Mom of one Nirupama makes it to CWG squad

The All India Tennis Association ( AITA) on Thursday named comeback mom Nirupama ( Vaidyanathan) Sanjeev as the fourth member in the Indian women’s team which will compete in the Commonwealth Games ( CWG) to be held in the capital from October 3 to 14.

Sania Mirza will spearhead the Indian challenge with the other two members being Rushmi Chakravarthy and Poojashree Venkatesh.

Nirupama last played for India at the Busan Asian Games in 2002 and, by her own admission; she had done “ nothing worth note”. “ It’s an awesome feeling to have made it back to the Indian team,” Nirupama told media from Pune. “ I did stop playing professional tennis quite some time ago but the urge to come back was strong,” said Nirupama, mother of a four- year- old girl.

“ After marriage, I settled down in California but still never lost touch with the sport. I have been coaching there for a few years but I decided over a year back I did want to attempt a comeback.

And what better way than try my luck at the national camp,” said Nirupama.

Last December, Nirupama had competed in a Challenger event in Pune and won a round.

It had impressed Jaidip Mukherjea, who is in charge of the national camp.

Nirupama returned for the national camp to Pune again a fortnight ago. Coaches Enrico Piperno and Nandan Bal were also convinced that Nirupama had worked very hard and her usefulness as a doubles player merited her inclusion in the team.

It is learnt that in practice matches, Nirupama had beaten even a couple of the youngsters who were part of the national camp.

At a time when the Indian women’s tennis team has been left depleted after two players – Sunitha Rao and Shikha Uberoi – were rendered ineligible as they do not hold Indian passports, Nirupama grabbed the chance.

“ My husband Sanjeev, my daughter Sahana, my parents and my inlaws have been very supportive in my comeback bid,” said Nirupama.

“ My first goal was to make a comeback in the team. Now that I have done it, I can now look at what medals the team can win and where I can be a part of it,” said Nirupama.

Mukherjea said: “ Nirupama’s doubles experience would come in handy. We have the women’s doubles and also mixed doubles events and decided that someone with good doubles experience would fit the bill.”

Raju freed but stays in hospital

B. Ramalinga Raju accused in the RS 14,000- crore Satyam Computers scam, was on Thursday released from judicial custody.

Eleventh additional chief metropolitan magistrate BVLN Chakravarthy at Nampally courts in Hyderabad asked the Chanchalguda jail authorities to ‘ release’ Raju from judicial custody. The Andhra Pradesh High Court had granted bail to Raju on Wednesday.

The release from judicial custody came after Raju’s wife Nandini and cousin I. Suryanarayana Raju submitted two sureties each for Rs 20 lakh at the court.

Though there is no immediate threat of a jail stay, sources say Raju may continue to stay put at Hyderabad’s Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences, where he has been undergoing treatment for Hepatitis C and other ailments since September 2009.

The doctors at the institute said they wouldn’t advise him to get discharged because he was out of judicial custody.

“ Though his health condition has improved a lot, the Hepatitis C symptoms are fluctuating.

It is better for him to be under constant medical supervision till he completes the second round of his 24- week injection cycle. He still needs another 18 injections. But if he still wants to go home, we cannot stop him,” NIMS gastro- entrologist Dr. Ajit Kumar said.

According to the high court order, once Raju is discharged from the hospital, he will have to attend the trial court regularly.

He has also been asked to visit the Central Bureau of Investigation ( CBI) office for interrogation as and when required. Considering these ‘ inconveniences’, chances are Raju will prefer staying at NIMS for the time being.

At the same time, there are also those who think the NIMS is not a very safe option for Raju.

“ The NIMS is a state- run hospital.

If the government wants, it can hound Raju. The doctors will not be able to help him then,” an advocate at the Nampally court said.

Speculations are rife that Raju might shift to Care Hospitals, a private healthcare facility run by Dr. Somaraju. Both the Rajus are said to be good friends.

But Raju might wait for some more days, till the CBI moves the Supreme Court challenging the high court’s order to grant him bail. “ If the apex court cancels his bail, Raju will have to stay in a hospital to avoid jail,” a source said.

Twenty beggars in a Bangalore rehab centre die of ‘ food poisoning’ in 30 hrs

Twenty inmates of the government run Beggars’ Rehabilitation Centre in Bangalore have died in the last 30 hours, allegedly due to food poisoning and poor hygienic conditions.

The condition of another six inmates is said to be serious.

The sudden deaths have led to chaos at the centre on the city’s outskirts with nearly 300 out of the 2,500 inmates escaping from it accusing the authorities of neglecting them. Shockingly, 11 victims were cremated without conducting an autopsy.

The police have registered a case and started investigation.

The first death was reported on Tuesday. Eleven people died the following day and another eight on Thursday. Of the 20 victims, three are women.

The victims were all in the 55- 75 age group. Though the authorities concerned are maintaining that the deaths were due to “ natural” causes, food poisoning is said to be the prime reason.

“ A donor served us food last Sunday at the centre. From Monday onwards, we developed stomach pain. Ten people were immediately admitted to the hospital but they could not make it,” said Alakappa, an inmate.

Doctors attending to the ailing inmates said most of them are suffering from gastroenteritis.

“ We are not sure about the cause of gastroenteritis. It could be because of food poisoning or poor hygienic conditions at the centre. We are awaiting the victims’ reports to ascertain the cause,” a doctor said.

The deaths have prompted the state government to order a probe into the incident.

“ To ascertain the exact cause of the deaths, we have ordered a full- scale inquiry. There could be a possibility that terminally ill patients were also admitted to the centre, resulting in higher cases of deaths,” said D. Sudhakar, Karnataka’s social welfare minister.

Views mixed on hike in cap for small investors

There is mixed reaction from merchant bankers to the proposal by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) to hike the investment ceiling of retail investors to Rs 2 lakh from Rs 1 lakh now in public offering of stocks.

Jagannadham Thunuguntla, equity head of SMC Capitals, feels raising the cap was long overdue considering that the market size has grown and fund raising needs have spiked in tandem compared to five years ago.

“ The subdued response from retail investors to several public offerings recently also might have prompted the regulator to think of this amendment,” he added.

Sebi has proposed to amend Sebi ( Issue of Capital and Disclosure Requirements) Regulations, 2009 ( ICDR Regulations) to enhance the limit prescribed for defining a retail individual investor ( RII) in a public issue from the existing Rs 1 lakh to Rs 2 lakh, in a paper issued for comments.

The regulator cited three reasons for the move, including that the present ceiling was limiting the retail investors who have the capacity to invest over Rs 1 lakh in public offerings. If they were to apply for shares worth over Rs 1 lakh now they would be competing for allotment within the high net worth individuals ( HNI) category of investors, which has an limited allocation of 15 per cent against 35 per cent for retail investors.

In recent public offerings, roughly 75 per cent of RII applications have been in the size of Rs 80,000- 1 lakh even as in the HNI category, the number of applications of under- Rs 5 lakh is negligible.

Sebi also felt that big offerings of Rs 4,000- 6,000 crore need to receive 15- 20 lakh applications from retail investors to cover the 35 per cent portion reserved for them. “ This could be a daunting task considering that in case of well oversubscribed issues, the number of applications received from RIIs was in the range of 35,000 to 70,000,” Sebi added.

Inflation in India has risen from about four per cent in 2005 to about 12 per cent lately. During the same period, the BSE Sensex has risen from about 8,000 points to about 18,000 points.

“ This means that the RIIs now buy a lesser number of securities with Rs 1 lakh than they would buy with the same amount in 2005,” the regulator explained.

Shailendra Jindal, CEO of Continental Capital Advisors felt that Sebi should have raised the reservation for retail investors from 35 per cent now to maybe 50 per cent.

DU labs still feel Mayapuri radiation leak heat

The Mayapuri radiation fiasco may have been caused by the irresponsibility of the faculty members of Delhi University’s ( DU) chemistry department, but its price is being paid by hundreds of students.

Three months after the university was ordered by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) to discontinue radioactive experiments — for teaching as well as research purposes — on the campus, DU has not yet managed to get the ban revoked.

The nuclear physics laboratories of the university, consequently, have been rendered useless.

And about 300 students enrolled in MTech in nuclear science and technology and MSc in Physics ( nuclear science) haven’t had a single practical lesson, though their new academic session began on August 9.

DU is among the few institutions in the country which offers programmes in nuclear science. It possibly produces the largest number of students specialising in this area. While the MSc programme is almost four decades old, the MTech course is relatively new and has been around for two years. “ It’s not just students studying nuclear science who have been affected. All firstyear MSc students, irrespective of their specialisation, conduct experiments using radioactive sources,” said a professor in the department of physics.

Since practical lessons are of utmost importance in the study of nuclear physics, faculty members are now trying desperately to devise innovative ideas to substitute radioactive sources in the experiments. The laboratories, meanwhile, are being just used to teach theory lessons.

The ban on radioactive experiments came in the wake of the irresponsible disposal of a gamma radiator containing Cobalt- 60 as scrap from DU’s chemistry department in April, which eventually landed in the Mayapuri scrapyard. Exposure to this strong radioactive source claimed one life and injured six others.

“ The radioactive sources used by the students are very weak in strength and cannot cause the kind of damage inflicted by the Cobalt- 60 that was sold off as scrap. But since the nature of the blunder was grave, the AERB asked the university to suspend all such activities irrespective of whether it was for teaching or research,” a teacher said.

Though the department teachers have given several reminders to the university administration about the grim state of affairs ( the academic session has also completed its first week), the vice- chancellor is yet to seek the AERB’s permission to resume experiments at least for teaching purpose.

“ Right now I am busy trying to ensure that the teachers do not interrupt the introduction of the semester system at the undergraduate level. I will be writing to the AERB very soon,” said V- C Deepak Pental.

The three- member committee formed by DU to probe the irresponsible disposal of radioactive Cobalt- 60 had submitted its report to Pental earlier this month. Fixing responsibility for the incident, according to Pental, cannot happen right away again because of the semester stand- off.

“ I need to call a meeting of the executive council to discuss the findings of the report. But I really need to sort out the semester issue first,” Pental said.

US ticks off Pakistan but it still won’t accept Indian aid

Manmohan Singh on Thursday renewed India’s $5- million offer to Pakistan in flood relief. But Islamabad still appeared to be in two minds over accepting it, saying “ we will do what we believe is right”. “ The Pakistan government is considering the proposal and no decision has been made in this regard,” Pakistani foreign office spokesperson Abdul Basit said on Thursday.

“We appreciate the gesture by India. Their offer has been conveyed to relevant authorities and the matter is under consideration,” he added.

Another official of the Pakistani foreign office added: “ We are yet to take a decision on whether to accept the Indian aid. It is a political decision and only the political leadership should take it.” Pakistan did not come up with a decision despite an admonition on Thursday by the US government, which said politics should have no role in disaster response. The US stated that it “ expected” Islamabad to accept the Indian assistance.

“In terms of responding to a disaster, politics should play no role. You have a country (India) that’s willing to help and... we expect that Pakistan will accept,” US state department spokesperson P. J. Crowley said.

Islamabad, however, brushed aside the US’s suggestion, with Basit saying: “ Pakistan is a sovereign country and we will take a decision according to what we believe is the right thing to do.” On August 13, external affairs minister S. M. Krishna had telephoned his Pakistani counterpart, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, and offered $ 5 million as aid to Pakistan, which is grappling with the worst- ever floods that has seen over 1,600 people dead and over 20 million affected.

Pakistan’s Dawn News reported on Thursday that Qureshi “ immensely thanked” India for its offer to help.

On Thursday, Singh called up Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani to condole the deaths. “ The Prime Minister said India has already made an offer of assistance and was ready to do more to assist in the relief effort,” the external affairs ministry said in a statement.

A former Pakistani diplomat said India’s offer should be seen as a “ confidence building measure” for the restoration of bilateral ties between the two nations. “ If Pakistan reciprocates this offer by accepting it, bilateral confidence building will definitely get a boost,” the diplomat said.

But he added that given the “low level of cordiality between the two governments, there is little likelihood that Pakistan will accept the Indian offer”. On another note, reacting to allegations of authorities “ gobbling” up aid money meant for the flood victims, Pakistan announced the setting up of an independent body to oversee the flow of flood- related funds in the country.

The National Oversight Disaster Management Council has been set up in response to internal and external criticism of the widespread corruption among the ranks of the government institutions and questions about the administration’s ability to come up with a transparent mechanism for flood relief efforts.

Dadwal ‘snubs’ MLAs by giving House hearing the miss

Delhi legislators cutting across party lines on Thursday refused to start a discussion on law and order in Delhi, condemning police commissioner Y. S. Dadwal who didn’t turn up despite being invited.

The discussion has been rescheduled for Monday after Dadwal failed to turn up even after the assembly was adjourned for 30 minutes and he was called again.

Normally, heads of government departments are invited to listen to what legislators have to say and they usually attend unless busy.

Dadwal gave the assembly the miss even in the last session but came after the House was adjourned over his absence. Dadwal sent his second- in- command, special commissioner ( administration) Neeraj Kumar, to attend the session.

Before adjourning the House, Speaker Yoganand Shastri asked chief minister Sheila Dikshit to ensure that the commissioner turned up in 30 minutes.

Coming out of the House after Dadwal didn’t arrive even after the adjournment, Dikshit told reporters that all legislators wanted the commissioner to attend and that it was a serious issue.

Speaker Shastri called it a contempt of the assembly as he came out of the House after adjourning the session till Friday afternoon.

“What’s the point if all of us here voice our worries over worsening law and order while the man in charge of ensuring safety of citizens is not present to hear us,” said leader of Opposition V. K. Malhotra. “ Dadwal’s absence in the assembly is a serious issue of contempt of the House and an insult to the CM,” he added.

But for an ‘and’ CPM will accept nuke Bill

After the BJP made conciliatory noises over the nuclear liability Bill, the Left parties also appear ready to blink.

If the BJP’s grouse was the “ India- centric” focus of the Bill, the Left parties want the foreign suppliers of raw materials to also be liable in case of a disaster.

The four Left parties debated the parliamentary standing committee report on the Bill on Thursday and came up with a specific objection — the usage of the word “ and” in clause 17.

The clause talks about the liability of foreign suppliers and says under sub-clause (a) that they are liable only if they have a written contract with the nuclear plant operator specifying this.

The standing committee report has recommended that a sub-clause (b) should be included, saying foreign suppliers are also liable if there is a latent or patent defect, supply of sub- standard material, defective equipment or services or gross negligence on the part of the supplier.

But it has also added an “and” between subclauses (a) and (b), which implies that the supplier is liable only if all these issues are mentioned in the written contract.

“ We are all aware that no American supplier will sign such a written contract with the Indian government operator. The entire Bill has been designed to protect them on the insistence of the American government.

We are happy the standing committee included clause (b) but it should delete the ‘ and’ which renders it ineffective,” CPM general secretary Prakash Karat said.

However, Karat’s tough stand against the Bill as well as the Indo- US nuclear deal appears to have diluted considerably.

Queried on whether the Left parties would support the Bill if the UPA accommodated the “ and” deletion, he said: “ We will be willing to consider it.” The Left parties have also raised other objections, including the cap on liability on the part of the operator.

The standing committee recommendations revised the cap from the original Rs 500 crore to Rs 1,500 crore, but the Left parties feel there should not be a cap limiting this amount at all.

Same old story in new rain record

Cars floated on the Delhi roads on Thursday after it received the season’s heaviest downpour at 104.52 mm. Trees were uprooted and four buildings collapsed in incessant showers, injuring nine persons. By evening, the rain petered down to a drizzle but widespread snarls crippled key roads, bringing traffic to a halt.

As the city continues to grapple with the monsoon conundrum — even a smart shower is enough to sink the roads — civic experts blame heavy construction activities because of the Commonwealth Games for the sorry state of the city’s clogged roads and sewage system.

“ Construction activities along roads affect the drainage system badly. This is the main reason why Delhi is experiencing increased instances of waterlogging this time,” Dr Nishi Mittal, head of the traffic engineering and safety division at the Central Road Research Institute in Delhi, says.

Echoing him, Rakesh Mishra, engineer- in- chief of the PWD, says, “ Due to heavy concretisation of the roads, their self- absorption capacity has diminished. That’s why we need to install suction pumps to pump out water from the roads.” According to Mittal, construction materials for street- scaping projects or even for carpeting of the roads are piled up alongside the roads, blocking water inlets. Sand, cement and gravel flow into storm water drains, blocking them, leading to heavy waterlogging at most of the arterial roads in Delhi.

The only place in the city which is relatively free from waterlogging is the Cantonment area in West Delhi.

“Most of the roads there are not concretised. Water flows out easily and doesn’t affect the traffic flow,” senior planner and architect Sarat C. Jain, who designed the Dhaula Kuan clover leaf flyover, says.

He warns that waterlogging will remain a problem in the city if the town planners don’t replicate the Cantonment model. He suggests that water deposited on the road can be easily harvested provided agencies that handle Delhi’s roads and drains work in tandem.

The easiest way to get rid of the stagnant water is to channelise it to the other side of a road. “ Road agencies need to construct drains below every footpath for this purpose,” Jain says.

In the longer run, he advises that Delhi should follow the example of Bawana industrial complex. There were serious issues of waterlogging in Bawana before rainwater harvesting system was implemented.

G. C. Dwivedi, DCP south ( traffic), feels the poor condition of the drainage system is the main reason for waterlogging. “ The drainage system should have been planned well in advance. The sorry state reveals that these agencies hardly maintain our drainage system. In case of waterlogged underpasses, he suggests pumps should be pressed into use,” Dwivedi says.

Alarm for Dengue was sounded way back in February

The MCD as well the civic agencies of some other states appear to be blissfully unaware about the idiom ‘ forewarned is forearmed’. Else they would not have ignored an alert issued in February on the possibility of dengue erupting in a big way this year.

Around 6000 cases have been reported from all over the country so far. Delhi has officially recorded 322 cases and one death. However, doctors say the number of cases being reported in this part of the year is unusually high.

“We knew that there will be more cases in 2010 because of the hectic construction activity taking place for the Commonwealth Games. In addition, the cyclical nature of the disease indicated that there would be a spurt this year. All the risk factors for the spread of the disease have been there,” Dr A. C. Dhariwal, the director of the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme, said.

“After an analysis of the situation, a letter was written in February to officials in states — including Delhi, Kerala and Karnataka — alerting them about the possibility of a dengue outbreak and the need to be prepared,” he said.

The trend this year is that though the number of cases is high, the mortality is less, Dhariwal said. Investigations have revealed that this year the predominant dengue virus is type 1 or DEN- 1. The dengue virus, Flavivirus, is of four types — from DEN- 1 to DEN- 4. Each of these may have several subtypes.

Infection caused by any one of them confers lifelong immunity to that particular virus subtype.

To make matters worse there have been good rains this monsoon, making conditions at construction sites even more conducive for mosquito breeding, experts said. “ The whole environment has favoured the resurgence of dengue,” Dr Randeep Guleria from the department of medicine at AIIMS said.

Guleria said the cases had increased drastically over the past few weeks. “ The cases are more than normal for this part of the year. Generally, we see a peak during September- October, but this time we are getting many cases in August. The authorities should have taken preemptive action to prevent the outbreak,” Guleria added.

Scientists say the disease is endemic to Delhi and some other parts. “ Unless you clear the mosquito- breeding sites, the disease will keep striking,” Dr Pradeep Seth, a virologist who had investigated the 1996 outbreak, said.

Though dengue is seen as a cyclical disease which peaks every three to four years, data indicates that its incidence is being reported annually.

There was a major outbreak in 1996 when the country reported over 16,000 cases and over 500 deaths. The cases fell during 1997- 2001, but the number has increased since then. Last year, there were over 14,000 cases and the figure was around 12,000 in 2008. However, the number of deaths in these years was low at approximately 100.

Dengue is caused by a virus and transmitted to humans by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Generally, the disease develops five to six days after the mosquito bite.

Army officers take bribes for tenders

In a sting operation, senior Indian army officers posted at the army’s crucial strike corps in Ambala and Jodhpur were caught on camera accepting bribes from undercover reporters to facilitate tenders for local purchases.

Men in uniform take cash from journalists posing as contractors

More shocking, however, was the brazenness displayed by these serving officers, some of whom were in uniform when they overtly collected and counted the money before pocketing it.

Under the pretence of being contractors and defence suppliers, the reporters approached high- ranking officers seeking help in facilitating army contracts.

Despite the ‘ contractors’ not being on the approved list of army suppliers, these officers had no misgivings about dealing with them but also cleared payments against fake bills.

Snared by the sting operation were Lt Col S. K. Khanna, the brigade ordnance officer of a Jodhpur air defence brigade, Lt Col Rajiv Nagpal, who commands an artillery division provost unit at Ambala, Major Ranawat of the same unit, Lt Col Manoj Arora and Major V. Prasad, the second- in- command and quarter master of an air defence regiment, and Lt Col Parminder of an air defence brigade.

The ease with which the officers accepted money indicated there was no fear of dealing with nonapproved contractors.

“ Just for a moment imagine had they been ISI agents and not undercover reporters. The ease with which they penetrated the army's socalled tough security network and entered deep inside the two main strike Corps on the western borders points to a complete failure not just of these officers but also military intelligence,” defence analyst Maj Gen Ashok Mehta ( retd) said.

Hours after the sting operation was aired, an army spokesperson told Headlines Today that a court of inquiry had been ordered and the strictest possible action would be taken against the officers found guilty.