Government proposes JPC probe into VVIP chopper deal
The government on Wednesday proposed a JPC probe into the AgustaWestland VVIP helicopter deal, with Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath moving a motion on this in the Lok Sabha. The BJP, however, rejected the move.
Court acquits Varun Gandhi in hate speech case
An Uttar Pradesh court on Wednesday acquitted Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Varun Gandhi in a 2009 hate speech case.
The BJP leader, who was acquitted by Pilibhit Chief Judicial Magistrate Court here, was booked under different sections of Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the People's Representation Act for promoting enmity and acts disturbing harmony through provocative speeches in 2009.
Update on Swiss shootings: 3 dead, including shooter, 7 injured in workplace shooting in Switzerland.
Chopper scam: Culprits must be punished, says Antony
Defence Minister speaks on the Chopper Scam in the Rajya Sabha.
He says he is ashamed as a Defence Minister. He promised that culprits will be punished and those involved would face serious consequences. He added that the government need to go to the root of the scam to find out the truth.
He added that a CBI inquiry had been ordered, and 11 individuals and 4 companies have been named so far.
He also said that the Italian authorities have officially refused to share anything in this regards as per their law.
Cops throw old couple off moving train, woman dead
An elderly woman was killed and her husband wounded when the couple was thrown out of a moving train by government railway police (GRP) personnel for boarding the wrong train, police said Wednesday.
The incident occurred around 10 a.m. at Muzaffarnagar, when the elderly couple, by mistake, boarded the Shatabdi Express. Rajeshwar Tyagi and his wife Santosh were both above 70 years old.
Sub-inspector Ram Chandar and constable Subhash of the GRP asked the couple where they were headed. The couple responded that they were on their way to Saharanpur, only to be told that they were on the Shatabdi Express, which does not halt at Saharanpur.
The cops asked the elderly couple to deboard. The couple pleaded saying they could not do as the train had gathered speed by then.
Incensed, the policemen opened the door of the compartment and pushed the old couple out.Read more
Several dead in Swiss shooting
Police say several people have been killed in a shooting at a company building in central Switzerland.
Police in Lucerne canton (state) said in a statement that the shooting occurred shortly after 9 a.m. (0800 GMT) Wednesday at the premises of Kronospan, a wood processing company in the town of Menznau. They said there were "several dead and several seriously injured people" but did not elaborate.
witness said five people had been killed, according to the Luzerner Zeitung newspaper, but this was not confirmed, according to the BBC.
An emergency telephone line had been set up for families of the factory's employees.
It was not immediately clear who the shooter was.
Amendment on AFSPA only after reviewing ground realities: Govt
The government today said any decision on amending the Armed Forces (Special) Powers Act will be taken only after taking into consideration the ground reality where it is in force and no time frame can be given on the issue of changing the controversial legislation.
Minister of State for Home Mullappally Ramachandran said the issue of repealing/amending AFSPA has been under consideration of the government and Justice Jeevan Reddy Committee and the Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) have also made certain recommendations on the subject.
"Now the Group of Ministers has to take a final decision on the ARC recommendation. On direction of the GoM, comments of the state governments concerned on the ARC recommendation have been called for.
"On such security-related issued, all factors, including the ground reality are taken into consideration before taking a decision and hence no time limit can be specified," Ramachandran told Rajya Sabha.
Several groups and political parties in Jammu and Kashmir and north eastern region have been demanding either repeal or amendment to AFSPA which has been in force in some of the disturbed regions in the country.
Police probing threat letter to Mukesh Ambani
Police have launched a probe after a letter purportedly sent by terror outfit Indian Mujahideen was delivered to the office of RIL Chairman Mukesh Ambani, threatening to harm him for supporting Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and investing in the state, sources said on Wednesday.
The letter, delivered by an unidentified person to Ambani's personal staff in a sealed envelope at his Maker Chambers office on February 24, also said IM would damage his 27-storey mansion 'Antilia' on Altamount Road, a police officer said on condition of anonymity.
The handwritten letter, claimed to have been penned by an IM operative, said the organisation wanted the release of its operative Danish and, if he was not set free, the home-grown terror group would cause harm to Ambani.Read more
MNS workers block Mumbai-Pune Expressway at Vashi
MNS workers have blocked the Mumbai-Pune Expressway at Vashi, in suburban Mumbai.
Unrest prevailed over parts of Mumbai and adjoining Thane districts today following yesterday's incident of stone pelting on Raj Thackeray's convoy by alleged NCP workers in Ahmednagar district.
According to CNN IBN, Mumbai Police sources say patrolling has been intensified in sensitive areas but no arrests have been made yet.
The NCP workers were upset over Raj Thackeray's criticism of senior NCP leader and Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar.
The AgustaWestland chopper deal has come up for debate in the Rajya Sabha. The BJP is making a list of accusations against the government. The opposition party has said the government is avoiding a probe on the matter. It has also brought up 'the family' named in the Italian investigation and demanded to know the true identity of this family.
In a discussion on the matter of the Sri Lankan Tamils in the Rajya Sabha, Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid has assured the MPs on the issue. "Sri Lanka should not be called an enemy," said the minister. Tamil MPs had asked the government to take a stronger stance on the issue.
"Our position is clear... We want resettlement and rehabilitation. We are not just concerned, we have made special efforts. Three lakh displaced Sri Lankan Tamils have been helped by the Indian government," said the minister.
"India has made constant efforts to persuade the Sri Lankan government to stand committed to human rights," he added
"We expect the Sri Lankan government to stand by their commitment. Full and final settlement is required. No space should be left for doubt."
HC notice to govt on PIL for uniform rule to decide juvenility
The Centre was today directed by the Delhi High Court to respond to a PIL seeking a direction for framing uniform procedure to be followed by all lower courts while determining the juvenility of an accused.
Issuing notice to the ministries of Home Affairs and Law and Justice, a division bench of Chief Justice D Murugesan and Justice V K Jain sought their responses by April 3 on the PIL challenging the Rules under the Juvenile Justice (JJ) Act.
Delhi not unsafe for women: Govt
Dismissing the notion that Delhi was unsafe for women, government today said the national capital stands at 16th-17th place as compared to other Indian cities and noted that women have become more "confident" in registering complaints at police stations.
"It is not as bad as compared to other states...Delhi stands at 16th-17th place as compared to other states," Minister of State for Home Affairs Mullappally Ramachandran told Rajya Sabha during Question Hour.
He said several measures have been taken to check crime in the city following the gangrape incident here in December last year and that a "large number of women are going confidently to the police station and registering complaints".
"If you say that crime against women has increased, it is because of these complaints," he said.
The Minister said departmental proceedings have been drawn against police officers for not registering complaints including against IPS officers.
He said that following the Delhi rape case, "Two ACP-rank officers have been suspended besides an inspector and a constable."
To a question on security of women from North Eastern states in the Capital, he said, "All necessary steps are being taken to protect the interest of ladies from NE in the Capital."
Pope prepares for final audience
Pope Benedict XVI is preparing for his final general audience, the weekly appointment he kept with the faithful and tourists to teach them about the Catholic faith just before his resignation tomorrow.
Some 50,000 tickets have been requested for Benedict's final master class in St. Peter's Square; thousands more people are expected to pack the main boulevard leading to the piazza to watch Wednesday's audience on giant TV screens.
Japanese woman, 114, named world's oldest woman
A 114-year-old Japanese woman, the daughter of a kimono maker, was formally recognized Wednesday as the world's oldest woman.
Misao Okawa said Wednesday that she was "very happy" to receive the recognition and a certificate from Guinness World Records.
After a meal of her favorite mackerel sushi, Okawa nodded off as she sat in her wheelchair, her 3-month-old great grandson, Hibiki Okawa, at her side. But she woke up to speak to a reporter.
Economic Survey tabled; GDP growth seen at 6.1-6.7%
The Economic Survey tabled in parliament says the 2013/14 Gross Domestic Product growth is seen at 6.1-6.7%.
It had fallen to a nine-year-long low of 5% in the current fiscal year, according to the Central Statistics Office.
Many experts, however, are skeptical of this new Economic Survey target being met and call it an optimistic estimate.
The bullish Survey has also predicted that inflation (Wholesale Price Index) may decline to 6.2-6.6% by March 2013. This will create more room for rate cuts for the Reserve Bank of India, the survey states.
The survey also says the government is likely to meet the 5.3% fiscal deficit target despite "significant" shortfall in revenues in 2012/13
The annual report on challenges facing the economy is in many ways also a wishlist of the Chief Economic Adviser Raghuram Rajan, earlier the former chief economist to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). It is quite another matter that the wishes of Chief Economic Adviser's have usually been swatted aside by Finance Minister in their budgets, more so ahead of elections.
In his report, Rajan says the best way to rein in current account deficit would be by curbing imports and making oil prices more market determined.
Further details are awaited.
Hagel's remarks against India 'bizarre': BJP
Terming as "outlandish and bizarre" the statement of Chuck Hagel, the new US Defence Secretary, that India has financed problems for Pakistan in Afghanistan, BJP today asked the government to exert diplomatic pressure on Washington for unconditional withdrawal of his statement.
The statement given by Hagel that India has financed problems in Pakistan is "outlandish, bizarre and baseless," BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy said.
He also expressed surprise over Hagel giving a clean to Pakistan, which has harboured in the backyard of its military base al Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden, who was responsible for killing of more than 5000 Americans in the World Trade Centre attack.
The Bengal CM has said a police report on the Kolkata market fire will be out in 3 days. She said that livelihoods are at stake when it came to markets and that every fire safety measures will be taken.
The Chief Minister of West Bengal Mamata Banerjee has visited the Suriya Sen market, Kolkata where a fire broke out early this morning. The fire has claimed 18 lives. 17 people have been rescued and many among them are said to be critical.
Economic Survey to be tabled in Parliament today
Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram will table the Economic Survey 2013-14 in Parliament today.
According to media reports, the survey is likely to suggest measures to stop declining GDP growth, currently estimated to be at a decade-low five percent in fiscal 2012-13.
Prepared by a team of economists led by Chief Economic Advisor Raghuram Rajan, the Economic Survey may pitch for speeding up economic reforms to activate a sluggish economy.
The Economic Survey is customarily tabled in Parliament by the Finance Minister a day before the General Budget for the coming fiscal year. The document serves as an indicator of what is likely to be contained in the General Budget proposals.
Ways to enhance industrial production and exports is likely to dominate the survey.
On the taxation front, the survey could pitch for early implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and the Direct Taxes Code (DTC), with a view to expanding tax base and raising tax-GDP ratio.
The issues like surge in gold import and widening Current Account Deficit (CAD) too are likely to figure prominently
UN removes Osama bin Laden from sanctions list
The United Nations has finally removed Osama bin Laden from the list of al-Qaida members subject to U.N. sanctions, nearly two years after he was killed by U.S. commandos in Pakistan.
The U.N. Security Council committee monitoring sanctions against the terrorist group approved the deletion on Feb. 21, according to their website.
"Bin Laden's removal from the list is a purely technical matter, and was conducted under the provisions related to deceased persons," Kurtis Cooper, deputy spokesman for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, said Tuesday. "This action in no way signals a change in the international or U.S. position on al-Qaida or Osama bin Laden's role in the tragic events of 9/11 and other terrorist acts and support."
The sanctions committee said the asset freeze, travel ban and arms embargo no longer apply to bin Laden.
But it said member states requesting to unfreeze his assets must provide assurances to the committee that the funds will not be transferred to any other individual or group on the U.N. sanctions list.
Iran runs altered images of Michelle Obama gown
Iranian state media has run altered images of U.S. first lady Michelle Obama's Oscars appearance, making her gown look less revealing.
The first lady wore a sleeveless, scoop neck gown. The semi-official Fars news agency ran an altered photo that covered her shoulders and neckline with added material. State TV showed images that blurred the parts of her body that were exposed.
Under Iran's Islamic dress code, women are required to cover their bodies in public. Films showing foreign women without a headscarf are considered acceptable, but revealing clothes are forbidden.
For the Oscars ceremony, Michelle Obama at the White House joined Jack Nicholson via video link to help present the best picture prize for "Argo," a film based on the escape of six American hostages from the besieged U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979.
Fars said the first lady's announcement suggested that the film was made with U.S. government support. Iranian officials have dismissed "Argo" as a CIA commercial.
NDTV confirms that 7 people have died in the Suriya Sen market fire.
NDTV reports that three more bodies have been brought out of the Suriya Sen market. But there is no confirmation if the death toll has risen. The fire was detected at 3.50 AM and the victims were sleeping at that time, said the police.
The fire is said to be under control now. Rescue operations are still on.
6 persons have been rescued thus far from the Suriya Sen market. 30 people could still be trapped inside reports NDTV.
Reports indicate that the building is very old and the wiring inside the building could also be old. This could have been a cause for the fire.
The Suriya Sen market is a paper market.
Four feared killed in a major fire at Surya Sen market in Kolkata reports NDTV. Many others are feared trapped. Rescue operations are underway. According to officials, 25 fire tenders are at the spot.