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Jharkhand: Coal mine collapses in Lalmatia, at least 50 people feared trapped

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>At least 50 people are feared trapped after a coal mine collapsed in Jharkhand’s Lalmatia in Godda district on Thursday night.According to initial information, some machineries of a private company along with around 50 workers are suspected to be trapped inside the debris.“As of now, there are different versions of how many machines, vehicles and people are trapped. Relief and rescue operations are being initiated,” a police official told Indian Express. Administration officials and NDRF team were rushed to the spot to carry out rescue operations.Those who were injured have been admitted to Urjanagar hospital.

Daman and Diu: Bombay HC orders UT to pay compensation to scribe who was handcuffed, paraded

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court has directed the Union Territory of Daman and Diu to pay a compensation of Rs four lakh to a journalist who was handcuffed by the police and paraded on the streets after he was arrested on the charge of extortion in 2009.

“The Administration of the Union Territory has violated the fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution by illegally handcuffing and parading him on 2 July, 2009,” said the High Court in its ruling on 22 December.

Bombay High Court. News18Bombay High Court. News18

Bombay High Court. News18

A division bench of Justices Abhay Oka and AA Sayed directed the Union Territory to pay the compensation to Satish Sharma within two months. Sharma had moved the HC questioning police’s action of handcuffing and parading him. It was illegal and violated the right to personal liberty guaranteed by the Constitution, he said.

Maintaining that he was an honest journalist and the whole episode had tarnished his reputation, Sharma demanded a compensation of Rs five crore.

The HC said that while it was ordering the administration to pay Sharma Rs four lakh, he was free to file another suit to demand additional compensation. The Administrator of the Union Territory can take steps for recovery of the compensation amount from the erring officers through a due process of law, the judges said.

The court also ordered the Union Territory to pay an additional Rs 25,000 to Sharma towards litigation cost. Further, the Administrator of the UT shall initiate inquiry for fixing the responsibility for the illegal action of police, the court said.

Sharma, editor of the daily Savera India Times, was arrested by the police in Daman after a case of extortion and criminal intimidation was filed against him.

He alleged it was a vindictive action as his newspaper had exposed misdeeds of the then Administrator of the Union Territory, other officials and the police. The Administrator had filed a police complaint against him.

Sharma was arrested in Diu, brought to Daman by police in a bus, and forced to walk while handcuffed to the police station through a crowded market, according to the petition.

The Press Council of India had ordered an inquiry by a sessions judge into Sharma’s allegations. The judge confirmed that he was indeed handcuffed and paraded by the police.

Advocate MK Kocharekar, petitioner’s lawyer, cited several Supreme Court decisions to argue that handcuffing was illegal and amounted to a gross violation of fundamental rights.

First Published On : Dec 26, 2016 20:49 IST

Tamil Nadu: Girija Vaidyanathan replaces Rama Mohana Rao as Chief Secretary

Thu, 22 Dec 2016-05:29pm , Chennai , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Senior IAS officer Girija Vaidyanathan was appointed Chief Secretary of Tamil Nadu on Thursday, replacing P Rama Mohana Rao whose residence and office was raided by the Income Tax department on Wednesday. “Dr Girija Vaidyanathan IAS, Additional Chief Secretary/ Commissioner of Land Administration, is transferred and posted as Chief Secretary to Government, vice Dr P Ramamohana Rao,” a Public (Special A) Department order dated December 22 said.The fate of Mohana Rao was not immediately known. Vaidyanathan shall also hold full additional charge of the post of Vigilance Commissioner and Commissioner for Administrative Reforms, previously held by Rao, it said. The Income Tax Department had carried out searches at over a dozen places in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh against the son and some relatives of Rao, including at the latter’s Anna Nagar residence in Chennai, during which they claimed to have seized Rs 18 lakh cash and gold bars.

Jagannath temple reform panel gets final submissions

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Gajapati Maharaj of Puri, Dibyasingha Deb, has submitted an affidavit before Justice BP Das Commission of Inquiry suggesting reforms in rituals and management of Shree Jagannath Temple. The Commission Secretary collected the copy of the affidavit from Deb’s residence in Bhubaneswar today, which was the last date for submission of affidavits. The Puri district administration through its Collector and Shree Jagannath Temple Administration through its Chief Administrative Officer too submitted their respective affidavits before the Commission during the day. The Shankaracharya of Gobardhan Peeth at Puri had earlier conveyed his suggestions to the Commission on the reforms for Shree Jagannath Temple. A whopping 10,344 affidavits collected from across the state were submitted to the Commission on Monday. Hundreds of holy men and devotees under the aegis of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) marched in a massive rally and submitted these affidavits at the Commission’s office here. The holy men also submitted a seven-point proposal for reforms in the temple. The Commission had extended its deadline for submission of affidavits twice, the last one being on December 3. The Commission had then claimed that it was extending the deadline since it had only received 350 affidavits.The judicial Commission had been instituted by the state government to suggest measures for better security of the temple, safety of the visiting devotees, timely conduct of temple rituals, and welfare of deities and servitors.It was set up in July this year after the Niladree Bije fiasco which took place at the concluding ritual of the nine-day Rathayatra festival this year when the servitors allowed devotees to climb the chariots defying a ban by Orissa High Court. The state government had announced the formation of the one-man judicial commission in September after the Puri Collector Arvind Agarwal was manhandled by servitors during the incident when the matter reached a tipping point.Television cameras had zoomed in to show a young girl climbing down the chariot of Lord Balabhadra, in the last leg of the Rath Yatra 2016 at Puri. Moments later a few servitors got into an ugly scuffle with the district collector of Puri and other media personnel. The Jagannath Temple has since become a battle ground for control between the servitors, the political class and the temple administration.Rath Yatra, the annual chariot festival is the most prominent religious temple festival of India, and holds a special place in the hearts of the Odia people. At this year’s Rath Yatra, major deviations in rituals resulted in a ruckus in full glare of TV cameras, angering millions of devotees. After a prolonged debate last year and intervention by Odisha High Court, the climbing of devotees atop chariots was banned. A similar diktat was issued by the Shankaracharya and an understanding between Shri Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) and servitors to ensure the ban was reached. However, a few relatives of the servitors defied the ban. When Arvind Agarwal, district collector of Puri intervened, servitors manhandled members of district administration and media personnel. The ritual of Niladri Bije, that of the deities returning to their temple after a nine-day-long sojourn at their aunt’s place, was delayed causing anguish to many devotees. Following legal action, some servitors were suspended; others arrested. The state government, whose law minister, Arun Sahoo was present on the occasion, constituted a one-man judicial commission, headed by retired judge of Odisha High Court, Bimal Prasad Das, to suggest reforms in management of Sri Jagannath Temple, Puri. On July 25 it was alleged that the state government paid Rs 2 crore to servitors as compensation for the loss that prevention of taking devotees atop chariots brought about to honour the Odisha High Court verdict. There are nearly 6,000 servitors in 119 categories that help run the Jagannath Temple.

With China’s ‘technical hold’ about to expire, India hopeful of Masood Azhar being designated global terrorist

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Ahead of expiry of the Chinese “hold” against designating Pakistan-based JeM chief Masood Azhar a global terrorist by the UN, India said on Thursday that the “ball is in the court” of Sanctions Committee and expressed hope that it will eventually see the “logic”.External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup also said that India’s application seeking sanctions against Azhar was submitted in March and was before the UN’s Sanctions Committee which has 15 members, who are also in security council. “Ball is in their (Committee’s) court. We remain hopeful that eventually logic of Masood Azhar (not) remaining outside the ambit of the committee when the organisation which he represents has been proscribed for many years would be seen,” he said.China had in October extended its “technical hold” on India’s move to get Azhar banned by the UN. The current extension will expire on December 31 and if China does not raise further objection, the resolution designating Azhar a terrorist could stand passed automatically.Swarup also said the recent visit of Foreign Secretary Jaishankar to the US was only in the context of raising UN-related issues with the Secretary General-designate Antonio Guterres and he did not interact with any member of the Trump Administration. In the past he has had some interactions with a few senior members of the Administration, he added.On increasing cooperation between Pakistan and Russia, Swarup said, “We do not comment on relationship between third countries. Our own relationship with Russia is a special and privileged partnership which has been reinforced by the recent visit of President Putin to Goa in October 2016. We do not see any downward trend in our bilateral relationship. “However, in so far as the Taliban is concerned, they have to respect the internationally agreed red lines, give up terrorism and violence, sever all ties with al Qaeda, agree to follow democratic norms and not do anything which will erode the gains of the last 15 years. Ultimately it is for the Government of Afghanistan to decide whom to talk to and how.” On the situation in Syria, the Spokesperson said India will welcome any reduction in violence and cessation of hostilities. He also stressed on an inclusive Syrian-led political dialogue, saying there can be no military solution to the conflict.”Protection of civilians should be priority number one. We have always stood for Syria’s territorial integrity. At the same time, selective approaches to dealing with terrorist groups have had negative effect as has been proved around the world,” Swarup said.When asked about the appointment of Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson as the new US Secretary of state, Swarup said,”We have seen the reports about his appointment by US President- elect Donald Trump. We will continue to closely follow the developments leading towards firming up of his team.”

JNU’s ‘Freedom Square’ barricaded by steel wall, students cry foul

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Days after Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) barred its students from organising protests at its administration block, the varsity barricaded the space on Monday.The area outside the administration block is popularly known as “Freedom Square” after the February 9 incident, when anti-national slogans were allegedly raised by a few students, following which three were arrested, including the then students’ union President Kanhaiya Kumar.The varsity administration has been at loggerheads with students following the mysterious disappearance of MSc student Najeeb Ahmed, who went missing on October 15 after a scuffle with ABVP members at the Mahi Mandavi hostel.Students said they noticed the barricade late on Sunday night when they reached the spot after organising a protest march over the varsity’s alleged attempt to shield Najeeb’s “assaulters”.”We were returning after a protest march against the Vice-Chancellor’s attempt to shield ABVP members who assaulted Najeeb at about 1 am on Sunday when we saw the barricade obstructing Freedom Square,” said JNU Students’ Union President Mohit Pandey.Terming it as an attempt to crush students’ freedom to dissent, Pandey said, “The VC is constantly trying to crush the voices raised against him and his administration. First they sent us notices telling us not to organise protests at the administration block, and now they have turned it into a jail-like structure.”The administration officials, however, claimed the decision was taken due to a space crunch at the building. The barricaded space will now be used for official purposes only. “The fence has been put up on the inner side of the block to make some space,” an official said.Recently, the VC’s office issued notices against some students, including Pandey, for putting up posters at the administration block. They has also barred students from organising protests in the area.

Cyclone Vardah: Over 9,400 evacuated in SPS Nellore in Andhra Pradesh

Amaravati: Over 9,400 people living along the Bay of Bengal coast in SPS Nellore district of Andhra Pradesh were on Monday evacuated to relief camps amid heavy rains due to the influence of severe cyclonic storm Vardah.

Eight fishermen belonging to Tamil Nadu were rescued from the sea near the Sriharikota High Altitude Range while search was on for ten more persons feared trapped at sea.

With the cyclonic storm Vardah set to make landfall between Sriharikota and Chennai, a state of high alert is being maintained in SPS Nellore district.

“The police and CISF personnel are on the job and all the ten fishermen are safe. But they are somehow reluctant to come to the shore. We will soon bring them out,” Nellore Superintendent of Police Vishal Gunni told PTI over phone.

Municipal Administration Minister P Narayana, who is camping in Nellore to oversee the rescue and relief operations, said Vakadu and Tada received 4.8 and 3 cms of rain, respectively, since on Monday morning.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

“We have already moved over 9,400 persons in seven vulnerable mandals to safety. All necessary measures have been taken to ensure safety of people,” he said.

Earlier, Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu had directed the Nellore district administration to evacuate people in about 255 low-lying areas to safer places.

The Chief Minister reviewed the situation through teleconference and asked the official machinery to remain on high alert to prevent loss of lives.

The holy Tirumala Hills have been receiving rainfall since last night, causing some hardship to devotees visiting the shrine of Lord Venkateswara.

Temple Executive Officer D Sambasiva Rao has directed the temple staff to make necessary arrangements for the comfort of the pilgrims in view of the inclement weather.

Under the influence of Vardah, Nellore and Chittoor districts are expected to receive heavy rainfall.

In Sullurpeta mandal in Nellore district, 30 persons were shifted to a relief camp this morning.

The South Central Railway has cancelled some passenger trains between Sullurpeta and Chennai in view of the cyclone.

The Vijayawada-Chennai-Vijayawada Pinakini Express has been diverted via Renigunta and Arrakkonam. Some other Express trains on the Chennai route have also been diverted via Arrakkonam.

First Published On : Dec 12, 2016 13:59 IST

Hyderabad building collapse: Death toll rises to 11, rescue workers retrieve six bodies

Hyderabad: The death toll from a multi-storey under construction building collapse has risen to 11 with rescue workers retrieving six bodies on Friday night, officials said on Saturday.

The rescue work completed in the early hours of Saturday. A woman and a child were pulled out alive from the debris on Friday.

The seven-storey building in Nanakramguda area collapsed on Thursday night and it took nearly 36 hours for the rescue workers to clear the debris.

All the victims were construction workers and their family members who were sleeping in cellar when the building crumbled.

Representational image. APRepresentational image. AP

Representational image. AP

Nine of those killed were from Vijayanagaram district and one from Srikakulam district in Andhra Pradesh. A construction worker from Chhattisgarh was also among the dead.

Those killed have been identified as A.N. Sambaiah, 45, N. Paidamma, 40, N. Gauri, 13, K. Polinaidu, 32, K. Lakshmi, 26, R. Shankar Rao, 18, P. Polinaidu, 35, P. Narayanamma, 28, P. Mohan, 3.

Durga Rao from Srikkaulam and Shiva from Chhattisgarh are the other two victims.

Telangana government has announced Rs 10 lakh ex-gratia each for the families of the dead.

Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation has been making arrangements to transport the bodies of the victims to their villages.

Rekha, a woman from Chhattisgarh, and her four-year-old son Deepak were pulled out alive from the rubble on Friday. They are undergoing treatment in a private hospital.

Municipal Administration Minister K. T. Rama Rao, who supervised the rescue work, said the police arrested builder Satyanarayana Singh in Kerala.

Police had booked a case of negligence and culpable homicide not amounting to murder against him for constructing the building without permission and in violation of all rules.

The government also suspended a deputy commissioner of GHMC and an assistant town planning officer.

It also constituted a committee headed by IAS officer Navin Mittal to conduct an inquiry and submit a report within 15 days. The panel will also suggest measures to prevent recurrence of similar incidents.

First Published On : Dec 10, 2016 11:17 IST

Hyderabad building collapse: 11 bodies retrieved, building owner arrested

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Eleven bodies were recovered from the debris of an under-construction building which collapsed in Hyderabad on Thursday night, while a woman and her son were rescued. The Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) said that four bodies had been retrieved on Friday night.The rescue operation continued well into the night. ANI reported that the owner of the building was arrested by the police.The seven-storey building at Nanakramguda in the Cyberabad zone came crashing down on Thursday night. On Friday, Cyberabad police commissioner Sandeep Shandilya had told PTI that Rekha, around 35-year-old, and her son (4), who hailed from Chhattisgarh, were pulled out alive from the crash site. The woman and her son were admitted to a hospital for treatment, he said.All the victims of the tragedy are workers who lived in the basement of the building. Except one family, all others belonged to Vizianagaram district of Andhra Pradesh. The state government has arranged for sending the bodies and family members of the deceased to their native places in Andhra Pradesh through the Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC), the GHMC said. Telangana Municipal Administration Minister KT Rama Rao visited the spot and announced ex-gratia of Rs 10 lakh to the next of kin of those killed. The state government would take tough action against the building owner for alleged violation of construction rules as well as the civic officials “who looked the other way”, he said. A family member of the building’s owner had been detained and two GHMC officials had been suspended, the Minister said.Andhra Pradesh Housing Minister K Mrinalini, who hails from Vizianagaram, also visited the site and spoke with K T Rama Rao and others. The Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University (JNTU), Hyderabad, has been asked to investigate the cause of the collapse. A preliminary report in this regard was expected tonight, the GHMC said.The state government has also requested the secretary of Municipal Administration Department to examine the relevant issues and suggest systemic improvements to prevent such incidents in future, it added.Meanwhile, Union Minister Bandaru Dattatreya met Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao who was in Delhi and discussed the incident with him. Dattatreya also directed Labour Ministry officials in Hyderabad to provide necessary help to the victims, a release from the Union Minister said. Telangana Congress president N Uttam Kumar Reddy and other party leaders visited the site.In an apparent reference to Rama Rao, Reddy said the “head of the department (Municipal Administration and Urban Development) should take the moral responsibility” for the tragedy and quit. NDRF personnel along with local civic workers handled the rescue operations which were difficult and time-consuming as the collapsed building was narrow.

Cyclone ‘Vardah’ may intensify in Andaman on Friday

Fri, 9 Dec 2016-12:11am , Port Blair , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Cyclone ‘Vardah’ which is near the Andaman Islands is likely to intensify into a severe cyclone Friday morning, officials said. They said the cyclone, which is lying 240-km west-southwest of Port Blair, is very likely to intensify into a severe cyclone by early morning at around 5 AM on Friday.Very high speed winds accompanied by heavy rainfall are expected as the administration has advised general public to remain indoors. The cyclone is likely to move northward for some more time and then northwestwards towards Andhra Pradesh coast during the next four days.

Madhya Pradesh Assembly: Congress MPs allege BJP govt of corruption in Kumbh mela

Bhopal: Congress MLAs created ruckus in the Madhya Pradesh Assembly today demanding discussion on their adjournment notice on the alleged corruption in the month-long Simhastha-Kumbh mela held in Ujjain this year following which the House was adjourned till 3 PM.

The Congress members including, acting Leader of Opposition Bala Bachchan and others, had given a notice for discussion on the alleged Simhastha scam and demanded constitution of a joint committee of MLAs to probe it.

Congress MLA Jitu Patwari raised the issue during the Question Hour and continued with their protest in Zero Hour also. The party legislators rushed to the well of the House and raised slogans against the government and Speaker Sitasaran Sharma on the issue.

They alleged that the government has provided different figures related to budgetary allocation and expenditure on Simhastha and it smacks of corruption.

Patwari said the previous session of the Assembly was told on July 19 this year, that the total budgetary allocation for Simhastha was Rs 2,771.65 crore whereas the total amount spent was Rs 2,000.93 crore.

Representational image, Kumbh Mela. PTI

Representational image, Kumbh Mela. PTI

“However, in reply to my today’s question on the same issue, the House was told that the budgetary allocation for Simhastha was Rs 2,344.28 crore, while the expendture was Rs 2,150.63 crore,” he said.

“This means there is a difference of Rs 427.37 crore in the budgetary allocation and Rs 149.7 crore in expenditure,” Patwari said and demanded a discussion on the issue.

To this, the state Home Minister and the in-charge minister for Simhasta, Bhupendra Singh said if the Opposition has any evidence regarding corruption in Simhastha, it should table it in the House, instead of creating ruckus.

The Urban Administration and Development Minister Maya Singh said all information related to Simhastha was already given to members.

“It (Simhastha) had been organised in such a good manner that it was lauded by the people at national and international level,” she said.

However, Patwari alleged that even the government has given different figures in Parliament on the issue and insisted that a discussion should take place on the matter.

When the Speaker did not budge and asked them to come to his chamber to discuss the matter, Congress members rushed to the well of the House raising slogans against the government and the chair.

Amid uproar, the Speaker first adjourned the House for 10 minutes and later when the same situation prevailed during the Zero Hour, the chair adjourned it till 3 PM.

First Published On : Dec 8, 2016 17:10 IST

Andaman and Nicobar: Cyclonic weather persists in Havelock island, no casualties reported

Port Blair: With the cyclonic weather condition persisting in the Andamans, around 1,400 tourists remained stranded in two islands on Thursday and naval ships deployed for evacuation were unable to enter the habour due to strong winds.

There were, however, no reports of any casualty from either Havelock or Neil islands hit by the cyclonic weather since Monday.

The rains have stopped since morning but the wind is still blowing hard.

“The weather continues to be bad. Navy ships which were deployed for evacuation have not been able to enter the harbour because of strong winds and choppy seas,” a Defence official told PTI.

In the morning, two ships from the administration had sailed from Port Blair but could not berth in the jetty of the islands due to strong winds and rough seas, administration officials said.

Speaking to the media after a meeting with Lt Governor Jagdish Mukhi, Deputy Commissioner of South Andamans Udit Prakash Rai said, “A decision has been taken that hotels where tourists are stranded will not take any room rent from them, besides giving them food and water for free.”

“The administration will make all arrangements to send tourists back home once they are rescued,” he said.

Flight operations are normal since morning on Thursday.

“Today we are hopeful that the stranded tourists will be brought back to Port Blair. There is no need to panic as everyone is safe,” the administration official said.

The official said that there was no report of any loss of life or major damages to property.

However, trees in the islands have been uprooted and electric posts twisted.

Besides the tourists, 600 of whom are from West Bengal, local population in ten villages of Havelock and Neil islands has been affected due to limited supply of essential commodities.

Mobile and internet connectivity have snapped in many areas while transmission faults are hampering power supply.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Officials said they are also coordinating with all airlines for the smooth and timely return of the tourists.

The tourists have been requested to stay in their rooms till weather conditions improve. They have also been asked to stay away from coastal areas.

The administration has asked all tour operators not to take any tourists towards north and middle Andaman as a precautionary measure.

The Lt Governor is himself monitoring the situation.

All the emergency operation centres across the islands are functioning round the clock and are on high alert.

Meanwhile, Air India has waived the cancellation and refund charges for travel to and fro from Port Blair.

Air India spokesperson said in Kolkata that flight operations by the airlines were normal on Thursday.

He said that applicable penalties of re-issuance, date change, no-show, cancellation and refund charges for travel to and from Port Blair stand were waived on all tickets issued to the stranded tourists on or before 7 December for travel during the period between 6 December and 9 December.

The two islands, approximately 40 km from Port Blair, have been hit the most by cyclonic weather conditions caused by a severe depression over southeast Bay of Bengal which led to heavy rainfall, strong wind and rough sea conditions.

The MeT department has predicted that the weather condition in the archipelago is likely to improve with the centre of depression likely to move towards north-westward direction from Friday.

“The depression is very likely to intensify into a deep depression during the next 24 hours and into a cyclonic storm in subsequent 24 hours,” officials said.

Neil and Havelock are two of the most popular tourist attractions in Andamans and the only means of transportation from them are vessels and choppers.

First Published On : Dec 8, 2016 17:09 IST

Trump’s ignorant talks with Sharif may send wrong message to India: American magazine report

Washington: President-elect Donald Trump’s “ignorant” conversation with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif may send India an unwelcome message, a leading American magazine has said.

US President-elect Donald Trump. AP

US President-elect Donald Trump. AP

The Forbes magazine said that Trump’s “flattering” conversation sends a message that he has no awareness of the issues between the US, Pakistan and India.

“His bluster is more likely to be taken as the initial signal of his Administration’s position. When he goes on and on about how wonderful Pakistan is, and how strong is his friendship, it matters. It matters that he uses words like: very good reputation, amazing work…fantastic country, fantastic place, fantastic people,” it said.

“One of the main messages it sends, is that he shows no awareness of the issues between the United States, Pakistan, and India,” it said.

Stating that Trump is not aware about the ground realities in South Asia, it said, his “ignorant” conversation with Sharif may send India an “unwelcome message”.

Meanwhile, a prominent Hindu American group urged Trump to carefully look at the records of Pakistan in particular its fight against terrorism and human rights.

“Diplomacy is necessary in dealing with Pakistan, but President-elect Trump and his Administration will need to proceed with caution and full awareness of the country’s double-dealing track record,” Suhag Shukla, executive director of Hindu American Foundation (HAF) said in a statement expressing concern over the readout issued by Pakistan after a telephonic conversation between Trump and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

“If the transcript of the conversation is indeed accurate, we’d urge President-elect Trump to look more carefully at Pakistan’s record within its own borders and with its neighbours before offering praise to a state that according to most observers is failing,” Shukla said.

First Published On : Dec 2, 2016 14:38 IST

Banks rise to the occasion on salary day

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and commercial banks are making all efforts to increase the supply of cash to meet the payday rush. Banks said they are rationing cash so that it can be equitably distributed to locations where there is an increased demand.State Bank of India (SBI), which controls 15 per cent of the banking sector, said it did 95 lakh transactions, disbursing about Rs 4,600 crore all over the country, till 5 pm on Thursday.Manju Agarwal, Deputy Managing Director, SBI, said: “We are using analytics to determine which areas have greater demand and are diverting money to those centres.” Some bankers said that they received increased supply from the RBI to meet the month-end needs of the salaried class and the pensioners. But still in many locations, it fell short of demand.”We are ensuring equitable distribution of cash received from RBI across our branches and ATMs so that customers face minimal inconvenience,” Kotak Mahindra Bank spokesperson said.Surinder Chawla, the bank’s head (branches and business banking), said: “We are geared up with extra staff to deal with the enhanced rush. We have arranged for cash from all sources and made it available to all branches sufficiently. Our m-ATMs are reaching out to as many areas as possible, allowing withdrawals in societies and offices. We are also stocking ATMs in key areas (of high salary withdrawals).”According to rating agency Crisil, “The problem gets compounded because of a preponderance of cash transactions in the humongous informal sector, which cannot be accurately measured or monitored. Infusing replacement notes has been very sluggish and the ensuing cash choke has pulled back the business cycle, which was beginning to accelerate on the back of a good monsoon, the seventh pay commission, pay hike and One Rank, One Pension Scheme.”More than 1.25 lakh employees of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) had their salaries directly transferred into their bank accounts. No cash transactions are done by the civic administration with their employees – either permanent or on a contractual basis.”We do not give any component in cash. The entire salary is deposited in the bank account of employees. In fact, we do not even pay our contractors in cash. They are given cheques and they then disburse the amount to the labourers. We expect that even contractors pay wages to labourers through banks,” said Sudhir Naik, Deputy Municipal Commissioner (General Administration Department).There are four currency presses — Nashik (Maharashtra), Dewas (Madhya Pradesh), Salboni (West Bengal) and Mysuru (Karnataka). The first two are owned by the Central government through the Security Printing and Minting Corporation of India Ltd. According to the Finance ministry’s latest annual report, the yearly currency printing capacity of these two presses is around 40 per cent of the total in the country. The other two are part of the Bharatiya Reserve Bank Note Mudran Pvt. Ltd (BRBNMPL), a wholly owned subsidiary of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).These two presses can print 16 billion notes in two shifts per year, according to the BRBNMP website. This means that the total capacity in the country would be 26.66 billion notes in two shifts. The government says that the presses are running in three shifts to meet the increased demand.

Impact of human activity on extreme weather events on rise

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Anthropogenic climate change had an increased impact on the occurrence of several extreme weather events recorded between 2011-2015, especially those involving extreme high temperatures, a scientific assessment by World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has revealed. According to WMO, the impact of human induced climate change on such events has increased by a factor of 10. Though not all extreme events bear a stamp of anthropogenic climate change, several of them have a direct relation to it while some have an indirect relation, which manifest in increasing its risks.”The influence of climate change on the daily lives of people has been clear due to the multiplication and intensification of extreme events, including heatwaves to record rainfall and damaging floods,” said P.Taalas, Secretary-General, WMO.In India, the 2013 Uttarakhand flood disaster and the 2015 heat wave were the two biggest extreme weather events which killed over 8,000 people, the WMO noted. While the report does not attribute a direct relation between anthropogenic climate change and the Uttarakhand disaster, it has said that the largest human impact has been on rising occurrences of extreme heat, as seen during the 2015 heat wave.The 2015 Indian sub-continent heat wave that killed over 4,000 in India and Pakistan was the worst heat wave globally in the past five years, the report said. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, US, assessed 2015, a strong El Niño year, as the world’s driest year over land since 1993″The most consistent influence of anthropogenic climate change has been on the rising occureence of extreme heat varying from a duration of few days to a full year. In some studies, the probability of the observed event has increased 10 times or more as a result of human induced climate change.”The 2015 heatwave, though shorter in duration than previous ones, was more intense and saw temperatures rise to nearly 50 degree Celsius. Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Odisha were the worst hit states. The WMO noted that, “although temperatures near or above 45°C are not uncommon at the that time of year (summer) in many parts of interior India, such temperatures during the 2015 pre-monsoon region in extended to near coastal regions that do not normally experience such extreme heat, including Andhra Pradesh in Eastern India, where the heat was also accompanied by very high humidity.”In terms of casualties, the worst single short-period event of the 2011-2015 period was Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) in the Philippines in November 2013. The death toll for Haiyan (Yolanda) was estimated at over 7,800 people, with 4.1 million people displaced.

Army Chief Suhag asks troops to be alert on LoC

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Army chief Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag on Tuesday reviewed security situation along the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir and asked the troops to be alert against any inimical activity, in the wake of heightened tension in Indo-Pak ties.”The Chief of Army Staff, General Dalbir Singh visited Headquarters Northern Command at Udhampur today”, a senior Army officer said. The visit comes a day after Pakistan said the Indian army killed seven of its soldiers in shelling. Gen Suhag exhorted the troops to be alert against any inimical designs and be aggressive in their approach.The General interacted with the Formation Commanders and reviewed the situation along the Line of Control (LoC) as well as internal security situation in the Command theatre, he said. The army chief commended the soldiers for boldly responding to ceasefire violations along the LoC. He also lauded the synergy and co-operation between the Northern Command, Air Force, Paramilitary Forces, Civil Administration, Central Police Organisations operating in the region.The firing at the LoC has intensified ever since the surgical strike of September 29.

Trump presidency may be a mixed bag for India

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The stunning and largely unforeseen victory of Donald Trump as the 45th US president poses new and formidable challenges to India’s foreign policy and security establishment as well as to its economy, business and industry.The situation calls for quick reflexes on the foreign policy front followed by more studied responses to issues such as the new administration’s impact on the IT and pharmaceutical sectors and H1B visas, on which it is too early to expect clarity at this stage.There would be much interest in India’s first responses to a Trump presidency, which is expected to find expression in some form during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s summit meeting with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe in Tokyo on Nov 10 and 11. The post-summit statement would be read as a message to Trump as well as to Beijing. At the same time, what is stated in Tokyo would only be a teaser of what remains to be spelled out in due course.In external affairs, India’s top priorities are relations with Pakistan and China. In dealing with these two neighbours — one dangerous and the other difficult — South Block has reasons to see Trump as a powerful ally, mainly in its bid to isolate Pakistan globally in the aftermath of the Uri attack. The President-elect has called Pakistan as “probably the most dangerous country in the world” which matches New Delhi’s view of it as “the mothership of terrorism”. New Delhi’s evolving wavelength with a Trump presidency may well determine the course of events that began with the surgical strikes.New Delhi may also look forward to Trump’s tenancy of the White House for getting the better of China, which has not relented on India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group or the sanctioning of JeM chief Masood Azhar of Pakistan as a “terrorist”.Trump has been openly contemptuous of China, which he considers an “adversary”. He has threatened to penalise China if it fails to renegotiate trade deals on Washington’s terms. Regardles of whether a Trump Administration can walk its election campaign talk, the fact that he seems set against China might be to India’s advantage. Prime Minister Modi’s perception of such an advantage, if any, may be indicated in the India-Japan joint statement — for instance, it could be by way of a reference to the international tribunal’s order dismissing China’s claims over the South China Sea.After Pakistan and China, the ‘great game’ in Afghanistan is a big security and foreign policy challenge facing India. Trump has so far rooted for a wider Afghan-India security partnership, also with an eye on containing Pakistan. In fact, his case for continuing US troops in Afghanistan is to use that country as a base to contain Pakistan, prevent Pakistan-backed depredations in Afghanistan and hold up Afghanistan from collapsing as a state. The continued presence of US troops under a US President uncompromisingly opposed to Pakistan and its role in Afghanistan would be a big strategic and security boost to India.The author is an independent political and foreign affairs commentator

Exclusive – Tobacco treaty leaders propose barring delegates linked to state firms | Reuters

By Duff Wilson and Aditya Kalra

NEW YORK/NEW DELHI The leadership of a World Health Organization (WHO) treaty on tobacco control has proposed barring delegates with ties to state-owned tobacco firms from its conference next week, tightening its application of rules to shut out the industry from policy making.That would include delegates employed by state-owned tobacco companies or those otherwise “working to advance the interests of the tobacco industry,” according to an internal communication document seen by Reuters.The proposal, if adopted at the conference of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in India, could restrict delegations sent by countries like China and Vietnam, where governments own cigarette companies and have in the past sent representatives linked to the industry.Any such members of the 180 delegations at the Nov. 7-12 conference near New Delhi “would be requested to leave the premises”, according to the Oct. 17 “note verbale”, an official diplomatic communication, from the WHO FCTC secretariat on behalf of the treaty’s leadership group to its parties.The FCTC, the world’s first international public health treaty, states explicitly that health policies need to be made independent of tobacco industry influence.Its governing conferences have in the past ejected members of the public and the press after they were believed to have tobacco industry connections.Yet up until now, the treaty’s leaders had not moved to bar employees of state-owned tobacco companies.At the last WHO FCTC conference, in Moscow in 2014, China’s 18-person delegation had four members from the “State Tobacco Monopoly Administration”.At the 2012 conference, in Seoul, two of eight Vietnamese delegates were from the “Vietnam Tobacco Association”.

When asked about the letter, a Vietnamese government official who declined to be identified told Reuters there would be no industry representatives in their delegation.Reuters was unable to immediately contact China’s State Tobacco Monopoly Administration for comment out of office hours.FINAL DECISION YET TO BE MADE
FCTC secretariat official Guangyuan Liu on Thursday confirmed the “note verbale” was sent to parties recently.

When asked about the composition of China’s delegation, Liu, team leader for governance and international cooperation at the secretariat, said: “We are still in contact with China and a final decision has not (been) made yet.””The COP (conference of parties) eventually will make the final decision,” Liu told reporters in New Delhi.The proposed restriction highlights a growing battle between the industry and backers of the treaty, which went into effect in 2005 to guide national laws and policies in an effort to curb tobacco use, which kills an estimated 6 million people a year worldwide.The global tobacco industry is estimated to be worth nearly $800 billion this year. The International Tobacco Growers Association, a non-profit group partly funded by big international cigarette companies, said the proposal was “beyond the wildest imagination”.

António Abrunhosa, chief executive of the group and a Portuguese tobacco grower, said in an email to Reuters that such a step was “unthinkable for a United Nations agency”. John Stewart, deputy campaigns director at Corporate Accountability International, a Boston-based advocacy group that has supported tobacco-control efforts, praised the proposed restrictions.”The tobacco industry has really forced parties and the secretariat into a corner,” he said in an interview. “This is a bold good-government action to ensure that the treaty space, the place where public health policies will save millions of lives, is free of tobacco industry intimidation.”Issues for debate at the conference include alternative livelihoods for tobacco farmers, e-cigarette regulation and trade and investment issues.The secretariat earlier wrote to the treaty’s party nations asking them to exclude people with tobacco interests from their delegations.In the latest note, the secretariat said it then turned to a FCTC leadership group for guidance after receiving a number of nominations from countries that ignored the suggestion. (Additional reporting by Sue-Lin Wong in Beijing; Editing by Tom Lasseter, Robert Birsel and Mike Collett-White)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Sabarimala visit: Kerala minister attacks BJP for ‘picnic’ remark

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Kerala minister K T Jaleel on Monday hit out at senior BJP leader V Muraleedharan for calling the former’s visit to Sabarimala Lord Ayyappa temple as a “photo opportunity”, saying the hill shrine was an abode of “secularism” and he had a “great feeling” being there.”Everyone, irrespective of their caste and religion, can go to Sabarimala. I had a great feeling when I visited the shrine, the same which I felt during my visit to Golden Temple in Amritsar,” he told reporters in Thiruvananthapuram.Reacting to Muraleedharan’s comments about his Monday’s visit, Jaleel, a former IUML activist who later left the party and joined the Left Democratic Front, said, “I experienced the great feeling of religious harmony in both these places.” Terming Sabriamala as an “abode of secularism”, Jaleel, the Local Administration Minister, also pointed out that the Vavar Temple, dedicated to Lord Ayyappa’s Muslim friend Vavar, is located near the main temple complex.Flaying Jaleel, who visited Sabarimala along with Devaswom minister Kadakampally Surendran to review the preparations for the upcoming Mandala-Makaravilakku festival season, the BJP leader had said if the minister visited the shrine as a “picnic spot” for a “photo opportunity”, it was “inappropriate”.In a Facebook post, the former BJP state chief had also said it was difficult to believe that Jaleel, a former SIMI activist, had become a “secular person in a jiffy”. Dismissing Muraleedharan’s charge, the minister said he was not concerned about such criticism as he knew that public knew him well. “People, world over, need to know about the secular values of this holy temple. Those who fear that secular values of the temple will be known to the world, will only express such concerns,” Jaleel added.

PM Modi to IAS officers: Politics should never override policy

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Politics should never override policy.” This was the message of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to IAS officers as a young batch met him in New Delhi.”The Prime Minister urged the officers to inculcate team spirit, and work towards breaking silos, in whatever capacity they serve,” a PMO statement said.”Stating that politics should never override policy, the Prime Minister urged the officers to use two touchstones to help them in their decision-making: that the decisions should never be counter to national interest, and that the decisions should not harm the poorest of the poor,” it added.The IAS officers of 2014 batch who have completed their three-month stint at Centre as Assistant Secretaries made eight presentations before Modi on various themes of governance such as DBT, Swachh Bharat, e-Courts, Tourism, Health and Satellite Applications in Governance. The Prime Minister complimented the young officers, for their in-depth presentations. He said the attachment of IAS officers as Assistant Secretaries with the Union Government had been envisaged as a mechanism that would bring the best out of the blend of youth and experience, the PMO statement said.The results as presented on Thursday, gave him satisfaction that this vision was well on the road to realization, Modi told the young officers. These officers started working as Assistant Secretaries in 58 central government departments from August 1, instead of starting their career from the cadre states assigned to them, after their training at the Lal Bahadur Shashtri National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie.The officers were assigned important desks related to policy and flagship programmes of the concerned ministries and departments. They were groomed by principal mentors at the level of Secretary. This is the second batch of IAS Officers to have commenced their career with a stint in the central government.”During their three-month posting with the central government, they were provided a holistic overview of the functioning of the central government. However, they started their office work from day one and disposed files related to their desk,” according to a statement by Ministry of Personnel.”The objective of this initiative is to provide exposure of government of India functioning to the IAS officers at a very early stage in their career,” it added.As primary implementers in the field, this exposure would also facilitate a broader macro perspective even when the officers work in the field, the statement said on Wednesday.

Tamil Nadu: Fire cracker mishap at Sivakasi; 8 killed, 22 affected

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>As many as eight people, including six women, were killed in a fire cracker mishap at the fireworks hub of Sivakasi in Virudhunagar district on Thursday. The mishap, which occurred when a fire broke out while crackers were being offloaded from a vehicle to a shop, comes days ahead of Diwali festival when fireworks units in the district are abuzz with activity to cater to the countrywide demand for crackers.”A total of eight people were killed and six of them were women,” a senior police official said. Virudhunagar District Collector A Sivagnanam said a total of 22 persons were affected, of whom eight died. “The deaths occurred due to suffocation as result of excess fumes and not because of any blast,” he said, adding those affected by smoke inhalation were admitted to a government hospital and a nearby private hospital.Some were also referred to Madurai hospitals for being administered with “breathing facility”, he said. The incident occurred when a fire broke out while crackers were being offloaded from a van to a cracker shop, resulting in its spreading and affecting a nearby scan centre also.It also damaged parked vehicles, including two-wheelers, police said. They said the fire was caused due to mishandling of the consignment of crackers while being offloaded by the employees and that the fire had been brought under control by Fire and Rescue services.Describing it as an ‘unfortunate accident’, Sivagnanam asserted that the administration has been carrying out safety drills in the district, about 500 km from Chennai, to prevent any such mishaps.

Indian National Congress slams Donald Trump’s ‘jumla’ to woo Hindu voters

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Taking potshots at Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump over his assertion that the Indian and Hindu community would have a true friend at the White House if he is elected as the President, the Congress Party on Sunday alleged that the former is learning the ‘jumla’ way to woo the Indian community in the United States. Congress leader Tom Vadakkan told ANI Trump is fond of many things, adding the White House will look aghast if that is translated into action. ‘India has a pluralistic culture, we have Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and Jains. Donald Trump needs to understand that we are all one. Let him not try and win votes by only addressing to one community. India is pluralistic and we are one and that message Trump must understand,’ he added.Another Congress leader Meem Afzal echoing similar sentiments said that Trump’s assertion would not make any impact on the Indian community in the US.Afzal told ANI that Trump was trying to indulge in the politics of polarisation in his desperate bid to take over as the US President. ‘But his dream will not come true. His previous statements on India and against Indians clearly prove his mentality,’ he said. Congress leader Sandeep Dikshit on his part said that people make such remarks when they have to woo their voters. ‘It is not something new. But the main thing is that whoever wins the election, how they will look upon India is the matter of interest,’ Dikshit added. Addressing a charity event organised by the Republican Hindu Coalition, Trump branded India as a key strategic ally and made a sweeping declaration that India and the U.S. would become ‘best friends’ with a phenomenal future, if he comes to power.”Under a Trump Administration, we are going to become even better friends. In fact I would take the term better out and we would be best friends. We are going to have a phenomenal future together. I look forward to working with Prime Minister Modi,’ Trump said, as he lauded Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s efforts to boost the economic development in India.Wooing the Indian community in the U.S., and sending a message out to people in India, the flamboyant businessman asserted that he has full faith in the Prime Minister Modi and that the Indian and Hindu community would have a true friend at the White House if he was elected as President. Hailing India’s fight against terrorism, Trump stated that India has been a ‘great friend’ to the US in the fight against radical Islamic terrorism while he strongly condemned the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. “I love Mumbai city. The attack on India was absolutely outrageous. The U.S will share soldier to soldier together in the fight against terrorism,’ he said.

J&K govt sanctions IT service for progress of professionals

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The state government has sanctioned creation of Jammu and Kashmir Information Technology Service in order to enable efficient cadre management as well as career progression of the IT professionals in the state.The approval to this effect was accorded by the state Cabinet which met in Srinagar on Friday under Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti.With the creation of J-K Information Technology Service, one of the key concerns related to the IT posts existing in isolation in different departments will be addressed. There shall be pooling of all IT-related posts created in various departments of the government into one service under the administrative control of the IT department.This shall enable efficient cadre management as well as career progression of the IT professionals based on their experience and qualification, an official spokesman said.In another decision, he said, the Cabinet accorded sanction to the creation of six posts of Under Secretaries to the Government and 11 posts of Private Secretaries in the Pay Band-2 Rs 9,300-34,800 with Grade Pay of Rs 4,800 in the Jammu and Kashmir Secretariat (Gazetted) Service-I and Jammu and Kashmir Secretariat (Gazetted) Service-II, respectively.The Cabinet directed the General Administration Department, to carry out the necessary amendments in the J-K Secretariat (Gazetted) Service Recruitment Rules, as a result of the cadre review, the spokesman said. He said the proposal was approved following the recommendations of the Cabinet Sub-Committee constituted for Cadre Review of the Jammu and Kashmir Administrative Service.The Cabinet accorded sanction to the creation of two posts of Assistant Director (Security) for the state Legislative Assembly in the Pay Band of Rs 9,300-34,800 with Grade Pay of Rs 4,800.The Cabinet also approved enhancement of stipend in favour of Accounts Assistants (Apprentice) from Rs 3,000 per month to Rs 6,000 per month with effect from January 1, 2016.

US lauds PM Modi’s agenda for improving business; says India-US trade relationship to grow

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Describing the reforms undertaken by the Indian government as “work in progress”, a top Obama Administration official has linked the growth in bilateral trade between the two countries to India opening up and liberalising its economy.”Prime Minister Modi came in with a very ambitious agenda, including to improve the business environment, the Make in India initiative, the Digital India initiative,” US Trade Representative Michael Froman told PTI in an exclusive interview ahead of his next week’s travel to India to attend the US-India Trade Policy Forum meeting.There have been a number of important reforms – the Goods and Services Tax bill, the Bankruptcy Law, the creation of commercial courts, the issuance of a national IP strategy, the opening of certain sectors to investment that are important and help contribute to a better business environment, he said. “However, it is a work in progress, and there continues to be issues around investment and restrictions that can be addressed in order to improve the business environment,” said Froman who is scheduled to travel to Mumbai and New Delhi next week.One of the key architects of India-US trade relationship in the Obama Administration, Froman said India had been successful in increasing its growth rate, and is now one of the fastest growing economies in the world. “And as it opens up to further trade and investment, I think we will see the relationship expanding further,” he said when asked about the timeline to achieve the goal set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Barack Obama to increase the bilateral trade to US $500 billion a year.”The United States is quite an open economy, so the key is that as India continues down the path of reform, and opens and liberalises its economy, it will help grow the US-India trade relationship,” Froman said.In Mumbai on October 19, Froman is expected to meet with the private sector, and on the next day he would be in New Delhi for the US India Trade Policy Forum meeting.The Indian delegation would be led by Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Nirmala Sitharaman.”This is a good opportunity to have another Trade Policy Forum. Over the last few years, we have seen enhanced engagement through the Forum on a whole array of issues, and it has proven to be a useful Forum for getting the issues on the table,” he said.”The US and India have a US $109 billion trade relationship, but given the size of our economies, and how much we have in common, we could be doing a lot more. The TPF is one mechanism for us to address the issues so that we can expand our trade and investment relationship,” he said. Froman said the Obama Administration had worked with India on an array of intellectual property rights issues.”We both care a lot about strong copyright protection and the enforcement of copyrights, and the new (Indian) National Policy includes a focus on trade secrets, which we think is important. We appreciate the process that India went through in developing its IPR Policy,” he said.”We continue to work in the pharmaceutical area, and we very much believe that there is no contradiction in promoting innovation and promoting access,” Froman said.Asserting that the US is very much committed to the public health objective, Froman said with the government of India, the Obama Administration had talked about a whole array of issues about access to medicines, including tariffs on imported medicine and opening up the health services market so that there are more providers in the market. “We try to take a holistic approach to this,” he noted.The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a very high safety standards, he said, when asked about the delay in FDA’s clearances for Indian drug and pharma companies. “We do not compromise that for anybody. The primary mandate of the FDA is safety. I’m sure it is a process that takes some concerted effort, but at the end of the day, it means that Indian firms will be meeting a very high standard,” he observed.

India and US are partners, not allies: Former NSA advisor Shivshankar Menon

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Indo-US ties can best be described as “partners”, which are equal, and not “allies”, former foreign secretary and national security advisor Shivshankar Menon has said, noting “unprecedented” cooperation in key areas like maritime security and defence. “I would not say we are in their (US) camp or an ally (of US). I think, what I always used (the term) is partnership. It is a partnership that has grown. We have transformed the relationship. But that has been bipartisan,” Menon said. Menon, whose first book post retirement ‘Choices: Inside the making of India’s Foreign Policy’ is all set to hit book stores globally next week, said that each of the successive Indian governments in the last few decades have done their bit to take the relationship further forward. “The first NDA government led by the Prime Minister (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee did the Next Steps in Strategic Partnership, which actually opened up defence co-operation and various cooperation in space and various sensitive forms of cooperation. The UPA government did the civil nuclear which again removed the biggest obstacle and changed the mindset actually in India and the US about the relationship. The NDA government now, the present government has done the joint vision statement in the Asia-Pacific, taking one more step further,” he said. “So today, we have a very deep partnership. But it is a partnership,” said Menon, who played a key role in strengthening of India-US relationship first as the foreign secretary and then in his capacity as the national security advisor to the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Partnership is not something that the US is used to, the former top Indian diplomat said. “And we also have to get our head around a very close partnership in India. It’s new for both of us,” he said. “The US is used to having allies who follow or clients who obey. Partners are equal. And partners each bring different things to the table and work together. I think, we are learning how to do it,” Menon said. “If you look at maritime security, counter-terrorism, intelligence, look at various aspects of national security, defence co-operation, DTTI for instance, many of these things are unprecedented. But we are learning how to build a partnership,” he said. “We are at a stage where partnership, relationship has been better than it has been ever been before, but there is still a way to go. Still things to do,” he added. Responding to a question on eight years of Obama Administration, Menon said they took the relationship forward and they have worked quite hard at it. “It is interesting. As we moved forward, we realised that there are more things to be done. Today, the big things to be done are on the trade and on the economic side, on IPR or pharma on market access, energy and climate change where there are big challenges and also where there are big pportunities,” he said, adding India-US relationship has bipartisan support in the United States too.

State-wide hartal in Kerala against killing of BJP activist; buses, autos off the roads

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Buses and autorickshaws were off the roads as the 12-hour state-wide hartal called by the BJP in Kerala to protest against the brutal killing of a 25-year-old party activist in Pinarayi in Kannur began this morning.Early reports said no untoward incident was reported in any part of the state, including the politically sensitive northern district of Kannur, where there is heavy police patrolling.BJP activist Remith was hacked to death in the home town of Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan yesterday within 48 hours of the murder of a CPI(M) activist and toddy shop worker Mohanan (40) by a six-member gang at Pathiriyad in Kannur district.Remith’s body will be brought from Kozhikode Medical College Hospital after postmortem to Kannur this morning and kept at Thalassery new bus stand for public to pay homage at around 10.30 AM before cremation.This is the second hartal in Kannur district within 3 days as the CPI(M) had observed a hartal in protest against the murder of their worker.IGP Northern Range, Dinendra Kashyap said over 2000 police personnel have been mobilised in Kannur. Those who have gone on leave have been asked to report for duty, he told PTI.There is simmering tension and more police personnel have been deployed at places where the body will be kept for public homage, he said.Meanwhile, police have registered cases against 10 CPI(M) workers in connection with the attack on Remith. A special squad under DYSP (Administration) T P Renjith has been formed to investigate the case.Police have made special arrangements to take patients, who had come by trains from various parts of the state for treatment at the Regional Cancer Centre Hospital in the state capital.BJP activists will be taking out a march to the Secretariat at 11 AM.Examinations which were to be conducted today by Kerala, Kannur, Calicut and Cochin Universities have been postponed due to the hartal.Reacting to the killing, BJP National President Amit Shah had tweeted “Attacks on BJP karyakartas in CM Pinarayi Vijayan’s home constituency is a matter of grave concern and smacks of political vendetta”.”Chavassery Uttaman, Remith’s father was similarly killed in 2002, his mother suffered serious injures when his house was attacked recently”, Shah tweeted.CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury had said the violence in Kerala has been started by the RSS-BJP combine itself and blaming the state’s ruling party for the same is “total fabrication” of facts.Vijayan had yesterday hit out at the RSS for the growing violence in the state which he alleged was with the support of BJP government at the Centre.Vijayan, while speaking at a function in Alapuzha, attacked RSS and BJP over the attack on a Marxist worker in Kannur two days ago and accused RSS of spreading violence in the state.

US welcomes India’s prominent role in the world and in tackling global problems: WH official

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The US welcomes more prominent and effective role played by India on a wide range of global problems from climate change to maritime security, a top White House official has said”We welcome India not just because it is consequential because we share and often promote norms about a rules based order,” Peter Lavoy, the White House’s point person for South Asia, told a Washington audience.”The US welcomes more prominent and effective role that India is playing on a wide range of world problems from climate change and global health to peace keeping, maritime security and cyber governance.”He said that the US-India partnership has come a long way in the past eight years, but the best is yet to come.”We are handing over to the next team, a major defence partnership with India,” he said as he highlighted the vibrant dimensions of the Indo-US relationship.”First a growing convergence on regional issues. Second deepening cooperation on defense trade and third broadening in security partnership,” said Lavoy, Senior Director for South Asia at the National Security Council (NSC), said in his remarks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).During the past six years of Obama Administration, he said there has been growing convergence of views of the risks, threats and opportunities.”In part this convergence has come apart as we made monumental efforts to overcome specific areas of mistrust,” he said, adding that over the years the two countries have built habits of co-operation in discussing the challenge they face.Three regions where this co-operation has gained momentum are Afghanistan, Asia Pacific and Africa, he said.Maritime security is the key area of co-operation between the two countries.Over the last few years, the US has significantly increased its consultations with India on their shared interest in Afghanistan, he said.India, he said has played an important role in the collective effort of bringing stability and prosperity to that war-torn country, committing more than USD 2 billion in assistance.The Commander of US forces in Afghanistan now regularly travels to New Delhi to exchange views with Indian leaders, he said.Lavoy said it is fair to say that the US India defense relationship has matured in the last eight years than any period in US history.

N Chandrababu Naidu inaugurates his new office at Velagapudi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu moved into his new office chamber on the first floor of Block-1 at Government’s Transitional Headquarters (GTH) in Velagapudi in the capital region on Wednesday, marking the near completion of the translocation of the state administration from Hyderabad to Amaravati.The Chief Minister now has four offices — two in Hyderabad, one in Vijayawada and the latest one in Amaravati — with the state government having spent over Rs 100 crore on them. Soon after becoming the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, following the bifurcation of the state in June 2014, Chandrababu used to function from Lake View Guest House in Hyderabad which was officially designated as the Chief Minister’s Camp Office. In October 2014, he moved into L-Block in the Secretariat after a plush office was readied.In June 2015, Chandrababu shifted base to Vijayawada after a new office building was constructed for him. On April 25, he symbolically occupied his chamber at GTH in Velagapudi, though the temporary Secretariat was still under construction.He formally stepped into Block-1 at GTH amid vedic chants this morning, but he can start working from there only towards the end of this month as nothing is ready yet. “As early as possible, probably by this month-end, I have to work from here (Velagapudi) only if everything is ready,” the Chief Minister said.After performing a puja, the Chief Minister signed a file, approving the release of Rs 2,500 crore to women self-help groups under a financial infusion scheme. He then addressed a press conference and subsequently, reviewed the progress of works related to development of Amaravati.The CMO Block at GTH is a highly-secured place and the building is said to be able to withstand even a rocket attack. The CMO is completely bullet-proof and has an intelligent lighting system that functions with the help of sensors for energy efficiency.Besides the cabinet meeting hall and a conference room, the State Command and Communications Centre is also on the first floor for the Chief Minister to monitor the development works taking place across the state through video links. The Chief Secretary’s chamber is also on the first floor while the General Administration Department which works under the Chief Minister is on the ground floor. The GTH is slowly coming to life with the Secretariat staff getting down to work after the initial hiccups, though some of the bureaucrats are yet to move in. Many IAS officers could not move to GTH yet because their chambers were not fully ready. Some ministers are also yet to occupy their offices there.It is expected that full-fledged functioning of the Andhra Pradesh Secretariat will begin from the end of this month, four months after the original June deadline.

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat slams ‘shameful’ Una-like incidents, hails ‘lawful cow protectors’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Strongly backing the “countless good people” working lawfully for cow protection, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said they should not be compared with those creating trouble in its name, in remarks that come against the backdrop of BJP facing flak over anti-Dalit violence by vigilantes. “Countless good people are working for cow protection. The Jain society is totally devoted to it. These good people are working within the ambit of law and Constitution… Administration should see to it that those creating trouble should not be compared with cow protectors. “There should be a distinction between the two.Trouble-makers try to separate this distinction and create a big nuisance,” he said, addressing the foundation day of RSS at its headquarters here. Violence by cow vigilantes targeting Dalits and Muslims had hit headlines weeks ago, prompting Prime Minister Narendra Modi to denounce them, saying 80 per cent of them are involved in anti-social activities and running shops in the name of cow protection.Bhagwat said if some incidents happen, then the government should enforce laws against those involved in them. Apparently referring to flogging of Dalits by cow vigilantes in Una in Gujarat and similar incidents, he said such incidents are shameful and should never happen. “There are some flaws in our society and there is discrimination as well, which is exploited by certain elements for their benefits,” he said. However, defending cow protection, Bhagwat noted that the directive principles of the Constitution also speak in its favour and said many states have laws in support of the cause.Maintaining that there is also a law against cruelty to animals, he said cow protectors have agitated peacefully for the enforcement of these laws. “They have tried to work within the law.”On the occasion, Bhagwat also pledged that RSS will work to root out discrimination in society and cited a survey done in the parts of Madhya Pradesh to say that 30-40 per cent people suffer from discrimination in getting water or entry to temple.”The Sangh has taken up the work of increasing social harmony. It will take time but we will rest only after rooting out this discrimination,” he said. He also said that the “discriminatory” approach of the Jammu and Kashmir government and the state administration towards Jammu and Ladakh should end immediately. “Only if Jammu and Kashmir government and the administration act with a nationalistic feeling and perform (their duties) in a clean, considerate, impartial and transparent way, the people of the state will have simultaneous feeling of victory and confidence, and the process of assimilation of the people in the valley will move forward,” he said.”There is an urgent need to promote, consolidate and establish nationalistic activities and forces in those areas.The Central and the state government must work in tandem,” he added. Bhagwat said the Jammu and Kashmir government should work with the Centre to pursue one policy and move in one direction, noting that the nationalist forces should be strengthened and “undesirable” activities be rooted out. Saying that situation in the state is a matter of concern, he said, “Many issues continue to hang fire (there).” “During the partition and subsequently many Hindu refugees were displaced from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and arrived there. Sheikh Abdullah assured them that they will be given their rights. Their third generation is living there.They don’t have state citizenship rights. They don’t have ration cards and jobs. How long will they wait?” asked Bhagwat.”For decades, Kashmiri Pandits have been living outside.They should live where they used to and be sure of their protection as patriots and Hindus. Such circumstances should be created and they be given justice,” he said.Their dreams will have to be fulfilled, he said, adding that only then people will believe that they are being taken care of in the same way other states are working for their citizens.The issue of grant of citizenship rights to Hindu refugees in the state has been controversial with parties like National Conference and PDP expressing reservation over it.The state government, which is headed by PDP in alliance with BJP, should ensure that a transparent and clean administration is there, Bhagwat said.Bhagwat also lauded the Modi government for inspiring confidence among people across the nation, while targeting the Opposition for running down the initiatives it launched.”A sense of disappointment among people all over the country has vanished due to acceleration of developmental work by the government,” Bhagwat claimed.”The government has built some measure of confidence, therefore the nation, it appears is moving forward,” he said. In a dig at the Opposition, he said those who could not make it to the echelons of power are busy formulating strategies for political gains by finding shortcomings and inadequacies of the government and the administration. “Dirty tricks” being played are a matter of grave concern, he said, warning people against fundamentalists, extremists, divisive and selfish forces. Former bureaucrat, Satyaprakash Rai, an Indian Economics Service (IES) officer of the 1976 batch was the chief guest on the occasion. Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, Union Minister for Transport and Shipping, Nitin Gadkari and playback singer Anuradha Paudwal were among those present on the occasion. Smart dark brown trousers donned by RSS functionaries instead of khaki shorts they had worn for the last nine decades, stood out at the ceremony,though the traditional bamboo stick remained part of the uniform.

US objects to Pakistan’s threats of nuclear warfare against India

Washington: The United States has strongly objected to threats of nuclear warfare made by Pakistan against India and has conveyed its displeasure to that country in this regard.

“We made that (American objection on nuclear threat) clear to them (Pakistan). Repeatedly,” a senior State Department official said.

The official who spoke on condition of anonymity, however, would not reveal the level at which the message was conveyed to Pakistan.

Pakistan Defence Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif. AFP

Pakistan Defence Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif. AFP

“It is very concerning. It is a serious thing,” the official said when asked about Pakistan Defence Minister Khawaja Asif’s assertions, twice in the last 15 days, that his country could use nuclear weapons against India “We will destroy India if it dares to impose war on us,” Asif had told a Pakistani news channel in his latest interview.

“Pakistan army is fully prepared to answer any misadventure of India.”

“We have not made an atomic device to display in a showcase. If a such a situation arises we will use it (nuclear weapons) and eliminate India,” Asif had said.

The statements raised eyebrows in the Obama Administration and are seen as “irresponsible” behaviour by top Pakistani leadership.

In a tacit acknowledgement that it has concerns over the safety of nuclear weapons in Pakistan, the official said the US is closely monitoring the safety and security of those weapons of mass destruction.

“The safety of these weapons is always a concern for us. So we are always monitoring it, regardless of what they said on this particular occasion,” said the State Department official.

Meanwhile, Deputy State Department Spokesman Mark Toner told reporters at his daily news conference that nuclear-capable states have “a very clear responsibility to exercise restraint regarding nuclear weapons and missile capabilities”.

The United States, meanwhile, continued to urge both India and Pakistan to take steps to de-escalate tension following the Uri terror attack that has claimed the lives of 19 Indian soldiers.

“At the same time we have made it very clear that what happened in the Indian army base (Uri) is an act of terror,” the senior State Department official said.

According to another official of the department, “everyone knows” where the perpetrators of the Uri terrorist attack came from.

At his news conference, Toner said the US continues to follow the situation on the ground very closely.

“From our perspective, we urge calm and restraint by both sides. We understand that the Pakistani and Indian militaries have been in communication and we believe that continued communication between them is important to reduce tensions.

“I think we certainly don’t want to see any kind of escalation and certainly any kind of break in that communication. We have repeatedly and consistently expressed our concerns regarding the danger that cross-border terrorism poses for the region, and that certainly includes the recent
attacks – terrorist attacks in Uri,” he said. “We continue to urge actions to combat and de-escalate –

“We continue to urge actions to combat and de-escalate – and delegitimise terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba, Haqqani Network, as well as Jaish-e-Mohammad,” Toner said.

US strongly objects to Pakistan’s nuke threats against India; conveys displeasure

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The United States has strongly objected to threats of nuclear warfare made by Pakistan against India and has conveyed its displeasure to that country in this regard.”We made that (American objection on nuclear threat) clear to them (Pakistan). Repeatedly,” a senior State Department official said.The official who spoke on condition of anonymity, however, would not reveal the level at which the message was conveyed to Pakistan.”It is very concerning. It is a serious thing,” the official said when asked about Pakistan Defence Minister Khawaja Asif’s assertions, twice in the last 15 days, that his country could use nuclear weapons against India “We will destroy India if it dares to impose war on us,” Asif had told a Pakistani news channel in his latest interview. “Pakistan army is fully prepared to answer any misadventure of India.””We have not made atomic device to display in a showcase. If a such a situation arises we will use it (nuclear weapons) and eliminate India,” Asif had said.The statements raised eyebrows in the Obama Administration and is seen as “irresponsible” behaviour by top Pakistani leadership.In a tacit acknowledgement that it has concerns over the safety of nuclear weapons in Pakistan, the official said the US is closely monitoring the safety and security of those weapons of mass destruction.”The safety of these weapons is always a concern for us. So we are always monitoring it, regardless of what they said on this particular occasion,” said the State Department official.Meanwhile, Deputy State Department Spokesman Mark Toner told reporters at his daily news conference that nuclear-capable states have “a very clear responsibility to exercise restraint regarding nuclear weapons and missile capabilities”.

FTII council allows 10% hike in fees of various courses

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The academic council of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), at a meeting held in Mumbai on Friday, gave nod for hiking the fees of various courses by 10 % with 2015 as the base year. The council, however, did not approve the proposal of the institute’s administration to fix an upper age limit of 25 years for admission. The meeting was presided over by BP Singh.The administration of the premier film institute had proposed to increase the fee of acting course from Rs 48,000 to Rs 3.40 lakh per annum. It had said that the fees should have been raised by 10 % every year, but no revision was done in the recent years. It had proposed the hike with 2010 as the base year.”The council has decided that there would be 10 % increase in tuition fees for all courses per annum, however, the hike will be done taking 2015 as the base year instead of proposed 2010,” a release by FTII said this evening.”The council has decided to stick to the existing policy where there is no upper age limit to take admission for any course in the institute,” it said.Bhupendra Kainthola, Director, FTII, told PTI that the council had approved the proposal to make the written entrance test as a qualifying entrance examination for short-listing the candidates. Short-listed candidates would undertake orientation programme including written aptitude test followed by an interview, with 50 % weightage each.A psychometric test will be introduced as a part of entrance examination for both TV and Film courses, he said. FTII Students Association claimed that it was only because of its protest and resistance by the students that the council did not hike fees with 2010 as the base year, as was proposed by the administration.

Heavy rains lash Telangana and Andhra Pradesh; flood-like situation in Hyderabad

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Incessant and heavy rains are leading to a flood-like situation in Hyderabad. On Friday, Telangana declared a holiday for all educational institutions in Hyderabad and Ranga Reddy districts for two days due to the heavy rains.On Thursday, Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao instructed the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation to take the help of Army and NDRF for the relief measures if needed, as rains lashed the city for two consecutive days.Normal life in some low-lying areas of Hyderabad was disrupted due to the water-logging, and traffic was hit badly due to the downpour. The Met department has said “heavy to very” rains are likely in isolated places during the next four days in the state.Municipal Administration Minister KT Rama Rao and some senior officials visited Allamthota Baavi and Mayur Marg in Begumpet which are inundated due to sudden overflowing of Begumpet nala. Rao also inspected relief camps set up by the Government. A GHMC official said there was a rainfall of 20 mm in eight areas in just one hour between 1 pm and 2 pm today. Water entered into some buildings in Nizampet and Bachupalli on the outskirts of the city. In AndhraIn the neighbouring state of Andhra Pradesh, seven persons were killed in separate rain-related incidents in Guntur district and two were missing on Thursday. Three persons were washed away in the Kuppaganji rivulet near Chilakaluripet, while another was rescued by the villagers. One person was killed in a lightning strike at Brahmanapalli village near Piduguralla, while another was killed when an uprooted tree fell on him.Deputy Chief Minister N China Rajappa, who also holds the Home and Disaster Management portfolios and who has been touring Chilakaluripet to oversee the rescue-and-relief operations in the flood-hit areas, announced an ex-gratia of Rs 4 lakh each to the kin of the deceased.As there was a forecast of more rain in the next couple of days, people living in the low-lying areas were being evacuated to safer places, the deputy chief minister said. He has directed the officials to be on a “high alert” to tackle any eventuality.

Will press Pak to take steps to deal with terror groups: US

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The US has said it will continue to press Pakistan to take “additional steps” to deal with terror groups seeking refuge within its borders, hours after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif sought American help to resolve bilateral issues between India and Pakistan. Sharif met US Secretary of State John Kerry yesterday and raised the issue of alleged human rights violations and killings in Kashmir. Sharif’s meeting with Kerry was among his first bilaterals in the city on the sidelines of the 71st session of the UN General Assembly and Kashmir featured prominently in the talks. US State Department Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner said at a press briefing just hours after the bilateral meeting between Kerry and Sharif that the US want to see more progress from Pakistan in dealing with the terror groups effectively. Toner told reporters at the briefing at the New York Foreign Press Centre that US-Pakistan is “obviously a very important relationship. “There’s a lot on the bilateral agenda but also on the regional agenda,” he said when asked about the Sharif- Kerry meeting.He said the two sides are expected to discuss ongoing efforts by Pakistan at economic reform, “but certainly security will also be on the agenda, and we’ll continue to urge Pakistan to take additional steps to deal with all of the terrorist threats that it faces on its own territory but also those groups that frankly, that seek refuge or safe refuge within Pakistan’s borders and how to deal with those groups in an effective way. We’ve seen some progress; we want to see more, and I think moving forward we’ll just continue to work closely and try to encourage greater counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan but also within the region,” Toner said.According to a readout of the meeting by the Pakistan mission, Sharif said, “I still remember President (Bill) Clinton’s promise that US will play its role to help out in resolving bilateral disputes and issues between Pakistan and India.” “I expect US Administration and Secretary Kerry to use his good offices to help in resolving bilateral issues between Pakistan and India,” he said.In his meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May, Sharif again raised the Kashmir issue and asked the British leader to play her role in convincing India to stop the use of force against the people in the region. Sharif said Pakistan’s support for Kashmiri people in their legitimate struggle for self determination and its commitment to the Kashmir cause are non-negotiable, according to information released by the Pakistani mission. “We will not disappoint our Kashmiri brethren at any cost; we will keep on reminding the international community of its decades old commitments that have not been honored till today,” he said. Sharif said human rights violations and state oppression is at its peak in Kashmir and it is the duty of the international community to “ask India to immediately end state atrocities on innocent and defenceless Kashmiri people”.He said the people of Jammu & Kashmir must be allowed to chose their destiny and longstanding resolutions of the UNSC on the right to self determination of the Kashmiri people need to be implemented. He added that “if the international community does not succeed in asking India to immediately end state oppression on the people in Jammu & Kashmir, India will be encouraged to increase the intensity of the continuing state atrocities.”Meanwhile, as a practice, Pakistan’s officials do not allow Indian media to attend press briefings by Pakistan Foreign Secretary and other officials accompanying Sharif or any other events that they host.In previous years too, Indian journalists have been asked by Pakistani officials to wait outside the briefing room while senior officials with the PM address their media.

VP Singh Badnore takes oath as new Punjab Governor

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>VP Singh Badnore took oath as the new Punjab Governor and also as Administrator of Chandigarh Administration in Chandigarh on Monday. Punjab and Haryana High Court Chief Justice SJ Vazifdar administered the oath of office and secrecy to Badnore at Punjab Raj Bhawan here. Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal congratulated Badnore for becoming Punjab Governor and Administrator of UT Chandigarh.Badnore, 69, replaces Kaptan Singh Solanki, who is the Governor of Haryana and was holding additional charge of Punjab Governor and Administrator of Chandigarh Administration since January 2015. Badnore, who belongs to Bhilwara, was a four-time BJP legislator in the Rajasthan assembly. He was an MLA from 1977-80, 1985-90, 1993-98 and 1998-99. During his last term as MLA, he was the state Irrigation minister. He was a member of the 13th and 14th Lok Sabha from 1999-2004 and from 2004-09.In July 2010, he was elected to the Rajya Sabha. A graduate in business management, he studied at Mayo College, Ajmer, and Administrative Staff College of India (ASCI), Hyderabad. Rajya Sabha records describe Badnore as an agriculturist, environmentalist, social worker, and sportsman.He was the chairman of the special task force to rehabilitate tigers in Sariska (Rajasthan) from 2005-09 and a member of the empowered committee of forests and wildlife management in Rajasthan. He is a widely travelled parliamentarian. He was a part of the Indian delegations to Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, Canada, in 1994 and in 2004 besides the Indian delegation of South Asia Free Media Association (SAFMA) to Pakistan.A keen swimmer, he participated in national school-level swimming competitions.

Kashmir unrest: Congress expresses concern over harassment of journalists by security forces

Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee (JKPCC) on Sunday expressed concern over alleged harassment of journalists and employees by security forces.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

“Congress expresses concern over the way the employees, journalists and common people are being treated on roads by the security forces. What is the use of curfew passes when these are not being considered as a valid document by the forces,” JKPCC said in a statement.

It was commenting alleged incidents of beating of journalists, government employees and ambulance drivers by security forces in curfew-bounds areas of the unrest-hit valley.

“This is unfortunate that despite having curfew passes issued by the Administration, the employees, journalists and other people are being harassed and thrashed by the forces.

“When the curfew passes issued by DM is not valid, how can the administration pressurize the employees to attend duties? Even the ambulances are not being allowed to move freely, which is highly unfortunate and unacceptable,” he said.

The spokesman said there seems to be a huge communication gap within the Administration and asked the government to come clean on this issue, “as people have every right to know who is ruling the state”.

India deserves to be in NSG, the US will work for it, says Ambassador Richard Verma

New Delhi: The US is “disappointed” that India was not admitted to NSG during its recent plenary in Seoul, US Ambassador to India Richard Verma said on Monday but asserted that it will continue to work with all the members of 48-nation grouping on India’s accession in the months ahead.

US Ambassador to India, Richard Verma. PIBUS Ambassador to India, Richard Verma. PIB

US Ambassador to India, Richard Verma. PIB

Referring to Indo-US civil nuclear cooperation, he said the two sides have moved forward on a 15-year project to build six Westinghouse reactors producing power for some 60 million people.

“This is a deal that had been pending for 10 years, and we were pleased to see it move even closer to fruition,” he said.

Addressing the Atlantic Council US-India Trade Initiative workshop, Verma talked about the US’ strong support for India’s role in global institutions, like having a seat on a reformed UN security council.

“We continued to welcome India’s interest in APEC, and we strongly affirmed our support for India’s accession into the multi-lateral export control regimes,” he added.

“With regard to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), six years ago, President (Barack) Obama first expressed his support for India’s membership in the NSG. Since that time, we have worked closely with our Indian counterparts and NSG members to help advance India’s case for membership. India has a strong record, and deserves to be included in the NSG,” he said.

“That is why the Administration, including senior White House and State Department officials, made a concerted effort to secure India’s membership in the recent NSG plenary session held in Seoul. We were disappointed India was not admitted during this recent session, but we will continue to work constructively with India and all the NSG members on India’s accession in the months ahead,” the top US envoy said.

India faced stiff opposition from China and a few other countries and the fact that it is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was used for foiling India’s bid at the Seoul meeting despite the US’ strong backing.

Verma also said that the US’ designation of India as a Major Defence Partner will bring the militaries, industries, and defence ministries of the two countries even closer in the years ahead.

In climate and clean energy, US has launched several new clean energy financing programmes to support India’s 175 GW target for renewable power, he said noting that both Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi were committed to full implementation of the historic Paris climate agreement.

“We are in this with India for the long-term in bringing clean reliable power to the 300 million Indians who lack it and simultaneously battling to keep the earth’s temperatures from rising to dangerous levels,” he added.

Referring to the recent meetings between Obama and Modi, who was in the US earlier this month, he said they helped to institutionalize the bilateral cooperation and put it on a long-term footing for close collaboration in several key areas.

“In short, the Prime Minister’s visit marked a new level of strategic convergence and consolidation in our partnership,” he said.

Uttar Pradesh: Former Amethi MLA Amita Singh demands imposition of President’s rule

Former minister and senior Congress leader Amita Singh demanded imposition of President’s rule in Uttar Pradesh on Sunday, to “improve law and order situation” in the state.”In Uttar Pradesh, at present, President’s Rule appears to be best option to improve the law and order situation,” she said while addressing a press conference.The former Amethi MLA also alleged that her assembly segment was suffering under “worst” conditions of law and order. She alleged that there was a series of criminal activities like murders, dacoities and kidnappings in Amethi district, and said she has sent details of all such incidents to higher level police officers including the IG and DGP.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Amethi needs direct monitoring by DGP (Director General of Police) regarding the worst conditions of law and order, especially its assembly segment under the parliamentary constituency,” she said.The former state minister asked Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav to take stock of the situation in the district. “Otherwise, the CM himself will be forced to respond to all the questions of public related to law and order” she said.
ALSO READ Kairana exodus: Congress accuses BJP of ‘vitiating the atmosphere’ in Uttar PradeshSingh also targeted local MLA and Uttar Pradesh Mining Minister Gayatri Prasad Prajapati, alleging he was responsible for all the negative developments in Amethi. “Administration in Amethi has been totally paralysed and it needs complete overhauling including immediate transfer of incompetent police officials,” she said.

Learning the hard way: Students forced to use umbrellas inside classroom in Darjeeling school

In a school in Darjeeling, West Bengal students are required to carry umbrellas inside the classrooms because of leaking roofs. Students of this school in Mirik, Murmah Prem Sundar Higher Secondary School have to study under deplorable conditions during monsoons as classrooms remain waterlogged and have leaking roofs. The local administration – Gorkha Territorial Administration (GTA) has blamed the state government for not supplying adequate funds. They even highlighted that, classes in several schools in the hills are called off on certain days when there is heavy downpour. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>“This is one such school where seepage water enters the classrooms. But, there are many schools across the district, where infrastructure is in a bad shape. Recently, tremors were felt in the hills and several landslides had occurred, which further worsened the situation. I have written to the state government on different occasions, but they have not replied. They are not providing us adequate funds as a result of which, we are not being able to carry out repair works,” said Roshan Giri, Executive Member, Education, Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA). On the other hand, officials in the state government claim that every year, the budget allocated for GTA is being provided, but they are not spending it on school’s infrastructure. “State allocated funds for the hills are sent on time. But, somehow the funds remain unused and are not spent on developmental activities. The situation turns worse with each passing year,” said a senior state government official.

If invited for Global Entrepreneurship Summit, would try to stop by India: Barack Obama

US President Barack Obama today said he might visit India next year if invited for the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES).”You know, I’ll try to stop by, if I’m invited,” Obama said in his address to GES at Stanford University in California.GES is a personal initiative of Obama to bring entrepreneurs from across the globe on one platform.After meeting Obama at the White House early this month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced that India would host the next GES.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Obama Administration has thanked India for continuing Obama’s legacy.”It is really fitting that we are all gathered here for this, the final gathering of the GES under President Obama.But it will continue, and as you all know, will take place next year in India,” the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, had said in his address to the summit yesterday.The first GES was held in the US in 2010 thereafter it has been hosted by Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Morocco and Kenya.Over 700 entrepreneurs and more than 300 investors from 170 countries are attending the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Summit. India has also sent a large contingent.During his visit to the US early this month, Modi had invited Obama to India. Obama is the first American president to visit India twice.A senior administration official said Obama is unlikely to visit India in the remaining seven months of his presidency, but did not rule out his travel along with that of the First Lady after they leave the White House next year.

Might visit India if invited for Global Entrepreneurship Summit: Obama

Washington: US President Barack Obama on Friday said he might visit India next year if invited for the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES).

US president Barack Obama. AP

US president Barack Obama. AP

“You know, I’ll try to stop by, if I’m invited,” Obama said in his address to GES at Stanford University in California.

GES is a personal initiative of Obama to bring entrepreneurs from across the globe on one platform.

After meeting Obama at the White House early this month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced that India would host the next GES.

The Obama Administration has thanked India for continuing Obama’s legacy.

“It is really fitting that we are all gathered here for this, the final gathering of the GES under President Obama. But it will continue, and as you all know, will take place next year in India,” the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, had said in his address to the summit yesterday.

The first GES was held in the US in 2010 thereafter it has been hosted by Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Morocco and Kenya.

Over 700 entrepreneurs and more than 300 investors from 170 countries are attending the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Summit. India has also sent a large contingent.

During his visit to the US early this month, Modi had invited Obama to India.

Obama is the first American president to visit India twice.

A senior administration official said Obama is unlikely to visit India in the remaining seven months of his presidency, but did not rule out his travel along with that of the First Lady after they leave the White House next year.

Maoists blow up building, torch vehicles in Jharkhand

Maoists blew up a guest house of the Jharkhand forest department and set afire eight vehicles of a construction company at Hurungda in Seraikela-Kharswan district on Friday.A group of Maoists came to the spot in the wee hours and blew up a forest department’s guest house lying abandoned for years till renovation began ten months ago, before setting ablaze eight vehicles of a construction company working in nearby area, Superintendent of Police Inderjeet Mahatha said. Some leaflets of the Maoists were found on the spot. The incident occurred when most of the security personnel, deployed in the area for the past several months, left for an anti-Maoist operation last night, Mahata said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The company has been engaged in construction of canals under Suru dam project. Mahatha said major portion of the canal was completed under tight security arrangements by the district administration. The construction work of the project remained stalled for decades, but the administration has decided to complete it by providing adequate security, he said.A hunt was launched in the nearby jungles to flush out the Maoists involved in the incident, he said.

UPSC toppers Tina Dabi, Athar Khan allocated with IAS

Tina Dabi, the topper of civil services examination, and Jammu and Kashmir’s Athar Aamir Ul Shafi Khan have been given the prestigious Indian Administrative Service (IAS).The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) has allocated various services to 902 successful candidates. Of them, 178 have got IAS, 138 Indian Police Service (IPS), 43 Indian Forest Service (IFS) while 543 others have been allocated different Group ‘A’ & ‘B’ services.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Delhi-based Tina, Khan and Jasmeet Singh Sandhu, also a Delhiite, have been allocated the IAS, the DoPT said. While Tina topped the 2015 civil services examination, Khan and Sandhu secured second and third position respectively.Now, candidates allocated to Group A services can be nominated for Foundation Course at Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA) in Mussoorie, it said.The civil services examination is conducted annually in three stages — preliminary, main and interview — to select candidates for IAS and IPS, among others. 1,078 candidates — 499 in General category, 314 belonging to Other Backward Classes, 176 from Scheduled Castes and 89 from Scheduled Tribes — had qualified in the test result of which was declared on May 10. There are 172 candidates in the waiting list.

DU college professor alleges harassment by colleague

A professor of Delhi University’s Hindu College has accused a colleague of sexual harassment who in turn alleged that he is being targeted by the administration for being a Dalit. The woman alleged in a complaint to the college authorities that the professor harassed her and passed vulgar comments when she had gone to intervene in some “unauthorised work” being done by him.The professor concerned maintained that the complaint against him was “fake” and a conspiracy was being hatched against him by the college administration because he is a Dalit.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”I am being harassed by the college administration because of my caste. I am being targeted because I have been vocal about the illegitimate appointment of guest lecturers. They want me to be silent and take back my complaints. To pressure me, they have filed a fake case against me,” he told a press conference.Repeated calls and text messages to college principal Anju Srivastava seeking her reaction on the issue went unanswered.

International Yoga Day: Selfie zone set up at Chandigarh event venue; cash prizes for winners

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will join 30,000 people for the second International Yoga Day celebrations in Chandigarh on Tuesday to be held amid tight security, with participants being radio tagged to track their movements.Modi will lead the celebrations at Capitol Complex, designed by French architect Le Corbusier. He is expected to arrive in Chandigarh on Monday night and participate in a mass demonstration of Common Yoga Protocol.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Over 30,000 people – 10,000 each from the Union Territory Chandigarh, Punjab and Haryana – will take part in the event at Capitol Complex and 10,000 at over 100 other locations across the city.”All arrangements are in place for tomorrow’s International Yoga Day event,” said Chandigarh Home Secretary Anurag Aggarwal.The Union Territory Administration has decided to felicitate best Yoga performers with cash prizes. Yoga enthusiasts can upload their videos while performing ‘asanas’ and send them to or tweet with #IYDCHD2016. The first, second and third prize winners will get Rs 10,000, Rs 8,000 and Rs 5,000 respectively, officials said. A selfie zone has also been set up at the venue.Several LED screens have been put up at the venue, besides 300 prefabricated bio-toilets and over 300 dustbins.Entry to the venue will start at 4 am and close by 5:30 am through designated entry points. While the main event will begin at 6.30 am, the Common Yoga Protocol will start at 7 am and last for 45 minutes. Tight security arrangements have been put in place. More than 5,000 police and paramilitary personnel will keep a hawk-eye vigil to secure the venue.MeT department here has forecast little possibility of rains but sudden thundery developments are possible.”There is little possibility of rain tomorrow. However, sudden thundery development may take place,” Chandigarh MeT Department Director, Surinder Paul said today.Officials said participants at the International Yoga Day event have been issued special radio frequency tags in order to track their attendance and secure the venue.Ahead of the event, the UT Administration had organised Yoga flash-mob, moonlight yoga and a ‘yoga run’. As part of the build-up to the mega event, world’s first 3-D impressions of yoga were also displayed at Sukhna lake.Among those who will attend the event tomorrow include Punjab and Haryana Governor Kapatan Singh Solanki, who is also UT Chandigarh’s Administrator, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his Haryana counterpart Manohar Lal Khattar.Ahead of the mega event, rehearsals were held on Sunday which were also attended by defense personnel. For the first time, 150 Divyangs, a nomenclature coined by Modi for differently-abled people, would be assisted in performing yogic asanas at the Capitol Complex.

Put inspection reports of chemist shops online: Info panel to FDA

The state information commission has directed the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) of state to put up all details of inspection reports to chemists shops online. The order went on to direct the authority to refund the amount to applicant it had taken to provide information and also give him compensation of Rs 5,000.The order of June 13 was given on an application made by Andheri resident, RP Yajurvedi Rao who stated that he would donate the compensation to chief minister’s relief fund. It was passed by state chief information commissioner Ratnakar Gaikwad. Rao in his application had sought details of six chemists shops in his vicinity. In his application, he wanted to know in the last three years the inspection reports carried out in the six chemists shops, the copies of show cause notices and stay orders issues by the competent authority and on record pharmacists on employment and sales purchase verification of scheduled H1 drugs.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The public information officer did not provide all the information despite asking the applicant to pay Rs 356 towards it. The matter went up to the appeal stage. The first appellate authority (FAA) then directed the commission to provide information. “However, he did not provide me with any information. Instead, he gave me information of some other place that I had not even asked,” said Rao.When asked about why information of only the six chemists shops were sought, he claimed: “The chemists shops are in the area. You cannot ask of the entire state and hence I sought for these. The reason I asked for information is because the enforcement of drug regulation is weakening. In the last one-and-a-half year, that has been the case. Drug inspectors are visiting chemists shops only after complaints and not on their own.”He added: “When we ask for information they are half done. They are not visiting places regularly.” In its order, the commission came down heavily on the PIO. Slapping a show cause notice on why penalty should not be levied on him, it has also stated that disciplinary action be taken against him. The commission further observed that the information sought should have been ideally been available suo motu. It asked the government to put up all the details by July end.

Former Bollywood actor Mamta Kulkarni named accused in drug racket

Former Bollywood actress Mamta Kulkarni has now been named an accused in drug racket case by Thane police. The police also said that some people from Bollywood are being investigated for their connections with Mamata Kulkarni and Vicky Goswami.Police had called her husband Vicky Goswami as the kingpin of international drug cartel. “According to the new evidences, Mamta Kulkarni (former actor) is now also an accused. We will send a request to Interpol for red corner notice against Mamta Kulkarni through CBI. We are verifying her bank accounts and investments. Her husband Vicky Goswami is already an accused,” said Paramveer Singh from Thane Police. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Thane police had seized a total of 18.5 tonne of Ephedrine and 2.5 tonne of acetic anhydride in the last week of April.During the investigation, it was found that Vicky Goswami was the alleged kingpin of the racket. Goswami is currently out on bail in a case where he was arrested by Kenyan police officials. He will soon be extradited from Kenya.Goswami alleged that the US was pressurising India to extradite him and since he is afraid that America’s Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) may kidnap him, he will not come back to India. Goswami also claimed that Kulkarni was just a well wisher and not his wife.The drug trailIt all began with the arrest of Sipren Chinassa, a Nigerian national, with 500g of ephedrine who led the cops to the manufacturing unit at Solpaur. Chinassa led the cops to Sagar Powale and Mayur Sukhdare, who were arrested in Thane for allegedly possessing around 2kg of ephedrine. This was followed by the arrest of Dhaneshwar Swamy with 5.50kg of ephedrine powder. After this Dnyaneshwar Dhimri, production manager from Solapur unit, was also arrested.On further grilling, the investigation led to persons related to the company — Manoj Jain, Punit Shringi and Pradeep Singh Gill. “Members and directors of the company were directly connected to the Kenyan drug mafia king Vicky Goswami. Earlier, too, they had not disclosed the amount of drug that was being manufactured at the company,” said a crime branch police officer.He added: “The accused were planning to arrange a unit at Mombasa in Kenya were they can turn ephedrine into methamphetamine which is costlier in the international market. The Gujarat and Maharashtra police are working on this drug cartel while we have found that 4-5 persons are still absconding. We will arrest them soon.”With inputs from dna.

Pakistan’s nuclear programme has increased risk of conflict with India: US Congressional report

Pakistan’s “full spectrum deterrence” nuclear doctrine and increasing fissile production capability have increased the risk of a nuclear conflict with India, a Congressional report has said amid Pakistan’s efforts to drum up support for its NSG membership bid.”Islamabad’s expansion of its nuclear arsenal, development of new types of nuclear weapons, and adoption of a doctrine called ‘full spectrum deterrence’ have led some observers to express concern about an increased risk of nuclear conflict between Pakistan and India, which also continues to expand its nuclear arsenal,” the bipartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) said in its latest report. Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal probably consists of approximately 110-130 nuclear warheads, although it could have more, said the report ‘Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons’, authored by Paul K Kerr, analyst in non-proliferation, and Mary Beth Nikitin, specialist in non-proliferation.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>According to the copy of the report dated June 14, which was obtained by PTI, Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is widely regarded as designed to dissuade India from taking military action against it. CRS is the independent research wing of the US Congress, which periodically prepares reports on issues of interest to American lawmakers for information purpose only and does not represent the official position of the US Congress.Running into 30 pages, the report comes in the wake of Pakistan lobbying at the Capitol Hill and before the US government in support of its membership to the 48-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group.Though noting that Pakistan in recent years has taken a number of steps to increase international confidence in the security of its nuclear arsenal, the CRS report observed that instability in Pakistan has called the extent and durability of these reforms into question.”Some observers fear radical takeover of the Pakistani government or diversion of material or technology by personnel within Pakistan’s nuclear complex. While US and Pakistani officials continue to express confidence in controls over Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, continued instability in the country could impact these safeguards,” CRS said in its report meant for the lawmakers to take an informed decision. CRS said the current status of Pakistan’s nuclear export network is unclear, although most official US reports indicate that, at the least, it has been damaged considerably.Referring to Pakistan’s NSG membership application, the CRS said according to US law, the Obama Administration could apparently back Islamabad’s NSG membership without congressional approval. In the past few weeks, top Pakistani leadership including its Ambassador to the US has been writing letters to lawmakers and meeting Government officials to push for its NSG bid.

President arrives in Namibia for 2-day visit, uranium supply may dominate talks

Windhoek: President Pranab Mukherjee arrived in Namibia on Wednesday for a two-day state visit during which key negotiations on Uranium supply for civil nuclear use will take place besides other bilateral issues.

Namibia despite being one of the largest producer of Uranium and having a treaty with India for peaceful use of nukes does not supply the fuel to India because of Palindaba treaty among African Union countries which bars export of the element to non-NPT signatories.

“Regarding uranium, there is a proposal which has been pending at their end basically because of African Union decisions. Whether we can move them along, in terms of becoming a supplier of uranium for us that is one of the key objectives that we have there,” Secretary (Economic Relations) Amar Sinha had said.

The treaty signed in 2009 with India sets the framework for long term supply of uranium but it is pending ratification by Namibian Parliament.

“Namibia as you know is the fourth largest producer of uranium, but they have an African Union Agreement which sort of impedes the implementation of agreement. Namibia has not been able to break that unity, the binding commitment that they took, it’s called the Pelindaba Treaty,” Sinha had said.

During talks, India might raise the issue of uranium supply impressing upon Namibia.

A file photo of Pranab Mukherjee. PTIA file photo of Pranab Mukherjee. PTI

A file photo of Pranab Mukherjee. PTI

“And the fact is because this MoU which we thought will kick in quickly has not happened and we have had been looking in signing agreements with other countries like Kazakhstan, Australia and few others. So eventually if we actually meet our requirements from non-Namibian sources, it will be a loss for the Namibian industry,” he said.

The strength of Namibian economy is mineral with mining sector which contributes around 11 per cent to the GDP and it fetches 50 per cent of their foreign exchange earnings making them highly dependent on that.

Another material in abundance is diamond but the mining works through long-term contracts, monopolies and cartels so despite being largest users of diamonds, it does not reaches Indian shores directly from Namibia.

“We are one of the largest users of the diamonds in terms of the polishing and finishing but it doesn’t comes directly to us and I don’t think there is possibility right now because they have a long term commitment with DeBeers. Indian diamond merchants based outside in Antwerp source it from DeBeers and then it gets shipped to India,” he said.

India will offer assistance to Namibia in setting up Mining Engineering trading set up.

Four MoUs will be signed during the trip which include Deputation of Indian Army for training purposes to Namibian Defence Forces, Centre of Excellence in Information Technology.

“Then there will be a MoU between Namibian Institute of Public Administration and Management and our own IIM Ahmedabad and also between their Public Administration and our Lal Bahadur Shashtri Academy which trains civil servants because they are focused on developing their own capacities,” he said.

Mukherhjee’s visit which is the third and final leg of his three-nation tour is first by an Indian Head of State to Namibia in the last 21 years.

“Here in Namibia, the last visit of Head of State was made 21 years ago in 1995 and then Prime Minister (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee had visited in 1998. At that time legendary Sam Nujoma used to head Namibia and he was particularly beholden to India and was a very close friend to India politically,” he said.

The visit of Mukherjee is also seen as “renewing political contact” with Namibia which has emerged as a country where democracy has firmed its roots, he added.

Besides crucial talks with President Hage G Geingob, Mukherjee will also address Namibian Parliament, besides visiting Independence Memorial Museum, Heroes Acre Memorial, addressing students and faculty of Namibia Institute of Science and Technology, a visit to Okapuka ranch and addressing Indian community.

President Pranab Mukherjee leaves for 6-day tour of 3 African nations

New Delhi: On Sunday President Pranab Mukherjee embarked on a six-day visit to three African nations — Ghana, Ivory Coast and Namibia — to boost trade ties with these countries known for having “solid political system, where democracy has taken roots”.

This is the maiden visit of any Indian President to Ghana and Ivory Coast whereas to Namibia, such a visit comes after two decades.

Even though Mukherjee has toured a number of countries in the continent, he will be visiting these countries for the first time in his long political career.

He was a given a traditional send off at Rashtrapati Bhavan by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Vice President Hamid Ansari, Delhi Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung and Army Chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag among others.

“All these countries we look at as good countries in terms of a solid political system, where democracy has taken roots and these are all doing reasonably well in their regions,” Secretary (ER) Amar Sinha has said.

The President is accompanied by Minister of State in the PMO Jitendra Singh and MPs S S Ahluwalia and Mansukh L Mandaviya.

A file photo of Pranab Mukherjee. PTIA file photo of Pranab Mukherjee. PTI

A file photo of Pranab Mukherjee. PTI

“It’s a very important visit of the President. He is visiting two countries for the first time — Ivory Coast and Ghana, besides Namibia where an (Indian) President will visit after 21 years. He is having a number of engagements.

“This is not a ceremonial visit. It has an educational component, economic component and a community component,” MoS Singh said.

The first stop of Mukherjee will be in Accra, capital of Ghana, where there will be delegation level talks at the President’s House, which is called Flag Staff House, on Monday.

The imposing building has been built by a renowned Indian builder, Shapoorji Pallonji.

There are likely to be discussions on some agreements on visa waiver and line of credits is also in the pipeline.

Mukherjee will pay homage to Ghana’s first President Kwame Nkrumah at his mausoleum of in Accra.

He will also be unveiling a statue of Mahatma Gandhi which has been gifted by ICCR, besides planting a sapling.

“Investment in Ghana is substantial, nearly three billion dollars in various sectors. NRI’s, professionals have invested in IT, Pharmaceuticals and other areas. If you look at last three year figures, our trade has gone up nearly three times.

“Ghana’s main trade consists of gold imports, it’s nearly 80 percent of total trade. Ghanaian gold is in great demand in India,” Sinha said.

The President will also be visiting the India-Ghana Kofi Annan Centre of Excellence in ICT, set up by India, and will meet its faculty and alumni.

In the second leg of his tour, the President will arrive in Ivory Coast which had gone through a period of turmoil in the last decade.

“In 2011, a new government has come in and there has been a national reconciliation… With Ivory Coast, since this is the first visit, I guess the difference of languages must have dissuaded other higher level visits because it is one of the francophone countries,” Sinha said.

Mukherjee will be received by President Alassane Ouattara himself at the airport.

He might be honoured with the highest award of that country, besides a symbolic handing over of key of Abidjan city.

“…Exim Bank, is going to re-open its office. It was relocated to Dakar during the civil war, so they have now got all the permissions and are relocating to Ivory Coast. This is their regional office is West Africa to monitor all the lines of credit that we have,” he said.

Ivory Coast, a francophone country, is the biggest producer and exporter of cashew nuts to India which procures nearly 80 per cent of its total exports of cashew nuts.

The final stop will be Windhoek, capital of Namibia, where Mukherjee will meet President Sam Nujoma.

Namibia is a mineral and mining driven economy and India is likely to offer mining engineering training.

“The mining sector contributes roughly 10 or 11 per cent of the GDP but it gets them 50 per cent of their foreign exchange earnings so they are highly dependent on that. It is a small country with a population of around 2.5 or three millions,” Sinha said.

India is likely to sign four MoUs on deputation of Indian Army for training purposes to Namibian Defence Forces and establishment of a Centre of Excellence in Information Technology which they need.

“Then there will be an MoU between Namibian Institute of Public Administration and Management and our own IIM Ahmedabad and also between their Public Administration and our Lal Bahadur Shashtri Academy which trains civil servants because they are focused on developing their own capacities,” he said.

‘PM Modi’s visit to US to enhance Indo-US security, assess strategic ties’

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit here this week will focus on enhancing Indo-US security and diplomatic cooperation and offers a chance to reflect on how much the strategic partnership has grown during eight years of Obama administration, the State Department has said.”We look forward to Prime Minister Modi’s visit next week, which will include both a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office with President (Barack) Obama and a lunch at the White House,” a State Department spokesman told PTI.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Since 2014, there have been six meetings and countless phone calls between Obama and Modi, and this visit “reflects the significance that the two leaders place on the natural alliance between the two largest democratic countries of the world”, the spokesperson said.According to the official, the discussions will focus on advancing the ambitious climate change and clean energy agenda, further enhancing security and diplomatic cooperation across the Indo-Pacific region, as well as supporting sustainable economic growth and prosperity in both the countries.”Modi’s visit to Washington offers a chance to reflect on how much the strategic partnership between the US and India has grown over the course of this Administration following through on President Obama’s goal to establish a ‘defining relationship for the 21st Century’ that will directly benefit our almost 1.6 billion citizens and increase cooperation to sustain and strengthen the global rules-based order both countries care deeply about,” the spokesperson said.Meanwhile, Alyssa Ayres, who served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia from 2010 to 2013, said: “This visit appears designed to lock in further progress in important areas of US-India cooperation — defence, climate/clean energy, homeland security, potentially cyber — as a way to keep momentum going through the transition into a new US administration.”Currently a Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations, Ayres hopes that Obama could endorse India’s candidacy in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) grouping as a means of signalling that the US wants to support India’s economic growth and seeks a collaborative way to do so.”I would anticipate seeing in particular the much- heralded logistics exchange agreement at last announced as a signal that strategic ties will slowly and purposefully continue to grow.”As for status of the relationship, this visit reinforces the onward and upward progress that has continued across three US and three Indian administrations, and looks poised to do so in the years ahead,” Ayres said.

Mathura clashes: Head of Azad Bharat sect Ram Vriksha Yadav and son still missing

An uneasy calm prevailed at the Jawahar Bagh in Mathura on Saturday where the deadly clashes between followers of the Azad Bharat Vidhik Vaichark Kranti Satyagrahi and police took place on Friday. The smoke and fire at the site of the violence has yet not been doused completely, a horticulture department official told dna.On the ground in Mathura, messages slamming the RBI currency are a common scene on the district court road near Jawahar Bagh. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The message on the wall read, “Azad Hind Currency Rupya Bharat Main Chalegi, Bharatiya Reserve Bank Currency Rupya, Bharat Main Nahin Chalegi Ab.”(The RBI currency will not work anymore, Azad Hind Currency will be used in India)Image Courtesy: Deevakar AnandImage Courtesy: Deevakar AnandPolice had clashed with about 3,000 followers of obscure sect which had encroached on 260 acres government land. Twenty-four people, including an SP and SHO, were killed in the violence which took place when police went to evict the sect from the land.HEAD OF THE SECT AND SON MISSINGThere has been no clarity on the whereabouts of the head of the sect, Ram Vriksha Yadav and his son since the clashes broke out. While the police and district administration have been mum on this issue, locals claim that the duo have been killed in the clash on Friday and their bodies have been burnt.Meanwhile, politics over the death of cops continued on Saturday with the BJP demanding CBI inquiry into the clashes and Rs 1 crore as compensation for the families of the slain policemen, Mukul Dwivedi (SP) and Santosh Yadav (SO). Earlier in the day, BJP MP from Mathura, Hema Malini was stopped from entering the violence-hit Jawahar Bagh area citing security reasons and the ongoing combing operation. She addressed the supporters on Saturday and condoled the death of the policemen. “I am grieved at the loss of two diligent and arduous police officers,” the BJP MP said.She slammed the District Administration for lapses and said there would not have been so much loss if the situation was handled properly.

U.S. moves to reduce salt in restaurant, packaged food | Reuters

WASHINGTON The United States moved on Wednesday to cut the amount of salt in packaged and restaurant food in a bid to reduce the number of heart attacks and strokes linked to consuming too much sodium.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued draft guidelines for major food manufacturers and big chain restaurants that are aimed at reducing salt in foods such as soup, pizza, deli meat, dips, hamburgers, baked goods, snack foods and more.

The agency’s move is aimed at lowering the average American’s salt consumption by a third, saying people in the United States consume almost 50 percent more sodium than recommended by most experts.

Many U.S. food companies, including Campbell Soup Co, General Mills Inc and Kraft Heinz Co, have already cut salt levels to some extent in anticipation of the guidelines, which have been in the works since 2011.

The FDA proposed a daily sodium intake target of 2,300 milligrams a day, down from the current average adult intake of about 3,400 milligrams a day.

The agency will discuss the draft with the public and industry before making the guidelines final, and that daily target may be modified.

“Like others inside and outside of government, we believe additional work is needed to determine the acceptable range of sodium intake for optimal health,” said Leon Bruner, chief science officer at the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the industry’s biggest lobbying organization.

“This evaluation should include research that indicates health risks for people who consume too much sodium as well as health risks from consuming too little sodium,” Bruner added.

FDA Commissioner Robert Califf acknowledged on a conference call with reporters that there is controversy about the impact of sodium on health and what levels are considered safe for public health, but said the agency’s goal is to get the overall salt intake down to “reasonable levels.”

Different food categories will have different targets, and some products have more room for reductions than others. The agency singled out salad dressing as an example, saying the amount of sodium ranges from 150 mg per hundred grams to more than 2,000. Wheat bread ranges from 220 mg to 671 mg, it said.

Increased sodium intake is linked to high blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease and stroke, two major causes of death in the United States. (

About half the money spent by Americans on food goes toward food eaten outside the home, according to government figures.

The guidelines were issued less than two weeks after the FDA said it planned a major overhaul of the way packaged foods are labeled to reflect the amount of added sugar and specific serving sizes.

(Reporting by Toni Clarke in Washington and Amrutha Penumudi in Bengaluru; Editing by Will Dunham)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

U.S. FDA calls for sharp reduction in salt added to foods | Reuters

U.S. health officials recommended cutting the amount of salt added to foods to help Americans reduce their sodium consumption by about a third, according to proposed guidelines that are likely to have a wide-ranging impact on the processed food industry in the United States.

Increased sodium intake is linked to high blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease and stroke — two major causes of death in the United States.

The average sodium intake in the United States is about 3,400 mg per day. The guidelines set targets for the food industry to help reduce sodium intake to 2,300 mg per day, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said in a statement. (

The health agency said the voluntary guidelines would apply to major food manufacturers and restaurants.

About half of every food dollar goes to food consumed outside the home, according to the USDA’s Economic Research Service.

Many U.S. food companies, including Campbell Soup Co, General Mills Inc and Kraft Heinz Co, have already cut salt levels to some extent in anticipation of the guidelines, which have been in the works since 2011.

The FDA said it encouraged feedback over a stipulated comment period that ranges from 90 days to 150 days.

The guidelines come days after the FDA said it plans a major overhaul of the way packaged foods are labeled to reflect the amount of added sugar and specific serving sizes. (

(Reporting by Amrutha Penumudi in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Monsoon in Kerala slightly delayed, to set in by 6 June: Weather forecaster

Kolkata: Monsoon in Kerala is “slightly delayed” and likely to set in by 6 June and “normal to excess rainfall” is expected over most parts of the country from July till September, said private weather forecaster Weather Risk Management Services (WRMS).

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

“The onset of monsoon in Kerala is expected to be slightly delayed and is likely to take place around 6 June to 7 June as a weak current,” said Kanti Prasad, senior consultant, climate sciences, WRMS Pvt Ltd.

“Though slightly delayed, its advancement will be good,” Prasad said.

The company processes the NOAA climate CFSV2 (coupled forecast system version 2) model and adds statistical and synoptic interpretations to provide long range weather forecasts to its clients. NOAA is the US’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The analysis says rainfall during the month of June may “remain subdued” over many parts of India except in the northeastern states.

“Monsoon rains are expected to commence over north eastern states around June 10 and advance further westward across West Bengal, Bihar, East UP and Himalayan belt between 16 June and 20 June. Our analysis of the model shows that monsoon 2016 may end up on the positive side of the normal with well distributed rainfall over the country,” said Prasad.

“The monthly precipitation forecasts based on the model products dated 26 May indicate positive anomalies (normal to excess rainfall) over most parts of the country during July, August and September.”

But a few pockets of south peninsula such as Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu may receive “deficient rainfall” during the months of July and September, he said.

Obama administration lauds Indian Muslims’ ‘resilience’ against terror groups

Washington: The US has been successful in engaging with India on tracking money used by radical groups to penetrate into the country, the Obama Administration has said as it praised Indian Muslims for demonstrating a great deal of “resilience” against overtures by terrorist groups.

“In Indian, Muslim community has demonstrated a great deal of resilience against such overtures,” Nisha Desai Biswal, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, told members of Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a Congressional hearing early this week.

“We have seen in India that radical ideology has by and large not been successful in taking root,” she said in response to a question when asked about penetration of Islamic extremism in India by Senator Chris Murphy.

Murphy also expressed concern over increasing Gulf investment in India. “There’s a lot of reporting about some major investments being made by the Saudis, by the Wahhabi Clerical Movement to set up a large network of schools and madrasas
throughout India,” he said.

Representational Image. ReutersRepresentational Image. Reuters

Representational Image. Reuters

“So, can you talk about that specific issue, and then more broadly about any developing trend lines on the penetration of some of these extremist groups to gain some foothold inside India?” Murphy asked.

Biswal said the US is “clearly tracking” such investment and is “very concerned” about the reach of the global networks in India and around the world.

“That is a very focused part of our conversations and engagement on the counter terrorism front and on the intelligence front,” she said.

“We have had very strong success in engaging with India on tracking financial flows that represent areas of concern,
and the Indians themselves are doing a lot to track flows coming in not only from Gulf but from many other parts of the world that they think can cause concern,” Biswal said.

“The challenge is always identifying what we believe is appropriate financial flows coming in from across and around the world versus areas of concern, and creating the distinctions and the systematic framework to constrain one and enable the other,” she said.

Biswal said India and the United States are having “a very robust cooperation” on efforts by these global networks to tie into and reach into south Asia and India in particular.

Barack Obama administration defends decision to back India’s NSG membership

The Obama administration has strongly defended its decision to back India’s membership in the NSG, rebutting a known anti-India Senator who opposed the move.”The President (Barack Obama) has reaffirmed that US views that India meets not only the missile technology control regime but also it is ready for NSG (Nuclear Suppliers Group) membership,” Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Nisha Desai Biswal told members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday. She was responding to a question from Senator Ed Markey, who opposed the move of India becoming a member of the NSG, arguing that it is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty (NPT). <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Markey said that the NSG has “agreed to a set of factors that must be taken into account when considering whether to accept a new member. Among those factors is that the State must be a party to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty or an equivalent nonproliferation agreement”. And that it must accept full scope safeguards from the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency). In other words, Indian membership would require us either to set these factors aside or to revise them. So which of these two options, revising the rules or setting them aside does the administration plan to pursue?” asked Markey, one of the lawmakers who had led the effort opposing the civil nuclear deal during the Bush Administration as a member of the House of Representatives.He interrupted Biswal several times as she tried to explain the Administration’s position and that India meets the criteria to be a member of the NSG. “Is the (US) going to ask for revision of the rules or set the rules aside for India?” he asked multiple times. Biswal said: “I do believe that in our engagement with the NSG, we have made the case that we believe that India has complied with and is consistent with the requirements of the NSG and therefore should be considered for membership.” “So you are saying that you are not exempting India from NSG member guidelines, and they are in compliance with the guidelines. Is that the Administration’s perspective?” the Democratic Senator asked. “Our position is that India is very much consistent with the NSG,” Biswal said. “Are they in compliance with the membership guidelines?” Markey said. “It is our considered opinion that India has met the requirements and therefore should be considered,” Biswal said as she was again interrupted by Markey.”I do not think, any clear reading of the NSG rules could lead to that logical conclusion,” Markey said as he tried to put India and Pakistan on the same boat of nuclear non-proliferation and NSG membership. Markey stressed that India’s membership to NSG should require New Delhi signing comprehensive test ban treaty (CTBT), agreeing to halt production of fissile material before pursuing for NSG membership. “And that would be a strong message. Why is that? Well, it is because since 2008 when we also gave them an exemption the country has continued to produce fissile material for its nuclear weapons programme, virtually unchecked,” he said. “At that time Pakistan warned us that the deal would increase the chances of a nuclear arms race and since that time, Pakistan has declared its intention to give control over battlefield nuclear weapons to front line military commanders and it has declared its intentions to use nuclear weapons earlier in a conflict with India,” Markey said. “In your view how would granting a State specific exemption to India would affect Pakistan’s choices? It would complicate efforts to get Pakistan refrain from undertaking destabilising actions such as deploying battlefield nuclear weapons,” he asked.Biswal said: “We have a separate and specific dialogue with both countries to address both our concerns. “I do believe that we address the interest of both countries on their own merits. And we have very distinct and robust discussions with both countries.In his remarks, Markey argued that if India joins the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) it would be the only participating government that is not a party to the NPT. He claimed that the Administration’s move is creating an action reaction in South Asia leading to a never ending escalation that ultimately brings these battlefield nuclear weapons closer and closer together. Addressing the lawmakers, Biswal also dwelled on Indo-Pak ties, saying: “We have long encouraged India and Pakistan to engage in dialogues and address some of the many issues that continue in that relationship.” The US, she argued, has a very important relationship with each country and it seeks to advance its ties with each country.”We do not see this as a zero sum,” she said when asked about India-Pakistan relationship. The US does recognise that for India and Pakistan, there are a number of outstanding issues between them that would be benefitted by dialogue, Biswal said.”On the other hand, we do understand that countering and combatting terrorism is an important objective not just for India, for Pakistan and for Afghanistan but for the United States across that area. So these are areas where we try to support conversations across all of our bilateral relationships as well as pushing countries in the region to address it themselves,” she said.”We do believe that increasingly there is a recognition that no kind of terrorist organisation will be acceptable. You can’t differentiate between good terrorists and bad terrorists.”We are starting to get that recognition back in at least the commitment that the countries in the region are making to us. We do need to see more in terms of actions in that space.We continue to push on those issues,” Biswal said in response to a question.

Rare red carpet welcome awaits PM Modi during US visit next month

A rare red carpet welcome awaits Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Capitol on June 8 when he will address a joint meeting of the US Congress, the first by a foreign leader this year.This includes a rarest of the rare lunch hosted by Speaker Paul Ryan at the Capitol, meeting with the top Congressional leadership and a unique reception thrown in his honour jointly by House and Senate foreign relations committees in association with the two India caucuses.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Modi’s joint address to the Congress – the first by a foreign leader in 2016 and the first of House Speaker Ryan – is likely to be attended by Vice President Joe Biden and several Cabinet members of the Obama Administration in a rare show of solidarity and support for the Prime Minister, Congressional sources told PTI.In an increasingly rancorous Congress, the invitation to Prime Minister Modi was one of the rare bipartisan act.Leaders of both the Republican party, which controls both the House of Representative and the Senate, and the Democratic party of the President Barack Obama, teamed together to invite Modi to address a joint session of the Congress, sources at the Capitol Hill said.Given the sharp differences between the Republican and Democratic leadership and this being an election year, it is likely that Modi would be the only foreign leader to address a joint meeting of the US Congress this year, they pointed out.Unlike in the past wherein a joint address by a foreign dignitary is restricted to this event only, Hill sources said that the Congressional leaders have so far chalked out as many as four back-to-back events for Modi on June 8 at the Capitol Hill.The information is according to an itinerary of Modi’s schedule chalked out part of which is still being developed – by the top Congressional leadership.Modi’s engagement at the US Capitol is expected to be kicked off by a meeting with the top leaders of the Congress including House Speaker Ryan; House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi; Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.Thereafter, Modi would address a joint meeting of the Congress, wherein he is expected to lay out his vision for relationship between the world’s largest and oldest democracies.There is a great enthusiasm among Senators and Congressmen to attend the historic address, a Congressional aide said, based on the response from the lawmakers for Modi’s joint address.Manmohan Singh was the last Indian Prime Minister to address a joint meeting of the Congress on July 19, 2005.Earlier addresses have been by Atal Bihari Vajpayee (September 14, 2000), PV Narasimha Rao (May 18, 1994) and Rajiv Gandhi (July 13, 1985).

West Bengal: Several people missing after boat capsize in Burdwan

A boat capsized in Bengal’s Burdwan district on Saturday night. Locals said that the boat, going to Shantipur from Kalna, had onboard passengers more than the permissible limit.Rescue operations are yet to begin, even though the incident took place last night. This prompted the family members of the missing, accompanied by locals, to go on a rampage near the Kalna ghat and a boat was also set on fire.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The angry mob has been protesting against the role of the administration for not beginning the rescue operations on time.Meanwhile, the ferry service from Kalna to Shantipur has been suspended.

RJD MP slams Nitish Kumar for liquor prohibition, ‘poor governance’, says he is not ‘PM material’

Former union minister and senior RJD Lok Sabha MP Mohammad Taslimuddin on Monday said Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is not “PM material” and he is “day dreaming of becoming the prime minister” as he has failed to provide “sushashan” (good governance) in Bihar.”Nitish Kumar is not PM material. How can a person run the country who could not provide sushashan in his own state which is witnessing a spate of killings,” Taslimuddin told reporters here. “Kumar is day dreaming of becoming the prime minister by launching nationwide campaign against liquor but that will not fructify,” he added.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Taslimuddin, a five-term MP who represents Araria in Lok Sabha, said Kumar has failed to rein in the spate of killings that have taken place in recent past in the state. “Administration has collapsed in the state. The chief minister is indulging in stunt show to deceit people…There is loot everywhere in Bihar as there is no control on government departments,” he said.It was Nitish Kumar, who ran the government with BJP’s support, who first opened liquor shops in every nook and corner of the state “be it temple, mosque, chowk, school, hospital etc” and now he has suddenly enforced prohibition. “I am not against prohibition but it should have been implemented in a phased manner,” the MP said.