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Rushdie's video address cancelled

JAIPUR: The much-anticipated video address by controversial writer Salman Rushdie was cancelled at the last moment today because of fears of violence as Muslim organisations staged protests.

The decision to call off the video address by the Satanic Verses writer came after a meeting festival organisers had with leaders of Muslim organisations during which the protesters told them "even seeing his face is intolerable".

Announcing the cancellation of Rushdie's address, one of the organisers, Sanjay Roy, said the police had told them that people had got inside the venue to "disrupt proceedings" and cause violence.

"Some organisations have threatened violence. This is unfortunate, but necessary to avoid violence. It is a fairly idiotic situation. We are once again stepping down from the fight for freedom of expression. We have been pushed to the wall again," Roy said.

"It is unfortunate that we are being bullied again and we had to step down...we had no other way but to listen to save the people here, our children and everyone here," he added.

Earlier, Assistant Commissioner of Police Virendra Jhala said the owners of the venue had conveyed to them they would not allow the video address fearing repercussions.

After their meeting with organisers, the protesters also offered namaz at the venue.

The Rushdie session—“Midnight’s Child”—was planned for 3.45 pm, where the 65-year-old India-born author was to discuss his childhood, his work, problems faced in the past years and the adaptation of his novel Midnight’s Children into a film. — PTI



RBI asks govt to deregulate diesel prices

MUMBAI: The Reserve Bank today said the government should deregulate diesel prices in order to contain the trade deficit, which is expected to widen to USD 160 billion during the current fiscal.

"Particularly, as the food subsidy bill is expected to rise, it will be prudent to fully deregulate diesel prices to contain both aggregate demand and the trade deficit," the RBI said in its third quarterly monetary policy review.

While petrol prices are market-linked, the government decides the rates of LPG, kerosene and diesel, which usually results in a large budgetary expenditure on subsidies.

The central bank further said the current levels of domestic prices of petroleum products do not reflect international prices.

"Petroleum product prices have also not been revised in response to crude oil prices, contributing to both fiscal slippages and suppressed inflation. Revision in domestic administered prices will add to inflationary pressures, although such revisions are necessary to maintain the balance between supply and demand," the RBI said.

According to the financial stability report (or FSR) of the RBI released earlier, the December trade deficit gap for the year would broaden from USD 155 billion to USD 160 billion, a significant rise from USD 104.4 billion in the previous year.

It is estimated that the higher expenditure on petroleum subsidy could drive up the fiscal deficit by around 0.8 percentage points of the GDP for 2011-12.

The government had fixed the fiscal deficit target for the current fiscal at 4.6 per cent.

"If the increase in government borrowing already announced is an indication, the gross fiscal deficit for 2011-12 will overshoot the budget estimate substantially," it said, adding that the increase in fiscal deficit could potentially crowd out credit to the private sector.

"Moreover, slippage in the fiscal deficit has been adding to inflationary pressures and it continues to be a risk for inflation," it said.

The RBI injected Rs 32,000 crore into the system by lowering the Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR) by half-a-percentage point today, but kept the short-term lending rate unchanged in view of persisting inflationary concern.

It has also revised the GDP growth projection for 2011-12 downward to 7 per cent. — PTIBack




4th Test: Australia 335-3 at stumps on Day 1
Ponting and Clarke slam centuries

ADELAIDE: Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke both slammed centuries and combined for 251 runs to drive Australia to 335 for three as India wilted in the Adelaide sun on the opening day of the fourth Test on Tuesday.

A rejuvenated Ponting became just the third cricketer to score 13,000 Test runs as he reached 137 not out, while Clarke, his successor as Australia captain, notched up his fourth century in eight Tests with an unbeaten 140.

India’s hopes of salvaging a modicum of pride after losing the series with emphatic defeats in the first three Tests looked bright when they removed Australia’s top order before lunch but melted in 37 degree Celsius heat in the afternoon.

Ponting’s 41st Test century was far more fluent than the 40th, which he scored to end a two-year drought in the second Test in Sydney earlier this month.

The 37-year-old, who scored his 13,000th Test run with a swept single to deep square leg, brought up the hundred in 164 balls with his 11th four and doffed his helmet to accept a standing ovation from the crowd.

Ponting’s century was his fourth in four Test matches against India at Adelaide, including a 242 in a losing cause in 2003.

Clarke, who won the toss and elected to bat on a good batting track, shared a record partnership of 288 with Ponting in Sydney when he hit a brilliant 329 not out.

After the pair had again rescued Australia’s innings from 84-3 to stand at 214 at tea, Clarke made a statement two balls into the final session by marching down the pitch to smash a huge six off part-time spinner Virender Sehwag.

The 30-year-old reached the century, his 19th in Tests, with a less emphatic stroke and the ball trickled to the boundary at fourth man for his 14th four.

Sehwag had made a promising start as stand-in skipper for the banned Mahendra Singh Dhoni in the morning, keeping the Australians on the back foot and bucking convention by introducing recalled spinner Ravi Ashwin in the fourth over.

It was the pace bowling of Zaheer Khan at the other end, however, that forced the breakthrough when his inswinger trapped lefthander David Warner leg before for eight with just 26 runs showing on the picturesque ground’s famous old scoreboard.

Shaun Marsh had made 14 in four innings in the series and his poor form continued when he misjudged the flight of an Ashwin delivery which went between bat and pad, took the bails off and sent him scurrying back to the pavilion for three.

Ashwin struck again 10 minutes before lunch to remove Ed Cowan for 30, tempting the opener into a miscued cover drive that VVS Laxman intercepted with a fine low catch at short cover to leave Australia struggling.

India took the new ball five overs before the end of the day and Ishant Sharma almost removed Clarke but Laxman was this time unable to hold a difficult catch.

Dhoni was banned for one match by the International Cricket Council (ICC) after India failed to keep to an acceptable over rate in the third Test. — Reuters




Federer, Clijsters storm into semis

MELBOURNE: Roger Federer showed why he's the Australian Open's modern-day king with a majestic victory over Juan Martin del Potro, as women's champion Kim Clijsters also reached the semi-finals.

Federer, a four-time winner at Melbourne Park, was at his regal best in the Melbourne heat as he made light of an expected stiff challenge by del Potro, his conqueror in the 2009 US Open final.

The 16-time grand slam winner from Switzerland, now 30, barely gave the 6ft 6in (198cm) Argentine a look-in and he took it 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 after 1hr 59min of glorious tennis on the centre court.

Federer started like a rocket and broke at the first opportunity, taking the first set in 43 minutes. In the second set, he fought off four break points in a pivotal game nine to go 2-0 up, celebrating with a trademark guttural roar.

Del Potro has returned to 11 in the rankings after serious injury but his head dropped in the third set as Federer closed it out with his thunderous inside-out forehands and classic, one-handed backhand.

The victory put a broad smile on the face of the Swiss, who is aiming to become only the second man to win the Australian Open five times or more after Roy Emerson in the 1960s.

"I'm very happy," Federer said. "I thought it was a great match. It was tough with the sun and shade creeping across the court but I thought we did well. I thought it was a high-quality match." Federer will next face either his great rival Rafael Nadal or Tomas Berdych, who play later. Top seed Novak Djokovic and world number four Andy Murray are also into the quarter-finals on the other side of the draw. — AFP





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