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Friday, May 28, 2010

Towering entrance of Srikalahasti temple inAndhra Pradesh collapses

Hyderabad: The 'Rajagopuram' or the towering entrance to the ancient Srikalahasti temple in Andhra Pradesh's Chittoor district collapsed Wednesday night, police said. No one was injured.
The temple's 136-feet-tall Rajagopuram, which had developed cracks recently, caved in. Police said there was no loss of human life as all shops located near the structure had already been shifted. However, over 100 monkeys are feared dead in the incident.

A large number of devotees gathered near the collapsed structure and expressed their anguish over the negligence by the authorities in protecting the Rajagopuram constructed in 1516 by Srikrishna Devaraya, the ruler of Vijayanagara empire.

On Tuesday, engineers, after an inspection of the seven-storeyed structure, had declared the 150-metre area around it as a danger zone. All shops in the area were then shifted.

Chief Minister K. Rosaiah expressed shock over the incident and asked the endowment department to take steps to rebuild the Rajagopuram.

Srikalahasti temple is one among the most visited temples in Andhra Pradesh, and it is considered almost a must visit for anyone who visits the famed Tirupati temple.

Jaganmohan Reddy detained ahead of controversial yatra

Hyderabad: Police Friday arrested Congress MP Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy to prevent a showdown between his supporters and opponents as he went ahead with his planned yatra in the Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh.
Reddy, the son of late chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, was held at Vangapalli in Nalgonda district while he was on his way to Warangal by train to console the family members of those who died of shock or committed suicide following his father's death in a helicopter crash last year.

The industrialist-turned-politician told reporters after his detention Friday that he would try to visit Warangal again. He is being brought to Hyderabad.

Reddy had refused to drop the yatra despite threats by Telangana activists to stop it at any cost. Like his father, Jagan is also opposed to the demand for bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh. He, along with other MPs from Rayalaseema and Andhra regions, had voiced opposition to the demand for Telangana state in the Lok Sabha.

Alleging that the yatra is aimed at campaigning against the movement for separate statehood to Telangana, the Joint Action Committee (JAC), Telangana Rashtra Samiti and other pro-Telangana groups have decided to stop his tour.

Leaders of the opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and Bharatiya Janata Party had also announced their plans to stall the yatra. A section of pro-Telangana leaders within the ruling Congress are also opposed to the yatra and they have appealed to party president Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi to stop Jagan.

Jagan has termed as unfair objections to his yatra on political grounds. 'There were no political statements nor any issue was politicised by me,' he said in a statement.

India angry over visa row, warns Canada of retaliation

In view of Canada denying visa to Indian army officers, the Home Ministry has written to the External Affairs Ministry, asking it to take up the issue strongly with the Canadian High Commission.

The Home Ministry wants the Canadian High Commission to apologise, withdraw the comments and take action against the officers responsible for such behaviour.

Canada denied visas to a member of the Armed Forces Tribunal, three serving Brigadiers, a retired Lt General and a former senior IB official on the grounds that their organisations have been engaging in violence.

A serving Intelligence Bureau officer, assigned to travel to Toronto in connection with the Prime Minister's trip there next month, was also denied visa recently but was later allowed to travel after protest from India.

The denial of visas, over the last two years, has angered the Home Ministry which has warned that India would also 'retaliate' by denying visas to Canadian officials who go to Afghanistan via this country.

Lt Gen (retd) A S Bahia, a decorated Indian military officer who is now a member of the Armed Forces Tribunal in Chandigarh, was refused visa in May this year, contending that he had served in a 'sensitive location' of Jammu and Kashmir.

Bahia, who retired as the Quarter Master General (QMG) on April 30, 2006, told PTI over phone that he had brought the matter to the notice of appropriate authorities.

In another revelation, two Brigadiers were denied visas in 2008 and another in 2009. A retired Lt General R N Bhatia was also refused visa in 2008 on the similar grounds.

S S Sidhu, a retired IB officer, was denied visa on March 26 this year, with the Canadian High Commission saying that he belonged to the 'inadmissible' category of persons.

The rejection letter said he could not be given visa as he had served in an organisation like IB and that led to apprehension that he could 'engage in an act of espionage or subversion', or 'violence that would or might endanger the lives or safety of persons in Canada.'

Sidhu termed it as a 'disgusting reply from a friendly country like Canada and an insult to India.'
He said he wanted to go to Canada just to see the new house of his daughter.

These revelations came four days after a case of denial of visa to a retired BSF constable came to light. He had been refused visa on similar grounds.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Property prices have hit an all-time highs in India's financial capital, Mumbai

May 27, 2010

Lodha Developers has emerged as a new realty giant in India.

With builders vying for prime properties in the heart of the city, price is no longer a deterrent for realty players.

Lodha Developers has emerged as a new realty giant in India. The company won the bid to acquire a 22.5-acre plot in Wadala, central Mumbai, for Rs 4,053 crore (Rs 40.53 billion) in an auction conducted by Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA). Lodha quoted a whopping Rs 81,818 per sq mt (Rs 7,601 a square foot -- 1 sq mt = 10.7639104 sq ft).

This is a huge sum for a real estate company whose net worth on a consolidated basis at the end of 2009-10 financial year was Rs 266 crore (Rs 2.66 billion) and net profit was Rs 95.66 crore (Rs 956.6 million).

Though real estate and financial experts have expressed doubts over the viability of Lodha Group's bid, its managing director Abhisheck Lodha is upbeat about the deal and has predicted a profit of over Rs 3,000 crore (Rs 30 billion) from selling residential apartments in the heart of Mumbai.

The company founded in 1980 by Mangal Prabhat Lodha, an MLA from the Bharatiya Janata Party [ Images ] in Malabar Hill, Mumbai, has always known to take the path less treaded.

After Oberoi, Lodha initiated the method of booking flats by invitation only. This is a smart gimmick to beat the poor response to the steeply priced flats.

Lodha reached out to the suburbs of Mumbai, which later came to be known as metropolitan region even before the region came under the radar of other developers.

Lodha Group set up their camp in Thane, near Mumbai long before the Hirnandanis set their foot.

The group is also among the first to build hi-tech homes, where the owners can control electronic gadgets in the houses through their mobile phones.

While Mangal Prabhat Lodha (53) is the chairman, executive director and promoter of the company, its day-to-day operations are carried out by sons, 31-year-old Abhisheck, who holds a masters degree in industrial engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology and 29-year-old Abhinandan, deputy managing director, who has done his business administration degree from Cardiff University in UK.

Lodha holds a degree in law from Jaipur [ Images ] University and the fact that he hails from the enterprising Marwari Jain community has helped him establish a lead in politics and business.

About 50 per cent of the major real estate firms in Mumbai are owned by Marwari Jains who have easy access to finance than other businessmen.

The company has seen a rapid growth in terms of profit and manpower in the last three years. Its net profit increased by 26.29 per cent during the fiscal year 2007-08 and 76.78 per cent during 2008-09.

The company's headcount almost doubled in 2009 to 1,236 when it began the process to float an initial public offering (IPO) to raise Rs 2,790 crore (Rs 27.90 billion).

Around 30 projects are being developed by the company in Mumbai, Thane and Hyderabad, some of which commenced in 2006 and is scheduled to be completed by 2013. Surprisingly, among the 20,556 apartments built, only 3459 (16.82%) were sold till September 2009.

With the rise in wealth, the company has also seen a series of litigations. As of September 25, 2009 when the company filed red herring prospectus before the Securities and Exchange Board of India, there was one criminal case (Negotiable Instruments Act) against the company and 301 cases against its subsidiaries.

It has also faced 18 cases of civil nature while its subsidiaries faced 216 cases. Though there are no labour cases against the parent company, its subsidiaries have two cases.

The company and its subsidiaries also face 5 cases in the consumer court filed by disgruntled flat buyers.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Public-private partnership in defence a must: PM

May 26, 2010

New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Wednesday said the government will encourage the participation of India Inc. in the defence sector through public-private partnerships.

"Greater participation of Indian industry in the defence sector is a must. Our government will encourage public-private partnerships as a catalyst towards achieving this objective," he said at an award distribution ceremony on National Technology Day 2010 here.

Pointing out that there were technological gaps in India’s military capabilities, the prime minister said these could be filled using the government’s offset scheme in defence procurement.

The private sector is a peripheral player in the country’s defence sector, which is dominated by state-owned giants and global defence vendors.

Defence experts say the offsets scheme allows the private sector not only get business from foreign vendors implementing high ticket projects but also helps sharpen its technological skill and manufacturing base.

The defence procuement policy stipulates that for import orders in excess of Rs.300 crore, the suppliers must reinvest 30 percent in Indian companies.

The prime minister said the development of advanced technology could not be achieved in a day. "Integrated approach to building a broad base of scientific talent, production capacities and a long-term vision are key elements to success."

He also stressed on greater partnership between the academic community and defence research institutes to synergise strategic planning and analyses, promote research and development, and inculcate a scientific attitude in young minds.

"I would also encourage our research and development organisations and laboratories to develop a closer interface with the academic world. It is essential that we motivate and incentivise our youth to focus on research activities," Singh said.

Modi praises Bachchan for keeping his commitment

May 26, 2010

Ahmedabad: Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi said bolloywood actor Amitabh Bachchan has stood tall by fulfilling his commitment towards the state despite plenty of innuendos and accusations when he became the brand ambassador of the state. Bachchan is scheduled to begin shooting for Gujarat Tourism from May 28.

Bachchan had to face criticism from Left parties and Congress, after he had agreed to become brand ambassador for Gujarat Tourism. Kerala Tourism had also offered him to become brand ambassador of that state’s tourism but the state had backed off after opposition from some to its leaders. Bachchan had said that he has agreed to be brand ambassador of Gujarat Tourism, but not of any Chief Minister.

Modi wrote in his blog, "Amitabhji is coming to Gujarat to promote tourism and I welcome him. Entire state is excited by his visit". "But I want to express my inner feelings. There were plenty of innuendos and accusations when he became the brand ambassador of Gujarat Tourism. Anybody in his place would have been shaken and backed out. Even his fans were worried whether he can withstand such onslaught," Modi further said. "But Amitabhji stood tall not only due to his physical height but also due to his determination in fulfilling his commitment," Modi said.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Nifty ends near 4800 - 3-month low

25 May 2010

MUMBAI: Indian markets ended near 3-month lows on Tuesday, reacting to fears over a widening debt crisis in Europe and rising hostility between South and North Korea. Stocks from metals, capital goods and banks were amongst the worst beaten sectors.

Equities opened gap-down on reports that North Korea was readying its military against any action by South Korea and the US. The fall was triggered further by negative opening of Europe which led to the benchmarks slipping below crucial support levels.

National Stock Exchange’s Nifty ended at 4806.75, down 137.20 points or 2.78 per cent. The index breached the crucial support of 4800 and touched an intraday low of 4786.45.

Bombay Stock Exchange’s Sensex closed at 16,022.48, down 447.07 points or 2.71 per cent. The 30-share index fell below 16,000 to touch an intra-day low of 15,960.15.

“Breaching 4,800 is not a comfortable sign. Given the negative cues from across the globe, there is a good possibility of 200 points fall on Nifty.

S Korea to hold anti-submarine drill Thursday: media

SEOUL, May 25 -- South Korea will hold an anti- submarine drill this week in waters off the west coast of the Korean Peninsula, Seoul's Yonhap News Agency on Tuesday quoted Navy officials as saying.

It will be the first navy drill after Seoul government announced to take firm countermeasures on Monday in response to the recent sinking of its warship Cheonan by the Democratic People 's Republic of Korea (DPRK)'s alleged torpedo attack.

The drill, due on Thursday in waters off the county of Taean, about 150 km southwest of Seoul, will be participated by a total of 10 warships, including a 3,500-ton class destroyer and three patrol ships. It will also involve anti-submarine bombs and naval guns, according to Yonhap.

The South Korean government said on Monday it will hold military drills aimed at deterring further aggression of the DPRK, as part of a series of countermeasures to deal with the incident.

Seoul is planning to hold anti-submarine drills with the United States off the west coast of the Korean peninsula, the scene of the naval tragedy, and to hold military exercises aimed at deterring proliferation of Pyongyang's weapons of mass destruction, Defense Minister Kim Tae-young said in a joint briefing.

The country will no longer allow DPRK-flagged vessels in the South's territorial waters and forcibly return them in case ships do not comply with the measure, while it immediately resumes anti- Pyongyang propaganda activities, Kim added.

South Korea last week announced the outcome of investigations over the Cheonan incident made by a multinational team, which said the warship that went into waters near a tense maritime border with the DPRK on March 26 was torpedoed by the DPRK.

Forty-six crew members were killed in the tragic incident.

The DPRK immediately rejected Seoul's claims that it sank the warship by a submarine, and said it will dispatch inspectors to South Korea to verify Seoul's claim. But Seoul has yet replied to Pyongyang's demand.

DPRK warns against South Korea's "theory of retaliation"

May 25 -- South Korea has been accused of engaging in a "theory of retaliation" and risking war in an editorial Tuesday by KCNA, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's (DPRK) official news agency.

South Korea has accused the DPRK of sinking its warship, the Cheonan, in March, and President Lee Myung-bak has called for sanctions against Pyongyang.

The KCNA editorial said Lee's proposal was based on retaliation and warned the South Korean moves would put the Korean Peninsula on the verge of war.

The editorial said the "theory of retaliation" was aimed at creating international pressure against the DPRK.

Taking advantage of the Cheonan incident, South Korea was giving momentum to strengthening the alliance against the DPRK, the military alliance in particular, it said.

 The fact that the United States and South Korea discussed jointly staging large-scale anti-submarine maneuvers in the West Sea later this year showed the real intention of the "theory of retaliation" was to prepare for aggression against the DPRK, the editorial said.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak on Monday demanded an apology from the DPRK and said his country would resort to measures of self defense in case of further military provocation by the north.

The Cheonan, a 1,200-ton warship with 104 crew members on board, sank on March 26 after an explosion, killing 46 sailors.

South Korea released the results of an investigation on May 20, accusing the DPRK of sinking the Cheonan in a torpedo attack.

However, the DPRK firmly denied the charges and insists on sending its own inspectors to verify the evidence.

India crash jet 'black box' found

The crash in Mangalore killed 158 passengers and crew

Aviation investigators in India have recovered the crucial "black box" that records all flight data, three days after an Air India Express plane crashed in the southern city of Mangalore killing 158 passengers and crew members.

The box itself was found still operational, with the "main memory" left intact, officials from India's Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said Tuesday.

The cause of the worst air disaster in India in a decade was still unknown, officials said.

Only eight people among the 166 passengers and crew survived, mostly by jumping out of the plane that split in half and burst into flames soon after landing on Saturday.

Among the dead were 19 children and four infants.

Black box: key to air crash investigations
Modern black boxes, which are actually orange in colour, record up to 300 factors of flight including:

Airspeed and altitude
Heading and vertical acceleration
Aircraft pitch
Cockpit conversations
Radio communications

"Analysis of the flight data will be conducted in the next fortnight," an official probing the tragedy said.

"Similarly, analysis of records pertaining to the crash will take a couple of weeks."

The cockpit voice recorder of the Boeing 737-800 was found on Sunday.

Aircraft manufacturer Boeing said it was sending a team to help the investigation.

A preliminary replay and analysis of audio taped conversations between air traffic control at the Bajpe airport and pilots, recorded moments before the crash, was carried out on Monday, officials in New Delhi, the Indian capital, said.

Budget airline

Air India Express, a budget airline operated as a subsidiary of the state-run carrier, has been criticised for lax safety procedures.

Many of the crash victims were migrant workers returning home from the Gulf.

"Regrettably, in certain sections, this accident is being used to malign the functioning of Air India Express and implying that the operational and engineering infrastructure is inadequate," the company said in a statement.

"We wish to reiterate here that Air India Express meets all regulatory requirements and has been always well equipped to handle the operations and maintenance of its fleet to established standards."

Indian media and some aviation experts have said the runway at Mangalore's "table-top" airport was not wide or long enough and may have given little room for the pilot to react after landing.

India's last major plane crash was in 2000, when 61 people were killed after a passenger jet plunged into a residential area near the eastern city of Patna.

The country's air safety record has been good in recent years despite the rapid increase in airlines keen to serve increasingly wealthy domestic customers.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Crashed Mangalore plane was one of Air India's best, claims CMD Sunday,

May 23, 2010

Mangalore, May 23 (ANI): Air India on Sunday said that various comments on the condition of the AIR India Express IX-812 plane that crashed in Mangalore on Saturday were baseless, and that it was one of the newest aircrafts.

Addressing a press conference here, the Air India's CMD Arvind Jadhav said: "The aircraft was brand new, just a few years old."

Mr. Jadhav also said that both the pilots had three days of rest." and Captain Harbinder Singh Ahluwalia had put in 3,750 hours of flying hours of experience into the job."

"They were experienced, didn't violate any DGCA guidelines, they were well rested, " Mr. Jadhav further stated.

He also announced an interim compensation to the kin of the victims of the Mangalore plane-crash that left 158 persons as dead and eight persons injured on Saturday.

While announcing the interim compensation of rupees 10,00,000 for the deceased (adults), Rs. 500,000 (kids) and Rs 200,000 for the injured, Mr. Jadhav said: "What Prime Minister has announced is over and above this compensation."

He said that 128 bodies have been handed over to the families and 12 bodies have not yet been identified as they were charred beyond recognition.

The CMD said that the AIR India, as a family, felt overwhelmed by the response of all who came forward in the rescue work.

"We were overwhelmed by the response of villagers, young doctors, local administration, local people," said Jadhav while expressing his gratefulness to the local rescuers.

"They not only helped in recovering bodies but also helped take them to hospitals," he said while appreciating the local disaster management group's quick response (ANI)

Air India crash in Mangalore: Black box found

May 23, 2010,

Investigators have recovered two out of the three parts of the Black Box from the wreckage of the ill-fated Air India Express which might provide vital clues about the cause of Saturday's crash.

Search is still on for the third critical part of the Black Box. The box, which records all flight information, will help investigators recreate the last moments of the flight to find out what exactly went wrong leading to the crash.

Altogether 158 people were killed and eight others miraculously survived after an Air India plane IX 812 overshot the runway by 2000 metres, going off the edge of Mangalore's table-top airport. The plane was flying from Dubai to Mangalore with 160 passengers and six crew members on board.

The Black Box, also known as flight recorder, is vital in finding information about key details like the last moments of the flight and whether there was any error from the pilot's side.

The box will be brought to the accident lab of the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) in New Delhi where the investigators will open it up and recreate last moments to find out what exactly went wrong.

According to sources, Boeing experts are also going to help in deciphering the Black Box.

Earlier, a forensic team had arrived from Hyderabad to help investigate the cause of the air crash. The team is conducting DNA tests on those bodies that have charred beyond recognition. More than 100 bodies have been identified so far from among the 158 victims

Times Square plot: Another man detained in Pak

Islamabad : Pakistani police have detained another man on suspicion of having links with Pakistani-American terror suspect Faisal Shahzad, who allegedly tried to set off a car bomb in Times Square in New York, from a market in the heart of the federal capital.

Over two dozen policemen, some in civilian clothes, raided the posh Kohsar Market on Friday night and took the man
into custody, officials and a witness were quoted as saying by the Dawn newspaper today.

The man put up some resistance, which led to an exchange of harsh words. He was handcuffed and taken in a vehicle to an
undisclosed place.

Before the raid, police cordoned off the Sector F-6/3 area, which has several embassies and residences of diplomats.

According to witnesses, the man in his mid-30s came to the market at about 7 pm local time and sat in an open area.

He remained busy with his mobile phone, calling or sending messages, before the raid at about 10:30 pm, they

A police official denied that any arrest had been made from Kohsar Market but said that security in and around Sector
F-6/3 was tightened on Friday night and police carried out snap checking.

Officials told the newspaper that the arrested man, who is yet to be identified, might be among some people picked up
by an intelligence agency for alleged links with Faisal Shahzad, the son of a former Pakistan Air Force officer who
has been held in the US in connection with the failed May 1 attack in Times Square.

Media reports have said that the ISI is conducting the investigation into Shahzad's links and contacts in Pakistan.

There has been no official word on this issue. Seven men have either been picked up or gone missing since May 10 in Islamabad, including Suleman Ashraf, the son of the owner of 'Hanif Rajput Catering Service', and Ahmed
Raza Khan.

It is believed all these men have been detained by intelligence operatives for alleged links with Shahzad.

Ashraf allegedly provided financial help to Shahzad when he was studying at the University of Houston.

35-year-old Ashraf returned to Pakistan from the US in 2001 after getting a bachelor's degree in computer science.
He was last seen by his family when he left for his office at about 11 am on May 10. Faheem Khan, a cousin of Ashraf, said he was a liberal person who regularly offered prayers and was fond of music and movies.

He said that since his return to Pakistan, Ashraf had not visited the US or any European country. Ashraf also did not
travel to Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa or any tribal area.

Khan said a case was registered against unidentified persons by police after his cousin went missing.

Ashraf's wife also lodged a complaint on May 19 with the Supreme Court's Human Right Cell about his disappearance, he

Ashraf's father has said his son had no relations with Shahzad.

The US embassy in Pakistan has issued a warning to US government personnel and American citizens about terrorist
groups forging links with the Hanif Rajput Catering Service.

However, unnamed security officials have been quoted in media reports as saying that Shahzad lived in Ashraf's house
in Islamabad for some time.

Norwegian mobile operator Telenor has said one of its employees in Pakistan had been detained by authorities over
the bomb plot. PTI

US drone attack kills six in Pakistan

Peshawar: Unmanned drone aircraft operated by the US' Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) fired missiles into a target in Pakistan's lawless tribal region, killing six militants, security officials said Saturday.
The strike took place in Boya sub-district, some 25 km west of Miranshah, the main city in North Waziristan tribal district.

'The drones fired four missiles just before midnight at the house of a tribesman Khyali Dawar,' said an intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

'Six people died, and three were injured,' the official said.

Initially a Filipino, carrying a local name Ilyas, was said to be the target of the attack, as one Arab and four local militants also died in the attack. It was not clear if Ilyas died in the strike.

The US drones flew overhead for hours, hindering the rescue work.

There have been several occasions when drones carried out a second strike as people gathered for relief and recovery work at a site of missile attack.

There was no distress indication from pilot: AAI

Mumbai: Visibility at the Mangalore airport where an Air India flight crashed today was more than required and there was 'no distress indication' from the pilot of the ill-fated plane, officials said. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation will conduct a detailed inquiry into the incident, they said. The visibility was 6 kms, which is 'more than that required', when the ill-fated plane landed in Mangalore, Airports Authority of India (AAI) Chairman V P Agarwal told reporters in Delhi hours after the mishap. 'There was no distress indication from the pilot of the ill-fated plane,' he said.

Replying to a volley of questions, Agarwal said, 'No constructional defeciencies were noticed' and that authorities had conducted all necessary safety checks at the airport before the runway which has been operational since 2006. In Mumbai, Air India Director (Operations) Anup Srivastava said the plane overshot the runway after it landed at the airport, resulting in the mishap. Eight passengers of the ill-fated plane from Dubai survived the crash. 'There were 160 passengers, including four infants, and six crew on on board plane. Eight persons survived the crash,' he told reporters.

Agarwal said the visibility at the airport was 'very good' and situation deteriorated later. Srivastava said rainfall had started when the mishap took place. The Air India official said the commander of the plane was 53-year-old Z Glusica, a British national of Serbian origin. He had 10,000 hours of flying experience and his licence had been endorsed by the DGCA, making him 'capable' of flying in India. Glusica had been flying in India for last two years, Srivastava said, trying to dispel impression that he was not aware of the Indian conditions. The co-pilot H S Ahluwalia, who hailed from Karnataka,
was relatively new as he had begun flying here in April last year. He had 3,750 hours of flying experience. Glusica and Ahluwalia had last flown to Mangalore on May 17, Srivastava said.

The plane was two-and-a-half-year old and was air worthy, the Air India official said. PTI

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Heavy rains lash coastal Andhra as cyclone nears the shore

May 19, 2010

Hyderabad: Heavy rains with strong gales lashed coastal Andhra region as authorities began evacuation of people from low-lying areas with cyclonic storm Laila intensifying further and heading towards the sea shore.

A high alert has been sounded in all nine coastal districts while rescue teams from National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have reached the areas likely to face the fury of the cyclonic storm.

The storm christened Laila is likely to cross the Andhra coast Thursday morning between Visakhapatnam and Ongole, said Visakhapatnam Cyclone Warning Centre.

Strong gales with speed of 65 to 70 km per hour have been lashing the region since Tuesday night, uprooting trees and damaging electricity and communication towers in some districts, officials said.

Districts of Vijayanagaram, Srikakulam, Visakhapatnam, East Godavari, West Godavari, Krishna and Guntur are receiving heavy rains since Wednesday morning. Some places received five to 10 cm rainfall.

Nellore, Prakasam, and some parts of Rayalaseema and Telangana regions are also experiencing rains in the build-up to the cyclone in the Bay of Bengal.

At least 10 people were killed in rain-related incidents like lightning strikes and wall collapses since Tuesday night. Four farmers were also reported missing.

Authorities began evacuating people from low-lying areas in all nine districts as a precautionary measure as the weather office forecast heavy to very heavy rains during the next 48 hours. The rainfall is expected to be as much as 25 cm while the gale-speed is likely to be 115-125 kmph at the time of the landfall.

"Storm surge of 1.5 to 2 metres above the astronomical tide is likely to inundate the coastal areas of Guntur, Krishna and West and East Godavari districts of Andhra Pradesh at the time of landfall," warned the India Meteorological Department (IMD) in its bulletin.

Over 10,000 people have already been evacuated in Visakhapatnam, West Godavari and Krishna districts. People living near the sea shore and the low-lying areas have been asked to move to safe places by Wednesday night.

In Krishna district alone, authorities have opened 120 relief camps. In West Godavari district, 100 buses of state-owned Road Transport Corporation have been kept ready for evacuation of people.

After a review of the situation here, Chief Minister K. Rosaiah asked his cabinet colleagues to rush to the coastal districts to oversee relief and rehabilitation.

"The impact of the cyclone on coastal Andhra is likely to be severe and there is an urgent need for everybody to be on high alert," said Marri Shashidhar Reddy, member, National Disaster Management Authority.

The chief minister has asked district collectors to use helicopters, if necessary, for rescue and relief operations.

Seventh warning signal was hoisted at Visakhapatnam, Kakinada, Machilipatnam, Bhimunipatnam, Kalingapatnam, Nizampatnam and Vodarevu ports while fifth signal was raised at Krishnapatnam port.

Andhra Pradesh has about 1,000-km-long coast line, which is vulnerable to cyclones, storms and low pressure areas over the Bay of Bengal during September-October every year.

Officials said this was the first time in 20 years that the coastal region is facing a cyclonic storm during May.

Tharoor-Pushkar engagement on June 26:News report

May 19, 2010

Kochi: The tweet-happy former minister of state for external affairs and Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor is getting engaged to the woman at the centre of the IPL Kochi controversy, Sunanda Pushkar, according to media reports.

Reports say that the engagement between Tharoor, a former UN diplomat and Sunanda, a business woman based in Dubai, whose sweat equity in the IPL Kochi team led to Tharoor’s resignation as the junior minister for external affairs will be held on June 26 at actor Sanjay Khan’s The Golden Palms Hotel and Spa on Tumkur Road, Bangalore.

Sunanda’s first husband was a Kashmiri but the marriage ended in a divorce. Later she married a businessman from Kerala who later died in a road accident.

Tharoor, a first time MP who won the Thiruvananthapuram seat, was one of the most visible ministers of the Manmohan Singh ministry.

He lost his ministerial berth after the then IPL chairman Lalit Modi opened a Pandora’s box when he tweeted raising doubts on the franchisee of Kochi IPL team.

It was alleged that Rs 70 crore worth ’sweat equity’ of the team would go to Pushakar, who was Tharoor’s ’friend’.

Though Tharoor tried to defend himself vigorously, he lost his ministerial berth in UPA-II.

Later Modi too lost his post as the IPL chief.

Incidentally, this is the third marriage for Tharoor and Pushkar.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Monsoon arrives in Andaman, expected in Mumbai by 10 June news

17 May 2010

Weather officials on Sunday said they were closely watching the southwest monsoon's progress which is likely to arrive in Mumbai by 10 June.

Andaman and Nicobar islands received the first showers of the much-awaited south-west monsoon today setting the stage for its advance towards Kerala.

According to Ajit Tyagi, director general of India Meteorological Department (IMD), the south-west monsoon had set in parts of south Bay of Bengal, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and most parts of Andaman Sea.

Last week the IMD had forecast that the monsoon would reach Kerala by 30 May.

According to weather officials conditions were favourable for further advance of monsoon over more parts of Bay of Bengal and other parts of Andaman Sea over the next two days.

The IMD in its forecast last month had said rainfall would be normal this year with a precipitation of 98 per cent of the Long Period Average (LPA), subject to a model error of plus or minus 5 per cent over the entire season (June to September).

Andhra on high alert as cyclonic storm intensifies

Hyderabad: The administration in Andhra Pradesh's coastal region Tuesday went on high alert as the cyclonic storm Laila intensified and is likely to cross the coast near Machilipatnam.

Second warning signals have been hoisted at all Andhra ports as the depression over Bay of Bengal turned into a cyclonic storm and lay centred at 690 km southeast of Visakhapatnam.

It is likely to cross the coast near the port city of Machilipatnam in Krishna district, about 450 km from here, in about 72 hours.

Since the coastal region will experience the impact of the storm from Tuesday night, authorities have sounded a high alert.

According to the Visakhapatnam Cyclone Warning Centre, strong gales with speeds reaching 65 to 75 km per hour are likely to commence along and off the Andhra coast from Tuesday. The wind speed may further increase as the system moves closer to the coast.

Since the sea condition will also be rough, the fishermen have been advised not to venture into the sea.

The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) has forecast widespread rainfall with isolated heavy to very heavy rain in coastal Andhra from May 19. The impact of the cyclonic storm may continue till May 25.

'The system is likely to intensify further and move in a west-northwesterly direction for some more time and then move in a northwesterly to northerly direction during the next 72 hours towards the Andhra Pradesh coast close to Machilipatnam,' an IMD bulletin said.

The official machinery in all the nine coastal districts has been asked to be on high alert. Leave of employees have been cancelled till May 25. Those on leave have been asked to report back immediately.

Minister for Revenue, Relief and Rehabilitation D. Prasada Rao told reporters here that the leave of employees especially in departments like disaster management, revenue, police, fire services, electricity, roads and buildings and Panchayat Raj have been cancelled.

Chief Minister K. Rosaiah directed the district collectors to take all preventive measures to minimize the loss of life and property. Since there is still sufficient time before the cyclone crosses the coast, the collectors were told to take measures to save life and property, he said.

The strong winds could topple walls and electricity and communication towers.

BJP, JMM to share power in Jharkhand on rotation

he Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) have agreed to share power in rotation for 28 months each, Jharkhand Chief Minister Shibu Soren said Tuesday. Former chief minister Arjun Munda is likely to head the BJP-led government.
'We have agreed to share power in rotation. The BJP and JMM will each rule the state for 28 months,' the JMM chief said at a joint press conference with BJP national general secretary Munda.

Asked who would lead the government first, Soren said: 'At present I am the chief minister.' He, however, did not clarify when he would step down.

Munda added: 'The BJP will run the government for the next 28 months and then power will be transferred to the JMM.'

The transfer of power is likely to take place next week.

The JMM, it is learnt, acquiesced to giving up power after former BJP president Rajnath Singh conveyed to Soren that the party would be forced to withdraw support. According to BJP sources, JMM was asked to take a decision on Tuesday or the BJP would withdraw support Wednesday.

The final announcement followed a day of hectic developments with Munda going to the party office and then to Soren's residence. He was later joined by state BJP president and deputy chief minister Raghubar Das as well as Jharkhand BJP in charge Karuna Shukla.

Also present were Soren's son Hemant Soren and senior JMM leaders.

According to sources, JMM demanded at least six minister posts as well as the speaker's post. The BJP is learnt to have agreed to five minister posts and the post of deputy speaker.

Jharkhand has been in the midst of a political crisis since Soren's decision to vote against the BJP's cut motions in the Lok Sabha. That led the BJP, a junior partner in the ruling coalition, to withdraw legislative support to the ruling JMM.

44 percent disappointed with UPA first year, shows poll

New Delhi: A large number of people feel that they are worse off at the end of the first year of the second United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, a NDTV opinion poll said.

The poll, which surveyed 34,277 persons around the country, said that 44 percent of the respondents felt that they were worse off, while 35 percent said that they were better off in the second tenure of the UPA.

This feeling of disappointment was spread across both Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) voters - which listed 41 percent and 49 percent respectively.

However, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has a high approval rating of 70 percent of respondents, who said they were satisfied with his performance.

At the same time, 63 percent of respondents consider Congress president Sonia Gandhi is more powerful than Prime Minister Singh.

A question was also asked on who would make a better Prime Minister, Rahul Gandhi or Manmohan Singh - 46 percent voted in favour of the younger leader. Similarly, 55 percent said that the next Indian prime minister is likely to be Rahul Gandhi.

Among the cabinet, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Home Minister P.Chidambaram had high approval ratings of 59 percent and 61 percent respectively.

Significantly, 62 percent said they were very much affected by the inflation.

An overwhelming 77 percent were in favour of reservation of one-third of seats in parliament for women, with most of them feeling that women make better leaders.

Though politicians continue to be the most pilloried, with respondents of the NDTV opinion poll saying that 90 percent of politicians are corrupt, 88 percent also felt the police force was corrupt.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Kasab may be hanged by year-end if verdict not challenged: Govt

NEW DELHI: The government on Tuesday said that Ajmal Amir Kasab, who has been sentenced to death in the Mumbai terror attacks case, may be hanged by the end of this year provided there is no legal bar.

'If there is no petition from him (Kasab) challenging the sessions court verdict in the higher court... he can be hanged by the year-end,' Union home secretary G K Pillai told a news channel

22-year-old Kasab, a Pakistani terrorist, was awarded capital punishment on May six by a Mumbai special court which held him guilty of mass murder and waging war against India, by carrying out the terror strikes in November 2008. As many as 166 people were killed in the attacks by ten gunmen belonging to Lashar-e-Taiba.

The death sentence to Kasab has to be confirmed by the Bombay High Court.

On being asked about the status of Parliament attack case convict Afzal Guru's mercy petition, Pillai said, 'It is with the government for consideration.'

David Cameron becomes Britain's PM

David Cameron, the youthful leader who modernized the party of right-wing icon Margaret Thatcher, became Britain's Prime Minister Tuesday after the resignation of Gordon Brown -- capping a gripping election saga that returns the Tories to government after 13 years of Labour Party rule.

Following tradition, Queen Elizabeth II appointed Cameron at Buckingham Palace -- a stately denouement to a behind-the-scenes dogfight between Cameron and Brown for the cooperation of Britain's third-place party, after an election that left no party with a majority.

Within minutes, the 43-year-old Cameron was installed at No. 10 Downing Street, becoming the youngest Prime Minister in almost 200 years, since Lord Liverpool took office at age 42.

An announcement followed that Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg would become deputy Prime Minister -- a rarely awarded and prestigious post -- after days of hard bargaining with his former political rivals. Four other Liberal Democrats also received Cabinet posts.

Cameron and Clegg agreed to form a coalition after Cameron's Conservative Party won the most seats in Britain's May 6 national election, but fell short of winning a majority of seats in Parliament. The agreement, reached over five sometimes tense days of negotiation, delivered Britain's first full coalition government since World War II.

'Nick Clegg and I are both political leaders who want to put aside party differences and work hard for the common good and for the national interest,' Cameron said.

President Barack Obama telephoned to congratulate Cameron, and invited him to visit Washington this summer, according to the White House. Obama told Cameron that he looked forward to meeting at an international economic summit to be held in Canada next month.

Britain's new government could spell changing relationships with its foreign allies.

Both Cameron and Clegg have signaled they favor looser ties to Washington than those held by Brown and his predecessor, Tony Blair. Cameron and Clegg back the Afghanistan mission but Cameron hopes to withdraw British troops within five years. Clegg has said he's uneasy at a rising death toll.

Relations with European neighbors could also become problematic. Cameron's party is deeply skeptical over cooperation in Europe, and has withdrawn from an alliance with the parties of Germany's Angela Merkel and France's Nicolas Sarkozy. Clegg, once a member of the European parliament, has long been pro-European.

The Conservative Party said ex-leader William Hague will serve as Foreign Secretary, senior lawmaker George Osborne as Treasury chief, and lawmaker Liam Fox as defense secretary. Other leading positions were being finalized, as were key policy decisions ahead of the presentation of the coalition's first legislative program on May 25.

The coalition has already agreed on a five-year, fixed-term Parliament -- the first time Britain has had the date of its next election decided in advance. Both parties have made compromises, and Cameron has promised Clegg a referendum on his key issue: Reform of Britain's electoral system, aimed at creating a more proportional system.

'We are going to form a new government -- more importantly, we are going to form a new kind of government,' Clegg said in a news conference after his party's lawmakers overwhelmingly approved his decision to enter a coalition with Cameron.

Their priority will be to spur a once high-flying economy, rooted in world-leading financial services, that has run into hard times. At least 1.3 million people have been laid off and tens of thousands have lost their homes in a crushing recession. Cameron has pledged an emergency budget within 50 days.

Arriving at London's Downing Street hand-in-hand with his wife, Samantha, Cameron said he believed that Britain's 'best days lie ahead.'

'We have some deep and pressing problems -- a huge deficit, deep social problems, a political system in need of reform,' Cameron said. 'For those reasons, I aim to form a proper and full coalition between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.'

Cameron, who became Conservative leader in 2005, has overhauled his group -- which a senior colleague once acknowledged had earned its nickname 'the nasty party.' He took up a green agenda, softened the tone of policy on immigration and promoted more female and ethnic minority candidates.

Hundreds of onlookers, many of them booing, crowded the gates of Downing Street to watch on, as Cameron swept into his new home in a silver limousine.

Less than 90 minutes earlier, an emotional Brown made a brief farewell address outside 10 Downing St., speaking in strained tones as he wished Cameron well.

'Only those who have held the office of Prime Minister can understand the full weight of its responsibilities and its great capacity for good,' said Brown, who held the job for three years.

The 59-year-old Brown then walked hand-in-hand with his wife, Sarah, and young sons John and Fraser down Downing Street, where a car waited to take him to the palace for a 15-minute meeting.

Minutes later he arrived at Labour Party headquarters, where he was greeted warmly by cheering staffers.

Brown told party workers his deputy Harriet Harman would become interim Labour leader until a formal leadership takes place to select his permanent successor.

Labour, which lost 91 seats and finished behind the Conservatives in the election, opened their own formal talks with Clegg's party Tuesday but saw the chances of a deal quickly vanish.

Senior Labour legislators said they feared such a pact -- dubbed a 'coalition of the defeated' by some -- would lack legitimacy and anger the public, who would exact revenge on the party at a future election.

'I think we have got to respect the result of the general election and you cannot get away from the fact that Labour didn't win,' Labour's Health Secretary Andy Burnham told the BBC.

Clegg's party said in a statement that Labour Party officials 'see opposition as a more attractive alternative to the challenges of creating a progressive, reforming government.'

Brown's resignation ended five days of uncertainty after last week's general election left the country with no clear winner. The vote left Britain with its first so-called hung Parliament since 1974. Britain's Conservatives won the most seats but fell short of a majority, forcing them to bid against the Labour Party for the loyalty of the Liberal Democrats.

Conservative and Liberal Democrat teams met for several hours Tuesday. Rank-and-file members of the two parties held separate talks in London late into the night and both approved the coalition deal.

Former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown said the coalition had agreed on a policy platform all members of his party would be proud of. But he said he regretted that Labour had failed to strike a deal with his party.

'The Labour Party had an opportunity to create a progressive coalition and they walked away from it,' Ashdown said. 'That was an act in my view of straight cowardice.'

Brown's departure follows three successive election victories for his center-left Labour Party, all of which were won by Blair, who ousted the Conservatives in 1997.AP

Tharoor shows up at Kochi IPL meeting

Thiruvananthapuram : Sparking the Kochi IPL buzz again, former minister of state for external affairs Shashi Tharoor returned to the scene by making an appearance at the meeting between the Kerala Cricket Association (KCA) and Rendezvous Sports in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday.

Rendezvous Sports, the primary consortium behind the Kochi IPL team, held the meeting with the KCA to discuss infrastructure facilities needed for hosting the Kochi team in the Season 4 of the Indian Premier League.

Even though Tharoor didn't actually attend the meeting between KCA office bearers and Rendezvous Sports representatives, he spent some time at the KCA headquarters and called himself no more than a 'well-wisher' of the IPL Kochi team.

Tharoor addressed the media and made a brief presentation about the importance of the IPL team for Kerala in terms of promoting young talent and also strengthening Kerala's economy.

Speaking about Rendezvous Sports, he said 'They are seeking an appointment with the Chief Minister and they will call on the Opposition leader. Because sports is above politics, all parties should support the idea for an IPL team for Kerala in Kerala.

'It is important to have a strong relationship between the IPL Kochi team and Kerala Cricket Association,' he added, refusing to take questions from journalists.

Congress MP, Shashi Tharoor had to step down from his post of the Minister of State for External Affairs on April 18, after the controversy regarding his alleged proxy stake in the Kochi IPL team spiralled out of control bringing in plenty heat for the Congress Party

Monday, May 10, 2010

Some Pakistan officials know where Osama is: Hillary Clinton

Washington: US has said that there are elements in Pakistan's administration who were more informed about al-Qaida and Taliban than they let on, as Washington for the first time accused Taliban for being behind the botched Times Square bombing plot.

'Some Pakistani officials were more informed about al-Qaida and Taliban than they let on', Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said.

'I'm not saying that they're at the highest levels but I believe that somewhere in this government are people who know where Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida is, where Mullah Omar and the leadership of the Afghan Taliban is and we expect more cooperation to help us bring to justice, capture or kill, those who attacked us on 9/11,' Clinton told CBS in an interview.

Asked if US was not getting sufficient cooperation from Islamabad in anti-terror drive, the US Secretary of State while acknowledging though there was a 'sea change' in cooperation by Pakistani authorities, but added 'we want more'.

When asked why Obama administration was not piling up pressure on Islamabad to give up Osama bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al Zawahiri, Clinton replied 'I have to stand up for the efforts the Pakistani government is taking. They have done a very significant move toward going after the terrorists within their own country'.

Her comments come as other senior US officials including Attorney General Eric Holder said they have obtained new evidence that Pakistani Taliban was behind the attempt to trigger a car bomb blast in the heart of New York,

'We know they facilitated the bomb plot and they probably also financed it', the Attorney General told ABC News.
Faisal Shahzad, a 30-year-old naturalised American citizen of Pakistani origin was arrested last Monday for rigging a SUV vehicle to explode in the Times Square.

As the new revelations raised fresh questions about US relationship with Pakistan, Washington has responded by stepping up pressure on Pakistan to crack down on radical Islamic militants safe havens in tribal belt bordering Afghanistan.

New York Times said US military commander in Afghanistan Gen Stanley A McChrystal met Pakistani military chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani in Islamabad yesterday and pressed for a new military offensive in North Waziristan, the main base of the Pakistan Taliban.

US urges Pak to act 'urgently' against terrorists

New York: The United States has warned Pakistan it wants urgent action against Islamic militants in its tribal regions following last week's failed Times Square car bombing in New York, The New York Times reported on Saturday.

Citing US and Pakistani officials, The Times reported on its website that General Stanley McChrystal, the US military commander in Afghanistan, met Pakistani military chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani on Friday and urged that Pakistan hasten the start of a military offensive against the Taliban and al-Qaeda in North Waziristan.

Officials with knowledge of the visit who spoke on the condition of anonymity characterized Washington's ramped up pressure as a sharp turnaround from the Obama administration's relatively restrained approach of encouragement in recent months, The Times reported.

Faisal Shahzad, 30, a naturalized American citizen born in Pakistan, was arrested on Monday, two days after authorities say he parked a crude car bomb in New York's busy Times Square.

In Islamabad, Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik said on Saturday Pakistani investigators were trying to verify information provided by the United States about Shahzad.

A US official was quoted by The Times as saying Kayani was told, 'You can't pretend any longer that this is not going on,'' the newspaper quoted one US official as saying. 'We are saying you have got to go into North Waziristan.''

Another official, referring to the highly sensitive prospect of US ground troops within Pakistan, was quoted as saying, 'We are saying, 'Sorry, if there is a successful attack, we will have to act'' inside Pakistan.

The report noted that US attempts to increase the presence of US Special Operations forces there, even in advisory or training roles, have faced firm resistance.

According to a Pakistani official, US ambassador to Pakistan Anne Patterson met Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari after last week's failed bombing and used 'forceful' language to convey that Pakistan must move more assertively against militants threaded through society, The Times said.

Sorry India all but out of T20 WC

May 10, 2010

Lightning, goes an old saying, doesn't strike twice. Don't tell that to the Indian team, though: it felt the full brunt of its destructive force on Sunday, all over again.

Just a couple of days ago, it was blown away by a torrent of bouncers from a fiery Australia; today, it was West Indies' turn to ride on the same trick to make India look like cringing novices.

After a second successive defeat in the Super Eights, India have surely heard the roll of thunder, if not impending doom, too. Even a victory over Sri Lanka might not save them now; they will need a miracle too, as not only their pride but run-rate too has taken a huge beating.

The 14-run defeat story, though, might seem familiar to even a certified slow coach: India won the toss, elected to field, conceded sixes by the dozen, failed to see the whirring new ball and collapsed in a heap. Just like they did against Australia.

Interestingly, India didn't seem to learn much from that hiding: they stuck to the same XI, despite the overnight rain that left the wicket moist. It didn't take long for the absence of a third seamer to be felt, as West Indies amassed 169 for six. Chris Gayle 98: 5x4, 7x6.

Captain Dhoni, almost vainly, handed the new ball to Harbhajan Singh again; the off-spinner bowled a testing opening spell (3 overs, 12 runs) though, yet again. But runs could not be stopped from the other end, as Gayle and Chanderpaul played typically free-flowing knocks.

Dhoni turned to a second spinner by the sixth over itself: thankfully, it was not Ravindra Jadeja this time. Jadeja, though, continued to have a torrid run: he spilled another catch, and when he was finally summoned in the 12th over, promptly went for two sixes. His second over too yielded 11 runs, although he finally picked up a wicket. Gayle, in the meantime, was slowly coming into his own: a couple of flat hits were followed by soaring sixes. The run-rate too slowly started creeping up, though it barely ever reached alarming heights. It didn't help that he was given a reprieve on 46.

Like the other day, the wicket seemed to change colour and conduct when India started batting. Gayle started with Darren Sammy for a fairly eventless and worry-free over; but Jerome Taylor, from the other end, was quick to raise the demons in the track. A scorcher went past Gambhir's throat, while he just about managed to keep the next one down. Kemar Roach upped the tempo in the next over, hitting over 90 miles per hour. The alarm bells had begun to ring.

Murali Vijay heard them first, succumbing to what else but the pull shot; Gambhir wasn't so lucky though: he was handed a virtually unplayable bouncer. He pulled his face and bat out of harms way but the glove wasn't quick enough: 28 for two, and the track looking mean and dangerous now. Last match's hero Rohit Sharma too didn't last long, attempting an ambitious scoop towards fine leg. He wasn't happy with the caught verdict but there was no doubt in either umpire's mind. Then began India's best phase of the game.

As Pollard arrived with his ambling pace, life became easier in the middle. Suresh Raina attacked him with gusto for a 6, 4, 4 in the tenth over. A couple of overs later, his eyes lit up even more when Chris Gayle took the ball in his own hands. A smart four over extra cover, however, was followed by the death ball: Raina slogs hopefully, managing to only catch Sammy at mid-wicket.

Dhoni and Pathan, after Yuvraj's exit gave India hope again: both went on a six-spree to finally make the target look attainable. But another short ball came back to haunt Pathan and India. Dhoni kept the game alive though, riding on a life too. When 32 were needed in the last two overs, the match came in the realms of the possible too. But a suicidal double-attempt saw Dhoni falling short, as Bravo found the stumps from long on. The match ended at that stage itself.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Kasab gets death sentence on 4 counts, life on 5 counts

May 6, 2010, Mumbai

Ajmal Kasab, 22, broke down in court when the 26/11 trial court awarded him the death sentence on four counts on Thursday. He has also been given a life term on five counts. Kasab has been found guilty of murdering seven people, helping murder 159 others and waging war against India during a 62-hour siege beginning November 26, 2008.

While announcing the sentence, the judge said words could not describe the brutality of 26/11. "This man has lost the right of getting humanitarian benefit," he said, adding there was no option but the death penalty.

Tears rolled down Kasab's face as the sentence was announced. As he broke down, the judge asked that he be given a glass of water. But when he was asked if he had anything to say, Kasab mutely shook his head to say, no.

The death penalty will not be implemented immediately. Kasab has the option of appealing to higher courts, and can also file a mercy petition for the consideration of President Pratibha Patil.

The terrorist was pronounced guilty on Monday and the prosecution and defence ended their arguments on quantum of sentence on Tuesday. While the prosecution argued for the death sentence, Kasab's lawyer appealed for leniency on the grounds that he's just 22 years old.

The public prosecutor, Ujjwal Nikam, attacked Kasab for two hours, describing him as "worse than a wild beast... Kasab is a killing machine... and the orders for this machine came from Pakistan."

On both Monday and Tuesday, Kasab was dressed in a white kurta-pyjama, was unshaven, and kept his head bowed throughout Nikam's arguments. Kasab was found guilty on more than 80 of the 86 charges brought against him for planning and executing the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai.
Nikam laid out eight arguments on why Kasab deserves to be hanged, among them, that the 26/11 attacks was meticulously planned and that policemen and defenceless civilians were "mercilessly butchered." The prosecutor also argued that Kasab wanted to inspire others to take part in fidayeen or suicide attacks.

As an example of why Kasab should get the death penalty, Nikam said that the terrorist had expressed disappointment that he landed at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) after rush hour on 26/11/2008. Kasab had anticipated a busier station, based on CDs he had been shown of CST before the attack, Nikam said. The prosecutor also said that in his confession to the Mumbai police, Kasab said that he was upset that he could not kill more people at the station. At CST, Kasab killed close to 60 people in an hour with his partner, Abu Ismail.

Photographs taken by newspaper photographers of Kasab, taken in action while firing at CST's passengers and shopkeepers, showed that "he enjoyed the acts of murder," said Nikam. The terrorist "was happy to see people in pain and anguish as a result of his firing," the prosecutor stressed.

Kasab's lawyer, KP Pawar, pleaded with the court to consider a life sentence instead. Kasab was only 21 when he participated in the attack against Mumbai, and he acted under the influence of terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), he pleaded.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Bids for one all-India 3G licence reach Rs 10749 crore

May 04, 2010

Bids for one set of nationwide third-generation (3G) mobile spectrum licences in India reached Rs 10749 crore (USD 2.41 billion), or more than three times the base price, on the 21st day of an auction, government data showed on Tuesday.

As of Tuesday, 122 rounds of bidding had been completed, the Department of Telecommunications said on its website. The auction started on April 9.

The base price for one set of pan-India licences had been set at Rs 3500 crore.

The government will sell four such licences — three from the auction and one set to state-run telecoms firms which would have to match the highest bid price paid by the private operators.

Nine mobile operators, including Bharti Airtel, Reliance Communications and Vodafone's Indian unit, are participating in the auction.

Ajmal Kasab: India's most important prisoner

May 5, 2010

Mohammad Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving member of the 10-man group which attacked several Mumbai landmarks.

The trial of Mohammad Ajmal Kasab, the only surviving gunman to have carried out the Mumbai terror attacks, has finally ended. Well, nearly.

After a year-long trial that heard testimony from more than 600 witnesses, the 22-year-old Pakistani national has been found guilty. Ajmal Kasab has been convicted of 86 charges, including waging war on India.

During his first appearances in court close to a year ago, the defendant appeared cheerful, his demeanour cool, calm and relaxed. He smiled a lot and appeared unphased. A year on, Ajmal Kasab sat motionless in Mumbai's Arthur Road court as judge ML Tahiliyani summarised his 1,522-page judgment.

Sentencing a man blamed for carrying out the worst terrorist attack on Indian soil to date, Judge Tahiliyani said it was not a simple case. Referring to the prosecution's evidence of complex planning and the obvious complexity of the actual operation carried out on November 26, 2008, the judge argued that it couldn't have been carried out by ordinary criminals. It was, he claimed, the work of those who wanted to wage war.

While Ajmal Kasab has been found guilty, his co-accused - Indian nationals Faheem Ansari and Sabahuddin Shaikh - have both been acquitted due to a lack of evidence. While the case against the co-accused will have to be rebuilt, Ajmal Kasab has already told investigators that the duo provided maps of Mumbai to commanders of Pakistan-based terror group, Lashkar-e-Toiba. On this basis the prosecution argued that both men were responsible for providing logistical support and ground-based assistance to operators in Pakistan. But Judge Tahiliyani didn't agree. He countered that there were better maps available on the internet than those that Ajmal Kasab claims came from Ansari and Shaikh. Appearing on an Indian news channel after his acquittal, Fahim Ansari's wife said that if her husband is indeed a terrorist connected to Lashkar-e-Toiba, it would have been proven in court.

Every day of this trial has made headlines across India. Media outlets have pondered each and every meticulous detail of court proceedings, and there was great expectation across the country that all three men would be found guilty. The government has already gauged that there will be widespread anger and disappointment about the result in relation to the co-accused. Just hours after the sentencing external affairs minister FM Krishna vowed to continue to search for the crucial pieces of evidence that will unequivocally link both Ansari and Shaikh to the gunmen who carried out the attacks.

The punishment

Judge Tahiliyani found Ajmal Kasab guilty of nearly 100 charges but he did not move to hand down a punishment for the crimes. The accused, his defence and the prosecution will appear at Arthur Road again in the coming days. They will argue their cases in light of the possible punishments. For Ajmal Kasab there are only two ways it can go: life in prison or the death penalty.

Irrespective of the punishment that will be meted out to him, in the Indian court system Ajmal Kasab has the right to appeal. This makes it all the more likely that his will be a protracted case. The fate of the only surviving terrorist responsible for carrying out the worst attack in India's history could take years to determine.

Protected prisoner

Since his arrest Ajmal Kasab has been India's most important prisoner. Fundamentally he is the lynchpin of the government's argument that Pakistani-based terror groups were behind the November 26 attacks. Ajmal Kasab has been kept in solitary confinement and under 24-hour surveillance at Mumbai's Arthur Road prison.

Media outlets have been scathing about the government's "soft" treatment of the country's number one prisoner. When Ajmal Kasab complained about the quality of the food he was receiving behind bars, authorities reportedly agreed to serve him chicken biryani. His meals are ordered from eateries around the city but the identity of the customer is of course, kept top secret.

Late last year the Times of India newspaper reported that it was costing $21,000 a day to keep Ajmal Kasab alive. Further costs of his incarceration have included the building of a special cell inside the Arthur Road jail precinct, a secret chamber and an alternative courthouse for his trial, and a separate prison cell inside Mumbai's JJ Hospital premises where he has been admitted from time to time for medical treatment.

Mumbaikars have expressed concern and anger over the special treatment of the convicted terrorist. They say nearly 18 months after Mumbai was attacked, the city's police have received few resources to further secure the country's financial capital and guard against another attack.

India-Pakistan relations

Ajmal Kasab and his confessions to investigators have been a fierce point of debate between India and Pakistan for the past 18 months. His confessions have further convinced Indian authorities that Pakistan-based terror groups are intent on sparking a full-blown conflict between the two countries. On the other hand, Islamabad continues to press New Delhi for more evidence.

Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) is a Pakistan-based terror group that has been blamed for the November 26 attacks. Ajmal Kasab has confessed to training at LeT camps in Pakistan and receiving instructions from the group's commanders. LeT operatives were reportedly watching live telecasts of the attacks and directing Ajmal Kasab and the nine other gunman via telephone connections. Numbers retrieved from mobile phones found at the various crime scenes were traced back to locations in Pakistan's port city of Karachi.

Commenting on Kasab's sentencing India's home minister P Chidambaram said the "judgment itself is a message to Pakistan that they should not export terrorism to India". Controlling these terror groups and their sprawling networks was one of India's key stipulations when it agreed to resume ministerial level talks with Pakistan last week. New Delhi walked away from peace talks with Islamabad after the Mumbai terror attacks. Since then it has stood firm on its policy that Pakistan must take responsibility, and action, for stamping out the terror groups operating from its soil and intent on causing death and destruction in India. Rory Metcalfe from the Lowy Institute says that Pakistan has made numerous promises to India to eradicate, or at least curb, terror groups working within its territory. He also adds that many of those promises have been made due to great pressure from the United States.

India says there is ample evidence available in the public sphere that connects Pakistani state apparatus to the creation of terror networks like LeT. New Delhi-based defence analyst K Subrahmanyam says that India has been warning its neighbour for quite some time of the difficult challenge of controlling these terror groups once they grow out of their infancy.

The Kasab verdict is not expected to have a substantial impact on relations between the two nuclear-armed neighbours. Ajmal Kasab's sentencing comes after a string of incidents that have already tested the newly renewed bilateral relationship between India and Pakistan. Just days after prime minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yusuf Raza Gilani agreed to restart ministerial level talks, an Indian civil servant was arrested on charges of espionage. Just days after that, a fresh terror alert was released for New Delhi. Indian and foreign officials claim a terror attack is "imminent".

Keeping guard

The policing and monitoring of public areas has been ramped up across the country since the Mumbai terror attacks, but areas such as marketplaces, frequently singled out by terrorists, still remain vulnerable. Many, like the ones that have been named in the latest terror alert for New Delhi, are also popular with foreigners.

These vibrant, colourful areas have been ideal locations for terrorists for years. Despite more police presence, cordons and security checks, markets like New Delhi's Chandni Chowk and Sarojini Nagar have multiple entry points and suffer from choking traffic and congestion. That continues to make guarding them an extremely difficult job. K Subrahmanyam says the point officials in cities like New Delhi now have to consider is at which point do they attempt to stop the terrorist. He says the key for counter-terrorism teams is to isolate would-be terrorists at the outer perimeters of the attack area to foil their plans to cause extensive damage in densely populated and crowded areas.


In recent days foreign embassies, including Australia's, have lifted their travel warnings for New Delhi. They say they have credible evidence that a terror attack is "imminent".

India's interior ministry has stepped up security across the capital. It says intelligence agencies have intercepted information that Pakistan-based terror group Lashkar-e-Toiba is instructing Kashmir-based fighters to carry out attacks in crowded areas of the capital.

Despite the warnings, Delhi-ites are going about life as usual. Like Indians across the country they say they have lived with the threat of terrorism for years, long before the attacks on America on September 11, 2001.

New Delhi is a city of 12 million people. By most accounts, the average Delhi-ite seldom considers terrorism or contemplates an attack that would affect them. One local said that it is all a matter of chance and the likelihood of being in the wrong place at the wrong time in a city as big as New Delhi is very, very slim. Delhi-ites appear determined to continue to live and work as they always have. For them, and Indians across the country, it's the best way to show their resilience and determination to fight external and home-grown threats.

By Nidhi Dutt Australia Network's India correspondent.

RBI changes pricing rules for share transfers to NRIs and Vice Versa

Tue May 4, 2010

MUMBAI - India has changed the pricing rules for shares being issued or transferred to overseas Indians under the foreign direct investment policy, the Reserve Bank said late on Tuesday.
The price at which the shares are issued or transferred should be at least the same as the price as per SEBI guidelines for the allotment, the Reserve Bank of India said on its website.

Previously, the minimum price was equal to the existing market price or that worked out by a licensed chartered accountant, the bank added.

In case. overseas Indians are transferring shares to local residents, the transfer price should not exceed the price at which the overseas Indian got the shares.

A. P. (DIR Series) Circular No.49

May 4, 2010


All Category-I Authorised Dealer Banks

Madam / Sir,

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in India -
Transfer of Shares / Preference Shares / Convertible Debentures by way of Sale - Revised pricing guidelines

Attention of the Authorised Dealer Category – I (AD Category - I) banks is invited to the Foreign Exchange Management (Transfer or Issue of Security by a Person Resident Outside India) Regulations, 2000, notified vide Notification No. FEMA 20/2000-RB dated May 3, 2000, as amended from time to time.

2. In terms of Schedule 1 of the Notification, an Indian company may issue equity shares/compulsorily convertible preference shares and compulsorily convertible debentures (equity instruments) to a person resident outside India under the FDI policy, subject to inter alia, compliance with the pricing guidelines. Further, in terms of the A. P. (DIR Series) Circular No.16 dated October 4, 2004 and A. P. (DIR Series) Circular No. 63 dated April 22, 2009, general permission is available for transfer of equity instruments, by way of sale, from residents to non-residents (including transfer of subscriber's shares) of an Indian company in sectors other than financial service sector (i.e. Banks, NBFCs, Insurance, Asset Reconstruction Companies, Infrastructure companies in securities market namely, Stock Exchanges, Depositories and Clearing Corporations, Credit Information Companies and Commodity Exchanges) from residents to non-residents and vice versa.

3. The extant guidelines have been reviewed in consultation with the Government of India and accordingly the pricing guidelines in respect of issue of shares including preferential allotment have been revised. A copy of the Notification No. FEMA 205/2010-RB dated April 7, 2010, notified vide G.S.R. No.341 (E) dated April 21, 2010, amending the Foreign Exchange Management (Transfer or Issue of Security by a Person Resident Outside India) Regulations, 2000 (Notification No. FEMA 20/2000-RB dated May 3, 2000) issued in this regard is enclosed (Annex-II).

4. Further, the pricing guidelines for transfer of equity instruments from a resident to a non-resident and vice versa issued vide A. P. (DIR Series) Circular No.16 dated October 4, 2004 have also been reviewed and the paragraph Nos. 2.2 and 2.3 of the Annex to the circular have been accordingly amended. The revised instructions applicable to transfer of shares of an Indian company in all sectors are given in the Annex-I. All the other instructions of A. P. (DIR Series) Circular No.16 dated October 4, 2004 shall remain unchanged.

5. These directions will become operative with immediate effect.

6. AD Category – I banks may bring the contents of this circular to the notice of their constituents and customers concerned.

7. The directions contained in this circular have been issued under sections 10(4) and 11(1) of the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 (42 of 1999) and is without prejudice to permissions / approvals, if any, required under any other law.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Kasab guilty in 26/11 case, two Indians acquitted

Mumbai:Pakistani national Ajmal Amir Kasab was Monday declared guilty on 83 of 86 charges, including murder and waging war against the Indian state, in the November 2008 terror attack by a special court that acquitted the two other accused -- Indians Fahim Ansari and Sabauddin Ahmed.
Kasab, 23, the lone Pakistani captured alive after the 26/11 Mumbai terror strike, listened attentively with his bowed while Special Judge M.L. Tahalyani read out the 1,522-page verdict over almost three hours. He went through each of the charges against the three accused separately.

Kasab has been found guilty of killing at least 59 people in the 26/11 carnage that saw 166 Indians and foreigners being massacred and more injured.

Ansari and Ahmed, who were also in court, were set free. They had been charged with conspiracy in the terror attacks - preparing maps of the targeted locations and handing these to Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operatives.

The special judge said Ansari and Ahmed have been 'forthwith acquitted from the case and allowed to be set free if they are not wanted in any other case'.

The judge also accepted the confession Kasab had given after his arrest. The court ruled that the role of Lashkar-e-Taiba commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi and Kasab's Pakistani handlers had been established by the prosecution.

Kasab was charged on 86 counts, under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, including waging war against the nation. Besides, he faced charges under the Explosives Act, the Arms Act, the Passport Act, the Prevention of Damage to Public Properties Act, the Customs Act, the Explosive Substances Act, the Bombay Police Act, the Foreigners Act and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

The 60-hour audacious attack that began on the night of Nov 26, 2008 and went on till the afternoon of Nov 29, 2009 was carried out by 10 Pakistani terrorists including Kasab.

They targeted sites like the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel, Hotel Oberoi-Trident, the Cama Hospital and the Chabad House, a Jewish prayer centre, and the popular hangout Leopold Caf�.

The trial of Kasab - the only among the 10 who survived - started April 15, 2009 and was completed March 31 this year, after nearly seven months of hearings, excluding breaks and vacations.

Karnataka CM orders CID probe into sexual assault case

Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa on Monday ordered a CID inquiry into the rape charges lodged by a woman against Harathalu Halappa, who quit as the Minister of Food and Civil Supplies following a media report on the alleged incident.
'I have decided now to order a CID inquiry. Let the truth come out. Whoever is guilty should get punishment,' he told reporters in Bangalore.
The CM said the opposition was 'harping' on Halappa who had resigned even before the charges against him were proved.
Congress is demanding Halappa's arrest and a CBI probe into the charge.
Yeddyurappa accused them of trying to give a 'new form' to the issue and resorting to 'political revenge'.
Asked if the alleged incident would hurt BJP's prospects in the Panchayat elections slated for May 8 and 12, the CM said 'People are wise and they know what is right and what is wrong. Why was this brought out just before Panchayat elections?' he asked.
The alleged sexual assault took place in the last week of November.

Pan-India 3G bid price crosses Rs. 10, 348 crore

PTI - The bid price for pan-India 3G licence on Monday crossed the Rs. 10,000 crore-mark on the 20th day of auction, assuring the exchequer of Rs. 41,766 crore in revenue.

Nine operators in the fray for 3-4 slots drove up the pan-India bid price to Rs. 10,348 crore.

The Mumbai circle continued to attract much interest, with bids reaching Rs. 1,706.07 crore — over five times the base price of Rs. 320 crore. Delhi’s received a bid of Rs. 1,653.87 crore.

Both Mumbai and Delhi circles have three slots available for auction.

The government had originally estimated to collect Rs. 35,000 crore from sale of spectrum (air waves) for third generation mobile services and Broadband Wireless Access (BWA).

With BWA spectrum yet to be auctioned, the total collections could rise further

Facts about the Mumbai attack trial and the accused

May 03, 2010

Kasab was charged with 86 offences, including waging war against the nation, which is punishable with the death penalty.
India had charged 38 people in connection with the Mumbai attack, most of them living in Pakistan.
Two Indian nationals, Fahim Ansari and Sabahuddin Ahmed, accused of being members of Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba and conducting reconnaisance in Mumbai before the attack, are also on trial.
The trial had several twists and turns, including an unexpected confession by Kasab followed by a retraction, the dismissal of two defence attorneys and the shooting dead of an attorney for one of the co-accused.
The badly decomposed bodies of the other nine suspected gunmen were buried in an undisclosed location in Mumbai in January by the police after Muslim clerics refused to let them be buried on their grounds.
Seven members of the LeT are on trial in Pakistan for their role in the attacks and Islamabad has sought the extradition of Kasab and Ansari.
India has been pressing Pakistan to prosecute LeT founder Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, but Islamabad says New Delhi has not provided enough evidence against him.
India is also seeking access to a Chicago man, David Headley, who pleaded guilty to helping plan the Mumbai attack. New Delhi wants to interrogate him and try him in an Indian court. The United States has said it will allow Indian investigators to question him, but not extradite him.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

US, Canada, Australia warn citizens of 'imminent' terrorist attacks planned in Indian capital

May 1, 2010

NEW DELHI (AP) — The U.S., Australia and Canada warned Saturday that terror groups were likely planning "imminent attacks" in India's capital and foreigners there should be vigilant.

The U.S. Embassy's alert, adding the word "imminent," appeared to be more urgent than an advisory last month that cited increased indications of attacks in New Delhi.

The warnings noted that markets and other areas frequented by Westerners in New Delhi have been targeted in past attacks.

Militants linked to Pakistan-based Islamic groups have been blamed for previous attacks in the Indian capital.

The U.S. alert said Americans in India should maintain "a high level of vigilance," remain aware of their surroundings and watch out for unattended packages.

The Canadian travel warning said that "credible and specific reporting indicates that a terrorist attack could be carried out in the following days or weeks, in market areas of Delhi frequented by foreigners." It echoed a warning for Australian travelers to "exercise a high degree of caution" in India in general and to avoid crowded shopping areas in the capital.

Local police said they were aware of the warnings of possible attacks.

"The Delhi Police is taking appropriate measures in this regard," police spokesman Rajan Bhagat said, according to Press Trust of India news agency. He did not elaborate.

Sarosh Homi Kapadia to be India's new Chief Justice

Supreme Court Justice Sarosh Homi Kapadia has been appointed the new chief justice of India. Kapadia will assume charge May 12.
Kapadia takes over from Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, India's first Dalit chief justice.

A press release from the ministry of law and justice stated: 'In exercise of the powers conferred by clause (2) of Article 124 of the Constitution of India, the President is pleased to appoint Justice Sarosh Homi Kapadia, judge of the Supreme Court, to be the Chief Justice of India with effect from May 12, 2010.'

Railways reviewing policy on catering services on trains

New Delhi: Concerned with the low quality of food served on trains, the government Friday said it is reviewing its policy on catering services.
'For bringing about overall improvement in the quality of railway catering, the catering policy is being reviewed by the Ministry of Railways,' Minister of State for Railways E. Ahamed told the Rajya Sabha.

'Temporarily, however, the supervision of catering services on a few trains is being undertaken by Railways on an experimental basis,' he added.

Currently, the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Ltd (IRCTC) operates catering services on 263 trains. There are 36 different licensees managing pantry cars.