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India, Denmark sign MoU on Labour Mobility Partnership

India today signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on Labour Mobility Partnership with Denmark in Copenhagen today, its first such agreement with any European country.

The MoU was signed by Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi and Ms Birther Ronn Hornbech, Danish Minister of Refugee, Immigration and Integration Affairs.

An official press release said the MoU would facilitate promotion of orderly migration of workers from India to meet the growing demand for skilled and trained workers in the Danish economy and prevent illegal/irregular migration.

It said the salient features of the MOU are:

(i) Cooperation between the two countries concerning the following branches of labour and employment for qualified workers within their national objectives and the relevant laws:

(a) Labour market expansion,
(b) Employment facilitation,
(c) Organized entry and orderly migration and
(d) Exchange of information and cooperation in introducing best practices for mutual benefit.

(ii) Equal treatment of workers with the nationals of the receiving state.

(iii) Undertaking mutually beneficial studies for recruitment and identifying emerging sectors in Danish economy that require qualified workers.

(iv) Promoting direct contact between the employers in Denmark and the state. managed or private recruiting agencies in India, without intermediaries to facilitate regular and orderly recruitment of workers.

(v) Protection and welfare of all categories of workers under the labour laws and other relevant laws of the host country.

The MOU also provides for constitution of a Joint Working Group of both the countries, with following mandate:

i. Study employment opportunities and suggest means for enhancing cooperation between states.

ii. To interpret the provisions of the memorandum of understanding and oversee its implementation.

iii. Create guidance material on rights and duties of employers and workers to minimize labour disputes and create information material about the existing system for dispute settlement.

iv. Suggest amendments to the MOU for better achievements of its objectives.

v. Recommend measures to prevent misuse of visit visas by unscrupulous employers and recruiting agencies.

vi. Recommend initiatives to address any issues that might arise in the context of the MOU.

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Gram Nyayalaya Act to come into effect from Oct 2

The Union Government today said that the provisions of the Gram Nyayalayas Act, 2008 would come into force in the areas to which the Act extends on October 2, the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

The Act has been enacted to provide for the establishment of courts at the grassroot level for the purpose of providing access to justice to citizens at their doorsteps.

According to an official press release, the Gram Nyayalayas are aimed at providing inexpensive justice to people in rural areas. The Gram Nyayalaya will be a court of Judicial Magistrate (First Class) and its presiding officer (nyayadhikari) will be appointed by the State Government in consultation with the High Court.

The Gram Nyayalaya shall be established for every Panchayat at intermediate level or a group of contiguous Panchayats at intermediate level in a district. Where there is no Panchayat at intermediate level in any State, the Nyayalaya shall be set up for a group of contiguous Panchayats.

The Nyayadhikaris who will preside over these Nyayalayas are strictly judicial officers and will draw the same salary, deriving the same powers, as First Class Magistrates working under High Courts.

The Gram Nyayalaya shall be a mobile court and shall exercise the powers of both Criminal and Civil Courts.

According to the release, the seat of the Gram Nyayalaya will be located at the headquarters of the intermediate Panchayat, and they will go to villages, work there and dispose of the cases.

The Nyayalaya will try criminal cases, civil suits, claims or disputes which are specified in the First Schedule and the Second Schedule to the Act.

The release said the Central as well as the State Governments had been given power to amend the First Schedule and the Second Schedule of the Act, as per their respective legislative competence.

It said the Gram Nyayalaya shall follow summary procedure in criminal trial and exercise the powers of a Civil Court with certain modifications and shall follow the special procedure as provided in the Act,

It said the Gram Nyayalaya shall try to settle the disputes as far as possible by bringing about conciliation between the parties and for this purpose, it shall make use of the conciliators to be appointed for this purpose.

The release said the judgment and order passed by the Gram Nyayalaya shall be deemed to be a decree and, to avoid delay in its execution, the Gram Nyayalaya shall follow summary procedure for its execution.

The Gram Nyayalaya shall not be bound by the rules of evidence provided in the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 but shall be guided by the principles of natural justice and subject to any rule made by the High Court. Appeal in criminal cases shall lie to the Court of Session, which shall be heard and disposed of within a period of six months from the date of filing of such appeal. Appeal in civil cases shall lie to the District Court, which shall be heard and disposed of within a period of six months from the date of filing of the appeal.

According to the release, a person accused of an offence may file an application for plea bargaining.

It said the Centre had decided to meet the non-recurring expenditure on the establishment of these Gram Nyayalayas, subject to a ceiling of Rs. 18 lakhs out of which Rs. 10 lakhs is for construction of the court, Rs. 5 lakhs for vehicle and Rs. 3 lakhs for office equipment.

The Government has also estimated that the Gram Nyayalayas upon establishment would incur a recurring expenditure of Rs. 6.4 lakhs per annum on salaries and such other heads and proposes to share these with the State Government for the first three years within this ceiling.

More than 5000 Gram Nyayalayas are expected to be set up under the Act for which the Central Government would provide about Rs.1400 crores by way of assistance to the concerned States/Union Territories, the release said.

The Gram Nyayalayas are an important part of the Government's efforts to bring about judicial reforms and they are expected to help reduce the arrears of cases in courts.

At present, there are as many as 2.6 crore cases in arrears and the nyayalayas are expected to reduce half of the pendency of cases in subordinate courts. They will also take care of new litigations, which shall be disposed of within six months.

"This measure will usher in a great revolution in disposal of cases and also take justice to the doorsteps of the common man," the release added.

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AI pilots' strike: Rlys to set up counters at airports

The Indian Railways have decided to set up train passenger reservation counters and "May I Help You?" booths at all important airports in the country in view of the disruption in the flight schedules of Air India due to a strike by a section of its pilots.

An official press release said the counters would help stranded Air India passengers who might want to travel by trains to their destinations.

The release said the Ministry of Railways had instructed all the Zonal Railways to give wide publicity through all possible means, including the media, about the availability of a large number of vacant berths/seats in important trains.

The Railways have also been asked to coordinate with airline officials to facilitate the movement of passengers who wish to use the option of travel by train.

Interested passengers may also contact the nearest Passenger Reservation Centre or visit the Railways' reservation website for e-tickets, the release added.

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States told to make roof top rain water harvesting mandatory

The Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA) has written to all states with overexploited blocks to take all necessary measures to promote and adopt artificial recharge of ground water, including making it mandatory for buildings to provide rooftop rain water harvesting systems.

The CGWA has also issued directives to group housing societies, institutions, schools, hotels, industrial establishments and farm houses in notified areas of Delhi and Haryana to install rooftop rainwater harvesting systems.

Besides, all group housing societies in Delhi, where groundwater levels are more than 8m and are abstracting groundwater, have also been directed to adopt roof top rain harvesting systems. The directions have been issued under Section 5 of Environment (Protection) Act 1986, an official press release said here today.

The Ministry of Water Resources has requested all the States and Union Territories to make suitable provisions in their planned schemes for construction of rooftop rain water harvesting structures in all government buildings. The Ministry of Urban Development has also sent similar letters to the states.

According to the release, many states have taken several initiatives to promote rainwater harvesting in government and private buildings by amending building bye-laws. The Union Government provides financial and technical support for such activities, it said.

The release said 18 states and four Union Territories have already made rooftop rain water harvesting mandatory. They are Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Nagaland, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh., Uttarakhand, West Bengal., Chandigarh, Daman & Diu, Delhi and Puducherry.

Four states--Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Orissa and Jharkhand--and the Union Territories of Lakshadweep and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are currently in the process of making such a provision.

Chhattisgarh, Sikkim, Mizoram, Assam and Dadra & Nagar Haveli have not initiated action in this regard so far while two states, Jammu and Kashmir and Manipur--did not respond, the release added.

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Air India pilots continue strike for fourth day, flights disrupted

Air India

National carrier Air India cancelled nearly 50 of its flights---nine to international destinations and 37 domestic services---as about 150 of its executive pilots continued to be on leave for the fourth day today to protest against the 25-50 per cent cut in the productivity-linked incentive (PLI) for more than 7000 employees announced by the airline last week.

On Sunday, after a meeting between Air India Chairman and Managing Director Arvind Jadhav and Mumbai-based representatives of the executive pilots, the airline had decided to put on hold that decision and set up a committee to look into the concerns raised by the pilots.

But the pilots have decided to persist with their agitation, demanding that the management first withdraw the decision. They also want the airline to clear accumulated dues of the past three months and also an assurance that salaries and allowances would be paid on time from now onwards.

Mr Jadhav had held a meeting with the Delhi-based pilots in the capital yesterday and had appealed to them to restore normalcy at the earliest as the cancellation of flights was causing inconvenience to passengers and harming the airline's interests. But the pilots did not budge from their stand.

At one stage, it appeared that the Air India management was considering suspending operations for 15 days from midnight last night and derostering all pilots. But it is understood that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh personally intervened in the matter and told Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel that a lock-out in Air India was not an option.

He is learnt to have told Mr Patel that the ministry and Air India must take steps to minimise inconvenience to passengers. He also urged the ministry and Air India to work together in finding a solution to the crisis.

A press release issued by Air India said it had cancelled nine of 21 flights today, including the non-stop services to New York from Delhi and Mumbai, flights to London from Delhi and Mumbai, to Chicago from Delhi and to Singapore from Mumbai. The Amritsar-London-Toronto and the Ahmedabad-Frankfurt flights were also cancelled, it said.

The release said Air India had cancelled 37 out of its 177 scheduled flights today, while four flights would be combined.

It said Air India was keeping its channels of communication with the Executive Pilots open so that those wishing to have their concerns addressed or clarified could do so.

Meanwhile, Civil Aviation Secretary M Madhavan Nambiar and the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) met representatives of all the airlines today to ensure that passengers booked on Air India flights did not suffer any  inconvenience due to cancellation, re-routing and merging of flights.

Mr Jadhav, who was present, informed Mr Nambiar that an effective mechanism for full refund of tickets had been set up.

As a part of the contingency plan, Air India had put in place a special team to monitor the merging, re-routing, cancellations, refunds of flights and transfer of passengers to other airlines, as required, he said, adding that the airline was monitoring the situation continuously.

Mr Nambiar appealed to all the airlines to make the transfer of Air India passengers to private airlines as seamless as possible. He also asked them to explore the possibilities of mounting extra flights in sectors where the demand was more. He stressed that there should be no exploitation of the passengers and that, till the crisis was resolved, the fares should be held at the pre-strike period.

He said the airport operators would also be asked to help in transfer of checked-in baggage in case the Air India passengers were endorsed on flights of other airlines and had to be transferred to a different terminal building.

The DGCA cautioned all the airlines to be very watchful on the safety aspects and directed them to provide adequate facilitation to the passengers. The DGCA would carefully monitor the ticket prices during this period, he said.

At the meeting, the representatives of all airlines, including, Jet Airways, Kingfisher, Indigo, Go Air, Paramount and Spice Jet, assured Mr Nambiar that that they would do all things possible to help Air India cope with the crisis.

The airlines said they would also would appoint a "pointsperson" in each airline to coordinate with the Air India team in facilitating the passengers. They would also deploy additional capacity where possible and share loads in different sectors.

Meanwhile, Mr Nambiar also issued a statement saying that the Air India management had not taken any decision on reducing the PLI or any allowance for the unionised section of the airline's employees.

He said a decision regarding the executive employees would be taken only after the committee set up for the purpose had examined all aspects in consultations with employees.

He said the disruption of flights was causing immense problems to the traveling public and bringing disrepute to the airline.

"In these circumstances the pilots and all employees must cooperate with the management for the turnaround of the airline. Though the Government support is coming, it must be linked to a proper turnaround plan, including cost cutting and revenue enhancement," he said.

"We will advise the management to enter into a comprehensive dialogue with all sections of employees. This strike must end immediately in the interest of the public and this will also stand the airline in good stead for future Government support," he added.

The Board of Directors of the loss-making airline, which is going through the worst financial crisis in its history, had approved the cut in the PLI at its meeting in Mumbai last Wednesday.

The cut was to be applicable to all officers, including top management personnel, in various management disciplines and range from 25 per cent for those getting PLI of Rs 10,000 or less per month to 50 per cent for those receiving PLI or flying related allowances of Rs 2 lakh or more per month.

The cut for those receiving PLI of Rs 10001 to Rs 25000, Rs 25001 to Rs 50000 and Rs 50001 to Rs 2.00 lakhs was to be 35 %, 40% and 45%, respectively. The cut was to be effective from the PLI payable in August 2009 onwards. The pilots said they had not been taken into confidence by the management before the decision was taken.

A day after announcing the decision, Mr Jadhav met the employees at the airline's headquarters in Mumbai on Thursday and exhorted them to join the efforts to help it tide over the current financial crisis.

Mr Jadhav said that, given the fact that the scope for increasing revenues was limited in the current market scenario of low fares, poor yields and surplus capacity, the emphasis on cost control was imperative for ensuring the survival of the company.

He said that all areas of expenditure were being targeted by the cost control measures initiated in recent months. These included procurement of material, inventories, fuel, landing and navigation charges, rationalisation of routes, closure of offline offices and recall of India-based officers from abroad.

The decision to cut the PLI came against the background of the discussions that the airline has been having with the Centre for assistance to tide over the present difficulties.

The Government is looking at a proposal for equity infusion of Rs 5000 crore into the airline over a period of three years. Out of this, Rs 2000 crore could be brought in by December this year.

But the Government has made it clear to the Air India that any assistance to it must be preceded by concrete steps to reduce costs and increase savings.

Last Monday, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee had held a meeting in New Delhi with Civil Aviation Secretary M Madhavan Nambiar and Mr Jadhav to review the airline's turnaround plan.

The airline and the Civil Aviation Ministry have been working on the turnaround plan in consultation with a Committee of Secretaries (CoS) headed by Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrasekhar.

Among other things, the CoS had decided that the airline should appoint a Cost Auditor immediately to monitor, review and ensure that the cost reduction and operational efficiencies were effected.

Mr Patel had said earlier that independent directors would be brought into the airline and a professional Chief Operating Officer would be inducted to assist the company's Chairman and Managing Director.

He said SBI Capital had been appointed to suggest a road map for the financial restructuring of the company in the short and medium term.

In July, Mr Patel had told Parliament that the accumulated losses of the National Aviation Company of India Limited (NACIL), which runs Air India after its merger with Indian Airlines, as on March 31 this year, were likely to be in the region of Rs 7200 crore.

He said that Air India and Indian Airlines had incurred losses of Rs 541.30 crore and Rs 230.97 crore, respectively, during 2006-07 before the merger.

He said that, in 2007-08, the combined airline posted a loss of Rs. 2226 crores and during 2008-09, the expected loss is approximately Rs.5000 crores.

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PM says return of India to nuclear mainstream significant for world

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Tuesday that the return of India to the international nuclear mainstream was of high significance not only for India but also for global energy security.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressing the inaugural session of the International Conference on ‘Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy-2009’, in New Delhi on September 29, 2009.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressing the inaugural session of the International Conference on ‘Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy-2009’, in New Delhi on September 29, 2009.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said the return of India to the international nuclear mainstream was of high significance not only for India but also for global energy security.

Inaugurating the International Conference on Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy here this morning, Dr Singh referred to the several agreements and reciprocal commitments concluded as part of the Civil Nuclear Initiative to allow the resumption of full civil nuclear cooperation between India and the international community.

"We look forward to their full and effective implementation in the coming months and years," he said.

Dr Singh said India saw nuclear energy as a vital component of its energy security. He said the three-stage programme, based on a closed nuclear fuel cycle, allowed the country to really think big.

He said the Indian nuclear indutry was poised for a major expansion and there would be huge opportunities for the global nuclear industry to participate in it.

The Conference has been organised by the Department of Atomic Energy (DEA) in association with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Indian Nuclear Society (INS) as part of the year-long programme to mark the birth centenary year of nuclear scientist Homi Jehangir Bhabha.

Dr Bhabha was the founder of the Indian atomic energy programme and had presided over the first international conference on this subject held in Geneva way back in 1955.

Noting that Dr Bhabha had enunciated the three-stage nuclear power programme, Dr Singh said India was proud of its achievements in mastering all aspects of the fuel cycle.

He said the current international interest in closing the fuel cycle was a vindication of Dr. Bhabha’s pioneering vision and genius.

Describing Dr Bhabha as a brilliant scientist and a true visionary, the Prime Minister recalled that, at the Geneva conference in 1955, he had unveiled a bold vision of the peaceful uses of atomic energy for the industrialsiation of the under-developed countries, for the continuation of civilisation and for its further development. He had said that atomic energy was not merely an aid but an absolute necessity.

Pointing out that that vision had proved to be prophetic, Dr Singh said the conference was taking place on the crest of a global nuclear renaissance in which India would be a significant factor.

Dr Singh said that, as a result of the far-sighted plans of its scientists, India had emerged as a leader in the developing world in harnessing the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

He said the first stage of India's three stage nuclear programme, involving the setting up of Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) and associated fuel cycle facilities, had now reached a level of maturity.

The technology for the manufacture of various components and equipment for PHWRs in India was now well established and had evolved through active collaboration with Indian industry, he said.

The Prime Minister said the second stage envisaged setting up of Fast Breeder Reactors (FBRs) backed by reprocessing plants and plutonium-based fuel fabrication plants.

"With the construction of the Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor at Kalpakkam we have now entered the second stage of the programme. A facility for reprocessing thorium fuel has also been set up. An Advanced Heavy Water Reactor has been designed and its construction will be launched in the near future. This will expedite the transition to thorium-based systems that will, I believe, mark the third stage of our programme. We are proud of the achievements of India’s nuclear scientists and of our industry," he said.

Dr Singh recalled that Dr Bhabha had strongly advocated the use of nuclear power as an instrument of economic development. According to him, this was truer today than ever before as the developing countries sought new energy to sustain high rates of economic growth.

He said there was now a growing consensus that nuclear power was not only important for energy security but was also clean. "In fact, the majority of nuclear power plants under construction worldwide are now located in Asia," he said.

Dr Singh said that if India managed its nuclear power programme well, the three-stage strategy could potentially yield 470,000 Mw of power by the year 2050. He said that this would sharply reduce the country's dependence on fossil fuels and would be a major contribution to global efforts to combat climate change.

He stressed that the peaceful uses of nuclear energy was not just about power. He said there were promising applications in the areas of agriculture, food production and preservation, medicine and water desalination.

"In India, we have successfully developed 37 mutant varieties of seeds for commercial cultivation using nuclear techniques. Use of radiation technology for food preservation is growing. We have built a nuclear desalination plant at Kalpakkam and are working on the use of isotope hydrology techniques for rejuvenation of springs, which is an important source of drinking water," he said.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrives at the inaugural session of the International Conference on ‘Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy-2009’, in New Delhi on September 29, 2009. Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and the Director General, International Atomic Energy Agency, Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei are also seen.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrives at the inaugural session of the International Conference on ‘Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy-2009’, in New Delhi on September 29, 2009. Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and the Director General, International Atomic Energy Agency, Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei are also seen.

He said that, given this limitless potential, the international community and India could cooperate on multiplying the benefits of nuclear energy for humankind.

The Prime Minister said the International Project on Innovative Nuclear Reactors and Fuel Cycles was an example of such international cooperation. He also pointed out that India was a participant in the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) Project.

"We are ready to contribute to global research and development into new proliferation-resistant fuel cycles. There are proposals for an international fuel bank and we would support efforts in this direction as a supplier nation," he said.

Dr Singh said another critical area of cooperation was that of nuclear safety. He said the nuclear industry's safety record over the last few years had been encouraging.

"It has helped to restore public faith in nuclear power. But the technology and management of nuclear safety must be continuously improved," he stressed.

The Prime Minister said the world also had a pressing and immediate moral obligation to draw down and eventually do away with the destructive use of nuclear energy and promised that there would be no greater proponent in this collective effort than India.

He recalled that India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had advocated the prohibition and abandonment of all weapons of mass destruction way back in the 1950s. He said that in 1988 then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had put forward at the General Assembly of United Nations a comprehensive Action Plan for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons, to which India remained committed.

Dr Singh said that, in 2006, India had put forward a set of proposals at the United Nations General Assembly that had outlined specific steps that could lead to the elimination of nuclear weapons. It included the proposal for the negotiation of a Nuclear Weapons Convention that would prohibit the development, production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons and providing for their elimination within a specified time frame, he said.

"It is a matter of regret that the global non-proliferation regime has not succeeded in preventing nuclear proliferation. Its deficiencies, in fact, have had an adverse impact on our security. Global non-proliferation, to be successful, should be universal, comprehensive and non-discriminatory and linked to the goal of complete nuclear disarmament. We believe that there is growing international acceptance for this viewpoint," he said.

Dr Singh said India felt encouraged by some recent positive signs. He noted that United States President had indicated, in a significant speech at Prague in April this year, the willingness of the US to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in its national security strategy and work towards a vision of a world free of nuclear weapons. The United States and Russia are also negotiating further cuts in their nuclear arsenals. States with substantial nuclear arsenals should take meaningful steps on nuclear disarmament, Dr Singh said.

The Prime Minister said India was proud of its non-proliferation record and was committed to global efforts for preventing the proliferation of all weapons of mass destruction.

"We are committed to a voluntary, unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing. As a nuclear weapon state and a responsible member of the international community, we participate constructively in the negotiations of an FMCT (Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty) in the Conference on Disarmament," he said.

Dr Singh said India had an updated, effective and comprehensive export controls system and was committed to not transferring sensitive technologies and equipment to other countries that do not possess them.

He said the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had a crucial role in promoting the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, while reducing proliferation risks.

Dr Singh also drew attention to the spectre of nuclear terrorism and said it was a formidable challenge facing the entire world.

He said India supported strengthening of international efforts to improve nuclear security and, in this context, welcomed President Obama's initiative to convene a Global Summit on Nuclear Security in 2010.

"If we use the power of the atom wisely for the universal good, the possibilities are unbounded. But if we do not, the consequences would also be devastating for the peace and progress that all nations seek for their people. The choices are stark and the challenges are indeed daunting. But it is not beyond the imagination of the human mind to devise solutions and strategies that exploit the vast potential of atomic energy security for human progress, while assuring global peace and security. This task will require the collective will, wisdom and determination of the world community and we think it is a task that can no longer be put off," he added.

The three-day conference will discuss a road map for the growth of nuclear energy and its peaceful applications against the background of the progress made in the area in the last five decades. It will discuss both power and non-power applications of nuclear energy.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, IAEA Director General Mohammed Elbaradei and INS President P Rama Rao were among those who spoke at the inaugural session.

The conference is being attended by policy-makers and eminent nuclear scientists and technologists. There will also be presentations by experts from some countries with emerging nuclear programmes.

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4 more H1N1 deaths in India, toll crosses 300-mark

Four more influenza A (H1N1) deaths were reported from India today, taking the toll due to the pandemic in the country so far to 302, an official statement said.

According to it, one death each was reported from Karnataka, Delhi, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh.

Besides, one death has also been reported in Kerala because of suspected swine flu, but the results of the laboratory tests were awaited, it said.

Of the total deaths, Maharashtra now accounts for 118, while 92 people have lost their lives in Karnataka, 32 in Andhra Pradesh, 31 in Gujarat, 10 in Delhi, 4 each in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, 3 in Goa, 2 each in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand and 1 each in Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan.

Meanwhile, as many as 177 fresh cases of the flu were reported today from across the country, including 68 in Delhi, 47 in Maharashtra, 16 in Andhra Pradesh, 13 in Haryana, 11 in Kerala, 7 each in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, 4 in Uttar Pradesh, 3 in Uttarakhand and 1 in Jammu & Kashmir.

With these, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus reported so far in India has risen to 9871, the statement added.

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Air India puts PLI cuts on hold, sets up panel on pilots' concerns

Air India

Faced with the threat of an agitation by its executive pilots, national carrier Air India today decided to put on hold its decision of last week to effect a 25-50 per cent cut in the productivity-linked incentive (PLI) paid to more than 7000 of its employees---about a quarter of the airline's total strength.

After a meeting between Air India Chairman and Managing Director Arvind Jadhav and Mumbai-based representatives of the executive pilots, the airline said a committee would be set up to look into the concerns raised by the pilots.

Air India spokesperson Jitender Bhargava told journalists after the meeting that the committee would comprise the airline's Executive Director (Finance), Executive Director (Industrial Relations), General Manager (Operations-Mumbai) and four representatives of the executive pilots.

He said the decision on the cut in the PLI would be kept on hold till the committee submits its report.

The four-hour meeting came after the airline was forced to cancel about 30 flights today because a section of the pilots went on leave for the second day today to protest against the management's decision on the PLI.

Mr Bhargava said about 20 executive pilots attended the meeting and they are now expected to consult their colleagues in other parts of the country. Most of the pilots who went on leave are based in Delhi and they were expected to make their stand known soon on the management's offer. He was hopeful that normal flight services would be restored by tomorrow.

Earlier in the day, Mr Bhargava told NetIndian that the airline was operating today to a revised schedule worked out on the basis of its requirements, the passenger loads and the availability of pilots.

He said flights were being operated today as per the revised schedule, which meant, among other things, combining some flights and transfering passengers of some flights to those of Air India Express, its no-frills subsidiary.

Yesterday, the loss-making airline, which is currently going through a severe financial crisis, had cancelled at least 13 of its domestic flights when about 20 of the pilots failed to report for work.

Air India has 319 executive pilots, of whom 157 were part of the erstwhile Indian Airlines which was merged with Air India some time ago.

Air India's Board of Directors had approved the cut in the PLI at its meeting in Mumbai on Wednesday on the basis of the recommendations made by a committee headed by Mr Anup Srivastava, Director-Personnel.

The cut was applicable to all officers, including top management personnel, in various management disciplines and will range from 25 per cent for those getting PLI of Rs 10,000 or less per month to 50 per cent for those receiving PLI or flying related allowances of Rs 2 lakh or more per month.

The cut for those receiving PLI of Rs 10001 to Rs 25000, Rs 25001 to Rs 50000 and Rs 50001 to Rs 2.00 lakhs was 35 %, 40% and 45%, respectively. The cut was to be effective from the PLI payable in August 2009 onwards. The pilots said they had not been taken into confidence by the management before the decision was taken.

A day after announcing the decision, Mr Jadhav met the employees at the airline's headquarters in Mumbai on Thursday and exhorted them to join the efforts to help it tide over the current financial crisis--the worst in its history.

Mr Jadhav said that, given the fact that the scope for increasing revenues was limited in the current market scenario of low fares, poor yields and surplus capacity, the emphasis on cost control was imperative for ensuring the survival of the company.

He said that all areas of expenditure were being targeted by the cost control measures initiated in recent months. These included procurement of material, inventories, fuel, landing and navigation charges, rationalisation of routes, closure of offline offices and recall of India-based officers from abroad.

Mr Jadhav also provided some details of the turnaround plan initiated by the company and said the employees had a pivotal role to play in this effort.

"No turnaround can be achieved unless employees are fully involved," he stressed. He said the Government had committed itself to a robust Air India but the financial help from the government would come only if the airline demonstrated its commitment and effected considerable savings in all areas of expenditure.

Mr Jadhav praised the employees for bring about a significant improvement in the airline's on-time performance. He said the increase witnessed in the number of passengers carried per day by Air India this month was testimony to the return of many passengers to Air India's fold as a consequence of improvement in on-time performance and deployment of new aircraft. There is, however, a need to improve the product in its totality for making Air India a preferred airline of the customers, he stressed.

Mr Jadhav also asked employees to take a fresh look at their existing work practices and adopt a work culture that was contemporary, cost effective and productive. "We have to change with times to suit the competitive environment," he added.

The decision to cut the PLI came against the background of the discussions that the airline has been having with the Centre for assistance to tide over the present difficulties.

The Government is looking at a proposal for equity infusion of Rs 5000 crore into the airline over a period of three years. Out of this, Rs 2000 crore could be brought in by December this year.

But the Government has made it clear to the Air India that any assistance to it must be preceded by concrete steps to reduce costs and increase savings.

Last Monday, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee had held a meeting in New Delhi with Civil Aviation Secretary M Madhavan Nambiar and Mr Jadhav to review the airline's turnaround plan.

The airline and the Civil Aviation Ministry have been working on the turnaround plan in consultation with a Committee of Secretaries (CoS) headed by Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrasekhar.

Among other things, the CoS had decided that the airline should appoint a Cost Auditor immediately to monitor, review and ensure that the cost reduction and operational efficiencies were effected.

Minister of State for Civil Aviation Praful Patel had said earlier that independent directors would be brought into the airline and a professional Chief Operating Officer would be inducted to assist the company's Chairman and Managing Director.

He said SBI Capital had been appointed to suggest a road map for the financial restructuring of the company in the short and medium term.

In July, Mr Patel had told Parliament that the accumulated losses of the National Aviation Company of India Limited (NACIL), which runs Air India after its merger with Indian Airlines, as on March 31 this year, were likely to be in the region of Rs 7200 crore.

He said that Air India and Indian Airlines had incurred losses of Rs 541.30 crore and Rs 230.97 crore, respectively, during 2006-07 before the merger.

He said that, in 2007-08, the combined airline posted a loss of Rs. 2226 crores and during 2008-09, the expected loss is approximately Rs.5000 crores.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had made a special mention of the airline in his Independence Day address on August 15.

NNN

8 more H1N1 deaths in India, toll rises to 298

Eight more influenza A (H1N1) deaths have been reported from India, taking the toll due to the pandemic in the country so far to 298, an official statement said today.

Of them four of the deaths were reported today--two in Karnataka and one each in Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh.

Besides, two deaths that occurred in recent days in Andhra Pradesh and two in Gujarat have also been confirmed today as cases of swine flu after the receipt of the results of laboratory tests, the statement said.

Of the total deaths, Maharashtra accounts for 117, while 91 people have lost their lives in Karnataka, 31 each in Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat, 9 in Delhi, 4 each in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, 3 in Goa, 2 each in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand and 1 each in Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan.

Meanwhile, as many as 189 fresh cases of the flu were reported from across the country, including 53 in Delhi, 46 in Maharashtra, 39 in Andhra Pradesh, 17 in Karnataka, 12 in Haryana, 7 in Kerala, 4 in Uttar Pradesh, 3 each in Tamil Nadu and Chandigarh, 2 each in Gujarat and Puducherry, and 1 in Jammu & Kashmir

With these, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus reported so far in India has risen to 9694, the statement added.

NNN

PM to open meet on peaceful uses of atomic energy Tuesday

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will inaugurate a three-day conference on "Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy-2009" here on September 29.

The conference is being organised by the Department of Atomic Energy (DEA) in association with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Indian Nuclear Society (INS) as part of the year-long programme to mark the birth centenary year of Dr Homi Jehangir Bhabha.

Dr Bhabha was the founder of the Indian atomic energy programme and had presided over the first international conference on this subject held in Geneva way back in 1955.

An official press release said the conference would discuss a road map for the growth of nuclear energy and its peaceful applications against the background of the progress made in the area in the last five decades.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, IAEA Director General Mohammed Elbaradei and INS President P Rama Rao are among those slated to address the inaugural session of the conference. Mr Mukherjee will also release Bhabha Centenary Commemorative Coins on the occasion.

The release said the conference would discuss both power and non-power applications of nuclear energy. It said the event would be attended by several policy-makers and eminent nuclear scientists and technologists. There will also be presentations by experts from some countries with emerging nuclear programmes.

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AI schedules affected as section of pilots take leave

Air India

National carrier Air India's flight schedules were disrupted as some of its executive pilots went on leave for the second day today to protest against the management's decision last week to effect a 25-50 per cent cut in the productivity-linked incentive (PLI) paid to more than 7000 of its employees---about a quarter of the airline's total staff strength.

Air India spokesperson Jitender Bhargava told NetIndian that the airline was operating today to a revised schedule worked out on the basis of its requirements, the passenger loads and the availability of pilots.

He said flights were being operated today as per the revised schedule, which meant, among other things, combining some flights and transfering passengers of some flights to those of Air India Express, its no-frills subsidiary.

Mr Bhargava said details about the number of pilots who had taken leave would be available later in the day.

Yesterday, the loss-making airline, which is currently going through a severe financial crisis, had cancelled at least 13 of its domestic flights when about 20 of the pilots failed to report for work. Most of the pilots who absented themselves were based in Delhi, he said.

Air India has 319 executive pilots, of whom 157 were part of the erstwhile Indian Airlines which was merged with Air India some time ago.

Mr Bhargava said Air India Chairman and Managing Director Arvind Jadhav was due to meet representatives of the executive pilots later today to discuss the issues raised by them.

A spokesman for the pilots told television channels that the management must first withdraw the cut in PLI before talks could be held. He said the management had not taken the pilots into confidence before deciding on the cuts.

Air India's Board of Directors had approved the cut in the PLI at its meeting in Mumbai on Wednesday on the basis of the recommendations made by a committee headed by Mr Anup Srivastava, Director-Personnel.

The cut will be applicable to all officers, including top management personnel, in various management disciplines and will range from 25 per cent for those getting PLI of Rs 10,000 or less per month to 50 per cent for those receiving PLI or flying related allowances of Rs 2 lakh or more per month.

The cut for those receiving PLI of Rs 10001 to Rs 25000, Rs 25001 to Rs 50000 and Rs 50001 to Rs 2.00 lakhs will be 35 %, 40% and 45%, respectively. The cut will be effective from the PLI payable in August 2009 onwards.

A day after announcing the decision, Mr Jadhav met the employees at the airline's headquarters in Mumbai on Thursday and exhorted them to join the efforts to help it tide over the current financial crisis--the worst in its history.

Mr Jadhav said that, given the fact that the scope for increasing revenues was limited in the current market scenario of low fares, poor yields and surplus capacity, the emphasis on cost control was imperative for ensuring the survival of the company.

He said that all areas of expenditure were being targeted by the cost control measures initiated in recent months. These included procurement of material, inventories, fuel, landing and navigation charges, rationalisation of routes, closure of offline offices and recall of India-based officers from abroad.

Mr Jadhav also provided some details of the turnaround plan initiated by the company and said the employees had a pivotal role to play in this effort.

"No turnaround can be achieved unless employees are fully involved," he stressed. He said the Government had committed itself to a robust Air India but the financial help from the government would come only if the airline demonstrated its commitment and effected considerable savings in all areas of expenditure.

Mr Jadhav praised the employees for bring about a significant improvement in the airline's on-time performance. He said the increase witnessed in the number of passengers carried per day by Air India this month was testimony to the return of many passengers to Air India's fold as a consequence of improvement in on-time performance and deployment of new aircraft. There is, however, a need to improve the product in its totality for making Air India a preferred airline of the customers, he stressed.

Mr Jadhav also asked employees to take a fresh look at their existing work practices and adopt a work culture that was contemporary, cost effective and productive. "We have to change with times to suit the competitive environment," he added.

The decision to cut the PLI came against the background of the discussions that the airline has been having with the Centre for assistance to tide over the present difficulties.

The Government is looking at a proposal for equity infusion of Rs 5000 crore into the airline over a period of three years. Out of this, Rs 2000 crore could be brought in by December this year.

But the Government has made it clear to the Air India that any assistance to it must be preceded by concrete steps to reduce costs and increase savings.

Last Monday, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee had held a meeting in New Delhi with Civil Aviation Secretary M Madhavan Nambiar and Mr Jadhav to review the airline's turnaround plan.

The airline and the Civil Aviation Ministry have been working on the turnaround plan in consultation with a Committee of Secretaries (CoS) headed by Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrasekhar.

Among other things, the CoS had decided that the airline should appoint a Cost Auditor immediately to monitor, review and ensure that the cost reduction and operational efficiencies were effected.

Minister of State for Civil Aviation Praful Patel had said earlier that independent directors would be brought into the airline and a professional Chief Operating Officer would be inducted to assist the company's Chairman and Managing Director.

He said SBI Capital had been appointed to suggest a road map for the financial restructuring of the company in the short and medium term.

In July, Mr Patel had told Parliament that the accumulated losses of the National Aviation Company of India Limited (NACIL), which runs Air India after its merger with Indian Airlines, as on March 31 this year, were likely to be in the region of Rs 7200 crore.

He said that Air India and Indian Airlines had incurred losses of Rs 541.30 crore and Rs 230.97 crore, respectively, during 2006-07 before the merger.

He said that, in 2007-08, the combined airline posted a loss of Rs. 2226 crores and during 2008-09, the expected loss is approximately Rs.5000 crores.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had made a special mention of the airline in his Independence Day address on August.

NNN

AI cancels 13 flights as 20 pilots take leave

Air India

National carrier Air India today cancelled as many as 13 of its domestic flights when about 20 of its pilots went on leave to protest against the management's decision to effect a 25-50 per cent in the productivity-linked (PLI) paid to more than 7000 of its employees--about a quarter of the airline's total staff strength.

Air India spokesperson Jitendra Bhargava told NetIndian that the airline operated all its 58 international flights today and only 13 of its 200-plus domestic services were cancelled. He said most of the pilots who took leave today were based in Delhi.

Mr Bhargava said Air India Chairman and Managing Director Arvind Jadhav would meet representatives of the pilots at the airline's headquarters in Mumbai tomorrow instead of Wednesday as planned earlier.

A section of the executive pilots of the airline is unhappy with its Board's decision to effect the cut in the PLI.

A spokesman for the pilots told television channels yesterday that they would go on mass leave to protest the reduction in their perks. He said the management had not taken the pilots into confidence before taking such a decision.

Air India's Board of Directors had approved the cut in the PLI at its meeting in Mumbai on Wednesday on the basis of the recommendations made by a committee headed by Mr Anup Srivastava, Director-Personnel.

The cut will be applicable to all officers, including top management personnel, in various management disciplines and will range from 25 per cent for those getting PLI of Rs 10,000 or less per month to 50 per cent for those receiving PLI or flying related allowances of Rs 2 lakh or more per month.

The cut for those receiving PLI of Rs 10001 to Rs 25000, Rs 25001 to Rs 50000 and Rs 50001 to Rs 2.00 lakhs will be 35 %, 40% and 45%, respectively. The cut will be effective from the PLI payable in August 2009 onwards.

A day after announcing the decision, Mr Jadhav met the employees at the airline's headquarters in Mumbai yesterday and exhorted them to join the efforts to help it tide over the current financial crisis--the worst in its history.

Mr Jadhav said that, given the fact that the scope for increasing revenues was limited in the current market scenario of low fares, poor yields and surplus capacity, the emphasis on cost control was imperative for ensuring the survival of the company.

He said that all areas of expenditure were being targeted by the cost control measures initiated in recent months. These included procurement of material, inventories, fuel, landing and navigation charges, rationalisation of routes, closure of offline offices and recall of India-based officers from abroad.

Mr Jadhav also provided some details of the turnaround plan initiated by the company and said the employees had a pivotal role to play in this effort.

"No turnaround can be achieved unless employees are fully involved," he stressed. He said the Government had committed itself to a robust Air India but the financial help from the government would come only if the airline demonstrated its commitment and effected considerable savings in all areas of expenditure.

Mr Jadhav praised the employees for bring about a significant improvement in the airline's on-time performance. He said the increase witnessed in the number of passengers carried per day by Air India this month was testimony to the return of many passengers to Air India's fold as a consequence of improvement in on-time performance and deployment of new aircraft. There is, however, a need to improve the product in its totality for making Air India a preferred airline of the customers, he stressed.

Mr Jadhav also asked employees to take a fresh look at their existing work practices and adopt a work culture that was contemporary, cost effective and productive. "We have to change with times to suit the competitive environment," he added.

The decision to cut the PLI came against the background of the severe financial crisis that the airline is facing as well as the discussions that it has been having with the Centre for assistance to tide over the present difficulties.

The Government is looking at a proposal for equity infusion of Rs 5000 crore into the airline over a period of three years. Out of this, Rs 2000 crore could be brought in by December this year.

But the Government has made it clear to the Air India that any assistance to it must be preceded by concrete steps to reduce costs and increase savings.

On Monday, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee had held a meeting in New Delhi with Civil Aviation Secretary M Madhavan Nambiar and Mr Jadhav to review the airline's turnaround plan.

The airline and the Civil Aviation Ministry have been working on the turnaround plan in consultation with a Committee of Secretaries (CoS) headed by Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrasekhar.

Among other things, the CoS had decided that the airline should appoint a Cost Auditor immediately to monitor, review and ensure that the cost reduction and operational efficiencies were effected.

Minister of State for Civil Aviation Praful Patel had said earlier that independent directors would be brought into the airline and a professional Chief Operating Officer would be inducted to assist the company's Chairman and Managing Director.

He said SBI Capital had been appointed to suggest a road map for the financial restructuring of the company in the short and medium term.

In July, Mr Patel had told Parliament that the accumulated losses of the National Aviation Company of India Limited (NACIL), which runs Air India after its merger with Indian Airlines, as on March 31 this year, were likely to be in the region of Rs 7200 crore.

He said that Air India and Indian Airlines had incurred losses of Rs 541.30 crore and Rs 230.97 crore, respectively, during 2006-07 before the merger.

He said that, in 2007-08, the combined airline posted a loss of Rs. 2226 crores and during 2008-09, the expected loss is approximately Rs.5000 crores.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had made a special mention of the airline in his Independence Day address on August 15, saying that the government was giving careful attention to the problems of Air India and would resolve them soon.

NNN

11 scientists chosen for 2009 Bhatnagar Prize

Eleven scientists from across the country were today chosen for the prestigious Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize for Science and Technology for their outstanding work in different fields.

The names were announced on the occasion of the Foundation Day celebrations of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) here.

The prizes are given every year to scientists below 45 years of age for their outstanding scientific contributions made primarily in India in the last five years.

The prize comprises a citation, a plaque and a cash award of Rs 500,000. The prizes will be given by the Prime Minister on a date to be announced later.

The following are the scientists chosen for the prizes:

Dr Amitabh Joshi, Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, Bangalore, Dr Bhaskar Saha, National Centre for Cell Science, Pune (Biological Sciences), Dr Charusita Chakravarty, Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, Dr Narayanaswamy Jayaraman, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore (Chemical Sciences), Dr S K Satheesh, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore (Earth, Atmosphere, Ocean & Planetary Sciences), Dr Giridhar Madras and Dr Jayant Ramaswamy Haritsa, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore (Engineering Sciences), Dr Venapally Suresh, University of Hyderabad, Hyderabad (Mathematical Sciences), Dr Santosh Gajanan Honavar, L V Prasad Eye Institute, Hyderabad (Medical Sciences), and Dr Rajesh Gopakumar, Harish-Chandra Research Institute, Allahabad and Dr Abhishek Dhar, Raman Research Institute, Bangalore (Physical Sciences).

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One H1N1 death in India, toll rises to 290

One person died of influenza A (H1N1) in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh today, taking the toll due to the pandemic in the country so far to 290, an official statement said.

The statement said the figure included four deaths in Karnataka in recent days which have now been confirmed as cases of the swine flu by the results of the laboratory tests conducted on the patients.

Besides, there have been three deaths in Andhra Pradesh because of suspected swine flu, but the results of the laboratory tests are still awaited, it said.

Of the total deaths, Maharashtra accounts for 117, while 89 people have lost their lives in Karnataka, 29 in Andhra Pradesh, 28 in Gujarat, 9 in Delhi, 4 each in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, 3 in Goa, 2 each in Haryana and Uttarakhand and 1 each in Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.

Meanwhile, as many as 208 fresh cases of the flu were reported from across the country, including 66 in Delhi, 32 each in Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, 24 in Andhra Pradesh, 18 in Karnataka, 13 each in Kerala and Haryana, 6 in Assam, 2 in Uttar Pradesh and 1 each in Uttarakhand and Rajasthan.

With these, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus reported so far in India has risen to 9492, the statement added.

NNN

Saudi govt issues advisory on H1N1 for Haj pilgrims

The Ministry of Health of Saudi Arabia has issued an advisory saying that elderly, pregnant women, people with chronic diseases and children should postpone the Haj and Umrah pilgrimages this year for their own safety because of the influenza A H1N1 pandemic.

A press release issued by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare here today said the Saudi Government had advised that pilgrims planning to attend the Haj must be vaccinated against seasonal flu at least two weeks before travelling to the holy places.

It also said that passengers were currently screened on arrival at all ports of entry into Saudi Arabia. Those suspected to have influeza A H1N1 (swine flu) will be temporarily quarantined. Those who test positive will be admitted to hospital for isolation, it said.

Meanwhile, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has also issued its own advisory for the pilgrims on steps to be taken before leaving India, during travel and stay in Saudi Arabia and after return, including a list of do's and don'ts.

They are as follows:

Before leaving India:

· Haj Pilgrims would be medically examined for the signs/symptoms of influenza A H1N1 (fever, cough, running nose, sore throat, difficulty in breathing) at the point of embarkation, that is at the place where booking of pilgrims takes place in their respective states. They will be issued an H1N1 symptom free certificate in prescribed proforma. Contact the local health authority or the State Haj Committee for further information.

· There would be a provision made by the concerned State Governments at the respective airports to issue such certificates to left out Haj Pilgrims. Contact the Airport Health Officer for further information.

During Travel and period of stay in Saudi Arabia

Look for Symptoms of Influenza A H1N1 (swine flu):

· During Haj, large number of pilgrims gathers from swine flu affected countries. There is a possibility of Influenza A H1N1 (swine flu) outbreak taking place at such large gatherings. Haj Pilgrims should be familiar with the symptoms of this disease, namely fever, cough, running nose, sore throat and difficulty in breathing. All Haj pilgrims need to self monitor their health.

If you think you have symptoms of Influenza A H1N1 (swine flu):

· Consult the medical officer in the Indian contingent. If need be, seek immediate advice from the nearest Saudi medical facility. Anyone who contracts pandemic flu while in Saudi Arabia will be given access free of charge to medication and treatment.

· If the advice of the medical doctor is to stay in the camp, use triple layer surgical mask. Avoid close contact with others for 7 days after your symptoms begin or until you have been symptom-free for 24 hours whichever is longer.

· Report to nearest identified health facility if symptoms aggravate (high fever, difficulty in breathing, blue colour of the skin or lips, blood in sputum or altered behaviour.

Follow simple public health measures to prevent spread of H1N1 Flu (Do’s and Dont’s)

. Cover your mouth and nose with a handkerchief or tissue when you cough or sneeze.
. Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol based hand gel.
. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
. Avoid crowded places except for performing the religious activities of Hajj.
. Stay more than an arm's length from persons afflicted with flu.
. Get plenty of sleep.
. Drink plenty of water and eat nutritious food.

DO NOT:

. Shake hands or hug in greeting except as a mandatory religious activity of the Haj.
. Spit in public.
. Take medicines without consulting a physician.

After reaching back

· Continue to monitor your health for 10 days.
· Report to nearest screening centre if you develop symptoms of flu.
 
For More Information
· Visit http://www.mohfw-h1n1.nic.in
· Contact National Help Line -011-23921401 or
· Contact the help line number of your State Health Department 

NNN

Air India CMD calls pilots for talks after agitation threat

Air India
A section of the executive pilots of national carrier Air India is said to be unhappy with its Board's decision to effect a 25-50 per cent cut in the productivity-linked incentive (PLI) paid to more than 7000 of its employees--about a quarter of the airline's total staff strength.

A spokesman for the pilots told television channels that they would go on mass leave to protest the reduction in their perks. He said the management had not taken the pilots into confidence before taking such a decision.

When contacted, the spokesperson for Air India told NetIndian that the management had not been informed by the pilots of any such move.

But taking note of the media reports in this regard, Air India Chairman and Managing Director Arvind Jadhav has called the representatives of the pilots for a meeting on Wednesday to discuss these and other related issues.

Air India's Board of Directors had approved the cut in the PLI at its meeting in Mumbai on Wednesday on the basis of the recommendations made by a committee headed by Mr Anup Srivastava, Director-Personnel.

The cut will be applicable to all officers, including top management personnel, in various management disciplines and will range from 25 per cent for those getting PLI of Rs 10,000 or less per month to 50 per cent for those receiving PLI or flying related allowances of Rs 2 lakh or more per month.

The cut for those receiving PLI of Rs 10001 to Rs 25000, Rs 25001 to Rs 50000 and Rs 50001 to Rs 2.00 lakhs will be 35 %, 40% and 45%, respectively. The cut will be effective from the PLI payable in August 2009 onwards.

A day after announcing the decision, Mr Jadhav met the employees at the airline's headquarters in Mumbai yesterday and exhorted them to join the efforts to help it tide over the current financial crisis--the worst in its history.

Mr Jadhav said that, given the fact that the scope for increasing revenues was limited in the current market scenario of low fares, poor yields and surplus capacity, the emphasis on cost control was imperative for ensuring the survival of the company.

He said that all areas of expenditure were being targeted by the cost control measures initiated in recent months. These included procurement of material, inventories, fuel, landing and navigation charges, rationalisation of routes, closure of offline offices and recall of India-based officers from abroad.

Mr Jadhav also provided some details of the turnaround plan initiated by the company and said the employees had a pivotal role to play in this effort.

"No turnaround can be achieved unless employees are fully involved," he stressed. He said the Government had committed itself to a robust Air India but the financial help from the government would come only if the airline demonstrated its commitment and effected considerable savings in all areas of expenditure.

Mr Jadhav praised the employees for bring about a significant improvement in the airline's on-time performance. He said the increase witnessed in the number of passengers carried per day by Air India this month was testimony to the return of many passengers to Air India's fold as a consequence of improvement in on-time performance and deployment of new aircraft. There is, however, a need to improve the product in its totality for making Air India a preferred airline of the customers, he stressed.
Arvind Jadhav
Arvind Jadhav

Mr Jadhav also asked employees to take a fresh look at their existing work practices and adopt a work culture that was contemporary, cost effective and productive. "We have to change with times to suit the competitive environment," he added.

The decision to cut the PLI came against the background of the severe financial crisis that the airline is facing as well as the discussions that it has been having with the Centre for assistance to tide over the present difficulties.

The Government is looking at a proposal for equity infusion of Rs 5000 crore into the airline over a period of three years. Out of this, Rs 2000 crore could be brought in by December this year.

But the Government has made it clear to the Air India that any assistance to it must be preceded by concrete steps to reduce costs and increase savings.

On Monday, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee had held a meeting in New Delhi with Civil Aviation Secretary M Madhavan Nambiar and Mr Jadhav to review the airline's turnaround plan.

The airline and the Civil Aviation Ministry have been working on the turnaround plan in consultation with a Committee of Secretaries (CoS) headed by Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrasekhar.

Among other things, the CoS had decided that the airline should appoint a Cost Auditor immediately to monitor, review and ensure that the cost reduction and operational efficiencies were effected.

Minister of State for Civil Aviation Praful Patel had said earlier that independent directors would be brought into the airline and a professional Chief Operating Officer would be inducted to assist the company's Chairman and Managing Director.

He said SBI Capital had been appointed to suggest a road map for the financial restructuring of the company in the short and medium term.

In July, Mr Patel had told Parliament that the accumulated losses of the National Aviation Company of India Limited (NACIL), which runs Air India after its merger with Indian Airlines, as on March 31 this year, were likely to be in the region of Rs 7200 crore.

He said that Air India and Indian Airlines had incurred losses of Rs 541.30 crore and Rs 230.97 crore, respectively, during 2006-07 before the merger.

He said that, in 2007-08, the combined airline posted a loss of Rs. 2226 crores and during 2008-09, the expected loss is approximately Rs.5000 crores.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had made a special mention of the airline in his Independence Day address on August 15, saying that the government was giving careful attention to the problems of Air India and would resolve them soon.

NNN

IAF women officers train for Everest expedition

An all-woman mountaineering team of twenty officers of the Indian Air Force (IAF) will attempt to scale Mount Everest, the world's tallest peak, in 2011.

Members of the team are currently undertaking several expeditions to prepare themselves for the challenge of climbing the 8848 metre peak.

Seven members of the team scale Mt Stok Kangri (6123 m) in Leh on August 11. Today, a 20-member team, led by Wg Cdr Bhavana Mehra, was flagged off for an expedition to Mt Bhagirathi-II (6512 m) in the Garhwal region of Uttarakhand.

The core group of women officers will follow this up with expeditions to Mt Satopanth (7075 m) and Mt Kamet (7757 m) during the post-monsoon season next year.

The team will also be exposed to further higher altitudes in 2011 before setting out for Mt Everest, an official press release added.

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ESIC to set up medical college in Patna

The Employees' State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) is setting up a medical college in Patna, Bihar, at a cost of Rs 600 crore.

The foundation stone for the college was laid in Patna today by Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, who lauded the services being rendered by the ESIC to the working class of the country.

Union Labour and Employment Minister Mallikarjun Kharge said the construction of the college would be completed in two years and the first academic session would start in 2013. He also said that the ESIC would continue to improve its services to workers all over the country.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar was the chief guest at the function.

As part of an initiative to help overcome the shortage of medical manpower and improve services in ESI Hospitals, the ESIC has drawn up plans to set up medical colleges, nursing colleges, dental colleges and training schools for paramedical staff in ESI Hospitals around the country.

In the first phase of the programme, eleven medical colleges and 12 post-graduate medical sciences and research institutes would be set up in the existing ESI Hospitals by the Corporation, an official press release said.

The Patna medical college is the first such project taken up by ESIC. The Bihar Government has alloted 25 acres of land for the project. It will have state-of-the-art design features and facilities, comparable to any modern medical college in the country, the release said.

The ESIC has the largest team of medical and para-medical personnel in India and one of the largest medical infrastructures in the world. It has as many as 144 hospitals, 42 hospital annexes, 1397 dispensaries and 1753 panel clinics, the release said.

The Corporation has also approved formation of Hospital Development Committeee for each hospital, which will look after the upgradation of facilities and its attached dispensaries, the release added.

The ESIC basically runs a social security scheme for workers, incorporating the features of an insurance organization as well as that of a service provider for health-related needs of the insured persons.

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5 H1N1 deaths in India, 305 fresh cases

Five more influenza A (H1N1) deaths were reported from India today, taking the toll due to the pandemic in the country so far to 285, an official statement said.

Two of the deaths were reported from Maharashtra (1 each in Pune and Nashik), two from Surat in Gujarat and one from Kanyakumari district in Tamil Nadu.

Besides, the Maharashtra government has informed the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare that three deaths that occurred earlier in the state had been confirmed as cases of swine flu by laboratory tests.

With these, Maharashtra now accounts for 117 of the deaths reported so far, while 85 have lost their lives in Karnataka, 28 each in Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh, 9 in Delhi, 4 each in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, 3 in Goa, 2 each in Haryana and Uttarakhand and 1 each in Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.

Meanwhile, as many as 305 fresh cases of the flu were reported from across the country, including 154 in Delhi, 39 in Maharashtra, 32 in Andhra Pradesh, 31 in Tamil Nadu, 20 in Karnataka, 13 in Haryana, 8 in Kerala, 4 in Gujarat, 3 in Uttar Pradesh and 1 in Jammu & Kashmir.

With these, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus reported so far in India has crossed the 9000-mark to touch 9284, the statement added.

NNN

Govt to set up NID at Hyderabad: Sharma

Union Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma today announced that the Government had decided to establish a campus of the National Institute of Design (NID) in Hyderabad.

Speaking at a seminar on pharmaceuticals in Hyderabad today, Mr Sharma said the institute would be set up in the memory of late Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, who died in a helicopter crash on September 2.

The NID, Ahmedabad, was set up in 1961 and has grown into an internationally acclaimed multi-disciplinary institution in the field of design education and research.

It is an autonomous body under the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

Apart from the under-graduate programmes that NID offers at Ahmedabad, it has also set up a post-graduate campus in Gandhinagar, the capital of Gujarat, and a research and development campus at Bangalore. NID offers post-graduate programmes in digital experience, retail experience and interface design at the Bangalore campus.

The Government had come up with plans some years ago for setting up four other NIDs in the country. In this connection, it is understood that some talks had been held initially with the Karnataka government on the requirement of land but they did not go far.

Around that time, it is learnt, Mr Reddy had initiated discussions with the Centre on setting up an NID in Hyderabad, but he died before a final decison was taken.

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Additional judges for Gauhati High Court

The President has appointed Mr Asok Potsangbam and Mr Pranoy Kumar Musahary as Additional Judges of the Gauhati High Court with effect from tomorrow, an official press release said here today.

In the case of Mr Potsangbam, the appointment will be till April 20, 2011, the date of his superannuation, while it will be for a period of two years for Mr Musahary, the release added.

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2 Central Universities in J&K, proposal for IIM dropped

The Union Government today announced that it had decided to set up two Central Universities in Jammu & Kashmir as a special dispensation and drop the proposal for establishing an Indian Institute of Management (IIM) in the state.

The decision to drop the IIM proposal was taken in view of the constraints of resources and the greater demand for a second Central University in the state, a press release issued by the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development said.

It said the Government had decided to set up two Central Universities in the state in view of its special status, with two separate regions with distinct geographical, social, cultural and ethnic characteristics.

"The Central Government has decided to establish, as a special dispensation, two appropriate Central Universities in the State – one in Jammu region and another in the Kashmir Valley. It is expected that this will meet the regional aspirations in the State. The Government proposes to undertake appropriate legislative measures in this regard shortly," it said.

According to the release, the two Central Universities will have instructional and research facilities in emerging branches of learning like information technology, biotechnology, nanosciences and so on and will set exemplary standards of education for the other universities in the State to emulate.

It said the savings from the decision to drop the proposal for an IIM would be used for the establishment of the second Central University in the state.

The Union Cabinet had on August 27 approved a proposal to set up seven new IIMs at Tiruchirapalli in Tamil Nadu, Ranchi in Jharkhand, Raipur in Chhattisgarh and Rohtak in Haryana as well as in Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand and Rajasthan.

Of these, the first four will be set up in the current financial year and the rest were expected to become functional from the next academic session.

The seven older IIMs are at Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Kolkata, Lucknow, Kozhikode, Indore and Shillong.

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IAF inducts Rapid Action Mobile Medical Hospital

An ultra-modern fully air-conditioned Rapid Action Mobile Medical Hospital was inducted into the Indian Air Force (IAF) today.

The induction ceremony at the IAF's Hindon Air Base in Ghaziabad, near here, was presided over by Vice-Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal P K Barbora.

Air Marshal P Madhusoodanan, Director General Medical Services (Air), who had conceptualised the need for such a facility, was also present, an official press release said.

The hospital, the first of its kind in the country, is a 25-bedded facility that can be deployed in the field or in a disaster area. It has a full complement of operation theatre, oxygen generating system and other sub-systems that would aid the military and civilians in both disaster areas and operational grounds.

According to the release, the facility can be transported by or by road and will serve as a key force multiplier to the expert disaster medical management teams on the ground who have till now been working under serious constraints.

More such units would be inducted and positioned in each command zone after evaluation so that the entire country is covered, Air Marshal Padhusoodanan added.

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Azad urges AIIMS doctors not to leave for private hospitals

Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Ghulam Nabi Azad today urged the doctors and faculty members of the prestigious All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) here not to leave the institution for the private sector, which often lured them with higher pay packets.

"As the Health Minister, both the private sector and the public sector are the same for me but as the President of AIIMS I will ask the doctors not to leave," he said at a function to mark the 54th Institute Day.

He said medicine, like politics, was a profession where people had to choose between making money and serving the people.

"One can choose between money and service, some people choose big money and less satisfaction and some less money and more satisfaction. I think in these professions one should go for more satisfaction," he said.

Mr Azad recalled that India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and then Health Minister Rajkumari Amrit Kaur had envisaged AIIMS as a centre of excellence and the top referral institute for the country.

But over the years, it has come be burdened with normal cases, he said, and pointed out that the Government had launched the revamping of the rural health system in the country.

He said the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) aimed to strengthen health and medical facilities at the district and village levels by 2012. Alongside, eight AIIMS-like institutes were being set up around the country and 19 medical colleges in different states were being upgraded. These steps would relieve AIIMS of much of its routine cases and enable it to become a perfect referral hospital for the country and the world, he said.

Mr Azad also underlined the need for upgradation of facilities in AIIMS and said the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) had offered to give land for part of the extension plans of the institute.

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Chandrayaan-1 detects presence of water on the Moon

Earth as viewed by Chandrayaan-1 on 22 July 2009 during the Solar Eclipse.
Earth as viewed by Chandrayaan-1 on 22 July 2009 during the Solar Eclipse.

The Indian Space Research Organisation ((ISRO) today said that, in a path-breaking finding, the Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) aboard the aborted Chandrayaan-1, India's first lunar orbiter, had indicated the presence of water molecules on the lunar surface extending from the lunar poles to about 60 degrees latitude.

An ISRO press release said hydroxyl, a molecule consisting of one oxygen atom and one hydrogen atom, was also found in the lunar soil.

Chandrayaan-1 India's first mission to the Moon, was launched on October 22 last year with the prime objective of finding traces of water on the lunar surface, besides mapping minerals and chemicals on the moon. The mission came to a premature end on August 29 this year when the mission control lost radio control with the spacecraft.

Chandrayaan-1 was carrying a host of sophisticated instruments like Moon Impact Probe (MIP) and Hyper-Spectral Imager (HySI) from ISRO as well as Moon Mineralogy Mapper and Miniature Synthetic Aperture Radar (Mini-SAR) from NASA of the United States to collect relevant data from the lunar surface.

"During the mission, excellent quality of data from all these instruments has been obtained. While M3  has covered nearly 97% of the lunar surface, some of the other instruments have covered more than 90%," the press release said.

The M3 was one of two instruments that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) had contributed to the mission.

M3 was a state-of-the-art imaging spectrometer that was expected to provide the first map of the entire lunar surface at high spatial and spectral resolution, revealing the minerals of which it is made.

Scientists will use this information to answer questions about the Moon's origin and development and the evolution of terrestrial planets in the early solar system. Future astronauts will use it to locate resources, possibly including water, that can support exploration of the Moon and beyond.

According to the release, the confirmation of water molecules and hydroxyl molecule in the moon's polar regions raises new questions about its origin and its effect on the mineralogy of the moon.

M3  measures the intensity of reflected sunlight from the lunar surface at infrared wavelengths, splitting the spectral colours of the lunar surface into small enough bits revealing finer details of the lunar surface composition.

This enabled identification of the presence of various minerals on the lunar surface that have characteristic spectral signature at specific wavelengths. Since reflection of sunlight occurs near the moon’s surface, such studies provide information on the mineral composition of the top crust of a few millimeters of the lunar surface.

The Indian instrument HySI, that covers the wavelength region 0.4 to 0.9 micron, also provided additional data in this regard that helped in better understanding of moon’s mineral composition.

"The findings from M3  onboard Chandrayaan-1 clearly shows a marked signature in the infrared region of 2.7 to 3.2 micron in the absorption spectrum, which provided a clear indication of the presence of hydroxyl and water molecules," the release said.

The scientific team, after detailed analysis, has come to the conclusion that there are traces of hydroxyl (OH) and water (H2O) molecules on the surface of the moon closer to the polar region. It is also concluded that they are in the form of a thin layer embedded in rocks and chemical compounds on the surface of the moon and the quantity is also extremely small of the order of about 700 ppm.

"These molecules could have come from the impact of comets or radiation from the sun. But the most probable source could be low energy hydrogen carried by solar wind impacting on the minerals on lunar surface. This in turn forms OH or H2O molecules by deriving the oxygen from metal oxide," the release said.

Following these findings, the scientific team revisited the data from NASA’s Deep Impact Mission launched in 2005 which carried an instrument similar to M3 .

The Deep Impact Probe observed the moon during the period June 2-9 this year. This, along with some laboratory tests carried out from samples brought from Apollo missions, has confirmed that the signature is genuine and there is a thin layer of surface mineral which contains traces of hydroxyl and water molecules.

Earth as viewed by 

Chandrayaan-1 on 25 Mar. 2009 at 07:03:03 UTC
Earth as viewed by Chandrayaan-1 on 25 Mar. 2009 at 07:03:03 UTC

The M3  observations are further strengthened by results obtained from the analysis of archived data of lunar observation in 1999 by another NASA Mission, Cassini, on its way to Saturn. This data set also revealed clear signatures of both OH and H2O absorption features on the lunar surface, the release said.

The analysis of the huge volume of M3 data was carried out by a joint team of scientists from US and India. The lead role was taken up by Dr.Carle Pieters, Principal Investigator from Brown University, USA and Prof. J N Goswami, Principal Scientist, Chandrayaan-1 from Physical Research Laboratory of India`s Department of Space. The findings were published in Sciencexpress in its edition of today. 

Analysis of data from other instruments on board Chandrayaan-1 is in progress, the release added.

Photos: Courtesy ISRO

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