L A T E S T      N E W S

Nitish Kumar wins trust vote

PATNA: After dumping ally BJP, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Wednesday comfortably won a vote of confidence in the Bihar Assembly.

A total of 126 votes, including four of the Congress and one of the CPI, were cast in favour of the confidence motion, while 24, including 22 of Lalu Prasad-led RJD, voted against the motion as the BJP members staged a walkout before the vote.

Those who voted in favour of the motion included ruling JD(U)’s 117 and four Independents. Besides RJD’s 22 MLAs, two Independents also opposed the motion.

Significantly, the Congress support for the government comes two days after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described Kumar as secular and indicated that his party could do business with the RJD. The Central government had already enhanced development assistance to Bihar as a backward state recently, setting off speculation that the two parties could come together in future elections.

In his speech in the Assembly, Kumar said, without taking the name of Narendra Modi, that the main reason for breaking the alliance with BJP was the elevation of the Gujarat Chief Minister in his party.

He said the slogan shouting by BJP MLAs hailing Modi went to buttress JD(U)’s point, an apparent reference to the possibility of the BJP making him the Prime Ministerial candidate.

Later, the Chief Minister in a chat with reporters thanked the Congress party for voting in favour of the trust motion.

“But if you think that there was some discussion (between JD(U) and Congress) about future, there has been no discussion,” he said. — PTIBack










PM, Sonia to visit flood-hit Uttarakhand

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi will on Wednesday make an aerial survey of rain-ravaged areas in Uttarakhand, where flash floods have claimed over 69 lives and left thousands of pilgrims for Himalayan shrines stranded.

The situation created by the heavy rains and floods in the state was discussed at the Congress Core Group meeting this morning.

Finance Minister P. Chidambaram told reporters after the meeting that the situation in Uttarakhand is better than what it was on Tuesday and Food Minister K.V. Thomas is taking steps to rush more food grains to the flood-hit Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.

“The objective is to ensure that food grains and food packets are available to the affected people. On the food issue, a number of decisions were taken,” he said.

On the steps being initiated by the government to provide succour to the victims, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said that IAF helicopters have been deployed to evacuate stranded people from Gaurikund in Uttarakhand, while a control centre has been established in Badrinath. ITBP has given shelter to about 6,400 people at Joshimath, he said.

“Fourteen teams comprising 540 persons of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have been deployed in Uttarakhand. While 62,790 people are stranded in Uttarakhand, 5000 people have been rescued by the Army,” the Home Minister said.

Both Dr Singh and Gandhi had on Tuesday written to Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna and the government has assured him all assistance in rescue and relief operations.

Gandhi, who had also spoken to Shinde and Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, has sought “timely and prompt” relief measures in the two states. — PTIBack








Yamuna in spate, crosses danger mark in Delhi

NEW DLEHI: The muddy, swirling waters of the Yamuna River were flowing over the danger mark on Wednesday, leading to the closure of the city's 145-year-old railway bridge, and forced the evacuation of 2,000 families living along the river banks.

The landmark double-decker rail-cum-road bridge, built in 1868 and connecting sprawling Capital city to its eastern part, has been closed for vehicular traffic, an official said on Wednesday.

"The railway bridge will remain closed till the water level recedes to the safe level of 204 metres," Delhi Chief Secretary D.M. Sopli said.

The danger mark for the Yamuna river stands at 204.83 metres in the city, while at present the river is flowing at 206.48 metres.

The water level has been rising in the Yamuna due to the release of 8.06 lakh cusecs of water from the Hathinikund barrage in Haryana on Monday, and an additional 3.38 cusecs on Tuesday morning.

"Around 2,000 families have already been evacuated from the area around the river and will be allowed to go back only after the monsoon recedes," said Sopli.

As the city is not witnessing heavy rains, authorities are hopeful that no major flood situation would arise in New Delhi.

"We are prepared to tackle any flood situation. The disaster control room has also started monitoring the situation and disseminating information regarding the water level in Yamuna through SMS," a Delhi government official said.

While 62 boats have been deployed for rescue operations, district magistrates have been directed to identify more low-lying areas in view of unprecedented rise in the water level. — IANSBack









SC agrees to hear PIL on US Internet surveillance

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to give an urgent hearing to a PIL on the issue of US National Security Agency snooping on the Internet data from India and seeking to initiate action against internet companies for allowing the agency to access the information.

Agreeing to hear the PIL filed by a former Dean of Law Faculty of Delhi University, Professor SN Singh, a Bench of justices AK Patnaik and Ranjan Gogoi posted the case for hearing next week.

In his plea, Singh has alleged that such largescale spying by the US authorities is detrimental to national security and urged the apex court to intervene in the matter.

He has claimed that Internet companies are sharing information with the foreign authority in "breach" of contract and violation of right to privacy.

"As per reports, nine US-based Internet companies operating in India through agreements signed with Indian users, shared 6.3 billion information/data with the National Security Agency of the US without express consent of Indian users. Such large-scale spying by the US authorities, besides being against the privacy norms, is also detrimental to national security," the petition, filed through advocate Virag Gupta, has said.

Singh has submitted that it is a breach of national security as government's official communications have come under US surveillance as services of private Internet firms are being used by them.

He has sought directions to the Centre to "take urgent steps to safeguard the government's sensitive internet communications" which are being kept outside India in US servers and are "unlawfully intruded upon by US Intelligence Agencies through US-based Internet companies under secret surveillance program called PRISM".

In his petition, Singh has also sought directions restraining the government and its officials from using US-based internet companies for official communication and that all such companies, which are doing business in India, must establish their servers here so that they can be regulated as per Indian laws.

"Sovereignty of nation is at stake because no penal action is being taken by the respondent (Centre) against the culprit Internet companies," he said in his petition.

He has also referred to a report by James R. Clapper, director of National Intelligence of the US, who had confirmed surveillance and acquisition of intelligence information of non-US citizens located outside the US as per the provisions of Section 702 of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act(FISA).

The Centre had earlier on June 11 expressed surprise and concern over the snooping and said it will seek information and details from the US over reports that India was the fifth most-tracked country by the American intelligence, which used a secret data-mining programme to monitor worldwide Internet data. — PTIBack








EU fines Ranbaxy, others for blocking cheaper drugs

BRUSSELS: European Union (EU) antitrust regulators fined nine drugmakers a total of 146 million euros on Wednesday for blocking the supply of cheaper medicines on the market, with a penalty of 94 million euros imposed on Denmark's Lundbeck.

The punishments follow a 2009 report by the European Commission on the pharmaceutical sector, which said "pay-for-delay" deals lead to consumers paying as much as 20 per cent more for their medicines.

The European Commission, which acts as competition regulator across the 27-member European Union, imposed a 21.4 million euro fine on Germany's Merck KGaA and another 7.77 million euros on it jointly with former subsidiary Generics UK, which is now owned by US generic drugmaker Mylan.

The other penalised companies were Arrow, Resolution Chemicals, Xellia Pharmaceuticals, Alpharma - which is now part of Zoetis Products LLC, A.L. Industrier and India's No. 1 pharmaceutical company Ranbaxy.

Reuters flagged the EU fines on June 3.

"Agreements of this type directly harm patients and national health systems, which are already under tight budgetary constraints," EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said in a statement.

"The Commission will not tolerate such anticompetitive practices." — ReutersBack










Pakistan violates ceasefire after infiltration bid foiled

POONCH (J&K): Pakistani troops on Wednesday violated ceasefire and indulged in indiscriminate firing along the Line of Control (LOC) in Poonch sector after an infiltration bid was foiled by Indian troops.

A group of four armed persons from Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) were seen moving towards an Indian forward post in Krishna Ghati sector in Poonch district around 9.50 am, PRO defence, S.N. Acharya, said.

Alert Indian troops took position and opened fire on the infiltrators, pushing them back towards PoK, Acharya said.

As the infiltration bid was foiled, Pakistani troops indulged in heavy firing on Indian posts in Mandi, Krishna Ghati and Chakan-Da-Bagh in Poonch sector.

Sher Shakti, PP1 and PP2 in Mandi sector, Kripan and Kranti posts in Krishna Ghati sector and Bahadur, Rekha and Neck posts in Poonch sector also came under firing, he said.

They fired small arms and 82 mm mortars on Indian posts and Indian troops also retaliated, resulting in exchanges.

The exchanges are on, he said, adding that there was no casualty or injury to any person on Indian side.

This is the third ceasefire violation in June this year and fifth in past nearly one month. — PTIBack




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