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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Gold, on the brink of a bear market

Gold, on the brink of a bear market, posted the longest slump since March 2009 as gains in the dollar reduced demand for precious metals as alternative assets.

The dollar climbed as much as 0.6 percent against the euro as an auction of Italian bonds fell short of the government’s target. Gold, down 12 percent in December, is headed for the biggest monthly drop since October 2008, compared to the greenback’s almost 3 percent gain against a six-currency basket.

“The developments in Italy have perked up the dollar, and that is pushing gold down,” Sterling Smith, an analyst at Country Hedging Inc. in St. Paul, Minnesota, said in a telephone interview. “I expect gold to remain in negative territory this week.”

Gold futures for February delivery declined 1.5 percent to close at $1,540.90 an ounce at 1:38 p.m. on the Comex in New York. The metal fell for a sixth straight session, the longest slide since March 4, 2009. Today’s settlement leaves prices down 19 percent from a record close of $1,891.90 reached on Aug. 22, about 1 percentage point shy of a bear market. Earlier, prices reached $1,523.90, the lowest since July 7.

Still, gold is up 8.4 percent this year, heading for an 11th consecutive annual advance. Futures climbed as investors and central banks bought the metal as a store of wealth.

“You have stagnating output and, on the demand side, jewelry consumption adapts to higher prices,” said Bayram Dincer, an analyst at LGT Capital Management in Pfaeffikon, Switzerland. “The fundamental investment case for gold is still intact.”

The interest rate for lending gold in exchange for dollars jumped to 0.2085 percent, the highest since July 2010. One-month lease rates fell to the lowest on record in December as European banks sought ways to secure the U.S. currency amid the region’s debt crisis.

Silver futures for March delivery added 0.3 percent to $27.315 an ounce on the Comex. The metal has lost 12 percent this year.

Platinum futures for April delivery declined 1.8 percent to $1,366.80 an ounce on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Palladium futures for March delivery slumped 3.6 percent to $623.75 an ounce on Nymex, the biggest drop since Dec. 14.

Salt to Software T.C.S becomes the top listed next to Reliance

On the last trading day of 2011 at Friday's close, Reliance was valued at about USD 42.7 billion, while TCS commanded a market value of USD 42.8 billion

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Japan for stronger ties with India Inc

NEW DELHI: Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda pushed for deeper ties with India Wednesday on a lightning 36-hour trip to New Delhi, where he was poised to sign a slew of accords.

The agreements include a currency swap deal that could help bolster the flagging Indian rupee and Noda told a business audience in the capital: “I am convinced we need to strengthen the economic partnership.” “Japan has technology and capital while India has a young workforce as well as abundant demand for infrastructure,” he said, calling the “complementarity” between the second- and third-largest Asian economies “unmatched”.

Coming on the heels of a trip to China where the main emphasis was political diplomacy, especially in the aftermath of the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il, Noda’s visit to fast-rising India stressed economic ties.

Noda said a landmark free-trade agreement signed in February under which the high-tech nation and the South Asian giant will scrap tariffs on 94 percent of goods within a decade would strengthen relations.

The countries’ two-way trade stands at around $14 billion and is targeted to rise to $25 billion by 2014 — but that sum is still a fraction of Japan’s $300-billion trade with China.

Among the many deals expected to be signed on Wednesday was a multi-billion-dollar swap agreement that could assist India in defending the rupee, which has slid around 15 percent this year.

The currency swap, under which Japan could lend India dollars, is an expansion of a previous $3 billion accord and would help India cope with the rapid withdrawal of funds by overseas investors amid global financial turmoil.

“It makes a lot of sense for our two countries to expand their swap agreement for the stability of global currency markets,” Japanese government spokesman Nori Shikata told reporters in New Delhi. Japanese officials in Tokyo have put the amount of the swap line at around $10 billion. Noda was also expected to announce a $4.5 billion investment in an ambitious $100-billion infrastructure project to create a manufacturing and freight corridor from New Delhi to financial hub Mumbai.

“Japan is an invaluable and strategic partner in the process of India’s development,” Commerce Minister Anand Sharma told the same business audience.

The two countries were also expected to restart nuclear negotiations that stalled after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011.

Japan and India launched talks in June 2010 on a nuclear cooperation pact that would allow Tokyo to export its cutting-edge technology to the energy-hungry South Asian nation, a hotly contested market for atomic plants.

Japan is worried that nuclear-armed India has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty but Shikata said “as a matter of basic policy we’re interested in promoting use of Japanese civilian nuclear technology in India”. Nonetheless the Fukushima nuclear accident, triggered by a huge earthquake and tsunami, has also clouded the possibility of any deal.

Support for Anna Hazare dwindles?

PATNA: After veteran social worker Anna Hazare called off his fast on Wednesday evening, his supporters here in the state capital also withdrew their agitation a day ahead of schedule. On Wednesday, support for Anna was quite low at Kargil Chowk, the stir venue. The camp of India Against Corruption (IAC) witnessed a deserted look through the day. Only five activists observed daylong hunger strike.

"We have been given instructions to withdraw all of our plans, including 'jail bharo'. Status quo will be maintained till further plans are formulated by the Anna Team," said IAC Bihar convener, Dr Ratnesh Kumar Chaudhary.

The Anna supporters were divided into two camps. At both the camps, extremely poor presence of activists was seen throughout the day. "It is all stale. People are fed up with the harangues of these activists. A good Lokpal Bill is in the process. It's time now for the harangues to go away," said Sumit Kumar, a collegian passing by the site.Over a dozen activists made speeches from both the camps, but unlike earlier, they failed to arouse interest among the passersby. "I think it is the result of Anna's failed show in Mumbai. It is difficult to run the campaign for so long," a doctor, not wanting to be named, told TOI.

Some activists, who used to be very active earlier, were conspicuous by their absence. "I really do not like the way some people are behaving to get publicity. One should not come here for publicity. Rather it is should be on the call of conscience," said a senior IAC member. Later in the morning, a group of activists organized 'havan', perhaps in a bid to attract people, and prayed for a corruption-free India.
As appeared in TOI

Monday, December 26, 2011

Al Qaeda leaders leaving Pakistan, moving to Africa

London: The Al Qaeda leadership, which has been weakened in Pakistan following the killing of many of its senior members -- including Osama bin Laden -- in drone strikes, is now suspected to be shifting to north Africa, a media report said Monday.

British officials believe that a 'last push' in 2012 may destroy Al Qaeda's remaining senior leadership in Pakistan, The Guardian reported.

Many senior Al Qaeda members have been killed in air strikes by unmanned drones and 'only a handful of the key players' remain alive, said an official.

Al Qaeda's top leader Osama bin Laden was gunned down in Pakistan's Abbottabad town May 2 by US commandos who launched a daring operation using stealth helicopters.

Sources said at least two relatively senior Al Qaeda leaders have made their way to Libya, with others intercepted en route. This has caused fears that north Africa could become a new 'theatre of jihad'.

'A group of very experienced figures from north Africa left camps in Afghanistan's (northeastern) Kunar province where they have been based for several years and travelled back across the Middle East,' a source said, adding: 'Some got stopped but a few got through.'

The media report said it was not clear whether the move from Afghanistan-Pakistan to north Africa was prompted by a desire for greater security that may be unlikely as coalition forces begin to withdraw from Afghanistan or part of a strategic attempt to exploit the aftermath of the Arab spring.

A smaller flow of volunteers reaching makeshift bases in Pakistan's tribal areas has complicated matters for Al Qaeda.

'I think they are really very much weakened,' an official was quoted as saying.

'You can't say they don't pose a threat -- they do -- but it's a much lesser one.'

Intelligence sources told The Guardian they estimate that there are less than 100 'Al Qaeda or Al Qaeda-affiliated' militants in Afghanistan.

On the Haqqani network, an official said there was evidence it had been acting as intermediaries between the Pakistani secret services and militant groups.

'To move against the Haqqanis is a no-win option for the Pakistani military. If they suffer heavy casualties and fail to eliminate the group, they lose their authority and a key interlocutor. If they succeed, they lose a key asset,' the official said

Lokpal Debate: BJP to move 37 amendments

New Delhi: At 11 am today, the Lok Sabha will begin debating the anti-corruption Lokpal Bill. In Mumbai, the man who has pushed that bill to the top of India's agenda will begin a three-day hunger strike to register his protest. Anna Hazare, 74, and his team of activists say the bill betrays both the people and the assurance that Parliament made to the anti-corruption crusader in August, when his 12-day hunger strike made international headlines. To end that fast, Parliament promised to consider three guiding principles listed by Anna for the new Lokpal, or national ombudsman agency. The bill that was introduced in Parliament last week, Anna says, does not reflect what he had asked for.

Politicians say it's time for Anna to step back and let Parliament do its job. "Those who use the rules of the constitution of sitting on fasts or holding candlelight protest marches, should also know that they cannot violate the law made by the Constitution, which says that all bills and laws will be passed only in the Parliament. ...they should know how to respect other rights as well," said the Left's Sitaram Yechury.

The Lok Sabha will witness a day-long combined discussion on the Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill, 2011 and the Constitution (Amendment) Bill to give the ombudsman a Constitutional status.

The Public Interest Disclosure and Protection to Persons Making the Disclosures Bill, 2010 (popularly known as Whistle-blowers' bill) will also be discussed.

The Congress has already issued a three-line whip to its members to remain present in the Lok Sabha during the debate. It has also requested its allies in the UPA to issue similar whips.

The BJP has said it opposes the bill and will push for 37 amendments. Leading its list of objections is the 50 per cent quota that the bill promises for minorities and Schedule Castes and Tribes. The BJP says this quota is unconstitutional. The party also wants the government to amend the bill to liberate the CBI - the main investigating agency - from supervision by the government. Both Team Anna and the BJP believe that as long as the government decides on the budget and postings of the CBI and its officers, the agency will be vulnerable to pressure.

Several parties have also objected to the language in the bill that provides for the creation of Lokayuktas or anti-corruption agencies in individual states. The BJP and others say that in this provision, the bill stomps all over the turf of states and violates the federal structure of the country.

Parties like Lalu Yadav's RJD have objected to the Lokpal's jurisdiction over the Prime Minister. The bill allows the ombudsman to investigate the Prime Minister on charges of corruption, though with a series of caveats.

The CPI(M), which is likely to ask for 11 amendments, wants the inclusion of corporate crime in the jurisdiction of the Lokpal, particularly those cases which cause a loss to the public exchequer and has the involvement of public servants. The Left says that the Lokpal must be given its own investigating agency to handle the complaints filed by the public with the ombudsman.

Reports NDTV

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Team Anna writes to PM, seeks investigating powers for Lokpal

New Delhi: Team Anna, in an open letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and parliamentarians Sunday, hoped the "best possible" anti-graft law will emerge from the debate in parliament and pitched for giving the Lokpal independent investigative powers.

"While we are on record with our displeasure over the current draft of the bill, we are also keen that the best possible law should now emerge from the debate in the people's Houses," Hazare's India Against Corruption (IAC) said in the letter.

It said the Lokpal and Lokayuktas should be able to carry out investigations through the anti-corruption branch of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which should be merged into the Lokpal, and the anti-corruption bureaus and vigilance departments in states should be merged into Lokayuktas.

Their second option was that Lokpal and Lokayuktas should have their own investigative wings which should have exclusive jurisdiction over cases under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

The third option was that was to give Lokpal the administrative and financial control over CBI, the letter said.

It also demanded that the appointment of the CBI director should be independent of any political control.

"The anti-corruption bureaus and state vigilance departments in state governments should be merged into Lokayuktas," IAC added in the letter.

They also demanded that the Lokpal be picked through consensus of the selection panel and the committee should comprise the prime minister, leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha, two judges to be nominated by the collegium of Supreme Court judges, the Comptroller and Auditor General, the Central Vigilance Commissioner and the Chief Election Commissioner.

"Search committee to suggest nominees should consist of former chief justices, former CAG, former CVC and former CEC," the letter said.

Team Anna has also demanded that the lower bureaucracy should be under the ambit of the Lokpal.

The government, in its bill introduced Dec 22 in parliament, has stated that the Lokpal will direct complaints against Group C and D employees to the CVC.

"Without these provisions, the Lokpal bill will be just another law -- one among many that have proven ineffective so far," the letter said.

Team Anna also said that although its opposition to some portions of the Lokpal bill remains, it wants parliamentarians to also include some of their points.

IAC said it wants the Lokpal and Lokayuktas to suo motu initiate their investigations without a complaint or reference from anyone.

"It should also not be required to alert the accused through preliminary enquiry or hearing before filing an FIR (First Information Report)," they said, adding this was recommended by the parliamentary panel that examined the Lokpal bill.

The letter said: "The year-long people's campaign against corruption has brought us to the very edge of legislation that can tackle it powerfully."

"Sensing the national mood, parliament has also taken it upon itself to foster a significant debate on the issues within the Bill, and for this we thank our elected representatives."

Thursday, December 22, 2011

US Call Centre bill to affect Indian BPOs

The proposed legislation, titled 'Call Centre Worker & Consumer Protection Act’ also requires the Secretary of Labour to maintain a list of employers that locate call centres overseas and provide a 120 day advance notification before moving a call centre overseas.

A bipartisan bill tabled in the US House of Representatives on Tuesday to make companies that move call centres overseas ineligible for grants or guaranteed loans from the federal government, is expected to affect call centre employees across the globe, including centres in India.

Under the protectionist legislation, customer service representatives working overseas for US corporations will also have to disclose their locations upon request and offer callers the option of being transferred to call centres back in America.

The proposed legislation, titled 'Call Centre Worker & Consumer Protection Act’ also requires the Secretary of Labour to maintain a list of employers that locate call centres overseas and provide a 120 day advance notification before moving a call centre overseas.

Reacting to the US move Nasscom Vice-President Ameet Nivsarkar said: “This Bill is basically aimed at retaining jobs and creating more employment in the US, as the call centres have been doing the same in the outsourced nation.”

In a statement, he said, “It is indeed disappointing to see US adopting ‘protectionist’ measures like these that restrict free trade and establish discriminatory trade practices.”

Mittal felt that the bill could hurt the US economy.

The provisions will clearly hurt American companies operating call centres in countries like India. While Indian companies don't foresee too much of an impact, the IT industry is concerned.

“This is definitely a concern but I think these are sort of protectionist measures that they are being built up in run up to the presidential elections next year in United States. It will not have a significant impact on Mphasis,” said Ganesh Murthy, CFO of mphasiS. He further said that this was a build up ahead of presidential elections next year.

Moreover, he feels that the move will not affect BPO companies like Mphasis, which does not have many contracts with international call centres.

Unemployment in the US has eased from above 9 per cent now. But strong backing from the Communication Workers of America – a union that represents 150,000 call centre workers in the US quashing this renewed wave of protectionism will not be easy.

In a report, issued recently by the CWA, the union alleged that outsourced call centres, including some based in India, pose a serious security threat as there are insufficient safeguards in place to deter fraud.

The report titled 'Why Shipping Call Center Jobs Overseas Hurts Us Back Home' cited several examples of security breaches involving outsourced call centres, including in India.

US Call Centre bill to affect Indian BPOs

The proposed legislation, titled 'Call Centre Worker & Consumer Protection Act’ also requires the Secretary of Labour to maintain a list of employers that locate call centres overseas and provide a 120 day advance notification before moving a call centre overseas.

A bipartisan bill tabled in the US House of Representatives on Tuesday to make companies that move call centres overseas ineligible for grants or guaranteed loans from the federal government, is expected to affect call centre employees across the globe, including centres in India.

Under the protectionist legislation, customer service representatives working overseas for US corporations will also have to disclose their locations upon request and offer callers the option of being transferred to call centres back in America.

The proposed legislation, titled 'Call Centre Worker & Consumer Protection Act’ also requires the Secretary of Labour to maintain a list of employers that locate call centres overseas and provide a 120 day advance notification before moving a call centre overseas.

Reacting to the US move Nasscom Vice-President Ameet Nivsarkar said: “This Bill is basically aimed at retaining jobs and creating more employment in the US, as the call centres have been doing the same in the outsourced nation.”

In a statement, he said, “It is indeed disappointing to see US adopting ‘protectionist’ measures like these that restrict free trade and establish discriminatory trade practices.”

Mittal felt that the bill could hurt the US economy.

The provisions will clearly hurt American companies operating call centres in countries like India. While Indian companies don't foresee too much of an impact, the IT industry is concerned.

“This is definitely a concern but I think these are sort of protectionist measures that they are being built up in run up to the presidential elections next year in United States. It will not have a significant impact on Mphasis,” said Ganesh Murthy, CFO of mphasiS. He further said that this was a build up ahead of presidential elections next year.

Moreover, he feels that the move will not affect BPO companies like Mphasis, which does not have many contracts with international call centres.

Unemployment in the US has eased from above 9 per cent now. But strong backing from the Communication Workers of America – a union that represents 150,000 call centre workers in the US quashing this renewed wave of protectionism will not be easy.

In a report, issued recently by the CWA, the union alleged that outsourced call centres, including some based in India, pose a serious security threat as there are insufficient safeguards in place to deter fraud.

The report titled 'Why Shipping Call Center Jobs Overseas Hurts Us Back Home' cited several examples of security breaches involving outsourced call centres, including in India.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Singapore SMRT breakdowns douse Christmas cheer

SINGAPORE | Sat Dec 17, 2011

SINGAPORE - Singapore, which prides itself on efficiency, was hit by its third train breakdown in a week on Saturday, frustrating the public on one of the biggest shopping days of the year and adding to calls for a review of its public transport system.

The city state's transport minister Lui Tuck Yew said there was some instability in the train network and has called for public transport provider SMRT Corp Ltd (SMRT.SI) to do "complete health checks", Channel News Asia reported.

Train services on Singapore's north-south line, which connects the north of the island to the city centre and is operated by SMRT, were disrupted early on Saturday morning.

The breakdown affected Singapore's main Orchard Road shopping belt at a time when many people were expected to be hitting the stores just a week before Christmas.

Saturday's disruption came after a five-hour breakdown on the same line on Thursday left 127,000 commuters stranded.

"For a world-class transport system, three disruptions in a week is not acceptable," said 27-year-old finance industry worker Chew Kuan Yee.

"This is three times too many to be a coincidence and points to an insufficiency of maintenance and possibly shortage of investment," Chew said.

Train services on another central line also broke down on Wednesday, with services restored after a five-hour delay.

The breakdowns on SMRT train services have added to discontent over the rising costs of public transport. A protest was planned for later on Saturday in a central Singapore park.

SMRT recently said it planned to raise taxi fares from December 20 because of rising costs. Rival cab operator ComfortDelGro (CMDG.SI) has also moved to hike charges.

During Singapore's last general elections in May, the opposition Workers' Party called for the public transport system to be nationalised.

Opposition MP Lina Chiam demanded a comprehensive review.

"Public transport can paralyze the entire nation from what we have seen a few days ago," Chiam said.

SMRT came under heavy criticism when it sent a message to its taxis during Thursday's train disruptions, telling drivers the breakdown was an "income opportunity".

"I think that as a public good, the company should activate their fleet to help those in need rather than to try and profit from it," said 27-year-old Maximilian Chng.

Transport Minister disappointed with SMRT

Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew expressed his disappointment on Friday with how SMRT handled Thursday's massive breakdown of the North-South line, saying that it is an 'extremely serious disruption that comprised commuters' safety.'

Speaking to reporters at Changi Airport after cutting short a work trip to Cambodia, he made clear that he wanted no effort spared in getting to the bottom of what has been called the worst MRT shutdown in 24 years.

"I don't see this as a typical service lapse. This is a very, very serious disruption and better take heed, learn the lessons improve on the systems.

"Therefore, I've told SMRT chairman Koh Yong Guan when I spoke to him that I hold the board and the management team responsible for making it right," said Mr Lui.

He acknowledged that commuters are angry and concerned, and justifably so, because their well-being was at risk.

Train services were disrupted for five hours on Thursday night, affecting services at 11 stations and stranding thousands of peak hour commuters.

This comes after the recent fare hikes in public transport and two taxi operators.

"We need to go down and determine the root cause of this. What is it in the maintenance regime that can be improved, that can be made more robust and comprehensive, so that if this is indeed a preventable incident, how could we do so," said Mr Lui.

He said he had spoken to SMRT board chairman Mr Koh about the government's concern over the handling of the incident. Mr Lui also said he is convening a panel of relevant experts to do a thorough review of the MRT system, especially the lines run by SMRT.

At a press conference held on Friday afternoon, SMRT said that the disruption was caused by a misalignment of electrical connections between four trains and a 40m section of the tracks between Dhoby Ghaut and City Hall stations.

However, transport analysts are questioning if the higher frequency in breakdowns lately are due to population growth adding to wear and tear.

Mr Lui expressed his concern over commuters who were stranded in the four affected trains and who were kept uninformed about the situation.

Hardly any updates were given until after 30 minutes from the shutdown. Some commuters fainted, lights were intermittent, and one man even used a fire extinguisher to smash a train window for ventilation.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Congratulation Virender Sehwag Breaks record 219 in ODI

Virender Sehwag smashed a world record 219 to become only the second batsman after Sachin Tendulkar to reach the 200-run landmark in ODIs as India posted their highest One-day total of 418 for five in the fourth match against the West Indies , in Indore, on Thursday.

Sehwag surpassed Tendulkar's 200 not out made from 147 balls against South Africa in Gwalior on February 24 last year when he square-cut Andre Russell for a boundary in the 44th over of the Indian innings to go past the 200 mark at the Holkar Stadium.

Sehwag joined his idol Tendulkar in the record books as the only other cricketer to score double hundred in the limited overs game.

The 33-year-old Delhi marauder, who is leading the team in the absence of regular skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, also became the highest individual scorer in the 40-year-old history of One-day International.

Sehwag, who cracked his second three-figure knock against the Caribbean islanders and 15th overall in 240th matches, slammed 25 fours and seven sixes during his 147-ball blitz.

He also reached his double hundred in fewer balls (in 140 balls with the help of 23 fours and six sixes) than Tendulkar, who took 147 for his 200 not out.

Sehwag continued to plunder runs against a hapless Windies attack on a perfect batting strip, having opted to bat, as India raised their highest-ever total against the West Indies in ODIs, overtaking their previous best of 341 for three in Vadodara in January 2007.

Sehwag, who was caught in the deep straight field in the 47th over while attempting another huge heave off Kieron Pollard, also added century stands with fellow-opener Gautam Gambhir and Suresh Raina , who both got individual half-centuries and were both run out.

Sehwag got life twice during his masterly knock -- once on 20 when he escaped a run out chance after being stranded mid-pitch and then on 170 when rival captain Darren Sammy dropped an easy catch at extra cover.

When India commenced their innings, the decision of the Indian team management to tweak the top order paid rich dividends as Sehwag and Gambhir, who replaced Parthiv Patel after the latter had opened in the first three games, ripped apart the Windies bowling attack.

Sehwag, who said after the Ahmedabad tie that the top order needs to fire, led from the front by greeting the first ball he received from Sunil Narine and Darren Sammy for big sixes.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Kabil Sibal ignites Sensor war

Censor war: Online India vs 'Big Brother' Kapil Sibal

New Delhi: If past incidents and people's reactions are an indicator, then those who frame India's Internet strategies seem to be flummoxed by the Web and don't really understand how the online world behaves.

Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal's suggestion that social networking websites screen content before publishing has triggered widespread anger amongst Indian Internet users. In fact, the hashtag #IdiotKapilSibal is one of the top Twitter trends in India on Tuesday.

The government is asking leading Internet companies such as Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Facebook to screen alleged derogatory, defamatory and inflammatory content about religious figures and Indian leaders.

Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal's idea of screening content on websites has triggered widespread anger in the online world.

Popular technology blogger Amit Agarwal terms the government's idea as "unbelievable" and ponders over Kapil Sibal's awareness of the humongous amount of content generated every day on social networking websites and blogs.

Blogger and journalist Shivam Vij on Kafila confronts Sibal in a post titled 'Kapil Sibal is an Idiot' in which he urges Internet users to "write KAPIL SIBAL IS AN IDIOT as your Facebook status message, use the hashtag #IdiotKapilSibal on Twitter, and write a blog post with the above title, because there may soon be a day when he may prevent you from doing so."

Sibal attempted to clarify his stance in a press conference on Tuesday stating that the government is advocating supervision and not censorship, but that doesn't seem to pacify the Internet anger against him on the issue. He also refuted that the government is trying to enforce censorship because of Team Anna's popular Internet campaign.

Much of what Sibal is suggesting is not exactly new and is covered under the Information Technology Rules 2011 released earlier in the year. The new set of rules gives the government the authority to prohibit content of specific nature on the Internet. PRS Legislative Research's analysis of the rules highlight that "the Intermediary Guidelines Rules that allow blocking of content on the internet may violate the right to free speech. These Rules differ from the requirements governing content of other media like newspapers and television."

Most of the popular Internet services such as Facebook and YouTube have built in mechanisms to flag and filter objectionable content, but the government seems to want to take it a step further.

Facebook, in statement in response to the developments, said, "We want Facebook to be a place where people can discuss things freely, while respecting the rights and feelings of others, which is why we have already have policies and on-site features in place that enable people to report abusive content. We will remove any content that violates our terms, which are designed to keep material that is hateful, threatening, incites violence or contains nudity off the service. We recognise the government's interest in minimising the amount of abusive content that is available online and will continue to engage with the Indian authorities as they debate this important issue".

While Kapil Sibal may continue to stress that the Indian government doesn't believe in censorship, the government's efforts at controlling content on the Internet has been drawing China comparisons and India also has a long and not-so-illustrious history of Internet censorship. The Information Technology Rules 2011 gives the government more power to have its way.

India's robust Internet community is always on its toes to catch and publicise incidents of government censorship of the Internet.

By trying to enforce self-censorship by websites the government also opens the definition of what is objectionable to a variety of individual interpretations and will definitely stifle the rights of users of expressing themselves.

India is among the top countries in the number of requests received by Google for removal of content and access to users' private data. Google does not comply with all government requests, but the government is trying to change that.

A PC World article on the top 10 Internet scandals of all time seems to point to the fears underlying the Indian government's latest Internet censorship efforts, "the Internet isn't a dump truck, it's a series of tubes. And many a reputation has gone swirling down those tubes, thanks to the Net's ability to expose scoundrels, scalawags, liars, cheats, and fools - and then broadcast the scandal to a billion glowing screens."

Monday, December 5, 2011

Flash Mob Hits Mumbai

Two hundred dancers took commuters at Mumbai’s hectic Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station by surprise on Sunday, when they broke into dance accompanied by the title track from Bollywood hit Rang de Basanti.
The Mumbai Flash Mob, as it was dubbed, threatened to become a viral phenomenon in India by Tuesday evening, as videos of the performance rocketed through the Twitter universe, were posted on Facebook and liked on YouTube.

While the video looks spontaneous, the act was carefully planned.

“One of the top items on my travel to-do list, which I never got around to in Europe, was to be a part of a flash mob,” one of the organizers of the mob, Shonan Kothari, formerly a researcher for Harvard Business School, said in a telephone interview. “Since India didn’t have anything of the sort, I figured I’d do it myself,” she said.

Getting over 200 people to participate in a choreographed dance in the middle of Mumbai’s bustling central railway station required a month of planning, including visits to three different departments at the station for security clearance. Atul Rane, senior divisional operations manager at Indian Railways, helped coordinate with other departments to organize the lighting, ladders and camera placements, Ms. Kothari said.

Then Ms. Kothari had to coordinate the dancers. “I had 325 people sign up within two days of sending out the e-mail,” she said. She didn’t spread the word on any social networking Web site, fearing too many people would show up. The dancers were taught the choreography in small batches over the course of two weeks in a Malabar Hill park.

While so-called flash mobs have been popular in the United States and Europe for years, the phenomenon has not really caught on in India. That may be about to change, judging by the amount of attention the video has garnered. A video of the dancing, put up on YouTube early Tuesday morning, had already been “liked” by 1,435 people by 6:30 in the evening.

Two weeks later Govt Freezes the FDI retail proposal

NEW DELHI: A day after the Cabinet cleared a proposal allowing foreign retailers to own multi-brand stores, a contingent of Indian industrialists met industry and commerce minister Anand Sharma and thanked him for pushing through the much awaited proposal.

Two weeks later, the same bunch of industrialists are a nervous lot, after an UPA ally indicated on Saturday that the government would defer its ambitious retail liberalisation plans until a political consensus emerged. This sudden shift in government stance could wreck the plans of India's top retailers like Future Group, Bharti Retail, Spencer's Retail and Next, all of which were banking on foreign capital for their expansion and expertise to run a complex business like retail.

Senior executives of these four retailers said ever since the FDI announcement, they had stepped up their liaison and discussion with foreign retailers, with the hope that they would soon be able to bring the much required funds. Says Kishore Biyani, the chief executive of India's largest retailer, Future Group: "FDI would have provided a fresh lease of life." But now growth will slow down as funds are freezing up.

"We were growing at 25%-30% and foreign investment would have increased the growth rate to 40-50%. Currently, we are working hard on cash flows for generating investment." The group has been reportedly negotiating with multiple partners, including Carrefour.

Sumantra Banerjee, president (retail) at RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group, which runs the 230-plus Spencer's stores across India, says FDI in retail is a must as the sector needed fresh funds. "Foreign investment in the business would have accelerated Spencer's expansion plans." Spencer's is banking on retail FDI to attract funds to grow and break even by attracting investment in the back-end operations.

"We are in talks with multiple partners and expect to retain majority holding in the retail business. Investment from the foreign partner will help us to break even faster," chairman Sanjiv Goenka had said at a press conference the morning after the FDI announcement.

The group's retailing business logged revenues of Rs 1,056 crore and a loss of Rs 286 crore in 2010-11. Even Bharti Retail had announced its intention to partner with Walmart to set up multi-brand stores. "It is a bold move. We will start negotiations with Walmart soon," Bharti Group's vice-chairman and managing director Rajan Mittal had told ET.

Mittal was among the industrialists who met Sharma after the Cabinet approval. On November 24, the UPA cabinet had allowed foreign entities to own up to 51% stake in multi-brand retail and raised FDI in single-brand to 100% to boost foreign inflows into the sector and improve its infrastructure.

The government had argued that move will create lakhs of jobs, boost the agri sector and reduce wastage besides providing a better deal to the consumer. However, UPA allies Trinamool Congress and DMK vehemently opposed the move. TMC chief and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday said Union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee had given her a commitment that the government would not to go ahead with the FDI decision until a consensus emerged on the issue.

Foreign retailers, who have been equally keen to get a slice of India's Rs 20 lakh crore retail market, have also begun to make enquiries about the latest development.


Monday, November 28, 2011

Mullaperiyar water overflows in Kerala

The Mullaperiyar dam across the Periyar river started overflowing on Sunday after the water level touched the maximum 136-foot limit following heavy rain in its catchment area for the last two days. The excess water is flowing into the Idukki dam.

To avert any untoward situation, the Tamil Nadu Government has requested Kerala to draw more water from the Mullaperiyar dam.

Following the development, Idukki Collector E Devadasan has issued warnings to those residing along the Periyar river. Control rooms have been opened in the Idukki Collectorate and main towns. According to Devadasan, the district administration is geared up to face any eventuality.

Meanwhile, different parts of Kerala witnessed people taking to the streets on Sunday to protest against the deadlock over the construction of a new dam to replace the 116-year-old Mullaperiyar dam. They burnt the effigy of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalitha and blocked the Kerala-Tamil Nadu highway.

In addition, the ruling United Democratic Front and the opposition Left Democratic Front have called a dawn-to-dusk strike in Idukki district in Kerala on Monday, demanding the intervention of the Union Government into the issue.

While the people of Kerala fear that the Mullaperiyar dam across the Periyar river is on the verge of collapsing, endangering around 3.5 million people, the Tamil Nadu Government which controls the dam is against dismantling the present structure. The dam provides water to four districts in Tamil Nadu.

Hundreds of protesters, including women and children, gathered at Vandiperiyar town near the dam raising slogans against Jayalalitha and Kerala ministers for taking a soft stance on the issue. Vehicular traffic was disrupted.

Meanwhile, E J Bijimol, MLA of the Peermede constituency, has threatened to launch an indefinite hunger strike demanding the construction of a new dam.

In Kollam district, protesters burnt the effigy of Jayalalitha and staged a roadblock, disrupting traffic from Kerala to Tamil Nadu through the Theni road. Meanwhile, the Kerala Congress (Mani), a constituent of ruling United Democratic Front, is planning to stage agitations in Idukki, Kottayam, Ernakulam, Alappuzha and Pathanamthitta districts, demanding the immediate construction of a new dam.

Kerala Irrigation Minister P J Joseph said he wants to organise awareness campaigns in those affected districts of Tamil Nadu.

Mullaperiyar dam: High alert in Idduki

A high alert has been issued in Idduki as the water level in Mullaperiyar dam on Monday crossed 136 ft, the maximum permissible storage limit. All the shutters of the dam have been opened and water is flowing to the Idukki dam and to other dams of the district like Cheruthni and Kulamavu.

On Monday morning, the water level reached 136.6 ft causing serious concern over the safety of the 116-year-old dam. It is also spilling over five out of the 13 spillways and rising every hour as heavy rain continues in most parts of the district. Thousands of residents in the downstream of the dam like Chappath, Upputhara, Kumili, Kattappana and Vandanmedu are a worried lot.

The district authorities had set up disaster management units. District collector E Devadasan said all arrangements had been made to meet any emergency situation.

Meanwhile, the hartal called by both the United Democratic Front and Left Democratic Front was total in the district and there is now a strong agitation to de-commission the dam immediately and construct a new one. The BJP has called for a 12-hour hartal in Idukki, Kottayam, Ernakulam and Alappuzha districts tomorrow (November 29).

Thousands of people including women and children blocked the Kollam-Theni national highway and other roads. Effigies of Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa were burnt at several places. Hundreds of vehicles, including those carrying pilgrims to Sabarimala, were held up in the blockade for several hours.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Sensex, Nifty crash - hit lowest level in two years

Indian markets have closed with deep cuts Wednesday as foreign funds liquidated funds on the back of weakening rupee and economy. The Sensex and Nifty closed with over 2 per cent cuts after falling to near two-year lows in intraday trade.

The Sensex ended 365 points lower at 15,699.99 while the broader Nifty index closed at 4,706.45, falling 105.90 points. Earlier, the Sensex had fallen nearly 600 points (intraday low of 15,478.69) while the Nifty had slipped below the 4,700 mark (4,640) for the first time since February, 2010.

Indian markets have now fallen over 20 per cent year to date.

Global cues were not supportive. Economic growth slowed down in the US and Chinese manufacturing data raised further concerns of another recession. Asian markets witnessed sharp decline too. Markets in Taiwan and South Korea fell more than Indian indices. Most European markets were trading with 0.5-1 per cent losses when Indian markets closed.

Analysts said the selloff was driven by foreign institutional investors (FII), who fear a slowdown in the country's economy and a possible downgrade by major rating agencies soon.

"The underlying retail investors in the western world are pulling out money from the risk assets, whether in the emerging markets or developed markets... FII fund managers have to find cash for which they have to sell," Saurav Mukherjea of Ambit Capital said.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said that withdrawals by foreign institutional investors and weakness in the rupee led to the market crash.

"The currency factor is clearly not helping. It has really hurt investor returns. What is causing the sellout is that they (FIIs) don't see any reason for the rupee to pullback to 45," he added. The rupee has fallen nearly 14 per cent in the last quarter alone. However, the currency was trading higher today, possibly on the back of intervention by the central bank.

Banking, energy, capital goods and IT stocks ended with 2-3 per cent cuts. Consumer durables were the only group of stocks to close with gains. These stocks had fallen sharply yesterday. Most other sectoral indices ended with over 1 per cent cut.

Public sector power major NTPC was the only stock to end with gains on the Sensex. Infrastructure firm Jaiprakash Associates was the top loser on the Sensex, falling over 5 per cent. HDFC Bank, Bharti Airtel, BHEL and Wipro ended 3-4 per cent lower.

On the Nifty, Reliance Communications gained 0.5 per cent after the Supreme Court granted bail to three executives of ADAG group in the 2G case.

DB Realty and Unitech also gained after the court granted bail to their promoters. SKS Microfinance ended with 5 per cent gains ahead of the board meeting. The company's founder Vikram Akula is likely to resign.

The market breadth was extremely weak with an overwhelming 85 per cent stocks declining on the broader BSE 500 index.

Hotmail founder Sabeer Bhatia's JaxtrSMS to allow free SMSes

lMUMBAI: Jaxtr Inc, founded by Sabeer Bhatia and Yogesh Patel, on Wednesday launched JaxtrSMS, a cross-platform open texting application to send SMSes to anyone in the world for free.

"We have developed this application that runs on all mobile applications in the world, including iPhones, Androids, Blackberrys, J2MEs, where one can send unlimited free text messages from his phone to any mobile phone in the world," Jaxtr Inc CEO and co-founder and co-founder of Hotmail Sabeer Bhatia told reporters here.

At present it is very expensive for sending international SMSes costing Rs 5 per message, he said.

JaxtrSMS, which was developed in the country, is expecting at least 100 million subscriber base globally, he added.

"We witnessed tremendous response to this application during the soft launch where users across 197 countries downloaded it in a few weeks and expect 100 million subscribers by end of next year," Bhatia said.

The company will generate revenue through advertisements and premium services like archiving texts, multimedia, video etc, which will be available by mid next year, he said.

The premium services will be available for the subscribers at a very nominal cost, Bhatt said.

"We are talking with advertisers," he said. The US-based company is looking at USD 10-15 million investment in JaxtrSMS in another couple of months. "We are in talks with a few investors and are looking at investing USD 10-15 million in a couple of months time," he added.

Bhatia said this application would be in accordance with the regulatory provisions of the country. Globally, there are 4.2 billion texters worldwide and it is expected to reach 12 trillion by 2015.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Swamy will get copy of file in 2 days: CBI to court

Subramanian Swamy close to nailing Chidambaram in 2G scam?

Are P. Chidambaram's days under the sun numbered? At least Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy believes so.

Swamy, who has kept the heat on the home minister with his allegation that Chidambaram was complicit in the 2G scam, on Tuesday approached the special court with a complaint that the CBI, despite a court order, is yet to give him a file of letters that he believes will implicate the home minister in the case.

The CBI, in turn, told special judge O.P. Saini that it would provide the file - containing correspondence between former telecom minister A. Raja (currently in jail in the 2G scam) and Chidambaram - to Swamy by Thursday. "The court heard my complaint. It (the CBI) has now promised to give me the file by 5 pm on Thursday," Swamy said after the court proceedings. "I will look over the document and then bring it to the court on the next day of hearing (December 3)."

The special court had on November 8 ordered the CBI to give Swamy the file, saying it was satisfied that he needed them to pursue his complaint in the 2G scam.

"Complainant (Swamy) has filed an application that the file relating to UASL policy regarding the sale of equity (lock-in period) was seized by the CBI," the court had said, in its order. "After hearing the complainant, I am satisfied that a copy of the aforesaid file would facilitate the prosecution of this case. Accordingly, the CBI is directed to supply a photocopy of the file to the complainant at the earliest."

A week later, Swamy told the court that the agency was dillydallying and was yet to provide him the file. "This file contains crucial information about share dilution, which is central to the Prevention of Corruption Act levelled against these accused. How can they claim that it is not traceable? One newspaper says that it has been moved around, another says something else. I'm worried that it might be tampered with," Swamy said.

CBI counsel A.K. Singh, however, told Swamy that the agency would provide him with the file once it has been found among tens of thousands of documents it had seized in connection with the 2G case. Swamy claims the file includes sufficient evidence to prove Chidambaram's involvement, including signing on spectrum guidelines regarding the dilution of shares and the sale of equity. He claims that it was Chidambaram who told Raja that he can permit Swan Telecom and Unitech Wireless to offload shares to foreign firms Etisalat and Telenor, respectively, who had been blacklisted by the home ministry on separate occasions.

The CBI's chargesheet claims Shahid Balwa's Swan Telecom, which paid `1,537 crore for licences in 13 circles, was allowed to offload 45 per cent of its shares to UAEbased Etisalat for Rs.4,200 crore. The agency also claims Unitech Wireless offloaded 60 per cent of its shares to Norway-based Telenor for Rs.6,200 crore.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Dr.Abdul Kalam suggests 10-pt programme for Kudankulam

Chennai: Four-lane highways, a mega desalination plant, construction of houses, schools, hospitals as well as cold storages are amongst the suggestions to the central government made by former president A.P.J. Kalam for the development of Kudankulam and surrounding areas in Tamil Nadu.

In a report, Kalam, who Sunday visited the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) in Tirunelveli district and believes the plant is totally safe, said the 10-point Kudankulam PURA (Providing Urban Amenities in Rural Areas) programme should be implemented by 2015. It involves an outlay of around Rs.200 crore and is aimed at benefiting Kudankulam and its 60 odd neighbouring villages.

The 39-page report has been authored by Kalam and his advisor V. Ponraj. It will be submitted to the state and central governments, Ponraj told IANS.

The report asks New Delhi to link Kudankulam and other villages in Tirunelveli district, around 650 km from here, with Tirunelveli, Kanyakumari and Madurai.

Industries that can provide direct employment to around 10,000 people should be located within a 30-60 km radius of Kudankulam and youth should be extended subsidised loans for starting their own business ventures, suggest Kalam and Ponraj.

They also suggest the building of 'green houses', apartments for people living along the shores of Kudankulam and neighbouring areas.

For the benefit of fishing community small jetties, fish processing units, cold storages should be built.

On providing drinking water to the populace, Kalam, a former nuclear and missile scientist, has suggested setting up a one million litres per day desalination plant and also bringing water from Pechiparai dam for drinking as well as agricultural use.

The report has also recommended building a 500-bed hospital in Kudankulam area, setting up tele-medicine hospitals in all villages and two mobile hospitals with facilities to carry out diagnostic tests.

The setting up of five state board and Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) stream schools with hostel facilities, provision of broadband connections and disaster management centre and provision of higher education with proper training to selected youth and placing them in a permanent job are the other suggestions.

According to the report, the government should also start other schemes in consultation with the local populace.

It should allay fears of the people about the Kudankulam nuclear power plant by providing them proper information.

The report went on to say that the central government should join hands with the state government to start generation of power at Kudankulam that houses the safest reactors in the world.

India's nuclear power plant operator Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) is building two 1,000 MW nuclear power reactors with Russian technology and equipment in Kudankulam.

The first unit is expected to go on stream in December. The project is estimated to cost around Rs.13,160 crore (over $2.5 billion).

However, villagers fear for their lives and safety in case of any nuclear accident and the long-term impact it would have on the population.

Their agitation has put a stop to the project work, thereby delaying the commissioning of the first unit by several months.

According to the report, Tirunelveli district is expected to attract an investment of around Rs.20,000 crore with the setting up of the 4,000 MW (2,000 MW existing and 2,000 MW in the future) nuclear power plant which would feed the state nearly 50 percent of the power produced.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Kingfisher in trouble with Wooping 6000 crore debt

Last fiscal its losses stood at 1027 crores, and its total debts stands at a whooping 6000 crores. The flamboyant owner of the company Vijay Mallaya has asked for government help to stay afloat.

Bad times has hit the king of good times. Kingfisher Airlines has hit turbulence and it needs government help to keep flying, that is the message coming from the Mallaya camp.

The carrier has cut a number of flights to cut costs, and has amassed huge debts that it becoming increasingly hard to pay off. An exodus of pilots has not helped matters.

The airline which was launched by Kingfisher, the beer bigwig, in the go-go years for Indian Airlines has yet to post any profits, five years from its launch.

It has amassed huge debts to oil companies, airport authority of India and to private airport operators like GVK and GMR.

Last fiscal its losses stood at 1027 crores, and its total debts stands at a whooping 6000 crores. The flamboyant owner of the company Vijay Mallaya has asked for government help to stay afloat.

The airline owes huge amounts to oil companies, the Airports Authority of India and private airport operators GVK and GMR Group. The airline has not posted any profit since its launch five years ago, and reported a net loss of Rs.1,027 crore last fiscal and Rs.263 crore in the last quarter.

Mallaya has asked the government to give it time to pay off oil companies, and facilitate lending from banks.

However, BJP is against any government help for the troubled company. Former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha, opposed the move saying the government can’t bail out a private company. If Mallaya was unable to pay his debts, it was upto him to find ways to get out of the mess, Sinha said.
The bailout, which has become popular in recent years, perhaps due to the major bailouts engineered by US and Europe for their troubled companies at the height of the financial crisis, is an unfair use of public money for private sector entities.

When profits go to the companies themselves, it stands to reason that they should be the one bearing the losses, and the risks.

The question is, does facilitating loans from private banks fall in the same category as a bailout. And will banks be willing to lend to Kingfisher without some sort of government guarantee that it will pick up the tab if Kingfisher fails?
The recent turmoil in the airline started after it reduced 32 flights from its daily schedule, a move which the company said was taken to rationalise route plans and improve yields.

However, this was seen only as another sign of distress by the stock markets.

The company’s stock at the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE), declined over 19 percent in early trade to a new low of Rs.17.55. It however pared some of the losses and closed the day at 19.65, down 9.45 percent.

Also, the airline saw about 100 pilots quitting recently, but the company’s chief executive said such attrition levels were normal for the aviation business.

“Some 100 pilots have quit over the several months. There is a natural attrition which happens in any airline. UB group has continued to support us, so there is no question about the future or the viability of the airline,” Sanjay Aggarwal, chief executive Kingfisher Airlines, told a news channel.

In the backdrop of a 30 percent increase in jet fuel prices since December 2010, the domestic airlines’ are expected to lose Rs.3,500 crore in the first six months of this fiscal.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Massive Solar Flare - Giant Sunspot Unleashes

.A powerful solar flare that erupted Thursday (Nov. 3) from a huge blemish on the sun's surface has been classified as an X1.9 flare, ranking it in among the most powerful types of storms from our star can unleash.

The flare originated in a humongous sunspot that was sighted earlier this week, which ranks as one of the largest sunspots seen in years. The event began at 4:27 p.m. ET (2027 GMT).

The flare "triggered some disruption to radio communications on Earth beginning about 45 minutes later," NASA officials wrote in a statement. "Scientists are continuing to watch this active region as it could well produce additional solar activity as it passes across the front of the sun."

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory and twin Stereo sun-watching spacecraft snapped photos and video of the huge solar flare during solar storm.

A flare is a powerful release of energy that brightens the sun, and is often associated with an area of increased magnetic activity on the solar surface. This magnetic activity can also inhibit the flow of heat to the surface in a process called convection, creating darkened areas on the face of the sun called sunspots.

The huge active region on the sun right now, called AR11339, is about 50,000 miles (80,000 km) long, several times wider than the Earth.

"This large and complex active region just rotated onto the disk and we will watch it for the next 10 days," astronomers with NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory satellite wrote in an update.

Later on the same day as the flare, in another area of the sun, a burst of charged particles called a coronal mass ejection released from the surface. This eruption came from the back side of the sun and is headed toward the planet Venus, so should not pose any risk to Earth.

Because NASA has a suite of spacecraft observing the sun at all times from many directions, the agency was able to observe the coronal mass ejection as well as the solar flare.

Scientists say we probably haven't seen the last of activity from this dynamic region of the sun.

"The large, bright active region remains potent," officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). "Odds are good there's more to come."

And recent events are just part of a larger ramping up of action on the sun lately, as our star moves toward the peak of activity in its 11-year cycle around 2013.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Narendra Modi plans world's biggest stupa near new Maruti plant site

AHMEDABAD: In a bid to turn Gujarat into a pilgrim place for countries which follow Buddhism, chief minister Narendra Modi is pulling out all stops to build the world's biggest stupa, over 100 km from the place Suzuki has chosen for the biggest Maruti plant in North Gujarat.

The project will cost Rs 1,000 crore, centred around a 351-ft high stupa towering over a 151-ft statue of Lord Buddha. The site - Dev-ni-Mori in Sabarkantha district - is two km away from Shamlaji temple located on the Ahmedabad-Delhi National Highway. An active archeological site, this is the 5th place in the world where Buddha's body relics have been found.

The relics are at present kept wrapped in a silk cloth in a gold-plated casket at the archaeology department of MS University in Vadodara. A team from the department then headed by well-known archaeologist and professor B Subbarao had unearthed the ashes belonging to third or fourth century in Dev-ni-Mori in 1957. It was shifted to Vadodara as the site was getting submerged under the Meshwo dam. Prominent archaeologist and former MSU professor V H Sonawane says the casket's inscription refers to it as bodily remains of Buddha.

Modi is not only eyeing foreign tourists from the Buddhist world but also big business from South-East Asia economies like Japan and South Korea which have lined up bigticket investments here. Of 22 companies which evinced interest in the project, Gujarat has shortlisted two from China, a country Modi is visiting next week.

Lord Buddha himself visited several places in Gujarat. Excavations of stupas and viharas suggest that Buddhism came to Gujarat during his lifetime itself. Chinese traveller Huen Tsang has mentioned about the several monasteries in the Vadnagar-Vijaynagar region and that almost 1,300 monks lived here.

Modi may also steal the thunder of his Bihar counterpart Nitish Kumar, who has been actively promoting Bodh Gaya, Nalanda and other sites. This may enhance his appeal among dalits - a large number of them being Buddhists - besides tribals who also have belief in the Buddha sites in North Gujarat.

Bihar would, of course, not be able to match the money power of Gujarat which plans to spruce up the stupa site with resorts, retreats, ecotourism and a riverfront on the Meshwo. About 100 acres of land have been notified for it and more may be acquired.

China visit: Narendra Modi says no to 'state hospitality'

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has refused “state hospitality” during his visit to China next week, The Indian Express learnt on Thursday.

Modi, who will be in Shanghai and Beijing from November 8-12, has reportedly told the Congress-led UPA government that he will not avail of “state hospitality” in China.

“He was offered state hospitality, as is customary for any visiting chief minister, but he has refused it,” a source said.

According to government rules, “state hospitality” means the Indian embassy in the country takes care of the accommodation, food and transport of a visiting Indian leader.

The visiting leader also gets a dearness allowance, which varies from country to country. For instance, for China, it comes to about US $100 per day.

The Gujarat CM, however, has not cited any reason for bearing his own expenses.

South Korean envoy meets Narendra Modi

South Korean, envoy, meets, Narendra Modi Ahmedabad: South Korean Ambassador Kim Joong Keun on Thursday met Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and expressed his country's interest in collaborating with the state in infrastructure and other areas.

Showing interest in sectors like auto, shipping, electronics and knowledge industries, Keun urged the Chief Minister to establish trade relations between Kyunggi province of South Korea and Gujarat, official sources said.

Modi appraised the visiting envoy of how Gujarat was developing as a car manufacturing hub, with Tata, Ford, PSA Peugeot Citroen and Maruti having decided to set up plants.

Gujarat's doors were open to Korean auto major Hyundai, Modi told Keun, sources said.

The Chief Minister also invited Korean ship-building companies to set up units in Gujarat, assuring land off the sea coast.

Modi told the Ambassador that his government was keen to develop ship-building industries along the 1,600 km-long state coastline and also construct the world's largest man-made fresh water reservoir, sources added.

Modi also invited Korean companies to set up facilities in electronic zone in Gandhinagar and in Dholera SIR.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Bring back black money from abroad: Advani

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and former Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, on Saturday, called upon the Central government to bring back black money stashed away abroad by Indians, and use it for the development of rural India.

He was addressing a public meeting here on Saturday organised as part of his 38-day ‘Jan Chetna Yatra,' an anti-corruption campaign touring the country.

“Three years ago, the BJP had set up a task force headed by R. Vaidyanathan [(of the Indian Institute of Management (Bangalore)] to conduct a study of the how much money may have been stashed abroad by Indians. The task force approximated that nearly Rs. 25 lakh crore was stored in western banks. My suggestion to the government will be to invest this wealth in the villages of India. There are nearly 6 lakh villages in the country, most of which lack elementary facilities. If this wealth were to be used in these villages, not a single one would remain without electricity, drinking water, schools, hospitals, and roads.” he said.

Mr. Advani asserted that the yatra was not intended to topple governments, but to urge the common man not to make compromises with corruption.

India is not corrupt

Later, addressing a gathering at Pandalam, the BJP leader said that India was a not a land of corruption. “The government and certain people may be corrupt, but the country can never be termed corrupt. ‘We do not give bribe to anyone and we do not take bribe from anyone' is the slogan raised throughout the yatra,” he said.

The BJP leader said that the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government's failure to deliver had led to people losing faith in the political system. “The poor are becoming poorer. Food has become costlier. Corruption is hurting the country badly,” he said. “Though we got ‘swaraj' we grossly lack ‘suraj' or good governance even 64 years after Independence,” he added.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Swamy files FIR against Sonia Gandhi for “inciting hatred against Hindus”

New Delhi: Subramanian Swamy has filed an FIR against the UPA chief Sonia Gandhi and members of the National Advisory Council (NAC), for “committing offenses of propagating hate” against the Hindu community of India, by drafting the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence Bill 2011.

In his written complaint to the Station House Officer of Sector 18 Rohini, Crime Branch, New Delhi, Swamy has alleged that Mrs. Gandhi and the NAC members, through the bill, have sought to target Hindus of India by “inciting crimes against the Hindu with impunity.”

Swamy alleges that by aiming to incite hatred against the Hindu community, the NAC, with Ms Sonia Gandhi as Chairperson, and other members have jointly committed offences like 153A & B, 295A and 505(2) of the Indian Penal Code.

Explaining his objections against the bill, the Janata Party chief has alleged that the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence Bill is essentially a manifestation of the NAC’s views that the “majority community – read Hindus – are the perpetrators of communal violence in India and the minority – read Muslims and Christians – are the victims.”

This assumption has also been alleged by Swamy, to be an “incitement of religious and communal strife” which in turn is a crime under the IPC.

Terming the Bill to be a “threat” to national integration, social harmony and constitutional federalism, Swamy has accused the “scriptwriters of this bill” NAC in this case, of “religious bias” against Hindus.

The complaint specially mentions the All India Christian Council (AICC) and the Joint Committee of Muslim Organizations for Empowerment (JCMOE) as the organizations which pushed for the bill.

Referring to AICC and JCMOE, Swamy alleges that, these two organizations consider only the Christians and Muslims as the “generally targeted” victims of communal violence; and they wanted that the word ‘communal violence’ be re-defined in such a way that only the Muslims and Christians are treated as victims and Hindus as predators.

Swamy finds the Bill to be a ploy to empower the Central Government to invoke Article 355 and 356 of the Constitution against any state in the event of any communal violence.

Swamy has also alleged that the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence Bill 2011, once passed, will only be exploited by organizations like LeT and HuJI.

In his complaint, Swamy has asked the authorities to do a through “investigation into the communal mentality’ of the NAC chairperson Ms. Sonia Gandhi and other members and take necessary action under the law to prosecute the offenders under the cited sections of the IPC.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

No need to pass Telangana resolution in Assembly: Advani

Senior BJP leader L.K. Advani has said that there is no need to pass a resolution in the Andhra Pradesh Assembly to form a new State of Telangana since it is neither mandatory nor obligatory under the Constitution.

“Under Article 3 of the Constitution forming a new State is the total responsibility of the Parliament. As the Union Home Minister in the NDA government, I had initiated the process of forming three new States after unanimously passing the Bill in the Parliament”, he said at a crowded press conference here on Wednesday.

“In respect of two of these States, I had to ask for passage of resolutions in their respective Assemblies as their Chief Ministers opposed division of their states and the NDA constituents were not in power there. Therefore, I asked them to consult the entire political set up in their states”, he added.

Emphatically supporting his party's stand in favour of smaller states, Mr. Advani said that if the Congress-led UPA government tabled a Bill for formation of Telangana State, the BJP would extend its full support. He went on to say that the demand for Telangana was genuine and it would be realised by January 1, 2012, if the Bill was introduced in the winter session of Parliament.

Appealing to the youth and students not to commit suicide, the senior BJP leader, who was on his second day of Jan Chetna Yatra in the Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh, said he had never seen such a situation where so many youth sacrificed their lives for the realisation of their demand.

Coming down heavily on the UPA-II government, Mr. Advani said that in the last two years it was paralaysed by total indecisiveness and had became dysfunctional. Changing the stand within 15 days after making announcement (on Telangana) in both Houses of Parliament has never happened in the 60 years of Independent history, he said.

Asked whether the BJP understood the feelings of people of other regions of Andhra Pradesh for remaining united, he said that formation of smaller states was a necessity from the standpoint of administrative convenience. “Viability is size and Telangana has that. I was born in Sindh and then it was part of Bombay Presidency. How far is it correct if anyone says that it should not have been divided from Bombay Presidency”, he asked.

BJP leaders M. Venkaiah Naidu, Ananth Kumar, Ravi Sankar Prasad, Ch. Vidya Sagar Rao and the party's State president G. Kishan Reddy were present.

Monday, October 17, 2011

With four-zero score, electoral rout for Congress

New Delhi/Hisar: In a bruising electoral blow, India's ruling Congress Monday lost the deposit in the Hisar Lok Sabha by-election in Haryana, where Anna Hazare campaigned against it, and was also defeated in the three assembly by-polls in Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and Haryana.

It was a sorry nought for the Congress, which rules in all the states barring Bihar. And a moment to savour for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with three of the candidates it backed winning their Oct 13 elections.

In Hisar, the Haryana Janhit Congress' (HJC) Kuldeep Singh Bishnoi won with 355,541 votes while Ajay Chautala of the Indian National Lok Dal was 5,923 votes behind. Three-time Congress MP Jai Parkash finished a poor third with 149,785 votes and forfeited his security deposit.

In Maharashtra's Khadakwasla assembly, the ruling Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) alliance lost to the BJP-Shiv Sena combine. In Andhra Pradesh's Telangana region, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) bagged Banswada. In Bihar, the ruling Janata Dal-United (JD-U) retained Darounda.

Defeat is always "sad", Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said in the national capital. "We shall have to analyse why we have lost."

The Anna factor was also under debate.

The Hisar seat, which fell vacant in June after three-time chief minister Bhajan Lal died, was the first time that Team Anna had actively entered the electoral fray.

But Bishnoi, Bhajan Lal's son who had welcomed the initiative, said he owed nothing to the anti-corruption crusader.

"I attribute it only to my father and the (alliance with) BJP," Bishnoi told reporters in Hisar.

The Congress also underplayed the Anna factor that had propelled Hisar on the national consciousness. Jai Parkash, who had come third in the last election as well though he had managed 2.04 lakh votes, denied that Hazare had anything to do with the result. "The caste factor undid me," he said.

Congress general secretary B.K. Hari Prasad added that Jai Parkash lost his deposit because of "sympathy for Kuldeep's father Bhajan Lal and the development work done by the former chief minister".

"Team Anna is shining on borrowed feather," Hari Prasad said.

As the debate intensified, Team Anna member Arvind Kejriwal said: "We have no enmity with the Congress."

Activist Medha Patkar, however, insisted that the Anna factor had made an impact and cited Jai Parkash's diminishing vote share to back her point.

The sympathy factor that the Congress believes played out against it in Hisar did not work as anticipated in Maharashtra's Khadakwasla.

The Congress-NCP's gamble of getting the widow of the late Maharashtra Navnirman Sena legislator Ramesh Wanjale did not pay off. Harshada Wanjale, the NCP candidate, was unable to get the sympathy vote and lost to the BJP's Bhimrao Tapkir, who also had the backing of Shiv Sena.

Wanjale had died three months ago, necessitating the by-poll. The MNS, which did not put up a candidate as a tribute to Wanjale's memory, said Harshada Wanjale lost the sympathy of the electorate.

In Andhra Pradesh's Banswada, the TRS rode on the demand for a separate Telangana and wrested the seat from the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) by nearly 50,000 votes.

The TDP did not contest in view of the Telangana sentiment but the Congress soldiered on. P. Srinivas Reddy, the TDP winner of 2009, was re-elected, this time as the TRS candidate, over S. Srinivas Goud of the Congress.

In a sense, the only saving grace was Bihar where the Congress is neither in power nor a main player.

The Darounda assembly seat went to JD-U's Kavita Singh, who defeated her nearest rival, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), by over 20,000 votes.

As the Congress counted its losses, the BJP labelled it a "victory of democracy".

"The results show the people of India have voted against corruption and the Congress... It indicates which way the political wind is blowing," he said.

Opposition shocks Congress-NCP in Maharastra -B.J.P wins

Pune: Maharashtra's ruling Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) was Monday defeated by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-Shiv Sena combine in the keenly contested Khadakwasla assembly by-election.

The BJP's Bhimrao Tapkir, supported by all the opposition parties, trounced his main rival, the Nationalist Congress Party's Harshada Wanjale, by a margin of over 4,000 votes.

BJP Leader of Opposition Eknath Khadse, welcoming Tapkir's victory, termed the outcome as 'not surprising, but on expected lines' in view of the Congress-NCP's 'misrule' in the state.

The seat was earlier held by the late Maharashtra Navnirman Sena's popular legislator Ramesh Wanjale, whose widow Harshada contested it on a NCP ticket in the by-elections held here Oct. 13.

He died three months ago, necessitating the by-poll, but the MNS did not put up a candidate as a tribute to Wanjale's memory.

A MNS spokesperson termed the outcome 'as expected' and said Harshada Wanjale lost the sympathy of the electorate.

Senior BJP leader and Deputy Leader in the Lok Sabha Gopinath Munde also said that the ruling Congress-NCP had lost the 'sympathy' of the people and this would reflect in the ensuing civic elections in the state as well as the forthcoming assembly elections.

'It spells defeat of (NCP Deputy Chief Minister) Ajit Pawar and he has been taught a lesson,' Munde said.

Republican Party of India (RPI) leader Ramdas Athavale, expressing satisfaction over Tapkir's victory, said that the backward classes and Dalits had rejected the ruling Congress-NCP coalition and the result would set 'a new direction in Maharashtra politics'.

Congress leaders in Pune blamed the poor turnout - barely 32 percent of the total 362,000 electorate of Khadakwasla - at last Thursday's polling, as one of the factors which impacted the negative outcome today.

The elections were held under the shadow of Anna Hazare's anti-corruption and anti-Congress crusade.

BJP activists in Pune and other parts of the state broke out in joyous celebrations as soon the results were declared around noon.

The victory was preceded by several tense moments.

While Harshada Wanjale led by over 4,300 votes till the eighth round of counting, the tables suddenly turned and Tapkir notched a lead of around 9,000 votes till the 20th round.

Some rounds later, he was declared winner with a margin of around 5,000 votes.

Hisar By Polls -Congress Routs

We will review poll rout in Hisar: Congress

After witnessing major blow in Hisar by- election ,Congress said that they will review the situation that led to Congress defeat.

Though majority of Congressmen were in a self denial mood Pranab Mukerjee was the lone senior Congressman who said that the defeat calls for introspection.

Admitting defeat in Hisar by election ,Congress Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said "Hissar by-poll result is very sad news and party will review poll rout'.
Others such as Jagdambika Pal ,Digvijay Singh and even Salman Khursheed have pohpoohed the results.

Jagdambika Pal said that " Hisar being a traditional bastion of Bhajan Lal family his son Kuldeep was sure to win the seat. I'm not surprised".

Salman Khursheed echoed the statement of Mr Pal and said that winning and losing are games of election and much should not be made out of it.
Digvijay Singh, the ever talkative Congress general secretary had conceded defeat on Sunday only when he said that Congress has never won from Hisar. "Anna factor is not proved as the seat has traditionally belonged to Bhajan Lal camp", he added.

As to why does Congress fight election when it knows it cannot win; remains to be answered by Digvijay.

Haryana Janhit Congress-BJP candidate Kuldeep Bishnoi is heading for a historic win in this by election.Bishnoi's own political future and the longevity of his alliance was depended on this election..He is the son of former chief minister Bhajan Lal and BJP is supporting him.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Anna disagrees with Bhushan, says J&K is a part of India

Anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare on Friday distanced himself from Prashant Bhushan's remarks on Kashmir and said that the entire state was an integral part of India. Bhushan had earlier said that plebiscite should be carried out in Kashmir to determine its future.

Anna displayed his displeasure at Bhushan's comment and said, "Prashant Bhushan's views on Kashmir are wrong. We do not endorse Prashan Bhushan's statement on Kashmir. I will tell Prashant Bhushan that if he is giving an opinion on a subject, he can give it in his personal capacity. If he is giving the team's view, he should speak to the team before."

Anna also cleared his stand on the Kashmir issue and said, "My personal view is that Kashmir is an integral part of India."

Bhushan, an integral part of Team Anna, was brutally attacked on Wednesday for his remarks by three people - Tejinder Singh Bagga, Inder Verma and Vishnu Gupta.

Anna also added that future of the senior lawyer as a member of his team is in doubt following the controversial comments. "We will decide if Bhushan would be part of Team Anna," said Anna.

The 74-year-old also clarified that the Team Anna will only fight against corruption and for a strong Lokpal. "Team Anna will work to bring Jan Lokpal Bill and corruption free India," he said.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

PM failed to act on black money: Advani

Patna: Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani Wednesday said he expected Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to act on black money stashed abroad, but the issue was not seriously pursued.

He said he first raised the issue of black money in 2009. "I wrote a letter to the prime minister then on this issue," Advani said at a crowded press conference here on the second day of his cross-country Jan Chetna Yatra.

"I expected the prime minister to act seriously on black money and the issue was not seriously pursued."

"Both (former finance minister) P. Chidambaram and (his successor) Pranab Mukherjee told me that something would be done, but nothing happened."

Advani demanded that the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government bring out a white paper on black money in the winter session of parliament.

"I demand that the central government bring out a white paper on black money in the winter session of parliament and make the names of people having black money public," Advani said.

Advani said the UPA government should also inform the country what steps have been taken till date to bring back black money stashed in banks abroad.

"I have been told that the government has the names of some Indians having black money in foreign banks, it is time the government made their names public," Advani said.

"If the government hesitates in making their names people public, it will send the message that it wants to protect them," Advani said.

He recalled that after he raised the black money issue, he was ridiculed by some Congress spokespersons who asked what the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government had done about it.

"During NDA rule, foreign banks were adamant not to talk about black money. But the fact is that the scenario has changed only after the signing of the UN convention against corruption following financial problems in America," Advani said.

Advani's Jan Chetna Yatra to campaign against corruption was flagged off by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar Tuesday.

Supreme Court asks why wasn't any action taken in 2007

NEW DELHI: In a development that focuses on the 'gate-keeping role' of Prime Minister Manmohan and then finance minister P Chidambaram in the implementation of the 2G spectrum allocation policy, the Supreme Court on Thursday asked why no step was taken to prevent irregularities in November 2007.

A bench of Justices GS Singhvi and HL Dattu said it had been resisting temptation to ask this question all along, but it was clear from CBI's 2G scam chargesheet that the "head of the government and the finance minister were aware" of the allegations about irregularity in the allocation of spectrum and had favoured the auction route.

"It is not that the government was not aware of things. You could have avoided the entire exercise by just taking one decision. It was felt by the government. The spectrum allocations were done much later than the letter of intent issued on January 10, 2008," it said.

The correspondence between A Raja and the Prime Minister, particularly letters dated November 2, 2007, and 26 December, 2007, show that Raja had informed Singh about his department's decision to reject the method of auction as well as revision of entry fee. "What prevented the government from taking this one decision? From September and October 2007, complaints started flowing about the alleged irregularity in spectrum allocation. The CVC also wrote about it.

It (the 2G scam) could have been put to an end and saved a lot of time of various institutions concerned," the bench said. To this, Additional Solicitor-General Haren Raval said what other authorities could have done or not done will not lessen the gravity of the crime of the accused, who were responsible for the allocation of letters of intent on January 10, 2008.

"But the gravity of the crime would have been substantially reduced if not completely prevented," the bench retorted. Between May 2005 and January 2008, the Ministry of Finance had consistently suggested that entry fee should be revised and that auction methodology should be adopted. The prime ministerial establishment will have a lot of explaining to do as the decision of selling spectrum at Rs 1,650 crore was ratified at a meeting chaired by the prime minister.

This meeting was attended by Chidambaram, Raja, secretaries of finance and DoT as well as officials of PMO. Those in the government who assert that Chidambaram cannot be made the fall guy say that the in a note prepared for the meeting of the full Telecom Commission on November 11, 2008, the Ministry of Finance had asked the commission to suggest "suitable mechanism for updating the entry fee of Rs 1,650 fixed in 2003".

Mamata resigns from Lok Sabha

Kolkata/New Delhi: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Saturday resigned as Lok Sabha member, days after winning the Bhowanipore assembly by-polls to make her maiden entry into the state legislature.

"She has sent her resignation letter through me. I have handed it over to Lok Sabha Speaker (Meira Kumar) today (Saturday)," Trinamool Congress general secretary and union Minister of State for Shipping Mukul Roy told media persons in New Delhi.

The Trinamool Congress, the second largest constituent of the ruling United Progressive Alliance, will now have 18 Lok Sabha members.

Asked about Meira Kumar's response, Roy said: "She told me she was both happy and sad. She was sad because she would lose a colourful member. At the same time she was happy because Mamata has taken over the charge of a problematic state like West Bengal".

Banerjee, who had won the Kolkata South lok Sabha seat in 2009, won the Bhowanipore seat Sep 28 with a huge margin of 54,213 votes over the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) nominee Nandini Mukherjee.

Banerjee had not contested the April-may assembly polls, saying she wanted to campaign across the state to end the 34-year rule of the Left Front.

Banerjee won her first Lok Sabha election in 1984 by suprising CPI-M veteran Somnath Chatterjee in the Jadavpore constituency.

Five years later, she lost to CPI-M's Malini Bhattacharya from the same seat, but returned to the lower house of parliament in 1991 from Kolkata South by defeating sitting CPI-M member Biplab Dasgupta.

Since then, the voters of Kolkata South have always voted for Banerjee.

Use 1909 to Block Unwanted Calls and SMS on Your Mobile

Finally, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India or TRAI has brought a good news for more than 800 M mobile customers of India. Indian mobile subscribers have long been waiting for this menace to end soon. However, TRAI’s earlier efforts to ban the pesky calls and SMS has not been much fruitful. But this time TRAI has taken this up in a very strict manner and has announced heavy penalties for the telemarketer defaulters. Majority of Indian mobile subscribers have been complaining about receiving unwanted commercial communication (i.e. unwanted promotional messages and calls) on their mobile phones. Many of these subscribers have been receiving such calls and messages inspite of having registered already with TRAI’s “Do Not Call” registry. However, this time, in order to curb this menace of unwanted calls and SMS, TRAI has recommended heavy penalty of up to 2.5 lacs per offence for the telemarketing companies. This also includes disconnection of telephone numbers for such defaulting telemarketing companies. TRAI had already disconnected more than 70000 telephone connections of registered telemarketing companies on account of making unwanted calls to the registered customers.

The whole process has been made quite simpler and clearer this time for an easy implementation. This includes

Registration by a mobile subscriber for the National Customer Preference Register which was earlier named as Do Not Call registry.
Mandatory registration by all telemarketing companies.
Easy identification of all unwanted or unsolicited calls and messages.
Mechanism for the mobile subscribers to enable Full or partial block of pesky calls and messages.
Procedure to log a complaint against a telemarketing company by a mobile subscriber for breaching the guidelines.
The strict implementation of the whole process of blocking calls and SMS as well as imposing fines for the defaulter will be effective from September 27, 2011. All the Indian mobile subscribers can hope to get a relief from all nonsense and unwanted calls and SMS with this. However, you will continue to receive all those calls and messages until you register with TRAI’s National Customer Preference Register. You need not register again if you had already registered with Do Not Call registry.

How to Identify the Unwanted or Pesky Calls and Messages

DoT has allotted number ‘140’ series for the fixed line and 10 digits number series of ‘70NNNNNNNN’ for the mobiles. This will ensure an easy identification of such calls and messages by mobile subscribers irrespective of the fact if they are registered or not.

Registration Process for Mobile Subscribers to Fully or Partial Block the Unsolicited Calls and SMSs
Mobile subscribers can register their telephone number with the National Customer Preference Register by dialing a toll free number 1909 and by sending an SMS to 1909. You can then set your preference either via an IVR or with the help of a customer care executive. For registering and setting up the preference via SMS, the SMS message has to be sent in the following format to the number 1909.

SMS “START 0” to 1909 for fully blocked option i.e. blocking all the calls and messages


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Stronger case against Dayanidhi Maran than Raja: CBI

New Delhi, (IANS) Former communications minister Dayanidhi Maran will be questioned soon, a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) official said, adding the case against him was “stronger than” that against his successor A. Raja.

Maran’s brother Kalanithi, Maxis owner T. Ananda Krishnan and Astro All Asia Networks CEO Ralph Marshall will also be quizzed, the official, who did not want to be identified, said after the agency conducted raids at nine locations of the Marans in three cities.

“Dayanidhi Maran, his brother will be questioned in next few days,” the official said.

The agency has already sent a letter rogatory (a judicial request for help on information from another country) to Malaysia to ascertain the details of Maxis Communications’ ownership structure and for information on the group’s other companies, including Astro All Asia Networks.

“They (Malaysia) will also quiz them (Ananda Krishna and Marshall) soon,” said the official.

The case against Maran is “stronger than” that against Raja, the official added.

Asked if the Marans will be arrested, the CBI official refused to comment on the issue.

“Hopefully, we will file charge sheet in the case swiftly,” said a CBI source.

An FIR was filed against Maran and his brother Kalanithi, Marshall, Ananda Krishnan, and three private companies — Sun Direct TV, Astro All Asia Networks and Maxis Communications Sunday.

According to CBI officials, the Marans came under the scanner after a complaint by industrialist C. Sivasankaran that he was forced to exit mobile telephone company Aircel by them when Dayanidhi Maran was the communications minister.

Sivasankaran alleged that Maran favoured Maxis group in the takeover of his company and, in return, investments were made by the company through Astro All Asia Network in Sun TV owned by the Maran family.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Aakash: World's cheapest tablet launched; to be sold for $60 in retail

"The Rs 3,000 figure is the 'maximum suggested retail price' of the commercial version of the product which we will offer with an embedded cellular modem and SIM," said Suneet Singh Tuli, CEO of Datawind, maker of the world's cheapest tablet.

The $60 tablet for retail sales has an inbuilt cellular modem and SIM to access internet, which will be absent in the $35 device, supplied to the government.

As a business, we need to make a profit, and our distribution channel needs to make a profit, which is all covered in the MRP of Rs 2,999,"

Both versions of the tablet, will run on Google's Android platform, with WiFi connectivity for internet access and cloud storage. The tablets will have 256 MB of RAM, a 32 GB expandable memory slot and two USB ports.

The commercial version of the tablet would have no duty waivers or subsidy, as in the government's version. An inbuilt cellular modem and SIM card will add to the price of the commercial tablet.

The commercial version of the tablet, is expected be out within 60 days, of its launch on October 5.

Datawind adds that it is supplying to the government at a price of Rs 2200, which includes sales tax and replacement warranty. "The $35 price is achievable at higher volume levels. When we supply the product to the government at $35, then too it will allow us a margin, albeit at higher volumes," Datawind CEO added.

India trails fellow BRIC nations Brazil, Russia and China in the drive to get its 1.2 billion population connected to technologies such as the Internet and mobile phones, a report by risk analysis firm Maplecroft said this year.

The number of Internet users grew 15-fold between 2000 and 2010, according to another recent report. Still, just 8 percent of Indians have access. That compares with nearly 40 percent in China.

Some 19 million people subscribe to mobile phones every month, making India the world's fastest growing market, but most are from the wealthier segment of the population in towns.

Bharat Mehra, an expert on the use of communications technology for development, said the budget tablet could be used to deliver distance learning in rural areas and among students.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Stop protecting Chidambaram, BJP slams PM

The BJP on Wednesday slammed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for his defence of home minister P Chidambaram in the 2G spectrum issue.

Talking to reporters, BJP leader Sushma Swaraj said that the PM had, a few months back, expressed his commitment to fight corruption but he is not keeping his promise by defending Chidambaram.

Swaraj said that Chidambaram had committed the same crime as jailed former telecom minister A Raja. She further said that the CBI was also trying to protect Chidambaram as it had recorded the statements of BJP leaders Arun Shourie and Jaswant Singh but not the home minister.

Swaraj rejected the PM's Tuesday's statement that the Opposition is trying to destablise the government. She said that the 2G note had come from their finance minister and not the BJP and the 2G scam had been unearthed by the CAG.

Swaraj urged the PM to take the fight against corruption forward as he had promised and not save the heads from rolling as they are trying to do in the case of Chidambaram.

Swaraj said that the Prime Minister knew all about the 2G muddle and he was not kept in the dark by his ministers.

Adding to Sushma's remarks, BJP leader Arun Jaitley said that the PM has distanced himself from ground realities and is living in denial. His statements saying he had full faith in PC and will protect his ministers show that he is away from the truth.

Jaitley said that the nation expects PM to be seen as protecting the truth and not the minister. It would have been better if he had answered questions emerging from 2G row than attacking the Opposition.

He also said that the PM's statement that there was no controversy in the government was wrong as could be seen during Anna Hazare's anti-corruption movement.

PM's allegation that the BJP is trying to destablise the government is wrong as they don't have numbers and the government is becoming unstable due to lack of leadership and credibility, Jaitley added. A corrupt government will become unstable by its own weight and the government is collapsing under its own contradiction, Jaitley further stated.