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Today's Hot Stories - April 17, 2010

10 Headlines for Today

(1) Thai army chief takes charge of restoring order
(2) BRIC declares 2010 deadline for World Bank, IMF reform
(3) Europe-bound flights from India grounded
(4) Renault sells stake to M&M in the joint venture
(5) No sharp rise in rates in 2-3 months
(6) Toyota recalling 8,70,000 minivans over corrosion problems
(7) Deccan Chargers beat Kings XI Punjab by 5 wickets
(8) Nadal, Djokovic on the cusp of second Monte Carlo showdown
(9) Saina lone Indian semifinalist in Badminton Asia
(10) Ash cloud spreads, all of Europe grounded

5 Stories for Today

(1) Probe Teesta's political agenda through riot cases: Gujarat tells SC
(2) Nepal govt gives thumbs-down to 16,000 Maoist guerrillas
(3) RIL buys stake in Deccan 360
(4) US awards Dubai firm $2.2 bln military contract
(5) GDP to grow by 8.6 % in Q4

(1) Probe Teesta's political agenda through riot cases: Gujarat tells SC

The Gujarat government on Friday gave vent to its suppressed anger against Teesta Setalvad's campaign against chief minister Narendra Modi for his alleged role in post-Godhra riots and requested the Supreme Court to initiate a probe against her to unearth her ulterior political agenda.

Though it sought dismissal of the plea for reconstitution of the Special Investigation Team headed by former CBI director R K Raghavan, the state said that the SIT exceeded its brief by summoning Modi for questioning when the apex court had merely asked it to look into the complaint of Jakia Jafri, who had accused top politicians, bureacucrats and police of either helping or not acting against the rampaging mob during the 2002 riots.

It also sought a probe against the funding pattern of NGOs like Setalvad's Citizens for Justice and Peace, alleging that they were misusing the money to level false allegations without being made to face the consequences of such wild charges.

Tracing the more than six-year history of the monitoring of the riots case probe by the apex court which in 2008 set up a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to look into nine sensitive riot cases, the state said it had never objected to any of the orders of the court because it believed that the guilty should be punished.

"When the applicant found that her efforts to malign the state of Gujarat based on false rumours contained in such statements prepared by her in advance, may not be successful that she appears to have taken up the stand that the SIT was not functioning properly," the state said in its affidavit opposing an application filed by Fr. Cedric Prakash, which was supported by Setalvad.

It said by sending tutored witnesses, Setalvad has "committed a serious offence of interfering with the investigation" and to maintain the majesty of law, the SC should direct registration of a case against her.

The Modi government also rubbished the complaint of Jakia Jafri, widow of Ehsan Jafri, a former MP who was killed by a mob in Gulbarg Society, accusing the chief minister, top politicians, bureaucrats and police of being hand-in-glove with the riotous mob and remaining inactive when they were perpetrating violence.

It said Jakia Jafri gave completely different versions regarding the riot to the Nanavati Commission probing the riots and to the Supreme Court. Moreover, she appeared before the Gujarat police to lodge her complaint after much dilly-dallying and refused to answer any question.

The state government said the recent summoning of Narendra Modi by SIT was neither permissible in law nor contemplated by the apex court in its order of April 27, 2009, as it had merely asked the panel to look into Jafri's complaint.

"Though the apex court merely required SIT `to look into the complaint', the SIT started calling persons named therein and started recording their statements which is neither permissible in law nor contemplated in the April 27 order," the state government said.

After defending the role of the Modi government and pouring vitriol on Setalvad and her NGO CJP, the state said: "Setalvad is more concentrating in defending the persons who are found to be accused in Godhra train burning offence not only by Gujarat police but now found by the SIT."

To rub it in, the state said two of the accused in the Godhra train burning case, including Salim Panwala, have taken refuge in Pakistan and the government through Interpol has already issued Red Corner Notices for their arrest.

"There is no codified law statutorily prescribing the liabilities, responsibilities and obligations of NGOs who are striving either with public money or other funds received from within the country as well as foreign countries. In the absence of any statutory regulatory mechanism, if NGOs are permitted to tarnish the reputation and image of one entire state based on falsehood, (it) not only results in social and communal disharmony, but clearly amounts to an unlawful interference in the statutory proceedings without corresponding responsibility or obligation on NGOs," it said seeking dismissal of the plea for reconstitution of SIT with exemplary costs.

(2) Nepal govt gives thumbs-down to 16,000 Maoist guerrillas

Over 16,000 Maoist guerrillas, who had been wooed away from their armed uprising with the promise that they would be recognised as people's defenders by being included in the army, now find themselves left high and dry with the coalition government on Friday saying they would only accept 3,000 in the Nepal Army.

With just 41 days left for the promulgation of a new constitution, the deadline by which the government also needs to disband the People's Liberation Army of the Maoists, Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal announced a rehabilitation programme for the fighters which includes accepting only 3,000 of the 19,600-strong PLA in the Nepal Army.

Peace and reconstruction minister Rakam Chamjong said at the end of the meeting of the special committee on integration, supervision and rehabilitation of the PLA, held in the Prime Minister's Office, that the government arrived at the figure taking into account the arms handed over by the PLA to the UN, which amounts to about 3,000.

While the low official arms count had caused surprise, Maoist chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda had defended it by saying that the rest of the weapons, with which his cadre fought a 10-year war, were destroyed in floods and fires. Chamjong said the government followed the principle of one soldier, one weapon.

The government is also offering up to NRS 2.5 lakh to the combatants to help them start a new life if they decide to quit their cantonments and return to civilian life. Since 2006, when the Maoists inked a peace agreement with the parties, the guerrilla fighters have been living in 28 cantonments supervised by the UN, with no certainty of what would happen to them. Nearly 4,000 more combatants were discharged this year after they were found to include child soldiers and other illegal recruits after a protracted feud between the government and the Maoists.

The new offer is also likely to whip up another row and would be impossible to put into action before May 28, causing new uncertainties and fears for the nascent republic. Prachanda, who had boycotted the meeting of the committee that was attended by the five biggest ruling parties, was livid at the proposal, calling it "ridiculous". "If the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (of the prime minister) and the Nepali Congress (the biggest party in the government) think they can address the reintegration without the Maoists, let them do it," the former prime minister said.

The government resolution will add to the complications of a political situation already grown complex with the revelation that the Maoists and the two big ruling parties have been perpetrating a Himalayan fraud on the people with their posturing about a new constitution. Irrigation Minister Bal Krishna Khand admitted on Friday that the three rivals for power had actually agreed long time ago that it would not be possible to have a new constitution ready by May 28 and had planned to extend the tenure of the constituent assembly that is writing the new statute. Khand, who belongs to the Nepali Congress, also admitted that NC chief Girija Prasad Koirala, who died last month, was party to the secret agreement.

(3) RIL buys stake in Deccan 360

Reliance Industries (RIL) has picked up a strategic stake for an undisclosed sum in captain Gopinath-founded logistics company Deccan 360. It is, however, independently learnt that India's largest private sector firm is investing $25-30 million for a 26-35% stake in the express-cargo transport services company.

For its stake, RIL will get two seats on the five-member Deccan 360 board. Gopinath ventured into the logistics business after he sold his Budget carrier Air Deccan to Vijay Mallya's Kingfisher.

Deccan 360 started operations last November with its main hub being developed in Nagpur. It has a fleet of eight freighter aircraft and 850 vehicles. Though both parties are not willing to spell out the exact financial details of the deal, Gopinath said that RIL has bought a stake of between 26% and 49.9%.

RIL has made the investment through its wholly owned subsidiary. The capital will be used by Deccan 360 to expand its air and surface network coverage across the country.

RIL chairman Mukesh Ambani said, "We believe our collaboration with Deccan 360 will see a transformation in the logistics domain in India."

(4) US awards Dubai firm $2.2 bln military contract

The US government awarded Dubai-based ANHAM FZCO, Llc a $2.2 billion contract to provide food and support services to the US military in Kuwait, Iraq and Jordan, the company said on Friday.

ANHAM, an investment holding and services company, is a leading contractor in the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia and Europe including Iraq, Afghanistan, Russia and Libya.

Based in Dubai, it contracts with local companies to structure ventures in emerging markets and has backing from Saudi Arabia, Jordan and a Virginia company.

The announcement follows a decision announced this week by the US Defense Logistics Agency to replace Kuwait's Agility as the main supplier to the US military in the Gulf.

That decision followed a new indictment Monday accusing Agility of fraud in $8.5 billion worth of contracts first signed in 2003 to supply the US Army in the Gulf.

The DLA has suspended the firm, formerly Public Warehousing Co. K.S.C., from bidding on new contracts and Agility is in talks with the US Department of Justice to settle the case.

"It is with great gratitude and a compelling sense of duty that all at ANHAM welcome the award to expand our support for those serving in the Middle East," the company said.

"We have a long track record of meeting and exceeding the contract requirements and expectations of our clients, the United States Government, and all stakeholders," it said in a statement.

(5) GDP to grow by 8.6 % in Q4

Amid indications that the economic slowdown and recession were the past, Chief Economic Advisor Kaushik Basu on Friday said the Indian economy was likely to grow by 8.6 per cent in the January-March quarter and could post an estimated range of 8.25-8.75 per cent this fiscal.

Further, Mr. Basu said the economy's growth was poised to touch the rate of 10 per cent in the next four years. “Let me put down a forecast. I feel that we are going to cross 8.6 per cent in the last quarter of the last fiscal,” Mr. Basu said at a function organised by industry body Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham). In the first three quarters of 2009-10, the economy grew at 6.1 per cent, 7.9 per cent and 6 per cent, respectively. As per the Central Statistical Organisation, India is likely to have grown at 7.2 per cent during the entire last fiscal.

Mr. Basu said things could turn out different from what the general expectations were and it called for carefulness.

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