Posts Tagged ‘News’

Shri Narendra Modi said, “Earlier, Kankaria used to be in the news mostly for the wrong reasons, as lots of people used to commit suicide there. At the Kankaria Carnival this year, a majority of the participants are from the slum areas of Ahmedabad. I request Amdavadis to encourage the city’s slum kids to achieve great heights in life.” These were the CM’s views while he inaugurated the Kankaria Carnival 2010. He said that a total of 90 lakh people have visited Kankaria lake in the last two years which is double compared to the entire population of Ahmedabad.

The week-long carnival kick-started with great enthusiasm on 25th December, which has been successfully organized by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation for the past 3 years. The inauguration was followed by a gala parade in which various cultural groups, city and state police, bands and horses took part. The crowd puller on the inaugural event was a skit on Gujarat and its culture by cast and crew of popular television serial ‘Tarak Mehta Ka Oolta Chashma.’

This year the gala carnival got bigger. It saw performances from at least 40 schools and specialized institutions of Ahmedabad. The carnival also witnessed various regional associations from Punjab, Orissa, Assam, Bihar, Kerala and Maharashtra who performed their regional dances. A series highlighting the diversity of communities that work and live in Ahmedabad was also planned. It was named ‘Bharat Jodo’ and it showcased a series of cultural programs.

One main attraction was floating on Kankaria in a water-bubble. The huge polyurethane balloons are filled with oxygen and then the rider is sealed inside it. The water bubble then floats on the lake with people inside. If this becomes a success, it will be a permanent feature at Kankaria, which already has Ahmedabad Eye and Atal Express as the attractions for visitors. Apart from these, programs were planned for people of all age groups and strata, right from the slum children to senior citizens. The AMC had also organized sports like parasailing, bubble ride etc for visitors’ recreation at Kankaria, apart from boating in the lake. The participants at the carnival had prepared 630 types of different rangolis around the lake which was a treat to the eyes!

A spectacular show of fireworks, various stage events, lighting, and other activities like laser shows were some of the attractions. Shri Narendra Modi, in his inaugural speech also requested the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation to name Jamalpur over bridge after Shri Ashok Bhatt who “served this city for six decades” and his request was immediately accepted. The Minister also opened Santaram water plant through remote control during the ceremony and announced the grand opening of ‘Kids City’ during the carnival.
The carnival was a celebration and an extravaganza that lasted till 31st December.

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India’s lobbying, manipulation, contacts, subversion, media management and their underbelly has got a new name – Nira Radia. The 2G scam is a wider web then one can even think of and is a direct question on our country’s democracy. One of the highlights of Indian democracy is a free and independent press. But the scam has raised uncomfortable questions on this powerful fourth estate of the country as well. If the Adarsh land scam has dented the image of the army, the Nira Radia tapes are a pointer to the stark reality that the media is not a holy cow either.


• 2G licenses were issued to private telecom players at throwaway prices in 2008
• According to CAG, Spectrum scam has cost the government Rs. 1.76 lakh crore
• Also rules and procedures were not followed while issuing licenses

Former Telecom Minister A. Raja has been alleged for misappropriation during the bidding for allocation of 2G Spectrum. It is said that he ignored the advice of TRAI, Law Ministry and Finance Ministry and issued licenses on a first-come-first-served basis, without inviting any proper bids. The corporates who were favored were:
• Unitech, Swan Telecom got licenses without any prior telecom experience
• Swan Telecom was given the license even though it did not meet eligibility criteria
• It got license for Rs. 1537 crore, sold 45% stake to Etisalat for Rs. 4200 crore
• Unitech Wireless got license for Rs. 1661 crore, sold 60% stake for Rs. 6200 crore
· All nine companies paid DoT only Rs. 10,772 crore for 2G licenses

The 2G licenses were issued in 2008, but the scam came to public notice when the Indian Income Tax Department investigated political lobbyist Nira Radia.

Nira Radia is a public relations consultant and corporate lobbyist. She heads four PR companies: Vaishnavi Corporate Communications, Neosis Strategic Consulting Services, Vitcom Consulting and Neucom Consulting. She is a woman of formidable networking and PR skills, so much so that she represents both the Tata and the Mukesh Ambani group.


The first assignment, when Nira moved to India from the UK in 1995, was to smoothen the entry of Singapore Airlines into India. Though the project failed, it helped Nira build up her contacts with the then aviation minister Ananth Kumar and Ratan Tata, the chairman of the Tata group, which was to be Singapore Airlines’ Indian partner. Nira was keenly interested in the aviation industry and applied for a license to start an airline under her own firm with a capitalization of all of Rs1 lakh. But the project was controversial and hence Ananth Kumar could not approve it. Surprisingly, Kumar was moved out of the civil aviation ministry.

It was her meeting with Ratan Tata then that proved to be a stepping stone for Nira. She was appointed to manage the corporate communications of the Tata group – leading to the birth of Vaishnavi Corporate Communications in 2001. For many years, Vaishnavi’s main client remained the Tata group, so much so that that it was mistaken for being a Tata firm.


The Tatas were a prized possession for Nira and they opened bigger doors of success for her. Nira, who grew up in Kenya and had a British Passport, has a vast ‘contact’ list that include ministers, industrialists, politicians, bureaucrats, fixers and journalists. Apart from the big shots Tata and Ambani, Nira has almost 50 other companies in her kitty. She was at her highest in 2009-10 with a go-ahead to manage the media and lobbying requirements of the country’s two richest and biggest corporates. Her various firms are estimated to generate annual revenues of anywhere between Rs. 100-120 crores. However, if an attempt was to be made to assess the worth of the deals Radia was dabbling in, the figure would be perhaps matching the combined annual defense, railway and social sector budgets!


The income-tax investigation of Nira started when P Chidambaram, the then Finance Minister, received a complaint dated November 16, 2007. It was mentioned that Nira had raised Rs 300 crore empire in less than nine years and that she “was an agent of foreign intelligence agencies”. The raid started by August 2008. On August 19, 2008, a decision was taken to tap 14 of her personal and official phones, including those of her colleagues. The tapping, authorized by then Union home secretary Madhukar Gupta, continued for 120 days, till December 2008.

The investigation resumed on May 8, 2009 and went on till July 9, 2009. For some unknown and strange reasons, this search was stopped during the election process! The leaked tapes belong to this later 60 days’ period. The recordings were found to be sensitive and harmful to the national security. And hence, a letter was shot at the IB Director, Rajiv Mathur on November 16, 2009.
Different mediums then carried stories and transcripts of the tapes. Also, the CBI announced that they have 5,851 recordings of phone conversations by Nira in relation to the 2G spectrum scam. The matter has reached the Supreme Court that said in its official statement, “We have been talking about pollution of the sacred rivers like the Ganga. But this pollution is mindboggling.”


The tapes that are now in the public domain contain Nira’s conversations with some very prominent figures of the country. These tapes prove that PR is not simply about asking to publish press releases on the company’s developments, acquisitions, mergers, and latest offerings anymore. It is, now, a combination of influencing the media, molding public opinion, and, at the same time, putting your client out there in the limelight. Some of the personalities who were recorded live-in-talks with Nira Radia are:
1. A. Raja, former Telecom Minister
2. Kanimozhi, Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament
3. N.K. Singh, Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament
4. Annu Tandon, Lok Sabha Member of Parliament
5. Poongothai Aladi Aruna, Tamil Nadu Minister for Information Technology, DMK
1. Ratan Tata, Tata Group
2. Mukesh Ambani, Reliance Industries
3. Noel Tata, half-brother of Ratan Tata
4. Tarun Das, former Head of Confederation of Indian Industry
5. Manoj Modi, key advisor of Mukesh Ambani
1. Vir Sanghvi, Hindustan Times
2. Barkha Dutt, NDTV
3. Prabhu Chawla, formerly with India Today, now with The New Indian Express
4. Shankar Aiyar, was then with India Today Group
5. G. Ganapathy Subramaniam, Economic Times
6. MK Venu, Senior business journalist
7. Rajdeep Sardesai, CNN-IBN
8. Jehangir Pocha, formerly with Business World, now with NewsX
1. Sunil Arora, 1980-batch IAS Officer
2. Ranjan Bhattacharya, son-in-law of former PM, Atal Bihari Vajpayee
3. Suhel Seth, actor-manager-columnist
4. RK Chandoliya, A.Raja’s advisor

While some people rubbish the tapes as mere ‘Ethical Gathering of Information’, others are shocked and transfixed at the level to which the conversations reached. Nira is supposedly been functioning as a mediator between and the Congress and the DMK in the negotiations for allotment of union cabinet portfolios for the DMK. The DMK had been instrumental in bringing the UPA government back to power again in the 2009 general elections. But what followed was a prolonged deadlock during which the DMK allegedly threatened to withdraw its support unless it was given the 3 Cabinet and 4 Minister of State berths it had been pressing for a long time. Some talks like that of Nira’s with Vir Sanghvi of The Hindustan Times also reveal Nira almost dictating the journalist as to what he should write on Anil Ambani and the gas controversy.

An official report about the phone tapping said, “The cat is finally out of the bag. The CBI has acquired clinching evidence showing that a high-profile woman public relations lobbyist acted as powerbroker in the multi-crore 2G spectrum scam and that she was in regular touch with Telecom Minister A Raja.”

As a veteran lobbyist has rightly said, “These tapes will not lead anywhere; there are too many powerful people involved.” But the spotlight continues to hover over Nira Radia. CBI claimed recently in November 2010 that Nira’s role in the 2G scam will be thoroughly investigated as the irregularities were of “enormous magnitude” having international effects. It also said that the investigation shall complete by March 2011.

In a recent development, the Enforcement Directorate (ED), India, summoned and then questioned Nira Radia for more than eight hours on 24th November, 2010, in what is her first interrogation by an investigating agency. She had excused herself from earlier summons by the ED on health grounds.
Amidst the controversies, questioning, raids and influence peddling lies the same old but important debate of ‘Public Interest v/s Privacy Issues’.

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Indian traditional attire – Saree had to undergo yet another test. In a recent humiliating incident, Meera Shankar, India’s ambassador to the United States was singled out by the airport security in Mississippi and was patted down for wearing a saree. Meera, who is considered for her grace and intelligence, had to undergo a humiliating security check at the Jackson-Evers International Airport in Mississippi on December 4. She was going to board her flight to Baltimore after taking part in a programme of the Mississippi State University. Witnesses who were present during the incident said that Meera Shankar was singled out because she was wearing saree. She was taken to the VIP room and also pulled out of the line for the screening process. Later she was also pat down by a female TSA (Transportation Security Administration) officers. Despite the fact that she presented her diplomatic credentials, she had to undergo a hands-on search. According to the Transport and Security Administration guidelines, diplomats are subjected to normal screening when they present their diplomatic credentials and when they are escorted with security, but an exception was made in case of Meera Shankar just because of her saree. This is the height of embarrassment not only for the Indian diplomats but also for the national female attire of India which is considered to be extremely graceful all over the world. It was a real shock for the Indian Government and the incident has irked the External Affairs ministry which voiced strong concerns regarding the pat down and summoned US deputy chief of mission Donald Lu and threatened to review privileges granted to US diplomats if such incidents are repeated. India also asked the US to sensitize the authorities at all its airports to cultural and religious sensitivities of foreign diplomats. Janos Radvanyi, the Hungarian diplomat-academic at whose invitation Meera visited Jackson, said he plans to send a formal apology letter to the ambassador, and he expects other state and university leaders will, as well. However, US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said that she looked into the matter and found nothing new in it. She added that diplomats are subject to the same basic screening as other passengers at US airports. On the other hand, when asked about the incident during a press conference with the Nigerian Foreign Minister, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had said: “We are obviously concerned about it. We will be certainly looking into it and trying to determine what had happened and what we could do to prevent such incidents in the future.” Incidents like these are not new. Last year, America’s Continental Airlines had apologized to former Indian president Abdul Kalam for frisking him before he boarded a US-bound flight. Read original article at:

A controversy that has ignited a very important debate – WikiLeaks – has created nothing short of a storm worldwide. WikiLeaks and potential imitators could be game changers for the relationships between journalists and the Governments and companies they cover. The merits or dangers of those changes are, however, big points of conflict for both the organizations that have experienced leaks and the journalists who cover them. Multiple stories on the issue do exist, but the first million-dollar question to be addressed is:


Within a year of its launch, the site claimed a database that had grown to more than 1.2 million documents. WikiLeaks is a website that posts formerly secret documents online, in the search of accountability and transparency. Its release of more than 75,000 US Army and Marine Corps documents recording six years of events in Afghanistan, has angered officials in Washington, Britain and Pakistan. It has created serious controversy over the inherent conflict between national security interests and Government transparency. At the center of the WikiLeaks controversy is US Army Private First Class Bradley Manning, the man suspected of having passed the whistle-blower website a massive collection of US embassy cables.

The post is an infamous video shot from a US helicopter, which shows suspected militants being gunned down in Iraq. In the video, a group of men alleged to be militants are shot at for over an hour until most of them are dead or wounded, when a rescue van arrives, unarmed men are shot down as well. Recorded by the US Defense Department in 2007, the video has reignited a debate about leaks, the responsibilities of those who publicize them, and the ways the Internet is changing the nature of keeping secrets.
Apart from these, WikiLeaks is supposed to have leaked many other controversial documents:

– Extrajudicial killings in Kenya
– Report on Toxic Waste Dumping on the African coast
– Church of Scientology manuals
– Guantanamo Bay procedures

The process is this: The website is set up to allow completely anonymous submissions from whistleblowers around the world via a supposedly secure online form, although questions have been raised lately about its reliability. Assange and company then leaf through these confidential submissions, repackage them into multimedia presentations and publish them on the Web, still guaranteeing their sources complete anonymity.

As for the recent controversy of US secret cables, it has been said that the US military had recently introduced an information-sharing initiative called Net-Centric Diplomacy which allowed insiders to gain access to classified information. Under the new initiative, a subset of State Department documents are published through a Secret Internet Protocol Router Network, or SIPRNet, which is supposed to be Pentagon’s Secret-level global network. The information available on this network is accessible to authorized American military service personnel. Manning is believed to have downloaded a cache of documents and passed them on to WikiLeaks.
Needless to mention, Governments around the world would like to take down WikiLeaks for once and for all, but it is not that easy. They are only able to block the website. But it can be bypassed using separate URL’s maintained by WikiLeaks. This is because: WikiLeaks hosts itself by PRQ, a Sweden-based company providing “highly secure, no-questions-asked hosting services”.

The US Government has solemnly warned that WikiLeaks is endangering the lives of American diplomats, soldiers and spooks. “Such disclosures put at risk our diplomats, intelligence professionals, and people around the world that come to the US for assistance in promoting democracy and open Government,” the White House declared. “By releasing stolen and classified documents, WikiLeaks has put at risk not only the cause of human rights but also the lives and work of these individuals.”

On 20 August 2010, an investigation was opened against Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks and an arrest warrant issued in Sweden in connection with sexual encounters with two women, aged 26 and 31, one in Enkoping and the other in Stockholm. Assange’s defense lawyer, Mark Stephens, says the sexual assault allegations against his client are part of a conspiracy. Julian Assange, too, dismissed the allegations made against him in Sweden and vowed to fight against extradition. Hinting at a conspiracy,

Assange’s lawyer described the accusations as a “political stunt” and “political motivations that appear to be behind this.”
Assange was arrested on 7 December, 2010 and WikiLeaks appealed to its supporters to make up Assange’s bail in the days before his arrest. Journalist John Pilger, film director Ken Loach and sister of Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith, Jemima Khan offered to put up sureties. However, this proved to be unnecessary. The City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court refused Julian Assange bail because of the risk of him fleeing.

Weighing the merits of publishing against the risks of making sensitive information known, experts claim the authority to decide which materials to make public. Needless to say, the Government disagrees. From a journalistic point of view, the ethical problem that arises is determining who decides what is at risk and what it is worth. There are also serious question marks with regard to the verification of the documents and the motives of those who sent them.
As the most basic level, though, the question results from the simple fact being: good facts are necessary for good ethics and we don’t have all the facts needed to fully assess how much harm the leaks will cause. The possible consequences of the leaks have been
the subject of intense disagreement. Predictions have ranged from the leaks having no serious consequences to their undermining “the functional integrity of the whole Western security machinery on which its very survival depends”.

In considering the ethics of WikiLeaks, a point to be kept in mind is that what is and isn’t ethical can differ at different levels of analysis. These levels are the individual (micro), institutional (meso), societal (macro), and global (mega). All of them are relevant in the case of WikiLeaks. Something that might pass ethical muster at one level might not do so at another. For instance, freedom of speech might justify disclosure of certain information at the level of individual rights. The harm that disclosure would cause at all the other levels would make it unethical at those levels, however.

While there are questions over whether he would get a fair trial, Assange himself has no choice but to believe in the system. He has invoked the values of the system to commit some of his other acts. He has admitted at various points of time that he is only the messenger and that there is an attempt to shoot the messenger. The self-styled defender of freedom of speech continues his war with his enemies – the corporations that attacked WikiLeaks. He is supported by a lot of followers who believe in him and his only weapon – his laptop!

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The first ever attempt to conduct a Global Meet for the Bird Lovers saw a huge response recently in Jamnagar. The Global Bird Watchers’ Conference-2010 (GBWC) brought together the who’s who of the international bird-watchers’ community. Addressing the Conference, Gujarat Tourism Secretary Vipul Mitra said, “Khijadiya will become the national hub for bird watchers. This international conference, we believe, will increase tourism in Khijadiya by at least 30%.”

The three-day event saw a lot of passion, enthusiasm and fervor with the presence of a large number of nature lovers, photographers, ornithologists, wildlife enthusiasts and enthusiastic globe-trotting Gujaratis. Around 98 delegates from 45 countries and 300 Indian specialists attended the conference. Few of the well-known faces at the conference were ornithologists Philip Straw, Vice Chairman of Australian Wader Studies Group, Prof Brendan Kavanagh, Associate Professor in Human Biology at RCSI Medical University in Bahrain and eminent conservationists Lavkumar Khachar and Dr Bharat Bhushan. Not to forget the presence of Jamsaheb of Nawanagar, Digvijaysinh Jadeja and State Health Minister Jaynarayan Vyas who graced the event.

“What I could not do for years, the Government has done today,” remarked Jamsaheb. Making a public appearance after nearly 15 years, Jamsaheb received extraordinary reverence from the crowd. His address to the gathering brought out his passion for birding and nature. He urged the birders to expand the parameters of bird watching to include the birds’ understanding of intelligence and innovation.

The birders enjoyed the avian beauties at the Khijadiya bird sanctuary situated on the outskirts and they even visited Narara Island to see the corals and marine ecology. The technical sessions brought out some very fascinating facets of global birding, with special focus on India and Gujarat.

Among the interesting facts about birds revealed by the experts, the most interesting disclosure was made by a researcher who said that birds have a sense of the earth’s magnetic field. It is this that directs them across continents on the same route over generations. Another little-known fact shared at the conference was that India is now being used for transit by migratory birds on the Australasian flyway and by those on way to South Africa. The not-so-knowledgeable bird lovers too had something to gain at the conference. CN Pandey of the Indian Forest Service shared the software called ‘Wings of Nature’, developed to identify more than 500 species of birds.

Gujarat stood tall with various claims at the conference. Some said that out of 10,000 bird species in the world, India is home to 1,236; while out of these, Gujarat has 526 bird species. Also it is the only state in Asia where Greater and Lesser Flamingos breed. Gujarat has the highest number of Saras Cranes, after Uttar Pradesh in the country. These and other such discussions familiarized birders and travel/nature lovers with Khijadiya and Gujarat as a rich eco-tourism site. When asked whether the influx of tourists would harm the ecology, Jaynarayan Vyas said tourism focusing on “responsible bird watchers” and experts who instead of harming the environment will increase the efforts for its protection through their research, was essential.

The conference saw a positive end as the state’s forest & environment department along with the tourism department promised to develop potential eco-tourism sites in Gujarat in a sensitive and responsible manner.

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To celebrate the 5th anniversary of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005, the Ahmedabad-based Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel (MAGP) announced its plans to pioneer an effort to protect RTI applicants against any perceived or real threat. It added a service in its ‘whistleblower’ helpline for the RTI users.

The MAGP helplines: +919924085000 and 07926821553 (fax) will now take details of the applications, nature of threats and addresses from such applicants and forward them, along with a complaint, to the concerned Police Station, the Superintendent of Police, the District Collector and the State Information Commission.

MAGP Coordinator, Pankti Jog, expressed her concern over the activists being threatened and harassed in Gujarat. She said that the move is partly due to the murder of seven RTI activists across the country. Also, RTI users have to face oppositions from both the Government departments and anti-social elements that go to any extent to force applicants to withdraw their applications. Another concern is the limited awareness among the rural areas of Gujarat about RTI.

The helpline was launched on 11th May, 2006 and has not stopped ringing since then! Till date, it claims to have received 58,307 calls from both within and outside Gujarat. MAGP claimed that 75% of these calls were made by citizens, a little less than a quarter by Government officials, PIOs (11%), retired Government officers curious about their retirement dues (7%), deemed PIOs (5%) and other Government officers (2%). The statistics also mention that information on land entitlements contributed to the maximum (14%) of the calls, followed by retirement dues (10%) and development work (8%).The helpline was flooded with calls on the financial and performance details of trusts and NGOs.

This move is commendable as RTI in Gujarat is being strangled deliberately and getting weaker at various levels of governance.

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The official website of the Delhi Commonwealth Games, 2010 ( was targeted heavily by the cyber attackers. There were around 5,000 such attacks in a period of 12 days and 1,000 out of them were potential attacks – this comes to more than three cyber attacks every hour. All the six networks running for CWG games were attacked. But India backed itself with a strong cyber security command room. There was a 3 layer security set up to stop any cyber attack on official site of CWG 2010.

The experts of the Cyber Crisis Management Group (CMG) did a commendable job and monitored the website networks round the clock. They mentioned that roughly three-fourths of these attempts to breach and paralyze the Games networks originated from China. Whereas, a group of attacks that took place between 3 and 5 October originated in Pakistan. Some attempts to penetrate CWG circuits were made from Mumbai as well, top sources in the CMG said.

The CMG, which operated from an out-of-bounds Cyber Command Centre set up on the seventh floor of the Games Organizing Committee (OC) headquarters, included cyber experts from the intelligence agencies, Delhi Police and the Government of India’s Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In). The credit for the success in cyber security also goes to team work of ECIL (Electronics Corporation of India Ltd), NTRO (National Technical Research Organization) and IB, as well to vendors like MTNL, and TCIL (Telecommunications Consultants India Ltd).

The six networks, including those of Games data, security, venues, Internet services and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL), were linked to the Command Centre, which constantly monitored over 3,000 computers, 3,000 CCTVs and 1,800 network switches. Special software detected and mapped all “deviant behavior” on logs. The intensity of the attacks was so high that many times a day, the log files were checked.

The computer networks that were targeted included the ticketing, entry checking etc. Many of the attacks were ‘denial-of-service’ attacks which, if successful, would jam entire networks. Also, if the computerized system for entry at the CWG venues would have broken down, it would have put the entire event in danger. But, fortunately none of these attacks could even clear the first layer of the security check.

India boasts as the cyber security initiative proved to be a huge success. It would also serve as a model which can be replicated in major national networks, and used for cyber security in critical sectors such as railways, aviation and telecommunications.

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The project that was put on back foot due to the priority given to Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) has now gained momentum. The go-getting Ahemdabad Metro Project will be on the fast track as the first phase is believed to start from the next year. However, it will take 2-3 years for the line to get operational.

It all started when Ahmedabad had proposed to build five metro corridors spread over 219 km. The Gujarat Infrastructure Development Board (GIDB) had prepared a DPR (Detailed Project Report) to identify the solutions for the Urban Transport problems in the city. The project report was initiated by GIDB through Rail India Technical and Economic Services (RITES) & DMRC (Delhi Metro Rail Corporation Ltd.) in 2003. It was submitted in June, 2005 with cost estimates worked out to be Rs 4,925 crore (Rs 49.25 billion). But, it was decided not to go ahead with Metro Rail project to give priority to the BRTS and Regional Rail System Projects.

Ahemdabad was developing at a fast pace, but it lacked a credible public transport system in the beginning of 2001, when local city bus service was in awful straits. Following this, the BRTS project was implemented that got thumbs up from the public. Further, considering the developments in and around the city, it was decided to go ahead with the Metro Rail Project in 2008.

The state government plans to set up a Rs. 200 crore company for the execution of the project. The company is likely to be named the MetroLink Express for Gandhinagar and Ahmedabad (MEGA). “A company has been set up for undertaking the metro project, MetroLink Express Ahmedabad Gandhinagar and a newly appointed Managing Director would join later this month. Work on the first phase of the project would start in the middle of 2011,” said GIDB Chief Executive Officer, A K Sharma.

The 1100 crore first phase of the metro rail project will cover a distance of 32.65 km in the north-south direction between Gandhinagar and Ahmedabad and 10.90 km east-west corridor between Kalupur and Thaltej. Also, in Phase I, the state government has planned to connect the airport and the Gift city with the metro rail network. The details of the second phase are not worked out yet, but it is believed to connect Ahmedabad with Dholera, the site of a Special Investment Region. This will add another 125 km to the north-south line. Ahmedabad has already got the BRTS, and with the Metro Rail on the anvil, the mass transport system will surely get a further boost.

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Sheila Dikshit

In yet another unfortunate incident for Delhi and India, racial remarks on Delhi CM, Sheila Dikshit by a popular New Zealand TV anchor has sparked protests. Sheila has been in news after being asked last month to take charge of the floundering Commonwealth Games preparations.

The leading channel of New Zealand, TVNZ, faced criticism after its breakfast show host Paul Henry mispronounced Dikshit, despite being told by the lead anchor that it is said like “Dixit”. Though, he did not stop there. The anchor repeatedly made statements like “It’s so appropriate, because she’s Indian. I’ve known about her for a while and I’ve been laughing ever since”.

The remarks sparked indignation both in New Zealand and in India. India’s Foreign Ministry summoned the New Zealand High Commissioner last week to register a formal protest. New Zealand’s Government apologized for the remarks, describing them as ‘culturally insensitive and vulgar’. “They reflect the views of only one media commentator (who has already been censored for other racist and unacceptable comments), and certainly not the New Zealand Government or people,” said New Zealand High Commissioner Rupert Holborow.

India though cannot accept such misbehavior. External Affairs Minister SM Krishna had said “This kind of remark is highly unacceptable.” Reacting to the derogatory attack, the chief minister in question told that it was for the Government of India and the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) to raise the issue with the New Zealand Government. Personally, she took it in her stride.

Paul Henry

The remarks had gone unnoticed until TVNZ included the footage in its website’s highlights section. Since then, it had been viewed more than 300,000 times on After the controversy, TVNZ said that “the video of Henry attacking Dikshit” has been removed from our website. The channel’s complaint committee will consider whether there has been a breach of the standards set out by the Broadcasting Standards Authority.

However, the anchor seemed to be in no mood to apologize even after a row of protests. He announced his resignation and declared that it was not practical for him to do the job in the current type of environment. “I am astonished and dismayed that my comments have created a diplomatic incident. My style is conversational and of course unscripted. I walk the finest of lines and accept that I have inadvertently crossed it from time to time” he added. Also, the chief executive of TVNZ, Rick Ellis, commended Henry’s decision to resign and said that his comments split the community and damaged New Zealand’s international relationships.

Prominent statistics say that there are more than 100,000 New Zealanders of Indian ethnic origin, almost 3% of the population, the second largest immigrant group in New Zealand from Asia after China. But inspite of this majority share of Indians, they were targeted by the same media person, making the case intolerable. This not for the first time that Paul Henry is into on-air gaffes. Most recently, Indian origin Governor General of New Zealand, Anand Satyanand became the target of Henry. “Is he even a New Zealander,” the TV presenter had questioned Prime Minister John Key. For this, he had to apologize and was suspended for two weeks.

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It was a matter of sheer joy and pride for India as it received a record 187 votes to bag a non-permanent seat in the Security Council, highest in the past five years. UNSC – United Nations Security Council is one of the principal organs of the United Nations and is charged with the maintenance of international peace and security.

India, which is a founding member of the UN, is returning to the Security Council after a gap of 19 years. It has been on the Council six times before; having last served in 1992. Hardeep Singh Puri, India’s envoy to the UN, described this as a ‘ringing endorsement.’ Out of the 190 countries that voted, India received 187 votes. While one member state abstained from the vote, three votes were polled against India.

Other countries to be elected as the non-permanent members are South Africa, Colombia, Germany and Portugal. The five new countries will be replacing Austria, Japan, Mexico, Turkey and Uganda. Council seats are divided on a regional basis. This year, the seats for Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean were uncontested and India, South Africa and Colombia had no trouble mustering the two-thirds majority support of the voting members. The only suspense came in the group known as Western Europe and Others, which had Germany, Canada and Portugal competing for two seats. Canada had to withdraw after the second round as it had received the least number of votes and Portugal appeared poised to defeat Ottawa’s bid.

After the vote, India made it clear that it would be pushing for change in the next two years as it serves out its term as a non-permanent member and is looking forward to permanent membership. Talking about what India can give to the council, Puri reportedly said, “We bring the voice of one-sixth of humanity. We have 63 years of experience in nation building, and I think that is what the UN can use. We have experience in peacekeeping. We would like to transcend that into peace building.”

The composition of the Security Council for its 2011 term is one of the strongest. The new members join Brazil, Nigeria, Lebanon, Gabon and Bosnia-Herzegovina among the 10 non-permanent members. The five permanent veto-wielding members of the council are Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States. The five new council members will start a two-year term on January first. They will participate in decisions ranging from deploying UN peacekeepers to imposing sanctions, as the council monitors international peace and security.

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