Sonia most powerful politician in country

Kolkata, December 31: Congress president Sonia Gandhi is the “most powerful politician” in the country though she is not the prime minister, senior party leader Pranab Mukherjee said on Thursday.

“She is the most powerful politician in the country today because of her sacrifice and leadership of high order. She is not in power. She is not the prime minister,” Mukherjee said in his address at a convention of the party’s women wing here.

Recalling that Gandhi had renounced the office of the prime minister, he said the Congress has emerged stronger under her leadership.

I want Rathore behind bars: Ruchika’s brother

Chandigarh, December 31: Breaking his silence, Ashu Girhotra, brother of Ruchika, on Thursday filed a fresh complaint before Haryana Police seeking registration of a case of abetment to suicide against former DGP S P S Rathore and demanded that he should be put behind bars.

“I have met the SP and sought a case under 306 of IPC (Abetment to suicide) against Rathore,” he told reporters after meeting Panchkula SP Maneesh Choudhary.

CIA officers killed in suicide bombing in Afghanistan

Washington, December 31: A suicide bomber targeted a US base in eastern Afghanistan killing eight civilians, most of them employees of the CIA, in the deadliest single attack on a US intelligence agency.

The US had recently set up the CIA base in the Khost Province to launch Predator drone attacks targeting the Haqqani network, whose Taliban fighters operate on both sides of Afghan-Pakistan border.

Media reports said an Afghan national was also killed which left six other Americans wounded.

The CIA did not either confirm or deny the reports.

US initial jobless claims slide to 432,000

New York, December 31: The count of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell by 22,000 to 432,000 people for the week ended December 26, as the nation’s battered labor market is slowly stabilising.

In the previous week, the same statistics stood at 454,000, according to the data of US Labor Department.

“The four-week moving average was 460,250, a decrease of 5,500 from the previous week’s revised average of 465,750,” the Labor Department said in a statement today.

Shah’s son urges international protest over Iran

Paris, December 31: The son of the deposed Shah of Iran has urged nations worldwide to withdraw their ambassadors from Tehran to protest violence against opposition demonstrators.

Reza Pahlavi, who has lived in exile since his father was toppled in the 1979 revolution, has appealed for a UN investigation into human rights violations during recent unrest.

In a letter, Pahlavi urges UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to press Iran to release those arrested and act to “halt the intolerable and increasingly dangerous march of events.” The letter was obtained by The Associated Press today.

Cowell wants to create rival show to ‘Simpsons’

London, December 31: Music star Simon Cowell has confessed he is envious of the success of popular US animated series “The Simpsons” and says he wants to create a rival show.

Cowell, who earned an estimated $75 million in 2009, has revealed despite being a fan of the animated series, he is jealous of its worldwide success, reports

“Their appeal is broad and it makes a lot of money. You kind of hate them for making so much money. It makes me physically sick knowing how much money they have made over the years. Maybe I should start a cartoon one day,” he said.

Five die of Swine flu in Gujarat, toll reaches 117

Ahmedabad, December 31: The number of people who died due to swine flu today rose to 117 in the state with five more patients succumbing to the deadly virus, state health officials said today.

Bhavna Solanki (20), a resident of Bantva town of Bhavnagar district died at the Rajkot civil hospital, while Dinesh Jakiabhai (48) and Bharat Patel (37) died at the civil hospital here today, they said.

According to health officials, Jigna Pandya (35) a resident of Geet Gurjari society in Rajkot and Manoj Kabra (40) died yesterday in Rajkot and Ahmedabad civil hospital respectively.

Ministers from Telangana withdraw resignations

Hyderabad, December 31: A day after the central government called a meeting of leaders of eight political parties of Andhra Pradesh to discuss the Telangana issue on Jan 5, all state ministers from the region withdrew their resignations.

Thirteen ministers, who had sent their joint resignation letter to Congress president Sonia Gandhi Dec 25, announced that they were withdrawing their resignations.

Bharti Airtel to lead teledensity in next 5 years

New Delhi, December 31: India’s largest mobile operator Bharti Airtel, which has over 110 million users, today was confident that it will lead the race in adding new users in the next five years by when there would be one billion mobile subscribers.

“Bharti Airtel will lead the country’s teledensity to one billion by 2015 and execute a globally distinct four screens strategy for achieving superior market leadership,” Airtel CEO and Joint MD Manoj Kohli said while sharing the company’s message on the eve of the new year.

Pakistan against hasty pullout from Afghanistan

Islamabad, December 31: Pakistan said Thursday that the US-led international forces should not leave war-torn Afghanistan until the country was strong enough to take care of itself.

“As a matter of fact what we say is that a hasty withdrawal would not be desirable,” the country’s foreign ministry spokesman Abdul Basit told a press briefing in Islamabad.

“Afghanistan should be able to look after itself effectively before the coalition forces leave,” he said.

L&T bags orders worth $116.2 million

New Delhi, December 31: Leading infrastructure major, Larsen & Toubro Thursday said it has bagged orders worth $116.2 million (Rs.581 crore) from an infrastructure company and another from a Bangalore utility firm.

In a regulatory filing, the company said the orders from the two firms namely Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) and Powergen Infrastructure will be executed by its construction division, the Metallurgical, Material Handling & Water Operating Company.

SEBI passes Rs 15 crore consent order in IPO scam

Mumbai, December 31: Market regulator SEBI today settled the case against market players Jitendra Lalwani and Sheelu Lalwani for their alleged involvement in the IPO scam on payment of about Rs 15 crore.

“…the applicant (Jitendra Lalwani) without admitting or denying the charges has remitted a sum of Rs 9,62,40,761,” SEBI said in a statement.

S V Prasad new Chief Secretary of Andhra Pradesh

Hyderabad, December 31: Andhra Pradesh’s senior bureaucrat S.V. Prasad Thursday took over as the new Chief Secretary.

Prasad, who was Chief Commissioner of Land Administration prior to his elevation to the top post, succeeded P. Ramakanth Reddy, who retired from service.

An Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer of 1975 batch, Prasad will remain in office till September 2011.

One of the most respected bureaucrats, he previously served as Principal Secretary to Chief Ministers N. Janardhana Reddy, Kotla Vijaya Bhaskara Reddy and N. Chandrababu Naidu.

LPG tanker catches fire; three killed, 19 injured

Kollam(Ker), December 31: An LPG tanker went up in flames after colliding with a car, triggering a massive fire that engulfed nearby areas in which three persons were killed and 19 others injured near Karunagapally, 100 km north of Thiruvanathapuram today.

The condition of two of the injured, including a policeman, was stated to be serious. The injured were mostly local people, police and fireforce personnel who tried to douse the fire which broke out in the wee hors today in the busy NH 47 stretch between the state capital and Kochi.

Shekhawat hospitalised in Jaipur

Jaipur, December 31: Former Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat was today hospitalised in the Sawai Man Singh hospital here following a complaint of weakness.

According to Superintendent of SMS Hospital Dr. Narpat Singh, the condition of Shekhawat, 87, is stable.

“Shekhawat is under observation in cottage ward,” he added


Now, prisoners can study at IGNOU for free

New Delhi, December 31: As a New Year gift, the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) Thursday declared that it will provide free education to prisoners henceforth.

“All jail inmates in the country will now be able to access free and quality education according to their choice,” a senior administrator of IGNOU said.

In a notice to all its regional directors, heads of schools, divisions and centres, the registrar of the university said that the decision was pursuant to approval by the university’s apex controlling body, the Board of Management (BoM).

Credit growth likely to be 15-20 percent: RBI deputy governor

Hyderabad, December 31: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) hopes that the credit growth will be between 15 to 20 percent during the current financial year and said the hike in interest rates would depend on the situation.

RBI Deputy Governor K.C. Chakrabarty said the central bank would review the interest rates later this month.

“It will be known only Jan 29 when the Governor will announce the quarterly policy,” he told reporters on the sidelines of a conference here Thursday.

Dubai issues new rules on property rentals

Dubai, December 31: Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Thursday issued a decree specifying the limits on increase in property rent values for the year 2010, WAM news agency reported.

The decree aims at ensuring stability of Dubai’s property market and preventing any rental increases that are not based on clearly defined legal references and standards.

For properties rented in 2009 and before, the maximum increase in rent value shall be set as per the previous relevant similar decree for 2009.

IAF focus on acquiring ‘set of capabilities’: Air Chief

New Delhi, December 31: Asking air warriors to be “lethal, flexible and agile”, Air Chief Marshal P V Naik today said the IAF’s focus was to acquire a “set of capabilities” as the force was fast emerging as a strategic aerospace power.

“Our focus is on acquiring a set of capabilities, which can be applied in any conflict scenario. The IAF is fast emerging as a strategic aerospace power as a result of the vision and effort of many generations of air warriors and we will continue with this glorious legacy,” he said in his message to the personnel on New Year’s eve.

Abetment to suicide complaint against Rathore

Panchkula/New Delhi, December 31: SPS Rathore’s troubles multiplied today with Ruchika’s family filing a case of abetment to suicide against him and CBI also mulling a similar charge while the molestation victim’s brother demanded that the ex-Haryana DGP be put behind the bars.

Breaking his silence and coming out in the open, Ashu Girhotra, brother of Ruchika, filed a complaint before Haryana police seeking filing of case against 67-year-old Rathore under the stringent Sec 306 (abetment to suicide charge) for which the maximum imprisonment is 10 years.

ADG Brijlal given additional charge of western UP

Lucknow, December 31: Scrappping the system of having separate Additional Directors General of Police (law and order) for western and eastern Uttar Pradesh, Chief Minister Mayawati today decided to hand over the charge of both the zones to ADG Brijlal.

“During a high level meeting to review law and order and crime control situation, the Chief Minister observed that for better coordination between the two zones, one ADG should hold the charge of the entire state,” a government spokesman said here.

Two held with Rs.75 lakh-worth heroin in Uttar Pradesh

Lucknow, December 31: Uttar Pradesh’s Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) Thursday arrested two men in Mau district with heroin worth Rs.75 lakh, an official said.

“Pankaj Gaur and Mohammad Fahad were arrested after a brief gunfight in the Mau district,” Additional Director General of police (Law and Order) Brij Lal told reporters here.

Gaur and Fahad were nabbed from Dakshin Tola area in Mau, some 300 km from Lucknow. A pistol and several live bullets were recovered from them.


Dist Planning panel, Chairman and two others injured

Fatehgarh Sahib, December 31: Three persons including District Planning Committee Nawashahar chairman were injured, when a canter collided with a car near village Jattana Ucha on Ludhiana-Chandigarh Road.

According to police sources, Santosh Kumar, a resident of Chandigarh, who was driving the Canter was on his way to Ludhiana, when he reached near village Ucha Jattan, his canter was collided with a Lancer car driven by District Planning Committee Nawashahar chairman Jaswinder Singh. Three occupants of the car were injured in mishap.

Telangana state to be a reality in 2010: TRS chief

Hyderabad, December 31: Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) chief K. Chandrasekhara Rao is confident that Telangana state would be a reality in 2010.

Talking to reporters here Thursday, Rao appealed to people of Andhra and Rayalaseema regions to bid adieu to 2009 by parting as friends.

KCR, as Rao is popularly known, also advised leaders of the two regions not to create unnecessary hurdles in the formation of Telangana state. “Don’t create a divide between the people. Let us part as friends,” he said.

Maha Govt announces Guardian Ministers

Mumbai, December 31: Maharashtra Government today announced Rural Development Minister Jayant Patil as the Guardian Minister for the city.

NCP leader and Water Resources Minister Ajit Pawar would be the Guardian Minister for Pune district and Minority Development Minister Naseem Khan would be the Guardian Minister for suburban Mumbai, a release from CM office said.