Terrorists threaten to attack Bihar trains

Security has been tightened at main railway stations and in all trains passing through Bihar after an alert of possible attacks on railway installations by Taliban-trained suicide squads, an official said on Monday.

“Security was beefed up in trains and at railway stations in Bihar following a tip off about a threat of terrorist attacks,” state Home Secretary Amir Subhani said.

The senior divisional security commissioner of the Railway Protection Force (RPF) has sounded a high alert in Eastern and East Central Railway zones. The commissioner has sent a letter to the superintendent of the rail police of Patna, Katihar and Jamalpur in Bihar in which it was made clear that Taliban-trained suicide squads may target railway installations.

The letter said that all railway officials and staff should be put on maximum alert in view of the threat to human lives, railway property and firearms.

“After being alerted by the commissioner, additional security forces have been deployed in trains and at railway stations in Bihar,” Mohgammad Tauqeer, an RPF commandant, said.

Security forces have been directed to check all trains and be alert at railway stations. “We have increased escort parties in trains and deployed more security forces at railway stations,” said Tauqeer.

In view of the threat, security was stepped up at Patna and Gaya railway stations, Subhani said.

Last week the Intelligence Bureau had informed the Bihar police about the infiltration of six well-trained terrorists from Nepal. After that an alert was sounded in the state.

Andhra, Seema hit by bandh

Normal life was disrupted in non-Telangana regions of Andhra Pradesh on Monday due to a bandh called by the All party Joint Action Committee (JAC) in support of United Andhra Pradesh.

“We called for a complete bandh to send a message to the Center that majority of people want a United Andhra Pradesh,” said Prof Samuel, Convenor of Samkhya Andhra (United Andhra Pradesh) JAC, in Vijayawada.

Schools, colleges, shops and other business establishments remained closed. The Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation (APSRTC) suspended its services across Telangana and Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions as a precautionary measure.

In Chittoor district, except buses going to the temple town of Tirupati, all other services remained cancelled. In Vijayawada, former Mayor Mallika Begum and a few other leaders were taken into custody by the police as they tried to hold a protest

“We warn the Centre that they should not make any hasty announcement. We will conduct our next meeting in favour of United Andhra Pradesh in Hyderabad also,” TDP MLA D. Umamaheswara Rao said.

The JAC has called for a rail roko in Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema on Tuesday, to coincide with the crucial meeting convened by the Centre to discuss the Telangana issue in New Delhi.

The Telangana JAC has also called for rail and rasta roko on Tuesday in Telangana region.

North India reeling under chilly cold wave

New Delhi/Lucknow: There has been no respite from cold wave as chilly and cloudy weather condition will continue to prevail in northern parts of country. The death troll has been passed over 100 in past three days.

The cold waves have claimed at least 30 lives in Uttar Pradesh since Saturday, an official said Monday. The met office has predicted no change in the weather for the next two-three days.

“Of the 30 deaths, the maximum have taken place in the eastern regions, including Mirzapur district, Ballia district, where five deaths each were reported Sunday,” an official of the disaster management department told reporters.

“The deaths have also been reported from others districts, including Banda, Fatehpur, Sonbhadra, Chanduali, Kanpur rural (Dehat) and Unnao,” he added.

According to the state met office, chilly and cloudy weather conditions would continue to prevail in parts of the state.

“For at least the next two days, the weather will remain cloudy with possibilities of light rain and thundershowers in isolated places today (Monday),” state met department director J.P. Gupta told reporters.

Prevailing weather conditions were attributed to the western disturbance that caused snowfall in the hill states and light rain in the Gangetic plains.

“The western disturbance from North Pakistan entered the western regions Sunday and now it is heading towards eastern Uttar Pradesh. There will be no significant relief from the existing cold conditions for two-three days,” he added.

The lowest minimum temperature, 2.8 degrees Celsius, was recorded in Shahjahanpur district Sunday evening. In Lucknow, the minimum temperature was recorded at 8.6 degrees Celsius.

“In Lucknow, all schools up to class 8 have been closed till Jan 7. Students of class 9-12 will attend school 10 a.m-3p.m,” district inspector of schools in Lucknow Ganesh Kumar told reporters.

Rosaiah, TRS chief in Delhi for meeting on Telangana

New Delhi: Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister K. Rosaiah arrived in the capital on Monday, a day ahead of central government’s talks with eight recognised parties from the state on the issue of separate Telangana state.

The chief minister, who met Law Minister M. Veerapa Moily on his arrival, is expected to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh later in the day.

He is also expected to meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Home Minister P. Chidambaram and Defence Minster A.K. Antony to apprise them of the situation in the state and discuss his government’s stand at the talks.

Moily is in-charge of his Congress party’s affairs in Andhra Pradesh.

Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) chief K. Chandrasekhara Rao is also in the capital to take part in the talks with the government.

Rao said Sunday he will meet Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Lalu Prasad and other political leaders to seek their support for a bill in parliament on a separate statehood to Telangana.

The two other regions of the state — Rayalaseema and Andhra — are bitterly opposed to any division of the state to carve out Telangana state, comprising 10 districts including capital Hyderabad.

Life in Rayalaseema and Andhra ground to a halt Monday as the shutdown called by various groups opposing Telangana evoked total response.

Pro-Telangana factions of political parties and other groups have called for a shutdown Tuesday in Andhra Pradesh.

At a rally at the Osmania University Sunday, activists for the bifurcation of the state decided to block railway tracks and roads Tuesday.

The invitations to eight recognised parties followed a statement by Home Minister P. Chidamabaram Dec 23 that wide-ranging consultations would be held with political parties and groups in view of the sharp differences over the issue.

The Congress, the Telugu Desam Party, the TRS, the Communist Party of India and the Communist Party of India-Marxist, the Praja Rajyam Party, the Bharatiya Janata Party and Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen are to take part in the talks with the central government.

India abandoned G-77 at Copenhagen, says Yashwant Sinha

New Delhi: Attacking Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for speaking in different voices at home and abroad on key foreign policy issues, senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Yashwant Sinha Monday accused the government of abandoning the G-77 developing countries by striking a questionable climate change accord at Copenhagen.

“Yesterday (Sunday), the prime minister admitted that no one was happy with the outcome of the Copenhagen conference. You can’t sing a different tune when you come back home,” Sinha, a former external affairs minister, told in an interview.

“The same thing happened at Sharm el-Sheikh. The government has completely repudiated what happened at Sharm el-Sheikh,” Sinha maintained.

He was alluding to the July 16, 2008 India-Pakistan joint statement after Manmohan Singh’s talks with his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani at the Egyptian resort on the sidelines of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit.

The contentious statement delinked actions against terror by Pakistan from the composite dialogue process and included the first-ever reference to Balochistan in a bilateral document that sparked an uproar in parliament. The government had to subsequently soft pedal on the statement, with Manmohan Singh hardening his stand on cross-border terror.

“In all areas of foreign policy, one notices the same thing,” said Sinha, who also served as finance minister during the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) regime.

“From the nuclear deal to the WTO negotiations to climate change, we have been playing second fiddle to the US. This is clearly not in our national interest,” Sinha maintained.

“While no one is against friendship with the US, we should not play second fiddle to the US,” said Sinha, whose party took the lead in initiating a nuclear rapprochement with the US after sactions were imposed on India in the wake of the 1998 Pokhran tests.

Sinha, according to party insiders, is expected to take over as chairman of the parliamentary standing committee on external affairs. Newly-appointed Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj has resigned from the post and has forwarded Sinha’s name for the job. Sinha, however, clarified that no final decision has been taken on the issue.

Sinha didn’t mince words in attacking the government’s handling of the climate change negotiations at Copenhagen last month. “The most damaging outcome of the Copenhagen conference has been that India has broken ranks with the G-77 countries. We left them high and dry,” Sinha pointed out.

“We struck our own accord with the BASIC countries,” said Sinha, referring to the last-minute pact struck at the Dec 7-18 Copenhagen summit between the leaders of Brazil, South Africa, India and China and US President Barack Obama.

By doing so, India betrayed the interests of developing countries, Sinha maintained.

“We are an emerging economy. India has a standing in the world. No one can deny it. But that does not mean we should abandon solidarity with the developing world,” he added.

“We have abandoned the G-77. It’s a major departure from our foreign policy,” he stressed. “In effect, we have buried the Kyoto Protocol, accepted quantitative restrictions and international verification. Call them by whatever name you will,” he said.

“It’s a complete and abject surrender to the US without any commitment on funding for climate change mitigation and adaptation,” he added.

“This government has been blundering its way through. It is committing one blunder after another,” Sinha said, adding that the BJP will try to pin the government down on these alleged foreign policy missteps in the budget session of parliament next month.

Enough is enough; Krishna asks firm action over student’s death

New Delhi: Strongly condemning the fatal stabbing of an Indian student in Melbourne, External Affairs Minister SM Krishna on Sunday warned Australia that if such attacks continue, India will be forced to look “for other ways” to address the situation.

In a statement, Krishna condemned the knife attack on Nitin Garg, a 21-year-old student, who became the first fatality of New Year in a spate of attacks on the Indian community members continuing from the past year.

“The stabbing of the Indian student is brutal and I hope the Australian government will take necessary action and not force India to look to other ways,” Krishna told reporters in Bangalore.

Garg, who hails from Punjab, was studying accounting in Australia.

He was attacked and knifed on Saturday night by a group of unidentified men in a park as he was walking towards a restaurant, where he worked part-time.

Krishna has directed the Indian high commissioner in Canberra and the Indian consul general in Melbourne to closely coordinate with the Australian authorities and extend all assistance to the victim’s family as well as members of the Indian community, the external affairs ministry said in New Delhi.

“If attacks of this nature continue, we will have to seriously think what course of action lies with government of India. I am hoping that the government of India will not be pushed to take such positions,” Krishna said.

“India will not tolerate (it) any more,” he added.

The latest attack comes barely two months after Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd visited India and assured that “full force of law” would be used to protect Indian students in that country.

The Australian police were quick to deny any racist motive in the attack.

“I think to jump to any conclusion like that is presumptuous and may well interfere with the investigations,” Senior Sergeant David Snare told reporters in Melbourne when asked about the allegedly racist nature of the attack.

The attacks on Indian students started in June last year, eliciting protests from India and putting bilateral ties under stress.

The Australian government has repeatedly denied any racist element in the attacks and has put in place a series of security measures to protect Indian students.

Nearly 100,000 Indian students study in Australia, contributing around $2 billion to the country’s economy.

Manmohan sister-in-law passes away

Bangalore: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s sister-in-law Harpreet Kaur Kohli died in the north Karnataka town of Hubli Monday, family members said.

Kohli, 67, sister of Singh’s wife Gursharan Kaur, was suffering from breathing problems for several days, they said from Hubli, about 420 km from here.

Kohli is survived by husband Harinam Singh, an automobile businessman, three sons — Harmeet, Manmeet and Parvinder — and daughter Radhika.