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Saturday, 4 February 2012

Panel on Mullaperiyar to submit report to court by the third week of February

Tamil Nadu wants it to maintain that dam will continue to serve its purpose

The Surpeme Court-appointed Empowered Committee indicated on Tuesday that it would submit a report on the Mullaperiyar dam to the court in February third week. At a meeting here, it discussed various technical reports on the dam's safety and strengthening measures.

The former Chief Justice of India, A.S. Anand, heads the committee. The other members are: Justice K.T. Thomas, retired Supreme Court Judge representing Kerala; Justice A.R. Lakshmanan, retired Supreme Court Judge representing Tamil Nadu; the former Secretary to the Ministry of Water Resources, C.D. Thatte; and D.K. Mehta, retired Chief Engineer, Central Water Commission.

The committee considered the reports of the studies and investigations conducted by various agencies it had constituted to go into the dam's safety. It also discussed the report of the two technical members who inspected the dam after Kerala raised apprehensions about its safety following mild tremors in the area. The committee discussed the applications filed by Kerala and Tamil Nadu and took their submissions on record.

It also discussed the modalities for finalising its report, as its term ends in February. It decided to meet in the middle of February for finalising the report.

Meanwhile, Tamil Nadu, responding to Kerala's application for a new dam, wanted the committee to maintain that in view of the overwhelming evidence on record on the dam's safety, the existing dam, which was retrofitted and well-maintained, would continue to serve its intended purpose, and that there would be no need for a new one.

Tamil Nadu rejected Kerala's assertion that notwithstanding the unanimous technical opinion, “a public authority [the empowered panel] is endowed with responsibility to take a final call on the replacement of a dam after considering the human factors, viz., the extent and nature of damage to life and property if the dam fails and [the] ecological considerations.” Tamil Nadu said Kerala had taken the extreme stand in desperation.

As for Kerala's stand that a new dam would guarantee the interests of Tamil Nadu, the application said: “In such an event, raising the issues of sharing of the benefits arising from the new dam would tantamount to raising disputes with regard to utilisation of water, the equitable needs of … Tamil Nadu and the equitable sharing of benefits between the two States, which are all outside the scope of the present suit and the inquiry before the empowered committee.”

Tamil Nadu said: “The present dispute is not a “water dispute” as sought to be twisted by … Kerala, but one relating to the constitutional validity of the Kerala Amendment Act, 2006, fixing the water level [at 136 feet] on the alleged pretext of the safety of the … dam. The contentions raised by … Kerala are only an attempt to get over the existing regime and to work out a new regime, which would take away the existing and established rights of … Tamil Nadu to all the waters below the contour line of +155 feet of the existing dam.”

It said Kerala's argument for the principle of just and equitable share and sharing of the benefits of the new dam would show that the “proposal is not bona fide and is only an attempt to get over the existing established rights of … Tamil Nadu to the waters of the Mullaperiyar, which is wholly impermissible. The assertion of … Kerala on sharing the benefits … is totally uncalled-for.”

The committee will continue its deliberations on Wednesday.

Pedestrians find themselves on edge

 WALKERS’ PITFALLS: Pedestrian access to major public transit terminals is very poor, says a study. A scene on Pantheon Road, Egmore, on Tuesday. Photo: S.S.Kumar

Among 21 Asian cities in which ‘walkability' index study was carried out, Chennai came last

With pedestrian footpaths either non-existent or unusable, Chennai's roads are among the least conducive walking spaces in the country, said Pawan Kumar, Associate Town and Country Planner, Ministry of Urban Development.

Quoting from a recent study (June 2011) undertaken by the Clean Air Initiative for Asian Cities (CAI-Asia), an NGO, Mr.Kumar said that Chennai scored a mere 47 out of 100 on a ‘walkability index.' Among 21 Asian cities in which a similar ‘walkability' index study was carried out, Chennai came last. “What is worrying is that within Chennai itself, the least walkable spaces are in the vicinity of public transit terminals,” he said.

Speaking here on Tuesday at ‘Municipalika,' an international conference on sustainable cities, Mr.Kumar said: “In most Indian cities, about 20 to 40 per cent of daily trips are by foot. A significant share of the investment made on mass transit systems must go towards providing pedestrian access. Cities must give space for walkers.”

On the question of safe pedestrian road crossings, Mr.Kumar again quoted from the CAI study. In a field survey among pedestrians, which was part of the study, 48 per cent of respondents said they prefer a ground-level crossing. “Technocrats might keep proposing expensive skywalks. But may be that's not what the people want. Decision makers must learn to listen to the people.”

Reflecting on the social equity aspect, he pointed to a study by Future Capital Research, a think-tank, which showed that poor and lower income families spend over 20 per cent of their monthly income on transportation. Mr.Kumar said that at least for their sake, cities must improve pedestrian infrastructure.

Dilipkumar Mahajan, Deputy Commissioner, Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, spoke about the success story of the city's Bus Rapid Transit System ‘Jan Marg' (which means ‘People's way'). Erwan Bizien of Parkeon, an on-street parking solutions provider, spoke.

Plastic road work begins

 A stretch of Valluvar Kottam High Road, where the Chennai Corporation began laying plastic roads on Monday. Photo: S.S. Kumar Work on the first plastic road for a bus route in the city commenced on Monday.

The Chennai Corporation's Bus Route Roads Department on Monday started milling and re-laying work on the stretch of Valluvar Kottam High Road and Nelson Manickam Road.

According to Corporation officials, the work on the first stretch of plastic road on a bus route would be completed on January 31. A stretch of 800 metre bus route of Valluvar Kottam High Road from Unit Office 21 Junction to Dr.MGR Salai junction would have 13,700 square metre of plastic road.

A 1,250-metre stretch of Nelson Manickam Road would have 22,500 square metre of plastic road.

The civic body would complete re-laying of 121 plastic roads on 80-km-long bus routes at a cost of Rs.51.7 crore in three months.

Shredded plastic waste would form at least 8 per cent of the weight of the binder used for re-laying. Initially, the civic body planned to use plastic for re-laying of the top layer of 40 mm in the roads.

The 75 to 50 mm macadam layer beneath the top layer of 40 mm is also likely to have plastic content in areas where damage to road is high.

The Corporation has put in place bins for collection of plastic waste in every ward office. The civic body is procuring plastic for road re-laying, as it is yet to get enough plastic waste from residents.

Patch work on Anna Nagar West School Road, Perambur High Road, Greams Road and Taluk Office Road also began on Monday.

Work on 292 km of interior roads started earlier this month at a cost of Rs.59.5 crore. The work would resume shortly.

Power cut goes up to six hours

 Loadshedding has forced students to study under candlelights for the annual examination in Mysore. Photo: M.A Sriram

With public examinations round the corner, parents express concern

Residents in Madurai and southern districts are now facing power cuts for nearly six hours, nearly three times the scheduled duration of two hours. Compounding people's anger is the erratic nature of power supply and power cuts especially at night hours.

K. M. Sundar, secretary of Ajantha Gardens Residents' Association at Valluvar Colony, told The Hindu on Monday that with public examinations fast approaching, children's studies would be seriously affected if this situation were to continue.

Emergency lamp did not serve the purpose as children found it difficult to study under it.

Parents were also having trouble preparing their kids to school and getting ready to office in the morning due to power cuts between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m., he added.

T. D. Shanthakumari, a working woman residing at Shanthi Nagar area, said that they were facing power cuts in excess of six hours every day.

“With chain snatching incidents increasing, power cuts after 6 p.m. are causing a lot of safety issues as street lights do not function.”

Stating that on several occasions their area faced sudden power cuts between 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. or from 10 p.m. to 10.30 p.m., she said that senior citizens have trouble in taking rest.

“Invertors cannot be afforded by every one as they are expensive. Also, the response from local TAGNEDCO office to our requests to halt power cuts in nights is not satisfactory,” she added.

P. Pusari, a professional residing at Dr. Kabir Nagar, said that the TANGEDCO was not following the schedule it had announced. “Children are having a lot of trouble sleeping and their studies have been hit hard. This was not the case earlier and the authorities should consider stopping power cuts after dark.”

When contacted, a top official from TANGEDCO, Madurai, said that this was a situation prevailing across the State and not confined only to southern districts. The TANGEDCO Madurai Region comprises Madurai, Dindigul, Theni, Sivaganga and Ramanathapuram districts.

Further, the official said, the quantum of power cuts was decided only by the Load Despatch Centre at Chennai, which factored in the power generation and demand across the State.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Pranab Mukherjee laudsthe balancing measure

"A step that would help in easing the liquidity situation and spur growth without stoking inflation"

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday lauded the Reserve Bank of India's decision to cut the CRR (cash reserve ratio) by 50 basis points as a step that would help in easing the liquidity situation and spur growth without stoking inflation.

The cut in CRR from 6 per cent to 5.5 per cent with effect from January 28 will result in the release of an additional Rs.32,000 crore into the monetary system and thereby ease the liquidity situation.

Commenting on the RBI action, Mr. Mukherjee, who was in Dehradun during the day campaigning for the Congress ahead of January 30 Assembly polls in Uttarakhand, said: “[The Reserve Bank's] announcement should help address the money market liquidity, which had tightened in the past two to three months, while balancing the downside risk on growth and deceleration in moderation of inflation”.

Mr. Mukherjee pointed out that consequent to the CRR easing, banks “will have more money to lend and liquidity will increase. Because of the inflation pressure, they (the apex bank] have not altered the interest rates ... I welcome the decision of the RBI”.

On the RBI statement that a high fiscal deficit was preventing the apex bank from easing interest rates, Mr. Mukherjee noted that while the government had been taking steps, it would unveil measures to tackle the issue in the Budget for 2012-13. “... We want to reduce it by adjusting the fiscal policy, which I am doing ... and I shall [disclose] the essential features in the Budget,” he said.

Echoing similar views, Economic Affairs Secretary R. Gopalan pointed out that the cut in CRR would ease liquidity, reduce the cost of funds and thus provide a boost to growth. “CRR cut ensures that fair amount of money is available, the cost of fund is reduced ... All these things are good to create a growth enhancing impression,” Mr. Gopalan told reporters here.

Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council (PMEAC) Chairman C. Rangarajan also dubbed the RBI measure as a “wise decision”, to catalyse growth without fuelling inflation. The cut in CRR signals that the next step — provided inflation declines further — is a cut in interest rates. “But reduction of the policy rate will have to depend upon the behaviour of non-food manufacturing inflation. Unless that comes down and give definite signs of a decline, the policy rate cannot be changed. I think that's the real message from the Reserve Bank,” he said.

Produce request letter for chartered flight: CIC

RTI activist says Alliance Air has only partly complied with order

Serving a show-cause on Alliance Air, the Central Information Commission has directed the Central Public Information Officer to “disclose the name of the person/body/organisation making the request for the chartered flight,” which was operated in 2010, after cancelling the scheduled service. This chartered operation was allegedly to facilitate a service carrying the daughter of a former Civil Aviation Minister and a few members of an Indian Premier League team.

This direction comes as Right to Information activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal complained that the public sector company had only partly complied with the CIC order.

When the company said it had made a call to its call centre to change the flight allotment, Mr. Agrawal sought the details of the communication, documents and file notings. The company refused to disclose them as also the names of the officials who gave and received the orders.

Hearing an appeal, the CIC noted that the company, to protect its commercial confidentiality, had the right not to disclose the terms and conditions of the agreement it signed with India Cements Limited. But “the commission finds no reason to deny the rest of the information requested by the appellant.”

The CIC has directed the company to provide India Cement Limited's request letter for the chartered flight, file notings and documents about the decision within a fortnight.

Referring to a newspaper report, Mr. Agrawal had said in his application: “A Union Minister has no right to run a public sector undertaking like his private business firm by making it dance to the requirements of his family members. However, if the news report is wrong, it will rather clear the position of all concerned, including Alliance Air and the Union Minister. Therefore, it is in the interests of all, including the public interest, to reveal the sought information.”

Proposal to take excess garbage to Vilappilsala

The Hindu Ministers P.K. Kunhalikutty and V.S. Sivakumar and Mayor K. Chandrika attending an all-party meeting on the Vilappilsala garbage plant issue, in the city on Tuesday. Photo: S. Gopakumar

Source-level treatment of waste to be promoted

Committing itself to continuing with the practice of treatment of garbage at source in the capital city, the government on Tuesday made out a case for a small quantity of garbage to be taken to the garbage treatment plant at Vilappilsala for treatment.

This proposal was mooted by Industries Minister P.K. Kunhalikutty during talks with the representatives of the Vilappil Samara Samithi and later at an all-party meeting on the garbage issue.

A large portion of the garbage generated in the capital city would either be treated at source or be buried in identified spots. However, there would still be some tonnage of garbage left out. This would be taken to Vilappilsala till the network of small treatment plants and large processing plants planned by the government became operational.

Samithi representatives told the government that they needed five days to consider this proposal and to present it locally at Vilappil. Samithi representatives later told media persons that they would present the government's proposal to the people of Vilappil who would have the final word on the subject.

Briefing press persons on the talks, Mr. Kunhalikutty said the government viewed both sides of the problem—the suffering of the people of Vilappil and the garbage crisis faced by the capital city—with equal seriousness. The samithi representatives wanted an immediate and permanent closure of the garbage plant. The government's stand was that this was not possible and would only lead to a crisis in the capital city.

Over the last one month the culture of treating garbage at source had steadily caught on in the capital city. This would be continued. The police were also acting firmly against those who dump garbage by the wayside. The government believed that this alone would reduce by a great extent the quantity of garbage that needed to be taken away for treatment.

The government reportedly told the samithi that it would need a minimum of six months to have an alternative garbage treatment system up and running.

The government and the City Corporation would work together to put in place a welfare package for the people of Vilappil. This would include drinking water schemes and health schemes, he said. The talks were held in a cordial atmosphere and the Samithi representatives appeared to have imbibed the issues as delineated by the government, he said.

Mr. Kunhalikutty later told The Hindu that the government had more than a dozen sites in mind for setting up garbage treatment plants. These were areas where there was very low density of population. “The government does not wish to reveal the exact location of these sites,” he said.

Apart from a string of small-scale treatment plants, the government also proposed to set up a large treatment plant somewhere between Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam. Even if there were plants, a large-capacity plant was unavoidable, he argued. Once all these plants were up and running there would actually be a shortage of garbage to be treated, he claimed.

Meantime, a team from the Suchitwa Mission left for Germany on Tuesday to study the ‘cold mineralisation' technology for treating garbage. The government would take a final call on the technology after studying the report submitted by the team.

Meanwhile, the LDF parliamentary party in the Corporation council decided to call off its agitation in front of the Chief Minister's residence. Party leader V.S. Padmakumar said here that this decision followed the government's resolve to resume operations at the Vilappil plant.

Pushing Iran to the brink

The EU has decided on oil sanctions that Tehran has long said would represent a declaration of war. What will follow?

The decision to impose a European Union oil embargo on Iran, agreed on Monday, by European foreign ministers, sets a potential bomb ticking, timed to detonate on July 1.

On that day, according to the measures on the table in Brussels, Europe will stop importing oil from Iran, about a fifth of the country's total exports. At about the same time, U.S. sanctions targeted at the global financing of Iran's oil trade will kick in. Iran could still export some oil to Asia, but at big discounts.

Unlike previous sanctions on Iran, the oil embargo would hit almost all citizens and represent a threat to the regime. Tehran has long said such actions would represent a declaration of war, and there are legal experts in the West who agree.

The threat of an immediate clash appeared to recede over the weekend when the USS Lincoln aircraft carrier and its task force, including the British frigate HMS Argyll, travelled through the Strait of Hormuz without incident. This was despite warnings from the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) that it would oppose the return of a U.S. carrier to the region.

But tensions are almost certain to build again as the effective date of the oil sanctions approaches. The U.S. has already begun beefing up its military presence in the region, and the IRGC is planning naval war games next month.

The Strait of Hormuz is the kink in the hose of the Gulf's oil supply to the world. A small amount of pressure can have a disproportionate effect, sending crude prices soaring and starving the world's oil-dependent economies.

At its narrowest point, the strait is 20 miles wide, but the channels down which more than a third of the world's ocean-borne oil flows — 17m barrels — are just two miles wide in parts.

An Iranian official raising the prospect of closing the strait in retaliation for the threat of sanctions was enough for the world price of crude to rise to $115 a barrel. Maintained over the long term, that is costly enough to strangle any hint of a global economic recovery.

That is what makes Iranian naval action in the Gulf such a potent weapon. But it is a decidedly double-edged one. For, while Saudi Arabia can bypass the strait by pipeline, Iran's oil terminals are west of the choke point — and oil accounts for 60 per cent of its economy.

The U.S. has made clear that interruption to sea traffic in the Gulf would trigger a military response in which Iran's nuclear facilities would be on the target lists. Until now the costs of a war with Iran outweigh the gains of setting the nuclear programme back. But if the U.S. were going to war over oil, that cost-benefit analysis would change.

So closing the strait outright would be — if not suicidal — an exercise in extreme self-harm for Iran. But the choice facing Tehran is not a binary one.

There is a spectrum of options falling well short of total closure; harassment of the oil trade would drive the price of crude up and keep it up, very much to Iran's benefit, but fall short of a casus belli. However, exercising such options requires subtlety and fine judgment on all sides and that is by no means a given.

In a period of sustained high tension, an over-zealous IRGC commander could seize his moment to start a war, or a nervous U.S. captain, seconds from Iran's anti-ship missiles, could just as easily miscalculate. The last time Iran and America played chicken in this stretch of water, in 1988, a missile cruiser shot down an Iranian Airbus, killing 290 civilians including 66 children. There is no doubting the firepower at America's disposal. The Fifth Fleet, whose job it is to patrol the Gulf, is expected to be beefed up from one to two aircraft carriers. Meanwhile, the Pentagon has quietly boosted its army's presence in Kuwait. The Los Angeles Times reported that it now has 15,000 troops there, including two army brigades and a helicopter unit. The U.S. is also bolstered by the naval presence of its British and Gulf allies.

The Iranian military looks puny by comparison but it is powerful enough to do serious damage to commercial shipping. It has three Kilo-class Russian diesel submarines, which are thought to have the capacity to lay mines. And it has a large fleet of mini-submarines and thousands of small boats which can pass undetected until very close. It also has a “martyrdom” tradition that could provide willing suicide attackers.

The Fifth Fleet's greatest concern is that such asymmetric warfare could overpower the sophisticated defences of its ships, particularly in the confines of the Hormuz strait, which is scattered with craggy cove-filled Iranian islands ideal for launching stealth attacks.

In 2002, the U.S. military ran a $250m exercise called Millennium Challenge, pitting the U.S. against an unnamed rogue state with lots of small boats and willing martyr brigades. The rogue state won, or at least was winning when the Pentagon brass shut the exercise down.

In the years since much U.S. naval planning has focussed on how to counter “swarm tactics” — attacks on U.S. ships by scores of boats, hundreds of missiles, suicide bombers and mines, all at once.

One U.S. naval response has been to develop a new kind of fighting vessel, the littoral combat ship (LCS). The LCS is sleek, small and agile with a shallow draft and high speeds, allowing it to operate along island-pocked coastlines. At the low-tech end of the scale, the Fifth Fleet is reported to have deployed dolphins trained to seek out mines.

Ultimately, the U.S. response to swarming will be to use its dominance in the air and multitudes of precision-guided missiles to dramatically wipe out every Iranian missile site, radar, military harbour and jetty on the coast. Almost certainly, the air strikes would also go after command posts and possibly nuclear sites too. There is little doubt of the effectiveness of such a strategy as a deterrent but it also risks turning a naval skirmish into all-out war at short notice.

For that reason, most military analysts argue that if Iran does decide to exact reprisals for oil sanctions, it is likely to follow another route.

Sam Gardiner, a retired U.S. air force colonel who has taught strategy and military operations at the National War College, believes the most likely model will be the “tanker war” between Iran and Iraq from 1984 to 1987. The aim would be to raise insurance premiums and other shipping costs, and so boost oil prices as a way of inflicting pain on the West and replacing revenues lost through the embargo.

“They wouldn't necessarily do anything immediately. If they do what they did in the tanker war, a mine would be hit and it wouldn't be clear how long it had been there. Things like that push up the price of oil,” he said. “The answer is not to escalate. You start protecting tankers and searching for mines.” Even if Iran decides on retaliation, there is no reason for it to be confined to an immediate response in the strait. It could sabotage Arab state oil facilities along the southern shore of the Gulf, or western interests anywhere around the world, months or years after the imposition of an embargo.

Adam Lowther of the U.S. air force's Air University, pointed out recently on the Diplomat blog that Iran's ministry of intelligence and national security (MOIS) is “capable of carrying out assassinations, espionage, and other kinetic attacks against government and civilian targets”. It is also likely to have covert agents in the U.S., Lowther said.

Ehsan Mehrabi, an Iranian journalist specialising in military and strategic issues who recently left the country, wrote on the Inside Iran website: “I recall an Iranian idiom that was popular among the military officials: ‘If we drown, we'll drown everyone with us.' If attacked by a western power, the war would not be contained within the Iranian borders.” Bruce Riedel, a former senior CIA official, said recently: “The Iranians are already superbly placed to make the war in the Afghanistan — which is already difficult — impossible.” All these options are fraught with risks of miscalculation. In the tanker war scenario, maintaining the line between war and peace would be delegated to relatively junior officers, forced to make decisions in a matter of seconds, the exact set of circumstances that led to the 1988 Airbus disaster. Even if Washington and Tehran remain determined to avoid all-out war, with every passing month there is a rising chance of one breaking out by accident.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

RBI move positive: realtors

  Lauding the move by Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to cut cash reserve ratio (CRR) by 50 basis points, real estate developers on Tuesday said it was a positive step in the right direction and would help improve liquidity position of various sectors, including realty.

Stating that time had come to bring down interest rates to boost housing demand, they said the CRR cut would bring in liquidity and help the real estate market which is cash starved. “It is important to see the interest rate shall have to come down to facilitate the home seekers to buy homes,” Confederation of Real Estate Developers' Association of India (CREDAI) President Lalit Kumar Jain said in a statement here.

Unitech Managing Director Ajay Chandra said the reduction in the CRR was a positive move from the RBI as it would increase the credit-supply to different sectors of the economy.

CREDAI Chairman, who is also Chairman of Parsvnath Developers, Pradeep Jain said the apex bank had given a signal that interest rates would come down. “For the real estate sector in particular, this will serve as a signal that interest rates will now ease. Buyers may opt for floating rate loans at this juncture since the signal is clear. Also, the rising input cost will not leave any space for reduction of price,” he added.He said the RBI had attempted to do a delicate balancing act between the need for growth and urgency of containing price line.

Real education

K_Murali Kumar Hope better (civic) sense prevails. Photo K. Murali Kumar. Who is an educated person? A person who has enough knowledge and can apply it in real life. An uneducated person is supposed to be the one without that knowledge. But in general, people's idea of education is different.

One Wednesday, I was tired and famished and waiting for the train that would take me back home after school. I sat in the nearby rickety bench gazing at the trees which seemed mesmerising. Then my attention shifted to the school kids playing, a few women discussing about inflation, and the untidy floor with speckles of food all over.

Civic sense

A young flower seller with patched dress and long neatly plaited hair came and occupied the seat next to me. A gentleman who seemed to be well educated and worked for a reputed IT company (the id card said so) sat in the other seat beside me munching a packet of chips. The gentleman beside me threw the chips packet down after he was done with it. While I was debating if I should pick it up and throw it in the dustbin, or just mind my business, the young girl next to me got up without any hesitation, picked up the packet and threw it in the dustbin. She told the gentlemen that it was wrong to throw the packet down and enlightened him on the outcome of such unsocial activities. The gentlemen flushed with shame and apologised.

I was startled to see a young girl teaching a well “educated” person about common sense. Hats off to that girl!

Sai Praneeth stops Anand Pawar

The Hindu P.V. Sindhu entered the women's final easily beating Aditi Mutatkar. Photo: K. Murali Kumar Petroleum Sports Promotion Board's B. Sai Praneeth, the second seed, ended Anand Pawar's giant killing strides with an impeccable display on the penultimate day of the IFCI 76th senior National Badminton championship.

At the K Raheja-KBA courts here on Tuesday, Sai Praneeth made light of Pawar's challenge to win 21-17, 21-15.

Anand Pawar looked a pale shadow of Monday's version of himself. His backhand flicks were either too long or landed in the net and his otherwise sharp smashes were returned with nonchalant ease by the steady Sai Praneeth.

Anand did enjoy the lead in the first game, at 4-0 and 11-9, but Sai Praneeth produced a string of winners with his half smashes and better net dribbles.

In the second, the PSPB shuttler led from the start to win rather comfortably, with Anand netting a backhand return on match-point.

Sai Praneeth plays his PSPB teammate and top seed Sourabh Varma, who quelled the challenge of fellow PSPB player H.S. Prannoy, the fourth seed.

Prannoy, despite playing with a strapped thigh, won the first game 23-21, and then held two match points at 20-18. But Sourabh, with a string of attacking points, punished Prannoy's slackness to win not only the game 22-20, but also the next 21-16, and the match.

The women's title clash will be between PSPB's ninth seed P.V. Sindhu and second seed Neha Pandit of Airports Authority of India.

Sindhu outplayed fourth seed Aditi Mutatkar, the defending champion, 21-10, 21-12 in just 27 minutes while Neha was equally ruthless on third seed Sayali Gokhale (Air India) winning 21-17, 21-13.

The tall Sindhu used her height to good advantage and often had the static and stiff Aditi stranded and wrong-footed.

Saina can hope for a medal: Gopichand

 “Saina Nehwal has the chance of winning an Olympic medal, but it all depends on her preparations in the three months ahead of the London Games,” said Pullela Gopichand, National coach and former All England champion. He was at courtside on Tuesday, the penultimate day of the National badminton championship.

Gopichand admitted, “European and other countries are progressing ten times faster than India, but what our players have achieved in the last few years is laudable. The fact that Saina has been able to retain her World No. 4 ranking for some time is a great achievement, and if she continues to do so, there is no reason why she cannot hope for a medal in the Olympics.”

“There are some exciting prospects among the boys too. Sourabh Verma, Sai Praneeth, H.S. Prannoy, Srikanth and Sameer Varma are all exciting prospects for the future and should be hearing more about them. On the distaff side, Saina, at 21, is there and P.V. Sindhu, just 16, is progressing well and can be counted. They should be around for sometime and it augurs well for the country. Hopefully in another 3-5 years, someone else will hit the high strings,” Gopi said.

On national structureAbout the national structure, Gopi felt that it was natural for the players to improve their rankings abroad, but should also try and play the domestic events as well.

As for his biography, World Beneath His Feet, Gopi replied, “there are many things in the book that are unknown to average players. I am sure reading the book will benefit students and younger players a great deal.”

SAT operation theatre to be reopened by February

Serious cases are handled at emergency theatre

The operation theatre complex at SAT Hospital here , which is undergoing major annual maintenance work, is expected to be made functional by February first week, according to the hospital authorities.

The SAT Hospital authorities had earlier announced that elective surgeries would not be performed in the hospital till further announcement as the operation theatre was being shut down for annual maintenance. This had, however, created some confusion among the public.

“It is an annual feature in both the Government Medical College Hospital as well as the SAT that we close our theatres by December 15 for major maintenance work and re-open them after the completion of the works, and clearance from the microbiology department by the end of January. This is absolutely necessary because in both the institutions, the operation theatres work 24x7 and is often stretched beyond their limits, necessitating a major overhaul by the end of the year,” SAT Hospital Superintendent K.E. Elizabeth explained.

10,000 surgeries a yearBetween the department of Paediatric Surgery and Gynaecology, over 10,000 surgeries are performed inside the operation theatre complex at SAT every year, which stretches almost across an entire floor of the hospital. The Gynaecology department alone performs some 5,000 surgeries here in a year. Because of the tight schedule, it is not possible for the hospital to have workmen going in and out for maintenance works on a regular basis.

“We announced early itself that dates would not be given for elective surgeries from December 15 onwards. All cases requiring an emergency surgical intervention are being handled in the emergency theatre. Every year, October-November is our peak season when we try to finish off as many surgery cases as possible as the theatre would be closed for the next few weeks,” Dr. Elizabeth pointed out.

The theatre is going in for major repair work, including civil, electrical and plumbing works. The flooring is being re-done and all the air conditioners are being overhauled. The entire theatre, including the ceiling, will be scrubbed and washed out and fungus-proof painting done. After the entire works are completed, the theatre will have to be fumigated. It can be re-opened only after the microbiology surveillance is completed and a sterile bacteria culture report is issued.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Seminar on translation starts on Saturday

   “The Veeramma Gangasiri College for Women will host a two-day University Grants Commission-sponsored national seminar on ‘Globalisation and Translation of Hindi Literature' here from January 28,” college principal C.C. Patil said here on Tuesday.

He told presspersons that the seminar would be inaugurated by Vice-Chancellor of Solapur University Iresh Sadashiv Swami.

“Experts from across the country such as G.V. Ratnakar from Hyderabad, P.D. Ghanate from Hyderabad, Damodar Kadase from Pune, Azeez Nadaf from Hyderabad and Kashinath Ambalgi will participate in the seminar,” Mr. Patil said.

The seminar has been divided into three sessions in which 21 papers will be presented on the subjects ‘Importance and Relevance of Translations', ‘Translation of Hindi Literature in the 20th Century' and ‘Advantages and Disadvantages of Translation of Hindi Literature'. He said over 150 delegates would participate.

Sensex closes above 17k-level after 10 weeks

   The Bombay Stock Exchange benchmark Sensex on Wednesday gained 81 points to close above 17,000-point level after 10 weeks on positive investor sentiment after the Reserve Bank of India shifted focus to economic growth in its policy review on Tuesday.

The Sensex added 81.41 points to close at 17,077.18, matching the highest level seen on November 14.

On similar lines, the National Stock Exchange index Nifty rose by 30.95 points to 5,158.30.

Traders said investors confidence got a boost after the RBI on Tuesday reduced the cash reserve ratio (CRR) for the first time since 2009, signalling to banks that they cut interest rates. The Sensex had gained 244 points on Tuesday as well.

Buying activity picked up also on account of investors covering their pending positions created on the last day of current month settlement in the derivatives segment.

Reliance Industries rose by 0.89 per cent to Rs. 790.10 and Infosys by 1.51 per cent to Rs. 2,659.75.

Banking sector stocks rose on expectations that the RBI move would boost revenue of lenders. HDFC jumped 1.12 per cent to Rs. 708.30 and State Bank by 0.75 per cent to Rs. 2,056.60.

The metal sector index gained the most, 1.79 per cent, followed by auto index at 1.15 per cent, IT sector index 1.06 per cent, oil and gas 0.57 per cent and banking index 0.33 per cent.

Stock markets will remain closed on Thursday on account of Republic Day.

Sharapova, Kvitova set up Australian Open semifinal

 APMaria Sharapova swept through to the final four with a straight sets win over Ekaterina Makarova. Former and reigning Wimbledon winners Maria Sharapova and Petra Kvitova will meet in the Australian Open semifinals after both won in straight sets on Wednesday.

Sharapova won 6-2, 6-3 against fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova, who knocked out five-time champion Serena Williams in the previous round. Kvitova earlier reached the semifinals at Melbourne Park for the first time with a 6-4, 6-4 win over unseeded Italian Sara Errani.

Kvitova beat Sharapova in last year’s Wimbledon final to claim her first Grand Slam title. “Obviously it was a tough one at Wimbledon,” Sharapova said. “She’s full of confidence and playing the best tennis right now. I look forward to it.”

Sharapova and Kvitova also kept alive their chances of claiming the top ranking, which Caroline Wozniacki will vacate on Monday after her quarterfinal loss to Kim Clijsters.

Sharapova must repeat her 2008 Australian title win. Kvitova only has to match or better the run of Victoria Azarenka, the only other player still in the running this week for the No. 1 spot. Sharapova has dropped one set and lost 21 games en route to her first Australian Open semifinal since she won the 2008 final the last of her three major titles.

“It’s been a long road back to this stage,” said Sharapova, who spent 10 months off court with a shoulder injury that required surgery.

Kvitova was far from her best against an opponent making her debut in a Grand Slam quarterfinal, and with a 0-24 record against top 10 players. The second-seeded Czech made 44 errors and had to come back from a break down in the second set.

“I was a little nervous because I knew that everybody expects it will be easy match,” Kvitova said. “Probably I had in my head that it’s a good draw.”

Some things never change!

The Hindu Caught in the act. Photo: C.H.. Vijaya Bhaskar Recently I read an article about how the State government has implemented an e-challan system for traffic offences and instances of corruption has become strikingly low. There was also a note that the government has approximately earned Rs. 7 crore in income in two months from driving offences. I was impressed and pleased that something good is happening.

Caught

We tend to roam around with friends hitching rides with them on their motorbikes simply because we can't afford to use another two-wheeler thanks to the rising fuel prices. It so happened one day that two of my friends and I were travelling on one bike and were caught by the traffic police. He came to us, calmly took away the bike keys and said, “Park the bike at the side of the road and come with your license.” I told my friend to take out his license, to which he shockingly replied, “I was going to apply for my LLR (Learner's Licence Rule) only tomorrow.”

We approached the police with the most innocent look on our faces. He looked pleased that we didn't have a license and used his most practised verse: “Your vehicle has been seized. Pay a fine of Rs.1500 in court and get it back.” Then commenced an hour of pleading with usual “Sorry, sir”, “We're local students”, “Please excuse us this one time” and so on... But he was unmoved.

No different

My friend suggested that we try bribing the officer. I laughed off the idea and told him that traffic police are not how they used to be and enlightened him about the new system. We tried telling the police that we're engineering students from a decent family but nothing worked. After another hour of standing helplessly looking at him, we finally resolved to call our dads. That's when the officer suddenly threw the key at us and said with irritation, “Decent family? Don't you even have 20 rupees?”

Speaker promises steps to ensure 60-day session this year

 K G Bopaiah Speaker in Legislative Assembly addressing the press conference in Bangalore on 1st, June 2011. Photo: Bhagya Prakash K The first session of the Karnataka legislature, for the current calendar year, is set to be different from the legislature sessions of the past two years, and Governor H.R. Bhardwaj, as is customary, will address a joint session on the first day, January 30.

All the four sessions of the last year did not live up to expectations in terms of debate or the passage of legislation barring the last session in December in which there was a marginally better understanding better the ruling and the Opposition parties.

It was the first session after D.V. Sadananda Gowda took charge as Chief Minister in August and consequently, a better rapport was achieved with the Opposition, given the fact that the latter had focussed attention to bring down the Government of B.S. Yeddyurappa very soon after he assumed office in May 2008.

Speaker K.G. Bopaiah told The Hindu that he will shortly be initiating steps to ensure that the legislature was convened at least for 60 days every year, as envisaged under legislation — the Karnataka Conduct of Government Business in State Legislature Bill which was passed in 2005. In 2010, the legislature was convened for a mere 31 days and it was same in 2011.

In an effort to bring about regularity in holding legislature sessions as in the case of Parliament, and to ensure that the two Houses meet for a minimum of 60 days in a year, the coalition Government headed by Dharam Singh had brought forth the law.

The then Governor T.N .Chaturvedi granted assent in 2005 and ironically to this date (after the Bill became an Act), there has not been a single year when the legislature met for the stipulated period.

As per the the law, the opening session in a year will start in the second week of January with the traditional address by the Governor, and it will be for a minimum of 15 days. The budget session of 20 days will be in the first week of March. A 15-day monsoon session will be convened in the second week of July followed by a 10-day winter session in the second week of November.

The law has been observed more in breach much to the discomfort of the Government and Mr. Bopaiah who has been seeking the cooperation of all political leaders prior to the commencement of every legislature session.

Mr. Bopaiah said: “It requires the cooperation of both the Government and the Opposition and this is lacking. Hopefully things will be better this year.”
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