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Thursday, May 27, 2010

After end of AI strike, two unions de-recognised

Mumbai Hours after crushing the two-day old strike by Air India employees, the state-owned airline de-recognised two major trade unions and sealed their offices across the country.

The airline gradually restored normalcy since morning though 25 flights were cancelled for the day.

Erstwhile Indian Airlines

' union Air Corporation Employees' Union (ACEU) and All India Aircraft Engineers' Association (AIAEA) have been de-recognised by the management of National Aviation Company of India Ltd (NACIL) and their

offices have also been sealed, NACIL sources said today. NACIL is the holding company of Air India. Airindia

Besides terminating the services of 17 office-bearers of the two Unions last night, the airline suspended 15 engineers. More dismissals and suspensions are likely to follow with highly-placed sources indicating that a total of upto 100 employees would face action.

"The de-recognition order came in last night and their offices have also been sealed," the sources said, as the airline cracked down on the Union leaders.

Dinkar Shetty, a leader of the ACEU, said they were waiting for a formal communication from the management regarding termination and suspension before deciding on the future course of action.

ACEU and AIAEA had gone on a flash-strike on Tuesday to protest a 'gag order' directing the office-bearers of NACIL trade union to refrain from making public statements and harming the image of the company.

The Unions were demanding immediate withdrawal of the 'gag order'. But the Management claimed there was only a general circular which has been upheld by the Mumbai High Court and that there was no such 'gag order.'

The strike led to cancellation of 130 flights affecting 13,000 passengers. Besides, NACIL also incurred losses to the tune of Rs 10 crore due to the strike.

Shortly after the strike was called off, Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel said the kind of behaviour shown by the striking employees cannot be tolerated repeatedly. "Whoever did it are absolutely irresponsible," he said.

The strike was called off following a Delhi High Court order yesterday. The Government had also turned the heat on the striking employees giving a free hand to Air India management to take stern action against them. About 20,000 employees belonging to ACEU and AIAEA had gone on strike, according to the Unions. The striking employees accounted for roughly 60 per cent of the airline's staff.

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Six killed in Russia blast

At least six people were killed and more than 40 injured in a bomb blast that rattled Russia's southern city Starvropol, officials said.

The toll in Wednesday's terrorist attack reached six when a ten-year-old girl died in a hospital, a local official told RIA Novosti.

More than 40 people were injured in the blast, which took place outside the city's House of Culture and Sport ahead of a Chechen band's concert.

Stavropol Territory Governor Valery Gayevsky said the terrorist attack was aimed at shattering national unity.

A top regional investigator, Yekaterina Danilova, said the explosion was equivalent to 0.2 kg of TNT.

Stavropol is the largest region in the North Caucasus Federal District and hosts its administration, but has remained largely free of the violence in the neighbouring republics of Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan.

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Day after strike, Air India seeks to restore normalcy

National carrier Air India was on Thursday struggling to restore normal operations after a two-day wildcat strike by 15,000 employees and said it would take another two days for flight schedules to get regular.

An airline spokesperson said 78 schedules - domestic and international - have been slotted on Thursday and more will be pressed into service next day to clear the backlog caused by the strike that had stranded thousands of passengers in India and overseas.

"There were a few cancellations from New Delhi and Kolkata this morning, but as far as Mumbai was concerned, we have been able to operate all our flights as usual," an Air India spokesperson said in Mumbai.

"Two early morning flights to Ahmedabad could also not be operated. But they had minimal load, which was transferred to other flights operating from the international terminal."

The strike, the airline said, had led to over 100 flight cancellations and a loss of Rs 12 crore (Rs 120 million/$2.5 million) for the carrier, even as 13,000 passengers were inconvenienced.

The strike was finally called off after the Delhi High Court restrained the unions - protesting what they said was a management gag order on them against speaking to the media - from proceeding with their agitation till July 13.

This time around, the Air India management, backed by the government, also sacked at least 15 union leaders for instigating the stir for reasons they said were flimsy and out of context. Services of 17 others were suspended.

"Whatever action has to be taken, we have to go the whole hog," Air India Chairman and Managing Director Arvind Jadhav said, hours after the Delhi High Court order, adding that Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel had fully backed their stand.

"We will ensure that such an event is not repeated in future," Civil Aviation Secretary M Madhavan Nambiar added, indicating that the airline may start the process of derecognising some unions.

The unions, however, have decided to take up the matter with Chief Labour Commissioner SK Mukhopadhyay, who was mediating on behalf of the two sides and had assured that there would be no victimisation.

The sudden strike had further dented the image of the national carrier that had come under a cloud because of reports of poor safety standards in the light of the Mangalore air crash and overall deterioration in services due to accumulated losses that topped $2.5 billion.

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India angry over visa row, warns Canada of retaliation

In view of Canada denying visa to Indian army officers, the Home Ministry has written to the External Affairs Ministry, asking it to take up the issue strongly with the Canadian High Commission.

The Home Ministry wants the Canadian High Commission to apologise, withdraw the comments and take action against the officers responsible for such behaviour.

Canada denied visas to a member of the Armed Forces Tribunal, three serving Brigadiers, a retired Lt General and a former senior IB official on the grounds that their organisations have been engaging in violence.

A serving Intelligence Bureau officer, assigned to travel to Toronto in connection with the Prime Minister’s trip there next month, was also denied visa recently but was later allowed to travel after protest from India.

The denial of visas, over the last two years, has angered the Home Ministry which has warned that India would also “retaliate” by denying visas to Canadian officials who go to Afghanistan via this country.

Lt Gen (retd) A S Bahia, a decorated Indian military officer who is now a member of the Armed Forces Tribunal in Chandigarh, was refused visa in May this year, contending that he had served in a “sensitive location” of Jammu and Kashmir.

Bahia, who retired as the Quarter Master General (QMG) on April 30, 2006, told PTI over phone that he had brought the matter to the notice of appropriate authorities.

In another revelation, two Brigadiers were denied visas in 2008 and another in 2009. A retired Lt General R N Bhatia was also refused visa in 2008 on the similar grounds.

S S Sidhu, a retired IB officer, was denied visa on March 26 this year, with the Canadian High Commission saying that he belonged to the “inadmissible” category of persons.

The rejection letter said he could not be given visa as he had served in an organisation like IB and that led to apprehension that he could “engage in an act of espionage or subversion”, or “violence that would or might endanger the lives or safety of persons in Canada.”

Sidhu termed it as a “disgusting reply from a friendly country like Canada and an insult to India.”
He said he wanted to go to Canada just to see the new house of his daughter.

These revelations came four days after a case of denial of visa to a retired BSF constable came to light. He had been refused visa on similar grounds.

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Driver lucky to pull up in time to avoid pram

The driver of a Melbourne train that hit a baby in a pram on the tracks yesterday says it was lucky the train pulled up as quickly as it did.

The 15-month-old baby boy suffered cuts and bruising to his face after being dragged up to 10 metres face down in his double pram at the Taroonga train station. The  pram about to fall onto the tracks

The boy is in a stable condition at the Royal Children's Hospital.

The child was with his grandmother and three-year-old brother when the pram rolled off the platform and into the path of an oncoming train.

Security cameras captured the incident as the pram rolled off the platform.

Driver Steve Ryan says there was a lot of luck involved because on the X'Trapolis train, there is a lot of open space at the front.

"The pram hit the iron guard at an angle and that was just plain lucky," he said.

"The train really did pull up quickly."

Mr Ryan said he gave his kids a hug when he got home last night.

"I have a grand daughter the same age and I'd do anything to save my grandkids. I treated this boy exactly the same," he said.

He said drivers are trained to respond to this type of incident.

"When it does [happen], your instincts just kick in," he said.

"Whenever I approach a platform, I always look out for school kids and prams."

Ambulance officers on the scene said it was amazing the child was not more seriously injured.

Victorian Premier John Brumby says it is miraculous that the child survived.

He says the Government will examine the issue to to see if changes need to be made in the design of prams.

"I think many people's minds are focused on what changes could be made including perhaps even pram design. it's every parent's worst fear," he said.

"Maybe they need a deadman's brake. I don't know."

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Meet the Brit woman who has sex for babies to boost her £20K benefits!

London, May 25 (ANI): A British woman has revealed that she is looking into having casual sex only so she can have babies and increase the 20,000 pounds benefits she is already getting.

Natalie Taylor, 29, who is a single mom with four kids by three dads, claims she has never had a job as she cannot afford to work, and that she wants to bed more men so she can double her family.

“I’d love to get a job, but I’d be 50p a week worse off if I worked,” the Daily Star quoted her as saying.

“My dad works for the Post Office and my brother’s a mechanic, so the tax they pay covers my kids,” she said.

She also claims that she sleeps around because she is “addicted” to being pregnant.

“I’d be pregnant all the time if I could. I’d like to have four more kids,” she said.

“Unless Mr Perfect comes along, I’ll sleep with strangers to have more babies. Some people won’t agree with the way I do things, but I don’t have regrets. I’m excited about my next mission.

“My hair and nails look nicer when I’m pregnant. I love being a mum – I’m addicted. I don’t worry what my kids will think about me, I know they’ll love me as much as I love them,” she stated.

Taylor, who lives in an East Sussex council house, gets 250 pounds a week income support plus 344 pounds a month housing benefit, 80 pounds a month council tax relief and 240 pounds a month in child benefit.

But she claims life is a “financial struggle”, despite driving a 1,200 pounds seven-seater Vauxhall Zafira and having regular beauty treatments.

Taylor said she had begged strangers for sex to get pregnant with Charity, now five months old, and one man, a jobless, dope-smoking “bum”, granted her wish in the back of a Nissan Micra.

“Men are only good for one thing, giving me babies. When I split with my last boyfriend I had three children by two dads,” she added.

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Air India crew, engineers on flash strike; 16 flights cancelled

NEW DELHI: Air India's operations were severely affected on Tuesday with at least 16 flights, including five international services, being cancelled as over 16,000 staffers went on a flash strike across the country to protest delay in payment of salaries.

Several other flights were delayed, many of them by over an hour, as the strike from 1230 hours spread in major metro cities with employees walking out of their offices and organising demonstrations to press for their demands.

Air India had last week decided to delay the May salaries by a week.

The international flights cancelled were those from Delhi to Jeddah, Abu Dhabi and Dubai (two flights) and one from Amritsar to London, Air India officials said.

Domestic services from Kolkata, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Chennai were also affected. Among the flights delayed was one from Coimbatore to Chennai, which flew in Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi after a two-hour delay.

In Delhi, Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel held a meeting with Air India CMD Arvind Jadhav to take stock of the situation, official sources said.

They said the airline was planning to curtail operations from tomorrow primarily due to shortage of cabin crew and engineers. Many of the flights between major metros were combined today in face of the agitation.

In Delhi, the airline offered full refund to passengers travelling by flights that were cancelled while those in transit were given hotel accommodation and local transport.

While senior officials said the management had invited leaders of the Air Corporation Employees Union (ACEU) for talks, its General Secretary J B Kadian told PTI this evening that no such invitation has yet been received.

Demanding immediate withdrawal of the "gag order", he said the ground staff, cabin crew and engineers, mostly belonging to the erstwhile Indian Airlines, were participating in the strike.

Kadian said no communication has also been received from the office of the Chief Labour Commissioner.

Besides the ACEU which claims representation of 12,000 members of the erstwhile Indian Airlines including ground- handling and technical staff and cabin crew, the All India Aircraft Engineers Association has also joined the strike.

The ACEU had served a strike notice on the management and the Chief Labour Commissioner on May 15 against Air India's decision to defer salary payments. However, that notice had called for a strike from May 31.

The unions belonging to the international wing of Air India have not gone on strike on the issue so far.

In Mumbai, All India Cabin Crew Association General Secretary Sanjay Lazar said in a statement that none of its members were participating in the agitation. He, however, demanded withdrawal of the "gag order" saying it was violative of the Constitution.

The Air India management appealed to the agitators to return to work at "this hour of crisis" following Saturday's air crash that claimed 158 lives.

Confirming cancellation and delays of several flights across different regions, an official statement said Air India was "making every possible effort to maintain normalcy in operations".

"The airline has been able to operate 116 of the 123 scheduled flights on the network till 1430 hours. While there have been four cancellations, some flights have been delayed or combined," it said, adding there had been dislocations at some non-Metro airports.

Referring to the tragic accident, the airline said, "In this hour of crisis, the Management earnestly appeals to all sections of employees to join hands to strengthen the airline and maintain high performance to show that Air India can cope up with any emergency."

Maintaining it had mustered all available resources to minimise the impact on the scheduled operations, it extended "unqualified apology to the passengers who have faced or may be facing inconveniences due to the dislocated operations".

The controversial circular, issued last evening, said "instances have come to the notice (of the management) that contrary to instruction issued under office order HQ-81-3/360 July 2009, 13 employees of the company holding positions of office-bearers of unions/associations/guild are freely airing their views to the media despite channels of communication existing with the company to voice their grievances.

"Employees concerned are advised to forthwith refrain from going public with their statements that have the potential to harm the company's image and revenue prospects, failing which action as deemed appropriate will be taken," it said.

Reports from Chennai, Bhubaneshwar and other places said the delays and cancellations of flights left hundreds of passengers stranded.
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Jail for Rathore is common man's victory: Aradhana

Chandigarh: "It's a victory for the common man," said Aradhana Gupta, the only witness in Ruchika molestation case, after Tuesday’s court verdict enhancing the jail term of former Haryana DGP SPS Rathore.

Speaking from Sydney, Ruchika's friend, Gupta said, it is all due to public support that Ruchika has got justice.

"I am so happy about it. I really appreciate the judiciary for putting Rathore behind the bar. But certainly I am not very happy because we were expecting two years as the crime was committed by a police official and not by a commoner," Gupta said.

"We should take it as a first step towards justice and certainly the case under Section 306 IPC (abetment to suicide) and other charges against him are yet to come up. Rathore will be punished for whatever crimes he has committed in these years, harassing the Girhotra family and ruining the career of Ruchika's brother. Certainly that still has to come," she told a news channel.

"We certainly take it as a victory. We have been waiting long for the culprit to be punished," she said.
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Monday, May 24, 2010

Kites opens in Top 10 at US Box Office

KitesBollywood heartthrob Hrithik Roshan and Mexican star Barbara Mori's action-romance Kites has become the first Bollywood film to debut in the North American top ten on opening weekend flying into the number ten spot.

Released by Reliance Big Pictures, the Rakesh Roshan-produced film grossed an estimated USD 1 million for the period of May 21-23, ranking just behind the ninth-place film How to Train Your Dragon which has grossed over USD 210 million.

Directed by Anurag Basu, Kites has been praised by US film critics and has generated the most number of mainstream reviews ever for a Bollywood film on opening day.

It has earned an exceptionally high 85 percent score on RottenTomatoes.com, a popular film review aggregator website in US.

In India, Kites soared to the second biggest opening day gross in history trailing only 3 Idiots. In addition, the film has opened at number five at the UK box office.

This Friday, on May 28, an international version of the film titled Kites- The Remix will open in select theaters in US.

It is presented by Hollywood filmmaker Brett Ratner, focuses more on the action and runs 90 minutes in length.

Some theaters across North America will be playing both versions simultaneously giving fans a choice in their viewing experience.

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Sensex up 280 pts on Ambani brothers peace pact

The Bombay Stock Exchange benchmark Sensex on Monday surged by almost 280 points in opening trade on Ambani brothers dumping their differences to take a step towards reconciliation in their long-running feud.

The 30-share index, which lost 74.07 points in the previous trading session, shot up by 279.30 points, or 1.69 per cent to 16,724.91 in the opening trade.

The wide-based National Stock Exchange index Nifty regained the 5,000-points level by rising 89.50 points, or 1.81 per cent, to 5,020.65 points.

Brokers said trading sentiment turned better after the Ambani brothers agreed to cancel existing non-compete agreements, triggering widespread buying, led by Reliance Industries stocks.

Besides, weekend rally on the US markets, which edged 1.35 per cent higher, also influenced the sentiment, they added.

Stocks of heavyweight Reliance Industries turned bullish and recorded a rise of 3.64 per cent to Rs 1,032, while that of RNRL shot up 21.17 per cent to 53.90. Reliance Infra gathered 7.40 per cent to Rs 1,061.60.

Rcom shot up 4.84 per cent to Rs 139.85, Infosys Technologies by 0.03 per cent to Rs 2,587, Sterlite Industries by 1.59 per cent to Rs 651.95, Tata Motors by 2.77 per cent to Rs 730 and Tata Steel by 2.01 per cent to Rs 519.65.

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Naxalism remains the biggest internal security challenge: PM

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday said Naxalism remains the biggest internal security challenge and it is imperative to control left-wing extremism for the country's growth.

His government has not underestimated the problem of Naxalism, Singh said at a national press conference here to mark the completion of one year of UPA-II in office.

"I have been saying for the last three years that Naxalism remains the biggest internal security challenge facing our country," he said.

Asked if his government had underestimated the Naxals, he said, "We have not underestimated the problem of Naxalism."

He said there was no difference of opinion between the Central and the state governments on the issue of left-wing extremism.

"I have spoken to the Chief Ministers of the states many times on the Naxal issue. The Chief Ministers understand that it is imperative to control Naxalism for the country's growth," the Prime Minister said.

Singh said to exploit full benefit of economic reforms, it is important to control Naxalism and terrorist elements. "If we don't, it can affect our growth," he said.

On the issue of terrorism, the Prime Minister said the government is determined to squarely tackle the threat of terrorism and ideological extremism of various kinds.

He said that terrorism is a major national security issue and it has no religion.

Terrorism, he said, is being sponsored by particular religious elements and has to be dealt with "effectively" and "purposefully".

Trust deficit is the biggest problem with Pakistan and no progress can happen in negotiations unless this issue is addressed, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said.

"Trust deficit is the biggest problem," he said at the first major press conference to mark the first year of the second term of the United Progressive Alliance government.

"It is my conviction that ... why we haven't been able to make headway in composite dialogue is that there has been lack of adequate trust," he said.

Singh said trust deficit was identified as a core issue when he met his Pakistani counterpart Yousaf Raza Gilani in Bhutan last month.

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Ambanis end non-compete pact in reconciliation bid


NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India's billionaire Ambani brothers took a step towards reconciliation in their long-running feud on Sunday, ending non-compete agreements in a move they hoped would lead to cooperation between the two groups.

Both groups said they aim to reach a conclusion soon for a gas supply agreement between Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Industries (RIL) and younger brother Anil's Reliance Natural Resources that had been at the heart of their dispute.

The brothers will now be free to compete on each other's turf, with the exception of gas-fired power plants, removing a source of friction between the two conglomerates and potentially giving a lift to shares in both groups.

"RIL and Reliance ADA Group are hopeful and confident that all these steps will create an overall environment of harmony, co-operation and collaboration between the two groups," they both said on Sunday.

The statement comes two weeks after the Supreme Court ruled in Mukesh Ambani's favour in a bitter public dispute over gas pricing that had riven India's richest family and raised questions about the role of big business in government policy.

While the feud had captivated the attention of India it had been a major distraction for both groups and the government.

"This gives more clarity, less ambiguity. In the last few years, the two brothers have spent more time in court, now they can concentrate on their businesses," said Jagannadham Thunuguntla, equity head at SMC Capital in New Delhi.

"The speed with the two brothers have reached a solution is slightly fascinating, because everybody expected it to be long-drawn process. There might be a relief rally in both groups' stocks tomorrow as it removes ambiguity," he added.

Reliance Industries, India's largest listed firm, and Anil's Reliance ADA Group said they agreed to cancel all existing non-compete pacts the groups had signed in 2006 and entered into a new non-compete pact only for gas-based power generation.

"This is more positive for Reliance Industries than R-ADAG group, because this gives Reliance an opportunity to look into expansion in other areas," said S.P. Tulsian, an independent investment consultant. "You can't rule out the possibility of Reliance entering in sectors such as telecom," he said.


The two brothers are estimated to be worth a combined $43 billion and both live in Mumbai but had not been on speaking terms during their dispute. They split the business empire inherited from their father Dhirubhai Ambani in a 2005 deal brokered by their homemaker mother, Kokilaben.

Mukesh, 53, got the jewel -- Reliance Industries, which has interests in oil and gas exploration, petrochemicals, infrastructure and textiles. Anil, 50, got the telecoms, power and financial services businesses.

As part of their agreements announced on Sunday, Reliance Industries will not enter the gas-based electricity generation business before April 1, 2022, with an exception made for its captive gas-based power plants, the groups said.

The two had clashed over the gas and telecoms businesses.

"These developments will eliminate any room for further disputes between the two groups, on matters relating to the scope and interpretation of the non-compete obligations," the two groups said in their statements on Sunday.

Neither brother was available for comment.


India's highest court on May 7 ordered the brothers to renegotiate within six weeks a private natural gas supply contract between Reliance Industries and Reliance Natural.

The new contract must abide by a government price of $4.2 per million metric British thermal unit (mmBtu), compared with $2.34 per mmBtu the brothers agreed on in 2005 for a 17-year period.

"We hope to conclude these negotiations very soon," the two groups said in Sunday.

The gas case had been closely watched by foreign investors due to the lack of clarity on the government's energy policy and the court's ruling raised fresh concerns about India's attractiveness to investors in the energy sector because it affirmed the government's right to set gas prices.

"At what price will the gas be given, whether RNRL will be an intermediary, or Reliance Power will get direct gas, I think all these questions will be cleared over a period of time, as dust settles down," said Gaurang Shah, assistant vice president at Geojit BNP Paribas.

Reliance Power is controlled by Anil Ambani.

"But overall this is a very good move for the market and for both the group companies," he said.

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UK army's chief bomb officer resigns over Afghanistan

LONDON (Reuters) - The British Army's top bomb disposal officer has resigned, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said in a statement on Monday.

The MoD said Colonel Bob Seddon, who held the post of Principal Ammunition Technical Officer (PATO), would step down in January.

The Sun newspaper said Seddon was quitting over concerns that a shortage of trained bomb disposal experts was putting troops in Afghanistan under strain.

"I am very concerned over the pressures they are facing in Afghanistan," the paper quoted Seddon as saying in a BBC documentary to be broadcast later on Monday.

"We've broadened our training and selection but it will take time before these measures come into play. The existing cohort are going to be under pressure," Seddon said.

Britain's new Foreign Secretary William Hague and other senior ministers were in Afghanistan at the weekend to get a first-hand look at the situation in the country.

The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government formed after the May 6 election says its top foreign policy priority is the strategy for Afghanistan, where Britain has 9,500 troops battling Taliban insurgents.

Some 285 British soldiers have died in Afghanistan since 2001, when the NATO mission there was launched and Britain has struggled to turn the tide on an insurgency in the restive southern Helmand province, where most of its troops are deployed.

"We can confirm that the current PATO has resigned and will leave his post and the Army in January next year," an Army spokesman said in the statement.

"The Army remains committed to the counter IED (improvised explosive devise) effort which is the number one priority in Afghanistan," the spokesman said.

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BJP to withdraw support from Soren government Monday

Ranchi, May 24 (IANS) The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will meet Jharkhand Governor M.O.H. Farook Monday to withdraw support from the Shibu Soren-led government.

“We will meet the governor at 11.30 a.m. to withdraw support from Soren’s government. The JMM’s changing stand has pushed the state into political uncertainty and the party has decided to withdraw support,” Jharkhand BJP president and Deputy Chief Minister Raghubar Das told IANS.

Jharkhand has been facing a political crisis since April 27 when Soren voted against the BJP’s cut motions in the Lok Sabha last month. This led the BJP, a junior partner in the Jharkhand coalition, to announce withdrawal of support from the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) on April 28. On April 30, BJP put its withdrawal decision on hold.

On May 8, JMM announced that it would support the BJP. Ten days later, on May 18, BJP agreed to a rotation of power with Soren. On May 20, however, Soren refused to quit and announced that talks were on with both the BJP and the Congress for the formation of an alternative government in Jharkhand.

Soren’s defiant attitude prompted the BJP to withdraw support from his government.

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AI plane crash: Black box recovered

AI plane crash: Black box recoveredMangalore: Investigators Sunday retrieved the 'black box' from the wreckage of the ill-fated Air India Express flight, which is expected to throw light on what went wrong in Saturday's crash that left 158 people dead.

The Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) and the Digital Flight Data Acquisition Unit (DFDAU), which record cockpit conversation and all technical details, have been traced from the debris of the Boeing 737-800 aircraft, which overshot the runway and burst into flames after plunging into a ravine.

The throttle in the cockpit, which was extricated from the debris, was found in a forward position suggesting that the pilot may have attempted a final thrust to take-off seconds before the crash.

A Civil Aviation Ministry statement in Delhi said that the CVR was affected by fire but was expected to yield the desired information.

While the CVR captures radio transmissions and sounds in the cockpit, such as the pilots' voices and engine noises, the DFDAU records short-duration flight parameters.

However, search for the Digital Flight Data Recorder (DFDR) continues, the statement said. Airline officials had earlier claimed that this too had been recovered.

The DFDR records actual flight conditions, including altitude, airspeed, heading, vertical acceleration and aircraft pitch.

The instruments will be brought to Delhi tomorrow to be examined by Air Safety Directorate of the DGCA to ascertain the causes for the crash, official sources said.

Interim compensation

In Mangalore, Air India CMD Arvind Jadhav announced an interim compensation of Rs 10 lakh to the kin of the victims, above 12 years of age, Rs 5 lakh for those below 12 years and Rs 2 lakh for those injured.

"This will be over and above the relief of Rs 2 lakh to the families of each victim announced by the prime minister," he told reporters here.

He said while 128 bodies have been identified and handed over to the families, 12 were yet to be identified. Post mortem was being carried out on 18 bodies.

Teams, probing the worst air tragedy in the country in a decade, continued sifting through the wreckage to find all material required for the investigation being carried out by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation.

Experts of the US Federal Aviation Authority, Boeing and air safety firm Kenyon will be assisting in deciphering the black box and the CVR.

A forensic team from Hyderabad carried out DNA tests on the bodies that have been charred beyond recognition.

158 people, including six crew, were killed in India's worst air disaster in a decade when Air India's budget carrier's flight IX-812 from Dubai crashed at the Bajpe airport yesterday morning after overshooting the 8,000 feet runway. Eight persons had a miraculous escape.
Human error?

Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel said a human error factor could not be ruled out but made it clear that the report of the DGCA inquiry should be awaited before coming to any conclusion.

"You cannot rule out a human error factor. Certainly all parameters looked normal for a normal touchdown," he told a news channel.

Patel also said he had spoken to the DGCA to go into issues relating to small and difficult airports.

An official spokesperson said the analysis of the CVR and other instruments of the aircraft would take about a fortnight. The analysis of huge amounts of records emanating from the CVR, DFDAU or DFDR would take a couple of weeks.

The DGCA has appointed its Director, Air Safety, Bir Singh Rai as the Inspector of Accidents to carry out the enquiry assisted by other experts.

Meanwhile, the tapes retrieved from the Air Traffic Control tower at Bajpe airport have been replayed and a detailed analysis was being carried out, the Civil Aviation Ministry said.

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Calls for PCB disbandment following video leak

The Parliamentary Standing Committees on Sports have suggested disbandment of the Pakistan Cricket Board and appointment of an ad-hoc committee to run game in the country after a leaked video exposed the strife and politics within the team.

Iqbal Muhammad Khan, who heads the National Assembly Committee, said PCB has made a mess of cricket affairs in the country.

"I think Ejaz Butt should step down honorably and the government should appoint an ad-hoc committee to put cricket matters back on track," he said.

Ghaffar Qureshi, who heads the Senate Committee, said he would call for the holding of a joint parliamentary session of both the committees to probe into cricket matters and discuss the leaked video recordings.

"We will have a joint session soon in which all Board officials, players and former and present team officials will be summoned," Qureshi said.

The Senator said he also supported the appointment of an ad-hoc committee by the PCB chief patron -- President Asif Zardari.

"It is obvious from the video recordings just what shape Pakistan cricket is in and I think it is time other people were given a chance to run cricket affairs. This board has failed to control things," he said.

The NA committee has already summoned players and officials next week for a hearing which is expected to provide fireworks since players who have spoken against each other in the video recordings will attend the hearing side by side.

The Board is also due next week to announce the squads for the Asia Cup and tour to England.

The video recordings of the PCB enquiry committee highlighted differences among the players, ineffectiveness of the team management, involvement of the PCB officials in team politics and fresh suspicions about the match-fixing
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Kites flies into the eye of despair in Bangalore

Bangalore: The much awaited Bollywood movie of the year, Kites, has landed in a controversy on the eve of its release. Late on Thursday evening, the Karnataka Film Camber of Commerce (KFCC) slapped a ban on the Hrithik Roshan-Barbara Mori starrer’s release scheduled for Friday, claiming that it was in violation of the guidelines set for the screening of other language films and would affect the business of Kannada movies.

The chamber’s announcement that the movie would not be released in Karnataka as scheduled, left thousands of fans disappointed. However, the lack of confirmation from the exhibitors and distributors on whether the film would be released or not added an element of confusion to the drama.

Hundreds of fans who had booked their tickets for the film did not know what would happen to their tickets and whether they would indeed be able to see the film that they had been waiting to watch with so much expectation. DNA spoke to a few fans to gauge the mood in the city.

“It is not right to suddenly cancel the movie just before the day it is to release. A decision to ban such a big banner movie cannot be unilateral,” said Nikhil D, a software professional.

Though most fans were disappointed over the scrapping of the release, a few of them said that the ban did not affect them in a big way. “It makes no difference to me as I had no expectations from this movie. I thought of watching it sometime after the release and was not keen on watching it on the first day of its release,” said Suhas R, a student.

However, there were several others who were angry with the development. “In a city which is considered cosmopolitan, such a cancellation of another language film is not a good development. There is a huge audience for English and Hindi movies in Bangalore and feelings of this section of the society should be considered,” said Tarun Mohan.

Kruthika K Murthy, a student, said, “I am not disappointed; but the reasoning behind banning the movie has left me frustrated. This is absolute nonsense. If a movie is good, no matter what language it is made in, people will continue to watch it. What counts is whether a cinema is good or not. It’s language makes no difference.”

However, the fans are expecting that the controversy would be settled soon. They feel that it was a matter of time before the film was released. “I had lots of expectations from the movie, and had planned to watch it on the first day of its release. Now that it is not being showed as per schedule, I expect the movie to be released very soon. I will watch it whenever it hits the screen,” said Arvind S, a professor.

When DNA tried contacting the multiplexes and theatres where Kites was to release, to know whether they would abide by the chamber directive or not, they were either not available or were reluctant to comment. Repeated queries on how they planned to refund the tickets for which advance bookings had been made, also were greeted with silence.
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CBSE declares class 12 board results

CBSE declares class 12 board results

New Delhi: The results of the CBSE board exams for class 12 for Delhi, Guwahati and Allahabad regions will be declared on Friday. The results will be available on CBSE websites after 8.00 am. This year, 699,129 students out of which there were 408,367 boys and 290,762 girls took the Class 12 exams in the country and abroad.

The total pass percentage is at 79.8, which is a liitle below last year's pass per cent of 81. The girls have once again outdone the boys with 85.3 per cent of girls clearing the exams as compared to 75.9 per cent of boys.

The students can check their results by logging onto www.cbse.nic.in and www.results.nic.in. The results can also be obtained by dialing the phone number 011-28127030 in Delhi.

The board has also introduced a Centralised Access System similar to that of a call centre. Students can call 1800 11 7002 from any part of the country.

Mobile service users can either call or obtain results via SMS, the details of which are posted on the CBSE website.

The results in the Panchkula, Ajmer and Chennai regions were declared on May 19.

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Arnold Schwarzenegger in Hospital -- Seeing Double

Arnold Schwarzenegger
After the California Governor's Office told us Ahnold was visiting an old friend, we found out the friend was none other than stunt master Billy Lucas -- who used to risk his neck for the Governator in flicks like "Terminator 2," "Terminator 3" ... and "Jingle All the Way."

We spoke to Lucas, who would only tell us that Arnold made the pit stop because the two hadn't caught up in a while -- and "everything's fine."

Arnold also visited Lucas in the hospital a year ago, after the stuntman underwent back surgery.
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Tesla partners with Toyota to turn cars electric, Governor tells why they chose California

AS PER California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Electric-car maker Tesla Motors will team up with Toyota and help it come up with a new electric vehicle in the state. He gave away some of the details during an environmental event this morning at Google headquarters in Mountain View.

The governor expressed his excitement over Tesla’s idea of turning one of Toyota’s cars electric. Silicon Valley-based Tesla is holding a press conference later on Thursday where it said it plans to make a significant and exciting announcement. The governor will be at the briefing, to be held at the company's Palo Alto, California, facility.

Tesla, the six-year-old start-up best known for its $109,000 all-electric Roadster, has been granted $465 million of loans from the US government to build a new lower-cost model. It has been hunting for a manufacturing site in California. Toyota, on the other hand, closed a sprawling manufacturing plant in Fremont, California, in April.
The governor boasts of the congenial atmosphere and facilities available at California which he says attracts manufacturers to set up industries and make optimum utilization of resources.
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Obama's financial overhaul passes US Senate - Summary

Washington - The biggest overhaul of US financial regulation in seven decades was approved Thursday by the Senate, ending months of debate in the chamber over how to rein in Wall Street practices that helped plunge the world into recession last year.The Senate voted 59-39 for the financial reform bill, a top priority for US President Barack Obama. The legislation aims to tighten government regulations in the wake of the devastating 2008 financial crisis.Obama called it "one important step that will strengthen our economy" and prevent another crisis in the future.The success came after two weeks of tough haggling between Obama's Democrats and opposition Republicans, who still mostly oppose the bill as government overreach into the private sector.The Senate's version will still have to be reconciled in the coming weeks with a different bill approved last year by the lower House of Representatives."We have still got some work to do," Obama said, urging lawmakers to ignore last-minute lobbying by the financial industry, which has mostly opposed the reforms.The Senate legislation includes strengthened oversight of lightly regulated sectors of Wall Street including hedge funds and derivatives trading, and creates a consumer financial protection agency within the Federal Reserve.The bill gives the US government the authority to wind down failing financial firms - a form of managed bankruptcy designed to prevent the kind of systemic fallout that followed Lehman Brothers' bankruptcy in 2008.Passing financial reform would mark the second major domestic success for Obama this year, after Congress approved a wide-reaching health care overhaul in March.Public anger against hundreds of billions of dollars in Wall Street bailouts during the crises of the last two years have put pressure on both parties to cooperate to prevent a similar crisis from recurring.Despite their reservations, many Republicans were careful not to outright oppose reforms that are popular with the public. Obama sought to paint the conservative, free-market opposition as weak on financial reform."This bill has good things in it, but I think there's a lot of overreach and not enough time spent on the core issues," said Republican Senator Bob Corker, a key negotiator on the bill who eventually voted against moving the debate forward.Hours ahead of the final vote, the reform package cleared its biggest procedural hurdle in a 60-40 vote. The procedural vote, which needed 60 to pass, allowed a small number of amendments to be considered before the final vote took place.The successful vote came just one day after the very same procedural motion was rejected 57-42 over the objections of most Republicans and two Democrats.Majority Democrats needed 60 votes for the procedural motion to pass and managed to bring three Republicans to their cause the second time around. Two Democrats, upset that the reforms are too weak, still voted against limiting debate.
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Sensex slips over 332 points in opening trade

The Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) benchmark Sensex today slumped over 332 points in opening trade on brisk selling by funds amid concerns over the eurozone debt crisis.

The 30-share index, which had gained 111.19 points in the previous sessions, plunged by 332.65 points to 16,187.03 in the first five minutes of trading.

All the sectoral indices, led by realty and metal, were trading in the negative zone with losses up to 3.20%.

Likewise, the wide-based National Stock Exchange index Nifty fell by 105.30 points to 4842.30 points.

Marketmen said investors sold shares heavily after a steep fall in the US and Asian stocks markets on concerns that the European fiscal crisis might deepen further.

Meanwhile, the US Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by 3.60% lower in yesterday's trade, while Japan Nikkei was down by 2.51% in the morning trade today.

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Naxals set goods train on fire in Bihar

Patna: At least 15 diesel tankers caught fire when suspected Naxals derailed a goods train by blasting the railway track and then set afire one of the tankers in Bihar's Motihari district, a railway official said Thursday.

The Naxals targeted the diesel tankers on the goods train between Jeevdhara and Pipra railway stations in Motihari, about 200 km from Patna.

"The goods train driver and guard informed us that suspected Naxals set afire an oil tanker. After that fire spread to other tankers," East Central Railway Chief Public Relation Officer Dilip Kumar told IANS over telephone.

A local police official said that the fire was still raging.

"The fire is massive and we will have to wait for the fuel to burn out," he said.

Meanwhile, train services have been disrupted in north Bihar as the main track has been blocked, sources in the railways said.

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US scientists 'hack' into Indian voting machines

London: India's voting machines - considered to be among the world's most tamperproof - can be hacked, American scientists claim. Researchers at the University of Michigan connected a home-made device to a voting machine and successfully changed results by sending text messages from a mobile.

"We made an imitation display board that looks almost exactly like the real display in the machines. But underneath some of the components of the board, we hide a microprocessor and a Bluetooth radio," the BBC quoted Prof J Alex Halderman, who led the project, as saying.

He added: "Our lookalike display board intercepts the vote totals that the machine is trying to display and replaces them with dishonest totals - basically whatever the bad guy wants to show up at the end of the election."

Moreover, they added a small microprocessor, which they say can change the votes stored in the machine between the election and the vote-counting session. However, India''s Deputy Election Commissioner, Alok Shukla, said getting hold of machines to tamper with would be very difficult.

He said: "It is not just the machine, but the overall administrative safeguards which we use that make it absolutely impossible for anybody to open the machine.

"Before the elections take place, the machine is set in the presence of the candidates and their representatives. These people are allowed to put their seal on the machine, and nobody can open the machine without breaking the seals."

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Typing delay defers Ruchika verdict, Rathore smiles

Ruchika case: Verdict on Rathore's plea today

TV grab of 29-year-old Utsav Sharma, who had inflicted knife injuries on Rathore.

The CBI had opposed Rathore's plea and had sought an enhancement of his sentence from six months to the maximum of two years after his conviction.

The CBI special court had held Rathore guilty December last year for molesting Ruchika, a budding tennis player, in Panchkula town nearly two decades ago.

Ruchika committed suicide three years later in Panchkula town, adjoining Chandigarh, following her and her family's continuous harassment by Rathore, a powerful police officer in Haryana.
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Typing delay defers Ruchika verdict, Rathore smiles

Former Haryana DGP S P S Rathore.

Ruchika mother's friend Aradhana, the sole eyewitness to her molestation case, holds a picture of Ruchika in Panchkula in Haryana. Photo Courtesy: PTI

Justice will be done. Rathore will be punished. There is nothing wrong in the judgment delay. Such things happen in courts. Maybe, the judge wanted more time to write the judgment which should be a long one," he told IANS.

Anand Parkash, main complainant in this case, said: "We are expecting maximum jail-term for Rathore. He deserves no mercy from any quarter and we have full belief in Indian judiciary."

Anand Parkash's daughter Aradhana, who has now migrated to Australia, was the only eyewitness in this case.

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Typing delay defers Ruchika verdict, Rathore smiles

Chandigarh: The district and sessions court here Thursday deferred its judgment till May 25 in the molestation case of teenager Ruchika Girhotra by disgraced former Haryana police chief S.P.S. Rathore.

former Haryana DGP S P S Rathore.

File photo of former Haryana DGP S P S Rathore.

Additional District and Sessions Judge Gurbir Singh, who heard the arguments continuously on day-to-day basis for eight days, said the judgment will be pronounced May 25 (next Tuesday).

He said the typing was not yet over since the judgement was a long one.

Rathore, who was present in the court, was seen coming out smiling once again.

former Haryana DGP S P S Rathore.

Ruchika's father Subhash Girhotra looks on as his lawyer Pankaj Bhardwaj talks to the media. Photo Courtesy: PTI

The order of the court came after Rathore, a former director general of police (DGP) in Haryana, filed a plea January this year challenging his conviction December last year by a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) special court here for molesting 15-year-old Ruchika Aug 12, 1990.

Rathore was sentenced to six months' rigorous imprisonment and fined Rs.1,000 by the CBI special court. However, he was immediately granted bail.

Ruchika's father S.C. Girhotra, who was present in the court Thursday, said that he was not disappointed at the judgment being deferred.

"We are not disappointed. It is just a matter of 4-5 days.

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Bring back Tagore paintings, Bengal CM tells PM

Kolkata: Taking strong exception to a UK trust's decision to auction 12 paintings of Rabindranath Tagore next month, West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on Wednesday asked the Centre to take necessary steps in bringing home the rare works.

In a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Bhattacharjee said, "The news deeply disturbed us. The Elmhirst collection of Tagore paintings is a priceless treasure of Indian culture and the government of India should take all necessary steps to bring them back to India."

The paintings, presented to Leonard Elmhirst by the poet himself, are supposed to go under the hammer at Sotheby's in London on June 15 with a pre-sale estimate of around 250,000 pounds.

The London-based Tagore Centre which looks after the poet's creative works has protested the decision to auction the paintings.

A spokesman for the organisation had said on Tuesday in London that he had urged the Indian High Commission to intervene.

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Bangalore's ICSE schools on top

BANGALORE: Missing the 100% mark almost by a whisker — 99.94 and 99.47%. Bangalore schools performed brilliantly in the ICSE/ISC examinations with almost all schools scoring centum results. The results were declared on Wednesday.

Class 12 students in CBSE schools too were top scorers. The overall pass percentage of Bangalore region was 97.05%. Poorna Kumar (97%) from National Public School, Indiranagar, topped the Science stream while Tanya Rath from DPS (North) emerged topper in the Commerce stream from Bangalore by scoring 95.2%.

Interestingly, of the 5,397 students who appeared for the Class 12 CBSE from Bangalore region, only 28 students failed. The Kendriya Vidyalayas performed exceedingly well with all the KVs in Bangalore clocking cent per cent results.

Mathematics proved tough for students this year with a change in the question pattern. Result: Even those students who score in their nineties went back disappointed with 75 marks.

But that was with the CBSE. Students from ICSE cracked the Mathematics paper with ease. Anumeha Ayushi from Bethany High School scored centum in the subject. Her friends Laksha Ranganath, Namitha D A and Sahaj Sawhney from the same school all scored centum in Computer Science.
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Springboks-Maori match in doubt

New Zealand Maori
New Zealand Maori have enjoyed wins over the Lions, Fiji and Samoa

South Africa's proposed Lions warm-up match against New Zealand Maori in Soweto is in doubt because the Maori team is selected on racial grounds.

The match is scheduled to take place in June, before the British & Irish Lions arrive for their three-Test tour.

However, the South African national side is prohibited from playing against racially selected teams.

The rule is a "fundamental stumbling block" to the match taking place," said the South African Rugby Union (SARU).

"There are several obstacles to overcome should we wish to pursue the offer," added SARU's Andy Colquhoun.

"They include the financial viability of the project, logistics around venues and player availability and the fundamental stumbling block of a long-established President's Council resolution forbidding the appearance of SARU teams against opponents selected along racial lines.

"A final decision is not expected until the end of March."

New Zealand Rugby Union's Neil Sorenson responded: "Obviously, it would be fantastic for New Zealand Maori, the Springboks and their respective fans if the match took place.

"But it is still early days and we know that there are number of hurdles that need to be cleared if the match is to be confirmed."

The Lions' 10-match tour of South Africa is due to last from 30 May until 4 July and includes three Tests against the world champion Springboks.

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Cyclone 'Laila' closes in; may hit Andhra by noon

A cyclone intensified over the Bay of Bengal on Wednesday, forcing a oilfield to shut and cut its gas output, and the evacuation of some 50,000 people in the region, officials said.

Cyclone 'Laila' closes in; may hit Andhra by noon

Officials also voiced concerns the cyclone, with wind gusts of up to 155 kph (100 mph), could slow the progress of the monsoon rains, vital for India's trillion-dollar economy.

Tropical Cyclone Laila was set to hammer the coast of Andhra Pradesh on Thursday, prompting Reliance Industries to stop oil production and reduce gas output from the region by 10 per cent, company sources said.

"We are monitoring the situation and if we find that the cyclone will directly hit our facilities, then our FPSO (Floating Production Storage and Offloading facility) may have to be taken to a safer location," said a company source, who declined to be named as he is not authorised to speak to the media.

The cyclone is forecast to move towards Orissa after striking Andhra Pradesh, but it is likely to weaken by the time it reaches the Paradip port, a hub for iron ore exports.

G.K. Biswal, deputy conservator of Paradip port, said port authorities were on alert although they did not expect any disruption.


Last year some forecasters blamed a cyclone in May for the failure of monsoon rains, but scientists are divided about the impact of tropical storms on the monsoon.

The country has been hit by street protests due to steep food prices, partly the result of last year's poor monsoon rains.

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Rajya Sabha To Go Green

The Rajya Sabha is all set to go digital to minimize the massive wastage of paper in the House.

Vice President and Chairman Hamid Ansari of the Rajya Sabha wants Parliament to set an example to reduce the usage of a limited natural resource, in an era when modern technology is accessible to everyone. According to reports, the 795 parliamentarians and 800 journalists accredited to the Press Information Bureau receive tones of paper during Parliament sessions. Keeping this in mind, the chairman Hamid Ansari set up a nine-member committee headed by Rajya Sabha Secretary N C Joshi to undertake a comprehensive and scientific study to evolve a suitable mechanism to ensure that the usage of paper is minimized. The committee has been asked to give its report before Parliament’s monsoon session commences in July.

Some of the ideas suggested are, Parliamentarians will receive documents in hard copy only if they request for it and special incentives will be provided to MPs who opt for the digital format. The use of open source software to save the money spent on Microsoft and other copyright software. Already part-operationalised and running smoothly, the project will be useful for those interested in understanding the functioning of the Indian democracy.

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IRCTC.co.in To Offer More.

IRCTC.co.in a website run by Indian Railways Tourism and Catering Corporation, for selling Indian train tickets have decided to expand their operations.

With the aim that “travelers get all travel-related solutions at a single source”. IRCTC, a Railways PSU, has now decided to expand its services and sell airline tickets too. With over 800,000 railway tickets booked on its website every day, the management at IRTC have decided to sell domestic airline tickets at first and then expand their operations to include International tickets.

IRCTC managing director Rakesh Tandon said that a traveler traveling inside India has to book train tickets as well as plane tickets separately, Now, the traveler can book his tickets simultaneously.

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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Manager gives Team India clean chit

Mumbai: Indian team manager Ranjib Biswal has given the players a clean chit despite the poor show in the Twenty20 World Cup in the Caribbean.

Biswal submitted his report to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCI) here on Saturday. Sources within the team management said that the report blames failure to play short-pitched bowling on the bouncy Bridgetown wicket as the biggest cause of defeat.

The report has suggestions about the need to play more on bouncy wickets and how the players failed to implement the team plans in the Caribbean.

According to the report, there was neither evidence of any post-IPL fatigue affecting the players, nor evidence of any player being unfit or lacking commitment.

"I have submitted the report to the BCCI about the T20 World Cup in the West Indies. The BCCI is looking at the report and they will get back to you," Biswal told reporters after spending close to one and a half hour and the BCCI headquarters.

"There are certain issues which I have recommended to the BCCI and I hope the Board knows how to react to that and I hope, the Board reacts to that," he added.

Biswal once again denied media reports of Indian players being involved in a bar brawl in the West Indies after crashing out of the World Cup.

"That incident never took place. It was just a verbal talk and there is nothing substantial to that. There was an argument because the boys, who went there (to the pub) for dinner, were harassed by some Indian fans. There is nothing much about it," he said.

Big Cricket Debate:

India's T20 World Cup defeat has sparked off a lengthy post-mortem. Emotions are running high and the line between fact and fiction is being blurred. Who really is to blame for the cricket loss and what is the raod ahead for Indian cricket.

Watch The Big Cricket Debate with Rajdeep Sardesai on Saturday at 8:00 pm and on Sunday at 12:00 noon.

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Friday, May 14, 2010

Hilly regions too not spared

The usually pleasant regions of Himachal Pradesh too recorded a maximum temperature reached 42 degrees in Una, a rise of 4.2 degrees as compared to Wednesday.

Despite partially overcast skies, capital Shimla experienced a high of 26.8 degrees. Nahan and Mandi experienced daytime temperatures of 36.8 and 36.4 degrees respectively.

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Mercury soars in New Delhi

In New Delhi, residents experienced the season's hottest day with the mercury shooting up to 44.4 degrees, breaking a four-year record in the month of May.
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