PM says culture must become people's movement

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today regretted that many of India's monuments, works of art and historical remains were lying in neglect despite the fact that the world associated the country with these cultural showpieces.

"The fact of the matter is also that, despite our best intentions, the manner in which we preserve and display our artifacts, both cultural and historical has fallen behind contemporary world standards," he said in Kolkata.

He was speaking after dedicating the new campus of the Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian studies and laying the foundation stone of the second phase of the Science City there.

Dr Singh, who also holds the portfolio of Culture, said there was no reason why the Indian Museum or the country's other premier museums should not be on par with the Smithsonian in Washington, the Hermitage in St Petersburgh or the British Museum in London.

He said the Ministry had taken up the revamp of museums in the country on a priority basis. He said he also asked the Central Advisory Board on Culture to suggest a plan of action to make Indian museums world class.

"We will have to draw upon the best expertise available in conservation, multi-media display, design, lighting, narration and communication so that visits to our museums become experiences to remember," he said.

The Prime Miniser said the Government was giving added emphasis to the promotion of the performing and creative arts. He said the Government had recently doubled the amount of annual salary grants to theatre and dance groups.

In fact, there was a demand from theatre personalities in Kolkata for assistance in setting up small, intimate performing spaces known as "studio theatres" for smaller audiences, he said, and announced that the Ministry was finalizing a scheme of financial assistance for setting up such facilities.

Noting that, in recent years, there has been a profusion of writing in various Indian languages and that Indian writers in English have gained world renown, Dr Singh said there was much that needed to be done to popularise contemporary writing in other Indian languages, particularly among the younger generation since many of the writers were young and dealt with contemporary themes.

He said the National Translation Mission was making progress. He also said that the coordination committee of the three National Academies had met last week and one of the decisions taken was to systematically popularise Indian literature abroad. The modalities and funding for this was now being worked out.

"I do hope that in the coming years, modern Indian literature and our classics would be available in Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian, Spanish and English. It is equally important to expose ourselves to outside cultural influences. We should make an effort to promote regional studies and study of foreign languages in our country," he said.

Dr Singh said technological upgradation of the archives of various institutions was one of the Government's key priorities. He said institutions such as the Sangeet Natak Academi, the Films Division, the Zonal Cultural Centres, the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts and others had a wealth of valuable audio-visual materials which needed immediate preservation. The Ministry of Culture will extend whatever assistance is required to preserve, digitize and popularize these audio-visual materials that document the country's contemporary cultural history, he said.

He also spoke about the priority being accorded by the Ministry to oversee the professionalisation of the management of the country's cultural resources and institutions.

"The task of preserving our ancient historical and cultural treasures must devolve on the best professionals available in our country. We recognize that bureaucratisation tends to negate cultural expression and preservation," he remarked.

He said that, as a decisive first step, the Governnment had liberalized the rules for recruiting the executive heads of eight national level cultural institutions. He said outstanding professionals would be appointed soon to head the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and other institutions.

Dr Singh also said the the Government would ensure these institutions functional autonomy and flexibility. He said funds would never be a constraint when it came to the question of preserving the country's cultural heritage and asserted that proper accountability and oversight would also be ensured.

"Whether it is the field of archaeology or archives, there is a wealth of knowledge, resources and expertise that is available in the country. Both the Archaeological Survey of India as well as the National Archives will strengthen networking with State level bodies and increase outreach to talent available outside the government," he said.

He said the Ministry was working out how, in the long run, the talent pool of professional cultural administrators and managers could be increased. "We have to encourage studies in art appreciation, antiquarian studies and museology and also set up an international-level post graduate course in museum management. The government could consider funding chairs in select universities to enhance interest and studies in such areas," he said.

Dr Singh also spoke about the efforts being made by the Government to revive the cultural scene in Bengal and mentioned that almost Rs 90 crore had been given as a special allocation to premier institutions located in the city - the Asiatic Society, the Indian Museum, the Victoria Memorial and the National Library.

"Each of these institutions is a cultural icon of the country. Unfortunately, these institutions have not been able to fully utilize this grant in the first year. The modernization of the National Library is among our priority tasks. I am glad to learn that almost the entire catalogue of 24 lakh books of the National Library would be available in digital format online, within the next six months or so. I do hope that these four institutions will work harder to use the allocated funds to introduce state of the art systems of preservation, display and storage of their priceless antiquities, paintings and manuscripts," he said.

He said the Government had, during the current financial year, given substantial additional funds to the Khuda Baksh Library of Patna, the Rampur Raza Library of UP and the Delhi Public Library.

He recalled that the National Gallery of Modern Art in Delhi had recently increased its space by six times and has also opened a branch in Bangalore, meeting the long-standing demand of that city.

He said West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya had written to him proposing the setting up of a Kolkata Museum of Modern Art through a public-private partnership. The Government was examining this proposal, he said.

Dr Singh said teh Government was also keen to convert the Acharya Bhawan of India’s great scientist J.C. Bose into a science heritage museum and had taken steps for improving the Sir Jadunath Sarkar Archives and Museum. The Ministry of Culture will also assist in the revival of other historic cultural institutions of Kolkata like the Academy of Fine Arts and the Government College of Art, he said.

He said India and Bangladesh would jointly celebrate the 150th birth anniversary of poet Rabindranath Tagore. He said a most fitting commemoration would be an organic revival of Viswa Bharati University, pointing out that the Government had already sanctioned Rs 95 crore for its upgradation.

"We are working to preserve Shantiniketan’s cultural properties. Over the next four years we expect to restore many of its priceless paintings, sculptures and murals and the hand-written manuscripts of the poet laureate. We hope to take up the modernization of both the Rabindra Bhavan and the Kala Bhavan. I am told that there is a possibility of displaying, for the first time since the 1930s, exhibitions of the gems from Tagore’s art works in Paris and other important cities. We are also assisting in fulfilling two long-standing needs: the publication of a Rabindra Chitraa-vali depicting the genius of Tagore’s paintings and a comprehensive edition of Tagore’s literary works," he said.

He said the Government proposed to use the 150th birth anniversary of spiritual thinker Swami Vivekananda to popularise his powerful teachings and thoughts, which had contemporary relevance.

The Prime Minister said the Government believed in the plurality of Indian culture, in the freedom of cultural expression and in the importance of culture in the country's social progress and the spiritual development.

"We seek to strengthen and promote our cultural diversity by ensuring that the distant states and regions of India find due representation in our cultural arena.

"For its long term salvation, culture must become a people’s movement. We have to give culture a contemporary feel and relevance. Art in public spaces needs to be encouraged to integrate aesthetics and culture with urban life. Youth should be encouraged to discover in art and culture a joy and inspiration that mass media does not offer. We truly need a renaissance in the way in which we preserve, protect and propagate art and culture in the country," he added.


Jyoti Basu's condition "extremely" critical: doctors

Former West Bengal Chief Minister Jyoti Basu's condition was "extremely" critical and he was on maximum ventilation support, doctors attending on him at the AMRI Hospital in Kolkata said today.

A spokesman for the hospital told mediapersons that there was a drop in Mr Basu's blood pressure last night and the doctors had managed that crisis with a high volume of medicines.

He said the 95-year-old Communist Party of India (Marxist) veteran's urine output had also dropped further in the night.

The spokesman said Mr Basu had undergone a slow-low efficiency daily dialysis yesterday and would undergo it another dialysis today.

He said doctors on the medical board constituted by the hospital to treat Mr Basu was monitoring his condition continuously. It will meet again this evening to review the situation.

Mr Basu, who has been diagnosed with pneumonia, was admitted to the hospital on January 1.

Born on July 8, 1914, Mr Basu served as Chief Minister of West Bengal from 1977 to 2000, making him the country's longest-serving Chief Minister of any state. He stepped down in 2000 due to health reasons. He also served as a member of CPI(M) polit buro from the year the party was founded in 1964 till 2008, when poor health made him call it a day.


3 killed, 14 injured in train mishap near Agra

Three persons were killed and 14 others hurt when the Bhiwani-Kanpur Kalindi Express rammed into the stationary Delhi-Kanpur Shram Shakti Express near Agra on Saturday morning.

Scene at Tundla after the Kalindi Express rammed into the Shramshakti Express on January 16, 2010.
Scene at Tundla after the Kalindi Express rammed into the Shramshakti Express on January 16, 2010.

Three persons were killed and 14 others suffered injuries when the Bhiwani-Kanpur Kalindi Express rammed into the stationary Delhi-Kanpur Shram Shakti Express near Tundla, about 25 km from Agra in Uttar Pradesh this morning in dense fog.

A spokesman for the North-Central Railway told NetIndian that the accident occurred around 0815 hours today.

He said railway accident relief teams had reached the spot and were engaged in rescue and relief operations. The injured were taken to a nearby hospital. The last two coaches of the Shram Shakti Express were damaged in the accident, sources said.

According to the spokesman, the Railways had ordered an inquiry by the Commissioner of Railway Safety to establish the cause of the accident.

This is the third accident this month in similar circumstances on the North-Central Railway.

On January 2 morning, at least 10 people were killed and 42 others injured when the 2556 Gorakhdham Express crashed into the stationary 2418 Prayagraj Express at Panki near Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh in thick fog.

On the same day, a little earlier, the Delhi-Sitamarhi 4006 Lichchavi Express had rammed into the stationary Delhi-Islampur 2402 Magadh Express at Saraibhopat near Etawah. The driver of the Lichchavi Express had suffered serious injuries in the accident when he was trapped inside the mangled engine of the train.

Another view of the train accident site.
Another view of the train accident site.

There was a third incident in Uttar Pradesh on that day when the Sarayu Express hit a trolley near Pratapgarh, some 60 km from Allahabad. Some people had suffered minor injuries in that mishap.


VSSC launches 11 sounding rockets to study annular solar eclipse

Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre Conducts a Series of Sounding Rocket Launches to Study the Annular Solar Eclipse on January 14, 2010.
Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre Conducts a Series of Sounding Rocket Launches to Study the Annular Solar Eclipse on January 14, 2010.

The Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) at Thiruvananthapuram today launched as many as 11 Rohini series of indigenous sounding rockets to investigate the effects of the annular solar eclipse on the atmosphere.

The longest annular eclipse of this millennium occurred today and was visible best from the southern tip of the country.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said the rockets were launched from the Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station (TERLS) at Thumba in Thiruvananthapuram district and the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC), Sriharikota.

All the payloads (scientific instruments) of the rockets were developed in-house by VSSC, an ISRO press release said.

According to it, yesterday, two Rohini sounding rockets of the type RH 300 Mk II were launched at 12:20 pm and 1:05 pm respectively. This was followed by two RH 200 launches at 1:07 pm and 3 pm.

Following the same pattern, another four launches were carried out today. Later, one more sounding rocket of RH 300 Mk II type was launched at 4 pm today. Two larger Rohini rockets of the series RH 560 MK II were also launched from SDSC, one each yesterday and today, which had a peak altitude of 548 km.

Today at around IST 1:14 pm, the eclipse passed close to TERLS with 91% obscuration. The obscuration of Sun during the eclipse was about 11 min 08 sec. The maximum obscuration occurred around 1:15 pm. All the sounding rocket launches were conducted to study the effects of the annular solar eclipse on the atmospheric structure and dynamics, the release said.

The release said many scientifically interesting phenomena occur in the diurnal equatorial atmosphere. Equatorial Electrojet (EEJ), Equatorial Ionization Anomaly (EIA) and Equatorial Temperature and Wind Anomaly (ETWA) are examples of such phenomena.

When a solar eclipse occurs, there will be a sudden cut-off of solar radiation. This cut-off will affect the atmospheric structure and dynamics and there will be a large reduction in ionization and temperature.

The release said today's eclipse offered a unique opportunity to scientists to investigate the effects of fast varying solar flux on the photochemistry and electrodynamics of the different atmospheric regions, especially the equatorial mesopause and ionosphere-thermosphere regions.

The main payload instruments that flew in the sounding rockets during these experiments are:

  • Langmuir Probes and Electric Field Probes to study the characteristics of E-region plasma waves and generation process associated with sub-meter waves in relation to plasma temperature.
  • Trimethyl Aluminum Experiment (TMA) to derive neutral winds using TMA trails, ground based photography and a chain of magnetometers.
  • Electron density and Neutral Wind (ENWi) Probe consisting of a velocity probe and a Langmuir probe, for measurement of ionospheric E-region neutral winds, electron density and irregularity strength.
  • Earth's Atmospheric Composition Explorer (EACE) - to make very fast measurements on the neutral atmospheric composition. The measurements were taken in a scanning mode during the ascent and descent of the rocket flights during and after the eclipse.
  • Chaff Experiment to investigate the temperature and horizontal wind perturbations in the middle atmosphere.

The release said the results of these experiments will coordinate ground-based eclipse observations with in situ space measurements. Interpretation of eclipse data together with space data is expected to give new insights to the earlier eclipse observations.

This was the first ISRO effort to realise sounding rocket systems for a record 11 flights during a short period of two days from TERLS and SDSC, the release added.


Photos courtesy ISRO

Indian Navy's Mhadei, on circumnavigation trip, reaches Falkland Islands

The Indian Navy's INSV Mhadei, a 56-foot sloop that is on circumnavigation project, the first by an Indian, has crossed the half-way market and reached Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands today.

The vessel, with Cdr Dilip Dhonde at the helm, had completed over 14,000 nautical miles of voyage when it reached the Falklands today, an official press release said here today.

On the third leg, it travelled about 5000 nautical miles (9000 km) after leaving from Christchurch in New Zealand on December 12.

The sloop had been flagged off from Mumbai on August 19 under the Navy's project "Sagar Parikrama", which literally means circumnavigation by sea. It is the first such attempt by an Indian, the release said.

According to the release, the demands of such an adventure - which involve facing the perils of the sea and vagaries of the weather in a lonely sailboat - are so punishing that less than 300 people have so far succeeded in accomplishing it.

On Mhadei, Cdr Donde will cover about 21,600 nautical miles (38,880 km) under sail, the release said.

The boat is expected to start the next leg of her voyage on January 29. The next port of call and the last en route halt will be Cape Town, South Africa, it added.


India, Finland discuss cooperation in energy, IT, oil exploration

India and Finland have discussed ways of enhancing bilateral cooperation in areas such as geo-thermal energy, information technology and carbon sequestration and recycling.

At talks between visiitng Iceland President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here yesterday, the two sides also talked about coopeation in fields like glaciological studies, earthquake prediction and oil exploration by Indian companies off Iceland's coast.

They also discussed the way forward on Climate Change after the recent COP-15 Conference in Copenhagen, an official statement said.

Dr Grimsson and first lady Dorrit Moussaieff, who are on a state visit to India, arrived on January 11 in Mumbai, where he met Maharashtra Governor S C Jamir and held meetings with businessmen and industrialists. Dr Grimsson is accompanied by a 20-member strong business delegation.

Yesterday, Dr Grimsson met President Pratibha Patil, Vice-President M Hamid Ansari, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna, Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj and ruling United Progressive Alliance Chairperson Sonia Gandhi.

President Patil conferred the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding for 2007 on him. She also hosted a state banquet for him.

Dr Grimsson participated in a workshop on renewable energy and paid a visit to Jawaharlal Nehru University in the capital.

Dr Grimsson will visit Bangalore, where he will meet Karnataka Governor H R Bhardwaj and also visit the facilities of some Indian companies, including Wipro. He is due to depart from India on January 17.


Worker hurt in Metro construction mishap

A worker at the under-construction Jasola station on the Delhi Metro's Central Secretariat-Badarpur line suffered an injury in a mishap today.

Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) spokesman Anuj Dayal said the incident occurred around 1600 hours. The worker was hurt in one of his legs when a pipe connected to the compressor got detached to pressure.

"He was immediately provided medical assisstance and is recovering," Mr Dayal added.


Ustad Amjad Ali Khan's sarod damaged on flight

Sarod maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan's sarod, that he has been playing for more than three decades, was damaged on an Air India flight from Ahmedabad to Mumbai yesterday, forcing him to cancel a performance in Mumbai,

Khan, who reached Mumbai yesterday morning, noticed the damage only in the evening when he opened the box to adjust a few strings of the sarod before leaving for the venue of the show.

The maestro told television channels that Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel had called him up to express his deep regret over the incident. "He showed concern, he was very worried. It was not his fault," he said.

Khan said he had been playing the sarod for 34 long years and was emotionally connected to it. He also pointed out that the maker of the sarod, the famed Hemen Sen, had passed away in Kolkata on January 2 at the age of 87.

He said the sarod had been sent to Kolkata for repairs and he was assured it would be back with him in good condition in a few days.

Khan felt that airlines, in the future, must learn to take proper care of such items of fragile baggage. He suggested that such fragile and oversized items must be delivered back to the passengers at special counters, as is done at airports abroad, instead of being put on the conveyor belts along with other baggage, as is usually done at Indian airports.

He also felt that porters at airports must be educated enough to understand words such as "fragile" written on the baggage.

Khan said he did not want to make any claims against the airline or blame it for the episode, pointing out that it all depended on who handled the box on a certain day. He said he had flown Air India for years and would continue to fly the airline because of the many happy memories he had. He only wanted the airline to handle all its passengers with grace, kindness and humility.

He said Air India chairman and managing director Arvind Jadhav had also rung up him today to apologise for the incident.


Chavan offers full support for modernisation of IMD

Minister for Science & Technology and Earth Sciences, Prithviraj Chavan, assured all support from the Government to India Meteorological Department (IMD) to modernise itself by procuring the latest tools and models so that it could increase the accuracy of its weather forecasts.

Speaking at a function to mark the 135th Foundation Day of IMD here, he hoped the Department would be able to reinvent and re-engineer itself to play the vital role that the country expected of it.

He stressed the need for setting up more High Power Computing Systems (HPCS) so that the scientific and forecasting capabilities of IMD were boosted.

Mr Chavan said the Government had provided $ 1 billion for a five-year programme named INSPIRE (Invention in Scientific Pursuit for Inspired Research) to attract the best talent to science and technology.

He expressed satisfaction at the difficult job of monsoon prediction being handled by IMD and called for all possible efforts to ensure further improvement in the accuracy level of the predictions.

Mr Chavan inaugurated on the occasion the HPCS at IMD headquarters. The HPCS has a top speed of 14.4 tera llops and has 300 terabytes of storage with a robotic retrieval system with separate servers at 11 other meteorological centres across India. The system is capable of running high resolution global, regional and local numerical weather prediction models on a 24X& basis, which will further lead to improved weather and climate services from very short range to long range scales (months to seasons) for the country.

Dr. Shailesh Nayak, Secretary, Ministry of Earth Sciences, said that the fog monitoring system was now online while agromet services were available on mobile telephones and forecasts about monsoon were made well in advance.

The IMD's Foundation Day commemorates the taking over of Mr H. F. Blanford as Imperial Meteorological Reporter on January 15, 1875.

IMD is the India's National Meteorological Service and the principal government agency in all matters relating to meteorology, seismology and allied subjects. India has some of the oldest meteorological observatories of the world, such as those at Calcutta (now Kolkata) from 1785 and at Madras (now Chennai) from 1796 for studying the weather and climate of India.

A disastrous tropical cyclone struck Kolkata in 1864 and this was followed by failures of the monsoon rains in 1866 and 1871. In 1875, the Government of India decided to set up a Meteorological Department on an all-India basis by appointing Mr. Blanford as the Imperial Meteorological Reporter to the Government of India. The headquarter of IMD at Kolkata was later shifted to Shimla, then to Poona (now Pune) and finally to New Delhi.

From very modest beginnings, IMD has progressively expanded its infrastructure for meteorological observations, communications, forecasting and weather services. One of the first few electronic computers introduced in the country was provided to IMD for scientific applications in meteorology. India was the first developing country to have its own geostationary satellite, INSAT, for continuous weather monitoring of this part of the globe.


5 more swine flu deaths in India, toll goes up to 1111

Five more people have died of influenza A (H1N1) in India, raising the death toll due to the swine flu pandemic in the country so far to 1111, an official statement said here today.

The statement said three deaths - one each in Gujarat, Delhi and Maharashtra - were reported during the day today.

Besides, reports of two earlier deaths, both in Gujarat, were received from the state health authorities by the Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare today.

Of the total swine flu deaths in the country so far, Maharashtra now accounts for 298, while 173 lives have been lost in Gujrat, 170 Rajasthan, 137 in Karnataka, 89 in Delhi, 52 in Andhra Pradesh, 37 in Punjab, 34 in Kerala, 33 in Haryana, 17 in Uttar Pradesh, 14 in Madhya 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 27 in Maharashtra, 11 in Karnataka, 8 in Gujarat, 5 in Madhya Pradesh, 4 each in Delhi and Chandigarh, 2 in Rajasthan and 1 each in Kerala, Punjab and Goa.

With these, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus reported in the country so far has gone up to 28,111, the statement added.


India donates $ 5 million as quake relief to Haiti

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has conveyed his condolences to Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive of Haiti and the people of the island nation on loss of lives and devastation caused in the country's capital Port-au-Prince and other parts by a magnitude 7 earthquake on Tuesday afternoon.

Dr Singh also announced a cash donation of $ 5 million for immediate and emergency relief operations in the quake-hit areas.

"It is with profound sadness that we have learnt of the vast devastation caused by the earthquake in Haiti on 12 January, 2010," Dr Singh said in a message to Mr Bellerive.

He said India stood by the Government and people of Haiti in their hour of need and said the immediate cash donation of $ 5 million was a token of India's solidarity with the people of Haiti.

"I would also like to convey our condolences to the injured and family members of those who have died on account of the earthquake. We have no doubt that the people of Haiti have the strength and resilience to overcome this natural disaster," he added.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been affected by the quake and thousands are feared dead and most of Port-au-Prince's major landmarks have been destroyed or significantly damaged.

The Ministry of External Affairs had said yesterday that all 140 personnel of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) deployed with the United Nations and all civil police officers deployed with the United Nations Mission in Haiti were safe.

The Ministry of External Affairs also said it was in contact with the Indian Embassy in Havana, which is concurrently accredited to Haiti, to ascertain the welfare of other Indian nationals who are presently in Haiti.


TRAI releases consultation paper on foreign investment in broadcasting sector

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) today released a consultation paper on foreign investment in the broadcasting sector and has invited all stakeholders to respond to the issues raised in it by January 30.

TRAI had submitted its recommendations on Foreign Investment Limit for Broadcasting Sector on April 26, 2008. The methodology of calculation of indirect foreign equity is based on the proportionate method in broadcasting sector.

The Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (Ministry of Commerce & Industry) has issued Press Note No 2. (2009 Series) regarding the methodology to be used for calculating foreign investment, including foreign direct and indirect investment.

Recognizing the need to bring in clarity, uniformity, consistency and homogeneity into the exact methodology of calculation across sectors/activities for direct and indirect foreign investment in Indian companies, the Government of India proposed the guidelines for calculating direct and indirect foreign investment.

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting had, on September 30, 2009, requested TRAI to revisit its recommendations in view of the new Press Notes about the method of calculation of total foreign investment in Indian companies.

TRAI had placed this reference on its website on October 19, 2009 to solicit preliminary views of stakeholders on the subject. The consultation paper released today is based on these preliminary views.


Delhi Metro to begin trial runs for Gurgaon section from Jan 29

The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) today said trial runs for the Metro section commencing from Gurgaon in Haryana would start on January 29.

The inauguration of the trial run will be carried out between the HUDA City Centre station and the Sultanpur station in the presence of Union Urban Development Minister S Jaipal Reddy and Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda.

The first trial Metro train will be flagged off from the HUDA City Centre station at noon on January 29, DMRC spokesman Anuj Dayal said.

He said the trial runs on this section would cover a distance of approximately 11 kms, covering the HUDA City Centre, IFFCO Chowk, M G Road, Sikandarpur, Guru Dronacharya, Arjangarh, Ghitorni and Sultanpur stations.

Delhi Metro had crossed the border of the capital on November 12, 2009 when the link from Yamuna Bank to Noida in Uttar Pradesh was opened. Later, on January 6, the DMRC commissioned the Yamuna Bank-Anand Vihar link, which terminates on the border with Ghaziabad district, also in Uttar Pradesh.


Editors Guild urges editors to take pledge against "paid news"

The Editors' Guild of India has, as part of its campaign against the practice of "paid news" allegedly resorted to by some newspapers, has written to all editors and senior journalists urging them to pledge that they would act against any attempt to put out advertising as news without proper disclosure.

"We do hope that the entire journalist fraternity will come together on this issue," the Guild's president Rajdeep Sardesai and Secretary General Coomi Kapoor said in a statement here today.

The Guild had, at its annual general meeting last month, taken up the issue which has generated widespread concern in recent weeks.

According to the statement, members of the Guild felt strongly that the practice of putting out advertising as news amounted to grave journalistic malpractice. It also threatened the foundations of the media, and of the journalist profession, by eroding public faith in the credibility and impartiality of news reporting.

The statement felt that editors and other journalists should stand up to defend their credibility, and make public declarations on the subject in order to restore the reading and viewing public's faith in the media by undoing the damage that has already been done.

The Guild has decided to make this issue, and the campaign to tackle the "paid news" menace, the focus of its activities through 2010.

The Guild has followed up its statement of last month on the subject with an "Editorial Statement" that it is requesting every editor to endorse and sign as a token of such endorsement. They have also urged the editors to publish the statement in their newspapers or telecast it on their channels.


Fog affects 14 flights at Delhi airport

Foggy conditions over Delhi disrupted flight operations for some time at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in the capital, affecting 14 flights in all.

Airport officials said the low visibility conditions lasted from 0146 hours to 1045 hours (a total of 9 hours 1 minute) on runway 28 and from 0614 to 1045 hours (4 hours 31 minutes) on runway 29.

During this period, five flights - three international and two domestic flights - were diverted to other airports, four flights - two domestic arrivals and two domestic departures - were cancelled and five flights were rescheduled.

A total of 138 flights were operated using low visibility procedures (LVP) during this period, the officials added.


Tharoor to visit Colombia, Peru, Dominican Republic Jan 18-25

Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor , Minister of State for External Affairs will pay an official visit to Colombia, Peru and Dominican Republic from January 18-25 as part of India's efforts to boost cooperation with Latin American countries.

Dr Tharoor will visit Colombia from January 18-20 at the invitation of the country's Foreign Minister Jaime Bermudez with whom he will hold talks.

An official press release said he would call on the President of Colombia Mr. Álvaro Uribe Vélez and other Ministers of his Cabinet. The visit to Colombia is coinciding with the celebrations of the establishment of 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between India and Colombia.

During the visit, an agreement for cooperation in health will be signed which will provide opportunities for joint research in medical health as well as open up further opportunities for Indian pharmaceutical companies in Colombia, it said.

Dr Tharoor will be in Peru from January 20-22 at the invitation of Foreign Minister Jose Antonio Garcia Belaunde. He will call on the President of Peru, Dr. Alan Garcia Pérez and other Ministers of his Cabinet.

The release said Dr Tharoor would hold the first India-Andean Group dialogue during the Peruvian Presidency of the Andean Group beginning this year. A memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the setting up of an Indian IT centre in Peru and an agreement between the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) and the Peruvian Centre for International Studies (CEPEI) will be signed during the visit.

Dr Tharoor will visit Dominican Republic on January 23-25 at the invitation of the country's President Leonel Antonio Fernandez Reyna. He will meet with Foreign Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso and other important ministers. An MoU for an IT Centre will be signed during the visit, the release added.


Govt. planning medical degree course to produce rural doctors

Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Ghulam Nabi Azad addressing the State Health Secretaries Meeting, in New Delhi on January 15, 2010. Minister of State of Health and Family Welfare, Dinesh Trivedi is also seen.
Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Ghulam Nabi Azad addressing the State Health Secretaries Meeting, in New Delhi on January 15, 2010. Minister of State of Health and Family Welfare, Dinesh Trivedi is also seen.

Union Minister for Health & Family Welfare Ghulam Nabi Azad today said the Government was planning to introduce a three-and-a-half year medical degree course to meet the shortage of doctors in rural areas.

This would be a course leading to a Bachelor's degree in Medicine and Surgery to produce doctors who would work in rural areas and district hospitals with specified bed capacities could be utilised as medical schools, he said at a meeting of State Health Secretaries.

Mr Azad said the expansion of health services under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) and emergence of non-communicable diseases had resulted in a high demand for specialists and doctors.

He said the Government had, therefore, initiated various reforms in medical education to increase the intake at the level of post-graduation and also rationalise the process of setting up new medical colleges in deficient States and regions.

He pointed out that the Post-Graduate Medical Education Regulations, 2000 had been amended recently, wherein the teacher-student ratio had been revised from 1:1 to 1:2.

He said the Medical Council of India (MCI) Regulations were amended in order to enable medical colleges to increase seats in post-graduate medical courses. He said the Ministry and the MCI had requested all the State Governments to instruct the Government Medical Colleges in their States to send the information with regard to availability of teaching faculty.

Mr Azad said the Government had so far received information from 64 Government Medical Colleges from 14 states only.

He said the MCI had, after considering the information furnished by these States, recommended to the Central Government for increase of approximately 1100 seats in various post-graduate medical courses.

He urged State Governments to send the details of teaching faculty in Government Medical Colleges in their states at the earliest so that they could be considered for increase of post-graduate seats in the light of the amended post-graduate regulations.

He said the Government had also formulated a scheme for strengthening and upgradation of the State Government Medical Colleges to increase the number of post-graduate seats and start new post-graduate courses.

He urged the State Governments to be pro-active in availing these benefits and take measures to increase the availability of human resources in their States.

The two-day meeting, being attended by senior health officials from the Union and the State Governments as well as various health agencies, will discuss disease control programmes, maternal and child health, immunisation, medical education and various new initiatives of the Government and chalk out action plans to take them forward.

He said the NRHM had helped improve the health infrastructure facilities and the availability of human resources. He said reports had shown encouraging trends in many states, such as increasing in-patient and out-patient cases, institutional deliveries, availability of drugs, provision of diagnostic facilies and availability of transport systems.

Mr Azad said people living in the most difficult and remote areas should also be able to access public health facilities easily and receive quality health care.

"We also have a long way to go, in achieving our goals relating to MMR, IMR, TFR, universal immunization and reduce the disease burden on account of malaria, T.B. and other infectious diseases," he said, adding that he had asked his Ministry to identify backward districts with poor health parameters for focused attention.

States have also been asked to identify health facilities in remote areas, especially in the hilly States, north-eastern States and tribal pockets so that a comprehensive package of additional incentives for doctors and health workers could be considered for encouraging them to work in these places.

The Minister said reproductive and child health was a key area and required focused attention. He said the percentage of fully immunised children in the country was not satisfactory called for close monitoring of the routne immunisation programme.

He said he had asked the Ministry to develop a system, for tracking pregnant mothers and children, to ascertain the status of ante-natal and post-natal care and institutional delivery and immunization of the children.

Mr Azad said vector borne diseases, particularly malaria, continued to be a major public health problem in the country, both in terms of mortality and morbidity. He said there was an increase in the burden of non-communicable diseases, such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.

He said the Government was in the process of formulating specific schemes to address these concerns. For diabetes, it was working out a strategy for checking all people in the age group of 30-40 years in the rural areas for diagnosing potential cases, he said.

He noted that, in Pune, the local authorities have decided to take up such an exercise in the entire district to diagnose people sufering from diabetes and blood pressure and urged all States to follow this example.


BSNL to ensure uninterrupted mobile connectivity for Kumbh pilgrims

The public sector Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) has taken steps to ensure uninterrupted mobile telephone connectivity for pilgrims and visitors to this year's Kumbh Mela, an official press release said.

It said Minister of State for Communications & Information Technology Sachin Pilot had held meetings in this regard with senior officials of the telecom major.

According to the release, there will be a comprehensive overhaul and refurbishment of the telecom infrastructure during the Kumbh Mela celebrations. Five new mobile towers are being constructed.

To give BSNL the flexibility to deploy mobile infrastructure in areas of air traffic congestion at short notice, two towers will also be mounted on trucks in areas where construction of permanent structures is difficult. Adequate diesel to operate power generators will be made available to reduce downtime to a minimum.

The release said the traffic handling capacity of BSNL in the area was being doubled and CDMA infrastructure had been upgraded to enable broadband connectivity at high speeds. To the extent possible, the infrastructure would also be shared with other operators. Additional technical and supervisory staff is being deployed to ensure adequate manpower during the Mela.

The Minister himself will periodically monitor the mobile traffic and preparedness of BSNL to ensure uninterrupted and quality service, the release added.


Cold conditions abate slightly in Delhi, fog disrupts some flights

Foggy conditions over Delhi caused some disruption in the schedules of flights and trains and slowed down vehicular traffic in the capital, but overall there was an abatement of the intense cold conditions that people in the city had experienced for the past many days.

The maximum temperature recorded in the capital in the past 24 hours was 17.1 degrees Celsius, up from yesterday's 16.2 degrees, but 4 degrees below normal.

The minimum temperature in the past 24 hours remained at 8 degrees Celsius, the same as yesterday and one degree above normal for this time of the year, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.

Visibility at the airport had improved to more than 1700 metres by 1030 hours. The fog in the early hours of the morning had affected the schedules of about 10-15 flights, airport officials said.

By mid-morning, the skies had cleared and the sun was out, bringing some much needed warmth for people in the capital.

The IMD said the maximum and minimum temperatures today would be around 19 degrees and 6 degrees Celsius, respectively.

The IMD has forecast foggy conditions in the capital tomorrow morning and maximum and minimum temperatures around 20 and 5 degrees Celsius.

For Sunday, it said there would be misty conditions in the morning, with maximum and minimum temperatures would be around 21 and 6 degrees Celsius, respectively.


Govt. to set up National Ambient Noise Monitoring Network

Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh addressing a press conference on the setting up of a monitoring network for ambient noise in New Delhi on January 14, 2010.
Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh addressing a press conference on the setting up of a monitoring network for ambient noise in New Delhi on January 14, 2010.

The Government is planning to set up a National Ambient Noise Monitoring Network in the country on the pattern of the existing air and water pollution monitoring networks.

An official press release said the roadmap in this regard would be ready by September thisyear and these noise monitoring stations would be set up on a pilot basis in seven cities, including Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Lucknow.

These seven cities will have ten stations each. The network will be extended to an additional 18 cities in 2011 with five stations in each of them.

The setting up of the network and development of infrastructure for noise mapping in the country is expected to be in place within five years. In the first phase, a total of 160 stations in 25 cities shall be established in the remaining two years of the XIth Five Year Plan (2007-12). This is estimated to cost about Rs 10 crore.

Till now, Central and State Pollution Control Boards have been carrying out sporadic or isolated noise monitoring in urban areas. With the new system in place, a systematic national level monitoring and reporting network in the country will be available as in the case of air and water pollution, the release said.

According to it, the network would help crease baseline data and facilitate its analysis for policymakers and implementing agencies to take appropriate action for noise control at the regional and national levels.

In the recent amendments to the noise rules carried out on January 11, stress has been laid on making the night peaceful. "Night time" has been defined as 2200 hours to 0600 hours and restrictions have been imposed on the use of horns, sound emitting construction equipment and bursting of fire crackers during this period.

"Public place" has been defined and the occupant of a public place has to restrict the volume of public address system, so that the noise emitting from its activity would not exceed the noise limit by more than 10 dB (A).

Similarly, the occupant of a private place has to restrict the volume of music system, so that the noise emitting from its activity would not exceed the noise limit by more than 5 dB (A).

A duty has been cast upon the concerned State Governments to specify in advance, the number and particulars of days, not exceeding fifteen in a year, on which 2 hours exemption (10.00 pm to 12.00 midnight) would be operative. State would be the unit for such an exemption. These amendments are in line with the Supreme Court orders from time to time, the release said.

Earlier on 14 February, 2000, the Central Government notified the Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000. Two types of noise standards were prescribed: ambient air quality standards in respect of noise and emission limits for designated types of machinery, appliances and fire crackers.

The emission equipment standards prescribed in Schedule VI of the Environment (Protection) Rules of 1986 relate to motor vehicles, air conditioner, refrigerator, diesel generators and certain types of construction equipments.

The Noise Regulation Rules, 2000 regulate noise levels in industrial, (75 decibels) commercial (65 decibels) and residential zones (55 decibels), and also establish zones of silence (100 meters) near schools, courts, hospitals, and so on.

Separate ambient levels are fixed for industrial, commercial and residential areas and silence zones. The prescribed day time levels (0600 hours to 2200 hours) are typically ten decibels higher than the corresponding levels for night time except in industrial areas, where the difference is five decibels.

The Noise Rules require the States to designate an authority or officer responsible for maintaining the ambient standards. The designated authority could be the district magistrate or police commissioner or any other official. The designated authority is also empowered to issue directions to prohibit or control noise pollution. Any person violating the Rules is liable to be prosecuted under the provisions of the EPA.


Systems crash at Delhi ATC stalls flights for two hours

Flight operations at Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) were stalled for nearly two hours during the peak period this evening when the computer systems at the Air Traffic Control (ATC) crashed.

A senior airport official told NetIndian that the ATC shifted temporarily to the standby "procedure mode" for tracking aircraft.

According to the official, all the display units in the ATC tower, which help the air traffic controllers keep track of approaching and departing aircraft, had stopped functioning.

He said this was the first time that all the units had stopped functioning simultaneously, though a few units have crashed at a time in the past. He said the cause of the crash was being ascertained.

The system had stopped functioning around 1745 hours and had been restored by about 1930 hours, he said. He said the stand-by system was used to clear the stalled flights as quickly as possible, but the distance between two aircraft, generally maintained at around 10 nautical miles, was increased to about 80 nautical miles.

Sources said the failure happened while an upgradation of the system was being carried out.

The snag meant that no flights could land or take off for about an hour at the airport. The system crash came on a day when at least 86 flights were affected by a fog that had enveloped the capital since last night till this morning. All this was expected to have a major cascading effect on the entire network.


Mayawati hits out at Centre on food prices, says it is "pro-capitalist"

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati today reacted sharply to the Centre for blaming the states for the rising food prices and accused it of being under the influence of capitalists.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati at a press conference in Lucknow on January 14, 2010.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati at a press conference in Lucknow on January 14, 2010.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati today reacted sharply to the Centre for blaming the states for the rising food prices in the country, saying the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government was under the influence of capitalists, and threatened a nation-wide protest campaign if measures to curb inflation were not taken promptly.

Addressing a press conference in Lucknow, Ms Mayawati said the Union Government's wrong economic and export-import policies were aimed at benefitting businessmen and had led to the soaring prices of food articles.

She said not only had the Centre failed in taking action in time to stem the rising prices of items like sugar, pulses and foodgrains, but ministers had also, through "irresponsible" statements, encouraged hoarders and blackmarketeers.

The Chief Minister was reacting to Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar who had, at a press conference here yesterday, said the state governments to take stringent action against hoarders and blackmarketeers.

He also said that the states were not lifting the foodgrains allocated to them by the Centre and not implementing subsidy schemes for items such as edible oil.

Most importantly, Mr Pawar said some sugar mills in UP, which had imported huge quantities of raw sugar, did not lift them from the Kandla and Mundra ports because the state government had, despite repeated requests, banned them from processing the imported sugar.

As a result, Mr Pawar announced yesterday that the Central Excise rules had been amended to enable the mills to get the raw sugar processed in any other state. He said this would increase the availability of sugar in the country. Further, the Centre yesterday announced that duty free of imports of sugar would continue till the end of this year.

Ms Mayawati said she had banned the processing of imported raw sugar because she wanted the mills in Uttar Pradesh to first process the sugarcane grown in the state. She also said her government had initiated steps against hoarders and blackmarketeers.

The UP Chief Minister said the Centre had failed to create a buffer stock of sugar in 2006-07 and 2007-08 when production had been good. On the contrary, the Centre had allowed exports at low prices at that time, she said.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar was also critical of the Centre today, saying that prices of food articles had always gone up when the Congress was in power at the Centre. He said the present Opposition parties had a better record on this front whenever they were in office.


8 more swine flu deaths in India take toll to 1106

Eight more deaths caused by influenza A (H1N1) have been reported in India, taking the toll due to the swine flu pandemic in the country so far to 1106, an official statement said here today.

The statement said one death was reported during the day from Gujarat. Besides, reports of seven deaths that occurred in recent days - two each in Rajasthan and Gujarat and one each in Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Maharashtra - were conveyed to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare by the respective state health authorities.

Of the total swine flu deaths in the country so far, Maharashtra now accounts for 297, while 170 lives each have been lost in Rajasthan and Gujarat, 137 in Karnataka, 88 in Delhi, 52 in Andhra Pradesh, 37 in Punjab, 34 in Kerala, 33 in Haryana, 17 in Uttar Pradesh, 14 in Madhya 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 62 new cases of swine flu were reported from different parts of India today, including 17 in Karnataka, 16 in Maharashtra, 12 in Gujarat, 7 in Rajasthan, 4 in Delhi, 3 in Uttar Pradesh and 1 each in Chandigarh, Punjab and Tamil Nadu.

With these, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus reported in the country so far has gone up to 28,047, the statement added.


Thick fog over Delhi affects 86 flights on Thursday

A dense fog that enveloped the capital and many other parts of North India disrupted flight operations to and from the Indira Gandhi International Airport here since last night after five fog-free days, airport officials said today.

The officials said the fog had started descending on the airport late last night, drastically reducing visibility. According to them, visibility had improved to 250 metres by 0800 hours this morning, to 400 metres by 0900 hours and more than 1100 metres by 1100 hours.

As many as 50 flights were cancelled during the 16 hours from 2036 hours last night to 1135 hours this morning during which the airport had to resort to low visibility procedures.

Besides, 13 domestic and five international flights were diverted to other airports and 18 others were rescheduled. Several flights were delayed, and there were cascading effects on the entire network.

The officials said 94 flights were operated using CAT I procedures, 31 CAT II, 67 CAT IIIA and 35 with CAT IIIB.

Passengers had to contend with fresh problems in the evening when the data processing system of the Air Traffic Control crashed this evening, stalling all flight operations for about an hour.


India-France civil nuclear deal comes into force

The Cooperation Agreement between India and France on the Development of Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy, signed in Paris on September 30, 2008, came into effect from today.

Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and Mr Jerome Bonnafont, the Ambassador of France to India, exchanged the instruments of ratification of the agreement today.

In accordance with the provisions of the agreement, it enters into force on the date of exchange of instruments of ratification.

Under the agreement, India and France, as responsible States with advanced nuclear technologies, intend to develop multi-faceted civil nuclear cooperation covering a wide range of activities including nuclear power projects, fuel supply, R&D, nuclear safety, education and training.

The entry into force of the agreement gives a new impetus to the Indo-French partnership and will further strengthen the deep ties of friendship and longstanding cooperation between the two countries, an official press release from the Minstry of External Affairs added.


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