L A T E S T      N E W S

VVIP chopper deal with AgustaWestland scrapped

NEW DELHI: India on Wednesday cancelled its Rs 3,600 crore deal with Anglo-Italian firm AgustaWestland for supply of 12 VVIP choppers to the Air Force in view of charges that kickbacks to the tune of Rs 360 crore were paid in it.

The decision to scrap the 2010 deal was taken more than a year after reports surfaced that two top officials of the company had allegedly paid bribes to bag the contract. Former IAF chief S.P. Tyagi is one of the accused in the case, which is being probed by CBI.

The cancellation came after a meeting between Defence Minister A.K. Antony with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here earlier in the day, Defence Ministry sources told PTI.

The deal was for supply of 12 helicopters for VVIPs and out of these AgustaWestland has already delivered three.

India has now decided to go in for arbitration with the Anglo-Italian firm, Defence Ministry sources said here. — PTIBack









Kolkata gangrape victim's father alleges cops
asked him to leave Bengal

KOLKATA: The father of the 16-year-old gangrape victim, who died in a city hospital after attempting suicide, on Wednesday alleged that the Kolkata Police asked him to leave the state and return to Bihar with his daughter's body.

"The police officials last night threatened me and asked me to leave the state and return to Bihar with the body. The police officials and some local toughs also threatened that if I did not they would stop me from driving my taxi," said the victim's father, who is a taxi driver.

There was a tussle between the Left parties and Kolkata Police on Tuesday night over the cremation of the body of the girl, who died in a city hospital on Tuesday due to injuries sustained when attempting to set herself on fire at her home on December 23.

The Left leadership will meet Governor M.K. Narayanan during the day over the issue and submit a deputation, party sources said.

The girl's father, who is close to the CITU, said it was decided by the family and the trade union that the body would be kept in Peace Haven mortuary in the city and a condolence rally would be taken out during the day.

But the body was taken away forcefully by the police for cremation while being taken to the mortuary late on Tuesday night without the family's consent, the girl's father and CITU sources said.

"The police took away the body forcefully and tried to cremate it at Nimatala Ghat crematorium but could not as the death certificate was with the girl's father. After the news spread we too rushed to the crematorium and protested forcing the police to retreat," CPM state secretariat member Rabin Deb said.

"The police gave the excuse that the condolence rally with the body cannot be allowed as there is dearth of policemen due to New Year celebrations," he alleged.

Rubbishing the allegations joint commissioner of police (HQ) Rajeev Mishra said, "It is a totally false allegation. Whatever was done was done in consultation with the Bidhahnagar Police, under whose jurisdiction the girl's house falls, and the family members. We did not forcefully take away any body."

Deputy Commissioner of Bidhannagar Police (Detective Department) Arnab Ghosh said, "The incident happened in the jurisdiction of the Kolkata Police, so we can't comment on it."

The body is presently in the custody of the family and CITU, which has decided to go ahead with the condolence rally in the city this afternoon.

The girl's family has also alleged negligence by R. G. Kar Medical College Hospital, where she had been admitted.

Ruling Trinamool Congress has accused the Left Front of launching a "false propaganda" against the state government.

"The CPM is alienated from the people and they are desperately trying to launch a wrong propaganda against the government over this (gang rape) issue. But the people will not accept this," TMC general secretary Mukul Roy said.

He said the girl's death was a sad incident and the administration did whatever was necessary to bring the culprits to book. "The accused are in jail and a charge sheet has been filed against them."

Doctors at the hospital said the girl was admitted with nearly 80 per cent burns and damaged lungs and she died at around 2 pm on Tuesday.

The girl had been-gang raped at Madhyamgram in the northern fringes of the city.

She was first gang-raped on October 25 and found lying in a field near her house. She was forcibly taken away by the same gang and raped and brutalised when she was returning home with her parents after lodging a complaint at the local police station.

The severely injured girl was later found lying unconscious near the railway track at Madhyamgram the same day.

Her family had changed residence from Madhyamgram to Dum Dum in the city after the brutal incident.

Six people were arrested after local residents demanded immediate action against the gang, but the victim's family members alleged that on December 23, a close associate of the gang leader Chottu had visited their Dum Dum residence and threatened them with dire consequences if the girl did not withdraw her complaint.

She attempted suicide the same day. — PTIBack








Application for transfer of Devyani to UN still under review: US

WASHINGTON: The US is still reviewing the application for the transfer of senior Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade to the United Nations (UN) and issue the necessary documents for full diplomatic immunity, a top official said here, giving no timeline for its decision.

"It is under review. We cannot predict when that review will be complete," said a State Department spokesperson on Tuesday in response to a question on the status of the UN request to grant full diplomatic status to Khobragade.

The State Department had received her application from the United Nations in New York on December 20. Normally, the State Department takes a decision on this very quickly, but this time the US is taking an unusually long time.

"We cannot compare this to previous requests as each request is evaluated on its own merits," the spokesperson said.

Khobragade was arrested on December 12 on charges of visa fraud and misrepresentation. At the time of her arrest, she was Deputy Consul General at the Indian Consulate in New York.

The US says, in this capacity, she did not had full diplomatic immunity.

Days after her arrest, the Indian government has transferred Khobragade to the permanent mission of India to the UN, with the view that this would give her the necessary diplomatic immunity from arrest.

India has strongly objected to her arrest, and in protest has withdrawn many of the diplomatic privileges granted to the American diplomats in India.

As one enters the New Year, the Indian diplomat continues to remain in the US without diplomatic immunity. She is currently on bail bond of $250,000 and her passport is in possession of the court. — PTIBack










Cong MP Nirupam demands reduction in power tariff in Mumbai

MUMBAI: Taking a cue from Delhi government's decision of 50 per cent cut in power tariff, AICC secretary and MP Sanjay Nirupam on Wednesday demanded that the Maharashtra government also reduce tariff for power consumption of less than 500 units per month in the city.

In a letter to Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, the Mumbai North Lok Sabha MP said power tariff should be substantially reduced for those whose consumption is less than 500 units per month.

He said if the legitimate expectation of the entire middle class and slum population is not met in the immediate future, he will launch an agitation against the government.

Nirupam also demanded that an inquiry be set up to investigate the cost structure and pricing mechanism adopted by power distribution companies.

He said the Delhi government's decision will benefit the middle class and slum dwellers.

"The Delhi government has simultaneously ordered a CAG audit of the power distribution companies but has gone ahead and reduced the tariff even before any audit has commenced.

"The Regulatory Authority in Delhi was not even consulted, while whenever we raised this issue in Mumbai the standard reply given was that the matter has been referred to the regulator," he wrote.

"In the past 10 years, the power tariff in Mumbai has increased by around 4 times in all sectors. The possibility that some sort of cartelisation exists cannot be ruled out since the companies supplying power have been increasing the tariff from time to time under one pretext or the other.

"The situation in Mumbai is similar to that of Delhi where the very same power distribution companies supply power," he said.

In the past, whenever the government has responded to public demand for reduction in power tariff, the benefit of the subsidy announced has accrued only to the power companies, Nirupam said, adding that the subsidy, if any, should be passed on directly to the consumers. — PTIBack









Delhi: Tata Power welcomes 50 pc power subsidy move

NEW DELHI: Tata Power on Wednesday welcomed the Delhi government's announcement of providing 50% subsidy on power consumption up to 400 units, saying it was a "good move" which will provide relief to majority of the consumers in the city.

"It is a good move from the point of view of consumers. It will provide them relief. I welcome the decision by the government," Tata Power Delhi Distribution Ltd (TPDDL) CEO Pravir Sinha said.

Delivering on yet another poll promise, the Aam Aadmi Party government yesterday announced a 50% subsidy on power consumption upto 400 units in Delhi, which will benefit around 28 lakh of the total 35 lakh consumers in the city.

When asked about the government's move to order CAG scrutiny of the finances of the three private power distribution companies, Sinha chose not to comment but said TPDDL would comply with the law.

He, however, said TPDDL was responding to government's directive of making their stand clear on the CAG scrutiny of the companies.

"If the law of the land demands that (the CAG audit), we will definitely comply with the directive. We will comply with all the statutory and administrative laws and regulations," Sinha said.

TPDDL supplies power to 13 lakh consumers in North and North West parts of Delhi. The other two companies — BSES Yamuna Power Ltd and BSES Rajdhani Power Ltd — supply power in rest of the areas in the city except areas under jurisdiction of New Delhi Municipal Corporation.

Asked whether the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission will be under pressure not to hike electricity rates even if power purchase cost by distribution companies goes up due to rise in cost of fuel such as coal and gas, Sinha said the regulatory commission is "very independent" and it will take correct decisions.

The DERC is likely to begin this month the tariff revision process for the year 2014-15. — PTIBack










Schumacher shows signs of improvement after second surgery 

Grenoble (France): Michael Schumacher underwent a second surgery after a brain scan showed small, "surprising" signs of improvement, but grim doctors said Tuesday they could offer no insight into the prognosis for the Formula One champion.

Schumacher, who turns 45 on Friday, suffered critical head injuries when he fell and struck a rock on Sunday while skiing on a family vacation in the French Alps. His manager confirmed that the accident cracked his helmet, which doctors credited for giving him a chance at survival.

Schumacher's condition stabilised somewhat after the second surgery, but he remains in a medically induced coma — and doctors gave no prediction on how long that would last.

"We cannot tell you any more about the future," said Gerard Saillant, a surgeon and friend of the family who is in Grenoble. Saillant said it would be "stupid" to make any predictions about Schumacher's recovery.

Schumacher and his 14-year-old son were skiing in the French Alpine resort of Meribel, where the family has a chalet, when he fell and hit the right side of his head on a rock. He was taken first to a local hospital, then to Grenoble University Hospital, which is recognised as having one of France's best neurology teams.

Dr Emmanuel Gay, the hospital's chief neurosurgeon, said a brain scan performed late Monday showed bruising "a little bit everywhere" in Schumacher's brain — but also an unexpected easing of pressure.

"The brain scan was, I must say, surprising," he said.

But Gay and other doctors cautioned that Schumacher's condition was still grave after the successful two-hour surgery to eliminate the largest and most accessible bruise, on the left side of his brain.

"We cannot say he is out of danger," said Dr Jean-Francois Payen, head of the hospital's intensive care unit. Payen said any neurological evaluation was "out of the question" for now.

Payen told BFM-TV on Monday that medical literature puts the recovery rate at 40 to 45 percent of patients. "I don't work with statistics. I work with patients," he was quoted as saying.

Schumacher was being kept artificially sedated and his body temperature was lowered to between 34 and 35 degrees Celsius (93.2 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit), to reduce swelling in the brain, reduce its energy consumption and allow it to rest.

Schumacher earned universal acclaim for his uncommon and sometimes ruthless driving talent, which led to a record 91 race wins. He retired from Formula One last year after garnering an unmatched seven world titles.

Schumi, as his fans affectionately call him, was famously aggressive on the track and no less intense off-hours. In retirement, he remained an avid skier, skydiver and horseback rider.

Sabine Kehm, Schumacher's manager, offered more details on the accident, confirming that his helmet cracked on impact.

"It looks like probably that initiating a corner, he was hitting a stone which he had not seen and was catapulted down on a rock," Kehm said in English. "That is extremely and very unfortunate ... really very, very bad luck. Michael was not at high speed."

Visitors to the hospital Tuesday included two close friends of Schumacher's from his time at Ferrari, where he won five of his record seven F1 titles from 2000-04.

Jean Todt, then manager of the storied Italian team and now president of motor racing's governing body, and Italian test driver Luca Badoer both declined to speak with media. — AP Back










Musharraf fails to appear before court

ISLAMABAD: Embattled former Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharraf on Wednesday failed to appear before a special court to face trial in a high treason case, with his legal team seeking exemption for his appearance and also adjournment of the hearing for five weeks.

Musharraf was supposed to appear before the court to face treason charges for suspending, subverting and abrogating the Constitution, imposing an emergency in the country in November 2007 and detaining judges of the superior courts.

70-year-old Musharraf’s lawyers on Wednesday submitted an application to exempt him from appearing before the court and to adjourn the case for a period of five weeks.

The application said that Musharraf had called for the November 3, 2007, emergency in his capacity as the country’s military chief and he could only be tried by a military court in that respect.

If convicted, the former President could face life imprisonment or the death penalty.

This is the first time in Pakistan’s history that a former military ruler is facing trial for treason.

Meanwhile, reports said one kg of explosives was found from the Musharraf’s route this morning which was later defused by a bomb disposal squad.

Earlier, five packets of explosives were found near Musharraf’s Chak Shahzad farmhouse here on December 30.

On December 24, a 5-kg bomb was also recovered from Musharraf’s route to the special court after which the court had postponed the hearing for Wednesday.

Musharraf’s lawyer had then said security threats had prevented him from appearing before the court.

His trial is taking place at the National Library here which is the heavily secured Red Zone here that houses all important institutions like the Prime Minister’s House, Supreme Court and the Diplomatic Enclave. — PTIBack










New Zealand’s Corey Anderson hits fastest-ever ODI century

QUEENSTOWN (New Zealand): New Zealand’s Corey Anderson clubbed the fastest century in the history of one-day international cricket from 36 balls as the hosts reached 283-4 from only 21 overs in Wednesday’s rain-shortened third one—dayer against the West Indies.

The young allrounder hit 12 sixes and four fours in his 100, beating, by one delivery, the 37-ball record of Pakistan’s Shahid Afridi against Sri Lanka which has stood for almost 18 years.

Anderson finished on 131 not out from 47 balls, as New Zealand scored at an extraordinary 13 runs per over.

Captain Brendon McCullum set the momentum of the New Zealand innings when he smashed 33 from 11 balls, coming in following the dismissal of opener Martin Guptill for 1 after the home team was sent in to bat.

McCullum plundered 24 runs from his first five balls, and Ryder joined in, hitting consecutive sixes from Jason Holder as the pair raced to a 50-run partnership from 18 deliveries.

Ryder took over when McCullum was out caught in the deep, and dashed to his half century in 24 balls with four fours and four sixes.

Ryder, who was for a duck in his comeback game at the start of this series, was back to his most belligerent form on Wednesday, but was overshadowed by Anderson who played one of the most remarkable innings in the history of one-day cricket.

Anderson reached 50 from only 30 balls, with two fours and six sixes and after hitting four consecutive sixes from the bowling on of Sunil Narine. He then repeated the feat and hit four sixes in an over from Rampaul whose three overs conceded 64 runs.

Anderson was 95 not out after 35 balls, needing a six off the next ball to break Afridi’s record. Though unaware of the beckoning record, he swatted the next ball from spinner Nikita Miller out of the ground to break the world record.

Ryder reached his century from 46 balls and was out five balls from the end of the New Zealand innings for 104, which included five sixes and 12 fours. — APBack




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