Friday, November 12, 2010

India has taken up IDPs’ issue with Sri Lanka: Sonia

Chennai: Expressing concern over some of the displaced Tamil civilians still being lodged in camps in Sri Lanka, Congress president Sonia Gandhi has said India has taken up the matter with that country so that they are moved out of the camps at the earliest.

In her reply to a letter written by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi on the issue, Gandhi said the Indian government was extending whatever humanitarian and resettlement assistance possible to alleviate hardships faced by the displaced Tamil civilians. 
The issue of resettlement and rehabilitation as well as reconstruction process in the war ravaged areas had been taken up at an appropriate level in Sri Lanka so that the civilians would be able to move out of the camps at the earliest, she said in the letter. 

Around 25,000 of the total 2.90 lakh Tamil civilians displaced due to the civil war are still lodged in various camps in Sri Lanka. 

Karunanidhi, whose DMK is part of the UPA government, had written to Gandhi on October 8 in this regard. 

Sonia Gandhi's letter to the DMK chief was released to the media by the state government today.

Illegal sand quarrying on the increase: Jaya

Chennai: AIADMK General Secretary Jayalalithaa on Sunday alleged that illegal sand quarrying activity in the state was still on the increase depleting ground water and in turn affecting farmers.

In a statement here, she said due to illegal sand quarrying the government was losing huge revenue. 
She also demanded that the State Government provide adequate compensation to the family members of a woman, who died after she was hit by a lorry involved in sand quarrying in Karur district. 

Lashing out at Chief Minister Karunanidhi, she alleged he had been encouraging such illegal sand quarrying. 

Ground water level had drastically reduced due to such activity, which also led to shortage of water for irrigation purposes, severely affecting the farmers,she added. 

TN Govt warns schools against collecting exorbitant fees

Chennai: Warning that it would not remain a mute spectator if private schools collected exorbitant fees, the DMK Government in Tamil Nadu on Tuesday said it was keen on implementing a new fee structure from the next academic year.

Replying to a series of questions raised by Opposition in the Assembly, School Education Minister Thangam Thenarasu said the state government had recently appointed former High Court Judge Justice K Raviraja Pandian as the head of the Private Schools Fee Fixation Committee after its former head Justice Govindarajan resigned last month on health grounds. 
He said the government was keen on implementing new fees structure during the next calender year once the Pandian Committee submitted its recommendations. 

Thenarasu warned that the government would not be a mute spectator if any school indulged in collecting exorbitant fees. 

Tamil Nadu was the only state in the country to appoint a committee that regulated fees structure for private schools, he said. 

AIADMK, MDMK members walkout over encounter issue

Chennai: Opposition AIADMK and MDMK on Tuesday staged a walkout from the Tamil Nadu Assembly after Speaker R Avudaiyappan denied permission to raise an issue on the alleged encounter killing of a key accused in the kidnap and murder of two school children in Coimbatore.

Soon after the question hour, when the Deputy Leader of the Opposition O Panneerselvam demanded that the issue be taken up for discussion immediately, the Speaker refused permission. 
Avudaiyappan said the issue could be taken up for discussion after a formal requisition was received from the members. 

However, AIADMK and MDMK members staged a walkout.

2G spectrum issue could work against DMK in 2011 polls: AIADMK

Chennai: The 2G spectrum issue had its echo in the Tamil Nadu assembly on Thursday, with Opposition AIADMK gunning for Union Telecom Minister A Raja, saying the controversy could work decisively against his party DMK in next year's assembly elections.

"There has been no step in accordance with conscience (such as Raja stepping down). The people of Tamil Nadu are waiting to show the door to DMK in the polls," AIADMK MLA M V R Veerakapilan said.
Participating in the debate for demand for grants in the assembly, he alleged the DMK government had also failed on various accounts in the state.

Demanding Raja's ouster from the cabinet, AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa had on Wednesday said the Union minister hailed from a party that lacked morality and it was not reasonable to expect him to quit on moral grounds.

She had urged people to send telegrams to President Pratibha Patil, demanding Raja's dismissal from the Cabinet.

Raja has come under severe criticism from Opposition parties, including BJP and AIADMK, for his alleged role in the 2G spectrum scam allocation, believed to have caused a loss of Rs 1.76 lakh crore to the national exchequer.
The Opposition stepped up their attack against Raja after he was directly held responsible for the alleged scam by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG). 

The CAG said it has submitted to the government the report on the 2G spectrum allotment that may have caused a loss of over Rs 1.76 lakh crore to the exchequer. 

TN CM for healthy discussions for solution to Cauvery issue

Chennai, Nov 12 : Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi today called for healthy discussions among all political parties to find a solution to the vexed Cauvery river water issue with Karnataka.

Intervening Deputy Leader of the Opposition O Panneerselvam (AIADMK) in the state assembly, Mr Karunanidhi said instead of trading charges at each other, it would be nice if the leaders of all Legislature parties and also those from outside the House sit and discuss to find a solution to the impasse.

Stating that the ruling DMK was prepared for such a talks, Mr Karunanidhi said it would be nice if Mr Panneerselvam would get permission from the AIADMK High Command for such talks.

He said most of the time, both inside and outside the House, both the DMK and the AIADMK had been making statements and counter-statements.

''This should not give fresh vigour to Karnataka on the issue,'' the Chief Minister said, adding ''with a view to achieving our goal (of getting cauvery waters from Karnataka), let us all sit and discuss and take a decsion.''

Govt may consider purchasing cement from other states: Anbazhagan

Chennai, Nov 12 : Tamil Nadu Finance Minister K Anbazhagan today told the state Assembly that the government might consider purchasing cement from other states or import it from abroad to control the rise in prices of cement.

Replying to Mr V Sivapunniyam (CPI) in the state Assembly, he said the government was making all efforts to reduce the price of cement.

Mr Anbazhagan referred to the recent discussions Chief Minister M Karunanidhi had with cement manufacturers who had agreed to reduce the price.

With a view to further reducing the price, the government might consider purchasing it from other states or import it.

What wrong has Raja done, asks Karunanidhi

Chennai, Nov 12 : Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi Friday came out strongly in defence of his tainted DMK colleague and central minister A. Raja and said there was no need for him to quit.

The issue found echo in the Tamil Nadu assembly as well, with the ruling DMK hitting out at the AIADMK over J. Jayalalithaa's unconditional offer of support to the Manmohan Singh government.

"What wrong has he done? He only went by the rules," Karunanidhi told reporters here amid growing clamour for the communications and IT minister's sacking from the cabinet on account of the 2G spectrum scam.

Karunanidhi's comments came a day after AIADMK leader Jayalalithaa pledged to support Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government if Raja's dismissal led the DMK to withdraw its legislative support.

The issue came up in the assembly too.

"You knocked the doors at Delhi and it has not opened," Finance Minister K. Anbazhagan told AIADMK's O. Pannerselvam in an oblique reference to Jayalalithaa's offer to the Congress Thursday.

Pannerselvam retorted that the doors would open soon.

At which, Karunanidhi added: "We will know whether the doors will open or not."

The opposition parties in New Delhi and the state are demanding Raja's dismissal on account of the loss to the exchequer in the 2008 allotment of 2G spectrum.

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report has estimated the loss to be over Rs.170,000 crore.

Karunanidhi assures assy: free power will not be scrapped

Chennai, Nov 11 (: Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi today informed the State Assembly that the free power scheme for farmers would not be scrapped.

Referring to apprehensions raised by some members following the arrest of 196 farmers, who tried to picket the state Assembly yesterday on the issue, Mr Karunanidhi said the scheme was first introduced by the DMK regime and it would definitely not be scrapped.

''I am assuring that the free power scheme for farmers will will not be scrapped,'' he told the House, allaying the fears of the farmers and the members, who raised the issue.

''The scheme is the brainchild of the DMK. We will not strangulate to death and throw away our own child," he said amid thumping of desks by the Treasury Benches.

The Chief Minister also ordered the release of all 196 farmers arrested and lodged in jail.

Raja is innocent till CBI indicts him: DMK

By Sujoy Dhar, New Delhi, Nov 11 : Stung by the clamour for the resignation of its minister A Raja over the 2G spectrum scam, the Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam (DMK) said the Telecom Minister is innocent till the Supreme Court of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) pronounces him guilty.

"He says he is innocent. It is our stand. If a CAG report is any basis for resignation of Raja, then every Indian minister in every state has to resign," DMK MP T K S Elangovan told IBNS.

While the axe hangs over telecom minister A Raja and the grumblings only seem to grow louder as the opposition cries for his neck in the alleged 2G spectrum scam, the DMK said till an ongoing Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe report finds him guilty he should not resign.

"CAG is only an auditing body," he said, adding that the matter is also before the Supreme Court.

"Let the Supreme Court give its judgement," he said.

The Congress on Wednesday seemed to put the ball in ally DMK's court to decide his fate.

"While we assert that it is the prime minister's prerogative to decide upon his council of ministers, we will also keep in mind the coalition dharma," Congress party spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan told reporters.

Her reply came in response to questions raised on whether her party was looking for a resignation from Raja.

A report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had held him personally responsible for the sale of 2G spectrum that cost the national exchequer a loss of Rs 1.70 lakh crore in 2008.

According to some sources, however, the decision on Raja's neck might only see light of the day when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh returns on Friday from a G-20 Seoul summit in Seoul.

Reports said the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) was under tremendous pressure over all the flak drawn by their beleaguered cabinet member.

Meanwhile Raja's political opponent All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) supremo J Jayalalithaa on Wednesday threatened to start a national campaign if the the UPA does not sack Raja.

In an acidic statement, Jayalalithaa egged on the Congress on letting Raja go by saying they had done the right thing with their line of disgraced ministers so far.

"A Raja is DMK's poster boy in Delhi and will not quit on moral grounds. Karunanidhi will not ask him to quit. His family has taken the 2G spectrum money," she said.

Already under intense scrutiny by the telecom watchdog, civil society and the Supreme Court, the CAG latest report on the alleged 2G spectrum does not come at a good time for Raja.

In its report, CAG said that the minister for IT and communications ignored advice from the PM and ministries of law and finance, and the recommendations of the Telecom Commission to allocate 2G spectrum to a select group of companies at throwaway prices.

The CAG also did not spare the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and accused the telecom watchdog of standing by as a spectator when its recommendations were either ignored or misused.

Around 85 licences to 12 companies out of the 122 new licences were issued in the controversial January 2008 decision.

The CAG said that the companies which won the rights did not meet the prescribed DoT eligibility conditions.

Dhanush apologises for objectionable scenes in 'Uthama Puthiran'

Chennai, Nov 11 : Tamil star Dhanush has apologised for hurting the sentiments of a section of society through some scenes in his just released movie "Uthama Puthiran".

"Our aim was not to hurt the sentiments of any members of the society. On behalf of my entire team, I apologise for any unintentional hurt caused," he told reporters here Thursday.

Released Friday, "Uthama Puthiran", which is running to packed houses, has a scene where Dhanush and Vivek (comedian) pass critical remarks on a character belonging to a particular business community called Kounder who live in and around Coimbatore.

A group of people protested in front of a theatre in Coimbatore Tuesday complaining that the movie has portrayed them in bad taste.

The actor said immediate action has been taken - the two dialogues pertaining to the community have been muted and some scenes showing them in poor taste have also been removed.

"Of the 120 theatres in Tamil Nadu, the changes are effective wherever the cube technology is being used. Forty screens using UFO technology will need two days time to make the changes according to the list. We respect their feelings. The film aims at only showing family relationships and values. The movie is not meant to hurt anyone," said Dhanush.

He has taken the responsibility to address the concerns of Kounder community, but at the same time requested them not to disrupt the shows.

"I request people not to stop any show in protest as we are doing the needful. Crores (of rupees) have been invested in the film so this is my humble request", said Dhanush who was accompanied by the producer T. Ramesh of Balaji Studios and director Mithran Jawahar.

DMK has to decide on Raja: Congress

New Delhi, Nov 11 : The Congress Thursday steered clear of the demand from the opposition for Telecom Minister A. Raja's ouster over the 2G spectrum allocation controversy, and said it was for ally DMK to take a call on his continuation.

Party general secretary Janardan Dwivedi told reporters here that the matter concerning 2G allocation was in the Supreme Court and the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report on the issue had not been placed before parliament.

"After being placed in parliament, it (CAG report) will go to the Public Accounts Committee which at present is headed is by a BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) member," Dwivedi said in response to questions on the party's stand on Raja's continuation.

"What is to be done at the party level is for the DMK to discuss and decide. We cannot say anything about it," Dwivedi added.

Raja is a member of DMK, which is part of the ruling Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA).

Congress sources said the DMK has to take a call on Raja's resignation as "coalition governments have their limitations".

The opposition mounted a fresh attack on the government for Raja's ouster after the CAG report, submitted to the government Wednesday, is believed to have indicted Raja. The scam is said to have caused a loss of Rs.1.76 lakh crore to the government.

Congress plays it safe on AIADMK offer

 New Delhi, Nov 11 : With AIADMK openly offering its support to the UPA to replace the DMK's 18 MPs, the Congress today chose to play it safe saying that it had an alliance with DMK and would not comment on the AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa's move.

Congress spokesman Janardhan Dwivedi when asked for comments on Ms Jayalalithaa's offer of support to make good the losses to avoid a mid-term election in the event of DMK withdrawing its support to Manmohan Singh-led coalition told reporters that it may be her feeling. "We have nothing to say".

In a television interview, Ms Jayalalithaa said that things had reached such a stage for the coalition that the continuation of Communications Minister A Raja was 'untenable' and his continuance would only further damage the credibility of Congress. Where there is a will there is a way. "If Congress is able to summon up courage I can show way to Congress so that it would not collapse and the nation will not face another election", Ms Jayalalitha said.

Asked from where she could make good the DMK's number in the coalition, the AIADMK supremo said there were 'like minded MPs' and other friendly parties to make good the losses caused by the DMK.

"What is holding them (Congress) back", Ms Jayalalithaa remarked.

To a question from where she could bring in the numbers other than her own 9 MPs, the AIADMK supremo replied "It would not be appropriate to mention their names. We have enough numbers with the support of friendly party MPs ... I am not in the habit of making idle claims. I mean what I say".

She said it was 'premature' to discuss the issue of her conditions of her support to the UPA Government. "All we are interested is in probity in public life".

Meanwhile, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said that the BJP would press for a Joint Parliamentary Committee because the investigation agencies were unable to probe the monumental 2G scam for more than a year.

Adding to the troubles was the fact that the Central Vigilance Commission was headed by a 'tainted person', he said.

"We have a situation where the CBI and CVC had compromised the investigations and Parliament can't be a mute spectator to the 'monumental scam' to favour a few. The JPC of Parliament have to investigate", Mr Jaitley added.

He also contended that the parties including AIADMK and CPI were united and the stalemate in Parliament will continue until the Government agreed for a JPC probe.

Cong turns down Jayalalithaa offer, says DMK impt alliance partner

New Delhi, Nov 11 : The Congress turned down AIADMK Supremo J Jayalalithaa's offer of support in case the DMK withdrew from the government, describing the DMK an ''important alliance partner at the moment''.

''At the moment, it is very clear that DMK is our important alliance partner. Whatever Jayalalithaa said may be her feeling. We have nothing to comment...,'' AICC General Secretary Janardan Dwivedi told reporters here.

Earlier Ms Jayalalithaa told a TV channel that she would offer her Party's ''unconditional'' support to the UPA if the DMK withdrew from the coalition in case Telecom Minister A Raja was removed from the Union Cabinet.

Commenting on Ms Jayalalithaa's offer of support, Mr Dwivedi said, ''The Minister (Mr Raja) is not from our party. Mr Raja is a member of our alliance partner. It is for the party to decide.'' The Congress spokesman said the case of corruption against Mr Raja was sub-judice. After it is placed in Parliament, it would first go to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

''The case is before the Supreme Court. The CAG report will go to the Public Accounts Committee after it is placed in Parliament...Let these two things happen first. Let the PAC decide on the issue first...,'' he said.

'Uthamaputhiran' Faces Coimbatore Protests

November 11, 2010 : 'Uthamaputhiran', the film which was having a spectacular run at the box office seems to have run into a spate of trouble lately. The film starring the young pair of Dhanush and Genelia seems to have enraged the residents of Coimbatore.

A number of protests have been staged against showing the film which the groups claim include a few scenes that are objectionable to them. The protesters belong to a particular caste based group and are not happy with some of the scenes which project them in a bad light. They were speaking on behalf of a particular community which claims to have been at the receiving end in 'Uthamaputhiran'.

The director, Mithran R Jawahar when contacted by the media admitted that the particular community had received a mention in his film. The film is a complete entertainer suitable for the entire family and as such does not cast aspersions on any caste or creed belonging to the nation, was his explanation. They are absolutely no scenes included in the entire film that can be called as objectionable or hurtful in any way whatsoever, he concluded.

The director also stated that the producer of 'Uthamaputhiran' is in Coimbatore at the moment trying to sort out the problem.