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President condoles passing away of Shakti Samanta

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President Pratibha Patil today condoled the passing away of renowned film-maker Shakti Samanta.

"A renowned filmmaker, producer and director, Shri Shakti Samanta shall always be remembered for his memorable superhits such as 'Howrah Bridge', 'Aradhana', 'Anuraag', 'Amanush', 'Kati Patang' and 'Amar Prem'," Ms Patil said in a condolence message to Samanta's wife Nilima.

"His singular contribution to Indian cinema was recognized through a number of awards. In his passing away, the nation has lost a creative filmmaker," she added.

Samanta, 83, had suffered a stroke about two weeks ago and finally passed away on Thursday in Mumbai.

His first directorial venture was "Bahu" in 1955 and three years later he turned a produce with "Howrah Bridge". In all, he produced 45-odd films, three of which---Aradhana, Anuraag and Amanush---got him Filmfare awards.

Some of his big hits included "Kashmir ki Kali" in which Sharmila Tagore made her Bollywood debut. She went on to star in several of his later films, including "An Evening in Paris" and "Aradhana".

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PM pays tributes to Umrao Singh

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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today condoled the passing away of former Punjab Minister and well-known sports adminstrator Umrao Singh in Jalandhar this morning.

"It is with profound grief that I learnt of the sad demise of your husband Sardar Umrao Singh. Sardar Umrao Singh was a dear friend and a valued colleague. His passing away is a great personal loss for me. He will always be remembered for his fine human qualities and his commitment to the cause of uplift of the poor and the underprivileged," he said in a message to Mr Umrao Singh's wife.

Dr Singh recalled that Mr Umrao Singh had served both the Congress party and the country with dedication and commitment.

"He distinguished himself as Member of the Legislative Assembly of Punjab, Minister in the Punjab Government and as Member of Parliament. Sardar Umrao Singh was also an avid sports lover who was associated with many sports bodies. He made an important contribution to the organisation of the 1982 Asian Games in Delhi.

"Sardar Umrao Singh's passing away has left behind a void which will be very difficult to fill," he added.

Mr Umrao Singh, who was president of the Athletics Federation of India, died this morning at a private hospital in Jalandhar after a prolonged illness. He was 85 and is survived by his wife and three daughters.

He had served as a minister in Punjab under Giani Zail Singh, Darbara Singh and Beant Singh. He was elected to the Lok Sabha in a bye-election in 1994 but lost in 1998 to Mr Inder Kumar Gujral.

In the area of sports adminstration, Mr Umrao Singh had served as general secretary of the Indian Olympic Association and as president of the Punjab Olympic Association. But he will be remembered most for his role in organising the ninth Asian Games in Delhi in 1982, for which he was later honoured by the government with the Padma Bhushan.

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Kalam to get Hoover Medal

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Former President A P J Abdul Kalam will be honoured here later this month with the prestigious 2008 Hoover Medal, given by five prominent American engineering organisations, it was announced here today.

Established in 1929, the medal commemorates the civic and humanitarian achievements of engineers. It is conferred upon an engineer whose professional achievements and personal endeavors have advanced the well-being of humankind.

The medal is  administered by a board representing five engineering organizations: The American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical and Petroleum Engineers and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

A press release issued by the Hoover Board said Dr Kalam was being recognised for making state-of-the-art healthcare available to the common man at affordable prices, bringing quality medical care to rural areas by establishing a link between doctors and technocrats, using spin-offs of defence technology to create state-of-the-art medical equipment, and launching telemedicine projects connecting remote rural-based hospitals to a super-specialty hospital.

"A preeminent scientist, a gifted engineer, and a true visionary, he is also a humble humanitarian in every sense of the word," it said.

The statement said upliftment of the the rural population of India had always been of prime concern to Dr. Kalam.  Many of the projects that Dr. Kalam launched during his career have been ingeniously designed to bring some of the advantages of the modern world to the remote and economically deprived segments of the Indian population at an affordable price.

A prime example is the key role Dr. Kalam played in the creation of "telemedicine," a system that helps connect rural hospitals with super-specialty medical centres in India and abroad. The success of this project proved that it is indeed possible to bring cutting edge medical care to even the most isolated rural areas, it said.

The statement said yet another of Dr. Kalam's spectacular achievements has been the establishment of the Society of Biomedical Technology (SBMT) in 1993.  This initiative that provided diverse opportunities to several million people was designed to combine Indian defence technology with local medical expertise to produce state-of-the-art medical  equipment and low cost consumables that were previously being imported at  steep rates.  Some of SBMT's successful products include a coronary stent christened Kalam-Raju stent, an ophthalmic laser and medical calipers.

The statement also referred to another of Dr. Kalam's ambitious projects, PURA (Providing Urban Amenities in Rural Areas), a public-private enterprise that works by improving four types  of "connectivities"; physical connectivity with better roads, electronic  connectivity with reliable communication, knowledge connectivity with better education and finally all integrated to create economic connectivity and  growth.  Four PURA units, composed of committed teams are already in  progress and many more are in the process of development.

It noted that as a part of his plan to promote national development by inspiring young minds, Dr. Kalam has been tirelessly traveling across the country and speaking to students all over India. It also referred to the several inspiring books authored by him, including "Wings of Fire".

The Hoover Medal is named after Herbert Clark Hoover, the 31st President of the United States (1929-33). Besides his political career, Hoover was a professional mining engineer. As Secretary of Commerce under Presidents Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge, he had promoted government intervention under the rubric "economic modernisation."

The inspiration to establish the medal was supplied by the devotion and dedication of Hoover and a group of engineering associates who  sought to solve the problems of countries from the beginning of World War I to their reestablishment following the war.
 
The first medal was presented to President Hoover in 1930.  Other recipients include President Dwight David Eisenhower, President James Earl Carter, and industrialists David Packard and Stephen Bechtel.

Prof. P. Somasundaran of Columbia University, Vice Chair of the Hoover Medal Board reflected on the magnanimity in Dr. Kalam, by noting that "when you meet him in person, he makes you feel as if you are the catalyst of great changes, and not he. As a professor and a scientist, I truly believe that Dr. Kalam has been instrumental in using science and engineering for  vital humanitarian needs."

The award ceremony will be presented at Columbia University's dome shaped Low Rotunda on April 28, the statement added.

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Dinesh Kumar Jain to be concurrently envoy to Belize

Mr Dinesh Kumar Jain, currently India's Ambassador to Mexico, has been concurrently accredited as the country's next High Commissioner of India to Belize with residence in Mexico City.

An official statement said Mr Jain was expected to take up his assignment shortly.

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German nun Mary Prema to lead Missionaries of Charity

Sister Mary Prema, a German nun, will lead the Missionaries of Charity after its Superior General, Sister Nirmala, stepped down today because of ill-health, sources in the order said.
Sister Mary Prema
Sister Mary Prema

Sister Nirmala, who had taken over as head of the order after its founder Mother Teresa died in 1997, had asked to be relieved of her duties citing ill-health and a desire to live a contemplative life in the congregation, the sources said.

A formal announcement is expected to be made shortly by the Missionaries of Charity, they said.

The order's general chapter, which some 160 nuns are attending at a place some 30 km from here, will end tomorrow. The nuns had wanted to re-elect Sister Nirmala as the Superior General, but she told them in writing that she wished to step down.

The nuns also elected Sister Joseph as Assistant Superior General and first councillor. Other councillors include Sisters Joanna, Adriana and Joseph Maria, the sources said.

Sister Nirmala had been chosen by the government for the Padma Vibhushan, the country's second-highest civilian honour, this year.

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Sulabh's Bindeshwar Pathak awarded 2009 Stockholm Water Prize

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Dr Bindeshwar Pathak, the well-known founder of Sulabh International, a social service organisation that has pioneered a sanitation movement across India, has been chosen for the prestigious Stockholm Water Prize 2009.
Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak
Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak

Dr. Pathak is known around the world for his wide ranging work in the sanitation field to improve public health, advance social progress, and improve human rights in India and other countries, the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), which administers the award, said in a statement.

"His accomplishments span the fields of sanitation technology, social enterprise, and healthcare education for millions of people in his native country, serving as a model for NGO agencies and public health initiatives around the world," it said.

Since he established the Sulabh Sanitation Movement in 1970, Dr. Pathak has worked to change social attitudes toward traditional unsanitary latrine practices in slums, rural villages, and dense urban districts, and developed cost effective toilet systems that have improved daily life and health for millions of people. He has also waged an ongoing campaign to abolish the traditional practice of manual "scavenging" of human waste from bucket latrines in India while championing the rights of former scavengers and their families to economic opportunity, decent standards of living, and social dignity.

"The results of Dr. Pathak’s endeavors constitute one of the most amazing examples of how one person can impact the well being of millions," the Stockholm Water Prize nominating committee said in its citation.

"Dr. Pathak’s leadership in attaining these remarkable socio-environmental results has been universally recognised, and not least by those who have secured the freedom of human dignity as a consequence of his efforts," it said.

Dr. Pathak will formally receive the 2009 Stockholm Water Prize at a Royal Award Ceremony and Banquet during the World Water Week in Stockholm in August.
Dr. Pathak with a Sulabh effluent treatment and biogas conversion unit.
Dr. Pathak with a Sulabh effluent treatment and biogas conversion unit.

Frequently citing the common toilet as one of civilization’s most significant advances, Dr. Pathak has led the development of cost-effective and culturally appropriate toilets and related treatment systems to replace the traditional unsanitary bucket latrines in poor communities throughout India. His most prominent innovations include:

• The Sulabh Shauchalaya twin pit, pour-flush toilet system now in use in more than 1.2 million residences and buildings built by Sulabh. This technology has been declared a Global Best Practice by United Nations HABITAT and Centre for Human Settlements, and is now recommended by the UNDP for use by more than 2.6 billion people around the world.

• Sulabh public toilet and bath facilities based on that system at 7500 locations, together serving more than 10 million people daily. These pay-per-use public facilities provide an economically sustainable, ecological, and culturally acceptable solution to hygiene problems in crowded slum communities and public places.

• Optimised water conservation in the Sulabh Shauchalaya systems, requiring only 1.5 litres of water per use to flush, in contrast to conventional toilets that require a minimum of 10 litres. This has significant additional benefits for health and quality of life in water-poor regions.

• Environmentally balanced wastewater treatment based on a duckweed and fish raising (pisciculture) ecosystem that provides economic opportunities for rural poor communities.

• Several technologies that convert waste from Sulabh Shauchalaya toilets into biogas for heating, cooking, and generating electricity.

A self-described "action-sociologist," Dr. Pathak has worked on the leading edge of social enterprise for decades, combining business best practices and principled activism to advance the causes of better sanitation, societal change, and improved quality of life.

In 1970, he founded the Sulabh International Social Service Organisation, an NGO that has been a catalyst for improved sanitation and social change across India. Now with more than 50,000 associate members who are rendering their voluntary services, the organisation has recently started operations in Bhutan and Afghanistan.
Dr. Pathak with a Sulabh Shauchalaya toilet.
Dr. Pathak with a Sulabh Shauchalaya toilet.

In collaboration with UN-HABITAT, Sulabh has trained engineers, architects, planners and administrators from 14 countries in Africa. Sulabh is now planning to start work in Ethiopia, Cambodia, Laos, Angola, Madagascar, Dominican Republic, Tajikistan and other countries.

With the establishment of the Sulabh International Institute of Health and Hygiene (SIIHH), Dr. Pathak has led efforts across the NGO and government sectors to develop effective and culturally oriented hygiene and health models for urban slums and rural villages.

In collaboration with other organizations, SIIHH has created hygiene curricula for young schoolchildren and their teachers, provided sanitation and health training for volunteer instructors in slums, and opened centres providing basic healthcare for urban poor at Sulabh community toilet complexes.

Working with the Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests, Dr. Pathak also established the Sulabh Environmental Information System Centre to gather and disseminate environmental information related to hygiene, sanitation, and sewage treatment for researchers, academics, policy makers, and students.

Born in 1943 in Bihar, Dr. Pathak attended Patna University where he earned an M.A. in Sociology, an M.A. in English, a Ph.D. in "Liberation of scavengers through low cost sanitation" and a Doctorate of Literature in "Eradication of scavenging and environmental sanitation in India: a sociological study."

Dr. Pathak first came to understand the plight of scavengers in 1968 when he joined the scavengers’ liberation cell of the Bihar Gandhi Centenary Celebrations Committee. During that time, he traveled throughout India, living with scavenger families as part of his Ph.D. research. Drawing on that experience, he resolved to take action, not only out of sympathy for the scavengers but also in the belief that scavenging is a dehumanizing practice that would ultimately have a destructive impact on modern Indian society.

A prolific writer and speaker, Dr. Pathak has authored several books, the most well-known of which is The Road to Freedom, and is a frequent participant in conferences on sanitation, health, and social progress around the world.

First presented in 1991, The Stockholm Water Prize is the world’s most prestigious prize for outstanding achievement in water-related activities. The annual prize, which includes a USD 150,000 award and a crystal sculpture, honours individuals, institutions or organisations whose work contributes broadly to the conservation and protection of water resources and to improved health of the planet’s inhabitants and ecosystems.

An international nominating committee appointed by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences is responsible to review the nominations and propose a candidate. The Founders of the prize are Swedish and international companies in co-operation with the City of Stockholm. The prize programme is administered by the Stockholm International Water Institute.

The patron of the Stockholm Water Prize is H.M. King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden.

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Bidya Sahay is new director of MDI

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Prof Bidya S Sahay, a well-known management expert, has been appointed as the new director of the Management Development Institute (MDI), one of the country's top management education institutions.

He is at present the director of the Institute of Management Technology (IMT), Ghaziabad. He is expected to take up his new assignment by mid-April, MDI sources said.

His appointment was announced by Mr N K Singh, Chairman of the Board of Governors of MDI at its convocation earlier this week.

Before joining MDI three years ago, Dr Sahay had served MDI for nine years as Dean (Research and Consultancy) and as chairman of various academic programmes. He was also the founder-chairman of the Centre for Supply Chain Management.

He was also an Adjunct Professor at the School of International Business, Queensland University of Technology, Australia, He also served as the Principal Coordinator for Quality Improvement Programme in Management sponsored by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE).

Professor Sahay did his B. Tech. from BIT Sindri and M.Tech. and Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi. In all, he has more than 25 years of experience in teaching, research, consultancy, executive training, and industries. He has worked both in India and abroad on various assignments for manufacturing and service industries.

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Judy Jarvis is new BA Regional Commercial Manager

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Ms Judy Jarvis has been appointed as British Airways' new Regional Commercial Manager for South Asia, the airline announced today.


Judy Jarvis

Ms Jarvis will be based at the airline's South Asia headquarters in Gurgaon, near here, and will be responsible for all commercial activity in the region, the statement said.

Ms Jarvis joined British Airways in 2000 and has handled many sales portfolios within the company, managing relationships with several of the airline’s key corporate and travel agency partners.

She brings with her vast commercial experience that she has amassed in various roles over the last 8 years. Judy gained sales and operational experience with various Travel Management Companies prior to joining British Airways.

Ms Jarvis was the manager of UK & I Multinational Trade Sales team before moving to India, where she also took on responsibility for implementing and managing British Airways’ new Business Development team.

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Sharat Sabharwal new High Commissioner to Pakistan

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Mr Sharat Sabharwal, currently Special Secretary in the Ministry of
External Affairs (MEA), will be India's new High Commissioner to
Pakistan, an official announcement said today.

Mr Sabharwal, 57, who will succeed Mr Satyabrata Pal, is expected to
take up his new assignment shortly, the MEA statement said. He had
served as Deputy High Commissioner in Pakistan from 1995 to 1999.

The diplomat, who joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1975, is at
present Special Secretary in charge of Administration, Consular,
Passport and Visa Affairs.

He has served in various positions in the Permanent Mission of India
to the United Nations in Geneva. He also served as Director/Joint
Secretary in the MEA from 1990 to 1995. Later, he worked as Deputy
Permanent Representative of India to the UN in Geneva (1999-2002) and
Ambassador of India in Uzbekistan (2002-05).

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Meera Shankar named next Ambassador to the US

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Ms Meera Shankar, currently India's envoy to Germany, has been appointed as the country's next Ambassador to the United States of America, the External Affairs Ministry announced Friday.

Ms Shankar, who will succeed Mr Ronen Sen, is expected to take up her assignment shortly, the statement said.

She will be succeeded in Berlin by Mr Sudhir Vyas, curently India's Ambassador to Bhutan.

Ms Shankar will be the second woman to be India's envoy to the US. Earlier, Mrs Vijayalakshmi Pandit was the Ambassador in Washington during 1949-51.

The appointment comes at a time when India and the US are aiming to take their bilateral relationship to a new high during President Barack Obama's tenure after the inking of the landmark India-US civil nuclear cooperation agreement between them during the Bush Administration's term. Mr Sen had shepherded the deal through three years of tough negotiations and had been given a year's extension to wrap up the accord. His term ends on March 31 and he is expected to return to India.

Ms Shankar is an Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officer of the 1973 batch. She had an earlier assignment in Washington between 1991 and 1995 when Mr Siddhartha Shankar Ray was the Ambassador.

In a separate announcement, the Ministry said Mr K.J.S. Sodhi, currently Ambassador of India to Suriname, has been concurrently accredited as the next High Commissioner of India to Barbados, with residence in Paramaribo (Suriname).

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Maj Gen SP Kochhar appointed Colonel Commandant of Corps of Signals

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Maj Gen SP Kochhar, has been appointed as the 52nd Colonel Commandant of Corps of Signals.

Commissioned in December 1973, Maj Gen Kochhar has to his credit two M.Phils, M.Tech from IIT Delhi and fellowships/membership of reputed national and international professional societies. He has also published many papers in professional journals and magazines.

He has done all the mandatory courses and is an alumnus of the IAT, Higher Command Course and NDC and has tenanted various Command and Staff appointments. I

He was associated with the trials of TacC networks and is the designer and fielder of the now famous NOC vehicle. He has the distinction of having introduced smart cards and convergence into the Indian Army. His contributions have earned him the awards of a Sena Medal, a Vishist Sewa Medal and an Army Commander’s Commendation Card, an official statement added.

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