April 25, 2012
Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh today attacked the media for reporting that he had offered to quit the government and work for the party, calling it "juvenile" and refusing to answer any political questions. "No political questions...the most juvenile media, I have ever come across," a visibly angry Ramesh told reporters at the beginning of a press conference convened to release the Wasteland Atlas of India here.
Media was abuzz yesterday with reports that at least four ministers -- Ramesh, Salman Khurshid, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Vayalar Ravi -- had written to Congress President Sonia Gandhi informing her of their intention to quit the government and work for the organisation.
Dismissing media reports suggesting that he had written such a letter, he said these are "not worth commenting on".Congress also rejected reports that some of its ministers had offered to quit their posts and work for the party.Minister for Overseas Affairs Vayalar Ravi also denied having written any such letter.
Democrat Jon Lovitz recently ripped President Obama's take on taxing the rich. The former 'Saturday Night Live' star skewered the commander-in-chief during a recorded comedy show, calling Obama a 'f***ing a**hole'.
"The whole thing with Obama saying the rich don't pay their taxes is f---ing bull----,' Lovitz said on his podcast, "The ABC's of SNL,' which was released on Sunday. Lovitz insisted that he was especially disheartened because he voted for Obama in 2008.
The Ministry of Home Affairs on Wednesday informed that no damage has occurred in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands which experienced moderate intensity tremors earlier today.
The island territory experienced tremors of magnitude 4.2 to 5.8 on Richter scale at around 1 pm. The situation in all the islands had been checked and was found to be normal and there have been no reports of damage of any kind.
The state control room and the emergency operation centres are operating round the clock and the situation is being monitored. Based on earthquake and tsunami data, no tsunami threat has been recorded for India following the earthquake.
Also read: Indonesia lifts tsunami alert after 8.6-magnitude earthquake
Global banking major Citigroup has stuck the biggest property deal in recent years in the country by paying a hefty Rs 985 crore for six floors in the
upcoming First International Financial Centre (FIFC) Tower at the coveted Bandra-Kurla Complex, to house its country headquarters.
Two Citigroup entities -- Citibank NA and Citigroup Global Markets -- signed the deal to acquire 2,97,000 sqft space which is six full floors of the 12-story FIFC at BKC for a total consideration of Rs 985 crore.
Law Minister Salman Khurshid said the Bofors case is closed and there is no need to reopen it. The Law Minister also sought a public apology from allthose making wild allegations against Gandhi for the past many years and tarnishing his image and hurting his family members.
"There was a detailed investigation and there were Supreme Court and High Court proceedings that took place and the decision that came endorsed those proceedings. "I don't think we can continue to reopen these issues...We don't want a new chapter to be opened. The final decision of the Supreme Court should not be reopened," Khurshid said.
Scotland Yard is calling for the investigation into Madeleine McCann's disappearance to be reopened, as detectives revealed there is evidence to suggest she might be alive. Senior detectives within the Metropolitan police have been reviewing the Portuguese inquiry into the girl's disappearance for a year.
Read the report on the Guardian.
Social activist Anna Hazare will meet top Maharashtra leaders here tomorrow in a bid to garner support for a strong Lokayukta legislation in the state. Hazare is slated to meet Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar tomorrow morning.
He is also expected to meet Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray. "Anna's two-day schedule in Mumbai is packed with meetings on Lokayukta issue with those who matter in state politics," Hazare's aide Datta Awari said.
The Gandhian will also meet Home Minister R R Patil and the leader of opposition in Legislative Council Vinod Tawde, Awari said. The anti-graft crusader, who arrived in Mumbai this evening, is scheduled to meet Republican Party of India (RPI) leader Ramdas Athawale later today at the latter's residence in suburban Bandra.
Leading private sector lender ICICI Bank's stake in the troubled air carrier Kingfisher Airlines has come down sharply to 2.9 per cent, from more than
five per cent at the end of 2011. As per the latest shareholding pattern filed by
Kingfisher with the stock exchanges today, ICICI Bank held about 1.67 crore shares, accounting for a 2.9 per cent stake, in the airline as on March 31, 2012.
In contrast, ICICI Bank held 2.63 crore shares, or 5.3 per cent stake, in Kingfisher as on December 31, 2011. While the details of sale of shares by ICICI Bank could not be ascertained, the latest list of Kingfisher shareholders
includes two new entities -- LKB Finance (1.38 per cent) and SHCIL Services Ltd (1.04 per cent).
There were about 1,700 calls exchanged between stock broker Gautam Vora who was arrested on Monday for allegedly giving shelter to gangster Vijay Palande and Palande's wife Simran Sood, police said.
Read the Mid Day story for all the smut and more.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon would be on a four day official visit to India from 26-29 April. Moon, who will be visiting Delhi and Mumbai in the course of his visit, will be accompanied by his wife, Ban Soon-taek and a high-level delegation.
During the Delhi leg of his visit the Secretary General will be hosted by External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna. He is also scheduled to meet Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar, Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and will be calling on the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh.
Mediator BD Sharma who went to deliver medicines for the critically ill Sukma district collector Alex Paul Menon yesterday, is back and says the Maoists want combing operations to stop and police forces withdrawn. He says the abductors gave him some papers yesterday to be given to the government. Sharma says he is set to go to Raipur for another round of talks with the Maoists tomorrow.
Meanwhile, BJD MLA Jhina Hikaka is expected to be released at 10 am tomorrow. It comes with a rider, however, as the Naxals want him to quit as MLA after he is released.
The whistleblower who exposed the Bofors scandal in the late 1980s, publicly revealing his identity for the first time, said there is no evidence to suggest then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi received a bribe to facilitate the arms deal.
Read the report on the Wall Street Journal.
Interestingly, over 86% who took the poll on the WSJ believe RG is not in the clear.
Expressing delight over the final exoneration of Amitabh Bachchan's name in the Bofors Gun case, his wife and Samajwadi Party (SP) lawmaker Jaya Bachchan on Wednesday said the truth had finally come out in the open.
"Whatever news that you have published today we knew all that 25 years ago, but justice takes its own time, and god has its own time to reveal the truth, and today, the truth has come out before everyone, what else do we want," she said.
In an interview that appears on the website hoot.org, former Swedish police chief Sten Lindstrom has owned up to being the person (Sweden's Deep Throat) who leaked over 350 documents to Indian journalist Chitra Subramanian, who broke the story.
Just as we gave you the Firstpost story on the life that awaits the Bhattacharya kids, their mother, Sagarika, who arrived in India after a Norwegian court granted their custody to their uncle, today posted a message on Facebook saying 'give them a big hug from me'.
"I don't know how my children are, but always pray to God they should be well in future," she said about her three-year-old son Abhigyan and one-year-old daughter Aishwarya who arrived in Delhi from Norway yesterday ending a
prolonged custody row in Norway.
"Children are most valuable things in my life. I will dedicate my whole life for them," said the mother who had earlier stayed with her parents at Birati in North 24 Parganas district after arriving alone from Norway a month ago, before
leaving for a place not disclosed by her parents.
"I always keep silent for greater cause, because I am an Indian mother. Me and my parents were fighting since last one year and we started fight again after 23rd March....," she said.
She conveyed her best regards to the Indian government, Indian people, politicians, media, Norwegian people, human rights "who helped me a lot."
The custody of the toddlers were given by the Norwegian court to their paternal uncle Arunabhash Bhattacharya. Her husband, Anurup Bhattacharya, is working as a geoscientist in Norway.
Bo Xilai's's wife Gu Kailai, accused of murdering the British businessman Neil Heywood, confessed to police that she was in the room when he was poisoned, according to an account given to American diplomats.
Read the report on the Telegraph.
It may not be low in calories, but eating pizza could actually be good for you -- only if you add oregano to it, for a study by an Indian-origin researcher saysthe seasoning is a powerful weapon against prostate cancer.
Supriya Bavadekar and colleagues at Long Island University have found that oregano, a seasoning commonly used in pizza and other Italian food, has the potential to become apowerful weapon against prostate cancer.
They studied carvacrol, a chemical in oregano. Added to prostate cancer cells in the lab, it rapidly wiped them out.Left for four days, almost all the cells were killed, the 'Daily Mail' reported.
Tests showed it triggered the cells to kill themselves. The oregano chemical could now be used itself as a treatment against cancer, or as the blueprint for an even more powerful drug, say the researchers.
India should prevail upon the UN for carving out a separate Tamil Eelam from Sinhala-dominated Sri Lanka as the "tyranny" in the Tamil areas was continuing,DMK said in the Lok Sabha today.
Raising the issue during Zero Hour, party leader T R Baalu said armymen were roaming around Tamil habitats in Sri Lanka and "thousands of people have been kept behind barbed wire fences". He said "tyranny is going on, it is continuing. Indo-Sri Lankan accord is not being ratified and 13th Amendment (devolution of powers to ethnic Tamils) is not being implemented".
Terming Standard and Poor's decision to lower India's credit rating outlook to negative as a "timely warning", Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee today
said there is no need to panic as the government is committed to economic reforms.
"I am concerned, but I don't feel panicky because I am confident that our economy will grow at 7 per cent, around 7 per cent if not plus. We will be able to control fiscal deficit and it will be around 5.1 per cent", he said.
The minister, however, said that government will take note of the S&P's decision to lower India's rating outlook to BBB- (the lowest investment grade rating) and work for achieving higher economic growth.
The Delhi High Court today dismissed a plea for a probe by the Bar Council of Delhi into the alleged CD row, purportedly involving senior advocate
and Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi.
"The petition is dismissed. The lawyer's body are not empowered to take action against an employee of an advocate," a bench headed by Acting Chief Justice A K Sikri said.
The court's order came on a plea by a social worker, Sanjay Kumar, seeking an inqury into the CD row allegedly pertaining to Singhvi and a noted woman lawyer of the Delhi High Court.
"Everybody on the street is saying what is happening in the high court. Just to save the image of lawyer's community, an inquiry be ordered," said the petitioner's counsel Sugriv Dubey. "Every employee of a lawyer... has to protect the privacy of an individual and in the preset case it was the duty of the person (Singhvi's driver) not to attack the individual's privacy," the PIL said. Refusing to entertain the plea, the bench said "such things cannot be a subject matter of a public interest litigation."
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has made it clear to President Asif Ali Zardari that firm action needed to be taken against anti-India terrorism emanating from
Pakistan to allow forward movement in the bilateral relationship, Parliament was informed today.
Making a suo motu statement in the Lok Sabha on Zardari's visit and his meeting with Singh here on April 8, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna said it was underlined that India's concerns on terrorism had to be addressed if the people of the country are to support and sustain progress in bilateral relations.
In this context, Singh referred to public activities of Lashkar-e Taiba founder Hafiz Saeed and Zardari said the matter needed to be discussed further, Krishna said.
Erasing initial gains, the BSE Sensex fell 188 points at midsession today, due to profit booking sparked off by reports of Standard & Poor's downgrading India's rating outlook to negative.
The Sensex, which had climbed to 17,249.61 at the outset, fell back to trade lower by 188.05 points to 17,019.24 at 1300 hrs, following steep fall in stocks of realty and IT sectors.
Similarly, National Stock Exchange index Nifty lost 62 points to 5,160.65. Selling pressure emerged as S&P cut the country rating outlook to negative from stable.
It also warned of a downgrade in two years if there is no improvement in the fiscal situation and the political climate continues to worsen. The lowering of outlook from stable (BBB+) to negative (BBB-) is expected to make external commercial borrowings expensive for Indian Inc.
Special forces from Burkina Faso have swept into rebel-held northern Mali aboard a helicopter and whisked a Swiss hostage to safety in a pre-arranged handover by Islamist rebels.
Beatrice Stockly, her face clear of the black turban the rebels had her wear, appeared tired but in high spirits on the helicopter flying her to Ouagadougou after the rebel group Ansar Dine handed her over in Timbuktu yesterday. "I am offering you freedom chocolates," she told the officials, security personnel and an AFP journalist on the helicopter, after fumbling through her leather satchel and, with a beaming smile, producing a chocolate.
Defence Minister A K Antony today said he would "seriously" pursue the inquiry into allegations of corruption in the purchase of 12 VVIP helicopters by India.
"I have not seen the (news) report. I can assure you I will seriously pursue the inquiry," Antony told reporters outside Parliament House when asked about the allegations of corruption in the helicopter purchase deal. "When previously the reports appeared, I asked the Defence Secretary to immediately inquire into it. He wrote to the Indian Ambassador in Italy and he got the report," Antony said.
According to the reports, Italy is investigating allegations that helicopter manufacturer Augusta Westland paid a commission of over Rs 350 crore to a Switzerland-based consultant for a deal to sell 12 VVIP choppers to India. "If there is any mischief anywhere, I will take sternest action and I will seriously pursue the case," Antony said.
The arrest of Gautam Vora has left Mumbai's social circles shocked, but he is reportedly firm that he did not help gangster and murderer Palande in trying to escape from the police.
In his defence, the hotshot stockbroker said he was there to help a man he knew as Karan, brother of his 'close friend' and model Simran Sood. Vora told the Mumbai crime branch that Simran had called him up seeking help for her 'brother in trouble'.
Read more on the Daily Mail
Here's what the Daily Mail has on the reshuffle rumour in the Congress party as four ministers allegedly met party president Sonia Gandhi offering to quit their posts and work for the party instead.
Anders Behring Breivik is expected to return to the stand in his Oslo trial to argue that he is sane and should not be committed to a mental institution. Breivik has admitted killing 77 people in two attacks last July but denies criminal responsibility.
More on the BBC.
Just in: Global agency Standard & Poor's cuts India's rating outlook to negative from stable. S&P threatens to downgrade India's rating in next 2 yearsif fiscal situation does not improve. tating that India's investment and economic growth have slowed, Standard & Poor's revised its outlook for the Indian economy to negative and gave it a rating of BBB(-) affirmed from stable.
India was earlier rated at BBB levels by the agency. There is a one in three chance of a downgrade to India's credit rating if external conditions continue to deteriorate, the ratings agency said in a statement. More on the ET.
Russia today said the reactors at the Kudankulam Nuclear Plant are the "best" in the world and expressed the hope that the plant would start generating power soon. Russian Ambassador to India Alexander M Kadakin said once the Kudankulam Plant starts generating electricity, it would help reduce the energy deficit in southern parts of the country.
The first plant is expected to generate 2,000 MW of electricity out of which 1,000 MW will be given to Tamil Nadu, where the plant is located. The state is facing acute power shortage for the past one year.
"We are glad that the work has resumed and it would be ready (in sometime). We want this to function and to give much needed electricity to the South," Kadakin told PTI on the sidelines of a private function.
State Bank of India can look forward to crossing the border 47 years after it had to shut its branches in Karachi and Lahore in the wake of the India-Pakistan war. The troubled neighbours are set to allow banks from both sides to open branches in each other's territory amid a renewed attempt at reviving relations.
The two central banks - Reserve Bank of India and State Bank of Pakistan - are readying to invite applications from interested commercial banks, following a meeting of their officials earlier this month when they sorted out most prickly issues.
More on the Economic Times.
As India celebrated Akshaya Tritiya on Tuesday, a festival associated with mass weddings, many activists renewed their calls against child marriage. "Raise your voice against child marriage on #AkshayTritiya, an auspicious day for Hindu marriage in India,' UNICEF India said on Twitter.
Swedish 'Deep Throat' Sten Lindstrom, who identified himself as the whistleblower in the Bofors case after 25 years, had sought permission from the Indian Government to question Congress President Sonia Gandhi but was not allowed to, Janata Party President Subramnian Swamy said today.
Read more on Firstpost.com
More than a billion people around the world could face starvation if a nuclear war breaks out between India and Pakistan, according to a new report which said the "nuclear famine" will be an "unprecedented" disaster that would bring an end to modern civilisation.
And quite obvioulsy, the BJP Parliamentary Party today decided to rake up the Bofors pay-offs issue in Parliament in wake of fresh allegations that the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi may have soft-pedalled the probe to protect Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi.
Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley spoke during the Parliamentary Party meeting about the allegations related to the Bofors scam made by former Swedish Police chief Sten Lindstrom in an interview.
"The entire government of India at that point in time was out to save Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi, including then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi," BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said.
Swedish Deep Throat Sten Lindstrom, who identified himself as the whistleblower in the Bofors case after 25 years, had sought permission from the Indian Government to question Congress President Sonia Gandhi but was not allowed to, Janata Party President Subramnian Swamy said today.
More on Firstpost.com
In other news: The son of disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai has defended his lifestyle in an open letter to his university. In the letter to the Harvard Crimson, Bo Guagua said he was "deeply concerned" about his family. He denied he was a bad student, citing his grades, and set out how his education had been funded.
Read the story on the bbc.
More on the big story of the day -- the Bofors scam 25 years later. Read Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay's column for the Asiancorrespondent.com.
Exactly a quarter of a century ago, India stepped into a transitional phase of politics when Swedish Radio on April 16, 1987 broadcast a story alleging that kickbacks had been paid to secure the contract for 155mm field howitzers for the Indian armed forces. The story fuelled the nascent campaign against the Rajiv Gandhi regime and by end of the year it was evident that the Congress party was fighting a losing battle.
Railway Minister Mukul Roy and five other newly elected members of Rajya Sabha today took oath. Roy, a senior Trinamool Congress leader who was last month re-elected to the Upper House from West Bengal, took oath in Bengali. Members greeted Roy by thumping their desks when his came
was called for taking oath. After the oath, he greeted Chairman Hamid Ansari and leaders of various political parties.
His party colleague Mohammad Nadimul Haq swore in the name of Allah when he took oath in Urdu. Also from West Bengal, Kunal Ghosh and Vivek Gupta (both Trinamool) took oath in Bengali.
In other news, a US lawmaker has asked the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, to reconsider the government's decision against issuing a diplomatic visa to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, drawing strong reactions from the Indian American Muslim community here.
Congressman Joe Walsh, a right wing conservative Republican and a tea party favourite has written a letter to Clinton, requesting her to consider granting a diplomatic visa to Modi.
The letter attracted strong reaction from the Indian American Muslim community who yesterday demanded that the State Department should not change its 2005 policy on Modi's visa.
Another piece of news doing the rounds is former Deputy General of Police (DGP) of Haryana, SPS Rathore, who was found guilty of molesting teenager Ruchika Girhotra in 1990, is back in the limelight; this time for his lavish lifestyle. Rathore now owns new Mercedes with number plate 0001.
His wife Abha Rathore had won an auction for the fancy number CH 01 AM 0001 and paid over Rs. 9 lakh, the highest bid for any number.
Read the report on NDTV.com
This is what the comedian Bill Maher says on the Agni-V
@billmaher Shit, India tested a missile that cld hit China. In a dangerous arms race between the guys at the high school reunion whose names u forgot
In an exclusive interview, former Swedish Police chief Sten Lindstrom has owned up being the 'Swedish Deep Throat' in the illegal payoffs case that once rocked both India and Sweden.
Now a quarter of a century later, investigations lie buried, despite coming tantalizingly close to blowing the lid off the sensational scandal.Lindstrom says in an interview to the journalist who had broken the story, Chitra Subramanian, that there was no evidence to suggest that former PM Rajiv Gandhi had taken bribe in the Bofors deal.
However, he did not seem to have done much to prevent the cover up that followed in both India and Sweden to protect the main accused, Ottavio Quattrocchi, against whom, says Lindstrom, there was conclusive evidence.Lindstrom has revealed that he was the person who leaked over 350 documents to the Indian journalist. He was the journalist's secret informant who operated under the pseudonym of Swedish Deep Throat.
More on the Hoot
Former Swedish Police chief Sten Lindstrom has finally revealed his identity after almost 25 years of the Bofors scam that involved illegal payoffs and had rocked both India and Sweden in the late 1980.Breaking his silence, Lindstrom who had operated under the pseudonym Swedish Deep Throat said that there was no evidence to show that former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi had taken a bribe in the Bofors-India gun deal.
More on the Hindustan Times
Naxals to release BJD MLA Jhina Hikaka tomorrow (Hindustan Times)
The Naxals today have agreed to release abducted BJD MLA Jhina Hikaka on Thursday at 10 am in Koraput, Orissa. The decision of his release was taken in the 'peoples' court. Read
Collector ill, talks yet to take off (Hindustan Times)
The Chhattisgarh government is desperately banking on the state-appointed mediators and the Maoist abductors to secure the release of Sukma DC whose critical health condition prompted the authorities to rush medicines for him on Tuesday. Read
Reshuffle likely after budget session (The Hindu)
A major reshuffle in the UPA government and the Congress is expected after the budget session of Parliament ends on May 24, which will coincide with UPA-II's third anniversary on May 2. Read
Presidential poll: SP tests the waters with Mulayam name (Indian Express)
Yadav has distanced himself from party colleague's comments favouring A P J Abdul Kalam. Read
No proof of Rajiv Gandhi taking bribe: Bofors whistleblower (The Times of India)
The whistleblower in the Bofors case, former Swedish Police chief Sten Lindstrom has owned up being the Swedish Deep Throat in the illegal payoffs case. Read