Student detained after killing two in Moscow school shooting

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A Moscow high-school student shot a teacher and a police officer dead and held more than 20 other students hostage in a classroom on Monday before he was disarmed and detained, police said, just days before Russia hosts the Winter Olympics.

In a rare school shooting in Russia, the attacker entered his school in northern Moscow carrying a rifle and held students and a teacher hostage in a biology classroom, police in the capital said.

Police later said the attacker had been detained and had been led out of the school and into a waiting car. According to the Lifenews website, he initially shot one officer and then opened fire at others who arrived at the scene.

“The person who took 20 people and a teacher hostage is a student in the upper classes at the same school. He has been neutralised and all the students have been freed,” Interior Ministry spokesman Andrei Pilipchuk said on state TV.

“One policeman was fatally wounded during the operation and died in hospital, and a teacher at School No. 263 was also killed,” he said.

The shooting sent dozens of students scurrying out the school while a police helicopter landed in a snow-covered field outside.
It came with Russia in the global spotlight four days before it hosts the 2014 Winter Olympics in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi.

Aide turns against him, Bansal faces tough test

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The AAP surge in Delhi and renewed emphasis of the Congress on integrity and probity in public life seem to have given hope to many Congressmen in Chandigarh who sense an opportunity to scuttle the chances of MP Pawan Kumar Bansal, who had to resign as

Railway Minister in the wake of an alleged scam involving his aides and a relative.

At a recent meeting of Chandigarh Territorial Congress Committee (CTCC), a district party president is learnt to have demanded any candidate “other than Bansal” claiming that the MP could not retain the seat. While the AAP is yet to make its presence felt in Chandigarh, Congressmen are not sure about public mood.

Bansal still enjoys considerable political clout but there are signs of a rebellion with five Congressmen seeking the Chandigarh ticket, something that had not happened in a long time.

Within days of the CTCC communicating the name of Bansal to the high command, voices of dissent emerged with several Congressmen sensing he had possibly fallen out of favour with the party top brass after the rail scam in which his nephew was caught taking bribe to allegedly fix top jobs.

“We first recommended Bansal unanimously. Everybody — including all frontal organisations — signed. Later, many people started saying they wanted to apply. The high command extended the date, we sought applications and following scrutiny, six have been referred,” CTCC president B B Bahl said.

Asked about the chances of Bansal in the aftermath of the bribery scam, he said, “The works done by him as an MP and railway minister need to be appreciated. A CBI inquiry is on and he has not been proven guilty.”

Leading the rebel pack is district Congress president and former deputy mayor H S Lucky. A Bansal loyalist till now, Lucky recently surprised many by not just opposing his candidature but also applying for the ticket. Sources said he came out all guns blazing against Bansal during a recent visit of Chandigarh unit incharge Shakeel Ahmed.

“Rahul ji has said the party is opening its doors and that we want younger people. I have nothing against Bansal ji. But the need of the hour is that young people contest and they should be given a chance,” Lucky said.

Asked if the emergence of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) would impact the Chandigarh Lok Sabha seat, Lucky said, “Chandigarh has been a Congress stronghold. In the present scenario, however, youngsters stand of a firmer wicket.”

Delhi-Amritsar bullet train plan back on track

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As the Japan government funds the pre-feasibility study of the first-ever bullet train corridor between Ahmedabad and Mumbai, Railways has gone ahead and revived plans for a second one on the Delhi-Chandigarh-Amritsar stretch.

The newly created High Speed Rail Corporation has called for international bidders for carrying out the pre-feasibility study of the 450-km-stretch project, which is expected to bring Delhi closer to Amritsar by 90 minutes by trains running upwards of 350 kmph.

The pre-feasibility study gives the detailed idea about the cost and other detailed technical parameters to be achieved in the execution of the project.

This comes after Railway Board’s efforts to get this study done derailed a couple of years ago as they could not finalise the tender.

Internal estimates had valued the project at Rs 70,000-80,000 crore. In the meantime, the priorities of Railways had also changed with subsequent political dispensations placing the bullet-trains project in the backburner because a financing model could not be firmed up for the costly project.

The High Speed Rail Corporation, floated late last year, was mandated to carry out the execution of bullet-train projects in India.

“In the case of passenger traffic, the boom in the airline sector and its sustained growth in the last few years reflect upon the willingness to pay premium for the shorter transit times between cities,” says the document calling for request for proposal issued recently. “High speed passenger railway system will thus usher in a new transport product not available in the country at present. It will also fill up a vacuum in the current passenger transport scenario.”

Japan has indicated that a joint-venture company could be floated to fund the Ahmedabad-Mumbai corridor although it is not yet finalised. It is currently doing the study the period for which is 18 months.

After visiting Japan recently, Railway Board Chairman Arunendra Kumar said there was perceptible enthusiasm among the Japanese to fund the first bullet train corridor in India.

One of the other main concerns for the bullet train dream is the pricing of the service. As per Railway Board’s internal calculations, one-way ticket in the Mumbai-Ahmedabad corridor could cost more than Rs 5,000.

On papers, Railways has other bullet-train corridors sanctioned in Rail Budget: Hyderabad-Dornakal-Vijayawada-Chennai (664 km), Chennai-Bangalore-Coimbatore-Ernakulam (649 km), Howrah-Haldia (135 km), Delhi-Agra-Lucknow-Varanasi-Patna (991 km).

Gurudas Dasgupta not to contest 2014 Lok Sabha Polls

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Gurudas Dasgupta, a stalwart of the Communist Party of India and Member of Parliament has decided not to contest the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. In a letter written to the party’s national executive committee recently, he has sought to be relieved from the Lok Sabha contest. CPI party insiders said that he cited old age as one for the reasons for his seeking a retirement from parliamentary politics.

78-year-old Dasgupta worked as a parliamentarian for 25 years – first as a Rajya Sabha member for three terms in 1985, 1988 and 1994 and again as a Member of Parliament for two terms in 2004 and 2009.

As a parliamentarian Gurudas Dasgupta had acquired a distinction as a powerful crusader against corruption and economic offences, and a champion of the working class movement – both organized and unorganized sector. His opting out of the 2014 Lok Sabha contest will be a great a loss to the CPI party, said political circles. Dasgupta had upheld a rich tradition of brilliant oratory as was witnessed in the past in other CPI members of parliament like Hiren Mookerjee, Indrajit Gupta or  Geeta Mukherjee.

When asked about his decision by the Indian Express, Dasgupta did not wish to elaborate and only stated that he had written to the party’s executive committee not to nominate him for the 2014 elections.  “In the communist party one has a constitutional right to withdraw from a position, from a contest and I opted for that,” said Das Gupta.  He refused to make any further elaborations.

In the parliament, Dasgupta had been associated with several important committees like consultative committee on Labour, Sick and Public Sector Units, Finance etc. He was also a member of the joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC ) on Harshad Mehta related Securities Scam and in the 2G spectrum scam. In 2009, he was elected leader of the CPI party in Lok Sabha.

However, top CPI party sources said that there were basically two reasons for his opting out of the contest. One, his age and winning another term would have meant that he would have to perform his responsibilities for another five years when he will be 83 years of age.  He did not want to take this burden.  The second cause was reportedly an apprehension that with the winds of change still blowing  strongly in favour of the Trinamool Congress his victory in Ghatal LS seat from East Midnapore is under serious clouds. “He would not want to contest and get defeated. It would be a much better ending for him to retire without facing defeat,” said a top CPI leader.

Manju Majumder, the West Bengal state secretary of the CPI when contacted said, “It is sad but one has to accept the reality. The state  party executive committee will meet on February 10 in Kolkata to finalize its choice of candidates for the Lok Sabha polls and fowrward it to the national executive committee for approval.” It is obvious that Gurudas Dasgupta’s name will not be on the list. Party sources said that Dasgupta was requested to reconsider his decision but he stuck to his stand firmly.

Somnath Chatterjee, the former Lok Sabha Speaker and earlier a CPI(M) parliamentarian who had seen Gurudas Dasgupta in parliament for years said, “The House will certainly miss his absence. I have seen him as one of the most active, alert members in the House espousing the cause of the common people. He was never a sleeping member, neither was he a disturbing member in teh House,” said Chatterjee.

Pathribal encounter: Omar Abdullah meets PM Manmohan Singh, questions Army’s decision to close case

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Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Sunday met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here and raised the issue of Army’s controversial decision to close the Pathribal fake encounter case, saying punishment should be meted to those responsible for killing of innocent people.

Omar also emphasized the need for giving justice to the families of the victims, an official spokesman here said.

The Chief Minister also discussed suspension of trade across Line of Control(LoC) after the seizure of truck load of contraband drugs and called for amicable resolution of the matter with Pakistan so that the important Confidence Building Measure(CBM) of trade across the LoC is not jeopardized.

India and Pakistan last Thursday failed to break the two-week-old deadlock over the cross-LoC trade.

During the meeting at Raj Bhavan, the Prime Minister was briefed about the peace and development scenario prevailing in the State at present.

Nearly 14 years after the fake encounter rocked J&K, the Army last month closed the case, saying the evidence recorded could not establish prime facie charges against any of its accused five personnel.

The Army decision triggered an outrage in the Valley.

Five civilians were killed in a fake encounter on March 26, 2000 at Pathribal in South Kashmir with the victims being branded by Army as foreign militants.

The case was handed over to the CBI for investigation in January, 2003. The CBI in its chargesheet concluded that officers and jawans of the Seven Rashtriya Rifles – Brig Ajay Saxena, Lt Col Brahendra Pratap Singh, Maj Saurabh Sharma, Maj Amit Saxena and Subedar Idrees Khan had staged a fake encounter and killed five innocent civilians whom they said were terrorists involved in the massacre of 35 Sikhs at Chittisinghpora in south Kashmir on March 20, 2000.

The Chief Minister also apprised the Prime Minister of the achievements registered by the coalition government during the last five years in the State in various fields of socio-economic development, empowerment of people, employment generation and restoration of peace and stability.

Matters pertaining to security and law and order also came up for discussion in the meeting, the spokesman said.

The Chief Minister expressed gratitude to the Prime Minister for his support to the State in its endeavour to fast track development and move ahead towards achieving the cherished goal of prosperity and tranquillity.

Omar wished good health and well-being to Singh which he reciprocated warmly. The Prime Minister also wished peace and progress in the State and well-being of its people.