Saturday, January 14, 2012

Friday, January 13, 2012

Zardari cuts short Dubai visit, returns to Pak: Reports

Zardari back in Pakistan after his trip to Dubai
Zardari back in Pakistan after his trip to Dubai
NEW DELHI: ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari has returned to Pakistan from a trip to Dubai, his spokesman said on Friday, as speculation swirled over whether he would survive heightened tension between his civilian government and the country's powerful military.

"The president returned to Islamabad in the wee hours of Friday morning," the spokesman, Farhatullah Babar, told Reuters.

A disputed memo allegedly from Zardari's government seeking US help in reining in the military has soured relations to their lowest point since a coup in 1999.

Military sources say that while they would like Zardari to go, it should be through constitutional means, not another of the coups that have marked half of Pakistan's almost 65 years of independence. 

India on vigil for new enemy from LoC: Poliovirus

India on vigil for new enemy from LoC: Poliovirus
An infant being administered polio vaccine drops. India has not recorded a single case of polio in 12 months — the longest ever.
NEW DELHI: India has not recorded a single case of polio in 12 months - the longest ever.

However, the Indian strain of wild poliovirus imported by several other countries like Angola, Lebanon, Tajikistan, Bangladesh and Namibia has caused multiple outbreaks in the last decade.

The strain crippling children in Congo- 92 cases in 2011 - also came from India.

"India exported poliovirus to other countries in the past and is now at risk of poliovirus import into the country through the same route," said the Union health ministry.

India has increased surveillance against polio along the Line of Control (LOC), bordering Pakistan. Vaccination booths have been set up at Chakdabagh (Poonch) and Kaman (Baramulla) in Jammu and Kashmir, Munabao railway station in Barmer district of Rajasthan and at Wagah border and Attari railway station in Punjab to administer polio drops to all children below 5 years coming in from Pakistan.

Pakistan, reeling under a polio outbreak, reported over 190 cases last year, and also exported the crippling virus to China that was polio-free for 20 years.

Pakistan is affected nationwide by transmission of the P1 strain and was also the only country in Asia last year to have the P3 virus also, which is on the verge of elimination elsewhere in the continent.

Dr Hamid Jafari, project manager WHO-NPSP, said "complacency will be India's biggest enemy. Second biggest threat is import. In 2010, India exported the polio virus to Tajikistan, where around 350 children were affected. The virus then spread to Russia. Even in Congo the Indian strain established itself and is still in circulation."

However, India's latest success in controlling the spread of the virus has tremendously increased global demand for Indian doctors working in the national polio surveillance programme.

Nigeria, one of the world's polio endemic countries, wants inputs from India on ways to control the virus. Congo, Chad, Uganda and Kenya have all asked India for expertise on polio eradication.

Dr Jafari added, "With India's success story, there is ongoing discussion of a global emergency operation against polio. With polio circulation halted in India, this is the closest we have come for a global eradication."

Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said India has spent Rs 12,000 crore on curbing polio control.

"We need to ensure no case of polio infection for the next three consecutive years for India to celebrate eradication of poliomyelitis... in 2009, India with 741 cases had accounted for nearly half the global cases," Azad said.

Ind vs Aus: India lose Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid cheaply on Day 1

Ind vs Aus: India lose Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid cheaply on Day 1
Ben Hilfenhaus of Australia (right) celebrates after taking the wicket of Virender Sehwag of India during the first day of the third Test at the WACA in Perth. (Reuters Photo)
NEW DELHI: India suffered another blow when Australian paceman Peter Siddle struck in his first over to remove Rahul Dravid on the first day of the third Test at the WACA ground in Perth.


Dravid attempted to flick full length delivery off his pads, probably beaten up by the pace and the ball ricochets off his pads to the stumps. Dravid made nine off 35 balls with the help of a boundary.

Dravid added 28 runs for the second wicket with Gautam Gambhir after losing Virender Sehwag early.

India's opening woes continued as the visitors lost Sehwag for a duck in the fourth over of the opening day.

Ben Hilfenhaus struck early when dangerous Sehwag looked to play to the offside that took an outside edge to Ricky Ponting at slip as India dealt an early blow.

Earlier, Australian skipper Michael Clarke won the toss and elected to bowl in the third Test of the four-match series.

Both Australia and India go with four quicks in the match. Pacer Vinay Kumar came in place of off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin for India whereas for the hosts Mitchell Starc replace spinner Nathan Lyon.

Australia hold a 2-0 lead in the four-Test series after convincing wins in Melbourne and Sydney.
India must win both remaining Tests to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

Indian batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar will again chase his elusive 100th international century, in just his third Test at the venue, where he scored a 114 on his first tour of Australia in 1992.

Tendulkar has been stranded on 99 Test and one-day international centuries since March when he scored 111 against South Africa in the World Cup.

Friday's match got under way under clear skies and in warm conditions, but there was some rain forecast for the coming days as a cyclone edges down the WA coast.


India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (c), Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Virat Kohli, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Vinay Kumar.

Australia: Michael Clarke (c), David Warner, Ed Cowan, Shaun Marsh, Ricky Ponting, Michael Hussey, Brad Haddin, Peter Siddle, Ben Hilfenhaus, Ryan Harris, Mitchel Starc.

Umpires: Aleem Dar (Pakistan) and Kumara Dharmasena ( Sri Lanka).

Third umpire: Paul Reiffel (Australia).

Match referee: Ranjan Madugalle (Sri Lanka)

India-Israel relations come out of Arab world shadow

India-Israel relations come out of Arab world shadow
Foreign minister SM Krishna shakes hands with Israeli President Shimon Peres during their meeting at the President's residence in Jerusalem on January 9, 2011. (AP photo)
NEW DELHI: The India-Israel relationship is finally out of the closet. In three days in Israel and Palestine, foreign minister S M Krishna showed that Indian foreign policy may have finally matured enough to be able to conduct perfectly normal, successful relations with Israel and the Arab world simultaneously, without worrying about hurting feelings or stepping on toes.

For years, India has conducted its relations with Israel almost covertly, as if trying to hide from the Arab world, where its traditional friends lay. But an official who was part of Krishna's meetings in Israel observed, "This visit proved that at the highest levels, India and Israel can openly discuss issues of interest and concern with each other like other normal partners, without inhibitions."

That, in essence was the greatest strategic takeaway from Krishna's visit to Israel, the first in over a decade, with a country that has rapidly become one of India's most important partners, particularly in critical areas of security, defence and what matters to Indians most, agriculture. Already, hundreds of Israeli and Indian companies work together in security, agriculture, technology and alternative energy, real estate, pharmaceutics, telecom etc.

While the tangible deliverables were about agriculture and research and development -- Israel now has 27 agriculture projects in over seven Indian states and will sponsor 100 post-doctoral scholarships for Indians -- the discussions were much more substantive. In his public interactions, Krishna unhesitatingly detailed counter-terrorism, security and defence as the big areas of connect with Israel.

Israeli minister for internal security Yitzhak Aharonovitch had visited India recently where the primary discussions were about tackling terrorism.

Interestingly, while Krishna was being presented with a specially signed tennis racquet as an acknowledgment of his sporting love, premier Israeli business media Globes reported that Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) was signing its largest-ever defence deal with India, over $1.1 billion worth of missiles, anti-missile systems, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), intelligence and other systems.

IAI informed the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange of the deal on Wednesday but withheld the name of the customer. While speculation had South Korea as one of the possible customers, Globes reported from its sources that the recipient country was India and the negotiations had been personally led by the CEO Yitzhak Nissan. According to estimates, defence trade between India and Israel amounted to almost $9 billiion.

The new element in bilateral relations is energy. As first reported by TOI, Israel has evinced interest in exporting gas to India, having made massive gas discoveries offshore in fields named Tamar and Leviathan.

Indian and Israeli officials reportedly discussed ways of getting the gas to India, because India remains one of the biggest gas customers and currently relies on Qatar for most of its gas imports.

None of this closeness though, will change India's voting record in the UN substantially. India has consistently voted against Israel. But despite their evident disappointment, Israel has refrained from haranguing India on the issue.

"There are several sectors in which India and Israel will be working together, are working together and which are critical for both the economies," Indian ambassador to Israel Navtej Sarna was quoted as saying.

Supreme Court invokes harsher law for drunken hit-and-run

Supreme Court invokes harsher law for drunken hit-and-run
Alistair Pereira could have got more than a three-year sentence had the Maharashtra government appealed against the HC verdict.
NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday set the trend for stringent punishment to those causing road deaths due to drunk driving by holding that the Bombay high court was right in sending Alistair Anthony Pereira to jail for three years. But it said this too was lenient punishment for his offence of driving in a drunken state and mowing to death seven persons sleeping on a Mumbai pavement in 2006.

This judgment by Justices R M Lodha and J S Khehar, which dismissed Pereira's appeal, is a landmark of sorts as till now, the apex court had dealt with drunk driving cases resulting in conviction and sentence under Section 304A of Indian Penal Code and not under Section 304-II, which has a maximum sentence of 10 years.

Writing the judgment for the bench, Justice Lodha said, "The facts and circumstances of the case, which have been proved by the prosecution in bringing home the guilt of the accused under Section 304-II, undoubtedly show despicable aggravated offence warranting punishment proportionate to the crime."

Pereira could have got more than a three-year sentence had the Maharashtra government appealed against the HC verdict. The bench said, "Seven precious human lives were lost by the act of the accused. For an offence like this, which has been proved against the appellant, sentence of three years awarded by the HC is too meagre and not adequate but since no appeal has been preferred by the state, we refrain from considering the matter for enhancement."

Revisit sentencing policy

The Supreme Court said that an inebriated Alistair Anthony Pereira, who mowed to death seven persons sleeping on a Mumbai pavement in 2006, may have paid Rs 8.5 lakh compensation to the victims' kin but no amount of compensation could relieve the families from constant agony.

"As a matter of fact, the HC had been quite lenient in awarding to the appellant sentence of three years for an offence under Section 304-II where seven persons were killed," the court said.

The bench, in its 69-page judgment, said, "Our country has the dubious distinction of registering maximum number of deaths in road accidents. It is high time that lawmakers revisit the sentencing policy reflected in Section 304A of the IPC."

This judgment may have a bearing on cases such as the BMW hit-and-run case, where an appeal is pending in the apex court, and a similar case in which trial is pending against Bollywood superstar Salman Khan.

Pereira had run over 15 people, mostly migrant construction workers, sleeping on the pavement of Carter Road in Bandra in the early hours on November 12, 2006, killing seven.

The SC's stamp of approval on Pereira's conviction under Section 304-II means that the judiciary has decided to abandon giving the benefit of doubt to those driving in a drunken state and causing death and convicting them under Section 304A.

This section provides for a maximum jail term of two years or fine or both for death caused by rash and negligent driving. In contrast, Section 304-II attributes knowledge to the person that if he drove a vehicle under the influence of alcohol, he could cause death or inflict injuries on passersby that could cause their death. This section provides 10-year jail term to those found guilty.

Pereira's counsel, advocate UU Lalit, had argued that the HC erred in convicting his client under Section 304-II because if he was under the influence of alcohol, he would not have been aware of the consequences of his action.

But state government counsel Sanjay Kharde said everyone who drives after consuming alcohol beyond the permitted limit knows that he could lose control and cause death.

Our country has the dubious distinction of registering maximum number of road deaths. It is high time lawmakers revisit the sentencing policy.

Green shoots? Industrial output up from negative to 5.9% in November

Industrial Output
Although economists said the growth in industrial production may not remain as buoyant, the government was of the opinion that expansion in the fourth quarter will be more.
NEW DELHI: The New Year seems to be bringing some cheer with the emergence of some green shoots in the economy. Industrial production rose by 5.9%, the fastest pace of expansion in five months, on account of a better performance by manufacturing and electricity sectors.

What's more, it reversed sentiments, which fell to new lows following a 5.1% dip in factory output in October when the government released the data last month. Those numbers have now been revised to a 4.7% contraction. In November 2010, the index of industrial production had grown by 6.4%.

In the last few months, policymakers have been hit by a series of bad news on the economy as inflation has remained above 9% and economic growth has been moderating every quarter, prompting the government to lower the forecast for the year to 7%. To add to it, investment decisions have been put on hold as interest rates have risen and consumer demand has been impacted.
With food inflation also falling 2.9% for the week-ended December 24, the good news seems to be flowing in. But the bad news is that the recovery in industrial output may just prompt the Reserve Bank of India to defer a rate cut in the monetary policy review later this month.

After raising key policy rates 13 times since March 2010, RBI opted against increasing rates in December. Economists said RBI governor D Subbarao may want to watch how the situation pans out over the next couple of months and opt for a rate cut later.

The government, however, seemed to suggest that the policy focus needs to change to boost investment in the economy and spur economic activity further. "We need to build on this recovery with a stronger performance of capital goods and therefore investments, to recover the growth momentum in the remaining months of the current financial year. The policy focus will have to be accordingly adjusted," finance minister Pranab Mukherjee told reporters.

Barring capital goods, where output fell 4.6%, the other sectors fared better with growth of durables (11.2%) and non-durables (14.8%), suggesting that consumer demand remained strong. Of the 22 sub-sectors for which data was released, 17 were in positive terrain.

Economists said that more working days boosted production in factories. As a result, manufacturing sector saw production rise by 6.6% on the back of a rise in motor vehicles, food and publishing sectors. Electricity production rose at a more impressive 14.6%. But mining continued to languish with output contracting by 4.4%, the fourth straight month of decline.

Although economists said the growth in industrial production may not remain as buoyant, the government was of the opinion that expansion in the fourth quarter will be more. "We will do better in the fourth quarter (January-March) as the fundamentals are strong and domestic demand will help manufacturing. Even exports will do better. In October, we lost a few days due to holidays and that also affected the overall production data," industry secretary P K Chaudhery said.

"The strength at least in part reflected the timing of Diwali and thus could prove temporary. Given output has fallen in four of the past five months by our estimates, a further deterioration in overall production growth in Q4 as whole is all but inevitable," BNP Paribas, the French finance major, said in a research note.

Citi India economist Rohini Malkani also raised questions over data volatility in recent months.

"The rebound in industrial growth as per November IIP figures need to be seen with caution as some of the fundamental trends remain weak," Marico chief Harsh Mariwala said.

But the government was certainly rejoicing. "Clearly, the industrial growth of almost 6% is a good change... I think it hopefully indicates that slowdown in industry will basically come to an end during the third quarter (October to December) of the financial year," Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia said.

Batla House encounter genuine, no further probe: P Chidambaram

Batla House encounter genuine, no further probe: P Chidambaram
The home minister said, “After looking into the matter, after I took over as home minister, we came to the conclusion that the (Batla House) encounter was a genuine encounter.”
NEW DELHI: Home minister P Chidambaram on Thursday firmly rejected Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh's claim that the Batla House encounter case was "fake", ruling out reopening the case which resulted in the killing of Indian Mujahideen commander Atif Ameen.

"After looking into the matter, after I took over as home minister, we came to the conclusion that the encounter was a genuine encounter," Chidambaram said. The home minister's forthright remark came even as BJP attacked the Congress leadership and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of indulging Digvijaya Singh's "dirty politics for the sake of votes" over the September 2008 encounter in the Capital.

"Every authority who has looked into it (the case) has agreed that it was a genuine encounter. So, while there is a difference of opinion, I think the matter rests where it stands today. I don't think there is any scope for reopening that matter," Chidambaram said when reporters asked him about Singh's statement on Wednesday that while he always held the Batla House encounter to be "fake", the PM and the home minister did not agree with him.

While Chidambaram confirmed that Singh had doubts about the encounter in which Delhi Police lost Inspector Mohan Chandra Sharma, one of its most decorated officers, he was firm in ruling out the demand for a fresh probe.

Chidambaram's assertion acquires significance because Singh's statements on Batla House have widely been seen as crafted to help the Congress attract Muslims on whose support the party's prospects for UP are supposed to be based on. Singh made his latest intervention on the Batla House encounter at Azamgarh after a group of Muslim youth heckled Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi and burnt his effigy.

The two alleged operatives of IM who were killed in the encounter and others who were in the house where it took place belonged to Azamgarh.

Significantly, BJP, which has been boycotting Chidambaram in Parliament and never misses an opportunity to target him, seemed to be appreciative of the home minister in this case. "If Chidambaram as home minister says the Batla House encounter was genuine, then how did Digvijay Singh term it fake in the presence of Rahul Gandhi in Azamgarh on Wednesday," BJP spokesperson Ravishankar Prasad asked.

Prasad's colleague and fellow spokesperson Prakash Javdekar joined in the attack. "Let the prime minister come out of his silent mode and explain to the nation what are the facts of the Batla House encounter in which a brave police officer had to pay the price and he died to the bullets fired by terrorists... And, here's a Congress leader giving morale booster to the terrorists and demoralising the police force by his antics," he said.

Both Prasad and Javdekar asked Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and Rahul to give an explanation on Singh's statements on the issue, as he spoke "their language". Javdekar further said, "How much you will stoop low to gain a few votes," he asked.

"Digvijay is his majesty's voice. You cannot remain mute spectators," Javdekar said while questioning Sonia and Rahul. He went a step ahead by asking the PM to not just clarify his own position with regard to the matter but take action against Singh for making such statements.

"In fact, the PM should take action against Digvijay, as he was trying to influence the courts. We condemn such dirty politics," Javdekar said.

Apologise for offensive show, India tells BBC

India demands apology from BBC for offensive show
India demands apology from BBC for offensive show
LONDON: India has demanded an apology from the BBC over its presenter Jeremy Clarkson mocking Indian culture during a Christmas special programme while driving around the country, calling it a "breach" of agreement.

Clarkson, one of the highest paid BBC presenters known for his controversial comments, presented the Top Gear programme, which since its broadcast prompted several complaints and allegations of racism.

In its January 6 letter to the programme's producer, Chris Hale, and copied to Mark Thompson, director-general of BBC, the high commission said the BBC was "clearly in breach of the agreement that you had entered into, completely negating our constructive and proactive facilitation".

The letter added: "The programme was replete with cheap jibes, tasteless humour and lacked cultural sensitivity. This is not clearly what we expect of the BBC. I write this to convey our deep disappointment over the documentary for its content and the tone of the presentation".

In the programme, Clarkson allegedly made controversial comments about India's trains, toilets, clothing, food and history.

The BBC has confirmed receiving 23 complaints about the programme, and added that it would directly respond to the Indian high commission's letter.

Senior Labour MP Keith Vaz, who called for a BBC apology when the programme was broadcast over Christmas, told The Telegraph last night: "It seems that the reasons given by the BBC in order to obtain their visas to go to India did not disclose the true nature of the content of this programme."

"One ridiculous programme has done a lot of damage to this good relationship. A swift apology from the BBC and Mr Clarkson may go some way towards restoring our good relations and the reputation of the BBC in India," Vaz added.

Before leaving for India, Hale had informed the high commission in a letter dated 21 July that the trip was intended to be "light hearted... focusing on the journey and the inevitable idiosyncracies of the cars they will drive, as well as the country and the scenery we see along the way".

Clarkson was accompanied by two presenters, Richard Hammond and James May.

Hale's letter added: "There will be spontaneous interaction between the presenters and their environment, and potentially people they meet along the way. This will be in an incidental manner, not interviews. Key ingredients of what we film will be beautiful scenery, busy city scenes, local charm and colour within these locations, areas to illustrate the local car culture that exists in India."

CWG case: Arguments on charges from Feb 1

NEW DELHI: Arguments on framing of charges against sacked Commonwealth Games Organizing Committee chief Suresh Kalmadi and others in a CWG-related corruption case will start from February 1, a special CBI court said on Thursday while directing the defence to finish scrutiny of documents by the end of this month.

Special CBI judge Talwant Singh decided on day-to-day proceedings in the case from Friday and directed the accused to be brought to court everyday at 10 am so that they could discuss with their lawyers during scrutiny of documents. "It is directed that scrutiny work be over by January 31. Arguments on charge will start from February 1 ," the court said.

It directed the defence counsel to complete the scrutiny of documents, filed by CBI along with the chargesheet, by the end of this month . "Whatever documents are there on judicial record, you (counsel) can take their photocopies. I am taking up the case on a day-to-day basis. I try to accommodate everyone here but then this allegation comes that there is delay in trial by the court," the judge said.

The court's remarks came while dealing with the applications of various accused that documents provided by CBI, along with the chargesheet, were incomplete or illegible.

Government unwilling to revise Bhopal tragedy toll

NEW DELHI: The government is not keen to change the classification of victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy in its curative petition before the Supreme Court and allow higher compensation for thousands or admit to a higher number of fatalities, although it is ready to consider doubling the relief demanded for the small number it currently accepts as dead and those permanently scarred due to the lethal gas leak.

The government seems to be reluctant to change the classification, which currently puts a vast majority of victims under the lowest 'temporary ill' or with 'minor injuries' category or admit to higher mortality figures, as that could also create a precedent methodology for all future cases of a similar nature.

The group of ministers on Bhopal will consider these issues on Friday.

Even though the note for the GoM suggests that the compensation could be doubled in some cases, it has warned that changing the classification of victims could jeopardize the chance of the curative petition in the SC. The curative petition was filed to seek higher compensation on the grounds that there were factual errors in reporting the number of people affected.

As per the curative petition of the government, 527,894 victims are classified as those with 'minor injuries' and 35,455 as those with 'temporary injuries'. It classifies only 4,902 with permanent injuries, and 42 as utmost severe cases. This, despite the fact that the safety manual of Union Carbide notes that 'major residual injury is likely in spite of prompt treatment' if someone breathes the lethal Methyl Isocyante that had leaked in Bhopal in 1984.

The government is also not keen to alter the number of people it admits as deceased (5,295), despite the state government having admitted that 15,342 people had died till 1997 as a result of exposure to the leakage at the Union Carbide plant.

The curative petition puts the number of permanently disabled at six times less than the original numbers it had accepted in 1989 and those with utmost severity at 47 times less. The government does not want the methodology reopened despite the obvious lacunae. For example, people are only considered disabled if they are left unable to work. Consequently, 74% of those with serious injuries - like elderly people, students, housewives, otherwise unemployed people and children - were marked as disabled but got relief for only 'minor injuries' because the compensation form only accepted a disability if the people had also lost existing livelihoods.

The government stopped admitting any claims for deaths due to the tragedy after that even though the Indian Council of Medical Research showed that the death rates remained substantially higher (almost twice as high) at that time in these areas as compared to those that had not been affected.

The ICMR too wound up its research after 1997. Projections based on this higher death rate, which is attributed to the gas leak, could take the numbers of dead to more than 20,000.

But, the government has decided to go with the original numbers merely admitting to a factual error in counting in the first case and not admitting to a fault of the government in the process of identifying the affected.

The process of justifying the claim for compensation left the onus on the victims' families at their own expense, and 10,047 cases were rejected at the time of paying compensation even though the district collector had accepted 15,342 cases. The appeals' process was so tedious that only 2% of the rejected claimants ever did so.

Where should NRIs invest their gains from a weak rupee

  The rupee was quoting at 44.8001 against the US dollar seven months ago, and has depreciated 18.28% since then. A falling rupee is not the best news for us, but it definitely is for exporters and NRI investors who will receive more rupee funds on conversion. Given the current scenario, NRIs have some good investment options to park their surplus funds.

Short term (6 months to 1 year)

Fixed income mutual funds: A range of fi xed income mutual funds offer customers the combined benefi t of attractive returns with full repatriability, low cost, convenient processing and ease of portfolio tracking. Safe investors should opt for liquid plus funds.

Bond funds/longer-duration gilt funds: They are meant for investors who are comfortable with some price uncertainty. "They can benefit from any potential capital gain arising out of any reduction in future interest rates. Also, any appreciation in the rupee over the investment period would imply additional returns," VISHAL KAPOOR, Head, Wealth Management, Standard Chartered Bank, India.

NRE deposits: "They are clearly the best option after the deregulation by RBI. Short-term deposit rates are attractive due to tight liquidity conditions in money markets while being tax free," SUTAPA BANERJEE, CEO - Private Wealth, Ambit Capital.

Medium term (1-3 years)

Balanced mutual funds/NRE deposits: You can opt for either of these instruments depending on whether the horizon is one or three years, respectively. "The choice depends on the kind of price volatility and whether the investor is seeking a guaranteed return or not," JAYANT PAI, CFP, Vice-President, Parag Parikh Financial Advisory Services.

Fixed maturity plans: They are an attractive option for customers looking to locking in at prevailing high rates. For risky investors, Indian equities may offer signifi cant long-term opportunities. "Investors could participate through selective stocks or through a wide range of equity funds with good track record. The quarter ahead may offer selective buying opportunities for active investors, or one could choose to simply stagger investments through a defi ned period, using systematic transfer from debt to equity funds," says Kapoor.

Long term (3 years or more)

Diversified equity funds (through SIPs): They are good options at the current rates. FDs are not a good option as the uncertainty of foreign exchange movements may not be fully compensated by interest rates. "However, risk averse depositors may chits. Gold ETFs are also a oose long-term NRE deposgood option," says Pai. Investors should allocate their funds using a strategic allocation model tailored to their individual risk profi le. This should normally combine debt, equity as well as alternative assets. Clearly, debt offers a very attractive opportunity in the near term but one should also keep in perspective the attractiveness of Indian equities over the medium to long term.

Realty Check

Real estate as an investment option makes sense if you plan to return to India after some time. However, you should choose a location that is familiar to you and stick to a reputed builder, given that proximity is an issue.

From a pure investment angle too, the same caveat applies: Familiarity and reputation. Also, there is greater chance that projects of reputed builders will appreciate more than others'.

Also, as NRIs are not permitted to purchase plots of land/plantations/farm houses. Even commercial real estate is subject to a plethora of limiting regulations. Purchasing apartments or bungalows maybe the only options available.

It is difficult to give a ballpark estimate regarding returns, as it will depend on the location and various other factors.

However, as an investor you have to be cautious in the near-term since it is an interest rate sensitive sector and demand may be impacted by relatively high interest rates.

"It is imperative to find out whether one is allowed to invest in an instrument by RBI as well as by the country of their residence. For example, several bonds don't have separate clauses which allow for NRIs to invest in them," says Banerjee of Ambit Capital .

Choosing The Right Investment

Liquidity, post-tax returns, price volatility and credit risk are the crucial factors that should determine the choice of the instrument you invest in.

The amount of foreign exchange risk one is willing to undertake is also a crucial factor. Of course, the forex risk is always present in all options other than FCNR deposits.

Convenience and trust need consideration. One may choose those options where he/she can transact online. This enables easier portfolio tracking.

Suitability of the product/asset based on endogenous factors such as age, economic situation, liquidity considerations etc. are the same as those for resident Indians.


Govt faces Supreme Court ire over pendency

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday said pendency of 3 crore cases could not be effectively dealt with unless the government created more courts and filled vacancies because annual disposal of cases by trial courts, high courts and the Supreme Court only matched the numbers filed every year, leaving the backlog untouched.

If a bench of Justices A K Ganguly and T S Thakur questioned additional solicitor general Harin Raval on the Centre's policy decisions on judicial reforms including speeding up of justice delivery, another bench of Justices A K Patnaik and Swatanter Kumar was critical of the UPA government's decision to scrap fast-track courts.

The bench of Justices Ganguly and Thakur accepted Raval's contention that it would be a mismatch if the government was asked to create more posts of judges when a large number of such posts was lying vacant.

But it wanted to know from the ASG whether any of the policy decisions intended to create more courts in view of a finding that the country would require 75,000 more trial judges in the next three decades.

It asked the Centre to refer to the Law Commission, which is doing a comprehensive study in this regard, to include in its terms of reference the need for increasing the number of courts and ways and means to deal with the vacancy problem.

On the other hand, amicus curiae and senior advocate P S Narasimha drew the attention of a bench of Justices Patnaik and Kumar to the scrapping of fast-track courts from March 31, 2011.

The bench said during the All India Conference of Chief Justices and Chief Ministers, there was unanimity that FTCs had played a constructive role in reducing arrears and should be continued.

It looked into the law ministry's file relating to discontinuation of these courts and found that a decision had been taken to run morning and evening courts in place of fast-track courts. Narasimha said whenever there was an attempt to hinder speedy justice, constitutional courts had inherent power to take necessary corrective measures to ensure financial grants to sustain existing justice delivery system. The bench reserved verdict on the issue.

Govt finally clears umbrella anti-terror organization

Govt finally clears umbrella anti-terror organization
The NCTC will work as an “integral” part of the Intelligence Bureau, but will be exclusively focused on counter-terrorism on the lines of specialized anti-terror agencies in the US, the UK, Germany, France, Israel, Russia, China and Japan.
NEW DELHI: Government on Thursday finally gave its approval to set up a 'specialized' anti-terror body, National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), which will work as a single-window entity to pool together and collate terror-related intelligence inputs, draw plans to neutralize terror modules and coordinate action among different terror agencies to defuse threats.

A core team of this body comprising its director and other top officials will be put in place by end-March or early April, completing the counter-terror institutional architecture that Union home minister P Chidambaram had planned after the 26/11 strikes.

NCTC to be key part of IB

The NCTC will work as an "integral" part of the Intelligence Bureau, but will be exclusively focused on counter-terrorism on the lines of specialized anti-terror agencies in the US, the UK, Germany, France, Israel, Russia, China and Japan.

As part of Centre's post-26/11 blueprint, NIA, National Intelligence Grid and NSG hubs designed to facilitate the spreading of the commandos across the country, have been set up. The NCTC, the remaining piece, was held up because of reservations among certain quarters of the government over its scope. The final design has accommodated the concerns of various wings of the government that were stakeholders in the decision.

Asked whether the proposed set up for the NCTC reflected a dilution of his earlier plans, Chidambaram said, "It's not a comedown. This is a beginning. Eventually based on our experience, based on what we find our shortcomings, deficiencies or the safeguard that has to be built, it will eventually grow into a kind of organization that I envisaged."

Talking to reporters after the Cabinet committee on security gave "in principle" clearance to the NCTC, the home minister said its function will include drawing up of plans and coordinating all actions, particularly counterterrorism.

Chidambaram said the core team will be the "nucleus" around which the NCTC will be built. "After obtaining the necessary approvals from department of expenditure and DoPT, we will begin the work of appointing the core team," he said.

Spelling out the brief for the NCTC, Chidambaram said the agency will also coordinate with relevant probe and intelligence agencies to ensure that the perpetrators of terror are brought to justice, besides maintaining comprehensive database of terrorists, their associates and supporters.

"It will ensure that all agencies have access and receive all intelligence support", he said, adding it will be under Intelligence Bureau and report to its director, Union home secretary and the home minister. The home minister, however, did not disclose finer details of its functioning. At present, the IB's anti-terror function is being looked after by the multi agency centre (MAC), that will be subsumed into the NCTC.

Chidambaram said its function will include drawing up of plans and coordinating all actions, particularly counterterrorism. 

Centre plans citizen's charter for every department

  NEW DELHI: The 'aam aadmi' may soon receive services and grievance redressal in specified timeframes, with the Centre initiating the process to evolve citizen's charter for every Union government department despite the legislation concerned being stuck in political wrangling.

The cabinet secretariat is in discussions with Union ministries about citizen's/client's charters to fix the services and the timeline in which they should be delivered. Services rendered by the central government, such as export-import licences, environmental and other clearances and transferring funds to states could all become time-bound now.

It could revolutionise the delivery system at the Centre by putting the onus of expediting services and grievance redressal on the babu-driven establishment. The ability to keep grievances and requests endlessly pending is seen as the main reason behind corruption, with extraneous favours for officials emerging as the lubricant of the slothful machine. The infamous red tape is another manifestation of the systemic malaise.

Charter Congress' political gambit

The Centre's failed attempt to push through the legislation on grievance redressal in the just-concluded winter session of Parliament seems to have added urgency to the issue. Congress seems to be keen on winding up the major 'aam aadmi' plank outside of Parliament to ensure that it has the upper hand in the anti-graft debate which has been put on the national agenda by its bugbear Anna Hazare.

The stalemated law has put Congress on a weak wicket in comparison to states and regional parties which have already promulgated legislations for mandatory deadline-based service delivery. A citizen's charter without statutory backing may not be able to prescribe deterrent punishment for recalcitrant officials.

The cabinet secretariat, which kickstarted the initiative in November 2011, is learnt to have fixed January-end as the deadline to clinch the issue.

While most ministries have responded with 'services-and-timeline' schedules, the cabinet secretariat is using the consultation to refine the draft charters, even running them through expert bodies like Indian Institutes of Management.

The performance management cell of cabinet secretariat underlined the urgency by telling ministries that "quality citizen's/client's charters by all central departments is a significant step towards a transparent and responsive government".

The ministries, usually sceptical of moves putting them in a corner like their resistance to RTI Act, have had to respond positively. Giving them little margin to duck the charter this time, the cabinet secretariat has made citizen's charter an integral part of the Results-Framework Document, the mechanism to assess the performance of the ministry and the minister.

Sources said the citizen's charter is a mandatory indicator in the RFD with 2% weightage in the current assessment year. So much so that even timely submission of the final charter is being 

Date of birth battle not yet over: General VK Singh

  NEW DELHI: The Army chief's defiant battle against the government to get his "honour and integrity" restored is far from over. With General VK Singh not ruling out resigning before his term, the senior-most serving Lt-General Shankar Ghosh also seems to have thrown his hat into the ring, muddying the succession battle further. 

Gen Singh himself was quite combative, albeit a little hurt by "reprehensible" campaigns directed against him, during the annual Army Day press conference on Thursday.  Usual questions on Pakistan, China, J&K, the Army's "transformation" drive, modernization delays and the like were hurled at him, but were repeatedly interspersed by ones on the festering controversy over his date of birth (DoB). "The (DoB) issue has always been of integrity and honour right from the time it came to the forefront. It has always been tackled by me in organizational interest," he said.  Asked point-blank whether he was contemplating resignation, Gen Singh said, "Please leave it to my judgement about what I should do. I may decide on some action after I find time to think about myself."  With Gen Singh keeping all his options open, sources say Western Command chief Lt-Gen Ghosh, the senior-most among the eight Army commander-rank officers in the 1.13-million force, got his "medical category" upgraded barely10 days ago in a surprising move. This after first getting it downgraded last year on account of "osteoarthritis of the right hip joint" to get a higher disability pension.  Perhaps, Lt-Gen Ghosh fancies his chances to become the Army chief since he will be the senior-most general if the Army chief resigns before his tenure ends on May 31. Lt-Gen Ghosh is also slated to retire on May 31.  Even though it's a political call, successive governments have almost always followed the seniority principle to anoint a new military chief, except in extremely rare instances like Lt-Gen SK Sinha's supersession by Gen A S Vaidya as the Army chief by Indira Gandhi in the early 1980s.  As of now, Eastern Army commander Lt-Gen Bikram Singh is the frontrunner for the coveted post when Gen VK Singh retires on May 31 as scheduled, with the defence ministry firmly holding the Army chief's date of birth (DoB) will stand at "May 10, 1950", and not "May 10, 1951" as he wants.  If Gen Singh's year of birth was settled at 1951, present Northern Army commander Lt-Gen K T Parnaik would have taken over since the former would continue in office till March, 2013.  One thing is clear. The Army chief does not want Lt-Gen Bikran Singh to succeed him since he believes his DoB was not corrected despite his repeated attempts since former chiefs like Gens J J Singh and Deepak Kapoor wanted to pave the way for the present Eastern Army commander.  Asked about allegations of a decade-old fake encounter in J&K being leveled against Lt-Gen Bikram Singh, the Army chief said the matter was sub-judice. "We have a report of that period, which has been made available to the people concerned. I don't think there was an inquiry conducted at that time. In all encounters, it is left to the civil police to do the inquiry," he said.  The age controversy has deepened the civilian-military divide. Gen Singh, however, contends his age row had neither marred his transformational and anti-corruption drives, not affected his working relationship with the defence ministry. "I work for the organization, not for myself. It may play a role in my family life, or within the four walls of my house, but not outside," he said.

Andaman police start probe into Jarawa video

NEW DELHI: With Andaman police registering a case against unknown persons in connection with the video of semi-naked Jarawa tribals being made to dance in return for food, the Centre on Thursday said it had asked the Union Territory administration to quickly apprehend the videographer and the tour operator concerned and interrogate them. 

Asked about the probe, home minister P Chidambaram said, "Now we have got a copy of the video, we have subjected that video to an analysis. It appears that the particular video was shot, I am not talking about any other video, may be there is more than one... that particular video we have been able to date it and its about 3-4 years ago."  He said instructions had been issued to the Andaman & Nicobar administration to quickly apprehend the videographer and the tour operator concerned. "Whatever policy has been adopted by the Andaman and Nicobar administration is in place. I think what happened was a violation of that policy," Chidambaram said.  A massive hunt has, meanwhile, been launched by the UT administration to nab the persons responsible for videographing semi-naked Jarawa tribal women dancing in front of tourists. The A&N Police have formed a special team led by a deputy superintendent of police which will seek help of cyber cell of central agencies in cracking the computer from where it was hosted.  The issue sparked a controversy when London-based newspaper 'Observor' reported the alleged incident and also uploaded a video.  The BJP, meanwhile, said the Jarawas and other tribes of Andaman and Nicobar Islands should be included in the mainstream of development and should not be left to lead primitive lives.  BJP spokesperson Prakash Javdekar said denying anyone the right to come into the mainstream was wrong. "The government should review its policy on the tribes, they should try to understand their aspiration," he said.  "You cannot deny them the right to development, and to become a part of the mainstream. I have seen the Jarawas coming to the road, to ambulances and getting medical aid," he added.

Pranab Mukherjee was aware of controversial 2G note, finmin officials tell JPC

NEW DELHI: Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee was aware of the contents of the controversial March 25, 2011 2G note which suggested P Chidambaram could have prevented the scam by insisting on auctions, a top ministry official told the Joint Parliamentary Committee on telecom on Thursday. 

Department of economic affairs secretary R Gopalan agreed that the meaning of the noting "seen" by the minister meant that Mukherjee was aware of the note although he may not have approved it, JPC chairperson P C Chacko said after the committee's meeting. "We sought this clarification," Chacko told TOI.  Gopalan's offered his explanation as finance ministry officials were grilled by opposition members over when and under what circumstances did the finance ministry under P Chidambaram during UPA-1 drop its insistence on revising entry level prices for 2G spectrum.  Gopalan and finance secretary R S Gujral were subjected to intense questioning on the March 25, 2011 note that cast Chidambaram in poor light by BJP's S S Ahluwalia who presented documents including a key January 5, 2011 telecom note to the cabinet secretariat stating the need for a "harmonized" version of events in the light of media reports. BJP's Yashwant Sinha said the finance ministry could not shy away from its ownership of the note.  The trigger, Ahluwalia contended, was not media reports but the need to respond to the Public Accounts Committee probing the damaging audit report on 2G licences. In this context, references to Chidambaram were deliberate and Ahluwalia asked officials whether it was normal practice for finance ministry to coordinate a note that should have been the telecom ministry's domain.  The telltale evidence, Ahluwalia said, lay in a finance ministry note of March 23 that said certain documents collated were at variance to what had been submitted to the PAC and CAG earlier. The PMO remained in the picture as the then principal secretary to PM was noted to have inquired whether replies were sent to PAC.  Congress members interrupted Ahluwalia at one point leading to strong protests by Sinha. Although Congress members did not intervene much, party MP Manish Tewari sought two hours to pose questions to the officials at a later date.  Sinha asked officials why the finance ministry dropped its guard not only on revision of 2001 entry prices for licences issued in 2008 but also its case for charging for spectrum embedded with licences and additional airwaves beyond 4.4 Mhz.  Sinha said the ministry's objectives were to try and maximize the government's earnings and ensure that pricing was decided jointly by finance and telecom ministry. It failed to do either. "At what level was the decision taken not to pursue these aims," Sinha is understood to have asked.  MPs insisted that the finance ministry could not wash its hands off the note even though it bore the PMO's scrutiny as it was issued by the ministry. A draft of the March 25 note was sent to PMO on January 18 and its final form was not a factual account but "bristled with conclusions" on Chidambaram's possible role in preventing the licence disbursal.  At one stage then, finance secretary Ashok Chawla notes that the principal secretary to PM has sought to know the status of the communication. Cabinet secretariat also notes the PMO's interest.  Some political quarters felt that the March 25, 2011 note reflected the PMO's need to "set the record straight" after media reports surfaced on Chidambaram having written to the PM supporting auctions. The controversial note saw Mukherjee distancing himself from its compilation and in a stroke turning the focus on Chidambaram and PMO. Mukherjee argued in a letter to the PM that the note had been prepared only because the PMO pressed for such a course of action.

BPL health scheme to be extended to more unorganized workers

NEW DELHI: The government on Thursday reviewed the implementation of Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY), the scheme launched five years ago to ensure health insurance for families living below the poverty line, saying that it will be extended to several segments of unorganized workers. 

After a meeting of the Union Cabinet, the government said that the scheme has already been extended to some segments of unorganized workers like MNREGA beneficiaries, street vendors, domestic helps, beedi workers and those working in building and construction sites.  The scheme, which is said to have been appreciated by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the World Bank, was launched on October 1, 2007, as health insurance scheme for families living below the poverty line. Under the scheme, beneficiaries are entitled to smart card-based cashless health insurance cover of Rs 30,000 per family per annum on a family floater basis.  The Central government contributes 75% of the annual premium of the scheme while states' share is 25%. In case of north-east region and Jammu and Kashmir, the Centre's share in the premium contribution goes up to 90% and the state has to provide a mere 10% of the total premium.  The beneficiary family has to pay only Rs 30 per annum per family as registration and renewal fee. Administrative cost is borne by state governments.

Sikh wins turban case against France in UN

AMRITSAR:"The UN Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) has asked France to submit a report by March 15 on measures it is planning to take against violation of religious freedom of 76-year-old Ranjit Singh, who was asked to remove his turban for an ID photo" informed Mejinderpal Kaur, legal director of Sikh NGO, United Sikh on Thursday.

Following this observation of UNHRC, the Sikhs had won the turban case against France at UN, Mejinderpal Kaur added. Quoting the media conference held in Bobigny, near Paris, by the United Sikhs legal team that had filed a communication in December 2008 on beahlf of Ranjit Singh, she said the UNHRC had concluded that France had violated the religous freedom of Ranjit Singh. The committee observed that France had failed to explain how the turban hindered identification since the wearer's face would be visible and he would be wearing the turban at all times, she said. She also conveyed the reaction of Ranjit Singh, who said "I had faith that truth and justice would prevail and I patiently waited for this day. I pray that France will now fulfil its obligation and grant me a residence card bearing my photo without baring my head." Mejinderpal Kaur said that they were happy with the Committee's observations that France was under obligation to provide Ranjit Singh with an effective remedy, including a reconsideration of his application for renewal of residence permit and a review of the relevant legislative framework and its application in practice. "We now look to France to fulfill its treaty obligations under International law and its moral duty to ensure that the freedom of religion and belief is upheld for everyone who lives within its territory," she added.

Censor posts or face China-like ban: Delhi high court to websites

NEW DELHI: Refusing to stay criminal proceedings against Google and Facebook, the Delhi high court on Thursday warned they may be "blocked" if they fail to devise a mechanism to check and remove objectionable contents from their webpages. "Like China, we too can block such websites," Justice Suresh Kait remarked during the hearing when counsel for Google and Facebook harped on their global policy of non-interference even if contents posted on their webpages are found to be obscene or objectionable. The court, however, told the internet firms that this policy won't work in India. Senior lawyer Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Google India, said postings which are "obscene, objectionable and defamatory" cannot be "filtered" or "monitored". "No human interference is possible. Moreover, it can't be feasible to check such incidents. Billions of people post their articles on the website. They may be defamatory and obscene, but cannot be checked," he argued, while trying to distinguish between Google India and its US-based holding firm Google Inc. "The US-based Google Inc is the service provider not me (Google India) and hence, we are not liable for the action of my holding company," Rohtagi said. He, however, assured the court that if the complainant, Vinay Rai, provided defamatory articles to Google India, then it can use "its good office" in getting them removed by its US firm. Additional solicitor general A S Chandhiok, appearing for the Centre, objected to Google's plea saying the US-based firm has "sufficient mechanism" to know that what is an offending material. Advocate Siddharth Luthra, appearing for Facebook India, questioned the authenticity of the documents provided by the complainant. "We do not know as to how the documents came into being. They are not in complaince with the Evidence Act," he said. He also argued that Facebook cannot be held accountable for the acts of the third parties.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Train collision in Jharkhand; 4 killed

Brahmaputra Express collides with a goods train, 4 dead
Brahmaputra Express collides with a goods train, 4 dead
SAHIBGANJ (Jharkhand): Four persons were killed and five others injured when the New Delhi-bound Brahmaputra Mail today collided with a goods train at Karonpuroto, about 25 km from here.

"A bogie of 14055 Brahmaputra Mail derailed and dashed against a stationary goods train, killing four persons," Superintendent of Police (Rail) Praveen Srivastav told PTI over phone.

An Eastern Railway spokesman at its headquarters in Kolkata said five persons had suffered "simple injuries".

A railway official said: "The goods train was standing as it's engine developed a snag. The passenger train hit it." The incident took place at 5.50 a.m.

The Brahmaputra Mail was going to New Delhi from Dibrugarh. A relief train has reached the spot.

Details are awaited, he said. Relief and rescue team has already left for the spot.

FMCG tops MBA graduates wish list; Hindustan Unilever as most-preferred recruiter

The fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) sector has emerged as the sector of choice for business school graduates with Hindustan Unilever topping the list as the preferred recruiter, according to a Nielsen survey.
KOLKATA: The fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) sector has emerged as the sector of choice for business school graduates with Hindustan Unilever topping the list as the preferred recruiter, according to a Nielsen survey. Thirty six per cent students preferred a career in the FMCG sector.

In its 12th year, the study took the views of 1,100 final year students from the top 35 B-schools in India in October-November last year. A majority of students also felt that FMCG has the highest growth potential.

After FMCG, top sectors of choice are management consulting, IT consultancy and services, investment banking, foreign and domestic banks, IT product and development, financial institutions, retail and conglomerates. Amongst the recruiters of choice, HUL was followed by Google, Aditya Birla Group, Accenture, McKinsey & Co, Infosys, P&G, BCG, Citi Group, Microsoft, TAS and Axis Bank.

"With the FMCG growth in the country being driven by consumption, the sector continues to find favour with students who see it as a sector with huge growth potential," says Nielsen executive director Dinesh Kapoor.

HUL's executive director (HR) Leena Nair said the economic environment has helped FMCG to be the sector of choice amongst the future talent.

"The finance sector probably lost out due to the environment. There is also excitement and speed of working in the FMCG sector, which do attract young talent. Companies like HUL have big leadership practices and brands which is yet another major attraction," says Nair.

Nair says HUL has undertaken a lot of work to become the destination for the best of talent. "We are constantly identifying and grooming the next generation and leaders.

We also invest a lot on training and mentoring talent," she said. HUL won the number one position after a decade.

HUL was also ranked the 'dream company' amongst B-school companies for the third year in a row, followed by P&G and McKinsey & Co. ITC also made it into the list of dream companies.

The average salary expectations of the students from their dream company remained the same as compared to the last year at Rs 16 lakh per annum, reflecting students gave more value to their role and job.

However, the salary expectation from a foreign company continues to remain almost double than that from an Indian company.

The 2011 Nielsen survey also showed that the top five dimensions students considered when it comes to seeking employment were high degree of independence at work, salary package, learning on the job, growth prospects and standing of the company in the market respectively.

Rahul Dravid rubbishes Australian media reports, says no rift in Team India

Rahul Dravid rubbishes Australian media reports, says no rift in Team India
Indian veteran batsman Rahul Dravid refuted Australia media reports that there is any rift in the team and said spirit is high ahead of the third Test at Perth. (AP Photo)
NEW DELHI: Indian veteran batsman Rahul Dravid refuted Australian media reports that there is any rift in the team and said spirit is high ahead of the third Test at Perth.

An article in Australian newspaper Herald Sun says, "Virender Sehwag is the man polarizing opinions in the Indian rooms." The paper quotes Australian pacer
Ryan Harris as saying that the "Indians were fighting among themselves" and the team does not have unity.

According to the article there is a division in the team on who should captain the Indian team. According to the report, some players are in favour of Sehwag as captain while a section wants
Mahendra Singh Dhoni to continue as skipper.

If players are to be believed, the atmosphere inside the dressing room is not as it is being made out in the media, particularly Australian, but the spirit after two big losses is certainly low. They feel that one good performance on the field could help the team turn the corner.

Celebrating his 39th birthday on Wednesday, India's batting mainstay Dravid also said the green Perth pitch will be a great challenge for Indian batsmen in a do-or-die third Test.

Navy officer drowns after training drill goes awry

Navy officer drowns after training drill goes awry
In a tragic case of harsh training drills going horribly wrong, a frontline Indian warship’s captain is in the dock after a newly commissioned officer drowned after being ordered to jump overboard into the icy-cold waters of the Arabian Sea.
NEW DELHI: In a tragic case of harsh training drills going horribly wrong, a frontline Indian warship's captain is in the dock after a newly commissioned officer drowned after being ordered to jump overboard into the icy-cold waters of the Arabian Sea.

Captain Rahul 'Rolly' Parmar, a "high-profile officer" commanding the 3,620-tonne guided-missile stealth frigate INS Talwar, has been "relieved" of his command till the naval Board of Inquiry (BoI) being held at the Mumbai-based Western Naval Command (WNC) into the shocking incident is completed.

Sources said Sub-Lieutenant Bipin Kumar, who had to "really struggle" to become an officer coming as he did from "humble origins'' with a retired Army havaldar as his father, drowned after being ordered by Capt Parmar to "jump into the rough sea, without proper safety precautions'' in place, off the Gujarat coast on December 29.

"There were no divers on stand-by, as is the norm, nor any life-jacket. The divers hit the waters almost 20 minutes after Kumar failed to surface. Even his body could not be found,'' said a source.

The Navy, which had kept the incident under wraps, contended it was "a freak, unfortunate accident'' arising from the "mandatory survival at sea'' exercises, on being contacted by TOI on Tuesday morning.

Such drills are regularly held to train all officers and sailors to survive in times of emergencies by first jumping overboard and then swimming well clear of a sinking warship to embark on lifeboats or rafts.

There is "no question" of Kumar being "selectively targeted" since five to six other "under-training officers" had also been lined up on the deck to jump into the sea after Kumar, the Navy said.

Moreover, there was a safety boat, with divers on board, positioned in the water before the drill began on INS Talwar. After Kumar failed to surface, a massive search operation was launched with five to six warships and aircraft being "diverted'' to search the mishap site. The BoI will ascertain the exact sequence of events, whether all requisite safety precautions were taken or not, and fix responsibility if required, the Navy said.

Incidentally, Kumar was a "strong swimmer'', known to have regularly swum across the over 1-km wide Khadakwasla Lake as a cadet in the premier tri-Service National Defence Academy near Pune.

Capt Parmar himself is known as "a bright, competent officer on the fast-track". After having commanded a Kora-class corvette and staff appointments with the flag officer commanding-in-chief of WNC, he was the crucial director of naval operations at Navy HQ in New Delhi.

He had been appointed the captain of INS Talwar, which took part in last month's presidential fleet review, barely a couple of months ago. While new captains are known to "tighten the screws" on ensure their warships and crew fare well in operational tasks, only the BoI will establish what exactly happened in the tragic case.