Get Indian fishermen released from Iran: Jayalalithaa

Chennai: Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa on Sunday sought Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's immediate intervention to secure the release and repatriation of 16 Tamil Nadu fishermen, who are languishing in a jail in Iran.

In a letter to Singh, she said families of the fishermen, hailing from Ramanathapuram, Nagapattinam and Kaniyakumari districts, had recently submitted a petition to her, stating that the fishermen are the sole breadwinners of the family.

These fishermen, engaged as contract labourers by a private company based in Saudi Arabia, had accidentally ventured into Iranian waters and were taken into custody in December 2012.

"Without access to legal aid, they were convicted by an Iranian court to undergo six months imprisonment and pay a fine of USD 5,750 each," she said.

Even after having served their term, they continued to languish in jail due to lack of resources to pay the fine, she said.

"What is more shocking is that they have not even been able to contact the Indian Embassy. No effort has been made by the Embassy to establish contact with them or provide legal assistance to them or to put any pressure on the employer Company which engaged them to secure their release by settling the fine amount", she said.

"I am bringing this matter to your notice seeking your immediate and personal intervention to instruct the Embassy of India in Tehran to take effective legal steps to secure the release of these poor fishermen, who have undergone the period of imprisonment, but continue to languish in jail for want of means to pay the fine amount", she said.

She also urged Singh to instruct the Indian Embassy in Saudi Arabia to take steps to settle the fine amounts ensuring the release of the fishermen.


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Lok Sabha elections will repeat 1977 verdict: BJP


New York: The BJP on Sunday said that next year's Lok Sabha elections will be a watershed for the party and claimed that a 1977-like mood will dislodge the UPA dispensation.

Ananth Kumar, national general secretary of the BJP, also claimed that his party will get an absolute majority in the elections. <\br>

"The mood in India is like that of 1977 when the country faced the elections after the imposition of emergency... Voters wanted Indira Gandhi to go and did not give a fractured mandate but a clear majority to Janata Party that was unprecedented in many ways since Independence," he told a news agency.

"We will get an absolute majority," he said, adding that the BJP's slogan in the ensuing election will be Congress Muktha Bharat (Free India from Congress).

"We are requesting the people to compare (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee government's track record with that of Manmohan Singh's and come to a clear decision. The basic issue before the nation is one is good governance and development. India witnessed a golden era for six years under Atalji's dispensation but in the last nine years Congress and UPA has taken from good governance to Dark Age," he said.

Kumar said that under Atalji's tenure there was an eight per cent growth rate and we kept inflation down at three per cent. Economy was robust and vibrant due to visionary leadership of Vajpayee. But due to wrong policies, Manmohan Singh and his team have taken the country to pre-1991 days where we had almost forced to mortgage our gold reserves putting India to shame in the comity of nations, he said.

"All the three in-house economists India has ever produced - Manmohan Singh, P Chidambaram and Montek Singh Ahluwalia are responsible for nation's current financial mess and should own the responsibility," he said.

Asked about Narendra Modi, Kumar said the Gujarat chief minister is now the new rock star and is viewed as a friend of youth and college students.

"Youth power can't be underestimated and now they have become very strong and understand Indian politics. People in the age group of 18-25 will decide the fate of India and they are all admirers of Modi and demand a change," he said.

On alliance, he said it's a crusade against Congress and also crusade against corruption and gross abuse of power given by the electorate.

"We expect like minded parties to support us. In any case there are possibilities for post-poll alliance like the one Atalji formed NDA in the center," he said.


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Narendra Modi a rockstar for Indian youth: BJP's Ananth Kumar

New York: Terming Narendra Modi as a friend of India's youth, BJP leader Ananth Kumar on Sunday said that the Gujarat Chief Minister is now "the new rockstar for them."

"Youth power is the real power in India and the way youth crowd swells when Modi addresses college and university students is something unheard of and he is the new rockstar for them," Kumar claimed.

People in the age group of 18-25 will decide the fate of India and they are all admirers of Modi and demand a change, he claimed.

Modi is a popular leader of BJP and has won Gujarat with a hattrick -- a record of sorts in Indian democracy, Kumar said.

"He was able to achieve this with his progressive and good governance. He has become an icon in his own stature. He was able to do this only by his sheer hard work and commitment. He does not believe in gimmicks," Kumar said.

Kumar condemned the alleged forgery of signatures in a letter written by MPs to US President Barack Obama seeking denial of visa to Modi.

"Its paradoxical that the Congressional Research Wing of the US Government heaps praise on Narendra Modi while another wing of the government closes its eyes to it and denies visa to him," Kumar said.

When asked about the Congressional Caucus on Indians and Indian Americans not taking up the Modi visa issue with the US State Department, he said it was an issue the US administration should address and India need not interfere.


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Modi, Advani can never become PM: Lalu

Varanasi: Former Bihar Chief Minister and RJD president Lalu Prasad Yadav today said Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and senior BJP leader L K Advani will never become the Prime Minister of the country.

"Modi and Advani can never become the prime minister in their lifetime. Secular forces in this country would never allow the saffron outfit to come to power," the RJD chief told media here.

Yadav, who was here to pay obeisance at Kedareshwar temple, said people should be cautious against forces like Modi and Advani.

Praising Rahul Gandhi, he said the Congress vice president wants to bring a change in the country.

On Digvijay Singh, the RJD chief said he is a "good man".


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Onus of Parliament functioning on all members: Meira Kumar

New Delhi: Ahead of the Monsoon Session of Parliament, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar on Friday put the onus of its smooth functioning on all members while voicing concern over frequent disruptions and passage of bills without debate.

"The House (Lok Sabha) comprises of 545 members. It can be run only with the cooperation of all members. Even if two members disrupt the House it has to be adjourned. Running the House is my responsibility as well as the responsibility of the members," she told.

The month-long Monsoon Session starts on August five.

The current Lok Sabha has functioned for only 72 per cent of the allocated time while this figure was 87 per cent in the last Lok Sabha and 91 per cent in the 13th Lok Sabha.

Kumar welcomed the Supreme Court verdict striking down a provision in the Representation of People Act under which an MP or MLA could contest an election even if he has been convicted in a criminal case but his appeal is pending in a higher court. "I welcome the court's sentiments," she said.

Almost the whole of the second half of the Budget Session was wasted due to disruptions and the Question Hour could not be held even on a single day. Only the constitutionally mandatory financial business could be transacted.

Underlining the importance of smooth functioning of the House, especially the Question Hour, Kumar said, "Smooth functioning of the House is a parliamentary and democratic duty of the members which they should follow. This is their responsibility and they are also answerable for it."

Agreeing that when the House does not function the hard- earned money of the tax payers goes down the drain, she said, "This Parliament has been built so that representatives of the people can come here and place the viewpoint of the people. Also to discuss the national and international issues. But if the session is disrupted this purpose for which the people elected these members is not served."

Regretting the lack of seriousness among members, the Speaker said it is not easy to win elections and those who have been chosen by the people were not elected to disrupt Parliament.


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Rajnath dares Congress to declare PM candidate

New York: BJP president Rajnath Singh on Friday challenged Congress to declare its prime ministerial candidate before losing sleep over the nominee of his party.

"Will the Congress dare announce who will be the prime minister candidate before the general elections?" he said addressing members of the India-America Chamber of Commerce here.

Claiming that there are too many contenders for the job in the Congress party - Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Manmohan Singh, P Chidambaram and other unnamed dark horses, Singh said Congress leaders and workers are confused as to who would be the next prime minister if their party returns to power.

He said his party followed democratic principles in the selection of campaign committee and there was consensus unlike in the dictatorial Congress party.

"Did we have any problem when we named senior leader L K Advani as Prime Minister Candidate in 2009 and did we had any issues when Atalji was made prime minister in 1999. Congress is now trying to divert the attention of the people from its scams and failures," he said.

Singh asserted that there are no differences whatsoever in the choice of BJP's prime ministerial candidate and it will be a smooth sailing.

"The BJP is to bring out a vision document on the state of economy with the help of experts and will be made public end of next month. The document will highlight what we will do in the areas of infrastructure, heavy engineering, manufacturing, energy and technology," he said.

Turning to the state of economy, he said India is now facing a serious financial crisis of grave magnitude despite the fact that no one in the global economy can ignore India.


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