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Capital for new Andhra: Kurnool, Tirupati in fray - 2/23/2014


Following the passage of Telangana bill in Parliament, the residual state of Andhra Pradesh is now facing the task of choosing a new capital city with various leaders pitching for their regions.

T G Venkatesh, Minor Irrigation Minister in the outgoing Kiran Kumar Reddy government, said Kurnool should be the capital of the new Andhra Pradesh. Venkatesh hails from Kurnool district.

There should not be any bad blood between the Rayalaseema and Coastal Andhra regions, unlike that between Telangana and Seemandhra in the undivided Andhra Pradesh, Venkatesh said.

He suggested that there could be two capitals, to satisfy both the regions.

Byreddy Rajasekhara Reddy, a former TDP MLA who heads an outfit which champions the cause of Rayalaseema, also demanded that Kurnool be the new capital.

Senior Congress MP from Tirupati, Chinta Mohan, wants the famous temple town as the new capital.

Rayalaseema comprises districts of Chittoor, Kadapa, Kurnool and Anantapur.

The Centre has said that a committee would be set up to go into the issue of the new capital for residuary Andhra Pradesh.

Sri Lanka war film released online in India after censorship - 2/23/2014

NDTV news
Sri Lanka war film released online in India after censorship

New Delhi: The director of a controversial war film on Sri Lanka streamed it free online in India today, after censors banned its theatrical release over fears it may strain friendly ties with Colombo.

Callum Macrae, the British director of "No Fire Zone: The killing fields of Sri Lanka", said the film will also be available free in Malaysia, Nepal and Sri Lanka - the other countries where its general screening has been banned.

The 93-minute film is a collection of footage recorded in Sri Lanka's northeast by doctors, civilians, rebels and soldiers as the government allegedly bombarded areas teeming with refugees trying to flee the fighting.

The documentary has been contested by the Sri Lankan government as propaganda to discredit Colombo in the eyes of the international community.

In a statement, the producers of the film said the Indian censor board had banned its release on the grounds it "may strain friendly relations with Sri Lanka".

Macrae said India's reluctance to release the film hurt him the most, given the country's deep-rooted tradition of democracy and free speech.

"I find it very disturbing that a country whose independent history is rooted in the struggle for democratic rights and free speech should have taken what is, in effect, an act of overt political censorship," he was quoted as saying in the statement.

In protest against the ban, the documentary was screened today in Chennai by a student's group.

Chennai is the capital of Tamil Nadu where millions of ethnic Tamils share close cultural and religious ties with their counterparts in Sri Lanka.

Officials of the Central Board of Film Certification, the censor board, were not immediately available for comment.

The ban on the film comes after the government last year refused to grant a visa to Macrae to attend the premiere of the documentary which was screened in private in New Delhi and Mumbai.

Rights groups say up to 40,000 civilians were killed by security forces in the final months of a no-holds-barred offensive in 2009 that ended Sri Lanka's decades-long fight against Tamil separatists.

Sri Lanka denies causing civilian deaths and President Mahindra Rajapakse sees himself as having brought peace to the Indian Ocean island.

Macrae said he hoped the film's release online will spur a debate ahead of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva starting March 3.

The council will hear calls for the setting up of an international commission of enquiry into alleged crimes committed in the last stages of the war in Sri Lanka.

"As national delegations prepare to meet in Geneva... we hope making the film available in India, Malaysia, Nepal and Sri Lanka will stimulate debate on these vital issues," Macrae said.

Now, 'Rahul Milk' to counter 'Modi chai' - 2/22/2014

NDTV Now, 'Rahul Milk' to counter 'Modi chai'

Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh:  In this political season, it is the competition of beverages. With BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi luring people with free tea at his 'Chai pe Charcha' (discussion over tea) stalls, the Gorakhpur unit of the Congress in Uttar Pradesh has come up with its own counter drink - 'Rahul Milk'.

Packaged in plastic glasses with a picture of Mr Gandhi on them, 'Rahul Milk' is being served at booths in 19 blocks of the district, says Sayed Jamal of the Gorakhpur Congress.

Every such booth, which will serve 50 litres of milk, also has an accompanying slogan. "Zehreele chai nahi, meetha doodh pilayenge, desh ke naujawano ko pehelwan banayenge (Instead of poisonous tea, we will serve sweet milk to make the youth of the country healthier)."

But the effort lacks consistency and fails to live up to the hype. Locals have dismissed it as a one-off event that took place three days ago and hasn't happened since. 

It also lacks sanction from the state Congress leadership.

Unlike the Chai pe Charcha campaign that gives people a chance to question Mr Modi, there is no such interaction with Mr Gandhi. 

Last week, Mr Modi sat at a tea stall in western Ahmedabad and engaged with people at tea stalls across the country. Giant TV screens relayed the interaction live at a 1000 tea stalls in 300 cities.

'Chai pe Charcha' highlights that Mr Modi sold tea on trains as a young boy and is positioned as a giant snub to political rivals like the Congress' Mani Shankar Aiyar, who have made snide remarks about the Gujarat Chief Minister's modest origins.

Google unveils smartphone with 3D sensors - 2/22/2014

BBC Google Tango phone

Google has unveiled a prototype smartphone with "customised hardware and software" that enables it to create 3D maps of a user's surroundings.

The device's sensors allow it make over 250,000 3D measurements every second and update its position in real-time.

Google said potential applications may include indoor mapping, helping the visually-impaired navigate unfamiliar indoor places unassisted and gaming.

It has offered 200 prototypes to developers keen to make apps for it.

Google said its Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) unit developed the phone as part of a project called Project Tango with help from researchers at various institutions.

"We are physical beings that live in a 3D world. Yet, our mobile devices assume that physical world ends at the boundaries of the screen," the firm said.


Tech savvy blind people have excitedly embraced GPS apps, especially on the iPhone which has built-in speech screenreading.

Finding your way independently is a highly-prized ability but GPS only works when you're outside with a clear line of sight to satellites orbiting the earth.

Though GPS is only accurate to within a few metres, and not necessarily powerful enough to help you find the front door of a shop, it can put you in the general vicinity and people are finding it very useful.

But as soon as you walk into a shopping centre, a school or a museum, for instance, you lose your ability to find your way because your satnav connection is cut.

3D sensor navigation could give directions to a checkout, the meat counter or screen 5 at the local cinema either by the user dropping markers or points of interest, or by an establishment providing their own digital indoor maps to aid accessibility.

"The goal of Project Tango is to give mobile devices a human-scale understanding of space and motion.

"We're ready to put early prototypes into the hands of developers that can imagine the possibilities and help bring those ideas into reality," it added.

'Smart' technology

Various firms, including Google, have been looking at developing niche technology.

For its part, Google has already unveiled its Google Glass - the intelligent specs due to go on sale later this year.

Earlier this year, the firm said it is also working on a "smart contact lens" that can help measure glucose levels in tears.

Also in January, it bought DeepMind, a UK firm that specialises in artificial intelligence, for £400m.

According to DeepMind's website it builds "powerful general-purpose learning algorithms".

Analysts say that firms have been looking at ways to help bring the advances made in technology to practical use in every day life in an attempt to attract more customers.

"The focus is not just on the hardware or the device, but on what the gadget can actually do," Bryan Ma, associate vice president at research firm IDC told the BBC.

"It is all about taking it to the next level of usage - be it augmented reality, help with basic healthcare or even just creating better maps."

Mr Ma added that once fully developed such gadgets could have huge commercial applications as well - which would help drive demand not only among individual consumers but also businesses and corporate users.

"There could be a lot of opportunity waiting to be exploited in this area," he said.

Last year, Japanese firm Sony filed a patent for a "SmartWig", with healthcare cited as one of its potential uses along with the ability to help blind people navigate roads.

It said the wig could use a combination of sensors to help collect information such as temperature, pulse and blood pressure of the wearer.

Kejriwal writes to Modi, asks him to come clean on ties with Mukesh Ambani - 2/21/2014

TOI NEW DELHI: Former Delhi chief minister and AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal has written a letter to Narendra Modi asking the Gujarat chief minister to clear his stand on the issue of gas pricing.

Addressing a press conference here, Arvind Kejriwal once again reiterated his charge that RIL chief Mukesh Ambani was being paid much more for gas than the prices decided earlier and questioned Modi's silence on the issue.

In the letter, Kejriwal writes about the FIR lodged against Mukesh Ambani by his government on the issue of gas pricing and questions why both the BJP and Congress opposed this move.

Citing BJP's support to Rajya Sabha member Parimal Nathvani, who is group president in Reliance, Kejriwal writes that this raises doubts in the minds of people about BJP's relations with Mukesh Ambani.

The AAP leader said that both Modi and Rahul Gandhi are using helicopters and private planes for their travel in India and abroad. "Who are the owners of these helicopters and private planes? Kejriwal asked.

Do you use these helicopters for free or do you pay for them? he asks.

Kejriwal also said that Modi should make public the amount of money being spent on his rallies and the source of these funds.

According to reports, it is being said that Mukesh Ambani is funding your rallies, Kejriwal said, asking Modi to clarify if it is true.

Kejriwal plans to write a similar letter to Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi.

The AAP leader also announced to distribute 10 crore copies of his letter across the country.

Cancer cases on the rise: Ghulam Nabi Azad tells Rajya Sabha - 2/19/2014

Indian Express

There has been a substantial increase in the number of cancer patients in the country between 2011 and 2013. In a written reply to the Rajya Sabha, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Ghulam Nabi Azad said the prevalence of cancer has increased by 114,857 between this period.

Quoting data from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Azad said the number (estimated) of cancer patients (prevalence) during 2011, 2012 and 2013 are 2819457, 2820179 and 2934314 respectively.

But there is some good news as far as the fight against AIDS is concerned. The minister informed the House that the number of HIV infected cases in the country has come down from 317336 in 2011 to 245859 in 2013. “The number of HIV infected cases in the country, as reported by Department of AIDS Control, during 2010-11, 2011-12, and 2012-13 are 317336, 285152 and 245859 respectively,” Azad said.

Reports of tuberculosis cases have not shown any marked difference. However, under Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme (RNTCP), in these years, the treatment success rate in TB patients is about 88 per cent for new smear positive patients. Though the number of cases has come down by a marginal 54562, but continues to hover over 1467585.

Azad said the total number of TB patients registered under the RNTCP during 2010, 2011 and 2012 are 1522147, 1515872, and 1467585 respectively.

'My name is Khan and I am not a terrorist', says Nitish Kumar's minister - 2/18/2014

NDTV Patna "My name is Shahid Ali Khan but I am not a terrorist," said the Bihar Minister for Minority Affairs, quoting the famous line from a Shah Rukh Khan flick, after the BJP accused him of having links with the terrorist outfit, Indian Mujahideen.

The accusation by the BJP came after the Sashastra Seema Bal or armed border guards in Bihar had put the legislator from Sursand in Sitamarhi district under scanner for his suspected links with two alleged Indian Mujahideen operatives, Jameel Akhtar and Mansoor Sai.

The Bihar Police said it received a letter from the Sashastra Seema Bal last month seeking verification of charges against Mr Khan. The Special Task Force (STF) in Bihar then asked the cops in Motihari and Sitamarhi districts to probe the matter and found the allegation false. 

The BJP yesterday created uproar in Bihar Assembly after the Minority Affairs minister rose to answer a members' question. "They are trying to use a non-issue against me because of politics," Mr Khan said. 

The minister said the allegation that Akhtar and Sai have terrorist links needs to be established first before any question of his association with them should arise.

Earlier this month, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar also questioned the security agency's handling of the matter. "What is the source of the information of the SSB by which it has taken suo motu note and sent the same to the Special Task Force in Bihar for verification?" Mr Kumar had asked

Rajiv Gandhi assassination: Supreme Court spares convicts death, state may remit sentence - 2/18/2014

Indian Express

The Supreme Court on Tuesday commuted to life imprisonment the death penalty for three convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, after dismissing the government’s appeal that the 11-year delay in deciding their mercy petitions did not entitle them to pardon.

A bench led by Chief Justice P Sathasivam held that it was “indisputable” that the delay in deciding the mercy plea was “inordinate and unreasonable”, and had not been caused by the convicts, Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan.

“Accordingly, the unreasonable delay caused qualifies as the supervening circumstance, which warrants for commutation of sentence of death into life imprisonment… Exorbitant delay in disposal of mercy petition renders the process of execution of death sentence arbitrary, whimsical and capricious and, therefore, inexecutable,” the bench, also comprising Justices Ranjan Gogoi and S K Singh, said.

The court left it open for the Tamil Nadu government to grant remission to the convicts under its executive powers — an especially sensitive decision ahead of the elections. Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, who had in 2011 ensured that the Tamil Nadu assembly passed a resolution demanding commutation of the sentences, did not react on Tuesday.

But former chief minister M Karunanidhi issued a statement in Chennai saying he was “immensely happy” at the verdict, and would be “doubly happy” if they were released. MDMK leader Vaiko said that in light of the “historic judgment”, the state government “should consider the release of all the three (convicts)”.

The Supreme Court based its judgment on last month’s landmark verdict by a constitution bench which ruled that inordinate, unreasonable and unexplained delay was a ground for commutation of death penalty.

Referring to this verdict, the bench on Tuesday said that prolonged incarceration awaiting disposal of mercy plea was “extra-legal and excessive” and hence, the “apex constitutional authorities” (President and Governor) should dispose of such petitions in an expeditious manner.

The bench rejected Attorney General G E Vahanvati’s argument that the prolonged incarceration had had no de-humanising effect on the convicts, who had rather “enjoyed” and lived a “meaningful prison social life”.
It also dismissed his contention that the trio were under legal obligation to produce evidence of their suffering on account of the delay.

Pointing to the several reminders sent by the convicts to the President seeking speedy disposal of their mercy petitions, the court said the executive should exercise its power of clemency one way or the other within a reasonable time.

Sanjay Dutt's parole extended again by a month - 2/18/2014

TOI PUNE: The parole of actor Sanjay Dutt, convicted in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case, has been extended by one more month by the district authorities, sanctioning his request on the ground of his wife Manyata's illness.

Dutt, 53, convicted under the Arms Act for illegal possession of weapons, was supposed to return to Yerawada Jail on February 21 on the expiry of his monthlong parole.

The divisional commissioner's office here granted extension till March 21 to the actor, who is serving remainder of his five year sentence, after receiving a mandatory report from the Mumbai police.

The authorities said that as per the rules, this would be the last parole leave for Dutt this year.

Dutt sought extension of his parole to be able to look after his ailing wife, who recently underwent a surgery in Mumbai.

Last month, the Maharashtra government had extended Dutt's parole by another 30 days on the ground of his wife's illness.

The Bollywood actor was granted a month-long parole on December 6 last year, which triggered protests outside Pune's Yerawada Jail forcing the government to order an inquiry. Prior to it, he had availed of a month-long leave of furlough on medical grounds.

He was convicted by the Supreme Court last year and sentenced to five years in prison for illegal possession of arms in a case related to the 1993 bomb blasts.

He has already served 18 months of his term and is currently undergoing the remaining 42 months of the sentence.

Interim budget 2014: Cars, SUVs, two-wheelers, mobiles, soaps set to be cheaper - 2/17/2014

TOI NEW DELHI: Ahead of the upcoming general election, finance minister P Chidambaram on Monday sought to lighten the burden on the middle class by lowering excise duty on cars, SUVs and two-wheelers and proposed no increase in taxes on other products.

"To give relief to the automobile industry which is registering unprecedented negative growth, I propose to reduce excise duty..," Chidambaram said while presenting the interim budget for 2014-15.

As per his proposal, excise duty on small cars, motorcycles, scooters and commercial vehicles has been cut to 8 per cent from 12 per cent earlier.

Likewise, the sports utility vehicles will attract 24 per cent excise duty, down from 30 per cent earlier, while large cars that used to attract excise of 27 per cent will now be levied only 24 per cent.

Moreover, the excise duty on mid-sized cars will be 20 per cent from 24 per cent earlier.

While giving sops to the automobile sector, Chidambaram said: "I propose to make appropriate reductions in excise duty on chassis and trailers."

Mobile phones manufactured in India could also see price moderation with the finance minister announcing a proposal to boost domestic manufacturing. However, a majority of mobile phones sold in India, even by domestic firms like Micromax, Lava and Karbonn, are imported.

However, Samsung and Nokia have manufacturing facilities in the country and the excise duty rejig may lower their cost of production.

"To encourage domestic production of mobile phones, which has declined, and reduce the dependence on imports, which have increased, I propose to restructure the excise duties for all categories of mobile phones. The rates will be 6 per cent with CENVAT credit or one per cent without CENVAT credit," he said.

Another daily use item, soaps that are manufactured in India can also witness a softening of prices.

Chidambaram rationalized customs duty structure on non-edible grade industrial oil and its fractions, fatty acids and fatty alcohols at 7.5 per cent.

Rice can also be expected to be cheaper with the finance minister exempting service tax on loading, unloading, packing, storage and warehousing of the commodity.

People looking to store umbilical cord blood for future use can now be expected incur lower expense with the service tax of 12 per cent on cord blood banks being withdrawn.

"Ministry of health and family welfare has requested that services provided by cord blood banks are also healthcare services and should be exempt from service tax. I propose to accept the request," Chidambaram said.

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