Snag in ATC computer system stalls flights in Delhi

The data processing system of the Air Traffic Control (ATC) crashed this evening, stalling all flight operations at the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) here this evening, officials at the airport said.

The officials told NetIndian that the stand-by system would be used to clear the stalled flights as quickly as possible. They also said that efforts were being made to restore the main system at the earliest.

The snag meant that no flights could land or take off for more than an hour from about 1800 hours at the airport during the peak evening period.

The technical problem has come on a day when many flights were cancelled, diverted, rescheduled and delayed because of a thick fog that had enveloped the capital and surrounding areas from late last night till this morning.

The systems crash is expected to lead to long delays and have a cascading effect on the rest of the network, too,


India to give $ 1 million in cash to Haiti for immediate relief efforts

India has decided to give $ 1 million in cash to Haiti for immediate and emergency relief operations after the country's capital Port-au-Prince was left devastated by a magnitude 7 earthquake on Tuesday afternoon.

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

"Government of India is deeply saddened at the death and destruction caused by the earthquake in Haiti on January 12, 2010," the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement here today.

The statement said communications with Haiti were currently difficult but it had been ascertained that all 140 personnel of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) deployed with the United Nations were safe.

"So are all civil police officers deployed with the United Nations Mission in Haiti," the statement said.

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


Annular solar eclipse on Friday, partial phase to be visible throughout India

An annular solar eclipse will occur tomorrow, with its path passing through the southern tip of India and its partial phase visible throughout the country.

In general, the partial phase can be seen from the most of Africa, eastern Europe, Asia and the Indian Ocean, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said in a press release.

The release said that the eclipse would begin at 0935 hours IST when the shadow of the Moon touches the Earth at local sunrise at a point in Central Africa. The eclipse ends at 1538 IST when the Moon's shadow finally leaves the Earth at local sunset at a point in South China.

At approximately 1048 hours IST, the annular path of the eclipse will touch the Earth at sunrise at a point in the Central African Republic. The shadow will cross over the southern tip of Chad, the Central African Republic, northern Congo, Uganda, Kenya, southern tip of Somalia, the Indian Ocean, the southern tip of India, northern Sri Lanka, the south-eastern tip of Bangladesh, Myanmar and south-eastern China.

The maximum duration of annularity of 11 minutes and 4 seconds will ccur at 1237 IST at a point in the Arabian sea, the release said. The annular phase will end at 1425 ISt at a point in south-east China near the Yellow Sea coast, the release said.

Some of the places in India from where the annual phase will be visible are Kanyakumari, Madurai, Rameswaram, Tanjore and Thiruvananthapuram.

According to the release, the best place in India to see the annual phase is Dhanuskodi in Pamban Island off the Tamil Nadu coast, which falls on the central line of the annular path.


Krishna to pay three-day visit to Nepal from Friday

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna will pay a three-day visit to Nepal from tomorrow for talks on strengthening and deepening the bilateral relations between the two countries.

This would be Mr Krishna's first visit to Nepal after assuming charge of External Affairs Minister in May last year.

An official press release from the Ministry of External Affairs said the visit was in consonance with the ongoing high-level bilateral interaction between the two countries.

During the visit, Mr Krishna will call on the President and the Prime Minister of Nepal. He will hold talks with his counterpart Sujata Koirala and also meet some other Nepalese leaders.

"The purpose of the visit is to exchange views on strengthening and deepening of our bilateral relations with Nepal," the release added.


Fire at Gurdwara premises in Melbourne: India takes up matter with Australia

India today said it was following up with the Australian authorities on the incident in which some unidentified miscreants allegedly set fire at a building under construction on the premises of a Gurdwara in Melbourne last night.

Responding to a query on the incident, the official spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs said the Government was aware of reports that the building under construction on the premises of the Nanaksar Taath Gurdwara in Cranbourne, a suburb of Melbourne, was damaged by a fire that broke out last night.

"It is learnt that some unidentified miscreants had set fire at the construction site, which is located at about 300-odd metres from the Nanaksar Taath Gurdwara," he said.

According to the spokesperson, no one was injured and no structural damage has been caused to the building.

"Our Consulate in Melbourne is in the process of ascertaining details from the Gurudwara Management Committee and also following up on the incident with Australian authorities," he added.


Dense fog disrupts flight operations in Delhi on Thursday

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

The officials said the fog had started descending on the airport late last night, drastically reducing visibility.

According to the officials, visibility had improved to 250 metres by 0800 hours this morning, to 400 metres by 0900 hours and more than 1100 metres by 1100 hours.

They said as many as 33 flights had been cancelled since last night, 17 had been diverted and 18 rescheduled. Several flights were delayed, some due to poor weather conditions at the destinations.


Thick fog over Delhi on Thursday morning, cold conditions abate slightly

Delhi and many other parts of north India were covered by a thick fog in the early hours today, slowing down vehicular traffic, delaying trains and disrupting flight operations in the capital.

The maximum temperature recorded in the capital in the past 24 hours was 16.2 degrees Celsius, up from yesterday's 14.9 degrees but 4.8 degrees below normal.

The minimum temperature in the past 24 hours was 8 degrees Celsius, marginally lower than yesterday's 8.1 degrees and one degree above normal for this time of the year.

The fog had begun descending on the capital late last night, reducing visibility drastically. But visibility had improved to 250 metres by 0800 hours, 400 metres by 0900 hours and to more than 1100 metres by 1100 hours. By then the sun had also come out, providing some welcome warmth to the people of the city who had been reeling under cold wave conditions for several days running.

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) said Delhi and its surrounding areas would have fog till forenoon and mainly clear sky later. It said the maximum and minimum temperatures will be around 17 degrees and 6 degrees Celsius, respectively, it said.

The IMD has forecast foggy conditions in the morning for the next two days. It said the maximum and minimum temperatures would be around 18 and 6 degrees Celsius tomorrow and 19 and 5 degrees Celsius, respectively, on Saturday.


Indian contingent for UN Mission to Sudan flagged off

The Indian Air Force contingent as part of Indian UN Peace Keeping Mission, in New Delhi on January 13, 2010.
The Indian Air Force contingent as part of Indian UN Peace Keeping Mission, in New Delhi on January 13, 2010.

An Indian Air Force (IAF) contingent that will join the Indian UN Peace Keeping Mission in Sudan was flagged off at a function here today.

The contingent, led by Group Captain T A Dayasagar, was flagged off by IAF's Director General (Inspection & Safety) Air Marshal TS Randhawa.

Sudan has been in a state of turmoil since it attained freedom in 1956. Indian Armed Forces have been contributing to peace missions in the strife torn state since 2005 and have been instrumental in bringing a semblance of normalcy to the state.

The departing contingent will replace the IAF aviation contingent staioned at Kadugali, situated in the south-central region of Sudan.

An official press release said the contingent comprises 196 IAF personnel of diverse specializations. Flying operations, administration, logistics, technical and medical services form a part of the base set up in Sudan as the contingent is modeled on the lines of a regular Air Force base. The contingent includes six Mi-17 utility helicopters. The twin purpose of the contingent is to provide mobility to the UN staff/forces and logistical support.

The Mi-17s would be primarily used for troop insertion/extraction, casualty evacuation, logistic supply, search and rescue, reconnaissance and observation. The Indian contingent would also be maintaining an Aero Medical Evacuation Team at Sudan, the release said.

Air Marshal Randhawa told the Sudan-bound Air Warriors that the nation had very high expectations from them in terms of discipline, integrity and professional standards.

"Your predecessors have set high standards and you should aim to achieve even higher standards," he added.


CBI files chargesheets against ex-Cong. MP Sajjan Kumar in 1984 cases

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) today filed two chargesheets against former Congress Member of Parliament (MP) Sajjan Kumar and others in connection with the 1984 anti-Sikh violence in Delhi that had followed the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

The first chargesheet is related to the killing of seven people in the Sultanpuri area and the second to the killing of four people in Raj Nagar area, Palam, in the capital in the days that followed the October 31, 1984 assassination of Ms Gandhi.

The chargesheets under sections 109 of the Indian Penal Code read with sections 147, 148, 149, 153(A), 302, 436, 295 and 201 IPC and substantive offences thereof against five persons in all in the Sultanpuri case and against eight people in the Raj Nagar case.

Delhi Lieutenant Governor Tejendra Khanna had recently given the mandatory sanction required for filing the chargesheets.

The chargesheets were filed in the court of the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Tiz Hazari in Delhi, who transferred the matter to the Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Karkardooma Court, where other cases relating to the 1984 riots are being heard.

A CBI press release said the agency had also filed a closure report in the case relating to incidents in the Mongolpuri area.


18 more H1N1 deaths in India, toll goes up to 1098

As many as 18 more people have died of influenza A (H1N1) in India, taking the toll due to the swine flu pandemic in the country so far to 1098, an official statement said here today.

Four of the deaths - two in Maharashtra and one each in Delhi and Gujarat - were reported during the day, it said.

Besides, reports of 14 deaths that occurred earlier - 10 in Maharashtra, 3 in Gujarat and 1 in Rajasthan - were conveyed by the respective states to the Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare today, tbe release said.

Of the total swine flu deaths in the country so far, Maharashtra now accounts for 296, while 168 lives have been lost in Rajasthan, 167 in Gujarat, 137 in Karnataka, 88 in Delhi, 52 in Andhra Pradesh, 36 in Punjab, 34 in Kerala, 33 in Haryana, 17 in Uttar Pradesh, 13 each in Uttarakhand and Madhya Pradesh, 8 each in Chandigarh and Himachal Pradesh, 7 in Tamil Nadu, 6 in Puducherry, 5 in Goa, 3 in Orissa, 2 each in Assam, Jammu & Kashmir and Chhattisgarh and 1 in Mizoram.

The statement said 84 new cases of swine flu were reported from different parts of India today, including 25 in Maharashtra, 18 in Gujarat, 13 in Karnataka, 6 each in Punjab and Rajasthan, 5 in Delhi, 3 in Chhattisgarh, 2 each in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh and 1 each in Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

With these, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus reported in the country so far has gone up to 27,985, the statement added.


Govt launches Tigernet, a website on tiger conservation

The Government has set up a national website on tiger conservation that will give the directors of tiger reserves and chief wildlife wardens in the country the ability to key in crucial information about tiger deaths, poaching and seizures immediately.

An official press release said the website, launched last week by Environment and Forests MInister Jairam Ramesh, would be the first consolidated database on mortality and details on poaching related to tigers and other protected species within tiger reserves.

Gathering accurate information on such tiger activities was crucial to assisting anti-poaching efforts, it said.

According to the release, the new system will allow enforcement officers to record information on tiger mortalities, monitor patterns of where poaching incidents are occurring and use this information to strengthen anti-poaching efforts.

The information will be available in the public domain, while Field Directors and Chief Wildlife Wardens will be required to log in to key in information on tiger-related issues.The accurate reporting of tiger deaths and the circumstances surrounding them have been a contentious issue in India, with conflicting information from official sources and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and accusations of secrecy over some findings.

The Government expects that the new website will simplify the whole tiger death reporting system and allow a more accurate and transparent picture to be generated of the poaching and other threats facing the nation's tiger population.

The release said automatc reminders would be sent to official staff to upload details surrounding any tiger mortalities, including the findings of post mortem examinations.

The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) recently made funding available for the purchase of cold storage facilities so that tiger carcasses could be preserved until a thorough post mortem examination could be carried out.

TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, has helped develop the new website, in collaboration with the government's NTCA, the release added.


President, VP, PM greet people on Makara Sankranti, Pongal

President Pratibha Patil, Vice-President M Hamid Ansari and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today greeted the people on the occasion of Makara Sankranti and Pongal, which fall tomorrow.

"Makara Sankranti and Pongal are expressions of the emotional unity that is India’s strength. These are days of great festivity and rejoicing. May these festivals bind each one of us in fraternal love and affection and inspire us to work for the unity, progress and well being of our nation," Ms Patil said in her message.

Mr Ansari said the festivals, celebrated in all parts of the country in myriad cultural forms with great fervour and gaiety, mared the beginning of the harvest season.

"The rituals and the festivities associated with these festivals symbolise the warmth of love and brotherhood among the people of our country," he said.

Dr Singh said the two festivals, as well as Lohri, celebrated fresh harvest and emphasised the importance of sharing in our lives.

"They mark the beginning of an auspicious period of the year. May the festivals bring prosperity, happiness and joy for all," he added.


Kerala Tourism-branded Rajdhani Express to Thiruvananthapuram

In one of the biggest branding exercises in India, Kerala Tourism has decided to use the Hazrat Nizamuddin-Thiruvananthapuram Rajdhani Express to showcase the many attractions the state has to offer to tourists from across India.

When the train is flagged off from the capital on January 17, the exteriors of its 17 coaches will carry pictures of Kerala's backwaters, houseboats, beaches, wildlife, art forms and much more, creating an unprecedented imagery on one long canvas.

Those involved with the project, named Chalo Kerala, say it will be a travelling advertisement for Kerala and encapsulate all that the state has to offer to visitors.

The train, with specially designed themes on each of its coaches, will be ?agged off by Union Tourism Minister Kumari Selja in the presence of Kerala Tourism Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan.

"Kerala is the ?rst tourism destination to use train branding to promote the state in what will be one of the most visible and high impact campaigns ever undertaken by Kerala Tourism. I am con?dent that this unique marketing activity will showcase Kerala and attract more and more Indian travellers to the state," Mr Balakrishnan said.

A press release from Kerala Tourism said this would be one of the biggest branding exercises ever to promote a state as a tourism destination.

The travelling showcase is expected to reach out to more than 30 million people across 10 states, including Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Goa, Karnataka and Kerala itself.

Kerala Tourism believes this is a very effective way to promote its brand message as the wrapped carriages have "complete dominance for space and attention".

"In terms of eye-balls, around 85,000 commuters use the platforms on a daily basis and the Chalo Kerala campaign is a great way to reach out to this captive audience," Dr V Venu, the state's Tourism Secretary, said.

According to the release, the wrapping on the trains will have about 750 metres of vinyl graphics about Kerala, using the latest digital printing technologies.

The six-month campaign will continue until June 2010. Kerala Tourism chose the south-bound Rajdhani trains as they traverse across India catering to affluent families and business travellers.

The campaign comes close on the heels of a deal with Jet Airways. Kerala is also using the internet to create a buzz about the state. It tied up with Google a few months ago to market the state as a tourist destination.

Malls in different cities are also being used to drive home the brand message. "We are trying to ensure brand visibility using innovative strategies," Kerala Tourism Director Sivasankar said.

The renewed focus on domestic tourism has helped Kerala increase the flow of tourists from within India. The number of foreign tourist arrivals also showed an increase despite the global economic recession, the release said.

According to the release, the arrival of domestic tourists touched 75 lakhs in 2009, a growth of 15% over the previous year. The corresponding ?gure for international arrivals stood at nearly 7.5 lakhs, more than the previous year.

According to the release, Kerala Tourism has a ?ve-year calendar of events that acts as a ready reckoner for those planning a visit to the state.

Over the past few years, Kerala Tourism has also moved beyond the metros, targeting Tier 2 cities like Pune to familiarize tour and travel operators about the opportunities that Kerala offers.

Air connectivity to Kerala has improved, with flights now from Malaysia and Singapore, in addition to services from the Gulf states.

Kerala Tourism has planned three road shows lined up in Lyon (France), Munich (Germany) and Amsterdam (Netherlands) after the recent campaign in November in Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway.


India tells Pakistan perpetrators of Mumbai attack must be punished

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna today underscored to his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi the need to bring the perpetrators of the November 26, 2008 terror attack on Mumbai to justice expeditiously.

During a telephone conversation with Mr Qureshi, the two ministers reviewed the status of the trial in Pakistan of the accused and proclaimed offenders in the case.

Mr Krishna urged him to keep India informed of the progress in the trial, an official press release from the Ministry of External Affairs said.

The External Affairs Minister said it was important for Pakistan to unravel the full conspiracy behind the attack following the leads provided and available in Pakistan. He requested Mr Qureshi that India be informed also of the results of such investigations.

He also also pointed out that Pakistan needed to take effective steps to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism which exists in Pakistan and continued to be used for anti-India activities.

Mr Krishna thanked Pakistan for the recent release of 150 Indian fishermen and expressed the hope that more than 500 remaining Indian fishermen and over 400 Indian fishing boats still in Pakistan's custody would also be released soon.

He said India had released 31 Pakistani fishermen and would soon release the 19 remaining ones whose nationality had been confirmed by Pakistan.

The two leaders agreed to pursue further cooperation on other humanitarian issues, such as those relating to prisoners, the release said.

At the outset, the External Affairs Minister conveyed to Mr Qureshi his good wishes for the New Year, the release added.


Judges appointed in Madhya Pradesh, Orissa High Courts

The President has appointed five new judges in the Madhya Pradesh High Court and one in the Orissa High Court.

The new judges for the Madhya Pradesh High Court are Mr Justice Sanjay Yadav, Mr Justice Kedar Singh Chauhan, Mr Justice Satish Chandra Sharma, Mr Justice Prakash Shrivastava and Ms Justice Indrani Datta, all of whom are additional judges at present.

Their appointment will be in that order of seniority with effect from the dates they assume charge of their respective offices, an official press release said.

Mr Justice Bijaya Krishna Patel, an additional judge, is the new judge appointed to the Orissa High Court with effect from the date he assumes charge of his office.


India's domestic airlines fly 43.846 million passengers in 2009

India's domestic airlines flew a total of 43.846 million passengers in 2009 as against 40.773 million passengers carried in 2008, an official press release said.

Of these, private sector airline Kingfisher carried 10.483 million passengers, followed by Jet Airways (7.846 million passengers), Air India (7.682 million), IndiGo (6.103 million), Spice Jet (5.446 million), Jet Lite (3.277 million), Go Air (2.061 million) and Paramount (0.83 million).

The release said the percentage share of the airlines in 2009 was Kingfisher (23.9 %), Jet Airways (17.9 %), Air India (17.5 %), IndiGo (13.9 %), Spice Jet (12.4 %), Jet Lite (7.5 %), Go Air (4.7 %) and Paramount (1.9 %).

In December, 2009, the domestic airlines carried a total of 4.487 million passengers. Of these, Kingfisher accounted for 0.935 million, Jet Airways 0.852 million, Air India 0.82 million, IndiGo 0.684 million, Spice Jet 0.579 million, Go Air 0.232 million and Paramount 0.064 million.

The percentage share of the various airlines in December was Kingfisher 20.8 %, Jet Airways 19 %, Air India 18.3 %, IndiGo 15.2 %, Spice Jet 12.9 %, Go Air 5.2 % and Paramount 1.4 %.

IndiGo had the highest seat factor in December at 90 %, followed by Paramount 88.7 %, Spice Jet 88 %, Go Air 86.1 %, Jet Lite 81.6 %, Kingfisher 80.2 %, Air India 79.7 % and Jet Airways 78.2 %.


Delhi gets light rains overnight, cold conditions continue

Delhi and surrounding areas experienced light rains last night as the intense cold conditions continued, with the maximum temperature in the past 24 hours remaining at 14.9 degrees Celsius, 6.1 degrees below normal.

The minimum temperature rose to 8.1 degrees Celsius, up from yesterday's 7 degrees and 1.1 degrees above the normal level.

According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), the capital received 4.6 mm of rainfall since last night.

The IMD has forecast a partly cloudy sky over the city today with possibility of light rain or thundershowers. The maximum temperature today would be around 14 degrees Celsius, it said.

It has also forecast foggy conditions for tomorrow and Friday, with the maximum and minimum temperatures likely to be 17 and 6 degrees tomorrow and 19 and 5 degrees on Friday.

With visibility remaining good, flight operations from the Indira Gandhi International Airport remained normal today, an airport official said.


Railways launch mobile ticketing van in Delhi

The Indian Railways today launched the first mobile ticketing van for issuing reserved and unreserved train tickets in the capital.

The van, called "Mushkil Aasaan" was launched by Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit. It is in keeping with the announcement made by Railways Minister Mamata Banerjee while presenting the Railway Budget for 2009-10 in Parliament in July last year.

Ms Dikshit also flagged off the Hazrat Nizamuddin-Bandra Terminus "Yuva Express" on the occasion.

Ms Banerjee had launched a mobile ticketing van as a pilot project on January 8 in Kolkata. It is aimed at taking the issuance of computerised tickets to the grassroots and will work from 1030 hours to 1630 hours at different locations from Monday to Saturday. The cost of the ticket will be the same as that of tickets purchased from passenger reservation system counters.

The vans will be introduced in both urban and rural areas so that people who are unable to go to the railway stations can purchase tickets in market places and other locations convenient to them.


Cold wave conditions continue in Delhi

Cold wave conditions brought on continued in Delhi with the maximum temperature in the past 24 hours at 14.9 degrees Celsius, slightly more than 14.6 degrees yesterday but 6 degrees below normal.

The minimum temperature rose to 7 degrees Celsius, marginally more than yesterday's 6.5 degrees, which was normal for this time of the year.

The weather office attributed the cold conditions in the capital to icy winds blowing in from the snow-capped mountains in Jammu & Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh.

The Indian Meteorological Office (IMD) said the capital would have a partly cloudy sky tomorrow with the possibility of light rain. It said the maximum and minimum temperatures would be around 15 and 9 degrees Celsius, respectively.

It has also forecast foggy conditions for Thursday and Friday, with the maximum and minimum temperatures likely to be 17 and 11 degrees on Thursday and 18 and 7 degrees on Friday.

With visibility remaining good, flight operations from the Indira Gandhi International Airport remained normal today.

The IMD has said a fresh western disturbance was likely to affect north-west India today and Wednesday, which could cause fairly widespread moderate to rather heavy snowfall over Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

Light to moderate rainfall will also occur at a few places in Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, it said.

The IMD said large-scale dense fog was unlikely over the Indo-Gangetic plains during the next three days. However, isolated pockets may experience fog/shallow fog conditions during morning hours, it said.


Sheikh Hasina receives Indira Gandhi Award for Peace

President, Pratibha Patil presenting the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development for 2009 to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, in New Delhi on January 12, 2010. Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh and the Chairperson, UPA, Sonia Gandhi are also seen.
President, Pratibha Patil presenting the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development for 2009 to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, in New Delhi on January 12, 2010. Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh and the Chairperson, UPA, Sonia Gandhi are also seen.

President Pratibha Patil today conferred the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development for 2009 on Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, saying it was a recognition of the extraordinary contribution of one leader to the cause of a nation, its development, its people and to world peace and harmony.

"It is but rare in history that a nation's birth and political life is synonymous with the life and destiny of an individual. In the case of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Bangladesh, it is indeed so," she said.

Ms Patil said that Sheikh Hasina had, by her sheer dedication to her country, her strong determination and leadership, shaped and continues to shape her country's onward path of progress and development.

"Bangladesh owes much to its illustrious daughter, Sheikh Hasina, for its successes and triumphs," she remarked.

Ms Patil noted that the award is a prize instituted in the memory of late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who held the cause of Bangladesh very dear and near to her heart.

She said that, throughout life, Sheikh Hasina has personified the heroic struggle against autocracy and dictatorship, the struggle for establishing democracy and pluralism.

"Whether as a University student, or as a youth participating in the mass movement of 1969, as the daughter of the Father of Bangladesh, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and later as the Prime Minister of her country, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has left an indelible imprint on her country's growth and development." she said.

The President said the return of Prime Minister Hasina to the helm of affairs came at a critical juncture in her country's history.

"The spectacular electoral victory of the Awami League under her leadership and the restoration of democracy in Bangladesh, have been welcomed the world over. She has set for herself and her Government an ambitious agenda of economic growth, welfare and social justice for her people. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's crusade against terrorism and violence is also well known. She has met them with invincible courage, even at great risk to her own life," she said.

Ms Patil assured Sheikh Hasina that India, which is itself a target of terrorism, was supportive of her struggle to fight these divisive forces. "We cannot and will not let them succeed," she said.

She said India was committed to strengthen bilateral relations and believed that both countries had the determination to forge stronger bonds of cooperation and trust, based on the foundations of a shared history and culture.

"It is a rather exceptional commonality that our national anthems were written by the same person - the great poet, Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, whose 150th Birth Anniversary, we will be jointly celebrating," she observed.

"Our relationship encompasses numerous fields of interaction between our peoples. We seek to forge greater trade, investment and cultural exchanges. We also face common challenges, which require close cooperation with each other. Several far-reaching decisions have been taken during your historical visit, which I am confident, will provide the impetus for an even more dynamic bilateral relationship," she added.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Chairperson Sonia Gandhi were amongst those present on the occasion.

Dr Singh recalled that the late Mrs Gandhi spent her lifetime championing the cause of developing countries and fighting for justice and equality in international affairs.

"Yet no cause was dearer to Indiraji than the emergence of a strong and prosperous South Asia on the world scene. She was an ardent advocate of peace and development in the region. Her empathy and unwavering support for justice and what is right defined her attitude to the people of Bangladesh," he said.

Dr Singh said it was befitting that this year's Indira Gandhi Prize was being awarded to Sheikh Hasina, who had worked tirelessly through her political career for the welfare and socio-economic development of the people of Bangladesh and also been an equally tireless proponent of regional peace, security and progress.

"Ever since her return to Bangladesh in 1981, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has played a catalytic role in the emergence of Bangladesh as a dynamic and strong nation. Her journey has not been smooth, yet every challenge has spurred her on to even greater heights," he said.

The Prime Minister said Bangladesh’s return to democracy owed a great deal to Sheikh Hasina’s courage, sacrifice and unshakeable belief in the will of the people.

"As a democracy ourselves, we know that it is a form of governance which is not easy. It requires constant nurturing. It needs wisdom and forbearance. It requires the capacity to manage differences and the willingness to respect them," he said.

He said that, by championing the cause of democracy and pluralism, Sheikh Hasina had given the people of Bangladesh the means to realize their true potential and strengthen peace and harmony in the country.

Dr Singh noted that, in the short period that she has been in office for her second term, Sheikh Hasina had already outlined an ambitious vision for her country and for her people.

Bangladesh has earned international recognition for its successful efforts at improving the social indicators of development and empowering the poor through a mix of well targeted policy initiatives, he said, adding that Bangladesh's voice was heard today with respect in international fora.


Minor quake felt in Maharashtra's Koyna region

An earthquake of slight intensity, measuring 3.9 on the Richter scale, was felt in the Koyna region of Maharashtra today.

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) said the tremor occurred at 1455 hours with epicentre at latitude 17.1 North and longitude 73.6 East at a depth of 12 km.


Sibal leaves on five-day visit to UK

Union Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal left here today on a five-day visit to the United Kingdom during which he will attend the Learning and Technology World Forum and the 2nd UK-India Education Forum.

An official press release said Mr Sibal would hold talks with Lord Mandelson, British Secretary of State for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and with Mr Douglas Alexander, the Secretary of State for Department for International Development.

A Joint Statement between the Ministry of Human Resource Development and the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills of the UK would be signed on January 13.

Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) between the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Ropar and the Glasgow Research Partnership in Engineering and between the Indian Institute of Science Education & Research (IISER), Pune and the South-East India Partnership Network of the UK will be signed during the visit, the release added.


India, Bangladesh launch new phase in bilateral relations

India and Bangladesh have agreed to cooperate closely with each other and effectively harness their respective resources for the good of the peoples of the two countries.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh meeting the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, in New Delhi on January 11, 2010.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh meeting the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, in New Delhi on January 11, 2010.

Launching a new phase in their bilateral relations, India and Bangladesh have agreed to cooperate closely with each other and effectively harness their respective resources for the good of the peoples of the two countries.

At talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and visiting Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the two countries also agreed to put in place a comprehensive framework of cooperation for development between the two countries.

A Joint Communique issued here today said both Prime Ministers agreed on a vision for the future in the pursuit of the common good - bilaterally, regionally and globally.

In this context, they reiterated their commitment to work together to solve all issues through cooperation and mutual understanding. They also shared their outlook on the strengthening and reform of multilateral institutions in which developing countries have an effective voice and participation.

The two Prime Ministers recognized that peace and stability in the region is necessary for development and well-being of the people of their respective countries.

Among other things, Dr Singh announced a line of credit of $ 1 billion for a range of projects, including railway infrastructure, supply of broad gauge locomotives and passenger coaches, rehabilitation of the Saidpur workshop, procurement of buses, including articulate buses, and dredging projects.

He also agreed to supply to Bangladesh 250 MW electricity from the Indian grid. In this context, both Prime Ministers emphasized the need to expedite inter-grid connectivity. They also agreed that the two countries shall cooperate in development and exchange of electricity, including generation from renewable sources, and may set up joint projects or corporate entities for that purpose.

Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh with the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina at the delegation level talks, in New Delhi on January 11, 2010.
Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh with the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina at the delegation level talks, in New Delhi on January 11, 2010.

According to the communique, the two sides agreed that the construction of the proposed Akhaura – Agartala railway link be financed by grant from India. A joint team of the railway authorities of the two countries will identify the alignment for connectivity.

The two Prime Ministers welcomed the starting of "Maitree Express" between Kolkata and Dhaka and called for resumption of road and rail links between the two countries.

They agreed that the Rohanpur–Singabad broad gauge railway link would be available for transit to Nepal. Bangladesh informed of their intention to convert Radhikapur – Birol railway line into broad gauge and requested for a railway transit link to Bhutan as well.

Recognizing the sufferings of the people of both sides in the face of scarcity of lean season flows of the Teesta River, the Prime Ministers felt the discussions on the sharing of the Teesta waters between India and Bangladesh should be concluded expeditiously.

They directed their respective Water Resources Ministers to convene the Ministerial-level meeting of the Joint Rivers Commission in this quarter of 2010. The Joint Rivers Commission will also discuss issues relating to Feni, Manu, Muhuri, Khowai, Gumti, Dharla and Dudhkumar.

They also agreed that action would be taken on dredging of Ichhamati and river protection at Mahananda, Karatoa, Nagar, Kulik, Atrai, Dharla, and Feni.

According to the communique, Dr Singh agreed to support implementation of strategy of Government of Bangladesh to dredge rivers for flood control, navigation and access to ports. In this context, India agreed to provide, inter alia, dredgers to Bangladesh on an urgent basis. Bangladesh indicated the need for nine dredgers.

Dr Singh assured Sheikh Hasina that India would not take steps on the Tipaimukh project that would adversely impact Bangladesh.

In order to encourage imports from Bangladesh, both countries agreed to address removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers and port restrictions and facilitate movement of containerized cargo by rail and water.

In this context, Bangladesh welcomed India’s initiative to provide duty-free access to SAARC Least Developed Countries (LDCs) to the Indian market. Bangladesh also welcomed the reduction of the number of items from India’s negative list that were of direct interest to Bangladesh and requested for further reduction in the list.

Dr Singh agreed to support the upgradation of the Bangladesh Standard Testing Institute with a view to building capacity on certification.

Both sides agreed that investments, including joint investment and joint ventures, shall be encouraged by both countries. They agreed that the participation of the private sector in both countries will give an added fillip to economic engagement between the two countries.

The Prime Ministers agreed to operationalize land customs stations at Sabroom-Ramgarh and Demagiri-Thegamukh, including putting in place necessary infrastructure and issue necessary notifications. Further, with respect to existing land custom stations, it was agreed to take measures for strengthening infrastructure.

They agreed that border "haats" shall be established on a pilot basis at selected areas, including on the Meghalaya border, to allow trade in specified produces and products and in accordance with the regulations agreed and notified by both Governments.

It was agreed that trucks for movement from Bhutan and Nepal be allowed to enter about 200 meters into Zero Point at Banglabandh at Banglabandh-Phulbari land customs station. Necessary arrangements shall be mutually agreed and put in place by both countries.

Bangladesh requested for assistance to construct road infrastructure in Dhaka, including flyovers. India agreed to consider this request.

Recalling the shared legacy of poet laureate Rabindranath Tagore, the Prime Ministers agreed to oversee the joint celebrations of the 150th birth anniversary of the Nobel laureate in 2011 in a befitting manner.

Secretary, Ministry of Power, H.S. Brahma and the Power Secretary of Bangladesh, Md. Abdul Kalam Azad signing an MoU on cooperation in Power sector, in the presence of the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh and the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, in New Delhi on January 11, 2010.
Secretary, Ministry of Power, H.S. Brahma and the Power Secretary of Bangladesh, Md. Abdul Kalam Azad signing an MoU on cooperation in Power sector, in the presence of the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh and the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, in New Delhi on January 11, 2010.

India offered Bangladesh 300 scholarships annually for a period of five years for study and training in Universities and training institutions in India, covering a wide range of disciplines as may be required by scholars and persons in government employment. The number may be increased through mutual consultation.

Both leaders agreed to work together in making SAARC a purposeful organization oriented towards implementation, which can revitalize the region through positive measures, concerted action and mutually reinforcing cooperation.

They welcomed the various steps taken to strengthen regional cooperation under BIMSTEC. In this context, Bangladesh requested India to support its aspiration to host the BIMSTEC Secretariat in Dhaka. India agreed to give the request due consideration.

The two countries welcomed the initiatives taken at the Climate Change Summit at Copenhagen in December 2009. They reaffirmed the provisions and principles of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), including that of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, and underscored the importance of its full, effective and sustained implementation, giving due consideration to the needs of those which are most vulnerable, especially Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and Africa.

Sheikh Hasina conveyed her country's support in principle for India's candidature for the permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council as and whe the reform of the Council is achieved. She also conveyed its support to the Indian Candidature for a non-permanent seat in the UNSC for the term 2011-2012. India, in turn, conveyed its support to the Bangladesh’s candidature for a non-permanent seat in UNSC for the term 2016-2017.

The two sides signed five agreements in the presence of the two Prime Ministers on Mutual Legal Assistance on Criminal Matters, the Transfer of Sentenced Persons, Combating International Terrorism, Organized Crime and Illicit Drug Trafficking, Cooperation in Power Sector and a Cultural Exchange Programme.

Both Prime Ministers agreed to consider strengthening diplomatic and consular presence in each other’s countries.

They condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. They noted that security remained a priority for both countries, as terrorists, insurgents and criminals respect no boundaries. They underscored the need for both countries to actively cooperate on security issues.

Both leaders reiterated the assurance that the territory of either would not be allowed for activities inimical to the other and resolved not to allow their respective territory to be used for training, sanctuary and other operations by domestic or foreign terrorist/militant and insurgent organizations and their operatives.

Welcoming the Home Secretary-level talks held in New Delhi last month, the two Prime Ministers directed their respective Ministries and agencies to cooperate closely and implement all decisions taken during the talks. While recognizing the need to check cross border crimes, both Prime Ministers agreed that the respective border guarding forces exercise restraint and underscored the importance of regular meetings between the border guarding forces to curtail illegal cross border activities and prevent loss of lives.

Sheikh Hasina thanked Dr Singh for facilitating the provision of electricity in Dahagram-Angarpota and invited India to construct a flyover across Tin Bigha Corridor for exclusive Indian use, as agreed earlier.

Both Prime Ministers agreed to comprehensively address all outstanding land boundary issues keeping in view the spirit of the 1974 Land Boundary Agreement. In this context, they agreed to convene the Joint Boundary Working Group to take this process forward.

They agreed on the need to amicably demarcate the maritime boundary between India and Bangladesh. They noted the initiation of proceedings under Annex VII of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and, in this context, welcomed the visit of a delegation from Bangladesh to India.

It was agreed that Ashuganj in Bangladesh and Silghat in India shall be declared ports of call. The IWTT Protocol shall be amended through exchange of letters. A joint team will assess the improvement of infrastructure and the cost for one-time or longer term transportation of ODCs (Over Dimensional Cargo) from Ashuganj. India will make the necessary investment. Both Governments agreed to expedite implementation. Contractors from both countries shall be eligible for the work.

It was agreed that Bangladesh will allow use of Mongla and Chittagong sea ports for movement of goods to and from India through road and rail. Bangladesh also conveyed their intention to give Nepal and Bhutan access to Mongla and Chittagong ports.

Union Finance Minister, Pranab Mukherjee meeting the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, in New Delhi on January 11, 2010.
Union Finance Minister, Pranab Mukherjee meeting the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, in New Delhi on January 11, 2010.

Sheikh Hasina, who arrived here on January 10, will visit Ajmer Sharif tomorrow before flying back home to Dhaka.

During her stay here, she called on President Pratibha Patil. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee and Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj called on her.

Sheikh Hasina, who is also the President of the Awami League, called on United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Chairperson Sonia Gandhi. She also met former Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral. "The meetings and exchanges were marked by great warmth and cordiality on both sides," the communique added.

Photos: Courtesy Press Information Bureau


Sibal announces initiative for university degrees in demat form

India is planning to dematerialise degree certificates issued by its universities and other educational institutions and shift to a technology-based solution that would ensure confidentiality, authenticity and fidelity and enable online verification and easy retrieval of academic qualifications.

Union Minister for Human Resources Development Kapil Sibal said the process for the establishment of a national database of academic qualifications (degrees and certificates from school to university levels, including professional qualifications) had been initiated.

The degrees and certificates would be created and maintained in an electronic format by an identified, registered depository.

At present two depositories, National Securities Depository Limited (NSDL) and Central Depository Services (India) Limited (CDSL), are registered with the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI).

An official press release said the holding of academic qualifications in an electronic depository would provide immense benefit to educational institutions, students, alumni and employers by enabling online access of academic qualifications, eliminating the need for persons to approach educational institutions for obtaining transcripts of such qualifications or for verification. It will also reduce the need for institutions to preserve records related to academic performance of students over a long time.

The system could also eliminate fraudulent practices such as forging of certificates and mark sheets by facilitating online verification.

The Ministry has constituted a Task Force under Prof. Sanjay Dhande, Director, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur, in this regard.

The other members of the Task Force include Prof. Debashis Chatterjee, Director, Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Kozhikode, Prof. S.S.Mantha, Chairman, All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), Prof. Ved Prakash, Vice-Chairman, University Grants Commission (UGC), Mr Vineet Joshi, Chairman, Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), a nominee of the Department of Financial Services not below the rank of Joint Secretary to the Government of India, the Additional Secretary and Financial Advisor (AS&FA), Ministry of Human Resource Development or his nominee from the Finance wing of the Ministry and a nominee of the Planning Commission.

The Joint Secretary (Higher Education) of the Ministry of HRD shall act as the Convener of the Task Force.

According to the release, the Task Force shall have the following terms of reference:

(i) To prepare a road-map for implementation of the concept of electronic depository of academic qualifications in dematerialized form.

(ii) To identify a registered depository to whom the work of creation and maintenance of the national database of academic qualifications in an electronic depository can be entrusted.

(iii) To detail the terms and conditions on which the work of creation and maintenance of the national database of academic qualifications can be entrusted to the identified electronic depository.

(iv) To draft an appropriate legislation to provide legal mandate to the holding of academic qualifications in an electronic depository.

(v) To make recommendations on such other incidental matters that may be relevant to the implementation of the concept of electronic depository of academic qualifications in dematerialized form.

The Task Force is expected to submit its recommendations by March 31, 2010, the release added.


Antony cautions security forces in J&K against complacency

Defence Minister, A. K. Antony addressing the Officers and Jawans during his visit to Jammu on January 12, 2010.
Defence Minister, A. K. Antony addressing the Officers and Jawans during his visit to Jammu on January 12, 2010.

Defence Minister A K Antony today cautioned the security agencies in Jammu & Kashmir against becoming complacent in the wake of the gains made in the fight against terrorism in the past two years.

Addressing the top brass of various security forces and agencies at the Unified Headquarters in Jammu, Mr Antony said the effort must be to consolidate the gains achieved in the last two years.

He said the synergy and hard work put in by the various security agencies as well as t he local people had brought down considerably the level of violence in Jammu and Kashmir though the attempts of infiltration have increased.

Mr Antony said the year 2010 might prove to be a crucial one as forces inimical to peace and stability in Jammu & Kashmir would make all-out efforts to neutralise the gains of 2008 and 2009, years in which the state saw considerable improvement in the security situation.

"The incidents of the first week of January in the valley are indicative of the shape of things to come," he said, referring to the encounter between terrorists and the security forces in the Lal Chowk area of Srinagar on January 6-7.

The meeting was attended, among others, by Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand, Chief of Army Staff Gen Deepak Kapoor, Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar, officers and commanders from the Ministry of Defence and Service Headquarters, senior officers from the state goverment and security and intelligence agencies.

Mr Antony said that, with the improvement in the security situation, the time had come for the State Police to be given far greater responsibility, particularly in major towns in tackling the threat of terrorism in the state.

"However, the handing over of the responsibility must be meticulously planned and undertaken in a gradual, phased manner," he observed.

Defence Minister, A. K. Antony, the Chief Minister Jammu & Kashmir, Omar Abdullah and the Chief of Army Staff, General Deepak Kapoor avidly listening to a presentation on Security situation in the State, during his visit to Jammu on January 12, 2010.
Defence Minister, A. K. Antony, the Chief Minister Jammu & Kashmir, Omar Abdullah and the Chief of Army Staff, General Deepak Kapoor avidly listening to a presentation on Security situation in the State, during his visit to Jammu on January 12, 2010.

The Defence Minister disclosed that, on the request of his Ministry, the Home Ministry had instructed the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) to take over the entire responsibility of opening of roads on Jammu-Srinagar National Highway-1 A from January 15.

"This has been done to reduce the visibility of the Army, without in any way, diluting our counter-terrorist grid," he explained.

Mr Antony said a request hadalso been sent to the Home Ministry to issue instructions to discontinue the use of combat uniform by all Central Police Organisations and state police.

He reiterated the government's policy of "zero tolerance" towards human rights violations by Armed Forces personnel.

"Our Armed Forces personnel must be conscious of the respect for human rights all the time. They must follow the twin ethics of 'minimum use of force' and 'good faith' during operations. Though the constraints of the security forces are understandable, the security forces too must bear in mind that the process of winning the hearts and minds of people is never an easy one", he pointed out.

Mr Abdullah requested the Defence Minister to explore the possibility of recruiting more youth from the state in the Armed Forces. He also requested for more helicopter support for reaching out to the populace living in far flung and remote areas of the state.

Later, the Defence Minister addressed jawans and had lunch with them. Dense fog and poor visibility, however, forced the Minister to drop his plans of visiting forward areas of the region. He has since returned to the capital.


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