23:23 IAS officer arrested by CBI in NRHM scam:
Senior IAS officer Pradeep Shukla was today arrested by CBI for alleged bungling in upgradation of 89 district hospitals under National Rural Health Mission programme causing a loss of nearly Rs 22.5 crore to the exchequer.
Evading questioning for long after former UP Family Welfare Minister Babu Singh Kushwaha's arrest, the 1981-batch IAS officer of Uttar Pradesh cadre was detained while on his way to the airport, official sources said. 55-year-old Shukla was named in the first case registered in NRHM scam in which it was alleged that officials of Uttar Pradesh Health Department entered into criminal conspiracy with officers of UP Processing and Construction Cooperative Federation Ltd. (PACCFED) and Directors of three private firms based at Moradabad and Gajraula (all of UP).
The allegations pertained to awarding of contract of upgradation of 89 district-level hospitals involving Rs 89 crore. The estimated loss to government exchequer was put at around Rs 25 lakh per hospital, thereby resulting in loss of Rs 22.5 crore. Shukla was produced before a CBI court in Ghaziabad which remanded him to CBI's custody till May 17.
The advocate, appearing for CBI, had sought 14-day custody to gather evidence against him in the case. Shukla, who was Principal Secretary Family Welfare in the state government during the tenure of Kushwaha, has been named in two other cases registered by CBI while probing alleged irregularities in central funds meant for NRHM.
23:06 Parl to have special sitting on Sunday to mark 60 years:
Both Houses of Parliament will mark the 60th anniversary of their first sitting by holding a special sittings on Sunday. The Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha will meet at 11 AM on Sunday (May 13) to discuss 'The Journey of 60 years of Indian Parliament'.
A function will be held in the Central Hall of Parliament House at 5.30 pm when President Pratibha Patil will address the members of the two Houses. Vice President and Chairman of Rajya Sabha Mohd Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar will also address the joint sitting.
Two living members of the first Lok Sabha Reishang Keishing and Resham Lal Jangde will be felicitated on the ocassion.
22:43 EU official urges leaders to follow Obama on gay marriage:
More European leaders should take inspiration from US President Barack Obama and back gay marriage, the European Union's home affairs commissioner said today. Cecilia Malmstroem praised Obama on Twitter after the US leader's "important statement" in favour of same-sex marriage.
Asked by AFP whether EU leaders should follow Obama's example, she wrote on the micro-blogging website: "Definitely, I believe that a couple who is in love should be able to marry all over Europe, no matter if they're straight or gay." "Obama is showing strong leadership on this issue," she added.
Same-sex marriage is legal in five of the EU's 27 nations: Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Sweden and the Netherlands, which was the first country in the world to legalise gay weddings 11 years ago.
22:41 Prez polls discussions are in early stage: Patnaik:
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik today said discussions over the issue of the Presidential candidate are still in the early stage and there is lot more time left to take a decision.
"At the moment, we are still in discussions with MPs, MLAs and important persons, as this is a very important national decision," he told reporters here when asked about his party Biju Janata Dal's stand on the Presidential polls. Noting that the discussions were still in the early stage, Patnaik, who is on a two-day visit to the city, said, "There is lot more time for that (deciding the party's stand)."
Replying to a query on the proposed National Counter Terrorism Centre over which non-Congress Chief Ministers are locked in a row with the Centre, he said, "I feel the NCTC rules in the present form are unacceptable...also the Union Home Ministry should have informed about this to the states before."
22:07 India-Pak to hold Siachen talks on June 11-12 :
India, Pakistan to hold talks on Siachen issue in Islamabad on June 11-12, says Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman.
India had earlier made it clear that it would insist on proper authentication by Pakistan of the troop positions in Siachen before any disengagement is undertaken and cautioned against expecting any "dramatic result from the next round of talks.
On Tuesday, Defence Minister A K Antony asserted in the Rajya Sabha that India stood by its stand on authentication and had neither hardened or softened the position.
Siachen, the world's highest militarised zone, has been a long-pending dispute between India and Pakistan as the border is not clearly demarcated in the glaciated region.
21:21 Akhilesh transfers cops for 'unacceptable' remarks:
The Uttar Pradesh government today transferred two senior policemen -- Saharanpur's Deputy Inspector General of Police Satish Kumar Mathur and a superintendent of police of Sant Nagar district -- who allegedly made extremely callous remarks about missing girls in separate incidents.
A video clip from Prabudha Nagar in Western UP, purportedly showed Mathur, telling the father of a missing girl that had she been his daughter, he "would have killed her and committed suicide," suggesting that if she had eloped, the girl had brought immeasurable shame to her family.
In eastern UP, the SP of Sant Nagar district reportedly said at a law and order review meeting on Tuesday that he was fed up of cases that involved missing girls.
20:42 DGCA grounds Madhya Pradesh govt planes:
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation has grounded an entire fleet of Madhya Pradesh government planes. No records were kept of crew and validity of aircraft maintenance, said the DGCA.
The regulatory body conducted a safety audit of MP air fleet yesterday.
The DGCA action comes a day after Jharkhand Chief Minister Arjun Minda had a close shave yesterday after his chopper crash landed at Ranchi airport. Munda is recovering well but continues to be in hospital, his aides said on Thursday, a day after he survived with multiple injuries.
20:13 Maharashtra seeks Aamir's help to save girl child:
The Maharashtra government has sought the support of Bollywood star Aamir Khan in its campaign against female foeticide, a day after the actor had taken up the issue with Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot.
In a letter to Khan, state Health Minister Suresh Shetty, while highlighting the steps taken by the government in this regard, congratulated him on raising the issue of female foeticide in his TV reality show Satyamev Jayate.
The programme (Satyamev Jayate) on female foeticide has been able to generate an overwhelming response from all sections of society and will go a long way in complimenting the state government's efforts to address the issue, he said in the letter
20:04 Delhi sizzles on hottest day!:
Delhiites on Thursdat experienced the hottest day of this summer with the mercury soaring to 42.6 degree Celsius.
But they can expect some relief on Friday as the city is likely to see rains or thundershowers.
Today's maximum was three degrees above normal for this season and up from Wednesday's 40.8 degree Celsius. For the past couple of days, the mercury has been on an upward swing.
The minimum temperature showed a decline to 27.4 degree Celsius, two degrees above normal, from 28.4 degrees.
Hot winds blew through the day and the mercury was at its peak, making life tough for Delhiites.
20:03 Temple trusts will get weapons license:
In the wake of the theft of an idol from Dive Agar in Maharashtra, Home Minister R R Patil today said the government would provide temple trusts the license for possessing weapons.
"Government provides security to some important temples. Some of these are under threat from terrorists and dacoits," Patil said.
"If temple trusts want to be provided with a license for possessing weapons, then the government will allow them," he said.
18:52 The great Lokpal debate: Govt may nix Lokayukta:
In a bid to evolve consensus on the Lokpal Bill before it was brought to the Rajya Sabha, the government today reached out to the Opposition and other parties to thrash out differences and ensure the proposed legislation is smoothly passed.
Union Ministers Kapil Sibal, Salman Kurshid, Pawan Kumar Bansal and V Narayansamy met Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley in Parliament House to discuss the Lokpal Bill.
Subramaniam Swamy's venomous post on Twitter. The reference is to his claims that P Chidambaram's son Karti benefitted from the Aircel-Maxis deal.
Subramanian Swamy @Swamy39 Judges are overloaded with work and hence could not pass Orders. So let us wait for July.PC is bleeding and crawling from one lie to another.
18:38 Blind Chinese dissident says revenge taken against family:
Escaped Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng said Thursday that local officials are "going crazy with reprisals" against his family -- and his sister-in-law and nephew have both been detained. "They've started taking revenge,' said Chen, who is being treated at a Beijing hospital for injuries suffered during his escaped.
18:33 Peta offers Kingfisher a vegan lift:
One of the many benefits of vegetarianism, so animal rights activists say, is that it cures impotence. To that end, the global rights group PETA is offering a way to give flagging Kingfisher Airlines a lift.
18:26 SC rebukes magistrates in Aarushi murder case:
The bench asked the investigative agency to explain about it tomorrow during further hearing of the case.
"If it is correct, it is serious but if it is not correct, it is more serious," the bench said adding "how the judge came to the conclusion that white fluid came from outside."
At the outset of proceedings Senior Advocate Harish Salve, appearing for Nupur said the special CBI court erred in taking cognisance of the murders against her and her husband Rajesh Talwar and discharging another accused Krishna from whose pillow the blood stains of Hemraj had been found.
18:24 SC on Aarushi case: Magistrates should be careful:
The special CBI court's order to prosecute dentist Nupur Talwar in the twin murder case of her daughter Aarushi and domestic help Hemraj faced flak from the Supreme Court which said the magistrate should have been more careful in passing her judgment.
A bench of justices A K Patnaik and J S Khehar raised questions on some of the findings of the magistrate on the basis of which Nupur Talwar was summoned to face trial.
"The problem is that the magistrate has made it such a big thing. Magistrate has to be careful while passing orders. Even I revise my judgments five times so that it does not affect anyone and to ensure the language of my order is not harsh," the bench said.
"Look how the magistrate has dealt with the issue. Less the magistrate had said, better it would have been," the bench observed while asking CBI to explain on what basis the trial court came to conclusion that some external thing was found in Aarushi's private parts.
17:56 Same-sex marriage will improve financial stability for couples:
Update on the big story today: President Barack Obama's declaration of his support of same-sex marriage.
While Obama's support is mostly symbolic at this point, his statement could signal the beginning of the end of the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, which prohibits the recognition of gay marriage at the federal level. Aside from all the emotional implications, DOMA presents some very real financial challenges for married same-sex couples, especially when it comes to income tax returns and retirement planning.
Read more on the Huffington Post.
17:49 Pranab regrets losing temper in Parl, apologises:
Hours after his angry outburst led to an hour-long adjournment of Lok Sabha, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee today expressed his "regret" for losing
his temper, saying it was not appropriate. As soon as the House met again at 4 pm, Mukherjee rose to express his "regret" saying he owed an "apology" to the House.
"I tried to intervene in a matter raised by Yashwant Sinha, but the unfortunate incident took place... I lost my temper. It was not appropriate for me," he said amid thumping of desks by BJP members.
Earlier in the day, an angry remark by Mukherjee in the midst of uproar over a spate of issues, including demand for jute bags for wheat, led to adjournment of the Lok Sabha for over an hour.
17:42 The flights AI cancelled today:
Update on the Air India strike: Over 20 Air India flights were cancelled today from Delhi and Mumbai. From Delhi flights to Frankfurt, Shanghai, Toronto, New Jersey, Chicago and Seoul were cancelled while Air India flights to New York, Riyadh and Shanghai were not operating from Mumbai.
Air India operates about 50 international flights and 400 domestic flights every day.
Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh said, "if they (pilots) are not willing to follow the court order, why would they listen to me. They have to decide to follow the High Court order. That's the law but they are not willing to do so. What can we do."
17:39 Jafri says SIT documents illegible, CD inaudible:
Zakia Jafri's lawyer's statement on the missing documents in the SIT report:
The lawyer said they have received some compact discs which are inaudible. Some of the photocopies of the originals provided to them by SIT are also unreadable, he added. To this, the lawyer representing the SIT said it had submitted the items in the court after a gap of ten years as the incidents relate to
2002. "We also have the same CDs and the complainant can examine the original CDs which are available with SIT."
Also see our 15:46 pm post.
17:20 Hillary Clinton says she no longer worries about her looks :
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has hit back at critics who made gibes about her sense of style saying that she doesn't worry about wearing make-up any more.
During a brief tour in India, Bangladesh and China last week, the former first lady was photographed looking fresh-faced and wearing glasses. Experts were quick to highlight her unpolished appearance, saying she looked 'tired and withdrawn' and pictures were circulated on various social media websites, under the heading Hillary au Natural.
"You know at some point, it's just not something that deserves a lot of time and attention,' the Telegraph quoted Clinton as saying in an interview with CNN on Wednesday.
"I feel so relieved to be at the stage I'm at in my life right now and if others want to worry about it, I let them do the worrying for a change. Because you know, if I want to wear my glasses I'm wearing my glasses. If I want to wear my hair back I'm pulling my hair back," she said.
Here's a toast to the lady.
16:56 Is cricket REALLY a gentleman's game?:
It's a question that's been asked before and this is the New York Times' attempt to find the answer, with the focus on Virat Kohli.
It happens every time a brash new talent arrives on the cricket scene. Having run the gantlet of debut matches, 12th-man selections, one-time picks, slumps and streaks that anoint every new selection, and having settled into the national team as a regular, players like Virat Kohli are then evaluated by fans and columnists for their cricketing attitude. In Kohli's case, the consensus was that he had an attitude problem.
16:46 Have you told your mom you love her? :
If you haven't seen the ads, this is your discover moment. Sunday is Mother's Day. If you can't say it aloud, tell her how much you love her on Zara Bol by posting a simple, heart-warming message. Try it.
16:41 Is that pill you are popping safe?:
A probe conducted by Indian lawmakers has exposed serious flaws in India's supervision of drug manufacturing, raising fears that many pharmaceuticals available in the Indian market may be unfit for consumption.
Read the report on the Wall Street Journal.
16:37 'This was not paid news but editorial coverage':
This is The Times of India's response to P Sainath's column in the Hindu.
In response to questions put to the newspaper by The Hindu, an editorial spokesman for The Times of India asserted: The reports (of 2008) were written very honestly and in good faith He said the 2008 page was the outcome of a field visit organised by Monsanto for journalists from Nagpur.
16:33 How Obama came out for gay marriage:
Barack Obama became the first US president today to give his nod to gay marriages. First he was against same-sex marriage. Then he struggled with the issue. Now he endorses it. From his earliest statements to his latest interview. Watch
The toll in the Air India pilots strike stands at 45 on Day 3, including the nine pilots who were sacked a few hours ago.
On the TOI, read
Manoj Mitta's blog: SIT's desperation to give a clean chit to Modi.
16:24 Gurudas Dasgupta is speaking in Lok Sabha on the situation in the civil aviation sector.
16:22 AI stops taking bookings for US, Europe till May 15:
Air India stops taking bookings for US and Europe-bound flights upto May 15. As we told you earlier, AI has stopped bookings for flights from Delhi to New York, New Jersey, Chicago and Toronto.
And the management has just sacked nine more striking pilots.
16:16 Analyst slams Zuckerberg for wearing hoodie to IPO meet:
In other news: The tech world is turning Wedbush's managing director Michael Pachter into a punching bag for comments he made on Bloomberg about Mark Zuckerberg and his hooded sweatshirt. Pachter delivered what probably is the standard line of thinking from Wall Street and investors.
16:12 Quiet after the Chidambaram storm: Lok Sabha reconvenes:
The Lok Sabha has reconvened after being adjourned over the home minister's reply over his son's Karti's alleged involvment in the Aircel-Maxis deal.
For now, still no clarity whether the Parliament Budget session will be extended till May 30 to pass important bills like the Lokpal.
The Trinamool Congress today said it will support the Lokpal Bill in the Rajya Sabha if it is brought without the clause about appointing Lokayuktas in the
states. "If the Lokpal Bill is presented without Lokayukta (clause), we will support that. This has been our demand. The states should have the powers to appoint the Lokayuktas. This has been our demand...," TMC leader and Minister of State for Tourism Sultan Ahmed said.
Right now, CPI's Gurudas Dasgupta speaking in the Lok Sabha.
15:58 The Indian Pilots' Guild, meanwhile, says it will appeal to Sonia Gandhi and the PM to reinstate sacked Air India pilots.
15:54 John Travolta's picture of innocence:
The photo that John Travolta says proves he could never have groped a masseur in a gay sex assault. It shows the Hollywood star at a photo-shoot in New York on the day he is alleged to have carried out the attack at a hotel in Los Angeles -- 2,475 miles away.
15:46 Zakia accuses SIT: 20 pages of documents not given:
Zakia Jafri accuses SIT of not giving her all the documents. She says 20 pages are missing. The Supreme Court appointed SIT had handed over its report with other documents to complainant Zakia Jafri on May 7. Jafri is a complainant in the Gulberg massacre case and her husband and ex-parliamentarian Ehsan Jafri was among 69 people killed during post Godhara 2002 riots in Gujarat
15:38 Liking Facebook page can get you fired:
Six workers in the United States have been fired for clicking the 'Like' button on a Facebook page of their boss's political opponent after a judge ruled that 'liking' a page is not constitutionally protected speech.
Sheriff BJ Roberts of Hampton, Virginia, fired six of his staff members for liking the Facebook page of his running opponent in the 2009 election.
According to The Sydney Morning Herald, he said that their actions had 'hindered the harmony and efficiency of the office'.
The staff members sued, claiming that their First Amendment rights had been violated.
In search of Kolkata's lost jazz scene. On the New York Times' India blogs.
Also read: The Taj Mahal Foxtrot: The story of Bombay's Jazz Age.
15:24 As Olympic torch is lit, Left wants Games boycott:
Even as the Olympic torch begins its journey to London, a strong demand was made in the Rajya Sabha that India should not participate in London Olympics Games as the International Olympic Committee has rejected its calls to drop Dow Chemical, responsible for Bhopal gas tragedy, as sponsor of Games.
Raising the issue during Zero Hour, Prasanta Chatterjee (CPI-M) said Dow Chemical, which is sponsoring London Olympics has refused to take responsibility of the Bhopal Gas tragedy in which 3,787 persons were killed on the spot in 1984.
Chatterjee said Dow Chemicals took over the companyresponsible for gas leak and the victims of the tragedy have appealed to the government to boycott the Games.
Read: London Olympics torch lit in ancient Olympia
15:15 Abbottabad commission report: What is happening behind the scenes:
Osama bin Laden may be dead a year ago, but the man remains firmly in the news. A statement issued by the Pakistani government last week stating that the Abbottabad Commission will release its finding report this month was apparently a tactic to "pressurise' the commission and the announcement was made without consulting its members.
Read the report on the Tribune, Pakistan
15:05 Just in: The Supreme Court allows government to withdraw its review petition against 2G verdict relating to issue of auction of natural resources.
15:02 'Pvt airlines exploiting passengers by raising fares':
Back to what happened in Parliament. Lok Sabha, as we told you, has been adjourned till 4 pm over the Aircel-Maxis deal.
Noting that private airlines had raised fares exorbitantly in the wake of Air India strike, members in the Rajya Sabha today voiced concern over the matter even as the government promised to ask such carriers not to take advantage of the situation.
Raising the matter during Zero Hour, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi (BJP) said passengers were facing harassment due to cancellation of Air India flights on one hand and hike in fares by private airlines on the other.
Naqvi said the private airlines were taking advantage of the situation and exploiting passengers by exorbitantly raising fares, even more than doubling ticket costs. He demanded a direction be given to the Civil Aviation Minister to tell the House as to what action was being taken against such private airlines.
14:57 How Indian MPs openly flout the law:
On the Daily Mail: Indian lawmakers have mounted a massive architectural offensive on the country's colonial heritage.
In what can only be described as a shocking disregard not just for the aesthetic value of Edwin Lutyens' New Delhi but also basic civic norms, as many as 90 MPs have tampered with the basic design of their official bungalows with ugly additions
14:53 IOC President Jacques Rogge is attending the ceremony. The flame will travel to London via other countries. Just 78 days more for the London Olympics to begin.
the London 2012 Olympics torch lighting ceremony here
14:32 Are you addicted to Facebook? Find out!:
If your friends and family joke that you're addicted to Facebook, they may be right. Researchers in Norway have identified six signs that you may be addicted. They've used those signs to develop a test to help you figure out of your suffer from a social media addiction. Find out
Stay with us for all the drama from Parliament.
And speaking of Parliament, as India celebrates the 60th anniversary of the first sitting of the Joint House of Parliament on May 13, here is the first column in a series, exclusively on rediff.com.
Columnist and senior journalist Aakar Patel says given the fact that the middle class is not responsible in India and cannot be trusted to lead, it is remarkable that our legislature, even with all its vulgar traits, has performed as superbly as it has. Read
The Lok Sabha has been adjourned till 4 pm after ruckus over the Aircel-Maxis deal.
Read: PC delayed Aircel deal to benefit son, Karti: Swamy
14:24 Can you believe it? We don't have enuf IAS officers!:
The IAS has a shortage of about 30 per cent officers. Against a total strength of 6,154 IAS officers, India only has 4,377, Minister of State for Personnel V Narayanasamy told the Rajya Sabha. "1,777 posts are lying vacant," he said. UP has the highest number of vacant positions at 216, followed by Bihar (128), MP (118), Rajasthan (112) and
14:20 Who first thought up the Olympic torch relay?:
The Olympic torch relay has commenced. The flame was lit in Athens on Wednesday by women who could have sprung from the sets of 'Clash of The Titans'. But guess which unlikely leader first thought of this idea? Find out here
14:20 Wild and reckless allegations, says Karti:
Karti said, "I categorically state that neither I nor any member of my family have acquired or hold any share in any telecom company. In particular, I categorically state that neither I nor any member of my family have acquired or hold any share in either Aircel or Maxis."
He said the statement was first made by a person who is known to "indulge in making wild and reckless allegations". "It is unfortunate that the same allegation should be repeated in Parliament by an honourable MP," Karti said.
Sinha alleged that the son of the former Finance Minister got a 5 per cent shares from Maxis. "Prima facie what happened was a big scam and government
should not hush it up," Sinha said, demanding a statement from Mukherjee, who is the Leader of the House, as also the Finance Minister.
14:18 PC: Neither I nor my family hold Aircel shares:
Quoting his son Karti, Home minister P Chidambaram said, "Neither I nor any member of my family holds any share in Aircel or Maxis. These are wild, reckless allegations and the forum of Parliament is being misused to level allegations against private citizens.
Karti today dismissed allegations by BJP MP Yashwant Sinha that he owns five per cent stake in a telecom company which was benefited from the 2G spectrum allocation. In a statement, Karti said it was "deeply regretted" thatthe privileged forum of Parliament is misused to make "wild and reckless" allegations against a private citizen.
His remarks came as Sinha raised the issue of Aircel-Maxis deal in 2006 and alleged that Karti was benefited by the deal and Chidambaram was the Finance Minister then.
14:11 LS adjourns as PC reads out son's Aircel statement :
Ruckus in the Lok Sabha after P Chidambaram reads out a statement on his son Karti's behalf on the Aircel-Maxis deal. The Opposition erupts with a chorus of Chidambaram must go. Karti denies having any share in the deal.
Janata Party president Subhramaniam Swamy's claim is that Karty made Rs 26 lakh out of the deal in 2007.
The Lok Sabha adjourned with the Opposition saying they will not let the House function till the home minister resigns.
14:03 US envoy Munter denies ever meeting Hafiz Saeed :
The US Embassy has categorically rejected an op-ed published in a Pakistan daily that claimed a meeting took place between US ambassador Cameron Munter and Jamaat ud Daawa chief Hafiz Saeed.
"Ambassador Munter has never met with Hafiz Saeed,' said an embassy statement, mentioning the op-ed titled 'For how long?' that appeared on May 9.
"No US official has made any promises to, or agreements with Hafiz Saeed,' the embassy said.The statement said Hafiz Saeed is a wanted terrorist responsible for the Mumbai 2008 attack that killed 166, including six Americans, reports The Dawn.
The opinion piece on The Hindu on the Supreme Court's order that the Haj subsidy should be phased out.
13:46 Pranab's angry remark leads to adjournment of LS for an hour:
An angry remark by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee in the midst of uproar over a spate of issues, including demand for jute bags for wheat, led to adjournment of the Lok Sabha for over an hour this afternoon.
As BJP members stormed the Well to press their demand for availability of jute bags, an agitated Mukherjee tried to respond, but when they continued with the protest he made a certain remark angering the entire BJP.
AIADMK members too trooped into the Well seeking to have a say in the Aircel-Maxis deal that took place in 2006. The issue was raised by BJP leader Yashwant Sinha targeting the then Finance Minister, alleging that his son was involved.
Home Minister P Chidambaram was the Finance Minister at that time. Amid cries of 'shame, shame' by the opposition members, Sinha alleged that the son of the former Finance Minister got a 5 per cent shares from Maxis.
13:38 Air India loses Rs 10 crore per day due to strike:
The stalemate in the Air India pilots's strike continuews. Civil Aviation MinisterAjit Singh today reaffirmed the government's readiness to hold talks with the pilots and hoped that they would follow the High Court order declaring the stir illegal. He also said the merger of Indian Airlines and Air India was a mistake.
"The High Court has given a very clear order. Let us hope that pilots follow the High Court judgement. Everything is negotiable, but they must reach out to us first," Singh said. Holding that interest of the airline and passengers was of paramount interest, the Minister said, "They must make sure that Air India does not lose credibility." The Delhi High Court had yesterday held the strike illegal and barred the pilots from any protest action.
The Pilots' Guild says they are willing to talk to the minister and want to meet the minister.
While we wait for one of them to blink first, Air India is losing Rs 10 crore per day due to the strike.
13:33 The 140-character fatwa:
Enormously popular, extremist Saudi clerics are promoting hatred, violence, and intolerance on Facebook and Twitter. Can they be stopped?
Read the report here
13:32 The Asian arms race that wasn't:
In the background of that ballistic missile launch, read
this story on Foreign Policy: India and Pakistan are firing off missiles left and right. So why aren't the Chinese nervous?
13:28 Pak tests nuclear-capable Hatf-III ballistic missile:
While we get you updates on that Tamil Nadu story, Pakistan today successfully test fired nuclear-capable Hatf-III ballistic missile with a range
of 290 km that could hit targets in India. A top Pakistani military official said the country had developed a "strong nuclear deterrence capability" and was fully capable of thwarting any aggression.
A statement issued by the military described the "training launch" of the short-range Hatf III or Ghaznavi missile as successful.
13:26 Email threat to Jayalalithaa, Tamil Nadu MLAs:
TV reports say that an email threat has been sent to Tamil Nadu CM J Jayalalithaa. The police are probing the threat, but says others in the TN government have also received threats.
An interesting piece of information on Dr Khalil Chisti, the Pakistani doctor who has been granted permission to go home.
Dr Chisti was born in Ajmer to a prosperous family of caretakers of the Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti shrine. Chishti was studying in Pakistan at the time of partition in 1947 and chose to stay there.
In other stories:
Jimi Hendrix's estate comes out against a biopic on him. Read
And the dishy Marion Cotillard opens up about 'Dark Knight Rises,' new motherhood and her splashy Cannes debut. Read
12:46 Sidin Vadukut @sidin Bad smell? The Rajya Sabha needs to stop passing such bad motions.
12:45 Lok Sabha has been adjourned till 2 pm after uproar over jute bag shortage and some other issues.
12:44 KF pilots in Delhi, Mumbai to report sick tonight:
Kingfisher pilots in Delhi have already begun reporting sick, the pilots in Mumbai will follow tonight. Pilots say they are angry that the management has not kept their promise of paying wages due since December, by May 9. In fact, 80 per cent of pilots are on strike.
12:41 Air India crisis escalates. AI has stopped bookings for flights for Delhi to New York, New Jersey, Chicago and Toronto.
12:34 The Red Herring Dealers of Lahore:
There's more to the Mumbai terror alert than meets the eye. Yesterday, reports in the media indicated that a terror alert had been sounded in Mumbai and across many Indian airports: five terrorists of the Lashkar-e-Taiba had entered the country and planned to target petrochemical installations in Mumbai using the sea routes. These reports were similar to those a couple of days earlier, concerning Gujarat, where coastal police tightened watch over offshore islands and the petrochemical complex at Jamnagar.
Read the report here
Also see our 11:55 am post.
12:30 Dr Chisti: Pak should release Indian prisoners:
An ecstatic Dr Chisti says he is happy and relieved at the SC decision allowing him to go home to Pakistan but asks his government to release Indian prisoners languishing there. He says he is grateful and thankful to the Indian judicial system.
The microbiologist has been asked to deposit Rs 5 lakh and his passport with the Indian embassy and return to India on November 1.
12:26 Parl adjourned twice over suspected gas leak:
Here are the details on the gas leak in the Rajya Sabha. The House was today adjourned twice during the pre-lunch sitting on unusual grounds as members complained of leakage of some kind of gas. At 11.28 am, when Minister of State V Narayanasamy was responding to a question, Congress member Rama Chandra Khuntia complained that there was a gas leakage. Other members too made a similar complaint.
Chairman Hamid Ansari then adjourned the House for 15 minutes. When the House reassembled, Deputy Chairman P J Kurien announced another adjournment till noon. The gas leakage complaint comes three days after Parliament complex faced three brief power cuts on May 7.
12:19 Now Mumbai KF pilots report sick, won't fly from tonight :
First the Air India pilots strike, 21 flight cancellations and now this. A section of Kingfisher pilots have reported sick in protest against non-payment of salaries. The Mumbai-based Kingfisher pilots have decide not to fly from tonight.
Then again, who are these people still booking KF flights?
12:11 SC allows Pak doc Chisti to go home, return Nov 1:
The Supreme Court has allowed the Pakistani microbiologist Mohammed Khalil Chisti to go home after depositing Rs 5 lakh.
Dr Chisti has to also deposit his passport to the Indian embassy in Karachi and has to return to India by November 1.
The 82-year-old Pakistani was awarded life term in a 20-year-old murder case, can visit his country temporarily. The SC granted permission on humanitarian grounds.
The Bench said Chishti was an eminent scientist of global repute and is 82 year old with no previous criminal record and the issues involved are the bilateral relations between the two countries.
12:04 RS reconvenes after 'smelly' break, MPs blame loos:
Members holding their nose asked for the Rajya Sabha to be adjourned. The House was first adjourned for 15 minutes, but will now remain so till noon, after gas leakage complaints. MPs say the foul smell is because of unclean toilets.
The RS has now reconvened.
11:59 My battle with a bad Pakistan won me some good friends:
While on Pakistan, read MP, author and columnist, Tarun Vijay's piece on rediff.com.
The number of people in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad daring to stand up before the hate, anti-India junta and the ISI is quite small. They need to be saluted and supported, says Vijay after a recent visit to Pakistan.
Updates on the 'foul smell' in the Rajya Sabha in a bit.
Meanwhile, on the Tribune, Pakistan: Mobile retailers or terrorists?: India confuses Lahore businessmen with militants.
11:53 Did Modi govt pay for SIT chief Raghavan's foreign trips?:
The big story on the Times of India today: What was the need for amicus curiae Raju Ramachandran to put down these words in his final report before the Supreme Court which became public this week?
"The cost for boarding and lodging for both the amicus curiae at BSF mess, Gandhinagar as well as the cost for local transportation by private taxi was arranged by the SIT...the cost of travel from Delhi to Ahmedabad and back (for both the advocates) was borne by the amicus curiae. In all the interactions with the witnesses, my advocate colleague Gaurav Agrawal was present."
Read the story here
11:50 Star News says the Prime Minister was in Parliament when the 'gas leak' happened.
11:48 Reaping gold through cotton, and newsprint:
Also on The Hindu, P Sainath's piece Monsanto, TOI and the truth about BT Read
Sainath is the Rural Affairs Editor for the Hindu and author of the book Everybody Loves A Good Drought. For more than two years, the book remained No.1 amongst non-fiction bestsellers on diverse lists across the country. Eventually, it entered the ranks of Penguin India's all-time best sellers.
11:45 Prez Obama's India advisor quits :
Global non-profit organisation Asia Society's India-born head Vishakha Desai, who has advised President Barack Obama on India related issues, is stepping down as President and CEO after 22 years at the city-based leading cultural and educational body.
Read the report on rediff.com.
11:33 Another take-off aborted:
Just as it looked that the ailing national carrier Air India will take-off on the wings of a Rs.30,000 crore bailout package, the agitation by well over 200 pilots belonging to the Indian Pilots Guild has once again grounded the airline.
That's the opinion piece on the Hindu. Read
Aakar Patel's column on the Outlook on the Maoist issue: The Ghost's In The Details, Ma'am. Or how Arundhati Roy has got it all wrong -- the facts speak out against her romantic notions of the tribals' fight
11:23 Naxals kill abducted sarpanch in Maharashtra:
Two days after suspected Maoists killed an abducted assistant sub-inspector of police, Kruparam Majhi, in the Nuapada region of Odisha, Naxals today killed a Sarpanch in the Gondia district in Maharashtra.
Just like the ASI, the sarpanch too was abducted by the Naxals. The sarpanch was in captivity since May 7.
The body was recovered this morning with bullet injury marks. Police had launched a suo moto search operation following the abduction.
11:14 Your lordships, please don't open file at all: Tejinder:
Appearing before a bench of justices P Sathasivam and J Chelameswar, senior counsel Rajiv Dhawan urged the court to grant permission for withdrawing the petition.
"Your lordships please don't open the file at all. Kindly grant me permission to withdraw the petition and move the appropriate forum," Dhawan urged the court. Accordingly, the bench granted permission for withdrawal
of the petition.
Tejinder Singh had approached the Supreme Court on April 25 seeking a CBI inquiry on the alleged role of the Army Chief in the purported bugging of the Defence Minister's office and action against him for "misconduct".
The government has already denied reports of bugging.
11:12 Tejinder Singh withdraws plea against Army Chief :
Tejinder Singh's counsel says he will present documentary proof against the Army Chief. Tejinder Singh, in his petition, requested the court to summon and initiate proceedings against the army chief and others for allegedly making libellous statement against him in the media and accusing him of bribery.
On March 29, he told the court that a press release issued by the army headquarters in Delhi on March 5 levelled serious allegations against Lt. Gen. Tejinder Singh. He told the court that the media could not be addressed directly by army officers.
11:00 Parliament's role in making India a great nation is over:
As India celebrates the 60th anniversary of the first sitting of the Joint House of Parliament on May 13, here is the first column in a series, exclusively on rediff.com.
Columnist and senior journalist Aakar Patel says given the fact that the middle class is not responsible in India and cannot be trusted to lead, it is remarkable that our legislature, even with all its vulgar traits, has performed as superbly as it has. Read
10:51 Gates cash for AIDS fight to stop in 2013:
The decade-long flow of funds from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation into India's HIV control efforts will stop from June 2013, a foundation official said today, intensifying fears among sections of health activists about the future of the programme.
Avahan was the first large-scale health initiative in India to be supported by the foundation, said to be t he world's largest philanthropic organisation, and will be the first to be closed if it sticks to the deadline announced today.
Read more on the Telegraph, Calcutta.
10:47 Striking AI pilots blink? Want to meet Ajit Singh:
With over 20 Air India flights cancelled today from Delhi and Mumbai as the agitation by the protesting pilots entered the third day, the pilots' guild now says the striking pilots are willing to talk to civil aviation minister Ajit Singh.
Despite the Delhi High Court declaring their stir as illegal, the pilots remained defiant and said the agitation would continue till their demands were met.
10:44 SC to Centre: Ex-CJI case to be decided by President:
The Supreme Court asks a competent authority from the Centre to look into allegations of misconduct against former CJI KG Balakrishnan even as the court refuses to direct the Centre for presidential reference against Balakrishnan. The SC says it needs to be decided by the President on the advice of the Council of Ministers.
10:40 Obama 1st US president to endorse same sex marriage:
US President Barack Obama on Thursday publicly endorsed same sex marriage, putting an end to days of speculation about his "evolving views" on the issue. In an interview to the ABC's Good Morning America to be aired on Thursday, Obama said his views on the issue have evolved now and he thinks that "same-sex couples should be able to get married." It may be termed as a historic moment in the civil rights history of America, as no other sitting President has earlier supported marriage between people of the same sex.
10:32 Poll predicts rupee will sink to 57:
The rupee fell the most since December to a new closing low on Wednesday, while currency strategists forecast more pain as central bank intervention remains limited and inflows dry up.
More on the TOI
10:15 Facebook takes on Apple, Google; to open own App Centre:
In the coming weeks, people will be able to access the App Centre on the web and in the iOS and Android Facebook apps
The App Center is designed to grow mobile apps that use Facebook -- whether they are on iOS, Android or the mobile web. From the mobile App Centre, users can browse apps that are compatible with their device, and if a mobile app requires installation, they will be sent to download the app from the App Store or Google Play.
To grow your mobile app through the App Centre, your app needs to use Facebook Login.
10:15 War with Iraq was never debated in White House: Powell:
In his new book, former Secretary of State Colin Powell provides what may be the most authoritative confirmation yet that there was never a considered debate in the George W Bush White House about whether going to war in Iraq was really a good idea.
In a chapter discussing what he calls his 'infamous' February 2003 speech to the United Nations
where he authoritatively presented what was later exposed as gross misinformation about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, Powell notes that by that time, war 'was approaching'.
10:09 Celebrity hairdresser Vidal Sassoon dies:
Famed hair stylist Vidal Sassoon, whose sleek geometric bob revolutionized hairstyles in the 1960s and who then had his name associated with a chain of hair salons and hair care products, died Wednesday, Fox News Channel reported.
The British-born Sassoon, who was 84, died of natural causes in his Bel Air home.
"We had a unit respond to a death investigation," said LAPD spokesperson, Kevin Maiberger. "After arriving they determined he passed away of natural causes. There were family members at the residence. No crime was involved."
A craftsman who favored non-fussy, wash and wear styles, Sassoon became a celebrity in his own right and also the subject of a documentary about his life, "Vidal Sassoon: The Movie" in 2010.Also Read: Remembering Vidal Sassoon
09:55 Why Obama endorsed same-sex marriage:
US President Barack Obama has publicly endorsed same sex marriage, putting an end to days of speculation about his "evolving views" on the issue.
However, his administration officials are stating that the US president had made up his mind on the issue earlier this year.
09:49 Condition of Jharkhand CM, wife stable: Doctors:
The condition of Jharkhand Chief Minister Arjun Munda, his wife and four others, who suffered injuries when a helicopter carrying them crash-landed at the airport in Ranchi, is stable, doctors attending on them said on Thursday.
"The condition of the CM and others is stable and improving. We will issue another medical bulletin later in the day," Apollo Hospital Superintendent P D Sinha told PTI.
"The doctors are following trauma protocol," he said.
CT scan reports of all patients were found normal.
44-year-old Munda suffered multiple injuries, including fracture in his right-ankle and scratches on his left hand when the helicopter carrying him, his wife and four others crash-landed at the Birsa Munda Airport here on Wednesday.
09:47 20 flights cancelled on Air India strike Day 3:
Over 20 Air India flights were cancelled today from Delhi and Mumbai as the agitation by the protesting pilots entered the third day.
Despite the Delhi High Court declaring their stir as illegal, the pilots remained defiant and said the agitation would continue till their demands were met.
"Three international departures from Mumbai and 8 from Delhi have been cancelled due to non-availability of pilots", an Air India official said.
Around 12 international arrivals at Delhi airport were also cancelled, according to the website of Delhi airport.
Passengers were inconvenienced as airline officials were unable to accommodate them in others flights or give any concrete information on when their flights will take off.
From Delhi flights to Frankfurt, Shanghai, Toronto, New Jersey, Chicago and Seoul were cancelled while Air India flights to New York, Riyadh and Shanghai were not operating from Mumbai.
09:10 Missing Russian aircraft's wreckage spotted:
The wreckage of the Russian Sukhoi Superjet that went missing in Indonesia with about 50 people on board has been located.
"The Super Puma (helicopter) we deployed this morning has spotted the Sukhoi plane in the Cijeruk area. For the time being we can say nothing about its condition because it was sighted from far away in the air," said Ali Umri Lubis, spokesman for a military airbase.
The Russian aircraft had disappeared in mountainous terrain during a demonstration flight on Wednesday.
The plane vanished from radar screens south of the capital Jakarta 50 minutes into what was meant to be a brief flight and initial efforts to locate the jet proved fruitless.
08:41 AI-Indian Airlines merger was a mistake: Ajit Singh:
Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh has expressed regret over the Air India-Indian Airlines merger, saying the division was a mistake.
Speaking to television news channel CNN-IBN, Ajit Singh said that in retrospect that decision did cause problems.
"Their cultures were entirely different. Air India's way of doing things, Indian Airlines way of doing things, their pay scales, their promotion policies and their areas of operation were also entirely different. So that did cause lot of problems and that is why even now they are not really integrated. That's why as I said the challenge now is to implement justice Dharmadhikari's report." he said.
08:23 Obama's thumbs up for same-sex marriage hailed:
Gay rights groups cheered announcement by US President Barack Obama that he supports same-sex marriage, but with a warning that much still remains to be done.
"Congratulations, Mr. President, for making history today by becoming the first sitting president to explicitly support marriage for same-sex couples," said Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
"Who benefits? Millions of families who now know that their country's leader believes in fairness for all. This is a great day for America," said Carey in a statement.
"We celebrate this moment and also remember that the right of loving, committed couples to get married is just one of many issues affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people," she added.
03:20 Women accuse Egyptian military of sexual assault:
Women protesters and rights groups today accused Egyptian troops and prison authorities of sexual assault during the latest crackdown on demonstrations, reviving allegations they are using abuse to intimidate female detainees and protesters.
The charges added new tension to Egypt's presidential election campaign, just two weeks before the voting. More than a dozen women were among more than 300 protesters detained following a protest outside the Defence Ministry in Cairo last weekend.
In charges that recalled dark incidents from earlier protests, rights activist Aida Seif al-Dawla said that female prison guards sexually assaulted some women by inspecting their vaginas under the pretext of searching for drugs. "This is a sexual assault," activist Seif al-Dawla said. "The women are injured, physically and emotionally."
03:19 Debris from volcano closes Mexico airport:
Ashes from Mexico's Popocatepetl volcano forced officials to close the airport in nearby Puebla for some 14 hours, to allow for cleanup after it spewed out heaps of ash and rock.
The Puebla International Airport was able to reopen today after dozens of workers cleared its runways of volcanic ash that posed a risk to departing and arriving aircraft, said officials. The airport's closing caused just one cancellation, a flight to Houston, Texas early Wednesday, said Puebla's civil protection director Jesus Morales.
02:06 Obama backs same-sex marriage:
Barack Obama became the first US president today to say publicly he was in favour of same-sex marriage, in a high-stakes intervention in a pre-election debate roiling American politics.
In what supporters will hail as a historic moment in civil rights history, Obama changed his stance, after previously saying he was "evolving" on gay marriage, a fiercely divisive issue in US politics. "I've just concluded, for me, personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married," Obama said in an interview with ABC News.
Obama, who had previously backed strong protections for gay and lesbian couples, said his position had evolved partly after talking to his two daughters Malia and Sasha who had some friends who had same-sex parents.
01:45 Mild tremor in Jammu and Kashmir:
An earthquake of slight intensity struck Jammu and Kashmir tonight. The quake, measuring 3.4 on the Richter scale, occurred at 11.36 pm, a Met office statement said.
01:35 Qaeda chief slams US sorry for Quran burning:
Al-Qaeda head Ayman al-Zawahiri rejected the US apology over the burning of Quran copies at a base in Afghanistan, urging all Muslims to support the Taliban, SITE Intelligence Group reported today.
"The Crusaders once again repeated their crime by insulting the holy Quran, and once again mocked the messenger of Allah," Zawahiri said in a SITE English-language translation of his nearly seven-minute message.
In February, thousands of Afghan protesters attacked the biggest US military base in their country, at Bagram near Kabul, reacting to reports that troops inside had burned copies of the Koran. Around 40 people were killed in several days of violent protests.
01:34 US denies claim by Pak daily that Munter met Hafiz Saeed:
The US Embassy today categorically rejected an op-ed article's claim in a Pakistani daily that Ambassador Cameron Munter had met Jamaat-ud-Dawah chief Hafiz Saeed.
"Ambassador Munter has never met with Hafiz Saeed. No US official has made any promises to, or agreements with, Hafiz Saeed," said a statement issued by the US Embassy. The statement was issued in response to an op-ed article in the Urdu daily Jang titled "For how long?", that claimed Munter had met Saeed, the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attack and founder of the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba.
The statement added: "Hafiz Saeed is a wanted terrorist responsible for the deadly attack on Mumbai in November 2008 that killed 166, including six Americans. He is subject to UN Security Council Resolution 1267/1989 sanctions. There is an international responsibility to bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks to justice."
00:06 US in talks with Pak on re-opening NATO supply routes:
The United States continues to negotiate with Pakistan on re-opening of the crucial NATO supply routes to Afghanistan that were closed by Islamabad after a cross-border NATO air strike killed 24 of its soldiers last year, the State Department said today.
"We are continuing to work on these issues with the government of Pakistan. As you know, that would follow on the visit that Ambassador Grossman had to Pakistan," the State Department spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, told reporters at her daily news conference.
"As you know, we're still seeking to come to an arrangement on how we can get the GLOCs (ground line of communication) open. We think it's important for us, it's important for a peaceful, stable situation in Afghanistan, and it's obviously that would be in Pakistan's interest as well," Nuland said responding to a question.