PC likely to visit Islamabad for SAARC meeting

In the midst of current chill in Indo-Pak relations, a SAARC Home Ministers’ conference is scheduled next month in Islamabad to which P Chidambaram plans to go subject to Foreign Office’s approval.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and External Affairs Minister S M Krishna will discuss the issue and if the External Affairs Ministry allows, the Home Minister will travel to Pakistan to attend the SAARC meeting, a highly placed source said.

The SAARC Interior/Home Ministers’ conference is scheduled to be held from February 20 for three days in Islamabad.

In case Chidambaram travels to Islamabad, it would be the first Ministerial visit to Pakistan since May, 2008 when the then External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee had gone for talks as part of composite dialogue. Things worsened after the Mumbai terror attack on November 26, 2008.

With time, things will be alright: Gilani on IPL issue

Pakistan Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani today downplayed his country’s reaction to the non-inclusion of its cricketers in the IPL and said with time, things will be alright.

He also noted that cricket has been a “greater diplomacy” even in past.

“I think that is the mood of Parliament and the public and we have to follow their point of view as well. But I think with time things would be alright,” Gilani told CNN-IBN in an interview.

He was asked if Pakistan overreacted on the issue by cancelling official trips to the country.

No Pakistani player was bought by the eight IPL teams during a recent auction for its third edition despite Pakistan being the reigning world champions in the Twenty20 format of cricket, triggering a strong reaction from Pakistan government which saw it as a snub and called off official visits to India.

Inimical forces trying to stunt country’s growth: PM

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday warned that inimical forces ”both inside and outside India” were trying to stunt the country’s growth and called for defeating the ”twin threats” of terrorism and communalism.

“Inimical forces, both inside and outside India, are trying to stunt growth and well-being of the country. The twin threats of terrorism and communalism must be defeated,” Singh told NCC cadets at their Prime Minister’s Rally here.

“In such circumstances the responsibility of youth organisations like NCC that inspires its cadets to serve the country increase manifold,” he said after reviewing the NCC cadets’ parade.

The Prime Minister said though the 13-lakh cadet strong NCC was a large organisation, it comprised of just about four per cent of the eligible youth in the country.

“I wish and urge you to increase this number so that many more eligible youth can benefit from the NCC’s activities,” he said.

Applauding the “disciplined and smart” turn out of the NCC cadets at the parade, Singh congratulated them on their achievements in activities like mountaineering and sports at the global level.

Recalling that India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had in 1952 directed inclusion of community development as a curriculum in NCC, the Prime Minister said he was happy to note that the cadets were actively involved in disaster relief and social service, apart from global warming, environment, cancer and AIDS relief.

He also called for expanding the scope of the youth exchange programme of the NCC to increase the number of cadets from foreign countries attending the camp.

Defence Minister A K Antony, Minister of State for Defence M M Pallam Raju, Army Chief Gen Deepak Kapoor, IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal P V Naik and Navy Chief Admiral Nirmal Verma were present on the occasion.

Singh also gave away awards to the winners of various trophies and medals at the camp held in connection with the 61st Republic Day Parade on January 26.

The Champion Directorate trophy for 2010 went to Maharashtra, while Punjab, Haryana, Himachal and Chandigarh Directorate was adjudged the runners up.

The Best Directorate for Girls Wing went to Tamil Nadu, the Best Directorate (Army) Trophy went to Kerala and the Navy and Air Wings trophies were won by Maharashtra.
There were nearly 100 cadets from countries like Sri Lanka, Russia and Kazakhstan who attended the parade and marched alongside the Indian NCC cadets.

The NCC also displayed the war-fighting training provided to them at the camp, including slithering operations and flying of micro-light aircraft and mass band.

Telangana Committee next week: Chidambaram

The much-talked about Committee to examine the demand for separate Telangana will be announced next week, Home Minister P Chidamabaram said today.

“We are almost at the end of concluding that exercise. If all goes well, we should have a committee by the end of this week. We will announce the committee by next week,” he told reporters declining to give out the names.

The Home Minister said the government would have more or less finalised the names and will do by the the end of this week. “Perhaps by the next week, the committee will be announced,” he said.

Chidambaram in the meeting with political parties from Andhra Pradesh on January 5 had said that its agenda was to “deliberate on the mechanism and lay down a road map for consultations” on the Telangana issue.

Telangana deadline ends; MLAs set to resign

The all-party Joint Action Committee’s (JAC) deadline for the central government to make an announcement on the formation of Telangana state ended Thursday. The legislators belonging to all the parties barring the ruling Congress are determined to quit on Friday.

All eyes are on New Delhi as leaders of the Congress from Telangana are still hopeful that the government would announce in the next 24 hours a time-bound programme for carving out the separate state.

The JAC has decided to carry out its threat of en masse resignations if the central government failed to make any announcement by Thursday evening, even as some Congress leaders from Telangana are still camping in the national capital.

The JAC, which held an emergency meeting late Wednesday night, decided that all legislators would go to the assembly speaker’s office in a procession and press for the acceptance of their resignations submitted last month.

As many as 77 out of 119 Members of the Legislative Assembly from Telangana had submitted their resignations last month to protest the central government’s attempt to put the formation of separate state in cold storage. They included 22 out of 50 legislators of the Congress party.

All 39 legislators of the main opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP) from Telangana have decided to press for the acceptance of their resignations. All 10 legislators of the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), and two each of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Praja Rajyam Party (PRP) have also decided to go ahead with their resignation plans.

While legislators from TDP and other parties want to create a constitutional crisis to force the central government to make a statement, the Congress leaders are reluctant to put their own government in trouble.

However, TRS president K. Chandrasekhara Rao told reporters that Congress legislators would join them Friday if the central government failed to make an announcement.

The JAC, which is demanding the central government announce a time-bound programme to initiate the process for formation of the Telangana state out of Andhra Pradesh, is set to hold a crucial meeting Thursday evening to finalise its course of action.

Congress leaders, who stayed away from Wednesday night’s meeting, are likely to attend this meeting.

With Telangana students’ JAC threatening to lay siege to the houses of the legislators who have not resigned, the Congress legislators are trying to impress upon the central leadership that in the absence of any clear announcement it would be difficult for them to move around in public.

Sania Mirza’s calls off engagement

Indian tennis sensation- Sania Mirza’s engagement, with a childhood friend, Mohammed Sohrab Mirza, has been called off.

The 23-year-old’s father, Imran, who also coaches Sania and manages her career, confirmed annulling of the relationship.

Sania too refused to give the exact reasons, just confirming the news.

“We were friends for half a decade, but found ourselves incompatible during our engagement period. I wish Sohrab the best in life,” she said.

Mohammed Sohrab, studying business in the United Kingdom, and Sania were formally engaged last July.

Sania flies out to Kuala Lumpur late on Friday, where she leads India’s challenge in the Fed Cup Asia Oceania Group II competition, starting February 2.

Sania Mirza’s Life

Sania Mirza hasn’t had the best of starts to the 2010 season, on and off court. A broken service game is one thing, but a broken engagement or a broken heart, is quite another. The tennis star categorically refused to get into the why and what of the matter, but confirmed her engagement was off.

Even before the two got engaged, questions were doing the rounds about whether Mohammed could cope with the demands of being life-partner to a widely-travelled, hugely-popular athlete.

Sania Mirza had revealed that she will hang up her racquet after getting married.Before getting engaged to the Indian tennis diva, Sohrab wanted Sania to have complete freedom in making her career but now he denies.

We wish the Indian Tennis sensation Sania Mirza a very happy birthday as she turns 23. Hot and talented tennis star was born in Mumbai on November 15, 1986 and brought up in Hyderabad in a religious Muslim family. She started her tennis career in 2003.

Sania was unanimously chosen as the ‘Newcomer of the Year’ in 2006 in the presence of world’s greatest WTA and ATP tennis players .

Famous for being the youngest teenage tennis sensation, Sania Mirza started playing tennis at the age of six. She plays right handed and played her first ITF junior event abroad Lahore, Pakistan. If we talk about her playing style she has powerful ground strokes, mainly forehand.

BJP’s Internet enthusiasm fizzles out

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had vowed to use cyberspace to reach out to the youth, with even octogenarian leader L.K. Advani taking to blogging last year. But after its poll debacle, internet enthusiasm in “the party with a difference” seems to have withered out.

Advani – who was the party’s prime ministerial candidate – has been virtually absent from blogosphere since the BJP’s rout in the Lok Sabha elections last year. The 82-year-old’s new post on Jan 25 came after several months.

In his first post, Advani had said: “I am excited by the idea of using the internet as a platform for political communication and, especially, for election campaign.”

When blog.lkadvani.in was launched as part of the portal lkadvani.in, Advani was expected to blog two-three times a week.

Advani’s colleague Murli Manohar Joshi, who joined the blogger’s bandwagon after him, has also been inactive on his blog “Reflections….” since Oct 1, 2009.

“The party’s focus during the 2009 elections was internet users who were young and lived in urban areas. The party wanted to reach out to first-time voters, who were at least 40 percent of the electorate,” said a functionary of the party’s Information Technology Cell.

The BJP Maharashtra unit’s Information Technology Cell convener Vinit Goenka had started using Twitter, an internet-based social networking application, some time in August last year. But his last post was on Oct 11, 2009.

“We have stopped right now because I have been travelling a lot. During elections you vie for visibility; after elections you do constructive work,” Goenka told IANS.

“It is very much in my mind. After the national executive meet in mid-February, we will again start. It is not that its priority has gone down.”

The BJP’s new chief, Nitin Gadkari, who is former chief of the party’s Maharashtra unit, has been stressing the importance of IT.

India has nearly 50 million internet users, according to a study by digital advertising and marketing firm Komli Media.

Good intentions and bad ideas: What we should do about Haiti’s orphans

As a parent, I’ve been watching and avoiding my television with equal measures of panic and denial for the last couple of weeks. I’m not alone. My friend A., a mother of two called the other night to tell me, “Those kids act just like mine. They walk around just like mine. They look scared and lost just like mine would, and it makes me feel crazy to just sit here.”

While there’s a lot about the situation in Haiti to feel sad about, what’s getting to many parents—more than the collapse of a nation, or the waning efforts to get to those still trapped, or the superficially wounded dying because they can’t get care—is the orphans. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund, Haiti had an estimated 380,000 orphans before the January 12th earthquake. That number that has blossomed to as many as 1 million today, according to NPR’s The Takeaway.

That’s a mind-numbing number, especially when taken in tandem with the images we see of children wandering the streets, scavenging what they can. Stories about a teenager left to fend for himself after his parents and five sisters were killed, or about parents in Nebraska finally having their adoption paperwork go through to bring two Haitian orphans into their home —make a solution seem not just plausible, but necessary. Can’t we just bring those orphans into the American homes than can provide for them?

No. Or we can, but it won’t be good for them, according Sarah Smith, director of Children’s Programs at the International Rescue Committee.

“The process of identifying and registering children and determining whether or not they are appropriate for adoption is a long process,” Smith told the Takeaway last week, maintaining the system works that way for a few reasons: to make sure the adoptive parents are viable and can offer a good home, but also to make sure that the right kids are getting adopted. Otherwise, “children who are not prepared or… appropriate for adoption would be moved.”

Dr. Jane Aronson founder of the Worldwide Orphans Foundation, agrees. Aronson tells the New York Times: “Adoption is not the way to solve absolutely massive, tragic issues of vulnerable children. An earthquake is a traumatizing event. The best thing for these children is to keep them in their communities, with neighbors and relatives, and with food and shelter and safety.”

In other words: if you want to help an orphan in Haiti, the best thing you can do right now is help Haiti. How can you do that? Dory Devlin’s piece from last week lists some good options, including: donating to a reputable relief agency and or/ texting your donation. For new parents that are strapped by taking care of their own brood, Fit Pregnancy also recently posted an excellent piece which lists baby gear companies that are sending a portion of their profits to the Haitian relief efforts.

India likely to face a bloody summer

India could witness a series of heightened terrorist activities in the coming months as Pakistan steps up efforts to push more trained terrorists into Kashmir and other parts of the country. The infiltration is a part of Pakistan’s strategy to whip up the Kashmir issue and divert attention from its domestic problems. Well-placed sources in the home ministry said Pakistan also wants to force India to break the ceasefire between the two countries.

There was a 30% increase in infiltration along the International Border (IB) and the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir in 2009 compared to 2008. There were 342 recorded incidents of infiltration in 2008 and 499 incidents in the subsequent year, according to sources in the central intelligence agencies.

The Multi Agency Centre, a conglomerate of over a dozen intelligence agencies, which had recently reviewed the infiltration activities on the Indo-Pak border in 2009, had cautioned the Centre about the possibility of a more “violent” summer ahead. It is based on the fact that terrorists are taking about six months to settle down and would gear up by summer to launch attacks.

The Indian government is caught in a catch-22 situation. Opening a front against Pakistan by retaliating to its infiltration and firing incidents would not be in tune with the overall situation prevailing in the South Asian region. At the same time, it would be hard-pressed to contend with the public opinion building against Pakistan’s machinations.

Telangana deadline ends; legislators set to resign

The all-party Joint Action Committee’s (JAC) deadline for the central government to make an announcement on the formation of Telangana state ended Thursday. The legislators belonging to all the parties barring the ruling Congress are determined to quit Friday.

All eyes are on New Delhi as leaders of the Congress from Telangana are still hopeful that the government would announce in the next 24 hours a time-bound programme for carving out the separate state.

The JAC has decided to carry out its threat of en masse resignations if the central government failed to make any announcement by Thursday evening, even as some Congress leaders from Telangana are still camping in the national capital.

The JAC, which held an emergency meeting late Wednesday night, decided that all legislators would go to the assembly speaker’s office in a procession and press for the acceptance of their resignations submitted last month.

As many as 77 out of 119 Members of the Legislative Assembly from Telangana had submitted their resignations last month to protest the central government’s attempt to put the formation of separate state in cold storage. They included 22 out of 50 legislators of the Congress party.

All 39 legislators of the main opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP) from Telangana have decided to press for the acceptance of their resignations. All 10 legislators of the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), and two each of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Praja Rajyam Party (PRP) have also decided to go ahead with their resignation plans.

While legislators from TDP and other parties want to create a constitutional crisis to force the central government to make a statement, the Congress leaders are reluctant to put their own government in trouble.

However, TRS president K. Chandrasekhara Rao told reporters that Congress legislators would join them Friday if the central government failed to make an announcement.

The JAC, which is demanding the central government announce a time-bound programme to initiate the process for formation of the Telangana state out of Andhra Pradesh, is set to hold a crucial meeting Thursday evening to finalise its course of action.

Congress leaders, who stayed away from Wednesday night’s meeting, are likely to attend this meeting.

With Telangana students’ JAC threatening to lay siege to the houses of the legislators who have not resigned, the Congress legislators are trying to impress upon the central leadership that in the absence of any clear announcement it would be difficult for them to move around in public.

OU students defy JAC, threaten to foil IPL

In defiance of the stand taken by Telangana Joint Action Committee of politicians, the students of Osmania University have reiterated that they will stall the Indian Premier League-3 (IPL-3) until an announcement on separate Telangana is made.

The decision was taken by the students on a day when political JAC convener Kodandaram appealed to Union Home Minister P Chidambaram and the president of Hyderabad Cricket Association to reconsider the decision to shift the venue of the inaugural of IPL-3 from Hyderabad to Mumbai.

Members of Telangana Research Scholars Forum, which is part of the joint action committee of students, today burnt the IPL in effigy after going in a procession from the PG Hostel to the Arts College on the university campus.

Raising slogans against IPL, the students said `Cheer girls meeka, chitimantalu maaka?’, ‘Maaku vishaadama, meeku vinodama?’.

They also displayed placards which read ‘We do not want IPL entertainment.

We want Telangana’.

Speaking to Express, some members of TRSF wondered how one could allow an entertainment event when people were ending their lives seeking a separate State. “We will definitely stall the event. There are reports that some sections of people are making efforts to ensure that IPL-3 is held. Until Telangana is announced, we will stall IPL,’’ R Rudra Reddy and M Srikanth, told Express.

Contrary to the stand taken by the students, Kodanda Ram said in his letter that Hyderabadis were shocked to know that the opening ceremony of IPL-3 was shifted to Mumbai. “The sports-loving people of Hyderabad are being deprived of a chance to witness the world-class sporting event in the cultural and sporting capital of India. We are not against sports. In fact, we have contributed to Indian sports like any other city in the country,’’ Kodandaram said in his letter to Chidambaram.

Earlier, IPL authorities had said in an official statement that because of the unrest in the city the opening ceremony and the first match of IPL were being shifted to Mumbai. However, there is no word from IPL about the conduct of other matches scheduled to be held in Hyderabad.

Meanwhile, the South Zone one-day cricket tournament,for the KS Subbaiah Pillai Trophy, which was scheduled to be held here from February 10 to 17, has been shifted to Chennai. DS Chalapathi, however, denied that the tournament was moved out because of Telangana trouble. He clarified that the tournament was shifted because of hectic schedule.

“We will be organising the Duleep Trophy final (from Feb 2 to 6) and two women’s cricket one-day matches against England (Feb 21 and 23). Therefore we requested the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association which readily agreed to host the Subbaiah Pillai tournament,’’ he said.

Satyam’s Raju declared pauper by US court

A US court has declared former Satyam Computers chairman Ramalinga Raju, who last year was jailed after admitting to falsifying his company’s accounts by over $1 billion, a pauper, thereby exempting him from paying court costs.

Besides Raju, New York judge Barbara S Jones also approved ‘pauper’ status for his brother Rama Raju, Satyam’s former chief executive officer, and Srinivas Vadlamani, the company’s former head of finance.

In October 2009, the three men had filed for an “in forma pauperis” – in the character or manner of a pauper – designation given to someone who is without the funds to pursue the normal costs of a lawsuit or a criminal defence.

According to court documents, the accused stated they are “unable to engage an attorney in the US to defend (themselves) in the class action litigation and to pay any court fees or to meet any financial obligations which might be imposed by this court”.

“The court finds that defendants have adequately demonstrated that they are unable to pay costs as described in the federal law,” US District Judge Jones said in her order Wednesday.

The judge however denied the request for a pro bono counsel as the “defendants are incarcerated in a foreign country and it would be unusually difficult for the appointed counsel to meet and otherwise competently represent Defendants under the circumstances”.

On Jan 7 last year, Raju, 55, admitted that Satyam’s accounts had been inflated by over $1 billion, in what became India’s largest corporate scandal. In November, the CBI said that fraud was 40 per cent larger than originally estimated.

“It was like riding a tiger, not knowing how to get off without being eaten,” he had said, after the scandal broke.

The IT company has since been taken over by Tech Mahindra.

Telangana Forum warns to disrupt IPL in Hyderabad

The Telangana Research Scholars’ Forum today threatened to disrupt the Indian Premier League (IPL) matches in Hyderabad during March and April alleging the competition would divert attention from the movement for a separate state.

“The people of Telangana are agitated about the separate state demand. The IPL tournament would divert attention from the ongoing agitation.

“Moreover, Telangana players are not encouraged in cricket though the Hyderabad Cricket Association was founded several decades ago. Only the children of business people are being promoted. We protest this,” R Rudra Reddy, a member of the Forum, said.

Betting on cricket matches is also taking place which is nothing but looting of the money of Telangana people, he alleged. Rudra Reddy said they can disrupt the matches in Hyderabad to register their protest.