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India needs more quality research in science: PM

India needs to step up quality research in science and technology with a sense of urgency, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said today. Addressing the convocation ceremony at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) here, the prime minister also called for increased collaboration between the IITs and the corporate world. "We as a nation urgently need to increase quality research in science and technology," Manmohan Singh said. "Science and technology today play a dominant role in determining the power and progress of a nation. "This role has become even more critical in the wake of newer challenges like climate change. We need more innovation in areas like sustainable agriculture, affordable health care and energy security.

"India's strength in frugal engineering and extremely affordable innovations is becoming known internationally. Indian scientists and engineers should leverage this strength to play a more prominent role in addressing problems that affect all countries," he said.

He asked the IITs to collaborate more with each other in research projects and urged IIT Kanpur in particular to go far more collaboration with the corporate sector.

"This would be of mutual benefit to both," he said. "To the corporate sector it could mean cost effective solutions and newer technology and products while for the IITs it would bring in much needed funds and enhance their research capabilities."

The prime minister lamented that although government spending on higher education had been hiked manifold, the issue of quality remained.

"A major constraint is the availability of good faculty. An obvious solution lies in encouraging a larger number of bright students to join academics."

He urged the IIT community to come together to evolve other innovative ways to address these issues.

The prime minister, an economist turned politician, was conferred with the honorary degree of Doctor in Science on the occasion.
source: agency

Manmohan hails public-private partnership

Hailing public-private partnership as the key to many success stories, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today emphasized the need for promoting the arrangement to enhance the rate of growth of the country.

Speaking at the 125th birth anniversary celebrations of noted industrialist Kamlapati Singhania at the Merchants' Chamber of Uttar Pradesh here, he said: "our target is to now take the nation’s growth to double digits."

Referring to the inauguration of the new terminal at the Delhi airport earlier this (Saturday) morning, he said: "The transformation of Delhi airport into a world class aerodrome is the latest example of success of public-private partnership in the country."

Complimenting the industry for successfully withstanding the odds over the past two years, Singh said: "We have been able to tide over the forces of recession, which could not cause as much harm to our economy as it did to several other nations."

While stressing upon the need for further cooperation and collaboration between the public and private sectors, the prime minister said: "We have done exceedingly well on most counts including savings and investments."

"Even on the international fora, our voice is now heard because everyone knows we cannot be ignored," he said.
source: agency

US welcomes India joining Financial Action Task Force

The US today welcomed the membership of India in the Financial Action Task Force, an inter-governmental organisation to fight money laundering and terror financing.

A US embassy press release issued here had a congratulatory message from the Charge d'Affaires, Steven J. White. "We welcome India as a full member of the FATF, and we look forward to working more closely with India on these important issues," he said.

India was granted the membership at the third plenary meeting of FATF held in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, from June 23 to 25. India is the 34th country to join the organisation.

White noted that India has made "significant progress over the last several years in moving toward an anti-money laundering and terrorist financing (AML/CFT) regime that meets international standards, and has committed itself to continue to improve its AML/CFT system."

He added that chasing funding of terror activities was an increasing area of cooperation between the two nations.

"Pursuit of terror finance is a critical component of our broader counter-terrorism efforts, in which the United States and India increasingly work together shoulder-to-shoulder," said White.
source: agency

Political parties' views sought on caste census: Pranab

Admitting to divergent views in the ministerial panel on caste-based census, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee today said the central government will write to different political parties to get their views on the issue. Speaking to reporters here after meeting Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, Mukherjee said: "The census is currently on. At the Group of Ministers (GoM) meeting, divergent views were expressed on a caste-based census. It is necessary to ascertain the views of various political parties." He said he also discussed the direct tax code and the goods and services tax (GST) with Karunanidhi. An empowered committee of state finance ministers is working on GST. The committee is expected to meet on July 21 in New Delhi.
source: agency

Days after sanctions, Iranian minister heads to India

Days after the UN sanctions and the US imposing a new set of stiff sanctions on Tehran, India will keep its diplomatic and economic engagement on track when Iranian Finance Minister Shamsuddin Huseini holds talks here on July 8-9.

Husseini arrives here on Wednesday on a three-day visit with a delegation comprising officials from the ministries of finance and petroleum.

External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna will hold two-day delegation-level talks with Iran's Minister of Economic Affairs and Finance at the 16th joint commission on Thursday, official sources told media.

The two sides will review steps to expand cooperation in diverse areas, including industry, pharmaceuticals, agriculture and mines, added the sources.

They will also discuss expanded cooperation in science and technology, IT, nano-technology, bio-technology and energy.

The two ministers are expected to sign a joint document laying out various areas of cooperation between India and Iran.

They are also expected to explore possibilities of cooperation in Afghanistan as both have apprehensions about a takeover by the Taliban that will invariably impinge on their strategic interests in the region.

The two sides will also discuss the tri-nation gas pipeline that has been bogged down for years over differences on key issues like pricing of the gas and the security of the pipeline that will pass through the volatile western province of Pakistan. Iran and Pakistan recently signed the pipeline deal, but left the door open for India to join.

Husseini will also meet Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and discuss steps to expand trade and investment.

India will be treading cautiously as the visit comes soon after the UN sanctions that targeted Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guards and the tough US sanctions that aims to starve the Iranian nuclear programme of finance.

US President Barack Obama Thursday signed a bill imposing the toughest sanctions yet on Iran. The legislation aims to cut off Iran's access to refined petroleum imports, including gasoline and jet fuel and bans US banks from doing business with foreign banks that provide services to Revolutionary Guards.

Being a UN member, India has no choice but to abide by the United Nations Security Council resolution. Although India need not follow the US sanctions, there will be unstated US pressure on New Delhi not to embark on any major investment or energy project with Tehran.

India has voted thrice against the Iranian atomic programme at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), but has pitched for dialogue and diplomacy in the same breath to resolve the Iranian nuclear standoff.

This position was articulated when Manmohan Singh met US President Barack Obama for bilateral talks on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington in April and reinforced again in his meeting at Toronto last week.

India has also made it clear that although another nuclear weapon state in its neighbourhood is not in its interest, Tehran has right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy within the framework of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
source: agency

Advani urges Hegde to continue as Lok Ayukta

Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani today urged Karnataka's Lok Ayukta N. Santosh Hegde to withdraw his resignation. In a statement here, Advani, who is chairman of the BJP parliamentary party, said if Hegde had any concerns as Lok Ayukta, the BJP state government would address these earnestly. "I have known Justice Santosh Hegde for a long time. He is an eminent jurist for whom all of us have great respect. As Lokayukta of Karnataka, if he has certain concerns, I am sure the state government will address them earnestly. I appeal to him to kindly withdraw his resignation," Advani said. Hegde, a retired Supreme Court judge, quit as Lok Ayukta last month in frustration over what he said was the state government's indifference to fighting corruption. BJP ministers and leaders from Karnataka had met Hegde Friday to persuade him to reconsider his resignation but failed. State party chief K.S. Eshwarappa led a delegation of Home Minister V.S. Acharya, Law Minister S. Suresh Kumar and IT Minister Katta Subramanya Naidu to Hegde's residence to urge him to stay back. However, Hegde stuck to his stand that his resignation was final and he would not change his decision. The decision of the BJP to make an effort to persuade Hegde was a climbdown as Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa had indicated to reporters a day after the ombudsman's resignation that he will not make any effort to persuade the former apex court judge to stay on.
source: agency

I am the youngest star in the industry: Mithun Chakraborty

After more than 30 years in the Indian film industry, three national awards in his kitty and over 300 films to his credit, veteran actor Mithun Chakraborty still feels he is just 27 and "getting younger day by day".

"I am getting younger day by day," said Mithun. "Mind you, I am only 27-plus. I am the youngest star in the industry," he told IANS in an informal chat.

"But I don't want to wish anyone the hurdles I had to go through to be here," added the actor, who rose to become a dancing sensation with movies like "Disco Dancer" and "Dance Dance".

"Dance is like my religion. It is like god to me and like worshipping. It is in my blood. I knew that it was only through that I could have come in the industry," said the actor, who was last seen in "Veer".

Looking younger than ever, asked if it was dance that is keeping him fit, he said: "No. No. I don't dance now regularly but I do exercise everyday."

Mithun is upbeat about his role as a junior artist in Gautam Pandey's Bengali movie "Shukno Lanka" that released Friday simultaneously in Kolkata, Delhi and Mumbai.

"I play a junior artist in 'Shukno Lanka' and it gave me a rare opportunity to retrace my struggling days... It is almost similar to the humiliation and the treatment faced by junior artistes in real life," he said.

"But it is not a story about me or that junior artist. It is about a dream knocking at your door and living that dream. Look at me, I was nobody but I rose from that to whosoever I am today and even changed the definition of dance in this country," he added.

Co-produced by Mumbai Mantra Media Ltd and the Moxie Group, the film also stars Sabyasachi Chakraborty, Debashree Roy and debutante Australian actress Emma Brown.

Asked how he perceives the fate of the Bengali film industry, Mithun said: "To release a Bengali film nationally and to tell people that we also make great films is enough to say that the state of the Bengali film industry is very good and it is flourishing."

"Regional cinema is emerging now because of multiplexes. The only thing Bengali cinema lacks today is a release outside Bengal. So we are trying to push Bengali films nationally now and soon we will do it internationally too," he added.

The veteran is also game for working in other languages.

"I have done movies in other languages before and if given a chance I'll do every regional film in all 22 languages," he said.

Mithun da, as he is fondly known, also worked in a slew of low budget B-grade movies in the 1990s.

Asked about the same, he shared a professional secret: "There are three categories of films I do - films that make money where nothing else matters, films that satisfy me and films that hit the gallery with all the action and dialogues that make audiences go gaga."

Mithun's future projects include "Sphagetti 24X7" with son Mimoh, "Golmaal 3" and Bengali movies "Aami Subhash Bolchhi" and "Ek Nadir Golpo".

The actor follows a balanced schedule.

"I do two Bengali films and two Hindi films every year and then I have my TV reality shows 'Dance India Dance' and 'Dance Bangla Dance'. That's how it works for me," he said.
source: ians

I made 'That Girl...' only for Kalki: Anurag Kashyap

Bollywood director Anurag Kashyap revealed that his upcoming movie "That Girl in Yellow Boots", was an emotionally difficult film to make and he did it only for writer-actor Kalki Koechlin.

"To make 'That Girl in Yellow Boots' I had to push my moral boundaries a lot. It was emotionally a very difficult film to make. I only did it because Kalki was both the writer and actor of the film. She trusted me and I trusted her. We both had to push our moral boundaries a lot," Anurag told the media in an interview.

Anurag ventured into production with Vikramaditya Motwane's directorial debut "Udaan" because he wanted the director to have complete freedom to make the film.

"The idea of being a producer was to give cent percent liberty to the director. 'Udaan' is 100 percent his film. He is solely responsible for all the mistakes and credits of the film," Anurag said.

The director who has given films like "Dev D" (2009), "Gulaal" (2009), "No Smoking" (2007) and "Black Friday" (2004) said he would continue co-producing his films to enjoy independence while making films.

"I want freedom to make my own films and hence I will co-produce all my movies -- be it with UTV or MTV," Anurag said.

He also does not write the script of his films.

"All the initial drafts are written by some other writers. I only do the shooting draft. This is because the vision becomes very narrow if I write it from scratch. If directors write all their films, all by themselves, it becomes repetitive," he said.

'The Descent: Part 2' - a poor remake of the first

Horror films are not just about deadly monsters that spring up in the dark and serve you a good chill. It's about being helpless in a situation that you find yourself in and struggle hard to survive. And it is this helplessness that makes the genre of horror so popular.

'The Descent' in 2005 added something more -- the helplessness of the fairer sex as an all girls team gets stranded amidst a bunch of monsters.

The sequel, tries to do that, but ends up being a poor remake of a decent first film.

'The Descent: Part 2' picks up from where the first left. Sarah has survived, but without any memory of what happened to her in the past two days. Meanwhile, a team is searching for them at the place where they had disappeared.

When they learn about Sarah's survival, the rescue team head down to an old mine from where she had managed to escape.

Sarah, the sheriff, a lady cop and three rescuers go down the mine looking for her other friends. As they pass through, Sarah's memory comes back in flashes. Scared, she escapes injuring two of the rescue workers. Things go horribly wrong as the creatures that reside in the deep, hunt them one by one.

The original descent had something great going its way. The feeling of claustrophobia was accentuated by an interesting plot - all the characters are women, while all the monsters that hunt them look like males. It was thus an indirect analogy on the situation of women in this world. This part, though managing to get the claustrophobia right, fails in making any other connection or statement.

The story also moves in a linear fashion with hardly any unexpected twists and turns. Also the film takes too long, almost half the film, to bring in the horror and even when the monsters attack; it is only their numbers that have increased from the first part, and not the fear factor.

Perhaps director Neil Marshall of the first part should not have passed on the director's chair to Jon Harris, the editor of the first film, and also interestingly the man who re-edited the Indian film 'Being Cyrus'.

Just like the last time, there is no reference made to where the monsters of the dark came into being. However, a last ditch twist at the very end leaves it open for interpretation for another sequel.

Hope it will be a better one than this.

Boards of two energy firms of Anil Ambani group to decide merger

The boards of two energy firms belonging to the Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (ADAG), one in the business of generating power and the other that trades and transports oil and gas, meet on Sunday to consider a merger.

The companies in question are Reliance Natural Resources which is proposed to be merged with Reliance Power, the companies said in identical regulatory filings with the stock exchanges over the weekend.

The two companies had a market capitalisation of Rs.10,394 crore and Rs.41,979 crore respectively at closing bell Friday. The statement issued by the two companies did not specify the reason behind the proposed merger.

Reliance Power on its own and through subsidiaries has a portfolio of almost 35,000 MW of power generation capacity, both operational as well as under development, including three ultra-mega projects.

Reliance Natural Resources is engaged in sourcing and transportation of gas, coal and liquid fuels. It is the second largest player in the coal bed methane business in the country in terms of acreage and has significant oil and gas blocks in Mizoram.

Sify offers revenue opportunities for cyber cafes

In order to arrest the closure of its franchisee-owned cyber cafes owing to increased costs, city-based internet services company Sify Technologies today launched 'Sify mylife' that enables a cyber cafe owner to increase his revenue.

"The 'Sify mylife' platform enables a cyber cafe owner to increase his revenue -- online and off-line. The cafe owner can earn by offering online services -- ticket booking, payment of utility bills, education courses and other services offered by us," chairman and managing director of the company, Raju Vegesna, told reporters here.

The cyber cafes can also earn by being a test centre for corporates holding online recruitment tests; providing wall space for advertisers by being part of Sify Ad Campaign programme.

"With increasing real estate and labour costs internet cafes cannot survive being just a browsing centre. There is a whole lot of revenue opportunities from online services," added Natesh Mani, president (Consumer Infrastructure Business Access Media).

He said there are around 160,000 cyber cafes in India and 37 percent of India's internet access happens from there.

For a cyber cafe to be part of 'Sify mylife' programme, it can either get a broadband connection from Sify Technologies or buy a modem like equipment costing Rs.9,999 from it.

"We source the equipment from China. It has one year warranty and Sify Technologies takes care of after sales service," Mani told IANS.

According to him, Sify Technologies' 1,200 cyber cafes and its retail broadband customers will automatically be part of 'Sify mylife'.

"The discounts and commissions on services availed are available only for the cyber cafes and not for retail customers.

"We may roll out reward points for our retail broadband subscribers at a latter date," Mani added.

Sify Technologies has around 100,000 retail broadband subscribers and the average revenue per user (ARPU) is around Rs.500.

How to bring in the first customer: Twitter Community discusses in its first ever online open house

Twitter Community has taken its first steps in the avenue of open house meets in its wonderful platform with the Head Start Open House meet that got kicked off at 10 am on 3rd July.

The conference would be continuing throughout the day. The topic of discussion is the means and methods that could be adopted to draw your first ever customer to your business.

The tweets in this first ever Twitter open house are unique by dint of the HSOH hash tags that are being used by the participants. This event is a continuation of the Startup Saturdays across India that have proved to be useful for a lot of entrepreneurs who have taken part in such meet ups.

The first edition of the Twitter open house is meant to take the Startup Saturdays to the next level and build on the success that has been achieved so far. An important idea behind this virtual gathering is to create a platform where geographical boundaries become irrelevant.

People who are interested can join the action by using the HSOH hash tag in their tweets. They are also given ample freedom to express themselves and not be limited to the usual limits of 140 characters. They can write blogs and then post the shortened URLs of the same in their tweet.

The participants however, need to make sure that users have enough reasons to come to their tweets. True to its nature the meet up has already been living up to its name with ideas flowing around, making the entire affair a great learning experience for the ones involved.

One really commendable piece of advice has been regarding repackaging an existing product, which can work wonders as far as attracting customers is concerned. It has also been stressed that it need not always be a trendsetting effort. The pitfalls of trying to make a product that can be described as a trendsetter have been pointed out as well.

There have been insightful pieces of information as well such as one tweet that says that the focus of an entrepreneur should be on solving the problems users face with a particular product.

Bollywood has been an important part of discussions with people pointing out how directors have directors have screened their movies to people in their network and made necessary changes as per their suggestions.

'BJP youth wing chief not insensitive to martyr'

A senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader today dismissed allegations that the party's youth wing's new chief Anurag Thakur was insensitive towards a martyred paramilitary trooper, saying such accusations were the "handiwork of political opponents" to defame the party.

The opposition Congress in the state said Thakur was celebrating his appointment as the youth wing chief when the funeral of Pankaj Bhadiyal, a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) trooper, was taking place just half a kilometre away at Sanot village in Kangra district on Thursday.

Bhadiyal was among the 27 security personnel killed by Maoists in Chhattisgarh.

"No disrespect was shown to the martyr and if anything happened it was unintentional and should not have happened," Satyapal Jain, in-charge of state party affairs, told reporters here.

Thakur, son of Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal and an MP from Hamirpur, visited Bhadiyal's family after the celebrations.

Congress chief Kaul Singh Thakur on Friday said: "It's totally insensitive. If the celebrations were planned in advance, they should have been postponed or cancelled as a mark of respect towards the national hero."

When the controversy came to the fore on Friday, Dhumal visited Bhadiyal's house and expressed heart-felt sympathies to the family members.

He gave Rs.100,000 as financial assistance to the family from the Chief Minister's Sainik Welfare Fund.

UAE elected vice-chair of UNESCO's intangible heritage assembly

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has been elected vice-chair of UNESCO's intangible heritage assembly. Arab states unanimously voted the UAE for the position at the third session of General Assembly of the States Parties to the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage held between June 22 and 24 at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris. Voting the UAE as vice-chair of the UNESCO's body is a testament by Arab states to its excellence and experience in safeguarding its own intangible heritage as well as its role in supporting Arab joint action in the sphere of heritage, culture and arts, director-general of Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage Mohammed Khalaf Al-Mazrouei said, according to a report published Saturday. UNESCO's director-general Irina Bokova and Al-Mazrouei singed an agreement on supporting efforts to safeguard the world's intangible heritage.


India alerts Afghanistan about the Haqqani network

Amid Pakistan's intensified efforts to influence evolving power-sharing negotiations in Afghanistan, India and Afghanistan today held wide-ranging talks, with New Delhi making clear its unease about accommodating hardcore Taliban and militant groups like the Haqqani network. Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao held delegation-level talks with visiting Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Eklil Ahmad Hamiki.

"They also reviewed their development partnership and agreed to continue their consultations," said the external affairs ministry.

The Afghan side briefed on the fragile security situation in Afghanistan and conveyed to India to continue a host of reconstruction activities in the country, said sources.

The meeting, held as part of regular foreign office consultations between the two countries, acquired an added significance as it comes amid reports of a secret meeting between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Al Qaeda-linked militant commander Sirajuddin Haqqani. The meeting was allegedly arranged by Pakistan's Army Chief Ashfaq Pervez Kayani.

According to a report by Al-Jazeera, Karzai met Haqqani along with Kayani and ISI chief Ahmad Shuja Pasha in Kabul for "face-to-face talks".

Both Kabul and Islamabad have vehemently denied these reports.

Kayani and Pasha, according to some reports, tried to influence Karzai to accommodate the Pakistan-backed Haqqani network which has targeted Indian assets in Afghanistan in the past.

India has conveyed to Afghanistan its concerns about any power-sharing deal with hardcore Taliban and groups like the Haqqani network which have a declared anti-India agenda, said the sources.

Infiltration bid foiled, four militants killed

Four separatist guerrillas were killed in Jammu and Kashmir today when the army foiled an infiltration bid from across the Line of Control (LoC), an army spokesman said here.

A group of heavily armed guerrillas tried to sneak into Nawgam sector of Kupwara district in the Kashmir Valley and the army challenged them, Lt Col J.S. Brar told the media.

"The terrorists opened fire on the surrounding troops resulting in a gun battle. Four terrorists were killed. Searches are still on," he said.

BJP considering Uma Bharti's return

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is considering the return of former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Uma Bharti to its fold, top level party sources have indicated. They said the process of her return was under way but no final decision has been taken. "The process is on," the sources said. Uma Bharati's return is being opposed by a section of party leadership in Madhya Pradesh but the party has kept its options open. State Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan has already apprised the leadership of his views on the issue. Uma Bharati had last month accompanied senior party leader L.K. Advani on a special plane to attend Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh's father's 13th day rites. After her expulsion from the BJP, Uma Bharti had floated her own party Bharatiya Janshakti Party but she resigned from it earlier this year. She was expelled from the BJP in 2005.

UN approves new body to promote women's equality globally

With an Indian woman minister presiding, the UN General Assembly has unanimously approved the establishment of a single UN entity to promote equality for women.

The resolution adopted by consensus by the 192-member world body will put four existing UN bodies dealing with the advancement of women under a single umbrella that will be known as "UN Women."

"This is truly a watershed day," Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said. "By bringing together four parts of the UN system dedicated to women's issues, member states have created a much stronger voice for women and for gender equality at the global level."

"It will now be much more difficult for the world to ignore the challenges facing women and girls or to fail to take the necessary action," he said.

Approval of the resolution culminates a four-year campaign to streamline the UN's activities promoting the status of women. It was strongly supported by women's organizations and other non-governmental groups who hailed the birth of UN Women.

India's Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur was one of the first ministers to address the General Assembly on the occasion of the creation of UN Women or the UN Composite Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women within UN, as it's officially named.

"India welcomes the creation of the UN Women as a significant victory for the cause of women worldwide" she said. "It is a reflection of our collective commitment to the pursuit of gender equality and the empowerment of women."

Noting that India has always been at the forefront of issues relating to gender equality, mainstreaming and empowerment, Kaur recalled that Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit was the first woman President of the UN General Assembly in 1953.

She referred to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's statement that "No society can claim to be a part of the modern civilized world unless it treats its women on par with men."

She also quoted euling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, who has said that "Complete gender equality, nothing less, must be our over-riding goal. There must be neither compromise nor complacency. The struggle is joined. It must be brought to full fruition."

The minister was then accorded the singular honour of chairing the plenary session of the General Assembly which approved the establishment of the newly-created entity.

Gays celebrate one year of Delhi High Court judgment

A joyous and flamboyant crowd of Delhi's gay community gathered today evening in the heart of the city to celebrate the first anniversary of Delhi High Court's judgment decriminalising homosexuality.

The Delhi High Court on July 2 last year overturned the 150-year-old section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which penalised people voluntarily engaging in "unnatural sex" with imprisonment up to 10 years or life.

The participants of the one-year-celebration at Jantar Mantar seemed much more flamboyant and open, not only in their attire, but also behaviour.

Many couples were openly kissing each other in front of around 50-60 policeman as well as numerous bystanders without any hesitation or fear.

"The situation is changing drastically. As you can see that the police and the public are not concerned with what we are doing. Moreover, the commercial players have also taken notice of us, that's why for the first time Archies have launched same sex greeting cards," said Mohnish Malhotra, an activist whose pink t-shirt read "Not all men are fools, some remain bachelors".

Many were holding rainbow coloured balloons, wearing vibrant masks and wigs and almost all of them were attired in brightly coloured clothes.

"I am jubilant because of the freedom that we have got now. This judgment has affected queers back home too. Many more gays are coming out of the closet in Jaipur too," said Honey Singh, a beautician from the Rajasthan capital.

Similarly, lawyer Aditya Bandhopadhyay pronounced that he foresaw "a great future for ourselves and now is our time to celebrate".

Dressed in a white chikan kurta, American tourist Matthew Stief, who had also come from Jaipur to celebrate the anniversary, said: "I got to know about this through Facebook. It is for the first time in my life that I am attending such an event and doing it in India makes it all the more special."

All-India strike delays Orissa university exams

Exams scheduled for Monday in Orissa universities have been postponed in view of the nationwide shutdown called by political parties to protest the hike in fuel prices, officials said today. The Biju Patnaik University of Technology and the Utkal University postponed their exams after several political parties called for a strike earlier this week, marking the first unified showdown since the Congress returned to power last year. The Biju Patnaik University of Technology has rescheduled its fourth semester exams of various engineering courses to July 10, university Registrar A.N. Acharya told the media. An official of Utkal University said the new dates for the examinations would be announced soon. All the universities were to conduct exams of 19 courses on Monday. "The universities have postponed the examinations on their own. We have not issued any order," Anirudha Rout, special secretary of the state's higher education department, told the media. In Orissa, opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and its allies are participating in the protest. Apart from the exams being rescheduled, rail and road services are expected to be hit and schools and colleges would be closed. Last week, the central government ended government curbs on petroleum pricing and hiked the prices of diesel, kerosene and cooking gas. The price of diesel went up by Rs.2 a litre, kerosene by Rs.3 a litre, petrol by Rs.3.50 a litre, and cooking gas by Rs.35 per cylinder.

At 90, Ravi Shankar feted for lifetime contribution to music

Pandit Ravi Shankar, often described as the doyen of Indian string instrumentalists, was today felicitated by the government for his lifetime contribution to Indian classical music. And at 90, the maestro says he's in sync with changing trends.

The legendary sitarist was honoured at a glittering function hosted by the Indo-American Friendship Association and Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR). The event was attended by ICCR president Karan Singh, German ambassador Thomas Matussek, economist and former envoy to US Abid Hussain, dancers Sonal Mansingh, former diplomat Lalit Mansingh, author Gurcharan Das and danseuse Sovana Narayan, among others.

A Kolkatan and a thorough Bengali at heart, Pandit-ji, as he is fondly called, was born in Varanasi on April 7, 1920.

"It is where my heart and soul lies for I began my artistic career in the city - the first nine years of my creative life as part of my older brother Uday Shankar's ballet troupe and then as a musician. It is also in Kolkata that I met my mentor, classical music exponent, Baba Allaudin Khan, when he joined the troupe in the year in 1935 and we toured Europe. I learnt music from him," Pandit Ravi Shankar reminisced in an interview to the media.

Uday Shankar disbanded his troupe in 1938. And Ravi Shankar soon parted ways with his brother to pursue music.

"I left 'dada' and went to learn music from Baba Allaudin in Maihar in Madhya Pradesh. I stayed with him for seven-and-a-half years. I played on my own for the first time in 1939 at the Allahabad Music Conference and subsequently embarked on an independent musical career," he said.

In 1956, Ravi Shankar began touring Europe and the US. His performances drew packed halls, giving Indian music an international face. He collaborated with violinist Yehudi Menuhin and George Harrison, and was one of the pioneers to write sitar music for western concerto.

He was nominated to the Rajya Sabha in 1986 and was conferred India's highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna, in 1999. He also won three Grammy awards and was given the Ramon Magsaysay award in 1992.

Ravi Shankar has created as many as 30 ragas, says "Raga Mala", a book documenting the journey of Indian classical music.

"They include Nat Bhairav, Ahir Lalit, Yaman Manjh, Gunji Kanhara, Purvi Kalyan, Kameshwari and several more," the book lists.

Ravi Shankar says he "is completely in sync with the changing face of classical music".

"Read my autobiograhy, 'My Music, My Life'. I have updated it with new chapters. And listen to my music. It is forever changing," he exhorts the youth.

To preserve his music and the legacy of the Indian sitar for posterity, the maestro has set up the Ravi Shankar Institute of Music and Performing Arts (RIMPA) to carry on innovation, research and fusion. The institute serves as a platform to promote younger artists.

Initially housed in his home in Varanasi, the non-profit organisation moved to Chanakyapuri when the maestro shifted base to the capital.

On April 7 this year, the centre celebrated his 90th birthday with an evening "of film and music" dedicated to him. A documentary on Ravi Shankar, "Between Two Worlds", was screened as part of the tribute.

In February, the maestro launched his own music label "East Meets West Music" as well.

Brazil break Indian hearts after shocking exit

For Indian fans from West Bengal to Kerala, the zing seems to have gone out of the World Cup football as their eternal favourites Brazil were shocked by the Netherlands on Friday.

A pin-drop silence descended from Tullah in north Kolkata to Tollygunj in the south as the Netherlands broke into celebration at Port Elizabeth.

Soccer enthusiasts were left dumbstruck at the bylanes of Kolkata, adorned with big-size posters of Brazilian stars, Kaka, Robinho and others.

The streets wore a deserted look during the match. Shopping malls, markets, and other hot spots were virtually empty as people sat glued to their television sets hoping another spell-binding performance from Samba magician.

"I had never bargained for this. I left the hospital early as I wanted to watch the match with my kid. He has been crying ever since the Dutch equalised and took the lead," said general physician P.S.Roy.

Kolkata, the football-mad city of cricket crazy India, are now searching for new heroes to keep their flagging interest in the world cup alive.

"I understood from the way Brazil were playing in the tournament that all is not well with the team. If you leave behind the traditional style and try to copy others, you are bound to fail," said Alok Mukherjee, a former India player.

The scene was no different at Thiruvananthapuram as many Brazil fans were left in tears with the result.

Former India captain C.V.Pappachen said that not many in Kerala would have thought of this tragic exit of Brazil.

"Leading one-up after the half time, it has come as a shock. They were improving by every match but see what happened today," said Pappachen.

In Malappuram, known for its football culture, an entire village near here was named Brazil nagar and the scene was heart-breaking after Holland came back in the match with two goals to take the lead.

Asif Zaheeer, who has donned Indian colours, said Brazilian coach Carlos Dunga's style was totally different.

"See, after scoring the first goal, it went into a defensive game and that turned out to be their downfall," said Zaheer.

Viva Kerala coach Sreedharan said being a goal up does not mean anything in football. "Certain flaws of the Brazilian team were quite evident soon after they scored the first goal," he said.

In Panaji, Portugal's exit in the pre-quarterfinal round may have knocked the stuffing out of the average Goan football supporter, but Brazil's defeat also rubbed salt into their wounds.

According to Goa Football Association (GFA) secretary Savio Messias, Brazil's defensive approach sealed the fate of the samba nation's team.

"I am a Brazil supporter. The defeat was heart-breaking. Brazil were the favourites. But they didn't play in true Brazilian style. They were defensive in their approach," said Messias, saddened by the loss of the five time football world champions.

Former skipper of the Indian football team Bruno Coutinho Bruno said that from the pre-quarter finals, every opponent is strong and every match is a do-or-die match.

"Overall it depends on the performance of the team on that particular day. Brazil scored once within 10 minutes, after which they thought they were winning. But Holland played brilliantly in the second half and clawed their way back," said the former ace striker, who tips Spain to win the World Cup.

Sean Faia, a football enthusiast, in a way swam against the tide by supporting the stylish Holland versus mighty Brazil.

"I am happy that Holland won. I always knew that they would. Sometime or the other they would beat Brazil. I am sure they will reach the finals," Sean said.

Uruguay aren't cheats, says coach

Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez believes his side has not cheated its way to the semi-finals of the World Cup after defeating Ghana in a penalty shootout at Soccer City. Ghana missed a glorious chance to win the game with the last kick of the match in extra-time, when the Black Stars were awarded a penalty after Luis Suarez was red-carded for blatantly handling the ball on the goalline. However, Asamoah Gyan hit the bar from the subsequent penalty kick and Uruguay went on to win the shootout 4-2. "When there's a handball in the penalty area, there is a red card and the player is sent off. To say we cheated Ghana out of victory is too harsh, we abide by the decisions of the referee," said Tabarez. "Yes he stuck his hand out, that's not cheating, I don't like that word, I don't think its fair." Tabarez argued that Suarez's actions were instinctive and that the striker had already received his punishment by being sent off by referee Olegario Benquerenca. "These are the circumstances of the game nothing more, or is Suarez also responsible for missing the penalty?" he asked. "There are consequences for Suarez handling the ball, he didn't know that Ghana were going to miss the penalty." While Ghanaians and much of Africa were coming to terms with a shattering defeat, Tabarez had a word for the people of Uruguay who were celebrating a first semi-final place since 1970. "Football is essential to my country. Many celebrating on the streets have never lived a moment like this," he said. "After 40 years of course they are going to celebrate. I hope that they celebrate for three or four days." Sebastian Abreu sealed the shootout win for Uruguay with a cheeky chip over Ghana goalkeeper Richard Kingson, a shot that Tabarez described as "class". "We still haven't lost a match at this World Cup. We have to attach a lot of importance to this," he added.

Argentina must play for their lives to beat Germany: Maradona

Argentina's stars must play for their very lives in today's quarter-final with Germany to bring joy to fans at home desperate for World Cup success, charismatic coach Diego Maradona said on Friday. The footballing legend cut his usual jovial figure, exchanging banter with journalists, until asked what today's quarter-final in Cape Town's Green Point stadium means to his countrymen. Then he turned deadly serious. "I will tell them (my players) they have to leave their lives on the pitch," he said. "Behind them is a whole country that hasn't enjoyed a (World Cup) victory for a long time." "The Argentinian people depend on this team to be able to get up in the morning with a smile on their faces," he added. The two-time champions haven't won the World Cup since Maradona, in his playing pomp, inspired them to a 3-2 victory over West Germany in 1986. The Germans gained revenge with a victory over Maradona and his teammates in 1990, then knocked the South Americans out on penalties at the quarter-final stage in Germany 2006. Maradona, whose leadership was questioned when Argentina struggled to qualify, now has his team playing fluent football as he transmits his passion and winning touch to his charges. But despite the exit of Brazil at the hands of the Netherlands earlier in the day, he refused to accept that his side - very impressive so far - were the new favourites. Nor would he drawn into making further comments about German midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, who on Wednesday launched a tirade against the South Americans. Schweinsteiger recalled the 2006 quarter-final, which ended in an unseemly brawl, as he accused the Argentinians of a lack of respect and trying to provoke opponents. Maradona had previously mocked the midfielder, saying he seemed nervous, but would only say on Friday he was completely focused on Argentina. Neutrals were expecting a cracking game between two free-scoring sides. Argentina, with Lionel Messi backed up by the deadly Gonzalo Higuain and Carlos Tevez, have scored 10 goals - handing out a 4-1 spanking to South Korea in the process. The young German side - with an average age of 25 - boasts fewer star names, but was hugely impressive when trouncing Australia 4-0 in the group stages and England 4-1 in the Round of 16. However, Maradona was not too impressed with the victory over England. "Let's not recall that Germany beat England 4-1, that's a bit of lie," he said. "England made it very easy for Germany." Star man Messi missed training through a cold on Friday, but Maradona said he would play today and be given free reign to unlock the German defence. "Players like Messi, if you put them in box, you hurt their freshness ... you have to give them freedom," he said. The winner of today's game will go on to a semi-final tie against either Spain or Paraguay in Durban on July 7.

Dunga hints at end of Brazil job

Brazil coach Carlos Dunga expects his side's 2-1 loss to the Netherlands to be his last game in charge of the Brazilian team. "Everybody knew from the start that my contract was for four years," said Dunga in the post-match news conference. Dunga was appointed to the position to replace Albert Parreira following Brazil's defeat at the same stage in the 2006 World Cup. The coach added to the speculation about his future when asked if he took responsibility for the defeat. "Without a shadow of a doubt, I am the coach of the Brazilian team," Dunga said. "I have the greatest responsibility." Friday's quarter-final loss sent the pre-tournament favourites tumbling out of the World Cup following widespread condemnation of the defensive style of play instilled in the side by Dunga. Dunga is a former defensive midfielder who led Brazil to World Cup victory in 1994 and was appointed to coach the team despite not having any previous coaching experience. He guided the team to the Copa America in 2007 and the Confederations Cup in 2009 but invited criticism from famous former players like Socrates for abandoning Brazil's traditional attacking style.

Uruguay end Ghana fairy tale, reach semis

Uruguay crushed Africa's World Cup dreams by beating Ghana in a thrilling quarter-final showdown on Friday that ended in a penalty shootout and saw the last remaining African team miss a spotkick in the final seconds of extra time. The score was even at 1-1 after 120 minutes of play before Uruguay keeper Fernando Muslera stopped spot kicks by Ghana captain John Mensah and Dominic Adiyiah in the 4-2 shootout, which saw Sebastian Abreu convert the winner for Uruguay. Sulley Muntari had opened the scoring for Ghana just before the end of the first half before Diego Forlan equalised in the 55th minute at Johannesburg's Soccer City Stadium. The 1930 and 1950 world champions Uruguay appeared destined for elimination when Luis Suarez used his hand to stop a Ghana finish from crossing the goal-line during the final seconds of extra time and was red-carded. But Asamoah Gyan's penalty attempt hammered off the crossbar, eliminating Ghana from the first World Cup on African soil. "I am totally exhausted. We are all totally exhausted. We fought so hard for 120 minutes and then came the penalty. You can't get over that so easily. But then we are winners in the end, it was amazing," said Uruguay star Diego Forlan, whose great performance on the pitch was recognised with a FIFA Man of the Match award. "This has been a dream of ours for a long time. And we have seen that we are growing. I think we deserve this and we are happy to give Uruguay fans a reason to be happy," said Abreu. The result sent Uruguay back to the semi-finals of a World Cup for the first time in 40 years, when they finished fourth in Mexico. In the first semi-final on Tuesday in Cape Town, Uruguay will face off against the Netherlands. "We will celebrate this victory, but we cannot celebrate too much. The Netherlands are coming," said Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez. Ghana's run to the quarter-finals was already an all-time best after they improved upon their Round of 16 showing in their first World Cup at Germany 2006. But a victory would have made Ghana the first African nation to reach the semi-finals. It was not to be. "All I can say is that's football. This was a very difficult game because we played the previous game for 120 minutes (against the US)," said Ghana coach Milovan Rajevac. "In the end, we had the historical opportunity to reach the semi-finals. We had the penalty, but you saw it all." Tabarez was missing injured Diego Godin and Alvaro Pereira, who he replaced with Mauricio Victorino and Alvaro Fernandez. His counterpart Rajevac was missing two of his key players due to suspensions in Andre Ayew and Jonathan Mensah. Replacing them were injury returnee Issac Vorsah and Sulley Muntari. Both teams had chances in the first half-hour and the Uruguay coach had to swap out his captain and defensive boss Diego Lugano in the 38th minute with a right knee injury, replacing him with Andres Scotti. Tabarez was close to subbing out Jorge Fucile just before the break as well after his left-back fell horrifically on his head and shoulder, though Fucile was able to play on. Muntari gave the Africans the lead two minutes into first half stoppage time. The Inter Milan midfielder unleashed a blast from 30 yards which Muslera misjudged and watched pass him just inside the right post. The South Americans equalised in the 55th minute. Ghana keeper Richard Kingson took a half-step to his right, which was just enough for Forlan's free-kick from the left side to sneak past him and make it 1-1. Led by Suarez and Forlan, Uruguay were stronger from then until the extra time, which lacked any highlights until the final 10 minutes, when Gyan and Kevin Prince Boateng both threatened Muslera's goal. The drama reached unimaginable levels in the stoppage time of extra time, when Suarez stopped a shot on goal at the line but then used his hand to stop the rebound attempt, getting his marching orders from Portuguese referee Olegario Benquerenca. Gyan, who had already converted two penalties in the tournament, stepped up to the spot with a chance for glory on the line, but he hammered his penalty off the middle of the crossbar, sending the game into a shootout. With Uruguay starting the shootout, Forlan and Victorino both converted, getting matched by Gyan and Stephen Appiah. Scotti made it 3-2 before Muslera stopped Mensah's attempt. Then it was Maximiliano Pereira's turn to miss high to even things again. Muslera, however, came up big again, stopping Adiyiah's shot, after which Abreu coolly lobbed his attempt high down the middle.

Government intervention if crude oil prices turn volatile: Deora

The central government will step in to regulate the decontrolled price of petrol if crude oil rates turn highly volatile in the international markets, Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Murli Deora today said.

"The government will not be a silent spectator in the event of crude oil prices turning volatile or remaining higher as it is our duty to protect consumers. The oil marketing firms are free to fix the petrol price when crude oil price is in the manageable range," Deora told reporters here.

Justifying the price hike for the four basic petroleum products - petrol, diesel, kerosene and cooking gas (LPG) - last week, he said the government had no alternative but raise their prices and free petrol pricing from its control.

"We consider a range of $60-66 per barrel comfortable for oil companies to determine the market-driven price of petrol. They are working on the measures to revise the rates in line with the international crude prices," Petroleum Secretary S. Sundereshan said.

In a major reform move June 25, the government decontrolled petrol pricing, with an increase of Rs.3 per litre, diesel by Rs.2, kerosene by Rs.3 and cooking gas by Rs.35 per cylinder.

"Our job is to see that the decontrolled price of petrol will not have any adverse effect on consumers," Deora asserted.

The state-run oil marketing firms - IOC, HPCL and BPCL - are working on the modalities, including periodicity of revision of petrol price in consultation with the petroleum ministry.

Clarifying the ministry's position on under-recoveries, Deora said losses incurred on the regulated prices of diesel, kerosene and cooking gas would have to be absorbed by marketing firms as there would not be any compensation from the government in the form of oil bonds.

Mango festival inaugurated in Delhi

Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit today opened the 22nd edition of the annual mango festival which will showcase around 400 varieties of the fruit for the next three days here.

The festival at Dilli Haat in north Delhi's Pitampura area will continue till Sunday.

"This festival will help people from all over Delhi to come here and have a taste of different varieties of mangoes," said Dikshit.

Mango cultivators from states like Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar and Punjab are taking part in the festival.

Complimenting the farmers for making mangoes popular across the world, she said: "With names like Aishwarya, Sachin and Bapu, the farmers have made the fruit even more attractive."

The chief minister also appealed to the farmers to use least pesticides for their crops.

The mango festival also had competition among mango growers in 10 varieties of mangoes like Dussehri, Langra, Chausa, Mallika, Husnara, Rataul, Ramkela and Fazli. Dikshit gave away awards to the winners.

Vodafone-Crossword book award nominees announced

Out of a total 210 entries, 16 books have been shortlisted for the Vodafone-Crossword Book Award 2009, in the categories of Indian language fiction translation, English non- fiction and children category. The leading cellular service provider and book store chain Friday announced the shortlist nominations. "The 16 shortlists of nominees were selected by an eminent panel of judges from the long list of 210 valid entries submitted by publisher in the categories of Indian language fiction translation, English non-fiction and children," Chandrashekhar Navalkar, CEO of Crossword Book stores, said. Some of the books shortlisted in the non-fiction category are "Violence, Martyrdom and Partition" by Nonica Datta and "The Difficulty of Being Good - On the Subtle Art of Dharma" by Gurucharan Das. The shortlist in the translation category includes the "The Hour Before Dawn" by Bhavendra Nath Saikia (translated by Maitreyi S.C) and "My Kind of Girl" by Buddhhadeva Bose (translated by Arunava Sinha). The shortlists in the children's category include two books of Siddhartha Sharma named "103 Journeys, Voyages, Trips and Stuff" and "The Grasshoppers Run". "The award for children category has been added from this year. By adding this category we are trying to encourage writing across genres. We will continue in our endeavour to recognise and appreciate outstanding contribution to the literary world year by year," Navalkar said. Writers like Amitabh Ghosh, Salman Rushdie, and Vikram Seth are some of the past winners of Vodafone Crossword book award. The award carries a cash prize of Rs.3 lakh, a trophy and a citation.

Dutch, Brazilian 'football diplomacy' in India

Nearly 100 Brazilian and Dutch diplomats and expatriates came together at a restaurant in the capital on Friday and celebrated the magic of the FIFA World Cup. The chosen Baci restaurant in Delhi's Sundar Nagar area seemed rather too small to accommodate a wildly cheering, clapping, whistling and occasionally swearing football crowd. But as the national anthems of both the countries played out to signal the start of the match, patriotism filled the air and supporters of both the teams rose in utmost respect and sang along. Clinks of beer bottles and aroma of pizza had the FIFA mood going on in full swing. Special "football world cup offer" on the menu with four beer bottles and one large pizza charged at Rs 840 saw huge sales as the match progressed. The Brazilian diplomats with their families and supporters dressed in yellow and blue jerseys gathered in the restaurant's ground floor, while the first floor of the restaurant had the orange people. Cheering with great enthusiasm, the Dutch showed up in all orange including footwear. It was only normal to fear that the floor could come crashing down as the Dutch jumped up and down and clapped with great intensity as their victory neared. The full-house restaurant screened the match live on big television screens on both the floors of the restaurant. It was an "unbelievable" victory for the Dutch. Alex Oosterwijk, the political section head at the Netherlands embassy was thrilled to bits. "I feel like I played the match myself... I am all sweaty. This is an unbelievable feeling. And as per our understanding earlier on... when Brazil scored first, we were pessimistic. But wow! We did it," Oosterwijk said. "It was wonderful to have the Brazilians watch with us. It was a fun match. Brazil is a great team. We respect them," he added. While celebrations continued for the Dutch, the Brazilians made an early exit, congratulating the people. Brazilian Embassy Press Officer Flavio Augusto, while congratulating the Dutch diplomats and fans, said: "They played well. They have deserved a star on their jersey since 1974." "I know Brazil is better than this, but today is not the day. But Brazil surely played well," Favacho Garcia, a Brazilian diplomat's son sighed. The event, which brought together people from both the countries, was organised by Knowledge Must - a Germany-based organisation providing inter-cultural solutions. "We intended to connect with the international world. This is a celebration of culture. Today's was an exciting match. We screen all the FIFA matches here," Peter Braun, managing director of Knowledge Must, said. The Netherlands embassy will screen their next match at the embassy premises with an invitation to friends and supporters but "strictly in orange outfits only"

Former Goa minister surrenders

Former Goa Minister Mickky Pacheco today surrendered to a court here in connection with the death of his alleged lover. Pacheco, charged with culpable homicide following the death in Chennai of 28-year-old woman Nadia Torrado, was underground for nearly a month as the police began to look for him.

BJP will decide if Modi, Varun will campaign: Gadkari

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Nitin Gadkari today said his party will take its own decision whether Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and Lok Sabha member Varun Gandhi will participate in the campaign for the coming Bihar assembly polls. "We have the right to decide which all leaders of the BJP should campaign in Bihar. We will decide it at the appropriate time and implement it," Gadkari told media. Sharad Yadav, president of BJP's electoral ally Janata Dal-United (JD-U), had recently suggested that Modi and Varun should be excluded from any joint campaign in Bihar, in view of their "anti-Muslim image".

The publication of an advertisement during the BJP national executive meet in Patna in June had evoked protests from Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, threatening the four-and-half years old BJP-JD(U) government in the state and the 14-year-old alliance between the two parties. However, the two patched up later.

Gadkari told media that "the crisis in the Bihar alliance is almost solved". Terming it natural that some differences crop up in an electoral alliance, he denied there were differences among the leaders of his party's Bihar unit.

"(I am) hundred per cent confident the BJP-JD(U) alliance will return to power in Bihar," he said, adding: "We are contesting on the agenda of development achieved by the Nitish-led government, which is visible on the ground in the state."

"People have their horrific memories of the lawlessness and anarchy during the 15-year-long Lalu (Prasad)-Rabri Devi rule. They just do not want those dark days to return," Gadkari said.

Krishna leaves for Mauritius, Mozambique

Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna today left on a five-day visit to Mauritius and Mozambique to deepen strategic and economic ties with these strategically located countries.

This is Krishna's first official visit to the African continent since he became foreign minister over a year ago.

Krishna will hold talks with his Mauritian counterpart Arvin Boolell in Port Louis on a wide swathe of issues ranging from economic ties to culture and defence.

Mauritius, home to a large Indian diaspora, is a top source of capital flow into India. India was the second largest investor in Mauritius after Britain in 2008. FDI flows into India through the Mauritius route have accounted for $47.24 billion investment.

The two sides will hold talks on renegotiation of the Double Taxation Avoidance Treaty (DTAA), which is suspected of being misused by some investors to route their investment through the low-tax island nation, resulting in huge revenue loss.

Krishna will focus on expanding India's strategic dialogue with the Indian Ocean country.

Krishna will head to Maputo on Sunday, the first bilateral visit by an Indian foreign minister to Mozambique in decades. The last two visits by the Indian foreign ministers to Maputo in 1979 and 1999 were in the context of multilateral conferences.

During his talks with the leaders of Mozambique, Krishna is likely to discuss steps for intensification of economic and strategic ties with one of the better performing economies in the region.

A former Portuguese colony, Mozambique has attracted foreign investment in mining sector. The country is also estimated to have untapped oil and gas reserves.

Titanium mining is a growing source of revenue. India's Coal India Ltd recently acquired two coal blocks in Mozambique. India is one of top five trading partners of Mozambique.

The two countries will aim to build on a bilateral security cooperation agreement they signed in 2005 to expand their security and counter-terror cooperation.

On his way back to India, Krishna will make a brief stopover in Seychelles.

BCCI special general meeting to discuss Modi's fate

A Special General Meeting (SGM) on Saturday of the Indian cricket board will discuss in detail the replies by the suspended Indian Premier League (IPL) chairman Lalit Modi to notices issued to him.

Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) secretary N. Srinivasan has rejected Modi's voluminous replies to the show-cause notices as "unsatisfactory" and referred the matter to the disciplinary committee.

The SGM is expected to "ratify the action of Srinivasan," and the development has drawn flak from the Modi camp.

Modi had asked Srinivasan and BCCI president Shashank Manohar to recuse themselves from the proceedings, having levelled a series of counter-charges against the two.

Manohar, therefore, pulled himself out of the three-member disciplinary panel, which now includes new IPL chairman Chirayu Amin and Arun Jaitley as the other two members.

One among the agenda for the meeting would be to re-constitute the disciplinary panel for holding the enquiry against Modi.

It is understood that BCCI has called the SGM to sack Modi. The SGM would require a three-fourths majority to expel a board official. Srinivasan, however, said the BCCI will give Modi a fair trial and follow all the procedures.

"The general body is going to meet and there are two agendas. One is to rectify the action of the secretary in referring this to the disciplinary committee. In that case, we would re-constitute the disciplinary committee in which (BCCI president) Mr. Shashank Manohar recused himself," Srinivasan had told a television channel.

"The general body is going to decide whether my action in referring it to the disciplinary committee is approved or not approved. If they approve, then the second part comes, in which the disciplinary committee would be re-constituted. Then they would have to hold a hearing and follow due process and then their report would again come to general body," he said.

The BCCI members have been provided with copies of Modi's reply to three showcause notices.

Modi's counsel Mehmood Abdi said they are watching the developments and would take "appropriate action at an appropriate time".

Modi had been charged on several counts ranging from financial irregularities to bid- rigging as chairman of the cash-rich IPL.

Modi, who was backed by BCCI vice president Farooq Abdullah and Bangalore Royal Challengers owner Vijay Mallya when the IPL controversy surfaced, would find the going tough as his support base has quickly waned.

Abdullah, after the meeting of IPL governing council meeting last month, said the IPL board has found that Modi was involved in major irregularities. Mallya, on his part, looked the other way when asked about Modi during the IPL owners meeting with BCCI and said they will have to think beyond him.

Nine Indian Oil Corp officials arrested in Jaipur blaze case

Nine Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) officials, including general manager Gautam Ghosh, have been arrested for criminal negligence in a major fire at its depot in October last year in which 11 people were killed, police said today.

"We have arrested nine IOC officials under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) including section 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder and carrying a maximum sentence of ten years in prison)," Inspector General (Jaipur zone) B.L. Soni told media.

The blaze broke out in the depot in Sitapura industrial area, about 20 km from the Jaipur city centre, at 7.15 p.m. on Oct 29 and took around 10 days to extinguish.

A few cases charging IOC with criminal negligence were filed by local residents and private companies in the first week of November 2009, following the blaze in which 150 people were also injured.

The total losses suffered by Indian Oil amounted to nearly Rs.280 crore (Rs.2.8 billion) and the total loss of petroleum products was about 60,000 kilolitres.

An independent probe report released in February this year found human error, lack of safety procedures and design flaws to be the major reasons responsible for the fire.

"The basic or root cause is an absence of site-specific written operating procedures, absence of leak stopping devices from a remote location and insufficient understanding of hazards, risks and consequences," M.B. Lal, who chaired the independent inquiry committee, said.

In a 2003 audit, the Oil Industries Safety Directorate found that the remote leak stopping device was not working at the Jaipur terminal. The inquiry found that despite the recommendation in 2003, the device was never operational in the last six years, he added.

Deploy army in Maoist-hit areas: Sushma Swaraj

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Sushma Swaraj today sought deployment of the army in Maoist-affected areas, including in violence-hit pockets of Chhattisgarh.

"BJP's central leadership is in favour of deployment of the army in Maoist-affected areas to put an end to violence and wanton killings," Sushma Swaraj, who is leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha, told media persons here amid a spate of killings of security personnel in Chhattisgarh.

"If deployment of army can check killings of security personnel and innocent civilians by the Maoists, we have to opt for this solution," she said.

Sushma Swaraj said her party would exert pressure on the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government to take bold steps to contain rising Maoist militancy.

"The central government is confused over the steps to be taken against Maoists. The BJP will raise the issue strongly in parliament during the upcoming monsoon session," she said.

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh, who was also present, said the issue of the army's deployment had been discussed with Home Minister P. Chidambaram at a few meetings.

He said it was felt that defence and security experts should take up the matter of working out a plan of operation in the event of the army being deployed in Maoist-affected areas.

Government to implement pan India automated toll system

India will soon see a uniform electronic toll collection system on its national highways, increasing the revenue, curbing leakages and ensuring smooth travel across the country. The system, which will use passive RFID (radio frequency identification) technology, is likely to be in place by May 2012. "Passive RFID will ensure that a person can travel from Kashmir to Kanyakumari without stopping anywhere. The revenue leakages at present is at least 15 percent of the toll collection, which comes to about Rs.300 crore," said Road and Transport Minister Kamal Nath. RFID technology is a tracking system and has widespread applications across several industries like retail and logistics. The government had constituted a committee headed by former Infosys CEO and Unique Identification Authority Chairman Nandan Nilekani for this purpose. "The challenge was to have a technology which was modern, user friendly and has international standards," said Nath. The RFID tag, will be stuck on the windscreen and cost about Rs.100, while the toll booth will have a tag reader, which is expected to cost about Rs.2 lakh. A vehicle owner can "recharge" the account for the vehicle (the account number will be the RFID tag number), and when the vehicle passes through the lane of any toll plaza across the country, the appropriate toll will be debited from the account. India has about 71,000 km of national highways, but toll is collected on only 8,500 km. The government plans to increase this to at least 30,000 km in the next five years. "We should be able to collect toll 30,000 km of national highways in five years," said the minister. Talking about the multiple ulity of the system, Nilekani said it will also act as a platform for vehicle identification and prove effective in tracking stolen vehicles. Currently the technology is used in USA, Mexico, Chile, Argentina and Dubai.

Three held for running fake visa racket

Delhi Police today claimed to have busted a fake visa racket with the arrest of three people, including a Nigerian national and a woman, here.

Gautam Kumar, 26, Nigerian national Agu Rufus Ikechukwa, 28, and Riya Rosy Chettri, 22, were held from south Delhi on complaints of the Canadian High Commission and R. Suresh from Chennai.

"They (the three) used to dupe people on the pretext of providing them jobs in Canada, America and European countries. They charged Rs.20-25 lakh for their services," a police officer said.

As many as 50 passports of Indian, Nepali and Bangladeshi nationals and various scanned visa slips have been recovered from them.

Suresh has alleged that he along with his friends had paid Rs.10 lakh to them. A total of Rs.5 lakh were paid at the time of receiving passports and visas.

The police officer said Gautam and Riya were working in a call centre in Gurgaon when they met a Nigerian national Thomas who introduced them to Agu.

"They then created a website -- -- and offered jobs in a farming company with the name of Village Farm and Sea Food, Toronto, Canada," the officer said.

The officer said the three were well conversant in internet and had good communication skills. Thomas is absconding.

Now, read comics on your mobile phone

Comics' publishers, once lamenting dropping sales as youth turn to the internet and other media for entertainment, are now laughing all the way to the bank after providing their works on mobile phones to attract the generation on the move.

According to industry estimates, two major comics publishers - Amar Chitra Katha and Raj Comics - are between them raking in Rs.500,000 to Rs.700,000 per month from m-comics and with a third player, Diamond Comics, set to join the fray, the figure can only climb higher.

Says Rushabh Sanghvi, marketing head of Amar Chitra Katha: "After attaining unmatched reach in all corners of India, we could not stay away from launching m-comics as that's the future."

They, in fact, were the first to launch m-comics in India last January.

"We have a market in 30 cities and to compete with the high-tech entertainment possibilities available, we have launched m-comics with the support of all the leading service providers. We are happy with the result," Sanghvi told media.

Several service providers like Airtel, Vodafone, Tata Docomo, Idea and BSNL have developed m-comics platforms, some using Java-based applications which have to be first downloaded to the mobile before the comics can be viewed. Others are using Multi-Media Messaging and WAP subscriptions to deliver the comic strips.

Compatible with all GPRS or WEP-enabled handsets, customers are charged Rs.10-25 per week for 10 or more for the comic strips, depending on the service provider. And, with the launch by private operators of 3G services in September, the quality of the content is bound to improve.

Raj Comics is another big name in the industry. Since its inception in 1984, it has created some of the most popular characters like "Nagraj" and "Super Commando Dhruv".

According to Sanjay Gupta, studio head of Raj Comics, it launched m-comics seven months ago as sales were down and youth were found to be distancing themselves from comics and turning to the internet for recreation.

"We have comics for all tastes. The variety is a big reason why we have a huge readership, he added.

Diamond Comics is now planning to enter the fray.

"The world is turning high-tech and so are we. If we want to reach everybody, we have to be everywhere. We are already leading in print. And we now are in the process of launching m-comics also," Gulshan Rai, managing director of Diamond Comics, told media.

He said the company is working on the project with many service providers. "We would be on air in July for sure," he added.

All this is good news for youngsters.

"I am happy that my favourite comics characters are available on my mobile phone," said 17-year-old Sudesh Srinivas.

"Travelling will be fun now," said 30-year-old Rachit Tyagi, who is a sales agent with a private company and travels a lot.

This is perhaps why new content providers are jumping on to the bandwagon. One of them is Level10 - the comic JUMP - and it is targeting grown-ups as well.

Shrayas Srinivas, the creator of the brand, is very sure about the success of his m-comics.

"We are new in the market, but we have lots of hope. Comics are the best source of passing the time. With m-comics, one can read them any time, anywhere. Just imagine all the fun," he said.

Shooting for 'Red Alert' was not easy: Sameera Reddy

No make-up, no trendy clothes -- Sameera Reddy has got rid of her glamour girl image for the forthcoming movie "Red Alert-The War Within". And she admits that before signing the film she wasn't aware of the Maoist problem in the country. "The script was really appealing since it dealt with an issue. I was not aware of the Naxalite movement a-year-and-a-half ago. I want to dedicate myself towards it now," Sameera, 27, told the media. Even though she didn't want to miss the chance of doing a different role, Sameera had to face many difficulties during the shooting. "A transition from a simple girl to a Naxalite and picking up guns and fighting was difficult. It was also not easy to shoot in the jungles," she said. Director Anant Mahadevan's "Red Alert-The War Within" revolves around a cook, who falls into the Naxalite net. The film is slated to hit the screens July 9. It also stars Suniel Shetty, Vinod Khanna, Seema Biswas and Gulshan Grover, among others. Sameera started her career with ghazal singer Pankaj Udhas' music video "Aur Aahista". In 2002, she made her big screen debut with "Maine Dil Tujhko Diya" opposite Sohail Khan. Then she went on to do films like "Musafir", "Darna Mana Hai", "Taxi Number 9211", "Race" and "De Dana Dan", among others. In most of the films, she has played a modern woman. So was it a conscious decision to shed her glamorous image? "It's not a conscious decision to change my image through the film. I did it because the role was appealing and challenging," said Sameera who gelled well with co-stars Seema and Suniel. "I got to learn a lot from Seema. Hanging out on the sets with her was a great learning experience. I also spent time with Suniel. We have done work together before, so the comfort level was always there," she said. And what about competition with other actors on the set? "I compete with myself and I work harder on myself and do not follow the perception of who is big and not," said the actress who is keen to play a double role. "I have never done it before, but I would love to play a double role in a film. That's my dream role. Lets see when that happens," she said. After Red Alert, she will be seen in Nagesh Kukunoor's "Yeh Hausla".

'I Hate Luv Storys' predictable, but lovable

You will not hate this love story, a spoof on ace director Karan Johar from his own production house. Hats off to Karan for daring to produce a film that makes fun of his kind of cinema. Samir Soni steps into his shoes with great ease in the film.

Director Punit Malhotra takes a pot shot at everything - designer sets, boy meets girl sagas, actresses singing in chiffon saris in the Alps - that made directors like Karan, Aditya Chopra and Kunal Kohli a name to reckon with in the industry.

In terms of content, nothing is new. But the treatment is fresh, the backdrop is interesting and it's fun watching the romance brew between the lead pair Simran and Jay on the sets of a movie. Yes, the film is about the making of a love story where Simran works as an art designer and Jay as an assistant to highly successful director Vir Kapoor (Samir), known for his candy floss romantic sagas.

Imran Khan as Jay Dhingra and Sonam Kapoor as Simran fit the bill quite perfectly.

First time director Punit Malhotra proves his mettle by narrating a predictable story in such an interesting manner that you are hooked till the end.

A romantic by heart, Simran is contented with life. She is engaged to banker Raj, played by Sammir Dattani, and loves her job. But her life turns topsy turvy when the weird but funny, bratty but lovable Jay walks into her life as her assistant.

They have nothing in common. While Simran is highly disciplined, organised, professional and takes her work seriously, Jay is laid back and always late on the sets.

Yes, opposites attract here too, and they eventually fall in love.

The first half is pacy and director infuses enough energy in this otherwise predictable love story. But some scenes in the second half drag.

Another flaw in the film is that Imran is given too many dialogues to speak, but then he delivers them with just the right expressions. He suits the role of a spoilt brat perfectly and keeps tickling your funny bone. Especially when he breaks down like a girl while talking to his mom (Anju Mahendru) on phone.

Editing could have been better, but never mind.

In sum, the witty dialogues, on screen chemistry of the lead pair and performances of the supporting cast - Kavin Dave, Bruna Abdullah Aamir Ali and Pooja Ghai - make it a good watch.

Sonam may not have hits in her kitty so far, but this film should change things. In every scene, she complements Imran.

In terms of music, Vishal-Shekhar's pacy numbers add zing to the narrative and background music adds a nice flavour to this predictable love story.

"I Hate Luv Storys" proves that one can make good film without lavish sets, foreign locales and mega budgets. In short, a commendable effort by the first time director.

You may not be a great fan of candy floss cinema, but do watch "I Hate Luv Storys"... it's refreshing.

Kalmadi asks BCCI to reschedule Australia series

Commonwealth Games Organising Committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi has sought the help of Sports Minister M.S. Gill to "convince" the Indian cricket board to reschedule the two Test matches at home against Australia as the dates clash with the Oct 3-14 Commonwealth Games.

"I write to seek your good offices to try and convince the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to reschedule the two Test matches between India and Australia so that it do not clash with the Commonwealth Games," Kalmadi said in a statement today.

The first Test is scheduled in Mohali from Oct 2 while the second Test will take place in Bangalore (Oct 10).

"I had written to Sharad Pawar as early as in July 1, 2009 seeking due consideration by the BCCI to ensure that it does not schedule any major cricket series during the Commonwealth Games," said the president of the Indian Olympic Association.

India will also play three one-dayers against Australia -- Kochi (Oct 19), Goa (Oct 22) and Visakhapatnam (Oct 24).

FIFA gives Nigeria on Monday deadline on team suspension

FIFA has given Nigeria's government until Monday to cancel its suspension of the national football team from international competition or get the boot from FIFA, football's ruling body said today.

"FIFA will send today a letter to the Nigerian Football Federation indicating that the government of Nigeria has to cancel by Monday 6 p.m. its decision to withdraw Nigeria's participation in all FIFA and CAF competitions for the next two years," FIFA spokesman Nicolas Maingot told a press conference in Johannesburg.

Failure to do so would result in the suspension of the NFF from FIFA's ranks, Maingot said. FIFA has strict membership rules banning political interference in football.

Maingot also said that FIFA's Nigerian executive board member Amos Amadu would be sent to his home country for "last-minute mediation" Monday.

Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan on Wednesday suspended all the country's teams from international competitions for the next two years over the poor performance of the Super Eagles at the World Cup in the form of a winless group stage exit.

The government set up a caretaker committee, to be inaugurated Monday, to reorganise football in the country. But Nigeria's lower house on Thursday passed a resolution asking the president to rescind his decision.

Indian Bank raises Rs.500 crore issuing bonds

City-based Indian Bank has raised Rs.500 crore through issue of bonds on a private placement basis.

In a notification to National Stock Exchange (NSE) today, the bank said the bonds will bear an interest rate of 8.53 percent. The issue opened and closed on June 28, 2010 and the allotment was done on June 28, 2010.

The bank's board on May 31 had given approval for raising Rs.1,000 crore as tier II capital in one or more tranches during the current year.

Two energy firms of Anil Ambani group set to merge

The Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (ADAG) today said the boards of two of its companies -- one in the business of generating power and the other that trades and transports oil and gas -- will meet here July 4 to consider merger.

"A meeting of the board of directors of the company will be held on July 4 to consider merger of Reliance Natural Resources with Reliance Power," the two companies said in identical regulatory filings with the stock exchanges.

The statement -- which did not specify the reason behind the proposed merger -- was released after the closing bell at Indian bourses.

While Reliance Power closed the day with a gain of 3.3 percent at Rs.175.15, Reliance Natural Resources settled 1.9 percent down at Rs.63.65 a share, data available with the Bombay Stock Exchange showed.

The market capitalisation of the two companies stood at Rs.41,979 crore and Rs.10.394 crore, respectively, as at closing bell today.

Reliance Power on its own and through subsidiaries has a portfolio of almost 35,000 MW of power generation capacity, both operational as well as under development, including three ultra-mega projects.

Reliance Natural Resources is engaged in the business of sourcing and transportation of gas, coal and liquid fuels. It is the second largest player in the coal bed methane business in India in terms of acreage and has significant oil and gas blocks in Mizoram.

Rice cultivation picking up

Rice cultivation has picked up in the country with the onset of monsoon, the government said today.

Latest data show that rice has been sown in 46.46 lakh hectares till today.

This is about one lakh hectare more than the area under cultivation on July 2 last year due to increasing rainfall and sufficient water in the reservoirs across the country than 2009, the agriculture ministry said.

Rice was sown only in 45.43 lakh hectares at the corresponding period last year.

Last year rice production was hit by an erratic and deficient monsoon.

The ministry said there has been a remarkable improvement in the cultivation of sugarcane, jute and cotton. However, the cultivation of pulses is yet to pick up.

The data show oilseeds have been sown in 28.86 lakh hectares till July 2. It was sown only in 12.96 hectares in the same period last year.

Reserve Bank of India hikes key interest rates

India's central bank today hiked key interest rates by 25 basis points with immediate effect in an attempt to contain soaring inflation.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) hiked the repo rate by 25 basis points to 5.5 percent and the reverse repo rate by a similar quantum to 4 percent, as part of its "caliberated exit from the expansionary monetary policy", which was part of the stimulus package by the government at the height of the global financial crisis.

The repo rate, which was 5.25 percent prior to today's revision, is the interest charged by the central bank on borrowings by commercial banks. A hike in this rate increases the cost of borrowing for commercial banks.

The reverse repo, which stood at 3.75 percent, is the rate at which the central bank borrows money from commercial banks. A hike in this rate makes it more lucrative for banks to park its funds with the RBI.

"The above monetary measures should contain inflation and anchor inflationary expectations going forward, while not hurting the recovery process," said an RBI statement.

Investment in food processing can create most jobs: Sahai

Investment in the food processing sector in India can generate a higher rate of employment than in any other sector, Food Processing Industries Minister Subodh Kant Sahai said today.

"The government of India has recognised the food processing sector as one of the thrust areas, as its growth will not only increase the level of processing and reduce wastage, but also generate employment opportunities and provide long-term economic sustainability to the farmers," Sahai said, addressing an entrepreneurs' meet organised by the ministry here.

The food processing industry employs an estimated 1.6 million workers - a fifth of the country's industrial labour force and accounts for 14 percent of the total industrial output.

He called for increased investment in the sector.

He said with a population base of 1.08 billion and yearly population growth of around 1.6 percent, India offered a huge and growing market for food products.

"The 350 million urban middle class, with its growing purchasing power and evolving food habits, presents a thriving market," Sahai said.

Stating that processing levels of agricultural and allied commodities in India is 6-8 percent compared to processing levels of 70-80 percent in developed countries, he made a strong pitch for technology upgradation in the sector.

"There is a huge technological gap for post harvest management and processing of agricultural produce, which is resulting in huge amount of wastage of agricultural produce," he said.

"To develop and popularise new technologies for food processing and percolate them to the ground level end users is the need of the time for enhancing the level of processing and reduction of wastage of agricultural produce."

Sahai also pointed out the lack of cold chain management in the country. "I have asked many people abroad to invest in contract farming here. But after initial enthusiasm, they become reluctant because of the absence of cold chain infrastructure," he said.

The minister also listed out the initiatives taken by his ministry to promote the sector.

Earlier, addressing the gathering, Secretary Ashok Sinha said that foreign direct investment in the sector in the last 12 months was 225 percent higher than what it was in the previous year.

Calling for increased focus on retailing of food products, Sinha said: "We should learn how to market. Then investment becomes easier, production becomes easier."

During the meet, over 200 entrepreneurs were provided with assistance amounting to over Rs.60 crore (Rs.600 million).

"By September 2010, another over 200 beneficiaries will be assisted under the ministry's various schemes and the it would utilise more than two-thirds of its budget," Sahai said.

Two more teens charged in Indian-American scientist's murder

US police has charged two more teenagers for the murder of an Indian-American computer scientist outside his home at Old Bridge in New Jersey.

Three other teenagers were charged Monday after Divyendu Sinha, 49, an IIT Kharagpur alumnus, died from head injuries he received in the beating by a group of teenagers last today.

Two boys, one 17 and the other 16, join three other 17-year-olds charged earlier. The five, none of whom was identified because of their ages, may also face bias charges, Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce Kaplan said.

In addition to the charges arising from Sinha's fatal beating, the five juveniles, all Old Bridge residents, were charged in a separate unrelated case of an altercation with a motorist minutes before they attacked Sinha, Kaplan said.

The five teenagers engaged in a motor vehicle chase with another motorist less than five minutes before they attacked Sinha, the prosecutor said. The incidents occurred less than two miles from each other.

Kaplan said that while the attack on Sinha appears to be random and unprovoked in light of the earlier incident, authorities may decide to file bias charges once their investigation is completed.

The initial focus of the probe, he said, "has been to determine who was responsible for the murder of Dr. Sinha".

Kaplan said he is considering whether to move to have the five juveniles tried as adults, where they would face harsher penalties than in Family Court. Under the law, the prosecutor's office has 30 days to file the motion in Family Court. Ultimately, the decision rests with a judge.

Sinha, a scientist and former professor, was attacked while walking with his wife and two sons. Authorities said the juveniles got out of a car and attacked Sinha and his sons. No weapons were used in the assault; the sons sustained minor injuries and the wife was unhurt, authorities said.

Sinha's death sparked concern in the Asian Indian community in Old Bridge and led to a meeting earlier this week with township officials. Members of the South Asian community in Old Bridge say they have experienced persecution, particularly at the hands of teenagers.

Notice to Vijayshanti for poll code violation

The Election Commission today sought actor-turned MP Vijayshanti's response to charges that she had made inflammatory statements ahead of bye-elections in Andhra Pradesh's Telangana region and thus violated the model code of conduct.

The poll panel asked the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) MP to explain, by Sunday, why action should not be taken against her, an Election Commission statement said.

"If no reply is received within the prescribed time limit, it will be presumed that you have nothing to say and the commission will proceed to take appropriate action without making any further reference to you," it said.

Vijayshanti allegedly made the inflammatory remarks in Hyderabad on June 30.

Noting they have received press clippings where she had said "chop down the foes of Telangana", the commission said the statement "amounts to inciting violence and aggravating existing differences between different communities in violation of provisions of the model code of conduct.

"No party or candidate shall indulge in any activity which may aggravate existing differences or create mutual hatred or cause tension between different castes and communities, religious or linguistic," it added.

The panel said the model code of conduct for political parties and candidates came into operation June 21 when the bye-elections to the seats were announced. Elections will be held on July 27.

MP Vijayashanti goes into hiding as police hunt for her

Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) MP Vijayashanti today went into hiding as police tried to hunt and arrest her for making provocative remarks ahead of July 27 byelections to 12 assembly seats in Andhra Pradesh's Telangana region. Tension prevailed at the actress-turned-politician's house in Banjara Hills here when a police team reached there in the evening to arrest her. High drama continued for nearly two hours as TRS activists resisted the police attempts to enter the house. When police finally managed to get in, they did not find her. TRS workers raised slogans against the police and accused them of high-handedness. A TRS leader said Vijayshanti was not well and was admitted to a hospital. He declined to name the hospital. The leader said she would soon surrender before the court. Police were looking for the Medak MP in connection with a case booked against her at the directions of Election Commission for promoting animosity and hatred among people. The case under sections 505 (2) and 153 (A) of Indian Penal Code was booked against her following a direction by the Election Commission. The poll panel has also issued a notice to the MP, seeking clarification about her speech. The TRS leader, while addressing party workers a few days ago, had called upon people in Telangana to "slay" anyone who opposed the formation of a Telangana state.

42 killed, 180 injured in suicide blasts in Pakistan


At least 42 people, including women and children, were killed and 180 others injured when three suicide bombers struck in quick succession at a famous Sufi shrine packed with thousands of worshippers here, the latest in a wave of terror attacks that have rocked Pakistan.

One attacker blew himself up at the crowded entrance to the shrine late last night and the second in the basement, where people perform ablutions before entering the complex.

The third bomber detonated his explosives vest in a part of the shrine adjoining a busy market, witnesses said.

Forty two people were killed and 180 injured in the blasts, police said. Twenty five of the injured were in serious condition.
source: agency /

Ministers' meet ends without decision on caste census

A Group of Ministers (GoM) meeting on caste-based census here on Thursday did not take any decision on the issue and decided to meet again soon. Briefing reporters after the 90-minute meet, Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister Kapil Sibal said the panel discussed all the aspects threadbare. "We have decided we will meet again very soon," Sibal said. Considering the demand by some political parties that caste should be included in the census, the government had formed the GoM headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily, New and Renewable Energy Minister Farooq Abdullah, Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Mukul Wasnik and Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee are the other members of the GoM.

Pentagon pitches for $10 bn Indian fighter jet deal

The Pentagon is making a strong pitch for US companies for the $10 billion deal for 126 fighter aircraft for the Indian Air Force and future sales of the C-17 transport aircraft.

The US Defence Department, also known as Pentagon because of the shape of its building, does not view defence equipment sales as mere commercial transactions and looks at them as a growth area for the India-US partnership, a senior defence official said on Thursday.

"I am and will continue to be a strong advocate of US solutions for India's defence needs," Michele Flournoy, undersecretary of defence for policy, told members of the Asia Society. "US companies are eager to work with India as the Indian military continues to modernise."

Noting two American companies, Boeing and Lockheed Martin, are among six competitors for India's biggest fighter-jet purchase in 15 years, she said: "We are also looking at future sales of the C-17 aircraft as another example of near term defence sales."

"We understand that India is making a strategic as well as an economic choice when it makes defence acquisitions," she said. "Obviously, the commercial benefits of defence sales to the US economy can't be denied."

"But from a [Defence Department] perspective, these sales are even more important in building a strategic partnership that will allow both our countries to cooperate more effectively to protect our mutual security interests in the future," Flournoy said.

"Whether the scenario involves humanitarian assistance, counterterrorism cooperation or maritime security activities," she continued, "having common equipment will allow more seamless cooperation."

India is seeking to build its own indigenous defence industry, and is looking for the best technologies to use in its defence sector, Flournoy said.

The United States is committed to providing India with top-of-the-line technology, and has backed up its commitment by approving the overwhelming majority of licenses requested last year, she said.

Flournoy noted Defence Secretary Robert M. Gates has made export control reform a key priority, citing the streamlining and modernizing of the US export control system as a national security priority that affects the nation's ability to build and sustain key partnerships.

India and the United States will explore ways to counter the spread of weapons of mass destruction through maritime cooperation, dialogue, and identifying new technologies to combat this threat, Flournoy said.

"We will look at ways in which, together, we can better secure the global commons by expanding our already robust cooperation in air, space, cyberspace and maritime initiatives."