Sunday, February 28, 2010

RSS leader Nanaji Deshmukh’s body donated to AIIMS

Chitrakoot : The body of the veteran Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh leader Nanaji Deshmukh, who breathed his last on Saturday, was donated to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) here on Sunday.

Deshmukh, 94, had wished that his dead body be donated for medical research.

The body of Deshmukh was flown to Delhi from Chitrakoot and was kept at the RSS headquarters in Jhandelwalan area here.

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan brought the body from Chitrakoot.

Leaders and activists of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Sangh Parivar paid their last respects to Deshmukh.

Prominent among those who paid tributes to Deshmukh, were former Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani, Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker Karia Munda, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley, BJP president Nitin Gadkari, former party president Rajnath Singh and General Secretary (organisation) Ramlal.

Chief ministers of the BJP-ruled states–Narendra Modi of Gujarat, Raman Singh of Chhattisgarh and Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank of Uttarakhand were also among the leaders who paid their last respects to Deshmukh.

A wreath was laid on Nanaji Deshmukh's body on behalf of President Pratibha Patil. He was the recipient of Padma Vibhushan award for his lifetime service to the society in rural parts of the country.

Advani described Deshmukh as a dedicated worker who made an unparalled contribution in the formation of Bharatiya Jan Sangh.

'It is more than a personal loss for me. We had been together for so many years….When there is so much attraction towards posts, he gave inspiration for idealism,' Advani said.
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Bachchans to skip Holi celebrations

Mumbai : The Bachchan family is going to give Holi celebrations a miss this year too, due to the death of a close relative of family friend Amar Singh and the recent Pune blast, which killed 17 people.

\"We do not celebrate again this year. Primarily because of the death of a close relative of our family friend Amar Singhji, but also we do not feel comfortable in celebrating when our own have lost lives in the Pune blast recently,\" megastar Amitabh Bachchan posted on his blog Saturday night, from his Prateeksha residence.

The first family of Bollywood also skipped the festival celebrations last year as a mark of respect to the 26/11 terror attack victims and did not celebrate the same in 2008 due to Amitabh\'s mother Teji Bachchan\'s death.

The 67-year-old actor, however, did greet his fans for the festival.

\"My wishes and those of my family remain, however, with those that do bring in this festival, a festival that fills us with the joy of achievement and change and produce,\" Big B wrote.

\"Happy Holi! And may the colours bright and beautiful ever remain with you in celebration. May it bring peace and calm and may it become the turning point for good tidings,\" he added.
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Intel failure on CBI case fallout?

BATHINDA : The large-scale arson and vandalism by followers of Sirsabased Dera Sacha Sauda, in which over 40 buses and four trains were set ablaze and many government offices were damaged, had all the markings of a well-planned operation, which took the law and order authorities in Punjab and Haryana, completely off-guard.

Even as the police struggled to control the situation, it was evident the intelligence apparatus in both the states had failed in apprehending the possible fallout from the registration of a fresh murder case against Dera head, Baba Ram Rahim Singh, already facing two CBI cases.

Sources say Dera followers had started preparing for a violent reaction, right from Saturday morning, when a private news channel, said to be under the control of a Punjab politician, aired the news of the case. The previous clashes between the Dera and the Sikhs were sparked off by the publication of a photograph in select newspapers, showing the Dera head dressed in the clothes similar to those worn by the tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh.

Significantly, the news of the fresh murder case was made public, five days after the case was registered by the CBI in Chandigarh on February 22. \"We are trying to find out the mystery behind the timing,\" said a senior intelligence official in Punjab.
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Woman accuses cop of rape at gunpoint

New Delhi : A 25-year-old woman was allegedly raped at gunpoint by a Delhi Police constable posted with the Crime Branch. A case has been registered against the absconding cop after medical examination of the victim confirmed sexual assault.

The accused, constable Manoj Kumar, is posted with the Special Operations Group of Crime Branch. The police said the woman's husband and the Kumar were friends.

The incident reportedly occurred at the couple's residence in Dwarka Sector 16 on Tuesday night when she was alone at home.

According to the police, the woman's husband had left for his village in Jhajjar, Haryana, in the evening.

That night, Kumar visited her. He was in an inebriated condition.

"He came in, shut the door behind him and told me he had just committed a murder and was carrying a gun. He threatened me, saying he would not hesitate to shoot me if I did not do as told," the woman said in her complaint.
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Public health budget up by Rs.1,253 crore

New Delhi : India's public health budget has gone up by Rs.1,253 crore, with special focus on AIDS control and mental health programmes and the prevention of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

Of the total Rs.22,300 crore (Rs.223 billion/$4.82 billion) health budget, about Rs. 3,181 crore has been earmarked for various schemes to benefit the health of the people – up from Rs.1,928 in 2009-10.

However, the allocation for providing medical relief to people uprooted by natural disasters saw a decrease of Rs.149 crore. The amount has dipped to Rs.96 crore from about Rs.245 crore in 2009-10.

India's AIDS control programmes saw an increased allotment of Rs.403 crore – up from Rs.888.15 crore to Rs.1,291 crore this fiscal.

The National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) is the apex body to prevent, curb and educate people about the disease and carries out prevention programmes. India is home to 2.5 million HIV/AIDS patients, including over 70,000 children below the age of 14.

With nearly two percent Indians in need of medical attention in the area of mental health, the government has increased the amount for the National Mental Health Programme with Rs.103 crore – up from Rs.50 crore – an increase of Rs.53 crore.

With India being called the diabetes capital of the world and more and more young people suffering from heart disease, the budget focus is also on the national programme for the prevention and control of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and stroke.

The programme has got Rs.90 crore – an increase of Rs.73 crore from the previous budget.

The budget has also hiked the allocation for manufacturing vaccines with the government speeding up efforts to produce a vaccine to combat the contagious swine flu virus, which has killed 1,366 people and affected 29,599 in the country so far.

The amount to manufacture vaccines has gone up from Rs.31.65 crore to Rs.35.52 crore.
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Drought threatens to darken colour festival

Mumbai : A CHRONIC water shortage in India\'s financial capital, Mumbai, could put a dampener on a popular Hindu festival normally celebrated with wild \'\'rain dances\'\' and riotous fights using powdered paint.

Municipal authorities have issued an edict to Holi revellers not to waste drinking water during today\'s festivities and vowed to crack down on anyone caught misusing it.

Holi, or the Festival of Colours, is a public holiday marking the end of winter and the arrival of spring. It is particularly popular in northern India and other parts of the world with large Hindu populations.

Last year, India had its poorest monsoon rains since 1972, and water levels in the six lakes that supply Mumbai plunged.

At one point, officials warned that some suburbs could have just 20 days\' water left.

With the start of the wet season in June, authorities are concerned about a repeat and have considered more cuts, including turning off the taps in some areas for one day a week.

\'\'As the city is reeling under a water shortage, people should avoid using drinking water for non-potable purposes, especially rain dances,\'\' local government official Anil Diggikar told the t2tn.

\'\'They can use non-potable water for Holi,\'\' he said.

Mumbai\'s mayor, Shraddha Jadhav, has asked the municipal authority to form teams to conduct strict checks on Holi parties, many of which are organised by co-operative housing societies.

\'\'We have decided not to provide water tankers for rain dances and requested people to refrain from the use of potable water for Holi celebrations, but it is necessary to have a team in place to keep check,\'\' Ms Jadhav said.

She called for a change in the law to make the misuse of water a criminal offence.

Water supply is a major issue in India.

A study released in November suggested that the country\'s water needs would double by 2030, as its billion-plus population expanded.

Mumbai needs 4 billion litres of drinking water a day to meet the needs of its 18 million residents but can currently supply only 3.3 billion litres.
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Pranab: no rollback

New Delhi : Even as United Progressive Alliance coalition partners — the Trinamool Congress and the DMK — pitched for rolling back the oil price hike in view of its inflationary potential, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Sunday expressed the government's firm resolve to see the budget proposals through in Parliament. He said he was confident of working out an amicable solution with the allies.

"When we propose something, we do that for implementation, not for rollback. There was a basic approach to the budget which I tried to introduce through various proposals," Mr. Mukherjee said during a post-budget interaction at his North Block office here.

To a pointed question on the divergence of views among the UPA's partners on the issue and the lack of numbers for the Congress in the Lok Sabha, Mr. Mukherjee told The t2tn: "If [the] budget proposal doesn't get passed, then the government will collapse. So I am not looking at that. We are dealing with it… DMK is the partner for six years. There have been occasions when divergence of views has been there. So, it is possible that in a coalition government, there will be divergent views. But there is mechanism with which we deal with it. So I am not worried about that and I am not rolling back that [price hike of petroleum products] proposal."

Detailing why and how the additional revenue to be mopped up through his tax proposals — most of which are a rollback of the stimulus measures extended at the time of the slowdown — was necessary for the basic approach to the budget, Mr. Mukherjee said that at the time of its formulation the situation was difficult in more than one sense. "This year, third part of the year [October-December 2009] was extremely difficult. Everything appeared to be uncertain. Everyone was sceptical. Even the world leaders did not believe that there was any possibility of an economic turnaround."

What provided confidence, the Finance Minister said, was the robust GDP growth of 7.9 per cent in the second quarter. "Before the end of the financial year [2008-09], we found there's a possibility of a strong recovery. It began from the first quarter at 6.1 per cent [current fiscal]... though the third quarter figure is less at 6 per cent, please note that this is despite agriculture contribution of minus 2 per cent… That means service sector and manufacturing have considerably covered up the deficit negative contribution of agriculture."
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Chile\'s earthquake was horrible - but it could have been so much worse

Chile\'s earthquake was many times more powerful than the one that devastated Haiti earlier this year but caused only a small fraction of the casualties, thanks to geological luck and the country\'s preparation for such a disaster.

Saturday\'s 8.8-magnitude quake was a \"megathrust\" which unleashed about 50 gigatons of energy, but it was centered offshore and about 21 miles underground, dissipating its force by the time it reached towns and cities.

In contrast, the 7-magnitude quake that struck Port-au-Prince on January 12 was much shallower – about eight miles deep – and right on the edge of a city where 3 million people lived.

Eight Haitian towns and cities suffered \"violent\" to \"extreme\" shaking, whereas Chilean urban areas did not suffer more than \"severe\" shaking: still horrible, but a let-off.

The other reason Chile was counting its dead in the hundreds rather than hundreds of thousand was that this is one of South America\'s richest, best-organised countries. It has long experience of dealing with earthquakes.

Seismic activity is common along its Andean ridge. In 1960 it suffered one of the strongest quakes on record. Saturday\'s was the third with a magnitude greater than 8.7.

Homes and offices are built to sway with seismic waves rather than resist them. \"When you look at the architecture in Chile, you see buildings that have damage, but not the complete pancaking that you\'ve got in Haiti,\" said Cameron Sinclair, executive director of Architecture for Humanity.

Sinclair said Chilean architects have built thousands of low-income houses to be earthquake resistant. It is required by blueprints and building codes.

Chileans may still ask themselves if they did enough to prepare. In Concepcion, one of the hardest hit places, many houses made of adobe crumbled, as did a recent 15-storey apartment block. The university caught fire and gas and power lines snapped. Many streets were littered with rubble and, just as in Port-au-Prince, inmates escaped from a damaged prison.

In Santiago, the capital, large sections of the renovated airport\'s roof caved in. About 1.5 million Chileans were affected and 500,000 homes severely damaged. In some places rescuers complained of lack of fuel for equipment.

Even with damage estimated at $15bn-$30bn (£9.8-19.6bn), and airports, motorways and bridges shut, the state responded swiftly. \"The fact that the president [Michelle Bachelet] was out giving minute-to-minute reports a few hours after the quake in the middle of the night gives you an indication of their disaster response,\" said Sinclair.
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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Obama aide backs India\'s moves on homosexuality

NEW DELHI : Two of India\'s most controversial moves to combat HIV/AIDS -- legalizing homosexuality and the plan to introduce sex education in schools -- has found some fresh support from Dr Helene Gayle, US president Barack Obama\'s chief adviser on HIV/AIDS.

Dr Gayle, who is in India, told TOI in an exclusive interview that both these strategies will help reduce the stigma against marginalized communities and also help demystify sex, thereby helping young Indians grow up to \"become healthy sexual individuals\".

She said that HIV numbers are constantly dipping in India -- both decrease in cases due to better interventions and better tools to reach realistic estimates.

\"But India\'s decision to decriminalize homosexuality will greatly help reduce stigma and societal exclusion of populations like the gay community. This will lead to more people of marginalized communities coming out in the open allowing HIV interventions to reach them. Recognizing sexual diversity is vital for any country\'s fight against HIV.\"

Dr Gayle, who spent over 20 years as director of the AIDS programme at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, also advised India to have an \"age appropriate sex education module\".

\"This will help youngsters make safe choices which, in turn, will help them emotionally and physically. Even in the US like in India, the pendulum on sex education swung both ways -- from being restrictive to being open,\" Dr Gayle said.

Sex education is already underway in most states. However, last year, some states like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Uttar Pradesh were against the move, fearing it would corrupt young minds.

According to WHO, early sex education delays the start of sexual activity, reduces sexual activity among young people and encourages those already sexually active to have safer sex. Researchers have found no support for the contention that sex education encourages sexual experimentation or increased sexual activity.

Dr Gayle also criticised the nearly dozen countries who still ban entry of HIV patients. US was one of them till last year when the Senate repealed the legislation prohibiting HIV-positive visitors and immigrants to enter the country.

\"Having such a ban does not have public health benefits. It\'s just discriminatory,\" Dr Gayle said.

At present, countries like Iraq, China, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Qatar, Oman, Russia, Colombia, South Korea, Yemen and Armenia ban entry of HIV patients. Some 67 countries around the world have a variety of HIV-specific laws that restrict the entry, stay or residence of people living with HIV.

Warning the world against becoming complacent about HIV, Dr Gayle said HIV continues to be a major infection. \"There is unacceptably high rate of people being newly diagnosed with HIV. We need new prevention tools like vaccines and microbicides. Governments should continue to put HIV as top priority.\"

Scientists in South Africa are suggesting a radical shift in the fight against HIV -- they think that everyone, initially in South Africa but eventually in all high risk areas, should be tested for HIV and if they\'re positive, be put on anti-retroviral drugs for life.

But Dr Gayle said, \"ART greatly reduces transmission rates. Universal testing isn\'t the answer. Answer to preventing HIV is for people to reduce high risk behaviour. Compulsory testing will not be effective. India must increase HIV testing sites specially for high risk groups like sex workers and men who have sex with men.\"
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UPA allies demand rollback of fuel hike

Chennai : Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi on Saturday sought the intervention of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Congress president Sonia Gandhi for an immediate rollback of the hike in the Central Excise duty on diesel.

"Any increase in the price of diesel will have a cascading effect on food prices as well as prices of other essential commodities," Mr Karunanidhi said, in similar letters to the Prime Minister, Finance Minister and the Congress leader, adding that the rollback of the hike in the duty on diesel would protect farmers and the common man.

[In the Union Budget, it had been proposed to restore the basic duty of 5 per cent on crude petroleum; 7.5 per cent on diesel and petrol and 10 per cent on other refined products. Also, the Central Excise duty on petrol and diesel would go up by Re.1 per litre each].

Referring to the announcement of increase in the duty rates of petrol and diesel, he pointed out that the Centre and the States were grappling with the issue of high food inflation rate in the recent months.

The Chief Minister congratulated them and the Centre for presenting a "very good" Budget, keeping in mind the objectives of the United Progressive Alliance to ensure inclusive growth and overall economic development.

Another ally of the UPA Trinamool Congress on Saturday launched street protests here to demand immediate rollback of fuel price hike, but remained non—committal on BJP's move to bring cut motions to censure the government.

"Let us see the development and we will act as the situation develops," TC's Chief Whip in Lok Sabha Sudip Bandhopadhay, who led the protests, told PTI when asked whether the party would support BJP's cut motion.

Mr. Bandhopadhay, whose party faces civic and municipal polls in West Bengal in May—June, said "in the backdrop of the overall price rise, it is not the appropriate time to increase fuel prices.

"When the budget will be debated we will express our annoyance against the fuel price hike and tell how it will put more burden on the people already hit by soaring prices of essential commodities."

"The government should not make it a prestige issue and rollback the hike. The government's image will be enhanced in the eyes of the people if it rolls back the price hike," the TC chief whip said.

He further said the fuel price hike will have "a cascading effect" on food prices and the Mamata Banerjee—led party will not support it.

The budgetary proposal on hike in central excise duty on petrol and diesel and all non-petroleum products has already sparked a demand for a rollback from another UPA ally, the DMK.
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Media boycotts Negre Press conference

New Delhi : Mediapersons staged another walkout from an International Hockey Federation (FIH) press conference even as FIH President Leandro Negre apologised for the inconvenience caused to the scribes during the build-up for the Hero Honda World Cup hockey tournament here.

On the eve of the World Cup, the FIH President was scheduled to address the Press. Before Mr. Negre started to speak, following a brief welcome by FIH Communications Manager, Arjen Meijer, journalists complained about the inconvenience the media had been facing for the past few weeks.

It was pointed out that a Pakistani journalist had not been able to get accreditation and journalists were still being denied access to the main stadium to at least inspect the facilities at the media centre.

"I apologise for the inconveniences you have faced. You (media) are part of the hockey family. All of you know at this moment that security concern is there. It is not in our hands. Personally I found it difficult to go into the stadium," Mr. Negre said.

The media persons were far from convinced by Mr. Negre's statement and staged a walkout.

On Wednesday, protesting the ban imposed on them, the scribes had walked out of an event organised by a sponsor of the World Cup.

Unprecedented security arrangements resulted in the mediapersons being prevented on Saturday from carrying their equipment into the stadium.

Police verification process, scanners, metal detectors and hundreds of armed policemen and commandos that give the venue the look of a war zone have not helped the security apparatus relax and trust its own arrangements.
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Saudis roll out red carpet to Manmohan

RIYADH : Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrived here on Saturday on his first visit to the oil-rich kingdom, setting for himself a vast agenda of discussions with the Saudi leadership over the next two days.

In a departure from normal protocol norms, the Saudi Arabian leadership rolled out the red carpet to the Prime Minister as he was received at the royal terminal of the King Khalid International Airport by Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, who is also the first Deputy Prime Minister and Defence and Civil Aviation Minister.

In a rare gesture, the entire Cabinet — including Riyadh Governor Prince Abdul Aziz bin Mohammad bin Ayaf and Prince Naif bin Abdul Aziz — was at the airport to receive Dr. Singh and his official delegation. The nearly 40-km route from the airport to the city centre was lined with Indian and Saudi Arabian flags.

A formal reception to the Prime Minister will be accorded on Sunday.

Dr. Singh's three-day visit puts an end to the lull in India-Saudi Arabia ties and is aimed at reinvigorating relations. He is only the third Indian Prime Minister to have paid a visit to Saudi Arabia, after Jawaharlal Nehru in 1955 and Indira Gandhi in 1982.

The visit comes four years after the historic visit to India of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who was the chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations in New Delhi in 2006. At that time, the two countries signed the Delhi Declaration, which constitutes a blueprint for bilateral cooperation in the future.

"The Gulf region is an area of vital importance for India's security and prosperity. India and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have enjoyed special relations based on several millennia of civilisational and cultural linkages and people-to-people exchanges. The Kingdom is India's largest and most reliable supplier of our energy needs from the region. Saudi Arabia is home to an Indian community numbering about 1.8 million," the Prime Minister said in a statement prior to his departure for Riyadh.

Dr. Singh said both India and Saudi Arabia had much to gain by cooperating with each other in combating extremism and terrorism. He will discuss with the Saudi leadership the situation in Afghanistan and other regional issues of mutual interest.

Pointing out that trade and investment linkages have grown though they remain much below the potential of the two economies, Dr. Singh said these ties must be broad-based. "There is great scope for opening new frontiers of cooperation in the areas of security, defence, science and technology, space, human resource development and knowledge-based industries," he said.

The Prime Minister will address members of the influential Majlis Al-Shura, as well as the Council of Saudi Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

Commerce Minister Anand Sharma, Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Murli Deora, Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor, besides senior officials, are part of Dr. Singh's delegation.
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Suicide squad kill foreigners in onslaught on city hotels

Kabul : At least six Indians and an Italian diplomat were among 16 people killed yesterday when a Taleban suicide squad stormed central Kabul.

A French film-maker who had arrived less than 24 hours earlier and three Afghan policemen were also killed when a series of blasts, followed by more than three hours of gunfire, rocked an upmarket shopping district.

Officials said that 32 people were injured when three Taleban militants launched a co-ordinated attack just after 6.30am. A 4m (13ft) crater marked the spot of the first explosion, a car bomb, outside a guesthouse that was popular with Indian doctors.

Branches torn from trees and the charred remains of a car engine littered the streets. Ambulances ploughed through roads carpeted in glass to take the wounded to hospital.

Police and counter-terrorism officers fought through three wrecked hotels and a nine-storey shopping centre, wary of militants in the rubble.

Witnesses said that the security forces appeared to be firing at each other immediately after the explosions. Tracer fire from machineguns whizzed up and down a main road and security forces sealed off swaths of the city to prevent more attacks.

"The first explosion was the loudest," said Ahmed Shah, 28. "I ran outside and saw police covered with dust all over their faces. They told me to go inside. Then they thought I was a suicide bomber trying to escape and the guards had to help me get in."

Three security guards protecting the Park Residence Hotel were killed, colleagues said. The force of the first explosion wrecked the Hamid Guesthouse. The Indian Foreign Minister said that up to nine of his countrymen were killed, including officials.

The glass façade of a shopping centre about 20 metres away was blown out, but the streets were mainly deserted. Most people were still asleep on the start of the weekend, which is also part of a religious holiday.

The Taleban claimed responsibility. Zabiullah Mujahid, a spokesman, said that a squad of five people launched the attacks against two hotels "used by foreigners". Zamerai Bashery, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said that the bodies of three insurgents had been recovered.

US Marines, British bomb disposal experts and French soldiers surveyed the damage and Afghan intelligence staff sifted through the debris for evidence.

The film-maker was identified as Séverin Blanchet, 66. He was on his latest trip to Kabul, which he had visited regularly since 2006 to help to train Afghan documentary makers. "We were told that Séverin was killed in his hotel room, as were other residents. There was some sort of explosion in the hallway," Helene Vietti, one of his colleagues said. Security officials said that he had been shot.

General Sayed Abdul Ghafour Sayedzada, the head of police intelligence, said that three police officers were killed by a suicide bomber they chased into the Park Residence Guesthouse, where Mr Blanchet and the Italian diplomat were staying.

Franco Frattini, the Italian Foreign Minister, said that the dead diplomat was an adviser to Silvio Berlusconi, the Prime Minister.

Witnesses said that a number of doors appeared to have been kicked down in the guesthouse and rooms were peppered with bullet holes. The head of a suicide bomber was loaded into an ambulance on a stretcher, more than three hours after the attack started.

The Hamid Hotel and the Park Residence were less than half a kilometre from the Indian Embassy, which has been attacked repeatedly.

President Karzai condemned the assault as a "terrorist attack against Indian citizens" who were helping the Afghan people and said that it would not affect relations between Delhi and Kabul.

S.M.Krishna, the Indian Foreign Minister, called the attacks barbaric and a matter of concern. "These are the handiwork of those who are desperate to undermine the friendship between India and Afghanistan," he said.

Afghan and US officials have accused the Pakistani intelligence service of involvement in previous attacks against the Indian Embassy.
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Adani group MD held for evading customs duty

Goa/Panaji : The Anti-Corruption Branch of the Central Bureau of Investigation, Goa, on Saturday arrested Rajesh Adani, Managing Director of M/S. Adani Exports Limited, in Ahmedabad in connection with a criminal case for undervaluation of imports of naphta and furnace oil causing loss of Rs.1.07crore to the exchequer.

S.S. Gavli, Superintendent of Police, CBI (Goa) told journalists here on Saturday that the ACB, CBI Goa Branch had registered a criminal case against 10 officials of Goa Customs and Central Excise and private parties, namely M/S. Adani Export Ltd., Ahmedabad, M/S. Ganesh Benzoplast Ltd., Mumbai, and CHA/clearing house firm M/S. J.A. F. Leitao & Son, Goa in April 2008.

The allegations were that the 10 customs officials, in conspiracy with the aforesaid private parties, dishonestly and by abuse of their official positions facilitated import by undervaluing from Goa customs in 2005-06 two consignments of naphta and one of furnace oil. The same were imported by Adani Exports and stored in bonded warehouse of M/S. Ganesh Benzoplast of Vasco, Goa.

Mr. Gavli said the CBI would move for his remand and he would be brought to Goa for interrogation as further investigation of critical areas of the case was on.
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Auto industry irked by excise duty roll-back

Auto industry players have received the budget with mixed reactions, describing the increase in excise duty as well as those of petrol and diesel prices as possible dampeners for the sector.

Overall, however, they described the budget as a positive and growth-oriented one.

Most of the players did not expect any hike in excise duty and imposition of duty on petroleum products and hence have been taken aback by the budget.

\"The budget was not on expected lines. We did not anticipated the roll back of 2 per cent excise duty — this will hurt the auto industry,\" Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) President, Pawan Goenka, said.

\"The continuation of the stimulus packages would have helped the Indian automobile industry regain its growth momentum,\" he added.

Fiat India\'s president & CEO, Rajeev Kapoor, termed the budget as futuristic and said that it addressed the long-felt need for rationalisation of direct and indirect taxes.

\"Lowering of income tax rates will allow higher disposable income to individuals. However, the effect of increase in excise would have an inflationary trend. Increase in price of petrol and diesel will certainly hurt consumers,\" Kapoor said.
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Pune blast toll goes up to 17

Pune : Aditi Jindal, a 23-year-old from Ambala in Chandigarh, died around 8.30 p.m. on Friday at the Inlaks Budhrani hospital, taking the death toll in the German Bakery bomb blast up to 17. For the last few days, while Aditi remained critical, she was said to have a 50 per cent chance of survival. However, she succumbed to her injuries after battling for life for close to two weeks.

When in Chandigarh, she had pursued dance and done a course in interior designing. In Pune, too, she was taking lessons at the Shiamak Davar Dance Academy. She was doing a course in landscape designing at the Marathwada Mitramandal's College of Commerce here.

On February 13, she went to the German Bakery along with a friend, Aditya Mehata. They were at the centre table of the bakery when the blast took place. Aditya, a final-year student of Electronics from New Delhi at the Bharati Vidyapeeth here, suffered around 60 per cent burns and died on February 17 at the Jehangir hospital.

Aditi suffered around 40 per cent burns with first-degree burns on her face. Medical Superintendent of the Inlaks Budhrani hospital Dr. Asha Relwani said, "Aditi was in a bad state and was critical. One of her legs had to be amputated, while the tendons of her other leg were severely damaged. Towards the end, she developed ARDS [Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome], as she also developed septicaemia. The infection and toxins had spread to her entire body." Aditi's parents and her uncle and aunt were with her when she died. She also has two younger brothers.

It is expected that the death toll in the blast would stay put now. While a few people continue to be in the Intensive Care Units of different hospitals, they are said to be out of danger.
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Sirsa stadium impresses players

Sirsa : Forty-five days! No, we aren't talking about the documentary on Demon Hunter, a famous band. It's actually the number of days Shah Satnam ji cricket stadium was built in.

Back in 2004, the now lush green stadium was a wasteland on the outskirts of Sirsa. But when Dera Sacha Sauda, a religious sect based in Sirsa, decided to convert it into a cricket stadium, the task took mere 45 days.

On the 46th day, the stadium hosted an Indo-Pak veteran's match. Interestingly, the stadium with a seating capacity of 35,000 came up without any expenditure. The followers of the sect came out in hordes for 'kar sewa'; little concrete was used, except in the pavilions and the recently constructed stands, and that, too, was provided by builders without charging a penny.

The wicket at the stadium has been prepared as per the BCCI guidelines. "We water the wicket regularly, roll it and take care of the grass throughout the year," said Charanjit Singh, the curator.

No wonder, the stadium has left the players impressed. "We look for certain things like good wicket, good playing conditions and decent accommodation.

"This place has everything," said Delhi coach Vijay Dahiya. "It would be wrong to compare it with the CCI or Mohali. We are happy with whatever they have," he said.

Besides, he said, the crowd here's so disciplined. The stadium has hosted Ranji matches and a few List A matches in the last five years.

Delhi face Punjab

Delhi will take on Punjab in their next match on Friday. Punjab, who lost the first game against Haryana by just one run, are bringing in Mayank Sidana to strengthen their batting.

"It seems even 300 is not safe on this wicket," said Punjab coach Bhupinder Singh (Sr). For Delhi, a medium-pacer will have to make way for Ashish Nehra, who has joined the team for the next match.


Delhi — V Kohli (captain), S Dhawan, M Manhas, R Bhatia, C Nanda, Y Nagar, P Bisht, A Jain,P Mehra, V Mishra, P Sangwan, P Awana, A Nehra, J Singh, P Suyal, U Chand.

Punjab — K Goel (captain), R Inder Singh, S Sohal, U Kaul, V Bhalla, M Singh, B Sharma, R Sharma, M Sidana, M Gony, J Singh, L Ablish, H Chawla, T Kohli, H Bansal, R Golu.
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Jagraon police to seek production warrant of two accused

Jagraon : The two terrorists arrested by the Patiala police this Sunday are silent about bombs defused in Halwara and Nabha a few weeks ago.

Stating this, SSP Ludhiana Rural H S Chahal said, "All the leads are leading to the same people. These people are quiet about the Halwara bomb but we know they are the real culprits."

SSP Chahal added, "I have asked my SP (D) to check when the remand of Patiala police end after which we will bring these two on a production warrant to Jagraon."

The Patiala police had arrested two persons Jasbir Singh of Manki village of Sangrur district and Harjant Singh of Gurdaspur and recovered explosives from the two. The police said the duo was working on the call of Bakhshish Singh alias Baba, who is the main accused in the attack on head of Dera Sacha Sauda.

The two, who the police say are the members of the Khalistan Liberation Force, have confessed to have stolen a car from Rampura Phul and sold to Jasbir Singh and Darshan Singh of Manki village of Sangrur district. The car had been recovered from Sidwan village near Halwara air force station with a bomb in it.

The police apprehend connection between Halwara bomb and the bomb which was recovered from a LPG bottling plant at Nabha earlier this month.
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Dera men go on rampage

Central paramilitary forces have been rushed to Punjab and Haryana after the followers of the controversial sect, Dera Sacha Sauda, went on the rampage by setting buses and trains afire and damaging government property in protest against registration of a murder case against the sect head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.

At least six companies of paramilitary forces have been rushed to the troubled spots in the two states and a high alert has been sounded, official sources said here.

Several buses were set ablaze at Moga township, Bhatinda, Barnala and Ferozepur in Punjab and Kaithal, Narwana, Hisar and Sirsa, the headquarter of the sect, in neighbouring Haryana.

Twelve rounded up

The agitators also targeted three trains in Punjab and set ablaze a bogie of Sutlej Express. The police have rounded up at least 12 persons among those who indulged in arson in Punjab, sources said here. Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda has directed the district police chiefs to deal sternly with the elements responsible for the arson.

Director general of Punjab police P S Gill has said nobody would be allowed to take law into their hands and spoke of strict action against those indulging in violence, arson and rioting.

Prohibitory orders have been promulgated in the troubled towns of Punjab.

The followers of the sect were said to be agitated at the registration of a murder case by the CBI against Gurmeet Ram Ram Singh in an incident related to the killing of Dera manager Faqir Chand in 1991.

The CBI has already booked the sect head in a rape case and in the murder case of a Sirsa-based journalist.

Sources said the arson incidents seemed synchronised since there was a pattern to their eruption almost simultaneously in several towns of Punajb and Haryana on Saturday evening.

A Dera spokesman has appealed for calm among the followers.
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Friday, February 26, 2010

Rajinder Singh Khalsa

Rajinder Singh Khalsa a NY based NRI who then made headline after got injured and physically assault by Caucasian group, now made another headline that he and his son satpreet singh bammi cheated his indian bride and forcing her to take divorce&mentally harras her ,coz his son want to re-merry again in america and want his first wife come to usa as thier under. he rajinder singh khalsa gave so many fake identities to his daughter in laws parents and showed himself a top gun in NY. now with some rerources i got mail from someone with request that this news should be present in our community and people who should knew khalsa as good man,they should avaoid them, and shame him what he has done in india.

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For a safe and colourful Holi

The exuberant colours of Holi exude the vitality of spring, the vibrancy of life and a celebration of the richness of harvest. The festival arrives when the placid winter fades away and the effervescence of spring adds fresh colours in nature. With nature blooming in all its hues, the time is perfect to colour the atmosphere with the fun filled colours of Holi.

This is the time when everyone drowns in the mirthful revelry of the festival of colours. While it stands for "party time" for the city slickers, celebrating the onset of springtime is the real essence of the festival of colours. Soaked in the joyful spirit, the faces go beyond recognition with sprayed colours, clothes looking like drenched unacceptable rags, hair in disarray – but the spirit soaked in the joyful essence of the festival with laughing eyes, gyrations to music and utter glee on the faces. This is Holi.

Essentially a North Indian festival, it has been a while since the festival's presence has been felt in South India. Today, Gujaratis, Marwaris, Sindhis, Punjabis and Bengalis in every city of the South have still retained their customs and bring in the festival in their own colourful way.

Traditional colours

Amid growing awareness about the dangers of using Holi colours due to presence of chemicals, most people prefer to use dry colours made of flower petals or other herbals. The colours used in the past had therapeutic values. Traditionally the colours known as gulal were made at home from the flowers of 'tesu' or 'palash' (flame of the forest). Turmeric, 'mehendi', banana leaves, 'majishtha' were also used to extract beautiful hues.

The colours used now have many chemical ingredients that are hazardous to health. Dry colours are made with asbestos and chalk powder, and silica. Alkaline-base is used in watercolours, which can cause serious eye diseases. Paste colours are mixed in a base of engine oil that can result in skin disorders. As these colours seep into the earth they pollute the soil and water as well. The eco-friendly colours of the past can be prepared with simple preparations at home too.


While gulals or dry powder colours are a safe choice, there is a range of herbal colours also available in the market. Made from flower petals and other herbs, they are available in vibrant colours. Screaming pink, marigold yellow or grasshopper green – these herbal colours are relatively safe and don't burn the skin. However, dermatologists and beauticians warn that extra care has to be taken for sensitive skins. They suggest the use of an antiseptic cream or lacto-calamine ointment for hypersensitive skins before venturing out. While a coat of oil is a must, sunscreen lotions help against burns if there is prolonged exposure to the sun. Stay away from the silver liquid colour as that can play havocs to your skin.

While removing the colours, soap may not be a good option, as it tends to cause dryness. Instead, a cleanser is a better option. Follow this up with lots of moisturiser, specially one that is meant for sensitive skin. Use lots of water as it retains the PH balance of the skin, skin experts suggest. The colours can damage hair to a large extent. Use of hair oil will prevent the chemicals from penetrating in the hair. A mild shampoo with a good conditioner should be used to remove the colours.
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Budget fuels Trinamul ire - Railways face service tax

New Delhi : Pranab Mukherjee's budget proposals today left the Trinamul Congress fretting over the fuel price hike and fuming over service tax that Mamata Banerjee's railways will now need to pay, underscoring the tensions within the central coalition.

In Calcutta, a top Trinamul leader said party workers would hit the streets in protest tomorrow.

Arch foe Left also spoke the same language, warning of a "massive movement" next month against the increase in the price of petroleum products.

"We will launch a massive movement against the Centre's anti-people and pro-rich moves from a Left rally in Delhi on March 12," Bengal CPM secretary Biman Bose said.

Within minutes of the finance minister's address, Trinamul leaders started echoing the Opposition criticism of the government over the hike in fuel prices.

The criticism deepened as party leaders realised the implications of the finance ministry's proposal — that an exemption from service tax for the railways for transportation of goods would be withdrawn.

"She had no inkling about this move by the finance minister till this morning... she is extremely unhappy," a Mamata aide said.

As a member of the cabinet, Mamata herself did not speak to reporters on either the fuel price hike or the withdrawal of the tax exemption.

Sudip Bandopadhyay, the Trinamul chief whip in the Lok Sabha, and Amit Mitra, the secretary-general of industry chamber Ficci who heads Mamata's railway expert panel, were fielded to express the concerns.

Bandopadhyay said the withdrawal of the exemption would place an "extreme" burden on the railways at a time it was trying not to raise either passenger or freight charges.

"While the central government has given Rs 16,752 crore to railways as budgetary support in its plan allocation, it is in effect taking back Rs 6,000 crore," t2tn quoted Mitra as saying.

Mamata returned to Calcutta tonight with Bandopadhyay and other junior ministers accompanying her. Asked to comment on the budget, she asked Bandopadhyay to brief the media.

"The Union budget may have some good sides but the Centre's sudden decision to hike prices of petroleum products has clouded the good effect," Bandopadhyay told The Telegraph. "We would raise our protest both on the streets and in the House as well."

Earlier, Partha Chatterjee, leader of the Opposition in the Bengal Assembly, said the Centre "did not consult our netri" before announcing the hike. "We have decided to launch a state-wide protest from tomorrow because we cannot accept any anti-people measure," Chatterjee, who had a talk with Mamata before announcing the agitation, added.

Asked if Trinamul would quit the UPA over the hike, Bandopadhyay said: "The question does not arise. But we must protest if the Centre adopts any measure that would affect common people."

Left leaders said the hike would make the lives of the masses more miserable. At Writers', Bengal finance minister Asim Dasgupta said the move would have a cascading effect on food prices. "I appeal to the Centre to withdraw the excise duty hike on petroleum products," he added.

The budget provided a glimpse of the complex relation between Mamata and finance minister Mukherjee.

Mukherjee has frequently reprimanded Mamata at meetings. Yet, just two days back after Mamata presented the rail budget amid Opposition barbs, Mukherjee had walked up to the Trinamul chief, who bent her head as he approached. Mukherjee patted Mamata on her hand and verbally congratulated her.
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Rose Festival begins in Chandigarh

CHANDIGARH : Amidst an assortment of colourful activities like releasing of balloons, playing of bands and the beating of drums, this union territory welcomed the 38th edition of the three-day Rose Festival on Friday.

Chandigarh administrator Shivraj Patil inaugurated the Rose Festival here at the Zakir Hussain Rose Garden which is considered the biggest rose garden in Asia.

Besides roses, there will also be a photography contest, a painting competition, a rose prince and princess contest, a kite flying competition, a rose quiz, live concerts and \'antakshri\' to engage the tourists coming here.

\"We have invited Bollywood artists like Koena Mitra and Kunal Ganjawala, who will perform live during the festival. There will also be a fashion show by renowned Mumbai designers Libas and Anamika Rawal and performances by a group from Goa,\" Ram Niwas, tourism secretary of Chandigarh, said.

Scores of folk artists, from all across the country, have come here to display their distinctive regional art forms, depicting the \'unity in diversity\' culture of the country.

The administration is expecting tens of thousands of visitors to come here on each day of the festival.

\"It is really delightful to see so many beautiful roses. I have been coming to the rose festival for the past 20 years with my entire family,\" Ashok Jain, a retired government official, told t2tn.

The Rose Garden is an important tourist destination and is thronged by hundreds of visitors from India and abroad every day.

It is spread over 46 acres and has 17,000 plants showcasing nearly 800 varieties of roses.
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Ludhiana college moves court against disaffiliation order, gets interim relief

Chandigarh : Much to the relief of Mai Bagho College in Ludhiana, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has directed Panjab University to accept examination forms of all students from the college.

The college, in its petition, had alleged that the principal failed to give the authorities "an ego massage" as a result of which the Syndicate recommended cancellation of their affiliation and also debarred the students from appearing for the annual exams.

In the petition, it was alleged that the college principal could not "satisfy the arrogance of a member from an inspection committee" and an unfavourable report was submitted to the Syndicate by this committee. It was also stated that the Panjab University has held the future of around 300 students to ransom just to satisfy its ego.

The Punjab and Haryana High Court, meanwhile, has directed PU to accept the examination forms of all students and has further asked the varsity to reply to all the allegations levelled by the college.

Further in its petition, the college has accused PU of taking a decision to disaffiliate them in its Syndicate proceedings on November 6, 2009 which were not even conveyed to them. It was added that they learnt about the decision only after they received a letter informing them of a penalty imposed on the college.

The inspection committee had visited the college on August 29 last year and a member had allegedly felt offended at the behaviour of the college principal. The Syndicate at Panjab University, in its meeting scheduled for Saturday, will be discussing the action to be taken on the court directions.
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Bipartisan nod eludes Obama

Washington : U.S. President Barack Obama hosted a rare televised bipartisan meeting at the Blair House in Washington DC on Thursday in a last-ditch attempt to bring Republicans on board in the deadlocked healthcare debate.

Opening the summit with an exhortation to stay focused on areas of agreement, Mr. Obama said: "I was very pleased to see a glimpse of bipartisanship in the Senate recently in passing a jobs bill, and I hope that continues."

Yet the debate that ensued was far from smooth sailing for the President and attending Democrats. Republican Senators and Congressmen vigorously challenged the latest reform proposal Mr. Obama unveiled earlier in the week, including cost control, insurance reform, deficit control and expanding coverage.

If Mr. Obama had any hopes that a genuine bipartisan agreement could be hammered out during the seven-hour session, it must have evaporated within the first hour.

Beginning with Senator Lamar Alexander, who argued that comprehensive bills would not work and that Republicans would not be presenting their own comprehensive bill, the debate returned periodically to points of partisan disagreement.

Republicans took issue with the Democratic plan for instituting insurance exchanges driven by mandates (such as penalties for not buying into a policy). While agreeing that competition and diversity were desirable, Congressman Paul Ryan suggested that federalising the regulation of insurance through mandates would not encourage competition and lower costs but only more decentralisation would.

Mr. Obama, while acknowledging that this was a point of "philosophical" importance, rebutted that mandates were necessary to avoid a situation where pools of older, sicker insurance buyers were slapped with higher premiums while younger, more healthy pools paid significantly less.

Mr. Obama stressed the deficit-neutral nature of the reform — and he was pushed to do so given the suggestions by Mr. Alexander that under the proposed bill premiums would actually rise. Interrupting the Senator in a testy exchange, the President cited the figures of the non-partisan scorekeeper, the Congressional Budget Office. According to the CBO, of those individually insured, 57 per cent will see their premiums go down and 43 per cent will see their premiums go up. Of those insured by companies, all of them would see their premiums either stay the same or reduce.

The Republican insistence on a step-by-step approach and starting from scratch would not work, said Mr. Obama. "Baby steps don\'t get you to the place where people need you to go. We can\'t solve the pre-existing condition problem if we don\'t do something about coverage."

Giving the Republicans a month or six weeks to find common ground with the Democrats, Mr. Obama implied that reform would have to be enacted and financed with or without Republican support.

The real, if slender, hope for a bipartisan bill rests on the few areas of agreement that were fleshed out during the discussion.

These include the need for regulation of insurance markets, the need for insurance exchanges and inter-state insurance, medical malpractice liability reform and curbing of fraud and wastage within the extant system.

If Republican support is not forthcoming, Democrats would likely use reconciliation, a legislative procedure infrequently invoked but simplifying the passage of bills into law on the basis of a simple majority of 51 votes.

While the move may be unpopular and Republicans would likely seize upon it as the "tyranny of the majority", it would nevertheless permit the Democrats to claim a victory for their top priority of 2009 and move on to tackling the looming crisis of unemployment.
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State, civic body bicker over garbage plants

LUDHIANA : Battle continues between the state government and municipal corporation (MC) authorities over setting up of solid waste management project in two cities - Ludhiana and Jalandhar. MC had earlier allotted tenders to a private company in December 2009 but cancelled it recently as the state wants to take over the plants.

Senior deputy mayor Praveen Bansal says, "It has not been finalized till now as to who would handle the project as the state government yearns to take over but the civic body is unwilling to let it go. We are not in a position to comment any further unless the government clears the status."

Sources in the MC ask, "Where was the state government for the past two years when the entire process was being discussed? It has woken up only now after we made the move for the plan's realization. It believes that the project could generate enormous profits."

They add, "As a first step, a private consultant has to be hired who would judge the quantity of garbage generated on a daily basis in the city. Only then, the process to transfer it from adjoining cities to the plant sites would be discussed."

Solid waste management has been one of the grave concerns dogging residents. Even before floating the tenders, the civic body had raised the matter in front of the visiting high-powered estimate committee chairman Virsa Singh Valtoha of Punjab Assembly.

It was also announced that the state government would form seven clusters at Amritsar, Jalandhar, Ferozepur, Bathinda, Pathankot, Ludhiana and Patiala, where wastes from cities would be collected for transportation to the two sites.

The authorities had invited tenders in December 2009, based on which 14 national and multi-national companies had applied. MC commissioner AK Sinha and DC Vikas Garg had also inspected 21 acres of vacant plot at Nurpur Bet here for setting up the plant. The Union government would give a grant of 50% under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, while the remaining would be shared between the state and the MC.
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Nine Indians killed in Taliban attack on hotels

Kabul : Targeting Indians yet again, Taliban today carried out coordinated suicide attacks at two hotels in Kabul killing nine Indians, including two Major rank Army officers, evoking sharp reaction from India.

At least 10 others, including five Indian Army officers, were injured in the strike that killed 17, including locals and nationals from other countries.

The bombers, believed to be three in number, struck at the guest houses, particularly at Park Residence, rented out by the Indian embassy for its staffers and those linked to India's developmental work in Afghanistan.

External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna said as per the preliminary information provided by Afghan Government officials, "up to nine Indians... have lost their lives. A few Indians have been injured, most of whom are reported to be out of danger. Arrangements are being made for their adequate and expeditious treatment, if necessary, by evacuating them to India," he said in a statement.

Sources in the Indian Embassy in Kabul said however that only six Indians were confirmed dead.

Mr. Krishna asserted that the attack would not deter India from pursuing developmental activities and would stand by the Afghans in the common fight against terrorism.

Mr. Krishna, who received a telephone call tonight from his Afghan counterpart Zalmay Rassoul, said the "barbaric" attacks were clearly aimed against the people of India and Afghanistan.

Describing it as a matter of concern, he said, "These are the handiwork of those who are desperate to undermine the friendship between India and Afghanistan, and do not wish to see a strong, democratic and pluralistic Afghanistan."

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in telephone calls made to some foreign news wires.

This is the fourth attack targeted at Indians in Kabul since July 2008 when 60 people, including four Indian embassy officials, were killed in a massive car bomb attack on the embassy building.

Strongly condemning the attack, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said, "Attacks on Indian citizens will not affect relations between India and Afghanistan."

Indian Embassy sources identified the six deceased Indians as Major Dr. Laishram Jyotin Singh of Army Medical Corps, Major Deepak Yadav of Army Education Corps, engineer Bhola Ram, tabla player Nawab Khan, staffer of Kandahar Consulate Nitish Chibber and ITBP constable Roshan Lal.

Dr. Jyotin Singh was in Afghanistan to train local doctors at the Indira Gandhi hospital while Mr. Deepak Yadav was teaching English at the Afghan Military Academy.

Mr. Nawab Khan, who was killed in the attack on Park Residence, was part of the three-member cultural troupe which was sent by Indian Council for Cultural Relations to Afghanistan.

Mr. Bhola Ram was project director at Afghan Power Grid Corporation and was instrumental in bringing electricity to Kabul from Uzbekistan, sources said.

The project had been completed and Mr. Bhola Ram was in the process of handing over the responsibilities to Afghans for which they were being trained.

ITBP constable Roshan Lal, 35, a resident of Himachal Pradesh was deployed as the security personnel at the Indian Consulate in Herat. He was on leave and in transit on his way back home.

Mr. Chibber was Secretary at the Indian Consulate in Kandahar.

The terrorists targeted those Indians who were engaged in helping Afghan people and building partnership between the two countries, Indian Ambassador Jayant Prasad told t2tn.

"It is the handiwork of enemies of Afghan people and friendship between people of India and Afghanistan," Mr. Prasad said.
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Patwaris continue protest against low allowance

LUDHIANA : Continuing with their protest, the members of Revenue Patwari Union, Punjab, of Ludhiana (East and West) tehsil staged a demonstration near DC office here on Thursday against the state government for ignoring their demands for a long time. The employees said the state government has implemented the 5th pay commission but did not increase the allowances given to patwaris.

Union president Rupinder Singh Grewal said, \"Since January 1, 1986, there have been no changes in our allowances of Rs 25-35 for stationery should be raised to meet demands worth Rs 50-100. Inadequate finances posed hindrance in their functioning as they have to wait endlessly for allowances to make the purchase. Similarly, travelling allowance that has remained fixed at Rs 240, Rs 360 and Rs 480 based on designations should be increased to Rs 1,500 for all.\"

The agitators further alleged that the government had not promoted deserving employees for long. They cited cases of around five workers who were waiting.

Terming it an injustice against patwaris, Grewal said, \"The state government had not yet implemented 5th pay commission on reform pattern. We are getting low allowances as compared to staff in other departments.\"

\"If the state refused to listen to our plight, we would intensify our agitation. We have convened a special meeting on March 6, where we will decide future course of action,\" he cautioned.
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3.98 per cent hike in defence outlay

New Delhi : The Union budget increased the outlay for the defence sector by 3.98 per cent with a total allocation of Rs. 1,47,344 crore as against the previous allocation of Rs. 1,41, 703 crore.

However, the outlay represents a 8.13 per cent growth over the revised estimates of Rs.1,36,264 crore for the current fiscal.

Of the total outlay for 2010-11, an allocation of Rs.87,344 crore has been made for revenue expenditure, a growth of 0.54 per cent over the revenue allocation in the budget estimates of the current financial year.

"Secure borders and security of life and property fosters development…needless to say, any additional requirement for the security of the nation will be provided for," Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said in his budget speech.

The budget estimates for 2009-10 included the allocation for defraying expenditure on payment of 60 per cent arrears of pay and allowances, which had been increased on the basis of the recommendations of the 6th Pay Commission.

Of the three services, the manpower-intensive Army gets the major share of the allocation at Rs.58,995.19 crore, the Navy Rs.9,455.03 crore and the Indian Air Force Rs.15,803.65 crore.

Significantly, the government earmarked Rs.60,000 crore for capital expenditure against the previous allocation of Rs.54,824 crore, of which Rs.7,000 crore was returned unspent.

The capital expenditure which includes funds spent for modernisation represents a growth of 9.44 per cent over 2009-10 budget allocation.

An increased allocation of nearly 25 per cent from revised estimates includes the big ticket deals in the pipeline.

These include the IAF's 126 Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft, medium-lift helicopters, basic jet trainers, armed choppers, the Navy's aircraft carrier and other naval fleet acquisition programme and the Army's quest to procure the ultra light howitzers.

Of the major heads that could not be spent include Rs.1,782 crore for construction, Rs. 1,969 crore for aircraft and aero-engines and Rs.34,00 crore for other equipment.

In line with the government policy, the allocation for the Defence Research Development Organisation witnessed an increase of Rs.881 crore from the revised estimate of Rs.5,260.42 crore.
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Tendulkar jumps to third

Tendulkar, who returned undefeated on 200 in his 442nd appearance, has lifted three places and now trails second-placed Mike Hussey of Australia by 43 points with India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni strengthening his position at the top of the rankings after hitting a 35-ball 68 not out.

It is Tendulkar\'s highest ranking in two years after he had reached second position following an unbeaten 117 against Australia in Sydney.

While Tendulkar has vaulted into third position, his fellow opener Virender Sehwag has dropped one place to 10th position.

AB de Villiers remains South Africa\'s highest-ranked batsman in fourth position after stroking an unbeaten 114 in Gwalior. Jacques Kallis has retained his 11th position but Herschelle Gibbs has slipped one place to 16th spot.

In the ICC Player Rankings for ODI bowlers, Dale Steyn has slipped two places to 13th spot after Tendulkar\'s Gwalior onslaught. New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori leads the bowling table with Zimbabwe\'s Ray Price in second position.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh hosts England in the three-ODI series from Sunday with Paul Collingwood well-placed to break into the top 10. Collingwood currently sits in 14th position but trails ninth-placed Kumar Sangakkara of Sri Lanka by 23 points. A good performance with the bat in the series can potentially put him in the top 10.

For Bangladesh, Shakib Al Hasan is the highest-ranked batsman in 28th spot while Tamim Iqbal is in 34th position.

Shakib is also the highest-ranked bowler from either side in third position while Stuart Broad is the highest-ranked England bowler in seventh spot.

In the ICC ODI Championship, India has all but cemented second position after taking an unassailable 2-0 lead. It is now on 123 ratings points while South Africa has slipped to 115 ratings points.

The only way India can finish third at the annual cut-off date of

April 1 is if it loses Saturday\'s match and New Zealand makes a clean sweep of the five-ODI series against Australia starting in

Napier on March 3. In that scenario, New Zealand will jump to 123 ratings points while India will finish on 122 ratings points.

On the other side of the coin, if India wins on Saturday then irrespective of how New Zealand and Australia series pans out, India will finish second on 124 ratings points.

Australia has already sealed the number-one position with 134 ratings points and can only drop to as low as 128 ratings points if it loses all the five ODI against New Zealand.
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Thaksin Shinawatra: from phone billionaire to fugitive ex-prime minister

Born to a silk-trading family in Chiang Mai, Thaksin Shinawatra began his working life as a policeman. After several failed business ventures, in 1989 he established Shinawatra Datacom, a mobile phone network business that was to become the biggest phone operator in Thailand, and make him a multibillionaire.

He entered politics in 1994, becoming foreign minister that same year. He was elected prime minister in the general election of 2001, and became hugely popular, particularly in the north and north-east of the country, enfranchising the rural poor, and offering them healthcare for 30 baht (60p) and low-cost loans. He won a second election in 2005 but was swept from power in a bloodless coup in 2006 by a military leadership that argued he was corrupt, but was increasingly fearful of his growing popularity and power.

In 2008 he was convicted of a conflict of interest over a land deal involving his wife. He was sentenced to two years\' jail, but had fled the country before the verdict was delivered. A fugitive, he now lives in Dubai and serves, to the fury of the Thai government, as an economic adviser to neighbouring Cambodia.

He is best-known in Britain for his short-lived ownership of Manchester City football club.
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Turkish court charges seven officers in coup plot

ANKARA : Turkish court has formally charged and jailed seven senior Turkish military officers for allegedly plotting several years ago to overthrow the Islamic—leaning government.

The wiretap evidence and discovery of alleged military plans drafted in 2003 to overthrow the government led to the detention of about 50 commanders on Monday in the highest profile crackdown ever on the military which has ousted four governments since 1960.

The court in Istanbul ordered that four admirals, an army general and two staff colonels be jailed. It released six other officers on Wednesday but it was not clear whether they were freed pending trial.

Prosecutors are still questioning dozens of other high—ranking officers, including former chiefs of the Navy, Air Force and Special Forces.
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Hormone changes during menopause ‘raise heart disease risk’

Washington : Scientists say hormone changes during menopause increase the risk of heart disease in women.

"Many women younger than 50 have not yet gone through menopause and still have high levels of the female hormone estrogen in their blood, which is thought to help protect the heart," says Vera Rigolin, associate director of the Center for Women's Cardiovascular Health in the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute of Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

"After menopause, however, the levels of estrogen in a woman's body drop significantly and can contribute to the higher risks of cardiovascular disease," Vera Rigolin adds.

Weight gain is also a factor that may play a role in postmenopausal risk of heart disease. Maintaining a healthy weight often becomes difficult after your body experiences a change in hormone levels.

Extra mass can take a toll on the body causing physical inactivity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol, all risk factors that can lead to heart attack and stroke.

Rigolin says that women, especially those who are menopausal, can reduce the risk of heart disease by adopting a healthy lifestyle.

"If you are a smoker, quit immediately and avoid second hand smoke. Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and exercise at least three times per week to maintain a healthy body weight," says Rigolin.

Rigolin also recommends visiting the health care provider at least once per year to have your blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels checked.
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Pay more for cars, fuel, TVs, ACs, cigarettes

New Delhi : Cars, fuel, ACs, TVs, gold and silver jewellery, cigarettes and other tobacco products will cost more in the new fiscal with Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee proposing a hike in duties and change in tax structure on these items in the Budget for 2010-11.

As part of a partial withdrawal of stimulus measures, given the recovery seen in the economy, Mr. Mukherjee announced hiking excise duty on non-oil products to 10 per cent from 8 per cent across all sectors.

Within minutes, car manufacturers announced that they would hike prices while Government officials said that petrol and diesel would cost Rs 2.67 and Rs 2.58 more per litre, respectively, from midnight tonight.

Perhaps, Mr. Mukherjee wanted to create more demand by giving more tax concessions and provide more money in consumers' hand so that they buy more and boost the industry and economy.

Prices of consumer durables and electronic items are set to go up, although mobile handsets made in India and accessories will see price cuts with the government providing exemption in customs duty on import of key components.

The Finance Minister also increased excise on petrol and diesel by Re. 1 per litre, following which duty on branded petrol will now be Rs 15.5 per litre and that of branded diesel will be 5.75 per litre. Non-branded petrol will attract duty of 14.35 per litre and that of diesel will be 4.60 per litre.
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Indian rupee to get unique symbol in 2010-11

New Delhi : The Indian Rupee will this fiscal join the elite league of global currencies like U.S. dollar, British Pound and Euro that have their unique symbols, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said on Friday.

"In the ensuing year, we intend to formalise a symbol for the Indian Rupee, which reflects and captures the Indian ethos and culture," he announced in his Budget speech in Parliament.

"With this, Indian Rupee will join the select club of currencies such as the U.S. Dollar, British Pound Sterling, Euro and Japanese Yen that have a clear distinguishing identity," he said.

While these foreign currencies have their own unique symbols, other than their abbreviations like USD and GBP, Rupee is only referred to by the abbreviation 'Rs'. Moreover, the same abbreviated forms are also used in neighbouring countries like Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

The decision to have a symbol for Rupee was taken by the government last year. It was also decided to invite designs from the public for the new symbol. The shortlisted designers would present their designs to a seven-member jury, comprising of officials from the government and RBI as also people from institutes like J.J. Institute of Applied Art, National Institute of Design, Lalit Kala Akademi and Indira Gandhi National Centre.
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New Income Tax rates table

New Delhi : In a relief to individual tax payers, the Government on Friday changed the slabs cutting the rate to 10 per cent for income up to Rs 5 lakh, while leaving the threshold limit for tax-free income unchanged at Rs 1.6 lakh.

Income between Rs 5 lakh to Rs 8 lakh will attract 20 per cent tax against the current slab of Rs 3 lakh to Rs 5 lakh. Hitherto, the income between Rs 1.6 lakh and Rs 3 lakh was taxed at the rate of 10 per cent.

In case of income over Rs 8 lakh, tax would be levied at a rate of 30 per cent — which was hitherto applicable on income above Rs 5 lakh.

The tax concessions would put more money in the hands of consumers.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee also extended income tax exemption to investment in infrastructure bonds by up to Rs 20,000 over and above the existing limit of Rs 1 lakh.

In a major relief to the corporate sector, the Government proposed to reduce the surcharge on corporate tax to 7.5 per cent from 10 per cent now.

However, it has increased the Minimum Alternate Tax (MAT) from existing 15 per cent to 18 per cent on book profits of those companies which do not pay tax because of various exemptions.

New Income Tax slabs

General tax payers

Up to Rs 1,60,000 — NIL

Rs 1,60,001 to Rs 5,00,000 — 10 per cent

Rs 5,00,001 to Rs 8,00,000 — 20 per cent

Rs 8,00,000 and above —30 per cent


Up to Rs 1,90,000 — NIL

Rs 1,90,001 to Rs 5,00,000 —10 per cent

Rs 5,00,001 to Rs 8,00,000 — 20 per cent

Rs 8,00,000 and above — 30 per cent

Senior citizens of 65 years and above

Up to Rs 2,40,000 — NIL

Rs 2,40,001 to Rs 5,00,000 — 10 per cent

Rs 5,00,001 to Rs 8,00,000 — 20 per cent

Rs 8,00,000 and above — 30 per cent
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Thank you for surprising me on my surprise birthday party: Shahid Kapoor

Mumbai : Bollywood star Shahid Kapoor, who turned 29 Thursday, was given a surprise birthday party by his family and friends.

\"I was given a surprise birthday party and I sure was surprised. Even dad and family were in on it. Wow! It\'s actually my first surprise birthday party,\" Shahid posted on micro-blogging site Twitter.

The actor was wished by a number of celebrities, including Karan Johar and Farah Ali Khan.

He has thanked everyone for their wishes.

\"Thank you all from the bottom of my heart for all the birthday wishes. Love you all,\" he added.

Shahid also got another surprise when Police raided his party for violating the stipulated deadline. After receiving information that Esco bar, where the actor\'s birthday bash was on, was entertaining the guests beyond 1.30 am deadline, police reached the place and stopped the music.

After inspecting the pub, manager Subhash Bhosale was fined Rs 5,000 for violating norms of the Bombay Police Act by keeping the bar open beyond 1.30 am deadline, said senior inspector Prakash George of Bandra Police Station.

Shahid\'s friend and co-star of his last release \"Chance Pe Dance\", Genelia D\'Souza, too attended the party.
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‘Job well done,’ says Manmohan

New Delhi : Terming as \"exceedingly good\", Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday said the Budget would help the economy to return to nine per cent growth while allaying the fears that it would fuel \"inflationary\" expectation.

\"A job well done\" was how Singh summarised Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee\'s Union Budget for 2010-11, presented in Parliament on Friday.

\"You must look at the total picture emerging from the budget. The net revenue gain for the Finance Minister is only Rs 20,000 crore. In an economy as large as India, this resource mobilisation effort and balance should not trigger any inflationary expectation. At the same time it gives the muscle needed…

\"The Finance Minister has not called back to the pre-stimulus excise duty rate. He has still exercised moderation signalling the economy that you cannot have all things together,\" said Dr. Singh, who in the 90s had donned the mantle of Finance Minister in the Narasimha Rao government.

Defending Mr. Mukherjee\'s proposal to hike the basic duty on crude and petroleum products besides effecting a one-rupee per litre increase on petrol and diesel, Dr. Singh said, \"the economy has the capacity to absorb this order of adjustments in excise duties and customs duties without generating a wholesale inflationary spiral.\"

\"Well, I think Finance Minister has mentioned these duties were reduced during a period when petroleum prices had gone up to USD 112 per barrel. Now petroleum prices are much lower..,\" the Prime Minister said.

On the postponement of the Direct Tax Code (DTC), he maintained that \"on the whole\" it does not present a problem.

\"....Simplification on DTC must be source of strengthening the growth impulses, but the DTC, which was circulated has, I think, generated certain apprehensions in the business community...,\" he said.

The Prime Minister also assured DTC will not be imposed till \"all the apprehensions that have been expressed by the business community are taken care of.\"

On the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax, Dr. Singh said it requires a consensus and all states have to be on board for it to be implemented.

\"I think we cannot move the reform of having a GST. I sincerely believe we cannot move very far in the direction of having a GST... Sincerely hope, that during this year we will work towards all these concerns,\" Dr. Singh said.

The Prime Minister said despite a negative agricultural growth, the economy will this year grow by at least 7.2 per cent.

"In my view, it will grow 7.5 per cent. That is a tribute to the resilience of the economy, to the manufacturing sector, revival of export momentum," he said.

He asserted that as far as agriculture was concerned, the Finance Minister has zeroed in on a four-fold strategy of doing everything possible that can be done to increase productivity.

On fiscal deficit, he said, the Finance Minister has committed the government will cap the fiscal deficit at the Centre and states at 68 per cent by 2014-15.

"This is the recommendation of the Finance Commission. We are endorsing the roadmap that has been taken into account by the Finance Commission in presenting its report," he added.
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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Ben Kingsley has a crucial role in \'Teen Patti\': Leena

Mumbai : Filmmaker Leena Yadav is amused by rumours that Hollywood actor Ben Kinsley plays only a cameo in her upcoming film \'Teen Patti\'. The director says Kingsley has a substantial role and is present throughout the movie.

\"Sir Ben is playing the role of a great mathematician named Perci Trachtenberg in \'Teen Patti\'. He has this whole graph with Mr Bachchan in the film and there is a lot of emotion involved,\" Yadav said.

\"I don\'t quite understand the concept of cameos and guest appearances. Sometimes a great actor can come and do something so spectacular even in a two minute role.

If the character is strong, it can just bring a complete turnaround in the proceedings in the shortest duration possible. One has to look at the impact that an actor creates,\" said Yadav, who has earlier made \'Shabd\' with Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Sanjay Dutt.

\"Sir Ben is present for much more than two minutes in \'Teen Patti\'. He has a crucial role in the film and is present throughout the narrative from start to finish. Along with mathematics, there is a little bit of magic also involved,\" Yadav added.

While one looks forward to how the character played by Kingsley adds value to the plot of \'Teen Patti\', the film could well hold the record for maximum number of cameos.

Ajay Devgn, Jackie Shroff, Mahesh Manjrekar, Ranjeet and Shakti Kapoor would be seen enacting short but important parts in the film.

Confirming the list, Leena described the relevance of these cameos in \'Teen Patti\'.

\"They all come into different situations and different games which are being played in \'Teen Patti\'. Each of them has an impact on the plot and hasn\'t been added on just to make the film look bigger. These characters act as a ladder which takes the story of \'Teen Patti\' to culmination,\" Yadav said.

Further elaborating on the idea of roping in so many actors for cameos, Yadav said, \"Along with Shiv Kumar Subramaniam, with whom I have written the screenplay of \'Teen Patti\', I tried to explore the mindset of gamblers. These actors play gamblers and end up saying something in their game which is observed closely by Amitabh Bachchan who is playing his own mental game. You have to actually watch the film to understand further on how so many characters actually end up fitting together.\"

A film which boasts of number of actors in principal roles as well, \'Teen Patti\' is spearheaded by Bachchan while also starring Madhavan who has been enjoying a great run off late with successes like \'3 Idiots\' and \'13 B\' behind him.

\"I also have a great team of youngsters with me. Actors like Raima Sen, Dhruv Ganesh, Siddharth Kher, Vaibhav Talwar, Saira Mohan and Sharadha Kapoor have all been great inclusions in \'Teen Patti\'. They all have great importance in the film,\" said Yadav.

An Ambika Hinduja production, \'Teen Patti\' releases all over on February 26.
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Ranbaxy Swings To Profit In Q4

Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd., an integrated, research-based international pharmaceutical company, reported profit compared to loss last year.

On Indian GAAP basis, the Mohali, Punjab-based company\'s fourth-quarter stand-alone net profit, including forex gain/loss, was Rs.488.23 crore or Rs.9.69 per share compared with a net loss of Rs.819.02 crore or Rs.21.90 per share for the corresponding previous quarter.

Profit for the quarter included a forex gain of Rs.388.99 crore, compared to Rs.1,015.44 crore toward foreign currency option derivatives (other than derivatives relating to loans).

For the quarter, the company\'s net revenue increased 59% to Rs.1,522.88 crore from Rs.957.86 crore for the same period last year, while other operating income amounted to Rs.396.52 crore compared with Rs.445.90 crore in the year-ago quarter.

For the quarter, revenue from domestic sales rose 7% to Rs.423.98 crore from Rs.396.59 crore in the corresponding quarter last year, while that of Outside India amounted to Rs.1,102.47 crore, up 94% from Rs.568.04 crore for the quarter ended December 31, 2008.

The company incurred an expense of Rs.165.01 crore towards research and development, up 55% from Rs.106.28 crore in the prior year quarter.

Ranbaxy posted fiscal-year stand-alone net profit, including forex gain/loss, of Rs.571.98 crore compared with a net loss of Rs.1,044.80 crore in 2008. Total revenue, including other operating income, grew 7% to Rs.4,782.76 crore from Rs.4,472.15 crore in the previous year.

Profit for the year included a forex loss of Rs.321.34 crore, compared to a gain of Rs.1,099.04 crore toward foreign currency option derivatives (other than derivatives relating to loans).

The company reported fiscal year consolidated net profit of Rs.296.49 crore, compared with a net loss of Rs.951.21 crore in 2008. Total revenue, including other operating income, rose to 2% to Rs.7,597.04 crore from Rs.7,414.00 crore in the year-ago quarter.

Research and development expenses for the year rose 13% to Rs.487.52 crore from Rs.431.39 crore in 2008.

Looking ahead, the company expects fiscal year net profit of around Rs.460 crore or $100 million on revenues of Rs.7,800 crore, reflecting a growth of 48% and 6% respectively over last year.

Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director Atul Sobti said: \"We realized various opportunities, while continuing to manage key challenges. Good revenue growth in most key geographies, launch of two First-to-File in USA, and continued cost containment, has ensured consistent quarter-on-quarter improvement in performance. The company ended the year with strong business and financial performance, and over achieved on the guidance given for the year.\"
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Top Indian artist offered sanctuary in Qatar

Qatar : The artist made the announcement in The Hindu newspaper. It is not clear whether he will accept the honour.

Since 2006, 95-year-old Mr Husain has been living in Dubai and in London.

The Hindu said that his \"impending change of nationality brings to a close one of the sorriest chapters in independent India\'s secular history\".

Correspondents say that Mr Husain - who has been forced to flee the country - is one of India\'s most pre-eminent artists.

In 2006 he apologised for a painting in which he represented the country as a nude goddess. In the mid-1990s there were huge protests in Mumbai (Bombay) after he painted a whole series of nude Hindu goddesses.

Hindu nationalist groups accused the artist of hurting their religious sentiments and defiling their religion.

Mr Husain estimates that there are 900 cases against him in various courts of India. He says that he has been harassed by mobs in the country and his exhibitions have been vandalised.

The Hindu says that the artist did not apply for Qatari nationality - it was conferred upon him by the emirate\'s ruling family.

\"The artist gave me this news from Dubai by reading out the few lines he had written on a black-and-white line drawing that he released to The Hindu,\" editor N Ram wrote in a signed article in newspaper.

\"I, the Indian origin painter MF Husain at 95, have been honoured by Qatar nationality,\" the artist wrote above a sketch of a horse, the leitmotif of much of his work.

Mr Husain went to live abroad in 2006 to escape the various obscenity charges he faced in India.
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Killer whale facts

Miami : However captive killer whales have been known to attack their handlers at theme parks. Since the 1970s, killer whales have attacked 24 people worldwide.

It is thought that the animals can become aggressive in captivity due to higher levels of stress.

Killer whales (or orcas) eat fish, marine mammals including sea lions, seals and walruses and in packs they will even attack larger whales.

The largest species of the dolphin family, they are regarded as top of the food chain as they have no natural predators.

Killer whale clans, like dolphins, can be distinguished by their different dialects of underwater communication.

They have acute hearing and also acute vision both in and out of the water. Echolocation enables them to locate and discriminate objects by projecting high-frequency sound waves and listening for echoes.

Male orcas may reach a length of 30ft (9m) and females half that length. They are black, with a sharply distinguished white oval patch around each eye. Its belly is white and the animal has white markings along its sides.

It has more than four dozen sharp teeth, and is the only cetacean that feeds regularly on birds or mammals
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Rivals India, Pakistan Resume Official Talks

NEW DELHI : Nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan, whose relationship is key to efforts to stabilize Afghanistan, held their first official talks since the 2008 attacks on Mumbai on Thursday and agreed to stay in touch.

India blames Pakistan-based militants for the Mumbai attacks which killed at least 166 people and both sides are battling for influence in Afghanistan on Pakistan\'s western border.

The United States sees improved India-Pakistan relations as crucial so lslamabad, not having to worry about its eastern border with India, can focus on fighting the Taliban on its west.

The nuclear rivals will \"remain in touch\" to build trust with each other, Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said after talks with her Pakistani counterpart, Salman Bashir.

Rao did not say if there would be a next round of talks.

The two met in a former princely palace in a heavily guarded New Delhi neighborhood that also houses the parliament and the presidential palace.

Rao, wearing a black and red sari, and Bashir in a dark suit shook hands in front of the camera before walking into a sprawling room for a one-on-one meeting followed by delegation-level talks.

India broke off official talks after the Mumbai attacks, saying dialogue could resume only if Pakistan acted against militants on its soil.

Re-engaging Pakistan was a politically fraught move for New Delhi, given strong Indian public opinion against talks, but a nudge from Washington and dwindling diplomatic options saw India reaching out.

Expectations from the talks were modest, and a simple pledge to continue the dialogue may be the best officials can hope for.

The two countries have squabbled over which subjects should be covered in the talks -- India wants to focus on terrorism while Pakistan eyes the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir that has been the cause of two of their three wars.

\"Terrorism is a regional, global concern. It\'s our concern as well,\" Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit told reporters shortly before talks began.
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Infant deaths to fall below 30 per 1,000 live births by 2012: Survey

New Delhi : With the gradual fall of crude birth and death rates, the country expects to lower its infant mortality rate to below 30 per 1,000 live births by 2012, although block and village level annual plans have not been prepared for 24 States and UT, the Economic Survey said.

India has successfully brought down its crude birth rate (CBR) to 22.8 in every 1,000 people from 29.5 in 1991, this led to decrease in crude death rate (CDR) to 7.4 from 9.8 in 1,000 people in the same period, the pre-budget Survey tabled in Parliament on Thursday said.

Under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), which was launched in 2005, infant mortality rate (IMR) is expected to fall below 30 in every 1,000 live births, it added.

The current IMR stands at 53, substantially lower than the figure of 80 in 1991, it added.

However, as per a Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report, NRHM suffers from certain weakness that needs to be addressed to make the scheme more beneficial, the survey said.

"The NRHM initiated decentralised bottom-up planning. However, district-level annual plans were not prepared during 2005-08 in nine states and in 24 States/UTs, block and village -level annual plans had not been prepared at all," it added.

Village-level health and sanitation committees were still to be constituted in nine states. "Funds for local action through untied grants and annual maintenance grants to health centres remained mostly unspent... the committee on inter- sectoral convergence did not meet frequently." it said.

Besides, according to 2001 population norms, there is a shortage of 20,486 sub-centres, 4,477 primary health centres and 2,337 community health centres across the country. Also about 29 per cent of the existing health infrastructure is in rented buildings.

"India fares poorly in most of the indicators in comparison with a number of developing countries like China and Sri Lanka. In addition, the progress in health indicators has been quite uneven across regions, gender as well as space," the survey stated.

However, despite all these lacunae, the total life expectancy at birth has increased to 63.5 years between 2002-06 from 59.4 years in 1989-93.

Some of the major initiatives by the government in the healthcare sector include Janani Suraksha Yojana to lower maternal mortality rate (MMR) by ensuring that deliveries were conducted by skilled birth attendants. NRHM targets to bring the MMR to below 100 per one lakh live births by 2012 from 254 in 2004-06.

Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana was launched with the objective of correcting regional imbalance in availability of affordable and reliable healthcare services in the country.

It also aims to augment facilities for quality medical education.

Besides, the government is investing Rs. 11,585 crore for implementation of National AIDS Control Programme-III in 2007 -12. As per estimates, over 23 lakh people were living with HIV/AIDS in India in 2007.
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Bandra pub breaks rules on Shahid\'s birthday

A pub in upscale suburban Bandra, where Bollywood actor Shahid Kapoor celebrated his birthday on Wednesday night, was fined for violating the time deadline and entertaining guests beyond the prescribed time, police said today.

After receiving information that Esco bar, where the actor\'s birthday bash was on, was entertaining the guests beyond 1.30 am deadline, police reached the place at 2 am and stopped the music, they said.

The actor is celebrating his 30th birthday today.

After inspecting the pub, manager Subhash Bhosale was fined Rs 5,000 for violating norms of the Bombay Police Act by keeping the bar open beyond 1.30 am deadline, said senior inspector Prakash George of Bandra Police Station.

Celebrities like Amrita Rao, Archana Puran Singh, Parmeet Sethi, choreographer Ahmed Khan and Shahid\'s brother Ishaan were present at the party.
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Cricket, a killer whale in India

India is still celebrating the country\'s most loved batsman Sachin Tendulkar

\'s date with history. The master blaster scored a mighty 200* at Gwalior on Feb 24 to become the only man in history to scale the height of 200 runs in a International ODI.Lurking underneath this great historical event for India, is a dingy underbelly of the plight of other sports in the country.

The pitch on which Sachin won himself a page in the history was actually a Hockey stadium, set up to honour Captain Roop Singh, an Olympic hockey gold medalist.

However, due to the increasing and rather overpowering popularity of cricket and fueled by the cricket love-lobby nurtured by the scions of Gwalior, the stadium was turned into a Cricket stadium in 1980s.

It was on this turf that the lady luck smiled on Sachin Tendulkar and he rode into record books. When asked to whom he owed his success, master blaster said he dedicated his feat to the country.But it would have been more appropriate and probably more impactful if Sachin Tendulkar had chosen to dedicate his achievement to Captain Roop Singh as a gesture to promote other forms of sports in India.

Additionally, if the cricketing demi-god had just uttered the word \'hockey\', it would have helped the upcoming Hockey World Cup gather some attention, excitement and fervour from the cricket-crazy country, which is blissfully ignorant of the international sporting event the country is hosting.

Sadly, the event is only getting attention from the sponsors such as Hero Honda

, which has produced two or three ads featuring stars including Sachin\'s collegue Sehwag, urging the country to watch and support the national game.In 1972, Devakanth Baruva a celebrated Sycophant surrounded by the Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declared 'Indira is India, India is Indira'. That is an all time fun feature for those who don\'t belong to non-congress (I) clan in India.

Interestingly, it was during those years the world used to relate India to Hockey; Hockey to India.

Over the years, cricket has managed to slowly nudge aside other Indian sports to hog the limelight all by itself. It has now come to a condition where, cricket has swallowed every other branch of sports in India, like the killer whale of Florida.
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