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Madhya Pradesh plans to develop 1,100 ‘climate-smart’ villages to help farmers

Bhopal: Madhya Pradesh has embarked on an ambitious plan to develop 1,100 ‘climate-smart’ villages with an aim to prepare farmers to manage the climate change risks timely and ensure good productivity.

“The government has been planning to develop 1,100 villages as climate-smart villages in a period of next six years,” state Farmer Welfare & Agriculture Development Department Principal Secretary Dr Rajesh Rajora told PTI.

He said 100 villages in each of the 11 agro-climatic zones of the state would be taken up under the plan, which would incur a cost about Rs 150 crore every year.

Shivraj Singh Chouhan. PTI

Shivraj Singh Chouhan. PTI

“The work is being taken up under the National Agriculture Development Programme (NADP) and Indian National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture,” he said.

In these villages, the farmers would be encouraged to go for short duration variety of crops, in addition to using drought-resistance seeds.

“The focus would be on integrated agriculture, which comprises animal husbandry, fisheries, in addition to traditional farming. Agro-forestry would also be adopted in these villages,” Rajora said.

Agro-forestry conserves and protects the natural resources as it helps water retention and stops soil erosion.

He said integrated nutrients management would also be implemented to help in soil fertility and plant nutrients supply through optimisation of all possible sources of organic, inorganic and biological components.

“In addition, the integrated pest management, zero tillage, raised bed gardening techniques and micro-irrigation would also be introduced in the climate smart villages. This would help farmers to increase the productivity amid all challenges of climate change,” he said.

Zero tillage technique is a way of growing crops time and again without disturbing the soil through ploughing, another agriculture expert said.

“The micro-irrigation systems like drip and sprinklers would not only reduce the water use but also lessen the use of fertilisers and energy,” he said.

Rajora said the state government would seek help of International Crops Research Institute for Semi Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), an international NGO working in the field of agriculture, and Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), a global agriculture research partnership.

“The Centre has set ICRISAT, the UN organisation, as nodal agency for developing the climate-smart villages. We would also seek expertise from scientists of two agriculture universities at Jabalpur and Gwalior in addition to state government’s scientists in various district headquarters,” he said.

According to agriculture department officials, various equipment and sensors would also be used in these villages to help the farmers.

The state government has already announced to open a soil testing laboratory at the block level. A plan is also on the anvil to provide soil health cards to farmers under state government’s efforts to double farmers’ income in five years.

To ensure sustainable agriculture growth, MP has also constituted a ‘Krishi (agriculture) Cabinet’ for the purpose.

The cabinet includes ministers of agriculture, horticulture, animal husbandry, fisheries, cooperatives, water resources, Narmada valley development, energy, panchayat, rural development and SC/ST welfare departments.

MP had also received Krishi Karman award for 2014-15, the fourth during past five years, for increasing the food grains production and productivity by 254 lakh tonnes and 1,719 kg per hectare, respectively.

The state government also claimed to have increased the irrigated agriculture area to 40 lakh hectares from 7 lakh hectares in 2003.

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 11:17 IST

Maharashtra govt to shut down liquor shops on national, state highways

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Maharashtra government will implement the Supreme Court’s verdict of December 15 that directed all the states to shut down all liquor shops and vends on national and state highways.State Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar cited the rising number of deaths in road accidents in the state while stating that the liquor shops on state and national highways will be closed. “Maximum number of deaths due to road accidents were due to drunken driving. The SC verdict effectively means that 12,967 liquor shops in the state that fall within the 500 meter radius will have to shut down after March 31, 2017,” he said.Asked about the contention of the liquor lobby about revenue loss, Mungantiwar said, “anyway they are not in the business of selling holy water.”The minister also said that the Maharashtra government was prepared to incur the loss in its revenue and will implement the order of the apex court. “Out of the total 16,856 deaths in 2015-16, 13,212 deaths were road accident deaths and again out of that maximum of them were due to drunken driving,” Mungantiwar claimed.Meanwhile, officials said due to demonetization, the department anticipates a 4.88% decline in revenue between December 1 to 20.As per State Excise departments data, the department had fixed the revenue income out of liquor for 2016 at Rs 15,343.96 crore.The department had posted a revenue income of Rs 1,024.57 crore in November 2015, whereas the revenue income in November this year was Rs 1,027.35 crore, a rise of 0.27 per cent, shows the data. As per the data, between December 1 to December 20, 2015, the department posted a revenue income of Rs 670.25 crore, while the revenue for the same corresponding period this December stands at Rs 637.57 crore, a deficit of 4.88 per cent.Out of the total 12,967 liquor shops that will face closure after March 31, 2017, Pune district has maximum of 3,932 establishments, officials said. Of these 2,499 are in Nagpur, 2,225 in Kolhapur, , 2,224 in Aurangabad, 1,480 in Konkan region and 1,347 in Nashik district, they said.There are a total of 24,572 country liquor, wine shops, permit rooms, clubs, beer shops, beer and wine serving outlets in the state, said officials.According to them, the government has also directed its Superintendents of State Excise not to approve One Day temporary licenses (FL-4) to clubs that come within the radius of 500 meters from the boundaries of national, state highways and service roads.

Maharashtra: Govt to shut down liquor shops on national, state highways, says prepared to incur losses

Mumbai: Maharashtra government will implement the Supreme Court’s verdict of 15 December that directed all the states to shut down all liquor shops and vends on national and state highways.

State Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar cited the rising number of deaths in road accidents in the state while stating that the liquor shops on state and national highways will be closed.

“Maximum number of deaths due to road accidents were due to drunken driving. The SC verdict effectively means that 12,967 liquor shops in the state that fall within the 500 meter radius will have to shut down after March 31, 2017,” he told reporters in Mumbai.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Asked about the contention of the liquor lobby about revenue loss, Mungantiwar said, “anyway they are not in the business of selling holy water.”

The minister also said that the Maharashtra government was prepared to incur the loss in its revenue and will implement the order of the apex court.

“Out of the total 16,856 deaths in 2015-16, 13,212 deaths were road accident deaths and again out of that maximum of them were due to drunken driving,” Mungantiwar claimed. Meanwhile, officials said due to demonetisation, the department anticipates a 4.88 per cent decline in revenue between 1to 20 December.

As per State Excise departments data, the department had fixed the revenue income out of liquor for 2016 at Rs 15,343.96 crore.

The department had posted a revenue income of Rs 1,024.57 crore in November 2015, whereas the revenue income in November this year was Rs 1,027.35 crore, a rise of 0.27 per cent, shows the data.

As per the data, between 1 December to 20 December, 2015, the department posted a revenue income of Rs 670.25 crore, while the revenue for the same corresponding period this December stands at Rs 637.57 crore, a deficit of 4.88 percent.

Out of the total 12,967 liquor shops that will face closure after March 31, 2017, Pune district has maximum of 3,932 establishments, officials said. Of these 2,499 are in Nagpur, 2,225 in Kolhapur, , 2,224 in Aurangabad, 1,480 in Konkan region and 1,347 in Nashik district, they said.

There are a total of 24,572 country liquor, wine shops, permit rooms, clubs, beer shops, beer and wine serving outlets in the state, said officials.

According to them, the government has also directed its Superintendents of State Excise not to approve One Day temporary licenses (FL-4) to clubs that come within the radius of 500 meters from the boundaries of national, state highways and service roads.

First Published On : Dec 29, 2016 22:18 IST

I-T seizes Rs 48 cr worth undisclosed assets in Karnataka, Goa post demonetization

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Undisclosed assets worth Rs 48 crore, including Rs 22 crores in new currency notes, had been unearthed during searches conducted by the Income Tax department in Karnataka and Goa since the Centre announced demonetization of high-value notes, a top official said on Wednesday.”We have seized an undisclosed amount of Rs 34 crores in cash and Rs 14 crores in bullion, and out of which Rs 22 crores were in new currency notes, post-demonetization,” Principal Chief Commissioner of I-T, Karnataka-Goa, Nutan Wodeyar told reporters in Bengaluru.Giving figures of seizures made by I-T this year so far, Wodeyar said the department conducted 48 searches and seized Rs 116 crores worth undisclosed assets compared to Rs 27 crores during the corresponding period in the previous year. “Compared to 14 searches conducted last year, this year 48 searches were made,” she said.The department also conducted 36 surveys as of Wednesday compared to 38 last year and found a concealment amount of Rs 393 crores compared to Rs 140 crores during last year.Replying to a query, Wodeyar said the department so far this year had initiated 15 prosecutions and expect the numbers to go up. She, however, declined to reveal the names of those facing prosecution.

Odisha: H5N1 strain of Avian Influenza Virus confirmed

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fishries, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare has informed the Odisha Government regarding the confirmation of H5 N1 strain of Avian Influenza virus in Keranga village of Khordha district of the state.The samples from the said epicenter were sent to the National Institute of High Security Animal Diseases (NIHSAD), Bhopal who confirmed on December 25 that the aforesaid samples were found positive in RT-PCR and Real time RT-PCR for H5 N1 strain of Avian Influenza virus.The state was intimated of the positive results on December 25. The state was requested to carry out the control and containment operations as per “Action Plan of Animal Husbandry for Preparedness, Control and Containment of Avian Influenza (2015)” which was circulated to the states by the Government of India in March, 2015.It is also available on Department website ( under link: Animal Health-Bird Flu. Therefore, control and containment measures as per above Action Plan on Avian Influenza needs to be carried out by the state. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare was also intimated in the matter.

Demonetisation: Suicide of a bank manager in Arunachal Pradesh raises suspicion of illegal transactions

The suicide of an HDFC bank manager in Arunachal Pradesh due to “financial matters” has drawn attention to the illegal transactions — conversion of black money into white —  that have allegedly taken place in the north eastern state after demonetisation came into effect.

The suicide came to light soon after reports emerged that large amounts of cash are being flown into the north eastern states for illegal currency exchange. According to local news websites, Rituparna Gohain, the manager of Naharlagun branch of HDFC branch, committed suicide by hanging himself on 21 December in his rented accommodation.

M Bui, the SDPO of Naharlagun, told The Arunachal Times that the deceased left a suicide note where he mentioned about financial matters. He added that the letter has been sent for forensic test. The report said that the higher officials of the HDFC bank have also reached Naharlagun to probe the matter.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

Though there has no been no official statement on what the “financial matters” were, Asomiya Pratidin, a local daily in Assam reported that the note refers to an alleged cash scam. The report mentioned illegal transactions of Rs 1,300 crores in black money and said that the bank manager was facing an enquiry for being allegedly involved in it.

Sources told Deccan Chronicle that a huge amount of fund was smuggled into Arunachal Pradesh post-demonetisation and Gohain was under pressure from various quarters to justify the transactions. The report further said that Rs 1,300 crores were deposited in a few bank accounts and that Gohain had mentioned the names of a few contractors and politicians in his suicide note, who had allegedly deposited huge amounts of demonetised currency in his branch. Sources told Deccan Chronicle that cash belonging to politicians from Assam was routed to Arunachal Pradesh after 8 November.

The tribal-dominated states of north eastern region, Arunachal Pradesh being one among them, have recently come under the radar because of black money conversion due to the income tax exemption status.

As per The Indian Express, a month ago Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu had asked the Income Tax Department to trace all accounts that “deviated from normal history and pattern of deposit and take appropriate action.”

The Indian Express quoted Khandu as saying, “Since frauds are likely to take place on account of tribal people being exempted from taxes, there is every possibility of some people from outside the state trying to use bank accounts of local tribal people to deposit money in huge amount.”

The chief minister’s move came just after a report emerged that Anato Zhimomi, a resident of Nagaland, was arrested for allegedly attempting to convert crores of demonetised currency belonging to a Haryana-based businessman Anil Sood.

In 2012, the Income Tax Department had released a press statement expressing concerns that few people, who are not residents of the North East, are availing benefits of income tax exemption granted to the Scheduled Tribes of the region. As per the report, only income earned in the specified region are subject to income tax exemption.

The problem, however, turned severe after demonetisation, with reports emerging of cash being deposited from other parts of the country in the bank accounts of local tribals for illegal currency conversion. Even terrorist groups in the region were reported to have attempted to deposit their money in the accounts of the local tribals.

Anand Mishra, superintendent of police of South Garo Hills District in Meghalaya told Firstpost that terror money worth a crore has been recovered while being deposited in the bank accounts of local residents.

An income tax official told Firstpost, on condition of anonymity, that there is a common misconception that money deposited in the bank accounts of the local tribals of the region will not be traced. “This is not correct as these transactions can also be subjected to scrutiny,” the source said.

A week has passed by after the bank manager’s suicide and the Arunachal Pradesh government’s continued silence on the issue only raises more questions about the nature of the “financial matters” that was mentioned in the suicide note.

First Published On : Dec 27, 2016 21:11 IST

Govt to encourage online applications for around 1.36 lakh pilgrims travelling to Saudi Arabia

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Around 1.36 lakh pilgrims have been travelling to Saudi Arabia for the pilgrimage from India since 2013. As part of its efforts to bring in transparency in processing applications from interested devotees, the government has decided to encourage applications online January 2, 2017 onwards.Besides, the ministry is also mulling launching a cell phone application to help devotees apply online for the pilgrimage. The ministry has a budget outlay of Rs 3,827 crore for the ongoing fiscal. Out of these, Rs 2,732 crore have already been spent on various works, sources said.These include Rs 1,800 sanctioned for distributing scholarships to students. The scholarships are being distributed through Department of Biotechnology (DBT) in phases. Besides, the government spent Rs 502 crore on multi-sectoral development programme, while the National Minority Development Finance Corporation (NMDFC) has been given equity of Rs 140 crore.Among other developments, the ministry released Rs 79.91 crore under Maulana Azad National Fellowship, Rs 4 crore as assistance to students willing to learn abroad under ‘Padho Pardesh’ scheme and Rs 13.19 crore out of Rs 15 crore allotted for ‘Nai Roshni’ scheme meant for leadership development among minority women.

As cashless shift makes tax evasion tough, resentment becomes obvious

Evading tax is intrinsic to us and we do it with an uncanny ease. And the fact that cashless transactions are spoiling the victory dance of stealing tax is making us even more resentful to the demonetisation process.

Let’s accept this; Narendra Modi government has been completely unfair in compelling us to change this habit.

Consider this: On a regular day a person visits a furniture shop in Jangpura-Bhogal in New Delhi. He selects furniture worth Rs 20,000 and offers to pay through his debit card. The shopkeeper conveniently informs the buyer that he needs to pay the amount at a nearby chemist shop. Reason: If the furniture shop owner takes the amount in his name extra 12.5 tax would be added to the bill and this “would make the purchase unnecessary costly for both; the customer and the buyer”.

A shop assistant uses an eftpos system at a Specialty Fashion Group owned Katies store in Sydney December 11, 2012. Australia is being invaded by a swathe of foreign retailers, piling pressure on a local industry already battered by weak consumer spending and ruthless internet competition. Picture taken December 11, 2012. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne (AUSTRALIA - Tags: BUSINESS FASHION) - RTR3BNKDA shop assistant uses an eftpos system at a Specialty Fashion Group owned Katies store in Sydney December 11, 2012. Australia is being invaded by a swathe of foreign retailers, piling pressure on a local industry already battered by weak consumer spending and ruthless internet competition. Picture taken December 11, 2012. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne (AUSTRALIA - Tags: BUSINESS FASHION) - RTR3BNKD


The buyer trying to be a law-abiding citizen, offers to pay the tax but the shopkeeper declines to accept the deal.”Either cash or payment at the chemist shop”, he puts forward conditions of selling his goods in categorical terms.

Visit to other markets in the city confirms the same pattern. Jugaad transaction is thriving and tax is being evaded. Let’s accept it again we are essentially compulsive tax evaders.

Demonetisation leading to cashless economy might help in curbing tax-evasion and that is precisely why the ‘great Indian middle class’ is resenting the demonetisation so much.

Post-demonetisation announcement on 8 November, reports started emerging about shops selling gold jewellery in the national capital, indulging in massive tax evasion by accepting demonetised currency notes.

Experts have stressed for long time that cashless economy will help the income-tax (I-T) department audit various transactions more accurately and help check the parallel economy. Also, it will help in curbing tax evasion and increase the taxpayers’ base.

Cash transactions have always facilitated the tax evasion. According to report published in the Mint a “significant number of transactions used to evade taxes by trading in penny stocks were cash deals”.

According the report an investigation by the tax department last year “uncovered a trail of Rs 38,000 crore involving manipulation in 84 BSE-listed penny stocks and through 5,000 listed and unlisted firms, many of them shell companies. The taxman’s report said at least 64,811 entities evaded taxes through such fraudulent methods”.

Ashutosh Dikshit formerly, joint secretary, ministry of finance, Government of India in an article published in the Financial Express, writes, “Tax evasion due to the prevalence of the informal sector starts with suppression of turnover to evade value-added tax and service tax by small and medium businesses and professionals which automatically results in under-reporting of incomes for income tax. The informal sector also absorbs capital from gains made through corruption and violation of regulatory acts which therefore cannot be reported as taxable income”.

He adds, “The systemic solutions to this are the rapid introduction of digital, mobile-based payment systems to replace cash transactions, a stringent reporting and penalty mechanism for benami transactions and assets (which has been pending for long) and the introduction of the nation-wide invoice based GST which is substantially self-regulating as a business needs a tax-paid invoice to claim credit against its own GST liability”.

According to an IANS report published on Firstpost, under Income Declaration Scheme (IDS) announced by Modi government this year, Rs 67,382 crore was received from 71,726 declarants excluding two high-value disclosures”.

The report stated that, “The Income Tax Department did not take into consideration the Rs 13,860 crore declarations made by Ahemdabad-based Maheshkumar Champaklal Shah, which was reported prominently, as well as another made from Mumbai”. This makes the extent of tax evasion clear.

An Indian Express report published recently talking about how cashless transaction can help in curbing tax evasion writes, “A move to digital payments would, indeed, make transactions more transparent and trackable by the taxman and to that extent, tax evasion more difficult. (It is important to keep the distinction between corruption and tax-evasion, though. In the popular mind, these two are synonymous, but as we have seen, they NEED NOT BE. There can be mammoth corruption that involves no tax evasion, and there can be plain vanilla tax evasion that involves no other corrupt deed than the evasion itself)”.

Hindustan Times in an article published last year states that cash deals keep India’s parallel economy afloat and the ultimate loser is the government.

“Nearly two-thirds of India’s GDP, ($1.4 trillion or Rs 90 lakh crore), is a cash economy where buying goods, paying for services, or paying wages are all in cash. And while some of this is legitimate tax-paid money, quite a bit of it is not. Just how big is India’s black money economy? In 2011, three government think tanks were asked to estimate that. Their final report remains unpublished. But other, unauthorised estimates peg it at 25-30% of GDP or $600 billion annually”, states the report.

It adds, “The real loser is, of course, the government: it is deprived of an estimated $200 billion (or Rs 13 lakh crore) in yearly tax revenues because of black money. Consider this: India’s revenue, including indirect and direct taxes, is currently around Rs 9.1 lakh crore; if the black money that is swirling in the economy is reined in and accounted for, then (albeit theoretically) the government could declare a tax-free year!.”

In this context as cashless transactions are making tax evasion difficult, resentment becomes obvious.

First Published On : Dec 26, 2016 17:28 IST

Punjab’s first bioethanol plant set up in Bathinda

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Union Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal recently laid the foundation stone of Punjab’s first second-generation bioethanol plant at Talwandi Sabo in Bathinda district.Punjab’s Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal and Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan were also present on the occasion. Built on 49 acres of land, the Rs 500 crore plant offers a practical solution to the problem of stubble burning by converting crop residue into ethanol.The state-of-the-art bioethanol plant offers a long-term solution to farmer’s challenge of disposing off crop residue. Using an efficient technology, agriculture waste is converted into fuel grade ethanol, offering a permanent solution to the age-old practice of crop residue burning.Talking about the long-term benefits of the plant, Harsimrat Kaur Badal said, “The ethanol plant besides addressing environment issues; would also provide an additional income source to farmers. Around 3 lakh farmers will be benefited with extra income of more than Rs 19.20 crore per annum (at an average biomass rate of Rs 1500 per ton).”Sharing details of the ethanol plant, Harsimrast Badal said, “It would use 400 tons of agriculture residue per day or 1.28 lakh ton of biomass as fuel and shall have a production capacity of around 100 KL per ethanol per day and around 3.20 crores liters of ethanol annually. This would be enough to meet 26% of the ethanol requirement of the state.”The project shall also yield 32000 MTPA of bio-fertilisers, which shall in turn be incorporated into soil for improving soil fertility raising overall farm productivity in the state. Apart from this the plant will also yield Bio-CNG, which can be used as clean cooking fuel and fuel in vehicles. The plant will be yielding 115.20 lacs kg of Bio CNG per annum.The Bathinda MP said, “Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL) was bringing this capital intensive project to the State. The second-generation ethanol bio refinery shall operate on DBT-ICT, an indigenous technology funded by the Department of Biotechnology.”

Kashmir unrest: CM Mufti wants cases against youths not involved in ‘serious crimes’ reviewed

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Sunday ordered review of the cases filed against the youths who were not involved in “serious crimes” during the over five-month-long unrest in the Valley. An official spokesman said Mehbooba gave directions in this regard at a meeting called to review the pace of development works in south Kashmir. Apart from her Cabinet colleagues, many senior officers from police and civil administration were present in the meeting. “Though not many youths are in custody now, a lenient view may be taken of youths who were either not involved in any serious offence, or were too young,” the spokesman said quoting Mehbooba.The Valley had witnessed violent protest after killing of Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Burhan Wani in an encounter with security forces on July 8. During the meeting, the CM impressed upon the officers to be responsive to the winter-specific needs of people in the Valley, particularly in sectors like power and water supply, firewood and fuel availability and ration, the spokesman said.She asked engineers of Power Development Department to rationalise their resources to address frequent power cuts during winters. Mehbooba also reviewed the stock and supply position of essential commodities like fuel, ration etc in the district and directed their regular augmentation. She directed the officers to keep tempo of developmental works on and double their efforts to make up for the lost time.She said though a good time of working season got lost this year, efforts should be made to make up by taking up and completing the works within or ahead of schedule. The meeting was told to work on several key development projects in the district is apace, including a 300-bed district hospital, Trauma Hospital at Bijbehara, degree colleges at Kokernag and Uttersoo, Pushwara bridge, polytechnic college at Larkipora, besides eight major bridges which are in various stages of completion.Earlier, the Chief Minister inaugurated the meeting Hall in the Dak Bungalow complex. Built at a cost of Rs 4.88 crore, the meeting hall is first-of-its-kind in south Kashmir. The Chief Minister also laid the foundation of Khanabal-Batapora road to be constructed by the Department of Disaster Management, the spokesman said.

Madhya Pradesh: ‘Salad’ likely to be on platter for prisoners in jails

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Madhya Pradesh government is mulling to offer ‘salad’ along with the daily meal served to inmates across all prisons in the state, an official said.”Providing ‘salads’ along with the meals is one of the measures being mooted by the Jail Department in its effort to make the food in state’s prisons more nutritious,” Sanjay Choudhary, Director General (Jail) said.The issue was discussed at a meeting in Bhopal on Friday convened to review the functioning of jails in state.It was chaired by Minister for Jail Kusum Mehdele and attended by Jail department’s senior officials along with the superintendents of 39 district and 11 Central jails.After the Bhopal’s Central prison jail break by eight operatives of the outlawed Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) in October this year, Jail department had banned outside food items, mostly brought by the family members of the inmates in all jails of the state.”The meeting was informed that essential items like tooth-paste and brush would also be provided in the jails. However, there would be total ban on bidis and cigarettes,” a Public Relations department officer said. It was also decided that additional barracks would be constructed in those jails that are housing more inmates than their capacities.”Outer walls of the jails would also be constructed. The minister assured that the issues raised by the jail superintendents would also be soon sorted out,” he added.

Cashless economy: RTO offices in Delhi set to accept digital payments in 2017

New Delhi: Regional Transport Offices in the national capital are set to go cashless from January when fees for all services including driving licence, auto permit and fitness certificate can be paid electronically.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

The Transport Department has started installing Point of Sale (PoS) machines at its zonal offices and the trial run of the cashless transaction system is being carried out at some places.

“From January, people coming to RTO offices can pay fee of various services — permits, driving licence, fitness certificates – using their debit, credit cards. Applicants won’t be required to make payments in cash,” a senior government official said.

There are 14 zonal offices of the Transport Department in the city. The official said that the move would ensure hassle-free services for the people of Delhi.

The step is in line with the Delhi government’s plan to bring all departments under cashless transaction system.

“At present, e-PoS machines are being installed at all zonal offices. Besides, computer software of the department is also being updated in view of the cashless transactions,” the official said.

Earlier this month, Transport Minister Satyendar Jain had directed his department to start accepting fees and payments in the form of bank drafts and pay orders for all transport services in view of cash crunch after demonetisation.

First Published On : Dec 25, 2016 12:24 IST

Birdsong replaces boom of guns at Indo-Pak border

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The boom of guns has given way to more soothing sounds along the Indo-Pak international border after winged guests kept their date with the famous Gharana wetland in the RS Pora sector of Jammu division.Earlier the shelling from across the border would scare the birds away. Now that the guns have fallen silent, the birds have stayed for the winter. “Fifteen days ago a shell landed near my quarter smashing its window panes. Since the arrival of birds there is no incident of shelling. If there is shelling again there will be effects on birds, they will flee to some other place,” Amit Kumar Sharma, Wildlife Warden, Jammu, told DNA.More than 1,300 migratory birds from different countries have arrived in the Gharana Wetland Conservation Reserve. Jammu and Kashmir Wildlife Protection Department officials are expecting more than 3,000 birds to arrive in the wetland this fall.“More than 750 bar-headed geese, which is our special feature, have so far arrived in the Gharana wetland. Other species which have arrived so far include pintail, common teal, mallard, black-headed ibis etc,” Sharma, Wildlife Warden said.The arrival of five pairs of majestic black-headed ibis at the wetland has rejuvenated enthusiasm among local bird watchers who await the arrival of their guests every year. “Last year, only one black-headed ibis had arrived at the wetland. This year, five black- headed ibis have arrived so far. This bird has a black head with curved beak,” said Sharma.Spread over 1,600 kanals (20 kanal equals one hectare) of land, the Gharana wetland has been notified as a Wetland Conservation Reserve. Falling under the North West Himalayan bio-geographical zone with sub-tropical climate, the major source of precipitation in the area is monsoon rains.This year, the birds which had earlier been fitted with tracking collars also arrived at the reserve, helping wildlife authorities monitor their migratory patterns and to map their routes. “Two bar-headed geese with neck collars have also arrived. For example, data from one neck collar reveal that the bird was first spotted at Pong Dam from which it has taken a flight to Gharana,” said Sharma.Jammu and Kashmir government has gone on an overdrive to promote the Gharana wetland as an eco-tourism paradise in the state. Every year before the arrival of the migratory birds, the authorities de-weed and de-silt the area to ensure the birds are comfortable in their winter homes. “Lots of bird watchers also visit this site,” said Sharma.

Centre vs Mamata: Now, Bengal CM calls CRPF deployment for IT raids unconstitutional & illegal

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Weeks after West Bengal Chief Minister termed the army exercise in the state as an attack on federal structure, Mamata Banerjee on Friday said that the deployment of 15 CRPF personnel to provide security to income tax officers during raids is unconstitutional and illegal.Banerjee, in a letter addressed to the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh said, “It has come to our notice that the Ministry of Home Affairs has decided to make available 15 personnel of the CRPF for apparently providing ‘security’ to Income Tax officials and staff deputed for operations in West Bengal. No communication in this regard has been received by the state government.””The State Government objects strongly to this decision, which is blatantly unconstitutional, illegal and against all principles of cooperative federalism,” the letter reads.Stating that the deployment of any Central Police Force of the Union to any State can only be done at the request of the state government, letter said, “The decision must be immediately revoked. The Chief Minister also said that the state government at its police forces will provide all necessary help and protection.”On the other hand, an advisory by the Ministry of Home Affairs to the CBDT, dated December 20, mentioned that 15 CRPF personnel would be deployed in the state.“The matter has been considered in this Ministry and it has been decided that CRPF shall make available 15 personnel to Income Tax Department, Kolkata for providing security to officers and staff deputed for search and seizure operations to be carried out by the Income Tax Directorate,” the advisory read.However, when contacted, CRPF officials remained tight lipped. They refused to give information whether the deployment plan was shared with the state government or not.

U.S. consumer spending slows; business investment perking up | Reuters

By Lucia Mutikani

WASHINGTON U.S. consumer spending increased modestly in November as household incomes failed to rise for the first time in nine months, suggesting the economy slowed in the fourth quarter after growing briskly in the prior period.But the economy remains on solid footing, with other data on Thursday showing new orders for U.S.-manufactured capital goods rising last month amid demand for machinery and primary metals, indicating that some of the oil-related drag on business spending was fading.And while the number of Americans applying for unemployment aid hit a six-month high last week, it remained below a level that is associated with labor market strength. The Commerce Department said consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, rose 0.2 percent after increasing 0.4 percent in October. When adjusted for inflation, consumer spending edged up 0.1 percent last month after a similar gain in October. But the moderation in consumer spending is likely to be temporary against the backdrop of a labor market that is near full employment and consumer confidence that is at cycle highs.Still, last month’s modest gain in consumption, coming on the heels of weak industrial production and housing starts in November, implied gross domestic product growth estimates for the fourth quarter, currently around a 2.6 percent rate, could be trimmed.The Commerce Department said in another report on Thursday that the economy grew at a 3.5 percent annual rate in the third quarter instead of the previously reported 3.2 percent pace. That was the strongest growth rate since the third quarter of 2014 and followed the second quarter’s anemic 1.4 percent pace. The upward revision reflected stronger growth in consumer spending, business investment in structures and intellectual property products than previously estimated, underscoring the economy’s solid fundamentals, which contributed to the Federal Reserve raising interest rates last week.The U.S. central bank lifted its benchmark overnight interest rate by 25 basis points to a range of 0.50 percent to 0.75 percent, also encouraged by a sturdy labor market. The Fed forecast three rate hikes in 2017.The dollar was trading lower against a basket of currencies. U.S. government bonds fell as did stocks on Wall Street.

Slower consumer spending last month held back inflation. The personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index, excluding food and energy, was unchanged after edging up 0.1 percent inOctober. That lowered the year-on-year increase in the core PCE price index to 1.6 percent, the smallest gain since July. The core PCE index increased 1.8 percent in October, which was the biggest gain since July 2014. The core PCE is the Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation measure and is running below its 2 percent target.INCOME FLAT
Consumer spending last month was restrained by a 0.6 percent drop in purchases of long-lasting manufactured goods such as automobiles. Spending on services rose 0.3 percent.

Personal income was flat last month after increasing0.5 percent in October. Wages and salaries fell 0.1 percent. With consumer spending outpacing incomes, savings fell to $780.9 billion, the lowest level since May 2015, from $809.1 billion in October. While consumer spending might be cooling, there are signs that business investment is perking up after a prolonged slump.In a third report, the Commerce Department said non-defense capital goods orders excluding aircraft, a closely watched proxy for business spending plans, increased 0.9 percent after gaining 0.2 percent in October. A collapse in oil prices last year, together with a surge in the dollar, pressured manufacturing. Much of the impact has been through weak business spending on equipment, which has contracted for four consecutive quarters.

With oil prices hovering above $50 per barrel, manufacturing, which accounts for 12 percent of the U.S. economy, is starting to show signs of life. Gas and oil well drilling has risen over the last several months.Economists expect business spending to rebound in 2017, driven in part by president-elect Donald Trump’s perceived business-friendly policies.The incoming Trump administration has promised to slash taxes, remove some regulations and increase infrastructure spending. But manufacturing gains are likely to be limited by renewed dollar strength in the wake of Trump’s victory.Since Trump’s Nov.8 election victory, the dollar has increased 4.4 percent against the currencies of the United States’ main trading partner on concerns that the business mogul’s policy agenda could fan inflation.Last month, shipments of core capital goods rose 0.2 percent after falling 0.3 percent in October. Core capital goods shipments are used to calculate equipment spending in thegovernment’s GDP measurement.A third report from the Labor Department showed initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 21,000 to a seasonally adjusted 275,000 for the week ended Dec. 17, the highest since June.Despite the increase, it was the 94th straight week that claims were below 300,000, a threshold associated with a healthy labor market. That is the longest stretch since 1970, when the labor market was much smaller. Claims tend to be volatile around this time of the year because of different timings of the various holidays. The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, increased 6,000 to 263,750 last week. (Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

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

First Published On : Dec 22, 2016 21:58 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.

Don’t see any diminution in bilateral ties with India: US

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Asserting that India is an important partner for the US, the outgoing Obama Administration has said that it does not see any “diminution in the strong bilateral relations” that the two countries have enjoyed till date.”It goes without saying that because India is such an important partner and such an important power that I see no diminution in the strong US-India bilateral relations that we’ve enjoyed to date,” State Department Spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Wednesday.”I am not going to use the podium to talk about advice that Secretary of State (John) Kerry may give to his successor,” Kirby said when asked about the future of India-US relationship under the new administration.”We obviously believe in the strength of our bilateral relationship with India. It is vital and important on so many different levels and we will certainly do all that’s required of us by the transition team to provide them the context and information about that relationship with India for them to make their own decisions,” he said.”I simply wouldn’t predict or get ahead of how the next administration is going to interact with India,” Kirby said.The State Department also refrained from answering questions related to demonetization drive by the Indian government. He described this as an internal matter of India.

New international law first protection for atheists

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>US President Obama became the first leader to strengthen the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act — the Frank R Wolf International Religious Freedom Act— on December 16. In its new avatar, the Act protects religious believers around the world. But also, for the first time, atheists and other non-religious persons have been given explicit protection under the law.The original version established the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, a religious freedom watchdog that has charted abuses against minorities across the world. The new law, named after a Virginia Congressman who championed the original version, extends protection to atheists as well.“Freedom of thought, conscience, and religion is understood to protect theistic and non-theistic beliefs,” the Act states for the first time, “and the right not to profess or practice any religion.”It also condemns “specific targeting of non-theists, humanists, and atheists because of their beliefs,” and enables the State Department to target “non-state actors” against religious freedom, like the Islamic State group, Boko Haram and other extra-government groups. Including atheism was a four-year process involving meeting with members of the State Department to raise awareness of the persecution of nonbelievers.Non-theist groups have been lobbying Congress on behalf of imprisoned and persecuted atheists in Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Pakistan and elsewhere. Atheists here have faced imprisonment, lashings and execution, sometimes at the hands of violent mobs. In September, a Saudi man was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 2,000 lashes for professing his atheism via Twitter.The new version of the bill will strengthen the existing law in several ways:It directs the president to sanction individuals who carry out or order religious restrictions.It instructs the U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom to report directly to the US Secretary of State.It requires all foreign service officers to be trained in the “strategic value of international religious freedom.”

Rahul’s info on ‘PM’s corruption’ turns out to be old I-T diary notings

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi chose a public rally in Mehsana, Gujarat to reveal the information he had claimed would trigger ‘an earthquake’ in Delhi.Gandhi’s charges of corruption against Prime Minister Narendra Modi have sent the ruling BJP seething. The party has described the allegations as “baseless, irresponsible and shameful” and an attempt to divert attention from the AgustaWestland scam.The information on Prime Minister Modi’s “personal corruption” which Gandhi finally let out after days of suspense related to the account books of Sahara and Birlas seized by the Income Tax Departments. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal told a press conference here that Gandhi had brought out nothing new as he had tabled the Income Tax Department’s appraisal reports of both Sahara and Aditya Birla Groups in the Assembly showing the bribes allegedly paid to Modi in 2013 during his tenure as the Gujarat Chief Minister. The Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader, Derek O’Brien, was also quick to claim credit that it was his party that had first held demonstrations in the Parliament House Complex on December 2, 2014 with the red diary of Sahara, exposing Modi’s corruption.Gandhi, who was originally told by his aides to raise the issue on the floor of the House, so he could not be hauled in any court of law, finally threw the ‘bombshell’ at Modi in his home state of Gujarat. He also challenged the government to set up an independent inquiry while reeling out details of the money paid to Modi during his tenure as the Chief Minister. He accused the government of sitting on the Income Tax Department’s plea for a probe into the documents seized. Gandhi had earlier accused the BJP of preventing him from revealing these details in the Lok Sabha, and claimed that Modi was already “terrified”.The Congress Vice-President referred to a diary seized during a raid on the Sahara company on November 22, 2014 that allegedly showed Rs 40.5 crore being paid in nine instalments from October 30, 2013 to February 22, 2014. He also referred to the records of a Birla company with the Income Tax Department that allegedly show Rs 25 crore meant for the (then) Gujarat CM, Rs 12 crore of which was “given” and a question mark on the balance. The date-wise payments as claimed by Rahul in the Sahara diary were: Rs 3 crore on October 30, 2013, Rs 5 crore on November 12, 2.5 crore on Nov 27, Rs 5 crore on Nov 29, Rs 5 crore on Dec 6, Rs 5 crore on Dec 19, Rs 5 crore on January 13, 2014, Rs 5 crore on Jan 28 and Rs 5 crore on February 22. The Supreme Court last month had refused to order an investigation into the entries made in this diary. “We cannot initiate an investigation just because a big man has been named by someone. He is a high public functionary and we cannot proceed on materials like this. We need better material,” Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar told senior advocate Shanti BhushanThe BJP was quick to accuse Rahul of fighting for his political existence taking recourse to lies, expressing pity that he were suffering from “Modi phobia.” Party spokesman Srikant Sharma said Rahul is a “part time and non-serious politician” belonging to a party that has the habit of levelling baseless charges on PM Modi. Hitting back at Gandhi, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the allegations reflected the Congress leader’s frustration and were an attempt to divert attention from the AgustaWestland probe in which the names of Congress leaders and the “family” were coming up. He said thePrime Minister was as “pure” as the Ganga. “The allegations levelled against the PrimeMinister are baseless, false, shameful and mala fide and they reflected Rahul Gandhi’s frustration in leading his party to disastrous defeats in state after state,” he said.

Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary in I-T net, dept recovers Rs 48 lakh in new currency notes

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary P Rama Mohana Rao was surprised by Income-Tax (I-T) officials who stormed into his residence, 17/184, Anna Nagar, at 5.30 am on Wednesday, seizing a massive amount of black money and gold. Speaking to DNA, sources said that the search of Rao’s home unearthed an estimated Rs 18 lakh in cash and gold bars. Investigators have so far recovered Rs 48 lakh in new currency notes and 17 kg gold from the premises of Rao and his relatives.Investigating sources said that the powerful and well connected bureaucrat of the 1985 batch was thick with sand-mining baron and PWD contractor Sekar Reddy, whose home has also been recently raided by the I-T, the CBI and the ED. I-T officials questioned Mohana Rao about the seized assets from the house of Sekar Reddy and their links.A team of about 100 tax sleuths, aided by a platoon (about 35 personnel) of the Central Reserve Police Force, raided at least 15 premises in the state and neighbouring Andhra Pradesh as part of the tax evasion probe.TurnSources said that the department has found Rao’s name on seized documents taken from Reddy’s home. Allegedly, Rao was indulging in the conversion of old notes into gold.About 100 tax officials are still raiding 13 places belonging to Rao, his son, relatives, and other associates in Chennai, Bengaluru, and Chittoor. The raids, top I-T sources said, were launched against Rao’s son Vivek Papisetty and his relatives.Around Rs 18 lakh in new notes and two gold bars of 1 kg each were seized from the premises of Papisetty’s father-in-law based in Chittoor in Andhra Pradesh. I-T Department sources said on Wednesday that the raids had been going on in Badrinariyan’s house since 5.30 am. Badrinariyan is a close relative of Chittoor MLA DA Sathya Prabha, brother of former MP Adikesavulu. I-T officials also said that the raids are also linked to a tax evasion investigation against Rao’s son Vikram Rao. Earlier this month, taxmen had found over 100 kg of gold, Rs 96 crore in banned Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes and Rs 34 crore in new currency notes in raids at the homes of three Tamil Nadu businessmen, one of whom, J Shekar Reddy, allegedly has business links with the chief secretary’s son.Rao is one of Tamil Nadu’s most powerful bureaucrats. He is said to have played a key role in J Jayalalithaa’s companion Sasikala Natarajan coming to the forefront of politics in the state after the former chief minister died in hospital earlier this month.Meanwhile, sand mining baron Reddy was arrested on Wednesday. This comes a day after the ED registered a case against him and his associates on Tuesday. A CBI official said a case against the accused has been registered.Reddy was taken into custody after several hours of questioning by the CBI and has been sent to custody till January 3, 2017.Reddy’s arrest made headlines after I-T searches at his residence and office resulted in the seizure of Rs 131 crore and 127 kg of gold. The Rs 131 crore included newly introduced notes of Rs 2,000 worth Rs 34 crore (seized on two different occasions) besides 127 kg of gold found from him and his associates Srinivasa Reddy and Prem Kumar, whose homes were also raided.

J&K: ‘Chillai-Kalan’ begins, temperatures drop to six-year-low

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>’Chillai-Kalan’ the harshest 40-day period of winter in Kashmir – marked its beginning on Wednesday with mercury dipping to the season’s record low at several places including Srinagar which experienced a six-year-low night temperature in the month of December.Kashmir Valley and Ladakh region have been it by severe cold as the night temperature across the division, except Pahalgam and Gulmarg, dropped to the season’s lowest, an official of the MET Department here said. He said the mercury in Srinagar plunged further the freezing point to settle at minus 6.5 degrees Celsius – a degree below the previous night’s minimum of minus 5.5 degrees Celsius.The official said this was the coldest night of the season so far in the summer capital of the state and the mercury was at the six-year low for this month of the year. The city had recorded minus 6.6 degrees Celsius on December 27, 2010. The all-time low recorded in December in Srinagar is minus 12.8 degrees Celsius on December 13, 1934. The cold wave resulted in freezing of some water bodies, including the fringes of the famous Dal Lake here, and residential water supply pipes.Leh, in Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir, also recorded the coldest night of the season as the mercury there settled at a low of minus 14.9 degrees Celsius- down from the previous night’s minus 14 degrees Celsius. He said Leh was the coldest recorded place in the state. The mercury in the nearby Kargil town settled at a low of minus 11.4 degrees Celsius which is the season s lowest so far there, the official said.Qazigund the gateway town to Kashmir Valley was another place which experienced the coldest night of the season, he said. He said the mercury in the town settled at a low of minus 5.6 degrees Celsius compared to minus 4.4 degrees Celsius on Tuesday.The official said the north Kashmir town of Kupwara recorded a low minus 5.5 degrees Celsius, against minus 4.8 degrees Celsius the previous night. He said Kupwara also registered the season’s lowest night temperature. Kokernag town of south Kashmir recorded a low of minus 3.8 degrees Celsius, the official said, adding it was also the lowest recorded temperature of the season there.The official said Pahalgam health resort in south Kashmir which serves as a base camp for the annual Amarnath Yatra recorded a low minus 6.9 degrees Celsius down from minus 6.2 degrees Celsius 24 hours earlier. He said the resort was the coldest place in the Valley.The mercury at the famous ski-resort of Gulmarg, in north Kashmir, settled at a low of minus 2.2 degrees Celsius, compared to Tuesday’s low of minus 3 degrees Celsius. The Meteorological Department has forecast mainly dry weather in the state over the week ahead, which could result in further drop in the night temperature.’Chillai-Kalan’ considered the harshest period of winter, when the chances of snowfall are most frequent and maximum and the temperature drops considerably, began today on a dry note. It ends on January 31 next year, but the cold wave continues even after that. The 40-day period is followed by a 20-day long ‘Chillai-Khurd’ (small cold) and a 10-day long ‘Chillai-Bachha’ (baby cold).

Bihar: Nitish Kumar govt set to approve 7th Pay Commission

Patna: The Bihar government on Wednesday paved the way for providing benefits of the 7th Pay Commission to the state officials and pensioners by announcing the setting up of a fitment committee for the purpose.

The decision to this effect was taken at a meeting of state Cabinet presided over by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in Patna.

The three-member fitment committee would be headed by retired bureaucrat and former state Chief Secretary GS Kang while Secretaries of Finance and Rural Works Department Rahul Singh and Vinay Kumar respectively will be the members, Principal Secretary, Cabinet Coordination Department Brajesh Mehrotra told reporters.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. PTI

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. PTI

The committee would be asked to submit its report in three months, Mehrotra said.

There are around 4.5 lakh employees under Bihar government and 3.5 lakh pensioners who will get the benefit of new pay scale.

Ever since announcement of the 7th Pay Commission benefits for the central government employees, demand for similar benefits for the Bihar government have been coming.

The state Cabinet at its meeting today approved 20 proposals of different departments.

In another important decision, the Cabinet gave its nod to a proposal of the Home Department to enhance honorarium of SAP (State Auxiliary Police) personnel.

While junior commissioned officer of SAP would get a monthly honorarium of Rs 20,700 now in place of Rs 18,000 earlier for jawans the hike would be Rs 17,250 from Rs 15,000, Mehrotra said.

The cabinet also gave its nod to a proposal of state Civil Aviation Department to hire a new 7+2 seater helicopter on wet lease for five years at a cost of Rs 93,15,00,000.

First Published On : Dec 21, 2016 22:25 IST

Demonetization: Mamata dares PM Modi to ‘arrest her’, BJP dubs her ‘queen of corruption’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Ramping up her voice against the Centre, Mamata Banerjee looked to strike an emotional pitch as she asked the Centre to ‘arrest her’. She said at a public meeting: “You (PM Modi) don’t have to touch anybody. You arrest me. I challenge you, if you have the guts you arrest all of us, nothing will deter us from raising out voice against demonetisation. Demonetisation is a big scam. We want to know what is the deal. We will say it thousand times.””We must win the battle as people are with us. As long as I live, I shall fight alone if required,” she said. Meanwhile, the BJP hit back by dubbing West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee as “queen of corruption” after she criticised the I-T raid at the Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary’s residence, BJP alleged that the TMC supremo was not interested in fighting corruption but shielding it and asked her to not undermine the process of law.Taking a dig at her, BJP National Secretary and the state’s co-incharge Sidharth Nath Singh said the TMC chief seemed too “worried” and wondered if she wanted to shield her own officer as he raked up corruption cases involving TMC leaders.Singh also accused her of “misleading” the people by referring to only non-BJP ruled states where Central agencies had acted against officers, noting that a senior Rajasthan officer, where BJP is in power, was acted against by CBI as well.”She is queen of corruption. She needs to answer on Saradha, Narada and Rose Valley scams. She is trying to undermine the process of law by politicising the I-T raid.Being in the constitutional process, she should understand the law. She is not interested in fighting corruption but is shielding it,” he told reporters.Banerjee today criticised the I-T raid at the residence of Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary P Rama Mohana Rao, saying such a “vindictive and unethical” act by the central agencies devalues the institution of head of the civil service.The Income Tax Department today carried out searches at over dozen places in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh against the son and some relatives of P Rama Mohana Rao during which they claimed to have seized Rs 18 lakh cash and gold bars.The I-T action was conducted in connection with the case related to biggest cash haul of new notes post demonetisation after the department raided some sand mining operators of Tamil Nadu here.Asked about her comments as to why such raids were not being carried out against BJP chief Amit Shah, Singh said such a “irrelevant” question coming from the “queen of corruption” did not merit a reply.With inputs from agencies

I-T dept raids Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary Rama Mohana Rao’s residence

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Income Tax Department raided the residence of Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary Rama Mohana Rao on Wednesday morning, reported ANI.Raids were conducted at Rao’s residence in Anna Nagar. The Chief Secretary was reportedly under scanner.Rao, a 1985-batch IAS officer, was appointed as Chief Secretary by the Tamil Nadu government in June 2016.More details are awaited.

Maha Forest Dept gets new tech to monitor wildfires

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In a bid to improve its response to forest fires and mitigate its effects, the Maharashtra Forest Department is all set to launch a command and control room that has access to satellite communications. This will allow the department to track forest fires in real time across the state, and initiate immediate action to control it and minimise its effects.Set up at the State Forest Department’s Nagpur headquarters, the control room will also respond to wildlife offenses, and coordinate with other states for crack downs on inter-state poaching gangs and timber fellers.“In case of a forest fire, thermal radiations detected by the satellite will be transmitted on real-time basis to forest guards via SMS from the National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC), Hyderabad,” Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (APCCF- Information Technology and Policy), Pravin Srivastava told DNA.The video wall in the command and control room will also contain digital maps of the state, all down to the ‘compartment’ level — the basic administrative unit in the forest department. These maps include information on soil strata, water resources, cadastral, roads, wasteland, village and administrative boundaries.The department will be merging its map data with satellite imagery to track details of the net forest area added or lost, illicit tree felling and encroachment by using this geo-spatial platform. It will also monitor the progress of Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar’s ambitious project of 2.81 crore saplings planted across Maharashtra. This is being undertaken with the Maharashtra Remote Sensing Application Centre (MRSAC) and by March, all forest department maps will be hosted on the MRSAC portal.Srivastava said in case of complaints or untoward incidents, officers manning the command centre can contact the field officer and “control the extent of the potential damage.” The department will also set up an emergency helpline on 1926 for wildlife related emergencies. The control room will also be connected with premier institutes and offices which are on the NIC network with the forest department and collate field reports for real-time solutions.

Demonetization: Number of depositors, deposits reduce by 80-85% across Maharashtra, Goa

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Cash crunch continued to hit the people in Mumbai over 40 days after the demonetization move, even as the queues for depositing the old scrapped notes at the banks eased. However, the people are irked as ATMs at many places continue to run out of cash. “There is a short queue for withdrawal and almost no queue for the deposits. You can see it here,” said a senior executive of a leading private bank in Fort area.A senior officer at Department of Post, Maharashtra and Goa Circle, said, “The numbers of depositors as well the amount of deposits across the five regions in the circle have reduced by over 80 to 85% and so is the case with opening new accounts.” However, some people in the city complained that the note ban has increased their difficulties.Sheetala Prasad, a grocery owner from suburban Kandivili, said, “These days have been the worst days for my business. We are facing a lot of problems for want of cash.” He expressed unhappiness over the Rs 50,000 withdrawal limits for current account and Rs 24,000 for savings account.Expressing his anguish over the ATMs running out of cash, Ramesh Tripathi, a trainer at a gym in South Mumbai, said, “The ATMs have virtually become defunct. The ‘ATM Closed’ boards are now a permanent feature.” “But, we are able to withdraw money from banks. I got Rs 10,000 from a bank in Worli today in less than 5 minutes,” he added.A real state broker from suburban Mulund, on condition of anonymity, said, “The deals in real estate sector have dropped drastically. Even the deals which were made before the demonetisation move, have got cancelled now.” He also said that the note ban is expected to cause a dip in real estate prices in the coming months.

FBI, US Dept of Justice officials named witness in NIA’s Pathankot charge sheet

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Six protected persons, a jailed terrorist and officials of Federal Bureau of Investigation and US Department of Justice figure as witnesses in the charge sheet filed by NIA in the January 2 Pathankot air base attack.The NIA, which named Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Maulana Masood Azhar and three others as accused, submitted scientific, oral and technical evidences before the special NIA court at Panchkula in Chandigarh. Among the list of witnesses is Mohammed Sadeek alias Muviya, a resident of Ghalotiakalan in Pakistan’s Sialkot district and Abdul Rahman Mogul, a resident of Polas village of Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir’s Poonch district. These two witnesses had helped in identifying voices and a couple of bodies of the Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists who had carried out attack at the strategic IAF base in which seven personnel were killed and 37 others injured.NIA has submitted statement of six witnesses in a sealed cover before the court and prayed before the court that the names of these people should be kept secret under section 44(3) of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and Section 17 of National Investigation Agency Act (Protection of witnesses). The list of witnesses also names a Special Agent of FBI and an official of US Department of Justice who had executed the Indian request sent under Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty for getting the details from Facebook and other websites on which Jaish had uploaded an audio file claiming responsibility for the attack.
ALSO READ Pathankot airbase attack: NIA files chargesheet, names Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood AzharBesides Azhar, the NIA has named his brother Mufti Abdul Rauf Asgar and two handlers of four terrorists — Kashif Jaan and Shahid Latif in the charge sheet. There is no mention of Superintendent of Police Salwinder Singh, his cook Madan Gopal and his jeweller friend Rajesh Verma in the list of witnesses. Their vehicle was hijacked by four terrorists. While Singh and Gopal were released in a jungle, the terrorists had slit the throat of Verma, who managed to get immediate medical aid after the four terrorists abandoned him.

Controversial remark: NCP seeks EC intervention, demands action against Raosaheb Danve

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) on Monday urged the Election Commission to take cognizance of Maharashtra BJP chief Raosaheb Danve’s remark that ‘lakshmi’ comes a day before polls and said if proper action is not initiated on this matter then there will be no democracy left in the state.NCP leader Nawab Malik said Danve’s remark proves that the BJP has spent black money in the local bodies polls, adding the complaint filed against one of the BJP MLAs for demanding liquor from the Excise Department makes the matter more serious.”This is misuse of power. His remarks prove that there was distribution of liquor in the local bodies polls. We will meet the Election Commission in this matter and demand a probe into the matter. The Election Commission must take this matter seriously otherwise there will be no democracy left in the state,” Malik told ANI.Danve had last week said that the day before polling was an important one as ‘lakshmi’ comes home a day before the elections and one should accept it.”Do not refuse it and be determined to cast your vote,” he said while addressing a rally at Paithan in Aurangabad district on Saturday.The Maharashtra Election Commission later issued a showcause notice to him for his remark.

Watch | Viral video: Lioness roams on streets of Virpur village in Gujarat

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A lioness was seen roaming on the streets of Virpur village in Sasan Gir in Amreli on Sunday. The village is close to the Gir National Park. According to Jansatta, the lioness was in the village for quite sometime and even had meal of the calf she had caught right on the streets, much to the bewilderment of the residents.The lioness was later forced to return to the jungle by the Forest Department.Watch the video below:

Raid on Bhajiawala’s premises continues, 250 property documents seized

Sun, 18 Dec 2016-06:04pm , Surat , ANI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Income Tax (IT) Department’s raid on Surat-based financier Kishore Mangal Bhajiawala’s premises continued even on Sunday. According to sources, till now, over 250 property documents, two kilograms of gold and 40-50 kilograms silver have been seized by the IT department.Bhajiawala was a tea and ‘bhajia’ seller at Udhna around three decades ago. However, today he is a big financier with huge investments in gold and silver and several properties across the city.

Axis Bank MD says embarrassed over conduct of few employees, orders forensic audit for more safeguards

New Delhi: “Embarrassed and upset” over the conduct of a handful of employees bringing the organisation into disrepute, Axis Bank MD and CEO Shikha Sharma on Sunday said the bank has hired KPMG to conduct a forensic audit for enhanced due diligence and building more safeguards.

Assuring that the fundamentals of the bank is on a “solid footing’, Sharma said in a letter to Axis Bank customers that the bank is tracking sudden surge in account activity and have ‘proactively identified potentially suspicious accounts”.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

“The recent media reports around the conduct of a few of our employees have left me embarrassed and upset. We have fallen short of your expectations because a handful of people did not follow our fully compliant and robust processes. We have taken the toughest action against such employees and we will do so in every case of divergence from our Code of Conduct.

“I regret that the misdeeds of a few people have eroded the hard work of 55,000+ employees, who have been at the front end beyond working hours, displaying extraordinary patience and commitment to their responsibilities,” she said in the letter.

The Income Tax Department had last week conducted a raid at an Axis Bank branch in Noida and unearthed Rs 60 crore from the accounts of 20 shell companies.

Sharma said the bank has proactively identified suspicious accounts and has given inputs to regulatory authorities for further investigation.

“I would like to reassure you that the bank has always been committed to the highest standards of operational control and continues to fully cooperate with the authorities. We have been tracking sudden surges in account activity and have proactively identified potentially suspicious accounts.

“This proactive identification has been one of the inputs in investigation by the regulatory authorities, who are visiting some of our branches to seek out information. Further, we have hired KPMG to conduct a forensic audit for enhanced due diligence and building more safeguards,” she said.

Thanking customers for the support and understanding since the demonetisation initiative, Sharma said it has been a challenging time and the bank has tried its “level best” to make it easier for customers.

“We have made every effort to ease the transition by making special arrangements for senior citizens and differently abled people at our branches, using micro-ATMs to deliver cash to BSF personnel, ensuring salary disbursement to government and corporate employees across the length and breadth of our country,” Sharma wrote.

“I assure you that the fundamentals of the bank, built painstakingly over the last 22 years, focused on serving its retail and corporate customers are on a solid footing… We will always safeguard your interests because your trust matters the most. I look forward to your continued confidence in making us a safe, strong bank that is always focused on you,” she said in the letter.

First Published On : Dec 18, 2016 15:32 IST

Demonetisation: Rs 18 lakh in new 2,000 currency notes seized in Noida

Noida: Rs 18 lakh in new currency notes have been seized from Sector 57 in Noida and three men have been arrested in this connection, said the police on Sunday.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

The three accused–Vinay Kumar from Jind, and Mahendra Kumar and Praveen Kumar from Hisar–were arrested last evening by a team of Uttar Pradesh Anti Terrorist Squad and Income Tax Department.

“The arrests were made following a tip off that some people were carrying a huge amount of counterfeit currency in Bhishanpura village in Sector 57,” Deputy Superintendent of Police UP ATS (Western UP Wing) Anoop Singh said.

The team searched the car of the accused following which Rs 18 lakh in new currency notes of Rs 2,000 was found, he said.

No counterfeit or old currency notes were found. The car has also been impounded, the DSP said.

The team is interrogating the accused and more arrests and seizures are expected on basis of the information, he said.

First Published On : Dec 18, 2016 11:49 IST

Dense fog disrupts rail traffic in Delhi, Punjab, Haryana

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A thick blanket of fog today engulfed most of parts of Punjab and Haryana, affecting rail and road traffic, even as minimum temperatures remained few notches below normal in some areas of the region.Foggy weather disrupted train operations in Allahabad. Passengers were forced to alter their plans due to delayed and cancelled trains.In Delhi, 52 trains were delayed and 12 rescheduled due to prevailing fog conditions.Narnaul in Haryana was the coldest place in both states as it braved minimum a temperature of 4 degrees Celsius, two notches below normal, a MeT Department official said. Hisar and Karnal also witnessed the drop in mercury by registering minimum temperatures at 5.3 and 5.2 degrees Celsius respectively. Ambala recorded the minimum of 8 degrees Celsius, one notch above normal, the official said. Chandigarh registered its minimum temperature at 6.7 degrees Celsius, the Department said.In Punjab, Amritsar’s minimum was 6 degrees Celsius, while minimum temperature in Ludhiana and Patiala was 5.4 degrees Celsius and 6.7 degrees Celsius, respectively.Thick blanket of fog which engulfed most parts of both states hampered air, rail and road traffic in the region because of poor visibility, officials said. The weatherman predicted moderate to dense fog likely at many places of Punjab and Haryana in the next 48 hours

Demonetization: Rs 1.4 cr cash seized from civil contractor in Delhi

Fri, 16 Dec 2016-10:51pm , New Delhi , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Income Tax department said on Friday it has seized Rs 1.4 crore cash, including Rs 8 lakh in new currency, in searches on the premises of a civil contractor in Delhi as part of its anti-black money drive post demonetization. Officials said the seizure was made from a civil sub-contractor identified as PL Soni, from a location in the Karol Bagh area.They said the department conducted the searches based on a tip-off of alleged illegal cash being hoarded at this location. ‘The seizure of new currency was made in the denomination of Rs 2,000 notes. The old notes that were seized include the demonetized currencies of Rs 1000/500 and also the legal tender of Rs 100,” they said.The department also conducted a survey operation at the Krishna Nagar branch of Axis bank here in connection with a probe, they said.

Cyclone Vardah: Tamil Nadu govt ‘prepared’ for vector-borne diseases in three affected districts

Chennai: The Tamil Nadu government on Friday said it has put in place preventive measures in the three Cyclone affected districts of Chennai, Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur towards ensuring public health, including steps to prevent spread of vector-borne diseases.

File photo. Reuters

File photo. Reuters

Chief Minister O Panneerselvam reviewed the measures taken by the Health and Family Welfare Department to prevent spread of contagious diseases, the government said in a release.

As part of disease-prevention measures, the government has set up 161 mobile health units, pressed into service 119 numbers of Ambulance services, 50 each food protection and chlorination teams and 51 units to handle mosquito menace.

These steps were aimed at delivering health services to people of the affected areas, addressing emergency situations, ensuring safe and protected drinking water supply and prevention of vector-borne diseases by addressing mosquito menace, it said.

While 3,000 personnel had been employed in implementing these activities, the government has also stocked Rs 90 crore worth medicines and drugs, it said.

First Published On : Dec 16, 2016 15:39 IST

Chhattisgarh: 8,582 villages declared ‘open defecation free’, more encouraged to build toilets

Raipur: As many as 8,582 villages have so far been declared ‘open defecation free’ in Chhattisgarh, which is targeting to becoming an ODF state by October 2018.

The state government has also announced 4,869 gram (village) panchayats, 33 development blocks and two districts (out of 27) as open defecation free (ODF).

“The Prime Minister’s ‘Clean India Mission’ (rural) is yielding exciting results in the state. Within just about two years of launch of the drive, we have made two districts along with 33 development blocks open defecation free,” a senior official from Chhattisgarh’s Panchayat and Rural Development Department said on Friday.

The state has 10,971 gram panchayats. While 8,582 villages under 4,869 gram panchayats have so far been declared as ODF, the aim is to cover remaining 11,127 villages of 6,102 gram panchayats by 2 October, 2018, he said.

File photo of Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh. PTI

File photo of Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh. PTI

Bedsides, of the 90 Vidhayak (MLA) Adarsh Grams (adopted by legislators in their constituency to develop into model villages), 67 villages were declared as ODF. Similarly, 15 model villages under Saansad (MP) Adarsh Gram scheme have also been made open defecation free, he said.

“Notably, the Centre has set the target under ‘Swachh Bharat Mission’ to declare the entire country as ODF by 2 October, 2019, but Chief Minister Raman Singh is expecting to achieve the target a year before in 2018 in the state, keeping in view the enthusiastic response from people towards the mission,” the official said.

As per official statistics, toilets have so far been constructed in at least 15,79,102 households (in rural areas) under both ‘Clean India Mission’ and the MNREGA scheme.

Around Rs 497.53 crore have been spent in the current and previous financial years for the purpose, he said.

All the concerned departments, including school education, health, women and child development and public health engineering, besides panchayat and rural development officials, have been asked to work in coordination to scale the target within the stipulated time, he said.

Moreover, public awareness campaigns are being held continuously in villages to encourage the people to build toilets in their houses, the official added.

First Published On : Dec 16, 2016 10:59 IST

Watch: Rs 10.10 crore seized in old and new notes from a car in Mumbai

Thu, 15 Dec 2016-11:40pm , Mumbai , ANI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A car carrying 10 crore in old notes and 10 lakh in the newly minted 2000 currency notes was intercepted by the Mumbai Police in Tilak Nagar area on Thursday evening. According to police, two people were impounded carrying the cash in a white Nissan car. After interrogation, they revealed that the money belonged to the Vaidyanath Urban Bank.The police, however, are verifying the claims made by the suspects and will be seeking help from the Income Tax Department on the same.

Ramdev’s Patanjali Ayurveda gets fined but he remains India’s best known Baba as well as Lala

Nobody can point out the precise moment when Baba (ascetic) Ramdev made the transition to Lala (trader) Ramdev. When he graduated from being a humble yoga guru to the one-stop solution to every conceivable, or inconceivable, malady.

Sexual dysfunction. Vyakti ki shakti kam parna, as he puts it lyrically. Tick.

Hairfall, alopecia (a communicable disease, he claims) and baldness. Tick.

Can’t conceive. “When mata-behen have to go to pakhandis out of desperation,” he prophetically claimed. Shivlingi Putrajeevak, tick.

Think of a problem — diagnosed, undiagnosed, imagined, perceived, anything — Baba Ramdev had a solution for it. And soon he turned Patanjali into a global brand and himself into a tireless brand ambassador of everything Indian, its great heritage of healing diseases through roots, leaves, seeds and, well, anything that grows on this great land. So much so that an average Indian would start his morning with Patanjali toothpaste and end the day with natural contraceptives suggested by the venerable Baba.

Turns out, everything that is sold in saffron robes is not gold.

According to news reports, a Haridwar court has fined Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali Ayurveda for “misleading advertisements and misbranding.” Patanjali Ayurveda was fined Rs 11 lakh because the products being shown by the company as produced at its own units were in fact manufactured somewhere else.

Baba Ramdev. File photo. PTI

Baba Ramdev. File photo. PTI

Details of the case are sketchy, and understandably so considering Baba’s clout and brand value. But, prima facie, it seems Patanjali Ayurveda was selling outsourced products as its own and lying about it.

Whether they failed on quality standards is not clear. According to The Indian Express, a case had been filed in 2012 by the District Food Safety Department after samples of mustard oil, salt, pineapple jam, besan and honey produced by Patanjali had failed quality tests at Rudrapur laboratory. The products were found to be in violation of Sections 52-53 of Food Security norms and Section 23.1 (5) of Food Safety and Standard (packaging and labelling) regulation.

But, in the past, questions have been raised about Patanjali’s claims and its products. In April this year, aata (flour) noodles (Swadeshi meets Chinese) sold by Patanjali were found to be sub-standard since they contained three times more ash than the acceptable limit. Before that, desi ghee sold by Patanjali was found to contain artificial colour.

Marketing is the art of selling someone a trip to hell but making it look like an all-expense paid vacation in Switzerland. Often, what people buy is based more on the trust they have in the person selling it, instead of the qualitative assessment of the product. So, it is indeed an ode to Ramdev that he has become both India’s best known Baba as well as Lala. It shows, Indians have implicit faith in him and the cures and products he hard sells.

The Indian mindset, of course, is primed to help any Baba turn into a marketing guru. In a country that believes — in some cases rightly so — our ancient wisdom and prescriptions were far more superior to borrowed medicines and lifestyle lessons, it is easier to sell cleverly incorporating swadeshi, vedic, Hindu, shuddh in the marketing campaign.

Also, Ramdev has positioned himself uniquely in the Indian mindset that is already conditioned to equate anything saffron with sacred. Though there have been several instances of religious leaders assimilating political power — of politics flowing from the seat of religion — Ramdev is perhaps the only instance of artha (money), dharma (religion in this case), kama (pursuit of power) and moksha (the nirvana he sells) coming together to produce a Baba who is both a Lala (trader) and a neta (politician). Ramdev is indeed unique, perhaps a symbol of our times where all margins have been blurred.

It is precisely because Ramdev wields so much power and influence that his company’s indictment for violations, breach of laws and marketing principles is a great tragedy. And a reminder that when gullible buyers shop in the marketplace of baba-bhakti and rashtrabhakti, they invariably return with what Kapil Sharma famously describes as Babaji ka thullu.

First Published On : Dec 15, 2016 17:16 IST

Provide jobs to youth to prevent unrest and disturbances: President

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>President Pranab Mukherjee said on Wednesday that government and industry should work together to provide jobs to youth to avoid unrest and disturbances.”India’s population is 130 crore. Half of this population is below 25 years of age, and in working age group of 15-59 years, this population is 62 per cent. If you keep these numbers in mind and think for a while what would happen if such magnitude of people do not have their vocation and opportunity of maintaining their livelihood in a decent way,” Mukherjee said. The President was speaking at annual day celebration of CII’s skill training centre here.He said that the agriculture sector is over saturated now and it can support very low number of people. “These workforce is going to be an asset to us … but if we cannot provide job to them what will happen. There will be unrest, there will be frustration. There will be difficulties, disturbances,” Mukherjee said. He said that there are 36,000 colleges producing graduates but a large number of passouts are unemployable. It is estimated by the World Economic Forum that two-thirds of children who now enter a school will work in jobs that cannot be imagined right now.Mukherjee said India will have the scope for employment generation but lacks skilled workforce. The President said that a Skills Development Council was created in 2010 and target was fixed by 2020 to create large number of skilled workforce. “Unfortunately not much progress was made in that direction. As a result in 2014 with change of government, when new Prime Minister came he established to focus on this issue with Department of Skill Development. “A minister was entrusted with the job to focus and a programme was created over a larger period of time that by 2030 at least 500 million people are provided appropriate skill so that they get job anywhere in the world,” he said.The President said more than 60 lakh people are working in West Asia and Gulf countries alone which are sending large number of remittances back home which is helping India build foreign exchange reserves.He said that the average age in Europe and North America is increasing and India has the opportunity with its young population. “That (skill development) is the reason I have come to Chhindwara for fifth time and why I am participating in the programme of CII to celebrate their annual day of skill development. This is the programme that country needs the most,” Mukherjee said.He lauded efforts of local MP Kamalnath for setting up skill development centres in his constituency. CII President Naushad Forbes said that the industry body has not been able to set up skill development centres in any part of the country like the ones set up here. He said that CII in coming days will make effort to set up such centres in all districts of the country.

UN Secretary General-designate appreciates India’s engagement with world body

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>UN Secretary General- designate Antonio Guterres has voiced appreciation for India’s engagement with the world body and its contributions to various areas of the UN’s work during a meeting with Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar.Jaishankar called on Guterres soon after his swearing-in as the 9th Secretary General of the United Nations.”The Secretary General designate appreciated India’s engagement with the UN and contributions to various areas of the UN’s work,” a spokesperson of India’s Permanent Mission to the UN told PTI on Tuesday.Jaishankar congratulated Guterres on his swearing-in and assured him of India’s support and assistance in areas that the SG-designate focuses as his priorities including on matters of sustainable development and peace and security, the spokesperson said.Jaishankar also met Under Secretary-General Jeffrey Feltman and other officials of the UN’s Department of Political Affairs and exchanged views on a wide array of issues of common interest.Guterres was sworn-in as the next UN Secretary General on Monday and will assume his new role on January 1 next year, a day after Ban Ki-moon’s 10-year tenure as the world s top diplomat ends this month.India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin tweeted a photo of Jaishankar meeting Guterres and other UN officials, saying “diplomacy entails reaching out upfront & backroom talks too”.

Massive IT raids across country: Rs 2.25 cr in new currency seized in Bengaluru, 68 lakh in Goa

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Raids are being carried out across the country by the Income Tax Department in the wake of the burgeoning fake currency racket post demonetization, as currencies both new and old have been seized in large amounts from Bengaluru, Panjim and Faridabad besides the national capital. Rs 2.25 crores has been seized in Bengaluru by the IT Department in new currency, while Rs 68 lakh has been seized in Panjim. In Faridabad, four were arrested with new currency of over Rs 25 lakh in the new Rs. 2000 notes.Meanwhile, in Delhi, yet another raid was carried out at a hotel in Karol Bagh following which the massive amount of Rs 3.25 crores was recovered in old notes. Upon interrogation it was found that the money belongs to some Bombay based hawala operators, who have hired packaging specialists who pack these notes in such a manner that it was even undetectable by airport scanning machines.These experts in packaging use a particular type of tape and wires which passes through X-ray also without being detected. The IT Department has seized the cash and is analyzing the mobile details which allegedly contain details of lot of other hawala operators.This recent raid comes in the wake of yet another raid carried out in the national capital, where in a joint raid conducted by the Income Tax Department and the Delhi Police, Rs. 10 crores was recovered from a law firm in Greater Kailash area.Acting on a tip-off, the police recovered Rs 2.5 crore in new currency notes and the balance Rs.7.5 crores in old currency notes from the T&T law firm owned by Rohit Tondon late on Saturday night.Following the massive raids on the premises of three Chennai-based businessmen, the Income Tax Department last Saturday confirmed seizing Rs 24 crores in new currency notes in Vellore, Tamil Nadu. During an investigation, the IT department found out that some cash was hidden in a car in Vellore, upon which it was discovered that all currency was in the form of Rs 2,000 notes in 12 boxes of Rs 2 crore each.Upon interrogation of those detained in Chennai, a breakthrough was made in the recovery of this cash wherein the IT sleuths laid a trap for the person transporting Rs 24 crores in Vellore and subsequently seized the currency. Interrogation is currently underway of those who were detained in Chennai which could lead to further recoveries.Following demonetization, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) had carried out massive raids in 50 branches of 10 banks across the nation in an attempt to keep a tab on those account holders, who deposited huge amounts at one time.

Conservation reserve for Gadchiroli to boost wildlife base

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In a strange paradox, Maharshtra’s most thickly forested district, Gadchiroli, lags behind in healthy wildlife population. The state government wants to notify around 220 sq km area in the Naxal-affected region as a conservation reserve to improve the situation.According to forest officials, wildlife population in the district, with 80 per cent area under forests, has suffered since a Maoist base came up in the region in the 1980s and hit protection and conservation efforts.As per the new plan, 220 sq km area in Tipagad, northern part of Gadchiroli, close to Maharashtra’s border with Chhattisgarh, will be notified as a conservation reserve.Divisional Forest Officer and Spokesperson of the State Forest Department’s wildlife wing, Girish Vashisht said, “Limitations to implement conservation measures due to presence of left-wing extremists and customary hunting by tribals have effected the wildlife numbers.”A proposal to designate a conservation reserve in the region was first mooted two years ago. However, village panchayats, who have statutory rights under the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996, refused to consent to the plan, said a senior forest official. The department is trying to convince the 20 villages. It has also modified the proposal to cover a 220 sq km area, down from the earlier 440 sq km to win them over.Vashisht said a conservation reserve status puts lesser restrictions than other categories of protected areas like wildlife sanctuaries. “Locals can take a call on what areas can be voluntarily closed for grazing of domestic animals. Village development works and protection can also be undertaken,” he added.At present, herbivores like wild boar, spotted and barking deer, sloth bear, and carnivores like leopards, jackals, hyenas are found in Gadchiroli. Officials have also recorded presence of four tigers in areas like Vadsa and Alapalli. With conservation efforts, they hope an increase in herbivore numbers will draw in tigers, especially from Brahmapuri and Tadoba.However, even after nod from villages, the department has other challenges. “Due to Naxal activities, our own movement is restricted. This may inhibit work on habitat improvement, soil and moisture conservation and general protection,” said an official.

Trump taps Exxon’s Tillerson as top U.S. diplomat, lawmakers worried | Reuters

By Steve Holland

WASHINGTON President-elect Donald Trump named the head of Exxon Mobil Corp, Rex Tillerson, as his choice for U.S. secretary of state on Tuesday and won backing from some Republican foreign policy figures for the oilman despite his ties to Russia.The Exxon CEO potentially faces a tough fight to be confirmed in the Republican-controlled Senate. Some lawmakers worry about his links to Moscow and opposition to U.S. sanctions on Russia, which awarded him a friendship medal in 2013. But several Republican establishment figures, including former secretaries of state James Baker and Condoleezza Rice, and former Defense Secretary Robert Gates vouched for Tillerson, 64, who has spent more than 40 years at the oil company. Rice and Gates, who have worked for Exxon as consultants, both issued statements of support on Tuesday. Their backing could be crucial for Tillerson getting approved by the Senate, where Republicans will have a slim majority when Trump takes office on Jan 20. “The fact that Condi Rice, James Baker and Bob Gates are recommending Tillerson carries considerable weight,” said Senator Jeff Flake, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.By choosing Tillerson, Trump adds another person to his Cabinet and circle of advisers who may favor a soft line toward Moscow, which is under U.S. sanctions for its 2014 annexation of Crimea and at the center of allegations that it launched cyber attacks to disrupt the U.S. presidential election. Republican foreign policy hawks in the Senate like John McCain and Lindsey Graham are likely to give Tillerson a rough time at a confirmation hearing in early January.”It’s very well known that he has a very close relationship with (Russian President) Vladimir Putin,” said McCain, the Republican party’s 2008 nominee for president. Republicans will have a majority of just 52-48 in the Senate, and only a few defections from their ranks would block Tillerson if every Democrat also opposed him.

Trump said in a statement that Tillerson will reverse policies that left America less safe. “He will be a forceful and clear-eyed advocate for America’s vital national interests,” Trump said.Tillerson has foreign experience from years of cutting deals with foreign countries for his company, the world’s largest energy firm, but like Trump he has never held public office.He has been chief executive of Exxon Mobil since 2006. He said in a statement that he shared the president-elect’s “vision for restoring the credibility of the United States.”Exxon Mobil’s board will meet soon regarding its transition, CNBC reported citing a company statement.

Trump was also poised to add another figure with close ties to the oil industry to his Cabinet.A source close to the transition said Trump had chosen former Texas Governor Rick Perry, whose state is a leading oil producer, as his nominee for energy secretary, with an announcement expected soon. Perry met Trump at Trump Tower in New York on Monday, part of a series of meetings that included Rapper Kanye West on Tuesday.In 2013, Putin bestowed a Russian state honor, the Order of Friendship, on Tillerson, citing his work “strengthening cooperation in the energy sector.”There also has been controversy over alleged Russian interference in the Nov. 8 presidential election, with the CIA concluding that Moscow had intervened to help Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.Tillerson’s “cozy ties to Vladimir Putin and Russia would represent an untenable conflict at the State Department,” Representative Eliot Engel, the ranking Democrat on the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, said in a statement.

Trump is confident Tillerson can get past questions about his ties to Russia, a transition official said.”His relationships with leaders all over the world are second to none,” Trump said.Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Trump and Tillerson were “pragmatic people” who could help America and Russia build a mutually beneficial relationship. There also are concerns among lawmakers about former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, who has been mentioned as a possible No. 2 in the State Department and who has voiced hawkish views on Iraq and Iran, as well as on China and Taiwan.Republicans and Democrats said they would ask Tillerson, who has met Putin several times, about his contacts with Russia. A Kremlin foreign policy aide said Tillerson has good relations with Putin and many other Russian officials.The U.S. business community welcomed Trump’s choice of Tillerson, with GE Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Immelt calling him “a great negotiator.””We are pleased that Rex will bring a business perspective to the State Department,” the National Association of Manufacturers added.Global Witness, an international group that focuses on natural-resource related conflict and corruption, urged the Senate to reject Tillerson, citing Exxon deals with governments in Nigeria and other countries, which the group said contributed to corruption. (Reporting by Steve Holland; Additional reporting by Susan Heavey, Patricia Zengerle and Phil Stewart in Washington and by Georgina Prodhan in Belgrade; Editing by Will Dunham and Alistair Bell)

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

First Published On : Dec 13, 2016 22:51 IST

Cyclone Vardah: Govt taking all precautions at Kalpakkam nuclear power plant in Kancheepuram

New Delhi: Government has taken all precautions for the safety of Kalpakkam nuclear power plant as Tamil Nadu faces a severe cyclonic storm Vardah on Monday.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

“All precautions are taken at nuclear plant Kalpakkam to face Vardah. So far all is well and plant operation is normal. The plant is in touch with the India Meteorological Department,” the National Disaster Management Authority said in a statement.

Kalpakkam is in Kancheepuram, which along with Chennai, Tiruvallur and Villupuram in northern Tamil Nadu, has been pounded by heavy rainfall and high velocity winds.

The Nuclear power Corporation of India-run power plant has two operational units which produces 440 MW power while another plant of 500 MW is undergoing construction.

The wind speed of cyclone Vardah reached 110-120 kmph as the landfall process began.

People are advised to remain in safe places and cooperate with state government officials and disaster management agencies, the NDMA said.

As many as 19 team of National Disaster Response Force (one team comprises of 35 personnel) have been deployed in coastal areas of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh to deal with any situation arising out of the cyclone’s landfall.

Fishermen are advised not to venture into sea along and off south Andhra Pradesh, north Tamil Nadu and Puducherry coasts during next two days.

So far 7,354 people from Tamil Nadu living in areas of possible landfall have been shifted to safer places and kept in 54 relief centres.

First Published On : Dec 12, 2016 14:48 IST

Precautions taken for safety of Kalpakkam nuclear power plant: NDMA

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Government has taken all precautions for the safety of Kalpakkam nuclear power plant as Tamil Nadu faces a severe cyclonic storm Vardah on Monday.”All precautions are taken at nuclear plant Kalpakkam to face Vardah. So far all is well and plant operation is normal. The plant is in touch with the India Meteorological Department,” the National Disaster Management Authority said in a statement.Kalpakkam is in Kancheepuram, which along with Chennai, Tiruvallur and Villupuram in northern Tamil Nadu, has been pounded by heavy rainfall and high velocity winds.The Nuclear power Corporation of India-run power plant has two operational units which produces 440 MW power while another plant of 500 MW is undergoing construction.The wind speed of cyclone Vardah reached 110-120 kmph as the landfall process began.People are advised to remain in safe places and cooperate with state government officials and disaster management agencies, the NDMA said.As many as 19 team of National Disaster Response Force (one team comprises of 35 personnel) have been deployed in coastal areas of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh to deal with any situation arising out of the cyclone’s landfall.Fishermen are advised not to venture into sea along and off south Andhra Pradesh, north Tamil Nadu and Puducherry coasts during next two days.So far 7,354 people from Tamil Nadu living in areas of possible landfall have been shifted to safer places and kept in 54 relief centres.

Cylone Vardah LIVE: Storm unlikely to weaken after landfall; air and rail travel hit

Dec 12, 2016


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New Delhi: Cyclonic storm Vardah, which was earlier expected to weaken considerably, may not see its intensity going down when it makes landfall near Chennai on Monday. According to the Cyclone Warning Division of the India Meteorological Department, (IMD), Vardah, which is currently, a very severe cyclonic storm, will weaken, but only to a severe cyclonic storm.

Cyclone Vardah over Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.Cyclone Vardah over Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.

Cyclone Vardah over Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.

The earlier forecast made by the IMD was that it would weaken into a cyclonic storm, thereby reducing its intensity considerably. At 9.30 am, the cyclone was lay centered around 105 kms east-northeast of Chennai.

By the time it makes a landfall, its wind speed is expected to be 100-110 kilometres per hours with winds gusting up to 120 kmph. The wind speed during a very severe cyclonic storm is 120 to 130 kmph. In a severe cyclonic storm the wind speed is somewhere between 110 to 80 kilometres per hour. One of the major reasons for destruction in any cyclone is the wind velocity, apart from heavy to heavy rains and flooding.

Rainfall at most places with isolated heavy to very heavy falls over south coastal Andhra Pradesh, north coastal Tamil Nadu and Puducherry is very likely during 36 hrs. The rainfall intensity will increase gradually becoming heavy to very heavy rainfall (7-19 cm) at a few places and isolated extremely heavy rainfall (20 centimetres) over Chennai, Thiruvallur and Kanchipuram districts of Tamil Nadu and Nellore and Prakasam districts of Andhra Pradesh on 12 December, the IMD said.

Tidal wave of about one metre height above the astronomical tide is very likely to inundate the low lying areas of Chennai, Thiruvallur and Kanchipuram districts of Tamil Nadu and Nellore districts of Andhra Pradesh during the time of landfall.

With inputs from PTI

First Published On : Dec 12, 2016 11:48 IST

Demonetization: Janardhan Reddy’s associate who helped him convert black money arrested

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A special land acquisition officer and another person named by his driver in a note before allegedly committing suicide last week, have been arrested by the Mandya Police in Karnataka on Sunday. Ramesh KC had allegedly committed suicide by consuming poison at a lodge at Maddur in Mandya district on December 6, leaving a note in which he has listed out alleged illegalities committed by Bheema Nayak, special land acquisition officer (Bengaluru) and held him and his personal driver Mohammad responsible for his death.Ramesh had also alleged that there was a threat to his life as he was in the know of the illegalities allegedly committed by the officer and how he got money converted into white for the wedding of mining baron G Janardhan Reddy’s daughter recently. “Mandya Police team has arrested Bheema Nayak and Mohammad from a relative’s house today,” police here said.
ALSO READ Driver’s suicide note claims he knew how Janardhan Reddy laundered Rs 100 crore The note claims that Reddy had got Rs 100 crore converted into white money for his daughter’s marriage with the the help of Nayak. “He (Nayak) had got converted Rs 1000 and 500 notes belonging to them (Reddy) worth Rs 100 crores for 20% (commission) to Rs 50, 100 and 2000 notes. As I was aware of all these things, they had threatened me of dire consequences and told me they will get me killed from rowdies,” the note claimed.Mandya Police, which had registered a case under section 306 of the IPC (abetment of suicide), had formed three teams to look into the suicide of Ramesh. The Criminal Investigation Department is also probing the case.

No mechanism to deal with complaints against retired judges appointed in HCs: Law Ministry

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Days after agreeing with the judiciary to appoint retired judges in high courts to tackle rising cases, the Law Ministry has cautioned that there is no mechanism to deal with complaints of “wrongful acts” against them.As per the minutes of the meeting of the Chief Ministers- Chief Justices Conference held in April, approved after a gap of nearly six months in October, it has been resolved that “subject to integrity, suitability and performance of a person who has held the office as a judge of the high court, the provisions of Article 224 A can be invoked to deal with the extraordinary situation involving the large pendency of civil and criminal cases in the high courts…”The provision says that the chief justice of a high court, with the previous consent of the President (Centre), can request any person who has held the office of a judge of that court or any other high court to sit and act as a judge of the high court for that state.But now, the Department of Justice in the Law Ministry has told the Parliamentary standing Committee on Law and Personnel that “There is no mechanism to deal with the complaint against retired judges of the Supreme Court and the High Courts.”It was a responding to a series of questions asked by the committee on judges’ appointment and vacancies in the higher judiciary.The department was asked to explain the “merits/demerits” of appointment of ad hoc judges in the Supreme Court and the 24 high courts.It said “impeachment is the only remedy to remove a sitting judge. However, in this case, if a retired judge indulges in wrongful act or omissions, no mechanism has been laid down in respect of retired judges.”According to the minutes of the meeting, appointment of retired judges in high courts can also help achieve the goal of ‘five plus zero’ pendency. ‘Five plus zero’ is an initiative toensure that cases pending for more than five years are taken up on priority basis and pendency of such cases is brought down to zero level.As on June 30 while the total sanctioned strength was 21,303, the subordinate courts were functioning with 16,192 judicial officers — a shortage of 5,111.The 24 high courts face a shortage of nearly 450 judges.Over three crore cases are pending in courts across India.So far, the government has received names of 18 former judges for appointment in four high courts.The 18 names have been received from the high courts of Andhra Pradesh/Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, Allahabad and Calcutta.The names are under process, highly-placed sources said.

Cyclone Vardah to cross south coast of Andhra, Met dept issues alert for fishermen

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Meteorological Department has issued a cyclone alert for fishermen and advised them not to venture into Andhra Coast. According to the alert, the severe cyclonic storm Vardah over Bay of Bengal is south-east about 580 km south east of Nellore, 550 km east-southeast of Machilipatnam and 540 km east-northeast of Chennai. It is likely to move northwest and cross the coast between Nellore and Machilipatnam by Monday. It is likely to maintain its intensity till Sunday evening and thereafter, likely to weaken gradually while moving towards south Andhra Pradesh and adjoining north Tamil Nadu coasts.The cyclone alert said that squally winds and rough to very rough sea conditions are expected along and off Andhra Pradesh and North Tamil Nadu coasts.Under its influence, light to moderate rainfall at many places with isolated heavy to very heavy falls over south coastal Andhra and adjoining areas of north coastal Tamil Nadu likely to commence from today evening, with squally winds speed reaching 40-50 kmph and gusting to 60 kmph prevailing along and off Andhra Pradesh and adjoining Tamil Nadu coasts beginning tonight.Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu cancelling his visit to Dubai got into disaster management mode to monitor the situation. After assessing the situation he appointed four special officers to handle the cyclone effect each in Nellore, Chittoor, Prakasam and Kadapa districts, which are under threat to alert people and mobilise them in the areas where the impact would be high.The State government has set up a control room at the Command Communication Centre in Vijayawada under NDMA with helpline number 0866-2488000. The district administrations along the south coastal Andhra have asked the Revenue, Panchayat Raj and Irrigation department officials to remain in the headquarters and prepare for contingency measures.

The name game…

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Old name, Oshiwara. New name, Ram Mandir; old name, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. New name, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus. William Shakespeare might have famously asked ‘What’s in a name?’ but try telling that to officials from the home ministry to the railways to the survey offices dotting the country.According to officials, in a nation with so many states, cultures, languages and historical personalities and interpretations, the request for renaming places, stations, roads and airports is an unending affair.Of course, much angst has also been expressed nationally about the number of institutions, government programmes and public works that are named or renamed after members of the Nehru-Gandhi family.Speaking to DNA, Pankaj Mishra, Technical Secretary to the Surveyor-General of India said the department receives an average of 20-25 requests annually for renaming existing places. The numbers for naming new railway stations is much higher.“There are several new lines being built by the Railways across the country, and all these lines obviously have new stations. So we do get a lot of requests for naming these stations,” he said.The process itself is a protracted one. After all, a change of name can sometimes change just about everything. Explaining the process, Mishra said, “Names are contained in two lists, one called the Central Gazetteer (CG) maintained by the Union government and the other in the state Gazetteer maintained by the respective state governments. The thumb rule is that it is tougher to change names in the Central Gazetteer as the entity might be a very expansive one with a lot of historical value.”Renaming any entity in the CG means that the final approval must come from the Union Ministry of Home Affairs. “The MHA sends it to the Department of Science and Technology under which the Survey of India works. An extensive ground check is conducted wherein the name proposed is verified with old maps, general usage of the name among local populace, its historical significance, etc before a call is taken. Once the change is approved, the name’s ‘transliteration’ (conversion of a text from one script to another) is also suggested by us,” said Mishra.For naming new railway stations, the Ministry of Railways sends requests directly to the Survey of India officewhich after due diligence forwards the request with its suggestions to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs. The state in which the railway station is placed has the dominant say in naming a new station. It was this right that was exercised by the state government when it came to renaming the yet-to-be-commissioned Oshiwara station to Ram Mandir station, said officials.As far as the railway stations are concerned, a somewhat obscure department called the Indian Railway Conference Association (IRCA) also plays a role. Once the name is approved, the IRCA, an organisation in existence since 1903 and which functions out of the annexe office of the Divisional Railway Manager’s Office Complex, Northern Railway in New Delhi, give the station an alphabetical code.However, as some officials put it, it is also a double-edged sword. “We really do not want a situation where just about all our railway stations and cities are named after political or historical figures with little or no connection to the geographical value of that place. For instance look at what has happened with Kadapa or Cuddapah in Rayalaseema region of Andhra Pradesh. A place famous for its blackish limestone- called Cuddapah stone worldwide, has now been submerged into a politically significant entity called the YSR district, named after former Andhra Chief Minister YS Rajashekhar Reddy,” explained a senior bureaucrat.Speaking to DNA, Subodh Jain, former Member Engineering, Railway Board said it is best not to tinker with names. “The general rule is that the railway station’s name should be true to the geographical details of the area. It is mostly based on the nearest tehsil, or any important government office nearby, or the village through which it passes, or some place with overwhelming historical importance. For example, Abu Road station is a ways from Mount Abu but because the latter has such historical importance, it is only imperative that the station servicing it be called Abu Road. A rule which has been long-standing is that it should not be named after historical figures, though that too has been done post-Independence which is not the best sign,” said Jain.Commuter Manish Chaturvedi hits the nail on the head on nomenclature. “How does it matter if the name of a station changes but the infrastructure at the station remains just as inadequate. Commuters want facilities, not names. Infact on the ground, people continue to call a station by its old and simpler name rather than the newer more fancy one,” said Chaturvedi.If William Shakespeare had been tuned into the political theatre of India, he would have possibly got the answer to his question ‘What’s in a name?’ The answer to that would most likely be: ‘Politics’.HOW THE NAME CHANGE WORKSLocal authorities or politicians propose a new name for a place or station.
The proposal is sent to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs.
The MHA forwards it to the Department of Science and Technology.
The Department of Science and Technology sends it to the Survey of India (SoI) office.
The Department of Science and Technology sends it to the Survey of India (SoI) office.
Once approved by MHA, the state government and the union government make the changes in the respective gazettes with a notification. A STATION CALLED SEX?The IRCA gives railway stations an alphabetical code which is used in the official railway timetable.For example Kolhapur might be now called Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj Terminus, but its IRCA-provided alphabetical code remains the old KOP.Similarly a small narrow gauge station called Seroni Road in North Central Railway’s Jhansi division in Madhya Pradesh has its alphabetical code as SEX.WHAT’S A TOPONYM?Geographical names, or toponyms, provide a widely recognised and easily understandable reference to a place or location. They serve a range of purposes, from identification of a location in official documents such as passports and birth certificates, to providing an authoritative reference system for online search tools, web-based interactive mapping, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Global Positioning System (GPS) devices. They describe our landscape, highlight our multicultural and multilingual heritage, and record the history that shapes our values.NAME CHANGE OR ATTITUDE CHANGE?A survey carried out early this year, commissioned by the Environment & Housekeeping Management Directorate of the Railway Board and conducted by Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation through TNS India Pvt. Ltd, showed that people want much more than just change in names.The survey, covering 407 stations of which 332 were A Category stations and 75 were A1 Category stations, gave out the 6 most impacting parameters in commuter satisfaction when it came to a railway station. As expected the name of the station didn’t figure anywhere.a) Absence of stench in the station premisesb) Adequate availability of dustbinsc) Promptness in cleaning of extremes of dirtiness like night-soil /vomitd) Cleanliness of platform arease) Availability & condition of toilets and availability of water in toiletsf) Condition of flooring surface at platforms

J&K: Night temperatures plummet, fringes of Dal Lake freeze

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Cold wave tightened its grip in Kashmir Valley on Saturday as the night temperature plummeted to the season’s lowest in many places, resulting in the freezing of fringes of the famous Dal Lake for the first time this winter. The summer capital Srinagar witnessed the coldest night of the season as the mercury settled at the low of minus 4.5 degrees Celsius, a spokesman of the MeT Department said in Srinagar.He said the dip in the temperature resulted in the freezing of fringes of Dal Lake in Srinagar and many other water bodies as well as drinking water taps. Leh in Ladakh region also experienced the coldest night of the season as the temperature plummeted to settle at minus 11.9 degrees Celsius. The region was the coldest in Jammu and Kashmir.The nearby Kargil town recorded the minimum of minus 8.2 degrees Celsius, the spokesman said. He said Kupwara, in north Kashmir, recorded a low minus 5.1 degrees Celsius, down from minus 4.9 degrees Celsius on Thursday. This was the lowest recorded temperature of the season so far in the border town.Pahalgam hill resort in south Kashmir recorded a low of minus 3.0 degrees Celsius. He said the minimum in the famous ski-resort of Gulmarg in north Kashmir settled at minus 1.0 degrees Celsius two degrees down from the previous night’s 1.0 degrees Celsius.The spokesman said Qazigund town in south Kashmir registered the minimum of minus 3.2 degrees Celsius, while the nearby Kokernag town recorded the low of minus 2.0 degrees Celsius. The MeT Office forecast isolated rains in the plains and snowfall in the higher reaches for at least two days from Saturday night.

After I-T raid, CM Chandrababu Naidu directs removal of Shekhar Reddy as Tirupati board member

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu on Saturday directed the concerned department to remove industrialist J Shekhar Reddy as Tirumala Tirupathi Devasthaman (TTD) (Tirupati) Board Member. Naidu’s decision came days after the Income-Tax Department raided his Chennai residence and seized currency notes and gold in huge quantities. The department seized Rs 6 crore in newly introduced Rs 2,000 denomination notes from the house of Shekhar Reddy in T Nagar.Earlier on Friday, Left parties and social activists demanded Reddy’s ouster from prestigious TTD Trust Board, which manages the famous Tirumala Balaji Temple and charged the government of preferring businessmen and contractors for coveted post for nurturing their business interests and personal gains. CPI activists also demanded that Reddy be removed from the TTD Trust Board.The Income Tax Department on Thursday raided premises belonging to three businessmen Shekhar Reddy, Srinivasa Reddy and Prem, in Chennai ‘s T Nagararea and seized Rs 90 crore and 100 kilograms gold. The income tax officials also questioned businessmen, involved in the money exchange racket.

US Congress clears decks for India to become key defence partner

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The US Congress has cleared the decks for India to become a “major defence partner”, with the Senate passing the 2017 National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA) the $618 billion American defence budget for 2017 by 92 to 7 votes. NDAA 2017, which asks the defence secretary and the secretary of state to take steps necessary to recognise India as America’s major defence partner in a bid to strengthen bilateral security cooperation, was passed earlier by the US House of Representatives by 375-34 votes and now heads to the White House for President Barack Obama to sign it into law. “I applaud the inclusion of forward-leaning provisions designed to strengthen bilateral defense cooperation with India, including expanded military-to-military engagement, increased defence trade, and greater cooperation on technological development,” Senator Mark Warner, Co-Chair of the Senate India Caucus, said in a statement after the Senate passed the bill yesterday.”As the world’s largest democracy and one with which US strategic interests increasingly align, India is an important partner in promoting economic growth and global security,” said Warner, who will serve as Vice Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee in the 115th Congress.Titled ‘Enhancing defense and security cooperation with India,’ Section 1292 of the NDAA asks the defence secretary and the secretary of state to take steps necessary to recognise India as America’s major defense partner of the US.It also asks the administration to designate an individual within the executive branch who has experience in defense acquisition and technology to reinforce and ensure, through interagency policy coordination, the success of the Framework for the US-India Defence Relationship; and to help resolve remaining issues impeding US-India defense trade, security cooperation, and co-production and co-development opportunities.The act calls for approval and facilitation of transfer of advanced technology, consistent with US conventional arms transfer policy, to support combined military planning with India’s military for missions such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, counter piracy, freedom of navigation, and maritime domain awareness missions, and to promote weapons systems interoperability.Calling to strengthen the effectiveness of the US-India Defense Trade and Technology Initiative and the durability of the Department of Defense’s ‘India Rapid Reaction Cell’, NDAA 2017 also seeks collaboration with India to develop mutually agreeable mechanisms to verify the security of defense articles, defense services and related technology such as appropriate cyber security and end use monitoring arrangements consistent with US’ export control laws and policy. After the passage of the bill, within 180 days, the secretary of defence and secretary of state have been asked to jointly submit to the Congressional Defence Committees and the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate and the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives a report on how the US is supporting its defence relationship with India.Among other things it seeks to enhance cooperative military operations, including maritime security, counter-piracy, counter-terror cooperation, and domain awareness, in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.NDAA 2017 is still a step below what friends of India have been working for in the Congress for the past few years – brining the defence ties at par with top NATO allies and Israel. “The President shall ensure that the assessment” is used, consistent with US conventional arms transfer policy, to inform the review by the US of requests to export defence articles, defence services, or related technology to India under the Arms Export Control Act and to inform any regulatory and policy adjustments that may be appropriate, it said.NDAA-2017 also asks the defence secretary and the secretary of state to conduct an assessment of the extent to which India possesses capabilities to support and carry out military operations of mutual interest of the two countries. This, including an assessment of the defence export control regulations and policies, need appropriate modification in recognition of India’s capabilities and its status as a major defence partner.

Arvind Kejriwal, Najeeb Jung in dust-up over vaccum cleaning plan

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Delhi government’s much-hyped project of vaccum cleaning the roads has hit yet another hurdle. Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung has sought a detailed report regarding the project before it can be implemented.Lashing out at Jung, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said, “The LG has put forth unnecessary objections against the vaccum cleaning project, thereby halting a project that the entire city has been waiting for. He has sought a detailed report from us. We will respond to all the objections, but until then, there will then be no vaccum cleaning in Delhi.” Among other queries, the LG has asked the Delhi government: “Who is the competent authority to authorise the takeover of these functions (sweeping and parking activities) by the Public Works Department (PWD) from the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD)?” The LG has also sought a detailed examination from the legal, administrative and financial points of view, detailing implications for all the stake holders.The proposal to sweep the dusty Delhi roads mechanically was announced last December, among several other decisions, including installation of air purifiers and mist fountains, taken by the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) to check the alarming levels of air pollution in the city. Terming the objections an attempt to ‘stall the initiative’, the Delhi CM said, “Written submission has been filed in the Supreme Court that vaccum cleaning will be done on the city roads. I think this is a contempt of the Supreme Court order.” He added, “The Delhi government is neither asking for money from the MCD nor trying to take over their functions. Instead, we are providing a facility to the municipal corporations.” Kejriwal said he has now directed Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia to meet the LG next week and request him to let the government go ahead with the project. The LG office, meanwhile, refused to comment on the issue.The PWD is responsible for nearly 1,260km of road network. The rest fall under the jurisdiction of the civic bodies. The Delhi government’s vaccum cleaning project has been hitting one hurdle after the other. Earlier, the project was stalled due to the lack of interested bidders, and then those who approached the government quoted exorbitant rates.

Demonetization: Gang robs businessman of Rs 58 lakh in new notes, held

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Police said they have apprehended eight members of a gang on Thursday, who allegedly robbed Rs 58 lakh in new notes from a businessman who had struck a deal to exchange their scrapped banknotes. On coming to know that the businessman has lakhs of rupees in new currency notes, the gang allegedly entered into a deal with him to exchange old notes for 25% commission, police said in a release.Accordingly, the businessman brought Rs 58 lakh in Rs 2,000 and Rs 100 denomination at 2.30 AM on the intervening night of December 4-5 near GHMC playground. The gang members then thrashed the businessman and fled with bags containing the cash, it said. Acting on a complaint by the victim, police lodged a case of dacoity and formed special teams which nabbed the eight members of the gang last night. One person is absconding.After completion of investigation into the dacoity case, police would focus on the money acquired by the victim’s uncle in Rs 2,000 notes in high quantity. The uncle allegedly had handed over the money to the complainant, it said. Police would also check whether the businessman used his workers for exchanging scrapped notes in the bank. The I-T Department would be intimated about the new currency notes of Rs 2,000 acquired in huge quantity by the complainant and his uncle, the release said.

Pakistan lifts ban on Indian cotton imports

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Pakistan has lifted an “undeclared” ban on import of ginned cotton from India, days after rejecting a consignment of 10,000 bales of cotton from India citing violation of plant quarantine rules by importers.Earlier, the Department of Plant Protection (DPP) of the Ministry of National Food Security and Research put cotton imports from India on hold through Wagah and Karachi port from November 23, saying the shipments did not fulfil phyto-sanitary conditions, Dawn newspaper reported.The rising border tensions between the two neighbours had prompted Islamabad to impose the ban on 10,000 bales of cotton worth US $3.3 million from India. “The DPP has started issuing permits for importing cotton from India via Wagah. But the DPP has also made it clear to importers that only the consignments free from cotton seeds will be accepted and allowed into the country,” a DPP official said. “If implemented strictly, we will not be able to import cotton from any country in the world, let alone India, because no consignment is completely free from cotton seeds,” he said.Last year, Pakistan imported ginned cotton worth more than US $800 million from India which accounted for two-thirds of India’s cotton exports.Traders are expecting cotton imports from India and elsewhere to surge this year in view of the anticipated shortfall in the domestic crop while the government expects cotton output to remain close to 10.5 million bales of 170kg each against a reduced industry demand of 14 million bales owing to widespread factory closures in Punjab because of higher energy prices.Last year, a drop of 27% in domestic cotton output shaved 0.5% off gross domestic product growth rate of Pakistan.

Embassies get assurance on cash

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A high-level committee headed by an additional secretary in the Department of Economic Affairs is still grappling with the issue of shortage of cash experienced by the diplomatic missions, expatriate Indians, foreign tourists, and money changer associations abroad.Responding to the concerns raised by the Russian Embassy here that the cash crunch was affecting itsfuctioning, the government said the issues were at the advanced stage of being resolved.Earlier, the Dean of Diplomatic Corps stationed in Delhi had also raised the issue on behalf of all the missions.Earlier on Tuesday, in a letter, Russian Ambassador Alaxander Kadakin raised the issue of his diplomats not being able to withdraw enough money thus hampering the normal functioning of the mission. He sought intervention of the External Affairs Ministry so that the withdrawal restrictions for diplomatic staff are lifted. “We are awaiting a reply from the MEA and hope that this is resolved quickly. Otherwise, we will be forced to explore other options which may include raising the issue in Moscow with your Embassy by summoning Indian Minister Counsellor,” a senior Russian embassy official said here. He also warned that options may also include restriction on the cash withdrawals for Indian diplomats posted in Russia. There are approximately 200 staff members in the Russian mission here.After the demonetization process last month, MEA had said it approached the Department of Economic Affairs over three or four types of requests, including those related to maintaining sufficient flow of funds to diplomatic missions. Official spokesperson Vikas Swarup said a committee under an additional secretary that includes officials from finance and the MEA has been set up to look into the issues. The committee has met several times over the past few days to resolve the issue.It is also understood that some other countries such as Pakistan, Ukraine and Kazakhstan have also sent letters to the MEA. Pakistan High Commission had threatened a tit-for-tat action and starve the Indian mission in Islamabad of cash against the policies of a private Indian bank which had refused to release salaries of its employees.According to the Pakistani mission, the bank has imposed additional conditions for withdrawal of salaries. These conditions, which came into effect only last week, make it mandatory for Pakistan officials to fill up additional forms specifying their expenditures and also that they exchange their dollars with the same bank. The officials are upset because the exchange rate is much lower than that offered by the bank. Pakistan has told MEA that the bank in question had chosen to target its mission specifically and not imposed similar conditions on other missions. Sources said after the government’sintervention, the issue between the private bank and the Pakistani mission was resolved.The MEA has has received four types of different requests on the issue of demonetization, the first concern being the diplomats who are based in Delhi. “Some of them have told us that diplomatic missions require more funds and the existing limits are insufficient for them. They have requested thatthose limites should be increased for diplomatic missions,” said Swarup. The second set of issues involves NRIs having cash in Indian currency currently abroad. The committee is looking into the issue . The money changers’ associations abroad are also asking what they should do with the stacks of Indian currency they have or how to exchange them.

Call centre scam: Tailor-made script used to con US citizens

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”If you think this is a scam than wait for next 30 minutes, let the sherrif come in and get you arrested than you will come to know it’s a scam or not (sic),” — this is what operators posing as Internal Revenue Service officials were instructed to tell US nationals while extorting money from them.DNA has exclusively accessed the over 6,000-page charge sheet filed by the Thane Police in the Mira Road call centre scam. Among the evidence cited against the accused is an elaborate 18-page “script” that was given to the operators to follow as a standard operating procedure while baiting US nationals.According to the charge sheet, the accused listed at least 20,000 US nationals as their target, and when the victims were contacted, the operators introduced themselves as employees of the Department of Internal Revenue Services (IRS).”We called to inform you about a legal case filed under your name by IRS under which you are listed as a primary suspect. Now I want you to grab a pen and paper with you so that I can provide you with your case ID number……,” was just the start of a lengthy conversation laid out in the “script”.It went on, “I would like to read out the affidavit to you so that you will come to know what is your case all about. But when i read the affidavit to you, please do not interrupt me in between because the lines on which we are right now is been federally monitors and recorded so if you have any doubts any questions ask me once I am done reading it. Let me also notify you that we work throughout a computer management system, so as soon as this call is hung up, either by my side or your side, your case file will be active to the local police department and your warrant will be issued, which means that the police along with the IRS investigation officer will be coming at your door step or work place within 30 minutes and they can keep you under custody for next two months.”As per the script, the caller would also inform the victim that the “IRS is pressing 3 serious criminal allegations on your name”. These were purportedly “violation of federal tax regulation, willful misrepresentation of information to the government organisation and theft by deception”.The operator would inform the US national that an IRS audit of his tax returns had found “miscalculation involving your income credited” and that IRS records and tax returns filed by the victim did not tally.”The IRS has decided to put you on the IRS radar by putting the money deeming it to be stolen by you starting enforcement actions against you and levy on your assets, which would include your bank account and investment funds, if any. The IRS will report this to all the credit agency (sic),” the script dictates.The so-called IRS officer would then inform the victim that the pending amount was as much as 2,875 dollars and it could be solved through only one process — Out of Court Restitution or OoCR.The operator would also inform the victim that if they failed to opt for OoCR, then a warrant would be issued against the person and no one could bail the person out for the next two months. Furthermore, the IRS would mark a lien on the citizen’s assets, his/her driving license would be suspended, and a report would be sent to the department of public safety to freeze his/her bank account.”They will inform this to the department of labour so the current job you are working, you will gonna lose it. And you won’t be able to get any legal jobs in US for the next 7 years (sic),” is the next threat the script makes, before warning of the victim’s passport being seized.A typical conversation would end with the warning, “If its a scam, I would suggest you not to pay any of the amount to us. I will promise you you will gonna lose everything what you have and you will end up paying bills to IRS to your rest of your life. (sic).”

Congress demands CBI probe into realtor Mahesh Shah’s IDS disclosure claim

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Congress on Tuesday alleged that the Gujarat government was trying to ensure that local businessman Mahesh Shah, who declared a whopping Rs 13,860 crore under the black money scheme and later tempered it saying he acted as a ‘front’ for others, does not reveal any names and demanded a CBI probe into the entire episode.Expressing displeasure over the ongoing enquiry by the Income Tax Department, the gujarat unit president of Congress Bharatsinh Solanki said the truth will come out only if CBI takes over the probe. “Instead of taking a strict action, Shah has been given VIP treatment and is not yet arrested by government. It’s very clear that no Congress leader was involved in that scam. Because, if we were involved the government would have taken a swift action.Many people are claiming that money belonged to some BJP leaders,” Solanki alleged while addressing a press conference here. He alleged that instead of putting Shah under arrest on the charge of money laundering, the government was trying to ensure that he does not reveal any names. “It seems government is waiting for Shah to give names voluntarily. We are of the opinion the enquiry into this case should be handed over to CBI. That is the only way to bring out the truth. If government forms an enquiry commission, truth will never come out,” alleged Solanki. Shah, a property dealer, shot into limelight after he declared Rs 13,860 crore under Income Declaration Scheme, which closed on September 30.
ALSO READ IDS: Under scanner Mahesh Shah taken back home in police uniformAfter going missing for a few days, Shah resurfaced on a television channel claiming that he was just a front and the money belonged to other people and not him. Though he announced that he will disclose the names of these people soon, Shah did not share any such details with I-T officials who questioned him for two days. However, the disclosure made by Shah has been rejected by the I-T department and a probe was ordered to determine the intention behind the false claim. Meanwhile, Solanki criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for demonetising the high value currency notes, saying “behind every scheme floated by Modi there exists a scam.” “When he (Modi) was chief minister of Gujarat, he made tall claims about the discovery of huge amount of gas in KG basin block by GSPC. Later, everyone realised through CAG report that it was scam of Rs 20,000 crore. Similarly, many people having links with the BJP are now busy converting black money into white on a commission basis after demonetisation,” said Solanki.

Demonetization: Russia lodges protest, says cash shortage affecting working of its Mission

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Russia has strongly protested with India on cash shortage affecting the working of its Mission after demonetization, and wants a quick resolution of the issue, failing which it may explore other options including summoning Indian diplomat in Moscow.In a letter, Russian Ambassador Alaxander Kadakin has raised the issue of diplomats not being able to withdraw enough money hampering the normal functioning of the mission and sought intervention of the External Affairs Ministry so that the withdrawal restrictions for diplomatic staff are lifted.”We are awaiting a reply from the MEA and hope that this is resolved quickly. Otherwise, we will be forced to explore other options which may include raising the issue in Moscow with your Embassy by summoning Indian Minister Counsellor,” a senior Russian embassy official said here.Other options may also include restriction on the cash withdrawals for Indian diplomats posted in Russia, the official indicated.There are approximately 200 staffers in Russian mission here.There was no immediate reaction from the Indian side on the complaint.Earlier, the Dean of Diplomatic Corps had also raised the issue, complaining about the problems faced by the missions.It is also understood that some other countries like Ukraine and Kazakhstan have also protested to the ministry.After the demonetization last month, MEA had said it has approached Department of Economic Affairs over three or four types of requests including those related to maintaining sufficient flow of funds to diplomatic missions following the demonetization and was awaiting a decision from it.