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    National News - MAY

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    Abhishek

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    Re: National News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Sun May 15, 2011 11:43 pm

    Allahabad High Court sets aside acquisition of land

    In a major embarrassment to the Mayawati government in
    Uttar Pradesh, the Allahabad High Court on Thursday set aside
    notifications issued for acquisition of more than 100 hectares of land
    in Gautam Buddh Nagar district for “planned industrial development” in
    Greater Noida.
    A Division Bench comprising Justice Sunil Ambawani and Justice Kashi
    Nath Pandey, while allowing several writ petitions filed by residents of
    Shahberi village in the district, said the entire action of acquiring
    the land was a “colourable exercise of powers” and ordered return of the
    land to their owners.
    The Bench set aside two notifications issued by the State government on 10.06.2009 and 09.11.2009 for acquiring the land.
    In the notification dated 10.06.2009, the State government had
    proposed “to acquire a total area of 156.93 hectares of land in the
    village,” while the one dated 09.11.2009, published in the official
    gazette, had “declared the acquisition of land.”
    “The Greater Noida Industrial Development Authority [GNOIDA] was
    fully aware and was planning to use the land in village Shahberi and
    neighbouring villages for multi-storey housing complexes to be developed
    by builders on relaxed conditions.”
    The court noted with concern “that on one hand, a request was made
    for acquiring the land for public purpose for planned industrial
    development, and on the other hand, a few days before the proposals were
    put up before the State government for issuing notification [dated
    09.11.2009]... the GNOIDA, without informing the State government, held
    the Board's meeting for converting the land use for residential purposes
    to lease off the land to builders for housing complexes for earning
    profits.”
    “The land is proposed to be acquired at the rate of about Rs.850 a
    square metre and to be given, within a month, to the builders at
    Rs.10,000 per square metre, and that too on payment of 5 per cent of the
    price, on allotment,” the court said.
    Quashing the notifications issued by the government and “all
    consequential actions taken by GNOIDA,” the court ordered “the
    respondents will hand over the possession of the land back to the land
    owners.”
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    Re: National News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Sun May 15, 2011 11:44 pm

    It was my voice, but the CDs were doctored, says Amar Singh


    While claiming that the CDs containing his purported phone
    conversations with politicians, bureaucrats, Bollywood stars and
    corporate bigwigs were “doctored,” the former Samajwadi Party leader
    Amar Singh, however, said he would not initiate any action against
    Reliance Infocomm — service provider — which tapped his phone for a year
    on the basis of a forged authorisation letter.
    “Why should I act against the phone company? They do not have the
    wherewithal to investigate. It is the CBI and the government which can
    investigate. The apex court should have directed the CBI and law
    enforcing agencies to find out at whose behest the authorisation letter
    was written,” Mr. Singh said in his reaction to Wednesday's court order
    lifting the interim gag order on making the tapes public.
    The Supreme Court had said Mr. Singh, if so advised, might initiate
    proceedings against the service provider. Observing that he had
    “prevaricated” and had not come with “clean hands,” it gave him no
    relief on his prayer for a judicial enquiry into the matter and
    guidelines on broadcasting or publishing such conversations.
    Addressing a press conference here on Thursday, Mr. Singh said
    although his voice in the CDs was genuine, “like the plea taken by
    [lawyers] Shanti [Bhushan] and Prashant Bhushan in the matter of a CD
    featuring the former, I also say that the CDs of my phone conversations
    are a spliced, cut and paste job.” Mr. Prashant Bhushan was the amicus
    curiae in the case.
    Mr. Singh claimed he had not approached the court for a gag order.
    “The then Chief Justice of India Y.K. Sabharwal had on his own, in the
    interest of privacy of an individual, given an interim order banning the
    tapes from being published or telecast by the media. Now another Bench
    has lifted the gag order. Whether that Bench was correct or this, I
    cannot comment.”
    Even as he said he was “happy and satisfied” with the court's order,
    Mr. Singh criticised the court for its observations that he was not
    entitled to be heard on the merits of his case as he had “prevaricated”'
    and taken “inconsistent positions.”
    Suspecting that the Congress was behind the phone tapping, Mr. Singh
    had named party president Sonia Gandhi a respondent (no. 7) in the
    matter. However, when he learnt that the tapping was done on a “farzi”
    (fraudulent) authorisation, he withdrew his allegations against her.
    This is one of the inconsistencies the court frowned on.
    On the contents of the CDs featuring him, Mr. Singh said he was a
    “two-in-one” person — an industrialist and politician. “I can have
    personal talks with other industrialists on business. As [the then]
    Chairman of the Uttar Pradesh Development Council I took no decisions. I
    only advised. I had the power of the tongue but no power to take
    decisions. Even the Prime Minister has advisory councils which have
    given suggestions. It is up to the person in a constitutional position
    to take decisions.”
    To pointed questions on specific contents of the CDs, he said he did not remember.
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    Re: National News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Sun May 15, 2011 11:45 pm

    Kanimozhi, Sharad Kumar appear before income tax authorities


    Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam Member of Parliament Kanimozhi and Kalaignar TV Managing Director Sharad Kumar on Thursday appeared before the income tax authorities here in response to summons issued to them for interrogation on the transactions pertaining to Kalaignar TV and donations to Tamil Maiyam, an NGO that organises cultural events.

    Informed sources said Ms. Kanimozhi and Mr. Kumar, accompanied by a battery of advocates, appeared before Deputy Director of Income Tax Ramakrishna Bandi for over an hour and gave their statements.

    The statement of Dayalu Ammal, wife of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, was given by her authorised representatives.

    On Tuesday, the Delhi High Court allowed Ms. Kanimozhi and Mr. Kumar to make a personal appearance before the IT authorities here for two days with regard to the flow of Rs.200 crore from DB Realty to Kalaignar TV.

    Ms. Kanimozhi holds 20 per cent stake in Kalaignar TV, while Dayalu Ammal has 60 per cent.

    “The inquiry pertained to the Rs.200 crore transaction to Kalaignar TV from DB Realty, whose proprietor is Shahid Balwa, a co-accused in 2G spectrum allocation scam and about the donations made to Tamil Maiyam. We have recorded the statements of Ms. Kanimozhi and Mr. Kumar. The inquiry is over for today and they co-operated with us fully. They are not required for the time being. We may call them again, if necessary,” an IT official told The Hindu on Thursday.

    “The report prepared by us will be consolidated with that of other centres of income tax. It will later be submitted to a nodal agency or the Supreme Court as the case may be,” he said.
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    Re: National News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Sun May 15, 2011 11:51 pm

    U.P. land row: Congress goes for the jugular



    Government promises to bring in fresh legislation on land acquisition; party declares war on Mayawati, BSP

    NEW DELHI: The Congress' dual strategy on Uttar Pradesh, which will go to the polls next year, unfolded on Thursday: even as the government promised to bring fresh legislation on the contentious issue of land acquisition in the monsoon session, the Congress' top brass in the government and in the party came out all guns blazing, declaring war on Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati and her Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).

    If Union Home Minister P Chidambaram announced at a formal press conference in Shastri Bhawan that the United Progressive Alliance government would bring a new Land Acquisition Bill to Parliament very soon, as it had succeeded in achieving a fair amount of consensus on it, at the Congress headquarters, party general secretary Digvijaya Singh demanded a judicial enquiry into the firing last Saturday in Greater Noida that took four lives as well to investigate reports about the discovery of piles of human bones in the area.

    Both men, separately, dismissed Ms. Mayawati's accusation that the Centre was responsible for the escalation of the agitation as it had failed to enact a fresh Central law on land acquisition. They both pointed to the Congress-ruled Haryana where, thanks to a State government policy, land was being acquired from farmers amicably. Nothing prevented the U.P. Chief Minister, they said, from following the Haryana model, in the absence of a Central law.

    The two briefings in the capital came in the wake of Wednesday's midnight drama over the arrest – and release – of party general secretary Rahul Gandhi and Mr. Singh who spent a day in the village of Bhatta Parsaul, at the epicentre of the agitation against the acquisition of farming land.

    The press conference addressed by Mr. Chidambaram, flanked by Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni and Union Minorities Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, was the first effort by the newly minted GoM on the media.

    Criticising Ms. Mayawati's handling of the farmers' protests, Mr. Chidambaram, however, ruled out sending a Central team to assess the situation. Referring to the proposed land acquisition law, he said, “the government has drafted a new act that has provisions for better compensation, rehabilitation and other measures.” Consensus building had taken some time, he said, but now, “there is a fair degree of consensus on the law” and he was hopeful it would go through, “with some amendments.” To a question, he said he did not rule out bringing an ordinance in this regard.

    Meanwhile, Mr. Singh, answering a query on the proposed law, said he had spoken to Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Bannerjee, who had reservations on the Bill in its present form, and added that after the Assembly elections results were out on Friday, there would be a fresh round of discussions.

    Earlier, Ms. Soni taking a swipe at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Samajwadi Party (SP) for what she described as their attempt to politicise and hijack the land acquisition issue, said: “Many political parties have tried to use this protest to further their agenda but haven't been able to. The point to note is that Mayawati didn't react to any of them in the way she reacted to Rahul Gandhi. This is an indication that he did something right.”

    Mr. Khurshid, responding to a question on the language Ms. Mayawati used to describe Mr. Gandhi's actions, said, “there are many words used in U.P. politics which are not very nice. We wouldn't like to comment on Ms. Mayawati's choice of words since we do not use such language ourselves. As far as Mr. Rahul Gandhi's actions are concerned, he is a leader from U.P. His popularity is on the rise not just within the Congress but also outside. That is what is giving Ms. Mayawati sleepless nights.”
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    Re: National News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Sun May 15, 2011 11:52 pm

    NHRC team to probe Greater Noida violence

    The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) will depute its investigation team to Greater Noida, adjoining Delhi, to inquire into the clashes between farmers and the police on the issue of acquisition of farmlands by the Uttar Pradesh government.

    The Commission, in a press release here on Thursday, said it was pained to see complaints and media reports alleging large-scale violence in Bhatta-Parsaul villages and nearby areas, leading to loss of life and injuries to several persons, including officials on duty.

    In complaints received by the NHRC, allegations were made that the police mercilessly lathicharged the farmers, who were demanding more compensation. Incidents of the agitating farmers throwing stones at officials and of police personnel trespassing into villagers' houses, outraging women's dignity and burning crops were alleged.

    There was also an alleged exchange of fire between the police and some agitators, the NHRC statement said.

    Meanwhile, the National Commission for Women (NCW) sought a Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry into the incidents.

    “We demand a CBI inquiry into alleged police action against women during and after the farmer-police clashes,” acting chairperson Yasmeen Abarar said.

    Four persons, including two policemen, were killed in the clashes and firing in Bhatta-Parsaul on Saturday.
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    Re: National News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Sun May 15, 2011 11:52 pm

    Medha moots Development Planning Act for “no or minimum displacement”

    Even as Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Patkar on Thursday demanded repeal of the Land Acquisition Act, 1984, the All-India Kisan Sabha urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to call a special session of Parliament to discuss the issue.

    Ms. Patkar, who was arrested at Parsaul village on Thursday and later released, said that instead of an amended Act, there should be a comprehensive Development Planning Act under which development should only be with the consent of gram sabhas in rural areas and basti-sabhas in urban areas with “no or minimum displacement.”

    Following her visit two days ago to Bhatta village, she said that because of prohibitory orders in the Bhatta-Parsaul villages, women and children were not getting relief. “They were not even able to file FIRs for their missing male family members. There should be dialogue with farmers to address issues,” she said.

    Meanwhile, the Kisan Sabha's national general secretary, Atul Kumar Anjaan, urged the Centre to direct State governments to stop all further acquisition of land and ensure that the conditions and directions of the Supreme Court on rehabilitation and resettlement of displaced people were implemented.

    Mr. Anjaan pointed out that the Prime Minister had assured in Parliament that the government would review the Land Acquisition Act, “but no positive step has been taken.”

    On the same issue, Rashtriya Lok Dal President Ajit Singh, who has visited the stir-affected villages in Uttar Pradesh twice, met Union Rural Development Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh here and urged him to introduce a farmer-friendly Bill in the coming session of Parliament.

    The RLD raised the issue of ‘definition of public purpose' in the Land Acquisition Act. “What is the purpose of acquiring land from the farmers? Are golf courses and commercial complex also a public purpose? This needs to addressed.”

    For private enterprise, the government should not acquire more than 10-15 percent of the land for removing hurdles from the completion of the project, he added.

    Mr. Singh said the use of section 17 of the Act (Urgency Clause) should be restricted to matters of national security and natural disasters.

    “Also, individual notices must be given at the start of the acquisition process to the farmers to ensure their awareness and ability to express their reservations, if any, to the concerned authorities at the preliminary stage.

    “Farmers should get compensation on potential and present market value for the land acquired and the amended act should ensure that if the purpose for which land was acquired was not fulfilled after five years, the farmers should have the first right of ownership over land,” he said.

    Mr. Singh also demanded the setting up of a new ‘Land Acquisition (Disputes Settlement) Authority' at the mandal level, which should be headed by a High Court Judge and have on board members with a background in land acquisition and agriculture.
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    Re: National News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Sun May 15, 2011 11:53 pm

    CIC: In a conflict, RTI Act will prevail over Supreme Court rules

    The Central Information Commission (CIC) has ruled that in a conflict between the Right to Information Act and the internal rules of a Public Authority, the RTI Act must prevail. It would prevail even if the internal rules pertain to the Supreme Court.

    CIC Shailesh Gandhi passed this order in a case, in which information on certain judicial records was sought from the Supreme Court under the RTI Act. The First Appellate Authority (FFA) in the court held that any information on judicial records could be accessed only under Order XII of the Supreme Court rules.

    The judicial records pertained to letters written to judges by R.S. Misra, appellant in the case. Mr. Misra, who wrote the letters in connection with a Special Leave Petition filed by him, wanted to know their status and filed an application under the RTI Act.

    Mr. Gandhi held that the Supreme Court could not cite internal rules to deny information if it had been sought under the RTI Act. Further that information could be denied only if the information sought was prohibited under the RTI Act itself.

    “The right to information is a fundamental right of the citizen of India. This has been clearly recognised by the Supreme Court in several decisions and subsequently codified by Parliament in 2005. The RTI Act was enacted with the spirit of ensuring transparency...Section 3 of the RTI Act lays down that subject to the provisions of the RTI Act, all citizens shall have the right to information… Further Section 22 of the RTI Act expressly provides that the provisions of the RTI Act shall have effect notwithstanding anything inconsistent therewith contained in the Official Secrets Act, 1923, and any other law for the time being in force or in any instrument having effect by virtue of any law other than the RTI Act. In other words, where there is any inconsistency in a law as regards furnishing of information, such law shall be superseded by the RTI Act. Insertion of a non-obstante clause in Section 22 of the RTI Act was a conscious choice of Parliament to safeguard the citizens' fundamental right to information…If the PIO has received a request for information under the RTI Act, the information shall be provided to the applicant as per the provisions of the RTI Act and any denial of the same must be in accordance with Sections 8 and 9 of the RTI Act only..”
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    Re: National News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Sun May 15, 2011 11:53 pm

    Supreme Court orders CBI to probe MGNREGA ‘irregularities'

    The Supreme Court on Thursday directed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to probe alleged misuse of the schemes under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) in 100 villages in six districts of Orissa.

    A three-judge Bench of Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia, Justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and Swatanter Kumar gave this direction on a petition filed by the Centre for Environment and Food Security pointing out serious lapses and large scale malpractices in the implementation of the schemes under the Act in Orissa and other States.

    Writing the judgment, Mr. Justice Swatanter Kumar said: “The investigating agency shall take into consideration three documents, i.e., the survey report prepared by the petitioner; the CAG [Comptroller and Auditor-General] report dated March 31, 2009 and the NIRD [National Institute of Rural Development] report.”

    Hold complete probe

    The Bench directed the CBI to conduct a complete and comprehensive investigation and file its report in regard to commission of criminal offences in the implementation of the schemes, or otherwise, before the court of competent jurisdiction for appropriate action. “The CBI shall also place a copy thereof on the record of this Court.”

    The Bench said: “Other irregularities or illegalities, apart from the commission of criminal offences, which have come to the notice of the CBI during the course of this investigation, shall be submitted to the Chief Secretary, State of Orissa, in the form of a separate report for appropriate action in accordance with law. The investigation shall be concluded as expeditiously as possible. However, we would expect the CBI to file its first report within a period of six months.”

    Cooperation urged

    The Bench directed all the departments and the authorities concerned in Orissa to cooperate with the CBI in completing the investigation. The CBI will conduct a free and fair investigation in regard to the implementation of provisions of the Act and the schemes framed thereunder without any impediment.

    Taking note of such lapses in other States as well, the Bench at the first instance issued notice to Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh to respond to the reports of the petitioner with regard to implementation of provisions/schemes under the Act in those States.

    The Bench said: “Keeping in view the fact that there has been persistent default on the part of a number of States in fully implementing the provisions of the Act, we hereby direct all the State governments to file affidavits stating whether they have accepted and are duly implementing the operational guidelines issued by the government of India, within six weeks from today. In the event, these guidelines have not been accepted or are not being implemented, the affidavit shall specifically state reasons for such non-acceptance and/or non-implementation of the afore-stated directions/guidelines.”

    Centre asked to spell out steps

    The Bench also directed the Central government to consider the entire matter objectively within the framework of the provisions of the statute and place on record of this court, before the next date of hearing, the directions or measures “which it proposes to issue to all the States to prevent recurrence of what has happened in the State of Orissa.”

    The Bench directed that all concerned should strictly adhere to and comply with the directions contained in this order. “We make it clear that in the event of default, this court would be compelled to take appropriate action against the defaulting officers/officials/authorities,” it said, and posted the matter for further hearing after eight weeks.
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    Re: National News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Sun May 15, 2011 11:54 pm

    Satyapal Singh, new SIT chief for Ishrat case


    The Gujarat High Court on Thursday appointed a 1980 batch IPS officer of the Maharashtra cadre, Satyapal Singh, chairman of the Special Investigation Team probing the alleged fake encounter killing of Ishrat Jahan.

    A Division Bench also granted partial relief to the second SIT member, Satish Verma, a State cadre IPS officer, who sought court protection against any possible punitive action and departmental inquiry by the Gujarat government in connection with a 1993 case. Any action against Mr. Verma would be subject to approval by a review Bench of the High Court. The Bench postponed the hearing on his petition for protection till after the summer vacation.

    The court's order came after Advocate-General Kamal Trivedi informed it that “action” had been recommended against Mr. Verma and was “pending before the highest authority” in the State. He, however, did not disclose the nature of action recommended against Mr. Verma by Additional Director-General of Police (Administration) Pramod Kumar, who was asked by the government to file a report on the High Court's recommendations.

    The Bench of Justices Jayant Patel and Abhilasha Kumari came down heavily on the government for suggesting that the Ishrat case investigation be handed over to a Special Task Force, which will function under a Monitoring Authority formed to review all police encounter deaths in the State. The Bench asked the Advocate-General why the government was filing an affidavit containing the proposal for handing over the probe to the STF, after a similar suggestion was rejected by the court when the first SIT was formed last year under the then Delhi Joint Police Commissioner, Karnail Singh. He has since been transferred to Mizoram and was relieved by the High Court as SIT chief last month.

    Now Dr. Singh, an Additional Director-General of Police in Maharashtra, would head the three-member SIT. The other two members are Mr. Verma and another State cadre IPS officer, Mohan Jha, who was earlier ordered by the High Court to look after only administrative matters of the SIT.

    Mr. Verma, who was virtually given a free hand earlier by the High Court to “question anyone and arrest anyone” in connection with the case if evidence available with him warranted such action, moved the High Court on Wednesday seeking protection from a possible departmental inquiry. He also sought a review and recall of the court's earlier order that action be taken against him and two other police officials in connection with the Gosabara RDX landing case of 1993. Mr. Verma expressed apprehension that the government could use the court's order in the Gosabara case to take punitive action against him because of his involvement in the investigation into the high-profile Ishrat case.

    Mr. Verma has already indicated that the 2004 encounter could be a case of staged shoot-out, sending the police officials involved in it running for cover. Fourteen policemen, including some IPS officers allegedly involved in the Ishrat encounter moved the High Court last month requesting that the probe be handed over to the CBI as they feared that Mr. Verma could act against them “with a vengeance.”

    In the RDX landing case, the High Court order for action also covered another IPS officer of the State cadre, Atul Karwal, and Inspector Sukhdevsinh Zala, who were facing allegations of having let off Sattar Maulana, a key accused, when they were posted in Porbandar in 1993. Part of the explosives, which landed in Gosabara, was later found to have been used in the Mumbai serial bomb blasts.

    A former BJP MLA and practising advocate, Yatin Oza, moved the High Court in 2005 demanding action against the three police officers for allegedly endangering national security. A Division Bench of Chief Justice S. J. Mukhopadhyaya and Justice J. B. Pardiwala ordered the State government to act on the report, submitted by Mr.Kumar, on their roles in the case.

    Mr. Verma, in his plea, pointed out that the State government had in 2005 accepted that Mr. Oza's petition did not qualify to be Public Interest Litigation and was filed “more out of personal vengeance.” Now the government changed its stand on the issue and preferred to remain silent.
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    Re: National News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Mon May 16, 2011 12:00 am

    Jayalalithaa rides wave, decimates DMK-led front

    Riding the crest of a silent anti-incumbency wave in the April 13 Assembly elections, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam on Friday stormed back to power in Tamil Nadu, paving the way for a third substantive term as Chief Minister for its leader Jayalalithaa.

    The AIADMK and its allies were set to shoot past the 200-seat mark in the 234-member Assembly, decimating the rival Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam-Congress alliance.

    The AIADMK was on the way to winning 150 seats, a convincing majority of its own. With 227 seats declared by 11 p.m., the AIADMK front's tally stood at 199, while the DMK-led alliance accounted for 28 seats. The AIADMK had an individual tally of 148, and was leading in two other constituencies, while its ally, the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK), had garnered 27 and was leading in two more constituencies. The CPI(M) and the CPI won 10 and nine seats respectively. Two smaller allies accounted for two seats each.

    The DMK won 21 seats and was leading in two other constituencies, while its main ally, the Congress, recorded its worst performance in recent years, winning just five seats.

    For Ms. Jayalalithaa, this marks a triumphant return to power after five years, a reversal of fortunes after her party lost every general election begun with the 39-nil defeat in 2004. The party lost the 2006 Assembly polls and was again bested by the DMK in the 2009 parliamentary elections.

    “My first priority will be to restore law and order and fulfil the promises made in our election manifesto,” Ms. Jayalalithaa told journalists at her residence. She said rebuilding the State's fiscal health, which she described as being in a state of ruin, was also a priority.

    The severity of the DMK's defeat can be gauged from the fact that 16 Ministers lost, while Deputy Chief Minister M.K. Stalin scraped through with a slender margin of 2,819 votes after a day-long see-saw battle against Saidai S. Duraisamy of the AIADMK in the Kolathur constituency in the city. DMK general secretary and Finance Minister K. Anbazhagan was trailing at Villivakkam, while several other senior Ministers — K. Ponmudy, K.N. Nehru, MRK Panneerselvam, Veerapandi S. Arumugam and Pongalur N. Palanisamy — besides Speaker R. Avudaiyappan and Deputy Speaker V.P. Duraisamy found themselves on the losing side.

    “The people of Tamil Nadu have given me rest,” said Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi in a brief reaction. He won his Tiruvarur seat by a margin of over 50,000 votes, the 12 {+t} {+h} time he has been elected to the Assembly, but his hopes of being sworn in Chief Minister for a sixth time were dashed by the decisive verdict. He sent in his resignation to Governor Surjit Singh Barnala in the afternoon as the trends firmed up.

    For the DMDK, the election represented a success of sorts as it shed its stand of contesting all elections alone and forged an alliance with the AIADMK with the sole aim of defeating the DMK. However, DMDK leader Vijayakant made it clear that his party had no plans to seek inclusion in the new regime. “We have not demanded a role in the government. Even when we formed the alliance that was our stance,” he told journalists. “This is a victory for the people and my cadre,” he said adding the ruling party's belief that “money power” could ensure its victory was proved wrong.

    The Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), which chose to go with the DMK, won only two of the 30 seats it contested and was leading in one constituency. The Viduthalai Chiruthaikal Katchi (VCK) failed to open its account despite contesting 10 seats in the DMK-led front.
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    Re: National News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Mon May 16, 2011 12:01 am

    Mamata storms Left bastion

    The Trinamool Congress-Congress alliance on Friday swept the West Bengal Assembly polls with more than a two-thirds majority, ending 34 years of Left Front rule.

    Even as results were pouring in, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee tendered his resignation to Governor M. K. Narayanan at the Raj Bhavan in the afternoon.

    Accepting his resignation and, inter alia, all the other members of his Council of Ministers, the Governor requested the Chief Minister and his colleagues to continue to discharge their duties till alternative arrangements are made.

    Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee called on the Governor in the evening and staked her claim to form the next government.

    All set to be the State's first woman Chief Minister, Ms. Banerjee described the landslide for the alliance as a “victory for democracy, a victory for the people, a victory for maa, mati, manush [her party slogan that translated reads: mother, soil, people]” She promised “good governance, good administration, not autocracy…The people are the winners…”

    Among those who fell before the Trinamool-Congress juggernaut were Mr. Bhattacharjee and 25 Ministers, including Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta, Industries and Power Minister Nirupam Sen, Housing Minister Gautam Deb and Minister for Sundarban Affairs Kanti Ganguly. In all, 34 Ministers, including the Chief Minister, were in the fray.

    The Trinamool secured a majority on its own, bagging 184 of the total 294 seats. A decision on whether or not the Congress, which won 42 seats, will join the new government will be taken soon. Ms. Banerjee has, however, welcomed it and another ally, the Socialist Unity Centre of India (Communist) to join her in the next government. The SUCI has won one seat.

    Pointing out that Ms. Banerjee had achieved what the Congress could not in the past years, Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said that “the mandate was clearly in favour” of her. “In Bengal, a frail woman, within 13 years [since the Trinamool Congress was formed], could dismantle a strong CPI(M) party by reducing them not to a three-digit but a double-digit figure,” he said, adding that his party had, in its own, “humble way helped her achieve the success.”

    The Left Front's tally was reduced to 62, with the Communist Party of India (Marxist), its major constituent having to content itself with 40 seats. The position of other parties in the Left Front are: the CPI (2), AIFB (11), RSP (7), SP (1) and the Democratic Socialist Party (1).

    The Gorkha Janamukti Morcha won three seats and Independents two.

    “This result was unexpected,” Mr. Bhattacharjee and Biman Bose, chairman of the Left Front Committee, said in a statement adding that “the Left Front promised to play the role of a responsible and constructive Opposition.”
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    Re: National News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Mon May 16, 2011 12:02 am

    Hat-trick for Gogoi

    The ruling Congress scored a hat-trick in Assam and registered a landslide victory, securing an absolute majority in the Assembly elections. It captured 78 of the 126 seats, while its coalition partner, the Bodoland People's Front (BPF), won 12 seats.

    The Asom Gana Parishad and the Bharatiya Janata Party suffered a humiliating defeat, with the AGP winning only 10 seats, and the BJP's strength getting reduced to five seats. The All-India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) emerged as the second largest party with 18 seats.

    The outcome has cleared the decks for Tarun Gogoi to become the second person, after the late Bimala Prasad Chalia, to don the mantle of Chief Minister for the third consecutive term.

    Mr. Gogoi, who has won from Titabar by a huge margin of over 54,199 votes, told journalists that the people reposed faith in the Congress-led coalition government for bringing back peace and undertaking massive development work and welfare measures for the poor.

    Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma scripted a record, winning with the highest ever margin of 77,304 votes. AGP president Chandra Mohan Patowary and State BJP president Ranjit Dutta were among the prominent losers.

    Leader of the Opposition and former Chief Minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta won from Barhampur but lost to Environment and Forest Minister Rockybul Hussain in Samaguri.
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    Re: National News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Mon May 16, 2011 12:03 am

    Supreme Court bans endosulfan across the country for 8 weeks

    Observing that Right to life is a paramount consideration, the Supreme Court on Friday banned the manufacture, sale and use of pesticide endosulfan in the country for eight weeks.

    A three-Judge Bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI)S.H. Kapadia and Justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and Swatanter Kumar, in a brief order, said: “Keeping in mind various judgments of this court under Article 21 [right to life and liberty] of the Constitution and particularly keeping in mind the precautionary principle, we, hereby, direct and pass an ad interim order for immediate ban on production and use of endosulfan all over India.”

    The Bench directed the statutory authorities to freeze the production licences granted to the manufacturers of endosulfan till further order.

    It took note of the submissions of Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam, (who also assisted the court as amicus curiae) that two committees were set up — one headed by the Director General of Indian Council of Medical Research and another by Agricultural Commissioner — to study the harmful effects of endosulfan on human life and environment, and said these two committees should be amalgamated into one.

    The Bench said the expert committee would submit its interim report on whether the pesticide should be banned or its existing stock should be eliminated in phases and if there was any alternative to the controversial pesticide.

    The Bench passed this order on a petition filed by the Democratic Youth Federation of India, after its senior counsel Krishnan Venugopal and Deepak Prakash urging the court to impose a ban on production and sale of endosulfan in its present form or any other derivatives in the market.

    Appearing for the private manufacturers, senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi said that endosulfan was cost effective and no alternative pesticide was found out so far. He opposed a ban at this stage, saying the court could wait till the report was submitted by the expert committee.

    However, the CJI told counsel, “we don't want even one child to suffer either for six or seven weeks as human life was the paramount consideration. We go by Article 21 and polluter pay principle laid down by this court. Whether there is valid licence or not Article 21 is higher than the statute. Don't go by money alone. You have corporate social responsibility also.”

    The petitioner said, “considering the harmful side effects on the people, the State of Kerala had imposed a ban on endosulfan. The excessive use of chemicals and pesticides for optimising agricultural production created alarming danger to health and safety of living beings in general and agricultural workers in particular” It sought an all India ban.
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    Re: National News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Mon May 16, 2011 12:03 am

    Notice to Centre on plea against Majithia Wage Board report

    The Supreme Court on Friday issued notice to the Centre on a writ petition filed by ABP Pvt. Ltd and one of its shareholders challenging the award given by the Majithia Wage Board for journalists and non-journalists recommending an increase in wages, pension and retirement age.

    A Bench of Justices Dalveer Bhandari and Deepak Verma issued notice to other respondents also — the Indian Federation of Working Journalists, the National Union of Journalists, the Indian Journalists Union, the All India Newspaper Employees Federation, the National Federation of Newspaper Employees and Press Trust of India.

    The petition, besides seeking a declaration that the Working Journalists and Other Newspaper Employees (Conditions of Service and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act was null and void, and ultra vires the Constitution, wanted the Centre restrained from taking any decision based on the “faulty and flawed” recommendations of the Board. The petition wanted the Centre to furnish to the petitioner a copy of the final recommendations in view of the Board Chairman's refusal to furnish one to the representative of the Indian Newspaper Society.

    The petitioner said no other industrial establishment of national importance was regulated in this form and required to pay wages and other elements on the basis of a wage board. This amounted to hostile discrimination.

    Further, the setting up of the present Majithia Wage Board was in any case not in consonance with the Constitution. The so-called independent members were not truly independent.

    This resulted in apparent bias against newspaper owners and tilted the scales against them, the petitioner alleged.

    The petition pointed out that the Board's recommendations were beyond its jurisdiction as it had dealt with issues of retirement, pension and assured promotion. It said these matters would fall within the domain of the newspaper managements. Further, the Board did not follow the prescribed procedure and this was a material irregularity.
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    Re: National News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Mon May 16, 2011 12:04 am

    SP wins U.P. by-election

    The Samajwadi Party has won the by-election to the Pipraich Assembly constituency in Gorakhpur district of Uttar Pradesh.

    Rajmati Nishad of the party defeated her nearest rival and Independent candidate Jitendra alias Pappu Jaiswal by a margin of over 26,000 votes. Mr. Jaiswal was supported by the ruling Bahujan Samaj Party.

    The BSP did not join the fray as Chief Minister Mayawati had decided not to not contest Assembly and Lok Sabha by-elections.

    Ms. Nishad is the wife of the former BSP MLA from Pipraich, Jamuna Prasad Nishad, whose death caused the by-election.

    Describing the SP's victory as a “gift” to Ms. Mayawati on her completing four years in office on Friday, SP State president Akhilesh Yadav said the verdict showed that the people were ready to reject the BSP government.
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    Re: National News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Mon May 16, 2011 12:04 am

    Allahabad High Court sets aside land acquisition

    In a major embarrassment to the Mayawati government in Uttar Pradesh, the Allahabad High Court on Thursday set aside notifications issued for acquisition of more than 100 hectares of land in Gautam Buddh Nagar district for “planned industrial development” in Greater Noida.

    A Division Bench comprising Justices Sunil Ambawani and Kashi Nath Pandey, while allowing several writ petitions filed by residents of Shahberi village in the district, said the entire action of acquiring the land was a “colourable exercise of powers” and ordered return of the land to their owners. The Bench set aside two notifications issued by the State government on 10.06.2009 and 09.11.2009 for acquiring the land.

    In the notification dated 10.06.2009, the government had proposed “to acquire a total area of 156.93 hectares of land in the village,” while the one dated 09.11.2009, published in the official gazette, had “declared the acquisition of land.”

    “The Greater Noida Industrial Development Authority [GNOIDA] was fully aware and was planning to use the land in village Shahberi and neighbouring villages for multi-storey housing complexes to be developed by builders on relaxed conditions.”

    The court noted with concern “that on one hand, a request was made for acquiring the land for public purpose for planned industrial development, and on the other hand, a few days before the proposals were put up before the State government for issuing notification [dated 09.11.2009]... the GNOIDA, without informing the State government, held the Board's meeting for converting the land use for residential purposes to lease off the land to builders for housing complexes for earning profits.”

    “The land is proposed to be acquired at the rate of about Rs.850 a square metre and to be given, within a month, to the builders at Rs.10,000 per square metre, and that too on payment of 5 per cent of the price, on allotment,” the court said.

    Quashing the notifications issued by the government and “all consequential actions taken by GNOIDA,” the court ordered “the respondents will hand over the possession of the land back to the landowners.”
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    Re: National News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Mon May 16, 2011 12:05 am

    India ratifies U.N. Convention against Corruption


    India on Thursday ratified the United Nations Convention against Corruption — a politically correct move that ought to take some heat off a government battling serious corruption charges and seen as unwilling to crackdown on black money stashed away abroad.

    Indeed, in recent days a question often asked was why India had not ratified the Convention when asset recovery is stated explicitly as a fundamental principle of the Convention.

    Besides, member-countries are bound by the Convention to render mutual legal assistance towards prosecution of offenders as well in tracing, freezing, and confiscating the proceeds of corruption.

    The Prime Minister's explanation for the delay was that the ratification had been under active consideration since September 2010 and a Group of Ministers was deputed to oversee the process. In a statement issued before his departure for Kabul, the Prime Minister further said: “….the ratification is a reaffirmation of our government's commitment to fight corruption and to undertake vigorously administrative legal reforms to enable our law-enforcement agencies to recover the illicit assets stolen by corrupt practices.”

    The text of the United Nations Convention against Corruption was negotiated during seven sessions between January 21, 2002 and October 1, 2003. The Convention was adopted by the General Assembly by Resolution 58/4 of October 31, 2003 and it entered into force on December 14, 2005.
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    Re: National News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Mon May 16, 2011 12:06 am

    Agnivesh demands live telecast of Lokpal panel meetings

    The proceedings of the Lokpal Bill draft committee hearings should be shown live on television channels so that the body language of politicians participating in it can be seen by the public, anti—corruption crusader Swami Agnivesh said on Friday.

    Addressing a rally in Panaji, Mr. Agnivesh said that it is important for the people to see body language of Union Ministers like Kapil Sibal and P. Chidambaram.

    Mr. Agnivesh was accompanied by Kiran Bedi and Arvind Kejriwal for the public meeting in Panaji that was part of nationwide campaign for Jan Lokpal Bill.

    He said that the people have a right to know how their political leaders behave at the draft committee hearings.

    “The Lok Sabha channel should telecast the committee proceedings. Let the people see what happens,” Mr. Agnivesh said.

    Social activist Arvind Kejriwal who preferred to talk about local issues at the meeting demanded that the mine owner, whose men assaulted an anti—mining activist, should be arrested within 24 hours.

    Nilesh Gaonkar, a tribal leader fighting to save the mountain at Cauvrem village from being mined for iron ore, was brutally assaulted at Verna on Thursday.

    Mr. Kejriwal alleged that the police have a nexus with the mining lobby. — PTI
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    Re: National News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Mon May 16, 2011 12:06 am

    Talwar to head reconstituted MCI Board

    The Centre on Friday reconstituted the Board of Governors of the Medical Council of India. The term of the existing Board ends on Saturday.

    The new Board will be chaired by K.K. Talwar, former Director of the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh. The other members nominated are K.S. Sharma, head of the Department of Anaesthesiology, Tata Memorial Centre, Mumbai; Harbhajan Singh Rassam, Director, Clinical Cardiac Sciences, and senior interventional cardiologist, Max Heart and Vascular Institute, Delhi; Rajiv Chintaman Yeravdekar, Dean, Faculty of Health Sciences, Symbiosis International University, Pune; and Purushottam Lal, Director, Interventional Cardiology, and chairman, Metro Group of Hospitals.

    The reconstitution follows the promulgation of an ordinance extending the term of the board, since the supersession of the MCI, by another year.
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    Re: National News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Mon May 16, 2011 6:03 pm

    Petrol price hiked by Rs. 5 a litre

    A day after the Assembly election results were declared, state-owned oil marketing companies (OMCs) on Saturday decided to go ahead with the increase of Rs.5 a litre in petrol price.

    The biggest-ever increase in petrol prices, and the eighth since the prices were deregulated in June last year, will come into force from midnight on Saturday night.

    The cost of petrol a litre (in Indian Oil Corporation outlets) in Delhi will go up from Rs.58.37 to Rs.63.37 (up by Rs.5, including the tax component); from Rs.61.93 to Rs.67.22 (Rs.5.29) in Chennai; from Rs.63.08 to Rs.68.33 (Rs.5.25) in Mumbai and from Rs.62.50 to Rs.67.71 (Rs.5.21) in Kolkata.

    Bharat Petroleum and Hindustan Petroleum also increased petrol prices by Rs.4.99 and Rs.5.01. However, they said that even after the increase they would still make a loss of Rs.5.50 a litre.

    Hinting that another increase was inevitable unless the government decided to compensate the losses they incurred, a senior official of an oil marketing company said the companies approached the government for an increase of Rs.10.50 a litre due to the hike in international crude prices and the high debt burden, but were told to increase the prices by Rs.5. Notably, the companies had been holding back this increase even after crude oil prices touched a two-and-a-half-year high in January this year.

    “Though the government might have deregulated petrol prices last year, we still have to seek clearance before announcing any increase. All our requests to the government to devise a mechanism to compensate for losses have not been answered so far. If the Centre does not want the burden to be passed on to consumers, it should compensate us,” the official said.
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    Re: National News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Mon May 16, 2011 6:05 pm

    Thangkabalu to resign as TNCC chief

    Tamil Nadu Congress Committee president K.V.Thangkabalu on Saturday announced that he would tender his resignation accepting moral responsibility for the drubbing the party received at the hustings.

    The party could secure only five of the 63 seats it contested, one of the worst-ever performances since 1952.

    Addressing a crowded press conference, Mr.Thangkabalu said he had taken the decision (of quitting the party post) on his own and there was no pressure from any quarter. “It is my personal decision and I am not the type to run away just because of a few disgruntled elements in the party.”

    He asserted that the party would look at the results as “just a routine pattern” because “the people of Tamil Nadu want a change of government every five years. We believe that the people have given their mandate now only on that basis. Hence, there is nothing much to be read into it.”

    Citing the earlier debacles of both the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), which could win only two seats in the 1991 Assembly elections and also the Bharatiya Janata Party that could manage just two seats in the1984 Lok Sabha polls, Mr.Thangkabalu asserted, “When they can bounce back, why can't we? You cannot write us off. Congress is a formidable force to reckon with and it is the third largest formation in Tamil Nadu.”

    At the same time, he pointed out that the same alliance had an excellent show in the 2009 elections to the Lok Sabha. “Hence, now we realise that the people take different stands for the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls.”

    He said while he would accept the people's verdict gracefully, he would also like to congratulate the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, which was set to form government.

    Despite persistent probing questions by mediapersons, he declined to identify any single reason or blame any single party for the debacle. All that he would say was “the Congress alone need not take the entire responsibility (for the defeat) and there have been a number of parties in the alliance. Besides, we were not the leader of the alliance.” He chose to add that the tie-up with the DMK would continue despite the Assembly results.

    When pointed out that Union Home Minister P.Chidambaram himself had conceded that the issue of “corruption” had an impact on the Tamil Nadu elections, Mr.Thangkabalu admitted, “There are a number of reasons for our defeat and corruption could be one among them.” He announced that a committee would be constituted by the TNCC to examine the factors responsible for such a poor show by the party.

    “Though I would very much want every party to contest alone, it is not possible due to certain circumstances.” He explained that as a national party which was keen on giving a “secular and good government at the centre,” the Congress had to adopt different strategies in different States. “It is because of the big picture (national level) that the State president cannot take any decision on the alliance,” he added.

    He also made it a point to observe that he had always tried to put an end to the “factional squabbles” within the organisation and would strengthen the hands of the new State unit president.
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    Re: National News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Mon May 16, 2011 6:07 pm

    Release 5 million tonnes of foodgrains: Supreme Court


    To ensure that no starvation death takes place and people are saved from malnutrition as far as possible, the Supreme Court on Saturday directed the Centre to release five million tonnes of foodgrains immediately for distribution in 150 most poverty-stricken districts or other poorer segments in the country.

    Though it was a holiday for the court, a Bench of Justices Dalveer Bhandari and Deepak Verma held a special sitting and passed the order, considering the urgency and gravity of the matter.

    The Bench heard Gopal Subramaniam, Solicitor-General; Mohan Parasaran, Additional Solicitor-General; Colin Gonsalves, senior counsel for the petitioner (People's Union for Civil Liberties), and other counsel for the respective parties and passed the order.

    The Bench said: “Admittedly, in the 150 poorest districts of India, the problem of malnutrition is very intense and is related to the inadequacy or lack of food in those areas.

    The Union of India must provide adequate foodgrains for these 150 poorest districts, on a priority basis.

    “A number of cases of malnutrition and starvation are reported from time to time. Subsidised food is really meant for this section of our society. Fortunately, the position of foodgrains stocks in our country is extremely good. Mr. Parasaran, ASG, submits that as on April 1, 2011 there are 44 million tonnes of stocks. Perhaps, never before have foodgrains stocks been so high. The bumper crop of this season will further improve the situation of existing stocks. Even after keeping adequate foodgrains for emergency or unforeseen circumstances, we would still have huge stocks in our godowns.”

    Further, it said: “Millions of tonnes of foodgrains are lying in the open for years because of inadequate storage capacity. Admittedly, about 55,000 tonnes of foodgrains rotted in Punjab and Haryana. A very large chunk of foodgrains were destroyed in the recent Punjab fire because the foodgrains were lying in open. In this background, the 5 million tonnes of foodgrains which the Union of India has already undertaken to additionally allocate, must go to the most vulnerable sections of our society and the parties are in total agreement about this proposition.

    “Looking to the enormity and gravity of the problem, as a one-time measure, it is absolutely imperative in the larger public interest to direct the Union of India to reserve another 5 million tonnes of foodgrains for distribution to the 150 poorest districts or the extremely poor and vulnerable sections of our society. This additional 5 million tonnes of foodgrains would be over and above 5 million tonnes which the Union of India has already undertaken to allocate.

    “The estimated population of the country as of March, 2010 is 117.67 crores and according to the office of the Registrar-General, Census, the projected population of India as in 2011 is 119.3 crores (Planning Commission working Group on Population Stabilisation for the 11th Five Year Plan). We see no rationale in not distributing foodgrains according to the estimate of the Union of India. The food allocation should be based on every year's population estimate as carried out by the Planning Commission or the Registrar-General, in the absence of any official census figure,” the Bench said.
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    Re: National News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Mon May 16, 2011 6:09 pm

    Planning Commission asked to revise BPL norms

    The Supreme Court on Saturday asked the Planning Commission to revise the per capita norms to determine below poverty line looking to the price index of May 2011 or any other subsequent dates.

    A Bench of Justices Dalveer Bhandari and Deepak Verma, at a special sitting to hear the case relating to streamlining of the public distribution system, pointed out that according to the parameters of the Planning Commission, Rs.15 per capita per day in rural areas and Rs. 20 in urban areas was the yardstick for evaluating “who is Below Poverty Line.”

    It noted that the BPL population “is anchored on a norm of 2400 calories per capita per day for rural areas and 2100 calories per capita per day for urban areas. According to the Tendulkar Committee, with the price level of 2011, it is impossible for an individual in an urban area to consume 2100 calories on Rs.20 and an individual in a rural area to consume 2400 calories on Rs.15.”

    “A large section of the population which has marginally higher income than Rs. 20 in urban areas and Rs. 15 in rural areas also deserves food at subsidised rates. The Wadhwa Committee has referred to this group as “Marginally Above Poverty Line.” We have no objection to the Government of India providing universal food security. However, they must first ensure food security for more vulnerable sections of society.”

    The judges wanted the Centre to distribute foodgrains on an individual basis rather than on a family basis.

    The Bench said: “There seems to be no justification for the present approach which gives the same 35 kg foodgrain allocation to a family of 10 persons as it does to a single person. The single man is likely to sell his excess grain for a profit, while the parents in the family of 10 are forced to purchase additional grain at non-BPL prices in order to feed their children. The Wadhwa Committee observed this situation as ‘rather incongruous.' ”

    “Tamil Nadu is successfully distributing foodgrains on individual basis. Perhaps the Union of India may consider the Tamil Nadu pattern for the entire country. In the public distribution system, subsidised food is primarily meant for the very poor, weak and vulnerable sections of our society. Admittedly, there are some districts and/or small pockets in our country where the majority of people of that district live in penury. They do not have financial capacity to buy adequate foodgrains for their survival. Subsidised food is really meant for this section of our society.

    The Bench requested the Wadhwa Committee “to identify the poorest districts or poorest segments of our society and ensure that additionally allocated foodgrains reach this segment from time to time. The additional 5 million tonnes which has been reserved by the Union of India may be allocated to the 150 poorest districts or other poorer segments of society on the recommendation of the committee from time to time. The exercise may be done by the committee in consultation with the representative(s) of the Government of India and the petitioners.”

    Directive to Chief Secretaries

    It directed the Chief Secretaries of all the States/Union Territories to ensure that the foodgrains allocated to those States were lifted and distributed immediately and a copy of this order be sent to all the State Governments/Union Territories.

    The Bench asked the Wadhwa Committee to submit a small summary report on or before July 22, when the matter would be listed for further hearing.
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    Re: National News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Mon May 16, 2011 6:10 pm

    India, Pakistan seek early solution to Wullar issue

    In keeping with the spirit of the resumed dialogue process, India and Pakistan on Friday agreed to explore an “early and amicable resolution” of the Tulbul Navigation Project/Wullar Barrage issue within the ambit of the 1960-vintage Indus Waters Treaty (IWT).

    A joint statement, issued after the two-day Water Secretary-level engagement between the two countries, said India would provide comprehensive technical data to Pakistan within a month. Pakistan would examine this data and furnish its views to India by September 15.

    The Dawn reported that India offered to change the design of the project in a way that one of the bays would remain an un-gated structure to ensure a constant flow of water and thereby address Pakistan's concern of manipulation.

    Both sides also agreed to take the matter forward in the light of the outcome of these technical consultations and in accordance with the provisions of the IWT. “Primarily, the joint statement articulates our intent to work out a win-win solution that is best for the people of both countries,” Indian Water Resources Secretary Dhruv Vijai Singh said at the conclusion of the talks.

    Though the Pakistani media reported that the Indian delegation walked out of the talks on the first day, both sides maintained this was far from true and flagged the joint statement as evidence of the effort to move forward on an issue that is celebrating its silver jubilee this year. It was in 1986 that this issue was prised open by India's plans to make the Tulbul Navigation Project in keeping with the wishes of the Kashmiri people for year-round flow of water in the Wullar Lake for commercial and tourism purposes which in turn would generate employment.

    Pakistan's contention has been that the IWT prohibits any water storage facility on the Jhelum river. The Indian counter has been that this project is not a storage facility for either drinking water or irrigation but fits into the IWT provision of having regulating structures on water flows for non-consumptive use.

    Also, India maintains that the project is beneficial for Pakistan as it checks the flow of water during the monsoons and prevents flooding while becoming an assured source of water during the lean season. Officials privy to the negotiations said Pakistan wanted an assurance from India that the navigation project will not be used to block water flow in early March when supply is crucial for agriculture. India is understood to have expressed a willingness to give such a guarantee.

    Given that India is keen to resolve this issue and meet a long-pending demand of the Kashmiri people and fight back the charge of just paying lip service to their interests, arbitration is the other option for India if an agreement does not come through. Pakistan has already exercised the arbitration option to resolve differences over the Kishanganga Project.
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    Re: National News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Mon May 16, 2011 6:11 pm

    ISRO to set up several new critical facilities

    The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is enhancing its capabilities by setting up more than half-a-dozen critical facilities across its installations, even as it is targeting to nearly double its transponder capacity over the next one-and-a-half years.

    However, ISRO chairman K. Radhakrishnan, who announced setting up of the facilities at a press conference here on Saturday, declined to provide details of the investments.

    They include a hypersonic wind tunnel to study re-entry and a plasma wind tunnel to study the behaviour of materials at high speed, which would be set up at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre in Trivandrum.

    A thrust chamber testing facility for high-thrust cryogenic engines will be set up at Mahendragiri, and a new mission control centre to look at multiple mission preparations simultaneously will come up at Sriharikota.

    A national database for emergency management and a multi-mission earth observation centre for satellites will be set up at Hyderabad, besides an advanced research and development centre for spacecrafts to come up on 530 acres in the Science City at Chitradurga.

    As PSLV and GSLV launches have increased, Dr. Radhakrishnan said: “We are trying to integrate the sub-systems of rockets at Sriharikota since they are currently manufactured in different parts of the country.” The project would take about two-three years, he added.

    While the ISRO currently has 151 transponders, plans are afoot to add 150 more over the next one-and-a half years. Eighty-six transponders have been leased from foreign satellite operators at present.

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