The UPA government on Thursday tried to partly deflect criticism for rising food prices towards the Opposition as well as on factors outside its control. Failure of foodgrain procurement by NDA-governed states and international food crisis, it claimed in Rajya Sabha, were to blame for the prices even as Left joined the Opposition in staging a walkout.

The UPA-Left committee on the Indo-US civil nuclear deal is likely to meet on May 5. However, Left leaders refused to confirm the date. Sources also said CPM general secretary Prakash Karat has also written, on behalf of the Left parties, to foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee seeking clarifications about the IAEA safeguard negotiations and reiterating Left's opposition to the nuclear deal.

Summers make water, particularly its scarcity, a fiery issue in urban life. But a young man has made it more than that: He has made water his mission. In fact so driven is C S Sharada Prasad about understanding the extent of the looming water crisis in the country, that he has embarked on a breathtaking journey, straddling 28 states and covering 19,000km in 75 days on a motorcycle. Covering also five Union Territories, this modernday odyssey has a tag: K2K, or from Kashmir to Karnataka.

India is failing its women and children and is crawling towards the Millennium Development Goal (MDG), which targets to cut child death rates by twothirds and maternal mortality by three-quarters between 1990-2015. According to a report that tracks the progress made by 68 priority countries, which account for 97% of maternal and child deaths worldwide, only 16 (24%) were on track to meet the MDG compared to 7 of 60 (12%) in 2005. India, however, is not one of them.

The Centre on Thursday said that construction work on the metro rail projects in Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai, Kolkata and Kochi would commence within two years. Replying to a question in Rajya Sabha, Union urban development minister Jaipal Reddy said: "The metro projects for Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai, Kolkata and Kochi are in different stages of approval. The government's effort is to expedite the process.

The government on Thursday informed the Rajya Sabha that as many as 67 underground fires have been raging in the Jharia coalfields in Jharkhand for several decades, affecting 98,000 families. At the time of nationalisation of coal mines in the 1970s, 70 fires were raging in the area that came under Bharat Coking Coal Ltd (BCCL). Of these, 10 were put out but seven new fires started, minister of state for coal Santosh Bagrodia said while replying to supplementaries during question Hour.

The Supreme Court has issued notice to the West Bengal government on an appeal challenging the alleged acquisition of fertile agricultural land for Tata Motors' Nano car project at Singur and for Salem group at Haldia. A Bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justice R V Raveendran, while issuing notices to the state and the Centre, allowed an application by Tata seeking to be a party in the appeal so that it could place its views before the court.

Tawang/Guwahati: The Centre has asked Arunachal Pradesh governor General (retd) JJ Singh to coordinate all the major border development initiatives to build high-tech infrastructure along the Sino-Indian border. The initiatives include building an airport at Tawang, after one is in place in state capital Itanagar, and constructing a 1,840-km state-of-the-art trans-Arunachal highway touching the borders with China, Bhutan and Myanmar besides spreading a rail network in the state on the lines of one the Chinese have built in Tibet.

Special economic zones came in for criticism in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday with CPI MP D Raja saying it was a kind of "land grab' which had created new and "modern zamindars' and it had debased the life of farmers, tribals and agricultural workers who are being deprived of their land.

Just a day after finance minister Chidambaram warned steel and cement manufacturers of tough measures if they did not desist from cartelization, government has done an extraordinary about-turn and said no evidence of such practices has come to light as yet. The extraordinary sequence played itself out within the space of a couple of days. Intervening during the debate on price rise in Lok Sabha on Wednesday, Chidambaram said cement and steel firms were "behaving like a cartel' and added that the government planned to "break this logjam'.