April 02, 2012
Nine years after a PIL said that over five lakh people were engaged in manual scavenging across the country, the government today told the Supreme Court that a bill aimed at banning such practice will be introduced in Parliament soon.
"I have received written instructions that a bill is being introduced in Parliament in monsoon session which will take care of the entire matter," Additional Solicitor General Haren Raval told a bench headed by Chief Justice S H Kapadia. "We are committed to it (eliminating manual scavenging). Wait till monsoon session," he further said before the bench, also comprising justices A K Patnaik and Swatanter Kumar.
Vijay Mallya has been trying to rally the support of his airline's disgruntled staff by calling on them to unite around what he described as a common enemy: the media.
Read the WSJ report.
Prostitutes are being "cleaned off the streets" and brothels shut down to make London more presentable in time for the Olympics, it is claimed. Anti-poverty charity Toynbee Hall says the number of hookers arrested in the Olympic borough of Tower Hamlets this year has already exceeded the tally for all of 2011.
Read the Sun report.
Lalit Kumar Modi @LalitKModi Good to see Star Sports taking Indian Cricket Rights. This will make Indian Cricket only stronger.
Pritish Nandy @PritishNandy Murdoch must be smiling. Somewhere News Corp is doing well. Rs 3851 crore! And not yet a whiff of scandal.
A Shiv Sena legislator today moved a breach of privilege notice against Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan for "misleading" the Assembly on a housing society promoted by top bureaucrats and police officials.
The MLA, Subhash Desai, said Chavan, who heads Urban Development portfolio, had given directives to regularise the illegal constructions at Patliputra Housing Society in suburban Mumbai, even when the Speaker had withheld the
question when it came up in the House for discussion.
The issue was first discussed in the winter session of the legislature at Nagpur last year and the Speaker had withheld the question (for discussion in Budget session) on alleged illegality committed on the plot on which the housing society stands.
External Affairs Minister S M Krishna today said the government is having "second thoughts" on continuing the Haj subsidy as a number of Muslim organisations have demanded its abolition.
A large number of Muslim organisations have approached the Centre, seeking abolition of the subsidy concept for Haj, he said when asked if there are plans to provide similar package for Christian pilgrims going to the Holy Land.
"There have been second thoughts even with reference to Haj. Haj reforms are taking place and this aspect will also form part of the reforms," he said, adding the government was seriously looking into it.
"....We are eventually thinking of doing away with subsidy content. Large number of Muslim organisations want to abolish the subsidy concept for Haj," Krishna said.
The newspapers have outdone themselves with an eclectic collection of April Fools' Day japes, but were you taken in?
Susceptibility to post-traumatic stress disorder could be partially determined by gene variants, says a study. A US team looked at the DNA from 200 members of 12 families who survived the 1988 Armenian earthquake. It found those who carried two gene variants which affect the production of serotonin - which affects mood and behaviour - were more likely to display symptoms of PTSD.
More on the bbc.
Health stories coming up:
Experiencing breathing problems while sleeping? Beware, it may raise your risk of depression, a new study has suggested. And the risk of depression in women with sleep apnea -- in which breathing becomes shallow or pauses briefly during
sleep -- is more than in men with such conditions, according to the study from researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
"Snorting, gasping or stopping breathing while asleep was associated with nearly all depression symptoms, including feeling hopeless and feeling like a failure," study researcher Anne Wheaton, an epidemiologist with the CDC. It was found that women with this condition were 5.2 times as likely to have depression, while men with sleep apnea were 2.4 times as likely to have depression.
Adam Sandler's movie Jack and Jill has swept the board at the Razzie awards, which highlight the year's worst films. The comedy picked up a record 10 prizes, including worst picture.
Al Pacino, who played himself, won the worst supporting actor award. Sandler was named worst actor and actress for playing both Jack and Jill, a brother and his twin sister.
Read the bbc report.
Agent of change, a symbol of new India and many more adjectives were used when Chhavi Rajawat was elected as the first woman MBA sarpanch of the country. Two years on, the 31-year-old, who created a stir when she spoke at a UN meet on rural development in March 2011, appears to have run into old India '" of gender bias, bureaucratic indifference and political interference.
Read the report on the Hindustan Times.
The landslide opposition victory in the parliamentary elections in Myanmar could prompt a backlash against reformist President Thein Sein by military hardliners.
Analysts said the opposition's apparent victory is likely to rattle the Burmese Government, comprising former Army generals, who had hoped to control the pace of political reform. "What is important from now on is that all the parties to the reform process work closely together,' the Christian Science Monitor quoted a Western diplomat, as saying.
"The NLD should be very careful not to be arrogant or aggressive. If we are seen as a threat to the government there is a possibility that the [reform] process will slowdown or fail later on,' a former political prisoner and one-time Suu Kyi's aide Myo Nan Naung Thein warned.
Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal today described CAG draft report on allocation of coal blocks without auction as "illogical", asking by that yardstick even water used in the hydro projects should be charged.
"This is no logic. If this is accepted , then there are so many hydro projects in the country. Tell me whether usage of water was charged," Jaiswal asked.
He said the argument in the CAG draft report was "baseless", especially because when the blocks were given to the private and public sector companies for their captive usage, there was not much demand for coal.
Heads up if you're planning a Good Friday weekend in Goa
Goa's lone airport is heading for an annual maintenance closure for three days during the day time from April 5 onwards, forcing airline companies to reschedule their flights for this coastal destination. The Indian Navy, which maintains the airstrip, has announced that the airport will be closed for all civil and military flying between 7 am and 4 pm from April 5-8.
The Airports Authority of India (AAI) spokesman said that every day 25-35 flights will have to be rescheduled owing to the suspension of airstrip during the day time. The AAI has not received any intimation of cancellations from the domestic or international flights.
A Pakistani judge convicts Osama bin Laden's three widows and two daughters for illegally staying in Pakistan, an offense that carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
The three women -- identified by US and Pakistani officials as Amal Ahmed Abdul Fateh, Khairiah Sabar and Siham Sabar -- have been in Pakistani custody since US Navy SEALs raided bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad and killed the al Qaeda leader in May 2011.
Star, in collaboration with ESPNCricinfo, bagged the broadcast, internet and mobile rights in India for a period of six years starting from July 2012 till March 2018. The Rupert Murdoch-owned company's six-year contract is valued at Rs 3851 crore and will cover 96 matches in all.
It would be coughing up Rs 40 crore per match on an average much higher than the Rs 32.5 crore per match that Nimbus was paying the BCCI before its contract was terminated last year due to default in payments.
Star and Multi Screen Media (Sony) were the only two companies to make the bids but a total of five had filed the tenders.
As BCCI inkis its Rs 3851 crore telecast deal with Star, last December, the BCCI had scrapped the contract with its broadcast rights holder Nimbus for defaulting on payments and forfeited the bank guarantee amount of Rs 2,000 crore.
The decision to terminate Nimbus' contract, three years before its expiry, was taken at the BCCI's emergent working committee meeting where members were "unanimous" in scrapping the telecast deal for India's home series matches.
Even as Kingfisher Airlines staff told the management to pay their salaries by tomorrow, at least five Kingfisher flights out of Mumbai and Delhi were cancelled today as a section of staff did not report for duty to demand
immediate payment of salary and allowance backlog.
As some pilots and other staff did not report for work to press for their demands, a meeting between the protestors and the airline's top management was urgently convened at a hotel in suburban Mumbai to resolve the situation.
While flight information display boards in Delhi showed that Kingfisher's services to Dehradun, Shimla and Chandigarh were cancelled, services from Mumbai to Bhuj and Jamnagar were also cancelled, airport sources said.
Long queues were witnessed near petrol pumps throughout Goa after Manohar Parrikar government slashed the petrol prices by Rs 11 since midnight. The petrol pumps ran dry by afternoon owing to mammoth rise in customers forcing the petroleum firms to send additional tankers at various fuel stations. The situation is expected to normalise by evening.
The state government has brought down 22 per cent VAT on petrol to just 0.1 per cent pulling down the prices. A litre of petrol now costs Rs 54.96 here as against Rs 65 per litre priced till yesterday.
The Star Group wins the broadcast and digital rights of India's cricket matches at home from 2012 to 2018. Star to pay approximately Rs 40 crore per day for telecast rights or Rs Rs 3851 crore for the six-year deal. At least 96 international matches will be played during the six-year period.
While on food, here's a nice read on the Wall Street Journal.
If the scent of roasted cumin wafts over Manhattan this week, it's thanks to the Second Annual Varli Food Festival.
On April 5, the city's Metropolitan Pavilion will host over 60 Indian restaurants and 20 celebrity chefs for a gourmet carnival complete with cooking demonstrations, tastings, a silent auction and the pice de rsistance, a spice market, all in the name of delivering Indian food to the people.
This may make your heart skip a beat. Oil is seeping into Indian diets like never before. The per capita consumption of edible or vegetable oils in the country shot up from around 3kg annually in 1950 to 14.2kg during 2010-11.
Read the story on the Daily Mail.
Vijay Mallya has told Kingfisher Airlines staff that salaries will be paid -- with specifics. April 9 for engineers and pilots, April 4 for junior staff. A section of KF pilots are meeting in Delhi right now.
The Kingfisher Airlines staff has also written to the players of Royal Challengers Bangalore asking them to boycott IPL 5, so that they can get paid. RCB is a Vijay Mallya owned franchise.
When German carmaker Audi launched their the TT Coup in Mumbai last month, the company's country director revealed that in India even the horn requires special attention. "You take a European horn and it will be gone in a week or two' here, Michael Perschke, director of Audi India, said in an interview with Mint.
Read more on the WSJ.
The news that Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari will come to India this weekend is another sign the two countries are trying to improve ties. It comes after Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said last week he wouldn't rule out a trip to Pakistan. But isn't this putting the cart before the horse?
Read the report on the WSJ
Also on Firstpost.com: Ten years after announcing the project, Jindal Steel and Power is still waiting to start digging for coal to fuel its $3.1 billion steel and power complex in Orissa. The project is one of several industrial ventures mired in a bureaucratic morass that contributes to the massive power shortages plaguing India, dulling its investment appeal and slowing the growth of Asia's third largest economy.
Is Didi trying to buy herself a cultural stamp of approval? West Bengal might be cash-starved and broke andMamata might be constantly taking up the cudgels for the poor aam aadmi but as far as her budget goes, according to The Telegraph the department that has just got itself a 125% boost is the ministry of Information and Cultural Affairs.
Pakistan and China moved a notch higher than their "time-tested' and "all-weather' friendship status after Pakistan Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani declared that "China's enemy is our enemy".
"China's friend is our friend, and China's enemy is our enemy.We consider China's security as our own security,' The Express Tribune quoted Gilani, as saying in a meeting with China's Executive Vice Premier Li Keqiang at the State Guest House on the sidelines of the Boao Forum for Asia. Keqiang reciprocated Gilani's sentiments by saying: "No matter what changes take place at the international level, we will uphold Pakistan's sovereignty and territorial integrity,' he said.
"China supports Pakistan's role in regional and international affairs.' China's reiteration of support for Pakistan's territorial integrity came after US Congressman Dana Rohrabacher introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives seeking independence for the insurgency-hit Balochistan.
Former Red Guard leader Tang Dahua says memories of the fanatical bloodshed that tore apart the southwestern Chinese city of Chongqing return to him with startling clarity.
Read the reuters report.
The story that is doing the rounds on news channels: A three-year-old girl
today died at a hospital in Murshidabad district after being admitted for fever, with the parents alleging medical negligence, police said.
Tanuja Khatun was treated at the Aamtala Hospital yesterday for a boil on her leg but was not admitted as the doctors claimed there was no need for it, hospital sources said. Later in the day, the girl developed high fever following which she was admitted to the hospital where she died.
Denying that there was any medical negligence from the part of the hospital, Chief Medical Officer (Health) Shahjahan Shiraj said the girl died after she was referred to the medical hospital in Berhampore. Her parents alleged that the authorities at the hospital were negligent in not admitting their daughter when
she was first taken there.
Saikat Datta's column for the DNA on why it is important for the media to accept leaks on national security issues.
North Korea has reduced the minimum height requirement for military conscripts because the current generation facing call-up was stunted by a deadly 1990s famine, a report said today. Daily NK, a Seoul-based online newspaper run by North Korean defectors, said the military has cut the minimum height to 142 centimetres from 145 cm.
All able-bodied North Korean males aged 16-17 must begin mandatory service that lasts about a decade. Women deemed fit must also serve for a shorter period in the 1.2 million-strong military, the world's fourth largest.
"There were too many short boys who don't meet the previous height requirement... so the military is now accepting all who are taller than 142 cm," said a North Korean source quoted by Daily NK. The average height for South Korean boys of the same age is about 172 cm.
Cambodia is hosting the two-day summit of leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations starting tomorrow.
A rocket launch planned by North Korea and long-broiling disputes over the South China Sea are expected to dominate Southeast Asia's annual diplomatic summit this week, while elections in long-repressed Myanmar have helped turn a perennial troublemaker into a bright spot.
The stated focus is on turning the 10 disparate nations and their combined population of 600 million into a European Union-like community by 2015, but many other issues will be discussed on the sidelines.
North Korea is not a member of the group, but ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan said he expected some leaders to voice alarm over Pyongyang's plan to fire a long-range rocket this month.
On March 21, Shaima Alawadi, a 32-year-old Iraqi Muslim and mother of five, was found brutally beaten at her home in El Cajon, a community just east of San Diego that is home to more than 50,000 Iraqi immigrants. A note left next to her read, "go back to your country you terrorist.'
Alawadi, who died at a local hospital three days later, was found by her 17-year-old daughter, who told reporters last week that her mother had been beaten on the head repeatedly with a tire iron. She also said her mother had dismissed a previous threatening note found outside the house, thinking it was a child's prank.
More on the Daily Beast.
Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa writes to PM asking him to keep the National Counter Terrorism Centre in abeyance and convene a separate meeting of CMs on the issue.
Home Minister P Chidambaram on Saturday indicated that the annual meeting of chief ministers on April 16 may be extended to discuss setting up of a NCTC and welcomed debate on the issue.
"I am glad that there will be a debate and I sincerely hope that it will be a debate based on the Constitution, laws in force and the very healthy convention that has been built over the last 65 years," Chidambaram told reporters after presenting his ministry's monthly report.
Let me begin by greeting all officers and men of the Special Protection Group on the auspicious occasion of its 27th Raising Day. I congratulate all those who have won medals and trophies for outstanding performance.
While on the Army Chief, former national security advisor Brajesh Mishra said on Saturday that General VK Singh who currently embroiled in a bribery scam is the worst Army Chief so far and is a failure. Speaking with Karan Thapar on Devil's Advocate, Mishra said the Army Chief has come across as weak.
All three service chiefs will meet defence minister AK Antony over the shortcomings of defence preparedness as suggested by Army chief VK Singh's letter to PM Dr Manmohan Singh. The discussion will have proposals for the army, navy, air force and coast guard.
Army Chief General VK Singh had raised the sorry state of infrastructure in the armed forces in the country in a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh dated March 12. General Singh had written that the Army's tank regiments lack ammunition to defeat the enemy, the air defence is almost obsolete and the infantry is falling short of critical weapons.
Aung San Suu Kyi today claimed victory in Myanmar's historic by-election, saying she hoped it will mark the beginning of a new era for the long-repressed
country. Suu Kyi spoke to thousands of cheering supporters who gathered outside her opposition party headquarters a day after her party claimed she had won a parliamentary seat in the closely watched vote.
"The success we are having is the success of the people," Suu Kyi said. "It is not so much our triumph as a triumph of the people who have decided that they have to be involved in the political process in this country."
"We hope this will be the beginning of a new era," she said, as supporters chanted her name and thrust their hands into the air to flash "V" for victory signs.
The election sets the stage for the former political prisoner to take public office for the first time and lead a small bloc of opposition lawmakers in Myanmar's
Official results are expected within the next few days. If confirmed, the victory would mark a major milestone in the Southeast Asian nation that is emerging from a ruthless era of military rule and also an astonishing reversal of fortune for a woman who became one of the world's most prominent prisoners of conscience.
As one country celebrates the tentative return of democracy, here's news of another country which gave way to dictatorship.
Maldives former president Mohamed Nasheed says dictatorship is coming back to the Maldives and democracy is slipping away. Busy campaigning to reduce global carbon emissions and counter the climate change that would drown his country, he makes his point in an interview with the Guardian. Read
If you're headed to Kolkata, read this.
By innovative fusing of chocolates with 'desi' sweets, some of the top retailers in the city have now created more than 80 types of new mouth-watering delicacies. Cadbury Kraft Foods, one of the largest sellers of chocolates in the country, have partnered with top nine sweet retailers in the city to create recipes. As a result, popular sweet chains such as Bhim Chandra Nag, KC Das, Hindusthan Sweets, Ganguram Sweets and Gupta Brothers have created their own special 'Cadbury Mishti (sweet)' using the chocolate as one of the key ingredients. Since the campaign began last month, sweet-toothed Kolkatans have been gorging on latest varieties of sweets like 'Choco Twister', 'Choco Kumbha', 'Choco Riceball', 'Choco Fusion', 'Kolaberi Di' and 'Choco Mudpie'.
And it's Kolaberi Di, not Kolaveri. Just as it's Bidya not Vidya.
Aung San Suu Kyi has won a landmark election, now she faces the challenge of persuading the army to withdraw from politics.
Can she, can't she? Read
The Kingfisher Airlines staff has written to the players of Royal Challengers Bangalore asking them to boycott IPL 5, so that they can get paid. RCB is a Vijay Mallya owned franchise.
Meanwhile, Mallya, has told Kingfisher Airlines staff that salaries will be paid -- with specifics. April 9 for engineers and pilots, April 4 for junior staff. A section of KF pilots are meeting in Delhi right now.
Manohar Parrikar, Goa's new chief minister seems to be a man in a hurry. After assuming office last month, Parrikar has first reduced the price of petrol in the state by Rs 11 and now, has decided to go ahead with its proposed Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS), a specialised unit conceived to combat any possible
terrorist attack in the coastal state.
Parrikar, emerging from the first ever high level meeting of the police department in Panaji, said the ATS is very much on cards as it is the requirement of modern day policing.
"This is a specialised cell which is required for the state. We should have cells like ATS and Coastal Security Police, which are specially made to deter terrorists," Parrikar told reporters yesterday.
In India, apparently upset over the critical comments on state Lokayukta bill, Himachal Pradesh government today cancelled a meeting with Team Anna member Arvind Kejriwal, who attacked BJP saying it appeared the saffron
party and Congress were on the same page on the legislation.
Kejriwal described the Himachal's Lokayukta bill as "very weak and ineffective" and also asked whether BJP was disowning the "strong" law passed by a BJP-led government in Uttarakhand earlier this year by bringing such a bill in the state.
"The Bill is very weak, ineffective and seeks to provide illegitimate protection to corrupt people rather than punish them. Rather than adopt the strong model of Uttarkhand, Himachal government has adopted many of the controversial provisions of central government. This is unfortunate. "Does it mean that BJP disowns its own Uttarakhand Bill? Does it also mean BJP and Congress are on same page on some of the controversial provisions of central bill?" Kejriwal said.
Supporters claim the Burmese opposition icon swept 90 percent of the votes in her parliamentary race and her party won 40 seats. Now, says her biographer Peter Popham, comes the next challenge: what she should try to change first,
Myanmar: Suu Kyi party claims victory on 43 out of 44 seats (Hindustan Times)
The party of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi won Myanmar's weekend by-elections by a landslide, claiming all but one of the vacant seats and clearing the way for the former political prisoner to enter parliament in a historic vote that could lead the West to end sanctions. Read
CBI likely to quiz Vectra group chief Ravi Rishi today (Hindustan Times)
The London-based Non-Resident Indian businessman Ravi Rishi is an accused in a case involving alleged irregularities in the purchase of more than 6,000 Tatra trucks for the Indian Army after 1997. Read
CBI issues lookout notice against Ravi Rishi (The Hindu)
The CBI on Sunday issued a restraint order to prevent Ravi Rishi, a London-based NRI businessman and accused in a case of alleged irregularities in the purchase of Tatra trucks for the Army, from leaving the country. Read
Plane carrying 43 people crashes in Siberia (The Hindu)
"The plane took off from Roschino airport, near Tyumen, towards Surgut (also in Siberia). According to preliminary information there were 39 passengers and four crew members aboard. Read
India sends envoy to South Sudan to tap energy resources (The Times of India)
India has appointed a special envoy to broker peace between Sudan and South Sudan that hold key to India's pursuit of oil and other hydrocarbon resources in Africa. Read