Wednesday, January 21, 2015


·      Renaud Lavillenie in contention after breaking Sergey Bubka’s 21-year record
·      Chinese Grand Slam star Zhang Jike wins table tennis World Cup
·      Rugby legend Jonny Wilkinson ends career after Euro triumph with Toulon
·      World’s media to vote for SIX Nominees for Laureus Sportsman Award
·      Laureus World Sports Awards to be held in Shanghai from April 13-15

LONDON, January 21, 2015 – Can Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo become the first ever footballer to win the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year Award?

Ronaldo, unveiled as winner of the Ballon d’Or World Footballer of the Year Award last week, will now be hoping to be one of the six Nominees to be chosen by the world’s media for the prestigious Laureus Award, which has been won in the past by legends like Michael Schumacher, Tiger Woods, Roger Federer and Usain Bolt.

In addition to receiving the Ballon d’Or, Ronaldo was also named UEFA Player of Year at the end of last season as he scored a record 17 goals for Real Madrid when they won the Champions League/European Cup for the tenth time. In December, he scored his 23rd hat-trick and his 200th goal in Spain’s La Liga.

The names of the Nominees will be announced on February 11 and Ronaldo will be competing with stars from every other sport for a place on the shortlist. Among those also hoping to be on the list will be: Lewis Hamilton and Marc Márquez, the hottest racers in motor sport; Rory McIlroy, the world’s No.1 golfer; France’s brilliant pole vaulter Renaud Lavillenie; China’s table tennis idol Zhang Jike; and Jonny Wilkinson after his final season in rugby.

The eventual winner will be chosen in a secret ballot by the 47 members of the Laureus World Sports Academy and revealed at the Laureus World Sports Awards Ceremony in Shanghai on April 15. Among the contenders:

Britain’s Lewis Hamilton won his second Formula One World Championship in 2014, with 11 Grand Prix victories, in the dominant Mercedes AMG Petronas car. Behind for much of the season to team-mate Nico Rosberg, he won six of the final seven Grand Prix to clinch a memorable world title. Also on the track, Spain’s Marc Márquez won his second straight World MotoGP title, at the age of 21. He opened the year with ten straight Grand Prix wins, then added three more to reach a season total of 13, beating the previous record of 12 by Laureus Academy Member Mick Doohan.

Rory McIlroy, the No.1 golfer in the world, won two Major Championships in 2014 – the British Open and the USPGA – and also won the flagship BMW PGA Championship on the European Tour and the World Golf Championship-Bridgestone event. He is the first European to win three different Majors, which he has achieved by the age of 25. He led the prize money list on both European and US Tours in 2014.

The outstanding athletics performance of the year came from France’s Renaud Lavillenie who jumped 6.16 metres in Donetsk to break Sergey Bubka’s pole vault record of 6.15m, which had stood for almost 21 years. He won 21 out of 22 competitions during the year, including winning the gold medal in the European Championships and six Diamond League races and was named IAAF Men’s Athlete of the Year. Germany’s Robert Harting once again dominated the discus, winning the gold medal in the European Championships.

Although beaten by Ronaldo for the Ballon d’Or, Lionel Messi will also be a strong contender after winning the Golden Ball as the best player in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, scoring four times as he led Argentina to the final.
Japanese gymnast Kohei Uchimura won his fifth straight All-Around world title in 2014, the only person ever to have achieved this - a run of dominance unprecedented in the sportNo other gymnast, male or female, has won more than three.

Zhang Jike won the World Cup in Dusseldorf and was a member of the Chinese table tennis team which won the World Championship in Tokyo. He is also the reigning world and Olympic champion in singles and only the fourth man to win a career Grand Slam, achieving this in the fastest time of 445 days.

In his final season, Jonny Wilkinson played a key role in establishing Toulon as the most successful rugby club in the Northern Hemisphere. He scored 13 points as Toulon beat Saracens 23-6 in the final to win the Heineken European Cup for the second straight year. A week later he ended his glittering career in style, kicking 15 points as Toulon won the French Top 14 title with an 18-10 victory against Castres.

In winter sport, Austria’s Marcel Hirscher became the first man in over 30 years to win the Alpine Overall World Cup three years in row, also winning a Winter Olympic silver medal in the Slalom in Sochi, while Norway’s Ole Einar Bjørndalen won the 10km sprint and mixed relay gold medals in Sochi to become the most decorated Winter Olympian ever, with 13 medals.

Australian fast bowler Mitchell Johnson was named ICC Cricketer of the Year for the second time and was also named the ICC Test Cricketer of the Year. He was a key factor in Australia’s 5-0 Ashes win over England and 2-1 win in South Africa, taking a total of 59 Test wickets at an average of 15.23.

In the pool, 22-year-old South African Chad le Clos became the first ever to complete a clean sweep of all butterfly titles at the World Short Course Championships, winning gold medals in the 50, 100 and 200 metres. He also took a fourth gold medal in the 200m freestyle. China’s Ning Ze Tao, at 21, won four gold medals in the Asian Games, in 50m, 100m 4 x 100m freestyle relay and 4 x 100m medley relay.

Floyd Mayweather remained No.1 boxer in the world, beating Marcos Maidana twice in 2014 to take his career record to 47-0. Another two victories will take him to an identical 49-0 record with legendary heavyweight Rocky Marciano. Manny Pacquiao, now 36, completed a remarkable comeback after his shattering six-round knock-out defeat by Juan Manuel Marquez in 2012. He first beat Timothy Bradley in April to win the WBO Welterweight title, then in November defended it against Chris Algieri in Macao.

With final averages of 32 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 5.5 assists per game, Oklahoma Thunder star Kevin Durant led the NBA in scoring for a fourth time and was named the league's Most Valuable Player. Durant scored 25 points or more in 41 consecutive games, passing Michael Jordan’s total of 40. In baseball, Mike Trout was unanimously voted American League Most Valuable Player, after a sparkling year with the Los Angeles Angels with personal bests in runs batted in (111) and home runs (36).

In other sports: Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali won his first Tour de France in 2014 by more than seven minutes, becoming the sixth man to win all three Grand Tours - the Tour de France, Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espana; Adolfo Cambiaso, ranked No.1 in the world, captained star Argentine team La Dolfina to a third polo Triple Crown - Argentine Open, Tortuga Open and Hurlingham Open – for the second straight year, the first time this feat has been achieved for nearly 40 years; and Spain’s Javier Gomez secured his fourth ITU World Triathlon Championship to equal Simon Lessing’s record, then followed up with the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Quebec one week later.

The Laureus World Sports Awards recognise sporting achievement during the calendar year 2014. The six Nominees for the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year Award are voted for by the Laureus Global Media Selection Panel, comprising leading sports editors, sports writers, broadcasters and online journalists from around the world. The eventual winner will then be chosen from that list in a secret ballot by the ultimate sports jury, the 47 members of the Laureus World Sports Academy - the living legends of sport honouring the greatest athletes of today.

The Laureus World Sports Awards is the premier honours event in the international sporting calendar. The names of the winners in various categories will be revealed at the Awards Ceremony to be held in Shanghai on 15 April.

Among the sporting greats who have previously been named as winners of Laureus World Sports Awards over the last 15 years have been Usain Bolt, Sebastian Coe, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Alex Ferguson, Lewis Hamilton, Kelly Holmes, Yao Ming, Rafael Nadal, Pelé, Steve Redgrave, Ronaldo, Michael Schumacher, Kelly Slater, Shaun White, Serena Williams, Liu Xiang and Zinedine Zidane.
Guests who have attended previous Awards Ceremony in the past have included His Majesty King Juan Carlos of Spain, HSH Prince Albert of Monaco, David and Victoria Beckham, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sean Connery, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, Morgan Freeman, Teri Hatcher, Eva Longoria, Gwyneth Paltrow and Kevin Spacey.

Proceeds from the Laureus World Sports Awards directly benefit and underpin the work of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, which supports more than 150 sports-based community projects in 34 countries around the world that have helped to improve the lives of millions of young people.

Members of the Laureus World Sports Academy and Laureus Ambassadors volunteer their time to act as global ambassadors for the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, whose mission is to use sport as the means to combat some of the world’s toughest social challenges facing young people today such as juvenile crime, gangs, HIV/AIDS, discrimination, social exclusion, landmines awareness, education and health problems such as obesity. Since its inception Laureus has raised over €60 million to support projects around the world.

The globally televised Awards Ceremony, attended by many legends of sport past and present, will celebrate the achievements of the greatest sportsmen and sportswomen of the year. The Laureus World Sports Awards will be supported by Chinese textile and woolcompany HengYuanXiang Group (HYX), the Host Partner of the 2015 Laureus World Sports Awards, and will receive the strong support of the Shanghai Municipal Government,
Shanghai, one of China’s most iconic travel destinations and one of the most spectacular cities on Earth, is a perfect location for the 2015 Laureus World Sports Awards. A popular tourist destination renowned for its historical landmarks, such as The Bund, City God Temple and Yu Garden, as well as the dramatic Lujiazui skyline, it is a showcase for the booming economy of China. Shanghai mixes old world charm with a modern and vibrant city, perfectly blending the past and present. Shanghai annually hosts some of the biggest sports events in the world, including the Formula One Chinese Grand Prix and the IAAF Shanghai Diamond League meeting.

Enjoying a long-standing reputation in China, HYX is a leading force in the textile and garment industry. In recent years HYX has evolved into a modern enterprise developing its own unique ‘brand and culture’, through brands like ‘HYX’, ‘Fazeya’ and ‘Nanonan’. For many years, HYX has actively focused on sport and been a partner in sports events like football, basketball, gymnastics and marathon. In December 2005, HYX became the first non-sports textile and costume sponsor in the history of the Olympics and three years laterbecame the first partner of the Chinese Olympic Committee, customizing the Olympic kit for Chinese athletes.

The ‘Eternal Love’ programme, co-founded by HYX and the China Children and Teenagers’ Foundation, has won the China Charity Award twice, being honoured as the No.1 activity for caring for orphaned and disabled children in China. Also, the ‘HYX Literature Star High School Students’ Writing Contest’ has become the most influential event of its kind, attracting the largest number of contestants. In 1997 and 2007 HYX supported the ‘10,000 Teenagers’ Recreational and Sports Activities’ event in Tiananmen Square, in Beijing, China,in the hope of promoting the health of teenagers. For a long time, HYX has been an active partner in sports events like football, basketball, gymnastics and marathon.

11.5 cr Jan Dhan accounts opened

11.5 cr Jan Dhan accounts opened; most of India is banked: FM
As many as 11.5 crore bank accounts have been opened under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana, exceeding the enhanced target of 10 crore and covering 99.74 per cent of households, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said. 

"Most of India today is included in the banking system," he said, adding that more than Rs 9,000 crore has been deposited in the Jan Dhan accounts. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the financial inclusion scheme in his first Independence Day speech last year. 

It was launched in August with a target to open bank accounts for 7.5 crore poor persons by January 26, 2015. The target was later increased to 10 crore accounts. 

Addressing a press conference in New Delhi, Jaitley said the government would use these bank accounts to pass on benefits to individuals under its various social security schemes. 

Financial Services Secretary Hasmukh Adhia said that even Guinness Book of World Records has recognised the achievements made under PMJDY. 

In its citation, the Guinness Book said: "Most bank accounts opened in one week as part of the Financial Inclusion Campaign is 18,096,130 and was achieved by the Department of Financial Services, Government of India from August 23 to 29, 2014." 


 EU lifts ban on import of mangoes from India
The EU on Tuesday decided to lift a seven-month-long ban on the import of mangoes from India after the world's biggest producer made significant improvements in plant health controls and certification system, clearing the way for them to return to the 28-member bloc by March. 

However, the prohibition on the import of vegetables from India will be reviewed at later stage after collecting more evidence, the EU said in a statement. 

A European Commission committee meeting in Brussels voted to lift the ban on mangoes on Tuesday. 

"A proposal by the Commission to lift the import ban of mango fruits from India was today endorsed by Member State experts meeting at the relevant Regulatory Committee concerned with Plant Health," the statement said. 

"An audit carried out by the Commission's Food and Veterinary Office in India in September 2014 showed significant improvements in the phytosanitary export certification system. The European Union's "temporary ban" came into force on May 1, 2014 and was to remain effective until December 2015 after authorities in Brussels found consignments of the premium Alphonso mangoes infested with fruit flies that they feared could damage European salad crops. After Tuesday's vote, the EU said, "India has also provided assurances that appropriate measures are now available to ensure that the exports of mango fruits are free from quarantine pest, like the fruit flies not known to occur in the Union. 

"The measures will allow the import of mango fruits before the start of the next import season in March 2015," the statement said. 

The legislation now needs to be formally adopted and published by the European Commission. This will take around a month, but the positive vote by the Committee gives certainty to Indian exporters and UK importers about the position for the forthcoming mango season. 

The EU accounts for more than 50 per cent of total exports of fruits and vegetables from India. The UK is the main destination, followed by the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium. The UK imports nearly 160 lakh mangoes from India and the market for this fruit is worth nearly 6 million pounds a year. 

India, the world's largest exporter, sells about 65,000-70,000 tonnes of all varieties of mangoes in the global market out of total production of 15-16 lakh tonnes. 

In 2013-14 fiscal, India had exported mangoes worth USD 8.9 million (nearly 4,000 tonnes) to EU nations. Overall, India exported mangoes worth USD 50.7 million in 2013-14 financial year and USD 43.9 million in the first six months of current fiscal. 

Shri Rajeev Kher, Secretary, Ministry of Commerce, Government of India led a delegation consisting senior officials from the Ministries of Commerce, Textiles and the Department of Pharmaceuticals along with export promotion councils and companies from the textiles, pharmaceuticals, engineering, agriculture and leather sectors to Vietnam from 19-21 January 2015. Commerce Secretary co-chaired the 2nd Meeting of the India-Vietnam Sub-Commission on Trade with Vietnamese Vice Minister of Industry and Trade H.E. Mr. Cao Quoc Hung on January 20, 2015 in Hanoi.

At the meeting, both sides reviewed the progress made since the first meeting and discussed measures to enhance cooperation in textiles, pharmaceuticals, agri-trade, investment, services and so on. The discussions focused on implementing decisions taken during Prime Minister of Vietnam H E Mr. Nguyen Tan Dung’s visit to India in October 2014 wherein both Prime Ministers agreed to enhance economic and trade cooperation as a strategic objective.

Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai, while meeting the delegation, expressed his pleasure at the blossoming of trade and economic relations and his confidence that both sides would be able to achieve the target of bilateral trade of US$15 billion by 2020. He noted that there is great potential for trade and investment cooperation in textiles, agriculture, pharmaceuticals, leather, energy and oil and gas, and invited Indian companies to invest in Vietnam. He also accepted the Indian side’s invitation conveyed by Commerce Secretary to visit India this year.

The Joint Sub-Commission on Trade was established in 2013 between India and Vietnam with an objective to boost bilateral trade and economic cooperation. The first meeting was held in November 2013 in New Delhi.

Shri Kher also met Vice Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development H E Mr. Vu Van Tan, Vice Minister of Health H E Mr. Pham Le Tuan and senior officials of the Drug Administration of Vietnam. He called on Deputy Prime Minister of Vietnam H E Mr. Hoang Trung Hai in Hanoi and Vice Chairman of the Ho Chi Minh City Peoples Committee H E Mr. Le Manh Ha in Ho Chi Minh City.

The delegation also visited Ho Chi Minh City on January 21 to attend a business-to-business event jointly organized by both governments, with participation of around 100 companies from both sides. 


Jan 21
Bibek Debroy has taken over as the member of NITI Aayog today. Debroy has been working as a professor at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi .
He has previously worked as Director of the Rajiv Gandhi Institute for Contemporary Studies and as a Consultant in Finance Ministry in various capacities. He was also the Chairman of High Powered Committee of the restructuring on Railways.


Jan 21
US President Barack Obama has declared an end to the country's financial crisis. In his annual State of the Union address to Congress, he said that the US had turned a page after the worst recession since the Depression.

The US President pledged economic policies to benefit all Americans. He called for Congress to close tax loopholes for the richest Americans. He said that he will veto any Bill which threatens his administration's achievements on health insurance, financial regulation or immigration.

On foreign policy, Obama urged Congress to pass a resolution that authorises the use of force against the militant group, Islamic State. He stressed his ongoing commitment to fight extremist groups.


Jan 21

The Budget Session of Parliament will start from the 23rd of next month and the first part of the session will continue up to the 20th of March. Sources said in New Delhi that the second part of the session will take place from the 20th of April till the 8th of May. The Union Budget will be presented on the 28th of February. The decision was taken during a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affair headed by Home Minister Rajnath Singh.

Top Golfers to tee off at the Hero Indian Open 2015

Top Golfers to tee off at the Hero Indian Open 2015
Charismatic Jiménez to headline the field
New Delhi (India), January 21, 2015:
Spanish pro Miguel Ángel Jiménez, one of the most charismatic players in world golf, will headline a strong field comprising players from Europe and Asia as the Hero Indian Open gets underway here next month.
The 51st edition of India’s national open will be held from February 19 to 22, 2015 at the historic Delhi Golf Club in the national capital. The Hero India Open, which carries an enhanced prize purse of US $ 1.5 million, will also be making its debut on the European Tour from this year.
The flamboyant Jiménez has won 21 times on the Race to Dubai, as well as having represented Europe in the Ryder Cup on four occasions. The 51 year old was also the playing captain of the European Team at the inaugural EurAsia Cup in Malaysia last year.
Continuing its association with Golf in general and the Hero Indian Open in particular, for the tenth year in succession, Mr. Pawan Munjal, Vice Chairman, Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer, Hero MotoCorp Ltd said, “Golf is fast emerging as a popular sport among the youth in India, and we are glad to have played a catalyst role in this movement. Hero MotoCorp has been associated with golf for close to two decades now, thereby nurturing the game since its nascent stage. The Hero Indian Open being co-sanctioned by the European Tour from this year is an acknowledgement of the rising stature of Indian golf in the world arena. I am sure this will go a long way in further popularising the game in India. I am also delighted to see a strong Indian line-up in this year's edition which will compete against some of the best in the world. We look forward to seeing some top-class golf at the Hero Indian Open 2015."
- PrizePrizePrize Prize moneymoney money enhanced enhanced enhancedenhanced to US $ million million million million
- HeroHero IndianIndianIndianIndianIndian OpenOpen to be co -sanctionedsanctioned sanctioned sanctioned withwith with EuropeanEuropean European TourTour Tour for the first firstfirstfirst time time
- AllAll the the top Indian IndianIndianIndian starsstarsstars expectedexpectedexpected expectedexpected to tee up at thethe 51st 51st edition edition edition edition
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Even as entries continue to come in, some of the top stars, including Sidikkur who won the event in 2013, are expected to feature in the coming edition. SSP Chowrasia and Anirban Lahiri, who were both tied second and Rashid Khan and Chiragh Kumar, who were tied fourth, on that occasion, are also expected to tee up at the event. The field is also expected to include the likes of Jeev Milkha Singh, Arjun Atwal and Jyoti Randhawa, the only three-time Indian winner of the Hero Indian Open. Over the next few weeks, as the entries come in, more top names from European and Asian Tours will be confirmed.
Nimbus Sport, which has promoted the Hero Indian Open since 2011, has acquired the rights to manage the tournament for the next three editions from 2015 to 2017.
The Hero Indian Open has been synonymous with the rise of golf in India, and has been at the forefront of unearthing some of the best golfing talents that the country has seen, including the likes of Arjun Atwal, Jeev Milkha Singh, Jyoti Randhawa, Shiv Kapur and Gaganjeet Bhullar.
It has also attracted an impressive array of international players in the past, with Ryder Cup stars Peter Hanson and Edoardo Molinari, Englishman James Morrison, two-time European Tour winner Richie Ramsay, Swedes Rikard Karlberg and Daniel Chopra, as well as victorious Ryder Cup Captain Paul McGinley all having played previously.
Supporting Quotes:
[1] Ryder Cup Director Richard Hills said: “It is with great pleasure that we return to India for the Hero Indian Open 2015, and we look forward to a strong field assembling at Delhi Golf Club next month. The European Tour has always enjoyed coming to this wonderful country and we look forward to returning as the tournament continues to grow the game in the country. We would therefore like to thank Pawan Munjal from Hero MotoCorp Ltd for his support of this event, and of the game of golf in India, as without him the sport would not be where it is today. It was also a great pleasure to welcome him to Gleneagles last September for The Ryder Cup, and we look forward to working with him and our tri-sanctioning partners the Indian Golf Union and the Asian Tour on this event. We are also looking forward to working with Nimbus Sport over the next three years, and appreciate their help in staging the event.”
[2] Mr. Jaydeep Chitlangia, President, Indian Golf Union said, "It has been a great journey for us and a matter of immense pride to see Hero Indian Open become a part of the European Tour. We sincerely thank Hero MotoCorp for their continued support to the Hero Indian Open and the sport of golf in India."
[3] Mr. Sunil Manocha, COO, Nimbus Sport said, “Since its inauguration in 1964, Hero Indian Open has grown from strength to strength and played a remarkable role in popularizing the sport in India. It’s being inducted in the prestigious European Tour is a huge achievement and a
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shot in the arm for Indian golf. Nimbus Sport is proud to be associated with the Hero Indian Open and the Indian Golf Union, and look forward to exciting times on the greens.”
# # #
Notes to Editors:
[1] The name of the tournament is ‘Hero Indian Open 2015’. Hence, request you kindly use tournament name in its entirety.
About Hero MotoCorp Ltd:
Hero MotoCorp is the world's largest two-wheeler manufacturer in terms of unit volumes sold in a calendar year by a single company. The company sold over 6.64 million two-wheelers in the calendar year 2014. The New Delhi, India-headquartered Hero MotoCorp currently sells its range of motorbikes and scooters in 23 countries spread across Asia, Africa and South and Central America. By the year 2020, Hero aims to be present in 50 countries with an annual combined sales volume of 12 million units. By that year, Hero also aims to surpass the cumulative sales of 100 million two-wheelers.
For over two decades, Hero has been associated with various disciplines of sports including golf, cricket and hockey. In the biggest-ever celebrity brand endorsement initiative by an Indian company, Hero MotoCorp in 2014 signed on 14 times major champion Tiger Woods as its Global Corporate Partner. Top Indian golfers Anirban Lahiri, Shiv Kapur, Gaganjeet Bhullar and Daniel Chopra and India’s top woman professional Sharmila Nicollet are also Hero brand ambassadors.
Hero has been sponsoring the men’s Indian Open since 2006 and the Women’s Indian Open since 2010. Hero also sponsors India’s domestic Pro Tour for women. Hero last year became the title sponsor of the Tiger Woods Invitational - the Hero World Challenge - which is also a PGA Tour event.
About European Tour:
The European Tour is committed to celebrating the game of golf from the origins of the professional game, building a proud history of achievement, sportsmanship and integrity as well as showcasing our diverse global talent and rich landscapes. The European Tour's innovative approach enables us to embrace the world, combining championships of tradition with new tournaments in the cities and countries of the future. The European Tour International Schedule, which from 2009 has incorporated The Race to Dubai, is a thriving global brand which, in 2015, will feature a minimum of 47 tournaments spread across five continents; the European Challenge Tour focuses on the up and coming players of the future; while the European Senior Tour provides a new start for champions celebrating their 50th birthday. The European Tour’s corporate identity features the iconic silhouette image of six-time Open Champion Harry Vardon who gives his name to The Harry Vardon Trophy, presented to the player who is crowned European Tour Number One and winner of The Race to Dubai at the end of the season.
About Nimbus Sport:
Nimbus Sport is the full service sports marketing division of Nimbus Communications Ltd., specializing in Rights Distribution and Management, Television Production, Sponsorship Services and Event Management.
Nimbus Sport has been involved in managing rights transactions worth over USD 2 billion to date, among the largest in Asia. It has extensive experience of rights management and/or television production with multiple sports federations and dozens of major sponsors. It is a leading producer of World Feeds of Live sports events with over 4500 hours of Live content delivered and also manages best-in-class sports events.
For further information, please contact:
Piyush Kant / Ayonava Bagchi
Young Monk Communications
M: +91 98102 52379 / 98187 74606
E: /

Dramatic Change in Sri Lanka : Will it foster better ties with India

Recent political developments in Sri Lanka have drawn the attention of South Asian countries and the world at large. The credit goes to the people and the political spectrum of the island country for dislodging a despotic and arrogant President Mahinda Rajapaksa in what can be termed a bloodless coup, albeit through the ballot box. Importantly, Rajapksa’s exit is expected to usher in a process of further democratic reforms in Sri Lanka.
The Indian Prime Minister Narendrabhai Damodardass Modi  promptly congratulated new President Maithripala Sirisena and not only assured to work with him but also invited him to visit India. Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj too called on her counterpart Mangala Samaraweera and invited him to visit India, which was accepted. Samaraweera is expected to visit India on Sunday 18 January, his first foreign tour. On its part New Delhi wants Sirisena to settle down and fulfill the people’s mandate.
Undeniably, Rajapaksa had created concerns for India. Despite New Delhi asking him to devolve political and financial powers to the Tamil-dominated northern and eastern provinces as per the 13th Constitutional Amendment. But the former President arrogantly  refused.
Worse, after the brutal decimation of one of the world’s deadliest guerrilla group, LTTE, and killing of thousands of innocent Tamils in the process, Rajapaksha was slow and tardy in his rehabilitation plan. Notwithstanding, India extending financial support for the rehabilitation of Tamils.
Further, he also refused to allow an independent inquiry into the 2009 horrific massacre, no matter the human rights violations invited global concern and was debated in the UN Human Rights Council. Even as New Delhi but India hoped good sense would prevail upon Rajapaksa sooner than later.
Hopes abound that Sirisena might take steps to address the concerns of the international community. The UN Human Rights Council is likely to take up this issue in its next session in March in Geneva.
Bluntly, had Rajapaksa been allowed to remain in power and continue with his arrogant attitude, he would have invited sanctions from Western powers, thereby further dwindling the island country’s economy. Moreover, his despotic nature knew no bound. Just to annoy India, he planned closer links with China even at the cost of South Asia.
Both Sirisena and new Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe have criticized Rajapaksa for inviting huge loans from China for building roads, ports and other infrastructure. They have opposed the building of another port in Colombo with Chinese assistance as it would amount to huge ecological damage. Recall, despite New Delhi’s protests, Rajapaksa allowed Chinese submarines to dock at Colombo port twice and threatened to turn Sri Lanka into a strategic asset for China at India’s expense.
Remember, after the 2009 massacre, Rajapaksa bounced back to power for the second successive term in 2010, but he did not prove well for Sri Lankan democracy. Add to this, post the Parliamentary elections in April 2010 which gave his Party two-third majority he decided to amend the Constitution which stipulated only two terms for a President.
Why did he do this? Primarily, Rajapaksa felt that the Buddhist-majority population would reward him for the 2009 massacre by bouncing him back to power many times. His other interests was to protect himself and his coterie: brother and Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, army generals, officials and hosts of other Rajapaksas from possible war crimes. But unfortunately for Rajapaksa, Sri Lankans were not too happy to tolerate his game any longer.
The 18th Constitutional Amendment gave sweeping powers to the President in the appointment of heads and members of major institutions like Election Commission, Public Service Commission and Anti-Bribery Commission.  Rajapaksa trampled upon the independence of judiciary and removed Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake and appointed Attorney General Mohan Peiris in his place.
But over-confident Rajapaksa met his fatal consequences when he declared his decision to hold Presidential polls after completing four years of his six-year term. His colleague Sirisena defected to become the joint opposition sponsored Presidential candidate. Former President Chandrika Kumaratunga Bandaranaike of Rajapaksa’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) along with others came out to lend support to Sirisena, who also got support from Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP) and Tamil National Alliance (TNA).
Besides, Sirisena had the support of Muslims and some Sinhalese outfits who were fed up with the dictatorial and corrupt Rajapaksa regime. This ensured Sirisena’s victory.
Significantly, Sirisena has promised to abolish the executive powers of the President and return to the Westminster style of parliamentary democracy. This would amount to scraping the 18th Amendment and bringing in further amendments to the Constitution. Towards this end, he would have to mobilise numbers in Parliament and possibly have to rely on Rajapaksa’s SLFP or depend upon further defection from the SLFP. Clearly, a hard task.
As for the devolution of powers to Tamil provinces, Sirisena is better equipped with the 13th Constitutional Amendment already in place. TNA while extending support to Sirisena had demanded devolution of powers to Tamil provinces on the lines of that enjoyed by State Governments in India.
But Sirisena during his campaign, with a view to placate Sinhalese outfit, promised not to withdraw the army from Tamil provinces. One should not forget that Sirisena is also perceived as a Sinhalese hardliner.
Additionally, Sirisena has won with the support of several forces who were opposed to Rajapaksa’s style of functioning and his corrupt regime. His first priority will be to introduce necessary democratic reforms and ensure a corruption free regime.
Notably, India has always attempted to have better relations with Sri Lanka. Its economic engagements with its island neighbor, including the free trade agreement between the two countries, could help Colombo to graduate to the status of a developing country from a least developed one.
One hopes Sirisena will better its relationship with India. Rajapaksa had obliged India by his presence at Modi’s oath-taking ceremony in May. But his approach did not move further from this gesture. It now depends upon how much Prime Minister Modi and President Sirisena work out their relations to the mutual benefit of the two neighbours, SAARC and BIMSTEC groups in which both are active participants.
(Ashok B Sharma is a senior columnist based in New Delhi, India. He writes on strategic and policy issues in many Indian and foreign newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at His mobile phone no 09810902204)

Finals of the inaugural Cairn Juniors Hockey cup to be played tomorrow at the Shivaji Stadium

New Delhi, January 20, 2015: SS Mota Singh will take on GBSSS, Saket J Block and GBSSS, Khanpur will fight it out with VCS Agriculture, Khera Kheri in the finals of the inaugural Cairn Juniors Hockey cup 2015 in the Junior (U-17) and Sub Junior (U-14) categories respectively.
In the first Juniors semifinal SS Mota Singh, Janakpuri took on Modern School, Barakhamba Road in which the boys from SS Mota Singh made a remarkable comeback to beat Modern School 3-1. Modern School took the lead in the 10th minute through a goal from Captain Keshav Kanodia and maintained the lead till the 46th minute when Deep from SS Mota School scored the equalizer. He scored another goal in the very next minute to give SS Mota the lead. Naveen scored the third for SS Mota to clinch the game. SS Mota will take on GBSSS, Saket J Block in the finals tomorrow. GBSSS Saket, J Block beat GBSSS, Mahrauli 2-0. The boys from Saket dominated the proceedings and in end was an easy victory for them. Pawn and Sonu scored a goal apiece for Saket.
In the first semi-final of the Sub Junior category, VCS Agriculture, Khera Kheri completed a comprehensive victory over SBV, Ashok Nagar 2-0. Mohit and Kunal scored scored one goal each for VCS. They will take on GBSSS, Khanpur in the final who beat Yogi Arvind SBV, Ambedkar Nagar 1-0 in a closely contested match. Suraj Kumar scored the winning goal for the GBSSS, Khanpur.
Finals Fixture:
Sub Junior (Under 14)
15:00 hrs GBSSS, Khanpur VS VCS Agriculture, Khera Kheri
Junior (Under 17)
16.00 hrs SS Mota Singh VS GBSSS, Saket J Block

India likely to cross China’s projected growth rate: IMF

International Monetary Fund (IMF) today said, India is expected to grow at 6.3 per cent this year and 6.5 per cent in 2016 by when it is likely to cross China’s projected growth rate.
Terming the new government’s reforms as promising, the IMF said in 2014, India’s growth rate was 5.8 per cent against China’s 7.4 per cent. The report released by IMF added that implementation is key for the Indian government. The report said global growth will receive a boost from lower oil prices.

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