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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Walmart lobbying: BJP wants JPC probe

The government has no hesitation in holding an inquiry on reports of Walmart lobbying in the US to open the way for foreign equity in retail trade in India, parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath told Parliament on Tuesday. Amid ruckus in both Houses of Parliament with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) demanding an explanation from the government on the issue, Kamal Nath assured members that the government was 'concerned over the issue'. 'We have no hesitation in having an inquiry in this and money spent in India. We are open for a discussion and this is matter of concern for the government,' he told both Houses of Parliament. 'We want to get to the facts of the matter. I would during course of the day make further announcements towards this,' he added. Both the Houses were disrupted with the BJP demanding a discussion on Wal-Mart reportedly spending Rs.125 crore on lobbying activities in the US, including on issues related to enhanced market access for investment in India. Earlier in the day, reports of Wal-Mart engaging lobbying firms to get entry into India and demand for quota in promotion in government jobs rocked Parliament leading to washout of Question Hour in both Houses. In the Lok Sabha, as soon as Speaker Meira Kumar took up the Question Hour, members of BSP, Left parties and Trinamool Congress trooped into the Well raising slogans demanding inquiry into reports of lobbying by Wal-Mart and status of probe in the coal block allocation. BJP members were on their feet demanding that the Speaker suspend Question Hour and ask the government to reply on the lobbying issue.The uproar continued even as the Speaker made repeated appeals for allowing the Question Hour to continue. Her assurances of allowing members to raise the issues during Question Hour also failed to cut any ice with the agitating members.As the din continued, the Speaker adjourned the House till noon and later till 2pm. In the Rajya Sabha, BJP members were up on their feet soon after Chairman Hamid Ansari made an obituary reference to former member G Swaminathan.Within minutes, BJP members raised the issue of reported lobbying by Wal-Mart and SP members were objecting to the proposed move to provide reservations to SC/ST in promotion in government jobs. When repeated efforts failed, Ansari said a situation has arisen where 'the chair has to watch helplessly' frequent disruption of Question Hour.He said he proposed to call meeting of the Rules Committee and suggest shifting the Question Hour or dispense with it all together.Ansari then adjourned the House for 30 minutes. When the House reassembled, similar scenes were witnessed and the Chair adjourned it till noon.Seeking to put pressure on the government on the Walmart lobbying issue, BJP today said it was determined to raise the matter in both Houses of Parliament and seek suspension of Question Hour.'We will raise in both Houses reports of Wal-Mart spending huge money to lobby for entry the Indian market. While Yashwant Sinha will raise the issue in Lok Sabha, M Venkaiah Naidu will raise it in Rajya Sabha today,' the party's chief spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters after a BJP Parliamentary Party meeting here.He said the party wants an independent probe into the whole affair to ascertain the facts as to who were the beneficiaries of the amount spent by Walmart on lobbying for entry into India Naidu told reporters outside Parliament House that the party would not allow the Question Hour to function if the government did not meet its demand.'We will seek suspension of Question Hour in both Houses of Parliament today,' he said. Prasad said that the money spent on lobbying was spent in India and not in the US. 'We have the right to know who were the beneficiaries of this money spent on lobbying,' he said. BJP had yesterday raised the issue in Rajya Sabha, forcing two adjournments. 'The main opposition party was supported by CPI-M, CPI, SP, JD-U, Trinamool Congress, AGP and AIADMK, whose members demanded a probe, saying 'corruption' has come to the fore.'Walmart has in its lobbying disclosure report to the US Senate said it has spent Rs. 125 crore on lobbying and USD three million have been spent in 2012 itself for entering the Indian market. 'Lobbying is illegal in India. Lobbying is a kind of bribe. If Walmart has said that hundreds of crores of rupees were spent in India, then it is a kind of bribe. The government should tell who was given this bribe. This raises a question mark on the implementation of FDI in retail,' Prasad said.

Another shame for Vijay Mallya; Kingfisher aircraft seized

New Delhi, Dec 11: Vijay Mallya landed in another major trouble when service tax department seized an aircraft of Kingfisher Airlines. The 62-seater ATR aircraft has been seized as the airline management failed to pay its due service tax. At least Rs 63 crore service tax is yet to be paid by Kingfisher Airlines, informed sources. Meanwhile, sources also informed that the airlines has been served a notice by Mumbai airport aithorities as Kingfisher failed to clear Rs 22 crore dues towards parking and navigational charges. Mumbai airport authorities earlier were quoted as saying, "We have yet to hear from Kingfisher Airlines on our notice. They were given seven days' time to clear our dues and so far neither they have responded to the notice nor have made any payment." UB Group Chairman and the owner of the airlines, Mr Mallya owes over Rs 1,000 crore in vendor and tax arrears. Mr Mallya's company also has to repay due tax worth more than Rs 200 crore to the government, informed revenue department officials. The airline has been grounded since Oct 1, 2012 after its engineers and pilots went on strike demanding their long-pending wages. Not a single flight has been operated since Sep 30.

HSBC to pay $1.9 billion to settle probe: source

Washington: HSBC, the British banking giant, will pay $1.9 billion to settle a money-laundering probe by federal and state authorities in the United States, a law enforcement official said on Monday. The probe of the bank - Europe's largest by market value - has focused on the transfer of billions of dollars on behalf of nations like Iran, which are under international sanctions, and the transfer of money through the US financial system from Mexican drug cartels. According to the official, HSBC will pay $1.25 billion in forfeiture and pay $655 million in civil penalties. The $1.25 billion figure is the largest forfeiture ever in a case involving a bank. Under what is known as a deferred prosecution agreement, the financial institution will be accused of violating the Bank Secrecy Act and the Trading With the Enemy Act. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the source was not authorized to speak about the matter on the record. Under the deferred prosecution arrangement, HSBC will admit to certain misconduct, the official said, but the details of those admissions to be made in a New York court were not immediately available late Monday. Nevertheless the deferred prosecution agreement means the bank won't be prosecuted further if it meets certain conditions, such as strengthening its internal controls to prevent money laundering. The Justice Department has used such arrangements often in cases involving large corporations, notably in settlements of foreign bribery charges. The law enforcement official said an announcement of the agreement could come as early as Tuesday. The London-based bank said it is cooperating with investigations but that those discussions are confidential. In regard to HSBC and Mexico, a US Senate investigative committee reported that in 2007 and 2008 HSBC Mexico sent to the United States about $7 billion in cash. The committee report said that large an amount of cash indicated illegal drug proceeds. Money laundering by banks has become a priority target for US law enforcement. In another case on Monday, a British bank, Standard Chartered, which was accused of scheming with the Iranian government to launder billions of dollars, signed an agreement with New York regulators to settle their investigation with a $340 million payment. Since 2009, Credit Suisse, Barclays and Lloyds all paid settlements related to allegations that they moved money for people or companies that were on the US sanctions list. Last summer, the Senate investigation concluded that HSBC's lax controls exposed it to money laundering and terrorist financing. HSBC bank affiliates also skirted US government bans against financial transactions with Iran and other countries, according to the report from the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. And HSBC's U.S. division provided money and banking services to some banks in Saudi Arabia and Bangladesh thought to have helped fund al-Qaida and other terrorist groups, the report said. The report also blamed US regulators: It said they knew the bank had a poor system to detect problems but failed to take action. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the committee chairman, cited instances in which HSBC had promised to fix deficiencies after being sanctioned by regulators but failed to carry through. Levin also said the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the US agency that oversees the biggest banks, tolerated HSBC's weak controls against money laundering for years and that agency examiners who had raised concerns were overruled by their superiors. HSBC announced Monday that Robert Werner, a former head of the Treasury Department agencies responsible for sanctions against terrorist financing and money laundering, is taking a new position within HSBC as head of group financial crime compliance and group money-laundering reporting officer. Werner has been head of global standards assurance since August. In January, HSBC hired Stuart Levey, a former Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, as its chief legal officer. And a former policy adviser in the Obama administration, Preeta Bansal, in October became HSBC's global general counsel for litigation and regulatory affairs. AP

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Jumbo reshuffle in Union Cabinet , 22 ministers take oath

New Delhi: Seven Cabinet ministers, including new faces K Rehman Khan and Chandresh Kumari, and 15 Ministers of State were sworn-in today as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expanded his Council of Ministers. Five Ministers of State -- Dinsha Patel, M M Pallam Raju, Harish Rawat, Ajay Maken and Ashwani Kumar -- were promoted to Cabinet rank. Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari and actor-turned-politician Chiranjeevi were brought in as Ministers of State with independent charge, while Shashi Tharoor made a comeback as Minister of State after over two years. 12 new Ministers of State were sworn-in. They are Tariq Anwar (Maharashtra), K Suresh (Kerala), A H Khan Chowdhry, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhry and Deepa Dasmunshi, (West Bengal), S Satyanarayana, K Jayasuyraprakash Reddy, P Balram Naik, and Killi Kriparani (Andhra Pradesh). Lalchand Kataria (Rajasthan), Ranee Narah (Assam) and Ninong Ering (Arunachal Pradesh) are the others who were sworn-in as MoS. List of changes in portfolios of existing ministers and portfolios of new ministers: Cabinet ministers: * Salman Khursheed - external affairs * M. Veerappa Moily - petroleum * K. Rahman Khan - minority affairs * Dinsha Patel - mines * Ajay Maken - housing and poverty alleviation * M.M. Pallam Raju - human resource development * Ashwani Kumar - law * Harish Rawat - water resources * Chandresh Kumari Katoch - culture Ministers of State (Independent Charge) * Jyotiraditya Scindia - power * Manish Tewari - information and broadcasting * K. Chiranjeevi - tourism * Sachin Pilot - corporate affairs PM rules out early elections Ruling out early elections, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said today's expansion of his Council of Ministers would probably be the last. 'I don't see early elections. Elections will be held in due course,' he told reporters at the Rashtrapati Bhawan after the swearing-in ceremony. PTI

Krishna, Gowda, Yeddyurappa face probe in expressway scam

Bangalore: The Karnataka Lokayukta Thursday ordered a probe into the role of three former chief ministers H.D. Deve Gowda, S.M. Krishna, B.S. Yeddyurappa and over 25 others for alleged lapses in land allotment for the Bangalore-Mysore Infrastructure Corridor. Acting on Bangalore-based social activist T.J. Abraham's complaint, Lokayukta court Judge N.K. Sudhindra Rao directed police attached to his mbudsman's office to probe the role of 30 of the 105 people named in the complaint. Others to be probed include present Public Works Department Minister C.M. Udasi, managing director of Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprises Ashok Kheny, former Congress minister R.V. Deshpande, Congress legislator D.K. Shivakumar, Bharat Forge chief Baba Kalyani and former Massachusetts, US, governor William Weld. Weld has been named in the complaint as he had in 1995 signed the memorandum of understanding with then Karnataka chief minister Deve Gowda for execution of the project by a consortium of Indian and US companies. The Rs.4,000 crore project consisting of 111-km expressway and some townships has been mired in controversy over allegations that the builder Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprises Limited (NICE) has been allotted land far in excess of the project's requirement. The complaint filed Aug 27 alleged irregularities in the acquisition of farmers' lands for the project and wanted the court to attach the 6,999 acres allotted for it. Besides modern expressway between Bangalore and Mysore, the infrastructure corridor envisages five self-sustainable townships, each with a capacity to house a population of 100,000, and several commercial buildings. Krishna, of Congress, is now the union external affairs minister while Gowda, Janata Dal-Secular leader and Lok Sabha member, was prime minister in 1996-97. Yeddyurappa, the first Bharatiya Janata Party chief minister in Karnataka, was forced out of office in July last year over mining bribery charges.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Maradona wins thousands of hearts in Kerala

Kannur : In just 20 minutes that the legendry Diego Maradona held centre stage, he danced, sang and demonstrated jaw-dropping football skills to win thousands of hearts at the Municipal Stadium here Wednesday. Over 50,000 fans started pouring in since early morning for a glimpse of the Argentine star. There were thunderous cheers as he walked into the stadium around 11.30 a.m. Maradona is in Kerala on an invite from his industrialist friend Bobby Chemmanur. The footballer could not hide his excitement. He danced to the music and showered flying kisses to his fans from the stage. Then came rolling, one after the another, over a dozen footballs towards Maradona. Each was rocketed into the crowds. But not before the icon manoeuvred them deftly to amuse his fans. Amid cheers, Maradona and former India football captain I.M. Vijayan headed a football between them for a few minutes. The Argentine will turn 52 Tuesday. His birthday was celebrated in advance here. He cut a cake weighing over 30 kg and shaped like a football ground with a football in the middle. It was prepared by Sheen Bakery here. Among those present at the function were Home Minister T. Radhakrishnan, Sports Minister K.B. Ganesh Kumar and a number of legislators. 'It's a great honour for the God of football to have come to Gods's own country,' Vijayan said. Maradona arrived here Tuesday from Kochi and will take a flight to Dubai from Kozhikode Wednesday evening.

Kingfisher employees turn down 3-month salary offer

New Delhi: Striking employees of Kingfisher Airlines rejected the management's compensation offer yet again Tuesday and said they may move court and seek intervention of Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh. 'At meetings held in Mumbai and New Delhi, the employees reached a broad agreement to reject the management offer. We will write a letter to them on the same,' a senior flight engineer told IANS. 'We have also taken legal advice on the issue, but we are awaiting more clarity on the matter before taking any further step.' The employees' meetings took place a day after talks failed in Mumbai to end the deadlock which started Oct 1 with the grounding of the airline and suspension of the carrier's flying license by the aviation regulator. The engineer said the latest offer by the management did not meet the bare minimum of demands. 'We are seeking payment of four months' salary from March onwards by Oct 26,' he said. The airline's Chief Executive, Sanjay Aggarwal, Monday had sent a letter to the staff offering the March salary by Oct 26 followed by April's pay by Oct 31 and May's compensation before Diwali. However, the employees have demanded an upfront payment of salaries, citing a lack of trust with the management. 'They have been issuing letters, email and other communications assuring us of payment which has not been made. We cannot go on trusting them forever,' he said. He added that the employees may also seek the civil aviation minister's intervention. 'In this particular case the government should play a pro-active role like they did in the Satyam scam. Though the situation may vary, but the government has to save the thousands of jobs as they did in the Satyam's case.' Nearly, 6,500 employees of the airline face the possibility of losing their jobs as the airline remains in a state of lockout. The employees went on a flash strike Oct 1 demanding payment of their salaries by by Oct 5, which have been pending since March. They also claimed that non-payment of salaries has affected their morale and built up stress levels that can also affect operational safety. Key personnel like aircraft maintenance engineers, whose airworthiness clearance is mandatory for any flight to take off, also struck work. The airline has a total debt of Rs.7,000 crore from a consortium of banks. Currently, the airline has only 10 operational aircraft from a strength of around 66 planes a year ago. It was the country's second largest airline by passenger traffic. But it had the lowest market share in September, which stood at 3.5 percent. The company's scrip at the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) Tuesday closed 4.59 percent down and stood at its circuit limit of Rs.10.40 from its previous close at Rs.10.90.

Anyone can probe Gadkari: BJP

New Delhi: The BJP Tuesday said 'any competent authority' can probe allegations of corruption against its president Nitin Gadkari. 'The party president has said any competent authority can probe the charges,' Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman told the media. India Against Corruption has accused Gadkari of land grab in Vidarbha in Maharashtra, an allegation he denied. On Tuesday, media reports revealed that an infrastructure company IRB gave his company a loan of Rs.165 crore, two years after IRB was awarded road contracts by Gadkari when he was the Maharashtra PWD minister.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

IAS officer transferred three days after he asked for Vadra-DLF inquiry

Chandigarh: A senior Haryana IAS officer is at the Centre of a raging controversy after he was transferred in the wake of his decision to probe alleged undervaluation of properties dealt with by Robert Vadra, son-in-law of Congress President Sonia Gandhi. Significantly, on the last day of his posting as Director General of Land Consolidation and Land Records-cum- Inspector-General of Registration yesterday, Ashok Khemka also issued an order cancelling the mutation of over 3 acre plot of land in Manesar-Shikohpur that Vadra had sold to DLF. Khemka, a 1991-batch officer, Tuesday attacked the decision to transfer him, saying it was "demoralising and dehumanising". "If these problems are brought in sunshine, probably my decisions would appear to be normal and correct. But what happens is, inside, you are guided and directed that behave differently. "If you do take an action which you call strong but I would call as correct, and then action is taken against you, it's very demoralising, dehumanising and you feel ashamed of yourself that look, there must be something wrong with you that these things are happening. "You get words like 'you don't get along well with others, 'there are shades of grey in life' etc. These kinds of euphemism are created to deviate you from the correct path," he said pleading for security as he feels "threat" from "vested elements" whom he has been exposing from time to time. In his October 12 letter, a day after his transfer orders were issued, addressed to the Deputy Commissioners-cum-Registrar, Gurgaon, Faridabad, Palwal and Mewat districts, Khemka's letter reads "inquiry regarding under valuation of some properties registered by Robert Vadra or his companies as vendor or vendee". In the letter, Khemka wrote "As per the records of one property, M/s Sky Light hospitality had purchased Khasra No 730 (3.53 acres) of village Shikhopur, district Gurgaon vide sale deed number 4928 dated February 12, 2008 for Rs 7.5 crore. "This property was re-sold to M/s DLF Universal for Rs 58 crore vide sale deed number 1435 dated September 18, 2012 after obtaining LOI/licence from the Director, Town and Country Planning, Haryana on March 28, 2003, subsequently renewed on January 18, 2011 for 2.701 acres," he alleged in the letter. Khemka cancelled the mutation of over 3 acre plot that Vadras company, M/s Sky Light Hospitality, had allegedly sold to DLF Universal Ltd last month on the grounds that the mutation violated the States Consolidation Act and was done not by a revenue officer but by the Assistant Consolidation Officer of Gurgaon unauthorisedly. Khemka, who was also the Inspector General of Registration, formally ordered an inquiry across four districts into the alleged under-valuation of some properties registered by Vadra or his companies as vendor or vendee. The IAS officer further mentions that village Shikhopur of district Gurgaon was re-notified under the provisions of East Punjab Holdings (Consolidation and Prevention of Fragmentation) Act, 1948 on August 5, 2011. "The sale of property on September 18, 2012 during the pendency of the consolidation proceedings without sanction of the Consolidation Officer was against provisions of Section 30 of the Consolidation Act. The mutation number 4513 sanctioned on September 20 this year by the Assistant Consolidation Officer was also without jurisdiction, since he is not a Revenue Officer under the Punjab Land Revenue Act," he stated. Noting that "under-valuation" of property leads to loss of revenue, Khemka said that in view of questions raised in reputed national dailies and to clear the name of Registering Offices in Haryana, he considers "it fit and appropriate to order DCs-cum-Registrars of Gurgaon, Faridabad, Palwal and Mewat shall inspect all documents registered from January 1, 2005 and till date by or on behalf of Vadra or his firms in the capacity of either vendor or vendee and compile such list for examination. "They (DCs) shall estimate the real value of the property conveyed through registered documents and in case of under-valuations, the matter shall be referred to Collector under Section 47-A of the Indian Stamps Act for correct assessment of the stamp duty payable," Khemka said. While mentioning the name of a reputed national daily, Khemka in his letter further directed the DCs that the report must reach the office of Inspector General of Registration, Haryana by October 25 this year. Quoting the daily, he mentioned the names of some companies of Vadra as "Sky Light Realty, Sky Light Hospitality, Real Earth Estates, Blue Breeze Trading, Artex and North India IT Parks". In his letter yesterday to Director General, Town and Country Planning Department and Deputy Commissioner-cum- Registrar-cum Assistant Director, Consolidation, Gurgaon, Khemka advised the former not to accord permission or issue Letter of Intent/licence or Change of Land Use "in violation" of Consolidation Act or Land Ceiling Act "at least in future". He mentions that with reference to registered sale deed of September 18 of village Shikhopur, Sector 83, Gurgaon, for sale of 3.531 acres against total consideration of Rs 58 crore by vendor, M/s Sky Light Hospitality Private Limited, to vendee, M/s DLF Universal Ltd, of which part area of 2.701 acres is issued LOI/license dated March 28, 2008 and subsequently renewed on January 18, 2011 by Town and Country Planning Department, Sky Light Hospitality had allegedly received Rs 50 crore out of total sale consideration of Rs 58 crore by October 7, 2010 as per the registered sale deed. "The vendor had ex-facie entered into a sale agreement with the vendee or on before June 3, 2008, when part payment of the total sale consideration was received. It is not known what made the Town and Country Planning Department to renew the LOI/licence on January 18, 2011 in favour of the vendor, when 86.2 per cent of the total sales consideration was paid to him by October 10, 2009, that is 15 months before the date of renewal of the LOI/licence. "If the vendor suppressed the material fact that he had entered into a sale agreement of the impugned property with M/s DLF Universal, against which he was paid 86.2 per cent of the total sales consideration 15 months before the renewal of the LOI/licence, then the Department ought to be taking action against vendor for suppressing the material fact," Khemka's letter said.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Chidambaram rules out probe into Vadra-DLF business deals

New Delhi: Ruling out any probe into business dealings between Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law Robert Vadra and realty major DLF, Finance Minister P Chidambaram Monday said the government cannot look into private transactions unless there are specific allegations of corruption. "...unless there is a specific allegation of quid pro quo or corruption, I am afraid private transactions cannot and ought not to be allowed to be questioned on the basis of imputations and insinuations", he said while responding to a question on the Vadra-DLF deals at the Economic Editors' Conference here. Civil rights activist Arvind Kejriwal had demanded an inquiry into business dealings between Vadra and his companies and real estate giant DLF. Kejriwal had alleged that DLF gave interest free loan of Rs 65 crore to Vadra. The company as well as Vadra had denied the allegations. Chidambaram said he "could not respond (on the issue) on behalf of the government because that is not the issue here. I think those who made their allegations have made their statement, the company concerned has made a statement and the individual concerned has made a statement". Vadra had earlier dismissed Kejriwal's allegations as "utterly false and defamatory" saying that his business transactions were "fully reflected" in financial statements before government authorities in compliance with the law. DLF too had rejected the allegations that it had given unsecured loans to Vadra as a 'quid pro quo' for favours and said it had transparent dealing with him as an individual entrepreneur. Kejriwal had alleged that besides an interest free loan of Rs 65 crore, DLF gave properties worth Rs 300 crore to Vadra at throwaway prices.

'Israel to lose 10,000 troops if it attacks Iran'

Tehran: An Iranian official has warned Israel that it would lose at least 10,000 soldiers in the event of a military strike on Iran, Press TV reported. 'If the Israelis attack, Iran's deterrent power would deal a mortal blow to them and the Israeli death toll would not be less than 10,000. Therefore, they would be stopped soon,' Mohsen Rezaei, secretary of Iran's Expediency Council, was quoted as saying. 'We don't want war, but are fully prepared to defend our country against any strike. Of course the Zionists don't dare to invade Iran and only speak of war to win concessions from the next US president,' said Rezaei, a former chief of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC). The US and Israel have not ruled out the possibility of a strike on Iran's nuclear energy facilities. America and its Western allies believe Iran is working towards a nuclear weapon, but Tehran denies the allegations, saying its atomic programme is for 'peaceful' purposes.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Arvind Kejriwal exposes 'Robert Vadra scam' trains guns at Sonia

New Delhi: In a major expose, Arvind Kejriwal, the India Against Corruption activist who parted ways with social crusader Anna Hazare to launch his own political party, on Friday levelled charges of accumulating disproportionate land assets against Robert Vadra, husband of Priyanka Gandhi. He claimed that Vadra's income grew from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 300 crore in three years. "Companies linked to Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law are overvalued. We all know DLF got huge lands in Congress-ruled Delhi and Haryana... I ask DLF why it is giving interest free land to Mr Vadra. Is it because he is providing any benefit to it," Kejriwal asked. Kejriwal had on October 2 announced that India Against Corruption would reveal sensational information against two political leaders. Kejriwal said: "The ruling dynasty thinks noboday can probe the country's son-in-law, despite whatever he does. We demand that the disproportionate income of Robert Vadra should be probed. "We has earlier released documents against 15 Cabinet ministers, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, accusing them of corruption. No probe was ordered. Now, the question is who will probe the benefits received by Robert Vadra and his mother." "It's not that we are talking in the air... We have got our claims investigated by a noted CA," he underlined. Kejriwal was joined by his colleague and Supreme Court lawyer Prashan Bhushan. “Robert Vadra got 10,000 sq foot penthouse in DLF Aralia for Rs. 85 lakhs whose market value when sold was 25 crore and today it’s value is 40 crore,” Bhushan told a press conference. “Why did the DLF give so much money to Vadra without any obvious benefit?” the eminent lawyer questioned. Vadra was getting benefits for the DLF company through the Delhi government and Haryana government, he said, adding that it should be probed by investigating agencies. “We have received all our information from RoC…There are many other properties to be inquired into,” Bhushan said. He questioned how Vadra could take money from DLF to buy properties from the company. He alleged a case violating conditions of the Prevention of Corruption Act and Income Tax Act could be made out against Vadra and should be investigated at the earliest. “Vadra and his mother have participated in a big scam and the government has been trying to divert attention from scams…this scam will be called the Robert Vadra scam,” The veteran lawyer said.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Watch Narendra Modi @Google + 6 Million hits

For Cong money grows on 2G, Coalgate trees: Modi

Dahod: Taking a jibe at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for his "money does not grow on trees" remark, Chief Minister Narendra Modi Saturday alleged that for the Congress, 2G scam and Coalgate have become money trees. "How can a great economist like him try to convince the people in such a language? PMji, people of this country know that money doesn't grow on trees," he said while addressing a gathering at Vivekanand Youth Convention, held in this tribal city. "We also know that 2G spectrum is money tree for you, Coalgate is money tree for you. Which other bigger rupee-tree you need other than your dealing in coal," he asked. "I am directly alleging that the Congress party has made 2G spectrum and Coalgate, their money tree and its ruining our country," he said. Singh yesterday in his address to the nation had made an appeal while explaining the reasons behind the decisions of price hike in diesel and allowing FDI in multi-brand retail. He had said, "Money doesn't grow on trees. If we had not acted, it would have meant a higher fiscal deficit." Chief Minister also offered few sops in the form of irrigation project, setting up of an institute for skill development in roads and building construction and shelters in the city areas for tribals who migrate there for work. "Government will build a 650-km long pipeline of Narmada Canal connecting Vadodara-Panchmahals-Dahod at the cost of Rs 3,500 crore, covering 700 villages and this will provide irrigation benefits to land area of more than two lakh acres of this tribal belt," he declared. Modi further said that in the last 10 years, he has worked hard for development of tribal belts in the state and promised to develop the area as industrial hub.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Modi launches poll campaign, raises coal issue

Modi begins poll campaign, wants Cong-free Gujarat Mehsana: Launching a month-long campaign ahead of assembly elections, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi Tuesday raised the coal issue, accusing the Congress of whipping up an atmosphere of anger against the CAG like it did against the Supreme Court in the 2G case. Seeking yet another term, Modi also sought to put CBI in the dock by alleging that the Congress was contesting the polls along with the investigating agency. Giving signals that he would fight the coming polls on the plank of "injustice meted out to Gujarat", Modi appealed to the people to work towards 'Congress-free Gujarat' on the lines of 'gutka-free Gujarat' to wipe out "cancer". Addressing a gathering near Becharaji on the first day of his month-long Vivekanand Yuva Vikas Yatra, Modi said the Congress has the habit of targeting constitutional authorities by creating an atmosphere of anger against those who do not toe its line. The Prime Minister and the Congress are doing the same to the CAG what late Indira Gandhi used to do, he alleged. He said on the 2G issue, Congress leaders had adopted a similar stance towards the Supreme Court. Now, the CAG's credibility is being questioned by the Prime Minister and his colleagues. The Gujarat Chief Minister also utilised the occasion to ridicule state Congress leaders for their pleas to the people to oppose him during his yatra. "Are you so scared that you won't listen to my voice. Do you want Sonia Gandhi and the Prime Minister to face similar opposition when they come here," he said. He said in a democracy everyone had a right to place his or her views. Taking a dig at local Congress leaders, he said his government would extend all possible support for them to place their views before public. Blaming the UPA government for the economic situation, he said the Prime Minister should follow the Gujarat model of development.

Sensex rises above 18,000 as markets end near 7-month high

HSBC cuts Indian stocks to underweight from neutral The BSE Sensex closed above the 18,000 mark for the first time since February 23, 2012 amid a global rally that also saw the rupee gain sharply against the dollar. This was the sixth straight day of gains for the Sensex. Domestic stocks tracked a global rally Wednesday after Germany's top court backed the legality of the euro zone bailout funds, although with conditions. German approval of the ESM was crucial to boost the euro zone's crisis fighting powers and a key requirement for the European Central Bank's new plan to buy the bonds of struggling euro members. Many analysts expect the Fed will announce a new effort to revive the sluggish US economy on Thursday, which added to bullish sentiments on the Street. Markets shrugged off weak July factory output data, which indicated that the broader economic activity remains weak. The Sensex gained 147 points or 0.82 per cent to end at 18,000 while the 50-share Nifty advanced 41 points to 5,341. Metal stocks led the gains, rising over 2 per cent on the BSE. Auto and capital goods stocks also saw buying interest, rising above 1 per cent. On the Nifty, 35 of the 50 stocks traded higher. Gains were led by Tata Motors, which jumped 5.4 per cent. Shares in private steel maker JSPL, which have fallen over 20 per cent since the CAG report on coal was tabled in Parliament on August 17, rallied 3.9 per cent. State-run steel maker SAIL also closed with over 3 per cent gains on the Nifty. Among the losers, engineering major Siemens India declined 2.7 per cent after its parent sold a 1.2 per cent stake in a deal that could raise up to $50 million. Drug maker Cipla and state-run power producer NTPC closed with over 2 per cent losses. Among other stocks, domestic carrier SpiceJet soared 7 per cent after the Civil Aviation Minister said he was hopeful of foreign direct investment being allowed in India's airlines. Under the current rules, foreign airlines are barred from buying stakes in domestic carriers, although foreign investors are allowed to hold a cumulative 49 percent. SpiceJet was the top traded stock on the BSE 500. Debt laden Kingfisher Airlines gained nearly 8 per cent. The market breadth was positive with over 54 per cent stocks rising on the broader BSE 500. NDTV

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Pre-paid mobile numbers to lose ISD facility soon

New Delhi: Telecom regulator TRAI has asked telecom companies to de-activate the international calling facility in pre-paid numbers and restore it only after a subscriber gives his explicit consent to avail this facility. "Inform all pre-paid subscribers having ISD facility, through SMS, within 10 days of the date of issue of this direction, that ISD facility of the subscribers shall be discontinued after sixty days," Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) said in a directive to telcos. "If such subscribers want to continue with ISD facility, they should give their explicit consent for availing such facility within 60 days of the receipt of the SMS," it added. TRAI has issued this directive following complaints from consumers about missed calls from international telephone numbers which are often premium numbers charging high tariff, prompting the consumers to make call to such numbers. TRAI said it has also been receiving complaints from consumers about receiving calls and SMSes from international numbers informing them about winning of prizes or lottery and prompting consumers to call a particular number to claim the prize or lottery money. "These numbers are international numbers, which are often premium numbers charging higher tariffs. By responding to such calls/SMS the consumers have to pay unintended charges," Trai said. The regulator has asked telecom operators to inform subscribers through SMS, within 10 days of the direction, that pre-paid cellular mobile telephone service consumers need not respond to all missed calls from unknown international numbers or calls about winning prizes or lottery. Trai has asked telecom service providers to send such SMS to consumers every six months and provide easy and transparent opt-in and opt-out facility to the consumers of the cellular mobile telephone service for activation or deactivation of ISD facility. Press Trust of India

Air India's first Dreamliner arrives after 4-year wait

New Delhi: Amidst much fanfare, Air India's first Boeing 787 Dreamliner arrived in the national capital Saturday, ending a four-year wait. Air India is the fifth airline to receive the fuel-efficient and eco-friendly aircraft. Among its other operators are All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines. 'The first aircraft reached Delhi in the evening and was inspected by the airlines' chairman. Flight schedule and crew training of the aircraft will be decided soon,' a senior Air India official told IANS. According to the official, 28 crew members of Air India accompanied the aircraft which landed at 4.55 p.m. after which some religious rituals were performed for inducting the aircraft into the airline's fleet. The airline's technical team was in the US to take the delivery of the Dreamliner at Charleston in South Carolina Thursday. Air India Chairman and Managing Director Rohit Nandan said the new aircraft will allow the airline to operate on new routes and enable it to save fuel cost. 'The 787 aircraft will allow Air India to open new routes in a dynamic marketplace and provide the best in-flight experience for our passengers,' Nandan said. The 787 has the range and capability to allow Air India to deploy it on many routes including the Middle East, Europe, Asia and Australia. The aircraft arrived after the cabinet committee on economic affairs (CCEA) approved the the delay-compensation settlement agreement with Boeing, allowing the civil aviation ministry and the flag carrier to take delivery of 27 Boeing 787 aircraft. Air India had booked 27 Boeing 787s in 2006 in a mega deal. The carrier was to get the delivery in May 2008, but that got pushed forward for a variety of reasons, including manufacturing delays. The aircraft were scheduled to be delivered from September 2008 to October 2011. But due to certain design and production issues, these were delayed and rescheduled to be delivered between June 2012 and March 2016. The airline plans to deploy the 787 Dreamliner aircraft on domestic routes to save on fuel, train the crew and add flexibility in its winter schedule by flying out to select domestic and overseas destinations. 'A key feature of the aircraft is fuel saving. It consumes 20 percent less fuel than other aircraft. The proposal to deploy the aircraft on domestic routes will help us save on high jet fuel cost,' the official said. The Boeing 787 aircraft is made of composite materials. Its newly-developed engine and advanced flight technologies make it highly fuel-efficient. The plane can fly up to 16,000 km non-stop.

The nation's economy is going wayward - BJP warns in 2011

Manmohan Singh on silent mode: BJP Saturday, July 2, 2011 Jul 2: The BJP on Friday, Jul 2 criticised Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for being on a "silent mode" on issues confronting the country saying it is under this noted economist that the nation's economy is "going wayward". The party's national spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy said that the prime minister is always on a silent mode and has failed to speak up on burning issues such as price rise and corruption. "Even if he would have been on a vibration mode, the nation might have benefited in some manner," Rudy told reporters here. Continuing his dig at Singh, Rudy said, "The prime minister speaks when his pause button is released from 10, Janpath or the Congress Working Committee." The BJP spokesman said it was sad that "it is under this noted economist that the nation's economy is going wayward. A man who is an economist of the highest order has chosen to unleash the terror of inflation on the country". Comparing Singh with former BJP prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, Rudy claimed, "Vajpayeeji's speeches inspired the entire nation. But the present prime minister chooses to be on a silent mode."

Friday, August 31, 2012

Indian economy's growth slows to 5.5 percent in first quarter

New Delhi : The Indian economy grew at a much lower pace of 5.5 percent in the first quarter of this fiscal, as per official estimates of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) released Friday, against 8 percent in the like period of 2011-12. The drop was mainly on account of a mere 0.2 percent growth in the manufacturing sector, against 7.3 percent in the previous fiscal, even as farm growth also dropped from 3.7 percent to 2.9 percent, showed the data of Central Statistical Organisation (CSO). Surprisingly, construction and services sector, which includes insurance, finance and realty, grew at 10.9 percent and 10.8 percent, respectively. Output from these two groups had expanded by 3.5 percent and 9.4 percent in the first quarter of last fiscal.

Supreme Court asks Sahara Group to refund Rs. 17,400 crore to investors

The Supreme Court on Friday ordered the Sahara conglomerate to refund Rs. 17,400 crore it had raised from millions of small investors, reaffirming an order from market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India or SEBI, which had said the process violated rules. The Supreme Court also ordered Sahara to pay 15 per cent interest to investors on their deposits. Two unlisted group companies of Sahara, which has interests ranging from financial services and housing to media and sports, had between 2008 and 2011 raised a total of Rs. 17,400 crore from 22 million small investors through an instrument known as an optionally fully convertible debenture. OFCDs are debentures that investors can convert into shares at their option. The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) last year ordered the group companies to refund the money, with 15 percent annual interest, after it found that the fund-raising process did not comply with rules. In October, an appellate tribunal upheld the regulator's order after hearing Sahara's appeal, and said that the group had to refund the money raised through OFCDs to investors within six weeks. The Sahara Group then moved the Supreme Court, which had stayed the SAT decision in November 2011. Former Supreme Court Judge BN Agarwal will monitor the refund to investors, the court said today. SEBI will check the genuineness of the investors and if the investors are not traceable, the amount will go to the government. The court further said that in case of non-compliance, SEBI can attach and sell properties of the Sahara Group.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

BJP accuses Cong of getting huge bribes in coal allocation

New Delhi: Stepping up its attack on the government, the BJP has alleged that the Congress party got huge bribes in the allocation of 142 coal blocks and asserted they would continue to disrupt Parliament till Prime Minister Manmohan Singh resigns. Alleging that Singh delayed coal block auctions for undue benefits to Congress, the principal opposition party also said even if its allies deserted them there will be no let up in stalling Parliament. Singh's appeal to BJP to agree to a debate on the coal block allegations fell on deaf ears with the BJP launching a direct attack on the prime minister. BJP claimed it has the support of NDA allies and parties like AIADMK and will continue to press for Singh's resignation on moral grounds. "Congress has got a fat sum from coal block allocation, that is why this delay (in amending the laws) was caused. My charge is that huge revenue was generated but it did not go to the government and went to the Congress party," Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj told reporters. She used the phrase 'mota maal' to allege that the Congress got a fat sum. Slamming Singh's statement disputing CAG's findings, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said it was an assault on constitutionalism and constitutional authority. BJP demanded cancellation of all 142 coal blocks alloted since 2006 and insisted that these be auctioned. "If an impartial probe is conducted, I can say with full responsibility as Leader of Opposition that Congress will be in the dock along with the government," Swaraj said. Asked if BJP is alone on this issue as even its allies have indicated that they would like a debate in Parliament on the issue, Jaitley said, "We don't stand alone. And on corruption even if we have to fight alone it would be majestic isolation. The support of the people is with us." Swaraj claimed allies SAD, JD(U) and Shiv Sena were with the BJP and even parties like AIADMK were supporting NDA on the demand for the prime minister's resignation. BJP said as minister in-charge of coal ministry, PM was morally responsible and he should step down.

Rahul Gandhi, Akhilesh among MPs with worst attendance in Parliament

New Delhi: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, Janata Dal (Secular) leader H.D. Kumaraswamy, Uttar Pradesh chief minister and Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav, and Bharatiya Janata Party's Navjyot Singh Sidhu are among those who barely attended Parliament in the third year of the 15th Lok Sabha. Nirmal Khatri, P.L. Punia, J.P. Agarwal (all from Congress), LK Advani (BJP), M Thambidurai (AIADMK) were among those having cent per cent attendance. Giving details about the spending from Member of Parliament Local Area Development Fund (MPLADS), the report said that Sonia Gandhi utilised Rs 2.32 crore, Advani spent Rs 1.71 crore and Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj spent Rs 8.58 crore. A total of 12,201 interruptions and 110 adjournments were reported from the Lower House in the 85 sittings. In all, 175 hours and 51 minutes were lost in chaos with issues like price rise, land acquisition, CAG report, Lokpal and Lokayukta, FDI and demand of the then Home Minister P. Chidambaram's resignation halting the proceedings. Also, 91 Private Members Bills were presented and eight per cent MPs used this Parliamentary provision. However, more than 50 per cent of the members used the Parliamentary instrument of 'Special Mention'.

India gets high praise in Republican platform

Washington, Aug 28 — Seeking a stronger relationship with India, the Republican Party platform set to be adopted as the foreign policy plank of its presidential candidate Mitt Romney, urges New Delhi to permit greater foreign investment and trade. "We welcome a stronger relationship with the world's largest democracy, India, both economic and cultural, as well as in terms of national security," says the platform posted on the Republican National Committee's website ahead of the party's national convention in Tampa, Florida. The convention that would formally anoint Romney as the party's presidential candidate gets underway Tuesday with its schedule pushed back a day over concerns about the tropical storm Issac even as it passed well west of Tampa Monday. "We encourage India to permit greater foreign investment and trade. We urge protection for adherents of all India's religions," says the platform that also praises the contributions of Indian-Americans. "Both as Republicans and as Americans, we note with pride the contributions to this country that are being made by our fellow citizens of Indian ancestry." "We hereby affirm and declare that India is our geopolitical ally and a strategic trading partner," the party platform said. The Republican platform "arguably lavishes more praise on India than on any country mentioned in the document except Israel and Taiwan", says Uri Friedman in his blog post in influential Foreign Policy magazine. The passage relating to India particularly stands out when compared with the more businesslike language employed in the 2008 Republican platform, he says. While the 2008 Democratic platform praised India as a "natural strategic ally", the Republicans then simply said, "We welcome America's new relationship with India, including the US-India Civil Nuclear Accord." "Our common security concerns and shared commitment to political freedom and representative government can be the foundation for an enduring partnership." Reflective of the growing political importance of Indian-Americans, the two Indian-American governors, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and South Carolina's Nikki Haley were invited to be headliners at the Republican convention. While Jindal, who was scheduled to address the convention Wednesday, is skipping it with Issac bearing down on his state, Haley - born Nimrata (Nikki) Randhawa to Sikh immigrant parents from India - is set to speak at prime time Tuesday. In a move aimed at providing a healing touch to the Sikh community in the aftermath of the Wisconsin gurdwara shooting, Ishwar Singh, a Sikh faith leader, will offer the invocation at convention Wednesday. Noting that only around 500,000 Indian-Americans are expected to vote nationwide in the November election, Friedman wrote: "But what they lack in numbers they contribute in some measure in money and activism." "No other ethnic group outside white, African-Americans, and Latinos - including Chinese-American and Filipino-Americans who are numerically larger groups than Indians - have as many political heavyweights," he noted.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

BJP renews demand for PM's resignation

New Delhi: Proceedings in both houses of parliament were disrupted for the second consecutive day Tuesday as the BJP-led opposition renewed its demand for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's resignation over the official auditor's report on coal block allocation. The Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha had to be adjourned repeatedly with not much business transacted as the opposition took up its demand following the Comptroller and Auditor General's (CAG) report that lack of transparency in allocation of coal blocks to private players resulted in a notional loss of Rs.1.85 lakh crore ($37 billion) to the exchequer as on March 11 last year. The audit report does not directly indict the prime minister or his office. But during the time these mining blocks in question were allotted, the coal portfolio was held by him -- between July 2004 and May 2009. Question hour could not be taken up in either house. The Lok Sabha was adjourned till 12 noon soon after it met at 11 a.m., and the Rajya Sabha adjourned in quick succession twice till noon. When the two houses met again at noon, the morning scenes were repeated with BJP members trooping towards the presiding officers' chairs, raising slogans demanding the prime minister's resignation. With the BJP determined not to let the houses function until the prime minister resigned, the chairs in both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha were forced to adjourn the house till 2 p.m. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal defended the coal block allocations, saying: 'There is no wrong doing on the part of the government. The coal block allocation was done in the nation's interest and country's development.' BJP leader Arun Jaitley was not impressed. 'The prime minister must accept his culpability in this matter and the reason is very obvious. In the five out of eight years only 142 coal blocks were allocated. This means public revenue suffered and private parties gained. He himself was the coal minister,' Jaitley told a news channel. 'In the 2G spectrum allocation scam, the minister concerned resigned and when he resigned, others tried to escape from their responsibility. This is a case where the prime minister was the coal minister and the government is putting a brave face and saying they are ready for a debate. But why do you require a debate,' the BJP leader asked. 'If in December 2010, we had not held up the winter session (A.) Raja would not have resigned... Our pressure in parliament did work in the 2G scam and I hope it does work even now.' BJP leader Balbir Punj told IANS: 'The prime minister is the prime accused in this case. How can we have a debate on the issue unless he resigns. We are ready for discussion only after he resigns.'

Inflammatory messages: PFI under scanner

Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala-based Popular Front of India has come under the scanner of intelligence agencies for its suspected role in spreading inflammatory SMSs and MMSs following Assam violence, that triggered exodus of northeastern people from Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Taking note of reports in this regard in local media, state Home Minister Thiruvanchur Radhakrishnan has asked ADGP (Intelligence) to cross-check the matter with Central authorities. 'We have taken note of the reports. The intelligence head of state police has been asked to cross-check the matter with Central agencies to find out the facts,' Radhakrishnan told PTI. He said so far there had been no reported incident of panic fleeing by migrant North Easterners from Kerala as had happened in some other states. Only an isolated case of some unidentified persons intimidating migrant workers in a hollow-brick unit in Malappuram district had been reported and cases had been registered against 12 persons, he said. Meanwhile, rejecting reports that it was involved in creating scare among the labourers from North East states, PFI general secretary Abdul Hameed said the organisation was ready to face any inquiry. 'This is not for the first time that PFI is being targetted. In all earlier cases, PFI has proved the allegations wrong and come out clean. But, unfortunately, our innocence never used to get published in media,' Hameed told PTI.

Facebook to remove content that incites violence or hate speech

WASHINGTON: In the backdrop of appeals by India to remove hate posts, world's largest social networking website Facebook on Wednesday said it will remove content, block pages or even disable accounts of those users who upload contents that incite violence or perpetuate hate speech. Comprehending the gravity, Facebook's stern warning to its users comes in the wake of the Indian government bringing to its notice the posting of contents, including inflammatory matters and doctored pictures and videos to create social unrest in the country. 'Facebook will remove content which breaches our terms as set out in our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. Content or individuals can be removed from Facebook for a variety of reasons including issuing direct calls for violence or perpetuating hate speech,' a Facebook spokesperson said. 'We have received requests from Indian authorities and agencies and are working through those requests and responding to the agencies. We encourage people to continue to use our tools to report content they are concerned about so that we can investigate and take action fast,' the spokesperson said when asked about the actions being taken by the company. Given the gravity of the situation, which the social networking site officials term 'an emergency situation' a large number of Facebook employees are working round the clock in both India and the US to review and monitor the content and take necessary action, which the company says is part of its social responsibilities. In fact, Facebook has already removed quite a significant number of such 'inflammatory' and 'hate' contents from its website and in some cases blocked pages. However, because of the company policy and privacy reasons, its official would not quantify the number of such actions. If any user repeatedly tries to upload such hateful content, Facebook can even disable the account, said an official requesting anonymity as he was not allowed to speak to the press on this issue. Expressing serious concern over the current situation in India wherein people have tried to use Facebook as a tool to incite violence or spread hate, the official said Facebook has taken a number of measures to prevent this. The company is taking a cue from its 2010 experience of riots in London wherein it closely worked with local police to prevent its website being used by hatemongers for either gathering purposes or spread rumors. The Facebook, the official said, is 'pretty aligned' with the views of the Indian government on this and have 'not run into any issues' with the government. 'We understand the gravity of the situation,' the official said, adding that the company has intensified the monitoring of such content related to India. Facebook has some 50 million users in India. Company officials urged users to remain alert on any such inflammatory or objectionable posting and keep it informed. PTI

Monday, August 6, 2012

Vikas Gowda in Olympics discus throw final

London: India's Vikas Gowda became only the seventh Indian to qualify for the finals of the track and field event at the Olympic Games when he hurled the disc to 65.20 metres for an automatic selection. Gowda, who trains in the United States, breached the 65m mark in his second attempt, having managed a throw of 63.52 m in his first throw. The automatic qualification standard for the discus final was set at 65m. The finals will be held on Wednesday Gowda is also only the second Indian to make the finals in track and field at the ongoing Games after Krishna Poonia, who eventually finished seventh in women's discus throw. The other five Indians to make it to the final round of Olympic Games' track and field events are Milkha Singh (400m), Gurbachan Singh Randhawa (110m hurdles), Sriram Singh (800m), P T Usha (400m hurdles) and Anju Bobby George (Long Jump).

Google unveils new ultra-high speed internet

Chicago:After more than two years of anticipation, Google finally announced Thursday that the company's ultra-high speed internet service Google Fiber would become available to the residents of its test community Kansas City starting in September. Offering an internet connectivity speed of one gigabit per second, Google said the service will be about 100 times faster than the speed most Americans have with current broadband connections, reported Xinhua. Instead of a broadband connection, Google Fiber is composed of thin optical fiber lines that run directly from a person's home to a data centre, which is then in turn connected to the national internet backbone. According to Google, it is this 'direct connection' from a person's home to the national backbone that will allow users to experience such high internet speeds. Google said it was inspired to develop Google Fiber in line with the Federal Communication Commission's 2010 National Broadband Plan, which calls for making high speed internet more widely available in the US. Despite the fact that internet was invented in the US, according to content delivery network Akamai's 2011 State of the Internet report, the US ranks only 12th globally in internet connection speed, with an average connection of 5.8 megabits per second. South Korea ranks first, with an average speed of 17.5 megabits per second. In an interview on telephone, Google Fiber spokesperson Jenna Wandres told Xinhua that Google had already done advocacy work around the development of the National Broadband Plan and improving US internet connectivity, and that it set the stage for the company to do even more once the Plan was released. Wandres added Google hoped greater internet accessibility and speed could additionally lead to more technological innovation, and set the stage for the future of internet browsing. 'When we think back about the way we used to use the internet when we were still listening to a dial tone, there were all sorts of innovations that we couldn't even imagine - we were sitting waiting for it to dial in,' Wandres said, comparing how much the internet had changed since it was first developed. 'We're hoping that with Google Fiber and its higher speeds, these things will lead to new and unpredictable innovations that as a whole will move the web forward in the US,' she added. After months of laying the infrastructure and groundwork, Google Fiber will finally start home-installation after the pre-registration deadline Sep 9. The internet service is priced at $70 a month, which is competitive with most US broadband internet providers. Google also announced the new internet service could be paired with a television component, Google Fiber TV, which Google says will include regular broadcast channels and thousands of TV shows on demand. Although Google already owns video-sharing site YouTube, it will be the company's first venture into serving as a television provider. The Google Fiber project first started in February 2010, when Google announced that the company planned to build an ultra-high speed internet network in a select US city that was willing to partner with them. According to Google, the response was overwhelming. The company received invitations from almost 1,100 US communities and close to 200,000 individuals, all expressing their desire for faster internet service. Some cities even tried doing stunts hoping to attract the Google Fiber project, with one city mayor even jumping into a frozen river and posting the request on YouTube. Ultimately, the Midwest community of Kansas City was chosen as the Google Fiber launch site in spring 2011. According to Wandres, Kansas City was chosen because of its business-friendly infrastructure, community involvement, and supportive officials. MPP

Syrian PM defects to Jordan: reports media

Amman: Syrian Prime Minister Riyad Hijab has defected to Jordan, a Jordanian official source said on Monday, prompting Syria to announce he had been sacked and replaced by a caretaker premier. "Hijab is in Jordan with his family," said the source, who did not want to be further identified. Hijab's defection was one of the most high profile desertions from President Bashar al-Assad's political and military circles. On Sunday, al Arabiya television reported a senior Syrian intelligence officer had also defected to Jordan. Hijab, a Sunni Muslim from Syria's Sunni province of Deir al-Zor, was also a ruling Baath Party apparatchik. State television said Omar Ghalawanji, who was a deputy prime minister as well as minister for local administration, would lead a temporary caretaker government. Assad had appointed Hijab, a former agriculture minister, as prime minister in June following a parliamentary election which came after more than a year of violent protests against Assad's rule.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sangma congratulates Mukherjee, does not rule out moving court

New Delhi: P A Sangma today congratulated Pranab Mukherjee and wished him success but did not rule out moving court on the election, saying its process was "exceptionally partisan." He alleged that non-UPA ruled states were lured with packages and inducements and even given threats. Sangma, who was backed by BJP and some other parties, said there is a compelling need for formulating an election code of conduct for the Presidential and Vice Presidential polls, as such a code did not exist. A code will ensure free and fair elections, he said. "The process in this Presidential election has been exceptionally partisan and political. "The public perception is certainly that in identification and projection of its candidate, UPA did not genuinely build consensus and that it pursuaded political parties commanding major sections of the Presidential electoral college by economic and other well as inducements, threats and promises," Sangma told reporters here. He alleged that the spirit of secrecy of ballot was "thrown to the wind". "For election to the Lok Sabha and Assembly, there is a code of conduct for free and fair elections. Such a code of conduct does not exist for Presidential and Vice Presidential elections...Rs 57,000 crore were given to UP, Rs 27,000 crore to Bihar and so many other things have happened," Sangma said. Not ruling out moving the Supreme Court on the election, he said, "We are meeting a day after tomorrow to review the whole situation where this matter will come up for discussion."

Thursday, April 26, 2012

India launches Risat-1 spy satellite

SRIHARIKOTA : On an early Thursday morning, an Indian rocket successfully launched into orbit a microwave Radar Imaging Satellite (Risat-1) from the spaceport here in Andhra Pradesh, around 80 km from Chennai. The indigenous Risat-1, with a life span of five years, would be used for disaster prediction and agriculture forestry and the high resolution pictures and microwave imaging could also be used for defence purposes as it can look through the clouds and fog. At exactly 5.47 a.m., the rocket - Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle C19 (PSLV-C19) - standing 44.5 metres tall and weighing 321 tons and with a one-way ticket, hurtled towards the skies ferrying the 1,858 kg Risat-1 after unshackling itself from launch pad No.1. With a rich orange flame at its tail and a plume of white smoke, the rocket ascended towards the blue sky amidst the resounding cheers of ISRO scientists and media team assembled at the launch centre. People perched atop nearby buildings too happily clapped as PSLV-C19 went up. Space scientists at the new rocket mission control room of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) were glued to their computer screens watching the rocket escaping the earth's gravitational pull. The ISRO-made Risat-1 is the heaviest luggage so far ferried by a PSLV since 1993. At around 17 minutes into the flight, PSLV-C19 delivered Risat-1 into a polar circular orbit at an altitude of 480 km and an orbital inclination of 97.552 degrees. ISRO, with its network of ground stations, monitored its health. 'PSLV-C19 mission is a grand success. This is the 20th successive successful flight of PSLV. India's (indigenously built) first radar imaging satellite was injected precisely into orbit,' ISRO chairman K. Radhakrishnan said after the launch. For ISRO, this is the first launch this fiscal as well as in the calendar year. Remote sensing satellites send back pictures and other data for use. India has the largest constellation of remote sensing satellites in the world providing imagery in a variety of spatial resolutions, from more than a metre ranging up to 500 metres, and is a major player in vending such data in the global market. With 11 remote sensing/earth observation satellites orbiting in the space, India is a world leader in the remote sensing data market. The 11 satellites are TES, Resourcesat-1, Cartosat-1, 2, 2A and 2B, IMS-1, Risat-2, Oceansat-2, Resourcesat-2 and Megha-Tropiques. Risat-1's synthetic aperture radar (SAR) can acquire data in C-band and would orbit the earth 14 times a day. In 2009, ISRO had launched 300 kg Risat-2 with an Israeli built SAR enabling earth observation in all weather, day and night conditions. With Thursday's launch the PSLV rocket has launched successfully 53 satellites out of 54 it carried - majorly remote sensing/earth observation satellites both Indian and foreign - and has been a major revenue earner for ISRO. The one failure happened in 1993 when the satellite was not able reach the orbit. The rocket that delivered Risat-1 in the space is ISRO's four stage PSLV's upgraded variant called PSLV-XL. The letters XL stand for extra large as the six strap-on motors hugging the rocket at the bottom can carry 12 tonnes of solid fuel as against the base version that has a fuel capacity of nine tonnes. The PSLV's four stages are fuelled with solid and liquid propellants. The first and third stages are fuelled by solid fuel while the second and fourth stages are powered by liquid fuel. ISRO had used the PSLV-XL variant for its Chandrayaan-1 moon mission in 2008 and for launching the GSAT-12 communications satellite in 2011. IANS

Thursday, April 19, 2012

India surpasses $300 bn exports target

New Delhi: India's exports surpassed the $300 billion target in 2011-12 despite a slowdown in demand in major markets like the United States and Europe, Commerce Secretary Rahul Khullar said Thursday. Exports surged by 21 per cent to $303.7 billion in 2011-12, led by healthy growth in petroleum, pharmaceuticals, and engineering products, Khullar told reporters here while releasing the provisional data.

The government had set a target of $300 billion exports for the financial year ended March 31.

India managed to exceed the export target helped by product and market diversification strategy.

However, imports surged by 32.1 per cent to $488.6 billion, leaving the highest ever trade deficit of $184.9 billion. The government had set a target of $150 billion trade deficit.

"This is the highest ever trade deficit and is a serious concern," Khullar said.

Engineering exports grew by 16.9 per cent to $58.2 billion. Exports of petroleum and oil products surged by 38.5 per cent to $57.5 billion and gems and Jewellery exports increased to $45.9 billion, which is 13.3 per cent higher than the exports registered in the previous year.

Other sectors which showed healthy performance include: drugs and pharmaceuticals, up 21.9 per cent at $13.1 billion; leather, up 22.5 per cent at $4.2 billion; electronics, up 9.2 per cent at $9 billion; cotton yarn and fabric made-up, up 17.4 per cent at $7.2 billion, readymade garments yarns and fabrics, up 18 per cent at $13.7 billion and marine products up 31.4 per cent at $3.4 billion.

Imports of petroleum, oil and lubricants surged by 46.9 per cent to $155.6 billion largely due to increase in prices in international markets. This has also been the main reason for widening deficit.

Gold and silver imports jumped by 44.4 per cent to $61.5 billion. Imports of coal surged by 80.3 per cent to $17.6 billion and imports of machinery increased by 27.7 per cent to $35.4 billion.

Imports of electronics goods grew by 23 per cent to $32.7 billion; iron and steel imports increased by 15 per cent to $11.9 billion; vegetable oil imports grew by 47.5 per cent to $9.7 billion; and fertilizer imports surged by 59 per cent to $11 billion.

However, imports of gems and jewellery fell by 0.6 per cent to $31 billion.

Foreign firms keen to manufacture Aakash 2 in India

New Delhi:India Communications Minister Tuesday said many foreign companies have shown interest in manufacturing the second version of the low-cost tablet Aakash 2 in India.

'We have invited companies from across the world for manufacturing and many are ready to manufacture it here,' Sibal told reporters on the sidelines of the inauguration of World IT Forum 2012.

'Currently we are looking at the design and other parameters. After we freeze the design and technology, manufacturing will take place. The second version of Aakash will be launched in May,' he added.

The announcement comes even as Canadian firm Datawind, which has been manufacturing Aakash, got into a spat with the Hyderabad-based assembler of the tablet, Quad Electronics, in the last few months.

Quad has reportedly alleged that it has not got its payments for the initial order of assembling 20,000 tablets.

Datawind on the other hand said that Quad breached Datawind's intellectual property, circumvented their relationship with IIT-Rajasthan, signed an agreement with them and then sold off their inventory in the open market.

Aakash 2 is expected to have three times more powerful processor and the resistive touch screen of the older version will be changed to capacitive touch screen. The device which was earlier expected to be launched in April will also become expensive compared to the earlier version which was priced at $35.

Talking about empowering the masses with 3G and 4G services, Sibal said these services would have limited access to the masses unless the government ensures that the cost of these devices go down.

'We must develop manufacturing in India,' he said while inaugurating the two day forum which will focus on use of ICT in agriculture, education, health and e-Governance, within the overall theme of 'ICT for Sustainable Human Development'.

The forum will discuss the role of IT interventions in bringing about greater transparency in governance, issues of privacy and security while dealing with public databases, financial inclusion and ways of leveraging wireless technologies.

Agni-V, INS Chakra give India a deadly punch -IBN Reports

New Delhi: Agni-V, the 5000-km range surface-to-surface Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) capable of carrying multiple nuclear warheads, has catapulted India into an extremely select club of countries possessing such a deadly weapons platform. Agni-V gives India the much-needed muscle and a strong deterrence against its nuclear-armed adversaries as the missile can not only target every city of China, but is also capable of reaching Australia, Eastern Europe, North Eastern and Eastern Africa.

Coupled with the induction of the first operational nuclear attack submarine the Akula II class Nerpa rechristened INS Chakra into the Indian Navy on April 4, Agni-V gives India the power to deliver the knock out punch to the enemy in the event of hostilities breaking out. Only five other countries - China, Russia, France, the United States and the United Kingdom - have such long distance missiles.

Agni-V and INS Chakra are the biggest and the most deadly symbol of India’s military might and while Army Chief General VK Singh's letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the war preparedness, lack and obsolescence of vital weapons systems and ammunition made a lot of news in the last few weeks, what went unnoticed is that the defence forces have been slowly adding muscle to counter the threat of a two-front war. In the past few months the government and the defence forces have taken several steps to plug in the gaps in India’s defence, particularly in relation with China.

Along with the earlier missiles of the Agni series - Agni-I (range: 700 km), Agni-II (2,000 km), Agni-III and IV (3,000 plus km) range - the ICBM gives India a wide array of potent weapons platform to take on the enemy. The 17 m long, 2 m wide and 50 tonne Agni-V is a generation ahead of the other surface-to-surface missiles in India's inventory and what makes the missile extremely effective and deadly is that it can carry Multiple Independently Targetable Re-entry Vehicles (MITRV) capable of delivering multiple warheads at different targets at long distances.

Such missiles when fired in large numbers can penetrate a ballistic missile shield and devastate the intended target or targets. After the missile is inducted into the strategic forces by 2014-2015, India will acquire a strong deterrent capacity against China as the entire country would come under its range.

Although Agni-V will need to undergo several more trials before it can be formally inducted into India's arsenal, the test-firing has sent out a strong statement to the world, particularly to the country’s adversaries.

The induction of INS Chakra, the impending sea trials of the indigenous nuclear submarine INS Arihant that will be armed with torpedoes and the 700-km range nuclear K-15 submarine-launched ballistic missiles, the shortlisting of the Rafale for Indian Air Force’s (IAF) 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA), induction of two squadrons of the front-line Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter jets in the North East at the Tezpur and the Chabua air bases are just some of the moves the government and defence forces have taken to counter the Chinese threat.

India will have an assured second strike capability once Agni-V and INS Arihant become operational as the country has already a declared policy of no first use of nuclear weapons. INS Arihant will complete the crucial third leg of nuclear triad as a nuclear-powered submarine can stay underwater for a very long duration, remain undetected and file a submarine launched nuclear missile.

The Indian Navy is gearing up to operate five nuclear submarines by the end of this decade, including two leased from Russia and three Arihant Class underwater warships built indigenously.

With six Scorpene submarines being constructed at Mazagon Dockyards in Mumbai in collaboration with French DCNS and six more planned to be built under the Project-75 India, the Navy is also getting ready for the induction of the 44,500-tonne INS Vikramaditya or the refitted Admiral Gorshkov from Russia in early-2013. INS Vikramaditya will have MiG-29Ks, the first-ever naval supersonic fighters, on board giving the carrier battle group a lethal edge. The Navy will operate 45 MiG-29K fighters out of which 16 will be based on INS Vikramaditya.

India is also getting ready to induct the 40,000-tonne indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC), being constructed at Cochin Shipyard. The carrier is slated to be battle-ready by 2015 and will give a big boost to the Navy's plans of operating three carrier battle groups with one on in the Arabian Sea and the other in the Bay of Bengal and the third in reserve. Both the INS Vikramaditya and the IAC will also carry India's indigenously designed naval version of the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft.

According to Navy Chief Admiral Nirmal Verma the second indigenous aircraft carrier called IAC-II will be a much bigger warship than the IAC, displacing 50,000 tons. If the Cochin Shipyard adheres to the schedule then the Navy will operate three operational carrier battle groups by 2020.

The fifth-generation Sukhoi T-50/ PAK FA, which is being developed in collaboration with Russia, will also give India a potent fighter in the sky. The fighter jet is undergoing tests and is expected to enter into service with the IAF by 2017. The IAF is planning to induct 250 Sukhoi T-50/ PAK FA.

Even the Army, in the news for having an arsenal of obsolete weapons, is moving fast to match up to the Chinese threat on the Eastern front. China has been modernising and building the infrastructure and is now capable of outnumbering the Indian forces by almost 3:1 by moving almost 30 divisions with over 15,000 soldiers each to the disputed 4,057km long Line of Actual Control.

The Army is already raising a new mountain strike corps comprising of almost 70,000 soldiers along with two mountain infantry divisions with 1,260 officers and 35,011 soldiers to be based in the North East. Equipped with M-777 ultra-light howitzers, 145 of which are being procured from the US, the mountain strike corps will give the Army the boots on the grounds.

With the new regiment of BrahMos supersonic cruise missile (the Block-III version that can scale mountainous terrain and then dive steeply) already deployed in the North East, the Army has plugged a major hole in India's defence.

Taken together these measures reveal that India is indeed taking the threat from both the Eastern and the Western fronts seriously and taking measures to counter it. All the three wings of the military – the Army, Navy and IAF – are not only adding the latest weapons platforms in their arsenal, but also upgrading their existing arsenal to thwart any misadventure by the nuclear armed adversaries.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Army chief calls coup report 'absolutely stupid'

Kathmandu: Army chief Gen. V.K. Singh Thursday dismissed as 'absolutely stupid' a report that suggested a coup bid on the basis of movement of two key army units towards the capital'.

The comments come a day after the Indian government led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the defence minister thrashed the report as alarmist as well as baseless.

Singh, here on a two-day visit to attend a seminar hosted by the Nepalese army, said the report was 'deplorable' and that some people were trying to throw muck at the government and the army.

'This is absolutely stupid,' was his reply when asked to comment on the Indian Express report of Wednesday claiming the Raisina Hills, the seat of the Indian government, was 'spooked' Jan 16 after the troop movement.

'Whosoever is trying to make stories against the army chief is deplorable. What it shows is that people are unnecessarily trying to throw muck at both the government and the army. Such people should be taken to task,' he said.

The Express said the Hisar-based Mechanised Infantry unit and elements from the airborne 50 Para Brigade in Agra moved towards the capital on the night of Jan 16, without following the standard operating procedure of informing the defence ministry in advance.

The report said since this happened when Gen. Singh was waging a judicial battle against the government over his age row, it created unease and suspicion in Delhi. But the paper left it short of calling it a coup bid.

'It (the report) seems like somebody's mischief,' Singh said, adding that he 'can't keep guessing' who was playing mischief or why it was being played.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

PM, Antony dismiss report on troop movement

New Delhi/Visakhapatnam:Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Defence Minister A K Antony today rubbished a news report on 'unusual' troop movement towards Delhi in the middle of January as 'alarmist' and 'absolutely baseless'. 'These are alarmist reports. They should not be taken at face value,' the Prime Minister told reporters on the sidelines of a function at Rashtrapati Bhavan. To a question on the stand off between government and the Army Chief, he said, 'the Army Chief's office is an exalted office. All of us have an obligation to do nothing that would lower its dignity.'The Prime Minister was reacting to a report in the 'Indian Express' which said that on the night of January 16-17 an entire mechanised infantry unit based in Hisar (Haryana) with its fighting vehicles began moving towards Delhi, the day Army Chief Gen V K Singh approached the Supreme Court on the age issue.

A sizeable section of the Agra-based 50 Para Brigade also moved to near Palam. Both were stopped and ordered to be moved back, the report said, virtually suggesting a possible coup attempt. Defence Minister Antony described as 'absolutely
baseless' fears of coup by the armed forces and expressed confidence that they will not do anything to undermine democracy.
'Absolutely baseless. Army has already explained this. It is usual, natural activities. Nothing unusual. We are absolutely confident of the patriotism of the armed forces. Don't question their patriotism. They will not do anything to undermine Indian democracy,' he told a press conference in Visakhapatnam after commissioning 'INS Chakra', a nuclear power submarine.

Antony was replying to a question on the 'Indian Express' report. The questioner told him that the report raised considerable alarm and fears of a coup and whether the government was afraid of such a possibility and what did it do. Would he rule out the possibility of a coup. Antony said the armed forces personnel were 'true patriots' and 'don't question the patriotism of the soldiers who are dying in the frontiers of the country.' 'I am proud of the Indian Army, Navy, Air Force and the Coast Guard,' he said. He also urged the media not to lower the dignity of the armed forces on issues of national security. In a statement, Defence Ministry spokesperson Sitanshu Kar said, 'the points raised in the report have already been clarified by the Army...such exercises are conducted by the Army from time to time.' He also dubbed the report as 'baseless and incorrect'.

Minister of State for Defence M M Pallam Raju said the report was 'highly irresponsible and anti-national'. PTI

Saturday, February 18, 2012

One third of Kingfisher flights stand cancelled -Kingfisher in Red?

Cash-strapped Kingfisher Airlines has been hit by some major flight cancellations as the Vijay Mallya-led carrier struggles to continue daily operations.
According to sources, the total daily flights operated by the airline are down to 160 from 240 per day in the last two days and the airline has stopped taking bookings for Mumbai-Delhi-Mumbai flights to accommodate passengers of cancelled flights.
The source said these 80-odd cancelled flights include certain flights scheduled from/or to cities including Lucknow, Patna, Srinagar, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Pune and Ahmedabad. On the international routes, a source said flights to Dhaka and Bangkok have also been affected. However, these could not be immediately verified with the airline.

A detailed query mailed to a company spokesperson remained unanswered till the time of going to the press.
sources said bookings for Mumbai-Delhi-Mumbai flights were stopped to accommodate passengers from the cancelled

Delhi-Bangalore and Delhi-Pune flights, said the source.
Passengers suffered severe hardships as the beleaguered carrier cancelled several flights from some key cities and completely shut down operations from Kolkata, including international flights, for about ten days.

Kingfisher's services to Singapore were also affected as its website showed there were no flights available for the next ten days. Same was the case for Bangkok. In Hyderabad, the cash-strapped carrier has three flights to Bangalore, Chennai and Vijayawada on scheduled cancellation.

Kingfisher has been struggling to stay afloat with huge debt woes and working capital issues.Over the past few months, the airline has also seen a significant exodus by pilots. Meeting high fuel costs and servicing payments to lessors for its leased aircraft are the other challenges the airline faces.

Congress will meet same fate in Goa polls as it did in BMC

Panaji, Feb 18 (PTI) The BJP here today said that the results of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) polls would be replicated in the March 3 Goa Assembly elections. Leader of Opposition in State Assembly, Manohar Parrikar said the forthcoming polls will be Congress' waterloo in Goa. "Goa results will be same as that of the BMC, where Congress-NCP combine has taken a beating," he told reporters here today. In BMC, of the 227 seats, the BJP-Shiv Sena combine won 106 seats, while the Congress-NCP won 64 seats. BJP which is mid way through its campaign in the state, has said that the party's manifesto would be released on Sunday by national leader Ravi Shankar Prasad. The party has entered into seat sharing with Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), state's oldest regional outfit. PTI

The crumbling infrastructure, rampant corruption and inefficiency in the civic administration Paved the way for Sena BJP Win

Mumbai: The results of the BMC elections, though not quite the subject of nail-biting anticipation, must have evoked a heaving sigh of relief for the Shiv Sena-BJP combine, whose political future was uncertain after its dismal performance in the State Assembly elections in 2009, not to mention the polls for over 190 municipal councils last December.

Despite having narrowly escaped the threat posed by the Congress-NCP combine it has been anything but a sweeping victory for the combine, as it has fallen well short of the mark by eight seats. Its victory is also dubious in the fact that the numbers of winning seats have dwindled from 85 in 2007 to 76 in 2012. With every successive civic election, the party's tally seems to be dipping inexorably. Inexplicably, its alliance partner BJP somehow managed to improve on its earlier tally going from 28 to 29.
The original assumption doing the rounds was that the Sena-BJP nexus had little to offer to Mumbai voters with their increasing penchant for following global trends.

The crumbling infrastructure, rampant corruption and inefficiency in the civic administration, and the pothole-riddled roads did little to help.

The campaign in the run-up to the elections was quite exciting and dramatic, though. CM Prithviraj Chavan, NCP Chief Sharad Pawar, Shiv Sena Executive Chief Uddhav Thackeray sparred and parried, while Sena patriarch Bal Thackeray surprised all by extending an olive branch to estranged kin Raj. In response, the MNS chief said he was ready to meet the patriarch half way, but would not budge for Uddhav and his coterie.

Cong's pain, Sena's gain

The familial drama, high-strung enough to give any K-serial a run for its money, had Sena sympathisers riveted, rapt in attention. Though the MNS did not so much as make a dent in the Shiv Sena-BJP vote bank, they did manage to woo a sizeable chunk of the Marathi vote bank that was earlier in the vice-like grip of the Congress-NCP alliance. Despite their strategic move to unite their forces, neither the Congress nor the NCP could repeat their 2007 performance -- Congress' numbers dwindled from 71 to 53, and NCP's tally from 14 to 13.
The voters who bailed out on the formidable Congress-NCP alliance proved match-winners for the saffron alliance, as Congress-NCP tally dwindled from 85 to 66, a considerable deterioration from its erstwhile 85. Their loss turned out to be MNS' gain of Sena-BJP.

Campaign coup

But even a few days ago, the atmosphere at Matoshree was taut with anxiety.
A desperate and anxious Uddhav first conducted a confidential survey of all 227 wards, meticulously chalking out a list of probable winners and prospective rebels. He took pains to announce his chosen list of candidates well after the deadline, so that prospective rebels had nowhere to defect to. Thackeray Jr was so consumed and engrossed with the BMC poll calculations that he did not address a single rally for the local body elections, in 27 zilla parishads and 309 panchayat samitis spanning the state.
Bal Thackeray stepped up, addressing two public rallies, and needless to say, the effect was powerful. Uddhav's decision to release tongue-in-cheek full-page ads in different print media also did the trick. And like every year, there were Sena booth chiefs stationed at all the centres, ushering in Sena sympathisers and making sure that they didn't have to wait in long lines. The Congress-NCP's combined efforts to woo voters paled in comparison to the aggressive, no-hold-barred campaign unleashed by the Sena.
Their impending victory was clear on polling day itself, with Sena bastions like Bhandup, Goregaon and parts of the western suburbs like Lalbaug and Parel registering high percentages of polling activity.

Divided they fell

The dip in the polling percentage from 47 per cent to 44.64 per cent is shocking, given the zealous civil activism by organisations to sensitise citizens about the need to go vote. As any major shift in polling percentages is seen as an indication of an anti-incumbency wave, the repeat of last election's dismal attendance rate does not bode well for the Congress-NCP, who were eager to unseat the saffron combine.
What failed the Congress-NCP was simply the sheer absence of team spirit. The fissures and cracks in the fa ade of amiability were evident even at the first joint rally in Bandra Government Colony, where not only supporters, but also prominent leaders were conspicuous by their absence.
The NCP lacked the foundation and support that is only lent to a team by good leadership. Except for its chief Sharad Pawar, none of the stalwarts - Deputy CM Ajit Pawar, Home Minister R R Patil, or City District Guardian Minister Jayant Patil - made their presence felt at the ground level, and a few road shows failed to generate enough steam. PWD Minister Chhagan Bhujbal was also busy at the helms for the Nashik civic polls.

Foot in the mouth?

On the eve of the elections, CM Chavan made an audacious statement, declaring confidently that after February 16, Shiv Sena would be inconsequential, and its chief Bal Thackeray would lose its clout. This statement may well have hit the nail on the coffin for the Congress-NCP this election, as it sent Sena sympathisers into a tizzy.
The insecure Marathi voter still wants Sena to maintain its presence in Mumbai.
For MNS, their tally of 28 seats, from its earlier 7, comes as little relief. The chaos in the party continued even after the exams specially conducted to finalise the candidates. Raj Thackeray appeared utterly confused when the High Court refused permission for rallies at Shivaji Park -- so much so, that the party couldn't even come out with a manifesto in time. Mumbaikars have offered him more seats but less comfort.
With this win, Sena-BJP combine can hope for a better performance in 2014 Assembly elections, despite its dismal performance as the present Opposition party.

Mid Day report

Congress grapples with graft, scams & rebels; regional ally boosts BJP

PANAJI: Two weeks from polling, Goa, with a 40-seat assembly, is all set for multi-cornered battles with a sudden spurt in the number of political parties contesting on March 3.

Though the main fight will be between Congress and BJP, rebels, parties in the fray for the first time and voters seeking state accountability will make it a keen battle.

Congress looks to be in trouble. Issues such as illegal mining, deeprooted corruption, the controversial Regional Plan 2021, medium of instruction , lack of development and infighting are likely to hit the party hard.

Thanks to its mismanagement , Congress will be more affected by rebels than other parties. Besides, it has given 12 tickets to sitting MLAs and their relatives. That's over one-fourth of the assembly strength.

A well-prepared BJP, waiting to capitalize on anti-Congress sentiments , has smelt power. The party's confidence rises from the fact that it has succeeded in allying with Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP)-Goa's oldest regional party-in an attempt to wrest power from Congress. MGP gets eight seats while BJP contests around 28 seats.

At the end of the four and a half years, Congress's Digambar Kamat Kamat has proved to be the only CM to complete the full term since Goa became a state in 1987.

All major parties, including Congress , BJP and NCP, have given tickets to the rich. Ignoring cadres' sentiments , parties have gone to the extent of loaning candidates to coalition partners. Of the 7 seats NCP is contesting, three candidates are from Congress. MGP and BJP have also swapped one or two seats to facilitate entry for 'winnable' candidates.

The richest candidate is Dinar Tarcar with stakes in mining and real estate. Recently, as chairman of Public Accounts Committee , Parrikar had named Tarcar in the illegal mining scam report.

But Tarcar knocked on BJP's doors to contest from Santa Cruz constituency . To avoid embarrassment, BJP gave the Santa Cruz seat to MGP and along with it came Tarcar.

Friday, February 17, 2012

'Iran, Hezbollah trying to attack Israelis, Jews abroad'

Counter-terrorism Bureau releases warning in light of information emerging after recent attacks, urges tourists to be alert; Israeli intelligence reveals Bangkok may be target for new attacks, Thai paper reports. By Chaiwat Subprasom/Reuters
It appears as though Iran and Hezbollah are currently trying to carry out attacks on Israeli and Jewish targets abroad, Israel's Counter-terrorism Bureau warned Friday.

The Bureau said it drew these conclusions, "in light of the findings emerging from the questioning of detainees," arrested in relation to the recent attacks.

The warning followed an earlier report in The Bangkok Post, stating that Thailand had bolstered security at its six international airports after Israeli intelligence warned that the country may be the target for new terror attacks.
According to the report, Thai Police Chief Priewpan Damapong instructed the Transport Ministry on Thursday to put all international airports on high alert and to beef up security at subway stations as well.

On Thursday, two Iranians were charged in a Thai court over an alleged plot earlier this week to target Israeli diplomats. They were caught trying to flee Bangkok on Tuesday after one of the bombs they were assembling accidentally exploded.

Thai security authorities announced on Thursday that they had discovered a “direct connection” linking this week’s attacks against Israeli diplomats in Georgia and India with the Iranian terrorist cell apprehended in Bangkok.

The cell, which consisted of three Iranian nationals, intended to target Israeli diplomats, the Thai police chief said.

Italian vessel episode: Guilty will be punished, says Antony

New Delhi/Kochi: India today said the firing by armed guards on-board an Italian merchant ship killing two Indian fishermen off the coast of Kerala, was 'against the laws and norms' and the guilty will be punished.

'We are taking this issue very seriously. What happened was against the laws and the norms. The guilty will have to be
punished,' Defence Minister A K Antony told reporters here. Underlining that India wanted to send 'strong signals' on
the issue, the minister said, 'This is not only for India but for all others. Everybody should follow the norms and the

He was asked about the steps being taken by the government to book the guilty in the incident.

Antony said the Kerala police and the Indian Coast Guard were questioning all the people involved in the case and it
would be 'inappropriate' for him to comment further on the incident.

The two fishermen, native of Alappuzha, were killed on Wednesday night when armed guards on-board the Italian
merchant vessel Enrica Lexie opened fire on their fishing boat.

The vessel was brought to Kochi early today and police and Coast Guard personnel were questioning the crew. The ship
has been berthed at Kochi oil terminal, where security has been tightened.

The preliminary assessment of the marine authorities is that the armed guards aboard the ship might have fired at the
fishing boat mistaking it for a vessel belonging to pirates.

Italian Consul General in India, GiamPaolo Cutillo, was in Kochi yesterday in connection with the incident and had met
the city Police Commissioner there.

Inspector General S P S Basra, Regional Commander of Coast Guard Region (West), said in Kochi that the Italian
vessel had not reported the incident.

It was the coastal police at Neendakara in Kollam district which reported the incident to the Coast Guard and,
thereafter, search operations were launched, he told reporters.

The vessel was in the Indian Exclusive Zone when the incident occurred, he said.

'It was an error of judgement on the part of the vessel', he said but firing on unarmed fishermen could not be justified.

'They (the Italian vessel's crew) had taken some time to accept the case. An FIR has been registered and the police
were investigating the case,' he said, when asked about the reported delay in taking action against the erring ship.

On the explanation by the Italian vessel crew that the guards had opened fire suspecting the fishermen to be pirates,
he said, 'Any incident of piracy has to be immediately reported to the Coast Guard. They have not done it. They gave
the information over two-and-a-half hours later', Basra said.

The Italian ship has stated that the crew had sighted a 'suspicious' boat off Alapuzha on February 15 at about 1600
hours and that it was closing in from a distance of at 2.8 nautical miles.

The boat was 'warned' by flashing of search lights and displaying of the weapons but it continued to close in and got
up with a 100 metre range from the ship, they have said, claiming that the security team of the ship sighted six
persons and fired warning shots.

The crew informed the owners and activated the 'ship security alert system', they have claimed.

The coastal police has registered a murder case against the crew of the vessel based on the evidence of bullet
injuries found on the bodies of the dead fishermen --Valentine alias Jelestine (45) and Ajesh Binki (25)-- during
post-mortem. PTI