L A T E S T      N E W S

Ex-NCERT adviser's office ransacked over
Ambedkar cartoon row

PUNE: A group of persons on Saturday ransacked the office of Prof Suhas Palshikar, who resigned as NCERT adviser in the wake of the row over a cartoon of B.R. Ambedkar in school text books.

The police said the group involved in the incident had been invited by Palshikar for discussion in his office after they raised objections on the cartoon.

They later damaged furniture in his office within the Pune University campus.

Palshikar, however, was unharmed, the police added.

A Republican Panther of India spokesman claimed responsibility for the attack, saying the cartoon amounted to an "insult" to the Dalit icon.

The police has detained three persons in connection with the incident.

Palshikar, a former head of Pune University's Department of Politics, had resigned after the uproar in Parliament over the issue, on which HRD Minister Kapil Sibal had tendered an apology.

While resigning from his NCERT post, Palshikar had described the ruckus in both Houses over the cartoon row as "unfortunate".

He added that "space for debate in democracy is shrinking".

Palshikar was a member of the HRD Ministry's Textbook Development Committee, which had approved the Class XI social science textbook that contained the cartoon.

Political scientist Yogendra Yadav, who was the chief adviser of the committee, has also resigned. — PTI



Air India pilots ask PM to look into 'genuine demands'

New Delhi: With the agitation by Air India pilots entering the fifth day on Saturday, the national carrier cancelled 16 flights from New Delhi and Mumbai even as senior pilots sought the Prime Minister's intervention to end the impasse.

"16 of our flights originating from Delhi and Mumbai have been cancelled," an AI spokesperson said.

Supporting the agitation, senior pilots wrote a letter to the chairman and managing director of AI and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, saying the demand of the pilots were genuine and they should be looked into, sources said.

About 200 pilots owing allegiance to the Indian Pilots' Guild are on strike since Tuesday protesting rescheduling of training on Dreamliner and issues related to career progression.

Taking a tough stand, the Air India management had on Friday sacked 25 pilots. With this, the total number of pilots whose services have been terminated has gone up to 71.

AI has also written to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) asking it to cancel the licenses of 11 office bearers of the IPG whose services have been terminated.

The IPG has said that they are ready for talks and have sought time for a meeting with civil aviation minister Ajit Singh.

The minister has asked the pilots to return to work and assured them that their demands will be heard. — PTI




Cong reacts to Mamata's claim, says UPA-II will
complete its full term

NEW DELHI: Ruling out a mid-term poll, the Congress on Saturday reacted to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's claim that the Lok Sabha polls would be advanced, and said the United Progressive Alliance (UPA)-II will complete its full term.

"I have not gone through the statement given by Banerjee, but one thing is clear the UPA -II will complete its term and elections will be held on the scheduled time. There is no question of any mid-term poll; Dr Manmohan Singhji-led government will complete its full term. I can specifically say that the election would be held as per schedule," said Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi.

Alvi's reaction came as Banerjee, addressing party workers on Friday in Kolkata, claimed that she has got information that a certain political party held an internal meeting in Delhi on advancing the Lok Sabha polls to 2013.

Trinamool Congress president and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee asked her party workers to be ready for the poll.

"I have got the information that such a meeting was held in Delhi. I won't say now which party convened that meeting. They want to hold the Lok Sabha polls by 2013," she said.

"Any day, we can face the election. So, we must be ready to face it. And we must not do anything that the people misunderstand me," Banerjee said.

The term of the present Lok Sabha ends in 2014. — IANS




Oil tanker hijacked in Arabian Sea, Indians among captives

LONDON: After a brief lull, pirates hijacked a Greek-owned oil tanker in the Arabian Sea with a crew of 15, mostly Indians and Filipinos. 

The Liberian-flagged Smyrni, carrying 135,000 tonnes of oil, was seized off the coast of Oman, the company said, in new indications that Somali pirates are operating close to Indian shores. 

The company said it lost contact with the crew at 11:50 GMT (16:20 IST) on Thursday, BBC reported. 

The tanker was reported to be heading for Somalia. 

Pirates based on the coast of northern Somalia prey on vital international shipping lanes in the area. 

The hijacking is thought to have happened about 630 km from the Omani coast. This was only the second voyage for the tanker, which first set to sea in 2011. 

It is reported to have a crew of about 15 on board, composed of Indians and Filipinos. The tanker’s capture comes after a recent fall in the number of hijackings in the region. 

The drop has been attributed to plans by several countries to allow ships using their flags to sail with armed guards. 

It has not been reported, however, whether the Smyrni had such guards on board. EU naval ships are currently on patrol off the Horn of Africa in an effort to protect vessels. 

Pirates in Somalia, which has no effective central authority, often receive millions of dollars in ransom in return for hijacked ships. 

According to the International Maritime Organisation, 17 ships and close to 300 crew are currently held by Somali pirates. — PTI





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