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HC asks Delhi Govt to provide free heart surgery to 18-year-old

The Delhi High Court today directed the Delhi Government and the Medical Superintendent, G B Pant Hospital, to consider providing free treatment to an 18-year-old boy who needs immediate heart surgery and replacement of his two valves.

Directing the Delhi Government to provide immediate treatment to the boy, Justice S Muralidhar said it was the duty of the Government to take care of every citizen's health. The court said the Government was legally bound to preserve the life of every citizen, irrespective of his financial status as no person should die for want of medical treatment.


A petition was filed by lawyer Ashok Agrawal, a rights activist, in the court, seeking directions to the Government hospital to provide treatment to 18-year-old Furkan, who is suffering from a heart ailment as two of his valves are damaged and need immediate replacement.


The father of the boy cannot afford the cost of such an operation on his child which required more than Rs 200,000 and has to be done immediately, the lawyer said.


The court directed the Delhi government to consider Furkan's case who needs immediate heart surgery and to provide him treatment free of cost.


Mr Agrawal said father of the boy was very poor and did not have a Below Poverty Line (BPL) card either. Denying treatment to poor on these grounds is a gross violation of his fundamental Right, the petitioner said.


Justice Muralidhar directed the government to consider the case of the petitioner and provide free treatment including after care, without insisting upon him to produce a BPL card.


Posting the next date of hearing for January 18, the court directed the government that the child must be operated by then.


Mr Agarwal told the court that though the father of the ailing child had submitted an income certificate from the Tehsildar which indicated that he has a meagre income of less than Rs 2,000 per month and belonged to economically weaker section, the government was not satisfied and insisted that a BPL card was mandatory to avail medical aid.


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Sanjay Dutt challanges HC's property attachment order

Bollywood star Sanjay Dutt today moved the Bombay High Court, challenging its earlier order regarding attachment of two of his properties following a financial row with producer Shakeel Noorani.

In an appeal filed before Justice R Y Ganoo, the actor has challanged the order on various technical grounds and urged the court to set it aside.


The court had earlier passed an order following an arbitration award passed by the Indian Motion Pictures Producers Association (IMPPA) in January last year in favour of Noorani.


According to Noorani's lawyer Ashok Saraogi, the arbitration award by IMPPA was sent to Dutt in January 2010 and he was given 90 days to respond. When the actor failed to, IMPPA applied for the execution of a decree in the High Court and accordingly order of attachment of his properties in Bandra and Santa Cruz suburbs was passed.


Mr Saraogi said his client had in 2002 paid Sanjay Dutt a signing amount of Rs 50 lakh for his film "Jaan Ki Baazi". But Dutt failed to complete the shooting and in the year 2008, the actor told Noorani that he would not be able to complete the film, causing financial losses to his Noorani, who has now claimed Rs 3.28 crore from Dutt.


The appeal, which was mentioned today before the court, will come up for hearing on January 12.


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Pakistan Foreign Minister Qureshi to visit India in first quarter of 2011

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna today said Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi was likely to visit New Delhi in the first quarter of this year to take forward the process of talks between the two countries to rebuild trust and narrow differences on various issues.

"I have extended an invitation and the indication given to me by Foreign Minister Qureshi was that sometime in the first quarter of 2011 he would be visiting Delhi and we are looking forward to it," Mr Krishna said at a press conference here today.


Asked about the agenda for the talks with Mr Qureshi, Mr Krishna said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was "very very clear" that India would like to engage Pakistan in a dialogue and that there was no alternative to talking to Pakistan, keeping it engaged and sorting out outstanding issues.


He said that during his visit to Islamabad in July last year there were a number of issues on which there was similarity of thinking between the two countries.


"I am sure that that process will continue as and when Foreign Minister Qureshi comes to India," he said.


Mr Krishna said that, as the Prime Minister had repeatedly said, India stood ready to resolve all outstanding issues with Pakistan through a peaceful dialogue.


"We expect Pakistan to fulfill its repeated assurances given to us at the highest level to not allow the territory under its control for fomenting terrorism aimed against us, and to bring the perpetrators of the (November 26, 2008) Mumbai terrorist attack to justice expeditiously.


"I have extended an invitation to my counterpart to visit India and earnestly hope that we can take the process of dialogue forward," he added.


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2G spectrum: CAG's figure of Rs 1.76 lakh crore "totally erroneous", says Sibal

Union Communications Minister Kapil Sibal said on Thursday that the CAG report, which put the presumptive loss to the Government on account of alleged irregularities in the allocation of 2G spectrum in 2007-08 at Rs 1,76,000 crore, was "totally erroneous".

Union Minister for Communications Kapil Sibal addressing a press conference in New Delhi on January 7, 2011. Mr R Chandrasekhar, Secretary (Telecommunications) and Ms Neelam Kapur, Principal Director General (M&C), Press Information Bureau, are also seen.
Union Minister for Communications Kapil Sibal addressing a press conference in New Delhi on January 7, 2011. Mr R Chandrasekhar, Secretary (Telecommunications) and Ms Neelam Kapur, Principal Director General (M&C), Press Information Bureau, are also seen.

Union Communications Minister Kapil Sibal today said the report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), which put the presumptive loss to the Government on account of alleged irregularities in the allocation of 2G spectrum in 2007-08 at Rs 1,76,000 crore, was "totally erroneous".


"We are extremely respectful towards institutions. We respect the CAG. But we are also extremely pained at the methodology adopted by the CAG in coming to some figures which have no basis whatsoever," Mr Sibal said at a press conference.


In fact, Mr Sibal claimed that, if the math were redone properly, it would be seen that the Government did not suffer any losses at all because of the policy, which, in any case, had been formulated by the previous Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government.


The report by the CAG, the Government's auditor, has deeply embarassed the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) regime and led to the resignation of then Communications Minister A Raja from the Union Cabinet on November 14, 2010.


"We believe it is human to err and to err is human," Mr Sibal, who replaced Mr Raja, remarked.


"We do believe that the exercise was fraught with very serious errors which resulted in a kind of sensationalis which has allowed the Opposition to spread utter falsehood to the people of India.


"We object to that even as we respect the CAG for the position he holds," Mr Sibal said.


The Minister said the Government agreed with the CAG that, prima facie, there was something wrong in the procedure adopted by the Department of Telecommunications to issue Unified Access Service (UAS) license in 2008 and that is why it had set up a one-man committee, headed by a former Supreme Court judge, to look into this aspect. He said the Government would take the strictest possible action against anyone found guilty of any wrongdoing.


Similarly, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), under the supervision of the Supreme Court, was probing the criminal culpability in the matter. He said the Government would leave no stone unturned and, if any criminal offences were found to have been committed, the law would take its own course. "We are not here to defend or protect people, but to discharge our constitutional responsibilities," he said.


Mr Sibal said the CAG had calculated the presumptive loss on the basis of 6.2 MHz whereas the spectrum allocated was only 4.4Mhz. He said the Government was yet to fix the price of 6.2MHz and beyond.


He said the CAG had also worked out the figures on the basis of the 3G spectrum auctions in 2010, not appreciating the fact that 3G spectrum was three to four times more efficient than 2G spectrum. In any case, he felt the 2010 figures could not be used to work out so-called losses in 2008 without taking into account the value of the money.


"The CAG has done injustice to himself and the Opposition is doingn injustice to the common man," the Minister said.


Mr Sibal slammed the BJP-led Opposition for not allowing Parliament to function during the whole of the Winter Session and not giving a chance to the Government to explain things.


He said the first-come first served (FCFS) policy for telecom licenses was introduced by the NDA Government and the loss on account of the change to a revenue sharing regime introduced by it would work out to around Rs 150,000 crore.


He said the Xth Plan document for 2002-07, finalised by the NDA Government, had said that revenue should not be the main consideration while deciding on telecom policy. "Today they say revenue is important. The NDA had said spectrum policy needs to be promotional in nature, with revenue consideration playing a secondary role," he said.


Mr Sibal said the logic underlying the CAG's estimate of presumptive losses of revenue to the Government was completely flawed.


"Government policy is formulated with a view to maximize public welfare, and not merely to maximize Government revenues. The pricing of different natural resources is often done in a manner that meets this objective. For instance, land is given free of cost to infrastructure projects such as construction of highways, coal prices are kept much lower than global prices in order to ensure that the cost of power remains reasonable; fertilizer prices involve significant subsidy as do the prices of wheat, rice, kerosene oil, etc. supplied through the Public Distribution System. In all these cases if the objective of the Government were only to maximize revenues, much higher price would be charged, but there are good reasons why that is not done.


"The rationale of the pricing decision for 2G must be seen in the background of the Telecom Policy as it has evolved over many years," he said.


Mr Sibal said that the terms and conditions of licences, which were originally awarded on a bidding basis, after the National Telecom Policy 1994 introduced the private sector into telephony, were completely changed by the then Government in 1999 under the New Telecom Policy (NTP).


He said the new policy explicitly recognized the need to bring greater competition in the telecom sector in both urban and rural areas and to provide a level playing field for all players.


He said critics of the change in policy had argued at the time that the change in the contractual terms resulted in a loss to the exchequer of about Rs. 40,000 crore. Similarly, the reductions in licence fee in January 2001 and again in April 2004 can also be interpreted as benefiting select players at the expense of the national exchequer by the then Government, he said.


"Yet, these measures have helped to increase tele-density and reduce prices of mobile services for the "aam aadmi" (common man). The resultant benefits to the economy as a whole are well known. The provision of telecom services involves large investments. This is particularly so when we wish to cover the entire length and breadth of the country. If at the time of issuing licenses, the Government charges a very high entry fee, it would reduce the resources available to the operators to undertake the necessary creation of infrastructure. It would also eventually impact the prices charged by the operators and thereby limit the services to those who can afford higher services.


"It is in this background that successive Governments have chosen to allocate telecom licences and spectrum on a basis other than revenue maximization. It should also be noted that with the enactment of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) Act, 1997 the recommendations of the independent regulator are a very high important factor in deciding these matters. The TRAI has consistently taken the view that revenue generation should not be a major determinant of the policy governing the telecom sector and this is also the view taken when the 10th Plan was finalized in 2002," he said.


"It is important to emphasize that the Government’s decision on spectrum pricing was not merely a mechanical continuation of the policies put in place by previous Governments. It is one that was felt on merits to provide a balance between multiple objectives, namely, increasing tele-density, promoting competition, and ensuring a level playing field. The Prime Minister was informed of the TRAI report of August 2007. In its August 2007 report, TRAI recommended that spectrum in 2G bands (800, 900 and 1800 MHz) should continue to be priced as before for new entrants and that in future, all spectrum, excluding spectrum in the 2G bands should be auctioned. TRAI also recommended ‘no cap’ on new entrants.


"It may be thought that the decision to auction 3G spectrum makes out an automatic case that 2G spectrum should also have been auctioned. This would not be valid conclusion. 3G spectrum is typically used for providing value added services, such as video and large amount of data. These services are primarily availed by companies and individuals who have large paying capacity. Additionally, in the case of 3G there is neither an issue of level playing field nor one of needing to ensure that prices are within the reach of people in the lower income brackets. Just as the Government charges a toll for the use of highways, but the use of rural road is never tolled, similarly, a high price for 3G spectrum services can be accepted but Government needs to ensure that basic telephony remains available to the common citizen at the lower possible rate," he said.


Mr Sibal said the fact that Government policy, over the years, while abandoning revenue maximization, had yielded benefits was clearly visible.


"The average tariff came down from almost Rs.17 per minute in 1999 to about Rs. 3 per minute in 2004 and, by March 2010, this became as low as 57 paise per minute while today it has reached a level of 30 paise per minute. This is a direct and tangible benefit. The benefit of this reduction in tariff is estimated at over Rs. 150,000 crore per annum to the consumers.


"For all these reasons the CAG’s criticism that the policy of awarding licences and spectrum at reasonable rates involved a large loss to the exchequer has no merit. However the CAG’s findings regarding procedural irregularities in the implementation of the first-come-first-served policy are in a different category and must be taken very seriously. Indeed, the Government depends upon the CAG to highlight such issues and there is a well laid down procedure for dealing with such findings.


"In this case in view of the nature of the lapses, criminal investigations are also under way. The Government is totally committed to take stringent action against any person found guilty of corruption or misconduct," Mr Sibal added.


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Income Tax raids on vegetable traders across the country

Acting on complaints of large scale hoarding of onions by traders, the Income Tax (IT) Department today conducted raids on vegetable dealers all over the country, including Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar, Punjab and Gujarat.

A spokesman for the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) here confirmed the raids on vegetable dealers in several parts of the country, but no details were immediately available on the outcome of the surveys.


"IT surveyed large vegetable dealers all over Uttar Pradesh. There was action in Lucknow, Kanpur, Bareilly, Varanasi, Meerut and Ghaziabad," the spokesman said.


"Action also took place in West Bengal, Punjab, Gujarat and Bihar," he said.


A UNI report from Surat in Gujarat said IT sleuths launched search operations at the premises of at least five onion and potato traders at the Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC). The search operations began early in the morning.


Quoting official sources, the report said IT officials from Gujarat and Mumbai descended early morning on the premises of at least five major traders of onions and potatoes at the APMC.


A report from Lucknow said IT officers raided the premises of some onion traders in various parts of Uttar Pradesh. The report said the Income Tax Department swung into action, following reports of onion hoarding.


Besides, the State capital, raids were also conducted at Kanpur, Bareilly, Ghaziabad and Varanasi.


In further efforts to bring down the prices of onions and other vegetables, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee wrote to all Chief Ministers to ensure smooth supplies of these commodities and investigate the reasons for the wide gap between the wholesale and retail prices of essential commodities.


India is also trying to negotiate with Pakistan export of the commodity from the neighbouring country.


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Two killed in fire in Banka district of Bihar

Two people, including a child, were charred to death when a fire engulfed their hut at Basdiha village under Shambhuganj police station area in this district of south-east Bihar late last night.

Police said here today that some villagers were basking near a bonfire last night and left the place without dousing it completely. The fire getting strength from westerly winds caught the nearyby hut.


"An old man and a child sleeping in the hut were charred to death," police said, adding six other members of the family suffered serious burn injuries. They had been admitted to a local hospital where the condition of two was stated to be critical, police said.


Senior officers of the district administration had rushed to the spot and provided required financial assistance to the families of the victims in accordance with the rules, police added.


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Telangana issue: Osmania JAC "bandh" call evokes partial response

The general strike call given by the Osmania University (OU) Joint Action Committee (JAC) to close down all educational institutions in the Telangana region evoked a partial response in Hyderabad today.

The "bandh" was called by the JAC in protest against the lathi-charge by the police on OU students, who agitated against the recommendations of the Srikrishna Committee on Telangana statehood issue here yesterday.


Government schools functioned normally while private schools in the twin cities remained closed.


In Warangal town, traders shut down their business establishments voluntarily. All educational institutions were also closed.


The Telangana JAC has demaded that the Centre introduce a Bill in Parliament for formation of a separate Telangana state, notwithstanding the Srikrishna report's recommendations.


The JAC announced that it was supporting the "bandh" call and condemned the lathi-charge on OU students in the campus after they clashed with police by pelting stones at them. Police had fired 15 rounds of rubber bullets as the situation appeared to get out of control and also lobbed hundreds of teargas shells to disperse the students.


Several police personnel sustained bleeding injuries during different spells of the stone pelting. Scores of students were injured.


The agitating students set fire to some buses in the city and damaged windshields and windows of about eight buses of private engineering colleges.


The Telangana JAC also called upon government employees in Telangana region to observe lunch hour demonstration in their offices today to bring pressure on the Centre on introducing the Bill.


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Arrest of girl evokes massive protests in south Kashmir


People today took to the streets at Tral, about 35 km from here in south Kashmir, protesting against the arrest of a girl, believed to be the sister of a Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) militant.


Official sources said people, including women and children, came out on the streets despite chilling weather conditions at Tral in Pulwama district after the news spread that police arreasted a girl,


believed to be sister of a Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) militant during the night.


Raising slogans against the Special Operation Group (SOG) of Jammu and Kashmir police and the government, the demonstrators moved towards the main town from different nearby areas. They alleged that SOG raided her house and arrested her when they failed to nab the HM militant.


Additional security forces were rushed to the area and the situation was very tense, the sources said, adding that senior civil and police officials had rushed to the area.


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Provide copy of closure report to Aarushi's parents: CBI court


A special CBI court in Ghaziabad today directed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to provide a copy of the closure report filed by it in the murder of Arushi Talwar to her parents, Dr Rajesh and Nupur Talwar, and deferred the hearing on it till January 21.


The 14-year-old Aarushi and the Talwars' domestic help Hemraj were murdered on the intervening night of May 15-16, 2008 in their apartment in Noida.


The CBI, on December 29, filed the closure report in the double murder case saying that there was not "sufficient evidence" against the accused.


Special CBI Judge Preeti Singh ordered the investigating agency to provide the closure report to the Talwars and posted the matter for hearing on January 21.


The CBI in its closure report has said Dr Talwar was the main suspect in the case.


The CBI had earlier arrested three servants--Raj Kumar, Krishna and Vijay Mandal--in the case but they were released later.


Dr Talwar and his wife Nupur, who have denied their involvement in the killing of their daughter are demanding further investigation in the case so that the real culprits could be brought to book.


The dentist couple have alleged that the CBI is blaming them to shield its inefficiency and the 19-month-long probe by the agency in the case was "unscientific".


Both the parents have told a TV news channel that they were prepared to undergo any test, including the touch DNA test, to prove their innocence.


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Minimum temperature rises in Kashmir, Kargil coldest at -10 deg

Children warm themselves around a fire on a chilly morning in Srinagar on January 7, 2011. UNI PHOTO
Children warm themselves around a fire on a chilly morning in Srinagar on January 7, 2011. UNI PHOTO

Cold wave conditions are likely to ease in the Kashmir valley and Ladakh region, where the minimum temperature has improved due to cloudy weather following the arrival of western disturbances.

The maximum has gone down though it was above normal in the valley, where the world famous Dal Lake, taps, streams and other water bodies remain frozen.

A meterological department spokesman said snow or rain might occur at a few places in the Kashmir valley and hills of Jammu division during the next 24 hours.

He said because the sky remained cloudy during the night, the minimum temperature had improved in the valley and Ladakh region by several degrees.

Kargil, a border town on the Srinagar-Leh national highway in Ladakh region, with minus 10 degrees Celsius was the coldest in both regions. In Leh, the minimum was -9.8 against yesterday's -16.2 degrees.

However, the temperature in hilly areas near the Line of Control (LoC), was between minus 15 degrees to minus 30 degrees Celsius.

The popular ski resort of Gulmarg, about 55 km from here in north Kashmir, was the coldest in the valley with minus 6.5 degrees against yesterday's minus 8 degrees. Despite severe cold, hundreds of tourists, including locals, are visiting the resort, enjoying the cable car ride and snow on the slopes.

Qazigund in south Kashmir recorded minus 6.4 degrees Celsius this morning against yesterday's minus 9.8 degrees.

There was major improvement in Pahalgam also, the base camp for the holy Amarnath cave shrine in south Kashmir Himalayas. The minimum was minus 4 against minus 9.5 degrees yesterday.

The minimum temperature also rose by several degrees in Kokernag in south Kashmir and Kupwara, a frontier district in north Kashmir. It was minus 4.9 degrees at Kokernag against yesterday's minus 8 degrees while minus 1.4 degrees was recorded at Kupwara against minus 4 degrees yesterday.

The summer capital, Srinagar, also witnessed a sudden increase in the minimum temperature by three degrees. However, parts of the Dal Lake, nallahs, taps and other water bodies remained frozen.

Ignoring the warning of the administration not to walk on frozen surface, people, including children and tourists, could be seen posing for photographs on the frozen surface of the water body.

The minimum this morning was recorded minus 2.2 degrees against yesterday's minus 5 degrees.

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CPI-M says right to assemble for meetings, demonstrations must be protected


The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) today said Parliament and state legislatures should adopt legislation protecting the people's right to assemble to hold public meetings and demonstrations.


"It is highly unfortunate that the Supreme Court had upheld the judgement of the Kerala High Court imposing a ban on public meetings and rallies on road sides," the CPI-M Polit Bureau said in a statement here.


The party said it had been the common practice for political parties and other public organisations to hold meetings on the side of the road. Since Kerala is a continuous urban-rural stretch, holding of the road side meetings is the most convenient way to reach out to the people, it said.


"This right of assembly is now being taken away by a judicial fiat based on a far-fetched interpretation of the Constitution that the right of movement is superior to the right of assembly. This may be extended to the whole country. This order comes in the wake of other restrictions imposed by the judiciary on holding of demonstrations, rallies and general strikes," the statement said.


"This does not augur well for a democracy. The state legislatures and parliament should adopt legislation protecting the right to assemble, to hold public meetings and demonstrations," it added.


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Sharma to attend events to mark 150th anniversary of arrival of Indians in South Africa

Union Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma will leave here tonight for South Africa to attend the celebrations to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the arrival of Indians in that country.


During his visit, Mr Sharma is scheduled to meet South African President Jacob Zuma, his counterpart Rob Davies and Deputy Minister for International Relations and Cooperation Ebrahim Ebrahim,

An official press release said Mr Sharma would inaugurate the office of the public sector trading enterprise MMTC Ltd at Johannesburg.


The opening of the office is being seen as a significant step in boosting bilateral trade as India procures large quantities of precious metals, diamonds, fertilizers and coal from the African continent.

The Minister will also interact with senior South African and Indian business representatives at a luncheon meeting.


The release said Mr Sharma was also likely to hold bilateral meetings with his counterpart and review the progress of India-SACU (South African Customs Union) PTA (Preferential Trade Agreement) negotiations. Progress on early completion of the PTA has been sought by various segments of the Indian business community. During his visit to South Africa in August 2010, Mr Sharma and his South African counterpart had set a target of six months to a year to complete the negotiations.

Bilateral trade between the two countries has witnessed a steady growth from $ 3.18 billion in 2004-05 to $ 7.73 billion in 2009-10. In 2009-10, India’s exports to South Africa were $ 2.058 billion and imports from South Africa were $ 5.674 billion.


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Kiran Reddy meets Azad: discusses political situation in Andhra Pradesh


Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy met Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Ghulam Nabi Azad at the Lake View Guest House here today.


The Chief Minister was closeted with the Union Minister for more than 30 minutes, official sources said.


It is understood that Mr Reddy had discussed the political situation in the state in the wake of the publication of the Justice B N Srikrishna Committee Report on Telangana and the launch of a new political party by former Congress MP and late Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy's son Y S Jaganmohan Reddy soon.


Mr Azad arrived in the state capital yesterday to participate in the 54th All India Congress of Obstetrics and Gynaecology here.


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Rajasthan reels under cold wave, Bikaner records 0 deg


The cold wave continued to sweep Rajasthan today as the desert town of Bikaner recorded a minimum temperature of zero degree Celsius, followed by Pilani(0.5) and Jaisalmer(1.1).


In Mount Abu, though the minimum temperature recorded a marginal rise of one degree, the mercury settled at 2 degrees below the freezing point, weather office sources said.


In Jaipur, the mercury rose from 1.4 to 4 degrees but foggy conditions affected road and air traffic. Dense fog till late this morning brought visibility level to 50 metres, causing delay in morning flights at the Sanganer airport here. No flights could take off till around 0900 hrs and and half a dozen of them were delayed, airport sources said.


Besides Jaipur, foggy weather also prevailed in Bikaner, Ganganagar, Jaisalmer and Churu, affecting vehicular movement.


The cold wave conditions were likely to continue unabated for a day or two, the weather office said.


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PM dedicates to nation power reactor fuel reprocessing plant at Tarapur

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday dedicated to the nation a 100-tonnes per annum Power Reactor Reprocessing Plant at Tarapur, describing it as a significant milestone in the country's three-stage indigenous nuclear programme.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today dedicated to the nation the 100-tonne per year fuel reprocessing plant at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) at Tarapur near Mumbai, describing it as a significant milestone in the country's three-stage indigenous nuclear programme.

The new facility will use spent fuel from indigenous nuclear power plants for fast breeder reactors.

"This is yet another instance that once we make up our mind, India can do anything," Dr Singh said.

He said India had come a long way since the first reprocessing of spent fuel in the country in 1964 at Trombay. He said the recycling and optimal utilization of uranium was essential to meet the country's current and future energy security needs.

"The vision of the founding fathers of our nuclear programme, Jawaharlal Nehru and Homi Bhabha, was to achieve the mastery of the complete fuel cycle, thus enabling India to use our vast and abundant thorium resources in advanced nuclear power reactors.

"The reprocessing of spent fuel is therefore the key to our three-stage indigenous nuclear power programme. Reprocessing is essential in the transition to the second stage of fast breeder reactors which we have begun, and in the subsequent third stage using thorium in advanced reactors," he said.

Dr Singh said reprocessing spent fuel would also ensure that the country was better able to manage the wastes which are by-products of the nuclear fuel cycle.

"Tarapur, itself is an outstanding example of nuclear energy’s capacity to provide the clean, safe and economical energy that our nation requires for its development and growth. This site is home to the oldest boiling water reactors in the world. Here we have built our own reactors as well. And we have subsequently added the entire range of facilities covering the entire fuel cycle from fuel fabrication to reprocessing and waste immobilization," he said.

The Prime Minister said that, taken together, the atomic energy programme of India represented a very important and significant step towards technological and energy self-reliance and security.

"That we have done so by the efforts of our own scientists and engineers is tribute to the vision of the founders of our atomic energy programme. Given the advanced status of our indigenous programme and the capabilities of our scientists and engineers we can now confidently utilize the new opportunities that have been created with the opening up of international cooperation in the field of nuclear energy," he said.

Dr Singh said that, as India moved forward in the years to come to realize the potential of atomic energy to contribute to the nation’s development, there was need to pay greater attention to capacity building, training and nurturing young and fresh talent which is in abundant supply in the country.

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Foreign tourist arrivals in India up 9.3 % in 2010 to 5.58 million

Foreign Tourist Arrivals (FTAs) in India went up by 9.3 per cent in 2010 to 5.58 million from 5.11 million in 2009, an official statement said here today.

The statement said the growth was much better than the growth rate of 5 to 6 per cent projected for the world by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) for 2010.

FTAs during December 2010 were 6.55 lakh as compared to 6.46 lakh in the same month of the previous year, a growth of 1.4 per cent. It pointed out that flight schedules from Europe were disturbed during December because of bad weather conditions there.

According to the statement, India's foreign exchange earnings (FEE) from tourism during 2010 were $ 14.193 billion as compared to $ 11.394 billion in the previous year and $ 11.747 billion in 2008. The growth rate in 2010 was 24.6 per cent, it said.

The FEE from tourism in rupee terms during 2010 were Rs.64,889 crore with a growth rate of 18.1%, as compared to FEE of Rs.54,960 crore in 2009.

The FEE from tourism during December 2010 were Rs 7039 crore as compared to Rs 7042 crore in the same month of 2009.

The FEE in dollar terms during the month of December 2010 were $ 1.558 billion as compared to $ 1.510 billion in December 2009, a growth of 3.2 per cent.

During 2010, a total number of 6549 Visas on Arrival (VoA) were issued under the Tourist VoA Scheme.

The VoA scheme was introduced from January 1, 2010 for citizens of five countries - Finland, Japan, Luxembourg, New Zealand and Singapore, visiting India for tourism purposes.

From January 1 this year, the scheme has been extended to nationals of four more countries - Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Phillipines .

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4 flights to Delhi diverted to other airports due to fog


Four flights to Delhi were diverted to other airports in the country because of a heavy blanket of fog that had enveloped the capital since late last night, sources at the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) said.


They said a flight from Vadodara was diverted to Jaipur and one from Singapore was diverted to Kolkata. A flight from Jaipur and another from Bangalore returned to their points of origin because of the poor visibility at the airport here, they said.


Low visibility procedures (LVP) were implemented at the airport from 2230 hours on runway 11/29 and from 2329 hours on runway 10/28 yesterday until 0700 hours this morning.


During this period, a total of 119 arrivals and departures of flights were operated under various categories of instrument landing systems (ILS). However, no flights were cancelled during this period, they said.


The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has said that no fog was expected from noon today till midnight.


All the same, the airport authorities have advised passengers to leave for the airport only after reconfirming the departure times of their flights with the airlines concerned.


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Cold day conditions continue in Delhi, min. temp.at 4.3 degrees Celsius


Delhi and nearby areas continued to experience cold day conditions, with the minimum temperature in the past 24 hours falling to 4.3 degrees Celsius, down from yesterday's 5.3 degrees and three degrees below normal for this time of the year.


According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), the maximum temperature in the past 24 hours in the capital was 14.5 degrees Celsius, six degrees below normal.


The IMD has said that cold day conditions were likely to continue in the city today, with the sky clearing up after the mornig fog. The maximum temperature would be around 15 degrees Celsius today, it said.


The IMD said the maximum and minimum temperatures were likely to be 17 and 5 degrees Celsius tomorrow and 18 and 5 degrees Celsius on Sunday.


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Modern lighting on Vizag-Bheemili Beach Road inaugurated


Union Minister of State for Human Resource Development D Purandeswari inaugurated the central median and modern lighting provided by the Visakhapatnam Urban Development authority( VUDA) on the Visakhapatnam-Bheemili Beach Road from Jodugullapalem to Seetha Konda junction here last night.


Speaking on the occasion, Ms Purandesari said VUDA had developed these amenities at a cost of Rs. 32 lakhs on a stretch of one kilometre for the benefit of people in the city and villages nearby.


VUDA Vice Chairman B Sreedhar, Visakhapatnam Mayor P Janardhana Rao and MLA- East V. Ramakrishna Babu were among those who attended the function.


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Trinamool-Maoist nexus in West Bengal: Left parties


Leaders of Left parties, the Telugu Desam and the Janata Dal (S) today today submitted a memorandum to Union Home Minister P Chidambaram charging the Trinamool Congress, an ally of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA), with having a nexus with Maoists.


During the meeting, they asked Mr Chidambaram about the action he proposed to take in dealing with this issue after providing him with "intcontrovertible evidence" in this regard.


Speaking to reporters after submitting the memorandum, submitted with annexures, CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Sitaram Yechury said, "So far whenever we raised the issue, we were told that it was the CPI(M) or Left Front's charge against Trinamool Congress. Now, in this memorandum, we have given him evidence as we have collected it from one of their (TMC) own members of Lok Sabha, who has published a book detailing various meetings that have taken place before the Nandigram incident in West Bengal."


Mr Yechury said the responsibility of overcoming the impact of the Maoist violence was not the responsibility of state governments alone because it was a phenomenon which spanned across several states.


"Therefore, the Union Government also has a responsibility, which you have not only acknowledged but acted upon by taking some initiatives. And, may we add that it is necessary to desist from taking positions which undermine the spirit of resistance that seeks to bring an end to Maoist violence and depradations," he added.


On the Nandigram agitation, Mr Yechury said, "Since then onwards this collaboration (TMC-Maoists) is continuing...and then a statement by a Maoist leader himself who has given graphic details of how they have not only worked together but also that they would work in future together."


Mr Yechury termed the alleged nexus a threat to India's internal security and pointed out that the Prime Minister had repeatedly said that the gravest threat to India's security was the Maoist violence.


"And now you have members of his cabinet who are actively in collaboration with the Maoists and are, therefore, undermining India's internal security," he said. He said this was a contradiction that could not be accepted.


Asked about Mr Chidambaram's reaction, he said, "The Home Minister assured us that this is a very serious matter and that he will look into it impartially. We hope that the government takes cognisance of it."

BJP will not accept Srikrishna committee report: Venkaiah Naidu


The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) today said the party would not accept any recommendations by the Justice B N Srikrishna Committee on the demand for separate Telangana state and keeping Andhra Pradesh united, and maintained that introducing the Telangana Bill in Parliament was the only solution.


Addressing a news conference here, former BJP President and Rajya Sabha member M Venkaiah Naidu said the BJP had been saying that bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh was the only solution and the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government should take appropriate steps in this regard.


He said the Congress party had separate Telangana state as one of its election promises in the 2004 general elections. It enjoyed power in the first term of UPA. Later, it constituted the Justice Srikrishna Commitee on the issue. But, this did not help except prolonging the issue, he said.


"The committee's recommendations will not solve the problem. The only political solution is introducing the Telangana Bill in Parliament," he claimed.


Mr Naidu said the Congress should be held responsible for the present political turmoil in Andhra Pradesh and appealed to the Centre again to introduce the Telangana Bill without delay.


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SC asks TN Backward Classes Commission to identify creamy layer


The Supreme Court has directed the Tamil Nadu Backward Classes Commission to identify the creamy layer among the backward classes in the state by July this year.


A bench comprising Chief Justice S H Kapadia and Justices K S Radhakrishnan and Swatanter Kumar clarified that the orders of the Supreme Court of July 2010 were fully applicable in this case also.


The Supreme Court has directed the State Government to collect identifiable data regarding the percentage of other backward classes (OBCs) in Tamil Nadu while permitting the state to continue to provide 69 per cent reservation in the state for one year.


The clarification was issued by the Supreme Court on a petition filed by a non-governmental organisation (NGO), Voice, which alleged that the Tamil Nadu Government had not identified the creamy layer for last eighteen years in terms of the directions of the Supreme Court issued in Mandal Commission case of 1992.


The Supreme Court in the Indra Sahni case, which is also known as Mandal Commission case, had directed that the creamy layer among OBCs should be identified and excluded from the benefits of reservation policy meant for the socially, educationally and economically backward sections of the society.


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Tension in Osmania University after Telangana report made public


The situation on the Osmania University campus here became tense today after the report of the Srikrishna Committee on Telangana was made public.


A large number of pro-Telangana activists took out a demonstration in the university protesting the Committee's recommendations and tried to proceed towards Vidyanagar.


However, the police forces deployed as part of precautionary measures foiled their attempt and tried to disperse them. Some youth pelted stones at the security personnel and atmosphere grew tense.


With the situation turning out of control, the police resorted to a lathi-charge and dispersed the agitating youth.


Even though police brought the situation under control, tension still prevailed in the campus, the sources added.


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ULFA "chairman" meets peace interlocutor P C Halder after release


United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) "chairman" Arabinda Rajkhowa and "deputy commander-in-chief" Raju Baruah today met Centre-appointed peace interlocutor P C Haldar to discuss on formal initiation of peace parleys between the banned outfit and the government.


This was the first meeting with the peace interlocutor after Rajkhowa’s release on bail from Guwahati central jail on January 1.


Talking to reporters after the meeting, Rajkhowa said, "A formal announcement on talks is yet to be made by the ULFA. We discussed ways to facilitate such an announcement."


He said any formal decision on talks had to be first taken by the executive council of the ULFA and it had to be ratified by the General Council.


"We will go to the public and all ULFA members before the final formal declaration on talks," he said.


Rajkhowa said the matter of ULFA "general secretary" Anup Chetia’s extradition from Bangladesh was also raised by him during the meeting.


"We have appealed to the government to facilitate Chetia’s return to Assam for the sake of peace talks," the rebel leader said.


The two-hour long meeting, held at the Circuit House here, was also attended by Assam Police Special Branch Additional Director General Khagen Sharma.


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AP Home Minister appeals for restraint after Telangana report


In the wake of the Justice Srikrishna Committee Report which was made public today, the Andhra Pradesh Government tightened security across the State, especially in the Telangana region.


With several pro-Telangana leaders opining the report was not in favour of a separate Telangana, most of the central paramilitary forces deployed in the Telangana region, especially in and around Hyderabad City, were on alert.


Meanwhile, Home Minister P Sabitha Reddy reviewed the law and order situation with Director General of Police A Aravinda Kumar and other senior police officials here and directed them to take all necessary steps to tackle any untoward incidents.


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