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Today's Hot Stories - March 07, 2011

10 Headlines for Today

(1) DMK rejects Pranab's appeal, ministers to resign today
(2) SC rejects petition for mercy killing of Aruna Shanbaug
(3) US Army incorporates yoga in training
(4) Shahid Balwa resigns as MD of DB Realty; scrip hits new low
(5) Sebi to have 2 new members
(6) Two MDs to leave ChrysCapital
(7) World Cup: India defeat Ireland by 5 wickets
(8) Real Madrid down Racing Santander 3-1 in Spain
(9) Sabbatini holds off Yang to win PGA title
(10) Herd of 20 bison take over Nilgiris village

5 Stories for Today

(1) Mulayam, son put under house arrest
(2) Bomb kills 12 in Afghanistan, demo in Kabul
(3) ONGC may lose navaratna status
(4) India not as corrupt as China and Russia: Fitch
(5) Inflation unusually high in India: US Polo chief

(1) Mulayam, son put under house arrest

The Samajwadi Party on Monday alleged that its chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and his son and state unit president Akhilesh have been put under "house arrest" to prevent them from leading a three-day agitation against the BSP government, a charge denied by the district administration.

"SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav and state president Akhilesh Yadav have been put under house arrest and they are not being allowed to come out of their houses," party spokesman Rajendra Chowdhury claimed.

A strong police contingent has been deployed at the party office and the houses of the two leaders and barricades have been erected.

The district administration, however, said that the two leaders were not under house arrest.

"The two leaders are not under house arrest. In fact, Mulayam Singh Yadav was scheduled to leave for New Delhi by a morning flight, which has been delayed", district magistrate Anil Kumar Sagar said.

He said that a "proper route" has been provided to the SP supremo to travel to the airport and his security personnel have already reached there.

The SP had announced a three-day agitation from today to press for ouster of the "corrupt" BSP government in the state. Apprehending trouble, tight security arrangements have been made across Uttar Pradesh. The SP alleged that a number of its leaders were arrested or detained in their respective districts.

(2) Bomb kills 12 in Afghanistan, demo in Kabul

A roadside bomb ripped through a car in eastern Afghanistan on Sunday, killing 12 civilians, as hundreds of people protested angrily in Kabul over the deaths of nine children in a NATO air raid.

The Taliban-style home-made device struck the car in the province of Paktika, killing five children, two women and five men, the provincial administration said in a statement.

The victims were on their way from neighbouring Pakistan, it said, without giving further details. Mohibullah Samim, the provincial governor, blamed the bombing on "enemies of peace who once again revealed their tyrant face to the public," the statement added.

Afghan officials use this term to refer to Taliban and other insurgents who are engaged in an increasingly bloody campaign aimed at toppling the pro-US government of President Hamid Karzai.

Rebels loyal to the Taliban and other militant groups often use improvised -- or home-made -- bombs in attacks against Afghan security forces and their Western military backers.

There are about 140,000 foreign military forces operating in Afghanistan under the command of the United States. Bombs are usually planted on public roads and often kill civilians instead of their military targets. A similar device on February 26 killed nine civilians in Khost province, which borders Paktika.

Sunday's incident follows a string of militant attacks and military operations by foreign forces that have caused dozens of civilian deaths.

Nine children were killed on Tuesday in an air raid carried out by coalition helicopters in the eastern province of Kunar. The strike was against insurgents who had attacked a military post but it hit the children by mistake, according to military officials.

President Karzai angrily condemned the killings and US President Barack Obama and General David Petraeus, the commander of the US-led troops in Afghanistan, apologized for the incident.

About 500 people poured onto the streets of Kabul on Sunday and chanted anti-American slogans over the deaths. Marching through central Kabul, they shouted "Death to America -- Death to the invaders." A placard carried by a veiled woman read: "Occupation = killing + destruction."

The protest follows similar demonstrations in Kunar over the deaths of the children, who were killed while collecting firewood in the province's Dar-e-Pech district.

NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said that the children were mistaken for rebels "We don't want the invading forces," chanted one demonstrator carrying posters of the dead children. Another shouted: "Death to the government of President Hamid Karzai!"

"When I saw the demonstration and realized that it is against the Americans I joined," Azizullah, one of the protesters, who uses one name said.

(3) ONGC may lose navaratna status

Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) could be on way to losing its financial autonomy (navaratna status) because the oil ministry botched up the appointment of independent directors to the flagship explorer's board.

Sources said that the government plans to withdraw both its nominees on the ONGC board to meet SEBI's norms for its Rs 11,500 crore follow-on public offer (FPO). The norms specify an equal number of functional and independent directors on a company board.

The removal of government nominees would also erase ONGC board's powers to approve investments in its projects and spending up to Rs 1,000 crore in a joint venture company. ONGC will then have to run to Public Investment Board for approval of investment proposals of Rs 100 crore and above. ONGC has six functional directors other than the chairman. It also has two government-appointed nominee directors, taking the total strength of functional/promoter directors to nine. Against this, it has four independent directors and needs five more to meet the SEBI norm.

Last year, the ministry under the then minister Murli Deora had selected five persons, including a chartered accountant, an IIT-Mumbai professor and a CEO of a private sector lender for nomination to ONGC board. However, before the names could go to the Cabinet Committee on Appointments (ACC), Deora was replaced by S Jaipal Reddy. Reddy did not send the names to ACC till mid-February and then only recommended the names of the IIT professional and HDFC MD Renu Sud Karnad.

His logic was that since ONGC did not have a permanent chairman after the retirement of R S Sharma and the vacancies of director (human resources) and director (exploration) were unfilled, the effective board strength was down to six and only two independent directors were needed to meet SEBI norms. But before the ACC could approve the independent directors, S V Rao was appointed director (exploration), taking the effective board strength to seven. Also, it came to light that a serving executive in any company cannot be appointed as independent director on a PSU board, sources said, explaining the reasons for rejection of Karnad's candidature.

The remaining three persons chosen by the oil ministry too failed to meet the guidelines and so the government has now decided to withdraw its two government directors to bring down the effective strength to five.

(4) India not as corrupt as China and Russia: Fitch

India is not as corrupt as China and Russia, according to the global credit rating agency Fitch.

The country, however, suffers from excessive regulation and tax laws, which are a concern for foreign investors, Fitch Group managing director for Corporate Rating Richard Hunter said in an interview.

"We will certainly rank India well below Russia and China when it comes to concerns about corruption. Really big concern about India is regulation and tax treatment," he said.

These comments come at a time when the nation is facing a plethora of corruption cases relating to allocation of 2G spectrum, conduct of Commonwealth Games, allotment of flats in Adarsh Housing Society and Devas-Antrix deal.

Hunter further said that the recent corruption cases have not dent the confidence of investors in India, adding that "Corruption is certainly not a speciality in which India will win the gold medal."

However, he said, domestic and foreign investors are concerned about the burdensome regulatory regime in India.

"Corruption is something that does deter investors much more in China. There is respect for Indian legal system," he said. Hunter said that the rating outlook for most Indian companies is stable for the current year.

(5) Inflation unusually high in India: US Polo chief

It looks like a simple T-shirt from the outside. But it takes 19,000 stitches just to embroider the logo of two horsemen wielding polo mallets on the breast pocket. The classic US Polo Assn (USPA) logo not only captures the spirit of a polo match in action, but the detailing to the last stitch. The brand rode into India by entering into a licensing agreement with Arvind Mills in 2009. Today, the classic American lifestyle brand is one of the fastest growing licensed brands in the Arvind stable, galloping to the Rs 70-crore mark this year.

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