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5 more swine flu deaths in India, toll rises to 1049

Five more people have died of influenza A (H1N1) in India, taking the toll due to the swine flu pandemic in the country so far to 1049, an official statement said here today.

Four of the deaths - two in Rajasthan and one each in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh - were reported during the day today, it said.

Besides, one death that occurred in recent days in Delhi was reported to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare today, it said.

Of the total swine flu deaths in the country so far, Maharashtra now accounts for 284, while 160 lives have been lost in Rajasthan, 144 in Gujarat, 137 in Karnataka, 85 in Delhi, 52 in Andhra Pradesh, 35 in Punjab, 34 in Kerala, 33 in Haryana, 17 in Uttar Pradesh, 13 in Uttarakhand, 12 in Madhya Pradesh, 8 each in Chandigarh and Himachal Pradesh, 7 in Tamil Nadu, 6 in Puducherry, 5 in Goa, 3 in Orissa, 2 each in Jammu & Kashmir and Chhattisgarh and 1 each in Assam and Mizoram.

Meanwhile, 69 new cases of swine flu were reported from different parts of India today, including 19 in Gujarat, 13 in Maharashtra, 12 in Rajasthan, 9 in Delhi, 7 in Karnataka, 2 each in Madhya Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir and 1 each in Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand, Assam, Chhattisgarh and Punjab.

With these, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus reported in the country so far has gone up to 27,679, the statement added.

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Body of Nitin Garg flown in from Australia to Delhi

The body of Nitin Garg, the 21-year-old Indian who was stabbed to death by unidentified attackers in Melbourne in Australia on January 2, was flown in to New Delhi today.


The body was handed over at the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) here to members of his family, who took it to their home in Jagraon in Ludhiana, Punjab, where the cremation is due to be held tomorrow.


The attack on Mr Garg, 21, was the latest in a series of assaults on Indian students and others in Australia in recent months and India has taken up the matter at the highest level. It was the first death in such incidents.


Mr Garg was attacked in a park while on his way to work at a restaurant, Hungry Jack's, in Melbourne at about 2200 hours on the night of January 2. He had a part-time job there. He was taken to a hospital but did not survive.


The official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs said an ex-gratia payment of Rs 2.5 lakhs had been sanctioned by the Government for the family of Mr Garg. He said the Government had also borne all expenses for the repatriation of the body of the deceased to India, including transportation.


An officer of the Consular, Passport and Visa Division of the Ministry was at the airport today and assisted in the release of the body, along with the family members of Mr Garg.


The spokesperson said the Consulate General of India in Melbourne had also extended all necessary facilitation for early relase of the body of the victim and assisted in repatriation of the body back to India.


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Azad invites NRIs to invest in pharma sector, set up medical colleges

Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad today invited persons of Indian origin (PIO) and non-resident Indians (NRIs) to become partners in India's health sector and highlighted the potential of investment in areas such as drug manufacturing and medical education.

Addressing the 8th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD), an annual convention of PIOs and non-resident Indians (NRIs), Mr Azad said India was poised to become the pharmacy of the world.

He said drugs worth $ 80 billion were on the verge of going off-patent and, with India's capacity to manufacture drugs at competitive prices, there was a big opportunity for investment in this sector.

He said the Government had already streamlined and strengthened the regulatory framework for the sector. "I take this opportunity to invite the NRI entrepreneurs to come forward and invest in the drug manufacturing sector which has bright prospects," he said.

The Minister also detailed the steps taken by his Ministry to promote medical education in the country to deal with the shortage of medical human resources.

He told the convention that, besides recognition of foreign degrees, many changes had been effected to facilitate opening of new medical colelges and increase the capacity of existing colleges.

He said the requirement of land for setting up a medical college had been reduced from 25 to 20 acres across the country. In the North-East, this land could be in two parcels of 10 acres each.

In the cities of Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Pune, Bangalore and Kanpur, medical colleges can be located in multi-storeyed buildings with floor area as per Medical Council of India (MCI) norms and in such cases the land requirement has been further reduced to 10 acres.

Mr Azad said faculty and staff requirements had also been rationalised. The teaching experience required for the post of Professor and Associate Professor has been reduced by one year each in the respective feeder cadres to speed up the promotion of the teachers to overcome the difficulties being faced by medical colleges. The requirement of bed strength and bed occupancy required at the stage of inception has been rationalized for the North Eastern States and Hill States.

The Minister said that, apart from the religious and charitable trusts, now companies registered under the Companies Act had also been made eligible to open medical colleges, which has increased the feasibility of opening new colleges. He said there was a need for new medical colleges, particularly in the under-served and unserved states.

"With these amended provisions, I appeal to the NRIs to come forward and invest in setting up the medical colleges or take up teaching or practice or contribute in any other way you wish towards furthering the cause of the nation," he added.

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Bivalent polio vaccine to be introduced in India from Sunday

The bivalent Oral Polio Vaccine will be introduced for the first time in India from Bihar on Sunday as part of the pulse polio campaign.

President Pratibha Patil inaugurating the Immunization Day by administrating Polio Vaccine to the children at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi on January 09, 2010. Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Minister of State of Health and Family Welfare, Dinesh Trivedi are also seen.
President Pratibha Patil inaugurating the Immunization Day by administrating Polio Vaccine to the children at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi on January 09, 2010. Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Minister of State of Health and Family Welfare, Dinesh Trivedi are also seen.

The bivalent Oral Polio Vaccine (bOPV) will be introduced for the first time in India from Bihar tomorrow, which will be observed as National Immunisation Day (NID) as part of the pulse polio campaign.

President Pratibha Patil launched the NID by administering polio drops to ten babies at Rashtrapati Bhavan here today.

Speaking on the occasion, Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said the bivalent vaccine would be introduced in Uttar Pradesh from the next round of the campaign.

About 2.5 million babies will get the new drops. Overall, 170 million children are likely to be immunised in this round of the campaign.

According to an official press release, there are three strains of wild polio virus - P1, P2 and P3. Type 2 wild polio virus (P2) has been eliminated in the year 1999. Efforts are being made to eradicate P1 and P3 also. As P1 is the more virulent type of the two, the current strategy is to eliminate it first while keeping P3 under control.

Once P1 is eradicated, efforts to eradicate P3 will be made. Initially, trivalent Oral Polio Vaccine (which caters to all the three strains of wild polio virus) was used in the campaign. Subsequently, the more efficacious monovalent vaccine was introduced in the programme to handle the type 1 and type 3 wild polio virus.

While the monovalent vaccine has been found to be effective in containing the transmission of P1, it has affected the control of transmission of P3. The bivalent vaccine has been developed recently and it is expected to control P1 and P3 simultaneously, the release said.

The pulse polio programme was started in 1995 with the objective to eradicate poliomyelitis. Prior to starting the campaign, the number of paralytic cases due to polio was in the range of approximately 50,000 every year. The campaign has helped to bring about a drastic reduction in the number of paralytic cases due to polio and it is limited to a few hundreds now.

As many as 33 States and Union Territories are now free of indigenous transmission of wild polio virus. Only UP and Bihar remain as the two endemic States in the country for wild polio virus where the indigenous transmission is still continuing. A multi-pronged approach is being adopted where on the one hand efforts are being made to vaccinate each and every child with Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) and, on the other, efforts to ensure sanitation, hygiene and clean drinking water are being ensured.

In the year 2009, 721 cases have been reported so far. Out of these, 641 are wild poliovirus type 3 (WPV3) and 79 are wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1). One case is a mixture of both - WPV1 + WPV3.

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Indian suffers burns in alleged attack by miscreants in Australia

An Indian, identified as Jaspreet Singh, 29, suffered burn injuries in an alleged attack by miscreants in Melbourne, Australia, in the early hours of today.

The official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, Mr Vishnu Prakash, said that, according to information received here, the incident occurred around 0200 hours today.

Mr Prakash said no further details regarding the person or the incident were available at present. The Indian High Commissioner in Canberra and the Consul General in Melbourne were following up the matter vigorously with the Australian authorities, he said.

He said the condition of the victim was not critical but he had been hospitalised and was receiving treatment.

The spokesperson also urged the media, under the circumstances, to exercise utmost restraint in reporting on such sensitive issues as it could aggravate the situation and have a bearing on the country's bilateral relations with Australia.

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Delhi has respite from biting cold, fog

People in Delhi had some respite from the dense fog and biting cold of the last two days with a slight rise in the minimum temperature to 9 degrees Celsius in the past 24 hours from 8 degrees yesterday, two degrees above normal.


However, the maximum temperature in the past 24 hours remained at 12.1 degrees Celsius, the lowest day temperature recorded in the capital in five years and as many as nine degrees below normal.


Though the India Meteorological Department (IMD) had forecast a thick fog in the capital this morning, the day began with a clear sky and by noon it was bright and sunny in most parts.


Dense fog in the past two days had led to a slowing down of road traffic in the capital, affected the running of trains in the region and disrupted flight schedules from the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) in the city.


The IMD forecast said the maximum temperature would be around 16 degrees Celsius today.


For tomorrow, it has maximum and minimum temperatures of 17 and 9 degrees Celsius and 19 and 8 degrees Celsius on Monday, with fog in the morning.


The clear skies meant that flight operations fom the IGIA were normal today.


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Reliance to set up "world-class" university in India


Energy-to-retail conglomerate Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) has decided to set up a "new age world-class" university in India through a philanthropic foundation set up by it recently.


RIL Chairman and Managing Director Mukesh Ambani said the university would come up under the aegis of the Reliance Foundation, the new philanthropic initiative of the group.


Mr Ambani made the announcement in an acceptance speech after receiving the first Penn Engineering Dean's Medal from the Dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science of the University of Pennsylvania at a function held here yesterday.


He said the new university, in the tradition of great American universities like UPenn, would promote education and research in all disciplines of knowledge - from science and technology to liberal arts.


"It will also forge partnerships with reputed universities around the world. It will be international in scale and in best practices, but with an Indian soul," he said.


Mr Ambani said education in India was at the doorsteps of transformation and there was a need for overhauling its methodology.


"Education is all about problem-solving and change management. It is about igniting curiosity and creativity. It is about doing things with one’s own hands. It is about encouraging lateral thinking with a multidisciplinary approach," he said.


He said education was also about equipping students with a wide range of "soft skills" such as communication, teamwork and leadership.


"It is about creating young and idealistic men and women who can 'reverse engineer' future problems and 'forward engineer' their solutions," Mr Ambani, who is also the Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore, said.


"A stronger and more self-confident India is emerging on the global scene. Access to world-class education is not only a necessity but a strong pre-requisite to building a strong India. It is by far the strongest aspiration of young Indians," he added.


The Business School of the University of Pennsylvania had similarly honoured Mr Ambani's father, Mr Dhirubhai Ambani, the founder of the Reliance empire, with its Dean's Medal 12 years ago.


Mr Ambani said the world had entered a fundamentally new phase in human history, with the financial downturn, the energy, food and water crises and international terrorism emerging as global challenges.


He said educational institutions could make a fundamental contribution to advancing the agenda of peace and security in the world.


"In history, many things may change. But what will never change is the basic truth that sustainable value creation in every society is only possible through the virtuous cycle of science, technology, engineering and enterprise," he remarked.


He said there was, thus, need in the future for further strengthening existing partnerships and forging strong new partnerships in every link in the global value creation chain. "Going forward, financial engineering should take the back seat. And real engineering should take the driver’s seat," he observed.


Mr Ambani said employment creation was a challenge for all countries. He pointed out that while Asia was witnessing unprecedented prosperity, many parts of the continent also presented a picture of deprivation and under-development.


"The deprived are demanding their due share. The poor are still denied access to food, water, housing, electricity and transport ? the basic necessities of life. Therefore, the challenge of equitable development has become most urgent. So has the imperative of sustainable development," he said.


He said that, in this new and interdependent world, there was need for silo-breakers in thinking, policies and strategies of development.


"Every single challenge that the world is facing demands a creative response from scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs and policy-makers," he said.


Mr Ambani said science, technology and engineering had an epoch-making opportunity to evolve to the next level, by making common cause with social sciences, responsible entrepreneurship and good governance.


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Flight operations normal in Delhi on Saturday

Flight operations at the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) in Delhi were normal today after two days of disruption caused by dense fog that had covered the capital and many other parts of North India.


Airport officials said there were no fog-related problems last night and visibility this morning was above 2000 metres. "Flights are operating as per schedule," they said.


However, some flights may be cancelled or delayed because of operational reasons or poor visibility at the destinations, they said.


Flight operations had been disrupted for about 16 hours from Thursday night to yesterday afternoon because of the foggy conditions at the airport, affecting scores of flights. A similar disruption had occurred on the previous day, too.


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Lowest day temperature in Delhi in 5 years

Fog in Delhi early in the morning on January 07, 2010.
Fog in Delhi early in the morning on January 07, 2010.

Delhi recorded a maximum temperature of 12.1 degrees Celsius today, the lowest day temperature recorded in the capital in five years and as many as nine degrees below normal.


The India Meteorological Department (IMD) said tonight the minimum temperature in the past 24 hours was 8 degrees Celsius, one degree above normal.


People in Delhi and many other parts of northern India woke up to another cold and foggy morning today, with visibility less than 50 metres in the early hours.


Like yesterday, the dense fog led to slowing down of road traffic, affected the running of trains in the region and disrupted flight schedules from the Indira Gandhi International Airport in the capital.


The IMD has forecast another foggy day tomorrow, with dense fog in the morning. It said the maximum and minimum temperatures tomorrow would be around 14 and 9 degrees Celsius, respectively.


It has forecast that the maximum and minimum temperatures would be 16 and 8 degrees Celsius on Sunday and 18 and 8 degrees on Monday, with foggy conditions in the morning on both days.


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Krishna says India supports a stable Pakistan, wants environment free of terror


External Affairs Minister S M Krishna today said India supported a stable Pakistan at peace with itself and the region and wished to address its differences with the neighbour through dialogue.


"At the same time, we have made it clear that a meaningful dialogue will be possible only in an environment free of terrorism," he said at the 8th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) convention here.


Mr Krishna said that, after the Mumbai attacks of 26 November 2008, which India has blamed on elements based in Pakistan, Islamabad had taken some halting measures to address the evidence presented to it.


"However, we are still to see Pakistan take effective steps to end infiltration and dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism. As the Prime Minister has said - should Pakistan show the statesmanship and vision to act resolutely against terrorists, India would be willing to meet it more than half-way," he told the annual convention of persons of Indian origin (PIOs) and non-resident Indians (NRIs) organised by the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs.


Turning to India's relations with other neighbours, he said India and China had together been prosperous and powerful before and could be so again in the future.


"There is space for both of us to grow and meet our people’s aspirations. The relationship we have with China is complex but increasingly diverse both in texture and substance," he said.


Mr Krishna said China was now India’s largest trading partner and there was convergence in their views on many global issues including the emerging architecture on world trade and on climate change.


He said there were, however, important bilateral issues that could not be wished away.


"We seek to resolve these peacefully, through dialogue. The maintenance of peace and tranquility in the border areas will receive close and continuing attention in this scenario," he said.


He spoke of India's exceptionally close and friendly ties with Bhutan and of India's support for Nepal's transition to a democratic polity. He also gave details of the humanitarian assistance being provided to Sri Lanka and hoped the process of rehabilitation of internally displaced persons would be completed at an early date.


He said that the return of multiparty democratic politics in Bangladesh was a positive development. "We have been assured that Bangladesh’s territory will not be allowed to be used by elements inimical to India, as we pursue mutually beneficial cooperation in many other areas," he said.


The Minister also spoke of India's viital interests in the regions of West Asia, South East Asia, North East Asia, Latin America, Africa and Europe, not least due to the presence of significant populations of the Indian diaspora in several countries in these regions. He also dwelt at length on the country's relations with the major powers - Russia and the United States.



"Our relations with Russia are time tested and we are giving a fresh impetus to bilateral cooperation with them in areas such as nuclear energy, space technology and defence. With the United States, we are building on the positive momentum achieved in the last few years. Our new dialogue mechanism reflects the increasingly global dimensions of our bilateral discourse. India’s established capabilities in high technology and our impeccable record of using these technologies in a responsible and transparent manner are creating opportunities for upgrading our access to high technology. The Indian community in the United States has played a particularly active role in fostering our growing bilateral relationship and I want to place on record our appreciation of their contribution," he said.


Mr Krishna said the over arching objective of the country's foreign policy was to work towards a stable and peaceful environment, globally and also in its immediate neighbourhood, so that it could attain its national objectives of comprehensive socio-economic development.


"In doing so, we are often required to strike a creative balance between our bilateral relations with major global powers and our national interests on complex issues ranging from world trade and nuclear non proliferation to climate change and the environment," he said.


He spoke of the accelerated shift of global economic power to emerging economies like India, Brazil and China.


On the Doha Round of trade negotiations, he said India had always stressed upon the importance of an early and successful conclusion of the talks. "But this must happen on the basis of the development mandate that is intrinsic to the Doha Round, recognizing and addressing the legitimate demands of developing countries. We must also carefully guard against emerging protectionist tendencies," he said.


He said that, on climate change, India had at the recent Copenhagen summit put forth the view that since the industrialized countries were primarily responsible for the accumulation of green house gases over the last two hundred years, they should bear the bulk of the cost of mitigation and enable the transfer of necessary technology for this purpose.


He said India could not accept legally binding emission caps when it has one of the lowest per capita emissions in the world.


"As a responsible member of the global community, and for the sake of our own environment, we have taken several major initiatives towards limiting our carbon footprint. We are today among the largest producers of wind and solar energy. Our biogas utilisation programmes have been path-breaking. We have adopted an ambitious National Action Plan for Climate Change, providing inter alia for afforestation, energy efficiency and monitoring of Himalayan glaciers," he said.


Mr Krishna said these efforts would get a boost if India had access to some of the clean technologies from developed countries.


"It is disappointing to see that the same countries that readily pledged a trillion dollars to fight the global financial crisis, offered barely a hundredth of that amount to enable developing countries fight the environmental crisis," he remarked.


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RIL rejects Telugu channel's report on YSR's helicopter crash

Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) today rejected as "false, malicious, motivated and libelous" a report carried by the Telugu television channel TV 5 alleging that it might be linked to the helicopter crash that killed former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Rao on September 2 last year.


"We are shocked and outraged at the false, malicious, motivated and libelous news on TV5 channel concerning the fatal mishap of Mr Y S Rajasekhara Reddy's helicopter. We condemn, rebut and reject the allegation with the contempt it deserves," a statement from RIL said.


"It is the dirty handiwork of our business rivals in cohoots with TV5. This is also evident from the well-coordinated attacks on RIL's personnel and establishments in Andhra Pradesh within minutes of the telecast by TV5," it said.


The statement said the channel had thrown all journalistic norms to the winds to malign the reputation of RIL, which, it said, had made significant investments in Andhra Pradesh to promote the development of the state and the nation.


"RIL is a law-abiding corporate citizen. We mourned the untimely and tragic death of Mr Reddy as much as anyone else," it siad.


The company demanded that the Central and the State Governments initiate an immediate investigation into these "despicable acts" and bring the culprits to justice.


Angry groups had last night attacked several retail outlets of the company in Andhra Pradesh after the TV channel telecast the report. Later, a couple of other Telugu channels also started broadcasting similar reports.


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DGCA reviews fog situation at Delhi Airport

Director General of Civil Aviation Syed Nasim Ahmad Zaidi today held a meeting with allconcerned agencies to review the situation after the large number of disruptions and cancellations of flights caused in the last two days because of the thick fog that covered the capital and its surroundings.


The delays and disruptions also had a cascading effect on all subsequent flights in the network.


Mr Zaidi stressed that a procedure should be evolved wherein all concerned agencies should take necessary steps to avoid passenger inconvenience during CAT IIIB operations.


According to an official press release, the DGCA was informed that a lot of ground congestion was experienced on Terminal 2 side as landing minima during CAT IIIB operations is less than the take-off minima due to which aircraft are permitted to land without any departure at the same time.


He was also informed that domestic airlines by and large did not experience any problem in their first departures.


The meeting took the following decisions:

a. Pilots of international flights will be informed through Air Traffic Information System, an automatic broadcast system, that they may experience delays of one to two hours due to likely non-availability of parking bays during Cat IIIB conditions.

b. The Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL) will inform the Air Traffic Control (ATC) about non-availability of parking bays.

c. DIAL will make necessary arrangements to assess the flight delays and accordingly display in the terminal building information about delay and rescheduling of flights for passenger information.

d. DIAL will liaise with ATC on half-hourly basis with regard to allocation of parking bays.

e. DIAL will convene a meeting of ground handlers to assess their ground handling capacity and explore pooling of resources amongst them.

f. As indicated in the Fog Management Guidelines, ATC may accord priority to the diverted flights and the concerned ATC units must take permission from Delhi ATC before clearing the departure.

g. For management of parking bays, there should be coordination and exchange of information between ATC and DIAL for effective slot allocation of the rescheduled flights.


As reported earlier, scores of flights to and from Delhi were disrupted for the second day running today because of the fog that engulfed the capital and other parts of North India.


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9 more swine flu deaths in India, toll goes up to 1044

Nine more people have died of influenza A (H1N1) in India, increasing the toll due to the swine flu pandemic in the country so far to 1044, an official statement said here today.


Four of the deaths - two each in Gujarat and Rajasthan - were reported during the day today, it said.


Besides, reports of five deaths that occurred in recent days - four in Karnataka and one in Himachal Pradesh - were received today from the health authorities of the states concerned, the statemet from the Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare said.


Of the total swine flu deaths in the country so far, Maharashtra now accounts for 284, while 158 lives have been lost in Rajasthan, 144 in Gujarat, 137 in Karnataka, 83 in Delhi, 52 in Andhra Pradesh, 35 in Punjab, 34 in Kerala, 33 in Haryana, 16 in Uttar Pradesh, 13 in Uttarakhand, 12 in Madhya Pradesh, 8 each in Chandigarh and Himachal Pradesh, 7 in Tamil Nadu, 6 in Puducherry, 5 in Goa, 3 in Orissa, 2 each in Jammu & Kashmir and Chhattisgarh and 1 each in Assam and Mizoram.


Meanwhile, 88 new cases of swine flu were reported from different parts of India today, including 23 in Gujarat, 22 in Delhi, 20 in Maharashtra, 8 in Uttar Pradesh, 5 in Rajasthan, 4 each in Karnataka and Haryana and 1 each in Assam and Tamil Nadu,


With these, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus reported in the country so far has gone up to 27,610, the statement added.


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Sarvottam Jeevan Rakshak award for Rukhsana, Narender Kaushik

Narender Kaushik, a resident of Delhi who died while saving people trapped in a fire on March 13 last year, and Rukhsana Kosser of Jammu and Kashmir, who fought off three Laskar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorists who entered their house on the night of September 27, will get the Sarvottam Jeevan Raksha Padak Awards for 2009.


The Jeevan Raksha Padak series of awards are given to a person for meritorious act of humane nature in saving the life of a person.


The award is given in three categories - Sarvottam Jeevan Raksha Padak, Uttam Jeevan Raksha Padak and Jeevan Raksha Padak.


The citation for the award said Mr Kaushik, who will be conferred the award posthumously, a senior technician with Pearl Drinks, acted selflessly and exhibited exemplary courage and bravery in saving the lives of five persons from a burning shop and laid down his own life in the process.


The citation for Rukhsana, who has since been appointed to the Jammu and Kashmir police, said she and her brother Ajaz Ahmed exhibited tremendous courage and bravery to save the lives of their family members.


The dreaded militants were beating Rukhsana's father and other family members. She and her brother caught hold of axes and sticks and attacked the miscreants, injuring two of them. She and her brother then snatched the weapons from the injured militants and fired at them, killing one of them on the spot. The other two managed to escape.


Besides these two, President Pratibha Patil also approved the conferment of Uttam Jeevan Rakshak Padak on seven people and Jeevan Rakshak Padak on 44 others.


The winners of the Uttam Jeevan Rakshak Padak include Mr Karambir Singh Kang, General Manager of Taj Hotel in Mumbai, who helped security forces in the operation to fight the terrorists who had attacked the hotel on November 26, 2008. Even as his family remained trapped on the 6th floor of the hotel, Mr Kang guided the rescue teams and the Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) through the maze of corridors to vital positions such as the CCTV room and the telephone exchange room.


The citation said Mr Kang, who had no access to his family as the terrorists were present on the 6th floor, put aside his personal fears and commanded the evacuation operations. He led the team right till the afternoon of November 28 and made sure that all guests and employees had been evacuated. But he lost his wife Neeti and their two children Uday and Samar in the terrorist attack.


The awardees also included Rajan Kamble, another employee of the Taj Hotel. He was on duty near the lobby of the hotel on November 26, 2008 when he saw the terrorists burst in with guns blazing. He and his colleagues quickly helped in shifting guests through the service corridors to the chambers for their safety. When the guests were walking in a single file, a gunman suddenly appeared from behind. Kamble promptly moved to the end of the line to shield the guests from the bullets. He was wounded and some of the guests pulled him to the nearby room and waited for commandos to rescue them. He was rescued after 12 hours but succumbed to his injuries a week later.


The other Uttam Jeevan Rakshak Padak winners include Rukhsana's brother Ajaz Ahmed. The list also includes Syed Areef Sujauddin (posthumous) of Andhra Pradesh, Mushtaq Ahmed of Jammu and Kashmir, Oomen Antony (posthumous) of Kerala, and Prachi Santosh Sen of Madhya Pradesh.


Sujauddin had, on March 14, 2008, jumped into a canal to save an 18-year-old girl who was drowning. He managed to save her by pushing her to the bank but was swept away by the waters.


Mushtaq Ahmed, a special police officer, informed a police post at Arnas that some terrorists had attacked his house with grenades and bullets. A police party that rushed to the scene found him retaliating to the fire of the terrorists with the self-loading rifle provided to him by the authorities. He managed to chase away the terrorists. Two of his family members lost their lives in the incident.


Oomen Antony from Korandikkadu, Munnar, an inmate of a Government Juvenile Home and a class IX student, was on his way to a state level children's literature camp at Thrissur. While taking a bath in the river Nila on the way on January 30, 2007, another boy, Sudhakar from Thiruvananthauram started drowning. Oomen jumped into the river and saved the boy but died in the process.


Prachi saved her four-year-old brother Manas, 13-year-old sister Richa and friends Anay (4) and Shefali (11) from being electrocuted. The others escaped with minor injuries, but Prachi herself was severely injured in the incident on the terrace of their house. Her left hand was badly burnt and her fingers had to be removed surgically later.


Prachi has already won the Geeta Chopra Award under the National Bravery Award 2008 as well as the Maharana Pratap Bravery Award conferred by the Madhya Pradesh Government for this act.


The awards carry a medal, a certificate signed by the Home Minister and a demand draft for the lump sum monetary allowance. The allowance is Rs 75,000 for the Sarvottam Jeevan Raksha Padak, Rs 45,000 for the Uttam Jeevan Raksha Padak and Rs 30,000 for the Jeevan Raksha Padak.


The winners of the Jeevan Raksha Padak are:


Himachal Pradesh: Bali Ram, Layak Ram


Karnataka: Rukasana Banu


Kerala: P P Sikhi, P Rajasekaran, Sreeja V V, Faseeb K, Thahir, Vijishna K R, Manjusha A, Magesh A, Johnson V Sunny, Dinu K G, Vineeth Kumar M U,


Maharashtra: Hemant Talim, Boris Mario De Rego, Kaizad Noshir Kamdin,Sadanand Patil, Thomas Varghese, Vijay Banja Rao (all posthumous), Anil Dattatray Damankar, Mallika Jagad, Philip Rodrigues, Purunanand Petwal, Sunil Kudyadi, Vishal Suryaji Patil


Meghalaya: Silver Kharbani, Medaplang Dkhar


Mizoram: Lianchia, Joseph Vanlalhruaia


Punjab: Gurdial Singh, Mohinder Singh (Posthumous)


Rajasthan: Zaheen Mateen (Posthumous), Hina Qureshi


Uttar Pradesh: Ranu (Posthumous), Purshottam Kashyap, Shahanshah


Delhi: Subhash Chandra Meena, Narendra Prasad (Posthumous)


Tamil Nadu: G Raj Mohan


Haryana: Satender Singh


Chhattisgarh: Bhishma Singh Bargah, Saraswati Dewangan


Manipur: Yumkhaibam Addison Singh


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Scores of flights affected by thick fog over north India

A dense fog that covered Delhi and many other parts of northern India since last night disrupted operations at the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) here, affecting around 55 flights today, airport sources said.


The fog started descending on the city last night and by midnight visibility on the runways had fallen to less than 100 metres, the sources said.


An official said that only Category III A and III B operations were possible for several hours till 1000 hours this morning. By then, visibility had improved to about 350 metres, which made Category II operations possible, they said.


According to the official, the low visibility procedure (LVP) was implemented at the airport from 2215 hours till 1400 hours today, a total of 15 hours 45 minutes.


As many as 222 flights were operated using Instrument Landing Systems (ILS) during this period. Of these, 99 flights were operated using CAT I, 22 with CAT II, 34 with CAT IIIA and 67 with CAT IIIB.


The official said 34 flights were cancelled and 10 were diverted to other airports such as Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Jaipur and Chennai. Another 11 flights were rescheduled. There was a cascading effect of the delays of various flights on other flights in the network.


Scores of flights had similarly been affected yesterday also because of thick fog.


The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) had forecast thick fog over Delhi this morning and a clear sky later in the day. It has also forecast foggy conditions in the morning for the next two days.


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Indian Chair to be established at University of Toronto


An Indian Chair will be established at the University of Toronto in Canada to foster international cooperation and research between India and Canada.


The Ministry of External Affairs said in a press release here today that the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) and the Faculty of Arts and Science, University of Toronto, had signed a Protocol of Intentions and an Implementation Agreement in this regard.


Under the terms of the Agreement, ICCR, in consultation with the Faculty of Arts and Science, University of Toronto, shall appoint an ICCR Visiting Professor in the South Asian Studies Programme at the University.


Further, there is a commitment to explore other areas of cooperation, including establishment of post-doctoral fellowships and faculty exchange. The Protocol of Intention will remain in force for a period of three years beginning January 1, 2010.

A Joint Statement issued during the visit of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to India in November 2009, recognized education as an area of new momentum in the bilateral relationship, the need to facilitate mutually beneficial linkages in science, technology and innovation, and build synergies between institutions of higher learning in Canada and India.

On November 30, 2009, the Canadian government announced the Pan-Canadian Framework for Assessment and Recognition of Foreign Credentials which will enable by the end of 2012 a fast-track system of foreign-credential recognition for 15 occupations.

There are 7300 Indian students studying in Canada presently, the release added.


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Counting of votes in UP Council polls postponed to Jan 13

The Election Commission today said the counting of votes for the 36 seats in 35 Local Authority constituencies in the biennial election to the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Council held yesterday, would now be held on January 13.


The counting of votes was originally scheduled for tomorrow.


The Commission said in a statement that the counting had been postponed by four days in view of the clarification sought from High Court of Allahabad, Lucknow Bench with regard to the order passed by it in Chandranath Vs State of Uttar Pradesh in case miscellaneous Bench no. 52/2010 on January 6.


The court had, vide the order, held that the amended provision of Section 4 of Uttar Pradesh Act No. 8 of 2005 (U.P Municipal Act, 1960) by means of which voting rights have been given to the nominated members in the meetings of the Municipalities and Nagar Panchayats, shall not be operated upon and nominated members indicated in the petition as respondent No. 5 to 24 who are nominated members of urban local bodies of Pratapgarh district, shall not vote in the meeting subject to further orders of the Court.


In view of the above interim order, Election Commission issued a direction yesterday that the 20 nominated members (respondents 5 to 24 in the petition) debarred from voting by the High Court in the meetings of the Local bodies shall not be permitted to vote at the current biennial election to the Legislative Council from the Pratapgarh Local Authorities’ constituency. It was further directed that in case some of these persons had already voted by the time the directions were given, the remaining persons should not be allowed to vote.

The Commission has subsequently moved the High Court and an application is being filed before the Court apprising action taken by the Commission and seeking a clarification whether the bar against voting by the nominated members mentioned in the interim Order would also apply to their voting in the Legislative Council election from other Local Authorities’ constituencies in the State.


In view of the fact that the hearing on the application filed by the Commission may take a few days, the Commission decided to postpone the counting from January 9 to 13, the statement added.


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Govt. plans new law to make emigration simple, transparent process: Moily

Union Law and Justice Minister M Veerappa Moily today said the Government proposed to bring in a new legislation, the Emigration Management Bill, 2009 to replace the Emigration Act, 1983.


Addressing the 8th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) here, he said the proposed Bill was aimed at tranforming emigration into a simple, transparent and efficient economic process, facilitating legal migration and enhancing the protection and welfare of workers.


Dr Moily said that in the field of family law, marital disputes, divorce proceedings and child dispute issues affect Indians residing abroad in a major way.


He noted that women married abroad were often abandoned and the cases could drag for years without resolution.


He said the National Commission for Women (NCW) was setting up a committee which would also address issues faced by such wives. "We are committed to ensuring speedy and fair justice to all," he said.


Dr Moily said his ministry proposed to create a special purpose vehicle (SPV) under the National Legal Mission (recently approved in principle by the Cabinet), to dispose of all pending cases by the end of 2012 and reduce pendency in courts from an average of 15 years to three years. "We propose to achieve this goal by addressing manpower, infrastructure and technology issues," he said.


He said property disputes, relating to both ancestral property as well as new property investments, formed a large part of the legal worries for overseas Indians. Security of their investments in fixed assets must be guaranteed especially with the proliferation of schemes aimed especially at the overseas Indian community, he said.


He said easier and transparent access to state land records in order to verify titles in ancestral property disputes was being undertaken by various state governments. A policy for preventing encroachments and illegal occupation of properties owned by overseas Indians also needed to be put in place, he said..


In addition to "in bound" issues that overseas Indians had to face in India, Dr Moily said there was also a need to examine "out bound" issues that Indian migrants faced abroad.


"The legal migration process has been cumbersome, often involving misinformation, unscrupulous agents, and harassment. Indian workers abroad face mistreatment, confiscation of passports and irregular salary payments aside from substantial incidence of illegal migration and human trafficking," he added.


Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi spoke of the various initiatives taken by the Government to build a strong partnership with the overseas Indian community.


He said more than 500,000 Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) cards had been issued since 2006 and the Government was working on conferring benefits on them to enable them to live and work in India. He said an Overseas Indian Facilitation Centre to provide a single window for overseas Indian investors had also been set up.


He said the sessions at the convention had been planned to provide an opportuntiy to persons of Indian origin (PIOs) to articulate their region-specific interests and concerns. This would help the Government understand their needs better and develop appropriate policies and programmes, he said.


More than 1500 delegates from about 55 countries are participating in the two-day meet. It will have six parallel sessions dealing with economic, social and cultural dimensions of relationship with NRIs. Union Ministers of all important infrastructure ministries and social sectors will address the meet to apprise the delegates of the government’s programmes and policies.


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Foreign tourist arrivals in India total 5.11 million in 2009

Foreign Tourist Arrivals (FTAs) during 2009 in India were 5.11 million, down 3.3 per cent from the number of 5.28 million achieved in 2008. FTAs had recorded a growth rate of 4 per cent in 2008.


An official press release said that the growth rate for 2009 was negative, India's performance was still better than the decline of 6 to 4 pe cent forecast by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) for the world.


According to it, the FTAs during December, 2009 were 6.46 lakh as compared to FTAs of 5.34 lakh in the same month of 2008 and 5.97 lakh in 2007. The growth rate in FTAs in December 2009 over December 2008 works out to 21 per cent, which is the highest positive growth registered in any month of 2009.


The Foreign Exchange Earnings from tourism in rupee terms were Rs 54,960 crore as compared to Rs 50,730 crore in 2008. This worked out to a growth rate of 8.3 per cent as compared to 2008, and 14.4 per cent during 2008 as compared to 2007.


The FEE during 2009 were $ 11.39 billion as compared to $ 11.75 billion during 2008, which worked out to a decline of 3 per cent over 2008. The growth was 9.5 per cent in 2008 over 2007.


The FEE in rupee terms during December, 2009 were Rs 7042 crore as compared to Rs 5083 crore in the same month of 2008 and Rs 5079 crore in December 2007. In dollar terms, the FEE was $ 1.510 billion in December, 2009 as compared to $ 1.046 billion in December, 2008 and $ 1.287 billion in the same month of 2007, the release added.


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Civil Services (Preliminary) Exam to be held on May 23

The Union Service Public Commission (UPSC) will hold the Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination, 2010 on May 23 this year for recruitment to the Indian Administrative (IAS), the Indian Foreign Service (IFS), the Indian Police Service (IPS) and certain other Group ‘A’ and Group ‘B’ Central Services/Posts.


The examination will be held at various centres across the country, an official press release said here today.


It said candidates must apply in the Common Application Form devised by the Commission for its examinations, which can be purchased from the designated Head Post Offices/Post Offices (specified in Appendix-III of the Notice published in Employment News/Rozgar Samachar) throughout the country.


All applications must reach the "Secretary, Union Public Service Commission, Dholpur House, Shahjahan Road, New Delhi-110 069" either by hand or by Post/Speed Post or by Courier, on or before the February 1, 2010.


However, in respect of candidates, residing abroad or in certain remote areas specified in the Notice, the last date for receipt of applications by Post/Speed Post only (not by hand or by courier) is February 8, the release added.


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Inter-Ministerial Group to review draft Bill on sexual harassment

The Ministry of Women & Child Development has constituted an Inter-Ministerial to review the provisions of the draft Bill on protection of women against sexual harassment at workplaces.


An official press release said the group had been asked to examine and fine-tune the draft Bill by January 20 so that it could be finalised as early as possible for further necessary action.

The group will be chaired by t heAdditional Secretary in the Ministry of Women & Child Development and it will have the representatives of the Ministries of Social Justice & Empowerment, Health & Family Welfare, Railways, Information & Broadcasting, Home Affairs, Labour & Employment and Law & Justice, the Department of Personnel, the Department of Post and the Planning Commission. The Member-Secretary of the National Commission of Women (NCW) will also be a member of the group.


The draft bill has been prepared by the Ministry of Women & Child Development, in consultation with the NCW and other stake holders. It also seeks to cover students and research scholars, besides those working in the unorganised sector, to check sexual harassment at work place.


The group will review the provisions of the draft Bill specially keeping also in view the judgement of the Supreme Court in the well-known Visakha case and other such cases, the release added.


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Chidambaram says Srinagar encounter shows India still vulnerable

The Punjab Hotel at Lal Chowk in Srinagar set on fire by two terrorists who were holed up there for 22 hours before security forces shot them dead on January 7, 2010.
The Punjab Hotel at Lal Chowk in Srinagar set on fire by two terrorists who were holed up there for 22 hours before security forces shot them dead on January 7, 2010.

Union Home Minister P Chidambaram today said the 22-hour encounter with two militants in Srinagar that ended yesterday highlighted the fact that India, especially Jammu and Kashmir, remained vulnerable to militant attacks sponsored by forces from across the border.

"At the same time, our capacity to neutralise a militant attack has also increased considerably," he said in a statement here.

Mr Chidambaram emphasised once again that the country, especially the security forces, must maintain a high level of vigilance but hastened to add that there was no cause for panic.

"We must remain calm and confident that our security forces can face any challenge," he said.

The encounter ended just before noon yesterday when men of the Jammu and Kashmir police and the Central Reserve Police Force stormed the Punjab Hotel at Lal Chowk in Srinagar, where the two militants had holed up, and shot both of them down.

A policemen was killed when the militants opened fire and hurled grenades at a police checking party which stopped them on suspicion in the Lal Chowk area on Wednesday afternoon. Eleven civilians, including a media cameraman, were hurt during the encounter, one of whom later succumbed to his injuries in hospital yesterday morning.

Mr Chidambaram complimented the J&K police and the CRPF for the successful operation and offered condolences to the families of the two victims of the attack.

The Home Minister said that, based on intelligence inputs, the J&K police were on alert in Srinagar on Wednesday. "While they were conducting frisk and search operations, two militants opened fire and then fled into a nearby building. In the initial burst of fire, one policeman was killed and 11 persons were injured. One of the civilians later succumbed to his injuries," he said.

 Security forces launch an assault on the Punjab Hotel at Lal Chowk in Srinagar where two terrorists were holed up for 22 hours before they were shot dead by the security forces on January 7, 2010.
Security forces launch an assault on the Punjab Hotel at Lal Chowk in Srinagar where two terrorists were holed up for 22 hours before they were shot dead by the security forces on January 7, 2010.

He said the alert J&K police, assisted by the CRPF, immediately swung into action. "In a brilliant operation, executed with great skill and patience, they neutralised the two militants without suffering any casualties. They also evacuated nearly 600 civilians to safety. It is noteworthy that the J&K police and the CRPF conducted the operations without calling upon the NSG or the Special Forces of the Army," he said.

According to Mr Chidambaram, the two militants who were killed were in communication with their handlers outside India.

"The incident highlights the fact that the country, especially Jammu and Kashmir, remains vulnerable to militant attacks sponsored by forces from across the border," he remarked.

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PM hopes overseas Indians can vote in next General Elections

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Friday the Government was working on overseas Indians' demand for the right to vote and hoped they could exercise their franchise in the next General Elections.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the inauguration of the 8th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas-2010, in New Delhi on January 08, 2010. Union Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs, Vayalar Ravi, the Chief Minister of Delhi, Sheila Dikshit and other dignitaries are also seen.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the inauguration of the 8th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas-2010, in New Delhi on January 08, 2010. Union Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs, Vayalar Ravi, the Chief Minister of Delhi, Sheila Dikshit and other dignitaries are also seen.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said the Government was working on overseas Indians' demand for the right to vote and hoped that they would get a chance to exercise their franchise by the time of the next regular General Elections.

"I recognise the legitimate desire of Indians living abroad to exercise their franchise and to have a say in who governs India," he said in his inaugural address to the 8th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD), an annual gathering of persons of Indian origin (PIOs) and non-resident Indians (NRIs) from around the world, organised by the Overseas Indian Affairs Ministry.

"We are working on this issue and I sincerely hope that they will get a chance to vote by the time of the next regular general elections," Dr Singh said.

"In fact, I would go a step further and ask why more overseas Indians should not return home to join politics and public life as they are increasingly doing in business and academia," he said.

The Prime Minister said the PBD was an occasion to celebrate and honour the contribution overseas Indians were making for the development of their "spiritual and ancestral home".

He said India was immensely proud of the achievements of its diaspora and pointed out that their achievements had made a great contribution in changing the image of India to the world at large.

He also referred to the first meeting of the Prime Minister’s Global Advisory Council of Overseas Indians held here yesterday.

"Some of the best and brightest men and women working in different parts of the world in various fields happen to be people of Indian origin. This is a tremendous knowledge pool and we would like the Council to reflect on where India should be heading in the next 20 years and what we should do in government, in business, in education and in arts and culture and in promoting inter-faith harmony to get where we ought to be 20 years from now," he said.

Dr Singh said everyone was legitimately proud of India's vibrant democracy but he could not say that the country had delivered in full measure on its enormous promise and potential.

"I recognize the frustration well wishers feel when they lament why things don’t work faster or why well formulated plans and policies don’t get implemented as well as they should be," he said.

He said there was a price that India paid in trying to carry all sections of the people along in national development.

"It is perhaps a price worth paying. Each citizen should feel that his or her voice is heard and have a sense of participation in national development. This is the only way we know to accommodate the enormous diversity of opinions and interests in our country. It is also this characteristic that makes our democracy so vibrant," he said.

Dr Singh pointed out that underlying the system was an inherent political and economic resilience that gave the country and its institutions great strength and buoyancy.

He said that, during the year gone by when the world faced an unprecedented economic and financial crisis, the Indian economy had weathered the downturn quite well.

"We were affected but no so much as many other countries. We hope to achieve this year a growth rate of around 7%, which is one of the fastest in the world. We are equally optimistic that we can return to and sustain an annual growth rate of 9-10% in a couple of years," he remarked.

The Prime Minister said the rapid growth of India’s economy in the last few years had helped lift millions of people out of poverty. He said the country had been able to expand access to education, healthcare and economic opportunities to a vast majority of its population.

"This is, however, a work in progress and much more remains to be done. I solicit your assistance to achieve those goals. We wish to accelerate the efforts to effectively address the key constraints in the areas of infrastructure, agriculture, health and education. These are the key priorities for the second term of our government," he said.

He sought the active involvement of the overseas Indian communities in accelerating the pace of the country's economic and social development. In this context, he said it was important that efforts were made to connect the second generation of overseas Indians with their ancestral heritage and involve them actively in India’s march forward.

Dr Singh said India was today one of the top investment destinations and economic opportunites were expading everywhere. However, he felt overseas Indians, while being good savers, tended to be somewhat conservative investors, with most remittances placed in bank deposits.

He said Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in India by overseas Indians was low and far short of potential and urged overseas Indians to take a careful look at long-term investment opportunities now on the horizon in the country.

He said Indian industry was rapidly developing a global orientation and many Indian companies were transforming themselves into multinational corporations with global brand names.

"As Indian industry steps outward, the Indian diaspora could do more to inter-link Indian industry with global markets. They could reinforce the improving brand image of India. I sincerely hope that the newly established Overseas Indian Facilitation Centre will become an effective hub for promoting two-way interaction between the overseas Indian community and our institutions," he said.

Dr Singh said about 40 per cent of the total remittances of over $ 50 billion in 2007-2008 came from skilled and semi-skilled overseas Indian workers.

He said the security of overseas Indian workers and students was a top priority of his Government. He noted that many of them had been badly affected by the economic crisis and said the Government was conscious of the need to structure an appropriate "Return and Resettlement Fund". He said the Government was working on a project to provide a social security safety net for the returning workers.

He said India had been negotiating with the governments of countries with large emigrant Indian populations to improve the welfare and protection offered to Indian workers. Over the last year, India had signed labour agreements with Malaysia, Bahrain and Qatar that create institutional frameworks to look into issues such as recruitment, terms of employment and workers’ welfare. It had also signed social security agreements last year with Switzerland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands and was now negotiating such agreements with a number of other countries, he said.

The Prime Minister said the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA) had also established the "Indian Community Welfare Fund" in 18 countries in which there was a significant overseas Indian workforce. These funds support "on-site" welfare measures including food, shelter, repatriation assistance and emergency relief to overseas Indians in distress.

Dr Singh said that, in the coming years, India would need to invest much more in building physical, social and human capital. He said India must be positioned as a supplier of skilled and trained manpower across a wide spectrum of skill sets and sectors.

According to him, the MOIA was already collaborating with Indian industry and state governments in this effort.

"We would like to benefit from the services of overseas Indian professionals and volunteers to help Indian workers upgrade skills in specific trade where there is growing demand. At the meeting of the Council yesterday some very valuable suggestions were made to upgrade the quality of higher education system in our country," he said.

He said the Government was now working to enhance work opportunities for India's skilled manpower, particularly in the West.

"We live in an increasingly integrated world; a very fast changing world. In our lifetime we have seen India walk with greater confidence and ability. In the lifetime of our children we would want them to see the India of our and their dreams - an India that lives up to the expectations of those who struggled to make it free and those who toil to take it forward and an India that wishes to live in peace, as it seeks prosperity for all," he added.

President Pratibha Patil is scheduled to deliver the valedictory address at the convention tomorrow.

The President will also confer Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Awards-2010 on distinguished PIOs/NRIs.

The Minister said the convention would have three plenary sessions. The first of these will provide an opportunity for the delegates to interact with some key Cabinet Ministers from India who will speak on the Government's policies on subjects like economic recovery, good governance, technology and innovation and infrastructure development.

This session will seek to articulate the role that the diaspora can play in India’s race to join the league of developed countries.

The second plenary session would have a panel of PIO Ministers which will seek to explore how the diaspora could work towards strengthening their symbiotic relationship with India and India’s relations with the country of their residence. This session will deliberate on the issues of concern to overseas Indians residing in different regions.

The third plenary session would have Chief Ministers from 14 States and one Deputy Chief Minister, who will focus the role the diaspora can play in "Skill Development", an area of critical importance, given forecasts that India is likely to be confronted with significant skill-gaps in a couple of decades if action is not taken now.

According to an official press release, PBD Conventions traditionally provide a platform for exchange of views and networking to PIOs settled all over the world on matters of common interest and concern to them.

It said the conventions have helped the Government to better understand and appreciate the expectations of the overseas Indian community from the land of their ancestors and more importantly, acknowledge the important role played by them in India’s efforts to acquire its rightful place in the comity of nations, as also in their adopted countries, whether for the diaspora or national development.

Among the decisions taken by the Government of India as a result of the wider consultations held at these conventions are the formulation of the Overseas Citizenship of India scheme, establishment of Overseas Indian Facilitation Centre, conceptualisation of PIO/NRI University, formation of Prime Minister’s Global Advisory Council of People of Indian Origin, setting up of the India Development Foundation, enabling professionals who are Overseas Citizens of India to practice in India and the launching of the Global Indian Network of Knowledge (Global-INK).

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Another cold and foggy morning in Delhi

Fog in Delhi early in the morning on January 07, 2010.
Fog in Delhi early in the morning on January 07, 2010.

People in Delhi and many other parts of northern India woke up to another cold and foggy morning today, with visibility less than 50 metres in the early hours.

Like yesterday, the dense fog led to slowing down of road traffic, affected the running of trains in the region and disrupted flight schedules from the Indira Gandhi International Airport in the capital.

According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), the maximum temperature in the past 24 hours was 18.2 degrees Celsius, three degrees below normal. The minimum temperature was 8 degrees Celsius, 3 degrees above normal.

The IMD forecast for today said there would be thick fog in the morning and mainly clear sky afterwards. It said the maximum and minimum temperatures today would be around 18 and 9 degrees Celsius.

The IMD forecast said the maximum and minimum temperatures would be 18 and 9 degrees Celsius on Saturday and 18 and 8 degrees Celsius on Sunday.

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Trains delayed by hours by dense fog in N. India

Movement of trains in the northern parts of India continued to be hit by the thick fog that has been covering the region in the mornings in the past few days.


With a dense fog descending on the capital and surrounding areas last night, several trains were running between three and 12 hours behind schedule.


These included the Sampoorna Kranti Express from Rajender Nagar (12 hours late), Rajdhani Express from Rajender Nagar (10 hours), Lal Quila Express from Kolkata (9 hours), Brahmaputra Mail from Dibrugarh (8 hours) and Vaishali Express from Varanasi (7 hours), a Northern Railway press release said.


The Northern Railway has already cancelled several pairs of trains upto January 31 in view of the foggy conditions. Many other trains have been rescheduled for the same reasons or partially cancelled.


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