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AirAsia India’s Diwali Offer: Fares Start at Rs 999
Budget carrier AirAsia India's Diwali special offer has fares starting at Rs. 999. The booking period for this AsiaAsia offer is between October 20 and October 26, 2014. This offer is applicable on travel between October 26, 2014 and April 30, 2015. As part of this AirAsia offer, tickets for the Bangalore to Chennai and Kochi route are priced at Rs. 999. On the Bangalore to Goa route tickets are priced at Rs. 1699. Fares on the Bangalore to Jaipur and Chandigarh route are Rs. 2999. AirAsia India is a three-way joint venture between Malaysia-based AirAsia Berhad, Tata Group and investment firm Telestra Tradeplace. Malaysia-based AirAsia Berhad holds 49 per cent stake in AirAsia India. AirAsia India from September 5 added Jaipur and Chandigarh to its network as part of its first foray into north India. Low-priced air tickets offered by various Indian airlines seem to have had an effect, with the number of passengers flown by them in August growing by over 8.3 per cent compared to July this year, official data showed. The latest figures showed the number of domestic passengers carried by the airlines grew from 52.60 lakh in July to 56.97 lakh in August. [...]
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11 Killed in Huge Fire at Fireworks Factory in Andhra Pradesh
KAKINADA: 11 people including two women have died in a huge fire at a firecracker factory in Andhra Pradesh. Another six, including the owner were hospitalized with serious burns, said police sources. There were 30 people at work when the fire began, said officials in Kakinada, 160 kms from the port city of Visakhapatnam. It took nearly two hours to put out the huge flames as a lot of inflammable material was feeding the fire. "We were working inside, when it happened so suddenly. We were thrown a huge distance,'' said a man who survived with minor injuries. The government has ordered an investigation into whether fire safety precautions had been ignored by the factory's owner. The factory was operational every year during festival season for the last 10 years and reportedly had licence to operate. Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu has announced compensation of Rs. 2 lakh to the families of those who died. [...]
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125 crore Indians need to realise their strength, says PM Modi in his maiden Radio address (Video)
New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi today reminded the people of India that they are blessed with immense skill and strengthen and that all they need to do is to understand their strengths. Modi said this while addressing the nation on All India Radio. It was his maiden addres on Radio and it was titled ‘Man Ki Baat’. “125 crore Indians are blessed with immense skill and strengthen. All we need to do is to understand our strengths. We have to understand ourselves better and integrate our strengths. We are not lacking in strength, said Modi. Modi appreciated some the suggestions given to him through social media. He asked people to keep sharing their ideas with him. “Through mails, social media, lot of people write to me. Gautam Pal wrote to me about specially abled children.I really liked what he wrote. I remember we began Khel Mahakumbh for specially abled athletes & I myself would go & see the sports. “I want you to keep sharing these things with me. Together let us serve India and take our Nation to newer heights,” added Modi. Modi also said that he will now regularly interact with people through Radio. “Today is the start. In future too I will keep talking to you on the Radio. It will be on a Sunday at 11:00 AM. I am really happy to be talking to you on the Radio. I can reach all of you through Radio, especially our poor, the villages, said Prime Minister Modi. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tq4AmvGwvwo&width=660&height=496&rel=0 Here are live updates of Modi’s speech ‘Man Ki Baat’ on All india Radio: 11:14- PM Modi concludes his speech. 11:13-Modi: Today is the start. In future too I will keep talking to you on the Radio. It will be on a Sunday at 11:00 AM. I am really happy to be talking to you on the Radio. I can reach all of you through Radio, especially our poor, the villages. 11:11- Modi:I want you to keep sharing these things with me. Together let us serve India and take our Nation to newer heights. 11:10-Modi: This nation belongs to everyone. It is important for people to be a part of the development journey.On mail, lot of people wrote to me that children should begin skill development courses at a very young age. This is a good suggestion.Some wrote to me that we should have more dustbins. This is also a good point. 11:08-Modi: Through mails, social media, lot of people write to me. Gautam Pal wrote to me about specially abled children.I really liked what he wrote. I remember we began Khel Mahakumbh for specially abled athletes & I myself would go & see the sports 11:06-Modi:125 crore Indians are blessed with immense skill and strengthen. All we need to do is to understand our strengths. 11:05-Modi: We have to understand ourselves better and integrate our strengths. We are not lacking in strength 11:04-Modi: If you buy Khadi you light the lamp of prosperity in the house of a poor person.Our scientists have shown our might,Mars mission is our pride. 11:03-Modi:Let us pledge to affirm to remove dirt. Yesterday we began the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan & I want you all to join this Abhiyaan 11:02-Modi: Today's day celebrates the victory of good over evil. LOrd Ganesha sent me a mail on eliminating the ills within us 11:01- Modi: Today is Vijaya Dashmi. My greetings to all of you. Aaj Kuch Man Ki Batien Batana Chahata Hoon 11:00- Modi begins his speech [...]
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33 killed as bomb blast rumour sparks stampede during Dussehra celebrations in Patna
PATNA: At least 33 people, most of them women and children, were killed and 26 injured in a stampede at Gandhi Maidan during Vijaya Dashmi celebrations on Friday. Panic stricken people ran amok in confusion after an electric pole snapped with a loud bang, leading many to believe a bomb had gone off. In the melee and the darkness that followed due to power cut, which was soon after the effigies of Ravan, Kumbhakaran and Meghnad were burnt, heart-rending scenes of dead and injured being rushed to hospital were witnessed, perhaps even by Bihar chief minister Jitan Manjhi who was the chief guest at the function. The stampede took place around 6.30pm when the crowd started leaving the venue. The incident happened near the Ram Goolam Chowk near the Exhibition Road turning. Principal secretary (home) Amir Subhani said more than 100 people were injured with 33 killed and 26 in the emergency ward of the PMCH. Patna Sadar SDM Amit Kumar told TOI the exact number of casualties was still not clear since many critically injured people were still being brought in at PMCH. The SDM, stationed at the gate of the hospital's emergency ward, said he was arranging to send the bodies to the mortuary for postmortem. The bodies will be handed over to relatives later in the night, he said. At PMCH's emergency ward, attendant Jainarayan Gupta said he saw at least 42 bodies outside the operation theatre. Savitri Devi of New Patna Bypass said her daughter had gone to Gandhi Maidan with her four children. She said her daughter told her that as she came out of the ground, people started running in panic and many fell on each other since the exit was narrow, resulting in high number of fatalities among women and children. Rapid Action Force personnel cordoned off the PMCH, where many anxious relatives and friends of victims had reached. The relatives were not allowed inside the hospital premises. Till late on Friday, about 10,000 people had assembled around the hospital. Cops were called from all police stations in the district to keep crowds at bay from the hospital. Srikrishna Sahai, a resident of Kidwaipuri in Patna, reached the hospital along with his wife to inquire about the fate of their daughter who had also gone to Gandhi Maidan for the Dusshera event. Cops first asked the parents the colour of the dress their daughter was wearing, but later asked them to wait outside. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Rajnath Singh spoke to Manjhi about the tragedy. Modi announced an ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh each to the relatives of those killed and the Bihar CM announced Rs 3 lakh each. The CM late in the evening directed the health secretary to arrange free of cost treatment and medicines to the injured in the PMCH. He also said that the injured would get relief of Rs 50,000 each. Bihar government has also ordered an inquiry by the home secretary and ADG of police (headquarters) into the incident. Last October, six people had died at Gandhi Maidan after a series of bomb blasts took place during Narendra Modi's election rally there. Two years ago, many lives were lost during a stampede on one of the lanes leading to to the river Ganga during Chhath festival in Patna. [...]
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British hostage Alan Henning ‘beheaded by Islamic State killers’
The Islamic State has released a video appearing to show the beheading of Alan Henning, a British aid worker kidnapped in Syria, in retaliation for UK strikes against the jihadist group. After the video was released David Cameron vowed to “hunt down” the “barbaric and repulsive terrorists” who were responsible. The British-accented jihadist, nicknamed "Jihadi John" appears in the video and declares that Mr Henning's "blood is on the hands of the British parliament". Like David Haines, another Briton murdered two weeks ago, Mr Henning speaks briefly to the camera as he kneels by the jihadist. "I'm Alan Henning. Because of our parliament's decision to attack the Islamic state I, as a member of the British public, will now pay the price for that decision," he says. The masked jihadist then addresses the camera, saying: "The blood of David Haines is on your hands Cameron. Alan Henning will also be slaughtered but his blood is on the hands of the British parliament". The video, which is just over a minute long, ends with the jihadist threatening an American hostage in retaliation for the American bombardment of Isil. The Prime Minister said: "The brutal murder of Alan Henning by ISIL shows just how barbaric and repulsive these terrorists are. "My thoughts and prayers tonight are with Alan's wife Barbara, their children and all those who loved him. "Alan had gone to Syria to help get aid to people of all faiths in their hour of need. The fact that he was taken hostage when trying to help others and now murdered demonstrates that there are no limits to the depravity of these ISIL terrorists. "We will do all we can to hunt down these murderers and bring them to justice." If the video is found to be authentic, it will mean Mr Henning is the fourth Westerner to be murdered by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) and follows the killing of David Haines. It came despite British Muslim leaders joining forces to urge his release and hours after dozens of Turkish hostages were freed in mysterious circumstances. The 47-year-old from Manchester was kidnapped within half an hour of entering Syria in an aid convoy. A fellow volunteer said locals pleaded with him not to cross the border but Mr Henning was determined to ensure aid reached people in need. As well as Mr Haines, his death follows the murders of two American journalists, James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and will further intensify pressure on Barack Obama and David Cameron to urgently end the jihadi group's brutal reign of fear in Iraq and Syria. Each killing followed a similar ritual, with the victim - dressed in an orange jumpsuit and guarded by a masked man holding a knife - forced to condemn Western policies towards the region. Mr Henning, who was married with two teenage children, had taken unpaid leave from his job to join a charity convoy delivering aid to Idlib, in north-west Syria. It later emerged that he had unwittingly became involved with a charity with links to alleged extremists. He was abducted as he drove an ambulance for Rochdale Aid 4 Syria, which raised money on behalf of Al-Fatiha Global, a charity currently being investigation by the Charity Commission after one of its leaders was photographed with his arms around two hooded fighters carrying machine guns. After his capture, Mr Henning told other hostages not to worry about him, believing he would be freed "in no time because I'm just an aid worker". His detention was subject to a media black-out in order to help the effort to free him. However, that came to an end when he was pictured in the video showing Mr Haines' death, with the clear warning that Mr Henning would be next. Friends, relatives and religious leaders all emphasised his work for Syrian Muslims in their appeals for his release. "Please show him some mercy and understand he is a humanitarian aid worker. He's not a fighter, he's not come there for no political reasons, he's come there strictly to help the people," said Majid Freeman, who travelled to Syria with Mr Henning in an aid convoy. A third British hostage has also been paraded before the cameras. In a series of slickly-produced video, John Cantlie, a photojournalist, said he was captured after arriving in Syria in November 2012 and has spoke out against the West's intervention against Isil. [...]
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Zoo staff had 10 minutes to rescue Maqsood
NEW DELHI: Could prompt intervention by zoo officials have saved Maqsood's life? Eyewitnesses TOI spoke to said he sat frightened inside the moat for about 10 minutes before Vijay, the tiger, attacked him. While Praveen, a guard, called his seniors on the wireless immediately, many things could have been done in the minutes before the tiger attacked. A senior Central Zoo Authority (CZA) official said there were discussions on how the animal could have been kept at bay by spraying water. Maqsood could have also been pulled out with a collapsible ladder. "I have seen zoos in Singapore and the US. Brookfield Zoo in Chicago and the Bronx Zoo in New York have alarm systems and ladders that can immediately help the person out," said an expert from CZA on condition of anonymity. Some eyewitnesses said senior officials, who have the authority to direct keepers, arrived after 15 minutes. "Keepers could have helped distract the animal quickly. But they were delayed. The boy had some time before the tiger mauled him. He seemed to be praying with folded hands," said Jalaluddin, a visitor from Ghaziabad. Vijay, a white tiger, looms over Maqsood, the youth who fell into the animal's enclosure. For 10 minutes the tiger didn't touch Maqsood, nor did the zoo guards rescue him. (PTI Photo) Had more guards been around, Maqsood could have been prevented from crossing the barrier. There is only one guard on each of the 20 zoo beats, officials said. Riaz Khan, curator (education), however, said there are 2-3 guards per beat. The zoo could have also arranged for a ttranquillisergun immediately. "Only a doctor can use a ttranquilliser gun. CZA rules and regulations do not allow guards to use one. By the time we would have got a ttranquilliser from the hospital, he would have died," said Khan. Strangely, the moat which acts as a water barrier was also dry. Even though tigers can swim, it would have given Maqsood a few more minutes. "The water is of very bad quality so we keep it dry," said Khan. CZA has set up a two-member inquiry team to examine design aspects and other factors that might have led to the tragedy. "There will be an official inquiry on Wednesday. CZA rules have standards for the stand-off barrier height. Those need to be checked. However, if he jumped the barrier too, I guess saving was difficult," said Brij Kishore Gupta, evaluation and monitoring officer, CZA. A team from the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) will also visit the zoo to check on the tiger. [...]
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Scientists have discovered an on/off switch for ageing cells
In our bodies, our cells are constantly dividing in order to replenish our lungs, skin, liver and other organs. But most human cells can’t divide forever, and eventually this causes our organs and tissues to degrade as we age. The "timekeeper" of our cells are telomeres - little DNA caps that sit at the end of our chromosomes, sort of like that plastic bit at the end of your shoelace. Each time a cell divides, these telomeres get shorter and shorter until eventually they're so short the cell can no longer divide. But researchers know that there is a way to stop the telomere from wearing down - some cells can produce an enzyme called telomerase, which rebuilds telomeres and lets cells divide indefinitely. However they've struggled to understand why telomerase acts in some cells and not others. Now researchers from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in the US have discovered that telomerase has an on/off switch - and can be present in a cell but not slow down ageing if it's turned off. “Previous studies had suggested that once assembled, telomerase is available whenever it is needed,” senior author Vicki Lundblad said in a press release. “We were surprised to discover instead that telomerase has what is in essence an ‘off’ switch, whereby it disassembles.” Their research is published in the journal Genes and Development. It’s a pretty huge breakthrough, because if scientists can now work out how to manipulate this “off” switch, it could help them slow down the ageing process and lead to treatments for age-related diseases. And, interestingly, it may also provide insight into cancer cells, which require telomerase to help them divide uncontrollably. Lundblad, along with graduate student Timothy Tucey, discovered this switch in yeast, by using a new technique that allowed them to monitor each component of telomerase while a cell grew and divided. Each time a cell divides, its genome must be duplicated completely. And the scientists found that while a cell was replicating, telemorase was sitting in a “preassembly” mode, waiting for a molecular subunit to be added once genome duplication was complete. But surprisingly, as soon as the telemorase was assembled, it quickly disassembled and switched into the “off” position, they discovered. The researchers believe that this off switch might help the body keep telomerase at exceptionally low levels inside the cells in order to avoid the uncontrollable cell growth that can lead to cancer. But it could also be the key to helping cells divide for longer. While it might not seem as though these experiments in a single-celled yeast can tell us much about human cells, much of the initial research on telomerase was done in yeast cells and laid the groundwork for future discoveries in humans. The next step is to understand more about this switch and how it is involved in ageing and cancer, and then scientists can try to understand how it can be manipulated to keep people healthier for longer. [...]
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At Least 38 Killed in Floods and Landslides Across Assam, Meghalaya
At least 38 people have been killed and thousands displaced in floods and landslides triggered by heavy rain in several districts of Assam and Meghalaya. While 25 people have reportedly been killed in Meghalaya, the death toll in Assam has touched 13. Some of the low-lying areas in Meghalaya such as Rajabala, Selsella, Charbatapara and Pushkurnipra are reportedly inundated. The flood situation in the West Garo Hills is also grim though water levels have receded in the worst-affected areas such as Chibinang and Tikrikilla. Boats could not be put to use in certain areas due to excessive mud and slush. Relief materials such as ration, candles, mineral water bottles and torch lights have been transported to the areas which are submerged. Suppliers of the Public Distribution System (PDS) have been asked to keep buffer stocks of food grains. As far as road traffic is concerned, National Highway 51 was still blocked and multiple landslides have led to a large number of vehicles being stranded. Six teams of rescue personnel have been given the task of clearing the debris, but owing to overnight rains, the process is likely to take time. In Assam, Air Force helicopters have been pressed into service which aids other paramilitary forces on the ground. Vast tracts of land have been inundated in Chaygaon, Nagarberra, Goroimari and Boko as water of rivers Kulsi, Jaljanli, Singra, Kolohi and Brahmaputra gushed in following heavy rains in neighbouring Meghalaya, Deputy Commissioner J Balaji said. Road communications along National Highway 37, flooded in various places, have been disrupted and a concrete bridge between Nagarbera and Hekra was washed away, he said. Medicines have been dispatched to the flood-hit areas. Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi held an emergency meeting with senior officials during the day on Tuesday to take stock of the situation and directed the authorities concerned to take all-out measures to deal with the situation, CMO officials said. [...]
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India’s Mars satellite successfully enters orbit, bringing country into space elite
India has become the first nation to send a satellite into orbit around Mars on its first attempt, and the first Asian nation to do so. Mission control in the southern Indian city of Bangalore received confirmation of the success at 7.41am Wednesday, local time. The satellite Mangalyaan had entered the orbit of the red planet 12 minutes earlier, but the message needed to traverse the 400m miles (650m km) to Earth. India now joins an elite club of nations who have successfully carried out interplanetary space missions, and has scored a significant point in its rivalry with China. The prime minister, Narendra Modi, who won power in May in a landslide victory, was in Bangalore with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) watching the operation. “We have gone beyond the boundaries of human enterprise and innovation,” Modi said, as scientists celebrated. “We have navigated our craft through a route known to very few,” Modi said, congratulating the ISRO team and “all my fellow Indians on this historic occasion”. Modi, who travels to the US to address the United Nations later this week, called for further efforts “for challenging, the next frontier”. The mission has led TV bulletins and filled front pages. It has been mentioned in the prayers of temple priests and even on special emails sent out to parents of exclusive nursery schools in Delhi. Tens of millions of people across the country followed the progress of the craft live. There was a a significant chance of failure. Of 51 previous attempts to reach Mars, more than half failed. “Just getting there is a big, bold statement. Succeeding would be a giant one about India’s place in the region and in the world,” said Pallava Bagla, a high-profile science commentator, on Tuesday. Mangalyaan, which means “Mars craft” in Hindi, took off from the island of Shriharikota, off India’s eastern coast, 10 months ago. The 3,000lb (1,350kg) device first headed for an elliptical orbit around Earth, after which a series of manoeuvres and short burns of its rocket engines sent it on towards Mars. ISRO scientists successfully tested the main engine on Monday and performed a course correction that put the low-cost project on track to enter the red planet’s orbit. Reducing the craft’s speed from 13.7 miles per second was the key challenge. “It has covered 98% of the distance but the last 2% is the tricky bit,” Bagla said before the successful entry. “If it is too fast it will fly by Mars and be lost in space. If it is too slow it will crash into the planet.” The insertion exercise began shortly after 4am local time with the critical moment coming just over three hours later when rocket engines were ignited. Some have questioned the $70m (£43m) price tag for a country still dealing with widespread hunger and poverty. But India defended the Mars mission by noting its importance in providing hi-tech jobs for scientists and engineers and practical applications in solving problems on Earth. Last year the UK allotted £80m to developing joint space missions with China and India. Modi aims to establish India as a bigger player in the £200bn space technology market, even as neighbouring China gives stiff competition with its bigger launchers. Commentators said India could go further. “We have a threshold capability but we don’t go beyond that for the simple reasons that our economy is not doing well,” said Manoj Joshi, a Delhi-based analyst. “The model is very successful, the space guys have done outstanding work but we are just not investing enough.” Success makes India the fourth space power after the US, Europe and Russia to orbit or land on the red planet. The cost of the Indian effort is a tenth of that of the Nasa mission that put a satellite into the orbit of Mars on Monday. Nasa’s much bigger Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (Maven) mission aims to help scientists understand what happened to the water on Mars and the carbon dioxide in its atmosphere several billion years ago. How Mars lost its atmosphere is one of science’s biggest mysteries. The Indian project aims to study the surface and mineral composition of Mars, and scan its atmosphere for methane, a chemical strongly tied to life on Earth. The United States had its first successful Mars mission with a 1964 flyby by the spacecraft Mariner 4, returning 21 images of the surface of the planet. The former Soviet Union reached the planet in 1971, and the European Space Agency in 2003. On Sunday, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, a hardline affiliate group of Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party, offered ritual prayers in Delhi for the mission. The leader of the group said success would prove that India “has regained its status of superpower of the world”. [...]
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India can rise again, I have a clear road map, Modi says
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said India has a chance to rise again as a global economic power and suggested that it could match with China and he has a "clear road map" to channelize entrepreneurial capabilities of country's 1.25 billion people. "This is a country that once upon a time was called 'the golden bird'. We have fallen from where we were before. But now we have the chance to rise again. If you see the details of the last five or ten centuries, you will see that India and China have grown at similar paces. Their contributions to global GDP have risen in parallel, and fallen in parallel. Today's era once again belongs to Asia. India and China are both growing rapidly, together," he told CNN in an interview. On comparison with China, he added that India does not need to become anything else and must become only India. Modi said he had a lot of faith in the entrepreneurial nature of India's 1.25 billion people and "I have a clear road map to channelize it". On being asked if he ever wished to have some of the authority the dictatorial regime in China had, he said democratic countries have also grown and if there were no democracy then someone like him, born in a poor family, would not be sitting here. Asked what he would like to tell people as his accomplishments one or two years later, he said the trust people have should never break. "See the biggest thing is that the people of the country have faith. That trust should never break. If I can win the confidence of the people of India, not from my speeches, but by actions, then the power of 1.25 billion Indians will come together to take the country forward," he said. When asked if India is concerned over China's behavior in the East China Sea and the South China which has worried many of its neighbors, Modi said we should have trust in China's understanding and have faith that it would accept global laws and will play its role in cooperating and moving forward. He, however, added that we cannot close our eyes to problems, saying We are not living in the eighteenth century. [...]
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British Raj did more harm than good in Indian subcontinent: UK Supreme Court debate
The British Raj did more harm than good in the Indian subcontinent, this was the conclusion of a historic debate that put the mighty empire on a mock trial at the Supreme Court here. The Indo-British Heritage Trust organised the debate as the inaugural event to mark the 400th anniversary of formal relations between India and Britain back in 1614. The motion before the house was, "The Indian sub-continent benefited more than it lost from the experience of British Colonialism". The team against the motion, eloquently led by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor and including fellow authors William Dalrymple and Nick Robins, clinched a decisive victory. "No wonder the sun never set on the British Empire, even God couldn't trust the English in the dark," said Tharoor as part of his arguments which focused on the economic ruin of India at the hands of the East India Company. "The might of Britain was built in the 18th and 19th centuries on the ruination of India - where India went from a 23 per cent share of the global economy to 4 per cent," he added. Dalrymple, author of 'White Mughals' and 'The Last Mughal', echoed the sentiment from the perspective of a prospering Mughal Empire which 'haemorrhaged' under the British. "It is impossible even to consider this motion seriously without noting how far behind the West was for 90 per cent of our history...the British went to India to get a bit of action in the Mughal Empire which was then immeasurably richer than anything London, Paris, Madrid, Rome, Milan put together. Britain, with its mastery of cannon and artillery, drained India and the money came to Europe," he said. The debate, which coincided with the Scottish referendum vote on Thursday, was chaired by senior Indian-origin MP and chair of the House of Commons' Home Affairs Select Committee Keith Vaz, who deftly managed proceedings for and against. Speakers for the motion included arts editor of 'Newsweek' Pakistan Nelofar Bakhtyar, former British politician and BBC war correspondent Martin Bell, and Kwasi Kwarteng, Conservative Party MP and author. Their side failed to win over the audience with their arguments in favour of the English language, rule of law, railways and cricket as positive legacy of the Empire. "The fact that we seized upon the English language for our own liberation is to our credit and not by British design," countered Tharoor, who ended on a lighter note saying, "Cricket was an Indian game accidentally discovered by the British". The debate is the first in a series of events to be organised by Project 400, an initiative by the Indo-British Heritage Trust, founded by historian Kusoom Vadgama. It was 400 years ago in 1614 that King James I dispatched Sir Thomas Roe as ambassador to the court of Mughal Emperor Jahangir to arrange for a commercial treaty and obtain security assurances on behalf of the East India Company. In the same year, the first Indian man set foot in Britain - an unnamed worker from Surat who was brought over in an East India Company vessel by a company chaplain and christened "Peter" by King James I. Vadgama launched Project 400 alongside her co-chair Michael Blacker to mark this official start of the India-UK relationship 400 years ago. "Project 400 is a monument to the 400-year-old Indo-British relationship. It is also an opportunity to put on record the much neglected history of India in Britain to the same level of detail as that of the history of the British in India," she said. "No history of the British Empire is complete without the history of its people. I never thought that one day I will put the mighty Empire on trial of all places in the Supreme Court," she said. [...]
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Visa on Arrival facility on the anvil for US tourists
India is working on a proposal for Visa on Arrival (VoA) facility for US tourists, one of the big-ticket announcements expected to be made during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's US visit beginning September 26. According to government sources, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is working overtime to finish the work on the VoA proposal to finalise it in time for the Prime Minister's visit. MHA in consultation with the Tourism ministry is working on the Tourist VoA under which visa can be granted to US citizens who do not have a residence or occupation in India and whose sole objective of visiting India would be recreation, sightseeing, casual visit to meet friends and relatives, etc, the sources said. Under the new proposal, which is still being worked out, the stay limit is expected to be 30 days. Initially, in January 2010 TvoA scheme was introduced for citizens of five countries and now, the facility is available for citizens of 11 countries Finland, Japan, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Singapore, Cambodia, Vietnam, Philippines, Laos, Myanmar, Indonesia and South Korea. However, even despite being strategic partners, there is no TVoA facility for the citizens of India and the US in each other's country. As per some estimates, the annual flow of US tourists stand around 10 lakh, currently. The Prime Minister will be on a five-day visit to the US during which he will address the UN General Assembly in New York and then travel to Washington where he would hold bilateral talks with US President Barack Obama, who invited Modi for a meeting during a call to wish him on his victory in the Lok Sabha polls nearly four months ago. [...]
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Alibaba Surges on Massive Demand in Trading Debut
Alibaba Group Holding Ltd's shares surged in their first day of trading on Friday as investors jumped at the chance to get in on what looks likely to be the largest IPO in history and profit from China's growing middle class. It was an auspicious debut for the company, founded by Jack Ma in his apartment in 1999, which now accounts for 80 per cent of online sales in China. About a hundred people gathered outside the New York Stock Exchange at Wall and Broad Streets, many of them Chinese tourists with cameras, cheered when Ma exited the building. The stock opened at $92.70 around 1600 GMT (9:30 p.m. in India) and quickly rose to a high of $99.70 in active trading. More than 100 million shares changed hands in composite trading in the first 10 minutes of trading. As of 12:50 pm ET (10:20 p.m. in India), shares were up 33 per cent at $90.50. "This is the most anticipated event I've ever seen in my 20-year career on the floor of the NYSE. I think today's move is sustainable: The company is profitable, unlike some of its competitors, and it is a way for traders to tap into the Chinese growth story," said Mark Otto, partner with J. Streicher & Co, who trades on the NYSE floor. The pricing of the IPO on Thursday initially raised $21.8 billion for the Chinese e-commerce company. Scott Cutler, head of the New York Stock Exchange's global listing business, told a news channel that underwriters would exercise their option for an additional 48 million shares, to bring the IPO's size to about $25 billion, making it the largest initial public offering in history. Alibaba is nearly unknown to most Americans but is ubiquitous in China, where it is responsible for 80 percent of online sales. The company earned $3.7 billion in the 12 months ended March 31, 2014, up about $2 billion from the prior 12-month period. The sale values the company at about $168 billion, more than American icons such as Walt Disney Co and Coca-Cola Co. Should the stock close at $90 on its first day, it would be worth about $222 billion, nearly the value of Procter & Gamble Co. With the big first-day gain, investors hoping for more may be disappointed. At a price of about $90.50 a share, the stock is valued at 38 times its estimated earnings per share for its current fiscal year, which will end in March 2015. That is roughly in line with Facebook's valuation of 39 times forward earnings but nowhere near the lofty valuation of Amazon.com's multiple of 264, according to Thomson Reuters Starmine data. "The question is if it becomes dead money for the next six months," said one fund manager. "Will it just trade at $93 and stay flat?" Ma, a former English teacher, boasts a personal fortune of more than $14 billion on paper, vaulting him into the ranks of such tech billionaires as Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos. The deal is also expected to make millionaires out of a substantial chunk of the company's managers, software engineers and other staff. The rise in the stock exceeds the average gain by new IPOs on US exchanges of late. In the second quarter, the average first-day gain was 9.2 per cent, according to Renaissance Capital IPO Intelligence. Underwriters usually aim for a gain of 10 per cent to 15 per cent on the first day. Demand was intense among the retail investor crowd. J.J. Kinahan, chief market strategist at retail brokerage TD Ameritrade Holding Corp, said the company received customer orders amounting to about 70 per cent of what it saw for Facebook, and about three times the customer orders it had for Twitter's IPO. With underwriters electing to sell more shares, the company's initial public offering becomes the largest in history, surpassing Agricultural Bank of China Ltd's $22.1 billion listing in 2010. Alibaba Group's orange banners were festooned around the exchange, with its logo on NYSE computer screens. Ma watched several long-time customers ring the opening bell. "I don't want disappointed shareholders, I want to make sure they make money," Ma said of the pricing, on the news channel, adding that he worries most when customers are happy. NYSE held extensive tests to ensure it would be able to handle heavy trading volume. "We've had a lot of major IPOs, and when you have one it's always the biggest until the next biggest one comes along," said Ted Weisberg, floor trader with Seaport Securities in New York, who has been a member of the NYSE for 45 years. The deal allows cornerstone Alibaba investors such as Japan's Softbank Corp and Yahoo Inc to profit from getting in on the ground floor at the company. Yahoo sold some $8 billion worth of shares in the offering, leaving it with a 16.3 per cent stake. Shares of Yahoo were hit on Friday, dropping 6 per cent. Softbank is not selling for now and will be left with a 32 per cent stake, making it the largest single shareholder. [...]
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How ISIS became the richest terror group in history
Islamic State (ISIS) militants are taking in more than $3m (£1.8m) a day through oil smuggling, extortion, theft and human trafficking, say intelligence officials and experts. Aid workers, researchers and intelligence agents say that as the group has taken over sections of Iraq and Syria it now controls as many as 11 oil fields in both countries. It is using generations-old smuggling networks to bring in the trade from oil and other goods. It is also making money from extorting cash from people in the areas they have seized, kidnapping for ransom and from human trafficking. "There's a lot of money to be made," said Denise Natali speaking about the oil trade. Natali is an American aid official who worked in Kurdistan and is now a senior research fellow at National Defense University. "The Kurds say they have made an attempt to close it down, but you pay off a border guard you pay off somebody else and you get stuff through" she told the Associated Press. The price of Islamic State smuggled oil is discounted — $25 to $60 for a barrel of oil that normally sells for more than $100.But its total profits from oil are exceeding $3 million a day said Luay al-Khatteeb, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution's Doha Center in Qatar. ISIS terrorists shoot dead soldiers Another expert, an American intelligence official speaking on condition of anonymity said the militant group's resources exceed that "of any other terrorist group in history," The Obama administration is pressing the governments in Kurdish controlled northern Iraq, Turkey and Jordan to do more to crack down on the activity. As well as selling oil the group has earned hundreds of millions of dollars from smuggling antiquities out of Iraq to be sold in Turkey, al-Khatteeb said, and they are making more from human trafficking by selling women and children as sex slaves. "Its cash-raising activities resemble those of a mafia-like organization," another US intelligence official said. "They are well-organized, systematic and enforced through intimidation and violence." Before taking over the town Mosul in northern Iraq in late June the group was “taxing” local economic activity and threatening people who would not pay them. Once it had taken control of Mosul, the group stole millions in cash from banks. Another source of income comes from kidnapping and ransom. Earlier this year four French and two Spanish journalists held hostage by Islamic State extremists were freed after their governments paid multimillion-dollar ransoms through intermediaries. The Islamic State group were originally funded by wealthy donors in the Gulf states but this stream of funding has diminished since the group's violent tactics have drawn worldwide attention. American officials say that that the group’s reliance on oil as their main source income could be disrupted by airstrikes, but no decision has made to target Iraqi or Syrian oil infrastructure, which is manned by civilian workers who might have been conscripted. [...]
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Desperate separatists creating hurdles in flood relief operations in J&K
In the midst of a natural calamity of a humongous proportion that has affected lakhs of people in Jammu & Kashmir, separatist leaders in the valley have shown their ugly face yet again by leaving no stone unturned in order to create physical hurdles in the ongoing relief and rescue efforts carried out by the armed forces in the state. On September 13, Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chief Yasin Malik, led a gang of unscrupulous elements and tried to derail the rescue and relief process launched by the Indian Army, under Operation Megh Rahat, for the flood-hit regions of Jammu & Kashmir. According to sources from the army's Northern Command, Malik and his supporters forced ailing lady patients to get off an Army relief boat despite strong criticism of the shocking move by women in the area. Malik told the Army patrol to leave the patients and withdraw from the area. Also, in spite of unprovoked stone pelting resorted to by a gang of hoodlums, the Army did not open fire in retaliation, preferring to disengage and relocate to a nearby area till the crowd dispersed. When the Army patrol boat returned, the JKLF chief appeared told the boat patrol to get the patients off and leave. He claimed the Kashmiris do not want the Army rescue efforts to continue. Women in the boat and in the vicinity protested loudly at this insane act by a bunch of goons even as Mir, an aide of Yasin Malik, shouted at the ladies in Kashmiri and forced them to be silent. In a second instance,hardline Hurriyat Conference chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani appealed to Pakistan (Pakistan army) to come to the aid of the Kashmiri people. The fact, however, remains that his wishes are aimed at creating problems for the forces involved in the relief and rescue operations. The Indian Armed Forces and National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF) has earned appreciation internationally for carrying out with its humanitarian tasks. This in spite of reports of personal losses suffered by the Army. [...]
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David Haines: ISIS release video claiming to show execution of British hostage
Islamic State militants have released footage claiming to show the beheading of British hostage David Haines. The aid worker, 44, was captured by ISIS in Syria in March 2013. The plight of the dad-of-two was revealed when he appeared at the end of a video showing the beheading of US journalist Steven Sotloff earlier this month. ISIS had threatened to kill Mr Haines if world leaders do not bow to their demands. Tonight, the extremists posted a new video lasting 2minutes and 30 seconds which appears to show the beheading of David Haines. It begins with a news clip of David Cameron talking about Britain's policy towards "this appalling organisation". This fades out before text appears which reads: "A message to the allies of America". The video then shows a man, believed to be David Haines, on his knees in an orange jumpsuit with his hands handcuffed behind his back. An Islamic militant - believed to be the infamous Jihadi John - stands behind him holding a knife. The man believed to be David Haines speaks first, saying: "My name is David Cawthorne Haines. I would like to declare that I hold you David Cameron entirely responsible for my execution. "You entered voluntarily into a coalition with the United States against the Islamic State just as your predecessor Tony Blair did following a trend amongst our British Prime Minsters who can't find the courage to say no to the Americans' "Unfortunately it is we the British public who will pay the price for our parliament's selfish decisions." The man believed to be Jihadi John then says: "This British man has to the pay the price for your promise Cameron to arm the Peshmerga against the Islamic State ironically he has spent a decade of his life serving under the same Royal Air Force that is responsible for delivering those arms. "Your evil alliance with America which continues to strike the Muslims of Iraq and most recently bombed the haditha dam will only accelerate your destruction and playing the role of the obedient lapdog Cameron will only drag you and your people into another bloody and un-winable war. The footage then shows what is believed to be the dead body of Mr Haines. Another British hostage is then paraded to the camera. Jihadi John says: "If you, Cameron, persist in fighting the Islamic State then you like your master Obama, will have the blood of your people on your hands." Before tonight's video, ISIS militants had not responded to attempts made by David Haines' family to make contact. Mr Haines was born in East Yorkshire but raised in Perthshire, and before his capture was living in Croatia with his second wife Dragana. He has a 17-year-old daughter with his first wife Louise, and a four-year-old daughter with Dragana who described him as a "fantastic man and father". Mr Haines was taken while working for ACTED, having previously helped people in Libya and South Sudan. Militants from IS have beheaded two American journalists, Jim Foley and Sotloff, posting the evidence online in gruesome videos featuring a masked jihadist with a British accent. Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has said the FCO will be doing "everything" they could to protect Mr Haines. Educated at Perth Academy secondary school, he has worked for aid agencies in some of the world's worst trouble spots, including Libya and South Sudan. He was in Libya during its civil war in 2011, working as head of mission for Handicap International, which helps disabled people in poverty and conflict zones around the world.     [...]
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Flooded with SOS calls, officials in Srinagar throw up their hands
For the last few days, the state government has been publicising some helpline numbers, assuring people that rescue teams are readily available. But the ground situation belies that claim, with official rescue teams missing and residents being the only source of help for those who are stranded. Even as the water level of the Jhelum crossed the danger mark, there was no warning from the government. Early on Sunday morning, the river breached the embankment, flooding Residency Road, which is the city’s lifeline, parts of Rajbagh, Jawahar Nagar, Gogji Bagh and Wazir Bagh areas of Srinagar. Many tourists have been stranded at Rajbagh, which houses many hotels. From the third storey of a guesthouse in Rajbagh, some of them could be seen crying for help. About 10 metres away, some residents were trying to rescue them, but they were helpless without any boats or lifesaving equipment. “Please help us, take us out of here,” the group of tourists shouted from the guesthouse. “This (guesthouse) is sinking, please take us out,” they cried. “What can we do with our bare hands? Let the government give us a few boats, we will rescue the people. But there are no officials anywhere,” said Abdul Rashid, a resident. “We are here to give them hope. We are telling them that help will come soon,” he said. An official at Srinagar’s flood control room said they have been receiving hundreds of distress calls from across the city. “We are just conveying the message to the nearest police station, and they try to rescue the people. Even we are uncertain how to deal with this situation.” Officials said there are nearly 15,000 tourists in the city. “Our Tourism Minister himself is trapped. We could not rescue him,” said an official. “When I heard the sound of gushing water, I rushed out of my house,” said Firdous Ahmad, another resident. “Within five minutes, my house was under water. We didn’t even get time to take out our important documents.” Mushtaq Ahmed, whose family has been trapped since Saturday night inside their three-storey house at Rajbagh, said, “I called many officials and the control room in Srinagar but no one has came to rescue us. My 80-year-old mother is trapped here and we couldn’t move her outside.” “The government should have warned us that the water level would rise,” said a businessman at Lal Chowk, also called Mushtaq Ahmad. “Instead, throughout the day they assured us that the weather would improve and the water level would decrease. The weather has improved but the water level is only increasing,” he said. Other areas of the city that have been flooded are Badami Bagh Cantonment, Indira Nagar, Shivpora, Sonawar, Hari Singh High Street, Qamarwari, Shaheed Gunj, Zainakote, Kakasarai and the roads leading to the Civil Secretariat, fire and emergency services and the police control room. The Valley’s lone children’s hospital and the Tourist Reception Centre are also under water. Chief engineer (flood control and irrigation, Kashmir) Javed Jafer put the onus on the Army: “It is the Army that has to rescue people. The state administration is trying its best. The water level has been maintained in Srinagar, though the whole city is submerged.” State officials said they don’t have enough boats to rescue people. [...]
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Riverbank where homes vanished
Riyaz with his family in Jammu’s Belicharna. Source: Arun Sharma Mohammad Riyaz, 35, is bedridden, now in a neighbour’s house, with multiple fractures in his leg, while his eight-year-old nephew Waseem walks the banks of river Tawi looking for any possible trace of his uncle’s house which was washed away along with nearly three dozen others. “There is now water all over the area which once was a colony with pucca houses,” says Waseem, who was rescued along with his family by his elder brother Mohammad Saleem and brother-in-law Khalid. “After reaching this safer place, I looked back but there was no trace of my house.” Riyaz, who sustained the fractures in a road accident three months ago, and his family are now in a small room provided by a neighbour, Mohammad Azam. “We hadn’t the time to bring anything with us,” his wife Yasmeen says. Even the clothes they are wearing have been provided by neighbours. Relatives have brought rations. “No one from the government has visited us yet,” she says. Riyaz, a welder, had shifted to Jammu from Surankote area of Poonch when militancy peaked there and young men his then age were being forcibly recruited. Once he settled in Jammu, he married Yasmeen and they have had two daughters followed by two sons, the four now aged 13 to 5. “Our school bags too have been washed away,” says Shabana, 12. Waseem’s brother Saleem says, “After Saturday’s morning namaz at a mosque, I saw the swollen Tawi and immediately went on my scooter to Beli Charana, fearing the floodwaters may have entered Riyaz’s s house as it was in a low lying area.” Khalid, who followed him, says, “Riyaz and his family were still in the house and initially reluctant to leave. We brought them out forcibly and had hardly reached a higher, open space when a strong wave came and swept away their house and others.” Riyaz had bought land some eight years ago and built the house. “Now we have no option but to move back to a rented house,” he says. Over two dozen others including government officials have seen their houses washed away. All of them had settled in the area in the last eight to 15 years after buying the land from Gurjjars already settled there. The area was initially part of the riverbed, then separated with the construction of a protection bund over the last few years. “The bund was raised with stones crates but was washed away like a sand wall in the floods,” says Mohammad Rafi, an MA student in Jammu University, who too lost his house. Feroz Din, 50, spent the Saturday night in a government school at Satwari. He returned to Belicharana with his family on Sunday morning but found no trace of their home. [...]
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A father’s death draws Army to stranded son
Umama Burza had got married at Hotel Heritage at Srinagar’s Shivpura Saturday. It was 4 am Sunday when the 120 guests and hosts, who had partied all night, realised that their beds were surrounded by water. Within minutes, they were on the rooftop. Across the city, people were on the rooftops of several houses and hotels as the water flooded up to two storeys, having started entering the buildings at 2.30 am. It entered even the houses of about 150 rescuers of the Army at Badami Baug Cantonment. With cellphone networks down, what brought the wedding party on the Army’s rescue radar was a tragedy. “We received a call from Delhi that a retired general officer had passed away of a heart attack when he learnt that his son, who was in the marriage party, was stranded in the flood,” said Sir Colonel Arun Awasthy, commanding officer of 7 Rashtriya Rifles. The rescue team brought the Delhi youth along with the 120 others to the relief camp, but has not told him of his father’s death. At least seven boats travelled the waters 10 to 20 feet deep, evacuating children, women, the elderly and the ill. From the rooftops, people whistled and shouted to attract their attention and showed the faces of crying children and the ailing elderly. The boats travelled at the level of treetops and at places got entangled in electric cables. “We will rescue you soon. You are fine. We are going to those who need immediate help,” the Army teams kept telling the crowds, while coming across one poignant tale after another. Rano Ratan, 85, wife of a late colonel, was in her house Saturday when her domestic staff told her to move to the upper floor. On Sunday, the Army recovered Ratan’s swollen body. “When she refused to move, the staff left the house. She was old and asthmatic,” said Meena Khanna, a neighbour who stood alongside her weeping daughter-in-law. The Army brought about at least one reunion. Vandana Shah, 65, of Mumbai was in a Srinagar hotel. “I got into a boat and got separated from my husband. I kept telling the Army that my husband has been left behind,” she said, unsure if the Army would find the time to go back and bring him back. Hours later, the boats did go back and one of them brought back the elderly Rashmikant Shah to his tearful wife. [...]
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The forecast: weather will lift from today
The situation in Jammu and Kashmir is set to look up from Monday. The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has not issued any warning for the state for the next two days, which means heavy rainfall is unlikely. The IMD said at least one of the two formations of western disturbances, which have been the reason for the heavy rainfall in the state, is moving away. “The western disturbance as an upper air trough in mid and upper tropospheric westerlies over eastern parts of Jammu and Kashmir is moving away east-northeastward. The other western disturbance as an upper air trough in mid-level westerlies… persists,” it said. The strong interaction of these western disturbances — rain-bearing winds travelling from the Mediterranean Sea — with the southwest monsoon has been blamed for the unprecedented rainfall that Jammu and Kashmir has received in the last few days. Satellite pictures also show weak clouds over the state, indicating that the rainfall activity was likely to decrease. However, the IMD, in its daily report on Saturday, had said that the state was likely to continue getting rains at least till the first half of the coming week. For the second successive day, Katra received more than 20 cm rainfall in 24 hours, getting 21 cm between the mornings of Saturday and Sunday. Jammu received 8 cm and Banihal 5 cm. In the last one week, Jammu and Kashmir has received more than 50 per cent excess rainfall. A bulk of this rainfall has happened in a concentrated area of five to six districts, including Jammu and Srinagar. [...]
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Will put Saradha scam culprits behind bars: Amit Shah
BJP President Amit Shah waves during a rally in Kolkata on Sunday. (Source: PTI) Hitting out at West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee over the Saradha Ponzi scam, BJP president Amit Shah on Sunday alleged associates of Banerjee are involved in the scam and steps will be taken to put them behind bars. “You (Mamata) are not protesting against duping of 17 lakh investors in the Saradha scam and coming down on the streets, because your own associates and stooges are involved. We need an answer to who took away the Saradha scam money. “We are not afraid of anyone because our workers are not involved in any scam. Whether it’s Saradha or anything else, we will do the work of arresting and putting the culprits behind bars,” Shah told a rally in central Kolkata. “You have to rein in your workers and associates who are involved in corruption and scam. If you can’t do that then please step down. The BJP will provide good governance in Bengal. The countdown has already started and the people of Bengal will show you the way out in the 2016 Assembly polls,” he said. “More than 2,000 farmers had lost their land in Nandigram and Singur and you had gone on fast protesting against that injustice. But in this Saradha scam more than 17 lakh people of Bengal have lost their deposits. “Why don’t you (Mamata) feel like sitting on a fast against this scam? Why aren’t you coming down on the roads for those who lost their savings?” Shah asked. The BJP president’s comment comes at a time when the CBI and the ED were tightening their grip in the multi-crore Saradha Ponzi scam probe. Shah alleged that Bangladeshi infiltration has gone up by five times in the Trinamool regime as Mamata Banerjee was only pursuing politics rather than developing the state. “Bangladeshi infiltration has gone up by five times in the TMC regime. If one Bangladeshi infiltrator comes here, then he takes away the job of a Bengali youth and education of a youth. But Mamata is more interested in politics than development of Bengal. She has to stop infiltration and rising crimes in the state,” he said [...]
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BJP may conspire communal violence in UP for political gains: Mulayam
Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav on Sunday alleged that “BJP may conspire large-scale communal violence in Uttar Pradesh for political gains,” and said “there was an intelligence input in this regard”. “As per intelligence reports the state government has received, BJP may conspire large scale communal violence in Uttar Pradesh for political reasons. He was also told about it,” Yadav said. “The state government is vigilant to meet any such situation and will not allow any one to disturb the communal harmony of the state,” Yadav further said. He was addressing series of election meetings in favour of party candidate Tej Pratap Yadav for the Mainpuri Loksabha bypoll. He alleged that BJP, which succeeded in forming the government at the Centre, has failed to fulfil its promises and “achche din (good days)” remains elusive for the people. “It has failed to check inflation, corruption and to protect the boundaries of our country. Pakistan has intruded in our territory several times, but the government could not check it effectively,” he alleged. The SP supremo said the Narendra Modi government promised to bring back the black money stashed away in foreign banks, but it failed to do so yet. “BJP has a mastery in speaking lies and spreading rumours,” he alleged. Justifying his decision to vacate his traditional Mainpuri Lok Sabha seat the SP supremo, who also won from Azamgarh, said that it was done under political compulsions. “I have to vacate Mainpuri seat due to certain political compulsions,” he said. He appealed to voters to ensure victory of the party candidate with more votes than even he had received. [...]
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PM Modi writes to Nawaz Sharif, offers help for flood victims
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday wrote to his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif offering assistance in the efforts to provide relief to the victims of the devastation caused by the record rains, resulting in flooding. PM Modi, who was on a day-long visit to the flood-affected areas of Jammu and Kashmir on Sunday, said while reviewing the situation in the state that he was told the damage to life and property was equally, if not more, severe in areas across the Line of Control (LoC). “My heart goes out to the affected people and my deepest sympathies are with them and their families. In this hour of need, I offer any assistance that you may need in the relief efforts that will be undertaken by the Government of Pakistan. Our resources are at your disposal wherever you need them,” said the letter which was delivered by the Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad. Saying it a was “matter of great distress” Modi noted that the “devastation caused by the record rains and the consequent flooding is unprecedented”, said an MEA spokesperson. Earlier, PM Modi, who flew to Jammu and Kashmir and reviewed the flood situation, said like in the state, the people in PoK region too were bearing losses due to the floods. This is a humanitarian work and India will never be behind in doing such work, he said. [...]
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No travel across LoC due to flash floods
There will be no cross LoC travel between India and Pakistan on the Poonch Rawalakote road as a vital bridge enrote at Chakkan Da Bagh was washed away in flash floods. The bridge, according to sources, was washed away on Friday. While the custodian LoC Trade on Poonch-Rawalakote road was not available, police confirmed that both cross LoC bus and trade have been suspended from tomorrow. Significantly, the passenger bus service and trade had been taking place through this cross LoC point during the current week even when state was in the grip of worst flood fury. At present, while passenger bus from both sides ply on the road only on Monday, trade takes place between two sides four daysba week beginning Tuesday. Meanwhile,  the state government has extended vacations ordering closure of all schools and collages till Thursday.  This has been done as many areas of the state were still inundated under water, sources said, adding the the Jamu Unversity has also suspended its exams scheduled to be held on the campus on Monday. [...]
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Indian Mujahideen was planning to hit Delhi in festival season: Ajaz Sheikh to cops
  Key Indian Mujahideen (IM) operative Ajaz Sheikh, who was arrested by Delhi Police in Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh, revealed during police interrogation that the terror outfit was planning a strike in the national capital during the upcoming festival season. According to a senior police official, 27-year-old Sheikh, who was the logistics man and hawala router of the banned terror organisation, had fled to Nepal after the arrest of Yasin Bhatkal last year and had been hiding there since then. “He was recently asked by his Pakistan-based handlers Riyaz Bhatkal and Mohsin Chowdhary to reach Delhi. He was specifically asked to do break journeys and not directly go to Delhi to avoid being traced. He was instructed to reach the national capital via Lucknow, Moradabad and Saharanpur. He was supposed to get further orders after reaching Delhi,” the official said. Although Sheikh has claimed that the person(s) he was supposed to meet and activities he was supposed to carry out after reaching Delhi was to be revealed to him only at the last moment, investigators believe that given his role in IM, he was supposed to provide money to some sleeper cell operatives of IM through the hawala route. That money could have been used to plan a terror strike in the national capital. Police are now trying to find out who the people are whom Sheikh met while journeying through Lucknow and Moradabad. It is also being investigated where he stayed in these cities and for how long. “It is also being investigated who his contacts were in Saharanpur and Delhi whom he was supposed to meet,” the official said. Sheikh has revealed that his main role was to provide funds to IM operatives which he used to get through foreign money transfers using fake identity cards made by him. In the past, he has provided bulk cash to people like Yasin Bhatkal, Tehsin Akhtar, Assadullah Akhtar alias Haddi and Waqas (all arrested). One of the first tasks entrusted to Sheikh by his Pakistan-based handlers was to assist Yasin Bhatkal in the execution of the German Bakery blasts of February, 2010. For that strike, Sheikh had arranged for the mobile handset, SIM card, explosives and the rented accommodation near Bharti Vidyapeeth, Pune, used by Yasin Bhatkal to fabricate the improvised explosive devices (IED) and execute the blasts. “A week before the blast, he got a call from Mohsin Chowdhary who told him that he will get a call on a mobile phone which was with Yasin Bhatkal and asked him to do as told over the phone. “An hour later, he got a call from a PCO and was asked to come to a hotel where he was given a heavy bag. “He came back to their base and handed over the phone and the bag to Bhatkal. This bag contained the explosives which were used in the German Bakery blast,” the official said. Ajaz has also told his interrogators that he had met Tehseen Akhtar alias Monu earlier this year and twice gave him sums of Rs 1 lakh. He also met Waqas twice, first in Mumbai and then in Kolhapur, and also supplied him money. “He also met Assadullah Akhtar alias Haddi in Pune and gave him Rs 1 lakh. All this money was routed through hawala (channels) and was used for everyday spending, travelling and logistics,” the official said. Sheikh (27) was arrested following a specific tip-off on the intervening night of Friday and Saturday from outside Saharanpur railway station in western Uttar Pradesh by a team of Delhi Police’s Special Cell. A resident of Pune in Maharashtra, Sheikh was the ‘silent’ India-based techie, logistics man and hawala router of the banned terrorist organisation. He was also the “mystery man” who sent anonymous mails to media houses claiming responsibility after the Jama Masjid and Varanasi blasts in 2010. Sheikh also used to prepare the fake identities required by them for procuring mobile SIM cards, collecting foreign money transfers, obtaining rooms on rent and to get enrolled in professional educational institutions as a cover, police said. [...]
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Omar Abdullah against delay in J&K polls due to flood crisis
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah opposed any delay in holding the Assembly polls in the state citing floods and said there would be no difficulty in holding the elections on time. “It (delay in polls on the plea of flood situation) should not happen. If you want to delay it, the life of Jammu and Kashmir Assembly will expire,” he told reporters here in reply to a query. “If you do not conduct elections till November-December then some of the areas of our state will get cut off,” Omar said. The Chief Minister said, “Then it will not be possible to hold elections till March-April. Then you will say that there should be Governor rule for 3-4 months that is not good for any state.” “We will control the situation, which is bad. I feel that the election can be held at its own time. We feel that there would be no difficulty of holding the election,” he added. [...]
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8 ridiculously expensive gadgets money can buy
Computers, smartphones, and tablets are expensive enough as it is. But when you outfit them with custom designer fabrics and jewels, they can cost you a mind-blowing sum of money. While some gadgets can run you thousands of dollars because of their ... [...]
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Flood waters submerge swathes of Kashmir; 120 dead
SRINAGAR, India (AP) -- Fast-moving floodwaters have submerged large parts of the main city in Indian-controlled Kashmir after five days of pounding rain. At least 120 people have died across the Himalayan region in the worst flooding in 50 years. [...]
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'Tastes of Europe' – EU's campaign appeals to Indian taste buds with its three …
With the intention of engaging with Indian audiences and providing an effective platform for food experts to share experiences, useful tips and information on preparing European food, the EU will conduct several seminars at the Annapoorna World of Food ... [...]
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