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Today's Hot Stories-July 1, 2009

10 Headlines for Today

(1) Nirupama Rao to be next Foreign Secretary of India
(2) 50% Indians living below poverty line: Government panel
(3) UN makes urgent plea for money to help the displaced in north-west Pakistan
(4) Satyam’s new team may renegotiate $80 million FIFA deal
(5) Tata Communications ties up with Starwood Hotels to provide video-conferencing facility in the hotels
(6) Hindalco Industries' consolidated net profit decline by 78% to Rs 485 crore in fiscal year ended March 31, 2009
(7) Defending champion Venus Williams cruised into the semi-finals of Wimbledon
(8) Former England captain Michael Vaughan announced his retirement from cricket
(9) International Cricket Council (ICC) President David Morgan said that Test cricket may be reduced to four days to attract more spectators
(10) Jackson was spending $50,000 per month on drugs: Report

5 Stories for Today

(1) Liberhan Commission submits report to Manmohan Singh
(2) Car bomb kills at least 27 people in Iraq's Kirkuk
(3) Fortis Healthcare posts net profit of Rs 6.69 crore for Q4
(4) Carlyle raises $1billion, to invest in India and China
(5) IIFCL may issue Rs 30k crore bonds by December

(1) Liberhan Commission submits report to Manmohan Singh

It was on December 16, 1992 that M S Liberhan, then a judge of Punjab and Haryana High Court, was asked to probe the conspiracy leading to the demolition of Babri Masjid -- an event that took communal polarization to a new scale, and shaped the politics of the turbulent 1990.

Seventeen years, 399 sittings, 100 witnesses, 48 extensions and Rs 9 crore later, Justice Liberhan submitted his report to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, indicting the BJP and its leaders including L K Advani, and the Sangh Parivar for conspiring to demolish the Mughal-era mosque at Ayodhya on December 6, 1992.

The report, being kept under wraps, also holds BJP leader L K Advani responsible for the demolition, pointing to the Rath Yatra he took out to mobilize support to build a Ram temple where the Masjid stood, and, on the fateful day, for failing to control the crowds he had helped to mobilize.

The indictment of other front-ranking Hindutva leaders is sharper, with former UP Chief Minister Kalyan Singh, Uma Bharti, Murli Manohar Joshi, Ashok Singhal, Vinay Katiyar and others all coming in for severe criticism for their individual culpabilities.

Kalyan, who has since joined Mulayam Singh Yadav, has also been criticised for dodging the inquiry panel.

As for Congress, the criticism is limited to the "inaction" of former PM P V Narasimha Rao who allegedly slept through the demolition.

A big section in the report, likely to be tabled in Parliament in the Budget session, is devoted to the role of Advani and his statements during the cross-examination. The report criticizes him for his Rath Yatra and not keeping the saffron combine in control. Faizabad district officials have also been severely indicted for their role during the demolition.

Given the string of extensions to the commission, submission of the report came as a surprise. Naturally so, considering that half of India's T-20 squad was in primary school when Justice Liberhan was tasked with the probe.

Then again, Justice Liberhan has been consistently maintaining that he will take longer.

Not surprisingly, Justice Liberhan had to handle a barrage of questions on the delay. The retired chief justice of Madras and Andhra High Courts, however, defended himself, pointing to the stalling and obstructionist manoeuvres used to derail the probe. "I did not receive cooperation from few people," he said. Though he did not name them, the finding in the report about the delaying tactics of Kalyan and others can be taken to suggest that the reference could be to leaders of BJP and Sangh Parivar.

Repeated efforts to draw him out on the issue did not succeed. "I do not want to comment," he said, though he remarked that he was feeling "relieved".

Under the Commissions of Inquiry Act, government has six months to share the findings of Justice Liberhan along with the action taken report (ATR) with Parliament. However, the tabling of the report in the two Houses will depend on how swiftly the government wants to act on the recommendations. In case conspiracy charge is to be probed further, government can ask CBI, already seized with the criminal case about demolition, to probe further.

With strong likelihood of Congress trying to derive mileage from the report, chances of the voluminous document being tabled in the coming session of Parliament are high. Elections in Maharashtra, due in September-October, may serve as another incentive for early tabling.

(2) Car bomb kills at least 27 people in Iraq's Kirkuk

A car bomb exploded in a crowded outdoor market in the northern city of Kirkuk, killing at least 27 people, police said, a deadly reminder of the challenges facing the Iraqi government even as it celebrated the withdrawal of US combat troops from cities.

The bombing marred what had otherwise been a festive day as Iraqis commemorated the newly declared National Sovereignty Day with military parades and marching bands. It also came hours after four US soldiers were killed in combat in Baghdad. Although there were no immediate claims of responsibility, the bombing and the way it was carried out bore the hallmarks of Al-Qaida in Iraq.

Despite the violence, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki assured Iraqis that government forces taking control of urban areas were more than capable of ensuring security.

"Those who think that Iraqis are not able to protect their country and that the withdrawal of foreign forces will create a security vacuum are committing a big mistake,'' he said in a nationally televised address.

He later appeared at a military parade to mark the day in the walled-off Green Zone in central Baghdad, with soldiers and policemen marching information while Iraqi helicopters flew overhead.

The withdrawal, which was completed on Monday, was part of a US-Iraqi security pact and marks the first major step towards withdrawing all American forces from the country by Dec. 31, 2011. President Barack Obama has said all combat troops will be gone by the end of August 2010.

The car bomb exploded as the vegetable and poultry market was crowded with people shopping for their evening meal, police Brig. Gen. Sarhat Qadir said. Police and hospital officials gave the death toll and said about 40 people were wounded.

One eyewitness, 53-year-old Samad Hajir, was buying chicken at the market when he heard the explosion followed by screams.

He blamed the Iraqi security forces for not being at the market and said he feared that militants would try to take advantage of the withdrawal of US forces.

"I am worried about the handing over of security to the Iraqi forces. I think that the insurgents will come up soon after the withdrawal of US soldiers from our cities. It seems that all the Kirkuk police were busy celebrating the withdrawal,'' Hajir said.

It was the latest in a series of bombings and shootings that have killed more than 250 people since June 20, including a truck bombing near Kirkuk that killed 82 people.

US and Iraqi officials have warned more violence was likely as suspected Sunni insurgents try to undermine confidence in the government in the days surrounding the withdrawal deadline.

The military said the four US soldiers who were killed served with the Multi-National Division-Baghdad but did not provide further details pending notification of their families. It said they died as a "result of combat related injuries.''

It was the deadliest attack against US forces since May 21, when three soldiers were killed and nine others were wounded in a roadside bombing in southern Baghdad.

Odierno said the latest deaths show militants remain a threat but said he was confident Iraqi security forces could face the challenge.

"It reminds me that there are still dangers out there. There are still people out there who do not want the government of Iraq to succeed. They do not want to see a democratic country move forward,'' Gen. Ray Odierno said at a news conference.

He said many roadside bomb and rocket attacks in Baghdad were being carried out by militants being funded or trained by Iran, including recent strikes against the Green Zone, which houses the US Embassy.

But, he said, the number of such attacks was ``significantly smaller'' due to security measures making them more difficult to carry out.

"Iran is still supporting, funding and training surrogates who operate inside of Iraq. They have not stopped and I don't think they will stop,'' Odierno told reporters at Camp Victory, a US military base on the western edge of Baghdad.

He also said that 130,000 US troops remain in Iraq, although he declined to say how many would remain in cities as trainers and advisers.

"We will be here, we are not leaving,'' he said."We'll continue to be in support of the Iraqi security forces to maintain and improve stability throughout the country and I feel confident that we'll be able to do that.''

If the Iraqis can hold down violence in the coming months, it will show the country is finally on the road to stability. If they fail, it will pose a challenge to Obama's pledge to end an unpopular war that has claimed the lives of more than 4,300 US troops and tens of thousands of Iraqis.

(3) Fortis Healthcare posts net profit of Rs 6.69 crore for Q4

Hospital chain Fortis Healthcare today said its consolidated net profit stood at Rs 6.69 crore for the quarter ended March 31, 2009.

The company had a net loss of Rs 10.56 crore in the same period ended March 2008.

Total income of the company rose to Rs 172.75 crore during the quarter from Rs 132.85 crore in the same period last year, it said in a filing to the Bombay Stock Exchange.

For the financial year 2008-09, the company posted a consolidated net profit of Rs 24.06 crore. It had a net loss of Rs 59.98 crore in the previous fiscal.

"In FY'09, our focus was on the growth in revenues across all the hospitals with continued focus on quality patient care and service excellence," Fortis Healthcare Chief Executive Officer Bhavdeep Singh said.

Further, Singh said that the hospital chain will file letter of offer with SEBI for its Rs 1,000 crore rights issue by the July-end. "Our plans to raise Rs 1,000 crore through rights issue are intact and we are soon filing the letter of offer with SEBI by the end of July."

By March 2009, the group has a network of 27 hospitals having total capacity of 3300 beds. Shares of Fortis Healthcare were trading at Rs 96.25 on BSE, down by 3.89 per cent from its previous close.

(4) Carlyle raises $1 billion, to invest in India and China

Global private equity firm the Carlyle Group raised $ 1.04 billion from fourth Asian growth capital fund, a sector-agnostic growth capital fund which invests in high growth private companies with strong local management and leading market position in China, India, Korea and other key Asian markets.

Despite a difficult fund-raising environment, the fund raised $1.04 billion in only 14 months from a broad geographical range of investors, it said. The closing of CAGP IV reflects improving investor sentiment towards China and India as the two major economies begin to stabilise and show signs of emerging from the downturn, it said. Nearly 40% of CAGP IV's limited partners are new investors, demonstrating growing demand for exposure to China and India, it said.

(5) IIFCL may issue Rs 30k crore bonds by December

State-owned India Infrastructure Finance Company (IIFCL), the company to provide a long-term financial assistance to infrastructure Projects, is likely to tap debt market in late December or early January to raise Rs 30,000 crore through tax-free bonds, Chairman and Managing Director of IIFCL SS Kohli told leading news agency.

“We are confident of disbursing Rs 10,000 crore raised during February-March by October-end. We may start issuing the second tranche of tax-free bonds to raise Rs 30,000 crore by December,” said Mr Kohli.

As part of the first stimulus package, IIFCL was earlier allowed to raise Rs 10,000 crore through tax-free bonds for refinancing long-term bank lending to infrastructure projects that are public-private partnerships (PPP). As per the conditions laid down by the government, the next tranche of Rs 30,000 crore can be raised only after the disbursal of the earlier fund.

Disbursal of the Rs 10,000 crore, which will help in funding PPP projects of about Rs 25,000 crore, got delayed as it could be done only after financial closure. The general elections also affected the clearances of PPP projects.

Raising Rs 30,000 crore through tax-free bonds means refinancing projects worth Rs 1,00,000 crore.

Banks are not able to lend for a long-term due to an asset-liability mismatch. “Many of these projects had hit road blocks due to regulatory hurdles. On account of elections, PPP projects were not given clearances for three months. Now with a stable government at the centre focusing more on implementation, I am expecting financial closures of more projects to take place soon,” said Mr Kohli.

IIFCL which started operation in April 2006 has sanctioned 106 projects involving a loan amount of Rs 18,414 crore in three years till May 31, 2009.

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