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Air India's formal entry into Star Alliance will be announced in Frankfurt

New Delhi: After much delay, Air India's formal entry into Star Alliance will be announced in Frankfurt Sunday, paving the way for the flag carrier to become the first from this country to join the largest global interline accord among 27 airlines.

"Star Alliance will decide Air India's induction date tomorrow (Sunday) in Frankfurt at their executive board meet," an Air India official told to the media. "We have concluded all the integration conditions set by Star Alliance."

The national carrier was extended an invitation to join Star Alliance in December 2007 in Beijing, with Lufthansa as the sponsor. But delays in software and other operational integration after the merger of Indian Airlines into Air India put paid to the plans.

The alliance members also had grand plans for the formal induction ceremony against the backdrop of the Taj Mahal, just as Egypt Air had next to the pyramids on the outskirts of Cairo.

Global interline packs like Oneworld and Star Alliance entail several benefits to member carriers like improved product offering, better service standards, access to new markets and premium customers and partnership with leading global carriers.

Vijay Mallya's Kingfisher Airlines is the only other Indian carrier that is joining a global alliance -- called Oneworld.

Such pacts also allow sharing of airport lounges across airports, common rewards schemes and synchronised flight schedules that will permit seamless travel for a passenger on a single air ticket, even if it requires flying several carriers on a single journey.

According to Air India, top officials designated by Star Alliance had met the senior officials of the carrier in Mumbai two weeks ago and found that most parameters for induction had been met.

Formed in 1997, Star Alliance is a consortium of 27 airlines, including Lufthansa, Air Canada, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways and Swiss, among other major airlines of the world. Its members have over 4,000 aircraft and serve 181 countries.

Currently, Air India operates flights to 63 domestic destinations and has a network of 33 international destinations with a fleet of 127, which includes Airbus A-319, A-320, A-321, A-310, A-330, Boeing 737-800, B-777 and B-747 apart from ATR-42 and CRJ aircraft.
Tags : India News, Air India, Star Alliance, Frankfurt, global interline

Anti-graft Lokpal bill to be introduced in parliament in monsoon session :Bansal

New Delhi: The anti-graft Lokpal bill is scheduled to be introduced in parliament within the first three days of its month-long monsoon session that begins on Monday and will "forthwith" be referred to a standing committee for its consideration, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said on Fridat. At his customary pre-session press conference here, Bansal said the government was hopeful the standing committee will study the bill and come with its report in August itself so that the draft legislation could be passed by parliament in the monsoon session that is scheduled to end Sept 8. The draft bill, approved by the cabinet on Thursday, has already run into rough weather with civil society activists, led by Gandhian Anna Hazare, vehemently opposing it in the present form, as the government draft has kept the prime minister and judiciary out of the purview of the anti-corruption ombudsman.

"The Lokpal bill is listed for introduction by Wednesday. We (government) want the bill to be forthwith sent to a standing committee," Bansal said when asked about the plans for passing the bill.

"We hope the standing committee will study the draft legislation and submit its report within August so that the bill could be passed before the monsoon session of parliament ends Sept 8.

"But the government cannot dictate terms to the standing committee on when it should submit its report," he added.

On civil society members rubbishing the cabinet-approved draft bill, Bansal said they have their rights to have a view on the issue, but they should also respect others' rights to have contrary opinions.

Hazare had gone on a five-day fast at Jantar Mantar in April pressing for the Jan Lokpal law, following which he and four other members of civil society, along with five central ministers, were named members of a 10-member committee constituted for drafting of the bill.

The two sides had major differences of opinion on the contours of the ombudsman law and had presented two different drafts of the bill.

On the issue of a law for protection of anti-graft whistle-blowers, Bansal said a standing committee had considered the bill and it was yet to returned for consideration of the parliament.

The session, with 26 sittings scheduled over 39 days, will mainly be devoted to essential government legislative and other business including financial business relating to the supplementary demands for grants for 2011-12 of the railways and general budgets.

Apart from 32 new bills that are "tentatively" listed for introduction in the session, the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, between them, would take another 35 bills, previously introduced, for passing, apart from two ordinances that will be introduced as bills for consideration and passing.

Among the important draft legislations to be taken up for introduction including the National Food Security bill championed by Congress president Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council (NAC) that envisages providing food grains to the poor at subsidised rates.

"I have been informed by the concerned (consumer affairs and food supplies) ministry it is ready to introduce the bill in this session of parliament," Bansal said to a query.

Another controversial piece of legislation is the one on land acquisition, rehabilitation and resettlement that has been listed for introduction.

"The bill is being redone to include both land acquisition and rehabilitation and resettlement. The ministry (rural development) has informed that it will be ready to introduce the bill in this session. I have sanguine hope that it will be brought to the house before the end of this session," the minister added.
Tags : India News, anti-graft Lokpal bill, month-long monsoon session , Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal

BJP would seek parliamentary debates on the alleged rampant corruption

New Delhi: Signalling a stormy monsson session of parliament, the Bharatiya Janata Pary (BJP) today said it would seek parliamentary debates on the alleged rampant corruption and price rise issues under a clause that entails voting and makes actions recommended binding on the government.

Besides, the main opposition party will also raise the July 13 Mumbai serial blasts, Maoist violence, and the issue of black money stashed by rich Indians in foreign banks.

The BJP held a meeting of its parliamentary party executive at senior leader L.K. Advani's residence here today to identify some of the issues the party would raise during the session.

BJP's Rajya Sabha member S.S. Ahluwalia said corruption, price rise and internal security were the main issues awaiting replies from the government.

"Corruption, black money, internal security and the land acquisition... we want to discuss these issues. Some of these issues under the voting clause, where through the voting there will be a motion in the house to question the government," Ahluwalia told reporters after the meeting.

He said the opposition party would seek discussion on price rise and corruption under Rule 184 that entails voting.

Party leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi told IANS that the "biggest issue is rampant corruption and we will ask the government what it is doing about it".

He said terrorism has raised its head again "as is evident from the Mumbai blast".

"The government owes an answer to the nation and we will have it from them in parliament," Naqvi said.

Naqvi said the BJP would seek amendments to the cabinet-approved draft of the anti-graft Lokpal bill, which would be tabled in the Lok Sabha during the session.

"The Lokpal needs changes to make it more effective," said Naqvi. But he did not specify what amendments the BJP wanted in the draft bill that keeps the prime minister out of the ombudsman's purview.

Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj also tweeted her party's strategy during session.

"We have demanded a discussion on internal security with special reference to Mumbai terror attacks under Rule 193 (which does not entail voting). We have also asked for a discussion on Maoist violence in the country," Sushma Swaraj wrote on the microblogging site.

She said the "major issues" were price rise, corruption, black money, Telangana, Air India, killing and arrest of Indian fishermen allegedly by Sri Lankan Navy, and farmers' agitation on land acquisitions.

The BJP has also decided not to oppose introduction of the Lokpal bill though it has major differences with the government's draft.
Tags : India News, Signalling a stormy monsson session, Bharatiya Janata Party, Maoist violence

Mamata Banerjee hit out at the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA)

Kolkata: Apparently peeved over the central government not yet providing money to bail out cash-strapped West Bengal, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday hit out at the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) regime on several issues, including rising prices and black money.

Adopting a belligerent tone, Banerjee said she was almost made to cry while seeking cabinet approval for projects like Metro Railway extension, and alleged that union ministers of state from her party were not being allowed to work.

She also attacked union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee's reported comment that he cannot give funds to her government by going beyond constitutional provisions, and asserted the state was only "demanding its due" and not begging.

Banerjee took particular exception to Mukherjee's comment reported in a section of the media that he could not dole out money like emperor Mohammad Bin Tughlaq.

"The 'Tughlaq' comment is not acceptable. I can bear everything but not the insult of people of Bengal. This comment has not gone down well with me. All these years (34 years of Left Front rule in the state) there was nothing Tughlaqi. We have just been in power for 70 days, how can now helping us be Tughlaqi?" said Banerjee in an interview to a Bengali news channel Star Ananda.

"We are watching everything," she said, in an apparent warning to the UPA government.

She also went to the extent of accusing the Congress led by Narasimha Rao in the 1990s of being hand in glove with the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) "when the latter physically beat me up". She said she did not believe that the Congress and the CPI-M were not in contact now.

Banerjee alleged that the rising prices have become unbearable.

"With the constant rise in petroleum prices, the prices of other commodities have also been rising. The way the prices have been increasing, it has become impossible to bear. I have tolerated it for the past two years but it is not possible to endure any more."

"In spite of the difficult financial situation, I have said my government will not levy excess cess or taxes. I have not increased electricity charges or milk prices despite pressure to increase them. No matter how much I am criticised, I will continue to think about the people." said Banerjee.

Continuing her attack, she said: "Many a government has increased prices after the conclusion of elections. During the polls, they do not increase prices. But as soon as it is over, governments have increased the prices, be it the NDA or the incumbent UPA."

Flaying the central government on the black money issue, she regretted that her frequent pleas in cabinet meetings to bring back to the country the illegal money stashed in foreign accounts went unheeded.

"There is so much money stashed illegally in foreign banks. If that money is brought back, it can be used to subsidise things. Petroleum prices won't have to be increased. I have repeatedly raised the issue while in cabinet but nobody paid heed."

"I don't know why the government is not bringing the money back. Don't know what money is in there?"

She also accused the UPA of being non-cooperative.

"Union ministers of state from my party, including Dinesh Trivedi, were not allowed to work. When I was in the union cabinet, I was never informed about the proceedings that happened in my absence."

"I was almost on the verge of crying while seeking approval for the Metro Railway extension project from Joka (in Kolkata's southern outskirts). Only I know what all I had to hear in cabinet meetings."

Refering to the alleged physical assault on her by the CPI-M in the 1990s, she said: "The CPI-M had beaten me up in understanding with Narasimha Rao".

"I didn't understand it then. Later I understood. That's the reason I later came out of the Congress and formed Trinamool Congress."

Asked whether she felt that the Congress was still in collusion with the CPI-M, Banerjee replied: "A relationship once forged does not die down completely. Maybe now that they (CPI-M) are out of power (in West Bengal and Kerala), the understanding is not there overtly. But I don't believe there is no contact between them."
Tags : India News, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, United Progressive Alliance, projects like Metro Railway

Idea Cellular posted an increase of 12 percent in its consolidated net profit

Mumbai: Idea Cellular today at Rs.177.3 crore for the quarter ended June 30. The results were impacted by the fees paid for 3G licences and the charging of related interest cost.

The company had posted Rs.201.4 crore net profit during the like period of the previous financial year.

"With the introduction of 3G service in this quarter additional amortisation of 3G spectrum fee, Rs.656 million (Rs.65.6 crore) and charging of related interest cost, Rs.1,228 million (Rs.122.8 crore) has impacted the profits," the company said in a regulatory filing.

The total revenue stood at Rs.4,520.7 crore, up 23.7 percent during the quarter under review as against Rs.3,653.7 crore during the corresponding quarter of 2010-11.

The telecom operator is aggressively expanding its 3G footprint and currently covers over 825 towns in 15 service areas. This includes bilateral roaming arrangements for the services area of Mumbai, Bihar, Karnataka, Delhi, Kolkata and Tamil Nadu (including Chennai) with leading quality operators.

The company stays committed to reach to 3,000 towns across India by the end of this financial year, through a combination of home network and roaming arrangements.

At the Bombay Stock Exchange, the shares of the company were 4.94 percent up to trade at Rs.94.45.
Tags : India News, Idea Cellular, 3G licences, additional amortisation of 3G spectrum fee

Mamata Banerjee,said the new land bill prepared is much more positive

Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who held a 40 minute meeting with union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh Saturday, said the new land bill prepared by the central government is much more positive than the previous one and that she will give her views on the draft after throughly studying it.

Ramesh said Banerjee "appeared to be broadly in sympathy with the approach of the bill which has proposed minimum land acquisition".

The union minister, who flew into the city Saturday, explained the National Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill 2011 to Banerjee.

"Rameshji has explained the Bill to me. This new bill made by Rameshji is much more positive except on one or two points. I will give my view after a through study of the bill after few days," said Banerjee after coming out of the meeting.

Earlier, in an interview to a Bengali news channel, Banerjee said her party will back the bill on the floor of parliament only if it's suggestions were incorporated.

"Our state government has also made a new land policy and that says that we will not acquire land forcefully. She said exceptions could be made for purposes like defence, national security and railways which are essentially public utility services.

"The previous land draft bill was opposed by me. The new bill says there will be no land acquisition for private sector. Only for public purpose they have kept 80-20 acquisition clause," said Banerjee.

"If they take our suggestions then only will we back the bill. Of the developed land, 10 percent should be returned. The compensation rate has to be more than the prevailing market rate along with a pension scheme for 10 years and a job," said Banerjee in the interview.

She said her government was totally against forcible acquisition but exceptions could be made for purposes like defence, national security and railways which are essentially public utility services.

"I am totally against acquisition of land for private purposes. Even for public purpose we should not go for acquisition unless it involves essential services."

Banerjee asserted that she was even prepared to go to jail to fulfill her promise of returning land to the farmers from whom land had been taken against their will by the erstwhile Left Front government for the Tata Motors Nano project.

The Banerjee government came out with the Singur Land Development and Rehabilitation Act to return land to the farmer. Tata Motors has challenged the Act in the Calcutta High Court.

"I can't bluff the Singur farmers. I have no problems going to jail even," she said.
Tags : India News, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Gorkha Janamukti Morcha, Two-Decade-Old Contentious, West Bengal government officials and Gorkha Janamukti Morcha, union Home Minister P. Chidam

Man held with Fifty-five fake passports,involved in a human trafficking

Varanasi: As many as 55 fake passports were on Saturday seized from a man suspected to be involved in a human trafficking and was arrested in Uttar Pradesh's Varanasi city, police said.

Ram Janak, 40, was nabbed near the city railway station.

"Preliminary investigations reveal that Ram Janak worked for a well organised human trafficking racket that is controlled from Maharashtra," police inspector V.K. Mishra told reporters in Varanasi, some 300 km from state capital Lucknow.

"The fake passports recovered from Ram Janak are of people living in West Bengal, Bihar, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Delhi and several other states," he added.

Uttar Pradesh Police have contacted their Maharashtra counterparts to nab the kingpin of the racket, who is believed to be hiding in Mumbai.
Tags : India News, Uttar Pradesh's Varanasi city, Ram Janak, controlled from Maharashtra

India vs England second cricket Test Scoreboard

Nottingham: Scoreboard at the end of day two of the second cricket Test between India and England at Trent Bridge here on Saturday.

England first innings: 221 India first innings (overnight 24/1):

Abhinav Mukund c Pietersen b Anderson 0 Rahul Dravid c Cook b Bresnan 117 V.V.S. Laxman c Prior b Bresnan 54 Sachin Tendulkar c Strauss b Broad 16 Suresh Raina c Morgan b Anderson 12 Yuvraj Singh c Prior b Broad 62 Mahendra Singh Dhoni c Anderson b Broad 5 Harbhajan Singh lbw b Broad 0 Praveen Kumar b Broad 0 Ishant Sharma c Bell b Broad 3 S.Sreesanth not out 7

Extras: (b-4, lb-3, w-4, nb-1) 12 Total: (all out in 91.1 overs) 288

Fall of wickets: 1-0 (Mukund, 0.1 overs), 2-93 (Laxman, 35.4), 3-119 (Tendulkar, 43.6), 4-139 (Raina, 50.3), 5-267 (Yuvraj Singh, 85.4), 6-273 (Dhoni, 87.3), 7-273 (Harbhajan Singh, 87.4), 8-273 (Kumar, 87.5), 9-273 (Dravid, 88.2), 10-288 (Sharma, 91.1)

Bowling: James Anderson 26 8 80 2 Stuart Broad 24.1 8 46 6 Tim Bresnan 21 6 48 2 Jonathan Trott 4 1 18 0 Graeme Swann 12 0 76 0 Kevin Pietersen 4 0 13 0

England second innings:

Andrew Strauss batting 6 Alastair Cook c Yuvraj Singh b Sharma 5 Ian Bell batting 9

Extras: (b-4) 4 Total: (for one wicket in 11 overs) 24

Fall of wickets: 1-6 (Cook, 3.4 overs)

Bowling: Praveen Kumar 4 1 9 0 Ishant Sharma 5 3 9 1 S. Sreesanth 2 0 2 0

Toss: India, who chose to field

Umpires: Asad Rauf (Pakistan) and Marias Erasmus (South Africa) TV umpire: Billy Bowden (New Zealand) Match referee: Ranjan Madugalle (Sri Lanka)
Tags : India News, Scoreboard at the end of day two, Test between India and England, England

Gulam Nabi Azad will be the chief guest to pay tribute to singer Mohammed Rafi

Mumbai : Union Health Minister Gulam Nabi Azad will be the chief guest at a function in New Delhi on Sunday to pay tribute to legendary singer Mohammed Rafi on his 31st death anniversary.

Shahid Rafi, the singer's son, is organising the evening and has roped in crooner Roop Kumar Rathod to sing some of Rafi's popular songs.

"No one can sing like Rafi Sahab... He had the voice of God in him. We will try and take people back to his songs by singing songs like 'O duniya ke rakhwale', 'Chaudavi ka chaand' and 'Tum jo mil gaye ho'.

"The unique thing about Rafi sahab's voice was his versatility. Imagine the same singer singing 'Sar jo tera chakraye' for 'Johnny Walker' and 'Hum aapki aankhon mein' for Guru Dutt in the same film. There cannot be another Rafi for sure," a statement quoted Rathod as saying.
Tags : India Entertainment News, Mumbai, Gulam Nabi Azad, Roop Kumar Rathod, Mohammed Rafi


Apple boss Steve Jobs is richer than Uncle Sam

NEW YORK: As of today, Apple boss Steve Jobs is richer than Uncle Sam.

While the world's most powerful government has just $73.76 billion in its reserves, the world's top technology company has a neat cash pile of $75.87 billion.

The US Treasury Department warned that it has now only this much operating budget as Republicans and Democrats fight over raising the nation's debt ceiling. With only that much reserve at its disposal, the Obama White House has warned the Republicans that the US government won't be able to meet its obligations as of Aug 2.

Facing a government default, Obama can definitely turn to Steve Jobs to give him a very brief breathing space. The failure by the Republicans and Democrats to come to a compromise to raise the current $14.3 trillion debt ceiling by Aug 2 could lead to a hike in interest rates. The already battered dollar may also plunge further.

With its market capitalisation of $363.25 billion, Apple is the second largest company on the planet after American oil giant Exxon Mobil. The Cupertino-based Apple started rising suddenly in 2007 when it entered the smartphone market with the launch of its first version of the iPhone.

Within three years, Apple went on to overhaul BlackBerry company Research In Motion (RIM) which invented the smartphone and dominated the market. But its fortunes skyrocketed last year with the launch of the iPad tablet which has sold in millions. In fact, the iPhone and the iPad have made Apple the czar of mobile computing technology as rivals play up catch-up.

The stock of the company, which doesn't pay dividends, has now touched $400. After Apple, another non-financial company sitting on a huge cash reserve is Microsoft whose own pile is about $40 billion.

India signed a $2.4 billion contract with French defence firms

New Delhi: India today signed a $2.4 billion contract with French defence firms Thales and Dassault Aviation for the upgrade of its 51 Mirage combat jets.

"Thales and Dassault Aviation today signed a contract for the upgrade of the Indian Air Force's Mirage-2000 fleet," a press release from Thales and Dassault Aviation here said today.

A company spokesperson here said it was a "commercial contract" between the firms and the Indian government.

The cabinet committee on security had approved the deal earlier this month.
Tags : India today signed a $2.4 billion, Thales and Dassault Aviation

India will for the first time hold a joint army war game with France

New Delhi: India will for the first time hold a joint army war game with France when platoon-sized forces from each side undertake counter-terrorism operations at Chaubatia in Uttarakhand in September-October.

The 'Shakti' exercise will be a regular series like the 'Varuna' and 'Garuda' joint drills between the two navies and air forces, an officer at the army headquarters here said today.

Shakti is a sign of growing military-to-military relations between the two strategic partners in geopolitics, with France being an staunch supporter of India's candidature for a permanent seat in an expanded UN Security Council, apart from being a partner in the civilian nuclear power sector.

India has recently short-listed the French Rafale fighter jet for the $10.4 billion tender for 126 combat aircraft for its air force and it is pitted against European consortium EADS' Eurofighter Typhoon. The lowest bidder among the two will be known in about a month-and-half from now.

India also today signed a deal with French defence firms Thales and Dassault for upgrade of its 51 Mirage-2000 fighter jets of the 1980s vintage at a cost of $2.4 billion.

Meanwhile, 200 Indian Army troops are participating in the 'Ajayee Warrior' war game with the British Army at the latter's hi-tech land warfare centre near Salisbury, the officer said.
Tags : India News, India, Chaubatia, France, Army War Game, Counter Terrorism Operations

Supporters of B.S. Yeddyurappa made public his conditions to quit

Bangalore: Supporters of Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa today made public his conditions to quit - full powers over the party and the new government, a free hand to lead the party in the next assembly polls and the chief minister's post thereafter.

"The person chosen by Yeddyurappa should be his successor, he should decide who will be in the new ministry, lead the party in the next polls and return as chief minister," Harihar legislator B.P. Harish said.

He is among the scores of legislators supporting Yeddyurappa and had assembled at his residence to impress upon central leaders Rajnath Singh and Arun Jaitley to retain him as chief minister.

Harish told reporters after these legislators met the two leaders that "we have conveyed these demands to them and hope they will be accepted".

Excise Minister M. P. Renukacharya, another Yeddyurappa loyalist, said: "We are confident that no decision will be taken in a hurry by our leaders and Yeddyurappa will remain chief minister."

Harish said he and several legislators and party members were "upset" that the decision to remove Yeddyurappa was taken in Delhi without consulting the assembly members.

"In our party views of the legislators must and will prevail," he claimed.
Tags : Karnataka News, B.S. Yeddyurappa, Yeddyurappa, Karnataka Assembly Polls

Government released a draft land acquisition bill

New Delhi: The government today released a draft land acquisition bill that seeks to put in place a legal framework to not only protect the interests of owners and prospective buyers, but also those whose livelihoods depend on the acquired physical asset.

Land markets in India being imperfect, the government intends to enact a transparent and flexible set of rules and regulations and to ensure its enforcement, Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh says in the foreword to the draft.

In recent years, there have been a spate of protests, some even turning violent, over acquisition of farmland for housing and industrial projects, calling for a transparent set of rules that balances the need for industrialisation with the issue of livelihood.

"Under our Constitution, land is a State subject, but land acquisition is a Concurrent subject. So far, the basic law governing the land acquisition process has been the Land Acquisition Act, 1894," Ramesh said.

"Although it has been amended from time to time, it is painfully evident that the basic law has become archaic," he added.

"The draft bill is being placed in the public domain as part of the pre-legislative consultative process. Comments are invited preferably before Aug 31," Ramesh said, adding land records will also be updated and digitised to induce transparency.
Tags : India News, Government, Land Acquisition Bill, Land Markets in India

University of Northern Virginia (UNVA) visa fraud ,investigation against the varsity

New Delhi: With the US immigration authorities raiding the University of Northern Virginia (UNVA) on suspicion of visa fraud, the external affairs ministry here said today that the investigation was against the varsity and not against its Indian students.

It also clarified that the UNVA was not being shut down immediately, but will be given a month's time for explaining its student visa related activities. UNVA has a large number of Indian students on its 2,400-strong rolls.

Ministry spokesperson Vishnu Prakash, in response to a question from reporters, said there will be no mass termination of of the US government's Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) records relating to UNVA and that the authorities will assist students in transfering to other educational institutions in the country or to return home.

SEVIS is a web-based database managed by Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement and used by the US Department of Homeland Security to collect, track and monitor information on exchange visitors, international students and scholars who enter the country on F, M and J non-immigrant visas.

The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raided UNVA's Annandale administrative offices Thursday and seized several boxes of documents.

It also put up a notice on UNVA's office doors asking foreign students to leave the US if they are unable to "continue to attend classes and maintain their active status in a manner required by federal government regulations".

"We understand that the US immigration authorities (ICE) served a notice of intent yesterday on the University of Northern Virginia to withdraw its authorisation. However, the university would not be shut down immediately but would be given a one month notice for an explanation," Prakash said.

The Indian embassy in Washington has been kept in the loop by ICE "as a very large percentage of the 2,400 UNVA students are Indian nationals", he added.

India has meanwhile "impressed upon" the US authorities the need to ensure that the students "are not victimised" in any manner, since they all have valid documents.

"We have been told that the focus of investigations is not on the students but on UNVA itself. The ministry and our mission in Washington are closely following the developments and are in the process of obtaining all details in the matter," he added.
Tags : India News, University of Northern Virginia, UNVA, Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement

ICICI Bank net profit rose by 30 percent to reach Rs.1,332 crore

Mumbai: The country's second largest lender ICICI Bank said today its net profit rose by 30 percent to reach Rs.1,332 crore ($298 million) in the April-June period of the current fiscal on the back of strong credit growth and lower provisions.

The bank's total income rose to Rs.9,261.4 crore for quarter ended June 30, as compared to Rs.7,493 crore during the same quarter last year, it said in a statement.

Consolidated profit of the bank jumped 53 percent to Rs.1,667 crore for the period under review as compared to Rs.1,091 crore in the same period last year.

ICICI Bank, the largest private sector lender, has registered strong credit growth during the first three months of 2011-12. Net interest income of the bank increased 21 percent to Rs.2,411 crore ($539 million) during April-June quarter as compared to Rs.1,991 crore ($445 million) in the like period of last year.

Advances increased by 20 percent to Rs.220,693 crore ($49.4 billion) during the period under review and savings deposits increased by 18 percent to Rs.66,858 crore ($15 billion).

Decline in provisions, an expense set aside as an allowance for doubtful assets, also helped the bank register healthy growth in profit.

Provisions decreased by 43 percent to Rs.454 crore in the first quarter of 2011-12 as against Rs.798 crore in the same quarter of last year, after making additional provisions for sub-standard and doubtful assets in accordance with the revised Reserve Bank of India (RBI) guidelines, the bank statement said.

The ICICI Bank scrip rose 2.10 percent to Rs.1,050 at the Bombay Stock Exchange shortly after the results were announced.
Tags : Indian Banking, ICICI Bank Profit, ICICI Bank, ICICI Bank Credit Growth

India's FIFA World Cup dream ended

New Delhi: India's FIFA World Cup dream ended today as they drew the home-leg 2-2 but went down 2-5 in aggregate to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the first round of Asian qualifiers.

UAE caught India off-guard from a counter attack and went ahead in the 40th minute through Mohammed Al Shehhi and they doubled the lead in the 71st minute after Ali Al-Wehaibi slammed it in from inside the box.

India pulled one back in the 73rd minute with Jeje Lalpeklua's header and defender Gourmangi Singh struck the equalizer in the injury time from a goal mouth melee.

In front of a near capacity crowd at the Ambedkar Stadium, incessant rain made it difficult for both teams to keep the possession of the ball, but India put up a spirited show against the UAE, whose only World Cup finals appearance was way back in 1990 in Italy.

Having lost the away leg 0-3, India needed to win the match by a four-goal margin to move into the second round but a lack of coordinated effort between the strikers and the midfield did them in.

Under slushy underfoot conditions, players struggled to get a firm footing and passes became a gamble for both teams. India as expected launched a heavy wave of attack in the first 10 minutes, typified with miss-passes and false kicks.

The UAE defence stood tall amidst the relentless attack and goalkeeper Ali Khaseif remained hardly tested all during the first half.

While Delhi boy Chettri did most of the leg-work in the first half, his partner Jeje Lalkpeklua looked rusty and India failed to take the advantage of the half chances that came their way. Gourmangi's chip from the edge of the box went wide in the seventh minute while in the next moment a 1-2 between Chettri and mid Steven Dias was squandered in the box.

Slowly the Indians ran out of steam as UAE strengthened their firm grip on the match by resorting to long ball tactics. The visitors almost took a lead in 16th minute from Ahmed Khalil's free-kick but goalkeeper Karanjit Singh made an excellent save by tipping it over the bar.

India also had their share of chance from a free-kick but Dias curled it too wide in the 23rd minute. As the clock ticked, India slowed down the pace of the game.

As coach Armando Colaco feared, the Indian defence was caught napping in the 40th minute after forward Ahmed Khalil dodged defender Sameer Naik and lifted a cross from the baseline and Al Shehhi nodded it in.

UAE showed their class after breather and went ahead as Al-Wehaibi shot it past Karanjit to silence the packed stadium. But within two minutes the crowd burst into joy as an unmarked Jejelalpeklua headed home a perfect cross from substitute Lalrindika.

India, however, left the ground with their heads held high as stopper-back Gourmangi stabbed in from a goalmouth melee much to cheer of the Delhi crowd.

India: Karanjit Singh; Samir Naik, Gourmangi Singh, Raju Gaikwad, Rahim Nabi; Steven Dias (63, Lalrindika Ralte), Mehtab Hossain, Climax Lawrence, Clifford Miranda (84th, Jewel Raja Sheikh); Sunil Chhetri and Jeje Lalpeklua

UAE: Ali Khaseif; Hamdan Al Kamali, Yousef Jaber, Walid Abbas; Amer Abdulrahman, Amir Mubarak, Ali Al-Wehaibi, Khalil Sebil, Mohammad Al Shehhi; Ismail Saeed Al Hammadi, Ajmed Khalil
Tags : India News, India's FIFA World Cup dream, United Arab Emirates, Asian qualifiers, 71st minute after Ali Al-Wehaibi

Amitabh Bachchan's show "Kaun Banega Crorepati" (KBC) promotion started

Mumbai : Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachchan, who is set to host the fifth edition of the reality game show "Kaun Banega Crorepati" (KBC), on Friday flagged off a van with a mock ramp of the show which will travel to 22 cities in India.

Flagging off the bus from Filmcity here, Bachchan said: "This ramp will travel to 22 cities of India. There are many audience and aspirant contestants who don't get the opportunity to come to Mumbai and play 'Kaun Banega Crorepati' with me. They would get a chance to sit on the mock hot seat and click a picture with my statue."

The ramp has a cardboard cutout of Bachchan standing beside the 'hot seat'.

KBC is the Indian adaptation of the popular UK reality game show "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?"

People have to answer a few questions correctly to qualify to sit on the mock hot seat and click picture with Big B's cutout, revealed an official of Sony Entertainment Televison channel.

The 68-year-old actor made his first TV debut as a host of KBC, which was first aired in 2000. He hosted the first and the second season of the show and returned to host the show in its fourth season. Superstar Shah Rukh Khan hosted the third season of the show.

Giving a speak preview of this edition of the show, Bachchan said: "There are very minute changes, keeping the format of the game intact. These changes have been made to make the game more thrilling. Even people watching the show at home can play the game. Their prize money would be less though."

KBC-5 is set to go on air Aug 15.
Tags : India Entertainment News, Mumbai, Bollywood, Amitabh Bachchan,Kaun Banega Crorepati

Sanjay Dutt TV debut with reality show "Bigg Boss 5"

Mumbai : Sanjay Dutt is excited about his TV debut with reality show "Bigg Boss 5", but admits he is nervous too!

"I'm pretty nervous doing it. I've never done it, I don't know what it will be but I know one thing that it will be very different," Sanjay, who turned 52, told to the media.

The actor, who is said to be teaming up with Salman Khan for the controversial show, reveals Salman won't be with him throughout the season. Nevertheless, he promises to try to make it fun.

"Salman will introduce me in the show and will do two episodes with me and then I'll be on my own. Salman asked me to do it and I thought I should do it. It's something new for me. It's a good platform. I'm going to have fun. That is the way I am. I will not make it serious," he added.

"Bigg Boss" is a reality show where celebrity contestants stay in a single house for about three months, with no connection to the outside world. They are overseen by a mysterious person known as "Bigg Boss", whose only presence in the house is through his voice.

Rajeev Khandelwal's directorial dreams!

Actor Rajeev Khandelwal, who made a successful transition from the small screen to the big screen, now wants to go behind the camera.

He says he loves learning about different aspects of filmmaking and would like to turn director some day.

"I love knowing about the different aspects of filmmaking. Even after the shoot, I check the rushes, I go for colour correction, to learn new things. It's basically my love for the art of cinema that takes to all this. Some day I would want to direct," Rajeev told to the media.

The 35-year-old actor made his Bollywood debut in 2008 with critically acclaimed film "Aamir". He was also recently praised for his performance in "Shaitan", in which he played a cop.

I like to relate to my characters: Abhay Deol

Actor Abhay Deol, who has now made a strong foothold in mainstream cinema after doing well in films with offbeat and alternative subjects, says he likes to relate to the characters that he plays on screen.

"I relate with all my characters. With that, I mean that there should be something in the character that I feel I relate to. For example, in 'Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!', I related to Lucky's ambition because I'm ambitious too. In 'Dev D', the character's stubbornness and his vulnerability is something I could relate to.

"Similarly I related to my character in 'Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara' because it's a very real character," Abhay told to the media.

The 35-year-old's upcoming films include "Singularity" and "Shanghai".
Tags : India Entertainment News, Mumbai, Sanjay Dutt, Bigg Boss 5, Salman Khan, Rajeev Khandelwal, Abhay Deol, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara

Prakash Jha's "Aarakshan" promotion ,is being organised by RED FM 93.5 Network

New Delhi: Here's your chance to study in a "school" where megastar Amitabh Bachchan will be the principal, and actors Saif Ali Khan, Manoj Bajpayee and Prateik Babbar will teach music, acting and the arts to students.

The initiative, for the promotion of Prakash Jha's forthcoming film "Aarakshan", on caste-based reservations in the Indian education system, is being organised by RED FM 93.5 Network.

"We are delighted to partner with Prakash Jha's 'Aarakashan', who has given audiences some excellent dramatic movies in the past and 'Aarakshan' promises to be live up to the hype. With this contest we are giving listeners the chance to interact and learn from their favourite filmstars," Nisha Narayanan of Red FM 93.5 Network, said in a press statement.

Red FM is running a contest across seven of its stations in Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, Ahmedabad, Lucknow, Jaipur and Indore. One lucky winner each from these cities will be brought to Mumbai, and will be tutored by the cast of "Aarakshan".

The event will be held on Aug 2 in Mumbai, with Jha giving lessons in economics and social science.
Tags : India Entertainment News, Bollywood, Amitabh Bachchan, Prateik Babbar, Saif Ali Khan, Aarakshan

Akshay Kumar very keen to make a sequel to "Singh Is Kinng"

Mumbai: Akshay Kumar says he is very keen to make a sequel to his 2008 hit "Singh Is Kinng" and that he is waiting for the right script.

"I am keen to (make the sequel), but not getting the right subject to make it. Once I get it, I would love to make the sequel," Akshay told reporters here on Thursday at the launch of the second anniversary issue of Star Week magazine.

Akshay and his wife Twinkle Khanna have posed for the cover of the glossy.

The 43-year-old, who turned producer and launched his company the Hari Om Entertainment, made films like "Khatta Meetha" and "Tees Maar Khan".

Akshay, who is producing Indo-Canadian venture "Breakaway", said: "It feels great that I could do something which I had never imagined. It's a very big thing for me."

Directed by Canadian Robert Lieberman, "Breakaway" is the tale of a young Indian ice hockey player who wants to get into the big league. The Indian version of the film has been named "Speedy Singhs".

Releasing on September 30, "Breakaway" stars Vinay Virmani, Rob Lowe, Russell Peters, Camilla Belle, Noureen DeWulf and Anupam Kher. Akshay plays a cameo in the film.
Tags : India Entertainment News, Bollywood, Singh Is Kinng, Akshay Kumar, Singh Is Kinng Sequel

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Ajmal Amir Kasab asking for his death sentence

NEW DELHI: The lone surviving gunman from the 2008 Mumbai attacks that left 166 dead has approached th Supreme Court asking for his death sentence to be overturned.

The request by Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab had been filed via jail authorities in Mumbai, where he has been held since the attacks, and lodged with the secretary general of the court.

He filed the appeal through the Arthur Road jail authorities.

Pakistani national Kasab, one of 10 gunmen who laid siege to Mumbai for nearly three days, was first convicted and sentenced by a trial court in the Indian commercial and entertainment capital in May 2010.

The death sentence was confirmed by the state high court in February in the first failed appeal by the 23-year-old school drop-out from a poor farming area in Pakistan's Punjab state.

India has the death sentence for the "rarest of the rare" criminal offences and executions are uncommon.

Kasab was found guilty of a string of offences including waging war against India, murder, attempted murder and terrorist acts after a trial at a maximum security prison court in Mumbai.

During the trial, the prosecution produced fingerprint, DNA, eye-witness, CCTV and other evidence showing him opening fire and throwing grenades in the bloodiest episode of the November 26 attacks at Mumbai's main railway station.

A number of senior police officers, including the head of the Maharashtra state anti-terrorism squad, were killed as the gunmen fled the scene of carnage.

Three luxury hotels, a popular tourist restaurant and a Jewish centre were also targeted by the other gunmen.

If the Supreme Court upholds the verdict and sentence, Kasab can appeal for clemency to the President as a last resort.

Google chairman Eric Schmidt,is dating a "beautiful brunette"

NEW YORK: Google chairman Eric Schmidt, who is still married to his wife, is dating a "beautiful brunette" at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Multibillionaire Schmidt, 56, has been repeatedly seen out with the attractive 45-year-old Lisa Shields including dining at Tutto il Giorno in Southampton, and spending time at a summer rental in the Hamptons.

"Lisa has spent a lot of time traveling with Eric and on his yacht Oasis in the Caribbean and the South of France," the New York Post quoted a source as saying.

Another told the daily that Schmidt, worth $7 billion, met Shields at a party last summer, and they began dating shortly after. He was a guest at Shields' holiday brunch at her East 16th Street apartment last December.

"She has been telling friends that they are dating, and they have been going out openly in New York and the Hamptons as a couple," the source added.


VISA fraud:University of Northern Virginia under probe

WASHINGTON: US has assured to protect the interests of hundreds of Indian students at the University of Northern Virginia (UNVA), which was raided by investigating and law enforcement agencies on suspected charges of alleged visa fraud.

In a day-long exercise, which was continuing late in the evening, dozens of officials, from different federal agencies including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Federal Bureau of Investigation ( FBI)), entered the Annandale campus of the university and took away with them a large number of boxes full of documents and computer hard drives from its administrative division.

"Today, officials from ICE's Student and Exchange Visitor Programme (SEVP) served UNVA with a Notice of Intent to Withdraw (NOIW) UNVA's authorisation to admit foreign students," ICE spokeswoman Cori W Bassett in a statement.

Based in Annandale, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, the university is believed to have 2,400 students of which 90 per cent are from India, of which an overwhelming majority are said to be from Andhra Pradesh.

The university declined to make any comment, neither did it communicated with its students and staff, except for posting a notice on its entrance informing that the university is still open, but students have the choice to move to other varsities or look for other options if they want.

Informed sources said UNVA was authorised to issue I-20 form to about 50 students, but had issued and enrolled a much larger number.

However, based on the experience of the Tri-Valley case, and given that India had strongly objected to the manner in which its students were treated, US authorities are believed to have informed their Indian counterparts that they would be handling the present investigation and follow up action somewhat differently.

Unlike Tri-Valley University, the focus of investigations here is not on students but on the schools itself. No arrest, detention or electronic monitoring would be done on students, officials said.

Further, the university would not be immediately shut down. The university has been given a months' notice for explanation.

The present students would have one of the three options: continue at the university while it functions, seek transfer to another university and seek voluntary return to India.

In another major relief, visa status of the students would not be terminated, they would remain valid for their present duration, which would also provide time for seeking transfers while continuing in a valid visa status.

In another notice, ICE has informed the UNVA students that they have two choices - continue to attend classes and maintain their active status, seek transfer to another SEVP-approved institution.

"UNVA students must immediately depart the country if they are unable to continue to attend classes and maintain their active status in a manner required by the regulation or if they are unable or do not wish to seek transfer to another SEVP-certified institution," it said.

B.S. Yeddyurappa to resign but sought time till July 31

New Delhi: A defiant Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa on Thursday relented to resign but sought time till July 31 even as the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) convened a meeting of its legislators today to elect a new leader.He deliberately chose July 31 as "according to the Hindu calendar, this Ashadha month from July 2-30 is considered inauspicious to take any important decisions", an official at the chief minister's office told to the media late today."The chief minister has conveyed to the BJP leadership that he would resign July 31, as directed by the party's parliamentary board in New Delhi earlier in the day," he said.

The BJP's first chief minister in south India was on Wednesday indicted under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, by state Lokayukta (ombudsman) Justice N. Santosh Hegde for his direct involvement in the multi-crore mining scam in the state as he was also in-charge of the mines department.
Tags : India News, defiant Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa, Bharatiya Janata Party

Rahul Gandhi will inaugurate a unique memorial , Guru Tegh Bahadur

New Delhi: Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi will inaugurate a unique memorial to the ninth Sikh Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur, on the Delhi-Haryana border on Friday. The memorial, comprising 40 plaques inscribed with the tenets of Sikhism, is touted to be another landmark of the national capital.

"The government has invited Congress MP Rahul Gandhi to inaugurate the memorial which was built in the memory of ninth Sikh Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur," a Delhi government official today told to the media.

Located on the Singhu border of Delhi and Haryana, the foundation stone was laid by Congress president Sonia Gandhi in 2003.

The memorial has been constructed at a cost of Rs.25 crore. The place is thronged by people from Haryana, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh.

The official said that Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit along with other cabinet members will be present there.

"This is a beautiful structure and will be another marvellous landmark in Delhi's heritage. The memorial features 40 plaques inscribed with the fundamental tenets of Sikhism," added the official.

"Built with stainless steel and stone, the memorial also has an amphitheater. Its 24 metric tonnex pylon can be viewed from a long distance," said the official.
Tags : India News, Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi, Delhi-Haryana border

Tamil Nadu:Supreme Court to hear the case of free colour television (CTV) distribution

Chennai: The Supreme Court today is likely to hear the case related to free colour television (CTV) distribution scheme of the Tamil Nadu government.

City based advocate S. Subramaniam Balaji moved the apex court against the previous DMK government's free CTV scheme, terming poll promises as "unconstitutional and bribery".

Speaking to the media over phone from New Delhi, Balaji said: "Hearing in the case has been slated for today. It could be the final hearing in the case."
Tags : India News, Supreme Court, colour television, Tamil Nadu government

Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa would resign July 31

Bangalore: Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa late on Thursday announced he would resign July 31 and work for the party, over 12 hours after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) directed him to quit immediately over illegal mining scam in the state.

In a statement, the 68-year-old first BJP chief minister in south India said: "I am a disciplined worker of Bharatiya Janata Party. I have decided to tender my resignation to the post of chief minister as per the direction of the party.

"The month of Ashada (according to Hindu calendar) will be over on 30th July 2011 on the New Moon day or Amavasya. I will be tendering my resignation as chief minister on the forenoon of 31st July 2011."

"I have consistently toiled for 40 years to build the party from the scratch and have got the satisfaction of bringing the party to this level. It is my committed desire to work for the development of the party in the future also," Yeddyurappa said.

The announcement smoothens the way to elect his successor today for which the ruling BJP is holding a meeting here in the presence of senior leader Rajnath Singh and Arun Jaitley as central observers.

Yedddyurappa's announcement came after a day of hectic activity in the BJP camp with groups of legislators meeting him separately and speculation that he had imposed several conditions to quit.

Among the conditions talked about in BJP circles was that he will name the successor, will have a major say in ministry formation and should be made state unit president.

There was no indication from either him or his loyalists or from BJP central leadership whether the party has agreed to any of these conditions.

The BJP parliamentary board on Thursday morning directed Yeddyurappa to quit immediately, a day after Lokayukta N. Santosh Hegde sought his trail for graft in the illegal mining scam that has caused a loss of over Rs.16,000 crores to the state.
Tags : India News, Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa, Bharatiya Janata Party, illegal mining sca

Ford Motor Company,will invest $1 billion in Gujarat

Chennai: US car-maker Ford Motor Company, which has a major vehicle plant in Tamil Nadu, has announced it will invest $1 billion in Gujarat to build two plants. However, the decision does not seem to have upset or surprised the Tamil Nadu government that had invited the company with open arms to set up base here offering attractive tax incentives years back.

"We have been told that the company would save sizeably on freight costs if it has a plant in Gujarat as it can cater to the northern markets," a state government official told to the media on the condition of anonymity.

He categorically ruled out power and labour issues as the reasons for Ford to zero in on Gujarat.

"Power problem is present in all the states. The power situation in Tamil Nadu is set to improve soon. Similarly, the company has not complained about its labour," he said.

He cited Ford's decision to invest $72 million to expand its engine plant located near here to take the annual production capacity to 330,000 units from the current 250,000 units.

Ford currently has a vehicle plant near here with a capacity to roll out 200,000 units per annum.

Ford and the Gujarat government signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) at Gandhinagar today, whereby Ford would invest around $1 billion to build an integrated state-of-the-art vehicle manufacturing facility and an engine plant at Sanand in Gujarat.

The proposed facilities would include stamping body, paint and assembly operations for vehicle manufacturing, as well as machining and assembly operations for engine manufacturing.

The vehicle plant will have an initial annual capacity of 240,000 units, and the engine plant will have an initial annual capacity of 270,000 engines. Ford's investment will also create 5,000 jobs at the new facilities.

The manufacturing operation will be built on a 460-acre site, with adjacent land protected by the local government in order to attract and locate automotive suppliers within close proximity of both plants.

The new facilities will allow quick access from operations at the new manufacturing site to the heartland of the critical north and western India regions, where the largest share of the country's passenger car industry exists.

Construction of both plants will begin later this year, with the first vehicle and engine scheduled to come off the line in 2014.
Tags : India News, US car-maker Ford Motor Company, Tamil Nadu,billion in Gujarat to build two plants

Idea Cellular and Vodafone increased tariffs on their pre-paid plans

Mumbai: Taking a leaf from telecom giant Bharti Airtel, Idea Cellular and Vodafone also increased tariffs on their pre-paid plans in select regions while Bharti expanded its new tariffs to other circles, officials familiar with the development said today.

Idea has increased its tariff from 1 paisa per second to 1.2 paisa per second for calls made from Idea to other networks including both local and STD calls in the Delhi region under the per second billing scheme.

The operator had so far been offering its customers 1 paisa per second billing plan for local and STD calls made from Idea to Idea network as well as from Idea to other networks.

Meanwhile, Bharti Airtel also expanded its tariff hike plans during the course of the weekend.

The telecom operator which had on Friday announced a 20-25 percent hike in its tariffs in selected regions across the country including Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat has expanded its tariff plans to a total of 18 circles.

"We have finally rolled out new tariff plans across 18 circles. The ones that have not been covered till now are UP West, Haryana, Mumbai and Orissa," a senior executive of Bharti Airtel told IANS on the basis of anonymity.

With the entry of new players and the ensuing tariff wars, the high priced bidding for 3G auctions, which saw top operators like Bharti Airtel and Reliance Communications coughing up Rs.12,295 crore and Rs.8,583 crore respectively, had led to margins being hammered.

Bharti had in fact paid an additional Rs.3,314 crore for acquiring BWA spectrum as well.

Bharti's move gave a break to the cut-throat competition among telecom operators offering dirt cheap tariffs.

Idea's tariff hikes are also effective in other regions where the company provides its services including Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, however the plans differ slightly from one place to another.

"We don't have one strategy plan in all circles," a senior executive of Idea Cellular told the media on the basis of anonymity.

Vodafone on the other hand has changed its tariffs in 12 circles from 1 paisa per second to 1.2 paisa or 1.5 paisa, subjective to the regions.
Tags : India Business News., Bharti Airtel, Idea Cellular, Vodafone

Taj Mahal,is the top draw in terms of tourism revenue

New Delhi: The seventh wonder of the world, the Taj Mahal, is the top draw in terms of tourism revenue, logging a gate entry income of Rs.19,89,49,560 for the fiscal 2010-2011, the ministry of culture said today.

This is the third consecutive year that the 16th century monument to love built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in Agra has topped gate ticket sales.

The finest example of Mughal architecture, the Taj Mahal was completed around 1653. In 2008-2009, the monument generated Rs.15,36,49,810, and in 2009-2010 it raked in Rs.17,24,49,110.

The Taj Mahal gate revenue was followed by the Agra Fort with Rs.10,42,05,580, Fatehpur Sikri with Rs.5,73,15,990, and Akbar's tomb at Sikandra with Rs.1,00,70,945 in the Agra circle, the ministry said in a statement.

In the Delhi circle, the Qutab Minar generated Rs.10,05,31,280 from gate tickets while Humayun's tomb earned Rs.6,15,14,900. It was followed by the Red Fort at Rs.5,90,87,850.

The Khajuraho group of temples in Madhya Pradesh raked in a revenue of Rs.2,58,99,180.

The ministry said the revenue for major archaeological sites across the country has shown steady increase since 2009, indicating a sharp increase in heritage tourism in the domestic circuits.

"Gate ticket sales make up bulk of the archaeological revenue," a ministry official said.
Tags : India News, seventh wonder of the world, Taj Mahal,Rs.19,89,49,560 for the fiscal 2010-2011,

Zaheer Khan ruled out of the second Test ,Mahendera Singh Dhoni confirmed

Nottingham: India spearhead Zaheer Khan has been ruled out of the second Test because of hamstring injury, skipper Mahendera Singh Dhoni confirmed today.

The second Test begins here on Friday at Trent Bridge.

The left-armer bowled an impressive new-ball spell, dismissing both England openers Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook, before clutching his hamstring in his 14th over on the first day of the Lord's Test, and trotting off the field. He didn't return except for two short batting spells.

In his absence, India will either go with Munaf Patel and S. Sreesanth as back-up seamers.

India opener Gautam Gambhir, who hurt his left elbow during the first Test, also looks a doubtful starter for the second Test.

A decision on him would be taken on the morning of the Test, Dhoni was quoted as saying in cricinfo.

England have taken a 1-0 lead in the four-Test series and will dislodge India as the No.1 side if they win the series with a two-Test margin.
Tags : India Sports News, Indian Cricket, Mahendera Singh Dhoni, Zaheer Khan, India, England, India England Second Test, Trent Bridge

Anupam Kher now approached the CINTAA for a resolution

Mumbai: With a producer making a hue and cry over Anupam Kher's refusal to return the signing amount of "Gandhi To Hitler", the actor has now approached the CINTAA for a resolution.

While Nalin Singh, the co-producer and actor from "Gandhi To Hitler" feels Anupam has been unfair to the project by opting out and refusing to return the signing amount, Anupam feels the timing of Nalin's allegations smacks of a publicity gimmick.

Raza Murad, the chairperson of the joint dispute settlement committee of the CINTAA (Cinema & Television Artistes' Assoction), supports Anupam.

"In my 25 years of association with CINTAA, we've never received any complaint against Mr Anupam Kher. Producers choose to work with him repeatedly. He is one of our most professional actors," said Raza Murad.

"Why didn't the makers of this film ('Gandhi To Hitler') approach us earlier? Sometimes an actor is unable to do a film even after taking the signing amount. There's nothing alarming about this. Why didn't they complain when Anupam backed out. Why now?"

About returning signing amounts Raza Murad said: "There's a mutual understanding between the actor and producer about this matter. But in this case the producers did not ask Anupam back for the money at the time he opted out. Maybe there was an understanding that the signing amount would be adjusted for whatever preparation Anupam had undertaken.

"If this was not the case why didn't the producers ask back for their signing amount earlier? The producer Anil Kumar Sharma seems to be a thorough gentleman. Then why was Anupam's picture torn up at a press conference for 'Gandhi To Hitler' in Chandigarh. This was a gesture in very bad taste. Anupam is not an anti-national element nor is he a politician. We don't indulge in such gestures against our artistes."

Raza Murad cites the example of Mallika Sherawat in a similar case. "After taking the the signing amount for a film where she was supposed to play a prostitute Mallika visited red-light areas with the director for 10 days to prepare for the role. Her stand was, 'Yes I had taken money but I've also invested my time in preparation'."

Murad makes it vocally clear that using artistes' names negatively to promote a film won't be tolerated.

"It's a small industry. There are no permanent enemies and friends here. We don't approve of this kind of publicity where you indulge an artiste's character assassination. We're here to protect our artistes. But if an artiste is in the wrong we won't hesitate in pulling him or her up," he said.
Tags : India News, Anupam Kher, Gandhi To Hitler, CINTAA

Ram Gopal Varma's "Shabri" will hit the theatres on Aug 26

Mumbai: Finally Ram Gopal Varma is confident to share the story of a female as told in "Shabri". The film, which was completed about five years ago, will hit the theatres on Aug 26.

The Isha Koppikar, Raj Arjun and Pradip Rawat starrer is about how a simple woman from a Mumbai slum ends up as a matka (gambling) kingpin and threatens the corridors of power.

Co-produced by Reliance Entertainment, the film has been written and directed by Lalit Marathe.

"I feel like a dog, who will have his on Friday!" said Marathe in a statement.

It was reported that Varma was apprehensive in releasing the film earlier because of the subject and that's why the film did not release for so many years.

However, now the producer feels more confident about releasing it.
Tags : India Entertainment News, Bollywood, Ram Gopal Varma, Shabri, Isha Koppikar, Lalit Marathe

Salman Khan's security aide Shera shot for the "Bodyguard" item number

Mumbai: First Salman Khan's former girlfriend, actress Katrina Kaif, was roped in for the "Bodyguard" item number and now his security aide Shera has shot for the much-talked about song.

Shera will not only feature in "Bodyguard Item Song", but he will also be seen dancing and grooving with Salman.

"Yes, I have shot for the song with Salman bhai and all this seems like a magic. Salman bhai is such a huge star and for someone like him showing such trust in me is nothing short of a miracle," Shera, who has been with Salman for more than 15 years, said in a statement.

"In front of the whole world, he said that this is my most trusted man. Isn't that great?

"This is the first time I will be in front of the camera with Salman bhai doing this item song. He just showed me some dance steps and I did a lot of rehearsal before the final take. It was scary and I was nervous. I will never forget this experience," he added.

Recently Salman had also made Shera unveil the first look of "Bodyguard".

The film, directed by Siddique and produced by Atul Agnihotri, is a remake of the director's 2010 Malayalam film, "Bodyguard". It is scheduled for an Aug 31 release.
Tags : India Entertainment News, Bollywood, Salman Khan, Katrina Kaif, Bodyguard, Bodyguard Item Number, Shera

Suresh Kalmadi underwent a brain scan at the AIIMS

NEW DELHI: Dismissing reports that he was suffering from dementia, former Commonwealth Games (CWG) Organising Committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi Thursday underwent a brain scan at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and said that he was "perfectly all right".

"I am perfectly all right, all that you reading outside is wrong... I've come for my routine check-up," Kalmadi, who has been lodged in Tihar Jail in connection with corruption in the preparation for the Games, told a news channel.

"I'll be answering all questions at the right time," he added.

Kalmadi, 67, had complained of dizziness, depression and anxiety. He was taken to the Lok Nayak Jayaprakash Narayan Hospital July 19 where he underwent an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan.

BJP too late in asking Yeddyurappa to quit:Congress

New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been "too late" in asking Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa to quit after the state Lokayukta indicted him for the illegal mining in the state, the Congress said today."It is too late. This should have happened six months ago. There were serious charges against him," Congress' Rajiv Shukla said in the party's first reaction to the BJP's decision asking Yeddyurappa to step down "immediately".Shukla, who is also minister of state for parliamentary affairs, told the media here that the Congress had been demanding Yeddyurappa's ouster for six months but the BJP ignored it.

"The BJP cannot take the moral high ground now," he said.

He said it was not yet clear if Yeddyurappa was "really resigning".

"He has not quit as yet. He appears defiant. He should have quit yesterday," Shukla said.
Tags : India News, B.S. Yeddyurappa, Lokayukta, Bharatiya Janata Party, BJP, Yeddyurappa

Demand for housing loans may come down: National Housing Bank (NHB) chairman

Kolkata: The demand for housing loans may come down with key rates of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) going up by 50 basis points, National Housing Bank (NHB) chairman and managing director R.V. Verma said today.

"There will be some impact. The demand for housing loans may come down, with the interest rates going up. Indian institutions have to take a decision on that as the policy rates go up by 50 basis points," Verma told reporters on the sidelines of a programme organised by here FICCI.

India's central bank Tuesday hiked its key rates by 50 basis points each in the 11th such exercise since January, 2010 to tame inflation, setting the stage for commercial banks to raise their interest on personal and corporate loans.

On the possibility of increasing the interest rate of NHB, Verma said, "We have to see this in the background of our overall cost of funds. Then we will take a decision."

Stating that rising interest rates and an increase in the prices of property had already resulted in a slowdown in housing demand, he said the impact has been across all sectors in retail housing loans.

He said property prices in the country would see some correction now.

"In a situation where there is oversupply or unsold inventory, price correction is likely to happen. The price correction will be across the entire industry, particularly where there are large unsold stocks. About 15 to 20 percent price correction should happen," he stated.

Verma said the NHB's projected total disbursement for this fiscal was Rs.12,500 crore.

"We have to borrow about Rs.9,000 crore to Rs.10,000 crore for that during the year. We will borrow from insurance companies. There will be some external borrowings also. We are already in talks with the World Bank. We have applied for $500 million," he said.

On setting up a mortgage guarantee fund, he said it should come up in this calendar year. He said the total provision of the fund will be Rs.12,000 crore.

"This is something we are already engaged in. This is a part of our ongoing discussion with the industry for the ministry of housing and the ministry of finance. It is in the final stages. We have already put infrastructure to manage the fund. A trust will be set up. The central government and some state governments will contribute," he said.
Tags : India News, Reserve Bank of India, RBI, R.V. Verma, Housing Loans, Demand for Housing Loans

India-Pakistan talks were splashed across the Pakistani newspapers

Islamabad: The India-Pakistan talks were splashed across the front pages of most Pakistani newspapers today though some news websites decided not to play it up.

Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar held talks with her Indian counterpart S.M. Krishna in New Delhi on Wednesday.

India and Pakistan sought to open a new chapter of "peaceful and cooperative" ties by pledging to intensify counter-terror cooperation and unveiled a host of initiatives to spur trade and travel between the divided halves of Kashmir.

Dawn gave prominent display to the New Delhi talks with its report headlined, "Pakistan, India revive search for enduring dialogue process".

It cited the joint statement as stating that the two countries had agreed that terrorism posed a continuing threat to peace and security and reiterated their "firm and undiluted commitment" to fight and eliminate the scourge in all its forms and manifestations.

Daily Times noted that the relationship was back on track.

Although the New Delhi meeting produced little in the way of substantive agreements, it said, the tone was one of forward-looking optimism that acknowledged a joint responsibility to bring stability to South Asia.

The media report observed that the pre-talks atmosphere had been soured by Khar's decision to meet Kashmiri separatist leaders on her arrival in New Delhi on Tuesday.

The Nation in its story "India willing to talk Kashmir" said the two ministers discussed Jammu and Kashmir, counter-terrorism measures, including progress in the Mumbai attacks trial in Pakistan, humanitarian issues, commercial and economic cooperation, Sir Creek, Siachen, peace and security and promotion of friendly exchanges.

Some news websites, however, gave short shrift to the crucial talks.

Geo News did not display the India-Pakistan talks on its first page, though it did have a story in its Pakistan section on Khar creating a media stir in India.

It said that she won over the hearts of the Indian media and mentioned an Indian tabloid that said the 34-year-old minister scored full marks on the fashion front when she was spotted at the Delhi airport in a monotone outfit of blue -- "the colour of the season", it said.

"Tasteful accessories -- Roberto Cavalli sunglasses, oversized Hermes Birkin bag and classic pearl jewellery -- added a hint of glamour to her look," it added.

Geo News also carried a small story on Khar meeting Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The media report said that they discussed bilateral matters of mutual interest.

The News International's website too did not have the talks between the two foreign ministers on its front page. Its nation page had the story on Khar causing a media stir.
Tags : India News, India Pakistan Talks, Hina Rabbani Khar, Jammu and Kashmir

Lokpal bill by the cabinet is the weak and ineffective: Anna Hazare

New Delhi: Social activist Anna Hazare, who has been campaigning for a strong Lokpal bill to fight corruption, on Wednesday said the bill which is likely to be discussed by the cabinet today is the "weak" and "ineffective" form."The union cabinet is most likely to discuss the contents of Lokpal bill tomorrow, which should be presented in the forthcoming session of parliament. In its present form, the government's version of the Lokpal bill is too weak and ineffective," Hazare said in a statement here."It has a very narrow jurisdiction," he added.

"It is a rare opportunity for the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government to change the history of India. If they present a strong Lokpal bill, the whole country will be indebted to them. We sincerely appeal to the cabinet to present a strong Lokpal bill in parliament," Hazare said.

A 10-member Lokpal bill joint drafting committee, constituting members of the civil society and the government, was formed in April after a fast by Hazare to demand a stringent anti-corruption law.

The civil society members want the Lokpal bill to be passed by parliament by Aug 15 and have threatened another fast if this does not happen.

"If the government presents a law whose basic structure is bad, we will be left with no option but to sit on an indefinite fast to demand that the government should withdraw this law and present a better law in parliament," the statement said.
Tags : India News, Anna Hazare, Lokpal Bill, Cabinet, United Progressive Alliance, UPA

BJP to decide B.S.Yeddyurappa fate today!!!

New Delhi: Karnataka Chief Minister B.S.Yeddyurappa on Wednesday explained his position to the party leadership in the wake of his indictment in the report on illegal mining submitted by Karnataka Lokayukta and a decision on his continuation is expected to be taken today, party sources said.

Yeddyurappa, who reached New Delhi on Wednesday evening went to the residence of party president Nitin Gadkari to attend the meeting, convened in the wake of report by Karnataka Lokayukta N. Santosh Hegde which levelled charges against him.

The meeting, which lasted over three hours, was attended by senior BJP leaders Arun Jaitley, who is BJP party in-charge of Karnataka and former president Rajnath Singh.

Yeddyurappa was accompanied by some of his senior ministers at the meeting.

Party sources said that a meeting of the parliamentary board is likely to take place today to take a call on continuance of Karnataka chief minister.

Several senior party leaders are of the firm belief that Yeddyurappa should resign in the wake of his indictment to save the party any embarrassment in its campaign on the issue of corruption against the UPA government.

However, the chief minister, who was defiant when he reached Delhi, sought to put up a strong defence about the charges levelled against him in the report, sources said.

They said that chief minister told the party leadership that there was nothing new in the report and much of what has been stated in the report is already pending as cases in various courts.

Yeddyurappa also believed to have told the party leadership that he had referred the whole issue of illegal-mining to Lokayukta. Some of Yeddyurappa's aides have also termed the report as politically motivated.

Earlier, on this arrival in the capital, Yeddyurappa said that there was no need for him to resign. "Why should I. Question of resigning does not arise", Yeddyurappa told reporters at the airport.

He said he would convene a meeting of his cabinet at 3.00 p.m. today to go into the details of the Lokayukta report and give its reaction.

Yeddyurappa said he will "explain all the things in the report" to the party leadership. "MLAs are with us... I am going to discuss all these things."

Party sources said that the leadership will not like to delay a decision on Yeddyurappa's continuance due to Monsoon Session of the parliament beginning Aug 1.

A section of the party is also vary of the possible action by Karnataka Governor H.R.Bhardwaj in the wake of the submission of the report.

Hegde's report found that the chief minister's family, including son B.Y. Raghvendra, a Lok Sabha member of BJP from Shimoga, 270 km from Bangalore, benefiting from the mining scam.

A voluminous report submitted by him found that the exchequer lost a whopping Rs.16,085 crore (Rs.161 billion) due to illegal mining and export of iron ore from 2006 to 2010 in royalty, excise duty, value added tax and other levies.

The names doing the rounds in party circles as possible successors to Yeddyurappa include party general secretary Ananth Kumar and state ministers Jagdish Shettar, Suresh Kumar, V.S. Acharya and state party president K S Eshwarappa.
Tags : India News, Karnataka Chief Minister B.S.Yeddyurappa, Nitin Gadkari

Next Karnataka Chief Minister race on !!!

New Delhi: The names of Karnataka minister Jagdish Shettar, state Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief K.S. Eshwarappa and MP Ananth Kumar are doing the rounds as the replacement for Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa, who was today asked to quit by the party.

Speculation is rife about his successor, with the BJP deciding to remove Yeddyurappa after he was indicted by the Lokayukta for the illegal mining in the state.

Shettar, the rural development minister, is a Lingayat leader like Yeddyurappa. One of the reasons for not asking Yeddyurappa to resign during the last crisis when he was indicted in a land scam was the huge Lingayat vote bank backing him.

Eshwarappa, who belongs to the backward caste, is another option for the party, while former state president Sadananda Gowda's name has also been taken. All three are not so well-known nationally.

BJP Lok Sabha MP Ananth Kumar, who has been a competitor of Yeddyurappa, is another contender, according to party sources.

Former home minister and Yeddyurappa loyalist V.S. Acharya, Law Minister Suresh Acharya and Shobha Karandlaje, who is known for her proximity to the chief minister, are the other names being floated, the sources say.

Yeddyurappa was today asked to step down immediately by the BJP after the Lokayukta indicted him for the illegal mining in the state.
Tags : India News, Yeddyurappa, K.S. Eshwarappa, BJP

Corporation Bank :CBI examining a report prepared by CVC

Chennai: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is examining a report prepared by the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) on the alleged irregularities in the sanction of loans and tender procedures by Mangalore-based public sector Corporation Bank, a source said.

The CVC had forwarded its report to CBI a week ago. Speaking to IANS on the telephone from Delhi, a CBI source said: "The reference was made to CBI by CVC a week back. The report is being studied."

According to him, the agency will verify the findings stated in the report and if there is credible evidence, then a case will be registered and investigations would begin.

Perhaps for the first time in India's banking history, the CVC has conducted a probe based on a whistleblower's complaint about alleged irregularities in sanction of loans and issuance of tenders at the Corporation Bank.

A two-member team from the CVC camped at Corporation Bank's headquarters May 9-14 to probe the complaint and senior bank officials deposed before it, sources told IANS.

The inquiry was held under Sections 8 and 11 of the CVC Act. Section 11 confers inquiry team the power of a civil court in respect of summoning and enforcing attendance of a person, production of documents and receiving evidence on affidavits, among others.

The CVC had earlier sent the probe report to the department of financial services under the finance ministry. CVC officials declined to comment on the development and e-mails sent to them remain unacknowledged.

Last month, the CVC had asked the bank not to issue or award tenders for appointment of technical, management consultants on retainer basis or for expanding the bank's insurance, wealth and asset management business, due to violations of norms.
Tags : India News, Central Bureau of Investigation, Central Vigilance Commission, Mangalore-based public sector Corporation Bank

Jet Airways commence daily flights from Thiruvananthapuram to Sharjah

Mumbai: Jet Airways today said that it will commence daily flights from Thiruvananthapuram to Sharjah from Oct 30.

"We believe this new route has the potential to serve the needs of our corporate and business traveLlers, especially from the South," said Nikos Kardassis, chief executive, Jet Airways.

"The airline will deploy its state-of-the-art Boeing 737-800 aircraft on this new route, offering 16 Premiere and 138 Economy seats," an airline statement said.

Currently, Jet operates a daily flight from Kochi to Sharjah while its other flights connect various Indian cities to 10 destinations in the Middle East.
Tags : India News, Jet Airways, Thiruvananthapuram to Sharjah, Nikos Kardassis

Ali Zafar looking for a fresh face for his new music video

New Delhi: Pakistani Singer-actor Ali Zafar, who featured in Bollywood movie "Tere Bin Laden", is looking for a fresh face for his new music video for the album "Jhoom".

"This is one of the biggest albums and Ali wants to cast a new face opposite him in the video. He is on a hunt both in India and Pakistan to zero in on a girl to play the lead," said a source.

Zafar's third album titled "Jhoom", released by Alif Records, singer's own record label, is the highest selling album in Pakistan and it has been ranked second in popularity on Indian music charts.

He will now be seen in Yash Raj Films' new film "Mere Brother Ki Dulhan", starring Imran Khan and Katrina Kaif.
Tags : India News, Pakistani Singer-actor Ali Zafar, Tere Bin Laden

IGNOU launched courses focusing on medical, nursing and teaching personnel

New Delhi: The Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) today launched three courses focusing on raising more educational avenues for medical, nursing and teaching personnel, an official said.

The two certificate courses and one diploma programme will be offered by the varsity through distance education mode, a varsity official said.

"The first certificate course is for which aims to provide quality care to patients undergoing treatment under ayurvedic system of medicine," he said.

The Adolescent Health and Counselling course will prepare teachers and parents to help adolescents to develop a healthy lifestyle and handle stress, he said.

"It will help teachers and parents to strengthen their knowledge in understanding needs and concerns of adolescents; build knowledge on physical, cognitive, emotional and psychological changes," the official said.

The diploma programme in Critical Care Nursing will ensure that critically ill patients are looked after by nurses who have advanced nursing care knowledge and skills, added the official.
Tags : India Education News, Indira Gandhi National Open University, IGNOU, IGNOU Certificate Courses, Auxiliary Nurse Midwives


Central Teacher Eligibility Test ( CTET) results declared

NEW DELHI: The results of the first Central Teacher Eligibility Test ( CTET)) conducted by CBSE for recruitment of teachers to Central Government schools, were declared on Tuesday with 97,919 candidates clearing it.

Of the total 79,4080 candidates registered for the test, 71,5050 had sat for the exam held on June 26.

The test was conducted in 1,178 centres and 81 cities across the country and two cities abroad.

The results can viewed in and It can also be viewed in national depository portals like, and

2G spectrum scam:Government responsible for the mess says Behura

Former telecom secretary Siddhartha Behura, accused in the 2G spectrum case, on Wednesday charged the government with being responsible for the "mess", a day after former telecom minister A Raja dragged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the then finance minister P Chidambaram into the imbroglio for the second time.

"The entire government is responsible for the mess. My client raised the objection publicly and the government didn't listen to him. He was bound to follow policies made by the government, he did his work as a public servant to implement policies of the government. He didn't do anything wrong," Behura's counsel Aman Lekhi told CBI special judge OP Saini.

Behura began his arguments in the Central Bureau of Investigatin (CBI) special court by opposing the framing of charges against him in the 2G spectrum case.

His counsel said: "Behura had no choice but to implement policy. Let down by the government where will he go?"

Behura was arrested Feb 2 for alleged involvement in the 2G scam. In the chargesheet filed April 2, he is accused of criminal conspiracy, cheating, forgery and criminal misconduct by a public servant.

Raja had Tuesday asked why Manmohan Singh had not constituted a group of ministers (GoM) for 2G spectrum allocation and said Chidambaram should be called as a witness in the case. A day earlier his lawyer said the spectrum transactions were approved by Chidambaram, who was then finance minister, in the presence of the prime minister.

Facebook tells how to opt out of photo recognition

Facebook has made it easier for users to opt out of its controversial facial-recognition technology for photographs, an effort to address concerns that it had violated consumers' privacy.

The deployment of "Tag Suggestions" technology -- designed to speed up the process of labeling friends in photos -- had renewed concerns about how the world's largest social network with 750 million members handles privacy.

The technology scans newly uploaded photos, compares faces in those snapshots with previous pictures, then tries to match faces and suggest name tags. When a match is found, Facebook alerts the person uploading the photos and invites them to "tag," or identify, the person in the photo.

Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen said in a letter to Facebook last month that it compromised consumers' rights to privacy by analyzing faces in photographs posted on the website, then cataloging them.

Facebook has since met with Jepsen, and this month began running ads on users' home pages telling them about the feature and allowing them to count themselves out of its use entirely. Should users opt out, any facial recognition data that had been collected will be deleted.

"Facebook has made significant changes that will provide better service and greater privacy protection to its users, not only in Connecticut, but across the country," Jepsen said in a statement. "The company has been cooperative and diligent in its response."

Facebook, which verified that those ads have run, has said the feature is available in most countries. Automated photo-tagging suggestions are made only when new photos are added, only friends are suggested and users can disable the feature in their privacy settings, the company has said.

"People across the country using Facebook will be more aware of our personalised privacy settings, and how they can be used to benefit their experience on the site," Tim Sparapani, director of public policy at Facebook, said. "We hope that people on Facebook will find the results to be helpful and useful."

You in or out?
While other photo software and online services such as Google Inc's Picasa and Apple Inc's iPhoto use facial recognition technology, the use of the technique on an Internet network like Facebook raises thorny issues.

For instance, iPhoto gives users control over facial recognition by letting them elect whether or not to use the technology with personal photo collections. Facebook's, in contrast, operated independently and was automatically enabled, analyzing faces across a swathe of newly uploaded pictures.

The lack of notifications about the wider roll-out of the feature had spurred concerns among privacy advocates, who argue it should be up to users to allow it. A group of organizations had filed a complaint with the US Federal Trade Commission requesting an investigation.

Such a system also raised questions about which personally identifiable information -- such as email addresses -- could become associated with photos in Facebook's database.

Addressing other concerns, the social network has also streamlined the process for reporting fake accounts or imposters, after Connecticut Representative Kim Rose complained to Jepsen about the difficulty of removing an account that had been falsely labeled as hers and that asked for money.

In response, Facebook has set up a "roadblock" system that freezes accounts reported until they are verified, has made changes to the reporting system, and has speeded up response times, Jepsen said in his statement.

Facebook also has instituted direct links to user contact forms and an automatic email response to help direct users to the correct mechanism when trying to report an imposter or fake profile. "Although this measure won't totally stop fraudulent pages from being created, it will have a significant impact on reducing the amount of time they are active," the attorney general said.

TCS and Wipro in race to bag the Sri Seva Project of the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD)

HYDERABAD: TCS and Wipro are among three companies vying to bag the prestigious Sri Seva Project of the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) to provide IT solutions that will help devotees.

Currently TTD offers four main e-services such as e-seva, e-accommodation, e-sudarshanam and e-hundi to the devotees and the Sri Seva project would help the administration in offering services like providing rooms, 'laddus' as well as in tonsuring.

There are as many as 48 departments which need to be automated and brought under one platform for better services to pilgrims, TTD had said.

"TCS, Wipro and Infinite Computer Solutions have been shortlisted from the technical bids. Next step will be going for financial bids. By December, we want to implement the project," sources said.

Once the process of technical bids for the Sri Seva project gets over over in a span of ten days, the TTD may go for financial bids, they said.

The project is estimated to cost between Rs 30 crore to Rs 35 crore, with an additional maintenance cost of around Rs 12 crore every year in the first phase, a senior official earlier said.

The phenomenal growth in the number of pilgrims visiting Tirumala has put constant pressure on all the systems, most of which are based on manual operations.

According to TTD, around 50,000 devotees visit Lord Balaji's main temple in Tirumala every day and on holidays and festivals, the figure crosses one lakh.

Yousuf Raza Gilani spoken to leaders, to take them into confidence

Islamabad: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has spoken to leaders of different political parties in an effort to take them into confidence on the Pakistan-India talks being held in New Delhi.Gilani, who telephoned leaders across the spectrum, told them of the agenda for the talks and progress on deliberations in various sectors between the two countries.The Pakistani delegation is led by Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar who went to New Delhi on Tuesday. Khar will hold talks with her Indian counterpart S.M. Krishna today.

Khar is Pakistan's first woman foreign minister and the youngest to occupy the post.

India and Pakistan on Tuesday set a positive tone for their revived dialogue as their foreign secretaries finalised a host of cross-Kashmir confidence-building measures (CBMs) that the foreign ministers of the two countries will unveil today. Pakistan Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir held talks with Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao ahead of the meeting between the foreign ministers.

Gilani said the dialogue would cover all aspects and issues between the two countries, including the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir.

Associated Press of Pakistan reported that the entire political leadership extended complete support to the Pakistan delegation for talks with India.

Among others, Gilani spoke to former prime minister and PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif and chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Imran Khan.
Tags : India News, India, Pakistan, India Pakistan Talks, Hina Rabbani Khar, Yousuf Raza Gilani, Pakistani Delegation in New Delhi

Trade between India and Canada is set to reach $15 billion by 2015

Kolkata: Trade between India and Canada is set to reach $15 billion by 2015, from $4.5 billion in 2010, a top Canadian diplomat said on Tuesday.

Canadian High Commissioner Stewart Beck said that the proposed Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) between the two countries is likely to conclude by 2013.

"Prime ministers from both the countries are committed to conclude CEPA negotiations by 2013," Beck said at a programme organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) here.

Canada is set to increase involvement in India's small and medium enterprise (SME) sector, besides scouting for Indian investment in coal exploration and education, the diplomat said.

"Canada aims to invest in India on a large scale, especially in the SME sector. Currently there are 250 Canadian SMEs in India. We hope to increase it to 750 SMEs through client acquisition," said Beck.

The envoy invited Indian investment in Canada, especially in coal exploration and education sectors. "Countries like Japan have invested in these sectors. There is no reason why Indian companies cannot do the same," he said.

On investment opportunities in West Bengal, Beck said: "Canada is looking forward to investment in education, agriculture and mining sector in the state."
Tags : India News, India, Canada, India Canada Trade, Stewart Beck, Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement

Farhan Akhtar has been asked to join the Trinamool Congress' youth wing

New Delhi: Actor-filmmaker Farhan Akhtar says he has been asked to join the advisory panel of the Trinamool Congress' youth wing to give suggestions on cultural activities and clarified that he'll not be involved in any in hardcore political activities.

"The Media has reported that I have joined the Trinamool Congress Youth Wing. The truth is that I have been asked to be a member on an advisory board for cultural activities, in my capacity as an actor/filmmaker," Farhan wrote on his Twitter page.

"This is in my understanding, to be an apolitical board. I hope this will clear my stand on this decision once and for all," he wrote.

West Bengal's ruling Trinamool Congress has formed a youth wing to be led by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's nephew Abhishek Banerjee.

The youth wing has decided to conduct a membership drive across the country while roping in personalities like Farhan, tennis star Leander Paes and tech evangalist Sam Pitroda as advisors.
Tags : India News, Actor-filmmaker Farhan Akhtar, Trinamool Congress, hardcore political activities