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Pawan Hans signs MoU with IMD for safety of helicopter operations

The public sector Pawan Hans Helicopters Limited (PHHL) and the India Meteorological Department (IMD) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) here today for better synergy between the two organisations for enhanced safety of helicopter operations in the country.


The MoU was signed by Mr R K Tyagi, Chairman and Managing Director, PHHL, and Dr Ajit Tyagi, Director General, IMD.


According to an official press release, IMD would provide support to the helicopter services of PHHL at all the airports and install and operationalise Automatic Weather Stations (AWS) for provision of meteorological data at remote locations or helipads.


It said that, in addition, IMD would provide briefing to all the pilots of helicopters operated by PHHL. It shall also provide briefing through its online briefing system. For making it more effective, Pawan Hans will provide sites for installation and shall be responsible for acquisition of the land. Further, Pawan Hans shall also help in airlifting of the equipment and staff from the nearest IMD locations to the Automatic Weather Stations.


The release said the MoU would help in better co-ordination for flying helicopters, enhance safety aspects and also help IMD disseminate inputs by way of de-briefs of the actual weather conditions in the far flung areas of the country.


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IGNOU to offer distance, e-learning programmes for Government employees

The Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) will offer distance and e-learning programmes programmes for Government employees under a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed by it with the Depatment of Personnel and Trainng (DoPT) here today.


According to an official press release, Government employees can now enroll for a wide spectrum of programmes offered by IGNOU and get their fees reimbursed on successfully completing the programmes.


The MoU was signed in the presence of Secretary, DoPT, Mr Shantnu Consul, and IGNOU Vice-Chancellor, Prof. V.N. Rajasekharan Pillai.


It said the programme would be open to Central Government employees working in various Ministries, Departments, attached offices and the faculty members of the State Apex Training Institutions.


The release said the purpose of the programme was to increase the availability and flexibility of options open to employees for enhancing their knowledge and skills in order to improve the functioning of Government organizations and the delivery of services to the public.

The employees concerned have to apply directly in response to the admission notification of IGNOU, subject to availability of funds. The employees enrolling for the courses under this programme will pay the required course fees to IGNOU. The amount so paid shall be re-imbursed to the employee on his/her successful completion of the course.


Categories of courses open for enrolment under this programme include Masters, Post-Graduate and Post-Graduate Diploma programmes, certificate programmes and short-duration specialised modules.


For certain Ministry-specific courses, the respective Nodal Ministry will be represented in the Course Review Committee which may meet from time to time to review the course content based on the general feedback and make such recommendations as deemed necessary, the release added.


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India, Mexico agree to cooperate in tourism sector

Tourism Minister of Mexico Gloria Guevara meeting the Union Minister for Tourism & Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, Kum. Selja, in New Delhi on August 17, 2010.
Tourism Minister of Mexico Gloria Guevara meeting the Union Minister for Tourism & Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, Kum. Selja, in New Delhi on August 17, 2010.

India and Mexico today agreed to promote cooperation between the two countries in the tourism sector and look at renewing the agreement they signed in this regard in 1996.

This came about at a meeting Union Tourism Minister Kumari Selja had with a five-member Mexican delegation led by Minister for Tourism Gloria Guevara here.

Ms Selja told the visiting delegation that India deeply admired the uniqueness of Mexican culture and heritage which had been preserved and conserved over the years. She said, the diplomatic relations between the two countries should be strengthened by exchange of ideas for tourism development and promotion, exchange of visits by travel and tour operators, travel media, opinion makers, holding of road shows and food festivals in each other's country.

Ms Selja said the two countries should exchange best practices in the tourism and hospitality education sectors for Human Resource Development. She also suggested student exchange programmes.

The Minister said the Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) was planning to open an Indian Cultural Centre in Mexico City and it would be an excellent platform for promoting Indian culture, cuisine and arts in Mexico. She said a Festival of India in Mexico had also been proposed for next year in which the Ministry of Tourism would focus, among other things, on yoga and wellness tourism.

Ms Guevara lauded the success of the "Incredible India" tourism campaign and overseas marketing. She praised the manner in which the government and the private sector efforts were being synergised in India to promote the tourism sector. She also appreciated the quick recovery of the tourism sector in India after the recent global economic slowdown. She invited Ms Selja to attend the International Fair on Cultural Tourism in Mexico in November 2010.

The Mexican Minister and her delegation are scheduled to visit Agra tomorrow to see the Taj Mahal, an official press release added.

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PM announces Rs 125 crore relief package for Leh cloudburst victims

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday announced a Rs 125 crore relief package for the victims of the August 6 cloudburst in the Leh region of Jammu and Kashmir.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today announced a special package of around Rs 125 crore for relief and rehabilitation measures in the Leh region of Jammu and Kashmir where flash floods and mudslides after a massive cloudburst on August 6 killed at least 179 people and injured about 400.


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh interacting with the flash flood victims at the relief camp in Choglamsar in Leh, Jammu & Kashmir on August 17, 2010.

Speaking to mediapersons in Leh after a visit to the affected areas, Dr Singh said the amount for the package would come from the Prime Minister's National Relief Fund (PMNRF).

He said it would cover ex-gratia assistance and repair of damaged homes, hospitals, water supply and emergency water supply, among other things.

It will include diesel generating (DG) sets, repairs to the SNM Hospital and replacement of the CT Scan machine in Leh. It will also cover the restoration of the water supply system and the supply of DG set(s) of appropriate capacity to Kargil, he said.

Dr Singh said that, in addition, an untied grant of Rs 5 crore each would be provided to the Leh and Kargil Autonomous Hill Development Councils (AHDCs) under the Special PMNRF package to meet emergent requirements.

This package will be over and above the assistance that may flow subsequently under Calamity Relief Fund/National Calamity Contingency Fund/Special Plan Assistance, he said.

He said that, keeping the special locational disadvantages of the Ladakh area, the quantum of assistance will be enhanced to Rs 2 lakh for each fully damaged house and Rs 1 lakh for every partly damaged house.

Dr Singh said funds would flow directly to the two AHDCs from the PMNRF. The State Government will set up a Project Monitoring and Implementation Unit under the Chief Secretary to ensure time-bound implementation of the relief and rehabilitation projects, he said, adding that the Prime Minister's Office would render all possible assistance.

He also said that further assistance for the restoration of infrastructure and other items would be provided on the basis of the memorandum of the State Government and the recommendations of the Central team.

The Prime Minister said he was shocked to hear about the loss of lives and extensive damage to property caused by the cloudburst.

"My heart goes out to all those who have lost their loved ones. I pray to God to give them strength in their hour of bereavement. I also wish the injured persons speedy recovery," he said.

Dr Singh said he had wanted to visit the affected areas earlier but he felt that that could have hampered the rescue and relief operations.

He said that his Ministerial colleagues Farooq Abdullah, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Prithviraj Chavan had already visited Leh, supervised the rescue operations and briefed him.

He noted that several people, including foreign nationals, were still missing and that there had been extensive damage to the civil hospital, airport, telecommunication facilities, drinking water supply works, the National Highways connecting Leh-Manali and Leh-Kargil and private properties.

Dr Singh praised the personnel of the Army, the Air Force, the Border Roads Organisation, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police and the National Disaster Response Force for their courage, tireless efforts and deep concern for their fellow citizens in distress.

He noted that the Centre and the State Government had worked hand in hand and ensured that emergency supplies like tents, blankets, turpentine, food and water were urgently dispatched and distributed.

"The doctors and nurses have also done a very good job. I must congratulate the Leh Council, the Deputy Commissioner and his team and the senior officers of the State Government, for their prompt response. All together, it has been a fine example of prompt and coordinated action in the face of nature's fury," he remarked.

The Prime Minister said the focus must now shift to restoration of public services and rehabilitation. He assured the people of the area that the Central Government would spare no efforts in this regard. He urged J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah to quickly send the memorandum to the Ministry of Home Affairs so that a Central team was sent at the earliest.

He noted that he had already announced an ex-gratia assistance of Rs 100,000 to the next of kin of each of the deceased and Rs 50,000 for thsoe seriously injured. He said he had made a public appeal requesting people to donate generously to the PMNRF to help those affected in Leh.

He said the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy Sources was sending 1000 solar lanterns for the affected houses in Leh. These lanterns will provide light in the night and can be charged during the day with solar energy, he added.

Dr Singh held a meeting with the Chief Minister and officials of the State Government to discuss the progress in relief and rehabilitation measures.

He was accompanied on the visit by Dr Farooq Abdullah, Mr Azad and J&K Congress Committee chief Saifuddin Soz.

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Aligarh farmers call off stir after UP Govt. hikes compensation for land

Agitating farmers in Aligarh district of Uttar Pradesh called off a three-day protest against the acquisition of land for the Yamuna Expressway project late last night after reaching an agreement with the State Government, an official statement in Lucknow said.


According to the statement issued by the UP Government, the farmers will get a special financial assistance of Rs 121 per sq m, over and above the amount of compensation at present.


The State Government had earlier fixed compensation at the rate of Rs 425 per sq m for the financial year 2010-11 for Aligarh district. Besides, an ex-gratia amount of Rs 24 per sq m was also being given, apart from compensation for crops, trees, boring, wells and so on situated on the land, according to the relevant rules.


After the agreement reached last night, the farmers will now get Rs 570 per sq m as compensation for their land, the statement said.


The 165-km eight-lane Yamuna Expressway has been taken up by the UP Government to reduce the driving time between New Delhi and Agra, the city of the Taj Mahal.


The agreement was hammered out at a meeting in Aligarh last night by UP Cabinet Secretary Shashank Shekhar Singh and Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) Brij Lal with the farmers' leader Ram Babu Kateria and others.


According to the statement, Mr Singh and Mr Brij Lal had been sent for the negotiations with the farmers by UP Chief Minister Mayawati, who had told them that the interests of the farmers should not be overlooked at any cost and that a decision on compensation should be taken after hearing the views of the farmers.


The statement said that if any farmer did not find the enhanced compensation amount acceptable his land would not be acquired and it would be returned to him.


The State Government also issued directives for the immediate release of all the farmers arrested during the agitation.


The State Government also announced that the ex-gratia payment given to the next of kin of those killed in the violence had been hiked to Rs 10 lakh each while those who suffered serious injuries will get Rs 2 lakhs each.


The death of three persons in police firing during the farmers' protest on Saturday rocked Parliament yesterday, with all major parties, except the Bahujan Samaj Party, taking it up and protesting against the police action.


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Moderate quake recorded in Andaman Islands region

An earthquake of moderate intensity, measuring 5.2 on the Richte scale, was recorded in the Andaman Islands region this morning, the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) said.


An IMD bulletin said the quake, with its epicentre at latitude 11.7 degrees North and longitude 95 degrees East, occurred at 7.09 am today at a depth of 10 km.


There were no reports of any damage caused by the tremor, sources added.


Earlier, an earthquake of slight intensity, measuring 2.6 on the Richter scale, was felt in Thane district of Maharashtra, near Mumbai in the early hours of today.


The IMD said the tremor, with its epicentre at latitude 19.3 degrees North and longitude 73.3 degrees East, occurred at 1.06 am today at a depth of five km.


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Former RJD MP Pappu Yadav arrested by CBI from Gurgaon

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) today said it had arrested former Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) MP Rajesh Ranjan alias Pappu Yadav, a wanted convict in the murder of former CPI(M) MLA Ajit Sarkar, from a private hospital at Gurgaon near here yesterday evening.


Yadav was granted bail by the Patna High Court on February 18, 2009 but the order was cancelled by the Supreme Court on May 3 this year. Yadav had filed a reveiw petition in the apex court, which it dismissed on August 5 and directed the CBI and the Director General of Police, Bihar, to execute its earlier order of May 3.


Since then, Yadav had not surrendered before any court and was evading his arrest, the CBI said in a press release today.


The release said the arrested was effected with the active cooperation of the Gurgaon Police in Haryana.


Yadav was sentenced to life imprisonment along with two other accused persons, Rajan Tiwari and Anil Kumar Yadav, in the murder of Mr Sarkar by Additional Sessions Judge-XI Ptna on February 14, 2008. He was in judicial custody at that time.


The release said Yadav was produced today in the Court of the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate, Gurgaon, who granted transit remand for producing him before the competent court in Patna.


Mr Sarkar was killed on June 14, 1998 along with two other men, Asfaq Aalam and Harmender Sharma, while he was returning after addressing a meeting of CPI(M) workers in Purnea district of Bihar.


The local police registered a case in this regard at Khazanchi Hat police station in that district on the same day. After investigation, the police filed a charge sheet in this case on August 19, 1988 against five persons -- Jawahar Yadav, Divakar Yadav, Paapu Dev, Abdul Sattar and Bipin Choudhary @ Bipin Singh.


On the request of the Bihar Government, the CBI took over the case. According to the agency, its investigation showed that Pappu Yadav had political rivalry with Sarkar, due to which he entered into a criminal conspiracy with co-accused Harish Choudhary @ Mamaji, Rajan Tiwari, Amar Yadav and Anil Yadav to eliminate the former MLA.


According to the CBI, in pursuance of the conspiracy, Harish Choudhary, Rajan Tiwari, Amar Yadav and Anil Yadav attacked Sarkar on June 14, 1998 and shot him dead.


The CBI filed a chargesheet against him and Rajan Tiwari, the shooter, Anil Yadav, Harish Choudhary @ Mamaji for criminal conspiracy, murder and other charges and also under the Arms Act. Three accused - Rajesh Ranjan @ Pappu Yadav, Rajan Tiwari and Anil Yadav - faced the trial and they were convicted and sentenced to imprisonment for life. The trial against Harish Choudhary and Amar Yadav is continuing. The court discharged the others.


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Krishna launches second phase of Pan-African e-Network Project


External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna inaugurated the second phase of the Pan-African e-Network Project, under which India is helping in setting up a fibre optic network to provide satellite connectivity, tele-medicine and tele-education to all 53 nations of Africa, at a function here today.


The second phase of the project will cover 12 countries: Botswana, Burundi, Cote d'Ivoire, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Libya, Malawi, Mozambique, Somalia, Uganda and Zambia. The first phase had covered 11 countries.


High Commissioners and Ambassadors of African countries and senior officers of the Ministry of External Affairs were present on the occasion.


Mr Krishna held online interaction on bilateral matters with senior ministers and other high-ranking dignitaries in each of the 12 countries through the network.


He urged all the countries to take full advantage of the complete range of services offered by India in the tele-education and tele-medicine fields.


Later, addressing the gathering, Mr Krishna described the project as one of the finest examples of the growing partnership between India and Africa. He said it was the biggest distance education and tele-medicine project ever undertaken in Africa.


He said the project was also equipped to support e-governance, e-commerce, infotainment, resource mapping and meteorological and other services in the African countries, besides providing VVIP connectivity among their Heads of State through a highly secure closed satellite network.


A total 47 countries have already joined the project. The network already covers 34 countries and the remaining would be progressively brought within its scope. The first phase was inaugurated in February 2009 in respect of eleven countries by the then External Affairs Minister. These countries included: Benin, Burkina Faso, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Ethiopia, Mauritius, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal and Seychelles.


According to an official press release, the basic objective of the project is to assist Africa in capacity building by way of imparting quality education to 10,000 students in Africa over a 5-year period in various disciplines from some of the best Indian universities/educational institutions. Besides, it would provide tele-medicine services by way of online medical consultation to the medical practioners at the Patient End Location in Africa by Indian medical specialists in various disciplines/specialties selected by the African Union for its Member States.

The project was conceived by former President A.P.J. Kalam and approved by the Union Cabinet in July, 2007 at a budgeted cost of Rs.542.90 crores ($ 125 million) which covers the cost of supply, installation, testing and commissioning of hardware and software, end-to-end connectivity, satellite bandwidth, O&M support, and providing the tele-education and tele-medicine services to 53 African countries for five years. The Ministry of External Affairs is the nodal ministry for the project while Telecommunications Consultants India Limited (TCIL) is implementing the project on a turnkey basis.


The release said regular tele-medicine and tele-education services had already been started on the network. At present, the tele-medicine consultations are regularly being conducted from Super-Specialty Hospitals from India to the African countries on need basis. Moreover, regular Continued Medical Education (CME) sessions have been started with effect from 22 April, 2009 from 11 Indian Super-Specialty Hospitals. So far 654 CME sessions have been conducted on this network.

Regarding tele-education services from India, more than 2000 students from Africa have been enrolled in five different top ranking universities in India in various courses like MBA, Master in Finance Control, PG Diploma in IT, M.Sc. in IT and Bachelor in Finance & Investment Analysis and many others. Regular tele-education live sessions are being conducted from India and students have shown great interest in the courses, it said.


TCIL has established the network with a Data Centre in TCIL Bhawan, New Delhi that acts as a gateway to the Hub Station in Dakar for connectivity of Indian institutions on the African side.


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President inaugurates Golden Jubilee Year of IIT Delhi

President Pratibha Patil today called upon students and alumni of the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), some of the best brains in the country, to be important partners and contributors to the journey of India to become a leader in knowledge-based society of the 21st century.


Inaugurating the Golden Jubilee Year of IIT Delhi here, Ms Patil emphasised that the future of India would derive strength from three sources: from a value-based system based on harmony, tolerance and selflessness; from youth; and from innovations and inventions.


"Educational institutions like IITs are the crucibles where all these three forces can interface with each other. Here, young students while studying science disciplines must inculcate a good value system," she said.


The President recalled that the establishment of the education infrastructure in India, including the IITs, was the outcome of the visition of the country's first Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.


"The IIT model seeks to provide a high calibre of education to its students, so that they become scientists and engineers comparable to the best in the world, as they explore the universe of knowledge through the prism of science and technology," she said.


She said IIT alumni had done the country proud, validating the rationale for the establishment of the IIT system.


Tracing the co-evolution of science and society, Ms Patil said India today was seeking responses to the challenges of food, water and energy security.


"This means addressing a wide spectrum of issues like foodgrain productivity and its proper distribution, water and energy conservation, cleaning of rivers and water recycling, reducing the cost of renewable sources of energy like solar and wind. We are looking at construction of energy efficient buildings and low cost housing to provide shelter to those who either have no house or are in urban areas living in slums. We are looking for ways to combat existing and new diseases. We are faced with climate change that is affecting the air we breathe and the weather patterns," she said.


She said responses and solutions, to a large extent, lay in the domain of science and technology. "These challenges are neither limited nor small, and would need sustained research to find appropriate responses," she remarked.


Ms Patil said India needed a second Green Revolution and novel thinking in rainfed farming for food security.


"We need engineering and management capabilities as we expand our infrastructure. We need environmentally friendly technologies. We need cutting edge technologies to be a leading nation," she said.


She said it was important research centres and laboratories in India focused on research and came up with innovations applicable to conditions and requirements existing in the country.


"It is, of course essential that an environment that is conducive for this purpose is created. Scientific research requires dedication and commitment as well as availability of funds. Moreover, science has become increasingly interlinked and multi-disciplinary, it calls for multi-institutional and multi-country participation. Institutes like yours need to develop robust mechanisms for collaborations with other institutions," she said.


Ms Patil said IIT alumni had made their mark globally and the contributions of their faculty, including their research, were widely respected. She noted that the IITs had a number of market patents awaiting registration and that IIT Delhi had filed 40 patent applications last year.


"I congratulate you on this. However, we must look at the global patent scenario to get a broader perspective. According to the World Intellectual Property Organization, in 2009, over 45,000 patents constituting almost a third of global patents in the year were filed by the US. Ranking fifth, China filed over 7,900 patents. India, on the other hand had only 761 applications. We have a long distance to cover. The Government of India has declared this decade as the Decade of Innovation, I am confident that our scientists and researchers with their knowledge, capability and commitment will make it a success," she said.


The President said technology diffusion was another important aspect as it ensured that fruits of innovation reached as many people as possible. Inventions that have germinated in laboratories must be transmitted into the field to become agents of transformation, she said.


She said efforts should be to build collaborations with institutions in different sectors of industry, agriculture and services, which in turn, must also be forthcoming in supporting new ideas and discoveries. She said the challenge was in getting tie-ups for their marketing and commercialisation.


Ms Patil urged the students and alumni of technological institutes, especially the IITs, to take interest and establish links with such individuals and mentor them.


She also advised them to do their work as service to humankind, and stressed their society's welfare and their welfare were interlinked.


"A scientist or an engineer who is a good human being, with values of integrity and with a social conscious, will contribute far more to society. It is in returning back to society that a human being responds to their call of duty towards others," she said.


She recalled that Microsoft founder Bill Gates had said some time ago that, per capita, IITs had produced more millionaires than any other undergraduate institution.


"IITians across the world, indeed, are a very powerful group. They have resources and experience which can be leveraged to generate ideas along with necessary funding for development projects in India. I am confident that IITians will always be ready to contribute to India's growth and prosperity," she added.


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Mexican Foreign Minister Cantellano in Delhi on 3-day visit


Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa Cantellano called on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here today at the start ofa three-day official visit to India in her capacity as the Chairperson of the COP-16 meeting on Climate Change.


Mexico is scheduled to host the Conference of the Parties (COP-16) meeting on Climate Change in Cancun in November this year.


Ms Cantellano, who arrived here yesterday morning, is accompanied on the visit by Mexican Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ms. Lourdes Aranda, Special Representative for Climate Change, Mr. Luis Alfonso de Alba, and other officials.


External Affairs Minister S M Krishna will hold delegation level talks with Ms Cantellano tomorrow.


The Mexican Foreign Minister will also have meeting with Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh and interact with representatives of trade and industry at FICCI and CII.


This year holds special significance for Mexico as it marks the bicentenary of Mexican Independence and the centenary of the Mexican Revolution. This year both India and Mexico are celebrating the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. Several commemorative events are being planned during the year. A commemorative stamp is also proposed to be issued later in the year.


An official press release said India enjoyed warm and friendly relations with Mexico. President Pratibha Patil had visited Mexico in April 2008 and Mexican President Felipe Calderon had visited India in September 2007 when both countries elevated their relations to a "Privileged Partnership".


It said these visits gave a fresh impetus to the bilateral relations when a number of agreements were signed and institutional mechanisms were set up to take forward the ongoing cooperation between the two countries.


The bilateral trade in 2009 was $ 2.2 billion (India’s exports were $ 1.14 billion and imports were of $ 1.08 billion in 2009). Total Indian investments in Mexico are in the range of $ 1.5 billion mostly in the IT, pharmaceuticals, manufacturing and packaging sectors.


The High Level Group on Trade & Investment had met in April 2010 and Foreign Office Consultations between the two countrieswere held in July 2010 in Mexico City, the release added.


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Leh cloudburst: death toll reaches 179; 22 Army men still missing

Home Minister P Chidambaram said on Monday the death toll in the flash floods and mudslides caused by a huge cloudburst in the Leh region on August 6 had reached 179.

Union Home Minister P Chidambaram today said the death toll in the flash floods and mudslides triggered off by a huge cloudburst in the Leh region of Jammu and Kashmir on August 6 had reached 179 and round-the-clock efforts were on for the restoration of road and communication links in the affected areas.

Seperately, the Ministry of Defence said today that as manyas 13 Army personnel were killed in the disaster and another 22, including three Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs), were still missing.

Mr Chidambaram told the Lok Sabha in a statement that there had been susbtantial loss of human lives in the tragedy because it occurred during the night. He said a full assessment of the damage to property and disruption of communication and services was under way.

He said those killed in the floods included six foreign nations. About 400 people were injured and treated in various Army and other medical facilities, he said.

The Minister said there had been extensive damage to public utilities such as the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) telephone exchange, civil hospital, airport, drinking water supply works, national highways connecting Leh-Manali and Leh-Kargil and also to private properties.

He said that, on receipt of the information of the cloud burst, the Government of India had immediately swung into action and responded to the requirements projected by the Government of Jammu & Kashmir for undertaking rescue and relief operations in the affected areas.

More than 6000 personnel of Army, Air Force, Border Roads Organization (BRO), the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) had been deployed along with rescue equipment to assist the civil administration in relief operations, he said.

Mr Chidambaram said large quantities of tents (800), blankets (6900), tarpaulins (620), mattresses (1000), food packets and bottled water were sent. Contributions from the charitable organizations and other sources were also airlifted.

Apart from the medical teams available with Army, the Central Para-Military Forces (CPMFs) and the State Government, one medical team consisting of eight doctors and four nurses along with ten quintals of emergent surgical/medical consumables had been deployed in the affected area. Additional medical supplies are being dispatched. Medical equipments have been sent to the affected area.

He said the Civil Hospital, which had been affected by the floods, had been made functional and two water purification machines of 4000 ltrs per hour capacity have been delivered at Leh. An additional water purification plant has also been sent. Sufficient quantities of chlorine/water purification tablets have been dispatched. Thirty per cent of the water supply has been resumed.

The Minister said 50 civil aircrafts were deployed between August 8 and 15 and more than 7400 stranded passengers had been evacuated from Leh to Delhi/Jammu. These aircrafts have also carried more than 25 tonnes of relief material to Leh, free of cost since August 8, he said.

He said the Air Force had carried out 202 sorties and airlifted 269.64 tonnes of relief material and equipments and 789 passengers and 15 bodies.

Mr Chidambaram said the Prime Minister’s Office had announced an ex-gratia amount of Rs.1 lakh each to the next of kin of the deceased.

"The focus is now on the restoration of road link and telecommunication for which Border Roads Organization and BSNL are working round the clock. The Leh-Srinagar road link has been restored and Leh-Manali road is open for light vehicles," he said.

He said nine BSNL towers had been restored and mobile connectivity established in city area. Landline connectivity will be restored fully by August 31, he said.

He said heavy machinery had been airlifted to Leh to expedite restoration of road links. Bailey bridge components are also being airlifted over the last few days. Electricity in Leh town has been restored, he said.

Mr Chidambaram said that, as on date, Rs.429.24 crore was available with the State Government in its State Disaster Relief Fund (SDRF) account for carrying out rescue and relief operations.

He said a high-level Central team, consisting of Union Ministers Farooq Abdullah, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Prithviraj Chavan visited the affected areas on August 7 to assess the situation.

He said the situation was also being reviewed continuously and the Ministry of Home Affairs was coordinating with all Ministries, Departments and various agencies concerned for convergence of the rescue and relief efforts.

"The thrust now will be on the rehabilitation of the affected people. The Government of Jammu and Kashmir has been requested to assess the damage and submit a detailed memorandum so that necessary assistance is considered by the Government of India for relief operations as well as long term rehabilitation," he said.

He assured the House that the Centre would extend all possible help to the State Government for relief and rehabilitation of the affected persons.

The Defence Ministry said the Indian Air Force (IAF) flew an IL-76 transport aircraft, two Cheetah and one MI-17 helicopters yesterday for airlifting nearly 26 tons of relief materials and 20 people. So far the Air Force has undertaken 226 sorties, airlifting over 302 tons of relief materials and equipment and flying 818 passengers, a statement from the Ministry said.

Besides the IAF efforts, 18 columns of the Army continue to render rescue and relief operations on the ground.

The statement said 300 civilians have been provided food at Choglamsar village near Leh and 19 civilians at the Government Degree College, Leh.

It said the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) had restored 12 of the 21 bridges washed away in the floods. Work to lay bridges in Khalsi and Batalik of Kargil sector and Biamah and Chaluka in Turtuk is progressing fast.

It said that following fresh flash floods in Tawi river on August 12, two Engineer Task Forces had been deployed in Bhagwati Nagar, Belicharna and Gandu Chak of Jammu region at the call of the State Government.

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

As many as 84 people have died of influenza A (H1N1) in India in the week ended August 15, 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 to 1945.


The WHO, on August 10, 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 84 deaths, 51 occurred in Maharashtra, 7 each in Karnataka and Delhi, 5 each in Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh, 4 in Kerala, 2 in Uttar Pradesh and 1 each in Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Rajasthan.


Besides, delayed information about 26 deaths caused by the virus earlier - 14 in Maharashtra and 12 in Karnataka - was received by the Ministry during the week, the statement said.


A total of 1155 fresh cases of the flu were reported during the week, including 507 in Maharashtra, 186 in Karnataka, 125 in Delhi, 107 in Tamil Nadu and 99 in Andhra Pradesh, the statement added.


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Railways to accept credit card as identity proof for e-tickets

The Ministry of Railways has decided to accept credit cards issued by banks with laminated photograph as proof of identity for those travelling on e-tickets.


An official press release said here today that the new provision had come into effect from August 6 this year.


This is in addition to the existing seven documents accepted by the Railways as proof of identity for undertaking journey on e-tickets: Voter Identity Card, Passport, PAN Card, Driving License, Photo Identity Card issued by Central/State Government, Student Identity Card with photograph issued by recognised School/College for their students and Nationalised Bank Passbook with photograph.


The Ministry has asked all Zonal Railways to issue necessary instructions to all concerned, particularly ticket checking staff, so as to educate them about this modified provision and to avoid inconvenience to the passengers, the release added.


NNN

CCEA approves expansion of Livestock Health and Disease Control scheme

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) today approved the expansion of the ongoing Centrally Sponsored Scheme "Livestock Health and Disease Control" by adding four new components.


The CCEA also enlarged the scope of the existing Foot and Mouth Disease Control Programme from 54 to 221 districts, an official press release said.


The new components to be added to the scheme are: National Animal Disease Reporting System, National Control Programme on Peste des Petits Ruminants, National Control Programme on Brucellosis and Establishment and Strengthening of Veterinary Hospitals and Dispensaries.


At present, this scheme has following four components -- Assistance to States for Control of Animal Diseases, National Project on Rinderpest Eradiction, Professional Efficiency Development and Foot and Mouth Disease Control Programme.


The release said implementation of the existing and additional components and expansion of the Foot and Mouth Disease Control Programme would involve an investment of Rs.886.10 crore in 2010-11 and 2011-12.


As livestock contribute to the livelihood of the poor, controlling animal diseases can uplift their economic condition, it said.

In order to improve the present system of disease reporting, a new computerized system will be introduced for animal disease reporting, linking each block, district and state headquarters to a central disease reporting and monitoring unit in New Delhi. This will enable the veterinary authorities to closely monitor, control and eradicate animal diseases, particularly those of a trans-boundary nature, economic significance and zoonotic potential, a in a time bound manner, the release added.


NNN

CCEA nod for scheme for adolescent girls

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) today gave its approval for the implementation of the Rajiv Gandhi Scheme for Empowerment of Adolescent Girls (RGSEAG) -"SABLA"- aimed at empowering adolescent girls in the age group of 11-18 years.


An official press release said the scheme would be implemented in the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) projects and Anganwadi Centres in select 200 districts in all the States and Union Territories (UTs).


It said the scheme had been recommended by the Group of Ministers (GoM) and aimed at enhancing the nutritional and economic status of adolescent girls. The districts will be selected using a set of indicators and will be a combination in equal proportion of good performing, moderate and not so well performing districts in all the States/UTs.

The adolescent girls (AGs) will be provided Take Home Ration (THR) under the Scheme. However, if any State/UT insists on providing hot cooked meal, standards should be set for the same. Separately, the Ministry will explore feasibility of implementing Conditional Cash Transfer scheme as an alternative for AGs in 100 more districts. The Cash transfer will be made contingent on the conditions to be fulfilled which will need to be laid down clearly and which should be implementable.

An allocation of Rs. 4500 crores has been made for implementing the scheme during the remaining period of the XI Five Year Plan (2007-12). For 2010-11, a provision of Rs.1000 crore has been made in the Budget, the release said.

In the initial years, between 0.92 crore and 1.15 crore adolescent girls (40-50%) per annum are expected to be covered under the scheme during the XI Plan.


It will be implemented using the platform of Anganwadi Centres (AWCs) of the ICDS Scheme. In AWCs where infrastructure and facilities are inadequate, alternative arrangements would be made in schools/ panchayats/ community building or other such facilities, the release added.


NNN

Complete Text of Prime Minister's Independence Day Address

Following is the text of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s address to the nation from the ramparts of Red Fort on the occasion of Independence Day:


Dear citizens,


I greet you on the 63rd anniversary of our independence. When Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru unfurled the Tricolour on this historic Red Fort, on 15th August, 1947, he called himself the first servant of India. I address you today in the same spirit of service.


A few days back, many precious lives were lost in Laddakh due to a cloud burst. I convey my heart felt condolences to the family members and other near and dear ones of those who have perished. In this hour of grief, the whole country stands with the people of Laddakh. It is my assurance that the Central Government will do everything possible for rehabilitation of the affected people.


When I addressed you last year on Independence Day, our country was facing a number of difficulties. There was a drought like situation in many parts of the country. We were also affected by the global economic slow down. I am happy to say that we have acquitted ourselves well in these difficult circumstances. Despite many problems, the rate of our economic growth has been better than most other countries in the world. This shows the strength of our economy.


This strength has been evident not only in the last one year but also in our economic progress in the last many years. Today, India stands among the fastest growing economies of the world. As the world's largest democracy, we have become an example for many other countries to emulate. Our citizens have the right to make their voice heard. Our country is viewed with respect all over the world. Our views command attention in international fora.


All of you have contributed to India's success. The hard work of our workers, our artisans, our farmers has brought our country to where it stands today. I specially salute our soldiers whose bravery ensures the safety of our borders. I pay tribute to all those martyrs who have sacrificed their lives for our country.


We are building a new India in which every citizen would have a stake, an India which would be prosperous and in which all citizens would be able to live a life of honour and dignity in an environment of peace and goodwill. An India in which all problems could be solved through democratic means. An India in which the basic rights of every citizen would be protected. In the last few years, we have taken many significant steps in this direction. Every person living in rural areas now has the assurance of 100 days of employment through the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. The Right to Information Act is helping our citizens to become more aware. This year our Government has enacted the Right to Education which will help every Indian to share in the benefits of the country's economic progress and also to contribute to it. To ensure equal partnership of women in our progress, we have taken initiative for reservation for women in Parliament and in State legislatures. Apart from this, reservation for women has been increased to 50 per cent in local bodies.


Despite our many strengths, we face some serious challenges. We should resolve today that we will meet these challenges as one people. Our society often gets divided in the name of religion, State, caste or language. We should resolve that we will not allow divisions in our society under any circumstance. Tolerance and generosity have been a part of our traditions. We should strengthen these traditions. As we progress economically our society should also become more sensitive. We should be modern and progressive in our outlook.


Our Government has laid special emphasis on the welfare of our farmers and on increasing agricultural production. After we came to power in 2004, we realized that the state of Indian agriculture in the preceding 7-8 years was not satisfactory. Our Government increased public investment in agriculture. We started new schemes for increasing production. We encouraged agricultural planning at the district level. I am happy that the growth rate of our agriculture has increased substantially in the last few years. But we are still far from achieving our goal. We need to work harder so that we can increase the agricultural growth rate to 4 per cent per annum.


Our Government wants a food safety net in which no citizen of ours would go hungry. This requires enhanced agricultural production which is possible only by increasing productivity. Our country has not witnessed any big technological breakthrough in agriculture after the Green Revolution. We need technology which would address the needs of dry land agriculture. In addition, our agriculture should also be able to deal with new challenges like climate change, falling levels of ground water and deteriorating quality of soil. In the history of Indian agriculture, Norman Borlaug commands a special place. About 40 to 50 years back he developed new and more productive seeds of wheat. Under the leadership of Smt. Indira Gandhiji, India achieved the Green Revolution by adopting these seeds. I am happy to announce that the Borlaug Institute of South Asia is being established in India. This institute would facilitate availability of new and improved seeds and new technology to the farmers of India and other countries of South Asia.


We have always taken care to provide remunerative prices to farmers so that they are encouraged to increase production. Support prices have been increased every year in the last six years. The support price for wheat was enhanced to Rs.1,100 per quintal last year from Rs.630 per quintal in 2003-04. In paddy, this increase was from Rs.550 per quintal to Rs.1,000 per quintal. But one effect of providing higher prices to farmers is that food prices in the open market also increase.


I know that in the last few months high inflation has caused you difficulties. It is the poor who are the worst affected by rising prices, especially when the prices of commodities of every day use like foodgrains, pulses, vegetables increase. It is for this reason that we have endeavored to minimize the burden of increased prices on the poor. Today, I do not want to go into the detailed reasons for high inflation. But, I would certainly like to say that we are making every possible effort to tackle this problem. I am also confident that we will succeed in these efforts.


It is obvious that any person or institution cannot spend more than his income over a long period of time, even if it is the Government. It is our responsibility that we manage our economy with prudence so that our development is not affected adversely in the future because of high debt. We import about 80 per cent of our requirement of petroleum products. After 2004, we have increased the prices of petroleum products much less compared to the increase in the price of crude oil in the international market. The subsidy on petroleum products has been increasing every year. It had become necessary therefore to increase the prices of petroleum products. If this had not been done, it would not have been possible for our budget to bear the burden of subsidy and our programmes for education, health and employment of the poor would have been adversely affected.


In the 63 years after independence, India has covered a long distance on the path of development. But our destination is still far away. A large part of our population still suffers from persistent poverty, hunger and disease. When our Government came to power in 2004, we resolved to build a new India under a progressive social agenda. We wanted the fruits of development to reach the common man. We initiated programmes especially targeted to the welfare of the socially and economically backward sections of our society. We still stand committed to the welfare of the poor, the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, minorities, women and other backward sections of our society. But today we do not need many new programmes to achieve our goals. However, we do need to implement the schemes we have already started more effectively, minimizing the chances of corruption and misuse of public money. We want to achieve this in partnership with the State Governments, Panchayat Raj Institutions and civil society groups.


Secularism is one of the pillars of our democracy. It has been the tradition of our country and society to treat all religions with equal respect. For centuries India has welcomed new religions and all have flourished here. Secularism is also our constitutional obligation. Our Government is committed to maintain communal peace and harmony. We also consider it our duty to protect the minorities and provide for their special needs. This is why we have started many new programmes in the last four years for the welfare of our brothers and sisters belonging to the minority communities. These include scholarships for minority students and special programmes for the development of districts which have a high concentration of minorities. These schemes have shown good results. We will vigorously take this work forward.


We have been giving special attention to education and health in the last six years. Improvement in these two areas is an important component of our strategy for inclusive growth. It is also necessary for higher economic growth in the years to come. After independence, these two areas could not get the importance they deserved. We tried to change this state of affairs in the 11th Plan. Today, almost every child in our country has access to primary education. Now, we need to pay more attention to secondary and higher education. We also need to improve the quality of education at all levels. It is our endeavour that every child, irrespective of whether he is rich or poor and which section of the society he belongs to, should be given an education that enables him to realize his potential and makes him a responsible citizen of our country. We will continue to implement the new schemes that we have started in the last six years in the areas of education and health with sincerity and hard work and in partnership with the State Governments. We will soon bring a Bill to Parliament for constitution of two separate councils in higher education and health respectively so that reforms in these two areas can be accelerated.


Nutritious food and good health services are necessary but not enough for ensuring good health of our citizens. We also need cleanliness and good sanitation in our villages, towns and cities. There are many diseases which would be difficult to prevent otherwise. The truth is that our country lags behind in this area. I consider it a primary responsibility of all our citizens to maintain cleanliness and hygiene around them. I would like our children to be taught the importance of cleanliness and hygiene in schools from the very beginning under a campaign for a Clean India. I appeal to the State Governments, Panchayat Raj Institutions, civil society groups and common citizens to make this campaign successful.


Mahatma Gandhi had said that our earth has enough for everyone's need but not for everyone's greed. Imprudent use of the earth's natural resources has resulted in the problem of climate change. We need to use our natural resources with care and prudence. It is our responsibility towards the coming generations to protect and preserve our forests, rivers and mountains. Our government will endeavour to take care of environmental concerns in our projects for economic development.


There is a large deficit in our physical infrastructure which affects our economic development adversely. There is a shortfall in the supply of electricity to industries. Our roads, ports and airports are not of world standards. We have been trying to increase electricity production and improve our roads, ports and airports. The resources required to create good physical infrastructure are difficult for the Government alone to mobilize. Therefore, we have endeavoured to involve the private sector in our efforts. The steps that we have taken after 2004 to improve our physical infrastructure have started bearing fruit now. About one and half a months back, I dedicated a new terminal of the Delhi airport to the nation. This is an excellent terminal which has been completed in record time. We will continue to make such efforts to improve our physical infrastructure.


There has been much discussion recently on the issue of internal security. If law and order in any part of India deteriorates or peace and harmony gets disturbed, the common man is adversely affected. Therefore, it is one of the primary responsibilities of any government to maintain law and order so that the citizens can live and earn their livelihood in an atmosphere of peace and harmony. Naxalism is a serious challenge to our internal security. I pay tribute to the men and officers of our security forces who have became martyrs in the attacks by naxalites in the last few months. I have stated this before and I say it again - our Government will fully discharge its responsibility to protect each and every citizen of our country. We will deal firmly with those who resort to violence. We will provide all possible help to State Governments to maintain the rule of law in areas affected by naxalism. I once again appeal to naxalites to abjure violence, come for talks with the Government and join hands with us to accelerate social and economic development. A few days back I took a meeting with the Chief Ministers of States affected by naxalism. We will fully implement the consensus that emerged in that meeting. I would like to repeat here a point that I made in that meeting. It is imperative that Centre and States work together to meet the challenge of naxalism. It would be very difficult for any State to tackle this problem without cooperation from the Centre and coordination between States. We all need to rise above our personal and political interests to meet this challenge.


As I have stated earlier, most naxalite affected areas lag behind in development. Many such areas also have a large concentration of our adivasi brothers and sisters. We want to end the neglect of these areas. I have asked the Planning Commission to formulate a comprehensive scheme towards this end, which we would implement fully. It is also our endeavour that our adivasi brothers and sisters join the mainstream of development. They have been dependent on forest produce for centuries and this dependence should not end without the creation of new sources of livelihood. Apart from adequate compensation for land which is acquired from them, we should also ensure that our adivasi brothers and sisters have a stake in the developmental project being undertaken.


I would like to state one more thing in this context. It is very necessary to make the administrative machinery more sensitive in areas affected by naxalism. The government officials who work there should not only be sincere but should also be alive to the special needs of our adivasi brothers and sisters. It is my hope that the State Governments will pay adequate attention to these requirements.


We have a special responsibility towards the States of the North East. We are trying to live up to that responsibility. The North Eastern part of our country has been witness to some unpleasant incidents in the recent months. I would like to convey to all political parties and groups of the North East that disputes in the name of State or tribe can only harm all of us. Discussion and dialogue are the only options to resolve complex issues. As far as the Central Government is concerned, we are ready to take forward every process of talks which could lead to progress in resolution of problems.


In Jammu and Kashmir, we are ready to talk to every person or group which abjures violence. Kashmir is an integral part of India. Within this framework, we are ready to move forward in any talks which would increase the partnership of the common man in governance and also enhance their welfare. Recently, some young men have lost their lives in violence in Jammu and Kashmir. We deeply regret this. The years of violence should now end. Such violence would not benefit anyone. I believe that India's democracy has the generosity and flexibility to be able to address the concerns of any area or group in the country. I recently participated in a meeting with political parties from Jammu and Kashmir. We will endeavour to take this process forward. I would like to convey to our countrymen, especially our citizens in Jammu and Kashmir and in the North East, that they should adopt democratic means to join hands with us for their and country's welfare.


We want prosperity, peace and harmony in our neighbouring countries. Whatever differences we have with our neighbouring countries, we want to resolve them through discussions. As far as Pakistan is concerned, we expect from them that they would not let their territory be used for acts of terrorism against India. We have been emphasizing this in all our discussions with the Pakistan Government. If this is not done, we cannot progress far in our dialogue with Pakistan.


I would also like to say something which is related to our glorious cultural traditions. The use of harsh and unpleasant words in our political discourse has increased in recent days. This is against our traditions of generosity, humility and tolerance. Criticism has a place of its own in a democracy and in a progressive society. However, criticism should not be undignified. We should have the capacity to reconcile opposite points of view on important issues through debate and discussion. I would request all political parties to consider this issue.


The Commonwealth Games will start in Delhi after about one and a half months. This will be a proud moment for the whole country and especially for Delhi. I am convinced that all our countrymen will treat the Games as a national festival and will leave no stone unturned to make them a success. The successful organization of Commonwealth Games would be another signal to the world that India is rapidly marching ahead with confidence.


Our future is bright. The day when our dreams will come true is not far off. Let us all resolve on this anniversary of our independence that we will keep the flag of our nation flying high. Let us march ahead together on the path of progress and prosperity.


Dear children, please say Jai Hind with me.


"Jai Hind"


"Jai Hind"


"Jai Hind"


NNN

PM tells Pakistan to end terror against India for progress in dialogue

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told Pakistan on Sunday that the two countries could not progress far in their dialogue unless it stopped allowing its territory to be used for acts of terrorism against India.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today told Pakistan that the two countries could not progress far in their dialogue unless it stopped allowing its territory to be used for acts of terrorism against India.

A panoramic view from the ramparts of the Red Fort while Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was addressing the nation on August 15, 2010.
A panoramic view from the ramparts of the Red Fort while Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was addressing the nation on August 15, 2010.

"We want prosperity, peace and harmony in our neighbouring countries. Whatever differences we have with our neighbouring countries, we want to resolve them through discussions," Dr Singh said in his address to the nation from the ramparts of the historic Red Fort in the capital on the 64th Independence Day.

"As far as Pakistan is concerned, we expect from them that they would not let their territory be used for acts of terrorism against India. We have been emphasizing this in all our discussions with the Pakistan Government. If this is not done, we cannot progress far in our dialogue with Pakistan," he said.

Dr Singh also appealed to Naxalites to abjure violence, come for talks with the Government and join hands with it to accelerate social and economic development.

He said that the Centre would fully implement the consensus that emerged in the recent meeting he held with Chief Ministers of States affected by Naxalism.

He stressed that it was imperative that the Centre and States worked together to meet the challenges of Naxalism, pointing out that it would be very difficult for any State to tackle this problem without cooperation from the Centre and coordination between States.

"We all need to rise above our personal and political interests to meet this challenge," he said.

Dr Singh said that if law and order in any part of India deteriorated or peace and harmony got disturbed, the common man was adversely affected. "Therefore, it is one of the primary responsibilities of any government to maintain law and order so that the citizens can live and earn their livelihood in an atmosphere of peace and harmony," he said.

According to him, Naxalism was a serious challenge to the country's internal security. He paid tribute to the men and officers of security forces who were killed in the attacks by Naxalites in the last few months.

He asserted that the Government would fully discharge its responsibility to protect each and every citizen of the country.

"We will deal firmly with those who resort to violence. We will provide all possible help to State Governments to maintain the rule of law in areas affected by Naxalism," he said.

The Prime Minister said most Naxalite-affected areas, many of which also have a large concentration of Adivasis, lagged behind in development.

He said the Government wanted to end the neglect of these areas. He said he had asked the Planning Commission to formulate a comprehensive scheme towards this end, which the Government would implement fully.

"It is also our endeavour that our Adivasi brothers and sisters join the mainstream of development. They have been dependent on forest produce for centuries and this dependence should not end without the creation of new sources of livelihood. Apart from adequate compensation for land which is acquired from them, we should also ensure that our Adivasi brothers and sisters have a stake in the developmental project being undertaken," he said.

Dr Singh said that it was very necessary to make the administrative machinery more sensitive aeas affected by Naxalism. He said the Government officials who work there should not only be sincere but should also be alive to the special needs of the tribals. He hoped the State Governments would pay adequate attention to these requirements.

Dr Singh said that, in Jammu and Kashmir, the Government was ready to talk to every person or group which abjured violence.

"Kashmir is an integral part of India. Within this framework, we are ready to move forward in any talks which would increase the partnership of the common man in governance and also enhance their welfare," he said.

He expressed deep regret over the loss of young lives in the recent violence in Jammu Kashmir.

"We deeply regret this. The years of violence should now end. Such violence would not benefit anyone. I believe that India's democracy has the generosity and flexibility to be able to address the concerns of any area or group in the country," he said.

Referring to the recent meeting he held with political parties from the State, he said he would endeavour to take this process forward.

Tricolour balloons released in the sky after the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s address to the nation from Red Fort, in Delhi on August 15, 2010.
Tricolour balloons released in the sky after the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s address to the nation from Red Fort, in Delhi on August 15, 2010.

"I would like to convey to our countrymen, especially our citizens in Jammu and Kashmir and in the North East, that they should adopt democratic means to join hands with us for their and country's welfare," he said.

The Prime Minister said the Government had a special responsibility towards the States of the North-East.

"We are trying to live up to that responsibility. The North Eastern part of our country has been witness to some unpleasant incidents in the recent months. I would like to convey to all political parties and groups of the North East that disputes in the name of State or tribe can only harm all of us. Discussion and dialogue are the only options to resolve complex issues. As far as the Central Government is concerned, we are ready to take forward every process of talks which could lead to progress in resolution of problems," he said.

This was the seventh straight year that Dr Singh hoisted the National Flag on the ramparts of the Red Fort. He is now India's third longest serving Prime Minister after Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi.

"When Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru unfurled the Tricolour on this historic Red Fort, on 15th August, 1947, he called himself the first servant of India. I address you today in the same spirit of service," he began today.

Dr Singh offered his heartfelt condolences to those who had lost their lives in the recent flash floods and mudslides in Leh in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir after a massive cloud burst.

"In this hour of grief, the whole country stands with the people of Ladakh. It is my assurance that the Central Government will do everything possible for rehabilitation of the affected people," he said.

He recalled that, when he had addressed the nation last year on Independence Day, the country was facing a number of difficulties.

"There was a drought like situation in many parts of the country. We were also affected by the global economic slow down. I am happy to say that we have acquitted ourselves well in these difficult circumstances. Despite many problems, the rate of our economic growth has been better than most other countries in the world. This shows the strength of our economy," he said.

He said that, today, India stood among the fastest growing economies of the world and, as the world's largest democracy, it had become an example for many other countries to emulate.

"Our citizens have the right to make their voice heard. Our country is viewed with respect all over the world. Our views command attention in international fora," he said.

"All of you have contributed to India's success. The hard work of our workers, our artisans, our farmers has brought our country to where it stands today. I specially salute our soldiers whose bravery ensures the safety of our borders. I pay tribute to all those martyrs who have sacrificed their lives for our country," he said.

He said the Governmen was building a new India in which every citizen would have a stake, an India which would be prosperous and in which all citizens would be able to live a life of honour and dignity in an environment of peace and goodwill.

"An India in which all problems could be solved through democratic means. An India in which the basic rights of every citizen would be protected," he said.

His listed the various steps taken by the Government in this direction, including hte Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), the Right to Information (RTI) Act and the Right to Education (RTE) Act.

"To ensure equal partnership of women in our progress, we have taken initiative for reservation for women in Parliament and in State legislatures. Apart from this, reservation for women has been increased to 50 per cent in local bodies," he said.

Dr Singh also mentioned the serious challenges facing the country. "Our society often gets divided in the name of religion, State, caste or language. We should resolve that we will not allow divisions in our society under any circumstance. Tolerance and generosity have been a part of our traditions. We should strengthen these traditions. As we progress economically our society should also become more sensitive. We should be modern and progressive in our outlook," he said.

He said the Government had laid special emphasis on the welfare of farmers and on increasing agricultural production. He said the country needed to work harder so as to increase the agricultural growth rate to 4 per cent per annum. He said the Government wanted a food safety net in which no citizen went hungry.

He announced that the Borlaug Institute of South Asia was being established in India. This institute would facilitate availability of new and improved seeds and new technology to the farmers of India and other countries of South Asia, he said.

The Prime Minister said the Government had always taken care to provide remunerative prices to farmers so that they were encouraged to increase production.

"But one effect of providing higher prices to farmers is that food prices in the open market also increase," he pointed out.

He ackowledged that, in the last few months, high inflation had caused people difficulties and noted that the poor were the worst affected by rising prices, especially when the prices of commodities of every day use like foodgrains, pulses, vegetables increase.

"It is for this reason that we have endeavored to minimize the burden of increased prices on the poor. Today, I do not want to go into the detailed reasons for high inflation. But, I would certainly like to say that we are making every possible effort to tackle this problem. I am also confident that we will succeed in these efforts," he said.

The Prime Minister underlined that it was the responsibility of the Government to manage the economy with prudence so that development was not affected adversely in the future because of high debt.

"We import about 80 per cent of our requirement of petroleum products. After 2004, we have increased the prices of petroleum products much less compared to the increase in the price of crude oil in the international market. The subsidy on petroleum products has been increasing every year. It had become necessary therefore to increase the prices of petroleum products. If this had not been done, it would not have been possible for our budget to bear the burden of subsidy and our programmes for education, health and employment of the poor would have been adversely affected," he said.

Dr Singh said that, in the 63 years after independence, India had covered a long distance on the path of development.

"But our destination is still far away. A large part of our population still suffers from persistent poverty, hunger and disease. When our Government came to power in 2004, we resolved to build a new India under a progressive social agenda. We wanted the fruits of development to reach the common man," he said.

He said the Government had initiated programmes especially targeted to the welfare of the socially and economically backward sections of our society.

"We still stand committed to the welfare of the poor, the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, minorities, women and other backward sections of our society. But today we do not need many new programmes to achieve our goals. However, we do need to implement the schemes we have already started more effectively, minimizing the chances of corruption and misuse of public money. We want to achieve this in partnership with the State Governments, Panchayat Raj Institutions and civil society groups," he said.

Dr Singh said the Government was committed to maintain communal peace and harmony.

"We also consider it our duty to protect the minorities and provide for their special needs. This is why we have started many new programmes in the last four years for the welfare of our brothers and sisters belonging to the minority communities. These include scholarships for minority students and special programmes for the development of districts which have a high concentration of minorities. These schemes have shown good results. We will vigorously take this work forward," he said.

He said the Government had been giving special attention to education and health in the last six years. Improvement in these two areas was an important component of its r strategy for inclusive growth and it was also necessary for higher economic growth in the years to come, he said.

Children in tricolor formation at the historic Red Fort, in Delhi on August 15, 2010.
Children in tricolor formation at the historic Red Fort, in Delhi on August 15, 2010.

"Today, almost every child in our country has access to primary education. Now, we need to pay more attention to secondary and higher education. We also need to improve the quality of education at all levels. It is our endeavour that every child, irrespective of whether he is rich or poor and which section of the society he belongs to, should be given an education that enables him to realize his potential and makes him a responsible citizen of our country. We will continue to implement the new schemes that we have started in the last six years in the areas of education and health with sincerity and hard work and in partnership with the State Governments," he said.

Dr Singh said the Government would soon bring a Bill to Parliament for constitution of two separate councils in higher education and health, respectively, so that reforms in these two areas could be accelerated.

He underlined the need for cleanliness and good sanitation in villages, towns and cities.

"There are many diseases which would be difficult to prevent otherwise. The truth is that our country lags behind in this area. I consider it a primary responsibility of all our citizens to maintain cleanliness and hygiene around them. I would like our children to be taught the importance of cleanliness and hygiene in schools from the very beginning under a campaign for a Clean India. I appeal to the State Governments, Panchayat Raj Institutions, civil society groups and common citizens to make this campaign successful," he said.

He also said the Government would endeavour to take care of environmental concerns in the projects for economic development.

He referred to the large deficit in the country's physical infrastructure which affected its economic development adversely.

"We have been trying to increase electricity production and improve our roads, ports and airports. The resources required to create good physical infrastructure are difficult for the Government alone to mobilize. Therefore, we have endeavoured to involve the private sector in our efforts," he said.

Dr Singh made a pointed reference to the increase in recent days of the use of harsh and unpleasant words in the country's political discourse.

"This is against our traditions of generosity, humility and tolerance. Criticism has a place of its own in a democracy and in a progressive society. However, criticism should not be undignified. We should have the capacity to reconcile opposite points of view on important issues through debate and discussion. I would request all political parties to consider this issue," he observed.

Referring to the XIX Commonwealth Games that will be held in Delhi from October 3-14, Dr Singh said it would be a proud moment for the whole country and especially for Delhi.

"I am convinced that all our countrymen will treat the Games as a national festival and will leave no stone unturned to make them a success. The successful organization of Commonwealth Games would be another signal to the world that India is rapidly marching ahead with confidence," he said.

"Our future is bright. The day when our dreams will come true is not far off. Let us all resolve on this anniversary of our independence that we will keep the flag of our nation flying high. Let us march ahead together on the path of progress and prosperity," he added.

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PM to unfurl tricolour at Red Fort to celebrate I-Day on Sunday

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will unfurl the national tricolour on the ramparts of the historic Red Fort and then address the nation from there on the occasion of the country's 64th Indpendence Day tomorrow.

Children in tricolor formation at the full dress rehearsal of the 64th Independence Day celebrations at Red Fort, in Delhi on August 13, 2010.
Children in tricolor formation at the full dress rehearsal of the 64th Independence Day celebrations at Red Fort, in Delhi on August 13, 2010.

This is the seventh straight year that Dr Singh will hoist the flag at the Red Fort. He is now India's third longest serving Prime Minister after Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi.

According to the schedule for the ceremony, Dr Singh will be received, on arrival at the Lahore Gate of Red Fort, by Defence Minister A K Antony, Minister of State for Defence M M Pallam Raju and Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar.

The Defence Secretary will introduce General Officer Commanding, Delhi Area, Major General Manvender Singh to the Prime Minister. The GOC Delhi Area will then conduct the Prime Minister to the Saluting Base where a combined inter-services and police guard will present him a general salute. Thereafter, Dr. Manmohan Singh will inspect the guard of honour.

The Guard of Honour contingent for the Prime Minister will consist of one officer and 24 men each from Army, Navy, Air Force and Delhi Police. The Guard of Honour will be positioned directly in front of the National Flag across the moat below the ramparts.

This year, the Air Force being the coordinating agency, the Guard of Honour will be commanded by Wg Cdr P Panda. The Army contingent will be commanded by Maj Anindya Chatterjee, Naval Contingent by Lt Cdr D K Shrikantha and Delhi Police contingent by Assistant Commissioner of Police Romil Baniya.

The Army contingent for the Prime Minister's Guard is from 15th Battalion of the Jammu & Kashmir Rifles. It is presently the ceremonial battalion of the Indian Army, deployed in Rashtrapati Bhawan, India Gate and other important places in the capital. The Army Contingent is led by Maj Anindya Chatterjee.

After inspecting the Guard of Honour, the Prime Minister will proceed to the ramparts where he will be greeted by Defence Minister, the Minister of State for Defence, Chief of Army Staff General V K Singh, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Nirmal Verma and Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Pradeep Vasant Naik. The GOC Delhi area will conduct the Prime Minister to the dais to unfurl the National Flag.

The unfurling of the tri-colour will synchronize with the 21 gun salute fired by the valiant gunners of the elite 299 Field Regiment. The battery will be commanded by Lt Col Hemant Kumar Sah and the Gun Position Officer will be Sub (AIG) Gurappadu R.

The National Flag Guard comprising 32 men and one officer each from Army, Navy Air Force and Delhi Police will present Rashtriya Salute at the time of unfurling of the National Flag by the Prime Minister. Wing Commander J Christopher will command the Guards. The Naval Contingent for National Flag Guard will be commanded by Lt Cdr Amit Sood, the Army contingent by Captain Vikram Singh and Delhi Police contingent by Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police B Shanker Jaiswal.

The Air Force Band Number 6 will play National Anthem when the National Guard presents "Rashtriya Salute" while the National Flag is unfurled by the Prime Minister.

The Air Force Band will be commanded by Warrant Officer P N Yadav. Two Air Force Officers, Flying Officer A Vashishtha and Flying Officer Pankaj Gupta will be positioned on either side of the saluting dais for the Prime Minister for aides-de-camp (AsDC) duties. Flt Lt Neha Chauhan will assist the Prime Minister in unfurling of the National Flag.

The Army contingent for National Flag Guard is from the 2nd Battalion of the Rajput Regiment, which was raised on November 30, 1798 at Badgaon. The Rajput Regiment comprises of two officers and 32 OR and is led Capt Vikram Singh.

After unfurling the National Flag, the Prime Minister will address the nation. After the Prime Minister’s address, school children and National Cadet Corps (NCC) cadets will sing the National Anthem.

About seven hundred Junior Division Cadets of the NCC from Delhi Directorate comprising Army, Navy and Air Force wings are participating in the flag hoisting ceremony this year. They will also participate in the singing of patriotic songs along with school children. Three thousand five hundred girl students from 39 government and government-aided schools under the Directorate of Education, National Capital Territory of Delhi will sing the National Anthem. They will also sing patriotic songs in different regional languages before the start of the ceremony. These children dressed up in red, saffron, green and white colour will re-create the image of Red Fort and the National Flag.

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President urges Naxalites to abandon violence, join development efforts

President Pratibha Patil addressing the Nation on the eve of 64th Independence Day, in New Delhi on August 14, 2010.
President Pratibha Patil addressing the Nation on the eve of 64th Independence Day, in New Delhi on August 14, 2010.

President Pratibha Patil today called upon the proponents of extreme ideologies and the followers of Left Wing Extremism to abandon their path of violence and join national efforts for growth and development.


"I hope that everybody, including the civil society will come forward and move them in this direction. Protracted development efforts will be needed in these areas," she said in her address to the nation on the eve of Independence Day.


Ms Patil said nation-building demanded the ability to work diligently and patiently, where the reward is the growth of the nation rather than personal promotion. It required unity of purpose and the ability to focus on issues which unite, she said.


She said it required a spirit of conciliation, which was possible when dialogue was chosen as the channel for communication.


"By listening to each other, respecting each other’s viewpoint and understanding one another, we can address issues before us," she said.


The President also said terrorism posed the biggest threat to global peace, stability and security and pointed out that violence and hatred could have no place in the world.


"India’s growth and progress will take place in an environment that is also influenced by global events. We believe that peace is essential, if prosperity is to be achieved," she said.


Ms Patil said that, to defeat terrorism, all nations of the world must work collectively, so that terrorists have no sanctuaries, no training grounds, no access to financial resources, no infrastructural support, and no defenders of their ideology.


"The interests that we share as human beings are far more powerful than forces which are divisive. Across the world, the message of peace and not of destruction must spread, if this century powered by the most rapid advances in science and technology, is to be the century of the most spectacular gains made by humankind, accompanied with human values. I am confident that India will contribute substantially to the forward march of the human race," she said.


The President said that, in the annals of history, 15th of August 1947 would always be remembered as a day of an extraordinary accomplishment, of when India won its freedom with unparalleled fortitude and unique means.


"Under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, our movement for attaining freedom through Ahimsa and Satyagraha spread throughout the country, inspiring people in a manner rarely seen. Millions and millions of our men and women, willingly and enthusiastically responded to his call. They united to become an immense force that defeated the mightiest colonial power. Free India, was thus born," she said.


Ms Patil said that Indians must reflect on the values and principles which were in the minds and hearts of those who fought and sacrificed for the country's freedom.


She also said that India could not afford to lag behind in this era of transformation and the country's entire effort must be to ensure that there was overall development in which all people prospered.


"However, can our political approaches, economic progress and scientific advances be combined with values of human welfare, tolerance, mutual respect and selflessness propounded by learned men, leaders, philosophers and thinkers of our country? Our past and our future are linked. The future beckons us and the past guides us," she remarked.


She said the people of the country were inheritors of a great civilisation which they were duty-bound to pass on to the younger generation - the 540 million youth.


"We place great hope on them and rightly so. They have been demonstrating their capabilities and strengths in various fields of human activity in India and abroad. Whether in multi-national business enterprises or the IT industry or financial organizations or global scientific bodies, young Indians are joining their ranks and making their mark. In sports, they have been bringing laurels to the country. Our youth are the architects of the nation’s future. We must educate them and inculcate in them a spirit of sacrifice, dedication, patriotism and service to the nation. This way, they would be ready to face the future with confidence and build on the achievements made so far," she said.


Ms Patil noted that India's credentials as the world's largest demoracy had been reinforced and the country was ranked as the world's largest economy based on purchasing power parity and one of the fastest growing economies.


"The future holds great potential and promise. However, many issues demand attention and the way we address them is important," she said.


She said foremost among the tasks was to ensure the welfare of all through inclusive growth.


"Our task will be complete only when no one sleeps on a hungry stomach, when no one sleeps on the footpath and when every child is in school. Therefore, fittingly, education, capacity building, housing, healthcare and nutrition are a priority on the agenda of the Government," she said.


The President urged all citizens to think about how they could contribute to Government efforts in these areas.


"In every village and in every colony of every town, city or metropolis, people can come forward to form groups to work for the disadvantaged," she said.


She said the Right to Education Act had made free and compulsory primary education for children a fundamental right. She felt it was important that secondary education was also universalized, saying it would provide the "brain power" for the nation.


Ms Patil also called for speeding up the construction of physical infrastructure, saying that the country needed new roads, ports, airports, power projects as well as reinforcement of existing facilities.


"The augmentation will fill the infrastructural deficit that impedes overall economic growth and is, in many ways, out of sync with our image of an emerging global player," she said.


She said the industries must continue to grow and Indian companies should persist with efforts to be efficient and globally competitive.


She also pointed out that agriculture required a fresh perspective, with new and radical ideas to steer it towards a second Green Revolution, so that agriculture production, productivity and profitability were increased.


"This is essential for our food security as well as price stabilization. At the same time, agriculture cannot be looked at in isolation. It needs to be connected with other sectors of the economy. Linking industry with agriculture would provide a basis for growth of industry in the rural areas and also promote agriculture business," she said.


The President said support to the rural poor and farm labour through skill development, vocational training and social welfare programmes, must be a priority.


According to her, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) is an important mechanism for providing livelihood.


She also stressed the need for effective governance structures with zero tolerance towards corruption and high standards of public service.


Ms Patil also referred to the increasing emphasis in society on materialism and the growing insensitivity towards each other, weakening of family bonds, decline of social consciousness and persistence of some social evils.


"This must change. Today is the best opportunity when ground-breaking achievements alongwith a moral and ethical renaissance can take place. In this way, progress would be anchored in values of compassion, tolerance and selfless service, which are important for making human life meaningful and purposeful. These values will make our multi-cultural, multi-religious, multi-lingual society more robust. They will also give us a strong base on which a stable structure of prosperity and progress can be raised," she said.


"India is the abode of infinite values – let us strive to restore these as we go along the path of progress," she remarked.


"The human spirit has a tremendous capacity to reach new horizons. With faith in ourselves, faith in our capacity to work together and faith in success, we will continue our journey. We have the talent, to create a great nation; and with our collective will and hard work we will do so," she added.


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Antony says India wants peaceful ties with all neighbours

Defence Minister A K Antony today asserted that India had always been a peace-loving nation would continue to strive for peaceful relations with all its neighbours.


"Our rising economic stature has brought with it several challenges. The developments in and around our neighbourhood have forced us to review and upgrade our security apparatus. The security measures taken by us are often misunderstood by some nations," he said in an address to the Armed Forces personnel broadcast over All India Radio on the eve of Independence Day.


He noted that the Armed Forces guard the country's land, sea and air frontiers in harsh weather conditions and in forbidding terrains.


" Living away from families makes your task all the more challenging. The challenges to our nation’s security are indeed varied and manifold," he said.


Mr Antony said that, after the November 26, 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai, the Government had taken several steps to strengthen the security apparatus, particularly along the coastline.


He said the Government had cleared the setting up of four air enclaves at Goa, Kochi, Vizag, and New Mangalore. Coastal security had been strengthened, with acquisitions of new systems and platforms, he said.


The Minister said Armed Forces all over the world were modernising and becoming technology-intensive and assured the soldiers that the country's defence modernisation plans were on the right track.


"We want to give our Armed Forces the latest and the best possible equipment. We would like the modernization process to proceed hand-in-hand with indigenisation. The success in the development of the indigenous nuclear submarine - INS Arihant -must be replicated in other fields too," he said.


Mr Antony said the Government had accorded top priority to create infrastructure and build all-weather roads in inaccessible areas. The Border Roads Organization has been given the responsibility of constructing the Rohtang tunnel, which will ensure that the remote areas in the northern region, which remained inaccessible for over six months, will now be connected and accessible throughout the year. The Rohtang tunnel would be the longest tunnel in our country at such a high altitude, he said.


He said the men of the Armed Forces were doing a creditable job, both during warlike situations and in peace. He referred to the problems voiced by jawans during his visits to Siachen and said he had directed the concerned officials and departments to take immediate remedial actin.


"Though the pressure on our Armed Forces personnel is tremendous, the need for exercising maximum restraint cannot be over-emphasised. I wish to stress that any instance of human rights violation anywhere will not be tolerated," he stressed.


Mr Antony spelt out the various welfare measures taken by the Government for the defence personnel.


"We are committed to carry forward these measures and do a lot more for the all-round welfare of our jawans in the future," he said.


He said the Government also accorded the highest priority to the welfare of ex-servicemen.


He noted that some Armed Forces personnel were retained in service, despite a disability that is attributed, or aggravated by military service, who forego a lump-sum compensation in lieu of the disability. Keeping in view their valour and sacrifice, it has been decided to grant them a disability element, or war injury element, at the time of their retirement, or discharge, in addition to the retiring/service pension or retiring/service gratuity. On the other hand, in case of pensioners who retire on disability pension, a decision has been taken to pay them a Constant Attendant at the rate of Rs. 3, 000 per month, in addition to the disability pension, he said.


He said he expected full cooperation from the Armed Forces in taking forward all such welfare schemes to their logical conclusion.


Mr Antony said the Government had also granted permanent commission to women in non-combatant roles.


He said that, under the Married Accommodation Project (MAP), a total of 1, 98, 881 dwelling units will be constructed in four phases.


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Antony condoles death of Armed Forces personnel in Leh floods

Defence Minister A K Antony today conveyed his heartfelt condolences to the near and dear ones of all those Armed Forces personnel who lost their lives in the recent flash floods and mudslides triggered by a cloudburst in Leh.


In a message on the eve of the 64th Independence Day, Mr Antony said that, as the nation prepared to celebrate the Red Letter Day, his thoughts went out to those brave hearts who lost their lives in the line of duty, especially in the floods and mudslides in Leh.


The Minister wished speedy recovery to all those undergoing treatment at various hospitals.


As per the latest figures, the Army has suffered 8 fatal and 41 non-fatal casualties till date. As many as 27 Army personnel, including three officers are still missing.


Mr Antony also commended the personnel from Army, Air Force, DRDO and Border Roads Organisation who are now working day and night to restore normalcy in Ladakh.


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Maj Laishram Singh given Ashok Chakra posthumously

Ashoka Chakra Medal
Ashoka Chakra Medal

Maj Laishram Jyotin Singh of the Army Medical Corps, who was among the seven Indians killed in the February 26 terror attack targeting the Indian Medical Mission in Kabul, Afghanistan, has been posthumously awarded the Ashok Chakra, the nation's highest peacetime gallantry award.

Maj Singh, who grappled with a suicide bomber with his bare hands and managed to save the lives of as many as ten of his colleagues, is among 114 personnel from the Armed Forces, paramilitary and police whose names have been approved by the President for gallantry awards on the occasion of Independence Day.

The awards include two two Kirti Chakras, two Bar to Shaurya Chakras, nineteen Shaurya Chakras, two Bar to Sena Medal (Gallantry), eighty Sena Medals (Gallantry), three Nao Sena Medals (Gallantry) and five Vayu Sena Medals (Gallantry), an official press release said here today.

The Kiriti Chakras have been given posthumously to Capt Davinder Singh Jass of the Corps of Signals, who died fighting terrorists in Chinkipur in Jammu and Kashmir in February this year, and Mr Vinod Kumar Choubey, Superintendent of Police, Rajnandgaon in Chattisgarh, who died while engaging Naxalites in July last year.

Maj Singh, 37, graduated from the Regional Institute of Medical Science at Imphal, Manipur in 1996 and later took a post-graduate diploma in Sports Medicine from the Netaji Subhas National Institute of Sprots, Patiala, in 2001.

He was commissioned in the Army Medical Corps on 15 February 2003 as a Short Service Commissioned Officer and was granted Permanent Commission on April 26, 2007. He had served as a medical officer in a High Altitude location under Project Vartak and in a Military Hospital in counter-insurgency operations area for a combined period of over six years in his short but illustrious military service.

The officer was selected on merit for deputation to Indian Medical Mission in Kabul, Afghanistan where he was stationed since February 13, 2010. Maj Sigh, who was unmarried, is survived by his parents who live in his native place Nambol Awang Leikai, Bishnupur, Manipur.

At 0630 hrs of February 26 this year, a guarded residential compound of the Indian Embassy in Kabul, housing six army medical officers, four paramedics and two other Army officers of the English Language Training Team (ELTT) were suddenly attacked by heavily armed terrorist suicide bombers.

A terrorist, after detonating a Suicidal Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device (SVBIED) resulting in the death of three security guards, entered the compound to kill any survivors. The terrorist proceed to fire bursts of Kalshnikov rounds into the individual rooms and started throwing hand grenades. In the melee, five unarmed officers took shelter in one of the rooms which was subjected to grenade attack and the fire on its roof spread consequently to the bathroom where another group of five officers were sheltered.

On hearing shouts of the five officers, Maj Singh crawled out from under the debris of his room. He charged with bare hands at the armed terrorist and pinned him down to ensure that he could no longer lob more grenades or direct fire at the officers cornered in a burning room. He continued to grapple with armed terrorist and did not let him go till the terrorist panicked and detonated his suicide vest, resulting in the instantaneous deaths of both of them.

The release noted that Maj Singh gave up his life for the sake of five of his colleagues, one of whom unfortunately was still charred to death, and another succumbed to his injuries five days later.

"His sacrifice, in addition, also saved the lives of two officers, and four paramedics and two Afghan civilians still alive within the compound," the release said.

Capt. Dass, who had a B.Tech. degree and an MBA, was comissioned into the Corps of Signals on December 10, 2007. He volunteered for the Special Forces and successfully cleared his probation on April 11, 2009.

"He was an excellent leader for his troops in operations and an asset to the unit in all the operations undertaken," he said.

On February 23, 2010, after receiving information about the presence of terrorists in Chinkipur, a heavily congested built up area, Capt Jass, after carrying out meticulous planning, moved to the area. While closing into the target area, his leading squad came under heavy indiscriminate terrorist fire from multiple directions, injuring some members of his squad.

'With utter disregard to his personal safety he successfully evacuated one of his injured men to safety. Thereafter the officer crawled forward again to evacuate the second man but was grievously injured. Inspite of his injuries he pulled out the second man to safety. Subsequently, unmindful of the injuries, he continued engaging the terrorists and closed in to one of the hiding terrorists. In a daring encounter he killed one foreign terrorist in a fierce hand to hand combat. He later succumbed to his injuries fighting for his motherland in the finest traditions of Indian Army," the release said.

Mr Choubey had on July 12, 2009 received a message at 0700 hours that Naxalites had attacked the Madanwara outpost of the Manpur police station in Rajnandgaon district and killed two policemen.

Sensing the serious consequences of the incident, Mr Choubey and the Inspector General of Police (IGP) rushed to the spot from their respective headquarters. En route, Mr Choubey’s carcade was ambushed by Naxalites near Manpur police station. However, he kept moving and instructed the assistant sub-inspector there to come in a mine proof vehicle (MPV) with additional force.

The Naxalites had laid fresh road blocks on the way. Mr Choubey cleared the blocks and reached the site where fierce fighting was going on between the police and the Naxalites. The MPV of police was attacked with bullets and bombs. The men in MPV were in a perilous capture and death situation but were fighting. The IGP’s party and the SP’s party kept attacking the Naxalites.

According to the release, the timely intervention saved the trapped policemen in a fierce battle. A transport bus of civilians which had entered amidst the ambush was also rescued to safety.

About 300 Naxalites came from the forest firing fiercely. Many climbed up the trees and threw grenades incessantly at the police party. Police was caught in a precarious situation and were exposed in the open without any cover. They were being fired at from all directions.

However, the police party led by Mr Choubey retained their nerves and despite the Naxalites’ numerical and topographical advantage, courageously took on the attack and retaliated formidably while making concerted efforts to save the life of their men in grave situation with the reinforcements not in sight.

In this adverse situation, Mr Choubey, leading from the front as leader of the party decided to make a dent in the Naxal attack, and moved from his position and sprang towards the Naxalites in the trenches 10 meters away and fired at them.

"This bold and unexpected counter attack caused a flutter of panic amongst the Naxalites and forced them to retreat behind the large rocks. Thus emboldened policemen opened fire and continued the attack. A fierce uneven battle ensued. Mr Choubey fought heroically with iron determination and raw grit. In the continued firing, he was grievously hurt, but continued to fire and ultimately made the supreme sacrifice of his life at the altar of duty. He displayed an exceptional quality of leadership and bravery worth emulating where an officer rose to the occasion and laid down his life saving his men from deadly attack of the Naxalites," the release added.

The following is the list of awardees:

ASHOKA CHAKRA: MR-08609 MAJOR LAISHRAM JYOTIN SINGH ARMY MEDICAL CORPS / EMBASSY OF INDIA, KABUL (POSTHUMOUS).

KIRTI CHAKRA: IC-70151 CAPTAIN DAVINDER SINGH JASS 1ST BATTALION THE PARACHUTE REGIMENT (SPECIAL FORCES) (POSTHUMOUS), SHRI VINOD KUMAR CHOUBEY SUPERINTENDENT OF POLICE, RAJNANDGAON CHHATTISGARH POLICE (POSTHUMOUS).

BAR TO SHAURYA CHAKRA: IC-58637 MAJOR THONGAM JOTEN SINGH, SHAURYA CHAKRA, 21ST BATTALION THE PARACHUTE REGIMENT (SPECIAL FORCES), SS-39651 MAJOR AJAY SINGH, SHAURYA CHAKRA 11TH BATTALION THE MARATHA LIGHT INFANTRY.

SHAURYA CHAKRA: IC-55217 LIEUTENANT COLONEL ADITYA NEGI, SENA MEDAL 3 GORKHA RIFLES / 32 RASHTRIYA RIFLES , IC-61307 MAJOR DEEPAK YADAV ARMY EDUCATION CORPS / EMBASSY OF INDIA, KABUL(POSTHUMOUS), IC-61324 MAJOR NITESH ROY ARMY EDUCATION CORPS / EMBASSY OF INDIA, KABUL(POSTHUMOUS), IC-66201 CAPTAIN SUNIL YADAV PUNJAB REGIMENT / 37 RASHTRIYA RIFLES, IC-68043 CAPTAIN AMIT KUMAR SINGH, SENA MEDAL 2ND BATTALION THE BIHAR REGIMENT, IC-69150 CAPTAIN SUNIL NARANG 4TH BATTALION THE SIKH LIGHT INFANTRY, SS-42657 LIEUTENANT NAVIN NIROLA 4TH BATTALION THE KUMAON REGIMENT, JC-413360 NAIB SUBEDAR INDER KUMAR 1ST BATTALION THE PARACHUTE REGIMENT (SPECIAL FORCES), JC-560161 NAIB SUBEDAR SHIV PUJAN SHARMA 2ND BATTALION THE BIHAR REGIMENT, JC-2300474 NAIB SUBEDAR RANG BAHADUR YADAV 23 ASSAM RIFLES, 13621161 LANCE HAVILDAR RAJAN 1ST BATTALION THE PARACHUTE REGIMENT (SPECIAL FORCES), 2602065 NAIK BAIJU B 7TH BATTALION THE MADRAS REGIMENT, 4366857 LANCE NAIK NENGMAITHEM RAJESH SINGH 21ST BATTALION THE PARACHUTE REGIMENT (SPECIAL FORCES), 4001514 SEPOY RAVI KANT DOGRA REGIMENT / 11 RASHTRIYA RIFLES(POSTHUMOUS), 4002995 SEPOY SURENDER KUMAR DOGRA REGIMENT / 62 RASHTRIYA RIFLES (POSTHUMOUS), 13627069 PARATROOPER MAKUNG SARANG HUCHONG 21ST BATTALION THE PARACHUTE REGIMENT (SPECIAL FORCES), 15619321 GUARDSMAN KRISHAN KUMAR BRIGADE OF THE GUARDS / 21 RASHTRIYA RIFLES(POSTHUMOUS), COMMANDER DILIP DONDE, (03593-T), COMMANDER NITEEN ANANDRAO YADAV, (03965-K).

BAR TO SENA MEDAL(GALLANTRY): IC-50367 LIEUTENANT COLONEL THANGJAM TIKENDRA SINGH, SENA MEDAL, GRENADIERS / 16 ASSAM RIFLES, IC-64395 CAPTAIN BASANT SEWADA, SENA MEDAL ARMOURED CORPS / 8 RASHTRIYA RIFLES.

SENA MEDAL(GALLANTRY): IC-51955 COLONEL KOLANKARA MOHAN NAIR 7TH BATTALITON THE MADRAS REGIMENT, IC-57241 MAJOR VINOD KUMAR MARATHA LIGHT INFANTRY / 56 RASHTRIYA RIFLES, IC-57884 MAJOR SURISETTY RAMESH REGIMENT OF ARTILLERY / 871 FIELD REGIMENT, IC-61427 MAJOR TATHAGATA DUTTA ARMOURED CORPS / 53 RASHTRIYA RIFLES, IC-62075 MAJOR KULDEEP SINGH ARMY SERVICE CORPS / 61 RASHTRIYA RIFLES, IC-62121 MAJOR NEERAJ KOTWAL ARMY SERVICE CORPS / 12 RASHTRIYA RIFLES, IC-62225 MAJOR ANIL GAUTAM REGIMENT OF ARTILLERY / 12 ASSAM RIFLES, IC-62371 MAJOR AMIT KUMAR SINGH ARMY SERVICE CORPS / 53 RASHTRIYA RIFLES, IC-63968 MAJOR KAMLESH KUMAR REGIMENT OF ARTILLERY / 13 RASHTRIYA RIFLES, IC-64024 MAJOR KUBER SINGH KARKI KUMAON REGIMENT / 50 RASHTRIYA RIFLES, IC-64108 MAJOR UPINDER PAL SINGH ARMOURED CORPS / 46 ASSAM RIFLES, IC-64894 MAJOR SANDEEP SINGH KUMAON REGIMENT / 26 RASHTRIYA RIFLES, IC-65235 MAJOR ADITYA KUMAR DEVRANI, SHAURYA CHAKRA, REGIMENT OF ARTILLERY / 29 RASHTRIYA RIFLES, IC-65403 MAJOR FARID UR REHMAN BRIGADE OF THE GUARDS / 61 RASHTRIYA RIFLES, IC-65674 MAJOR PUNEET SINGH ATWAL 1ST BATTALION THE PARACHUTE REGIMENT (SPECIAL FORCES), IC-66827 MAJOR JOG ABHISHEK SURESH JAT REGIMENT / 12 ASSAM RIFLES, IC-67973 MAJOR KULDEEP KUMAR DABRAL 4/8 GORKHA RIFLES, IC-68743 MAJOR AVINASH RANA 7TH BATTALION THE MADRAS REGIMENT, SS-41214 MAJOR JUGMAL SINGH VAGHELA, SHAURYA CHAKRA, 11TH BATTALION THE JAT REGIMENT, SS-41839 MAJOR TEJ PRATAP SINGH 8TH BATTALION THE SIKH REGIMENT, WS-00458 MAJOR MITALI MADHUMITA ARMY EDUCATION CORPS / EMBASSY OF INDIA, KABUL, IC-67760 CAPTAIN SHAHZEB SHABIH CORPS OF ENGINEERS / 54 RASHTRIYA RIFLES, SS-41660 CAPTAIN BLESSON K DANIEL ARMY AIR DEFENCE / 10 RASHTRIYA RIFLES, SS-42448 CAPTAIN GAUTAM KUMAR 12TH BATTALION THE BIHAR REGIMENT, IC-69699 LIEUTENANT SAMBHAV SAGAR 19TH BATTALION THE MADRAS REGIMENT, IC-70331 LIEUTENANT RAHUL RANA 3RD BATTALION THE KUMAON REGIMENT, IC-70923 LIEUTENANT SOURABH SIROHI 2ND BATTALION THE BIHAR REGIMENT, JC-412867 SUBEDAR ANAND SINGH 4TH BATTALION THE PARACHUTE REGIMENT (SPECIAL FORCES), JC-413027 SUBEDAR DALVIR SINGH MALHOTRA 4TH BATTALION THE PARACHUTE REGIMENT (SPECIAL FORCES), JC-559562 SUBEDAR BASU DEO TURI 2ND BATTALION THE BIHAR REGIMENT, JC-413372 NAIB SUBEDAR BALVIR SINGH 1ST BATTALION THE PARACHUTE REGIMENT (SPECIAL FORCES), JC-623840 NAIB SUBEDAR RAJESH THAPA 4/8 GORKHA RIFLES, 2785965 HAVILDAR PANCHAL IRAPPA DHANAPPA 11TH BATTALION THE MARATHA LIGHT INFANTRY, G/3400147 HAVILDAR RAMESH CHAND 34 ASSAM RIFLES, 2793555 LANCE HAVILDAR RAJESH BS 11TH BATTALION THE MARATHA LIGHT INFANTRY, 2792488 NAIK SIRSAT BHANUDAS EKNATH MARATHA LIGHT INFANTRY / 56 RASHTRIYA RIFLES, 2796299 NAIK MORE BAJARANG NARAYAN 11TH BATTALION THE MARATHA LIGHT INFANTRY, 2998657 NAIK GIRVAR 19TH BATTALION THE RAJPUT REGIMENT, 3187880 NAIK KULJEET KUMAR DOGRA REGIMENT / 62 RASHTRIYA RIFLES, 4187374 NAIK BHIM SINGH KUMAON REGIMENT / 50 RASHTRIYA RIFLES, 13622515 NAIK SELVA KUMAR P 1ST BATTALION THE PARACHUTE REGIMENT (SPECIAL FORCES) (POSTHUMOUS), 13623415 NAIK MANOJ KUMAR 4TH BATTALION THE PARACHUTE REGIMENT (SPECIAL FORCES), 2605201 LANCE NAIK PRINCE JOSEPH 7TH BATTALION THE MADRAS REGIMENT, 2691126 LANCE NAIK TEJ RAM MEENA GRENADIERS / 39 RASHTRIYA RIFLES, 2803900 LANCE NAIK PUNDKAR SANDIP GANPATRAO 12TH BATTALION THE MARATHA LIGHT INFANTRY, 3193999 LANCE NAIK MANA RAM JAT REGIMENT / 61 RASHTRIYA RIFLES, 4478918 LANCE NAIK BAPUKAN DAS 9TH BATTALION THE SIKH LIGHT INFANTRY, 12944107 LANCE NAIK DES RAJ 159 INFANTRY BATTALION (TERRITORIAL ARMY) (HOME & HEARTH) DOGRA / 11 RASHTRIYA RIFLES, 12944336 LANCE NAIK AJAZ HUSSAIN 159 INFANTRY BATTALION (TERRITORIAL ARMY) (HOME & HEARTH) DOGRA / 26 RASHTRIYA RIFLES, 12944663 LANCE NAIK NISAR AHMED 159 INFANTRY BATTALION (TERRITORIAL ARMY) (HOME & HEARTH) DOGRA / 10 RASHTRIYA RIFLES, 2496006 SEPOY JASVIR SINGH PUNJAB REGIMENT / 22 RASHTRIYA RIFLES, 2498188 SEPOY BALWINDER SINGH PUNJAB REGIMENT / 22 RASHTRIYA RIFLES, 2499738 SEPOY LAKHVIR SINGH PUNJAB REGIMENT / 22 RASHTRIYA RIFLES (POSTHUMOUS), 2607537 SEPOY SINUMON S 19TH BATTALION THE MADRAS REGIMENT, 2607994 SEPOY G PRABU MADRAS REGIMENT / 54 RASHTRIYA RIFLES, 2804362 SEPOY PANDHARE MARUTI MAHADEV 11TH BATTALION THE MARATHA LIGHT INFANTRY, 2997779 SEPOY PARVESH KUMAR RAJPUT REGIMENT /10 RASHTRIYA RIFLES, 3001111 SEPOY RISHI RAJ SINGH 19TH BATTALION THE RAJPUT REGIMENT, 3003613 SEPOY SHRAWAN SINGH 9th BATTALION THE RAJPUT REGIMENT (POSTHUMOUS), 3202943 SEPOY ATUL KUMAR 11TH BATTALION THE JAT REGIMENT, 4427932 SEPOY LONGJAM RAM SINGH ASSAM REGIMENT / 42 RASHTRIYA RIFLES, 12944396 SEPOY AJNAITA LAL 159 INFANTRY BATTALION (TERRITORIAL ARMY) (HOME & HEARTH) DOGRA / 11 RASHTRIYA RIFLES, 13624561 SEPOY AVINASH KUMAR RAJPUT REGIMENT / 10 RASHTRIYA RIFLES, 14935024 SEPOY PURNA LIMBOO MECHANISED INFANTRY / 9 RASHTRIYA RIFLES, 2896969 RIFLEMAN SHREE KANT 5TH BATTALION (NAPIERS) THE RAJPUTANA RIFLES, 5756850 RIFLEMAN NARENDRA SAUD KCHHETRI 4/8 GORKHA RIFLES, 9103699 RIFLEMAN SUNIL KUMAR JAMMU AND KASHMIR LIGHT INFANTRY / 10 RASHTRIYA RIFLES, 12974266 RIFLEMAN MOHAMMED ABASS TANTRY 162 INFANTRY BATTALION (TERRITORIAL ARMY) (HOME & HEARTH) JAMMU AND KASHMIR LIGHT INFANTRY / 42 RASHTRIYA RIFLES, 12974408 RIFLEMAN MOHAMMED AMIN GANIE 162 INFANTRY BATTALION (TERRITORIAL ARMY) (HOME & HEARTH) JAMMU AND KASHMIR LIGHT INFANTRY / 42 RASHTRIYA RIFLES, 16013463 RIFLEMAN RAMENDRA SINGH BAISH RAJPUTANA RIFLES / 9 RASHTRIYA RIFLES, 16014974 RIFLEMAN AJAY KUMAR RAJPUTANA RIFLES / 18 RASHTRIYA RIFLES, G/2502052 RIFLEMAN SANGLUNG MUANA 25 ASSAM RIFLES, G/2701836 RIFLEMAN MANSA KUMAR OJHA 46 ASSAM RIFLES, G/5000272 RIFLEMAN KSH SANAYAIMA SINGH 21 ASSAM RIFLES, 9113216 PARATROOPER IMTIYAZ AHMAD THOKER 1ST BATTALION THE PARACHUTE REGIMENT (SPECIAL FORCES) (POSTHUMOUS), 13626673 PARATROOPER HAJARI LAL GURJAR 1ST BATTALION THE PARACHUTE REGIMENT (SPECIAL FORCES), 13626875 PARATROOPER LAKHWINDER PAL SINGH PARACHUTE REGIMENT / 31 RASHTRIYA RIFLES, 2693614 GRENADIER HARDEV SINGH GRENADIERS / 39 RASHTRIYA RIFLES, 2695623 GRENADIER JAI DEV GRENADIERS / 12 RASHTRIYA RIFLES, 15168087 GUNNER FALTANKAR DIVAKAR DADURAM REGIMENT OF ARTILLERY / 32 RASHTRIYA RIFLES(POSTHUMOUS).

NAO SENA MEDAL (GALLANTRY): COMMANDER GANGUPOMU MURALI, (03943-K), LIEUTENANT COMMANDER AJAY KANWAR, (05240-H), RAJAN SINGH, SEA I CD III, (214217-H).

VAYU SENA MEDAL (GALLANTRY): WING COMMANDER SAGAR SINGH RAWAT (22711) FLYING (PILOT), SQUADRON LEADER ASHOK KUMAR (24900) FLYING (PILOT), SQUADRON LEADER AMIT SHARMA (26545) FLYING (PILOT), SQUADRON LEADER VISHAL MOHAN (27475) FLYING (PILOT), FLIGHT LIEUTENANT ROHIT RAI (27992) FLYING (PILOT).

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Tharoor says "horrified" to see his wedding card on TV channels

Former Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor today wrote on his Twitter page that he was "horrified" to see "purloined" copies of his wedding invitation cards on two television channels before his friends had even received them.


"Horrified: 2channels r telecasting purloined copies of my wedding invitation cards b4 friends have even recvd them.Has our media no decency?" Mr Tharoor "tweeted" on the micro-blogging site.


Media reports have said that Mr Tharoor will marry his friend, the Dubai-based Sunanda Pushkar, on August 22 in Kerala.


The two were recently seen offering prayers together at various shrines in Rajasthan and Maharashtra.


Mr Tharoor had to quit the Union Council of Ministers some months ago following a controversy that arose from the sweat equity that Ms Pushkar was given in one of the companies that was part of the consortium that won the franchise for the Kochi cricket team in the Indian Premier League (IPL).


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India offers $ 5 million assistance to Pakistan for flood relief


India today offered an assistance of $ 5 million to Pakistan for provision of relief material from India for the victims of the massive floods which have caused widespread damage to life and property in that country.


In a telephone conversation, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna conveyed to his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi this gesture of solidarity with the people of Paksitan in their hour of need, an official press release said.


Mr Krishna, on behalf of the people and the Government of India, also conveyed deepest sympathies and condolences to the people and Government of India on this natural disaster, the release added.


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23 foreign nationals allegedly linked to Punjab militancy deleted from negative list

The Government today said it had deleted the names of 23 foreign nationals who figured on the negative list for allegedly being involved in the militancy in Punjab in the past.


The negative list is a list of persons whose entry into India is not permitted, a press release from the Ministry of Home Affairs explained.


It said the Government had conducted a review of the names of foreign nations placed in the list. Inputs of security agencies concerned, including views of the State Government of Punjab, were examined, it said.


"After careful consideration of the matter on a case to case basis, it has been decided to clear the names of some foreign nationals who are not involved in any serious criminal cases and anti-India activities. Accordingly, orders have been issued deleting the names of 23 foreign nationals from the negative list," the release added.


At the height of the militancy in Punjab, the security agencies had drawn up a negative list of people, who were living abroad and had foreign nationalities.


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