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Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Man held for viewing child porn on US flight

Police say a man who was viewing child pornography on a domestic airline flight from Salt Lake City to Boston has been arrested.

Massachusetts State Police say 47-year-old Grant Smith was sitting in first class Saturday afternoon when a fellow passenger saw the pornographic images on

Smith's laptop and alerted the flight crew.

When the Delta flight landed at Boston Logan International Airport just after 4pm, troopers interviewed Smith and subsequently arrested him.

He has been charged with possession of child pornography, and police say additional charges could follow. His bail is set at $15,000. He is scheduled to be arraigned Monday.


Smith was in police custody Saturday night and couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

Maya blames Rahul for FDI in retail sector

 UP chief minister Mayawati addresses a press conference in Lucknow.In poll-bound Uttar Pradesh, chief minister Mayawati blasted Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi on Saturday over the centre's move to allow Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the retail sector. Alleging that the UPA government's decision was taken to benefit the companies of foreign friends of Gandhi, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief said her government would not allow it in the state.

"In a bid to benefit foreign companies and to make the country a slave on the lines of the East India Company, the Centre has decided to hand over the country's economy to companies like Walmart," said Mayawati at a press conference. She said the company would bring cheap goods from China to sell here and that would lead to closure of small businesses.


The CM shot off a letter on the issue to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday.


She demanded that the decision be rolled back immediately, failing which, she threatened to launch an agitation. Mayawati said the BSP would stall the functioning of the Lok Sabha if the Centre did not reverse the decision. The BSP has 20 MPs and extends outside support to the UPA government.


Evading a query on whether she would withdraw support to the UPA government, Mayawati said appropriate decision would be taken at the right moment. She said the bill had so far not been tabled in the House and only the cabinet had cleared it.


Hitting out at Gandhi, who is touring the state in the run-up to the assembly polls, Mayawati said the "Congress yuvraj" was "resorting to theatrics to bring his party to power".


She said, Gandhi was brought up and educated in a foreign country, and so his mindset was also that of a foreigner. "Whenever he comes to UP, he brings along his foreign friends on leisure trips and entertains them by taking them to the huts of poor people, making a mockery of their poverty," she alleged.

Mukherjee signs new DTAA with Nepal

In continuation of their recent economic bonhomie, India and Nepal signed a revised Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) on Sunday to boost trade ties between both neighbours. Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee who was in Nepal on a one-day visit signed the agreement on India's behalf while the Nepal government was represented by his counterpart Barsha Man Pun.

Last month both countries had signed the Bilateral Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement during Nepali Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai's visit to New Delhi.


The revised DTAA was also to be signed during that trip, but had to be postponed as some changes were incorporated and they had not been cleared by the UPA Cabinet.


"The revised DTAA will provide tax stability, facilitate mutual economic cooperation and stimulate flow of investment, technology and services between India and Nepal," Mukherjee said after signing the agreement.


In the new agreement, which annuls the earlier one signed in 1987, the threshold withholding tax rates on dividends, interest, etc., are rationalized to reflect the present day situation and developments in international taxation.


India already has 81 such DTAAs with other countries while Nepal has 10 similar agreements. The revised DTAA will come into force on a date to be notified by both countries.


"The new agreement has clear provision of taxation related to cross border transaction, services and employment. It has incorporated provision of exchange of information as per Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development," said Nepali finance minister Barsha Man Pun.


Mukherjee had meetings with President Ram Baran Yadav, Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai and leaders of all major ruling and opposition parties on the ongoing peace and constitution drafting processes in Nepal.

Nato strike kills 24 Pak troops

Twenty four Pakistani security personnel died early Saturday morning in a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) helicopter raid. Thirteen security men are reportedly injured, many of them in a serious condition. Both Pakistan Prime Minister and Pakistan Army chief have condemned the attack in the most serious terms. Army chief General Kayani termed the attack "unacceptable and irresponsible." In a statement, Kayani said that Nato must take action against its personnel who conducted the raid.

US Ambassador to Pakistan, Dr Cameron Munter, was summoned to the Pakistan Foreign Office Saturday evening where he was handed a note of protest by foreign secretary Salman Basheer. The Pakistan foreign secretary told the Munter that there could be "serious repercussions" following the attack, reported a local news channel.


The attack took place on two security check posts in Salala, in Tehsil Bayzai of Mohmand Agency, close to the Pakistan-Afghan border. At least forty soldiers were stationed at this post, say officials. Nearby areas were also attacked by the Nato helicopters


"This is an attack on Pakistan's territorial sovereignty," said Barrister Masood Kausar, the governor of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. "Such cross-border attacks cannot be tolerated anymore."


The attack will likely worsen US-Pakistan relations, already at one of their lowest points in history.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Omar's CrPC move faces stiff opposition

Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah's move to amend local laws to provide legal protection to the security forces in the state has met with severe opposition. On Saturday, independent MLA Engineer Rasheed, separatist outfit JKLF and the Kashmir Bar Association said the move was "disastrous and detrimental to people of the state".

In a bid to push for withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and allay the fears of the armed forces, Abdullah on Thursday had offered to amend the Ranbir Penal Code, as the India Penal Code is known in the state.


Rasheed said Abdullah was trying to camouflage his failures to remove AFSPA by suggesting an amendment to the Ranbir Penal Code.


"The move will be more disastrous for the human rights scenario because it will be a perpetual immunity to the security forces, while the AFSPA is a temporary one," Rasheed said.


In another press statement, JKLF chief Yasin Malik termed the move as "a conspiracy against the people of Kashmir". "To prove his loyalty to New Delhi, Abdullah is making AFSPA a permanent feature by making amendments to the Criminal Procedure code."


The bar association said, "Once the amendment in CrPc is carried out it would create a permanent role for army and cover-up its operations."

Pak orders US to vacate airbase within 15 days

 People shout slogans against Nato air strikes during a protest in Lahore on Saturday. Arif Ali/ AFP PhotoPakistan on Saturday ordered the United States to vacate a controversial airbase within 15 days and closed NATO supply lines into Afghanistan in response to a deadly cross-border NATO air strike. The order refers to Shamsi, the remote desert outpost in southwest Pakistan reportedly used as a hub for covert CIA drone strikes, which Pakistan previously told the United States to leave in June.

NATO helicopters and fighter jets attacked two military outposts in northwest Pakistan on Saturday, killing as many as 28 troops and plunging U.S.-Pakistan relations deeper into crisis.


Pakistan retaliated by shutting down NATO supply routes into Afghanistan, used for sending in nearly half of the alliance's land shipments. It also said it would ask U.S. forces to quit an air base used for CIA drone strikes on militants.


The attack is the worst incident of its kind since Pakistan uneasily allied itself with Washington following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.


The NATO-led force in Afghanistan confirmed that NATO aircraft had probably killed Pakistani soldiers in an area close to the Afghan-Pakistani border.


"Close air support was called in, in the development of the tactical situation, and it is what highly likely caused the Pakistan casualties," said General Carsten Jacobson, spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).


He added he could not confirm the number of casualties, but ISAF was investigating. "We are aware that Pakistani soldiers perished. We don't know the size, the magnitude," he said.


Pakistan's Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani said the killings were "an attack on Pakistan's sovereignty", adding: "We will not let any harm come to Pakistan's sovereignty and solidarity."


The Foreign Office said it would take up the matter "in the strongest terms" with NATO and the United States, while the Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, said steps would be taken to respond "to this irresponsible act".


"A strong protest has been launched with NATO/ISAF in which it has been demanded that strong and urgent action be taken against those responsible for this aggression."


Two military officials said up to 28 troops had been killed and 11 wounded in the attack on the outposts, about 2.5 km (1.5 miles) from the Afghan border. The Pakistani military said 24 troops were killed and 13 wounded.

Pak can’t deliver on terrorism: Chidambaram

 A woman lights candles to to pay tribute to the victims of 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, to mark its 3rd anniversary, at CST railway station in Mumbai.Pakistan’s civilian government is unable to keep its promises on bringing the 26/11 terrorists to justice, as it is weak and unwilling to risk any confrontation with the army or ISI that are in control of security matters, Union home minister P Chidambaram said on the third anniversary of the Mumbai terror attack.

The attack was carried out by Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists trained in Pakistan.



The minister said that while he supported fruitful engagement with Pakistan on trade, visas and so on, “on matters concerning terror and those relating to India’s internal security”, he could not see any forward movement.


He pointed out that Pakistan has not acted against key 26/11 conspirators despite India providing information several times. Responding to news reports that LeT military commander Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi is using a phone while in Pakistani custody, Chidambaram said he was “not surprised that they are treating him with a lot of affection and generosity”.


He said that the idea of India and Pakistan jointly fighting terrorism did not have his support. “How can we share intelligence with a country that we know has state actors, non-state actors and rogue elements acting against India. I think any joint effort with Pakistan on the terror front is very far away until we have a government in that country that is in control and is willing to fight terrorism,”  Chidambaram told HT.


India and Pakistan had launched a joint anti-terrorism mechanism that met thrice between 2007 and 2008 with little success.
In the ill-fated Sharm El Sheikh joint statement, Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani had on July 16, 2009 agreed to “share real time credible and actionable information on any future terrorist threats”.


Talking about improving Indian capacity to tackle terror, the minister said “tardy decision-making and misplaced apprehensions” are holding up several initiatives. Chidamaram said apprehensions about surveillance is legitimate and can be addressed, but that should not lead to holding anti-terrorism measures.  The home minister said setting up of a National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) is “an idea that is long overdue”. The move has been delayed due to lack of consensus among members of the cabinet committee on security.

US firm promises zero tech glitches

The Delhi airport will not face any more scares of radar screens going on the blink, claims Raytheon, the US-based company that has provided the software for Delhi’s Air Traffic Control (ATC).

In January this year, the radar system of the Delhi airport had malfunctioned twice within a

fortnight, causing a huge scare and enormous flight delays. The first incident had occurred on January 14, when the entire radar system at Delhi ATC collapsed, following a software failure during peak evening hours. On January 27, the single screen went blank at the ATC because of a similar problem.

In January, the Delhi ATC was using the software AutoTrac-II, made by Raytheon and the system was being upgraded to the next version,  AutoTrac-III. According to sources, on January 14, one of the screens had gone blank and while trying to revive it, the whole system had crashed.

Speaking on the issue for the first time, senior officials of Raytheon said that the problem occurred because the trial process of upgrading was still on. “There were some training issues, but that is a part of the trial process,” said Steve DuMont, MD, International Air Traffic Management, Raytheon.


“The system is now completely stable and Delhi ATC


is using the AutoTrac-III,” he said, assuring that there is no chance of a similar glitch happening again.


Raytheon spokesperson Caroline Harris said that at present Delhi ATC has secondary radar backup and a third backup too. DuMont claimed that 60% of the world’s air traffic is managed using Raytheon products.

Unhappy parents look to ‘cure’ gay kids

“Give him electric shock or cut open his brain but make my gay son straight.”

Primitive as it may sound, this is the common refrain psychiatrists hear from rich parents of gay teenagers. Convinced that homosexuality is a psychiatric disease, parents drag their wards to psychiatrists in the

hope of changing their sexual orientation.

“An educated family wanted me to give their gay son electric shocks to make him straight. They were upset when I explained that nothing can be done about one’s sexual orientation. A chartered accountant got her son along hoping to cure him through shocks and surgery,” said Dr Pulkit Sharma, psychologist, VIMHANS. He claims to have turned down 50 such requests over the past two years.

Agrees Dr Samir Parikh, chief psychiatrist, Max Healthcare: “Parents who come to convert their gay sons believe there’s a cure for the ‘mental disease’. They tell me, ‘If you wish, you can change his life. We have to get him married, please save him’.”


“The richer and more educated the parents, the more difficult is it for them to accept a gay child. They experience guilt and shame that often turns into hatred for the child,” says Dr Sandeep Vohra, senior consultant psychiatrist, Apollo Hospital.


Gay rights activist Ashok Row Kavi says some doctors take advantage of these desperate parents. “To extract money, even well-known psychiatrists use electric shock therapy on gays and transgenders and turn them into wrecks. Still, parents don’t give up.”


Katrina, 20, a transgender born to parents who wanted a son after five daughters, says she was sent to a mental health institute to make her behave like a boy. “I was beaten, given electric shocks and sexually assaulted there, but when I shared it with my family, they refused to listen,” says Katrina, who has attempted suicide thrice.

Monday, 28 November 2011

US stresses 'importance' of Pak ties after Nato strike

 People shout slogans against Nato air strikes during a protest in Lahore on Saturday. Arif Ali/ AFP PhotoThe United States stressed the "importance" of its ties with Pakistan after up to 26 soldiers were killed in cross-border Nato air strikes on Saturday, plunging already frosty relations into crisis.

In a joint statement, US secretary of defense Leon Panetta and secretary of state Hillary

Clinton offered their "deepest condolences" and said they backed "Nato's intention to investigate immediately."

"Secretaries Clinton and Panetta have been closely monitoring reports of the cross-border incident in Pakistan today," the statement said.

"Both offer their deepest condolences for the loss of life and support fully Nato's intention to investigate immediately."


Islamabad has ordered a review of all arrangements with the United States and Nato, including diplomatic, political, military and intelligence activities, following the deadly cross-border strikes.


The US-led Nato force in Afghanistan admitted it was "highly likely" that the force's aircraft caused the pre-dawn deaths, inflaming US-Pakistani relations still reeling from the May killing of Osama bin Laden.


Pakistan also told the United States to vacate a remote air base reportedly used as a hub for covert CIA drone strikes on areas bordering Afghanistan, though US officials have said no US military personnel are based there.


Clinton, General John Allen, the US commander in Afghanistan, and the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, called their Pakistani counterparts to discuss the situation.


"These US diplomatic and military leaders each stressed -- in addition to their sympathies and a commitment to review the circumstances of the incident -- the importance of the US-Pakistani partnership, which serves the mutual interests of our people," the US statement said.


"All these leaders pledged to remain in close contact with their Pakistani counterparts going forward as we work through this challenging time."

No multi brand hyper stores in Tamil Nadu: Jayalalithaa

"No multi brand hyper stores in Tamil Nadu," decreed a fuming Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa on Sunday. Hitting out against the union government for taking important decision without consulting the state government, she demanded the reversal of the "ill-advised and unilateral" FDI decision.

In a hard-hitting press statement, Jayalalithaa said the move would gobble up countless neigbourhood mom and pop stores throwing thousands of people into penury.


Citing anecdotal evidence from across the globe, she said MNCs gobble domestic retailers and added millions of people in India; ill educated and unskilled in anything else can never become employed anywhere else."

As against talk of 10 million new jobs over 40 million, Jayalalithaa let out a hard-hitting critique of Manmohan Singh's management of the economy.


When parliament is in session, government's announcement of a major policy decision without consulting state governments is "unprecedented and indicates the overweening arrogance of the UPA government," Jayalalithaa said.


"My government will not allow the multi brand global payers as permitted under the new policy to set up their hyper markets in Tamil Nadu," Jayalalithaa declared giving reasons for her decision.


Describing the union government move as a rude shock to the millions of retail vendors she questioned the purported intent of the move to bring in FDI to improve market efficiency and bringing down double digit inflation. Inflation, she said, was mainly due to the series of policy blunders made by the Congress led UPA government.


"The central government should realise that constraints on farm products, on the supply side, which is one of the contributory factors to food inflation, cannot be addressed through the FDI route, but only by addressing the infrastructural constraints through appropriate policy support," the chief minister said.


Whenever local governments opened up the retail sector, local prices went up sky high instead of curbing price level. Further, such invasion by MNCs leads to monopolisation of the market, exploiting both farmers and consumers.


In the UK, only 3 retail chains control 65% of the entire retail market. In Thailand over 30% local shops were forced to shut shop within 10 years of entry of foreign retailers. In India, there is a fear of 40 million people being thrown out of employment as against a claim of creation of 10 million jobs in the next three years, Jayalalithaa said.


She also argued that the traditional market system, once broken, cannot be rebuilt, if the MNCs adopt a predatory pricing policy. In India, with reported 90% retail business in the unorganized sector, the FDI move is even more dangerous for the domestic population and economy, she asserted, ruling out entry of multi-branded hyper markets in Tamil Nadu.


As it would completely destroy small departmental store owners and destroy the unorganised retail sector, I strongly oppose the move of the government of India to open up retain trade to Foreign Direct Investment, Jayalalithaa said urging the central government to "reverse the decision" as it would neither bring down inflation nor would it improve the market efficiency."

Teesta Setalvad threatened: Ex-aide tells SC

Activist Teesta Setalvad's former aide Rais Khan, who is accused of fabricating evidence in a 2002 post-Godhra riots case, has told the Supreme Court that he has been threatened at her behest after he dissociated from her.

Khan, who filed an affidavit in response to the apex court order,

said he was removed from the post of field co-coordinator in the Setalvad headed NGO Citizen For Justice and Peace in January 2008, as he refused to "do certain acts which were not in the interest of communal harmony".

Setalvad's estranged aide was responding to the September 2 notice issued by the apex court which had stayed the Gujarat high court's order giving green signal for an investigation against him for allegedly fabricating evidence in 2002 Naroda Gam riot case in which 11 people were killed.

Setalvad and her NGO, which has been working in the state in the aftermath of 2002 riots, has challenged the high court order contending that "it is apparent on the face of the entire proceedings that the attempt has been made to discredit and dissuade them from assisting the victims of the communal riots from getting justice".


Setalvad had opposed the high court order as the probe against Khan could prove troublesome for her as she heads CJP and her former aide had claimed that he was facilitating witnesses in preparing affidavits at the her behest.


The high court had on July 11 rejected the petition filed by the registrar, city civil and sessions court, against last year's magisterial court order for lodging of FIR against Khan and initiating an inquiry under Section 156(3) of CrPC.


The court has also permitted the police to go ahead with the probe on the basis of the FIR lodged against Khan.


The FIR was lodged after a special court, hearing the Naroda Gam riots case, ordered that a criminal complaint be registered against Khan for "fabricating" evidence in December 2010.


It had asked the sessions court's registrar to lodge a complaint against Khan and his associates and dismissed his plea to treat him as a witness in Naroda Gam case.


Khan, who had worked closely with Setalvad, made several allegations against her including that she had warned him of "dire consequences" if he will go against her.


"During the last two-and-half years I was leading a very quiet life with my family in Ahmedabad without mingling in the society. I was continuously getting threatening calls from Setalvad's men during this period for not speaking anything against her.


"I was warned of dire consequences, if, go against her. I was even asked to leave Ahmedabad and settle elsewhere by these callers. I lodged police complaints also about such threats in Rakhial Police Station, Ahmedabad but no action was taken by the police till date," he said in the affidavit.


Khan, who confessed that he was facilitating witnesses in preparing affidavits at her behest, said Setalvad "use to send instructions and fully prepared affidavits" in his e-mail accounts, the passwords of which was also known to her.


He said most of the victims and witnesses were poor and uneducated but still their affidavits were prepared in English on the pretext that Gujarati was not accepted in the high court and the apex court with the help of a particular advocate and court notary.


The affidavit said Setalvad was working with vengeance and she used to instruct him to collect evidence from "wherever" or "create" to fix the accused persons.


The former aide of Setalvad said in the affidavit that relief camps started by the NGOs and the Gujarat government for riots victims had "started becoming hub of political activities" where he along with her used to visit regularly.


Khan, who was also not conversant with English, said though he was working in the NGO, he was provided with an identity card of an English magazine with which Setalvad was associated.


He opposed the petition filed by her and the NGO in the apex court saying it was aimed at "hampering" the investigation done by the authorities to unravel the entire truth.

Pawar's daughter meets B Thackeray to express gratitude

Baramati MP and the daughter of Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, Supriya Sule, on Sunday met Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray at his residence in Mumbai to express gratitude for supporting Pawar after the attack on him in Delhi."This was a family visit. We have close relations with the Thackerays for the last several years. I know Uddhav, Raj from my birth. And after the incident in Delhi, the Thackerays stood by us firmly," she said.


"I felt it was my duty to visit and express gratitude to them on behalf of my family."


Pawar was slapped by a youth in New Delhi earlier this week. It was condemned across the party lines, and Bal Thackeray had said that the incident was reprehensible.


Asked if she carried any message from her father -- whose party, NCP, is a partner in the ruling coalition with Congress in Maharashtra -- for Bal Thackeray, Sule said, "Balasaheb is like my uncle....My father can meet him directly. He would not need me to be intermediary."

Sunday, 27 November 2011

20 injured in Kashmir's first train derailment

  The engine and one coach of the Qazigund-Srinagar-Baramulla train Wednesday derailed in Anantnag district, injuring 20 people, in the first rail accident since the train services were launched in the Kashmir Valley in 2008, police said.

"The derailment took place at Sadoora after the train left the Qazigund railway station today (Wednesday) morning," a police officer told IANS here.


"Twenty people have sustained injuries. A relief and rescue operation was immediately started and the injured are being shifted for treatment," he added.


The officer said the derailment was accidental and ruled out any sabotage.


The train service between Qazigund and Baramulla connects the south and north of the valley. A 66-km section of the 119-km rail line, which is yet to be linked to the mainland rail network, was inaugurated on Oct 11, 2008, by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.


In another train accident this morning, a goods train collided sideways with the Samaleswari Express at Jharsuguda station in Orissa, leaving seven people injured. (Read: Seven injured as goods, passenger train collide in Orissa

2G scam: Supreme Court grants bail to five corporate executives

 The Supreme Court has granted bail to five corporate executives who were arrested for their alleged involvement in the 2G spectrum scam.

A surety of Rs. 5 lakh is to be given by each of the accused. The Central Bureau of Investigation can move the Supreme Court if it feels the bail is misused.


The executives - Unitech Wireless' former MD Sanjay Chandra, Swan Telecom's Director Vinod Goenka and Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group's executives Hari Nair, Gautam Doshi and Surendra Pipara - had been in jail for over seven months. They are expected to walk out of Tihar Jail later today or tomorrow, depending on when their lawyers complete the necessary paperwork.


"I most humbly thank Hon'ble Supreme Court for granting me bail. I am also deeply touched by the support extended to me from all my employees, lawyers , friends and members of the media. I reiterate that I am committed to cooperating in the trial and hope that finally justice will be done, & my innocence proved," said a statement from Mr Sanjay Chandra.


The Supreme Court's decision acted as sentiment booster for the companies these officials represented.


Stocks of DB Realty, Unitech and Reliance Communications were trading higher despite a market crash today. DB Realty has plunged 45 per cent since the arrest of Mr Goenka.


Unitech stocks have tanked nearly 50 per cent since the arrest of Mr Chandra who headed Unitech Wireless when he was arrested seven months ago. RCom stocks have fallen nearly 34 per cent since the arrest of the three executives.


This is the first instance of accused persons being granted bail in the 2G case. On December 1, the Delhi High Court is scheduled to hear the bail pleas of eight other accused, including DMK MP Kanimozhi. They have challenged the Special Court's November 3 order denying them bail. But in the wake of today's order, their lawyers have approached the High Court seeking advancement of their bail plea hearing.


The five corporate executives were arrested on April 20. On November 1, the apex court had reserved its order on their bail pleas. The CBI had opposed their bail.


The five accused had moved the apex court challenging the Delhi High Court and trial court orders turning down their bail pleas. The accused, who have been charged under various offences under the Indian Penal Code and Prevention of Corruption Act, contended that they should be granted bail as the charges have already been framed and there was no chance of them tampering with the evidence.


The verdict was delivered by Justice H L Dattu who had heard their arguments along with CBI's submission opposing their bail pleas.


Other accused in the case include former Telecom Minister A Raja, DMK MP Kanimozhi, former Telecom Secretary Siddhartha Behura and Raja's former private secretary R K Chandolia.


Swan Telecom promoter Shahid Usman Balwa, his cousin Asif Balwa and their colleague Rajeev Agarwal have also been booked in the case.


Three telecom firms - Reliance Telecom Ltd, Swan Telecom and Unitech (Tamil Nadu) Wireless Ltd - have also been named accused in the case.


All the accused have pleaded that they have not done anything wrong and refuted the charge of drawing illegal benefits in allocation of 2G spectrum.

Assets case: Jayalalithaa answers all 1,339 questions in Bangalore court

  Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa's deposition in an alleged corruption case against her is over now. The AIADMK chief has answered all 1,339 questions that a trial court in Bangalore had framed for her.

Today was the Chief Minister's fourth appearance in the court. She answered 190 questions today; yesterday, she had replied to 600 queries. Today, the questioning lasted for nearly four hours, after which the Chief Minister headed back to Chennai.


The next hearing in the case is scheduled for November 29. But Ms Jayalalithaa need not be present in court for it.


The disproportionate case against Ms Jayalalithaa goes back to 1991-1996, when she as Chief Minister is alleged to have amassed wealth disproportionate to her known sources of income. She is accused No 1 in the Rs. 66-crore case.


In 2003, the case was transferred to a Bangalore court for a free and fair trial after a petition in the Supreme Court by DMK leader K Anbazhagan.


The Chief Minister had earlier repeatedly appealed in the Supreme Court seeking exemption from personal appearance during hearing; she said that she did not want to inconvenience the people of Bangalore and so wanted permission to answer questions in writing. On November 4, the top court turned down her appeal, but said she should be given a date of her choice.


When Ms Jayalalithaa arrived in Bangalore yesterday to resume her deposition, it was a deja vu moment for the city. A 25-car convoy led her to the court from the old airport, a fleet of policemen were pressed into service from dawn to dusk on the road that leads to this special court and a tight security blanket was thrown around the route.


Her first date with this court was on October 20. She flew back to Chennai and returned to Bangalore the next day as the proceedings spilled over into the second day.


Then too, several hundreds of policemen were brought in for duty. Also, CCTVs were put up on this sanitized route. 


Like on all her previous appearances, elaborate security arrangements were in place today too. The Chief Minister had a security detail of cops drawn from Tamil Nadu and Karnataka Police in addition to the National Security Guards (NSG).

Cabinet likely to approve FDI in multi-brand retail tomorrow

The government is likely to approve 51 per cent foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail tomorrow, a  decision that will allow global mega chains like Walmart, Tesco and Carrefour to open outlets in India.


Increasing the foreign investment (FDI) ceiling to 100 per cent from the present 51 per cent in single-brand retail is also on the agenda of the Union Cabinet meeting  scheduled for tomorrow, sources said.


Most ministries, including the finance and the textiles, are in favour of the industry ministry's proposal to open the politically sensitive sector to foreign players and the Cabinet will take a final call, they said.


Earlier, a panel headed by Cabinet Secretary Ajit Kumar Seth had recommended 51 per cent FDI in multi-brand retail with certain riders, like minimum investment of $100 million and local sourcing.     


The decision on the issue is pending for over two years as Opposition parties are against foreign investment in this sector. The $600-billion segment is dominated by small kirana (mom & pop) shops.


The Opposition has expressed concerns that allowing majors  global retailers would lead to unemployment among the unorganised sector.


The government had opened the single-brand retail for FDI  way back in 2006 and ever since 60 foreign players have entered the country in joint venture with local firms. Several global retailers are waiting in the wings to  enter India's multi-brand retail segment.

Cyrus Mistry to succeed Ratan Tata

Cyrus Mistry, board member of Tata Sons, will succeed Ratan Tata next year. The board of Tata Sons appointed Mistry as deputy chairman on Wednesday. The board unanimously took a decision on the basis of the recommendation made by the selection committee set up to find a successor for Ratan Tata. The committee is said to have met 18 times before announcing the succession plan. Also watch (Cyrus Mistry to succeed Ratan Tata)


Mistry, 43, was part of the selection committee. He withdrew himself when his name was suggested. He then entered the process as a candidate.


“He will work with Ratan Tata over the next year and take over from him when Tata retires in December 2012,” a release said.


Ratan Tata praised the choice of selection committee and said that Mistry was intellligent and qualified to take on the responsibility being offered.


“I will be committed to working with him over the next year to give him the exposure, the involvement and the operating experience to equip him to undertake the full responsibility of the Group on my retirement,” Tata said.


Mistry said he was deeply honoured by this appointment. “I am aware that an enormous responsibility, with a great legacy, has been entrusted to me,” he said in a statement.


He announced that he will legally dissociate himself from the management of his family businesses to avoid any issue of conflict of interest. Shapoorji Pallonji Mistry, father of the new deputy chairman of Tata Sons, owns 18 per cent in Tata Sons. The Shapoorji Pallonji Group is into construction, textile, water treatment and other businesses. Cyrus Mistry is currently the managing director of the $ 2 bn SP Group.


Born on July 4, 1968, Mistry graduated from the Imperial College, London with a BE in civil engineering. He also holds a masters degree in management from the London Business School, and is a fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers.

Mistry keeps a low profile and is considered as a professional manager. He is said to be good in financial matters. J J Irani, former MD of Tata Steel, praised the selection.

“Mistry does not speak too loudly but whatever he says people listen to,” Irani told NDTV Profit.


He was part of the selection committee appointed to select a successor for Ratan Tata. When a member suggested that why he should not be a candidate, he excused himself from the selection process.


People who have worked with Mistry are all praise for him.


Ajay Piramal, chairman of Piramal Enterprises, said that Mistry has an experience in running diversified businesses. “Cyrus has a customer-centric approach,” Piramal said.


Deepak Parekh, chairman HDFC said that he was impressed with Mistry’s work with HDFC. “Cyrus Mistry deserves to be chairman. There will be challenging times ahead though,” he said.


The selection committee comprised N A Soonawala and Shirin Bharucha representing Tata Trusts, Lord Kumar Bhattacharya and R K Krishna Kumar representing Tata Sons..


Tata Sons reported a net profit of Rs 1,629 crore for the year ended March 2010. Revenue stood at Rs 2,958 crore. The company is the holding company of the group and its assets include significant stakes in major Tata Group like TCS, Tata Motors, Tata Steel and others worth over Rs 2,00,000 crore.


Tata Sons heads in the past:


1991-2012 -- Ratan Tata


1932-1991 -- Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata


1932-1938 -- Sir Nowroji Saklatwala


1904-1932 -- Sir Dorab Tata


1868-1904 -- Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata

Saturday, 26 November 2011

DB Realty, Unitech, RCom shares jump after bail for top executives in 2G case

The Supreme Court today granted bail to five corporates arrested in the 2G scam. Those granted bails include Sanjay Chandra of Unitech, Vinod Goenka of Swan Telecom and three officials of Anil Ambani's ADAG-Group.


The Supreme Court's decision acted as sentiment booster for the companies these officials represented. The gains in stocks of these companies came against a sharp selloff in broader markets. Three telecom firms - Reliance Telecom Ltd, Swan Telecom and Unitech (Tamil Nadu) Wireless Ltd - have been named accused in the case.


At 1415 hours, stocks of DB Realty traded 18 per cent higher on the Bombay Stock Exchange. DB Realty stocks have plunged 45 per cent since the arrest of Mr Goenka who is the MD of DB Realty and director of Swan Telecom.


Unitech was trading with 5 per cent gains. Unitech stocks have fallen nearly 50 per cent since the arrest of Mr Chandra who headed Unitech Wireless when he was arrested in the scam seven months ago.


Reliance Communications was trading 2 per cent higher on the BSE. Three officials of Reliance ADAG Group - Gautam Doshi, Surendra Pipara and Hari Nair - will also walk out of Tihar jail shorty. The stock has fallen nearly 34 per cent since the arrest of these executives.


All five corporates have been asked to furnish a surety bond of Rs 5 lakh each. The Central Bureau of Investigation can move the Supreme Court if it feels the bail is misused.


The five accused had moved the apex court challenging the Delhi High Court and trial court orders turning down their bail pleas. The accused, who have been charged under various offences under the Indian Penal Code and Prevention of Corruption Act, contended that they should be granted bail as the charges have already been framed and there is no chance of them tampering with the evidence.


Other accused in the case include former Telecom Minister A Raja, DMK MP Kanimozhi, former Telecom Secretary Siddhartha Behura and Raja's former private secretary R K Chandolia.


Swan Telecom promoter Shahid Usman Balwa, his cousin Asif Balwa and their colleague Rajeev Agarwal have also been booked in the case.


All the accused have pleaded that they have not done anything wrong and refuted the charge of drawing illegal benefits in allocation of 2G spectrum.

Finance Minister says weak rupee, FII withdrawals behind market crash

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee today said that withdrawals by foreign institutional investors led to the market crash. Mr Mukherjee’s comments came after the markets plunged to near two year lows earlier in the day.


The Sensex had plunged nearly 600 points while the Nifty had given up up over 160 points. The Sensex and Nifty were among the worst performers among all Asian indices, falling nearly 3 per cent.


Analysts also attributed the panic selloff to liquidation by foreign funds. Fears of global slowdown also led to selling pressure across global equities.


Speaking about the weakness in the rupee, Mr Mukherjee said the situation is unlikely to improve till the Euro zone stabilised.


Here is the complete text of the statement made by the Finance Minister on the market crash:


INDIA’S GROWTH AND FUNDAMENTALS ARE STRONG AND  LOOK MORE ATTRACTIVE IN A WORLD CONFRONTING PROBLEMS; RBI IS CLOSELY MONITORING THE RUPEE SITUATION AND WILL DO THE NEEDFUL AS REQUIRED, SAYS FM.

The Union Finance Minister Shri Pranab Mukherjee said that RBI is closely monitoring the current rupee situation and he is sure that RBI will do the needful, as required. The Finance Minister further said that he would like to add that despite global uncertainty, FII Investments have been in the positive territory in October ($634 million) and November as of yesterday ($213 million). The Finance Minister Shri Mukherjee said that India’s growth and fundamentals are strong and they look more attractive in a world confronting problems.


The Finance Minister Shri Mukherjee was referring to the benchmark indices which lost 2.5 per cent as of 2 PM today as overseas markets declined on concerns over US' third quarter growth and high yields on Spanish bonds. He said that in India, a day ahead of the expiry of the November futures contract, trading remains choppy. Regarding the rupee, the Finance Minister Shri Mukherjee said that the volatility in the Rupee is also keeping investors nervous, though today the rupee recovered from a low of 52.73 to trade at 52.12 per dollar.


The Finance Minister Shri Mukherjee said that against an expectation of a more modest revision, the third quarter US GDP growth was revised downward to 2.0 per cent from the advance estimate of 2.5 per cent. As a result, the US markets closed lower by around 0.5 per cent yesterday. Asian stocks also fell in the range of 2 - 2.5 per cent, after a mining tax was approved in Australia’s lower house of Parliament, along with lingering concerns on Europe.

High Court stays order on transfer of 2G trial to Tihar Jail

 The Delhi High Court today stayed its notification saying that the 2G trial will be transferred to the Tihar Jail court complex.

Yesterday, Special CBI Judge O P Saini who is hearing the case at the Patiala House courts complex announced that the trial venue of the case was to be shifted as per a High Court notification he had received. This had come as a big surprise to the accused and their lawyers, who said they had decided to approach the High Court against the move.


Today, the seven-judge administrative committee headed by Acting Chief Justice A K Sikri said that the court's administrative notification to shift the trial would not come into effect and that the hearing would continue in the Patiala House court complex till an alternative arrangement was made.
A group of High Court judges, lawyers and the Judge-in-charge of the Patiala House courts will inspect the lower court premises again to explore the possibility of shifting the trial to a more spacious courtroom inside the court complex itself, the committee said.


"If such arrangements do not work out, then the committee may also consider to shift the trial to nearby places such as Vigyan Bhawan and Pragati Maidan in the vicinity," one of the lawyers, who was part of the in-chamber hearing on the issue, said outside the courtroom.


The Sessions Judge, the Judge in-charge of the Patiala House Courts, Special CBI Judge O P Saini and the Registrar General of the Delhi High Court will be part of the group.


"In exercise of the powers conferred by section 9 (6) of the CrPC 1973, the acting Chief Justice and judges of this court (Delhi High Court) have been pleased to order that the trial of the 2G spectrum cases shall be held in Tihar court complex, New Delhi, according to law," read the notification issued by the high court.


The notification had triggered protests by former Telecom Minister A Raja, DMK MP Kanimozhi and other accused, who contended that the move was bereft of valid reasons.


Raja said, "I do not know what is happening in this country."


The defence counsel opposed the notification, saying if the trial was shifted to the Tihar Jail, it would create a lot of inconvenience as everybody would have to get an entry pass to Tihar Jail before attending the proceedings.


"This is a completely illegal order. It has to be with the consent of the prosecution and the accused. Nobody has been consulted," said Sushil Kumar, former telecom minister A Raja's lawyer.


Mr Raja was arrested in February this year; the CBI is handling the case against him and 13 others accused of criminal conspiracy. The Supreme Court is monitoring the CBI's investigation; a special court headed by Judge OP Saini is handling the trial.
(With PTI inputs)

India vs West Indies: Bravo stars as West Indies pile on 575

The talk before the start of the Test had been about West Indies' line-up having only seven centuries on their resume while India's boasted 20 times as many, but two days into the match it was the less-decorated batting unit that had put on 575. Darren Bravo crafted his third hundred in four Tests to lead the way, while Kirk Edwards and Kieran Powell were left to rue missing centuries on a shirtfront at the Wankhede.


Scorecard


Marlon Samuels partook in the run-fest after tea, to make it only the fifth time in Test history that each of the top six made half-centuries. Varun Aaron, the debutant fast bowler who was ordinary for much of the innings, showed plenty of tenacity to bowl a quick spell even as West Indies' total swelled past 500, earning three wickets to spark a late collapse.


The tone for the day was set by Bravo, who caressed the first two deliveries of the morning between the bowler Aaron and mid-off for four. West Indies plundered 111 runs before lunch, after which India went completely on the defensive - spreading the field, and giving the part-timers, Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar, extended spells. The strategy reduced the boundaries but there was no flagging of the run-rate, as an untroubled West Indies marched towards 500.


Like on Tuesday, there was little to encourage India's fast bowlers. Bravo showed how easy the track was to bat on as he pulled an Aaron bouncer wide of mid-on for four. His partner Edwards continued to showcase his driving skills, and a muscular style that favours the on-side. Edwards was more tentative than Bravo and he eventually fell short of a third Test century when he nicked a short of length ball to the keeper, giving Ishant Sharma reward for a long, tight spell.


That brought in Powell, who started shakily - getting knocked on the back of his helmet by Ishant on his first delivery. That didn't faze the 21-year-old, though, and he showed off his footwork against spin, dishing out a boundary an over. Powell initially dominated his partnership with the well-set Bravo, making his intentions clear early on by charging and lofting offspinner R Ashwin over his head, a stroke he repeated several times against the spinners.


Bravo was briefly starved of the strike when Powell got going, but he didn't lose his rhythm. He continued to favour the off side, using the graceful back-foot punch between cover and point heavily. His century came up with a slice past cover for four a few overs before lunch. There was no Lara-like leap in the air to celebrate the milestone this time, just a kiss of the bat and wave of the cap.


There were a couple of close calls for the West Indies batsmen after lunch: two overs in, Powell was nearly run out by MS Dhoni, and in the next over Bravo nicked a delivery between the keeper and leg slip. That raised India's hopes, but the breakthrough remained elusive. One of the few times the paltry crowd found its voice again was when their favourite, Tendulkar, was brought on to bowl.


With minimal risk, Powell and Bravo collected the singles, hardly hassled by the spinners, who sent down an astonishing 22 overs in the hour after lunch. A maiden century for Powell seemed inevitable, but he was caught behind for 81 off a quicker delivery from Pragyan Ojha, ending a partnership of 160.


Dhoni brought on the fast bowlers to attack the new batsman, Samuels, but though there were a couple of outside edges, Ishant slanted the ball too often into the pads to gift easy runs. Bravo was unflustered as ever, continuing past 150 to have a maiden double-century in his sights. He didn't get there, though, as his innings ended on 166, giving Dhoni a catch while chasing a slightly wide delivery.


That strike sparked a rare period of Indian dominance, with five wickets going down for 48 runs. Aaron and R Ashwin did the damage for India in that spell, during which Samuels unleashed some eye-catching drives to reach his half-century. An awaited declaration didn't come on the day, and neither could India bowl out West Indies, which meant Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir didn't have to bat after spending almost two entire days in the field.

Karnataka Governor would approve Santosh Hegde as Lokayukta

  Karnataka Governor Hans Raj Bharadwaj has thrown in another googly at the BJP government in the state. After first rejecting former Kerala High Court judge Justice Bannurmath's name for the post of Lokayukta in the state, Mr Bharadwaj has said he would approve of Santosh Hegde if the government were to re-appoint him as the Lokayukta.

The government had suggested that Justice Bannurmath be appointed as the Karnataka Lokayukta. The file was sent to Mr Bharadwaj for approval, who replied saying 'the state needs someone clean' after a section of the media reported that Justice Bannurmath too is allegedly involved in a land scam.


The Lokayukta post has been vacant for the past two months. The Governor's recommendation in the appointment of the Lokayukta, however, is not binding on the government.  


Mr Hegde, a former Supreme Court judge, retired from the post in August this year. His successor Justice Shivraj Patil quit office abruptly in September after allegations of involvement in a land scam.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Markets crash: Sensex, Nifty hit 20-month low

India's benchmark indices fell sharply falling way below their 52-week lows admidst a selloff in markets across Asia. A slowdown in the US economic growth led to investors paring down exposure to equities. In the Indian context, a falling rupee has added to the pressure on profitability of companies.


At 1221 hours, the Sensex was down 450 points to 15,614 while the broader Nifty index declined 131 points to 4,680. The Nifty has fallen below the 4,700 mark for the first time in 20 months. The Nifty last traded below 4,700 levels on 8 February, 2010. Benchmark indices in Hong Kong, Korea and Taiwan also traded two to three per cent lower. 


"The Nifty support level was 4,720. Once it was taken off the markets witnessed a cascading effect. The Nifty can fall 200 points now as supply will overpower demand," Kiran Jadhav of Precision Technicals said.


Banking stocks saw the steepest cuts, falling 3.5 per cent. HDFC Bank plunged 6 per cent. ICICI Bank was down 4 per cent.


Energy and IT stocks also slumped nearly 3 per cent. Most other sectoral indices were trading with over 2 per cent cut.


All stocks were down on the Sensex. Jaiprakash Associates, Bharti, Reliance and JSPL were trading with over 4 per cent cuts.


Only two stocks were trading higher on the Nifty. RCom was up after three officials of Reliance ADAG were granted bail by the Supreme Court earlier today. GAIL was also trading higher.


The market breadth had collapsed with an overwhelming 92 per cent stocks falling on the broader BSE 500 points.


Among large cap stocks government oil major ONGC, India's largest PSU bank SBI, private sector lender ICICI Bank and Axis Bank made new lows today.

Markets make some recovery on flat European stocks

Indian markets have seen some recovery after European stocks opened flat today. At 1425 hours, the Sensex was down 365 points to 15,700, recovering over 200 points from the day's low of 15,478. The Nifty traded with 106 points cut and was trading above the 4,700 mark.


Earlier, markets had fallen to near two year lows. The Sensex was down nearly 600 points while the Nifty had given up over 160 points. The Sensex and Nifty were among the worst performers among all Asian indices, falling nearly 3 per cent.


Analysts attributed the panic selloff to liquidation by foreign funds. Fears of global slowdown also led to selling pressure across global equities. Asian markets closed sharply lower with markets in Taiwan and South Korea falling more that Indian equities.


"The underlying retail investors in the western world are pulling out money from the risk assets, whether in the emerging markets or developed markets... FII fund managers have to find cash for which they have to sell," Saurav Mukherjea of Ambit Capital said.


"The currency factor is clearly not helping. It has really hurt investor returns. What is causing the sellout is that they (FIIs) don't see any reason for the rupee to pullback to 45," he added. The rupee has fallen nearly 14 per cent in the last quarter alone. However, the currency was trading higher today, possibly on the back of intervention by the central bank.


Consumer durables were the only group of stocks trading higher on the Bombay Stock Exchange. These stocks had seen a sharp selloff yesterday. Banking, energy and IT stocks were the worst hit, falling over 2 per cent. Realty stock saw relative outperformance, falling 1 per cent lower.


On the Sensex, only NTPC was trading with marginal gains. Bharti (down 5 per cent) was the worst performer among the 29 other stocks that were trading lower. On the Nifty, two of the 50 stocks were trading higher. Reliance Communications gained 1.5 per cent after the Supreme Court granted bail to three executives of ADAG group in the 2G case.


The market breadth had improved marginally but an overwhelming 87 per cent stocks were still trading lower on the broader BSE 500 index.

No screening of Dam999 in Tamil Nadu

 The Tamil Nadu Theatres Association has decided to not screen Dam 999, a Hollywood film depicting the dangers posed by the collapse of an old dam.

The association has said the film may create tension in the state. "We respect local sentiment," the association has said.


Dam999 allegedly suggests Kerala's Mullaperiyar Dam to be weak and could wreak havoc.


The producer of Dam999 has denied the allegation.


Dam999 is slated for release this Friday.


Kerala's Mullaperiyar Dam irrigates the southern districts of Tamil Nadu. Tamil Nadu has rights over the waters of Mullaperiyar Dam for 999 years.


The Kerala government says the dam is weak and wants to build a new dam.


The storage of the dam has not been raised even after a Supreme Court order.

On Day 2 of UP yatra, Rahul Gandhi targets Mayawati again, says Centre's funds not reaching poor

  On Day 2 of his Uttar Pradesh yatra, Rahul Gandhi once again took on Chief Minister Mayawati. Addressing a rally in Bahraich district, he alleged that the Centre's funds were being siphoned-off in the state. "Centre's funds meant for the poor in the state are not reaching them," he said. He then added that Mayawati "does not bother about" what was happening in her state.

Targeting the UP Chief Minister and Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, Rahul Gandhi also said that they have "forgotten about the people after becoming big leaders and they don't feel for them".


"They (Mayawati and Mulayam) have become big leaders. They can travel in helicopters. But they do not feel angry now when they see sufferings. They do not feel anything when farmers' land is taken away. I have learnt many things from Mulayamji. But he does not come to you. His anger (against injustice) is over," he added.


The Congress General Secretary started his Jan Sampark Yatra from Barabanki yesterday, where he explained his controversial remark on Uttar Pradesh migrants "begging for work in other states."


At a rally in Phulpur in Uttar Pradesh a week ago, Mr Gandhi had told the thousands that had gathered that their state was regressing under the leadership of "the mafia" who runs the state. "How long will you beg in Maharashtra (for work)? How long will you work as a labourer in Punjab? It will take only five years and the change will come," he said, asking the crowd to give the Congress "a chance for five years."


The statement drew flak from almost all political quarters including Congress's ally NCP. Explaining his remarks, Mr Gandhi said yesterday, "People sat in studios and criticised me, but I will ask them to speak to the children on the traffic signals. They will tell you that they are from UP."


Emphasising that his party wanted to change Uttar Pradesh for the better, Mr Gandhi said he was angry that the state was lagging behind when other parts of the country were moving ahead at brisk pace.


"People from UP are going to Maharashtra, Haryana, Delhi. You drive a taxi in Maharashtra, you build roads and metro in Delhi...our state is now lagging behind. We have to bring it back on track," he said.


Mr Gandhi is on a five-day yatra in UP. He will next visit Shravasti, Siddharth Nagar and Kushinagar and meet party workers. (With PTI inputs)

Price rise storm: Both Houses adjourned

The government got a taste of what it could expect during the Winter Session of Parliament with both Houses being adjourned following an uproar over price rise for the second successive day today.

The Lok Sabha was adjourned till noon soon after Question Hour began at 11 am. The Deputy Speaker adjourned proceedings for the day shortly after noon as the uproar continued. The Rajya Sabha has also been adjourned till tomorrow.


The government had braced itself for an acrimonious discussion on price rise and the 2G scam, with the Left as well as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) making their intentions clear.
Both had rejected the statement on inflation by Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee yesterday, saying the government was only making excuses.


The Left had let it be known that they wanted the Lok Sabha to set aside all other business and had submitted an adjournment motion on the issue. Today, the BJP also submitted an adjournment motion on price rise, along with another on the issue of black money.


The motion is something that entails voting and the government's chief trouble-shooter, Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, has been trying to buy peace with the Left. He has been trying to persuade them to instead agree to a discussion on price rise, without voting.


A vote in Parliament means that the government will not only need to do some number crunching but it can't be seen against any resolution that condemns price rise.


The BJP had an understanding with the Left that it will back its stand on prices while the Left will support its stand on black money.


Today, the BJP also submitted an adjournment motion on price rise, along with another on the issue of black money. While sources have told NDTV that the issue of price rise will be taken up as a short discussion next week, the BJP will move an adjournment motion on black money tomorrow. Sources added that the government will allow senior BJP leader L K Advani to raise the issue in the Lok Sabha.


Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal told reporters yesterday that the Lower House would take up the discussion on the statement of Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on the price situation.


On Tuesday, the first day of the Winter Session in Parliament, the Opposition boycotted Mr Chidambaram as promised. But the Home Minister didn't blink. On this acrimonious note, the Winter Session began as MPs from NDA drowned out the proceedings the moment Mr Chidambaram stood up to answer questions on Naxalism.


The Left did not support the BJP's move of targeting Mr Chidambaram over the 2G charges, but made common cause over price rise. The Left MPs wanted the Lok Sabha to stop all other work and discuss price rise under provisions that entailed voting, something that makes the government uncomfortable.


But the Speaker, instead, called for the start of the Question Hour with Union Home Minister P Chidambaram giving a written reply as is the norm and this led to an uproar.


The Opposition chose to ignore Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh's appeal.


"The government is prepared to discuss all the issues which the Opposition may want to discuss. There is virtually no case for a boycott of the type that has been talked about in the newspapers. I once again appeal to all political parties to work together to give the development agenda of our country a push forward. As you all know, the global economy is facing serious difficulties and if we don't manage our affairs well, we will go down as well," Dr Singh had said.


The BJP says it does not want a logjam but its opposition to Mr Chidambaram remains.
"We will not scuttle the session because we are only opposing Chidambaram, not the government. We will continue to reason with the government to accept our motion on illegal accounts abroad. If the government is adamant, and doesn't concede to reasonable demands, then a logjam is possible," said BJP leader Yashwant Sinha.


Reacting to the PM's call for cooperation from all parties, Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley added, "We want to discuss various legislations but cooperation doesn't mean submission to the government. Cooperation does not mean that you accept the government's effort to cover up cases of corruption. That is something we will never do because we need to be honest as an opposition."


On Monday, the government had reached out to the BJP in a desperate attempt to shrug the paralysis tag. Mr Mukherjee called BJP President Nitin Gadkari for lunch but it did little to avoid a government-Opposition relationship breakdown.


The Congress-led ruling UPA, which is to introduce or discuss 54 Bills in less than a month, has appealed to the Opposition to allow working of the House and give Mr Chidambaram a chance to speak.


Crucial among the several key legislations that the UPA government plans to introduce in this session are the Lokpal Bill, Judicial Accountability Bill, Food Security Bill, Land Acquisition Bill and Education Bill.


The Lokpal Bill, understandably, is expected to generate much heat and debate. The government has promised anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare that it would make the anti-corruption legislation a reality during this session. Mr Hazare has threatened to intensify his stir if the Centre fails to pass the bill in the Winter Session. On Monday, he reminded the government that he was watching the session closely saying, "The Government should pass a strong Jan Lokpal Bill...If a strong Janlokpal Bill is not passed, we will agitate."

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Qantas faces backlash over Twitter hash

Sydney:  Embattled Australian airline Qantas was Wednesday facing a social media storm after a publicity exercise on Twitter dramatically backfired, prompting an outpouring of negative comments.

As the airline works to win back the hearts of Australians after grounding its entire fleet last month over an industrial dispute, stranding tens of thousands of passengers around the world, it launched a Twitter competition.


"Tell us what is your dream luxury inflight experience? (Be creative!) Answer must include the hashtag QantasLuxury," it said, adding that the best tweets would win a gift pack including Qantas pyjamas and luxury amenity kit.


But the promotion quickly drew the wrong kind of attention, with tweets such as: "QantasLuxury means sipping champagne on your corporate jet while grounding the entire airline, country, customers & staff."


Another read: "Somewhere in Qantas HQ a middle-aged manager is yelling at a Gen Y social media 'expert' to make it stop."


The decision by chief executive Alan Joyce to ground the airline without notice after unions indicated they would step up strike action, sending the issue to national industrial tribunal Fair Work Australia, drew ire.


"Alan Joyce now seeking an injunction to ground Twitter due to QantasLuxury fiasco," read one.


Qantas has made regular use of Twitter, notably interacting with customers such as British writer Stephen Fry when he left his wallet onboard a jet, and the airline said it accepted all feedback, good and bad.


"We launched the competition with good intentions but clearly didn't expect the enormity of the response," a spokesman told AFP.


Joyce is spearheading the 91-year-old airline's brutal fight with unions representing pilots, engineers and ground staff as he seeks to reposition the carrier towards Asia, a move workers fear will cost jobs.


The parties were unable to resolve their disagreements during 21 days of negotiations overseen by Fair Work Australia and now head into arbitration.


The Twitter storm came as New South Wales state police said they were no longer investigating alleged death threats against Irish-born Joyce which emerged last month.


The airline did not detail the threats against Joyce but one reportedly read: "It's coming soon Paddy. You can't even see it."


New South Wales police, who had established a taskforce to investigate the matter, said Wednesday no further action was being taken.


"The investigation has been completed," a spokeswoman told AFP, without elaborating.

Sachin's destiny to score 100th ton in Mumbai: Wadekar

Former India skipper Ajit Wadekar on Wednesday, voiced confidence that Sachin Tendulkar will score his hundredth century at the Wankhede stadium, saying it was the batting maestro's "destiny" to achieve the feat at his homeground.


"It is destiny that he was born and brought up in Mumbai. He is bound to make history at Mumbai," the 70-year-old, who represented India in 37 Tests and scored 2113 runs, said on the sidelines of an event here tonight.


"Among the trio, (Rahul) Dravid and Laxman have scored centuries (in the series), only he is left. He will score it in Mumbai," said Wadekar, who was attending a function to announce the launch of the Eknath Solkar Academy in memory of the former India cricketer.


India is playing against the West Indies in the third and last Test which began here today.


Wadekar also backed discarded off-spinner Harbhajan Singh to make a comeback in the Indian team.


"He has taken loads of wickets. It is just one of the things that happens to any cricketer. I'm sure he will make a big comeback. There is no doubt that R Ashwin has been bowling extremely well but I think you can have two off-spinners like I had in my team. There is no harm in that."


Meanwhile, Solkar's son Brijesh said the Academy was a tribute to his late father.


"Family members and some close members have formed the Eknath Solkar Foundation, that has initiated the Academy project. This is the least we could do for him," he said.


Cricket legends B S Chandrashekhar, Gundappa Vishwanath, Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri were among those present for the function.

Sensex, Nifty crash to 52-week low amid global weakness

India's benchmark indices crashed over 2 per cent and have hit new 52-week lows as selling pressure gathered momentum on the bourses. A slowdown in economic growth in the US, which is the world's biggest economy, led to risk aversion across the globe.


At 1208 hours, the Sensex was down 360 points to 15,705 while the broader Nifty index declined 105 points to 4,707. The Nifty has broken the previous low of 4,720 made on 26 August this year.


Barring Cipla and Sun Pharm, all other Sensex stocks were trading lower. Similarly, only five stocks were trading higher on the Nifty.


Among large cap stocks government oil major ONGC, India's largest PSU bank SBI, private sector lender ICICI Bank and Axis Bank made new lows today.

Sensex, Nifty crash to near 2-year lows amid foreign funds exodus

Indian markets crashed Wednesday as the benchmark indices broke major support levels plunging to near two-year lows. The Sensex and Nifty were the worst performers among all Asian indices, falling nearly 3 per cent.


A slowdown in economic growth in the US, which is the world's biggest economy, led to risk aversion across the globe. Weakness in Chinese manufacturing data further raised concerns of another global recession.


At 1304 hours, the Sensex was down nearly 450 points to 15,614 while the broader Nifty index declined 130 points to 4,682. The Nifty has fallen below the 4,700 mark for the first time in over 18 months. The Nifty last traded below 4,700 levels on 8 February, 2010.


Analysts said the selloff was driven by foreign institutional investors (FII), who fear a slowdown in the country's economy and a possible downgrade by major rating agencies soon.


"The underlying retail investors in the western world are pulling out money from the risk assets, whether in the emerging markets or developed markets... FII fund managers have to find cash for which they have to sell," Saurav Mukherjea of Ambit Capital said.


"The currency factor is clearly not helping. It has really hurt investor returns. What is causing the sellout is that they (FIIs) don't see any reason for the rupee to pullback to 45," he added. The rupee has fallen nearly 14 per cent in the last quarter alone. However, the currency was trading higher today, possibly on the back of intervention by the central bank.


Technical analysts anticipate further weakness because key levels have been broken. "4,720 was a strong support and once it was taken off the markets are witnessing a cascading effect. The Nifty can fall 200 points now as supply will overpower demand," Kiran Jadhav of Precision Technicals said.


The volatility has increased ahead of the derivatives expiry on Thursday. The National Stock Exchange (NSE) volatility index was up nearly 14 per cent. "Intraday you might get some scare but you might want to test it further," Independent analyst Sarvendra Srivsatava said.


Banking stocks saw the steepest cuts, falling over 3 per cent. HDFC Bank plunged 5 per cent. ICICI Bank was down 3.5 per cent.


Energy and IT stocks also slumped nearly 3 per cent. Most other sectoral indices were trading with over 2 per cent cut.


Barring Cipla, all other stocks were down on the Sensex. Jaiprakash Associates, Bharti, JSPL, BHEL and Reliance were trading with over 3.5 per cent cuts. RCom was the only stock trading higher on the 50-stock Nifty index. It rose after three officials of Reliance ADAG were granted bail by the Supreme Court earlier today.


The market breadth had collapsed with an overwhelming 90 per cent stocks falling on the broader BSE 500 points.


Among large cap stocks, government owned oil major ONGC, India's largest PSU bank SBI, private sector lender ICICI Bank and Axis Bank made new lows today.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Sensex, Nifty crash amid growth, rupee concerns

Indian markets have closed with deep cuts Wednesday as foreign funds liquidated funds on the back of weakening rupee and economy. The Sensex and Nifty closed with over 2 per cent cuts after falling to near two-year lows in intraday trade.


The Sensex ended 365 points lower at 15,699.99 while the broader Nifty index closed at 4,706.45, falling 105.90 points. Earlier, the Sensex had fallen nearly 600 points (intraday low of 15,478.69) while the Nifty had slipped below the 4,700 mark (4,640) for the first time since February, 2010.


Indian markets have now fallen over 20 per cent year to date.


Global cues were not supportive. Economic growth slowed down in the US and Chinese manufacturing data raised further concerns of another recession. Asian markets witnessed sharp decline too. Markets in Taiwan and South Korea fell more than Indian indices. Most European markets were trading with 0.5-1 per cent losses when Indian markets closed.


Analysts said the selloff was driven by foreign institutional investors (FII), who fear a slowdown in the country's economy and a possible downgrade by major rating agencies soon.


"The underlying retail investors in the western world are pulling out money from the risk assets, whether in the emerging markets or developed markets... FII fund managers have to find cash for which they have to sell," Saurav Mukherjea of Ambit Capital said.


Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said that withdrawals by foreign institutional investors and weakness in the rupee led to the market crash.


"The currency factor is clearly not helping. It has really hurt investor returns. What is causing the sellout is that they (FIIs) don't see any reason for the rupee to pullback to 45," he added. The rupee has fallen nearly 14 per cent in the last quarter alone. However, the currency was trading higher today, possibly on the back of intervention by the central bank.


Banking, energy, capital goods and IT stocks ended with 2-3 per cent cuts. Consumer durables were the only group of stocks to close with gains. These stocks had fallen sharply yesterday. Most other sectoral indices ended with over 1 per cent cut.


Public sector power major NTPC was the only stock to end with gains on the Sensex. Infrastructure firm Jaiprakash Associates was the top loser on the Sensex, falling over 5 per cent. HDFC Bank, Bharti Airtel, BHEL and Wipro ended 3-4 per cent lower.


On the Nifty, Reliance Communications gained 0.5 per cent after the Supreme Court granted bail to three executives of ADAG group in the 2G case.


DB Realty and Unitech also gained after the court granted bail to their promoters. SKS Microfinance ended with 5 per cent gains ahead of the board meeting. The company's founder Vikram Akula is likely to resign.


The market breadth was extremely weak with an overwhelming 85 per cent stocks declining on the broader BSE 500 index.

Sherry Rehman named Pakistan's new envoy to US

Islamabad:  Former Information Minister Sherry Rehman has been named Pakistan's new Ambassador to the US.

The move comes after Husain Haqqani resigned from the post after reports linking him to a controversial secret memorandum purportedly sent by the Pakistan government to the Obama administration earlier this year to avert a possible military takeover.


In a post on micro-blogging site Twitter, Mr Haqqani wrote, "I have requested PM Gilani to accept my resignation as Pakistan Ambassador to US.


"I have much to contribute to building a new Pakistan free of bigotry & intolerance. Will focus energies on that," he further tweeted.


A close aide of slain ex-premier Benazir Bhutto, Ms Rehman was sidelined by the ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP) after she quit the government in 2009. She had resigned following differences with top party leaders, including President Asif Ali Zardari, over the government's handling of relations with the media.


She has been playing a key role on foreign policy issues, including relations with Afghanistan and India, through her NGO, Jinnah Institute, and had rebuilt her relations with the party leadership over the past few months.


The memorandum, which landed Mr Haqqani at the center of a huge controversy, warned of and sought assistance against a possible military takeover after Osama bin Laden was killed in May. It was sent to the then US Chief of Military Staff Admiral Mike Mullen.


Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz, who broke what is now known as the "Memogate" story, has claimed that he drafted the secret memo on Mr Haqqani's instructions. The former envoy has consistently denied this claim.


The memorandum had pitted Pakistan's civilian government against the powerful military, with the latter asking for a complete investigation and Mr Haqqani's recall from Washington.


The businessman had spoken exclusively to NDTV about the matter and maintained that Mr Haqqani reached out to him saying he is a "plausibly deniable channel" for them.


"Credibility is in the eye of the beholder. I was like a typist," Mr Ijaz said.


Asked whether President Zardari knew about the memo, Mr Ijaz had said, "It's a sixty-four-thousand dollar question". He added, "There's no question that Haqqani is in trouble. There's no question that Zardari has a lot of answers to give".


A report in Newsweek said that last month, Mr Ijaz spent over four hours with the lSI chief Shuja Pasha in London. The ISI chief sought the meeting to go over the businessman's evidence against Mr Haqqani, the report said.


Former US National Security Advisor Jim Jones has said that he was the person who handed over the memorandum to the then Chief of Military Staff Admiral Mike Mullen.


However, Mr Jones said he was neither a serving US government official or associated with the Obama administration in any way when he delivered the memo to Mullen in May this year. He was the NSA of President Barack Obama from January 2009 to October 2010.


For India, the memo stands out for a sub-point saying Pakistan's government - under a new national security team - is prepared to fully cooperate with the Indian government on 26/11 investigations and bringing to justice all perpetrators within or outside the government, including intelligence agencies. "This includes handing over those against whom sufficient evidence exists of guilt to the Indian security services."


Elaborating on the reference in the memo to President Zardari's readiness to hand over the 26/11 attackers to India, Mr Ijaz told NDTV that this was among several proposals "designed to win the confidence of the US administration."


Mr Haqqani was seen as a close aide of President Zardari and had played a key role in resolving several recent crises in bilateral relations with the US. He has, however, had an uneasy relationship with the military.

Spot-fixing: Butt, Amir appeals dismissed

London: 

The Lord Chief Justice has rejected the appeals of Salman Butt and Mohammad Amir against their sentences in the spot-fixing case.


The Crown Court had, on November 3, given Butt a two-and-a-half year jail term after finding him guilty of conspiracy to cheat and conspiracy to accept corrupt payments based on orchestrating no-balls against England, at Lord's, in 2010. Amir was given two six-month sentences under the same charges, to run concurrently, and is currently in detention at a young offenders' institute.


Lord Judge, the Lord Chief Justice, called the appeal against Butt's sentence "unarguable" while regarding Amir he said: "This prodigious talent has been lost to cricket for some years. Cricket will be the poorer for it. But he was not so young that he did not appreciate what he was doing.


"The cricketers betrayed their team, their country, the sport that had given them their distinction and all the world followers of the game," the judge said. "The reality is that all the enjoyment of watching cricket will be destroyed if this was allowed to continue."


In his summing up he added: "This is a notorious and essentially simple case. It was a betting scam and they were very well rewarded."


The defence team for Butt had argued that the sentence was too severe and outlined three types of match fixing: the outcome of the game, passages of play and spot-fixing and argued that Butt was involved in the least severe of the three. The incident at The Oval, involving Butt failing to bat out a maiden over, was referenced with the judge saying it was down to the difficulties of facing the new ball rather than Butt being "repentant."


Amir's defence team had argued that his six-month sentence should be downgraded to a suspended term and that he should have been able to walk free. However, the judge read out text messages sent to Amir by a separate fixer in Pakistan.


"Butt was undoubtedly the most involved," the judge said, and a "malign influence". His duty as captain was to "stop" any whiff of corruption. He added that Justice Cooke, who presided over the original case, was fully entitled to call Butt the "orchestrator."


This, though, is not the end of the spot-fixing affair. Mohammad Asif, the third cricketer involved, is set to appeal against his conviction and sentence having changed his defence team. The three players will also appeal their ICC bans at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Tata successor announced: Cyrus Mistry to succeed Ratan Tata

Mumbai:  Cyrus Pallonji Mistry will succeed Ratan Tata at the helm of Tata Sons. He's been appointed Deputy Chairman and will work with Mr Tata for one year, before taking over in December 2012. (Read: Who is Cyrus Mistry?)

43-year-old Mistry was a director of Tata Sons and Tata Elxsi (India).
Ratan Tata retires next year when he turns 75. He joined the Tata group in 1962 and has been the Chairman since 1991.


Endorsing the appointment, Mr Tata said, "The appointment of Mr. Cyrus P. Mistry as Deputy Chairman of Tata Sons is a good and far-sighted choice." (Read: Press release from Tata Sons)


"I will be committed to working with him over the next year to give him the exposure, the involvement and the operating experience to equip him to undertake the full responsibility of the Group on my retirement," Mr Tata added.


Mr Mistry said he was deeply honoured by his appointment. "I am aware that an enormous responsibility, with a great legacy, has been entrusted to me," he said in a statement.


He announced that he will legally dissociate himself from the management of his family businesses to avoid any issue of conflict of interest. Shapoorji Pallonji Mistry, the father of the new deputy chairman, owns 18 per cent stake in Tata Sons. The Shapoorji Pallonji Group is into construction, textile, water treatment and other businesses. Cyrus Mistry is currently the managing director of the two billion dollar SP Group.


Born on July 4, 1968, Mr Mistry graduated from the Imperial College, London with a BE in civil engineering. He also holds a masters degree in management from the London Business School, and is a fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers.


Apart from the Tata Group, he also serves as a director on the board of several other companies, including Shapoorji Pallonji & Co, Forbes Gokak, Afcons Infrastructure and United Motors (India).


Mr Mistry was also a part of a search panel appointed last year to find Mr Tata's succesor. He withdrew himself when his name was suggested. He then entered the process as a candidate.


The 5-member panel also comprised of  N A Soonawala, vice-chairman, Tata Sons; R K Krishna Kumar, non-executive director, Tata Sons; Lord Bhattacharya, a businessman based in the UK who runs Warwick Manufacturing; and Shirin Bharucha, a lawyer for the group. The committee is said to have met 18 times before announcing the succession plan.

BJP using language of 'Mafiosi': Congress

As Parliament proceedings were disrupted for the second consecutive day over Opposition's demand of adjournment motions, Congress today stepped up the attack on BJP accusing it of using the "language of Mafiosi" for its comments that rising inflation could lead to violence.

Party spokesperson Rashid Alvi also slammed BJP for its decision to boycott Home Minister P Chidambaram in Parliament and ridiculed NDA's decision asking its MPs to declare that they have no black-money abroad.

"Yesterday, BJP said there could be violence in the country due to price rise. Such irresponsible statement by the opposition party is unfortunate. In what direction, the main opposition wants to take the country whose foundation is based on non-violence. This language is not political. It looks this is the language of Mafiosi," Alvi said.

Attacking the government for rising inflation and continued price rise in the absence of any concrete steps, BJP leader Yashwant Sinha had yesterday feared that it may become a reason for people to vent their anger through violence.

Alvi said the attitude of the Opposition in the last two days of the session shows how "irresponsible" it is and exposes how much regard BJP has for Parliament.

He said it was unfortunate that opposition parties continued with disruptions even as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had himself assured them about the government's willingness to discuss any issue raised by them.

BJP sources maintained that the price rise issue is as dear to the party as to the Left, it agreed to support the latter as it is moving the adjournment motion on black money.

This opposition unity does not augur well for the government which is desperate to run the two Houses smoothly so that several pending Bills can be passed.

BJP quashed rumours that the government had reached out to it today to end the stalemate in Parliament. Sources said the government had held a luncheon meeting with the Left parties yesterday but since the latter got no assurance on holding the price rise debate under Rule 184 (which entails voting) till late evening, it forced an adjournment today.

Ahluwalia said the opposition wanted a debate on price rise though the issue has been discussed in Parliament earlier too as the government had failed in its promise made in the last session that it will take effective steps to check spiralling costs of commodities.

"Now Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia has accepted that there has been a mistake in making estimates and the government has failed in controlling prices," Ahluwalia said.

Similarly, on the issue of Black money the BJP leader said since France has recently shared with our government the names of Indian foreign account holders, it is important to discuss the matter and press for making these names public.
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