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Gen Deepak Kapoor is new Chairman COSC

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Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sureesh Mehta hands over the baton of Chiefs of Staff Committee Chairman to the Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor.
Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sureesh Mehta hands over the baton of Chiefs of Staff Committee Chairman to the Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor.
Admiral Sureesh Mehta, whose tenure as Chief of Naval Staff ended today, handed over the baton of Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC) to Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor at South Block here.

The seniormost of the three service chiefs holds the position of Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee.

Gen Kapoor was commissioned in the Indian Army in June 1967 and has held important Staff and Command appointments during his illustrious career. The General Officer has taken active part in 1971 Bangladesh operations.

He commanded a brigade in the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir, a division as part of a strike corps during OP PARAKRAM and a corps on the Indo-China border. On promotion as Army Commander, he commanded the Army Training Command at Shimla. Thereafter, he commanded the Northern Command from September 5, 2005 to December 31, 2006.

The General Officer has also represented the country as the Chief Operations Officer for all United Nations Forces deployed in Somalia from 1994 to 1995.

The General officer took over as the Chief of Army Staff on September 30, 2007. Since then he has focused on the modernisation of the Army in pursuit of the aim of making it one of the finest armies in the world.

The General was awarded the Vishisht Seva Medal in January 1996, Sena Medal in January 1998, Ati Vishisht Seva Medal in January 2006 and Param Vishisht Seva Medal in January 2007, an official press release added.

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Admiral Nirmal Verma takes over as Chief of Naval Staff

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Admiral Nirmal Verma took over from Admiral Sureesh Mehta, as the 20th CNS of Independent India and the 18th Indian to take command of the Indian Navy.
Admiral Nirmal Verma took over from Admiral Sureesh Mehta, as the 20th CNS of Independent India and the 18th Indian to take command of the Indian Navy.
Admiral Nirmal Verma took over as the new Chief of Naval Staff (CNS) here today from Admiral Sureesh Mehta, who has retired.

Adm Verma is the 20th CNS of independent India and the 18th Indian to take command of the Indian Navy.

In the morning, Adm Verma paid tribute to the country’s martyrs by laying a wreath at the Amar Jawan Jyoti at India Gate and then inspected a Guard of Honour at the lawns of South Block. Later, in his office, the outgoing Chief formally handed over the Chief’s telescope to Adm Verma.

The change of command included a poignant ceremony when Adm Mehta was bid adieu by the Principal Staff Officers and other senior staff officers of the Indian Navy by pulling out his jeep.

Talking to mediapersons after assuming office, Adm Verma said that it was a great "privilege and honour" to take command of such a fine service manned by a new generation of technology savvy officers and sailors.

Outlining his priorities, he said that his emphasis would be on consolidating and sustaining the growth of the Navy with due attention to indigenisation. He cited the acquisition of the aircraft carrier Vikramaditya, the new Long Range Maritime Reconnaissance aircraft P8I and the Scorpene submarine as being of utmost priority.

On the topic of indigenisation, he also highlighted the need to closely monitor development and production activities to ensure induction within planned time frames, stating that alternate options must be processed concurrently to ensure that there was no void in combat capability.

He stressed the importance of maintaining high Maritime Domain Awareness, synergising the weapon-sensor grid and ensuring seamless connectivity over a networked force. He stated that the training of the Navy was also being realigned to man the technology intensive force.

Adm Verma is a specialist in Communication and Electronic Warfare with nearly four decades of experience across various assignments. His sea tenures include Commands of INS Udaygiri, a Leander Class Frigate; INS Ranvir, a Kashin Class Destroyer; and the Aircraft Carrier, INS Viraat.

In assignments that shape future leadership of the Indian Navy, he has commanded the Indian Naval Academy at Goa, been Head of Naval Training Team at the Defence Services Staff College, Wellington, India, and Senior Directing Staff (Navy) at the National Defence College, New Delhi.

As part of crew for the first Kashin Class Destroyer inducted into the Indian Navy in 1980, he trained in the former Soviet Union. He has attended professional mid and senior level courses at the Royal Naval Staff College, Greenwich, UK and the Naval Command Course at the US Naval War College, Rhode Island respectively. Upon elevation to Flag Rank, as a Rear Admiral he has contributed to consolidation of growth and development of the Naval Commands first as the Chief of Staff of Eastern Naval Command and thereafter as Flag Officer Commanding Maharashtra Naval Area.

Evolution of the maritime capabilities and policies for future induction were steered by Adm Verma in his capacity as the Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (Policy & Plans).

On promotion to Vice Admiral in Nov 2005, he guided the Human Resource Development programmes of the Navy, formulating personnel and service policies as the Chief of Personnel.

In his capacity as the Vice Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Verma, structured the framework for the transformation of the navies combat capabilities and infrastructure development.

The Admiral is a recipient of Param Vishisht Seva Medal and Ati Vishisht Seva Medal for meritorious service, and is also the Honorary Aide-de-Camp to the President of India.

Admiral Verma is married to Madhulika and they have two sons Hemant and Anant, who are in the creative and business fields respectively.

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Lt Gen Loomba is new Director General Military Intelligence

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Lt Gen R K Loomba, Gen Officer Commanding 3 Corps, took over here today as the Director General Military Intelligence from Lt Gen D S Bartwal, who has retired.

An alumnus of the National Defence Academy (NDA), Khadakwasla, Lt Gen Loomba was commissioned into the Skinner’s Horse of Indian Army in June 1970. He has served in Operation Cactus Lily with his Regiment, and has served as Brigade Major in a Mountain Division.

He has commanded the Deccan Horse and has varied experience in all types of terrain obtained in the country on almost all fronts. A graduate of Defence Officers Staff Course, Wellington, Higher Command at Army War College, Mhow and National Defence College, he has held numerous important appointments at all levels including at the Army Headquarters.

He has been Commander Higher Command Wing training the officers for higher direction of war, an official press release added.

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Vivek Tankha appointed Addl. Solicitor General

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The Government has appointed Mr Vivek K Tankha as Additional Solicitor General of India (Direct Taxes) in the Supreme Court of India.

This was announced by the Ministry of Law and Justice here yesterday.

Mr Tankha is a former Advocate General of Madhya Pradesh. Last year, he had unsuccessfully contested the Rajya Sabha election from the state as an independent candidate backed by the Congress.

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V K Saraswat to be new DRDO chief

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Dr. V K Saraswat
Dr. V K Saraswat
Eminent missile scientist Vijay Kumar Saraswat will be the new head of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), an official press release said here today.

He will take over from Mr M Natarajan on September 1 as the Secretary, Department of Defence Research & Development, Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister and Director-General, DRDO.

Dr Saraswat, 60, is at present a Distinguished Scientist and Chief Controller, Research and Development (Missiles and Strategic Systems) in the DRDO, a position he was appointed to in November, 2005.

Dr Saraswat, who has a doctorate in Propulsion Engineering, started his career in DRDO in 1972 with the development of India's first Liquid Propulsion Engine, DEVIL. He established facilities for design, production and testing of engines and the RCS technologies for the missile applications.

He has spearheaded the development of the country's strategic and tactical missile systems, including the Agni series of strategic missiles covering a range of upto 3000 kms.

As Project Director of Prithvi, he steered the design, development, production and induction of the country's first indigenous surface-to-surface missile system into the armed forces.

The successful testing of ‘Dhanush’ missile on board a moving ship with high terminal accuracy brought a new dimension in the national defence capability.

As Programme Director AD (Air Defence), Dr. Saraswat pioneered the concept of theatre defence system and integration of national Air Defence elements. He was Director, Research Centre Imarat (RCI) before taking over as CCR&D(MSS).

Dr. Saraswat is a forerunner in the development of number of critical missile technologies that were under denial due to the Missile Technology Control Regime, thus making India self-reliant in missile technologies. He has headed various committees of national importance.

The Government honoured him with the Padma Shri in 1988 for his outstanding contribution to the nation.

Dr. Saraswat has received several awards including Prof Jai Krishna Memorial Award of the Indian National Academy of Engineering (INAE) and National Systems Gold Medal by the Systems Society of India. International Academy of Engineering, Russia elected Dr. Saraswat as a Member of the Academy and honoured him as an Academician.

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T C A Raghavan named High Commissioner to Singapore

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Dr T C A Raghavan, currently Joint Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs here, has been appointed as the next High Commissioner of India to Singapore.

Dr Raghavan will succeed Dr Subramanyam Jaishankar, who was named last month as the country's new Ambassador to China.

In a separate announcement, the Ministry of External Affairs said that Mr Vishnu Namdeo Hade, presently Ambassador of India to Panama, had been concurrently accredited as country's next Ambassador to Honduras with residence in Panama.

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Amrohi named High Commissioner to Mozambique

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Mr Ashok Kumar Amrohi, at present Indian Ambassador in Algeria, has been appointed as the country's next High Commissioner to Mozambique.

A press release from the Ministry of External Affairs said Mr Amrohi, who will succeed Mr Rajinder Bhagat, was expected to take up his assignment shortly.

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RIL appoints Ravimohan, Prasad as Executive Directors

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The Board of Directors of Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) today announced the appointment of Mr R Ravimohan and Mr P M S Prasad as Executive Directors on the Board with immediate effect.

With this, the Board will expand to 14 members with seven of them being Independent Directors, the company said in a press release.

Mr Ravimohan is the former Chairman of CRISIL Ltd and the Managing Director and Region Head of Standard and Poor's for South and South East Asia.

Mr Prasad has been with RIL for more than 28 years and presently heads the upstream and refining businesses, which comprise exploration and production and refinery supply and trading.

"Ravi is undoubtedly one of the finest financial and risk management minds in the world while Prasad has been an integral part of the growth story of Reliance and its achievements. I look forward to the contributions of these two talented professionals to take Reliance forward on an accelerated growth path," RIL Chairman and Managing Director Mukesh Ambani said.

Mr Ravimohan is credited with building CRISIL into the largest rating, financial and business research and advisory service company in India. He has been closely involved with the modernization of the Indian financial system and pioneered the era of electronic stock markets in the country.

He has been involved in critical policy assignments including being a member of the Secondary Market Advisory Committee of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), the Technical Advisory Committee of Reserve Bank of India and the Raghuram Rajan Committee on Financial Sector Reforms.

Mr Prasad is recognised as one of the finest professionals in the energy industry. Over the years, he has held various positions in the fibres, petrochemicals and petroleum businesses in RIL. He was also the project head of the large Jamnagar refinery and petrochemicals complex. He was recently awarded a honorary doctorate degree by the University of Petroleum Engineering Studies, Dehra Dun.

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S L Raina takes over as Director (HR) of GAIL

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S L Raina
S L Raina
Mr S L Raina has taken over as Director (Human Resources) of the public sector gas major GAIL (India) Limited.

Mr Raina has a Master in Business Administration (MBA) degree from the University of Hull, London, an LL.B., a Master in Public Administration and a Bachelor in Science degrees.

Prior to his current assignment, he headed various HR departments in GAIL and also spearheaded various Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes, a company press release said.

As Head of Legal Department, Mr Raina has represented the company in various judicial, arbitral and administrative proceedings as well as customer contracts, gas sales agreements, gas sale and purchase agreements, production sharing contracts and gas transportation agreements.

Mr Raina has also served GAIL as Central Public Information Officer under the Right to Information Act 2005. He was for some time Zonal General Manager (Marketing), Northern Zonal Office of GAIL.

He served as HR Head for five years at GAIL’s Petrochemical plant during its different stages of construction, pre-commissioning and stabilization activities, the release added.

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Nengcha Mukhopadhyaya appointed Ambassador to Serbia

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Ms Nengcha Lhouvum Mukhopadhyaya, at present India's Ambassador in Lebanon, has been appointed as the country's next Ambassador to Serbia.

A statement from the Ministry of External Affairs said Ms Mukhopadhyaya, who will succeed Mr Ajay Swarup, was expected to take up her assignment shortly.

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Related Stories

Divyabh Manchanda to be next Ambassador to Bulgaria

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Mr Divyabh Manchanda, currently Additional Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) here, has been appointed as the next Ambassador of India to Bulgaria.

An MEA press release said that he was expected to take up his assignment shortly.

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Sify appoints Mani as President-Consumer Infrastructure

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Natesh Mani
Natesh Mani
Sify Technologies Limited, one of the largest Managed Enterprise and Consumer Internet Services companies in India, today said Mr Natesh Mani had been appointed as the company's President – Consumer Infrastructure Services.

Mr Mani's last assignment was with Xerox as Director – Middle East & Africa, where he was responsible for a turnover of US$ 200 million per annum.

His career has taken him to 56 countries around the world, and enabled him to gain valuable exposure and insights into business challenges in diverse environments, a press release from Sify said.

"We are very excited to have Natesh Mani on board. He joins us at a critical juncture, as we have just completed consolidating and reconstructing the company’s Consumer business. Natesh’s rich experience in Marketing, Sales Operations and Channel Development will play a pivotal role in strengthening and growing the Consumer business," Mr Raju Vegesna, MD and CEO, Sify Technologies, said.

Mr. Natesh Mani said, "I am very happy to join Sify at a time when the company is poised for growth and looking to significantly enhance its services portfolio. Sify has always been a pioneer and leader in Internet services, and I hope to contribute to its path breaking history with new initiatives in the consumer access business."

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Lal Dingliana named Ambassador to Venezuela

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Mr Lal Dingliana, currently Ambassador of India to Bulgaria, has been appointed as the country's next Ambassador to Venezuela.

A statement from the Ministry of External Affairs said he was expected to take up his assignment shortly.

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Aamir Khan's wife Kiran suffers miscarriage

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Actor Aamir Khan's wife Kiran Rao has suffered a miscarriage, a post by him on his blog said today.

"I have bad news folks. Kiran and I lost our baby. Despite our best efforts we were unable to avert a miscarriage," Aamir Khan said in the post.

"The last 2 months have been a struggle for us and that is one of the reasons I was absent from the blog in more ways than one. K and I need time to heal. I will be away for a while. Love," he added. The two had got married in 2005.

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Ambika Soni condoles Murali's death

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Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni today deeply condoled the death of well-known Malayalam film actor Murali, who passed away in Thiruvananthapuram last night.

Ms Soni said that Murali, who was also Chairman of the Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi, would be long remembered for his contribution to Malayalam theatre and films.

The minister conveyed her heartfelt condolences to Murali's wife and daughter and other members of his family.

The 55-year-old actor, who was said to be suffering from diabetes for a long time, had been admitted to the hospital on Wednesday for treatment of chest congestion. The end came at 8.20 pm last night following a cardiac arrest.

He had returned only a few days ago from Cape Town in South Africa, where he was shooting for Tamil actor Surya's Aadhavan, directed by K S Ravikumar and produced by Udayanidhi Stalin.

In all, Murali had acted in more than 200 Malayalam and Tamil films in a career spanning three decades. He had won the National Award for Best Actor in 2002 for "Neythukaran".

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Malayalam actor Murali passes away

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President A P J Abdul Kalam presenting the Best Actor Award to Murali for his role in 'Naythukaran' (2001) at the 49th National Film Awards function in 2003.
President A P J Abdul Kalam presenting the Best Actor Award to Murali for his role in 'Naythukaran' (2001) at the 49th National Film Awards function in 2003.
Well-known Malayalam film actor Murali, who had won the National Award for Best Actor in 2002 for "Neythukaran", died at a hospital here tonight, sources said.

He was 55. He is survived by his wife and a daughter. The funeral will be held tomorrow, the sources said.

Murali, who was said to be suffering from diabetes for a long time, had been admitted to the hospital yesterday for treatment of chest congestion. The end came around 8.20 pm tonight following a cardiac arrest, they said.

Murali was also the chairman of the Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi.

The actor, who was known for his gripping portrayals of lead and character roles, had acted in more than 200 films in Malayalam and Tamil.

In 1999, he contested the Lok Sabha elections as an independent candidate supported by the Left Democratic Front from the Alapuzha constituency in Kerala, but lost to V M Sudheeran of the Congress.

Murali was born on May 25, 1954, as the eldest child of P Krishna Pillai and K Devaki Amma at Kudavattoor in Kerala's Kollam district. He did his schooling from the Kudavattoor Lower Primary School and the Thrikannamangalam S K V High School. He went on to complete his degree in Law from the Thiruvananthapuram Law Academy. He worked for some time in the Kerala government and in the Kerala University's administration department. As a student, he was an active member of the Students Federation of India.

Murali began his acting career with Njattadi, directed by Gopi, which never got released. Panchagni, directed by Hariharan, was his first release, though he had around the same time acted in Chidambaram by Aravindan and Meenamasathile Sooryan by Lenin Rajendran.

Aadharan, directed by George Kittu, was the first film with him in the lead. Some of his other notable films include Nee Ethra Dhanya, Dhanam, The King, Achan Kombathu Amma Varambathu and Swarnam.

Murali got his first Kerala State Film Award for Best Supporting Actor for Amaram, directed by Bharatan. He later won the Best Actor for Aadharam and for Neythukaran, directed by Priyanandan, a role for which he also got the National Award.

Murali is the second well-known Malayalam actor to pass away in the last ten days. On July 29, the veteran stage and film actor Rajan P Dev, who was popular for his character roles, died in Kochi after a brief illness.

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Achal Malhotra named Ambassador to Armenia

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Mr Achal Malhotra, currently the Deputy Chief of Mission in the embassy of India in Vienna, has been appointed as the country's new Ambassador to Armenia.

A press release from the Ministry of External Affairs said Mr Malhotra was expected to take up his new assignment shortly.

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Lt Gen Naresh Kumar is Commandant of the Army (R&R) Hospital

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Lt Gen Naresh Kumar has taken over as Commandant of the prestigious Army (Research & Referral) Hospital in Delhi, an official press release said.

A medical specialist of international repute, Gen Naresh has had an illustrious career in Army Medical Corps, it said.

He has served in Oman and was also a part of second Indian Antarctic Winter Team in 1984-86. He has served as Senior Adviser (Medicine) at Medical Hospital, Secunderabad, as Deputy DGAFMS (P&T) in the office of DGAFMS, Deputy Chief of Integrated Staff (Medicine) and has commanded the prestigious Armed Forces Clinic New Delhi and Command Hospital (Northern Command).

He was MG (Medicine) of the Northern Command, before assuming the present appointment. General Naresh has been awarded Ati Vishist Seva Medal and Vishist Seva Medal for his outstanding and meritorious service.

Lt General Naresh Kumar has taken over from Lt General OP Mathew who has retired, the release added.

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Gerhard Mayr appointed to board of GVK Biosciences

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GVK Biosciences, a contract research organisation, today announced the appointment of Mr Gerhard N. Mayr to its Board of Directors.

Mr. Mayr received a Master's degree in Chemical Engineering from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (Zurich, Switzerland) in 1969, and a Master of Business Administration degree from Stanford University in 1972.

He has spent over 32 years with Eli Lilly & Co in various senior management positions and is credited with expanding Lilly's global footprint in several geographies besides creating new business segments across markets. As Executive Vice President during the period 1999 to 2004, Mr. Mayr was responsible for the global pharma operations and sales / marketing at Lilly.

"We are delighted to have Mr. Mayr on our Board. His extensive knowledge of the global research pharma industry will guide our strategic direction and strengthen GVK BIO's position in the global research services space," Mr. D.S.Brar, Chairman, GVK Biosciences, said.

Mr. Mayr is a member of the board of UCB S.A., and a member of the board of Lonza Group Ltd. He is a member of the Apax Healthcare Advisory board, a special advisor to the board of Codexis Inc., and an advisor to Almirall S.A. He is also a member of the board of Project Hope, a member of the board of the Vienna Science-Research and Technology Foundation, and a member of the Circle of patrons of INSEAD. He is past chairman of both the International Executive Committee and the Europe Committee of the Pharmaceutical Research Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).

"I am excited to be associated with GVK BIO as it expands into the global research services space backed by its strong leadership team, scientific talent and established processes" Mr. Mayr said.

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Deep Joshi among 2009 Magsaysay Award winners

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Social activist Deep Joshi who is one of the 2009 Magsaysay Award winners
Social activist Deep Joshi who is one of the 2009 Magsaysay Award winners
Well-known Indian social activisit Deep Joshi, whose non-profit organisation Professional Assistance for Development Action (PRADAN) helps to professionalise the work of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), is among the six Asians chosen for the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Awards for 2009.

The Board of Trustees of the Manila-based Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation (RMAF) said Joshi, 62, was being recognised for "his vision and leadership in bringing professionalism to the NGO movement in India, by effectively combining 'head' and 'heart' in the transformative development of rural communities."

The other five winners of this year's awards, often described as Asia's Nobel Prize, have gone to Krishna Kraisintu of Thailand, Yu Xiaogang of China, Antonio Oposa, Jr. of the Phillipines, Ma Jun of China and Ka Hsaw Wa from Myanmar.

"The Magsaysay awardees of 2009," said RMAF President Carmencita T. Abella, "are true Asian Heroes, putting their advanced knowledge and skills at the service of critical needs of their people. They are, each one, addressing major issues affecting the growth and preservation of their respective societies - health care, mass poverty, community displacement, environmental degradation, human rights. They are each using calibrated strategies to craft lasting solutions to problems besetting their people. Nevertheless, these six awardees share a greatness of spirit which infuses their leadership for change. They all build collaboration and seek consensus wherever possible. They all refuse to give up, despite adversity and opposition. Four of them share a passionate concern for the environment, which the Foundation wishes to give special attention to at this time.

The six 2009 Magsaysay awardees join 271 other laureates who have received Asia's highest honor to date.

This year's Magsaysay Award winners will each receive a certificate, a medallion bearing the likeness of the late President, and a cash prize. They will be formally conferred the Magsaysay Award during the Presentation Ceremonies to be held on August 31 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

The Award was created in 1957 in the memory of former Phillipines President Ramon Magsaysay who died that year in a plane crash. It was established by the trustees of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF), with the concurrence of the Phillpine government, to honour Magsaysay's memory and perpetuate his example of integrity in public service and pragmatic idealism within a democratic society.

Joshi, who grew up in a remote village in Uttarakhand, got a degree from the National Institute of Technology (NIT), Allahabad, a master's degree in engineering from the Masachussets Institute of Technology (MIT) and a management degree from MIT's Sloan School.

He returned to India and worked as a Ford Foundation programme officer and gained experience in development work. He was particularly inspired by a visit to US-trained doctors Rajanikant and Mabelle Arole, who were working on rural health in remote West-Central India.

"Deeply impressed by how the Aroles combined their sophisticated training with strong empathy for the poor, Joshi concluded that if only more people equipped with both knowledge and empathy decided to work in the villages, India's rural society would be transformed," the citation for Mr Joshi said.

With some colleagues, he formed PRADAN in 1983 as a non-profit organisation. It recruits university-educated youth from campuses across the country and grooms them to do grassroots work through a rigorous year-long apprenticeship which combines formal training and guided practice in the field.

"Civil society needs to have both head and heart. If all you have is bleeding hearts, it wouldn't work. If you only have heads, then you are going to dictate solutions which do not touch the human chord," the citation quoted Mr Joshi as saying.

According to it, PRADAN staff empower village groups with technical, project implementation, and networking skills that increase both their income-generating capabilities and their actual family income. Its staff, combining their professional expertise with local knowledge, also train villagers as para-veterinarians, accountants, and technicians who support their fellow-villagers in building and sustaining collective livelihood projects.

PRADAN has reached over 170,000 families in over three thousand villages of India's poorest states. Over a thousand graduates have joined its apprenticeship program. More than three hundred professionals comprise its staff, most of them working in field-based teams across the country, it said.

Mr Joshi now works as an Adviser to Pradhan, having retired at the policy-prescribed age to create institutional space for second-generation leaders.

According to the citation, Mr Joshi wanted to show that, for people with the finest education, there are few intellectual challenges more worthy than addressing rural poverty.

He says: "Development work is considered intellectually inferior to high science, industry, or diplomacy. We want to prove it is both a challenging and a noble choice."

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Nirupama Rao takes over as Foreign Secretary

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Nirupama Rao
Nirupama Rao
Nirupama Rao today took over as India's new Foreign Secretary, saying that, in a rapidly evolving world situation, the country needed to augment its diplomatic and professional capabilities as it was called upon to play an even more prominent role in world affairs.

"I have before me a complex and yet fascinating assignment. I strongly believe that our diplomacy and our diplomats play a vital role in promoting the national interest and safeguarding our national goals of development in an atmosphere of peace and security," Ms Rao said in a statement after assuming office.

She said Indian diplomats today worked with dedication and professionalism in some of the world's most challenging environments and the country's foreign service counted among the best in the world.

"Today, in a rapidly evolving world situation, the task is to further augment our diplomatic and professional capabilities as we are called upon to play an even more prominent role in world affairs. This, will be an important area of focus in my new responsibilities," she said.

Ms Rao said the foreign policy interests of India encompassed a number of areas, which were both regional and global, and which concern relations with its neighbours and the world beyond.

She said economic diplomacy and public diplomacy were also issues that demanded increased attention.

"We are called upon as diplomats to deal with a number of these issues, at any one given time, in a manner that is focused, mature and balanced, that is persuasive and has vision and long term perspective. This is an absorbing task and I look forward to it with great hope and optimism," she added.

Ms Rao has succeeded Mr Shivshankar Menon, who retired from service yesterday after an eventful tenure.

Ms Rao, an officer of the 1973 batch of the Indian Foreign Service (IFS), was until recently the country's Ambassador to China.

She is the second woman to hold the prestigious post after Ms Chokila Iyer, who served as Foreign Secretary from March, 2001 to June, 2002.

Ms Rao was born in Kerala on December 6, 1950. Her early education took place in cities such as Bangalore, Pune, Lucknow and Coonoor. She has a first class Master's degree in English Literature from the Marathwada University. She joined the IFS in 1973.

As a career diplomat, Ms Rao has served in various world capitals, including Washington and Moscow. She served in the East Asia Division of the Ministry of External Affairs from 1984 to 1992, including as Joint Secretary (East Asia).

Ms Rao was Minister in the Indian Embassy in Washington from 1993-1995, in charge of Press Affairs. She was Ambassador of India to Peru from 1995 to 1998. From 1998-1999, she was Deputy Chief of Mission at the Indian Embassy in Moscow. In 1999-2000 she was Distinguished International Executive in Residence at the University of Maryland, USA.

From 2001 to 2002, she served as the first woman spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs. Thereafter she was Additional Secretary in charge of Administration & Personnel in the Ministry of External Affairs.

Ms Rao served as the High Commissioner for India in Sri Lanka from 2004-2006. In October, 2006, she took over as the Ambassador of India to China.

Ms Rao was a Fellow of the Centre for International Affairs (now the Weatherhead Centre) of Harvard University from 1992-93.

She is married to Mr Sudhakar Rao, a senior civil servant, who belongs to the Indian Administrative Service and is currently the Chief Secretary of Karnataka. They have two sons, Nikhilesh and Kartikeya.

Ms. Rao’s hobbies include music (Hindustani, Carnatic and Western), theatre and writing. She is also an accomplished singer in her own right. Her first book of poems "Rain Rising" was published in India in 2004 and also released in Sri Lanka.

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Nirupama Rao to take over as Foreign Secretary on Saturday

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Nirupama Rao
Nirupama Rao
Ms Nirupama Rao will take over as India's new Foreign Secretary tomorrow, succeeding Mr Shivshankar Menon, who has retired from service today.

Ms Rao, an officer of the 1973 batch of the Indian Foreign Service (IFS), was until recently the country's Ambassador to China.

She will be the second woman to hold the prestigious post after Ms Chokila Iyer, who served as Foreign Secretary from March, 2001 to June, 2002.

Ms Rao was born in Kerala on December 6, 1950. Her early education took place in cities such as Bangalore, Pune, Lucknow and Coonoor. She has a first class Master's degree in English Literature from the Marathwada University. She joined the IFS in 1973.

As a career diplomat, Ms Rao has served in various world capitals, including Washington and Moscow. She served in the East Asia Division of the Ministry of External Affairs from 1984 to 1992, including as Joint Secretary (East Asia).

Ms Rao was Minister in the Indian Embassy in Washington from 1993-1995, in charge of Press Affairs. She was Ambassador of India to Peru from 1995 to 1998. From 1998-1999, she was Deputy Chief of Mission at the Indian Embassy in Moscow. In 1999-2000 she was Distinguished International Executive in Residence at the University of Maryland, USA.

From 2001 to 2002, she served as the first woman spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs. Thereafter she was Additional Secretary in charge of Administration & Personnel in the Ministry of External Affairs.

Ms Rao served as the High Commissioner for India in Sri Lanka from 2004-2006. In October, 2006, she took over as the Ambassador of India to China.

Ms Rao was a Fellow of the Centre for International Affairs (now the Weatherhead Centre) of Harvard University from 1992-93.

She is married to Mr Sudhakar Rao, a senior civil servant, who belongs to the Indian Administrative Service and is currently the Chief Secretary of Karnataka. They have two sons, Nikhilesh and Kartikeya.

Ms. Rao’s hobbies include music (Hindustani, Carnatic and Western), theatre and writing. She is also an accomplished singer in her own right. Her first book of poems "Rain Rising" was published in India in 2004 and also released in Sri Lanka.

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Gayatri Devi dies at 90

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The former Maharani of Jaipur, Gayatri Devi, who was listed among the ten most beautiful women in the world by Vogue in the mid-1950s, died in Jaipur today after a prolonged illness. She was 90.

Mrs Gayatri Devi, who was later known as Rajmata Gayatri Devi, was discharged from hospital only a few days ago after being treated for gastro-intestinal problems. She was admitted again to the hospital yesterday for a lung infection, sources said.

After Independence, Mrs Gayatri Devi took an active interest in politics. She was a founder-member of the Swatantra Party and was elected three times to the Lok Sabha.

As it has turned out, Mrs Gayatri Devi's death has come just a day after the passing away in Mumbai of the well-known actress, Leela Naidu, who was the other Indian in that list of ten most beautiful women published by Vogue.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was amongst thosee who condoled the death of Mrs Gayatri Devi, describing her as a close friend and an exceptional human being.

"In her public life she worked with devotion for the socio-economic development of her people. She was an international celebrity, named in a list of the ten most beautiful women of her times. She contributed substantially to the cause of the uplift of the girl child. She also promoted the dying art of blue pottery in Rajasthan," Dr Singh said.

Mrs Gayatri Devi was born into the royal family of Cooch Behar to Prince Jitendra Narayan and Prince Indira Raje, who belonged to the Gaekwad family of Baroda. She was married to Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II of Jaipur in 1940. They had one child, Jagat Singh.

She won the Jaipur Lok Sabha seat in 1962 with a landslide victory and retained it in 1967 and 1971 on an anti-Congress plank. She served five months in Delhi's Tihar jail for alleged tax law violations and retired from politics after that.

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Malayalam actor Rajan P Dev passes away

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Rajan P. Dev
Rajan P. Dev
Veteran Malayalam stage and film actor Rajan P Dev, who became popular for his character roles and was equally at home in villainous roles and in comedy, died in Kochi early this morning after a brief illness.

He was 58. He is survived by his wife Santha, daughter Ashamma and son Jibile Raj. The funeral will take place at the St Xavier's Church in Angamaly near Kochi tomorrow morning, sources said.

Dev was admitted to the Lakeshore Hospital in Kochi for treatment of a liver ailment the sources said.

His last movie is "Ee Pattanathil Bhootham", featuring Malayalam superstar Mammootty, which is currently playing in theatres in Kerala.

Dev, who had also acted in Tamil, Kannada and Telugu movies, grabbed atention with his portrayal of the character "Kochu Vava" in the play "Kattukuthira". The play was later made into a film, but it was another veteran actor, Thilakan, who was asked to play the pivotal role.

Born at Cherthala in Alapuzha district, Dev entered films in the early 1980s and appeared in about 180 movies in his three-decade long career.

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Ajay Dua to be new Chairman of Areva T&D India

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Dr Ajay Dua has been nominated as the new Chairman of the Board of Directors of Areva T&D India in place of Mr Saroj Kumar Poddar, who has announced his decision to step down from the position.

"Mr. Poddar’s decision comes as more and more of his time is required by his family enterprises and his commitments in India and abroad as an industry leader," a press release from Areva T&D India said.

"On behalf of the members of the board and our staff in India, I convey our sincere thanks to Mr. Saroj Poddar for his valuable contribution as the longest-serving Chairman of Areva T&D India Ltd. In just over 10 years, since 1998, he has overseen the growth of the company in India to its T&D market leadership position today," Mr. Karim Vissandjee, global Chief Financial Officer, Areva T&D, and board member of Areva T&D India, said.

Dr Dua has served in the Government of India and Government of Maharashtra in several senior capacities. Apart from working as a joint secretary in the Union Ministry of Power, he has also served as Chairman and Managing Director of National Hydro-Electric Power Corporation and the Rural Electrification Corporation. He has also served as Secretary in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

Mr. Philippe Guillemot, global Chairman and CEO of Areva T&D, said, "I sincerely congratulate Dr. Ajay Dua and welcome him to Areva T&D. We are confident that, as its new Chairman, Dr. Dua will provide the vision and energy required to achieve the expected ongoing growth of Areva T&D India and realize value for its shareholders."

Areva T&D currently employs more than 4600 people in India and has 14 manufacturing units and 22 sales offices.

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