Vicky Nanjappa reports: An official from the NIA who visited the site of the twin blasts in Hyderabad -- that killed at least 15 and injured 78 others on Thursday evening -- said that there were traces of ammonium nitrate at the spot.
This would indicate the use of the ammonium nitrate in preparing the bomb which was packed with an improvised explosive device of very high quality The official says that the two bombs were packed in a tiffin box and connected to a timer device.
The device was timed to take off within a span of ten minutes and there was absolutely no flaw in the preparation of the bomb. It appears to have been prepared by a professional bomb-maker and it was set to precision, and hence there was such a major impact that was caused.
Both the bombs were placed meters away from each other and were placed on bicycles. The substance will be sent to the forensic sciences laboratory where the exact material will be ascertained. In 2002 at the Sai Baba temple blasts, the material used was neogel 90 along with IEDs.
However, the subsequent blasts that rocked derabad saw the use of ammonium nitrate which again proves the easy availability of the substance. The Indian Mujahideen has used the ammonium nitrate regularly and has adopted the cycle as a carrier for the bombs in the past as well.
Meanwhile, the police have formed special teams to track down the culprits. The Hyderabad police are in touch with their counterparts in the neighbouring states to get more clues. Eyewitnesses are being questioned to get a fair description of who could have placed the bomb. The police are, however, not able to confirm the presence of a CCTV as of now.
Vicky Nanjappa reports: Hyderabad's Dilsukh Nagar became a victim of terror for the second time on Thursday. On November 21 2002, a blast occurred at the Sai Baba temple in the same area in which two persons were killed and 22 others were injured after an improvised explosive device triggered the explosion.
That blast was blamed on the Students Islamic Movement of India, which was allegedly taking revenge after it was banned by the Union government. The case was handled by the Andhra Pradesh crime investigation department.
During the course of the investigations the police found that members of the SIMI had coordinated with some Lashkar-e-Tayiba officials, namely Syed Aziz and Mohd Azam, and carried out that attack. The latest attack appears to be similar in nature.
In the blasts that occurred on Thursday and the one in 2002, IEDs were packed in tiffin boxes and the intensity was extremely high. Dilsukh Nagar has been targeted repeatedly because of the immense number of people that gather there at all times. It is a busy area and also houses a market, which is one of the biggest in the world.
During the 2002 blasts probe, the police were able to ascertain the role of the SIMI in the attack. They had even brought down Syed Salahuddin Salar, a former president of organisation, in connection with the blast. Salar had gone out off the police radar after the ban on SIMI and it was only two years back that he was arrested in Kochi while he was returning from Dubai.
Salar was initially taken to Ujjain and later brought down to Hyderabad in connection with the 2002 blasts. The police said that the SIMI network was strong at that time and it had coordinated the attack with the Lashkar in order to avenge the ban. However, over the years, the Lashkar introduced the HuJI in Hyderabad and this has been the group that has been the strongest since then under the leadership of Shahid Bilal, who was killed recently in Pakistan.
Two days before the Hyderabad blasts, the Centre had alerted all states that Pakistan-based terrorist groups may carry out attacks in a major city to avenge the hanging of Ajmal Kasab and Afzal Guru.
Sources said the central security agencies had sent an advisory on Tuesday asking all states to tighten security in sensitive places as Lashkar-e-Tayiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad and Hizbul Mujahideen may launch attacks.
The security agencies sent another advisory on Wednesday saying banned Indian Mujahideen too may carry out terror attacks to avenge the hanging of Kasab and Afzal.
Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, without disclosing details, Thursday said that all states were alerted about a possible terror strike by militant groups. However, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy said these were general alerts and keep coming often.
Political parties on Thursday night condemned the twin bomb blasts in Hyderabad with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asserting that those responsible for the "dastardly" act would not go unpunished. "This is a dastardly attack, the guilty will not go unpunished," he said.
Condemned the attacks, Vice President Hamid Ansari conveyed his condolences to the families of the innocent victims who lost their lives. Both Singh and Ansari appealed to the public to remain calm and maintain peace in this difficult hour. Singh announced Rs 2 lakh each to next of kin of those killed in the blasts and Rs 50,000 each to those seriously injured from the PM's Relief Fund. He directed the central agencies to extend all possible help to the Andhra Pradesh state authorities in relief operations.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi expressed her sorrow and anguish on the blasts in Hyderabad.
BJP president Rajnath Singh condoled the loss of lives and demanded a thorough probe into the blasts. "I express my condolences to the family members of those killed in the blast. This is a condemnable incident. I hope the government will take appropriate action to provide immediate and adequate relief to those injured in the blast," Singh told PTI.
Vicky Nanjappa reports: Although the Hyderabad blasts bear the signature of the Indian Mujahideen, the police and the Intelligence Bureau say that it is too early to pin point the blame on the infamous terror outfit. "The group is capable of carrying out an attack of this magnitude, but their base is considerably weaker in Hyderabad, sources in Intelligence Bureau say.
The city of Hyderabad has been a victim of terror several times in the past. The two major incidents have, however, been the Mecca Masjid blasts and the twin blasts five years back. Both these attacks were carried out by separate groups.
While the Mecca Masjid blasts were the alleged handiwork of some radical right-wing groups, the twin blasts as per investigations pointed towards the involvement HuJI. The HuJI is said to have been controlled by Shahid Bilal who was a resident of Musrambagh in Hyderabad.
However, a couple of years back he was killed. It is said that he had set up the modules in the city and it was this very same network which carried out the twin blasts.
The Indian Mujahideen is said to be regrouping, but its area of focus has not been too much in Hyderabad. It has strong networks in Karnataka, but a lower presence in Andhra Pradesh. Most of the youth who have been arrested have had their association with HuJI as per investigations.
Even the recent assassination plot in which several youth were arrested pointed towards a HuJI network. Sources in the IB say that the IM angle would also be probed by the police and investigations would give a better picture on the strength of this outfit in Hyderabad.
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi today said he was saddened by the news of bomb blasts in Hyderabad and condoled the loss of lives in the terror attack. "News of blasts in Hyderabad is saddening. My condolences to the families of those who lost their lives. Praying for peace & calm there," Modi tweeted. The blasts rocked a busy commercial hub of Hyderabad close to a crowded bus stand at Dilsukhnagar.
Meanwhile, police administration in Gujarat has been put on high alert in the wake of the explosions. "We have asked all District Superintendents of Police (SPs) and city Police Commissioners to keep a tight vigil at crowded places like railway and bus stations, malls and markets," Director General of Police Chittaranjan Singh told PTI.
Gujarat's Anti-Terrorism Squad and Intelligence Bureau of the state have been asked to be in contact with their counterparts in Hyderabad, he added.
A security alert has been sounded across Kerala in the wake of the bomb blasts in Hyderabad this evening, police said.
Police and security personnel have been asked to heighten vigil in airports, bus and railway stations and closely monitor movement of suspicious persons in public places, they said. 16 people were killed and 32 injured when at least three powerful serial blasts rocked a busy commercial hub of Hyderabad close to a crowded bus stand at Dilsukhnagar.
Vicky Nanjappa reports: The National Investigation Agency will take over the probe into the twin blasts in Hyderabad. A unit of the NIA is already present in Hyderabad and another team from Delhi would also participate in the probe.
However, the Hyderabad police would assist the NIA in this probe as the investigation agencies would need to join the dots and compare the modus operandi with the earlier blasts.
The NIA is already handling the Mecca Masjid blasts case in Hyderabad whereas the twin blasts that took place five years ago is with the Hyderabad police. The NIA would not only probe a Harkat-ul-Jihadi Islami or IM angle but would also look into a possible modus operandi that was used to carry out the Mecca Masjid blasts as well.
A NIA official said that all angles would be looked into and "we would seek the assistance of the local police to provide us more information on the investigation into the earlier twin blasts'.
Vicky Nanjappa reports: The Muslims in the Old City of Hyderabad would be reminded of the police action against them following the Mecca Masjid and twin blasts. However, this time around, they say that the police have not jumped the gun and would look to investigate this matter in a free and fair manner.
Lateef Mohammad Khan, the convenor of the Civil Liberties Movement Committee which had fought for the cause of the Muslim youth, says that there has not been a witch hunt as yet. "I have not got any complaints of the Muslim youth being rounded up,' Khan told rediff.com.
The police unlike their reactions during the earlier blasts have not made any irresponsible statement against the Muslims as yet, although the media is going hammer and tongs against the Muslim youth. "This should not only be seen in the light of a terror strike. It has come at a time when the Centre was all set to announce Telangana. This looks like a deal breaker for the movement and there is every chance that a decision will be delayed," Khan added.
"One must also look at the area in which the blasts have taken place. It is an area which has more people from Andhra when compared to Telangana. The police must also investigate that angle and we sincerely hope that there is no witch hunt against the Muslim youth unless there is a proper probe,' he added.
Vicky Nanjappa reports: The angles of investigation into the twin blasts in Hyderabad are several. The police and the Intelligence Bureau are conducting investigations on three points. While the revenge angles pertaining to the hanging of Afzal Guru and the arrest of the youth in connection with both the assassination plot and Mecca Masjid blasts are being probed, the agencies are also looking into an angle of personal rivalry.
The police say that all angles are open at the moment and a possible retaliation following the arrest of Akbar Owaisi is also being looked into. Although this angle looks extremely remote, the police say that they would go into that angle as well.
The routine questioning of several operatives who are in the custody of the police for various acts of terror is also being conducted by the Hyderabad police. At the moment, the biggest possible link points towards revenge following the Afzal Guru hanging, police sources say.
A clear picture would emerge soon, the police also point out. The police in the neighbouring states have been alerted and all possible attempts are on to nab the culprits, the police also point out.
Vicky Nanjappa reports: The debate over intelligence regarding the Hyderabad blasts has already commenced. While the Intelligence Bureau says that there was intelligence that was provided, the Hyderabad police say that the intelligence was not specific in nature.
Sources in the IB tell rediff.com that there were at least four alerts that were sent in the past couple of weeks to Hyderabad. Two alerts were sent following the arrest of MIM MLA Akbarrudin Owaisi, sources say. There was a lot of anger following the arrest of Owaisi and the IB had warned of trouble following this arrest.
Following the hanging of 2001 Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, there were angry protests in Hyderabad and many had spoken against this hanging. At this time too the IB had put out two alerts in Hyderabad and Karnataka.
"The alerts were general in nature and it is the duty of the police to step up the vigil in the wake of such alerts,' sources in Hyderabad police say. There was nothing specific which suggested a bomb blast, they say.
A high alert has been sounded across Maharashtra in the wake of the blasts in Hyderabad this evening, Home Minister R R Patil said. "I have spoken to senior police officials and directed them to beef up security," Patil said.
The state home minister reviewed the security situation in the state this evening, official sources said. Police have been asked to keep a vigil on suspicious activity and persons in view of the Hyderabad blasts.
Mohammed Siddique reports from Hyderabad: Intelligence officials in Hyderabad said that the bombs were triggered through timer devices and kept on two wheelers -- one on a bicycle.
Large crowds had gathered at the blast sites as well as the four hospitals where the injured have been admitted. Ten bodies have been brought to Osmania Hospital and anxious relatives were going around to find out the well being of their missing members.
Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy, after visiting the scenes of the blast, has ordered a high level probe in to the incident. What has added to his woes was that the central government and the intelligence agencies had given a warning to all the states about possible terrorist attacks in retaliation to the recent hanging of Afzal Guru in 2001 Parliament attack case.
BJP president Rajnath Singh today condoled the lost of lives in Hyderabad blasts and demanded that the government conduct a thorough probe into the incident.
"I express my condolences to the family members of those killed in the blast. This is a condemnable incident. I hope the government will take appropriate action to provide immediate and adequate relief to those injured in the blast," Singh told PTI.
16 people were killed and 32 injured tonight when at least three powerful serial blasts rocked a busy commercial hub of Hyderabad close to a crowded bus stand at Dilsukhnagar.
Singh also demanded that a thorough probe be ordered to find out the culprits and bring them to book. He also said government should take steps to prevent recurrence of such incidents in future.
The blasts took place during the peak hour outside a roadside eatery near Konark cinema theatre in the locality resulting in a stampede-like situation with people trying to run for safety.
Vicky Nanjappa reports: The police were also examining reports of a third explosion in the same area. However, police sources confirm only two blasts for now. The police also add that they are examining another suspicious object near the blast site.
The police say that based on eyewitness statements they can now confirm that one of the bombs were placed on a motorcycle while the second one on a bicycle. It appears that the bombs were placed only a few minutes before the blasts. The police say that there were reports of a third explosion at the same area and are looking into this. However, we can confirm only two blasts for now, police sources informed. The police also add that they are examining another suspicious object at the blast site.
Vicky Nanjappa reports: The twin blasts at Hyderabad today point towards the existence of a local module which is very much active in the city. The modus operandi points towards a similar operation that was used during the Lumbini Park and Gokul Chat attacks. There has been very high surveillance in the Old city of Hyderabad since a very long time and the police confirm that there are many disgruntled elements in this area who are capable of carrying out such attacks.
This part of the city has always volatile and there has been a lot of disgruntlement after the investigations into the Mecca Masjid blasts. At the moment both the police and the IB are sticking to the version that it could be a local module attached to the Harkat-ul-Juhadi Islami behind this attack.
This was the same module which was behind the twin blasts that rocked the city five years back. If one looks at the terror modules in Hyderabad it has a stronger network of the HuJI when compared to the Indian Mujahideen. The police will now revisit the HuJi modules and also the investigation files into the previous cases to join the dots in this case.
Union Home Secretary R K Singh said the NSG team is leaving by a BSF aircraft. A team of NIA hub stationed in Hyderabad has also rushed to the spot. The previous major attack in Hyderabad was on August 25, 2007 when two blasts took place almost simultaneously.
The first blast was reported at a park and it was followed by another in a eating joint in Hyderabad. Chief Minister N Kiran Reddy rushed to the blast site. Meanwhile, A team of forensic experts of NSG, the country's premier counter-terror force, was tonight flown to Hyderabad in the aftermath of the serial blasts that claimed at least ten lives.
The 'post-blasts' analysis team have been sent to Hyderabad, sources said, adding experts from the Chennai hub of the 'black cat' commandos force have also been rushed to the Andhra Pradesh capital.
The NSG, which is also the key force for counter-hijack operations, operates the National Bomb Data Centre which has detail information about such acts in the country. The team will collect samples from the spot and analyse the 'trigger mechanism' used in the blasts, the sources added.
Security was stepped up in the national capital today in the wake of the twin blasts in Hyderabad.
A senior Delhi Police official said the personnel of the force have been alerted and they were keeping a tight vigil on the city. "We are always on alert. There is nothing to panic," the official said.
At least three powerful blasts rocked the busy commercial hub of Hyderabad close to a crowded bus stand at Dilsukhnagar this evening claiming several lives. The blasts took place during the peak hour outside a roadside eatery near Konark cinema theatre in the locality resulting in a stampede-like situation with people trying to run for safety.
Vicky Nanjappa reports: Preliminary investigations have revealed that the bombs were placed in tiffin boxes. Traces of improvised explosive devices too have been found. The police have also found that the bombs were placed on motor bikes and had a timer device.
The preliminary investigation also reveals that the bombs were triggered off by a timer device and not a remote controlled device. The impact could have been higher as there was a cylinder next to the device.
The police have cordoned off the area as they would not any of the evidence to be disturbed. A team of the NIA will reach Hyderabad along with a NSG team late tonight and would commence investigation.
Vicky Nanjappa reports: Even as the police hunt for clues into the serial blasts that rocked Hyderabad, sources say that it was a local module which could have orchestrated the attack with the help of external sources.
The Intelligence Bureau had warned of such attacks in the country after the Afzal Guru hanging and had specifically put Hyderabad on the radar. The IB had said that the terror threat at Hyderabad following the Afzal hanging was put at high. There has been a lot of disgruntlement following the hanging of Afzal and certain groups have been threatening to hit back.
These local groups have been in touch with certain elements from other parts of the country and there has been movement since a long time. In fact there was movement following the Kasab hanging, but it appears that the blasts were carried out to time it with the Afzal hanging. The terrorists have chosen the bus stand area knowing fully well that the security is low due to the huge crowds.
Vicky Nanjappa reports: The Intelligence Bureau and the Hyderabad police have now confirmed that the twin blasts that occured at Hyderabad is an act of terror. Two blasts ripped the bus station at Dilkushnagar in which seven persons are reportedly killed. The police have cordoned off the area and are looking for more bombs in the area.
It appears to be a well-planned operation and the timing was aimed causing major destruction. The police and the IB say that there was an alert regarding Hyderabad. However, it is too early to say which organisation is behind the attack.
At least seven people are feared killed and 20 injured in two explosions near a busy bus stop at Dilsukh Nagar in Hyderabad on Thursday evening, TV channels reported quoted regional channels.
The injured have been rushed to the nearby hospitals as police has cordoned off the entire are. The cause of the explosions is still unknown.
The casualty figures are expected to rise.
Dr Manmohan Singh, Dr Hamid Ansari and Meira Kumar were standing outside the main gate of Parliament to receive the President. Viswanathan fished out his protocol chart and said the PM had to stand behind the Speaker and was supposed to follow the Speaker and the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha to Central Hall.
Mishra compared the ruling Trinamool Congress's party activists with the 'storm troopers' of Nazi ruled Germany in the 1930's.
"Our Chief Minister has unleashed an atmosphere of terror in the state in a bid to foil the strike call. She has tried to foil the strike but has failed to do so. The terror unleashed by Trinamool activists reminds us of Hitler's storm troopers," said Mishra.
"She should try to reign them, otherwise the people of this state will be in great trouble and will rise in protest against this regime," Mishra added
In a joint statement, CPI(M), CPI, RSP and Forward Bloc said the strike has been historic as all Central Trade Unions gave a joint call for the first time for the two-day strike.
"This makes it the biggest working class action since Independence. The Central government has to immediately address the demands raised and take steps to fulfil them, otherwise bigger actions will follow. This is a wake-up call to stop the anti-people and anti-working class policies," it said.
But whichever way to you want to seeRobert Vadra, there is little doubt that he made, and is still making, his biggest killing in the deserts of Rajasthan, a state run by a Congress government under Ashok Gehlot. Read
The conversations were recorded as part of surveillance of Radia's phone on a complaint to Finance Minister on November 16, 2007 alleging that within a span of nine years she had built up a business empire worth Rs 300 crore.
The government had recorded 180 days of Radia's conversations--first from August 20, 2008 onwards for 60 days and then from October 19 for another 60 days. Later, on May 11, 2009, her phone was again put on surveillance for another 60 days following a fresh order given on May 8.
The Supreme Court on February 8, said the tapped telephone conversations of corporate lobbyist Niira Radia with politicians, corporate honchos and others needs to be scrutinised by the CBI to find out the element of criminality.
A bench of justices GS Singhvi and SJ Mukhopadhaya said that it had gone through transcripts of some of the conversations which were not personal and innocuous in nature.
British Prime Minister David Cameron yesterday joined a fair queue of compatriot eminences to hang their heads at the ringside of a most ignoble theatre of Empire but return without shaking it in regret.Over nearly a century now British protagonists have approached the 1919 massacre ground of Jallianwala Bagh thumbing the thesaurus for an appropriate word to pick. "Sorry' has not been among them
Feb. 21 is recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization as International Mother Language Day in honor of linguistic diversity, prompted by Bangladeshs 1952 National Language Movement.
"It has not actually touched upon what is relevant today and we are very disappointed," BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy said outside Parliament after the President's address.
Rudy also dubbed the address as a "old one". "I think he read the old speech because there was nothing new thing in the speech," Rudy said.
In the hour-long maiden address to the joint sitting of Parliament, Mukherjee touched upon various issues like slower growth of economy and steps to deal with factors responsible for the slowdown.
"The President has given a joint statement in both Houses. It has not referred to the issue of corruption after all. UPA government is besieged with charges of corruption especially in the latest copter case," Rudy said. He said the government did not talk about corruption deliberately. "Since this seems to be the last joint session before the election, I think by design government has chosen not to talk about corruption and other factors about inflation and price rise, which is affecting every household. Petrol and diesel prices are constantly going up," he said.
On the Hindu: The safest way to reduce the subcontinent's nuclear dangers is through consistent efforts to improve relations between India and Pakistan, particularly economic ties. Read
Read:Oscar Pistorius' defence affidavit in full.
The court's action came after it took cognisance of the offence under sections 276B and 278B of the I-T Act, 1962, for not remitting Rs 74.94 crore deducted as TDS in 2009-10 fiscal and Rs 23.70 crore imposed as interest for not meeting the deadline stipulated for payment.
-- Union Minister Panapakkam Lakshmi went up to the podium in the Central Hall of Parliament when union minister Kumari Selja was photographing it. Many MPs then stood before the podium to get pictures clicked. The Central Hall was decorated with flowers and looked beautiful.
-- K S Rao, a Congress MP from Andhra Pradesh, withdrew his resignation after he met Speaker Lok Sabha Meira Kumar today. Rao was angry at his non- inclusion in the union cabinet and submitted his resignation from the Lok Sabha claiming that he was a five-time MP and therefore fit for inclusion in the cabinet.
-- The Rajya Sabha will take up a motion of thanks to the President on March 4 and 5th, the Lok Sabha will do the same on February 27th and March 4th. This was finalised today between the Opposition and the ruling party today.
Sources said the Cabinet in all likelihood will clear the allotment of an MIG flat in Dwarka. The government had earlier decided to provide accommodation for the family in Bhawana. During UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi's visit to the family they had requested for a flat closer to main town Delhi. More
Speaking on the third and final day of a visit to India aimed at drumming up trade and investment, Cameron ruled out handing back the 105-carat
Kohinoor diamond, now on display in the Tower of London.
The diamond had been set in the crown of the current Queen Elizabeth's late mother.One of the world's largest diamonds, some Indians - including Mahatma Gandhi's grandson - have demanded its return to atone for Britain's colonial past.
"I don't think that's the right approach," Cameron told reporters on Wednesday after becoming the first serving British prime minister to voice regret about one of the bloodiest episodes in colonial India, a massacre of unarmed civilians in the city of Amritsar in 1919. "It is the same question with the Elgin Marbles," he said, referring to the classical Greek marble sculptures that Athens has long demanded be given back. -- Reuters
In Inferno Browne returns to the heart of old Europe and to the territory so compellingly occupied by The Da Vinci Code. Dan Brown said, "Although I studied Dante's Inferno as a student, it wasn't until recently, while researching in Florence, that I came to appreciate the enduring influence of Dante's work on the modern world. With this new novel, I am excited to take readers on a journey deep into this mysterious realm'a landscape of codes, symbols, and more than a few secret passageways." Another gripping, page-turner for your library.
Students and office goers were the hardest hit as auto-rickshaw and taxi drivers either refused to go or overcharged. Various industrial units and banks either remained closed or witnessed thin attendance while markets and commercial areas remained open.
Yesterday, the strike had evoked a mixed response.Five major auto-rickshaw and taxi unions in the city have joined the strike to demand a hike in auto and taxi fares.
Long queues were seen at metro stations. DTC services were near normal though a section of the employees extended support to the strike.
Also read: 70 held in Delhi, how the Bharat Bandh affected your city.
The sensational case of Oscar Pistorius took a new turn today when police said the lead investigator is facing seven counts of attempted murder stemming from an incident four years ago. That investigator, Hilton Botha, and several other police officers apparently fired at a minibus they were chasing in late 2009, spokesman Neville Malila told CNN affiliate eNCA.
The officers were allegedly drunk at the time, the spokesman said.They were arrested on seven counts of attempted murder -- for the number of occupants in the minibus, the spokesman said. More
Among the other contestants for the February 23 polls who have equally colourful names are Hilarius, Predecessor, Boldness, Hamlet and Nesting.
Historians in the state say the different names are a result of a colonial hangover Dr Amanda Passah, a historian at the North Eastern Hills University, said, "It is unfair to laugh at them (names) since they are not to be blamed for having such names." "It is the result of fascination of anything western or European of their parents," he said.
Pro-Telangana Congress MPs blocked entry for other MPs at the Parliament entrance and staged a sit-in dharna seeking a separate Telangana state. MPs present include Ponnam Prabhakar, Dr G Vivekananad, Rajaiah Siricilla, Mandha Jagannath, Gutha Sukanthar Reddy.
"India stands tall as a nation because we are seen as a liberal and plural democracy, which has faced and overcome tremendous odds.
"The world recognizes India's demonstrable democratic and secular practices as a major achievement.
While we should rejoice in the benefits that our plurality brings, the challenge is to relentlessly pursue our efforts to accelerate economic growth and widen opportunities within our democratic framework. It is only if we constantly renew and defend the democratic values that define our nationhood that we will be able to face the great challenges that lie before us.
On behalf of my Government, I appeal to all of you to support our endeavours in marching ahead as a proud nation. Jai Hind."
Vice President Hamid Ansari now reading out the President's speech in Hindi.
Mention of the Mars mission draws applause.
Pranab also touched upon violence in Assam, Naxal-related deaths, which he says has reduced over the last year. At least 400 police stations in Naxal-affected areas were in place, roads (critical to maintaining peace in the areas) were underway.
Peace prevails, to a large extent in J&K and the Northeast and terrorism-related deaths have fallen.
The government attaches the highest importance to the welfare of servicemen and ex-servicemen. We have announced schemes that will benefit 13 lakh personnel. Applause from all MPs across party lines. Defence minister AK Antony smiles like a proud father.
Pranab says India will continue to seek peace, development, cooperation in the sub-continent.
"We have taken all the requisite measures for the normalization of relations, we remain committed to taking the peace process forward, but it is important for Pakistan to avoid acts that results in trust deficits.
"We will continue to help Afghanistan fight terrorism and in Sri Lanka, India will continue with its process of engagement so that a life of peace, dignity and equality can be pursued by the Tamil people." DMK MPs, thankfully, silent.
That's the big brother part of Pranab's speech.
Pranab says new ports have been planned in West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh. The auction of new competitive rules in coal block allocation is in the process. LS TV cameraman doing a good job, panning to coal minister Sriprakash Jaiswal, who looks irritated.
"The dependance on oil imports will be reduced," says Pranab, "75 per cent of oil is imported now."
Backbencher DMK MP Kanimozhi is chatting with someone, who can't be seen. All smiles, even as the Enforcement Directorate is set to tighten its noose in the 2G spectrum allocations case as the agency will soon file its charge sheet against her and A Raja.
Government clearances for new airports, including the one at Navi Mumbai and other green field (projects with eco clearance) are announced.
A state-of-the-art coach production facility at Rae Bareilly to produce stainless steel coaches.
A sip of water, and Pranab continues...
2600 km of new roads on the anvil, including 900 km of highways, on a BOT (built, operate, transfer basis).
The government is also working to reduce inequalities in the country through the direct cash transfer system using Aadhar. "It will be a trendsetter," he promises.
MPs are finally listening quietly after their token protest. Pranab Mukherjee is addressing a joint sitting of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha at the Central Hall of Parliament.
"Inflation is easing gradually, but is still a problem," says Pranab.
Pranab begins his speech: "I hope this session will be productive," he says, but MPs raise a din. Pranab, used to ruckus (when he was the finance minister) carries on regardless.
Sushil Kumar Shinde sitting next to Sushma Swaraj!
The President's car on the way to Parliament accompanied by the cavalry.
"This session of Parliament is going to transact the important financial business before the House and it is our sincere hope that we will have a productive, constructive debate leading to agreed solutions to many national problems that our country faces. I have said this before and I repeat it again Parliament is a forum for discussions, for dialogue and all parties have an obligation to ensure that Parliament runs smoothly," Dr. Singh told the media after an all-party meeting called by Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar.
The Budget Session starts today with President Pranab Mukherjee's first address to the joint sitting of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha. President Mukherjee will address both Houses of Parliament assembled together at 11 am in the Central Hall.
The Budget (Railways) for 2013-2014 will be presented to the Lok Sabha on February 26 immediately after Question Hour. The Economic Survey of India will be laid in the Parliament on February 27. The Budget (General) for 2013 - 2014 will be presented at 11 am on February 28.
To finalise the government business for the 2013Budget Session, Parliamentary Affairs and Urban Development Minister Kamal Nath took a meeting with Secretaries/senior officers of various Ministries/Departments on February 15. The Minister of State in the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs co-chaired the meeting. During the meeting, 71 items [55 Bills, 13 Financial items and 03 Non-legislative items] were identified for 2013 Budget Session.
"Our conduct in Parliament will be crucial determinant of country's ability to cope up with formidable challenges," he said.
"I hope the opposition allows Parliament to function. We wish to engage constructively, peacefully with all members. People want a constructive session of the Parliament," he added.
Mathai, who arrived in Washington on a three-day United States trip -- his first of the Obama Administration's second term -- would also hold a series of meetings with top American officials on a range of bilateral and regional issues. Prominent among them include Deputy Secretary of State William Burns; Under Secretary of State for Energy, Economic Growth and the Environment Robert Hormats.
The magistrate's line of questioning indicated he may be considering bail, reports BBC.
On Wednesday, lawyers for Pistorius challenged the testimony of veteran Detective Hilton Botha at the hearing in Pretoria.
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The family of the girls is still in a state of shock and the locals allege that the cops are still not doing enough to nab the culprits.
Read the full report on NDTV
According to the 2007-2011 American Community Survey, 42.7million people in the United States had income below the poverty level. The national poverty rate is 14.7 per cent.
With 8.2 per cent of poverty rate, Indian Americans are far less poor than other ethnic groups and the national average,the Census Bureau report said.
As far as rolling stock programme is concerned, the announcement will be made for manufacturing of 4200 new coaches including 600 LHB coaches in the Rail Budget.
While provision for manufacturing of 670 new locomotives including 20 LNG locos will be made, the budget will also account for manufacturing of about 16,000 new wagons. "The focus of the Rail Budget this year is on providing more amenities to passengers. Attempts have been made to cater to the demands of all regions including Northeast as there were representations for new trains from various states," sources in railway ministry said.
In Noida, schools are shut today after yesterday's violence where factories and vehicles came under mob attacks. At least 65 people have been arrested for vandalising factories at the hosiery complex in phase 2 and setting 25 vehicles, including a fire engine, on fire. Violence was also reported from phase 3.
Mumbai: Expect a normal Thursday in the city, which remain largely unaffected by the bandh yesterday. Banks and RTOs will be shut today.
Public transport in other cities could be affected again.
Delhi: Few autos are off the roads. However, DTC buses are not participating in the strike.
Kolkata: Few taxis are plying on roads. Most of the factories and shops are open, reports NDTV.
Lucknow: State transport buses are not running here today and all public sector banks are closed.
Bangalore: Schools and colleges are shut. Fewer autos and taxis can be seen on the roads. Shops are open.
Sony said it will go on sale in at least some countries in or around December, reports BBC.
The new PlayStation's updated controller closely resembles the PlayStation 3 controller but adds a touchpad, motion control and a "share" button. The Japanese electronics giant said the console will be part of a new ecosystem focused on hardware, software and "the fastest, most powerful gaming network."
The PlayStation 4 will be Sony's first major game console since the PlayStation 3 went on sale in 2006.