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England launches same-day visa service for Indians

England`s Home Office announced the launch of a same-day, “super priority” visa service for Indian travellers, an official announcement said.

The first of its kind service launched anywhere in the world, it will be available to Indians from Wednesday.

The service is the fulfilment of a commitment by British Prime Minister David Cameron during his recent visit to India, a spokesperson for the British Deputy High Commision said.

The Super Priority Visa Service (SPVS), which complements the existing Fast Track Service and the recent Online Payment Option, will be available to Indians, excluding students, intending to apply for a six-month or two-year multiple entry visit visa and having previously travelled to Britain, the US, Australia, New Zealand, Canada or a Schengen country within the last five years.

It is also available to visa applicants sponsored by companies who are members of the UK Business Express Programme. The service will initially be made available from Mumbai and New Delhi, and in the near future from Chennai.

“This underlines our strong commitment to make an already excellent visa service even better. We expect this new service to be particularly useful for business. Opportunities arise at short notice. We want Indian entrepreneurs and businessmen to be able to seize these. The UK and India are already on course to double bilateral trade by 2015. The new Super Priority Visa will help make sure that we hit this target”, said British High Commissioner to India, Sir James Bevan.

The SPVS, an optional service, comes with an additional fee of Rs 51,000 besides the standard fee for the type of visa being applied for.

Applicants must complete an online form and submit their applications, by appointment, before 9.30 am. If an application is successful, the visa will be ready for collection by 5.30 pm, the same day in New Delhi or by 6.30 pm, the same day in Mumbai.

Iran President could face 74 lashes

Ahmadinejad

Ahmadinejad could face lashes or get six months in jail for breaking electoral rules by accompanying his chief of staff to register as a candidate in upcoming elections

After accompanying his former chief of staff to register for June’s presidential vote, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may face punishment if charged with breaking electoral rules.

In an off-guard moment, the Iranian president was caught apparently muttering to his aid and confidant that if questions were raised as to why he had accompanied him to the electoral registry, “tell them I’m on a day off work.”

Iranian electoral law bans individuals from supporting candidates in an official capacity, while the use of state resources on behalf of or against any candidate is also banned.

The Guardian Council complained about the president’s conduct on Sunday. Iran’s constitutional watchdog has said it might seek charges against Ahmadinejad.

The Council’s members said that public fund rules were broken when Ahmadinejad accompanied Mashaei to the election registration office.

The Guardian Council is charged with vetting all 680 hopeful presidential candidates, including Mashaei.

Ahmadinejad, who is constitutionally forbidden from running for a third term, has pushed hard for Mashaei to succeed him when the country heads to the polls on June 14 in a campaign his opponents claim has been funded with public money. The men have a close political bond, cemented by the marriage of their children.

2 women selected to drive Mumbai’s first metro trains

Of the 6,000 aspirants who applied, 40 made the cut for a training programme as trainee metro pilots: Priyanka Balid and Srikala Nair are among them

It took the Railways nearly 125 years to rope in their first woman driver, but Mumbai Metro’s very first batch of 40 pilots includes two women, who are now in the midst of a gruelling 80-day training programme in the city, having finished a stint abroad. The training, imparted on a machine that costs a hefty Rs 40 crore, teaches the trainee pilots not only how to drive the new trains, but also to tackle crises like terror strikes or medical emergency.

Once they complete training, the two women — Priyanka Balid and Srikala Nair — and their 38 male counterparts, will be maneuvering trains on the 11.07-km-long Versova Andheri Ghatkopar (VAG) corridor, the city’s first Metro line.

Priyanka, who is a mechanical engineer, and her co-trainee Srikala were selected from 6,000 applicants who responded to the advertisement.

Mumbai Metro One Private Limited (MMOPL) officials revealed that the training programmes were trained in a manner that would equip the pilots to handle crisis effectively. Twenty-four-year-old Priyanka, who is enjoying her stint thoroughly, said, “Training to be a pilot is definitely interesting and involves a lot of hard work.

The monthly salary to be paid to the pilots once they begin manning the controls is between Rs 50,000-70,000.

Manchester City sack manager Mancini

Roberto Mancini was sacked as manager of Manchester City on Monday– a year to the day after leading the club to the English Premier League title.

City’s shock FA Cup Final defeat by Wigan at Wembley on Saturday meant they ended this season without any silverware and strengthened rumours Mancini, who replaced Mark Hughes in 2009, was about to be dismissed.

The club’s Abu Dhabi-based owners confirmed Monday the end of the Italian manager’s three-and-a-half years at Eastlands, with a City statement saying: “It is with regret that Manchester City Football Club announces that Roberto Mancini has been relieved of his duties as Manchester City manager.

“This has been a difficult decision for the owner, chairman and board to make and it is the outcome of a planned end-of-season review process that has been brought forward in light of recent speculation and out of respect for Roberto and his extensive contributions to the football club.

“Despite everyone’s best efforts, the club has failed to achieve any of its stated targets this year, with the exception of qualification for next season’s UEFA Champions League.”

“This, combined with an identified need to develop a holistic approach to all aspects of football at the club, has meant that the decision has been taken to find a new manager for the 2013-14 season and beyond.”

City’s Champions League qualification has been overshadowed by the uninspiring nature of their title defence, with the club a distant second to already crowned English champions Manchester United and 13 points adrift of their local rivals.

The 48-year-old Mancini’s time at City saw the club win a first major trophy in 35 years with the 2011 FA Cup, while last season’s Premier League title was their first top-flight crown since 1968 and saw the manager rewarded with a new five-year deal.

Internet video shows rebel fighter ‘eating heart’ of Syria soldier

A video uploaded on the internet shows a Syrian rebel fighter ‘eating the heart’ of a soldier.

A gruesome video has emerged on the Internet apparently showing a Syrian rebel fighter cutting out the heart of a regime soldier and eating it.

“We swear to God we will eat your hearts and livers, you soldiers of Bashar the dog,” the insurgent says as he bends over a blurred body and cuts out the heart in the amateur footage uploaded on the internet.

“We are the heroes of Baba Amr,” he says, referring to a rebel stronghold of the central city of Homs that has been flattened by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.

The man, identified in the video as a member of the mainstream rebel Free Syrian Army, then stands up, raises his dagger in one hand and the heart in the other.

He then proceeds to place the organ in his mouth, before the video abruptly ends.

Deep in debt, man gets 13-year-old cousin abducted and killed

Trying to recover the Rs 10L he lost in cricket betting, the accused plotted to kidnap his diamond broker uncle’s son for ransom. Police on Tuesday arrested a 28-year-old man on charges of kidnapping and killing his 13-year-old cousin.

The police said the prime accused Himanshu Ranka and his friend Brijesh Sanghvi, 25, had lost close to Rs 10 lakh each in cricket betting. In order to pay off their debts, they decided to kidnap Ranka’s cousin Aditya and demand a ransom of Rs 30 lakh from his diamond broker father Jitendra.

According to the police, around noon on Monday, Brijesh called the Ranka household pretending to be a customer and asked Jintendra’s wife to send Aditya to the street corner to take a bunch of keys from him. An unsuspecting Aditya got into the waiting car, in which Brijesh and another person were sitting. Brijesh told Aditya they will have to drive some distance to get the keys.

Police, who pieced to together the sequence of events based on Himanshu’s interrogation, said Brijesh made the ransom from an unknown number when he was somewhere near Sion. “Jitendra thought it was a prank call and disconnected it,” said an officer. “He did not take the Rs 30 lakh demand seriously as he doesn’t earn much. He is not a trader, but only a broker. Nonetheless, he called his wife who told him Aditya had gone with someone he sent. That is when Jintendra realised his son had been kidnapped and he came to us.”

All the while Himanshu was with Jitendra, pretending to console his uncle. But when he saw that the police was intensifying efforts to trace the phone, he realised that if Aditya was rescued, he will definitely identify Brijesh. “So he called Brijesh, who had by then driven Aditya to Pali in Raigad district, and told him to kill the boy,” said the officer.

Russia says CIA agent caught trying to recruit spy

MOSCOW: Russia expelled a US diplomat on Tuesday after saying he had been caught red-handed with disguises, special equipment and wads of cash as he tried to recruit a Russian intelligence agent to work for the CIA.

The announcement, a throwback to the Cold War, came at an awkward time for Washington and Moscow as they try to improve relations and bring the warring sides in Syria together for an international peace conference.

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) said Ryan Fogle, a third secretary at the US Embassy in Moscow, had been detained overnight carrying “special technical equipment”, a disguise, a large sum of money and instructions for recruiting his target.

The Foreign Ministry summoned US Ambassador Michael McFaul to discuss the case on Wednesday and released a statement demandingFogle leave Russia without delay.

“Such provocative actions in the spirit of the Cold War will by no means promote the strengthening of mutual trust,” it said.

Russian television showed grainy footage of a man identified as Fogle being arrested, and the state-run Russia Today channel published photographs on its website that it said showed Fogle being detained in a blond wig.

In one photograph, a man lay face-down on the ground with his arms being pinned behind his back.

Another image showed two wigs, apparently found on him, as well as three pairs of glasses, a torch, a mobile phone and a compass. Also displayed was a wad of 500-euro ($650) notes and a letter addressed to a “Dear friend”.

“This is an advance from someone who has been highly impressed by your professionalism, and who would highly value your cooperation in the future,” the letter said.

“We are willing to offer you $100,000 and discuss your experience, expertise and cooperation, and payment could be significantly larger, if you are willing to answer concrete questions,” it said, offering $1 million a year for long-term cooperation plus possible bonuses for useful information.

Parents seek answers in British Sikh schoolgirl’s death

LONDON: The parents of an eight-year-oldBritish Sikh schoolgirl have alleged that their daughter was killed by health workers in India in a failed attempt to harvest her organs.

Gurkiren Kaur Loyal was being treated for dehydration in a small clinic in Punjab when staff reportedly gave her a mystery injection.

“Within a split-second Gurkiren’s head flipped back, her eyes rolled in her head, and the colour completely drained from her. I knew they had killed her on the spot. I knew my innocent child had been murdered,” her mother Amrit Kaur Loyal told the ‘Birmingham Mail’.

According to Gurkiren’s family, the girl was then subjected to a “medieval” postmortem during which all her major organs were removed in a bid to hide the truth of how she had been killed.

It was only once her body was flown home to Britain that they discovered her organs weremissing and only her eyes remained.

Local police are believed to have taken their statements but the family is unsure if a proper investigation was carried out.

Their local councillor in Birmingham, Narinder Kooner, and Ladywood MP Shabana Mahmood, have now joined the family’s campaign to press the Indian and UK governments for answers.

“This was an absolutely horrific ordeal for the family to go through and we are trying to work with the foreign office and the Indian High Commission to try to get her organs returned,” Kooner said.

“It is imperative that we have the chance to independently establish the cause of death with the authorities in the UK,” added Mahmood.

The schoolgirl from Nishkam School on Soho Road in Handsworth was on her first foreign holiday visiting her grandmother, who later died.

Besides her mother, she was joined by her postal worker father Santokh Singh Loyal and 17-year-old brother Simran.

Gurkiren was taken to the clinic in Punjab after feeling sick and was placed on a drip after blood tests revealed she was free of infection.

Under pressure to help her after she received the injection, medics transferred her to a nearby hospital but she could not be saved and later died.

Manish Tewari, Punjab PCC chief get ‘Z’ security cover

Manish Tewari

New Delhi: Union Minister Manish Tewari and Punjab Congress President P S Bajwa are the new entrants to the VIP security club with the Home Ministry approving ‘Z’ category cover to them.

Tewari, a Congress MP from Ludhiana, has been accorded the enhanced security entailing armed commandos during his movements across the country. Bajwa, who recently became Punjab PCC chief, will also get the same security.

The Ministry of Home Affairs, in its order issued recently, has asked paramilitary Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) to ensure their protection.

The force has been asked to deploy 28 commandos from its specialised VIP/VVIP security unit based in Uttar Pradesh for each of the new protectees.

Under the ‘Z’ category security, a person is provided proximate security along with a pilot and an escort vehicle anywhere in the country. While Tewari will get the ‘Z’ category protection throughout the country, Bajwa will enjoy it in Punjab.
Recently, the Centre accorded ‘Z’ category security to Reliance Industries Ltd Chairman Mukesh Ambani and a number of other ministers and MPs.

Badal blames Centre for Sarabjit Singh’s death

Prakash Singh Badal

Bhikhiwind: Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal on Saturday said that had the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre acted timely and diligently, then Sarabjit Singh could have been saved.

Addressing a gathering to pay homage to Sarabjit Singh, the Chief Minister said that the state assembly had passed resolutions four times and sent them to the Centre urging for prompt action to ensure Sarabjit Singh’s early release, but the Centre had not taken the matter seriously.

“However, the entire country in general and the Punjab government in particular were with the family of Sarabjit Singh in this hour of crisis,” he said handing over a cheque of Rs 1 crore to Sarabjit’s family.

The Chief Minister said, Sarabjit Singh was a national martyr who had suffered endless agonies in the Pakistani jail for being an Indian.

He also announced that Sarabjit’s elder daughter Swapandeep Kaur would be recruited as Naib Tehsildar in the state government and the younger daughter Poonam would be given the post of a teacher.

“Cabinet clearance for both these posts would be given by the council of Ministers in the very next meeting,” he said.

Appreciating the efforts made by Sarabjit’s family for his release, the Chief Minister said, due to their concerted efforts the entire country had prayed for the release of Sarabjit, who had spent more than 23 years in a Pakistan jail.

Showering praise on Sarabjit’s sister Dalbir Kaur for her pledge to secure the release of other prisoners lodged in Pakistani jails, Badal added that the state government would extend full support and cooperation to her.

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