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Crisis-torn European Union wins 2012 Nobel Peace Prize

OSLO: The Nobel Peace Prize was on Friday awarded to the European Union, an institution currently wracked by crisis but is credited with bringing more than a half century of peace to a continent ripped apart by World War II.

"The union and its forerunners have for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe," Nobel Committee president Thorbjoern Jagland said in Oslo.

"Over a 70-year period, Germany and France had fought three wars. Today war between Germany and France is unthinkable. This shows how, through well-aimed efforts and by building up mutual confidence, historical enemies can become close partners," he said, explaining this year's prize decision.

The award is however a surprise at a time when European solidarity is facing its most daunting challenge in decades amid deep rifts between a south drowning in debt and a wealthier north, led by Germany, only reluctantly coming to the rescue.

Whether or not that begrudging assistance will keep the European project afloat remains to be seen, but the deep crisis has broadened the gulf already felt between citizens in the different member states and a Brussels long seen as too distant and bureaucratic. 

But the creation of the organisation is credited with helping to bring peace and stability to the war-torn continent by bringing together arch-enemies France and Germany and herding them down the same path.

Despite recurring difficulties, the EU has become the biggest common market in the world, allowing free circulation of goods, people, services and capital.

Over the years, the pioneering project has swelled to encompass 27 countries which not long ago sat on either side of the Iron Curtain.

They came to the table with vastly different economic, social and cultural situations, but following intense integration efforts, a full 17 of them now share a common currency.

This year's prize will also cause shockwaves in host country Norway, which itself has rejected joining the union twice, in 1972 and 1994, and where three quarters of the inhabitants today say they are opposed to membership, according to recent polls.— AFP





Need fine balance between RTI and right to privacy: PM

NEW DELHI: Voicing concern over frivolous and vexatious use of RTI Act, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday said the citizens' right to know should definitely be circumscribed if it encroaches on an individual's privacy.

"There is a fine balance required to be maintained between the right to information and the right to privacy, which stems out of the fundamental right to life and liberty. The citizens' right to know should definitely be circumscribed if disclosure of information encroaches upon someone's personal privacy. But where to draw the line is a complicated question," he said.

Addressing the seventh convention of central information commissioners, the Prime Minister said, "There are concerns about frivolous and vexatious use of the Act in demanding information disclosure of which cannot possibly serve any public purpose."

Singh said such queries besides serving little productive purpose are also a drain on the resources of public authorities, diverting precious man-hours that could be put to better use.

"Sometimes information covering a long time-span or a large number of cases is sought in an omnibus manner with the objective of discovering an inconsistency or mistake which can be criticised," he said.

Touching upon the area of public-private partnerships, the Prime Minister said blanket extension of the RTI Act to such bodies may discourage private enterprises to enter in partnership with public sector whereas a blanket exclusion may harm accountability of public officials.

The Prime Minister's remarks come close on the heels of the Supreme Court as also the Central Information Commission's adverse criticism of frivolous RTI applications.

Stressing on the privacy issue, Singh said the issue of a separate legislation on privacy is under consideration of an expert group under Justice A.P. Shah.

Referring to a recent Supreme Court order terming information commissions as judicial bodies, the Prime Minister said the government has decided to go in for review of the verdict before the apex court.

Singh said there was also a need to change perceptions about the right to information, noting that it should not be viewed as an irritant "but something that is good for us collectively".

"Rights cannot stand in isolation and must always be accompanied by reciprocal obligation...I believe that all of us share a responsibility to promote more constructive and productive use of the Right to Information Act. This important legislation should not only be about criticising, ridiculing and running down public authorities," he said.

Singh said the Act should be more about promoting transparency and accountability, spreading information and awareness and empowering the citizen.

"I believe that the right to information can be utilised for even better results to the benefit of our country and the people. It needs to be remembered that the ultimate goal of the legislation is to induce more efficiency in the work of the government and help it serve the people better," he said.

Earlier, speaking on the occasion, minister of state for personnel and training V Narayanasamy said there is a need to create awareness about responsible use of the Act.

"It has to be ensured that it (information) does not infringe upon personal sensitive information of individuals. Personal liberty is very important. Each society has its own concept of privacy. There is need to define what is personal information and what is sensitive information," he said.

He said people using the RTI Act to expose corruption must be protected and Whistleblowers' Protection Bill is a step in that direction. — PTI





CMO abduction: UP Minister Vinod Kumar resigns

LUCKNOW: Under fire for allegedly abducting the chief medical officer (CMO) of Gonda, Uttar Pradesh Minister of State for Revenue Vinod Kumar Singh resigned on Friday.

“I have sent my resignation to the Chief Minister as I am a devoted worker of SP. I will continue to provide my services to the people of the State and my constituency Gonda as an MLA”, Singh told PTI.

Asked as to why he was stepping down, Singh said, “I think some people are trying to malign the image of the party taking my name and I don’t want this to happen.”

Asked about his involvement in the abduction of the CMO, Singh maintained that he was innocent.

The state government had on Thursday ordered a high-level inquiry into the alleged abduction of the CMO of Gonda S.P. Singh.

According to media reports, the CMO was allegedly abducted by the minister as he was “unhappy” over the refusal to accommodate his nominees on the list of doctors on contract recruited by the District Health Department under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM). — PTI





Arvind Kejriwal, activists detained

NEW DELHI: India Against Corruption activists Arvind Kejriwal, Manish Sisodia and other members were detained by the Delhi Police after they refused to stop their protest march to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's residence on Friday.

Kejriwal along with disabled people marched towards the Prime Minister's residence demanding dismissal of Law Minister Salman Khurshid and his arrest following allegations by India Against Corruptionof financial irregularities in a trust run by him.

The activist had sought time from the Prime Minister but his office refused to give him and the disabled people an appointment, Kejriwal said.

The march was organised by Rashtriya Vikalng Party and supported by Kejriwal-led India Against corruption.

The march started from Janpath but was prevented by police after 100 metres at Rajpath crossing.

"Khurshid has insulted the office of law minister. BR Ambedkar was once in this seat. A case should be registered against Khurshid and his wife. Till he is declared innocent, he should be out of the Cabinet," he said.

"Both Khurshid and his wife are very powerful people.They will be able to cleanse the evidence.They can put pressure on witnesses. They should be arrested to prevent this," Kejriwal said.

Kejriwal said, "Now let's make this place another Tahrir Square (centre of anti-regime protests in Egypt). Now people should take leave and join the protest. Now its a fight to finish. Prime Minister will have to meet us and accept our demands. Khurshid has to resign. He should be arrested," he said.

The IAC activists are now sitting on a protest near the National Archives on Janpath.

An IAC spokesperson said they would continue their dharna till the time the PM meets them or Khurshid resigns.

Rashtriya Vikalang Party president KK Dikshit demanded that the Prime Minister dismiss Khurshid from the Cabinet and register a case against him.

Acting on the request of the law minister's wife Louise Khurshid, Uttar Pradesh government has begun the process of verifying the handicapped welfare examination report of Zakir Hussain Trust run by the couple for 2009-2010.

In a communication to Louise Khurshid on October 3, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav told her that he has forwarded her letter in this regard to the chief secretary of the state's handicapped welfare department and she will be apprised of the action taken there of.

Khurshid's wife on Thursday came out with a strong denial saying the allegation is "devoid of any merit, and is false, malicious and baseless".

In a statement, she said that she herself had requested the UP Chief Minister on September 17 to conduct an inquiry so that "truth is revealed and it is established that the Trust has not forged the signatures of any officers of the state of UP". — PTI





Deccan Chargers sold to real estate firm Kamla Landmarc

MUMBAI: The owners of the cash-strapped Deccan Chargers have sold the Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise to a real estate company for an undisclosed sum.

Deccan Chronicle Holdings, who paid $107 million for the franchise in 2008, informed the Indian stock exchanges on Friday of their decision to sell the team to Kamla Landmarc, a Mumbai-based real estate company.

Last month, the owners had invited bids for the franchise after being granted approval by the Indian cricket board (BCCI) but rejected the sole offer of nine billion rupees ($162.4 million) for the 2009 IPL champions.

The BCCI later terminated the franchise for various defaults, including failure to pay overdue player fees, but the owners immediately issued a legal challenge against the expulsion, a case which is still ongoing.

Sri Lankan batsman Kumar Sangakkara captained the team in the 2012 edition of the lucrative IPL, heading a team which also included South Africa paceman Dale Steyn but failed to qualify for the playoffs.

Last year, the BCCI terminated the contract of the Kochi franchise for defaulting on payments while DLF, India's largest real estate firm, terminated the title sponsorship of the league in August ending a five-year association. — Reuters





Pakistan prays for Malala, clerics issue fatwa against Taliban

LAHORE: More than 50 clerics associated with the Sunni Ittehad Council and a former Pakistani minister have joined hands against the Taliban and issued a fatwa that declared the attempted assassination of teenage rights activist Malala Yousufzai as "un-Islamic".

In the religious decree issued in lahore, the clerics appealed to the country to observe Friday as "Condemnation Day" to express solidarity with the 14-year-old girl, who is currently in a critical care unit of a military hospital in Rawalpindi after being shot in the head.

The clerics said in their fatwa: "Islam doesn't prohibit women from getting education. The attackers transgressed the Islamic Hudood (principles)."

The clerics, who belong to the moderate Barelvi school of thought, described the interpretation of Islam by Taliban as "repugnant to the teachings of Islam" since the religion not only makes it obligatory on its followers to seek education.

Islam also strictly forbids taking the life of any innocent person, they pointed out. Former federal religious affairs minister Hamid Saeed Kazmi said the decree had come at the right time.

"Islam holds the killing of even one innocent person equal to the killing of the whole of humanity. It also forbids executing a woman who has even reneged on her religion. Men are punished with death for the same offence," Kazmi said.

Pakistan on Friday observed Youm-e-Dua to pray for early recovery of teenaged peace campaigner Malala Yousufzai who was shot and critically injured by the Taliban.

Geo News said that one minute silence will also be observed in this regard.

Khyber Pukhtunkhwa information minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain said Thursday that all mosques in the province have been requested to hold special prayers for Malala after Friday prayers.

The prayers will be held for Malala’s complete recovery, he added.

“I say complete recovery because when the brain is damaged, there are a lot of possibilities of disabilities even if the life is safe... So I appeal for prayers for the complete recovery of Malala and her injured friends,” he was quoted as saying.

Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif too appealed to the nation to observe Friday as Youm-e-Dua for the early recovery of Malala.

He said special prayers for Malala’s early recovery would be offered in government offices, educational institutions, mosques and places of worships for minorities throughout the province.

The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for the attempt on Malala's life in the former militant stronghold of Swat Valley on Tuesday, saying she was targeted for backing "pro-West" views and a secular government.

The Taliban has warned it will attack her again if she survives. (With inputs from PTI and IANS)




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