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Today's Hot Stories - January 21, 2013

10 Headlines for Today

(1) Aadhaar-linked DBT hits roadblock in East Godavari
(2) Chhattisgarh chopper shooting: chinks in anti-Naxal mission
(3) Algeria siege toll climbs past 80
(4) Diesel price up by 55 paise, petrol cut by 25 paise
(5) Kingfisher exit spurs price hawks
(6) UltraTech profit down on subdued demand
(7) Djokovic outlasts Wawrinka in 5-hour epic
(8) Australia-Sri Lanka ODI abandoned due to rain
(9) Sharapova, Makarova set up all-Russian quarterfinal
(10) Sabarimala Temple closed after Makaravilakku festival ">

5 Stories for Today

(1) Coronation over, Rahul prepares party for change
(2) Northern Malians hope for quick military enforcement
(3) BSNL sheds voice for data in new scheme
(4) China’s economy shows signs of recovery
(5) Confident we’ll again discover 8 p.c. growth: Chidambaram

(1) Coronation over, Rahul prepares party for change

At AICC session, he makes an emotional speech recalling his family’s contribution

Critics — and there are many of them — may question his credentials. The media have described Rahul Gandhi becoming vice-president of the Congress as a case of “coronation” of the “yuvraj” — an extreme application of dynastic politics in a democracy. On Sunday, Rahul Gandhi often invoked his dynastic credentials in his speech at the AICC session — but in a manner that moved and energised his party colleagues who were quickly hoping that the effect would have rubbed off on the ordinary voters, too. Mr. Gandhi then swiftly proceeded to call for sweeping changes in the party and government and make a strong pitch for a rule-bound party organisation where party workers, not outsiders, would get importance.

In his first speech as the de-facto number two of the Congress, Mr. Gandhi recalled how his father was “broken” by his mother’s death — gunned down by guards with whom Rahul used to play badminton. There was enough of the Gandhi-Nehru family nostalgia to move his audience — including hard-bitten veterans sitting on stage — to tears and a standing ovation. But in the 40-minute-long speech, he also spoke of the need to decentralize power, strengthen panchayati raj institutions and use technology to ensure transparency. The system, he said, needed to accommodate the voices of the people, and ensure the participation of the aam aadmi in the decision-making process, which is currently the preserve of a few people working behind closed doors in Delhi. For the last two days, the under 45s spoke loudly and clearly in the five chintan shivir sessions, reflecting the concerns of a young India, the one that has dominated recent street protests and social media chatrooms. If an excited young MoS told The Hindu that “the message of these three days is Rahul Gandhi,” a more seasoned cabinet minister described Rahul Gandhi’s as India’s “Obama moment of 2008”. That is hyperbole, and some senior leaders cautioned that the impact of Mr Gandhi’s elevation was yet to be judged. But it couldn’t be denied that Mr. Gandhi had succeeded in energising the delegates — if not the whole party — who repeatedly interrupted his speech with rousing cheers. And when he sat down, younger delegates rushed to the stage as party seniors hugged him.

If the new vice president spoke of the pitfalls of power, he also spoke of hope: as a child, he said he learnt to play badminton “to bring some balance” into his life. His teachers were two policemen who later assassinated his grandmother — and he lost that balance. When he accompanied his father, Rajiv Gandhi, to hospital, he recalled, he was “broken inside and, like me, terrified of what lay in front of him. But when he addressed the nation on television that night, I felt a small glimmer of hope…. that small ray of hope in the darkness helped change India into what it is today.” Without hope, Mr. Gandhi said, nothing could be achieved.

If Mr. Gandhi moved his listeners to tears with his talk of power as a poisoned chalice and the transformative qualities of hope – even when born in despair — he also moved them to laughter as he mocked the Congress where rules are regularly given the go-by. “People often ask, how does this party run?” and then when all looks lost; it comes back with a bang.” The party’s secret weapon? “It is Gandhiji’s party, and India is in its DNA.”

(2) Northern Malians hope for quick military enforcement

Residents of northern Mali welcomed on Sunday the military intervention against Islamist rebels, but African nations were still struggling to get their troops on the ground due to financial shortfalls and logistical hurdles.

During an emergency summit in Ivory Coast on Saturday, West African leaders asked the international community to provide more support in Mali. To date, just 100 African troops - out of a planned contingent of 5,800 - have reached Mali’s capital Bamako.

About 2,000 French ground troops are leading the fight against Islamist insurgents in the country’s north. But French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has stressed that Africa ultimately “must take the lead.” Northern Mali’s local population is “relieved and happy that liberation is under way,” El Hadj Baba Haidara, a member of parliament for Timbuktu, told Malian news website Afribone in an interview. Northern Malian leaders had been appealing to the international community for help since May, he said.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), however, is not pleased by the pressure it has been put under to deploy its troops.

France had “imposed” a military option, head of ECOWAS and Ivorian president Alassane Ouattara complained, while West African leaders were still trying to find a political solution to the conflict.

African troops had initially scheduled to reach Mali only in September. Their deployment is now been planned for the coming weeks.

Despite the complaints, ECOWAS was nevertheless hoping for a quick resolution to the conflict, Mr. Ouattara said, so as to prevent Mali from “becoming a nest for terrorists.” African Union (AU) chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma also expressed “concern over the worsening of the scourge of terrorism” in the entire Sahel-Saharan region.

In other developments, unidentified gunmen killed two Nigerian soldiers who were on their way to Mali to help fight Islamist rebels, according to local newspapers reports. Several other soldiers were severely injured in the ambush.

A contingent of 190 soldiers was attacked on Saturday morning while travelling in three busses through Kogi state towards Bamako when it came under fire, Colonel Femi Olorunyomi told Nigerian newspaper The Tribune. Improvised explosives had also been planted on the highway.

(3) BSNL sheds voice for data in new scheme

Telecom operator to introduce ‘broadband only’ plan without voice call feature

For the first time since its inception, state-owned BSNL will go without a voice call feature in a new scheme.

The ‘broadband only’ scheme being launched in select suburban and rural pockets around Chennai has been conceived by Chennai Telephones to cater to the demand for DataOne services in ‘shadow’ areas which have been ruled as technically non-feasible spots to lay underground copper cables. BSNL has traditionally been offering broadband over the same copper pair cables linking fixed phones to the telephone exchanges and a DataOne service came bundled with a landline connection.

Chennai Telephones spokesperson, G. Vijaya said pockets in places like Ambattur, Thiruvallur, Madippakkam, Nanganallur and Avadi had been identified as ‘technically non feasible’ regions not served by either landlines or Wireless in Local Loop (WLL) stations where there is an unmet demand for broadband. Essentially, these are areas declared non-feasible due to topography constraints or because the capacity of local telephones exchanges are unable to meet emerging demandsfrom a housing boom or sometimes because of shortage of cables.

Under the new ‘broadband only’ scheme, Chennai Telephones will install Digital Subscriber Line Access Multiplexer (DSLAM) equipment at the nearest Base Station Transceiver (BTS) in the GSM network and loop a few metres of copper cable to the customer premises to offer uninterrupted broadband in these areas.

“We will be able to provide broadband with a few metres of line instead of budgeting for extended lengths of cable all the way from exchange to the customer premises. The scheme also ties in with the current customer preference for home internet without a fixed phone as mobile phones catered to their voice call needs,” said an official.

With its network of about 2,000 towers across the city and suburbs, BSNL has the logistical heft to use the new scheme to provide home Internet to most areas that are out of the landline/WLL loop. However, the roll out of the scheme will be carefully charted out as it involves installation of expensive DSLAM equipment, the official said.

Internet speeds will be comparable with any of the schemes currently offered for home broadband with voice being the only missing feature. The existing standalone broadband plans such as BBG 250, BB Home ULD 499, BBG 700 and BB Home ULD 750 are proposed to be offered to this new subset of “data-only” customers with some features such as Bandwidth/Download limit and Data Usage Charges remaining the same. However, an additional fixed monthly charge of Rs 50 will be collected in addition to the plan tariff.

(4) China’s economy shows signs of recovery

China’s economy has shown signs of a rebound by registering 7.9 per cent growth in the last quarter of the year, suggesting the worst of the downturn was over for the world’s second-largest economy.

China’s overall 7.8 per cent growth in 2012 was, however, the lowest recorded by the country in 13 years, and the first instance of growth staying below 8 per cent in this time. China’s economy grew 10.4 per cent in 2010 and 9.3 per cent in 2011.

Last year’s figures, analysts in Beijing said, are likely to herald the start of a new phase of slower growth for the Chinese economy. The government has set an annual 7.5 per cent target in the next five years, with officials stressing that rebalancing the economy with more sustainable, consumption-driven growth, rather than merely achieving a high growth rate, was now the priority.

“From a medium- and long-term view, we should be aware that China has entered a new growth stage,” Zhang Liqun, an analyst with the Development Research Center of the State Council, or Chinese Cabinet, told the official Xinhua news agency.

The 7.9 per cent growth in the fourth quarter was hailed by some economists as suggesting the worst was over for the Chinese economy following a difficult year, ending a streak of slowing growth in seven straight quarters. However, analysts cautioned that the road ahead for the Chinese economy, with persisting global uncertainties, was still far from smooth.

Figures released on Friday also underscored the challenge the Chinese government faces in tackling income inequality. China’s Gini coefficient — an index that reflects the rich-poor gap — was 0.474 in 2012. A Gini coefficient of 0.4 is widely seen as a warning level.

Ma Jiantang, the head of the National Bureau of Statistics — which disclosed the Gini coefficient for the first time in more than five years — said the rich-poor gap was, however, narrowing over the past three years despite remaining high. The Gini coefficient had peaked at 0.491 in 2008, he was quoted as saying by Xinhua. The index reached 0.481 in 2010 and 0.477 in 2011.

“After the financial crisis in 2008, China’s Gini coefficient gradually dropped from the peak of 0.491 that year as the government took effective measures to bring benefits for its people,” he told a press conference.

“The country should do a better job at income distribution and strive to make the incomes of low- and middle-income residents grow faster.”

(5) Confident we’ll again discover 8 p.c. growth: Chidambaram

Striking an optimistic note, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram on Sunday said India can now see the “first green shoots of revival” of economy which has been going through a difficult period and expressed confidence that it will again achieve eight per cent growth.

While setting a target of seven per cent economic growth for the next year, Mr. Chidambaram, who was addressing AICC meeting in Jaipur, noted, “We are going through a difficult period...but we can see the first green shoots of revival.

“There are indications that investments are picking up. There are indications that foreign fund flows in India will continue to be abundant....I am confident that we will again discover 8 percent growth.”

Speaking about the Jaipur Declaration after the Chintan Shivir which was released by the party in the morning, he said it records the core ideology of the party that “Congress must fearlessly, proudly, stoutly hug the middle ground and claim to the sole representative of the vast majority of people”.

The senior party leader said that most people believe that a government should be inclusive and they want to avoid the extreme left or extreme right.

“The vast majority of people occupies the middle ground,” he said, adding that it is only when we dilute this core ideology of Congress and turn to extreme left or extreme right that “we stumble“.

“Today we are the authentic voice and representative of the vast majority of the people of India,” he said hailing the functioning of the government under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

He said that nobody can deny that more people have been lifted from poverty in last 20 years after the economic reforms came in and “today we have a strong country, strong economy”.

Citing a series of examples, Mr. Chidambaram said that if each one of us is ready to change a bit and make small adjustments, it will lead to huge savings and changes in the country’s fortunes.

He said the small steps will bring a difference in the country. “If each policeman covers an extra mile, women will be safe.

“If each one of us saves a little of diesel and petrol, we can save Rs 5000 crore.... If we do not throw food, we can feed three million people, if each couple prays that their first child will be a girl child, India will be a different country...if we can tweak the MNREGA just a little to create assets, if the rich India and the wealthy share a little of their money... If each one of us works an extra hour,” Mr. Chidambaram said.

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