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Maoists blow up school building in Chhattisgarh

Raipur: Maoist guerrillas blew up a primary school building in Chhattisgarh's Dantewada district, police said today. Some 80-100 Maoists destroyed a major portion of a primary school building in Phulpar village on Friday night, officials at the police headquarters here told media. The school is around 400 km from state capital Raipur. Education department officials said that Maoists over the past two years had torched 80 school buildings in Dantewada and Bijapur districts.

Koda deposited Rs 61cr in Mumbai bank in less than 30 days

New Delhi: Former Jharkhand Chief Minister Madhu Koda and his partners in crime are offering surprises one after the other to the officials from Enforcement Directorate (ED) and Income Tax (I-T), the investigators, who are probing into his robbery case. Recent investigation has already been successful in finding the details of accounts where the suspects might have hoarded their treasure. The investigators have also traced the bullion trader from Mumbai's Zaveri Bazar who acted as the middleman between Koda associate and Swiss banks. Further investigation has revealed that the Zaveri Bazar branch of Union Bank of India did not find anything amiss about Rs 61 crore that the Koda group deposited. The transaction had taken place within a span of 30 days from March 2 to March 31, 2007. Vikas Sinha, one of Koda's aides and younger brother of main Koda aide Binod, was arrested in Ranchi, who confessed of having carried Rs 40 crore to Binod's chartered accountant S K Naredi. It is to be noted that Naredi is also Koda's chartered accountant. Sleuths suspect him to have helped the former Jharkhand CM to acquire sponge iron and rolling mills in the state. Although police are searching for Binod and Naredi, the focus of the investigation has shifted to the Swiss connection of the Koda group.

India kept informed of terror plot

Washington: India has been kept informed about the case of two Pakistan-born Chicago men charged with planning a terrorist attack in India with the help of Pakistan based terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), according to a US official. "All I can really tell you from our diplomatic angle is that I know that our Ambassador (Timothy J. Roemer) has briefed the Government of India on the case, and we continue to follow the case," State Department spokesman Ian Kelly told reporters on Friday. But he declined to give details of the interrogation of the two suspects saying, "I'm not at liberty to divulge the details of the interrogation." It's an ongoing legal case, and it is really in the purview of the Department of Justice, he said, "But I do know that we have briefed the Government of India on the broad parameters of the case." Asked about a low-key visit of the Indian national security advisor, M K Narayanan ahead of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's upcoming state visit, Kelly said he was not on a secret mission and had meetings among others with officials at the State Department. "I don't think it was a secret mission," he said. "I just would - I would not encourage you to use the word 'secret mission.' I'm pretty sure he did have meetings here in this building." Asked if Narayanan's visit had anything to do with the arrests in Chicago or a high alert in India ahead of the first anniversary of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, Kelly said, "I don't know. We'll see if we can get you more information." Prosecutors told a Chicago Federal court on Tuesday that a Chicago businessman Tahawwura Hussain Rana had discussed an attack on India's National Defence College with David Coleman Headley, a Pakistan-born American national, in association with LeT. Rana, a Pakistan-born Canadian national, and Headley, whose former name was Daood Gilani, are also charged with plotting to attack Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. The newspaper sparked outrage throughout the Muslim world in 2005 by publishing 12 cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. A team of officials from two Indian intelligence agencies, the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), arrived in the US Monday to join the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in probing the foiled terror plot. The officials were expected to interview at least Headley in a bid to determine the intended target in India and when the alleged attack was to be carried out.

Indian, Tibetan flags flutter ahead of Dalai Lama visit

Tawang (Arunachal Pradesh): Dozens of Indian flags fluttered alongside Tibetan prayer flags today as Buddhist monks braved the winter chill to put up welcome arches and Mandala paintings on the road ahead of the Dalai Lama's visit to Arunachal Pradesh. The Tibetan spiritual leader arrives on Sunday at Tawang, a picturesque town perched at an altitude of over 11,000 feet close to the border with China, on a week-long visit to Arunachal, a state of about one million people. "Everything from the main prayer hall to the throne from where the Dalai Lama would lead a three-day prayer session for some 30,000 followers is ready," Guru Tuku, the abbot of Tawang monastery, told IANS. Hundreds of devotees from Nepal and Bhutan have also converged for the Dalai Lama's visit. Child monks with their maroon and yellow robes were busy putting up welcome arches. Some got on to trees and rooftops to set up Tibetan prayer flags and pictures of the exiled Tibetan leader. Mandala paintings using coloured sand were being made in roads leading to the monastery, with skilled monks carving intricate designs. "The mood is one of sheer excitement and anticipation, coupled with a sense of awe," said Lama Lopon, another priest at the monastery. The smell of burning incense wafts the air as sounds of gongs and cymbals reverberated the surrounding with monks busy rehearsing in the monastery to welcome the Dalai Lama. "The welcome ceremony would be a purely religious one with some 800 monks taking part, besides people from the area," T.G. Rinpoche, a senior Buddhist spiritual leader and a former minister, told media. The Dalai Lama will inaugurate a museum and a library on Sunday at the monastery and then address monks and priests. "The Dalai Lama's main itinerary begins on Monday when he starts the prayer session at a school playground near the monastery. That would be his first public appearance," Tuku said. It was through Tawang, a revered seat of Buddhism, that in 1959 the Dalai Lama escaped the Chinese to enter India. The Buddhist leader will then visit the adjoining town of Bomdilla and Dirang on Nov 12, before leaving for state capital Itanagar on Nov 14. The visit ends on Nov 15. China has raked up a controversy by asking India not to allow the Tibetan spiritual leader to visit Arunachal Pradesh. The mountainous state shares a 1,030-km unfenced border with China.

India developing own influenza vaccine for first time: Azad

New Delhi: An influenza vaccine is for the first time being developed in India that would be effective against the swine flu pandemic, Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said here on Friday. "Public health challenges will continue to put pressure on our system and we have to be better prepared to respond to these challenges through effective regulation, surveillance, capacity building, supervision and care," he said. Azad was addressing the newly formed consultative committee attached to his ministry and comprising both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha parliamentarians. "For the first time in India, an influenza vaccine is being developed in the country that would be effective specifically against the pandemic H1N1," the health minister said. Azad said the H1N1 pandemic "highlighted the need for evidence based research and trials that will be suitable for Indian conditions and the Indian people". India is set to come out with a vaccine to target the influenza A (H1N1) virus in a few months. Three Indian companies - Serum Institute, Bharat Biotech and Panacea - are working towards producing this India-specific vaccine that is expected to be launched early next year. In all, 478 people have died in India due to swine flu so far, while over 14,000 people have been affected with the contagious virus. Highlighting the role of health research, Azad said it plays an "important role" in finding solutions to India's health problems and thus improving the country's health status. The minister said a separate Department for Health Research had been set up in 2007 with this aim in mind. On the H1N1 virus, Azad said his ministry "has left no stone unturned to expand laboratory testing facilities in many parts of the country to meet public health challenges more effectively and with more evidence". "The H1N1 pandemic has helped us realise where we need to step up our efforts and how we need to sensitize the community in facing up to some of these challenges," he added.


Koda hospitalised after I-T officials grill him


Ranchi: Former Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda, under the scanner for allegedly amassing wealth illegally, is reportedly ill and was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of Apollo Hospital.

Income tax officials were questioning Koda at his Ranchi residence when he said that he was feeling uneasy. Koda has a history of medical problems.

"We cannot say what exactly is the problem. We are conducting tests and we will be able to say anything after the test reports," a doctor at the hospital told news agency IANS.

Koda was operated upon a fortnight ago after he complained of stomach pain. The Lok Sabha MP returned home from the hospital last week when the Income Tax Department started raiding his houses and other properties.

Koda was reported as not being cooperative with the Income Tax department in the investigation against him, a senior official said on Monday.

Koda was interrogated on camera so that his statements are recorded on video for proof while the I-T department and Enforcement Directorate officials continued searches in cities across the country for the third day.

IT sources said Koda had provided information about investments made at different places, the network used to invest money and people involved in the illegal transactions.

An official press release on Monday said the I-T department is continuing its search and seizure operations under provisions of the Income Tax Act and has summoned six people for questioning.

The six who have been asked to appear before the department on November 6 are Vinod Kumar Sinha, Sanjay Chaudhary, Devendra Mukhiya, Basant Bhattacharya, Manoj Punamiya and Anil Bastawde. Sinha and Chaudhary are close associates of Koda.

"If they fail to appear on the said date, the department will be constrained to take strict legal actions as permissible under various laws," the statement added.

Both Sinha and Chaudhary have not yet appeared before I-T officials. On Saturday, I-T officials said legal action will be initiated if they did not report by Sunday evening. Airport authorities have now been alerted so that they do not flee the country.

The I-T department, which is probing a disproportionate assets allegation against Koda and his associates, on Saturday conducted raids at 70 places in eight cities and discovered documents relating to illegal transactions worth Rs 2,000 crore.

The I-T officials have seized a laptop, hard disk and documents from Koda's houses and are investigating his links with a resort in the Andamans.

Over 70 bank accounts and lockers have been frozen so far and the process has been initiated to freeze the bank accounts of Sinha and Chaudhary.

I-T officials have also seized documents worth Rs 550 crore sent through hawala to Dubai, Thailand, Malyasia and African countries and Interpol help might be sought to probe the case, sources said.

Ajmer Shatabdi runs down four, passengers stranded

Gurgaon: Four people were run over by a train near this suburban city early today leading to angry protests that saw hundreds of passengers aboard the New Delhi-Ajmer Shatabdi Express being stranded. The incident took place in Pataudi, 26 km from this satellite town in Haryana, at about 7.30 a.m., railway officials said. "Four people were run over by the New Delhi-Ajmer Shatabdi express this morning when they were illegally crossing the railway tracks in Pataudi. The accident happened at 7.30 a.m.," Anant Swarup, spokesperson of the Northern Railways, told the media. He said there was a mass agitation at the accident site thereafter. About 500-600 passengers of the Shatabdi were stranded in Pataudi. "Because of the accident, the engine of the train was damaged and we sent another engine from Delhi. However, because of the ongoing protests there, the relief engine could not be attached," he said. "The Railway Protection Force (RPF) is now being sent there to handle the situation," Swarup added.

Beware terror spillover from Af-Pak: Army chief

New Delhi: India needs to be on guard against the spillover of terrorism from the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, Indian Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor said today. "The whole region (Afghanistan-Pakistan) is affected by terrorists. We need to be on guard against it," Kapoor told reporters here. Pakistan witnessed three suicide terrorist attacks Monday which left over 35 dead. The army chief refuted Pakistan's allegations that India was fomenting terror in Balochistan. "I just want to say that Pakistan should remain stable. We do not have any interests there and we have not supported any group there," the army chief said. Security agencies are alert against a repeat of the audacious Mumbai terror attack and are prepared to face any eventuality, Kapoor added. "The defence ministry and home ministry have already alerted us. We are prepared for any eventuality," he said.

Goa blast a result of intelligence failure: Home minister

Panaji: Goa Home Minister Ravi Naik has admitted that the Diwali eve blast in the state, in which two associates of the rightwing Hindu outfit Sanatan Sanstha (SS) were killed when the bomb they were ferrying exploded, was a result of intelligence failure. Naik has also assured that strict action would be taken, if supervisory intelligence officials were found guilty of lapses. "It will not be wrong to say that the Margao blast (on Oct 16) was a result of a failure of the intelligence machinery," Naik told a local news channel in an interview on late Monday evening. Calling for a thorough probe into intelligence lapses, Naik also said that it was necessary to fix responsibility for the error in intelligence gathering. The lapse in intelligence had allowed two associates of SS to explode detonator-rigged gelatine sticks in Margao, a town in south Goa about 35 km from here. Both SS associates Malgonda Patil and Yogesh Naik, who were ferrying a bomb to a crowd of festive revellers on a scooter, were killed when it accidentally exploded. "What we have to see is, if police intelligence officials at the ground level have submitted a report on the activities of the SS to their superiors at all," Naik said. "And then if the superior officers received the report and still ignored it, then those officials will have to be prepared to face action," he added. Naik also said that the home ministry had asked the state police to closely monitor the activities of the Sanstha, which is headquartered in an ashram in the temple town of Ramnathi, 30 km east of Panaji. "We are monitoring all activities of the SS. All the contents of their newspaper (Sanatan Prabhat) are being regularly scanned and analysed by the police on a daily basis now. We are assessing all the information we have on the SS," Naik said. When asked if Goa was planning to ban the Sanstha, Naik refused to comment. The police have arrested two members of the SS in connection with the blast. Both the accused Vinay Talekar, 30, and Vinayak Patil, 27, are originally from Karnataka.


Air India Pilots may go on Strike

New Delhi: Air India pilots have said that they would be going on a strike from 24th November onwards. They have also sent the management a 14-day notice for meeting their demands, which includes payment of the dues that are yet to be paid. They also want parity to be restored in the payments made to the pilots of the erstwhile Indian Airlines and ones working for Air India by 10th of November. The executive division of the pilots’ association had not worked five days last September as a means of protest against their outstanding productivity incentives. Almost 400 pilots had reported sick as a result of which more than 300 flights had to be cancelled. In the letter sent on Monday, the Indian Commercial Pilots Association has cited the Section 22 of the Industrial Disputes Act of 1947 as a means of authenticating their strike. Capt. R.S Otaal who is the Indian Commercial Pilots Association general secretary has expressed his dismay at the failure of talks with the management and is now looking for the full payment only. He said that several pilots have not received their payments from June and even the authorities are not listening to any suggestions whatsoever. He stressed that almost 800 pilots have been affected directly as a result of the non implementation of the 5th Pay Commission that came in force in January this year. A number of pilots are on the verge of emptying their bank accounts for sustenance as a result of this delay in payments. He said as long as the 5th Pay Commission was not agreed upon they would not hold any talks on salary deductions. They also wanted written assurance that there would be no more delays.

Yeddyurappa to remain chief minister, rules Rajnath Singh

New Delhi: Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa will remain in the post, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Rajnath Singh today stated, putting an end to the intense leadership tussle plaguing the party's first government in the south for the past few weeks. Emerging from the BJP's Core Committee's meeting to decide on the leadership issue on Monday evening, Singh said that Yeddyurappa would continue. "Yes, he will," Singh told reporters in reply to a question whether Yeddyurappa will remain the chief minister. The core committee meeting was attended by veteran leader L.K. Advani, party president Singh and general secretary Arun Jaitley. Earlier in the day, G. Janardhana Reddy, the tourism minister and one of the Reddy brothers who is gunning to remove Yeddyurappa, met Jaitley and party MP Ananth Kumar in Delhi. "Every legislator and MP put forward their viewpoints," general secretary Jaitley had told reporters here. "Based on that we (Ananth Kumar and Jaitley) gave our report to the national leadership," Jaitley said after meeting Reddy. The main demand of the Reddy brothers is to have a home minister in the state of their choice, withdrawal of abduction cases against them and revamping of the state administration. The power tussle in the BJP's Karnataka unit saw prolonged negotiations between leaders of the rival camps and national leaders here on Sunday. Several legislators and MPs belonging to both camps - one supporting Yeddyurappa and the other favouring the Reddy brothers of Bellary - were in the capital. Yeddyurappa supporters -- former MP Dhananjay Kumar and state Home Minister V.S. Acharya -- met Advani and party president Rajnath Singh on Sunday. Acharya and Kumar also called on RSS pointsman and BJP general secretary Ramlal earlier and claimed his support in favour of Yeddyurappa. The Reddy brothers - ministers G. Janardhana Reddy and elder brother G. Karunakara Reddy (Revenue) - were lobbying to appoint assembly Speaker Jagadish Shettar as the chief minister. Shettar, 53, is close to the brothers.

Chidambaram to visit Jammu on Wednesday to review security

Jammu: Home Minister P.Chidambaram is visiting Jammu on Wednesday to review the security situation in Jammu and Kashmir as well assess the efforts for the rehabilitation of Kahmiri Pandit migrants. "He is visiting Jammu for a day on Nov 4," state Revenue Minister Raman Bhalla said. Apart from reviewing the security situation, the home minister would visit Jagti on the outskirts of Jammu city where an ultra modern satellite township is coming up for the rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandit migrants. "Chidambaram wants to have first hand assessment of the progress of the relief and rehabilitation effort," Bhalla said. The visiting minister will also interact with some of the leaders of the Kashmiri Pandit community, which migrated from the Valley en masse, after some members of the community were killed by militants. This will be the minister's second visit to Jammu and Kashmir in less than a month. He was in Srinagar for two days in October to review the security situation and had also invited "all shades of opinion" for talks - which was described as a positive development by the separatists and others.

Pakistan needs to be serious in tackling terrorists: Antony

Thiruvananthapuram: Defence Minister A.K. Antony today warned that relations with Pakistan can improve only if it takes serious steps against terrorists waging war against India. "In relations with Pakistan, the main impediment is that there are still large number of terrorist camps operating across the border. There is a continuous effort to push terrorists into Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan has to take serious efforts (to tackle terrorists), then only relations can improve," Antony told reporters after giving out Trivandrum Press Club journalism awards here. When asked if the government will use the army against the Maoists, he said: "We are very clear that law and order is a state subject. The centre will only help them (the states) with paramilitary forces. Army can be called in only as the last resort, when all other options have been exhausted." Asked about the Indo-ASEAN free trade agreement, Antony criticised Kerala's Left Front government which has opposed the treaty. "Minister of Commerce Anand Sharma wrote to the chief minister (V.S. Achuthanandan) in August regarding all the aspects of the negative list. People here are trying to make a political issue out of this. This should not happen," said Antony.

Trade pact, climate change, terror to top India-EU summit

New Delhi: India and the 27-nation European Union will on Friday hold their 10th summit that is expected to give a much-needed impetus to a proposed trade pact and expand cooperation in areas ranging from counter-terrorism and the global financial crisis to energy security and climate change. The daylong India-EU summit is expected to give a decisive political push to negotiations over the long-deliberated, broadbased trade and investment pacts that are currently dragging due to differences over the EU's bid to bring in non-trade issues into the talks. The political summit will be preceded by an annual India-EU business conclave that will bring together top business leaders from the two sides to discuss issues relating to the global financial meltdown and ways to scale up two-way trade and investment. The two sides had agreed to double bilateral trade to 100 billion euros in five years at the summit in Marseilles last year. Ahead of the talks, Daniele Smadja, ambassador and head of the EU delegation in New Delhi, said last week that non-trade issues like child labour and environment are key policy concerns and need to be addressed within the framework of the free trade agreement or FTA talks between India and the European Union. India has voiced reservations over non-trade issues as it feels it's a ploy of developed countries to undercut its competitiveness. The two sides have held seven rounds of talks, but the negotiations are proving to be difficult. With less than a month to go before the UN summit on climate change in Copenhagen, global warming will be another major topic of discussion. The EU is expected to make another push to bring India closer to its stance on climate change. The EU summit last week agreed that rich countries should give developing nations up to 50 billion euros a year by 2020 to help them fight climate change, but did not state how much the 27-nation bloc was willing to contribute. India has consistently advocated the principle that developed countries have to pay for the global warming they had caused. The two sides will also discuss greater institutional linkages in combating terrorism. The sharp spike in terrorist attacks in Pakistan and the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, where the US and NATO forces are battling a resurgent Taliban, will also figure in the discussions.

Indians flee blast at Australian cafe

Melbourne: A group of Indian men, who were sharing a flat above an Internet cafe in this Australian city, were forced to flee after an explosion early today morning, a media report said.Eight residents fled after the blast at the cafe in Melbourne's inner north area early today morning, minutes after a suspicious fire at a nearby warehouse, a popular newspaper reported today. None of the upstairs residents were injured. The damage to the cafe was estimated at about $200,000. The Indian men, who were sharing the flat above the Internet Cafe in Sydney Road, Brunswick, were woken by a loud bang just before 1.30 a.m. The group was prompted by smoke alarms to escape as the cafe's front windows blew out and the brick two-storey building began to burn, Metropolitan Fire Brigade acting commander Steve Dorman said. The fire gutted the cafe and and a ground-floor residence at the rear of the building where the cafe owners lived. The upstairs flat escaped damage as about 25 firefighters spent an hour bringing the fire under control. Minutes before, a fire had spread quickly through the Nutex Paper warehouse in Nicholson Street in East Brunswick as paper products fuelled the flames. Firefighters managed to contain the damage to the rear of the brick single-storey building. Both the fires are considered suspicious and are being investigated by police. The cafe fire led to a large gas leak and barricades were erected to ensure the building did not collapse.

Guru Nanak Jayanti celebrated with great spirits

New Delhi: Today Sikhs around the world are celebrating the 540th Birth Anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the founder of Sikhism. Guru Nanak Dev Ji was born in 1469 A.D, in Talwandi (Present Pakistan).He was not only the founder of Sikhism but also a great philosopher, poet and a very powerful Social Reformer. He condemned "Sati System" and atrocities against women from then existing Indian Society and preached "Sau kion manda aakhiye jitt jamhey raajaan" Meaning Woman have given birth to emperors of the world, therefore should not be condemned. Teachings Of Guru Nanak Dev Ji At the age of five Guru Nanak started talking about the divine subjects and great trust was reposed in him by both Hindus and Muslims He had great reverence for women. He allowed them to join all religious gatherings and conferences. He strongly protested against formalism and ritualism and carried the message of peace and of love to everybody. Being very liberal and practical in his views he did not believe in Caste System, he preached that everyone is equal in the eyes of God, there is no rich, poor, male, female, black nor white. The only difference between people is in their actions. Celebrations of the Gurpurab The Celebration of the Gurupurab begins with Prabhabat Feris or early morning processions that start from Gurudawara and then move to different areas singing Hymns of the Holy Book (Guru Granth). The actual celebration starts 3 days before Guru Nanak Jayanti with the beginning of Akhand Path (continuous reading of the sacred scripture Sri Guru Granth Sahib). The Akhand Path culminates on the day of the Guru Purab and the holy book is followed by night long Keertan Darbar and Langar. Gurudwaras are decorated with beautiful lights and devotees attend Langar (the common meal where everyone eats the same food irrespective of caste, class, or creed). People also illuminate (Deep Maala) Gurudwaras and their homes with candles and earthen lamps. As a part of Guru Nanak's Birthday celebrations in New Delhi, the capital of India, the Sikhs visit the most revered Gurudwara of Delhi, Gurudwara Bangla Sahib. All the Gurudwaras are done with beautiful floral decorations and the Gurupuarb is celebrated with high spirits. Celebrations in the National Capital, Delhi In Delhi, Hundreds and thousands of Sikhs on Saturday (31st October) participated in the annual religious procession "Nagar Kirtan", taken out as a part of the festivities related to the birth anniversary celebrations. This annual Procession is taken out every year, it begins from Rakaab Ganj Sahib and ends at Gurudwara Nanak Peao, hundreds of Delhi school Children participated in the "Nagar Keertan" where in the holy book (Guru Granth Sahib Ji) is decorated with flowers and is taken on a float. Devotees from all over the Capital participate and sing the praises of the almighty. All the localities which the Procession covers are beautifully decorated and special Langar Stalls are organized en route. Guru Nanak Jayanti or Gurupurab is celebrated with great spirits and people across India are extremely excited about the grand Celebrations.

7 Northeastern states behind national average income levels

The conditions in the north eastern states of India are far from ideal. Even the policymakers have not been able to bring about too many changes to the present condition. As per newest economic data the levels of income in 7 of the 8 states in the northeastern region in India are lower than the average levels of earning in rest of the country. Only a decade and a half ago there was a different situation whereby the levels of income in 4 of these 8 states was higher than the average income in India. Only Mizoram has been able to sustain its levels of income in the past 15 years. In 1993-94 fiscal the average income levels in Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Nagaland were higher than rest of India by at least 10 to 20 percent. At present Arunachal Pradesh is under the radar by more than 15 percent and in case of Nagaland this rate is 25 percent. For Sikkim the rate is 2 percent. States like Assam, Meghalaya and Manipur were never really economically affluent. In 1993-94 Assam and Meghalaya were behind by 25 percent but at present they are deficient by 35 percent. Meghalaya, who were 10 percent behind in 1993-94, are now facing a deficiency of 17 percent. Tripura is the only state where the situation has improved. From 30 percent behind they have progressed up to 5 percent behind the average levels of income in India. Every central ministry, since 1998, has allocated 10 percent of its yearly budget for development in the northeast. The Ministry of Development of North-Eastern Region has said that in excess of INR 42,600 crores have been set aside in the period of 1998 to 2006 for developmental purposes. A number of questions have been raised by activist groups in the regions about the credibility of the higher levels of governance regarding usage of funds for developmental purposes.


Azad hikes funds for cancer control, treatment of poor

Mumbai: Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad on Sunday announced enhanced funding for the cancer control programme, a fund for treatment of poor cancer patients and more emphasis on study of the disease. Addressing the Annual Breast and Gynaecological Cancer Conference at Tata Memorial Cancer Hospital (TMCH) here, the minister said the allocation for the National Cancer Control Programme in the 11th Five Year Plan will be increased ten times - to Rs.2,400 crore. The centre is also setting up OncoNET India, a network of 27 regional cancer centres and 100 peripheral centres to provide telemedicine services and medical education, he added. Admitting that cancer has emerged as one of the major diseases in view of increasing life expectancy and changing lifestyle patterns, Azad said that the government has established a Health Minister's Cancer Patient Fund with a seed money of Rs.100 crore for the benefit of people in the below poverty line (BPL) category. Through the fund, a BPL cancer patient can get up to Rs.100,000 assistance at any government facility on the recommendation of the hospital, besides similar assistance made available under Rashtriya Arogya Nidhi for cancer treatment. Azad urged doctors of TMCH to avail this facility for the treatment of BPL cancer patients. He assured the doctors that he would take up the issue of increasing cancer-related content at the MBBS course level. He also said that the government would take the initiative in equipping various hospitals at the state and district level with the low cost Bhabhtron machine developed by Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC). Expressing concern at the delay in diagnosing cancer, which results in high costs and low utilisation of curative services, Azad said nearly two-thirds of the cancers were being diagnosed at the advanced level. "At least one-third of all cancers can be prevented, another one-third can be detected in time and treated. Of the remaining one-third cases, palliative and supportive care is the only option. Of all the cancers, around 30-40 percent are related to tobacco consumption which can be prevented," he said. Stressing the importance of awareness in fighting cancer in women, the minister chided the medical fraternity for lacking in efforts to promote cancer awareness among women and to advise timely screening. On the occasion, Azad launched a cancer Mobile Screening Van by the Women Cancer Initiative and TMCH which would provide health education, screening and prevention of cancer to nearly 500,000 slum dwellers in north-east suburbs of Mumbai.

Girl attempts suicide in Jammu and Kashmir over sim card

Srinagar: A girl in a north Kashmir village on Sunday allegedly attempted suicide after learning that her pre-paid sim card was not functioning, residents of the village claimed. According to villagers, Taslima, 23, living in Chattergul village in Ganderbal district, consumed some poisonous substance and had be taken to the hospital in critical condition after she learnt that her pre-paid mobile phone would not function any longer. There has been widespread anger across Jammu and Kashmir over the union home ministry decision to cancel pre-paid mobile phones across the state because these phones are being used by separatist guerrillas. Most of the locals, predominately the youth, have been angered because of the government's decision. The locals say they should not be punished because the pre-paid mobile phones are sometimes used by separatist guerrillas. There are over three million pre-paid mobile phone subscribers across Jammu and Kashmir.

Regulator cautions insurers on terror funds

New Delhi: Insurance Regulatory Development Authority (IRDA) has cautioned insurance companies against policy holders whose identity matches that of those on the United Nations' list of terrorists or organisations engaged in funding terror attacks. "Insurance companies will immediately, and in any case within 24 hours from the time of identifying a match, inform full particulars of the insurance policies held by such a customer on their books to the ministry of home affairs (MHA)," said IRDA, the sectoral regulator, in a circular to insurance firms. Insurers will also have to file suspicious transaction reports with the Financial Intelligence Unit-India, the central agency responsible for tracking information relating to suspect financial transactions. The UN list has names of terrorists and outfits accused of funding activities of terror outfits. "In case, the match of any of the customers with the particulars of designated individuals or entities is beyond doubt, insurance companies would prevent designated individuals or entities from conducting any transactions and intimate the MHA," the regulator further said. "Also on receipt of the particulars of suspected designated individual and entities MHA would investigate so as to ensure that the individuals or entities identified by the insurance companies." The apex bank, Reserve Bank of India, and the market regulator, Security and Exchange Board of India, have issued similar guidelines to stock exchanges and banks to prevent terror funding and money laundering.

Two policemen killed by militants in Kashmir

Srinagar: Two police men were killed by separatist guerrillas in a hit-and-run attack in this Jammu and Kashmir capital today, police said. A senior police officer told media that separatist guerrillas fired at Head Constable Manzoor Ahmad and Constable Abdul Kabir from close range at Qamarwari chowk, 4 km from here. "Both the injured men were taken to a hospital where they succumbed to their injuries," the officer said. The officer said the policemen were on duty when the militants fired at them.

Indian Oil depot fire still on, death toll 10

Jaipur: Flames continued to leap from an Indian Oil depot in Jaipur today, four days after it caught fire leaving 10 people killed and 150 others injured. Officials said the fire is likely to die out by the evening or Monday morning as most of the oil stored in the huge tanks has burnt out. The death toll in the major fire that broke out in Indian Oil Corporation's depot in Sitapura near here on Thursday touched 10 with the recovery of two more bodies today. Three bodies were found from the depot premises Saturday. "We recovered two charred bodies from the fire site today (Sunday)," Pradeep Sen, state home secretary, told media. The five bodies are believed to be of the six IOC employees who were reported missing. Meanwhile, the Rajasthan High Court on a public suit has issued notice to the state government seeking a reply on the efforts being made to extinguish the fire. A dark cloud of smoke has covered the area, making breathing difficult. The state pollution control board is monitoring the air pollution level. Sources in the IOC said of the 11 storage tanks that caught fire, three are burning while black smoke is coming out from the remaining eight. Union Petroleum Minister Murli Deora visited the accident site Friday along with Indian Oil chairman Sarthak Behuri and other senior company officials. The depot has about 50,000 kilolitres of petroleum products, worth about Rs.150-200 crore. People living in a vicinity of 5 km around the depot are complaining of difficulty in breathing and itching in the eyes. "Since Friday night I have been having problems in breathing... I complained to my doctor and he told me it is because of the smoke in the air," Adesh Kumar, a resident of a nearby colony said. The state government has set up two committees to assess the damage to industrial units and nearby villages. One of the committees will assess the damage caused to the different units in terms of building, plant, machinery and raw material and submit its report in seven days. The association of Sitapura industrial area has said that of 1,100 units, 500 have suffered losses. "Each units must have suffered a loss of Rs 500,000-700,000 due to the fire, and this figure does not include our production loss," S.N. Kabra, president Sitapura Industrial Area, said.

BSNL 3G service to cover all northeast urban areas by March

Agartala/Shillong: The state-owned telecom operator Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) will cover all urban areas in the northeastern region through its third generation (3G) platform, a next generation mobile communications systems, company officials have said. "For rural areas, WiMAX and WLL EVDO (wireless broadband services) would be introduced very shortly, these services are also more or less similar to 3G," said BSNL general manager of operations Deb Kumar Chakraborty. He was addressing reporters in Agartala during the launch of a set of 3G standards defined by the International Telecommunication Union in Tripura and Meghalaya simultaneously on Saturday evening. "BSNL has planned to cover 751 cities by the 3G services by March. The next generation mobile communications systems so far have been launched in 113 cities, including Guwahati and Gangtok," Chakraborty said. BSNL, the world's seventh largest telecom operator, is the first company along with the other state-owned operator, Mahanagar Telecom Nigam Ltd (MTNL), to launch 3G services in India. "3G services are not merely targeted at the elite class, but everyone. The tariff is affordable. Subscribers can make a local video call at Rs 1.50 per minute and long distance video call at Rs 2.50 per minute. Data access rate is only 1 paisa per 10 kilobyte," Chakraborty added. Addressing reporters in Shillong, BSNL chief general manager Vinod Kumar said the 3G mobile services would be provided for both postpaid and prepaid categories. "3G telephony would help enhance efficiency in e-governance and competitiveness in the information technology and BPO segments," Kumar said. Tripura Industries and Commerce Minister Jitendra Chowdhury said at the 3G launch in Agartala that the service would facilitate economic growth and help the government to provide better services to the people.

India's space programmes based on its needs: Outgoing chief

Chennai: India does not look at other Asian countries like Japan and China as competitors in the space sector as its programmes are based on its needs, said Madhavan Nair, who retired on Saturday as chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). "Our programmes are based on the practical needs of the people like remote sensing, health and education. India is not looking to compete with any other country in the space sector," Nair told the media from Thiruvananthapuram on phone. Nair said: "We have bagged two major orders for building heavy satellites for others. One has been delivered and the other will be shortly delivered." On the issue of reducing the rocket cost, he said ISRO is testing semi-cryogenic high thrust engines that will use highly-purified form of kerosene and liquid oxygen as fuel. "The engine will be tested by 2011," he added. Speaking about the human resource talent availability for ISRO, he said: "The situation will ease with the setting up of our own institute in Kerala." He said the serious challenge before his successor K. Radhakrishnan is the operationalisation of the indigenous cryogenic stage, and the steps to be taken for the human space flight. "We have to increase the number of launches to five next year." "Once we stabilise our own cryogenic stage then the payload of our geosynchronous launch vehicle (GSLV) can be increased to 2.5 tonnes. We can also launch two GSLVs in a year." Looking back at his tenure as the head of ISRO Nair said: "The last six years were highly productive, accomplished several challenging missions including Chandrayaan that discovered water on the moon. The goals set were actualised. There is no unfinished agenda." As to his post retirement plans he said: "I have not retired. I will continue to offer my services to the country. I am not starting any space consultancy firm." Queried about India dropping two ranks in the Space Competitive Index, according to a study by Futron Corporation, an American space consultancy company, Nair said: "The US space agency's annual budget is $20 billion as against our budget of $1 billion. What we are getting out of that investment is considerable." He added: "In the commercial space launch market, geo-political forces come into play. Nevertheless during the last two years ISRO has launched sizeable number of satellites for others." Futron's 2009 Space Competitive Index (SCI) has ranked India at seventh place with a score of 15.34 points, as against 17.51 points in 2008. India is ranked below the US (SCI score 90.33 points), Europe (46.80), Russia (32.44), Japan (21.16), China (19.46) and Canada (18.13), and above South Korea (12.03), Israel (8.70) and Brazil (7.08). Futron ranked the ten nations involved in the space industry on aspects like the government's support to space programmes, the human capital available and the contribution of the private sector to the country's space activities.

Govt to better intelligence gathering on Maoist activity: Pillai

Bangalore: The central government is stepping up intelligence gathering on Maoist guerrillas in consultation with the affected states to check their growing activities, union home secretary G.K. Pillai said on Saturday. "We are building up the intelligence network in the Maoist areas to collect information on their activities. The affected state governments have also been directed to strengthen their special branches to intensify intelligence gathering on Maoists," Pillai told media on the margins of a function here. Admitting that most of the police and intelligence officials were reluctant to be posted in the Maoist-dominant areas for various reasons, Pillai said in view of the threat posed by Maoists to law and order and society at large, the state governments have been directed to give an additional 15 percent payment. "A new scheme has been drawn to recruit or depute more personnel for intelligence gathering in the special branches of the state police departments. Those who will work in the Maoist-affected areas will be given 15 percent additional pay," Pillai said after delivering the fifth General K.S. Thimayya Memorial Lecture on "India's Internal Security: Challenges and Responses," at Bishop Cotton Boys' School, as an alumni of the school. Terming the growing Maoist activity a menace and a challenge for internal security forces, Pillai said there was an urgent need for a concerted action against them from the people, police and the executive, as these anti-social elements have turned extortion into a cottage industry to raise funds. "Maoists fund their organisations through extortion. To protect their life and property, even government employees are forced to cough-up every month. They (Maoists) also collect taxes from the hapless people in the affected districts and raise crores (of rupees) to sustain their activity and buy weapons from outside the country," Pillai noted. In the northeastern states of Assam, Manipur, Tripura and Nagaland, insurgent elements also extort huge amounts from plantation estates, industrialists, business houses and transporters. To save themselves, these sections end-up paying huge sums every month. Pillai also regretted that state governments were not investing enough to modernise their police force with the latest arms and gadgets for raising the bar of preparedness against possible attacks by anti-national elements. "Across the country, there are about 300,000 vacancies in police departments. Even the sanctioned posts remain still less. The states have been directed to modernise and reform their police force to gear up for the new challenges," Pillai added.

Army fears 'spillover' terror from Pakistan in Kashmir

Udhampur (Jammu and Kashmir): The Indian Army today ruled out Taliban presence in Jammu and Kashmir but warned of a possible "spillover" if the situation in Pakistan worsened. It also expressed concern about "agitational terrorism" in the state, referring to the frequent street protests and shutdowns. General officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Northern Command Lt. Gen. B.S. Jaswal denied the Taliban had entered the state but said that there was a "possibility of spillover if the situation in Pakistan goes out of control". "A stable Pakistan is in our interest," Jaswal told a news conference at the Northern Command headquarters in Udhampur, 66 km north of Jammu. He said that the situation in the subcontinent, referring to the highly volatile situation in Pakistan, where terrorists are frequently targeting civilians and the security establishment, "could have its effect on Jammu and Kashmir and the rest of India too". Jaswal said that though violence in Kashmir was on the decline since 2006, with just 36 incidents of violence reported this year as compared to 276 in 2006, he pointed out that "agitational terrorism" was a cause for worry. The term agitational terrorism refers to street protests and shutdowns that started with the Amarnath land row agitation in the Kashmir Valley last summer, halting normal life for weeks together. Widespread protests in 2009 too rocked the state with the latest being over the alleged rape and murder of two women in Shopian. Jaswal, in his first media interaction after taking over charge of the command Oct 1, noted that militancy had come down and assured that the army was in a position to tackle all crises. "The Indian Army would be able to overcome all the situations in the state," he said. "Militancy is down. It is visible in the faces of the people, who have shunned fear and come forward to provide us information," the senior commander added. Jaswal said that Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), despised by the people of Kashmir, was "a shield to the soldiers working for a cause". He stressed that the army would ensure that no human rights violations occurred, but added that "minor aberrations here and there cannot be ruled out". "My orders are to the troops -- not only fight insurgents but also insurgency because that is the root cause of the whole trouble." As regards equations with China, he said: "We are in a mode of strategic trust with China, but the Indian Army is prepared to meet any eventuality."

Anti-Maoist operation in Chhattisgarh to be long-drawn: police chief

Raipur: The battle against Maoist militants will be long drawn in Chhattisgarh but the police will ensure no civilians suffer as casualties, the state's police chief said today. "Anti-Maoist operations will be long drawn in the state and police will ensure no civilian casualty during the entire operation," Vishwa Ranjan, the director general of police in one of the worst Maoist insurgency-hit states, told reporters at Jagdalpur, headquarters of the restive Bastar region. Maoists have being holding sway in the region's interior since the late 1980s. The police chief also dismissed as "Maoist propaganda against the police" that a large number of civilians, mainly the local tribal population in Bastar, will be killed in the anti-Maoist drive. "Nothing of this sort is going to happen. We will make selective attacks," he said.

India's swine flu toll is 473

New Delhi: Eight swine flu deaths, including four in Maharashtra, were reported in India today, taking the toll to 473, health authorities said here. Also, 77 new cases of the infection were reported in the country, taking the total number of people infected with the contagious flu to 13,861. With the four deaths in Maharashtra, the toll in the state has gone up to 201 - the highest in the country. One death each was reported from the Indian capital, Kerala, Rajasthan and Chandigarh, authorities said. With this the death toll in Delhi has reached 17, while 15 people have succumbed to the virus in Kerala. In Rajasthan, two people have died since the first swine flu death was reported in the country on Aug 3. "Till date, samples from 73,149 people have been tested for Influenza A (H1N1) in government laboratories and a few private laboratories across the country and 13,861 of them have been found positive," said an official statement issued here. Of the 77 new cases, 19 were from Tamil Nadu, followed by 18 in Kerala. Delhi came third with 12 new cases reported today. So far, 3,438 people have been infected with the flu in the national capital. New cases were also reported from Maharashtra (9), Karnataka (7), Gujarat (4), Haryana (2) and Andhra Pradesh (1). According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), more than 700 people have died of swine flu this week raising the number of fatalities from the viral disease to 5,712 worldwide.

Efforts on to make Manmohan visit to US a success

Washington: India and the US are making concerted efforts to make Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's upcoming state visit to America, the first such visit under the Obama administration, a success with top officials making preparatory visits. Among the visitors from India last week was the National Security Adviser M K Narayanan who met with key US officials focussing on the emerging strategic relationship between the two nations since the signing of US-India civil nuclear deal. In his interaction with his US counterpart General James Jones, Narayanan "a wide range of issues were touched upon that reflects the strategic partnership between the United States and India," according to the National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer. "The focus of the meeting certainly was trying to make excellent preparations for a successful State visit" by Manmohan Singh, who is set to meet President Barack Obama at the White House on Nov 24 as the President's first guest at a state dinner. Jones met with his Indian counterpart "as part of the ongoing relationship that they have developed" dating back to their meetings in London and Delhi earlier this year," he said. The two had "a broad discussion" on a number of subjects of mutual interest and concern. The low-profile visit of Narayanan occurred just before the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton left for Pakistan along with Special US Representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke. Human Resource Development Minsiter Kapil Sibal has just concluded a visit with a delegation of top Indian university representatives to drum up US interest in investing in Indian higher education. A new US-India Education Council on the lines of the US-India Business Council is on the anvil. A new forum of India and US CEOs is also expected to be formed and to meet with Obama and Manmohan Singh during the visit. Meanwhile, more than 30 US government visitors of deputy assistant secretary rank or higher have been or will be in India to lay the ground for the Prime Minister's visit. Earlier this week, US Trade Representative Ron Kirk, on a Delhi visit, noted that the US is currently India's second-largest export destination but is America's 18th largest trading partner and a lot can be done to close that gap.