Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Arvind Kejriwal targets Mukhesh Ambani, says crony capitalism ruining country

Arvind Kejriwal targets Mukhesh Ambani, says crony capitalism ruining country
Clean Media Correspondent

New Delhi, Oct 31 (CMC) India Against Corruption on Wednesday brought Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani in its line of fire alleging that the UPA and the previous NDA governments had favoured his company by giving contract on gas exploration in KG Basin and concessions at a huge cost to the exchequer.
Calling it a "classic case of crony capitalism", activists Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan alleged that Reliance was "blackmailing" the government to increase the price of gas by "almost stopping" the production and indulging in "hoarding like petty traders".

Attacking the decision to shift S Jaipal Reddy from petroleum ministry, they alleged it was now "absolutely crystal clear" that he was eased out of the crucial ministry only on account of "pressure" from Reliance Industries.

They said Reddy was "honest" and his "ouster" was only because he "actively resisted" Reliance' demand for an increase in the price of gas and wanted to penalise the company for "wilful reduction" of production of gas.

He asked why did Prime Minister Manmohan Singh not seek the opinion of the Attorney General when the then petroleum minister Manishankar Aiyar "refused to give in" to Reliance' demand for increasing the price of gas from $2.34 per unit to $4.2 per unit in 2006.

"In 2006, Aiyar was removed and Murli Deora was brought in and he cleared the files within one and half months. Why does he seek the opinion of Attorney General now? Why does his heart beats only for Reliance?" Kejriwal said.

New petroleum minister M Veerappa Moily refused to react to the allegations.

Kejriwal said it is always said that the Prime Minister is not involved in corruption but he comes under the purview of Prevention of Corruption Act for certain decisions taken by his government in various matters like 2G and coal block allocations.

The activists demanded that the KG Basin contract be cancelled and government should immediately put in place adequate systems to get full production from the same location at cheapest prices for the country.

"This was a sweet agreement which the BJP gave to Reliance on strange conditions which says that when the production cost increases, the profit also increases for the company," Kejriwal said.

"Mukesh Ambani is running the country it seems... Jaipal Reddy was removed as he refused to hike the charges being levied by Reliance Industries to supply gas to NTPC," Kejriwal said at a press conference.

He said the government looked helpless before the corporate group.

According to Kejriwal, the KG basin was awarded to Reliance in 2000 by the NDA government when the corporate agreed to supply gas to the National Thermal Power Corp for the next 17 years at $2.5 per unit.

But, said Kejriwal, the company revised the rate to $4.25 per unit in 2007 which then finance minister Pranab Mukherjee agreed to as the head of an empowered group of ministers.

Later, he said, the company wanted the rate to be further hiked to $14.25 per unit.

"The company was allowed to hike the cost of producing gas and thus its profits," said Kejriwal.

Reliance Industries was not immediately available for comment.

They also cited purported conversations between corporate lobbyist Niira Radia and AB Vajpayee's foster son-in-law Ranjan Bhattacharya to say that Ambani had claimed that Congress was under his control.

The conversation makes it clear that Ambani had powerful influence over the Congress and the BJP, he claimed.

"In the Nira Radia tapes, Ranjan Bhattacharya (former prime minister A B Vajpayee's son-in-law) is heard telling Niira that Mukesh Ambani told him 'Congress to ab apni dukaan hai."

"BJP signed a sweet deal with RIL in 2000. Congress faithfully implemented it."

A press release from IAC alleged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had succumbed before corporate interests.

"The PM was very sympathetic to RIL. PM requested Ministry of Petroleum to seek AG's opinion on whether gas prices could be increased midway as demanded by Reliance. It is strange why did the PM not show similar concern when NTPC was forced to accept higher gas price from RIL? Why is the PM not pulling up Reliance for not producing 80 mmscmd gas as per their commitment? Why did the PM not seek legal opinion when country¡¦s interests were at stake? Why is PM showing so much interest when RIL interests are at stake?"

It also says: "This episode explains the real reasons for price rise in the country. The government seems to be succumbing to illegitimate demands of some powerful corporates in the country (like RIL in this case). Benefits provided to RIL in this case contributed to price rise in power and fertilizer sectors. Similarly, on one hand, government says that they do not have Rs. 35,000 crores to provide LPG subsidy to the people, on the other hand, the government bends backwards to provide benefits to these corporate."

The press conference also witnessed some drama when three youths shouted slogans against Kejriwal and tried to throw a shoe at him. The youths were overpowered by IAC supporters and handed over to police.

Just before this, another man raised questions about his wife, an IRS Officer, not getting a transfer out of Delhi for the past 20 years.

As there was commotion, Kejriwal asked his supporters to allow him to raise the question but media persons surrounded him, saying non-journalists were not allowed to raise questions.

India Against Corruption's main allegations:
* In 2006, Mani Shankar Iyer was removed and Murli Deora brought in to increase RIL capex from $ 2.39 billion to $ 8.8 billion and to increase gas price from $2.34  per mmBTU to $ 4.2 per mmBTU

* In 2012, Jaipal Reddy has been removed and Moily brought in to increase gas prices from $ 4.2 per mmBTU to $ 14.2 mmBTU and to condone RIL’s blackmailing of reducing gas production

* Both BJP and Congress involved. BJP signed a sweet deal with RIL in 2000. Congress faithfully implemented it

* If RIL demand of increasing the gas price to $ 14.2 is accepted, it would lead to shut down of several gas based power plants and increase in power and fertilizer prices

* By this deal, RIL would benefit by an additional Rs. 43,000 crore

* In Nira Radiia tapes, Ranjan Bhattacharya (Vajpayee’s son in law) is heard telling Nira that Mukesh Ambani told him –“Congress to ab apni dukaan hai”

* Huge benefits given to RIL in last one decade despite flagrant violations of various agreements by RIL. Benefits to RIL causing serious price rise in the country.

* "In order to pressurize the government, RIL substantially reduced its production of natural gas. Total consumption of natural gas in the country is 156 mmscmd. According to agreement, RIL was supposed to produce 80mmscmd (more than 50% of the total demand) from 2009."

* "RIL got this contract during NDA regime in the year 2000. The contract was meant to favor RIL right from the beginning. In any business, increase in costs means decrease in profits."

The IAC press release alleged that performance of RIL so far has been much worse than perhaps the worst performing government department.

1. 4 times cost escalation within 2 years from $ 2.39 billion in 2004 to $ 8.8 billion in 2006.
2. Increase in gas price from $ 2.34 per mmBTU in 2004 to $ 4.2 per mmBTU in 2007 to the present demand of $ 14.2 per mmBTU.
3. Capacity created for producing 80 mmscmd after incurring such a huge cost ends up producing just 27 mmscmd after 12 years.
4. 31 oil wells should have been in production till now. Out of them, just 13 are functional.

Kejriwal and lawyer Prashant Bhushan, a leading member of IAC, alleged the allocation of KG Basin to Reliance is on similar lines as coal block allocation scam. They alleged both Congress and BJP were in 'Ambani's pocket'.

At the airport, he Sandy Leaves Devastation, Deaths in Eastern U.S.

At the airport, he Sandy Leaves Devastation, Deaths in Eastern U.S.
Clean Media Correspondent

Newyork, Oct 31 (CMC) Millions of people in the Northeast U.S., the region most dependent on electric grids and mass transit networks for everyday life, struggled to find normalcy amid the floods, destruction and death from superstorm Sandy.

The biggest Atlantic storm in history, spanning an area broader than Texas, caused at least 50 U.S. deaths, according to the Associated Press, including 18 in New York City that Mayor Michael Bloomberg reported. Many government offices and U.S. stock markets, which shut for two days, planned to open today, with the exception of New Jersey government. Millions remained without power.

“Sandy hit us very hard, it was a storm of historic intensity, but New Yorkers are resilient and we’ve seen an outpouring of support,” the mayor said at a news briefing yesterday. “We have a plan for recovery, and that recovery is already beginning. It’s the beginning of a process that we all know will take a while.”

President Barack Obama is scheduled to visit New Jersey today to tour what Governor Chris Christie described as “absolute devastation,” such as seaside towns with houses ripped from their foundations. Bloomberg said he declined an offer from the president to visit the city.

“What I pointed out to him is that we’d love to have him, but we have lots of things to do,” Bloomberg said. The president declared New York and New Jersey disaster regions eligible for federal relief.

Election Interruptus
The storm that interrupted the U.S. presidential race eight days before Election Day weakened as it churned northwest across Pennsylvania. Its center was about 50 miles (80 kilometers) east-northeast of Pittsburgh, with sustained winds of 40 miles (64 kilometers) per hour, at 11 p.m. New York time yesterday, according to the U.S. Hydrometeorological Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.

Forecasters said Sandy would turn north across western New York or Lake Erie and continue into Canada today.

From Washington to Boston, officials of state and local governments, transit systems and businesses joined homeowners in assessing damage and arranging for recovery. Sandy may cause as much as $20 billion in economic damage and losses, according to Eqecat Inc., a risk-management company in Oakland, California.

‘Human Damage’
Sandy came ashore as a hurricane two days ago near Atlantic City, New Jersey, the second-largest U.S. gaming center, causing “extensive” property damage, yet “the human damage has been minimal,” Mayor Lorenzo Langford said.
“So I think our glass is half full here in Atlantic City,” Langford said. “A large portion of the boardwalk has been washed away. But other than the boardwalk and some power lines and things down -- and trees being uprooted, and, of course, a major loss of dunes -- I think we did pretty good, all things considered.”

In New York City, subway service may not be restored for four to five days, said the mayor, who is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News. Seven subway tubes under the East River were inundated.

City buses resumed limited service late yesterday, with free fares offered on a temporary basis, Bloomberg said. About 6,400 people remained in evacuation centers and may stay until they can safely return home or find temporary housing, he said.

The ING New York City Marathon, the world’s biggest, will be held as scheduled Nov. 4, the mayor said.

Whether thousands of runners from outside the region can reach the city is another matter. About 20,000 of the expected 47,000 are international participants, organizers said. John F. Kennedy International and Newark Liberty International airports, closed for two days by flooded runways and other damage, will reopen today with limited service, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said. LaGuardia and Teterboro airports remain closed.

In New Jersey, six deaths were linked to the storm, Christie said, and search-and-rescue teams were trying to help stranded residents. He said 4,500 people were in shelters.

Christie, one of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s top backers, praised Obama for his administration’s response to the storm in advance of the president’s visit today. Bloomberg said he asked Obama not to come to the city.

'Am ready for any inquiry, what about Congress' son-in-law?' asks Nitin Gadkari

'Am ready for any inquiry, what about Congress' son-in-law?' asks Nitin Gadkari
Clean Media Correspondent

Mumbai, Oct 31 (CMC) Hundreds of supporters gathered at the Mumbai airport this morning to welcome BJP President Nitin Gadkari, who confronts grave corruption charges. "There are attempts being made to slander me, to destroy my reputation," he said.  "We are not scared... eent ka jawab patthar se denge (we will retaliate blow for blow)."

Mr Gadkari has cancelled a second round of campaigning in Himachal Pradesh which votes next month. 

He said that while he has agreed to cooperate with any inquiry, the Congress has made no such offer for Robert Vadra, the son-in-law of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who has been accused of using his political influence to get sweetheart deals for himself in Haryana  from real estate builder DLF. "If I am ready for any investigation, why isn't the Congress' son-in-law?" he asked.   

His party has stood by him on record; but privately, sources say, the BJP is shaken up by the allegations against its president and their potential ability to derail its focus on offering itself as a corruption-free alternative to the Congress, which is ensnared in a series of swindles.

In the steady hum of allegations against Mr Gadkari, what has  struck out is the suggestion that his business empire is founded in financial malpractices ranging from funding by shell companies to money laundering - charges now being investigated by income tax officials.

At the airport, he refuted a series of controversies that have principally involved him, including the case of a young girl who was found dead in a car parked at his home in Nagpur in 2009.   Mr Gadkari said that investigators have cleared him, but the media continues to suggest otherwise.  He also said that he has established that he has not exploited irrigation projects or the interests of farmers in Maharashtra to further business interests  -an accusation levelled by activist-turned-politician Arvind Kejriwal.

Earlier this month, a TV channel reported on the dubious credentials of investor firms that bought into the company Mr Gadkari co-founded in 2000, Purthi Power and Sugar. The government is verifying the source of funds for this intricate matrix of investors, many of who appear to share bogus addresses and directors.

Yesterday, income tax officials visited the offices of these firms in different cities. In some cases, carpenters were busy assembling furniture and shaping offices in an attempt to lend the firms some credibility as genuine and functional businesses.

Sources involved with yesterday's exercise say 13 people linked to these firms were questioned; some directors appear to be "men of no means" furthering the suspicion of ghost investors.

Cyclone Nilam moves 320 km south-south west of Chennai

Cyclone Nilam moves 320 km south-south west of Chennai
Clean Media Correspondent

Chennai, Oct 31 (CMC) The Met department has said that the cyclonic storm Nilam has moved to 320 km just South-South West of Chennai. The cyclone has been named Nilam as it is expected to cross Nagapattinam and Nellore in southern part of Andhra Pradesh state by Wednesday evening.

Heavy rains all through the night due to the depression have thrown life out of gear in the coastal districts of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. The Chennai Met Department has issued advisory on wind reaching a speed of 85-90 km per hour during the time of its landfall.

The exact time of the storm crossing the coast has not yet been announced, but it is expected to cross this evening. A cyclone alert was issued in coastal parts of India's southern states on Tuesday as the deep depression, which had formed in the Bay of Bengal, has intensified into a cyclonic storm.

The Met office said that the depression which lay centred 500 km southeast of Chennai and 270 km north east of Trincomalee would intensify further into a cyclonic storm and cross north Tamil Nadu and south Andhra coast between Nagapattinam and Nellore. "The deep depression on Monday, which was lying 500 kilometres east-southeast of Chennai has intensified into a cyclonic storm and it has been named Nilam. This cyclonic storm is expected to cross between Nagapattinam and Nellore on Wednesday evening or afternoon, probably closer to Chennai, south of Chennai," said Director, Met office, Chennai, SR Ramanan.

Chennai, Kancheepuram, Cuddalore and Villupuram received heavy rains on Tuesday morning. Fishermen along north Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and adjoining south Andhra Pradesh coasts are advised not to venture into the sea by the Met department. "As far as the forecast of the next 24 hours is concerned, north coast of Tamil Nadu will have rainfall at most places. One or two places in interiors of north Tamil Nadu may experience heavy rainfall. Few places will experience heavy rainfall and one or two places very heavy rainfall in the north coast of Tamil Nadu," Ramanan added.

The district administrations have geared up to face any eventuality and have closed schools in Nagapattinam, Tiruvarur and Chennai. The Andhra Pradesh government has also sounded a high alert along the south coastal and adjoining Rayalaseema districts as the deep depression in Bay of Bengal is likely to intensify into a cyclonic storm and cross the coast by Tuesday evening.

Meanwhile, Hurricane Sandy, one of the biggest storms ever to hit the United States, roared ashore with fierce winds and heavy rain on Monday near the gambling resort of Atlantic City, forcing evacuations, shutting down transportation and interrupting the presidential campaign.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Sensex flat; Rupee below 54/USD, BoI tanks 6% on poor nos

Sensex flat; Rupee below 54/USD, BoI tanks 6% on poor nos
Clean Media Correspondent

Mumbai, Oct 30 (CMC) The BSE Sensex was trading flat to negative following weak opening of European markets and sharp fall in Indian rupee. France's CAC, Germany's DAX and Britain's FTSE were down 0.3-0.6 percent owing to the hurricane emergency in the US.

The Indian rupee lost 47 paise to 54.03 against the US dollar. The 30-share BSE benchmark was down 15.57 points to 18,609.77 and the 50-share NSE benchmark fell 6.65 points to 5,657.65.

United Spirits plunged 13 percent while Kingfisher Airlines and United Breweries gained 4 percent after promoter Vijay Mallya told Reuters that he would not sell priced assets to save Kingfisher Airlines.

Shares of public sector lender Bank of India plunged 6 percent as rising provisions against bad loans dragged the net profit down by 38.5 percent in the second quarter of FY13.

Power equipment maker BHEL extended losses to 5 percent following dismal performance in the September quarter. Net profit fell by 9.77 percent year-on-year to Rs 1,274 during the quarter as against analysts' forecast of Rs 1,446 crore due to sluggish order book.

Commercial vehicle producer Tata Motors lost 2.7 percent and FMCG major Hindustan Unilever fell nearly 2 percent.

Shares of ICICI Bank, Larsen & Toubro, HDFC, TCS, Infosys and State Bank of India were down 0.2-0.8 percent. Sterlite Industries tumbled 2.5 percent.

But index heavyweight Reliance Industries continued to support the market, rising 1.5 percent. Telecom operator Bharti Airtel, cigarette major ITC and private sector lender HDFC Bank were up 0.4 percent.

Shares of Wipro and Hero Motocorp gained 2.5 percent while Mahindra & Mahindra and Tata Power rose over 1 percent.

Declining shares outnumbered advancing by a ratio of 813 to 601 on the Bombay Stock Exchange.

V.K. Singh, Anna demand dissolution of Parliament

V.K. Singh, Anna demand dissolution of Parliament
Mumbai, Oct 29 (CMC) Launching a blistering attack on the Union government, anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare and the former Army Chief, General V.K. Singh, on Monday termed the government “unconstitutional” and called for dissolution of Parliament.

With Mr. Hazare beside him, General Singh said the existing governmental system had completely disregarded the soul and spirit of the Constitution.

“People have completely lost faith in the government on the issues of land, water, forest and mineral wealth due to rivers being privatised, forests being sold to private companies and tribal people being displaced from their traditional habitat,” he said, reading out from a joint statement prepared by Mr. Hazare and himself.

The duo would tour the country from January 30 to “awaken masses” to their programme of choosing their able representatives who would take up their causes in Parliament. “In every recent decision, be it FDI in the retail sector or the hike in diesel price, the UPA government had been in a minority,” said General Singh. He accused Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of ignoring the principle of collective responsibility.

Monday, 29 October 2012

General VK Singh: Anna Hazare's new Arvind Kejriwal?

General VK Singh: Anna Hazare's new Arvind Kejriwal?
Clean Media Correspondent

Mumbai, Oct 29 (CMC) A joint media briefing by Anna Hazare and former army chief Gen VK Singh in Mumbai on Monday indicated the latter has replaced Arvind Kejriwal in the social activist's scheme of things.

On more than one occasion, Singh replied to queries directed at Hazare, expounding on the new strategy of the anti-graft movement.

He was seen fielding "tricky" questions addressed to Hazare, coming out with his own explanation while doing so.

Hazare had also served in the army and his admiration for the General was evident as he announced their plan of a nationwide tour.

"We are not just two people. Lakhs and crores will come onto the streets to support the movement," Hazare said.

On his part, Gen Singh slammed the current system for "completely ignoring" the principle of a welfare state enshrined in the Constitution and surrendering to market forces.

"The existing governmental system has completely disregarded the soul and spirit of the Constitution. Part 4 of the Constitution, the Directive Principle of State Policy, has been blatantly ignored. Not just the government but also the opposition is silent over this issue.

"The question that comes up is: who has given the right to ignore the core philosophy of Constitution? The government’s policies are supposed to be for the well-being of the poor masses but these are somehow being made to help private companies to make profit. No one is questioning these policies in Parliament," he said.

Hurricane Sandy strengthens as it nears US coast; Wall Street shut

Hurricane Sandy strengthens as it nears US coast; Wall Street shut
Clean Media Correspondent

Newyork, Oct 29 (CMC) Hurricane Sandy began battering the US East Coast on Monday with fierce winds and driving rain, as the monster storm shut down transportation, shuttered businesses and sent thousands scrambling for higher ground hours before the worst was due to strike.

About 50 million people from the Mid-Atlantic to Canada were in the path of the nearly 1,000-mile-wide (1,600-km-wide) storm, which forecasters said could be the largest to hit the mainland in US history. It was expected to topple trees, damage buildings, cause power outages and trigger heavy flooding. State governors warned of the acute danger from the winds and torrential rains.

"There will undoubtedly be some deaths that are caused by the intensity of this storm, by the floods, by the tidal surge, by the waves. The more responsibly citizens act, the fewer people will die," Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley told reporters. The US stock market suffered its first weather-related closure in 27 years and many schools and businesses were closed in Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York. While the center of the storm was not expected to make landfall until Monday night near Atlantic City, New Jersey, it was already creating dangerous conditions and forcing rescue workers into action. Off North Carolina, the US Coast Guard rescued 14 of the 16 crew members who abandoned the replica tall ship HMS Bounty, using helicopters to lift them from life rafts. The Coast Guard continued to search for the two missing crew members about 160 miles (260 km) from the eye of the storm.

The US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said the Category 1 storm had strengthened as it turned toward the coast and was moving at 18 miles per hour (30 km per hour). It was expected to bring a "life-threatening storm surge," coastal hurricane winds and heavy snow in the Appalachian Mountains, the NHC said.

Forecasters said Sandy was a rare, hybrid "super storm" created by an Arctic jet stream wrapping itself around a tropical storm. Nine US states have declared a state of emergency. With the election eight days away, President Barack Obama canceled a campaign event in Florida on Monday in order to return to Washington and monitor the US government's response to the storm. "This is a serious and big storm," Obama said on Sunday after a briefing at the federal government's storm response center in Washington.

"We don't yet know where it's going to hit, where we're going to see the biggest impacts." Sandy killed 66 people in the Caribbean last week before pounding US coastal areas as it moved north. While Sandy does not pack the punch of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans in 2005, it could become more potent as it approaches the US coast. Winds were at a maximum of 90 mph (150 kph), the NHC said in its 11 am (1500 GMT) report, up from 75 mph (120 kph) nine hours earlier. It said tropical storm-force winds reached as far as 485 miles (780 km) from the center. Several feet of water flooded streets in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, which could be right in the target zone of the storm.

Local residents said police knocked on doors on Sunday, reminding everyone there was a mandatory evacuation. While the police took names, they allowed residents to stay at their own risk. "If power goes that's a problem," said John Brunhammer, 40, a recruiter from Lewes, Delaware, who had come to see the waves crashing up to the dune line at Rehoboth Beach. "This area isn't known for prompt utility service."

New York and other cities and towns closed their transit systems and ordered mass evacuations from low-lying areas ahead of a storm surge that could reach as high as 11 feet (3.4 meters). By early Monday, water was already topping the seawall in Manhattan's Battery Park City, one of the areas evacuated by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

All US stock markets will be closed on Monday and possibly Tuesday, the operator of the New York Stock Exchange said late on Sunday, reversing an earlier plan that would have kept electronic trading going on Monday. The United Nations, Broadway theaters and New Jersey casinos were forced to close, and more than two-thirds of the East Coast's oil refining capacity was in the process of shutting down.

Officials ordered people in coastal towns and low-lying areas to evacuate, often telling them they would put emergency workers' lives at risk if they stayed. At 11 am (1500 GMT), the NHC said Sandy was centered about 205 miles (330 km) southeast of Atlantic City and about 260 miles (418 km) south-southeast of New York City.

The minimum central pressure - a key measure of a cyclone's strength - was recorded at 946 millibar overnight, matching the lowest pressure ever measured in the United States north of Cape Hatteras. The only previous time such a low measurement was recorded was in 1938, when the "Long Island Express" ripped up the coast, meteorologists said.

The storms could cause up to 12 inches (30 cm) of rain in some areas, as well as up to 3 feet (1 metre) of snowfall in the Appalachian Mountains from West Virginia to Kentucky. Worried residents in the hurricane's path packed stores, searching for generators, flashlights, batteries, food and other supplies in anticipation of power outages.

Nearly 284,000 residential properties valued at $88 billion are at risk for damage, risk analysts at CoreLogic said. Transportation systems shut down in anticipation. Airlines canceled flights, bridges and tunnels closed, and national passenger rail operator Amtrak suspended nearly all service on the East Coast.

The US government told non-emergency workers in Washington, DC, to stay home. Utilities from the Carolinas to Maine reported late Sunday that a combined 14,000 customers were already without power. The second-largest oil refinery on the East Coast, Phillips 66's 238,000 barrel per day (bpd) Bayway plant in Linden, New Jersey, was shutting down and three other plants cut output as the storm affected operations at two-thirds of the region's plants. Oil prices slipped on Monday, with Brent near $109 a barrel.

While Sandy's 90 mph (150 kph) winds were not overwhelming for a hurricane, its exceptional size means the winds will last as long as two days. "This is not a typical storm," Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett said. "It could very well be historic in nature and in scope."

Gadkari now a burden? BJP prez not to campaign in HP

Gadkari now a burden? BJP prez not to campaign in HP
Clean Media Correspondent

Shimla, Oct 29 (CMC) An RSS diktat may have made the BJP officially announce that it stood behind party president Nitin Gadkari but the latent tension in the party over him continues to simmer. It became manifest today when leaders of the Himachal Pradesh unit of the party expressed fresh reservations on his presence for campaigning in the state.

Sources confirmed that he will not be going to the hill state where he was scheduled to address two rallies, one in Bilaspur and other in Solan, on Tuesday.
The beleaguered BJP president, however, is not taking it lying down. He is now focusing on a different strategy to regain confidence and find strength — he plans to go back to the roots.

So while other senior BJP leaders will be heli-hopping extensively to various parts of Himachal Pradesh to campaign for the party, more so highlighting corruption charges against Congress’s chief ministerial probable Virbhadra Singh and other misdeeds of Manmohan Singh government at the Centre, Gadkari may be traveling to remote areas of Maharastra to garner support from where it matters most in politics, people, if at all it comes by his side.

He will hold his first such rally in Vidarbha region on Wednesday. He is making all efforts to see that this rally, in terms of size of the crowd, is a success.

Sources said as per the original schedule, as prepared earlier by the BJP headquarters in consultations with the Himachal Pradesh party unit, Gadkari was to fly from Delhi on Tuesday morning to Himachal. His first rally was at the populous Bilaspur at noon and later in the afternoon at Solan. But an influential section of party leaders in the state were not in favour of it and they communicated their feelings to the central party leaders.

Given his previous experience of a lukewarm response in the state, he too decided not to insist on going there, sources said. In fact, Gadkari’s first set of rallies held on Saturday came on his insistence. The venue of those rallies, Rekong Peo in Kinnur district bordering China and the other at far away Nerwa-Chopal were in sharp contrast to the more thickly populated and centrally located areas where other top BJP leaders like Narendra Modi, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and LK Advani addressed.

If this trend of resistance from party units continue then Gadkari may face a similar situation in Gujarat, where campaigning will pick up after Diwali. It would consequently put a real question mark over his `re-election’ as BJP president for the second term.

Gadkari has different ideas though. One of his close supporters said like a good leader who has risen to the ranks from the grassroots it is time for him to regain strength from there. “if is successful in drawing a good crowd on his home turf in Vidarbha and other regions, he can safely claim that people still believed in him than in adverse media campaign. He will prove that he is not a rootless wonder but is someone rooted to the ground. A leader is made on basis of popular support not by media reports.”

But not many in the BJP are willing to buy that. But alternately, they can’t decide on his fate till RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat decides to remove his supportive hand from his protégé. On Friday it was reported that he along with other top RSS functionaries held a meeting in Nagpur where they decided to fully back him and not to “ditch him in any way”.

Later that evening, senior RSS leader Bhaiyaji Joshi issued a statement that was clearly supportive of him: “Some allegations have been leveled by sections of the media only and an authorised agency is yet to look into these. It is unfortunate that the disclosure on these allegations has turned political.”

Gadkari is sure to make headlines on Tuesday – for his absence from a poll bound Himachal Pradesh.

Manmohan's new team to take charge today

Manmohan's new team to take charge today
Clean Media Correspondent

New Delhi, Oct 29 (CMC) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's new team will take charge on Monday, a day after Singh reshuffled his cabinet, in what he hoped would be the last time before the 2014 polls. Terming the reshuffle a blend on youth and experience, Singh hopes that this reshuffle would help remove the taint of scams and policy paralysis that his government faces.

The eagerly anticipated reshuffle of the union council of ministers, which took place on Sunday, brought in young faces in key positions and rewarded loyalty, but could be found deficient in negotiating a balancing act in regional representation. 

The reshuffle, also geared for giving a fillip to the recent reforms push of the government, put some key ministries under the control of reform enthusiasts.

While the average age of the union cabinet has reduced only marginally - from 59.6 to 58.9 - the youth emphasis is visible in the selection of ministers of state with independent charge.

Manish Tewari joined this club with Jyotiraditya Scindia, Sachin Pilot and Jitendra Singh, among others. All four leaders are considered very close to Rahul Gandhi.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, 80, is the oldest member of the council, while Pilot, 35, is the youngest minister.

"It is a combination of youth and experience," Singh said after the reshuffle. Change of guard

He also added that he "doesn't see" the possibility of an "early election" but admitted that "the road ahead is full of challenges".

The next general election is due in May 2014 - 18 months from now. The new look of the council of ministers is in tune with the emphasis on reforms in recent weeks.

After a long gap, the railways - a sector crying for reforms - is back with the Congress and the new minister, Pawan Bansal, quickly announced that Indian Railways will participate actively in the reforms process and passenger fares may be hiked to make rail transportation "viable".

Power, allotted to Scindia, is another sector that needs a good dose of reforms. The PM considers power and infrastructure to be the two key areas that require urgent attention. MoS (independent charge)

While Pilot will have the task of pushing the Companies Bill, Kumar is yet another enthusiastic reformer.

An articulate Salman Khurshid will not only be the international face of a market-friendly government, but also, a political symbol - being a Muslim foreign minister.

The UPA, which often faced stormy Parliament sessions, has also brought in experienced Kamal Nath as the new parliamentary affairs minister. Ministers of state
Andhra Pradesh and Kerala got good representation in the council and cabinet, but eastern states, such as Odhisa, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal and the entire Northeast are not represented in the union cabinet.

Leaders from Maharashtra, who expected to find a slot in the council, are disappointed.

While the reshuffle cheered many, among those who may find it difficult to digest are Jaipal Reddy, Vilas Muttemwar and V Narayanaswamy.

Reddy has been shifted out of the high-profile petroleum ministry to science and technology and earth sciences.

Muttemwar failed to bag the slot left vacant after Vilasrao Deshmukh's death.

Narayansamy's status remained unchanged despite his active role in tackling the anti-Kudankulam protest.

PM confident about new cabinet, Oppn unimpressed

PM confident about new cabinet, Oppn unimpressed
Clean Media Correspondent

New Delhi, Oct 29 (CMC) Battling perceptions of policy paralysis, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday effected a major reshuffle of his council of ministers and expressed confidence that the new team would be able to meet the challenges ahead.

"It is a combination of youth, experience and relevance to the portfolios that have been entrusted to the ministers," Singh told reporters soon after the new ministers were sworn in at a brief ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhawan.
Singh was asked about the message he sought to give through the reshuffle.

Asked about the road ahead for the government, the Prime Minister said, "The road ahead is full of challenges. But this is a team, which I hope will be able to meet those challenges."

Singh said that this would probably be the last reshuffle of the Council of Ministers before the 2014 general elections.

The Prime Minister also ruled out early elections and said polls would be held on time.

Asked about the ministers who were dropped from the Cabinet, Singh said that their services were required in the party.

"Well, the party also needs strengthening. Men and women of experience can be equally productive in strengthening the party," he said.
Salman Khurshid was India's new external affairs minister as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday effected a major revamp of his council of ministers, inducting 22 faces, including seven of cabinet rank, in what is said to be the last major ministerial shuffle before the 2014 general elections.

Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi did not join the government - leaving the field open for him to play a larger role in the party.

Several portfolios were changed, some new faces introduced, some elevated to cabinet rank and at least one old hand - Shashi Tharoor - was back in what is possibly UPA II's last facelift - an exercise that jettisoned tainted ministers like Subodh Kant Sahay and roped veterans like Ambika Soni and SM Krishna back into the party organisation to gear up for the 2014 electoral battle.

"It is a combination of youth and experience," Manmohan Singh told reporters after the swearing ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhavan where President Pranab Mukherjee administered the oath of office.

"The road ahead is full of challenges," he said on his priorities in the next few months.

Of the seven new ministers sworn in with cabinet rank, two are debutants -- former deputy chairperson of Rajya Sabha K Rehman Khan and Congress MP Chandresh Kumari Katoch.

The other five, Ajay Maken, MM Pallam Raju, Dinsha Patel, Harish Rawat and Ashwini Kumar, have been elevated to the cabinet from ministers of state rank.

In the reshuffle of the pack of ministers, Khurshid got external affairs while his previous ministry, law, went to Ashwani Kumar. Khurshid had served as minister of state (junior foreign minister) under prime minister PV Narasimha Rao in the nineties.

Pallam Raju was made human resource development (HRD) minister in place of Kapil Sibal, who was left only with communication and IT.

Pallam Raju's minister of state in HRD was Tharoor, who quit had to resign as minister of state for external affairs in 2010 over a controversy regarding his alleged conflict of interests in the affairs of IPL Kochi cricket team that was subsequently disbanded.

The crucial railways ministry, which had long been with one-time ally Trinamool Congress, was given to P.K. Bansal.
M Veerappa Moily was given charge of petroleum, while his previous responsibilities of corporate affairs and power were split - Sachin Pilot was elevated as minister of state with independent charge of corporate affairs and Jyotiraditya Scindia got independent charge of power.

These two ministers were known to be close to Rahul Gandhi.

Rawat was made water resources minister and Katoch, who belongs to an erstwhile royal family in Rajasthan, is union culture minister. Maken was elevated as housing and poverty alleviation minister and Dinsha Patel as mines minister.

S Jaipal Reddy got science and technology and Kamal Nath got additional charge of parliamentary affairs besides urban development.

Amongst the ministers of state sworn in were Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari who got independent charge of information and broadcasting. Earlier with Soni, the ministry has been downgraded.

Telugu actor Chiranjeevi, whose Praja Rajyam Party (PRP) merged with the Congress, got independent charge of the tourism ministry. Tourism is one of the country's major foreign exchange earners.

The careful rejig saw special attention being paid to Andhra Pradesh, a crucial state electorally for the Congress where YS Jaganmohan Reddy has been gaining in influence and where the issue of separate statehood for Telangana has split ranks. It got the maximum representation of six with five new faces and one elevated to the cabinet rank.

Besides Pallam Raju, there was Chiranjeevi, Kotla Jaya Surya Prakash Reddy, Sarve Satyanarayana, Porika Balram Naik and Killi Kruparani.

There were also three new faces from West Bengal - Adhir R Chowdhury, Deepa Dasmunsi and AH Khan Chowdhury, all known to be fiercely opposed to state chief minister Mamata Banerjee, whose Trinamool Congress broke ranks with the ruling coalition recently to bring about several ministerial vacancies.

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), the apex industry chamber, welcomed the reshuffle and said it has "ensured that there is a fair mix of youth and experience in the cabinet.

"India's young demographics is starting to get reflected in the political leadership of the country, which is only natural," it said.

Hawaii tsunami warning lifted after 100,000 flee to higher ground

Hawaii tsunami warning lifted after 100,000 flee to higher ground
Clean Media Correspondent

HONOLULU, Oct 29 (CMC) A tsunami warning prompted by a powerful earthquake off the Canadian coast sent at least 100,000 people fleeing from shore to higher ground in Hawaii late on Saturday, but an evacuation order was cancelled after a series of weaker-than-expected waves rolled through the islands. 

The warning was downgraded to an advisory - a lower-level alert - shortly after 1 am Sunday (1100 GMT), though state civil defense authorities said beaches and harbors would remain closed for the time being, and residents were urged to stay away from the water. 

There were no immediate reports of injuries, serious flooding or damage, but officials warned that abrupt changes in sea level and strong currents could still pose a hazard to swimmers and boaters. "The threat may continue for several hours," the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said in its alert. 

While scientists had warned early on that waves as tall 6 feet (1.8 metres) could occur in places, tsunami wave activity was reported to have peaked at just 2.5 feet (0.8 metres) at the island of Maui shortly after 10:30 p.m. "The tsunami arrived about when we expected it should," Senior Geophysicist Gerard Fryer told reporters at a news conference, saying: "I was expecting it to be a little bigger." 

Tsunami warning sirens began blaring across the islands at about 8 p.m. as state officials ordered a coastal evacuation, prompting a mass exodus that clogged roadways as motorists fled low-lying areas. 

As the forecast arrival time of the tsunami neared, Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle announced that all police and emergency personnel were being pulled out from potential flood zones, leaving anyone defying evacuation orders to fend for themselves. He also urged motorists who remained caught in harm's way due to gridlocked roads to abandon their vehicles and proceed on foot. 

"If you are stuck in traffic, you might consider getting out of your car and consider walking to higher ground. You will have to assess your own situation, depending on where you are right now. Right now it is critical," he said. 

Canadian origins 

Vindell Hsu, a geophysicist at the tsunami warning center, said the evacuation affected an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 people who live in Hawaii's coastal zones. 

Shelly Kunishige, a spokeswoman for Hawaii State Civil Defense, said evacuation orders were lifted once the tsunami warning was downgraded. But a thorough assessment of flooding or damage could not be made until after daybreak, she said. 

The warnings followed a powerful earthquake with a magnitude of 7.7 that hit Canada's Pacific coastal province of British Columbia late on Saturday. 

The US Geological Survey said the quake was centered 123 miles (198 km) south-southwest of Prince Rupert at a depth of 6.2 miles (10 km). 

The Earthquakes Canada agency said the temblor was followed by numerous aftershocks as large as magnitude 4.6 and that a small tsunami had been recorded by a deep-ocean pressure sensor. 

On Oahu, Hawaii's most populous island, tsunami warning sirens could be heard blaring out across Honolulu, the state capital, prompting an immediate crush of traffic, with many motorists stopping at service stations to top up with gasoline. At movie theaters, films were halted in mid-screening as announcements were made urging patrons to return to their homes. 

The last time Oahu had a tsunami warning was after the devastating Japanese earthquake of March 2011. 

On Honolulu's famed Waikiki Beach, residents of high-rise buildings were told to move to the third floor or higher for safety. 

"I moved my car up the hill, packed up my computer and have my animals all packed and with me," said Staphany Sofos, a resident of the Diamond Head community near Waikiki as she waited word for an all-clear that came several hours later. 

Fryer said the tsunami had caught scientists by surprise. "We thought that the earthquake was on land and when we learned that it was deeper undersea and we gathered more information, we had no choice but to issue a warning," he said. 

As residents scrambled to reach higher ground on Oahu, at least four major road accidents were reported by the state Emergency Medical Services. More accidents were reported on the outer islands. But Kunishige said no major injuries were reported. 

A tsunami advisory was also posted for coastal areas of northern California and Oregon, where a maximum rise in the sea level was estimated at 6 inches (15 cm), the National Weather Service said. The agency said no significant flooding was expected. 

Sebastian Vettel wins Indian Grand Prix again

Sebastian Vettel wins Indian Grand Prix again

Clean Media Correspondent

NOIDA, Oct 28 (CMC) For the second successive year, Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull wowed the spectators at the Buddh International Circuit here on Sunday afternoon as he registered a stupendous victory in the Indian Grand Prix. He finished nearly 10 seconds ahead of Fernando Alonso, who pushed his Ferrari past the line in 1:31:20.181s. Mark Webber, Vettel’s teammate, came in third (1:31:23.961s).

Vettel now leads the championship race with 240 points, 13 clear of Alonso.

Last year, Vettel showed the Indian audience why he is the most feared competitor in Formula One with his amazing driving skills on a virgin track that most drivers certified as the most challenging after Spa Francorchamps (Belgium). And on Sunday afternoon, he demonstrated in no uncertain terms that he is only a few steps away from becoming a legend.

Vettel’s fifth victory of the season and 26th of his six-year-old career meant that the Red Bull driver has almost got his foot in the door in his bid to win the 2012 World Championship. Three races remain in the season and, given the form that Vettel and his team are in, it’s difficult to imagine another driver laying his hands on the world crown.

Alonso , who finished second, however, maintained that he fancied his chances of winning the 2012 world title. “Yeah, of course, I think I can win the championship. We have races in Abu Dhabi, Austin (U.S.) and Brazil to come, which means 75 points to play for. We have our chances,” the Spaniard said.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Cabinet reshuffle: Salman Khurshid is new external affairs minister

Cabinet reshuffle: Salman Khurshid is new external affairs minister
Clean Media Correspondent

NEW DELHI, Oct 28 (CMC) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday appointed Salman Khurshid as his new foreign minister. Khurshid, 59, replaces SM Krishna as the top diplomat and his post as a law minister goes to Ashwani Kumar, a spokesman said.

MM Pallam Raju is to be made the next HRD minister, while Shashi Tharoor is likely to be made junior minister with the portfolio.

First timer Manish Tewari moves from being a spokesperson of the Congress Party to minister of state for information and broadcasting, while Deepa Dasmunshi from West Bengal will be minister of state for culture.

K Rehman Khan is to be made the cabinet minister for minority affairs.

M Veerappa Moily will the country's new petroleum minister. Kapil Sibal will continue to be the telecom and it minister. 

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Tariq Anwar will be the new minister of state for agriculture. 

Pawan Kumar Bansal will get railways, but loses parliamentary affairs to Kamal Nath, who will alos keep urban development. 

Within the government, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Sachin Pilot and R P N Singh will be assigned new roles. 

Scindia is likely to get independent charge of power, Pilot will have independent charge of corporate affairs and Singh moves as minister of state for home. None of them have been given cabinet rank, as was being speculated. All of them are second generation Congress leaders. 

Uttarakhand veteran Harish Rawat will be the new water resources minister. 

Dinsha Patel, from Gujarat, will be the cabinet minister for mines. 

Chandrashwari Katoch, who is from Rajasthan, is new culture minister. 

Ajay Maken is new housing and urban poverty alleviation minister.

Cabinet reshuffle: Upgrade for Salman, Rahul boys likely

Cabinet reshuffle: Upgrade for Salman, Rahul boys likely
Clean Media Correspondent

NEW DELHI, Oct 28 (CMC) A conscious effort to raise the profile of young ministers will define the reshuffle Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will effect on Sunday morning. Although the exercise will be marked by boost for law minister Salman Khurshid and urban development minister Kamal Nath, it is the elevation of Ajay Maken, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Sachin Pilot that illustrates Congress's plan to showcase the latest ministerial rejig as the evidence of Rahul Gandhi's growing involvement in party affairs.

Maken is likely to be elevated to the Cabinet rank and may be given the responsibility of I&B ministry which Ambika Soni gave up on Saturday to return to Congress. Scindia and Pilot will be given independent charge of ministries: significant status upgrades considering the party's plans to groom them for bigger roles in their respective states of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

The induction of Manish Tiwari will part of the plan to bring down the average age of Team Manmohan.

Setting the stage for what will be one of the most significant ministerial reshuffle under UPA, six ministers — three of them of the Cabinet rank — resigned on Saturday, although for different reasons. A day after S M Krishna heeded the PM's desire to resign as foreign minister, Soni and Mukul Wasnik resigned as ministers for I&B and social justice, respectively, to join organization.

As widely anticipated, Subodh Kant Sahay was asked to resign as the price for indiscretion he committed by recommending allocation of coal block to a company in which his brother was a director.

Three ministers of state — Mahadev Khandela, Vincent Pala and Agatha Sangma — also quit: the last because of NCP's desire to replace her with Tariq Anwar who, incidentally, will be the sole representative of Bihar in the government.

Among the seniors, urban development minister Kamal Nath is to be given the additional charge of the ministry of parliamentary affairs: a move that reflects the recognition of the challenges that, with Opposition planning to feast on the controversies surrounding Robert Vadra, government expects to face in the Winter Session, as well as its dire need to get crucial legislations passed. Among the longest-serving members of Lok Sabha, Kamal Nath is obviously expected to bring the opponents around on legislations that are stuck in Parliament.

Salman Khurshid has emerged as a strong contender for the ministry of external affairs, in what will mark a major fillip to his career. Former deputy chairperson of Rajya Sabha, K Rahman Khan, was likely to take over Khurshid's minority affairs ministry irrespective of his new assignment.

Apart from the desire to enhance the youth quotient of the government, changes appear to have been shaped by a patchwork of imperatives for coming elections and the perennial need to manage factional equations. Even the elevation of Maken is seen a move aimed at balancing factional dynamics in Delhi where CM Sheila Dikshit has been on an upswing, with even son Sandeep being appointed the national party spokesperson.

With Congress's fortunes headed southwards in Andhra Pradesh which was crucial to party's consecutive wins in Lok Sabha elections, the state has got a mega representation. Telugu super star, Chiaranjeevi, who merged his Praja Rajyam party in Congress, will be inducted as minister of state, possibly with the independent charge of the ministry of tourism. Besides him, four other Congress MPs from Andhra Pradesh — Sarve Satyanarayana, S P Reddy, Balram Naik and K Kruparani — will be inducted as ministers of state.

The fresh inductions from Andhra Pradesh will take its representation in the Council of Ministers to 10, excluding Jairam Ramesh who, while from Karnataka, has been elected to Rajya Sabha from the state. The accommodation of Telangana leaders in the Union ministry also signals that the debate on the statehood demand is over for the time being, at least so far as Congress is concerned.

So far as individuals are concerned, the hierarchy is unlikely to be affected much. Anand Sharma is expected to continue handling the ministry for commerce despite the intense speculation about his move to the foreign ministry: something that was reinforced when a thanks giving quote of D Purandeswari was interpreted to mean that she will look after Sharma's portfolio as a full-scale Cabinet minister. Purandeswari is expected to join the ministry, but stays a minister of state.

Kapil Sibal will stay put in telecom ministry, with all indications suggesting that his original charge, HRD ministry, may go to a senior minister from the south. Petroleum ministry may get a new head in case the choice for HRD falls on Jaipal Reddy.

C P Joshi will continue in Rail Bhawan. The ministry for highways, his original responsibility, is likely to be assigned to Pawan Bansal, who is shedding parliamentary affairs for Nath.

Others who looked set for promotion included Harish Rawat who was likely to be given the Cabinet rank as a compensation for being passed over for the chief ministership of Uttarakhand earlier this year. Dinsha Patel was also tipped to given the Cabinet rank in his current ministry of mines in the build up to the election in his home state of Gujarat.

K H Muniyappa, a Dalit leader from Karnataka, will be promoted and given independent charge of a ministry.

Rajiv Shukla, minister of state for parliamentary affairs, is likely to be given the responsibility of another ministry in the same rank.

Shashi Tharoor and Kodikunnil Suresh from Kerala, Ninong Ering of Arunachal Pradesh, P K Balmuchu from Jharkhand , A H Khan Choudhury from West Bengal are likely to oath as MoS.

The exercise is expected to be a prelude to important changes in Congress organization, amid clear indications that Rahul Gandhi may be playing a more proactive role from an elevated designation. His close involvement in the latest round of ministry making has only enhanced the estimate. Soni is set to join the Congress Working Committee. Wasnik, already a general secretary, will now be fully immersed in organizational responsibility.