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Two mountaineers killed in Sikkim avalanche

Posted by Ramesh Khati on October 22, 2009

Mumbai, Oct 22 (IANS): Two mountaineers from Maharashtra, who were on a climbing expedition to the Himalayas in Sikkim, were killed when an avalanche hit them Monday, a member of the team said Wednesday.

The five-member team – sent by Chakram Hikers, Mulund – had gone to scale the 6,010-metre Mt. Tinchen Khang in western Sikkim, its vice-president Kiran Deshmukh told IANS here Wednesday evening.

The group included Mangesh Deshpande, 43, and Parag Pendharkar, 46, both of Pune, and Sadasivan Sekhar, 26, of Thane.

Both Deshpande and Sekhar have been killed, Deshmukh said.

There were two Mumbaikars – Anju Panikulam, 38, of Goregaon suburb, and Shantaram Pandit, 46, of Chembur suburb.

‘On receipt of the first SOS, we organised search and rescue operations in the region which is presently witnessing very bad weather and lot of snow,’ he said.

On Wednesday morning, two army helicopters made unsuccessful sorties to the region where the two victims are believed to have lost their lives.

However, on account of inclement weather conditions in the upper reaches, they could not land.

The Maharashtra team was accompanied by a five-member team of local guides-cum-porters on the expedition which had started more than 10 days ago.

Deshmukh said that the remoteness of the region coupled with bad weather is making even basic communication with the base camp and other agencies in Sikkim impossible.

According to an office-bearer who has rushed to Sikkim from Mumbai, the sole woman member – Anju and two associates could not make it to the peak on account of bad health.

The remaining two, accompanied by the guides, reached the peak and were returning when the avalanche struck.


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India, Nepal set to chalk out strategy on fake currency

Posted by Ramesh Khati on October 20, 2009

New Delhi, Oct 19 (PTI) India and Nepal are set to chalk out a strategy to tackle the issue of routing of fake currency notes through the 1,751-km-long porous border the country shares with its eastern neighbour.

The issue of circulation of fake currency notes and use of Nepal by anti-India elements to foment trouble are expected to be high on the agenda when Home Secretaries of the two countries meet in Kathmandu on November six and seven.

India had expressed concern over the growing problem of circulation of fake currency notes to Nepal Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal during his visit here in August.

It was then decided that the Home Secretaries of both the sides would meet to formulate a joint strategy to deal with the menace.

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Tibetans call China reaction on Dalai Lama absurd

Posted by Ramesh Khati on September 16, 2009

Dharamsala, Sept 15 (PTI) The Tibetan government-in-exile today called China’s objection to the meeting between US President Barack Obama’s top aides and Dalai Lama as absurd and said that country should instead pay attention to finding a solution to the vexed Tibetan issue.

It also asserted that Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of India and China’s objection to the Dalai Lama’s visit to the state was like stopping a person “going from one room to another in one’s own house”.

“No day passes without Beijing spitting venom against the Tibetan spiritual leader and us Tibetans,” Prime Minister of Tibetan government-in-exile Samdhong Rinpoche said, adding the latest reaction from China was “absurd.”

“China has no business to object to who is meeting whom…instead of expressing anger at the Dalai Lama on a daily basis they (Beijing) should pay attention to solve Tibetan issue,” he said.

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North East: Google admits mistake in Arunachal depiction

Posted by Ramesh Khati on August 10, 2009

From PTI Shared by Nanda Kirati Dewan

NEW DELHI, Aug 8 –Search Google today admitted its ‘mistake’ of wrong depiction of certain areas of Arunachal Pradesh as parts of China and said its maps would be rectified shortly. “Earlier, this week, as part of routine update to Google Earth, we published new data for the Arunachal Pradesh region that changed the depiction of certain place names in the product. The change was a result of a mistake in our processing of new map data,” a spokesperson for the search giant said in a statement.

The spokesperson was reacting after a media report which highlighted that Google map showed certain areas of Arunachal Pradesh as parts of China. The media report had raised suspicion about the search engine being hacked by Chinese considering that Beijing has been laying claim over entire Arunachal Pradesh, which India rejects.

“We are in the process of reverting the data to its previous state and expect the change to be visible in the product shortly,” the spokesperson said.

“We would like to clarify that this issue did not impact our depiction of international borders,” the statement said.

Google Earth is a service of Google that lets users to view satellite imagery, maps, terrain and 3D buildings.

This is not the first time that Google Earth has come in for criticism in India. Indian security agencies had earlier been complaining that Google Earth exposes Indian defense and other sensitive installations. – PTI

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Solar eclipse shrouds Asia in darkness after dawn

Posted by Ramesh Khati on July 22, 2009

By:-INDRAJIT KUMAR SINGH(Associated Press)

In this photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, solar eclipse is seen in Yinchuan, capital of northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, at 8:33 a.m. on Wednesday, July 22, 2009. Scientists, students and nature enthusiasts gathered in open spaces in parts of India Wednesday to watch the longest total solar eclipse of the 21st century, although heavy cloud cover and overnight rains threatened to spoil the party. (AP Photo/Xinhua, Wang Peng)

In this photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, solar eclipse is seen in Yinchuan, capital of northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, at 8:33 a.m. on Wednesday, July 22, 2009. Scientists, students and nature enthusiasts gathered in open spaces in parts of India Wednesday to watch the longest total solar eclipse of the 21st century, although heavy cloud cover and overnight rains threatened to spoil the party. (AP Photo/Xinhua, Wang Peng)

TAREGNA, India — The longest solar eclipse of the 21st century pitched a swath of Asia from India to China into near darkness Wednesday as millions gathered to watch the phenomenon.

But millions more, gripped by fear, shuttered themselves in. India abounds in superstitions and fables based on Hindu mythology, one of which says an eclipse is caused when a dragon-demon swallows the sun.

The eclipse is caused when the moon covers the sun completely to cast a shadow on earth. In some parts of Asia it lasted as long as 6 minutes and 39 seconds.

Thick cloud cover over India obscured the sun when the eclipse began at dawn. But the clouds parted in several cities, minutes before the total eclipse took place at 6.24 a.m. (0054 GMT; 8:54 p.m. EDT).

In neighboring Bangladesh, people came out in droves.

“It’s a rare moment, I never thought I would see this in my life,” said Abdullah Sayeed, a college student who traveled to Panchagarh town from the capital Dhaka to view it.

He said cars in the town needed to use headlights as “night darkness has fallen suddenly.” People hugged each other and some blew whistles when the eclipse began, he said.

One of the best views, shown live on several television channels, appeared to be in the Indian town of Varanasi, on the banks of the Ganges river, sacred to devout Hindus.

Thousands of Hindus took a dip in keeping with the ancient belief that bathing in the river at Varanasi, especially on special occasions, cleanses one’s sins. The eclipse was seen there for 3 minutes and 48 seconds.

The eclipse — visible only in Asia — was moving north and east from India to Nepal, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Bhutan and China.

It is the longest such eclipse since July 11, 1991, when a total eclipse lasting 6 minutes, 53 seconds was visible from Hawaii to South America. There will not be a longer eclipse than Wednesday’s until 2132.

“We’ll have to wait a few hundred years for another opportunity to observe a solar eclipse that lasts this long, so it’s a very special opportunity,” said Shao Zhenyi, an astronomer at the Shanghai Astronomical Observatory.

A 10-member team of scientists from the premier Indian Institute of Astrophysics in Bangalore and the Indian air force were to fly and film the eclipse, an air force press release said.

Scientists said the Indian village of Taregna would have the clearest view, where thousands of scientists, nature enthusiasts and students gathered a day in advance.

But their party was spoiled by thick clouds and overnight rains, although the town was still thrown into a cloudy darkness.

“It was still a unique experience with morning turning into night for more than three minutes,” said Amitabh Pande, a scientist with India’s Science Popularization Association of Communicators and Educators, after watching the eclipse.

The clouds and rain were welcomed by many in this agricultural area which has seen scant rainfall this monsoon season.

“It would have been nice to see the solar eclipse but the rain is far more important for us,” said Ram Naresh Yadav, a farmer.

Millions across India were shunning the sight and planned to stay indoors.

Even in regions where the eclipse was not visible, pregnant women were advised to stay indoors in curtained rooms over a belief that the sun’s invisible rays would harm the fetus and the baby would be born with disfigurations, birthmarks or a congenital defect.

Krati Jain, a software professional in New Delhi, said she planned to take a day off from work Wednesday to avoid what she called “any ill effects of the eclipse on my baby.”

“My mother and aunts have called and told me stay in a darkened room with the curtains closed, lie in bed and chant prayers,” said Jain, 24, who is expecting her first child.

In the northern Indian state of Punjab, authorities ordered schools to begin an hour late to prevent children from venturing out and gazing at the sun.

Others saw a business opportunity: one travel agency in India scheduled a charter flight to watch the eclipse by air, with seats facing the sun selling at a premium.

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Demand for creation of 10 new states before home ministry

Posted by Ramesh Khati on June 28, 2009

NEW DELHI: The Centre has received demands for creation of at least 10 new states, including a separate Mithilanchal in Bihar, Saurashtra in Gujarat and Coorg in Karnataka.

A senior home ministry official said the demands were mostly received from organisations like Telengana Rashtra Samiti and Gorkha Janamukti Morcha and some other organisations and individuals.

The most vocal organisation TRS has placed its demand for creation of Telengana state, comprising Telengana region in Andhra Pradesh, a few years back while the GJM has been putting pressure to carve out Gorkhaland state out of Darjeeling and its adjoining areas in West Bengal.

The demand for creation of Bundelkhand state, comprising districts like Banda, Chitrakoot, Jhansi, Lalitpur, Sagar of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh have been pending for long with the ministry, the official said, adding, though no state government has given any recommendation, which is mandatory for carving out a new state, the demands continue to pour in.

A demand for creation of Bhojpur state comprising areas of Eastern Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Chhattisgarh has also been received by the Ministry.

Another demand for creation of a new state comprising Saurastha region of Gujarat, one of the most prosperous states, has also been pending with the Ministry for several years now.

The Centre has received representations for creation of Harit Pradesh or Kisan Pradesh consisting several districts of Western Uttar Pradesh, the official said.

The Home Ministry has also received demands for creation of Mithilanchal or Mithila state comprising territories in Bihar, a new Greater Cooch Behar state out of parts of West Bengal and Assam, a Vidarbha state in Maharashtra and a state for the Coorg region of Karnataka.

However, no decision has been taken by the Home Ministry in any of the representation for creation of a new state.

“Government takes decision on the matter of formation of new states after taking into consideration all relevant factors. Action by the government would depend on the felt need and general consideration,” the official added.

Source: The Times Of India

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Aila’s wrath

Posted by Ramesh Khati on June 3, 2009

Cyclone Aila hits West Bengal with a fury that the State has not known in recent history.

At Mathbari village in North 24 Parganas district, cyclone victims at the school premises where they took shelter.

At Mathbari village in North 24 Parganas district, cyclone victims at the school premises where they took shelter.

CYCLONE Aila hit West Bengal on May 25 with a fury unprecedented in recent history.

It took at least 94 lives, seven of them in Kolkata, and affected over 40 lakh people. More than six lakh houses were destroyed completely or damaged partially. The cyclone originated in the Bay of Bengal around 750 kilometres away from Kolkata on May 23 and started making its way towards land. Its northern tip touched Kolkata on the afternoon of May 25 with a wind velocity of 120 km an hour. Kolkata was battered by the cyclone. After Aila skirted past the city, uprooted trees lay scattered all over, many with vehicles crushed under them. More than 30 main roads were blocked by fallen trees and traffic movement was badly affected. As many as 1,800 trees are said to have been uprooted in the four hours of lashing that the city received from the edge of the cyclone. The closest Aila got to Kolkata was between 3-30 p.m. and 4 p.m. when the wind speed was clocked at 120 kmph. At least four people in the city were crushed to death under falling trees. By around 6 p.m. Kolkata had faced the worst, as the cyclone started heading northwards. The city had come to a standstill as schools, offices and shops remained closed, air and rail traffic came to a halt, and large areas were rendered without electricity.


Two districts that bore the brunt of Aila’s fury were South 24 Parganas and Medinipur East. Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee rushed to the affected spots in South 24 Parganas, while State Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta tended to the problems in North 24 Parganas and Medinipur East. In fact, Asim Dasgupta sanctioned Rs.1.8 crore for relief and rehabilitation in Medinipur East during his visit.

An aerial view of a flood-affected village in the Sunderbans, some 100 km south of Kolkata.

An aerial view of a flood-affected village in the Sunderbans, some 100 km south of Kolkata.

In the Sunderbans, the tributaries of the Ganga began flowing over the danger mark, inundating many villages. Giant waves destroyed embankments and flooded the surrounding regions. According to State Irrigation and Waterways Minister Subhas Naskar, in the Sunderbans and Medinipur East alone more than 400 km of embankment was breached and the estimated loss from this was Rs.113 crore.


With the Sunderbans facing the brunt of the storm, heavy loss of animal life is feared. N.C. Bahuguna, Director, Sunderbans Forest Reserve, told Frontline on May 28: “So far we have hardly managed to get any proper information from the interior parts of the forest. All communication networks are still down, there is no electricity and our generators are not working, but we can assume that the damage will be sizable.”

As of May 28, of the 20 crocodiles that comprise the parent stock of the Bhagwatpur Crocodile Centre, 18 were missing. The total crocodile population at the centre is 50; Crocodiles that are at least 20 feet in length are considered parent stock. There was no news of the tiger population either, except that one tiger was rescued from an inundated village in Sajnakhali near the Sunderbans.

Trinamool Congress supremo and Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee called off her trip to New Delhi and opted instead to take charge of her Ministry at the Eastern Railway headquarters in Kolkata. The Centre mobilised 1,000 personnel of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and the Army was deployed in rescue and relief operations.

As Aila turned northwards on May 25, it waned but maintained its cyclonic intensity until it reached Malda district in North Bengal, after which it took the form of a deep depression. The total duration of the cyclone over West Bengal was from 2-30 p.m. on May 25 to 5-30 a.m. on May 26, during which time it had covered the entire length of the State.


However, even in its weakened form it created havoc in North Bengal, particularly in the Darjeeling Hills. Heavy rain which caused landslides, practically cut off the hills from the plains. As of May 28, at least 28 people were reported to have lost their lives in the hills, but it was feared that more bodies would surface as the debris of landslides were cleared. At the Chief Minister’s direction, the NDRF team moved to Darjeeling.

With the roads leading up to Kurseong and Darjeeling blocked, sending relief materials became a problem. As of May 28, only a small gap on an otherwise blocked Hill Cart Road made it possible to carry dry foods, drinking water, tarpaulin and other relief materials.


A family of Maipith in the Sundarbans, with its belongings, in search of a safe place.

The State government had already sanctioned Rs.40 crore for relief and rehabilitation work. It also promised free rice and dal for all the affected people. As of May 27, as much as 1,000 tonnes of rice had been dispatched to the affected regions and 1,000 more tonnes was sanctioned. More than 100 relief camps were set up in the affected regions, in which more than 50,000 people took shelter.

By May 28, more than 2.5 lakh tarpaulins had been distributed among the victims. An early estimate is that loss in terms of agricultural production is over Rs.100 crore.

The State government immediately sent across 211 medical teams – including 84 medical officers, 54 nursing staff and 705 paramedical staff. State Health Minister Surya Kanta Mishra told Frontline: “We are disinfecting tubewells and sending medicines, oral rehydration salts [ORS], halogen tablets, bleaching powder, and so on to all the affected places.”

Cyclone-hit people wait for relief packets to be airdropped by the Indian Air Force.

Cyclone-hit people wait for relief packets to be airdropped by the Indian Air Force.

Though there have been no deaths owing to diseases accompanying such natural disasters, Mishra is apprehensive of the possibility of an outbreak of diarrhoea. “Generally that happens a few days after a natural disaster. Preventing such an outbreak is what I am most concerned about,” he said. As of May 28, as many as 1,144 cases of diarrhoea – most of them in the South 24 Parganas – were recorded.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led ruling Left Front also initiated a massive programme of collecting funds and relief materials from all over the State. Left Front chairman and CPI(M) State secretary Biman Bose visited several affected areas in and around Kolkata and called upon all Left Front units to be by the side of the victims and extend support and sympathy at their time of need and actively take part in the rebuilding of their lives.


Kolkata has been lucky to narrowly miss major cyclones, most of which would, in the last minute, turn eastward into Bangladesh. But this time the city was not so lucky, though it received only a peripheral lashing.

G.C. Debnath, Director of the Regional Meteorological Centre in Kolkata, said, “Normally a cyclone is determined by the wind flow pattern of the upper atmosphere, and following that pattern most of the cyclones bypass Kolkata. However, this time, Aila was at the outer periphery of an anti-cyclonic circulation formed over the east-central Bay of Bengal and adjoining Myanmar. It is the interaction between Aila and the anti-cyclonic circulation that determined the new direction it took.”•

source: Frontline

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Minority parties to hold India’s next government ‘to ransom’

Posted by Ramesh Khati on May 14, 2009

As voting in the biggest election in history ended, exit polls suggested the ruling Congress Party will once again hold the largest number of seats, but only by a tiny margin.

Some of the polls even suggested its main rival, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), could still pip them at the post.

The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) leads the BJP’s National Democratic Alliance by between six and 22 seats according to exit polls conducted by six Indian television channels.

The closest of them, by Times Now TV, is widely believed to be the most accurate. It shows the Congress-led alliance with 201 seats to the BJP alliance’s 195.

But the key to who will form the next government lies in the 82 seats it predicts will be won by the ‘Third Front’ of left wing and Tamil parties and 65 ‘others’ which include the Bahujan Samaj Party, the pro-dalit, or ‘untouchable’ caste party led by Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati.

A close result means any of the small parties could decide which of the main parties leads the governments, and what policy concessions they will have to make to build a governing coalition.

Both prime minister Manmohan Singh and BJP leader L K Advani have already voiced fears about the impact on these small parties could have on India’s greater national interest, while one of the country’s leading commentators last night said they could have a disastrous effect.

“The government will be held to ransom by small regional parties who have no idea of the national interest,” said Vir Sanghvi.

“The DMK and AIADMK (both Tamil nationalist parties) will demand interference in Sri Lanka. Mayawati’s BSP will want more reservations (in universities and government jobs) for lower castes. Mulayam Singh (of the Samajwadi Party) wants to ban computers and English schools. There are real dangers here,” he said.

Jayalalithaa, the leader of the Tamil Nadu-based AIADMK, which is expected to win 25 of her state’s 40 seats, has said she will demand Indian Army intervention in Sri Lanka to create a Tamil state as her price for joining a government.

She disclosed both the BJP and the Congress Party had made overtures to her, but she would not make any decisions until after the results are released on Saturday (May 16).

The movement for a Gurkha state within India, the Gurkha Janmukti Morcha, pledged its support to the BJP after the Hindu nationalist party promised to create a new Gurkha state in the Darjeeling Hills if it wins the election.From his home in Darjeeling, the party’s general secretary Roshan Giri said he was confident the BJP would win the election and that work on creating a new Gurkha state would begin soon.

His prediction was backed by the BJP’s own exit polls which put the party 20 seats ahead of Congress. An aide to party leader L K Advani told The Daily Telegraph:”We’re quite confident that the BJP will come out as the largest single party and that our NDA will form the next government.

“We will make gains in Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Bihar. We feel our numbers will be 20 ahead of the Congress,” he said.

The Congress Party’s own polls put it just ten seats ahead of the BJP, and analysts believe it has already begun sounding out parties in rival camps about switching their support to the UPA.

Congress Prime Minister has spoken warmly of the Communist Party (Marxist) (CPM) which almost brought down his government in protest over its nuclear co-operation deal with the United States last summer.

In this election Congress has supported the CPM’s rivals in West Bengal, the Trinamool Congress which has led a bitter, and occasionally bloody, campaign against the compulsory purchase of farmers’ land for new enterprise zones.

The Congress Party’s campaign leader, Rahul Gandhi, has approached the chief minister of Bihar, Nitish Kumar, a BJP ally, while Sonia Gandhi met the leader of the Janata Dal, an ally of the Communist-led Third Front.

The final results on Saturday are expected to mark the beginning of intense negotiations and horse trading as the main parties fight to form a coalition government before the June 2 deadline.

source: The Telegraph(UK)

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