Saturday, April 30, 2011

Papers forged to force Army chief to cut short tenure?

NEW DELHI: Squabbling among generals over the age of Army chief General VK Singh has plunged to a new low, with a case of crude impersonation and forgery emerging in Pune. Investigators are frantically trying to trace one Rafique Shaikh, who forged papers to show that General Singh was born in 1949 as part of what is seen as a plot to shorten the tenure of the army chief. 

Army chief General VK SinghThe certificate with a forwarding letter from a Member of Parliament was sent to defence minister A K Antony and circulated among media to muddy the waters over General Singh's age. 

The Kirkee Cantonment Board in Pune filed a police case alleging that Shaikh forged General Singh's "birth certificate" to show that he was born in 1949 and not in 1951 -- the year of birth shown in the Army chief's class X certificate. R C Jagtap, Chief Executive Officer of Kirkee Cantonment Board, in his police complaint has said "Mr Rafiq Shaikh with malafide intention submitted an application to obtain a certificate for his son" and used it to create the purported birth certificate of Gen Singh. 

The birth certificate manufactured by Shaikh was riddled with loopholes, with a non-existent maternity home as his birth place. But it brought out the resolve of vested interests and a faction in the Army to push Singh out by May 2012. 

At the root of the controversy is what General Singh has for years called a typo in his application to the Union Public Service Commission for admission to National Defence Academy. The teacher who filed the application for Singh entered 1950 as the year of his birth instead of 1951 as recorded in Class X certificate. The Supreme Court has laid down that details in the Class X certificate are to be treated as the relevant date for all official purposes. The discrepancy resulted in two dates of birth for Singh in the Army's records. While the military secretary's branch recorded 1950 as the year of birth based on the UPSC form, the adjutant general's office maintained that it was 1951. 

General Singh tried to get the anomaly rectified several times. Even the ministry of defence asked the Army to reconcile the records when the chief was being appointed a corps commander. Strangely, however, the divergence was allowed to persist. 

A strong section in the Army as well as the defence ministry suspects that the controversy is now being exploited by vested interests hurt by some of the recent measures as well as patrons of some officers whose career prospects are better served by uncertainty over the succession order. 

Defence Minister AK Antony has now stepped into the issue, in the wake of an RTI application, a law ministry opinion saying that Gen Singh's birth year should be 1951, and several media reports. He has asked the ministry to carry out fresh verification, with orders to "go by records" and not to give any opinions. The MOD finding will have to be approved by the Cabinet Committee on Appointments, a senior MOD source said. 

A legal opinion given by the ministry of law and justice too has said that General Singh's birth year should be 1951. If this is accepted, then Northern Army Commander, Lt Gen KT Parnaik, would become the next chief in March 2013. 

However, if the UPSC application showing 1950 as Singh's year of birth is taken into consideration, then Lt Gen Parnaik would be eliminated from the race and Lt Gen Bikram Singh, currently heading the Eastern Command, will take the baton after Gen Singh retires in May 2012. 

Feuds among the Army brass are hardly unknown. But what differentiates the current bout is the lengths travelled by those wishing Gen Singh to retire early. Retired officers have been circulating Gen Singh's alleged birth certificates and select pages from documents, triggering suspicions whether heartburn over his tough actions are in play. 

The measures taken by the Army chief on the Sukna and Adarsh scams have left behind a trail of bitterness, even generating a sense of betrayal. 

Meanwhile, sources said investigation over the past 24 hours by the Pune police have failed to trace Shaikh. There was no one by the name at the address given by him (house No 28, Salisbury Park, Pune). 

Investigators have recovered CCTV recordings from the Kirkee Cantonment Board office, and a woman clerk in charge of birth and death certificates has recognised Shaikh, or the person who pretended to be Shaikh, sources said. Shaikh had visited the office earlier too, and located birth details of an unnamed male child, born on June 9, 1949, with registration number 210, and claimed it was his son. He demanded the birth certificate for this child. 

The lady clerical staff has told investigators that she gave a blank birth certificate in good faith to Shaikh. The certificate was later used to produce that of General Singh, showing his year of birth as 1949.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Air tickets to get cheaper from Mumbai, but not Delhi


NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that the airport development fee ranging between Rs 100 to Rs 1,300 levied per passenger per trip at Mumbai, Delhi and other airports was illegal since it was not authorized by the Airport Economic Regulatory Authority (AERA). 
While this verdict will lead to lower fares in Mumbai, fliers from Delhi will continue to cough up the tax since the operator obtained AERA's permission to collect the sum in 2010. 

The order by a bench comprising Justices R V Raveendran and A K Patnaik will be welcomed by millions of flyers who have resented the levy as an unjustified burden particularly when airfares and prices in general have soared. They, however, will not get refunds, with the apex court ordering the airport development fee to be deposited withAirport Authority of India (AAI) for upgrading airports and passenger amenities. 

The bench held that the GMR-led Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL) and GVK-managedMumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL) started collecting development fee from passengers transiting through the two airports from March and April 2009 merely on the strength of an authorization from the ministry of civil aviation, and without the requisite sanction from AERA.DIAL got the sanction from the airport regulator in 2010, while MIAL has not been permitted till date. 

Justices Raveendran and Patnaik prohibited MIAL from collecting airport development fee of Rs 100 per domestic trip and Rs 600 per international trip. The airport developer was permitted by the ministry to levy the fee till 2013. 

Though DIAL was permitted to collect Rs 200 per domestic trip and Rs 1,300 per international trip from passengers for three years since March 1, 2009, the court said it could have legitimately done so only from April 23, 2010, when it got AERA nod. 

The bench said it was still open for the petitioners to challenge the April 23, 2010 order of AERA allowing DIAL to collect the fee without determination of the rate. 

However, the court said both MIAL and DIAL cannot keep the money collected from passengers by them and would now have to account for the entire sum they got as development fee since 2009 to AAI. Delhi airport had handled 25 million passengers in the year 2009-10, while Mumbai airport in 2010 had seen a passenger traffic of 28.1 million. 

The airport developer in Delhi was allowed to collect the tax to cover a deficit of Rs 1,827 crore when the project cost was estimated to be about Rs 9,800 crore. But now with the project complete and the cost escalating to Rs 12,718 crore due to, among other reasons addition of the new domestic terminal 1D, the funding gap has gone up to Rs 3,481 crore. To cover the additional gap of about Rs 1,700 crore, DIAL has accordingly asked the Airport Economic Regulatory Authority (AERA) to be allowed the charge the ADF of Rs 200 and Rs 1,300 for four years and eight months from March 1, 2010, an extension of two years and eight months. 

Writing the judgment for the bench and partly allowing a petition filed by NGO "Consumer Online Foundation', Justice Patnaik said: "We declare that with effect from January 1, 2009, no development fee could be levied or collected from the embarking passengers at major airports under Section 22A of AAI Act, 1994, unless the Airport Economic Regulatory Authority determines the rate of such development fee." 

"We direct that MIAL will henceforth not levy and collect any development fee at the major airport at Mumbai until an appropriate order is passed by the AERA under Section 22A of the 1994 Act as amended by the 2008 Act," the Bench said.

Note had warned PM Raja planned to ignore 2G advice

Raja will ignore advice, note told PMNEW DELHI: The brazenness with which arrested telecom minister A Raja bent rules to distribute telecom licences and 2G spectrum allegedly in exchange of bribes could not have surprised Prime Minister Manmohan Singh

An internal note warned Singh that the telecom ministry under Raja intended to ignore advice to refer allocation of 2G spectrum to an empowered group of ministers (EGoM) and that such a course of action violated rules of government business. 

The note, put up to the PM in November 2007 in the wake of rising concern over Raja's bid to ram through the 'first-come, first-served' policy, clearly said that differences between law and telecom ministries over the need for wider consultations should be resolved by the Cabinet. 

The PM did ask his office to examine issues, but despite the pitfalls in Raja's interpretation of his policy domain, the DMK leader not only pushed ahead with his controversial implementation of his preferred policy but also managed to subvert the cabinet system in the process. 

If these revelations contained in PMO and Cabinet Secretariat's communication with the Public Accounts Committee find reflection in the committee's report likely to be submitted this week, it will set off fresh confrontation between the government and opposition. The PAC, headed by BJP leaderM M Joshi, is expected to refer to systemic failures in the 2G episode. 

The PMO assessment followed Singh himself asking his office for a note on "whether the action proposed to be taken by the (telecom) ministry is correct or not; whether it is justified in doing what it plans to do." Raja had insisted in a November 2, 2007 letter to the PM that the EGoM route was "totally out of context''. 

Significantly, the PMO is not clear on whether it should have stopped Raja from having his way. Responding to criticism that it failed to ensure his adherence to the 2003 Cabinet decision that pricing of airwaves be jointly decided by telecom and finance ministries, the PMO told the PAC, "Not giving effect to a Cabinet decision is tantamount to varying or reversing the same… it is incumbent on the department to bring it before the Cabinet." 

However, it did not agree that PMO was mandated to ensure the former telecom minister played by rules. "There is no specific requirement for PMO to enforce cabinet decisions nor is this the general practice," PMO told the committee. 

With regard to then finance minister P Chidambaram's January 15, 2008 letter on the need to review telecom ministry's decision to price spectrum, the PMO said: "Prime Minister saw the finance minister's note. No action was formally taken by PMO on the note." It also said that Chidambaram's objections seem to have been resolved by July 2008.The response is in sync with the PM's assertion that in the final analysis finance ministry agreed with Raja's stand that spectrum need not be auctioned. 

Both PMO and Cabinet Secretariat make it clear that the decision in December 2006 to delete pricing of spectrum from the terms of reference of a group of ministers set up in February was approved by the PM. The PMO informed Cabinet Secretariat on November 27, 2006, that the PM had "approved the revised terms of reference", on the urging of Raja's predecessor Dayanidhi Maran

When various concerns were brought to his notice even after his November 2, 2007 letter to the PM, Raja did not budge and wrote on November 15 that he was only continuing with the existing spectrum policy. 

Later on December 12, 2007, the telecom ministry candidly told PMO that new licences would be granted to those who fulfilled the letter of intent conditions. The ministry anticipated a rush of applicants as it said "an applicant who fulfils LoI condition first will be granted licence first, although several applicants will be issued LoI simultaneously." 

Raja assured the PM that "discussions with the external affairs minister and the solicitor general (Goolam Vahanavati) have further enlightened him to take preemptive and pro-active decisions. PMO says that it outlined a course of action for the PM's consideration but does not spell it out.

Daughter of DGCA No. 2 got licence from school with no plane

MUMBAI: They did not have even a single aircraft at their airport base, neither did they have a classroom or a hangar there, but in 2007, for some reason, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) was benevolent enough to grant Raipur-based Touchwood Aviation the approval to start flying training for Commercial Pilot License (CPL) students. 

A month after it started, Rashmi Sharan, the daughter of A K Sharan, joint director general ofDGCA and its number two man, joined the school. Back then, Sharan was the deputy director general (training and licensing), the department which grants approval to flying training organisations. A year after Rashmi got her license and moved out, the school shut down. 

The case of Touchwood Aviation is an intriguing one as it is perhaps the only flying school in Indiato ever get a Flight Training Organisation approval even before it could position an aircraft at its base. It was also allowed to function, though it did not have the mandatory classroom or hangar at its airport base. 

So what are the violations here? 

1. According to Flying Training Circular (No 2/2005) issued by DGCA on May 2, 2005, flying schools/clubs "should have a minimum of three serviceable aircraft", among other requirements, to get an approval to start flying training for CPL students. At any given point of time, if the aircraft fleet falls below three, then the approval for training CPL students will be withdrawn, it states. 

"After the circular came into effect, the DGCA inspected all 16 flying schools in India at that time and flying schools with one or two aircraft scurried to increase their fleet to three," said an aviation source adding that the norms were adhered to in the annual inspections then on. 

When Touchwood Aviation was granted the Flying Training Approval in 2007, this circular, very much in effect — as it is today — was sidelined to grant the approval fraudulently. The proof of violation appears in the hand-written inspection report, dated 24 August 2007 (TOI has a copy) which grants Flight Training Approval to Touchwood. 

It was filed by Mohan Chandran, an official with Aerodrome Standards, Mumbai, after visiting Touchwood's Raipur facility and states that the school is yet to have an aircraft positioned at its base. Said an aviation source: "I do not know of any instance in India, where a flying school got an approval to start training even before it could position the aircraft and build a hangar." 

He added: "Let alone get an approval, the DGCA officials from the flying training department will not even come to inspect the school if the hangar and aircraft are not ready. Getting an approval only comes after site inspection," he added. 

2. How did the DGCA office, find ground facilities "satisfactory", when there was none at the airport base? Apart from the above-mentioned circular, Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR), Section 7, Series D which pertains to approval of flying training instutites also states that a flying school's airport base should mandatorily have aircraft hangar, briefing room, waiting room, etc, for student use. 

But Touchwood Aviation had their office, briefing room, etc, at a place located about 10km from Raipur airport. They did not have any facility at the airport. "Students were ferried to the airport every morning and back in the evening. They would wait on open tarmac through the day for their turn to fly," said a source. 

The issue is not just of inconvenience. Having a briefing room on site is regarded as essential. For instance, before and after every flight, a student undergoes a briefing and a de-briefing session in the classroom. "In a briefing lesson, the flight to be undertaken would be discussed and instructions given so that the teacher and student do not waste time in the cockpit on lessons that can be given when on ground," said an instructor. 

"After a flight, the student is de-briefed and the mistakes and shortcomings are pointed out and instructions given to rectify them," he added. In case of Touchwood, there was no room in the airport for the de-briefing sessions, post flight. 

3. DGCA's flying training department is entrusted with the job of inspecting schools to grant/renew flying training approval. So why did the department waive all the norms for Touchwood? "Since Touchwood had not positioned any aircraft at its base or have a hangar, officials from the DGCA's flying training department refused to inspect the school," said an aviation source. 

Sharan, the then deputy director general (training and licensing), sent Chandran, an official from the aerodrome standards department in Mumbai, to do the Touchwood inspection, the source added. Based on the inspection report filed by Chandran, Touchwood was given an approval for six months, which was later renewed. 

Director General Bharat Bhushan said that he was looking into the case. Manjit Singh, owner of Touchwood Aviation, said that nine students, including Rashmi Sharan, completed their CPL from his school. It shut down in August 2009. Rashmi did her training between September 24, 2007 and October 7, 2008. 

"Airports Authority of India, the owner of Raipur airport, asked Touchwood to pay 13% of the gross turnover since the time of starting school. This made us economically unviable," Singh said about the closure of the school. He confirmed that no hangar space was allotted by AAI at Raipur airport. "All scheduled and periodic maintenance was done in the hangar at Raigarh airport in Chattisgarh," he added. 

Touchwood said that if it gets airport space at rates which are economically viable, it would start operations. But other flying school promoters will vouch that getting a DGCA approval to start a flying training organisation is not an easy task.

Sathya Sai Baba's last rites in Puttaparthi today

Sathya Sai BabaPUTTAPARTHI: While Prashanthi Nilayam looked like an ocean of humanity in which devotees flowed from all directions on Tuesday, hectic preparations were on for the 'maha samadhi' ofSathya Sai Baba on Wednesday at the Sai Kulwant Hall in Prashanthi Nilayam premises. 
Number 9 was Sathya Sai Baba's favourite and lucky number. When the clock strikes 9 in the morning, the final rituals will start and conclude by 10.30am. 

Sai Kulwant Hall is the place where Baba sat, delivered discourses and blessed people. According to the ashramites, many years ago, while interacting with the students, he had shown the place and expressed his wish that he should be buried in the Sai Kulwant Hall. 

Baba would be laid to rest in the pit (7ft deep and 12ft length), which was dug up 10ft behind from where his body was placed in the glass casket in the hall since Sunday evening. 

"The body would be lowered in the pit and filled with 'Kuruskshetra' matti (soil), salt, silver, gold and navaratnas," sources said. The body would be kept in the sleeping position in the samadhi. 

However, Prasanthi Nilayam would be out of bounds for devotees during the maha samadhi. Only key family members and Sai Central Trust members would take part in the last rites. The construction of a memorial and fixing of a golden statue of Baba would be planned in a few days time. Though Baba preached universal brotherhood and embraced all religions, his last rites will be performed as per the Hindu tradition.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Adobe India doles out up to 200% bonus

adobeCEO.jpgBANGALORE: At Adobe's India centre, bonuspayouts are not just linked to meeting key result areas (KRAs) or targets, but also to how innovative employees have been through the year. 

This year, the company doled out bonuses up to 200 per cent, a reflection of the firm notching up 200 patent applications to its name over the years, second only to the number of patents applied from its US office. 
The company has 40 per cent of its global research and development talent in India and one of its most profitable global business units, the firm has five in total, is fully managed here. 

"In India, the opportunity for us is talent arbitrage, not cost arbitrage. We choose the best people from the highest ranked colleges like the IITs and other tier I technology schools and make every effort to keep them together," says Jaleel Abdul, senior director, human resources, Adobe Asia-Pacific. 

To keep the flock together, the company is paying top dollar for top-notch talent, 50-60 per cent higher than most other tier I firms. It has promoted 30 per cent of its engineering staff last year and ensured that employees have full ownership of products that are commercialised and are not involved with just a part of the product, as is often the case with global technology firms which has research centres here. 

Employees also get customer feedback on products. Adobe pumps in significant resources to see a patent application through to its end, a process that could take several years and keeps its employees updated through the process. "A patent is a measure of technical excellence and that probably is the biggest high. It is about saying I invented something no one else thought of before," Abdul said. 

"The annual incentive plan or bonus payouts are based on the company's performance and individual performance. Performance is measured with reference to the Leading to Win criteria which includes thought leadership, results leadership, people leadership and personal leadership. The payouts are contingent on differentiated value added by recipients on all four quadrants of Leading to Win criteria. In addition to this, the company also gives out significant special bonuses to employees who work on innovative ideas that get patented," he added. 

The company has seen a significant increase in the number of patents it has been applying for every year. A growing headcount is also lifting the number of the patent filings, now at almost one every year. 
At a time when most technology firms have been a grappling with huge churn, Adobe says attrition has been in single digits and one sign of employees staying with the company for long periods is that today is because large part of its leadership team has come through the campus route. 

Adobe has also increased hiring significantly this year. It has 1,800 employees and has been increasing headcount at 15-17 per cent a year in the past. In the first three months of this year the company has already hired 350 people.

CWG scam: UK firm owner may turn approver

Suresh KalmadiNEW DELHI: Arrested former Commonwealth Games Organizing Committee chief Suresh Kalmadi may be headed for more trouble with Ashish Patel, the UK-based owner of AM Cars and Films, likely to turn approver in the Queen's Baton Relay case

After his arrest in irregularities in the timing, scoring and results contract for the Commonwealth Games, Kalmadi can be booked for payments made to the UK firm for hire of cars, screens and portable toilets for the October 2009 function flagged off by the British Queen in London. 

No contract was entered into with the firm on the plea that the OC had to respond to last-minute demands by British authorities — an argument that is undone by evidence that the organizers were in touch with Patel much earlier. Evidence has also surfaced of Kalmadi himself authorizing payments to the firm quoting paucity of time. 

Now, Patel could be an approver in the two cases related the QBR contract registered by CBI in November 2010. A two-member CBI team that went to London to question Patel, who is also an accused, and to gather other evidence said the businessman had been cooperative. 

"Ashish Patel was questioned twice and he has given us important details on the whole contract. We showed him documents which we have collected during investigations. We told him where he stands," said a source. Officials added that if Ashish Patel did not cooperate, CBI will soon begin the process for his extradition. As he is a British citizen, Patel cannot be arrested by CBI but he was questioned at length on exchange of emails between arrested OC officials Sanjay Mohindroo and T S Darbari, release of payments and the so-called contract. Patel could not explain the documents though CBI could not get a statement given his nationality. 

Patel is expected to submit his reply to the Scotland Yard police department which will pass it on to the CBI. "We have substantial evidence against Patel of his complicity with Darbari and Mohindroo. Being an accused, he could turn approver declaring that he was also part of the conspiracy," said an official. 

Before questioning Patel, CBI took permission of UK's Serious Fraud Office. CBI is also hopeful the SFO will register a case against the car rental firm (AM Cars) for alleged overpricing. 

In its FIR, CBI stated, "It is alleged that in relation to the QBR held on October 29, 2009, the OC awarded the work of transportation to the AM Car and Van Hire Ltd at exorbitantly high rates without following the standard tender process." 

CBI has registered nine FIRs in different cases related to alleged corruption in the mega sporting event held in Delhi on October 3-14 last year.

Threat to life of Sai Baba's caregiver & personal doctor

Sathya Sai Baba passes away HYDERABAD: With intelligence reports hinting that there was threat to the life of Sathya Sai Baba's caregiver Satyajit and personal doctor Dr Aiyar, the state government on Monday advised both of them to make fewer public appearance for some time. 

As the report also cautioned that certain elements were trying to eliminate some persons who were close to the Baba, the government beefed up security for all the trust members. Satyajit is a front runner for the top post in the Sathya Sai Central Trust with majority of its members openly expressing their preference for him. 

Dr Aiyar was criticised by many devotees for not maintaining any medical records of Sai Baba, some of them, even made threat calls to him while Baba was in hospital. This was revealed by Prasanthi Nilayam sources.

Monday, April 25, 2011

How to clean up the junk on your PC

pc_hp.jpgMUNICH: It's a familiar problem for anyone with an older computer: a PC may run lightning-fast and smooth when it's new, but over time it starts coughing up unusual error messages and unidentifiable icons appear on the taskbar

If the computer also starts getting slower at the same time as well, then it's time for a spring cleaning. 

'When any computer is used under normal circumstances, a certain volume of garbage data is automatically produced,' says Harald Goerl, a professor for operating systems and computer architecture at the Bundeswehr University inMunich, Germany. Goerl nevertheless sees no need for routine clean-ups. 'You only need to do this if you can really feel that the speed has been impaired,' he says. 

The primary culprit for PC slowdowns is software that is installed and then removed again. That's because many programs actually leave behind digital traces after uninstallation. The most common collection spot where junk data collects is the Windows Registry file. It's a database of information about all installed applications. 

Many programs 'forget' to delete their entry in the registry when being removed. That continues expanding the database, which means the computer has to search longer to find a specific entry. 'You can compare it with a telephone book,' Goerl says. 'The thicker it is, the longer it takes to browse through.' 

You can get help in cleaning up those clogged registry files with free programs such as CCleaner, WiseCleaner, and Advanced SystemCare. They search through the registry automatically looking for unnecessary entries, washing away the junk. 

Linux and Apple users are actually no better off in this respect, Goerl says. 'Deleted programs leave traces behind in Linux and Mac OS, too. Because there's no central registry, though, cleaning up can actually be more difficult in some cases,' he says. 

Programs that are not properly removed under Windows can create other problems as well. 'When some programs are being uninstalled, they also delete libraries still needed for other programs,' explains Joachim Geiler, dean of academic affairs at the IT working group at the Mittweida University of Applied Sciences in Germany. 

Libraries are files with information that multiple programs need to be able to access. If they are deleted by accident, then applications may stop functioning, either partially or completely. This problem can generally be fixed by reinstalling the affected program. 

Reinstalling the operating system is generally only needed in exception cases, says Goerl. 'Only in cases involving serious security problems should you have to reinstall the OS,' he says. 'If numerous files have been infected with tough-to-remove viruses, then reinstalling the operating system is probably the only remedy.' 

The best recommendation for boosting speed that you suspect has been degraded as a result of application detritus: clean up your hard drive. 'At least 10 per cent of a hard drive's capacity should always be free,' says Joachim Geiler. 

Otherwise files have to be split up across multiple sectors of traditional hard drives, and this results in data that is scattered in fragments throughout the hard drive, leading to slower access. The Windows defragmentation utility is needed to bring the files back to a contiguous state. 

If you don't push your hard drive to its capacity all the time, then defragmentation need only be a seldom-used tool. 'Routine defragmentation used to be a common thing. Modern file systems like FAT32 create the files intelligently from the start, meaning users don't typically have to get involved,' says Geiler. The exception is for users who frequently work with especially large files, such as those used for video editing. 

A clean hard drive is important beyond just the speed of the computer. It also makes work more relaxing. 'It's all about being able to find important files fast when you need them,' explains Joerg Schieb, who authored a book on keeping computers clean and running fast. For this reason he recommends routine cleanups every three months or so. 

There are programs to help clean up, too. 'Lay users in particular may be better served by those programs,' Schieb says. Applications like TuneUp Utilities, Twin 7 2.0 from Data Becker, or PC Check & Tuning 2011 from Magix cost between 30 and 40 dollars and offer a number of cleanup options.

Review: Sony Xperia Arc

Sony-Xperia_arc_Black.jpgNEW DELHI: Rarely (make that "never") have we seen so many features in a device that is so slim and stunning to look at. Although mainly made of plastic, the Xperia Arc is a sight for sore eyes. 

The front is dominated by the 4.2 inch, 854 x 480 pixel (jargon alert) Reality Display, powered, we are told, by the Sony Bravia Engine. SuperAMOLED it is not, but it is remarkably clear and bright. 

There are three metal buttons beneath the display for menu, home and back — no search button here, much to our surprise. There is a metallic accent along the sides which houses the volume rocker, the dedicated camera button, the micro USB port and headset jack, while the top houses the power and screen on/off buttons and a microHDMI port. 

But impressive though the front and side is, it is the back that is breathtaking —arching inwards to give the device an incredible 8.7mm thickness at its thinnest point and housing an 8.1-megapixel camera lens with single LED flash. 

There is a fair bit inside the sleek casing — a Qualcomm MSM 8255 processor, which combines a 1 Ghz processor with Adreno graphics, 512 MB RAM, 320 MB onboard memory (an 8GB card is bundled with the package ) and stacks of connectivity options. The phone tips the scale at a mere 117 grams — quite a feat! Powering all this is Android 2.3, over which Sony Ericsson has placed its skin with the Timescape for social networking alerts on your homescreen. 

Honestly, we are not great fans of Timescape as the cool factor of flicking through your latest updates wears out soon. The large screen is terrific for reading, browsing the Net, viewing videos and even for tweaking images. Sony Ericsson has also thrown in a document viewer (QuickOffice). 
Sound quality was excellent when it came to playing music, but for some reason, seemed to fade while making calls, even with the volume maxed out. We occasionally had to strain our ears a bit to find out what the person on the line was saying. 

Where the Arc really shines is in the camera department. It has numerous shooting options and the results, especially in daylight, border on the brilliant with sharp images and almost life-like colours. Credit for this goes to the mobile CMOS sensor in the camera — a rare case of specs being backed up by performance. 

HD (720p) video was very good too and on par with what we had seen on the Nokia N8. We could not find much fault with the Arc, except the plastic construction and tiny buttons. And of course, there is the "charge-a-day" syndrome that affects all Android handsets, when all notifications — from mail to news to social networks — are running. 

At 28,500, the Arc is not exactly cheap and goes up against some very stiff competition, especially from HTC, which has the likes of the Desire HD and Incredible S with similar specs (the Desire HD has a bigger display), although neither's camera or appearance can hold a candle to that of the Arc. 

And that really sums up the Arc's main strength — it's a terrific option for those who want a good-looking smartphone with a terrific camera. Android finally has a shooter!

For IT hiring, 2011 to be landmark yr after 2007

BANGALORE: The calendar 2011 is expected to be a landmark year for tech hiring and job movements after 2007 as market visibility improves, global customers step up spending and pipelines remain packed. External head hunters are optimistic of a very bullish trend with hiring requirements going up substantially this year by 60% to 70%, compared to last year's 20% jump over the previous year. 

The industry will see around 2 lakh fresh engineering graduates entering the job market this year while another 3 lakh people will move and change jobs within the industry. Also, there will be another over a lakh graduates (BSc computer science, electronics, and bachelor of computer applications) coming to the market from colleges across the country. 

Also, some 50,000 mid-to-senior people are expected to join the IT industry from traditional verticals like manufacturing, auto, oil, telecom and logistics as the sector is suffering from an acute shortage of senior talent, say industry observers. 

The IT/ITES industry employs around 15 lakh people and at least 25% of it that population will be part of a job churn/change this year. "Many people stayed put in organizations for the last three years due to sheer want of options outside. All in this category are exploring opportunities outside and moving," said B S Murthy, CEO, LeadershipCapital, an IT hiring firm

So calendar 2011 will witness a net hiring of around 4 lakh people (campus and lateral), against 2 lakh in 2010. Calendar 2009 was the worst year, with less than 1 lakh people getting jobs, with companies going back on their campus commitments and widespread lay-offs. Year 2008 saw a hiring of 2.5 lakh while calendar 2007 was a bumper year that threw up 5 lakh jobs in the market. 

"The mood today is very optimistic. Therefore, clearly there is an upsurge in hiring. The intake of IT and retail sector is surely going to more than double this year," says K Jayshankar, MD,Empowered Learning Systems. Fresh hiring will be led by domestic players like Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys Technologies and Wipro. Freshers will account for 70% to 80% of their hiring this year while MNCs like IBM, Accenture, HP and Capmini will drive the lateral hiring sector each with an annual mandate of 15,000 to 20,000 people. 

According to Nirupama V G, MD, AdAstra Consultants: "The quantum of people requirement from companies has rapidly increased in the last a quarter or so. To meet this requirement, some external hirers were forced to increase the number of their support staff, after maintaining a thin staffline for last three years."

'Successor of Sai Baba unlikely soon, trust will take work forward'

HYDERABAD: Sathya Sai Baba's death has left a huge question mark on the future of the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust, which is said to control assets whose worth could range anywhere from Rs 40,000 crore to over Rs 1 lakh crore. The cause of the anxiety is the dispute among some trust members, evident from anonymous letters sent to cops in recent weeks. 

Sai Baba was the chairman of the central trust and the only person with cheque signing authority. The central trust is expected to lead, but what if its members do not resolve their disputes? 

Unlike other godmen, Sai Baba had maintained close links with his kin and they are now seeking a role. Baba's nephew R J Ratnakar, a cable operator and gas agency owner, is a member of the trust and is seeking a bigger role. 

Sai BabaSathya Sai Baba's nephew R J Ratnakar, a member of the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust, is seeking a bigger role for himself. Ratnakar earned a trust seat after his father R Janakaramaiah, Sai Baba's younger brother, died. 

Trust functionaries like secretary K Chakravarthy would rather have the organization run by professionals. 

Indications are that other trust members like former chief justice of India P N Bhagwati and former central vigilance commissioner S V Giri are aligned with Chakravarthy's thinking. Chakravarthy quit the IAS to devote himself to the work of Sai Baba. 

Evidence of dispute among trustees surfaced in the form of benami letters received by the district police last fortnight, alleging wrongdoing by some trust members. Pamphlets distributed in the pilgrim town last week also sought to target a key functionary of the trust. Compounding the problems are some politicians who have jumped into the fray. 

To add to the problem, the central trust deed registered on September 2, 1972, with the assistant commissioner (endowments) office in Ananthapur, is silent about who should succeed the founder trustee, Sathya Sai Baba. The Central Trust deed clearly states that any change of trustees will happen with the approval of the founder trustee and the founder trustee would have all the powers to appoint or remove any trustee. But there is no word about alternative arrangements in the absence of the founder trustee. 

The central trust is one of the many trusts carrying on the work of Sai Baba. But in the deeds relating to these trusts there is clarity about the trustees, their appointment and tenure. 

The Andhra Pradesh government at present is not seeking to meddle in the affairs of the Sai Central Trust. This was stated by the chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy in Puttaparthi hours after Sai Baba passed away. 

Sources close to the central trust said that there will be no successor to Sai Baba soon and the trust will continue to take forward work entrusted by the Baba. ''May be the money used will come from the subsidiary trusts since nobody else has cheque signing authority in the Central Trust,'' an analyst said.

Sai Baba to be buried on Wednesday, 5 Lakh expected for funeral

PUTTAPARTHI: One of India's most revered spiritual leaders with a following of kings and commoners alike, Sri Sathya Sai Baba, passed away on Sunday morning at 7:40 am of cardio-respiratory failure at the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences here. He was 85. 

Sai Baba's death was announced at 10.15 am by hospital director Dr A N Safaya, who said, "Bhagwan Sri Sathya Sai Baba is no more with us physically. He left his earthly body on April 24, 2011, at 7.40 am due to cardio-respiratory failure." He was admitted to the hospital 28 days ago with cardiac problems and his condition deteriorated with many of his organs failing. 

The Baba's body will lie in state at Sai Kulwant Hallin Prasanthi Nilayam Ashram until Tuesday for his devotees and followers to have a last darshan. He will then be buried close to his Yajur Mandir residence on Wednesday in line with the practice adopted for Hindu spiritual leaders. Sanyasis are said to symbolically submit their bodies to fire at the time of renunciation by donning saffron or flame-coloured robes. 

"The exact time of burial will be announced later," said Andhra's industries minister Geeta Reddy. Five lakh people are expected for the funeral that will include national and international dignitaries.

Before announcing Sai Baba's demise, the police ordered a complete shutdown of Puttaparthi. All shops were closed and roads barricaded. Those arriving from Bangalore (barring mediapersons and government officials) had to stop 8km out of town. 

"His body was wrapped in orange clothes and covered up to the eyes. Nobody uttered a word. Everybody wept," said Sai Kumar, 33, a local businessman and a devotee. "I spoke to him on March 18 for two minutes and took his photograph," he said, tears rolling down his cheeks. 

At 3 pm, the body was shifted to Sri Kulwant Hall in Prasanthi Nilayam (the highest abode of peace), where Sathya Sai Baba gave discourses and met devotees daily for over four decades.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

57 Indian firms in Forbes Global 2000 list

Forbes 2000 ListWASHINGTON: As many as 57 Indian companies including Reliance Industries, State Bank of India and Oil & Natural Gas Corp. figure in TheForbes Global 2000 list of public companies based on their rankings for sales, profits, assets and market value. 

Reliance with sales of $45.3 billion is ranked 121st in the list with three public State Bank of India Group (136, $29.1 billion), Oil & Natural Gas Corp. (172, 22.6 billion) and Indian Oil (243, $52.1 billion) taking the next three places among the Indian firms. 

Other companies in India's top ten were ICICI Bank (288, $13.2 billion), NTPC (348, $10.8 billion), Coal India (418, $10.4 billion), Bharti Airtel (453, $9.3 billion), Larsen & Toubro(499, $9.8 billion) and Tata Motors (512, $20.2 billion). 

JPMorgan Chase is in the top spot for the second consecutive year as the world's largest company followed by HSBC, up six spots fuelled by a 121 percent growth in profits in the past fiscal year. 

In total, the Global 2000 companies now account for $32 trillion in revenues, $2.4 trillion in profits, $138 trillion in assets and $38 trillion in market value. These firms also employ 80 million people worldwide. 

The Asia-Pacific region led The Global 2000 again this year with 701 companies, including the most additions (11) to the list of the regions - Asia-Pacific, Europe, Middle East & Africa-EMEA, the Americas and the US - with doubled profits, by far the biggest increase. 

The biggest profit centre was China, as 121 companies, including PetroChina, ICBC and Sinopec, returned an aggregate profit of $168 billion. Japan and South Korea also showed impressive gains in profits and assets. 

With the US economy back on its feet, growing at a steady 3 percent clip over the past 12 months, American firms on The Forbes Global 2000 are growing far faster. Total sales were up 12 percent in 2010 over 2009, and profits continue to rise-up 69 percent, versus 56 percent for the S&P 500. 

Still, the US grip on The Global 2000 has been slipping since 2004, when the number of US constituents was 751. It's now 536. The US still accounts for the most firms among the top 100 with 28.

Have enough evidence to convict 26/11 mastermind: Rehman Malik

NEW DELHI: Pakistan interior minister Rehman Malik has said that Pakistani investigators have collected enough evidence against the masterminds of the Mumbai 2008 terror attacks and he is confident that the courts will convict them. 

"We have enough evidence and I am quite hopeful that they will be convicted. But if I say some thing much, that means I'm overstepping my position because the matter has to be decided by the court," Malik told CNN-IBN channel in an interview. 
Pak interior min Rehman Malik
India has been unhappy over the slow pace of trial of the 26/11 masterminds in Pakistan. Most of the recent hearings have been immediately adjourned by the judge. 

"What I am confident is that all the evidence which has been collected, has been placed before the court and they will be convicted," he added. 

Malik, however, admitted that the trial was not going as fast as India wanted. 

"And for the fast track you know that there are certain problems in Evidence Act, and according to the Evidence Act we needed some information to be certified from the Indian authorities," he said. 

He appreciated that India had agreed to allow a judicial commission from Pakistan to visit and collect evidence. "I'm really grateful to the Indian authorities for allowing our commission to go, and once it is there and after fulfilling its assignment it comes back, the case will be on fast track," he said. 

Malik asserted that Pakistan had every intention of prosecuting the 26/11 masterminds. "The intention of Pakistan is clear. Our prosecutors are working hard and once those legal formalities are over we will expedite the process," he said. 

He thanked Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram for the success of the meeting of the home secretaries last month. 

"I think it was a good success and the credit is dedicated to Mr Chidambaram who played a key role in it and also to the prime ministers. But basically what is important that what you discuss if you transform it into practicalities, that's the big deal. And I think the decisions taken in the group and now by the home secretary are all good decisions, like the focal point is the raise of official legal access and the visa relaxation, they all are good strategies," said Malik.

Left Front has failed to govern West Bengal: PM

PM Manmohan SinghKOLKATA: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday said that the Left Front (LF) government had failed to govern the West Bengal and now it was time for the new alliance of Trinamool and Congress to run the government. 

The prime minister is campaigning at Katwa in favour of Congress candidate Rabindranath Chatterjee. Singh appealed to the voters to vote in favour of the Trinamool and Congress candidates. 

Singh while addressing a rally at Katwa said that if the Congress and Trinamool Congress combine came to power then the priority would be to give justice to the people, as law and order had collapsed in West Bengal. He said that in education sector too Bengal was lagging behind small states. 

He said that the UPA government would help in all possible manner the new Trinamool and Congress government. "Congress and Trinamool combine can only give good governance to the people of Bengal," he said. 

He said that the industrial base needed to be revamped in Bengal as small industries were closed and even tea industry was suffering in the state. 

Bengali youth go out of the state in search of jobs and minorities have been ignored too. The central funds were misused and not properly utilized, he said. "Several central schemes were not been implemented properly in Bengal by the LF government." 

The state government has failed to implement National Rural Health Mission scheme along with NREGA scheme and the funds provided by the UPA government had not been used by the LF government. 

"It is clear that for this failure, the LF government must go. Bengal needs change," the Prime Minister said. He said that Bengal's CPM had failed to deliver peace and development to the people. 

"For that Sonia Gandhi and I urge you to vote for change, so that necessary change can take place in your life and development can take place in Bengal." Singh urged.

Khurshid rules out changes in Lokpal committee

NEW DELHI: Amid roiling controversy overLokpal Bill drafting committee members, Union minister Salman Khurshid on Saturday ruled out any changes in the panel and said the government is looking forward to receiving inputs from Justice Santosh Hegde on the bill. 

"I value his (Hegde) contributions enormously and hold high respect for him. I hope he will be able to be with us. We want his contributions. We (government) are looking forward to having his inputs and we sincerely hope so," Khurshid, who is a part of the 10-member committee, told reporters here. 

Replying to a question whether there would be changes in the committee, he said "there is no question of changing the committee members." 

Upset over "vilification campaign", Karnataka Lokayukta Justice Hegde, had said in Bangalore that he was thinking of resigning but he would consult his colleagues in the anti-corruption movement in Delhi and take a decision on the issue today. 

He was angry that Congress General Secretary Digvijay Singh had attacked him that he was protecting Karnataka chief minister from corruption charges. 

"Let us examine the bill on its merit, rather than discussing the characters of people," Khurshid said on the sidelines of a function. 

About allegations on Hegde, he said, "We are neither endorsing anyone nor speaking against anyone. We are not concerned about anything beyond the committee." 

Khurshid said, "I, alongwith other nine colleagues are concerned about forming a good bill...we will not be distracted by any controversies or claims outside the committee. These are independent matters (the Bhushan CD-controversy) and apart from what we are doing in the committee." 

Asked about Uttar Pradesh Mayawati's demand for inclusion of an "apolitical scheduled caste member" in the committee, he said, "we should trust the ten members. Let them present their product...we should give them a chance. After the product comes out, we can see and examine it and put forth our objections if any."

Friday, April 22, 2011

Steve Jobs to return 'as soon as he can': Cook

lead2.jpgSAN FRANCISCO: Apple's ailing chief executiveSteve Jobs remains involved in major strategic decisions at the company and hopes to return to work full-time as soon as he can, a top Appleexecutive said. 

"He is still on medical leave but we do see him on a regular basis," Apple chief operating officer Tim Cook told financial analysts during a conference call to discuss the company's fiscal second-quarter earnings. 

"And as we've previously said he continues to be involved in major strategic decision," Cook said. "I know he wants to be back full-time as soon as he can." 

Jobs, 56, went on medical leave in January, his third since 2004, but has retained his title of chief executive at Apple. 

Jobs underwent an operation for pancreatic cancer in 2004 and received a liver transplant in 2009, but Apple has not released any details about his latest health issues. 

Apple's fortunes have been uniquely linked to Jobs, who returned to the then flagging company in 1997 after a 12-year absence and introduced innovative and wildly successful products like the iPod,iPhone and iPad.

Nokia gives good news finally!

Nokiaoffice.jpgHELSINKI: Nokia Corp has reported better than expected first quarter profits despite confirming that its market share around the world dropped below 30 percent for the first time in over a decade, as the world's top cellphone maker continued to lose ground to its rivals. 

Though the Finnish company said its net profit for the quarter fell €5 million to €344 million ($499 million) a year earlier, the markets were impressed by the news that operating profit only fell 14 percent during the period instead of the anticipated 40 percent decline. 

Nokia shares were up 3 percent at €6.11 ($8.87) in afternoon trading in Helsinki

Elsewhere in its statement, Nokia revealed that its revenues grew by 9 percent to €10.40 billion from €9.52 billion in the same period in 2010, while smartphone sales were up 6 percent at €7 billion. 

Despite the increase in smartphone sales, Nokia confirmed that its overall global market share plunged to 29 percent, from 33 percent a year earlier and 31 percent in the previous quarter. 

CEO Stephen Elop said Nokia has now signed a "definitive" deal with Microsoft Corp to develop software for smartphones "and that product design and engineering work was well under way." 

But he cautioned that the company faced "a more challenging second quarter.'' 

Nokia said the tsunami and earthquake in Japan had disrupted the supply of some components linked to Japanese suppliers and would impact its results in the second quarter. 

Nokia is the world's top cellphone maker but faces stiff competition in top-end smartphones from Apple Inc's iPhone, Android-based handsets and Research in Motion's Blackberry. 

However, Nokia said it sold 24 million smartphones, 13 percent more than in 2010. 

Total handset sales were only slightly up at 108.5 million, Nokia said.

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