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Admiral Robin K Dhowan takes over as Navy chief

NEW DELHI: Robin K. Dhowan on Thursday took over as chief of the Indian Navy nearly two months after Admiral D.K. Joshi quit the post in the wake of a series of mishaps.

Admiral Dhowan (59) who has been the acting Navy chief since Joshi’s exit, has been appointed the Chief of Navy Staff superseding Western Naval Commander Shekhar Sinha.

He will have a tenure of 25 months, retiring in May 2016.

Admiral Sinha was the senior-most Vice Admiral but he has been edged out of the race, apparently because majority of the 14 mishaps, including two major submarine accidents, took place under his command during the last 10 months.

Admiral Joshi, who had 15 months left in service, resigned on February 26 following the mishap involving submarine INS Sindhuratna in which two Navy officers were killed and several others were injured.

In August last year, submarine INS Sindhurakshak sank at the Naval Dockyard in Mumbai, killing 18 personnel on board.

The sudden resignation by Admiral Joshi changed the line of succession in the Navy.

Had he retired in August next year as per his tenure, Southern Naval Commander Vice Admiral Satish Soni would have become the next chief.

Under the new circumstances, National Defence College Commandant Vice Admiral Sunil Lamba is expected to succeed Admiral Dhowan in May 2016.

Admiral Dhowan, who is the 22nd Navy chief, has taken over the reins of the force at a time when it is grappling with mishaps involving its warships and other assets.

Admiral Dhowan, who had been the Vice Chief of the force since August 2011, was supposed to superannuate on May 31, this year.

Defence Minister A.K. Antony had recommended the name of Admiral Dhowan, who was in contention for the top job along with Western Naval Commander Sinha and Eastern Commander Anil Chopra.

Though he has not headed any operational command, Admiral Dhowan has held various key positions and staff appointments during his career.

His command appointments include missile corvette INS Khukri, guided missile destroyers INS Ranjit and INS Delhi and Flag Officer Commanding Eastern Fleet (FOCEF).

The Admiral’s staff assignments include key posts like Deputy Chief of Naval Staff and Assistant Chief of the Naval Staff (Policy and Plans) at the headquarters in New Delhi, Commandant of National Defence Academy, Khadakvasla, Indian Naval Adviser at the High Commission of India, London and Chief Staff Officer (Operations) at Headquarters of Western Naval Command.

A navigation and direction specialist, Admiral Dhowan is an alumnus of National Defence Academy, Defence Services Staff College and Naval War College, Rhode Island, USA. — PTIBack













CAG can audit accounts of private telecom firms: SC

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court today held that the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) can audit the account books of private telecom companies which share revenue with the government for using spectrum.

A bench comprising justices K S Radhakrishnan and Vikramajit Sen said CAG can carry out the audit to examine whether the companies are giving proper share of their revenue to the government.

The court passed the order on a batch of petitions filed by telecom companies' associations, including the Association of Unified Telecom Service Providers of India (AUTSP) and the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), challenging the Delhi High Court verdict which had given green signal for CAG audit of the firms' accounts.

The apex court had on February 3 sought responses from the Centre and CAG on the pleas of the associations.

The firms had challenged the high court order, which had said that it was the duty of CAG to audit telecom companies as a part of their revenue goes to the Consolidated Fund of India.

Earlier, the telecom firms had submitted before the apex court that the high court had erred in holding that CAG was empowered to conduct their revenue audits.

The firms had said the high court had wrongly assumed that they share revenue with the government and contended that they only pay a license fee, which was a percentage of their revenue.

The high court had upheld the validity of laws empowering CAG to conduct revenue audits of private telecom firms.

As per the terms of license agreements, the telecom firms had undertaken the accounting responsibility on behalf of the Centre also and their accounts, in relation to revenue receipts, could be termed as the accounts of the central government and hence, they would be the subject matter of CAG's audit, the high court had said.— PTI









TDP miffed at BJP’s 'weak' candidates for AP state polls

Hyderabad: Expressing displeasure over fielding of “weak” candidates by the BJP for the May state Assembly elections, TDP has said the move will only be “detrimental” to the alliance.

In a teleconference with his party leaders late last night, TDP president N. Chandrababu Naidu is said to have remarked that the candidates being fielded by the BJP for Assembly were “not capable” of getting elected even as ward members.

“How will they win the Assembly seats? It will only be detrimental to our alliance,” Naidu reportedly remarked.

Naidu is said to have expressed his displeasure over the BJP’s choice of candidates in constituencies like Ichchapuram, Rajahmundry (Urban), Kaikaluru and Guntakal that were allotted to the latter as part of the alliance.

The TDP chief will hold another round of teleconference with his leaders to take a call on the electoral tie-up with the BJP in the wake of the growing unrest within his party, sources said.

Kinjarapu Rammohan Naidu, son of former Union Minister K. Yerran Naidu, who is the TDP candidate from Srikakulam Lok Sabha constituency, told Chandrababu Naidu that the BJP’s nominee for Ichchapuram Assembly seat V. Balakrishna stood no chance of winning.

“We are unnecessarily forgoing an Assembly seat which will have an impact on the parliamentary seat as well,” Rammohan Naidu reportedly lamented.

Similar is the case in Rajahmundry (Urban), where the TDP denied ticket to its senior leader Gorantla Butchaiah Chowdary to accommodate the BJP.

BJP candidate A. Satyanarayana, according to the TDP leaders, is considered “hopeless.”

“We will be giving the seat to the rivals (read YSR Congress) on a platter,” Gorantla, as well as TDP’s Rajahmundry Lok Sabha candidate M. Murali Mohan reportedly told Chandrababu Naidu.

In Kaikaluru, sitting TDP MLA Jayamangala Venkata Ramana was made to “sacrifice” his seat in favour of BJP.

But the TDP cadre is said to be unhappy over the selection of K Srinivasa Rao by the BJP. — PTIBack





LS poll 2014: West Bengal records 72 per cent polling till 4 pm 

Kolkata: Nearly 72 per cent votes were polled peacefully till 4 pm today in the first of the five-phase Lok Sabha elections in West Bengal, which will determine the electoral fate of 47 candidates.

"On an average 71.54 per cent of the 60,33,310 voters cast their votes in the first nine hours of polling in the four Lok Sabha constituencies of Coochbehar, Alipurduar, Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling in north Bengal," state's Chief Electoral Officer Sunil Gupta said here.

The voting was peaceful except for some stray incidents and a few EVMs being replaced, he said.

The Special Observer from the ECI for the state Audhir Kumar Rakesh said, "Everything is OK. I have not received any adverse report from any observer."

"We have not yet received report of any major incident on disruption of law and order or complaint of booth jamming or violation of the Model Code of Conduct," Gupta said.

Arrangements were made for web casting and live monitoring of sensitive areas amid tight security provided by central forces which were more than double the 2011 Assembly election.

Uttar Pradesh
LUCKNOW: Brisk polling is underway in 11 seats in the second phase of polls in Uttar Pradesh with over 49.61 per cent polling recorded till 3 pm to decide the fate of 150 candidates.

According to EC sources, Nagina witnessed 53.24 per cent polling, while Moradabad 54.4 per cent and Rampur 47.9 per cent polling each.

Similarly, Sambhal recorded 51.40 per cent polling, Amroha 51.4 per cent, Badaun 44.2 per cent, Aonla 47.2 per cent, Bareilly 52.6 per cent, Pilibhit 48.6, Shahjahanpur 45.83 per cent and Kheri 49.15 per cent.

In this phase, polling is being held in Moradabad, Rampur, Sambhal, Amroha, Badaun, Bareilly, Pilibhit, Shahjahanpur, Nagina, Aonla and Kheri.

The prominent candidates who are in fray includes Maneka Gandhi, Santosh Gangwar, Saleem Sherwani and Begum Noor Bano. 

Mumbai: Moderate balloting of around 40 per cent was seen in the 19 Lok Sabha constituencies in Maharashtra that went to the polls on Thursday, officials said.

A large number of voters, including youths, were seen at most polling stations waiting patiently in long queues since morning for their turn to vote, braving the scorching sun and heat.

According to election officials, an average of between 40-45 percent voting was recorded till 3 pm.

Voting percentage in the constituencies thatn went to polls were - Pune 34, Maval 39, Sangli 46, Baramati 35, Shirur 37, Parbhani 47, Nanded 45, Kolhapur 52, Hathkanangale 51, Beed 49, Latur 49, Ahmednagar 38, Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg 43, Shirdi 43, Solapur 39, Satara 41, Madha 45, Hingoli 46, and Osmanabad 46.

Among the early voters were top candidates like Sushilkumar Shinde, Gopinath Munde, Ashok Chavan, Supriya Sule, Udayanraje Bhosale, and others who came with their families.

Around 3.25 crore voters are to decide the fate of 358 candidates, including 24 women and 201 Independents, at 36,879 polling stations.

The first phase of the polls held in Vidarbha region's 10 constituencies April 10 saw 62.37 percent turnout. The third and final phase for the 19 remaining constituencies - of the total 48 Lok Sabha seats in the state - will be held April 24.

RANCHI: Around 55 per cent of the electorate voted till 3 pm today in the second phase of polling for six Lok Sabha seats in Jharkhand.

Polling was being held in Ranchi, Giridih, Jamshedpur, Singhbhum (ST), Khunti (ST) and Hazaribagh seats under strict security and helicopter surveillance.

Five persons, including four CRPF personnel, were injured in attacks by Maoists, who also blew up railway lines in separate places in the state.

A CRPF patrol was attacked by Maoists who exploded two land mines at Lalpania near Maoist-affected Jhumra Hills in Bokaro district, CRPF (26th Battalion) Commandant, Sanjay Kumar said.

Three CRPF men, Pratap Singh, Surendra Kumar and P C Mandal besides driver Ranjit Kumar were injured.

Maoists fired on another CRPF patrol at Tulbul village injuring one of the men and a brief encounter took place before the ultras retreated.

Maoists also blew up a stretch of railway lines between Dania railway station in Bokaro under the South Eastern Railway disrupting train services, Bokaro Superintendent of Police, Jitendra Kumar Singh said.

A pressure cooker bomb was recovered near a polling booth in naxal-hit Saranda forest range of the state, an hour before polling began in the Singhbhum (ST) constituency, Superintendent of Police, N K Singh said.

A report from Giridih said that the Maoists exploded ten bombs at separate places in the Giridih Lok Sabha constituency where polling was on.

The rebels also exploded a bomb at Ghamaria Bharati Chalkari and two at Harladih around 1.30 am.

The first phase of the polls was held in four constituencies on April 10. The third and last phase would be held on April 24 in four seats.

RAIPUR: About 60 per cent of electorate cast their votes till 3 pm in three Naxal-hit Lok Sabha constituencies in Chhattisgarh during the second phase of polling, which has so far remained peaceful.

"The voter turnout of 60 per cent was recorded in Kanker, Rajnandgaon and Mahasamund seats till 3 pm and no violent incident has been reported from the region so far," Joint Chief Electoral Officer DD Singh said, adding that polling in the seven insurgency-hit Assembly constituencies in these seats has concluded at 3 pm.

The segments where polling came to an end are Sihawa, Antagarh, Bhanupratappur, Kanker and Keshkal of Kanker seat, Mohla-Manpur of Rajnandgaon and Bindranawagarh of Mahasamund.

Polling at Daundilohara Assembly seat (Kanker) closed at 4 PM, the officer said.

"The time of polling in rest of the Assembly constituencies under these three seats is up to 6 pm," Singh said.

Meanwhile, re-polling at Polampalli booth of Bastar constituency where voting could not be held on April 10 due to disruption by Naxals also concluded at 3 pm, Singh said.

Out of total 45,56,051 registered voters, 22,78,646 voters are men and 22,77,405 women. A total of 50 candidates, including five women, are in the fray.

The maximum number of candidates fielded per constituency are: Mahasamund (27), followed by Rajnandgaon (13) and Kanker (10).

A total of 6,114 polling booths, including 2,452 which are regarded as critical, have been set up at Rajnandgaon (2,211) Mahasamund (1,937) and Kanker (1,781), where 29,347 employees have been deployed.

As many as 56 web cameras and 1,258 digital/video cameras have been installed at polling stations to monitor the process, Singh said.

Prominent candidates in the fray are Chief Minister Raman Singh's son Abhishek from Rajnandgaon, who is taking on Congress' Kamleshwar Verma, former Chief Minister Ajit Jogi who is pitted against BJP's sitting MP Chandulal Sahu from Mahasamund and former BJP minister Vikram Usendi from Kanker seat against Phoolo Devi Netam of Congress. 

Madhya Pradesh
BHOPAL: A total 39.76 per cent voters exercised their right to franchise till 2 pm today in Madhya Pradesh, where polling is underway for 10 Lok Sabha seats in the second phase, amid reports of poll boycott in a few seats on the issue of development and minor skirmishes.

Out of 39.76 per cent turnout, 47.08 per cent of electorate who have cast their vote are men and 31.23 per cent are women.

Poll boycott was going on in Bhuri Shahpur village under Damoh constituency on the issue of development works not being started, and at Nayagaon area that falls under Gwalior constituency in Datia district on the issue of construction of road.

"Voters at Lahar Assembly polling centre at Kacharia in Bhind stayed away from the process on the issue of basic amenities, while their counterparts in Bhikampur area, also in Bhind, boycotted voting in the protest on the issue of road and compensation," Madhya Pradesh's Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Jaideep Govind told reporters.

Efforts are on to persuade villagers to take part in the electoral exercise, he said.

The polling percentage till 2 pm in ten constituencies is: Morena (32.26%), Bhind (28%), Gwalior (36.99%), Guna (45.66%), Sagar (48.99%), Tikamgarh (38.21%), Damoh (41.29%), Khajuraho (35.47%), Bhopal (37.58%) and Rajgarh (55.37%), officials said.

"A total of 170 model polling stations are set up in these ten constituencies, and they are decorated (so as) to give them a festive look," the CEO said.

Meanwhile, reports of stone pelting were received from Bhind's Moroli polling centre following a poll-related dispute. However, the district administration there immediately brought the situation under control and normalcy restored.

In Rajgarh, polling agents have clashed over a trivial matter but police pacified them and brought the situation under control, he added. 

IMPHAL: Around 65 percent of the electorate Thursday cast their votes for the second Lok Sabha seat in Manipur, officials said.

An Election Commission official said polling took place in the Inner Manipur constituency, and no untoward incident has been reported so far.

"Balloting has been absolutely peaceful till now," he added.

The official said that around 350 voters did not vote at a polling station, 125 km south of Imphal, in Bishenpur district till late afternoon accusing the authorities of not taking up development schemes in their area.

Till 2 pm, around 65 percent voters cast their ballot in Inner Manipur.

About 78 percent of the total 911,000 voters in the tribal reserved Outer Manipur constituency cast their ballot April 9.

Around 874,000 voters, including 448,000 women, are eligible to vote Thursday at 1,406 polling stations. Eight candidates, including a woman, are in the fray.

"Not a single untoward incident has been reported so far in any of the four hilly districts - Imphal East, Imphal West, Bishenpur and Thoubal - where elections are being held," the poll panel official told reporters.

"Despite the summer heat, voters in large numbers came to the polling stations even before voting started at 7 a.m."

Voting was delayed for a short while due to technical snags in electronic voting machines at some polling booths, but engineers rectified the problems or replaced the EVMs and balloting went on normally. 

Over 12,000 paramilitary troopers and state security personnel have been deployed for security.

Once ravaged by terrorism, Manipur still suffers from militancy, and the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, (AFSPA) is a major issue, along with development.

Besides withdrawal of the AFSPA, other issues dominating the campaign were the alleged misgovernance by the Congress, under-development, unemployment and drug menace.

Eight candidates, including a woman, are in the fray.

Incumbent member Thokchom Meinya Singh of the Congress, Moirangthem Nara Singh of the Communist Party of India (CPI), and R.K. Ranjan Singh, a former Manipur University professor of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are the main contenders.

Meinya Singh, who is seeking re-election for the third consecutive term, defeated Nara Singh in 2009.

The Trinamool Congress has fielded Sarangthem Manaobi, a former police officer.

For security reasons, polling hours in Manipur are from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m, unlike in the other northeastern states where votes would be cast between 7 a.m. and 5 pm.

JAIPUR: An average of over 40 per cent of total 3.48 crore electors cast their votes in the first phase Lok Sabha polls being held on 20 out of 25 seats in Rajasthan till 3 pm.

"Polling is under way on a very peaceful note so far barring a few incidents of party workers' altercation in Ajmer and Bikaner outside the booths", DGP-Law and Order Navdeep Singh said.

Over 80,000 security personnels were on duty to ensure free and fair poll, and incident free, DGP claimed.

Chief Minister Vasundhra Raje, cast her vote at the polling station set up in Topkhana school in Jhalawar.

"I am expecting very good results. We set a mission 25 to win all the parliamentary constituencies in Rajasthan and I hope that we should win all constituencies," Raje told reporters here.

She said the UPA government has betrayed people and voters know it hence the results would in the favour of the party.

Jaswant Singh, expelled BJP leader, cast his vote in his home constituency of Barmer, while Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore exercised his franchise with his wife in Jaipur rural constituency.

Ganganagar (SC) seat registered highest voter turn out of 49.11 per cent whereas Banswara recorded 43.35, Barmer 42.8 per cent voting.

Jaipur recorded about 41 per cent polling at this hour.

Former Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot cast his vote with wife and daughter-in-law at Jodhpur, while BJP candidate Col Sonaram contesting against BJP rebel Jaswant Singh, exercised his franchise in Barmer.

Coming out of the booth, Gehlot told reporters that it was very dangerous in democratic election that rival party (BJP) was posing as a one man party (NaMo).

Gehlot criticised BJP's poll campaign in which Modi projected as "is bar Modi sarkar", alleging individualism would not be accepted by voters.

Altogether 239 candidates including 17 women are in the fray in the 20 Lok Sabha constituencies in the first phase.

38, 835 polling stations have been set up in the first phase and 5942 among them are critical polling stations.

The 20 LS constituencies where polling is going on are: Ganganagar, Bikaner, Churu, Jhunjhunu, Sikar, Jaipur Rural, Jaipur, Ajmer, Nagaur, Pali, Jodhpur, Barmer, Jalore, Udaipur, Banswara, Chittorgarh, Rajsamand, Bhilwara, Kota, and Jhalawar-Baran. — Agencies










Heart-wrenching texts from students on
sinking South Korea ferry

SEOUL: Heart-wrenching messages of fear, love and despair, sent by high school students from a sinking South Korean ferry, added extra emotional weight on Thursday to a tragedy that has stunned the nation.

Nearly 300 people — most of them students on a high school trip to a holiday island — are still missing after the ferry capsized and sank on Wednesday morning.

"Sending this in case I may not be able to say this again. Mom, I love you," student Shin Young-Jin said in a text to his mother that was widely circulated in the South Korean media.

"Oh, I love you too son," texted back his mother — unaware at the time that her boy was caught in a life and death struggle to escape the rapidly sinking vessel.

Unlike many others, the exchange had a happy ending as Shin was one of only 179 survivors rescued before the ferry capsized and went under the water.

Others were not so fortunate. Another student, 16-year-old Kim Woong-Ki, sent a desperate text for help to his elder brother as the ship listed violently over to one side.

"My room is tilting about 45 degrees. My mobile is not working very well," Kim messaged.

Seeking to reassure him, his brother said he was sure help was on the way.

"So don't panic and just do whatever you're told to do. Then you'll be fine," he messaged back.

There was no further communication and Kim was listed among the 287 people on board still unaccounted for.

Sadly his brother's advice was similar to that of the crew, who controversially ordered passengers to stay put when the ship first foundered.

Angry relatives said this resulted in the passengers getting trapped when the ferry keeled over, cutting off routes of escape.

That grim scenario was encapsulated in the texts of an 18-year-old student, identified in the local media by her surname Shin.

"Dad, don't worry. I'm wearing a life vest and am with other girls. We're inside the ship, still in the hallway," the girl messaged to her father.

Her distraught father wrote back urging her to try and get out, but it was already too late.

"Dad, I can't. The ship is too tilted. The hallway is crowded with so many people," she responded in a final message.

Some parents managed a last, traumatic phone call with their children as they tried to escape.

"He told me the ship was tilted over and he couldn't see anything," one mother recalled of a panicked conversation with her student son.

"He said 'I haven't put on the life jacket yet', and then the phone went dead," the mother told the Dong-A Ilbo newspaper.

The JoongAng Ilbo published excerpts from a chatroom conversation between several students on the ferry.

"Hey guys, let's make sure we meet up alive," messaged one. "I love you all," responded another. It was not clear if the students were among those rescued. — AFPBack












Hema Malini, Jaya Prada and other star politicians' films banned on Doordarshan

LUCKNOW: Films of stars Hema Malini, Jaya Prada, Nagma, Smriti Irani and Jaaved Jaaferi, who are all contesting Lok Sabha elections, have been banned from being telecast on the national television channel Doordarshan, officials said on Thursday.

After programmes and films were brought under the ambit of the model code of conduct, official said these will now be viewed as objects that influence voters.

Polling in parliamentary constituencies from where Raj Babbar (Congress), Nagma (Congress) and Jaya Prada (Rashtriya Lok Dal) are contesting have been completed, while polling is yet to take place in constituencies of Hema Malini (BJP), Jaaved Jaaferi (AAP) and Smriti Irani (BJP).

Poll panel officials said they had received several complaints that the film and television stars were getting undue advantages through their films and programmes in an election that should be a level playing field. — IANS




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