Sunday, March 27, 2011

Chhattisgarh Should Learn From AP : Moily

Raipur, : Chhattisgarh should learn from the Andhra Pradesh government on how to get rid of Naxalism as its failure to curb the “menace” is affecting neighbouring states now, Union Law Minister Veerappa Moily  said on Sunday.

“The Chhattisgarh government’s failure in curbing Naxalism has begun to affect neighbouring states too,” he told reporters here.

Chhattisgarh should learn from the Andhra Pradesh government on how to get rid of Naxalism by improving law and order and by having socio and economic development, he said.

When a dam is filled to the brink, it overflows, similarly Naxalism has increased to such a level in Chhattisgarh that it is diverting towards other states, he added.

Moily said both the Naxal menace and corruption were at their peak in the state.

“Chhattisgarh ranks among the most corrupt places in the country. Its position is like a diabetic patient who is easily susceptible to other diseases,” he said.

The state is facing problems like corruption, deteriorating law and order and non-implementation of Centrally-sponsored schemes, he added.

Asked whether Governor’s rule should be imposed in the state, Moily said the UPA government will not act against the spirit of the Constitution but the “law and order situation has really deteriorated in the state.” PTI

Pak Interior Secy Visits Golden Temple

Amritsar, : Pakistan Interior Secretary Chaudhary Qamar Zaman today visited the Golden Temple here responding to a “divine call” and said he prayed for the betterment of India-Pakistan relations.

Zaman, who crossed into India through the Attari-Wagah border to attend the two-day India-Pakistan Home Secretary-level talks beginning in Delhi tomorrow, visited the holiest Sikh shrine when his flight from Amritsar to the national capital got delayed.

“It was a very unexpected opportunity we got because of the delay of the flight and that was something... ‘jo hum kehte bulawa aaya tha...’ (what we say a divine call),” he said on reaching the Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi.

The Pakistan Interior Secretary said he prayed for better relations between India and Pakistan.

“Hum wahan behtarin taluqat ke liye dua mangey (I prayed for better ties),” Zaman, who wore a blue head gear while visiting the 16th century temple, said. He was accompanied by other Pakistani delegation members.

He told reporters here, “Pakistan Government would not allow anybody to take forcible possession of land belonging to Gurdwaras in Lahore.”

He also said land belonging to Sikh religious places will not be allowed to be sold in his country.

Zaman was responding to a question on a controversy over construction of a plaza on a land belonging to 400-year-old Deewan Khana Gurudwara in Lahore.

On his visit to the temple, he said, “There was no schedule to go anywhere in India after reaching here, since I had to rush to Delhi. I am in India exclusively to attend the two-day meeting with my Indian counterpart G K Pillai.

“But, I don’t know, how a miracle happened and the plan which was scheduled to take me to Delhi got late by half-an-hour and destiny brought me to the Golden Temple.”

Zaman said, “My forefathers including my grandfather often told me about the spiritual significance of the Golden Temple and talked regularly about this spiritual place, which had created a strong desire in the deepest core of my heart to have a glimpse of this pious place and today I feel my spiritual mission has been accomplished.”

Talking about the World Cup Cricket, he said, “Cricket fever is prevailing on both sides and people of India and Pakistan always love to watch a match between the two countries.”

No Differences With RBI On New Bank Licence Norms: Pranab

Mumbai : Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee today termed as “conjectures and media speculations” the reported differences between him and the Reserve Bank of India on capping FDI at 49 per cent in new commercial banks, the licences for which are likely to be issued soon.  “These are all conjectures. There is no question of happiness or unhappiness. We have just received the draft guidelines from the RBI and it is being examined. These are the two wings of the government; we work together and do not indulge in these kinds of speculations,” Mukherjee said as he rubbished his reported differences with the central bank on the draft proposals.

The Finance Minister was interacting with the media after addressing a post-budget meet organised by the Assocham.  The norms seek a cap on foreign direct investment in new private sector banks at 49 per cent.

Earlier in the day, Mukherjee said: “We are studying the Reserve Bank’s final draft proposals (on new private bank licences). We would take a call on it soon.”  He was said on the sidelines of Sir Sorabji Pochkhanawala (founder of Central Bank of India) Memorial Lecture 2011 as part of the bank’s centenary year celebrations here.  There were reports in a section of the media that the Finance Ministry was opposed to the RBI suggestion to restrict FDI in new banks to 49 per cent as the change in norms would hurt investor sentiment. The Ministry reportedly asked RBI to reconsider the same.

The move will help the government and the RBI to discourage flow of hot money, which has crossed over USD 60 billion this fiscal, in the country.

The ministry has also reportedly asked the RBI to ensure the guidelines clearly say that the new banks would be exempted from Press Notes 2, 3 and 4. Without such exemptions, these banks would become foreign banks if overseas investment in them crosses 50 per cent, which in turn would lead to imposition of the same restrictions on them that apply on foreign companies.

Already the country’s largest two private sector banks—ICICI and HDFC’s nationality is under cloud as over 50 per cent of their stake are owned by FIIs.  Earlier this month, the RBI had submitted its final draft proposal on new private bank licences to the finance ministry in which it called for a holding company structure for promoters of new banks besides capping the FDI at 49 percent.

According to the proposal, the proposed holding company will own the bank. The guidelines in the draft proposal are not final but provide a clue to the thinking of the RBI on the matter. The norms governing new banks will be made public once the finance ministry responds.  The RBI suggested that the exposure of the bank to any entity in the promoter group shall not exceed 10 percent and the aggregate exposure to all the entities in the group shall not exceed 20 percent of the paid-up capital and reserves of the bank.

The central bank also wants the new banks to have a minimum capital Rs 500 crore and that they should be listed within two years.

The FDI hike in banking sector was first suggested by the NK Singh panel but the finance ministry and RBI had added a slew of stringent conditions to prevent ownership of banks going into ‘wrong’ hands.

A number of conglomerates such as the Tatas, the Aditya Birla group and Mahindra & Mahindra, L&F among others are keenly awaiting final guidelines, which are likely to be released by the end of this month. PTI

Rs 1,656 Cr Yamuna Action Plan-III Likely To Be Approved Soon

New Delhi : The government is likely to give its approval soon for the ambitious Rs 1,656 crore Yamuna Action Plan-III, which is exclusively focused on Delhi, to solve the problem caused by pollution in the river, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh today said.

“The project is funded by the Japanese Government. We will be getting the approval of the Union Cabinet in next couple of weeks. Under the Yamuna Action Plan-III, the existing sewage treatment network in Delhi will be modernised in a very big way,” he said.

Ramesh was talking to reporters here after a meeting with Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and her Haryana counterpart Bhupinder Singh Hooda on the measures to be taken to clean the Yamuna.

In order to put an end to the daily controversy between Delhi and Haryana on the issue of pollution of the Yamuna, he said the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) will install continuous water quality monitoring stations at Palla and at Badarpur.

“There will be continuous monitoring of water pollution at Palla, where Yamuna enters Delhi from Haryana and there will be similar monitoring at Badarpur where Yamuna flows from Delhi back to into Haryana,” Ramesh said.

The first one was already being installed in Wazirabad today, the Minister said.

Ramesh said during his meeting with Hooda and Dikshit, it was also decided to solve the problem caused by pollution in the Yamuna at Panipat.

He said the sewage treatment capacity at Panipat was insufficient and the effluent treatment plants are not working to full capacity.

“There is common effluent treatment plant in Panipat.  Though 512 units have to be connected to that common effluent treatment plant, only 35 have been connected so far,” Ramesh said.

He said the Environment Ministry will support further expansion of sewage treatment capacity and effluent treatment capacity if it is required at Panipat so that there is no infiltration of waste water into the Yamuna when the river flows from Haryana to Delhi.

“This will be funded by the MoEF as part of its national river conservation programme. In next couple of week, this proposal will be finalised,” he added.

The Minister said 47 per cent of Delhi’s population is not covered by any organised sewerage network and this situation will continue till the completion of Yamuna Action Plan-III in 2015.

“That is the big challenge. We have 26 drains that are now putting untreated sewerage directly into the river Yamuna.

Today we reviewed the progress. And I am afraid that this situation will continue till the end of 2015,” he said. PTI

Former Maoist Sambashivudu Hacked To Death

Hyderabad : TRS polit bureau member Sambashivudu, a former top Maoist leader was hacked to death by unidentified assailants in Nalgonda district of Andhra Pradesh, police said today.

Sambashivudu (45) was killed late last night near Gokaram village in Nalgonda district by about 10-15 assailants using sickles and swords. He died while being shifted to Hyderabad for treatment, they said.

Three TRS activists, who were travelling with him, sustained injuries in the attack and were admitted to a nearby hospital, Nalgonda district Superintendent of Police Rajesh Kumar told PTI over phone.

Sambasivudu was returning to Hyderabad after attending ‘Telangana dhoom dham’, a pro-Telangana cultural programme, at Sangem village in Veligonda mandal of the district.

Sambasivudu, whose original name was Konapuri Ilaiah, was state secretary of CPI(Maoist) and had surrendered before the government in 2009.

He joined the TRS last year to fight for separate Telangana and was made a member of the party’s polit bureau.

Sambasivudu was suspected to be involved in the naxal attacks on former Chief Ministers—N Chandrababu Naidu at Alipiri, the foothills of Tirumala Tirupati in 2003, and N Janardhana Reddy in 2007 at Nellore.

He was allegedly involved in a large number of other incidents like killing of MLA Ch Narsi Reddy and attacks on police stations.

TRS president K Chandrasekhar Rao and several other party leaders condemned the killing of Sambashivudu.

Rao paid his last respects to Sambashivudu at the state-run Gandhi hospital.

Meanwhile, Sambashivudu’s brother Ramulu alleged that the state government and police were behind his killing.

Revolutionary singer Gaddar, a Telangana supporter, claimed that Sambashivudu’s killing was part of an attempt by the government to suppress the separate statehood agitation.

Sambashivudu’s body was taken to his native place Dasireddygudem in Nalgonda district after post mortem at the Gandhi government hospital here. PTI

East Timor police take over from UN force

Dili: United Nations police returned full control of East Timor to the national force on Sunday, the UN and government said, more than four years after bloody clashes threatened to push the country into civil war.

Following a Sunday ceremony, from Monday the National Police of Timor-Leste (PNTL) will be responsible for the whole country, with the UN police in a supporting role, the statement by the UN and East Timorese government said.

"We will continue to work side-by-side," UN special representative for East Timor Ameerah Haq said.

"However, PNTL will be squarely in the driver's seat, and the UN will focus on providing the training and support Timor-Leste's police service needs to further strengthen its capabilities over the long term," she added, using the country's formal name.

The UN will maintain a presence of up to 1,280 police to support the PNTL until after the Presidential Election in 2012, when the UN peacekeeping mission plans to withdraw from the tiny southeast Asian state, the statement said.

"The resumption of policing responsibility by PNTL at this time has the advantage of enabling PNTL to assume its role before next year's elections and well before the anticipated withdrawal of the UN's mission," Haq said.

In 2006, unrest triggered by the desertion of 600 soldiers over claims of discrimination forced 155,000 people -- or 15 percent of the population -- to flee their homes, and prompted the return of UN forces to the tiny country.

But in 2009 the peacekeeping mission said the conditions were stable enough for the PNTL to start resuming their full responsibilities.

The first handover of control took place in Lautem district on the far east of the half-island state, followed by "nearly all districts and units with no increases in crime rates or public order incidents", the statement said.

East Timor won formal independence from Indonesia in 2002 after a bloody 24-year occupation that killed as many as 200,000 people.

Signs of new air raids on Libyan capital

TRIPOLI, Libya –  Anti-aircraft fire has been heard in Libya's capital Tripoli after dark, signaling that another round of international airstrikes on Moammar Gadhafi's regime is under way.

Residents in the contested city of Misrata in western Libya reported fighting Sunday between anti-government rebels and pro-Gadhafi forces firing from tanks on residential areas.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

RAS LANOUF, Libya (AP) — Libyan rebels regained two key oil complexes in a high-speed advance west on Libya's coast on Sunday, retracing the steps of their first march toward the capital with their path cleared by the world's most powerful air force.

Now that they have the oil, the rebels are making tentative plans to exploit Libya's most valuable natural resource. But production is at a trickle, the foreign oil workers and their vital expertise have fled the country, and even talk of a marketing deal with Qatar seems murky at best.

The coastal complexes at Ras Lanouf and Brega were responsible for a large chunk of Libya's 1.5 million barrels of daily exports, which have all but stopped since the uprising that began Feb. 15 and was inspired by the toppling of governments in Tunisia and Egypt.

On the eastern approach of Ras Lanouf, airstrikes hit three empty tank transporters and left two buildings that appeared to be sleeping quarters pockmarked with shrapnel. Like oil port of Brega and the city of Ajdabiya before it, Gadhafi's troops appear to have left in a hurry, abandoning ammunition and disappearing without a fight.

"There was no resistance. Gadhafi's forces just melted away," said Suleiman Ibrahim, a 31-year-old volunteer, sitting in the back of a pickup truck on the road between the two towns. "This couldn't have happened without NATO. They gave us big support."

In Washington, Defense Secretary Robert Gates acknowledged that the Libya operation could last months, as the Obama administration tried to bolster its case for bringing the United States into another war in the Muslim world.

The U.N. Security Council authorized the operation to protect Libyan civilians after Gadhafi launched attacks against anti-government protesters who demanded that he step down after 42 years in power. The airstrikes have crippled Gadhafi's forces, allowing rebels to advance less than two weeks after they had seemed at the brink of defeat.

"As they move round the coast, of course, the rebels will increasingly control the exit points of Libya's oil," British Defense Secretary Liam Fox told the BBC. "That will produce a very dynamic and a very different equilibrium inside Libya. How that will play out in terms of public opinion and the Gadhafi regime remains to be seen."

The agreement with the tiny Gulf nation of Qatar could allow the rebels to exploit Libya's vast oil reserves — most of which are in the eastern territory they control. With no ships coming or going, Libya's tanks are full to the brim. Until they are emptied, there's nowhere to store any oil that is pumped from the ground.

Qatar, which has conducted at least one sortie over Libya, is the only Arab country known to have actively joined with the international force.

"We trust them, so basically they are the ones who are going to market our oil for us," Ali Tarhouni, the rebel finance official, told The Associated Press on Friday. "For Qatar there's no words to describe what they've done for the Libyan cause."

Officials at Qatar's ministry of energy and industry could not be reached for comment. Executives with the Arabian Gulf Oil Co., the National Oil Co. subsidiary in the east that broke free from its parent company, also could not be reached. Repeated calls to Libya's oil minister went unanswered.

Eastern oil officials said over a week ago they were still producing about 100,000 barrels per day from two key fields. But it was unclear whether such levels were sustainable given the security problems across the country and the exodus of foreign workers from the vital sector.

The Paris-based International Energy Agency said recently it believed that Libyan oil production had "slowed to a trickle" while exports had "ground to a halt." The IEA said it believed it could take months for Libyan oil to reappear on the world market.

Gates said the international action appeared to be a success, with the no-fly zone was in place and sustainable with "a lot less effort than it took to set it up." He said the Pentagon was planning how to draw down resources that will be assigned to European and other countries pledging to take on a larger role.

But asked on ABC's "This Week" if that would mean a U.S. military commitment until year's end, Gates said, "I don't think anybody knows the answer to that."

The Gadhafi regime on Saturday acknowledged the airstrikes had forced its troops to retreat and accused international forces of choosing sides.

"This is the objective of the coalition now, it is not to protect civilians because now they are directly fighting against the armed forces," Khaled Kaim, the deputy foreign minister, said in the capital, Tripoli. "They are trying to push the country to the brink of a civil war."

The rebel turnaround is a boost for President Barack Obama, who has faced complaints from lawmakers from both parties that he has not sought their input about the U.S. role in the conflict or explained with enough clarity about the American goals and exit strategy.

Obama was expected to give a speech to the nation Monday, and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Sunday defended the administration's decision.

Libya, she told CBS, "had a leader who used military force against the protesters from one end of his country to the other, who publicly said things like "we'll show no mercy," ''we'll go house to house," and the international community moved with great speed in part because there's a history here."

Pentagon officials are looking at plans to expand the firepower and airborne surveillance systems in the military campaign, including using the Air Force's AC-130 gunship armed with cannons that shoot from the side doors, as well as helicopters and drones.

Fox, the British foreign minister, ruled out supplying arms to the rebels. "We are not arming the rebels, we are not planning to arm the rebels," he said.

Israel Deploys Rocket Defense System Against Gaza

BEERSHEBA, Israel –  Israel deployed a cutting-edge rocket defense system on Sunday, rolling out the latest tool in its arsenal to stop a recent spike in attacks from the neighboring Gaza Strip.

Israel hopes the homegrown Iron Dome system will provide increased security to its citizens, but officials warned that it can't do the job alone. The system went into operation shortly after an Israeli aircraft struck a group of militants in Gaza, killing two. Israeli said they were about to fire a rocket.

The Iron Dome system has raised hopes that Israel has finally found a solution to the years of rocket fire from Gaza. The primitive rockets have evaded Israel's high-tech weaponry, in part because their short flight path, just a few seconds, makes them hard to track.

The government approved Iron Dome in 2007. Its developers have compared the effort to a high-tech start-up, working around the clock in small teams to perfect its weapons, radar and software systems. The developer, local defense contractor Rafael, declared the system ready for use last year.

Iron Dome uses sophisticated cameras and radar to track incoming rockets, determine where they will land, and intercept and destroy them far from their targets. If the system determines the rocket is headed to an open area where casualties are unlikely, it can allow the weapon to explode on the ground.

Brig. Gen. Doron Gavish, commander of Israel's air defense corps, said Iron Dome has passed a series of tests and has now reached its "evaluation phase" in the field. It is expected to be fully operational in a matter of months.

He added that it was only supposed to be deployed later in the year, but it was put into operation earlier because of the recent rocket attacks from Gaza.

"Obviously, after what we saw in the last few weeks, we accelerated the phases," he said, standing before the brown, box-like battery on the outskirts of Beersheba, southern Israel's largest city with a population of nearly 200,000.

After two years of relative calm, tensions along the Israel-Gaza border have heated up in recent weeks with Gaza militants firing deeper and more frequently into Israel, and the military striking back hard. Beersheba, more than 25 miles (40 kilometers) from Gaza, has been struck several times.

Although Israel and Gaza's ruling Hamas militant group have both said they have no interest in escalating the situation, the renewed hostilities have fed concerns of another large-scale Israeli military operation.

In December 2008, Israel invaded Gaza in response to years of rocket and mortar barrages on its southern communities, killing 1,400 Palestinians, including more than 900 civilians, and causing widespread destruction. Thirteen Israelis also died.

Israel believes that Hamas, which suffered heavy losses in the fighting, has recovered from the fighting and restocked its arsenal with more powerful weapons.

Gaza militants, including Islamic Jihad and Hamas, said over the weekend that they would halt their fire if Israel did.

But early Sunday, Israeli aircraft struck a Palestinian rocket squad in the Gaza Strip, killing two militants from Islamic Jihad, a smaller rival of Hamas. It was not clear whether Islamic Jihad was reneging on its commitment to the cease-fire, or whether the airstrike hit a rogue group of militants.

Hamas government spokesman Taher Nunu urged all militant factions to halt their fire as agreed.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel had "no interest" in escalating things. "But we won't hesitate to employ the might of the military against those who would attack our citizens," Netanyahu told his Cabinet.

Netanyahu also gave a sober assessment of Iron Dome, saying he "didn't want to create the illusion" that the system would offer Israel 100 percent protection from rocket attacks.

"The Iron Dome system is still in an experimental stage, and at any rate, we cannot deploy batteries that can protect every house, every school, every (military) base and every facility," he said.

A second anti-missile battery will be deployed in another large southern city, Ashdod, the military said, without specifying a date.

Officials refused to say how many batteries would be deployed altogether, what their range was, or how much the system would cost. Analysts have estimated the cost of shooting down a rocket could be tens of thousands of dollars, compared to just a few hundred dollars to produce the rocket.

"The real test is not the price of knocking down the rocket, but how much damage the rocket would cause, and the price in human life, if it hits," said Gavish, the air force officer.

Uzi Rubin, an Israeli missile defense expert, said the system is bound to suffer initial malfunctions as operators learn how to use it.

"Unfortunately, Israel is writing the book," Rubin said. "That includes doing some things right and sometimes making some mistakes."

NATO to assume command of Libya air operations

BRUSSELS –  NATO will assume command of all aerial operations — including ground attacks — in Libya from the U.S.-led force that has been conducting air strikes against Moammar Gadhafi's forces, officials said Sunday.

The North Atlantic Council — the alliance's top body — approved a plan to expand the previously agreed mission to enforce the U.N. arms embargo and no-fly zone by agreeing to protect civilians from attack.

"NATO Allies have decided to take on the whole military operation in Libya under the U.N. Security Council resolution," Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in a statement.

"NATO will implement all aspects of the U.N. resolution. Nothing more, nothing less," he said.

After eight days of strikes on Libyan targets, Washington is eager to quickly hand off responsibility for the air offensive to the alliance.

A diplomat who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said the transfer of authority from the U.S.-led force may take several days. He said the rules of engagement for the NATO force would be very similar to those of the international air armada.

The U.N. authorized the operation after Gadhafi launched attacks against anti-government protesters who demanded that he step down after 42 years in power

The air strikes have already tipped the balance away from Gadhafi's regular military to the lightly armed rebels, although the two sides remain at stalemate in key cities.

NATO expects to start enforcing the U.N.-authorized no-fly zone on Sunday or Monday, as well as coordinating naval patrols in the Mediterranean to enforce the arms embargo.

A Canadian three-star general, Charles Bouchard, will be in charge of both operations. He will report to an American admiral, Samuel Locklear, commander of NATO's Allied Joint Force Command Naples.

Naples is one of NATO's two operational headquarters. The other, Brunssum in the Netherlands, is responsible for the war in Afghanistan.

NATO has significant experience in such operations. Its warplanes successfully enforced a no-fly zone over Bosnia in the early 1990s and bombed Serbian forces in Kosovo in 1999 in an effort to end crackdowns on ethnic Albanian civilians.

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