A T E S T N E W S
New agency to revive
DEHRADUN: Announcing measures for the revival of Uttarakhand after devastating floods and landslides in June,
Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna on Monday said a new agency would be created for the task.
"An Uttarakhand rehabilitation and reconstruction authority will be established to decide planning and development of the state," Bahuguna said addressing a press conference here.
He said the government would be providing free rations to all those affected by the flood and villages which have been cut-off due to roads being washed away will receive supplies for a month.
He also thanked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi for "staying in touch with us and promising all assistance from the Centre". — IANS
Efforts on to evacuate 900 people from Badrinath
DEHRADUN: Last ditch efforts were on Monday on to evacuate about 900 people from Badrinath amid overcast conditions at some places in Uttarakhand, where authorities were grappling with the task of extricating bodies from under tonnes of debris lying in Kedarghati and their cremation.
Despite bad weather at places, including Dehradun, chopper operations began on Monday morning in Chamoli district to evacuate about 300 pilgrims and 600 locals from Badrinath shrine to Joshimath from where they will be brought further down by road.
According to latest official figures, approximately 3,000 persons have been reported missing after the tragedy.
The chief secretaries of the states concerned have been asked to verify the list and if the lost people are not traced in a month they will be declared dead.
On the 16th day of the calamity on Monday, only 36 bodies have been disposed of amid necessary rituals so far in the worst-hit Kedarnath shrine area with no cremation having taken place there over the past two days, officials said.
The state government has sent a 200-member team of medical experts, trained police personnel and support staff from the municipal corporation to the valley to perform the onerous task of extricating the bodies and their ritual cremation.
Some of the medical experts, who had been sent to Kedarnath to take the DNA samples of the bodies there, have returned after falling sick.
With human bodies lying all over the area, the air is thick with a foul smell making it difficult for those sent to clear the debris stay there for long.
"The frequently changing weather with intermittent rains is another
hurdle. We are going about the cremation process slowly," DIG Sanjay Gunjyal, who is supervising the exercise, said.
Despite the odds being faced by the administration in transporting relief material to affected people with around 50 per cent of the roads still damaged, free of cost foodgrains and other essential commodities are being provided to the affected villages cut-off from the roads in helicopters, said an official statement.
Kerosene is also being made available to the people of affected areas on subsidised rates.
Out of the 4,200 cut-off of villages or habitations, 2865 have been restored so far, it said. — PTI
Congress, BJP in war of words over Uttarakhand disaster
New Delhi/Dehradun: The Congress and
BJP were embroiled in a bitter war of words today over Uttarakhand disaster with the saffron party demanding the dismissal of the Vijay Bahuguna government for “inept” handling of the crisis prompting an angry response.
As the rival parties were locked in a wordy duel on Twitter, BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha respectively, charged the Uttarakhand government with failing to effectively handle the tragedy caused by floods and landslides in rain fury a fortnight ago.
“I am sorry to say that the government in Uttarakhand has not been able to rise to the occasion. They ought to be dismissed for being inept and incompetent,” Swaraj said on the micro-blogging site.
Swaraj made the demand even as Information and Broadcasting minister Manish Tewari hit out at Jaitley and her, saying they had time to criticise government proposals but no time to visit calamity-struck Uttarakhand.
“H’onble Leaders of Opposition have mindspace to critique govt proposals on CBI autonomy that are yet to be placed before SC but no time to visit Uttarakhand,”
Tewari said on Twitter. Jaitley, who said the Uttarakhand government had failed to respond to the situation, had also dubbed as a farce the Cabinet’s recommendation on CBI autonomy.
Swaraj in her response noted that the BJP leaders did not visit the flood-affected state as Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde had said that “nobody including himself was allowed to land anywhere.”
AICC general secretary Ambika Soni also hit back at BJP saying she was saddened at Swaraj’s demand.
“I am sad that an Opposition leader, who is a contender for PM’s post, has given a statement that the Uttarakhand government should be dismissed. I am very sad about it,” Soni told reporters in Dehradun.
The new head of the Communications Department for the Congress Ajay Maken posted a series of tweets taking potshots at the BJP over the Uttarakhand issue.
“Instead of helping in relief works in U’khand, don’t try to use this calamity as a Political Opportunity!
“Pyre of many Victims of this Natural Calamity still warm. First BJP tried to take credit of evacuating 15000 in a day,” was another tweet of Maken in a jibe at Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi over claims he flew to Uttarakhand and helped rescue 15,000 Gujaratis in a day. — PTI
Narendra Modi a very divisive
NEW DELHI: Dubbing Narendra Modi as a "very divisive figure", Finance
Minister P. Chidambaram on Monday said the BJP has "not changed its spots" and people will reject the party in the next Lok Sabha elections as it represents an idea which is against secularism and inclusiveness.
He accused the BJP of raking up divisive issues like Uniform Civil Code, Ayodhya and abrogation of Article 370 and people will reflect upon all these issues while voting.
Refusing to get into a discussion whether Modi as BJP's prime ministerial candidate would be good or bad for Congress, he said his party was not fighting any individual but an idea represented by BJP which was rejected in 2004 and 2009.
He mocked at the elevation of Modi as election campaign committee chief, saying he was such a divisive person that there is a "lot of rebellion" within his party, starting from the top, apparently referring to the resignation by L. K. Advani.
"We think Modi is a very divisive figure, which is why there is a lot of rebellion within his party. For the first time I have seen there is a rebellion starting at the very top," Chidambaram said.
"I think there are large sections of people in the country who will be very apprehensive of voting for the BJP if Modi is their candidate. But that is the choice they have to make. But once they make their choice, the people will make their choice," the senior Congress leader added.
He was responding to a question whether Modi as BJP's prime ministerial candidate would be good for the Congress.
"I think this is not a valid argument. Who will be the BJP's candidate is their concern. Who will the people vote for is our concern, is everybody's concern," he said.
Chidambaram stressed that Congress was "not fighting against a candidate" but is pitted against other parties in terms of what its idea of India is.
"Our idea of India is an India that is secular that believes in inclusive growth. An India that does not leave behind any section, especially the more disadvantageous sections.
"The BJP's idea of India is a very different idea of India and that was roundly defeated in 2004 and 2009. In 2004, it was defeated even when they were led by the formidable Vajpayee. They didn't accept the fact that the six years he had given a kind of governance which deserved another term. They rejected it," he said.
In an apparent dig at Advani, Chidambaram said in 2009, people of the country rejected "someone who was presented as a strong leader as against someone who was painted falsely as a weak leader. The people once again rejected their idea of India."
Attacking BJP's policies, he said, "I don't think they are reflecting on what the idea of India should be. They are persisting with the old idea of India, which was rejected in 2004, which was rejected in 2009 and I'm sure if they repeat that idea of India and in an even more distorted manner, under an even more divisive leader, it will once be defeated again in 2014."
Asked if Congress was afraid of facing a "stronger" leader in the form of Modi, Chidambaram said, "I don't know who is stronger or who's weaker. We had a 'loh purush' (iron man) in 2009, but we got 61 more seats. They got fewer seats than they had previously."
The comment was yet another dig at Advani who was showcased by BJP as a "strong man" pitted against "weak" Manmohan Singh.
"Stronger or weaker are all part of the myth-making and I'm afraid the media is becoming drawn into this myth-making," he said.
"The BJP, if it sticks to its idea of India which was rejected in 2004 and 2009, thinks it poses a challenge, but let me remind you that that idea of India was rejected twice in 2004 and 2009," he added.
Hitting out at BJP, he said its president was "mocking at secularism" by calling it 'secularitis', a disease. "It shows that they have no faith in secularism."
He also referred to Advani's recent statement, calling for repeal of Article 370 (which grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir) and talking about Uniform Civil Code.
"Some other BJP leaders say demolition of Babri Masjid was right and temple should be built at that place," he said, adding "It means BJP has not changed its spots. You think people of India will not reflect on all this?
He emphasised that howsoever "noisy and loud our democracy may be, it must be secular and genuinely, deeply and unwavering to inclusive growth."
Conceding that there could be problems in the UPA government, he said, "Nobody is denying that. There will be successes and failures but ultimately people vote for... ultimately people vote not according to their immediate interests but in the interest of future of their children and grand children, to preserve the idea of India." — PTI
Pak intruder killed in IED blast near LoC
JAMMU: An alleged Pakistani intruder was on Monday killed when an IED he was carrying exploded during an encounter with security forces along the Line of Control in Poonch district of Jammu and Kashmir.
There was a movement of an intruder from across the LoC in Sabzian forward area in Poonch district around
4.30 am, defence spokesman said in Jammu.
The troops opened fire on the intruder as he was approaching a forward Indian post (Nallah), he said.
Due to firing, the IED being carried by the intruder exploded, killing him on the spot, the spokesman said.
Search operation was carried in the forest area in LoC and the badly mutilated body of the intruder was recovered and infiltration bid foiled, he said.
When asked whether he was carrying out an attack on the forward post along LoC, the spokesman refused to comment.
However, sources said it was an attack with IED on the forward post.
On June 26, Army troops had foiled an infiltration bid along the LoC in Rajouri district of the state.
General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Northern Command, Lt General K T Parnaik, who retired on Sunday, had on June 17 raised concern over the presence of terrorists at the high altitude belt of Sabzian along LoC in Poonch.
Nine suspected Pakistan Army Border Action Team men had allegedly intercepted BSF porters in Sabzian belt on May 14 and snatched supplies from them after an attack. — PTI
Suresh Kalmadi ousted as Asian Athletics Association chief
PUNE: Scam-tainted Suresh Kalmadi was on Monday ousted as the President of the Asian Athletics Association after he lost his re-election bid to Qatar's powerful rival Dahlan Jumaan Al-Hamad in a tight contest, bringing an end to the veteran administrator's 13-year reign at the helm.
Kalmadi, who was jailed and later released on bail for his alleged role in the Commonwealth Games scam, lost 18-20 in the presidential elections held on the second and final day of the AAA Congress at a five-star hotel.
All the 45 member countries of the AAA voted through secret ballot in the presence of international parent body IAAF chief Lamine Diack. There were seven invalid votes. Each country has one vote in the election.
Kalmadi, a former Indian Olympic Association President, will, however, continue as a member of the IAAF Council till 2015 but will no longer be an area representative from the continental body.
Today's defeat also marked the end of 69-year-old Congress MP's career as a sports administrator as he has already quit from any such post in the country last year after he was charge-sheeted and jailed for his alleged role in the CWG scandal.
The electoral reverse has now led to speculation on whether he would now announce retirement from sports administration since he no longer has any posts.
He will though automatically become a life president of the AAA, an honorary post given to all past presidents, and can attend the Congress of the continental body without any voting rights.
Qatar Athletics Federation President Al Hamad, who is also the incumbent senior vice-president of the AAA as well as the IAAF, will hold office for just two years instead of four.
An AAA source said that the term of its president was curtailed so that it runs concurrently with that of the IAAF chief and it will revert to four years from 2015 onwards.
"There are a lot of opportunities in Asia which we still do not utilise. I see the opportunity is there, but we are not trying to bring that opportunity through constructive planning. We lack in marketing side," Al Hamad had said.
"The IAAF has many Asian sponsors. But AAA is not sponsored by anybody. And why? Because we are not prepared. We don't have that final product to present. That's why we have to have it.
"And I believe that business people don't come to you unless you are really prepared and you have the right product for them. So we need to have the right product for them, the right programme, the right staff, and then businesses come."
The Kalmadi camp said he had done a lot for the growth of athletics in the last 13 years by increasing the number of competition.
"Before 2000, there were just two competitions — Asian Junior and Asian Senior Championships. Now we have so many other competitions
— Asian Grand Prix Series, Asian All Star, Asian Marathon, Asian Walk Championships. So he has done a lot for Asian Athletics," an official from the Kalmadi camp had said. — PTI