Famous In India

Archive for August 2009

Jaswant-SinghNEW DELHI: Jaswant Singh on Friday moved the Supreme Court against the ban on his book on Mohammad Ali Jinnah by the Gujarat government. In his
petition, the expelled BJP leader said the ban violated his constitutional rights and was imposed without reading the contents of the book.

The petition said the Gujarat government notification on August 19 banning the book, within two days of its release, did not mention the content. “Fundamental right to freedom of speech has been sought to be taken away by Gujarat government by banning the book by hasty and arbitrary notification,” Mr Jaswant Singh said.

In its notification, the Gujarat government had refrained from mentioning Sardar Patel and said the contents of the book are highly objectionable, against national interests, misleading, against tranquillity of the public and against interests of the state.

The Gujarat government may find it difficult to justify the ban, as earlier court verdicts had laid down ground for imposing ban on books. Questioning the basis for the ban, Arun Shourie had said, in a recent article, that there was not a single reference in the book that could be taken to denigrate Sardar Patel.

He also said that not being “acceptable” to a state is not a ground on which a book can be banned under the Indian Constitution and laws. According to Mr Shourie, most of the grounds that have been listed by the state government are “ridiculous”. He cited court judgements in cases like the book written by Nathuram Godse’s brother Gopal Vinayak Godse which held Mahatma Gandhi responsible for the partition, and said even in such an extreme case the order banning the book was struck down.

To add to the Gujarat government’s troubles, the ban story may just end up in the realisation that it helped in giving more publicity to the book by stirring a controversy over its prohibition. Besides the fact that the ban was futile, like most bans on books, as “Jinnah — India, Partition, Independence” sold like hot cakes, past judgements by SC can only be disheartening for the state government.

At the time of partition in 1947, SC had held “the effect of words must be judged from the standards of reasonable, strong-minded, firm and courageous men, not those with weak and vacillating minds, nor of those who scent danger in every hostile point of view”.

A Supreme Court bench while reversing a Bombay high court order on American scholar James W Laine’s book “Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India”, had said the “author of the book has exercised his reason and his own analytical skills before choosing any literature which he intends to include in his book. It is very improbable to imagine that any serious and intense scholar will attempt to malign the image of this glorious Institute”. He was being prosecuted by the Maharashtra Police for allegedly promoting animosity between communities through his book on Maratha warrior Shivaji.

Meanwhile, Mr Singh repeated his claim that Jawaharlal Nehru along with Patel and Congress had contributed to the partition. In an interview to a Pakistani news channel he said they agreed to what Jinnah demanded but in a truncated form. “Today we would have been a global power,” he said. Agonised over the burning of his book, Mr Singh said he felt “wounded…as if an innocent child has been burnt”.

Mr Singh, expelled from BJP for the book, has likened the action to that of Congress banning Salman Rushdie’s “Satanic Verses” and said it amounted to “banning thinking”.

Source: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com


indexWASHINGTON: US nuclear pundits feel the Indian establishment — political, scientific, or both in concert – may be lining up to conduct more
nuclear tests to validate and improve the country’s arsenal before the Obama administration shuts the door on nuclear explosions.

”You bet he wants to test again,” said Henry Sokolski, Executive Director of the Washington DC-based Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, when asked about the remarks from a key Indian nuclear scientist suggesting India’s thermonuclear test was not up to mark. ”Imagine you are a nuclear weapons designer who has corrected the mistakes and ironed out the wrinkles. You would be crazy not to want to test again.”

”You have to look at the DNA of a weapons designer. They always want to make the weapons smaller, lighter, more powerful,” Sokolski added. ”If you blindfold them, tie their hands and leave them in the middle of a forest, they will still make their way to a test site.”

While Sokolski addressed the Indian motivations largely from the technology validation standpoint, Washington has long believed that geo-political objectives rather than scientific or technical metrics drives New Delhi’s nuclear weapons quest. The argument has gotten another boost following the remarks by a key Indian scientist, K.Santhanam, questioning the potency of India’s thermonuclear bomb.

While ”We told you so,” was pretty much the reaction in the US scientific and strategic community on the renewed controversy over the yield of the thermo-nuclear device in Shakti series of nuclear test arising from remarks by Santhanam, there is lingering suspicion here that the disclosure in politically driven. It’s rare for Indian scientists to break ranks on a sensitive national security issue.

Why would Santhanam go public, with such deliberation, on something that was commonly discussed and widely acknowledged in scientific circles, a decade after the questions first surfaced?

The answer, according to some nuclear pundits mulling on the issue on blogs: To ward off growing American pressure on India to sign various nuclear containment treaties and perhaps enable India to conduct one last series of tests to validate and improve its nuclear arsenal.

In scores of research papers and studies in the immediate weeks and months of the 1998 nuclear tests in Pokhran, US scientists repeatedly questioned the reported yield of the thermo-nuclear device, saying it was well below India’s claim of 43-45 kilotons. In fact, some scientists, notably Terry Wallace, then with the University of Arizona and now attached to the Los Alamos National Laboratory, put the combined yield of the three May 11 tests at as low as 10 to 15 kilotons.

Two other tests on May 13 involved sub-kiloton devices for tactical weapons, which US scientists doubted even took place. Even the six nuclear tests claimed by Pakistan were treated with derision, with US scientists saying only two of them involved nuclear devices.

”This is quite clearly a case where governments tested for a political reason rather than scientific reasons, so we have to be suspicious of what they say,” Wallace, the country’s top nuclear seismology expert, had said about the reported yields.

On Thursday, suspicion lingered in strategic circles that even Santhanam’s ”admission” was cloaked in politics, aimed primarily at warding off US pressure on New Delhi to sign CTBT, the long-sought treaty to ban nuclear tests, and making ground for a further series of tests. There is renewed energy in Washington under the Democratic dispensation to push forward with such nuclear containment treaties after the previous Bush administration put them on the backburner.

Some US nuclear gurus also believe any break-out test at this point will be detrimental to India, even if it is aimed at validating its thermo-nuclear device, or the so-called Hydrogen Bomb.

“An Indian test would be very toxic to cooperation it has just gained under the nuclear deal. It’s hard to see what India would gain,” said Gary Milholin Director of the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control.

Ensuring a reliable thermonuclear bomb? Milholin scoffed at the idea. “There are people who say American nuclear bombs won’t work because we have not tested for so long,” he laughed. “I don’t think anyone would want to test that assumption.”

Similarly, he said, it would be risky for any country to count on India’s thermonuclear weapon to have a low yield.

“There are now ways other than testing to increase confidence,” Milholin added. “And I think India has enough computing power to do that.”

The Union Cabinet on Thursday approved fifty percent reservation for women in panchayats all across the country.

“The Cabinet has approved the amendment of Article 243 (d) of the Constitution to reserve 50 per cent of the total number of seats in panchayats filled by direct election for women,” said Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni here after a Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The states which have already implemented 50 per cent reservation for women in panchayati raj institutions are Bihar, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.

While Rajasthan has announced implementation of the proposal in the next panchayat election in 2010, Kerala recently declared that it would implement it.

The 33 per cent reservation for women in panchayats was achieved through the 73rd Constitutional Amendment during the regime of Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao, though it was Rajiv Gandhi who first mooted the idea of empowering women at the grassroots. (ANI)



indexISLAMABAD: Expelled Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Jaswant Singh will visit Pakistan later this week to promote his controversial book on
Pakistan’s founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah, media reports said.

Although Singh’s visit to Pakistan has not yet been made public, he may arrive here on Friday, the report said.

The former Indian external affairs minister was expelled from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) last week for praising Jinnah in his book “Jinnah: India, Partition, Independence”, abruptly ending his three-decade-long membership with the party.

Singh will sign copies of the book at a bookstore in Islamabad before heading to Karachi at the weekend.

The organisers are keeping it secret at the moment as the visit has not yet been fully finalised. Invitations are being passed to Islamabad’s who’s who by word of mouth only, according to the report on Tuesday.

The 600-page book, the first recent work by an Indian in praise of Pakistan’s founder, viewed as all the more significant because its author is a senior politician, it said.

The book is a top seller at ‘Mr. Books’ (in Islamabad), the only place in Pakistan where it is available, the report added.

The bookstore had ordered a couple of hundred copies of the book from India, and despite its high price tag of Pakistani Rs.1995 (about $24) – all are sold out, it said.

The owner of the bookstore was apologetic about the price but said he had incurred heavy costs transporting the books from India to Pakistan via Dubai.

There are only two weekly flights from Delhi to Lahore, and the quickest way to ship in the books was through a third country, the report said citing the owner. Another bookstore in Islamabad, Saeed Book Bank, said it was expecting a consignment of 500 copies soon.

4930878.cmsMALDA: An estimated 1,300 families were marooned as swollen Fulahar, flowing over danger mark, flooded vast parts of Malda district on Monday.

Several villages under Chanchol sub-division were submerged as water literally gushed in following a wide breach in the Bhaluka guardwall, which had been built after the concrete embankment over the river gave way, a district official said.

Most parts of Harischandrapur II and Ratua blocks were flooded as Fulahar continued to submerge nearby areas despite fall in its water level from ‘extreme danger’ to ‘danger’ mark along the protected areas.

Vast stretches of paddy fields were also inundated as 500 families near Bhaluka bazar were shifted to safer places. Floods also affected 800 families in 11 villages under the Harischandrapur block II, the official said.

Vehicular movement along Bhaluka-Bajitpur Road were suspended after flood water spilled over certain stretch of the road.

Sub-Divisional Officer, Chanchol, Debjani Dutta said houses at Bhaluka got washed away in swirling waters and the residents were sheltered in a local school. However, he said the overall flood situation was under control.

Officials said with no rains in the river’s catchment areas for the past two days, flood water will start receding and the situation will improve.

Source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com

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thumb.cmsVenezuela makes history at the Miss Universe pageant… by winning the crown for the second year running!  And the crown goes to…
As Miss Venezuela Stefania Fernandez takes home the Miss Universe 2009 crown, the first runner-up title is shared by Miss Australia Rachael Finch and Miss Puerto Rico Mayra Matos Perez, with the title of second runner-up going to Miss Kosovo Gona Dragusha.

Venezuela has won five Miss Universe titles, five Miss World and four Miss International crowns — more than any other country.

The new Miss Universe is of Russian, Ukrainian, Galician and Polish origin. Her mother is Nadia Krupij Holojad and her father Carlos Fernández. The 18-year-old Virgo enjoys tennis and swimming as her hobbies.

Top 5 contestants are…
Heartbeats pace up as the hosts of the evening Celebrity Apprentice star Claudia Jordan and Access Hollywood co-anchor Billy Bush, announce the contestants who made it to the top 5. The names are…
Miss Dominican Republic, Ada
Miss Australia, Rachael Finch
Miss Puerto Rico, Mayra Matos Perez
Miss Venezuela, Stefania Fernandez
Miss Kosovo, Gona Dragusha

Sub-title winners
Miss Congeniality: Miss China, Wang Jingyao
Miss Photogenic: Miss Thailand, Chutima Durongdej

Gowns galore…
Glitz and glamour takes charge as the top 10 contestants sizzle on the stage in gorgeous evening gowns.

Top 10 beauties
Competition gets tougher as the list narrows down to top 10, which includes:
Miss Australia, Rachael Finch
Miss Venezuela, Stefania Fernandez
Miss South Africa, Tatum Keshwar
Miss Dominican Republic, Ada
Miss Kosovo, Gona Dragusha
Miss Czech Republic, Iveta Lutovska
Miss Switzerland, Whitney Toyloy
Miss Puerto Rico, Mayra Matos Perez
Miss France Chloe Mortaud
Miss USA Kristen, Dalton

The swimsuit round
The temperatures on the stage soar high as the bikini clad contestants sashay down the ramp.

Top 15 announced
The top 15 contestants who will now vie for the crown are:
Miss Puerto Rico, Mayra Matos Perez
Miss Iceland, Ingibjorg Egilsdottir
Miss Albania, Hasna Xhukici
Miss Czech Republic, Iveta Lutovska
Miss Belgium, Zeynep Sever
Miss Sweden, Renate Cerljen
Miss Kosovo, Gona Dragusha
Miss Australia, Rachael Finch
Miss France, Chloe Mortaud
Miss Switzerland, Whitney Toyloy
Miss USA Kristen, Dalton
Miss Venezuela, Stefania Fernandez
Miss South Africa, Tatum Keshwar
Miss Dominican Republic, Ada Aimee De la Cruz
Miss Croatia, Sarah Cosic

The stage is set!
The stage is set in the hues of blue and the 84 contestants take the stage in white floral dresses for the introduction.
The pageant, being telecast live from 6.30 am IST on Star World, from Atlantis, Paradise Island, Bahamas is being hosted by Access Hollywood co-anchor Billy Bush and model, actress and former Miss Rhode Island USA Claudia Jordan. In recent years, the contest has been watched in over 180 countries.

The girls will be judged in three categories — swimsuit, evening gown and interview as they vie for the coveted title.

Earlier, the confident and gorgeous beauty won a lot of compliments during her stay at the Bahamas, where the contest is being held. Ekta told us, “Somebody told me that I represent my country very well. Another compliment that touched my heart was — ‘though you look very Indian, yet your personality is very global’.” ( Watch Video )

Back home, designer Ritu Kumar, who has designed her national costume for the pageant, had commented, “Her height, I think, is her strongest point and then comes her classic face. I see amazing confidence in her.”

Designers Gauri-Nainika, who designed her evening gown, added, “Ekta is a very natural person. When we were working with her, she was not trying to be someone she is not.”

At the end of the show, Miss Universe 2008, Venezuelan Dayana Mendoza, will crown her successor.
Source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/

NEW DELHI: It’s a virus that has already claimed over 100 lives but Indian and American scientists seem to have no clue about what it is. While the entire country is busy dealing with H1N1 influenza, a mystery virus is causing havoc in Uttar Pradesh.images

Since January, the state has recorded 665 cases of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) — a severe neurological condition associated with significant morbidity and mortality. Around 137 people have already succumbed to the viral infection.
Lab investigations have revealed that only 34 of the cases and four of the deaths were caused by Japanese Encephalitis — a known scourge in the state. However, scientists have no clue what caused the rest of the 133 encephalitis deaths and 631 cases.

According to officials, this mystery virus has been causing brain fever and killing people in UP since last year but no breakthrough has been made regarding the virus’s identity and nature.
Experts from Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Atlanta had picked up 150 samples from UP to help identify the virus. But they too have failed to make any headway.

Speaking to TOI, director of National Institute of Virology (Gorakhpur) Dr Milind Gore said, “We are working on identifying the virus and its origin. At present we don’t know what’s causing these cases of AES and deaths. We suspect it could be a type of enterovirus.”

Dr Gore added, “It is clear that JE alone isn’t causing AES. We recently checked 450 stool swabs and found that 68% of them were positive for enteroviruses. However, we don’t know exactly which one from this family of viruses is the dominant one behind the deaths. Even CDC experts haven’t figured it out.”
Officials said the search for the “real culprit” behind the AES cases had taken a beating in the last few months with scientists in NIV Pune drowned with H1N1 samples.

“H1N1 has proved to be a setback for the work on encephalitis in UP. Improved methods of diagnosis and new primers were to be tested against the unknown virus. But everybody at NIV Pune is busy with H1N1,” an official said.

AES is characterised by inflammation of the brain, seizures and convulsions among children.

International NGO PATH’s senior programme officer for JE Dr Pritu Dhalaria told TOI, “Usually, around four to five enteroviruses work in tandem, in clusters in particular areas. It is therefore difficult to identify exactly which virus is the deadly one. By this time last year, UP had recorded 435 AES cases of which only 15 were caused by JE. This year, the cases have increased, and we don’t know which virus is behind it.”
Non-polio enteroviruses are very common across the globe. They are second only to the common cold viruses, the rhinoviruses, as the most common viral infectious agents in humans.

Although infection often has no symptoms and goes unnoticed, these viruses are also associated with occasional outbreaks in which a larger-than-usual number of patients develop clinical disease, sometimes with fatal consequences.
Transmission of enterovirus infections is increased by poor hygiene and overcrowded living conditions. Measures that can be taken to avoid getting infected with enteroviruses include frequent hand washing.

Enteroviruses can be found in the respiratory secretions and stool of an infected person. Other persons may become infected by direct contact with secretions from an infected person or by contact with contaminated surfaces or objects.

According to some experts, UP has seen a nearly 40% increase in AES cases this year, majority of them not belonging to the enterovirus category.

Source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com

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