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Today's Hot Stories - July 31, 2009

10 Headlines for Today

(1) Pakistan refuses to hand over Dawood, says Krishna
(2) No compromise on terrorism: Pranab
(3) Verdict in trial of Burma's leader Aung San Suu Kyi delayed until 11 August
(4) ArcelorMittal's Jharkhand steel project faces resistance
(5) IOC Q1 net profit at Rs 3682.83 crore
(6) Disney profits fall more than 25% as downturn hit revenue at its film and theme park divisions
(7) 1st ODI: Sri Lanka beat Pakistan by 36 runs
(8) Indian hockey team began their Europe tour by suffering a 1-3 defeat against England in the opening match of the three-match Test series
(9) Royal Challengers Bangalore will take on Cape Cobras in the inaugural match of the Twenty20 Champions League in October
(10) 53,000 HIV +ve children in India: Government

5 Stories for Today

(1) Rajasthan Governor clears Gujjar quota Bill
(2) Detained Nigerian sect leader dies
(3) Reliance Infra Q1 net profit up 25% to Rs 317 crore
(4) Essar Power ties up Rs 4,860 crore funds for its Mahan project
(5) Inflation falls to -1.54 per cent

(1) Rajasthan Governor clears Gujjar quota Bill

Rajasthan Governor Shailendra Kumar Singh on Thursday finally approved the Bill which provides for five per cent reservation to Gujjars and three other communities, besides 14 per cent reservation to the Economically Backward Classes (EBCs).

This came about after a meeting with Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot in the evening.

The Governor’s action follows a series of consultations he had with the high-ups in Delhi, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Mr. Gehlot and the representatives of the Gujjar community over the past fortnight.

The decision, however, came as a big surprise as what was expected was a new legislation giving five per cent reservation to Gujjars and three other communities as Mr. Singh, as well as Mr. Gehlot, had been vocal about the untenablility of the existing Bill passed by the previous Bharatiya Janata Party Government led by Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje.

The Congress party too had supported the Bill then though it was fighting shy of owning up the legislation all these days. The Government had initially appeared to be gearing up for enactment of new legislation on quota as the State Cabinet met here on Thursday to discuss the special quota for Gujjars and other nomadic communities. The Cabinet meeting was followed by a visit by Mr. Gehlot to the Governor in the evening.

While some action was expected from the Raj Bhavan with regard to the Bill on reservation after the previous day’s successful interaction between Mr. Singh and a delegation of Ministers and Gujjar leaders, it finally came as a big surprise in the form of approval of the pending Bill.

A formal announcement on the decision is pending as it is for the Raj Bhavan to announce it. After his return from the Raj Bhavan Mr. Gehlot was joined in discussions by the special team of Ministers on Gujjar reservation — Home Minister Shanti Dhariwal, Transport Minister Brij Kishore Sharma and Energy Minister Jitendra Singh.

The next round of action for the government would be to explain its latest stand on the Bill which obviously is not acceptable under the provisions of the Constitution and Supreme Court orders.

(2) Detained Nigerian sect leader dies

The leader of an Islamic sect blamed for days of deadly violence in Nigeria has been killed in police custody, police officials have said.

Officials said Mohammed Yusuf was shot while trying to escape. They had announced his capture hours earlier. Mr Yusuf led Boko Haram, which wants to overthrow the government and impose a strict version of Islamic law.

Hundreds of people have died in five days of clashes between his followers and security forces. Mr Yusuf was held and later shot in the north-eastern city of Maiduguri.

A reporter in the city was among journalists shown two films, one apparently showing Mr Yusuf making a confession; the other showing what appeared to be his body, riddled with bullets. Militants led by Mr Yusuf have been blamed for days of deadly violence. "Mohammed Yusuf was killed by security forces in a shootout while trying to escape," the regional police assistant inspector-general, Moses Anegbode, told Nigerian television.

A spokesman for the state governor was also quoted as saying that Mr Yusuf had been trying to escape. Troops had stormed Boko Haram's stronghold on Wednesday night, killing many of the militants and forcing others to flee. Mr Yusuf was arrested earlier on Thursday, after reportedly being found hiding in a goat pen at his parents-in-law's house.

News website editor Joseph Winter says Nigeria's security forces have a terrible reputation for brutality and human rights groups accuse them of frequent extra-judicial killings. Officials working for Human Rights Watch in Nigeria said there should be an immediate investigation into the killing, which they called "extrajudicial" and "illegal".

The violence began on Sunday night in Bauchi state, before spreading to other towns and cities in the northeast of the West African nation. Crowds of militants tried to storm government buildings and the city's police headquarters, but dozens of them were shot dead by security forces.

Several days of gun battles between militants and Nigerian security forces ensued, culminating in the assault on the militant's stronghold. It is thought more than 300 people have died in the violence - some estimates say 600, although there has been no official confirmation. The Red Cross said about 3,500 people had fled the fighting and were being housed in their camp.

Witnesses and human rights groups have accused the military of excessive violence in quelling the militants, but the army says it used a minimal amount of force. Police say Mr Yusuf was a 39-year-old preacher from Yobe state, who had four wives and 12 children.

They described him as a motivational character. His sect, Boko Haram, is against Western education. It believes Nigeria's government is being corrupted by Western ideas and wants to see Islamic law imposed across Nigeria. Sharia law is in place across northern Nigeria, but there is no history of Al-Qaeda-linked violence. The country's 150 million people are split almost equally between Muslims in the north and Christians in the south.

(3) Reliance Infra Q1 net profit up 25% to Rs 317 crore

Anil Ambani group firm Reliance Infrastructure reported a net profit of Rs 316.57 crore for the first quarter ended June 30, 2009, up 25.35 per cent over the corresponding period last fiscal.

Total income rose to Rs 2,690.51 crore during the April-June quarter from Rs 2400.55 crore in the same period last fiscal, Reliance Infra said in a filing to the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE).

At the end of June quarter, the company's cash and cash equivalents stood at Rs 9000 crore, while its EPC order book was at Rs 20,075 crore. The company's cash profit grew by 22 per cent to Rs 386 crore at the end of June quarter and it infused fresh capital to the tune of Rs 4,300 crore.

Reliance Infrastructure's net worth, on a standalone basis, stood at Rs 12,172 crore, the filing added. Total sales in the electrical energy segment increased 5 per cent to Rs 1855 crore, while the turnover from the EPC division was at Rs 552 crore. Shares of Reliance Infrastructure closed at Rs 1,185.10, up 1.80 per cent on the BSE.

(4) Essar Power ties up Rs 4860 crore funds for its Mahan project

Private power company Essar Power on Thursday said that it has tied up funds worth Rs 4,860 crore for its Mahan thermal power plant at Singrauli in Madhya Pradesh.

"The financial closure for Rs 4860 crore Mahan power project in MP has been achieved," an Essar Power statement said.

The project is being funded through a debt and equity ratio of 3:1 and is funded by a consortium of four lenders led by ICICI Bank which includes Power Finance Corp, Rural Electrification Corp and Punjab National Bank, it said.

Essar Power is currently executing four power projects of 1,200 MW capacities in three locations across the country and plans to raise this capacity to 6,000 MW by 2012. It is operating two gas-based plants and one liquid fuel based plant in Hazira, one co-generation plant in Vadinar in Gujarat and a coal-based plant in Visakhapatnam

(5) Inflation falls to -1.54 per cent

Inflation fell to -1.54 per cent for the week ended July 18 even as essential food items like cereals, pulses, fruit and vegetables turned expensive.

Inflation stood at -1.17 per cent in the previous week. However, the wholesale price index was as high as 12.54 per cent in the corresponding week a year ago.

The prices of food items like mutton rose by 14 per cent, arhar by 9 per cent, gram by 4 per cent, fruit and vegetables by 2 per cent during the week. However, a major decline was registered in mineral index, as prices fell by 16.8 per cent mainly due to softening iron ore prices by 24 per cent and felspar by 3 per cent. At the same time, prices of jet fuel also declined by 7 per cent during the week.

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