L A T E S T      N E W S

Modi has staged 'fake encounter' with facts: Chidambaram

SIVAGANGA: Finance Minister P. Chidambaram on Sunday hit back at Narendra Modi for his "recount" dig at him, saying the Gujarat Chief Minister has once again staged a "fake encounter" with facts on the issue and that there was never a recount in the 2009 Lok Sabha election in his constituency here.

In a statement here, he said Modi has once again staged a "fake encounter" with facts at his public meeting near Chennai on Sunday night when he referred to him as "recount minister".

"The fact is that in the 2009 election from Sivaganga parliamentary constituency the votes were counted only once. There was no recount. In fact, the complaint of the defeated candidate is that his belated request for recount was rejected by the returning office.

"Everybody (except Mr Modi) knows this fact. I am sure he will stage more fake encounters with facts and entertain people," Chidambaram said.

His repeated reference to "fake encounter" is an apparent taunt at the various alleged fake encounters in Gujarat in Modi's tenure to eliminate suspected terrorists and the controversies that stemmed from there.

The minister plans to issue a detailed statement tomorrow with facts and figures on Modi's criticism about him on the handling of the economy and the current situation. — PTI Back











Italy slams India’s move to invoke anti-piracy law on marines

ROME: Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino has said India’s move to try two Italian marines accused of killing two Indian fisherman under an anti-piracy Act has left her “dumbfounded and outraged”, saying Rome will challenge it in the “strongest terms.”

“Certain indications that come from New Delhi about the legal proceedings against our marines leave me dumbfounded and outraged,” Bonino said.

“Our commitment to bring home Massimiliano Lattore and Salvatore Girone is stronger than ever,” she was quoted as saying in the Italian media.

Her remarks came in the backdrop of the Home Ministry giving sanction to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to prosecute the Italian marines under the new provision of the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against safety of Maritime Navigation and Fixed Platforms on Continental Shelf Act (SUA).

SUA carries the death sentences. But India last week spared them from the possibility of getting death penalty by asking NIA to dilute the charges against them from murder to violence.

“An eventual request for the SUA Act to be invoked on the two marines, if it should be confirmed, will be challenged in court by the Italian defence in the strongest terms,” Agenzia Giornalistica Italia news agency quoted Bonino as saying.

Bonino’s remarks came ahead of Monday’s hearing of the case by the Supreme Court, which asked Indian authorities to resolve all disputes arising out of the issue of invoking an anti-piracy law against marines.

Earlier, using strong words she had said the two Italian marines facing trial are “neither terrorists nor pirates”.

The marines, who were on board Italian vessel ‘Enrica Lexie’ and are now lodged in New Delhi’s Italian Embassy premises, allegedly shot dead the two fishermen on February 15, 2012 off Kerala coast.

The marines, deployed on the Italian-flagged oil tanker MT Enrica Lexie, have said they mistook the fishermen for pirates. They are now staying in the Italian Embassy in New Delhi awaiting trial.

Rome wants the marines to be tried in Italy, claiming the incident took place in international waters. However, New Delhi said it has the right to try the Italian personnel as the victims were Indians on board an Indian fishing boat.

The case has strained ties between the two countries. — PTIBack











2 CRPF officials killed in Maoist attack 

RAIPUR: Two CRPF officials, including a Deputy Commandant, were killed and 12 security personnel were injured in a landmine blast triggered by Maoists in Sukma district of Chhattisgarh on Sunday.

The incident took place on Sunday morning in a forest near Bodhrajpadar village under Bhejji police station limits, Sukma Additional Superintendent of Police Neeraj Chandrakar said.

Constable Rajiv Rawat, belonging to the 219 Battalion of CRPF, and one of the two Deputy Commandants in the operational units have been killed. The identity of the Deputy Commandant is yet to be announced.

“Two of our personnel, including a Deputy Commandant-level officer, have been killed. The entire operation was being led by senior officers,” CRPF Inspector General (Operations) H.S. Sidhu told PTI.

Twelve security personnel, including a CRPF Deputy Commandant, seven other officials of the force and four state policemen, have been injured in the incident, he added.

The evacuation process is on and two helicopters have been sent to retrieve the injured jawans, Mr. Chandrakar said.

A joint squad of the CRPF, its specialised unit Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (COBRA) and the district police personnel was engaged in an anti-Maoist operation for the past few days in the region, which is about 500 km from Raipur.

Maoists triggered a landmine blast and opened fire on the security personnel, Chandrakar said.

Maoists retreated as the security personnel retaliated and began to encircle them. — PTIBack











Curfew-like restrictions in Valley

SRINAGAR: Curfew-like restrictions were imposed today in most parts of Kashmir Valley to foil separatists' plans to hold protests to observe the first death anniversary of Parliament-attack convict Mohd Afzal Guru.

Barring Handwara in north Kashmir, all major towns in the Valley have been put under security restrictions with heavy deployment of CRPF and police personnel aimed at thwarting any protests, official sources said.

Section 144 of CrPC, which bans assembly of four or more persons, has been imposed in several districts, including Srinagar, sources said, adding that the situation has so far been peaceful with there being no reports of any untoward incidents in the Valley.

Mobile Internet services, too, were snapped in the Valley today as part of the precautionary measures.

Internet services on mobile phones and plug-in devices were suspended early this morning, although broadband connections through landline phones were functioning as usual.

There was no official explanation for the move, but sources said the services may have been temporarily withdrawn to prevent their use for the spreading of "rumours".

Guru was hanged and buried inside Delhi's Tihar jail on February 9 of last year. Separatists have issued a call for a three-day shutdown till February 11, which date marks the death anniversary of JKLF founder Mohd Maqbool Bhat.

Bhat was hanged and buried inside Tihar Jail 20 years ago.

Soon after daybreak, police vehicles fitted with public address systems made announcements across the Valley about the imposition of restrictions in vulnerable areas, sources added.

Authorities have detained several top separatist leaders ahead of Guru's death anniversary.

Hardline Hurriyat Conference leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who returned home to the Valley yesterday from Delhi, was put under house arrest soon after his arrival here.

JKLF chairman Mohd Yasin Malik, who had announced that he would hold a protest at the historic Lal Chowk today, has gone underground to avoid being taken into preventive custody.

All roads leading to Lal Chowk have been sealed and the public is not being allowed to proceed towards the area. — PTIBack











Rahul Gandhi hits back at Odisha CM

Salipur (Odisha): Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi today hit back at Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik for calling the national party "corrupt", saying it is BJD which is responsible for a series of scams in the state.

"The funds given to Odisha for welfare schemes do not reach beneficiaries. Most of the money is being misappropriated mid way," Gandhi said during a Congress rally at Bhatapada village near Salipur town in Cuttack district.

"There has been massive loot of iron ore and manganese from the state. A handful of people have been benefited from the mining loot while people are suffering here," he said.

Patnaik had termed Congress as "corrupt" and BJP as "communal" during a programme held to celebrate the foundation day of his party on December 26 last year.

"Your money earned from coal, iron ore, manganese and different minerals are going to others' pockets, while the state government is unable to run schools and hospitals. About 3,500 farmers have committed suicide in Odisha and above 10 lakh youths could not be given employment," he said and urged the people to "oust the BJD government to ensure a speedy development of the state".

Referring to the Rangarajan Committee report, Rahul Gandhi said Odisha tops the list of undeveloped states in the country though it has rich reserves of minerals and a long coastline.

"While Odisha is amir (rich), its people are garib (poor)," he said, adding Centre's funds to the state were being diverted and misappropriated.

Attacking BJD over frequent complaints of "Central negligence", he claimed the UPA government at the Centre had provided maximum funds for the state's development.

"No previous government had ever given such a huge amount of money for the state. I am told Rs 5,000 crore is still lying unspent here," he said. — PTIBack











If discoms violate terms, then they better go: Kejriwal

NEW DELHI: Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has assured Delhiites that they would not have to live without electricity, although he did ask the people to be ready for “some difficulties” in case power distribution companies continued with their “blackmailing” tactics.

Amid the continuing standoff between the AAP government and Anil Ambani’s BSES discoms, which are pressing for a hike in power tariffs, Kejriwal said he had no personal issue with either Ambani or the Tatas, who run another discom in the Capital.

“We would be very happy to work with them if they want to do honest business,” he said.

Providing uninterrupted power to Delhi was part of the terms of license for the discoms, Kejriwal said, adding that “if they (discoms) violate the terms... then they better go.”

He warned the discoms that they will not be allowed to “blackmail” the people of the city and assured that his government would not let “Delhiites live without power.”

“This is not only my struggle. If you go to the people, they are very upset with the issue of electricity. It is a collective struggle and we will have to fight together.

“If we want to stop the blackmail, we should be ready for some difficulties in the transition period and everyone will have to bear it,” he said.

Alleging that there was “active collusion” between the companies and the previous Congress government, Kejriwal said that the power tariff would be decided on the basis of the CAG scrutiny of the three private discoms.

“There was active collusion between the companies and the previous government. Now the message to them is very clear. We would be very happy to work with them if they want to do honest business. We have no personal issues with either Tatas or Ambanis.”

Anil Ambani group companies BSES Rajdhani Power Ltd and BSES Yamuna Power Ltd supply electricity to 70 per cent of the consumers in Delhi, while Tata Power Delhi Distribution Ltd caters to the rest of the areas except the localities under the New Delhi Municipal Council.

“We are neither friends nor enemies. But if they want to function the same way like they did previously, that wouldn’t work,” the Chief Minister said.

Asked what kind of action his government was contemplating in case the discoms failed to provide uninterrupted power and whether other players are being brought in, Kejriwal said, “Recourses are very many, but I cannot disclose those right now.”

“They cannot threaten us that we will cut power for 10 hours, give us money. That will not work. It’s part of their terms of license that they have to provide uninterrupted power. If they violate the terms of their license, then they better go,” he stressed.

The Delhi government had last Monday recommended to the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission that it revoke the licenses of BSES discoms if they resort to long outages citing funds crunch.

NTPC had served notices over interruption in supply on BSES discoms and said that electricity supply will be snapped if they do not clear their dues by February 10. However, the Supreme Court on Thursday directed NTPC not to cut power supply to BSES till March 26.

BSES discoms have informed the government that they do not have the money to buy power and the city may reel under long outages if funds are not provided to them.

Kejriwal said discoms will not be allowed to threaten the government.

Asked about the Appellate Tribunal for Electricity’s directive to DERC that a final decision on cancellation of licences of BSES discoms should not be taken without its approval, the Chief Minister said that the order favoured the government.

“That order is in our favour. It is clearly written that it is a victory of the Delhi government. The order says that 'you (DERC) can go ahead and if you taken action, let us know’. Letting them know doesn’t mean we cannot take action,” he explained.

Asked when the CAG would submit the report on scrutiny of discoms’ accounts, he said that the auditor had informed him that it may take three to four months for the same.

“When I spoke to the CAG, they said that if they (discoms) cooperate with us, then it should take three to four months.

In the last two-three days, the power department has told me, they have started giving some records. So, lets see how they do it,” he said.— PTIBack










AAP's free water policy may end up in lot of wastage: Pachauri

NEW DELHI: The AAP government's policies on water and electricity are well intended but not the best way to achieve desired goals as supply of over 600 litres of free water to Delhi residents may end up in a lot of wastage, R.K. Pachauri, Director General, Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), has warned.

"The intentions are very good but I am not sure this is the best way of going about it. In the case of water and even electricity firstly you have got to look at the whole economics of water supply and power supply," he told PTI in an interview here when asked about Aam Aadmi Party government's policies on water and electricity.

"You also need to make sure you bring about improvements in the system so that wastages and leakages are stopped and that the efficiency of water for instance at every stage is improved. Now, if you are going to supply something for free where is the incentive to use it efficiently," he said.

Pachauri, who has been serving as the chairperson of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) since 2002, reasoned that if people are given 600 or 700 litres of water free of cost how can they be expected to use it efficiently.

"That is a very basic aspect of economics. People have to realise the scarcity of something they are consuming to be able to use it efficiently. I have said this before, I am sorry I fully respect and commend the intentions but I am not too sure whether these are the best means to bring about what they want to do," Pachauri said of AAP's policies.

Within 48 hours of coming to power, the Arvind Kejriwal- led government on January 30 delivered on its promise supplying free water of 667 litres a day to each household but tempered it with a 10 per cent across-the-board hike in tariff.

"When you talk of water supply its not merely water that has to be supplied in quantity but it also has to be up to a certain level of quality and why is it that a city like Delhi has to rely on bottled water. We should be able to get portable water that we can drink without any fear directly from the tap," the head of TER) said.

Pachauri hoped the present Delhi government and those that follow will make sure improvement is brought about in water quality so that people do not have to buy plastic which only add to pollution and are really beyond the reach of the poorest of the poor.

Asked about recent reports which claimed that Delhi was the most polluted city in the world, he said, "I would say that is unfortunate and I hope that is something that can be corrected. After all the government has not been there very long and I hope sooner or later they will realize the importance of clean air, cleaner water." — PTIBack










I-T dept probing alleged violations by American Embassy School

NEW DELHI: The Income Tax Department has begun a "discreet" probe into alleged tax violations by the elite American Embassy School here even as the External Affairs Ministry awaits a response from their officials on the details of the teachers working at the school and their salaries.

The I-T Department's Exemption Wing, which deals with tax-related issues pertaining to charitable institutions and those bodies which have been granted I-T waivers, has begun a "discreet probe into the financial aspects" and alleged violation of Indian tax laws, sources said.

"Once the preliminary information is gathered, the tax department would be taking a view on issuing notices to the authorities concerned. Also, the CBDT would be informed as this is not a regular case and involves relations between two countries," the sources added.

As per the information available with the government, several teachers at the American Embassy School were working "illegally" in violation of both tax laws and their visa status.

The government has earlier indicated that these violations were serious and it was likely to initiate action in this regard.

However, MEA is still awaiting a response on the information sought in December last year on visa and other details of all the teachers at these schools and their salaries along with the bank account details of their Indian staff members.

India, in 1973, had granted "tax exempted status" to 16 teachers of the school. However, as per information available with the government, there were many more teachers who were working but not shown as such.

However, in Washington last month, US State Department spokewoman Jen Psaki responded to reports of an Indian government inquiry into allegations of tax evasion with the statement that the school "is not run by the embassy (and) only about a third of the students there are American".

India initiated a slew of initiatives in retaliation against the arrest and strip-search of its senior diplomat Devyani Khobragade, a 39-year-old 1999-batch IFS officer, on December 12 in New York on charges of visa fraud.

Extra privileges given to US diplomats were withdrawn and activities of various American institutions were put under scrutiny as part of Indian government's stern reaction to the issue.

The sprawling school, located next to the US Embassy on American government-owned land, has about 1,500 students on its rolls, nearly 500 of whom are from the US.

The remaining students hail from several different countries and also include some locals.

"I-T exemptions are made for an agreed number of entities after proper circulars are drawn up officially. Tax authorities have to be informed about any scaling up or down in these numbers. The information that has come is that some violations are being done in these numbers and the department will verify that," the sources said.

Media reports have suggested that US authorities have advised female spouses to fill in their visa details as that of a "housewife", which is an apparent effort to evade the tax net.

Apart from withdrawing extra privileges of the US diplomats, India also asked the US embassy to "discontinue" commercial activities undertaken by the American Community Support Association (ACSA) from its premises. — PTIBack












1st Test: New Zealand beat India by 40 runs, take 1-0 lead

AUCKLAND: India conjured up hopes of a record run chase before a lower middle-order collapse saw the visitors slump to a 40-run defeat against New Zealand in the thrilling first cricket Test and hand over a 1-0 lead to the hosts in the two-match series on Sunday.

Chasing 407 to win, India resumed their second innings at 87 for one and the visitors were on course with Shikhar Dhawan (115) and Virat Kohli (67) sharing 126 runs for the third wicket, but pacer Neil Wagner took four crucial wickets in the post-lunch session to derail India's chase at Eden Park.

After a series of low scores, Dhawan returned to form as he cracked a patient century and anchored the Indian innings along with Kohli, who too looked in good touch.

But Wagner's double blow left India tottering at 270-5 at tea, and it was left to skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja who launched a counterattack to leave the Kiwis dazed but once they departed, India failed to overhaul the target.

Wagner took the wickets of Dhawan, Kohli, Zaheer Khan (17) and Dhoni (39) to return with a eight-wicket haul from the match, while Tim Southee added three wickets to his three-wicket haul of the first innings.

Earlier, India started the day still in need of 320 runs and Dhawan and Pujara looked to provide them a solid start.

In the very first over of the day, Dhawan reached his half-century, getting the milestone ticked off early, facing 75 balls and hitting five fours.

Dhawan had a shaky start as he survived a couple of LBW shots, even through they seemed to be sailing over the stumps.

The Kiwis were bowling a nagging line and length, especially Tim Southee and he was soon rewarded for it. In the fifth over of the morning, he bowled a near-perfect delivery to Pujara who could do nothing but play at it and edged it to the keeper.

Pujara was out for 23 runs (71 balls, 1 fours, 1 six), leaving a mountain to be climbed for the rest of the batsmen.

Kohli then came out to bat and patiently saw off Southee's super spell of 6-3-4-1. At the other end, Dhawan too continued to bat cautiously as the 100-run mark came for the chase in the 32nd over. They tempered their batting according to the situation, mixing aggression with defence.

Dhawan and Kohli set the foundation for the chase but once they were gone, none of the Indian batsman could cross the 40-run mark as it turned out to be a disappointing end to the Test for the visitors who are without a single win on the tour so far.

After reducing India to 270-5 at tea, New Zealand made a cracking start to the post-tea session with Rohit Sharma (19) gone first ball, falling to a beautiful out-swinger from Southee.

It was then left to skipper Dhoni and Jadeja to salvage something out of the situation as 137 runs were still remaining for victory. Faced with the new ball, the duo went on a counter-attack.

After Rohit's dismissal, the first five overs cost 45 runs as the two batsmen smacked quite a few boundaries. In all they added 54 runs in just 5.4 overs, with Jadeja playing the more active partner.

The all-rounder hit 26 runs, off only 21 balls, with four fours and one six as the 50-run partnership came in only 33 balls. The target too came down to 83 runs when he was dismissed, caught at mid-on off Boult.

Then, Zaheer Khan soaked up a lot of pressure for 32 balls and scored 17 runs (one four, one six) as Dhoni farmed the strike. Together they added 25 crucial runs, as the chase got more intense. It was left to Wagner to get another breakthrough as he had Zaheer caught at slip.

At eight down, it was only up to Dhoni to get his side across the finish line and he perished in this attempt, going after a short and wide one, again from Wagner, and played it onto his stumps.

Dhoni was out for 39 runs, having faced 41 balls, and hit six fours. Indeed it was the end for India, as Boult wrapped up the Indian innings with Ishant Sharma's (4) wicket. Mohammad Shami (0*) was the unbeaten batsman.

India will play New Zealand in the second Test starting in Wellington on February 14. — PTIBack












Dhoni rues unlucky dismissals in second innings

AUCKLAND: India skipper M.S. Dhoni had high praise for his bowling attack for bringing them into the game but rued few unlucky dismissals in the second innings as the visitors went down by 40 runs against New Zealand in the first cricket Test here on Sunday.

“The bowlers bowled fantastically well to get us back. One of the best that I have seen our bowlers bowl especially on a good wicket. They kept it tight and bowled wicket-taking deliveries at the same time. They need to continue doing that.

“When you go and not look at what you want to achieve at the end, you can slowly graduate into bigger goals,” said Dhoni at the post-match presentation.

India lost the first match of the two-Test series by 40 runs. Chasing 407 to win, India were bowled out for 366 in their second innings at Eden Park here.

“I don’t think we batted really well in the first innings. In the second innings, quiet a few of our batmen batted really well. We had few unlucky wickets. Ajinkya’s decision was a tough one at a very crucial time,” the skipper said.

Meanwhile, New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum was delighted to see his bowlers come up trumps under pressure situation.

“Definitely, there were nervous times. They put us under immense amount of pressure. Neil Wagner’s spell epitomised everything that is going well with the side. It was a great Test to be part of. One that we will remember. We had to overcome tough periods when batting,” said McCullum, who was awarded the Man of the Match for his brilliant 224 in the first innings.

“One of my best innings in a New Zealand shirt. I am delighted to make a significant contribution. A lot of credit must go to those who formed partnerships with me. A Test victory over this Indian team is no small achievement,” he said. — PTI










Bangladesh war crimes accused Jammat leader dies

DHAKA: AKM Yusuf, one of the top leaders of the fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami who was charged with crimes against humanity committed during Bangladesh’s 1971 liberation war against Pakistan, died here on Sunday.

Yusuf (87) was rushed to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University hospital this morning after he fell ill in his prison cell at Gazipur’s Kashimpur Jail, Dhaka Central Jail Senior Supervisor Farman Ali said.

He died soon after he was admitted to hospital, Ali said.

Yusuf, accused of heading the infamous auxiliary force Razakar Bahini that targeted Hindus and Bengali nationalists during the 1971 liberation war, died of cardiac arrest.

“The Jamaat leader died of cardiac arrest,” BSMMU director A.M. Bhuiyan was quoted as saying by the bdnews24.com.

Arrested on May 12 last year, Yusuf was indicted by the International Crimes Tribunal-2 on 15 war crimes charges, including killing, genocide and arson.

His defence team had argued that Yusuf should be granted bail immediately because of his old age.

The tribunal was set up in 2010 to investigate abuses committed during the 1971 war. — PTI










Mercury dips in Punjab, Haryana 

CHANDIGARH: Cold wave conditions were back at most places in Punjab and Haryana today, with mercury dipping by few notches across the two states.

The minimum temperatures, which had been hovering a few notches above normal for the past several days across Punjab and Haryana, dropped sharply today, the MeT Department said here.

Amritsar was the coldest place in the two states recording a three degrees below normal minimum followed by Adampur in Jalandhar district, where the low settled at 3.3 degrees C, down two notches.

Ludhiana and Patiala, too, experienced a cold night recording respective minimums of 6.4
degrees C and 7.6 degrees C.

Narnaul was the coldest place in Haryana recording a night temperature of 5
degrees C, down two degrees, while Hisar also shivered at 5.7 degrees C, also two below normal.

Cold conditions also gripped Bhiwani, where the minimum settled at 5.8
degrees C while Ambala's low was recorded at 7.8 degrees C.

Chandigarh also witnessed a drop in its minimum temperature, which settled at 8.2
degrees C.

However, after days of foggy and cloudy weather here, people were greeted with a warm sun shine this morning. — PTI




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