met here today with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the chair.

Mr Menon, 61, will succeed Mr M K Narayanan, 75, who has already been named as the new Governor of West Bengal. Mr Menon is expected to assume charge in the next couple of days after Mr Narayanan demits office. Mr Narayanan is likely to take office in Kolkata before the Republic Day celebrations on January 26.

Like Mr Narayanan, Mr Menon will have the status of Minister of State during his tenure.

Talking to reporters this evening, Mr Menon said he was "humbled" by the new assignment, describing it as a "big responsibility". He promised to do his best in the new role.

Mr Menon, who retired as Foreign Secretary in July last year after nearly three years in office, will be the fourth person to hold the key assignment in the Prime Minister's Office.

He had been hand-picked by Dr Singh as Foreign Secretary over as many as 16 of his senior colleagues and he continues to enjoy the Prime Minister's confidence, especially on matters of foreign policy.

Mr Menon will take over the new assignment at a time when there is a debate about the role of the NSA, with many of the view that it should be confined to foreign policy issues, leaving internal security matters to the Home Minister.

Home Minister P Chidambaram had in a recent speech spelt out the contours of a new security architecture that he would like to see in place, in which the Home Minister would deal exclusively with internal security and have all counter-terrorism agencies report to him.

Mr Menon had, as Foreign Secretary, played a key role in the negotiations with the United States on the civil nuclear deal as well as in the talks with Pakistan. However, the Joint Statement that the Indian and Pakistani Prime Ministers had issued after their meeting at Sharm el Sheikh in Egypt last July had become controversial because of its reference to Baluchistan and Mr Menon had to face some flak.

The position of NSA was created in 1998 by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government and Mr Brajesh Mishra, a former Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs, held the post till May, 2004. He was succeeded by Mr J N Dixit, also a former Foreign Secretary, in the Manmohan Singh government's first term, when Mr Narayanan, a former director of the Intelligence Bureau, looked after internal security. When Mr Dixit died suddenly in January, 2005, Mr Narayanan ended up looking after the NSA's job also.

Both during Mr Mishra's tenure and in Mr Narayanan's innings, the NSA has acquired a larger-than-life image, playing a major role in foreign policy matters, serving as the chairman of the executive council of the Nuclear Command Authority and engaging in strategic negotiations with major powers. Mr Narayanan was, for instance, India's Special Representative for the border talks with China.

Born on July 5, 1949, Mr Menon has an M.A. in History from the University of Delhi and joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1972. During an illustrious career, he has served as India's Ambassador in Israel (1995-97), High Commissioner in Sri Lanka (1997-2000), Ambassador in China (2000-03) and High Commissioner in Pakistan (2003-06).


India denies influencing IPL bids, asks Pakistan to introspect on ties

India on Thursday denied it had influenced the decision of the IPL teams not to bid for any Pakistani cricketer, saying it had nothing to do with selection of players for sporting events.

External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna speaking at a function in New Delhi today.
External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna speaking at a function in New Delhi today.

The Government today denied it had influenced in any way the decision of the teams in the Indian Premier League not to bid for any Pakistani cricketer, saying it had nothing to do with selection of players for sporting events.

"Government has nothing to do with selection of players of sporting events, the rating of players or various exercises connected with that," External Affairs Minister S M Krishna told journalits on the sidelines of an event.

"Pakistan will have to draw a line between where the Government of India is directly connected and where it is not," Mr Krishna said, in response to the criticism from across the border against what has been described as an "insult" to the Pakistani cricketers.

Separately, the Ministry of External Affairs issued a statement today underlining the point and urging Pakistan to introspect on the reasons that had strained ties between the two countries.

"Blaming the Government for the absence of Pakistani players from the next edition of IPL is unfortunate. Pakistan should introspect on the reasons which have put a strain on relations between India and Pakistan, and have adversely impacted on peace, stability and prosperity in the region," the statement said.

Referring to reports attributing the non-selection of the Pakistani cricketers by the IPL teams for the tournament, to be held in India, to apprehensions about them not getting the necessary Indian visas, the Ministry said these were completely misplaced.

It said 17 Pakistani cricketers were issued requisite Indian visas at very short notice in December 2009 and January 2010 to participate in IPL 2010.

Two of these visas were issued in Islamabad, while three were issued in Wellington (New Zealand) and twelve in Sydney (Australia), where the concerned Pakistani cricketers had applied while touring New Zealand and Australia, respectively.

"Based on a request from the Pakistan Cricket Board to High Commission of India in Islamabad, the Ministry of External Affairs facilitated necessary clearances from other Ministries of the Government of India," it said.

The statement also pointed out that cricketers from Pakistan had participated in the first edition of IPL in 2008 in India but not in the second edition in 2009, which was held in South Africa. One Pakistani cricketer participated in the Champions League T20 tournament held in India in October 2009.

"The participation or absence of Pakistani cricketers in a commercial event of the nature of IPL is, thus, a matter not within the purview of the Government," it added.

In the IPL auction for players held on Monday in Mumbai, none of the 11 Pakistani players up for bidding attracted any bid from any of the eight teams. Some people saw this as a concerted move by the teams, though they denied having decided on any such thing, and claimed that the availability of players for the entire tournament and their team strategies had dictated their decisions on bidding for different players.

Pakistani players were also critical of the way they were ignored at the auction and described it as an insult to them and their country.


 Photo courtesy FICCI website.

Govt. restores issuance of pre-paid mobile connections in J&K

The Union Government has decided to retore the issuance of pre-paid mobile telephone services in Jammu and Kashmir in accordance with revised guidelines.

The decision supersedes the order dated October 30, 2009 banning all new pre-paid mobile telephone connections as well as renewal of existing pre-paid connections with effect from November 1, 2009 pending the formulation of a new system of verification and re-verification of subscribers.

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) had allowed mobile telephone services in Jammu and Kashmir in 2003, eight years after the rest of the country. The decision to ban pre-paid mobile telephone connections from November 1 last year was taken to check the misuse of mobile telephones by militants, an official press release said.

It said existing pre-paid subscribers shall be allowed the facility of recharge on completion of re-verification. The mobile service providers are required to adhere to these revised guidelines scrupulously with immediate effect.

While announcing the October 30 decision, the Government had said at that time that it was taken following reports that service providers and vendors were not doing proper verification of customers before providing the pre-paid connections.

In some cases, a single person had been issued with multiple numbers of connections. Fake documents and identity numbers were also reportedly used by the vendors, particularly in the case of pre-paid connections.

"This situation had given rise to serious security concerns. Hence, the decision," the statement had added at that time.


Cabinet approves upgradation of 22 km of Hyderabad-Bangalore section of NH-7

The Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure (CCI) today approved the implementation of a project for the upgradation, operation and maintenance of a 22.12 km stretch in Karnataka of the Hyderabad-Bangalore section of National Highway (NH)-7 at an estimated cost of Rs 679.36 crore.

The project, from Devanhalli to Hebbal near the Bangalore International Airport, will be executed on a design, build, finance, operate and transfer (DBFOT) pattern under the National Highway Development Programme (NHDP) Phase-VII.

The concession period of the project is 20 years, including construction period of 30 months. The project covers districts of Karnataka - Bangalore (Urban) and Bangalore (Rural).

According to an official press release, the main objective of the project is to expedite the improvement of infrastructure in the State and will provide uninterrupted connectivity to the Bangalore airport.

The main features of the project include underpasses for pedestrian and cattle crossing; construction of approaches & widening of flyovers; reconstruction of existing service road; highway illumination and construction of bus bays.

The release said the project would reduce the time and cost of travelling between Devanahalli and Hebbal and to the Bangalore airport and improve the transport facilities for tourists.


Cabinet approves establishment of National Knowledge Network

The Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure (CCI) today accorded in principle approval for the establishment of the National Knowledge Network (NKN) that will connect all knowledge institutions in the country through a high-speed data communication network.

The project, to be implemented by the National Informatics Centre (NIC), is expected to encourage sharing of knowledge, specialized resources and collaborative research.

The Government’s decision to set up the NKN was announced in 2008-09. An initial amount of Rs.100 crore was allocated to the Department of Information Technology, Ministry of Communications and IT for the purpose and a high level committee was also set up to coordinate and monitor the project.

An official press release said the architecture of the NKN would be scalable and the network would consist of an ultra-high speed core (multiples of 10Gbps and upwards). The core shall be complemented with a distribution layer at appropriate speeds. The participating institutions can connect to the NKN at speeds of 1 Gbps or to the distribution layer through a last mile connectivity bandwidth.

The NKN will provide a nation-wide ultra high-speed backbone/data-network highway. Various other networks in the country can take advantage of this ultra high-speed backbone, with national and international reach to create independent and closed user groups.

The NKN will have about 25 core Points of Presence (PoPs) and 600 secondary PoPs. It will connect around 1500 institutions. The physical infrastructure (setting up of core network) is expected to be completed in 24 months.

According to the release, the NKN will enable scientists, researchers and students from diverse spheres across the country to work together for advancing human development in critical and emerging areas.

It is expected to catalyse knowledge sharing and knowledge transfer between stakeholders seamlessly across the nation and globally.

The NKN is also expected to encourage a larger section of research and educational institutions to create intellectual property. It will enable use of specialized applications, which allow sharing of high performance computing facilities, e-libraries, virtual classrooms and very large databases.

Health, education, grid computing, agriculture and e-governance are the main applications identified for implementation and delivery on NKN. Applications such as countrywide classrooms will address the issue of faculty shortage and ensure quality education delivery across the country.

In the initial phase of the project, a core backbone consisting of 15 PoPs have been established with 2.5 Gbps capacity. Around 40 institutions of higher learning and advanced research have already been connected to the network and six virtual classrooms set up, the release added.


Cabinet okays increase in number of research fellowships

The Union Cabinet today approved the implementation of a proposal for an increase in the number of Junior Research Fellowships (JRF) through the CSIR-UGC National Eligibility Test (NET) in the country.

The JRF-NET is aimed at identifying, through this national competitive examination, talented students who could be enrolled for Ph. D. programmes in specific domains across India's scientific and academic institutions.

It is also meant to identify those who fulfil the eligibility criteria for employment as lecturers across various academic institutions.

During the 10th Five Year Plan, the number of JRFs was doubled and a total of 6000 students benefited. In the XIth Plan, the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) proposes to double this number again.

According to an official press release, the total cost of providing fellowships for about 12,000 students in the XIth Plan is estimated at Rs.444.34 crore.

The release said the proposed increase in intake and the attractive remuneration being offered would help in attracting talented youth to take up scientific research as a career and help address the issues related to shortage of scientific manpower in the country.

The biggest beneficiaries of this programme would be the University system and scientific institutions across India as they shall be able to attract bright minds for their scientific programmes/research. It will also benefit students from all over the country who are keen to take-up scientific research as a career, it said.

The programme will be implemented by the Human Resource Development Group of the CSIR, which conducts the National Eligibility Test (NET) across the country in 25 cities and at 125 examination centres.

The JRF scheme was started in 1983. In 1989, the NET was recognised by the University Grants Commission (UGC) as a pre-qualification for lecturership and is now being conducted twice a year in June and December. It is conducted in five subject areas - Life Sciences, Chemical Sciences, Earth Sciences, Physical Sciences and Mathematical Sciences. About 1,50,000 students appear for NET every year.

The decision to increase the number of fellowships has come in the wake of the serious concern expressed by educationalists, scientists, policymakers and others over the declining interest shown by students in taking up careers in basic sciences.


R-Day flypast: Delhi air space to be closed for an hour on 3 days

The air space over the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) for a radius of 50 nautical miles will be closed on January 23 and 24 between 1115 hours and 1215 hours due to the fly past practice that will be conducted by Indian Air Force (IAF) aircraft for Republic Day.

A spokesman for the Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL) said the air space would be similarly closed on the morning of January 26 during the Republic Day parade. The air space was closed for practice today also.

In all, 28 aircraft of the IAF are slated to take part in the Republic Day parade at heights varying from 60 metres to 500 metres above ground level.

The aircraft taking part in the flypast include 4 MI-17 helicopters flying in inverted Y formation, three advanced light helicopters of Army Aviation Corps in Victory formation, one IL-78, two AN-32 and two Dorniers in Big Boy formation, one AWACS and two SU-30 MKI in sentry formation, five Jaguar aircraft in arrowhead formation, five MiG 29 aircraft in arrowhead formation and three SU-30 MKI aircraft in Trishul formation.

The IAF had earlier this week issued an appeal to the public to ensure that their neighbourhoods were kept clean to avoid bird hits, which pose a serious threat to aircraft flying at low levels.

In particular, they were requested to not throw eatables, garbage, dead animals or animal carcasses in the open.


Temporary suspension of rail traffic on Delhi's Tilak Bridge on R-Day

The Northern Railway has said that there would a temporary suspension of rail traffic on the Tilak Bridge in Delhi during the full dress rehearsal of the Republic Day parade on January 23 and the parade itself on January 26.

Rail traffic will remain suspended on the bridge from 1030 hours to 1200 noon on both days as it is located directly over the route of the parade on its way from Raj Path to the Red Fort. Some trains will be diverted during that period.

According to a press release from Northern Railway, the following trains will be regulated till the clearance of the parade on the two days:

• 2626 New Delhi-Trivandrum Kerala Express at New Delhi.
• 2627 Bangalore-New Delhi Karnataka Express at Hazrat Nizamuddin.
• 2925 Bandra Terminus-Amritsar-Kalka Paschim Express at Hazrat Nizamuddin.
• 2056 Dehradun-New Delhi Jan Shatabdi Express at Sahibabad.
• 2192 Jabalpur-New Delhi Sridham Express at Okhla.
• 2401 Patna-New Delhi Magadh Express at Sahibabad.
• 1078 Jammu Tawi-Pune Jhelum Express at New Delhi.
• 9565 Okha-Dehradun Express at New Delhi.
• 2441 Bilaspur-New Delhi Rajdhani Express at Hazrat Nizamuddin.
• 2204 Amritsar-Saharsa Garibrath Express at New Delhi.
• 4258 New Delhi-Varanasi Kashi Vishwanath Express at New Delhi.
• 1078 Jammu Tawi-Pune Jhelum Express at New Delhi.


• The SNP-2 Shakurbasti-New Delhi EMU will be diverted to run via Patel Nagar, Delhi Safdarjung to Hazrat Nizamuddin and onwards to Palwal.
• GDK-1 Kosi Kalan- Ghaziabad EMU will be diverted to run from Hazrat Nizamuddin to Sahibabad-Ghaziabad without touching New Delhi.
• 2443 Bhubaneshwar-New Delhi Rajdhani Express train will be diverted from Sahibabad to Delhi Jn.-New Delhi.
• 2877 Ranchi-New Delhi Garib Rath Express train will be diverted from Sahibabad to Delhi Jn.-New Delhi.


The GN-15 & GN-12 Ghazibad-New Delhi-Ghazibad EMU trains will remain cancelled on 23.1.10 & 26.1.2010.


The GND-2 Delhi Jn.-New Delhi-Ghazibad EMU trains will back from Delhi Jn. to run via Delhi Shahdara to Ghaziabad. It will remain partially cancelled between Delhi Jn.-New Delhi-Sahibabad.


BRO to hire choppers to expedite road projects in Arunachal

The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) may soon hire helicopters from outside agencies to expedite the construction of strategic roads in Arunachal Pradesh and other Himalayan border states.

The suggestion to do this came from Minister of State for Defence M M Pallam Raju while presiding over a meeting of the Border Roads Development Board (BRDB) in Itanagar last evening.

Mr Pallam Raju underlined the need to build infrastructure right up to the border areas, an official press release said here today.

Lt Gen M C Badhani, Director-General, Border Roads, told the meeting that the Indian Air Force airlift capability was extremely low, leading to delays in most border roads in Arunachal Pradesh beyond 2013. Against BRO's need of 3500 tonnes last year, only 400 tonnes were actually airlifted, he said.

He said the public sector Pawan Hans had submitted an initial proposal to partially meet the BRO's helicopter requirements in the North-East, but its pilots were not trained for hanging payloads that need to be airdropped in inaccessible places lacking landing sites.

Gen Badhani pointed out that more than 75 per cent of BRO's road construction projects were in high altitude areas. The BRO is at present building 2,764 km of a total of 5,061 kms of road length in Arunachal Pradesh alone, he said.

Engineer-in-Chief Lt Gen A K Nanda said that earthmovers and machinery deployed in snowbound areas were reduced to a life span of just 30 per cent of their optimum level. He said the Utility Factor was obsolete to the BRO's present day working environment and would be revised soon.

Gen Badhani expressed concern that the fatality rate was the highest in the BRO amongst all forces in the country. He pointed out that even the Army did not deploy men in difficult areas for more than two or three years.

He said the BRO should be allowed to handle road construction projects in the hinterland as well because its men were too stressed working all their career in very difficult areas and cut away from their families.

BRDB Secretary Subhash Sharma said the BRO had a very fatality rate of nine in ten days, much higher than the fatality rate of the Army battalions in Jammu & Kashmir.

Earlier yesterday, Mr Pallam Raju inaugurated a War Memorial at a World War II cemetery at Jairampur in Arunachal Pradesh’s Changlang district. The cemetery is located on the Stillwell Road built by the Allied Forces, linking Ledo in Assam, passing through Myanmar and running right upto China. Only two of the nearly 1,000 graves, believed to be of American, Chinese and Taiwanese soldiers, were found during the road reconstruction project in February, 1999.

The Minister also inaugurated the three-day Pangsau Pass Winter Festival at Nampong, Changlang alongwith Arunachal Chief Minister Dorje Khandu.


Delhi under thick blanket of fog, cold conditions persist

The capital and many other parts of north India were under a thick blanket of fog since last night, slowing down road traffic, delaying many trains and disrupting flight schedules at the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) here.

The maximum temperature in the past 24 hours dropped slightly to 18.6 degrees Celsius, 2.4 degrees below normal and down from 19.8 degrees the previous day.

The minimum degree remained at 6.6 degrees Celsius, 0.4 degrees below normal for this time of the year, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.

The IMD had forecast dense fog over the capital this morning and a mainly clear sky later. It said maximum and minimum temperatures in the capital today would be around 17 degrees and 7 degrees Celsius, respectively.

It has also forecast foggy mornings for the next two days. It said the maximum and minimum temperatures would be 18 and 8 degrees Celsius tomorrow and 18 and 9 degrees Celsius on Saturday.

The fog, which had started descending on the city late last night, had reduced visibility to around 50 metres in many areas. The visibility on the runways at the airport was around 150 metres for most of the night and this morning, as a result of which at least 18 flights were cancelled, 27 were diverted and 20 were rescheduled.

Airport officials said that, with visibilty remaining below 200 metres on the runways, landings were taking place but many take-offs were delayed considerably.

Several trains were running many hours behind schedule as a result of the fog. The Northern Railway has already cancelled many trains upto January 31 because of the foggy conditions and many are being rescheduled on a daily basis.

Road users reported difficult driving conditions because of the poor visibility and traffic at many places in the city had slowed down to a snail's pace this morning.


See photo

Flight operations at Delhi airport disrupted by dense fog

Flight operations at Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) were severely disrupted today as a blanket of dense fog covered the capital and many other parts of north India since last night.

The fog, which had started descending late last night, had reduced visibility to practically zero and, at 0945 hours this morning, visibility on the runways at the airport was below 150 metres.

Airport officials said visibility had remained in this range for most of the night and they expected the conditions to continue for some more time this morning.

According to them, at least 18 flights were cancelled, 27 were diverted to other airports and 20 were rescheduled. Scores of flights were delayed as a result of the fog, and the disruption was bound to have a cascading effect on the entire network.

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) had forecast dense fog for today morning and a mainly clear sky later. It has also forecast foggy mornings for the next two days.


Dense fog disrupts scores of flights in Delhi

A blanket of dense fog covered Delhi and many other parts of north India today, disrupting the schedules of scores of flights to and from the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) in the capital.

The fog, which had started descending late last night, had reduced visibility to practically zero and runway visibility remained between 75 and 100 metres around 0830 hours this morning on both runways at the airport.

Airport authorities used low visibility procedures and a few flights were operated using instrument landing systems (CAT IIIB) in the early hours of the morning. "Only a few flights have departed or arrived since morning," an airport official said.

At least ten flights - six domestic departures, three domestic arrivals and one international departure - were cancelled, while seven flights were diverted to other airports and four were rescheduled. Several more flights were delayed, which had a cascading effect on the network.

The officials said the low visibility period lasted for 10 hours and 38 minutes from 0102 hours this morning to 1140 hours. During this period, as many as 125 flights were operated, using instrument landing systems (ILS) procedures.

By 0930 hours, visibility on the runways had improved to around 500 metres, sources said and the airport authorities and the airlines started clearing the backlog.

However, by late tonight, the capital was again under a thick cover of fog, and visibility at the airport had dropped to around 150 metres around midnight tonight.


India urges WHO to explain reports on H1N1

India has urged the World Health Organisation (WHO) to effectively explain reports appearing in a section of the media that the swine flu pandemic was a false alarm.

In an intervention at the meeting of the Executive Board of WHO, currently meeting in Geneva, Health Secretary K Sujatha Rao said such reports were adversely affecting the public health measures being undertaken by countries.

She also called for greater transparency about the terms and conditons on which international vaccine manufacturers were supplying vaccines to countries.

In response to the intervention by India, the meeting agreed that WHO would formally write to National Focal Points in all countries clarifying the factual position about the H1N1 pandemic to quell all doubts that had been raised.

On the report of WHO on the progress made towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals, Ms Rao urged the organisation to clearly promote generic drugs as a strategy for rational drug use.

India emphasised that it was only WHO that had the credibility to withstand the persuasive power of branded and patent drugs.

India urged all countries to promote access to medicines and not to confuse the issue of counterfeits, which was an intellectual property rights (IPR) issue, with safe and efficacious generic drugs.


Bird flu: 27,000 birds culled so far in West Bengal's Murshidabad district

The Government today said nearly 27,000 birds had so far been culled and 1286 eggs destroyed in the areas of Murshidabad district of West Bengal where it has notified an outbreak of avian influenza last week.

An official press release said here today that after the outbreak was notified in Hazrabati and Nagar villages in Khargram block, two more epicentres - Haripur and Ninur - surfaced in the same block. On January 17, the West Bengal government has notified an outbreak in Faridpur village of Burwan block, it said.

A three-member Central Rapid Response Team of the Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare is stationed at Murshidabad to assist the state health authorities.

The release said the culling operations were part of the containment measures initiated by the Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries as per its contingency plan.

It said 353 poultry workers involved in culling operations had been put on chemoprophylaxis.

The release said 80 cases of upper respiratory infection/fever had been identified in the community during surveillance but only one of them had exposure to sick/dead poultry.

It said the State Government had adequate stocks of oseltamivir and personal protective equipment and the situation was being monitored on a daily basis.


US warns of terror "syndicate" formed by al Qaeda, other groups

US Defence Secretary, Robert Gates with the Defence Minister, A. K. Antony, in New Delhi on January 20, 2010.
US Defence Secretary, Robert Gates with the Defence Minister, A. K. Antony, in New Delhi on January 20, 2010.

The United States today warned of a terror "syndicate" formed by the al Qaeda and various other groups with the aim of destabilising the entire region and provoking a India-Pakistan military conflict and called for a high level of cooperation to confront this threat.

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said it was important to recognise the magnitude of the threat that the entire region faced from these groups. "A victory for one is a victory for all," he said.

Talking to reporters here after his meeting with Defence Minister A K Antony, he also said that India's patience would be "limited" if it were subjected to another attack of the horrific November 26, 2008 terror attack on Mumbai, in which more than 160 people were killed and which India blames on elements based in Pakistan.

"I think it's not unreasonable to assume that Indian patience would be limited were there to be further attacks," he said.

Mr Gates, who is on a two-day visit to India, had already met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and External Affairs Minister S M Krishna yesterday.

He said the syndicate of terror included the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the Taliban and the Tehreek-e-Taliban under the umbrella of the al Qaeda, which had its "home and safe haven" in the areas on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

He said that while the al Qaeda is operating in Afghanistan along with the Taliban, the Tehreek-e-Taliban is focusing on Pakistan and the LeT has got its sights on India.

Mr Gates described as extraordinary the support that India is providing for the reconstruction of Afghanistan. "The kind of support – and extraordinary support – that India is providing in Afghanistan now is really ideal. It is significant support," he said, referring to the nearly $ 1.3 billion in aid that India has pledged for electricity, roads, agriculture, education and health projects in the war-torn country.

Both Dr Singh and Mr Krishna are understood to have told Mr Gates of India's willingness to do even more for the development of Afghanistan. At the same time, it wanted its sensitivities with regard to terrorism emanating from Pakistan to be taken into account.

Mr Gates said both India and Pakistan had "real suspicions" about what the other is doing in Afghanistan and called for more transparency for each other in what they were carrying out. This, he felt, would provide greater help for Afghanistan..

The US Defence Secretary is understood to have told the Indian leaders that his country's commitment to India and the entire region was long-term.

Mr Gates' visit is aimed at finding ways of expanding the comprehensive, strategic partnership between the two countries.

Mr Gates had visited India last in February, 2008 but he has been interacting regularly with his Indian counterparts.

"This is part of that broad plan to make sure that we continue to build patterns of cooperation and understand where our shared interests will lead to greater cooperation in the defense and security realm," a US Defence official had told reporters in Washington ahead of the visit.

According to the official, Mr Gates will explore with Indian leaders ways to expand the already robust military-to-military relationship between the two countries, deepen counter-terrorism cooperation and bolster India's role in promoting security in Afghanistan and Pakistan and the entire South Asia region. The official, however, emphasised that the visit was not aimed at selling American weapons to India, though military trade is likely to be discussed.

"The secretary is travelling to India because we have strong bilateral relations with that country and need to nurture and grow those," he had said. "That is a priority."

India and the US have been holding military exercises regularly since 2002 and their size and scope have increased every year.

In October last year, they conducted their largest joint military exercises ever when 250 soldiers of the US 25th Infantry deployed to India with 17 Stryker combat vehicles to train with India's 7th Mechanised Infantry Battalion. In November, US Deputy Defence Secretary William J Lynn III led the Defence Planning Group during its visit to India for top-level security talks.

Mr Gates is the senior-most US official to visit India since US President Barack Obama hosted Dr Singh on a State Visit to Washington last November. During that visit, India and the US signed a memorandum of understanding on "Advancing Global Security and Countering Terrorism," and reaffirmed their commitment to work together to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction and missile and nuclear weapons technology.

During the meeting, both sides exchanged views and perspectives on a number of issues including the regional security situation and global security challenges. Shri Antony and Dr Gates both expressed satisfaction about the improvement in bilateral defence relations since the signing of the bilateral cooperation agreement in 2005. Both sides also expressed optimism about the prospects for enhancement of bilateral defence relations in all areas, including military to military interactions and in the area of defence trade. The two Ministers also discussed prospects for cooperation between both sides in the protection of the global commons and in the area of maritime security and counter-terrorism.

Shri Antony conveyed to Dr. Gates the Indian concerns regarding denial of export licenses for various defence related requirement of the Armed Forces and also regarding the inclusion of some Indian Defence PSUs and DRDO labs in the ‘Entity List’ of the US Government. Shri Antony expressed the view that such restrictions were anomalous in the context of the steady improvement in the bilateral defence relations between both countries. The US Secretary of Defence informed Shri Antony that President Obama has intiated a comprehensive reform of US export control regulations and assured that this would involve facilitation in the supply of defence technology and equipment to India.

Defence Minister Shri AK Antony convyed the view that the bilateral defence trade relations between India and the USA should move from a purely buyer-seller relationship to a more comprehensive relationship covering transfer of technology and co-production. Further referring to the US Government’s proposal to conclude certain umbrella agreements like CISMOA, etc. Shri Antony expressed the view that the proposed agreements would need to be assessed from the view point of the benefits which would accrue to India


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