Srikrishna fluent in Telugu

The political leaders from the state were in for a pleasant surprise to hear Justice B.N. Srikrishna talking to them in Telugu during the dinner hosted by the Governor, Mr E.S.L. Narasimhan at Raj Bhavan.

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    Chairman of the Srikrishna committee, Justice B.N. Srikrishna is flanked by members of panel, Vinod K. Duggal (left) and Ravinder Kaur (right) as they talk to each other at the Lakeview Guest House in Hyderabad on Thursday.

The politicians had, what the Raj Bhavan described as, a lively interaction with Justice Srikrishna and other committee members. The leaders of all political parties, excepting Mr Asaduddin Owaisi, who was in Delhi for Parliament Session, turned up for the dinner, along with the Chief Minister, Mr K. Rosaiah.
Sources said Justice Srikrishna had brief interaction with all the leaders but the issue of Telangana or committee proceedings did not come up for discussion.
Earlier in the day the Telangana activists and advocates staged a protest at the Shamshabad airport as members of the Srikrishna Committee arrived in the city, here on Thursday.
The Rajiv Gandhi International airport police took 50 advocates into preventive custody after they raised slogans “Srikrishna Committee go back.” The advocates described the committee as a delaying tactic. The RGI airport police inspector, Mr Sanjay Kumar, said though the protesters did not come onto the exit route, they were taken into custody.

Srikrishna lets parties give varied viewpoints

A difference of opinion in the Srikrishna Committee came to the fore on Thursday during the maiden visit of all its members to the state.
Justice B.N. Srikrishna, who is heading the committee, made it clear that any number of views, even though they are divergent, could be expressed by leaders of a particular party.
Asked why the committee did not insist on political parties submitting a specific opinion and thereby allow them to continue to adopt dual standards, which are aggravating the situation, Justice Srikrishna said these parties might adopt “double, triple or single standards” but it was for the committee to analyse them.
Going by the approach of the committee chairman in obtaining the views of political parties, the Congress and TD leadership could escape from the crucial responsibility of letting their view known on the bifurcation of the state. However, the member secretary, Mr V.K. Duggal, during his recent visit to city, categorically said the committee would take the opinion of the president as authentic view of the respective party. He said the party president’s view was sought keeping in view the divergent views expressed by leaders within a single party.
Justice Srikrishna said, “I am a judge all my life. I intend to listen to all versions,” he said. Asked why the committee took up labourious exercise after the Centre already held meeting with political parties, he said the exercise was to know the views of aam aadmi which were equally important.

Criminal Case Against Ashram After Stampede

A criminal negligence case was registered by the police today against the management of the ashram where 63 women and children were killed in a stampede while its head Kripaluji Maharaj remained untraceable.

“A case has been registered under Section 304 (A) (causing death by negligence) against Kripaluji Parishad, under the banner of which yesterday’s function was organised”, Pratapgarh Superintendent of Police Mahesh Kumar Mishra told PTI.

The stampede broke out yesterday at the ashram of Kripaluji Maharaj in Mangarh village, about 60 kms from here, where a feast had been organised for poor villagers in the memory of the Maharaj’s wife.

Circle officer Ikpal Singh said the 88-year-old Maharaj had fled some two hours after the stampede and is yet to be traced.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh condoled the deaths and announced ex-gratia payment of Rs 2 lakh to the next of kin of the deceased.

Singh, who was speaking in the Lok Sabha, also announced Rs 50,000 from the National Relief Fund to those seriously injured. 28 persons suffered serious injuries.

An FIR has already been filed against the organisers and managers of the function at the ashram at the Kunda police station. No one has been specifically named in the case.

Officials said all the deceased have been identified and their bodies handed over to family members after post-mortem.

The sprawling ashram, about 60 kms from here, wore a deserted look today even as a heavy police contingent was deployed there.

There were conflicting versions with regard to arrangements made for yesterday’s event with police saying the ashram management had not informed authorities about the gathering of thousands of people.

Superintendent of Police Mahesh Misra said no permission had been sought from district authorities while Rajneesh Puri of the ashram claimed the administration had been informed about it on February 25 itself but no arrangements were made for it.

The state government has blamed the ashram’s management for the tragedy, saying the local administration was never informed about the holding a function of a huge magnitude.

However, local MLA Raghuraj Pratap Singh alias Raja Bhaiya, who yesterday visited the site of the incident, rubbished the claim saying “everybody in Pratapgarh is aware that a gathering of this magnitude takes place here on this day”.

The victims were crushed in the stampede when around 10,000 people scrambled for free meals and to receive a stainless steel plate, Rs 10 in cash, a ‘laddoo’ and a handkerchief from the Ashram.

Some 50 families searching for their missing relatives have visited the ashram since yesterday. Though the ashram has been kept out of bounds by the police, families have been trickling there looking for their near and dear ones.

The administration has made preparations for the last rites of the victims at various ghats in the city.

The Uttar Pradesh government has ordered an inquiry into the stampede and asked the Divisional Commissioner of Allahabad to submit his report.

Will Insulate People From High Food Prices: PM

Noting that the government has been concerned over high food prices over the last one year, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said all practical measures would be taken to provide relief to people.

Replying to the debate on Motion of Thanks to the President’s Address in the Lok Sabha, he said the government was working to overcome the twin-impact of failure of monsoons and global economic crisis with an objective of reaching the double-digit growth.

He said India will end the current financial year with GDP growth of 7.2 to 7.5 per cent while exuding confidence of achieving eight per cent in the next fiscal (2010-11) and return to nine per cent in subsequent year.

“I am confident that economic fundamentals are strong. If we manage our economy well, if we manage creation of social infrastructure well, there is no barrier to India’s entry in the age of double digit growth,” Singh said in his 55-minute speech.

Responding to concerns expressed by members over rising food prices, he said the government has been equally concerned over the “behaviour of food prices” over the last one year.

He said certain steps have been taken to address the situation and the government was ready to take “any practical” measure that would give relief to people.

The food inflation had touched a decade high of 19.7 per cent in December last year before moderating marginally to about 17 per cent in the recent weeks.

The global economic crisis, that affected virtually every nation, and failure of monsoon here last year were among major reasons for the shortage of essential commodities that contributed to high food prices.

Singh, however, said the way India dealt with the impact of the global economic crisis and failure of the South-West monsoon was praise worthy.

On the prices of sugar which had touched almost Rs 50 a kg, the Prime Minister said prices have been rising due to three-year crop cycle. “We will explore ways and means to check sugar prices,” he added.

Even as the agriculture sector is estimated to register negative growth of two per cent this fiscal mainly because of drought in most parts of the nation, Singh said during the UPA government regime the declining trend has been reversed due to pro-farmer policies.

Agriculture has grown at rate of 4 per cent from 2005 as against 2 per cent from 1997 to 2002.

Menon Arrives in Kabul to Discuss Security of Indians

Carrying certain proposals for ensuring security of about 4,000 Indians in Afghanistan, National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon arrived here today to discuss the issue with the Afghan leadership.

During his two-day visit, Menon will meet President Hamid Karzai and some other leaders of Afghanistan.

Soon after his arrival, Menon held discussions with Indian Ambassador Jayant Prasad with regard to safety of 4,000 nationals working on various developmental and reconstruction projects across Afghanistan in the backdrop of last Friday’s attack here.

Indian government has evolved certain proposals for the security of its nationals and these will be discussed by Menon with the Afghan authorities, sources said.

The proposals include setting up of protected venues where the Indians working on projects could be housed.

There are also suggestions for deploying security personnel at places where Indians work.

“There is a limit to what Indian government can do there. Ultimately, the Afghan authorities have to take steps to secure the Indians there,” a source said.

The sources noted that Afghan government has always been cooperative in this regard and expressed confidence that it would take further steps to upgrade security of Indians.

As part of India’s USD 1.3 billion assistance, about 4,000 Indians are working on various projects in areas like healthcare, power, education and social sector.

The review of their security has been necessitated after last Friday’s attack in two hotels in Kabul, targeting Indians specifically. Seven Indians, including three Major rank army officers, were killed and nine others, including five army officers were injured in the attack.

The attack of February 26 reflected a change of strategy by the terrorists as they chose soft targets rather than secure installations like the Embassy or Consulates and their protected personnel as in the past.

After the terror strike, Karzai assured Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that his government would take extra measures to protect Indians.

Besides discussing security, Menon is also expected to enquire about the progress of investigation into the incident.

Afghan authorities have said the attack was carried out by Lashkar-e-Taiba. However, investigators suspect involvement of Taliban faction of Haqqani too.

I Did Not Say Indians Were Not Targeted: Holbrooke

In the face of US media reports that Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) searched for Indians in last week’s deadly attack in Kabul, a top US diplomat has regretted his remarks suggesting Indians were not targeted.

“I regret any misunderstanding caused by my comments on the recent terrorist attack in Kabul, which claimed the lives of 6 Indians and at least ten citizens of other nations,” US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard C Holbrooke said on Friday.

“I did not say Indians were not targeted, but that initially it looked like the target was not an official Indian facility,” he said. “Early reports on events like this are often unreliable, and I try not to jump to conclusions.”

Reacting to the comments by the special envoy, official sources had said these were surprising considering the fact that the Afghan government has clearly stated that attack was against Indians and carried out by Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), whose sworn agenda is to target Indian interests.

Seven Indians, including three Major-rank army officers, associated with developmental projects were killed and nine others, including four army officers, were injured in the attack in Kabul last week that was reminiscent of 26/11.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has termed it as an attack on Indians.

“We all know that Indian citizens have and continue to be targeted by terrorists, including inside Afghanistan,” Holbrooke said adding, “My heart goes out to the families of all of the victims.”

“The Afghan people and international community deeply appreciate the very substantial humanitarian and reconstruction assistance that India provides Afghanistan,” he said in a bid to soothe any ruffled feathers in New Delhi.

“The willingness of India to take risks and make sacrifices to help Afghanistan is a testament to India’s commitment to global peace and prosperity and a vital part of the international commitment to Afghanistan’s future,” Holbrooke said.

At a media briefing here Tuesday Holbrooke had said, “First of all, in regard to this attack, I don’t accept the fact that this was an attack on an Indian facility like the embassy.”

“There were foreigners, non-Indian foreigners hurt. It was a soft target. And let’s not jump to conclusions,” he told reporters when asked how Indians in Afghanistan could feel safe in the wake of last week’s attack.

“I understand why everyone in Pakistan and everyone in India always focuses on the other. But please, let’s not draw a conclusion which – for which there’s no proof,” he said.

Sonia Gandhi inaugurates Northeast’s first post-graduate medical institute

The first ever post-graduate medical institute in the Northeast region on the lines of the prestigious AIIMS was today formally inaugurated by Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

The premier North Eastern Indira Gandhi Regional Institute for Health and Medical Sciences (NEIGRIHMS), which opened in 2002, was conceived by Rajiv Gandhi nearly two decades ago and will have the best healthcare facilities.

“Today, an important aspect of Rajiv Gandhi’s vision has been fully realised with the inauguration of NEIGRIHMS. It has an important role to play in research and treatment,” she said.

The institute has the most sophisticated cardiology department in the region, well-equipped neurology and urology cells and a 30-bed Intensive Care Unit.

Referring to the shortage of faculty, Gandhi said government would ensure sustained support to attract and retain the best of talents.

Currently, there are 39 faculty members, besides 68 senior resident doctors and around 70 junior resident doctors.

The institute is being equipped with 35 speciality and super-speciality departments, Union health and family welfare minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said.

Designed on the lines of AIIMS, New Delhi, and PGIMER, Chandigarh, the institute is the only postgraduate medical institute in the North Eastern region and the third in the country established by ministry of health and family welfare.

Envisaged in 1987 during the prime ministership of Rajiv Gandhi, the institute is spread over 275 acres in Mawdiangdiang on the outskirts of the city. Over Rs550 crore has been spent so far in setting it up.