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India’s Second Independence Movement

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By: Rohit Kumar

Anna Hazare has apparently been India’s Guy Fawkes from the 1990’s till today

While India harps on its place on the world stage – a burgeoning middle class with wealth and access beyond any other Third World country – and tries to make itself an economic, political and military superpower, there are troubles in its underbelly that need urgent attention; before the system fails and the so-called democratic politicians are sent packing.

No, this is not about the Naxalite/Maoist rebellion, or of unrest in the Tamil south. This is about the nationwide movement against corruption in India, led by Gandhiwadi Kisan Baburao Hazare, affectionately known to India’s youth as Anna Hazare.

A retired Army soldier, veteran of the 1965 war with Pakistan, and civil activist, Anna Hazare has toiled long and hard for the backward masses of Ralegan Siddhi, a village in Parner taluka of Ahmednagar district, Maharashtra, India. He has transformed Ralegan Siddhi into a modern village with functional social structures and with a vibrant political culture that addresses the needs as well as complaints of the people.

In 1991, Anna Hazare launched the Bhrashtachar Virodhi Jan Aandolan (BVJA) (People’s Movement against Corruption), a popular movement to fight against corruption in Ralegaon Siddhi. In 1997, Hazare shifted his focus to the state, targeting Maharashtra Social Welfare minister Babanrao Gholap of the Shiv Sena for malpractices and malfeasance in the purchase of some power looms. After a lengthy battle – during which Hazare was also arrested and incarcerated for three months – Gholap resigned on April 27, 1999.

In 2003, while Hazare brought corruption charges against four ministers of the Congress-NCP government, then-chief minister Sushil Kumar Shinde formed a one-man commission headed by the retired justice P. B. Sawant to probe the charges. The P. B. Sawant commission report, submitted on 23 February 2005, indicted Sureshdada Jain, Nawab Malik, and Padmasinh Patil – the former two resigned in March 2005. What is interesting is that three trusts – Hind Swaraj Trust, Bhrashtachar Virodhi Janandolan Trust, and Sant Yadavbaba Shikshan Prasarak Mandal Trust – headed by Anna Hazare were also indicted in the P. B. Sawant commission report.

But a little while before this, in the early 2000s, Anna Hazare had proclaimed that “All corruption can end only if there is freedom of information” – he had worked tirelessly to strengthen the Maharashtra Right to Information Act, and laid the foundation for a Right to Information (RTI) Act to be enacted in 2005 by the Union Government. On 20 July 2006 the Union Cabinet amended the Right to Information Act 2005 to exclude the file noting by the government officials from its purview. Hazare began his fast unto death on 9 August 2006 in Alandi against the proposed amendment. He ended his fast on 19 August 2006, after the government agreed to change its earlier decision.

Therefore, Anna Hazare is an old stalwart of battles against the corrupt and insensitive government of India, whether of a state or of the union. He is the champion of the people, and the spearhead of their struggles against unjust rulers who have only been replaced in ethnicity, but not in motivations. In 2011, Hazare initiated a Satyagraha (soul force or truth force) movement for passing a stronger anti-corruption Lokpal (ombudsman) bill in the Indian Parliament, as conceived in the Jan Lokpal Bill (People’s Ombudsman Bill) that invests broad powers in the peoples’ ombudsmen, or Lokpal, by bringing acts of the prime minister, higher judiciary and the acts of the MPs under their purview. This move is being severely opposed by the Congress, and by their ministers in the Joint Drafting Committee, which was created and announced in the Gazette on April 9, 2011, four days after Anna Hazare started his ‘fast unto death’ in Jantar Mantar, New Delhi. When he broke his fast – after the government acceded to the formation of a committee representative of the government and the civil society – he aptly termed his movement against corruption a second freedom movement, or independence struggle, in India. This time, it would not be the British, but corrupt Indian politicians, who would be ousted using Gandhiwadi tactics and the power of the Indian youth.

Civil society members of the drafting committee remained adamant that keeping the prime minister and judges of Supreme Court and High Courts out of the purview of the Lokpal would be a violation of the United Nations Convention against Corruption.

In this backdrop, Anna was also furious at the government’s highhandedness in disrupting Swami Ramdev’s (known as Baba Ramdev) anti-corruption protest at Ramlila Maidan, New Delhi, on June 06, 2011. Delhi Police raided the Maidan when most Satyagrahis were sleeping and Ramdev was busy at a meeting with his core group. A large police force lobbed tear gas shells and baton-charged the area to evict the crowd between 1 a.m. to 4 a.m. Police had arranged buses to drop supporters at railway stations and bus stands in advance; they had ammunition ready and all the policemen were in battle-gear wearing vests and helmets and kept some ambulances on standby.

Meanwhile, Baba Ramdev requested policemen: “Do not beat the people here, I am ready to court arrest”.

Delhi Police kept Baba Ramdev in a government guesthouse for a few hours and then sent him to his Ashram in Haridwar under police custody. Police fired tear gas and baton-charged people who were peacefully fasting, to chase them out of the Ramlila maindan. 53 persons were injured and were treated at the Lok Nayak Jai Prakash (LNJP) hospital, AIIMS trauma center and Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital. According to New Delhi railway station authorities, supporters continued to leave in batches through the course of the day. While several supporters spent the day in a park near Ramlila Maidan, others took shelter in Arya Samaj at Paharganj.

Baba Ramdev was taken by police outside Delhi and prohibited him from entering Delhi for 15 days. After being banned from entering Delhi for the next 15 days, Union Home Secretary G. K. Pillai said the Baba was on his way to his Ashram at Haridwar under police custody. On reaching Haridwar, Swami Ramdev declared in a press conference that his fast unto death will continue. About 5,000 supporters were still missing according to Baba Ramdev. Dr Jaideep Arya, a key advisor of Ramdev’s team, said that about 19 girls students from the Chotipur Gurukul, who were seated near the dais, are estimated to be still missing. Suman, women’s representative of the Trust, said many of these girls were roughed up when the police tried to reach Baba Ramdev and were crying since police officials were pulling their hair, dragging them badly and their clothes were torn. Police, however, said no one was missing. T.V. channels were telecasting the the footage of the scene in Ramlila Maidan.

Anna Hazare and other civil society members decided to boycott the meeting of the joint Lokpal Bill drafting committee scheduled on 6 June 2011 in protest against the forcible eviction of Swami Ramdev and his followers by the Delhi Police from Ramlila Maidan on 5 June 2011, while they were on hunger strike against the issues of black money and corruption and already doubting the seriousness of the union government in taking measures to eradicate corruption (from which they were immensely benefitting). Hazare and his associates pride themselves on being “apolitical” (as if that itself were a badge of honour), and persist in seeing the problem entirely in terms of the government – politicians and bureaucrats – without noting the nexus they form with local and international corporate power through capital transfers. Their renewed demand for yet another Lokpal law conveniently ignores the point that the lack of genuine implementation of existing laws is often the most obvious way in which corruption occurs – and this is the argument most vehemently presented by the Indian government.

It seems that Anna Hazare, and those whom he inspires, is performing the same role in India that Wael Ghonim did in Egypt; while Wael was anonymous and trying to bring down an autocratic dictatorial regime, Anna is the poster-boy of the movement and is attacking the system of corruption that perpetuates the status quo of corrupt power structures and corrupt political parties in India. Anna has brought India closer to revolution than any other South Asian country – even after considering the strides made by Moussavi in Iran and by Imran Khan in Pakistan. Anna may not be as charismatic as Guy Fawkes, but his strict Gandhiwadi appearance and tactics have endeared him to the Indian population, especially the youth, who are eagerly looking for any role model to follow in returning India to its “incredibleness”. Writing for the Guardian, Jayati Ghosh states that many Indians feel betrayed with neoliberal economic policies that have increased fraud and corruption, thereby exacerbating inequality in all walks of Indian life. Scams and scandals have become a staple of the economic environment. The numbers keep growing, as hundreds of billions of rupees are extracted in various ways, while the poor keep suffering because they do not have anything but they can watch their fellow countrymen have everything. Market-oriented reforms in India delivered higher aggregate growth but also significantly increased economic inequality and material insecurity for the majority of India’s population. As the elites and burgeoning middle classes become more confident, they become more brazen in flaunting their consumption to a population that is generally denied any such access and may even be facing worsening prospects. All indicators suggest that economic illegality, fraud and corrupt practices have ballooned in recent times in India. Perhaps the government already knows something that is not yet explicitly recognized in the woefully-biased Indian media: that the Indian growth story has been wholly and solely reliant on corruption, which has been rephrased as ‘functional corruption’. Anna is definitely capitalizing on “a great betrayal” felt by a populace that had been told that the era of neoliberal economic policies would end vices that were supposedly associated with greater government involvement in economic activity.

But despite these populist gestures, there is another side to Anna as well; In a press conference in April 2011, Anna Hazare praised Narendra Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat for his efforts on rural development along with Nitish Kumar, chief minister of Bihar, saying that the same should be emulated by the chief ministers of all states. Subsequently, Modi wrote an open letter to him, hailing him as a Gandhian and anti-corruption activist, while Digvijay Singh, the General Secretary of the Congress party, criticised him. In May 2011 – just a month later – during his visit to Gujarat, Anna abrutply changed his view and criticised Modi for rampant corruption. He urged Modi to appoint a Lokayukta in Gujarat. He also commented that the media had projected an incorrect image of Vibrant Gujarat which was totally untrue compared to the situation on the ground. According to Yogesh Pratap Singh of Tehelka, Anna has also been accused of being “enamored with authority” and conveniently remains silent on major issues of people who create access for him to authority. This makes him a questionable character to lead India’s revolution, but it seems that the general public – or janata – are more disturbed by corrupt ministers than by any hint of corruption in their civil society. It is also commendable that the Indian people – despite having a ‘vibrant’ democratic system which has suffered no cessations in the electoral process – have mobilized themselves (or have been mobilized by the youth) and are taking their problems head on themselves. It is a sign for Third World countries that there is only so much that you can depend on a post-colonial state for, and if your problem is the government itself, then it is you – the citizen – who can do something about it. Nobody else, but you.

Because people should not be afraid of their governments.

Rather, it is governments who should be afraid of their people.

India can’t do a ‘Geronimo’

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Lt Gen Harwant Singh (retd).

Consequent to American operation ‘Geronimo,’ at Abbottabad in Pakistan to eliminate Osama bin Laden, many in civil society have been asking whether India can go ahead with a similar operation. ‘Geronimo’ involved painstaking intelligence work spread over many years, though the final ‘fine- tuning’ took seven months or so. Detailed intelligence work and application of cutting edge technology apart, it required an enormous amount of co-ordination among those in the higher echelons of the civil administration and military high command as well as with the one who was to control the mission. The entire planning was closely monitored by the Chiefs of Defence Staff, the CIA chief and the President himself, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces.

For months they worked on the plan, disseminating information strictly following the principle, ‘need to know’. A mock-up of the ‘Osama house’ would have been erected and an operation rehearsed a number of times by the designated team of helicopter crews and Seals, and the latter had otherwise been undergoing one of the most vigorous training schedules. Only then was it possible to complete the mission with clock-work precision. It was the President who had to take the final call and gave written orders.

Since intelligence is the most essential input for such an operation, can Indian intelligence agencies measure up to this basic requirement? Weaknesses of Indian intelligence have repeatedly surprised the nation, be it the Chinese road across Ladakh, the scale of aggression in 1962, and mass infiltration in 1965 in J and K followed by the attack in Chamb-Jorian. Kargil was a major intelligence failure and so was the attack on Parliament where there were security lapses too. It was repeated at Mumbai, in spite of some early leads. More recent are the cases of lists of terrorists in Pakistan and the CBI team arriving in Copenhangen with an out-dated warrant of arrest. The list is endless.

Accurate and actionable intelligence is fundamental to the success of covert operations, whereas it remains our weakest point. In fact, in the case of Indian intelligence agencies, it is not the case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing but the little finger not knowing whom the index finger, of the same hand, is fingering?

At the national level we have the NSG, especially trained and equipped for such operations. At Mumbai these commandos first took too long to arrive and later too long to complete the operation. Equally, are the NSG commandos equal to the job? Just recall the visuals of a commando holding his weapon well above his head and firing at supposedly some terrorists! This visual was repeatedly shown on the American TV, where we saw the drama unfold. The NSG was commanded by an army officer, invariably an ex-commando, but now it is a police officer with no ground-level experience of commando operations. Grabbing jobs, irrespective of the suitability of the appointee, is another feature of Indian setting.

There was no centralised control over the operation and the entire scene around Taj Hotel appeared one of a ‘circus,’ with apparently no one knowing what to do. The details of ammunition and grenades expended by the commandos in this action would give an idea of the operation and our suspicion of possible collateral damage.

Both the Indian Navy and the Indian Army have special forces which can carry out missions of the type conducted by the US naval Seals at Abbottabad. They are organised and trained for such missions and have the best of leadership. Quality of intelligence inputs apart, it is the joint operations where more than one service is to take part and then problems arise. There are major fault-lines in the field of coordination and meshing together of various aspects of such an operation between the two Services taking part in the operation. This lack of ‘joint-ship’ has been the bane of Indian defence forces, which essentially is the handiwork of the politic-bureaucratic combine. The policy of ‘divide and rule’, and ‘turf-tending’ over national interest has been the dominant feature of the Indian defence apparatus.

In the case of the Abbattobad raid, in spite of the complete integration of the defence forces in the United States, the Naval Seals had their own helicopters to ensure total involvement and commitment of those taking part in the operation. In the case of India, helicopters meant for carrying such troops are with the Indian Air Force rather than the Army! So, the total commitment required on the part of all those taking part in the operation will not measure up to the level required in an operation of the type conducted at Abbottabad. In fact, discord has often appeared when two Services had to operate together. It surfaced in rather an ugly form during the Kargil operations.

In the Indian political setting, a clear direction and the will to go for the kill will continue to be lacking. At Kargil, troops were told to carry out a ‘hot pursuit,’ but were forbidden to cross the Line of Control. This is when Pakistan had violated, on a very wide front and to great depth, India’s territorial integrity and the situation called for and justified a befitting response. However, India’s timid and inappropriate reaction resulted in frontal attacks up those impossible slopes, with avoidable casualties. Pakistan suffered no punishment for its blatant act of aggression. Consequent to attack on Indian Parliament, ‘Operation Parakaram’ kept the troops in their battle locations for months and ended in a fiasco. Indian reaction to these two incidents conveyed to Pakistan that it can take liberties with India and the latter carries no deterrence for the former. At the same time, it demonstrated that Indian political leadership will never have the stomach to order an operation of the ‘Geronimo’ type, no matter how provocative the action of the other country may be.

Civil society has suddenly woken up and is now seeking answers to searching questions on these issues, having closed its eyes and switched off its mind to national security issues all these decades. The inescapable fact is that the full potential of various components of the defence forces just cannot be realised without adopting the concepts of Chiefs of Defence Staff and “Theater Commands” along with the integration of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and Services headquarters on the lines of the Pentagon. What has currently been carried out by way of amalgamation of Defence Headquarters with the MoD is a joke and a fraud on the nation. Yet civil society has remained a silent spectator. The Arun Singh Committee Report continues to gather dust, as it stands consigned to the archives of the Indian government.

Besides the above fault-lines in the Indian security establishment, it is the watertight compartments in which various organs of the state work. Foreign policy is evolved and practised in isolation of national security considerations and consultations. Intelligence agencies are never made accountable and have inadequate interaction with the defence Services.

East India Suspected Insurgent Attack: Nine Police Officers Killed

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Suspected Maoist insurgents killed nine policemen during an ambush in eastern India, authorities said Tuesday. A 10th officer is missing.

Police officials carry a coffin of a colleague on April 8, 2010, after his death in a Maoist attack in Chhattisgarh.

The attack took place Monday in a remote area of Gariaband in Chhattisgarh state when the officers were on their way to search a house as part of anti-Maoist operation, said state police spokesman Rajesh Mishra.

Their truck broke down, and they were attacked as they were waiting for a second vehicle to arrive, he said.

About 10 days ago, seven officers were killed when they were ambushed as they were returning from routine patrol, Mishra said.

“It’s a war-like situation here,” he said.

The Maoist movement is considered by the government as India’s greatest internal security threat.

The Maoist guerrillas are called Naxalites after Naxalbari, a village in neighboring West Bengal state where they originated in the late 1960s.

Officials say the Naxals aim to seize political power through what they call a protracted people’s war.

For their part, the insurgents have claimed since the 1960s to be fighting for the dispossessed.

Over the years, they targeted Indian security forces in several impoverished eastern Indian states that have become known as the “Red Corridor.”

The slow-churning unrest has killed about 2,000 people.

Protests mount against Indian nuclear plant

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SAKHRI NATE, INDIA: In the busy Indian fishing village of Sakhri Nate, it’s obvious what the locals think of the plan to build the world’s biggest nuclear power plant just across the creek.

A worker wearing a protective suit points at a cracked concrete pit near its No. 2 reactor of the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, April 2, 2011.

“Say No To Nuclear Power. We Don’t Want To Get Sick,” reads one slogan in Hindi on the side of a tarpaulin-covered shack selling sweet tea and sugary snacks.

Chalked on a wall around the corner is a message for the French company that has signed a $9.3-billion deal to supply the plant’s first state-of-the-art pressurised water reactors.

“Areva Go Back,” it says simply in English.

Opposition to the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project runs deep in this part of the Konkan region of western India, whose people have earned a living from fishing and farming for generations.

As with many in the hard-to-reach coastal area 400 kilometres from Mumbai, 45-year-old fisherman Abdul Majid Goalkar’s argument is well-rehearsed.

At least 5,000 people work on about 600 boats, bringing in 50 tons of fresh fish, prawns and squid every day, he says. If the plant is built, he warns, all those jobs are under threat.

Others want to protect the village’s most famous export – the creamy, Alphonso variety of mango – grown on rocky, clifftop land earmarked for the 2,318-acre plant.

Over the last four years, the grassroots campaign against Jaitapur has built up a steady momentum and become increasingly vocal.

But resistance has hardened since the Japanese earthquake and tsunami that crippled the Fukushima plant, forcing a rethink on nuclear safety around the world and calls in India for a halt to atomic expansion.

Pravin Gaonkar, a fisherman and mango farmer spearheading the anti-nuclear campaign, said the Japanese nuclear crisis was all the more relevant, as the Konkan coast is prone to regular seismic activity.

Another development is that the so-far largely peaceful anti-nuclear campaign has turned violent.

On Monday, the police opened fire on a crowd of protesters, killing one and injuring several others.

The victim, Tavrez Sejkar, was buried in the red earth of the steep hillside cemetery in mainly Muslim Sakhri Nate on Wednesday.

Comparisons have been drawn with Singur in West Bengal state, where Tata Motors abandoned its plans for a new factory to build its Nano car after violent protests from farmers backed by local political parties.

Fast-growing, energy-hungry India, which wants to increase the share of nuclear in its energy mix from three percent to 13 per cent by 2030, could pay a high price if Areva followed Tata’s example.

At full capacity, the six-reactor Jaitapur plant would provide 9,900 megawatts of electricity – more than double the current energy deficit in all of Maharashtra, home to commercial capital Mumbai.

Supporters say it could provide power to a chunk of the 500 million homes across the country that are currently off the grid and is vital to India’s economic progress.

India’s environment minister Jairam Ramesh has angered opponents by insisting that the project will go ahead, even as he conceded that additional safety measures may be required because of Fukushima.

“India cannot afford to abandon the route of nuclear power,” he said on April 18. “From a greenhouse gas point of view, nuclear power is the best option.”

Professor Surendra Jondhale, head of political science at the University of Mumbai, doesn’t think the project will be be abandoned, although a delay is likely while the government reviews safety.

“We are now seeing the real issue being very much politicised. It’s overshadowed the real, genuine protests.”

Back in Jaitapur, where a giant poster of Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray and local leaders has been put up on the main street, locals Mahesh Karankar and Chetan Narkar say the impact of the violence has already been felt.

Police have locked down the area, fearful of further unrest. As a result, three days’ worth of fish is rotting in warehouses.

“Whether the Shiv Sena is with us or against us we don’t care,” said 23-year-old Narkar. “We don’t need anyone to help us carry on our protest.”

Another demonstration is planned for Sunday. Pravin Gaonkar says there will be no let up after that.

“If the government does nothing, at least 5,000 fishermen and farmers will go to Delhi and protest,” he added.

The Mohali Maelstorm

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By: Rohit Kumar

–‘The Times of India reports that India has asked its envoy in Pakistan to reach out to Pakistani Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and intelligence chief Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha, which “could open up new possibilities of deepening Indo-Pak engagement” (ToI). India’s and Pakistan’s home secretaries, the top civil servants in charge of security issues, have begun talks in New Delhi ahead of this week’s semifinal match-up between India and Pakistan in the cricket World Cup, their first formal peace talks since the 2008 Mumbai attacks (Dawn, AFP/Reuters). Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has asked his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani to watch the match with him, and also invited Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari (Dawn).’—

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India’s Orissa state ‘halts’ offensive against Maoists

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The government in the eastern Indian state of Orissa has halted an offensive against Maoist rebels after they abducted a senior official.

Mr Krishna was on his way to inspect a government project when he was seized

R Vineel Krishna, district collector of Malkangiri, and another official were kidnapped on Wednesday evening.

The Maoists have demanded the release of rebels held in prisons and an end to the offensive by security forces.

Indian forces are battling Maoists in several states. The rebels say they are fighting for the rights of the poor.

Orissa’s Home Secretary UN Behura said the government was “stopping all combing operations in the state” and was ready to talk to the rebels.

Reports said the state government had contacted leading social worker Swami Agnivesh to negotiate with the rebels to secure Mr Krishna’s release.

The Maoists’ 48-hour deadline to the government to release rebels held in prison expires on Friday evening.

Correspondents say the deadline is likely to be extended in view of the government’s efforts to talk to the rebels.

Malkangiri is among the districts worst affected by Maoist violence in India.

The hilly and forested terrain make it an ideal place for Maoists to run their camps there and launch operations against security forces.

Mr Krishna, 30, is a graduate from the premier Indian Institute of Technology and joined the civil service in 2005. He was appointed to head Malkangiri district 16 months ago.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described the Maoist insurgency as India’s biggest internal security challenge.

A government offensive against the rebels – widely referred to as Operation Green Hunt – began in October 2009.

It involves 50,000 troops and is taking place across five states – West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar, Orissa and Chhattisgarh.

Indian PM vows to punish corrupt officials

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NEW DELHI: India’s embattled prime minister defended his government Wednesday against a string of corruption scandals, saying that he took the allegations seriously and would punish anyone involved, no matter their position.

India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government has been wracked by allegations that Cabinet ministers and ruling party officials orchestrated shady deals over the sale of cellular phone licenses, presided over faulty preparations for the Commonwealth Games and were involved in other alleged scams that cost the government billions of dollars.

The scandals have dominated politics in India for months. The entire winter session of parliament was paralysed by the opposition amid demands for the establishment of an independent investigative body, which Singh refused.

Singh told reporters during a news conference Wednesday that the guilty would be punished.

“I wish to assure you, and I wish to assure the country as a whole that our government is dead serious in bringing to book all the wrongdoers, regardless of the positions they may occupy,” he said.

He denied any personal connection to the scandals, and expressed concerns that the nation’s image was being badly tarnished.

“We are weakening the self confidence of the people of India. I don’t think that is in the interest of anybody that is in our country. We have a functioning government…we take our job very seriously. We are here to govern and govern effectively,” he said, mildly chiding reporters for focusing so heavily on the scams.

“India as a whole has to march forward,” he said.

U.S. eases some high-tech export curbs on India

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By Doug Palmer

The U.S. Commerce Department said on Monday it was easing restrictions of exports of high-technology goods to India in recognition of the two countries’ stronger economic and national security ties.

India’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV-D3), blasts off carrying the communication satellite GSAT-4 from the Satish Dhawan space centre at Sriharikota, north of Chennai,

“Today’s action marks a significant milestone in reinforcing the U.S.-India strategic partnership and moving forward with export control reforms that will facilitate high-technology trade and cooperation,” Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said in a statement.

It follows President Barack Obama’s meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in November in New Delhi, where they announced plans to expand cooperation in civil space, defense and other high technology sectors.

It also contrasts with remarks made by U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner before Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit last week to the United States.

Geithner tied the possibility of increased U.S. high-technology exports to China to movement by Beijing on currency and a number of trade reforms.

As a first step in implementing Obama and Singh’s commitment, the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security said it would publish a new rule changing how India was treated under Export Administration Regulations (EAR).

A key measure removes several Indian space and defense-related organizations from the U.S. Entity List, which imposes extra export licensing requirements on foreign groups or individuals whose activities have aroused concern about the possible diversion of U.S. high-technology products that could be used to build weapons of mass destruction.

Those removed from the Entity List include Bharat Dynamics Limited, four subordinates of India’s Defense Research and Development Organization and four subordinates of the All Indian Space Research Organization.

The reforms also “realign” India’s standing in the U.S. export control regime by removing it from several country groups associated with proliferation concerns. It adds India to a more favorable category consisting of members of the Missile Technology Control Regime.

“These changes reaffirm the U.S. commitment to work with India on our mutual goal of strengthening the global nonproliferation framework,” Under Secretary of Commerce Eric Hirschhorn said in a statement.

Locke will lead 24 U.S. businesses on a high-tech trade mission to India in February.

The group includes Boeing, Exelon Nuclear Partners, Lockheed Martin and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy.

The delegation, which also includes senior officials from the U.S. Export-Import Bank and the Trade Development Agency, will make stops in New Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore.

An administration official, who briefed reporters on condition he not be identified, said less than 1 percent of current U.S.-India trade was affected by export controls.

However, “the perception of onerous export controls certainly has been a hindrance to high-technology trade over the years,” the official said.

No death for Dara Singh in Staines case; SC upholds life term

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New Delhi, (PTI) In a setback to CBI, the SupremeCourt today dismissed its plea for death penalty to DaraSingh, convicted for burning alive Australian missionaryGraham Staines and his two minor sons in January 1999 whileupholding life sentence given to him by the Orissa High Court.

A bench comprising justices P Sathasivam and B S Chauhan,while dismissing the agency”s plea for death penalty, said thepunishment can be imposed only in the “rarest of rare” casesdepending upon the facts and situation of each case.

In the present case, the apex court said, the offencecommitted by the convicts, though highly condemnable, does notfall in the category of rarest of rare to warrant deathsentence. (More) PTI RB RKS SDG SC

Dara Singh and Mahendra Hembrom were found guilty of burning to death Staines and his sons, who were sleepinginside a van outside a church, at Manoharpur village inKoenjhar district of Orissa on January 22, 1999.

The bench had on December 15 last year reserved itsjudgement after hearing at length the arguments of CBI”scounsel and Additional Solicitor General Vivek Tankha andcounsel for the convicts.

Senior counsel K T S Tulsi and Ratnakar Dash, besidescounsel

Sibo Shankara Mishra, appeared for the 12 convicts.

Appearing for CBI, Tankha had told the bench that DaraSingh deserves death sentence as the murders were committed ina most “diabolic and dastardly manner” which warrantedexemplary punishment.

Dara had filed an appeal challenging his convictionand the life sentence awarded to him. The appeals wereadmitted by the apex court in October 2005.

On May 19, 2005, the Orissa High Court had commuted tolife imprisonment the death penalty imposed by the sessionscourt on Dara Singh for the murder of Staines and his twominor sons — Philip, 10, and Timothy, 6. Along with Dara,another person Mahendra Hembram was convicted in the case.

However, the High Court had acquitted 11 others whowere awarded life terms by the trial court in the case.

The trial court in Khurda had in September 2003convicted all the 13 accused. While Dara Singh was awardeddeath sentence, others were given life imprisonment.