21 January 2007
Washington, Jan 21 (DPA) At least 19 US soldiers were killed in Iraq in one of the deadliest days since the 2003 US-led invasion, the US military said.
A helicopter crash near Baghdad Saturday killed 13, while five soldiers died in a militia attack on a security centre in Karbala.
Another soldier died in a roadside bomb attack in northern Iraq, while two soldiers, including a marine, were killed Friday in separate attacks in al-Anbar and Ninewah province.
The deaths come as US President George W. Bush is preparing to send over 20,000 additional troops to Iraq in an effort to quell sectarian violence in Baghdad, which has put the country on the brink of civil war.
The helicopter, which often transports civilians in addition to military personnel, crashed in an "explosive" region northeast of Baghdad, which is inhabited by Sunnis, Shias and Kurds, news broadcaster CNN reported.
However, US soldiers were able to secure the crash site and seal it off. The circumstances of the helicopter crash were not yet known and an investigation is underway, a spokesperson said.
In Karbala, an "illegally armed militia group" attacked the Provincial Joint Coordination Centre, where US and Iraqi forces hold security meetings, killing five US soldiers.
"At the time of the attack, US and Iraqi soldiers were meeting to develop a security plan for Shias attending Ashura commemorations," said Brigadier General Vincent K. Brooks, deputy commander of coalition forces in Baghdad.
"The attack ... was aimed at coalition and Iraqi security forces working together towards a better future for the citizens of Karbala," Lieutenant Colonel Scott R. Bleichwehl, spokesperson for coalition forces in Baghdad, said in a statement.
Baghdad, Jan 21 (DPA) An additional 3,200 US soldiers arrived in the violence-marred Iraqi capital as part of a Washington-backed extended security plan for Baghdad, a US military spokesman announced Sunday.
The forces will start operating from Feb 1. The presence of the US troops coincides with the initiation of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's security plan. In this plan, forces are to be beefed up around Baghdad and joint US-Iraqi forces are expected to crack down on militants in extensive neighbourhood-by-neighbourhood raids.
US President George W. Bush had outlined his revised strategy for Iraq in a major speech on Jan 10. The new plan foresees the sending of an additional 21,500 troops to Iraq to assist the Iraqi security forces and hopefully end the ongoing violence in the violence-torn country.
Hyderabad, Jan 21 (IANS) Heart-rending scenes were witnessed at Manchalakatta village in Mahbubnagar district Sunday as expert divers from the Indian Navy recovered 47 bodies of the victims of a boat tragedy in the Krishna river.
One body was recovered Saturday 10 km from the site of the mishap Thursday.
The country-made boat carrying over 80 people sank in the backwaters of Srisailam dam. According to district authorities, 64 people were feared drowned.
Search is on for the bodies of the remaining victims.
Hundreds of relatives, who were camping on the banks of the river for the last three days to receive the bodies, cried inconsolably as the victims including many children were handed over to them.
Last rites of some victims were performed by the relatives on the banks of the river. Authorities are extending financial assistance for shifting others to their villages.
Aadab Main Prem Chand Hoon
5 shows in one week
Indian Drama And Entertainment Academy (IDEA) is staging 5 shows of ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“AADAB MAIN PREM CHAND HOONÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ (plays on Prem ChandÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s stories)
(Special show for college students)
1) On 23rd Jan at 11 a.m. venue SPJ Auditorium, Bhavans College, Andheri
APNE FUN KE USTAD
(Special show for women)
2) On 25th Jan 3 p.m. Venue Rajasthani Mahila Mandal, Nana Chowk
APNE FUN KA USTAD
SAWA SER GEHOON
(Special show for Vasai Book Fair)
3) On 25th Jan 8 p.m. Venue Samaj Unnati Mandir, Manickpur, Vasai (West)
APNE FUN KA USTAD
DOODH KI KEEMAT
JULOOS (the occasion of Republic Day)
(Special show for Mumbai south audiences)
4) On 26th Jan Vanue Geeta Hall, Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan, Chowpati.
APNE FUN KA USTAD
DOODH KI KEEMAT
5) On Sunday 27th Jan Venue Keertan Kendra, Opp. Utpal Sanghvi School, Juhu
APNE FUN KA USTAD
DUNIYA KA ANMOL RATAN
PEHLA SACH THA YA DOOSRA SACH?
(Journalistic Theatre, on Shilpa ShettyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s Controversy)
For more details call on 9821044429
New Delhi, Jan 21 (IANS) The Hindon in western Uttar Pradesh has become one of India's most polluted rivers due to callous industries as well as indifferent authorities and is causing serious diseases, says a new study.
A once clean river has been reduced to a trunk sewer passing through urban towns, carrying a heavy load of pesticides released both from factories as well as agricultural run off from the fields, says the report released by Janhit Foundation.
The foundation is an independent, not-for-profit NGO actively engaged in the promotion of human welfare through environmental protection. The report's author is Heather Lewis, an environmentalist from Britain.
The Hindon originates in the lower Himalayas in Saharanpur district and flows 260 km through six districts including Muzaffarnagar, Meerut, Baghpat, Ghaziabad and Gautambudh Nagar, until its confluence with the Yamuna.
It is a major source of water to the highly populated and predominantly rural population of western Uttar Pradesh. It drains a catchment area of about 5,000 km of farmland while also flowing through a number of substantial sized towns and villages.
About 60 industrial manufacturing units are located along the Hindon and its two main tributaries, the Kali (West) and Krishni rivers. "These industries both abstract large volumes of water from the river for their manufacturing processes, and also discharge their industrial effluents, often with nominal or no treatment, directly to the river," says the 49-page report.
The erring industries include those producing paper and textiles, dairy units and slaughter houses.
"The Hindon no longer serves human domestic uses as it is clearly too polluted," says the study. "The river is now only used for the watering and washing of livestock.
"Use of the river for disposal of untreated human sewage is a primary cause of poor water quality within the Hindon. The river receives large volumes of untreated sewage and municipal wastes from all population centers within the catchment."
The river also receives a high loading of degradable and non-degradable domestic generated litter.
The entire length of the river apparently has only one water treatment plant, but this does not have adequate volume capacity. In the process, the river has no fish as a potential food source and is odorous and also a source of disease vectors such as faecal pathogens and mosquitoes.
The Hindon as well as its tributaries "are consistently and massively exceeding the maximum permissible values for health surface water and for safe drinking water", said the report.
"Water from the river and tributaries is unable to support a functioning aquatic ecosystem nor is the water safe for drinking due to the presence of toxic heavy metals. Any person using this water for domestic purposes will exhibit symptoms of heavy metal poisoning."
Because of the contaminated river and ground water, villagers along the Hindon suffer from serious illnesses such as cancer, neurological disorders, stomach and digestive disorders, skin lesions and respiratory disorders, the report said.
Within the seven villages proven to have toxic contamination of drinking water, 107 people have died in the last five years from the above diseases that are characteristic of water poisoning.
The study has urged a wide array of central and state government authorities to act fast to save the Hindon.
These include the Uttar Pradesh State Pollution Control Board, which is being asked to take action against all industries currently discharging untreated effluents. Non-complying industries, the study says, should be closed until suitable effluent treatment plants are installed. Further hazardous industries should also be prevented from operating and discharging within the river catchment areas.
By M.R. Narayan Swamy
New Delhi, Jan 21 (IANS) The Australian-born Adele Balasingham, wife of the late Tamil Tigers ideologue Anton Balasingham, is likely to be the new international spokesperson for the group, informed sources say.
The London-based Adele Balasingham may don the new mantle at a time when the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) faces one of its most serious challenges from a Sri Lankan state determined to crush the outfit.
Adele Balasingham could not be reached for this story. But the sources, which closely follow Sri Lanka, say the buzz is that she will continue to make the contributions that her husband made to the Tamil Tiger cause.
"Adele's brilliance is the intimate knowledge first hand of the Tamil problem, which she has witnessed personally at close quarters," a reliable source told IANS.
Norway, the peace facilitator in Sri Lanka, is already in touch with her as well as S.P. Thamilchelvan, the LTTE political wing leader based in the rebel-held area in the island.
Like her husband whom she married in 1978 and who died of cancer last month, Adele Balasingham has been seeped in the LTTE's campaign to break up Sri Lanka's northeast to carve out a Tamil state. Popularly known as "Aunty" among LTTE cadres and occasionally called a "white Tamil", Adele Balasingham, who will turn 57 Jan 30, has known LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran for decades and enjoys his trust.
She has taken part in almost all major peace negotiations that her husband held with the Sri Lankan government on behalf of the Tigers. One high-ranking Sri Lankan official who took part in some of these talks said Adele Balasingham always played a quiet role, taking down notes and helping out her husband.
"She was invariably present at all major discussions, assisting (Anton) Balasingham," the official told IANS. "She was more than a wife. She did not intervene though. Whatever she said was between her and her husband."
A Tamil activist had remarked after Balasingham's death: "Adele was more than a mere partner who kept his home and nursed him in illness. She was his intellectual partner."
Born Adele Ann Wilby in a small Australian town, the second of four children, she qualified as a nurse and moved to London where she met Balasingham and married him.
Balasingham played a key role in the evolution of LTTE since the late 1970s when he and his wife were introduced to the group in London and later met, in Chennai, its leader for the first time. Both LTTE and Prabhakaran were largely unknown entities then.
Soon, Balasingham rose to become Prabhakaran's confidant and widely came to be seen as the group's theoretician and ideologue. Though Adele Balasingham did not take part in any fighting, she has been photographed in LTTE combat dress. One BBC documentary showed her with a pistol on her hip.
A powerful writer, Adele Balasingham authored three books, including a semi-autobiographic "The Will to Freedom", which she described as an inside view of "Tamil resistance". The other books were on LTTE's women fighters and on the dowry practice among the Tamils of Jaffna, the cradle of Tamil militancy.
In one book, she described her husband as the "greatest determinant" in my life. "Our marriage in 1978," she wrote, "was a union of ideological perspectives, values, aspirations and convictions."
These attributes could serve her well if she does become the LTTE's new international spokesperson.
Allahabad, Jan 21 (IANS) Angry political activists Sunday demonstrated here against police inaction after two young women from a madrassa were gang-raped.
The women were Wednesday abducted from the madrassa by four unidentified men who raped them and dropped them off at the seminary. Police filed a complaint Friday night and arrested four people for the crime.
However, the activists, mostly from the Congress and the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), accused police of indifference and inaction against the "real culprits".
"The suspects booked are ordinary rickshaw pullers being framed to protect the real culprits," said CPI-M leader Subhashini Ali.
Allahabad district magistrate Amrit Abhijat denied the charge.
"People are trying to politicise the crime. We have already taken action in the matter," Abhijat told IANS.
Ali and Congress leader Rita Bahuguna-Joshi led the protest rally that turned violent when a major thoroughfare was blocked and some activists hurled stones at the Kareli police station on the outskirts of Allahabad, about 200 km from Uttar Pradesh capital Lucknow.
Dhaka, Jan 21 (Xinhua) Fakhruddin Ahmed, the new head of Bangladesh's caretaker government, Sunday pledged to conduct free, fair and credible general elections, ahead of which the country's poll panel would be reconstituted.
"Our beloved motherland is facing a difficult challenge. Today, the greatest challenge for us is to uphold and strengthen democratic rule by ensuring political and social stability, holding free and fair election and ensuring people's voting rights," he said in a nationwide address over state-owned radio and television.
Ahmed assumed office as chief advisor of the caretaker government Jan 12, a day after the promulgation of a state of emergency to quell the political disturbances sweeping the country.
He said his government's main task was to hold a free, fair and peaceful election with participation of all parties in accordance with the constitution and the people's aspirations.
Ahmed's address came after the Election Commission cancelled the earlier schedule for the elections, slated for Jan 22, in the wake of an emergency being declared.
President Iajuddin Ahmed declared the emergency after major political alliance decided to boycott what it termed one-sided elections and announced road blockades and general strikes to thwart the polls.
Promising to reconstitute the poll panel, Ahmed said the Election Commission had got entangled in controversies. "So, reconstitution of the Election Commission has become essential," he declared.
Ahmed, however, did not state any timeframe for the elections.
Patna, Jan 21 (IANS) A businessman from Bihar was beaten severely by goons after he allegedly refused to cough up the extortion money they demanded.
Razi Ahmed was admitted to the Patna Medical College and Hospital Friday with serious injuries on his face and elsewhere. In his police complaint, Ahmed has named half a dozen people, who he claims are henchmen of a ruling Janata Dal-United (JD-U) legislator, as his tormentors.
Ahmed owns the Industrial Trading Company, which supplies gas to the National Thermal Power Corp (NTPC) project in Barh subdivision of Patna district. He says he was beaten and asked to stop supply of gas to the state-owned power project.
He claimed that the legislator's men also ordered him to leave Barh "if he loved his life".
On Thursday, two engineers, Nishikant Singh and Rajesh Kumar Singh, were killed and four people injured in Madhepura, around 200 km from here, for refusing to pay Rs.10 million. Their company is engaged in road construction.
Guwahati, Jan 21 (IANS) At least three people were injured in a powerful explosion Sunday near a railway station in Assam, the latest in a series of bombings and shootouts that have killed 77 people, officials said.
Police said the blast took place near the parking lot of the main railway station in New Bongaigaon, about 210 km west of Guwahati.
"Three people were wounded. Casualties would have been much higher had the bomb exploded a few metres away," a police official said over telephone. The injured were shifted to a hospital.
On Saturday, two explosions and a shootout left three people dead and 15 injured in eastern Assam.
Authorities have blamed the latest attacks on the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), Assam's main separatist group. An ULFA commander told local newspapers that they would target government officials if New Delhi did not stop the military crackdown against the outfit that began Jan 8.
There were two more explosions in Guwahati earlier this week that killed four people and wounded about 30. The fresh attacks come soon after a warning from the ULFA to migrant Hindi-speaking workers to quit the region.
ULFA is one of several separatist outfits in Assam. Authorities have blamed it for the Jan 5-8 attacks in which 73 people were killed -- 61 of them Hindi-speaking migrant workers.
The group denied responsibility for the massacre and blamed security forces instead. But the claim has few takers.
By Ashok Easwaran,
Chicago, Jan 21 (IANS) A group of senior vice presidents from the Indian affiliate of an American company were in the United States for a conference. As they entered the conference room, an American vice president noticed that the room was in disarray. She hurriedly started rearranging the chairs and asked an Indian executive with her to help. To her dismay, the Indian did not offer assistance, but watched her impassively.
Later, before a 'culture trainer' the American remonstrated to the Indian, "I cannot believe that you just looked on while I was moving the chairs. You knew we were short on time." And the Indian retorted, "And I could not believe that you were actually moving chairs. Is that what the company pays you for as vice president? Could you not have delegated the work to the office staff?"
These two attitudes exemplify what many American executives in India, and Indian executives in the US, face in terms of a cultural gap, said Monica Francois Marcel, partner of Language And Culture Worldwide, a Chicago-based company which works to narrow the gap. As business collaborations and joint ventures among Indian and American enterprises increase at a steady pace, trainers like Marcel are finding their services in great demand.
"We are big on India," said Marcel, whose company also works with businesses in Europe and Africa. Language And Culture Worldwide has trained a number of American executives working in India from companies like Hewitt Associates and Northern Trust. They have also held training sessions for students of the Graduate School of Business, University of Chicago.
Asian countries, said Marcel, tend to be enigmatic, not the least for a culture where making a hard direct statement can often give offense and lead to lost business. "In the US, we value direct communication and people are rewarded for being straight talkers. We believe in egalitarianism and we have come to believe that this is true of everybody (around the world)," said Marcel.
"Theoretically," said Marcel, "a janitor should be able to talk to the chief executive officer. But in many cultures, there is a much greater emphasis on status."
A common language does not account for an easier assimilation into another culture, as many Americans have learnt to their grief. "We assume that just because people in other countries speak English, everything will be easy," said Marcel.
For westerners especially, cultural nuances are only one hurdle. "For Americans, going to India can be among their toughest transitions, " said Marcel. "Most Americans are more or less insulated from poverty. But in India, you cannot really be insulated from poverty."
India's population too can be quite a shock, first hitting the western visitor besieged by a mob of taxi drivers or 'coolies' grabbing at his or her suitcases, minutes after landing at an Indian airport. "The sheer number of people can get to you," said Marcel, adding that 'baggage handling' is very different at an Indian airport, compared to say, Chicago's O'Hare airport.
"Even if you work in this air-conditioned bubble inside your workplace, you cannot really miss the poverty on the streets," said Padma Rangaswamy, a historian and author, who also works as a trainer for the company, "Other challenges emerge(for the American visitor) as you go along."
"The indirect language of the Indians is a language that Americans have not yet learnt to grasp," said Rangaswamy. "Americans feel that Indians need a lot of handholding, while Indians feel that Americans do not give adequate inputs first."
To American executives who complain that Indians have not lived up to expectations, Marcel's answer is "They do not have the context in which you want them to operate. Once you give them that, they will probably surpass you (in performance)".
At training sessions, the opening remarks are often quite complimentary. The Americans find Indians 'very eager, very polite and very respectful.' The Indians find Americans 'very friendly and very open.' Which inevitably leads Marcel to pose her next question, "Then, why are you here ?" What follows is a litany of complaints. The Americans say 'Indians over promise. They lie.' The Indians say they find the Americans 'high handed and rude.'
"Interestingly, Americans do not see themselves as rude," said Marcel.
"Indians feel that Americans are withholding information. Americans say that this is because they are not sure what Indians can do. There is no mal-intent," said Marcel.
While these impediments of communication and culture can be formidable enough in personal interaction, they become more complex in the virtual world of information technology companies, where the colleague at the other end of the phone or modem, is a disembodied voice. "In the virtual world, you have the disadvantage of not having even face to face contact," said Rangaswamy.
Culture training today, said Marcel, has gone beyond 'accent neutralization' and polite conversation about the weather and baseball. "People will learn to look through your accent. It is your attitude that counts," said Rangaswamy.
A lot of miscommunication stems out of ignorance, said Marcel. "Many American executives ask me how a Robert Stephen can possibly be an Indian. I have to explain that he could be a Christian from Goa. They have this belief that only Hindus live in India."
What may be the right thing to do in the US, may invite censure in other countries. Attitudes differ widely in cultures, said Marcel, referring to a survey in Venezuela and America. The respondents were asked if they were with a friend who was driving well above the speed limit, what they would do if they were stopped by a police officer. Would they admit to the officer that their friend was speeding? "Over 97 percent of Americans said yes they would, while only 33 percent of Venezuelans said, 'yes'. The Venezuelans asked 'How can you betray a friend?' while to Americans the question was 'How can you lie to the law ?"
Ideally, culture training leads not just to better corporate performance but also to a personal transformation, said Rangaswamy. "You learn the value of another culture and that makes you a better human being," she said.
In an increasingly interconnected world, cross-cultural training can, not only brings individual enrichment, but also favourably impact the corporate bottom line. For today's multinational executive, the adage 'While in Rome, do as the Romans do' might spell propriety, but also profitability.
(Ashok Easwaran is a Chicago based journalist and commentator. He can be contacted at email@example.com.)
New Delhi, Jan 21 (IANS) The judiciary should not be given immunity from the Right to Information (RTI) Act and judicial appointments should be opened to public scrutiny, a former chief justice of India who also headed the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) says.
Appearing on the BBC Hindi programme "Aapki baat BBC ke saath", Justice J.S. Verma also spoke on judiciary-legislature-executive face off, saying the "constitution is supreme and these three arms are its creatures". "Aapki..." is a live, interactive half-hour show, with listeners putting questions to the guest.
"To ensure transparency and accountability in public eye, I strongly feel that judiciary should be brought into the ambit of Right to Information Act," he maintained.
"When hearing of all the cases is done publicly, decisions are pronounced publicly, the administrative actions of the judiciary, especially judicial appointments, should be made open to public scrutiny," Verma added.
"For fairness of the process, it is fine to maintain confidentiality when the appointments process is on. However, when the process has been finalised and appointments done, the reasons for appointments and rejections should be made public.
"This would enhance the image of judiciary further in the eyes of common people, who see judiciary as their saviour", he said.
"I do not favour immunity for judiciary from the Right to Information Act. To begin with, I would be very happy if all my correspondence which I had done during the days as chief justice of two high courts and later the Supreme Court were made public", he said.
Asked about the lack of transparency in the present system of judicial appointments, Verma said: "There would be no problem if two principles are followed while appointing judges - firstly people with a honest track record and good character should only be considered for appointment, and secondly, they should have a balanced judicial mind and temperament.
"An individual cannot be disqualified from being appointed a judge if he follows a particular ideology, it is certainly not a disqualification. There have been examples in this country of people adhering to a particular ideology having done exceptionally well in judiciary.
"Look at V.R. Krishna Iyer, he was in politics, was a minister in Kerala, but is one of the most widely quoted judges in the country. It is the character and judicial mind of an individual which matters, and not the ideology. Yes, a person should not be of a weird mind."
Asked about the increasing perception of confrontation between the legislature and the judiciary, the former chief justice said: "In the cash for questions case pertaining to 11 MPs disqualified by the parliament, the question was to determine the parliamentary privileges.
"Now, the constitution of the country says till the time a law is made to define parliamentary privileges, till such time the Indian parliament would enjoy the same privileges as that of House of Commons.
"Now since it was a matter of codification of privileges, it has been laid down in the constitution that in such matters, the final arbiter would be the Supreme Court. Therefore, in my view the court was right in entertaining the matter and since it was decided that the matter was rightly decided by the parliament, it should not be viewed as confrontationist."
"Let us all not forget that when the matter reached the Supreme Court, the Lok Sabha speaker had said he would not entertain the court notice, as this matter did not fall under the court's jurisdiction. However, when the court decision went in his favour, he strongly welcomed the judgement. Therefore, the jurisdiction is not decided on the basis of the verdict, but on the basis of the judicial principle involved.
"If a question of law is involved in any matter brought to the notice of the courts, then the courts are within their rights to intervene in it", Verma said.
Describing the debate on confrontation as dangerous, he said: "It is not only incorrect but dangerous to say that judiciary, legislature and executive are in a struggle to decide who is supreme. It is very clear that in India, the constitution is supreme and these three arms are its creatures.
"The real power vests in people of the country and these three arms are supposed to serve the people. In my view, a confrontation can only take place if there is a clash of egos. Judiciary and the legislature should avoid such a clash at all costs and both of them should not forget that they are servants of the people, and then there would be no problem."
Sounding a note of caution for the media while reporting court matters, he said: "Media should avoid expressing its views and opinions on matters which are pending before courts to avoid an impression that the so-called media trials may be influencing the minds of judges.
"It is correct to report the proceedings, but views should not be aired on sub-judice matters. Though from my experience I can tell you that a judicial mind is not and should not be influenced by any external factors, but to dispel any such impression, the media should avoid hype in all types of cases, no matter how important a person may be involved in the case."
By Arvind Padmanabhan
New Delhi, Jan 21 (IANS) French retail chain Carrefour will host an Indian mango festival in France, China and Malaysia in May, even as its chief executive Jose-Luis Duran meets Commerce Minister Kamal Nath here Monday to appraise him of his group's plans for India.
Carrefour, which is in talks with a dozen Indian corporate houses for a possible tie-up to enter the Indian market, is hoping that the government will soon open up the retail trade business further to foreign equity, industry sources said.
Kamal Nath had recently remarked that all big global retail trade chains were in talks to enter into tie-ups with Indian companies. "You have Carrefour looking at India very closely. Probably they are on the last lap of finalizing things."
In his meeting with Kamal Nath, Duran is not only expected to push for the opening up of multi-brand retailing industry to foreign players but also take up the issue an independent regulator for the industry, officials said.
The $100-billion giant, with a chain of supermarkets, hypermarkets and convenience stores around 30 countries, currently sources merchandise worth $400 million annually from India, mainly high-value textiles and clothing.
But with strong signals that the government intends to open up the retail trade business further, as opposed to allowing only up to 51 percent foreign equity in single brand retailing, Carrefour hopes to firm up its India policy in a couple of months, the sources said.
Regarding the proposed Indian mango festival, the plan is to make it a joint effort with the commerce ministry's Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (Apeda).
The sources said two or three varieties of mangoes, including the famous Alphonso, would be showcased in Carrefour stores in the three countries not just to retail the king of fruits but also feature some exotic recipes using them.
Carrefour, the sources said, has also embarked on a programme to procure apples of consistent quality from Himachal Pradesh to sell them overseas and also introduce a special technology to make desiccated coconut in India to sell them in the French market.
According to sources associated with Carrefour's operations in India, the group hopes to get en entry into India soon in a tie-up with a local company even if it is not permitted a majority stake.
The group - the second largest retail chain after Wal-Mart - is globally known to keep its capital investment per store to the bare minimum, use the money thus saved to price competitively and make profits from high volume sales.
It intends to employ the same strategy in India, even though it may alter its product mix where 60 percent of the merchandise stocked comprises food items, the sources revealed.
Cash and carry business - which implies wholesale trade as opposed to direct sale to end retail customers - is another area Carrefour is seeking an entry in India, where the government permits 100 percent foreign equity.
The current size of the India's retail industry has been estimated at $202 billion by global consultants A.T. Kearney with a potential for 30 percent annual growth for the next five years.
Beijing, Jan 21 (DPA) China and Vietnam achieved "positive results" in their latest round of talks aimed at resolving long-standing border disputes, the Chinese foreign ministry said Sunday.
The two sides will speed up and complete before the end of 2008 the process of demarcation and erection of markers along their 1,400 km land border, the ministry said in a statement posted on its website.
Both sides also agreed to "carefully investigate joint exploitation" of the South China Sea, after three days of talks that ended Saturday in the southern city of Nanning, close to China's border with Vietnam.
China and Vietnam will also push forward negotiations on the demarcation and joint use of the maritime area at the entrance to the Beibu (Tonkin) Gulf, the statement said.
China has become Vietnam's largest trading partner since relations were normalized in 1991.
Some of the land disputes date back to 1979, four years after North Vietnam defeated the US-backed South Vietnam. Then China and Vietnam clashed along Vietnam's northern border after Vietnamese troops marched into Cambodia to topple the Beijing-supported Khmer Rouge.
Tensions still flare occasionally over the Spratley and Paracel Islands, two archipelagos in the South China Sea that are thought to be rich in gas and oil deposits.
Beijing, Jan 21 (DPA) US envoy Christopher Hill arrived in China on Sunday for talks aimed at kick-starting six-party negotiations on North Korea's nuclear weapons' programme.
Following what he called "useful" talks with his North Korean counterpart in Berlin this week, Hill travelled to South Korea and Japan before arriving in China.
He is trying to get all six nations to agree on a date to resume negotiations, which have involved the US, North Korea, China, South Korea, Japan and Russia.
Earlier speaking in Tokyo on Saturday, he said the US and North Korea had "agreed on the need to get back on the six-party talks as soon as possible."
China has hosted six rounds of six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear programme since August 2003, but little progress has been made.
By Prashant K. Nanda,
New Delhi, Jan 21 (IANS) Time was when Indian management institutes targeted US firms for the student placement. Now Columbia Business School, one of the top 10 management schools of the world, is eying India Inc for value addition to its students' CVs.
"We would certainly like Indian companies to know the ability and excellence of our students and recruit them. With a tie-up with the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A), our students now can visit India and avail of the opportunity to know the growing economy and getting placed here too," said Columbia Business School dean R. Gleen Hubbard.
"The Indian economy is growing and it would have a great impact on future generations. And a job with Indian companies would certainly be of great value in a professional's profile," Hubbard told IANS.
Hubbard, who was the chairman of the US Council of Economic Advisers under President George W. Bush during February 2001-March 2003, was here last week to finalise the American school's partnership with IIM-A.
Elaborating on plans for closer ties with Indian companies, he said that they would love to develop a course for executives working for them.
"We would like to develop a customised executive management programme in collaboration with IIM-A for Indian managers. It's not that they lack skills but they need to hone them further by experts from IIM-A and our institute to meet future challenges," said Hubbard.
He said the the school would like its students, who will visit IIM-A for one semester (12 weeks), to get acquainted with Indian companies and learn about new fields like micro-finance and the NGO sector apart from "hardcore industry experience".
"We would also expect IIM-A to set interaction of our students with industry leaders so that both can know each other well. This would give Indian business tycoons a chance to gauge our students and our students may bag some lucrative jobs too," he said.
Though he did not comment on which specific companies the school would target, he said: "Indian firms are paying good salaries and our students can go for any good corporation."
Currently, about 60 students from India are studying in the American business school. Hubbard said he would like more and more Indian students to join the institute.
Elaborating on the collaboration with the Indian institute, he said, this partnership will go beyond academic experience by providing a practical and first-hand knowledge of global business through executive presentations and field visits to top businesses both in India and the US. Exchanges of case studies about each other's economy would also be an integral part of the tie-up.
"The partnership between us and IIM-A reflects our mutual interest in entrepreneurship, a shared world view and joint quest for innovation in a rapidly changing world.
"Top business schools create leaders who will play integral roles in the business world of tomorrow, leaders who can assimilate data quickly and understand and manage risk, and above all recognise and capture opportunities," Hubbard said.
Chandigarh, Jan 21 (IANS) Having failed to secure the party ticket despite being a sitting Congress legislator, Punjab Congress leader and former state deputy speaker Bir Devinder Singh Sunday served the party with a two-day ultimatum to reconsider its decision.
Singh, who has been associated with the party for over three decades, is believed to have served the ultimatum after pressure from his supporters.
He told reporters that his supporters wanted him to contest as an independent candidate if the Congress did not field him for the Feb 13 assembly polls.
The Congress last week announced the party ticket for the Kharar assembly seat for Balbir Singh Sidhu, a liquor contractor.
Devinder had won the seat in 2002 for the Congress.
He had accused senior Congress leaders of bowing to the 'liquor and land mafia' in denying him the ticket.
Singh, a bold and outspoken leader with the best parliamentarian award under his belt, had earned the wrath of Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and state Congress president S.S. Dullo for taking up issues, which were embarrassing for the party.
By Gabriele Chwallek
Washington, Jan 21 (DPA) It is an unusual race for the Democratic nomination for 2008 US presidential election. A woman, Hillary Rodham Clinton, is pitched against an African-American; one politically experienced, intelligent and cool, and the other young, charismatic and intellectual charmer.
Clinton is looking to move back into the White House, and this time she hopes to be the leading figure.
The six-year New York senator's entering the race was hardly surprising, but that didn't stop a furore among the US media when she announced her plans Saturday to form a presidential exploratory committee - the first step towards a White House run.
Illinois Senator Barack Obama said earlier Tuesday that he was forming his own exploratory committee.
Of course, that discounts that a third candidate in this wide-open presidential field could still play spoiler. Among the other hopefuls in the Democratic party are 2004 vice presidential candidate John Edwards, while some still believe the Democrats' 2000 candidate and former vice president Al Gore may still throw his hat in the ring.
But for now, the world will be concentrating on the duel between Clinton and Obama.
Both candidates have their weakness, and they have one important one in common: their chances of claiming the presidency, even if they do win the Democratic nomination.
Aside from doubts among Democrats whether the US is ready for a female or African-American president, there are other issues. Hillary Clinton's past could haunt her, while Obama's lack of past could hurt him as well. Obama was elected to the Senate for the first time in 2004.
Those weaknesses could leave them prime targets in the eyes of Republican challengers, television commentators speculated.
Ever since she entered the limelight as first lady to Bill Clinton, Hillary has counted as one of the most polarizing figures in Washington: a woman who is revered on the one side as much as she is hated by the other. Her unfavourable ratings in polls are around 40 percent, much higher than Obama or Edwards, according to Bloomberg News.
Democrats worry the country may be suffering from Clinton-fatigue, after Hillary already ushered in a new age of influential first ladies during her first eight years in the White House - she was behind a failed health-care overhaul plan pushed by the Clinton administration in the 1990s.
Her handling of the Monica Lewinsky scandal could also be a flashpoint. Hillary Clinton famously called the accusations of infidelity against her husband a "rightwing conspiracy."
And while the US media has shown great respect for Clinton's experience and determination, some commentators have offered a different story of her personality. She has been portrayed by some as cold and calculating, lacking the ability to inspire and without vision - the exact opposite of Obama, whose fresh and thoughtful persona has even been compared with John F. Kennedy.
Critics of Clinton gained new ammunition in her decision to oppose President George W. Bush's recent plan to send an additional 21,500 troops to Iraq. But in 2002 she voted for the US-led invasion and has until now been softer in her opposition to the war than many of her fellow Democrats.
Clinton offered some of her most stinging criticism of the war in comments earlier this week after returning from a trip to Iraq, and supported a proposed Senate bill opposing the Bush administration's troop deployment plans.
Next to her White House experience, Clinton has another key advantage over the other challengers: money. Experts say candidates need a $100 million "war chest" to compete for the presidency. Clinton raised half that amount for her New York Senate re-election bid last year.
A Fact Finding Team of Human Rights Defenders and Social Activists from various organizations was formed with a mandate to Investigate into the reports of Nithari serial Killings of Children, carried in several news papers and electronic Media and to find out the extent of truth behind the reports. Fact Finding Team visited Nithari Village, Noida on 15th January 2007 and met the Parents of the Victims-children, Local leaders and officials. The FF team found that 15 out of 17 killed, officially accepted by police.
The Committee found that both the accused, particularly Surender Koli being local of the area was well aware of the caste background of the locals that most of them are Dalits and they suffer for hand to mouth. Taking advantage of this vulnerable factor , he used to bring the children alluring them with some toffee, food or other attractions including job for the adolescents which Prima-Facie proved now. It is known through Media, Police Officials of P.S- Sector-20 and Locals that during the last 2 years, 38 children were reportedly missing and majority of them belong to SC/ST Community of other States and most of them have gone back to their States loosing their Children in Noida. Even now the case for only 17 Children's are made out and the rest are still to be traced.
None of the authorities including the Police Officials and District Magistrate and City Magistrate seem to have taken action any action to register a Case and Investigate the same, when the missing of the children was reported to them. Months after One Mr. Nand Lal,s daughter Payal went missing on 08.02.05, National Commission for Women raised this issue and its one-member inquiry committee submitted its report with the finding that half a dozen girls had gone missing over two months. Families were aggrieved that in many cases not even an FIR was registered. The police did not take any action and then nothing happened. NCW sent a reminder in November 2005, too, but there was no response from Police officials.
The police began by digging out the skulls using primitive equipments; this has resulted in destroying crucial evidence that are vital for establishing this case. Prime accused Satish alias Surinder was termed mentally unstable by the police even before it was medically proved or confirmed. What is the motive for doing so? (we need to explain the motive or possible motive) . The FF team further questioned as to why no medical tests were done to prove whether sexual assault was there. In fact there were no full-fledged bodies, only skeletal remains and body pieces that were recovered from the drain.
Nithari residents are aggrieved not only by the accused but also by the lax approach of the Police and the General Administration. Had the Police took appropriate and immediate action as soon as they get the complaints from the parents on the missing of children with close intervals, this type of large killings could have stopped and the lives of many children would have been saved. Mr. Kamal Yadav, the S.H.O under whose stint children's were reportedly missing was spared from action for his lapse in this whole episode. In total 17 Parents of the victims have been given a Compensation of Rs.5 Lakhs / a Plot of Land /Employment - which is paltry to the tune of the loss that they faced.
a.. The government should declare that whole incident is a clear case of an Atrocity against Dalits.
b.. National Human Rights Commission, which is mandated for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights, should strongly condemn this gross and inhuman violation committed by the perpetrators, Police and Administration and initiate its own investigation in the region to bring the Accused and the Officials to the books.
c.. The Prime accused Moninder Singh and Surender Koli should also be booked under Section 3(1) (xii) and 3(2)(v) of the SC/ST (POA) ACT 1989 as they were having the prior knowledge of the caste of the victims i.e, they are Dalits.
d.. A through inquiry is to be set up to find out the possibilities of whether there is any Organ Trade as well as Children Trafficking is flourishing. If found out, then the persons involved in the Organ Trade should be immediately arrested and booked under law.
e.. Ratify the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women which provides for individual petitions and for inquiries into systematic violations of the Convention, affording an international remedy for women who have suffered human rights abuses
f.. Ratify the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment which it signed in 1997
g.. The Office of the High Commission of Human Rights should request the Special rapporteur of Racism to conduct an in-depth study on the issue of violence against Dalit children and Dalit women in India .Such a study should examine the causes, extent and effects of violence against children, and initiate t a clear action plan for eliminating violence against Dalits .
The Fact-Finding Team included the following members:
Ms. Annie Namala, Convener, SG4CADE
Ms. Shyamkali, Secretary, NFIW, Delhi
Mr. Jagdish Solanki, Advocate, HRLN, Delhi
Mr. Islamul Haque, Coordinator, Media, NAFRE, Delhi
Mr. Kishor Kumar, Srishti, Delhi
Mr. Sunil, Prgromm Associate, IIDS, Delhi.,
Mr. Rambabu Kumar, State Secretary, NCDHR Bihar ,
Mr. Amit Kumar, National Monitoring Associate, NCDHR, Delhi,
Ms. Abirami, National Monitoring Associate, NCDHR, Delhi,
Mr. Rahul Singh, Advocate, Delhi High Court, Delhi,
Mr. Tanveer Kazi, National Advocacy Secretary, NCDHR, Delhi,
Mr. Sanjeev, Co-ordinator, Delhi Chapter, NCDHR, Delhi, ,
Ms. Urmila, National Monitoring Secretary, NCDHR, Delhi
Mr. J. Vincent, General Secretary, NCDHR, Delhi
We Demand immediate Interventions and Render Justice!
Agra, Jan 21 (IANS) Defence scientists at a premier facility here are eagerly awaiting the safe return Monday of a space vehicle that will play a crucial role in the country's first manned moon mission expected eight years hence.
The re-entry and recovery phase is the most crucial part of any manned mission in outer space and the success of this experiment will be a signal from the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) that the country has started preparations for its journey to the moon.
India has never before actually tested re-entry and recovery, and will gain first hand knowledge of the various temperature changes and their effect on spacecraft.
"The re-entry phase is the most critical stage for a space vehicle. We are keeping our fingers crossed and praying that everything goes off well," A.K. Saxena, a scientist at the Aerial Delivery Research Development Establishment (ADRDE) here.
The laboratory played a crucial role in developing critical components for the recoverable capsule that is expected to splash into the Bay of Bengal Monday. It was one of four satellites placed into orbit Jan 10 by the PSLV C7 (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle). The other three were communications satellites.
"We have been successful in developing the parachute recovery system, flexible aerodynamic decelerators and a floating gear system that will help in pulling up the vehicle to the surface of the water. With re-entry speeds of six to seven km a second, the capsule will have to withstand extremely high temperatures," Saxena pointed out.
"For all of us here, Monday will be a great day," he added.
An ADRDE team has already left for Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh from where the PSLV lifted off to gather data on the capsule's re-entry, its director, M.L. Sidana, said.
New Delhi, Jan 21 (IANS) With just five days away to Republic Day, the capital's police have gone on high alert to prevent any terror attack, including keeping a close watch on small hotels in the city, demanding details about tenants from landlords as well as asking cyber cafÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â© owners on information about customers.
Delhi Police has sounded a high alert in all nine districts of the city and also arrested over 70 people, mainly house owners who have not furnished details of their tenants.
"The month of January is very important for us, especially before Republic Day. Delhi is a sensitive city and we don't want to take any chances before the celebrations," said Anand Mohan, deputy commissioner of police, New Delhi.
"Our officers and lower-ranked personnel have been briefed about their duties on the field and how to tackle any situation," Mohan told IANS.
At least 39 house-owners were arrested Tuesday for not furnishing details about their new tenants. They were arrested under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
Clear instructions had been given to all house-owners in the capital a few months back to furnish details about tenants and cyber cafÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â© owners told to keep customers address details, officials said.
Uninformed personnel have been deployed in all major areas and police was keeping close watch on small hotels.
"We have deployed special commandos, both in uniform and in mufti, at all major places. Special checks are also on at all roads," said Alok Kumar, deputy commissioner of police (Special Cell).
Several roads in and around the India Gate, where the main parade is going to take place Jan 26, have been blocked for security reasons.
"We are carrying out regular checks of vehicles and have installed special closed-circuit cameras on certain roads, buildings, busy market places, interstate bus terminals, railway stations and some colonies," Mohan added.
While he declined to divulge details of the gadgets being used, he said "all hi-tech measures available with Delhi Police are in use these days".
Deployment of paramilitary forces at the airport and Delhi Metro has been beefed up.
"We have increased the number of personnel both at Delhi Metro and Indira Gandhi International Airport. As the airport is an important transit point, we are checking every person at the airport and have instructed airlines not to allow liquid material on board," said Vertul Singh, spokesman of the Central Industrial Security Force that is providing security at both the places.
"The airport is being monitored and suspected elements are being questioned by our personnel. The aim is not to create inconvenience but to be alert and safe," he said.
Karachi, Jan 21 (IANS) Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said Saturday his government was committed to promoting education in the country under a comprehensive strategy aimed at improving access to quality education as well as overcoming gender, rural-urban and regional imbalances, reports Online.
"We are also paying particular attention to governance and management aspects of education, especially by involving communities in school management and devolution of powers and functions", he said at the foundation stone laying ceremony of a business school here.
Aziz said the government had embarked upon an ambitious plan of establishing nine world-class universities in collaboration with Germany, Sweden, France, Austria, Japan, South Korea and Italy.
He said the existing universities were being strengthened by recruiting qualified faculty, investing in research and development, and forging linkages with industry.
Calling for removing gender disparities, Aziz asked the teachers to play their role as agents of change, reform and progress.
New Delhi, Jan 21 (IANS) Facing flak over alleged police negligence over the heinous serial killings in suburban Noida, Uttar Pradesh's ruling Samajwadi Party Sunday flayed opposition parties for "politicising" what it termed a "crime against humanity".
In full-page advertisements issued in some dailies here Sunday, the Samajwadi Party admitted: "It's sad and unfortunate. In fact, the incident at Nithari is one of the most inhuman and heinous crime (sic)."
Since Dec 29, police have recovered the remains of at least 17 children from a drain near Nithari village, even as two paedophiles have been charged with the killings. Nithari villagers allege that police refused to register complaints about their missing children, leading to the tragedy.
"It indeed is a matter of shame and disgrace for the entire country," the advertisement noted.
This was in sharp contrast to a statement from Shivpal Singh Yadav, Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav's younger brother and a state minister, who had Jan 4 told reporters in Nithari: "Such incidents keep happening and have happened in the past also."
The advertisement targeted the Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) for "politicising" the crime.
Referring to recent serial killings at Gurgaon in Haryana, Bhiwandi in Maharashtra and at Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh, as also the discovery of bodies of five children from the premises of a factory owned by a Congress leader in Punjab, it asked: "Does the Congress leadership have any explanation for these crimes?"
It also reminded the Congress about the "kidnapping of 26,000 children in the Congress-ruled Delhi", besides the gruesome hanging of a child at Jehangirpuri in northwest Delhi.
Training its guns on the BJP, the Samajwadi Party referred to the 2000 Gujarat communal carnage, asking: "Why were the top BJP leaders silent when thousands of innocent people were being butchered in post-Godhra Gujarat?"
"These crimes have nothing to do with politics. We request the Congress, the BJP and the BSP to refrain from politicising these crimes," the Samajwadi Party maintained.
Raipur, Jan 21 (IANS) At least five Maoist rebels were killed by security forces and a constable shot dead by the ultras in separate fire fights in Chhattisgarh, police said Sunday.
"A fierce gun battle broke out with Maoist guerrillas in the dense forest locality of Timarpur under Basaguda police station Saturday night in Bastar region in which three rebels were gunned down by a joint team of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) assisted by local police," R.K. Vij, Bastar range Inspector General, told IANS over telephone.
Timarpur, located some 520 km south of capital Raipur, has several Maoist hideouts in the area which are protected by landmines, said police.
In a separate incident, rebels and police fought a pitched battle for two hours late Saturday evening in Bhejji area in Dantewada district of Bastar, 548 km south of Raipur.
"A constable Lakhan Markam shot dead two rebels, but died of rebel bullets later. While two women Maoists were arrested, dozens of their men colleagues managed to escape under the cover of darkness," Vij added.
On Jan 16, Maoists had killed seven security personnel in a coordinated blast in Bastar.
Chhattisgarh is one of the worst of 13 Maoist affected states. A recent report by the Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) says that 749 people were killed in Maoist violence in India in 2006 and 48 percent of the casualties were from Chhattisgarh alone.
By Jaideep Sarin
Chandigarh, Jan 21 (IANS) The landed community of Jat Sikhs in Punjab continues to dominate the state's political scene and the Feb 13 assembly elections will most likely throw up a Jat Sikh leader as the new chief minister.
With the main fight this time again between the ruling Congress and the opposition Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) combine, the leadership issue in the post-poll scenario is almost clear.
While incumbent Chief Minister Amarinder Singh is expected to lead the Congress if the party is voted back to power, Akali Dal president and former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal is the undisputed choice if his coalition wrests power.
One thing common, though, for the two leaders is that they belong to Punjab's politically dominant Jat Sikh community.
Jat Sikhs are typically land-owners, many of them rich, and constitute nearly 28 percent of the state's 24.3 million population.
Despite the Dalit community constituting 31 percent of Punjab's population, it has been Jat Sikh leaders who have emerged as chief ministers here.
Amarinder Singh belongs to the erstwhile royal family of Patiala, one of the most famous Jat Sikh families in the last few centuries.
Badal comes from one of the land-rich Jat Sikh families in the Muktsar area.
His son Sukhbir Badal is also being groomed to be his political heir.
Since Nov 1, 1966, when the original Punjab was re-organised to carve out a new state of Haryana and the hilly areas were made part of Himachal Pradesh, there have been 13 chief ministers in the state.
All of them except one, Giani Zail Singh (1972-77) who went on to become the country's first Sikh president (1982-87), have been from the Jat Sikh community.
Other than Zail Singh, Badal (1997-2002) and Amarinder Singh (2002-07), none of the chief ministers in Punjab could complete their five-year terms.
Badal is now taking his fourth shot at being chief minister. In three earlier terms - 1970-71, 1977-1980 and 1997-2002 - he has ruled the state for a total of nearly nine years.
The state saw central rule being imposed on it six times between 1968 and 1992. Since 1992, when President's rule in the state was last lifted after a bloody decade of Sikh terrorism, all chief ministers have been Jat Sikhs.
The state started to return to normalcy under Congress chief minister Beant Singh, who himself was assassinated by Sikh terrorists in 1995. Congress chief ministers H.S. Brar and Rajinder Kaur Bhattal followed him. Bhattal is deputy chief minister in Amarinder Singh's government.
Badal was the next incumbent followed by Amarinder Singh.
By Anil Gulati
In an era of TRPs (Television Rating Points) and SMSs, umpteen number of reality shows are stealing the limelight. They are high on TRPs and spinning money for their producers - a factor which motivates many others to join the race.
The one getting popular now is the Indian version of international worldwide hit "Big Brother". Called "Big Boss" on Sony TV, it has 13 celebrity participants, though a few of them have been "evicted" out of the game now. The challenge is to live under constant surveillance by TV cameras and be popular among participating contestants.
But that is not enough - the ultimate is to survive the 'SMS poll'. Reality shows like these, which engage audiences, have been growing. Some that I can remember and have just finished are "Nach Baliye 2" and "Jhalak Dhilka Ja". In all them the major share of voting power via SMS or telephone calls, which decided the fate of the participant, was with audience.
The format may vary like in the case of "Big Boss" - one who gets more SMSs is evicted out of the game while in other shows the participant wins.
Stakes for participants are high in these shows - be it the prize money or popularity. Similarly, the money which spins around in these shows is extremely high. Be it advertisers who peg their products on the same, the audiences that not only watch the show and gives it higher TRPs, but also the audience that votes by SMS or telephone calls.
Worth referring here would be an article on rediff.com some time back (February 2006). The article talked about the money these SMSs provide to the channel and mobile operator. On an average, a popular reality television show gets about 7 million cell phone text messages each episode.
At Rs.4 per SMS, it adds up to Rs.28 million per episode. Over a year (52 weeks), that is an astounding Rs.1,460 million. On a 50-50 split between the channel and the mobile operator, it works out to Rs.730 million to the channel. Just one medium (SMS) on one reality show of 52 weeks can give you this much.
Despite these high stakes, many of them show so-called reality but doesn't look 100 percent real - they lack total transparency. Hardly any of these reality shows reveal the exact number of votes the winner or loser gets - something which all of us may like to know.
There have been times when one may question the decisions, but with no answer. Shows like these would look more real if there is more transparency and they reveal the exact numbers of SMSs received (not the percentage) and the system followed thereafter.
I am not raising any doubts on the decision or making any allegations but am trying to make a point that the audience in this case, which spends the money, has all the right to know. For that matter, the participants who lose or win and advertisers who peg their products on these shows have an equal right to know.
Interestingly, the recent controversy on "Big Brother", being telecast on Channel 4 in Britain, has made it more popular there. Similarly in India too, controversies and celebrities in the show make them more or less popular. More the controversies, more people get engrossed, reaping double benefit not only with higher TRPs but higher number of SMSs and more cash!
In the case of "Bigg Boss", a celebrity was brought back via a wild card entry but ... was it based on the channel's own business calculations that the celebrity could help bring higher TRPs or by votes of people? Nobody actually knows and numbers were not shared on the show.
One explanation could be that anyone who helps in increasing TRPs will also get higher number of SMSs, but that may be an assumption. Viewers tend to get attached to many of these shows and emotions are raised. Entertainment is there but viewers also spend their money to vote for them and are motivated to do so.
One may be using the emotions of viewers for the business advantage of channels and in the process, the viewer does not even know the reality. Reality - as made to be perceived - may or may not be real.
Media reports have also raised allegations, though very few, of contestants using their networks or providing SIM cards to vote for a particular person.
Ultimately, the TV channels are in an entertainment business venture and not social ventures, but do impact social structures. An element of transparency needs to be built into these reality shows, especially since it impacts the lives of people, engage them emotionally and use their money. It may be there but needs to be shared transparently with people.
(Anil Gulati is a resident of Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. He can be contacted at
St. Gallen (Switzerland), Jan 21 (DPA) Around 300 anti-globalisation demonstrators took to the streets here ahead of the World Economic Forum meeting that starts in Davos next week.
The event Saturday was organised by a group calling themselves "actively dissatisfied", according to the Swiss wire service ATS.
Protesters mainly wore black and some dressed as slaves pulled a cart carrying a toilet with a banner stating "capitalism stinks".
Police said the march went off peacefully.
More than 2,000 politicians, business leaders and heads of international organisations are due to gather for the World Economic Forum's annual meeting in Davos that is due to take place Jan 24-28.
By Subhash K. Jha
Mumbai, Jan 21 (IANS) Canada based Indian filmmaker Deepa Mehta says she was stunned by news that her "Water", which faced several hurdles, has been short-listed for the Oscars in the best foreign film category.
"I can't believe that a film, which was shunned by a section of the Indian politicians and ripped apart six years ago, has come so far," Mehta told IANS from Toronto.
According to Mehta, the competition this year is really tough.
"I've never seen a wider and more prestigious variety of films from across the world being nominated for the foreign language category. They're all super, brilliant films and I'm deeply honoured to be in such august company. Now maybe ... just maybe, we will win the Oscar."
Out of the 61 entries, Mehta's "Water", about the plight of widows in India in the 1930s, starring Lisa Ray and John Abraham, was selected as one of the nine films in the prestigious category.
So far only two Indian films - Mehboob Khan's "Mother India" and Ashutosh Gowariker's "Lagaan" have made it to the nomination list.
"Water" finds its luminous level at the Oscar race with masterpieces like the Algerian film "Days Of Glory", the Danish "After The Wedding", the French "Avenue Montaigne", the German "Lives Of Others", the Mexican "Pan's Labyrinth", the Dutch "Black Book", the Spanish "Volver" and the Swiss "Vitus".
Mehta's only regret is that "Rang De Basanti", which is one of her favourite films, got left out. The film about the awakening of the youth was India's official entry to the Oscars.
"I love the energy and audacity of 'Rang De Basanti' so much. And I really wanted it to be in the nominations. But I suppose two Hindi films, even if they were representing two different countries, were out of the question."
Mehta has been told that "Water" is being released in India Feb 23.
"That's what my producer - the gracious Ravi Chopra - has told me. He said the clutter of releases before that was too large. I've my fingers crossed."
By Priyanka Khanna
New Delhi, Jan 21 (IANS) The television industry, once considered the poor cousin of the glitzy world of cinema, is increasingly reshaping entertainment in India with even the high and mighty of the Hindi filmdom succumbing to its charms.
Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan's return to the small screen in STAR Plus' quiz show "Kaun Banega Crorepati-3", actress Shilpa Shetty living her life out on Britain's reality show "Celebrity Big Brother" and film director Karan Johar's decision to restart his chat show "Koffee with Karan" are all indications that the small screen is very big now.
According to industry watchers, the television industry posted better financial figures than film trade in India for the first time in the year 2004. Since then it has also come out of the overpowering shadow of the big silver screen, especially in terms of people's perceptions.
The soap operas have become mini films and award shows have become red carpet events. The day is not far when credits of daily soap operas will include names of film writers, choreographers, music composers, et all.
According to Anil Wanvari, chief of Indiantelevision.com, the television industry brings in twice the mullah raked in by the much older and well-known film industry.
In fact, a study by management consulting firm KPMG says the so-called Tellywood had gained at the expense of Bollywood.
The study points out that in the year when Bollywood had a series of flops and the revenue fell from Rs.45 billion in 2001 to Rs.39 billion in 2002, the total revenue generated from subscriptions from television business shot up to Rs.60 billion from Rs.40 billion in 2001 - a growth of 50 percent.
Of this, broadcasters realised Rs.8.4 billion - more than double the previous year's figure of Rs.4 billion.
KPMG's stocktaking report on the status of the Indian entertainment industry used the term 'degrowth' to describe the film industry but said television business has more than made up for the losses of the filmdom.
Latest figures say the media and entertainment industry of India has ample space for all media to grow.
A study by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and PricewaterhouseCoopers says the entertainment industry is expected to grow at 19 percent compound annual growth rate to reach Rs.837.4 billion by 2010 from Rs.353 billion at present.
Advertising spends - at 0.34 percent of the GDP - are low in comparison to other developed and developing countries, where the average is around 0.98 percent.
"Advertising revenues are vital for the growth of this industry. While the low ad spends may seem like a challenge before the E&M (Entertainment & Media) industry, they also throw open immense potential for growth," the report said.
If India was to reach the global average, advertising revenues would at least double from the current level of around Rs.132 billion.
According to the study, the television industry is poised to grow at 24 percent to Rs.427 billion from its current size of Rs.148 billion.
"Subscription revenues would be the key growth driver for the industry over the next five years. Subscription revenues will increase both from the number of pay TV homes as well as increased subscription rates," the study said.
New distribution platforms such as DTH and IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) will help increase the subscriber base and push up subscription revenues.
The film industry, however, is slated to grow at 18 percent to Rs.153 billion in 2010 from the current size of Rs.68 billion.
"Advancement in mobile technology, better broadband access and Internet Protocol (IP) will be the enablers that will evolve a new breed of consumers, as opportunities for them to access and manipulate content and services will be overflowing, while their time and attention will be limited," the study said.
According to the study, convergence will play a crucial role in the development of the Indian entertainment and media industry where consumers will increasingly be calling the shots in a converged media world.
And film stars have shown the way by climbing down from their high horse and embracing the television world.
Radio is the next frontier for Bollywood stars. It has become commonplace for actors to appear on radio for promoting their films and many are no longer shying away from hosting small segments as well.
Madhuri Dixit has, in fact, opted to give radio interviews over the print media to get back into the public reckoning.
The radio industry is poised for big growth with projected size for 2010 at Rs.12 billion from the current level of Rs.3 billion.
Key policy initiatives announced by the government such as migration to a revenue share regime, allowing foreign investment into the segment and opening of licenses to private players are expected to drive growth in this sector.
The one entertainment sector that is in need for some fresh impetus is the live entertainment segment. Mallika Sherawat did try to spice up the proceedings of a live performance show but ended up with a case against her.
Issues like high entertainment taxes in certain states, lack of world-class infrastructure and the unorganised nature of most event management companies continue to hinder growth of this industry.
Maybe a toned down Mallika would do the trick.
Karachi, Jan 21 (IANS) Improved India-Pakistan relations notwithstanding, the US apprehends a terror attack on a high profile target could prompt India to "punish Islamabad for its continued support to Pakistan-based militants".
Like last year, the US continues to fear that "an attack on a high-profile target might lead New Delhi to take action to curtail militant capabilities in Pakistan or Pakistani Kashmir and punish Islamabad for its continued support to Pakistan-based militants," a report to be presented to Congress says, Dawn reported Sunday.
If this happens, "we remain concerned about the potential that such a conflict could escalate," the Department of Homeland Security says in its annual report.
The report also mentions the possibility of a nuclear conflict between India and Pakistan, noting "the prospect of renewed tensions with nuclear-armed India remains despite improved relations" between them.
It expresses a measure of satisfaction over the three-year India-Pakistan peace process and the commitment of both Islamabad and New Delhi to continue with it.
The report also notes that New Delhi's threshold for responding militarily to terrorist attacks has apparently increased since the two countries approached the brink of war in 2001 following a terror strike on the Indian parliament.
It notes that the Mumbai train bombings last year disrupted but did not derail the composite dialogue and that a mechanism for exchanging information on terrorist attacks has been established.
"Yet, the prospect of renewed tensions between the two remains despite these improved relations," the report warns.
"New Delhi's concerns about Pakistan's tolerance, at a minimum, (and) of terrorist attacks on Indian soil remain a dominant theme in relations, and risks derailing rapprochement."
In a separate assessment of the threat of a nuclear conflict in South Asia, the report notes that improved relations between India and Pakistan have decreased the possibility of such a disaster.
"Although both New Delhi and Islamabad are fielding a more mature strategic nuclear capability, they do not appear to be engaged in a Cold War-style arms race based on a quest for numerical superiority."
New Delhi, Jan 21 (IANS) India, Pakistan and Indonesia will have to be part of international efforts to stabilize Iraq, says former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
In a commentary arguing that withdrawal of American troops from Iraq is not an option, Kissinger says two levels of diplomatic effort are necessary to bring the situation in that country under control.
One would involve creating a contact group of neighbouring countries whose interests are directly affected and which rely on US support, Kissinger said in an article distributed by Tribune Media Services and carried by the International Herald Tribune.
These would include Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan. Their function should be to advice on ending the internal conflict in Iraq and to create a united front against "outside domination".
Parallel negotiations should be conducted with Syria and Iran to give them an opportunity to take part in a peaceful regional order, he said.
"Both categories of consultations should lead to an international conference including all countries that will have to play a stabilizing role in the eventual outcome, specifically the permanent members of the UN Security Council as well as such countries as Indonesia, India and Pakistan," Kissinger said.
The US cannot "indefinitely bear alone the burden for both the military outcome and the political structure" in all this, he has asserted.
"At some point, Iraq has to be restored to the international community, and other countries must be prepared to share responsibilities for regional peace.
"Some of American's allies and other affected countries seek to escape the upheavals all around them by disassociating from the US.
"But just as it is impossible for America to deal with these trends unilaterally, sooner or later a common effort to rebuild the international order will be imposed on all the potential targets," he said.
Kissinger served under Richard Nixon and was widely blamed for escalating the war in Indo-China, particularly in Cambodia. During the 1971 India-Pakistan war, he and Nixon took a brazenly pro-Islamabad stand.
Tehran, Jan 21 (Xinhua) Iran announced Sunday to start a three-day military maneuver, its first after the UN Security Council issued sanctions against the country's nuclear programme in December, reported the state television.
"The Revolutionary Guards will start a three-day missile maneuver from Sunday near Garmsar city," about 100 km southeast of Tehran near a desert, it said.
An unnamed commander of the Revolutionary Guards was quoted as saying that Zalzal and Fajr-5 missiles would be test fired to examine their fighting capability.
These military drills are Iran's first after the UN passed resolution 1737, calling on Tehran to suspend its enrichment activities and imposed sanctions on Iran's nuclear and missile programme.
Four culprits with non-Muslim names were arrested near Andheri Railway Station, in suburban Mumbai, selling RDX explosives, apparently 'stolen from Military base' at Devlali. Since Gujarat communal riots, which is commonly believed to be whipped up by Hindutva extremists to reap political windfall, a similar attempt to destabilize the neighbouring state of Maharashtra is being observed in a continuous series of bombings and its blame instantly being put on Muslims to trigger another communal holocaust to rival Gujarat. The famous commercial city of Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay, is the prize booty in the political war game. Though the fight between the two opposing political groups, both Brahminical formations, very inappropriately branded as carrying two distinct banners -- secular and Hindutva, is over power grabbing; the competition is staged in communal terms, where Muslim voters are the main bone of contention. Consequently, Muslims are constantly demonized specially by English newspapers, who had been the opinion makers in India, since last 100 years, including the British colonial phase. The communal bias of India's English media is most glaring when it splashes headlines over unsubstantiated blame on Muslims or supposedly Pakistani terrorists, while putting down the gravity of bombing expeditions by Hindutva elements. Deliberately or inadvertently, they thus become partners in the crime of instigating communal strife. A case in point is the way the news of the arrest of the 4 non-Muslims caught near Andheri, openly soliciting clients for their stolen RDX explosive, is reported by The Times of India. If these culprits would have been Muslims, Times of India would have blazoned the news on the front page with multi-column headlines. As it happened, The Times of India had chosen to flash the news of Mumbai High Court verdict on Triple Talaaq as top front page news, but the news of the arrest of the 4 culprits selling RDX was relegated to page 3 at the bottom of the page. It needs no media expert to make out that the city editors of The Times of India, are trying to suppress the alarming content of the news where the guilt is clearly not committed by Muslims or Pak agents and even laxity of army authorities in such grave matter impacting internal security and communal harmony is now open to serious investigations.
It is most reprehensible that a premier newspaper of India is so blatantly playing communal games with news management, probably at the cue of other pressure groups that have no value for human lives and are bent on involving the city of Mumbai in a cycle of terrorist events, to gain upper hand in India's future of hope that could turn into despair if they persist in their nefarious activities.
GHULAM MUHAMMED, MUMBAI
Jaipur, Jan 21 (IANS) A coin collector in Jaipur, with a collection of over 1,000 coins from 1877 to 2006, is eyeing a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Kedar Nath Soni had earlier sent an application to the Guinness World Records, mentioning his prized collection of coins. Important coins in vogue during the British regime, like Queen Victoria coin, Edward 7, George 5 and George 6 coins are also part of his prized collections.
"I have all important coins of various denominations, from Re.1 to Rs.100 circulated in the country in various eras," says Soni.
Soni arranged the Rs.100 coin directly from the minting station. His collection also includes coins circulated at the time of previous rulers. These coins are different in shape and size.
Among the most unique is the coin of Bikaner kingdom. Showing the special coin, Soni said, "This coin was released by Queen Victoria as a mark of respect for then ruler of Bikaner, Ganga Singh."
He has wide collection of coins belonging to Jodhpur, Kota, Gwalior, Bundi, and other erstwhile kingdoms of India as well.
Besides coins, Soni also collects old bottle of 'Itra' (perfumes) used by the earlier rulers.
By Nayanima Basu,
New Delhi, Jan 21 (IANS) Shekhar Saini ran away from his village in Bihar because he could not bear the extreme poverty his family was facing. In the hope of making it big in the city, he found his new home on the ever-teeming platform of the New Delhi railway station.
Today Saini, 21, is a role model in his village. This is not because he left his home in his teens, but because he is giving back to the unlikely community of street children. He works as a tourist guide, taking inquisitive tourists, mostly Western backpackers, through the busy and choking railway platforms to give them a first-hand experience of how street kids beside the railway tracks live.
Saini's fellow colleague, another tourist guide Javed Khan, also a runaway, came to Delhi to see the grand historical monuments at the age of nine. He ended up in a dry sewer, got stabbed and was taken to gang leaders who wanted to train him to pick pockets.
Both Saini and Khan got saved and became what they are today as suave tourists guides because they got a shelter home in the Salaam Baalak Trust, a Delhi-based NGO.
The trust conducts a tour for Rs.200 (about $5) per head almost five times a week to offer a sneak peek into the inconspicuous lives of these street kids who otherwise don't get noticed.
These poor kids flee their homes for a better life in the huge metros and get gobbled up in the narrow by-lanes, or stinking sewers of the railway stations or bus-stops which are, according to one estimate, home to some 3,000-odd poor young runaways.
They trade leftover drinking water bottles to watch the new movie that comes in the nearby Sheila movie theatre on Fridays. One uncrushed bottle fetches them up to Rs.2, whereas a crushed bottle brings a paltry 50 paise.
Sometimes they also pick up leftover fruits from trains and sell them to the juice-sellers in the platform and earn money.
"I always used to hear how child labour has become prevalent in India and everyone is so complacent about it. But after seeing what they go through so closely, I am absolutely appalled," Elizabeth, 53, a tourist, who has come from Denmark to visit her son who works in Delhi, told IANS, while shaking hands with the kids who queued up to shake hands with her.
The children, according to Saini, often fall prey to gang leaders who sometimes sexually assault them or get them into drug addiction. If by chance they escape from the clutches of gang leaders, they are not spared by the railway police who beat them without any reason.
"All this hype about double-digit GDP (gross domestic product) is good, but I am sure that is not going to trickle down to these poor kids," Kristian Nielsen, an intern with the Danish embassy, said while taking photographs of the kids studying maths on a dilapidated roof-top of a shelter home run by the trust.
The children often sleep in the gaps between the overpass and the roofs of the platforms where they play cards during leisure time.
"Once one of my friends had a fight with another boy while they were playing cards and he threw away the cards in anger. The other friend of mine in an effort to collect the cards got electrocuted because of the overhead wires," Saini narrated with pain writ large in his big dreamy eyes.
For girls the situation is much worse, Saini says, as they often fall into the hands of pimps who sell them at throwaway prices in the G.B. Road area, notorious for its seedy red-light district.
Saini earns Rs.2,500 ($56) a month, which he says is "not enough" to pursue his dream of becoming an actor. Saini has done many plays in theatres and is a high-ranking student at the National School of Drama.
Also a part-time dancer, Saini speaks fluent English sprinkled with American accented words for the foreign tourists so that he can get them to donate funds for the trust.
"Today my parents are proud of me because they can see what I have become. I want all such kids who run away from their homes and poverty to turn out like me," stated Saini with a sense of pride as he manages his "Shah Rukh Khan-like" hairstyle.
Javed Khan, now completing his graduation from Delhi University, wants to work with the UN as a social worker and so intends to do a masters in social work after this.
"There are more than 200,000 children in Delhi who run away from their homes and live in such shelters," says Praveen Nair, co-founder, Salaam Baalak Trust, who started this organisation after her daughter Mira Nair, a celebrated filmmaker, got international acclaim for "Salaam Bombay" - a movie on street kids.
"Fifty percent of funding comes from international agencies and the government. But for the rest of the funding, we have to struggle a lot," Nair told IANS.
"In our shelter homes we get 300-400 children a month, some of whom we repatriate but for others we need to take care," Nair added.
Not every kid is as lucky. But as Saini's favourite line goes, "Let's move on from here."
(Nayanima Basu can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
By Arvind Padmanabhan
New Delhi, Jan 21 (IANS) It's the annual networking season once again for the world's top business honchos and decision makers in the scenic Alpine settings of Davos in Switzerland and India will be represented by a 100-member team led by Commerce Minister Kamal Nath.
This year's World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting Jan 24-28 will focus on the shifting global power equation to reflect the issues that would shape the planet's agenda for 2007 when developing countries like India are emerging as key players.
Sunil Bharti Mittal, chairman of telephony and retail trade major Bharti group, is among the six co-chairs of the five-day meeting that will also see Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia address a special session.
R. Seshasayee, president of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), WEF's India partner, heads the business delegation that includes Rahul Bajaj, N.R. Narayana Murthy, Anil Ambani, Vijay Mallya, K.V. Kamath, Anand Mahindra, Ramalinga Raju, Baba Kalyani and Azim Premji.
India's participation this year, even though not at the same dazzling level as in 2006, will include daily breakfast sessions on issues ranging from 'innovation' to 'involving society in industrialisation'.
The highlight of evening receptions will be Bollywood Nights featuring remixes of Indian film songs and sequences, even as the ministry of tourism will put up 19 hoardings in Zurich and Davos to highlight its 'Incredible India' campaign.
"There is a significant shift happening towards emerging economies as they start to integrate more rapidly into the global trading system," Nandan S. Nilekani, a co-chair last year, said of the theme for this year's meeting.
"In 2005, they made up over 50 percent of the increase in world output and are creating a new class of consumers, manufacturers, entrepreneurs, policymakers. New opportunities have opened up in these economies."
Kamal Nath and Pascal Lamy, director general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), will also hold meetings with 30 trade ministers to revive the global trade talks that are held up due to differences between developed and developing nations.
"We will have the opportunity to map out the next steps in negotiations. I am confident India will display its leadership and make a constructive contribution to enter the last lapse of the WTO round," Lamy said at CII's partnership Summit in Bangalore last week.
The annual meeting will also provide the backdrop for interactions among some 25 heads of state or government, including British Prime Minister Tony Blair, his Pakistani counterpart Shaukat Aziz and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Ahead of the meeting, WEF also named 47 'Technology Pioneers', including three of Indian origin, in the fields of energy, biotechnology, health and information technology, who will also participate at the various sessions.
The three are Strand Life Sciences co-founder and chairman Vijay Chandru, Drishtee managing director Satyan Mishra and HelloSoft Inc founder and president Krishna Yarlagadda.
This apart, interactions have also been scheduled with some of the 250 'Young Global Leaders' named for this year by the forum, 25 of whom are from India.
Actor Aishwarya Rai, filmmaker Karan Johar, politicians Omar Abdullah, Naveen Jindal and Jyotiraditya Scindia, industrialists Sanjay Reddy, Tanya Dubash and Amit Burman and social leaders like Arvind Kejriwal and Ramesh Ramanathan are among the Indians on this year's list.
Islamabad, Jan 21 (IANS) Kashmiri political leaders from both sides of Line of Control (LoC) have backed the ongoing India-Pakistan peace talks even as they have decided to establish a working group to consider various aspects of the issue, reports Online.
The decision was taken at a high level meeting held here Saturday in Kashmir house. It was attended by Pakistani Kashmir president Raja Zulqarnain and prime minister Sardar Attique Ahmad, All Party Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, professor Abdul Ghani Bhatt, Bilal Ghani Lone, chief of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) Amanullah Khan among others.
The leading parties of Pakistani Kashmir have agreed to continue intra Kashmir dialogue while no major opposition party attended the meeting.
Speaking on the occasion, the Mirwaiz cautioned that both the countries will not be able to find a lasting solution to Kashmir issue by ignoring Kashmiris. He said that there should be complete convergence of views among Kashmiri leadership on Kashmir dispute.
He said at a media briefing that modalities for establishment of the working group will soon be worked out.
Mumbai, Jan 21 (IANS) For the fourth consecutive time, African runners stole the show at the Mumbai marathon with Kenyan John Kelai emerging the winner in 2:12:28 hours Sunday.
Ethiopians Gashaw Melese (2:12:33) and Tariku Jufar (2:12:50) finished second and third respectively in the 42-km race held on a sunny morning.
Kelai overcame a stiff challenge from Gashaw to walk away with a cheque of $31,500.
Kelai, who was trailing Jufar till the 34-km mark, picked up pace after the Peddar Road flyover in south Mumbai to emerge victorious in his debut run at the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon, which has emerged as one of the most keenly awaited sporting events in the city's calendar.
In the half marathon, Pune's Deep Chand won the 21.097 km race clocking 1:08.03 hours. Bhairav Singh Lone (1:08:25) and Sachin Sonawane (1:08:27) came second and third respectively.
India's Madhuri Gurnule claimed the top honours in the women's half-marathon. She finished in 1:19:54 hours ahead of Switzerland's Saviola Oppliegar (second) and India's Bhagwati (third).
Istanbul, Jan 21 (DPA) The prime suspect in the murder of prominent Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink has been arrested, Istanbul's governor confirmed.
Police arrested the suspect, a teenager, on a bus in Samsun on the coast of the Black Sea Saturday night, Provincial Governor Muammer Guler said.
Dink, 52, was shot dead Friday outside the offices of the Agos newspaper he published, and for which he had written controversial articles on Turkish-Armenian relations that angered nationalists and saw him sentenced to six months probation last year under Turkey's controversial law of "insulting Turkishness".
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan congratulated security authorities on the arrest "in the name of the ... country, in the name of the fight for democracy and freedom" at a party convention near Ankara.
Governor Guler said the suspect had been on his way to his home city of Trabzon, also on the Black Sea coast, when he was arrested, and would now be flown to Istanbul to face charges. A number of arrests have already been made in the Trabzon area.
Earlier Saturday, Guler released photos and video footage of the then unidentified suspect - a young man wearing a denim jacket, white cap and goatee beard who was filmed on security cameras before and after the killing.
One photo shows the man putting a weapon into his belt as he runs away from the scene of the killing.
Gulan confirmed that six further arrests had been made Saturday in connection with the murder, and said those suspects would also be flown to Istanbul to stand trial.
The security authorities have been criticised for not doing enough to protect Dink, who had received death threats over comments he had made in his newspaper on Turkish-Armenian relations.
Guler rejected the criticism, saying that Dink had not requested any police protection. He was given some protection on the days he had appeared in court, Guler added.
Thousands of people took to the streets in Istanbul Friday evening protesting the murder under the slogan "We are all Hrant Dink". On Saturday, there were still many people outside the front door of Dink's Agos newspaper. Flowers and pictures of Dink had been left at the offices.
In his last article written for Agos, Dink said he had received many death threats from Turkish nationalists over his comments on Turkish-Armenian relations.
Dink's lawyer said that he had been receiving threats for two and a half years.
Around 70,000 ethnic-Armenians live in Turkey, most in Istanbul. Armenian numbers were considerably higher, especially in eastern Anatolia until World War I when the local Armenian population sided with invading Russian forces.
The Ottoman government ordered the deportation of Armenians living in the east during which hundreds of thousands of people died.
Armenian historians claim that as many as 1.5 million Christian Armenians were killed in the deportations and massacres and that the actions were a clear genocide, a view that Dink also espoused in his articles.
Turkey admits that there were massacres of Armenians during the deportations, but vehemently denies that the killings constituted a genocide.
Turks living in other parts of Europe also criticised the inaction of the Turkish authorities.
"As recently as Jan 10, Dink received threatening letters that he gave to the state prosecutor, but they did nothing," said Frank Sen, director of the Centre for Turkish Studies in the German city of Essen, in an interview with Focus magazine.
It was a disgrace "that the Turkish police hadn't protected him", Sen said.
Politicians in Germany and across Europe have condemned Dink's killing and have renewed calls for Ankara to strike Article 301 on "insulting Turkishness" from the statute books.
Many Turkish journalists and writers have been charged under the article, including Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk and author Elif Shafak.
Dink is to be buried in the Armenian cemetery here Tuesday.
London, Jan 21 (DPA) Chelsea suffered another blow to their hopes of winning their third straight Premiership title as they were beaten 0-2 by Liverpool.
Goals from Dirk Kuyt and Jermaine Pennant sealed victory for Liverpool, lifting them to within five points of Chelsea in the third place Saturday. The champions are six points behind leaders Manchester United.
Charlton Athletic gave themselves a lifeline at the bottom of the table with a 1-0 win at Portsmouth, while there were also wins for Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers, Middlesbrough and Reading.
Having drawn three of their previous four Premiership games, Chelsea arrived at Anfield knowing they needed a result both to stay in touch with United at the top and to quell some of the reports of off-the-field problems at the club.
Peter Cech returned to the side for the first time in three months after his serious head injury, but with John Terry still missing, their defence looked shaky and they were behind within four minutes.
With the defence failing to cope with a long ball, Kuyt nodded Peter Crouch's flick-on into space and then fired it past Cech.
Liverpool dominated possession in the first half and Pennant then smashed in a volley from 20 yards to double their lead just 13 minutes later.
Chelsea pressured Liverpool in the second half but the home side's defence held firm to put more pressure on Chelsea and their manager Jose Mourinho.
"Any time you beat the champions is a good day," Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard said.
"I am not going to make any headlines by saying we can win (the title) but we will keep plugging away. There's a lot of work to be done.
Mourinho once again bemoaned his defence. "There were definitely mistakes with people not adapting to their positions," he said.
"I was waiting for 15-20 minutes to go by with no goals conceded and the confidence arriving. But when the team is very fragile on the pitch and mentally not so self confident, it is difficult.
"In the second half I think we played better but Liverpool defended well and were full of confidence. They knew they could be adventurous because our defensive line is fragile."
Mark Viduka scored twice as Middlesbrough moved further away from the relegation zone with a stunning 5-1 win over Bolton Wanderers.
Reading continue to surprise in their first Premiership season, beating Sheffield United 3-1, but the match will be remembered for a bizarre incident which resulted in the sending-off of United's Keith Gillespie.
Just a few seconds after coming on as a substitute, Gillespie elbowed Stephen Hunt and was shown the red card by Mark Halsey.
Gillespie then compounded the situation, throwing another punch at Hunt as he left the field. Reading coach Wally Downes was then sent from the touchline for pushing United manager Neil Warnock, who was also banished to the stands.
Meanwhile, Charlton Athletic gave themselves a massive boost with a 1-0 win at Portsmouth, Amdy Faye scoring the vital goal.
Newcastle came from two goals down to draw 2-2 with West Ham United, while Fulham and Tottenham drew 1-1 and Blackburn Rovers moved into the top half of the table with a 3-0 win at Manchester City, Morten Gamst Pedersen scoring twice.
Kuala Lumpur, Jan 21 (IANS) A century-old Hindu temple in Malaysia has probably become the first shrine in the world to get an international quality service certification.
The Sri Sundararaja Perumal Temple in Klang, just outside Kuala Lumpur, got the ISO 9001:2000 certification in November for its quality in religious, cultural and social services, according to Malaysian news agency Bernama.
The Geneva-based International Organisation for Standardisation certifies companies and service providers worldwide for quality upon achieving certain benchmarks.
Malaysia's Works Minister S. Samy Vellu will officiate the ISO 9001:2000 certification award ceremony Wednesday.
According to the temple president S. Anandakrishnan, for the past three years the temple administration worked hard to get the certification by streamlining and standardizing the day-to-day working of the temple.
The Sundararaja temple, known as the "Thirupati of Southeast Asia", was built more than 100 years ago.
"Other temples are not bound to follow our standard operating procedure but we wanted to set a benchmark so that people will know we provide quality services in religious faith," said Anandakrishnan.
"Standard guidelines will be put into place for matters like booking of the wedding hall and the do's and don'ts for priests while conducting prayers," he said.
In Malaysia, Indians, who are mainly Hindu, account for about 10 percent of the population.
New Delhi, Jan 21 (IANS) Spirituality, mystical traditions, temples, mosques, palaces, ancient weaves...For a sneak peek into the cultural melting pot that is Varanasi, you need go no further than an exhibition here.
Gyanpravaha, a cultural organisation from the pilgrim town, has organised the event at the India International Centre (IIC) from Jan 19-22. It also includes seminars and cultural programmes, which attracted scores of art and culture lovers from across the capital on the first day itself.
"Varanasi is the cultural capital of India. Whether you look for Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Jainism or Buddhism, you will find forms of every faith in this place. Hence on the annual day of IIC, we decided to use this platform to showcase the rich heritage of this place," said professor N.P. Joshi of Gyanpravaha.
As Shruti, an onlooker, pointed out, the programme aims at looking at Kashi or Varanasi beyond its aesthetic and intellectual beauty.
An educationist and musician, she said: "While the exhibition showcases the aesthetic appeal of Varanasi, the seminars and discussions following it will give a deeper understanding of the mystical place."
Splashing colour on the walls are various photographs and paintings on Varanasi, its temples, ghats (banks), palaces, mosques and churches, giving glimpses of the city's architectural and cultural richness.
From the Kashi Vishwanath temple to the Nepali Shiva temple and the Brihaspateshwar temple (Bengali style) to the Kam Kotishwar temple (southern Indian style; from the Alamgir Masjid of the 17th century to St. Mary's Church, the exhibition provides for a peek into Varanasi's architectural marvels.
Along with photographs of temples and paintings, one can find a weaver weaving the famous Nilambari fabric and a jeweller working on the rose pink enamelling of ornaments - both of which Varanasi is famous for.
Bright coloured papier-mÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢chÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â© masks, photographs of the famous musicians of Varanasi, ritual objects and ornaments are on display as well.
Gyanpravaha will next take the programme to Mumbai and Kolkata.
Kathmandu, Jan 21 (IANS) Sectarian violence simmering in eastern Nepal paralysed the kingdom Sunday as transporters called an indefinite nationwide transport strike after arsonists torched and stoned over a dozen vehicles.
The busy streets of Kathmandu Valley, usually the scene of chaotic traffic snarls, remained bereft of traffic as the National Federation of Nepal Transport Entrepreneurs, who run most private bus and other vehicular services in the country, enforced an indefinite transport strike from Sunday.
Hundreds of people and unwary tourists walked to their destinations. People arriving by air were stranded at the Tribhuban International Airport. In many cases, people returning from an overseas trip were seen grimly heading home wheeling their suitcases or shouldering the luggage.
A few taxis and private cars were seen on the roads. However, they tended to avoid trouble-prone spots in the capital, including Kalanki area, where violence erupted Saturday.
The latest disruption is the sequel to the violence that engulfed Lahan town in Siraha district in southeastern Nepal Friday.
A little-known group, calling itself Madhesi Janadhikar Forum, enforced a strike there, ostensibly to pressure the government into releasing 14 of its members who had been detained in Kathmandu for torching a copy of the new constitution.
Forum activists clashed with Maoist guerrillas during the closure, resulting in the death of a 17-year-old boy in Maoist firing.
Following the killing, a rampaging mob went on the warpath, vandalising and torching 14 public vehicles. The clashes between protesters and the police have continued since then.
On Saturday, mobs stoned vehicles belonging to the UN and National Human Rights Commission when rights officials tried to reach the spot.
To bring the situation under control, the administration Sunday imposed daytime curfew from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Even as clashes continued to erupt in Lahan, transport entrepreneurs called an indefinite strike from Sunday to show their anger at the continuous attack on their vehicles in southeastern Nepal.
The plains have been restive since Xmas Day, with a succession of organisations calling closures and transport blockades.
The transport entrepreneurs say they have been bearing the brunt of protesters' fury but the government is not doing anything to provide security or compensation.
Nepal's seven-party government suspects that royalists could be fanning the continuing violence to scuttle the June election that could reduce King Gyanendra into a commoner.
Home minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula has said "regressive forces" opposing the election were trying to seize any excuse to blow things out of proportion and create anarchy.
However, he said the government had not been stymied by such conspiracies in the past and would hold the election as per schedule.
Chennai, Jan 21 (IANS) An official of Sailor's Helpline, which champions the cause of families of lost ship crewmen, was injured in the head after being attacked by half a dozen men at his office here.
Coordinator V. Manoj Joy about to leave for a printing press Saturday when a young man walked up to him and asked to speak to him.
When he responded, half a dozen strangers surrounded him and beat him with iron rods, sticks and beer bottles. Manoj was rescued by his office staff and rushed to hospital.
Police said they were yet to establish the identity of the attackers.
Manoj told IANS: "I fear I am being targeted as there are vested interests who do not want me to help the families of lost ship's crews like those from Jupiter 6 and the dead sailors from M.V. Diana."
Ten Indian sailors were on board Jupiter 6, which sailed Aug 8, 2005, from Walvis Bay in Namibia to India, towing a dead ship headed for the scrap yard in Alang in Gujarat.
Jupiter 6 was said to have lost contact with Pelmar Shipping, its owners, Sep 5 that year. Pelmar said the tug and her 12-member crew disappeared without any trace.
Sailor's Helpline has gone to the Supreme Court seeking information on the lost crew from India.
Manoj coordinates the resource newsletter 'Waves' for the shipping industry and sailors.
Bangalore, Jan 21 (IANS) A 12-year-old boy was killed and 22 people were injured when police opened fire here Sunday to control a rampaging mob of RSS members.
Police said the violence was sparked off when a banner relating to a Hindu religious gathering was allegedly removed by a group of people who were on their way to attend a rally to condemn the Saddam execution.
Police said this led to tension and stone pelting and the crowd soon went on a rampage, scorching buses and attacking private property. The violence spread to many parts of the city, with east and northeast Bangalore being the worst hit.
More than 300 people were arrested or detained on charges of rioting, police said.
Following the violence in the Shivaji Nagar area, police imposed night curfew from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. in the troubled areas of the city.
The injured, including eight police constables, were admitted to the Bowring Hospital. The condition of Thimmaiah, a police constable who was stabbed, was said to be critical.
Shivaji Nagar and Bharati Nagar areas had witnessed mob violence Friday after group clashes during a demonstration against Saddam's execution. The violence had left at least 20 people injured.
On Sunday, the mob set fire to as many as three buses in Bamboo Bazaar area. Three auto-rickshaws were damaged near the Ulsoor lake.
Around 400 police personnel were deployed in Shivaji Nagar and Bharati Nagar, with officials said the situation was tense but under control.
Stray incidents of violence were also reported from areas like Bangalore Cantonment and Old Madras Road.
The situation in other city localities like Kamaraj Road, Armstrong road, Sappers road, Commercial street, Shivchetty garden, Bamboo Bazar, Coles Park, Cock Burn street, Ulsoor lake, Assay Road, Gangadhara Chetty road, Old Madras Road and Indira Nagar also continued to be tense.
Meanwhile, at the rally held under the banner of 'People's Front' at the Shivajinagar stadium, leaders of various political parties from the state, including Congress leaders C.K. Jaffar Sharief and former chief minister N. Dharam Singh and Samajwadi Party leader S. Bangarappa, attacked the Iraq policy of the US.
Guwahati, Jan 21 (IANS) At least one person was killed and eight wounded in two separate explosions Sunday in Assam, officials said.
A police spokesman said a powerful blast took place around 6 p.m. near a crowded vegetable market near Bahari village in Barpeta district, about 160 km from Assam's main city of Guwahati.
"A cobbler who was working near the market died on the spot, while five people were injured in the attack," police official A. Ali told IANS by telephone.
The condition of two of the injured was stated to be critical.
"The injured with multiple wounds were shifted to a hospital," the official said.
Earlier Sunday, three people were injured in a blast that took place near the parking lot of the main railway station in New Bongaigaon, about 210 km west of here.
"The bomb was kept on a parked motorcycle," a police official said.
Sunday's attacks were the latest in a string of bombings in the state blamed on the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), a rebel group fighting for an independent homeland.
On Saturday, three people, including a government official, were killed and 15 injured in two explosions and a shootout in eastern Assam. Two explosions in Guwahati last week killed four people and wounded 30.
A man claiming to be an ULFA commander told local newspapers by telephone that the outfit would attack government officials if New Delhi did not stop a military crackdown against it that began Jan 8.
The attacks came soon after a warning from the ULFA to migrant Hindi-speaking workers to quit the region. ULFA is one of several separatist rebel outfits operating in Assam where at least 20,000 people have died in insurgency-related violence since 1979.
It has been blamed for a wave of attacks in the oil and tea-rich state during Jan 5-8 killing 73 people - 61 of them Hindi-speaking migrant workers.
Karachi, Jan 21 (IANS) Pakistan's cricket board is hopeful that an appeal filed by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) against the exoneration of fast bowlers Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif on doping charges will be dismissed.
"We have challenged the right of WADA to appeal against what is an internal matter of the board," The News Sunday quoted Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Naseem Ashraf as saying.
"We have said time and again that the doping case of Shoaib and Asif has been handled efficiently by us according to our anti-doping regulations," he added.
The Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) has asked the PCB to submit its reply to the appeal. The hearing is to be held this month.
PCB lawyers in England are preparing a detailed statement, which will be submitted to CAS. Ashraf said the board's legal advisors feel CAS would not entertain the WADA challenge and dismiss their appeal as inadmissible.
By Arun Kumar,
Washington, Jan 21 (IANS) Pakistan is buying 500 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM) and 200 AIM-9M Sidewinder missiles from the US at a cost of $284 million to add more firepower to its air force.
Delivery of the AMRAAM missiles will start in 2008 and continue through 2011, Raytheon Company said announcing the first AMRAAM missile procurement by Pakistan - in what is its largest single international AMRAAM purchase.
Pakistan has signed a Letter of Offer and Acceptance for the procurement that will augment its established inventory and provide the bulk of the air-to-air fire power of the Pakistan Air Force, the Massachusetts-based armament maker, which had a $21.9 billion sales in 2005, said.
AMRAAM is a joint US Air Force and Navy programme and sets the global beyond-visual-range standard. It incorporates the latest digital technology and microminiaturised solid-state electronics, making this remarkable weapon more reliable and maintainable, resulting in the highest dependability at the lowest cost of ownership.
Thirty-two countries have procured AMRAAM based on its unprecedented air combat flexibility. The AIM-9M Sidewinder missile is a combat-proven, all-aspect, infrared-guided, short-range air-to-air missile employed by more than 20 countries worldwide, it said.
"This is the largest single purchase of AMRAAM missiles in the history of the AMRAAM international programme," said Brock McCaman, vice president of Raytheon Missile Systems' Air-to-Air product line.
"The combat-proven 'one-two punch' of Raytheon's AMRAAM/Sidewinder technology will give the Pakistan Air Force the necessary firepower to accomplish vital air defence missions."
Lahore, Jan 21 (IANS) Pakistan cricket team manager Talat Ali will probe the reported war of words between fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar and coach Bob Woolmer at Port Elizabeth Saturday, the Pakistan media reported Sunday.
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has refused to comment on the reported verbal duel. But a PCB spokesman confirmed that Ali would hold a hearing to get to the truth. The board would issue a statement after that.
The spokesman also said that Akhtar suffered from a niggling hamstring problem early Saturday and therefore did not take the field in South Africa's second innings.
"Shoaib is going through some medical tests and the nature of the injury will only be determined after getting the medical reports," the spokesman was quoted as saying by Dawn newspaper.
"It is premature to say how many days will the pacer require to recover because the reports have not come yet."
Srinagar, Jan 21 (IANS) The Pakistan-based United Jihad Council (UJC) has expressed shock over what it termed as "baseless and uncalled for statement" in Pakistan by visiting moderate Hurriyat Conference leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq who asked militants to end the armed struggle over Kashmir.
The UJC, based in Muzaffarabad in Pakistani Kashmir, said in a statement to the local press here: "The UJC is shocked by the baseless and uncalled for statement of Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and the other members of his delegation who are ignorant about the background and realities of the Kashmir issue."
Syed Sadaqat Hussain, chief spokesman of UJC said in the statement: "The Mirwaiz's statement may appease some Western powers and the Indian leadership but it was faraway from ground realities."
He said Kashmiris had not made "huge sacrifices" for any sort of "self-rule, internal autonomy or making the Line of Control irrelevant".
"These sacrifices have been offered for their basic and constitutional right, right to self determination," he said.
"Those who ignore the sacrifices and exhibit cowardice and fatigue have no right to lead," he said, adding, "If Mirwaiz Sahib and others have become disenchanted, tired and hopeless about the future of the freedom struggle then they better stay in their homes comfortably."
While questioning the flexibility of the moderate Hurriyat group in talks with the Indian government, the UJC said: "These leaders couldn't even ensure the release of two Kashmiri prisoners."
The UJC also rejected the statement of the Mirwaiz that the UN Security Council resolutions on Kashmir had become redundant, saying: "People who say such things appear to have forgotten the fact that these resolutions made Pakistan a party to the Kashmir dispute."
New Delhi, Jan 21 (IANS) The central government has convened a chief ministers' conference Monday to seek support for a pension bill on investing pension funds in stock markets that the Left parties oppose.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will inaugurate the meet to be chaired by Finance Minister P. Chidambaram.
Faced with stiff opposition from the Left parties on the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) Bill, the government hopes the Left to dilute its opposition if the chief ministers of West Bengal and Kerala too support it.
But the Left appeared unimpressed with the government's initiative.
"The government is free to hold conferences on whatever issue they like. But our stand on the pension reform bill has already been spelled out to them. We would support the government on the bill only after our concerns on the crucial issues are addressed," Communist Party of India (CPI) secretary D. Raja told IANS.
The funds collected under the pension scheme are credited to the Public Accounts of India, earning a return of around 8 percent.
The government wants that like the non-government provident funds, 5 percent of pension funds should be allowed to be invested in shares and a specific percentage in equity-linked mutual funds to give better returns to its employees.
Hamburg, Jan 21 (DPA) The Munich tragedy marks the low-point of political interference in the Olympics and the same Games in 1972 also highlighted the issue in the sporting arena itself.
The Cold War between the Soviet Bloc and the western world was still at its height when the USSR and US teams clashed in the basketball final on Sep 10, 1972.
The Soviets handed the Americans their first ever Olympic defeat in the sport, 51-50, amid huge controversy when the clock was reset to three seconds allowing the Russians to score the winning basket.
The US team appealed - but the jury of the ruling body FIBA rejected it 3-2. According to "The Complete Book of the Olympics", Hungarian chairman Ferenc Hepp and members from Cuba and Poland were on the Soviet side while the Italian and Puerto Rico delegates supported the US appeal.
"I went back into my room and cried alone that night. But every time I got to feeling sorry for myself, I think of the Israeli kids who got killed in those Games," US player Kenny Davis told Sports Illustrated 20 years later.
Five days earlier, on Sep 5, eight Arab commandos sneaked into the Olympic Village, killed two Israeli team members and held nine others hostage.
Less than 24 hours later, all nine athletes, five terrorists and one German police officer were killed in a shootout between the terrorists and West German police on an airfield near Munich.
There were plans to end the Games over the tragedy, but then IOC President Avery Brundage spoke the famous words "The Games must go on" at the memorial service.
The mood in Germany was at a low, especially as the until then cheerful Munich Games were to make up for Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime propaganda show around the 1936 Games in Berlin.
But German fans would at least not always buy the doctrine of the times, cheering Jesse Owens' famous four golds in 1936 just like Soviet gymnast Olga Korbut in 1972.
Germany was banned from the Olympics after both World Wars (which also prevented the 1916, 1940 and 1944 editions from taking place) and Japan following World War II. The two countries returned in 1952, which also saw the Soviet debut.
The Eastern Bloc tried to underline the superiority of communism through sport even though the Olympic Charter stresses "The Olympic Games are competitions between athletes and not between countries."
The Cold War led to the famous US-led boycott of the 1980 Games in Moscow in protest of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Athletes from countries such as Britain and Australia did compete in Moscow, just as Romania broke Communist ranks in 1984 when it sent a team to Los Angeles.
In 1976, many top athletes were not on hand when 22 African countries stayed away from the Montreal edition because New Zealand competed although a rugby team from the country had toured South Africa which was banned from most sports and the Olympics for its apartheid politics.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) failed to stop that boycott, but it did ask for American sprinters Tommy Smith and John Carlos to be removed from the US team in 1968 after their Black Power gesture at the 200m victory ceremony.
The incident may have become famous, but a few days before the Mexico City Games the IOC remained silent over the killing of an estimated 250 demonstrators by Mexican police.
Olympians have always stressed independence from politics, but Olympic Games do carry massive prestige for the host nation (even though a city is elected) and Olympic Games are opened by Heads of State.
Their text is laid down in the IOC Charter, but US President George W. Bush 2002 broke with protocol when he put the words "On behalf of a proud, determined and grateful nation", in front of the official line "I declare open the Games of Salt Lake City."
The statement came in the wake of the Sep 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the US.
The boycott threat, meanwhile, appears over after the end of the Cold War.
Germany is reunified, Yugoslav athletes were allowed to compete as independent Olympic participants 1992, athletes from East Timor were at Sydney 2000 before the country was officially recognized two years later and the teams of North and South Korea have marched jointly at opening and closing ceremonies.
The next Games are 2008 in Beijing where the communist regime aims to present China as an open and efficient country with the smooth running of the event.
The Chinese also know what sport can do for them, with the famous "ping-pong diplomacy" opening the door to the US and the world - with a table tennis team visiting the world's most populous country as the first Americans since Mao's revolution in 1949.
Indo-Asian News Service
Chandigarh, Jan 21 (IANS) R.S. Gill will take over as the new director general of police (DGP) of Punjab Monday.
Gill, who is the director of the Punjab police academy at Phillaur near Ludhiana, replaces S.S. Virk, who was ordered by the Election Commission (EC) to be removed from all poll-related work in the state.
A total of 117 assembly seats and the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat go to polls Feb 13.
The EC had Friday night ordered that Virk be taken off from poll duties after the main opposition Shiromani Akali Dal complained that Virk and his family had availed concessions of over Rs.2.5 billion (Rs.250 crore) from the state government for setting up a mega project near state capital Chandigarh, housing a convention centre, hotel-cum-resort and multiplexes.
The clearance of the project came just 10 days before the election notification in Punjab.
Akali leader Sukhbir Badal alleged that Virk was a 'Congress agent' and had been rewarded with Rs.2.5 billion to help the ruling Congress in the forthcoming polls.
Virk, a Maharashtra cadre Indian Police Service officer, is said to have close relations with Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.
At a National Consultation on Minorities and Biases in text books, 13-14 Jan. 2007 in Delhi,
problems relating to federal structure, Constitutional mandate of secular culture, group identities & creeping communalization of text books,
of creativity & pedagogy for educating young minds in India were debated.
The Chair of the National Minorities Commission was the Chief Guest.
Members present were:
Mr Hamid Ansari, Dr Asghar Ali Engineer, Prof Imtiaz Ahmed, Mr Jimmy Dabhi,Vinod Raina, Prof Ranu Jain, Prof Ashok Anshuman , Mr Khalid Ansari, Mr Achyut Yagnik, Mr Vibhuti Narain Rai, Prof Hasan Mansoor, Mr Tayeb Khan, Justice P K Shamshuddin, , Ms Salcha Begum, Mr Ajay Kumar, Mr Apoorva Anand, Ms Purva Bharadwaj, Prf T K Oomen, Mr Hasan Mansoor, Mr L S Hardenia, Ms Muniza Khan, Ms Suchitra Seth , Mr Chand Peer, Mr Shirish Hardenia, , Mr Seraj Hasan, Mr Mansoor Ali, Mr Aftab Alam, Mr Rakesh, Prof Qamar Agha, Meera Mishra, Vyas Ji, Mr Ravindra Roy Mr Munshi ,Bader Jehan, Bella Das
The Resolutions below were passed.
Drafting Committee- Mr Vinod Raina, Mr Apoorva Anand
RESOLUTION ADOPTED BY members of the National consultation on' Minorities and biases in the Text Books held on 13th and 14th January 2006 at USO House New Delhi.
The constitution of India ensures that all activities of the State would be directed towards strengthening of the fundamental nature of the Indian state which is secular and democratic. The State is also directed by the Constitution through Article 45 to inculcate scientific temper and critical attitude in the society through its actions. Recognizing the cultural and linguistic diversity of India , the Constitution states that all religions and cultures would be accorded equal respect by the state.
Education is a major activity through which the state is supposed to ensure that these fundamental constitutional Values are grounded firmly in the fabric of the Indian society.
We have however witnessed distressing action by the Central and State Governments over the years of violating the fundamental aspects of nation building, through the preparation of teaching -learning materials, both formal and supplementary made for our schools and children. The attempt to impose a particular religion as NATIONAL and to indoctrinate the young minds which results in promotion of hatred to other religions, cultures and communities must be deplored. Apart from textbooks and supplementary materials , systematic recruitment of teachers espousing such views has considerably enhanced this condemnable destruction of Indian composite culture .
Whereas these actions have taken place state after state, and are continuing still, the immediate example would be what is happening in Rajasthan right now. The Madhyamik Siksha Board , Rajasthan, Ajmer has published School Textbooks from class 8to class 12 in the years 2005-06 which contain highly objectionable content which are blatantly in conflict with the Constitution of India, especially the provisions of Article 15, 28, 21, 51A. These textbooks have been written with an underlying assumption of Indian Culture being synonymous with Hindu and Aryan culture. Manu ahs been described as the father of humankind and Brahma as the creator of this universe. An obsession with religion, an enthusiastic advocacy of the superiority of Hindu religion over other religions and defining Indianness in Savarkarite terms declaring those who do not consider their father land as their holy land as people with no entitlement as citizens are only some of the objectionable features of these books which range from History , Sanskrit to Science, Economics and Social Sciences. Fascism has been described as significant as it removes the ills of democracy.
Continuance of these textbooks is not permissible as they violate the Constitutional Right of an Indian Citizen to live in dignity with equal rights and the Child's universally accepted right to know and live in harmony and peace with others. They are unacceptable from the pedagogical point of view as they present themselves as the final, official version of truth and knowledge.
All secular and rational Indians, in particular Adivasis, Dalits, Minority groups cannot allow their tax and other money to be used to
propagate and impose a violent world view on their children through school textbooks.
We therefore demand that :
1. Strict guidelines be legislated for each state and the center regarding the constitution of textbook committees, substantial representation of all communities in them, their transparency and responsibilities; with suggested penal action when they prepare material that violates constitutional values.
The Central Government stop its share of funds slated for school education to such erring sates, immediately
Rajasthan if they fail to withdraw these textbooks immediately.
The Rajasthan Government withdraw these textbooks with immediate effect.
Drafting committee- Professor Imtiaz Ahmed, Justice P K Shamshuddin,Mr Vibhutit Narain Rai, Dr Jimmy Dhabi S.J.
To demand public scrutiny of Educational Materials of Non-Governmental Educational Organisation/Institutions
The Constitution of India ensures that all activities of the various States in India should be directed towards promoting and strengthening secular and democratic ethos, gender justice, equality, scientific temper, and critical consciousness. The Constitution provides certain autonomy to the States in various areas and levels at the same time directing the States to conform to the values, ethos and the spirit of Fraternity (assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation) enshrined in the Preamble and Articles 14, 15, 21, 28 and 51 (A).
Through various studies, observations and information we have learnt that many Private, Minority, Aided and Unaided, Recognised and Unrecognised educational organisations/institutions in various States violate the secular ethos enshrined in the constitution through their education content, out reach programmes and organisational processes. The text books, supplementary reading material, songs, cassettes, CDs, plays, socio-cultural practices/exercises and symbols are often used to promote division, hatred among various groups/communities and further discourage scientific, rational and critical temper among students. These material and symbols are used to indoctrinate minds of children and people in and through these organisations.
Therefore without undermining the autonomy of various States in India and fundamental rights of the minorities, we the participants of 'National Consultation on Minorities and Biases in Text Books, who met on 13-14 January 2007, New Delhi, resolve that all the text books, supplementary reading material, pamphlets, songs, symbols and socio-cultural exercises and activities carried and used in Private, Minority, Majority, Aided and Unaided, Recognised and/or Unrecognized educational organisations/institutions must be subjected to public scrutiny to ensure that these organisations/institutions through their educational material, output and processes within these organisation adhere to and not violate Constitutional norms and ethos.
New Delhi, Jan 21 (IANS) A high-power Russian delegation led by Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov arrives in Bangalore Monday on a five-day trip, ahead of President Vladimir Putin's visit starting Jan 25, to discuss strategic and bilateral ties.
While civil nuclear cooperation with India will top the agenda during Putin's visit, Ivanov will visit military establishments in India and hold the sixth round of the Inter-Governmental Commission on Military Technical Cooperation (IRIGC-MTC), to be co-chaired by him and his Indian counterpart A.K. Antony.
Defence ties, the cornerstone of Indo-Russian friendship, are expected to be given a fresh impetus. The old allies are expected to take to a new level talks on critical spares for weapons and equipment upgrading.
India has long leaned heavily on Russia to equip its armed forces with military hardware, especially when eight percent of its inventory of the three services are of Russian origin beginning from aircraft, stealth frigates, tanks and weapon systems.
Both India and Russia share a time-tested defence and strategic relationship.
The IRIGC-MTC, established in 2000, is expected to cover areas like interaction between the armed forces, military technical cooperation, supply of defence systems, equipment upgradation, licensed and joint production, as well as joint development and production.
Moscow has recently offered to set up service centres for its frontline weapon systems in use with India's armed forces and supply specialized steel for an indigenous aircraft carrier.
The offer of setting up service centres in India came up late last year after talks between Russian armament companies and the defence ministry, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Ordnance Factories Board.
Besides servicing equipment like warships and helicopters, the service centres to be set up by Rosoboronservice (India) will maintain inventories of crucial spares.
Before Ivanov joins up with Putin's delegation, he will visit defence establishments including Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), the Indian Space Research Organisation and meet captains of civil and defence industries.
He will also interact with IT professionals and get to visit Infosys in Bangalore.
On Wednesday, he heads to New Delhi where he will call on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan.
Russian embassy officials said that Ivanov would hold a press briefing at the new premises of the DRDO.
The head of Russia's Federal Agency for Atomic Energy, Sirgei V. Kiriyenko, will Sunday visit the Kudankulam nuclear power plant in Tamil Nadu to evaluate the progress of its construction and discuss the prospects of future cooperation for strategic partnership.
Melbourne, Jan 21 (DPA) Defending champion Amelie Mauresmo of France crashed out of the Australian Open after she went down 4-6, 3-6 to Czech Lucie Safarova in the fourth round here Sunday.
The French second seed lost her way while holding a 4-1 lead, losing 18 or the last 21 points in the first set to the soft-spoken Czech 19-year-old.
Mauresmo, who lifted her first Grand Slam title at Melbourne Park a year ago over Justine Henin-Hardenne and then went on to win the Wimbledon, never got back into contention against Safarova, ranked 70th with three minor career titles.
The French seed committed 23 unforced errors and lost serve five times.
Safarova was in shock after her 89-minute upset. "It's amazing, I cannot believe it," she said. "I'm so happy, it's incredible."
Her boyfriend and countryman Tomas Berdych won his match over Dmitri Tursunov almost simultaneously on another court.
"This was the match of my life. It was my first time on Rod Laver arena. When I was warming up this morning, the court looked so big. But I felt really comfortable."
Mauresmo went down a pair of breaks in the second set, but clawed one back for 2-4. A nervous Safarova failed to convert on a pair of match points in the final game on Mauresmo's serve.
But the Czech advanced to the last eight on her third try as Mauresmo sent a weak return low into the net.
Kolkata, Jan 21 (IANS) Tata Motors Sunday initiated preliminary steps to construct its small car plant at Singur near here with the consent of the West Bengal Industrial Development Corp (WBIDC), even as Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee slammed the state government and the company for starting work "surreptitiously".
The Tata communication came a day after the West Bengal government extended prohibitory orders banning the assembly of four or more people in Singur, 45 km from here, till Jan 28 midnight following reports that protests could be organized over the takeover of fertile farmland for the small car project.
As Singur remained tense with a Tata official heckled by protesters recently, a statement from the company said that it had begun construction work Sunday but did not disclose where it had done so.
Reports from Singur said that with over 500 policemen present, a ' bhumi puja', a Hindu ritual prior to starting any project, was performed. The function was not over the plot whose owners claim they have not given up their land yet.
"I am unwell and under treatment. The surreptitious way in which the construction work has started is shocking," said Banerjee, who had undertaken a 25-day fast to protest the project over farmland.
"Construction work began at gunpoint under Section 144," she said.
"People will not forgive the Tatas or the Left government," Banerjee said.
"The Tata Motors plant operation is expected to create employment in excess of 10,000 direct and indirect jobs," the Tata statement said.
Civil construction for the plant is being initiated by Tata Motors, it said.
Singur has been chosen by Tata for its small car project over 997 acres of land.
This has triggered a violent face-off between the government and farmers led by civil society groups and parties like the Trinamool Congress.
Tata Motors said through its contractors and its sub-contractors it will deploy appropriate and necessary people from Singur area for various unskilled jobs and skilled assignments like masons and fitters.
It said it was initiating various steps to train people of the Singur villages, who had earlier registered with WBIDC, to improve their employability.
Tata Motors has already selected a batch of individuals for an extensive six-month training. Another 179 residents of Singur, selected by WBIDC, are being trained by the Ramakrishna Shilpa Mandir (Belur).
The company is in the process of organising more extensive training for them based on a selection process. Arrangements will also be made to impart relevant training to other individuals in WBIDC list appropriate to their educational background and skills.
Tata Motors is also organising groups of women from Singur families to supply food for construction workers. This is part of the company's plan to infuse income-generation for Singur families, by enabling them to produce various items required during the construction phase and when the plant is operational.
Nagpur, Jan 21 (IANS) Teamwork clicked for India while a fine unbeaten 149 by Shivnarine Chanderpaul went in vain, as the West Indies were defeated in the first one-day international match by 14 runs here Sunday.
In a match that went down the wire, the visitors made 324 for the loss of eight wickets in 50 overs chasing a target of 339 set by India at the Vidarbha Cricket Association (VCA) stadium here.
With the win India has taken a 1-0 lead in the four-match series.
Put into bat first, India piled up a mammoth score at the loss of only three wickets - largely thanks to former India captain Sourav Ganguly who backed his impressive Test comeback with a flamboyant 98 off 109 deliveries.
The new opening pair of Ganguly and Gautam Gambhir (69) spanked the West Indies bowlers to all parts of the ground on a flat pitch. Gambhir set the stage blazing with his flurry of boundaries and put up a rollicking 144-run opening stand with Ganguly.
The Bengal southpaw playing his first ODI after a span of 16 months punished erratic West Indies bowlers with a range of strokes that had once made him one of the most feared top-order batsmen.
Ganguly displayed some deft touches when he slashed through the off side, and showed no fear in coming down the track and rattled the West Indies bowling attack.
He was commanding against spin - whacking Gayle and Samuels straight over their heads - and showed enough energy when he ran between the wickets.
Ganguly, who hit three sixes and 11 fours, was well set for a deserving century but was run out when an outstanding throw by Dwayne Smith found him short of crease.
Tendulkar, who had a brief stay at the crease, with his well composed 31 failed to capitalise on his good start and was trapped leg before the wicket by Gayle.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni (62 not out) and skipper Rahul Dravid (54 not out) provided with some entertainment at the end of the innings with their big hits and scored 119 off the last 11.5 overs.
West Indies conceded 71 runs in the last five overs, with both Dhoni and Dravid going ballistic.
Dwayne Bravo's slower deliveries proved effective initially but Dhoni soon teed off with a muscular approach that few can match. He came down the track to the fast bowlers and stung with an array of unorthodox slogging.
Dravid, at the other end, was more delicate in approach but as deadly in execution and he hit three sixes.
For the West Indies, Chanderpaul carried his bat through the innings.
Adjudged Man of the Match, he faced 136 balls for his 149 not out that included 16 boundaries and three sixes.
But it was his opening partner Chris Gayle who started the onslaught by scoring a stylish 52 off 46 deliveries that included 10 boundaries.
Both Chanderpaul and Gayle gave the West Indies a flying start with the 50 coming up in just eight overs. Gayle, when on 11, was dropped by Sachin Tendulkar in the slips in the fifth over but soon regained confidence and spanked Sreesanth for four consecutive fours in the same over.
Runako Morton made 40 and captain Brian Lara 31 but it was not enough for the visitors to achieve the target.
The Indian bowlers, however, led by Zaheer Khan (47/2) and Harbhajan Singh (59/2) kept a check on the batsmen. As the West Indies came close to the target they fell short by a couple of overs.
The second match will be played in Cuttack Wednesday, the third in Chennai Saturday and the fourth in Vadodara Jan 31.
1st ODI, India vs. West Indies (day), Vidarbha Cricket Association ground, Nagpur, Jan 21
Gautam Gambhir c Samuels b Gayle 69
Sourav Ganguly run out (Smith) 98
Sachin Tendulkar lbw b Gayle 31
Mahendra Singh Dhoni not out 62
Rahul Dravid not out 54
Extras (b 5, lb 8, w 11) 24
Total (3 wickets; 50 overs; 226 mins) 338
Fall of wickets: 1-144 (Gambhir, 24.4 overs), 2-214 (Tendulkar, 36.5), 3-219 (Ganguly, 38.1)
Ian Bradshaw 6-0-43-0 (2w)
Jerome Taylor 10-0-71-0 (3w)
Marlon Samuels 10-0-53-0 (2w)
Darren Powell 5-0-32-0 (1w)
Chris Gayle 9-1-51-2 (2w)
Dwayne Bravo 4-0-41-0
Dwayne Smith 6-0-34-0 (1w)
Chris Gayle c Dravid b Harbhajan 52
Shivnarne Chanderpaul not out 149
Runako Morton b Harbhajan 8
Marlon Samuels b Khan 40
Brian Lara st Dhoni b Tendulkar 31
Dwayne Bravo c Dhoni b Khan 16
Dwayne Smith b Agarkar 1
Denesh Ramdin c Gambhir b Sreesanth 6
Ian Bradshaw run out (Sreesanth) 0
Jerome Taylor not out 1
Extras: (lb 10, w 5, nb 5) 20
Total: (for eight wickets in 50 overs) 324
Fall of wickets: 1-80 (Gayle, 12.1 overs), 2-102 (Morton, 16.2), 3-175 (Samuels, 33.1), 4-241 (Lara, 40.3), 5-264 (Bravo, 43.4), 6-269 (Smith, 44.2), 7-304 (Ramdin, 47.5), 8-319 (Bradshaw, 49.1)
Zaheer Khan 10-2-47-2 (1nb)
Sreesanth 10-0-79-1 (4nb, 2w)
Ajit Agarkar 10-1-75-1
Harbhajan Singh 10-0-59-2 (1w)
Sachin Tendulkar 10-0-58-1 (2w)
Result: India won by 14 runs, lead four-match series 1-0
Man of the Match: Shivnarine Chanderpaul (West Indies)
Umpires: Billy Bowden (New Zealand) and Suresh Shastri (India)
Third umpire: G.A. Pratapkumar (India)
Match referee: Alan Hurst (Australia)
Jakarta, Jan 21 (DPA) Indonesian authorities slaughtered thousands of chickens and other fowl in backyard farms and cages here Sunday to curtail the spread of bird flu virus that has killed five people in recent days.
Before being killed, more than 10,000 fowl were tested for bird flu. The carcasses of healthy birds were returned to the owners to be eaten or sold while those of infected birds were burned.
Jakarta residents have been given until the end of the month to get rid of their backyard chickens and other fowl before officials launch door-to-door confiscations.
Indonesia is the world's worst bird flu affected country with 62 human deaths from 80 cases. Vietnam is second with 42 deaths but has not reported a fatality in more than a year.
By Sujeet Kumar,
Korba (Chhattisgarh), Jan 21 (IANS) Leading trade unions in India's aluminium major Bharat Aluminium Company (Balco) reiterated that the government should give a serious re-look at taking back Balco's 51 percent sold equity.
The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in 2001 sold the public sector undertaking's equity to Anil Agarwal-owned Sterlite Group at Rs.5.5 billion, a deal that sparked protests by then opposition Congress and Left parties.
Trade unions staged a record 67-day strike at the Korba unit in Chhattisgarh, accusing that the aluminium major's assets were undervalued.
"The Balco deal was a complete sellout of national assets. We will strive hard to persuade the government to take back Balco's 51 percent lost equity,' A.M. Ansari, the working president of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) at Balco, told IANS.
The Balco disinvestment deal created a row last year as the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) raised certain serious points about the deal and said that the NDA government had gone for disinvestments with undue haste.
The issue got further attention in September with the government, in a surprise move, returned a cheque worth Rs.10.9 billion sent by Sterlite for the remaining 49 percent government stake in Balco, taking cognizance of the CAG's indictment of the price and valuation.
The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government has now constituted a committee of secretaries to review the deal.
The trade unions, which gave up the strike in 2001, are up in arms again, seeking a complete re-look into the deal.
"The deal must be scrapped. The government should start the process of taking back 51 percent sold equity. We are happy that the UPA coalition has returned the cheque to defy Sterlite of taking total managerial control," M.L. Rajak, Balco's All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) general secretary, said.
The AITUC enjoys a stronghold among about 10,000 contract workers at Balco.
"Trade unions are facing a ticklish situation, we do not know whom we should approach for workers' welfare and facilities as the issue of 100 percent stake is still hanging. We never support privatisation of any profit making unit or the way Balco handed over its 51 percent equity to a private firm," said B.K. Sharma, the general secretary of Balco's Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) unit.
"Uncertainty must be cleared, whether the government takes the possession of a 100 percent equity or gives the remaining 49 percent to Sterlite. For larger interests of workers we need a 100 percent shareholding management by one party," the INTUC leader said.
Balco was incorporated in the year 1965 as a public sector undertaking (PSU). It was the first in the Indian aluminium industry to produce the alloy rods, which is a feedstock for all aluminium alloy conductors, needed for power transmission lines.
By Sujit Chakraborty
Agartala, Jan 21 (IANS) Three and a half decades after Tripura attained statehood in 1972, this northeastern state has turned a full circle, despite facing several odds like geographical remoteness and an unrelenting insurgency.
Sandwiched between Assam/Manipur and Bangladesh, this landlocked state of 3.1 million people is stepping into its 36th year as a state of the Indian union Sunday with the words of President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam beckoning the people to strive hard to achieve greater success.
"Tripura will be the number one state in the country. The courage and discipline of the state is not to belie the goal," the president said during a visit to the state earlier.
And the president was not wrong in his vision of a prosperous Tripura - the state which had just 1,879 km of road in 1972 today boasts of a quantum jump with 15,238 km, including 400 km of national highway and 67 km railway line.
"Even a decade after the attainment of the statehood, the Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) stood at Rs.28.6 billion, which increased to Rs.103.10 billion in 1990 and Rs.527 billion in 2000 and is estimated to have touched the figure of $2 billion in 2005-06," said Tripura Finance Minister Badal Chowdhury.
The per capita income of Tripura now stood at Rs.7,500 as against Rs.1,307 in 1980-81.
"This macro-economic profile appears to be a vestige of the pace of socio- economic development of the state and her people in the passage of the last 35 years," the minister said.
Although agriculture is the mainstay of the people, this former princely state is known for its exotic handicrafts and also boasts of being India's second largest rubber producing state.
The state houses the country's largest rubber thread production factory. Known for its abundant natural resources, Tripura is already in the petrochemicals map of India with the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) expected to commission a 74MW power plant sometime next year.
Moreover, the village of Kshetricheera in Dhalai district houses India's largest biomass gasifier power plant.
Strategically placed Tripura has also the potential to become the gateway to Southeast Asia if Bangladesh allows the Chittagong Port to be used as proposed. There was only 12 km long railhead in Tripura in 1972. By the end of 2007, trains would run right into the heart of Agartala.
Air communication was a distant dream in the past. But today there are frequent flights connecting all major metropolises with five airlines operating from the state.
The state's literacy graph is also on the upswing and today Tripura boasts of being the third most literate state in India with 80.14 per cent literacy rate. The literacy rate was just 22 percent when Tripura attainted statehood.
There is considerable improvement in the healthcare sector as well.
"The child mortality rate came down to 32 per thousand as against the national average of 58. The mortality rate of pregnant mothers has also been reduced, even lower than the national average of 4.37," Tripura Health And Agriculture Minister Tapan Chakraborty told IANS.
The state is also marching ahead in the agriculture sector and expected to become self-reliant in foodgrain production.
"With the rigours of militancy showing a downslide, the climate is conducive for industrialisation with the state having resources like natural gas, forestry, rubber and horticultural produces," Chakraborty said.
Dhaka, Jan 21 (IANS) The mystery over who masterminded a 2004 attack that may have killed former Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina has got deeper with fingers now pointing at the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA).
The Awami League Saturday demanded that the caretaker government take a fresh look at the bloody bombing of a party rally that killed 20 people.
"If former prime minister Khaleda Zia, her son Tareq Rahman and former ministers Lutfuzzaman Babar, Moudud Ahmed and Nazmul Huda are interrogated, everything will come to light," Hasina's aide Obaidul Quader Choudhury said here.
The Bangladesh media carried reports Sunday saying ULFA cadres operating from the country carried out the attack, with the help from intelligence officials of the then Zia government.
While Hasina, who was fired at amid the grenade explosions, escaped unhurt, 20 of her cadres, including party leader Ivy Rahman, were killed and scores injured. It was the worst case of political violence in Bangladesh.
The Zia Government condemned the attack, ordered a probe and detained suspects. But whoever masterminded the orgy was never caught.
According to BDNews24.com, a ULFA commander, Pallav Saikia, has confessed that his group lobbed grenades and fired at that Awami League rally.
Saikia, arrested in Assam Dec 14, reportedly said that he led 11 men from his group.
"Some Bangladesh intelligence officials helped us plan the assault and even gave us the vehicles for the assault but I don't know these Bangladeshis," he was quoted as saying.
The Daily Times said ULFA had rejected Saikia's confession as "nonsense".
"Pallav Saikia is either saying all this nonsense under pressure or he has been bought over and forced to say all this," ULFA spokesperson Rubi Bhuiyan said. "We don't meddle in the politics of any other country, we are just fighting to liberate Assam from Indian control."
India has accused Bangladesh of providing sanctuary to ULFA rebels, who have waged a separatist campaign since 1979.
Besides Barua, Arabinda Rajkhowa and Anup Chetia have also been operating from Bangladesh, Indian officials say. Chetia, held and tried by a Dhaka court, served his full jail term but has not been handed over to India.
Dhaka, confronted with details including names and addresses of the Indian fugitives provided by New Delhi, denies the presence of any Indian insurgent on its soil.
Guwahati/Dhaka, Jan 21 (IANS) The outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) Sunday denied media reports alleging its involvement in a 2004 attack on Awami League chief Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh.
"We are not at all involved in any such attacks in Bangladesh," ULFA chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa said in a statement.
The Awami League Saturday demanded that the caretaker government of Bangladesh take a fresh look at the bloody bombing of a party rally that killed 20 people.
The Bangladesh media carried reports Sunday saying ULFA cadres operating from the country carried out the attack, with the help of intelligence officials of the then Zia government.
According to BDNews24.com quoting Assam police intelligence chief Khagen Sharma, an ULFA commander, Pallav Saikia, has confessed that his group lobbed grenades and fired at the Awami League rally. Saikia, arrested in Assam Dec 14, reportedly said that he led 11 men from his group.
"Some Bangladesh intelligence officials helped us plan the assault and even gave us the vehicles for the assault but I don't know these Bangladeshis," he was quoted as saying.
However, Sharma denied the report. "I have never spoken to any Bangladeshi media nor any other journalists in this regard," Sharma told IANS.
The Daily Times also said ULFA had rejected Saikia's confession as "nonsense".
"Pallav Saikia is either saying all this nonsense under pressure or he has been bought over and forced to say all this," ULFA spokesperson Rubi Bhuiyan said. "We don't meddle in the politics of any other country, we are just fighting to liberate Assam from Indian control."
While Hasina, who was fired at amid the grenade explosions, escaped unhurt, 20 of her cadres, including party leader Ivy Rahman, were killed and scores injured on Aug 21, 2004.
The Zia Government had condemned the attack, ordered a probe and detained suspects. But whoever masterminded the orgy was never caught.
India has accused Bangladesh of providing sanctuary to ULFA rebels, who have waged a separatist campaign since 1979.
Besides Barua, Rajkhowa and Anup Chetia have also been operating from Bangladesh, Indian officials say. Chetia, held and tried by a Dhaka court, served his full jail term but has not been handed over to India.
Dhaka, confronted with details including names and addresses of the Indian fugitives provided by New Delhi, denies the presence of any Indian insurgent on its soil.
Jammu, Jan 21 (IANS) If you thought that Kashmiri separatists were always obsessed with a Kashmir solution and self rule, that wasn't all. Scant snowfall in the Kashmir Valley this winter has caused a deep concern among them for the environment.
With about 10 days left for the expiry of 'Chille Kalan'- the Valley's severest 40-day winter period that usually begins with Dec 20 and ends with Jan 30 - their worries are multiplying.
The general belief is that snow during 'Chille Kalan' stays on until summers, when it feeds rivers with fresh water. If there is a scant snowfall, people are likely to experience severe water crisis as well as drought-like conditions in summer.
All Party Hurrriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq was a worried man before he left for Pakistan.
"It must snow," Mirwaiz said, adding "otherwise I don't know what would happen in summers."
"Kashmir cannot afford to have a water crisis," he said.
Mirwaiz Farooq said that environmental concerns would be one of the issues he would be taking up with the government of Pakistan-administered Kashmir to overcome the crisis.
All the major rivers of Jammu and Kashmir - Indus, Chenab, Jhelum and Tawi - wind their way to Pakistan or Pakistan-administered Kashmir.
"If there is no water in these rivers, it is a matter of greater concern for them too," the separatist leader said.