Friday, May 14, 2010

Most Delhi petrol pumps shut, dealers on strike

Nearly all petrol pumps in Delhi shut shop today to protest the increase in VAT on diesel that has made the fuel costlier in the national capital compared to neighbouring Haryana, the pump dealers union claimed."Out of 410 petrol pumps in Delhi, only 18 outlets owned and operated by oil companies are functioning. The rest shut operations for 24 hours at 0600 hours today," Delhi and NCR Petrol Dealers Association President Ajay Bansal said.An Indian Oil official said eight company owned and company operated outlets of BPCL and five each of IOC and HPCL were operating.After the day long token protest today, the pump dealers said they will shut shop every Monday till their demand for lowering VAT on diesel is met and even threatened to go on an indefinite strike."Sale is drying up as differential in diesel price in Delhi and Haryana is almost Rs 4 per litre. We (union) are under pressure from dealers to go on an indefinite strike and we will have to consider this option if our demands are not met," he said. In June 2008, Haryana reduced VAT on diesel to 8.8 per cent from 12 per cent, thereby making it cheaper than Delhi where VAT on fuel was 12.5 per cent."From 13.5 crore litres a month, the sales of diesel in Delhi came down to 8.5 crore litres a month (loss of 37 per cent)," he said.Already "bleeding" dealers were further dealt a body blow when the Delhi Government from April 1 raised VAT on diesel to 20 per cent."This has resulted in a difference of almost Rs 4 per litre in the price of diesel between Delhi and Haryana," Bansal said.Delhi is bordered on all sides, but East, by Haryana.The increase in VAT has made diesel in Delhi more expensive than even Uttar Pradesh, which is east of Delhi. Large number of vehicles coming into the national capital from Haryana or UP daily prefer refueling outside."Due to this price differential, we expect a further drop in sale from the present 8.5 crore litre per month to three crore litre per month (total loss of 80 per cent)," he said."As a result the state is going to suffer heavy revenue losses to the tune of Rs 325 crore per annum."The Association claimed that the differential price would also encourage smuggling and black marketing of cheaper low grade diesel into Delhi which from April 1 has moved to Euro-IV compliant fuel."The unviable petrol dealers will have to resort to cost cutting for survival," the union said, listing steps like reducing manpower and reduced working hours.

Suspicious Indian sews up wife’s genitals with iron wires

A villager in eastern India sewed up his wife’s private parts with iron wire after getting suspicious that her wife has illicit relationship with someone, police said today.Police said Sannimar Munda of coalfield areas in Dhanbad from Jharkhand state, 288 km south of Bihar capital of Patna, suddenly lost his temper when his wife asked to visit her parents’ house on Tuesday.“In a fit of anger, the man branded his wife with a hot iron rod and stitched up her private parts with iron wires”, the Dhanbad district superintendent of police Suman Gupta said today.Police said the victim has been been admitted to a local Pataliputra Medical College and Hospital where her condition is stated to be very critical.“The next 24 hours is very critical since there are chances of her getting infected with tetanus”, a doctor who did the operation said today.

Centre fails to resolve Muivah-Manipur row

The Centre’s attempt to resolve the conflict between the Manipur government led by Okram Ibobi Singh and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) has come a cropper with both sides sticking to their guns.The crisis arose from NSCN-IM general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah’s desire to visit his ancestral village Somdal (in Manipur) after 40 years.The Union Ministry of Home Affairs sanctioned the visit but Manipur Chief Minister Ibobi Singh of the Congress stonewalled it, saying Muivah was a fugitive as the ceasefire with the NSCN-IM (since July 1997) was not applicable in Manipur.In a bid to sort out the problem, the Centre on Tuesday rushed Home Secretary G.K. Pillai to Manipur and Nagaland. Pillai met Singh and the NSCN-IM leadership separately but failed to break the ice.“We communicated to Pillai that we can’t allow Muivah to enter the state unless the NSCN-IM drops the Greater Nagalim demand,” spokesperson for Manipur N. Biren said.Greater Nagalim is the NSCN-IM’s concept of a unified Naga homeland comprising Naga-inhabited areas of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur and Myanmar, besides Nagaland.On Wednesday, Pillai met Muivah and other NSCN-IM leaders in Nagaland but the insurgents asserted that Muivah would go ahead with his visit to his native village.“The Government of India seems to be unable to take a stand. They will say something here and something else there. We’re very disappointed,” V.S. Atem of NSCN-IM said.In Imphal, the blockade imposed by Naga students’ associations saw hundreds of vehicles jamming traffic for hours as they queued up at petrol pumps. The price of petrol in the black market rose to Rs 150 per litre and diesel to Rs 110 while a filled LPG cylinder was being sold for Rs 2,000.Worried over the developments, PM Manmohan Singh, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and others in the core group took stock of the situation.

Tourism Master Plan for NE being prepared

A Tourism Master Plan for North-East is being prepared by Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) which will study in depth the vast tourism potential of the region which needs to be developed."As envisaged in Vision 2020 North Eastern Region document, the region needs to brand itself and the tag-line 'paradise unexplored' will be promoted as NE tourism brand under North East Tourism Master Plan," an official statement in Shillong said.The target of the plan will be to contribute tourism to the economy of the region with the development of hotels and restaurants, transport and handicrafts.In view of India's "Look East" policy, the region has the potential to break out of its landlocked borders and engage in cultural, economic and tourism cooperation with its international neighbours, the statement said.A request for proposal for Master Plan was floated inviting bids for Engagement of Consultants for its preparation. It was evaluated by Technical Evaluation Committee and Financial Evaluation Committee of DoNER and finally the contract was awarded to Tata Consultancy Services Ltd, Mumbai.The report is expected to be ready by December 2010.

Manipur seeks Mizoram's help to carry goods

The Manipur government on Thursday sought the help of Mizoram to transport essential commodities through its territory following a blockade of a key highway by Naga students."The Manipur government will made arrangements to import goods and essential commodities from other parts of India using the Silchar-Aizawl-Sinzawl-Churachandpur-Imphal surface route until the current situation is contained," a Mizoram government official told reporters.The official said that senior officials of two states earlier talked over phone to finalise the arrangement.Landlocked Manipur continues to reel under an acute shortage of food and other essentials following the indefinite economic blockade enforced by Naga tribal groups since May 6.The Nagas are protesting against the Manipur government's decision not to allow National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM) leader T. Muivah to visit his birthplace in Manipur.The Manipur government has banned the entry of Muivah, saying the visit could lead to ethnic unrest in the state.The 75-year-old Muivah, a Tangkhul Naga from Manipur, was born in Somdal village in Ukhrul district, 100 km north of Imphal, and last visited his birthplace in 1960.Hundreds of trucks carrying essentials and medicines have been stranded in Nagaland with protestors laying siege on National Highway 39, the lifeline of Manipur.

Five militants killed in Manipur encouner

At least five militants were killed in a fierce encounter with Assam Rifles personnel in Manipur's Chandel district, according to first official reports in Imphal today.Reports said heavy exchange of fire between unknown militants and Assam Rifles personnel of 21st battalion took place at Khambithel area last night in interior hill district of Chandel which borders Myanmar.Five militants were killed, reports said adding that the incident occurred when the para-military forces were patrolling the area.The identities of the militants were unknown, reports said.Extra police from the district headquarters of Chandel town have rushed to the spot. The police sources said it would take time to get details because the area was located in an interior hill area.

Cameron takes over as Britain's new PM

David Cameron, the youthful leader who modernized the party of right-wing icon Margaret Thatcher, became prime minister Tuesday after the resignation of Gordon Brown — capping a gripping election saga that returns the Tories to government after 13 years of Labour Party rule. New British Prime Minister David Cameron is beginning to shape his government, after the Conservatives agreed to form a historic coalition with the Liberal Democrats. Cameron, 43, was installed as Prime Minister on a dramatic day on Tuesday. Following tradition, Queen Elizabeth II appointed Cameron at Buckingham Palace — a stately denouement to a behind-the-scenes dogfight between Cameron and Brown for the cooperation of Britain's third-place party, after an election that left no party with a majority. Within minutes, Cameron was installed at No. 10 Downing Street, becoming the youngest prime minister in almost 200 years, since Lord Liverpool took office at age 42. An announcement followed that Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg would become deputy prime minister — a rarely awarded and prestigious post — after days of hard bargaining with his former political rivals. Four other Liberal Democrats also received Cabinet posts. Cameron and Clegg agreed to form a coalition after Cameron's Conservative Party won the most seats in Britain's May 6 national election, but fell short of winning a majority of seats in Parliament. Less than 90 minutes earlier, an emotional Brown made a brief farewell address outside 10 Downing St., speaking in strained tones as he wished Cameron well. The 59-year-old Brown then walked hand-in-hand with his wife, Sarah, and young sons John and Fraser down Downing Street, where a car waited to take him to the palace for a 15-minute meeting. Clegg announced early Wednesday his party's agreement into entering such a partnership. Clegg also sought to allay party members' concerns going into the arrangement. US President Barack Obama telephoned to congratulate Cameron and invited him to visit Washington this summer. Britain's new government could spell changing relationships with its foreign allies. Both Cameron and Clegg have signalled they favour looser ties to Washington than those held by Brown and his predecessor, Tony Blair. Cameron and Clegg back the Afghanistan mission but Cameron hopes to withdraw British troops within five years. Relations with European neighbors could also become problematic. Cameron's party is deeply skeptical over cooperation in Europe, and has withdrawn from an alliance with the parties of Germany's Angela Merkel and France's Nicolas Sarkozy. The coalition has already agreed on a five-year, fixed-term Parliament — the first time Britain has had the date of its next election decided in advance. Conservative and Liberal Democrat teams met for several hours Tuesday. Rank-and-file members of the two parties held separate talks in London late into the night and both approved the coalition deal.