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A weighty issue for Rahul Gandhi
Published on 2 Aug. 2009 11:24 PM IST
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That Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi is playing a key role in revitalising the party is known. And despite a demanding schedule, he keeps fit by exercising regularly. During the rigorous Lok Sabha election campaign, he took to boxing. Now he is keen to see that the party’s youth brigade also puts a premium on health-along with political work. Indian Youth Congress president and new MP Ashok Tanwar was gently pulled up by Gandhi recently. When Tanwar became MP, Gandhi approvingly told him that he (Tanwar) had lost weight and told him to keep up the exercise regimen. But during the budget session, Gandhi noticed that Tanwar had put on weight and wanted to know why. Tanwar got the message: he has now promised to pump iron to burn out the extra flab. New work ethic irks babus Government officials who used to saunter in and out of North Block offices are in for a rude shock. A biometrics based attendance and access control system to monitor the entry and exit time of babus in the ministries of home and finance and the department of personnel and training has been readied. Home Minister P. Chidambaram is keen to ensure punctuality. He wants all officers to report at 9 a.m. and not leave before 5.30 p.m. The move has caused resentment among sections of babudom but the home minister is undeterred. The system apparently has the capacity to store data of 100,000 people and is tamper proof. India looms large on London’s agenda British MP Keith Vaz, chairman of the House Select Committee on Immigration, was in New Delhi to invite Congress bigwigs for his Labour party’s annual conference at Brighton in late September. Labour is hoping that Rahul Gandhi will attend or the Congress will depute a high-profile leader. Curiously, when Vaz, whose parents hail from Goa, was here, a group of Tory MPs was also in Delhi at the invitation of the public diplomacy division of the external affairs ministry. The Friends of India group was led by Indian origin MP Sailesh Vara. Among its six members was another Indian-origin MP, Sandeep Verma. Evidently, India figures large on Britain’s political agenda. The coming months will see a string of high-profile visits from Britain. Indian President Pratibha Patil goes there in October on a state visit at the invitation of Queen Elizabeth II. Sibal to do away with Arjun’s quotas Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal, who advocates fundamental reforms in education, is fed up of fielding requests for admissions to Kendriya Vidyalayas (central schools). Each MP gets to recommend two admissions in Kendriya Vidyalayas. The minister can recommend a whopping 1,200! But his predecessor, Arjun Singh, has exhausted virtually the whole quota before his term ended. Sibal believes that this system has to go. Azhagiri realises only Tamil won’t do At 58, Chemicals and Fertilisers Minister M.K. Azhagiri (spelt Alagiri in the official website) began his government career with a bang-as a cabinet minister. Initially, insiders say, he was struggling to find his feet and often called up his cousin Dayanidhi Maran, the textiles minister, for help. But in two months he has grown in confidence. In addition, Azhagiri, the eldest son of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Muthuvel Karunanidhi, is learning to speak Hindi from a teacher he has engaged, realising that only Tamil and English wont do in Delhi. The buzz is also that he is also brushing up on his English. ‘Be careful what you tell journalists’ Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad gave a piece of his mind to Health Secretary Naresh Dayal in full public view. At the centenary celebrations of the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (now called National Centre for Disease Control), Azad asked one of his staff members to summon Dayal who was busy talking to the media. Admonishing him, Azad told Dayal not to go exceed the brief as journalists often tend to deviate rather than concentrate on the issue at hand. Curious scientists who missed out the action were keen to know what happened, but a chastened Dayal kept mum throughout the function. Now the group of vulnerables Global warming leads to rise in sea levels, threatening countries like the Maldives, an atoll nation. In order to make the world take note of their plight, these countries have formed a group called V10 - V for Vulnerable. Leading the pack is Bangladesh, which has a long coast. Others include Kiribatu, Vanuatu, Liberia and Cape Verde. Maldives Foreign Minister Ahmed Shaheed, on one of his visits to Delhi, tried to sensitise Indian policy makers and experts about the seriousness of their case. Can India help?

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