Speaker examining notice for privilege motion against PM

Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar today said she was considering a notice of privilege motion against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh given by the Opposition on his statement on WikiLeaks expose regarding cash-for-vote scam.

As soon as the House assembled after Holi today, the Opposition tried to raise the issue, but the Speaker told them that she had received the notice and she would give her ruling after examining it.

"I have received the notice only at 1000 hrs, and it is under my consideration," she said.

While all this was going on, Congress member Jagdambika Pal raised a point of order under rule 376 which says that no member would give publicity to a notice unless it had been admitted by the House. He said in this case, the BJP had been publicising to the media for the last few days that it would bring in a privilege motion against the Prime Minister.

The Speaker responded saying that she would give her ruling on the issue.


West Bengal polls: EC on two-day visit to Kolkata from Tuesday

The full team of the Election Commission (EC) will be on a two-day Kolkata visit beginning today to take stock of the preparations for the April-May elections to the West Bengal legislative assembly.

During the visit, Chief Election Commissioner S Y Quraishi and Election Commissioners V S Sampath and H S Brahma will meet the representatives of the political parties apart from interacting with the district and state administrations to take stock of the situation.

The state will have elections in six phases from April 18 to May 10.

The first phase of voting will take place on April 18, second phase on April 23, third phase on April 27, fourth phase on May 3, fifth phase on May 7 and sixth phase on May 10.

The total number of assembly constituencies in West Bengal is 294, of which 68 are reserved for the Scheduled Castes and 16 for the Scheduled Tribes.


SC extends Hasan Ali's remand by 3 days

The Supreme Court today extended by another three days the custody of Pune-based businessman Hasan Ali Khan, who has been accused of evasion of taxes worth crores of rupees.

A bench comprising Justices Aftab Alam and R M Lodha, in a special sitting, however directed the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to look after his health and medical requirements.

The ED assured the apex court that it will take care of the health of Khan, who is facing allegations of evading Income Tax to the tune of about Rs 50,000 crore.

His four-day remand granted by the top court of the country earlier expired today. Therefore, the ED approached the court with a request for extension of his police remand by another four days.

There are Holi vacations going on in the Court and it will reopen on March 28.

According to ED, Khan has illegally stashed away over $ 8 billion in Swiss bank accounts and he and his wife are liable to pay income tax to the tune of Rs 71,000 crore.

The court had earlier asked the ED and the CBI to book Khan under the anti-terror laws.


Vaiko rules out reconsidering decision to boycott polls

Notwithstanding the request made by the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Marumalarchi DMK (MDMK) General Secretary Vaiko today ruled out the possibility of reconsidering his earlier decision to boycott the Tamil Nadu and Puducherry assembly polls, slated on April 13.

Addressing the party workers in his home turf of Kalingapatti village, here, the firebrand politician said, "I’ll stand by my decision and there is no going back."

"A situation has emerged in which MDMK was forced to keep away from the elections and to watch the political developments in the state. MDMK will emerge as a third alternative against the DMK and AIADMK in the coming years in Tamil Nadu," he said.

The MDMK, which was in alliance with the opposition AIADMK since 2006, quit the AIADMK-led alliance following differences over seat- sharing and decided to stay away from the polls. It also decided not to form a third front or go it alone, as it would lead to baseless criticisms that MDMK was instrumental in the victory of a particular front in the polls, he said.

Vaiko had demanded at least 21 seats from AIADMK, which offered only nine, leading to the breakdown of relations between the two parties.


Archrivals DMK and AIADMK to fight it out in 84 constituencies

The ruling DMK and the opposition AIADMK candidates will lock horns directly in 84 of the 234 constituencies as the battle lines were drawn for the April 13 Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu.

After reaching an amicable agreement with its principal ally, the DMDK led by actor-politician Vijayakanth, AIADMK General Secretary J Jayalalithaa, herself a star of the yesteryears, today released the fresh list of party candidates for 160 seats.

The DMK, which is contesting 119 seats, will take on the AIADMK in 84 constituencies, while its allies, the Congress will do so in 38 constituencies, the PMK in 21, the VCK in eight and the Kongunadu Munnetra Kazhagam in six constituencies.

The AIADMK has fielded candidates both against Chief Minister M Karunanidhi in Tiruvarur and Deputy Chief Minister M K Stalin in Kolathur in the city.

Kudavasal M Rajendran, a local office bearer, is pitted against Mr Karunanidhi and senior AIADMK leader Saidai S Duraisamy is taking on Mr Stalin.

The DMK has fielded party local functionary N Anand, a science graduate, to take on Ms Jayalalaitha in Srirangam in Tiruchirapalli district.

Like the DMK, which has renominated all but two of its ministers, the AIADMK has also nominated as many as 18 former ministers.

The DMK has denied tickets to electricity minister Arcot N Veerasamy and minister for Cooperation Ko Si Mani on health grounds, while the AIADMK denied tickets to Presidium Chairman E Madhusoodanan, C Ponnaiyan and former DMK Minister Jenifer S Chandran.

The ruling DMK is contesting 119 seats, after allotting 63 seats to the Congress, 30 to PMK, 10 to VCK, seven to Kongunadu Munnetra Kazhagam (KMK), three to IUML and one each to Moovendar Munnetra Kazhagam(MMK) and Perunthalaivar Makkal Katchi.

The AIADMK is contesting the maximum number of 160 seats. It has allotted 41 to Vijayakanth's DMDK, 12 to CPI(M), 10 to CPI, three to Manithaneya Makkal Katchi(MMK), two each to Puthiya Tamizhagam and another star Saratkumar's All India Samathuva Makkal Katchi and one each to Republican Party of India, All India Moovendar Munnetra Kazhagam and Kongu Ilaignar Peravai.

The AIADMK will take on the Dalit party Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) of Tirumavalavan in eight constituenices and the Kongunadu Munnetra Kazhagam in six of the seven seats, it is contesting.

Vijayakanth's DMDK candiates will lock horns with those of DMK in 18 constituencies, the Congress in 15 constituencies and the PMK in six seats.

Afer the DMK released the list of candidates, party nominees, including Mr Stalin and senior Ministers K Anbazhagan and M R K Panneerselvam, started filing their nomination papers.

The AIADMK, which faced a crisis after its allies raised a banner of revolt when it unilaterally announced its list of candidates for 160 seats on March 16, settled the issues and released the fresh list of candidates today.

The AIADMK, however, suffered a setback, when MDMK, its long-time trusted ally, broke away from the front after failing to reach an agreement on seat sharing.

A day after the DMK launches its election campaign in Tiruvarur on March 23, Ms Jayalalithaa would kickstart her 18-day election tour.

Though the DMK and AIADMK announced the lists of party candidates, their allies are yet to announce candidates even as the clock is ticking away for filing nominations.

In the DMK-led front, the Congress has to announce candidates. Most of its other allies, including PMK and VCK announced their candidates.

In the AIADMK-led camp, the DMDK has released the first list of candidates for 11 seats. It is expected to come out with the full list tomorrow. The Left parties are also yet to announce their candidates.


Vijaykanth to contest from Rishivandiyam in Tamil Nadu polls

Actor-politician Vijayakanth will seek election from Rishivandiyam in Villupuram district in the April 13 Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu.

The DMDK today released the first list of 11 candidates for the polls. The actor, who was elected from Virudhachalam in the neighbouring Cuddalore district in the 2006 elections, has changed his constituency this time.

He was the lone winner for the party, which had contested on itsown in all but two of the 234 constituencies in the 2006 assembly elections.

Vijayakanth will take on sitting Congress MLA, S Sivaraj if the Congress renominates him in the constituency. The DMK has allotted the seat to the Congress.

The DMDK is contesting 41 seats in alliance with the AIADMK. Party Presidium Chairman and former AIADMK minister Panruti S Ramachandran, who unsuccessfuly contested from his native town of Panrutiin 2006, has also shifted his constituency. He is contesting in Alandur in the city now.


Lawmakers form panel as Dalai Lama declines to reconsider retirement

As Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama turned down the plea to reconsider his retirement from public life, Tibetan parliament-in-exile here today constituted a committee to examine the way forward to pave the way for change.

Tenzin Norbu, a spokesperson for the parliamentary secretariat, told UNI that a three-member parliamentary committee comprising Prime Minister Samdhong Rinpoche and Deputy Speaker Dolma Gyari would study how to move ahead over the devolution of power and submit its proposals in Parliament on March 23.

Keeping in mind the holistic view of the Dalai Lama, the lawmakers were of the view that something needed to be done in this regard, he added.

"Now it doesn't make any sense to again beseech the Dalai Lama. The committee would evolve some sort of programme to fulfil his desire," he said.

A parliamentarian said there was also demand from the lawmakers to redraft the Charter of Tibetans (constitution) for smooth transition of powers from the Dalai Lama to the new elected leadership.

"There was also demand from the parliamentarians that the issue should be referred to the new Parliament and Cabinet that would come into being by June," he added.

The tenure of the 14th Parliament is coming to an end by May and the voting to elect the next Kalon Tripa or Prime Minister-in-exile and 43 members of the Parliament, was held yesterday. The results would be declared on April 27.

The Dalai Lama formally announced his political retirement at the onset of the Tibetan parliament's budget session on March 14. On March 18, Parliament passed a resolution, urging him to reconsider his retirement plans. The resolution was signed by 37 of the 38 members.

A day later, the 75-year-old Nobel laureate publicly appealed to the Tibetans to accept his decision by making necessary amendments in Charter of Tibetans to pass on his political authority to an elected leader.

"The rule by spiritual leaders or the rule by kings is an outdated concept. In reality, I have been describing myself as a semi-retired person for the last 10 years," the spiritual head told a gathering here.

The Dalai Lama has lived in India since 1959 when he fled his homeland after a failed uprising against Communist rule. His government-in-exile is based here, but is not recognised by any country.

Some 140,000 Tibetans live in exile around the world, over 100,000 of them in India.


Malik meets Pillai ahead of India-Pak Home Secretary-level talks

Ahead of the Home Secretary-level talks between India and Pakistan on March 28 and 29, Pakistan High Commissioner to India Shahid Malik today met Union Home Secretary G K Pillai and struck an optimistic note, saying Islamabad is positive and open-minded about the proposed dialogue.

The two sides are expected to discuss issues concerning terrorism and the progress of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack trial.

Mr Malik and Mr Pillai also discussed the agenda for the proposed talks, the first structured bilateral secretary-level meeting on counter-terrorism after India and Pakistan decided to resume comprehensive talks.

Talking to reporters after meeting Mr Pillai, Mr Malik said, "We are positive. I came with the message for this very important meeting, which is a restart of the process of dialogue between the two countries. We are open minded and I got the same message from the Indian side also."

Mr Pillai and his Pakistani counterpart Chaudhry Qamar Zaman are expected to hold a dialogue on a host of issues, including terrorism and progress in 26/11 trial.

New Delhi has already conveyed time and again its dismay over the pace of 26/11 trial in Pakistan.


Inquiry commission summons Asaram Bapu, son in boys' death case

The Justice D K Trivedi Commission of Inquiry, looking into the mysterious death of two boys of the Asaram Ashram here in 2008, has summoned godman Asaram Bapu and his son Narayan Sai to appear before it on March 25.

The Commission has so far examined 150 witnesses in connection with the case. It has observed that, considering the statements by the witnesses and the evidence gathered so far, it became necessary to summon Asaram Bapu and his son Narayan Sai in connection with the case.

The Commission's term expires on March 31.

The summons come in the wake of a demand made by the parents of Dipesh Vaghela and Abhishek Vaghela, who had said that the godman's and his son's role in the deaths of two the students of the gurukul should be investigated.

The bodies of Abhishek (11) and Dipesh (10), who were missing from the gurukul, were found on the bank of the Sabarmati river, a few yards away from Asaram Ashram school, on July 5, 2008.

The issue of the death of two cousins had led to violent protests by people and the Ashram was also attacked.

Parents of both the boys had alleged that they had been killed in Asaram Bapu's ashram as part of some tantrik ritual and then the bodies were dumped on the river bed. The protest made the Gujarat government appoint a Commission to look into the circumstances of the deaths.


No need for my son to contest bypoll: Deve Gowda

Former Prime Minister and Janata Dal(S) supremo H D Deve Gowda today said there was no need for his son and former Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy to contest the by-election for Channapatanna Assembly seat as general elections to the State Assembly were just two years away.

"There is no need to field a frontline candidate for the seat and a temporary arrangement will do," Mr Gowda told reporters at Ejjalaghatta village in Mandya district, about 100 km from here, where he participated in a religious function.

Mr Deve Gowda was angry at his son as he did not consult him before bowing to his followers" "pressure" after a meeting at Chennapatna last evening.

Three constituencies -- Jagalur, Bangarpet and Channapatna -- will have bye-elections on April 9 following the resignation of opposition Congress and Janata Dal(S) members under "Operation Lotus" of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which allegedly attempted to reduce the strength of the opposition members in the Assembly to safeguard its slender majority.

Mr Gowda said Mr Kumaraswamy was a Chief Ministerial candidate and there was no need for him to contest a bye-election. "This is my personal opinion," he said.

He said the candidates for the three Assembly segments had not been finalised by the party yet. They will be announced later today, he said. He called upon the people of Karnataka to come out to "oust" the "corrupt" BJP Government in the state. "The time has come now," he added.

The JD(S) MP from Mandya, Mr N Chaluvanaraynaswamy, who was also present, said that, due to pressure from the party workers at yesterday’s meeting, Mr Kumaraswamy announced that he would contest in the by-elections from Channapattana constituency. However, the party had not taken a final decision on the issue yet, he said.

Mr Kumaraswamy, who always had one foot in state politics even though he was elected to Lok Sabha from Ramanagaram in 2008, jumped into the electoral fray after he met his followers in Channapatna. The followers vociferously demanded that he contest the poll and forced him to agree.

This comes in the wake of the dissident activities in the ruling BJP gaining momentum against Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa.

Mr Kumaraswamy has put the BJP Government in a tight spot by "exposing" several alleged illegal acts of corruption and misuse of office for gain by the Chief Minister.

However, Mr Yeddyurappa has flatly denied the allegation and tried to turn the tables on Mr Kumraswamy by bringing out cases of corruption against him and his family when he was the Chief Minister with BJP's help in the state for 20 months post 2006.

The decision of Mr Kumaraswamy to re-enter state politics could mean bad news for Mr Yeddyurappa as he is making all-out efforts to dislodge the BJP government which came to power in May 2008 in Karnataka.


Stalin files nomination papers, says DMK will sweep polls

DMK Treasurer and Tamil Nadu Deputy Chief Minister M K Stalin filing his nomination papers for the April 13 Tamil Nadu Assembly elections, in Chennai on March 21, 2011. UNI PHOTO
DMK Treasurer and Tamil Nadu Deputy Chief Minister M K Stalin filing his nomination papers for the April 13 Tamil Nadu Assembly elections, in Chennai on March 21, 2011. UNI PHOTO

Tamil Nadu Deputy Chief Minister and Chief Minister M Karunanidhi's son M K Stalin today filed his nomination papers for the April 13 Assembly elections.

Mr Stalin, who is contesting the polls from the newly-carved out Kolathur constituency in the city, filed his papers before Returning Officer Rajaratinam at Ayanavaram Zonal Office of the Chennai Corporation.

He was accompanied by ruling DMK MLA V S Babu, who is also the party North Chennai District Secretary and members of the alliance parties.

Mr Stalin, who is also the DMK Treasurer, had earlier contested from the Thousand Lights Constituency in the previous four elections and scored a hat-trick of wins.

Later, talking to reporters, Mr Stalin said the DMK-led front would sweep the polls and Mr Karunanidhi would assume office as Chief Minister for a record sixth term.

The prospects of the DMK-Congress combine in all the 234 constituencies were bright and the DMK would retain power, he added.

Stating that the DMK had fulfilled the promises made in the 2006 poll manifesto, he said the DMK's manifesto for this election had already become a hit among the people.

"People across the State are already talking about the manifesto," he added.


Ambedkar's birth anniversary on April 14 declared holiday

The Central Government has decided to declare April 14, 2011, Thursday, as a closed holiday on account of the birthday of Dr B R Ambedkar, the architect of the Indian Constitution, for all its offices, including industrial establishments, throughout India.

The holiday is also being notified in exercise of powers conferred by Section 25 of Negotiable Instruments Act 1881 (26 of 1881), an official press release added.


Congress to contest 65 seats in West Bengal under pact with Trinamool

The Congress on Monday reached an understanding with the Trinamool Congress under which it was agreed that they would contest from 65 and 229 seats, respectively, in the April-May West Bengal Assembly elections.

File photo of Trinamool Congress President and Union Railways Minister Mamata Banerji and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.
File photo of Trinamool Congress President and Union Railways Minister Mamata Banerji and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

Two days after "near breakdown" of talks with the Trinamool Congress (TMC) over seat-sharing for the April-May West Bengal Assembly elections, the Congress today reached an understanding with the TMC under which it was agreed that they would contest from 65 and 227 seats, respectively.

"The Indian National Congress has entered into an arrangement of seat adjustment with the Trinamool Congress for the West Bengal Legislative Assembly election, 2011. As per the arrangement, the Congress will contest 65 seats and the Trinamool will contest 227 seats in the West Bengal Legislative Assembly," Congress General Secretary in charge for West Bengal Shakeel Ahmed told reporters here.

The announcement came three days after the TMC's unilateral announcement of 228 party candidates for the State Assembly elections pushed the alliance between the two parties for the polls to the brink of collapse.

Ms Banerjee released a list of 228 party candidates for the Assembly elections, keeping aside 64 and two seats, respectively, for the Congress and the SUCI.

Ms Banerjee's announcement set off hectic activities in Congress circles with senior Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee holding consultations with Congress President Sonia Gandhi at her residence this morning.

Sources in the party said Mr Mukherjee also talked to Ms Banerjee over the telephone to resolve the deadlock.

Today's announcement came just ahead of the deadline set by Ms Banerjee for the Congress to clarify its stand over seat-sharing. Several rounds of talks between Mr Mukherjee and Ms Banerjee last week had failed to resolve the issue.

Political observers said that the Congress agreeing to contest 65 seats was a come down from its earlier demand for 98 seats.

Mr Ahmed, who was accompanied by West Bengal PCC president Manas Bhuria, said the agreement was aimed at ensuring an end to the rule of the Left Front government in West Bengal.

"We are confident that this alliance will give a chance to the people of West Bengal to end the misrule of the Left Front Government for the last 34 years. The Congress and the Trinamool Congress will work in close cooperation with each other to achieve the common objective of the end of the CPI(M)-led Left Front misrule in the state," he said.

On a question whether the agreement was a compromise on the part of the Congress, which had all along been demanding 98 seats for itself in the agreement, Mr Ahmed said, "When more than one party forges an alliance, every party wants to get as many seats as possible. But on negotiations, the parties achieve a mutually agreeable number. There is no question of compromise when two parties agreed to a negotiated settlement. We all should follow it."

He said the agreement was a reflection of the will of the people of West Bengal who wanted that the Left Front government should go.

"People of West Bengal want that the Left Front government should go. This agreement has given a fillip to that idea," he said.

Elections for the 294 seats to the West Bengal Assembly will be held in six phases from April 18-May 10.

In Kolkata, Ms Banerjee expressed happiness over the agreement, saying, "We will fight the coming elections on one platform."

"We are happy to declare that our alliance with the Congress here is a reality now. We have an alliance in Delhi and we will fight the coming elections under one platform," she said.

Ms Banerjee said that her party would field candidates for 227 seats, while the SUCI would fight from two constituencies.

"The formation of the alliance is an important development as it will help oust the Left Front government from power in West Bengal ruined by the Marxists' rule in 35 years," she said.

Ms Banerjee said the Congress had been given Canning (East) seat, where Trinamool Congress leader Idris Ali was the aspirant earlier, adding Mr Ali would now fight from Jalangi from where previously Ms Mahua Mitra was the candidate. She said the Trinamool candidate would now fight from Jamuria, while the Congress would field its candidate in Phansideoa. She also announced some changes in respect of  party candidates in Entally, Khejuri and Itahar.

Ms Banerjee, who also released the poll manifesto of the party, said her party was giving the highest priority to good governance with equal importance to agriculture and industry.

Employment generation, setting up of land bank, implementation of Sachar Committee recommendation and improvement of basic facilities like electricity and drinking water were the other areas where her party was giving thrust, she said.

"It is a tough and challenging job, but we are committed to our target of converting the state as 'Health and Home for all'," Ms Banerjee said.


Moderate quake jolts Hindukush region of Afghanistan, Kashmir valley

An earthquake of moderate intensity, measuring 5.7 on the Richter scale, was recorded in the Hindukush region of Afghanistan and felt in most parts of the Kashmir valley, among other places.

A bulletin from the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said the quake, which had its epicentre at latitude 36.5 degrees North and longitude 70.9 degrees East, occurred at 15.19 hours IST at a depth of 166 km.

At many places in the Kashmir valley, people rushed out of buildings as a precautionary measure. There were no immediate reports of any damage due to the earthquake, sources said.

A UNI report said the tremors were also felt in Delhi and Noida as well as parts of Rajasthan, including Jaipur.

"Light tremors were also felt in some parts of Delhi and Noida," an official of seismology department of the IMD said.


Father-son duo drown in Bhakra canal in Haryana

A man and his son drowned when their car fell into the Bhakra canal in Narwana town of this district of Haryana this morning.

Police said the incident occurred when Prem (50) was teaching his son Om Parkash (22), a student of B Tech, how to drive a car.

According to the police, the father and son had come near the canal for amorning walk. They had parked the vehicle along the canal and the son wanted to learn driving. The car slipped into the canal as the son started driving it. The duo drowned in the canal along with the vehicle.

Police later pulled out the vehicle from the water along with the two bodies.


Pondy MDMK MLA P R Siva quits, to join AINRC

Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) Legislator P R Siva today resigned from the Puducherry Legislative Assembly.

Mr Siva submitted his resignation letter to Assembly Secretary M Sivaprakasam. He will be joining the All India N R Congress (AINRC) floated by former Chief Minister N Rangasamy.

Later, he told newspersons he was quitting MDMK with a heavy heart.

After MDMK Chief Vaiko announced in Chennai the party would not contest the Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, he held discussion with his supporters who exerted pressure on him to continue public work, he said. Hence, he quit the MDMK and would be joining AINRC, he said.

Mr Siva contested the Assembly elections for the first time on MDMK ticket from Thirunallar and won defeating Mr Kamalakannan, the Congress candidate, by a margin of 285 votes.

Mr Siva is expected to contest for the same seat as the AINRC candidate this time.


NIT student's body recovered from hostel in Agartala

The body of a final year student was found hanging in his room at a hostel of the National Institute of Technology (NIT), Agartala, last night.

Police today said the deceased, identified as Abhisek Sarkar, was a resident of Ranaghat of West Bengal and pursuing Bachelor of Transport Engineering in the institution.

Abhisek was missing since March 17 and it was reported to police by the hostel superintendent yesterday. The police conducted a search and recovered his body from the room. Investigations were on, the police added.


8 killed, 20 injured in lorry-bus collision in Andhra Pradesh

At least eight people were killed and 20 injured when a lorry collided with a Vijayawada-bound Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation (APSRTC) bus on the National Highway, near Prattipadu, about 80 km from here today.

Four of the injured were in a critical condition at the Guntur Government Hospital here. The bus from Addanki of Ongole Depot was en route Vijayawada and stopped at Chalakuluripeta where it picked up passengers less than half an hour before the collision at the Yanamadala Diversion on the National Highway. The lorry was going to Chennai.

Six of the bus passengers and two of lorry died on the spot. Four of the victims have been identified as passengers who had boarded the bus at Chilukuluripeta, APSRTC sources said.

Police were trying to identify the victims and the cause of the collision.


India expresses concern over Libya violence, calls for peaceful resolution of differences

India today said it viewed with grave concern the continuing violence, strife and deteriorating humanitarian situation in Libya.

In a statement, the Ministry of External Affairs said it regretted the air strikes that are taking place.

"As stated earlier by India, the measures adopted should mitigate and not exacerbate an already difficult situation for the people of Libya," it said.

India hoped this would not lead to greater harm to innocent civilians, foreign nationals and diplomatic missions and their personnel still in Libya.

"India calls upon all parties to abjure use of or the threat of use of force and to resolve their differences through peaceful means and dialogue in which the UN and regional organisations should play their roles," the statement added.


17th accused in SIMI camp case held in Kerala

The immigration officials at Nedumbassery Airport here today arrested the 17th accused in the Panayikulam SIMI camp case when he landed at the airport from Sharjah.

The arrested person, identified as Nissar Ibrahim (26), was absconding for over one-and-half-years, Imigration sources told UNI.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) had issued a look-out notice against him and the immigration officials identified him during a routine immigration check on his arrival at the airport from Sharjah by Air India Express flight AI934 at 0515 hrs, the sources said.

Nissar was being interrogated by the internal security wing of the airport. Later, he would be handed over to NIA, which was the investigating agency in the case.

The Union Home Ministry had transferred the case to NIA for investigation on December 24, 2009.

According to the NIA chargesheet, a secret meeting of SIMI was held in the Happy Auditorium at Panayikulam near Aluva. The meeting was allegedly anti-Government and was seditious, inflammatory, creating religious animosity and above all provocative in nature.

The NIA had filed a chargesheet in the case on August 15, 2006, and had listed 17 accused, including Nissar, in this regard.

While an accused Rasheed turned approver, Nissar went absconding in the Gulf and efforts were made for his extradition.

The 17 accused people have been accused of entering into a criminal conspiracy to advocate, incite and abet unlawful activities for secession of Kashmir from India and to bring hatred and contempt towards the Government of India.

The accused persons include P A Shaduly, Abdul Rasik, Ansar, Nizamudeen, Shammi, Shameer, Abdul Hakeem, Nizar, Mohayudheen Kutty, Muhammed Nissar, Ashkar, Nissar, Salih, Hashim, Riyas, Muhammed Naisam and Nissar Ibrahim.


ULFA to stay away from Assam polls: Arabinda

The United Liberation Front of Asam (ULFA) faction that is currently engaged in talks with the Centre has decided to stay away from next month's Assam Assembly elections.

The pro-talks faction, led by the outfit's "chairman" Arabinda Rajkhowa, took the decision to remain neutral in the polls at a two-day meeting of the outfit's leaders and cadres at Amguri, in upper Assam's Sibsagar district that concluded yesterday.

"The ULFA has decided to remain neutral in the coming Assembly elections. We will have no role whatsoever in the polls," Rajkhowa said after the meeting.

The state goes to the polls in two phases on April 4 and 11.

During the meeting, the outfit's leaders also informed the cadres regarding the progress in the peace talks with Central government representatives in New Delhi last month.

The ULFA leadership had sat for the first round of formal talks with the government in the national capital in February.

However, a faction of the outfit, led by its elusive "c-in-c" Paresh Barua, is still outside the talks group.

The faction had last week claimed responsibility for an attack on the ruling Congress' head office Rajiv Gandhi Bhavan in Guwahati, after warning of striking against the ruling party.


AIADMK, DMDK identify seats, battle lines drawn for TN polls

The battle lines were drawn for the April 13 polls to the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly as the three-day old crisis in the Opposition AIADMK-led Front over identification of constituencies ended early this morning.

After mollifying the Left Parties and some minor partners over the last two days, the AIADMK managed to keep its flock together by placating its principal ally, the fledgling Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK) of actor-politician Vijayakanth, by successfully identifying the 41 constituencies allotted to it.

After marathon discussions and hard bargaining that lasted more than 12 hours between the DMDK panel and AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa at her Poes Garden residence, the list of constituencies to be contested by the DMDK has been identified.

Both the parties were engaged in hectic parleys and marathon discussions over identification of seats.

The talks remained inconclusive after more than 12 hours of discussions that lasted till 0400 hrs yesterday morning, before the deal was clinched after yet another round of marathon discussions that started last evening and ended shortly before dawn this morning.

"We have identified the 41 constituencies allotted to us. The list will be submitted to DMDK Founder Vijayakanth who will analyse it and sign the pact with Ms Jayalalithaa," DMDK presidium chairman "Panruti" S Ramachandran, who led the talks along with Youth Wing leader L K Sudeesh, told reporters.


Congress finalises seat sharing with UDF partners in Kerala

The Congress and its allies in the United Democratic Front (UDF) in Kerala have reached an agreement on seat sharing for next month's elections to the State Legislative Assembly.

Under the agreement, the Congress will contest on 81 out of 140 seats, seven more than the number of seats it contested in the 2006 Assembly polls, Congress general secretary in charge for Kerala Madhusudan Mistry said today.

The Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) will contest on 24 seats (same as 2006 polls), Kerala Congress on 15, Socialist Janata on seven, JSS on four, CMP on three, Kerala Congress (Jacob) on three, Kerala Congress (B) on two and RSP on one seat.

The Assembly polls for 140 seats in Kerala will be held on April 13, while the counting of votes will be taken up on May 13.


Health Ministry rapped by Parliamentary panel over AIIMS affairs

The Management of the country's top health institute, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences(AIIMS) in Delhi, has come in for sharp criticism by the Parliamentary Standing Committee for the way it was running the institution.

"The Committee is deeply disturbed by the manner in which the Department is treating its top most institute of the country, more so when there is no scarcity of earmarked funds for its development activities," it said in its latest report tabled in the current session of Parliament.

The Committee found that the Management was not paying attention to the improvement and addition of infrastructure or filling the vacancies while the patient load was increasing "alarmingly" day by day.

It noted that projects had been delayed despite having been approved by the Governing Body as back as 2008.

The Committee was surprised to note that even very small works like additional lift in hospital, expansion of existing cafeteria in eastern campus and construction of community centre were not progressing.

It also expressed its unhappiness over what it called "the dilly-dallying" approach of the Department on the issue of setting up the Burns Unit.

The Committee found untenable the Management's answer that the project was dropped to avoid duplication. Funds to the tune of Rs 48 crore had been earmarked for the purpose during the 11th Plan.

Moreover, availbility of any service at Safdarjung Hospital could not be made the criteria for not initiating the same at AIIMS.

"If that be so, the same argument can be put forth for not adding a particular service at Safdarjung Hospital since the same was available at the next door AIIMS," it said and asked for reviving the proposal and expediting the setting up of the Burns Unit.

The AIIMS authorities have also drawn flak for not filling up the large number of faculty level vacancies.

On vacancies in other categories of posts, it said the patient load was increasing day by day as the institute caters to the need of poor patients from the remotest corners of the country in the absence of quality healthcare in those areas.

"The Department needs to not only fill up the existing vacancies urgently, but also to reassess its manpower requirements regulary. The Department's response in this regard is silent," it said.


MDMK quits AIADMK-led front, to boycott TN polls

In a dramatic development, the MDMK led by Vaiko on Sunday quit the AIADMK-led front and decided to boycott the April 13 elections to the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly.

File photo of MDMK Supremo Vaiko. UNI PHOTO
"File photo of MDMK Supremo Vaiko. UNI PHOTO
File photo of AIADMK Supremo J Jayalalithaa. UNI PHOTO
File photo of AIADMK Supremo J Jayalalithaa. UNI PHOTO

In a dramatic development, the MDMK led by Vaiko today quit the AIADMK-led front and decided to boycott the April 13 elections to the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly.

A resolution to this effect was adopted at the marathon high-level committee and district secretaries meeting of the party, which concluded around 0400 hrs this morning.

The five-page resolution adopted at the meeting said the MDMK also decided against forging a new front or go it alone in the polls as it would lead to baseless criticisms that it was helping a group to win the elections.

"Following the footsteps of rationalist leader Periyar and late Chief Minister C N Annadurai, the MDMK will not crave for power by surrendering its self-respect," it said and decided to boycott the April 13 polls to Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.

It said the party would however, continue to work for the welfare of Tamils and to protect the ideals of the Dravidian movement.

The resolution said the MDMK, which has been a reliable ally of the AIADMK since 2006, was pained over the manner in which it was treated by the AIADMK leadership.

"The attitude of the AIADMK leadership while dealing with the MDMK in seat-sharing agreement and the manner in which the party has been treated, has hurt the sentiments of the party cadres," it said.

It also accused AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa of ill-treating the party and said there was no change in her "arrogant and unilateral" attitude over the years.

"Our belief that she might have changed her attitude over the years, has proved wrong," it added.

After she made her stand crystal clear by announcing candidates for 160 seats on March 16 after allotting the balance 74 seats for her allies, the MDMK decided it would not be prudent to face the electorate as part of the front headed by AIADMK and decided to boycott the polls.

The resolution said the MDMK decided to sever ties with the AIADMK after the latter did not allocate 21 seats demanded by the party to contest the polls.

The AIADMK, which had started with the offer of six seats, held several rounds of discussions, scaled it up to eight seats, brought it down to seven, and finally said it would allot only 12 seats, which was not acceptable to the MDMK.

The MDMK, which had started with an offer of 35 seats, scaled down its demand to 21, but the AIADMK did not concede it.

The AIADMK's attitude showed that it wanted to insult the MDMK and make it to walk out of the front on its own, it charged.

"As a long-time and trusted ally, the AIADMK should have invited the MDMK first and finalised the seat-sharing deal. But it did not do so and deliberately ignored us," the resolution, said adding, by released its candidates' list on March 16 for 160 seats, the AIADMK had made explicitly clear that the MDMK was not part of its front.


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