India, Sri Lanka to strengthen cooperation in tourism sector

India and Sri Lanka today agreed to strengthen bilateral cooperation in the tourism sector and also to exchange information and expertise on urban poverty alleviation programmes.

This was agreed to at a meeting here today between visiting Sri Lankan Minister for Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa and Minister for Tourism and Urban Poverty Alleviation Kumari Selja.

An official press release said Ms Selja expressed happiness over the fact that India received a sizable number of tourists from Sri Lanka and that the Buddhist sites in the country were their most favoured destinations.

She suggested both countries could cooperate in the field of human resource development, destination management and promotion in the tourism sector. She also called for stronger linkages between various stakeholders such as travel and tour operators and hoteliers in the two countries.

Ms Selja said both the countries could undertake joint promotion and marketing to increase the tourist arrivals in the region. She stressed the need to promote intra-regional tourism. She also proposed joint meetings between the two countries at official and stakeholders' levels.

The Minister said there was need for better packagig of South Asian tourist destinations to the outside world. She felt the two countries could promote cruise tourism jointly.

Mr Rajapaksa also evinced keen interest in the Government of India's housing and urban poverty alleviation programmes. Ms Selja gave details about initiatives such as the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission and the Rajiv Awas Yojana, which is aimed at making India a slum free country.

The Sri Lankan Minister said both countries had to cope with growing urbanisation and could exchange information on matters relating to slum development and street vending management to make life better for the urban poor.


Delhi Metro's Chhattarpur station to become operational from Aug 26

Chhattarpur Metro Station
Chhattarpur Metro Station

The Chhattarpur Metro Station on the Delhi Metro's Central Secretariat – Gurgaon corridor will become operational for public use from tomorrow.

A press release from the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) said the Commissioner of Metro Rail Safety (CMRS), Mr R K Kardam, inspected the station today and gave the statutory clearances necessary for the commencement of commuter operations.

The Chhattarpur station could not be opened with the rest of the Qutab Minar-HUDA City Centre corridor in June as DMRC got the requisite land for the construction of the station only in October last year.

According to the release, DMRC engineers constructed the station in a record time of nine months by adopting a unique construction method where they used special pre-fabricated/structural steel to construct the station. The conventional construction technique of making stations by concrete would have taken at least two years which would have delayed the Metro line substantially.

The release said this was the only station on the entire Delhi Metro Rail System that has been fully constructed with steel as all other stations have been made using concrete and some steel elements. No Metro station in India has been built in such a short span of time ever so far. Jindal Mectec, the contractors, have used high strength steel (IS 2062 Grade B) for the construction. The procedure, however, cost an additional 30 to 50% expense to the Delhi Metro.

Another major highlight of the Chhattarpur Metro station is that it will have the largest parking area available in any Metro station of the Delhi Metro network - 12,000 square metres.

The station will be of great benefit to the thousands of devotees who visit the Chhattarpur temple every year as well as residents of nearby areas such as Mehrauli and Vasant Kunj.

Mr Kardam is planning to inspect the Central Secretariat – Qutab Minar Metro corridor on August 30 and 31. This 12.53 kilometre long corridor has nine underground stations which are Udyog Bhawan, Race Course, Jorbagh, INA, AIIMS, Green Park, Hauz Khas, Malviya Nagar and Saket.


Railways to launch "Mother Express" to mark centenary of Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa
Mother Teresa

The Indian Railways have, in a special gesture, decided to run an exhibition train named "Mother Express" to commemorate the birth centenary of Mother Teresa, the Catholic nun who founded the Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata.

The train will showcase the life and works of the Albanian-born Mother Teresa, who worked tirelessly in the service of the poor, sick, orphaned and destitute in Kolkata and other places for nearly half a century.

Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 and the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian honour, in 1980 for her humanitarian work.

The train will be opened for public viewing at Sealdah station in Kolkata tomorrow by Railways Minister Mamata Banerjee, after which it will travel to different stations in the country over the next six months.

The train consists of three air-conditioned coaches with exhibits about the life, work and message of Mother Teresa, including photographs and write-ups. The Missionaries of Charity has provided the photographs and other material for the exhibition, an official press release added.


Leh cloudburst: PMO urges industry to join hands in rehabilitation effort

The Prime Minister's Office (PMO) today called upon the Indian industry to join hands in the rehabilitation of the people of Leh and Kargil, where flash floods and mudslides triggered by a massive cloudburst on April 6 had caused widespread loss to life and property.

An official press release said Mr T K A Nair, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, met with office-bearers of the industry bodies such as CII, FICCI, ASSOCHAM, PHDCCI and SCOPE today and sought their support for the rebuilding of both infrastructure and livelihoods in Leh and Kargil in Jammu and Kashmir.

Among those present at the meeting were CII President Hari Bhartia, CII Director General Chandrajit Banerjee, former FICCI President Harshpati Singhania, ASSOCHAM President Swati Piramal, PHDCCI President Ashok Kajaria and SCOPE Director General U D Choubey.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had, during his visit to the affected areas, announced support to the State Government for the rebuildig of houses, hospitals, water supply and water supply and had sanctioned Rs 125 crore for the purpose.

Dr Singh had also directed that houses should be rebuilt before the onset of the winter and that he would visit the area again to ensure that this was done.

Mr Nair said there was no shortage of funds and what was needed from the industry was the pooling together of knowledge and implementation resources to ensure that the target of rehabilitation of the population before winter was met.

He said there was a need for the private sector to participate and partner the Government in such efforts.

The industry associations assured the PMO that they would spare no effort in this regard. While they have already placed some groups on the ground to conduct initial studies, they will ramp up their efforts in coordination with the PMO and the State Government, they said.

The areas for cooperation will include ensuring adequate supply of material, equipment, and labour, along with necessary assistance in terms of technical expertise and medical assistance as needed.

According to the release, the PMO has asked the State Government to prepare a target and milestone map for rehabilitation and to have it ready by the end of this month. Mr Nair has directed PMO officials to monitor the implementation on the ground to ensure that the targets are met.

About 180 people were killed in the flash floods and mudslides, and more than 400 were injured. Besides, the disaster also caused widespread damage to public and private property.


SpiceJet adds Madurai as its 20th destination

Low fare airline SpiceJet today said it would add Madurai in Tamil Nadu as its 20th destination with a daily flight to Chennai from September 27 that will connect onwards to Delhi and Mumbai.

"As we grow our fleet and induct the 22nd aircraft, we increase our presence in the South," Samyukth Sridharan, Chief Commercial Officer, SpiceJet Limited, said.

"Madurai is among the top three industrial towns of Tamil Nadu. It is the only airport in India serving six Lok Sabha constituencies. Also, known as the cultural capital to Tamil Nadu and host to the very famous Meenakshi temple, we are happy to announce Madurai as our 20th destination," he added.


Chidambaram says threat of terrorist attacks remains

Home Minister P Chidambaram said on Wednesday that, though India had been free of terrorist attacks in the last 21 months, save for one incident, it did not mean that the threat of such attacks had gone away.

Union Home Minister P Chidambaram today said that, though India had been remarkably free of any terrorist attack in the last 21 months, save for one incident, it did not mean that the threat of such attacks had gone away.

"I wish to caution you that there is no let up in the attempts to infiltrate militants into India. There is no let up in the attempts to radicalise young men and women in India," he said in his inaugural address at the conference of Directors General of Police (DGPs) and Inspectors General of Police (IGPs) here.

"Besides, there is the recently uncovered phenomenon of saffron terrorism that has been implicated in many bomb blasts of the past. My advice to you is that we must remain ever vigilant and continue to build, at the Central and State levels, our capacity in counter-terrorism," he said.

On the issue of left-wing extremism, Mr Chidambaram said the Government had called upon the CPI (Maoist) to abjure violence and come for talks but regretted that there had been no direct and credible response to the offer so far.

The Home Minister said that, through 2009 and in the first eight months of this year, the security situation was severely challenged by forces inimical to India both within and outside the country.

"Contrary to perceptions in a section of the media – and, consequently, among sections of the people – the Indian State has been able to stand up to these challenges and face them with confidence and courage," he said. He also acknowledged the willing cooperation extended by the State Governments.

He said the prime mover was always policy and experience had shown that if there were clarity of purpose and a well-enunciated policy, the security forces would be able to deliver.

He cited the example of the policy of zero tolerance of cross border terrorism announced by the Government and the number of steps taken by it to build capacity, augment intelligence, raise special forces, acquire modern equipment, impart better training and take counter-terrorism measures.

"As a result, save for one incident, the last 21 months have been remarkably free of any terrorist attack. The (February 13) attack on the German Bakery in Pune was indeed a blot. I sincerely hope that the suspects will be apprehended as soon as possible," he said.

On the challenge of Naxalism, Mr Chidambaram said it was often forgotten that it was the State Governments that had been, and continue to be, in the forefront of fighting the menace.

He said all State Governments were committed to the two-pronged strategy of development and police action. He said the Centre had, in November 2009, persuaded the States to adopt a coordinated strategy and provided them more para-military forces. He said the Centre had also made it clear that it would take several years before they could contain the CPI (Maoist) and roll back their offensive.

"I think the people of India understand – even if the critics do not – that the conflict will be a long-drawn one, that patience is the key, that mistakes will be made, and that the security forces need material and moral support to carry out their tasks," he said.

The Home Minister said that, in the last 10 months, despite setbacks in Gadchiroli, Silda, Tadmetla and Chingavaram, the security forces had been able to re-assert the control of the State in several affected districts.

"While the loss of every life is a matter of grief and regret, nothing is more painful than the killing of innocent civilians after naming them as ‘police informers’. This year alone, so far, 424 civilians have been killed and, of these, 192 were killed after being named ‘police informers’. Who shares the grief of their families, who speaks up against their killings? We have called upon the CPI (Maoist) to abjure violence and come for talks. I regret to say that there has been no direct and credible response to our offer of talks," he said.

Mr Chidambaram said that, apart from containing terrorsm, the best record of achievement had been in the North Eastern States. While the year 2009 was a distinct improvement on the year 2008, it is in 2010 that there had been a dramatic decline in the number of incidents and in the number of casualties, he said.

According to him, there have been only 464 incidents until August 15, 2010, as against 1,297 and 1,561 for the whole year in 2009 and 2008, respectively.

"Only 52 civilians have been killed, as against 264 and 466 respectively, and we have lost only 15 men of the security forces. Nevertheless, I must admit with regret that Manipur and Assam have been affected by long-duration blockades and bandhs and by intermittent violence," he said.

He said that it was a matter of great satisfaction that a number of groups were engaged in talks with the Government of India. Among them are NSCN (IM), NDFB (PT), DHD (Nunisa), DHD (J), UPDS, ANVC, KLNLF, KNO and UPF.

He said the Centre had appointed two interlocutors: Mr R.S. Pandey to talk to the NSCN (IM) and Mr P.C. Haldar to talk to NDFB (PT), DHD (Nunisa), DHD (J), KLNLF, UPDS and ANVC, besides ULFA.

Mr Chidambaram hoped that the ULFA would also formally come forward to begin talks with the Government of India and the Government of Assam.

He said there was no denying that the success achieved in bringing so many groups to the negotiating table had contributed immensely to the decline of violence in the North Eastern States.

"I would appeal to the groups – or factions of groups – that have stayed away from talks to give up violence, accept the offer of the Governments to hold talks, enter into agreements of ceasefire or suspension of operations, and begin talks with the Governments’ representatives. I am confident that solutions can be found within the Constitution of India to the demands of various groups for recognition of their identity, history, culture and desire for self-government. The best example is the Bodo Territorial Council which has turned out to be a model of self-governance within the State of Assam and within the Constitution of India," he said.

Turning to Jammu and Kashmir, Mr Chidambaram said that, beginning 2005, and with the exception of 2008, the law and order situation in the State had been extremely benign, with few incidents and fewer casualties.

"Unfortunately, since June this year, there has been an unexpected turn of events. I am afraid J&K is now caught in a vicious cycle of stone-pelting, lathicharge, teargasing and firing, leading to casualties, and resulting in more stone-pelting. The security forces have been instructed to act with great restraint. The situation has not yet returned to normal," he said.

Nevertheless, amidst serious disturbances, 457,324 yatris completed the Amarnath Yatra, exceeding the number of 392,000 yatris last year. So far, 516,970 tourists have visited J&K, and that number also exceeds the 355,960 tourists of last year, he said.

The Home Minister said the Central Government had acknowledged that a political solution must be found to the problems of J&K. He said the Central Government has offered a dialogue with all sections of the people of J&K and all political parties and groups.

"We are concerned that we have not been able to stop the vicious cycle in which that State is caught. However, it is my hope that, in the next few days, we would be able to find that elusive ‘starting point’ from where we could reach out to the protestors, reassure them of their rights and dignity, restore peace and order, redeem the promises made, and re-start the process of dialogue that will lead to a solution," he said.

Mr Chidambaram said one of the principal concerns was the maintenance of communal peace and harmony. He said he was particularly dismayed by the fact that petty disputes and imagined slights triggered conflicts between communities and groups.

"The Scheduled Castes are especially vulnerable. While it is a matter of satisfaction that there has been no major outbreak of communal or caste violence in the last 12 months, I would urge you to remain vigilant. At the first sign of communal or caste violence, you should depute senior officers to deal with the situation firmly and without fear or favour," he told the officers attending the conference.

Mr Chidambaram listed the various steps taken by the Centre to strengthen internal security, especially in the matter of providing resources, intelligence, training facilities and para-military forces to the State Governments, which have the primary responsibility for "police" and "law and order".

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is slated to address the conference tomorrow. The inaugural session was attended by, among others, Ministers of State for Home Mullapally Ramachandran and Ajay Maken, National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon, Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrasekhar, Home Secretary G K Pillai and Intelligence Bureau Director Rajiv Mathur.


Mumbai diamond heist: 4 suspects held in Dubai

The Mumbai Police today claimed to have solved yesterday's sensational diamond heist in the city with the arrest in Dubai of four persons -- three Mexicans, including a woman, and a Venezuelan.

The four people, who had reached Dubai by an overnight Emirates flight from here, were detained by the police there and the Mumbai Police had initiated the process of getting them here for further investigations.

Diamonds valued at about $ 1.4 million (approximately Rs 6.6 crore) were reported missing from the stall set up by the Hong Kong-based Dalumin Group at the India International Jewellery Show (IIJS) in Goregaon here yesterday.

Joint Police Commissioner (Crime) Himanshu Roy told reporters that the police had been able to narrow the hunt for the culprits responsible for the heist to the four foreigners on the basis of closed circuit television (CCTV) footage obtained from the organisers of the event.

According to him, the four persons had come to the stall around 3.30 pm yesterday, pretending to be trade visitors. While the three men kept the salesman at the stall, an Israeli, engaged in conversation, the woman managed to move the diamonds to her bag.

Initially, the salesman thought the diamonds had been misplaced, but when he failed to find them after a thorough search, he informed the authorities and filed a report with the Goregaon police.

With the help of the video footage, the police were ultimately able to zero in on the four foreigners after going through the records of some 1500 visitors to the show, but by the time the authorities at the airport were alerted, the group had already flown out to Dubai.

The Mumbai Police then got in touch, through the Interpol, with their Dubai counterparts, who detained the four suspects. Some reports suggested that the Dubai Police had also recovered the diamonds from them. According to the reports, the suspects had put the 887 carats diamonds in small plastic bags and swallowed them to evade detection at the Mumbai airport, but were made to purge them at Dubai.


Afghan Foreign Minister Rassuol in Delhi for talks

Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmay Rassuol arrived in Delhi on Tuesday for extensive talks with External Affairs Minister S M Krishna on bilateral relations and other issues of mutual interest.

The Foreign Minister of Afghanistan Zalmay Rassoul calling on the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in New Delhi on August 24, 201
The Foreign Minister of Afghanistan Zalmay Rassoul calling on the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in New Delhi on August 24, 2010.

Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmay Rassuol arrived here today on a three-day visit during which he will hold extensive talks with External Affairs Minister S M Krishna on bilateral relations as well as other issues of mutual interest.

Mr Rassuol, who reached here at noon, met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at his 7, Race Course Road residence this evening.

He will hold delegation-level talks with Mr Krishna tomorrow. He is also scheduled to hold a meeting with National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon before flying back home on Thursday.

This is Mr Rassuol's first official visit to India as his country's Foreign Minister though he has been here before as Afghan National Security Adviser. He had also made a transit halt here in April this year on his way to Thimphu, Bhutan for the SAARC Summit.

Mr Rassuol and Mr Krishna have met serveral times on the sidelines of various events, including on July 20 when the External Affairs Minister had visited Kabul for the Kabul Conference.

Mr Rassuol will be assisted at the talks with Mr Krishna by the Ambassador of Afghanistan in Delhi and the Director General of Foreign Affairs, among other officials. Mr Krishna will be assisted by Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao, the Indian Ambassador in Kabul, among others.

Briefing mediapersons about the the visit, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vishnu Prakash said the two countries were committed to deepen and strengthen their strategic partnership and the multi-faceted ties which, according to him, had been a factor for peace, stability and progress in the region.

He also pointed out that the two sides have been holding regular consultations at high levels to review and impart greater momentum to their ties.

Mr Prakash said Dr Singh and Afghan President Hamid Karzai had beeen meeting regularly and there were also regular meetings at the levels of the Foreign Ministers, National Security Advisers, Foreign Secretaries and other leaders and officials.

He said India had been extending unstinted support for the reconstruction and development of Afghanistan and was already the sixth largest donor to the war-ravaged country. He said India's bilateral assistance to Afghanistan was close to $ 1.3 billion and its projects had reached out to the common man in all parts of that country.

He said the Indian Medical Mission had treated more than 310,000 people, mostly women and children, free of cost in 2009.

Mr Prakash said India had been contributing to development of infrastructure including the 218-kilometre Zaranj-Delaram Road and the power transmission line from Pul-e-Khumri to Kabul.

He said India had also implemented some 50 small, quick-gestation, social and development projects in Afghanistan and a similar number was in the pipeline.

"We are playing an important role in capacity-building. Presently, 1350 scholarships, 675 each by ICCR and under the ITEC programme, are being made available annually in different disciplines to Afghanistan for capacity-building. Post London Conference, given the fact that the agricultural and related sectors are very important to Afghanistan, India has decided for a period of five years, to provide 100 fellowships annually to enable Afghans to pursue Masters and Ph.D. programmes and to 200 fresh graduates for degree programmes," he said.

"As significantly, despite the heinous attacks by forces inimical to India-Afghanistan friendship on our Embassy in Kabul in July 2008 and again in October 2009 and on Indian interests in February 2010, India remains committed to assisting the people and Government of Afghanistan, in their quest for a peaceful, pluralistic, democratic, and prosperous Afghanistan. This approach of India, this assistance of India that is being provided in Afghanistan, is positively reflected in a number of opinion polls conducted by independent agencies where the people of Afghanistan have spoken in very warm terms about what India has been doing," he added.


DMRC to provide consultancy for high-speed rail corridor in Kerala

The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) will provide consultancy services for the construction of a proposed high-speed rail corridor in Kerala between state capital Thiruvananthapuram and Kasargod.

A press release from DMRC said a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to this effect was signed here today by Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation (KSIDC) Managing Director Alkesh Sharma and DMRC Director (Works) Mangu Singh in the presence of DMRC Managing Director E Sreedharan.

According to the release, this is DMRC’s first ever consultancy project for a high speed rail corridor and it plans to engage Japanese experts, who have been associated with bullet trains, during the study. So far, DMRC has provided consultancy for the construction of Metro corridors in many cities of the country.

As per the MoU, the DMRC will provide its consultancy for conducting a pre- feasibility study for the establishment of this 550-kilometre long rail corridor.

While the traffic study report has to be submitted within three months from the date of agreement, the draft pre-feasibility report has to be submitted within five months and the final pre-feasibility report will be submitted within six months from the date of the signing of the agreement. The total cost of preparing the report will be Rs 10 crore.

Trains will run at a speed of about 275-300 kilometres per hour on this standard gauge (1,435 mm) corridor. Initially, eight stations have been planeed which are: Thiruvananthapuram, Quilon, Kottayam, Ernakulam, Thrissur, Calicut, Kannur and Kasaragod.

Three more stations at Chengannur, Tirur and Thalassery may also be constructed in the future. The average distance between these stations will be 70 to 80 kilometres, the release added.


Standalone dialysis unit to be set up at CGHS clinic in Delhi

In a first of its kind in the Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS), a standalone haemodialysis centre will be inaugurated at the Sadiq Nagar CGHS Wellness Centre here tomorrow.

The pioneering public-private partnership (PPP) initiative will be launched by Union Health & Family Welfare Centre Ghulam Nabi Azad.

An official press release said the pilot project would be a testing paid in CGHS before such units are rolled out at the district level under the National Programme for Control of Diabetes.

The pilot project has been set up in collaboration with Alliance Medicorp (India) Limited, Chennai, a joint venture company of Apollo Health and Lifestyle Limited, which runs the Apollo Group of Hospitals.

At present, dialysis units in India are set up within hospitals mainly due to a shortage of nephrologists, leading to a scarcity situation. CGHS beneficiaries often suffer hardship for dialysis because demand exceeds the supply by far.

The release said CGHS refers quite a few of its beneficiaries to private empanelled hospitals. In Delhi, around 40-50 patients require dialysis per day. This number is expected to go up in the years to come in view of diseases such as diabetes and hypertension which lead to chronic kidney disease and renal failure.

The public health sector would have to cater to significantly increased demand for dialysis and the Government thinks standlone dialysis units were a possible solution.

In this model, the dialysis unit is not located in a hospital, thus eliminating the need of availability of a nephrologist round the clock as the dialysis station is manned by trained medical and paramedical staff under the overall supervision of nephrologists who ensure quality control as per a laid down protocol.

A space of 2400 sq. ft. of covered area has been renovated to suit the requirements for providing state-of-art dialysis facility at the centre. It will have the capacity to dialyze up to 21 cases of chronic renal failure per day with seven functional dialysis machines (and an additional stand-by machine) and shall be operational from 7 A.M. to 8 P.M. for 310 days in a year. If maximally utilized it shall be able to undertake 6510 dialysis per year, the release added.


Conference of DGPs/IGPs to begin in Delhi on Wednesday

A three-day conference of Directors General of Police (DGPs) and Inspectors General of Police (IGPs) to discuss various issues related to national security will begin here tomorrow.

The conference, organised by the Intelligence Bureau, will be inaugurated by Union Home Minister P Chidambaram. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will address the conference on Thursday.

According to an official press release, the objectives of the conference are to provide an interactive platform for senior police professionals and security administrators in the country to freely discuss and debate diverse national security-related issues as also the various operational, infrastructural and welfare-related problems faced by the police in India.

The deliberations will also include formulation and sharing of professional practices and processes in tackling challenges related to crime control and law and order management besides internal security threats such as terrorism, insurgency, left-wing extremism, espionage and organized crime, the release added.


CBI arrests Commerce ministry official for alleged corruption

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) today said it had arrested Mr R K Jain, Director (Anti-Dumping) in the Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry for alleged corruption and registered three regular cases against him and some others.

The others against whom the cases have been filed include officials of three private companies, a tout and a company. The cases have been filed under various sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act and the Indian Penal Code, the agency said in a press release.

Mr Jain, who belongs to the Indian Costs and Accounts Service, was arrested yesterday. The cases were registered on August 19.

According to the CBI, searches were conducted at 15 locations in Delhi, Noida, Mumbai and Jharkhand, including the residential and official premsies of the accused persons and companies. The raids yielded incriminating documents, cash worth Rs 7.25 lakhs, documents relating to several bank accounts, bank lockers and investments in real estate, among other things. A laptop computer has also been seized, the release said.

The release said Mr Jain was to be produced before the competent court today.

The CBI said that the first case involved a Mumbai-based company. Mr Jain was responsible for dealing with the complaints regarding non-compliance of anti-dumping provisions against the delinquent companies.

The agency said the Director (Anti-Dumping) was in league with the affected companies and sought undue favours and illegal gratifications from them.

The second case relates to a Delhi-based company. The CBI has filed a case against the official and the Cost Accountant of the company. According to it, the official was seeking gratification from the company in lieu of of performing his official duty under the anti-dumping provisions.

The third case has been registered against a tout and a director fo a Jharkhand-based company as well as the company. According to it, the tout mediated between buyers and sellers for ensuring supply of coal as part of the deal. The Director (Anti-Dumping) allegedly sought gratifications and undue favours for getting coal linkages for the company from the Ministry of Coal by abusing his official position and using his personal contacts with the officials of the Ministry of Coal.


Delhi Metro services affected by snag in a train's pantograph

Delhi Metro's services on the Central Secretariat-Jahangirpuri corridor were affected for close to 100 minutes today when a train developed a technical sang related to its pantograph, the equipment which draws power form the overhead electrification line.

A spokesman for the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) said the train was approaching the platform at Rajiv Chowk station from Jahangirpuri when the snag occured at 11.32 am.

The affected train was removed from services at 1.11 pm with the help of another train and about 500 passengers travelling by it were deboarded at Rajiv Chowk. Normal services were then esumed on the corridor, he said.

During this period, trains were run in short loop between Jahangirpuri and Kashmere Gate. Two trains were run in short loop between Jahangirpuri and Rajiv Chowk as soon as train having defect cleared Rajiv Chowk.

To clear the Raksha Bandhan rush, two additional trains were run on the corridor today, the spokesman added.


Delhi Metro's total ridership since 2002 crosses Indian population

The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) today said its total ridership since 2002, when its operations started, had crossed 1.25 billion, which is more than the estimated total population of India.

India's census authorities have estimated that the country's population will be 1.20 billion in 2011, when the next census is due to be held.

A spokesman for DMRC said the Delhi Metro network had carried over 1.25 billion commuters

(1,27,80,58,892) till August 22, 2010 since 2002. He said it was a unique achievement for any urban mass transport system.

Currently, in Delhi Metro, over 100 trains are making more than 2,000 trips a day on a 125- kilometre long network carrying over 1.15 million commuters everyday.

After the completion of phase II, when the network will extend to almost 190 kilometres, more than two million commuters are expected to travel by the Metro everyday.


President contributes Rs 100,000 for Leh cloudburst victims

President Pratibha Patil has contributed Rs 100,000 from her salary to the Prime Minister's National Relief Fund for the rehabilitation of the poor and needy persons affected by the August 6 cloudburst in Leh region of Jammu and Kashmir.

The cloudburst, which led to flash floods and mudslides, claimed about 180 lives and injured about 400 people. It also caused widespread damage to public and private property.


Bye-election to UP Legislative Council on September 23

The Election Commission today said that a bye-election would be held on September 23 to fill up a casual vacancy in the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Council.

The vacancy has been caused by the resigation of a sitting member, Mr Jugool Kishor, elected by the members of the Legislative Assembly, on June 17. His term of office will expire on May 5, 2012.

An official press release said the notification for the bye-election would be issued on September 6 and the last date for filing nominations would be September 13.


President, VP, PM greet people on occasion of Raksha Bandhan

President Pratibha Patil, Vice-President M Hamid Ansari and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today greeted the people on the occasion of Raksha Bandhan, which will be celebrated tomorrow.

"This festival is uniquely symbolic of the bonds of love, affection and mutual trust which have existed for centuries between sisters and brothers of every community in our country. May their united endeavours bring prosperity and progress to all sections of our people," Ms Patil said in her message.

Mr Ansari said the festival celebrated the relationship between brothers and sisters and reinforced the spirit of family bonding, societal harmony and peaceful co-existence.

"I am confident that these celebrations will go a long way in spreading the message of fraternity, solidarity, love and affection among citizens," he said. "May this Festival bring about amity and goodwill in our lives."

Dr Singh said Rakhi symbolized affection and reinforced family bonds. "On this auspicious occasion let us make renewed efforts to ensure the dignity and well being of women and to promote peace and harmony in society," he added.


79 H1N1 deaths in India in past one week: Govt.

As many as 79 people have died of influenza A (H1N1) in India in the week ended August 22, an official statement from the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare said here today.

With this, the toll in the country since the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the swine flu as a pandemic in mid-June last year has crossed the 2000-mark and reached 2024.

The WHO, on August 10, had declared an end to the pandemic but called for continued vigilance, pointing out that pandemics, like the viruses that cause them, are unpredictable.

Of the 79 deaths, 40 occurred in Maharashra, 12 in Gujarat, 8 in Karnataka, 6 in Madhya Pradesh, 5 in Delhi, 4 in Rajasthan, 3 in Andhra Pradesh and 1 in Uttar Pradesh.

A total of 1335 fresh cases of the flu were reported during the week, including 411 in Maharashtra, 291 in Karnataka, 257 in Delhi and 103 in Andhra Pradesh, the statement added.


IIMs to conduct CAT 2010 between Oct 27 and Nov 24

The Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) have announced that they will conduct their Common Admission Test (CAT) 2010 during a 20-day testing window between October 27, and November 24 this year.

The CAT is a pre-requisite for admission to various management programmes conducted by the IIMs, including their flagship two-year Post-Graduate Programmes (PGP) in Management. Many other institutions also use the CAT scores to finalise admissions to their management programmes.

The nine IIMs are located at Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Kolkata, Lucknow, Kozhikode, Indore, Shillong, Ranchi and Rohtak.

Last year, CAT was conducted for the first time as a computer-based online test. It was conducted in the pencil-and-paper format for 33 years before that.

The original schedule for the test was between November 28 and December 7, 2009 which was extended by a day to December 8 to accommodate thousands of students who could not appear during the ten-day window because of technical glitches at several centres across the country. The IIMs ultimately had to schedule a re-test on January 30 and 31 for about 11,000 candidates who faced problems during the original schedule.

A total of 241,582 had candidates registered for CAT 2009. The test is reputed to be the toughest entrance examination for business schools in the world.

Based on the experience of last year, the IIMs appear to have decided to provide for a longer, 20-day window this time.

According to an advertisement published by the IIMs in leading newspapers yesterday, candidates for CAT must hold a Bachelor’s degree, with at least 50% marks or equivalent CGPA [45% in case of the candidates belonging to Scheduled Caste (SC), Scheduled Tribe (ST) and Differently Abled (DA)categories], or possess an equivalent qualification recognised by the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development.

Candidates appearing for the final year of bachelor’s degree/equivalent qualification examination and those who have completed degree requirements and are awaiting results can also apply.

The CAT 2010 vouchers will be on sale at selected Axis Bank branches between Monday, 30 August and Monday, 27 September 2010 for Rs. 1400/- (Rs. 700/- for SC/ST candidates).

According to the announcement, a candidate needs to buy only one CAT 2010 Voucher irrespective of the number of institutes he/she is applying to.


Japanese Foreign Minister Okada travels by Delhi Metro

Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada today took a short ride on the Delhi Metro and also paid a visit to the Metro Museum at the Patel Chowk station.

A spokesman for the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) said Mr Okada, who was on an official visit to India, travelled from the Central Secretariat station to the next station, Patel Chowk, before visiting the museum there.

Mr Okada was accompanied by senior Japanese officials and Delhi Metro officials and spent about half an hour seeing the station and the various facilities in it.


President, VP, PM greet people on Onam

President Pratibha Patil, Vice-President M Hamid Ansari and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today greeted Malayalis everywhere on the occasion of Onam, which will be celebrated tomorrow.

"On the joyous occasion of Onam, I offer my heartiest greetings to all my fellow citizens and especially to the people of Kerala and wish them all prosperity and happiness. May this festival bring to all of them, the blessings of peace and harmony," Ms Patil said in her message.

Mr Ansari said the festival of Onam celebrated the onset of the harvest season and the mood of rejoicing was vividly captured in the colourful festivities transcending all barriers.

"May the festival usher in peace, prosperity and happiness in the society and contribute towards the nation’s progress," she said.

Dr Singh said Onam heralded the beginning of the harvest season and reaffirmed the secular traditions of the people.

"The festival is an opportunity to celebrate the spirit of unity and brotherhood and to renew the commitment to an egalitarian society. May the festival bring joy, peace and prosperity to all," he added.


Suspension of Operations pacts with KNO, UPF extended by 45 days

The Government today said the tripartite Suspension of Operations (SoO) agreements between the Centre, the Government of Manipur and two umbrella organisations - the Kuki National Organisation (KNO) and the United People's Front (UPF), which were signed on August 22, 2008, had been extended for a further period of 45 days with effect from today.

An official press release from the Ministry of Home Affairs said it had been ageed that all arms and ammunition shall be kept in double lock by September 20 either in the Camp Armoury or with the nominated Police/SFs.

A decision on further extension of the SoO would be taken after review of the progress made in this regard. Talks will commence after all the cadres shift to the designated camps and weapons kept in double lock, the release added.


Delhi Metro to run more trips to meet extra rush on Raksha Bandhan

The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) today said it would run 187 extra train trips on "Raksha Bandhan" on August 24 and deploy additional personnel to cater to the anticipated extra rush of commuters expected on that day.

A press release from DMRC said trains would be run at peak-hour frequency from 8 am to 8.30 pm on Tuesday and 21 trains, which are normally withdrawn from lines during off-peak hours (12.30 pm to 4.30 pm), will be kept in service performing 187 extra trips, making a total of 2484 trips on that day.

It said DMRC would also deploy more Customer Facilitation Agents to help and guide commuters on that day, with 52 more shifts of eight hours each having been arranged for this purpose. The extra manpower will be deployed at Dilshad Garden, Shahdara, Welcome, Seelampur, Shastri Park, Pitampura, Rohini East, Rohini West, Rithala, Jahangir Puri, Adarsh Nagar, GTB Nagar, Yamuna Bank, Uttam Nagar East, Nawada, Noida City Centre, Botanical Garden, Noida Sec-18, Peeragarhi, Nangloi and Mundka stations.

In addition, extra personnel will be deployed to handle the increased load on the ticketing system and the Metro ticketing staff on 49 stations will do additional shifts of a total of 624 hours. The extra manpower will be deployed mainly at Dilshad Garden, Shahdara, Welcome, Rohini West, Tilak Nagar, Nawada, Uttam Nagar East, Yamuna Bank, Noida City Centre, Botanical Garden, Noida Sec-18, Peeragarhi, Nangloi and Mundka.

According to the release, the Delhi Metro normally witnesses greater rush of commuters on Raksha Bandhan, with about one lakh extra people having travelled on that day every year.

In 2009, 10.08 lakh passengers traveled on Rakhi by the Metro, which was the highest ever ridership at that time. Since then, the Delhi Metro ridership has already increased substantially to an average of 11, 05,949 passengers per day last month, which is the maximum ridership so far in any month.

Metro ridership is expected to rise to 2 million commuters on week days once the entire network of 190 km becomes operational by September 2010 before the October 3-14 Commonwealth Games.


India, Japan agree to continue negotiations on civil nuclear pact

India and Japan today agreed to continue quickly with their negotiations on a bilateral Agreement on the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy and to jointly work towards a pact that would result in a win-win situation for both countries.

"We do not intend fixing a time-line for the conclusion of such an agreement," External Affairs Minister S M Krishna, who co-chaired the 4th round of the India-Japan Strategic Dialogue with his Japanese counterpart Katsuya Okada here today, told mediapersons.

"I conveyed to Foreign Minister Okada our appreciation of Japan’s decision to commence negotiations on a bilateral Agreement on the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy. As you are aware, the first round of negotiations was held in Tokyo on June 28-29 this year," he said.

Mr Krishna said he and Mr Okada had a productive exchange of ideas on how to further strengthen the many dimensions of the India-Japan Strategic and Global Partnership.

He said they discussed ways of further consolidating the excellent political, economic, security and people-to-people relations that India and Japan enjoy.

"We affirmed the fundamental and inherent strength of India-Japan relations, which is demonstrated in the continuing logic of our Partnership which has withstood changes in Government in both our countries. We agreed on the pivotal role of economic cooperation in steering our ties forward. We recognized that both sides have a mutual stake in each other’s prosperity and progress," Mr Krishna said.

He thanked Japan for its continuing Official Development Assistance to India as well as its assistance to flagship infrastructure projects like the Dedicated Freight Corridor, the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor and the establishment of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Hyderabad. Mr Okada reiterated Japan’s commitment towards these projects.

Mr Krishna also thanked the Government of Japan for removing 11 Indian entities from its End User List. The decision will provide a big boost to High Technology Trade between India and Japan.

According to him, the two sides exchanged views on the evolving regional architecture in Asia and agreed to work together in ensuring that such an architecture is open and inclusive. As member-nations of the East Asia Summit (EAS), they welcomed the ASEAN Foreign Ministers' decision to move towards the inclusion of the United States and Russia in the EAS.

They also agreed to continue and enhance their consultations within the G-4 process for reform of the United Nations including its Security Council.

Mr Krishna said he had accepted Mr Okada’s invitation to meet with other G-4 Foreign Ministers in New York in September this year on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly Session.

The two sides discussed regional issues of interest to both countries. They agreed to enhance dialogue between their Foreign Offices on several regions. The two countries decided to embark on a new Dialogue on Africa, with a view to synergizing their developmental efforts in that continent.

Mr Krishna said he and Mr Okada discussed global issues like climate change, non-proliferation and disarmament.

"I conveyed our willingness to Foreign Minister Okada to work with Japan to ensure a balanced, comprehensive, equitable and effective outcome in the UN-led process on climate change at COP-16 in Mexico. On disarmament issues, I conveyed that India and Japan share the goal of a nuclear weapon-free world. We are ready to work with Japan to achieve such an objective in a comprehensive, non-discriminatory and verifiable framework," he said.

Japan has been facing internal opposition to the proposed agreement on civil nuclear energy with India, given its sensitivities on nuclear issues as the only country which has actually been a victim of nuclear bomb attacks. In this context, Japan has been urging India to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).


PM says nation must have a way to resolve creative tensions

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Saturday the nation must have a way to resolve creative tensions in the development process and move ahead.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh releasing a book titled
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh releasing a book titled "Keeping the Faith: Memoirs of a Parliamentarian", written by the former Lok Sabha Speaker, Somnath Chatterjee, in New Delhi on August 21, 2010. Speaker, Lok Sabha, Meira Kumar is also seen.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said the nation must have a way to resolve creative tensions in the development process and move ahead and stressed the need to make the functioning of Parliament more effective and meaningful.

"The enormous diversity of interests and opinions that have to be accommodated in tackling the problems of our country makes governance a highly complicated and challenging task," he said while releasing former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee's book "Keeping the Faith".

He said the country should not shy away from a constructive debate of different points of view if it were to rise above the natural orthodoxy of government functioning.

"If we are to think big – and we must think big about the future of our country- and if we are to think boldly about the challenges and opportunities before us, we cannot do so by ignoring contrary opinions," he said.

Dr Singh said the Indian State had shown the capacity and resilience to overcome trials and tribulations and even rise above them.

He said the country had withstood serious challenges on the economic and security front and even emerged stronger afterwards.

"The reason we are able to do so is, I believe, our vigorous and functioning democracy. The solutions to the problems we face are not beyond the creativity and imagination of our people," he said.

The Prime Minister said one of the issues facing the Indian polity was how to make the functioning of Parliament more effective and meaningful.

He said Mr Chatterjee's book explored some of these issues and also enumerated the many initiatives that he had taken during his tenure as Speaker.

"There was a marked increase in inter-parliamentary contacts, the parliamentary committee system was strengthened, a Lok Sabha TV channel was started and greater transparency was introduced by enhancing the citizen’s right to information," he said.

The Prime Minister recalled how, nearly 60 years ago, as a young boy, he had received a scroll from Mr N C Chatterjee, Mr Somnath Chatterjee's father, declaring him to be a graduate of Hindu College, Amritsar. He said he had always cherished that moments in my life as he had cherished his friendship and association with Mr Chatterjee over many years.

He also recalled that Mr Chatterjee, as Speaker, had to face unusual times in which he had to take a call between defending parliamentary propriety and heeding the demands of the organisation (the Communist Party of India-Marxist) he had spent a lifetime building.

He said that on all such occasions his sagacity had prevailed. "You stood like a rock to defend our best parliamentary traditions, and in doing so have raised the bar for those to follow," he said.

Dr Singh said that Mr Chatterjee's fines hour in his long and distinguished political career was as the Speaker of the Lok Sabha.

"But one should not forget his many achievements and record of public service over the four decades that he spent in active politics on the national scene as a parliamentarian, party leader and voice of principle," he said.

The Prime Minister said Mr Chatterjee's book, "Keeping the Faith", was a very important contribution to India's political history as witnessed from one side of the political spectrum. He wished that more parliamentarians would similarly reflect on their association with the great events and personalities that have shaped modern India.

He said he and Mr Chatterjee had differing views on various issues and the former Speaker had referred to this in his book.

"But these differences in political ideology never came in the way of the close and fruitful personal association I have always had with him," Dr Singh said.

He said the fact that the heat of debate in Parliament is often matched by the warmth of personal relationships among leaders cutting across party lines is a real strength of Indian democracy. He said he had often turned to Mr Chatterjee to benefit from his vast experience, political acumen and sage counsel.

The Prime Minister said that, ultimately, it was the calibre of its Members that breathed life and vitality into Parliament.

He hoped that the anecdotes narrated by Mr Chatterjee related in his book about towering Parliamentarians like Prof Hiren Mukherjee and Mr Jyotirmoy Basu would inspire younger parlimentarians.

"I wish to commend the book to readers to understand a man of extraordinary talent and integrity, who believes in keeping the faith in the fundamental values that have made our republic great, who is deeply committed to preserving the institutions of our republic and who has risen above his party and his ideology to do what he believes is right. May his tribe increase," he added.


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