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20100403

Shoaib Malik in Hyderabad to clear air



Hyderabad: Nearly two weeks before his marriage with Indian tennis star Sania Mirza, Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik arrived here reportedly to clear the air over his alleged first marriage with a Hyderabad resident Ayesha Siddiqui.

A day after Siddqui family came out with proof of the marriage, Shoaib was spotted at Sania's residence in Banjara Hills.

Television footage showed the couple talking to somebody over mobile phone on the terrace and Sania also having animated discussion with her mother Naseema who joins them.

Shoaib reportedly arrived here on Friday night but his visit was kept under wraps.

Sania's family is also tight-lipped on the purpose of his visit and also on the reports that the families was planning to shift the venue of the marriage to either Dubai or any other city in view of the controversy.

Shoiab was spotted at Sania's house a couple of hours after sources close to Siddiqui family said they had served a legal notice on the Pakistani cricketer and his brother-in-law Imran Zafar for cheating, defamation and harassment.

Shoaib is scheduled to marry Sania here on April 15.

Sania's family will also host a wedding reception. The bride and her family members will then travel to Pakistan for a reception to be hosted by Shoaib.

Ayesha Siddiqui's parents on Friday released to media copies of 'nikahnama' or marriage certificate. They claimed that the nikah over phone was performed in 2002.

They threatened to sue Shoaib for denying the marriage and demanded that he first divorce their daughter before marrying Sania.

Shoaib's family has accused Siddiquis of cheating him by using photograph of another girl. They also threatened to file a counter case against Siddiqui family.

Food prices may come down after rabi harvest,says Pranab

Shillong: Terming food inflation as "disturbing", Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee today said it may come down after the rabi (winter) crop is harvested. "Food inflation is disturbing. However, a good rabi harvest would have a moderating influence on food inflation," he told reporters here. The minister, however, reiterated that there would be no rollback on petrol and diesel prices.

"There has been inflationary pressure on energy import since there is a rise in global oil prices," he said.

Mukherjee attributed rising prices of essential commodities like edible oil, sugar and pulses to supply bottlenecks in the global market.

"That's why despite taking steps of allowing duty-free import and putting the import under OGL (open general list), adequate supply is not available, but government has taken steps," he said.

Mukherjee added that sugar prices would also ease after a "good" sugarcane production in the country this year.

The finance minister said the government was aware of the disturbing trend of food price rise and has brought down inflation from 14 to 10 per cent this year through a host of measures.

Thackeray's comments on Sania cheap gimmick: Jaipal Reddy

New Delhi: Urban Development Minister S. Jaipal Reddy today termed as "cheap political gimmicks" Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray's comments on Sania Mirza's proposed marriage to Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik. "The comment of Bal Thackeray is highly symptomatic of his notorious tendency to lend a communal colour to every issue. The people of India, in the second decade of 21st century, are much too mature and sophisticated for such cheap political gimmicks," Reddy said in a statement released here. Calling it to be the personal decision of Sania Mirza, Reddy said: "It is unfortunate that the Shiv Sena leader, Bal Thackeray, has chosen to criticise the decision of Sania Mirza to marry a Pakistani cricketer on political grounds." "We in India have very serious problems with the government of Pakistan. That does not, however, mean that there cannot be good relations between the people of the two countries. At any rate, the choices in matters relating to marriage are absolutely personal. Nobody can dispute the freedom of Sania Mirza on the issue," he said. In an editorial in Saamna, the Shiv Sena on Friday had slashed out at the proposed Sania-Shoaib marriage. It even advised her to "play for Pakistan" after her marriage. Taking a U-turn over the issue today, however, the party said it was Sania's "personal matter".

India asks China not to issue stapled visas for Kashmiris

New Delhi: Ahead of External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna's visit to Beijing, India today asked China to stop the practice of issuing stapled visas to Indians from Jammu and Kashmir and said Beijing should be sensitive to New Delhi's "core concern" on this issue. "We have asked the Chinese side to do away with dual visa policy policy," Gautam Bambawale, joint secretary in charge of China and East Asia in the external affairs ministry, told reporters here. "This is a matter of core concern for India because it goes to the heart of our territorial sovereignty and integrity," Bambawale said. "We will continue to press them on this issue," he added. "We expect that this important concern of ours is taken on board," said Vishnu Prakash, spokesperson of the external affairs ministry. The issue will figure in discussions between the two countries during Krishna's talks with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi in Beijing next week. Krishna goes to Beijing on a four-day visit Monday, his first to that country since becoming foreign minister in May last year. In November last year, India declared invalid the stand-alone paper visas given by the Chinese embassy and consulates for Indians from Jammu and Kashmir. India also issued a travel advisory, asking those going to China to ensure their visas are pasted on their passports. China, which claims sovereignty over the Indian northeast state of Arunachal Pradesh, had also issued stand-alone visas to residents from that state. In some cases, the Chinese side did not accept visa requests from residents of Arunachal Pradesh on the premise that they did not require visa to travel to China. India has taken up the issue with China at the highest levels, but it has apparently not stopped the practice which is widely seen here as a not-so-subtle message by Beijing to contest India's sovereignty over these states. India has officially objected to this practice of issuing separate visas "to certain categories of Indian nationals on the basis of their domicile, ethnicity and/or place of issue of the passport".

Mamata to attend meeting on women's quota bill

New Delhi: Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee will attend a meeting of all political parties in the Lok Sabha on the women's reservation bill here on Monday, a Trinamool Congress leader said today. The Trinamool Congress, the second largest party in the Congress-led ruling coalition, had abstained from voting on the women's quota bill in the Rajya Sabha on March 9. "Mamataji will attend the meeting," Trinamool chief whip in the Lok Sabha Sudip Bandopadhyay told media. However, the party did not reveal the strategy to be adopted in the meeting. The meeting has been convened by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who is also leader of the Lok Sabha. The bill is expected to be brought before the Lok Sabha in the second part of the budget session commencing from April 15. Mamata had demanded reservation for Muslims within the bill which provides for 33 percent reservation for women in Lok Sabha and state legislatures. The decision to hold the party leaders' meeting comes against the backdrop of the government's assurance to hold consultations before the bill is tabled in the lower house of parliament. The bill was passed in Rajya Sabha amid strong protests from the Samajwadi Party (SP), the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), a section of the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) and the Bahujan Samaj Party. These parties have demanded a quota for weaker sections within the 33 percent reservation for women. The Bharatiya Janata Party and the Left parties support the bill in its present form. Leader of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) in Lok Sabha, Basudeb Acharia, who will also attend the meeting, said his party supported the bill and there is no change in its position. The Rajya Sabha witnessed uproarious scenes during the passing of the bill, with seven opposition members forcefully evicted from the house by the marshals.

Shahi Imam meets PM on Batla House shootout

New Delhi: A top Muslim cleric today met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over the alleged fake shootout at the Batla House in which two suspected terrorists were killed following the 2008 serial bomb blasts in Delhi. Shahi Imam Ahmed Bukhari, who leads the prayers in Delhi's Jama Masjid, said he held a 35-minute meeting with the prime minister during which he showed him documentary evidence suggesting that the Sep 19, 2008 gunfight in Batla House was staged by the police. Two terrorists of the Indian Mujahideen - Saajid and Aatif, both from Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh - were killed by Delhi Police in the Muslim-dominated south Delhi neighbourhood, just six days after five bombs ripped through the capital's busy marketplaces on Sep 13, 2008. Police inspector Mohan Chand Sharma was also killed in the incident. "I showed the prime minister the post mortem examination reports of Saajid and Aatif that suggest that the two were fired upon from a very close range and were dragged and hit with a blunt object before being shot dead. The reports surprisingly have no mention of whose bullets had hit them," Bukhari told the media after meeting Manmohan Singh. The cleric said that the prime minister was "surprised" and assured that he would meet Home Minister P. Chidambaram about it and would take action. Bukhari said that he also showed the prime minister a National Human Rights Commission Report that has documented fake shootouts in the country resulting in the death of 1,224 people. He expressed concern that Muslim youth in the country were being picked up by police and tagged as terrorists. "This should stop and only courts should be allowed to pass the verdict about who is a terrorist and who is innocent. I discussed this with the prime minister," Bukhrari said. The cleric said that he had obtained the documents through an RTI application.

Verdict reserved in murder case involving Soren

Ranchi: A Giridih district court reserved its judgment in a double murder case involving Jharkhand Chief Minister Shibu Soren. The verdict will be delivered on April 17. Soren appeared in the court of Additional District Judge (ADJ) N.N. Singh. This was Soren's second appearance in the court after he became chief minister on Dec 30 last year. Soren had failed to appear on two previous dates -- Jan 4 and March 8. The court concluded the hearing after listening to Soren's side today and reserved its judgment. The case is related to the murders of two people in a dispute over killing of two goats. The murders took place at Kodko village of Giridih district in April 1974. Soren was accused of inciting a mob to kill Chundi Singh and Khirodhar Singh, who were accused of stealing two goats and killing them. There were 10 accused in the case. The charge sheet against all accused, including Soren, was filed in 1978. Eight accused were acquitted in 1986 and one died during trial. The case against Soren was pending as he failed to appear in court earlier. A warrant pending against him surfaced in 2004 and he then surrendered. He was later released on bail.

Simple Kapadia, not 'late' for "Tum Milo..." crew

Mumbai: Dimple Kapadia's deceased sister Simple, who was designing the star's costumes for "Tum Milo Toh Sahi" until she fell ill, is credited in the film for her work - but not posthumously. "I haven't credited her as the late Simple Kapadia. Because to us, who were among the last fortunate folks to have spent time with her, she never went away. Her laughter and her joie de vivre remains with us. Though Pooja Chabria took over Dimple's clothes after she was unwell, Simple was still a part of the whole procedure," says director Kabir Sadanand. Kabir didn't allow any pictures to be taken when Simple would come to the sets. "I didn't want the world to see her on a wheelchair. Even though she was ill, she insisted on coming to the sets and spending time with us. When we'd ask about her health she would turn around and ask 'Who's ill around here?' Her spirit carried us forward to the end of the film." Kabir was making "Tum Milo To Sahi" at a time when his leading lady Dimple Kapadia was facing the worst crisis of her life. Her sister Simple was dying. Says Kabir: "But not once did Dimple bring her grief to the sets. Not once did we get to feel the enormity of her suffering. Every day she was in and out of the hospital and on the sets on time ready to face the camera." Even when Simple was gone, the show went on. "Dimple doesn't believe that the world needs to know about her suffering. She internalised all the pain that she felt about Simple's condition," says Kabir.

Will deliver the best Games, says Reddy

New Delhi: Union Minister for Urban Development S. Jaipal Reddy today expressed optimism that India will perform well as the host of 2010 Commonwealth Games and in turn will improve the country's global image. "Organising the Games is a great national task and I am sure we will deliver the best," Reddy said during a visit to the headquarters of the organising committee here. Delhi will host the Games from Oct 3-14. The minister is the head of the group of ministers overseeing the co-ordination and development work for the event. Reddy added that it was important for India to make the most of the awareness created for the Commonwealth Games and gather support for the Olympics. "We did not follow up the 1982 Asian Games very well and we must do it now," he stressed. Assuring the committee's chairperson Suresh Kalmadi of the government's support to preparations Reddy said: "I am sure you will deliver the best Commonwealth Games ever in history...Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is totally committed to the conduct of the Games."

Shiv Sena has 'no objection' to Sania-Shoaib marriage

Mumbai: A day after attacking tennis star Sania Mirza for her proposed marriage to Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik, the Shiv Sena did a U-turn on the issue today, terming it her "personal matter".

Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray told mediapersons here that the party's views on Sania-Shoaib marriage were made clear in party mouthpiece Saamna on Friday.

"Beyond that, we have no problems with Sania Mirza's marriage with anybody. It's a personal matter and she has right to make a choice of her life partner," Uddhav declared.

To a question whether Sania should not marry Shoaib, Uddhav replied: "How can I tell her that? We have no objections to her marrying anybody."

"Do you have any objections?" he countered to the journalist who had raised the question, even as gathering was in splits.

In an editorial in Saamna, the Shiv Sena had on Friday lashed out at the proposed Sania-Shoaib marriage. It even advised her to "play for Pakistan" after her marriage.

Honoured to receive blessings of the Dalai Lama: Vivek

New Delhi: Bollywood actor Vivek Oberoi is excited after meeting spiritual leader Dalai Lama at an inter-faith conference at Rishikesh today. "So honoured and excited to meet and receive grace and blessings of so many spiritual leaders of all religions! Most excited about meeting His Highness Dalai Lama!" Vivek posted on his Twitter page. "Am in the midst of pure divinity by the banks of the holy Ganga, basking in the infectious laughter of HH Dalai lama, blessings of Morari Bapu, the august presence of Baba Ramdev and hundreds of saints from all religions coming together for the root of all religions - love and peace," the 33-year-old added. The actor was in New Delhi early morning before he drove to Rishikesh for the inter-faith conference, where all religious and spiritual leaders have come together to promote peace. "Hats off to Swami Chidanand Saraswati of Inter-Faith organisation for bringing together leaders from Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism, Islam, Christianity and Hinduism," Vivek posted.

20100402

Mayawati to raise special force to protect memorials

Lucknow: Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati on Friday decided to raise an exclusive force of former servicemen for the protection of monuments dedicated to the ruling Bahujan Samaj Party's (BSP) Dalit icons. The chief minister decided to go ahead with her plans even without Governor B.L. Joshi's assent to a bill and ordinance for creation of such a security force. Mayawati convened a meeting of the state cabinet on Friday afternoon and took an administrative decision to proceed with raising the new force. The force would be headed by a retired army officer of the rank of colonel. The cabinet meeting was followed by a press conference, where state Cabinet Secretary Shashank Shekhar Singh gave justification for the government's decision to go ahead without waiting for a word from the governor. According to him, "the new force would be in place in the next 2-3 weeks." "Normally, one does not require a legislation to raise a special security force which could be done through an administrative order only; but because of certain extraordinary provisions the government had decided to adopt the constitutional process for which a bill was duly passed by the state assembly and forwarded to the governor as early as on Feb 18. However, when no word was received from Raj Bhavan for more than a month, the state government issued an ordinance, that was sent to Raj Bhavan on March 26," Singh told mediapersons. He said: "While it is the governor's prerogative to take any view in the matter, the state government had no choice but to initiate the recruitment process for raising the new force because of the impending threats to the memorials and monuments erected as a mark of respect to icons of the downtrodden classes." "You are aware how such monuments, memorials and parks have become an eyesore for those opposed to these great social reformers belonging to the lower and backward castes," he added. "You can imagine the social upheaval that could be caused in case such elements manage to vandalise any of these spots. Therefore, it was imperative for us to ensure the protection and security of these places without any further delay." Principal Home Secretary Fateh Bahadur was entrusted with the task of raising the new force for which rules were also framed overnight.

US has huge stake in closer ties with India: Geithner

Washington: The US has huge mutual stake in closer economic ties with India and a key focus of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's visit to New Delhi next week will be cooperation in the Group of 20 leading economies on three core areas: global growth, global recovery and financial reform. "It's about putting in place higher standards globally for constraining risk taking across the major institutions as markets become more integrated," Geithner said in an interaction in his office with select Indian media ahead of the trip starting Tuesday. While they were working very closely on things like climate change, energy policy, multi-trade agenda and terrorist financing, Geithner said: "We want to make sure that we are working together to reinforce that process of recovery, of expansion." "China and India are ahead of the major economies, the US is ahead of the other major economies and the balance of policy is going to shift over time, but we're going to make sure we're doing that carefully together so we don't risk undermining the process of recovery and reform." Another reason for the trip to India, Geithner said was "to get a better sense of what is happening there: Both in the economy and the broader reform process in the financial sector and elsewhere." "And of course as always I am going to make sure that the leaders in India get to understand directly from me how we are managing our challenges here and how things feel here." Geithner said he had "huge admiration" for India's politicies in the economic, financial sector and for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh "and have great admiration for what they have accomplished in dealing with this difficult time." The US, he said, wanted "to build a much stronger corporative partnership with India on broader global financial issues, which I think are important to, both our countries interest economically." On India's pitch for greater weightage at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as part of reforming the architecture of the financial system, Geithner said the US had initiated and committed to support a substantial rebalancing of the basic voting rights across institutions. On the issue of deepening capital markets in India, Geithner said: "I think they recognize that they're not at the end of the process of reform in the financial sector, there's a range of things that'll be in India's interest to manage through going forward and I want to get a better sense o how they're going to do that." "I don't actually sense a lot of tension or disagreement with India on the core parts of global financial reform, but that doesn't mean it's not worth talking about it because it's good for both of us to be close on these things," he said. Asked about some countries questioning the salience of the dollar, Geithner said: "The dollar's role in the system overtime in the future is going to depend primarily on how well the US manages our economic challenges." "My general view on this is if we do that right, it is better for the world and we will have a more stable global financial system." The differences in the US economic strategic partnership with China and the one it was going to launch with India "are mostly defined by the differences in our economies." "We believe we have a huge mutual stake in closer economic ties, integration and we have a very strong interest in working together closely in the G-20 international institutions in pursuit of common interest for reform."

Kashmiri migrants to get enhanced relief

Jammu: Kashmiri migrants living in Jammu and its adjoining areas will get enhanced relief from the government from this month. The amount has been increased to Rs.5,000 from the existing Rs.4,000. A communication to this effect from the central government was received by the Jammu and Kashmir government last month, Revenue, Relief and Rehabilitation Minister Raman Bhalla told media today. He said this was a part of the government's efforts to provide better facilities to the Kashmiri migrants, who have been living outside the Valley for the past 20 years. Initially, when the Kashmiri Pandits arrived in Jammu as migrants, they were given Rs.1,000 per family, along with free rations. The relief amount kept on increasing with the passage of time. More than 350,000 Kashmiri Hindus had fled the valley in 1990 after militancy peaked in Kashmir. Kashmiri Hindus were targeted on selective basis and their killings instilled a fear of growing Islamic militancy in them. A vast majority of them left Kashmir and settled in Jammu and its adjoining areas. Currently, there are 34,000 Kashmiri Pandit families registered as migrants. They are living in migrant camps on the outskirts of Jammu city. Bhalla said: "The government is also working to implement the prime minister's package for the migrants. The central government has started providing funds under the package." In 2008, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced a Rs.1,618 crore package for the relief and rehabilitation of Kashmiri Hindus. Under the package, the government reserved 3,000 jobs for the Kashmiri Pandit migrant youth. "The recruitment process will start soon," Bhalla said.

My blood froze when Zardari became president: Fatima Bhutto

New Delhi: Fatima Bhutto, niece of slain former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto, says her "blood froze" on the day Asif Ali Zardari became the country's president and prompted her to send away her younger brother from the country fearing for his safety. Zardari was accused of plotting the murder of Fatima's father Murtaza Bhutto but had been acquitted of the charge. "On 20 September, 2008, on the 12th anniversary of Papa's death, Asif Zardari took his oath as President of Pakistan. The ceremony had been scheduled for the day before, the 19th, but had been moved on the orders of the new President, who rescheduled his big day for today, Papa's barsi," Fatima writes in her just-released memoir "Songs of Blood and Sword" (Penguin/Rs 699). "As he stood in front of parliament, which had voted him into the post almost unanimously (in the same highly democratic way that General Musharraf was 'elected' President), he paused in his speech and asked for a moment of silence to mark the occasion of his brother-in-law's death. My blood froze. It was as if he was taunting us. "But that would be nothing compared to what would follow. On Zardari's first Pakistan Day as President he would honour Shoaib Suddle, one of the most senior police officers present at the scene when my father was killed. Suddle was awarded Hilal-e-Imtiaz, a national medal in recognition of his services to the people of Pakistan. Shoaib Suddle was then made the head of the Federal Investigation Bureau," Fatima writes. Murtaza was killed on Sep 20, 1996, when Fatima was 14, in a shootout with police near his Karachi residence. On Dec 3, 2009, a Karachi court acquitted 20 policemen charged with the killing. After Benazir's government was dismissed in 1996, Zardari was detained for having a part in Murtaza's assassination. However, no charges were ever proved for want of evidence as the scene of Murtaza's assassination was wiped clean before police investigators could arrive. Zardari's ascendancy also saw Fatima packing off her younger brother Zulfi. In the epilogue, dated April 2009, Fatima writes: "As I finish this book, it feels as though the world around me is slowly collapsing. There is a peculiar sense of deja vu as I write about the death of my father. There is a similar danger, a tangible feeling that we are not safe. Seven months ago, I packed my bags and flew to see my brother off in a foreign country. "Zulfi had enrolled for the start of his A-level year, twelfth grade, at a private school not far from our house in Karachi. Some of his friends had got into the same school. They had made plans for a more relaxed year in which they would be treated like college students. In the autumn of 2008 Zulfi had just turned eighteen and was aware how precarious our situation had become since Asif Zardari had acquitted himself in our father's murder case. He was aware that because of our history with the man now called President, we weren't safe in our country any longer. "When Zardari announced himself as the PPP's unanimously chosen presidential candidate we knew he would stop at nothing to reach the pinnacle of power. There was no turning back for him. Against all odds, he was going to rule Pakistan. We made the decision to take Zulfi out of the country. It was decision we had been avoiding, hoping it would not be necessary, since Benazir was killed in December 2007. "But as Zulfi was the only surviving male heir of the Bhuttos, we couldn't take the risk of leaving him vulnerable. Besides Zulfi, the only remaining Bhuttos are (cousin) Sassi and I. We don't live in a country with a free press, we don't live in a country with an independent judiciary - or any judiciary for that matter. We have no safeguards against a violent and vindictive government," Fatima writes. The book comes at a time when Zardari is set to be deprived of his sweeping powers through a constitutional amendment being tabled in parliament on Friday to transfer to the prime minister major powers like the appointment of armed forces chiefs and reduce the president to a titular head of state. The Bhutto family has has had to contend with violence for the last four decades, losing one member every decade. Fatima's grandfather Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was executed in 1979 after what many consider to be a kangaroo trial. This was after he had been deposed as president by then army chief Gen. Zia-ul Haq. Her uncle Shahnawaz, 27, was found dead in Nice, France on July 18, 1985 under mysterious circumstances and the Bhutto family firmly believed he was poisoned. No one was brought to trial for the murder. Her father, Murtaza, Shahnawaz's brother, was killed on Sep 20, 1996, and her aunt Benazir was assassinated on December 27, 2007.

I can never leave Pakistan: Fatima Bhutto

New Delhi: Fatima Bhutto, the niece of slain former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto, says that in spite of the violence her family has suffered, including the killing of her father Murtaza Bhutto, she "could never leave" the country. "Amidst all this madness, all these ghosts and memories of times past, it feels like the world around me is crumbling, slowly flaking away," she writes in her just-published memoir "Songs of Blood and Sword" (Penguin/Rs.699). "Sometimes, when it's this late at night (she writes in the Epilogue dated April 2009), I feel my chest swell with a familiar anxiety. I think, at these times, that I have no more place in my heart for Pakistan. I cannot love it any more. I have to get away from it for anything to make sense; nothing here ever does. "But then the hours pass, and as I ready myself for sleep as the light filters in through my windows, I hear the sound of mynah birds. And I know I could never leave," Fatima writes. Murtaza was killed on Sep 20, 1996, when Fatima was 14, in a shootout near his Karachi residence. On Dec 3, 2009, a Karachi court acquitted 20 policemen charged with the killing. The Bhutto family has had to contend with violence for the last four decades, losing one member every decade.

India trip, a homecoming for Geithner

Washington: For US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner his trip to India next week is like homecoming in a sense. For it was here that he had his early schooling and learnt to play cricket and baseball. "It was a great gift to me and a great gift to any American to be exposed to India at an early age," he said recalling his stay in Friends colony in New Delhi between 1968 and 1973 when his father was the Deputy Resident Representative for the Ford Foundation in India. "To learn to see as much as you can see as a foreigner in India how much of India lives to see not just extreme poverty, but a country with India's great open dynamic tradition, is a great gift for an American," Geithner said talking to select Indian media ahead of the visit. "To watch and see how the impact America had on the world, for good and sometimes not so good, is a great gift to have as a young kid," he said speaking of his time in school from second to sixth grade. "I was lucky, I learned not just to play cricket, but I learned to play baseball." "No, I cannot play cricket with any talent but I can play both," he said when a game of cricket was suggested. "I grew up with my parents, friends who were people involved in development at a time when it was a great era of optimism and development," said Geithner who travelled a lot in India. "It was a time of really great durable achievements in the broader development area. So it was a nice thing to be exposed to early in life."

The many lives of Amitabh Bachchan

Mumbai: In the film "Dev" Amitabh Bachchan plays the role of an upright police officer who is horrified by the collusion between ruling politicians and a section of the police during a communal outbreak. The film provides a mirror image of the scene in Gujarat at the time of the 2002 riots. While it was being made, Amitabh might not have thought that he would become the state's brand ambassador after a few years. It is possible that he sees no connection between the two. After all, film stars play many roles, not all of which reflect their views and personalities. Problems can arise, however, as they have now for Amitabh, when a matinee idol is perceived as playing two roles -- one in the tinsel world and the other in real life. What is more, if the two performances tend to clash -- for instance, if a hero on the silver screen turns out to be a villain in real life -- they can have a jarring effect on his fans. It is worth noting that such crossing of lines has been a feature of Amitabh's life. A friend of the Nehru-Gandhi family -- he gave an impromptu singing performance during Sanjay Gandhi's wedding -- Amitabh had even joined politics for a while before finding the profession to be a 'cesspool'. Inevitably, his proximity to India's foremost political dynasty also meant that the Bachchan family would be involved in one of the major scandals which affected the Nehru-Gandhis -- the Bofors deal. It is not surprising that Amitabh's less than pleasant experiences at the time made him distance himself from politics for some time and focus on doing what he does best, acting. But the glamour of the film world was evidently not enough for a larger-than-personality like him. Notwithstanding his unflattering perception of politics, he has never totally shunned politicians, presumably on the basis of the adage: hate the sin, not the sinner. Arguably, however, he has not been wise in the choice of his political friends. In recent years, for instance, he has been close to the well-known gadfly of Indian politics, Amar Singh -- an association which may have led to his rupture with the Nehru-Gandhis. However, even that curious phase of his life -- a superstar in the company of a maverick -- held no lessons for him. For he has now chosen to be in Narendra Modi's good books, which has further estranged him from the Congress and may even embarrass Amar Singh. Amitabh's explanation that his critics should also lambast industrialists like Ratan Tata and the Ambanis for associating with Modi shows that he is aware of the latter's controversial persona. But it is one thing for companies to utilize the business opportunities provided by Modi for their own profits and quite another for someone with an iconic stature like Amitabh to act as an advertiser for Modi, who is currently being probed for his complicity in the riots. It is possible, of course, that Amitabh has no serious political views of his own or that he is uninterested in the complexities of the "cesspool". His open mind must have been responsible, for instance, why he never hesitated to be on the right side of Bal Thackeray although, as a resident of Mumbai, he would have known that it would not be advisable to displease the Shiv Sena patriarch in any way. To many, it will seem that it is but one step from Thackeray to Modi. But saffron inclinations are clearly of no relevance in this matter where Amitabh is concerned. What is relevant is the indisputable fact that the latter's political links create a greater stir than those of any other film personality. This, in turn, confirms Amitabh's special status in the film world and outside. Others in Bollywood like Dharmendra, Hema Malini and Sanjay Dutt, to name a few, can flit in and out of politics without hitting the headlines. But Amitabh's forays into this field attract wide attention, especially if he is seen to be politically incorrect - or too adventurous - in the selection of his political friends. Little wonder, therefore, that the responses to his involvement lack restraint. The Congress, for instance, has evidently gone overboard in its castigation of Amitabh, thereby underlining his importance. An attitude of disdain might have been preferable. Modi, on the other hand, must be delighted. Facing a Supreme Court-ordained probe into his role in the riots -- the first chief minister to take a stand in the docks -- he will be glad to be seen in respectable company even if his companion is apparently a political innocent. For Amitabh, however, it can momentarily seem as if he is courting bankruptcy again (as he once did over his financial ventures) in the matter of his countrywide popularity.

'Prince' is high-voltage action: Director

Mumbai: Kookie Gulati says high voltage action scenes performed by Vivek Oberoi in his big-budget directorial debut "Prince" are the film's USP. He is confident the movie will surprise audiences with its implausible action sequences shot with cutting-edge previz technology in South Africa, Thailand and India. "Previz is the short form of pre-visualisation. It is an animated form of storyboard. I made this previz to show that all those seemingly impossible stunts done by Vivek were actually possible and this is the way one particular scene should be shot," Gulati told media in an interview. According to reports, producer Kumar Taurani has invested over Rs.40 crore in "Prince". In the two-hour-six-minute film there is one hour of action. Kookie used animated storyboard - previz - to make his associates understand how he wanted the action sequence to be shot. The advantage of previsualization is that it allows directors to experiment with different staging and art direction options without having to incur the costs of actual production. "The first shot that we took was with 350 people, eight cameras across six buildings and Vivek on top of a building. We shot it in a day. If I hadn't done previz, it would have taken us six days easily because by the time everyone coordinates and understands what actually is happening and what we want to show, it would have been a mess. "This previz was also required to convince people what I am actually trying to do. I had to do the storyboard first and then animators transformed it to a previz. We used it mostly for the action sequences," said Gulati. Releasing on Friday, the film stars Vivek Oberoi in the lead role and Gulati roped in Nandana Sen, Aruna Shields and Neeru Singh to play female leads. "There is a big twist in the film with one of these women. All of them claim to be Maya (character name). If I had cast big name in my film, you could have easily guessed who is the original Maya. That's why I didn't take big stars in my film," said Gulati. Asked what made him choose these three girls, Gulati said: "We wanted each girl to have her own character. "The story is of six days; so keeping in mind the pace at which the film moves there was not much time to set up each character and provide that length of story behind each of them. So the idea was to pick up good actors who can deliver in the time frame that was given to them on screen," he said. The film's theme was Gulati's brainchild, but screenplay writer Shiraz Ahmed, who scripted films like "Race" (2008) and "Wanted" (2009), shaped it into the screenplay of "Prince". "We were very lucky that writer Shiraz Ahmed took a liking for me and agreed to write the script. It actually became a very huge plus point. We had an idea of the film we wanted to make and then obviously he took it on," said Kookie. "Prince" narrates the story of a thief (Vivek) who wakes up one morning to realise he has lost his memory and that his life is at stake. Kookie had a couple of choices for the male lead, but signing Vivek was producer Kumar Taurani's idea. "We needed someone who can carry certain kind of physicality and can act well at the same time. Because the way the script has been written, the storyline is very, very strong and all these actions and stunts come through it. Vivek became the obvious choice because he can actually pull it off. Kumarji took a call," said Kookie. Gulati says he always wanted to make a film and was brushing up his skills by making music videos. "I have been working with Kumar Taurani for the last nine years. I made a few music videos, but from the day I joined, I wanted to make a movie. But obviously it takes time. It's good that it didn't happen that time because I got time to discover myself," said Gulati.

Shweta Agarwal owns 150 pairs of shoes

New Delhi: Actress Shweta Agarwal, who featured in Vikram Bhatt's "Shaapit", seems to have a shoe fetish, considering her collection of over 150 pairs of shoes, one of them being a Jimmy Choo gifted to her by filmmaker Vikram Bhatt. A source close to her says she owns brands like Gucci, Christian Louboutin, Prada, Marc Jacobs and the likes. "Shweta has a staggering collection of shoes and picks them up wherever she travels. She has a shoe closet that hosts the best brands," said the source. It is said that Bhatt was so happy with Shweta's performance in "Shaapit" that he gifted her a pair of Jimmy Choo.

Akshay Kumar gifts Sajid Khan a Tag Heuer

New Delhi: Akshay Kumar is so impressed with director Sajid Khan for the way his film "Housefull" has turned out to be that he gifted him a limited edition Tag Heuer watch. "Akshay Kumar watched a couple of scenes of the film and loved it. After viewing those few scenes there is no doubt in his mind that the film will do well. He gifted Sajid Khan a watch to show his appreciation," a source said. The romantic comedy is a story of normal people caught in abnormal situations sparked off by a white lie. The film stars Deepika Padukone, Riteish Deshmukh, Lara Dutta, Jiah Khan and Arjun Rampal apart from Akshay.

Kings XI Punjab deny rifts between Yuvraj and Sangakkara

Mohali: Down on the mat with six straight losses in seven outings in the Indian Premier League (IPL), Kings XI Punjab today denied media reports that there were rifts in the team. Media reports suggested that their iconic player Yuvraj Singh was not happy after being replaced as the captain and was having problems with new skipper Kumara Sangakkara. Reports also said that Yuvraj was deliberately "under-performing" and wants to quit the team. Yuvraj hit out at speculative reports on him on Twitter, saying that he was pained at being targeted by the media. "Media has no right to fabricate stories, they just want eyeballs. To come out of injury is not easy and I hope to bounce back soon. I always try to give my best no matter what the circumstance and right now I am struggling with my form. It happens to every player. I am disgusted & horrified that a news reporter can stoop down to such a level," he tweeted. Preity Zinta, chairperson and co-owner Kings XI Punjab, said in a statement: "There is no truth to the speculative reportage that is being carried in various segments of the media and these get accentuated when the tide is not in our favour. We are focused on the game today and by reporting such stories we are distracting the players hence we request the media not to resort to such speculative reporting."

Shoaib didn't like me as I was overweight: Ayesha

New Delhi/Hyderabad: Ayesha Siddiqui, the young woman who claims to have been married to Shoaib Malik, said today that the Pakistani cricketer didn't like her because she was "overweight" and she had even gone in for cosmetic surgery to improve her appearance. Ayesha also demanded that Malik give her an "official divorce" before marrying Indian tennis star Sania Mirza. Siddiqui, 23, told the media that she had the documents to prove that she was Malik's first wife. The cricketer has denied he married Ayesha. "He didn't like me because I was overweight," Ayesha told the media, adding that she came to Delhi for cosmetic surgery to improve her appearance after her marriage. In an appeal to the Malik family, Ayesha said that Shoaib is "blinded by his success. But what are you people doing? You have to answer to the almighty?" "We don't want anything from him. This is not the right way to get publicity. I know him since 2000 and have been suffering a lot for the past three years," she said. "I won't stoop so low, just give me an official divorce so that I can go ahead with my life. I don't want people to ask me questions," she demanded. Asserting that she had nothing against Sania Mirza, Ayesha said: "If Malik wants to divorce me, he should do it publicly. I have nothing against her. I wish her all the best." "The most important thing for me is to get a divorce officially," she added. A relative of Malik, however, claimed that "Shoaib had never married Ayesha".

Curfew relaxation gives relief to people in riot-hit Hyderabad

Hyderabad: The two-hour relaxation in curfew today provided much-needed relief to the people in riot-hit areas of Hyderabad while the situation remained peaceful in the city. Thousands of men and women came out of their homes in eight police station areas as curfew was relaxed from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. to enable people to buy essential commodities. Huge crowds were seen in the markets to buy vegetables, milk and groceries. Long queues were also there at the medical stores. People once again complained of traders exploiting the situation by jacking up the prices of essentials as the arrangements made by the authorities to supply vegetables proved inadequate. For the first time since curfew was imposed in these areas outside the worst-hit old city Tuesday, police relaxed the restrictions, providing some relief to the people. No untoward incident was reported in two hour relaxation. The curfew in 17 police station areas of old city was relaxed for three hours from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The curfew in the communally sensitive old city was relaxed for two hours Thursday but no relaxation was given Friday as police anticipated trouble during prayers. With Friday prayers passing off peacefully, the police decided to give three-hour relaxation. Though no untoward incident was reported in any of the curfew-bound areas since Tuesday night, police were continuing the curfew as a precautionary measure. Police Commissioner A.K. Khan Saturday said there would be relaxation for longer duration on Sunday. "Lifting of curfew will take some more time," he said. There was mild tension near the historic Charminar area late Friday when Hyderabad MP and Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) president Asaduddin Owaisi staged a protest at Charminar police station against the arrests of "innocent" Muslim youth by police. Owaisi later called off the protest after an assurance by the senior police officers that innocent youth would be released. Owaisi, who was accompanied by parents of some of the arrested youth, alleged that police was breaking into the houses during night time, abusing women and lifting their children. The communal violence, which broke out following a dispute over putting up of religious flags, has so far claimed two lives and left over 150 injured. The police commissioner said probe into various incidents of violence was on and so far 300 people were taken into custody. Police were also on the lookout for two corporators of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Telugu Desam Party for their alleged involvement in riots.

BJP sets up team to probe Hyderabad violence

New Delhi: Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Nitin Gadkari today constituted a five-member committee, headed by party MP and spokesman Prakash Javdekar, to probe the communal violence in Hyderabad. BJP Lok Sabha member Prahlad Joshi, spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman, national secretary Dr. Laxman and Rajya Sabha member K.B. Shanappa are the other members. "The committee will visit the riot-hit areas to take stock of the situation there. Later, it will submit a report to the party president," according to a party statement here. Party sources said the actual time to visit the affected places and programme of the committee would be decided by Javdekar. "The committee will leave for Hyderabad in a day or two. They will meet in Hyderabad before visiting the riot-hit areas," a party official said. The communal violence, which broke out following a dispute over putting up of religious flags, has so far claimed two lives and left over 150 injured. The riot-hit areas are still under curfew. Police have stepped up their probe into various incidents of violence. As many as 200 people have so far been arrested for 67 cases of rioting. The arrests were made for attacks on places of worship, arson and looting, and damage to public and private property.

Rs.12 lakh bounty on Kishenji?

Ranchi: Jharkhand police have recommended to the state government to place a cash reward of Rs.12 lakh on information leading up to the arrest of top Maoist leader Kishenji. In a tit-for-tat, the rebels too announced "price" for capture of seven police officials. "The police headquarters has recommended to the state home department to announce Rs.12 lakh reward for providing information about Kishenji's whereabouts. The home department will take a decision in this regard soon," a police official told media. Koteshwar Rao alias Kishenji is the most wanted Maoist leader in West Bengal, Jharkhand and Orissa. He is believed to be hiding in the forest areas on West Bengal-Jharkhand border. The outlawed Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) too, on its part, has announced rewards of Rs.10 lakh on superintendents of police of Ranchi, Hazaribagh, East Singhbhum, West Singhbhum, Lohardagga and two other officers. "We have come to know about CPI-Maoist announcing reward on police officials. Even in the past, Maoists had issued similar statements," a police officer said.

Ethics panel to monitor Delhi law-makers' conduct: Speaker

New Delhi: Delhi Assembly Speaker Yoganand Shastri today said an ethics committee will look after the conduct of the legislators, both inside and outside the house. The assembly on Thursday approved the constitution of the committee. "The ethics committee will have nine members who will check the behaviour and code of conduct of the other legislators. The nine members would be selected on the basis of (parties') proportionate strength in the house," Shastri said. He said the legislators should follow discipline not just in the house but also with officials outside. "A committee of this nature is need of the hour as per the practice prevailing in parliament of India," he said. Citing the case of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator Sat Prakash Rana, who had allegedly misbehaved with officials of the Delhi Jal Board, Shastri said: "Such actions should be avoided by the MLAs (legislators) in future." He warned that strict disciplinary action would be initiated by the committee in case of any unruly behaviour within or outside the house by any member. "Initially it can be a warning but if the same behaviour continues by the member, then he would be suspended or terminated from the house," Shastri said.

India 'instigating' Dhaka war crimes trials, says Jamaat

Dhaka: Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI), Bangladesh's largest Islamist party, has blamed "India's instigation" for the war crimes trial the government has initiated to bring to book those who killed unarmed civilians during the 1971 freedom movement. The Jamaat secretary general and one of the principal accused, Ali Ahsan Muhammad Mojaheed said at a rally in Bogra in northern Bangladesh: "India apprehends that only the military and the Jamaat could prevent Bangladesh from becoming a proxy for India." The Jamaat had opposed Bangladesh's creation and ideologically, considers India as the "enemy nation". Banned after independence, the Jamaat bounced back when the country was ruled by military-led governments in the late 1970s. Jamaat shared power during 2001-06 under Prime Minister Khaleda Zia and Mojaheed was the social welfare minister. He called upon Jamaat cadres to prepare for "ultimate sacrifice through martyrdom", newspaper website reported. "One must be ready to embrace martyrdom without hesitation. Attacks and lawsuits will not be enough to stop Jamaat." Earlier on March 31, Mojaheed told reporters that no Jamaat leader was involved in any war crime during the Liberation War in 1971 and there is no way they can be labelled as war criminals.

Sudhir Mungantivar is new Maharashtra BJP chief

Jalgaon (Maharashtra): Senior Maharashtra Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Sudhir Mungantivar was elected state party chief here today, a party official said. The 48-year old Mungantivar, a four-time legislator, will replace Nitin Gadkari, who was elected national BJP president last December. Holding a post-graduate degree in commerce, a degree in law, and diplomas in business management and journalism, Mungantivar plunged into politics during his college days when he became Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM), the BJP's youth wing, Chandrapur town secretary. In 1987, he was appointed Chandrapur district chief of BJYM and contested the Lok Sabha elections - in 1989 and 1991 - but was unsuccessful both times. Mungantivar, who belongs to eastern Maharashtra, was elected vice-president of state BJYM in 1993. Two years later, he was elected to the Maharashtra legislative assembly from Chandrapur - with the highest victory margin in entire Vidarbha (eastern Maharashtra) region. Four years later, in 1999, Mungantivar was appointed a minister for tourism in the erstwhile Shiv Sena-BJP alliance government, then headed by Narayan Rane, and in which he was a colleague of Gadkari. Meanwhile, in 2001, he was elected national vice-president of BJYM and managed to repeat his electoral victories to the state assembly in 1999, 2004 and again in 2009 from Ballarpur.

Banerjee's office files complaint against Bengali channel

New Delhi: Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee's office has lodged a police complaint against a Bengali TV news channel for continuously flashing her personal mobile number, officials said today.

J.K. Shah, associate director (public grievances) in the railway ministry, in a complaint at the Parliament Street police station here Wednesday said the news channel continuously flashed the minister's mobile number with the "intention of disrupting her functioning".

Banerjee's number was flashed in a programme telecast on the channel on Tuesday.

"The complaint was filed against a Bengali channel for flashing her number. The complaint says this has disrupted her functioning. The channel allegedly flashed Mamata's number more than a few times," said a police officer.

"We are trying to get the TV tapes for the part where the number was flashed," the officer added.

Organising committee planning multiple entry visa for cricket World Cup

Colombo: The Central Organising Committee (COC) of the 2011 Cricket World Cup is planning to have multiple entry visas for supporters with valid tickets travelling to India for the tournament.

The COC that met here today under the chairmanship of Sharad Pawar, who is also the vice-president of International Cricket Council (ICC), discussed the possibility of visa variations for supporters entering India for the World Cup.

At present, only single entry visas are permitted for tourists to India but the COC is working with the Indian government to make multiple entry visas available for all supporters - except those from Pakistan - holding valid match tickets.

Pawar, who is also the president-elect of ICC, was also happy praising the progress of ongoing work being carried out on the grounds at Colombo, Pallekelle and Hambantota in Sri Lanka.

Pawar said that the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 was on course to deliver a series of world-class venues, including the three in Sri Lanka which co-hosts the event with India and Bangladesh.

"I am sure that the thousands of spectators from Sri Lanka and around the world, will be extremely impressed by the new venues not just here in Sri Lanka but also in India and Bangladesh. The reports we have received of the progress are extremely positive

"These stadia will produce a real legacy for cricket in South Asia and I am sure that cricket lovers who travel to the three co-hosts will be impressed by the quality of the venues as well as the affordable and accessible tickets," he said.

Sri Lanka will host 12 matches at three venues in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 which opens in Dhaka on Feb 19 and the final will be held in Mumbai, on April 2.

Dada's heroics, cheerleaders and music bowl over Eden crowd

Kolkata: With Kolkata Knight Riders back to their winning ways after an emphatic victory over the Deccan Chargers, Kolkata and the hallowed Eden Gardens partied late into the night.

The historic Eden Gardens resembled more than a cricket stadium. With an IPL ticket being advertised as "sabse bada ticket", one not only got to watch an exciting Twenty20 cricket match here Thursday but also entered the 'party zone' with DJ'S and loud music!

The scenario was no different on Thursday when the Knights fought gallantly with their general 'Dada' alias Sourav Ganguly leading the victory march with a blistering 88 off 54 balls against defending champions Deccan Chargers.

The Big Bash had begun almost one-and-a-half hours before the start of the crucial match, with the DJ on the house playing rocking chartbusters from 'We will Rock You' to 'Marjani!' And every time the Knight Riders Anthem, 'Korbo Lorbo Jitbo re' hit the ears of the almost packed crowd, the cheer engulfed the Mecca of Cricket completely.

And the cheerleaders got such an overwhelming reception! Whistles flew in from every hook and corner of the ground, no less than what The Prince of Kolkata and Chris Gayle got when they came out to bat.

"This is my first time at the Eden Gardens and I'm loving every bit of it. To be very honest, the addition of the cheerleaders is what makes the IPL so spicy and hot!" yelled a candid college goer.

"The IPL ticket is truly one to die for, dude. If you want T20 cum night club experience, this is the place to be. Cheerleaders make the climate hotter!" admitted a smiling 24-year-old youth.

"Dada is back. That is the best of today's match. Paisa wasool totally. Dadagiri is here to stay! Joy Dada...," screamed a bunch of excited office goers, all in their late 20's or early 30's maybe.

Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium will be ready by June: Gill

New Delhi: Sports minister M.S. Gill today said the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, the venue of the opening and closing ceremonies of the Commonwealth Games, will be ready in June. Reconstruction of the 27-year-old Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium has been delayed because a 150-metre-long tunnel, which will open up at the centre, is being constructed to connect the two ends of the stadium. The tunnel will be used by the performers to enter the ground during the ceremonies. While inspecting the construction work at the stadium, Gill said: "I am satisfied that the work is going smoothly, and there are no technical difficulties. I have appealed to all involved to complete the stadium in early June. I have also directed the engineers to ensure that the labour, working with such dedication, are paid their full wages and treated properly by the contractors." Gill was briefed by the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) officers about the status of ongoing civil and electrical works in the complex comprising the main stadium, weightlifting and lawn-bowling arenas. Gill also took a round within the complex and inspected the ongoing roof work of the newly-constructed tunnel. The cultural committee, headed by Tamil film maker Bharat Bala, wanted the tunnel. The other members of the committee are film maker Shyam Benegal, and lyricists Javed Akhtar and Prasoon Joshi. The stadium, with a seating capacity of about 75,000, was built in 1982 when India hosted the Asian Games.

I come to IPL to entertain: SRK

Kolkata: Days after twitting to his Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) players that they stop giving excuses and instead deliver, Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan says he is neither involved in cricketing matters of his team nor the management part of it, but is only there to "entertain."

"I don't involve myself in the cricketing part. Because I feel if I tell them how to play, they will tell me how to act," the KKR owner said.

"I don't tell them (the players) much. I can only love them. Business decisions are taken by (co-owners) Juhi Chawla and Jai Mehta. I come to entertain."

However, he justified the stern warning through his twitter account. "It helps at times if you treat them (the Knight Riders cricketers) as boys."

SRK, as Shah Rukh is affectionately called, seemed happy after his side's convincing victory against the Deccan Chargers Thursday.

"It's good to see dada (KKR skipper Sourav Ganguly) among the runs. I told them (the cricketers) at the start of this season that we cannot do worse than last year's performance. So they can only take the team up".

With Ganguly leading from the front with a blazing 54-ball 88, the KKR scripted a 24-run win over the Deccan Chargers to move up to the fifth slot in the IPL table with eight points. The team had finished with the wooden spoon in the second edition of the tourney held in South Africa last year.

"It's most disappointing when the spectators come and we do not live up to expectations. So it's time we prove ourselves to the crowd at Eden Gardens," said King Khan.

The KKR are scheduled to play four more games at their home ground till April 19.

Asked about his IPL experience since 2008, Shah Rukh said, "The first two years I did not know what to do. I felt helpless when the team did not do well. But now I know the game has its share of ups and downs."

SRK's 'Rab Ne...' wins at Okinawa Festival

New Delhi: Shah Rukh Khan starrer "Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi" won the Grand Prix of Peace award and a cash prize at the Okinawa International Film Festival.

The audience voted for the winner in the festival that took place in Okinanwa, Japan between March 20-28.

Released worldwide on Dec 12, 2008, "Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi" was directed by Aditya Chopra and featured newcomer Anushka Sharma and Shah Rukh in the lead. The film revolved around a simple man who disguises himself as another person to win the love of his wife.

Shahid Kapoor goes back to school

New Delhi: Bollywood actor Shahid Kapoor, who has a huge fan following among children, visited Beacon High School in Khar recently and spent some quality time with kids there while promoting his forthcoming movie "Paathshaala". The kids had a blast with Shahid while they quizzed him about his favourite things - his favourite car, cricketer, among others. Shahid also shared some of his school experiences including how he was punished for his mischievous deeds. The actor also shook a leg with the enthusiastic kids. ----------- Madhavan's wife showers praise on him R. Madhavan has often got critical and commercial acclaim for his films but this time he has a new fan. The actor's wife can't stop raving about his look in his last film "Teen Patti". Madhavan's wife Sarita, who is a big Justin Timberlake fan, sings pop hit "I'm bringing sexy back" to him since she thinks his look in "Teen Patti" was very hot. "Sarita keeps singing 'I'm bringing sexy back' to Madhavan. It's her way of sweetly teasing him. She absolutely loves his look in the film," said a source. Madhavan played six characters in the film -- a casanova, an Italian, a high-end party goer, a slum dweller, a professor and a thug. ----------- Jiah Khan holds Randhir Kapoor's ears Young actress Jiah Khan became the butt of a joke when she mistakenly pulled yesteryear actor Randhir Kapoor's ears on the sets of her forthcoming film "Housefull". "Jiah plays Randhir Kapoor's daughter in the film and for a particular sequence Sajid Khan told her to apologise to Randhir Kapoor and hold her ears and ask for forgiveness but due to some misunderstanding she thought she had to hold Randhirji's ears and did the same," said a source. "Everyone on the set started laughing at her goof-up and Randhir Kapoor himself was amused by the incident," added the source. "Housefull" starring Akshay Kumar, Deepika Padukone, Lara Dutta, Ritesh Deshmukh and Arjun Rampal apart from Jiah is slated to hit the screens on April 30.

Major fire breaks out near Income Tax Office in Delhi

New Delhi: A building near I.P. Bhavan at ITO in central Delhi caught fire today in the afternoon. According to the initial reports, a major fire broke on the fourth floor of the building. While six people are trapped inside the building, about seven people have been rescued. 17 fire tenders have reached the spot along with their fire engines and are trying to douse the fire. The building neat the ITO is a home to many government departments and generally remains crowded at this time. Today, being Good Friday, most of the employees are absent.

There is no rift in team, says Yuvraj

Mohali: Kings XI Punjab's batsman Yuvraj Singh today rubbished media reports that he was not having cordial relationship with team mates. "If anybody is out of form, it does not mean that you (media) can write anything. You (media) cannot just go on and on and write that one is against the other without any basis," said a visibly disappointed Yuvraj at the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) Stadium. Media reports had suggested that Yuvraj was frustrated on losing the captaincy of Kings XI Punjab to Sri Lankan Kumara Sangakkara. "Whatever is being written and said is not correct. There is no rift between anyone in the team," said Yuvraj. After the Kings XI Punjab's practice session at PCA stadium, Yuvraj did not leave for the team hotel in Chandigarh and instead drove off in his silver-coloured Audi sports car. Kings XI Punjab is at the bottom of the Indian Premier League (IPL) table with only one win in six matches. Even Sangakara refuted reports of rift. "Today you saw the warm up game we had. All the local, domestic, Indian and international players got on so well together. When you lose, everyone opens themselves up to criticism, some fair and some unfair," he said. "There is no rift among players," he added.

Ganguly goes ballistic as KKR vanquish Chargers

Kolkata: Ageing warhorse Sourav Ganguly played a blistering 54-ball 88 as Kolkata Knight Riders moved up to the fifth slot with a 24-run victory over Deccan Chargers in the Indian Premier League here on Thursday.

The Hyderabad-based Chargers, needing to score at a challenging asking rate of 9.1 per over to overhaul the Knight Riders' total of 181/6, could manage only 157/5 as they saw their runs drying up towards the end before 45,000 delirious fans at the Eden Gardens.

Cruising comfortably at 77/1 in the ninth over, with Harschelle Gibbs (50) and Manish Mishra (29 of 16 balls) calling the shots, the tourists saw their plans go haywire as both fell to soft dismissals. Mishra threw away his wicket by spooning a catch to Manoj Tiwary at long on.

Gibbs, looking solid, tried to dispatch Shane Bond over long off, and finished in the hands of David Hussey close to the fence in the 15th over. The Chargers, then 121/3, could manage only 34 runs in the remaining 5.4 overs. This was in sharp contrast to the KKR innings, where 65 runs came off the last five.

A lot depended on Andrew Symonds (45 not out of 37 balls), but he found it hard to push up the run rate on the slowing track.

Earlier, playing one of his best innings in Twenty20 cricket, skipper Ganguly led from the front, clearing the field almost at his sweet will. Nine boundaries and five audacious sixes were indicators of the way India's most successful captain dominated the bowlers on the sluggish strip.

Ganguly sparkled from the start, hitting the very first delivery for a boundary, and followed up with a cut to the point fence two balls later.

The KKR however lost wickets at the other end. Chris Gayle (4) tried a needless lofted shot, Cheteshwar Pujara (17) managed a leading edge to mid off and Tiwary dragged the ball onto his stumps as the hosts struggled at 68/3 in the ninth over.

Hussey (31 off 27 deliveries) then joined Ganguly and the duo added 78 runs in 8.3 overs to put their side in command.

Ganguly was particularly severe on Pragyan Ojha in the 17th over as he plundered 21 runs including three sixes before perishing while attempting the fourth of the last ball.

Though Angelo Mathews and Hussey departed, the KKR succeeded in retaining the momentum till the end.

Jaskaran Singh, Andrew Symonds and Pragyan Ojha picked up two wickets each for the Deccan Chargers.

Good Friday observed with prayers, fasts

New Delhi: With fasts and daylong prayer services in churches, Delhi observed Good Friday, marking the crucification of Jesus Christ. Bity John, a public relations executive, said: "On Good Friday we have extensive prayer services in the church to commemorate the death of Jesus Christ on the cross, which we believe brought salvation to all". "People also fast on this day. Many, like me, have been observing strict dietary restrictions like not eating non-vegetarian food for the past 50 days. Others have been doing the same during this week which is called Passion week," John told media. The fasting will end on Sunday when the community celebrates Easter - marking the resurrection of Christ. "Good Friday is of great significance to the Christian community because it signifies the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The day also reminds us, therefore, of the importance of giving alms and practising charity to help the less fortunate," said Robin Paul. Voicing their concern on demands for caste-based reservations, two Christian organisations, the Indian Christian Action Forum (Forum ICRA) and Poor Christians Liberation Movement (PCLM) today appealed to the church leadership to first take steps to end discrimination against Dalit Christians. "Good Friday is a time of repentance when the faithful are supposed to admit their guilt and find ways for improvement. Hence it is appropriate to seek justice from the church in India for the poor Christians who have been wronged by bishops' policies," a statement by the organisations said. "How can caste-based reservations by the government for Christians, as recommended by the Ranganath Misra Commission report, end discrimination within the church," asked R.L. Francis, PCLM president.

Good Friday observed with prayers, fasts

New Delhi: With fasts and daylong prayer services in churches, Delhi observed Good Friday, marking the crucification of Jesus Christ. Bity John, a public relations executive, said: "On Good Friday we have extensive prayer services in the church to commemorate the death of Jesus Christ on the cross, which we believe brought salvation to all". "People also fast on this day. Many, like me, have been observing strict dietary restrictions like not eating non-vegetarian food for the past 50 days. Others have been doing the same during this week which is called Passion week," John told media. The fasting will end on Sunday when the community celebrates Easter - marking the resurrection of Christ. "Good Friday is of great significance to the Christian community because it signifies the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The day also reminds us, therefore, of the importance of giving alms and practising charity to help the less fortunate," said Robin Paul. Voicing their concern on demands for caste-based reservations, two Christian organisations, the Indian Christian Action Forum (Forum ICRA) and Poor Christians Liberation Movement (PCLM) today appealed to the church leadership to first take steps to end discrimination against Dalit Christians. "Good Friday is a time of repentance when the faithful are supposed to admit their guilt and find ways for improvement. Hence it is appropriate to seek justice from the church in India for the poor Christians who have been wronged by bishops' policies," a statement by the organisations said. "How can caste-based reservations by the government for Christians, as recommended by the Ranganath Misra Commission report, end discrimination within the church," asked R.L. Francis, PCLM president.

Insurance for Goa's pretty and prized coconut palms

Panaji: The humble coconut is to Goans what perhaps the camel is to desert dwellers. So nearly 100,000 coconut palms in the coastal state of Goa are now set to be insured in an unprecedented practice, complete with a physical examination of their girth! Satish Tendulkar, director of agriculture, says since coconut is an important commercial crop, the state government along with several other government agencies had decided to ensure comprehensive insurance cover for farmers who depend on them. "The coconut farmer will have to pay only Rs.1.60 paise per tree annually. In case a coconut palm dies, he stands to get Rs.1,200 per palm," Tendulkar said. He said 75 percent of the premium was sponsored by several agencies like the Coconut Development Board, the state agriculture department, a local horticulture collective and Zuari Agro Ltd, a pesticide manufacturing company, as part of its corporate social responsibility (CSR). Goa is the first state in the country to undertake such a comprehensive insurance drive for coconut palms, he said. The Agro Insurance Company of India, a central government concern, has undertaken to insure the coconut palms, the official said, adding nearly 18,000 palms had already been insured. Explaining the procedure, Tendulkar said agriculture officials were scouring the countryside and physically examining the coconut palms as required by insurance specifications. The thing that these officials are looking out for is the palm's girth - the broader the girth the healthier the tree - along with thick foliage, etc. "The insurance covers the trees for cyclonic uprooting, death by disease and drought," Tendulkar said. The insurance policy, however, does not cover the death of a tree due to silt accumulation, a common phenomenon in the state's expanding mining belt, where fine silt created by constant mining of iron and manganese ore settles on the soil, slowly choking vegetation to death. Coconut farming, along with that of cashew and betel nut, is one of the most popular commercial farming activities in Goa. The coconut, with its fleshy white kernel, a hard shell covered with a gritty, husky exterior, is used for multiple purposes by Goans. While the grated kernel is used in most signature Goan dishes like fish curry, caldin and xacuti, the husk is used to manufacture coir ropes, the fringed palm leaves are thatched together and then used as canopy against the sun and the palm's long, firm stem is commonly used as roof timber.

Insurance for Goa's pretty and prized coconut palms

Panaji: The humble coconut is to Goans what perhaps the camel is to desert dwellers. So nearly 100,000 coconut palms in the coastal state of Goa are now set to be insured in an unprecedented practice, complete with a physical examination of their girth! Satish Tendulkar, director of agriculture, says since coconut is an important commercial crop, the state government along with several other government agencies had decided to ensure comprehensive insurance cover for farmers who depend on them. "The coconut farmer will have to pay only Rs.1.60 paise per tree annually. In case a coconut palm dies, he stands to get Rs.1,200 per palm," Tendulkar said. He said 75 percent of the premium was sponsored by several agencies like the Coconut Development Board, the state agriculture department, a local horticulture collective and Zuari Agro Ltd, a pesticide manufacturing company, as part of its corporate social responsibility (CSR). Goa is the first state in the country to undertake such a comprehensive insurance drive for coconut palms, he said. The Agro Insurance Company of India, a central government concern, has undertaken to insure the coconut palms, the official said, adding nearly 18,000 palms had already been insured. Explaining the procedure, Tendulkar said agriculture officials were scouring the countryside and physically examining the coconut palms as required by insurance specifications. The thing that these officials are looking out for is the palm's girth - the broader the girth the healthier the tree - along with thick foliage, etc. "The insurance covers the trees for cyclonic uprooting, death by disease and drought," Tendulkar said. The insurance policy, however, does not cover the death of a tree due to silt accumulation, a common phenomenon in the state's expanding mining belt, where fine silt created by constant mining of iron and manganese ore settles on the soil, slowly choking vegetation to death. Coconut farming, along with that of cashew and betel nut, is one of the most popular commercial farming activities in Goa. The coconut, with its fleshy white kernel, a hard shell covered with a gritty, husky exterior, is used for multiple purposes by Goans. While the grated kernel is used in most signature Goan dishes like fish curry, caldin and xacuti, the husk is used to manufacture coir ropes, the fringed palm leaves are thatched together and then used as canopy against the sun and the palm's long, firm stem is commonly used as roof timber.

Insurance for Goa's pretty and prized coconut palms

Panaji: The humble coconut is to Goans what perhaps the camel is to desert dwellers. So nearly 100,000 coconut palms in the coastal state of Goa are now set to be insured in an unprecedented practice, complete with a physical examination of their girth! Satish Tendulkar, director of agriculture, says since coconut is an important commercial crop, the state government along with several other government agencies had decided to ensure comprehensive insurance cover for farmers who depend on them. "The coconut farmer will have to pay only Rs.1.60 paise per tree annually. In case a coconut palm dies, he stands to get Rs.1,200 per palm," Tendulkar said. He said 75 percent of the premium was sponsored by several agencies like the Coconut Development Board, the state agriculture department, a local horticulture collective and Zuari Agro Ltd, a pesticide manufacturing company, as part of its corporate social responsibility (CSR). Goa is the first state in the country to undertake such a comprehensive insurance drive for coconut palms, he said. The Agro Insurance Company of India, a central government concern, has undertaken to insure the coconut palms, the official said, adding nearly 18,000 palms had already been insured. Explaining the procedure, Tendulkar said agriculture officials were scouring the countryside and physically examining the coconut palms as required by insurance specifications. The thing that these officials are looking out for is the palm's girth - the broader the girth the healthier the tree - along with thick foliage, etc. "The insurance covers the trees for cyclonic uprooting, death by disease and drought," Tendulkar said. The insurance policy, however, does not cover the death of a tree due to silt accumulation, a common phenomenon in the state's expanding mining belt, where fine silt created by constant mining of iron and manganese ore settles on the soil, slowly choking vegetation to death. Coconut farming, along with that of cashew and betel nut, is one of the most popular commercial farming activities in Goa. The coconut, with its fleshy white kernel, a hard shell covered with a gritty, husky exterior, is used for multiple purposes by Goans. While the grated kernel is used in most signature Goan dishes like fish curry, caldin and xacuti, the husk is used to manufacture coir ropes, the fringed palm leaves are thatched together and then used as canopy against the sun and the palm's long, firm stem is commonly used as roof timber.

Rakhi Sawant to contest against ex-boyfriend in dance show

Mumbai: Bollywood item girl Rakhi Sawant will contest against her ex-boyfriend Abhishek Avasthi in an upcoming celebrity dance reality show 'Zara Nachke Dikha', to be aired on STAR Plus soon. Rakhi, however, declined to comment on the issue. 'I am a performer. Whoever comes and performs, be it Abhishek (Avasthi), Shah Rukh or Aamir Khan, I am going to fight equally. I don't care for anyone. I am not scared of any one. The girls team will win for sure,' Rakhi told reporters at a press conference today. Abhishek too did not dwell on it, saying: 'Whoever does well will win.' The programme would showcase a battle between sexes on the dance floor for over nine weeks. The selected female television artistes teamed up for the contest include Rakhi, Aditi Gupta, Hazel Crowney, Kritika Kamra, Mukti Mohan, Rashmi Desai, Sangeeta Ghosh, Sanjeeda Sheikh and Saparsh Kanchandani among others. The male team comprises Aamir Ali, Avishek Avasthi, Angad Hasija, Karan Kundra, Karan Singh Grover, Aksshat Seluja, Siddhesh Pai, Sushant Rajput and Ayush Khedekar among others. Monika Shergill, senior creative director of STAR Plus, said: ' 'Zara Nachke Dikha' would be aired across 40 countries on the same day, allowing viewers across the world to experience the glitz and glamour of the show in real time.' on STAR Plus The judges, hosts and the show timing are yet to be decided.

Hrithik's singing debut highlight of 'Kites' album

New Delhi: Rajesh Roshan has another hit album in the soundtrack of much-awaited film "Kites". The album boasts of five originals and four remixes and all the songs exude freshness and melody. Most of them have a romantic touch and it seems the composer composed them specially for people in love. But it won't be wrong to say that the highlight of the soundtrack is the song sung by Hrithik Roshan. The album opens with "Zindagi do pal ki", a melodious song, currently doing the rounds on television channels. The mushy song instantly connects, thanks to simple but meaningful poetry and effective vocals by KK. This track also has a remix version, which doesn't sound like an unnecessary addition. "Dil kyun yeh mera", crooned by KK again has a soft, soothing beginning that makes you sway. The romantic song gets a rock feel in the middle, which gives it an edge. A well-composed track. This too has a remixed version, which unlike most remixes has some substance. It does not entail unnecessary sounds but has beats that gel well with the song. The rap that comes along makes the remix worth a hear. Next is Vishal Dadlani and Suraj Jagan singing "Tum bhi ho wahi". A slow start, but it picks up pace after a few seconds. The punch in it makes it all the more interesting. It experiments a lot with percussions. The remixed version of the song, however, is average. Then we have the most anticipated song of the album, "Kites in the sky". Hrithik makes his singing debut with the breezy love ballad in English. Hrithik proves his mettle as a singer with this soft, free flowing melody. The rise and fall of tempo is impressive. Suzanne D Mello gives ample support to Hrithik with the Spanish lyrics. Even though it has minimal orchestration, Hrithik does a commendable job and manages to pull off the song very well. Finally there is "Fire" with Rajesh Roshan, Vishal Dadlani, Anirudh Bhola and Anushka Manchanda behind the mike. The song is marked by a long prelude, electronic sounds and strong orchestration. The vocals too come a long way, but much later. It sounds like a track to be used as a background score. It also has an English version, which is not too different from the Hindi version. On the whole, for "Kites", Rajesh Roshan has experimented with some modern sounds and beats that make the album interesting. One can look forward to the album that has a potential to become a hit.

Filmmakers should come out of comfort zones: Hrithik Roshan

New Delhi: Hrithik Roshan, who will be seen sporting a new look in his forthcoming release "Kites", has never hesitated from experimenting in his 10 years in the industry. He says leaving the safety zone and trying something different is the need of the hour. " 'Kites' is a very honest film. That was the brief that my father and Anurag Basu gave to the entire team while making 'Kites'. We do not want to be within the safety zone influenced by manipulative commercial thinking," Hrithik, looking his best in a red and white check shirt and blue jeans, told the media in an interview. "Nothing in the film - no dialogues or no moments that try to provoke claps, tears or laughter. It's a very simple straightforward love story, something that would happen in real life and following that thread whatever fell into place has made the film what it is," said the actor. The 36-year-old, who has done a range of movies - from sci-fi to superhero, from historical to romantic sagas - feels filmmakers should try to come out of their comfort zones and make films from their heart. "It's time to let go of all our safety nets and be out there and tell a story through our hearts and not bother who is listening. We should make films with a thought as if no one is there to judge us. Like this we will produce better and more honest films," he said. "Kites", a film about an Indian man's affair with a Latin woman and their predicament as they don't understand each other's language, is being made in Hindi and English. The English version of "Kites" has been presented and reworked by well-known Hollywood director Brett Ratner. Produced by Hrithik's father and filmmaker Rakesh Roshan, the film will be distributed and marketed by Reliance BIG Pictures. Directed by Anurag Basu, the movie also stars Mexican actress Barbara Mori and Kangana Ranaut. It has been shot in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Santa Fe and will release on May 21 in over 60 countries. Hrithik, last seen in Ashutosh Gowariker's "Jodhaa Akbar", worked on "Kites" for almost two-and-a-half years. The actor says he is incapable of multi-tasking and believes in doing one thing at a time and giving it his best. "I can't multi-task. When I'm doing one film, I go completely into it and give my heart and soul to it. I got this inspiration from the Tinkle comic books that I used to read as a child. "It used to advocate that one should stick to one thing and give one's best to that instead of putting your hand in everything," said Hrithik, who was at the Radio Mirchi 98.3 FM studio in the capital to promote his film. Hrithik met with a couple of accidents while shooting the movie - he hurt his knees while doing a dangerous car stunt in Las Vegas and later injured his arm while shooting in Filmistan Studio in Mumbai. When asked what kind of audience reaction he expected after putting in so much effort, Hrithik said: "I hope they like the film. Audience reaction is my access point to growth. They have loved me for 10 years and I feel truly blessed." The actor also broke his silence on the controversy that surrounded the film regarding an alleged link-up between him and Barbara. "Certain sections of the media had tried to instigate and provoke, but the truth always comes out. So it was just a matter of time," he said. He also said Barbara would arrive in India April 16 and stay in the country for a month.

20100401

Hyderabad calm during curfew relaxation

Hyderabad: The situation in riot-hit parts of Hyderabad today remained peaceful as police relaxed curfew in the old parts of the city. Thousands of people, living under curfew for the last three days, came out to buy essential commodities. Long queues were seen outside grocery shops, milk booths and medical stores during the two-hour relaxation period in nine police station limits from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. No untoward incident was reported during the relaxation. Though police had announced that women and men above 50 years will be allowed to come out to buy essential goods, a large number of youth were also seen shopping in some areas like Bahadurpura as police could not strictly enforce the restrictions. Traders exploited the situation by selling the essential commodities at exorbitant prices. In some areas milk was sold for Rs.100 a litre while vegetables cost Rs.50 per kg. Though the government had made some arrangements to supply milk and vegetables, they proved inadequate. Curfew will be relaxed from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in areas falling under the limits of eight other police stations in the old parts of the city. Police Commissioner A.K. Khan said there would be no relaxation in eight police station areas of the new city where curfew was imposed on Tuesday night after communal clashes. The riots, which broke out last week over putting up of religious flags, have so far claimed two lives and left over 150 injured.

Strengthen internal security: Army chief

New Delhi: A day after taking charge as the Indian army chief, Gen V.K. Singh today said internal security in the country needs to be strengthened to fight external challenges. "Our internal health (security) is very important. Till the time our internal security is not up to the mark, we won't be able to take good care of external challenges," Singh told reporters here. "For this, we will give due attention to our core values and ethos," he added. Singh, 59, took over as army chief on Wednesday. He will hold the office till he turns 62. Asked about the Chinese threat perception against India, he said: "I can assure (that) for any challenges against us we are fully prepared. Preparedness is (an) ongoing process... we are making our training more practical."

Menon warns against media 'distortions' in India-China ties

New Delhi: Against the backdrop of media frenzy last year over a host of issues between India and China including the boundary, National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon today warned against 'misperceptions and distortions' that could cloud ties and underlined the need for vigorous public diplomacy. 'When the world is changing so rapidly, and when uncertainty in the international system is at unprecedented levels, neither India nor China can afford misperceptions or distortions of policy caused by a lack of understanding of each other's compulsions and policy processes,' Menon said. 'It is only on the basis of informed and supportive public opinion that we would be able to grasp the opportunities and move forward on the ambitious agenda that awaits India-China relations, the pursuit of which would place India-China relations on a sound footing for the 21st century,' he said at a seminar organised by the Indian Council of World Affairs to commemorate the 60th anniversary of India-China diplomatic relations. Alluding to 'shrill and overexcitable commentary' on the relationship that has appeared in both countries in the last year, Menon stressed on the role of public diplomacy in bettering ties between the two countries. 'In a democracy like India foreign policy has a symbiotic relationship with public opinion; it is both formed and it and needs its support to be legitimate, coherent and implementable,' he said. Menon also pointed to the emergence of 'nativist' voices, and the loud expression of opinion and warned that it could introduce 'volatility in perception.' Chinese Ambassador to India Zhang Yan, too, advocated better handling of public opinion to create stronger relations between India and China. 'Public opinion is vitally important to the development of our relations. Two countries should provide correct guidance to the public opinion and avoid war of words,' he said. Efforts should be made on both sides to create an environment that is objective, friendly and that of mutual trust, Zhang said. 'Without trust there can be no genuine relationship. Without trust, there can be no sustained and meaningful cooperation,' the Chinese envoy said, while underlining that India and China have more in common than their differences. 'There are no fundamental differences or conflict. They are no threat to each other,' he said. 'A good and conducive public environment will not only provide a necessary condition for the stable development of our relations, but also create conditions conducive to the settlement of historical issues and other differences,' Zhang said. Indian and Chinese leaders today exchanged greetings on the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties and expressed their optimism about the future development of the relationship for the sake of regional and global peace. Last year, the Indian media, specially news channels, played up reports of Chinese incursions into the Indian territory that created a China threat perception in public mind. The Chinese media also took a hawkish stand on issues relating to India. A Chinese website carried a commentary by an anonymous commentator that advised the Chinese leadership to divide India into 20-30 independent states, eliciting sharp reaction from India's external affairs ministry.

My name is Pratibha... and president kicks off census 2011

New Delhi: The marathon task of counting and profiling India's estimated 120 crore (1.2 billion) people began today with President Pratibha Patil being the first citizen to be enumerated. Home Minister P. Chidambaram, Home Secretary G.K. Pillai and census officials visited the Rashtrapati Bhavan in the morning and collected details from the president, a symbolic inauguration of the process to count and create a data base of each citizen. 'My name is Pratibha Devi Singh Patil and my permanent address is Jalgaon, Maharashtra,' the president said, sharing her details with a census enumerator. As the first citizen of India, Patil then signed the census form and urged people in the country to 'wholeheartedly take part in the exercise and cooperate with census officials as it is in the nation's interest and for the benefit of the people of this country'. The officials led by Chidambaram later visited Vice President Hamid Ansari at his 6, Maulana Azad Road residence to enumerate him and his family. The gigantic exercise of the Census 2011, which will be the 15th headcount of India's population since 1872, will be undertaken in two phases to create a database on demography, economic activity, literacy and education, housing and household amenities, urbanisation, fertility and mortality, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, language, religion and migration. The census is an important exercise that compiles the socio-economic indicators of people. For the first time, officials would step beyond the demographics and economic activity and would collect details, including ownership of mobile phones, computers, internet, and availability of treated or untreated drinking water facility. Over the next year, some 2.5 million census officials will visit households in more than 7,000 towns and 600,000 villages in the country. They will first begin the process of house listing, which records information on homes. The headcount of people will take place from Feb 9-28, 2011. The full census results will be released in mid-2011. Home Minister P. Chidambaram described the process as 'the biggest exercise since humankind came into existence'. The census 2011, which will cost the government Rs.2,209 crore, is also important as as the government also intends to create the National Population Register (NPR), a comprehensive identity database that will facilitate the creation of a biometrics-based identity system in the country, allowing identity cards for all citizens above 15. 'We have just enumerated the president of India as the first citizen of India to symbolically inaugurate this massive exercise... We will be issuing identity cards to 1.2 billion people,' Chidambaram told reporters as he urged civil society leaders to publicise and create awareness about the importance of this exercise. The census is the only source of credible data base in India that the government uses to formulate its policies. The data is also used for research by private companies to identify markets for their products. The entire exercise is being done under statutory provisions of the Census Act, 1948. And if anyone fails to cooperate, the person can be fined or punished. Around 12,000 tonnes of paper will be utilised for printing 64 crore census forms and 50 lakh instruction manuals. The census forms are printed in 16 languages and the instruction manuals in 18.

Publicity drive launched in Orissa for census 2011

Bhubaneswar: The Orissa government today launched a massive publicity drive for census 2011, spreading awareness among people about the importance of providing necessary data for the operation, an official said. The Census of India, 2011 shall be conducted in two phases, namely, house listing operation and population enumeration. The house listing will be conducted in the state from April 7 to May 22 this year. "In order to take the message to the people, we have launched a number of publicity measures," Bishnupada Sethi, director, census operations, Orissa, told media. "Street plays by several local dance groups and artists are being organised in all the district headquarters from today. In some places it has already started," he said, adding that plays will continue till April 15. "We have also planned 15, 30 and 40-second spots for broadcast and telecast during the next few days through state and private radio and television channels," he said. "All district collectors have also been requested to arrange marathons, cycle rallies using banners and poster and debate competitions for school children," he said. During the first phase operation, officials will prepare a comprehensive data base for assessing the living conditions in human settlements, which will indicate a possible housing deficit and future housing requirements. They will collect data on amenities like drinking water, lighting, toilet, kitchen, fuel for cooking, radio, transistor, computer, laptop, telephone, mobile phone, bicycle, scooter, motorcycle, moped, car, jeep, van and banking services. The authorities have planned to engage 73,702 enumerators and 12,284 supervisors in the process. According to the last census in 2001, the population of Orissa was nearly 37 million. The current census is the 15th since the process began in 1872. It is conducted every 10 years.

Food inflation rises to 16.35 percent

New Delhi: India's annual food inflation rose marginally to 16.35 percent for the week ended on March 20 from 16.22 percent a week before owing to a rise in the prices of milk, fuel and lentils. According to data on the wholesale price index released today by the commerce and industry ministry, the index for food articles rose 0.6 percent during the week under review, while that for non-food articles fell 0.1 percent. Taking into account the year as a whole, the prices of wheat, non-food articles, lentils, fibre and fuel were ruling sharply higher than the levels seen last year though onions and potato had become cheaper. Following are the increases in prices of some essential food items over the 52-week period: - Pulses: 31.55 percent - Potatoes: (-)12.20 percent - Vegetables: 0.62 percent - Milk: 18.74 percent - Wheat: 13.54 percent - Cereals: 10.04 percent - Onions: (-)13.38 percent - Fruits: 10.06 percent - Rice: 7.36 percent Cabinet secretary K.M. Chandrashekhar on Tuesday said that the food inflation was coming down, with sugar and vegetable prices falling and other indicators remaining stable. The central bank has already initiated measures to tighten its monetary policy by hiking key rates in a bid to suck out excess liquidity from the system and tame inflationary expectations. 'Inflation pressure is stronger than we anticipated. Between November 2009 and February 2010, in a space of four months, the wholesale price inflation has gone from 5.6 percent to 9.9 percent,' Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor D. Subbarao said on Tuesday. 'We have constantly maintained about the need for exiting from the expansionary monetary policy. We have also been saying all along that we need to exit in India ahead of other countries because of the growth-inflation trade-off we are facing,' he said. Analysts say the government's decision to raise auto fuel prices in major cities from today is likely to stoke inflationary pressures further and the RBI would raise rates for the second time in as many month in its April policy review.

Randhir Kapoor inspires 'Housefull' crew

New Delhi: Yesteryears actor Randhir Kapoor, who is making a comeback with Sajid Khan's 'Housefull', was a source of great inspiration on the sets due to his jovial nature. The 63-year-old used to shoot from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. everyday and still remained his jovial self. 'When the rest of the cast, out of concern, would ask Randhir Kapoor to rest, he would simply reply saying, 'When you work, you work'. This inspired the rest of the cast to sit on the sets and encourage each other,' said the source. 'Randhir Kapoor surprised everyone on the sets with his professionalism. He was very accommodating. And when it comes to his acting his comic timing is impeccable. He was truly an inspiration on the sets,' the source added. 'Housefull' is being produced by Eros International and Sajid Nadiadwala. It will release on April 30.