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India-US Strategic Dialogue in June

Asserting that India and the US share "defining interests" and that the US-India relationship has never been more promising, the State Department announced that the inaugural US-India Strategic Dialogue will take place here June 1-4. "India and the United States share defining interests and common values," department spokesman Phillip Crowley said on Friday announcing the dates. "The US-India relationship has never been more promising," he added.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Minister of External Affairs S.M. Krishna will co-chair high-level inter-agency discussions at the State Department on June 3, he said.

"Secretary Clinton looks forward to welcoming Minister Krishna to Washington."

Senior delegations from across both governments will come together to discuss a range of issues critical to our shared future, including agriculture, energy, education, trade, and counter-terrorism.

The delegations will also hold in-depth discussions on global and regional issues. Separate bilateral meetings, including between cabinet members and Indian ministers, will take place on the margins of the dialogue, Crowley said.

Under Secretary of State Bill Burns is leaving for India Saturday for a range of meetings with senior Indian officials to make preparations for the upcoming Strategic Dialogue.

Burns will also travel to Afghanistan.

US Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy, Philip Verveer is also leading an inter-agency delegation to the fifth World Telecommunication Development Conference in Hyderabad from May 23 to June 4.

The US delegation will have representatives from Departments of State, the Federal Communications Commission, Department of Homeland Security and National Telecommunications Information Administration.

The conference is held under the auspices of the International Telecommunications Union.

Air India plane overshot runway after landing

An Air India Boeing that crashed at Mangalore in Karnataka today overshot the runway after landing, Air India director Anup Srivastava said. Srivastava said that while eight passengers were rescued from the burning wreckage, two passengers were reported missing. The condition of some of the injured was critical, he said. "Mangalore airport is closed for now and we are routing operations from Calicut," Srivastava said. However, he declined to go into the causes of the accident and said it would be the subject matter of the probe. Mangalore airport is constructed on a hilltop with valleys on all sides.

Mangalore's 'table top' airport surrounded by gorges

Flying into Mangalore has always been considered difficult because the airport is on top of a hill and surrounded by deep gorges that are just 30 metres from the runway. The airport is at Bajpe, about 20 km from Mangalore and 350 km from the state capital Bangalore. The runway is called the table top because of the deep gorges surrounding it. Ironically, the new terminal building was inaugurated only on May 15 by union Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel. The Mangalore airport is considered one of the most difficult ports to land and take off from, particularly in the rainy season. It has been raining heavily in the area, an impact of cyclone Laila. It is not clear whether the Air India Express, which caught fire today, landed at the old runway, about 1.6 km in length, or the new 2.6 km runway that became operational in 2006. Mangalore is a busy commercial and education centre on the west coast. It has a mixed population of Hindus, Christians and Muslims and four languages - Kannada, Tulu, Konkani, Urdu - are spoken. It has a busy port, the New Mangalore Port. It has been in the news for wrong reasons in the last few years because of increasing communal tension. The most infamous incident was that of young girls being attacked by self-appointed protectors of Hindutva at a pub in Mangalore in January 2009.

Remember 7/11? Mumbai train blasts trial to re-start on Monday

Trial in the July 11, 2006, Mumbai train bombings - perhaps the world's most heinous attack on an urban transportation system that snuffed out over 200 innocent lives - is slated to restart May 24 before a special court.

The trial will be presided over by Special Judge Y.D. Shinde of the MCOCA (Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act) Special Court.

The Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS), which probed the entire case, has appointed eminent criminal lawyer Raja Thakre as special public prosecutor.

The trial will re-start nearly four years after the attack that was bigger than 26/11 in terms of human casualties. Initially 188 people were declared dead, but 20 more succumbed to their injuries later, officials have said.

The blasts were executed with pinpoint precision by the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) with the active ground support of activists of the banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI).

There are a total of 13 accused in the case and over 400 witnesses, mostly suburban train commuters who survived the blasts, besides police officials, who will depose during the trial.

In view of security considerations, some of the accused may be presented in the court by video-conferencing, an official told IANS on condition of anonymity.

As per tentative indications, the trial could take around two years to complete. The 7/11 terror attack was not only the worst-ever on any metropolitan city but also most heinous attacks on an urban transportation system anywhere in the world.

The case had started two years ago and one witness had also deposed before the court then. However, some of the accused in the case had challenged the validity of trying them under the stringent provisions of MCOCA.

Accordingly, the Supreme Court stayed the trial Feb 29, 2008. Last month - April 25 - the apex court rejected the petition of the accused challenging the validity of MCOCA and lifted the stay.

This has paved the way for re-starting the trial from where it was left hanging, the official said.

On July 11, 2006, in a matter of around 12 minutes, the attackers set off seven bombs in heavily crowded Western Railway suburban trains on the Churchgate-Borivli-Virar sector during the evening peak hours.

The bombs were inconspicuously planted in the gents first class compartments and the victims were mostly office-goers, businessmen, government servants and college students.

"It was a conspiracy to target Mumbai with the aim of gaining international attention and foment communal trouble," the ATS, which carried out investigations into the case, said in its report later.

Relief work on in cyclone-hit coastal Andhra

Relief work was in full swing in the cyclone-hit areas of coastal Andhra Pradesh today as water levels started receding and the rains became less intense. The threat for the coastal region was over Friday when Cyclone Laila weakened into a depression in the Bay of Bengal. However, the official machinery remained on alert as the weather office forecast rains in the region over the next 12 hours. Isolated rains were continuing in some parts of the coast. Officials of various departments today launched relief operations, especially in the worst-hit Praksam district, where some parts of Ongole town and dozens of villages remained marooned. According to officials in disaster management department, 300 army personnel were shifting people from flooded areas and distributing food and water packets. NGOs like the Indian Red Cross and Unicef were also extending assistance in relief operations in Ongole. Over 70,000 people still remained in 300 relief camps. There have been complaints of lack of food, water and other basic amenities in some camps. As many as 111 stationary and 24 mobile medical teams were working in the affected areas to provide relief to victims and prevent epidemics. Heavy rains and gales over the past three days due to cyclonic storm Laila in Bay of Bengal left a trail of destruction in south coastal Andhra, killing 27 people and damaging infrastructure and crops over thousands of acres. According to preliminary reports, 172 houses were fully and 265 houses partly damaged. The cyclone has damaged agricultural crops over 11,351 hectares and horticulture crops over 7,949 hectares. The heavy rains and strong gales damaged roads and railway tracks and disrupted electricity and communication system. Over 100 trains have been cancelled during the last two days but railway authorities were confident of restoring the services by Saturday evening. Chief Minister K. Rosaiah will make an aerial survey of the cyclone-hit areas later in the day.

Kerala declares two-day mourning

Kerala declared a two-day mourning today for the victims of the Air India Express plane disaster near Mangalore. Most of the passengers from Dubai to Mangalore were from Kerala.

Mangalore is located on the Karnataka-Kerala border. Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan and Home Minister Kodiyeri Balkrishnan have reached Mangalore.

Ekta Kapoor hunts for new faces on Facebook, Orkut

Soap queen Ekta Kapoor has launched another hunt for new faces for her upcoming show titled "Tere Liye". To be aired on STAR Plus, the romantic saga will revolve around Taani and Anurag. Ekta, who has given hit pairs like Rajeev Khandelwal-Aman Sharif, Cezanne Khan-Shweta Tiwari, has taken to social networking sites to find fresh faces to play Taani and Anurag. A team of eight people are apparently surfing through the profiles of youngsters aged between 18-25 on Facebook and Orkut. Ekta has had a successful stint with STAR Plus with serials like "Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi", "Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki", "Kasautii Zindagii Kay" and "Kahiin To Hoga ".

'Kites' opens with 10,000 shows across Indian theatres

Hrithik Roshan-Barbara Mori starrer "Kites", a love story about an Indian guy and a Spanish girl, has become the first film to have 10,000 shows across Indian theatres on its first day on Friday. Produced by Rakesh Roshan's Filmkraft and distributed by Reliance BIG Pictures, "Kites" has opened in 2,000 screens in India and 500 screens overseas, making it the biggest Indian release so far. "I am overwhelmed by the response both in India and abroad," said producer Rakesh Roshan in a statement. Hrithik said: "My dad and I are extremely grateful to Reliance BIG Pictures for the extraordinary release given to 'Kites' worldwide and the tremendous love showered on the film by cinegoers." The multiplexes are booked till Sunday. "The advance ticket booking has been extraordinary. We have sold more than 5,500 tickets for the next three days," said Amit Awasthi, senior manager (programming and operations) of Spice Cinemas that is running 33 shows per day with a seating capacity of more than 8,000, told the media. Deepak Taluja, senior vice president (business and operations) of Fun Cinemas, said: "The advance booking at Fun Cinemas till Sunday for all the properties put together in Delhi is close to 3,500. We are expecting 'Kites' to run for at least two more weeks." On May 28, Brett Ratner's pacier version titled "Kites: The Remix" will be released in 300 screens worldwide. The international press has raved about the film. New York Times praised Hrithik in its review saying, "Mr. Hrithik Roshan requires viewing uncut: writhing on the dance floor or just gazing into space, the man was made to drive women crazy, one movie at a time." Los Angeles Times said: " 'Kites' has been given the no-holds Bollywood treatment by producer Rakesh Roshan and director Anurag Basu. The result is an exhilarating escapist entertainment that plays out like a violent and floridly poetic allegory." The Hollywood Reporter too showered praise on the Hrithik. "Hrithik Roshan anchors the film with a solid, believable performance and a palpable chemistry with his co-star that will remind audiences just how hot a good Bollywood romance can be," it said. "Deliriously entertaining," wrote Variety.

'Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai' trailer releases with 'Kites'

The theatrical trailer of Balaji's upcoming film "Once Upon A Time in Mumbaai" was released alongside Anurag Basu’s "Kites" today.

Directed by Milan Luthria, "Once Upon A Time in Mumbaai" traces the changing face of the Mumbai underworld.

The film, set primarily in 1970 Mumbai, follows the rise of Sultan (Ajay Devgn) and his eventual fall when his protégé Shoaib (Emraan Hashmi) challenges his supremacy and usurps power to rule the murky underbelly of Mumbai.

Sources revealed that those who have seen the rushes of the film can’t stop raving about it - thanks to its slick, clutter-breaking approach of mirroring reality something that the makers are known to do with élan. In fact, when the trailer was played on the big screen, audiences were seen whistling and hooting especially in multiplex theatres in the suburbs.

"In the day and age where production houses are churning out one comedy and romantic flick after another, Balaji dares to be different and comes out with a slick and entertaining film that makes you re-live the iconic days of the Mumbai of 1970s," a source said in a statement.

Balaji and Milan Luthria's "Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai" is all set to release worldwide on July 30.


I observed Rahul Gandhi for my 'Raajneeti' role: Arjun Rampal

Wearing Reebok or Nike shoes with the customary white kurta-pyjama... one of the "small, small elements" that Arjun Rampal says he picked up from observing young, educated politicians like Rahul Gandhi and Sachin Pilot for his role in the much-awaited "Raajneeti". Rampal, who seems to be on a roll after "Rock On" for which he got the National Award and hits like "Om Shanti Om", says his role in "Raajneeti" is similar to that of Bhim in the epic Mahabharata. "I have observed many politicians especially young guys like Sachin Pilot, Milind Deora, Rahul Gandhi as well as the young Rajiv Gandhi and the young Sanjay Gandhi. You see them to know how they moved and what their body languages were. You don't really copy or emulate them. In this film, we are all educated politicians," Arjun told the media in an interview. "When you see them you get a glimpse of how politicians have changed. There are things to observe like when they (young politicians) sport Reebok or Nike shoes with white kurta and pyjama while campaigning. These are the small, small elements that I tried picking up from them for my character." Giving a peek into his new film that releases on June 4 and focuses on how a handful of people control the destiny of millions, Arjun said "Raajneeti", directed by Prakash Jha, does not preach politics. "The film is more about what happens behind close doors? It's more of a political family drama." The characters of Ajay Devgn, Ranbir Kapoor, Manoj Bajpai, Katrina Kaif, Sarah Thompson, Naseeruddin Shah and Nana Patekar are loosely inspired by those in the epic Mahabharata. Arjun said: "Prakash came to me five years ago with the script of 'Raajneeti'. He discussed how he wanted to make it almost like Mahabharata by taking certain characters from the epic and putting them into the political backdrop of the film. He wanted me to play the character of Bhim. I liked the idea. "He disappeared for five years and then he called me back. I read the script and started working out how the character would be. "He (Arjun's character Prithiviraj Pratap) is a person with big heart and wants to achieve something fast in life. He is aggressive. He is a person who sees either black or white. If he likes something, he loves it. If he dislikes something, he hates it. So he would be on that level of extremes. He goes through gamut of emotions. And he has a very good sense of politics." According to Arjun, every character in "Raajneeti" is indispensable. "He (Prakash Jha) has not done injustice to any of the characters. It's like a jigsaw puzzle. If you remove one, the film would fall apart. Everyone has got almost equal screen time." In real life, however, Arjun says he lacks the built-in quality to be a true politician and would not try his luck in politics. "You really need a different kind of qualities to be a politician. I don't think that I have those qualities, but, yes, if there is an issue, I will voice it." In last few years, Arjun has featured in hits like "Don" (2006), "Om Shanti Om"(2007), "The Last Lear" (2007), "Rock On!" (2008) and "Housefull"(2010). "I have been choosing the work I would like to do and luckily the choices are working."

Minissha Lamba wants a self-made quiet man

Bollywood actress Minissha Lamba, who is happily single, wants her "Mr Right" to be a self-made and quiet man.

Although the 25-year-old star, who has previously been linked to actors Aftab Shivdasani and Abhay Deol, insists she isn't ready to mingle soon, she did not hesitate to share what qualities she is looking for in her guy.

"I want a self-made man. Someone who is confident but quiet about it and doesn't run after girls," said Minissha, who was present in Gurgaon to launch Levo Spalon (Spa cum Salon) in Ibis Hotel told reporters here.

However, when it comes to being emotional, the actress prefers to be a little detached as she feels it helps people to deal with the difficulties in life more strongly.

"There are lots of things in life that bog us down and distract us from the real issues and I feel that emotional attachment is something that gets you worked up unnecessarily. It becomes much easier when you stay a little detached and deal with things strongly," Minissha, who wore a stunning red dress designed by Rocky S., told the media.

Meanwhile, after playing a village girl in Shyam Benegal's "Well Done Abba", Minissha will now be seen doing some comedy in Sagar Ballary's (of "Bheja Fry" fame) new film "Hum Tum Aur Shabana".

"I am really enjoying doing comedy. It is a genre that I have never explored before. I am bit scared for it and hope that I get my comic timing right," she said.

The film also stars Tusshar Kapoor and Shreyas Talpade.

Commonwealth Games tickets go on sale from 1st June, tickets start from Rs. 50

A couple of venues at the Commonwealth Games, to be staged at Delhi from October onwards, are yet to be ready. However, the fans would be able to avail the tickets from 1st of June. The tickets have been priced at a minimum of Rs. 50. Suresh Kalmadi who is the chairman of the Organising Committee responsible for the Commonwealth Games said that almost 1.7 million tickets would be going on sale. Tickets would be sold from call centers, a couple of selected outlets and the official website of the Games. The Organising Committee is looking to sell tickets from at least 50 outlets of Hero Honda and Central Bank as well. They would be providing this benefit a couple of weeks after the tickets are issued. It is expected that the low prices of the tickets would act as an incentive for people who want to catch the action live. Tickets can be bought till an event starts. As per sources tickets are to be priced in four separate slabs. People can even go for group bookings. The prices are expected to be different depending on the events. The fans might have to pay separately for the closing and opening ceremonies of the quadrennial sporting showpiece of the Commonwealth.

Gill skips meet on regulation of sports bodies

Union Sports Minister M.S. Gill today skipped a meeting called for regulating the sports federations, ostensibly because he missed his flight from Chandigarh. Gill was to attend a meeting on "need of regulating the sports bodies" organised by think tank the Policy Planning Group. However, the organisers announced at the last minute that Gill had missed his flight to Delhi after he was caught up in traffic jam on his way from Shimla. Gill's non-appearance came on a day the Delhi High Court quashed the central government's order derecognizing a national sports body and termed the action as illegal. The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) had de-recognised the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF), a move that was endorsed by the sports ministry. Two days ago, four Rajya Sabha members had questioned Gill for writing to the International Olympic Council that the Indian parliamentarians wanted the sport bodies to be regulated.

Premji says European crisis will not affect India, Wipro

Wipro chief Azim Premji said today the Euro zone debt crisis will have a minimal impact on India.

"It will blow over," Premji told reporters on the margins of a Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry meeting here.

Premji said Greece accounted for only 2.5 per cent of the domestic product of the European Union and about 0.3 per cent of the global GDP.

He said there was no impact on his company from the crisis.

FICCI president Rajan Bharti Mittal said the crisis had not caused any major concern among Indian exporters. "It is very minimal," he added.

However, if the crisis spreads, it could have huge impact on Indian exports, Mittal said.

Attacks on Indians will not affect trade: Australian official

The attacks on Indian students will not affect India-Australia trade, a senior official said here today. "These happenings would not cast any shadow on bilateral relations. Bilateral trade between the two countries is growing," Michael Carter, counsellor-commercial of the Australian Trade Commission, told reporters on the sidelines of a seminar. Bilateral trade between the two countries in 2008-09 was Australian $21.7 billion. In 2008-09, India organisations invested A$69 million in foreign direct investment in Australia. Carter said Indian accumulated investment in Australia is to the tune of A$1 billion, of which 80 percent is invested in mining and rest in agri-business and information technology. He informed that India ranks fourth in bilateral trade now and would soon take the third position. The official said a few Australian companies were looking at investing in logistics chain in agri-business in Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. Carter said the country is now looking at setting up trade commissions in tier-II cities like Ahmedabad, Pune, Kochi, Jaipur and Chandigarh. Many incidents of attacks on Indian students have been reported in Australia over the last few months. In January, an accounting student Nitin Garg was stabbed in a suburban Melbourne park when he was walking home at night after the end of his workshift at a fast-food restaurant. Also, the recent killing of a three-year old boy Gurshan Singh Kaurchanna in a Melbourne suburb created a stir.

Government asks 3G auction winners to pay by May 31

The Indian government today approved the results of the auction of spectrum for third generation (3G) telecom services and asked the winning firms to make payments by May 31.

The auction, which concluded on Wednesday, has fetched the exchequer Rs.67,718.95 crore ($15 billion). The amount is set to prune the government's fiscal deficit, pegged at Rs.381,408 crore ($84 billion) for this year.

"The government has approved the results of the 3G spectrum auction," said a statement from the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).

A committee, headed by the cabinet secretary, was to formally approve the auction results.

The 3G auction, which began on April 9, was conducted over 34 days and involved 183 rounds of bidding across 22 service areas.

The DoT has issued separate instructions to the winners, including Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, Reliance Communications and Aircel, on the payment mechanism and further steps.

All the winners will have to deposit the money by May 31, a DoT official said.

The winning firms will be allowed to offer 3G services on a commercial basis from Sep 1.

The state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL), which were issued airwaves for 3G services earlier, will have to pay the government spectrum fee based on the winner's price for the circles where these companies operate.

The DoT has also written a letter to these companies to make the payments for the 3G spectrum within 10 days, the official said.

While MTNL will have to shell out Rs.6,564 crore for Delhi and Mumbai, BSNL will have to pay the government Rs.10,186.6 crore for the rest of the circles.

The companies have earlier clarified that they have not sought any concessions from the government on the payments.

The Dot also said the auction of airwaves for broadband wireless access (BWA) services will begin on Monday.

As many as 11 companies -- Bharti Airtel, Reliance WiMax, Idea Cellular, Aircel, Augere Mauritius Limited, Infotel Broadband Services, Qualcomm, Spice Internet Service Provider, Tata Communications Internet Services, Tikona Digital Networks and Vodafone Essar -- will participate in the BWA auction.

The government has set Rs.1,750 crore as the base price for a pan-India BWA slot.

Auction for broadband wireless services to begin on Monday

The auction of airwaves for broadband wireless access (BWA) services, which was scheduled to start on Saturday, will now begin on Monday, an official from the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) said today.

"The government today (Friday) approved the results of 3G auction. The auction for BWA will begin Monday," the official told the media.

As many as 11 companies -- Bharti Airtel, Reliance WiMax, Idea Cellular, Aircel, Augere Mauritius Limited, Infotel Broadband Services, Qualcomm, Spice Internet Service Provider, Tata Communications Internet Services, Tikona Digital Networks and Vodafone Essar -- will participate in the BWA auction.

The government has set Rs.1,750 crore as the base price for a BWA slot.

Global investment bank Rothschild and telecom auction services provider dot.econ are advising the government on the auction.

The DoT says the aim of the auction is to award spectrum transparently and fairly to generate revenue for the public purse, ensuring effective competition and getting a market-determined price for the spectrum.

The auction to award spectrum for third generation (3G) telecom services concluded Wednesday, fetching Rs.67,718.95 crore ($15 billion) to the state exchequer.

Economist brings 'Mahabharata' in English for GenY

Economist Bibek Debroy has literally taken on a task of epic proportions in his new avatar as a translator of the "Mahabharata", with the first of nine English volumes hitting the bookstores. The book has been published by Penguin-Books India. The volume, an introduction to the epic, begins with a list of contents and a summary of everything that is in the "Mahabharata". Debroy, who took time out from his busy schedule at the Delhi-based Centre for Policy Research, where he works as an economist, told the media: "I have been translating from Sanskrit for a long time. I find time on holidays, weekends and evenings." He decided to translate the Mahabharata "primarily because familiarity with Sanskrit as a language is dying out. If familiarity with the corpus is not to die out, the epic needs to be accessible in English." "The first decades of the 21st century are quite unlike the first decades of the 20th century. Lamentations over what is inevitable serves no purpose. English is increasingly becoming the global language, courtesy colonies rather than the former coloniser." The "Mahabharata" is the story of a fabled struggle for power between two fraternities of royal scions, the Kauravas, sons of King Kuru; and the Pandavas, sons of King Pandu, over territory, with Lord Krishna as the adviser. Part myth, part history, the epic is a tale of India with its numerous kingships, discords and politics. History cites that Kuru kingdom flourished between 1,200 BC and 800 BC in areas adjoning modern-day Delhi. Written by Vedavyasa, the "Mahabharata" comprises 100,000 shlokas or couplets. Debroy's book is divided into 15 sections. The writer says he "had to cut down on socialising to write the book". "Most people thought I was mad. Among those who believed that it was worthwhile beyond immediate family are Ashok Desai, Pratap Bhanu Mehta and Laveesh Bhandari," the economist recounted. The "Mahabharata" has few translated English versions. "Contrary to impression, the epic has two complete and unabridged English translations. Both date back to the late 19th century. The others are all abridged translations." Work on the first volume started "some time in 2007 and took about a year," Debroy said, "but that is because several things had to be sorted out since it was the first volume. Once the template has been decided, each volume should take about six months," he said. The current volume strives to place the "Mahabharata" as a story that was recited at Janamejaya's snake sacrifice. Janamejaya was the king of the ancient mythical kingdom of Takshashila, which traces its origin to the Vayu Puranas. The oral tradition of storytelling led to several digressions like in the early story of the serpents, Takshaka, Poushya, Puloma and Bhrigu lineage. The translator's attempts to probe the slaughter of snakes leads him to the story of mythical bird Garuda and Astika, who rescued the snakes. The book subsequently traces how gods and demons were incarnated on earth, the genealogy of the Kauravas and Pandavas and the growing animosity between them. It ends with Draupadi's wedding to Pandu's sons and the acquisition of a slice of the kingdom by the Pandava brothers. Debroy said he stuck to the Critical Edition of the epic "to keep the English as smooth as possible, while retaining the authenticity of the text, including the structure of sentences." The Critical Edition of the "Mahabharata" is a compilation of the epic by a group of scholars at the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute in Pune. It was compiled during 1919-1966. "I also added footnotes to ensure that the translation is clear to the readers. Without footnotes, the translation is sometimes not clear," he said. Debroy read several unabridged versions of the epic to plan the "sequence of his series".

Crashed aircraft adhered to landing procedures: aviation ministry

The Air India Express plane, which crashed at Mangalore airport today, was adhering to standard landing procedures while in the air and had been given landing clearance when it was still four miles away from touchdown, the civil aviation ministry said. "The aircraft was following ILS Approach for landing on runway 24 and the pilot reported to ATC that it is established on ILS approach at about 10 miles from touch down. Landing clearance was given at about four miles from touchdown," said a statement from the ministry. An ILS, or instrument landing system, is a ground-based instrument approach system that provides precision guidance to an aircraft approaching and landing on a runway. "Aircraft touched down on the runway 24 slightly beyond the touch down zone, overshot the runway and went in the valley beyond the runway," it added. At least 158 people were killed in the crash. Runway 24's length is approximately is 2,450 metres (8,000 feet) and an end safety area of 90 metres. "This runway was commissioned in 2006 and remained operational since then. ILS was operating normal. No problem was reported by pilot," said the statement. The airport at Bajpe, about 30 km from Mangalore, is in a hilly area and considered one of the most difficult airports to take off and land. The area had been experiencing heavy rains for the last two days. Details of the crashed aircraft and events preceding the crash, according to the ministry of civil aviation: Time of crash: 6.05 a.m. Flight: Air India Express Flight No. 812 Type : Boeing 737-800 Route : Dubai to Mangalore Total Persons on Board : 166 (137 adults, 19 children, 4 infants and 6 crew) Weather Conditions : visibility 6 km, calm wind and no rain reported at time of crash

Survivor jumped out of gap in broken aircraft: relative

one of the survivors of the air crash, Umar Farooq, said he escaped by jumping out of from a gap when the plane broke immediately after shooting off the runway at the Mangalore airport.

"He told us that as soon as the aircraft started landing, the front wheel burst and the plane shot off the runway before catching fire. There was a crack in the aircraft. He jumped out of it and ran away," Farooq's relative told media.

"There were two-three people who also jumped out. But we don't know if they survived. Umar Farooq received burn injuries on his hand and face," said the relative.

Farooq also told his family that there was no pre-landing message from the crew and the passengers were not even asked to fasten their seat belts.

Helpline numbers for Mangalore airplane crash

Following are the helpline numbers where information on the Mangalore Air India Express airplane crash can be ascertained: Mangalore: (0824) 222 04 22/201 01 67 Delhi: (011) 256 031 01 Bangalore:(080) 222 73310 Dubai: (00971) 4 2165829

Mangalore crash is 11th major air accident of India

The plane crash at the Mangalore airport that killed over 160 people today is the 11th major air accident involving Indian carriers or in the country’s air space since 1962. The following is the list of some major air crashes: - July 7, 1962: Alitalia Flight 771 from Sydney crashed into a hill about 84 km north-east of Mumbai while on approach, killing all 94 people on board. - Jan 1, 1978: Air India Flight 855 bound for Dubai crashed about 3 km off the coast of Bandra in Mumbai, killing all 213 people on board. - June 21, 1982: Air India Flight 403 from Kuala Lumpur and Chennai crashed at Sahar International Airport in Mumbai, killing two of 12 crew members and 15 of 99 passengers. - June 23, 1985: Air India Flight 182 bound from Montreal to Mumbai, via London and Delhi, was blown up over Irish air space, killing all 329 on board. - Oct 19, 1988: Indian Airlines Flight 113 from Mumbai crashed on its final approach to Ahmedabad airport, killing 130 people. - Feb 14, 1990: Indian Airlines Flight 605 from Mumbai crashed on its final approach to Bangalore airport, killing 92 people. The crash had 54 survivors. - Aug 16, 1991: Indian Airlines Flight 257 from Kolkata crashed into a hill, some 40 km south-west of Imphal, killing all 69 occupants. - April 26, 1993: Indian Airlines Flight 491 on its connecting route from Delhi to Mumbai, with stops at Jaipur and Udaipur, collided with a truck during take off from Aurangabad, killing 63 people. Fifty-five people survived. - Nov 12, 1996: Saudi Arabian Airlines Flight 763 and Kazakhstan Airlines Flight 1907 crashed mid-air at Charkhi Dadri village near Delhi, killing all 349 people on board on both flights. - July 17, 2000: Alliance Air flight CD 7412 crashed at Patna Airport killing 60 people.

India welcomes nuclear policies of Iran, differs with US

Looks like India's differences with the US regarding the nuclear policies of Iran are gradually coming to the fore. The Union External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna has disagreed with the US and appreciated Iran's decision to provide Turkey with its stock of low enriched uranium. They have hailed it as a constructive move on part of Iran.

Krishna made the comments while speaking to the media regarding the decision of US to rally together other members of the UN Security Council and place restrictions on Iran. Iran has signed a swap deal with Turkey whereby they would be receiving fuel rods in lieu of low-enriched uranium weighing 2640 pounds. The fuel rods would be utilised for purposes of setting up a medical research reactor.

Krishna was in Tehran when Iran finalised the nuke deal with Turkey. He does not corroborate the view that nuclear sanctions against Iran are absolutely necessary. He said that efforts should be made so that Iran could come back to the mainstream and deal with the International Atomic Energy Agency in a direct way. However, he is not sure what would transpire in the future.

These remarks give an indication that India may be trying to improve its relations with Iran after it had ostensibly miffed the Asian nation by voting against it at the IAEA.

Gorkha League chief Madan Tamang killed, Darjeeling tense

Gorkha leader Madan Tamang, president of the Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League (ABGL), was today stabbed to death allegedly by Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) supporters in this West Bengal town, police said. News of the death led to a spontaneous shutdown in the region. Tamang, who led the anti-GJM front in the Darjeeling hills, was hit with a kukri (long knife used by Nepalis) at around 9.30 a.m., an official said. "He was critically injured in the attack and died in the Darjeeling District Hospital," Darjeeling police station inspector-in-charge Indrajit Thapa told media. State Municipal Affairs Minister Ashok Bhattacharya said in Kolkata that GJM supporters had carried out the attack on Tamang. "The GJM's goons have committed the murder. GJM is a fascist party, which does not want any opposition in the hills. They are opposed to a democratic atmosphere prevailing in the hills," he said. "We are deeply concerned. The hills are very tense," said Bhattacharya, who hails from Siliguri in Darjeeling district. As news of Tamang's killing spread, a spontaneous shutdown began in the three Darjeeling hill sub-divisions of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong. Vehicles in Darjeeling went off the roads, while shops and markets were closed. On hearing about the attack on Tamang, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee convened an emergency meeting at the state secretariat Writers' Buildings here and directed police and administrative officials to take all measures to keep the situation under control. Tamang, a vocal opponent of the GJM, had earlier levelled corruption charges against its chief Bimal Gurung. The GJM had then threatened to banish him from the hills.

'Rent-a-riot' Muthalik pays for his fanaticism

Pramod Muthalik, the self-appointed Hindutva protector, has been thriving on controversies - from making inflammatory statements to being involved in attacks. But now he is battling an expose showing him willing to organise violent protests for a few lakhs of rupees.

While he garners huge space in the media by making provocative statements, the 47-year-old Hindu fanatic has little support, either in his home state Karnataka or other parts of the country.

Over the years, Muthalik has traversed from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) to his own outfit Sri Rama Sene, via stints in the Bajrang Dal and Shiv Sena.

But following the expose by the media last week, RSS spokesperson Ram Madhav and several Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders have again asserted that Muthalik has no connection with their organisations.

A day after the channel telecast the sting operation 'Rent-a-riot', Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa claimed: "I don't know anything about Muthalik. I read about him in the newspaper."

He said: "Police will take the appropriate decision at the appropriate time. We don't interfere in such matters. Police are there, and they will proceed according to law and will take action."

Muthalik has filed a police complaint against the media sought a probe into the incident. He has denied organising riots for money, though the sting operation claims he agreed to vandalise an art show for Rs.60 lakh.

Bangalore Police say they will take action after studying the video footage. In the footage telecast, Muthalik is heard as saying: "I can't get directly involved. I have an image in society - that of being a man of principles and a Hindutva supporter. I don't want one incident to spoil that."

He is in for a long haul and legal battle to retain the image he claims to have while trying to portray himself as a victim of the forces opposed to his brand of Hindutva.

The notoriety of 1963-born Muthalik reached its peak when his men attacked young girls at a pub in Karnataka's coastal town of Mangalore, about 350 km from here, in January 2009. Muthalik sought to justify the shocking incident of young women being pulled by hair, thrashed and pushed around by saying women going to pubs was against Hindu culture.

Apparently egged by the publicity the pub attack got him, he threatened to marry off men and women publicly displaying their love on Valentine's Day in February 2009.

He meekly withdrew the threat following nationwide condemnation, a cheeky 'Send Pink Chaddi' (innerwear) campaign on the net and unprecedented support from various organisations, including farmers, in Karnataka for those wanting to celebrate the day.

Born into a Marathi family in Hukkeri in Belgaum, bordering Maharashtra, Muthalik joined the RSS in 1975 at the age of 13.

Nine years later, he became the south India convener of the Bajrang Dal in 2004 and also worked for the BJP in the assembly polls that year. The Bajrang Dal found his hardline views tough to swallow and threw him out just a year later.

With fanfare, Muthalik joined the Shiv Sena in August 2005 only to leave a year later as the party again raised the demand for merger of Marathi-speaking areas of Belgaum with Maharashtra.

Finding himself not wanted in the many pro-Hindu outfits, Muthalik floated the Rashtriya Hindu Sena as a political platform. Sri Rama Sene is an offshoot of the Rashtriya Hindu Sena.

What followed has been there for all to see.

CBSE Class 12 results announced

Ending the anxious wait, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) today announced the Class 12 exam results of Delhi, Guwahati and Allahabad zones.

The results for Ajmer, Chennai and Panchkula regions were declared on Wednesday.

According to a CBSE spokesperson, the results of the remaining zones were uploaded on the CBSE website at around 8 a.m.

Making a beeline for cyber cafes and frantically dialling the number given by the CBSE board, nervous students and their equally anxious parents in the capital were seen checking the results.

This year, 699,129 students -- 408,367 boys and 290,762 girls -- took the Class 12 board exams in the country and abroad.

Students can get their results on their e-mail address too by registering themselves on, and, the spokesperson said.

'Fernandes was assisted in taking Rajya Sabha oath'

A Right to Information (RTI) response has revealed that former defence minister George Fernandes, who is suffering from Alzheimer's, had symptoms of physical disability even at the time of taking oath as a Rajya Sabha member last year. "At the time of taking the oath, a fellow member, Shivanand Tiwari, had to assist him (Fernandes) in reading the oath-script," said Subhash Chandra Agrawal, RTI activist. According to Agrawal, such an "assisted" reading of the oath script is meaningless both in terms of practical reading and in terms of the oath script which mentions that a member would faithfully discharge the duty upon which he or she is about to enter. "Can a person who is so unfit to take an unassisted oath, faithfully discharge the duty as member of the Rajya Sabha?" questioned Agrawal. George Fernandes, 79, is suffering from Alzheimer's which was first diagnosed in 2006. The RTI revelation comes at the time when the wife and brothers of the ailing former defence minister Thursday told the Delhi High Court that no settlement was possible over his treatment. The court had advised them to resolve amicably their differences over his treatment and interaction with relatives. The RTI response also revealed that Fernandes is occupying a ministerial bungalow, to which he is not entitled as a member of the Rajya Sabha. The RTI reply came from the Rajya Sabha Secretariat.

Caste-based census controversy reaches apex court

The controversy over the caste-based census today reached the Supreme Court after a Chennai-based advocate filed a pre-emptive caveat, praying that if the Madras High Court verdict asking the census commissioner to carry out a caste-based census is challenged, he should be afforded an opportunity of being heard.

Advocate R.Krishnamurthy filed the caveat - an application praying the court not to grant relief to an anticipated petitioner without hearing the person filing the caveat - apprehending that the census commissioner might challenge the high court verdict.

In his earlier petition before the Madras High Court, the advocate pleaded that several political parties, MPs and state legislators had made representations to the census Commissioner that the 2011 census should also include caste identities of segments of the population.

The last caste-based census was conducted in the country in 1931 during British rule.

Brazilian-Indian soap 'Passage to India' premieres on Kazakh TV

'Passage to India', a Brazilian-Indian soap that has successfully brought India into the living rooms of a large numbers of Brazilian homes for close to a year now debuted today on the premier Kazakh entertainment TV Channel 31. The soap, or novella, as it is called in Brazil, is titled "Caminho das Indias" in the original Portuguese. It is a 50-50 mix between India and Brazil with beautiful Brazilian girls falling head over heels in love with Indians and vice-versa, leading to complicated love triangles and hilarious situations in the two countries. The roles are performed by popular Brazilian stars, with the story being recounted in Portuguese and with a liberal sprinkling of colloquial Hindi phrases. The Indian embassy in capital Astana worked with Channel 31 to bring the serial to Kazakhstan. It will be telecast on prime time every working day in Russian and rebroadcast the next morning in the Kazakh language. Speaking at the inaugural launch ceremony, Indian Ambassador Ashok Sajjanhar said the decision by a commercial channel to bring the soap to Kazakhstan was evidence of the growing and vibrant relations between the two countries. Referring to the keen interest amongst the people of Kazakhstan in Indian dance, music, culture, films, food, customs and traditions, he recalled the grand gala concerts organised by the Embassy in Almaty and Astana in November 2009 which were so popular that hundreds of viewers had to go back disappointed as they were not able to get admission to the auditorium. The embassy will continue to organise and bring new programmes to showcase both classical and mainstream contemporary Indian culture to the people of Kazakhstan, Sajjanhar added. He said that although several instances and portrayals in the soap might be clichéd, stereotyped or somewhat inaccurate, they will go a significant way in raising curiosity and interest of the people of Kazakhstan to know more about developments and evolution of the Indian society. Sajjanhar said that the embassy would shortly establish an India-Kazakhstan Cultural and Humanitarian Forum to promote greater understanding and appreciation of each other's heritage and legacy between the peoples of the two countries. The budget of the soap has exceeded $50 million. It has run successfully in Brazil for about a year and is now all set to take over the minds and thoughts of people in Kazakhstan. The soap has been filmed in Rio de Janeiro and Dubai, as well as in Jaipur and Mumbai and won an Emmy Award in 2009. "The telecast of this serial will go a significant way in further promoting understanding and cooperation and strengthening relations between India and Kazakhstan," an embassy statement said.

'Kites' not to release in Karnataka

The much-awaited movie "Kites", starring Hrithik Roshan and Barbara Mori, slated to be released all over the world on Friday, is not to be screened in Karnataka, the state's film association has said. In a special top level meeting, the Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce (KFCC) today night decided that "Kites" will not be screened in any theatre in Karnataka. Basanth Kumar Patil, president of KFCC, told IANS that the executive meeting decided against allowing the film's screening because its makers have "violated the regulatory principles of the chamber". "The film's release will be detrimental to the interest of Kannada cinema if it is allowed to be screened all over," Patil said. All single screen and multiplex halls are members of KFCC. No representative of Reliance was present at the meeting today evening. Big Pictures owned by Reliance Group is releasing the film. Kannada film producers and film distributors of all languages who are members of the Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce have protested against the film as it was slated to release in more than 90 theatres, exceeding the limit of 24 theatres stipulated in the state. Patil had earlier said that many big Hindi films starring Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan like "3 Idiots" and "My Name is Khan" have been released in fewer than 24 theatres and the distributors of these major films complied with the KFCC orders.

Censor board undecided over 'Raajneeti': Prakash Jha

After being dogged by a slew of controversies, Prakash Jha's upcoming political drama "Raajneeti" has now landed in censorship trouble. The censor board is still undecided whether to give it a U or U/A certificate.

Jha has also quashed rumours that his movie title was lifted.

"There is a (censor) board category dispute going on whether a U or a U/A certificate is to be given to the film. There is a difference of opinion there for the voting of the category of the film," Jha told reporters here on Thursday.

"It is a difficult film and it took time to make it, so it will take some time for them (censor board) too," he added.

The 58-year-old slammed the claim by filmmaker Kamaal R. Khan that his movie title has been lifted. Khan has claimed that the title was registered under his name for he last five years.

"There is no problem with the title. We have it since the last nine years. We'll soon come out of it and everyone will see... it is just that someone is trying to cash in on our name," he said.

Jha was here on Thursday evening at the PVR Cinemas, Select Citywalk, Saket, to promote the movie. Also present with him were the cast of the film Ranbir Kapoor, Katrina Kaif and Arjun Rampal.

"Raajneeti" also stars Nana Patekar, Naseeruddin Shah, Ajay Devgn and Manoj Bajpai.

Sushmita Sen now wants a biological child

After adopting two children, former Miss Universe and actor Sushmita Sen now wants to give birth to a child. "I will go for biological baby because the clock is ticking for me," Sushmita, 34, told reporters on Thursday on the sidelines of a preparatory workshop for the 2010 Miss Universe pageant. Sushmita’s production company Tantra Entertainment was awarded the India franchise to select participants by the Miss Universe Organisation. The Hyderabad-born actress ducked questions about her marriage. "I said the clock is ticking... I never said anything about marriage," she snapped when reporters asked whether marriage was on the cards. "Every girl wants her prince charming. I have stopped thinking about it long back but still I want it," said the actress. Sushmita adopted daughter Renee in 2000 and another girl Alisah in January.

Bollywood hones the art of multilinguals

For movies like "Raavan", "Rakta Charitra" and "The Business Man", the makers are using the same locations, resources, mostly the same cast and shooting them simultaneously in different languages. The result is two films almost at the cost of one. Bollywood filmmakers now wield the megaphone for multilinguals that target a wider market. "The cost of making a film has gone so high that makers are getting into making multilingual films so that the loss is minimised by targeting the film at a wider audience and the reach of the film increases," trade analyst Komal Nahta, told the media. "This (multilingual films) is a profitable trend and will stay on for at least some time," he added. Ram Gopal Varma has shot his upcoming trilingual two-part thriller "Rakta Charitra" in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu. Based on the life of an alleged outlaw Paritala Ravi, it stars Vivek Oberoi, Shatrughan Sinha and Tamil superstar Surya. "Because of the subject matter of the film ('Rakta Charitra'), it was made a trilingual and also because of Tamil star Surya's presence in the film," said Varma. He has also decided to go trilingual in "The Business Man", which gives crime a facelift. He will repeat Surya in the new gangster movie that will be made in Tamil, Telugu and Hindi. The National Film Development Corporation of India (NFDC) is working on the country's first Hindi-Assamese movie. The Hindi version is titled "As The River Flows" while the Assamese one is called "Ekhon Nedhekha Nadir Shipaare". A socio-political thriller, the movie is inspired by a true incident and shot on location in Assam. Written and directed by National Award winning filmmaker Bidyut Kotoky, it stars Victor Banerjee, Sanjay Suri, Raj Zutshi, Nakul Vaid, Naved Aslam and debutante actress Bidita Bag in both versions. "Most of the filmmakers are working on two languages because of market demands and the add-on aspect is culture. This works in two ways - one is that the market gets expanded and, secondly, artistically speaking, you can transcend barriers," film critic Utpal Borpujari, who is the script consultant for "As The River Flows", told the media. "Like in the case of 'Raavan', Mani Ratnam is bringing it in Tamil and Hindi so you can transpose Tamil film sensibilities on the Hindi audiences." In 2009, Reliance BIG Pictures released bilingual supernatural thriller - "13B... Fear Has A New Address" in Hindi and as "Yuvarum Nalam" in Tamil. Both the versions were simultaneously shot and released. Directed by National Award winner Vikram K. Kumar, it starred R. Madhavan and Neetu Chandra. "It was an added responsibility to find actors who can not only act but are also fluent with both the languages," Kumar had said. DAR Motion Pictures recently produced Mahesh Manjrekar-directed "City of Gold" in Hindi and "Lalbaug Parel" in Marathi. Manjrekar's critically acclaimed Tabu- starrer "Astitva" (2000) was also shot in both Hindi and Marathi. The trend of bilingual and multilingual is not new in India. V. Shantaram, known as one of the founding fathers of Indian cinema, introduced it in 1932 when he made the first bilingual talkie in Marathi and Hindi. Based on the mythological story of Raja Harishchandra and his test by sage Vishwamitra, the Marathi version was titled "Ayodhyecha Raja" and Hindi was called "Ayodhya Ka Raja". In the following year Shantaram gave India its first trilingual movie called "Sairandhri" that was made in Hindi, Marathi and Telugu.

Indian road show woos Canadian tourists

India on Thursday made a strong pitch to woo tourists from Canada, with Tourism Secretary Sujit Banerjee and Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) delegates luring visitors with presentations on the country's exotic sites. "India offers a myriad experiences, it is a holistic destination and it is an enlightened holiday for any foreign visitors," Banerjee told Canadian travel and tour operators as part of PATA India's road show in North America. The road show is aimed at selling India as an exotic place to North Americans to further raise foreign tourist traffic from 5.1 million last year. Currently only about 400,000 visitors travel between India and Canada each year, with the Canadians, mostly NRIs, accounting for 80 percent of the tourist traffic between the two countries. Inviting Canadians to have a " taste of India", Banerjee said India is "a journey of mind and soul and the five senses". India stood out for its unique tourist destinations such as the Himalayas "which can be seen from the north-east to Sikkim to Hiamchal to Jammu and Kashmir, the ancient temple of Mahabalipuram, tea gardens and its rich wildlife, he said. Stressing that the country is fast emerging as a favourite destination for heritage tourism, Banerjee said, "India is a 5,000-year-old civilization and the birthplace of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism...and 27 of its sites are now UNESCO's heritage list. So come and see those." Wellness and adventure tourism was also booming, he said. "India is promoting wellness tourism in a big way. Our wellness industry is a combination of ayurveda,yoga, siddha and unani systems and we have wonderful resorts for this kind of tourism. We also offer so much in adventure tourism." To give foreign tourists a glimpses of the British Raj, he said India was adding more luxury trains. After the hit Palace on Wheels, Royal Rajasthan on Wheels, Deccan Odyssey and the Golden Chariot, the tourism department has already added the Maharaja Express to enhance luxury for foreign tourists, the tourism secretary said. Further, India also offers 166 rural exotic sites and is adding 90,000 more hotel rooms in the next five years, Banerjee said.

AirAsia launches flight to Bangalore

Malaysian low-cost carrier AirAsia launched its inaugural flight to India's Bangalore city, carrying 15 children with congenital heart disease who need open heart surgery. The children will undergo surgery at the Narayana Hrudayalaya Heart Institute in Bangalore, whose chief Devi Shetty is a familiar name here as he regularly performs surgeries, media reported today. AirAsia group commercial regional head Kathleen Tan said the airline was excited about the launch, adding that the service was expected to promote medical tourism in India. Headed by ethnic Indian Tony Fernandes, AirAsia sees a huge demand from the health sector with patients seeking medical assistance from institutions based in Bangalore. "The daily service is also expected to cater to significant traffic including business and leisure travellers and students to and from the technology hub in southern India," Tan said here on Thursday. With the launch, Bangalore has become the seventh destination in India for AirAsia after Thiruvananthapuram, Kolkata, Chennai, Kochi, Tiruchirapalli and Mumbai. The carrier, which will be using its brand new Airbus A320 aircraft on the Kuala Lumpur-Bangalore route, recorded a 100 percent load on its inaugural flight. AirAsia is also offering fares as low as RM25 ($7.5) to those travelling from Bangalore as part of its recently-announced promotion of one million free seats.

Piramal sells healthcare business to US firm

Piramal Healthcare today said it will sell its healthcare solutions business in India, Sri Lanka and Nepal to US-based Abbott for $3.72 billion. The business involves manufacturing, marketing and sales of branded pharmaceutical products. The company said in a regulatory filing that it will transfer its manufacturing facilities at Baddi in Himachal Pradesh and rights to around 350 brands and trademarks to Abbott. "The sale will also involve the transfer of the employees," it added. Of the total amount, Abbott will pay $2.12 billion on closing of the sale and the remaining $1.6 billion over the next four years. Piramal healthcare will retain its business of custom manufacturing for third parties, critical care, over the counter products, manufacture and supply of active pharmaceutical ingredients, vitamin, diagnostic medical devices, diagnostic services and clinical research services. As part of the terms of sale, Piramal and its associates will not engage in the business of generic pharmaceutical products in the finished form in India, nor market or manufacture the products which are the part of the sale in emerging markets. The deal is expected to be closed in the second half of 2010. The Piramal Healthcare scrip ruled 2.87 percent higher from its previous close at Rs.586 at the Bombay Stock Exchange today. The other group company, Piramal Lifesciences, was also up 4.98 percent at Rs.124.30.

Naval war room leak accused Shankaran arrested in London

In a major breakthrough, the key accused in the Naval war room leak case Ravi Shankaran has been arrested in London.

Confirming Shankran's arrest, a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) spokesperson here said Shankaran was arrested by the London Police and is at present out on bail.

The CBI has initiated the legal process for his extradition, the spokesman said.

A close relative of former Naval chief Admiral Arun Prakash, 46-year old Shankaran, is accused of passing vital security information to arms dealers.

A Delhi court had declared him a proclaimed offender and issued Interpol notices against him in 2006.

The government later revoked his passport and approached a British court for his arrest. He, however, gave police the slip.

Teaching should be the highest paying job: Aamir Khan

Actor Aamir Khan, who has raised pertinent questions about the education system through his applauded films "Taare Zameen Par" and "3 Idiots", believes that teaching should be made the highest paying job in India to encourage the best brains to join the profession. "By and large, people go for teaching who don't find jobs elsewhere. So if I don't find a job elsewhere I will get into teaching. Therefore the cream of minds from every field end up going into business or something else to achieve success in their lives. The reason is that our teaching jobs don't pay much. "For me as a part of society, we give maximum value to the teachers, which mean the teaching jobs should be the highest paying. So after getting an education of higher level, a student should feel that his first choice should be to be a teacher because they will feel much more respected, will have a better pay scale, a better life," said Aamir at the 1st anniversary of Forbes India magazine here on Thursday. Aamir maintains that students should be encouraged to enjoy education and eventually grow as good human beings. "I think we need to teach them to think for themselves, to explore. We need to allow them to challenge. So if a child gives an answer, which sounds incorrect to us, we must not put that child down, we must encourage him to think for himself and question us and encourage him to discover, search, enjoy and grow as a good human being," he said. Asked what is that one idea that would change the world, he said: "For me education is the big idea. When I say education, I mean education for all. I also mean not just teaching one particular subject to the children but rather allowing them to bloom by recognizing the uniqueness of children. Reaching education to each child... know India is a vast country but that would be the big idea." Aamir also said that that teaching profession should be given more value in Indian society to increase the quality of education. "It's not just about giving education but giving quality education. And by quality I mean the quality of teaching we do, and I think for that it is up to us how much value as a society we give to teaching. If we give lot of value to teaching then the quality of teaching also improves," he said.

US cartoonist distances herself from Prophet cartoon row

Seattle-based cartoonist Molly Norris has distanced herself from the raging row over "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day!", saying: "I never created a facebook page for EDMD. A stranger to me did so." Norris has written on her webpage: "Hello, I never created a facebook page for EDMD. A stranger to me did so. Thank You, Molly." "I did NOT 'declare' May 20 to be "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day". I made a cartoon about the television show South Park being censored. (I wish that was what our energies were going toward -- protesting's threat to Comedy Central, and Comedy Central's over reaction to it which set America on a slippery slope toward censorship!). "At any rate, my satirical poster, with a fake 'group' behind it (Citizens Against Citizens Against Humor) was taken seriously, hijacked and made viral. I never started a facebook page; I never set up any place for pepole (sic) to send drawings to and I never received any drawings (I see that two European graduate students and another woman started the facebook pages)." She went on to "apologize to people of Muslim faith and ask that this 'day' be called off" and she thanked "those who are turning this crazy thing into an opportunity for dialogue". Norris told Comic Riffs: "My cartoon was the beginning and end of expressing my personal views about Comedy Central's South Park censorship. If I had wanted my one-off cartoon to be the basis for a worldwide movement to draw Mohammed, then at this moment I should be thrilled." "But instead I am horrified!...The results have shown to be vitriolic and worse, offensive to Muslims who had nothing to do with the censorship issue I was inspired to draw about in the first place." Her initiative had turned into an online movement within days, as dozens of Facebook users started their own pages. The original group attracted tens of thousands of fans, according to a report by the US newspaper Seattle Times. Most Muslims consider the depiction of the Prophet to be blasphemous. Publication of cartoons of Mohammed in Danish newspapers in 2005 and 2006 sparked violent protests in Muslim countries that left around 500 dead, five of them in Pakistan. Demonstrations have also been held in Pakistan in protest at the initiative.


Court to decide on Rathore's appeal today

A court here will today pronounce its decision on an appeal by former Haryana police chief S.P.S. Rathore challenging his conviction for molesting teenager Ruchika Girhotra, who later committed suicide. Additional District and Sessions Judge Gurbir Singh heard the arguments of both sides on day-to-day basis for eight days. "We are expecting maximum jail term for Rathore. He deserves no mercy from any quarter and we have full belief in the Indian judiciary," Anand Parkash, main complainant in this case, told the media on Wednesday evening. A Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) special court had held Rathore guilty in December last year of molesting 15-year-old Ruchika in Panchkula town in August 1990. She committed suicide three years later. Anand's wife Madhu Parkash said, "We are eagerly waiting for the court's verdict and we are very optimistic about it. Rathore has used every means to prolong the proceedings of this case and to influence the eye-witnesses and police officials." The couple's daughter Aradhana, who has now migrated to Australia, was the eyewitness in the case. The probe agency's plea for enhancement of Rathore's sentence is also pending before the same court. Its decision will also be pronounced today. Rathore was sentenced to six months' rigorous imprisonment and fined Rs. 1000. He was, however, immediately granted bail.

Maoists blast rail track, torch diesel tankers on goods train

At least 15 diesel tankers caught fire when suspected Maoists derailed a goods train by blasting the railway track and then set afire one of the tankers in Bihar's Motihari district, a railway official said today.

The Maoists targeted the diesel tankers on the goods train between Jeevdhara and Pipra railway stations in Motihari, about 200 km from here.

"The goods train driver and guard informed us that suspected Maoists set afire an oil tanker. After that fire spread to other tankers," East Central Railway Chief Public Relation Officer Dilip Kumar told the media over telephone.

A local police official said that the fire was still raging.

"The fire is massive and we will have to wait for the fuel to burn out," he said.

Meanwhile, train services have been disrupted in north Bihar as the main track has been blocked, sources in the railways said.

Life in India to get more expensive after rise in gas prices

Looks like things are going to get even pricier in India after the central government has raised the prices of state owned gas in Mumbai and Delhi by more than two times. Households in these two cities are expected to bear increased cooking gas prices in addition to transportation expenses. To top it all electricity costs across India would be going up as well. However, the extent would not be comparable to the rise in prices of cooking gas or fuel.

The Indian government has increased the costs of state produced gas, which is provided to Oil India and Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, to $4.20 on a per unit basis. The previous price was $1.79. The decision, which came sans any bidding, has been taken so that these companies are able to retrieve their operational expenses. The new prices would also be applicable for the offshore field operated at Andhra Pradesh by Reliance Industries Ltd.

As per calculations this decision would lead to a rise of Rs. 6 per kilogram of Compressed Natural Gas in Delhi. This price would also include wheeling expenses and taxes. The impact is expected to be the same in Mumbai as well. As per regular cubic metre, the price of piped cooking gas, used in kitchens, could go up by Rs. 3.50 for every unit.

Cyclone Laila shows signs of weakening, Andhra on alert

According to the latest report of the Meteorological department the much feared Cyclone Laila has shown signs of weakening.

However, the winds have already created havoc in Andhra Pradesh's coastal dictricts including Nellore. Besides doing damage to the infrastructure, the winds have also disrupted communication and power supplies.

The cyclone is likely to hit Andhra Pradesh coast today evening with a wind speed of 120 kms per hour. Moreover, the Met department has also warned of six-foot high tidal waves.

Presently, the cyclone is centered along the Andhra coast, from Nellore to Vishakhapatnam. There are high chances that the tidal waves will flood the coastal areas of Guntur, Krishna and East and West Godavari districts.

Andhra Pradesh and its neighboring state Tamil Nadu are preparing to face the tropical cyclone.

Afzal Guru should be hanged at the earliest: Digvijay Singh

Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh today said that Parliament House attack convict Afzal Guru should be hanged at the earliest.

"The Supreme Court has given him the punishment. It should be done at the earliest," Singh told reporters here.

Singh's views are at variance with the official stance of the Congress on the issue. The party on Monday steered clear of the issue, saying that mercy petition of Afzal Guru was a matter to be decided by the president, and the central and Delhi governments.

Congress spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi said it was outside the purview of the party to comment on the mercy petition of Afzal. He said the Delhi government and the home ministry had "all the facts" relating to the issue.

The Delhi government on Tuesday forwarded the file on Guru's mercy petition to Lieutenant Governor Tejendra Khanna with its suggestions. Khanna's office later returned the file to the state home department seeking some clarifications, government sources said but did not give any details.

Official sources said the state government has not opposed the death sentence awarded to Guru by a trial court in December 2002.

Happy with revenues from 3G auction: Raja

Union Communications Minister A. Raja today said the government is happy with the successful and timely completion of the auction of spectrum for third generation (3G) telecom services, which has fetched the exchequer Rs.67,718.95 crore ($15 billion).

"The auction has done well beyond the government's expectations. I am happy to see that there are more revenues than expected," Raja said.

The government had hoped to collect Rs.35,000 crore ($7.75 billion) after auctioning the airwaves for both 3G services and broadband.

The auction for broadband spectrum is to begin only on Saturday, with the potential to fetch another $7.5 billion to the government.

"I hope competition will be very high for the BWA (broadband wireless access) spectrum bidding as well," the minister said.

The minister has been in controversies over the allocation of 2G telecom spectrum.

The opposition called it the mother of all scams that caused a $13 billion loss to the exchequer.

The controversy over the award of 2G spectrum dates back to 2008.

During that time, telecom licences and spectrum were awarded to new players on a first-come-first-served basis on price levels prevailing in 2001, without provisions to ensure that the companies do not dilute their shareholding.

However, the minister maintained that he had followed the same procedures as his predecessors had in terms of rules and procedures and that there was no deviation at all.

Bhupathi, Bopanna in doubles quarters at Nice

India's Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna advanced with their respective partners to the doubles quarterfinals of the 398,250 euros Open de Nice tennis here.

The top seeded pair of Bhupathi and Max Mirnyi defeated Briton Ross Hutchins and Jordan Kerr of Australia in the first round 6-1, 7-5 while Bopanna with Pakistan's Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi registered a fighting 7-5, 6-7(6), 10-4 win over Germany's Simon Greul and Rogier Wassen of the Netherlands on Tuesday.

Bhupathi and Mirnyi next play Italians Andreas Seppi and Potito Starace, who overcame Philipp Max of Germany and Igor Zelenay of Slovakia 6-2, 6-7(1), 11-9.

Bopanna-Qureshi are up against Britons Colin Fleming and Ken Skupski who knocked out Sweden's Robert Lindstedt and Romanian Horia Tecau 6-1, 6-7(4), 11-9.

Indian women's hockey team held 2-2 by New Zealand

The Indian women's hockey team were held 2-2 by New Zealand in their third Test Match at the Kett Capital Hockey Stadium in Napier today.

India led 2-1 at half time with goals from striker Saba Anjum (4th min) and Chanchan Thockchom (8th). The Black Sticks then got one back through a field goal to Stacey Brannigan, her first international goal, which she struck home from close range in the 27th minute.

India took the lead in the fourth minute after Anjum slammed in from a fast counter- attack and doubled the lead in the eighth minute when Chanchan deflected Subhadra Pradhan's penalty corner.

In the second half, New Zealand held the ball well and had a lot of possession but were unable to convert their chances until the 57th min when Stacey scored again with a diving deflection.

In the last 10 minutes, both the teams played at a high pace but were unable to break the deadlock.

Indian captain Surinder Kaur and Rani Rampal each had a good opportunity to score but the New Zealand defence foiled their attempts.

Indian goalkeeper Deepika Murty also made an important save in the final minute to deny the Black Sticks from securing their first win of the series.

India are leading 1-0 in the five-Test series having won the opener at Palmerston North, while the second Test was drawn. The final two matches of the series will be played in Wellington this weekend.

Shroff, Bisht lone Indians in ITF juniors semis

Indian wildcard Kyra Shroff brushed aside Natasha Palha 6-3, 6-1 and Ronit Bisht dispatched Hong Kong's Justin To 6-2,6-2 to enter the girls' and boys' semifinals in the International Tennis Federation (ITF) junior Grade II tournament at the DLTA complex here today. Shroff and Bisht are the only Indians in the fray. Palha, who knocked off fifth-seeded Chinese Lin Zhu in the quarterfinals, was off-colour against Shroff and her mounting errors only made things difficult for her. Shroff now plays second seed Chinese Ran Tian, who sent Japan's Miho Kowase packing 6-4, 6-4. In the other girls' quarterfinals, China's Zhaoxuan Yang shocked top seed Japanese Eri Hozumi 7-6(5), 6-2 to set up a semi-final clash with fourth-seeded compatriot Zi Yang, who outclassed city girl Ratnika Batra 6-1, 6-0. In the boys' section, seventh-seed Bisht is now up against second-seeded Chinese Chuhan Wang, who defeated India's Vinod Gowda 6-3, 6-0. Top seed Liang-Chi Huang of Chinese Taipei breezed past India's Mansingh Athare 6-1, 6-1 and now faces China's third seed Bowen Ouyang, who defeated eighth-seeded Indian Vaidik Munshaw 6-3, 6-3.

Hanks, Spielberg's $200 mn mini-series comes to India

How much does it take to make a 10-part mini-series for a channel? $200 million in this case, as Hollywood actor Tom Hanks and filmmaker Steven Spielberg have put in for World War II drama "The Pacific", which will be aired in India now.

The series is going on air on May 30 on HBO.

"At $200 million, this is the most expensive mini-series at HBO and it looks at the humane side of war. Shot at actual locations, it has 138 roles and the principal photography of the same took 10 months," said Shruti Bajpai, country manager, HBO South Asia.

"We were ready to launch 'The Pacific' in the US and India simultaneously, but that time was apt to play in the US but not in India as it was exams time and IPL (Indian Premier League) was going on here, but it (the series) is here in the same season," she added. "The Pacific" is produced by HBO, Seven Network Australia, Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman's Playtone and Steven Spielberg's DreamWorks Television. The period war series has an Indian connect too as some of the costumes for the same were made in India, said Bajpai.

Based on two memoirs of US Marines - "With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa" by Eugene Sledge and "Helmet for My Pillow" by Robert Leckie - the series premiered in the US on March 14 to positive reviews.

James Badge Dale, Jon Seda and Joseph Mazzello play leads in the series that focuses on the US Marine Corps' actions in the Pacific.

HBO India is also coming out with three other original series this year - "Bored To Death", Golden Globe nominated series "Hung" and "The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency".

HBO is also planning to bring third and seventh seasons of hit series "True Blood" and "Entourage" to India.

Manish Malhotra outfits Kareena for IIFA performance

Manish Malhotra says he has designed Kareena Kapoor's costumes for her stage performance at the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) awards 2010 in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo next month. "I am doing the finale fashion show there and also designing Kareena Kapoor's costumes for her performance," Malhotra told IANS in an interview. Aamir Khan-starrer "3 Idiots" has bagged the maximum number of nominations at the IIFA. It has received 14 nominations, including best film, best actor, best director and best actress among others. Malhotra believes that director Rajkumar Hirani's film deserves all the awards. "I think '3 Idiots' deserves all the awards. I loved the film. It's a huge hit. It should sweep all the awards," said Malhotra. The IIFA awards are being held on June 3-5

All my dancing was extempore: Shammi Kapoor

His energetic, untamed, inimitable and sometimes crazy dance moves were a hit with all age groups. Veteran actor Shammi Kapoor reveals he never worked with a choreographer and created every step spontaneously for the camera.

"I was very much influenced by my own self," Kapoor, 78, told the media in an exclusive interview.

"Technology at that time was not all that advanced. Today you can see an Elvis Presley film, make it stop frame and see it frame by frame. We used to go to the cinema halls once in a while. Things that I used to like in the movies used to stay in my mind and later I used to use them in my songs.

"There's a song 'Don't be cruel'. I took that and put it in 'Dil de ke dekho...' song. As far as the dancing is concerned, I made it all by myself. I never knew what would be my next step."

Some of his timeless hits include "Baar baar dekho", "Badan pe sitare", "Yahoo", "Aaja Aaja main hoon pyaar tera", "Aye hasina zulfon wali", "Aaj kal tere mere pyaar ke charche". And they have been heard and enjoyed time and again over the decades and are played at dance parties even today.

Reminiscing the shooting of the song "Suku suku", he said: "I never took any choreographer. I was doing 'Suku Suku' ('Junglee') with Helen. P.L. Raj was choreographing the number for Helen. I told Raj to tell me what her steps are and I will adjust accordingly. He didn't know what I was going to do.

"It was extempore completely. Sometimes, if I had to give a second take, my steps used to be different. I couldn't do the same thing again."

Asked if anyone among today's actors resembles his traits, he said: "No. They are much better. Hrithik Roshan and all of them are much, much better. Even Shah Rukh Khan has done some excellent work...I did my things and they do their things.

Among the current lot who are ruling the Hindi film industry are scions of the Kapoor family too - Kareena and Ranbir.

The 78-year-old, who gave hits like "Junglee" (1961), "Bluff Master" (1963), "Kashmir Ki Kali" (1964) and "An Evening In Paris"(1967), retired from movies long time back. But he surely keeps a track of the new films and says that he misses innocence and melody in today's movies.

"In my time, there was a lot of innocence involved. They were very sweet films. There was no lecture, no politicising and there was a lot of good music. In today's films, techniques have evolved. But where has the music gone? I miss the melody of my time.

"From the films of my time you walk with good music, you carry that tune home and may be you sing that in bathroom also. Today people are not singing in the bathroom because they don't have tunes to sing," said Kapoor.

Despite his age, Kapoor keeps himself abreast with new technology. He was first among Hindi film celebrities to use Yahoo e-mail.

In fact, people used to think that Kapoor owned Yahoo Internet browser as their ad used to say something like 'Shammi Kapoor has got'.

"When my nephew Randhir Kapoor started using internet, he called me up and asked why I didn't tell him that Yahoo belongs to me (because of that promo). I told him that it doesn't belong to me. Had it been mine, I would have been in America. He regretted that it wasn't mine or we could all have settled in America. Lots of people were under the impression that Yahoo was my company.

"When Jerry Yang (co-founder and former CEO of Yahoo) came to India, he opened Yahoo He invited me to the Taj (Hotel) and as a matter of fact they played my 'Yahoo' song," Kapoor recalled.

Chunky Pandey names dish on his 'Housefull' character

Actor Chunky Pandey has taken a novel road to make his screen name more popular - he played Aakhri Pasta in the recently released comedy "Housefull" and has launched a dish of the same name in his restaurant Elbo Room.

To make the addition more experimental, the 49-year-old announced that whoever will be the first to order the dish, will get a chance to meet him.

"Housefull", a full on comedy, also stars Akshay Kumar, Lara Dutta, Deepika Padukone and Riteish Deshmukh among others

Tusshar Kapoor does a Saif in Sooraj R. Barjatya's next

Saif Ali Khan sketched cartoons in "Hum Tum", and following in his footsteps is actor Tusshar Kapoor who will play a cartoonist in Sooraj R. Barjatya's next "Love U...Mr. Kalakaar!".

Tusshar plays an artist called Sahil who derives his inspiration from everything, including nature, a scrap of paper or even a spider’s web.

Featured alongside him is Amrita Rao as Ritu, a management trainee whose world revolves around debits, credits, turnovers, profits and deadlines.

She falls in love with Sahil and helps him sketch new rules of business and what comes forth is an artist’s simplicity amidst the corporate world.

Directed by debutant S. Manasvi, who has also penned the story, screenplay and dialogues, "Love U...Mr. Kalakaar" is being produced by Kamal Kumar Barjatya, Rajkumar Barjatya and Ajit Kumar Barjatya.

Sooraj R. Barjatya and Rajjat A. Barjatya are working as as associate producers on the film. The movie will go on floors early July 2010.

Kunal Kapoor taking parkour lessons

Kunal Kapoor is busy with something else other than acting - the actor is taking parkour lessons.

"Off to learn parkour.. The art of jumping over stuff, tumbling, falling, etc...basically, the quest to find the monkey gene withi," Kunal posted on his Twitter page.

Parkour is a non-competitive, physical discipline of French origin in which participants run along a route, attempting to negotiate obstacles in the most efficient way possible.

It is the physical discipline of training to overcome any obstacle within one's path by adapting one's movements to the environment.

Consolidation after 3G auction signals some clear winners: Analysts

Analysts welcomed the transparency with which India concluded the auction for third generation (3G) telecom airwaves, but their worries now have shifted to the cost of such services even as some bidders emerged clear winners. "The numbers are so huge and unrealistic, one will expect a consolidation in the sector. After all, $3-4 billion for each player is not a small change," said Mahesh Uppal, director of telecom consulting firm Com First. Agreed Sanjay Dutt of Quantum Securities, a leading brokerage and think think on the capital markets. In shakeouts like these, the hit is always taken by the dominant player, he said referring to Bharti. "I see Reliance emerge as the real winner in this whole game. It has managed to acquire 80 percent of the top circles for what-something like Rs.8,500 crore! It can now easily acquire access to the remaining circles," Dutt told the media. He went on to add that the fact that Reliance was a player on both the GSM and CDMA markets - two main technologies for mobile telecom services in India - would also go a long way in deriving the best out of its available infrastructure. The auction of airwaves for third generation (3G) telecom services to private players concluded Wednesday, accruing a commitment of Rs.67,718.95 crore ($15 billion) to the Indian government. Among the players that won the maximum circles, Reliance has the spectrum for 13 circles, including Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Punjab, and will have to shell out Rs.8,585.04 crore ($1.91 billion). Bharti, on the other hand, which also has 13 circles, such as Delhi, Mumbai, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka will have to pay Rs.12,295.46 crore ($2.73 billion). Aircel, the third player to grab 13 circles, has focused largely on south India and will have to pay Rs.6,499.46 crore ($1.44 billion). The high bid price has added another dimension to the issue - over its impact on the pricing of 3G services that will facilitate faster connectivity and new applications such as Internet TV, video-on-demand, audio-video calls and high-speed data exchange. "It's not that these costs are not going to be recovered at all," Uppal told the media. "Just because you bought spectrum at a high cost, does not mean you will price 3G services out of reach of most consumers. Market forces will drive pricing," he said. "The numbers are mind boggling and it is going to be a big challenge for telecom operators to leverage high costs and still be able to offer services at low costs," said CyberMedia group's chief editor Prasanto K. Roy. "Companies will use part of this spectrum for voice services, but it will also help in the spread of data services throughout the country." Yet, stock markets may not be expected to look at the telecom sector with much favour, said Jagannadham Thunuguntla, the equity head for brokerage firm SMC Capitals. Telecom stocks have not been a choice of investment for the past year or so because of the reduced margins and its fallout on profitability of these companies, said Thunuguntla. "3G will act as a trigger for consolidation in the sector. But in the meanwhile, investors are not going to be kind to telecom stocks as the price paid for spectrum has been way above expectations." Quantum's Dutt had a similar view point. He said the telecom watchdog has also made strong recommendations to enable consolidation. "When that happens, there will be a clear advantages for some players like Reliance - dominant players will have to pay a price."

Mitsubishi evinces interest in Gujarat towns

A high-level Japanese Mitsubishi Corporation team today evinced interest in developing Changodar and Sanand near Ahmedabad as smart community and eco-friendly industrial townships, in collaboration with the Gujarat government. Chairman-managing director of the corporation, Keichi Nakagaki during his meeting with Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi here presented details of advanced infrastructure technology to implement energy management, waste management and transportation blueprints, after his talks with senior officers of various state government departments. The team also briefed the chief minister about developing Sosiyo-Alang ship-breaking yard as a ship-recycling business industry.

India, Vietnam to enhance bilateral trade

India and Vietnam will establish a joint committee to strengthen bilateral cooperation in trade, investment, and agricultural production. An agreement in this regard was signed here on Wednesday by visiting Indian Minister of State for Food Processing Subodh Kant Sahai and Vietnam's Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Cao Duc Phat. India hopes to advance cooperation with Vietnam in food processing and animal feed production, Sahai said, calling on Vietnamese business houses to invest more in food processing technology in India. The Indian government will create favourable conditions for investors from Vietnam, the media quoted Sahai as saying. Cao Duc Phat also encouraged business houses of Vietnam and India to set up joint ventures in manufacturing and food processing industries, and hold fora and trade fairs for agricultural produce and seafood in both countries. During the period from 2003 to 2008, bilateral trade between Vietnam and India grew from $490 million to $2.48 billion. However, due to the global economic recession in 2009, the trade stood at $2.05 billion.

Eliminating middlemen, textile-man clothes north India

He has a direct connect with his customers, without the usual chain of distributors, dealers and retailers. And that is the business model that has worked well for him. Arun Grover has built a unique Rs.2.5 billion (Rs.250 crore) business and a brand for himself through his Amartex chain of stores -- manufacturing and selling clothes and home accessories. The Amartex brand reaches millions of middle class customers through "company owned, company operated" (COCO) stores spread across north India. Initiating the concept of direct retailing in 1997, the company opened its first outlet at the factory premises in Panchkula, 10 km from here. It now has 50 outlets across Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Chandigarh and other adjoining states. "We started with just one 2,000 square-feet store in 1997. Now we have over 250,000 square feet of stores across north India," Grover told the media here. Amartex has planned to open 25 new stores this year. "By 2012, we are planning 100 stores in north Indian states alone. Only after that will we work for a pan-India presence," said Grover. Explaining his COCO model, Grover said: "Middlemen like distributors, dealers and others have no principles other than just making profits. Even if we were offering products at good prices, the middlemen were not selling enough." He said his company's concept was to eliminate this chain and bring quality products to our customers directly. This, he added, has ensured that the products are reasonably priced and the chain does not jack up the price of any product. "Our concept is that we should sell more and earn more. Not that we should earn more by selling less. We don't give any franchisees also." Starting essentially with clothes, Amartex stores now offer home accessories - from door-mats, pillows, napkins to curtains - and grocery items under its 'shoppers world' stores. Each store has a variety of over 5,000 products. The product range is from Rs.50 to Italian-brand light-weight fabric suits priced at Rs.5,000. "The cost factor is very important. Our USP is value for money. We have to provide the product, offer a good price and ensure timely availability to sustain ourselves even as department store chains and MNCs get into the scene," said a confident Grover. As a textile brand also, Amartex has grown from manufacturing just 4,000 metres of fabric every month to over three million metres now. A senior Haryana bureaucrat, at a function recently, stated that Grover is the "Dhirubhai Ambani of the north". Having started with just a manufacturing unit at Panchkula, Amartex now has seven manufacturing units spread across Haryana, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh. It has also outsourced manufacturing and other work to scores of other units and experts as well. Amartex has its full-fledged design studio in Gurgaon, with Grover's wife, Sangeeta, looking into the minutest details of designing. It engages artisans from Erode (Tamil Nadu) for bed-sheets, Andhra Pradesh's coastal belt for Ikat fabric, Salem (Tamil Nadu) for cotton check fabric and Rajpura (Punjab) for 'Phulkari'. Amartex has launched high-end brands - 'Groviano' for men with Italian design and 'Diana' for women. Having a nearly 2,000-workforce with it, Grover claims that fundamentals of the 'Team Amartex' are so strong that there is not even a single labour case against the company.

Woman charged with cheating stopped from taking India flight

A Malaysian Indian woman officer charged with cheating was stopped from boarding a flight to India by officials who fear she could abscond.

Former Maju Institute of Educational Development (MIED) CEO P. Chithirakala had been charged last week with three counts of cheating involving a total of RM 4million ($1.22 million) by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

Chithirakala, 39, was about to board the 6.50 p.m. flight Wednesday before she was told by an immigration official that she was not allowed to leave the country.

Upon questioning, she was told that an MACC officer had informed the department not to let her board the plane and that her passport had been withheld.

Relating her experience at KL International Airport to the media, Chithirakala claimed that she had informed the MACC about her plans to travel to India and details of her trip before she was charged last week in the Sessions Court.

She learnt that the MACC had filed an application at the Kuala Lumpur High Court to withhold her passport, "claiming that she had an intention to abscond", The Star quoted her as saying.

"I repeatedly told them (the MACC) of my plans and even gave them a letter on May 10 detailing my travel plans," she said.

Chithirakala also claimed that MACC officer Fikri had told her that she could go overseas as long as she informed them a week before her departure.

On the day she was charged, her lawyer had informed the court of her travel plans and the judge had asked the Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) if the MACC had any intention to withhold her passport.

The DPP said he did not intend to do so and when she contacted the MACC, she was told that the matter was up to the court to decide.

Malaysia is home to 1.7 million ethnic Indians, a bulk of them Tamils who settled here during the British era.

MIED is the education arm of the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) and distributes scholarships to ethnic Indian students.

Chithirakala was close to MIC chief S. Samy Vellu, but the two later fell out.

She made headlines last year when she alleged that the MIC had misappropriated a government allocated fund meant to help the poor in the Indian community.

Canada seeks India, China support against global bank tax

Before G8 and G20 summits here next month can discuss a proposed global bank tax, Canada, whose banks stood out during the economic meltdown, has mounted an international effort to scuttle the idea. To get the US, India, China and other economies on their side and scuttle the idea, three Canadian ministers have reached Washington, Mumbai and Shanghai. Canadian ministers are also in other major world cities to round up support for their opposition to the punitive levy which has been mooted by Britain. Proposed by outgoing prime minister Gordon Brown and supported by many European nations because of the economic woes, the global bank tax is aimed at meeting costs of any future financial packages. Canada, whose banks came in for praise for their performance during the meltdown, says the bank tax amounts to punishing its financial institutions for their excellent work. There are also worries that the move may force financial institutions to move to low-tax places. While Treasury Board president Stockwell Day is already in Shanghai, finance minister Jim Flaherty flew to Mumbai and trade minister Peter Van Loan to Washington. Though India and China are reportedly not in favour of the proposed tax, Canada wants to take to the two emerging economic powers so that Ottawa is not isolated on the issue. The tax proposal failed to find favour at the Washington meeting of G20 finance ministers in April. If the tax creates a bailout fund, you encourage risky behaviour, '' said Canadian industry minister Tony Clement Tuesday. The G8 summit will be held at the Canadian resort of Huntsville June 25-26 and the G20 summit in Toronto on June 26-27. Apart from attending the G20 summit, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is also likely to hold bilateral talks with his Canadian counterpart Stephen Harper.

Mr. Bachchan, caste and being an Indian first

According to Bollywood star Mr. Amitabh Bachchan being an Indian first means not to believe in caste. That could be one great definition of being an Indian first and putting India first. Yet when Mr. Bachchan told the census enumerators that he does not believe in caste and is an Indian first, did he unwittingly reveal the discomfiture the privileged castes feel in coming to terms with the caste issue in modern India? Surely it is the oppressed people who have the first right to determine if there should be a caste census or not. Their interpretation of present day life vis-a-vis caste discrimination needs serious consideration. In his defense Mr. Bachchan pointed out that he was married to a Bengali, his brother a Sindhi, his daughter to a north Indian and his son to a south Indian. That qualifies Mr. Bachchan for being a pan Indian. We have not heard anyone in the Bachchan family marrying a low caste or a Dalit! But he is right about marriage being an important indicator of caste bias. How many forward caste families in the nation can boast of marriage to a low caste or a Dalit or a Scheduled tribe? Dr. Ambedkar saw inter-caste marriages as one final way of doing away with the caste system. Are we embarrassed about the caste question in the census because there is nothing to show in our family line in relation to inter caste marriage? For now the vision of an inter-caste married, mixed India of Ambedkar is a far away dream. We will wait and see when caste based matrimonial columns cease to exist. Till then caste enumeration should continue to protect those who are constantly humiliated and discriminated. According to a recent research carried by Action Aid, untouchability is practiced in 80% of India's villages. The Khap Panchayat's continue with their discriminatory and unjust writ in north western India. The Courts of India pronounce judgment against the honor killing of the Khap Panchayats but our politicians from different parties end up publicly supporting the Panchayats. Our political parties whatever their hue continues in their hypocritical mantra of social justice. The devastation of the life, culture and land of the Tribals continues unabated. The State participates in this brazen exploitation. Today as our great Constitution is in constant tension with unjust tradition and vote bank politics with lip service to the downtrodden a civil society struggle is necessary to ensure that not just social discrimination but the system that gave rise to it comes to an end. Mr. Bachchan and all who count themselves Indians first need to engage in this struggle and ensure that the present Constitution is not tampered with but it triumphs. Nehru, Gandhi, Ambedkar and others gave us a great Indian Constitution. Mr. Bachchan could begin his struggle in his own home ground - the Bollywood film industry. In his entire career as a film hero he has never had the privilege of having a lead female Dalit star. Why is that? Why is there no major lead female Dalit star in our film and TV industry - the purveyors of our culture! Is it because of merit or lack of beauty or lack of talent that lead female Dalit stars are missing in Bollywood and the TV industry or because there is no proactive affirmative action to include the immense cultural talent of the Dalits? How come America and Hollywood with its horrible racist experience can come up with a Whitney Houston starring with Kevin Costner or a Halle Berry with Pierce Brosnan or a Denzil Washington with a Julia Roberts? These are all hot attractive stars who have made successful movies which audiences the world over love. Mr. Bachchan runs a film company, his company makes movie stars so this one job the Indian first can easily do. Mr. Bachchan's estranged family friends the Gandhis also are want to call themselves Indians first. This is the catch all Rahul Gandhi phrase: I am an Indian first. The first family of Indian politics can claim to be Indians first on the religion issue. Hindu, Parsee and Christian-they have it in the family and perhaps this is why India trusts their secular credentials. On the caste issue the nation watches. Robert Vadra is of mixed lineage. Rahul Gandhi sleeps and eats in Dalit huts but there is a dearth in the Congress party of Dalit and OBC leaders who can capture the imagination of the masses and stand on their own. There is no Dalit leader in the Congress in UP who can challenge Mayawati. Who is Rahul Gandhi's Dalit friend and competent confidante? We know who his other friends are. The nation waits for this genuine and open symbolism-in friendship and marriage. An Indian first.