By D. Jose

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, India (Reuters) – India’s temples are resisting divulging their gold holdings – perhaps nearly half the amount held in Fort Knox – amid mistrust of the motives of authorities who are trying to cut a hefty import bill that is hurting the economy.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI), which has already taken steps that have slowed to a trickle the incoming supplies that have exacerbated India’s current account deficit, has sent letters to some of the country’s richest temples asking for details of their gold.

It says the inquiries are simply data collection, but Hindu groups are up in arms.

“The gold stored in temples was contributed by devotees over thousands of years and we will not allow anyone to usurp it,” said V Mohanan, secretary of the Hindu nationalist Vishwa Hindu Parishad organisation in Kerala, in a statement.

Indians buy as much as 2.3 tonnes of gold, on average, every day – the weight of a small elephant – and what they don’t give to the gods is mostly hoarded. Jewellery is handed down as heirlooms and stored away with bars and coins as a hedge against inflation or a source of quick funds in an emergency.

That is costing the economy dear. Gold imports totalled $ 54 billion in the year ending March 31, 2013, the biggest non-essential item shipped in from overseas and a major factor in swelling the current account deficit to a record in 2012/13.

Guruvayur temple, in Kerala, one of the most sacred in India and boasting a 33.5-metre (110-ft) gold-plated flagstaff, has already told the RBI it won’t divulge any details.

“The gold we have is mostly offered by the devotees. They would not like the details to be shared with anybody,” said V M Gopala Menon, commissioner of the temple’s administrative board.

The World Gold Council estimates there are about 2,000 tonnes of gold locked away in temples – worth about $ 84 billion at current prices – which Indian devotees have offered in the form of jewellery, bars, coins and even replicas of body parts, in the hope of winning favours from the gods or in thanks for blessings received and health restored.

Curbing gold imports and getting the gold squirreled away back into circulation has become a priority for the government and RBI this year. Import duty is at a record 10 percent and the latest new rule – that 20 percent of all imports must leave the country as jewellery exports – caused confusion that dried up buying for two months.

The head of the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Kerala, V Muralidharan, said the RBI wanted to “take possession” of the gold and maybe sell it for dollars.


The RBI said there was “no proposal under its consideration to convert idle gold into bullion at this juncture”.

But its letters, sent to leading temple trusts in Kerala, were prompted by a report looking at “issues related to gold imports” and loans outside the banking system in February, which zeroed in on temples and domestic hoards for fresh supplies.

Under the heading “supply-related measures”, the report looks at recycling domestic gold and notes: “Temples in India hold large quantities of gold jewellery offered by devotees to the deities.”

Subha Unnikrishnan, a clothes shop owner worshipping at one of the temples in Kerala’s capital Thiruvananthapuram, said whatever had been given to the temple should stay there.

“We have given it to the god with a purpose,” he said. “Nobody can take them away.”

Of the three major temple boards in Kerala, which administer more than 2,800 temples, Cochin board has also decided against providing details of its gold, while another has yet to decide and a third says it has not yet received a letter from the RBI.

Some of them cite security reasons for their reticence – and the wealthiest temples do have tight controls and metal detectors at gates to keep their assets safe.

There has been no inquiry from the RBI yet at the centuries-old Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple, where two years ago treasure then estimated to be worth over $ 20 billion – more than India’s education budget – was discovered in secret subterranean vaults. But its hoard is already being checked by the Supreme Court to make sure it is adequately protected.

There are some, for sure, who feel the temples should divulge their centuries of gold offerings.

“Everything the temple gets should be known to the devotees,” said Shankaram Kutty, head of an advertising firm based in Cochin, who goes at least once a year to Guruvayur with an offering. “I feel every temple should declare their assets.”

Mumbai’s Shree Siddhivinayak Ganpati temple, often visited by Bollywood celebrities, had already put 10 kg (22 lbs) of its gold into a bank deposit scheme. It still has 140 kg in its vault.

“The gold we have is the nation’s property, we will be proud if the nation can benefit from it,” said Subhash Vitthal Mayekar, chairman of the temple’s administrative trust. He has not yet received an inquiry from the RBI.

It is not alone. The Tirupati temple in Andhra Pradesh, considered one of India’s richest, has lodged 2,250 kg of gold with the State Bank of India, which pays it interest.

As the central bank ponders its options, it could take heart that the temples themselves are already doing their bit to circulate the gold.

“We use some of it for making gold lockets that we sell in our temple counter. For making the lockets, we send some gold to the Mumbai mint through the State Bank of India, which is one of our bankers,” said a source at the Guruvayur temple’s administration.

(Additional reporting by Siddesh Mayenkar and Suvashree Dey Choudhury in MUMBAI; Malini Menon in NEW DELHI; A. Ananthalakshmi in SINGAPORE; Writing by Jo Winterbottom; Editing by Alex Richardson)

New Delhi, Sep 29 (IANS) As the sky grew overcast and strong gusts of wind started ripping off the Modi posters and buntings, BJP leaders and organisers had their fingers crossed that the impending rain should not wash away the first ever public rally by the party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. And the weather gods smiled!

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had made preparations on a grand scale for the rally in north Delhi’s Japanese Park – that included a sophisticated sound system and 20 giant screens around the venue to show the event live to the lakhs gathered.

The rally began around 10 a.m. As Delhi BJP leaders started addressing the rally ranging from anywhere between two to five lakh people, the sky started getting darker by the minute.

Moments later, a strong gust of wind accompanied by light rain ripped apart a 100-feet high poster of Modi, and sent banners and buntings rolling around the podium.

But as Modi took centre stage, the rain and dark clouds disappeared. The strong wind gave way to a gentle breeze.

Several parts of the city were lashed by rain Sunday.

Even Modi mentioned and thanked the god for the pleasant weather.


Bollywood style welcome for Modi

As Narendra Modi arrived on the stage, music composer A.R. Rahman’s ‘Vande Mataram’ was played in the background followed by the blowing of conch shells as the enthusiastic crowds cheered, clapped and whistled.

Prior to his arrival, popular Bollywood songs like ‘Mehengai dayan khaye jaat hain’ (Inflation is killing us) from the movie ‘Peepli Live’ and ‘Aarambh hai prachand’ (Begun with a bang) from “Gulaal” were being played since early morning at the venue.


Painting the town saffron

Saffron banners and hoardings of all shapes and sizes with the images of Narendra Modi and BJP’s local leaders as well as thousands of party flags made of plastic, paper and cloth were put up across Delhi Sunday for the mega rally.

Metro pillars, bus stands, sidewalls of flyovers, trees and even traffic signal poles – every advertising spot had the posters of the Modi rally, especially on the roads leading to Japanese Park in north Delhi where the rally was held.


Modi a successful crowd manager too

People were waiting since morning to hear Narendra Modi, and when the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate got up to deliver his speech at around 12.40 p.m., the impatient crowd could not hold back their emotions and stood up, chanting “Modi, Modi, Modi”.

Some even climbed atop poles that were holding the marquee together as well as poles to which the huge speakers were tied and waved party flags and continued the chant.

Modi politely asked them to be seated so that people at the back could see and hear him. The crowd obliged.

Sometime later when Modi attacked Pakistan over the killing of Indian soldiers, the crowd started its chant again, louder than before.

This time, Modi in a firm voice asked his supporters to stop and let him carry on with his speech.

“The media has registered your support, now let me continue as this is an important matter,” said Modi as he continued with his attack on Pakistan.


When gluttony took over some media persons

The over 100 media persons, including many from the electronic media, were treated to a feast by the rally organisers.

At a separate media enclosure adjacent to the dais, chilled lemonade followed by breakfast consisting of sandwiches, dhokla, wafers, sweets and a mango drink were served.

An hour later, boxes of chhole bhature (chickpeas and fried bread) were distributed as snacks. At noon, thalis with dal makhni, shahi paneer, mixed vegetable, parantha, pulao and gulab jamun were served to media personnel.

Most were satiated by the breakfast and snacks and had no appetite for the lunch. But the sumptuous lunch served by the popular Bikanervala restaurant chain was too much to resist for some journalists.


From selling tea to serving the nation

Narendra Modi, for the first time in public, spoke about his journey from a tea seller in trains to becoming the country’s prime ministerial candidate.

Modi said: “Every village, every district in the country should find its dream.”

“I lived off selling tea on the railway. You made this poor man (himself) sit here,” said Modi.

Modi said he will never be a ruler but remain a servant of the people.

“I was never a ruler, nor would I ever be. I am a servant, and will always be at your service,” he said.

By Thomas Ferraro and Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – With just a day to go before a midnight Monday deadline to avoid a federal government shutdown, the U.S. Capitol building was eerily quiet on Sunday, with meeting rooms locked and no lawmakers to be found inside.

Senate Democrats decided on Sunday not to take up a measure approved in the early hours of the morning by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives that ties funding governmental agencies with a one-year delay of President Barack Obama‘s landmark healthcare law.

After a day of bitter debate and finger-pointing, Republicans in the House also voted to repeal a medical device tax that would generate about $ 30 billion over 10 years to help fund the healthcare program. The measure attracted some Democratic support.

And in a sign that lawmakers might be resigned to a shutdown, the House unanimously approved a bill to keep paying U.S. soldiers in the event the government runs out of money October 1, the start of the new fiscal year, to run many programs.

As government agencies edge toward closing their doors, the standoff is a harbinger of the next big political battle: a far-more consequential bill to raise the federal government‘s borrowing authority. Failure to raise the $ 16.7 trillion debt ceiling by mid-October would force the United States to default on some payment obligations – an event that could cripple the U.S. economy and send shockwaves around the globe.

When the Senate next convenes at 2 p.m. on Monday, it will maneuver to strip out the amendments to delay “Obamacare” from the House bill and send back a “clean” funding bill, known as a continuing resolution, or CR, that won Senate approval last week. That bill keeps the government funded through November 15.

“There is no ping-pong. House Republicans just need to decide whether to pass our clean CR or shut the government down,” said a senior Senate Democratic aide on Sunday.

And yet, neither side wants to be the last to cast the final vote that would lead to a shutdown, a concern that has turned the funding measure into a hot potato tossed between the two chambers. Polls consistently show the American public is tired of political showdowns and opposed to a shutdown.

House Speaker John Boehner accused the Senate of shirking its responsibilities by taking Sunday off, claiming that Americans want neither a government shutdown nor the president’s healthcare law to go into effect.

“If the Senate stalls until Monday afternoon instead of working today, it would be an act of breathtaking arrogance by the Senate Democratic leadership,” Boehner said in a statement.

On Sunday morning TV talk shows, representatives of the two parties tried to pin blame on the other side for failing to avoid a calamity.

Republican Representative Kevin McCarthy, the House Majority Whip, told the “Fox New Sunday” program that the House simply will not pass a “clean” funding bill on Monday and will continue to try to modify Obamacare by adding new provisions to any measure the Senate passes.

“It will be additions that Senate Democrats said they can support,” McCarthy said, without specifying these “other options” to rein in the healthcare reform law.


Obama has threatened to veto any bill that delays his healthcare program.

The funding impasse is the culmination of more than three years of failed conservative efforts to repeal Obamacare, a program aimed at extending health insurance to millions of those without coverage.

Republicans argue that Obamacare, key parts of which are set to launch on October 1, is a massive and unnecessary government intrusion into medicine that will cause premiums to skyrocket and damage the economy.

And if the battle over Obamacare pushes up to the mid-October deadline to raise the debt ceiling, U.S. stocks may suffer. When gridlock threatened a debt default in 2011, the Dow Jones industrials fell about 2,100 points from July 21 to August 9, with the market needing two more months to regain its footing.

Under a government shutdown, more than a million federal employees would be furloughed from their jobs, with the impact depending on the duration of a shutdown.

The current timetable could leave Boehner with the most difficult decision of his career: whether to approve a clean continuing resolution the Senate will likely send it Monday afternoon or allow the government to shut down for the first time since late 1995.

In a government shutdown, spending for functions considered essential, related to national security or public safety, would continue along with benefit programs such as Medicare health insurance and Social Security retirement benefits for seniors.

But civilian federal employees – from people who process forms and handle regulatory matters to workers at national parks and museums in Washington – would be temporarily out of work.

The last government shutdown ran from December 16, 1995, to January 6, 1996, and was the product of a budget battle between Democratic President Bill Clinton and Republicans, led by then-Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Republicans suffered a public backlash when voters re-elected Clinton in a landslide the following November, a lesson never forgotten by senior Republicans, including Boehner.

(Additional reporting by Philip Barbara and Bill Trott; Writing by David Lawder. Editing by Fred Barbash and Philip Barbara)

By Isabel Coles

ARBIL, Iraq (Reuters) – Six people were killed on Sunday in a series of blasts targeting a security directorate in the capital of Iraq’s usually peaceful autonomous Kurdistan region, security and medical sources said, the first such attack since 2007.

Kurdistan has largely managed to insulate itself against the violent instability that afflicts the rest of Iraq, where insurgent groups including Sunni Islamist al Qaeda have been regaining momentum this year and striking on a near daily basis.

The relative security has attracted some of the world’s largest oil companies including ExxonMobil and Chevron Corp to the region, which polices its own borders. Most oil firms operating in Kurdistan are headquartered in Arbil.

The exact sequence of Sunday’s events was not yet clear, but television footage showed the charred remains of what appeared to be at least two car bombs, and gunfire was heard at the scene following the explosions.

A statement posted on the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) website cited witnesses saying five suicide bombers had been killed before they were able to detonate themselves.

At least 36 people were wounded in the explosions, according to the city’s health directorate. The victims were believed to be members of the Iraqi Kurdish security forces, known as asayesh. Security across the city was tight after the attack.

There was no indication of who was behind the explosions, which occurred a day after results of the region’s parliamentary elections were announced.

The last major attack in Kurdistan was in 2007, when a truck full of explosives was blown up outside the interior ministry, not far from the site of Sunday’s bombings.

In recent months in neighbouring Syria, a Kurdish militia has been fighting rebels from the Free Syrian Army and the al Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

(Additional reporting by Suadad al-Salhy and Ahmed Rasheed in Baghdad; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

India‘s embattled cricket chief N. Srinivasan won a third term in office Sunday even though a Supreme Court order bars him from taking charge immediately due to a corruption scandal.

The 68-year-old cement tycoon, one of the most powerful men in world cricket, was elected unopposed for another year at the annual meeting of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) in Chennai.

“Mr. N. Srinivasan was unanimously elected as President of the BCCI for the year 2013-14,” a statement from the cricket board said, without elaborating. It only detailed the names of office-bearers and members of various committees.

The Supreme Court had on Friday barred Srinivasan from taking charge until it has ruled on a petition against him over a spot-fixing scandal in the Indian Premier League (IPL), a popular Twenty20 event.

A cricket body in the eastern state of Bihar which is not affiliated to the BCCI had asked the court to prevent Srinivasan from heading the BCCI on moral grounds because his son-in-law had been charged in the scandal.

The son-in-law, Gurunath Meiyappan, is among several officials, players and bookmakers charged with cheating and criminal conspiracy, although the BCCI chief himself has not been accused of any wrongdoing.

The BCCI did not say who will head the body until the Supreme Court’s verdict, or whether fresh elections will be held if Srinivasan is subsequently barred from holding office.

Srinivasan temporarily stepped aside as president in June when Meiyaappan was named in the scandal, and handed interim control to Jagmohan Dalmiya, a former head of the International Cricket Council.

However the tycoon has continued to pull the strings behind the scenes and on Wednesday ensured that his bete noire, IPL founder Lalit Modi, was banned for life from the sport.

Srinivasan has publicly distanced himself from his son-in-law, who was the team principal of the Chennai Super Kings, the IPL franchise owned by India Cements and captained by national skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

The Bihar association had argued in court that an internal BCCI probe panel had absolved Srinivasan, Meiyappan, India Cements and other IPL officials of wrongdoing even before police had filed charges in court.

Sanjay Patel was confirmed as the new BCCI secretary, three months after he took temporary charge from Sanjay Jagdale, who resigned in the wake of the spot-fixing scandal.

Former first-class cricketer Ranjib Biswal was appointed chairman of the IPL, succeeding Rajiv Shukla who too had quit after the scandal broke.

Srinivasan’s hold on world cricket stems from India’s vast television audience which enables the country to generate almost 70 percent of the game’s revenues.

International news organisations, including Agence France-Presse, have suspended their on-field coverage of matches hosted by the BCCI since last year after the board imposed restrictions on picture agencies.

Islamabad, Sept. 29 (ANI): Twin blasts near a market in Peshawar has killed 28 people and wounded more than 70 others.

The blasts, which took place at 11 am at the Kissa Khwani market, set at least eight shops and surrounding vehicles aflame.

According to Dawn News, the first blast was relatively smaller, and has been likened to a hand grenade. The second was much stronger and more destructive.

Minister of Health Shaukat Yusufzai stated that the Peshawar Police Station was the main target of the two blasts.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has also condemned the blast as an act of terror.

An emergency was declared in Lady Reading Hospital after the blast. (ANI)

New York, Sep 29 (IANS) Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif are set to meet later Sunday amid relentless warnings from India to its neighbour to shun terrorism if it really wants to make peace.

After winning support on the issue from President Barack Obama at their Friday summit on “eliminating terrorist safe havens and infrastructure, and disrupting terrorist networks” Manmohan Singh Saturday made the same call before the UN general assembly using strong language, he reasserted what he had told Obama about Pakistan being the “epicentre of terrorism” and how little progress could be expected in peace talks without a shut down of Pakistan’s “terrorist machinery”.

Noting that Sharif speaking at the same forum had spoken of “making a new beginning”, Manmohan Singh said he reciprocated the Pakistani leader’s sentiments, and looked forward to meeting him Sunday.

“However, for progress to be made, it is imperative that the territory of Pakistan and the areas under its control are not utilised for aiding and abetting terrorism directed against India,” Manmohan Singh said.

“It is equally important that the terrorist machinery that draws its sustenance from Pakistan be shut down.”

The Indian leader, who had told Obama Friday that the expectations from his upcoming meeting with Sharif “have to be toned down given the terror arm which is still active in our subcontinent”, in fact went a step further before the world body.

“State-sponsored cross-border terrorism is of particular concern to India, (also) on account of the fact that the epicentre of terrorism in our region is located in our neighbourhood in Pakistan,” Manmohan Singh said.

Calling “for concerted, cohesive and continuing global action against terrorism,” he asserted that “there can be no tolerance for states sheltering, arming, training or financing terrorists.”

“Nor can they absolve themselves of the responsibility to prevent their territories from being used to launch acts of terrorism,” Manmohan Singh said in a barely veiled stern warning to Pakistan.

Meanwhile, Sharif who will drive down Sunday morning to the Indian leader’s hotel for their much awaited first meeting made some conciliatory remarks to an Indian TV channel about how dialogue process between the two neighbours should not be derailed because of the “extremely unfortunate” Thursday’s terror strike in Jammu.

The increased tensions along the line of control (LoC) were a matter of concern for Pakistan too, he told NDTV and he would propose a joint mechanism to monitor the situation there. Islamabad was even “open to an independent investigation, even one by the UN.”

Saying that two countries need to pick up the threads that were broken in 1999 when he was overthrown in a coup by Gen Pervez Musharraf, Sharif said, he would invite Manmohan Singh to pay a “long overdue” visit to Pakistan and see his native village.

Asked whether his mood was optimistic, pessimistic or pragmatic on the eve of the meeting Sharif told the channel with a laugh: “I will only say I am meeting Manmohan Singh for the first time and I want to repair the threads broken in 1999.”

Earlier, Sharif told the Pakistani American community in New York that he was “ousted from power” by the military because he had initiated a process of peace and friendship with India and asked “What mistake did I make?”

The real question is whether history would repeat itself and who would have the last laugh this time around.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at

Kolkata, Sep 29 (IANS) Giving a jolt to East Bengal‘s hopes for the away leg of the AFC Cup semi final outing against title holders Kuwait SC, three of their key footballers had to return from the airport here owing to visa problems.

Skipper Mehtab Hossain, Arnab Mondal and Gurwinder Singh could not accompany the Kuwait-bound squad for the Oct 1 game as their visa papers did not arrive in time for the flight to Dubai. Four club officials also were held back for the same reason.

An angry club secretary Kalyan Majumdar sent protest letters to the Asian Football Confederation and the All India Football Federation, seeking probe into the happening, which he termed as a “conspiracy” to rattle the team.

The players and officials are now hoping for their visa approval to arrive Sunday in time for the 8.30 p.m. Emirates Airlines flight.

“Even if we catch Sunday’s flight, we will will reach Kuwait on September 30, a day before the game,” said Mehtab.

East Bengal became only the second Indian club to reach the AFC Cup semis with a 2-1 aggregate win over Indonesia’s Semen Padang.

Author : Sougat Chakravartty

File Photo: Yuvraj Singh in the NKP Salve Challengers Trophy

File Photo: Yuvraj Singh in the NKP Salve Challengers Trophy

It will be a battle between a set of players who have played alongside each other in national colours as Delhi take on the might of the India Blues in the final of the NKP Salve Challenger Trophy at Indore today.

Led by the enterprising Virat Kohli, Delhi has a nice blend of both youth and experience. Prominent among the former include India U-19 World Cup winning skipper Unmukt Chand, whose blazing century against India Red powered his side into the summit clash.

In recent times, Chand has been in sublime touch, having recorded substantial scores against New Zealand A. He hits the ball hard, runs swiftly between the wickets, and is a useful fielder as well. Because he can give Delhi the flying start they will desperately hope for, India Blue will do well to knock him over early.

The Delhi skipper himself has lost none of the brashness of youth, although it is now tempered by his new-found maturity, having led the national ODI side to glory in Zimbabwe. His shots on the leg side, particularly the flick and the on-drive, are a treat to watch, and he is capable of accelerating the run rate when required. With the likes of Gambhir and Sehwag in the side, Kohli need look no further when deciding strategy.

Sehwag, on a comeback trail, has begun re-inventing himself as a middle-order batsman. Not that it isn’t a particularly good move, but a large number of his successes have always occurred at the top of the order. I’d prefer if Kohli decides to reunite the Nawab of Najafgarh with Gautam Gambhir at the top of the order – Sehwag’s initial onslaught, backed by Gambhir’s solidity, will help the side a lot especially if Chand falls early.

Ashish Nehra and the young left-arm spinner, Varun Sood have been firing on all cylinders, while all-rounder Rajat Bhatia’s long spell in domestic cricket has translated into fine, if not match-winning performances in this series. Parvinder Awana and Pawan Suyal can control the flow of runs as long as they can keep their cool. On paper, Delhi does have the firepower to withstand India Blue.

But the opposition, bolstered by the return of their in-form skipper Yuvraj Singh and a winning run right into the final, will not be a pushover. Yuvraj Singh is back, doing what he does best – destroy the rival bowling attack with his characteristic huge hits and fluent drives on both sides of the wicket. Even spin, which he has noticeably struggled against, hasn’t been as effective as it used to be. Delhi’s bowlers will have a hard time indeed once he gets going.

Abhishek Nayar has shouldered the middle-order responsibilities well, but it is the top order which has been a bit of a worry. Naman Ojha hasn’t given them the best of starts, and Manish Pandey, despite scoring 70 against India Red, is not the most consistent of openers. So the runs will have to come from young Akshath Reddy, who impressed in the last game, with Ojha playing the perfect foil and Pandey accelerating at No. 3.

On the bowling front, Bhuvneshwar Kumar would try to rectify the mistakes of the last game and he will have his hands full if Sehwag, Kohli and Gambhir start going after him. Vinay Kumar, though among the wickets, has a tendency to spray the ball all over the wicket, and he, too, will have to pull up his socks in order to control the rampaging trio. It will be up to spinners Piyush Chawla and Iresh Saxena to contain the flow of runs and take wickets, while Yuvraj himself can send down a few tight overs if need be.

Conditions on offer

The pitch is expected to play true to both batsmen and bowlers, though the spinners might come into play sooner than expected, given the amount of turn that Sood was able to extract against India Red. The side that wins the toss should look to bat first and post a tall score, and then take wickets at regular intervals to stop the other in their tracks.

So on current form, India Blue should be able to get their hands on the trophy, though it will be an even contest. Good way to start a Sunday morning!

Also Read

Nairobi, Sep 28 (IANS) The Indian community in Kenya is trying to come to terms with the devastating fallout of the Nairobi mall attack Sep 21, coping with the pain of losing loved ones and lost business opportunities.

The community which bore the brunt of the terror act, lost scores of its members, and saw its businesses suffer heavy losses with the fate of the Westgate shopping mall remaining unknown and establishmens in the vicinity of the mall suffering severe disruption.

Members of the community Friday and Saturday were busy burying some of their dead kin, with the Ismailia cemetery in Nairobi remaining unusually busy as hundreds gathered to pay last respects to the departed.

“We are still trying to come to terms with the fact that we will never be with you physically” said Manish Mashru, while eulogising his daughter Neha Mashru, a 17-year-old ex-student of Oshwal Academy in Nairobi.

As the sombre mood engulfed her burial at the cemetery, the heartbroken father condemned the terror attack, wondering how anybody could kill an innocent girl like Neha in cold blood.

“We will never forget this sad day and may god ensure that justice is done and that those who plan acts that take hundreds of innocent lives are punished,” Shakeel Shabir, member of parliament (MP) for Kisumu east in western Kenya and a Kenyan-Indian, said at the funeral ceremony.

The community, he said, would demonstrate its resilience to the whole world by remaining united and working hard to accelerate the pace of recovery and healing.

“We pray to God for resilience and strength to recover from the agony of losing loved ones and disruption of our businesses,” added Shabir, a second time MP representing a predominantly indigenous African constituency.

Nehal Vekariya, a former student at Arya Vedic Secondary School, was also laid to rest Friday with her family eulogising her as a bright pupil and talented student leader.

“We feel the pain of losing you, but we accept god’s will,” said her crestfallen father Parba Vekariya.

Similar respects were paid to Sridhar Natarajan, a former employee of a local company Harleys Limited, who friends and relatives described as a kind-hearted and a hard-working person.

“Sridhar was a kind-hearted man with a heart of gold, an inspiring friend and colleague to many,” his wife Manjula Sridhar told mourners.

Another young victim, Leo Mehboob Rehmat, a student of Samaj School in Nairobi, was also laid to rest Friday as her family as the entire Kenyan Indian community tried to move on.

Atul Shah, the managing director of Nakumatt supermarkets, east Africa’s largest retail store network, announced that the company would be from Monday reopening its branch located at the nearby Ukay Centre within the vicinity of Westgate.

The company has one of its biggest stores in the ill-fated Westgate mall and the kind of damage it has suffered is not yet known but losses in businesses opportunities are estimated to be in tens of thousands of dollars.

Neither the business owners nor the public has been allowed into mall that hosts more than 80 shops as forensic experts have taken control of it, conducting investigations in an international effort to unravel the identities of the attackers.

The death toll from the terror attack stood at 67, including 61 civilians and six security officers. At least 59 others are still missing.

According to India’s external affairs ministry, four Indian nationals were among those killed.

An Indian-origin Briton, Mitul Shah, was also among those killed after he offered himself as a hostage to save a group of children, The Evening Standard reported.

Somali group Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack and said that it was in response to Nairobi’s October 2011 military intervention against Al Shabaab in Somalia.

(Maina Waruru can be reached at

Mumbai, Sep 28 (IANS) Delhi-based designer Mayyur R Girotra has been chosen as the official designer for the Seychelles India Day, a three-day event which will start in the picturesque Indian Ocean archipelago of 115 islands Oct 4.

“It’s such a pleasure to be chosen as the official designer for such a big international platform. I feel honoured and grateful that the jury loved my work and made me a part of this event,” Girotra said in a statement.

He will style and design outfits for celebrities like Shazahn Padamsee, Anjana Sukhani, Miss India Universe Ushoshi Sen, actor R Madhavan and chef Sanjeev Kapoor during the event which has Indian cinema as its theme this year.

Girotra says he will try to provide distinct looks to all celebrities.

“I have given a very different look to all the celebrities. Anjana will be wearing a chikan lehenga with choli, while Shazahn will be dressed in a cocktail sari,” he said.

“We will be playing more with the light fabrics keeping the weather in mind,” he added.

The first Seychelles India Day celebrations is likely to witness the participation of many Bollywood stars.

This inaugural cultural fiesta is being jointly organised by the Seychelles Ministry of Tourism and the Indian high commission in collaboration with the local business community.

New Delhi, Sept. 28 — Before night could turn to day in Frankfurt, the prime minister and his entourage were woken up with the news of the unfolding terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir. It was not yet 6 am. On the morning of his 81st birthday, just four hours before he was to take off for his last, legacy-searching trip to the US, he was now confronted with the gigantic risks of his foreign policy decision. In his departure statement in India, Manmohan Singh had committed himself to a meeting with Pakistan‘s recently-elected prime minister, Nawaz Sharif. The fact that it was left to him to make the announcement – which was buried cautiously in the last sentence – spoke to the extreme wariness of several others in his government. For days, they had skirted the issue of an India-Pakistan summit, partly fearful of a backlash, partly averse to the idea itself. The PM had finally bitten the political bullet but after the twin terror attacks in Jammu, it was all set to ricochet back at him.

Activists protest the Jammu terror attacks, in New Delhi, September 27

A quick decision needed to be taken; a quicker public statement needed to be made. This was now less about diplomacy and more about politics. The BJP was breathing fire; TV channels back home were broadcasting images of death and despair and the Congress whilst backing him publicly, had been known to certainly not share his singular enthusiasm for dialogue with Pakistan. Especially, not in election season.

He finally chose to stay on track, branding the strikes as “barbaric” attacks by the “enemies of peace”, careful to not get drawn into whether he was blaming non-State actors across the border or elements of the Pakistan power establishment. For a man whose second term has been stamped by stagnation, silences, scams and self-doubt, it was a surprisingly bold decision. And as long as his meeting with Sharif is not burdened with the weight of tedious sentimentalism or excitable sensationalism, it is, on balance, the right decision as well.

Not because there isn’t plenty wrong with the UPA’s Pakistan policy – lurching inconsistently as it does from aggression to affection, but because three terrorists cannot be allowed to set the terms for a nation-State. And also because, in Sharif, is Pakistan’s first PM to challenge the might of his army chief. Opting out of the talks would only weaken him and in fact strengthen those who have configured terrorists to be strategic assets in their arsenal against India.

But now that the PM has taken the plunge, he has to avoid falling for the all-too-familiar trip-up joint-statement-itis. As someone who has reported on more India-Pakistan encounters than my memory has gigabytes, I would argue that it’s usually the greed for an outcome and the haste over a joint press consensus that ends up being the ruin of such meetings. From Agra to Sharm el-Sheikh; from Musharraf to Yousuf Gilani, it is the headline-hunting instinct of the subcontinent’s politicians that converts such meetings into melodramatic misadventures. That and the unabashedly Punjabi propensity to over-emotionalise every engagement with either too much romance or disproportionate recrimination. This schizophrenia of the India-Pakistan equation is what has kept the relationship trapped in dysfunctional disequilibrium.

Nothing could be better for the health of the equation than some moments of dull, matter-of-factness. It may never get the attention of journalists but will go a long way in stabilising the love-hate volatility between the two countries.

In other words, while the PM may feel braver about taking a risk with foreign policy in his final few months in office, he cannot overload the Sharif meeting with his own long-standing and unfulfilled desire to make a lasting breakthrough with Pakistan.

Equally, it’s time to admit that mere photo-ops only trivialise the peace initiative, with their stale sense of deja vu. Choosing to talk should not preclude a capacity for tough negotiations. In most India-Pakistan dialogues, bureaucrats waste too much time and energy on the commas and full stops of joint statements that change nothing between the two countries. Instead, it is important sometimes to meet without any announcement to book-end the conversation. And to keep meeting, till the fact of talking becomes so ordinary, that the media – and people – begin to find it boring and non-controversial. It is then that there may be some real chance for the beginnings of a peace process that is not constantly taken down by either politics or the weight of the past.

Finally, much as I back the dialogue process, no effort should take away from India’s military its freedom to manoeuvre as tactics and strategy on the ground demand. Last week, I spent five days at the Line of Control (LoC), travelling to forward posts. I spent a night right where the fence stops short of Pakistan. Under the night of a half-moon, I listened to the sounds of small-arms fire from across the border interrupting the deathly stillness of the dark. I watched the sky light up with the orange blaze of a mortar illumination meant to track down any possible intruder. I spent hours browsing through the thermal images that are captured on a 24-hour basis, of every single movement on the other side – man or animal. I saw first-hand the life-threatening discipline of snipers who sometimes spent 12 hours crouched in one position in camouflage. I met countless villagers in border areas who testified to the recent surge in ceasefire violations. In mapping the LoC over hundreds of kilometres it became evident that this was a battle of nerves and it was imperative to end the growing disconnect between the political establishment and the soldier.

Come Sunday, and the PM will need to make a muchhyped summit more realistic than rhetorical, more pragmatic than passionate. In that, may lie actual courage.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.

United Nations, Sep 28 (IANS) Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who expressed Pakistan‘s readiness Friday to “re-engage with India in a substantive and purposeful dialogue”, urged Syrian parties to take the negotiation route to solve their crisis.

He advised the Syrian parties that “more war will lead to more killings that need to be stopped”.

Addressing the UN general assembly, which entered its fourth day here Friday, Sharif said the Syrian parties should move to negotiation to put an early end to the crisis, which has reportedly killed 100,000 people since its outbreak in March 2011, Xinhua reported.

Syria is in turmoil, with Syrians killing Syrians,” he said. “We appeal to the Syrian government and opposition groups to move to the negotiating table in Geneva to prepare a road map for national reconciliation and the necessary political transitions.”

“More war will lead to more killings that need to be stopped,” he said.

On the usage of chemical wepons, Sharif said: “As party to the Chemical Weapons Convention, Pakistan remains opposed to the use of chemical weapons.” He also said that his country strongly condemned the use of these weapons.

The UN fact-finding group, after analysing samples collected on the site of alleged chemical weapons attacks, has confirmed that chemical weapons were used Aug 21 on the outskirts of the Syrian capital, Damascus.

Sharif welcomed the recent agreement reached between the US and Russia over Syria’s chemical weapons.

“We welcome the agreement reached between the United States and Russia, and supported by other permanent members of the Security Council, to secure and destroy chemical weapons in Syria,” he said.

“This crucial step has facilitated consensus within the council to adopt a resolution, which will not only address the issue of chemical weapons but start the stalled political process in Syria that would lead to national reconciliation and solutions that are acceptable to the people of Syria.”

“Pakistan will support that resolution,” he said.

The 15-member Security Council is expected to vote on a draft resolution on the Syrian chemical weapons late Friday.

The UN is leading the international efforts to bring into reality the Geneva II conference on Syria at an early date.

Author : Ahan

The year 2012 saw some foreigners like Edeh Chidi, James Moga and Odafa Okolie steal the show in the I-League. But, this year, almost everything being new from sponsors to the structure of the league, we will also see some foreigners in action, for whom, it will be the first season in Indian soil.

In this article, the top five players among these new recruits will be examined:

5. Arturo Navarro, Sporting Clube De Goa

Arturo Navarro

Arturo Navarro is a Spanish defender who would be seen in action this season with the #9 Sporting Goa Jersey. He may be just 24 years old, but he has already played in the prestigious Copa Del Rey.

Having spent many years in the Valencia CF youth team, he made his debut for the senior team in a Copa Del Rey match.

Then, after his quite successful stints in the Spanish clubs Ontinyent, Osasuna and Guijuelo, he was signed by Goa-based team Sporting Clube de Goa.

This young 6 feet man is known for his agility in the field and the way he stands like wall against the opponent’s strikers. We wish to see this currently in-form youngster perform really well in the 2013-14 I-League.

4. Billy Mehmet, Dempo Sports Club

Billy Mehmet

Billy Mehmet is a 34-year-old highly talented English striker who will be seen this year in Dempo colours. He started his career for the West Ham Utd. Academy and spent a major part of his career there.

Then, in 2003, at just the age of 19, he was transferred to the Scottish Premier League side Dunfermline Athletic. After spending some successful years in St. Mirren, he also played in the Turkish Premier Lig sides Gençlerbirli?i S.K. and Samsunspor.

He then went to Australia and played for the A-League side Perth Glory and was soon transferred to the Thai team Bangkok Glass in 2013. There, he had a short stint before being signed by Dempo S.C.

He was known from his young age for his superb skills and fitness. Though his fitness has deteriorated through the years, his skills are quite the same and still can be a huge threat to the opponent side.

3. Raúl Fabiani, Pune F.C.

I-League Football Match In Kolkata

Raúl Fabiani

Raul Fabiani is a 29-year-old Spain-born Equatoguinean who has made three appearances for the national team. Though he can play anywhere in the attacking line, his favourite position is the centre-forward.

Having spent many years playing in the lower levels of Spanish football, he made his Segunda Division debut in 2011 after scoring 12 goals in the previous season in the lower division.

Fabiani also represented Villarreal CF B, Moralo CP, CP Cacereño, UD Lanzarote, CD Teruel, Villajoyosa CF and Huracán Valencia CF and scored goals consistently.

On 5 August 2013. the 29-year-old moved teams and countries, signing with Pune FC. The deal between Pune FC and Raúl Fabiani was facilitated by Kickoff India.

His style of play has been lauded by various football experts around the world. We saw glimpses of his talent in his very first match for Pune F.C. where he scored 2 goals and assisted one.

2. Simon Colosimo, Dempo S.C.

Simon Colosimo

Simon Colosimo is an experienced Australian defender who has been signed by Dempo for the 2013-14 season.

He suits best in the position of Central Defender and has represented the Australian national team for over 25 occasions.

He is a product of the Australian Institute of Sports and thereafter, he has played for more than 10 clubs spread around Australia, Malaysia, England and Belgium.

These include notable clubs like Royal Antwerp, South Melbourne and Perth Glory.

He was part of the Manchester City squad of the 2001-02 season and made 6 appearances for the side in the English Premier League.

He was finally signed by Dempo after making 60 appearances for Melbourne Heart from 2010 to 2013. He would certainly be one of the main attractions of this year’s I-League.

1. Cornell Glen, Shillong Lajong F.C.

FC Dallas v San Jose Earthquakes

FILE PHOTO: Cornell Glen

Cornelius Glen is Trinidadian striker who will in action this season for Shillong Lajong F.C.

After starting his career for Trinidadian club FUTGOF, he made various successful stints for many clubs, like FC Dallas, Los Angeles Galaxy and Ma Pau, spread across the USA and the Caribbean nations.

He has been a regular member of the Trinidad and Tobago national squad since 2002 and has scored goals consistently henceforth.

He was also part of the FIFA World Cup 2006 squad held in Germany. Like Fabiani, he has also made a blistering debut for Shillong scoring 2 goals.

So far, Lajong had been in the I-League as “minnows”, but it would interesting to see if he can remove that “minnows” tag this year.

Apart from the above mentioned players, we would see, many other highly talented foreigners play in this year’s I-League like Sean Rooney of Bengaluru, James Moga of East Bengal and James Meyer of Pune. This year’s I-League will also see some promising Indians and we wish them to perform as well as their foreign counterparts.

Also Read

Moscow, Sep 27 (IANS/EFE) A Russian court has ordered that 22 of the 30 Greenpeace activists detained in Arctic waters last week after trying to chain themselves to an oil platform be held in custody for two months pending a piracy investigation.

The court in the northwestern Russian port city of Murmansk said Friday it had ordered that Argentines Miguel Hernan Perez Orz and Camila Speziale, as well as citizens from Russia, France, Turkey, Poland, Sweden, Canada, New Zealand, Britain, Australia, the United States and Italy, be held in preventive detention.

The judges considered the suspects a flight risk due to the seriousness of the allegations, while they justified holding the Russian activists because they do not have a permanent residence in Murmansk.

The other eight members of Greenpeace’s Arctic Sunrise icebreaker, which was seized by Russian border guards on Sep 19 in the Barents Sea, a day after several activists tried to board an oil platform operated by Russian state energy giant Gazprom, were ordered held in custody for 72 hours.

In the case of those eight activists, the court could not find interpreters for them or ascertain what role they had in the protest and therefore will hold a new hearing Sunday to determine whether to keep them in preventive detention.

“We have sufficient legal basis for appealing all the actions taken by the Russian authorities in this process,” Greenpeace Russia‘s Anton Beneslavski told EFE Thursday.

“Violence was not employed during the protest. There was no assault nor illegal seizure of another’s property and also no attempt to take control of the (platform),” Greenpeace Russia said.

Meanwhile, Russia is facing international calls to release the activists with the Netherlands, where the environmental watchdog is based, saying it was not ruling out resorting to other legal avenues if Moscow did not respond promptly to its request.

All 30 activists could face formal charges of piracy for their Sep 18 protest in the Pechora Sea, in the southeastern portion of the Barents Sea, although Russian President Vladimir Putin said this week that the activists were not pirates.

Gazprom claims the Greenpeace action endangered the health and lives of workers on the Prirazlomnaya oil platform.

Greenpeace says Gazprom’s plans to begin crude production with that platform in the first quarter of 2014 would increase the risk of an oil spill in an area that contains three natural reserves protected by Russian law.



Mumbai, Sep 27 (IANS) Actor Vidyut Jamwal, who has been roped in by filmmaker Rajkumar Santoshi for his next, says his action hero image prompted the director to cast him.

The actor, who made his Bollywood debut with action-packed “Commando” this year, feels honoured with the opportunity to work with the National Award winning director.

“He (Santoshi) had watched ‘Commando’, and I am fortunate that he watched it. He thought the action was fabulous (in that film),” Vidyut said here Thursday at the launch of a new range of Citizen watches.

“Because he is known to be an actor’s director, so he tells an actor how to be on screen. He told me, ‘You know you remind me of one of those actors who can do very good action and express very well’,” Vidyut said.

Santoshi is known for his hit action-based movies like “Ghayal” and “Ghatak”, which were also high on emotions.

“He (Rajkumar Santoshi) wanted to get this genre of action-drama back. So that’s why he got in touch with me and I am very honoured that he did,” Vidyut, the new-age action hero of Bollywood, said.

Meanwhile, Vidyut is also excited about “Bullett Raja”, where he will be seen in a cameo. He is glad he got a chance to choreograph some of the action sequences in the film too.

“I am doing a cameo in ‘Bullett Raja’. It is a role of a sharp shooter who is a police inspector. The good thing is that I have also got a chance to do action especially those sequences that I am choreographing,” said Vidyut, who is trained in Kalaripayattu – a martial art form of Kerala.

“I’m very excited and happy that people are also waiting for that,” he added.

New Delhi, Sep 27 (IANS) Karisma Kapoor feels that the gap created by her exit from the movie industry has been more than filled up by her sister Kareena. She also expresses joy over carrying forward their family’s acting tradition along with their cousin Ranbir, Bollywood’s current heartthrob.

“I don’t regret my decision. I think it is a great graduation for me. Kareena took the place where I left off, if I can say so. Now my cousin (Ranbir) is also doing so well. I am glad that the tradition is continuing,” Karisma, who quit the industry in 2003 after marriage, said in an interview to IANS.

She married Delhi-based industrialist Sanjay Kapur, but they divorced this year. The actress of hits like “Raja Hindustani” and “Biwi No. 1″ took a break from acting to raise her children – Samaira, 8 and Kiaan, 3.

Her comeback film was 2012 release “Dangerous Ishhq”, which got a lukewarm response at the box office. Even though she is back under the arc lights, she still puts her children before everything else.

“Earlier, it was a conscious decision for me not to work. I was happy to be away and I wanted to be with my children during their formative years. I do step out now, but my first priority is my kids. This is how it will always be for me,” said Karisma, who also acted in non-commercial films like “Fiza” and “Zubeidaa”.

Asked about her children’s response to her star status, she says her daughter treats her like a regular mother.

“My daughter is the most normal towards me. For her, I am just her mom. I am just a regular mom and the actor comes after that. If she likes something that I am wearing, she tells me and if she doesn’t, she still makes it a point to let me know,” she said.

Karisma said that she is more of a disciplinarian than a strict parent.

“I won’t say I am a strict mother, but discipline is important. Timing and routine are important for kids. My children also look forward to that,” she said.

“I think it is important to be a friend to your kids. But it is also equally important to set boundaries. My mother was a strong influence and so was my dad. My mom was my friend whom I couldn’t cross,” she said.

Karisma also wants to protect her children from the limelight.

“I try to shield my children as far as possible from the public glare. I want them to have a normal childhood, like we had. We went to school by the school bus, had school food… There was no special treatment given to us. The same applies to my children as well,” the 39-year-old said.

But being brought up in the lap of luxury, it was very tough for Samaira to believe that her family was different from the rest.

“She thought everyone’s mom was an actor and everyone’s autographs are taken. Having a masi (Kareena), a mama (Ranbir) like that, it was tough for her to understand. My son’s still young, but he will get a grip of this from my daughter,” said the actress.

The actress recently launched her book “My Yummy Mummy Guide” on pregnancy and motherhood.

(Anjuri Nayar can be contacted at

New Delhi, Sept. 27 — Pain or discomfort in the chest may be the most commonly known signs of a heart attack. But health experts warn that not every person having a heart attack may experience this. And that is why it becomes imperative to be aware of the typical warning signs to pick up a heart attack before it strikes someone.

“Classic early signs of a heart attack are when a person feels some level of discomfort in the chest or otherwise while doing some activity that was earlier done with ease. The change in pattern, no matter how mild, spells trouble,” says Dr Naresh Trehan, cardiac surgeon and chairman, Medanta Hospital, Gurgaon.

Heart specialists especially warn those who are at a high risk of developing a heart attack. “People who have a family history of a heart attack, suffer from high blood pressure, diabetes, have high cholesterol levels need to be doubly cautious,” said Dr Trehan.

In fact, any unexplained discomfort needs to be taken seriously: shoulder ache, compressed chest, and shortness of breath, just to name a few. Doctors say one must see a doctor if the symptoms recur.

“People have a habit of dilly-dallying and in the process losing precious time. I recently saw this 35-year-old man who was just minutes away from having a heart attack when he came to us. He mistook chest compression with gas and had been taking anti-acids for nearly a week,” said Dr Upendra Kaul, executive director and dean, cardiology, Fortis Hospital, Vasant Kumj.

Considering the age of heart attacks has come down to the late 20s nowadays, people should start preventive health check-ups as soon as they are 25 years old.

“Fat starts depositing in the blood vessels over a period of time; what one eats in childhood has a direct bearing on heart health as an adult. Parents should ensure the child takes part in sports activities in school and avoids regular consumption of junk food that is harmful for the vessels,” said Dr Kaul.

The common preventive tests that can be done are blood tests to check lipid profile once in a year, measuring blood pressure once in six months and also blood cholesterol once in six months.

In case of any suspicion, see a doctor for further specialised tests such as a stress echo, tread mill test etc,. For confirmation, a computed tomography angiography (CTA) technique used to visualise arterial and venous vessels throughout the body is most appropriate.

Dr KK Aggarwal, senior consultant physician, head, cardiology and dean of the board of medical education, Moolchand Medcity, swears by his formula of two for detecting heart abnormalities. “If you can walk two kilometers, if you can climb two flight of stairs and if you can have sex without any discomfort it means you are fine.” correction In the story, ‘Never Too Young for a Heart Attack’, published on September 26, it was mentioned that Nekhil Karan Chawla smoked 60 packets of cigarettes in a day. It is 6. The error is regretted.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.

By Lisa Baertlein

REUTERS – Hold the fries, pass the salad. McDonald’s Corp on Thursday said it would offer healthy options as part of its popular value meals, letting customers choose a side salad, fruit or vegetables instead of french fries.

The announcement by the world’s largest fast-food chain comes as more companies respond to government and consumer pressure to address the global obesity epidemic.

McDonald’s, which often bears the brunt of criticism over the restaurant industry’s penchant for tempting diners with indulgent and often high-calorie food, said it would offer the option in all of its 20 major global markets by 2020.

McDonald’s also vowed to promote and market only water, milk and juice as the beverages in its popular Happy Meals for children as part of its announcement at the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting in New York on Thursday.

Waist sizes around the world are increasing, setting off alarms in public health circles.

In recent years, the U.S. food industry has begun yielding to pressure from government, parents and consumers seeking to slim down adults and children. Sugary sodas have been yanked from public schools; sugar, sodium and calorie levels have been reduced in products, and calorie counts have been posted on some restaurant menus.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit that has tangled with McDonald’s over everything from fattening food to the marketing of Happy Meals, approved of the company’s move to add more fruits and vegetables to the menu. Still, it says the company and its rivals have a long way to go in terms of offering healthier options.

“McDonald’s slow march toward healthier meals made a major advance today, but a long road lies ahead for the company,” CSPI said in a statement.

McDonald’s is seen as something of a trend setter among restaurant chains, but like many of its peers, it has tended to resist external efforts to force change.

About one year ago McDonald’s said it would begin listing calorie information on menus in some 14,000 U.S. restaurants and drive-throughs — ahead of a national rule that would require larger restaurant chains to make such disclosures but months after other chains embraced the idea.

In July 2011 it tweaked its popular Happy Meals for children – reducing the french fries portion by more than half and adding apples to every order. The move came after pressure from CSPI, parent groups and others.

More than one-third of Americans are obese, and about 10 percent of the nation’s healthcare bill is tied to obesity-related illnesses, such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and hypertension, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

McDonald’s said its announcement is part of a plan developed with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, which was founded by the Clinton Foundation and American Heart Association, to increase customers’ access to fruit and vegetables and help families and children to make informed eating and lifestyle choices.

(Reporting by Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; Editing by Leslie Adler)

By Edward Taylor and Sakari Suoninen

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Central banks risk sparking new crises by keeping their loose policy in place for too long, Reserve Bank of India‘s (RBI) head said on Thursday.

Central bankers were “heroes” for restoring financial stability during the financial crisis, but it was not clear they could be called the same for restoring economic growth, Raghuram Rajan, the governor of RBI, said.

There is a danger of bubbles forming around the globe, due to easy monetary policy implemented to steer the world back into a more robust growth path.

“We seem to be in a situation where we are doomed to inflate bubbles elsewhere,” Rajan said, adding he was not sure how effective a tool low interest rates would be.

“We should wonder whether lower and lower interest rates are in fact part of the problem, I say I don’t know.”

Rajan, a University of Chicago professor before becoming the governor of the Reserve Bank of India, where he took office earlier this month, was attending an event to receive the Deutsche Bank Prize in financial economics.

In general, central bank stimulus risks letting governments off the hook, he said, warning against central bankers seeing themselves as the ones who can solve all economic problems.

“When they (central banks) say they are the only game in town, they become the only game in town,” Rajan said, in a speech at the award ceremony.

“We need to think of the dangers of over stimulation. We need to think of the sustainability of growth created by stimulus measures.”

While admitting that he did not have the answer, Rajan pushed for more thinking on whether fiscal policy might work better than interest rates to get growth back to a sustainable path.

“It (interest rate tool) is very, very blunt … targeted fiscal policy may be better,” he said, but added that getting right fiscal policies in place could be difficult.

Turning to cross-border capital flows, he said that especially emerging markets were often the losers as flows turned around very quickly.

“We need to solve this problem (of capital flows) and we need to take a more practical view of this,” Rajan said, without going into details.

Rajan, who has also worked for the International Monetary Fund, surprised markets in his maiden policy review last week by raising interest rates to ward off rising inflation, while scaling back some of the emergency measures recently put in place to support the ailing rupee.

(Reporting by Edward Taylor and Sakari Suoninen)

New Delhi, Sep 26 (IANS) The Supreme Court Thursday sought the Uttar Pradesh government‘s response on a plea seeking a CBI probe over a sting suggesting alleged discrimination in giving relief material to the Muzaffarnagar riot victims.

The sting also hinted at the alleged interference in the district administration’s response to the violence by some people present in Lucknow.

An apex court bench of Chief Justice P. Sathasivam, Justice R.P. Desai and Justice Ranjan Gogoi sought the response from the state on a petition filed by the NGO Common Cause and another petitioner advocate M.L. Sharma.

Seeking the response from the state government, the court said that the issue raised in the two petitions were “serious” and it would look into them.

“We have seen them, we can’t take them lightly. That is why we are seeking your response,” the court told the state government.

The court also said that it would take “action” on the report that some advocates who had gone to a riot-affected village impersonated as members of a committee set up by the apex court.

The court said that it would look into all the pleas, as one of the counsel sought a court monitored probe by a special investigation team.

“When we have transferred proceedings from Allahabad High court to ourself, do you think we will leave it like that,” Chief Justice Sathasivam told the counsel.

Meanwhile, the central government in its update on the steps taken after the violence said the home secretary Sep 25 sought an update from the Uttar Pradesh chief secretary and asked any help was required from the health or food ministries.

The state government in its affidavit told the court that it had taken several steps for the relief and rehabilitation of those affected by the violence that started Aug 27 and were living in relief camps in Muzaffarnagar and Shamili.

The court was told that 41 such camps were in Muzaffarnagar and 17 in Shamli.

The state government said in Muzaffarnagar district 32 people had died during the riots and two of the dead were still to be identified.

The government said it had also paid compensation to the families of those killed in the violence.

The court would next hear the matter Oct 17.

By Swati Bhat

MUMBAI (Reuters) – The rupee gained for a second straight session to touch its highest level in nearly a week on Thursday as foreign banks sold dollars in the spot market while squaring off their long dollar positions in the offshore non-deliverable forwards.

Traders said the large selling seen from foreign banks over the last couple of days was mainly due to offshore flows with banks preferring to not roll-over their long dollar outstanding contracts in the non-deliverable forwards.

Some foreign banks were also selling dollars in anticipation of inflows with some technology service exporters, two dealers said.

“There was huge selling by foreign banks today, possibly for balance sheet management,” said Uday Bhatt, a foreign exchange dealer with UCO Bank.

The settlement date for today’s trade would be September 30, the last day of the first half of the fiscal year.

“If 61.80 is broken strongly, then we can see 60 soon,” Bhatt added.

The partially convertible rupee closed at 62.07/08 per dollar compared with 62.44/45 on Wednesday. The unit moved in a range of 61.98 to 62.37 during the session.

Traders said gains in other Asian currencies and the domestic share market also helped sentiment.

Thai baht led gains among emerging Asian currencies though investors hesitated to make heavy bets on regional units amid caution over a deadlock in the U.S. budget deal.

The BSE Sensex edged higher, despite volatility caused due to expiry of the September equity derivative contracts, led by gains in Sun Pharma which rose to an all-time high on hopes of higher sales of a key cancer drug.

Earlier in the day, the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) decision to allow greater flexibility to banks in swapping their overseas borrowings also helped.

The RBI late on Wednesday relaxed the minimum maturity tenure for banks’ foreign currency borrowings’ to one year from three years, in order to use the central bank’s swap facility which was set up to support the ailing rupee.

In the offshore non-deliverable forwards, the one-month contract was at 62.76 while the three-month was at 63.86.

In the currency futures market, the most-traded near-month dollar/rupee contracts on the National Stock Exchange, the MCX-SX and the United Stock Exchange all closed at around 62.56 with a total traded volume of $ 1.92 billion.

(Editing by Anand Basu)


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NEW DELHI: A tragedy has visited Uttarakhand a little over three months after heavy rainfall triggered disaster across the Himalayan state. The latest tragedy is completely man-made and comes in the form of compensation cheques worth a few hundred rupees each that have been handed out by the government to victims and survivors of the mid-June catastrophe.
For hundreds of victims who thought the worst was over after the Himalayan deluge that washed away their homes and loved ones, these cheques amount to insult rather than help. Bageshwar district in the eastern Kumaon region of Uttarakhand bounded on the west and northwest by Chamoli District, which faced massive destruction, is sulking in despair. Data released by the Information and Public Relations Department of the Uttarakhand government for Bageshwar shows that Rs 2,27,38,756 has been distributed to the victims till date.

On the ground, it doesn’t add up. A village in district Bageshwar called Kanda has received only Rs 8,680 as compensation after landslides left cattle, farms and houses damaged. Many residents lost their entire families.

The details of cheque numbers and amount given to at least 25 farmers are available with M AIL TODAY, and make for pretty sorry reading.

A farmer called Trilok Singh has got the highest amount of Rs 789, while the least amount of money— Rs 150 each—has been given to farmers Shyam Singh and Fakir Singh. Other like Bahadur Singh and Aan Singh who have got Rs 187 and Rs 244 respectively would perhaps feel ashamed to accept these cheques and deposit them in their bank accounts.

According to the disaster management centre at Bageshwar, around 2.060 hectares land was damaged, 261 cattle died and at least 390 people of 74 families in 46 villages were severely affected. The state government had fixed the compensation amount at Rs 5 lakh for a death and Rs 1 lakh for people whose houses and farms were damaged.

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna has recently said that Rs 150 crore of relief has been distributed through cheques. “UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had promised to help the state overcome the losses caused due to the disaster.

The state government is getting all possible help from the Union Government,” he had said.

Now, the state government has begun attracting flak from all around. Senior BJP leader and Leader of Opposition Ajay Bhatt said, “The Uttarakhand government failed to handle the disaster and issue like rehabilitation and relief after the calamity.

The Bahuguna government is a total failure. Despite this, it has wasted over Rs 75 crore in advertisement campaigns.” According to the state government’s estimates, over 6,000 persons died in the floods and a larger number were rendered homeless and jobless. Help poured in from across the country. From Bollywood celebrities to corporate houses to government officials, everyone chipped in with whatever they could to help the flood-hit recover from their losses.

People are still contributing from their income for the victims, but that help does not seem to have reached the right destination.

Recently, Dr Agarwal Hospitals along with the Ramakrishna- Vivekananda International Foundation (RVKIF) and Sri Sringeri Sharada Institute of Management (Sri SIM) donated services and equipment worth Rs 30 lakh by way of injections, medicines, eyeglasses, etc. “The farmers are in really a bad shape. They are depressed and suffering from ailments.

The government should take proper care of the disaster-hit victims. We were awestruck looking at the condition,” said Dr Sunita Rana, Dr Agarwal hospital, Gene Research Foundation.

State government had fixed ex-gratia of Rs 5 lakh for a death and Rs 1 lakh for those whose houses & farms were damaged.

Chennai, Sept.25 (ANI): Bollywood luminaries Amitabh Bachchan and Rekha are among several cinematic stars who will take part in the centenary celebrations of Indian cinema here.

Earlier this year as Indian cinema entered it 100th year several programmes, felicitations and special screenings of some of the most notable feature films produced in the country were hosted both by the government and the Indian film industry.

In tune with these celebrations, the South Indian Film Chamber of Commerce (SIFCC) has organised a three-day event with the ‘curtains-raiser’ slated on September 25.

Soon after his arrival at Chennai airport, Bachchan said he was indebted to the SIFCC for planning this memorable event.

“I have just come for the honour that south Indian film industry is doing for 100 years of Indian cinema; and I very grateful for that,” said Bachchan.

Veteran Bollywood actress, Rekha too arrived in Chennai for the occasion.

Indian cinema, with its subset of Bollywood for Hindi-language films, is now a billion-dollar industry that makes more than a thousand films a year in several languages.

It is worth over two billion dollars and leads the world in terms of films produced and tickets sold.

Besides Bollywood, which has global appeal, India also has a vibrant regional-language film industry, especially in southern states where film stars are often worshipped in temples specially built for them. (ANI)

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Mumbai, Sep 25 (IANS) As Indian cinema is celebrating its 100 years, “Uff Yoo Maa”, a fundraiser show for cancer patients, will witness Bollywood veterans like Waheeda Rehman, Asha Parekh and Javed Akhtar recollecting iconic elements of the 100 years of Indian cinema in 100 minutes.

Celebrated names like Tanuja, her daughter Kajol and son-in-law Ajay Devgn, along with Shabana Azmi, Sonam Kapoor and filmmaker-composer Vishal Bharadwaj will come together and share a common platform for the event, to be held here Oct 5.

“An overwhelming number of celebrities have come forward to support the cause, and all have reasons of their own,” said Geeta Gopalakrishnan, director, Donor Relationships, Tata Medical Centre.

The evening will witness stalwarts recalling lesser known anecdotes from the past, while music and dialogues of the times will recreate the aura of every decade.

Winners from music reality show “Zee – Sa Re Ga Ma Pa” will croon a medley of songs from the last 10 decades, while renowned singer Usha Uthup will render her most memorable songs.

“Each decade will have a conversation with a celebrity or more in a decade who will relate an unusual anecdote, a dialogue of the decade, and against movie posters of the times, singers will render some of the most memorable songs of the decade. Ten minutes a decade and you have a 100-minute show,” said Gopalakrishnan.

There will also be a gala dinner planned by Hemant Oberoi, grand executive chef at The Taj Mahal Palace. He will serve an exceptional menu inspired by Bollywood.

The money raised from the event will be donated for a Rs.350 crore worth not-for-profit hospital Tata Medical Center, built by the Tata Group. The proceeds from the event will contribute towards the expansion of the center’s hospital in Kolkata to treat underprivileged cancer patients in east and northeast India.

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Mumbai, Sep 25 (IANS) Gyan Correa, whose film “The Good Road” has been selected to represent India at the Oscars, tackles the controversies that have erupted over the film saying “running my film down is not going to help any other film”.

Many felt that “The Lunchbox” should have been selected for the Oscar race.

“People who hadn’t heard of the film let alone seen it are criticizing it. That I think is unfair,” Correa said about his first feature film.

The admaker-turned-filmmaker added: “‘The Lunchbox’ and ‘The Good Road’ are siblings.”

Excerpts from the interview:

Q. There seems to be a very intense line of thought in Bollywood that Ritesh Batra’s “The Lunchbox” should have gone to the Oscars?

A. Some people seem quite upset by the decision. I am hoping they would stop being upset in a while. They are seasoned people and have been around long enough.

Q. There are reviews of your film, apparently published at the time of release, which describe the film as “horrible” that failed critically and commercially on release?

A: I am curious as to where these reviews are coming from.

Q. Had you seen these reviews when the film was released?

A. No, not at all! I’d love to read these reviews. As for the criticism some people said the language was bad. But that’s it. No critics as far as I know thought my film horrible.

Q. You mean abusive language? That doesn’t make it a bad film.

A. I agree. May I tell you something straight from my heart? I am new to all this and I really don’t know how to deal with the whole unsavoury controversy. Very genuinely I feel the film I made has merit. Otherwise, it wouldn’t have been selected for the Oscars. People who hadn’t heard of the film let alone seen it, are criticising it. That I think is unfair.

Q. The jury’s wisdom is also being questioned?

A. I think it’s inappropriate for people who had a film in the competition to be publicly discussing and questioning the process of selection. I wouldn’t do that. I was very surprised by the comments on the jury…that they don’t know cinema and all that. Most uncalled for.

Q. Have you see “The Lunchbox”?

A. No. But I am going to see it as soon as possible. ‘The Lunchbox’ and ‘The Good Road’ are siblings. They’ve both come out of the NFDC (National Film Development Corporation of India) route in different ways. So both films have originated from the same foundation where good cinema is fostered. That’s the way I see it. The real story is that the NFDC, which once used to nurture meaningful cinema, is back in business. This other story (about Oscar-worthiness) is totally out of league.

Q. But that’s the story that seems to be gathering momentum?

A. Running my film down is not going to help any other film. I didn’t select the film (for the Oscars). A committee that knows its job did the selection. I had no say in it. I respect the jury and I feel every other filmmaker should. Now that “The Good Road” has been selected, the film fraternity should support it.

Q. Moving ahead, tell me about yourself?

A. I am a Mumbai-based filmmaker. I was an admaker. ‘The Good Road’ is my first feature film. The NFDC was the only organisation willing to produce my film.

Q. Lobbying for an Oscar in Los Angeles is a very expensive and time consuming process. Are you prepared for the struggle ahead?

A. I’ve to meet my producers (the NFDC) and discuss our strategy. We do have a plan. Raising resources for our struggle in LA is not an easy job.