Buddhadeb-Chidambaram meeting between Jan 17-19
Kolkata, January 12 (Agencies): The long-awaited meeting between Union Home Minister P Chidambaram and West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee in Delhi to discuss law and order in the state, including the January 7 Lalgarh killings, might take place between January 17 and 19. “We are trying to fix up two meetings with the Home Minister and Prime Minister between January 17 and 19,” CM’s secretariat sources here said. The Chief Minister has sought time from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh too for a meeting, the sources said. Earlier, the Chief Minister had said that he would be able to visit Delhi only in the third week of this month following Chidambaram’s letter on the Netai killings in Lalgarh police station area by suspected CPI(M) armed cadres that left seven dead. Chidambaram had requested the Chief Minister to ‘reschedule all appointments’ and visit Delhi ‘immediately’.

US welcomes Indo-Pak talks likely next month

New Delhi, January 12 (PTI):
The US today welcomed the meeting expected between Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan in Bhutan next month, hoping it could lead to a headway in normalising their relations. “India and Pakistan have recently announced that they will talk more in February. The United States welcomes those communications and that outreach and that discussion,” US Ambassador to India Timothy J Roemer told reporters here after inaugurating a school for girls from economically-backward families. He hoped that the meeting between the Foreign Secretaries would lead to some headway in the India-Pakistan peace process. Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir are expected to have a meeting in Thimphu early next month on the sidelines of a SAARC conference.

Somali pirates seize Indian vessel with 14 people

New Delhi, January 12 (PTI):
In yet another strike, Somali pirates have seized an Indian vessel along with 14 people on board off the coast of Oman. “Somali pirates have hijacked an Indian dhow with 14 crew near Salalah. The incident took place on January 9,” a senior official in the directorate of shipping told Press Trust of India today. The dhow (a slow-moving vessel) was sailing off Oman, about 800 nautical miles from the Somali coast when the pirates attacked, taking hostage all 14 Indian crew members on board, the official said. Last year, the Somali pirates carried out several strikes, capturing 11 dhows with over 100 Indians on board. However, they later released majority of the vessels after payment of ransom. Repeated attacks on Indian vessels had prompted the government to issue warning to dhows about the dangers in those waters, particularly along the sea-lanes of Salalah and Male. The merchandise conducted on seas is worth about US$110 billion annually, with Indians being among the major players.

EC may reduce minimum voting age to 16

Bhubaneshwar, January 12 (Agencies):
The Election Commission today said it was examining a proposal to reduce the minimum age for voting right to 16 years from the existing 18. “We may recommend to the government to reduce the minimum voting age to 16 years, if more youths, particularly new voters, participate in the electoral process,” Chief Election Commissioner Y S Quraishi told a meeting organised by Youth United for Voter Awareness (YUVA), an NGO. Though above 35% of voters were youths, their participation was the lowest, he said. Quraishi said though the minimum voting right age was reduced to 18 from 21 years, participation of new voters was not up to expectation. As the present day youths were well versed with technologies and comparatively better informed, there was no harm in reducing the minimum voting right age to 16 years, he said. The EC will launch an awareness drive among students to inform about the rights and significance of participation, he said. The awareness campaign would include meetings, rallies, seminars and other activities to attract youths to the electoral process, the CEC said after releasing a document prepared by YUVA on youth participation in elections. Quraishi also said the EC was working on establishing the Indian Institute of Democratic Studies on the lines of IIT and IIM to educate government officials, students and others from within the country and abroad about various aspects of the democratic processes.