10 October 2006
By Gyan Varma,
New Delhi, Oct 10 (IANS) As a new law banning employment of children as household helps or in restaurants goes into effect Tuesday, a government-sponsored undercover probe has found that there are over 25,000 child labourers in the capital.
The probe conducted by the Labour Commission of Delhi government has found that among the worst affected areas are east Delhi, south Delhi and southwest Delhi with most of the children employed either in small units or as servants.
"We conducted the survey in different zari units and other small-scale industries recently. We estimate that there are over 25,000 children working in these units. They have been brought from different states to work," said Piyush Sharma, Delhi's joint labour commissioner.
"One can see at a time over 50 children at work. They work for more than 14 hours a day for a pittance," Sharma told IANS.
The Delhi government is planning to conduct raids and surprise checks on these units.
"We have asked our personnel in the nine different zones of the capital to start carrying out surprise checks from Tuesday," said Mangat Ram Singhal, Delhi labour minister.
The survey also reveals that many children from Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal states were being brought to Delhi to work as child labourers and forced to live in inhuman conditions.
"We have signed an undertaking with the four state governments asking them to help rehabilitate these children and find their parents so that they can be sent back to their villages," said Singhal.
"The state governments have been asked to direct district administrations to help us find the family members of these children," said Singhal. He added that since most of the children were brought to Delhi at a tender age, they tended to forget the names of their village and state.
"We will introduce a provision by which all placement agencies supplying domestic help to people would have to register themselves before starting work," said Singhal.
"Over 700,000 people have been sent for employment through these agencies in the capital," he added. According to him, most of the placement agencies have no proper documents and some could be involved in making children work.
"Once they are registered it will be easier to keep tabs on them."
The government has made it illegal for children below 14 years to be employed in commercial work.
"It will not be an easy task, as many parents send their children for work due to financial constraints and they need the money to make ends meet," the minister said.
"We have also asked non government organisations to help us in the initiative by getting us counsellors who would make the children and their parents understand the problem."
The NGOs would also provide shelter to such children till the time they are not sent back to their homes.
An earlier child labour ban, under the Child Labour Prohibition and Regulation Act, 1986, made it illegal to employ children in hazardous jobs such as in fireworks units and glass factories.
A new law, that came into effect Tuesday, bans children from being employed in hotels, households, teashops and eateries.
A UNICEF report World's Children 2006 states that in India, which has the largest number of working children, 17 percent are under the age of 15 and girls aged 12-15 are the preferred choice of 90 percent households.
New Delhi, Oct 10 (IANS) The all-party meeting called by Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee Friday to discuss the delimitation of constituencies all over the country is expected to clearly indicate whether the long-pending process will take place or not.
The meeting assumes significance given the many apprehensions by parties that the process would be blocked by politicians affected by the reconfiguration of assembly and parliamentary constituencies.
The Delimitation Commission headed by Justice Kuldeep Singh has reportedly recommended reconfiguration of a large number of Lok Sabha and assembly constituencies. This has led to fears among certain MPs that they would lose their existing constituencies.
The commission was asked to redraw the boundaries of constituencies to make them more equitable in terms of population without increasing the number of seats in elected legislatures.
The government wants to understand the concerns of political parties, particularly on a possible reduction in rural seats and an increase in urban constituencies and reserved seats.
"The meeting will also discuss the women's reservation bill (to reserve 33 percent of seats for women) and its implications. The parties, which oppose the women's bill, may raise their concerns too," a Left MP said.
The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has not clarified its stance on delimitation and has said it was waiting for the government's views. However, many party MPs have already expressed their keenness to retain the status quo.
The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), a Congress ally in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), has also expressed its discomfort on changes in the status quo.
The long-pending delimitation process is considered to be essential as demographics have changed drastically since the constituencies were drawn up.
In India, delimitation commissions have been constituted four times - in 1952 under the Delimitation Commission Act, 1952, in 1963 under Delimitation Commission Act, 1962 and in 1973 under Delimitation Act, 1972. The Justice Kuldeep Singh Commission was set up in 2002.
Lucknow, Oct 10 (IANS) Five people were killed and four injured when a powerful blast ripped apart a small cracker manufacturing unit on the outskirts of Kanpur city in Uttar Pradesh Monday evening.
Police said the blast also damaged three neighbouring houses in the crowded Biwipur residential locality, about 85 km from here.
Bodies of two men and a woman were recovered from the blast site while another woman and a child's bodies were recovered from the debris of a neighbouring house later.
The cracker unit, where the blast occurred around 5.15 p.m., is adjacent to the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) factory that manufactures aircraft components for the Indian Air Force (IAF).
The IAF aviation-testing zone is also at a stone's throw from the scene of the blast.
"Cracker manufacturers have been thriving in this locality that is being run from IAF encroached land with no efforts by the authorities to check this menace," HAL security officer Major S.K. Rai said.
London, Oct 10 (IANS) Under a new pilot scheme announced by the British home secretary, foreign prisoners serving terms in various British jails are to be paid up to 2,500 pounds, if they agree to serve part of their sentence in their homeland.
This is part of Home Secretary John Reid's emergency measures to tackle the rising prison population, according to reports.
Criminals from countries outside the European Economic Area (EEA) - which comprises the 25 EU nations plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein will not be given the cash but will be eligible for an amount between 500 pounds and 2,500 pounds of British taxpayers' support with education, accommodation, medical care, training or help in starting a business, according to The Times newspaper.
A Home office spokesman said the incentives were a "practical and cost effective solution", designed to "free up places in British prisons and reduce the costs of managing these individuals who have no right to stay here".
"It costs 37,000 pounds a year to keep someone in prison. It's a lot cheaper than keeping them in prison," the spokesman further added.
There are nearly 11,000 foreign prisoners in Britain's jails, double the number five years ago, according to the Daily Telegraph.
Reid denied the emergency measures were an admission of a grave planning failure in the prison service - despite repeated warnings from officials of a looming jail capacity crisis.
The opposition parties were quick to criticise the 'incentive-to-leave-Britain' plan.
"By definition, these are not people you can trust to be honest," he said. "Do we have the border controls to make this work? The answer is no. How will we stop these people ripping off the taxpayer and coming back?" Tory Shadow Home Secretary David Davis told the Daily Telegraph.
The Liberal Democrats accused Reid of offering a 'bribe' to foreign prisoners.
Others slammed the government, saying there would be nothing to stop foreign prisoners from collecting their grants and later returning to Britain.
Beijing, Oct 10 (Xinhua) China plans to boost its software exports to $10 billion by 2010 as part of its bid to evolve from a manufacturing powerhouse to a major player in the innovation and service sector.
To achieve such as a goal, China's software exports will have to grow by 25 percent per year, according to a document jointly issued by the Ministry of Commerce, the State Administration of Taxation (SAT) and seven other central authorities.
The document, posted on SAT's website, says the government's goal is to foster a group of globally competitive software firms with their own brands and intellectual property rights.
Software firms will receive preferential treatment in regard to taxation, borrowing and foreign exchange controls, among other areas.
In the face of increasing friction with major trading partners over goods, China has drafted an ambitious plan to increase trade in services from $160 billion in 2005 to $400 billion in 2010.
The development of the software industry is a key part of the strategy, the document says.
According to figures from the ministry of commerce, China exported $3.6 billion worth of software and related services in 2005, a rise of 28 percent year on year.
Beijing, Oct 10 (Xinhua) Chinese scientists have invented a cooking robot that is capable of cooking thousands of local dishes. The robot can fry, bake, boil and steam, and perform other function necessary for cooking Chinese food.
The robot - called AIC-AICookingrobot - developed by Fanxing Science and Technology Co. Ltd in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, is capable of cooking thousands of Chinese dishes including Sichuan, Shandong and Canton cuisines, according to a report in the Shenzhen Economic Daily.
The company spent four years and more than 2 million yuan (about $250,000) to develop the robot, said Liu Xinyu, executive director of the company.
Scientists translated standardised human cooking actions into machine language. At a show held by the company on Sunday, the robot cooked shrimp dish in five minutes, said the newspaper.
The robot will help standardise Chinese fast food, said Cai Hegao, a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering.
The robot will go on sale in 2007, and will enter Chinese homes sometime in the future, Liu Xinyu added.
By Sudeshna Sarkar,
Kathmandu, Oct 10 (IANS) At least 10 Tibetan children have been arrested by Chinese troops near the Tibet-Nepal border following a shooting that killed a Tibetan nun, a report said.
Steve Lawes, a British police officer who was attempting to summit Mount Cho Oyu near Nepal's border with Tibet, was the first eyewitness to confirm that Chinese border patrols opened fire on a group of Tibetans trying to cross into Nepal and took under their control several others.
According to Lawes and other climbers, who reached Nepal after the expedition last month and began telling the world about the shocking assault they witnessed on Sep 30, at least 10 children were caught from a group of about 70 people, their ages ranging between six and 10.
"The children were in single file, about six feet away from me," Lawes said. "They didn't see us - they weren't looking around the way kids normally would, they were too frightened. By that time, advance base camp was crawling with soldiers. They had pretty much taken over, and the atmosphere was very intimidating. We were doing our best not to do anything that might spark off more violence."
The British police officer gave more details about the shooting near the glacial Nangpa Pass, at a height of about 19,000 feet.
"Those of us at the advance base camp heard two shots, which may have been warning shots. The group started to cross the glacier and there were more shots. This time it definitely wasn't warning shots: the soldiers were putting their rifles to their shoulders, taking aim, and firing towards the group. "One person fell, got up, but then fell again. We had a telescope with us but the soldiers took this. Later they used it to look at the body."
After the shooting stopped, two soldiers went to check the body. Then it lay on the pass for more than a day after which it was taken away by security personnel.
According to another report by Philippine climber Ted Esguerra, he saw seven people being killed, including at least one child. Esguerra gave his version of the event to the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
Even as 43 people from the group successfully crossed into Nepal, the fate of the rest was unknown with both China and Nepal maintaining a stony silence.
The International Campaign for Tibet, an international organization espousing the cause of a free Tibet and respect for the Tibetans' human rights, has clarified that 10 children were taken into custody by the Chinese authorities.
On Wednesday, Tibetan Youth UK said they would organise a vigil before the Chinese embassy in London. They are also petitioning Matti Vanhanen, President of the European Union (EU), calling on the EU to press for the immediate release of Tibetans detained during the incident.
Tibet activists are also petitioning British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett to issue a formal protest in this regard.
London, Oct 10 (IANS) The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) signed a pact with the Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine here Tuesday as a step towards strengthening India-Britain relations in high technology areas.
CII president R. Seshasayee said in a statement that the memorandum of understanding (MoU) would further deepen cooperation in science and technology.
"The MoU acknowledges the great importance that the governments of India and United Kingdom attach to the development of close collaboration between India and the UK in the field of science and technology, responds to the pressing need for new technology to meet the challenges of climate change, environmental damage and massive improvement in global healthcare provision," Seshasayee said.
The MoU will promote joint cost-effective research in several fields between India and Britain, CII said.
CII has been working on technology-related aspects of serving industry over a decade now. A team of specialised professionals work on various aspects of technology.
The Imperial College is one of the world's top universities for science, technology and medicine, currently rated fifth in the world for engineering and sixth for biomedicine. It is the leading university for collaboration with industry, generating 30 million pounds per year of industry-funded research revenue.
Under the MoU, India will explore possibilities of cooperation and collaboration in the fields of drug and pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, healthcare, aerospace, information and technology, energy, environment, water and nanotechnology.
New Delhi, Oct 10 (IANS) The Supreme Court Monday issued notice to the central government on a petition challenging the validity of a constitution amendment enabling the states to enact laws to provide for reservation in private educational institutions.
A bench of judges Arijit Pasayat and Lokeshwar Singh Panta issued notice on the petition filed by Voice (Consumer Care) Council challenging the 93rd amendment.
It also issued notice to the Tamil Nadu government challenging the Tamil Nadu Backward Classes, Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Reservation of Seats in Educational Institutions) Act, 2006 providing for 69 percent reservation, enacted pursuant to the amendment.
The petitioner submitted that constitution amendment enabled the states to provide for reservation in private educational institutions by introducing Clause (5) to Article 15 of the constitution.
Subsequently the Tamil Nadu government enacted a new law, which was contrary to the Mandal judgment.
The petitioner contended that the fundamental rights prohibiting discrimination on admission of students in the educational institutions being a basic structure of the constitution, the state should not pass even a constitutional amendment violating the basic structure of the constitution.
The petitioner sought a declaration that the 93rd amendment and the consequent law enacted by Tamil Nadu were unconstitutional. It sought stay of the operation of the Tamil Nadu law.
New Delhi, Oct 10 (IANS) Kanshi Ram, who single-handedly gave millions of India's underprivileged Dalits a voice and a political identity, died here early Monday. He was 72.
Kanshi Ram's body was cremated at the Nigambodh Ghat at around 3.30 p.m. amid a dispute between his family and his protÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â©gÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â© and long-time companion Mayawati.
His mortal remains were kept for public viewing first at BSP chief Mayawati's New Delhi residence, and later at the party office at 12, Gurudwara Rakabganj Road before being taken for cremation.
The BSP founder, whose life was never free of controversies, found himself in the middle of one even after his death.
As Mayawati announced in the morning that he would be cremated at the Nigambodh Ghat here, his immediate family demanded that they be allowed to perform his last rites.
The dispute between Mayawati and Kanshi Ram's family advanced the funeral by half an hour. Although his body was to be kept at the party office for three hours, Mayawati, who virtually took over the scene, asked her party workers to carry the body to the cremation ground barely after 20 minutes of arriving there.
Kanshi Ram's family said they suspected foul play in Kanshi Ram's death and would file a case against Mayawati. They sought a probe into the circumstances leading to Kanshi Ram's death and objected to the last rites being performed according to Buddhist traditions. The BSP founder had converted to Buddhism.
However, Mayawati had the last word.
"According to Kanshi Ramji's wishes, his mortal remains will not be immersed in any river but will be kept at the party offices in Lucknow and Delhi," Mayawati, the former Uttar Pradesh chief minister, told reporters here.
Although Kanshi Ram's siblings - Harbans Singh and Swarn Kaur - approached the Delhi High Court seeking an autopsy into the cause of his death, the court refused to give such an order. The court, however, granted police protection to them to attend the cremation.
Kanshi Ram's family was always irked by the friendship between Kanshi Ram and Mayawati. The relationship between the family members and Mayawati worsened in the last two years when Kanshi Ram fell sick and was virtually shut out from the world and his family by Mayawati.
While he convalesced at Mayawati's residence, his family alleged that she was holding him captive in order to control the BSP and its massive funds.
At the funeral too, Mayawati did not give a chance to anyone to steal the show. As the body was about to be taken away from the party office, she addressed the crowd and promised them that the BSP would fulfil all his dreams.
As the body, draped in a Buddhist flag and in a glass casket, was carried in a heavily decorated truck surrounded by Buddhist monks, his followers chanted the slogan, "Long live Kanshi Ram."
Earlier, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and a battery of political leaders paid tributes to the late BSP founder.
Manmohan Singh, who arrived at Mayawati's residence to pay tributes to the late leader before leaving for London, said Kanshi Ram was "one of the greatest social reformers".
"His political ideas and movements had a significant impact on our political evolution. He had a larger understanding of social change and was able to unite various underprivileged sections of our society and provide a political platform where their voices would be heard," Manmohan Singh said.
President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam said Kanshi Ram played an important role in post-independence India for the rights of the underprivileged and spoke up for them and for their self-respect and honour.
"In his passing away the nation has lost a public leader who always had the interests of the downtrodden close to his heart," he said in his condolence message.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi arrived with her MP son Rahul Gandhi to pay floral tributes to the late leader.
Kanshi Ram's BSP, which has 15 MPs in the Lok Sabha, extends outside support to the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.
Among those who paid their last respects to Kanshi Ram were Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, central ministers Sharad Pawar, Lalu Prasad and Ram Vilas Paswan, Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha L.K. Advani, Kanshi Ram's arch-rival and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav and Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit.
Kanshi Ram, the bachelor politician, who had been suffering from numerous illnesses, including diabetes and hypertension, was last seen in public in March this year on his 72nd birthday, confined to a wheelchair and unable to speak.
New Delhi, Oct 10 (IANS) Pakistan vice-captain Mohammed Yousuf Monday said his performance level has gone up after he embraced Islam last year.
"I have benefited a lot after I converted to Islam. I have more peace in my mind now and that has helped me to improve my performance," Yousuf, here for the Champions Trophy, told reporters at an open media session here.
Until he embraced Islam in 2005, Yousuf Youhana was a Christian and was one of the rare non-Muslims to play for Pakistan.
Asked whether uncertainty over captaincy has affected him, he said: "What has happened in the past is over. We have come here to play cricket and I don't think it will affect the team's performance."
Yousuf was made the captain after Younis Khan announced he wouldn't lead the side for the Champions Trophy over an undisclosed issue.
But after Naseem Ahsraf took over from Shahrayar Khan as the new Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman, Younis was reinstated as captain and Yousuf his deputy.
About leading the Pakistan team in the future, Yousuf said: "I have never thought about it but if God wants I will obviously lead the side one day or the other."
According to the 32-year-old, Inzamam-ul Haq is the best captain he has ever played under and wants to take the responsibility to guide the team in his absence.
"I have played under lot of captains but Inzy bhai is special. When he took over as captain of the team it had very young players. But he developed the inexperienced team into a bunch of match winners," Yousuf said.
Inzamam was banned by the International Cricket Council for four one-day internationals for bringing the game into disrepute.
"I am well aware of my role in his absence and hopefully I will be able to give 100 percent for the team," said Yousuf.
He felt the Champions Trophy is an open race and the team that plays well on a given day can win the tournament.
"Pakistan has to perform better and consistently if they want to lift the trophy," he said.
Washington, Oct 10 (Xinhua) Of the 50 US states, 27 have laws making English their official language, and more are considering the idea.
A ballot measure is pending in Arizona; related bills have passed houses of representatives in Pennsylvania, Delaware and Michigan; and governor candidates in Kansas, Iowa, Oklahoma, Arizona and Idaho have debated the idea, the USA Today reported Monday.
At least five cities and towns have approved ordinances making English the official language, and eight are considering them. The US Senate has included a provision in a pending immigration bill.
Rising concern over immigration has prompted a wave of cities and states this year to try and make English their official language, the report said.
"This is the most action we've seen in about 10 years," said Rob Toonkel of US English, a group promoting English as the official language.
Proposals generally say that government business must be conducted in English, with exceptions for emergency services. But such proposals had been rejected in Kennewick, Washington; Arcadia, Wisconsin; Avon Park, Florida; and Clarksville, Tennessee, and some measures had been challenged in court too, the report said.
According to the Census Bureau, eight in 10 US residents speak only English.
New Delhi, Oct 10 (IANS) As Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Monday left for Britain and Finland to attend the 7th summit between India and the European Union, the EU said while it supported India's quest for nuclear energy, non-proliferation issues still needed to be resolved.
"The issue of nuclear cooperation will come up for discussion at the India-EU summit. We are exploring the issue from various angles," Finnish ambassador to India Asko Numminen told reporters here Monday.
"We fully understand India's need for energy security and its need to diversify its energy mix. On the other hand, there are non-proliferation issues that need consideration," said Numminen, whose country currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU.
"The EU has no common formal position on it yet," he underlined.
Describing North Korea's nuclear tests of Monday as a "serious development", the envoy, quoting from an EU statement last year when Pyongyang as toying with the idea of testing nuclear device, said it was "irresponsible".
"It increases tension and undermines regional stability. The way ahead is dialogue and not threat and confrontation," he said, quoting from the EU statement of last year.
The India-EU summit will consolidate the strategic partnership between the two sides and review the joint action plan agreed at the summit last year here, Francisco da Camara Gomes, head of the European delegation in India, told reporters.
"The focus will be on enhancing business and investment between the two sides. A roundtable of leading CEOs representing business interests of India and Europe will be held on the sidelines of the summit," Numminen said.
Describing India as a "key player in an evolving Asian architecture", Numminen underlined an enhanced area of cooperation between India and the EU on a wide range of regional and global issues, including international terrorism, climate change, multilateral trade negotiations and the UN-related issues like peace building and human rights.
"Leaders of India and the EU will review the strategic partnership that was launched two years ago and give a new political dimension and impetus to strategic ties," Numminen stressed.
Raipur, Oct 10 (IANS) Nine people, including three women and three kids, were killed and 27 were taken ill after a group of tribals consumed rotten fish at a government-run relief camp in Chhattisgarh's Dantewada district, an official said Tuesday.
Medical teams were sent late Monday to the relief camp in Injeram village in the Maoist insurgency-hit district, 560 km south of Raipur.
"A group of 50 tribals brought rotten fish from a local pond and ate it on Saturday. While seven people died late Sunday, two more died on Monday," Dantewada District Collector K.R. Pisda told IANS.
"At least 27 tribals, including 17 women and three children, were seriously ill and were continuously vomiting. Five medical teams have been treating them and they have shown some improvement," Pisda added.
Home department officials said the food poisoning had created panic in the camp and hundreds of people had started returning to their forested villages since early Tuesday. There were reported rumours of an epidemic having spread in the camp.
About 4,000 tribals have settled at the Injeram camp for the past one year as they face threats from Maoist rebels after the tribals launched a civil militia movement in June 2005. The movement now receives military and monetary backing from the state government.
At least 50,000 indigenous tribals have settled at over a dozen government-run relief camps in Dantewada.
San Francisco, Oct 10 (DPA) Internet giant Google Inc announced that it had reached a deal to buy web video newcomer YouTube Inc for $1.65 billion - the biggest purchase in its history.
The transaction Monday marks another spectacular Silicon Valley success story. YouTube was founded in a Silicon Valley garage in February 2005 and has leapt to a commanding position in the Internet video market, with technology that allows anyone with a web connection to post, share and view videos online.
Sequoia Capital, a venture capital firm, which also made early stage investments in Google and Yahoo, stands to reap a windfall from the deal. Over the last year the firm invested $11.5 million for an undisclosed stake in YouTube.
Google said that YouTube, with 65 employees, would continue to operate independently, but that the companies would "focus on providing a better, more comprehensive experience for users (and) new opportunities for professional content owners to distribute their work to reach a vast new audience".
The deal had been widely expected after rumours of advanced negotiations began circulating late last week.
YouTube currently boasts 34 million US visits a month, shows 100 million videos per day and uploads 65,000 new clips every day.
The acquisition means that Google will likely become the second most visited site on the Internet with 101 million unique visitors, behind Yahoo Inc's 106.7 million visitors but ahead of Microsoft's MSN Internet division's 98.5 million, according to Nielsen Net Ratings.
"The YouTube team has built an exciting and powerful media platform that complements Google's mission to organise the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful," Eric Schmidt, Chief Executive Officer of Google said in comments echoed by YouTube's head.
The announcement of a deal followed independent statements from both companies earlier Monday that they had signed separate agreements with Universal Music Group, Sony BMG, Warners Music and US television network CBS, to showcase music videos and other short form content on their sites in exchange for a share of advertising revenue.
Analysts said the deal between the two Internet darlings could allow Google to dominate the burgeoning arena for online video, which many analysts believe will within a few years compete with traditional television as a viewing media. It also gives Google a massive trove of new ad-generating content, and allows it to offer a greater range of products to advertisers.
"A lot of people are shocked by the $1.65-billion price, but if you really understand what all of us are working on, we are creating a new medium called Internet television and that medium will be as compelling and as valuable as the medium of the of web itself," Dmitry Shapiro, founder of Veoh Networks, a YouTube competitor, told the San Jose Mercury News.
New Delhi, Oct 10 (IANS) The Indian government is attempting to build consensus on appointing a chief of defence staff (CDS) for the armed forces, Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee said here Monday.
"We have written to the political parties on the issue. Some have responded, some have yet to," he told reporters on the sidelines of a function here to commission a new online inventory control system for the Indian Air Force (IAF).
Mukherjee, however, evaded a question on the trend of the replies he had received - whether or not the idea had found favour.
The issue has been hanging fire for the last five years ever since a committee that probed the Kargil conflict of 1999 suggested sweeping changes in the defence establishment. This included the creation of a CDS to ensure the three services operated on a common net.
The government then established a group of ministers to consider the report and this too accepted the CDS recommendation.
Since then, however, the issue has remained in semi-limbo, with the government appointing a chief of integrated defence staff, who, in spite of being only a three-star general, reports directly to the defence minister, causing considerable heartburn among his superiors.
London/New Delhi, Oct 10 (IANS) Well known hotelier and MP Lalit Suri died of a massive heart attack in London early Tuesday, a day ahead of his 23rd wedding anniversary. He was 59.
His wife Jyotsna was by his side when he breathed his last at the University College London Hospital, a spokesperson of the Grand Group confirmed.
The couple had gone abroad for a weeklong break and were preparing to go to Paris Wednesday to celebrate their anniversary, business sources in London said.
The industrialist had attended a reception hosted Monday night for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and was a member of the delegation of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) here when he was taken ill and rushed to hospital.
Suri, who was to celebrate his 60th birthday next month, is survived by three daughters - Divya, Shrata, Diksha - and son Keshav, who has just completed his graduation in London.
His body will be flown to New Delhi on Wednesday for the last rites, family sources said.
Suri was chairman and managing director of Bharat Hotels, of which The Grand group of hotels that is a major player in India's tourism and hotel sector is a subsidiary.
Expressing shock at Suri's sudden death, the spokesperson described him as a health conscious person who used to go for regular walks and was diet conscious -- not only for himself but also his employees.
Born in Rawalpindi in undivided India, Suri was elected to the Rajya Sabha as an independent MP from Uttar Pradesh in Nov 2002 with the backing of the then ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA). He enjoyed a long relationship with the Gandhi family and was member of a number of parliamentary committees.
Known for his entrepreneur skills, he established a network of eight luxury hotels across the country -- in Delhi, Bangalore, Khajuraho, Kolkata, Goa, Mumbai, Udaipur and even in Srinagar when few dared to risk investment in Kashmir.
He also owned Delhi Midday, an afternoon newspaper published from the capital.
Known as the "uncrowned hotel king of India", Suri is acknowledged to have represented the concerns of not just the hoteliers but of the tourism industry in seeking concessions on entertainment and service taxes.
"We admired him as a hotel and hospitality entrepreneur who went on to become a great business leader. Suri had many a times raised concerns of the tourism industry in parliament. He was very vocal about issues impacting growth of Indian tourism," said Subhash Goyal, president of the Indian Association of Tour Operators.
"For me, his death is a personal loss as he has been a great supporter and friend right from our college days in Shri Ram College of Commerce," said Goyal.
New Delhi, Oct 10 (IANS) A day after it entered its 75th year, the Indian Air Force (IAF) Monday acquired an online inventory control and logistics managements system that will link all its 130 bases across the country and greatly improve the serviceability of its fleet.
"I am proud to dedicate this project, which holds the potential of setting new benchmarks on how computerisation can redefine efficiencies for various defence applications," Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee said while dedicating the Integrated Materials Management Online Services (IMMOLS) system here.
The system would make the IAF "more equipped, agile and robust to effectively handle any contingencies, as well as benefiting from better cost management", Mukherjee noted.
IT major Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) has implemented the Rs.550 million project, which constitutes a paradigm shift from supply-based provisioning to demand-based provisioning.
"Now, visibility of all items and spares across all bases and demand as the basis for provisioning would become the scientific method for successively eliminating the two major drawbacks of the current manual system - poor forecasting of requirements and poor exploitation of non-moving inventory," said IAF chief Air Chief Marshal S.P Tyagi.
"The new system would aid in realising the IAF vision of a lean and dynamic logistics organisation by embedding the three core concepts of total assets visibility, transit asset visibility and auto information triggers."
Speaking on the occasion, TCS chief S. Ramadorai said IMMOLS "exemplifies the synergy between public and private partnership in a true sense and results from the IAF's vision to adopt newer technologies and to bring in greater administrative efficiencies".
Conceived 10 years ago, IMMOLS took concrete shape in 2003 when a pilot project was implemented in 22 IAF bases. After extensive testing of the application, which included software development, acceptance testing, training and analysis, the project has now been extended to all 130 IAF bases.
By Prasun Sonwalkar,
London, Oct 10 (IANS) The "most drastic new trend" in India-Britain business relations is the recent growth of Indian companies as investors in the UK, according to the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).
Figures compiled by the apex body of Indian business and industry complement those published last week by consultants Ernst & Young that show that India has become one of the largest investors in the UK.
In a background paper compiled for the Indo-UK Investment Summit Tuesday, FICCI noted that Indian companies were increasingly looking at Britain as a major investment destination.
The paper said: "Besides the market potential of UK, Indian companies want to make UK as a base for further expansion in EU. Indian companies are also increasingly investing abroad to gain access to important markets like EU and US.
"While liberal policies for overseas investment have facilitated this trend recently, there are other reasons also fuelling this trend. Some Indian companies have consolidated their positions in domestic market and now want to venture abroad for new challenges and opportunities.
"These investments are spread over a number of sectors like IT, pharmaceuticals and healthcare, banking, textiles, engineering, automotive, oil and gas, education etc".
According to the paper, gross outward investment from India into the UK by Indian companies or their subsidiaries had risen from an average of $14 million per annum before 1995 to $1.3 billion in 2004.
It noted that the year 2004 was the first year when gross investment in the UK by Indian companies exceeded the UK's outward investment in India. In 2004, India was the second most important source of investment into London - USA being the first.
"Indian direct investment in JVs and wholly owned subsidiaries in UK is to the tune of $802 million for the period April 1996 to February 2006, which is the 6th highest Indian investment abroad.
"In 2004-05, Indian investment in UK rose by 30 per cent as Indian companies invested in 36 new projects in the year compared to 28 in 2003-04. Investments from India in the UK have been rising for the last few years up from 21 projects in 2000-01".
Some major investments by Indian companies in the UK are:
* Reliance Infocomm's acquisition of Flag Telecom ($207 million)
* Wockhardt's acquisition of CP Pharmaceuticals (10.85 million pounds)
* Nicholas Piramal's acquisition of Rhodia Organique Fine Ltd ($14 million)
* Satyam's acquisition of Citisoft's (39 million pounds)
* Nicholas Piramal's acquisition of UK's Avecia Pharmaceuticals (9.5 million pounds)
* Apeejay's acquisition of Premier Foods' tea business
* TCS's service capabilities with Pearl BPO Venture
* Bangalore-based auto component manufacturer, Suprajit Engineering's acquisition of the UK-based automotive cable manufacturer CTP Gills Cables
* Bangalore-based mid-sized IT Products Company, Subex Systems' acquisition of the UK-based telecom products company Azure Solutions for $140 million.
* Avestha Gengraine Technologies Pvt Ltd - first Indian biotech company in the UK.
* Ceramed Engineers Pvt. Ltd acquired Acton Finishing Ltd
* HCL Technologies BPO services acquired 90 percent stake in Apollo Contact Centre in Belfast.
New Delhi, Oct 10 (IANS) India and the 25-nation European Union have accelerated their cooperation in the battle against international terrorism and are preparing to hold the second round of security dialogue on the issue later this year.
The EU's coordinator on counter-terrorism Gijs de Vries, christened by the media as 'terror tsar' for his bold initiatives in countering the scourge, is currently in India on a two-visit to explore possibilities of further cooperation on issues of security and counter-terrorism.
The next round of security dialogue on the issue will be held towards the end of this year, reliable sources told IANS.
Vries met officials of the home ministry Monday and reiterated his condemnation of the July 11 Mumbai blasts that killed 187 people and injured hundreds.
It is not clear whether Indian official shared with Vries the evidence collected by the Mumbai police that links the train bombings in India's financial hub to Pakistan-based terrorists.
India has shared evidence of the Pakistani link to the Mumbai bombings with the US.
India plans to confront Pakistan with the evidence linking the Inter-Services Intelligence when the foreign secretaries of the two countries meet here next month.
Vries will meet senior officials of the external affairs ministry Tuesday and discuss an entire swathe of issues on countering international terrorism and ways to strike at financial networks supporting terrorists.
Vries is likely to seek India's help - the country is home to 140 million Muslims - in understanding the radicalisation of Islam that has stirred anxieties in Europe and Britain.
The EU backs a comprehensive global resolution on terrorism. "India and the EU have almost complete unanimity on what constitutes terrorism. We agree on the definition of terrorism. Killing of civilians, no matter what the cause, is terrorism," an EU official said.
"We don't believe in those who call their enemies terrorists. We want to fight real terrorism," he stressed, while alluding to the ongoing India-EU cooperation in finalising comprehensive convention on international terrorism.
Steps to enhance counter-terrorism measures are also high on the agenda of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh when he attends the 7th India-EU summit in Helsinki Friday. The issue will come up for discussion between Manmohan Singh and key figures of the EU, including President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso and high representative for the common foreign and security policy Javier Solana.
Vries, a Dutch politician, was named the EU's anti-terrorism coordinator in 2004 after the Madrid train bombings to boost co-operation between member states on countering the scourge.
Vries, who was deputy interior minister of The Netherlands between 1998 and 2002, was part of the convention that drafted the EU's proposed constitution and played a key role in setting up the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The March 2004 bombings in Madrid and the July 2005 bombings in London imparted new momentum to the EU's counter-terrorism drive. The EU has put in place a slew of systems to curb terrorism that includes the setting up of Europol counter-terrorism unit and the common European evidence warrant.
By Arun Kumar,
Washington, Oct 10 (IANS) The woman behind the success of India's leading non-profit organisation working to restore the rights of underprivileged Indian children says that it's possible to raise sufficient money indigenously for a cause.
"South does not have to be dependent on money from the North," Ingrid Srinath, CEO, Child Rights and You (CRY), said in a telephonic interview with IANS citing the success of her own organisation in raising money from India's middle classes.
A key tool for raising money for a cause is building local philanthropic brands, said Srinath who came out of the world of advertising to beat "just boredom" and nevertheless used her professional expertise to lend a cutting edge to social marketing.
"I have gone into nine countries raising money from people I have never met or engrossed in their own world affairs," she said suggesting how the CRY example could be emulated in other third world countries of Latin America, Africa and South East Asia.
Srinath would be sharing such ideas that help to address problems of poverty, inequity, environmental degradation and conflict as one of the four plenary discussion speakers at the 'Synergos University for a Night' event Oct 12 in New York.
She will be sharing the platform with E. Neville Isdell, chairman and CEO of the Coca Cola Company; Ted Turner, media baron and founder chairman of the United Nations Foundation; and the first woman head of state in Africa, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia.
Appointed CRY's director of resource mobilisation in 2000, Srinath completely re-engineered its fundraising operations resulting in several new revenue streams including online marketing, fundraising and advocacy.
With this, CRY has grown at a compounded annual growth rate of 35 percent and has one of the most robust resource mobilisation models in the sector.
Srinath was selected as a Synergos Senior Fellow in 2003. As part of her fellowship, she consults with foundations across the world, sharing CRY's experience in social marketing and fundraising.
As in most of the third world, social issues were handled by either government agencies or at best a government foundation, she speaks to these NGOs about developing indigenous philanthropy, opening new channels, and making grants more oriented towards social justice rather than just relief.
On its part, CRY America, of which Srinath is a founding board member, focuses attention on the other side of India that's getting forgotten in the midst of its booming IT and other sectors of economy - the plight of its 100 million deprived children.
It advises philanthropic organisations to strategise to put their money in addressing the root causes. For instance, one way to address the problem of illiteracy would be to build a school and provide non-formal education. The other way would be to find out what keeps a child out of school.
As many Indian Americans were not only financially successful, but also influential, CRY America is not only raising money for back home, but also mobilising people as citizens to use their influence in US and in India to influence government policies in India for children.
"Rather than put a band-aid, we would like the public system to work on the ground," said Srinath who currently spearheads CRY's expansion to the UK and the Middle East, both with large populations of people of Indian origin.
CRY America, under a brand licensing agreement with CRY, is essentially engaged in channelling money raised from persons of Indian origin (PIO) for philanthropy back home. Of its 17 current projects, 15 are in India and two in US.
But under US regulations, it is required to spend 10 percent of its net income in America. Last year it went into hurricane Katrina relief, but for strictly child programmes.
Like its India and UK counterparts, CRY America is changing its name from 'Child Relief and You' to 'Child Rights and You' from February 2007 to better reflect its current work. "Relief is what we did 20 years ago, not what we do today," says Srinath.
"Until we project the issue as 'right' not 'relief', all the private philanthropy money in the world put together is not going to make the change that is necessary in India for its 200 million children," she says.
A working health system and a working public education system is the only way to do it on a significant scale, says Srinath. The name change was aimed at building awareness that it was a child right not a favour.
Srinath who joined CRY in 1998, after 11 years in the advertising industry, describes the last eight years in her new profession as "completely unmitigated fun".
With the same amount of effort, she once made shareholders rich, now she has the joy of a making a difference in somebody's life. "This is far far more satisfying," she said.
By Amulya Ganguli
Kanshi Ram's contribution to the Dalit cause has more negative than positive features.
It is true that he breathed new life into the movement for the emancipation of the 'untouchables' of the Hindu caste system - as the Dalits had long been known. The movement had been languishing from the time of B.R.Ambedkar, the community's legendary leader, who is regarded as the architect of the Indian constitution for piloting it through the constituent assembly.
But after Ambedkar's death, the movement suffered the fate typical of all major social and political initiatives - a fatal division of the followers into various parties. Even in Ambedkar's time, the two parties that he set up - the Independent Labour Party and the Scheduled Castes Federation - did not fare too well.
Similarly, the Republican parties, which claimed to work for Dalit empowerment, split into several factions, including one associated with Ambedkar's son, Prakash. These outfits also remained confined to Maharashtra, Ambedkar's home state. The Dalit leader belonged to the Mahar community which, the Dalits claim, gave its name to Maharashtra.
Kanshi Ram's achievement was to launch an organization that, with an emphasis on aggressive rhetoric, succeeded in a large measure to unite the Dalits. Initially, he focussed on all the underprivileged communities by forming an All India Backward and Minorities Communities Employees Federation (BAMCEF). But, then, the Dalits became his major concern.
The Dalit Soshit Samaj Sangharsh Samity, popularly known as DS4, which Kanshi Ram set up in 1981, metamorphosed into the Bahujan Samaj Party, which today claims the allegiance of all Dalits notwithstanding the presence of the Republican parties and other splinter groups like Udit Raj's Justice Party.
The DS4's main claim to fame was the provocative slogan: tilak, tarazu aur talwar, inko maro joote char - which roughly translates into beating with shoes the Brahmins, who wear their tilak caste marks, the banias or businessmen symbolized by tarazu or a pair of weighing scales, and the oppressive landlords, the thakurs, denoted by talwar or sword.
For DS4 itself, Kanshi Ram's slogan was: Brahmin, thakur, bania chhor; baki sab hain DS4, meaning that except for the Brahmins, thakurs and banias, the rest belong to DS4, implying that the latter represent the majority.
Rarely before has such virtually abusive language been used in Indian politics to promote an ideology and a party. Success was immediate since the BSP soon eclipsed the other Dalit parties to become a force to reckon with.
If the BSP hasn't been affected in a major way by the familiar malady of splits (although there have been desertions from its ranks in Uttar Pradesh to the ruling Samajwadi Party), it has fallen prey to the other grave defect of Indian politics - corruption and autocratic, one-person rule.
And the politician bearing the brunt of all allegations in this regard is Kanshi Ram's anointed successor, Mayawati, who is regarded as whimsical and faces several court cases including one relating to amassing assets disproportionate to her known sources of income.
But corruption is not the only negative feature of the 'house' that Kanshi Ram built. Its foundation is not as secure either as it used to be thought. As the earlier invectives showed, the main weapon that he used to forge Dalit unity was abuse of the upper castes. But its political utility is now increasingly in doubt.
In the earlier stages, his tactic was understandable. After all, the 'untouchables' have suffered centuries of humiliating degradation at the hands of the upper castes. Little wonder that Mahatma Gandhi said that Ambedkar had 'every right to be bitter. That he does not break our heads is an act of self-restraint on his part'.
But the ill treatment of the Dalits was an aspect of life in British India. Although they continued to face discrimination after 1947, the fact remained that untouchability was formally abolished in independent India and leaders like Ambedkar and Jagjivan Ram held high official and political positions.
To continue to harp on past oppression, therefore, was no more than a convenient ploy to whip up sentiments and consolidate the BSP's hold on the community by claiming to be more aggressive in championing Dalit rights than the other parties which also claimed to stand for the community.
It was a tactic that not only showed a narrowness of vision but also could take the organization only up to a point and not beyond. The BSP's position, therefore, is similar to that of other sectarian parties like the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), with its appeal only to communal-minded Hindus, or the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) of Lalu Prasad, with its focus only on the Yadavs among the Other Backward Castes (OBCs).
Such a segmented approach to politics may help a party to grow initially by consolidating its support base, but then restricts further advancement by antagonizing other communities and thereby limiting its appeal.
The fact that the BSP has recognized this fact of political life in a democracy, where success depends on across-the-spectrum acceptability, is evident from its recent efforts to reach out to the other communities. Of late, it no longer chants its mantra about beating the upper castes with shoes.
But the change came after Kanshi Ram retired from politics because of ill health. It may or may not have had his approval, but the fact that such a key aspect of his political line had to be shelved shows that his approach wasn't flawless.
It is probably because of this intensely caste-based attitude that the only state where the BSP has flourished is Uttar Pradesh, which, like Bihar, is one of the most caste-conscious states in the country.
The other deficiency of Dalit politics is opportunism, which was exposed by the BSP's decision to align with the BJP to form a coalition government in Uttar Pradesh, although it never used to tire of accusing the BJP of being a Manuvadi organization for upholding the superiority of the upper castes in accordance with the tenets of the mythical Hindu savant Manu.
The allegation by Kanshi Ram's mother and other members of the family that they were prevented access to the ailing leader by Mayawati because she virtually kept him imprisoned in her house till he was moved to a hospital underlined another unsavoury aspect of Dalit politics.
It is obvious, therefore, that after Ambedkar, the Dalits haven't produced a leader of stature. Kanshi Ram ranks nowhere near that exalted position.
(Amulya Ganguli is a political analyst. He can be reached at email@example.com)
Thiruvananthapuram, Oct 10 (IANS) Facing criticism for spending huge amounts to renovate government bungalows, Kerala Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan and Food and Civil Supplies Minister C. Divakaran Monday decided to pack their bags and move to other places.
Balakrishnan, whose official residence was renovated at a staggering cost of Rs.1.7 million, said he is moving to a "party flat".
Divakaran's bungalow was renovated at a cost of Rs.1.1 million.
The media picked up the issue after it was raised on the floor of the assembly last month.
"The media report that a sum of more than a million rupees was spent to renovate the bungalow has not gone down well with my party rank and file and hence I feel it is proper on my part to return to my own home in the city itself," Divakaran told reporters here.
"I have nothing to do with the renovation because it was done by the general administration department and I never gave any suggestion. I have already asked the concerned department to conduct an inquiry into the matter because I have not caused any loss to the exchequer."
It was also found that half a million rupees were spent on refurbishing Leader of Opposition Oommen Chandy's official residence. Chandy too has sought an inquiry into the issue.
By Ashish Mehta,
New Delhi, Oct 10 (IANS) It is the story of a force out to destroy "the last bastion of the Prince of Darkness himself". Only that the bastion is not Kabul but Delhi, and the force not of the US but of East India Company.
Scotland born William Dalrymple's latest "The Last Mughal: The Fall of a Dynasty, Delhi, 1857", coming out later this month, is about the last Mughal king Bahadur Shah II, known by his pen name Zafar, and the "direct descendant of Genghis Khan and Tamburlane, of Akbar, Jehangir and Shah Jehan".
But it has lessons for the world torn by and between jehadi terrorists and neocons.
"As we have seen in our own time, nothing threatens the liberal and moderate aspect of Islam so much as aggressive Western intrusion and interference in the East, just as nothing so dramatically radicalises the ordinary Muslim and feeds the power of the extremists..." Dalrymple writes in the book.
"The histories of Islamic fundamentalism and Western imperialism have ... often been closely, and dangerously, intertwined."
The author observes that if greased cartridges were the proximate cause of the "Indian Mutiny" or first freedom movement of 1857 - whose 150th anniversary is being celebrated in India this year - then crass insensitivity towards India's religions provided a more fundamental one.
Religious insensitivity in the book is exemplified by Rev Midgeley Jennings, the Christian chaplain of Delhi in 1857, who considered the old Mughal capital "the last bastion of the Prince of Darkness himself".
Jennings asserted that the Christian faith was "a pearl of great price" that could provide a just return to the Indian people for the Koh-i-noor diamond.
Another example would be William Hodson, who raised a regiment of irregular cavalry known as Hodson's Horse. After shooting to death three of Zafar's 13 sons, he was to note: "I cannot help being pleased by the warm congratulations I received on all sides for my success in destroying the enemies of our race."
Dalrymple, 51, who has written "In Xanadu" and "City of Djins" and spends his time between New Delhi and London, is also a leading voice against the rising Islamophobia in the West.
"The Last Mughal" charts the desecration and demise of a man, his dynasty, his city and civilisation mercilessly ravished by fractured forces and vengeful British troops, according to a press statement.
The book, coming in the wake of Dalrymple's bestseller "White Mughals", has won acclaim before its release.
The author's website quotes Nobel laureate Amartya Sen as saying that "Dalrymple's captivating book is not only great reading, it contributes very substantially to our understanding of the remarkable history of the Mughal empire in its dying days...
"It is rare indeed that a work of such consummate scholarship and insight could also be so accessible and such fun to read."
The Sunday Times of London noted: "This is an angry book as well as a very good one."
By M.R. Narayan Swamy,
London, Oct 10 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Monday hailed "the openness of British society" while lavishing praise on the Indian community in the United Kingdom.
"When applauding the remarkable success of our countrymen in this land, I would also like to pay tribute to the openness of British society, which has created an enabling climate for our people to flourish," the prime minister told a 450-strong gathering of the Indian community at Kensington Palace Gardens.
Swaraj Paul, one of Britain's most prominent industrialists of Indian origin, writer Vikram Seth, artist M.F. Hussain and several businessmen from New Delhi and Mumbai were among those who heard the prime minister, repeatedly greeting his remarks with applause.
Manmohan Singh, who arrived here Monday on a three-day visit after which he will proceed to Finland, referred to Britain as "a free society which cherishes individual worth, and which has extended political, economic and social freedoms to successive waves of immigrants".
In his opening remarks, he said: "I am delighted to be here with members of the Indian community in the UK, which is among the most well-established communities of the worldwide Indian diaspora.
"The Indian community, of whichever faith, in the UK is truly exceptional in terms of educational attainment, economic profile, social integration and cultural vibrancy. They are an enormous asset to their country of adoption and a matter of pride to us.
"The integration achieved by the community of Indian origin is a shining example of successful adaptation and contribution of any community in the UK. There is no room for the clash of civilizations in India and the Indian community is a vibrant example of that, with Indians of all faiths doing very well."
Britain is home to some 1.5 million people. Over 16,000 Indian students study in the country and there is a strong demand for Indian IT professionals and management executives. There are also six MPs of Indian origin in the House of Commons.
London, Oct 10 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in remarks published here Tuesday that he was looking for "more vigorous, more dynamic, more aggressive interest in investing in India".
In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, the visiting prime minister said India's need for investments were enormous.
"We are growing at the rate of about eight percent per annum. Our ambition is to ensure that our economy grows at the rate of about 10 percent per annum, and that means that we will need to invest about 32-34 percent of our GDP.
"We are currently investing about 30 percent. So we need to increate the investment rate by about two percent of our GDP," he said.
Manmohan Singh told the newspaper that in infrastructure alone it was estimated that India needed an investment of about $150 billion in the next seven to eight years.
"Therefore, there is enormous scope for cooperation between the investment communities of United Kingdom and our economy," he said.
"Today, all sectors of our economy are open for foreign investment and with Britain we have had an historic relationship. English is the common language. We have the same legal system. There is an enormous opportunity which has not been tapped so far."
Manmohan Singh highlighted some of India's priorities.
"Our effort is to ensure that India has a world-class infrastructure. That includes ports, airports, roads, transport services; that includes a lot of more investment in the power sector and other related energy systems. These are our highest priorities.
"We also want our financial services system to be liberalised and expanded. All these are areas in which I believe that the United Kingdom has distinct capabilities which can be harnessed to our mutual advantage."
Manmohan Singh, who arrived here Monday on a three-day visit, is to take part in an India-United Kingdom Investment Summit here Tuesday.
By M.R. Narayan Swamy,
London, Oct 10 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh begins Tuesday the first full day of his two-nation tour with talks with his British counterpart Tony Blair expected to cover a wide range of issues from terrorism in India to Pakistan's complicity in North Korea's nuclear programme.
Manmohan Singh's packed engagements here also have a strong business content, as he will address select British business leaders at the Cabinet Room of 10 Downing Street and then take part in the closing session of the India-UK Investment Summit.
Manmohan Singh, who as an unassuming finance minister way back in 1991 unleashed sweeping economic reforms that have today transformed the face of India, is expected to make a strong pitch for British investment in his country that is witnessing an eight percent economic growth.
The Daily Telegraph Tuesday quoted Manmohan Singh as telling the paper: "I hope that I will be able to induce British business to take a more vigorous, more dynamic, more aggressive interest in investing in India."
And Blair had said Monday separately that Britain was now the third largest foreign investor in India and "keen to invest more. So the two countries have a big agenda this week".
The India-UK Investment Summit has been jointly organised by Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry in India and the UK Trade and Investment under the Indo-British Partnership. It aims to strengthen symbolic business linkages and create synergy between the two countries. Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath will also take part in the summit.
Indian companies have been seeking wider access to Britain's healthcare products and services. India is also seeking major investments for rail, air and energy infrastructure projects over the next 10 years.
But before plunging into the business agenda, Manmohan Singh and Blair will have detailed discussions on bilateral and international issues, beginning with a 30-minute tete-a-tete at 10 Downing Street at 10.45 a.m. (IST 3.15 p.m.). The two leaders will then move into plenary talks involving their delegations as well.
One subject sure to figure prominently in the Manmohan-Blair discussion would be countering terrorism in India and the suspected involvement of Pakistani intelligence agencies and Pakistan-based Islamist groups. A strong Pakistani link has also been traced in terrorist attacks in Britain.
"Cooperation in the area of combating terrorism has become particularly significant," the Indian leader had said in his departure statement Monday.
Indian officials have said security agencies of the two countries are expected to up their cooperation in terrorism-related issues, particularly keeping in mind the Commonwealth Games New Delhi will host in 2010 and the Olympics London will host two years later.
Manmohan Singh and Blair will address a joint press conference before the British leader hosts a lunch for the Indian prime minister.
Gordon Brown, the British Chancellor of the Exchequer who is widely tipped to success Blair when the latter steps down, as well as Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett, who took over in a May 2006 cabinet reshuffle, will also call on Manmohan Singh separately Tuesday at Hotel Bentley Kempinski.
On Wednesday, Manmohan Singh will go to Cambridge University to receive an honorary doctoral degree from the Duke of Edinburgh before departing for Helsinki where he is to hold talks with Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen and attend the India-European Union business summit.
His speech at Cambridge will be keenly awaited by many, particularly because he had made some revisionist observations of British rule in India during a speech in Oxford in July 2005.
Manmohan Singh returns to India Saturday night.
Bangalore, Oct 10 (IANS) Union Minister Of State For Home Sriprakash Jaiswal, who rushed to Mangalore Monday to reviewed the situation in the violent-hit coastal district of Karnataka even as the authorities extended the curfew till Tuesday.
Barring a stray incident, no untoward incident was reported when curfew was relaxed for four hours during the day to enable people buy essential provisions and attend to their daily chores.
"Though the situation is under control and the riot-affected areas remained peaceful, we have extended the curfew till Tuesday morning in the port city and adjacent areas of Ullal, Kanaje and Bantwal as a pre-cautionary measure," a police official told IANS on phone.
Earlier, accompanied by state Home Minister M.P. Prakash and top police officials, Jaiswal visited the affected areas to take stock of the situation and review the security arrangements.
In one of the sensitive localities, angry families accosted Jaiswal with complaints against police and local officials saying they failed to prevent group clashes and restore normalcy.
"A high-level inquiry is needed to find out the elements behind the clashes between the two communities, leading to arson, looting and damage to life and property" Jaiswal told reporters.
"The clashes and violence have claimed two lives and injured about 80 people. The loss is estimated to be about Rs.9 million.
"Though normalcy is being restored, how could the clashes and violence be allowed for so many days? The district administration has been directed to provide relief to the affected people on top priority."
Jaiswal also advised the district authorities to hold peace committee meetings to resolve the differences and maintain harmony between the two communities.
"A detailed report will be submitted to the Centre soon on the clashes and violent incidents that rocked the coastal district. We are ready for a CBI probe provided the state government agrees for it," Jaiswal pointed out.
He, however, denied the central government receiving any report on the situation from Governor T.N. Chaturvedi.
Prakash said a report would be submitted to the governor, chief minister and his deputy on the situation.
Yangon, Oct 10 (DPA) Myanmar restarted its 14-year-old constitution-drafting process to pave the way for a general election and democracy at an unspecified time in the future.
"The timeframe is not important for us," said the ruling junta's Information Minister Brigadier General Kyaw Hsan Tuesday. "The important thing is to implement the system fairly."
Many still question the fairness of the government's National Convention process, initiated by the military in 1992 in the aftermath of the 1990 general election won by the National League for Democracy (NLD), the party headed by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
Democracy activists in Yangon oppose the National Convention on the grounds that the process is being conducted by non-elected members under the direction of the military, which has dominated Myanmar's political scene since 1962, when military strongman General Ne Win overthrew the elected government of former president U. Nu.
"We are opposed to any form of unilateralism," said Mya Aye, a leader of the "88 Generation Students" group that has launched a passive "signature campaign" to free Suu Kyi from house arrest, where she has languished for the past three and a half years.
The campaign has so far gathered 120,000 signatures, a rare show of dissent in this land where military rule is absolute.
It was partly international pressure and the severing of all forms of foreign aid that forced the military to hold a general election in 1990, after the military's brutal suppression of a pro-democracy movement that rocked the country in 1988.
The convention stalled in 1995 after the NLD representatives walked out, claiming the process was a "sham" designed to keep the military in power.
Amid mounting international pressure for some show of political reform, the military restarted the national convention process in 2004.
By Sudeshna Sarkar,
Kathmandu, Oct 10 (IANS) A public vigil began early Tuesday morning outside Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala's residence, where the multi-party government and the Maoist guerrillas resumed peace negotiations, in a bid to pressure both sides into reaching an agreement on key issues.
Human rights activists, lawyers, other professionals and members of civil society stood waving banners before the venue of the talks that began Sunday, demanding quick measures for durable peace and an election to enable the nation to choose between monarchy and a republic.
Koirala and top leaders of the seven-party alliance as well as Maoist chief Prachanda and three more senior rebel leaders, began negotiations that are revolving round the fate of King Gyanendra and the crown, the arms and armies of both sides, implementing an interim constitution and an interim government and holding a constituent assembly election that would decide the fate of the monarchy in the Himalayan state.
These issues have been dominating the talks begun in May and caused negotiations to deadlock for over three months.
While Prachanda has reportedly said the prime minister's Nepali Congress party and its championing the cause of monarchy is the main stumbling block to reaching an agreement, the other political parties are accusing the guerrillas of violating the code of conduct and continuing with extortion, abduction, killings and forcible recruitment.
A key contentious issue is the parties' insistence, backed by the international community, that the rebels lay down arms before they can join a caretaker government. The Maoists have said they would disarm only after the election is held.
Before the talks began Tuesday, Prachanda and his deputy Baburam Bhattarai met Koirala Monday evening for a brief meeting, which, according to the local media, was not positive.
However, ahead of the talks, Maoist leader Dev Gurung, who is also taking part in the talks, told private television channel Nepal1 that his party had agreed to the coalition's proposal that the king be retained in the interim government, although without powers.
The channel also said a human rights accord is expected to be signed by both sides at the end of Tuesday's negotiations.
Madhav Kumar Nepal, former deputy prime minister and chief of the second-largest party in parliament, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML), has said that both sides have agreed to hold the election by May 2007.
"The success or failure of the talks hinges on the Nepali Congress," said another UML leader Jhalanath Khanal, who is also taking part in the negotiations.
Koirala, who was the most outspoken critic of King Gyanendra when the monarch began controlling the government, is now being regarded as the one trying to save the demolition of the monarchy, advocating retaining a ceremonial monarch.
The delay in reaching an agreement on the key issues is also holding back the proposed merger of the Nepali Congress with its splinter, the Nepali Congress (Democratic) formed by deposed premier Sher Bahadur Deuba after he fell out with his mentor Koirala.
By M.R. Narayan Swamy,
London, Oct 10 (IANS) North Korea's nuclear test, in brazen defiance of world opinion, is likely to figure prominently in talks that Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will have with his British counterpart Tony Blair here.
The tests, in some ways, give India a chance to focus global attention on Pakistan's clandestine proliferation that has benefited Pyongyang.
The immediate Indian worry hovered over the reactions of China, Japan, South Korea and the US, four of six countries that had been engaged in talks with North Korea trying to cap its controversial nuclear programme.
There is concern in New Delhi that the North Korean action might force Japan to go nuclear. South Korea might also react aggressively, in conjunction with the US, the South's long-term ally.
Even as India discussed the North Korean reported tests with major international and Asian powers, it readied itself to remind the world of the dangers of nuclear proliferation Pakistan has indulged in until recently, benefiting primarily North Korea, Libya and Iran.
The first country India got in touch after the North Korean nuclear explosion (10.30 Korea time) was China, which minced no words in denouncing the action of its wayward ally. And even as Manmohan Singh's Air India One was taking off for London, Indian officials were discussing the dramatic development with Japan, whose relations with North Korea have been strained in recent months. Hurried discussions with other nations followed.
India views the North Korean act as a "major development" that is bound to impact on international stability. The understanding in New Delhi is that North Korea has clearly violated its international obligations, besides letting down the international community with which it was in talks.
But India's dominant concern is the role Pakistan and its disgraced nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan has played in transferring clandestinely nuclear secrets to North Korea, which has reportedly passed on missile technology to Islamabad. Pakistan's link is something India will be talking with all the countries.
"There is certainly a Pakistani link," an Indian source said. "The Pakistani link is what really bothers us."
Indian officials understand that New Delhi's civil nuclear pact with the US should in no way be affected by the latest developments although the North Korean tests could harden global thinking on nuclear issues.
Nuclear India, officials say, can in no way be compared to North Korea under any circumstances. "We are different," is the argument. "We are separate and distinct."
Officially, India has experienced "deep concern" over the North Korean nuclear experiment, saying it would jeopardize "peace, stability and security on the Korean peninsula and the region".
The external affairs ministry also said that the tests highlighted "the dangers of clandestine proliferation".
Manmohan Singh's statement issued on his departure earlier Monday made no reference to North Korea and only spoke about the need to combat terrorism and to promote business and trade with Britain, Finland and the European Union.
The prime minister said "cooperation in the area of combating terrorism has become particularly significant" with Britain. "The United Kingdom is one of our most important dialogue partners," he said.
Manmohan Singh, who is accompanied by Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma, National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan and Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon, will attend an India-UK Business Summit Tuesday. Blair and Manmohan Singh will have detailed discussions Tuesday before holding a joint press conference.
On Wednesday, Manmohan Singh will visit Cambridge University to receive an honorary doctorate. He then travels to Finland for bilateral meetings as well as the India-EU summit.
New Delhi, Oct 10 (IANS) As dengue fever grips the country, another viral disease chikungunya is causing concern as over 1.3 million suspected cases have been reported across nine states.
Though Delhi has 28 suspected cases and seven confirmed cases, the worst hit is Karnataka with over 756,028 suspected cases and 294 confirmed cases of the disease.
Maharashtra has 262,595 suspected and 679 confirmed cases.
"The first cases were reported in December last year when we conducted surveys in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu," said N.K. Ganguly, director general of Indian Council of Medical Research.
"The total number of confirmed cases in the country stands at 1,533," he said.
"There has been such a wide-scale spread of the virus after 32 years."
Ganguly said surveillance sites have been set up and "we are taking anti-larvae measures to stop the virus from spreading."
Islamabad, Oct 10 (DPA) Tribesmen who had been fighting for the past week over the possession of a shrine in Pakistan's Orakzai tribal district have agreed to a temporary ceasefire after losing 30 men and reducing the shrine to rubble, media reports said Tuesday.
A tribal jirga (council of elders), from neighbouring Kurram district mediated the truce between the warring Sunni and Shia communities, according to the Dawn newspaper.
Soon after the 15-tribe Sunni alliance and three-tribe Shia alliance announced the peace agreement, snipers shot at but missed the political administrator of the semi-autonomous tribal territory as he was going to survey the damage to the shrine, the newspaper said.
It said the majority Sunni community was reluctant to negotiate peace but agreed after it regained control over lost territory.
Under the truce, both communities agreed to surrender what's left of the shrine to the political administrator to decide its ownership.
West Bank, Palestine, Oct. 10 (UN News) Ninety-one Palestinian children have already been killed this year in the West Bank and Gaza, almost double the number for the whole of 2005, with youngsters suffering increasing levels of stress from violence and fear in the Israeli-Palestinians conflict, according to the latest United Nations ChildrenÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s Fund (UNICEF) update.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThey are confronted with regular military operations, shelling, house demolitions, checkpoints on their way to schools,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â? UNICEF Child Protection Officer Anne Grandjean said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œAs a result we find high prevalence of signs of stress such as anxiety, eating and sleeping disorders, and difficulties concentrating in school.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œAll of these signs need to be tackled as soon as possible to avoid a long-lasting impact on the childÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s development,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â? she added.
UNICEF and the Humanitarian Aid Department of the European Commission have established teams of social workers and psychologists to respond to the childrenÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s needs. Every month they reach some 3,000 children and their families, offering support and counselling after violent incidents.
The counselling sessions end every month with a festival and beach party organized by UNICEF and its partners, where thousands of children are given the chance to play and interact with each other away from the conflict.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThese festivals are important because they are about protecting childhood,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â? UNICEF Special Representative for Gaza and the West Bank Dan Rohrmann said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œItÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s an opportunity for children to be children, which is rare here in Gaza, because they live in an environment of extraordinary fear and violence and insecurity.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â?
New Delhi, Oct 10 (IANS) Ahead of the power ministry finalising developers for two ultra mega power projects (UMPP) of 4,000 MW each, 22 distribution companies of nine states signed the power purchase agreement (PPA) Monday easing a major worry of the prospective investors.
The PPAs were signed in the presence of Power Minister Sushilkumar Shinde and the deputy chairman of Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia.
"Signing of PPAs for the 8,000 MW capacity addition through tariff-based competitive bidding marks the beginning of a new approach to capacity addition which will facilitate private investment at a faster pace," said the power minister.
The two power projects, Sasan Power Ltd in Madhya Pradesh and Coastal Gujarat Power Ltd in Mundra of Gujarat, are among the seven UMPPs proposed by the power ministry to ease the rising demand in the country.
"The entire process of selection of a successful developer for Sasan and Mundra UMPPs is expected to be completed by December end of this year," Shinde added.
The beneficiary states that signed the PPA are - Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Uttaranchal.
According to the power ministry, these UMPPs will have scope for expansion and will add about 28,000 MW within a span of 7-8 years. The fund requirement for the proposed projects is estimated to be around Rs.1.25 trillion.
The UMPP initiative of the central government envisages the development of large capacity coal-based projects of 4,000 MW each through a process of tariff-based competitive bidding.
Seven projects, one each in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Chhattisgarh have already been identified. Two more projects, one each in Jharkhand and Tamil Nadu, are being explored.
New Delhi, Oct 10 (IANS) Pakistan bowling coach Waqar Younis Monday said extra pressure was affecting Indian pacer Irfan Pathan's bowling.
"There is too much of pressure on him and that is effecting his bowling. We can't forget that he is primarily a bowler. But you make him open both the batting and bowling," Waqar, here for the Champions Trophy, told reporters at an open media session.
"There is a huge pressure on any player who opens the batting or bowling. I personally feel Irfan is a bowler who can contribute with the bat at No. 6 or 7 position," said the former fast bowler.
Waqar, a former Pakistan captain, suggested that the Baroda bowler should be given more time to settle down.
"He is still a kid and unnecessary pressure will be detrimental for his career. He has a bright future and he should be given time to settle down."
He said he was enjoying his new role of bowling coach.
"In my life, the team has been the top priority and I am happy that I am able to serve the team again."
With 350-400-run targets being quite achievable these days in one-day cricket, Waqar wants his wards to add more variation in their repertoire.
"One day cricket has changed a lot over a decade. There is nothing for the bowlers so I tell the boys they should have more variation in their bowling to counter attack the batsmen."
The 34-year-old, who was appointed as bowling coach in March, felt that the July-September England tour was a big learning experience for him.
"The conditions are suitable there for the fast bowlers and it taught me how to guide my bowlers to exploit the situation," said the man who himself had troubled the English batsmen in his playing days.
Waqar also gave credit to coach Bob Woolmer for helping to bring about a transformation in the Pakistan team.
"Bob has done a wonderful job and he has planned some strategies keeping the World Cup in mind. I hope everything works out accordingly."
The World Cup will be played in the West Indies in March-April.
Kabul, Oct 10 (DPA) The governor of the Afghan district of Chogyani, as well as the its police chief and security head were killed in a bomb attack in the country's eastern province of Nangarhar, said a spokesperson for the Afghan Interior Ministry.
Spokesperson Semarai Bashari added that two bodyguards were also killed by what Afghan authorities believe was a remote-controlled bomb, as the officials were heading by car Monday to a location where a school was burned down by extremists overnight.
Yusouf Ahmadi, said to be a Taliban spokesperson, claimed responsibility for the killings, which came amid further heavy fighting in southern Afghanistan.
The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said that at least 52 radical Islamist rebels had been killed in fighting in the southern province of Uruzgan.
ISAF said a gunbattle lasting several hours took place Sunday after rebels attacked ISAF and Afghan army soldiers. It said there were no casualties among the ISAF forces, consisting mainly of Dutch soldiers in Uruzgan.
The ISAF statement did not indicate any possible casualties among Afghan soldiers.
New Delhi, Oct 10 (IANS) The month of September registered the highest additions so far for GSM (Global System for Mobile communication) mobile telephony, as 4.4 million connections were added taking the subscriber base to 91 million, data released Monday showed.
Releasing a review report, Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) director general T.V. Ramachandran said: "The GSM industry and COAI are delighted at the continued upswing in the subscriber additions. This is a strong evidence of the fact that GSM continues to be the predominant technology choice of the masses."
The metro subscribers grew by 3.35 percent over the previous month with Kolkata recording the highest growth at 4.7 percent followed by Chennai at 4 percent.
Within category B of telecom circles, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana had the highest growth at 9.6 percent and 8.9 percent, respectively, said a COAI statement.
By J.T. Nguyen
New York, Oct 10 (DPA) The UN Security Council Monday propelled South Korea's Foreign Minister Ban Ki Moon into the top UN leadership amid growing tensions in the Korean peninsula.
The vote came the same day that North Korea exploded a nuclear device to lift the impoverished nation into the world's nuclear status - in defiance of the council's warnings last week against such a move.
The council will recommend the 192-nation UN General Assembly to approve Ban in the final step to elect the UN secretary-general to replace Kofi Annan, who will step down Dec 31 after a 10-year term.
Ban already is facing a big challenge from North Korea, which appeared to time its nuclear activities with Ban's election at UN headquarters in New York. Council members rejected the coincidence of North Korea's nuclear test and the election of the South Korean.
When asked about the timing scenario, a North Korean diplomat told DPA that the nuclear test had nothing to do with Ban's election.
"It's not politics," the diplomat said.
But US ambassador John Bolton noted the irony, calling it an "appropriate juxtaposition".
Ban received kudos from council members and Annan. British Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry called Ban a man with "very impressive credentials. We look forward to (working) with him".
French Ambassador Jean Marc de la Sabliere said Ban would make a "very good and strong secretary-general. We have a very good candidate".
Annan welcomed Ban on board and urged the General Assembly to decide on reforming the UN in coming months in order to assist Ban in carrying out his duties.
"I have the highest respect for Mr. Ban, having had the pleasure of working with him both in his present capacity and when he was chief of cabinet to the president of the General Assembly," Annan said.
Ban had spent more than 35 years in his government service, mostly in the foreign ministry. South Korea in the past decades emerged as an industrialised country on a par with developed nations in the West.
The UN helped end the destructive Korean War (1950-53) and brought international assistance that established the strength of today's South Korea - a role that Ban mentions frequently as he pursued his diplomatic career.
Ban's official biography says he played an important role in laying the foundation for a "peaceful Korean peninsula, playing an expanding role for peace and prosperity in the region and the world".
"Humbly accepting the ROK government's nomination for his UN Secretary-General candidacy, Minister Ban builds upon the deep affection and hope that the Korean people have long placed in the United Nations and aspires to infuse the global organisation with forward-looking leadership and dedication," his biography says.
He has held posts in New Delhi and Washington and headed the department of American affairs in the foreign ministry.
He was appointed national security advisor to the South Korean president in 1996, became a vice minister in 2000 and has been involved intensely in Asian affairs and disarmament.
New Delhi, Oct 10 (IANS) Concerned over the heavy rush of tourists from India and abroad thronging the Taj Mahal, the Supreme Court Monday directed the Uttar Pradesh government to file an affidavit giving a contingency plan on security at the 16th century monument.
Giving this direction, a bench comprising judges S.B. Sinha S.H. Kapadia and D.K. Jain expressed dissatisfaction with an affidavit filed by the state government on providing security to the historic monument.
It observed that the affidavit dealt only with internal security, which was the responsibility of the central government.
The bench did not accept the state government's suggestion that the judges should visit the monument in Agra for an inspection of the state of affairs in and around it.
It said that such a visit would create problems for the state administration and that it did not want any fresh controversy in the matter.
The bench, however, asked Solicitor General G.E. Vahanvati to visit the Taj Mahal and give a report.
The judges also asked the monitoring committee of the court to visit Taj and suggest a suitable place for setting up a facilitation centre outside the monument to control and regulate the entry of visitors.
Kabul, Oct 10 (DPA) Ten people, including eight Afghan policemen, were wounded in a bomb blast Tuesday morning in the Afghan capital Kabul.
"The bomb, which was planted on a bicycle, hit a passing police bus, wounding eight policemen and two civilians," said Ali Shah Paktiyawal, head of the Criminal Investigation Department of the Kabul police.
He said the remote-controlled bomb went off during the rush hour in the Kolola Pushata area in the centre of Kabul. The wounded people were taken to a local hospital and were in stable condition.
On Sep 30, at least 12 people were killed and 42 were wounded when a suicide bomber detonated explosives he was carrying at the entrance of the interior ministry.
Jaipur, Oct 10 (IANS) The opposition Congress walked out of the Rajasthan assembly Monday after criticising the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government for the "slow" pace of investigation into a female foeticide racket.
As the assembly took up the issue of foeticide during the question hour, Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria said that 18 cases had been lodged on the basis of the sting operation conducted by a TV news channel and the matter was under investigation.
He assured the assembly: "Whoever he or she may be, big or small, they would not be spared if found guilty of sex determination or female foeticide."
Kataria, however, admitted that the investigation process was slow and those who conducted the sting operation were yet to record their statement.
The opposition members were soon on their legs, criticising the government for the slow progress of the probe.
Opposition leader Ram Narayan Choudhry said the slow progress seemed intentional.
The sting operation, conducted during April-June this year, had exposed the increasing cases of female foeticide in four states - Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
While Kataria said the state government was yet to receive the unedited version of the report from the news channel, the opposition found the explanation unconvincing and staged a walkout.
Earlier, Health Minister Digambar Singh said the Rajasthan government was ahead of other states in preventing female foeticides and the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PNDT) Act was effectively implemented here.
He said before the sting operation was conducted, two hospitals in Bharatpur indulging in female foeticide were punished.
Digambar Singh, himself a doctor, said that the 14 doctors named in the sting operation had been suspended.
The sex ratio in the state, according to census data, stands poorly at 922 females per 1,000 males.
By J.T. Nguyen
New York, Oct 10 (DPA) After 30 minutes of debate, the UN Security Council Monday unanimously condemned North Korea for testing a nuclear device, warning that "strong and swift" measures would follow to prevent further testing.
Council President Kenzo Oshima, the ambassador from Japan, said council members "strongly condemned this claim (of nuclear test) and urged North Korea to refrain from further tests and abandon its nuclear programme".
Oshima said the members decided during a closed-door session that legal experts would discuss a draft resolution to spell out measures appropriate to the nuclear test, which came two days after the council warned of consequences if it was to be conducted.
"It's the desire of the Security Council to find appropriate measures in response to this act, which threatens security in the region and beyond," he said.
Oshima said the response would be "strong, swift and clear" in its message.
US Ambassador John Bolton said he presented "elements" in the draft resolution, which would be discussed by the legal experts. He did not disclose what the elements are.
"We are off to a strong start," Bolton said.
Three of the five council permanent members - the US, France and Britain - called for a Chapter 7 resolution, which would include sanctions. The other two - China and Russia - condemned the nuclear test, but did not support a Chapter 7 resolution.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan branded North Korea's nuclear test as violation of disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation conventions.
"It aggravates regional tensions in and around the Korean peninsula, and jeopardises security both in the region and beyond," Annan said in a statement.
"I call on all parties to respond to this grave challenge in a constructive manner, and call for serious negotiations to be renewed urgently in the framework of the six-party talks," he said.
The talks involved China, the US, Russia, Japan and the two Koreas. No progress had been made since they began three years ago.
The council appeared to be facing a challenge bigger than the threat posed by Iran's uranium enrichment after North Korea, one of the world's poorest countries and most unstable, apparently carried out its threat to conduct the nuclear test.
Amid the turmoil caused by Pyongyang, the 15-nation council elected South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki Moon to replace Annan Jan 1, 2007. Ban, who still needs full approval from the 192-nation General Assembly, is facing a thorny problem, dealing with North Korea's nuclear programme.
Bolton said the council would work around the clock to hammer out a resolution with punitive measures against North Korea for defying the calls not to test a nuclear device.
"We are waiting for reactions from council members and elements for the resolution will be discussed," Bolton told reporters.
"I think a Chapter 7 resolution makes sense," said French Ambassador Jean Marc de la Sabliere.
"The Security Council has warned North Korea, and it is now up to it to take up its responsibilities," de la Sabliere said.
Chapter 7 of the UN Charter authorises the council to impose economic and diplomatic sanctions, and an arms embargo.
British Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry and Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin condemned the nuclear test and said the council should discuss how to react, including imposing measures against North Korea.
"We condemn the test, and North Korea will have a serious attitude from the UN Security Council," Churkin said.
New York, Oct 10 (DPA) The UN Security Council began discussing Monday punitive measures against North Korea for testing a nuclear device amid warnings that such an action would trigger consequences from the international community.
The council appeared to be facing a challenge bigger than the threat posed by Iran's uranium enrichment after North Korea, one of the world's poorest countries and most unstable, apparently carried out its threat to conduct the nuclear test.
Amid the turmoil caused by Pyongyang, the 15-nation council elected South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki Moon to replace UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Jan 1, 2007.
Ban, who still needs full approval from the 192-nation General Assembly, is facing a thorny problem, dealing with North Korea's nuclear programme.
US Ambassador John Bolton pointed out the irony of the situation for the Korean peninsula.
The US, Russia, France and Britain - four of the five veto powers on the 15-nation council - said the kind of measures against North Korea should be appropriate to the circumstances created by the Stalinist government in Pyongyang. The fifth one, China, has not spoken.
Bolton said the council would work around the clock to hammer out a resolution with punitive measures against North Korea for defying the calls not to test a nuclear device.
"We are waiting for reactions from council members and elements for the resolution will be discussed," he told reporters.
"I think a Chapter 7 resolution makes sense," said French Ambassador Jean Marc de la Sabliere, who called the nuclear test of Sunday by the North Koreans "very serious".
"The Security Council has warned North Korea, and it is now up to it to take up its responsibilities," de la Sabliere said.
Chapter 7 of the UN Charter authorises the council to impose economic and diplomatic sanctions, and an arms embargo. Chapter 7 has been used to deploy peacekeeping operations where use of force is necessary to carry out a mandate.
British Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry and Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin both condemned the nuclear test and said the council should discuss how to react, including imposing measures against North Korea.
"We condemn the test, and North Korea will have a serious attitude from the UN Security Council," Churkin said.
The bomb test comes two days after the council warned North Korea there would be serious consequences if the test were carried out.
Stockholm, Oct 10 (DPA) Edmund S. Phelps from Columbia University Monday won this year's Nobel Prize in Economics 'for his analysis of intertemporal tradeoffs in macroeconomic policy'.
New Delhi, Oct 10 (IANS) A new test kit that can diagnose dengue fever in early stage was launched in India Monday by the California-headquartered Bio-Rad Laboratories Inc, a multinational manufacturer and distributor of life science research products and clinical diagnostics.
Called the PLATELIA(tm) DENGUE NS1 Ag Assay, the kit helps to diagnose dengue on the first day of symptoms, the company said in a statement.
"The test kit - the first in the Indian market - is based on the specific detection of dengue virus NS1 antigen. While existing dengue tests identify the virus indirectly by detecting antibodies, which are produced only four to six days after the appearance of the first symptoms, the new test is able to detect the virus from the first day of symptoms," the company stated.
The kit, developed by Bio-Rad in partnership with the Pasteur Institute in France, is an ELISA test that enables detection of the NS1 dengue virus antigen as soon as the first clinical signs appear.
This ability to detect the presence of the NS1 antigen enables earlier detection of the infection compared to the conventional serological methods currently used, saving at least six days' time, the company stated
Test performance has been confirmed through evaluations led by Bio-Rad teams as well as by reference laboratories of countries directly affected by the disease, including India, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Brazil and Guyana.
"Early detection of dengue is critical as it means that we can provide the appropriate treatment as soon as possible. With this test, it is now possible to bring down fatality rates significantly," said Dhiren Wagle, country manager of Bio-Rad India.
Wagle hoped the kit would help health agencies in India in the effective control and management of the disease that has claimed 50 lives in the recent weeks while the number of those infected has reached over 3,000.
By Prasun Sonwalkar,
London, Oct 10 (IANS) Visa restrictions and delays in processing work permit applications are adversely affecting ongoing business activities between India and Britain, according to captains of Indian industry.
Concerns relating to visa and other matters affecting growth in India-Britain business have been conveyed to senior figures in the British government in a detailed document prepared for the India-UK Investment Summit Tuesday.
The background paper, compiled by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), listed the problems faced by Indian business in relation to visas, tariff barriers, lack of reciprocity and restrictions on services.
The paper said: "The interest of Indian business in UK is now not only limited to seeking liberal access for its independent professionals on contractual basis but also in having liberal access for Intra-Corporate Transferees as more and more India companies are investing in UK.
"Problems relating to long delays, requirement of excessive documentation, limited duration of work permits, lack of clarity, non-uniformity of application of relevant rules and regulations, and exorbitant fee for extension of work permits continue to persist with UK. In case of UK, these long delays in obtaining work permits reduce flexibility of operations and leads to financial losses.
"In UK, for intra-corporate transfer of employees, we need a visa like L-1 visa as issued by US authorities, which allows foreign companies in US to transfer their employees in US for up to seven years.
"The problem of long delays in processing and extension of Residence permits to Indian professionals working in UK (and their families) continues to persist. In most cases Residence Permits are renewed for one or two years but by the time they are actually renewed, considerable time has lapsed and the permit remains valid for only six months or one year.
"Trade and investment is also restricted due to the policies which differentiate against foreign service providers. Some of the issues in this area include imposition of stringent conditions for eligibility like residency or citizenship requirements".
FICCI highlighted a major cause for concern among Indian professionals coming to the UK for work on a short-term basis. They have to contribute to social security insurance but do not or will never receive commensurate benefits.
"Indian professionals are required to pay nearly 30-40 percent of their earnings to social security schemes without any commensurate benefits. There is no procedure to repay or transfer the amount of Social Security contribution if an employee leaves the job and returns to his home country," the paper noted.
It added that Indian IT companies were losing out large business in government contracts in the UK. While British firms are allocated government contracts in India, Indian companies were not being extended equal opportunity to participate in government contracts here.
"In view of India's expertise in IT, FICCI feels Indian IT companies can have fair share in Government procurement of IT solutions and services in the UK", the paper noted.
In the healthcare sector, the paper noted the vast potential for growth and called for easing rules so that more British patients could travel to India for treatment. Currently, the Department of Health stipulates that patients can only travel for a maximum of three hours outside the UK for treatment, which prevents a large number of patients from travelling to India.
The paper also called upon British authorities to reconsider the recent decision to abolish permit-free training to doctors from India - a change that prevents a large number of Indian doctors ineligible to gain employment in the National Health Service.
In the area of services, the paper said: "In order to have effective market access for our service providers, India and UK need to work together to sort out their differences on this issue especially in case of professional and infrastructure services.
"In view of the growing interest of India and UK in the area of services and given the complementarities, FICCI feels that the two sides need to form a focused bilateral India-UK Trade and Investment Group on Services".
The FICCI paper also raised the matter of mandatory standards and certifications required for exporting fruit products to the UK. The cost of getting all these certificates was very excessive not only for the small exporters but even for large exporters, it said.
London, Oct 10 (IANS) Scientists have discovered a link between vision and hearing impairments in older people and say they are likely to occur hand-in-hand.
Researchers at the University of Sydney and the National Acoustics Laboratories, Sydney, examined about 2,000 people with an average age of 70. They found that 178 of them had a visual impairment categorised as eyesight worse than 20/40, reported the online edition of BBC News.
And a further 56 had "best-corrected" visual impairment - when the eyesight is worse than 20/40 even while using glasses or contact lenses. Of this combined group, 206 people - 88 percent - also had a hearing problem.
The researchers discovered that for each line of the eye chart used by ophthalmologists that a volunteer could not see, there was an 18 percent (for the visually impaired) and 13 percent (for the best-corrected visually impaired) increase in the likelihood of hearing loss.
Conversely, those in the group that suffered hearing loss were 1.5 times more likely to have eyesight problems than those with good hearing, according to the study published in the journal "Archives of Ophthalmology".
The researchers also found that those suffering age-related macular degeneration and cataracts were more likely to suffer hearing loss than those without these disorders.
"Further studies are needed to understand the relationship between visual and hearing impairments in older persons and to determine whether intervention to improve these impairments could delay biologic ageing," said one of the researchers.
New Delhi, Oct 10 (IANS) Railway stations in 16 Indian cities, including capital Delhi, have been identified for major upgrades and modernisation to bring them on par with the best in the world, Railway Minister Lalu Prasad said here Monday.
The main stations in the national capital and the metropolitan cities of Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata, as also in other cities like Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune and Thiruvananthapuram are among those that will get a face-lift, Lalu Prasad said.
Addressing a seminar on reforms in Indian railways, the minister said he would soon set up a high-level committee to look at modalities for public-private partnerships in this crucial infrastructure sector.
The panel will comprise existing and retired railway officials and experts from the industry so that such partnerships can be established quickly, Lalu Prasad told the seminar organised by the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PHDCCI).