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We talked with Palash Biswas, an editor for Indian Express in Kolkata today also. He urged that there must a transnational disaster management mechanism to avert such scale disaster in the Himalayas.




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Monday, September 21, 2009

Poverty in festivals!Count Puts Poverty in Rural India at Fifty Percent, Govt. Refuses as Foreigners may get direct ride to Dalal Street!

Poverty in festivals!Count Puts Poverty in Rural India at Fifty Percent, Govt. Refuses as Foreigners may get direct ride to Dalal Street!

Troubled Galaxy Destroyed Dreams, Chapter 378

Palash Biswas


Santhanam hits back at NSA; says MK barking up the wrong tree
New Delhi: Former DRDO scientist K Santhanam, who has questioned the success of 1998 Pokhran nuclear tests, on Monday hit out at NSA M K Narayanan, saying the official was "barking up the wrong tree" by contending he was not privy to test measurements and information.

Terming the remarks by the NSA as "unnecessary", he also demanded that an independent panel probe the success of the Pokhran tests.

Narayanan is "barking up the wrong tree", he said at an interaction with journalists at the Indian Women Press Corp here.

Santhanam also sought to counter claims by Narayanan and others in the establishment that he was not privy to the test measurements and information on Pokhran-II tests.

The former DRDO scientist had last month questioned the the efficacy of the thermonuclear device during the Pokhran-II tests. He had described the May 11, 1998 tests as a 'fizzle' (failure to achieve expected yield) and said India needed to conduct more tests besides not signing CTBT.

Narayanan has termed Santhanam's claims about Pokhran-II as "horrific" and asserted that India has thermonuclear capabilities which have been verified by a peer group of researchers.



It's 'car'nival time: ‘Freelander 2’ to hit roads on Tuesday
Tata's Jaguar and Land Rover (JLR) will launch Freelander 2, the most-awaited sports utility vehicle, on Tuesday in the country.

Russian tennis player Maria Sharapova previews the new Land Rover Freelander 2 as she arrives at the Kensington Roof Gardens for a pre-Wimbledon tennis party, London, Thursday, June 22, 2006, a file photo.

Expected to be priced at Rs 35 lakh or less (excluding taxes) Freelander 2 is sold in the UK for half the price at 21,300 pounds (Rs 17 lakh). This is because the car attracts at least 100 per cent import duty in India.

The cheapest car from the JLR stable in India, Freelander is a compact, yet premium all-wheel drive vehicle, sold in markets such as the UK, France, Italy, Spain and China.

The other three models of JLR, the British marqueee brand, are Range Rover, Range Rover Sport and Discovery 3. Of the three, Discovery 3 is the cheapest at Rs 63 lakh! Range Rover and Range Rover Sport are priced above Rs 85 lakh. All the prices, mentioned here, are ex-showroom in metros.


Railways could be targeted during Durga pujas
Kolkata: Terrorists could strike during the Durga Puja, which begins later this week, and target the railways with bomb blasts and even car bombs, West Bengal government said today quoting an alert issued by the Centre.

The Union Home Ministry has alerted the Additional DGP (Railways) Dilip Mitra about bomb blasts and car bombs during the four-day festival, West Bengal Chief Secretary Asoke Mohan Chakraborty told reporters here today. "It is an alert not only to the Railways but to all."

The ADG (Railways) told PTI that all measures had been taken to ensure security and safety during the festival days.

Chakraborty said "we have to taken special measures for a peaceful puja. There will be metal detectors in large pandals with volunteers and civil defence personnel on duty."

Chakraborty said border vigil against infiltration has been stepped up.

Source: PTI

All citizens to gets national ID cards by 2010-11
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Posted: Sep 21, 2009 at 1532 hrs IST

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Chennai The proposed unique multi-purpose national identity cards would be issued to all citizens by 2010-2011, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram said in Chennai on Monday.

In the first phase this year, 1.2 crore people in about 3,331 coastal villages and cities would receive the cards, he told reporters on the sidelines of a function in Chennai.

The card will be given to 110 crore people by 2010-2011.

Government has set up a Unique Identification Authority of India to implement the project aimed at obviating the need for multiple proofs of identity for citizens while availing any government service or for personal needs like opening bank accounts or seeking telephone connections.

Earlier, addressing the function to flag off the Chennai-Central-Hazrat Nizamuddin (Delhi) Duronto Express, Chidambaram said the government was keen on and committed to working for the development of the nation and the people.

"The government would also see to it that this development is shared equally among the people", he said.

Welcoming the launch of non-stop train, he announced that the frequency of the train would be increased to twice a week.

Southern Railway General Manager M S Jayanth said the train would have new design AC composite coach consisting of 24 AC 2-Tier berths and 40 AC 3-Tier berths, as an economy AC class.

He said the train will cover 2,177 km in 27 hours and 55 minutes compared to 28 hours and ten minutes by Rajdhani Express.

Foreigners may get direct ride to Dalal Street

21 Sep 2009, 0320 hrs IST, Deepshikha Sikarwar & Soma Banerjee, ET Bureau

NEW DELHI: A complete overhaul of the portfolio investment regime is on the cards. Capital market regulator SEBI is giving finishing touches to a

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detailed concept paper that seeks to simplify and further relax the norms governing investment by foreign institutional investors (FIIs) in Indian equities. ( Watch )

The proposed move could give individual foreign investors direct access to the Indian stock markets, a person privy to the discussions told ET.

The concept paper, which is expected to be taken up by the Sebi board shortly, will unveil a new Qualified Foreign Investor Framework (QFIF) to replace the existing FII one. At present, a foreign individual seeking to invest in Indian stocks has to be registered as a sub-account of an FII, which in turn has to apply to Sebi on the behalf of the sub-account holder. Besides, the validity of the sub-account registration is co-terminus with the registration of the FII through which he has accessed the Indian market. This is onerous and often expensive.

The person with knowledge of the development said the idea behind the concept paper was to remove unnecessary hurdles and make it simpler, and also to bring foreign investors on a par with domestic ones. It is also expected to encourage more investors to come through the front door instead of the participatory note (PN) route. PNs are overseas derivative instruments with Indian shares as the underlying asset that allow foreign investors to invest in Indian equities indirectly without revealing their identity to the Indian authorities.

If these proposals go through, individual foreign investors would be able to buy and sell securities on the Indian stock exchanges directly by opening a demat account with an Indian depository and a dedicated bank account with a mandatory cheque payment facility. This would also address ‘know-your-customer’ of banks and depositories as they would be liable to carry out all checks on the overseas investor before opening an account. Moreover, the mandatory cheque payment requirement would generate a paper trail that will help track transactions related to the account, and possibly detect moneylaundering.

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A senior government official said while it may be impossible to stop issuance of participatory notes altogether, simpler and easier investment norms will encourage foreign investors to come in directly. Foreign portfolio investors registered in India issue PNs to their overseas clients, who may not be eligible to invest in the domestic market or do not wish to have a direct presence in the country. PN holders derive all the benefits of the underlying shares, including dividends and capital appreciation

China won’t wage war: Arunachal CM
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Samudra Gupta Kashyap
Posted: Sep 21, 2009 at 0936 hrs IS

Itanagar Even as there have been over 250 incursions by China into Indian territory in less than two years, Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu does not believe that the neighbouring country would ever engage in a war with India.

“I don’t think China can afford to go for a war with us. China’s sole intention, I believe, is to weaken India on all fronts and prove itself as an economic superpower in the region,” Khandu told The Indian Express here on Sunday.

Khandu said China wanted to make India increase its defence expenditure at the cost of the economy. “The more the defence expenditure, the less the expenditure on other developmental front. They want to weaken India through this game of psychological warfare,” he added.

To take up the challenge, the Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister said “at the moment we should give topmost priority to rapid economic and infrastr-ucture development in the border areas”.

Dismissing BJP claims that the UPA government had shown a “meek response” to the Chinese challenge, Khandu lamented that development activities on the Indian side of the border were still quite poor.
Calcutta needs divine intervention to escape a wet Puja.The dark clouds and scattered rain at the start of the festive week underlined how a late monsoon surge and an early Puja schedule are playing spoilsport.Recession does have no IMPACT on festive mood in Urban Semi Urban Bengal. Earlier, Sixteen Hundred Rs per KG Hilsa has proved it very well. Shopping Malls, Show Bizz, Gadget Bltz, Fooding and Drinking, Marxist Ramp show, Tollywood Boost, Auto Drive , realty BOOM express the metro Mind set exposing the CONSUMER Life and Psyche Marginalising the mainstream Indigenous Aboriginal Majority Enslaved Rural India under POVERTY line! IN Kolkata, half of the Population lives in Slums and struggle to survive the SLUMDOG surroundings. Eighty Lac people in Kolkata earn less than Rs One Thousand per month and Sixty lacs of them hardly Rs five Hundred Only. Scores of Local Trains Pours the Rural Women Folk into the Metro Area seeking Domestic Helpage Job daily. Lacs of helpless Women Trafficked elsewhere and the Border areas as well as Metro underclasses have been DRUG Addicted!

The Zionist Dynasty HYPE of AUSTERITY seems to be the most Oscene talk creating STROMS in Tea Cup while Starvation, Food Insecurity and Jobloss, Price Hike and Rural Agreculture based problems along with Refugee Influx do NEVER attract any ATTENSION. Aoriginal Tribes and the nature itsef with which these black Untouchables are associated, have been BRANDED Maoist or Naxal and the India Incs GOVT. opts for Military Option with Zero Tolerence! Internal security is vested into CIA and Mossad. Policies and governance do bypass Parliament and Constitution as EXTRA Constitutional elements RULE projecting the Human Political democratic faces, the MOST Antinational Immoral imposter Agents of LPG Mafia, Zionism, Fascist Global Manusmriti Hegemony and TriIblis galaxy order led by US Corporate Imperialism!

MASS Detruction and Ethnic Cleansing of the Black Untouchables do seem to be the Best Sacrifices at the ALTER of war Goddess Durga and her OFFSPRINGS Invoked so laborously. Metro and urban CIVIL Societies, Brahaminical Intelligentsia, Brahmin Policy makers, Media and the superagent Economists NEVER do CONSIDER the RURAL India and its Plight!

Meanwhile, Police top brass based in Koraput, Rayagada, Gajapati and Malkangiri have been put on alert while security has been beefed up at Malkangiri border today after an anti-Maoist operation went awry in Chhattisgarh.

Malkangiri is situated 40km from the site where Green Hunt, an anti-Maoist operation being conducted by the Chattisgarh Cobra force, was being conducted.

On the other hand,Investors gain Rs 25 lakh-cr in just over five months while at the same time, the Telegraph, Kolkata reports that At least half the country’s rural population lives in poverty, a government-appointed expert panel has said, nearly doubling the Planning Commission’s estimate that 28 per cent of Indian villagers are poor.According to the report,the Centre, however, appears likely to go by the plan panel’s figures rather than the N.C. Saxena committee’s higher count which, if adopted, will enormously hike expenditure on anti-poverty schemes by adding crores to the list of beneficiaries.

The government will “wait and watch” before deciding to roll back the stimulus packages that were announced after India’s economic growth slackened on account of the global financial crisis. Investor wealth has increased by over Rs 25 lakh crore in just over five months from the beginning of the current financial year, on
improving sentiments in the domestic and global markets.

According to an analysis of the valuations for the period (April 1-September 18), the combined market capitalisation of all the firms listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange increased by Rs 25,02,749 crore or nearly 80 per cent.

Analysts believe the rise in investor wealth has been due to the upbeat market sentiments on indications of economic recovery globally.

"The markets have given a healthy return on the back of positive mood among domestic and international investors," SMC Global's Vice President Rajesh Jain said.

The total market valuation increased to Rs 56,35,835.75 crore on September 18 from Rs 31,33,086.7 crore on April 1.

While, the 30-share benchmark index Sensex has given a healthy return of nearly 70 per cent to hover around 16,700 level in September against 9,900 level in April.

The Sensex companies, which account for about 45 per cent of the total market capitalisation of all the companies, saw its combined market valuation rise by over Rs 10,00,000 crore in the reviewed period.

The combined market capitalisation of the 30 blue-chip stocks rose to Rs 25,31,831.55 crore on September 18 from Rs 15,31,252.34 crore on April 1.

However, the total turnover of the Sensex companies declined to Rs 1,597.42 crore on September 18 from 1,705.52 crore on April 1.

Jain further added that the decline in the volumes is due to less participation of retail investors in the markets, which shows the run is mainly on account of institutional money, both domestic and international.

Meanwhile, foreign investment into the Indian stock markets are likely to cross USD 10 billion-mark by the end of this month as a hefty USD 9.8 billion (Rs 47,674 crore) have already been poured into the bourses by overseas entities so far this year.

“We will have to wait and watch the situation,” finance minister Pranab Mukherjee told reporters on the timing of the reversal of the stimulus package.

Mukherjee said the international view was that the stimulus package should not be reversed till full recovery in Europe and North America was “distinctly visible”.

This view was expressed at a recent G20 meeting of finance ministers, Mukherjee told reporters after an interactive session organised by the CII on the proposed direct tax code.

The government had slashed excise duty by six per cent and service tax by two per cent in various phases and increased plan expenditure. This has stretched the fiscal deficit further.

The fiscal deficit is projected to rise to 6.8 per cent of GDP in 2009-10. The finance minister had earlier said this level of fiscal deficit couldn’t be sustained and aimed to bring it down to 5.5 per cent next fiscal and to 4.4 per cent by 2011-12.

Apprehending that rebels attacked by the elite group of Cobra may sneak into Orissa to hide during the combing operation, the Orissa government issued an alert right after the Chhattisgarh operation was started.

In a high-level review meeting held to assess the state’s preparedness, chief minister Naveen Patnaik asked superintendent of polices (SPs) based in Maoist-prone districts to intensify patrolling, especially around border areas.

Director of state intelligence department Prakash Mishra said that security was tightened at the borders immediately afterwards.

“According to Union government plan, most states are jointly operating to end the Maoist problem. According to the Centre’s directive the BSF, the CRPF and the states’ police forces will take steps to jointly combat the problem,” he said.

Currently Orissa has four battalions of Central forces to tackle rebels’ activities in 17 districts.

The chief minister in a letter to the Union home minister P. Chidambaram yesterday asked for seven more battalions of paramilitary forces.

A fierce gun-battle is still going on between security forces and rebels in Dantewada of Chhattisgarh in what is being touted as the biggest confrontation between rebels and jawans so far, with nearly 800 jawans involved in the Green Hunt.

As many as 50 Maoists and 20 jawans are feared to have been killed in the fight.

Gokul Chandra Debnath, the director of the Regional Meteorological Centre at Alipore, after days of wait-and-watch, let it spill: “It looks like there’s going to be rain this Puja.”

It shouldn’t be very heavy, he added, but warned of “scattered rain and thundershowers” this week, because of “a low-pressure trough”.

Delhi meteorologists were more blunt, though a trifle apologetic, while saying it as they see it. An official of the National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting, under the Union ministry of earth sciences, said: “I’m sorry, but I can’t see a dry Puja in Calcutta this year…. There could be a substantial amount of rainfall which is likely to be a damper, quite literally.”

The Telegraph reports:

Words that all those associated with Puja 2009 — idol-maker to organiser to pandal-hopper — have been dreading.

“The rain is a real curse for us,” said Babu Pal of the Kumartuli Mritshilpa Sanskriti Samity, fretting over the unfinished “paint job”.

The leaky roofs and poor drainage in the rundown abode of the clay idols have also landed artisans in troubled waters. “If only the studios being promised to us for five years were in place, we would have had pucca roofs and not been forced to keep our idols on the street covered with plastic sheets because of lack of space,” added Pal.

Rain delays push up costs under several heads in Kumartuli — for redoing idols, for additional man-hours (around Rs 500-600 for every rainy day), for extra kerosene (the government provides a fixed amount at reduced rates but additional use of the “blue lamp” to dry wet paint and fires lit to dry the idol raises consumption). “The rain is the asura for us this time,” said idol-maker Dilip Pal.

Chandernagore’s light artistes nodded in agreement. “My workplace gets flooded with every shower. I don’t know how to meet deadlines,” said Ashim Kumar Dey, who will light up the College Square puja, where too the devil lies in the dark clouds.

“The College Square tank overflows when it rains, making the place slushy. Also, work on the pandal is slow,” said Bikash Majumdar of the crowd-puller puja.

Pujas in parks are struggling to find their feet. “The rain has made the ground soft, forcing us to put a large quantity of sand to hold up the bamboos,” said Sibshankar Basu of Maddox Square, adding that special steps would be taken for the four big (and wet) days.

Puja committees are inventing monsoon-fighting measures with an eye on the sky and a prayer on their lips. “We are making space in two-three houses around the pandal, so that if it starts raining suddenly, we can direct visitors there,” said Ashok Jaiswal of Manicktala Chaltabagan.

With the monsoon not scheduled to exit the state till October 7 and the Devi set to depart on an elephant (leaving in her wake “enough water” and “good harvest” according to the scriptures), the fear of a wet Puja is now real.

Somdev Dev Varman won a crucial Davis Cup World Group play-off singles match in Johannesburg to take India into the final 16 after 11 years. He beat South Africa’s Rik De Voest in a high-voltage marathon five-setter. The Guwahati-born Somdev, descended from Tripura’s nobility, spent most of his first eight years in Calcutta and later took tennis coaching in the city from the age of 12 to 14.

Army holds war games to secure country's coastline

To counter terror threats in the backdrop of the Mumbai attacks, top army generals have evolved detailed plans to secure the country's coastline from Gujarat to Orissa and refine the force's amphibious warfare tactics.

The strategies were fine-tuned by top brass including Army chief General Deepak Kapoor during a two-day table-top war game in Pune last week, army sources said in New Delhi on Monday.

Plans for the Southern Command to protect the coastline from both conventional and asymmetric threats were discussed threadbare, they said.

The war game was a closed-door conceptual exercise conducted by top commanders with the help of sand models and large-scale maps, which do not involve troops on the ground.

The Pune drill follows a similar exercise by the Kolkata-based Eastern Command a fortnight back for area in the North-eastern states along the borders with China, Bangladesh and Myanmar, apart from its counter-insurgency operations.

During May this year, some formations under the Western Command had carried out annual field exercises in Punjab plains to validate operational concepts and test their equipment.

Later, in June, the Western Command's top brass conducted a war game at its headquarters in Chandimandir near Chandigarh concentrating on the Pakistani border along Jammu and Punjab, apart from counter-insurgency strategies in Jammu region. For quite some time now, the Army's emphasis has been on table-top war games rather than field exercises due to constraints of space and expenses involved.

The field exercises usually take place in Punjab plains between the harvest seasons and in the Pokhran firing ranges in Rajasthan desert.

"Earlier, villagers in Punjab were willing to give their agricultural land for the army exercises between harvest seasons. They used to do it enthusiastically. But of late the trend has changed leading to space crunch for these large scale exercises. The money spent on mobilisation and the exercise too is large," an Army officer said explaining the need for such games.

"Moreover, during the table-top war game, 10 or more war scenarios and the responses to them from troops and commanders can be worked out within a matter of hours. But during a field exercise, only a couple of scenarios can be worked out," they said.

War games are held at all Command levels every year to review existing operational plans keeping in view recent on-ground developments. It also helps expose new commanders to offensive and defensive strategies pertaining to a particular operational theatre.

Army sources said besides top commanders from respective commands and their field formations, senior representatives from Army headquarters and the Training Command usually attend the brainstorming session.

Since the turn of the century, the Army has been focusing on fighting a high-intensity, short-duration war in a built-up urban and semi-urban environment, mainly by a division-sized offensive formation.

Fundamental to this 'Cold Start' doctrine is a networked environment enabling real time flow of intelligence, data and information, as well as rapid troop mobilisation and deployment of devastating firepower across the entire spectrum of conflict, the sources added.

India Inc's staff cost grew slower in Q4

India Inc's staff cost went up by 11.2 per cent during January-March last fiscal growing at a lesser pace than the previous three quarters of 2008-09, reflecting the economic slowdown, according to an RBI study.

The staff cost of 2,549 companies taken for the RBI study had risen by around 20 per cent in each of the first three quarters of 2008-09.

However, with corporate India reducing its overall expenditure, the rise in manpower costs too was arrested.

As the impact of the global downturn became severe since September-October, the corporates were forced to cut down the pace of the total expenditure.

"Reflecting the impact of financial market turmoil, economic activity post-September weakened substantially," the study said.

The total business expenses, which grew by over 36 per cent in the first two quarters, contracted by 0.5 per cent during January-March period. The growth in October-December quarter had slowed to 12.6 per cent.

On an annual basis, manufacturing firms covered in the study posted 14.7 per cent increase on staff costs largely on account of higher pace of expenditure in the first half of 2008-09. In the services sector also IT firms registered a growth of 24.7 per cent on staff cost and non-IT companies posted an increase of 23.1 per cent.

After IT, BPO, medical tourism emerge as fastest growing sector

Despite the global economic downturn, medical tourism has emerged as the fastest growing sector of the Indian tourism industry as it
provides first world treatment to patients at an affordable rates.

Medical costs in India are only 1/3rd or 1/4th of the costs at comparable hospitals in the US, Europe or South Africa, a medical referrals agency said today.

Over 3,00,000 patients have so far come to India for medical treatments from over 30 countries this year earning the country over Rs 8,500 crore in revenue, it said.

"The Indian medical tourism industry is at a nascent stage, but has an enormous potential for future growth and development. This sector has the highest growth potential after IT and BPO and will bracket India among the world's elite healthcare providers," Aarex India, said.

Aarex India is a leading medical referrals agency which receives over 200 enquiries every month from all over the world.

Medical tourism is expected to generate revenue of Rs 10,000-crore by 2012 and over 3,50,000 patients from across the world are expected to come to India for treatment, it said.

Aarex India said countries like the US, UK, Canada, Russia, the Middle-East, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Mauritius and the Central Asian Republics are preferring India's affordable medical tourism.

World stock markets fall on US recovery concerns

World stock markets were modestly lower on Monday as investors look to this week's Federal Reserve meeting for more clues about the 10 most trade-friendly economies.

A number of markets across Asia, including Japan's, were closed for holidays. Oil prices fell, while the dollar rose against the yen and the euro.

World markets posted more gains last week as U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said recession in the world's largest economy was ``likely over.''

This week, investors will watch closely what the Fed has to say about the economy and the scale of the recovery after a two-day meeting that wraps up Wednesday. The Fed is widely expected to leave rock-bottom interest rates unchanged, though investors will be looking for clues in the central bank's statement about when hikes might start.

Christopher Wood, equity strategist for CLSA brokerage, says the easy money in the West made possible by the Fed and other central banks has helped propel Asian markets this year.

``The dollar is the new carry trade,'' Wood said in Hong Kong, referring to the practice of borrowing Japanese yen at a low cost to purchase risky and higher-yielding assets. ``People are borrowing the dollar to buy equities and debt, primarily in emerging markets.''

Early in Europe, Britain's FTSE 100 lost 0.4 percent, Germany's DAX fell 0.8 percent and France's CAC-40 dropped 0.3 percent.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng fell 150.60 points, or 0.7 percent, at 21,472.85 in back-and-forth trade, while South Korea's Kospi lost 0.3 percent to 1,695.50.

China's Shanghai benchmark was up 0.2 percent at 2,967.01 and Australia's benchmark shed 0.3 percent.

Japanese financial markets are closed Monday through Wednesday for public holidays. The markets will reopen Thursday. Financial markets in India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Singapore were also closed Monday for holidays.

Asian markets have risen far more than most Western markets this year. Indonesia's main benchmark has surged over 81 percent, while India's Sensex is up nearly 74 percent. The Dow Jones index, by comparison, has gained 11.9 percent during that time.

Wood said Asian stocks would continue their heady rise because there was ``an overwhelming probability that more and more money flows into Asia.''

``The chief beneficiary of Western monetary easing won't be Western economies. It will be Asian asset prices (such as) equities and real estate,'' he said. ``The longer-term risk is that Asia goes into a monstrous asset bubble which ultimately destabilizes'' the region's economies.

Friday in New York, the Dow rose 36.28, or 0.4 percent, to 9,820.20, its highest close since Oct. 6, when it finished at 9,956.

The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 2.81, or 0.3 percent, to 1,068.30, while the Nasdaq composite index advanced 6.11, or 0.3 percent, to 2,132.86.

Futures pointed to losses Monday on Wall Street. Dow futures were down 51, or 0.5 percent, at 9,682.

Benchmark crude for October delivery slipped 81 cents to $71.23 a barrel in Asian trade.

The dollar gained to 92.03 yen from 91.46 yen. The euro fell to $1.4641 from $1.4686.

Centre to invest Rs 9000 cr for expansion of Vizag Steel Plant
The Centre would invest Rs 9,000 crore for the expansion of Vizag Steel Plant, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister K Rosaiah said here on

"Government of India has decided to invest about Rs 9,000 crore for the expansion of Vizag Steel Plant," he said addressing a gathering after inaugurating new buildings of the Andhra Chamber of Commerce.

Highlighting that the state is making rapid strides in industrialisation, he said the PSU firms NTPC and BHEL would set up a power plant equipment manufacturing unit in Chittoor district with an investment of Rs 6,000 crore.

Renowned footwear manufacturing company Apache has also taken up expansion of its existing facility in Nellore district, he said.

The Colombo-based Brandix company has started its operations and their gigantic unit is slated for inauguration at Visakhapatnam, Rosaiah said.

Praising the initiatives of late Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy in putting the state on the path of rapid industrialisation, he said his government would strive to perform in all aspects of development.

Saying that his government would encourage industrialists and that the World Bank has named Hyderabad as a business- friendly city, Rosaiah urged the industrialists to make investments in the state.

High priests at low ebb
Has there been a general decline in the quality of priests who perform Durga Puja? V. Kumara Swamy finds out

MANTRA MATTERS: A priest performs aarati during Durga Puja; (below) Ramgopal Shastri
Ramgopal Shastri cringes when one of his disciples mispronounces a word while reciting the Durga Saptasati (Chandi Paath) — Sanskrit invocations in praise of Goddess Durga from the Markandeya Purana. After berating the youngster, he asks him to repeat them after him. The verses roll off Shastri’s tongue with ease, and he not only pronounces each word perfectly but also modulates his voice, moving the pitch up and down, and leaves the listener spellbound.

Shastri, who is also the secretary of the Bangiya Purohit Sabha, an organisation of about 4,000 priests, recently held a small camp for association members who will perform pujas in thousands of pandals and houses next week. “I want them to follow each and every tradition associated with the puja. If they fail in that task, they would be invoking the wrath of Durga,” he says.

Starting from invoking the Goddess on Shashthi to the visarjan on Dashami when the idols are taken for immersion, priests are involved at each step of the four-day Durga Puja celebrations. Yet many feel that the quality of the priests and their commitment to traditional practices have been on the decline for some time now.

Says Professor Dhyanesh Narayan Chakraborty, former head of the department of Sanskrit, Rabindra Bharati University, who was also one of judges to choose the ‘Best Priest’ in Calcutta a few years back, “I come across many mediocre priests. When the loudspeakers blare out the morning and evening aarati mantras, the mistakes by purohits are quite jarring to the ear,” he says.

“According to our texts, shlokas should be recited perfectly for their desired effect. When the purohits fail to do that, it doesn’t bode well for anybody,” says Shankar Shastri, son and disciple of Ramgopal Shastri.

Others point out that many present-day purohits are also ignorant about the various rituals that are associated with Durga Puja. “When we went around pandals to choose the ‘Best Priest’, we found that purohits were not aware of even the basics of the puja,” says Pandit Netai Chakraborty, head of the Vaidik Pandit Purohit Mahamilan Kendra, who organised the ‘Best Priest’ competition from 2003 to 2006.

According to Chakraborty, the priests were not wearing fresh clothes every day, the place of the yagna was not according to the rules, and they weren’t even following traditional procedures for the aarati. “The aarati has to be offered 64 times to each deity. We found that hardly any one was doing that. The chandmala should be in the right hand of male deities and in the left hand of women deities, but many weren’t even aware of this,” says Chakraborty.

Many priests who follow puja traditions faithfully blame the proliferation of pandals and rampant commercialisation for the slide in standards. “If you notice, Durga Puja is called Durgotsav these days. Clearly, the emphasis is on the utsav (festival), rather than the puja. Pandals have become social gatherings rather than religious places. When the puja organisers are more concerned about coming up with innovative pandals and fancy lighting and less about the puja itself, this is bound to happen,” says Jayanta Kushari, a prominent priest.

Kushari points out that many priests have contracts with multiple pandals and so are always in a hurry to wind up the proceedings. “Purohits cannot be absolved of blame completely. Greed has become a factor in all this,” he says.The priests are paid anywhere between Rs 500-1000 a day, with the major chunk of their earnings coming from daily donations to the Goddess.

However, major Durga Puja organisers refute allegations that tradition has been sacrificed at the altar of commercialisation. “We have had the same priest for almost two decades and there has been no deviation from tradition whatsoever. Our priests follow every tradition in letter and spirit,” says S.S. Bose, treasurer, Maddox Square puja committee.

“We have been conducting our family’s Durga Puja the same way for the last 220 years. The descendant of the first purohit continues to perform the puja even today,” says Alok Krishna Deb of the Sovabazaar Rajbari family. “The emphasis here is on the tradition, not the pomp and glory,” he adds.

Commercialisation apart, perhaps the lack of a proper Sanskrit education has also contributed to a decline in standards, say experts. “Unlike in South India, we don’t have a single school that teaches Sanskrit in the guru shishya parampara. How can you expect to have talented people taking to priesthood out of interest,” asks Loknath Sastri, a priest and Sanskrit grammarian.

“I learnt Sanskrit in the Devnagri script. But the priests today read Sanskrit verses in the Bengali script, which has its own limitations,” rues Ramgopal Shastri.

His son blames the West Bengal education department for the decline in interest in Sanskrit because the subject was made optional in 1978. “It should be made a compulsory subject so that we have a supply line of students for higher studies,” he says. The Bangiya Purohit Sabha has even threatened to boycott the Durga Puja celebrations next year if the government doesn’t take steps to encourage learning Sanskrit.

Another reason for age old puja traditions fading from practice is that priesthood — once a hereditary profession — is not so popular with the present generation. Take Sumant Ghoshal, son of a priest in Howrah. He decided to break away from the family calling and became a software professional. “I used to accompany my father to various Puja pandals, but this was not something that I wanted to do,” he says. Even Ramgopal Shastri’s own grandson is not very keen to follow his family’s profession. So clearly, authentic puja practices that were handed down from generation to generation are simply getting lost over time.

But if men from traditional priestly families are leaving the fold, some others are showing interest in the profession. Biswajit Bhattacharya, a second-year college student, spends hours at the feet of Ramgopal Shastri, learning Sanskrit and the nuances of priesthood. His aim is to become a priest and chant the Chandi Paath like the legendary Birendra Krishna Bhadra.

Are Bengal’s priests listening?

Count puts poverty at 50%, riles govt

New Delhi, Sept. 20: At least half the country’s rural population lives in poverty, a government-appointed expert panel has said, nearly doubling the Planning Commission’s estimate that 28 per cent of Indian villagers are poor.

The Centre, however, appears likely to go by the plan panel’s figures rather than the N.C. Saxena committee’s higher count which, if adopted, will enormously hike expenditure on anti-poverty schemes by adding crores to the list of beneficiaries.

The irony is that the government itself had appointed the Saxena committee to work out new criteria to decide which households lived below the poverty line.

Asked about the possibility of implementing the Saxena report, handed in last month, rural development minister C.P. Joshi said: “The Saxena committee was not asked to count the poor but to develop a methodology to identify the poor.’’

He added that the report was not binding on the government.

However, junking the panel’s figures would amount to rejecting the suggested criteria too. For, the panel’s figures are based on the new criteria it has suggested in its report, as well as data from state governments and the food ministry.

The committee has suggested five exclusion criteria for the 2009 below-poverty-line (BPL) survey: average per head spending over Rs 1,000 a month in urban areas and Rs 700 in rural areas; or ownership of a pucca house, or two-wheeler, or mechanised farm implement like a tractor, or landholding above the district average.

The Planning Commission, however, went by a different cutoff for average per head spending — Rs 356 a month in rural areas and Rs 539 a month in urban areas. One other criterion it used was daily calorie intake: 2,400 kilocalories in villages and 2,100 for urban areas.

Its figure of 28 per cent poor is the same as that obtained by using the old BPL criteria, fixed during the previous survey in 2002, which the Saxena panel was tasked to revise.

The Planning Commission has written to Saxena saying: “Fixing the BPL percentage at 50 per cent will have tremendous financial implications and once granted it cannot be reduced….’’

The Saxena committee has cited food ministry data, which mention 10.5 crore BPL cards in the country. This would already account for roughly 53 crore poor — nearly half the population — it says.

Saxena has found fault with the National Sample Survey Organisation’s data, on which the plan panel’s calculations were based. The committee factored in inflation too, but has not given the details of how this was done.

One other reason for its higher count is that it compulsorily includes in the BPL list all Primitive Tribal Groups and households headed by single women or minors, those with a disabled person as the breadwinner, destitute households, and families of bonded labourers.

Saxena, a former rural development secretary, and the plan panel differ also on the state-wise poverty count. Whereas Saxena finds two states with more than 80 per cent of their people eligible for BPL status (see chart), the plan panel finds none with above 50 per cent poor.

The Saxena committee says that though the official poverty count fell from 56 per cent in 1973-74 to 28 per cent in 2004 going by the government’s old BPL criteria, there has been no real decline in the number of the poor.

Analysing the existing and old BPL lists, it says a large number of poor families have been left out of poverty alleviation programmes “and these must be the voiceless people living in remote hamlets”.

Will Sensex scale new highs this festive season?

21 Sep 2009, 0703 hrs IST, TIMES NEWS NETWORK & AGENCIES
MUMBAI: As the festive season kicks off in the country, Dalal Street has become the cynosure of all eyes. The sensex has already gained nearly 1,200 Top 10 stocks attracting MF money points in just 14 trading sessions this month, closing with gains on 10 occasions.

According to analysts, FII inflow may cross the $10 billion-mark by the end of this month as a hefty $9.8 billion (Rs 47,674 crore) has been poured into the bourses by overseas entities so far this year.

Will the sensex scale new highs this festival season? Analysts are keeping their fingers crossed for now but they expect some volatile trading sessions this week, mainly because of the coming derivatives expiration on Thursday.

Moreover, Monday is a trading holiday because of Eid and hence traders will have just three sessions before the settlement of September contracts. ‘‘Due to the settlement in futures and options segment markets will be in consolidation phase, but uptrend will continue,’’ Paras Bothra, head of research, Ashika Stock Brokers, said.

However, looking beyond the settlement, market sentiment is likely to remain bullish even as investors will be cautious, analysts feel. There is a meeting of the US Federal Reserve also scheduled for this week.

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‘‘The market is expected to remain sideways ahead of the clearing date for derivatives. It may consolidate at these levels, while the movement will remain on the upside as the picture overall is very rosy,’’ Rajesh Jain, VP, SMC Global said. Last week, although the BSE sensex gained 477 points, or nearly 3%, to close at 16,741 points, the last two days it struggled to close higher than previous closes.

Although valuations are reasonable, technically some correction could set in soon. ‘‘The markets have reached an oversold zone and this week it will be choppy and will consolidate at these levels for a while,’’ Avinash Gupta, VP-Research, Bonanza Portfolio, said.

During the week, FIIs have put in over Rs 5,300 crore in Indian equities, a large chunk of it because of the Rs 3,200 crore placement of RIL treasury shares. Bothra added that FIIs are bullish on the Indian markets and they will for now keep investing in the domestic bourses.

‘‘US Fed will meet on September 22-23 to discuss the state of the US economy and to discuss the financial policies and the Indian markets will cautiously look at the situation,’’ Jain added.

‘‘FII inflows in the Indian equity market would continue in the coming days and it may cross $10 billion level by September-end,” Tarun Sisodia, director & head of research, Anand Rathi Financial Services, said.

So far this year, FIIs have net bought shares worth nearly Rs 48,000 crore, according to Sebi data. The infusion of money by overseas investors in shares is a part of their portfolio management in various emerging markets and India is part of that strategy, Sisodia, who is based in Mumbai, said. And so far this month, foreign investors have infused over Rs 7,400 crore ($1.5 billion).

Budget isn't a bad idea

21 Sep 2009, 1850 hrs IST, New York Times

Someone with $100 million has nothing to fear, not even fear itself.

But not long ago, a client with such assets called and asked Bruce Bickel, her wealth adviser at PNC Wealth Management, to put her on a budget.

"She said we've never done this before, and we think we should," said Bickel, managing director of private foundation management services at PNC. "It's all relative. Their loss has put them in a fear response."

That mindset is a direct result of the financial panic that turned one year old this week. At this time last year, Richard Fuld was center stage in the financial crisis; Ken Lewis, chief executive of Bank of America, was being hailed as Merrill Lynch's savior; and Bernard L Madoff was little known beyond the financial world.

None of that is true today. And even though a year has passed, wealthy investors remain cautious.

The Boston Consulting Group predicted this week that world wealth levels would not return to 2007 precrisis levels until 2013. It also said it found that the number of millionaires was down 18 per cent and that, across the board, clients of wealth management firms had lost trust in their advisers.

"There is a shattered confidence we haven't seen in a long time," said Bruce Holley, senior partner at the firm. "The wealth management business is a very emotional business, and people can react in kind to that."

This explains how someone with more than $100 million in assets can ask her adviser to put her on a budget. As far-fetched as it may sound to someone struggling to make a mortgage payment, such a request reflects the changes in attitudes about wealth in the last year.


Watching where your money goes is more than just having a budget. "One of my families said, ‘If you're worried about spending, then you're not wealthy,"' Bickel said. "But across the board, there is greater discernment with use of discretionary income."

That discernment has taken many forms. One is charity. Many of the two dozen private foundations Bickel advises have become more focused in their giving. In one case, the family used to give to various cancer-related charities, but it now concentrates on cancer research. The family has not reduced what it gives, just focused it on a particular area to have greater impact.

Still, any budgeting is bound to encompass personal expenses, even for those with plenty.

"People who would get a new Mercedes S550 every couple of years aren't doing it now," said G. Moffett Cochran, chief executive of Silvercrest Asset Management, which has an average account size of $30 million. "The next car may not be an S550; it may be an Acura. There's an awareness of conspicuous consumption."

This feeling is gaining ground. Bickel said he has been helping parents talk to children about cutting back and doing so without feeling guilty. "They say, 'My teenager isn't driving a BMW; she has to drive a Ford Focus,"' he said. "I tell them not to worry about it. The need is the car. The desire is the BMW."

New formula to award oil blocks

Jitin Prasada: Ready for drill
New Delhi, Sept. 19: The government plans to adopt a new pricing formula for the open acreage licensing system, which will replace the annual auctioning of oil and gas blocks under the New Exploration Licensing Policy (Nelp).

“We plan to shift to a new method of giving out (oil and gas) blocks to bidders in an open acreage system and will be adopting a new pricing methodology,” minister of state for petroleum, Jitin Prasada, said.

The new system, which will start in early 2011, will enable the exploration and production firms to bid for blocks at any time of the year unlike Nelp, which is an annual event.

“Data for these blocks will be made available to the bidders through the national data repository,” he said. The open acreage system will allow firms to identify the blocks or areas they want to explore instead of bidding for pre-assigned blocks.

The risks involved in oil and gas discovery has prodded the government to adopt the new pricing formula. Prasada said, “The contractor will have to arrive at the pricing on an arm’s-length basis and it will have to be approved by the government.”

The empowered group of ministers (eGoM) for Reliance Industries’ KG-D6 had formulated the gas price on a cost-plus principle where a return is guaranteed on all capital expenditure. The eGoM-approved formula provides for a maximum gas price of $4.2 per million British thermal unit (mBtu) at $60 a barrel crude rate. RIL gas will cost $2.5 per mBtu, if crude falls to $25.

This formula will be valid for five years from the date of commencement of commercial production and supply.

Arvind Mahajan, executive director of KPMG, said “The existing gas price in India is significantly lower than international rates. Adequate gas price rationalisation is a must to attract investment in the development of gasfields and infrastructure. Cost-plus mechanism will only deter investment and competitiveness.”

The Planning Commission has disagreed with the price fixing methodology of the eGoM. It said, “Linking gas prices to crude price movement is misleading as gas is not as easily tradable as oil, because pipeline and liquefaction/re-gassification facilities take time to develop.”

It said comparing “local gas prices to spot LNG prices in the international market is grossly misleading as gas transportation requires significant investment in pipelines or in liquefaction, cryogenic shipping and re-gassification”.

According to the Planning Commission, long-term supply contracts such as those in Europe are more representative of gas prices.

“The government will be looking at the commercial viability and the energy needs of the country while approving the prices of energy resources,” Prasada said.

According to analysts, global players such as Chevron, ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, and Conoco Phillips are unlikely to venture into the country unless the discovery is commercially profitable and the price is determined by market forces.

At present, only 50 per cent of Indian sedimentary basins are under exploration.

Will China drag global and Indian markets down?

21 Sep 2009, 1815 hrs IST, ET Now

Rakesh Jhunjhunwala and Shankar Sharma debated this and other factors impacting markets in episode II of ET Now’s Gladiators. Excerpts: More Pictures

Two people the markets and investors love to track and listen to – Rakesh Jhunjhunwal, Partner, Rare Enterprises and Shankar Sharma, Vice Chairman & Joint MD, First Global battled it hard in the second episode of Gladiators telecast on our business channel ET Now. They carry on the debate – over the future course of the market, the long term India story, the China factor and so on. Here is the transcript of the second episode of the face-off between the two market giants.

Click here for the transcript of the first episode

Last time when we met on this forum, both our gladiators had different opinions. Rakesh Jhunjhunwala was of the view that global economic recovery has started and that corporate India will surprise us. Shankar Sharma kept on insisting you cannot ignore China and that if China goes under, commodity prices will crash. This week, the focus will be different.

So far we are focussed on China but what about the US consumer? The US consumer is now saving more and is certainly spending less.

Rakesh Jhunjhunwala: I mean there is no question of replacing, it is going to be a gradual replacement. China and India, Brazil and Indonesia will replace them. Over a period of time, this is going to be Asia’s century; I have no doubt about it.

Bull vs Bear: Will this market rally end or continue further?

But Rakesh, history always repeats itself. Look at the 100-year chart of Dow. The excess of any bull market do not get cleaned up in less than one year.

Rakesh Jhunjhunwala: It is their excesses, so they are, as Chris Wood says and which I agree and which I believe that the Western world is structurally in a bear market. Asia in the emerging world is structurally in a bull market.

Trinamul on Maoist notice
- Threat over Nandigram ‘extortion’

Boys eat in a relief camp in Nandigram. (Jahangir Badsa)
Sept. 20: Maoists have warned that Trinamul Congress activists in Nandigram will “pay with their lives” if they don’t stop threatening and extorting money from CPM activists.

A senior Maoist leader has said Trinamul workers in Nandigram who were “torturing” poor villagers just because they were CPM supporters would soon have to face verdict in the “people’s court”.

Nandigram, which was once a Left bastion, had become the launch pad for Trinamul’s resurgence after the land acquisition backlash that paid the Opposition party rich dividends in the panchayat and Lok Sabha elections.

During Mamata Banerjee’s land movement in Nandigram, the government and the CPM had often alleged that her party had the active support of the Maoists. Trinamul had dismissed such suggestions.

However, once the Centre sent paramilitary forces to Lalgarh and a security operation was launched, the Maoists started publicly criticising Trinamul for failing to stop the crackdown despite being part of the Union government. Maoist leader Kishanji had then accused Mamata of failing to return the favour extended in Nandigram.

The threat issued now by another Maoist leader has injected a menacing edge to what has so far been confined to occasional criticism.

Trinamul workers in Nandigram will have to “pay for their act, maybe with their lives”, the senior rebel leader — a CPI (Maoist) central committee member — said in a recent interaction.

In Nandigram, Trinamul men are targeting poor CPM supporters. They are extorting money from them and denying them jobs under the rural job scheme, he said.

The Telegraph spoke to some CPM supporters who said they were at the receiving end of Trinamul’s “extortion”.

One of them, 30-year-old Narayan Das, was not allowed to bring his father’s body back to his Sonachura home in Nandigram and Trinamul workers would not let him perform the last rites until he coughed up Rs 2 lakh.

Narayan, a supervisor with a construction company in Cuttack, said: “When I reached Chandipur, about 40km from Sonachura, my relatives called me on my cellphone and told me I would not be allowed to perform my father’s last rites until I paid Rs 2 lakh to the local Trinamul leaders. Finally, my relatives took the body to the village for cremation and I had to return to Cuttack.”

Narayan said the local Trinamul leaders have also prevented his brothers from cultivating five bighas that his father left for them. “They allowed cultivation on one bigha after I paid Rs 10,000. But they are still demanding Rs 2 lakh.”

Another Sonachura CPM supporter and a farm labourer, Rabin Mondal, alleged that he was being denied work under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. “I am not being given work under the 100 days’ scheme. No one is giving me a job as a farm labourer as Trinamul leaders have asked villagers not to,” said 30-year-old Rabin.

A CPM supporter in Gokulnagar who works as a clerk in the irrigation department in Mahishadal fled his home a year ago after Trinamul activists demanded Rs 2 lakh from him too.

He now lives near his work place, but his wife and two children are still in Gokulnagar. “My wife and two sons live in my two-storey house in the village. I have 10 bighas to cultivate. So I gave them Rs 1 lakh. They have said they will leave me alone only after I pay the remaining amount,” he said, requesting anonymity.

The Trinamul leadership in Nandigram denied that CPM supporters were facing extortion threats. “Our workers have not extorted money or resorted to any oppression. There is no question of demanding money from CPM supporters,” said Abu Taher, Trinamul leader and chief of Nandigram panchayat samiti.

CPM land lens on trio
Calcutta, Sept. 20: The CPM has decided to launch for the first time an inquiry against three district committee members following charges that they had connived with land sharks, sources said.

The district — North 24-Parganas — is the same as the one where the Vedic Village controversy broke but the sources said the particular scandal was not mentioned in relation to the probe that has been ordered.

Among the three is Kalyan Mukherjee, who used to manage finance minister Asim Dasgupta’s election in Khardah. The others are Ranjit Das from Baranagar and Arun Mahapatra from Gaighata.

The decision to probe the charges was taken by the North 24-Parganas district committee in the presence of CPM state secretary Biman Bose.

The sources said the three members were accused of “immoral activities”, including use of political clout and muscle to help realtors. The complaints against them were lodged by some party activists.

The faction-ridden district committee, however, could not finalise the names of those who will carry out the inquiry and left the matter to the district secretariat.

The sources said Bose did not mention the Vedic Village controversy in which the land and land reforms ministry reached an out-of-court settlement with the promoters and handed over vested land.

Bose has asked the units in other districts also to take action against corrupt elements, not only at the lower level, but also those in the top rungs.

Although the probe is being construed as part of the party’s renewed “rectification campaign” in the wake of a series of electoral setbacks, the silence on Vedic Village has raised eyebrows.

A section in the party had accused the district leadership of inaction despite complaints of land-grab against the resort promoters. Some district leaders of the party, including ministers, were regular visitors to the resort.

But district secretary Amitabha Bose and Rabin Mondol, Rajarhat MLA, in their report to Bose did not admit the involvement of party activists, sources said.

But another leader pointed out that the leaders’ nexus with the real estate promoters in the suburbs had begun in the late eighties. Although the ties developed under the nose of the state leadership, it hardly took any action, he said.

Marxists & models? Mollah is outraged
Calcutta, Sept. 20: Land acquisition or khadi fashion, Abdur Rezzak Mollah can’t be kept gagged for long.

The land and land reforms minister today criticised the CPM’s idea of organising a fashion show, trashing it as erosion of ideals. “I must say that the fashion show shows us in poor light across the state. We, Marxists, who always stick to ideals, should not stoop to organise such shows, regardless of its marketing potential,” he said over the phone from his South 24-Parganas home.

“I can’t imagine that our Marxist leaders would sit cross-legged for hours looking at models walk on the ramp one after another.”

The minister’s criticism of yesterday’s state-organised khadi fashion show came two days after he was warned by CPM state secretary Biman Bose not to send out the “wrong message” to the masses about the party.

Mollah, who has publicly criticised the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government for its land acquisition policy and proclaimed he is “super clean”, also spoke of Hope 86, a musical soiree that Subhas Chakraborty had organised.

When Hope 86 was organised by the late transport minister Subhas Chakraborty, it sparked “sustained criticism in the party”, Mollah said. “Many of us took up cudgels against the late Chakraborty terming the show decadent. But today, we don’t mind organising fashion shows.”

Mollah has also coined a name for leaders who organise ramp shows and soirees. He calls them “hybrids”.

“I have been isolated in the party these days because of being vocal about some hybrid leaders who openly disregard Marxist ideals. But we have been paying a heavy price for the loss of ideals,” he said.

It is not known if Mollah’s “hybrid” barb and charge about eroding Marxist ideals was meant for Mohd Salim, the West Bengal Khadi and Village Industries Commission chairman and one of the organisers of the khadi fashion show. They are not known to be the best of friends.

Salim refused to react to Mollah’s statement.

But CPM state secretariat member Benoy Konar found nothing wrong with the fashion show. “We have to cope with changing times. If such a show is done in a decent manner, why criticise it?” he asked.

Markets mirror malls in festive frenzy

The New Market area on Saturday.
Pictures by Bishwarup Dutta and Anindya Shankar Ray
It’s that time of the year again, when the mall-market
divide gets blurred in the Puja shopping frenzy. Metro goes around town to catch the buzz


Serpentine queues greeted shoppers on Saturday, the second day of the extended weekend before Puja, and they waited for hours to pick out the right outfit and then to pay for it. The pavements, displaying everything from apparel to trinkets and shoes to linens, offered no space to walk. Shoppers vied for space with vehicles on Bidhan Sarani.

Madhuchanda Bose, waiting at the billing counter at KC Dass Fashion, said: “We get quality products here at reasonable rates.” The store records a footfall of over 2,000 on pre-Puja weekends.

“Sales pick up two months before Puja and peak in the last few days,” said employee Uttam Pal. Puja sales were 10 times that of the entire year put together, he added.

A personal touch and tradition help the age-old markets score over malls in the run-up to Puja. “If I don’t like a dress, I can get it changed whenever I want. At the mall, I have to go at a specified time,” said Ruma Ghosh from Baranagar.

An employee at Panjabi Museum on Bidhan Sarani said: “We are selling goods worth around Rs 20,000 daily now.”


There was not an inch of parking space on either side of Rashbehari Avenue. The pavements had disappeared under hawkers and their ware and a sea of shoppers. Some men tried hard to lure customers to air-conditioned shops. But with shoppers packed like sardines inside, the air-conditioning offered little comfort. Grabbing a salesman’s eye or getting your purchase billed called for greater skills.

“Even those who don’t shop throughout the year, shop for Puja. More panjabis are selling at the last moment compared with saris,” said Madhusudan Saha of Kinnor Kinnoree in Gariahat. The store usually downs shutters at 8.30pm, but on Friday the rush ensured that it remained open past 10pm, he added.

The scene was the same at Benarasi Kuthi. “People are mostly picking up saris in the Rs1,000-1,500 price range,” said N. Bhattacharya, the owner.

Shopper Sapna Kar said: “I go to malls for everyday stuff, but there is no alternative to the sari stock at Gariahat.”

New Market

Shoppers didn’t have to walk in the Esplanade area, they were pushed forward by the “invisible hand” of Calcutta’s shopping frenzy. At Shreeram Arcade, security checks were forgotten and the gates thrown open to the crowds. For trendy wear, Shreeram Arcade is the pop pick and for ethnic wear, Treasure Island, said shoppers.

Shopkeepers can’t stop smiling. “Puja sales are double of what we sell throughout the year,” said Naveen Sharma of Miss Island at Treasure Island. “Puja is the time for making money. People might indulge in window shopping at other times, but not now,” smiled Indrajeet Tiwari, the owner of Mystique at Shreeram Arcade.

Though some shopkeepers admitted that Puja sales were not as high as in previous years, the downturn seemed to have made no dent in Debarati Mukherjee’s budget, who came to Shreeram Arcade from Behala. “We get trendy stuff here. In malls, many pieces of a single variety are displayed, but here one is spoilt for choice,” she said.

City Centre

A group of youngsters chatted amid glasses of cold coffee at Goutam’s, but the shops were not crowded. It was the penultimate day of the City Centre Shopping Festival and Seuli Singh, the store manager at Color Plus, said sales had increased by 30-35 per cent in the run-up to Puja. She denied that traditional markets eat into the mall’s customer base during Puja and insisted “one’s gain is not another’s pain”.

Model Madhurima Mukherjee said malls were “way more comfortable”, but she still visits Gariahat or New Market for traditional wear.

Rusa Banerjee, an executive at the mall, said malls were designed for customers looking for “high-end” products. “We benefit because we have a lot of vanilla stores too, along with the branded ones.”

Mani Square

Special events at Mani Mahotsav and Jackie Shroff shooting for Lal Salaam were the crowd-pullers on Saturday.

Rajesh Watwani, the manager of the Turtle store, said sales had gone up by 30 per cent before Puja. Namgay Tenzing, 22, said he was a regular at Vardaan Market but now prefers malls. “Fashion is important and I like high-end branded products,” he said.

Sudeshna Hazra, the head of events and speciality leasing at Mani Square, said malls score on comfort given Calcutta’s hot and humid weather. Other facilities like parking space, food court and plexes also draw Puja customers.

South City

An album launch for Fossils ensured the mall was mobbed, but the stores were not packed. But Vishal Banga, the manager at the Woodland outlet, said: “Footfall has increased by 200 per cent and sales by 50 per cent.” Anurag Kaur, an aspiring pilot, said: “Malls are better for men since we have many more options here as opposed to street-shopping.”

Man Mohan Bagree, the vice-president (commercial and marketing) of South City Mall, said he wouldn’t pit malls against markets. “The marketing strategies and target audience of both are completely different. The new generation is more inclined towards malls because of its variety”.

Jhinuk Mazumdar and Ranjabati Das

First-class line-up for economy Krishna

Krishna, Clinton
New York, Sept. 20: He may be arriving at New York’s John F. Kennedy airport by “cattle class”, but that will not stop S.M. Krishna from being the second most popular foreign minister — after Hillary Clinton — at the 64th UN General Assembly during the next seven days.

Of the 192 foreign ministers who will be competing for their place under the sun here at the biggest gathering of leaders, Krishna has received 54 requests for bilateral meetings with his counterparts from all over the world.

That number is exceeded only by America’s Clinton, who received 86 requests for bilateral meetings, according to a source at the US permanent mission to the UN.

No other foreign minister has received nearly as many requests for bilateral meetings, according to multiple sources at the “high-level segment” of the General Assembly which will open on Wednesday to be addressed, among others, by President Barack Obama.

The interest in Krishna has been closely matched by a keenness to engage India’s new foreign secretary, Nirupama Rao, in substantive dialogue.

Rao arrived in New York this morning for the General Assembly, but was immediately spirited away by the Americans to Washington for detailed discussions on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to the US in November.

Perhaps empathising with Krishna’s “cattle class” fatigue on the long haul from New Delhi to New York, Rao travelled to Washington from the Big Apple today by a chair car-equipped Acela train, the US version of Rahul Gandhi’s now famous rail trip by Shatabdi Express to Ludhiana last week.

The Americans usually discourage foreign leaders and officials arriving in New York for the General Assembly from visiting Washington as an incidental add-on to their trip, but in Rao’s case the reverse has happened.

Her counterpart, the US under-secretary of state for political affairs, William Burns, was very keen to follow up the outcome of Clinton’s recent trip to India in the context of Singh’s visit, away from the distractions of UN work in New York, although the bigwigs at the state department are already at the world body and will remain there for the next 10 days.

Although Krishna had asked Rao to join the Indian delegation for talks with Clinton in July as an “officer on special duty” while she was waiting to take charge as foreign secretary, this will be her first solo engagement with the career leadership of the US diplomatic corps. An American source said Burns and his boss, the deputy secretary of state, James Steinberg, were keen that as a goodwill gesture this should take place at Foggy Bottom, the seat of the state department and not at a third party venue in New York.

Although Krishna received 54 requests from other foreign ministers to meet him in the next seven days, India’s permanent mission to the UN has not been able to accommodate all the requests since the minister has a very tight schedule at the UN, which includes a climate change summit on Tuesday, attended by 124 countries, many of them at the level of heads of state, a Group of 15 (G15) summit and his own address to the General Assembly.

Ironically, however, Krishna will actually end up meeting more foreign ministers than Clinton. This is because he will meet 53 Commonwealth foreign ministers at a single meeting, which is being called in view of the Commonwealth summit to be held in Trinidad and Tobago in November that will be attended by the Prime Minister.

In addition, Krishna will represent Singh at the G15 summit, attend a Bric luncheon and interact with the foreign ministers of Brazil, Russia and China, attend a ministerial meeting of Ibsa, the group binding India, Brazil and South Africa, have a collective “political dialogue” with his Gulf Co-operation Council counterparts and attend ministerial meetings of the Group of 77 and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, to list a few programmes on his itinerary.

Of course, Krishna will have a separate meeting with Clinton.

In order to accommodate requests from a wide cross-section of others, India’s permanent representative to the UN, Hardeep Puri, is hosting a reception on Thursday for the minister.

In addition to Rao and Puri, Krishna will be assisted at the General Assembly by the minister of state for environment and forests, Jairam Ramesh, and the special envoy to the Prime Minister on climate change, Shyam Saran.

ET Headline
Will China drag global and Indian mkts down?

21 Sep 2009, 1815 hrs IST, ET Now

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RBI flashes red signal at MLM companies
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ENS Economic Bureau
Mumbai The operations of shady multi-level marketing (MLM) companies — which operate what are popularly known as pyramid or ponzi schemes — have come under the regulatory scanner with shady MLM companies mushrooming across the country and duping investors. Many firms posing as MLM agencies for consumer goods and services have been actually mobilising large amounts of deposits from the public with promises of ridiculous returns of 120 per cent and repayment of prinicipal within a year.

In a circular, the Reserve Bank of India has alerted banks that in cases where accounts have already been opened in the names of the marketing agencies, retail traders and investment firms, the banks should undertake quick reviews. “Wherever large number of cheque books has been issued to such firms, the relative decision may be reviewed,” it said.

With many MLM companies recently using the banking technology to dupe investors, the RBI said, “banks should be careful in opening accounts of the marketing/trading agencies etc. Especially, strict compliance with KYC (know your customer) and AML (anti-money laundering) guidelines issued by the RBI should be ensured in the matter.”

The banking regulator also named seven MLM companies (Fine India Sales Pvt Ltd, Lakshya Levels Marketing, Eve Industries, Trident Advertising & Trade Links Pvt. Ltd, Super Life Link Distributors, Lue Brain Education Society and Manya Mantra Marketing). “These firms and their agents had reportedly promised very high returns on deposits and lured common people to part with funds in the name of certain investment/deposit schemes,” the RBI said.



MUMBAI: The Reserve Bank of India has asked banks to tighten the internal policy for fraud risk management and fraud investigation function as the incidence of frauds in Indian banks has been showing an increasing trend, especially in housing and mortgage loans, credit card dues and internet banking. “It is a matter of concern that instances of frauds in the traditional areas of banking such as cash credit, export finance, guarantees, letters of credit etc remain unabated,” the RBI said a year after the surfacing of the global financial crisis.

Mamata gives new name to LF govt: roadblock
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Express News Service
Posted: Sep 21, 2009 at 0251 hrs IST

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Kolkata Trinamool Congress chief and Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee on Sunday accused the Left Front government of acting as a roadblock to various development projects carried out by her ministry in the state.
“The CPM-led state government has failed to do any development work in Bengal and now that we want to do it, they are putting up roadblocks,” Banerjee told a crowd during the inauguration of a computerised reservation counter in Metiabruz.

“They will not work for people or allow us to work,” she added.

She cited the example of her efforts to modernise the Garden Reach state hospital.

“The railway ministry wrote to the district magistrate of South 24-Parganas that we were interested in developing the hospital. However, there was no response from the district magistrate” she said.

“Despite the state government’s callous approach we will go on with the development projects,” she added.

“We are looking for alternative land in this area. The railway ministry will set up a modern hospital on its own,” Banerjee added.

The ministry plans to develop the existing South Eastern Railway Hospital at Garden Reach into a modern medical college and hospital through public-private partnership model.

“Thousands of people will benefit from this venture, apart from the fact that it will produce doctors,” added Banerjee.

She also said the railways will construct a flyover with the help of private partners in the Metiabruz-Garden Reach area.

“A survey of lands from Taratolla to Metiabruz is on and in the next two to three years the flyover will come up,” she added.

Describing the new reservation counter at Metibruz as an “Eid gift” to the people of the area, Banerjee said she wanted the metropolis to be well-connected by railways and a survey would be taken up for laying a railway line from Majerhat station to Garden Reach.

Can’t milk your PSUs any more, babus told
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Amitav Ranjan
Posted: Sep 21, 2009 at 0958 hrs IST

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New Delhi Government officials have been told that they can no longer use Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs) as milch cows for getting expensive mobile phones, chauffeur-driven cars, air conditioners, laptops or paying for their air travel or hotel stay.
On instructions from the Prime Minister’s Office, the Cabinet Secretary has directed that “ministries/departments which have CPSEs under their control should not permit their officers to use facilities belonging to or at the cost of the CPSEs”.

And if there is “a felt need” to modernise the functioning of babus through these perks, the ministries should pay out of their budgets for these facilities, “instead of depending on the CPSEs”.

The directive comes after The Indian Express reported that the Petroleum Ministry was forcing state-run ONGC to provide cars and mobiles, and pay for mobile bills, air fares and hotel stay for officers.

A Core Group of Officers, comprising the Secretaries of Expenditure, Personnel and Public Enterprises, then recommended that facilities from CPSEs for “personal use” should be “strictly prohibited”, and officers could avail of them for official purposes only after approval by the concerned Secretary.

The PMO, however, did not buy this argument. On May 27, it wrote to the Cabinet Secretary that allowing use of manpower, laptops, mobiles and vehicles in “exigencies of work” would suggest a fallacy that ministries with CPSEs have more work than those without CPSEs, but are underprovided.

“Permitting some ministries to obtain such facilities from CPSEs is problematic. They tend to become perks that other ministries do not have. This also creates a perverse incentive for officers to prefer ministries with CPSEs. Apart from this being unfair and inefficient, it has the potential to compromise the independence of the government direction,” it wrote.

It said that a fair and efficient system would be to assess the needs of each Ministry and give them the facilities directly instead of sourcing them from CPSEs. “If ministries/officers are not entitled to them or those are considered unnecessary, then there is no case for permitting them through CPSEs,” it argued.

Last Thursday, a Committee of Secretaries approved the PMO line.

Obama wants G20 to rethink global economy
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Posted: Sep 21, 2009 at 0938 hrs IST

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Washington US President Barack Obama said on Sunday he would push world leaders this week for a reshaping of the global economy in response to the deepest financial crisis in decades.
In Europe, officials kept up pressure for a deal to curb bankers' pay and bonuses at a two-day summit of leaders from the Group of 20 countries which begins on Thursday.

The summit will be held in the former steelmaking center of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, marking the third time in less than a year that leaders of countries accounting for about 85 per cent of the world economy will have met to coordinate their responses to the crisis.

Obama said the US economy was recovering, even if unemployment remained high, and now was the time to rebalance the global economy after decades of US over-consumption.

"We can't go back to the era where the Chinese or the Germans or other countries just are selling everything to us, we're taking out a bunch of credit card debt or home equity loans, but we're not selling anything to them," Obama said in an interview with ‘CNN’.

For years before the financial crisis erupted in 2007, economists had warned of the dangers of imbalances in the global economy -- namely huge trade surpluses and currency reserves built up by exporters like China, and similarly big deficits in the United States and other economies.

With US consumers now holding back on spending after house prices plunged and as unemployment climbs, Washington wants other countries to become engines of growth.

"That's part of what the G20 meeting in Pittsburgh is going to be about, making sure that there's a more balanced economy," Obama told ‘CNN’.

China has long been the target of calls from the West to get its massive population to spend more. It may be reluctant to offer a significant change in economic policy when Chinese President Hu Jintao meets Obama this week.

The Wall Street Journal reported that a US proposal to the rest of the G20 group foresaw a new global economic framework under which the United States would save more and cut its budget deficit, China would rely less on exports and Europe would make structural changes, possibly in areas such as labor law, to make itself more attractive to investment.

China was reluctant about the plan but Washington was bringing Beijing along by supporting its call for more say for developing countries at the International Monetary Fund, the newspaper said on its website.

G20 countries have not decided how detailed to make their pledges to change their economies and there would be no specific sanctions for those falling short, the report said.

Some economists have worried that a trade dispute over new US import duties on Chinese tires could make it hard for leaders to renew their pledges to avoid protectionism, let alone discuss a major rethink of the world economy.

Nonetheless, calls for a new equilibrium are growing.

"We need to have rebalancing of growth and increase in consumption in the emerging markets to have enough growth in the short term," International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn told the Financial Times.

In Pittsburgh, the first of several expected anti-G20 protest marches took place with hundreds of demonstrators demanding governments create more jobs by spending more money on public works.

"(This) is a jobless recovery and there is the prospect of a permanent high unemployment economy." said Larry Holmes, of protest organizers Bail Out the People Movement.

Bigger protests are expected on Thursday and Friday.


European officials renewed calls on the summit to curb bonuses paid to bankers. Massive payouts linked to risky investments are widely seen as a factor in the credit crisis.

German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck said he supported a Dutch proposal to limit banking executives' bonuses to the level of their fixed annual salary, the kind of idea that US officials, mindful of Wall Street's concerns, oppose.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is seeking re-election next weekend, said on Saturday she was "thoroughly optimistic" that a deal could be done on reforming financial markets.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has tempered his calls for bonus caps, possibly paving the way for a G20 deal tying payouts to bankers' long-term performance, not quick bets.

Steinbrueck, a member of the center-left Social Democrats, said he would press G20 countries to examine the idea of a global tax on financial transactions to curb excesses.

A US draft of the summit communique did not mention this plan, German magazine Der Spiegel said. But G20 sources said the idea would be discussed by leaders.

The European Union should impose limits on bankers' bonuses even if the United States does not, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said on Sunday.

The United States is keen to show Europe that it is taking steps to rein in excesses in financial markets.

But the pace of US regulatory reform has been slow, hindered by opposition from a powerful banking lobby and the Obama administration's focus on healthcare reform.

Those delays could get longer still because the Senate's top legislator on financial regulation favors a more radical streamlining of bank supervisory agencies than the changes proposed by Obama.

The G20 leaders are due to discuss other issues in Pittsburgh, including climate change ahead of important United Nations negotiations on emissions levels in December.

The EU's Barroso will warn on Monday that the talks "are dangerously close to deadlock at the moment ... and the world cannot afford such a disastrous outcome," according to excerpts of a speech he will make in New York.

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MSN India
India's Oscar entry is tale of India's first filmmaker - ‎4 hours ago‎
Mumbai: India's official entry at the Osacrs is a little known Marathi film Harishchandrachi Factory. It is a film about India's first full length film Raja Harishchandra made by Dadasaheb Phalke.
'Harischandrachi Factory' is India's entry to the Oscars Reuters India
Harishchandrachi Factory: India's official entry to Oscars Oneindia
Times of India - Indian Express - World News - Wikipedia: Harishchandrachi Factory
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Rani Mukherjee's skin show a waste?
Oneindia - ‎3 hours ago‎
By Raymond Ronamai Many might not expect Rani Mukherjee to resort to cheap skin show after having done many challenging roles in the past but the actress had no other way out with her career being pushed to a new low.
Shahid turns 'politically correct'! Hindustan Times
'You cannot take risks playing a cricketer' Rediff
Times of India - Oneindia - Hindustan Times - Oneindia
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Who is to be Mrs Rahul Mahajan?
Oneindia - ‎2 hours ago‎
After the great success of Rakhi Ka Swayamwar, NDTV Imagine is planning to start with the second season of the show with Rahul Mahajan.
Rakhi deines breakup reports Hindustan Times
Rakhi gives Elesh the boot Times of India
MSN India - Apun Ka Choice - IndiaGlitz - World News
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Sports »
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New Zealand Herald
In defence of the Champions Trophy
BBC Sport - Pranav Soneji - ‎4 hours ago‎
Not the sage words of kitchen troubleshooter, potty-mouthed Gordon Ramsay, but those of David Richardson, the International Cricket Council's general manager of cricket, on the state of 50-over cricket.
A Trophy That Will Test the Players, the Host and the Format New York Times
We are unmatchable, boasts South Africa star Steyn AFP
Press Trust of India - Indian Express - -
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Gill congratulates Indian Davis Cup team
Press Trust of India - ‎42 minutes ago‎
New Delhi, Sep 21 (PTI) Sports Minister MS Gill today congratulated the Indian Davis Cup team for qualifying to the World Group with a 4-1 triumph over South Africa in the play-off tie in Johannesburg.
Davis Cup heroes return Times
Exclusive: Davis Cup landmark win is my biggest victory yet: Somdev
Sakaal Times - Reuters India - Daily News & Analysis - Calcutta Telegraph
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We are not taking tomorrow's final as revenge: Karim
Times of India - ‎44 minutes ago‎
PTI 21 September 2009, 07:17pm IST NEW DELHI: Mohun Bagan coach Karim Bencherifa on Monday played down any talk of a grudge match against I-League champions Churchill Brothers in the final of Durand Cup here tomorrow.
Bagan eyeing revenge, Churchill 2nd title of season Rediff
Edeh strikes twice Calcutta Telegraph
Press Trust of India - Kolkata Mirror - - Times of India
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Straits Times
South Asian dementia sufferers to rise by 107 percent in 20 years
Sify - ‎4 hours ago‎
The number of people living with dementia will nearly double in the next 20 years across the world, rising by as much as 107 percent in South Asia, researchers warned Monday.
More than 35 million globally have dementia - report Reuters India
Dementia sufferers 'set to double' The Press Association
Times Online - Times of India - BBC News - Nursing Times
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Seven more swine flu deaths, toll reaches 247
Times of India - ‎25 minutes ago‎
PTI 21 September 2009, 07:32pm IST NEW DELHI: Swine flu on Monday claimed seven more lives in the country taking the toll to 247 even as 228 fresh cases of the viral disease were reported.
17 swine flu deaths take India's toll to 257 SamayLive
Death toll from A/H1N1 flu attains 240 in India Xinhua
Hindustan Times - Sify - Press Trust of India - BreakingNewsOnline.
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Mysore Dasara Airshow to be bigger and brighter this time
Hindu - M.A. Sriram - ‎18 hours ago‎
Awe inspiring: The Akash Ganga skydiving team will once again entertain people in Mysore during this Dasara Airshow. MYSORE: This year's Dasara Airshow will have many attractive events.
Air show adds to the Dasara thrill Express Buzz
DASARA AIR SHOW ON SEPT. 24 Star of Mysore -
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Sydney Morning Herald
India disappointed with Brumby's decision to skip Mumbai
Press Trust of India - Natasha Chaku - ‎7 hours ago‎
Melbourne, Sep 21 (PTI) India today expressed its disappointment over Victorian Premier John Brumby cancelling his planned trip to Mumbai during his India visit begining tomorrow following a travel advisory that terorists may be planning attacks in the ...
Australian official cancels Mumbai trip over attack fears Times of India
Indian consul criticises Brumby's detour The Age
Herald Sun - Deccan Herald - Bloomberg - Wikipedia: 2009 attacks on Indian students in Australia
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World News
Govt to file case against scribes for 'wrong' report
Press Trust of India - ‎2 hours ago‎
New Delhi, Sept 21 (PTI) Taking note of a "wrong" report about Chinese firing at Indian border guards, Government has decided to slap cases against two reporters of a prominent national daily who authored it.
China won't wage war on India' Times of India
Govt plans FIR against journalists for 'wrong' report on China Indian Express - Daily News & Analysis - Business Standard - Hindu
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Anoushka 'blackmailer' arrested in Mumbai
Indian Express - ‎14 hours ago‎
The Delhi Police have arrested a man for allegedly trying to blackmail sitar player Anoushka Shankar, daughter of the legendary Pandit Ravi Shankar.
Mumbai man held for blackmailing Anoushka Hindu
Cops hazy about motives of Anushka's 'blackmailer' Hindustan Times
BreakingNewsOnline. - Press Trust of India - - SamayLive
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