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Girdhari Lal Bhargava passes away

Sitting MP from Jaipur, Girdhari Lal Bhargava, 73, passed away in Ahmedabad in Gujarat after suffering a heart attack on Sunday.

A six-time MP from the city, he was once again given ticket by BJP last week to contest the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections.

On Saturday he was in Ahmedabad to attend an ONGC parliamentary committee meeting during which he complained of uneasiness in chest. He was rushed to Apollo Hospital, where he passed away around 8 am on Sunday. He is survived by wife, three daughters and a son.

Chief minister Ashok Gehlot and leader of Opposition Vasundhara Raje paid floral tributes to the departed leader at Sanager airport in the evening when his body was brought here from Ahmedabad. Thereafter his body was taken to BJP headquarters where thousands of workers were waiting for a last glimpse. His mortal remains will be taken to his paternal home at Purani Basti and the cremation is expected to take place at Chandpole crematorium on Monday.

As news of his death spread on Sunday, the entire city plunged into grief and many functions including Vasundhara Raje’s birthday celebrations were cancelled.

Bhargava, who was all set to plunge into another poll battle, will be remembered as a common man’s leader.

March 9, 2009 Posted by | News, Politics | , , , | Leave a comment

Rahul Gandhi emerges as a key player ahead of LS polls

Finalising seats with the NCP in Maharashtra came after a crucial meeting in Pune. Officially, it had nothing to do with alliances, but Rahul’s touch has been seen in many crucial decisions of late.

On paper, the agenda for the meeting was a look at the sugarcane industry. But there was certainly more juice to it, as Rahul Gandhi and Sharad Pawar came around to a seat sharing understanding. So, did Congress use Rahul Gandhi to stall the NCP from getting close to the Shiv Sena?

“Rahul Gandhi is a very senior functionary of the party and if he’s used in various roles, then what is the harm in that?” said Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh.

Of late Rahul Gandhi has been very quiet. He played a key role in the tie-up with another GenNext leader Omar Abdullah after the J&K polls. Rahul’s official role may be limited to reshaping the youth Congress but he has been advising on tickets for candidates too.

“I think it’s just like his father Rajiv Gandhi but this time it’s not under unfortunate circumstances,” said Oscar Fernandes, Union Minister of State for Labour.

During the recent assembly polls, it was Rahul Gandhi not Sonia Gandhi who campaigned extensively. But at that time she was said to be not well. But now there’s no excuse. He’s simply playing a more decisive role.

And later on Thursday is Rahul Gandhi’s big Kerala rally. He will launch the UDF campaign at Sangu-Mugham beach in Thiruvananthapuram. He will also inaugurate the valedictory function of the ‘Kerala Raksha March’ led by state Congress chief Ramesh Chennithala.

March 5, 2009 Posted by | News, Politics | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Open varsity degree not equal to regular PG: court

Postgraduate degrees awarded by open universities under the distance education programme to students who did not have the basic three-year degree could not be treated on a par with PG degrees obtained after regular study from a recognised university, the Supreme Court held on Wednesday.

A Bench consisting of Justices S.B. Sinha and Mukundakam Sharma upheld a Madras High Court judgment invalidating Annamalai University PG degrees conferred on distance education students under the ‘Open University’.

The Bench rejected the university’s submission that the judgment would have far-reaching ramifications as such courses were offered not only by it but also other universities. From 1991-1992 to 2003-2004, over 2.5 lakh students who obtained such degrees were appointed to various posts and they would suffer irreparable injury.

The Bench said the provisions of the University Grants Commission Act “are binding on all universities, whether conventional or open. Its powers are very broad. They apply equally to open universities as also to formal conventional universities. ”

On post facto approval granted to the appellant-university by the Distance Education Council, the Bench said: “The DEC may be an authority under the Act, but its orders would ordinarily have only a prospective effect… The degrees become invalidated in terms of the provisions of the UGC Act. When mandatory requirements have been violated in terms of the provisions of one Act, an authority under another Act could not have validated the same and that too with retrospective effect. The provisions of the UGC Act are not in conflict with the provisions of the Open University Act. It is beyond any cavil of doubt that UGC Act shall prevail over Open University Act.”

The Bench said: “If mandatory provisions of the statute have not been complied with, the law will take its course. The consequences will ensue. Relaxation, in our opinion, furthermore cannot be granted in regard to the basic things necessary for conferment of a degree. When a mandatory provision of a statute has not been complied with by an administrative authority, it would be void. Such a void order cannot be validated by inaction.”

In the instant case, N. Ramesh, one of the appellants, and Sibi Madan Gabriel were candidates for principal in the Film and Television Institute of Tamil Nadu. When Mr. Ramesh was sought to be appointed, Mr. Gabriel raised an objection, contending that his PG degree obtained through Open University from Annamalai University was invalid. When the matter reached the Madras High Court from the State Administrative Tribunal, it held that Mr. Ramesh was not eligible to be considered for principal.

While upholding the February 4, 2008 judgment and dismissing the appeals, the Bench said “Our judgment would not affect the service of appellant Ramesh.”

February 26, 2009 Posted by | Education, News | , , , | Leave a comment

Slumdog Millionaire bags Eight Oscar gongs

Following is the list of 2009 Oscar Award winners.

Best Actress – Kate Winslet – The Reader
Best Director – Danny Boyle – Slumdog Millionaire
Best Cinematography – Anthony Dod Mantle – Slumdog Millionaire
Best Writing & Screenplay based on Material – Simon Beaufoy – Slumdog Millionaire
Best Sound – Ian Tapp, Richard Pryke, Resul Pookutty – Slumdog Millionaire
Best Editing – Chris Dickens – Slumdog Millionaire
Best Original Score – AR Rahman – Slumdog Millionaire
Best Original Song – AR Rahman – Slumdog Millionaire
Best Makeup – Greg Cannom – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Best Art Direction – Donald Graham Burt, Victor J. Zolfo – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Best Visual Effects – Eric Barba, Steve Preeg, Burt Dalton, Craig Barron – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Best Supporting Actor – Heath Ledger – The Dark Knight
Best Sound Editing – Richard King – The Dark Knight
Best Supporting Actress -Penelope Cruz – Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Best Costume Design – Michael O’Connor – The Duchess
Best Animated Film – Andrew Stanton – WALL·E
Best Writing & Screenplay Written Directly For The Screen – Dustin Lance Black – Milk
Best Picture – Slumdog Millionaire

Slumdog Millionarie

Slumdog Millionarie

Finally Slumdog Millionaire has walked away with eight Oscar gongs. Anthony Dod Mantle has bagged Oscar Award For Best Cinematography for Slumdog Millionire, while Simon Beaufoy won Best Writing & Screenplay, Resul Pookutty, Ian Tapp, Richard Pryke won Award For Best Sound and Chris Dickens won Best Editing. AR Rahman has bagged Best Original Score and Best Original Song.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is the second movie to bag highest number of Oscar Awards. Greg Cannom bagged Best Makeup, Donald Graham Burt, Victor J. Zolfo won Best Art Direction and Eric Barba, Steve Preeg, Burt Dalton, Craig Barron won Best Visual Effects.

Late legendry actor Heath Ledger has got Best Supporting Actor for The Dark Knight. Richard King has won on Best Sound Editing for The Dark Knight. Penelope Cruz has walked away with Best Supporting Actress for Vicky Cristina Barcelona, while Kate Winslet won the Best Actress for The Reader.

February 23, 2009 Posted by | News | , | Leave a comment

Cong-DMK have strong alliance: Moily

AIADMK chief J Jayalalitha on Thursday tried to cosy up to the Congress when she said it should withdraw support to the DMK
government in Tamil Nadu. But the Congress rebuffed her and asserted that it has a “strong alliance” with the DMK.

“The DMK is a sinking ship and is anti-national. The Congress should withdraw its support at the state level,” the former Tamil Nadu chief minister said in Chennai, hinting that her party was open to an electoral alliance with the Congress.

Speaking at a marriage function, Jayalalitha also said the DMK was “quickly sinking in quicksand” and exhorted the Congress to “save itself” by joining her ranks.

However, senior Congress leader M Veerappa Moily told reporters in New Delhi later: “We already have a strong alliance with the DMK.”

In reply to a question, the party general secretary said: “We have not received any proposal for an alliance from the AIADMK.”

He added that he learnt about the ‘proposal’ only through media reports.

Jayalalitha said, “The Congress should sack the DMK from the central (United Progressive Alliance) coalition and withdraw support to its minority regime in Tamil Nadu forthwith and save itself from sinking along with it.”

She waxed eloquent about her cordial relations with late Congress leaders Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi and extended her hand of friendship to the party’s present leadership without actually naming Sonia Gandhi.

“I am proffering advice to the Congress (leadership) as a friend. It should contemplate carefully and decide its course of action…whether to be dragged into the quicksand and sink with the DMK or be rescued by aligning with the sure-winner in the ensuing parliamentary elections in Tamil Nadu,” Jayalalitha repeatedly said.

Jayalalitha said that “mistakes” were “common in political life” but as humans “one learnt from them and became better persons to move forward”, she said.

The DMK said Jayalalitha’s call to the Congress was an act of desperation.

DMK spokesperson in Tamil Nadu TKS Elangovan said, “This betrays Jayalalitha’s sheer desperation and she has exposed herself through her shallow politics by begging before the Congress, which is anyway unwilling.”

A senior DMK minister, unwilling to be identified, said: “While our alliance was already strong, Jayalalitha has now made us stronger. We had deduced this attempt for some time since the PMK suddenly became warm towards us.”

The move creates a piquant situation for the Left parties, Jayalalitha’s new allies, which had distanced themselves from all those outfits that associated with the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance.

“I have heard about it (Jayalalitha’s remarks) but I am away from Chennai and will react later,” Communist Party of India’s state secretary D Pandian said.

The DMK spokesperson said, “I feel sorry for my dear friend Pandian.”

Elangovan added that the Left would eventually return to the UPA once it understood that Jayalalitha was not dependable.

February 20, 2009 Posted by | News, Politics | , , | Leave a comment

Analysis: India Interim Budget 2009-2010

The UPA government presented its farewell budget (Interim Budget) ahead of general elections slated later this year. While the markets were disappointed that the proposals were devoid of a stimulus package, there were no sops for the Indian taxpayers.

Here is an analysis of Interim Budget 2009-10 from top research houses across India.

Kaushal Sampat, COO, Dun & Bradstreet India

Although this was an interim budget, it was expected that there would be announcements of some policy measures that would be growth stimulating in nature.

While acknowledging that the Indian economy is faced with significant challenges in the financial year ahead, the Finance Minister stuck with the conventions of an interim budget and did not announce any policies that could trigger retrieval of the economy from the current slowdown.

Although the outlay on certain infrastructure projects has been increased, it is doubtful if this would be enough to kick-start investment at the required levels.

In line with our expectations, the fiscal deficit has surged and stands at around 7.8% of GDP in FY09 (including off-budget liabilities).

Although the high fiscal deficit has potential risks for the economy in the future, it is inevitable given the need for substantial increase in Government expenditure and the limited scope for revenue mobilization.

With the lack of major growth stimulating measures in the interim budget, we expect the RBI to cut interest rates further before the April’08 monetary policy review to stimulate demand to a certain extent.

February 17, 2009 Posted by | Business, Economy, Indian Economy, News, Politics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Railway Budget 2009-2010-Railways beat downturn, to remain on growth track

Indian Railways will stay on growth track in 2009-10 projecting cash surplus of Rs 18,847 crore after cutting most of the passenger fares, even as economic slowdown affected its freight business.

Even as its industrial customers face a crippling slowdown, the Railways expects to earn gross traffic receipts of Rs 93,159 crore in 2009-10, exceeding the revised estimates for the current fiscal by Rs 10,766 crore. Passenger fares for second class (above Rs 50) as also for the luxury trains have been reduced by two per cent.

The pace of expansion is affected by the global downturn impacting the Indian business, but the balance-sheet of the country’s largest transporter remains robust.

Expenses (operating ratio) would a tad higher at 89.9 per cent because of increased salary bill after implementation of the Sixth Pay Commission in the next financial year as compared to 88 per cent in the current fiscal.

As the rest of the economy is grappling with business setbacks, the Railways would pay a higher dividend of Rs 5304 crore to its owners — the government.

“…Railways have kept the human aspect as the central focus and achieved an extraordinary feat without puttany extra burden on the common man or the employees,” Railway Minister Lalu Prasad said while presenting the interim Budget in Parliament today.

February 13, 2009 Posted by | Business, Economy, Indian Economy, News | , , , | Leave a comment

Rupee Strengthens as India May Step Up Efforts to Boost Growth

India’s rupee strengthened the most in more than two weeks on speculation the government and the central bank will announce more measures next week to revive economic growth.

India is preparing to unveil an interim budget on Feb. 16, which may include steps aimed at countering the slump in industrial production and exports. The Reserve Bank of India may cut interest rates further after the budget, according to Suresh Tendulkar, chairman of the prime minister’s Economic Advisory Council. The government unveiled two stimulus packages and the central bank cut its key rate four times since Oct. 20.

“The rupee is stronger as the market expects additional measures to boost growth to be announced next week,” said Sudarshan Bhatt, chief currency trader at state-owned Corporation Bank in Mumbai. “Such measures look inevitable after yesterday’s industrial output report. The central bank may cut rates and help restructure loans of companies.”

The rupee climbed 0.3 percent to 48.685 per dollar at the 5 p.m. close in Mumbai, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That is the biggest gain since Jan. 27. The currency was little changed from its Feb. 6 close of 48.695.

Eight of the 10 most-active Asian currencies outside of Japan advanced today.

The rupee may trade between 48.50 and 49.25 in the coming days, according to Bhatt. The median estimate of 25 strategists and economists surveyed by Bloomberg is for the rupee to weaken to 49.00 by the end of March.

Stocks Gain

Offshore contracts indicate traders bet the rupee will trade at 48.83 to the dollar in a month, compared with expectations for a rate of 49.03 yesterday. Forwards are agreements in which assets are bought and sold at current prices for future delivery. Non-deliverable contracts are settled in dollars rather than the local currency.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index of shares advanced 0.9 percent today and the benchmark Bombay Stock Exchange Sensitive Index climbed 1.8 percent.

“The rupee may appreciate further if stocks too show a positive trend from here,” Corporation Bank’s Bhatt said. “Asian stock gains and broad dollar weakness are contributing to the rupee’s strength.”

The ICE’s Dollar Index, which tracks the greenback against the euro, the yen, the pound, the Canadian dollar, the franc and Sweden’s krona, fell 0.7 percent to 85.92 today.

Industrial production fell 2 percent in December, the most since 1993, after a revised 1.7 percent gain in November, the government said yesterday. India expects the $1.2 trillion economy will expand 7.1 percent in the fiscal year to March, the slowest pace in six years.

Record Low

The rupee will weaken almost 10 percent to a record low of 54 to the dollar by the end of the year as the worldwide credit crisis curbs foreign direct investment, HSBC Holdings Plc said.

The rupee may also extend last year’s 19 percent slide as employers cut jobs overseas amid a global recession, reducing remittances from Indian workers abroad, Richard Yetsenga, HSBC’s Hong Kong-based strategist, wrote in a research report today. The U.K. bank revised its rupee forecast from 45, HSBC’s Singapore-based economist Robert Prior-Wandesforde, who co-wrote the report, confirmed in a phone call.

“We expect the slower moving remittance and FDI flows to now start to show the strain,” wrote Yetsenga. “Our estimates suggest FDI into Asia could fall to roughly zero this year. While that may be overly pessimistic, the fall in FDI should certainly be spectacular for global reasons.”

Overseas direct investment in India averaged $3.1 billion a month in 2008, compared with $1.3 billion in the previous year, government data show.

“The boom in FDI is long overdue, but cannot last, given the state of corporate finances globally,” Yetsenga wrote.

Renault SA, France’s second-largest carmaker, may abandon a factory project in the southern Indian city of Chennai, Chief Financial Officer Thierry Moulonguet said yesterday. The French company said it is reducing capital investment by 20 percent.

February 13, 2009 Posted by | Economy, Indian Economy, News | , , | Leave a comment

Terror, security top concern: President

Terror and security concerns dominated President Pratibha Patil’s address to Parliament on Thursday with the post 26/11 situation
running across the pages as the government’s biggest challenge.

Paying tribute to India’s pluralism, tolerance and peaceful coexistence, she said such principles had been “tested by fire” through the series of terror attacks in the past year.

“The spirit of ordinary people rising together as one overcame the challenge to our nation from terrorist violence,” the President said addressing members of both Houses.

The 27-page speech, which presented the UPA government’s achievements on different fronts, however, reflected its underlying concerns about the terror strikes across the country, ultra-Left violence and insurgency in the North-East.

The impressive voter turnout in Jammu and Kashmir during the recent assembly elections, Patil said, was a “resounding affirmation of their faith in democracy and a rejection of terrorism and violence”.

Looking beyond the borders, she took note of the “plight of civilians” caught in the crossfire between the LTTE guerrillas and Lankan forces. Airing the government’s proposal, she said that the Lankan government and LTTE should immediately come to the negotiating table.

Referring to India’s “demographic dividends” with an overwhelming majority of the population living below the age of 40, the President promised that by 2022 — 75th anniversary of Independence — the country would account for a fourth of the global work force.

She termed the successful launch of Chandrayan-1 as evidence of India’s scientific prowess. With the new emphasis on cleaner energy, six nuclear power units with a total capacity of 3,160 MWe are in advanced stages of construction, she said.

The growth of the civil aviation sector has been reflected in the rise of the air passengers — from 5.7 crore in 2004 to around 11 crore in 2008. Patil said that by 2010, the government aims to provide 50 crore telephone connections.

In a reference to the attacks on art and literature in the name of culture, the President recalled the liberal tradition of the social reformers and said, “The bedrock of our culture is a celebration of freedom of thought and expression and any attempt to force a closing of the Indian mind goes against the very ethos of being Indian.”

Patil recalled the members of security forces killed in encounters with terrorists, Naxalites and insurgents, and paid a special tribute to those felled by terror bullets in the Mumbai terror attacks.

Surveying the situation in the N-E, Naxalite-infested areas and Jammu and Kashmir, Patil said that along with modernisation of armed forces socio-economic development was also part of the strategy to meet the challenges.

February 13, 2009 Posted by | Politics, Terror | , , , | Leave a comment