Jet flight evacuation: DGCA suspends 2 pilots, 8 crew members

The DGCA has suspended 2 Jet Airways pilots and 8 crew members for "serious lapses" in their handling of an emergency situation on a flight leaving for Chennai from Mumbai on Friday night.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) today suspended the two pilots and eight crew members of a Jet Airways flight after finding "serious procedural lapses" in dealing with an emergency and evacuation situation on an aircraft that was about to leave for Chennai from Mumbai last night.

Those placed under suspension till further orders were the pilot in command, the first officer, four cabin crew members and four additional crew members (ACMs), an official statement said here.

"Preliminary fact finding by the DGCA has indicated serious procedural lapses in dealing with the emergency and evacuation situation as per existing procedures laid down in aircraft rules and regulations, by the operating aircraft crew members of the Jet airways flight 9W2302 scheduled to fly from Mumbai to Chennai yesterday," the statement said.

The statement said the incident had been treated as a "serious incident" and would be investigated under rule 77C of Aircraft Rules 1937 by a team comprising the Director, Air Safety, Mumbai, Flight Operation Inspector and Cabin Safety In-charge of DGCA.

The flight had, apart from the pilot and co-pilot, four cabin crew members, as per the requirements, 131 passengers, including one infant, and nine ACMs (eight cabin crew and one trainee pilot).

While the aircraft was taxiing prior to take-off, an ACM, travelling as a passenger, seated on seat 35A, apparently saw fire on the left engine and informed another ACM, also travelling as a passenger, seated next to him, who also claimed to have seen the fire.

The second ACM immediately wen to the rear of the aircraft and contacted the captain from aft right door location (R-2). He also informed the cabin crew assinged for aft left door (L2).

According to the statement, the pilot immediately asked L2 cabin crew to confirm the fire and report to him. She also confirmed the fire to the captain, it said.

The pilot in command, on receiving the confirmation, pulled the fire handles for left engine, right engine and APU. However, he did not discharge any of the fire bottles. He ordered the evacuation from the aircraft. Escape slides on front and aft doors on the right side (R1 & R2) and both the over wing emergency exits were deployed. On the left side, the aft door (L2) and rear over wing emergency exit were also deployed. The airport fire and rescue services personnel immediately reached the site.

During the evacuation, 14 passengers suffered injuries. After the evacuation , an inspection of the aircraft was carried out in the night itself under supervision of a DGCA team. No fire or smoke was observed in the engine area. Both the engines were checked and boroscope inspection was carried out. No abnormality was observed in engines and its systems.

The cockpit voice recorder (CVR) and the digital flight data recorder (DFDR) of the Boeing 737 aircraft have been removed by the DGCA for further investigations, the statement said.

The DGCA has also called for a meeting of the heads of training of all airlines to review the training procedures of cabin and flight crews, particularly in emergency and evacuation procedures, it added.

Meanwhile, Jet Airways said in a statement that the safety of its passengers was of paramount importance to it and regretted the inconvenience caused by the incident.

It said the commander of the flight, while taxiing, was informed of an indication of an LH engine fire.

"Although there were no visible traces of a fire, the commander proceeded to declare a precautionary emergency. All passengers onboard were then deplaned safely and a thorough inspection of the engine carried out," it said.

The airline said about 12 passengers suffered minor injuries during the emergency evacuation process.

"The rest of the guests were brought to the terminal and reaccomodated on another aircraft to Chennai," it added.


India tells Pakistan action on terrorism most important CBM

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna today said Pakistan had been told that credible and effective action by it on India's terrorism-related concerns, including the investigations and trial in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, would be the most important confidence-building measure (CBM) between the two countries.

Inaugurating the 3rd Conference of Indian Heads of Mission (HOMs) here this morning, Mr Krishna said security represented a vital cluster of India's foreign policy priority.

"Our interests lie in a peaceful and prosperous neighbourhood. We believe that dialogue can address all outstanding issues, and have seen from 2004-07 the potential of such a process with Pakistan," he said.

He said that, given the complexities of its relationship with Pakistan, India had advocated a step-by-step, graduated approach.

Mr Krishna said that, in the context of India's pursuit of prosperity and cooperation in the neighbourhood, he could not overemphasise that its commitment to discharging its responsibilities in SAARC in an asymmetrical and non-reciprocal manner had revitalised the grouping in recent years.

As many as 119 Indian Ambassadors and High Commissioners from all over the world are attending the three-day conference.

Mr Krishna commended the Indian diplomats for functioning abroad in alien, often difficult, and sometimes harsh and adverse conditions, in volatile and even violent zones, with professionalism and commitment.

He underlined that the aspirations of the "aam aadmi" in India, the common man, should remain at the core of foreign policy oriented to providing an external enabling environment for the country’s transformation through inclusive economic growth.

"External prerequisites for sustained high economic growth over medium to long term include more foreign investment, and meeting our growing energy needs. The agreements that India has concluded in the recent past in the field of civil nuclear energy, and the Nuclear Liability Bill represent fruits of such efforts," he said.

The Minister said India was rapidly evolving the economic content of its growing partnerships, including those with industrialized nations such as the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia and Germany. Of particular relevance in this regard will be the country's Look East policy which is aimed at further developing its multi-faceted relations with South East Asia, East Asia and the Pacific, he said.

He mentioned two important initiatives which India had vigorously pursued and which crossed important milestones yesterday: the South Asian University began its first academic session and Parliament passed the Nalanda University Bill.

"Over the years, India’s development cooperation has emerged as an important component of our foreign policy. Our partners appreciate that India’s contributions to their well-being emanate not from a state of affluence or surpluses. Our small development projects represent an innovation both in terms of targeting and delivery model," he said.

Mr Krishna said India was successfully replicating this approach in several countries, even as international development institutions have commended this model.

India’s projects in Africa, such as the prestigious Rs.540-crore Pan-African e-Network project, help achieve e-connectivity in the important fields of tele-education and tele-medicine and hold enormous promise, he said.

He said the Indian diaspora was an important aspect of the responsibility of the Indian Missions abroad. He said estimates suggested that India would be the largest contributor to the world’s workforce —around 136 million people — over the next ten years. Indian investments and business are today creating or protecting a significant number of jobs in Europe and America, he pointed out.

Welcoming the High Commissioners and Ambassadors, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said they represented a transforming and transformational India.

She said the country’s economy was resilient enough to register one of the highest economic growth rates in the world even in the midst of the global financial crisis. The fact that a majority of India's population was under 25 years of age gave it an empowering advantage, she said.

Ms Rao said India had always attached high priority to the development of close ties with the countries in its neighbourhood, based on the fundamental principles of equality and mutual respect and mutual sensitivity to each other’s concerns.

It was the country's responsibility to meet the challenges of managing a complicated and sensitive relationship with its neighbours in a mature and balanced manner, she said.

The Foreign Secretary also pointed out that India was today a member of an increasing number of multilateral, regional and bilateral arrangements, including NAM, G-77 and G-15 on the one hand and recent initiatives like G-20, G-4, BRIC, IBSA, BASIC and EAS on the other.

"It is this quantum jump in the levels of our global engagement that has given us our greatest opportunities while at the same time presenting to us some significant challenges," she said.

India’s growing international profile had brought new responsibilities and challenges in the transaction of diplomacy and an organisational complexity that was redefining the traditional role of a Head of Mission, she added.

Home Minister P Chidambaram spoke to the gathering on India's security environment and challenges as well as about the multi-pronged strategy adopted by his Ministry to counter the challenges.

Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur and National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon also addressed the conference. In the evening, the diplomats attended an interactive session organised by CII where they had an exchange of views with Indian industrialists.


Air India introduces Monsoon Special Fare

National carrier Air India today announced a Monsoon Special Fare, in which passengers paying normal economy class fare for travel on domestic sector will be allowed to travel in executive class.

An Air India press release said this fare was valid till September 30, 2010. Incase of non-availability of seats or change of equipment resulting in travelling in economy class, no refund will be admissible.

It said passengers paying full economy class fare will have the option to either get an upgrade to executive class on firm basis under the offer or or avail the companion free offer for travel in economy class. Passenger paying full executive class fare will continue to be allowed companion free ticket in the same class, the release said.

The airline has also introduced a new rainbow super saver ticket under which a four- coupon economy class ticket at a cost of Rs.21,328 (inclusive of taxes) is issued for travel on all domestic sectors on AI / IC coded flights.

However for travel on Delhi – Thiruvananthapuram, Delhi – Coimbatore, Delhi- Kozhikode, Delhi – Kochi Sectors, two coupons will be uplifted for travel instead of a single coupon. This offer will also be valid till September 30 and is open to all Indians and foreign nationals purchasing the ticket in India, the release added.


National Commission for Scheduled Tribes submits report to President

The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes presented its fourth report for the year 2008-09 to President Pratibha Patil here today.

The report was presented by Mr Maurice Kujur, Vice-Chairman of the Commission. Ms K Kamala Kumari, Member, was also present.

The Commission was constituted with effect from 19 February, 2004 consequent to the amendment of Article 338 of the Constitution of India and insertion of a new Article 338A vide the Constitution (Eighty-ninth Amendment) Act, 2003.

The Article, inter alia, enjoins upon the Commission to present report(s) to the President upon the working of the Constitutional safeguards for Scheduled Tribes and to make in such report(s) recommendations regarding measures that should be taken by the Union or any State for effective implementation of those safeguards and other measures for the protection, welfare and socio-economic development of Scheduled Tribes.

As per the constitutional provisions, the report of the Commission has to be laid in both Houses of Parliament along with a Memorandum explaining the action taken or proposed to be taken on the recommendations relating to the Union. Similar action has also to be taken while laying the Report in the Legislative Assembly of the State concerned, in relation to the recommendations concerning the State, an official press release added.


PM says India wants very good relations with all neighbours

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said India sought a peaceful and tranquil international environment as well as very good relations with all countries, especially with its neighbours and major powers.

Addressing the third Conference of Indian Heads of Missions (HOMS) which began here this morning, Dr Singh told the country's top diplomats that India's foreign policy should also be oriented towards East and South East Asia, which were poised for a sustained growth rate in the 21st centry.

He remarked that India, by and large, had good relations with her neighbours. "We are engaging them without looking at reciprocity, in our own enlightened interest," he said.

The Prime Minister said India's foreign policy was basically aimed at pursuing its national interests. He said Indian diplomats were facilitating the creation of an international environment that was conducive to India’s progress, development and attainment of its external goals.

Outlining his vision of India, the Prime Minister said that the foremost national goal was to remove poverty and accelerate the pace of economic development.

He said the country was building modern infrastructure which would stand up to the challenge of a fast moving economy. The nation was also focusing on human resource development, as it was the quality of human resources that determined the standing of a country in the comity of nations, he said.

Dr Singh said that, by the same token, science and technology was a major factor of power and wealth of a nation. India had to have the ability to master technology, he emphasized.

He pointed out that India was among the fastest growing economies in the world, which despite the global melt down in 2008-09, had returned to a growth path of 8.5%. Energy availability was critical to attaining a 9-10% growth rate, as 1% growth needed 0.8% increase in energy availability. Foreign policy had a very important role in securing India’s energy needs, he stressed.

Turning to the international environment, the Prime Minister noted that, in an increasingly inter-dependent world, India needed an open trading system and wanted to emerge as a major trading nation in the world.

He said the G20 had become a key forum for discussing and shaping international economic and financial policies. Foreign policy had also to pay more attention to functioning of G20, he added.

The three-day conference, which was inaugurated this morning by External Affairs Minister S M Krishna, will discuss a wide spectrum of foreign policy issues, including developments in India's immediate and extended neighbourhood.

The first of these conferences was held in December 2008 and the second in August last year.

As many as 119 HOMs from Indian Embassies and High Commissions around the world are attending the conference.

The HOMs will also call on President Pratibha Patil and Vice-President M Hamid Ansari, a former career diplomat, during their stay here.

Among others, the conference was addressed by Union Home MInister P Chidambaram today. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Defence Minister A K Antony, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma, Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal, Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) President Karan Singh and National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon are also slated to speak at the conference.

The HOMs will participate in a series of interactive sessions which will also cover India's relations with key nations and regions as well as regional and international issues of importance to India.

They will also interact with distinguished personalities from business and industry, including Mr. Gurcharan Das and Ms. Indra Nooyi, during sessions being organized by industry associations such as CII and FICCI.



India, China defence ties hit by visa denial to top general

India has reacted strongly to China's refusal of permission to Lt Gen B S Jaswal, the GOC-in-C of Northern Command, to visit that country because he is in charge of the Army's operations in Jammu and Kashmir.

Lt Gen B. S. Jaswal
Lt Gen B. S. Jaswal

India has reacted strongly to China's refusal of permission to Lt Gen B S Jaswal, the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Northern Command, to visit that country because he is in charge of the Army's operations in Jammu and Kashmir.

Consequently, India is understood to have put on hold permission to two Chinese defence officials who were due to attend a course at the National Defence College in the capital. A planned visit by Indian military officials to China has also been postponed, sources said.

China has, in recent times, been refusing to issue visas to Indians from Jammu and Kashmir on their passports because it considers the state as a "disputed" area. Instead, the visas are issued on loose sheets of paper which are stapled to the passports of the applicants.

India has objected to this practice several times and also made it clear that immigration authorities at the airport would not allow people with such "stapled" visas to travel to China.

Asked about the denial of permission to Lt Gen Jaswal, the official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, Mr Vishnu Prakash, said the visit had not taken place "due to certain reasons".

"While we value our exchanges with China, there must be sensitivity to each others' concerns. Our dialogue with China on these issues is ongoing," Mr Prakash said.

"We have an important, multi-facted and complex relationship with the People's Republic of China Our interaction has been growing in a number of areas, including defence. In recent years, we have had useful defence exchanges at various levels," he said.

According to various sources, the two countries had some time ago on a visit to China by a senior officer from India, but no name had been finalised. When India proposed Lt Gen Jaswal's name, China had apparently expressed its reservations and wanted another officer to be nominated in his place. India, in turn, has made it clear that the Chinese stand on this was unacceptable.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and former External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh said India should take a firm and unambiguous stand in the matter.

Another BJP leader, Mr Yashwant Sinha, also a former External Affairs Minister, felt India should retaliate in kind and send a strong message that it would not take such pinpricks.

Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari said bilateral relations should be based on mutual self-respect.


Chinese delegation evinces keen interest in MGNREGA

A visiting Chinese delegation led by the representatives from the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development of China (LGoP), Fan Xiaojian calling on the Union Minister for Rural Development and Panchayati Raj C.P. Joshi, in New Delhi on August 26, 2010. Minister of State for Rural Development, Pradeep Jain is also seen.
A visiting Chinese delegation led by the representatives from the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development of China (LGoP), Fan Xiaojian calling on the Union Minister for Rural Development and Panchayati Raj C.P. Joshi, in New Delhi on August 26, 2010. Minister of State for Rural Development, Pradeep Jain is also seen.

A visiting Chinese delegation has evinced keen interest in the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) and other poverty reduction initiatives launched by the Government and said that China could learn from them.

The delegation, led by Mr Fan Xiaojian and consisting of representatives from the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development of China (LGoP), called on Union Minister of Rural Development C P Joshi who briefed them about the programmes here yesterday.

The delegation was accompanied by the representatives of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), an official press release said.

Mr Joshi emphasised the role of MGNREGA as one of the unique initiatives undertaken by the Government to guarantee 100 days of work along with minimum wages of Rs. 100 per day as a means to provide assured employment and empower the rural people.

He said that Information and Communication Technology was now being used in a big way in the implementation of the programmes, ensuring in the process the entitlements and the rights of the people in a transparent manner.

The focus is on the issues faced by the poor and with the help of MGNREGA, the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, the Indira Awas Yojana and the National Rural Drinking Water Programme, the Ministry of Rural Development is working in this direction, he said.

Mr Fan said both India and China were today facing similar challenges in tackling the issues related to the reduction of poverty. He said the manner in which India weathered the global financial meltdown had been a learning experience.

He said that China, which is developing a new strategy of poverty reduction, looked forward to learning and sharing from India's experience, especially with regard to the MGNREGA.


India conveys to US its concern about Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Bill

The Government has conveyed to the United States its strong concerns at the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Bill that was signed into law by US President Barack Obama on August 13.

The Bill aims to raise $ 600 million for augmenting US Border Security by increasing fees to $ 2250 for applicants that employ 50 or more employees in the US if more than 50 % of the applicants’ employees are non-immigrants admitted on H1B visas or L visas and by increasing the filing fee for such applications to $ 2000 for such applicants.

This provision, while not country specific, would affect Indian software companies adversely as a large number of H1B and L visas are availed by them, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna told the Rajya Sabha in a written reply to a question yesterday.

He said that India had made it clear to the US that such steps by Washington would adversely affect the Indian software industry's interests in the US and impact the broader bilateral economic relationship.

Mr Krishna said that, even while the legislation was under process, the Embassy of India in Washington had immediately taken up the matter with the US Administration and key lawmakers at various levels.

He said the matter had also been taken up by Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma with his US counterpart and by Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao with US Ambassador in Delhi Timothy J Roemer.

"It has been conveyed that the legislation would primarily impact companies of Indian origin and is seen as a discriminatory and protectionist measure," the Minister added.


Bhuria expresses concern about reported eviction of tribals from National Parks

Union Minister of Tribal Affairs Kanti Lal Bhuria has written to Chief Ministers of several States expressing serius concern about complaints received in his Ministry that some Scheduled Tribe persons living in National Parks and Sanctuaries were being forced to leave these areas without their rights getting settled.

An official press release said Mr Bhuria had sent letters in this regard to the Chief Ministers of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Uttrakhand.

The release said that, in coordination with the Ministry of Environment and Forests, instructions were issued to all State Forest Departments to faithfully implement the provisions of the Forest Rights Act before taking any decision to evict the Scheduled Tribes living in these areas.

Mr Bhuria told the State Governments that, as per the information available with the Ministry, critical wildlife habitats in the National Parks and Sanctuaries are yet to be determined and notified under Section 2(b) of the Act, and, therefore, no action has been taken by State/Union Territory (UT) Governments for the recognition and vesting of rights of forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers occupying forest land in the National Parks and Sanctuaries.

He said that, in fact, the rights need to be recognized first in the National Parks and Sanctuaries before undertaking any exercise for resettlement. No eviction and re-settlement is permissible till all the formalities are completed, he said.

Mr Bhuria said this should be done keeping in view the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 that envisages the recognition and vesting of forest rights in forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers over forest land in the National Parks and Sanctuaries also.

The release said that, consequently, the Ministry of Environment and Forests has also requested all the State governments to ensure that before taking any decision on displacement of Scheduled Tribes from National Parks and Sanctuaries, the provisions of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 should be duly complied with.

This is also required to evaluate the compensation to be paid to tribals through award of collector, it said.

A copy of letter by Ministry of Environment & Forests, addressed to the Principal Chief Conservators of Forests, Department of Forests of all States / UTs issued in this regard, was also enclosed to concerned State governments, the release added.


CCEA okays utilisation of $ 128 m grant from Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, Malaria

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) at its meeting here yesterday gave its nod for the utilisation of a grant of Rs 609.91 crore ($ 128.4 million) approved by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM).

The grant is for implementing a project for scaling up of integrated counselling and testing, prevention of parent to child transmission of HIV (PPTCT) services and referral to care, support and treatment services for people living with HIV in India. The funding will be entirely through GFATM, an official press release said here.

According to the release, the project aims to cover 60% of HIV positive pregnant women in the country with PPTCT services and to diagnose and refer for treatment 70% of patients co-infected with HIV/TB. The project also seeks to strengthen capacity building, quality assurance, and supply chain systems under the National AIDS Control Programme.

The release said the mother to child route is the second most common mode of transmission of HIV, after the heterosexual route, and accounts for 5.4% of all HIV infections in India. It is estimated that 0.48% of the antenatal mothers in India are HIV Infected which translates to nearly 65,000 HIV infected pregnant mothers per year.

The PPTCT programme aims to prevent mother to child transmission of HIV by providing the HIV infected pregnant women and their new born babies with a single dose of prophylactic Nevirapine (NVP).

The release said the project also seeks to consolidate the gains achieved in the past five years in the delivery of counselling and testing services, PPTCT and HIV-TB collaboration and further scale up these services so as to diagnose 65% of the estimated HIV positive population in India and link them with prevention, care and treatment services over a period of three years.

To reach this goal the number of Integrated Counselling and Testing Centres (ICTCs) will be increased from the existing 6,300 to 10,700. This scale-up will be mainly through the facility integrated model in government health facilities such as PHCs and in the private sector health system through public private partnerships.

The benefits of this project will be a major contribution to the overall National AIDS Control Programme (NACP) - III goal of halting and reversing the HIV epidemic in India. The project will prevent HIV transmission and mitigate the impact of HIV by expanding access to counselling and PPTCT services, strengthening inter-programme linkages, especially HIV and TB collaboration, and integrating HIV services with general health system.

The accomplishment of the goals of the project will result in a substantial mitigation of the socio-economic impact of the HIV epidemic and will indirectly result in poverty reduction. People living with HIV/AIDS in India will specifically benefit as they will be diagnosed early and linked with prevention, care, support and treatment services, the release added.


Govt. introduces Bill to protect whistleblowers in Lok Sabha

The Government today introduced in the Lok Sabha the much-awaited Bill to protect whistleblowers who report cases of corruption or wilful misuse of power by public servants and provide for punishment for those who reveal their identity or victimise such complainants.

The Public Interst Disclosure and Protection to Persons Making the Disclosure Bill, 2010, was tabled in the Lok Sabha by Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions Prithviraj Chavan.

The Bill brings within its scope public servants, defined as employees of the Central Government or tate Governments or any corporation established by or under any Central Act or any State Act, Government Companies, Societies or local authorities owned or controlled by the Central Government or the State Government and such other categories of employees as may be notified by the Central Government, or as the case may be, the State Government, from time to time, in the Official Gazette.

It provides for adequate protection to the persons reporting corruption or wilful misuse of power or wilful misuse of discretion which causes demonstrable loss to the Government or commission of a criminal offence by a public servant.

The proposed legislation provides for a regular mechanism to encourage such person to disclose the information on such misdeeds and lays down the procedure to inquire into such disclosures.

It provides for adequate safeguards against victimisation of the whistler-blower, that is the person making such disclosure and punishment for those who reveal the identity of a complainant, negligently or malafidely. It also provides for punishment for false or frivolous complaints.

The Government has brought the Bill because it found that one of the impediments in eliminating corruption in Government and the public sector was the lack of adequate protection to the whistleblowers.

The Law Commission of India had in its 179th Report, inter-alia, had recommended formulation of a specific legislation to encourage disclosure of information regarding corruption or mal-administration by public servants and to provide protection to such complainants. The Second Administrative Reforms Commission in its 4th Report on "Ethics in Governance" also recommended formulation of a legislation for providing protection to whistleblowers.

The Government had issued a Resolution No. 89, dated April 21, 2004, authorising the Central Vigilance Commission as the designated agency to receive written complaints from whistleblowers. The said Resolution also, inter alia, provides for protection to the whistleblowers from harassment, and keeping their identity concealed.

According to an official press release, the Government felt that such whistleblowers needed statutory protection as the protection given to them by the Resolution would not suffice and, therefore, decided to bring forward such a legislation.


CCEA approves augmentation of facilities at AIIMS

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) today approved a proposal of Ministry of Health & Family Welfare for augmenting the existing facilities at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).

The augmentation has been proposed on the basis of the recommendations of the Oversight Committee for the implementation of the reservation in admission for candidates from Other Backward Classes (OBCs).

An official press release said implementation of the 27 % reservation in admission for OBCs, under the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act, 2006, in AIIMS without altering the number of unreserved seats would necessitate an increase in the total number of seats in various courses and corresponding increase in manpower and infrastructure.

After implementation of reservation for OBCs in the institute, the annual intake in various undergraduate, postgraduate and paramedical courses will increase by 182.

The implementation of reservation for OBCs will not only increase the intake capacity of the Institute but also facilitate a better health care delivery system, the release added.


Cabinet okays restructuring of posts in Military Nursing Service

The Union Cabinet today approved a proposal for cadre restructuring of the Military Nursing Services (MNS), under which 74 posts of Lt. Col (time scale) will be upgraded to the rank of Lt. Col. (select) and above.

An official press release said there would now be two Major Generals, 18 Brigadiers, 58 Colonels and 157 Colonels (Select) in MNS.

The proposal also includes revision of service criteria in the time scale. Promotion in the non-select rank upto the rank of Lt. Col (time scale) will be: Captain- 3 years (from existing 5 years); Major – 8 years (from existing 12 years) and Lt.Col.(TS) – 16 years (from existing 20 years).

The qualifying service for Lieutenant Colonel (Select) rank by Selection Board has been revised from the existing 18 years to 14 years, the release said.

According to it, the decision will reduce stagnation in the various ranks of MNS by increasing the number of select appointments. It will also help in retaining competent and qualified nursing officers in service by providing adequate opportunities for career progression, it said.

The last cadre review of MNS was carried out in 1986. The authorized strength of MNS cadre is 3860 and there are only 161 select rank posts. There is a steep pyramidal structure at higher select ranks. An MNS officer is able to pick up the select appointment in the rank of Lieutenant Colonel approximately after 26-28 years of service, when she is around 46-48 years of age.

The release said that, on account of limited number of vacancies, arising out of superannuation, there is at present large-scale supersession of many deserving nursing officers (both specialised and non-specialised) in the Promotion Boards for promotion to higher ranks. Apart from causing de-motivation among these nursing officers, non-selection for promotion also leads to many experienced nursing officers seeking premature retirement.

The Government thought it was necessary to improve promotion avenues at all levels to retain such officers and to mitigate their hardship by increasing the number of posts in select grade appointmens within the overall strength of the cadre.


3rd Conference of Indian Heads of Missions in Delhi from August 27-29

The third Conference of Indian Heads of Missions (HOMs) will be held here from August 27 to 29 to discuss a wide spectrum of foreign policy issues, including developments in India's immediate and extended neighbourhood.

The conference will be inaugurated tomorrow by External Affairs Minister S M Krishna. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will also address the meeting tomorrow, an official press release from the Ministry of External Affairs said here today.

The first of these conferences was held in December 2008 and the second in August last year.

The release said 119 HOMs from Indian Embassies and High Commissions around the world would attend the conference.

The HOMs will also call on President Pratibha Patil and Vice-President M Hamid Ansari, a former career diplomat, during their stay here.

Among others, the conference will be addressed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Defence Minister A K Antony, Home Minister P Chidambaram, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma, Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal, Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) President Karan Singh and National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon.

According to the release, the HOMs will participate in a series of interactive sessions which will also cover India's relations with key nations and regions as well as regional and international issues of importance to India.

The HOMs will also interact with distinguished personalities from business and industry, including Mr. Gurcharan Das and Ms. Indra Nooyi, during sessions being organized by industry associations such as CII and FICCI, the release added.


DGCA asks airlines to comply with rules on management of crew fatigue

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has asked all airline operators to henceforth maintain log entries that would confirm that the cabin crew had interacted on the intercom with the cockpit crew (commander and co-pilot, alternatively) with a gap of not more than 30 minutes.

An official press release issued here today said pilot fatigue had been recognised as a serious safety hazard and one of the contributory factors in accidents and serious incidents.

The DGCA had issued a circular in 2009 on the subject in which it had suggested that the airlines introduce a procedure wherein the cabin crew should interact with pilots at half an hour basis, using the intercom, during the period when crew activity is low.

The circular had also said that the pilot should be advised to keep the area speaker on high volume during the low activity period.

In order to ensure that these actions are taken by the crew during the flight, the DGCA had also said that some documentation should be maintained by the operator. It also said that an entry that the area speaker was kept at high volume during the low activity period should be added in the flight report.

The DGCA has issued a fresh direction in this regard and called for strict compliance by all airline operators, the release added.


DGCA reiterates rule for pre-flight medical examination of crew

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has once again reiterated that the Pre-Flight Medical Check (PFMC) for alcohol consumption prescribed by it should be fulfilled by all airlines meticulously at all base stations and other stations where crew change takes place and records maintained.

The PFMC has been prescribed by the DGCA as a Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR) but it was found that, in the recent past, it was not being conducted regularly.

An official press release said any discrepancy or laxity in this regard would be viewed seriously and might attract penal action.

The CAR requires the following for the flights:

• For flights originating in India, at least 40% of Flight Crew members and 20% of Cabin Crew members shall be subjected to Pre-Flight Medical Check for alcohol consumption. For scheduled operators, this percentage shall be on daily basis and for operators other than scheduled the percentage shall be worked out on fifteen-calendar days' basis.

• For flight destination outside India, stations where more than ten crew changes take place in a calendar week, PFMC shall be carried out at least once in a month. At all other foreign destinations, PFMC shall be done at least once in a period of two months.

• At foreign destinations, complete set of Flight Crew members and Cabin Crew Member shall be subjected to PFMC.


Govt. approves introduction of Civil Services Aptitude Test

The Government today said it had approved the proposal for introduction of the Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT) in place of the Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination.

Minster of State for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions Prithviraj Chavan told the Rajya Sabha in a written reply to a question that, in CSAT, one of the optional subjects whicha candidate could have chosen out of 23 options, has been replaced with a common paper on aptitude test.

He said the syllabus of CSAT was being worked out and the Government would shortly notify the new scheme of examination, along with details of the syllabus.

The Civil Services Examinations are conducted by the Union Public Service Commission for recruitment to the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), the Indian Foreign Service (IFS), the Indian Police Service and other Central services.


PM repeats offer of talks with Naxalites if they abjure violence

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday repeated his offer of talks to the Naxalites, provided they abjured the path of violence, and promised special efforts to develop the areas affected by Naxal violence.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today repeated his Independence Day offer of talks to the Naxalites, provided they abjured the path of violence, and reiterated the Government's commitment to make special efforts to develop the areas affected by Naxal violence.

"I would ... like to repeat what I said in my speech on Independence Day. We recognize that the Naxalites are our own people and are ready to talk to them provided they abjure the path of violence," Dr Singh said in his address to the Annual Conference of Directors General of Police (DGPs) and Inspectors General of Police (IGPs) here.

"We also stand committed to making special efforts to develop the areas affected by naxal violence, many of which are inhabitated predominantly by our tribal brothers and sisters," he said.

The three-day conference, organised by the Intelligence Bureau, was inaugurated yesterday by Union Home Minister P Chidambaram yesterday.

Dr Singh said that, after a relative lull in 2009, the challenges to internal security seemed to have re-emerged in more virulent forms. While there had been good progress in terms of recruitement and setting up of better institutional arrangements for intelligence, investigation, coastal security and counter-terrorism, the problems the country faced remained daunting, he said.

"We need to do much more to meet the challenge of Naxalism. Training of our officers and men engaged in this theatre should particularly engage your systematic attention," he told the conference.

Dr Singh paid tribute to the officers and men of the security forces who had made the supreme sacrifice in fighting Naxalism and other anti-social elements.

On the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, he said that, despite the curtailment of militant activities, the public order dimension in the State had become a cause for serious concern.

"We need to revisit standard operating procedures and crowd control measures to deal with public agitations with non-lethal, yet effective and more focused measures. We also cannot have an approach of one size fits all. For instance, I understand that instead of a single standard sequence for the use of force, other countries have put in place procedures that vary according to the specific needs in different situation," he said.

Dr Singh said that, similarly, the experience begun successfully by the Rapid Action Force for non-lethal crowd control needed to be examined for being followed by other police forces as well.

He requested the Home Minister to establish a high-power task force to come out with a set of recommendations on these issues in the next two or three months.

The Prime Minister said that the situation in the North-East was, in general, better today than it was in the recent past, but some areas of concern still remained.

He said that, in Manipur, for example, the Naga-Metei divide had accentuated. The unfortunate growth of identity-based assertiveness in the North East, particularly in Manipur and the North Cachar Hills, needs well thought-out and sensitive handling, he stressed.

He said that, in other areas of the North-East, there was need to consolidate the gains of the past while at the same time ensuring that new problems did not arise and could be controlled when they did.

He said that the Darjeeling hill area also needed a careful watch. The writ of the State should be firmly established in all these areas, he said, stressing that the State police and the central paramilitary forces should take firm action against those who take the law into their own hands.

The Prime Minister also called for continuous vigilance against the rise of communal tensions.

He said the conference was a valuable opportunity to enhance understanding of matters relating to internal security and to build a consensus on the new strategies that could be devised to meet the challenges facing the nation.

Dr Singh said policing in the country had become increasingly complex over the years. He said social tensions, religious disputes, growing economic disparities and regional, linguistic and ethnic differences had long been major challenges to effective policing in India.

"But of late the growing presence of non-state actors, fundamentalist groups and left-wing extremists has further complicated matters. The growing inter-linkages of the destabilizing and criminal forces, across states and across our borders, call for far greater vigilance and coordination between the security agencies than ever before," he observed.

He said the Government had, over the past decade, institutionalized deliberations and structured interactions at various levels.

"This conference has been a time-tested mechanism for enhanced coordination but given the changing circumstances I believe the time has perhaps come for it to reinvent itself. Perhaps this year onwards you could set for yourself some quantifiable goals to be achieved in the coming year. The actual achievement against these goals could be reviewed in the subsequent conference," he said.

Dr Singh also felt the conference should pursue its agenda of making available the considered professional consensus on important police matters in a more focussed manner.

In this context, he repeated an earlier suggestion of a Standing Committee of DGPs to provide policy inputs and hoped that it would begin work in right earnest.

The Prime Minister said modern means of communications had enabled adversarial forces to mount powerful and convincing propaganda.

"Our response to this development needs to be improved. We have to challenge disinformation, often masquerading as objective third party expert opinion, not through suppression or in position of censorship, but by ensuring the availability of better and informed opinion to public at large," he said.

He said that, over the past decade, the Central Government had sought to assist states in addressing their manpower requirements through financial support for India Reserve battalions, Special Police Officers, and the setting up of village defence committees.

"But, it appears that recruitment to the regular State police forces has not yet picked up as effectively as it should. Although effort has been made in the last two years to address this issue, the backlog remains pretty large. The quality of recruitment also remains an area of concern. The Ministry of Home Affairs has already circulated a template for a transparent and objective recruitment process but most States are yet to adopt this," he said.

He pointed out that, within the police forces, the current system of promotion was based essentially on seniority. He said this needed to be suitably recalibrated to catalyse better performance and motivation. For example, a successful stint in an extremism-affected district, should result in greater career benefits to the officers, he suggested.

Dr Singh said procurement of equipment was another area where speed and quality remained areas of concern. He said there was, perhaps, a need to take a re-look at procurement procedures and examine ways of creating adequate testing capacities, coupled with databases of certified equipment, empanelled suppliers and benchmark prices. This if acted upon will save a lot of time and effort in procurement, he said.

He expressed happiness that both the Central and State Governments had taken steps to ensure greater inclusiveness in the police forces. The extent of reservation for appointment in Central paramilitary forces for candidates from areas affected by insurgency, militancy and Naxalism was increased from 20% to 40% five years back. A number of States have also raised battalions from such areas.

"I think we need to take this further. This will reduce the feeling of alienation that might exist among the population in certain parts of our country," he said.

Dr Singh also spoke about the need to build up capacities for gathering intelligence in various Indian languages. The intelligence agencies of the Centre and States could draw upon police persons and also incentivize officers to acquire and use relevant local language skills, he said.

He said there was need for significant improvement in training of policemen and officers.

"The best officers are not posted to the police training institutes. The Thirteenth Finance Commission has provided significant funds to augment their training capabilities. These need to be utilized expeditiously. Only a highly trained and highly motivated police force can rise to the formidable internal security challenges that face the country," he added.


Defence Food Research Laboratory to open new campus at Hebbal

The Defence Food Research Laboratory (DFRL) has decided to open a new campus at Hebbal, about 18 km away from its main campus at Sriddartha Nagar, Mysore in Karnataka.

Defence Minister A K Antony informed the Rajya Sabha in a written reply to a question yesterday that a sum of Rs. 17 crore had been allocated for the development of the new campus.

Mr Antony said DFRL had developed energy capsules for the Defence Forces at the request of 102 Infantry Brigade, 14 Corps. This honey-based capsule has natural medicinal properties and 12 months of shelf life. Iit provides 108 Kcal per 30 gm, and it is ready to eat, he added.


Ground and flight test for Kaveri engine by October this year: Antony

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), which is developing the indigenous Kaveri engine for India's Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), has integrated an engine with an IL-76 aircraft at the Gromov Flight Research Institute (GFRI) in Moscow for ground and flight tests.

The tests are expected to be completed by October this year, Defence Minister A K Antony told the Rajya Sabha in a written reply to a question yesterday.

He said that testing of the engine under simulated altitude and forward speed conditions had been successfully completed in February 2010.

According to him, these two major milestones would make the Kaveri engine certified for flight operations. Meanwhile, the LCAs are, meanwhile, as decided by the user, being fitted with imported engines, he said.

Mr Antony said the technologies/production of Kaveri engine which had attained maturit during the development process were:

(i) All major engine sub-assemblies have been tested for aerodynamic performance and structural integrity (life & safety) requirements from qualification point of view.

(ii) Critical sub-systems have been developed.

(iii) Full authority Kaveri Digital Engine Control System (KADECS) has been designed and developed.

(iv) Various critical technologies in the fields of instrumentation/measurement, health monitoring, data acquisition, etc. have been developed.

(v) Twelve materials (Titanium, Steel and super alloys) have been developed and type certified.

(vi) Directionally Solidified (DS) casting technology and high temperature tip brazing technology for the High Pressure and Low Pressure turbine blades & vanes have been developed.

(vii) Adequate manufacturing technology base has been established.

According to Mr Antony, the reasons for the delay in developing the Kaveri engine are as follows:-

(i) Non-availability of critical materials, viz., nickel and titanium based alloys in the country.

(ii) Low priority from foreign manufacturing agencies in view of the Minimum Order Quantity (MOQ) vis-à-vis the production order quantity from other engine houses.

(iii) Lack of manufacturing infrastructure for critical components.

(iv) Flying Test Bed (FTB) trials were not originally envisaged but included subsequently, based on the recommendations of Certification Agency and IAF.

(v) US sanctions imposed during 1998 affected the delivery of critical systems & components.

(vi) Lack of infrastructure of engine testing and component / system level testing within the country leading to dependency on foreign agencies.

The Minister said an expenditure of Rs 122.06 crore was incurred on the project in 2009-10 against an allocation of Rs 123.20 crore. The expenditure was Rs 153.54 crore in 2008-09 and Rs 152.51 crorein 2007-08, he added.


5010 km of National Highways constructed in 2009-10

The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways constructed a total of 5010 km of National Highways in the country during 2009-10, the highest length since the inception of the National Highway Development Programme (NHDP), the Rajya Sabha was informed yesterday.

Minister of State for Road Transport and Highways R P N Singh said in a written reply to a question in the House that this worked out to 13.81 km of highways per day.

He said that between 2000-01 and 2009-10, a total of 30,412 km of National Highways had been constructed in the country. This included 4490 km in 2008-09 and 3683 km in 2007-08, 2386 km in 2006-07 and 3778 km in 2004-05, he said.

Mr Singh said the Government was giving priority for the development of roads in the North-East region, Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand along with other parts of the country. He said the Government had taken up the Special Accelerated Road Development Programme for North East (SARDP-NE) to upgrade NHs connecting State Capitals to 2/4 lane and to provide connectivity of all District Headquarter towns of North East region (NER) by at least 2-lane NH, State road and General Staff (GS) road.

A special programme has also been taken up for development of roads in the Left Wing Extremism (LWE)-affected areas, he added.


Lok Sabha passes Nuclear Civil Liability Bill with amendments

The Lok Sabha today passed by a voice vote the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill 2010 by a voice vote with amendments that addressed concerns raised by the Opposition, including the controversial provision of "intent" in the case of an accident.

The passage of the Bill will pave the way for India to engage in nuclear commerce with the world and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said it was the completion of a long journey to end the nuclear apartheid against India.

In his intervention during the debate on the Bill, Dr Singh denied that the law was being introduced to advance the interests of the United States or American companies.

"To say that this has been brought to promote American interests, to promote American corporations, I think, this is far from the truth," he said.

He said it would be a travesty of justice for anyone to suggest that the Government had, in any way, compromised India's national interests.

The House rejected an amendment moved by CPI (M) member Basudeb Acharia that sought to raise the liability cap in case of accidents to Rs 10,000 crore instead of the Rs 1500 crore proposed in the Bill.

Dr Singh said that nuclear power was an option that India could not ignore in its quest for energy security at a time when coal and hydro-electricity had several limitations.

He assured the House that the Government would do everything possible to ensure the safety of the nuclear plants and strengthen the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB). He said the fact that India had 40 reactors without a single accident was testimony to the abilities of Indian scientists.

"If nuclear energy is a viable option, India must be able to use it. Development is the act of widening the development options that are open to the country. Beyond coal and hydel energy, nuclear energy is the option," he said.

In all the House adopted 18 official amendments. The controversial clause 17(b), after the removal of the provision of "intent", now reads: "...the nuclear incident has resulted as a consequence of an act of supplier or his employee, which includes supply of equipment of material with patent or latent defects or sub-standard services."


No additional passenger, road tax for plying taxis, autos across NCR

The Union Ministry of Urban Development today said that taxi operators holding National Capital Region (NCR) permits and operating on compressed natural gas (CNG) were not required to pay any additional passenger or road tax while entering other States in the National Capital Region (NCR).

An official press release said this had been conveyed by the NCR Planning Board for the information of the general public and taxi operators in the region.

The NCR constitutes the whole of Delhi and the districts of Faridabad, Gurgaon, Rohtak, Sonepat, Rewari, Jhajjar, Mewat, Palwal and Panipat in Haryana; districts of Meerut, Ghaziabad, Gautam Buddha Nagar, Bulandshahar and Baghpat in Uttar Pradesh and Alwar district of Rajasthan.

According to the NCR Board, one of the policy proposals of the Regional Plan-2021 for the NCR is unrestricted movement of Contract Carriage like taxis, and auto-rickshaws within NCR. This policy is important to facilitate general public commuting between Delhi and the rest of NCR and passengers who board/alight at the airport, railway stations and bus stations in Delhi and have to hire taxi/ auto rickshaw to reach their place of residence/ work outside Delhi but within NCR.

The "Reciprocal Common Transport Agreement among Governments of Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh of NCR for unrestricted movement of vehicles in NCR" for Contract Carriage was signed on 14.10.08 and its implementation is underway by the State Governments of NCR Constituent States.

According to NCR Board, under this agreement, "NCR Taxis" have started plying in the NCR region.


Tourism Ministry warns against unauthorised use of "Incredible India" logo

The Union Ministry of Tourism today said that any use or display of the logo of "Incredible India" campaign without due permission would invite suitable legal and penal action.

Similarly, the display of "Government of India Approved" phrase by service providers not approved by the Ministry or any other agency of the Government of India was also liable to similar legal or penal action, an official press release said.

The warning was issued because it had come to the notice of the Ministry that some information centres, travel agents, tour operators and individuals were using the "Incredible India" logo without taking any prior permission from it with an intention to "misrepresent, misguide and cheat the public/tourists".

The release said some service providers not approved by the Government or any of its agencies were displaying the phrase "Government of India approved" in an unauthorised way, the release said.

According to it, "Incredible India" is a copyright and a registered trademark of the Ministry of Tourism.


67 Indian workers return from Libya after harassment by employer

As many as 67 of 116 Indian workers who had complained in May to the Indian Embassy in Libya about harassment by their employer have been repatriated to India in coordination with the Libyan authorities and the employer.

Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi told the Lok Sabha in a written reply to a question that the Indian Embassy was making efforts for the return of the remaining 46 workers.

He said formalities for exit visas of 22 workers from the Libyan authorities had already been completed and the process of collecting the passports of 22 workers from the Libyan authorities was on

Mr Ravi said the return tickets for the workers were being arranged by the recruiting agency and they were expected to leave for India shortly.

He said his Ministry and the Indian Embassy in Libya were constantly monitoring the situation.

The workers had complained to the Embassy in May that they were not being provided food and paid their dues by their employer. The Government had immediately taken up the matter with the Libyan authorities as well as the Indian recruitment agen.

Mr Ravi said Indian Embassy officials had visited the project site, about 1200 km from Tripoli, five times to resolve the problems of the workers and provide them financial assistance for food, fuel, water and medicines.


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