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Maoists abduct tribal MLA

BHUBANESWAR, Mar 24: Maoists abducted a tribal MLA of ruling BJD from Koraput district early today, adding to the woes of the Orissa government which is trying to resolve the 10-day-old Italian hostage crisis. ...more

‘Agent Vinod’ needs to recover Rs 30 cr

MUMBAI, Mar 24: Saif Ali Khan-Kareena Kapoor starrer ‘Agent Vinod’ may not have got a bumper opening at the box office but the makers say they have to recover only Rs 30 crore which is an achievable target....more

Shows on small screen are of poor standard: Om Puri

MUMBAI, Mar 24: Veteran film actor Om Puri rates television shows as very poor and feels that they are too glossy and focus only on clothing and jewelry....more

Porngate: Clean chit to Guj MLAs not a surprise, says Digvijay

GUNA, MP, Mar 24: Congress General Secretary Digvijay Singh has said that the recent porngate scandals in Karnataka and Gujarat Assemblies have exposed the real face of the BJP and the .....more

Celina Jaitley delivers twins

MUMBAI, Mar 24: Bollywood actress Celina Jaitley and husband Peter Haag became proud parents of two healthy boys today.....more

Govt to take some difficult decisions in coming months: Pranab

NEW DELHI, Mar 24: Amid concerns over rising crude oil prices, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee today said the Government would take and implement "some difficult decisions" in the coming months.....more

Former Chairman of PTI passes away

KOLKATA, Mar 24: P K Roy, a former chairman of Press Trust of India (PTI), died here today. He was 91 and is survived by his wife and two daughters....more

Show respect and regard
to artists: Big B

NEW DELHI, Mar 24: Megastar Amitabh Bachchan says he feels sad when he sees people not respecting artists, especially at cultural performances. The 69-year-old had recently expressed his desire to learn musical instruments including sarod and sitar....more



South Korean sailor killed, 6 injured in tanker blaze....

India introduced "element of balance" in UN resolution: PM...

BJP defends Joshi against allegations, he is ‘sage’ politician...

After UP, power at the Cenre is our next target: Mulayam....

 

Maoists abduct tribal MLA

BHUBANESWAR, Mar 24: Maoists abducted a tribal MLA of ruling BJD from Koraput district early today, adding to the woes of the Orissa government which is trying to resolve the 10-day-old Italian hostage crisis.

Hours after the abduction of Laxmipur MLA Jhina Hikaka, Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has rushed state Revenue and Disaster Management Minister S N Patro and ST and SC Development Minister Lal Bihari Himirika to the area.

Hikaka was returning home from Koraput when more than 50 armed rebels stopped his vehicle near Toyaput where the road had been dug up and a truck had blocked the way, Koraput Superintendent of Police Avinash Kumar said.

While the personal security officer (PSO) and driver of the MLA were allowed to leave by the ultras who snatched away their mobile phones, Hikaka was taken away into the nearby forest, about 40 km from here at gunpoint, he said.

The incident happened hours after Patnaik appealed to the rebels to desist from violence.

Amidst uproar by opposition members protesting the abduction in the state assembly, Patnaik, who reviewed the situation at a meeting with top officials, said in a statement in the House that "At approximately 1 AM this morning, MLA from Laxmipur Jhina Hikaka was abducted near Toyaput on Koraput-Laxmipur road."

While no group has yet claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, it is suspected to have been done by Maoists, he said, adding senior police officials have rushed to the spot.

"While I spoke to Union Home Minister P Chidambaram about the abduction of the MLA, the chief secretary spoke to the Union Home Secretary," Patnaik told reporters.

The abducted MLA’s wife, Kaushalya has appealed to the kidnappers to release her husband unharmed, saying he had been working for the welfare of tribals.

On the Italian hostage crisis, the chief minister said the negotiations would continue to resolve the issue.

"However, we will be urgently handling the abduction of the MLA that took place this morning," he said.

The issue rocked the state assembly which plunged into turmoil as opposition Congress and BJP members trooped into the well and shouted slogans against the government slamming it for the deteriorating law and order.

The house was adjourned till 12:30 amidst pandemonium with the opposition members trying to climb the speaker’s podium and voicing concern over safety of elected representatives.

The PSO and driver Urgrasen, who had informed the Laxmipur police station about the incident, said a large number of armed rebels had surrounded the vehicle after stopping it.

"They took away my mobile phone and that of the PSO before asking us to leave," he said, adding "they also asked us to tell people that Maoists had abducted the MLA."

In protest against Hikaka’s abduction, local residents in the area staged a demonstration and blocked the Koraput-Laxmipur road demanding his immediate release.

The abduction came 10 days after the Maoists took two Italians hostage from Kandhamal district on March 14 and talks were in progress between rebel-nominated negotiators and government representatives to resolve the crisis.

Maoist negotiators engaged to end the Italian hostage crisis - B D Sharma and Dandapani Mohanty - have appealed to the Maoists to release the legislator without delay.

Meanwhile, the Maoists have given a call for ‘Bharat Bandh’ demanding among other things a halt to green hunt operations against them and release of a large number of people booked on charge of being rebels.

Posters listing these demands and seeking support for the shut-down were also found at the site of abduction of the legislator, police said. (PTI)

‘Agent Vinod’ needs to recover Rs 30 cr

MUMBAI, Mar 24: Saif Ali Khan-Kareena Kapoor starrer ‘Agent Vinod’ may not have got a bumper opening at the box office but the makers say they have to recover only Rs 30 crore which is an achievable target.

Directed by Sriram Raghavan, ‘Agent Vinod’, an action-spy film, had Saif playing the role of a RAW agent and Kareena as a spy. The film released yesterday to mixed reviews.

"The film has been made for Rs 50 crores and 12 crores went for marketing totalling to 62 crores. Out of which we have already recovered 50 per cent as music and satellite rights have been sold for around 30 crores," producer Dinesh Vijan, told.

"The task ahead is to make around Rs 30 crores which is a very achievable figure," he said.

Vijan along with Saif launched a production company Illuminati Films, and this is their second film for the banner.

‘Agent Vinod’ has been the biggest from our production house. ‘Love Aaj Kal’ was our first film and we shot it in three continents. On the other hand, this has been filmed in 12 countries and each schedule came with its own set of problems. The possibility of things going wrong in a love story compared to an action story is 1:10. We are proud of the final product that Sriram has delivered," Vijan said.

"The opening of the film is very critical and they are usually backed by huge promotions. The first three days it is a producer’s film. From Monday onwards, the film becomes a director’s film," he said.

Even before the release of the film, Saif was keen on making it into a franchise, provided it does well at the box office. (PTI)

Shows on small screen are of poor standard: Om Puri

MUMBAI, Mar 24: Veteran film actor Om Puri rates television shows as very poor and feels that they are too glossy and focus only on clothing and jewelry.

"I feel the shows are of very poor standard. Nothing really is significant (on TV).. It is a wonderful medium. And it reaches in every home and I hope it is used much more positively. There is very poor humor, no class..Humor should be like which also creates certain kind of awareness, and also not hitting below the belt," Puri said in an interview.

But there are TV shows that talk about issues like dowry, domestic violence, child marriage and others.

Ask him about it, and Puri says, "They all look like calendars, they are all so glossy. There are so far away from life. It is like a parade for clothes....Garments, jewelry."

The 61-year-old has earlier worked on TV and is best remembered for his stints in ‘Mr Yogi’, ‘Tamas’ and ‘Bharat Ek Khoj’ among others.

Puri has now turned narrator for a television show, ‘Chhal - Sheh Aur Maat’, aired on Colors Channel.

It is a tale of a girl from Delhi, called Neha, who gets married to her prince charming Rishi.

Everything was perfect in their marriage until one morning when she wakes up, not with Rishi, but Kabir, who claims to be her husband, a complete stranger.

"I would be narrating...I am a story teller for this show. I feel it is a sensible thriller story. It is clean entertainment," he said.

Puri will be seen every Saturday in the serial wherein he will sum up the high points of the show which unfolded during the course of that particular week.

Interestingly, Puri has not seen any of the episodes. "No, I have not seen the show. I would go by script, the director will explain me and accordingly I will deliver. But definitely I would see the show for references," he said. (PTI)

Porngate: Clean chit to Guj MLAs not a
surprise, says Digvijay

GUNA, MP, Mar 24: Congress General Secretary Digvijay Singh has said that the recent porngate scandals in Karnataka and Gujarat Assemblies have exposed the real face of the BJP and the clean chit given to the accused MLAs in the Narendra Modi-led government was a foregone conclusion.

"The porngate scandals in Karnataka and Gujarat have shown the true face of the BJP..The clean chit given to Gujarat BJP MLAs does not come as a surprise as the accused have themselves become magistrates," he said referring to the FSL report which concluded that there were no obscene videos or pictures on the iPAD belonging to MLA Shankar Chaudhary.

Singh was talking to reporters yesterday at the local airstrip on way to his hometown Raghogarh for taking part in the Navratri puja.

The former MP Chief Minister also dared Madhya Pradesh BJP President Prabhat Jha to contest an election.

"I do not want to make any comment on what Jha says but only wish to point out that he will know the reality if he contests polls," Singh said.

On recent Uttar Pradesh assembly elections, he said the Congress had done better than the BJP but admitted that his party had failed to convince the people that it could form a government there.

Answering a question on Nitin Gadkari, he said that the BJP President was less of a politician and more a businessman.

"It is because of this that Gadkari has sent a businessmen to the Rajya Sabha," Singh said referring to the BJP chief’s close confidante Ajay Sancheti being nominated to the Upper House from Maharashtra.

Singh said when Gadkari was PWD Minister in Maharashtra and then advisor to the Union Transport Ministry, he had given many contracts to Sancheti Company in Mumbai.

"These facts can be proved if any inquiry was conducted into the matter," he said.

The Congress leader said that the BJP had initially agreed to support the proposal for the Lokpal but later on changed its mind as it wants to keep the issue alive till the Lok Sabha elections in 2014.

When pointed out that Baba Ramdev and Anna Hazare would conduct an agitation jointly, Singh said the two had never been away from each other.

Singh also said that Ramdev has been charged with evading sales tax to the tune of Rs five crore and but then also he keeps talking about others to hide his wrong doings.

On Sri Ravishankar’s alleged comments that government schools are breeding grounds for naxals, Singh also said that before making such claims, he should produce supportive figures. (PTI)

Celina Jaitley delivers twins

MUMBAI, Mar 24: Bollywood actress Celina Jaitley and husband Peter Haag became proud parents of two healthy boys today.

The twins have been named Winston and Viraaj.

"Yes our angels from heaven are here and we are very happy. Celina and the boys are doing very well healthwise too. We just want everyone to bless our handsome boys," Haag said in a statement.

The 30-year-old actress and her Dubai-based Austrian businessman husband can’t wait to get home to spend some quality time with the twins.

Jaitley a former Miss India Universe, announced her engagement to Haag in January and married him in July last year, at a thousand year old monastery in Austria. The couple are based in Dubai and will visit Mumbai very soon. (PTI)

Govt to take some difficult decisions
in coming months: Pranab

NEW DELHI, Mar 24: Amid concerns over rising crude oil prices, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee today said the Government would take and implement "some difficult decisions" in the coming months.

"In meeting the targets under the (expenditure) roadmap, I am conscious of the fact that the Government would need to take and implement some difficult decisions in the coming months," Mukherjee said at an event organised by FICCI here.

"We cannot go on with the approach that is divorced from the reality. But I believe that Budget is not the only exercise through which all the work is to be done because I cannot ignore the ground reality that mere announcement of decisions if it cannot be pursued is serving no purpose as it happened in the past," he said.

Drawing confidence from the easing of inflation, Mukherjee said that the Government expects interest rates to come down in days to come. It will thus help in boosting investment confidence.

"Core inflation has moderated in the past three months and in the coming months we are looking at reversal of the policy rate, which should help in improving business sentiments," he said.

However, lurking fear of further spike in crude oil price could mute the quantum of rate cut by the Reserve Bank in the coming months.

Crude oil prices have is hovering around USD 125 per barrel.

Highlighting the importance of the fiscal consolidation, the Finance Minister said "expenditure monitoring and better expenditure planning through the amended provisions in the FRBM Act wherein three years rolling targets of expenditure indicators have been prescribed."

The Government has pegged fiscal deficit at 5.1 per cent of the GDP for 2012-13. The fiscal deficit was revised upward significantly to 5.9 per cent of the GDP against the target of 4.6 per cent in fiscal year ending March 31, 2012.

"The fiscal year 2011-12 saw deterioration in our fiscal balance with expenditure slippage on account of higher subsidy and growth slow down affecting the tax revenue collection," Mukherjee said.

Going forward, he said "a critical element of the strategy is to implement and ambitious but at the same time realistic fiscal consolidation roadmap and leveraging technology to give effect to quantum improvement in the government’s expenditure management."

Stressing on the need to put the economy on the higher growth trajectory, he said, "we need to strengthened our domestic growth drivers and encourage private investment to reach the pre-2008 crisis growth momentum and address supply constraints in the infrastructure and agriculture."

He expressed confidence that the fiscal and other reform measures could be taken forward and the economy can regain its lost momentum, as the situation today was quite similar to that in the nineties when there was no clear majority for any party.

Referring to the timeframe for implementation of the Goods

& Services Tax (GST), Mukherjee said, "It does not depend on me. I require two-thirds majority in both Houses of Parliament to operationalize GST. Subsequently, a minimum of 15 out of the 28 states in the country will have to ratify the proposal as passed by Parliament."

He also said there was no trust deficit between the Government and the industry.

"Let me assure you that there is no trust deficit and without the cooperation of industry, the larger political establishment and civil society we cannot be equal to the gigantic task at hand," he said. (PTI)

Former Chairman of PTI passes away

KOLKATA, Mar 24: P K Roy, a former chairman of Press Trust of India (PTI), died here today.

He was 91 and is survived by his wife and two daughters.

Pratap Kumar Roy was the chairman of PTI and president of the Indian Newspaper Society and Audit Bureau of Circulations for several terms.

Roy, who did his MSc in Physics from the Benaras Hindu University and a course in printing technology from the United Kingdom, started his career in journalism with the Times of India in 1953.

He was instrumental in starting 12 editions of the Times of India and was one of the youngest General Managers of TOI at the age of 40.

Roy, who started the Bombay edition of Sakaal in the 1970s, returned to Kolkata in 1974 and joined the Amrita Bazar Patrika and Jugantar group.

He started the Bengali daily Aajkaal in the 1980s and retired as its Editor-in-Chief in 2004.

Roy wrote several books including ‘Shukhadya Shubochon’, ‘Mahabhoj Raajbhoj’, ‘Deshe Bideshe’ and ‘Podyopotre Jolobindu’ and was responsible for introducing modern printing technology in Eastern India.

He wrote articles on various topics and issues, and in particular, food and travel, in various newspapers and magazines. (PTI)

Show respect and regard to artists: Big B

NEW DELHI, Mar 24: Megastar Amitabh Bachchan says he feels sad when he sees people not respecting artists, especially at cultural performances.

The 69-year-old had recently expressed his desire to learn musical instruments including sarod and sitar.

"I see many a moment when the professionals play at gatherings. They come to exhibit their artistry, not to be a replacement for piped music at a lavish wedding or a party. It is most disrespectful when I see that happening. I cringe.

"I almost feel like reprimanding the guests, but do not. I would rather wish that the artists wind up their instruments and leave. Years and years of ‘tapasya’ for this? No that does not impress me. Allow them to sink into their gift and give an opportunity to be a part of that emotion."

Bachchan said it was painful to watch artists performing with dedication even when the public did not pay attention to their craft.

"They look for appreciation, search for that one individual that shall show admiration of their craft but alas it never comes.. Circumstances lead them to continue.. Others with greater self respect and dignity, stop, announce their intent and either get the interest or leave. I would applaud such an occurrence."

Bachchan recalled how director Manmohan Desai, who gave the actor some of the biggest hits of his career, would get angry if people did not pay proper attention.

"Man Mohan Desai, would never go to the theatre or movie hall where his film was running. Not because he did not want to but it was compelled upon him by his staff and assistants. For when during the projection of his film if he noticed anyone talking or moving out of the hall, he would get up and tell the gentleman in a most ungentlemanly manner to either shut up or sit down and not leave!! Such was his protective passion for his work.

"I loved him on many other counts, but his this attitude was the best," Bachchan added. (PTI)

South Korean sailor killed, 6 injured in tanker blaze

MUMBAI, Mar 24: A South Korean crew member of a Marshal Island-flagged tanker vessel was today killed and six others, including two foreigners, were injured when fire broke out on the ship following an explosion at Mumbai harbour.

Munhyeon Seok, one of two South Korean nationals who received severe burns, succumbed to his injuries while being shifted to a private hospital, Mumbai Port Trust officials said.

"Seok, a South Korean national, who was being shifted from state-run J J Hospital to Masina Hospital, has succumbed to his injuries. The South Korean Consulate has been informed of the unfortunate incident," the official said.

At 11.25 AM, the Korean-owned 9500 DWT chemical tanker Royal Diamond 7 reported to the Mumbai port’s vessel traffic system control station that an explosion had occurred and three crew members had been injured.

Immediately, a tug was despatched to bring the injured to shore. Besides two Koreans, one of whom died, and a Filipino, four local workers engaged by the owner received injuries in the blaze.

They were rushed to nearby J J Hospital and St George Hospital by ambulance of the port trust fire brigade.

There was an accidental fire on board the tanker last Saturday when it was berthed at New Pir Pau Pier of the MPT after which it was shifted to the ‘Tanker Anchorage - One’ at Mumbai harbour, the official said. MPT chairman has already sought an interim report on the incident.

"The incident occurred at the same store room where the explosion and fire took place on last Saturday. The fire was immediately brought under control and everything was back to normal on board the tanker by 1 PM," he said.

Meanwhile, the senior management of the port visited the chemical tanker to have a first-hand assessment of the incident, the official said. (PTI)

India introduced "element of balance"
in UN resolution: PM

NEW DELHI, Mar 24: Seeking to mollify Sri Lanka after the vote against it in UNHCR, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today wrote to President Mahinda Rajapaksa, telling him that India made all efforts and succeeded in introducing an "element of balance" in the US-sponsored resolution.

At the same time, Singh underlined the need for achieving a lasting political settlement that will address the grievances of minority Tamils.

"I had instructed our delegation to remain in close contact with its Sri Lanka counterparts in an attempt to find a positive way forward. Your Excellency would be aware that we spared no effort and were successful in introducing an element of balance in the language of the resolution," Singh said.

He was referring to India voting against Sri Lanka at the UNHCR in Geneva when it supported the resolution against alleged human rights violations during the civil war. Though India voted in favour of the resolution, it worked behind the scenes to tweak the document to make it "non-intrusive".

Singh’s letter comes against the backdrop of Sri Lanka’s displeasure over India voting against it at the UN and crticisim from various sections that "domestic compulsions" in had forced the country to vote against it.

In the letter, which suggests that Rajapaksa had written to him three days before the vote, Singh noted that both countries had discussed the way ahead to a political solution that will address all outstanding issues, in particular the grievances of the Tamil community in Sri Lanka, in a spirit of understanding and mutual accommodation.

"It is our conviction that a meaningful devolution package, building upon the 13th Amendment, would lead towards a lasting political settlement on many of these issues and create conditions in which all citizens of Sri Lanka, irrespective of their ethnicity, can find justice, dignity, equality and self-respect," Singh said.

Singh told Rajapaksa that he was happy to learn about his intention to continue the process of implementing the recommendations of the LLRC.

He said the two governments have, over the last three years, engaged intensively in the immediate tasks of relief and rehabilitation for those displaced by the conflict, as well as the more long-term effort of reconstruction of national infrastructure.

"Much important progress has been registered on this front and I wish to record my appreciation of the assistance your Government has provided to various Indian agencies implementing projects of national significance on the ground in Sri Lanka," he said.

The Prime Minister also assured Rajapaksa that India will continue its engagement with the shared objective of building a stable, secure and prosperous environment in Sri Lanka in which all communities can flourish and in which India-Sri Lanka relations can continue to grow from strength to strength. (PTI)

BJP defends Joshi against allegations,
he is ‘sage’ politician

NEW DELHI/ALLAHABAD, Mar 24: BJP today defended party veteran Murli Manohar Joshi against allegations by NRI businessman Anshuman Mishra that he sought to meet officials of companies involved in 2G spectrum scam, dismissing the charges as "false" and "baseless".

It also described 78-year-old Joshi as a ‘sage’ politician who is a symbol of crusade against corruption.

Joshi himself rejected the charges saying they were an outcome of the "frustration" he must be experiencing following the denial of Rajya Sabha ticket from Jharkhand.

"My party has already given a befitting reply to the slander of Anshuman Mishra who has been sulking ever since his hopes of becoming a Rajya Sabha member were dashed.

Thereafter, he has been training his guns at one BJP leader after another. His first target was Advani, then he went after some other party leaders and now he has chosen me for his diatribe", Joshi told reporters in Allahabad.

BJP spokesperson Tarun Vijay claimed that those who were in the forefront of demanding action in corruption cases are now being targeted because of ulterior motives.

"It is our fervent request to media not to give any credence to such wild allegations which do not have an iota of truth. Dr Joshi is a rishi (sage) politician, a symbol of crusade against corruption," Vijay told reporters in Delhi.

"In this murky political atmosphere while charges and baseless allegations are flying thick and fast, we are sorry to see that a section of media is giving credence to such falsehood as we are seeing in some interviews of Anshuman Mishra to the media," he said.

Mishra, who withdrew his candidature for the Rajya Sabha from Jharkhand after BJP withdrew its support to him, has claimed to have introduced Joshi, Chairman of Public Accounts Committee (PAC), to senior executives of 2G scam accused companies when the panel was probing the spectrum case.

The NRI businessman has claimed that he was the BJP’s fund-raiser for over a decade and said that Joshi called him seeking funds for elections. Mishra also claimed to have played a role in Joshi’s poll campaign in 2004 and 2009.

To a query, Joshi asserted he had "strongly opposed" giving a Rajya Sabha ticket to Mishra when his opinion was sought. He said yesterday that Mishra’s allegations were "fabricated" and whatever he was saying with regard to him is absolutely wrong and a "concoction". (PTI)

After UP, power at the Cenre is our next target: Mulayam

LUCKNOW, Mar 24: A day after speaking of the possibilty of early Lok Sabha elections, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav today asked workers to prepare for grabbing power at the Centre.

"After the victory in the 2012 assembly elections, our next target is grabbing (power) at Delhi in the next Lok Sabha elections for which all workers would have to start preparations from now", Yadav said addressing SP workers at the party headquarters here.

Assuring party workers that various ministers of the state would be asked to take quick action regarding their problems and complaints, Yadav said they would be given due respect by the government.

The SP chief said all their communications from the people would be taken seriously and an arrangement would be worked out so as to ensure that they also get information about the status of their complaints.

Stressing that workers would get due respect, Yadav assured that action would be taken against police officials who harassed them.

He said development work would be given full importance and claimed the picture of the state would be changed.

Asking SP workers to go back to their respective areas, Yadav said they should establish a contact with people and try and resolve their problems, specially those related to farmers and unemployed. (PTI)



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