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Sushilkumar Shinde rules out President's rule in Andhra Pradesh - 10/8/2013

Indian Express

Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde on Tuesday ruled out the possibility of imposing President's rule in Andhra Pradesh in the wake of widespread protests in Seemandhra region against the decision to create Telangana.

"There is no plan under consideration to impose President's rule in Andhra Pradesh. There was no such discussion in today's Cabinet (meeting)," he told reporters here.

He was replying to a question whether the Central government was considering the option of imposing central rule in the southern state which has been witnessing protests after the Union Cabinet's decision to bifurcate Andhra Pradesh.

The Home Minister said the widespread agitation in Seemandhra was a matter of grave concern to the Central government.

He said the Government fully respects the sentiments of the people of the region on this sensitive issue.

"I would like to assure the people of Seemandhra that the government of India remains fully committed to address all their concerns, particularly with respect to safeguarding the interests of people living in Telangana," he said.

Shinde said the concerns of Seemandhra people with regard to education and employment opportunities in Hyderabad for the youth, the sharing of river waters and issue of government employees would be taken care of.

"The Group of Ministers will address all these and other issues in a comprehensive manner and will hold detailed consultations with all stake holders," he said.

Referring to the prevailing situation in Seemandhra region, the Home Minister said government was trying to restore normalcy, especially the power situation.

Shinde indicated that the Essential Services Maintenance Act may be imposed to restore power situation in Seemandhra region and said the state government was talking to the stake holders on how to bring normalcy.

"State government is in talks with stake holders over ESMA," he said.

The Home Minister also ruled out the possibility of southern grid failure due to the strike by the Andhra Pradesh government employees.

A bank by women and for women - 10/8/2013


Konoklota Women Urban Cooperative Bank in India's Assam state helps women become financially secure and empowers them.

Indian politicians and civil society applauded when federal Finance Minister P Chidambaran announced a couple of months ago the decision to set up an all-women public sector bank for the purpose of empowering women.

But amid the applause, what was perhaps surprisingly overlooked was that a similar bank doing precisely the same had been around in the state of Assam in India's remote northeast.

The Konoklota Women Urban Cooperative Bank, which started under the leadership of 64-year-old Lakhimi Baruah, is one where women are treated as prized capital. Women make up for the majority of its account holders - 25,000 out of the total of 28,000. They are also the ones entitled to buy the bank's shares and take loans.

"I had worked at a bank till 1990 myself and I was always aware about the difficulties faced by women, especially poor, deprived and illiterate women in banking. When I started the bank my vision was to empower such women, and today when I look back I feel that I have been able to contribute towards women empowerment in some way," Baruah says.

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Baruah, who is currently associated with the bank as the managing director, has been instrumental in the bank’s growth and today it has a working capital of over Rs 7 crores, has three functional branches, with two more being planned.

Egged on by its past success, the bank is thinking big: it has written to the government for permission to set up at least one branch in all the 27 districts in the state.

The bank's USP is its women-friendly approach and each of its branches register about 250 customers every day.

"This bank is unlike other banks where illiterate women like us are turned down and are not provided any assistance. Here the bank employees are very welcoming and they help us at each and every step, including filling up withdrawal forms, and we just put our thumb impression," said Phulmoni Karmakar, an illiterate woman who works as a daily wage labourer in a tea garden getting a daily wage equivalent to less than a dollar a day.

"I have learnt banking and how to save money, and this will help me a lot to become financially secure soon,” said Karmakar.

Empowering women financially

The customers also get attracted by the very low minimum balance which is required in savings accounts in this bank --just Rs 100 ($1.6), compared to Rs 1,000 ($16) in the bigger banks.

“There are people in the state who get pension -- such as old-age pension, of less than Rs 100 a month, and for such people it is near impossible to open an account in bigger banks and they come to us,” Baruah says.

Lakhimi Baruah [Amarjoyti Borah/ Al Jazeera]

Apart from playing the role of an institution educating illiterate and marginalised women about banking and encouraging them to open accounts and save, the bank has also managed to empower over 5,000 women financially by offering them support to start small entrepreneurship activities.

After her busy schedule in the bank, Baruah even finds time to organise meetings to spread awareness about banking and financial empowerment of women.

After listening to her, even girl students from the tea garden areas have now come forward to do banking -- which is something rare in the tea garden areas in the state.

"Since our vision is in empowering women, we strongly believe that it is important to offer them support and guidance so that they can become financially independent -- for this we give loans at very small interest rates to women who are interested to start entrepreneurial activities and over the years thousands of women have been benefited," Baruah said.

"Our interest rates are lower than the bigger banks," she adds.

The bank officials also ensure that loans are sanctioned within stipulated timeframe, and even help the customers in doing the formalities for the loan application.

"The stipulated timing for sanctioning of a small loan of around Rs 2,000 ($32) is a few hours, and a slightly bigger loan of around Rs 50,000 ($803) takes about a week, moreover we help the customers in filling the forms and documentation.This quick sanctioning of loans has not affected our loan recovery -- which is over 93 percent," said Lakhi Rani Agniborah, branch manager of the Jorhat branch of the bank.

'Never knew about loans'

Trishna Neog, a 42-year-old woman, vouches for the bank's efficiency. She had taken out loans twice from the bank, and on both occasions it was quick and hassle free.

Neog today runs a small livestock farm and is able to save over Rs 15,000 ($241) a year and moreover she is able to financially support her husband who runs a small tyre shop in the town.

My life has changed considerably after I came in touch with this bank, and today I know how to do banking, to do savings

Trishna Neog, Konoklota bank customer

"I never knew about loans, and I was never aware that banking is so easy. My life has changed considerably after I came in touch with this bank, and today I know how to do banking, to do savings, and also how to avail loan facilities. I plan to go for a bigger loan once I clear the existing loan and then set up a bigger business," said Neog.

But some feel that Baruah and the bank could do better.

Nirmala Borah, a professor of economics of the JB College in Jorhat had done a study on the bank, and she pointed out that the bank needed to be more aggressive in lending and asset building, and should also go for publicity drives.

"The bank has been able to absorb a huge number of illiterate people whom almost none of the big banks actually want, and besides this it has been able to help thousands of women by giving out small loans. However to grow the loan amount has to be bigger, and it is important to note that to grow the bank needs to be profit oriented," said Borah.

It is a valid suggestion that the bank needs to take note of. But for the moment, its women customers are not unduly perturbed, as they literally laugh their way to the bank, happy as they are with its service.

Trio awarded Nobel Medicine Prize - 10/7/2013


Americans James Rothman and Randy Schekman and German-born Thomas Sudhof have been awarded the Nobel Medicine Prize for their groundbreaking work on how the cell organises its transport system.

The trio, who all work at US universities, were honoured for "their discoveries of machinery regulating vesicle traffic, a major transport system in our cells", the Nobel committee said in its announcement in Stockholm, Sweden, on Monday.

Their research has helped explain processes as varied as the release of insulin into the blood, communication between nerve cells and the way viruses infect cells.

Schekman said he was awakened at 1am at his home in California by the chairman of the prize committee and was still suffering from jetlag after returning from a trip to Germany the night before.

"I wasn't thinking too straight. I didn't have anything elegant to say," he told The Associated Press. "All I could say was `Oh my God,' and that was that."

He called the prize a wonderful acknowledgment of the work he and his students had done and said he knew it would change his life.

"I called my lab manager and I told him to go buy a couple bottles of Champagne and expect to have a celebration with my lab," he said.

Multiple prizes

Rothman and Schekman received the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award for their discoveries in 2002 - an award often seen as a precursor of a Nobel Prize.

The announcements of Nobel laureates will continue this week and next with physics, chemistry, literature, peace and economics.

Each prize is worth $1.2m.

Established by Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, the Nobel Prizes have been handed out by award committees in Stockholm and Oslo since 1901. The winners always receive their awards on December 10, the anniversary of Nobel's death in 1896.

Last year's medicine award went to Britain's John Gurdon and Japan's Shinya Yamanaka for their contributions to stem cell science.

Govt considers PF cap hike in boost to salaried employees - 10/7/2013

NDTV The government may hike the threshold salary limit for provident fund contributions in a move that will bring cheer to millions of employees in the private sector. According to current norms, contribution towards provident fund is mandatory for those employees, whose salary is up to Rs. 6,500.

A hike in salary limit will not only help more people contribute toward their retirement benefits, but will also enable the Employee Provident Fund Organization (EPFO) to draw more long-term savings into its kitty. EPFO is a statutory body that manages provident fund contributions.

Higher provident fund contributions will also help the government to lower its borrowing cost. At present, the EPFO invests a sizable amount of its kitty in government securities.

The Rs. 6,500 limit for PF contribution was last revised in 2001.

According to the current norms, 12 per cent of an employee's salary is contributed towards provident fund account. Another 12 per cent is contributed by the employer
Out of the 24 per cent around one-third of the total provident contribution (8.33 per cent of salary) goes toward employee's pension scheme. The government contributes 1.16 per cent of the overall salary towards the pension scheme as a subsidy.

The government had recently made more people eligible to avail healthcare benefits under the Employees' State Insurance (ESI). Earlier, workers with monthly salary up to Rs. 15,000 were eligible for ESI benefits. Now the salary cap has been increased to Rs. 25,000, making for people eligible for ESI benefits.

Every month, eligible employees contribute 1.75 percent of their salary and employers contribute 4.75 percent toward the ESI corpus.

Veerappa Moily unveils 5kg cylinder, announces inter-company LPG portability scheme in Bangalore - 10/6/2013

IT Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister M. Veerappa Moily Saturday launched the sale of five-kg cooking gas cylinder here at the non-subsidised rate of Rs. 492 per cylinder, including taxes.

Unveiling the free trade LPG (cooking gas) scheme at a retail outlet of the state-run Bharat Petroleum oil marketing firm in the city's southern suburb, Moily said the new offer was revolutionary, as it would benefit 35 per cent population, which is migratory in the country.

"The scheme is a boon to migratory population such as students, IT professionals, back-office employees and people working at odd hours, as it will provide them flexibility to pick up the small cylinder and get refills when they need as petrol pump stations remain open for longer hours," Moily said on the occasion.

The minister also announced the inter-company LPG portability scheme, which enables customers to choose or switch distributor of any of the three state-run oil marketing firms - Indian Oil Corporation, Hindustan Petroleum and Bharat Petroleum.

"The twin schemes will usher in customer democracy. Those who do not have the subsidised cooking gas connection, can buy the small cylinder from their nearest retail outlet and change the distributor through the portability scheme," Moily said.

The small cylinder scheme was launched simultaneously at 11 retail outlets each in four other metros -- Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai and New Delhi under the pilot project at their respective company-owned and company-operated (COCO) petrol stations.

"The scheme will be rolled out in other metros across the country next year depending upon the success of the pilot project in the five cities," Moily said.

Under the scheme, a prospective consumer has to first to register with the outlet, giving a copy of his/her voter ID card, driving license, PAN card, Aadhaar card or any official document as a proof of identity and buy the equipment with or without regulator at Rs.1,000 plus taxes.

On subsequent refills, only the fuel cost has to be paid.

The portability scheme has also been launched simultaneously in 24 cities across the country on a pilot basis and will be rolled out in other cities nationwide after three months.

"Electronic tracking of portability request and closure will ensure a consumer does not face difficulty in switching over to a distributor of his choice. The scheme will also improve consumer service by distributors as it will usher in competition among the oil marketing firms," Moily added.

India intends to extend visa on arrival for 40 countries including US and UK - 10/6/2013

NDTV India intends to extend visa on arrival facility to tourists from 40 more countries, including the US, the UK, Canada, Brazil, Australia, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, a move which will make the country a more tourist friendly destination and promote foreign exchange earnings.

The Planning Commission has called a high-level meeting of different ministries and National Security Advisor on Monday to deliberate on the feasibility of the move.

"We have called a meeting on October 7 to discuss the possibility of extending tourist visa for 40 more countries as this could help in garnering more foreign exchange and containing the current account deficit," Planning Minister Rajeev Shukla told PTI.

The current account deficit is the difference between inflow and outflow of foreign exchange. During 2012-13, the CAD was at all-time high of 4.8 per cent of GDP or USD 88.2 billion. Government proposes to bring it down to USD 70 billion or 3.8 per cent of the GDP.

According to the Minster, Commission's Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia and senior officials from concerned ministries like tourism, external affairs, home affairs are expected to attend the meeting. National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon will also participate in the discussions.

Mr Shukla said, "Tourism Ministry has raised the issue of tourist visa regime as impediment in the growth of foreign visitors in the country which ultimately results in lesser foreign exchange earnings."

According to the minister, India's visa regime has deflected foreign tourists from the US, Canada and Europe to Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Nepal.

The other countries for which this facility can be extended include Germany, France, Italy, Swedan, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Spain, Belgium, Austria, Denmark, Poland, Norway, Ireland, Portugal, Russia, South Africa, Turkey, Israel, Mauritius, Czech Republic, Oman, Argentina and Kazakhstan.

In 2012, India received 6.58 million foreign tourists, up 4.3 per cent over the previous year. India's foreign exchange earnings in 2012 from tourists were USD 17.74 billion, showing an increase of 7.1 per cent year on year.

India's share in the international tourist receipts in the year 2012 was 0.64 per cent with overall ranking of 41. The country's share in international receipts in the year 2012 was 1.65 per cent with overall rank of 16.

Foreign exchange earning from tourism during January to August 2013 were USD 12.025 billion with a growth of 6.7 per cent, as compared to USD 11.273 billion year on year.

Under the visa on arrival system, India has agreement with different countries, including Japan, Finland, Singapore, Indonesia, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Philippines, Laos and Myanmar.

Many have made billions through politics, Congress MP Birender Singh says - 10/6/2013

TOI  AMBALA: Congress MP Chaudhary Birender Singh, who had earlier kicked up a row with his 'Rs 100 crore for a Rajya Sabha seat remark', on Sunday said there are many people who have made billions through politics.

"Nowadays, if somebody does not finding anything else to do, then the best profession ('dhanda') is politics. If people fail in business, in government jobs, cannot become a good engineer, doctor or lawyer, then they join politics."

"And many of them succeed in such a way, they play not in millions but in billions and try to crush the right people in politics," Rajya Sabha MP Singh, a known detractor of Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, said at a gathering here.

Speaking at the public meeting, former IPS officer and activist Kiran Bedi said that politicians should declare their assets before becoming ministers and after ceasing to be one and, if the difference was found to be huge, the matter should be probed.

Noted lawyer and Aam Aadmi Party member Prashant Bhushan said Chaudhary's remarkswere "absolutely correct" and noted that politics had become an easy route for many to make money.

A few months back, Singh had started a controversy when he claimed that there were people who were ready to shell out up to Rs 100 crore to get a Rajya Sabha seat.

Dubai: 'Bale Thelipaale' standup comedy teams to regale Tulu fans on Nov 7 - 10/6/2013


Dubai, 06 Oct 2013: In an effort to showcase the inherent sense of humour among the people of Dakshina Kannada, Namma TV in association with Sri Shastavu Bhoothanatheshwara Temple conceptualized a standup comedy reality show ’Bale Thelipaale’ to unearth talents from Tulunadu.


Contestants from the debut season have already achieved celebrity status in the region due to the wide viewership and appreciation from viewers around the world.




Now, the three groups that topped the premiere season of Namma TV's stand-up comedy will be entertaining the audience at the Sheikh Rashid Auditorium in Dubai on November 7, 2013. Technozone Entertainment Networks and Namma TV will be bringing the teams to UAE.


The top three teams are

- 'Prashamsha Kaup' (Prasanna Shetty, Sandeep Shetty, Mervin, and Leeladhar Shetty);
- 'Telike Kudla' (Neville Veigas, Shashiraj D’Souza, Melvyn D'Almeida, and Olwyn Veigas), and
- Umesh Mijar and team (Umesh Mijar, Laxmisha, and Rajesh).


Bale Telipale became a runaway success with viewers from 10-year-olds to 70-year-olds. The show has produced 126 episodes until now with views on YouTube nearly doubling from 10,000 to 32,000. Thirst for more content is soaring in the run up for for 2nd season.


For more information, ticket booking, and sponsorship opportunities, contact:

055 4849401
055 6232089
055 6007687


Online booking

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Honey Singh set to get his fans go Yo Yo on him - 10/6/2013

Richard Dsouza -CN
MANGALORE: Honey Singh, who was in the news for offensive lyrics against women, is all set to mesmerise music lovers in Manipal.

Yo Yo Honey Singh in Manipal, a live music concert, will be held under the aegis of Starlit Entertainments at MJC Grounds in Manipal on October 19.

In the aftermath of the Delhi gang rape, some of his lyrics, which allegedly depict violence against women positively, had stirred up a hornets nest.

While an FIR was lodged against Singh for his offensive lyrics, an online petition filed by a group of social activists led to the cancellation of his New Year performance at a Gurgaon hotel.

Singh has since been acquitted of all the charges by Punjab and Haryana high courts citing lack of proof. He will perform for three and half hours live along with Alfaaz, Money Ajula and other members of Mafia Mundeer troupe, said Abhinav Singh, one of the organizers.

Preparations are on to make the show a success. Honey Singh has been cleared off all the allegations levelled against him. He has made it clear that he has nothing to do with that controversial song. The court has also acquitted him in the case. Honey Singh is an artiste and many of his fans are eager to see him performing here, said Naveen, another organiser.

Venkatesh K, an MIT student, said he is happy and thrilled at the prospect of seeing Honey Singh performing live. Honey Singh is a well known artiste, who makes people enjoy music. It promises to be an occasion filled with lot of fun, he added.

Pope Francis urges Church to focus on helping poor - 10/4/2013


Pope Francis says the Roman Catholic Church must strip itself of all "vanity, arrogance and pride" and humbly serve the poorest in society.

Francis hosted a lunch for the poor in the town of Assisi, the birthplace of his namesake, a 13th Century saint.

"Many of you have been stripped by this savage world," he said. "[It] does not give employment [and it] does not care if there are children dying of hunger."

The pontiff has been in talks about a programme of reform for the Vatican.

He has said he wants today's Catholic Church to resemble Francis of Assisi's "Church of the poor".

The Pope arrived to cheering crowds and later spoke to guests at a lunch in the Caritas reception centre.

Francis was visibly moved when he heard the stories of some of the poor people in the room.

"[The world] does not care if so many families have nothing to eat," he said.

Thousands of people gathered for Mass in front of the Basilica of Saint Francis.

"Today is a day for crying," Francis said, referring to the hundreds of deaths feared in the sinking of a migrant boat off the island of Lampedusa.

He said the world "did not care about those fleeing poverty and hunger, who seek freedom but instead find death".

One of those in the congregation, Irene Lunghi, described it as "a serious ceremony, simple and also a bit humble, like St Francis himself".

Another member of the audience, Father Dionysus Mintov, said the sinking off Lampedusa was a "terrible tragedy". "The Mediterranean has become a big cemetery," he said. "Men like us, who suffer, they are poor."

The Pope has suggested empty buildings of monastic orders could be used as accommodation for migrants and refugees.

Start Quote

The world does not care about the many people fleeing slavery, hunger, fleeing in search of freedom”

Pope Francis
'Pastry-shop Christians'

Speaking in a hall where St Francis was said to have thrown off his robes in a gesture of humility, the Pope called on the Catholic Church and its followers to rid themselves of earthly concerns.

"The Church, all of us should divest ourselves of worldliness. Worldliness is a murderer because it kills souls, kills people, kills the Church."

"Without divesting ourselves, we would become pastry-shop Christians, like beautiful cakes and sweet things but not real Christians," he said.

Pope Francis caresses a person during his visit at the Serafico Insitiute for disabled children, in Assisi, Italy, on 4 October 2013Pope Francis blessed disabled people, both young and old, in Assisi
Pope Francis (L) visits the San Damian monastery on 4 October 2013 near Assisi.Earlier in the day, he paid a visit to the Shrine of St Damian to pray
Faithful gather in front of the St Francis Basilica before a mass of Pope Francis as part of his pastoral visit on October 4, 2013 in Assisi. Residents gathered outside the St Francis Basilica before a mass led by the Pope
Pope Francis blesses a disabled person during his visit at the Serafico Institue in Assisi on 4 October 2013. St Francis of Assisi was known as a symbol of austerity and concern for the poor
Pope Francis attends a meeting with disabled persons during his visit at the Serafico Institute in Assisi on 4 October 2013.The Pope urged Church followers to "divest themselves of worldliness"

Two days ago Pope Francis told Italian newspaper La Repubblica his namesake had "longed for a poor Church that looked after others, accepted monetary help and used it to help others with no thought of itself".

"Eight hundred years have passed and times have changed, but the ideal of a missionary and poor Church is still more than valid," he said.


Known in Italian as Il Poverello, or the Poor One, St Francis was the son of a wealthy local cloth merchant who scandalised his family when he reached the age of 25 by dumping his expensive clothing and living in sackcloth, ministering to the poor for the rest of his life.

Pope Francis has become known for his candid views - unlike anything heard coming out of the Vatican during recent papacies, says the BBC's David Willey in Rome.

He wants to see an overhaul of the Church, bringing it closer to ordinary people.

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