PM calls for creating "new-age policemen"

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday called for creating "new-age policemen" who are more professional, motivated, empowered, well-trained and who use technology for investigation and other tasks.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the DGPs/IGPs Conference, in New Delhi on September 15, 2009. The Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram, the Minister of State, Prime Minister’s Office and Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions and Parliamentary Affairs Prithviraj Chavan and the Minister of State of Home Affairs  Mullappally Ramachandran are also seen.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the DGPs/IGPs Conference, in New Delhi on September 15, 2009.The Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram, the Minister of State, Prime Minister’s Office and Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions and Parliamentary Affairs Prithviraj Chavan and the Minister of State of Home Affairs Mullappally Ramachandran are also seen.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today called for creating  "new-age policemen" in the country who are more professional, better-motivated, suitably empowered, well-trained and who place greater emphasis on technology for investigation and other tasks.

"Emphasis should be on capacity building from the police station level itself, so that the police is better equipped," Dr Singh told the three-day conference of Directors General and Inspectors General of Police here.

He said each police station should aim at being self-sufficient and needed to be given the required resources in terms of anti-riot gear, better weapons, the nucleus of a mobile forensic unit and be connected to a networked criminal data base management system.

Every city should have a modern police control room with digitized maps, he said, calling for the utmost priority to be given to the modernisation of the police.

"Our police forces must operate on the frontiers of modern technology. We must also design systems and procedures which will minimize scope for corruption. We should have a sufficiently long-term perspective in this area and also the required amount of funds should be made available for the purpose," he told the conference, that was inaugurated yesterday by Union Home Minister P Chidambaram.

Dr Singh also presented the President's Police Medal for distinguished and meritorious service to 14 officers of the Intelligence Bureau, which has organised the conference.

The Prime Minister said at the outset that the country had achieved some major successes in recent months with the dismantling of many terrorist modules and the arrests of several important terrorists. He also noted that there had not been a single serious terrorist attack since the November 26, 2008 terror attacks on Mumbai.

"But our success in preventing terrorist attacks can be sustained only at the price of unrelenting vigilance. There are many developments taking place in our country and outside which have a bearing on our internal security. It is important to understand their true nature and the exact way they can and they could affect us. We also need to understand better why many more local youth are being induced into participating in terrorist activities and how they are being recruited, indoctrinated and trained. The factors that cause social disharmony and alienation should be clearly known so that we can work to eliminate them. I urge you to pay particular attention to these aspects," he observed.

He said that left-wing extremism was, perhaps, the gravest internal security that the country was facing and pointed out that the Centre and the States had not been able to fully contain the menace.

"It is a matter of concern that despite our efforts, the level of violence in the affected States continues to rise," he said.

Dr Singh said dealing with left-wing extremism required a nuanced strategy and a holistic approach because it could not be treated simply as a law and order problem.

"Despite its sanguinary nature, the movement manages to retain the support of a section of the tribal communities and the poorest of the poor in many affected areas. It has influence among certain sections of the civil society, the intelligentsia and the youth. It still retains a certain élan. All this adds to the complexity of the problem. I expect you to keep this in mind as you devise newer and better strategies to deal with this problem," he told the senior police officers from around the country.

The Prime Minister said the situation in the North-East was also far from comfortable and admitted that the current levels of violence in Manipur and Assam cause for concern.

He said that, in addition, extortion and intimidation had become a menace across most of the States in the region and they had reached a point where they constituted a serious hampering of the implementation of a number of development projects in these States.

"I believe, it should be possible, to bring about a substantial improvement in the situation if there is better security management. I would, therefore, enjoin upon the DGPs of the States in the North-East to insist upon, and achieve, higher levels of professionalism from the Forces they command. Firm but compassionate handling of law and order matters, can certainly bring about substantial improvement in the prevailing state of affairs. Particularly so, as in terms of number, we are dealing with a very limited number of people who have gone stray. If we do not and we cannot deal with them at the present stage of our development, it might be more difficult at a later date to tame these evil forces," he said.

Dr Singh said the country had reasons to be satisfied that elections in Jammu and Kashmir to both the State Assembly and Parliament during the past year were held in a peaceful atmosphere. The level of violence in the State had also come down and was, perhaps, at its lowest level since the beginning of insurgency in the late 1980s, he said.

"But there is no scope for complacency. There are certain developments that are worrisome. Infiltration across the Line of Control and also via other routes such as Nepal, Bangladesh and the sea is going up. Encounters with armed militants have become more frequent in recent weeks and months. Secessionist and militant groups within the State are once again attempting to make common cause with outside elements and have embarked on a series of protest movements. The intention apparently is to create an impression of widespread turmoil in the State. We must not and I repeat we must not allow such a situation to develop. It is imperative that these disruptive efforts are contained, controlled and effectively checked," he said.

The Prime Minister praised Mr Chidambaram and the Home Ministry for the efforts made in the last many months to improve the internal security situation. He said these and other measures would go a long way to improve police performance, make the security agencies more responsive to terrorist threats and improve their overall efficiency.

In particular, Dr Singh commended to the police officers the idea of the intelligence and security agencies developing strategic foresight to anticipate future surprise attacks like the one that took place in Mumbai in November last year.

"Improved intelligence generation and coordination are critical to developing such a capability. Also, like in other areas of governance, new technology and technological innovations can go a very long way in improving our performance in all dimensions of the internal security challenges. I am confident that the establishment of a secure net-centric information command structure would substantially improve the capabilities of our agencies to deal with the internal security challenges," he said.

Dr Singh said the Centre and the State Governments needed to take quick action in matters such as strengthening policing at the grassroots level. In this context, he urged them to fill up the large vacancies at various levels in the police forces. He also called for greater attention to be paid to the provision of adequate amenities for constables, especially housing facilities.

He also emphasised the critical importance of training for policemen so that they could keep pace with the best practices being followed in the world. He urged the Home MInistry to follow up on the proposals for setting up a National Police University and a National Institute for Law and Order-related subjects.

The Prime Minister reminded the police officers of their solemn obligation towards common citizens and told them it was their duty to protect the weak and the defenceless.

"Those who seek to promote communal violence and discord have to be dealt with firmly. Special efforts must be made to establish a relationship of trust and confidence between our police forces and the minority communities. You must not fail in this aspect. The underprivileged and weaker sections of our society- the minorities, the SCs and STs, women and senior citizens- should feel adequate confidence in the ability of our police force to protect. The common man should go about his daily life with a sense of security. He should have faith in the policeman and the police station. And this I believe is the real test of our efforts, a test that we cannot afford to fail," he added.


Chidambaram says 26/11 was game-changer, can't afford "business as usual"

Union Home Minister P Chidambaram said on Monday that the Government' would raise the level of preparedness to fight any terror threat or attack.
Home Minister P. Chidambaram inaugurating the Conference of DGPs/IGPs in New Delhi on September 14, 2009. The Minister of State of Home Affairs Ajay Maken and the Union Home Secretary G.K. Pillai are also seen.
Home Minister P. Chidambaram inaugurating the Conference of DGPs/IGPs in New Delhi on September 14, 2009. The Minister of State of Home Affairs Ajay Maken and the Union Home Secretary G.K. Pillai are also seen.".

Union Home Minister P Chidambaram today said the Government's position on terrorism was one of zero tolerance and declared that it would raise the level of preparedness to fight any terror threat or attack.

"In the case of a threat or attack, our response will be swift and decisive," Mr Chidambaram said while inaugurating the three-day conference of Directors General and Inspectors General of Police here.

The Home Minister said that on left-wing extremism the Government was of the firm view that there was no place for an armed liberation struggle in a Republican democracy.

"We urge the left-wing extremists to abjure violence and talk to the Governments concerned on any issue, especially development, that affects the people. On insurgency in the North East, we urge the insurgent groups to lay down arms and hold talks with the Governments concerned on matters relating to governance, development, cultural identity etc.," he said.

Mr Chidambaram noted that the Conference was being held under circumstances that posed formidable challenges to the security of the nation.

"The attacks in Mumbai on 26th November 2008 were a game-changer. We can no longer afford to do business as usual. Policing in India was always a challenge; after 26/11, the challenge has become more grave," he remarked.

He urged the officials to take stock of the prevailing security scenario, to discern significant trends that impact law and order, to assess the preparedness of the security system, to identify the existing vulnerabilities and suggest measures to overcome them, and to share the best practices and experiences.

He said that, broadly speaking, the main threats to India's security were from terrorism, left-wing extremism and insurgency in certain states.

"While violence is a common thread that runs through the three main sources of threat, there are significant differences between one kind of threat and another. The Government’s response to the different sources of threat cannot be undifferentiated," he pointed out.

Mr Chidambaram said cross-border terrorism was a matter of deep concern and terrorist groups, including the LeT and the JeM persisted in their endeavour to launch terror attacks against India.

"They continue to innovate new ways and means of deniability. They find support among disgruntled elements within India. Cells and modules within India lend an Indian character to these activities," he said.

He said the security agencies were able to bust 12 terrorist modules in 2008 and, in the first half of the current year,  as many as 13 modules had been neutralised.

The Home Minister said various left-wing extremist groups had their pockets of influence in 20 states across the country. More than 2000 police station areas in 223 districts in these states are partially or substantially affected by the menace, he said.

According to him, the CPI(Maoist) was the most potent of the Naxal groups with a presence in 17 states and a 90 per cent share in Naxal violence. Recent decisions taken by its polit buro indicated that the CPI(Maoist) was determined to expand its activities into newer areas, on the one hand, and intensify its "mass resistance" in the existing areas, on the other, he said.

He said that last year a total of 1591 incidents of Naxalite vioelnce, resulting in 721 killings, were reported from 399 police station areas of 87 districts of 13 states. This year, 1405 incidents of Naxal violence, resulting in 580 killings, had already been reported (upto August 27) from 355 police station areas in 78 districts in11 states, he said.

The Home Minister said the CPI(Maoist) had also improved upon its military wares and operational tactics. Besides targeting the police, alleged police informers and so-called class enemies, it is laying greater emphasis on attacking economic and development infrastructure such as roads, bridges, railways, power and telecommunication networks, he said.

With increasing sophistication in fabrication and deployment of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), it has inflicted more casualties on the security forces. As many as 80 security personnel were killed in 53 landmine-based attacks by the CPI(Maoist) in 2008. This year, 123 security  personnel have lost their lives so far in 61 landmine-based Maoist actions, he said.

Altogether, 231 security personnel were killed in Naxal violence in 2008 while 250 security personnel have lost their lives so far this year, he said.

Mr Chidambaram said that the CPI(Maoist) had been seeking alliances with secessionist and terrorist elements in the country. It has been keenly seeking ideological resonance and tactical understanding with the North-East insurgents and has begun to lend support to their secessionist ideology and demands, he said.

He said the endemic insurgencies in the North-East were yet another security challenge before the country. The trend of gradual deterioration in security situation during the last several years seems to have been checked this year with relative decline in overall violence.

According to him, the insurgency in the region had been sustained to a significant extent due to an extensive international border, safe sanctuaries in the neighbouring countries and easy availability of sophisticated arms in South-East Asia.

He said that a reassuring development was the steady improvement in the security scenario in Jammu and Kashmir.

The impressive turn out in the Assembly elections in 2008 and the smooth conduct of the Lok Sabha polls in 2009, in the face of a boycott call by the separatists, had been a major setback to the separatists and their mentors across the border, he said.

However, he said, there were attempts from across the border to forge unity among separatists and escalate violence. He said the J&K police and security forces operating in the state must not lower their guard in the backdrop of recent improvement in the situation and be ever vigilant against likely attempts to step up violence.

Mr Chidambaram said terrorists, left-wing extremists and insurgents often took advantage of the systemic constraints in the country.

He said the police forces worked within the existing legal framework and normally remained operationally confined to their respective states, while terrorists, extremists and insurgents did not face such constraints.

"An effective strategy to neutralise them is predicated upon an institutionalised mechanism for intelligence sharing and operational coordination among the police forces across the country," he said.

The Home Minister said the Multi-Agency Centre (MAC), located in the Intelligence Bureau (IB), was set up as a dynamic institution for intelligence coordination on counter-terrorism.

He said a 24X7 control room in the MAC had become operational and similar control rooms at 29 subsidiary MACs (SMACs) had been set up.

Mr Chidambaram listed the various steps taken by the Centre in the past few months to build capacity the raise the level of preparedness to meet threats to internal security.

"Throughout the last nine months, my effort has been to impress upon State Governments, the security forces and the people at large that we can no longer do business as usual. I cannot claim great success in this regard. I still find that old mindsets and old habits persist. For example, State Governments are unwilling – or unable – to revamp their recruitment procedures and make them quick, time bound and transparent," he said.

He said the Home Ministry had introduced a new recruitment procedure in the Central Para-Military Forces and urged the states to immediately adopt the procedure.

He also noted that many states had failed to constitute a Police Establishment Board that would decide on transfers and postings.

"It is a matter of deep regret that many police officers have been reduced to a football, to be kicked here and there, from one post to another, without regard to the damage done to the job as well as the officer. I ask you to search your hearts and answer the question, what is the average length of tenure of a District Superintendent of Police? What is the average length of tenure of a Station House Officer? Why do you remain silent when arbitrary postings and transfers are made by the State Government? Is it not your duty, as the head of the State Police, to raise your voice not only on behalf of your officers but also on behalf of the people that you are duty bound to protect?" he asked.

Mr Chidambaram urged the states to provide adequate funds for the state police. He said security of the state must be the first charge on the state exchequer.

On the occasion, the Home Minister gave away Police Medals for meritorious services to 40 awardees whose names were announced on Independence Day and Republic Day this year.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is scheduled to address the conference tomorrow. The conference has been organised by the IB and will deliberate on various internal security issues.


EC orders suspension of DM, SP of Bhind in MP

The Election Commission (EC) has ordered the suspension of the District Magistrate and the Superintendent of Police in Madhya Pradesh for dereliction of duties during the conduct of bye-elections in the state.

Both these officers were posted in Bhind and the matter related to bye-election from Gohad Assembly Constituency, an official press release said.

The Commission had earlier received complaints about ineffectiveness and partisan behaviour of these officers, the release said.

It said the Commission obtained separate reports from its Observer and the Chief Electoral Officer of Madhya Pradesh before taking such action. Substitute officers as recommended by the Election Commission have already taken position in the district, it said.

While deciding action against the two officers, the Commission observed that it would not accept any partisan behaviour or negligence in election-related duties from any quarters, the release added.


6 more H1N1 deaths in India, 220 new cases

Six more deaths due to swine flu were reported from across India today, taking the toll due to the H1N1 virus in the country so far to 189, an official statement said.

Three of the deaths were reported from Karnataka---1 each in Bangalore, Kolar and Gulbarga---and three from Andhra Pradesh.

Besides, eight deaths reported earlier in Karnataka have now been confirmed as cases of influenza A (H1N1) by the results of the laboratory tests, the statement said.

Maharashtra accounts for 82 of the total deaths due to influenza A (H1N1) in the country, while 64 lives have been lost in Karnataka, 17 in Gujarat, 8 in Andhra Pradesh, 4 each in Delhi and Kerala, 3 each in Tamil Nadu and Goa and 1 each in Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.

Meanwhile, as many as 220 fresh cases of the flu were reported today from different parts of the country, including 85 in Delhi, 49 in Maharashtra, 31 in Tamil Nadu, 24 in Haryana, 14 in Karnataka, 8 in Uttar Pradesh, 3 each in Jammu & Kashmir and Kerala, 2 in Gujarat, and 1 in Chandigarh.

With these, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus reported so far in India has risen to 6359, the statement added.


Pawar condoles death of Norman Borlaug

President A P J Abdul Kalam presenting the First Dr M S Swaminathan Award for Leadership in Agriculture to Dr Norman E Borlaug at an Award function.
President A P J Abdul Kalam presenting the First Dr M S Swaminathan Award for Leadership in Agriculture to Dr Norman E Borlaug at an Award function.
Union Minister of Agriculture Sharad Pawar today condoled the death of eminent agricultural scientist Norman Borlaug, the father of the "green revolution" who died at his home in Dallas, Texas, on Saturday at the age of 95.

“In the death of Norman Borlaug, the world today has lost not only an eminent agricultural scientist but a man dedicated to the cause of humanity," Mr Pawar said.

He said Dr Borlaug was credited with what he himself described as “a temporary success in man’s war against hunger and deprivation.”

Dr Borlaug, a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, was honoured by India with the Padma Vibhushan, its second highest civilian honour.

Mr Pawar said Dr Borlaug's contribution would always be remembered for the world peace he heralded through increasing food supply and saving millions of lives worldwide.

"India amongst many other nations of the world owes a debt of gratitude to this outstanding personality. As India moves towards the second Green Revolution, his enduring vision will be a source of inspiration and sustenance for all of us.

"Having known him since 1974, it is with a profound sense of personal grief that I mourn his passing away. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends in their moment of irreparable loss," Mr Pawar added.


Moily calls for zero tolerance against corruption

Law & Justice Minister M Veerappa Moily delivering the valedictory address at the National Seminar on Fighting Crimes Related to Corruption.
Law & Justice Minister M Veerappa Moily delivering the valedictory address at the National Seminar on "Fighting Crimes Related to Corruption".
Union Law and Justice Minister M Veerappa Moily today called for zero tolerance of corruption and said prior sanction should not be necessary for prosecuting a public servant who has been trapped red-handed or found in possession of assets disproportionate to known sources of income.

Speaking at the National Seminar on "Fighting Crimes Related to Corruption" jointly organised by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the National Institute of Criminology and Forensic Sciences here, Mr Moily said the scope of Prevention of Corruption Act should be widened to include gross perversion of the Constitution and democratic institutions amounting to wilful violation of the oath of office, abuse of authority by unduly favouring or harming someone, obstruction of justice, squandering public money and collusive bribery.

He also felt that the Corrupt Public Servants (Forfeiture of Property) Bill as suggested by the Law Commission should be enacted without further delay.

Mr Moily said steps should be taken for immediate implementation of the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act, 1988 and that there should be statutory protection for whistleblowers and victim protection.

The Minister said a multi-member Lok Pal at the national level and Lok Ayuktas at the state level should be set up under the Constitution.

According to him, the False Claims Act should be enacted and Article 311 of the Constitution should be repealed, along with Article 310, and legislation should be passed under Article 309 to provide for the terms and conditions of service of public servants, including necessary protection against arbitrary action.

Mr Moily said the focus should be on e-governance and systemic change. "An honest system of governance will displace dishonest persons," he remarked.

He said there was an emerging global consensus that fighting corruption and building "good governance" were essential for the socio-economic development of any nation.

"The prevalence of corruption undermines social cohesion, wider participation of citizens in economic and political processes, distorts allocation of resources and delivery of public services particularly damaging the interest of the poor and marginalized sections of the society. It also hinders economic growth by skewing public and foreign investments, distorting the markets and weakening the rule of law.

"Corruption essentially undermines the credibility and effectiveness of the State and its instruments. The prevalence of widespread corruption and ineffective anti-corruption interventions in this country has led to public cynicism. We have chosen the system of democracy in our pursuit of growth and prosperity of our people and corruption is a major hindrance in our pursuit," he observed.

Mr Moily said the the fight against corruption was not only a moral imperative but an economic necessity for a nation aspiring to emerge as a global player.

"Corruption discourages investment (foreign/ domestic), harnessing of best technologies, resources etc. that requires transparency, fair play and is an impediment for integration with global economy. The issue of fighting corruption and building good governance are of paramount importance for achieving rapid economic development," he stressed.

The Minister called for a co-ordinated effort on the part of police officers, law officers and judicial officers to secure early disposal of cases related to corruption.

He said the Government proposed to set up 71 new CBI courts for dealing with the cases investigated by the CBI.

"The impact of anti-corruption efforts of the Government will be felt, if the cases are registered and trial is completed in a time frame of two to three years. A coordinated effort on the part of all the stakeholders in the system will lead to effective anti-corruption interventions and help building good governance. Moreover, it is important that even as petty cases are solved, the big fishes should not escape punishment. There should be zero tolerance for corruption," he added.


9 more H1N1 deaths in India, 160 new cases

Nine more deaths due to swine flu were reported from across India today, taking the toll due to the H1N1 virus in the country so far to 176, an official statement said today.

Five of the deaths were reported from Gujarat, including 2 in Surat and 1 each in Ahmedabad, Vadodara and Rajkot.

In Maharashtra, 2 deaths were reported in Thane and 1 each in Pune and Mumbai, the statement said.

According to the statement, there were also three suspected swine flu deaths in Karnataka, but the results of the laboratory tests of the patients were awaited.

Maharashtra now accounts for 82 of the deaths due to influenza A (H1N1), while 54 lives have been lost in Karnataka, 17 in Gujarat, 5 each in Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, 4 each in Delhi and Kerala, 3 each in Tamil Nadu and Goa and 1 each in Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.

Meanwhile, 160 fresh cases of the flu were reported today from different parts of the country, including 57 in Maharashtra, 49 in Delhi, 23 in Karnataka, 11 in Gujarat, 9 in Andhra Pradesh, 4 in Kerala, 2 each in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh and 1 each in Rajasthan, West Bengal and Chandigarh.

With these, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus reported so far in India has risen to 6139, the statement added.

Nilekani: UID not panacea, but enabler of effective public delivery

Unique ID Authority of India Chairman Nandan Nilekani during his interview with Karan Thapar.
Unique ID Authority of India Chairman Nandan Nilekani during his interview with Karan Thapar.
Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) Chairman Nandan Nilekani has said that the Unique Identification (UID) was not a panacea for all of India's problems but would be an enabler which will allow more effective public delivery of services to people, especially the poor and needy.

Mr Nilekani, who resigned as co-Chairman of IT services major Infosys Technologies Ltd to take over the assignment in Government in the rank of a Union Cabinet Minister, said the one-time investment made in the project would be well worth it because it would make all other spending by the Government on different kinds of subsidies and social benefits more efficient.

"On the scale of money that we spend on public programmes and the ability of the project to deliver better public programmes it will be well worth it," Mr Nilekani told journalist Karan Thapar on the Devil's Advocate programme on CNN-IBN.

Mr Nilekani eplained that the country needed one single, non-duplicate way of identifying a person and needed a mechanism through which this could be authenticated online anywhere because it could have huge benefits and impact on public services and also on making the poor more inclusive in which is happening in the country today.

He said that the UID would be a combination of most probably fingerprints and a picture. A biometrics committee will finalise this soon.

"And we will also make sure that there are no duplicates. That's another important decision," he said.

Asked if the technology needed for a project of this scale was available, given the fact some Western countries had abandoned such plans, Mr Nilekani said, "There is no question that this is a project where we are going into uncharted territories, the technological challenges are immense and one of the risks of this project is the

"There are certain risks in this project but I think given the enormous opportunity and developmental benefits that it can give, it's worth taking on the project and trying to mitigate the risks so that we get the outcomes that we want," he explained.

He said there was no other country in the world where a billion people's biometrics had been captured and stored in an online database. In that sense, he said, the project had not been done before.

But he said that this did not mean that the technology for the project had to be invented. "No, we don't have to invent the technology, we have to scale up the existing technology to work at this scale," he said.

Asked about estimates in some quarters that the project would cost around Rs 1.5 lakh crore, Mr Nilekani said he did not agree with that estimate. "I don't know
what the exact figure is but it is much less than that by a factor of 10," he remarked.

"The bulk part is certainly going to be lesser than that...It's a guess but it's an informed and educated guess," he said.

"We don't know what the cost will be but I am very confident that whatever the cost is the social, economic and efficiency benefits of it would make it well worth it," he stressed.

Asked if such amounts of money could not be better spent if it were used to expand education, health and sanitation, Mr Nilekani said the project was not meant to take away money from important social programmes.

"...but remember that as we expand our social programmes, the efficiency of the social programme depends on the fact that they reach the right people and that there are no duplicates who are taking away the benefits which are meant for the
poor. We need to make them more efficient. So you need the infrastructure at the bottom to make that happen," he said.

To repeated questions on the cost of the project, Mr Nilekani insisted that the investment of money in the UID project would actually make all the monies on social programmes be spent more efficeintly.

"Think of it as an infrastructure for enabling you to spend money more effectively," he said.

By way of an example, Mr Nilekani said there could be areas in the country where there could be more Below Poverty Line (BPL) cards than the population of the area because multiple cards are issued to individuals.

"With the UID, you will be able to actually trim that down to one card per individual and therefore we will actually know who is not getting this now," he said.

Asked repeatedly if the cost of the project, which is unknown at this stage, would justify such a project in a country where there are huge levels of poverty, Mr Nilekani said, "The Government has come to the conclusion that this project is stragetic and worth it. I have been invited to lead this project. I believe that it is viable and I will do my best to make it viable."

To a question about probable misuse of the database that will be created for the project, Mr Nilekani said that was a very legitimate concern and the UIDAI was looking at the design to ensure that it was secure.
Karan Thapar interviewing Unique ID Authority of India Chairman Nandan Nilekani.
Karan Thapar interviewing Unique ID Authority of India Chairman Nandan Nilekani.

"We are saying that nobody can read this database. All they can do is verify the
authenticity of an identity. You can ask a question like -- is x x? and the only answer we will give is yes or no. So there is no data coming down from the pipe. But there is no question that once the UID is implemented and the UID becomes ubiquitous in many applications, then there are challenges of privacy and I think along with this
project, we have to put in other checks and balances, including laws," he explained.

He said hacking was another legitimate concern and the project would have to be designed as best as possible against such threats.

"We can certainly create checks and balances...In every system, there will be people who will try to hack on it. Some are impenetrable, some are not. The important thing is -- is the risk of hacking and privacy large enough not to do this project? And the view is that the project has so many significant benefits for the poor in making it inclusive and in giving them a chance to participate in the country's progress, that it is worth it and we have to mitigate those risks," he said.

To another question, Mr Nilekani said there would not be any profiling attributes in the UID database and that it would not have details such as people's caste and so on.

He said some details like these would have to be collected by agencies which provide those services.

"That is outside our system. Our system has only basic attributes like the name, address, date of birth," he said.

About probable misuse, Mr Nilekani said, "There are databases today which are accessible and therefore along with this we have to create the necessary laws,
checks and balances, the citizen oversight to guard against these things."

Asked about how India hoped to succeed on such a project when countries like the United States and the United Kingdom had given similar projects up, he said, "What these developed countries have put on hold is giving national ID cards to people. But both the countries, US and UK have a number. For example in the US, you have the social security number, in the UK there is the national insurance number. They already have a numbering system, which is what we are going to propose."

"But notwithstanding these concerns, the social benefit, the inclusivity that this project will provide for the 700 million people in this country who are outside the system is immense enough to justify doing this project," he said.

According to him, this would be a profound benefit because the poor, who do not have an identity, would be able to get an identity now.

"It will empower them, it will help to meet their aspirations, they are the people for whom this is being done and I do believe they will benefit greatly from this number," he said.

Asked how the project would handle problems of internal migration or illegal migration and how it would prevent wrong people from being captured in the system and given an identity to make them Indian citizens, Mr Nilekani said, "Having this number does not confer any rights, benefits or any entitlements. All it does is confirm that X is X."

"To have a system which uses a unique identifier like biometrics, having a system which ensures there are no duplicates and having a system that provides online authentication is, we believe, something that can have a lot of social benefits for the
poor," he said.

Declaring that he was not a "high priest of technology", Mr Nilekani said the project would have all kinds of checks and balances as well as a very wide consultative process.

"We will involve everybody. We will make it public. All these are legitimate concerns and we have an obligation to meet these concerns," he added.


EC tells observers to ensure free, fair assembly polls

File photo of Chief Election Commissioner Navin Chawla with Election Commissioners S Y Qureshi and V S Sampat.
File photo of Chief Election Commissioner Navin Chawla (centre) with Election Commissioners S Y Qureshi (right) and V S Sampat (left).
The Election Commission urged the 510 observers appointed for the October 13 elections to the State Legislative Assemblies of Maharashtra, Haryana and Arunachal Pradesh to take every possible step to ensure that the polls are conducted in a free and fair manner.

Chief Election Commissioner Navin B Chawla and Election Commissioners S Y Quraishi and V S Sampath held a briefing for the 40 observers for Arunachal Pradesh yesterday and for the 470 observers for Maharashtra and Haryana today.

The observers, usually senior officers of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), are appointed under Section 20 B of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 and play an important role in ensuring free and fair elections.

They act as a crucial link between the field and the Commission. These officers remain under the disciplinary control of the Commission till the end of the elections. Observers will monitor all the processes involved in the conduct of election to maintain its purity, including the election expenditure incurred by the contesting candidates.

The observers will reach their allotted constituencies on the last date of filing of nominations, September 25 and stay there continuously till the end of poll day.

They would ensure quick redressal of complaints that are received from political parties, candidates and others. Their contact address and telephone number will be advertised in local newspapers by the District Election Officer and they will set aside two hours daily- 4.00 p.m. to 6.00 p.m. at the Returning Officer’s office to meet with any person who wants to meet the observer in person and submit their grievance.

The observer will supervise the process of election at all stages--campaign, poll, counting of votes and declaration of results. They will also supervise randomization, preparation of electronic voting machines, training of polling personnel and conduct of voter awareness programmes.

At the briefing, the observers were advised to look into the force deployment plan in their constituencies. They will also be examine the identification of critical polling stations and monitor the process of vulnerability mapping to identify the segments vulnerable to threat and intimidation.

The Election Commission asked the observers to make sure that the affidavits that will be filed by the candidates at the time of nomination detailing their movable/immovable assets, qualifications, convictions, cases pending in courts and other required information are displayed prominently and made available for public scrutiny without any loss of time.

Observers have specifically been advised to tour their respective allotted constituency extensively and build confidence among weaker and disadvantaged sections. They will constantly review execution of non-bailable warrants, recovery of illicit arms and collection of licensed arms from undesirable elements.

The observers will monitor strictly the enforcement of the Model Code of Conduct. The observers have been advised to make sure that extensive videography is done of all critical events that may take place during the election process and polling at critical polling stations.

The Commission has issued direction to all District Election Officers to prepare a comprehensive communication plan in consultation with observers to ensure proper and effective communication on the day of poll.

The observers would be assisted by the static micro-observers who would be deployed at critical polling stations. Central Government/Public Sector employees will be utilized to the extent possible as micro-observers. These micro-observers will report to the observers. The training and orientation of micro-observers shall be the responsibility of observers, an official press release added.


CJI: Strengthen investigation, prosecution of corruption cases

Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan on Saturday called for strengthening the investigation and prosecution of corruption cases so that the conviction rate could be improved. .

Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan speaking at the inauguration of National Seminar on 'Fighting Crimes Related to Corruption'. Minister of State for Public Grievances Prithviraj Chavan is also seen.
Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan speaking at the inauguration of National Seminar on 'Fighting Crimes Related to Corruption'. Minister of State for Public Grievances Prithviraj Chavan is also seen.
Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan today said there was a need to strengthen the investigation and prosecution of corruption cases so that the courts of first instance were able to improve the conviction rate.

Inaugurating a two-day national seminar on "Fighting Crimes Related to Corruption", Mr Justice Balakrishnan said the real costs of corruption were difficult to measure since they involved the loss of opportunities for businesses and investments as well as the diversion of manpower which could be usefully employed elsewhere.

"In some instances, corruption poses a threat to national security and law and order. We are all aware of how smuggled arms and explosives were used for the bomb blasts in Bombay in 1993, as well as the financing of terrorist operations through the ‘hawala’ currency racket," he said.

"All in all, the pervasive culture of graft provokes pessimism about the quality of governance," Mr Justice Balakrishnan said.

The seminar has been jointly organised by the LNJN National Institute of Criminology and Forensic Science and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

He said that while the substantive definition of offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act appeared to be adequate, there had been persistent demands for enhancing the penalties and punishments under the Act.

He urged the participants at the seminar to look at the obstructions in the investigation and trial process.

He said that in many cases aggrieved parties had approached the higher judiciary when the requisite sanctions had been denied despite the production of incriminating materials.

Thirdly, he touched upon the controversial issue of separation of prosecution functions from the investigative functions of the CBI.

"Having a specialised team of lawyers will also ensure that they thoroughly scrutinise the investigators' efforts in evidence-gathering, thereby improving the presentation of cases," he observed.

Union Minister of State for Personnel and Public Grievances Prithviraj Chavan urged the participants at the seminar to ponder over how the corrupt could be punished severely and swiftly so as to create deterrence in the minds of would-be criminals.

"What is also needed, however, over and beyond the punitive aspects of corruption, is an effective preventive strategy by bringing about systemic changes with your vast experience and personal knowledge of the institutional lacunae that promote corruption," he said.

"Unless corruption is controlled, it will threaten national security and economic development," he added.

CBI Director Ashwani Kumar said the 71 exclusive CBI Courts set up recently should be model and fast-track courts with all facilities.

The seminar is being attended by Supreme Court and High Court judges, special judges dealing with anti-corruption cases, prosecutors and investigators from the CBI and other legal luminaries.


12 H1N1 deaths in India, 183 new cases

As many as 12 more deaths due to swine flu were reported from across India today, taking the toll due to the H1N1 virus in the country so far to 167, an official statement said.

Six of the deaths were reported from Maharashtra---one in Thane today and five in different parts of the state during the past four days, which were confirmed by laboratory tests.

There were five deaths in Karnataka---2 in Bangalore and 1 each in Bijapur, Hubli and Gadag. There was also one death in Ghaziabad, the first fatal case in Uttar Pradesh.

The statement also said that the nodal office of Karnataka had informed the Union Health Ministry of reports of five more deaths in the state in the last few days, but confirmation and details were awaited.

Maharashtra now accounts for 78 of the deaths due to influenza A (H1N1), while 54 lives have been lost in Karnataka, 12 in Gujarat, 5 each in Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, 4 each in Delhi and Kerala, 3 each in Tamil Nadu and Goa and 1 each in Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.

Meanwhile, 183 fresh cases of the flu were reported today from different parts of the country, including 56 in Delhi, 42 in Maharashtra, 28 in Karnataka, 24 in Tamil Nadu, 11 in Andhra Pradesh, 7 in Kerala, 5 in Haryana, 4 in Uttarakhand and 1 in Chhattisgarh.

With these, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus reported so far in India has risen to 5979, the statement added.

Rs. 80.56 crore released under technology mission for North-East states

The Centre has released Rs. 80.56 crore as the first instalment in 2009-10 under the Technology Mission for the North- Eastern and the Himalayan states, an official statement said today.

The mission is a centrally-sponsored scheme implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture.

Of the amount, Rs 57.46 crore is for the North-Eastern states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Tripura and Sikkim.

The remaining Rs 23.10 crore is for three Himalayan states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

In all, Rs 349 crore have been earmarked during the current fiscal for the programme, of which Rs 280 crore is for the North-Eastern States and Rs 69 crore for the Himalayan states.

The statement said funds to the tune of Rs. 1538.60 crores had been released during the last eight years since 2001-02 under the programme, leading to overall development of horticulture in the region.

An additional area of about 4.9 lakh hectares has been brought under cultivation of various horticulture crops in these ten states.

According to it, 47 wholesale markets, 267 rural primary markets, 64 "apni mandis", 18 State grading laboratories, 31 ropeways and 49 processing units have been established so far under the scheme.

Infrastructure facilities have also been created in significant numbers. They include 935 model nurseries, 10032 community tanks, 11106 tube wells and 2,49,6025 square meters of greenhouses. Training has also been imparted to 1,64,960 farmers/trainers and 67,329 women under the scheme, the statement added.


One person dies of H1N1 in Faridabad, Haryana

One person died of swine flu in Faridabad town of Haryana today, taking the toll due to the A (H1N1) virus in the country so far to 155, an official statement said today.

This was the first death caused by the pandemic in Haryana.

Maharashtra now accounts for 72 of the deaths due to influenza A (H1N1), while 49 lives have been lost in Karnataka, 12 in Gujarat, 5 in Andhra Pradesh, 4 each in Delhi and Kerala, 3 each in Tamil Nadu and Goa and 1 each in Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh and Haryana.

Meanwhile, 187 fresh cases of the flu were reported from different parts of the country, including 61 in Tamil Nadu, 46 in Delhi, 32 in Maharashtra, 22 in Karnataka, 10 in Haryana, 5 in Andhra Pradesh, 4 in Gujarat, 3 in Kerala  and 1 each in Punjab, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

With these, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus reported so far in India has risen to 5796, the statement added.

Justice Kandpal to act as Chief Justice of Uttarakhand High Court

The President has appointed Mr Justice Bipin Chandra Kandpal, the seniormost judge of the Uttarakhand High Court to perform the duties of the Chief Justice of that High Court with effect from yesterday.

This follows the retirement of Mr Justice Vinod Kumar Gupta, the Chief Justice of the High Court, an official statement said.


Mamata to flag off first "Duronto" non-stop train from Sealdah to Delhi

The colour scheme of the ‘Duronto’ train to be launched on September 18 from Sealdah-New Delhi and Chennai-Nizamuddin Railway Station.
The colour scheme of the ‘Duronto’ train to be launched on September 18 from Sealdah-New Delhi and Chennai-Nizamuddin Railway Station.
Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee will flag off the first "Duronto" non-stop train on September 18 from Sealdah in West Bengal to New Delhi.

The introduction of the new class of trains on the Indian Railways was announced by Ms Banerjee while presenting the Railway Budget for 2009-10 in Parliament in July.

"Duronto" will be the first-ever non-stop superfast passenger train in the history of the Railways and will herald a new era of rail travel with better speed, comfort and security for passengers.

Passengers will not be allowed to embark or disembark from the train at intermediate stations along the route.

There will be two types of "Duronto" trains--fully air-conditioned reserved trains and air-conditioned and non-air-conditioned combo reserved trains.

The coaches of the train will have a colour scheme that will be distinct from other trains in India. The fares for both the types of "Duronto" trains will include the cost of meals.

The second "Duronto" train will be flagged off from Chennai to Delhi on the same day by Home Minister P Chidambaram.

The Sealdah-Delhi "Duronto" will cover the 1454 km route in around 16 and a half hours, about one and a half hours less than the corresponding Rajdhani Express on the same route.

The train will also see the launching of a new AC travel class called "Economy AC-III" on the Indian Railways.

On the Sealdah-New Delhi sector, the train will leave Sealdah every Thursday and Sunday at 1840 hours and and reach Delhi the next day at 1100 hours. In the reverse direction, the train on its regular run will leave New Delhi station every Friday and Monday at 2005 hours and reach Sealdah the next day at around 1225 hours.

The Chennai-Nizamuddin "Duronto" will initially run as a weekly train. It will leave Chennai every Monday at 0640 hours and reach Nizamuddin at 2235 hours the next day. In the reverse direction, it will leave Nizamuddin every Tuesday at 1600 hours and reach Chennai the next day at 2010 hours.


9 more H1N1 deaths in India, 176 new cases

Nine more deaths due to swine flu were reported in India today, taking the toll due to the A (H1N1) virus in the country so far to 154, an official statement said.

Five of the deaths were reported from Maharashtra (2 in Ahmednagar and 1 each in Satara, Solapur and Raigad) and four from Karnataka (1 each in Bangalore, Bijapur, Bagalkot and Davangere).

One death due to suspected swine flu was also reported from Delhi, but the results of the laboratory tests are still awaited, the statement said.

Maharashtra now accounts for 72 of the deaths due to influenza A (H1N1), while 49 lives have been lost in Karnataka, 12 in Gujarat, 5 in Andhra Pradesh, 4 each in Delhi and Kerala, 3 each in Tamil Nadu and Goa and 1 each in Uttarakhand and Chhattisgarh.

Meanwhile, 176 fresh cases of the flu were reported from different parts of the country, 68 in Delhi, 32 in Karnataka, 26 in Maharashtra, 19 in Tamil Nadu, 14 in Haryana, 5 in Andhra Pradesh, 2 each in Kerala, West Bengal, Uttarakhand and Gujarat, and 1 each in Chandigarh, Goa, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.

With these, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus reported so far in India has risen to 5611, the statement added.


Cabinet approves setting up of six new NIPERs

The Union Cabinet today approved the setting up of six new National Institutes of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (NIPER) at Ahmedabad in Gujarat, Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh, Hajipur in Bihar, Kolkata in West Bengal, Rai Bareli in Uttar Pradesh and Guwahati in Assam.

The Cabinet had, in August, 2007 given "in principle" approval for the six institutes for two years, 2007-08 and 2008-09.

Today's decision means that the present system of operation of the new NIPERS would continue for the next two years so that the proposal is finally considered and approved by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA).

The decision would also enable the appointment of Directors and tie-ups with private partners.

An official press release said the decision would also make the Master's and Doctoral programmes at the institutes more effective.

The institutes are meant to cater to the requirements of the pharmaceutical sector for highly trained manpower.  They will also provide avenues for research and development in the sector and help the industry develop in the area of modern medicine and generate revenues beyond the traditional bulk and generic drugs.

In the long-run, the institutes are also expected to reduce the country's dependence on imported pharmaceutical products and cut intellectual property costs, making medicines more affordable for the public at large.

Each of the new NIPERs have an intake of about 200-250 students a year and are expected to produce 1500 highly skilled professionals every year.

The first NIPER was set up at Mohali in Punjab in 1991, since when the pharmaceutical industry in India has witnessed an exponential growth.

Against a total production of about Rs 5000 crores in 1991, the sector has now touched Rs 80,000 crores, including exports.

While setting up NIPER in Mohali, the Government had also set up a high-powered committee which recommended the establishment of similar institutions in different parts of the country. Similar recommendations were made by the National Manufacturing Competitiveness Council and a working group set up by the Planning Commission.

The new NIPERs at Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Hajipur started working with the help of mentor institutes in 2007-08. The ones at Guwahati and Rai Bareli started in 2008-09.

An Apex Committee under the Chairmanship of Secretary (Pharmaceuticals) has been formed to oversee the functioning of the new NIPERs till the Board of Governors of each of them is formed.

Likewise, State Level Coordination Committees under the Chairmanship of an Officer of the level of Principal Secretary of the concerned State Government have been formed for each NIPER.

Meanwhile, consultants Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Pvt. Ltd. were appointed by the Department of Pharmaceuticals for preparation of Detailed Project Report for each new NIPER, incorporating the element of Public Private Partnership (PPP) wherever possible, and to suggest the areas of specialization. 

The consultants have submitted their report, which has been accepted by the Government.  The estimated cost on each NIPER, as worked out by the consultants, would be approximately Rs.330 crores, including PPP element. 

In addition, about 100 acres of land are required for the project, which is to be provided by the concerned State Governments free of cost.  Each of these NIPERs would take about four to five years to be fully established. 

Based on the detailed project report submitted by the consultant, a proposal would be submitted to Expenditure Finance Committee/CCEA for consideration and approval, an official press release added.


Pilot killed as IAF's MiG 21 crashes

A MiG 21 aircraft of the Indian Air Force (IAF) crashed about 10 km from the Bhisiana air base in Bathinda district of Punjab, killing the pilot, a statement from the Ministry of Defence said.

The crash occurred near Bhisiana village at about 1420 hours today, the statement said.

"The pilot, who got airborne for a routine trainee sortie, sustained fatal injuries," it said.

There was no damage reported to any civil property or life, the statement said, adding that a court of inquiry had been ordered to investigate the cause of the accident.


5 girls killed, 30 injured in Delhi school stampede

Parents and relatives of the children outside the entrance of the school where the stampede occurred.
Parents and relatives of the children outside the entrance of the school where the stampede occurred.
Five girls were killed and about 30 other students suffered injuries in a stampede, apparently caused by rumours of an electric short-circuit in the Government Senior Secondary School in Khajuri Khas in North-East Delhi that was water-logged after incessant overnight rains in the capital.

However, there was a lot of confusion about the exact cause of the rush, which some parents said was triggered after some boys allegedly misbehaved with the girl students.

Students came rushing out of their classrooom around 0900 hours and started moving down by the narrow staircase even as another group of students was going up.

The injured were rushed to the Guru Tegh Bahadur (GTB) Hospital near by, but five of the girls died on the way. Doctors at the hospital said the deaths had occurred due to suffocation. At least six of the injured were said to be in a serious condition. All but one of the injured are girls.

Many of the students had suffered abdomen and head injuries, and some of them had fractured their bones, sources said.

Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, who visited the injured in hospital, ordered a high-level inquiry into the incident and said only a probe would be able to establish the actual sequence of events.

Expressing grief over the loss of lives, Ms Dikshit said action would be taken against those found guilty of lax implementation of safety norms for schools.
Policemen guarding the entrance of the school where the stampede occurred.
Policemen guarding the entrance of the school where the stampede occurred.

The Chief Minister announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs 100,000 for the next of kin of the students killed in the stampede and Rs 50,000 for each of the injured. She also said that the Delhi Government would bear all the expenses for the treatment of those injured in the incident.

According to one version, there were rumours that electricity was passing through the water collected in the school compound and some of the classrooms after the heavy overnight rains.

Some parents said some 70-80 girls who had come to the school early in the morning for an examination were herded into one classroom because the other rooms were water-logged.

Later, a similar number of boys also turned up for their examination and were also directed to the same classroom that was already overcrowded.

As news of the incident spread, anxious parents gathered outside the school and the hospital. Police cordoned off the school and did not allow the parents to go inside.

Many of the parents were heard telling journalists that they were not allowed to meet their children in hospital and had no information about their condition.

Union Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal expressed shock at the incident and said it was unacceptable.


Additional instalment of DA for Central Govt. employees

The Union Cabinet today decided to release an additional instalment of dearness allowance (DA) to Central government employees and dearness relief (DR) to pensioners with effect from July 1, 2009.

The additional instalment represents an increase of five per cent over the existing rate of 22 per cent of the Basic Pay/Pension to compensate for price rise, an official press release said.

The increase is in accordance with the accepted formula, which is based on the recommendations of the 6th Central Pay Commission.

The combined impact on the exchequer on account of both dearness allowance and dearness relief would be of the order of Rs.4355.35 crore in a full year and Rs.2903.55 crore in the financial year 2009-2010 (for a period of 8 months from July, 2009 to February, 2010), the release added.


India, Nepal sign MoU for revised Air Services Agreement

India and Nepal have finalised and initialed the text of a revised Air Services Agreement (ASA) under which they have decided to increase the capacity from the present 6000 seats to 30,000 seats per week.

Pending formal approval of the agreement by the respective governments of the two countries, the two sides have agreed to implement the ASA on provisional basis with immediate effect.

An official press release said that three new points had been granted to Nepal--Dehradun, Gorakhpur and Bagdogra.

For India, seven new points have been added--Pokhara, Lumbini, Biratnagar, Nepalgunj, Jankpur, Dhangadi and Bhairava.

The revised ASA was worked out at a two-day meeting of delegations from the two countries that ended here yesterday.

The Indian team to the talks was led by Civil Aviation Secretary M Madhavan Nambiar and the Nepalese delegation by Tourism and Civil Aviation Secretary Nagendra Prasad Ghimire.

Both sides had recognised that the ASA between the two countries, initialed on June 5, 1997, needed to be revised in view of the developments in the aviation industry since then.

Regarding the revised route schedule, the Nepalese delegation said that, apart from Kathmandu, Nepal had no other airport suitable for operation of international flights.

As such, the designated airlines of India would be able to operate to these points as and when these airports are made available for international operations.

The Indian delegation expressed similar views with regard to operations by the designated airlines for Nepal to Dehradun and Gorakhpur, through Bagdogra is operational.

Both sides agreed, after discussions, to further liberalise the entitlements contained in the SAARC offer made by the Government of India in March, 2006.

Within their overall capacity entitlements, the designated airlines of Nepal shall be entitled to operate a maximum of 10,000 seats per week to/from Mumbai and Bangalore each and not exceeding 15,000 seats per week to/from Delhi. This restriction shall cease to apply from January 1, 2011.

Under the revised ASA, the designated airlines of each side shall be entitled to operate any number of services with any type of aircraft to/from the points specified in Route II of Section I and Section II of the Route Schedule.

The designated airlines of each side may exercise unlimited intermediate or beyond fifth freedom traffic rights to/from any points within the SAARC Region.

The designated airlines of each side shall be permitted to exercise beyond fifth freedom traffic rights to/from the three points, other than the points in the SAARC region, specified in the Route I of Section I and Section II of the Route Schedule.

However, the designated airlines of both sides may exercise beyond fifth freedom traffic rights to/from points other than the points in the SAARC Region, on not more than seven flights per week in each direction to/from each point.

The designated airlines of each country shall be entitled to operate any number of all-cargo services between each other’s territory with any type of aircraft with full 3rd, 4th and 5th freedom traffic rights. Such all-cargo services may also be operated under co-operative marketing arrangements such as code sharing blocked space and so on.

The delegations took note of the Technical Co-operation Agreement signed between the Airports Authority of India and the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal. Both sides agreed to take further action for implementation of this Agreement.

The Indian side reiterated its request that permission for the deployment of sky marshals on the flights operated by the designated airlines of India to/from Nepal may be expedited. The Nepalese side took note of the request and informed that the matter had already been referred to the appropriate authority of the Government of Nepal. The Nepalese side promised to pursue the matter


Combined Medical Services Exam, 2010 on January 17

The Union Public Service Commission will hold the Combined Medical Services Examination, 2010 on January 17, 2010.

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

Details regarding the eligibility conditions, syllabus and scheme of the examination, centres of examination, guidelines for filling up application form and so on are given in the detailed notice of the examination published in the Employment News/Rozgar Samachar of September 5. The details are also available on UPSC's website.

Candidates must apply in the Common Application Form devised by the Commission for its examinations, which can be purchased from designated Head Post Offices/Post Offices (specified in the notice) throughout the country.

The last date for all applications to reach the UPSC either by hand or by Post/Speed Post or by Courier is October 5, 2009. However, in respect of candidates residing abroad or in certain remote areas specified in the notice, the last date for receipt of application by post/speed post only (not by hand or by courier) is October 12, 2009, the release added.


Jet Airways cancels several international flights tomorrow

Private sector carrier Jet Airways today cancelled at least eight of its international flights scheduled for tomorrow as about 400 of its pilots continued to stay away from work for the second consecutive day demanding the reinstatement of two of their sacked colleagues.

The flights cancelled include those from Jeddah to Mumbai, Abu Dhabi to Delhi, Singapore to Mumbai and Hong Kong to Mumbai.

Flights from Mumbai to Hong Kong, Mumbai to Brussels, Chennai to Brussels and Delhi to Brussels have also been cancelled, the airline said.

An updated list of affected flights can be seen on the airline's website


Five more H1N1 deaths in India, 214 new cases

Five more deaths due to swine flu were reported in India today, taking the toll due to the A (H1N1 ) virus in the country so far to 145, an official statement said today.

The deaths occurred in Pune and Mumbai in Maharashtra, Bijapur and Bangalore in Karnataka and in Vadodara, Gujarat.

Besides, Kerala reported one death that had occurred on August 27, the statement said.

Maharashtra now accounts for 67 of the deaths due to influenza A (H1N1), while 45 lives have been lost in Karnataka, 12 in Gujarat, 5 in Andhra Pradesh, 4 each in Delhi and Kerala, 3 each in Tamil Nadu and Goa and 1 each in Uttarakhand and Chhattisgarh.

Meanwhile, 214 fresh cases of the flu were reported from different parts of the country, including 69 in Tamil Nadu, 36 in Delhi, 35 in Karnataka, 28 in Maharashtra, 19 in Haryana, 11 in Andhra Pradesh, 6 in Uttar Pradesh, 5 in Uttarakhand, 2 in Kerala and 1 each in Chandigarh, Assam and Rajasthan.

With these, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus reported so far in India has risen to 5435, the statement added.


PM urges States lagging behind in NREGS to catch up

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressing the Conference of State Rural Development Ministers, in New Delhi on September 9, 2009. Union Minister for Rural Development and Panchayati Raj C.P. Joshi and Minister of State of Rural Development Pradeep Jain are also seen.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressing the Conference of State Rural Development Ministers, in New Delhi on September 9, 2009. Union Minister for Rural Development and Panchayati Raj C.P. Joshi and Minister of State of Rural Development Pradeep Jain are also seen.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today urged the States which are lagging behind in the implementation of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) to catch up with the rest of the country where major successes had been achieved through the Government's flagship programme.

"We cannot fail the poor of our country, particularly at a time when resources are available to provide gainful livelihood security for at least 100 days to the rural poor," Dr Singh said in his inaugural address to the Conference of State Ministers of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj here.

He said the major successes achieved through the programme should not be a cause for complacency.

"We must think creatively, we must think innovatively, we must anticipate events as they unfold before our eyes. Therefore, we still have miles to go before we achieve the full potential of this unique legislation in annals of recent history," he said.

He noted that the performance of the programme had been uneven across States. Some States had shown good results, while others were lagging behind. "I urge them to catch up," he said.

Dr Singh also said that a Delivery Monitoring Unit had been set up recently in the Prime Minister’s Office to monitor, jointly with the concerned ministries, flagship projects such as the NREGS.

"The major difference of this monitoring process will be that we will put as much data as possible in the public domain, on the websites of the ministries concerned. From the right to information, we are moving towards the rights of the people to expect from the Government full and complete disclosure. This is in line with our thinking of moving beyond providing a right to information to a policy of voluntary disclosure," he said.

The Prime Minister said workers on the ground and researchers were, therefore, free to make independent assessments of the scheme and challenge government data and claims of performance.

"We need ,therefore, to shift from input based monitoring, which can often be self-congratulatory, to independent evaluation of outcomes," he said.

Dr Singh said his Government attached the highest priority to the successful implementation of these flagship, anti-poverty programmes.

"We should work therefore purposefully to improve the quality of the public system and delivery of public services to achieve the objectives of spreading, deepening and widening of rural prosperity and of employment generation," he said, emphasising that rural India must become the backbone of inclusive social and economic growth in the country.

The conference has been convened by the Centre to discuss the issues of employment generation and providing livelihood and security to the people in rural India.

Dr Singh said there were important lessons to be learnt from the implementation of the NREGS in the last five years so that a reform programme could be put in place to meet the legitimate aspirations of the rural population.

He said the meeting was being held at a time when the monsoons had revived in most parts of the country.

"The rains over the past week augur well for the kharif crop and have brought cheer to large number of our farmers. But we have to recognize that most areas of the country will probably still have deficient rainfall and therefore we have to redouble our efforts to mitigate rural distress arising from the after effects of drought," he said.

The Prime Minister said the country had record production and procurement of foodgrains in both 2007-08 and 2008-09.

The country, thus, had adequate food stocks and there was no cause for concern or fear of shortages of foodgrains in the country as a whole, he said, adding that he had no doubt that the Government would be able to tackle the situation effectively and resolutely.

He said foodgrains supply should be available in localities where there is deficiency of production in relation to demand. He also called for utmost care to deal with scarcity of fodder and drinking water.

Dr Singh said the Government today had the means to put purchasing power in the hands of the rural population. He said eminent economist Amartya Sen had repeatedly emphasised that famines are not necessarily famines of deficient production but of deficient purchasing power.

He said for the first time in its history the country had an opportunity to put purchasing power in the hands of most needy parts of the population through the mechanisms of the NREGS.

He said the NREGS and the Swarnajayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana (SGSY), which is now being recast as the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM), were working well and had crated an effective safety net in rural India.

He said the NREGs had put a floor on rural poverty and afforded a measure of protection against natural calamities or market-induced vulnerability. He urged the conference to identify best practices which could, with modifications, be replicated in other parts of the country.

Dr Singh said that, under the NREGS, employment was provided to nearly 4.5 crore households in 2008-09. Of those employed, nearly 50 per cent were women and more than 55 per cent were Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, demonstrating the self-targeting nature of the programme, he said.

In the three-and-a-half years of its implementation, the Central Government had released over Rs 50,000 cr to the State Governments. Nearly two-thirds of this amount had been paid as wages to NREGS workers, he said.

The Prime Minister said that, in terms of outlays, the Ministry of Rural Development had the highest priority in the Government and that was a measure of its commitment to do all it could to get rid of chronic poverty, ignorance and disease which still afflict millions of people in the country.

He said works under the NREGS were helping to rejuvenate and revive the country's natural resource base.

He said that over 70 per cent of the works under NREGS were related to water conservation and land development, which have multiple spin-off benefits in terms of improved agricultural productivity and improved water management.

"Agricultural productivity is being enhanced. Water assets are thus being created. Land and soil degradation is being checked," he pointed out.

According to him, the programme is also making a contribution to financial inclusion. State Governments are being encouraged to make wage payments under the programme through banks and post office accounts.

"Nearly 7.8 cr of such accounts have been opened. The growing practice of making use of the financial institutions for disbursement of wages is one means of reducing leakages and in often ensuring that wages are paid in accordance with prescribed schedule," he said.

Dr Singh said the bargaining power of agricultural labour had increased as a result of the launching of the NREGS.

"No longer are they prepared to settle for less than the notified wage. The average notified wage under NREGS has itself risen from Rs. 65 per day in 2006-07 to Rs. 87 in 2009-10. We have further committed ourselves to providing a real wage rate of Rs. 100 under NREGS," he said.

The Prime Minister said the Government proposed to establish the institution of an Ombudsman in every district for effective grievance redressal under NREG Programme.

"We should also mobilize public opinion and use social audits to seek the enforcement of rights and entitlements created through this landmark legislation," he said.

About the decision to restructure SGSY as the NRLM, Dr Singh said the new scheme would be implemented in a mission mode, which will use a multi-pronged strategy for poverty reduction in a time-bound manner by providing sustainable livelihood through various means to rural population below the poverty line.

He hoped the ministries of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj at the Centre and the State Governments would work in tandem to develop a collective vision for the mission.

"Eventually as the Mission rolls out it should become the pivot for all our rural poverty reduction initiatives. The NRLM is intended to achieve the next level of security, i.e. security of employment assurance through achievement of its objective of skill development and promotion of self-employment. We are going to launch a very ambitious skill development programme and I sincerely hope it will become an integral component of a programme to provide gainful livelihood opportunities for our young people," he said.

Dr Singh said the institution of the Self Help Groups (SHGs) in mobilizing the rural poor had proved to be a potent instrument of empowerment of the poor.

The primary goal of the NRLM should be to saturate mobilization of poor communities into Self Help Groups in a time-bound manner, he said.

"Investments in aggregate level people’s institutions like federations of Self Help Groups is a very important step that will provide space, voice and resources for the poor. The National Rural Livelihood Mission should therefore make dedicated efforts to pilot, to learn and in due course of time, to scale up such productive partnership between our people and our Government institutions," he said.

He said some states had made significant investment in the institutional architecture for organizing the rural poor and making them creditworthy clients for banks and other financial institutions through capacity building and training programmes. In these states there has been remarkable progress in terms of creation of assets for self-employment and providing sustainable livelihood particularly for our women in rural areas, he noted.

"Banks operating in rural areas must therefore revisit their current brick-and-mortar based outreach models. They have to think creatively and innovatively. ICT enabled banking services can overcome many of the manpower constraints and develop new financial products suited to the needs of people at various levels of development. We should also explore opportunities for the expansion of the agency banking concept. Adequate attention should be paid to organizing the demand side of the credit delivery by organizing financial literacy and financial counseling services for the poor.

"Investment in skill development and training as I have said earlier, is a very important area and the Mission may take steps to make skill development as an ‘entitlement’ of the poor," he said.

The Prime Minister said that this year's allocation under the NREGS was over Rs 39,000 crore and it was Rs 2350 crore under the SGSY.

Under the Rajiv Gandhi National Rural Drinking Water Mission and the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, provisions have been made for Rs.8,000 crore and Rs.18,500 crore, respectively, in the current year.

"Allocations for poverty alleviation programmes are rising every year. We have now to ensure that our people get the best value for every rupee spent on their behalf. Effective oversight of these programmes is therefore, extremely important," he stressed.

According to Dr Singh, the Panchayat is the best institution to implement programmes such as the NREGS.

"It has been observed that wherever local bodies are active, functioning well and are manned by committed people, the delivery is much better. There is therefore a need to undertake an intensive campaign for developing skills of Panchayati Raj Institutions in designing, in planning, in monitoring and in implementing programmes like NREGS. It should be our common aim of the Centre and the States to implement these programmes through the panchayats wherever possible and feasible. In States where panchayats are not active or adequately empowered, State Governments, I urge, should move forward to ensure this outcome," he added.

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