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Bhagvad Gita, one of the most sacred Hindu religious texts, is facing a legal ban

Moscow: Bhagvad Gita, one of the most sacred Hindu religious texts, is facing a legal ban and the prospect of being branded as "an extremist" literature across Russia, with a court in Siberia's Tomsk city all set to deliver its final verdict on Monday in a case filed by state prosecutors.

The final pronouncement in the case will come just two days after Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was here for a bilateral summit meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev from Dec 15 to 17.

The case, which has been going on in Tomsk court since June this year, seeks to get a Russian translation of 'Bhagvad Gita As It Is' written by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), on the Hindu religious text banned in Russia and declaring it as a literature spreading "social discord", apart from rendering its distribution on Russian soil illegal.

In view of the case, Indians settled in Moscow, numbering about 15,000, and followers of the ISKCON religious movement here have appealed to Manmohan Singh and his government to intervene diplomatically to resolve the issue in favour of the Hindu religious text, an important part of Indian epic 'Mahabharat' written by Sage Ved Vyasa.

The ISKCON followers of Russia have also written a letter to the Indian Prime Minister's Office in New Delhi seeking immediate intervention, lest the religious freedom of Hindus living here be compromised.

"The case is coming up for a final verdict on Monday in Tomsk court. We want all efforts from Indian government to protect the religious right of Hindus in Russia," Sadhu Priya Das of ISKCON and a devotee of a 40-year-old Krishna temple in central Moscow, told the media.

The court, which took up the case filed by the state prosecutors, had referred the book to the Tomsk State University for "an expert" examination Oct 25 this year.

But Hindu groups in Russia, particular followers of the ISKCON, say the university was not qualified, as it lacked Indologists.

The Hindus had pleaded with the court that the case was inspired by religious bias and intolerance`from a majority religious group in Russia, and have sought that their rights to practice their religious beliefs be upheld.

The prosecutor's case also seeks to ban the preaching of Prabhupada and ISKCON's religious beliefs, claiming these were "extremist" in nature and preached "hatred" of other religious beliefs.

"They have not just tried to get the Bhagvad Gita banned, but also brand our religious beliefs and preachings as extremist," Das said.

In fact, the ISKCON devotees have taken up the matter with the Indian embassy in Moscow too, apart from writing to the Prime Minister's Office in New Delhi, for an early diplomatic intervention, before things get worse and the court passes an adverse verdict banning the 'Bhagvad Gita' and Krishna consciousness teachings.

In the Nov 1 letter, addressed to Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister Pulok Chatterji, ISKCON's New Delhi branch Governing Body Commissioner Gopal Krishna Goswami, said the prosecutor's affidavit claims Lord Krishna "is evil and not conforming to Christian religious view".

Goswami also urged Singh to accord priority to the matter during his Moscow stay and to take it up with the Russian authorities.

Indian diplomatic corps officials at the embassy here, who were unwilling to be named, told the media that they have been following up the case since the time it was brought to their notice earlier this year and that they had also taken up the matter at the appropriate levels in the Russian government to get the case either withdrawn or get the defence to fight the case to obtain a favourable verdict.

Officials at the Indian Prime Minister's office, who are part of the Indian delegation accompanying Singh, confirmed the case and the letter they received from ISKCON in this regard to the media.

"This matter is receiving the highest attention and the Indian embassy officials in Moscow have been instructed to follow up the case with the Russian authorities," they said.

Barack Obama has named Nancy Powell, to be the next ambassador to India

Washington: US President Barack Obama has named Nancy Powell, a career diplomat who has served as ambassador to Pakistan and to Nepal, to be the next ambassador to India and fill a half-year vacancy.

Powell, who holds the rank of career ambassador, a prestigious title given only to select career diplomats based on their service, takes the place of Timothy J. Roemer, a political appointee who resigned in June.

In a statement announcing Powell's appointment and a separate appointee, Obama said: "These fine public servants both bring a depth of experience and tremendous dedication to their new roles.

"Our nation will be well-served by these individuals, and I look forward to working with them in the months and years to come."

Apart from Pakistan and Nepal, Powell, who joined the foreign service in 1977 after teaching school in Dayton, Iowa, has also served as ambassador to Ghana and Uganda.

Her stint in Pakistan between 2002-2004 came as the US was first seeking Islamabad's cooperation in fighting Al Qaeda and the Taliban after the Sep 11, 2001, attacks. Her other overseas assignments included service in New Delhi, Calcutta, Ottawa, Kathmandu, Islamabad, Lome, and Dhaka.

Her Washington assignments have included: Refugee Assistance Officer, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, Acting Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Activities, and the National Intelligence Officer for South Asia at the National Intelligence Council.

She's currently serving as director general of the foreign service and director of human resources at the State Department. She has a bachelor's degree from the University of Northern Iowa.

The Senate must confirm Powell's appointment.

Anna Hazare was honoured with the CNN-IBN Indian of the Year 2011 award

New Delhi: Anna Hazare was honoured with the CNN-IBN Indian of the Year 2011 award late Friday while West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was feted for her contribution to politics.

Hazare, who has been campaigning for a strong Lokpal bill, also won an award in the public service category, along with members of his team.

Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee was recognised for "achieving what was once considered unthinkable in West Bengal". She brought the curtain down on the more than three-decade-old Left Front in West Bengal and became the first woman chief minister of the state in a landslide victory.

Indian cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni was awarded in the sports category while Verghese Kurien, the Amul man, was honoured with a lifetime achievement award.

The Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) team and Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan, the host of the popular quiz show, were awarded for their constructive contribution to entertainment.

Cricketer Yuvraj Singh, Manipur Women Gun Survivors' Network and shooting champion Ranjan Sodhi were honoured with special achievement awards.

Musician K.J. Yesudas, a devotional melody exponent, was honoured for his outstanding contribution to Indian music while businessman Dilip S. Shanghvi was felicitated for converting distressed assets into business value.

The awards were presented by a panel of celebrities which included journalist Mark Tully, former chief justice of India J.S. Verma and former cricket captain Krishnamachari Srikkanth.

The glittering ceremony was held at the Taj Palace Hotel. The award entered its sixth edition in 2011.

India's veteran batsman Rahul Dravid feels that consistency will be the key for the team

Canberra: India's veteran batsman Rahul Dravid feels that consistency will be the key for the team in the upcoming four-match Test series against Australia, that begins Dec 26 in Melbourne.

"We have to prepare well and start the series well. We will play one Test match at a time and the key will be consistency from a lot of players. It's not going to be individual performances that will win us this series. This series will be won by consistent performances from a lot of players in the team," Dravid said on the ICC Cricket World Radio Show.

Dravid said it has to be a collective effort to win the series.

"Three or four bowlers need to step up as do three or four batsmen and those seven or eight players with consistent performances will help India win this series against Australia."

On his personal form, Dravid, said: "It's nice to be in good form but that does not mean you will score runs, I still have to do my preparation, I'll still have to work hard and earn every single run, especially in Australia. Being in good form, gives me confidence but that's about it," Dravid said.

Saina Nehwal defeated World No.3 Xin Wang 21-17,22-20 of China

New Delhi:Saina Nehwal defeated World No.3 Xin Wang 21-17,22-20 of China on Friday to set-up a semifinal clash with Tine Baun of Denmark in the BWF World Super Series Finals at Liuzhou, China.

It was Saina's second victory against Xin in six meetings. She finished at the top of Group B with this win.

Saina,who has already qualified for the semifinals, beat Xin in a 39-minute tussle.

The Indian has beaten Tine Baun only once in four matches.

In the other semifinal,Xin will face compatriot Yihan Wang.

Controversial Pakistani actress and model Veena Malik has gone missing in Mumbai

Mumbai: Controversial Pakistani actress and model Veena Malik has gone missing in Mumbai since Friday morning, her manager said here today.

Shooting for a Bollywood flick, "Mumbai 125 kilometres", at Film City in Goregaon of northwest Mumbai, Malik left in a car after pack-up on Friday morning and was not reachable since.

"Veena left after the pack-up yesterday (Friday) morning. In the afternoon, I received an SMS from her where she apologised for not being able to concentrate on the shooting, stating that she was disturbed," the film's director Hemant Madhukar said.

"I called her immediately, but her number was not reachable. I have not been able to get in touch with her since," he added.

Malik's manager Pratik Mehta also confirmed the development. "I have been trying to reach her since yesterday, but have failed. I have approached the officials at Bandra police station and have sought help in finding the whereabouts of Veena."

However, the Bandra police denied they have registered a missing person's complaint for Veena Malik.

Malik came into limelight in 2010 after she testified against her boyfriend, Pakistani fast bowler Mohammed Asif alleging that he was involved in match fixing.

She then garnered more attention after she participated in the fourth season of reality show "Bigg Boss".

She has also been condemned by Islamic clerics for her nude photos in an Indian magazine.

The actress is set to have her 'swayamvar' on India's national television, through Imagine TV, which has earlier hosted swayamvars of Rakhi Sawant, Rahul Mahajan and Ratan Rajput.

Arjun Rampal describes Amitabh Bachchan as a true soldier

Mumbai: Actor Arjun Rampal, who was last seen in "RA.One", is not only in awe of Amitabh Bachchan as an actor but also as a person and describes him as a true soldier who has braved storms in his life to come out with more passion and creativeness.

"For me, the true soldier really is a person like Mr. Amitabh Bachchan, who has nothing but love for what he does, nothing but complete endurance... he has endured everything -- the ups, the downs and everything, and still keeps coming out and recreating himself," the 39-year-old actor said here at the Gillette Saluting Soldier.

Arjun, who has worked with Amitabh in "Aaakhen" and "The Last Lear", loves the way Big B keeps re-inventing himself even at the age of 69.

"He is one of those actors who never created a shelf life for himself. An actor who reinvents himself all the time and is still there and still doing some wonderful work even at his age. He is such a good brand ambassador of the Indian film industry to the world... a true soldier," Arjun said.

Arjun feels that Amitabh's discipline should be a source of inspiration for budding actors.

"He is a man who wakes up at 6 a.m. and this is a discipline. This is something we should all learn. He is in the gym at 7 a.m. At around 8-8:30, he has a stack of newspapers which go all around the world, and he reads every single newspaper. At 9:30, he is on the set, he switches his mobile phone off, and he is the character you want him to be," Arjun said.

"I was always intimidated by him, but he also taught me that your best friends when you are shooting a film should be your team members -- your co-stars, directors, cameramen and lightmen," added the actor who was also seen in "Rascals".

He is next big movie is Madhur Bhandarkar's mega-budget "Heroine", which has Kareena Kapoor in the lead.

Vishal-Shekhar had a great 2011 with their songs like "Chammak challo" and "0oh la la"

Mumbai:Music composer-duo Vishal-Shekhar had a great 2011 with their songs like "Chammak challo" and "0oh la la" topping the charts. Vishal says he is elated with the fact that their song is being played across the globe.

"Yesterday, I saw a very good article in the paper. It said, out of all the songs this year, 'Chammak challo' has received 51 percent votes as the number one item song of the year. And the number two item song is ''Ooh la la'. So, we have got about 67 percent of all the I think it's been a fantastic year for us," Shekhar said who along with partner Vishal will be performing at the New Year Eve's event Seduction 2012.

Though both the songs grabbed top spots, Shekhar is happier for "Chammak challo", sung by international pop star Akon.

"I would say that 'Chammak challo' became very huge and popular in India as well as abroad. All the clubs were playing it. So as an Indian we are very proud that our songs are being played across the globe," said a gushing Shekhar who also crooned a few lines of the songs "Dildaara" and "Raftaarein".

The composer duo already have three films in hand for next year - Karan Johar's "Student Of The Year", Sujoy Ghosh's "Kahaani" and Dibakar Banerjee's "Shanghai".

Abhishek Bachchan, who worked with Abbas-Mustan in "Players", is all praise for the director duo

Mumbai:Actor Abhishek Bachchan, who worked with Abbas-Mustan for the first time in "Players", is all praise for the director duo and says they are precise and to the point in every instruction they dole out to their actors.

"I think their greatest quality is they are wonderful human beings. Their greatest quality is they are so clear oh what they want, even in their instructions to actors, its precise and to the point. They are very sure of what they want and how they want it done... very planned and it all stems from the fact that they are really great guys," said the 35-year-old actor in an interview.

"Players", an official Hindi remake of the Hollywood film "The Italian Job", is slated for a Jan 6 release. Abhishek says he is a big fan of the original version of "The Italian Job".

"I have seen 'The Italian Job', the original, about five-six times and also the one they made in 2003, about three-four times. I am a big fan of the film. I think it's a fantastic film, very cool film and when we were in school, we watched it very often," said Abhishek who was last seen in "Dum Maaro Dum".

The Hindi version, a multi-starrer, also features Sonam Kapoor, Bipasha Basu, Neil Nitin Mukesh and Bobby Deol.

Meanwhile, Abhishek is working in director Rohit Shetty's "Bol Bachchan". He also has "Dhoom 3" and "Dostana 2" in his kitty.

Veteran actress Shabana Azmi has fractured her shoulder

New Delhi: Veteran actress Shabana Azmi has fractured her shoulder and her only concern is that she will miss weddings parties.

"Have fractured my shoulder and need surgery! Disappointed about missing out on wedding but things without remedy should also be without regard." Shabana posted on her twitter account.

The 61-year-old, who has played a variety of roles and has won the national award five times, recently featured in movies like "Fire", "Morning Raga" and "Saaz".

IIT Kanpur:Agra's Karan Narain,has been picked up by US company Pocket Gems for an annual package of $137,000

Agra: Agra's Karan Narain, pursuing M. Tech (final year) in computer science from IIT Kanpur, has set a new record in campus placement. He has been picked up by US company Pocket Gems for an annual package of $137,000 (over Rs.73 lakh).

This is the highest package offered to a Kanpur IITian and one of the highest in India so far.

"Pocket Gems is into mobile application development for Android and iOS. The interviews held in Kanpur were completely technical," Narain said.

"I had some background in Android which could have appealed to them. It's a startup, so has only around 100 employees. They've visited all the IITs and recruited a few students from each," he added.

Narain attributed his success to his schooling in Chennai, Hyderabad, New Delhi and Agra. "All schools are different and gave me a new experience and changed my world view for the better," he said.

National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) for undergraduate medical courses ,Supreme Court declined to pass an order

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today declined to pass an order on the central government's plea seeking amendment of the Medical Council of India's December 2010 notification to hold a National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) for undergraduate medical courses from academic year 2013-14 instead of 2012-13.

Apparently not pleased with the latest position of the central government, a bench of Justice H.L. Dattu and Justice C.K. Prasad said: "We don't want to be party to any such decision. First you notify the rules for common entrance tests and then you don't want to implement it."

As Additional Solicitor General Harin Rawal and MCI's senior counsel Amarandra Sharan sought more time to switch to a common entrance test, Justice Dattu said: "It is for you to conduct the NEET or not conduct it, it is not for us."

"Orders are passed at your convenience. Draft regulations had already been filed. Now you say you will not do it in 2012-13. This court will not be a party to the postponement."

While allowing the government to take any executive action it wanted to take, the court said: "You do whatever you want, we will not be party to it."

The court's response came when Rawal drew the court's attention to the divergent positions taken by several state governments for agreeing to participate in NEET for under graduate medical course involving MBBS and BDS.

The additional solicitor general withdrew the central government's application after the court made it candidly clear that it was not going to pass any order.

Despite the rebuke by the Court, it was evident that central government would delay the holding of NEET for MBBS and BDS courses by academic year 2013-14.

Its application said that the chief ministers of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Assam have sought to be exempted from the NEET for 2012 as the students of their states would require some more time to switch over to the new system and get fully acquinted with the syllabus prescribed by the MCI.

The court was told that Maharashtra, Gujarat and Goa has shown readiness for the NEET from the academic year 2013-14 where as Andhra Pradesh is inclined to join the NEET but has sought exemption for two years.

Kerala, the application said, has shown its willingness to join NEET with a rider that "all its reservation policies in admission to medical courses may be allowed to be followed."

On the other hand, Assam has expressed reservation in respect of the minimum eligibility marks as provided under the NEET and said that it should be "allowed to add grace marks in order to ensure that adequate number of students from the state are selected for seats earmarked for the state in medical colleges".

However, West Bengal has expressed preference to continue with a joint entrance examination board for all the colleges in the state, but would be ready to join the NEET for undergraduate medical courses if it was assured that Bengali language would be one of the media for the examination.


Unique identification number (Aadhaar) proof of identity,not citizenship

New Delhi: Enrolment for obtaining Aadhaar number is voluntary and not mandatory, Minister of State for Planning Ashwani Kumar said today.

The minister told the Rajya Sabha that the unique identification number (Aadhaar) to be issued to all Indian citizens would be proof of identity, not citizenship.

Aadhaar number would be an officially valid document as proof of identity and address for opening bank accounts, obtaining mobile telephone connections and new cooking gas connections, he said.

Removal of Home Minister P. Chidambaram stalled proceedings in parliament

New Delhi: Noisy protests by opposition members demanding removal of Home Minister P. Chidambaram stalled proceedings in parliament today without any significant business, and forced adjournment till Monday of both houses.

Presiding officers of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha adjourned the houses first till noon and then for the day after the opposition continued to create a ruckus over Chidambaram, who is accused of quashing criminal cases against a businessman he represented as a lawyer in 1999.

In the Rajya Sabha, Chairman Hamid Ansari tried to pacify the protesting Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) members, asking them to let the Question Hour continue after he had read an obituary reference of former member Raj Bahadur Gour.

The protesting MPs refused to let him read the obituary, angering Ansari.

"At least respect the dead if you cannot respect each other," Ansari said, bringing some calm in the house.

MPs stood in silence for sometime to mourn the death of the former member, but the din resumed soon after.

"Since the Question Hour cannot be held, the house is adjourned till 12," Ansari said.

The house was plunged into din after the MPs resumed sitting at 12, forcing the Rajya Sabha adjournment for the day.

Similar protests were witnessed in the Lok Sabha, forcing Speaker Meira Kumar to adjourn the house first till noon and then for the day.

Shiv Sena MPs also protested against alleged atrocities on Marathi-speaking people in Karnataka.

The BJP forced parliament to shut for the day on Thursday also without conducting any significant business, alleging that Chidambaram had favoured S.P. Gupta, chairman of Sunair Hotels Pvt Ltd, by misusing his office for his "former client".

The home minister had been a focused target of the opposition since the winter session began Nov 22. The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance had declared on the eve of the session that it would not allow Chidambaram to speak in parliament till he resigns over his alleged role in the 2G spectrum allocation scam.

Parliament will return to work on Monday. The session is to end on today, Dec 22.

India's central bank kept key rates unchanged

Mumbai: India's central bank today kept key rates unchanged - after as many as 13 successive hikes since early 2010 - in a bid to spur growth, while also drawing some comfort from the easing of annual inflation.

"While inflation remains on its projected trajectory, the downside risks to growth have clearly increased," the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said in a statement, presenting the mid-quarter review of the monetary policy for the current fiscal.

"The guidance given in the second quarter was that, based on the projected inflation trajectory, further rate hikes might not be warranted. In view of the moderating growth momentum and higher downside risks to growth, this guidance is being reiterated."

The central bank also said that from this point onward, the effort would be to reverse the cycle, which effectively means industry can even hope for some easing of interest rates in the coming months.

The review came against the backdrop of India's annual rate of inflation falling to 9.1 percent in November, while the food inflation fell to 4.35 percent for the week ended Dec 3.

But factory output declined 5.1 percent in October, while the gross domestic product saw a mere 6.9 percent growth during the second quarter of this fiscal, which was the lowest in over two years.

The Reserve Bank said it maintained its projection for annual inflation at 7 percent for end-March, while reserving its forecast on growth for the third quarter review, which is expected in January.

Manmohan Singh began a bilateral summit meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev

Moscow: Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today began a bilateral summit meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at the Kremlin here, seeking to renew the two nations' joint commitment to work towards giving a new thrust, meaning and content to their partnership.

Singh, who arrived here from New Delhi on Thursday evening, drove down to the Kremlin, the seat of Russian Federation's government, for the summit meeting, ahead of which he held a one-on-one with Medvedev.

India and Russia seek to focus more on their energy and economic cooperation in this round of the summit, the fourth between the two leaders since Medvedev was elected Russian president in 2008.

Following the talks, the two sides are slated to sign a string of agreements in energy, defence, health, and science and technology sectors.

Singh will later in the evening also meet Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who is at the centre of the public anger over allegations of rigging during the Dec 4 Duma polls.

Titan Industries is eyeing to double its market share of five percent in jewellery business

Kolkata: Tata group company Titan Industries is eyeing to double its market share of five percent in jewellery business in the next five years, a top company official said today.

Titan's jewellery division owns the Tanishq, GoldPlus and Zoya brands.Tanishq pioneered the concept of branded jewellery and ornaments in India.

"In spite of being the largest brand, we have a market share of just five percent. We hope to double it by the next five years," said C.K. Venkatraman, chief operating officer of the division.

Venkatraman was in the city to launch the company's 133rd showroom in the country. He said a number of showrooms would come up across India by the end of the next fiscal.

"In the current fiscal we had targeted 1.25 lakh square feet of store space in the country and we have achieved more than 70 percent of the targeted space. For the next fiscal, we have similar target, if not less. We also look to consolidate and spread our presence beyond the current 78 cities," he said.

Venkatraman said in the past six weeks business had been "very dull" and volatility in gold prices had affected it, but the company would achieve its targeted turnover of Rs.7,000 crore by the end of this fiscal.

"Business in the Diwali period was exceptional which has largely mitigated the current very dull phase. We are on course of achieving our target of Rs.7,000 crore by the year end."

Tata Motors reported a 35 percent increase in its consolidated global sales

New Delhi: Tata Motors today reported a 35 percent increase in its consolidated global sales, including those of Jaguar-Land Rover, for November over the like period of last year.

"Tata Motors Group global wholesales, including Jaguar-Land Rover, were 108,028 nos. Cumulative sales for the fiscal are 750,457, higher by 10 percent compared to the corresponding period in 2010-11," the company said in a statement.

According to the company, luxury brand of the group Jaguar-Land Rover saw a 27 percent increase in sales, which stood at 29,183 units over those sold in November 2010.

"Jaguar sales for the month were 5,315 nos., lower by 5 percent, while Land Rover sales were 23,868 nos., higher by 38 percent," said the statement.

JLR's cumulative sales grew by 19 percent for the fiscal at 185,431 units.

"Cumulative sales of Jaguar are 35,195 nos., lower by 9 percent, while cumulative sales of Land Rover are 150,236 nos., higher by 28 percent."

The company also reported good global sales for its commercial vehicles division, which includes brands such as Tata, Tata Daewoo and the Tata Hispano Carrocera range.

"Global sales of all commercial vehicles were 49,724 nos. in November, a growth of 24 percent. Cumulative sales for the fiscal are 371,410 nos., a growth of 18 percent," the statement said.

The global passenger car segment in the month under review grew by 47 percent at 58,304 units.

"Cumulative sales for the fiscal are 379,047 nos., higher by 4 percent," the statement added.

The international sales of standalone Tata passenger car brand and the distribution offtake of Fiat cars in India rose 74 percent at 29,121 units over that of November 2010.

But the cumulative sales for the fiscal fell by eight percent at 193,616 units.

Saina Nehwal moved into the elimination round at the season-ending Li Ning BWF World Superseries Finals

New Delhi: Saina Nehwal moved into the elimination round at the season-ending Li Ning BWF World Superseries Finals with a 21-16, 21-13 victory over Sayaka Sato of Japan in Liuzhou, China.

She had beaten Youn Joo Bae of South Korea in her first Group B match today.

Saina will take on World No.3 Xin Wang in Friday's encounter that will decide the Group B topper.

Saina has been going through a rough patch and has won only one tournament Swiss Grand Prix Gold this year.

In the men's section, Malaysia's Lee Chong Wei is also on the verge of sealing his semi-final ticket.

World No.1 Chong Wei, who has won all three previous Superseries Finals men's singles crown, notched his second consecutive victory in Group A when he thrashed Indonesia's Simon Santoso 21-10, 21-15.

Chong Wei will qualify for the semi-finals if Denmark's Peter Gade defeats Japanese hotshot Sho Sasaki later today. If that happens, then Chong Wei's encounter with Gade on Friday will decide who tops the group.

Topping the group will be important as it could mean avoiding four-time world champion Lin Dan, who is the hot favourite to win Group B, in the semi-finals.

Shah Rukh Khan is disappointed that he couldn't visit Patna for Don 2 promotion

New Delhi: Shah Rukh Khan is disappointed that he couldn't visit Patna for the promotional activity of his forthcoming film "Don 2: The King Is Back" and says he plans to reschedule the event.

"Will come to Patna for sure just firming up plans. Will figure out tomorrow. Now bored of waiting in a static plane. 5 hrs...wasted life," the 46-year-old posted on his Twitter account.

Due to some security issues, the event at the Patna was scrapped, and this would have been Shah Rukh's first visit to the city.

"Was super excited with my first ever visit to Patna, but district authorities said some security issue...Will come some other time. Damn!!!," he had tweeted earlier.

The "Don 2" team started their multi-city promotion tour in non-metropolitan centres in India Tuesday and so far they have visited Nagpur, Ahmedabad and now they are in Jaipur today.

"Don 2: The King Is Back" is the much-awaited sequel to Farhan Akhtar's 2006 action thriller "Don - The Chase Begins", which itself was a remake of the 1978 film "Don".

The movie, starring Shah Rukh, Priyanka Chopra, Boman Irani, Om Puri, Sahil Shroff, Aly Khan and Nawwab Khan, will release on Dec 23.

Riteish Deshmukh,who will tie the knot with Genelia D'Souza wants to keep the wedding away from media

Mumbai:Actor Riteish Deshmukh, who will tie the knot with actress Genelia D'Souza early next year, wants to keep the wedding away from media glare. However, being an actor and a politician's son, he knows it's not possible.

"I would like to keep my entire wedding plan under personal space but it will not be that way eventually, but it's something that will happen when it has to happen," said the 32-year-old actor here at a garment store launch.

Son of Mahrashtra's former chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, Riteish has been in the industry for eight years now and is happy the way his career has shaped up.

"I am very happy the way I have spent the past eight-nine years. I have worked with so many actors, directors and producers. It's more than what I had expected," said Riteish, who made his Bollywood debut opposite his fiance Genelia in "Tujhe Meri Kasam" in 2003. It was Genelia's first film as well.

Riteish has done some brilliant comedies such as "Masti", "Apna Sapna Money Money", "Malamaal Weekly", "Heyy Babyy", "Housefull" and "Double Dhamaal".

He is currently working on "Tere Naal Love Ho Gaya", "Housefull 2" and "Kya Super Kool Hain Hum".

"Dostana" 2 is ready to go on the floors in 2012 : Karan Johar

New Delhi: The script of the sequel to his 2008 film "Dostana" is locked and the movie is ready to go on the floors in 2012, with Abhishek Bachchan and John Abraham back in the frame, informs filmmaker Karan Johar.

"DOSTANA 2 is definitely starting next year....Script is locked...Abhishek and John are ready!!! The boys are back!! Tarun (director Tarun Mansukhani) is all set....," Johar posted on his Twitter page.

The original, youthful romantic comedy, about three friends, featuring Priyanka Chopra in the female lead, was a blockbuster.

The boys are the same for the sequel, but for Katrina Kaif has replaced Priyanka as the female lead.

Karan Johar's USP of "Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu" is the Imran Khan and Kareena Kapoor pairing

Mumbai: Filmmaker Karan Johar feels the USP of his next production venture, "Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu", is the unusual pairing of Imran Khan and Kareena Kapoor.

"What's unusual is what's different and what's different is what is working today. So, I think Imran and Kareena being unusual is the USP of the film," the 39-year-old director-producer said at the 160th year celebration party of cosmetic brand "Kiehl's".

Directed by debutant Shakun Batra, the romantic-comedy will be released in February around Valentine's Day.

"We are really excited. It launches a new filmmaker. All of us are really geared up to launch its music and then its (promotional) campaign. It's a great slice-of-life love story and it's a perfect date film for everyone out there," said Karan Johar.

Karan's Dharma Productions is also ready with "Agneepath", a remake of the original film released in 1990 under the same banner.

"Koochie Koochie Hota Hai", an animated remake of the 1998 Hindi film "Kuch Kuch Hota Hai", is expected to hit theatres by the end of next year.

Karan's blockbuster "Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham" recently completed 10 years.

Meanwhile, he is busy directing and co-producing "Student Of The Year" with Shah Rukh Khan. His last film as a director was "My Name Is Khan".


Received Rs.56,000 crore worth of investment proposals: Mamata Banerjee

Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday said her government has received Rs.56,000 crore worth of investment proposals since coming to power in May."We have received Rs.56,000 crore worth of investment proposals," Banerjee said in an interview to a Bengali TV channel.She said Larsen & Toubro is willing to pump in Rs.20,000 crore."They want to set up a thermal power station in Adra of Purulia, and another on Hindustan Cable's land (near the coal-belt of Asansol in Burdwan district). But I've proposed to them that they can set up a 700 MW thermal power plant in the jungles of Goaltore (in West Midnapore district). L&T officials will come back for discussion on December 19. They are also interested in investing in a solar power project," she said.

The chief minister said 17 railway factories she had announced during her stint in the central railway ministry would also be ready in two years.

"They will create a huge employment opportunity. The total investment will cross Rs.1 lakh crore," she said.

She said both industries and agriculture were challenges for her government.

Asserting that her government would not allow businessmen to sell fertiliser at premium prices, Banerjee said 350 unscrupulous traders have been arrested.

Not getting cooperation from a couple of ministers:Mamata Banerjee

Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has said she was not getting cooperation from a couple of her ministerial colleagues. But she said she would wait at least till Jan 1 before taking any decision on reshuffling her ministry.

"One or two ministers are not cooperating with me. We have to think about it," Banerjee said in an interview to a Bengali television channel.

She said she would wait for some time. "I will celebrate Kalpataru Utsav Jan 1. Then think about it."

It is believed that Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa had gone into a trance Jan 1, 1886, and granted enlightenment to his disciples.

Banerjee, who was sworn in chief minister May 20, said the work of all departments would be reviewed.

"Most of the ministers are working well. The new ministers are working very hard. But there are some who have not done that well. I will try to reason with them," she said.

She also refused to spell out who would succeed Subrata Buxi as the minister for transport and public works since Buxi has been elected to the Lok Sabha in the Kolkata South constituency bypolls last month.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh left on a three-day visit to Moscow

New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today left on a three-day visit to Moscow, where he is to hold a summit meet with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev when the two nations will sign key agreements in the defence, health and science, and technology fields, besides discussing key deals in nuclear energy and hydrocarbons sectors.

The prime minister, who will be in Moscow till on Saturday, will also hold a one-on-one meeting with Russian premier Vladimir Putin, who is at the centre of a political upheaval over allegations of rigging in elections to Duma on Dec 4 following which protests have erupted on the streets of Moscow and otehr cities.

Among the key issues that Manmohan Singh will discuss with Medvedev is a deal on setting up of units III and IV of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant in Tamil Nadu, where villagers are protesting for the last 10 months against the first two units following the Japanese Fukushima nuclear plant disaster early 2011.

Defence deals such as the $2.34-billion Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier and its scheduled delivery in December 2012, the fifth generation fighter aircraft, and multirole transport aircraft for the military are expected to figure in the discussions.

Winter session of parliament should be extended:Anna Hazare

New Delhi: Social activist Anna Hazare today said the winter session of parliament should be extended if the time to pass the Lokpal bill is limited.

"If there is a need, the session should be extended as the Lokpal bill is important for the country. We have had occasions when the session was extended," Hazare told reporters before attending the second day of a core committee meeting with his key members in the capital.

The winter session of parliament ends on Dec 22.

"Everybody in the government is giving us assurances that we will get a Lokpal bill. I have faith in parliament. I'm hopeful that the Lokpal bill will be passed in this winter session," Anna said.

The core committee of Team Anna is meeting to plan the future course of action in their fight for a strong Lokpal.

"If it is not passed in this session, we shall protest again. It may be either in Delhi or Mumbai depending on the weather," Hazare told reporters.

Meanwhile, slamming the government for trying to keep the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) out of the Lokpal, Kiran Bedi said the investigation agency is a graveyard of corruption and the ruling party is protecting it.

"CBI is a graveyard of corruption. Therefore, there is a desperate effort to keep it protected as long as possible," Bedi told reporters.

Shiv Sena came out strongly against the proposed Jan Lokpal bill

Mumbai: After targeting social activist Anna Hazare, the Shiv Sena today came out strongly against the proposed Jan Lokpal bill, stating it could create a 'Gaddafi' in the country.

"There is no need to create an impression among people that the Jan Lokpal bill will lead to 'Ram Rajya' in the country. There is a need to strengthen the existing anti-graft laws to end corruption in India," party president Bal Thackeray said.

Toeing his father's line in today's edition of the party mouthpiece, 'Saamna', executive president Uddhav Thackeray said that though his party supported Hazare's anti-corruption movement, it was strongly opposed to the Jan Lokpal bill.

"It is being intensely debated over who and which offices will come under the jurisdiction of the Lokpal. But nobody is discussing who will have jurisdiction over the Lokpal. Lokpal could deal a serious blow to democracy," Uddhav asserted.

"It should not create a situation whereby we leap from the valley into the well. Until all our doubts in this regard are clarified, we shall oppose the bill," Uddhav declared.

Reiterating the party's stance that parliament was "supreme" and that status should not be compromised in any manner, Uddhav said: "No institution can be above the Constitution."

RBI will conduct the mid-quarter review of the monetary policy

New Delhi: Industrial production dipping into the negative and growth slowing down will play a major role in the Reserve Bank of India's decision on key interest rates and India Inc. hopes the central bank will not play spoil sport this time.

The RBI will conduct the mid-quarter review of the monetary policy on Friday.

The central bank has hiked rates 13 times since early 2010 to tame inflation. That objective is closer to realisation, according to latest official figures. Food inflation has dipped to 4.35 percent for the week ended Dec 3, while headline inflation - though still above 9 percent - has shown some signs of decline.

Industrial production, however, has taken a beating in the past four months. High interest rates have deterred investments and brought down the index of industrial production into negative terrain.

IIP for October was logged at (-) 5.1 percent.

Overall gross domestic product growth too will not be as per earlier forecasts. With 6.9 percent GDP growth in the first quarter and 7.3 percent in the April-September period, growth this year will be below expectations.

Latest government estimates peg it at 7.5 percent (+ or - 0.25 percent).

"With growth slowing more than expected and likelihood that headline inflation could cool to 7 percent by March, the central bank is likely to build in a dovish rhetoric in its monetary stance leaving door open for a possible CRR cut in January and a repo rate cut in first quarter of FY13," said Abheek Barua, chief economist at HDFC Bank.

The markets, however, looked like bracing for another rate hike with some sections feeling the RBI could once again tighten policy rates to ensure inflation comes down to below 7 percent by March.

The 30-scrip sensitive index of the Bombay Stock Exchange was trading 130 points lower 0.82 percent at 15,750.27 points. It fell to an intra-day low of 15,596.22 points.

Another major worry for the RBI in the short-term would be the sharp depreciation in the rupee. The Indian currency hit another new low today at 54.30 a dollar. It has been consistently falling to new lows for the past four days and has lost over 20 percent to the dollar in just four months.

A falling rupee makes imports costlier, especially those of petroleum products, putting pressure on oil marketing companies to raise prices of de-regulated fuels like petrol. While the government would fend off an increase in diesel, kerosene and cooking gas, it can do so only for a limited time.

All this will add to inflationary pressures again.

"The RBI should reduce interest rates to gradually reverse the impact of the 13 interest rate hikes it has undertaken over the last two years," said Chandrajit Banerjee, director general of Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

"RBI should also implement measures to contain the sharp decline in the value of the rupee as this would exacerbate inflationary pressures and take away any gains from the moderation in global commodity prices," Banerjee added.

Our film promotions feel a little like yatras during election times: Shah Rukh Khan

New Delhi:Superstar Shah Rukh Khan in city hoping to promote "Don 2: The King Is Back",says these visits make him feel as if he is on an election campaign.

"Off to Ahmedabad, kem cho?? And then Jaipur, Ghani khamma!! Our promotions feel a little like yatras during election times...ha ha," Shah Rukh posted on his Twitter page.

The actor and the movie's team planned to begin their multi-city promotion tour from Patna. However, they had to fly straight to Nagpur, and skip Patna due to security issues.

"Don 2: The King Is Back" features Boman Irani, Priyanka Chopra and Lara Dutta in key roles. The film releases on Dec 23.

Amitabh Bachhan is overjoyed after receiving praise from Dilip Kumar

New Delhi: Megastar Amitabh Bachhan is overjoyed after receiving praise from thespian Dilip Kumar and says he no longer needs any other endorsements after receiving such appreciation from the man who has been his inspiration.

"There are actors and there are actors and there is Dilip Kumar,Dilip Saheb, Yusuf Khan! From the moment I saw him in a film, I knew he was the ultimate inspiration for me. Today( Wednesday) he posts a generous comment on me on his Twitter account, and I have nothing more to say but this -- I do not care for any comment from any critic, colleague," the 69-year-old said

"I do not care for any opinion from anyone. This below is the the most endearing and lasting endorsement that any actor could receive. I feel today after 42 years in the Industry, that there is a fulfilment of thought and value. Nothing greater could have been asked for, nor received. I believed in a man who to me represented the ultimate. He was he is and he shall always be, The Dilip Kumar," he further posted.

Dilip Kumar, 89, Wednesday sent an open letter to Big B appreciating his work and recalled a few of his powerful performances in the movies like "Black" and "Paa".

In the letter, Dilip Kumar wrote: "With tears of pride in her eyes Saira handed over the print out of your (Big B) eloquent tribute to my work (Dilip Kumar) in your blog. I read it once, then again and again...

"...I am certainly privileged to know from your affectionate compliments that someone as knowledgeable and competent as you has liked my work. Yes, now that you have reminded me, I can recall the scenes that brought us together before the cameras for 'Shakti'. I should say the respect and admiration are mutual. Not just 'Shakti', your work in several films I have watched has been world class and inimitable.

"In recent times, I can remember 'Black' and, if I remember right, Saira and I were at a loss for words at the premiere night, after the curtain came down, to express our myriad feelings of admiration for your outstanding performance. It is a pity the film missed the Oscar nomination. If any Indian actor, in my personal opinion, deserves the world's most coveted award, it is you. I have heard so much about 'Paa' which we didn't catch up with. You know how Saira is-she never could see me die in my films and she could not muster the courage to see your death scene in 'Paa'.

"Thank you, Amitabh, for your warm love and good wishes. May God keep you, Jaya and your family happy always."

'Lanka' got a lot of appreciation but lack of good promotion :Manoj Bajpayee

New Delhi:Manoj Bajpayee, whose latest film "Lanka" has fared average at the box office, feels it could have done better if it had good promotions.

"'Lanka' got a lot of appreciation but lack of good promotion again killed a film which I am very proud of. Not angry, but disappointed," Manoj posted on micro-blogging site Twitter.

The 42-year-old has portrayed a character inspired by mythological demon king Raavan in "Lanka", which also features Tia Bajpai and Arjan Bajwa. The movie released on Friday.

Earlier, actors like Govinda and veteran star Dharmendra have lamented how promotions affect a film nowadays.

"Publicity drama has become a very important part for any film now. It is an important element. That's the only reason why some of my previous movies didn't do well," Govinda had admitted in a candid interview.

Even Dharmendra rued about how promotions have become an inevitable part of the film industry.

"Filmmakers have made the audience so used to promotions that if a film is not promoted at a certain level, people feel that the film is not worth watching."

He also took the example of two of his films, and said: "Good films fail to work because they are not promoted the way they should have been. 'Apne' was a bigger film than 'Yamla Pagla Deewana' but the producer did not have enough money to promote the film."

"We extensively promoted 'Yamla Pagla Dewana'; moreover the script was also good and people enjoyed it completely. However, it's true if the films today are not promoted in the right way, they tend to stay behind," Dharmendra said.

Actress Lara Dutta is bugged with 2 fake Twitter impersonators

New Delhi: Pregnant actress Lara Dutta is bugged with two fake Twitter impersonators, who have been "misleading" her fans.

"Listen @_DuttaLara and @Duttalara, I'm sure imitation is the best form of flattery, but get a life and get off my page! Nobody likes a fake!"Lara posted on the micro-blogging site through her original Twitter handle -- @DuttaLara.

"And for the rest who've been here for a long time, my apologies you'll have to deal with fakes who mislead you," she added.

The actress, married to tennis ace Mahesh Bhupathi, is looking forward to the release of her film "Don 2: The King Is Back".

She also recently had her baby shower and was glowing like any other mom-to-be.


Replica of the Sai Baba temple in Maharashtra's Shirdi town will be recreated

Mumbai: A replica of the Sai Baba temple in Maharashtra's Shirdi town will be recreated here as part of a four-day festival starting on Dec 15, an organiser said on Tuesday.

The replica of the temple will have a 24-feet-tall idol of Sai Baba, the biggest ever created so far in Mumbai, which will be put up at the sprawling Bandra-Kurla Complex grounds for the Shri Sai Satcharitra Mahaparayan festival.

The creative genius behind the effort is acclaimed Bollywood mega-sets designer Nitin C. Desai. It would offer prayer opportunity to those devotees of Sai Baba who cannot travel to Shirdi, nearly 300 km from here.

During the festival from Dec 15-18, the Shirdi temple set will showcase the life, times and spiritual journey of Sai Baba and his disciples with the help of mannequins, music and bhajans, before a daily seated crowd of over 15,000.

"The feeling of Shirdi begins at the main grand entrance to the venue and would feature Sai Baba's favourite Neem tree, his Samadhi temple, his paduka and other highlights associated with the great saint," Desai said, unveiling the set before reporters.

He admitted that recreating Shirdi temple in Mumbai was an uphill task, but it has been achieved successfully and now the people, especially children, would be able to better understand Sai Baba and his legend.

"I am grateful to the Shri Saibaba Sansthan Trust, Shirdi, and the Om Saidham Mandir Trust for this wonderful opportunity to re-create a Shirdi in Mumbai," Desai said.

Nearly 300,000 handloom weavers ,likely to benefit under a new scheme

New Delhi: Nearly 300,000 handloom weavers and 15,000 weavers' cooperatives across India are likely to benefit under a new scheme - including a loan waiver - to restructure the handloom sector, the government said today.

Replying to a question in the Rajya Sabha, Minister of State for Textiles Panabaka Lakshmi said loans worth nearly Rs.3,521 crore have been waived by the government for weavers under a scheme of "revival, reform and restructuring package for handloom sector".

All viable and potentially viable primary weavers cooperative societies and state level apex societies would benefit under the scheme, she added.

"In addition, the individual handloom weavers, weaver entrepreneurs, self-help groups and joint liability groups, who have taken loans for handloom weaving purposes would also be covered under the scheme," Lakshmi told the Rajya Sabha.

The minister added that in such cases, there would be an overall ceiling of Rs.50,000 to write off for individual beneficiaries.

She also said that the amount was tentative and the scheme is "demand driven".

Current downturn in economic growth is temporary:Pranab Mukherjee

New Delhi: The current downturn in Indian industrial and economic growth is temporary and the country would soon revert to high growth path as it is better placed to withstand global economic turmoil, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said today.

"I am expecting that the present downturn will be temporary and our economy will soon revert back to high growth," Mukherjee said at the Delhi Economics Conclave here.

Mukherjee said capital outflows have led to recent volatility in the value of rupee. He pointed out that while excessive capital inflows in the aftermath of global economic crisis led to sharp appreciation in the value of Indian currency, the reversal has now caused a sharp depreciation.

"We have witnessed sharp depreciation of the rupee vis-a-vis the US dollar in the last few months. Slowdown in external demand has led to deceleration in the growth of exports in recent months with the current account deficit widening to around 3 percent of GDP," he said.

Mukherjee said the Indian economy was facing the problems of high inflation and widening fiscal deficit but the challenges were not as serious as they were in Europe and other parts of the world as well.

"We also have our fiscal challenges but our problems, whether they are measured in terms of aggregate public debt or the size of the fiscal deficit, are nowhere nearly as large as the ones faced by many European nations," he said.

"The Indian economy is, in some ways, better placed than many other nations to withstand a fresh round of global economic turmoil. India's resilience results from the fact that the bulk of India's GDP is domestic demand driven," Mukherjee added.

India's economic growth has decelerated sharply this year. The growth declined to 7.7 percent in the first quarter of 2011-12 and it fell further to 6.9 percent in the second quarter against the government's budgetary target of around 9 percent.

Industrial output slumped into negative territory in October, raising fear of overall slowdown in the economy. Factory output, measured in terms of the Index of Industrial Production (IIP), slumped to minus-5.1 percent in October, according to the latest official data.

"Our monthly industrial growth has slowed down sharply for the month of October. This is partly a reflection of global trends, but our own fight against inflation has also taken a toll on investments by our corporations," Mukherjee said.

The finance minister admitted that his government had very limited options to combat the industrial slowdown and curb fiscal deficit in the current global economic scenario.

"The current build-up of concerns has been incremental in nature with a series of local intermittent shocks getting transferred to the global economy. All this has happened despite the aggressive use of both fiscal and monetary policy tools and our collective resolve to keep markets open," he said.

"This poses some serious problems for the policy makers. Going forward, it limits our options in dealing with the emerging situation," the finance minister said.

India cannot afford to fight a civil war over water:A.P.J. Abdul Kalam

Chennai: India cannot afford to fight a civil war over water, former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam said today. Rivers should be nationalised and there should be a National Water Grid, he opined.

Kalam was here to inaugurate a Conference on Agriculture R&D Trends 2020 organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

"India cannot afford to fight civil war on water. Like the national highways, power grid, Indian Railways, there should be national water grid, nationalisation of rivers," the former president said.

"The dams should be managed by the Indian Army or Navy so that the nation could march towards prosperity. Nation is bigger than individuals and political parties," he added.

Referring to India's food grain production of around 235 million tonnes per annum, Kalam said the production has to be doubled as people's purchasing power and population are going up.

"We use 170 million hectares to produce 235 million tonnes of food grain. By 2020, the land available for agriculture... may go down to 100 million hectares," he said.

Referring to the 600 million people involved in farming activities, the former president said that in no other country nearly 60 percent of the population is involved in agriculture.

He said even if only a third of the river waters that flow into the sea in India are saved by interlinking ivers, India can be a fertile country.

Later, Kalam said visionary leadership is the need of Indian agriculture.

"Growth in agriculture has stagnated relative to other sectors; last quarter the agricultural sector grew at a rate of 3.2 percent, which is much lower than all other sectors," he said.

The former president said the causes for such a situation are non-availability of proper irrigation system, quality seeds, coordinated support for farmers for system-oriented approach towards farming and its practice, insurance and others.

Referring to Bihar's experience in doubling agricultural productivity, Tamil Nadu's precision farming project and Gujarat's experience in logging nine percent agriculture growth for the last seven years, he said there is need for creative leadership and action on mission mode for agriculture in the country.

Kalam said that by 2020, India would need over 340 million tonnes of food grain, surmounting impeding factors like reduced land for farming and shortage of water.

According to him, the second green revolution will be knowledge graduation from characterisation of soil to the matching of seed with the composition of the fertiliser, water management and evolving pre-harvesting techniques.

Govt. would bring out a white paper on the issue of black money:Pranab Mukherjee

New Delhi: The government would bring out a white paper on the issue of black money, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said today. He also dismissed reports that an MP was amongst the rich Indians with black money stashed away abroad.

There is no MP in the list, Mukherjee asserted, replying to a debate in the Lok Sabha on the huge quantum of black money deposited by Indians in foreign banks.

Stating that there would be a white paper on the issue, Mukherjee said the government was working "to prevent the menace and bring back" the money that had not been credibly quantified.

"We have 36,000 pieces of information, names of persons... But we cannot disclose the names," Mukherjee said, citing legalities involved in maintaining confidentiality on the matter.

"Tomorrow same nations (that have shared information) can tell us, minister you have violated international agreements... we won't give it to you now," the finance minister said.

He said the government's efforts to deal with the issue had shown some results and sought the opposition's support to fight the problem jointly.

Mukherjee said tax treaties with 60 foreign countries were amended; this would enable the government to track the black money.

Bag of international cricketer Harbhajan Singh is missing

Haryana: The Haryana police have failed to make any breakthrough in recovering the bag of international cricketer Harbhajan Singh which was stolen from his SUV outside a cafe here Monday evening.

The off-spinner's bag contained his passport, ATM and credit cards and a laptop.

Some unidentified thieves broke into Harbhajan's Ford Endeavour (SUV) by smashing the window-pane of the rear door on the busy National Highway No.1 (NH-1) near Karnal town in Haryana, police said.

"In his complaint, Harbhajan has said that the thieves have taken away his laptop, passport and a bag containing credit cards and other documents,"said the deputy superintendent of police.

The break-in took place around 6 p.m. outside Cafe Coffee Day outlet at Madhuban near Karnal. Sources said the cricketer immediately called the police for help.

Incidentally, Harbhajan is himself employed as a DSP with Punjab Police. He was driving to New Delhi from Chandigarh with his friend when the incident happened.

The cricketer told the police that he along with his friend had gone inside the cafe for just over five minutes and when they returned to their SUV, the vehicle had been broken into and the bag was missing.

Harbhajan was scheduled to fly to Dubai Tuesday but was unable to do so after he lost his passport and other documents.

A police official investigating the theft said that Harbhajan had appealed that his passport and other documents were of no use to anyone and they should be returned. He has already frozen about 10 credit and ATM cards that were stolen with the bag.

While the cricketer, who was recently dropped from the Indian Test and ODI sides owing to his poor form, proceeded towards New Delhi after the incident, the police said that they are investigating his missing bag.

Sumit Nagal won the under-14 boys American Cup Tennis Championship

New Delhi: Delhi boy Sumit Nagal won the under-14 boys American Cup Tennis Championship at the Miccosukee Tennis Club in Miami, Florida.

Sumit defeated Canada's David Volfson 1-6, 6-1 and 10-6 in an intense battle Saturday that lasted nearly two and a half hours. Sumit got off to a nervous start before settling down and using his power to control the points with his forehand.

"I was inconsistent in the first set, I just wanted to calm down and play the way I know I can play in the second and third sets and I did that," Nagal, who splits his time of training between Delhi and Toronto with his coach Bobby Mahal, said in a statement. Mahal is the first Indian player to win the event.

Sumit dominated the group matches. In the first round, he defeated Japan's Kentaro Mizushima 6-1, 6-3 and beat Serbia's Dusan Vukicevic 6-3, 6-4 in the second round. Sumit won 6-3, 6-3 in the third round against Israel's Ben Fatael and won the quarterfinal encounter against Denmark's Benjamin Hannestad 6-3, 6-2. In the semi-final, he defeated Russian Evgeny Tyurnev 6-2, 3-6, 10-5.

Some top players like Fernando Gonzalez (1994), Marcos Baghdatis (1999), Andy Murray (2000), Novak Djokovic (2001) have won the tournament in past.

Sumit now gets ready for the 50th Annual Junior Orangebowl in Miami, Florida, December 17-23.

Mahesh Bhupathi said Sumit is an exciting talent for Indian tennis.

"It's exciting for Indian tennis, I believe Sumit is the real deal and hope this is one of many stepping stones that will lead him to be a top player," he said.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni's desire to establish a sports academy and school

Bhopal: Indian cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni has written to Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan expressing his desire to establish a sports academy and school in the state to promote talent, an official said on Tuesday.

Dhoni said he wishes to groom the state's talent with complete dedication and commitment not only in the field of the cricket, but in other sports too.

Requesting Chouhan to make the suitable sites available for establishment of these institutions, Dhoni wrote: "Many youths wish to bring laurels to the state and the country as well. And our efforts would make their dreams come true."

"Several youths and sports persons of the country wish to represent the country in different fields. However, they could not deliver the goods due to non availability of proper infrastructure and training facilities," he said in his letter, the official said.

Dhoni added that he wishes to set up a sports school where children could attain excellence in the field of sports and in education as well besides develop discipline, commitment and spirit of hard labour.

Hrithik Roshan's Easy Way to Quit Smoking

New Delhi: Bollywood star Hrithik Roshan was hooked to smoking not so long ago. But when he chanced upon Allen Carr's book,"The Easy Way to Quit Smoking", he got free from his habit, and is now helping others too to kick the butt.

Hrithik first ordered the book, which was being endorsed by Hollywood celebrities like Anthony Hopkins and Ashton Kutcher, for himself. When the book arrived, he spent time alone and finished the book in a day.

Seven days later, he turned into a non-smoker-according to a source close to the 37-year-old.

The actor has now bought 40 copies of the book to distribute amongst family, friends and needy strangers too. From the film industry,Sanjay Dutt and Bobby Deol have already been given a copy each,said the source.

Mallika Sherawat's most memorable moment so far has been meeting the US president Barack Obama

Mumbai: Mallika Sherawat, who has been spotted with Hollywood celebrities like Sharon Stone, Zoe Saldana and Jake Gyllenhaal, says her most memorable moment so far has been meeting the US president Barack Obama.

She met Obama at a tea party in Los Angeles in April.

"The most memorable memory for me, when I felt really proud to be an Indian, was when I met president Barack Obama and I told him about Bollywood. How we all love him there and I invited him here and he said that I will take up your invitation for sure. That is the most memorable memory for me," said Mallika here at a press conference to announce her performance at Hotel Tulip Star's New Year's Eve show.

Mallika shifted her base to Los Angeles after she received an honorary citizenship of LA for her career achievements and charitable efforts in 2009. Even though, on and off, she has been visiting India and was featured in films like "Thank You" and "Double Dhamaal", one thing she misses the most in LA is her brother.

"To spend more time with my brother. That is what I miss the most in LA. I don't get to spend more time with my brother and I miss spending time with him," said Mallika who was also seen in a Hollywood flick "Politics Of Love" in 2011 and is in India to shoot for Sanjay Khanduri's "Kismat Love Paisa Delhi" opposite Vivek Oberoi.

Mallika debuted in Bollywood with a special appearance in "Jeena Sirf Mere Liye" and then she signed "Khwahish", her first film as a lead actress followed by "Pyaar Ke Side Effects" and "Welcome".

She also played an Indian princess in Jackie Chan's Chinese film "The Myth".

Sonu Niigaam's resolution will be to undertake an adventurous road trip

New Delhi:With New Year just round the corner, singer Sonu Niigaam says his resolution will be to undertake an adventurous road trip.

"I have to go for a road trip and will drive myself. From Mumbai, either I will go to the Himalayas or Northeast. This is my resolution. I have to go for a road trip," said Sonu at a press conference at the Aamby Valley's annual New Year bash Glitterati 2012.

Sonu is currently working on an English album,"Spirit Unfolding", while his son Nevaan's version of "Kolaveri Di" is attracting hordes of viewers on YouTube.

4 new National Institutes of Design (NIDs) to meet the growing need

New Delhi: Industry and traditional design are closing ranks in India, with plans to set up four new National Institutes of Design (NIDs) to meet the growing need for industrial designers, especially at the regional level.

The commerce, industry and textiles ministry will announce NIDs in Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana to push the growth of regional design and train more youngsters as designers, said Pradyumna Vyas, director of the National School of Design in Ahmedabad.

"We produce nearly 400,000 engineers and 100,000 managers every year. In contrast, we hardly produce 1,000 industrial designers to address the growing need to make design competitive," Vyas said at the CII-NID Design Summit Dec 8-9 in the capital.

The new NIDs are expected to become operational in the next five years. "The new NIDs will cater to regional requirements - and combine traditions with industry to meet global needs," he added.

"Sustainable design that carries forward a balanced and aesthetic equilibrium between our social, economic and environmental structures is where design innovation in current time rests," Vyas said.

The Twelfth Five-Year plan will give a boost to the process of commercialising indigenous designs from regions and make it commercially viable.

Designer Nachiket Thakur is one such "dual knight" of design who exemplifies this inclusive trend in new Indian design.

As founder-president of Pune-based Vishwa Bamboo, he promotes bamboo craft from the Satara, Sangli, Kolhapur and Nasik regions of Maharashtra as industrial products - for corporate and lifestyle use.

Thakur has created 150 bamboo and clay products, of which 15 are mass manufactured on shop-floors. The craftspeople provide the design and a tech team assembles them in the works.

He also heads the design at Mahindra Composites where he innovates on user-friendly hardware design.

"Traditional and industrial designs have been seeing a parallel growth of late. One has dexterity while the other has skill - but strangely, both are learning from each other. Craftspeople are realising the need for standardisation of designs and their crafts for mass use," Thakur said.

Explaining why traditional crafts were facing a growth block, he said: "Craftspeople are generally happy with their work so long as they get a good price for it."

"They do not look beyond the scope of the ordinary - and livelihoods. People like me who are working in the crafts sector educate them to customise the products - by making them industrially manufacturable to ensure that the quality of the first product and the 1,000th product is the same," he said.

Man-made crafts cannot be mass produced without qualitative variations, Thakur pointed out.

The design environment in India is also changing - as grassroots, traditional and industrial design try to meet on common ground to set up new linkages.

"An entire eco-system for product development is taking roots in India with various entities (like design, production, innovation and resources) coming together to create one Indian design," Sunil Sudhakaran, the owner of Bangalore-based Icarus Design, said.

The design incubation centres - education and support centres for design innovators and entrepreneurs - are an example, he said.

The NS Raghavan design and product incubation cell at the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) in Bangalore helps young innovators and designer-entrepreneurs from the grassroots develop viable start-ups with mentoring, marketing support and resource generation, Sudhakaran said.

"Several engineering colleges across India have set up incubation centres to educate and guide innovators," he said.

The Design Clinic - a micro-level design intervention programme between the National Institute of Design and the commerce, industry and textiles ministry - has been helping micro, medium and small-scale industries to increase their competitiveness by exposing entrepreneurs to design-related thinking, intervention and application since February 2010.

The scheme has a budget of Rs.73.58 crore ($14 million), of which Rs.49.08 crore is government contribution, a ministry spokesperson said.

The government has turned the spotlight on design education with aesthetics and innovations.

The National Design Policy version of 2011 is encouraging the creation of departments of design in all the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), National Institutes of Technology (NITs) as well as private colleges.

Under its objectives for the coming year, the policy is stressing on teaching of design in vocational, primary and secondary schools oriented to the needs of small-scale and cottage industries - under the theme "Designed in India, Made For the World" to integrate India's rich traditions, ethnicity with contemporary innovative processes.

IIT Bombay will open its doors to four international folk dance groups

Mumbai: For the first time in its 41-year history, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay will open its doors to four international folk dance groups to take part in the four-day Mood Indigo Worldfest-2011, opening here on Sunday.

Teams from Indonesia, Turkey, Spain and Poland will participate in this year's Mood Indigo Worldfest, making Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay the only Indian campus to invite and host foreign groups to what is now seen as a world-class festival.

Mood Indigo is the institute's annual cultural festival, attracting over 75,000 students from approximately 500 colleges all over the country. It is touted as Asia's largest college festival.

It also attracts the biggest names in the world of arts, culture, dance, singing and music who perform at the various events slated for four action-packed days at its sprawling lake-side campus in Powai, central Mumbai suburbs.

Poland's student group Katowice with 12 boys and 13 girls from the University of Silesia arrived here on Tuesday. It has already performed in over 20 countries worldwide and presents songs and dances of Upper Silesia sporting traditional folk costumes.

The remaining groups - Indonesia's IOV Indonesia Youth Section (two boys, 15 girls), Turkey's Kleurrijke Dans (nine boys, seven girls) and Spain's Ara De Madrid (six boys, 22 girls), will arrive from today onwards.

Describing the motto of the festival as 'Today's Friendship for Tomorrow's Peace', the festival's artistic director Shubhra Bhardwaj said the Worldfest will bring the world to Mood Indigo in an attempt to present the festival on an international platform.

"The idea of an international cultural festival is to create young minds that transcend borders and prejudices. Mood Indigo Worldfest 2011 will become a meeting point where hundreds of young talented individuals from many countries converge," she added.

The main objectives are to intermingle, have fun and exhibit each country's unique culture and lifestyle, and the participants will become ambassadors of peace.