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India extends $20 million credit to Botswana

Gaborone (Botswana): India has extended a line of credit of $20 million and a grant of $8 million to the southern African state of Botswana, a country often held up as a model of good governance in Africa and whose diamond resource is eyed by the world. Indian Vice President Mohammed Hamid Ansari, who arrived in Gaborene on Saturday on the last leg of his tri-nation African trip, held talks with his counterpart Momfati Merafhe before announced that a grant of $8 million for projects in the social sector as well as $20 million line of credit for development of infrastructure projects.

The country has one of the highest income levels in Africa at $ 5497 per capita gross domestic product. It has a population of just 1.8 million in an area of 5,82,000 square kilometres, with exports of diamonds being its lifeblood.

"The vice president did indicate an interest in mining in Botswana," Secretary (West), Ministry of External Affairs Vivek Katju told reporters, but said that the issue of access to Botswana diamonds was not raised in the talks.

"Botswana is the world's first or second largest diamond producer. This is of direct interest to us, as we have a large and prosperous diamond cutting industry in Gujarat," Ansari had told reporters at the beginning of his trip.

This was the first Indian visit by a senior leader since the visit of then Vice President R Venkatraman in 1986 to attend 20th anniversary of Botswana's independence from the British.

One of the biggest role of India with Botswana has been in capacity building and training of professionals. "The Botswana side expressed great gratitude for the assistance that Botswana has received in developing capacity, including training of defence forces," said Katju.

India also has a large team from Indian Army and Indian Air Force which has been imparting training to the defence forces. "The quality of the training was recognised by the Botswana Vice President," he said.

Ansari in his speech at the banquet said that India was ready to share "cutting edge expertise achieved and technologies developed by India in agriculture, pharmaceuticals, small and medium enterprises, information technology, engineering and the various aspects of the diamond industry".

Incidentally, Botswana also specifically mentioned the computer training being provided by private Indian company, NIIT Ltd, which has set up shop in the southern African state, at the formal talks.

Katju added that Botswana praised India as a "dependable and trusted economic partner". In regional issues, both countries discussed the situation in Botswana's neighbour, Zimbabwe and Democratic Republic of Congo.

"Botswana seeks that there should be a democratic Zimbabwe and free and fair elections. My impression is that this is shared by African Union and we also share this," he said.

Botswana also agrees there was need for reform of the United Nations system, including the United Nations Security Council.

I will not accept Amar Singh's resignation: Mulayam

Kolkata: Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav today said he would not accept the resignation of Amar Singh from party posts and asserted that the problems, including Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt's decision to quit as general secretary, would be sorted out.

"It's true that Amar Singh has given his resignation from all party posts. But I will not accept his resignation. Everything will be ok," Mulayam told reporters at the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport here.

Asked about Sanjay Dutt's announcement of stepping down from his post, he said: "Everything will be sorted out."

Mulayam was in Kolkata to visit the private hospital where Marxist patriarch Jyoti Basu is critically ill with pneumonia.

Dutt had quit on Saturday night expressing sadness at the way his "mentor" Amar Singh had been treated by the party. However, Dutt said he would remain in the party for the time being.

Dutt had said he was following in the footsteps of Amar Singh, who had made a lot of sacrifices for the party and even campaigned in the April-May 2009 general elections despite his ill-health and kidney ailments, but still was humiliated by its leadership.

Amar Singh on Wednesday announced his resignation as general secretary of the Samajwadi Party and from his other posts, citing health reasons.

"I hardly had any rest. Doctors told me it is not good. At the age of 53, I am entitled to earned leave and need to give more priority to my family. After 20 years of hard work, they (the family) should get priority over Mulayam-ji and the party," Amar Singh, who had undergone a kidney transplant last summer and is one of the most visible and quoted politicians of the country, told media.

Source: Agency

Two men questioned in Sydney over Indian's murder

Sydney: Two men were detained at Sydney airport for questioning over the murder of an Indian man whose partially burnt body was found a fortnight ago. They were let off but their passports have been seized, a media report said today.

The two men were apparently employed by Ranjodh Singh, 25, whose partially burnt body was found beside Wilga road, Willbriggie, in southwest New South Wales, on Dec 29.

The two men were stopped by the police at the Sydney Airport departure lounge on Monday as they were about to board a flight to Nepal via Singapore. Both were questioned about their relationship to Ranjodh Singh, media reported today.

The two, believed to be seasonal workers employed by Singh, were taken to police station for questioning, but were later released after having their passports confiscated.

Police officials are looking into claims that Singh, who recruited Indian immigrants to work on farms, may have been murdered on Dec 27 in a fight over unpaid money to workers.

Ranjodh Singh's body, which had been set alight in an attempt to conceal his identity, was found two days later by a passer-by.

A post-mortem examination showed that his throat had been slit and he had suffered multiple stab wounds.

There have been a string of attacks on Indians in Australia, causing an outcry in India. Two of the vicious attacks proved fatal.

While Ranjodh Singh's body was found on Dec 29, another Indian, Nitin Garg, was fatally stabbed in Melbourne on Jan 2. In a fresh attack, Jaspreet Singh, a 29-year-old Indian man, was set ablaze Saturday by four unidentified men at Essendon in Melbourne.

Source: Agency

Sikkim is held hostage by Gorkhaland agitation: CM

Gangtok: Over the past years and especially these last days, Pawan Chamling has been seeing his dreams of a prosperous Sikkim, which he wants to be India's top state in per capita income, shaken and even fractured by an ongoing agitation for a separate Gorkhaland in neighbouring West Bengal.

"Since 1986, when the demand first surfaced, we have been suffering, but the present time has been very bad, 80 percent of our hotel bookings have been cancelled, our lifeline is closed and we are under tremendous pressure," said Chamling, who has been chief minister of this Himalayan state for 15 years over three terms. In the 2009 elections, his Sikkim Democratic Front made a clean sweep in the 40-member state legislature.

"We lost about Rs.2,000 crore (Rs.20 billion/$400 million) in these past weeks," said Chamling in an interview in New Delhi, after a meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh where he demanded that the central government ensure that the highway from Siliguri and New Jalpaiguri be kept open.

These are the main rail, road and air hubs for north Bengal. The highway, which snakes its way up from the Bengal plains to Gangtok, Sikkim's capital, and to the India-China border, has been blocked at the entry point for Sikkim by protesters demanding a separate state, including school children.

"We are hostages in Sikkim: if it is a national highway, then it should be treated as such and cleared for traffic, goods and passengers. Why should we have to suffer for no fault of our own," Chamling snapped. "The centre and the state government in Bengal should ensure safe conduct of convoys through the highway."

He balanced this against the integration of Sikkim since 1975, when it was absorbed into India. Not less than 10,000 jobs had been hit in the tourism industry alone, he said.

Chamling added that the prime minister had assured him that he would talk to Home Minister P. Chidambaram about the issue. The chief minister now plans to visit Kolkata to press his counterpart in West Bengal, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. While Chamling said the Gorkha demands were within the ambit of the Constitution, he felt the centre and West Bengal should not delay a decision on the issue.

Clearing the blockade is a ticklish problem for the centre because law and order is a state subject under the Constitution and the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance does not want to do anything that would give the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) in West Bengal an issue to mobilise anti-Delhi support.

The state is to go to the polls next year and the CPI-M and its allies are facing for the first time a major challenge to three decades of rule from a resurgent Trinamool Congress under Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee and its ally, the Congress. The state government has been rocked by its failure to control the Maoist challenge in Lalgarh and singed by the agitation over Singur.

Chamling holds to his vision of a Sikkim where ecological conservation would be balanced with economic development through investments in major hydro-electric dams, eco-friendly tourism and pharmaceuticals. He says his government has already brought in Rs.30,000 crore from investments in hydro power and another Rs.10,000 crore in higher education and tourism.

But he also knows that that the constant pressure on his tiny state could disrupt its enviable record of many decades of peace with Tibet to the north, an unstable Nepal to its west and north-eastern insurgencies.

And this is something that New Delhi cannot take for granted any longer.

Source : Agency

Telangana joint committee to meet on Tuesday

Hyderabad: With the central government yet to make an announcement on initiating the process for statehood to Telangana, the all-party Joint Action Committee (JAC) will hold a crucial meeting on Tuesday to chalk out its future course of action.

Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) legislator Harish Rao told reporters today that the JAC would intensify the agitation if the central government fails to make any commitment on carving out Telangana state within a clear time-frame.

He said all the forces fighting for Telangana state acted with patience and restraint since Jan 5 when the central government held an all-party meeting over the issue.

"We are waiting for the announcement with utmost restraint but any attempt to put the issue in cold storage will have serious repercussions," warned the young leader.

Ever since the meeting called by union Home Minister P. Chidambaram, TRS chief K. Chandrasekhara Rao is camping in New Delhi, meeting the central leaders to convince them to make an early announcement on initiating the process for formation of Telangana state.

KCR, as Rao is popularly known, would be meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh later today.

The Dec 5 meeting had failed to break the deadlock over the issue but the central government dropped hints that a mechanism would be evolved for consultations over the issue.

Harish Rao said the agitation in Telangana was continuing in peaceful manner as people were hopeful that the central government would soon fulfil their long-pending demand.

The TRS leader denied report in a section of media that KCR was aspiring for a berth in the union cabinet. "The report is ridiculous. KCR himself sent his resignation as MP to Lok Sabha speaker. We appeal to people not to believe these rumours," said Harish Rao.

He urged the Press Council of India to take action against newspapers carrying such mischievous reports.

Telangana JAC comprises the ruling Congress, main opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP), TRS and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) besides other minor parties.

Source: Agency

Case against management of hotel where Rana stayed

Ahmedabad: A case was filed against the owner and other employees of a hotel here where terror suspect Tahawwur Hussain Rana and a woman posing as his wife had stayed for two days in November 2008, prior to the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.

The First Information Report (FIR), reportedly lodged at the behest of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), against hotel owner Patanjali Keshvani, Prashant Malhotra - the manager when Rana stayed - and present manager Subhash Sharma is for violating rules under the Registration of Foreigners Act and beginning the hotel's operations even before it obtained a license.

Additional Commissioner of Police (Special Branch) G. N. Malik said the hotel, Lemon Tree, was issued the license on Nov 19, 2008, but actually started taking in guests from Nov 7. Rana, and Samraz Akhtar, who posed as his wife, stayed in the hotel on Nov 18 and 19.

Rana, an accomplice of Pakistan-born American citizen David Colman Headley, who visited cities in Gujarat prior to the Mumbai terror strikes, was reportedly "location hunting" to strike in the state as well. He made numerous trips for this purpose before zeroing in on Mumbai.

Source: Agency


Thick fog paralyses north India

New Delhi: Hardly any flight took off or landed, trains crawled and were cancelled, vehicles butted into one another and people shivered as thick fog covered much of north India today. Visibility fell below 50 metres. The weatherman has forecast a further dip in temperature this weekend. An official at the capital's Indira Gandhi International Airport said 30 domestic and 20 international flights were affected as the runway visibility range continued to remain well below 150 metres, the minimum required for flight operations. "The visibility was poor due to fog and CAT III landing system was activated to help landing and take-off of flights, some of which were delayed, cancelled, diverted or rescheduled," the official said. A Northern Railways spokesperson said 36 trains had been cancelled, 22 delayed and seven rescheduled.

There was chaos on the roads, as morning commuters crawled with their hazard lights on but still could not avoid the occasional bump into the next car due to poor visibility.

It became more serious in places where trucks had crashed into road dividers in the thick fog overnight. An incident of this kind on Ring Road in south Delhi's Lajpat Nagar closed much of one carriageway and led to a long traffic pile-up.

Delhi recorded a minimum temperature of 8 degrees Celsius, a notch above the average for this time of the year, though the damp weather made it seem colder. The maximum temperature is expected to hover around 18 degrees Celsius.

The weatherman has forecast thick fog on Saturday as well, with the minimum temperature at around 7 degrees Celsius.

An official at the Chandigarh weather bureau said: "This fog is due to the presence of excessive moisture and western disturbances in the atmosphere of northern plains."

It was freezing cold in parts of Punjab, and a further dip in the mercury has been forecast.

Amritsar was the coldest city in the region today, with a minimum temperature of minus 0.2 degrees Celsius, four degrees below average.

Ludhiana and Patiala cities in Punjab were comparatively warmer, with minimum temperatures of 5 and 5.7 degrees Celsius, respectively.

Chandigarh recorded a minimum temperature of 6.4 degrees Celsius.

"We are expecting a further decline in the night temperature whereas the day temperature will remain stable. Though we had bright sunshine in the region yesterday (Thursday), the intense cold wave subdued it," the official said.

In Haryana, minimum temperatures at Ambala, Hisar and Karnal cities were 5.1, 9.5 and 7.5 degrees Celsius respectively.

Security of overseas Indians top priority: Manmohan Singh

New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said security of Indians living abroad remained high on his government's agenda and assured a social security fund to help Indians distressed by the economic crisis returning to their country.

"The security of our overseas workers and students is top priority of my government," the prime minister told the annual convention for overseas Indians in remarks that came against the backdrop of a spate of attacks on Indian students in Australia.

He said 40 percent of India's total remittances of over $50 billion came from skilled and semi-skilled overseas Indian workers and that many of them had been badly affected by the economic crisis.

"We are conscious of the need to structure an appropriate return and resettlement fund. We are working on a project to provide a social security safety net for the returning workers," the prime minister said.

He said India has been negotiating with the governments of countries with large emigrant Indian populations to improve their welfare and protection, adding that pacts had been signed with Malaysia, Bahrain and Qatar in this regard.

"We also signed social security agreements last year with Switzerland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands and are now negotiating such agreements with a number of other countries," he said.

This apart, the prime minister added, Indian Community Welfare Funds have also been established in 18 countries for providing food, shelter, repatriation assistance and emergency relief to overseas Indians in distress.

Some 1,500 delegates from 50-plus countries are attending the convention, called the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, which the country hosts every year to connect with its 25 million diaspora in 130 countries.

Dhaka hopeful of progress on Teesta talks with India

Dhaka: Though a deal on sharing the Teesta river water was not expected to be signed by Bangladesh and India during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's New Delhi visit next week, Dhaka was still hopeful of "progress" during the summit level talks.

Foreign Minister Dipu Moni on Thursday said she hoped that progress will be made towards signing of the deal when the two prime ministers' talk on Jan 11, a newspaper reported.

"We are not expecting the (Teesta) deal during this trip. But progress will be made in this regard as we expect a meeting of the Joint Rivers Commission soon," Moni said as she announced details of the prime minister's tour schedule in New Delhi.

The two countries, however, will sign three agreements on criminal matters, and two memorandums of understanding.

The expected deals on criminal matters are Agreement for Mutual Legal Assistance on Criminal Matters, Agreement on Transfer of Sentenced Persons, and Agreement on Combating International Terrorism, Organised Crime and Illegal Drug Trafficking.

One of the expected memorandums of understanding is on power sector cooperation, and the other is on road and railway infrastructure development projects, Dipu Moni said.

Her statement came two days after secretary-level talks of the Joint Rivers Commission (JRC), when senior officials had said they had "narrowed down" their differences on sharing the water of Teesta, and will continue efforts to expedite a deal.

"Dhaka has already sought a date for the minister-level meeting from India," she added.

Teesta is one of the river systems that the two South Asian neighbours share.

The Bangladesh foreign minister said there had been no discussion on sharing the Teesta water over the last six to seven years. "Talks in this regard kicked off a few days ago. The secretary-level talks did make headway," she added.

She said the Hasina will raise her concerns about proposed construction of the Tipaimukh dam with her Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh.

India was undertaking construction of a dam over the Barak river which is known as the Surma river in Bangladesh.

New Delhi has repeatedly assured that it would do nothing that would jeopardise Bangladesh's interests.

The foreign minister said the Indian authorities several times in the past assured Bangladesh of not doing anything harmful to the latter. "As per diplomatic norms, promises of 'no harm to other' are well accepted. So, we accept the Indian assurance of not harming Bangladesh," Moni was quoted as saying.

She said Hasina will also discuss with Manmohan Singh the issue of third country trade by Bhutan and Nepal.

"Dhaka will demand that the Indian authorities allow Nepal and Bhutan passage to Mongla port for their export-import activities."

Dhaka has been requesting Delhi to allow the two landlocked countries to use Indian territories to reach Bangladesh's Mongla port.

On her first visit to India since she took office a year ago, Hasina will fly to New Delhi Sunday for a three-day tour.

She will be accompanied by Dipu Moni, Water Resources Minister Ramesh Chandra Sen, PM's advisers H.T. Imam, Moshiur Rahman and Gowher Rizvi, and secretaries to different ministries.

Parties get together to rally for division of Uttar Pradesh

Lucknow: Members of various political parties, including the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), will meet here on Saturday to launch a joint movement for the division of Uttar Pradesh into smaller states.

Spearheading the agitation would be the RLD, which is demanding a separate Harit Pradesh comprising western Uttar Pradesh districts; the Bundelkhand Vikas Sena (BVS), which wants a Bundelkhand state including seven districts of Uttar Pradesh and six of Madhya Pradesh; and the Purvanchal Vikas Parishad (PVP) which wants a separate state carved out of eastern Uttar Pradesh.

"We decided to launch the agitation as a part of our strategy to mount joint pressure on the state government so that it tables a resolution for the division of Uttar Pradesh," RLD state spokesperson Ram Asrey Verma told reporters today.

"A number of political and non-political outfits favouring the division of Uttar Pradesh will come on the same platform," he added.

The argument is that smaller states will result in better development.

"The only solution to all problems -- poverty, hunger, lack of development and non-existent infrastructure in parts of Uttar Pradesh -- is its division," said BVS chief Harish Kapoor.

"After a survey in 1949, the States Reorganisation Commission (SRC) had laid stress on the necessity of a separate and autonomous Bundelkhand. The time has come for us to join hands for the development of our respective regions," he added.

Following the central government's green signal for a separate Telangana state, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati has already made her stance clear.

According to her, the further partition of Uttar Pradesh would "ultimately be in the larger interest of providing better governance, besides of course living up to the expectations of the people".

Railways sack one of India's most wanted terrorists

Guwahati: The Indian Railways has finally sacked one of the country's most wanted terrorists on the charge of not attending office for close to three decades after it was reported that he continued to be a central government employee supposedly posted in Assam.

Self-styled commander-in-chief of the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) Paresh Baruah was appointed a porter of the Northeast Frontier Railways in 1978 at the Tinsukia division in eastern Assam.

But the ULFA leader was absent from his work since January 1980.

Hailing from Jeraigaon village in Tinsukia district, about 500 km east of Assam's main city of Guwahati, the elusive Baruah is described as a 'violent man' with red corner notices issued against him and the Interpol on the prowl. The maximum penalty he potentially faces is the death sentence, according to the Assam police.

A formal notification was issued Thursday sacking Paresh Baruah from service with the order put up at the notice board at the Tinsukia railway station.

Media reported on Dec 1 last year that Baruah was still a registered employee of the railways. Following the report, the railway ministry swung into action and processed the file for sacking him.

"Two dates were first fixed for hearing and then after two weeks when no one turned up to claim the post, Paresh Baruah was sacked as per government procedures," a senior railway official told media.

He was 21 when he got a porter's job in 1978 under the sports quota (he was a footballer) at a monthly salary of Rs.370.

Baruah, now 52, formed the ULFA in April 1979 along with five others, including self-styled Chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa, now in jail at Guwahati.

Nuclear industry grows, but where are the components?

Chennai: The quick growth of the Indian nuclear industry is posing new challenges, especially for the delivery of components for new power plants, says Srikumar Banerjee, the new chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC).

"The pace of growth itself is challenging. The major challenge is the delivery of components by the industry for the new nuclear power plants. The government has sanctioned building of four more pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWR)," Banerjee told the media in an interview.

Adding to the excitement and challenge is the proposed import of mega reactors from Russia, France and the US and the attendant negotiations.

Expressing satisfaction with the year that went by, Banerjee said: "The major activity that happened last year is the use of imported uranium in the units that are under safeguards and the launch of light water reactor (LWR) for the Arihant nuclear submarine."

Another milestone in 2009 was the signing of a nuclear cooperation agreement with France.

While the search for new uranium sources within India continued, the good news is that the estimates of reserves in the Tummallapalli mine in Andhra Pradesh has gone up three times. Earlier estimates had put the uranium reserves at 50,000 tonnes.

"We also set up a Nuclear Reprocessing Board with a good amount of independence," Banerjee said. "Decision on setting up five nuclear parks in Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Maharashtra has been taken," he said.

"Each one of these parks will house multiple reactors to have around 10,000 MW power generating capacity. The parks will also have facilities like reprocessing units."

He said the development of metallic fuel to be used in fast reactors in place of oxide fuel is also a big challenge which the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) and the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR) are working together to overcome.

Apart from the plans to introduce LWRs in a major way, Banerjee said uranium enrichment facilities will be expanded so that the enriched fuel can be used even in PHWRs for better efficiency.

On the funding challenge Banerjee said: "NPCIL (Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd) can set up on its own plants up to 2,000 MW. With partnerships it can meet the funding needs of other projects."

He said the nuclear establishment will be flush with funds if it starts charging for its irradiation services properly.

"Nearly 90 percent of urad dal is irradiated. Similarly other agricultural produce are also irradiated. The contribution of such agricultural produce to the country's GDP (gross domestic product) is sizeable. But we do not charge for our services," Banerjee said.

A talent crunch is expected to hit the Indian nuclear power establishment as the sector is seeing some hyper activity with NPCIL planning joint ventures with several players.

That apart, bright engineers are in favour of higher paying careers in software.

But glamourising nuclear science as a career is not the right way to attract bright talent. It may be counter- productive, feels Banerjee.

"Many people get attracted to science due to fantasy, which is not right. Actually science as a career is hard work. It needs people with patience and perseverance.

"We get the required number of people - around 300 - every year from our training schools while our attrition number is not worrisome."

Though the majority of people working in various nuclear establishments under the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) stay with their employer for a life time, in recent times employees are going in search of greener pastures.

"We do conduct exit interviews to understand why people quit. However people do not tell us the true reasons," Banerjee said.

"If one needs a good quality of life with a proper work and family life balance then there is nothing to beat our establishments. But if people want money upfront then I don't have an answer," he added.

He said DAE research institutions offer opportunity to scientists to put their findings into practice.

Referring to the increasing number of universities starting to offer nuclear engineering courses, Banerjee said there will be no dearth of talent in the coming years for DAE units as well as private players.

Asked about the possibility of setting up small LWRs - like the one developed by the BARC to power a nuclear submarine - in rural areas like diesel gensets, Banerjee said it would not be economical.

On the other hand he sees a good potential for the export of 220 MW PHWR to countries that have good uranium resources.

"Such reactors are suitable in places where grid capacities are not good. In terms of cost even buying multiple units of our 220 MW PHWRs will work out cheaper as against a single unit of high capacity reactor of foreign make," he remarked.


Omar reviews security in Kashmir post a guerrilla attack

Jammu: Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah reviewed the security situation in the troubled state on Wednesday in the aftermath of a guerrilla attack in Srinagar. State's police chief Kuldeep Khoda has been asked to rushed to the summer capital where pro-Pakistan militants attacked a paramilitary picket killing a police constable and injuring eight civilians. General Officer Commanding in Chief of the Northern Command Lt. Gen. B.S. Jaswal, who is one of the security advisors of the chief minister, met Abdullah at his residence.

The attack has caught the security agencies by surprise amid claims that the violence has been steeply falling the terror-riven state.

Nithari killing: Supreme Court stays Koli's death sentence

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today stayed the death sentence of Surinder Koli, convicted in February last year for raping and killing 14-year-old Rimpa Haldar in Nithari in Noida near the national capital.

Haldar was one of the 19 young women and children from Nithari whose body parts were found in a drain behind the bungalow of Koli's employer Moninder Singh Pandher in December 2006.

Jyoti Basu stable, still on ventilator support

Kolkata: Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) patriarch Jyoti Basu, in hospital since Jan 1 following a pneumonia attack, continued to be on ventilator support but was stable, a hospital official said today.

"He is stable with ventilator support. His condition is the same as it was on Wednesday," AMRI hospital Medical Superintendent Debasish Sharma told media.

CPI-M politburo member Sitaram Yechuri, who visited Basu today morning, claimed the 96-year-old leader was responding to a new course of antibiotics.

"The doctors said he is responding to the new antibiotic. He is better than what he was on Wednesday morning," Yechuri said.

The medical board treating Basu and now comprising eight specialists was assessing his condition. "He has been a fighter all his life. And now also he is fighting."

Yechuri said lot of disinformation was spread on Wednesday about Basu's condition.

"All this disinformation (being spread) should stop. We have to rely on the information the doctors are providing," he added.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was slated to call on the ailing leader around noon today. Among other political luminaries scheduled to visit him are CPI-M general secretary Prakash Karat and CPI general secretary A.B. Bardhan.

Basu, who was West Bengal chief minister from 1977 to 2000, had to be put on ventilator support early on Wednesday when his condition became "very critical" following breathing problems.

However, later in the evening a hospital medical bulletin said his condition had slightly improved.

Basu was hospitalised Jan 1 following respiratory problems. A CT scan later revealed that he had pneumonia.

Mumbai terror suspect Rana was a Pakistani army deserter

Chicago: Pakistani-Canadian terror suspect Tahawwur Hussain Rana, under investigation for possible links to 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, offered a novel plea for bail saying as he is a deserter from the Pakistani army he's not a flight risk.

Rana, arrested for plotting to attack a Danish newspaper made the deserter plea before US District Judge Matthew Kennelly in a Chicago court on Wednesday making a bond request that has already been denied by another federal judge. Rana contended that because he deserted the military and isn't welcome back in Pakistan, he's not a flight risk and should be released on bond.

But judge Kennelly postponed a decision on Rana's bond pending a new indictment against the suspect, which prosecutors say could come by on Jan 14. That indictment could send the case to a different judge, hence the delay in ruling on bond.

Federal prosecutors say he should remain behind bars because he knew about plans to commit terrorist attacks on Mumbai in 2008 that resulted in 166 deaths.

In affidavits filed in federal court, the FBI said Rana, 48, co-conspirator of Lashkar-e-Taiba operative David Headley, "knew in advance" about the 26/11 Mumbai attacks after which he "complimented" the Pakistan-based terror outfit.

It is unclear whether the federal grand jury indictment that the government promises before Jan 14 will include additional terrorism charges against Rana. Rana's attorneys say that the allegations are serious, but maintain the defendant's role as alleged in the complaint is comparatively minor, given the scope and purpose of the supposed plot.

Regardless, the motion filed by Rana's lawyers provided new details about his background-including Rana's admitted desertion from the Pakistani army.

"Defendant's Pakistani background should raise no concerns whatsoever regarding risk of flight," it said suggesting that while serving as a physician in the Pakistani military Rana suffered from two high altitude conditions as he was transported to high elevation in the Northern Areas of Pakistan without proper acclimatisation.

Rana then requested and was granted leave to seek medical treatment and subsequently flew to England for treatment, the motion said. Rana's extended treatment forced him to overstay his leave, making him a de jure deserter from the Pakistani military.

"Defendant has not returned to Pakistan since, and any attempt to flee to Pakistan would be met with incarceration and court martial proceedings. As such, Defendant presents no risk of fleeing to Pakistan because to do so would only change the location of his detention," the motion said.

"Furthermore, the United States and Pakistan have a long standing bilateral extradition treaty, so any attempt to flee to his home country would ultimately be in vain," it said.

Intense firing in Lal Chowk as standoff continues

Srinagar: An exchange of firing at dawn today broke the brief lull in Lal Chowk as security forces prepared to launch an assault on the hotel building in Jammu and Kashmir's summer capital Srinagar where two terrorists are holed up.

Firing intensified at the break of dawn as police and CRPF troopers were preparing to launch an assault on the hotel building to neutralize the two holed up militants of the Jamiat-ul-Mujaheedin outfit which claimed responsibility for the attack.

The attack in the city centre, the commercial hub of Srinagar started when two terrorists hurled grenades and opened heavy fire from their automatic weapons at paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) troopers guarding a camp on Wednesday afternoon.

At least one policeman and one civilian died and nine people were injured.

"We have fully encircled the hotel building to take out the holed up militants," a senior police officer said.

The security forces suspended the operation as darkness enveloped the area on Wednesday evening.

"This is a highly congested area and we don't want any collateral damage," the officer added.

Lal Chowk has witnessed several such attacks in the over 20-year-long militancy. It is thronged by thousands of people everyday.

Authorities had a difficult time on Wednesday evacuating the wounded and those trapped in the area.

"The final assault on the hotel building will be launched any time," the police officer said.

This is the first terrorist attack after two years in the Kashmir valley and has come at a time when the state government has been claiming a sharp decline in violence here.

Dawood's D-Company in cahoots with LeT, Al Qaeda : US report

Washington: With its deep pockets, and its reported cooperation with Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Al Qaeda terror networks, Dawood Ibrahim's D-Company presents a credible a threat to US interests in South Asia, according to a new US Congressional report.

The "D-Company, a 5,000-member criminal syndicate operating mostly in Pakistan, India, and the United Arab Emirates provides an example of the criminal-terrorism 'fusion' model," the Congressional Research Service (CRS) said in a report on the organisation run by the prime accused in the 1993 Mumbai bombings.

"The US government contends that the D-Company has found common cause with Al Qaeda and shares its smuggling routes with that terrorist group," noted the report prepared by the research wing of the US Congress for lawmakers.

The United Nations has also added Dawood Ibrahim to its list of individuals associated with Al Qaeda, said the report on "International Terrorism and Transnational Crime: Security Threats, US Policy, and Considerations for Congress" released on Tuesday.

"D-Company's seeming transformation from a profit-motivated criminal syndicated to a fusion crime-terror organization also altered its composition. Many of the Hindu members left the group after the 1993 bombings, with some forming a competing gang," the report said.

"While the organization reportedly collaborates with LeT and Al Qaeda, the more secular orientation of D-Company's leadership makes it unlikely that it will formally merge with those terrorist groups, analysts believe," it said.

"Regardless, D-Company's own terrorist endeavors, its deep pockets, and its reported cooperation with LeT and Al Qaeda, present a credible a threat to US interests in South Asia, security experts assess," CRS said.

Lending his criminal expertise and networks to such terrorist groups, he is capable of smuggling terrorists across national borders, trafficking in weapons and drugs, controlling extortion and protection rackets, and laundering ill-gotten proceeds, including through the abuse of traditional value transfer methods, like hawala, it said.

By providing those organizations with funding, contacts, and logistical support, it amplifies their capabilities and durability.

Noting that the D-Company is reportedly involved in several criminal activities, including extortion, smuggling, narcotics trafficking, and contract killing, the CRS said it has also reportedly infiltrated the Indian filmmaking industry, extorting producers, assassinating directors, distributing movies, and pirating films.

Dawood Ibrahim began as a criminal specialist in Mumbai, first as a low-level smuggler in the 1970s and later as the leader of a poly-crime syndicate, the report said noting, "He formed a thriving criminal enterprise throughout the 1980s and became radicalised in the 1990s, forging relationships with Islamists, including Lashkar-e-Taiba and Al Qaeda."

D-Company's evolution into a true criminal-terrorist group began in response to the destruction of the Babri mosque in Uttar Pradesh in December 1992, CRS said.

In retaliation "reportedly with assistance from the Pakistan government's intelligence branch, the Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI), D-Company launched a series of bombing attacks on March 12, 1993, killing 257 people," the report nored.

Following the attacks, Dawood Ibrahim moved his organization's headquarters to Karachi. There, D-Company is believed to have both deepened its strategic alliance with the ISI and developed links to LeT, which was designated by the US as a foreign terrorist organization in 2001, CRS said.

During this time period, some say D-Company began to finance LeT's activities, use its companies to lure recruits to LeT training camps, and give LeT operatives use of its smuggling routes and contacts," it said.

"Press accounts have reported that Dawood Ibrahim's network might have provided a boat to the 10 terrorists who killed 173 people in Mumbai in November 2008," CRS said.


Australia urges India to avoid hysteria over student's killing

Melbourne: Australia's Acting Foreign Minister Simon Crean has urged India not to fuel hysteria over the killing of a student in Melbourne even as India issued an advisory asking Indians studying or working in Australia to take extra security precautions while moving around. Crean maintained there was no evidence the attack was racially motivated. "It so happens that one of the victims is Indian. Melbourne is not the only city in the world where this happens. It also happens in Delhi and in Mumbai," Crean was quoted as saying by the media. "It's an unfortunate fact of life, but so far as the victim is concerned and his parents, our deepest sympathy for them and we're doing everything we can to track down the perpetrators."

Asked about Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna calling upon Australia to respond to the "uncivilised brutal attack on innocent Indians", Crean said he hoped "wiser heads will prevail", the newspaper reported.

Twenty one-year-old Nitin Garg was knifed in the suburb of West Footscray Saturday evening while on his way to work. He staggered to Hungry Jack's restaurant and pleaded for help before collapsing. He was taken to the Royal Melbourne Hospital where he died.

India's external affairs ministry on Tuesday issued an advisory asking Indians studying or working in Australia and those planning to do so to take extra security precautions while moving around in that country.

Alluding to a surge in incidents of assault and robbery targeting Indians in Australia, the ministry issued a list of dos and don'ts for Indians in that country. It includes not travelling alone at night and not carrying more cash than required.

Crean admitted there could be economic repercussions from publicity in India over recent attacks.

"We have been through this type of issue before and from the prime minister down we have been talking with our Indian partners and reassuring them that this country doesn't condone nor do we believe that these are racially based attacks."

Acting Premier Rob Hulls called on the Indian government to show restraint in its response to the killing. "People should just show some restraint and allow the police to get on with the job of investigating this callous crime," he said.

Bomb threat in Mumbai, security tightened

Mumbai: Security has been tightened at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) railway station and other sensitive locations in Mumbai today following a threat to carry out explosions this afternoon, officials said.

An anonymous threat call to carry out blasts in at least half a dozen locations was received by the Mumbai police control around 7.30 a.m. today.

The caller threatened to blow up around half a dozen targets -- which he did not specify -- just after noon today, officials said.

The railway and security authorities at CST were alerted and the entire station complex -- a World Heritage Building -- shifted to a high security gear.

Confirming the developments, an official spokesperson for Central Railways (CR) said: "We are taking all possible precautions, making announcements, deploying the dog squad and sufficient security personnel to ensure there is no untoward incident."

He said there was no panic among the three million plus commuters who use the CR services daily.

Besides CST, security has been tightened at various locations, including the famed Siddhi Vinayak Temple in Prabhadevi, some five star hotels, Churchgate and Dadar railway stations.

Pakistan using Nepal links to fund anti-India operations?

Kathmandu: The arrest of the son of a powerful Nepalese politician on charges of heading a major fake Indian currency and drugs smuggling racket allegedly sponsored by Pakistani intelligence agencies has exposed how Islamabad is quietly pouring money into Nepal with the underworld's help to unleash a propaganda war against India, well placed sources here say.

Yunus Ansari, the son of former minister Salim Miya Ansari, who is alleged to have links with Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan and crime boss Dawood Ibrahim who has massive following in Mumbai's underworld, was arrested by a special task force of Nepal police after a tip-off by Indian authorities that he was running the two criminal networks.

Yunus Ansari, the president of Nepal's National Wrestling Federation, is also the chairman of a new television channel that is yet to start regular transmission. While Yunus Ansari was arrested along with three Nepalis, two Pakistanis, one African and one from the Caribbean, police said they had no evidence against his father, former forest and soil conservation minister Ansari.

Yunus Ansari and his associates were caught with fake Indian currency worth over Indian Rs.2.5 million last week and nearly four kilograms of heroin after a long period of surveillance that started with the arrest of two Nepalis with fake Indian currency in India's Madhya Pradesh state last year.

The Nepal chase started on New Year's Day when Yunus Ansari's Nepali bodyguard, Kashiram Adhikari, was dispatched to Thamel, once the hub of tourists and now increasingly targeted by criminals and sex workers, to make contact with Pakistani agents, the sources with access to privileged information told the media.

Adhikari led police to the Red Planet Guest House in Thamel where Pakistani national Mohammad Sajjad was awaiting him in room 304. The bodyguard collected a red suitcase from Sajjad and went to room 204 where another Pakistani, Mohammad Iqbal, was waiting with two suitcases.

After collecting the lot, Adhikari headed for the Bluebird Mall in Thapathali where Yunus Ansari had allegedly rented a room. Police caught him there and a search exposed the false bottoms in the suitcases, where the fake notes were hidden.

According to initial investigation, the racket starts from Karachi where it is headed by a Pakistani, known as Haji Talad Ali. The modus operandi was simple. The money would be brought to the same guest house from where Adhikari would take it to his master.

When police raided the hotel and arrested the two Pakistanis, Sajjad was found to possess heroin as well. Yunus was arrested soon afterwards from his residence in Tahachal.

Police also arrested a Guyana citizen, K. Ibrahim, and another from Sierra Leone, Austin Ibrahim, who were to have circulated the heroin.

Voices demanding justice for Ruchika fill cyberspace

New Delhi: 'We want justice for Ruchika' - the unanimous voice of thousands is filling up cyberspace every day.

'Justice for Ruchika' is an online group that has sprung up on the popular social networking website Facebook. With active discussions on ways to maintain pressure so that justice is achieved, this group has over 9,000 members.

Hitesh Kaushal, one of the members of the group, wrote: "If we need to bring justice to Ruchika, then we need to go beyond venting our anger in words and channel it into action. Rathore could not have carried out such a long battle without other people supporting him. We need to find out who these people are and try to convert them against him".

"We need to consider that this happened almost two decades back and even the youngest police officer who would have been working for Rathore at that time will now be around 45 years old. Chances are that they have their own children now. Chances are that their moral fabric and their positional power has strengthened over the years," he added.

Budding tennis player Ruchika was molested by former top cop S.P.S. Rathore in Panchkula, Haryana, on Aug 12, 1990, when she was just over 15 years old. Three years later, on Dec 28, 1993, she committed suicide by consuming insecticide. Rathore has been accused of implicating her brother Ashu in a false cases because she would not withdraw her complaint and of getting him beaten up in police custody.

After years of struggle and fight for justice, especially by Ruchika's friend Aradhana, Rathore was convicted by a CBI special court in Chandigarh on Dec 21 for molestation and sentenced to six months rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs 1,000. He was immediately granted bail.

The Panchkula police on Tuesday filed a case of abetment to suicide (Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code) against Rathore in the case.

Questioning the system that let such a case of heinous crime drag on for almost two decades, people across all walks of life voiced their support to Ruchika's family and her friends on the web.

Neela Gonsalves, another member of the Justice for Ruchika group, posted an update on Tuesday afternoon asking for suggestions for slogans that can be used in protest marches across the country in support of the demand for justice in the case.

To her post, some of the suggestions that came along were 'Rathore you don't deserve any mercy', 'Rathore, India's shame!' and 'He is a monster, yet he is free'.

Ragini Sharma, a student, who is also a member of another such group "We want justice for Ruchika", wrote: "No matter what happens we cannot let this campaign die. We did it for Jessica Lal and we will do it for Ruchika. We will get her justice".

Sahil Verma, a computer professional, also started an online petition with the same cause.

"To keep the pressure mounting, this online petition on which we aim to get as many signatures as we can will be submitted to the prime minister, the president, UPA (United Progressive Alliance, which rules India) chairperson, the home minister and the law minister," Verma wrote.

"We will fight for justice for Ruchika until we achieve our aim," he added.

India, Zambia promise to strengthen trade ties

Lusaka: With India offering concessional credit to Zambia, the two countries have committed to strengthening their bilateral relations, especially in the fields of trade and investment.

Amid exuberant tribal dances and clinking of glasses, leaders of India and Zambia toasted each other on Tuesday night to an "ever deepening" of relations, especially in trade and investment, during the highest level visit by an Indian leader in two decades.

The visiting Vice President of India Mohammad Hamid Ansari and his entire delegation were invited to a state banquet hosted by his Zambian counterpart George Kunda at a five-star hotel in Lusaka. Ansari had arrived from Delhi on Tuesday afternoon on the first leg of his three-nation Africa tour.

The state banquet began with a song from a Bollywood film, Salaam-e-Ishq, by an all-male Zambian choir. The ode to everlasting love was greeted with loud applause, especially from members of the Indian delegation and community.

The hall was filled to capacity with top Zambian officials and their spouses, as well as members of the Indian community.

After a Bharatnatyam recital by a member of the local Indian community, there was an exuberant display of energetic dance, which was punctuated by applause from the audience.

The Zambian leader began his speech talking about historic ties, as well as the close relations between the two countries.

He pointed out that there has been a sharp increase in imports from Zambia to India by 91 percent from 2004 to 2008, when it reached $226 million.

"The Zambian side have tried to provide a conducive environment for investments here by Indian companies," said Kunda, pointing out that there has been some large investments by Indian public sector groups like BHEL and private conglomerates like the Tata Group.

Ansari said Zambia should take advantage of the lines of credit that India had announced after the India Africa Forum Summit in April 2008.

"We would like Zambia to take advantage of the new initiatives announced at the India-Africa Forum Summit, particularly in regard to concessional credit lines so as to promote trade between the two countries," he said.

The vice president also urged Zambian companies to access funds provided by India under Preferential Trade Area Bank, the financial arm of Common Market for Eastern and Southern African States (Comesa).

Ansari -- a former diplomat -- ended his speech with a toast in Nyanja language which was received with loud approval. "Mulungu Adalise Zambia (God Bless Zambia)," he said.

Telengana meeting over, stalemate continues

New Delhi: The multi-party meeting chaired by union Home Minister P. Chidambaram to discuss statehood for Telangana ended in a logjam on Tuesday with no consensus on the controversial issue. TRS chief K. Chandrasekhar Rao, who is spearheading the agitation for a separate Telangana state to be carved out of Andhra Pradesh, said no decision was taken at the meeting. "We are waiting for the final response" from the central government, he told reporters. The leaders of eight political parties from Andhra Pradesh who attended the talks appealed for peace and harmony in Andhra Pradesh. "We representatives of eight recognised political parties of Andhra Pradesh attended the meeting convened by the home minister. We have expressed our views at the meeting and they have been noted by the central government.... It is our earnest appeal that peace, harmony and law and order should be maintained in the state," they said in a joint statement issued at the end of the meeting.

Chidambaram also pitched for a halt to agitations in the state.

"We must recognise the fundamental importance of restoring normalcy in Andhra Pradesh. There must be a halt to agitations and bandhs. Law and order must be maintained. Children must go to schools and colleges. People must be allowed to carry on their normal day-to-day activities," the home minister told the meeting.

Representatives of the Congress, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), the Communist Party of India and the Communist Party of India-Marxist, the Praja Rajyam Party, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen took part in the talks.


Parties maintain their stance ahead of meeting on Telangana

New Delhi: The scene of struggle for Telangana now shifts to Delhi even as ones advocating for the new state as well as ones opposing it have been coming to the capital city of India. The central government has summoned this all crucial meeting that is supposed to chart the roadmap for the creation of the new state. The meeting is supposed to be chaired by the Union Home Minister P Chidambaram. Interestingly enough both Congress and Telugu Desam Party have been linking up with the anti and pro Telangana factions.

It is expected that the home minister would be proposing a committee for forming the state. It is yet to be seen if this committee would be able to address the differences between the two warring factions. It is also being assumed that K Chandrasekhar Rao, the flag bearer of Telangana, would be vying for a resolution to grant statehood to the same in the meeting.

The Telugu Desam Party has asked the central government to come clear on its stance regarding Telangana, all the while acknowledging the fact that there is a significant amount of public opinion against Telangana itself.

The Praja Rajyam Party of Chiranjeevi is against division of the state while Congress has acknowledged the immense support for the state as evident from the opinion of Congressman Hanumanth Rao. The Indian government on its part wants to set up a certain sort of mechanism in order to go ahead with things in a proper and constructive manner. It also wants some time so that the fraying tempers could cool down.

Nuclear liability limit needed to enter global trade: Kakodkar

Chennai: A law to limit the liability of nuclear equipment makers in case of accident is a basic need to enter global nuclear trade, the ex-head of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) has said, adding that this was not something thrust upon India by the US.

"Such a law is a basic need if one needs to enter the global nuclear trade. The Indian law is not thrust by the US as a part of the nuclear deal," former AEC chairman Anil Kakodkar told reporters here on Monday on the sidelines of the 20th annual conference of Indian Nuclear Society.

The bill on this has been prepared and is expected to be taken up for discussion by parliament soon.

But why haven't Russia or France demanded that such a law be passed in India? "In the US the equipment manufacturers are in the private sector whereas in other countries they are either government owned or act like one," Kakodkar replied.

He said India is keen to join the Convention of Supplementary Compensation (CSC) and a law limiting the equipment manufacturers liability is necessary for that.

The convention members will share the nuclear liability above a certain limit - sort of an insurance pool.

"The payment of compensation by different parties will be different. Up to a certain sum the equipment maker will be liable and above that the respective government and the CSC members will share," Kakodkar said.

Asked about the hitch in going forward with the civil nuclear agreement with the US he replied: "Discussions are on with respect to the procedures for reprocessing of the spent fuel in the nuclear stations that come under the safeguards".

Indian students in Australia under stress after youth's killing

Melbourne: The brutal killing of Nitin Garg in this Australian city has put Indian students under "pscyhological stress", said a student's body official who added that Indian students were fearful and confused.

Garg, 21, an accounting graduate, was knifed in the suburb of West Footscray on Saturday while on way to work. He staggered to Hungry Jack's restaurant and pleaded for help before collapsing.

He was taken to the Royal Melbourne Hospital where he died.

Amit Menghani, president of the Federation of Indian Students in Australia (FISA), said said Indian students were fearful, confused and undergoing "psychological stress" after the murder of Garg, who was fatally stabbed as he walked through Cruickshank Park on his way to work on Saturday night.

"They don't know whether to stay home or go to school, stay home from work ... they are very worried," the media quoted Menghani as saying.

There had been a spate of attacks on Indians in Australia last year. Indian students have been set upon and viciously assaulted, causing an outcry in India.

Canberra had assured New Delhi over the safety of the students. About 115,000 Indians have studied in Australia in the last 12 months.

Australia's higher education industry is worth $17.2 billion a year and is listed as the country's fourth largest export earner.

Menghani said the parents of the students were also worried.

"They are asking themselves 'Why are we paying so much money if we can't get our children looked after? Are we paying for dead bodies? Are we paying for people who are not doing anything ...(about the violence)."

He stated that the police hadn't accepted the extent of the problem of violence against Indian students. "Who is taking responsibility for what is happening?" he wondered.

He claimed that senior officials were "very reluctant" to deal with his group. "It is a small issue for them, but it isn't for Indian students."

Menghani said calls to his organisation had increased in frequency in 2009, and had again spiked following the string of attacks over the last two years.

Haryana police wants Rathore cases to go to CBI

Panchkula (Haryana): The Haryana police today recommended that the three fresh cases registered against disgraced former Haryana police chief S.P.S. Rathore be transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for further investigation.

"We have registered the third FIR (first information report) against him (Rathore). We have recommended that all cases be handed over to the CBI for investigation," Panchkula Superintendent of Police Maneesh Chaudhary told the media.

The Panchkula police today filed a case of abetment to suicide (Section 306 of Indian Penal Code) in the Ruchika Girhotra molestation case. He would be arrested only after investigations into his role, police said.

Other police officers, who slapped false car theft cases on Ruchika's brother Ashu between 1990 and 1993 and tortured him in custody, compelling her to commit suicide, have also been named in the fresh FIR against Rathore.

Ruchika, who was molested by Rathore here on Aug 12, 1990, when she was just over 15 years old, had committed suicide on Dec 28, 1993, three years after her molestation, by consuming a poisonous insecticide.

Rathore was last week booked by the Panchkula police in two different cases, charging him with attempt to murder, forging and tampering evidence of Ruchika's death, criminal conspiracy and wrongful confinement. Most of the charges slapped against him in both FIRs are non-bailable ones.

The complaints for the two FIRs were made by Ruchika's father S.C. Girhotra and brother Ashu.

But Rathore on Friday managed to secure interim relief on his anticipatory bail application from the district and sessions court here till Jan 7, when his bail plea in these two cases comes up for hearing again.

Rathore was convicted by a CBI special court in Chandigarh on Dec 21 for Ruchika's molestation and sentenced to six months rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs 1,000.

Help me, I'm dying, cried fatally-stabbed Indian youth

Melbourne: "Please help me, I'm dying," pleaded Nitin Garg, who was viciously stabbed in this Australian city, before he turned blue and passed out. He died in hospital, said his shocked housemate.

Garg, 21, lurched into Hungry Jack's on Saturday after his torso was sliced open by a massive knife wound. As he pleaded with co-workers at the fast-food outlet to help him, his lips turned blue.

On learning about the incident, his housemates, Sandeep and Parminder Singh, rushed to the Royal Melbourne Hospital but they did not see him alive.

Sandeep said the eight Indians living together in a house in Newport were like family and Garg was like a brother to him.

He had to make the heartbreaking call to Garg's brother in India to tell him of the stabbing. "He just would not believe me when I told (him) Nitin was no more and asked to speak to the doctor," the media quoted him as saying today.

Singh said: "He fell into the arms of one of his colleagues and said, 'Please help me, I'm dying', then he went blue and passed out."

Sandeep added: "We were like family, we took care of each other."

The housemates can scarcely believe that his chest had been cut open in the attack.

"The doctor said it was a long wound from abdomen to the heart," Singh was quoted as saying.

Sandeep added: "Whoever did this knows how to kill."

They said two students staying with them in Newport had spoken to their families and they wanted them to return to India. More are likely to follow.

"Nitin Garg spent $40,000 studying and what did he get for it? He got knifed," said Sandeep.

The Australian Government says it will try to return Garg's body to his family as "expeditiously" as possible.

Acting Foreign Minister Simon Crean said he did not believe the attack was racially motivated.

"No one who knows this country believes we are a racist country," he told Radio 3AW. "Do we have crime in Australia? Yes. But there is crime all around the world."

Kashmir blast kills policeman

Srinagar: A policeman was killed when an explosion rocked the compound of the joint interrogation centre (JIC) in Jammu and Kashmir's Baramulla district today morning.

Constable Ramesh Kumar of the state armed police died on the spot when the explosive device went off, a police officer said.

"We are trying to ascertain the cause of the blast," the officer said.

Police and paramilitary officers visited the JIC in the heart of Baramulla town on the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road, 54 km from here.


UPA promoting politics of separatism, says RSS chief

Allahabad: Accusing the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government of promoting "politics of separatism", Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat on Sunday said the decision to carve out Telangana state out of Andhra Pradesh was an example. "The government has taken the decision (of creating Telangana state) under pressure and it reflects the politics of separatism," Bhagwat said at an RSS function held at the Sangam Parade ground here.

"Political parties of the country should rise above regional politics and work together for the development of the country... A number of parties are raking up issues related to castes and languages for politics," he added.

Bhagwat also accused the central government of "lack of military preparedness" despite China's aggressive posturing and despite Beijing "befriending Nepal, Pakistan and trying to make inroads into Arunachal Pradesh".

The RSS chief alleged that the central government was not serious about combating terrorism. "Due to the leniency adopted by the government, terror activities are taking place in different parts of the country."

He said when RSS criticises infiltration from Bangladesh and Pakistan to India, people call the RSS "communal", but when Pakistan and Bangladesh drive away minority Hindus, nobody speaks on the matter.

Bhagwat clarified that the RSS should not be deemed as a political party, but an organisation that worked for promoting moral values in the country.

Bandh affects normal life in non-Telangana areas in AP

Hyderabad: Normal life in non-Telangana states of Andhra Pradesh was affected today due to the bandh summoned by the All party Joint Action Committee (JAC) today in favor of United Andhra Pradesh.

JAC declared in front of the media that through this bandh they are trying to notify the Central government that most of the residents of the state desire to live in a United Andhra Pradesh. All the shops, schools, colleges and business firms have remained closed due to the bandh.

The APSRTC (Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation) put off all its services throughout Coastal Andhra, Rayalaseema and Telangana as a protective measure. In the Chittoor region, all transport services excepting the buses traveling to Tirupatihave have been cancelled.

Australia's deputy PM condemns Indian's killing

Melbourne: After the shocking incident of lynching a Twenty one-year-old Indian youth, Australian officials openly condemned such a heinous crime. However, police claimed that no evidence was found to prove that the stabbing incident has got anything to do with racial attack.

Nitin Garg, an accounting graduate from Punjab was stabbed to death on Sunday in West Footscray area.

Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard made a strong statement conveying the message that people in Melbourne's west, and people around Australia will join together to condemn this violence unreservedly. Gillard added that police should be allowed to carry on with their investigation procedures.

Deputy PM also asserted that Australia is a nation that welcomes international students and the Australians want to make the foreign students feel that congenial ambience is very much there in the country.

Congress hopes Jan 5 meet yields consensus on Telangana

New Delhi: The Congress on Sunday hoped that a consensus would be reached on creating a new state of Telangana at the Jan 5 meeting the central government has conevened with representatives of eight recognised political parties from Andhra Pradesh.

"We hope a consensus is reached," Congress spokesman Shakeel Ahmed told the media.

The spokesman said the Congress favoured creating a separate state of Telangana but wanted it to be done in a congenial atmosphere without any bad blood. "We are not against statehood to Telangana," he said.

Ahmed, who is also a Congress general secretary, said party representatives for the Jan 5 meeting will meet central leaders to finalise the party's stance.

Asked if the Congress will speak in one voice at the meeting given the divisions in its ranks in Andhra Pradesh, Ahmed said the "party will have one view".

He said the central government was committed to the process of creating the new state but would move further after ascertaining the views of political parties. "The government will try for broad consensus for taking further steps," he said.

Congress sources said the party was keen to send representatives from all the three regions of the state for the meeting.

The Congress has decided on the names of Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) president D. Srinivas, who hails from Telangana, K. Sambasiva Rao, Lok Sabha member from Eluru (coastal Andhra), and Agriculture Minister N. Raghuveera Reddy, a legislator from Kalyandurg (Rayalaseema). Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister K. Rosaiah is also expected to attend the meeting.

Following a spate of statements and accusations from its leaders on both sides of the Telangana divide, the Congress leadership cracked the whip on Friday by issuing notice to Andhra Pradesh Information Technology Minister K. Venkat Reddy for "deliberately lowering rhe party’s prestige."

Reddy had criticised Rosaiah and had refused to withdraw his resignation when other cabinet colleagues from Telangana withdrew their papers following the announcement of the all-party meeting.

The party followed it up Saturday by issuing showcause notices to an MP each from the two sides of Telangana divide for lowering the party's dignity.

L. Rajagopal, an MP from Vijayawada, and Madhu Y. Goud, who is from Nizamabad in Telangana, were issued notices for breaching party discipline.

The administration in Andhra Pradesh has come to a virtual standstill since the central government on Dec 9 gave in-principle clearance to creating a separate state of Telangana.

Congress MPs and legislators from coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions revolted against the move. The second announcement by the government on Dec 23 led to renewed agitations in the Telangana region.

Telangana will surely be a state: KCR

New Delhi: Telangana Rashtra Smiti (TRS) chief K Chandrasekhar Rao is continuing with his pressure building approach on Congress as the Chief reiterated the fact that none can stop Telangana from becoming a separate state.

A crucial meeting is slated to be held on Tuesday where the Centre will try to arrive at a conclusion. In the meantime, KCR is already in Delhi to meet and discuss the issue with various leaders. Minutes after he landed in Delhi, KCR sounded confident about a separate statehood of Telangana.

Moreover, the new Andhra Pradesh Governor Narsimhan is also in Delhi to meet the home minister.

While talking to the media, KCR also added that he is going to stay back in Delhi even after the meeting on January 5.

Centre's stand on Telangana has impacted north Bengal: Buddhadeb

Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today criticised the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government's stand on Telangana issue, saying its decision had impacted the law and order situation in the northern parts of the state.

"The centre's decision to announce a separate statehood status for Telangana has fuelled fresh agitation in parts of north Bengal as separatist elements such as Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) and some other groups in the terai have started demanding for similar status in the region," Bhattacharjee said at an occasion of celebrating the 44th year of Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M)'s Bengali daily.

"The centre's decision on Telangana has impacted the law and order situation in our state as well."

On Union Home Minister P.Chidambaram's letter to the state government, Bhattacharjee said he had sent his reply.

According to sources, Chidambaram had, in the letter in last week of December, asked the chief minister to control the incidents of political violence which are going unabated all across the state.

"The opposition Trinamool Congress are hand in glove with the Maoists and they have also joined hands with the separatist elements in north Bengal to destabilise the law and order mechanism of the state," the chief minister claimed.