Sunday, December 29, 2013

Growth in banking sector a great achievement: Chidambaram

Growth in banking sector a great achievement: Chidambaram
Expressing happiness over the growth of the banking sector in the last ten years, Finance Minister P Chidambaram on Monday described it as a great achievement of the UPA rule.
Participating in the ’103rd Foundation Day Celebration’ of the Central Bank of India in Madurai he said: “The very fact that people have accepted the growth of banking sector as a normal phenomenon is a success to me and the government.”The celebration function is being organised for the first time outside the metro cities.
He said the government had made great efforts to achieve this growth in the banking sector.
“The bank officials including the Executive Directors, Chairmen and the Employees also played a major role in the expansion of the banking sector.”
“Now the country is having 1,10,000 branches, and every year 7000 to 8000 branches were opened in the last nine years and this year 10,000 branches will be opened.
The central bank to commemorate its 103rd foundation day has opened 103 branches today and it will open a total of 231 branches this year,” he said. Besides bank branches that had been opened, banking service also had expanded at a fast pace. ATM facility, which was available in a few localities, is now available throughout the country, he said.
“Very few thousand students got education loans ten years ago. Now lakhs of students were availing the education loan. Crores of Self-Help groups were availing loans.”This is how the banking service has expanded,” he said.
Another outcome of expansion was provision of jobs, he said adding if ten banks were being opened this year, then thousands of persons would get bank jobs.
“The expansion benefited lakhs of people in various sectors and we are proud of that”, he said.
Chidambaram said another novelty introduced by the UPA Government that benefited the public at large was the Corporate Social Responsibility Clause introduced under the new company Law.
Some people opposed it initially, but they understood the benefits later and supported it, he said.
Under the CSR, a company – private or public sector – should allocate a percentage of profit for benefit of the community.
“It is a revolutionary clause. If the government has to spend money for any scheme then questions would be raised for various reasons. Now we have given freedom to the companies to spend the two per cent of the profit as they liked. They can lay a road, spend money for a school for any other common facility or provide health insurance for the poor people etc.”
He said about Rs 20,000 crore was being spent under the CSR by various companies for implementing welfare schemes for the people.
“But for the new company law replacing the 60 year old law, this would not have happened,” he said.
Chidambaram said it is a matter of pride that Central bank of India was founded by two Indians – Sorabji Pochkhanawala with Pherozeshah Mehta.
In fact one of the founders was working for a foreign bank, and his officer said it would not be possible for the Indians to start and run a bank.
The Central Bank of India was started and run by Indians during the colonial period, he said.
To mark the 103rd foundation day of the bank, Chidambaram also inaugurated 103 ATMs besides providing assistance to 103 government schools which were provided fans, among other facilities.
He also launched the ‘EMV Rupay debit card’ that would enable one to draw Rs 40,000 a day and a Health insurance scheme for 1.03 lakh poor people on payment of Rs.611 a year.
Under the scheme, the bank has tied up with Chola MS General Insurance for providing medical reimbursement to the tune of Rs.30,000 in case of accidents or hospitalisation.


India needs FTAs, can’t have wall around itself: Sharma

India needs FTAs, can
Defending the policy of inking FTAs with different countries, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma has said India needs to connect and integrate with the world and can’t have a “wall around” itself.
“When we look at our FTAs, we are a beneficiary, we are not a loser,” Sharma said in an interview.
He said that India’s share in the global trade is low and to enhance the overall economic growth, the country has to increase its share by boosting exports.
“When we are talking of the larger economic integration of Asia and going right up to the Pacific… Can India keep itself out? India cannot insulate itself. You cannot grow by having a wall around ourselves. We live in a globalised world, we have to connect and integrate,” he added.
The minister said several countries are integrating with each other to enhance trade and investments between them.
“Let’s not forget what is happening in the world,” he said, citing examples of North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA); Mercosur (an alliance of Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay); Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) (involving nine countries including Australia, New Zealand and the US); and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
“We are neither Pacific nor Atlantic, we are an Indian Ocean country, so we also have to look at how we have our own fair share or how we have regional mechanisms and arrangements for trade and investments,” Sharma said.
Besides several experts, apex body of exporters, FIEO, has said that exports to several countries with which India had signed FTAs have shown a declining trend.
According to media reports, the finance ministry too had raised concerns over the impact of these pacts on the Indian economy.
However, Sharma said: “When it comes to trade agreements, there is always a balance and then there is an inbuilt review mechanism. Let’s not forget that India’s share in global trade is still very low. It is little over 2 percent.
“We need to double it at the earliest, because of economy of India’s size cannot grow unless and until our share in global trade, including exports, increases.”
India has so far implemented FTAs with countries like Singapore, Korea, Japan, Malaysia and Asean.
The country is negotiating similar pacts with several nations include Australia, Canada, European Union and New Zealand.
In 2012-13, India’s exports to South Korea stood at USD 4.20 billion but imports have jumped to USD 13.10 billion, leaving a trade deficit of about USD 9 billion.
Similarly, India’s exports to Japan stood at USD 6.10 billion during the period and imports were aggregated at USD 12.41 billion, leaving a trade deficit of USD 6.31 billion.
Under these pacts, tariffs have been reduced or eliminated on about 95 percent of goods traded between two regions.


India Inc strikes 480 M&A deals for $27.4 bn in 2013



Posted on December 29, 2013 by sagarmedia
India Inc strikes 480 M&A deals for $27.4 bn in 2013
Hit by sluggish economic trends, merger and acquisition activities of Indian companies slowed down in 2013 to a total of nearly 500 deals worth close to USD 30 billion, but the momentum is set to pick up in the New Year especially after the general elections.
In comparison, Indian companies were involved in 598 M&A deals worth USD 35.4 billion in 2012 and 644 transactions worth USD 44.6 billion a year ago in 2011, shows an analysis of data compiled by various deal-tracking firms. 
While deal volumes have slipped for two consecutive years now, experts believe there is a lot of pent up demand for M&A transactions and the deal momentum is set to pick up in 2014. 
Muted economic growth projections and uncertainty over policies held back M&A transactions, and deals are now taking longer to close because of macroeconomic concerns. 
According to Grant Thornton, there have been a total of 480 deals amounting to USD 27.4 billion during 2013 involving Indian companies, as on 13th December 2013. A few more deals have been announced since then. 
Global deal-tracking firm mergermarket’s India Bureau Chief Mithun Varkey said deals would be mostly driven by local consumption story, especially in sectors like consumer durables and pharmaceuticals, during 2014. 
“A revival in core sectors such as in power, road and infrastructure sectors still seem unlikely as due to lack of investor confidence,” he said. 
Moreover, the upcoming general elections are also holding many deals back, as many investors and dealmakers prefer to wait and watch. 
“We expect subdued activity in the first quarter of 2014 and then based on the election results and market sentiment we believe there would be a big uptick in M&A thereafter,” said Harish HV, Partner, India Leadership Team of Grant Thornton. 
According to Vikram Utamsingh, Managing Director, Transaction Advisory services, Alvarez & Marsal India, there are several insights to the M&A deal tally of this year. 
Firstly, both global buyers and investors now believe that it is an opportune time to do deals in India as deals have become cheaper in dollar terms due to the sharp devaluation of the rupee against the US dollar. 
Secondly, global investors believe that the Indian economy is at the bottom of its economic cycle and with government elections in the New Year coupled with efforts by the present government to increase growth, India should start growing at a higher rate from 2014. 
Thirdly, valuations in some sectors like industry and auto have reached more reasonable levels for deals to get done. 
“We could see several large transactions in the power and road industry where the large infrastructure conglomerates in India look to find ways to generate cash to reduce their incredibly high debt burdens. These assets, if already operational or near operational, will see interest from global players,” Utamsingh said. 
PwC India, Executive Director and Leader (Private Equity), Sanjeev Krishan, believes that “overseas investors continued to be cagey (in 2013) about India, owing to the tax issues which surfaced in 2012 and lack of any path-breaking policy moves”. 
The recovery in the US markets and the upturn in the European economies also meant that overseas investors focused on their home territories more than emerging markets including India, Krishan said. 
The year 2013 has witnessed five deals valued at over a billion dollars each, and there were 36 deals valued at over a 100 million dollars each. 
Topping the list, Unilever’s stake hike in Hindustan Unilever was worth USD 3.1 billion, followed by ONGC’s Rovuma oil block acquisitions for over USD 2.5 billion each. 
According to data from mergermarket, domestic M&A deal value fell by almost 67 percent year-on-year in 2013. 
In 2012, domestic deal value was at about USD 20.8 billion from 167 deals, but in 2013 it stood at about USD 7 billion from 140 deals. 
Inbound deals fell to a total of 148 in 2013 from 172 in 2012. 


Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashes out after new round of protests

Turkey PM lashes out after new round of protests
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday lashed out at the judiciary as he tried to tame down a corruption probe that has shaken his government and sparked a new wave of anti-government protests.
The conservative prime minister, who has dug in his heels over the crisis that has led to the resignation of three ministers, went again on the attack during a speech in the southern city of Manisa.
“Whoever practises corruption will have us to deal with, but I have to say that there is a very serious smear campaign,” Erdogan said. 
The premier clearly targeted — without naming it — the Gulen movement, of ally-turned-enemy Fethullah Gulen, an influential Muslim cleric who lives in self-imposed exile in the United States, and who has loyalists in Turkey’s judiciary, police force and political sphere.
“There is a gang within the state that is about to become a criminal organisation. They do not know what privacy is. They do surveillance, they bug,” Erdogan said.
“There are some members of the judiciary who, unfortunately, act in sympathy with certain criminal groups and side with some media outlets in order to smear innocent people by leaking confidential documents,” the premier said. 
“In the same way, some of them are in the police department.” The prime minister sought to portray the corruption probe as damaging to all of Turkey, not just to himself and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). 
But recent attempts to bury the investigation have left him locked in a struggle with Turkey’s courts. Last day, Turkey’s top court blocked an Erdogan decree that tried to limit the way police handled probes.
Erdogan snapped at a Turkish prosecutor involved in the probe, Muammer Akkas, who had highlighted attempts to stall the inquiry through pressure. “Who are you working for?” Erdogan asked. 
“You don’t have the authority to affect the process regarding the government decree…. You have violated the constitution.” Erdogan’s administration also hit back at the European Union which last day urged Turkey to address corruption allegations in a “transparent and impartial manner”. 
“I call on our European friends to refrain from prejudice when commenting on developments regarding Turkey’s domestic affairs that have political dimensions and I invite them to be more cautious,” said EU Affairs Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.


Shiite opposition leader questioned in Bahrain

Bahrain: Shiite opposition leader questioned
Bahrain authorities summoned the head of the country’s main Shiite opposition bloc on Saturday for questioning on allegations of incitement, a move that could inflame tensions in the tiny Western-allied Gulf kingdom. 
The Ministry of Interior said in a statement on its official Twitter feed that Ali Salman of Al Wefaq was summoned to address comments he made in a sermon last day that allegedly “contained sectarian language to incite hatred.” 
It said his comments also incited hatred against the government and promoted rioting and vandalism. The public prosecution issued a separate statement saying that Salman was released from custody but is barred from travelling abroad while prosecutors consider the case. 
The ministry did not say what specific comments prompted the inquest. Al Wefaq confirmed that Salman was summoned. 
It criticised what it said was a “series of illegal measures” by authorities. Al Wefaq has been a major driver in Arab Spring-inspired protests that began in February 2011 in the strategic island nation, which is home to the US Navy’s 5th Fleet. 
More than 65 people have been killed since the unrest began against the Sunni-led monarchy. Some rights groups place the overall death toll higher. 




Hundreds detained in Bangladesh

Posted on December 29, 2013 by 
Hundreds detained ahead of oppo march in Bangladesh
Bangladeshi authorities detained over 700 opposition activists trying to gather in the capital in defiance of a ban on a protest march called on Sunday by the BNP to derail the 5th January polls.
The country was on Saturday under virtual siege as transport services shut down overnight following a government advisory and people braced for fresh political violence.
Army and paramilitary personnel patrolled city streets amidst the tense face-off between the BNP-led 18-party opposition alliance and the Awami League.
Police raided homes of opposition supporters and trains and took into custody more than 700 activists, police officials told the media on Saturday.
Reports said activists of Bangladesh Nationalist Party and its ally Jamaat-e-Islami began moving towards Dhaka Friday evening, well ahead of the march in order to avoid interception by police.
They planned to reach Dhaka under cover of wedding parties as many marriages are set to take place in the capital on the weekend.
BNP leader Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir accused the Awami League-led interim government of creating a blockade to prevent the opposition activists gathering in Dhaka.
“It seems like section 144 has been imposed countrywide, an undeclared shutdown by the government itself,” he said.
Law enforcement officials were intimidating people in hotels and restaurants and tracking down protesters from outside Dhaka, Alamgir claimed.
At least 97 passengers were taken off a Dhaka-bound train in Tangail after policemen searched it for Islamists accused of attacking police in recent months. All Dhaka-bound trains from northern districts were halted at Tangail.
“Fear of sabotage after the recent distasteful experience forced us to take some precautions causing schedule disruptions…Train services between Dhaka and Chittagong, however, are running,” a railway spokesman said.
Bus and and ferry operators said that they have stopped services to and from Dhaka due to “security concerns” after a government advisory.
Hundreds of Bangladeshis returning from India were stranded at the western land port of Benapole, with no buses to carry them home.
Pro-Awami League transport associations called a two-day strike to protest vandalism during protests by the opposition in the past few weeks.
BNP chief Khaleda Zia exhorted her supporters to rally in the capital Dhaka on Sunday and to defy the ban on her “march for democracy”.
“I urge all able bodied countrymen cutting across their affiliation, religion and class to join the rally on December 29,” she said earlier, warning of “tougher actions” if the government obstructs the marchers.
There was doubt whether Zia would be able to take part in Sunday’s protest, with supporters alleging that authorities were keeping her under de-facto house arrest.
The BNP is boycotting the polls and political violence during nationwide strikes and blockades enforced by the opposition have left nearly 130 people dead and crippled the economy since November.
The BNP has refused to field candidates, saying polls under Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will be rigged – an accusation the premier strongly rejects.
Opposition activists have been staging protests since late October to force Hasina to step down so that a non-party caretaker government can be installed to oversee the election.
Hasina has refused to accept the opposition’s demands and ruled out any possibility of rescheduling the polls, saying the BNP has “missed the election train”.
However, she said she would consider dissolving the parliament formed after the polls and holding another election if the BNP shuns violence and severs ties with the Jamaat.
Army troops have been deployed across Bangladesh to “aid civil administration” in maintaining peace and order ahead of the controversial elections.
The BNP says 30 central leaders of the party and its associated bodies were arrested in the past one month alone while the police manhunt forced most others to go into hiding.
Earlier this week, Dhaka Metropolitan Police declared a bounty of 1 lakh Takas on arsonists and vandals trying to set fire or vandalise vehicles.
The statutory National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Friday said the incidents of violence across the county should not be considered political, but as “terrorist acts against the state and its people”.
In the latest incidence of violence, suspected opposition activists hurled several patrol bombs at the home of Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmad in western Chuadanga in a predawn attack on Saturday.
Police said no one was hurt in the attack as the house was vacant. Meanwhile, Awami League leaders warned of retaliatory measures if opposition activists defy the ban and join tomorrow’s protest march.
“We will not attack first…we will stay organised and when they (opposition activists) attack, we will resist them through a counter attack,” senior Awami League leader and Communications Minister Obaidul Quader said at a party meeting.
Law enforcement officials will show restrain during political rallies but the Awami League will resist the opposition “with sticks and continue to do so until the elections on January 5″, said Junior Law Minister Quamrul Islam.
Hasina on Saturday launched the Awami League’s manifesto for the polls, vowing to punish “anarchists” behind recent violence.
Serious questions have been raised about the credibility of the polls as the BNP and one of Hasina’s former allies, Jatiya Party, are boycotting the polls.
The fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami party, a key ally of the BNP, has been disqualified from contesting polls by the Bangladesh High Court, which said it opposes secularism.
In the absence of any credible opposition, 154 Awami League candidates are set to be elected uncontested to the 300-member parliament.
Top civil society figures today asked the government to postpone the 5th January elections saying that it would violate people’s constitutional rights of voting.
“This election will not bring any good result to the country, rather will deepen the crisis,” leading economist Rehman Sobhan said.
Eminent lawyer Rafique-ul Huq said, “The ongoing situation will continue if the two leaders (Hasina and Khaleda) do not come to a compromise.”
The civil society groups insisted that there is still time for deferring the polls since Constitution permits national elections up to 90 days after the dissolution of parliament.
That period expires only on 24th January.

EU opening embassy in Tehran

Posted on December 29, 2013 by 
 Iran is ready to consider opening the European Union (EU) embassy in the Iranian capital Tehran if the EU submits a formal request, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said here on Saturday.
“Given the importance and capacities of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the region, some members of the EU have expressed willingness to open a (diplomatic) mission in Tehran,” the spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham told Tasnim News Agency.
“In case Tehran receives a formal request (from the EU) in this regard, it is prepared to study the issue within the framework of the current relations,” she was quoted as saying.
Western media reported that the EU member states have shown willingness to open an embassy in Iran.

Arvind Kejriwal allocates portfolios; keeps important home power, finance

Posted on December 29, 2013 by 
Arvind Kejriwal allocates portfolios; keeps power, finance
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Saturday allocated portfolios to his six Cabinet colleagues while keeping the fertile key departments of Home, Finance, Power and Vigilance with himself thus shows his supremacy on his team members and accountability of various nodal department to devolve around one person and is likely to face criticism in this front.
The Chief Minister will also keep Planning, Services and all other departments not allocated to the Ministers, an official statement said.
Manish Sisodia, considered close to Kejriwal, has been given the charges of Revenue, PWD, Urban Development, Education, Higher Education, Local Bodies and Land and Building departments.
Kejriwal, in his first press conference after being sworn-in as the Chief Minister, had announced the portfolios for his colleagues. Somnath Bharti, a postgraduate from IIT, will take the charge of Administrative Reforms, Law, Tourism and Culture.
Administrative Reforms is high on Kejriwal’s agenda with efforts to decentralise power and establish the Mohalla Sabha. The department is also likely to take steps to bring an end to the VIP culture and also provide time-bound and efficient services to the people.
The youngest Minister in Kejriwal’s cabinet, Rakhi Birla, will handle Social Welfare and Women and Child Development departments and Languages. She has also been given the additional charge to formulate steps required for enhancing security of women.
Girish Soni has been given charge of Labour, Development Skill Development and SC/ST departments. Satyendra Jain has been allocated Health, Industries and Gurudwara Elections.
Saurabh Bharadwaj, a B Tech in computer science who was working with an MNC, has been given the charge of Departments of Food and Supply, Transport, Environment, Election and General Administration Department.

Kerry to visit Mideast

Posted on December 29, 2013 by 
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will return to the Middle East next week to discuss Israeli- Palestinian peace talks, the U.S. State Department said Saturday.
The top American envoy will travel on Wednesday, the New Year’s Day, to Jerusalem to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and to Ramallah to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said.
“In these meetings, he will discuss the ongoing final status negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians, among other issues,” Psaki said in a statement.
The forthcoming trip will mark Kerry’s tenth trip to the region since taking the top diplomatic job.
Peace talks between Israel and Palestine were restarted under the brokerage of Washington in late July with a view to finalizing an agreement by the end of April next year, but blames traded by the two sides have brought the talks to a halt.
Israeli media reported on Wednesday that Netanyahu was expected to announce construction plan of thousands of new housing units in the settlement, close to the upcoming planned release of 26 Palestinian prisoners.
Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said Thursday that Israel would destroy the peace talks if it announces any new plans for settlement construction in the West Bank and Ea

India, US sign deal for six transport aircraft

Posted on December 29, 2013 by 
India, US sign deal for six transport aircraft
India has signed a Rs 4,000-crore deal with the US for procuring six more C-130J Super Hercules Special Operations aircraft for the Indian Air Force.
“The proposal was cleared by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on December 20. The two sides signed the deal yesterday under which the US Air Force will supply the aircraft to the IAF through the Foreign Military Sales route, sources said in Delhi.
The IAF already has a fleet of six similar planes which are deployed at the Hindon air base near here and the force uses it for carrying out special operations including landing on inhospitable air strips in the Ladakh area. The IAF had acquired the first lot of six aircraft at a cost of around Rs 5,500 crore.
The new lot of six planes will be located at Panagarh in West Bengal, which would be headquarters of the proposed Mountain Strike Corps of the army along the China border.
The aircraft is capable of airdropping commandos and material in darkness due to its night-vision imaging. It can prove very handy in wartime due to its ability for special air operations and transport of material and supplies.
It can be used in mountainous terrain in hostile circumstances. The four-engine plane with Rolls Royce engines has the technology and configuration to perform low-level precision flying.

Modi, Kejriwal nothing in front of Rahul: Lalu

Posted on December 29, 2013 by 
Modi, Kejriwal nothing in front of Rahul: Lalu
On a visit to relief camps of riot victims in Muzaffarnagar on Sunday, RJD chief Lalu Prasad blamed both the BJP and the SP for the communal violence here even as he heaped praise on Rahul Gandhi, saying Narendra Modi and Arvind Kejriwal were nothing in front of the Congress Vice President.
“Kejriwal and Modi are nothing in front of Rahul. Rahul Gandhi is Rahul Gandhi. You guys have put them (Kejriwal, Modi) on the moon. It is you, who give them publicity. What have they done so far,” the RJD chief said, adding his party will tie up with the Congress for the Lok Sabha polls.
Lalu, whose visit to the area comes a week after the Congress Vice President’s unannounced visit to the camps in Shamli last Sunday, echoed Rahul’s views that those living in camps should go back to their villages.
“We have come here to wipe away the tears of the victims. They should go back to their homes. Government should facilitate that,” Lalu told reporters. Slamming Aam Admi Party, he said the party is doing a “drama” by renouncing facilities such as vehicles with read-beacon cars, security etc.
AAP is talking about corruption, they themselves are corrupt, he alleged.
Training his guns on Modi and his close aide Amit Shah, whom the RJD chief described as the Gujarat Chief Ministers “General Manager for communalising society”, Lalu said, “He (Shah) is spoiling the whole atmosphere. He is … currently their warhorse here”.
“RSS, Modi and Amit Shah, who is working here (in Uttar Pradesh) are well-known for this and see the riots happened. People used to live here together but the riots happened…
“Communal violence erupted in UP after Amit Shah was sent to handle the party’s poll campaign here. He is spoiling the atmosphere of the state,” he alleged.
He said, “The BJP is the country’s enemy, we are BJP’s enemy.”
“The powers, which were once propagating the rumour that Lord Ganesha is consuming milk, are trying to communalise the whole society and promote both external and internal divisions. Youths are the main victims of this,” he said.
Lalu is considered a popular leader among the minority community and his party RJD had been in power in Bihar for 15 years largely on the basis of MY (Muslim-Yadav) combination.
The RJD chief said, “Divisive forces and those who want to occupy the seat of Hastinapur (Delhi) have targeted Hindi states.
“I had said at a rally in Patna that people have to decide whether the country will remain united or break in the 2014 contest,” he said.
Interacting with riot victims, Lalu, who is out on bail in a fodder scam case, told them that he couldn’t come early as he was in jail.
“No attention was paid in the beginning to those living in the relief camps. If they were taken care of initially, the situation today would have been better,” he said, adding he will be visiting the Loi camp and then will be able to tell why people are being displaced from there.
“I saw a lot of TV coverage their on the riot victims living in relief camps,” he said.
Referring to SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav’s controversial comments that those living in camps were not riot victims but political activist, Yadav said, “It was too much and very bad…I have also heard people saying that those living in the camps are not victims”.
Prasad reminded the SP chief that “minorities had voted with an open heart” for his secular government so much so that even the SP chief had not idea that his party will form a government with such a big a majority.
“Even we had no idea that they (SP) will get such a big majority,” he said.
“I am not criticising anybody. But the kind of attention that should have been given in the beginning was perhaps not given to the issue (condition of riot victims) by the administration,” the RJD chief said on Sunday.
Asked about the statement of a senior UP official that people were not dying due to cold in relief camps, Lalu said, “All of them have gone mad. Someone else will have to pay for the kind of statements these officials have made”.
AAP-Cong deal to stop BJP: Gadkari; rubbish, says Kejriwal
AAP-Cong deal to stop BJP: Gadkari; rubbish, says KejriwalUpdated on : 29-12-2013 02:08 PM
BJP leader Nitin Gadkari charged a deal was brokered between Aam Aadmi Party and Congress by a reputed industrialist in a hotel to “stop BJP at any cost” from coming to power in Delhi, an allegation dismissed as rubbish by CM Arvind Kejriwal.
Addressing a party workers’ meeting in New Delhi on Saturday, Gadkari said he was told by a reputed industrialist of the country how a deal was brokered at a hotel in Delhi.
“One of the big industrialists of our country helped make a deal between Arvind Kejriwal and some senior Congress leaders at a big hotel in Delhi. I was personally told about what talks had transpired in that hotel and what all was eaten by the same person”
“The person who was working as the mediator told me that the policy being made is that BJP has to be stopped at any cost,” Gadkari claimed.
Attacking Congress, Gadkari said the former is not dreaming of making a government at the Centre anymore and said “since they (Congress) know they are finished, they will have to stop BJP at any cost”.
“Congress is now dreaming that since we are finished, we will not allow the BJP to form government and also not let Narendra Modi become the Prime Minister. Understanding this, they (Congress) are making their policies accordingly,” Gadkari said.
On the other hand, Kejriwal rubbished the allegations of Gadkari that a deal was brokered between AAP and Congress by an industrialist to form the government and asked him to provide evidence.
“This (claim) is all rubbish. It is sad to note that a senior leader like Gadkari is talking nonsense. If he is making claims, then he should also give evidence,” Kejriwal said on Saturday.
Kejriwal said there is no truth in the allegations and reiterated that there is no deal between AAP and Congress or BJP.
“There is no deal with Congress or BJP. We are here to work for the people. If we pass the floor test in Delhi assembly, we will run the government otherwise we will once gain go to people,” Kejriwal said.
AAP govt transfers power, finance secy, CEO of Delhi Jal Board
They should be given time to show their efficiency, I wont comment on him replacing officers: Kiran Walia (Congress) 
Embedded image permalink
Aam Aadmi Party government effected a major bureaucratic reshuffle on its first day in charge in Delhi and transferred the Finance Secretary, Power Secretary and CEO of Delhi Jal Board.
Delhi Jal Board CEO Debashree Mukherjee has now been posted as the Chief Managing Director of Delhi Transport Corporation. Senior IAS officer Vijay Kumar has been made the new CEO of Delhi Jal Board.
Power Secretary RK Verma, who is also the CMD of Delhi Transco Ltd and Chairman of Pragati Power Corporation Ltd, has been shifted as the Principal Secretary of Higher Education. He will also hold charge as the Principal Secretary, Training and Technical Education.
Transport Secretary Puneet Goel has been transferred as the Power Secretary. The Principal Secretary-cum-Commissioner in the Development Department, Arvind Ray, will hold additional charge in the transport department.
The shifting of Mukherjee and Verma assumes significance in the light of the statement by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal earlier in the day that his government would take a decision on water supply by Monday and on electricity by Tuesday or Wednesday.
AAP had promised 700 litres of free water daily to each household along with a reduction by 50 per cent in power tariffs in the city. Meanwhile, Delhi Finance Secretary MM Kutty, who was also Principal Secretary to former CM Sheila Dikshit, has been transferred as Principal Secretary in the Social Welfare and Women and Child Development department.
Home secretary Archana Arora has been given additional charge of Finance Department. Higher Education Secretary Rajendra Kumar has been made Secretary to the chief minister.
Officials said Mukherjee has been repatriated and posted as the DTC CMD. They said that the terms and condition of her deputation, along with Vijay Kumar’s, will be settled in due course.
After a Cabinet meeting, the Chief Minister had promised that there will be no witch-hunt against officials who work honestly and in the people’s interest.

The happenings

Posted on December 29, 2013 by 

Assad tells Pope he is ‘ready for peace talks’

Syrian President Bashar Assad, in a private message to Pope Francis, said the Syrian government is ready to participate in the Geneva-2 peace conference next month. However, Assad added that outside countries‘must stop supporting terrorist groups in the country’s civil war,’ reports Syria’s state-run news agency. “The crisis will be solved through national dialogue among the Syrians and under a Syrian leadership, without foreign intervention so as to enable the Syrians to determine their future and leadership through ballots,” the message stated. The Syrian president also expressed his appreciation for how Pope Francis has recently called upon ceasing violence and suffering in Syria, state-run SANA reported.

​Israel hit by two rockets from Lebanon, retaliates

Two rockets were fired from Lebanon at northern Israel, causing no injuries or damage on the ground. Israeli military said they responded with artillery fire to the source of the rocket attack. Meanwhile Lebanese media said Israeli tanks shelled the border area, from which the rockets had been fired. The Israeli-Lebanese border has been mostly quiet since the 2006 war between Israel and the Lebanese militant movement, Hezbollah. But lately tension sparked after a Lebanese army sniper killed an Israeli soldier across the border.

​China transfers $5bn to Venezuela, says president

China has transferred $5 billion in credits to Venezuela under a deal reached in September, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said. The money will be used for an ambitious housing project, Gran Mision Vivienda, he said. It will also be used for transportation, satellite technology and the military, he added. Chinese money is funding 201 different projects in Venezuela. The Latin American country has received some $36 billion from Beijing since 2007, when a joint investment fund was established.

​Turkey PM Erdogan won’t step down after corruption scandal

Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan says he will not step down after the corruption scandal that have forced the resignations of three ministers. The ministers’ sons were among those detained as part of a huge corruption probe. On Thursday thousands of demonstrators took to Turkey’s streets demanding the resignation of Erdogan. However, the Turkish PM called the corruption allegations a “smear campaign” and urged his voters to support his political party in local elections next month.

New report reveals no Al-Qaeda involvement in Benghazi attack

There is no evidence suggesting that Al-Qaeda or any other terrorist organization took part in the 2012 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, The New York Times has revealed. The new report argues that it was actually the US-made movie ‘Innocence of Muslims’ that fueled the attack, adding that the assault on the consulate did not appear to be “meticulously planned, but neither was it spontaneous or without warning signs.”The report is based on interviews with Libyans in Benghazi who had direct knowledge of the attack.

Thousands still without power in US, more snow feared

Around 30,000 people are still without power across the US, following an ice storm in the Midwest and Northeast. However, some progress has been made toward restoring power. For example, 210,000 homes and businesses in Michigan were initially without electricity, but that number has since been lowered to 17,600, NBC News reported. Recovery efforts may soon experience delays though, as more snow is forecasted for Sunday.

Norwegian platform evacuated following oil, gas leak

Production was shut down at the Statfjord A platform in the North Sea following an oil and gas spill on Saturday. Half of the 168 members of staff on board were evacuated by helicopter, Reuters cited the platform’s operator, Statoil, as saying. Statfjord A is located on the UK-Norway border. “The leak was reported at about 4.40 p.m. It had occurred some 10 minutes before,” Statoil spokesman Kjetil Visnes said. No injuries were reported and the incident was said to be over by 6:20 p.m. local time. Visnes refused to clarify how much oil and gas the platform was producing when the accident occurred. According to Reuters, the oil field produced about 129,000 barrels per day in December and was projected to produce the same amount in January.

EU voices concern over Turkish corruption scandal, urges transparency

The EU has voiced concern over the corruption scandal in Turkey which resulted in the replacement of nearly half the cabinet by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. European officials have urged Turkish authorities to resolve the conflict “in a transparent and impartial manner.” EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule welcomed an Ankara court ruling that rejected a government decree which would have required police and prosecutors to inform their superiors about investigations. If implemented, the government decree would have “undermined the independence of the judiciary and its capacity to act,” Fule said.

Tens of thousands rally against Niger govt

Tens of thousands of opposition supporters took to the streets of Niger to protest what they said was the failure of President Mahamadou Issoufou to improve living standards in one of the world’s poorest countries, Reuters reported. Police said some 20,000 people took part in the rally, with organizers putting the figure at 30,000. The demonstration is the first public show of strength by the Alliance for the Republic, Democracy and Reconciliation in Niger (ARDR), a coalition of 15 opposition parties formed in October. Last month, a Niger court lifted a government ban on opposition marches.

5.8 magnitude earthquake strikes off Turkish coast

A 5.8 magnitude earthquake hit 80 kilometers off Turkey’s south coast at 5:21 p.m. local time on Saturday, according to the US Geological Survey. The earthquake’s magnitude was measured at varying levels, with Turkey’s seismology center saying that a 6.1 quake had hit the Mediterranean coastal province of Antalya. The epicenter had a depth of 51.1 kilometers. The quake could also be felt in Cyprus, witnesses told AP. There have been no reports of casualties or damages thus far.

Over 130 flood warnings remain in place across UK

More than 130 flood warnings remain in place across the UK after severe showers hit western and southern England, the country’s Environment Agency said. In 34 areas, residents were urged to take immediate action. Showers have been forecast to mainly affect western and southern England, Wales and parts of Scotland before a light storm, expected the next day. The Meteogroup has said it will not be nearly as bad as the two major storms that lashed Britain over Christmas, leaving hundreds of homes flooded.

Thousands protest in Seoul against plans to privatize state-run Korea Railroad

Thousands of Korean rail workers have protested in downtown Seoul against the government’s plans to set up a separate entity, which would run a new bullet train line. Workers believe it is the first step towards privatization and massive layoffs. More than 50,000 unionized workers of the state-run Korea Railroad Corp. (KORAIL) have been off the job since Dec. 9. While organizers estimated 100,000 people attended Saturday’s protest, police put the number at 20,000. The protests were the largest of their kind seen in Seoul in recent years.

Syria President Assad sends a message to Pope Francis

Syrian President Bashar Assad has sent Pope Francis a private message, according to the Vatican. The message, which “illustrated the position of the Syrian government,” was delivered by a delegation, headed by Joseph Sweid, a Syrian minister of state. In the Vatican, the delegation held talks with the pope’s secretary of state, Archbishop Pietro Parolin and his foreign minister, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti.

Competitiveness, climate, security Finn’s priorities Ministry of Finance release Finnish road map of EU presidency. Finland i...