• Wikileaks publishes claim about Pakistani knowledge of Bin Laden

    The whistle-blowing website Wikileaks has published an international affairs think tank email that alleges mid-ranking Pakistani intelligence and military officials were aware of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's ...
    People celebrate after Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan, during a spontaneous Al Qaeda leader Osama bin LadenAl Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden

    Pakistani army dismisses WikiLeaks' Osama allegations

  • Flamboyant Virat Kohli helps India earn bonus point against Sri Lanka

    Flamboyant Virat Kohli helps India earn bonus point against Sri LankaFlamboyant Virat Kohli helps India earn bonus point against Sri LankaFlamboyant Virat Kohli helps India earn bonus point against Sri Lanka

    Man-of-the-match Virat Kohli said that it was a great team effort to chase down the huge target like 320 inside 40 overs. (AFP Photo) HOBART: Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni on Tuesday described his side's incredible seven-wicket win over Sri Lanka ...

  • Govt goof up on gay sex issue draws apex court ire

    A major miscommunication between the Government and its top law officers played out in the Supreme Court today. The homosexuality debate gained centrestage again when the Additional Solicitor General, PP Malhotra, told the Supreme Court...

    Homosexuality unnatural,Govt tells SC,promptly takes it backHomosexuality unnatural,Govt tells SC,promptly takes it backHomosexuality unnatural,Govt tells SC,promptly takes it back

    Govt flip flops on homosexuality issue

  • Treasure hunt may shake Hyderabad Birla Mandir's foundation

    After four days of a much enthused excavation and geo-physical survey in search of a rather elusive treasure, Birla Temple now fears that it's standing on shaky ground. Located atop Naubat Pahad which holds the foundation of the temple, the digging has now irked the temple authorities who on Wednesday expressed their concern to state archaeology department officials asking them to give an assurance that the rock formation on which the temple stands will not be affected by any activity including a sanctioned excavation.

    Treasure hunt may shake Hyderabad Birla Mandir's foundation

    National Mineral Development Corporation geologists conducting a magnetic resonance survey using GPS at Vidyaranya School for third day to find out the hidden treasures in Hyderabad on Tuesday.

    Source: Hindu

  • It's My Life.. Stil Continues...


    Life in boomVenkeyLife in boom
    Watch my short life history

  • 35 years on, the 'Sholay' fire still burns


    It drew its inspiration from multiple Hollywood movies but went on to become the quintessential Indian film, perfectly balancing drama and tragedy, romance and violence, comedy and action. This Aug 15 it will be 35 years since 'Sholay' was released - three decades and more of Gabbar, Jai, Veeru and Basanti still striking a chord.

    Sometimes described as an Indian curry western, 'Sholay' is still a reference point for Indian cinema and impossible to pin down to any one genre. It was about the undying friendship between Jai and Veeru, the unspoken love of a young widow, the exuberant romance between a garrulous 'tonga walli' and a flamboyant thief, the immensely tragic life of an idealistic police officer and, of course, Gabbar Singh, the dacoit who struck terror.

    It worked at many levels, and still does for generations of film-goers who watch the 1975 multi-starrer for the ultimate movie-going experience. For some, it's nostalgia and, for the young cinema buff, 'Sholay' is a matter of curiosity.

    Director Ramesh Sippy was called a magician for the spell he cast. The film is the ultimate high point for many stars - from the lead stars Amitabh Bachchan, Dharmendra and Hema Malini to the unknown Amjad Khan who as Gabbar became one of Hindi cinema's best known villains. The cameos by character artists Asrani and Jagdeep were equally important to the success of the film and still remembered.

    Even Macmohan, who had barely a dialogue in the film, was 'Samba' till the day he died in May this year.

    'We had no idea that this will become such a huge film. We conceived an idea and when we started working on the screenplay, gradually it dawned on us that the film has more than two important characters,' Javed Akhtar, who co-scripted the cult film with Saleem Khan, told IANS.

    'After 35 years, even the minor characters are used in ads, promos, films and sit coms,' he said.

    Ironically, there were few takers when 'Sholay', which translates to fire, released Aug 15, 1975. At three hours and 20 minutes, it was deemed too long. But, in an era where there was no television and no effective visual marketing tools, word of mouth worked. It ran for five years straight at Mumbai's Minerva theatre, for instance.

    'No multistarrer worked as 'Sholay' did. It's got everything. It was a complete package. Initially, in the first two weeks, it didn't do well but it picked up from the third week onwards and became an overnight sensation,' said trade analyst Taran Adarsh.

    'It remains the box office gold standard, a reference point for both the Indian film-going audience and the film industry. For 'Sholay' is not merely a film, it is the ultimate classic,' film critic Anupama Chopra wrote in her book 'Sholay: The Making of a Classic'.

    'Even the starring animal, Dhanno the mare, has been immortalised.'

    Technologically, too, the movie was one of its kind - 'Sholay' was India's first 70mm film and also the first stereophonic sound movie.

    ' 'Sholay' remains the Indian film industry's monument to 70 mm filmmaking,' noted film historian Gautam Kaul told IANS.

    Produced by G.P. Sippy at a budget of about Rs.3 crore at that time, it was completed by Ramesh Sippy over a period of two-and-a-half years. It was released with as many as 250 prints.

    Scriptwriter duo Salim-Javed wrote themselves into posterity, their dialogues being mouthed across the country. They were at their creative best-from scripting action scenes, to flavouring it with romance and comedy-they served the tastiest ever curry for Indian audiences.

    Even all these years later, it is still that rare film whose dialogue soundtrack was released along with the music. Who can forget 'Kitne aadmi the?', 'Jo darr gaya, samjho marr gaya' or 'Tumhara naam kya hai, Basanti?'

    'This film was also the watermark for film scriptwriters, who until 'Sholay' were not paid so well... film scriptwriting became a better, respected and lucrative profession after 'Sholay',' said Kaul.

    Item numbers may be a rage now, but legendary R.D. Burman served up one of India's best with 'Mehbooba, mehbooba'.

    Inspired by Hollywood films like 'Once Upon A Time In The West' (1968) and 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid' (1969), 'Sholay' still has to its credit a standing record of 60 golden jubilees across India. It was the first film in the history of Indian cinema to celebrate a silver jubilee at over 100 theatres across the country.

    The plaudits have never stopped.

    In 1999, BBC India declared it as the 'film of the millennium'. Its run at the Bollywood box office even caught the attention of the Guinness Book of World Records, where it was inducted for its five-year run.

    Corporate executive Harshad Jain sums up the 'Sholay' magic. 'I've seen it 300 times, I won't mind seeing it 100 times more. It was the best part of growing up.'


  • TDP activists caned on Maharashtra border

    TDP activists caned on Maharashtra border

    More than a dozen Telugu Desam Party (TDP) activists were injured when Maharashtra police cane-charged them as scores of them tried to cross the border near Laabdi village of Adilabad district on Sunday. They planned to visit Dharmabad and express solidarity with TDP president N. Chandrababu Naidu and others who were under judicial remand following their arrest on Friday. Tension prevailed on the border near Bidrelli and Laabdi villages as TDP activists gathered there in large numbers even as a heavy contingent of Maharashtra police stood guard to prevent them from crossing the border.

    The police told reporters in Dharmabad that they had resorted to the lathi-charge after TDP activists provoked them by indulging in stone-pelting in which three policemen were injured.

    Four journalists too were injured in the incident. Following the incident, TDP workers staged a rasta roko at Bidrelli village protesting the lathi-charge.

    Ban orders

    In view of the tense situation in villages bordering Maharashtra over the Babli issue, ban orders under Section 144 of CrPC were imposed in Mudhole constituency by the Adilabad police.

    Talking to The Hindu over phone from Dharmabad, senior TDP MLA R. Chandrasekhar Reddy said that Mr. Naidu and others would observe fast on Monday in support of the bandh in A.P. over the Babli issue. They spent the day discussing the issue of water resources and inter-State disputes.

    He said they were finding it difficult staying in one hall having no basic amenities. There was only one toilet for the 90 MPs, legislators and other leaders.

    Power went off frequently for prolonged periods during the last two days. With no one to clean the hall, two women legislators took up the job.

    Rosaiah slams police

    In a statement issued here, Chief Minister K. Rosaiah condemned the high-handedness of the Maharashtra police and local people on the border against journalists from A.P., who went to report the incident. It was not proper to attack and obstruct journalists from discharging their duties, he said.

    Meanwhile, activists of the Babli Bandhara Kriti Samithi led by Nanded MP Bhaskar Rao Patil Khatgaonkar and MLAs Vasantrao Chavan and Omprakash Pokarna took out a massive procession and burnt an effigy of Mr. Naidu in Dharmabad.


  • Marriage needs adjustment: Ash


    Three years after they married, Junior Bachchan and wife Bachchan are still very much in love.

    Asked how she knew Abhishek was ‘the one’, the former Miss World and actress says, “You know, it’s weird, but the moment we got together, it was a sense of coming home. Like I would have been surprised if we didn’t.”

    Do they make compromises in their marriage? During an interview to a magazine, Abhishek said, “I don’t look upon any of it as compromise. The fact that she is in my life and I am married to her is of more importance and happiness to me than anything that I could possibly compromise on.” Adds Ash, “I think marriage takes for adjustment, not compromise, and it means doing all that you need to do to commit to your relationship. If there is anything that makes you feel like it’s a compromise, that means there is an area of discomfort, and that means there’s already something unsettling. But why talk of marriage and compromise? Life asks for adjustments and you do that. You are like water—you find your fit. You look upon life like that, why necessarily compartmentalise marriage?”

    How does the couple think their 25th wedding anniversary would look like? Ash exclaims, “Wow. I don’t think that far. I can’t believe we just celebrated our third wedding anniversary. It still feels fresh, it feels like yesterday we were being congratulated for our marriage. A certain song starts playing, and it feels like yesterday. It doesn’t feel like a long time ago, and God willing, it continues to feel this way. We’ll be there in a flash, I think. I just didn’t think my life would pan out the way it has. In my initial interviews I would say one day at a time, and I am still holding on to that.” Keep the love flowing!


  • Michael Jackson: Always in the eye of a storm

    No celebrity’s life is spared from the wings of the paparazzi. And when they come sniffing around, be sure for dirt and dope to be dug out. Clearly Michael Jackson’s life was no different. With all the fame and popularity he received, MJ was also surrounded by his share of controversies, sometimes for his personal life and sometimes for his professional one.

    In spite of all the hoopla around his personal life, no one could alter the minds of his millions of fans who loved him no matter what. Going down memory lane, let’s check out some of the controversies that haunted the King of Pop.

    Controversy 1: Jackson's skin was always a medium-brown colour but in the mid 1980s, it gradually began to lighten. Many believed that it was due to plastic surgery and skin bleaching so that MJ could appear European. In 1986 Michael was diagnosed with vitiligo and lupus. He went through a whole lot of feature changes including a rhinoplasty, a forehead lift, cheekbone surgery, and altered his lips. Those close to the singer say that, by 1990, he had undergone around 10 procedures. In the later years, MJ was said to have been living heavily on painkillers and sedatives.

    Controversy 2: In 1993 Michael Jackson was accused of child sexual abuse by a 13-year-old boy named Jordan Chandler and his father, Evan Chandler, a dentist. They demanded money from Jackson, which the singer refused. Jordan eventually told the police that Jackson had sexually abused him, although his mother denied the whole allegation. Later MJ’s house was raided by police and he even submitted to a strip search. Surely, he never recovered from that humiliation. It was during this time that MJ married the daughter of Elvis Presley, Lisa Marie Presley. The marriage sadly lasted for less than two years.

    Later MJ married his friend and nurse Deborah Jeanne Rowe. They had two children, and the marriage lasted for almost two years.

    Controversy 3: Jackson had a third son but the mother is said to be unknown. He had claimed that the son was born out of artificial insemination and a surrogate mother. Jackson brought the new born to the balcony and briefly extended the baby with one hand over the railing, causing a lot of criticism. MJ later aplogised for the incident.

    Controversy 4: In 2003, Michael Jackson was arrested on child abuse charges. Apparently, he was seen in a Granada Television documentary holding hands and talking, sleeping in the same bed with Gavin Arvizo, who accused him of abuse later. Jackson said that the sleepovers were not of a sexual nature and he was examined by a mental health professional. However in 2005, MJ was acquitted of all charges.

    Controversy 5: Amidst all the trials, Jackson’s health deteriorated considerably. During this time, reports also emerged that he was close to bankruptcy. His financial problems plagued him in his recent years and Neverland Ranch was closed, as he couldn't afford it anymore.

    Controversy 6: MJ had been delinquent on his repayments of an apparent 0 million loan that he had secured against his music publishing holdings, even though those holdings were reportedly making him as much as million a year.

    And then on June 25, 2009, Michael Jackson passed away due to drug overdose, causing grief to his family, the music industry and millions of his fans worldwide. The King of Pop had moved on .

  • 25 years later Canada to apologise

    Finally, 25 years after the Kanishka bombings, the Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harpers, will apologise for the bombings when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh meets him on the sidelines of the G-20 meet this weekend.

    The latest move comes after a report filed in Canada last week on the Air Indian flight bombing that took place in 1985 and killed over 182 people. The report lambasted the Canadian Government for failing to stop the terror plot and called the attack a 'Canadian atrocity'.

    The report found plenty of blame to spread around, with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and successive federal governments. An Air India Flight 182, Kanishka plunged into the Atlantic on June 23, 1985, after an explosion in the aircraft killing all 329 people on board. An hour earlier, a bomb in baggage intended for another Air India flight exploded in the Tokyo airport, killing two baggage handlers. A probe led by retired Supreme Court Justice John Major blamed the Canadian police and intelligence for laxity in not detecting the bombs. In his 3200-page report, Kanishka inquiry commissioner John Major criticised the way successive governments treated the families.


  • 21 Indian students return from Kyrgyzstan

    A group of over 21 students, who were evacuated from the riot-hit cities of Osh and Jalal-Abad in Kyrgyzstan returned to New Delhi on Thursday night.

    The Government on Wednesday said that the 105 Indian nationals, safely evacuated by the Embassy of India from south Kyrgyzstan, were brought to Bishkek and due arrangements for their accommodation at university hostels and meals were made.

    At least 170 people have been killed in the ethnic rioting in southern Kyrgzstan witnessed for the first time in the last 20 years.


  • 'New York Times' Bans the Word 'Tweet'

    Phil Corbett, the latest standards editor at the Times (maybe the greatest job in the world?), has issued a proclamation! Yesterday, the following memo went out, asking writers to abstain from the invented past-tense and other weird iterations of the magical noun-verb "Twitter." His case isn't terrible, actually—and he offers this terrifying vision: "Someday, 'tweet' may be as common as 'e-mail.'" Oh dear. Well, read for yourself and decide.

    Some social-media fans may disagree, but outside of ornithological contexts, “tweet” has not yet achieved the status of standard English. And standard English is what we should use in news articles.

    Except for special effect, we try to avoid colloquialisms, neologisms and jargon. And “tweet” — as a noun or a verb, referring to messages on Twitter — is all three. Yet it has appeared 18 times in articles in the past month, in a range of sections.

    Of course, new technology terms sprout and spread faster than ever. And we don’t want to seem paleolithic. But we favor established usage and ordinary words over the latest jargon or buzzwords.

    One test is to ask yourself whether people outside of a target group regularly employ the terms in question. Many people use Twitter, but many don’t; my guess is that few in the latter group routinely refer to “tweets” or “tweeting.” Someday, “tweet” may be as common as “e-mail.” Or another service may elbow Twitter aside next year, and “tweet” may fade into oblivion. (Of course, it doesn’t help that the word itself seems so inherently silly.)

    “Tweet” may be acceptable occasionally for special effect. But let’s look for deft, English alternatives: use Twitter, post to or on Twitter, write on Twitter, a Twitter message, a Twitter update. Or, once you’ve established that Twitter is the medium, simply use “say” or “write.”

    Make of it what you will. But, my quibble? I cannot believe he takes that horrible turn in the last sentence! No one "says" anything on Twitter! That's pollution of the language. One either WRITES or one SAYS. I will never accept the argument that these words are interchangeable!


  • Indian papers deplore 'shameful' Bhopal sentences

    1984 bhopal gas trazed

    Many Bhopal protesters said the verdicts were 'too little, too late'

    The Indian press has expressed outrage at the sentences handed down to Union Carbide employees found guilty of negligence over the gas leak that killed thousands of people in Bhopal in 1984.

    One paper described the two-year sentences given to eight former Union Carbide executives as "absurdly light punishment" and "a travesty of justice". Several accused successive Indian governments of kowtowing to US business interests in their failure to bring the former Union Carbide head, Warren Anderson, to justice.

    Many papers were also indignant at the levels of compensation awarded to victims of the disaster and their families.

    Bangalore-based Deccan Herald

    It is a shameful indictment of our lethargic judiciary… This verdict is a travesty of justice… Clearly the charge does not reflect the enormity of the crime committed…. it is just a rap on the knuckles. As for Anderson, he has escaped even this absurdly light punishment. If justice has eluded the victims, this is because the governments of the US and India have colluded to protect the guilty, including Anderson… Successive governments have been eager to please US business corporations in order to attract more investment rather than pursue justice.

    New Delhi-based The Asian Age

    The scale of human suffering in the wake of the tragedy… appears quite like that of a chemical weapons strike by a terrorist outfit… New Delhi should honour the dead and the suffering even at this late stage and press Washington to use all available laws to send Mr Anderson to face trial in India.

    Blog by Shobhan Saxena in Mumbai-based The Times of India

    Just two years in jail for the men who committed the worst crime against the people of this country. And this mockery of justice after such a long wait. Twenty six years after 40 tonnes of lethal gas seeped into the lungs of Bhopal, some 17,000 men and women are still waiting for the so-called compensation… In all these years, the poor victims have done everything they could to get justice and compensation… Today, they were denied justice. Today, they were told that they should be happy with the peanuts thrown at them by Union Carbide. Today, India proved once again that it doesn't care for its poor… Today, India proved that it doesn't really care for its people, particularly if they have been slaughtered by powerful people from the most powerful nation in the world. Instead of taking on America and fighting for justice for its poor, India is more than happy to sell its dead cheap.

    New Delhi-based Hindustan Times

    Two years in jail and bail of 25,000 rupees for the eight accused (one now deceased) in the Bhopal gas case will do nothing to lessen the poisonous atmosphere that has clouded the controversial tragedy for 25 long years…. [It] should have been an open-and-shut case of criminal and corporate liability. Yet, a quarter of a century down the line, all the victims have managed to get is 12,410 rupees each for the dead and for the survivors of a lifetime of disability and pain both for themselves and their progeny.

    Chandigarh-based The Tribune

    The nation is bound to be disappointed over Monday's ruling of a Bhopal court in the Union Carbide gas tragedy case which concerned the world's worst industrial disaster to date… The victims of the gas tragedy and the kith and kin of the deceased may have decided to knock on the doors of the Madhya Pradesh High Court. But they have a long battle ahead. Most of them have got only a measly compensation so far. While there is no escape from fighting for justice because the killer gas has hit the survivors in their genes, it may take many more years for the judiciary to pronounce the last word in the case.

    New Delhi-based The Indian Express

    The people of Bhopal continue to suffer from the 1984 leak and its botched aftermath - if not actually physiologically, then in terms of the dark shadows that have undeservedly become attached to their city's reputation. The accident, after all, could have happened anywhere in this country. Yet it's Bhopal that is instantly associated with the idea "industrial accident".


  • Indian papers deplore 'shameful' Bhopal sentences

    1984 bhopal gas trazed

    Many Bhopal protesters said the verdicts were 'too little, too late'

    The Indian press has expressed outrage at the sentences handed down to Union Carbide employees found guilty of negligence over the gas leak that killed thousands of people in Bhopal in 1984.

    One paper described the two-year sentences given to eight former Union Carbide executives as "absurdly light punishment" and "a travesty of justice". Several accused successive Indian governments of kowtowing to US business interests in their failure to bring the former Union Carbide head, Warren Anderson, to justice.

    Many papers were also indignant at the levels of compensation awarded to victims of the disaster and their families.

    Bangalore-based Deccan Herald

    It is a shameful indictment of our lethargic judiciary… This verdict is a travesty of justice… Clearly the charge does not reflect the enormity of the crime committed…. it is just a rap on the knuckles. As for Anderson, he has escaped even this absurdly light punishment. If justice has eluded the victims, this is because the governments of the US and India have colluded to protect the guilty, including Anderson… Successive governments have been eager to please US business corporations in order to attract more investment rather than pursue justice.

    New Delhi-based The Asian Age

    The scale of human suffering in the wake of the tragedy… appears quite like that of a chemical weapons strike by a terrorist outfit… New Delhi should honour the dead and the suffering even at this late stage and press Washington to use all available laws to send Mr Anderson to face trial in India.

    Blog by Shobhan Saxena in Mumbai-based The Times of India

    Just two years in jail for the men who committed the worst crime against the people of this country. And this mockery of justice after such a long wait. Twenty six years after 40 tonnes of lethal gas seeped into the lungs of Bhopal, some 17,000 men and women are still waiting for the so-called compensation… In all these years, the poor victims have done everything they could to get justice and compensation… Today, they were denied justice. Today, they were told that they should be happy with the peanuts thrown at them by Union Carbide. Today, India proved once again that it doesn't care for its poor… Today, India proved that it doesn't really care for its people, particularly if they have been slaughtered by powerful people from the most powerful nation in the world. Instead of taking on America and fighting for justice for its poor, India is more than happy to sell its dead cheap.

    New Delhi-based Hindustan Times

    Two years in jail and bail of 25,000 rupees for the eight accused (one now deceased) in the Bhopal gas case will do nothing to lessen the poisonous atmosphere that has clouded the controversial tragedy for 25 long years…. [It] should have been an open-and-shut case of criminal and corporate liability. Yet, a quarter of a century down the line, all the victims have managed to get is 12,410 rupees each for the dead and for the survivors of a lifetime of disability and pain both for themselves and their progeny.

    Chandigarh-based The Tribune

    The nation is bound to be disappointed over Monday's ruling of a Bhopal court in the Union Carbide gas tragedy case which concerned the world's worst industrial disaster to date… The victims of the gas tragedy and the kith and kin of the deceased may have decided to knock on the doors of the Madhya Pradesh High Court. But they have a long battle ahead. Most of them have got only a measly compensation so far. While there is no escape from fighting for justice because the killer gas has hit the survivors in their genes, it may take many more years for the judiciary to pronounce the last word in the case.

    New Delhi-based The Indian Express

    The people of Bhopal continue to suffer from the 1984 leak and its botched aftermath - if not actually physiologically, then in terms of the dark shadows that have undeservedly become attached to their city's reputation. The accident, after all, could have happened anywhere in this country. Yet it's Bhopal that is instantly associated with the idea "industrial accident".


  • India rest Tendulkar, drop Yuvraj for Asia Cup

    TendulkarYuvraj for Asia Cup

    India's cricket chiefs on Monday allowed veteran Sachin Tendulkar to skip the upcoming Asia Cup in Sri Lanka, while Yuvraj Singh was dropped from the 15-man squad.

    Mahendra Singh Dhoni will captain India in the four-nation limited-overs tournament against Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, in Dambulla from June 15 to 24.

    Tendulkar, 37, has not played for India since February 24, when he hit an unprecedented double-century in a one-day international against South Africa in Gwalior.

    The world's most prolific Test and one-day batsman turned out for Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League in March-April, before being rested for a tri-series in Zimbabwe also featuring Sri Lanka.

    "Tendulkar requested the board not to consider him for the Asia Cup as he wanted to spend time with his children in view of the hectic cricket season ahead," BCCI secretary N. Srinivasan said in a statement.

    Left-hander Yuvraj was axed after scoring just 74 runs in five matches in the World Twenty20 in the Caribbean in April-May, where India failed to make the semi-finals.

    In five one-day internationals this year, Yuvraj has managed only 96 runs, 74 of them coming in one match against Sri Lanka in Dhaka.

    Six players who were rested for the Zimbabwe tri-series -- Dhoni, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra -- are back for the Asia Cup.

    The second-string Indian team did not qualify for the final in Zimbabwe after losing twice to the hosts and once to Sri Lanka.

    Attacking left-hand batsman Saurabh Tiwary, 20, who plays for Mumbai Indians in the IPL, is the only new face in the squad.

    Indian squad:

    Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt), Virender Sehwag (vice-capt), Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, Harbhajan Singh, Praveen Kumar, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Pragyan Ojha, Ashok Dinda, Ravichandran Ashwin, Saurabh Tiwary.


  • Sex is the secret of my youth, says actress Cameron Diaz

    Actress Cameron Diazcameron diazActress Cameron Diaz

    Charlie's Angels star Cameron Diaz has revealed that sex is one of the reasons for her youthful appearance and is happy with the way she looks.

    "I don't want to look 25 again," quoted the star of There's Something About Mary as saying.

    "The fountain of youth for me, let's see. I guess it's exercise, healthy diet, lots of water, lots of laughter, lots of sex, yes sex, we need that as human beings.

    It's healthy, it's natural, it's what we are here to do," the actress said.

    The 37-year-old Hollywood star is reportedly dating baseball star Alex 'A-Rod' Rodriguez.


  • If Pakistan and Sri Lanka can play, why not India?

    India is getting increasingly isolated after it decided not to send a cricket team to the Asian Games to be held in China this year. Adding insult to the injury, on Thursday (June 3) both Pakistan and Sri Lanka announced their participation in the event.

    "Pakistan will be taking part in the Asian Games where the cricket competition is being held for the first time," a PCB official said.

    He said the national selectors had finalised a list of 30 players for the multi-sporting event and had already sent to the authorities before the deadline of March 31.

    "The Asian Games is one of the biggest regional sporting events in the world and definitely our team will take part in it," PCB director-general cricket Javed Miandad said.

    Reacting to the BCCI's decision not to send the Indian team to the Asian games in China, where Cricket has been included in the games for the first time, Miandad said he was surprised by BCCI's decision but it was their internal matter. "Pakistan team is going that is important to us," he added.

    Indian Football superstar and captain of the national team Baichung Bhutia urged the BCCI to reconsider their decision of not sending the team to the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou China. Baichung said that BCCI must think again and send their team to the Asian Games.

    India's Beijing Olympic gold medallist Abhinav Bindra also spoke against BCCI's decision of not sending the Indian cricket team to the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou in China. Bindra has said that it's unfortunate that Indian cricketers won't get a chance to win a medal in the prestigious event.

    The BCCI stayed adamant on its stand of not sending the team stating they have other commitments. BCCI had cited prior international commitments and declared and that it will not send a T20 team to the Asian Games in Guangzhou, China, where cricket has been included for the first time. The decision drew flak from various quarters including leading current and former Indian sportspersons, sports administrators and a number of former cricketers.

    The decision drew flak from various quarters including leading current and former Indian sportspersons, sports administrators, and a number of former cricketers.

    Today, IOA president Suresh Kalmadi slammed the BCCI saying that he expected the BCCI to make such a decision. Speaking to reporters about the issue he said, "I am not surprised by the BCCI's decision at all. I knew they would do something like this that is why I did not invite them to the Common Wealth Games."

    The BCCI had said that there was no team available for the event which drew the ire of eminent sportspersons including Boxing world champion Mary Kom. India is the only high profile Asian team that will not play in the games scheduled to be held in November this year.


  • Tobacco use on the rise among Indian youth, reveals WHO report

    In spite of the numerous cases of oral cancer
    [abnormal cells that divide without control, which can invade nearby tissues or spread through the bloodstream and lymphatic system to other parts of the body. ] in the country, there has been no decline in the usage of tobacco by the youth.

    In an attempt to figure out the actual tobacco usage in India, the first Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) was conducted by the Union health ministry along with WHO.

    "Regarding the use of tobacco in the country we just have National Family Health Survey (NFHS) data. This is the first survey in the country which will accurately tell us about the use of tobacco in different socio-economic strata," Dr Jagdish Kaur, chief medical officer of DGHS in the ministry of health, said.

    Under the GATS project, 72,000 people were surveyed in 29 states. The survey was done with the help of a questionnaire comprising of 75 questions based on several parameters.

    Revelations of the report
    The percentage of young smokers aged between 13-15 years has risen by 5.8 percent among the males and by 2.4 percent among the females, reveal statistics released by the report.

    The overall consumption of tobacco by the children amounted to approximately 16.2 percent.

    Almost 8.3 percent girls below 15 consumed some form of tobacco, the vast majority of them using smokeless tobacco like gutka--paan masala with tobacco, mishri, and gul.

    “Women comprise nearly 20% of the world's more than 1 billion smokers. The global report on tobacco use is indicative of the increase in the use of tobacco among women in India. It is a percentage by which it has gone up," Vineet Gill, national programme officer of Tobacco Free Initiative, WHO India, said.

    Children follow their elders in picking the habit
    It has been noticed that a huge percentage of kids indulge in smoking by watching their parents and elders.

    Prasad Oak, the counselor at the Anandvan Bahuddeshiya Sanstha, said that children often start consuming tobacco by watching their parents.

    “The children mostly inherit the habit from their parents. Among slum dwellers, consumption of tobacco by children is not usually considered a bad habit as the adults themselves are unaware of concomitant effects of tobacco,” he said.

    Smoking scenes in movies and television, too, make an impact on the tobacco consumption by the youth.

    Statistics show that 52 percent of the youth consume their first cigarette when they see their favorite movie actor smoke.


  • A century of hung parliaments

    There has been speculation that the UK could end up with a hung Parliament - one where no single party has a majority - after the general election. Justin Parkinson looks at the five times it has happened in the last 100 (and a bit) years. JANUARY AND DECEMBER 1910 Asquith's Liberal government received backing from Irish nationalist MPs The Liberals had governed since 1906 with a Commons majority, although they had also been backed by Labour, which supported social reform, and the Irish nationalists - on the understanding that Home Rule would pass into law. The election of January 1910 followed the rejection by the House of Lords of Liberal Chancellor Lloyd George's "People's Budget", which included a "super tax" on the wealthy. Voters returned more Liberal MPs - under leader Herbert Asquith - than those of any other party. They took 275 seats, two more than Arthur Balfour's Conservatives, but were 61 short of a Commons majority. Labour took 40 and the Irish Nationalists 82. The Irish Nationalists kept the Liberals in power and a further election, in December 2010, gave the Tories and Liberals the same number of seats - 272. This figure was 64 short of a majority. The nationalists, with 84 seats, again kept the Liberals in power. The government also brought in welfare and trade union legislation which was backed by Labour. The main parties formed a coalition during World War I and, in 1916, Lloyd George joined the Conservatives in ousting Asquith, becoming prime minister himself. At the next general election, in 1918, the coalition won a majority - in the face of opposition from splinter groups from all the main parties - and carried on with Lloyd George as prime minister, even though the Conservatives won most seats. DECEMBER 1923 Stanley Baldwin was back in power a few months after standing down Conservative Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin was in for a tumultuous, but ultimately victorious, 10 months when his party failed to win a majority in the election, held on 5 December 1923. His was still the largest single party, with 258 seats - but 50 short of a majority. Meanwhile Labour took 191 and the Liberals 158 - ceasing to be the UK's second party. On 24 January 1924, six weeks after the election, Baldwin went to the Commons, still as prime minister, to ask MPs if he could continue. But he lost a confidence vote and resigned. A minority Labour administration - the first Labour government - was formed under Ramsay MacDonald, with the support of, but not a pact with, the Liberals. Over the summer of 1924, the government decided not to prosecute JR Campbell, editor of the communist Workers' Weekly, for sedition, after the publication of an article urging the services not to fight in the event of a war. The government made the decision a no-confidence issue, and was defeated by the opposition parties. It called another election. Baldwin was helped by the so-called Zinoviev letter - published in the Daily Mail four days before polling. It purported to show that an international communist conspiracy existed to stir up agitation in the UK, including among the armed forces. At the 24 October election, many Liberal voters, furious that their party had helped "socialists" into power, deserted the cause. The Liberals were routed, dropping to just 40 seats, and the Tories came back to power with a landslide. MacDonald reportedly told his cabinet, just before leaving office, that he felt "like a man sewn in a sack and thrown into the sea". MAY 1929 Ramsay MacDonald in tug-of-war at Labour gathering in 1923 MacDonald's decision to join a coalition split the Labour Party This time round, on 30 May 1929, Labour won the most seats - 287 - for the first time. But it was still 21 short of a Commons majority. Conservative Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin resigned, refusing to negotiate with Liberal leader David Lloyd George, whom he detested, regarding staying in office under such circumstances as humiliating. So, a second minority Labour government was formed, with Ramsay MacDonald again becoming prime minister. During the next couple of years, the economy deteriorated, with ministers unable to arrest the slump. In 1931, sterling seemed in great danger, and King George V called a Buckingham Palace conference to discuss plans for a government of "national unity". This took over on 31 August, promising to balance the Budget. MacDonald stayed as prime minister, although all but 14 Labour MPs refused to come across to the national unity government with him. The Liberals also split into pro- and anti-national government factions. MacDonald called an election for 24 October. The Conservatives won a massive 470 seats. MacDonald's National Labour - which did not compete with the Tories - took 41. Labour, led by Arthur Henderson, took just 52. So, the national unity government persisted, with a huge majority. MacDonald - still regarded as a traitor by many in the Labour Party today - stayed on as prime minister until 1935, when Baldwin took over. FEBRUARY 1974 Wilson went to the country again before the year was over Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath, embroiled in conflicts with the unions, called an election for 28 February 1974. Labour became the biggest party - with 301 seats - but was 17 short of a Commons majority. The Conservatives took 297 seats. The Liberals won 14, meaning that they did not hold the balance of power. Heath stayed in Downing Street for four days, until he realised he could not put a coalition together. He had offered this to Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe, who called in return for the Tories to bring in a proportional representation voting syst
  • ‘China, India should unite for bigger role in world politics’

    China and India should “unite” to play a “bigger role” in international affairs by leaving behind their past friction and look to the future if they aspire for a greater say in global politics, a leading Chinese daily said today.

    “By cooperating on regional and international affairs, the two countries will better safeguard each of their interests and those of the developing world at large,” the state-run China Daily said in its editorial marking the 60th anniversary of bilateral ties.

    As two important regional powers, China and India share common interests in sustaining regional development and stability and the two nations also have common ground in tackling global challenges including climate change and energy security, it added.

    “The call for China and India to play a bigger role in the world has been growing. The call will be better answered if the two neighbours leave behind their past friction and look to the future. The two countries will be better positioned on global affairs if they could stand united,” it added.

    Underlining the importance of bilateral ties, External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna, who is visiting Beijing, yesterday said, the two neighbours are not rivals and emphasised that “divergences” between the two Asian giants were often exaggerated by “vested interests“.

    “A strong and stable relationship between India and China has consequences for the entire world. Because we are different, our divergences are often exaggerated. If truth be told, there are vested interests at work too,” he had said.

    Meanwhile, the Chinese newspaper recognised “the two developing but emerging economies have been regarded as bright spots bringing hope of a full global economic recovery.”

    “Expanded cooperation in trade will bring more benefits for the two neighbours and further shore up their economic clout around the world.

    China regards its relationship with India as one of its most important bilateral ties. The growth in their relationship in the past 60 years has made it possible for the two most populous countries to forge ahead with a long-term strategic partnership,” it said.

    The ongoing visit by Mr. Krishna to Beijing is important for officials from both sides to carry out dialogue, build trust and establish cooperation, the paper noted.


  • China hacked Indian defence documents: report

    Cyber Warfarecyber_warfare_2cyber-warfare

    In an apparent threat to the Indian defence system, Chinese hackers have reportedly broken into top secret files of the Indian Defence Ministry and embassies around the world.

    Citing a report, 'Shadow in the Clouds', The New York Times said the Canadian and American computer security researchers have monitored a Chinese spying operation for the past eight months, observing while the intruders pilfered classified and restricted documents from the highest levels of the Indian Defense Ministry.

    In a report issued Monday night, the researchers, based at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto, provide a detailed account of how a spy operation it called the 'Shadow Network' systematically hacked into personal computers in government offices on several continents.

    According to it, the “Toronto spy hunters not only learned what kinds of material had been stolen, but were able to see some of the documents, including classified assessments about security in several Indian states, and confidential embassy documents about India’s relationships in West Africa, Russia and the Middle East.”

    The report said the intruders breached the systems of independent analysts, taking reports on several Indian missile systems. They also obtained a year’s worth of the Dalai Lama’s personal e-mail messages.

    Recently, Minister of State for IT and Communications, Sachin Pilot had told reporters that government networks had been attacked by China, but that “not one attempt has been successful”.

    But the latest report has apparently made the government press the panic button.

    “On March 24, the Toronto researchers said, they contacted intelligence officials in India and told them of the spy ring they had been tracking. They requested and were given instructions on how to dispose of the classified and restricted documents,” the report added.

    Though the attacks look like the work of a criminal gang based in Sichuan Province, as with all cyber attacks, it is easy to mask the true origin, the researchers said. Given the sophistication of the intruders and the targets of the operation, the researchers said, it is possible that the Chinese government approved of the spying.

    The documents hacked by the criminals contain sensitive information taken from a member of the National Security Council Secretariat concerning secret assessments of India’s security situation in the states of Assam, Manipur, Nagaland and Tripura, as well as concerning the Naxalites and Maoists, according to NYT

    There was evidence that Indian Embassy computers in Kabul, Moscow and Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and at the High Commission of India in Abuja, Nigeria had been compromised, it added.

    Computers used by the Indian Military Engineer Services in Bengdubi, Calcutta, Bangalore and Jalandhar; the 21 Mountain Artillery Brigade in Assam and three air force bases were compromised, and computers at two Indian military colleges were also taken over by the spy ring, the NYT quoted the report as saying.

    Is it that China is getting ready for a cyber war with India?


  • US pressures India on sanctions against Iran

    Sending a "strong signal" to countries engaged in business dealings with Iran that they may face ramifications, the US has asked India and other emerging powers to play a key role in galvanising the global community for imposing sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear issue.

    "We are expecting everyone, particularly, emerging powers to play a significant role in this (issue)," Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, P J Crowley, told reporters, when asked about the latest Indian move to resume talks with Iran for a multi-billion dollar gas pipeline project.

    His comments came a day after Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Robert Blake warned all countries against engaging in transactions with Iran.

    Pakistan and Iran have already inked an agreement on the gas pipeline project two weeks ago.

    "We have a broad-based dialogue with both India and Pakistan. Part of the dialogue in each country is to understand and help, with the respective and legitimate energy needs that countries in the region have," Crowley said.

    "But we are also sending a very strong signal to a range of countries; not just in South Asia, throughout the world, to those countries that have economic relations with Iran or to those sectors of the global economy that do business with Iran, understand where this process is going, and understand that ultimately ... There will be ramifications here in terms of how this proceeds," he said.

    Noting that the US is in discussion with P5 + One (US, UK, Russia, France and China plus Germany) on the issue of additional sanction on Iran through the UN Security Council, Crowley said that Washington expects "depending on not only what's in that resolution but other steps that countries will take for going forward."

    The international community as a whole has to be united behind this effort, and has to enforce whatever sanctions are put in place against Iran. "There are, you know, existing sanctions already in place," he said.

    "We have expressed our concerns to a number of countries that have ongoing economic relations with Iran that now may not be the best time to pursue such (relationship)," Crowley said when asked if the US has taken up the issue specifically with India and Pakistan.

    Observing that the US does not think in "zero-sum terms" while talking about developments in the region, he said it does recognise ultimately the growth of legitimate trade that more fully integrates countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan and others into a regional or global trading system.


  • Stage set for Zardari losing powers to PM

    After days of political wrangling, a parliamentary committee has agreed on a constitutional amendment that transfers the Pakistani president's powers to fire an elected government and appoint military chiefs to the country's prime minister.

    President Asif Ali Zardari was under a lot of pressure for dragging his feet on relinquishing the powers, inherited from the country's former military ruler Pervez Musharraf. Zardari, who will now occupy a largely ceremonial post, had first promised to do so when he was elected in 2008.

    "This was a difficult job that has been done amicably and with consensus," said senator Raza Rabbani, the head of the parliamentary committee.

    Experts say the changes mean little since Zardari derives much of his power from his position as co-head of Pakistan's ruling party. The president would still wield significant influence over the government, as Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani is a loyal member of his party.

    The all-party committee drafted constitutional amendment must be approved by two-thirds of the parliament to be ratified.

    Opposition leader Nawaz Sharif, who heads Pakistan's second largest party, was the most vocal figure calling for Zardari to give up his powers. The move to strip Zardari of his powers could improve relations between the two parties.

    The draft, dubbed as the biggest constitutional achievement since the 1973 constitution, also envisages to undo other dictatorial amendments made to the constitution. The committee revisited all 278 articles of the constitution and proposed amendments to about 100 of them.


  • VK Singh takes over as Indian Army chief

    Gen. V.K.-Singh first commando to be Army Chief

    Lt Gen VK Singh on Wednesday ceremonially took charge as the 26th chief of the 1.13 million-strong Indian Army after his predecessor Gen Deepak Kapoor retired.

    Singh, 59, will hold the post for the next two years.

    Singh, who was GOC-in-C of Eastern Command, has vast experience in counter-insurgency operations.

    He comes from the Rajput Regiment and is a graduate of the Wellington-based Defence Services Staff College as well as the US Army War College at Carlisle. He did a Rangers Course at Fort Benning in the US.

    He was commissioned in June 1970.


    Gen V K Singh, first commando to be Army Chief

    Gen V K Singh, the senior most infantry officer, was on Wednesday handed over charge of the Indian Army, the world's second largest, by outgoing chief Gen Deepak Kapoor and he will formally assume his new office tomorrow.

    He will be the first trained commando to take over as the Army chief.

    Gen Singh, who has vast experience in counter-insurgency operations and till lately was the GOC-in-C of Kolkata-based Eastern Command, was handed over charge by Gen Kapoor at a ceremony in the South Block here.

    Kapoor retired from the Army after over four decades of service and would formally cease to be the Army chief at midnight tonight.

    Singh, who picked up the four-star rank of General today, will be the 26th chief and will stay at the helm of the 1.13 million personnel-strong Army for over two years.

    The defence ministry had on January 23 issued the order appointing Singh for the top post after the Cabinet Committee on Appointments cleared his name a day earlier.

    Singh was in the news recently when he recommended action against four General-ranked officers indicted by a probe in the Sukna land scam in Darjeeling district of West Bengal.

    A third generation officer from the Rajput regiment, Singh had participated in the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War as a young captain. He is a graduate of the Wellington-based Defence Services Staff College as well as the US Army War College at Carlisle. He also did a Rangers Course, a prestigious commando training, at Fort Benning in the US.

    The new chief belongs to the Rajput Regiment just as Field Marshal K M Cariappa, the first Indian to become the Army chief in 1949.

    Singh was commissioned in the Rajput Regiment in June 1970 and commanded the same unit when it was positioned along the Line of Control with Pakistan.

    Experienced in counter-insurgency, Line of Control and high altitude operations, Singh was awarded the Yudh Sena Medal for his distinguished service during 'Operation Pawan' against the LTTE in Sri Lanka.

    Singh, who has seen action in the 1971 war, also served in the Military Operations Directorate at the Army Headquarters and was Brigadier General Staff of a Corps during 'Operation Parakram' when troops were mobilised on the border in the wake of the 2001 terror attack on Parliament.

    He also commanded the Jalandhar-based 11 Corps and Ambala-based Strike Corps and was an instructor in the Indian Military Training Team (IMTRAT) headquarters in Bhutan.

    Singh was awarded the Ati Vishisht Seva Medal (AVSM) for distinguished service while commanding a counter-insurgency force.

    The General has an illustrious record in the Army for standing first in the Young Officers Course of Infantry and again being awarded the Commando Dagger for standing first in the Commando Course.

    Singh will be the 24th Indian to be the Army chief, as the first two Indian Army chiefs were British officers General Sir Robert Lockhart and General Sir Roy Bucher.

    The Indian Army has so far had 14 Infantry, six Armoured and five Artillery officers, including Gen Kapoor, as its chiefs.


  • 17 Indians get death for Pakistani's murder in UAE


    Seventeen Indians were sentenced to death by Shariah Court in Sharjah for killing a Pakistani man and injuring three others, a media report said.

    According to Khaleej Times report, Judge Yousuf Al Hamadi sentenced the 17 men to death after all evidence showed they had knifed the Pakistani to death in Jan 2009.

    The police had said the suspects had attempted to kill three other compatriots of the victim, but they managed to escape and were rushed to Kuwaiti Hospital for treatment.

    Police said there was a turf dispute between members of rival gangs that sell illegal liquor in and around labour camps in the Al-Sajaa area of Sharjah.

    According to the three Pakistanis who survived, 50 people set upon them with knives on that fateful day last year.

    Police had rushed to the area and arrested the 17, who had allegedly led the attack. The others were let off due to lack of evidence.

    During court hearings, all the suspects confessed they had fought with and murdered the victim.

    The sentences marked the highest number of death penalties handed down at one time in the emirate.


  • Rajiv killer Nalini not to be released

    NALINIrajiv-gandhi-NaliniSonia Gandhi

    Rajiv Gandh's killer Nalini, who has been in jail for almost two decades is not likely to come out of jail very soon as the Tamil Nadu government has told the Madras High Court that she cannot be released.

    Convicted for plotting the assassination of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, Nalini was sentenced to death by the Supreme Court. However, her sentence was reduced to life life imprisonment after the intervention of Rajiv Gandhi's widow and Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

    Appearing on behalf of the Tamil Nadu government, state Advocate General P S Raman denied recommending premature release of Nalini from prison.

    He told the Division Bench of the Madras High Court that the Prison Advisory Committee which was constituted to look into the matter had cited eight reasons for not recommending the release of the convict who is currently lodged in Vellore jail.

    Nalini was arrested in 1991 shortly after the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi and has been in jail since then.


  • 'Lakshmi Mittal richest Asian in Britain in 2010'

    NRI steel baron Lakshmi Mittal, owner of the world's largest steel company ArcelorMittal, is the richest Asian in Britain for the year 2010 with an estimated wealth of 17 billion pound.

    According to the Asian Rich List 2010, brought out by Eastern Eye, a publication of the Asian Media & Marketing Group, 59-year-old Mittal is followed by the Hinduja brothers, Srichand and Gopichand, with 8 billion pound, Anil Agarwal of mining group Vedanta Resources with 4 billion pound, Sir Anwar Pervez of Bestways with 715 million pound and NRI industrialist Swraj Paul of Caparo with 510 million pound.

    The Rich List was released at the Sofitel Hotel here last night where the Hinduja brothers, S P Hinduja and G P Hinduja, Chairman and vice chairman of the Hinduja Group were presented with the 'Lifetime Achievement Award' for their outstanding achievements in various spheres of life.

    The list noted that Mittal's rise sometimes obscured the fact that he has been one of the most enterprising figures of "our age", and no episode perhaps better reflected this than his takeover of European steel giant Arcelor.

    Mittal is the Chairman and CEO of ArcelorMittal, while his son Aditya is the chief financial officer. Mittal's daughter Vanisha, who attracted much publicity when her father organised an extravagant wedding costing 10-20 million pound for her in France in 2004, is also on the board, it said.

    In 2008, ArcelorMittal had $124.9 billion revenues and crude steel production of 103.3 million tonnes (MT), showing 10% of world steel output. In contrast, in 2009 the company had USD 65.1 billion revenues and crude steel output of 73.2 MT, representing 8% of global steel output.

    Commenting on the fall, Mittal said in a very difficult environment, ArcelorMittal has succeeded in lowering its cost base substantially and significantly strengthening the balance sheet. "We, therefore, start the year in a good position to benefit from the progressive, albeit slow, recovery that is underway".

    "Although 2010 will continue to be challenging, we are now increasing capital expenditure to take advantage of selected growth opportunities as demand improves".

    Mittal will emerge a stronger man from the present crisis, predicts Philip Beresford, the journalist who was among the first to spot his potential when the Indian businessman relocated his headquarters from Jakarta to London towards the end of 1995.

    Paul, who is listed as the fifth richest Asian in the UK, built Caparo, a global steel company that employs over 3,000 people in the UK alone, through sheer "hard work, integrity and a lot of luck.

    "Answering to queries at a panel discussion held as part of the release of the List, Paul said Asians in the UK have shown they have "something to contribute to this country".

    Asked about the secret of his success, Paul, British Ambassador for Overseas Business, said: "it is hard work, integrity and lot of luck".

    According to the publication, Paul loves being on his 250-acre country estate in Buckinghamshire. He is one of the few Indians to have really taken to English country life.

    "Britain has been very kind to me," he insisted. The publication noted that "most would acknowledge that Lord Paul has been good for Britain, not least because he is part of the British Indian business community that has helped to strengthen the UK's close relationship with India.

    "Referring to Tories attack on Lord Paul for being a "non- dom" and persuading him to announce his decision to give up this status, the issue noted that "Lord Paul has tried repeatedly to explain, to be a non-dom is not the same thing as dodging tax". He pays personal tax in the UK of about half- a-million pound a year, and above that, "Caparo's contribution to the treasury in good years has been about 7 million pound."

    "All my income which is in Britain I pay tax on," he said. "This criticism about non-domicility is only by ignorant people who refuse to study what non-domicility means. What is the qualification for being non-domiciled? That you were born abroad. The advantage is if I want to go and work three months outside and make some money, that money is not taxable unless I bring it into Britain," he said.

    "The Caparo group now has over 30 plants in India and 8 in the US: "We are a very big player worldwide in automobile components. Our products include pressings, fasteners, aluminium castings, forgings, tubing and tubular components."

    Caparo India has also begun manufacturing suspension and chassis components and is investing heavily in a R&D facility, including tool and die design manufacture.

    "For the aircraft industry and for yachts, we are trying to use carbon fibre design." Caparo Steel had a turnover of 860 million pound, and made an operating profit of 174 million pound (in 2009-10), the publication said.

    About Aditya, the publication said he and his wife Megha, parents of two, have made a record 15 million pound donation for personal reasons to the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children. Mittal's wife Usha has given $1 million to the Rotary Foundation for the worldwide eradication of polio.

    Posing the question 'how did the Hindujas make their money' the publication said S P Hinduja, head of the Hinduja dynasty, himself provided the answer.

    He said: "Though we have made hundreds of millions of dollars, it has taken over three generations - first my father and his two brothers, then the five sons, four surviving, then five grandsons, four surviving.


  • City lights going out for Earth Hour Yorks


    City residents, businesses and community groups have joined forces in a bid to 'blackout' Leeds tomorrow.

    Earth Hour Yorks is part of a global Earth Hour campaign to encourage over one billion people in 5,000 cities to switch off their lights to show they want action to tackle climate change.

    Earth Hour takes place at 8.30pm - and Leeds is already backing the campaign.

    The Cheerful Chilli in Otley has pledged to dine by candlelight and Exposure Leeds event photographers on social media site Flickr are also being urged to record the event.

    For an hour there will be darkness at the Civic Hall, Merrion House, Thoresby House, the Leonardo building and the outside of Kirkgate Market as the coun cil backs the campaign. A small number of lights will stay on at 2 Great George Street to enable staff to work in one section, but the rest of the building will join in.

    Also doing their bit for the planet by taking part will be the Victoria Quarter, IKEA Leeds and the Environment Agency.

    Young people in the city will be taking part too, with several schools joining in- some showing their support today since they are not open on Saturdays. Those participating include Farnley Park Maths and Computing College, Morley Newlands Primary School, Richmond House School and Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Primary School in Moortown.

    Earth Hour Yorkshire is being run by Adam Woodhall of Leeds-based environmental consultancy PeopleProfitPlanet, Sam Saxby of West Yorkshire's Better Business Environment Forum and Leeds environmental campaigner Lucy Glynn.


  • India's Tendulkar to skip World T20 again


    Sachin Tendulkar on Wednesday rejected a growing clamour in India to play in next month's World Twenty20 despite enjoying prime batting form in recent months.

    "I will not be playing the ICC World Twenty20," Tendulkar told the CNN-IBN news channel. "I have not played Twenty20 Internationals from 2007 onwards and I don't think it should become an issue now."
    Tendulkar, who recently became the first man to score a double-century in one-day cricket, has played just one Twenty20 international in his 21-year, record-breaking career.

    The Mumbai star, who turns 37 next month, opted out of the first two T20 world championships in 2007 and 2009, saying the younger members of the side were more suited for the shortest format of the game.

    But former players want him to take part in the third edition, starting in the Caribbean on April 30, following a string of high scores in both Test and one-day cricket.
    In the past 12 months, Tendulkar has averaged 71.50 in nine Tests with five centuries, and 65.28 in 17 one-dayers with three hundreds.
    In the ongoing Indian Premier League domestic Twenty20 tournament, he has hit 176 runs in four games with a strike-rate of 155.75 off 100 balls.
    "I hope the selectors can persuade Tendulkar to go to the West Indies," said former India batsman and commentator Navjot Sidhu during a discussion on the subject on television.
    "He loves playing for the country and the Indian team needs him more than ever before. He is batting like the champion he is."
    Another former player Mohinder Amarnath admitted Tendulkar would make a huge difference to India's chances, but wanted the decision to be left entirely to him.
    "Sachin knows best what to do," said Amarnath. "He has played for so long that we must all respect his decision."

    The selectors will meet on Friday to pick the 15-man squad for the tournament which India won in 2007 but failed to qualify for the semi-finals two years later.
    Tendulkar was excluded from the provisional list of 30 announced last month, but tournament rules permit a player not in the list to be included in the final 15.
    India are drawn alongside South Africa and surprise qualifiers Afghanistan in one of the four preliminary league groups, with two teams from each group qualifying for the Super Eights round.


  • Hyderabad student shot dead in US

    A 28-year-old Indian student from Hyderabad working as a part-time clerk at a convenience store in Oklahama has been shot dead by unidentified men.

    Prashanth Goinaka, who had taken up a part-time job of a cashier at a convenience store SK Foods only four days ago, was shot dead Sunday by two unidentified assailants who had walked into the store posing as customers and snatched the cash.

    Australians accused of racially abusing Indian players

    Oklahoma City Police say they are investigating the man's death as a homicide as there was trauma to the body. His family, which received the news late on Monday, is in a state of shock and is not ready to believe that the youth who left for the US barely two months ago to study for an MBA is no more.

    According to the information received by Prashanth's family, who reside in Santoshnagar area here, he was killed around 7.15 p.m. Sunday local time.

    Prashanth's father G. Rajaiah and mother Bharathi were devastated after hearing the shocking news of their only son. His only sister Swathi is pursuing her MBBS here.

    'I can't believe this. He left only two months ago for studies and now we heard that he is no more. Oh God. Why this happened to him,' said Rajaiah, an employee in a medical and health department, while crying inconsolably.

    Missing Indian-American found dead near Chicago

    'We have received the information that two blacks shot him dead for money,' he said.

    Prashanth, a BCom graduate of St Thomas College, Dilsukhnagar, had gone to the US on Jan 25 this year to realise his cherished dream of studying for his MBA. He was a student at the International Technological University in California. Last week, he went to Oklahoma after the university permitted him to take up a part-time job.

    Family members said he had informed his parents over the phone that he got a job and that he would call them to the US.

    Prashanth initially joined the merchant navy but could not cope with the sea sickness. He was also a good dancer and worked as a junior artist in some Telugu movies, family members said.

    The family has requested the state government to make arrangements to bring his body home. 'I am requesting Chief Minister K. Rosaiah with folded hands to help the family by making arrangements to bring his body home as early as possible,' said Prashanth's cousin Chandrasekhar.

    There have been a spate of shooting incidents involving Telugu students and techies in the US during the past three years.

    Rudraraju Sudheer Kumar, a mechanical engineer, was found murdered in his flat in Atlanta in February last year.

    Akshay Vishal, 26, a software engineer from Hyderabad, was shot dead by unidentified people in Little Rock, Arkansas on Jan 13.

    Arpana B. Jinaga, 24, a software engineer at EMC Corporation in Seattle, was found murdered in her apartment November 3, 2008.

    Indian doctor robbed at knife point in Melbourne

    T. Soumya Reddy, 23, who was pursuing her MS in electrical engineering at the Southern Illinois University and was found dead in a car near a lake in Chicago in September, 2008. Her cousin Vikram Reddy, 27, who was a software engineer in Chicago, was also found shot dead nearby.

    Srinivas, a medical student, was found murdered in Pennsylvania in March, 2008. A. Kirankumar and K. Chandrasekhar Reddy, both PhD students, were shot dead by intruders in their apartment at Louisiana University in December 2007.


  • IPL: Sahara buys Pune for $ 370 million

    Two new franchises Pune and Kochi have been added as the bidding for new teams in the Indian Premier League ended on Sunday. The teams were unveiled for the fourth edition of IPL.

    Sahara Adventure Sports Group were the highest bidder for $370 million and now own Pune franchise. Rendezvous' bid for Kochin was worth USD 333.33 million.

    The IPL unveiled two new teams at the ITC Park Sheraton in Chennai on Sunday, with five bidders reportedly in the fray. The process was to have been completed on March 7 but was postponed by two weeks after the bidders and the BCCI objected to stiff financial clauses.

    The IPL will now feature ten teams from the next season. After the first season in 2008, the league has already expanded its reach to other centres such as Cuttack, Ahmedabad, Nagpur and Dharamsala.


  • Iranians celebrate Persian New Year, Nowruz


    Iranians around the globe celebrate the Persian New Year, Nowruz, marking the first day of spring, as a time of renewal, hope and change.

    For Iranians, Nowruz is a celebration of new beginnings, a time to visit relatives and friends, and pay respect to senior family members.

    Preparation for Nowruz begins with spring cleaning, buying new clothes and setting the Haft Seen, a table containing seven items starting with the letter 'S' — Sabzeh (freshly grown greens), Samanu (sweet wheat paste), Senjed (jujube), Seeb (apple), Seer (garlic), Somagh (sumac) and Serkeh (vinegar).

    Senior family members give presents to their juniors and people renew their friendships and start the New Year with kindness and amity.

    Meaning 'new day,' Nowruz is celebrated by over 300 million people worldwide on March 21st, the day of the vernal equinox.

    The ancient tradition of Nowruz and the rebirth of nature is observed in the Balkans, the Black Sea Basin, the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Middle East.

    The United Nations General Assembly recognized March 21st as the International Day of Nowruz during its sixty-fourth session on Feb. 23, 2010.

    The Assembly called on its Nowruz-celebrating member states to study the ancient festival's "history and traditions with a view to disseminating that knowledge among the international community and organizing annual commemoration events."

    Nowruz was also registered on the list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on September 30, 2009.


  • World Bank OKs record $1.05 bln for schools in India

    The World Bank on Thursday approved a record $1.05 billion credit line to help get more children into schools in India, the largest ever investment in education by the poverty-fighting institution.

    The loans will help Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, a government program aimed at boosting education among young children. It is the largest program of its kinds in the world.

    While the funding is a major investment by the World Bank in education, it is small for a populous country such as India with large numbers of poor.

    Sam Carlson, World Bank education specialist, said the latest funding was the third in a series of loans to support the government's program.

    "This is going to be a game-changer for a number of the poorest households in India, who until now have been out of the system," Carlson told Reuters.

    Since that program's launch in 2002, school enrollments have increased significantly, although convincing children to stay in school is still a major challenge.

    "That is the unfinished agenda. The drop-out rate is too high," he said in an interview.

    Indian government figures show that between 2003 and 2009 the number of children enrolled in elementary education in India increased by 57 million to 192 million. The number of children who left school fell to 8.1 million from 25 million in the same period.

    Carlson said it was hard to reach children living in urban slums and remote rural areas and the program focused on getting those children into classrooms.

    "This is reaching out the families who have never sent their children to school before; who have traditionally been excluded both socially and economically," Carlson added.

    More than 50 percent of education resources will be allocated over the next three years to activities to improve student learning, such as teacher training, remedial education, free textbooks and for other learning materials.


  • Saina Nehwal creates history, breaks into top-5

    saina-nehwalsaina_nehwalSaina Nehwal creates history

    India’s ace women’s badminton player Saina Nehwal on Thursday created history as she became the first ever Indian woman to break into the top-5 of the Badminton rankings.

    Saina’s feat comes after she became the first Indian woman to reach the semi-finals of the recently concluded prestigious All England Open.

    Although she lost in the semi-finals of the tournament, it is an achievement that will give her a lot of confidence for the upcoming international tournaments.

    Riding on her fantastic show, the Indian gained a couple of spots in the latest list with 58516.7646 points in her kitty.

    Chinese shuttlers dominate the top half of the women's rankings with Yihan Wang leading the pack followed by Wang Lin, Xin Wang and Jiang Yanjiao respectively.

    In the men's rankings, Chetan Anand dropped a rung to 10th but P Kashyap gained one spot to be 29th. Arvind Bhat remained static at 36th but Anup Sridhar slipped to 40th, a loss of one position.

    In the mixed doubles rankings, Jwala Gutta and V Diju's pair slipped one spot to 10th in the latest list.

    Saina also had a good 2009 where she won the Indonesian Open Super Series Tournament and reached the semi-finals of the World Super Series Masters. She also reached the quarters in a number of tourneys including the World Championships, Malaysian Open, Denmark Open, French Super Series, Swiss Open, Indian Open and Singapore Open in 2009.

    After hearing the news, an elated Saina said that she is feeling as good as ever and is rearing to go.

    “I am feeling good, fresh and raring to go,” she said.

    Saina also said that this year she would be concentrating more on training and playing less tournaments to maintain her fitness.

    “I would train more and play less this year to keep myself injury free.”

    Born in the city of Hisar in Haryana, Saina is training under former All England champion Pullela Gopichand at his academy in Hyderabad.


  • Every day, 1.1bn people poo without a loo


    This is one world No. 1 tag that 'emerging India' would love to shed. Indians comprised 58% of all people across the world who regularly defecated in the open in 2008. That's more than half the Indian population (54%), a WHO-UNICEF report said. While 18% of urban India indulged in the practice, the percentage was as high as 69% in rural parts of the country.

    Globally, 1.1 billion people still have no access to toilets, with India alone contributing 638 million to the figure. Just 11 countries, including India, are home to 81% of such people. The other nations include neighbouring countries like China, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh, besides Indonesia, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Sudan, Brazil and Niger.

    Experts say open defecation leads to deadly diarrhoea and other intestinal diseases, and contributes to poor hygiene which kills hundreds of thousands of people globally every year.

    WHO-UNICEF, which released a report on open defecation late Tuesday night, terms it the riskiest sanitation practice of all. It has been found to be widespread especially in southern Asia. An estimated 44% of the population in this region defecate in the open.

    Interestingly, amid such depressing figures, the report claims to see a silver lining. It says that nearly a quarter of the world had no access to toilets in 1990, but that figure has dropped to 17% at present. This means that 168 million fewer people defecate in the open since 1990.

    As far as India is concerned, the number has decreased from 74% of the population in 1990 to 63% in 2000 and 54% in 2008.

    According to the new WHO/UNICEF joint monitoring programme (JMP) report titled 'Progress on Sanitation and Drinking Water 2010', around 39% of the world's population or over 2.6 billion people are still living without improved decent sanitation, leaving human waste in fields, forests and rivers.


  • IPL and the race question

    Besides consolidating India's position as the world cricket's financial capital, the IPL has also played its part in countering the racial problem, one that continues to plague international sports contests. The discourse on 'race' in India has been historically predicated upon a position of relative under privilege.

    India, considered a 'white man's burden' during its colonial conditioning, fought for nearly two centuries to free itself of this position of inferiority. While discrimination based on conditions of colour and economic pre-eminence was a regular practice in colonial India, its vestige continued for decades after independence.

    Hence, every time an Indian was/is questioned by an immigration official on entering a Western country, it is immediately perceived as a deliberate act of racial discrimination. To go a step further, most Indians settled in the West were, till a couple of decades earlier, expected to be living in a ghettoised suburban space, hardly ever integrated into the mainstream of Western society. This understanding of the West as 'superior' made for divisions between the occident and the orient and allowed for the perpetuation of the doctrine of 'orientalism'.

    Such a common man's understanding of race has been substantively transformed in recent times and the Indian Premier League, a hugely successful Indian innovation, has certainly helped mediate this change. Race, in contemporary India, is no longer a discourse predicated upon notions of inferiority. Rather, off late at least, it is built upon a notion of privilege, which has largely to do with India's new-found status as a world player in an era of globalisation.

    At no point am I trying to claim that the IPL is a singular mover in heralding this transformation. Rather, it is my contention that the IPL has significantly enhanced the process, which, in the sporting domain, was spearheaded by India's takeover of world cricket's finances from the middle of the 1990s. With the nerve centre of cricket moving to India, a process the IPL has finally completed, there occurred three significant changes:

    * The West was much better co-opted and appropriated within the Indian imaginary.

    * It brings to light the complex and also exceptional nature of India's racialised modernity.

    * Finally, an aggressive hyper jingoistic nationalist sentiment has emerged in India and it often results in a complete overturn of the conventional racial ideology.

    This transformed race reality is borne out by an ethnography of spectator behaviour across IPL matches in South Africa in 2009. For example, when Shane Warne rushed to congratulate Yusuf Pathan after his super over heroics against the Kolkata Knight Riders, the large Indian diasporic crowd was spontaneous in applauding Warne for his gesture.

    The Australian superhero, taken out of his nationalist context, had suddenly been appropriated and indigenised and was a key member of the Rajasthan Royals side. In the first edition of the IPL, too, this feature was prominent. David Hussey, the most consistent batsman for the Kolkata team in IPL season one, had soon become 'Hussey da', meaning elder brother in the vernacular.

    However, this co-option rests on unstable foundations, a fact evident from the venom spilt at coach John Buchanan each time the Kolkata Knight Riders failed to deliver. Each failure was been greeted with murmurs of a "white man here in India just for the money".

    This behaviour, it needs to be stated, is an exact throwback to a century earlier, when the British reacted in an exact similar manner to Ranji, Indian cricket's first superhero.

    When Ranji scored a century on debut for England against Australia in 1896, his performance had a multi-layered impact. In England, he became the people's darling and roused a 'Ranji fever'. In India, contrastingly, Ranji's batting was declared a triumph of nationalism on the sporting field disregarding the fact that Ranji was playing for Britain, the 'white master'.

    For the colonial Indian imagination, the political reality of colonialism was relegated to a lower rung in the hierarchy, below the cardinal question of 'race'. British administrators in India also tried to bail Ranji out of his financial difficulties on grounds that it was unworthy of a great cricketer to suffer such ignominy. For the British in India, Ranji was a hero having performed well against arch rivals Australia.

    The British rulers saw him as proto-British and used him as a trump card in sports contests against Australia. However, every time he failed, it didn't take much time for the spectators to label him 'dirty nigger', displaying how sports as a social practice has always been used to signify far deeper and more significant cultural attitudes and political contours.

    - The writer is a cricket historian


  • Indiaspeak: English is our 2nd language

    More Indians speak English than any other language, with the sole exception of Hindi. What's more, English speakers in India outnumber those in all of western Europe, not counting the United Kingdom. And Indian English-speakers are more than twice the UK's population.

    These facts emerge from recently released census 2001 data on bilingualism and trilingualism in India. Indians' linguistic prowess stood revealed with as many as 255 million speaking at least two languages and 87.5 million speaking three or more. In other words, about a quarter of the population speaks more than one language.

    English was the primary language for barely 2.3 lakh Indians at the time of the census, more than 86 million listed it as their second language and another 39 million as their third language. This puts the number of English speakers in India at the time to more than 125 million.

    The only language that had more speakers was Hindi with 551.4 million. This includes 422 million, who list it as the primary language, 98.2 million for whom it was a second language and 31.2 million who listed it as their third.

    The rise of English puts Bengali, once India's second largest language in terms of primary speakers, in distant third place. Those who spoke Bengali as their first, second or third language add up to 91.1 million, far behind English.

    Telugu with 85 million speakers in all and Marathi with 84.2 million retain their position behind Bengali as does Tamil with 66.7 million and Urdu with 59 million.

    Gujarati now falls behind Kannada though it has a sizeable number of primary speakers — 6.1 million — compared to Kannada's 37.9 million.

    Karnataka's linguistic diversity means that many list other languages as their first and Kannada as a second language. This adds 11.5 million to the ranks of Kannada speakers and another 1.4 million use it as a third language. In total, Kannada had 50.8 million speakers in 2001 compared to Gujarati's 50.3 million.

    Oriya overtakes Malayalam thanks to the 3.3 million people who listed it as their second language and 3.2 lakh who said it was their third language.

    The total number of Oriya speakers was 36.6 million against 33.8 million who spoke Malayalam. Punjabi, with 31.4 million speakers, and Assamese with 18.9 million are among India's most spoken languages.

    Unfortunately, the census asked people to list a maximum of three languages, so it is not known how many speak more languages.

    The data covers only those over five because the census assumed that younger children would only know their mother tongue.

    As expected, urban Indians are more likely to be multi-lingual but as many as 136.7 million rural Indians speak at least two languages.


  • PCB imposes lifetime ban on Yousuf and Younis

    Pakistan cricket was thrown into turmoil on Wednesday with the country's Board putting an end to the international careers of former captains Mohammad Yousuf and Younis Khan besides imposing a one-year ban on Shoaib Malik in the wake of the team's disastrous tour of Australia.

    Pakistan were whitewashed in all three formats of the game in Australia and the PCB had set up an inquiry committee headed by Wasim Bari to probe the reasons for the debacle.

    As recommended by the committee, former captain Shoaib Malik and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan were handed one-year bans.

    The inquiry committee had recommended that Yousuf and Younis should no longer be part of the national team in any format because of their bad influence on the team and that Malik and Rana be banned for 12 months and fined 2 million rupees each.

    The Akmal brothers -- Kamran and Umar -- and Afridi have been put on probation for six months besides being fined between Rs 2-3 million for indiscipline on the tour, the PCB statement said.

    The punishments are set to impact the composition of Pakistan's World Twenty20 Championship. The team is the defending champion in this format and the 15-man squad for the event is due to be out by the end of this month.

    According to sources, the report was discussed by the PCB chairman Ejaz Butt with the national selection committee on Monday as part of the selection process for the Twenty20 World Cup in the West Indies.

    "Apparently at the meeting, there were mixed reactions to the strong recommendations keeping in mind that upcoming Twenty20 World Cup in the West Indies where Pakistan defends its title," the source stated.

    The inquiry committee apparently had serious reservations over the attitude and commitment shown by Malik and Rana in Australia where they are accused of not cooperating with the management.

    He said the captain, coach and manager on the Australian tour had reported Malik and Rana for misbehaviour and not cooperating with the management a fact confirmed by some other players who appeared before the probe committee.

    This is the first time in Pakistan cricket history that the Board has taken such strong disciplinary action against so many players at one time.


  • This, the 18,000th piece on Budget

    If you are an unemployed house-husband like me, one of life’s little joys is the free Internet searches one can do on any topic, in between cooking meals. Searching news stories tells you what is hot at a particular point.

    At the time of writing this column, ‘Pranab Mukherjee’ throws up more than 8,000 news stories. If you search the news on ‘India’ and ‘budget’, it tosses out 18,000-plus current articles. Compare this to My Name is Khan, or even ‘Shah Rukh Khan’ and you get a paltry 2,500 current news stories. Pranab Babu has beaten SRK and how.

    We Indians love our annual Budget. More than the Budget itself, we love analyzing it. (Forget Budget, we love analyzing everything. If we had a global shoe brand, its logo would be ‘Just analyse it’.) Every year, the Budget arrives like a movie with an all-star cast, complete with promos on TV channels about post-Budget discussions. Once it arrives, columnists feast on it. “C’mon, it’s Budget week, obviously doing a column on that!”

    It’s not easy though, for how much can you say that hasn’t already been said. Not only does one have to go through a boring set of documents and pretend to understand it, one also has to come with a column that seems different from the others. Budget column anxiety can almost be classified as a medical condition.

    Not to mention that even the most insightful analysis is irrelevant. For, the Budget is not an exercise by the government to bring order to our finances; it’s meant to please the maximum number of people at that moment in time so they remain voters. You are trying to throw a party so there’s a smile on everyone’s face that year. Even if it means you have to borrow money to do that.

    Even if it means you have so much debt now that you have to borrow to pay the interest. Even if it means the people you are throwing a party for will get the bill next year in terms of inflation. For that’s exactly the state of Indian government finances right now.

    Be practical and you’d be chided with ‘but don’t you want to see people happy?’ or ‘isn’t social welfare the top priority’. It is hard to argue against such truisms. But borrowing to stay virtuous is not being virtuous at all. The high inflation implies poor and middle class people can never get out of the basic hand-to-mouth cycle or jump classes. This wealth erosion through inflation is a basic trait of the Indian economy and millions continue to suffer because of it.

    In fact, the Budget is such a left pocket-right pocket exercise, that the numbers don’t mean much. The only time it has made a difference is when there are actual policy changes or specific reform announcements. This time, there hasn’t been much.

    The current Budget has little in these important areas: attracting foreign investment and privatization; reforms in the mining/power sector; taking the job-intensive tourism sector to the next level or improving the jobs landscape in smaller cities.

    Let’s face it — the government hates privatization. Divestment is a dirty word; Air India is not. After all, the FM said “there is no question of strategic sale in PSUs”. No question indeed. It should be done as soon as possible. But it won’t. There is a mortal fear of foreign ownership. As if a professionally owned global company would destroy the lives of Indians.

    We don’t mind well-connected Indian billionaires who get richer by getting government approvals no ordinary person would be able to get; we don’t mind corrupt officials who hoard crores; we don’t mind politicians who meddle with our PSUs and destroy wealth — but all hell will supposedly break loose if Singapore Airlines bought a stake in Air India and tried to improve it.

    There isn’t much on the mining sector either. India’s most backward areas — Jharkhand, Bihar, Orissa — have the potential to be the richest. Global investors are waiting. The government can tax and control foreigners much better than Indian promoters. If only we’d stop analyzing the pros and cons and get on with the waiting projects.
    Tourism is another area we continue to ignore. China gets 55 million tourists, we get five million. Apart from issuing advertisements, are we serious about building tourism infrastructure that can create millions of jobs and get billions of dollars?

    Finally, there is significant scope to uplift smaller towns. Large corporate houses and MNCs could be encouraged to set up base there. The metros are choking and the smaller towns need better jobs. Tax incentives for geographical location and world-class travel links could dramatically alter the standard of living in smaller towns.

    These are the areas India Inc needs to address; the 2% up-down excise duty type Budget is just not going to cut it.

    It is one thing to make money and spend it. It is quite another to borrow and splurge. The difference is called 20% inflation. It’s the credit card bill we all pay for the party called the Budget.

    PS: Well, at least I got my column done. Budget column anxiety, like our government’s finances, is next year’s problem now. Back to the kitchen buddy.


  • Paid news bad influence on free press: Soni

    I&B minister Ambika Soni said in Rajya Sabha on Friday that the phenomenon of `paid news' was influencing the functioning of a free press and that there was an urgent need to protect public's right to "correct and unbiased information''.

    Replying to a calling attention notice by CPM leader Sitaram Yechury on `paid news', Soni said that while it was not easy to find proof for such malpractices, there exists "strong circumstantial evidence''.

    "The media acts as a repository of public trust for conveying correct and true information to the people. When paid information is presented as news content, it could mislead the public and thereby hamper their judgment to form a correct opinion. Thus, there is no denying the fact that there is an urgent need to protect public's right to correct and unbiased information," Soni said.

    Speaking on the motion, Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley described the Press Council of India as a toothless wonder and said `paid news' should "be seen as trade or business with an unlawful purpose as it has nothing to do with freedom of speech".

    He said a regulator should be set up with judicial authority to which all such complaints can be referred and which should have powers to impose deterrent penalties. "If the government has the will to find a solution, it is possible," Jaitley said, adding that `paid news' was "violation of income tax laws and subversion of free and fair elections".

    Yechury said that corporatisation of media houses was leading to the `paid news' phenomenon "which is a negation of parliamentary democracy".

    Soni asserted that the government "does not view the `paid news' syndrome as freedom of speech". She also pointed out that the Press Council, in consultation with the Election Commission, was examining the setting up of a mechanism to look into complaints of `paid news' and the exercise is expected to be completed later this month.


  • NCW appeals to parties to support Women's Reservation Bill

    National Commission for Women today appealed to political parties like SP and RJD to support the Women's Reservation Bill when it is taken up in Parliament on Monday so that they can be part of the "momentous bill".

    NCW chairperson Girija Vyas also thanked parties like Congress, BJP, JD (U) and the Left for supporting the Bill, providing for 33 per cent reservation for women in Lok Sabha and State Assemblies.

    "We would like to thank Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi for steering the Bill to its logical conclusion by bringing it in Rajya Sabha on March 8," she told a press conference here.

    Asked about the opposition to the Bill in its present form from parties like SP and RJD, she said, "The NCW wants everyone to support the momentous bill."

    "They have one more day to think over. We appeal to everyone to support the Bill. But even if they don't support the Bill, it will still be passed," she said.

    "It is a golden opportunity for all MPs to be part of such a momentous Bill, which will have far-reaching implications not only on empowerment of women, but future generations," she said.

    Asked about SP and RJD demanding reservation within reservation for women from OBC, SC and ST categories, Vyas said she did not think this was possible.

    "Reservation within reservation is not possible. SC and ST people already get reservation and there is no need for a reservation in this category," she said.

    Representatives from various women's organisations said March 8 would be a "red letter day" for women in the country.

    Some of them even went to the extent of criticising RJD chief Lalu Prasad, saying his party would lose even the four seats it won during the last elections if it doesn't support the Bill.


  • 'Naxals building army, plan to overthrow Indian state'

    Home Secretary GK Pillai on Friday said that the ceasefire announcement by the Naxals was just a ploy to regroup and added that banned ultras are aiming to overthrow the Indian state.

    “The banned ultras are trying to build an army as they plan to overthrow the Indian state by 2050,” Pillai said.

    The Home Secretary observed that the ceasefire announced by the Naxals was just a ploy to regroup their cadre and feared that Naxal-related violence will go up in the days to come.

    Pillai further revealed that Naxals are working in remote areas and strengthening their movement by taking advantages of the “administrative vacuum”

    Citing some important documents seized during anti-Naxal operations, the home secretary said, “The banned guerrillas were operating in remote areas - the soft underbelly of the economy - and trying to influence more and more people to join their movement.”

    He also did not rule out the possibility of Naxals getting local support, adding that there was credible evidence of local support to the Naxals. He even hinted that there are fears that ex-servicemen were helping the home-grown rebels.

    However, he assured that the central forces will soon take control of the Naxal-infested areas.

    “We will take back the areas we have lost to the Naxal groups in the days to come, “Pillai said.

    Although Pillai hailed the progress made by the security forces so far in tackling the Naxal problem, he admitted that not even 5% of the armed cadres have been hit by the security forces. The Naxals are keeping their armed cadres in reserve for big offensives.”

    The crucial statement from the Home secretary comes in the wake of a conditional 72-day ceasefire offer from the Naxals, who had expressed their willingness for talks only if the government halts security operations and releases their arrested leaders.

    However, the Union Home Minister P Chidambaram has turned down the conditional ceasefire offer and instead demanded the Naxals to send the truce offer in writing.

    Chidambaram later offered to talk with the rebels if they stopped violence for 72 hours.

    Responding to it, CPI-M politburo member Koteshwar Rao alias Kishenji then gave his telephone number to the Home Minister and asked him to respond to his offer on or before 5 pm by March 06.

    The 72-hour deadline set by the Maoists will end tomorrow.


  • Chandrayaan finds ice on moon

    First water, then vapour, now ice. India's Chandrayaan-1, in its most recent lunar mark, has discovered ice in the Moon's craters -- a finding that indicates the presence of as much as 600 million metric tonnes of water ice on the Moon's north pole.

    The announcement on the breakthrough, with far-reaching consequences for space travel, was made late Monday at the 41st Lunar and Planetary Science Congress organized by the Houston-based Lunar and Planetary Institute.

    The discovery was made by a Nasa payload on board Chandrayaan-1 called Mini-Sar (miniature synthetic aperture radar), a lightweight instrument that weighs 10 kg. It found more than 40 craters with water ice, the size of the craters ranging between two and 15 kilometres in diameter.

    Scientists say the discovery of water ice anywhere on the Moon is extremely important because it can serve as a natural resource for astronauts on future lunar landing missions. The ice could be melted into drinking water or be separated into its components of oxygen and hydrogen to provide breathing air and rocket fuel for launching interplanetary missions from the moon.

    In September 2009, Isro's moon impact probe and the hyper spectral imaging camera (Hysi) along with Nasa's moon minerology mapper announced the discovery of water molecules on the moon. But these were not large deposits. In contrast, the Mini-Sar is stated to found huge quantities of water ice.

    "These results certainly open new vistas towards establishing human colonies on the moon. More interesting results are awaited which will throw fresh light on geological features of the moon," said S Satish, Isro's chief spokesperson.

    Mini-Sar collected strips of data while flying over the lunar poles. Each strip is eight kilometres wide and 150-300km long. By June 23, 2009, it had completed its first polar imaging campaign and mapped more than 90% of both the moon's poles. The results are to be published in a US journal called Geophysical Research Letters.

    The ice was was found in the permanently shadowed crater of the moon's north pole. Similar conditions of perpetual night exist at the lunar south pole too. Although the total amount of ice depends upon the thickness in each lunar crater, it is estimated that there could be at least 1.3 trillion pounds of water ice on the moon.

    Nasa's lunar crater observation and sensing satellite (LCross) detected water vapour when its slammed into the moon surface at 5pm (IST) on October 9 last year.

    Speaking to TOI from Houston on Tuesday, director of the Ahmedabad-based Physical Research Labarotory (PRL) J N Goswami, who is attending the lunar meet, said a number of craters were thoroughly studied before a formal announcement was made on Monday. "This is definitely an important discovery; it took us five months to evaluate the findings since we had to convince the scientific community," he said. Goswami is the principal scientific investigator of the Chandrayaan-1 mission.

    He explained that Indian scientists were a part of the team which examined the findings. "We had access to the data. After it was analysed by Nasa, the details were sent to us for further analysis. We had to make sure that everything was okay." The announcement was finally made at 4pm (Houston time) on Monday, the first day of the conference.

    M Chakraborty of the Space Applications Centre in Ahmedabad was the other Indian scientist who analysed data from Mini-Sar.

    Jason Crusan, programme executive of Nasa's Space Operations Missions Directorate in Washington, observed: "After analyzing the data, our science team determined a strong indication of water ice, a finding which will give future missions a new target to further explore and exploit."

    Paul Spudis, principal investigator of Mini-Sar, has stated that the "emerging picture from the multiple measurements and resulting data of the instruments on lunar missions indicates that water creation, migration, deposition, and retention are occurring on the Moon".

    The discovery of water has triggered what is known as lunar water politics. When Chandrayaan-1 and Nasa's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter jointly participated in a bi-static experiment about 30 minutes after midnight on August 21 last year, Spudis said that the mission was a failure because Chandrayaan's antenna was not pointing towards the moon.

    This was vehemently denied by Isro officials, who proved that nothing was wrong with Chandrayaan-1. As though this was not enough, Spudis denied claims made by Nasa scientists that a large amount of water vapour was found when LCross crashlanded on the moon. Spudis also denied that the Japanese moon mission, Kaguya, had discovered a cave on the moon.

    Though the primary role of Mini-Sar was to discover water ice, the other Nasa payload, the Moon Minerology Mapper, beat it, setting off speculation whether Spudis could be upset about this development. Both were on board Chandrayaan-1. Also, though Isro's Moon Impact Probe and Hysi were the first to detect the water molecules, even before the moon minerology mapper, Indian space scientists feel Nasa is claiming credit for India's achievement.


  • BSNL rolls out India's first urban mobile WiMAX service


    BSNL today commercially launched the country's first mobile broadband fourth generation Internet access network--Mobile WiMAX in

    Union minister of state for Agriculture and Consumer Affairs K V Thomas, launched the facility at a function here today.

    BSNL is also the first operator in the country to launch the service, for which technology has been provided by AVIAT, formerly Harris Stratex.

    WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) technology, can provide a speed of up to 37 mbps. It is being deployed in Kerala with 900 BTS (Base Transmitting Stations) to cover the entire state, Principal General Manager, BSNL, Ernakulam, E M Abraham said.

    In the first phase, 450 BTS would be set up to cover all major cities, district headquarters and important towns at a project cost of about Rs 100 crore.

    In the second phase, another 450 BTS would be commissioned to cover the remaining towns.

    The technology will provide access to broadband at a cost performance ratio that is far better than any other technology, he said.

    It provides features like high speed broad band connectivity anywhere, anytime for devices like Desktop, Laptop on wireless.

    It has two tariff plans - Home Plan with a fixed monthly charge of Rs 999 while the Business plan is Rs 1,999 for a band width 512 to 2 mbps.


  • World Cup kicks off amidst unimaginable security

    International-Hockey-FederationTHE 28th HOCKEY World CupTHE 28th HOCKEY World Cup

    The 12th hockey World Cup goes on stage on Sunday amidst unimaginable security, organisational glitches and misgivings about the Indian team's performance.

    “It is like a circus,” commented an exasperated official of the International Hockey Federation (FIH) on Friday. Compelled as he was to literally run from pillar to post not knowing who is responsible for what, with too many power centres hovering, he nevertheless was optimistic that the hockey on view would be soothing to the nerves.

    There is more anguish than anger in the higher echelons of the FIH over the necessity to conduct the greatest show in the sport ringed by layers of armed, machine gun-toting security personnel. This is an enduring curse of modern sport. Hockey is no exception.


    Decipher the final configuration of the contestants can be a fascinating exercise. But it is nerve-wracking. For the lucky 19,000-odd spectators who will throng the Dhyan Chand Stadium, it is bound to be a fiesta. On display will be the styles, systems and sophistication of the best from the five continents, each team endowed with something special.

    It will be a classic understatement to say the focus on Sunday will be on the Pool B India-Pakistan match. Never has there ever been a dull moment when these two teams clashed, raising passions among millions not only in the sub-continent but also among viewers across the globe.

    For those statistically minded, the teams have met 142 times with India winning 44, losing 74 and drawing 24. In the World Cup since 1971, the record is equal, each winning two of the four.

    Predicting the outcome of an India-Pakistan combat is akin to forecasting the weather. Both are capable of elevating the spectacle to an aesthetic sense of delight. What India's Spanish coach, Jose Brasa, has up his sleeve to stun Pakistan is, understandably, under wraps.


    There is a noticeable optimism among players headed by Rajpal Singh. The observations of striker Prabhjot Singh a few days ago were reassuring. Motivation is the key. The team is alive to that. With an experienced attack, an expert midfield and a well-drilled defensive phalanx can give India some advantage.

    Sandeep Singh is the trump card. The lissome drag-flicker, who missed the last World Cup owing to an unfortunate shooting accident while travelling to Delhi, is bound to be the cynosure.

    Pakistan is high on confidence after the return of Sohail Abbas. His contribution to the team qualifying for the World Cup from Lille (France) was immense. The frontline containing Rehan Butt and Shakeel Abbasi makes the job of the defenders definitely tough.

    Taking a more panoramic view of the event, Australia has earned the tag as the team to watch out for, being well prepared to regain the World Cup it last won in 1986 in Willesden. Guided by the inimitable Ric Charlesworth, who was part of that 1986 squad, the Aussies have performed incredibly this year, concluding it with a Champions Trophy triumph.

    In Jaime Dwyer, they have an accomplished star. Ace shooter Grant Schubert and drag-flicker Luke Doerner form the next striking force. The estimate that Australia might head Pool B does not seem exaggerated.

    Then we have Spain and England. These two are excellent combinations that are yet to strike gold. The Spaniards offer a style that synthesises power with artistry. Veteran Pablo Amat and the ebullient Eduard Taubau symbolise this.

    England has acquired a lot of mileage in the media with the memorable win in the European Championships. It may miss the injured Matt Daly in attack, but strikers like Richard Mantel, Ashley Jackson and the hard-working Barry Middleton can give any team a tough time.

    Germany is striving for a hat-trick. But without star striker Christopher Zeller, who stayed back to complete his law examinations, the all-round competence of a newly-built side has diminished a bit. Matthias Witthaus has the best credentials with over 300 caps.

    The defending champion has to contend with traditional rival The Netherlands in Pool B. Led by the old war horse, Teun di Nooijer, who is figuring in his fourth World Cup, the Dutchmen are fighting to re-establish their supremacy.

    Korea, the Asian champion, is another spoiler. Yet to get a medal despite reaching the semifinals in the last two editions, its claims for one this time around cannot be brushed aside.

    While the most improved performer is New Zealand, under the skilful Ryan Archibald, and poses danger to everyone, the most unpredictable in Pool B is Argentina. It may not have a star in the calibre of Jorge Lombi, but players like Mario Almada and Padro Ibarra are no less dangerous.

    In the-show-must-go-on ambience, fans have no option but to fasten their seat belts and get ready for what unfolds in the next fortnight.

    The pools: Pool A: Argentina, Canada, Germany, Korea, The Netherlands, New Zealand. Pool B: Australia, England, India, Pakistan, South Africa, Spain.

    Sunday's matches: Spain vs. South Africa (4.35 p.m.); Australia vs. England (6.35 p.m.); India vs. Pakistan (8.35 p.m.).


  • UPDATE 11-Massive earthquake strikes Chile, 122 dead

    Quake kills at least 122 people

    Buildings toppled, bridges and roads damaged

    Operations halted at two major copper mines (Updates with death toll, adds details)

    A huge magnitude-8.8 earthquake struck Chile early on Saturday, killing at least 122 people, knocking down homes and hospitals, and triggering a tsunami that rolled menacingly across the Pacific.

    TV Chile reported that a 15-storey building collapsed in the hardest-hit city of Concepcion, where buildings caught fire, major highway bridges collapsed and cracks opened up in the streets. Cars turned upside down lay scattered across one damaged bridge.

    Residents huddled in streets full of rubble of masonry and glass from destroyed homes. Many were terrified by powerful aftershocks and desperately trying to call friends and family.

    Chilean President-elect Sebastian Pinera said 122 people had been killed and the death toll could climb higher.

    Tsunami warnings were posted around the Pacific, including the U.S. state of Hawaii, Japan and Russia.

    Telephone and power lines were down in much of central Chile, making it difficult to assess the full extent of the damage close to the epicenter.

    Chile is the world's No. 1 copper producer, and the quake halted operations at two major mines.

    "Never in my life have I experienced a quake like this, it's like the end of the world," one man told local television from the city of Temuco, where the quake damaged homes and forced staff to evacuate the regional hospital.

    The U.S. Geological Survey said the earthquake struck 70 miles (115 km) northeast of Concepcion at a depth of 22 miles (35 km) at 3:34 a.m. (0634 GMT).

    The capital Santiago, about 200 miles (320 km) north of the epicenter, was also badly hit. The international airport was closed for at least 24 hours as the quake destroyed passenger walkways and shook glass out of doors and windows.

    Chile's Codelco, the world's largest copper producer, suspended operations at its El Teniente and Andina mines, but reported no major damage and said it expected the mines to be up and running in the "coming hours."

    Production was halted at the Los Bronces and El Soldado copper mines, owned by Anglo American Plc (AAL.L), but Chile's biggest copper mine, Escondida, was operating normally.

    Chile produces about 34 percent of world supply of copper, which is used in electronics, cars and refrigerators.


    President Michelle Bachelet said a huge wave hit the Juan Fernandez islands. Radio stations reported serious damage on the archipelago, where Scottish sailor Alexander Selkirk was marooned in the 18th Century inspiring the novel Robinson Crusoe.

    Bachelet, who flew over the worst-affected area, said residents were also being evacuated from coastal areas of Chile's remote Easter Island, a popular tourist destination in the Pacific famous for its towering Moai stone statues.

    The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a Pacific-wide tsunami warning for countries in Latin America, and as far away as the U.S. state of Hawaii as well as Japan, Russia, Philippines, Indonesia and the South Pacific. French Polynesia was also put on alert.

    "Chile probably got the brunt force of the tsunami already. So probably the worst has already happened in Chile," said Victor Sardina, geophysicist at the warning center.

    "The tsunami was pretty big too. We reported some places around 8 feet. And it's quite possible it would be higher in other areas," he added.

    An earthquake of magnitude 8 or over can cause "tremendous damage," the USGS says. The Jan. 12 quake that devastated Haiti's capital Port-au-Prince was measured as magnitude 7.0.

    Bachelet urged people to stay calm and to remain at home to avoid road accidents. "With a quake of this size we undoubtedly can't rule out more deaths and probably injuries," she said.


    Local television showed a building in flames in Concepcion, one of Chile's largest cities with around 670,000 inhabitants. Some residents looted pharmacies and a collapsed grains silo, hauling off bags of wheat, television images showed.

    Broken glass and chunks of concrete and brick were strewn across roads and several strong aftershocks rattled jittery residents in the hours after the initial quake.

    In the moments after the quake, people streamed onto the streets of the Chilean capital hugging each other and crying.

    "My house is completely destroyed, everything fell over ... it has been totally destroyed. Me and wife huddled in a corner and after hours they rescued us," said one elderly man in central Santiago.

    There were blackouts in parts of Santiago. Emergency officials said buildings in the historic quarters of two southern cities had been badly damaged and local radio said three hospitals had partially collapsed.

    In 1960, Chile was hit by the world's biggest earthquake since records dating back to 1900. The 9.5 magnitude quake devastated the south-central city of Valdivia, killing 1,655 people and sending a tsunami which battered Easter Island 2,300 miles (3,700 km) off Chile's Pacific seaboard and continued as far as Hawaii, Japan and the Philippines.

    Saturday's quake shook buildings as far away as Argentina's Andean provinces of Mendoza and San Juan. A series of strong aftershocks rocked Chile's coastal region from Valdivia in the south to Valparaiso, about 500 miles (800 km) to the north.

    The United Nations and the White House said they were closely monitoring the situation in Chile and the potential threat of tsunamis in the Pacific.

    A State Department official said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was being kept apprised of the situation in Chile, which she is due to visit on Tuesday on a Latin American tour.


  • Highlights of Budget 2010

    Easy budget by Pranab

    Despite fuel price hike, Pranab Mukherjee managed to make both the salaried class as well as the entrepreneurs happy.

    * To waive excise duty on solar panels
    * Opposition walks out of Parliament over petrol price hike
    * Petrol prices to go up
    * Fresh services to be brought under service tax
    * Service tax to GDP ratio 1%
    * Service tax to result in net revenue gain of Rs 3000 cr
    * Customs duty on silver at Rs 1500/kg
    * Custom duty on gold to be reduced
    * Mobile phones to be cheaper
    * No capital gains tax on conversion of a business entity into Limited Liability Partnership
    * To encourage manufacture of accessories such as battery chargers and hands-free sets, the concessions will be extended the mobile phone sector
    * 5% customs duty on crude petroleum back
    * Peak customs duty unchanged at 10%
    * FM raises central excise duty on all non-petroleum products from 8 to 10 per cent
    * Revenue loss of Rs 26,000 crore on direct tax proposals
    * Stimulus-led excise duty rollback partially reversed
    * FM allows housing projects to complete projects in 5 years instead of 4 years to avail tax break
    * One-time interim relief to housing and real estate sector
    * Businesses up to Rs 60 lakh and professionals up to Rs 15 lakh to be exempted from auditing obligations of their accounts
    * Uproar in Parliament over petrol price rise
    * To levy excise duty of Re 1/litre on petrol
    * New tax rates would offer relief to 60 per cent of tax-payers
    * CET on petroproducts hiked by Re 1
    * Uniform Direct tax receipts to fall by Rs 56,000 cr
    * Standard excise rate up from 8 to 10%
    * Large cars, SUVs excise up to 22% from 20%
    * Sops for real estate, housing projects extended by a year
    * Partial roll back the rate reduction in central excise
    * Direct tax scheme to result in revenue loss of Rs 26,000 cr
    * Compliance burden reduced on professionals and entrepreneurs
    * Corporate tax surcharge down from 10 to 7.5%
    * New income tax slabs will bring relief to the middle class
    * Rs 20,000 additional tax break for infra bonds
    * Minimum Alternate Tax hiked to 18%
    * R&D allocation increased 200%
    * To unveil new Saral 2 form for salaried individuals in two pages
    * Deduction of additional 10% for investment on infrastructure bonds
    * Tax slabs: Broadening 1.6 lakh - Nil above 1.6 lakh-up to 5 lakh 10%
    * 5-8 lakh- 20% above 8 lakh- 30%
    * Tax paying interface to be de-cluttered
    * States to be offered assistance to computerise commercial taxes
    * Greater transparency in tax administration targeted
    * Centralized Tax Centre at Bengaluru fully functional
    * Fiscal deficit at 5.5% for FY'11
    * Rolling target for fiscal deficit 4.2%
    * Gross tax receipts at Rs 7.46 lakh cr
    * New symbol for Indian Rupee
    * Tech advisor group under Nandan Nilekani
    * Allocation for development of micro and small scale sector raised from Rs 1,794 cr to Rs 2,400 cr
    * Rs 2,600 cr for Minority Affairs Ministry
    * To create 50 cr skilled workers by 2022
    * Rs 1,900 cr to UID authority allocated
    * First set of UID to be issued by this year
    * Rs 19,484 cr allocated for road development, to build 20 km of highway every day
    * Subsidy for affordable housing extended
    * Skill development programme for textile and garment sector
    * Pvt sector to meet deficit in grain storage
    * 50% increase in women & child development allocation
    * Development of rural infra remains high priority area
    * Power sector allocation doubled to Rs 5130 cr
    * Rs 400 cr corpus for micro-finance scheme
    * National pension scheme allocation increased
    * States to get Rs 3,675 crore for primary education at rural level
    * Rs 400 cr corpus for micro-finance scheme
    * NREGA allocation to Rs 40,100 crore
    * National Social Security fund to be set up for unorganized sector
    * Urban Development allocation to be raised by 75 per cent
    * 20,000 mw of solar power by 2022
    * Rural development allocation to Rs 61,000 cr
    * Indira Awaas Yojana allocation raised in proportion to plain and hill area housing
    * Development of rural infra remains high priority area
    * Social sector spending at Rs 1.38 lakh cr for FY11
    * Rs 500 cr for Clean Ganga Mission
    * Rs 66, 100 cr for rural development in FY10-11
    * Allocation for school education up from Rs 26, 800 crore to
    Rs 31, 036 cr
    * Rs 22, 300 crore allocated for Health Ministry
    * Coal regulatory authority proposed
    * Rs 300 cr for Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana
    * Bank farm loan target: Rs 3.75 lakh crore
    * Rs 200 cr To Tamil Nadu for textiles
    * Need to take firm view on opening up of the retail sector
    * National clean Energy Fund to be set up
    * Rs 200 crore to Goa as a special golden jubilee package to restore beaches and increase green cover
    * To provide 2% loan subsidy to farmers
    * Extend loan payment by calamity hit farmers
    * Rs 400cr for four-part strategy for agriculture
    * 2% interest subvention for exports extended
    * Additional banking licenses for pvt players
    * 4 pronged strategy for agriculture
    * Rs 16,500 cr capital support for PSU banks
    * Will consider Parikh report on fuel pricing
    * Goods and services tax to be introduced in 2011
    * Fertiliser subsidy to be reduced
    * GDP growth for FY'10 is seen at 7.2 pc
    * Rs 25,000 cr disinvestment target this year
    * India weathered economic crisis well
    * Direct tax code to be implemented from April 1, 2011
    * Gradual phasing out of economic stimulus
    * Pvt investment can sustain 9 pc growth
    * First challenge: Return to GDP growth
    * Manufacturing growth highest in the past 2 years
    * Indian economy is in a far better position today
    * FM is expected to simplify tax laws in 2010
    * Biggest challenge is to make the growth all inclusive
    * Need to strengthen food security
    * Pranab: Indian economy has stood through the test of time
    * Economic growth slows down to 6 pc in Q3
    * Finance Minister presents Budget 2010
    * Pranab Mukherjee presents his 5th Union Budget
    * Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee reaches Parliament
    * Inflation is forecast to reach 10 percent in coming weeks
    * Government borrowing was forecast to rise by another 2.2 percent
    * Economists forecast India may cut its fiscal deposit to 5.6% of GDP

    * More services to be brought under service tax net
    * Service tax to result in net revenue gain of Rs 3000cr
    * Customs duty on gold to be reduced; silver at Rs 1500/kg
    * Uniform concessional duty of 5% on all medical appliances
    * Rationalising of customs on gaming software
    * Custom duty of one of the key component of microwave oven reduced
    * Peak customs duty unchanged at 10%
    * Custom duty for importing of duplication of prints of films revised
    * No capital gains tax on conversion of a business entity into Limited Liability Partnership
    * Businesses up to Rs 60 lakh and professionals up to Rs 15 lakh to be exempted from auditing obligations
    * Nominal duty of 4% electric cars
    * Partial rollback of excise duty on cement, cement products, large cars
    * To levy excise duty of Re 1/litre on petrol
    * R&D Corp Tax break up to 200%
    * Uniform Direct Tax receipts to fall by Rs 56,000 cr
    * Pilot project for tax grievances extended to 4 cities
    * Direct tax scheme to result in revenue loss of Rs 26,000cr
    * Corporate tax surcharge down from 10 to 7.5%
    * Rs 20,000 additional tax break for infra bonds
    * Corp Min Alternate Tax up from 15 to 18%
    * New tax rates would offer relief to 60 per cent of tax-payers
    * Direct tax slabs: income upto 1.6 lakh = nil, 1.6-5 lakh = 10%, 5-8 lakh = 20%,
    * above 8 lakh = 30%
    * Centralized Tax Centre at Bengaluru fully functional
    * Gross tax receipts Rs 7.46 lakh crore
    * Deferment of goods & service tax negative for corporates in FY10-11
    * Direct tax to be implemented from April 1, 2011
    * Simple tax system with minimum exemptions near completion

    * Realty stock gain after tax sops for developers
    * Nifty up 100 pts
    * Sensex surges over 350 pts on direct tax sops
    * BSE real estate index extends gains to 3% on sops to developers
    * 12.30am: Markets responds positively, Sensex up 300 pts
    * Banking stocks up, react to banking expansion plans
    * Markets up by 100 points
    * Fertilizer stocks up, react to reduction of subsidy
    * 11.30am: BSE Sensex, Nifty up by 0.5%
    * Markets react positively to Pranab speech
    * 9am: BSE Sensex at 16,296.59, 0.26%
    * 9am: NSE index at 4,880.55 0.4%
    * Gold gets cheaper
    * Petrol, Diesel to be expensive
    * Mobile phones to be cheaper
    * Large cars, SUVs to cost more
    * Petro products, cigarettes to be expensive
    * Fertilisers to be costlier after the reduction in subsidy
    * High fuel prices added to inflation: Pranab
    * Pranab Mukherjee said the govt would initiate action to bridge the gap between wholesale and retail prices.
    * Govt promises to tackle food inflation in budget
    * Calls for fiscal discipline have gained urgency as inflation is forecast by some economists to reach 10 percent in coming weeks as high food prices fuel broader inflation expectations.


  • Illegal drug trade caters to its 'net' addicts

    It’s high time parents kept an eye on children’s social networking communication as India has emerged a major source for illegal online drug trade.

    The World Drug Report 2009, released by Vienna-based International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) on Wednesday, said India has of late become a hub of drugs sold through illegal internet pharmacies.

    The report pointed out stringent measures to prevent the use of the Internet to divert controlled substances. Orders placed with such pharmacies are often dispatched to buyers abroad using courier or postal services. Courier and postal services have become a common means of smuggling drugs out of India.

    A range of substances under international control have been detected by authorities in parcels transported by courier or post.
    In recent years, heroin and diazepam have been most frequently found in seized parcels, while morphine, cannabis herb, cannabis resin, ephedrine and pseudoephedrine have been seized occasionally.

    According to the report, drug traffickers were increasingly using social networking sites to recruit youngsters to work as ‘mules’ or peddlers in their countries. The traffickers are believed to be targeting single unemployed women aged 20-30 who do not have a criminal record. They also target those in clerical or sales jobs to escape suspicion.

    The report said India had 72.2 million drug addicts, a figure that minister for social justice and empowerment Mukul Wasnik contested. “The INCB data does not provide much insight. We are commissioning a survey through the National Sample Survey Organisation to arrive at a right figure,” Wasnik said.

    Widespread abuse of pharmaceutical preparations containing narcotic drugs such as codeine was found, which are smuggled from India to Bangladesh. Codeine, used in cough syrups and painkillers, is heavily used by students.

    In India, pharmaceutical preparations containing dextropropoxyphene (analgesic) are used by persons who inject drugs into their bodies. Such preparations are used as alternatives to heroin as they are cheaper and easily available.


  • Talks end, India hands over new terror dossier to Pak

    The crucial talks between the foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan ended Thursday despite lack of optimism on reaching common ground on key issues.

    As per reports, India has demanded more action to curb terrorism that emanates from Pakistan and strongly pitched for the arrest of Jamaat-ud-Dawaah chief Hafiz Saeed – the mastermind of 26/11 attacks.

    Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao first had a one-on-one with her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir and later, the two sides held delegation level talks.

    During the deliberations, India has also reportedly handed over a fresh dossier on 26/11, which contains the voice records of the Mumbai attack culprits. The dossier also purportedly contains a fresh list of terror suspects – including the details about the mastermind of the Pune attack.

    India has, expectedly, raised the issue of the killing of Sikhs in North West Frontier Province (NWFP).

    Pakistan on the other hand - apart from raking up its claim of Indian hand in the insurgency in Balochistan - put the Kashmir issue on the table once again.

    However, the likelihood of a joint statement after the talks is remote, given the deep differences between the stated positions of the two countries.

    Besides Rao, the Indian team included India's High Commissioner to Islamabad Sharat Sabharwal, joint secretary in charge of Pakistan YK Sinha, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Vishnu Prakash and other officials of the MEA.

    The Pakistani delegation comprised Afrasiab, director-general of the South Asia division and a former deputy high commissioner to India, Pakistan's High Commissioner Shahid Malik, Pakistan's Foreign Office spokesperson Abdul Basit and other senior officials.

    The Pakistani delegation is also scheduled to call on External Affairs Minister SM Krishna and National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon.


  • Sachin The God scripts history; slams first ODI double ton


    Sachin Tendulkar became the first man ever to score double hundred in one-dayers when he unlocked the game’s biggest and most awaited milestone versus South Africa at Gwalior on Wednesday.

    Tendulkar, who had remained agonisingly standard on 199 runs for nearly 2 overs after failing to get the strike, reached the historic landmark off just 147 deliveries, treating the capacity crowd and millions of television viewers to 25 sublime hits to the fence and three mighty sixes, without even once taking the foot off the accelerator pedal throughout his epic marathon saga.

    This achievement came in the last over, and shortly after Tendulkar had achieved the highest ever score in one-dayers when, with a single to short-fine left, he overtook Saeed Anwar’s 13-year old record of 194 runs.

    Mahendra Singh Dhoni too came to the party, helping himself to a blistering 38-ball 65, and added 101 runs with ‘The Maestro’ off just 54 balls as India amassed a massive 401/3 of 50 overs.

    South Africa had earlier seemed to have got some respite when India lost the wicket of power-hitter Yusuf Pathan just when his partnership with Sachin Tendulkar was beginning to take threatening proportions for the visitors.

    Pathan’s wicket in the 41st over came against the run of play to Roelf van der Merve and after India had already amassed 300 runs.

    The run-fest for India at Gwalior continued as undeterred by Dinesh Karthik’s loss, Tendulkar continued his rich vein of form, after having raced away to 150 runs off just 118 balls.

    Alongwith Pathan, Tendulkar compounded South Africa’s woes mercilessly with an 81 run-partnership for the third wicket off 47 balls.

    Even after Pathan’s dismissal, Tendulkar maintained the pressure on South Africans and from 322/3 after 43 overs, went past the 400 run-mark in ODIs for the third time ever. .

    However, their hardly proved to be any relief for South Africa as Dhoni then continued from where Pathan had left and with a 29-ball half-century, knocked the stuffing out of the hapless visitors.

    Karthik had earlier, missed out on a well-deserved hundred when he scooped out a tame catch to Gibbs at mid-wicket. Having played the perfect foil to an unstoppable Sachin Tendulkar during their second-wicket partnership that fetched 194 runs off just 177 balls, Karthik helped himself to a career best 79 runs, but fell just when his maiden one-day century seemed to be their for the taking.

    Karthik lasted 85 balls during his stroke-filled stay that was punctuated with 4 boundaries and 3 sixes.

    Gwalior was playing witness to a vintage Tendulkar, as the Master Blaster from Mumbai, continued to turn the heat on the South Africans in the second one-dayer of the three match series here on Wednesday.

    Tendulkar, who is enduring a purple patch off late, in Tests as well as the ODIs, had smashed his 46th century of this format off just 90 balls, pulverizing the Proteas bowler ruthlessly into submission.

    Despite losing his opening partner Virender Sehwag early, Tendulkar took it upon himself to provide the early momentum, plucking boundaries at will as India raced away to 176/1 after 28 overs.

    While Karthik provided solidity to the partnership, Tendulkar was the plunderer.

    Some of his shots, like a flick to a delivery from outside the off-stump, the ferocious pull s over mid-wicket, drives- lofted as well as grounded, were the stuff that gave ample proof of the genius Tendulkar was bestowed with, as he had raced away to his half-century off just 37 balls.

    His ‘lofted on the up’ shot over mid-off was particularly reminiscent of the Tendulkar of yore.

    Karthik also helped himself to a solid half-century, his land-mark coming off 57 deliveries.

    Earlier, after Dhoni had won the toss and elected to bat, India had not made the most auspicious of starts to the match losing Sehwag in just the fourth over with just 25 runs on the board.

    Having hit 2 fours already, Sehwag, tried to slash over the point off Wayne Parnell, but failed to beat the third-man where Dale Steyn took a well-judged catch.

    Meanwhile, after Sehwag recovered from injury he sustained in the last match, India, lead 1-0 in the three-match series, retained the same side that played the last match at Jaipur where as South Africans made three changes in their squad.

    J P Duminy, who has been out of form throughout the Test series, came into the side Bosman. Prolific scorer Hashim Amla and all-rounder Van der Merwe were also named in the final XI.


    South Africa (Playing XI): Hashim Amla, Herschelle Gibbs, Jacques Kallis(c), AB de Villiers, Jean-Paul Duminy, Alviro Petersen, Mark Boucher(w), Roelof van der Merwe, Wayne Parnell, Dale Steyn, Charl Langeveldt

    India (Playing XI): Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Dinesh Karthik, Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni(w/c), Suresh Raina, Yusuf Pathan, Ravindra Jadeja, Praveen Kumar, Ashish Nehra, Sreesanth


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