Thursday, July 30, 2009

BBMB reduces Bhakra discharge

Chandigarh, July 29

The Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) today in consultation with partner states reduced the discharge of water from Bhakra Dam and stopped all releases from Pong Dam in a bid to expedite the filling of dams, which had been heavily depleted in May in anticipation of rains which never came.

A technical committee meeting was held here, in which representatives from Punjab and Haryana also took part, and they decided to bring down the discharge from the present 28,000 cusecs daily from Bhakra to 21,000 cusecs. As of today, the discharge was reduced to 25,000 cusecs, but this will be reduced further. Water discharge from Pong Dam, which was around 5,000 cusecs daily, has been stopped completely.

Sources said the widespread rain in Punjab was responsible for the reduced discharge from both dams. The levels in both dams are rising with the level at Bhakra increasing by 3 ft yesterday itself with inflows being recorded at 40,000 cusecs. At Pong Dam the level increased by 5 ft yesterday with heavy inflows of 60,000 cusecs.

Both dams, however, have a lot of catching up to do, due to the heavy depletion in May when the Indian Meterological Department predicted a normal monsoon. The part failure of the monsoon had resulted in an alarming situation with the BBMB reducing discharge from the dam in July.

However, with rain continuing, the inflows are expected to be heavy for a few more days and the BBMB is expecting the level to reach 1,625 ft by the end of the filling period till September 20.

UC Misra, Chairman, BBMB, said the level at both dams would become comfortable if the present weather conditions continued for some time. He said due to heavy rain in the plains the release from both dams had been decreased and could be decreased further depending on the ground conditions. The Chairman said the matter would be reviewed after August 10, when the water requirement for the paddy crop would also reduce.

Vinod Choudhary, Punjab Chief Engineer (Canals), said presently water was needed for Basmati rice variety, which had been planted late due to part failure of the monsoon. He said in case of reduction in demand the discharge from the Bhakra could be reduced further. Choudhary said the BBMB management had agreed to the proposal to allow states to draw water according to their crop patterns within their individual share.

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Rain increases flood threat

Chandigarh, July 29

While the revival of the south-west monsoon has been a welcome sign for farming sector, many areas, especially those situated along rivers and canals, are facing the threat of flooding.

Last night, in some pockets of the Anandpur Sahib belt, swelling rainwater had residents climb electric and telephone poles for safety before they could be rescued late at night. The situation is no better in most of other flood-prone areas. Though each district has some boats for use in exigencies, these are either not well maintained or are too inadequate. Most of the boats have not been tested before the start of the monsoon season and as such are not reliable for rescue operations.

Some of the canals though are not flowing to their capacity, wild growth, uprooted trees and branches enhance the chances of blockades and thus floods.

Though there is a practice of patrolling along the banks of important rivers and canals during the monsoon season, no such activity was visible anywhere in the region. Government agencies are claiming setting up of control rooms and keeping a watch on discharges in the canals and rivers, but incessant rain in certain pockets are creating a deluge-like situation.

Farm experts are hopeful that with the revival of the south-west monsoon, paddy transplantation, though delayed, may help in normal yield of the crop, provided monsoon remains active and vigorous for the remaining part of the season. A few more good spells of rain and the states will hit their targets, they add.

Moga: Rain has lashed the entire Moga district in the past 24 hours bringing. Jugraj Singh, a farmer of Raoke Kalan village, said the widespread rain had reduced his expenses on diesel. �Rainwater is sufficient enough in my fields and I do not need to irrigate my paddy crop for a few days.�

Experts said a couple of showers in the next fortnight would see flourishing cotton crop. Meanwhile, the work on strengthening the embankments of Sutlej was going on at a rapid pace.

Toll four in Hoshiarpur

Hoshiarpur: Heavy rain claimed two lives in the city and its adjoining areas last evening.

Deputy Commissioner, Hoshiarpur, Megh Raj said Manraj Singh, alias Mani, of Malmazara village, was washed away in floodwaters in the Mehalnwali choe and Balbir Singh of Mohalla Mugalpura here was killed when the wall of his house caved in. The body of Manraj was yet to be recovered. The death toll due to rain has risen to four.

The DC said two persons had earlier been washed away in the floods. An ex gratia of Rs 1 lakh each to the families of all victims would be given.

Farmers drained water from their fields into the Rajiv Gandhi Kandi canal at Bassi Ghulam Hussain and Bajwara villages last night. However, they were told to stop draining water into the canal. Arrangements were being made to drain water from the canal to prevent floods.

A number of villages had been marooned in Mahilpur block last evening. According to official sources, Ajnoha, Pajora and Mahlan Baltoian villages were inundated due to breaches in Bist Doab canal at Ajnoha, Mananhana and Pajora this afternoon.

Meanwhile, residents of Mohalla Sunder Nagar held a protest in front of the mini-secretariat against the district administration for not taking any action to save their houses from flood.

(With inputs from Kulwinder Sandhu and Ravinder Sud)

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Bangladesh Tour of WI

Roseau (Dominica), July 29

Half-centuries from Shakib Al Hasan and Mohammad Ashraful trumped a maiden One-day International hundred from Travis Dowlin, and inspired Bangladesh to a three-wicket win over West Indies in the second ODI to take an unbeatable 2-0 lead in the series.

Shakib, the Bangladesh captain, struck 65 from 61 balls to earn the Man-of-the-Match award, and his predecessor as skipper Ashraful scored 64 from 77 balls, as the Tigers successfully chased 275 in the match at Windsor Park on Tuesday.

Left-hander Abdur Razzak sealed the result with six balls to spare, when he top-edged a pull at a short, wide ball from Dave Bernard Jr to third man for four.

It was Bangladesh\'s highest successful run chase in more than 200 ODIs, and the victory followed their first-ever against West Indies by 52 runs on Sunday at the same venue.

\"I can\'t explain the feeling,\" said Shakib. \"The boys have tried their best. The team has been supportive throughout the series, and so have the support staff, and we have done well.� � AFP

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England put faith in Flintoff

Birmingham, July 29

England head into the third Ashes Test here tomorrow at Edgbaston confident of all-rounder Andrew Flintoff but without Kevin Pietersen against an Australia side looking to level the series at 1-1.

Flintoff\'s aggressive spell on the final day of the second Test sealed England\'s 115-run win as they defeated Australia in an Ashes match at Lord\'s for the first time in 75 years. But soon after that match, batting star Pietersen gave in to a longstanding Achilles problem and announced he would take no further part in the series.

Flintoff, whose career has been blighted by injuries, said before the match at Lord\'s that this would be his final Test series.

A key figure during his country\'s 2005 Ashes triumph, and in particular at Edgbaston, where England won by just two runs, doubts persist over whether Flintoff\'s knee injury will hold up for the final three matches of the series.

The dilemma confronting England captain Andrew Strauss was summed up by two contrasting headlines in British newspapers yesterday, with the Daily Express opting for \'I\'ll flog Freddie\' and The Times going with \'How Strauss aims to ease load for Flintoff\'.

In practice, Strauss will be prepared to use Flintoff as and when appropriate. \"We don\'t want Fred bowling millions of overs when conditions are not in his favour,\" Strauss said.

\"But if we get into a winning situation and he is the right bowler to take us to victory, we will be expecting to see him put in the same sort of effort as at Lord\'s.\" Flintoff himself has been sleeping with a special compression machine on his troublesome joint and Australia vice-captain Michael Clarke was not surprised that England were pulling out all the stops to get him on the field. � AFP

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I have no words to describe this: Vijender

Patiala , July 29

The Bronze medal at Beijing Olympics was a dream come true for Vijender Singh but at that time he didn�t know that the medal was just the beginning of his dream. No wonder the medal has made him a celebrity and the name and fame that it brought his way were things he could haveonly imagined earlier. But keeping himself grounded has proved fruitful for Vijender.

Making an exception to the rule, the Government of India had decided to honour three sportspersons with the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratan Award this year and Vijender is extremely excited to be one of the trio. In city for his preparatory camp for the next World Championship, Vijender was delighted to hear the news of his winning award.

He said, �I can�t even find words to express how I am feeling. It is the highest sports honour and I am glad that I have been able to attain it. I have slogged day and night to reach this place but I can assure you that this is not the end. I have to win the world championship as well.�

On been questioned about his future plans, he said �My one and only love is boxing and I want to make my nation proud time and again. The only thing that I am currently looking forward to is the World Championship. Rest all can wait. Now that people have high hopes on me, I can�t let them down. It�s a huge responsibility and I just have to prove my worth.�

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Khel Ratna for three

New Delhi, July 29

The Government today announced that three sportspersons will share the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award for 2009, as a special case, keeping in mind the achievements of all of them, though there will no sharing of the prize money. Each one of them will receive a cash remuneration of Rs 7.5 lakh. This was a departure from the established precedent as in the past, the Khel Ratna was awarded to only one sportsperson.

G Gambhir (cricket)

S Paulose (athletics)

LS Devi (boxing)

Tania Sachdev (chess)

Surinder Kaur (hockey, women)

PN Shirsat (kabaddi)

Satish Joshi (rowing)

R Sodhi (shooting)

P Ghatak (TT)

GL Yadav (yatching)

P D Parmar (badminton, disabled).

Dhyan Chand:

Ishar Singh Deol (athletics), SS Dahya (wrestling).


Jaydev Bisht (boxing), S Baldev Singh (hockey), P Gopichand, Satpal (wrestling)

P Gopichand

Satpal (wrestling)

Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puruskar:

Community Sports Identification and Nurturing of Budding Young Talent (Tata Steel Ltd), Establishment and Management of Sports Academies of Excellence (Tata Steel), Employment of sportspersons and sports welfare measures (Railway Sports Promotion Board).

No institution qualified for the \"Financial support for sports excellence\" category.

The Khel Ratna award will be shared by women\'s world boxing champion Mangte Chungneijang Marykom, Beijing Olympic bronze medallist in boxing Vijender and bronze medallist in wrestling Sushil Kumar. Besides the three Khel Ratna Awardees, the Government has selected 15 for the Arjuna Award, two for the Dhyan Chand Award, four for the Dronacharya Award and three for the Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puruskar (for institutions).

The prominent award winners are cricketer Gautam Gambhir (Arjuna), badminton player Pullela Gopichand (Dronacharya) and his trainee and leading woman shuttler Saina Nehwal (Arjuna).

The awards will be presented by President Pratibha Patil at Rashtrapati Bhawan on August 29. From this year, the award will be known by the year in which it is awarded. The two selection panels, constituted to pick the award winners, received a large number of nominations.

Former table tennis international Indu Puri headed the panel to select the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, Arjuna, Dhyan Chand and Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puruskar awards while former Olympian Gurbachan Singh Randhawa headed the Dronacharya panel.

Based on the recommendations of the committee and \"after due scrutiny\", the Government approved the list of the award winners. Except the Dronacharya Award, all the other awards will carry a cash prize of Rs 5 lakh each.

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Economy to maintain growth rate of 6.7 pc: FM

New Delhi, July 29

The economy is expected to maintain a growth rate of 6.7 per cent in 2009-10, same as last fiscal, as some signs of pick-up are visible, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee today said.

\"We have ended 2008-09 at 6.7 per cent. I do hope, this level of growth, we will be able to maintain (in 2009-10),\" he said while commending the Finance Bill in the Rajya Sabha.

He said although some signs of recovery are visible, it is too early to point out that whether they would be steady.

Mukherjee hoped the stimulus, both in terms of financial concessions, fiscal policy and the monetary measures announced by RBI, will have its \"desired impact\".

The Finance Minister said the early signs of improvement in the Indian economy are seen despite no big recovery visible in the global economy.

He said trillions of dollars would have been injected in Europe and North America. \"But there is no immediate restoration of the (global) economy,\" he added. � PTI

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Hyderabad Metro: Another setback for Maytas Infra

Hyderabad, July 29

Maytas Infra, owned by family members of the fallen IT icon B Ramalinga Raju, suffered a setback in its legal battle against Andhra Pradesh government with the high court ordering a status quo on Hyderabad Metro Rail project and refusing to stay the termination of agreement with Maytas-led consortium.

Maytas had moved the court challenging the state government�s order of July 7 cancelling the concession agreement for executing the Rs 12,132 crore metro rail project.

While the petitioner, Maytas Infra Director B Narasimha Rao, contended that the government�s order was unreasonable, the high court judge Justice G Rohini refused to stay the order and allowed the government to carry on with the tendering process.

The government had last week invited fresh global tenders for the project and the last for submitting applications for pre-qualification is September 7.

While allowing the ongoing bidding process, the court, however, ruled that the finalization of tenders was subject to the final disposal of the petition. The court refused to entertain the petitioner�s plea for stalling global tenders.

Maytas had filed the petition yesterday challenging the termination order on the ground that the government�s action was unreasonable and did not take into account the hindrances and hurdles which were beyond the company�s control.

The court also ruled that there would be a status quo on forfeiture of Rs 71 crore paid by Maytas to the state government � Rs 60 crore towards the bid security and Rs 11 crore towards the bid offer.

However, the government would not have any claim over the amount till the disposal of the case. The court posted the matter for further hearing on August 11.

The government had cancelled the deal with Maytas after the consortium failed to achieve the financial closure even after a four-month extension of the March 17 deadline.

The cash-strapped Maytas Infra, whose operations have come under cloud following the Satyam fraud, was supposed to achieve financial closure by March this year but missed the deadline. The company found it difficult to raise resources from an already recession-hit market.

The project was scheduled to have begun in March and completed in four years.

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Dispute rocks Lok Sabha

New Delhi, July 29

The dispute between Ambani brothers over gas distribution echoed in the Lok Sabha today. MPs of the Samajwadi Party led by party president Mulayam Singh Yadav initiated a heated debate in the House over the issue. They were joined by MPs of other parties in demanding resignation of Petroleum Minister Murli Deora over the government�s failure to ensure supply of gas for the Dadri Power project in Uttar Pradesh.

Claiming that he had nothing to do with Anil Ambani of the Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group, Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav forced adjournment for the third time demanding an explanation from the government as to why the dispute between the two brothers over the gas purchase contract went to the Supreme Court.

Grave injustice was being done to Uttar Pradesh by denying gas to the Dadri Power plant and it could cost the national exchequer around Rs 30,000 crore, he said.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was also present in the House. Yadav said any minister or the Prime Minister could reply on the issue as it was a collective decision of the government to move the apex court.

When Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal assured Yadav that he would bring the issue to the notice of the minister concerned, the dissatisfied SP leader demanded that the government should make a statement in the House.

Even as BSP members joined the protest making it a larger issue affecting the energy scenario in Uttar Pradesh, Yadav pleaded with the Chair to direct the government to at least announce a date when it would reply to the queries raised by him.

The Lok Sabha was adjourned thrice during the morning hours over the issue. Though Yadav wanted to raise the issue after Question Hour, too, Speaker Meira Kumar disallowed the request.

Reoti Raman Singh and Shailendra Kumar also demanded Murli Deora�s resignation. Anil Ambani had yesterday hit out at the Petroleum Ministry for colluding with elder brother Mukesh�s RIL in blocking gas supply for its power projects despite a firm commitment, upheld thrice by the Bombay High Court.

Junior Ambani attacked the RIL chairman and his brother Mukesh Ambani saying he was delaying the settlement process and it was hurting public interest.

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Gas Row

New Delhi, July 29

Seeking early resolution to the gas supply dispute involving Mukesh Ambani-led RIL and Oil Ministry, Anil Ambani today said his group firm RNRL would approach the Supreme Court tomorrow for final hearing on September 1, a move that is likely to find support with the government.

There are also indications that Oil Ministry will amend its petition to limit the prayers to government\'s right on fixing gas price, leaving alone the Ambani family deal � based on which an MoU was signed for supply of gas by RIL to RNRL.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear on September 1 cross-appeals by both Ambani group firms, as also a petition by the Petroleum Ministry against a Bombay High Court order that asked RIL to supply gas to RNRL at $2.34 per mmBtu against the officially prescribed $4.2 per mmBtu.

Anil Ambani, who arrived here from Mumbai this morning to meet key cabinet ministers, said that RNRL lawyer had served notices to RIL and Petroleum Ministry saying that a mention would be made in the Supreme Court tomorrow seeking final hearing on September 1.

Asked about the response of the government to RNRL\'s notice, a top official involved in the process said: \"Why not... even we want expeditious hearing and settlement.\" On the other hand, a spokesperson of RIL, which Anil accused of deliberately delaying the matter and firing from the shoulders of Oil Ministry, declined comment. Incidentally, Mukesh was here yesterday and met key ministers, including possibly the Finance Minister. � PTI

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Antony says no contract with Russia on Gorshkov

New Delhi, July 29

Several controversies and five years after India announced that a Russian sea-based aircraft carrier, Admiral Gorshkov, will be added to the Naval fleet, Defence Minister AK Antony today said: �We have not signed any contract (with the Russians) only negotiations are going on.�

A final decision on the contract will be taken after we verify everything including the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India. Nothing has been decided the minister said as he attempted to put a lid on the controversy which started last week when the CAG �ripped through� the ministry of defence for paying some Rs 10,000 crore more than what was due for the aircraft carrier.

Antony�s statement was made to a supplementary question raised by T Shiva of Tamil Nadu in which he also admitted, �I agree Russia has asked for a substantially huge amount.� The CAG report had said that \"second-hand\" carrier will be 60 per cent costlier than a new one and there is the risk of further delay in its delivery.

In his reply Antony put forward something which may have missed the audit books of the CAG: �Very few countries manufacture such carriers and as per the international relations prevailing in 2004, no country other than Russia was ready to give us a warship of this kind.� Russia agreed to gift the carrier to us. (India had to pay for the re-fit and the fighter jets that would be on the deck of the warship) Russia failed to calculate the cost of the re-fit.

In a way Antony may be right the NATO countries have the capability to make such warships and they were not keen to arm India.

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Missing Babri Dispute Files

Lucknow, July 29

The CBI enquiry being conducted into the 23 missing files of the Babri Masjid-Ramjanambhoomi dispute is not likely to yield anything worthwhile as the seven documents demanded by the Allahabad High Court do not appear to be part of these files.

According to highly places sources in the CBI, after initial search five of the 23 files have already been found in the very Home Department in the state secretariat which had furnished a report to the Chief Secretary that these files were untraceable.

A report of the then Home Secretary Javeed Ahmad dated June 6 (2009) had listed these files as missing. This report was part of the annexure of the main affidavit filed by Chief Secretary Atul Gupta before the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court on July 7 that is hearing the Ayodhya title suits.

CBI sources point out that these 23 files mentioned in the Home Secretary�s report that are the subject matter of their investigation were created between the years 1989 and 1993.

�Prima facie they do not contain the seven documents relating to 1949 and immediately thereafter which the High Court had directed the government to produce following a 2002 application of the Sunni Wakf Board, the main Muslim party to the dispute. Tracing these files is an exercise in futility, as they seem to have no bearing on the main court case,� said a senior CBI official on condition of anonymity.

The Chief Secretary filed the affidavit before the High Court when his appearance had been made mandatory after several directions by the High Court over the years to produce these documents had brought no results.

The Home Department�s report that is part of the affidavit lists 23 files and mentions that an officer on special duty (OSD) of the state Home Department�s Communalism Control Cell late Subhash Bhan Sadh last took the files away. The Chief Secretary had informed the court on July 7 that the officer had died in an accident in Delhi.

Chief Minister Mayawati recommended a CBI enquiry into the case on July 10. The full bench of the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court on July 14 reiterated a CBI probe and asked the central agency to submit its report within two months and an interim report by August 24.

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Parliament passes Finance Bill

New Delhi, July 29

Parliament today passed the Finance Bill, 2009 with the Rajya Sabha returning the bill after unanimously passing it. With this the budgetary process for 2008-09 has been completed. The bill was passed by the Lok Sabha earlier this week.

Replying reply to a question during the debate on the bill, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee stoutly defended the 6.8 per cent fiscal deficit as part of the government�s short-term strategy to achieve a high trajectory growth even in a year of economic slowdown.

He said the risk undertaken by him not to submit to the prescriptions of the Fiscal Responsibility & Budget Management (FRBM) Act for this year seemed to have had a �positive impact�. The downtrend in the manufacturing sector had been arrested and core sector industries had already begun �moving in the right direction�, he added.

�With this the country will be able to achieve the set goals�, said Mukherjee, adding the RBI, which normally adopted �a bit of conservative approach,� had also scaled up the growth rate to over 6% of GDP. Multilateral institutions like the IMF and the World Bank had also concurred with this assessment, he stated.

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Probe links LeT men to 26/11

Islamabad: Pakistani investigators have found substantial evidence directly connecting Lashkar-e-Toiba to last year�s Mumbai terrorist attacks, which killed 166 persons.

The findings provided the basis for the trial which started last week of five arrested LeT operatives by an anti-terrorism court inside Rawalpindi�s Adiala jail. It is the first time that Pakistanis are being tried inside the country for carrying out terrorist attacks on foreign soil. Political and security analysts in Islamabad said the serious nature of investigation into LeT�s involvement and the trial indicated Pakistan�s determination and commitment not to allow its territory to be used for planning and launching terrorist attacks. An updated report on Pakistani investigation handed over to India on July 11 said the material recovered from LeT camps in Karachi and the coastal town of Thatta indicated that the terrorists were provided training and weapons by the militant outfit.

The investigation conducted by FIA gives some new and startling details about people involved in training and providing finances for the worst terrorist attack in India which heightened tensions between the two South Asian nations. �The investigation has established beyond any reasonable doubt that the defunct LeT activists conspired, abetted, planned, financed and established communication network to carry out terror attacks in Mumbai,� said the report. The LeT, which is the most powerful Pakistan-based Jihadi group, was outlawed in 2002, but it continued to operate in Kashmir. Western intelligence agencies maintain it continued its activities in Pakistan under the banner of Jamaatud Dawa, the charity wing of the group which also was declared a terrorist outfit by the UN Security Council earlier this year. Pakistan has already arrested and charged five LeT commanders including Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi and Zarar Shah with planning and facilitating the bloody assault. The other three accused are Hammad Amin Sadiq, Mazhar Iqbal alias Al Qama and Shahid Jamil Riaz, all activists of LeT. Aamir Ajmal Kasab, the sole surviving gunman of the Mumbai attack who is now in Indian custody, in his statement named Lakhvi, Zarar Shah and some other LeT commanders for training and launching the terrorists. Kasab who came from the Fareedkot town in Punjab, was among 10 terrorists who carried out the attacks. The other nine killed during the attacks also belonged to Punjab, which is the main stronghold of LeT.

The accused were produced on Saturday before a makeshift anti-terrorism court in the high-security Adiala jail in Rawalpindi. �There are sufficient oral, direct documentary, circumstantial and scientific evidence which directly connect the accused with the commission of the offence,� said the chargesheet. Lakhvi, Zarar Shah and Mazhar Iqbal (also known as �Al Qama�) have also been charged with planning, preparation and execution of the attacks and operational handling of the 10 terrorists. Lakhvi, the top commander of the LeT who was arrested on February 18, is a resident of Rinala Khurd in the district of Okara. He is named as the mastermind of the entire Mumbai massacre operation. Zarar Shah, of Sheikhupura district, is a computer expert and he was in charge of communication. Mazhar Iqbal (Al Qama), a resident of Mandi Bahauddin, was the main handler.

Lakhvi and Zarar Shah are believed to have confessed to their involvement in the attacks. But Pakistani authorities have never confirmed that publicly. According to defence attorney Shafqat Rajput, the court adjourned till August 29 after a brief hearing. �The trial will be conducted in camera,� Rajput said. The court has declared 12 other LeT activists as absconders. Most of them are crew members of Al Hussaini and Al Fouz, the boats which were used to transport the gunmen to Mumbai. Investigators here said they had recovered handwritten diaries, training manuals, Indian maps and operational instructions from the LeT camps. �The accused were running training camps for terrorists, providing sea and navigational training, conducting intelligence courses and directions for terrorist attack,� the report said.

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Opposition fumes, accuses PM of sellout to Islamabad

New Delhi, July 29

Opposition BJP and JD-U, supported forcefully by the SP, attacked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today for what they described succumbing to Pakistan and called for tearing off the paper on which the Indo-Pak joint statement of July 16 was signed at Sharm Al Sheikh.

Opening the much-awaited debate on the Indo-Pak Joint statement and other related foreign policy matters, BJP leader and former External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha said, �Never in India�s history such grave and so many mistakes were committed in such a short time.�

He concluded his speech by stating, �All the waters of Neptune cannot wash the shame India was put to at Sharm Al Sheikh.�

He attacked the Prime Minister on count of breaking the national consensus after the 26/11 terrroist attack on Mumbai and charged the Prime Minister with completely reversing his position on terrorism.

He also warned that the mention of Balochistan in the joint statement would become a permanent source of trouble for India in the long run.

Sinha also briefly touched upon the End-User Monitoring Agreement (EUMA) signed earlier this month with the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and India�s stand on Climate Change.

Virtually castigating the Prime Minister as a fifth columnist, the BJP leader commented, �The Prime Minister had stated he would walk more than half way to make peace with Pakistan.

But he has walked all the way to the Pakistani camp.�

Sinha questioned the sanctity of the joint statement. He recalled how �barely had the ink dried (on the joint statement) that both the Prime Ministers tore it apart.

Accusing the Prime Minister of a sellout to Pakistan, SP president Mulayam Singh Yadav, too, asked the Prime Minister to tear off the document and throw it into a waste paper basket. Yadav, who had often used such opportunities to buttress his position as a champion of Indo-Pak amity, told the Prime Minister that, �However much you may deny, the message has gone that you have bartered away India�s foreign policy.�

Mulayam Singh also reminded that, �We always win a war with Pakistan but always lose on the negotiating table.�

He also regretted suporting the UPA government. Turning towards the BJP benches, he said, �Had you not created all this Mandir-Masjid controversy, we would not have been forced to support them,� but added, �We have given support but I have not compromised my principles or policies.�

Mulayam Singh appeared a bit confused when he also reminded that India was pretty friendless as far as its neighbours are concerned and said the touchstone of a country�s foreign policy is how many friends it wins over.

To compensate for showing open hositilty towards Indo-Pak amity, he mentioned Iran and criticised the Prime Minister for ignoring the interests of Iran.

JD-U president Sharad Yadav also insisted that no talks should have been held with Pakistan till cross-border terrorism stopped.

He said, �I don�t say go and attack Pakistan. We have won so far traditional wars with Pakistan but that is not possible any more now.�

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No softening on terror: PM

New Delhi, July 29

Invoking his predecessor Atal Behari Vajpayee, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today silenced the critics of his recent foreign policy initiatives in the Opposition, asserting that there was no dilution in India�s stand on terror while strongly pitching for remaining engaged with Pakistan in the larger interest of peace in South Asia.

Intervening in the much-anticipated debate in the Lok Sabha on his recent visits abroad, a confident PM defended the India-Pakistan joint statement issued at Sharm-el Sheikh, which has come in for sharp criticism both within the Congress as well as by the Opposition, saying there was no question of his breaking the national consensus on dealing with Pakistan.

Setting at rest fears that India had capitulated to Pakistan by agreeing to delink terror from the composite dialogue process, the PM explained ��this is not correct. The joint statement emphasised that action on terrorism cannot be linked to dialogue. Pakistan knows very well that action on terror is an absolute and compelling imperative that does not depend on the resumption of dialogue.��

On the controversial reference to Balochistan in the joint statement, he said his Pakistani counterpart Yousaf Raza Gilani raised the issue during their Sharm-el Sheikh meeting. �I told him we are willing to discuss all these issue because we know we are doing nothing wrong. I told PM Gilani that our conduct is an open book.�

Though the joint statement had become a subject of deep controversy in political and media circles, the nearly two-hour inconclusive debate in the Lower House lacked firepower with Opposition stalwarts, including former External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha, not actually succeeding in putting the government on the mat. Those on the Congress benches repeatedly cheered the PM, as he picked holes in various arguments put forward by the Opposition.

Narrating what all the UPA government did post 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai, he said India had for the first time made Pakistan admit that the Mumbai carnage was planned and executed from its soil.

�The reality is that this is far more than the NDA government was ever able to extract from Pakistan during its entire tenure despite all their tall talk,� he said, adding the UPA government needed no lesson from the Opposition on how to conduct foreign affairs.

Underlining that dialogue was the best way to move forward, he asserted that India was not diluting its resolve to defeat terrorism by talking to any country. �Unless we talk directly talk to Pakistan, we will have to rely on third parties to do so,� a route which has its own limitations.

In this context, he cited the example of Vajpayee, recalling how his predecessor demonstrated political courage of visiting Lahore in 1999, which was followed by the Kargil conflict, and the hijacking of an Indian Airlines plane to Kandahar. Still Vajpayee invited then Pakistan Pervez Musharraf to Pakistan in July 2001 and tried to make peace.

�After the attack on Parliament in December 2001, relations between the two countries were under strain again. But Vajpayee was not deterred, as a statesman should not be. In 2004, he went to Islamabad where a joint statement was issued that set out a vision for a cooperative relationship,� said the PM. Implying that the NDA had not supported him on the foreign policy front, Manmohan Singh recollected how Vajpayee got all the support of the Opposition on his bold foreign policy initiatives. �I for one share Vajpayee�s vision and I have also felt his frustration in dealing with Pakistan.�

Noting that the global scenario was changing fast, he narrated how the US and Iran had also come to the negotiating table after 30 years of hostilities. �Unless we want to go to war with Pakistan, dialogue is the only way out,� she added.

To Sinha� specific query as what happened between June 16 --- when he met Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari in Russia � and July16 �when he met Gilani at Sharm-el Sheikh that led to change of heart � the PM said Pakistan had handed over a 34-page dossier, giving details of the investigations conducted so far by Pakistani agencies, which had established beyond doubt that LET activists conspired, financed and executed the Mumbai attacks.

The dossier also speaks out the arrests of five of the accused, including Zaki ur Rehman Lakhvi and Zarar Shah. A charge sheet has since been filed against them under Pakistan�s anti terrorist act and the trial would start soon.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tribune Impact

Amritsar, July 28

The Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC), the Chief Khalsa Diwan, the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) and the district administration today offered Taufique Kitchlew, the only surviving son of Dr Saifudin Kitchlew, �hero of Jallianwala Bagh and votary of the Hindu-Muslim-Sikh unity for being Muslim,� accommodation free of charge and medical facilities if he returned to Amritsar, his place of birth. Kitchlew returned to Delhi a sad man as nobody offered him accommodation even on rent.

Deputy Commissioner Kahan Singh Pannu said it was shocking that Kitchlew had to return from his place of birth where he wanted to spend the evening of his life. He wanted to write memoirs by staying in Amritsar.Kitchlew (78) had to return Delhi with his adopted daughter Baby.

Chief Khalsa Diwan president Charanjit Singh Chadha said his organisation was ready to extend all help to Kitchlew. He said he would visit Delhi to persuade Kitchlew to come to Amritsar permanently.

Major Mohinder Singh Sarkaria (87) said it was a matter of shame that the son of a national hero had not been provided accommodation on rent and was compelled to return to Delhi with acute arthritis.

Major Sarkaria said he would provide him accommodation without charging any rent. He said Kitchlew could stay at his residence in Rup Nagar opposite Khalsa College. He would be provided separate and independent accommodation in his house. Taufique and his family members could stay at the accommodation as long they desired, he added.

Senior Professor of GND University Parminder Singh said it was sad that Taufique had to return. It explained the degraded values in society which had forgotten the sacrifices of Dr Saifudin Kitchlew and his family. He said the state government should have taken care of the freedom fighter by providing proper accommodation of his choice in the city. He said the government should call him back to the city of his birth. Justice-loving people would like Taufique to settle in the city to spend his remaining days, he added.

DSGMC president Paramjit Singh Sarna said it was a pity that residents of Amritsar had failed to accommodate the freedom fighter. He said the DSGMC was ready to provide help to the octogenarian, besides accommodation.

SGPC president Avtar Singh said the committee would make required arrangements if approached by the freedom fighter.

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Sukhbir for all-party meeting on EVMs

Ferozpur, July 28

SAD-BJP nominee for the Jalalabad assembly byelection Sukhbir Badal today asked the Election Commission of India (ECI) to call an all-party meeting to deliberate on the reliability and non-corruptibility of EVMs.

Sukhbir said here today that most of the NDA partners had expressed apprehensions of corruptibility of EVMs. It was imperative for the Election Commission to either restore faith of people in the voting through the EVMs or revert back to the old process of ballot papers.

Following the observation of the apex court that the Election Commission should review the working of EVMs, it becomes all the more important that all doubts regarding its technical robustness be cleared at the earliest, he added.

Sukhbir said Opposition in Tamil Nadu had threatened to boycott the election process for the ensuing Vidhan Sabha polls in that state and Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha LK Advani had also raised his qualms about the possibility EVMs being hacked in favour of a particular candidate.

Former Chief Secretary of New Delhi Omesh Sehgal, who is an IIT graduate, has written to the Election Commission offering to demonstrate practically how the software of EVMs could be hacked.

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SC votes deciding factor

Banur (Mohali), July 28

With the BSP not fielding its candidate for the Banur byelection, a neck-and-neck contest has emerged between Congress candidate Deepinder Singh and SAD nominee Jasjit Singh Bunny.

Though divided, about 40,000 SC votes could be a deciding factor in the election. For over 15 years, the voter base has been siding with late Akali stalwart Kanwaljit Singh. But, after his sudden demise in an accident, the Congress is pushing hard to gain victory here. Political analysts believe that the Congress strategy could affect the victory prospects of Bunny, who is banking on the political legacy of his father Capt Kanwaljit Singh. Money is also being used to influence voters.

Having witnessed contests between seasoned politicians like Capt Kanwaljit Singh and Venod Sharma, the Banur electorate is, perhaps for the first time, witnessing a contest between greenhorns. While Bunny has only the political legacy of his father on his side, the Congress candidate, being in charge of the Banur assembly segments for the past two elections, has �rich� grass-roots contacts.

Knowing well that it will be a keenly contested seat, senior leaders of both parties have been camping in the area for the past few days. Another significant factor is the subtle dissidence in the Akali camp that could spoil the poll prospects of the SAD. The analysts believe that public posture of reconciliation by Akali leaders is in conflict with their political aims as far the Banur constituency is concerned. Both NK Sharma, a bete noire of former Cooperation Minister Kanwaljit Singh, and Seelam Sohi, new entrant in the SAD fold, who had given a tough fight to the former minister in the 2002 assembly elections, have been fostering the Banur belt for many years.

Though it is yet to be seen whether the sympathy factor weighs heavy upon the voters or the experience of Deepinder takes the edge, since 1885, Capt Kanwaljit Singh had nurtured the constituency when he defeated Congress stalwart Venod Sharma in the 1985 assembly elections. He retained the seat in the 1997, 2002 and 2007. In 1992, Mohinder Singh Gill of the Congress defeated Capt Kanwaljit Singh. But, in the 1997 elections, the SAD leader avenged his defeat at the hands of Gill.

Owing to the profile of the constituency, that has around 30 per cent votes of the Saini community and around 10,000 Muslim votes, the Congress had been retaining the seat prior to 1985. An analysis of the polling pattern (since 1977) shows that there has been fluctuation in the votes netted by the Congress and the SAD. On the Congress front, in 1977 elections, the party polled 51.75 per cent votes and the percentage fell to 41.93 per cent in 1985. It further fell from 33.25 in 1992 to 24.61 per cent in the 1997 elections. But in 2002, the party netted 4.43 per cent votes when Seelam Sohi lost to Capt Kanwaljit Singh by a margin of around 700 votes.

For the SAD, the performance has been consistent since 1985, barring the 1992 elections when it polled 26.93 per cent votes. The BSP has touched highest 17 per cent votes in the 1997 elections. The analysts point out while the Lalru and Derabassi areas have been weak areas for the SAD, the Banur belt has been a stronghold for the party. Earlier, a stronghold of the SAD, the Zirakpur area has been drifting away, if the polling pattern in the last general election was any indication.

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Indian women wrestling team selected

Patiala, July 28

The trials for the selection of Indian women wrestling team for the World Senior Wrestling Championship, that would be held at Denmark from September 17 to 21, were held at National Institute of Sports (NIS), Patiala on Sunday under the supervision of general secretary of the Indian Wrestling Association, Kartar Singh (IPS), and senior national coach P.R. Sondhi.

Seven women wrestlers, including top Indian wrestler Geetika Jakhar, were selected for the championship. The names of the wrestlers include- Nirmala Rani (48 kg), Babita (51 kg), Geeta (55 kg), Alka Tomar (59 kg), Suman Kundu (63 kg), Geetika Jakhar (67 kg) and Gursharanpreet Kaur (72 kg).

The trials for selection of men wrestling team were held at Sonepat, Haryana. Joginder Kumar of Delhi defeated two times Olympian Palwinder Singh Cheema, and Rajiv Kumar to qualify for the super heavy weight championship.

The list of selected men wrestlers in free style wrestling include Balraj (55 kg), Hardeep Singh (60 kg), Olympian Sushil Kumar (66 kg), Ramesh (74 kg), Ravinder (84 kg), Anil Mann (96 kg) and Dharmendra (+120 kg).

In the Greek Roman category, Rajinder (55 kg), Ravinder (60 kg), Sunil Kumar (66 kg), Rajiv Shikara (74 kg), Manoj Kumar (84 kg), Anil Kumar (96 kg) and Dharmendra (+120 kg) made the cut.

Kartar Singh, the general secretary of the association, said, �Indian wrestlers were improving with each passing day and we have high expectations from them. I am sure they would give their best results.�

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I never admired Armstrong: Contador

Madrid, July 28

Tour de France winner Alberto Contador found the time he spent off the road with Astana team mate Lance Armstrong tougher than the race itself, the Spaniard said on Monday.

The 26-year-old picked up his second Tour title in Paris on Sunday, finishing ahead of Luxembourg\'s Andy Schleck and Armstrong who came third. �My relationship with Lance Armstrong is zero,� Contador told a news conference in Madrid, where he was given a hero\'s welcome.

�He is a great rider and has completed a great race but it is another thing on a personal level, where I have never had great admiration for him and I never will. On this Tour, the days in the hotel were harder than the those on the road. The situation was tense and delicate because the relationship between myself and Lance extended to the rest of the staff.�

Contador, publicly criticised by Armstrong for ignoring team orders during the Tour, refused to be drawn on his future but it was unlikely to lie with his current team Astana.

�We�ll have to see what happens,� he said. �I don�t know where I will go but it will clearly be with a team that is 100 percent behind me.� After being greeted by family, friends and fans at Madrid�s Barajas airport, Contador was given a victory reception by the president of Madrid\'s regional government in the centre of the capital.

At every opportunity fans sang the Spanish national anthem as a reminder to Tour organisers who accidently played the national anthem of Denmark at the podium ceremony on Sunday. � Reuters

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Rs 3 lakh aid for Makhan’s widow

New Delhi, July 28

Minister for Youth Affairs and Sports Dr M S Gill, thinking out of the box, set a welcome precedent when he sanctioned Rs 3 lakh to the widow of legendary athlete Makhan Singh, who had fallen on hard times after the death of the Asian Games gold medallist. The plight of Makhan Singh�s widow was brought to Dr Gill�s notice, who chaired a seven-member meeting of the General Committee for Management and Administration of the National Welfare Forum for Sportspersons on July 7, by another famed athlete Gurbachan Singh Randhawa.

The meeting considered nearly 70 applications for financial help from sportspersons and their families who were in dire need of help. Dr Gill brought up the case of the widow of a Hyderabad footballer, who had represented the country in the Olympics. Then G.S.Randhawa mentioned the plight of the widow on Makhan Singh, who had won the 4x400-metre relay gold and 400m silver in the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games.

An Arjuna Awardee, Makhen Singh hit international spotlight when he upstaged Milkha Singh in the 1964 National Games in Kolkata. He served the Army and retired as a subedar. Dr Gill responded positively and entrusted Randhawa to contact Makhan Singh�s widow Sulinder Kaur at the Bathalla Village in Hoshiarpur.

He got an application from her, the case was processed and Rs 3 lakh was granted to her as a one-time financial assistance on July 10. Though there is a scheme to help out those living under indigent circumstances with fianancial assistance, some deserving cases get left out, for various reasons. At the initiative of Dr Gill, the eligibility ceiling for such cases was raised from Rs 36,000 to Rs 2 lakh per annum.

Assistance for fatal injury to sportspersons has been raised from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 5 lakh while for minor injuries, the amount would be Rs 2 lakh, instead of Rs 40,000. The Government has also enhanced the cash component of the sports awards from this year. The Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Awardee will get Rs 7.50 lakh (from Rs 5 lakh), while the Dronacharya, Dhyanchand and Arjuna Awardees will get Rs 5 lakh each (from Rs 3 lakh).

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I had better technique than Gavaskar: Boycott

New Delhi, July 28

Former England opener Geoffrey Boycott believes he was technically superior to Sunil Gavaskar even though his Yorkshire teammate Dicky Bird feels otherwise. The England opener with a reputation for straight talking said he and Gavaskar were similar in many respects but he had the better technique.

�There is no question that Sunny was a fantastic batsman. People love to make comparisons and Sunil and I have been compared very often perhaps because we were similar in many ways - we batted right-handed, opened the innings, had a great appetite for runs, hated to give our wickets away and possessed good technique,� Boycott wrote in new book �Sunil Gavaskar: Cricket�s Little Master�.

�As our records show, Sunil played more matches, scored more runs and centuries than me, but in terms of technique, I consider myself superior to Sunil even if by just half a percentage point,� he added.

Gavaskar has played 125 Tests and scored 10,122 runs while Boycott has 8114 runs from 108 matches. Incidentally, Boycott�s argument could not convince former umpire and his Yorkshire teammate Dicky Bird who had no doubt that Gavaskar was the better batsman.

�What a great sight it was to watch Gavaskar bat. Pace bowlers could never really dominate him. That�s why I rate him as the best opener of my era,� Bird wrote in the book compiled by veteran cricket journalist Debasish Datta. �And mind you, I have seen quite a few in my time. He would be in my World XI along with Barry Richards - I have mentioned that in my latest book,� Bird said.

�Needless to say that my Yorkshire hero Geoffrey Boycott did not like it after going through the name of my World XI. Boycott wanted to know why I had not picked him in the World XI. He also wanted to know whether I recognised him as a great player. I told him, of course he was also a great player but Sunil and Barry were marginally better than him. He did not take it sportingly,� he said.

Bird explained why he rated Gavaskar so highly as a batsman. �He had enormous powers of concentration, an excellent technique and used to time the ball well. He always seemed to have extra time to play a stroke. That�s the hall mark of a great player,� he said. � PTI

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SpiceJet flies out of the red

Mumbai/New Delhi, July 28

A shift in passenger traffic towards economy airlines and improved market share helped no-frills airline SpiceJet to emerge from losses and post a net profit of Rs 26.34 crore during the quarter ended June 30, 2009.

SpiceJet today recorded a net profit of Rs 26.34 crore in the first quarter, while it had a net loss of Rs 129.22 crore in the same quarter of 2008.

The total income stood at Rs 534.41 crore during the quarter as against Rs 483.40 crore in the corresponding period last year. � PTI

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Monetary Policy

Mumbai, July 28

With concerns over rising inflation, the RBI has decided to leave key rates unchanged. Announcing the first quarter policy review for Financial Year 2009-10, RBI Governor D Subbarao said the apex bank�s status quo on policy rates would anchor interest rate expectations that could spur investment demand.

Keeping this objective, Subbarao said the RBI was leaving the Cash Reserve Ratio at 5 per cent and the repo and reverse repo rates at 4.75 per cent and 3.25 per cent, respectively.

The RBI has projected inflation at 5 per cent from the 4 per cent forecast earlier. The central bank projects inflation to begin creeping upwards from October this year.

India�s GDP, Subbarao said, is projected to grow to 6 per cent in March 2010 �with an upward bias�. He cited favourable funding conditions for corporates and revival of industrial production as major causes. He, however, said the �uptrend in growth momentum� is unlikely before September and agricultural growth could be hit by delayed monsoons.

The RBI Governor also warned of the uncertain macro scenario.\"Export demand remains weak. The services sector is sluggish on lagged impact of weak industry growth,\" the RBI governor said. He was hopeful about government\'s monetary, fiscal steps boosting domestic demand. \"The domestic, external financing environment has improved since H2 FY09.

The business outlook has turned positive. RBI will continue to keep its eye on credit growth in the system,\" Subbarao said.

According to the RBI, its policy initiatives since mid-September 2008 aimed at providing ample rupee liquidity and ensuring continued flow of credit to all productive sectors has shown results. �These actions have resulted in augmentation of actual/potential liquidity of over Rs 5,61,700 crore. The liquidity situation has remained comfortable since mid-November 2008 as evidenced by the LAF window where the Reserve Bank has been absorbing nearly Rs 1,20,000 crore on a daily average basis during the current financial year,� the RBI Governor said.

Later addressing the media, Subbarao felt that there was scope for banks to reduce lending rates further. \"Banks say that the demand for credit is picking up on the back of investment in projects...banks have scope to reduce lending rates,\" he said. He further added that the feedback he received from bankers indicated that demand for credit from segments like home and retail were picking up.

However, he was wary of uncertainties like erratic monsoons which could hurt the farm sector. Subbarao said there were concerns that the problems of the farm sector could spillover to the general economy as well. Similar concerns exist if exports do not pick up in the coming months. Exports have remained stagnant for the past eight months and could pose risks to the revival of the Indian economy as well.

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Gas Row

Mumbai, July 28

Industrialist Anil Ambani today dared the Petroleum Ministry

to take back the ownership of gas fields from RIL if it seriously believed that terms of the contract were violated by Mukesh Ambani-led firm, which he alleged was wanting to make a super-profit of Rs 50,000 crore.

In a scathing attack on the Ministry, Anil told the shareholders of group firm RNRL that \"it is evident that the apparently biased stance commenced in 2006, coinciding with the changes in the ministry.

\"I\'m sure all private companies in India wish that if they make commercial decisions, they wish to get out of, they, too, had a saviour to help bail them out as in the case of RIL.\" While Murli Deora, whose ministry has sought annulment of the gas supply contract between RIL and RNRL in the Supreme Court, declined to comment, Petroleum Secretary R S Pandey hit back saying that Anil\'s gas pricing formula would make the country subservient to RIL.

Alleging volte-face by the Petroleum Ministry, Anil said that though it stated in Parliament that it had no role in commercial dispute or in fixing the sale price of the gas, it has now gone to the Supreme Court challenging a commercial contract between two corporate entities.

\"The bogey of sovereign ownership is being raised with the sole purpose of attempting to bail out RIL and help them renege on their contractual commitments,\" he said.

In an uncharacteristically long speech, Anil questioned the Petroleum Ministry\'s stand that it had gone to the Supreme Court after knowing the full content of the family agreement only from Bombay High Court order, saying it had all relevant details of RIL-RNRL gas deal since 2006.

When contacted, spokesperson of RIL, which Anil Ambani alleged was firing from the Petroleum Ministry\'s shoulders to renege its contract with NTPC and RNRL, declined to comment saying, \"the issue is before the Supreme Court and sub judice\" While Anil was addressing company shareholders and appraising them of the developments related to gas supply contract, which according to him was primary asset and contributed to company value, Mukesh Ambani was in New Delhi meeting top government officials and Cabinet minsters.

Commenting on the issues raised by Anil, Petroleum Secretary said: \"Full implication of the family MoU (that split Dhirubhai Ambani empire between bothers Mukesh and Anil) were known only after the Bombay High Court recorded the MoU\" and the petition in the apex court only sought to declare null and void the part of family agreement that dealt with gas.

Anil, however, alleged that the ministry had also gone against the position taken by the Empowered Group of Ministers, which in September 2007 took full details of RIL-RNRL deal and recognised the rights of the parties, when it recorded that its decisions were without prejudice to RNRL-RIL and NTPC-RIL cases.

He quoted a law ministry circular of November 2008 stating that in all sensitive matters, written submission or affidavit should be filed in the Supreme Court only after the same were vetted by the Department of Legal Affairs, and said that that oil ministry had reportedly not taken the requisite approval.

\"Frankly, if the Petroleum Ministry is genuinely aggrieved and if they honestly believe that RIL has violated the terms of PSC (production sharing contract) by allegedly trying to divide the national property, why don\'t they exercise their powers and terminate the PSC and take back the ownership of gas fields,\" he said.

As per the PSC, RIL would get Rs 49,500 crore against the government\'s Rs 500 crore from the initial revenue of Rs 50,000 crore and added that \"99 per cent of all revenue and profits will go to RIL and only a measly 1 per cent would accrue to the government\", he said. � PTI

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Army for political solution to strife in Assam

Dimapur, July 28

The Army believes that the permanent solution to the vexed insurgency problem and recurring bouts of ethnic strife in North Cachar Hills district of Assam can be arrived at only through political process.

�The solution to the problems in the district has to be political. We can only control it and prepare the ground for the political process,� said Brigadier NK Misra, based in the Army�s 3 Corps headquarter at Rangapahar near here.

Meanwhile, Union Home Secretary GK Pillai will arrive in Assam on Thursday to make an assessment of the situation in the state. He is also scheduled to visit North Cachar hills on Friday.

The situation in the strife-torn district is improving gradually. The Army has moved into the interior areas of the district, leaving security of the railway track and national highway to the state police and para-military forces.

�The situation is slowly improving because of better coordination in operation and intelligence sharing among the Army, the police, the CRPF and the civil administration. We meet every evening to discuss strategy for the next day. The Army is now moving into the interior areas in order to help the civil administration rebuild confidence among various communities,� Brigadier Misra said.

The North Cachar Hills district, which has witnessed a series of violence mainly perpetrated by the banned Jewel Garlosa faction of the Dima Halam Daogah - DHD(J) - which is better known as Black Widow, falls under the jurisdiction of 3 Corps of the Army. As many as four infantry battalions of the Army are currently deployed in the district in addition to one battalion of the Assam Rifles, 25 companies of the CRPF and 10 platoons of the Assam Police.

�The police and para-military forces have sanitised 3-km stretch along the railway track to ensure safe running of trains. We have now fanned out our troops to the interiors to help the civil administration to reach out to the remote villages,� Brigadier Misra said.

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi informed the state assembly that ethnic clashes between the Dimasa and Zeme tribes had left at least 63 dead since March. Nearly 13,000 persons from both communities had been rendered homeless and were now lodged in 32 relief camps across the district.

�The Army is also trying to help the administration to shift people from vulnerable villages to 12 proposed clusters that will have round-the-clock security till peace returns. The Army is also ready to provide logistical support to the administration to set up more police stations in the district,� Brigadier Misra said.

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Deal for SU-30s deprives industry of Rs 2,711 crore

Chandigarh, July 28

The mighty SU-30s are the pride of the IAF, but their procurement has generated some turbulence. A deal to procure 40 such aircraft has apparently deprived the Indian industry of Rs 2,711 crore in offset benefits. This has happened because the Ministry of Defence and the IAF failed to go in for an offset clause as stipulated in the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP).

In order to arrest declining force levels, the IAF concluded a contract worth Rs 9,000 crore with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) in March, 2007, for the supply of 40 aircraft. These were to be delivered in phases between 2008-11.

While revealing this in its latest report, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has also pointed out that the IAF did not have any funds allocated for this acquisition and funds were diverted from other programmes. Further, the delivery schedules have been pushed from 2011 to 2012. Against eight aircraft to be delivered in 2008-09, only two were delivered till February, 2009.

The DPP classifies acquisitions as Buy-Indian, Buy and make with Transfer of Technology (ToT) or Buy-Global. Offset clause is applicable in the latter two cases. The MoD and IAF categorised the procurement as Buy-Indian on the grounds that the procurement was a repeat order for equipment developed through ToT.

The CAG termed this categorisation as incorrect. Buy-Indian implied that the indigenous content is a minimum of 30 per cent when an Indian vendor integrates the systems. In the said contract, however, the indigenous content was just five per cent, with 95 per cent of the material being imported.

The MoD maintained that categorisation of the procurement was discussed by the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) and it was decided to procure the aircraft in the Buy-Indian category taking into account the urgency of procurement, indigenous content and price link and insistence of the offset clause would have delayed negotiations and negated price advantages.

The CAG termed the ministry�s contentions as unacceptable as adherence to the DPP was mandatory. It pointed out that the advice of the Defence Offset Facilitation Agency was not obtained in the matter. Moreover, the DAC was not empowered to supersede provisions of the DPP.

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Oppn leads protest to Prez door

New Delhi, July 28

The Opposition NDA has expressed apprehension that India is no longer pursuing an independent foreign policy.

A delegation of NDA leaders led by Leader of Opposition LK Advani called on President Pratibha Patil at the Rashtrapati Bhawan here today and submitted a memorandum questioning Prime Minister Manmohan Singh�s wisdom in signing the Indo-Pak agreement with Pakistan Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani at Sharm Al-Sheikh on July 16.

The NDA has also objected to the Indo-Pak joint statement delinking terror from proposed composite dialogue between the two countries. The memorandum makes a mention of the recent visit of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the EUMA India has signed with the USA and said it suggested that India had succumbed to the US pressure in agreeing to talk to Pakistan sans the terror issue and admitting to its involvement in Balochistan.

The delegation comprised Advani, NDA convener Sharad Yadav, Shiv Sena leader Anantrao Geete, Shiromani Akali Dal leader Ratan Singh Ajnala, BJP president Rajnath Singh, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley, deputy leader in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj and M Venkaiah Naidu. They all signed the memorandum.

Earlier, when Swaraj on Friday disclosed NDA�s intent to meet the President on the issue, Sharad Yadav had ruled out his or his party�s participation citing differences with the BJP on the issue of Indo-Pak amity. He stated nothing on why and how he changed his stand overnight.

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Five-year jail for Hawara’s ex-wife

Sangrur, July 28

Additional Sessions Judge, Fast Track Court, here Baljnder Siddhu today sentenced Balwinder Kaur (former wife of Jagtar Singh Hawara, Chief of the Babbar Khalsa International in India), Sukhdev Singh, Amarjit Singh and Pargat Singh to five years in a case registered against them by the Dhuri police on June 19, 2005.

The court sentenced them to five years under Sections 4 and 5, Explosive Substances Act, and fined them Rs 500 each. They were also sentenced to two years under Section 411, IPC. Both sentences shall run concurrently. All four accused were present in the court at the time of the pronouncement of the judgement.

The police on June 20, 2005, said on June 19, 2005, at Bhullarherri village (near Dhuri) it arrested Balwinder Kaur (wife of Jagtar Singh Hawara, chief of the BKI in India); Sukhdev Singh, a granthi of Dohla village (near Dhuri) who had reportedly got performed the marriage of Balwinder with Hawara.

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Finally, Delhi Metro cracks the whip

New Delhi, July 28

Delhi Metro finally took action today against those responsible for the July 12 accident in Zamrudpur in South Delhi. The DMRC blacklisted two private consultants and suspended its own design officials.

DMRC chief E. Sreedharan told newsmen that both the contractor and the DMRC were responsible for the accident that killed six persons.

Earlier Urban Development minister S Jaipal Reddy told the Lok Sabha that steps have already been initiated to revitalise the Tool Box Safety Drill to all workers and begin a crash course for three days on safety rules and regulations. �The entire workforce will be covered within a period of 15 days,� the minister said.

The minister detailed Parliament on all actions the DMRC has taken on the report about the Zamarudpur accident and urged members not to �sensationalise.�

Reddy asked MPs to �draw a distinction between accidents at the place of construction and those during the operation� and noted that in this respect �we are a little behind the London Metro and ahead of Singapore.� A show-cause notice has been issued to the contractors of the Central Secretariat to Badarpur line, M/S Gammon India, asking them why they should not be barred from working with the DMRC for next two years. The contractor has been asked to reply to the notice in 21 days.

Sreedharan expressed his helplessness about barring Gammon India right away saying this would delay the project by another six months.

The design consultant to the Gammon India M/S Arch Consultancy Services has been blacklisted for five years and taken off from all metro works. Similarly, structural consultants, Tandon Consultants, were barred for two years for not giving �correct advice that misled the DMRC and the contractor�.

The expatriate consultant of General Consultants, C. Mallonga, who had direct responsibility for ensuring quality of the work, was immediately de-mobilised.

From its own staff, the DMRC has suspended two deputy chief engineers, V.P. Shrivastava and Mukesh Thakur, in charge of the Badarpur line.

Chief design engineer Rajan Kataria too has been issued a penalty chargesheet. Kataria who was earlier appointed a member of the inquiry committee to look into this accident, was removed halfway from this committee. �We had a clue that there might be some design faults. So, to ensure honest inquiry into the case, we took him out of the committee,� said Sreedharan.

Earlier, director of the DMRC, Vijay Anand, overall in-charge of the Badarpur line, was repatriated to the Railways.

The DMRC has decided to cut down the length of the exceptionally long cantilevers used on the accident line from the existing 4.23 meters to 2.5 meters now.

Sreedharan said the inquiry committee found that the required amount of steel was missing at critical points on the line. However, the report did not mention exactly what was wrong with the material. He added, �The inquiry committee report has been accepted in toto.� For strengthening the checks in future, the DMRC would have each design re-checked by special independent design consultants, General Consultants, before passing it over to the DMRC design office. Metro was conducting a re-check of all pillars involved in the construction work of Phase II and 18 cracks were detected during the check.

Even thought work on the Central Secretariats to Badarpur line would be delayed by three months because of the accident, Shreedharan said: The cracks would not cause any loss of time and the overall work of the Phase II of Delhi Metro would be completed before the Commonwealth Games. Sreedharan again denied the allegations that DMRC was doing a rush job. He said Delhi metro was taking around four years in completing one metro line when little more than two years were required to complete the work.

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Omar resigns as J&K CM

Srinagar, July 28

After a dramatic turn of events in the Assembly, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah here today submitted his resignation to Governor NN Vohra following the PDP�s allegations that his name figured in the list of those in the sex scandal.

Though his Cabinet colleagues and coalition legislators persuaded him to reconsider the decision, Omar drove to the Raj Bhawan within three hours after announcing to quit in the Assembly.

The Governor asked Omar to continue discharging his responsibilities as Chief Minister of the state till a final decision is taken. He is reported to have observed that he would be able to consider the Chief Minister�s resignation only after first being fully informed about the details of the allegation against him and, thereafter, being satisfied about the verified basis thereof.

In this context, the Raj Bhawan has addressed the Legislative Assembly Secretariat to be supplied with the certified copies of all relevant statements and documents relating to the allegation under reference.

A spokesman for the Raj Bhawan said Omar called on the Governor and requested him to inquire, on a time-bound basis, into the allegation made against his moral character by Muzaffar Hussain Beig, a PDP MLA, during the course of proceedings in the Assembly today and to immediately accept his resignation in case the Governor was satisfied that there was any basis therein.

The Governor, who was on his way to the airport to leave for Delhi to attend certain engagements, deferred his departure on receiving a message that Omar wanted to meet him urgently. The Governor left for Delhi later in the evening, after meeting the Chief Minister.

Omar announced to resign following the allegation of Muzaffar Hussain Beig, senior PDP leader and former Deputy Chief Minister, on the second day of the session here during Zero Hour in the Assembly. He was speaking on various incidents of the killing at the hands of the police or the security forces inviting public ire.

Referring to the infamous sex scandal of 2006, the PDP leader handed over a list to the Speaker, saying Omar�s name figured at S. No: 102. �He has lost the moral authority to rule the state. He must step down,� Beig said taking many by surprise and shocking the NC members, thus creating a ruckus in the House.

�Yeh Kahan Tak Jayaz Hai,� the Chief Minister said while trying to pacify his party members and the coalition partners. After over 20 minutes of the exchange of arguments between the treasury benches and the opposition benches, the Chief Minister pleading his innocence announced to tender his resignation. �Yeh Mujhey Ummeed Nahin Thee Ki Aaj Hum Is Hadd Tak Gir Jayengay,� the composed Chief Minister said in his opening remarks.

He said he would not be able to work unless proved innocent. �I am going to the Governor and submit my resignation,� he said. Omar held that the allegations levelled by the PDP member were false and baseless and unless this was proved he would not be in the chair.

In his remarks, Speaker Mohammad Akbar Lone lamented that it was a matter of shame that it �came to an end at such an issue that was not under discussion�. He held that the PDP member�s speech during Zero Hour had begun over the Shopian incident, which was heartening. The party had yesterday also raised its voice to take up the Shopian case of the rape and murder of two women, but that was not allowed for the lone obituary reference. The issue was taken up by the PDP after a couple of questions in Zero Hour today. Lone announced that he would get the information verified from the authorities concerned whether these were authentic and valid. �I will see if there is a need to inquire on this issue. He (Beig) has raised a finger at the Chief Minister,� he added.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Govt mulls power tariff hike, water cess after

Chandigarh, July 27

The Punjab government is thinking of streamlining the collection of taxes after the by elections in three Assembly constituencies. The proposals to be taken up after the elections include revision in power tariff, new taxes and levies on urban property, reintroduction of �abiana� (water cess) on canal water as directed by the World Bank etc.

Proposals, some of which may not be to the liking of the BJP, are being finalised as these may tax traders. The first initiative of this type by the government, a public notice to transporters and dealers by Excise and Taxation Commissioner A Venu Prasad, suggesting the Punjab VAT Act, 2005, was being violated.

The government is contemplating curbing tax evasion and has told transporters and dealers to issue VAT invoices for specific commodities instead of �specific goods�. The government has said bills or invoices that mention �iron and steel� or other ambiguous terms in place of mentioning name of the firm, etc will be acted against.

To check bogus billing, the government has warned not to refund claims where manipulation in billing is detected. The Excise and Taxation Department has asked transporters not to ferry goods that have general bill (not invoice of commodities). Violators (those evading tax) will invite action.

SAD relations continue to be strained, following resentment by the latter claiming not getting due share in governance. The BJP, with support of urban traders, has been pressuring the government to go slow on taxing business houses and traders. But hard measures to raise revenue are to create rift between the two parties.

The state is passing through fiscal crisis with debt of Rs 63,217 crore. Deficit for current year is pegged at Rs 4,234 crore as income for this period is expected to be Rs 26072 crore and expenditure Rs 30,306 crore. The government to reduce deficit is mulling tough measures and post-budget taxation is not ruled out, according to sources in the government.

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Congress plays Rai Sikh card in Jalalabad

Jalalabad, July 27

In a bid to match a virtual blitzkrieg of the SAD in this constituency, the Congress is playing the Rai Sikh card by handing over much of its election campaign to Rai Sikh leaders, who are fanning out in the segment to woo the community in favour of the party.

The Congress has elevated five Rai Sikh leaders as secretaries in the Pradesh Congress in a bid to get the community behind the candidature of former minister Hans Raj Josan. Rai Sikhs constitute around 80,000 of the total 1.66-lakh voters in this segment. Those elevated as secretaries are Joginder Singh Kasam Ke, Dr Gurmeet Singh, Dr Roop Singh, Karnail Singh and Desa Singh.

Congress candidate Josan, who is from the Kamboj caste, is also actively wooing the Rai Sikh community and trying to weave a Rai-Kamboj alliance claiming both castes should unite against the big �sardars� in an apparent reference to SAD candidate and former Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal.

During election tours of border villages in the Rai Sikh belt, Josan has at least two Rai Sikh leaders speak before him. They include Joginder Singh Kasam Ke, who had garnering 15,000 to 18,000 votes as a BSP candidate in the past from this constituency.

The newly nominated secretaries point out that Josan may not be from their community but he was part of the social fabric of the area. They also claim that once the Jalalabad seat goes into the hands of an influential person like Sukhbir it would be very difficult to dislodge him.

Rai Sikh leaders, including Dr Gurmeet Singh, are also targeting Ferozepur MP Sher Singh Ghubaiya, who vacated the seat after his election to Parliament. They claim that the community had not given any power of attorney to Ghubaiya to hand over the seat to Sukhbir. �The seat should have gone to a member of our community�, they claim.

The leaders are also telling their brethren that the Congress has promised to allocate three tickets to Rai Sikhs in the next assembly elections.

Congress candidate Hans Raj Josan claims he can still do a Shibu Soren and defeat Sukhbir though the dice is loaded against him. Addressing election meetings, he claims he is a poor man (despite owning a flourishing rice mill) who has grown up in a village in the constituency and knows their problems and has already addressed many during his stint in power.

His supporters are also building up his man of the masses image with party general secretary Parminder Singh saying, �You can haul up Josan whenever you want, but how will a poor man ever reach Sukhbir ?�

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Farmers plan protest outside Parliament

Chandigarh, July 27

Piqued by the central government�s �discriminatory� policies farmers in northern states have decided to hold a massive demonstration outside Parliament on September 3. The immediate provocation has been a task force set up to suggest ways and means of ridding farmers of loans from private moneylenders.

Punjab as well as some other states have not been represented in the task force, according to Ajmer Singh Lakhowal, president of the Bharti Kisan Union (BKU) and chairman of the Punjab Mandi Board.

The UPA government appears to have gone all out to raise the hackles of Punjab farmers, says Lakhowal. An unremunerative minimum support price for paddy and keeping Punjab out of the task force smack of a bias towards the state and its farmers, he added.

He stated national president, BKU, Mohinder Singh Tikait, has called a meeting of members from all over the country on August 11 in New Delhi to mobilise farmers from other northern states to join the September 3 protest.

Lakhowal said Punjab has the notorious distinction of having the highest per capita debt among farmers. Loan waiver schemes and now the task force have been so designed that the state�s farmers are either ignored or benefit the least.

A state that produces 40 to 50 per cent of foodgrains supplied to the central pool, got only Rs 1,100 crore out of a total countrywide debt waiver of Rs 75,000 crore. As of now, the total debt of Punjab farmers was Rs 35,000 crore of which Rs 22,000 crore was loans from state-owned banks with the rest being loans from private moneylenders including commission agents.

�The UPA government has done nothing to rid Punjab farmers of their mounting debt. It was the foremost reason for suicides continuing unabated among them,� he added.

�Since the central Agriculture Minister is from Maharashtra, all policies and programmes are designed to suit farmers of that state or of South India only. We�ll not tolerate this discrimination,� Lakhowal asserted.

The BKU has also appealed to all MPs to support the cause of Punjabi farmers and get the state a special relief package.

Lakhowal also deplored the UPA government�s decision to ban rice exports. �Whenever farmers are about to benefit from a rise in global foodgrain prices, the central government immediately slaps a blanket ban on exports,� he noted.

He observed private millers generally procure the rice variety Pusa 1121, a basmati variant, for export, but a ban imposed by the government would indirectly harm the interests of Punjabi farmers who grow this variety for better financial returns.

Assailing the UPA government for its �double standards�, Lakhowal said on the one hand the government was implementing the Pay Commission�s recommendations to �appease� employees while on the other it was �strangulating� the farming community. �Why is the government delaying implementation of the Swaminathan committee�s recommendations, according to which the MSP of paddy comes to Rs 1,500 a quintal. The main demand at the September 3 rally will be an MSP of Rs 1,500 for paddy�, he stated.

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Ravidassis seek Sarna’s arrest

Jalandhar, July 27

Agitated members belonging to the Ravidass community burnt effigies of DSGMC president Paramjit Singh Sarna in different parts of the city for the consecutive second day today.

They were protesting against his reported statement in which he announced to provide legal and financial help to the accused in the Vienna firing incident that had occurred on May 24. Dera Sachkhand Ballan chief Sant Nirajan Dass was wounded, whereas his deputy Sant Ramanand succumbed to his injuries on May 25.

Meanwhile, taking a strong exception to Sarna�s statement, convenor of Shri Guru Ravidass Dharam Yudh Morcha Satish Bharti demanded his immediate arrest.

Addressing a meeting of several Ravidas Sabhas, presided over by a retired judge Prem Chand Suman, the Morcha convenor said Sarna had not only hurt the religious sentiments of the Ravidass community, but had also supported the militants. He should be immediately arrested as he tried to create law and order problem in Punjab by giving such an irresponsible statement, he added.

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Bhullar in top 10 of Asian Tour

Gaganjeet Bhullar has finally done it. His maiden triumph on the Asian Tour on Sunday when he clinched the Indonesia President Invitational has moved the 21-year-old Kapurthala lad to the 10th slot on the Asian Tour Order of Merit.

Bhullar has got into the top 10 with his earnings touching US $ 1,24,941 from seven outings. The only other Indian in the top-10 is Jyoti Randhawa, who is placed third with earnings of $2,46,745. But Bhullar is barely 21 and has a long way to go.

The morale-boosting win has given Bhullar the confidence that he can now go on and make a mark for himself on the world stage just like fellow compatriot and reigning Asian Tour champion Jeev Milkha Singh.

Bhullar said, �This victory will get me into all the co-anctioned events now and will give me a lot of confidence in my coming years�. Bhullar who barely managed to get full playing rights on the Asian Tour this season, has shown a phenomenal rise.

His climb up the Order of Merit ladder has been tremendous. From the stage of barely managing to qualify for the full event, Bhullar is now knocking at the doors of the Asan Tour top spot. At the moment Thailand�s Thongchai Jaidee continues to lead the standings with Anthony Kang of the United States in second place on and India�s Jyoti Randhawa in third.

�My experience from playing with the big boys where Tiger, Ernie Else and Sergio Garcia were competing has certainly helped me a lot,� added Bhullar.

Billed as the hottest star on the Asian Tour, Bhullar became the youngest Indian to qualify for the British Open where he equalled world champion Tiger Wood�s opening score of 71 at the world�s oldest major a fortnight ago.

Bhullar gives credit to his sports psychologist for helping turn his game around. �Last year, I lost six or seven tournaments when I was in contention where I didn�t play well. I was a bit frustrated and he (Dr Aggarwal) told me to do something to lose my frustration�, said Bhullar.

The 21-year-old year Indian from Kapurthala has since witnessed a revival of fortunes, having posted three top 10s and finally a triumph onthe Asian Tour. �It�s all thanks to Dr Pradeep Aggarwal who has helped me a lot in improving my mental strength. Without his teachings, I doubt I would have gone this far,� said Bhullar.

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Razzak spins Tigers to win

Roseau (Dominica), July 27

Abdur Razzak made a triumphant return to the Bangladesh side when he helped the Tigers win the opening one-day international against West Indies by 52 runs.

Razzak, who was prevented from bowling in international cricket in December 2008 due to a suspect action before having his suspension lifted in March, opened the bowling yesterday and took four wickets for 39 runs as Bangladesh defended a target of 247 at international cricket�s newest venue of Windsor Park.

�I was not surprised when the captain gave me the new ball, especially the way the pitches have been playing in the Caribbean during this series,� said Razzak.

�When I played in the Caribbean in the 2007 World Cup, I also used the new ball, so it�s normal. But this was important for me. I was out of the team for eight months, and now I am back in the side, I am looking to do well.�

The victory gives Bangladesh a 1-0 lead in the three-match series with the second ODI scheduled for the same venue on Tuesday, and the final ODI on Friday.

Razzak again exposed the West Indies� frailty to spin bowling, after Bangladesh, sent in to bat, were restricted to 246 for nine from their allocation of 50 overs. Mohammad Ashraful hit the top score of 57 and captain Shakib Al Hasan stroked 54 to lead the Bangladesh batting despite Kemar Roach�s career-best five wickets for 44 runs. � AFP

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Chamundeswarnath given 10-day notice

Hyderabad, July 27

In the eye of a storm over sexual harassment charges, senior cricket administrator and Team India Manager at the recent Twenty20 World Cup V Chamundeswarnath has been given a 10-day notice by the Andhra Cricket Association (ACA) to appear before its special general body meeting and present his case.

The decision was taken by the ACA at its general body meeting held in the coastal Andhra city of Vijayawada yesterday.

Chamundeswarnath skipped the meeting and remained incommunicado even as the stage is set for criminal action against him with a high-level probe confirming the allegations.

Several women cricketers had lodged a complaint, alleging that the former batsman and cricket administrator had misbehaved with them and sought �sexual favours� for selection in the team. He was also accused of sending lewd SMSes to some women cricketers.

The state Additional Director-General of Police M Ratan, who was asked to probe the charges against the cricket administrator, has completed his investigation and submitted his report to the government, indicting the tainted cricketer.

The inquiry report will now be used as evidence in the case against Chamundeswarnath under Section 509, IPC (a word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman) booked by the Vijayawada police based on a complaint by women cricketers.

Chamundi, as he is known in cricketing circles, was suspended from the ACA last month on charges of corruption and misappropriation of funds.

Based on a report by a six-member probe committee, an executive committee of the ACA had suspended Chamundi on charges of corruption and misuse of funds.

The allegation against him was that he was involved in the Rs 4 crore scandal in the purchase of chairs, flood lights and gym equipment for the ACA cricket stadium in the port city of Visakhapatnam.

�We have received a fax that he will not attend the general body meeting. But, the signature in the fax message did not tally with his original signatures,� the ACA President G Gangaraju said.

As many as 13 women cricketers, who had complained against Chamundeswaranath, met the ACA members and reiterated their charges. Fearing arrest, Chamundi is said to be preparing to move a local court for anticipatory bail.

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WC comes to India

New Delhi, July 27

International Hockey Federation (FIH) president Leandro Negre Carrio confirmed here today that the 12th edition of the World Cup Hockey Championship will be held at the National Stadium in Delhi as scheduled from March 7 to 20, 2010.

The 12-team field will feature 42 matches, spread over 15 days. The teams will be divided into two groups of six each, and two teams from each group will progress into the semifinals. India to host one big tourney every year: Negre

FIH signs agreement with IOA for successful conduct of WC

Half of India�s 1975 WC winning team present at function

Hero Honda bags title sponsorship

Negre signed the lead title sponsorship deal with Hero Honda managing director Pawan Munjal at an impressive function, attended by half of India�s 1975 World Cup winning team, led by Ajitpal Singh.

The FIH also signed an agreement with the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) for the successful conduct of the World Cup. India would be hosting the World Cup Hockey Championship after a gap of 27 years.

India first hosted the prestigious event in 1981 in Mumbai. India, who won the bronze in 1971 and silver in 1973, have not finished among the medals since their gold-winning feat in 1975 at KulaLumpur (Malaysia), under the captainship of Ajitpal Singh.

Only five countries, including India, have won the World Cup in 11 editions - Pakistan four times, Holland thrice, Germany, who were the winners of the last edition in 2006, twice and Australia.

FIH chief Negre announced that plans were afoot to make India a destination for a major hockey event every year as the country had the hockey culture and would have the necessary infrastructure after the World Cup to hold major international hockey events.

He, however, reiterated his stated stand that the hockey body should be put in proper order, and elections to Hockey India should be held within six months, to make it a united, coherent body for the smooth conduct of the World Cup.

Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president Suresh Kalmadi, who is also the chairman of the 2010 Commonwealth Games organising committee, said the �FIH World Cup will serve as an ideal preparatory platform for the 2010 Commonwealth Games.�

India is fully geared up to host the World Cup without sparing any expenses, with just over 200 days to go for the mega event. Four countries have already qualified for the championship.

They are: Canada (champions of the third Pan American Cup), South Africa (Africa Cup of Nations champions), South Korea (8th men�s Asia Cup champions) and hosts India.

Eight more teams will qualify for the championship round. The automatic qualifiers would be the champions of the 12th Men�s EuroHockey Nations Cup and the champions of the 6th Men�s Oceania Cup, which will feature New Zealand and Australia.

Ajitpal Singh said there was a world of difference between the hockey team of 1975 and the hockey team of now. �We went there to become the world champions. The present Indian team have not even qualified for the World Cup. We have qualified only because we are the hosts�, Ajitpal noted.

�It�s good the World Cup would be coming to India finally,� observed former Indian captain Pargat Singh. Pargat said the injury suffered by the goalkeeper Baljit Singh was a big blow to Indian hockey.

The World Cup launch witnessed a recap of India�s thrilling 2-1 victory against Pakistan at Kula Lumpur in 1975 and the display of the coveted World Cup, which was wheeled into the dais from backstage by Ajitpal Singh.

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GAIL to pump in Rs 8,000 cr

New Delhi, July 27

Gas utility GAIL India Ltd today said it will invest Rs 8,000 crore for laying three new gas pipelines by 2012. GAIL will lay the pipelines to connect gas sources to consumers in North India, who till now have no access to the environment friendly fuel, company Chairman and Managing Director U D Choubey told reporters here.

\"The company board at its meeting in Shimla on July 25 approved investment in the three pipeline projects totaling 2,400 km in length and are scheduled for completion in 2012,\" Choubey said.

After the three pipelines, besides the ones on which construction is already on, would more than double GAIL\'s pipeline network to 14,400 km. The pipelines would have a capacity to transport 280 million standard cubic metres of gas per day.

GAIL will lay 2,050-km pipeline from Jagdishpur in Uttar Pradesh to Haldia in West Bengal at an investment of Rs 7,595 crore, Choubey said. The project would also involve laying separate spur lines to Baurani and Chappra. GAIL will also invest Rs 250 crore in laying a 275 km Karanpur-Moradabad-Kashipur-Rudrapur pipeline.

Besides, the existing Bajera-Agra-Ferozabad pipeline would be upgraded at an investment of Rs 200 crore, he said. � PTI

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