13 January 2014

1400 HRS.
13 January, 2014
  • Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asks people to guard against forces seeking to exploit diversity in religion, language and culture to divide the society.
  • Supreme Court to hear law intern's sexual harassment allegation case on Wednesday.
  • Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal scraps Janata Darbar.
  • Employees provident fund interest rate increased to 8.75 per cent.
  • Sensex gains over 270 points to cross the 21,000 level; Rupee strengthens 36 paise to 61.54 against the dollar. 
  • Venus Williams crashes out in the first round.
Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh has asked people to guard against forces seeking to exploit diversity in religion, language and culture to divide the society. Inaugurating the annual conference of State Minority Commissions in New Delhi this morning, Dr Singh stressed on the importance of age-old traditions of pluralism and tolerance. Observing that secularism has been a way of life practised over centuries in the country, he cautioned against people who are attempting to redefine secularism even by thought. The Prime Minister said, the National Commission for Minorities and State Minority Commissions have done well in bringing into focus the responsibility of majority communities to safeguard the rights of minorities. Dr Singh called upon both majority and minority communities to work together to create an atmosphere of acceptance and harmony.
We should be cautious of the people who work against India's secular thought by attempting to redefine secularism.  Our strength as a country lies in our unity. We should be vigilant against forces that seek to exploit our diversity in religion, language and culture to divide our people.
Noting that the relationship between majority and minority communities is harmonious in most areas of the country, the Prime Minister said there have been isolated instances, of late, where this relationship has been put to test. He said these aberrations tarnish the image of the country and cause pain and suffering to the affected people.       Dr Singh said, over the last nine years, UPA government's efforts have shown visible results to ensure social and economic justice to minority communities.
I believe that our Government has tried its best to ensure social and economic justice to minority communities.  The New 15-Point Programme for minorities that the UPA Government launched in 2006 aims at ensuring the well-being, protection and development of minorities.  The focus of the programme is to ensure that the benefit of various development schemes and programmes of the Government accrue in equitable measure to minorities.
Prime Minister informed that priority sector lending to minorities by banks, has gone up from about 59 thousand crore rupees in 2007-08 to 1.85 lakh crore rupees in 2012-13. Addressing the conference, Minority Affairs Minister K Rehman Khan called upon the Minority Commissions to uphold Constitutional rights of religious and linguistic minorities. Referring to a new tendency to interpret the Constitution to deny reservation to religious minorities, Mr Khan justified the demand for reservation, saying minorities are a class of citizens and not a mere religious group. The Minister informed the conference that the government has approved the establishment of a new National Wakf Development Corporation which will be launched shortly by the Prime Minister.
A former law intern who has made sexual harassment allegations against Justice Swatanter Kumar, today moved the Supreme Court seeking inquiry against the retired judge. A Bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam, before whom the matter was mentioned for urgent hearing, agreed to take up the case on Wednesday. The intern, in the petition, challenged the apex court's December 5, 2013 full court resolution in which it was decided that no complaint against its retired judges will be entertained. The petitioner also submitted that a proper forum be constituted to conduct inquiry in such cases and her complaint be also looked into by the apex court like it was done in the case of sexual harassment allegations against Justice (retd) A.K. Ganguly. The intern has made Justice Kumar, Secretary General of Supreme Court and the Union of India, parties in the case. She submitted that Justice Kumar was a sitting judge at the time of the alleged incident and the apex court must look into the complaint as per Vishaka guidelines. Justice Kumar who is currently heading the National Green Tribunal, has described the allegations as incredulous and false and some kind of conspiracy.
Delhi government has scrapped the idea of holding Janata Darbar to address grievances of Delhiites. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal told reporters today that instead, his government will set up a call centre to receive people's complaints regarding governance. He said, people can also lodge their complaints online and send their problems through post.
The Chief Minister added that he will meet people once a week, for a duration of three hours, for which the day is yet to be fixed. Our Correspondent reports, the first janata darbar of Delhi government had a chaotic start after thousands thronged the venue, forcing the Ministers to leave the Delhi Secretariat. Earlier today, Mr Kejriwal launched a helpline for nursery admissions. The helpline 011-27352525 will be a big help to the parents who face a lot of confusion over the eligibility criteria for the admissions of their wards to different schools in the city. 
Congress today sought to know from BJP leader Narendra Modi whether he has become nervous of Aam Aadmi Party, AAP's, emergence. In a tweet, AICC General Secretary in-charge for Delhi, Shakeel Ahmad said, Modi's criticism of Congress is understandable but of late, he has started criticising AAP too. In an apparent dig at AAP, Modi had yesterday asked whether good can happen by constantly being on TV channels or through constructive vision.
Army Chief General Bikram Singh today said, the Director General of Military Operations, DGMO, will take up the latest ceasefire violation in Krishna Ghati sector of Poonch in Jammu and Kashmir with his Pakistani counterpart. Addressing a news conference in New Delhi this morning, General Singh said, it was the first violation after two DGMO-level talks were held last year. He said, the talks are in the right direction to maintain peace on the border with Pakistan and create a conducive environment for development on both sides.
On withdrawal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from Jammu and Kashmir, General Singh said, the Army wants to wait for some time to monitor the situation before any decision is taken.   General Singh said, the force is committed towards enhancing its combating capability to deal with emerging security challenges. He said, the endeavor is also to enhance the capability of the acquisition mechanism. The Army Chief said, the force is exploring the possibility of giving duty to women officers to command certain units.
We are looking at enhancing their opportunities the avenues for the women officer's.  Indian army in various slots on staff.  We are looking at additional avenues for their permanent commission.  We are looking at the opportunities for them to command certain sectors.
Retirement fund body EPFO today decided to increase the rate of interest on Provident Fund deposits by 0.25 per cent, to 8.75 per cent for 2013-14. The move will benefit about 5 crore subscribers. Talking to reporters after a meeting of the EPFO trustees in Delhi, Union Labour Minister Oscar Fernandes said, they have decided to recommend to the government 8.75 per cent rate of interest for 2013-14 to its subscribers. According to sources, the body had surplus funds which enabled the interest rate to be increased from 8.5 per cent in the previous financial year 2012-13. The EPFO's  recommendation will be vetted by the Finance Ministry.
Maintaining its initial gains, the Sensex at the Bombay Stock Exchange stood 271 points, or 1.3 percent in positive territory, at 21,030 in afternoon trade, a short while ago. Earlier, in morning trade, the Sensex had spurted 264 points, or 1.3 per cent, to regain the 21,000-level, at 21,023, on strong buying interest by funds and retail investors.
In line with the domestic equity market, the rupee today firmed up by 36 paise to 61.54 against the US dollar in late morning deals on fresh selling of the American currency by banks and exporters, triggered by weakness in the greenback overseas. The rupee resumed higher at 61.52 per dollar as against the last weekend's level of 61.90 at the Interbank Foreign Exchange market.   
Union Minister of State in PMO, V Narayanasamy has urged the immediate release of Tamil fishermen lodged in Lankan jails and their fishing boats. Talking to AIR today, he said that the statement of Sri Lankan Fisheries Minister Rejitha Senaratne that Tamil fishermen will be released only after talks, is unacceptable. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalaitha had earlier issued a statement that Tamil fishermen will be released in one or two days. Our Correspondent reports that the fishermen families are saddened because of the delay in their release.
A pall of gloom has covered the fishermen villages of Nagapattinam, Ramanathapuram in Tamil Nadu because of the delay in release of Tamil fishermen lodged in Lankan jails. The Fishermen association insists that only if the fishing boats are released they can pursue their livelihood. Union Minister V Narayanaswamy said that fishermen from Tamil Nadu and Karaikal lodged in Lankan jails should be released immediately. He said that talks will be held on 20th of this month between representatives of Indian and Lankan fishermen and representatives of central government Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu. The maritime boundary line where Indian fishermen and Sri Lankan fisherman can pursue fishing will be cleared in this meeting. This will help find a lasting solution to the fishermen problem and save the livelihood of Tamil fishermen who are wholly dependent on sea. K Devi Padmanabhan AIR News Tiruchirapalli.
India is set to be declared polio free on the 11th of next month with no case of virus being reported during the last three years. The World Health Organisation, WHO, will certify the country as polio free after the last of random samples picked up, would be tested. According to official statistics, the number of polio cases came down from 741 in 2009 to 42 in 2010. The lone case of polio was detected in a two year old girl of West Bengal in 2011. No polio case has been reported since then. India won the war against polio through intense National Pulse Polio Immunisation under which over 17 crore children were vaccinated in each round of vaccination with the help of 24 lakh vaccinators.  The WHO on the 24th of February, 2012, removed India from the list of countries with active endemic wild polio transmission.
In north India, Lohri is being celebrated today with great pomp and show. It is one of the greatest festivals of Punjab and Haryana celebrated on the 13th of January every year at the end of the month of Paush, a day before Makar Sankranti. Our Chandigarh correspondent has filed this report:
In Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh, Lohri the festival of Punjabi`s is being celebrated with great pump and show. In the morning, people took holy dip in the rivers, canals and ponds to nullify their sins as per their beliefs. As in Majha area of Punjab kite flying is apart of this festival, there, the sky covered with different kinds of colourful kites is adding colour to the festival. In the evening people would lit bonfires in their lawns and public places and worship it by walking around it and offering Rewaris, peanuts, jaggery, popcorn and sesame seeds in the fire. Ashwani Kumar Sharma AIR News Chandigarh
In Andhra Pradesh, festivities began across the state on the eve of the three-day Sankranthi festival. Being an agrarian state, people of all the regions are celebrating the harvest festival in line with the traditions followed in their respective places.  On the first day today, Bhogi is being celebrated with religious fervour and traditional gaiety.
Venus Williams of America lost 6-2, 4-6, 4-6, to Russian Ekaterina Makarova in Women Single's on the first day of the Australian Open Tennis at Melbourne today. The 33-year-old Williams, the second-oldest player in the tournament and seven-time Grand Slam singles champion, has struggled with injuries and illness in recent seasons but reached the final of the WTA event at Auckland, New Zealand, to open the year. Makarova will meet another American in the second round after qualifier Irina Falconi beat Anabel Medina Garrigues of Spain, 6-3, 6-1. 
The Indian cricket team has reached Napier today for the five-match ODI series against New Zealand starting January 19. The series will start in Napier on Sunday and conclude on January 31 in Wellington. 

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