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Newsroom diaries 2016: Freedom 251, the story that made us question technology

Editor’s note: This article is part of a series of newsroom diaries by various members of the Firstpost team. These diaries will provide you with the journalist’s recollections of a particular bit of news coverage in 2016 in which she/he was deeply involved.

I’ve been covering technology for some years now. But on the evening of 16 February this year, news came in of a sub-Rs 500 smartphone to be launched in India. Personally, I considered it to be a con job. It seemed as tricky as a chain-marketing sham to make money from innocent customers. I was rather excited about the upcoming Mobile World Congress, which typically sets the pace for the kind of devices we are to expect through the rest of the year. When someone suggested that this could be a story worth following, I brushed it aside.

Freedom 251. IBNLiveFreedom 251. IBNLive

Freedom 251. IBNLive

The next morning I was proven wrong. And how. On the morning of 17 February, newspapers in the northern parts of India ran full front page ads of the Freedom 251, by Ringing Bells. Colleagues who would otherwise not care as much about what we covered in technology were following up by the minute. I was getting phone calls and messages about this latest sensation. That’s exactly what Freedom 251 was – a sensation.

I had colleagues in office who were interested in buying a dozen handsets. A dozen? I thought to myself. But that’s exactly the kind of hysteria I was witnessing. While the initial joy of discovering a product as cheap as the Freedom 251 was behind us, we knew we had to go deeper. We’d have to break the myth it was. I ridiculed the product. Fundamentally, I was convicted of my idea that India needs devices, but what the Freedom 251 offers somehow doesn’t make it for me. I was criticised on social media for my stand – going against the wave of having an Indian product. I was accused of being critical and pessimistic when the need was to support Indian products. I guess that’s typical of social media conversations these days. Especially in India.

We analysed the product, the specification sheet that the company had put out. Our finding was that it was simply not possible to manufacture a device at that price point. People didn’t want to accept that this simply wasn’t possible. It’s like saying everyone has the possibility of winning a lottery. Mass hysteria begins. Then no one wants to know that the lottery is a hoax. During the days of the initial surge in interest, Apple, Microsoft, Google and Facebook all seemed pale in comparison.

We worked towards getting access to the device. Media in Delhi were invited to a launch event. As I always think, Delhi is important. So yes, media in Delhi tried the device out. And did mention on social media how the device gives mixed reactions. There were a few who said ‘what more do you expect in Rs 251?’ while others said, ‘feels like a scam.’ And sitting in Mumbai, I was getting mixed reactions from my friends in Delhi who had tried the device. But even they were given access to a ‘prototype’ with the logo of another manufacturer. Fine so far. But even that manufacturer distanced themselves from the company – Ringing Bells. I’m glad today there’s no mention of Freedom 251 and that India has finally moved beyond. Moreover, our initial stand of doubting the feasibility stands vindicated.

But what I have with me now are a couple of thousands of emails. All sent with personal details. I’ve been on a deletion spree, but every time I embark on that task, something more important comes along, and I procrastinate the deletion. It’s funny how someone could send me emails with an order of two dozen Freedom 251 handset. I’m not remotely connected to them. I’m glad though that no one sent me money, else they’d be demanding refunds! I’m probably going to spend a few hours around New Years cleaning up my inbox.

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 09:40 IST

Jammu & Kashmir cabinet approves draft of Governor’s address

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Jammu and Kashmir cabinet on Wednesday approved the draft of the address, to be delivered by Governor N N Vohra, to the joint sitting of the State legislature on January 2 next year.The cabinet, which met under the chairmanship of Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, approved the draft of the address, to be delivered by the Governor to the joint sitting of the State legislature on January 2, 2017, an official spokesman said.Legislative Assembly Speaker Kavinder Gupta issued the provisional calendar for the fourth Session of the 12th Legislative Assembly.As per the provisional calendar, starting from January 2, with the Governor’s address to Legislature, the House sittings would continue till February 4, 2017.According to the calendar discussion on motion of thanks on the Governor’s address and reply thereto will be held on January 3 and 4.The annual financial statement of expenditure for 2017-2018 and presentation of supplementary statement of expenditure for 2016-2017 will be held on January 9, 2017.The general discussion on budget will be held on January 10 and 11 ending with reply thereto.As per the calendar, the demand for grants for various departments would be taken up from January 12 to January 27 and the Appropriation Bills will be taken up on January 28.There shall be government business on January 30.Private members resolutions will be taken up on January 31 and February 2 and private members bills on February 1 and February 3.There will be government business on February 4, if any, the calendar issued read.

Election Commission announces Odisha panchayat polls dates

Tue, 27 Dec 2016-10:51pm , Bhubaneswar , ANI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Odisha Election Commission on Tuesday announced dates for panchayat polls in the state. As per the notification issued by the commission, the elections will be held for the posts of 853 Zilla Parishad Members, 6802 Sarpanchs, 6801 Panchayat Samiti members and 92,052 ward members in five phases on February 13, 15, 17, 19 and 21 respectively.State Election Commissioner Rabi Narayan Senapati said aspiring candidates can file nominations between January 11 and 17 and the scrutiny of the papers will be done on January 18. He said casting of votes would take place from 7 AM to 12 noon and counting of votes will be done from 1 PM onwards on these days. Around 2, 60, 92, 507 voters will exercise their franchise in the elections.

Govt to advance budget date to 1 February to make funds available at start of fiscal year

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday said advancing the date of budget presentation would help getting funds authorised for different sectors at the start of the financial year.

Addressing economists at Niti Aayog’s meeting on ‘Economic Policy – The Road Ahead’, he said that a change in the budget cycle would have an impact on the real economy.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Getty ImagesPrime Minister Narendra Modi. Getty Images

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Getty Images

“The date of budget presentation is being advanced so that expenditure is authorised by the time the new financial year begins,” the Prime Minister said.

The government is proposing to present the budget for 2017-18 on 1 February instead of the regular date of February 28. Also, there will be no separate railway budget for the next fiscal as the government has decided to merge it with the general budget.

Modi said under the existing budget calendar, the authorisation of expenditure comes with the onset of the monsoon which results in government programmes remaining relatively inactive in the productive pre-monsoon months.

Seeking views of the economists for the forthcoming budget on areas such job creation, agriculture, skill development and education, Modi underlined the need for engaging the youth for speeding up economic development.

During the meeting with the Prime Minister, economists shared their views on various themes such as agriculture, job creation, taxation, education, digital technology, housing, tourism, banking, governance reform, data driven policy and future steps for growth.

Farm sector experts suggested incentivising states to undertake market reforms, create corpus fund for promoting farm mechanisation and micro irrigation, and provide interest subvention for term loans, among others, to double farm income by 2022.

The meeting was attended by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Niti Aayog Vice Chairman Arvind Panagariya, and senior officers from the Union Government, among others.

The economists and experts who were present included Pravin Krishna, Sukhpal Singh, Vijay Paul Sharma, Neelkanth Mishra, Surjit Bhalla, Pulak Ghosh, Govinda Rao, Madhav Chavan, N K Singh, Vivek Dehejia, Pramath Sinha, Sumit Bose and TN Ninan.

First Published On : Dec 27, 2016 20:36 IST

Panchayat polls in Odisha to be held in five phases between 13-21 February

Bhubaneswar: The State Election Commission (SEC) on Tuesday announced dates for panchayat polls in Odisha.

The panchayat polls, which has been scheduled in five phases, will begin on 13 February, 2017, and end on 21 February, said a release.

With the announcement of poll dates, the model code of conduct came into effect in the state from Tuesday. It will be in force until the end of the last phase of the poll, it said.

Representative image. PTI

Representative image. PTI

“The aspiring candidates can file nominations between 11 January and 17 January next year. The papers will be scrutinised on January 18 and the last date for withdrawal of nominations is 21 January,” said State Election Commissioner R.N. Senapati.

The final list of contesting candidates will be declared on the same day.

The SEC has asked the district collectors to maintain law and order for smooth conduct of elections in their districts.

The elections will be held for the posts of 853 Zilla Parishad members, 6,802 Sarpanches, 6,801 Panchayat Samiti members and 92,052 ward members, in which 2,60,92,507 voters will exercise their franchise.

The state government has reserved 50 percent seats for women candidates in the panchayat elections.

First Published On : Dec 27, 2016 16:04 IST

Notice served on legal counsel of Zakir Naik’s NGO

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Mumbai police on Monday served a notice received from the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Tribunal, set up to examine the evidence on the basis of which the Centre banned televangelist Zakir Naik’s NGO Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) last month, on the organisation’s legal counsel here.”The notice was received from the registrar of the tribunal and was served on IRF’s legal counsel SHA Jamati at the organisation’s office here,” a police spokesperson said. The tribunal was set up to adjudicate whether or not there was sufficient cause for declaring IRF an “unlawful association” under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. IRF was declared an unlawful association under section 3(1) of the UAPA, with the gazette notification, dated November 17, stating that the NGO and its members, particularly its founder Naik, had been “encouraging and aiding its followers to promote or attempt to promote disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious communities and groups”The “divisive ideology” propagated by IRF and its members, including Naik, is “against India’s pluralistic and secular social fabric and it may be viewed as causing disaffection against India”, the notification had said.The tribunal issued notices seeking responses from the Maharashtra government, IRF and other “interested persons” after its preliminary hearing. The NGO has been granted time till February 6 for filing its response.The Centre had cited Naik’s alleged role in radicalising Muslim youths “to commit terrorist acts”, besides the purported role of the organisation’s “members/associates” in unlawful activities to justify the ban before the tribunal.

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.

Hyderabad blasts: ‘Rarest of the rare’ case says judge, gives death sentence to 5 IM operatives

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Five key operatives of Indian Mujahideen, including the banned terror outfit’s co-founder Yasin Bhatkal and a Pakistani national, were awarded death penalty on Sunday by a Special NIA Court here in the February 2013 Hyderabad bomb blasts which claimed 18 lives.Pronouncing the sentence, Judge T Srinivasa Rao described the case as the “rarest of the rare”. This is the first case where operatives of the home-grown group have been convicted in a terror case.NIA Special Public Prosecutor K Surender said the court, after going through their evidence, found that the case is based on facts. “As per investigation…evidence that is placed on record clearly reflects that the five IM members planned and executed the bomb blasts. We sought capital punishment (for the convicts) and accordingly the court gave death penalty to them,” he said.The prosecutor described the verdict as a “victory” for NIA’s investigation and the witnesses.The court, after hearing the arguments of prosecution and defence counsels on sentencing, awarded death penalty to the convicts and also varying jail terms on different counts including, waging war against the Government of India and commission of terrorist act. On December 13, the court had convicted the five operatives — IM co-founder Mohd Ahmed Sidibapa alias Yasin Bhatkal, Pakistani national Zia-ur-Rahman alias Waqas, Asadullah Akhtar alias Haddi, Tahaseen Akhtar alias Monu and Ajaz Shaikh — who are at present in judicial custody and lodged in the Cherlapally Central Prison here.The IM convicts said they will go for an appeal, according to the NIA counsel.All relevant records will be submitted in the high court for confirmation of the death sentence, Surender said.Eighteen people were killed and 131 injured in two deadly explosions in Dilsukhnagar, a crowded shopping area in the city, on February 21, 2013. On November 7, the final arguments had concluded in the case before the special court. Since IM founder Riyaz Bhatkal, the prime accused in the case, is absconding, the trial was split up against him.The court convicted Yasin Bhatkal and others under various sections of Indian Penal Code, Arms Act, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).According to NIA, Riyaz Bhatkal arranged for explosive substances and directed Asadullah Akhtar and Zia-ur-Rahman at Mangalore to receive the same. After receiving the explosive materials and the money sent by Riyaz through hawala (illegal channels) and other money transfer modes, Asadullah Akhtar and Waqas reached Hyderabad and joined Tahseen Akhtar, who was already hiding there, NIA had said.Together they prepared two IEDs after procuring the other required material as well as two cycles for mounting the home-made bombs from Hyderabad, the anti-terror agency had said.After preparation of the IEDs on February 21, 2013, the accused mounted two bombs on the bicycles. They had planted them at separate places in Dilsukhnagar which resulted in powerful explosions, it had said. In its charge sheet, the NIA had claimed that Indian Mujahideen had hatched a conspiracy to wage a war against India and decided to carry out bomb blasts in Hyderabad to create terror in the mind of people and further the activities of the outfit. The main feature of the conspiracy was that the accused were communicating through the Internet, chatting with each other throughout the planning, finding suitable hideouts, purchasing material for the bombs, until the final escape, it said.They were also found to have used proxy servers to hide their identity, it said. The role of Yasin Bhatkal in the planning, procurement of explosives and harbouring of Asadullah Akhthar after the incident, was also unearthed by the NIA, the agency said. During investigation, a total of 440 witnesses were examined and 251 documents and 300 material objects seized. Extensive cyber forensic evidence was gathered and placed on record, according to the agency.Meanwhile, the counsel for the IM operatives said he will file an appeal before the high court against the conviction of his clients after obtaining a certified copy of the judgement. “I have received instruction to file (an appeal) from them (the convicts) and their relatives,” defence counsel Mahadevan said.

Gujarat HC starts hearing appeals in Naroda Patiya riot case

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Gujarat High Court on Monday started hearing appeals in the 2002 Naroda Patiya case, including those filed by former BJP minister Maya Kodnani and Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi.Defence lawyers started arguments before the division bench of justices Harsha Devani and A S Supehia. While Kodnani, Bajrangi and other convicts have challenged the verdict of the trial court, the Supreme Court- appointed Special Investigation Team has filed appeals against acquittals of 29 accused. It has also sought enhanced punishment for some of the convicts.The hearing is likely to be conducted on a daily basis. Last month, Justice Akil Kureshi had recused himself after which the case was transferred to the present bench. Before that, Justices M R Shah, K S Jhaveri, G B Shah, Sonia Gokani and R H Shukla had recused themselves from the matter. Also, in April 2015, the apex court had stayed the proceedings after SIT complained that Justice R R Tripathi of the high court was hearing only Kodnani’s appeal expeditiously. Tripathi retired and the case went to another division bench.97 people belonging to the minority community were killed by a mob during a riot in Naroda Patiya area of Ahmedabad on February 28, 2002, a day after the Godhra train burning incident in which 59 karsevaks died. The trial court had on August 30, 2012 awarded life imprisonment to Kodnani and 29 others, and “imprisonment till death” to Bajrangi. It had acquitted 29 others.

Delhi police opposes perjury proceedings against Kanhaiya Kumar, JNU professor

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>City police opposed in Delhi High Court a plea seeking initiation of perjury proceedings against former JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar and a JNU professor on Monday, saying there was no material to substantiate the allegation that they had filed false affidavits along with the bail plea of the student leader in a sedition case.Justice SP Garg was informed by the investigating officer (IO) that the court on August 11 had already dismissed pleas to cancel interim bail of Kanhaiya in the sedition case on the ground that nothing was shown that the student leader had made any anti-national speech after his release. “Perusal of petition, under reply, lacks materials and the contents/averments made therein are vehemently denied and, in view of the order dated August 11, 2016 of this court, the petition deserves to dismissed,” the affidavit filed by the Delhi Police said.The reply of the police came in the backdrop of a court notice issued to it on a plea claiming that a JNU professor had “deliberately” filed a false affidavit in the high court along with the bail petition of Kanhaiya in the case. The court has now fixed the matter for further hearing on February 23 next year.In his plea, petitioner Prashant Kumar Umrao has contended that the professor had wrongly vouched on oath that Kanhaiya was not involved in any “anti-national activity” and that he was a man of proper conduct. Advocate RP Luthra, appearing for the petitioner, had said the professor should have been aware that the student leader was fined for inappropriate conduct on campus a year ago and there was nothing to show that he was not involved in any anti-national sloganeering. On March 2, Kanhaiya was granted six month interim bail by the high court. He was later granted regular bail by the trial court in connection with the case relating to an event inside JNU campus on February 9 in which anti-India slogans were allegedly raised.While the court at first had felt that since the student leader had been granted bail nothing remained in the petition seeking perjury proceedings, the petitioner however convinced the court that it had nothing to do with him being released on regular bail. Kanhaiya was arrested on February 12 this year on charges of alleged sedition. Two other students, Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya, were later arrested in connection with the case and they were granted interim bail.A trial court had on August 26 granted regular bail to the three accused.

Yasin Bhatkal sentenced to death: All you need to know about the Indian Mujahideen co-founder

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Yasin Bhatkal, born as Mohammed Ahmed Siddibappa, and co-founder of banned terror outfit Indian Mujahideen was on Monday awarded death penalty by a special NIA court in Hyderabad in the February 2013 Hyderabad blasts case. The simultaneous detonation of two Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) near the Dilsukhnagar bus stop on February 21, 2013, had killed 21 and injured 107.Yasin Bhatkal figured very high on the list of India’s most wanted terrorists. In 2013, he was arrested by Indian agencies near the border in Nepal. Here’s all you need to know about Yasin Bhatkal:
ALSO READ Dilkhusnagar blasts: NIA court gives death penalty to IM founder Yasin Bhatkal and four others 1. Yasin was born in Bhatkal, Uttara Kannada, Karnataka in 1983. He was educated at Bhatkal’s AnjumanHami-e-Muslimeen school. He speaks English, Hindi, Urdu and Kannada and is believed to be an engineering graduate. 2. As a teenager, he left for Pune. He was later introduced to other members of the Indian Mujahideen (IM) as a trained engineer. This is in contradiction to the findings of the Pune police which found no documentation suggesting he ever studied in the city. Instead, investigators say, he spent much of his time with a hometown childhood friend, Unani medicine practitioner-turned-Islamist proselytiser Iqbal Ismail Shahbandri. Another theory suggests that he dropped out of class 10. 3. The Shahbandari brothers – Riyaz and Iqbal Bhatkal, who were activists of the Students Islamic Movement of India, allegedly indoctrinated Bhatkal. They later launched the IM. 4. The 2013 Hyderabad attack is not the only terror attack that Bhatkal has been linked with. He has been involved in several terror attacks in the country and killings of hundreds of people. He allegedly played an important role in the 2010 German Bakery bomb blast in Pune. 5. Bhatkal is also believed to have played an important role in the 2011 bombings at Zaveri Bazaar, Opera House and Dadar, killing 26 people and injuring 130.6. 12 different states claim that Bhatkal planted bombs in at least 10 of the blasts that rocked the country since 2008. Ahmedabad (2008), Surat (2008), Jaipur (2008), New Delhi (2008), Dashashwamedh Ghat in Varanasi (2010), Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru (2010), German Bakery in Pune (2011), Mumbai (2011), Hyderabad (2013) and Bengaluru (2013) are the various places where he is said to have carried out blasts. Chargesheets have been filed by anti-terror agencies from all these places.7. Yasin is also believed to be an expert bomb-maker.8. It is also said that the reason why it took so long to nab Bhatkal was because he was a master of disguises.9. Bhatkal is one of the few criminals who reportedly did not use email. He used to live in rural areas and changed his address regularly. Additionally, according to the ATS he would discard both his SIM card and phone, immediately after making a call.

Hike in salaries of Supreme Court, High Court judges expected soon

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Supreme Court and high court judges may soon get a fatter pay packet as the government is likely to bring a bill in this regard in the next session of Parliament. Chief Justice of India TS Thakur had recently written to the government seeking a hike in salaries of Supreme Court and high court judges.Sources in the government said the issue is under active consideration and a bill to amend The High Court and the Supreme Court Judges (Salaries and Conditions of Service) Amendment Act may come up in the Budget session of Parliament which may begin in the first week of February next.While the sources refused to share details of the quantum of hike sought by the CJI, they said to affect the pay hike, the Act has to amended. As the Winter session of Parliament is coming to an end on Friday, they said the bill would now come up in the Budget session. A Supreme Court judge at present gets Rs 1.5 lakh a month in hand after all deductions from salary and allowances. The CJI gets a higher amount than this, while the judges of the high court get a lesser amount. This amount does not include the rent-free residences provided to the judges while they are in service.After the recommendations of the Seventh Pay Commission, the matter was already under the consideration of the government.

Punjab election 2017: Sufi singer-turned-politician Hans Raj Hans quits Congress, joins BJP

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Two months ahead of Punjab Assembly elections, Sufi singer-turned-politician Hans Raj Hans has quit Congress. Hans joined Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at party headquarters in Delhi, in presence of BJP Chief Amit Shah on Saturday.A former member of ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), Hans had contested the Lok Sabha elections from Jhalandhar in 2009, but faced defeat. He had left SAD and joined Congress in February early this year and was welcomed by Punjab Congress Chief Captain Amarinder Singh. However, the relations had struck a sour chord after Hans was not selected to be nominated for the Rajya Sabha seat and another leader Shamsher Singh Dullo was elected unopposed to Rajya Sabha.Miffed over being sidelined, he had lambasted Congress leaders in a party Dalit Outreach programme in September and alleged discrimination of the Balmiki community which he represented.On Saturday, he called Prime Minister, Narendra Modi a ‘Babbar sher’ and said that he was influenced by various key decisions taken by Modi. A Padam Shree awardee, Hans is popular for his Sufi songs and hails from Jalandhar in Punjab. The state is set for Assembly elections in February next year.

Sufi singer Hans Raj Hans joins BJP

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Sufi singer Hans Raj Hans joined the Bharatiya Janata Party on Saturday in the presence of party President Amit Shah in Delhi. Praising PM Narendra Modi, the Padma Shri awardee said, “I will work wherever I will be asked to. Where there is Modi, there is no weakness. He is a lion.”Hans had earlier joined Congress in February before quitting the Shiromani Akali Dal.Hans had said, he had resigned from the Akali Dal about one and a half year ago as he had not found it coming to his expectations.

Use free WiFi to download books, not movies: Nitish Kumar

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said on Friday his government has decided to provide free WiFi facility in all colleges and universities by February and asked youths to use the facility for downloading books and knowledge materials and not for watching films. Free WiFi is part of programmes under “seven resolves” which the state’s Grand Alliance government has adopted to promote good governance, Kumar said while addressing a meeting here.Kumar said the facility has been conceived as it was realised that for doing good in life, youths should be “digitally” smart.However, it seemed that the facility was used more for downloading films than for literary works in Patna and officials in the secretariat were also not lagging behind. Giving an example of how free WiFi was being misused, he said, “It came to our knowledge that one gentleman has downloaded 300 movies in the 22 km of main city street where the facility is available.” “Downloading 1-2 movies is OK but the free WiFi facility in colleges and universities is conceived to help students download books and knowledge materials,” he said in the meeting, a part of his ‘Nishchay Yatra’.The Bihar CM is criss-crossing the state as part of ‘Nishchay yatra’ in a phased manner to take feedback on prohibition and preparations for implementation of ‘seven resolves’. Purnea stop is part of third phase of the yatra that began from Araria on Wednesday. Kumar said implementing total prohibition in the state since April this year has ushered in a “social revolution” particularly in rural areas. He also talked of the human chain that would be formed across the state on January 21 and sought more people’s participation in it.

Demonetisation one month: Jewellers feel the heat of cash crunch as gold sales slump nearly 90%

Gold shopping in India is an activity indulged by both the rich and the poor. Demonetisation has dealt a body blow to the world’s second-biggest gold consuming nation and consequently to the demand for gold, a must-have accessory in Indian weddings. Demand for gold jewellery has dropped as much as 80 percent with jewellery shops witnessing drastically reduced footfalls and low volumes.

A month later, footfalls continue to be lacklustre, especially, at a time when weddings are held across the country starting by the year-end till mid-February. Business has thinned down to a mere 10 to 15 percent, say jewelers.

Demonetisation has been the biggest crisis ever for the business, said Ashok Minawala, partner in the 80-year-old Mumbai-based Danabhai Jewellers and Sons. Ticket sizes have dwindled to below Rs 2 lakh and that is the budget most weddings are also trying to adhere too with the cash crunch enveloping the entire country.

Jewellery is a high value purchase and customers are putting their decision to shop for the yellow metal on the back burner as they are focussed on taking care of the essentials items. People are focused on having cash reserves until they can access their money easily given the fact that banks and ATM are cash-strapped and are rationing money.

ReutersReuters

Reuters

Unless there is a wedding in the family which necessitates spending or buying a gift for a close relative’s wedding, people are reluctant to enter jewellery stores. “We do not see our regular customers coming into the stores anymore,” said Minawala. He pegs the drop in business to almost 40-50 percent where cheques are given for gold purchases. Sales in cash purchases of gold has plunged to over 50 percent, he said.

Lacklustre half year

The jewellery industry has seen highs and lows in the current year. The industry had shut shop post the budget when the government reintroduced a one percent excise duty on jewellery after four years.

Industry estimates the loss incurred on account of the strike to be at Rs 18,000 crore.

Dhanteras brought a shine to the yellow metal which was otherwise lacklustre for nearly six months. The country’s gold demand had fallen 30 percent to 247.4 tonnes during the first six months of 2016, from 351.5 tonnes in the year-ago period, as per World Gold Council.

India is the world’s largest gold consumer and imports a sizeable chunk of its total annual consumption of around 900-1,000 tonnes.

Post-demonetisation

Since 9 November, the rush for gold has petered down to a trickle. The demand is down to almost 90 percent now, said jewellers. The reason for the fall can be mainly attributed to the limited availability of cash at ATMs and the banks in the country, said Sreedhar GV, chairman, All India Gems and Jewellery Trade Federation.

“We are witnessing a drop of around 75-80 percent. If there is not much circulation of money in the country due to demonetisation, business cannot be buoyant,” he said.

A month after demonetisation, the situation continues to be grim. Shailesh Sangani, director, Gitanjali Group, creators of Gili jewellery, said that though the trade has undergone several challenges particularly in 2016, demonetisation was the worst of it all. “We have been affected as sales has been dismal.”

Most jewellers said that they had clocked sales of 80-90 percent during Diwali and post-Diwali too and also on the day the demonetisation announcement was made. Now there is hardly 10 to 15 percent growth, they said.

In the south, the wedding season is on only until December and then mahurats or auspicious days begin post-January 15 till mid-March. But demonetisation has brought down business to almost 90 percent in the South. But some of them are happy at the trickle of footfalls in their stores. “We thought there would be hardly any business post-demonetisation,” said Ananthapadmanabhan, MD, NAC Jewellers, a 43-year-old jewellery chain with nine stores in Chennai, but is thankful that the wedding season has brought in a business of 20-25 percent.

“Usually, the big ticket buyers purchase their jewellery months in advance. It is the middle and lower middle classes who make their purchases closer to the wedding dates,” he said, adding that the latter’s purchases have been negligible so far. The footfalls to the store has begun to pick up to almost 20-25 percent because of small ticket purchases. After mid-December, non resident Indians arrive in the country to attend weddings or to buy jewellery, said Ananthapadmanabhan. He was worried wondering how their shopping behaviour would turn out to be under the prevailing circumstances post-demonetisation in the country.

Those jewellers dealing in small tickets like the south-based Muthoot Jewellers are seeing increased footfalls since the past week. The company deals in low-ticket purchases averaging 4 grams. “I don’t stock product and customers have to make bookings,” said Keyur Shah, CEO, Muthoot Pappachan Group, precious metals business. It has 3,500 stores across India.

Shah said that business was picking up and he was hopeful that it would be normalized by January 2017.

In the East in Calcutta too, limited shopping and footfalls have watered down the otherwise bright time of wedding season buys. P C Jewellers said the demand for wedding jewellery has fallen upto 60 percent due to demonetisation. The company expects the pent-up demand to drive revenue growth in the coming months.

Sangani said he expected this dismal phase in the gold jewellery business to continue until February.

In the south, in Tamil Nadu, Pongal is a big festival when jewellers are expecting sales to pick up. For rest of India, post makar sankranti (14 January), there is renewed interest. Until last year at least. However, the trader is not optimistic that trend will be evident in January 2017. “The only hope is Akshay Trithiya in April-May as of now,” said Sanghani.

Meanwhile, All India Gems and Jewellery Trade Federation (GJF), said the sales of jewellery have started to pick up slowly and there has been increase in cashless / credit and debit card / RTGS / NEFT / IMPS / cheques and pay order transactions over the last few weeks. Sreedhar of GJF  has urged the government to provide special consideration on cashless purchase of jewellery. “We urge the government to remove existing restrictive measures on cashless jewellery buying,” he said.

First Published On : Dec 8, 2016 15:14 IST

RRB NTPC 2016 exam: Check rrbbnc.gov.in for results

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Railway Recruitment Board has announced the results for the RRB NTPC 2016 examination. Around three lakh candidates have been cleared for the second stage examination scheduled to be held in January/ February.Login here to view your details of result of 1st Stage Examination (CBT) of NTPC (Graduate) posts against CEN No. 03/2015. Enter your registration number as your user id and your date of birth (dd/mm/yyyy) as the user password. You can also check out the region wise results on the following websites: Ahmedabad – rrbahmedabad.gov.in Ajmer – rrbajmer.gov.in. Allahabad – rrbald.gov.in Bangalore – rrbbnc.gov.in Bhopal – rrbbpl.nic.in Bhubaneshwar – rrbbbs.gov.in Bilaspur – rrbbilaspur.gov.in Chandigarh – rrbcdg.gov.in Chennai – rrbchennai.gov.in Gorakhpur – rrbgkp.gov.in Guwahati – rrbguwahati.gov.in Jammu – rrbjammu.nic.in Kolkata – rrbkolkata.gov.inMalda – rrbmalda.gov.inMumbai – rrbmumbai.gov.in Muzaffarpur – rrbmuzaffarpur.gov.in Patna – rrbpatna.gov.in Ranchi – rrbranchi.org Secunderabad – rrbsecunderabad.nic.in Siliguri – rrbsiliguri.org Trivandrum – rrbthiruvananthapuram.gov.in

Manipur already soaked in election colours

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>As one moves through the central part of the state capital, colours of an impending Assembly polls dart its streets, seamlessly merging into the olive green of Army which stands guard across the city. Being a north eastern state, it is easy to assume that Imphal would be away from the boisterous, vociferous and pompous trappings of elections till you find huge billboards of BJP chief Amit Shah cheek by jowl with other advertisements. Saffron is all across the city, giving an impression that the anti-incumbency wave is firmly sweeping the voters, till one comes across late PA Sangma smiling from one of the posters of National People’s Party, sharing space with his son and MP Conrad Sangma.Manipur goes to polls in February, riding on age old key agendas of employment, infrastructure and repealing of Armed Forces Special Protection Act (AFSPA). The Congress which has been reigning for the last 15 years will face a direct battle for 60 seats with arch rival BJP that has been non-existent here till 2014. These elections also hold a special interest among Manipuris as Irom Sharmila will field herself for the first time, a decision which has not gone down well with a lot of natives. “We want to see her as a social worker, not a politician. People here have still not forgiven her for ending the fast as they feel betrayed. Besides, since she does not possess qualities of a good leader, she won’t be of much help to the AFSPA cause even if she wins,” T Neina, a local feels.Other than a clear mandate on Sharmila, it is difficult to gauge which way the wind is blowing.

All you need to know about J Jayalalithaa

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and ​All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) party chief J Jayalalithaa passed away on December 5 at 11.30 PM in Apollo hospital, Chennai, where she was admitted since September 22. On Sunday, ‘Amma’ as she was fondly called, suffered a cardiac arrest and passed away a day later, at the age of 68 years.Late Monday night, after the announcement, Tamil Nadu Finance Minister O Panneerselvam was sworn in as the chief minister. Early life
ALSO READ Jayalalithaa (1948-2016): A life called Puratchi Thalaivi► Jayaraman Jayalalithaa was born on February 24, 1948, at Melukote in Mysore State (now Karnataka), to Jayaram and Vedavalli in an Iyengar family. Her family served King Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar of Mysore.► Her birth name is Komalavalli.
ALSO READ AIADMK chief and Tamil Nadu CM J Jayalalithaa passes away► Jayalalithaa lost her father when she was just two years old, and her mother started working in films to support the family.► She was fluent in several languages, including Tamil, Kannada, Hindi, Malayalam, Telugu, and English.
ALSO READ Remembering Amma: The Life and Times of J JayalalithaaLife as an actress► She appeared as the lead actress in over 140 films which included movies in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, and even one Hindi film.► Jayalalithaa started working in films from the age of 15. Her debut Kannada film was Chinnada Gombe. She also acted in an English film, Epistle, released in 1961; and a Hindi film called Izzat, in 1968 with Dharmendra as her costar.► She made her debut in Tamil cinema with a role in Vennira Aadai (1965), directed by CV Sridhar. She was the first actress to appear in skirts in Tamil films.► In 1966, she made her debut in Telugu cinema with Manushulu Mamathalu. Political life► She was the incumbent general secretary of All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK). She was called ‘Amma’ (mother) and sometimes ‘Puratchi Thalaivi’ (Revolutionary Leader) by her followers.► She joined the AIADMK in 1982, which was founded by popular actor Marudur Gopalan Ramachandran (MGR). Although there were claims that Jayalalithaa was introduced to politics by MGR, she denied it.► Her maiden public speech, Pennin Perumai (the Greatness of a Woman), was delivered at the political conference of the AIADMK that year. In 1983, she became the propaganda secretary for the party and was selected as the AIADMK candidate in the by-election for the Tiruchendur Assembly constituency.► MGR wanted her to be a member of the Rajya Sabha because of her fluency in English. Jayalalithaa was nominated and elected to the Upper House as a Member of Parliament in 1984 and retained her seat until 1989, completing the five-year term.► She was successful as the propaganda secretary, which led to resentment among the high-ranking members of the party. Those members engineered a rift between MGR and her. Despite this, she remained admired by the rank and file of the party.► In 1984, when MGR was incapacitated after a stroke, Jayalalithaa was said to have made an attempt to take over as the chief minister or the party head on the pretext that his health would prevent him from the proper execution of his duties. She successfully led the campaign in the 1984 general elections, in which the AIADMK allied with the Congress.► She was elected to the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly in 1989 as a representative of the Bodinayakkanur (State Assembly Constituency). This election saw the Jayalalithaa-led faction of the AIADMK win 27 seats and Jayalalithaa became the first woman to be elected as the Leader of the Opposition. In February 1989, the two factions of AIADMK caused after MGR’s death, merged and they unanimously accepted Jayalalithaa as their leader and the “Two leaves” symbol of the party was restored.► She became the second elected female chief minister of Tamil Nadu in 1991.► Jayalalithaa held the position of the Chief Minister on and off for six terms, covering over 13 years since 1991. (With agency inputs)

Decoding History: A conflict’s conflicting versions

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Godhra, a sleepy municipality in Panchmahal District of Eastern Gujarat has become synonymous with the beginning of a series of communal riots which were ‘sparked off’ by an incident which took place off the Godhra railway junction on the morning of February 27, 2002. Conflicting versions of this incident abound and have confused the picture for neutral observers.Version 1.0
The official version of the Gujarat government The Sabarmati Express, zipping on that morning from Varanasi to Ahmedabad via Godhra Junction, had a large group of Hindu Karsewaks returning to Ahmedabad from Ayodhya after performing a ceremony to begin the construction of a temple dedicated to Lord Rama at Ayodhya on the site of the demolished Babri Masjid. The Babri Masjid, a Mughal era mosque, was demolished on December 6, 1992 by a consortium of Hindu revivalist organizations led by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad on the contention that it was constructed by the demolition of a Hindu temple marking the birthplace of Lord Rama. It has been a contentious issue. The Hindu organisations were seeking a grand Rama temple while the Muslim organisations sought the rebuilding of the demolished structure.Mass funeral of Godhra victims in AhmedabadAs the train which was delayed by about four hours, left the platform at Godhra at 7:43 am, it was halted by pulling the emergency chain, which led to its unscheduled halt slightly ahead at an area called Signal Falia. This is when allegedly a large mob of local Muslims attacked the train pelting it with stones and setting its S6 coach on fire, which resulted in the death of 59 occupants of the train, many of whom were women and children.According to the official version, the attack was pre-planned by local Muslim vendors who lived at Signal Falia with the procurement of an inflammable liquid (probably petrol) which was poured on the floor of the S6 coach before setting it alight. In this version, the key conspirators were local clerics and politicians belonging to the Ghanchi Muslim community and they were helped by the Pakistani intelligence agents. This version was endorsed by the Nanavati-Shah Commission appointed by the Gujarat government to investigate the incident.Version 2.0
NGO-secular activists’ versionAn alternate version claimed by various NGOs, ‘secular’ activists and later the Banerjee Commission set up by the UPA government spoke of a supposed altercation beginning with the molestation of Muslim girl followed by an altercation in S6 between the Karsewaks and a Muslim tea vendor, which led to a mob attacking the train. This version also controversially claimed that the fire was accidental and was used as a ploy to instigate the consequent riots. According to later claims, the fire was allegedly claimed to be planned and executed by the train’s occupants themselves.However, despite the two versions, the fact that the horrific incident led to the death of 59 innocent civilians is undeniable as many victims were charred to death beyond recognition.The violence continues…Naroda Patiya & Gulbarg Society, Ahmedabad on February, 28 2002The events that followed the burning of S6 coach of the Sabarmati Express were equally fast-paced as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad called for a state bandh on February 28, 2002 with a controversial ‘parading of the burnt bodies’ in Ahmedabad. This was followed by incendiary speeches and insinuations that the attack was the work of Pakistani intelligence with the co-operation of local Muslims. It led to co-ordinated attacks on Muslim ghettos and business establishments by organised mobs. The mobs also allegedly violated many females of the minority community. In Ahmedabad, two organised riots took place that day; one in Naroda Patiya and another at Gulbarg Society, a residential complex with a Muslim majority. Naroda Patiya massacre resulted in the death of 97 Muslims which included 36 women, 35 children and 26 men. The attack was allegedly led by Maya Kodnani, a prominent BJP leader and Babu Bajrangi of the Bajrang Dal. The massacre of the women was particularly said to be more gruesome with sexual violence against them.Clockwise from top: Gulbarg Society witnessed 35 Muslim residents being burnt alive; By February 28, curfew was ordered in 27 towns and cities of Gujarat to control the situation; Maya Kodnani and Babu Bajrangi were convicted on 29 July 2012 with heavy sentences for both leaders in the Naroda Patiya case. Right: Accused in the Naroda caseGulbarg Society saw its 35 Muslim residents being burnt alive; the victims included Ehsan Jafri, a former Congress Member of the Parliament. Zakiya Jafri, his widow, alleged that Jafri had made frantic calls prior to his killing to the CM’s office for assistance but received no help as the mob continued to burn and pillage the society despite the presence of police. She later alleged the state of complicity with the rioters especially implicating the CM of Gujarat. Gulbarg Society also had 31 missing residents who were later taken to be dead taking the body count to 69.By the evening of February 28, curfew was ordered in 27 towns and cities of Gujarat to control the disturbances with the deployment of Rapid Action Force in Godhra. However, by and large, the deployment of armed forces was delayed in preference to the Gujarat police by the state administration.Best Bakery, Vadodara on March 1, 2002The violence however continued, in Vadodara, when a mob attacked Best Bakery, a small Muslim-owned outlet in the Hanuman Tekri area of the city where the owner and the workers of the bakery which included 11 Muslims and three Hindus were burnt alive. The police filed a case on the basis of the information given by a nineteen-year old eye witness, Zaheera Sheikh.The political falloutThe major fallout of the Godhra train burning and subsequent riots was the allegations of complicity of the state government led by Narendra Modi. It was also alleged that the rioters had the backing of Hindu right-wing activists the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal. Modi was alleged to have given a go-ahead for the attacks, though the court-led inquiries did not find any proof of these allegations. However, there were protests by national media and the Opposition over the inept handling of the post-Godhra violence by the Gujarat government. There were calls for the resignation of the Chief Minister by these groups.The ruling BJP led by Atal Behari Vajpayee was forced to take cognisance of the violence and the matter was discussed at the party’s national executive meeting in Goa in April 2002 where the party decided that Modi was not responsible for the riots. Vajpayee was said to be opposed to the move to retain Modi but restrained by the party’s representatives who overwhelmingly supported the Gujarat leader. However, much later, Vajpayee wrote a letter to the Gujarat Chief Minister in June 2002 highlighting the poor condition of the relief camps and the delay in compensating the riot victims from the Muslim community. Importantly, he called upon Modi to “adhere to Raj Dharma and not discriminate between his subjects on the basis of caste, creed or religion.”However, Modi tried to prove his popularity and called for the dissolution of the Gujarat assembly in July 2002 leading to early elections. The results of the elections proved him right about the popular mood with 127 seats going to the BJP from the 182-member assembly. The results took out the steam of all opposition to Modi both within and outside the party. However, the allegations continued to haunt Modi’s political career for two consecutive terms as the Chief Minister. His scheduled visit to the USA in 2005 was cancelled due to objections by the United States Department of State which had a signature campaign by 125 academics under the ‘Coalition against Genocide’ opposing his entry to the USA.The 2002 Gujarat riots, however, proved to be a test of Indian secularism as many cynically saw the Gujarat election results as the popular mood against the ‘pseudo-secular’ parties in the Opposition. Interestingly, Modi’s popularity rose in his consequent two terms on the basis of his concentration on developmental politics. However, his detractors kept losing to his political acumen and he won the May 2014 elections to assume the post of the Indian Prime Minister. The media continued to blame him for long till he moved to the national stage by winning the May 2014 Indian elections with a thumping majority.Court investigations and the aftermathThe ordeal of the victims did not end with the train burning and the riots. There were a series of acquittals in many cases due to poor reports filed by the police, intimidation, or bribing of witnesses, etc. which led the Supreme Court to step in and transfer 2000 closed cases to the Bombay High Court in August 2004, strictly coming down on the Gujarat police and the government for lapses in investigation. In March 2008, the Supreme Court set up a Special Investigation Team (SIT) under the leadership of ex-CBI Director, RK Raghavan to investigate the Godhra train burning and some of the important riot cases. Though criticised, the SIT managed to secure the prosecution and conviction of 249 accused in both set of cases.In May 2011, 31 Muslims were held guilty for the Godhra train burning and two important conspirators were nabbed later. In case of the post-Godhra riots, 184 Hindus were convicted for various criminal offences, about 40 police officers were investigated for their complicity with the rioters. In case of Naroda Patiya massacre, 32 people were convicted including Maya Kodnani and Babu Bajrangi on 29 July 2012 with heavy sentences for both leaders. The cases failed to bring relief to many due to perjury or changing stances by the witnesses.

Teesta Setalvad siphoned off Rs 3.85 crore for personal use: Gujarat police

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Gujarat police told the Supreme Court that it has proof that social activist Teesta Setalvad and her Javed Anand had diverted funds received for their NGO, which works for the welfare of 2002 riot victims, for personal use, reports The Times of India. Out of Rs 9.75 crore received in donations, they siphoned off Rs 3.85 crore, the police said.As per the 83-page affidavit filed by Assistant Commissioner of Police Rahul B Patel, Setalvad and Anand and their trusts have not cooperated with the police to provide the documents needed to probe into the complaints by the 2002 riots victims at Gulbarg Society which said they did not deliver what they had promised once the donations increased.The affidavit informs that the couple siphoned money from HRD Ministry grant of Rs 1.40 crore between February 2011 and July 2012.It also says that the activists did not inform the police that they had opened two more accounts belonging to Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) and Sabrang Trust. “As soon as these three accounts were seized on January 23, 2014, the couple immediately transferred Rs 24.5 lakh and Rs 11.5 lakh from the other two accounts of Sabrang Trust, unknown to the investigation authority, by way of demand drafts on a single day,” the affidavit said.The police rejects claim made by Setalvad and Anand that most of the riot-related cases were fought free of cost by top lawyers. They said that the couple had paid over Rs 71.40 lakh to the lawyers.The affidavit said that Setalvad and Anand both “calculatingly misappropriated trusts huge funds and pocketed in their personal account” and has sought their custodial interrogation of the couple.

Goa tourism shifts majority of its services on cashless payment facilities

Panaji: As Goa works its way towards becoming India’s first cashless society, the state tourism department has shifted majority of its services on cashless payment facilities.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

“Whether hotel reservations, package tours, cruise rides or any other tourism service, the Goa Tourism Development Corporation has introduced systems that have facilitated cashless transactions, both online and offline,” GTDC Chairman Nilesh Cabral said on Thursday.

“Cashless facility is made possible by GTDC through online web portal, booking of services and products through mobile app available on iOS and android platform at GTDC residencies and restaurants through point-of-sale (POS) machines, thus enabling a 360 degree approach to the new cashless system,” he said.

The GTDC is also working to introduce pay wallets and  talks are underway with leading service providers so that it can be accepted as another mode of cashless payments.

“To further this process, the launch of the new e-commerce portal and mobile app in February this year has  provided a foolproof platform for e-business and cashless transactions, also bringing other tourism stakeholders into the cashless circuit,” Cabral said.

As per GTDC’s records, cashless transactions to the tune of Rs 2.5 lakh to Rs 3 lakh are executed daily for various services provided by the corporation, which is in addition to cashless transactions recorded on its e-commerce portal and mobile app, he said.

GTDC’s General Manager (Hotels) Gavin Dias said, “All GTDC residencies are provided with point-of-sale (POS) machines to facilitate cashless payments and most tourists prefer to use this facility. It is encouraging to see tourists opting for cashless transactions.”

Dias said in addition to cashless business for hotel accommodation, GTDC, through the e-commerce portal, has direct tie-ups with more than 160 hotels and also with channel managers like Staah and Maximojo for tourists to book accommodation using cashless modes of transaction.

Cashless transactions have already become very popular and an easy way out for both tourists and tourism stakeholders, he said.

Goa attracts more than 5 million tourists annually and GTDC is eventually looking at bringing in every tourism stakeholder, whether tourist taxis, souvenir shops, guest houses, restaurants etc, under cashless business.

First Published On : Dec 1, 2016 12:45 IST

Nevada man pleads guilty to conspiring to carry out attacks in India

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A Nevada man who prosecutors say conspired to provide materials and support to co-conspirators to carry out terrorist attacks in India aimed at creating an independent Sikh state pleaded guilty on Tuesday to federal charges.Balwinder Singh, 42, made the plea in US District Court in Reno as part of an agreement with prosecutors, the Department of Justice said in a written statement.Singh, who was arrested in December 2013, faces a maximum of 15 years in prison during his sentencing in February, although federal guidelines typically call for less time.According to prosecutors Singh, also known as Jhaji, Happy Possi and Baljit, plotted terrorist attacks in India with several other people as part of a movement to create a Sikh state in the Punjab region.Prosecutors said Singh bought two sets of night vision goggles and gave them to a co-conspirator who was planning to carry out the attack, which was thwarted when the man was prevented from boarding a flight to Bangkok at San Francisco International Airport.Singh is a citizen of India and a permanent US resident, according to prosecutors.

Philippine bank and Bangladesh play blame game over missing millions | Reuters

By Karen Lema
| MANILA

MANILA Philippine lender RCBC and a Bangladeshi minister traded blame on Tuesday over liability for tens of millions of dollars that were looted from a New York bank and then went missing in Manila after one of the biggest bank frauds ever.Unknown cyber criminals tried to steal nearly $1 billion from Bangladesh Bank in February and managed to make off with $81 million via an account at the New York Federal Reserve. That was transferred to four accounts with bogus names at one RCBC branch in Manila before vanishing.The lawyer for RCBC, or Rizal Commercial Banking Corp (RCBC), said that her client had no reason to compensate Bangladesh Bank, saying that the lender was “negligent” because the initial security breach was its own fault.Bangladesh’s Law Minister Anisul Huq said that was “irrelevant” and argued that RCBC should shoulder the burden for accepting stolen cash. “It is not for RCBC to point fingers. They should explain their conduct, and the conduct has been very much culpable,” he told a news conference in Manila.Most of the money that ended up in the Philippines was laundered through casinos. About $15 million has been recovered from a gaming junket operator and was returned to Bangladesh, with a further $2.7 million frozen.Huq, who is in Manila to speed recovery of the money, said that his delegation met the Philippines finance minister, gaming regulators, justice department and the Senate speaker.All had assured him of their full cooperation in getting the money returned, Huq said, adding that Senate President Aquilino Pimentel Jr told him that he would start the process to resume a legislative hearing into the heist saga.

Bangladesh Bank has refused to disclose the findings of its own inquiry, saying that it wanted to deny the crime’s perpetrators knowledge of the investigation. ‘ABNORMAL’ AND ‘QUESTIONABLE’
But RCBC external counsel Thea Daep said it should share those results and shed light on the identity of the perpetrators.

“They have no case against us. BB (Bangladesh Bank) was the one who was negligent,” Daep said in a statement.RCBC received the funds after they went through three layers of highly protected financial institutions, Daep said, adding that reports from Bangladesh officials indicated there were insiders in Dhaka facilitating the heist.”Shortly after, BB decided to abort its investigation, which raises a lot of questions, to say the least,” Daep said.Bangladesh Bank spokesman Subhankar Saha told Reuters that “halt payment” instructions were sent to RCBC from both Dhaka and New York but RCBC did not comply.

“The payment in cash was also abnormal,” he said in Dhaka. “…The mechanism of transfer of money was also not transparent. So all these are questionable.”The Bangladesh delegation was due on Thursday to meet the Philippine central bank governor and the anti-money laundering body, which last week filed charges against five RCBC staff in connection with the heist.The central bank fined RCBC a record 1 billion pesos ($20 million) for failing to prevent the transfer of stolen money through its accounts.Huq said that by paying that fine RCBC had shown its culpability.”They have accepted the liability by paying the fine,” he said. “That is why we are asking them to return our money.” (Additional reporting by Serajul Quadir in Dhaka; Editing by Martin Petty and David Goodman)

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

First Published On : Nov 29, 2016 20:37 IST

Recent leopard death in Gurugram shows we aren’t ready to co-exist yet

The best-hated and the most feared animal in all India, whose only crime — not against the laws of nature, but against the laws of man — was that he had shed human blood, with no object of terrorising man, but only in order that he might live…

– Jim Corbett

While there is a reason for wildlife lovers in the national capital to celebrate as the forest department has confirmed the presence of a leopard around Yamuna Biodiversity Park, there is something one should really worry about. The news confirming the leopard’s presence in the capital contradicts the headlines that appeared two days later on 25 November.

A leopard was beaten to death and that too brutally, by the residents of Mandawar village in Gurugram’s Sohna area. The forest department officers who were present on the spot, say, the villagers didn’t allow them to do their job. They took the task on themselves attacking the leopard with stones, sticks, spades and what not. I mean, really!

There is no denying the fact that it attacked eight people in the village, but how does it justify what the villagers did to the leopard? The leopard probably  panicked after seeing the crowd and must have reacted; not to harm anyone, but to save herself. Shouldn’t the forest department have tried harder to tranquilise it, especially when they claim to be present on the spot and were fully equipped with tranquiliser, nets and cage?

Forest officials prepare a pyre for a dead male leopard killed tea plantation workers in Assam. Reuters

Forest officials prepare a pyre for a dead male leopard killed by tea plantation workers in Assam in 2014. Reuters

Isn’t it too early to celebrate the presence of another leopard around the National Capital Region? Are we, the humans, ready for the co-existence?

And, this is neither the first time when a leopard has come out of his habitat nor is it the first that a leopard has been beaten to death by a mob. It is the failure of a system that’s unable to control the situation when such circumstance arises, which eventually leads to loss of lives both the species, whether it’s human or the animal.

On 20 February 2015, news of a leopard death was reported in Usmanpur, the north-east area of Delhi. This was fourth such death in a row and ninth reported in between June 2014 and February 2015.

They say, “A leopard cannot change his spots.” So, is it we humans who need to change? But if people and large carnivores like leopards share a landscape, can coexistence between the two foster?

The crumbling of forests and wildlife habitat close to the cities is apparently becoming a grave reason behind the extermination of the wildlife. Although by and large, the local leopard population tries to steer clear of humans, at times, conflict becomes inevitable either because people simply see a leopard and create a havoc, or, because a leopard starts visiting human settlements in search of goats, cattle and even dogs since its prey is dwindling due to human encroachment.

The human-leopard conflict isn’t anything new to us but we generally turn a blind eye to its repercussions. The repercussions do involve us, but it largely affects the leopards. Humans still have a shelter but the leopards, unfortunately, are fast losing it. Besides, we still take pride in mob lynching and poisoning of this otherwise harmless creature.

While Delhi has the Asola Bhati Wildlife Sanctuary in the Aravali hills and Rajasthan has the Sariska Tiger Reserve, the intervening Aravali areas in Haryana have no sanctuary or national park. The Aravali hills adjoining Delhi especially along the Gurugram-Faridabad highway connects Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary with the rest of the patchy jungle belt of Haryana and Rajasthan. It can serve as an important wildlife corridor if conserved. In my opinion, the Aravalis have been the leopards’ traditional habitat. There is enough wild prey in the scrub forest. There are ravines too, which make it a perfect area for the leopards to live stealthily.

In November 2014, a fully grown leopard was attempting to pass through the Delhi-Jaipur highway, having very little idea of what was going to transpire. The next few minutes brought with it the most terrible sight when an unidentified speeding vehicle ran over the animal making it lifeless. The tragic fate of leopards had probably just started to unfold.

A month later, an adult male leopard began paying surprise visits to the villagers of Abupur in Ghaziabad district. He was seen wandering around the sugarcane fields keeping terrified villagers at bay. After a few days of sightings, the leopard’s dead body was discovered in a sugarcane field near the railway track.

Just a day before that incident another leopard’s carcase was found near Pachehra village in Loni, Ghaziabad.

Although any foul play was ruled out by the forest department, the animal had reportedly died because of coming in contact with high-voltage wires laid by someone.

Is it the leopard, which seems to have forgotten its territory and dares to venture in the urban settlements, or, is it the authorities who are unable to put a halt on the rising number of leopard deaths? There isn’t a definite answer for the same, but ensuring a safe and rich prey base in leopard corridors is a need of the hour. The fragmented corridors need to be linked so that a larger habitat is available for the leopards giving them fewer chances of straying away from their habitats and ending up being prey to urbanisation.

A leopard probably enters a village in the search of food, especially the stray dogs, which are easy prey for them.

There is a need to educate people especially, the villagers living on the fringes of our Jungles… a leopard only needs a way to go back from where it has come… and being humans, this is a part of our duty. It’s high time we realised their importance in the ecosystem.

It’s a universal truth that if humans destroy wildlife and its habitat, the leopards will get even closer and that too without any prior notice. We must preserve the leopards by preserving some wilderness around us.

(The author is ex-member of  Project Tiger steering committee)

First Published On : Nov 28, 2016 17:00 IST

Indian Railways, IRCTC include transgender as third gender

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Indian Railways and IRCTC have included “transgender as third gender” in the option alongside male and female in ticket reservation and cancellation forms.The decision which was taken on a representation made by a lawyer will include the facility for reservations and cancellations, both online as well offline.The Delhi-based lawyer had made the representation after the Delhi High Court in February had asked him to approach the Railway Ministry while disposing of his petition.The ministry in its circular referred to the direction of the apex court of April 2014, which had said that hijras, eunuchs, apart from binary gender, be treated as third gender for protecting their rights.”Supreme Court (in the judgement) has directed that Hijras, Eunuchs, apart from binary gender, be treated as third gender for the purpose of safeguarding their rights under Part III of our Constitution and the laws made by the parliament and the State Legislature.”It has, therefore, been decided to include the third gender/transgender option alongside male/female in reservation cancellation requisition form. This information will be captured by the system and tickets to transgender will be issued on full fare,” the circular stated.Advocate Jamshed Ansari in his PIL before the high court had alleged violation of Article 14, 15, 19 and 21 of the Constitution by Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), by non-inclusion of “transgender/third gender” as a gender option in its forms.He had also sought compliance of the apex court judgment in which it directed the Centre and the state governments to recognise transgender as the third sex, and to provide them with the benefits accorded to socially and economically backward classes. He had further demanded special coaches and reserved seats for the transgender community in all trains, for their “care and protection”.On which the bench headed by Chief Justice G Rohini had asked the ministry to look into the averments made in the writ petition.

Indian Railways, IRCTC include transgender as third gender in ticket forms

New Delhi: Indian Railways and IRCTC have included “transgender as third gender” in the option alongside male and female in ticket reservation and cancellation forms.

The decision which was taken on a representation made by a lawyer will include the facility for reservations and cancellations, both online as well offline.

The Delhi-based lawyer had made the representation after the Delhi High Court in February had asked him to approach the Railway Ministry while disposing of his petition.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

The ministry in its circular referred to the direction of the apex court of April 2014, which had said that hijras, eunuchs, apart from binary gender, be treated as third gender for protecting their rights.

“Supreme Court (in the judgement) has directed that Hijras, Eunuchs, apart from binary gender, be treated as third gender for the purpose of safeguarding their rights under Part III of our Constitution and the laws made by the parliament and the State Legislature.

“It has, therefore, been decided to include the third gender/transgender option alongside male/female in reservation /cancellation requisition form. This information will be captured by the system and tickets to transgender will be issued on full fare,” the circular stated.

Advocate Jamshed Ansari in his PIL before the high court had alleged violation of Article 14, 15, 19 and 21 of the Constitution by Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), by non-inclusion of “transgender/third gender” as a gender option in its forms.

He had also sought compliance of the apex court judgment in which it directed the Centre and the state governments to recognise transgender as the third sex, and to provide them with the benefits accorded to socially and economically backward classes.

He had further demanded special coaches and reserved seats for the transgender community in all trains, for their “care and protection”.

On which the bench headed by Chief Justice G Rohini had asked the ministry to look into the averments made in the writ petition.

First Published On : Nov 27, 2016 10:32 IST

‘India mourns the loss of a great friend’: PM Modi condoles Fidel Castro’s death

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Cuba’s revolutionary leader and former president Fidel Castro passed away at the age of 90 on Saturday. Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled his death and said, “Fidel Castro was one of the most iconic personalities of the 20th century. India mourns the loss of a great friend,” Modi said.The news of his death was announced by Cuban President Raul Castro, who took over from his ailing brother more than eight years earlier, Cuban state media reports.Robert Pastor, a former national security adviser for president Jimmy Carter, had said in 2012 that there are few individuals in the 20th century who had a more profound impact on a single country than Fidel Castro had in Cuba. “He reshaped Cuba in his image, for both bad and good. Cuba will be a different place because he lived and he died,” Pastor said. “He was a historic figure way out of proportion to the national base in which he operated,” CNN quoted scholar Louis A. Perez Jr., author of more than 10 books on the island and its history, as saying.In 1959, Castro along with a small band of revolutionaries overthrew an unpopular dictator Fulgencio Batista and rode their jeeps and tanks into Cuba’s capital Havana. Cubans believed in Castro’s promise of democracy and an end to repression as they were fed up with the brutal dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista.An intestinal illness that required several surgeries forced Castro, who had been in power for 47 years, to hand over his duties temporarily to younger brother Raul in July 2006. Raul took over permanently as the President after Fidel’s resignation in February 2008.

Note ban: Steps to boost spending needed on urgent basis, waiting till budget may prove futile

Demonetisation is not just causing hardships for the common man it is also shifting the focus of the economic policy maker from the future to the near term. Finance Ministry officials are reacting almost every day to address the demonetisation challenges. In the process, they may be losing the plot on economy front.

As I had pointed out on 20 November column it is the RBI that should be responding to these issues. While the RBI governor continue to be unavailable to address concerns of not just the citizens but also investors, mandarins at finance ministry continue to douse daily fires. The challenge will get tougher by the day for that the financial budget is scheduled on 1 February, 2017. The Budget date has also been advanced as the country is trying to synchronise financial year with the calendar year.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The challenge is that in the short-term demonetisation is likely to have an impact on spending, trade, tourism, logistics, real estate. This needs to be addressed immediately and the government shouldn’t wait till budget to fix the problem. Technically the process of demonetisation is expected to get over by 31 December this year. The impact of it on some sectors like real estate, gold and tourism will continue in the January-March quarter as well. Therefore, at the least two crucial quarters of the year will surely get adversely affected by demonetisation if necessary steps are not taken immediately.

Some short-term measures have to be announced to accelerate spending and boost the sectors that have witnessed irreparable damage. These measures can’t wait till the budget as any delay will lead to further damage. For instance, secondary market deals in the real estate sector have crashed in last fortnight, especially after the demonetisation move. The unorgainsed segment of the sector will be hit hard as experts believe the sector generates black money vitually in every transaction. The black component in old currency notes has led to the collapse of transactions. It may recover but the impact on real estate prices is real, which is good by itself as it makes housing affordable. But deals may still not happen due to high circle rates. As the prices come down circle rates have to adjust downwards for these deals to happen. This is something only the state government can do if it wants to bring back the liquidity in the real estate market.

The central government can tinker at the most with some FDI norms. What it can do is provide for a higher income tax exemption on home loan payment to push the retail market to borrow and buy homes. But this subsidy can only come in the budget, or can it be announced now and made actionable in the budget. Such steps will help in bringing back the momentum in growth that has been lost due to poor implementation of demonetisation. As an announcement has the ability to boost sentiment.

Informal, unorganised or the MSME sector, which is the largest employer in the country, too, has been hit by demonetisation. The impact on their business has been due to the loss of liquidity or squeeze in spending in the supply chain, which means the issue is more complex for a single step that could help it directly. Consumer behavior after demonetisation indicates that people have curtailed discretionary spending to save cash. This is a serious issue because the huge of black money in the sytem in the past majorly contributed towrards the high item sales. High value items that used to be bought with unaccounted money has also vanished. To replace unaccounted money spend and discretionary spend, the government will have to take measures in the short term and not leave it till the budget.

This is one more reason for the mandarin to step out of the line of fire on demonetisation and focus on these immediate short-term measures. It is one reason too many for the RBI Governor to start responding to implementation issues. The former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh criticised the government on implementation but also polarised the issue with his statement on plunder and legalised loot. His estimate of a drop of 2 percent in GDP also seems to be strange, especially, without any explanation on how he arrived at this magic figure.

But the impact of demonetisation on the economy is real in the short term as I have pointed in the past. Therefore, it is important that officials think of some immediate steps. Any delay because of being mired in solving implementation failures is going to have a much bigger impact on the real economy.

The writer is a policy commentator based in New Delhi. He tweets @yatishrajawat

First Published On : Nov 25, 2016 17:12 IST

Mizoram: Question mark on Bru people repatriation

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Mizoram Bru Displace People’s Forum (MBDPF) President A Sawibunga expressed doubt that thousands of Bru people, now lodged in six relief camps in North Tripura district would be willing to return to Mizoram unless each repatriated family is disbursed money for construction of a house under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY). MBDPF is an apex body of the Bru people lodged in the Tripura relief camps since the later part of 1997. Sawibunga, who is now in Aizawl to appear before a district court in which he is the accused in a defamation case, said that the centre has to give official assurance that all the families in the camps would be given house construction expenses under the Prime Minister’s program of housing for all.He lamented that many bona fide residents of Mizoram in the six relief camps were not identified by the Mizoram government officials who conducted the identification since November two till Wednesday. “The officials did not bother to check ration cards issued by the Mizoram government and other documents saying their instruction was to identify only those enrolled in the 1995 Voters lists,” he said, adding that many descendants of voters whose parents have died were also left out in the identification.He also said that the Tripura government officials issued birth certificates to only few Bru babies born in the relief camps which created problems in identification. Mizoram government officials identified 32,857 Brus belonging to 5,413 families during the identification process who would be repatriated as per the proposed road map for Bru repatriation.According to the Road Map-V for Bru Repatriation, around 21,000 Brus belonging to 3,445 families were to be repatriated, but the figure had shot up much more than the target earlier.Meanwhile, the physical repatriation, scheduled to commence from November 30 is not likely to begin as per schedule due to various problems, state home department officials said.The officials said that the Ministry of Home Affairs’ delay in making final decision on the proposed enhancement of rehabilitation and resettlement package for the resettled Bru families and the recent demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes hindered physical repatriation to begin as per schedule.At this rate, the physical repatriation may only take off in February next year, some officials said.

Minor girl rape case: SC cancels bail granted to suspended RJD MLA Raj Ballabh Yadav

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Supreme Court on Thursday cancelled the bail granted by Patna High Court to suspended RJD MLA Raj Ballabh Yadav in rape case of a minor girl.The Bihar Government had challenged the bail granted Yadav.Earlier, following the Supreme Court’s orders, Raj Ballabh, who is accused of raping a minor, had surrendered before the Bihar Sharif court.In April, Yadav was named as one of the main accused in a charge-sheet filed by Nalanda Police, after he allegedly raped a minor girl at his residence on February 6th, following which he was immediately suspended by the party.After absconding for almost one month, Yadav had surrendered in March before a chief magistrate’s court in Bihar Sharif in Nalanda and was sent to jail.However, he was granted bail by the Patna High Court on September 30, which the opposition used to criticize the state government for not placing facts against the RJD MLA before the Patna High Court.Yadav, an MLA from Nawada assembly constituency, was suspended by the RJD after he was booked in the rape case on February 6.

Controversial meat exporter Moin Qureshi returns to India, to face ED probe

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Controversial meat exporter Moin Qureshi has returned to India and is expected to join investigations on Tuesday before the Enforcement Directorate (ED), which is probing his role in a money laundering case.Officials said Qureshi arrived at the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) here Monday night after which ED sleuths served him a court-issued directive to present himself before the agency today.They said the businessman is expected to depose before the Investigating Officer (IO) of the case, as per directives of the court.The Delhi High court, while hearing a plea filed by Qureshi, had last month directed him to return to India by mid-November and appear before the agency for questioning in this case.The meat exporter is facing probes by ED as well as the I-T department for alleged tax evasion, money laundering among others.The Income Tax department had sometime back issued notices to Qureshi under the new Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Act, 2015 as probe led it to few foreign assets owned or held by the meat exporter and his family in an alleged illegal manner as they were not declared or reported to Indian tax authorities.The case emerged after tax department first carried out searches against Qureshi and his firm AMQ Group on February 15, 2014.The meat exporter had on October 15 left the country from the IGI airport here despite a Look Out Circular issued by the ED against him.The agency had also asked the CBI to probe the role of public servants in allegedly favouring Qureshi in his deals.

Ex-Teri chief RK Pachauri allowed to travel abroad again

New Delhi: A Delhi court on Saturday once again granted permission to former Teri chief RK Pachauri, accused in a sexual harassment case, to travel abroad.

Pachauri, currently on bail, was allowed to travel to Dominican Republic from 22 November to 5 December by Metropolitan Magistrate Shivani Chauhan, after he moved an application.

The court allowed the application, filed through Pachauri’s counsel Ashish Dixit, noting that the probe was complete and charge sheet has already been filed in the case.

A file image of ex-Teri chief RK Pachauri. IBNLive

A file image of ex-Teri chief RK Pachauri. IBNLive

“The investigation is complete and charge sheet has already been filed. The accused has been granted permission to travel abroad on several earlier occasions and has complied with the directions given by the court.

“In these circumstances, the accused is permitted to travel as per his itinerary… subject to furnishing a local surety of Rs 2 lakh to the satisfaction of this court,” the court said and directed him to give an undertaking that he shall appear in court in person or through counsel and not dispute his identity at a later stage.

It also asked him to file a copy of his travel tickets and intimate the court after his return or any changes in his travel itinerary.

The court had on 11 July granted regular bail to Pachauri and allowed him to travel abroad after he appeared in pursuance to summons.

Pachauri has been allowed by the court to travel over a dozen times to various countries including USA, UK, China, Japan, France, Kazakhstan, Bolivia, Kuwait, Mexico, Somalia and Saudi Arabia, during pendency of probe and proceedings.

The former Teri chief was summoned as accused by the court after it took cognisance of the charge sheet filed against him for allegedly sexually harassing an ex-colleague.

The court, while taking cognisance of the charge sheet, had said there was sufficient material to proceed against him under sections 354A (sexual harassment), 354B (assault against woman with intent to disrobe), 354D (stalking), 509 (word, gesture or act intended to insult modesty of woman) and 341 (wrongful confinement) of the IPC.

The charge sheet, filed by Delhi Police on 1 March last year, had arrayed 23 prosecution witnesses, many of whom are present and former employees of The Energy and Resources Institute (Teri). Pachauri was granted an anticipatory bail in the case on 21 March last year and an FIR lodged against him on 13 February last year.

First Published On : Nov 19, 2016 16:24 IST

Free WiFi in all colleges and universities from February: Nitish Kumar

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said on Friday all colleges and universities in the state will have free WiFi facility from February next year to help students in their studies. Kumar said this while addressing a ‘Chetna Sabha’ programme at Samastipur at the culmination of his second leg of ‘Nishchay Yatra’.While announcing the free WiFi facility in all colleges and universities of the state, the CM exhorted youths to use the facility for studies and not for other purposes. Kumar was conducting his ‘Nishchay Yatra’ in different parts of the state in phases to gauge people’s views on prohibition and also preparation at ground level about implementation of the “seven resolves” which has been adopted by the grand secular alliance ministry as a “policy of good governance”.Kumar said his government was according top most priority to overall personality development of youths and many of the components of the seven resolves focus on them. The government has launched a scheme to provide interest free loans to students for higher studies after 12th standard, monthly allowance of Rs 1,000 for two years for search of job and also a venture capital of Rs 5,000 crore for boosting young entrepreneurs, he said.Kumar said there was provision to provide courses in spoken English and computers to enhance personality of youths of the state and to boost their chances of getting good jobs. With Samastipur being the native place of veteran socialist leader and former chief minister Karpoori Thakur, the CM invoked his name for ordering prohibition in the state during his term in 1977 which was rolled back latter. “We are followers of Karpoori Thakur and through prohibition, we are taking forward his unaccomplished task,” Kumar said.He reiterated the social and economic benefits of liquor ban and urged the masses to participate in a mammoth human chain on January 21 next year in support of the ban on alcohol. Senior ministers Madan Mohan Jha, Maheshwar Hazari and Alok Mehta in addition to Chief Secretary Anjani Kumar Singh and state police chief P K Thakur shared dais with the CM on the occasion.

Ayodhya: Supreme Court agrees to hear Subramanian Swamy’s plea on temple dispute hearing

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has agreed to hear BJP leader Subramanian Swamy’s plea as to why Ayodhya temple dispute matters should be heard on a day-to-day basis. A bench of Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justice A R Dave listed the plea of Swamy for next week after he sought an urgent hearing in the matter.

Subramanian-Swamy-PTI

Swamy said that he has already been impleaded in the case relating to the Ayodhya dispute by the apex court and since the matter is pending for over five-and-a-half years, it should be heard on day-to-day basis.

The bench said that it would like to hear Swamy’s plea as to why a day-to-day hearing should be conducted. On February 26, the apex court had allowed Swamy to intervene in the pending matters relating to the Ayodhya title dispute with his plea seeking construction of Ram temple at the site of demolished disputed structure.

The BJP leader had earlier moved the plea for a direction to allow construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya at the disputed site and had mentioned it before a bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur for urgent hearing.

In his petition, Swamy had claimed that under the practices prevalent in Islamic countries, a mosque could be shifted to any other place for public purposes like constructing a road, whereas a temple once constructed cannot be touched.

He had also sought directions to expedite the disposal of several petitions challenging the Allahabad High Court verdict of three-way division of the disputed Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid site in Ayodhya on September 30, 2010.

First Published On : Nov 18, 2016 15:42 IST

No Bombay HC relief for jawan who was dismissed for bunking

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Bombay High Court has refused to grant relief to a BSF constable who was dismissed from service as he had unauthorisedly remained absent from duty for several days in 2011-2012. “Even one day unauthorised absence of a constable of BSF must be regarded as serious… We are therefore of the opinion that there is no need to intervene in the matter,” a division bench said while dismissing the petition filed by aggrieved constable Deepak Jadhav. “The very nature of duties attached to the petitioner as a security constable requires his presence and attention at the field. If his personal affairs compel him to stay away from duties, definitely the authorities, which have to maintain the discipline, have every reason to take harsh decision,” the bench observed.The constable had availed leave from November 2 to 20, 2011. Thereafter he did not report for duty and only on March 4, 2012, he joined duty after overstaying for 102 days. Later, he remained absent without seeking leave or permission from March 19 onwards. An order was passed on June 26, 2012, dismissing him from service. He then challenged the decision.The impugned order indicated that within a period of 90 days from the date of dismissal, the constable can make an application for reinstatement. However, no such application was made within the specified period. Later, Jadhav made an application and it was decided on merits by the authorities who rejected his plea for reinstatement on the basis of his past record and unauthorised absence from duty. “At this stage, we fail to understand which order the petitioner intends to challenge by amending the writ petition. The latest order is nothing but reaffirming the dismissal order of June 26, 2012. As a matter of fact, we notice from the prayer in the petition that he has already challenged the latest order dated February 6, 2014,” said the bench.

Trump economic adviser: stop talking about the Fed | Reuters

Trump economic adviser: stop talking about the Fed | Reuters

Updated: Nov 10, 2016 20:44 IST

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WASHINGTON A senior economic adviser to President-elect Donald Trump stressed economic growth over discussion of Federal Reserve policies on Thursday, citing the need for small-business job growth through better regulation, energy policy and tax cuts.”I think people should move on from the Fed and talk more about the other policies that will change rather quickly,” adviser David Malpass said in an interview with CNBC.Malpass, a Treasury and State Department official during the presidential administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, said Trump’s focus will be on small-business job growth, achieved through better regulation, tax cuts and tax simplification.”The Fed is independent,” he said. “The issue, though, is their performance has not been good. We’ve had a really slow-growth economy. The question is will they look inside and see their part of that problem.”

The Fed is one of many parts of government that have been slowing the U.S. growth rate, Malpass said. Malpass did not comment on possible Cabinet picks by Trump. He said the New York real estate magnate has stressed he wants a business-like Cabinet and has given running mate Mike Pence more influence in helping make personnel decisions.

Malpass deflected questions about whether he is being considered as a possible head of the Federal Reserve when Janet Yellen’s term expires in February 2018.

“I don’t think we should be talking about the Fed today,” he said. “The Fed is doing what it’s doing. It’s data dependent, it’s going to look for a rate hike in December based on whether we’re going to grow faster. All the signs are that the U.S. can begin to accelerate and I think that’s wonderful for the country.” (Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Bill Trott)

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

SC directs suspended RJD MLA Raj Ballabh Yadav to surrender in rape case

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed suspended MLA Raj Ballabh Yadav, accused in a rape case, to surrender before a trial court in Bihar by on Wednesday, after suspending a Patna High Court order granting bail to him.A bench, comprising justices A K Sikri and N V Ramana, suspended the High Court granting bail to Yadav and directed the trial court to record the statement of the minor rape survivor within two weeks, asking the Yadav not to interfere in the matter in any manner. The bench posted the matter for November 23.The apex court had earlier rejected Yadav’s plea to remain outside Bihar till the victim deposed before the trial court and favoured that the RJD legislator should remain in jail till the victim records her statement “fairly and without any fear”. It had said it was “more concerned” about the safety of the prosecutrix.The apex court had on October 18 directed the trial court not to record the testimony of the victim till October 24 after the state government submitted that she felt threatened due to the accused being out on bail. It had on October 7 sought the response of the legislator on a plea by the Nitish Kumar government challenging the bail granted to him by the Patna High Court.Yadav had allegedly raped the minor girl at his residence in Biharsharif on February 6 this year. After evading arrest for a considerable time, he surrendered after a local court issue proclamation notice and an order to attach his properties for not surrendering before the police.The Bihar Police, in its charge sheet, had also named a woman and her relatives as accused on the ground that they had been allegedly supplying women to the MLA representing Nawada Assembly constituency. The RJD had suspended Yadav from the party on February 14, a day after his arrest warrant was issued.

Sabarimala row: Ready to allow women inside sanctum sanctorum of temple, Kerala govt tells SC

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Amidst ongoing debate, the Kerala government on Monday changed its stand and informed the Supreme Court that it is ready to allow women into the sanctum sanctorum of Sabarimala temple.The apex court was hearing the petition seeking the entry of women into Kerala’s Sabarimala temple.This was the first hearing after the top court changed the bench hearing a decade-old petition against the restriction on women aged between 10 and 50 from entering the temple.Last month, a high priest of the famous temple had said status quo should be maintained on the matter. “Status quo should be maintained on the issue. The government should take into account the belief of the devotees while taking a decision on the matter,” Kandararu Rajeevaru, Sabarimala thantri, had said.A total of 10 Supreme Court judges, sitting in various combinations, have already heard the case in as many years since it was first filed in 2006. The Supreme Court on February 12, questioned the practice of banning women from Kerala’s Sabarimala temple, and wondered if man-made customs can prescribe such prohibition when “the God does not discriminate between men and women”.In 2008, the then LDF government had submitted an affidavit favouring entry of women belonging to all age groups. Later, in 2016, UDF government submitted an affidavit opposing entry of women.

Centre’s plan for a hot winter in Kashmir

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Equipped with the information that unprecedented terror turbulence can hit Jammu and Kashmir as the snow melts next year which may spiral the situation out of hand, the Centre has evolved a four-pronged action plan to restore normalcy.To be executed between winter months – from November to February – the execution of the action plan will be monitored directly by small team under the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), highly placed sources said. There is a strong apprehension in the security establishment that lack of governance and absence of administration during long period of unrest has helped create situation that has potential to put the Kashmiri society on the path of Talibanisation. “Burning down of schools on a massive scale across the valley is one indication of what Pakistan supported terror groups are planning to do. This is an unprecedented development in Kashmir that has never happened before. In all over 120 government buildings have been burnt down or damaged of which at least 27 are school buildings,” added sources. According to the plan, the Army and the Special Operations Group (SOG) of J&K Police aided by central armed police forces (CAPFs) have been tasked to neutralise or apprehend all the 300 odd terrorists and militants present in the valley. Sources said, these terrorists aided by the prevailing confusion during unrest managed to find safe havens across several pockets and have been instrumental in abating and aiding further unrest.The next step of the plan includes action on a massive scale against over ground activists of resistance group who have aided, instigated and participated in “subversive” activities like stone throwing, burning down government properties and aiding terrorists and militants to hide, sneak in and escape. An important part of the plan is reclaiming back the so called liberated areas, especially in South Kashmir, from the violent agitators that also have strong presence of militants and over ground activists. Sources said this may prove to be long haul exercise as they want minimum collateral damage during action. At the same time, along with the tough approach, the government plans to launch programmes on massive scale for winning hearts and minds of Kashmiris, aimed especially at those who want peace to return to help their children study and business progress.Those involved in the plan believe that the Centre’s action will not find much resistance in Kashmir as majority of Kashmiri are fed up with the spiral of violence and unrest and want to lead normal life.

Bhopal jailbreak: Two SIMI activists killed in encounter were wanted for 2014 Chennai blasts

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Two of the SIMI activists, among the eight killed in an encounter near Bhopal, were wanted by Tamil Nadu police in connection with the 2014 train blast case in Chennai and warrants obtained for bringing them to the city remained pending due to concerns that they might escape in transit.Sources in CB-CID, which investigated the May 1, 2014 blasts on a Bengaluru-Guwahati train at the Chennai Central station which killed a young software engineer, said the Madhya Pradesh police were apprehensive that the duo might escape if they were sent to Chennai.Out of the three accused in the case, Aijajudeen was killed in an encounter by police on April 4, 2015 at Suryapet in Telangana and the remaining two Zakir Hussain, and Mehboob died in the encounter on Monday. Their death virtually brings the curtains down on the case. Both Zakir Hussain alias Sadiq and Mehboob alias Guddu had escaped from Khandwa jail in Madya Pradesh in 2013.”A prisoners’ transit warrant was obtained to bring Zakir Hussain and Mehboob to Chennai in connection with the Chennai blasts case. However, MP authorities were concerned. They thought that the duo may try to escape if sent out,” a senior police official told PTI. He said by July this year, the PT warrant was obtained for the duo, however, it remained pending.Another official said, “all legal procedures will be followed in the case” with the death of the accused persons, but did not elaborate. He said the links of the accused to several crimes in more than one state involved probe by multiple state and central agencies.The SIMI activists, called “Khandwa module” in police parlance, were behind a number of serious crimes. After their escape in 2013, they were involved in a number of crimes including the Rs 46 lakh heist at SBI’s Choppadandi branch at Karimnagar in Telangana in February 2014, police said.

Embraer paid US $5.76 mn to shell company for IAF plane deal

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer paid US $5.76 million to a shell company in connection with a contract it secured to sell the Indian Air Force (IAF) three aircraft for about US $208 million, the US Department of Justice said today.Such a revelation came as Embraer, as per a Justice Department announcement, entered into a resolution and agreed to pay US $205 million to resolve charges of corruption and making bribe payments to foreign nations, including to an agent in India for the IAF deal.Embraer will pay a penalty of over US $107 million in connection with schemes involving bribery of government officials in the Dominican Republic, Saudi Arabia and Mozambique, and millions more over falsely recorded payments in India via a sham agency agreement.In a parallel resolution with the Securities and Exchange Commission and Brazilian authorities, the company will also have to pay US $98 million in disgorgement.Embraer earned profits of nearly US $84 million on the aircraft sale to India. In 2009, Embraer paid an agent US $5.76 million pursuant to a false agency agreement with a shell company in connection with a contract it secured to sell the IAF three aircraft for approximately US $208 million, the Justice Department said.”Embraer paid millions of dollars in bribes to win government aircraft contracts in three different continents,” said Assistant Attorney General Leslie R Caldwell.”Embraer tried to bribe their way into several profitable aircraft contracts around the world,” said Assistant Special Agent in Charge William J Maddalena.According to court documents, on July 3, 2008, Embraer executed a contract to provide three highly specialised military aircraft to the IAF for nearly USD 208 million.In connection with the deal, it retained the services of an unknown agent identified in the court as “Agent D” pursuant to a 2005 agency agreement.”It later paid US $5.76 million to Agent D pursuant to a false agency agreement signed in or around 2008,” federal prosecutors alleged.Federal prosecutors said in January 2005, Embraer executed an agency agreement with a shell company domiciled in the UK and affiliated with Agent D (although the name never appeared in the agreement).Under the agency agreement, Embraer agreed to pay the shell company a commission of nine per cent of the value of any defence contracts Embraer obtained in India because it believed the agent could help ensure that any contract would be awarded on a single-source, rather than competitive, basis.”Embraer personnel thought the agreement with Agent D was illegal under Indian law and thus took steps to conceal its existence, including secreting the sole fully-executed version of the agreement in a safe deposit box in London that could be opened only when both an Embraer employee and Agent D or an associate of Agent D were present,” federal prosecutors said.Less than a month after executing the agency agreement with the shell company, on February 8, 2005, Embraer announced that it had signed a memorandum of understanding with Defence Research and Development Organisation to support the development of a new early warning radar system for the IAF which Embraer believed could ultimately result in it securing a contract for the sale of three Embraer-145 aircraft.The agreement for purchase of three planes for IAF was signed on July 3, 2008. The very next day, on July 4, 2008, Agent D contacted Embraer employees and demanded payment of the commission pursuant to the contract.”Agent D continued making demands for payment and, in or around February and March, 2009, an Embraer executive met with lawyers representing Agent D to discuss Agent D’s payment demands. Following these discussions, Embraer executives agreed to pay US $5.76 million to Agent D to settle the claim,” court papers said.To conceal the payment Embraer created a false agency agreement.On November 21, 2009, more than a year after it was awarded the India contract, Embraer through its wholly-owned subsidiary – ECC Investment Switzerland AG – executed an agency agreement with a shell company domiciled in Singapore and affiliated with Agent D for its purported services as an agent in a sale Embraer had made to an unrelated customer in another country that had purchased an Embraer aircraft more than a year earlier in July, 2008.”The Singaporean shell company never performed any services related to that sale or to the sale to the Indian Air Force,” US federal prosecutors alleged.”The same day that the agency agreement was executed, the Singaporean shell company delivered three invoices to ECC, each for US $1.92 million. Embraer, through ECC, remitted three payments to the shell company shortly thereafter. Embraer’s books and records did not reflect that this transaction was related to its arrangement with Agent D,” the Justice Department alleged.

Najeeb Ahmed row: JNU protests defy logic, will yield little for its present protagonists

The Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) campus is once again reverberating with protests. Dharna pradarshans are being staged for last one week, human chains are being formed, ‘solidarity marches’ are being carried on with fascinating slogans; raised in full tempo: “Zulmi jab jab zulm karega satta ke hathiyaron se chappa chappa goonj uthe ga Najeeb Najeeb ke naaron se”.

New hashtag #JusticeforNajeeb is doing rounds and the obvious topping to this is a “Sanghi Vice chancellor” and “Dalal media” playing the perpetual ‘antagonist’.

Former JNU Student Union (JNUSU) vice-president Shehla Rashid on Sunday evening shared a Facebook post that read, “Our Sanghi Vice chancellor can only do one thing and that is TWEET and call the Dalal media. We have not confined you Shameless VC. Please come out of your soundproof room and listen to us. See how we students want our fellow student NAJEEB back among us safely”.

The post was in reaction to a series of tweets by the JNU Vice Chancellor M Jagadesh Kumar, who on Sunday alleged that protesting students had blocked the entrance of his residence. In one of his tweets he said, “Agitating students.. please understand, by shouting slogans and blocking entrance to my residence, we cannot trace Najeeb”.

Campus tensions. Image courtesy News18Campus tensions. Image courtesy News18

File photo of Jawaharlal Nehru University campus. Image courtesy News18

Another tweet by Kumar added, “Repeated appeals to cooperate and not agitate have fallen on deaf ears of student agitators. This is unfortunate.”

As expected, Kumar was attacked for playing the “damsel in distress” and the victim, as many accused him of playing in the hands of the ‘sanghi goons’.

Following the arrest of former JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar (in relation to 9 February incident) the protests that followed, garnered support from different quarters as it had an underlying logic to it. The support that poured in for a student leader, who allegedly participated in “anti-India” programme and was arrested like a local thug and slapped with a sedition charge, without any concrete evidence hinting at his culpability.

Merely nine months after that incident, a protest is again being held at the JNU campus, demanding quick action against the alleged culprits and against the “lackadaisical attitude of the JNU administration” in dealing with the issue of a missing student.

The ongoing protest at the JNU campus is in regard to missing Najeeb Ahmed, a student of MSc, who has been missing since 11 am on 15 October, after an alleged altercation with students belonging to the ABVP at the Mahi-Mandavi hostel. The intensity of the protest, the support it is attracting is nothing in comparison to post 9 February incident and the reason is obvious: The current protest, in spite of all its pretensions, is devoid of certain logic.

In a series of appeal that was posted on the official website of the university, the Vice-Chancellor has made it clear that “Efforts to keep in contact with the police are constantly on. The Vice-Chancellor of JNU is meeting the Police Commissioner on Monday morning in this regard. The JNU security is also on the vigil to locate him within the campus”.

In another appeal on Saturday, the JNU administration stated that “The missing of a student from the campus is everybody’s concern in JNU and the entire JNU community should make combined endeavours to trace Najeeb”.

All the appeals, however, have fallen flat to the shrill cries of protesting students, who on Sunday evening in large numbers marched to V-Cs house and held protests and demonstrations.

While fear of communalisation of the issue has been expressed by the JNU authorities and the police, the way the entire issue has been tackled has also given way to various conspiracy theories; some laughable, some raising concern and then some hinting at how JNU has become the microcosm of party-politics where winning the game by hook or crook remains the sole prerogative of its leaders.

According to some of the students in the campus, the entire twist given to the ‘minor’ fight between some students have been done deliberately. “During the current JNUSU elections, the Left parties felt their ground slipping so they joined hand together is spite of their intense ideological differences. They also felt threatened by the sudden rise of the Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students’ Association (BAPSA), which has gained good support from students belonging to Other Backward Castes, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, Muslim communities and also from the Kashmiris students,” said a student of School of International Studies.

He adds, “Left parties are using this incident to regain the ground they feel they have lost to BAPSA.”

While such theories can be ignored as ideologically and politically motivated, it speaks in volume how politicised the entire discourse on the campus has become. To an extent that, an unfortunate event of beating up of a student has led to fierce political allegations and counter allegations and communalisation of the entire issue.

While concern over the security of the missing student was expressed by some of the faculty members and protesting students when Firstpost spoke to them, it cannot be dismissed that what is apparently falling short of some justifiable logic is the method of protest that has rocked the campus.

With host new and of old faces, the current protests in JNU over the missing student looks nothing more than a turf war fought between contending ideologies, some with firm ground and some trying to make space.

Protest that followed 9 February incident was waged in the name of free speech and expression and was against the arbitrariness of the sedition law. It had a well-crafted trajectory and a purpose. However, the current politics over the missing MSc student reminds one of the bewilderment of the Lewis Carroll’s Alice and ironically honest remark of her Cheshire Puss (cat) that, whatever direction she takes, she is bound to encounter madness, defied of any concrete logic.

Given the fact that Home Minister himself has instructed the Delhi police to probe the case, it will not be too long now that police will be able to find Najeeb, or god forbid, will let the world know if something unfortunate happened to the 27-year-old student. Till then, however, JNU will be held hostage to a fierce ‘ideological’ war in which no matter which side you fall and what direction you take, madness will abound.

UP, Punjab and three other states likely to go to polls in February- March next year

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Uttar Pradesh, which is set to witness game-changer elections, and four other states will go to polls simultaneously, most likely in February-March next, commencing shortly after the presentation of the Union Budget on February one.While it will be a single-day polling in Punjab, Goa, Uttarakhand and Manipur, Uttar Pradesh is likely to have as many as seven phases, sources in the Election Commission said.The BJP, which had swept the Lok Sabha elections more than two years ago, winning 70 of the 80 seats in Uttar Pradesh, is seeking to make a comeback by wresting power after 15 years from the ruling SP. The BSP is expected to give a stiff challenge to both of them. In Punjab, after two successive terms, the ruling SAD-BJP combine is facing a tough battle from Congress on the one hand and a fledgeling AAP on the other. Uttarakhand, where the ruling Congress staged a sensational comeback this year following a legal battle, is fighting anti-incumbency and facing challenge from the BJP.Goa, where the ruling BJP is seeking a fresh term, is pitted against Congress and AAP. In Manipur, the Congress is seeking to retain power. As a matter of abundant precaution, the government approached the Commission for clearing its proposal to present the Union Budget in Lok Sabha on February one and avoid criticism of violating the model code of conduct that will come into force the day elections are announced.Sources said that the Commission had no objection to the budget exercise being carried on because of the fact that it would cover the entire country and was not specific to the poll-bound states.It has also been conveyed to the government that caution should be exercised so that overtly populist measures are not included in the budget aimed at voters in these states. The Commission is working on a schedule for the polls which should be completed by the middle of March so that new assemblies in these states could be constituted well in time before the expiry of their tenure.It is working out the requirements about security forces with the Centre and the states concerned for ensuring that the polls are free and fair.Nearly a lakh of state police and central armed police force personnel may be deployed to ensure that the electoral exercise is smooth and free from violence and malpractices like booth capturing. Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi had recently said, “We are trying to assess the requirement of security forces, climate and exam schedule — all these inputs are being taken into consideration. Only then we will be able to say whether they will be staggered or multi-phase.” While the term of the Uttar Pradesh assembly ends on May 27, 2017, those of Goa, Manipur and Punjab end on March 18.The Uttarakhand Assembly’s term ends on March 27.

Sheena Bora case: Commencement of arguments on framing of charges adjourned till 15 November

Mumbai: A special CBI court on Saturday adjourned till 15 November commencement of arguments on framing of charges against former media baron Peter Mukerjea, his wife Indrani and her ex-husband Sanjeev Khanna for the murder of Sheena Bora, Indrani’s daughter from a previous relationship.

Indrani Mukerjea (left) and Sheena Bora (right)

Indrani Mukerjea (left) and Sheena Bora (right)

The prosecution was to begin its arguments for framing of charges in the case today but Peter’s lawyer Aabad Ponda sought time to prepare arguments as the defence had received copies of the second supplementary charge sheet filed by CBI on Friday.

Ponda argued the defence has also not been given statement of one witness and also other documents that the prosecution was relying on.

“We need time to prepare. But looking at the evidence submitted by the prosecution, I can say that there is no case made out to even frame charges against the accused,” Ponda argued.

CBI judge HS Mahajan consented to adjourning the matter but said statement of the witness that is part of the supplementary charge sheet cannot be given at this stage when charges are yet to be framed.

“This court assures that the statement would be provided to the accused once charges are framed in the case,” the court said.

Sheena (24) was strangled in a car here in April 2012 allegedly by Indrani, Khanna and Indrani’s former driver Shyamvar Rai. Sheena’s body was then dumped in a forest in neighbouring Raigad district.

The case came to light only last year when Rai was arrested in another case. Rai later turned approver in the Sheena Bora murder case.

CBI on Friday filed its second supplementary charge sheet before special CBI court.

The agency in its charge sheet countered Peter’s arguments that he was implicated in the case and was not aware about the alleged murder and claimed that the ex-media baron was very much in the know of the conspiracy hatched by Indrani to kill Sheena.

CBI further claimed Peter was also informed by Indrani on selection of spot for disposal of the body.

According to the charge sheet, Indrani and Peter were against the “intimate relationship” between Sheena and Rahul, Peter’s son from his first wife. He often used to quarrel with Rahul on the issue as he didn’t approve of the relationship between Sheena and his son.

As per the charge sheet, Peter always dissuaded Khanna’s daughter from Indrani, Vidhie from having any contact with Rahul and Sheena.

Peter was initially fine with the relationship between Sheena and Rahul believing it would wane eventually over financial pressures.

In its charge sheet filed on 19 November 2015, CBI had named Indrani, Khanna and Rai as accused in the case.

Peter was arrested on 19 November 2015 for his alleged role in the murder plot. A charge sheet was filed against him by CBI on 16 February 2016.

Delhi bird flu scare: AAP govt should release health advisory with dos and don’ts

Even as Delhi hobbles back to normalcy after the chikungunya and dengue health scare that reached endemic proportions last month, the national capital faces yet another health exigency in the form of bird flu.
The government is monitoring bird sanctuaries and the Gazipur Murga Mandi, the sole meat market that caters to the entire city.

“Samples from the mandi and other sources have been sent for testing to Regional Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (RDDL), Jalandhar and High Security Animal Disease Laboratory (HSADL), Bhopal and the results are expected on Saturday,” a government source said.

It remains to be seen if the rickety health services system of the city (and the country) — that was found wanting just a few weeks back during the dengue and chikungunya outbreak had hit the population — will be prepared enough to deal with a crisis if any.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

However, ever since the first outbreak of bird flu in India a decade ago — in Gujarat and Maharashtra in February 2005 — India has never had a human case of H5N1 viral infection even though there has been an outbreak of the disease almost every other year.

Delhi’s development minister Gopal Rai has requested the citizens to not panic as the virus doesn’t seem to have entered the food chain yet.

Despite the minister’s reassurance, is there no cause for concern?

A stroll around any area of the city is enough proof that municipal services in the city are not at their international best, as should be the case considering that Delhi is the capital of a nation that is being heavily promoted as an investment destination globally. Is Delhi ready to take on the world as a global capital or is just another Third World city that has more negatives than positives?

The Supreme Court too has come down heavily on the AAP government on garbage piling up in the city and for poor sanitation. The apex court has expressed concern over bird flu scare in the national capital.

While the bird flu panic is slowly spreading, the experts strongly feel that it’s high time that the government should come up with an advisory with ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ on bird flu.

“The central government should issue an advisory with ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ to combat bird flu across the country. It’s not just limited to Delhi. District magistrates and district forest officials should be sensitised. Moreover, awareness regarding avian flu needs to be created especially among children, so as to avoid any panic,” Anand Arya, an environment expert, specialising on birds told Firstpost.

Source of avian (bird) flu scare

The scare of avian flu (official name of bird flu) originated in Delhi after the Delhi zoo reported over a dozen of dead birds on its premises. It was followed by death of birds at Deer Park, Hauz Khas and near a water body at Sundar Nagar. Besides, local birds, migratory birds died in zoo premises. While, the RDDL Jalandhar detected symptoms of the virus in the samples of carcasses of birds tested, Bhopal’s HSADL confirmed H5N1 virus in three birds. H5N1 is the virus that causes bird flu.

– Delhi Zoo: 12 birds found dead. (Of these three are confirmed bird flu cases).
– Deer Park: 5 birds found dead.
– Sundar Nagar: 3 crows found dead.
– Gwalior Zoo: 15 birds found dead. (The aerial distance between Gwalior and Delhi is only 285 km).

Source of Bird flu virus (H5N1)

Bird flu virus already exists in dormant state in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, China and Russia border. It can become active. The other source is a migratory bird. The virus infects and kills wild birds and domestic poultry.

“Nearly 225 migratory species visit India every year and it starts in September. We get migratory birds in almost all the 7.57 lakh wetlands in the country. It’s serious if any of the flock gets infected,” said Arya.

Past incidents

– First confirmed and notified case of H5N1 outbreak in India was reported in Gujarat and Maharashtra in February 2005.
– The second outbreak — a major one was in March-April 2006 in Madhya Pradesh — where more than 10 lakh poultry birds were culled.
– In 2007, it was in Manipur, followed by West Bengal in 2008. More than 40 lakh birds were killed in Bengal.
– In the consecutive years, outbreak occurred in Tripura, Odisha, Sikkim, Assam and Bihar.
– The last bird flu outbreak was reported in 2015 in Kerala.
– In 2005, 50-60 birds were found dead at Okhla Bird Park in Delhi, which created a panic. However, after post-mortem it was found that the birds died after consuming poisonous feed used to catch fish.
– In India, no case of bird flu infecting human has been reported yet.
– Large-scale culling of poultry birds took place in a decade causing huge financial loss to poultry business.

Can I consume egg and chicken?

According to experts, no case of bird flu has been reported in poultry so far. It’s safe to consume properly cooked egg and chicken.

“Most bacteria and virus can’t survive high heat. Instead of consuming cold meat, it’s preferable to have properly cooked, roasted chicken and eggs in the form of boiled and omelet,” advised Arya.

What government has done so far?

– Delhi government has started a helpline number (011-2389 0318) where citizens can report cases of bird flu and seek help.
– Large number of samples has been taken from zoos, bird sanctuaries and poultry markets and sent for testing.
– Municipal corporations have deployed teams to check flu.
– Delhi government is keeping a strict vigil on poultry market.
– Delhi minister Gopal Rai said that Delhi government is well-equipped with medicines to deal with the situation.
– Central Zoo Authority is conducting inspection of zoo enclosures.
– Delhi Zoo and Deer Park have been shut down.

Precautionary measures

According to medical experts, one shouldn’t touch a dead bird or the carcass and keep a safe distance. It should immediately be reported to authorities concerned.

Physical contact with bird droppings should be avoided, because any bird can be an infected one. Extreme care should be taken while clearing droppings, because most human infection is from close contact with sick or dead infected poultry or droppings.

– Any one suffering from fever must take medical advice.
– Avoid spreading of rumours and panic.

Laser wall across LoC

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Drawing a virtual border inside Pakistan, motion sensors and a technology upgrade for laser walls that will detect any break-ins are part of the high-tech plan to strengthen the India-Pakistan international border against infiltration.In a breakthrough for border defence systems in the country, the Border Security Force (BSF) upgraded the laser wall technology being used along the border in late September- early October, it is learnt. Using infra red rays and laser beams, the laser walls cannot just detect when there is a breach but can also tell differentiate between man and beast.BSF officers stand next to a laser transmitter at the western frontierEarlier this year, the BSF had confirmed the installation of CRON laser walls at certain areas along the border, after a wait of two years, post the decision. These virtual walls will keep a vigil on intrusion attempts from across the western border.”The surgical strike made the situation at the borders more tense and we were requested to upgrade all existing systems with the newer KVI-101S (technology) since the BSF believes that this time around the intrusion attempts will increase,” said Tushar Chhabra, founder of CRON Systems. “The plan is to cover the entire frontier with the new laser walls by February-March next year,” he told DNA.Laser wall shown during a demonstrationThough minor upgrades of the intrusion detection systems were done over the months, it was following the surgical strike that a new series of virtual laser walls were installed on eight kilometres of the border.”The KVI-101S system requires very little human intervention, has smarter detection capabilities and the encryptions are hack-proof. The previous technology was not capable of managing in marshy lands, which is the condition in most frontier areas. With the new KVI series, that problem has been resolved,” Chhabra said.The other side of the western border as seen from the wires.The new technology, he explained, uses next generation IR optics to provide all weather and harsh terrain early detection capabilities.According to former BSF inspector general Rakesh Sharma, who first adopted the technology,“Human error can never be neglected and therefore BSF needs the latest technology to guard our borders because the counterpart will never stop attempting (to intrude). I am proud to know that these systems are being made in India.”What’s nextWhile the laser walls are already up, India is also planning to look beyond the actual international border (IB) by drawing virtual borders inside Pakistan. Hoping to “completely seal” the international border with Pakistan in the next two years, home ministry officials explained that GPS coordinates of longitude and latitude fixed at least 200 metres to one kilometre inside Pakistan side would be used as a virtual border. This would be continuously monitored by a sequence of high definition and thermal imaging cameras fitted on balloons and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).”We are planning to use this kind of latest high end technology in areas that are inaccessible due to the very difficult terrain. The idea is to check the infiltration attempts before the terrorists reach the actual border; for this, the key is having enough response time in hand,” an official told DNA.The plan to plug the unguarded 181.85 kilometre part of the border also includes other high end technologies like ground penetrating radars, motion sensors, thermal imagers, smart fences, speedboats, hovercrafts and drones. Though it looks easy on paper, officials admitted that it would be extremely tough to complete the task by December 2018 as these patches run through the marshlands of the Rann of Kutch in Gujarat, the sands of Rajasthan and the riverine region in Punjab and Jammu where rivers and nullahs crisscross the international border in many places.”We need different technology and different barrier strategy for each terrain because of their dissimilar natures,” said the official.In the marshy area of Kutch, where movement is difficult, balloons and UAVs with high definition mounted cameras and hovercrafts on ground may be used. In the riverine patches, a favourite infiltration route that official believe was used for the Dinanagar and Pathankot attacks, a variety of surveillance equipment like motion sensors, infrared and thermal imagers, UAVs and high speedboats as well as choppers for quick response are likely to be deployed.In Rajasthan. where shifting sand dunes make the three-four metre high fences redundant, the ministry plans to increase the height of the fences to 10-12 metres high as well as deploy motion sensors and ground penetrating radars to check tunnels.While bringing in technology is not a problem, the biggest challenge before the ministry is to train BSF personnel. “For this we need jawans with both brain and brawn who have the mindset to adapt to the new technology. The next two years will also be dedicated to train and induct a large number of BSF personnel who can effectively put the new technology to use,” said the official.While the border between India and Pakistan runs for about 3,000 kilometres, the Line of Control (LoC) that divides Kashmir between the two countries is about 800 kilometres. Of the 182 odd kilometres of unguarded border, about 30 are in Rajasthan where the sand dunes keep shifting, 55 in the marshlands of Rann of Kutch in Gujarat and 100 in riverine areas of Punjab and JammuA further upgradation of the laser wall with a system called miCRON, which will enable encrypted communication for five-layer fencing, complete automation of border holding, is being designed and manufactured in India. The pilot will be seen in February-March in Jammu. This will make the Jammu border one of the most Intrusion proof borders in the world.CRON also confirms in its website that it is working working on automated drones and smart fencing. This will add an additional layer of defence to India’s borders and critical facilities.

Sardarpura massacre: 14 of 31 convicts acquitted, 17 sentenced to life by Gujarat High Court

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Gujarat High Court acquitted 14 persons out of 31 convicted on Thursday by a lower court and confirmed life sentence of 17 others, in the 2002 post-Godhra Sardarpura massacre case in which 33 people were burnt alive. A division bench of Justices Harsha Devani and Biren Vaishnav confirmed the life imprisonment of 17 persons.However, 14 of the 31 convicted by the lower court were acquitted by the high court due to lack of evidence and contradiction in witnesses account. In all, 76 accused were arrested in Sardarpur case by police, out of whom two died during pendency of trial, while one was a juvenile.The court had framed charges against 73 accused in June 2009 and initiated trial in the case. Besides the conviction of 31, the lower court had acquitted 42 others. The SIT later challenged in high court the acquittal of 31 persons out of these 42.However, the HC upheld the Mehsana district court order on Thursday acquitting 31 out of these 42. Meanwhile, the 17 were convicted by high court for murder, attempt to murder, rioting and other sections of IPC. The HC also upheld the decision of lower court to not accept the “conspiracy theory” put up by the prosecution, which had alleged that the attack on minority community was pre-planned and a conspiracy was hatched following the Godhra train burning incident.Thirty one persons were earlier awarded life sentence along with a fine of Rs 50,000 each in the verdict passed by special SIT court judge SC Srivastava while hearing the matter on November 9, 2011. As many as 73 people were made accused in the case, in which 33 people of minority community were burnt to death at Sardarpura in Vijapur taluka of Mehsana district on the night of February 28, 2002, to avenge the Godhra train burning incident in which 59 people, mainly karsevaks, were burnt to death on February 27, 2002.This was one of the nine post-Godhra riot cases probed by Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT). A mob of hundreds of people had surrounded a lane, called ‘Sheikh Vaas’, in Sardarpura on the intervening night of February 28 and March 1, 2002, where minority population of the village used to live.The people of minority community took shelter in a ‘pucca’ house of one Ibrahim Sheikh. However, the mob torched the house after pouring petrol on it, in which 33 people, including 22 women, were charred to death.

JNU missing student: Amid protests, fear of campus attracting unwanted reputation

In the fight between “communist kutte” and “sanghi goons” JNU is being haunted by a spectre: the intellectual edifice of this great institution seems to be crumbling. In the badlands of some of the north Indian states, where university campuses and hostels double as the dens for aspiring mafias and politicians; their dark corridors are lit by the tales of point-blank shootings and intense rivalries between two or more contending groups.

JNU (which is majorly populated by the students of the same states), however, was always a campus where battles were fought on ideological turf, though with similar intensity.

The curious case of Najeeb Ahmed, a student of MSc, who has been missing since 11 am on 15 October after an alleged altercation with students belonging to the ABVP at the Mahi-Mandavi hostel and the protest that followed, is indicative of all that has gone wrong with the campus.

File image of the JNU campus. JNU websiteFile image of the JNU campus. JNU website

File image of the JNU campus. JNU website

The incident is indicative of two things: (1) an impending tragedy which can completely transform the narrative of the campus if the allegations of kidnapping and physical harm to Ahmed by ABVP ‘goons’ come out to be true, (2) the convenient double standards of Left establishment in the campus and further decline of ‘Right’ discourse represented by ABVP.

In the first case, any mishap to the missing student and any proved culpability of ABVP coming to light, JNU would easily slip in the list of the universities where muscle power rules the roast. While this outcome will be ascertained in future, the second indication is reflective of a problem no less serious.

Najeeb Ahmed is missing for six days which is a matter of utmost concern. But some of the demands made by the Left parties only reflect their double standards. Protesting students are demanding immediate action against the ‘accused’ students who allegedly assaulted and ‘kidnapped’ Ahmed.

According to a Times of India report Chintamani Mahapatra, rector -1, commenting upon the demand of making the students who allegedly assaulted Ahmed out of bound from hostels, said: “How can we take such as decision until the investigation is completed. We are expediting the process. In the first warden meeting Ahmed himself admitted that he assaulted and a decision was taken against him. But no action was taken and the second meeting deferred the decision. So there is a due process which needs to be followed for everything. Otherwise how can the administration run?”

The reason provided by the rector holds ground. Just a few months ago, in the wake of then JNU Student Union (JNUSU) president Kanhaiya Kumar arrest and the large scale protest that ensued, high-level inquiry committee was formed to investigate the 9 February incident when allegedly anti-India slogans were raised.

The inquiry committee recommended the rustication of Anirban Bhattacharya and Umar Khalid for a certain period and also imposed fine on some students including JNU Students Union president Kanhaiya Kumar. The committee’s findings and the decision were out rightly rejected by the Left parties as it was seen ‘unfair’ and ‘arbitrary’. Protesting students then did not have any faith in the JNU administration.

As reported by The Indian Express, Kanhaiya Kumar had said, “We have rejected the so-called high-level enquiry committee right from the day it was set up as an undemocratic and biased one so there is no point accepting the punishment meted out to us on basis of its findings.”

Within six months the same authorities are being pressurised to punish some students without a proper investigation in the case. There seems to be a sudden emergence of faith in the JNU administration.

Taking note of the protests, home minister Rajnath Singh, on Thursday asked Delhi Police Commissioner Alok Kumar Verma for a detailed report on the issue. This will surely speed up the search operation of the missing student. But amid all this, the method of the protest by students is being criticised by many, including the JNU Teachers’ Association.

Now consider this: As reported by The Times of India, ABVP Delhi joint secretary and student at School of International Studies, Ravi Ranjan Chaudhary, when asked about the incident reportedly said that the hostel committee elections are on and four of their member had gone to Najeeb’s room to campaign in Mahi hostel. He added that “One of them, Vikrant, a third year BA student at School of Languages, had a red thread around his wrist. When Najeeb opened the door, he asked Vikrant why he was wearing the thread. He then slapped Vikrant without waiting for him to answer”.

This explanation given by Chaudhary is widely circulated in the university campus and have given the entire incident a communal hue. While talking to students, the plausibility of this claim becomes doubtful. It looks more like a hearsay spread by certain students, which is being established as truth by its constant repetition.

While most of the protesting students and Left parties are trying to avoid communalising the issue, the communal angel is still being projected by certain students.

On 16 October in a Facebook post about the incident, Anirban Bhattacharya’s, who was one of the accused in 9 February incident said, “Najeeb was beaten up by a group of sanghi goons around Friday midnight” and also stated that someone has written on a table in the guest room of the hostel that “Muslims are terrorists’.

While ideological differences that result in fierce debates has been the norm of the JNU campus, the current allegations of criminal assault and communal profiling and targeting is something that has never come out in open, even if we assume that it had always existed silently at a subterranean level. However, what is bewildering and worrying for those who cherish any links with JNU is the fear of the university being branded as hub of criminals and communalist, after being tagged as ‘anti-national’.

India and China conduct joint military excercise in Jammu and Kashmir

Leh: Indian and Chinese armies on Wednesday conducted a day-long exercise focused on humanitarian aid and relief, where a fictitious situation of an earthquake was emulated, an official statement said.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The statement called it a part of “ongoing initiative to enhance interaction and cooperation between India and China”, and added that it increased “trust and cooperation between the two border guarding forces along the LAC in Eastern Ladakh”.

The second such exercise to be held by the two countries, the joint exercise named “Sino India Cooperation 2016” was held under the provisions of Border Defense Cooperation Agreement, 2013.

The first exercise of the series was held in February this year in eastern Ladakh in Chushul-Moldo area.

The Indian team was led by Brigadier RS Raman and the Chinese side was led by Sr Col Fan Jun.

“The exercise was a great success and has not only refined the drills to provide succor to the border population in case of natural calamity but has also increased the level of trust and cooperation between the two border guarding forces along the LAC in Eastern Ladakh,” the statement said.

It also said the exercise complements the Hand in Hand series of the India-China joint exercises and the effort of both the nations to enhance cooperation and maintain peace and tranquility along the border areas.

Exercise Hand in Hand series, which started in 2007, was held at Kunming Military Academy in Yunnan province of China in 2015.

The 12-day-long exercise was focused on counter-terrorism and anti-insurgency operations, along with humanitarian aid and disaster relief operations.

SC rejects plea for custody of suspended RJD MLA Raj Ballabh Yadav in rape case

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected Bihar government’s plea that suspended RJD MLA Raj Ballabh Yadav, accused in a rape case, be taken into custody so that the minor victim could testify before the trial court. A bench of Justices A K Sikri and N V Ramana however directed the trial court not to record the testimony of the minor rape survivor till October 24 after the state government submitted that she felt threatened with the MLA out on bail.Bihar government standing counsel Gopal Singh said the rape survivor has given a statement that she felt scared and threatened and cannot depose before the trial court. “He (Yadav) be taken into custody and let the evidence be recorded. The trial court could not give time as High Court has directed day-to-day trial,” Singh said.To this, the bench said that respondent Yadav needed time to reply to the plea and file some documents. “Till Monday (October 24) the trial court will not proceed with the deposition of the prosecutrix,” it said.Bihar government counsel said that security has been provided to the victim by the state but due to fear of the accused she was not able to go to court. Senior advocate Siddharth Luthra appearing for Yadav said since he received the notice only yesterday, he was not able to file the reply.The apex court had on October 7 sought response of suspended RJD MLA Raj Ballabh Yadav, who is facing trial in a case for allegedly raping a minor girl, on a plea by the Nitish Kumar government challenging the bail granted to him by the Patna High Court.Bihar government has urged the court to stay the high court order granting bail to Yadav saying the court had erred in granting bail to Yadav in a heinous case like this. Yadav had allegedly raped the minor girl at his residence in Biharsharif on February 6 this year. After evading arrest for a considerable time, he surrendered after a local court issue proclamation notice and an order to attach his properties for not surrendering before the police.The Bihar Police, in its charge sheet, has also named a woman and her relatives as accused on the ground that they had been allegedly supplying women to the suspended RJD MLA representing Nawada Assembly constituency. The RJD suspended Yadav from the party on February 14, a day after his arrest warrant was issued.

India joins ‘Nuclear Triad’ club with INS Arihant

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>With the INS Arihant now becoming fully operational, India has joined the ‘Nuclear triad’ club of superpowers who can launch nuclear weapons from sea, land and air-based systems, reports News X.INS Arihant, a 6,000-tonne submarine, is country’s first indigenous nuclear submarine and can launch nuclear weapons from underwater. The vessel was declared as ready for operation in February 2016. It was built under the Advanced Technology Vessel Project at the Ship Building Centre. In August 2016, INS Arihant had been commissioned by PM Modi into the Indian Navy.An advantage of such a submarine is that they are harder to track and destroy than land and air nuclear launch platforms.India has now joined group of five other elite countries – USA, UK, France, Russia, China – to have developed nuclear-armed submarines. INS Arihant gives India the power to hold the threat of a ‘second strike’ in a nuclear counter attack, even if the country is completely destroyed. This finds relevance in India’s ‘No First Strike’ policy in contrast to Pakistan’s “First strike” policy. The ‘First Strike’ policy allows Pakistan to use nuclear weapons against India even if India does not.

Food Security Act to be implemented in Kerala in 2017: Govt

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A pilot project to supply ration food articles at the doorstep as part of implementing the Food Security Act would be launched in Kerala on November 1. Initially, the scheme would be launched at Kollam in the next month, a release from the State Food Minister P Thilothaman’s office said.The government plans to implement the scheme to supply ration food articles at doorsteps across the state by April 2017, the release said. The draft list of beneficiaries would be published by October 20 and ‘file list’ was expected to be ready by January next, it said.The new ration cards would be distributed by February and the process is planned to be completed by March, the release said.

Brace for long delays, operations at Mumbai airport to be hit from Tuesday

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Passengers flying in and out of the nation’s financial capital should brace for long delays from Tuesday till the end of November as the only runway of the nation’s second busiest airport will be shut for five hours for repair work.Last time the airport, operated by the GVK Group, was shut for similar repair work in November 2010. Months after the spanking new terminal-T2 over Rs 12,000-crore was opened in February.Operations will be partly hit between October 18 and 31 for four hours between 1200 hrs and 1600 hrs for seven days on alternate days, as the main runway (Runway No 09-27) will be closed for surface repair. But the secondary runway (14-32) will be open during these hours, a MIAL (Mumbai International Airport Ltd) official told PTI.But operations will be completely shut for five hours from 1200 hrs to 1700 hrs in the second phase beginning October 31 through November 28 as both the main and the secondary runways will be closed, the official said, adding this is needed as the repair work involves inter-section work.In total between October 31 and November 28, both the runways will be closed for five hours on Mondays and Thursdays, while in the first phase the main runway will be closed for four hours on seven days, the official said.In total, the impact will be for nine days in November in the second phase of closure.Notably, the second busiest airport in the country, Mumbai International Airport has only one runway (as one-third of the airport land is occupied by slum squatters), yet it manages around 50 flights during peak hours, making it one of the most efficient airports in the world in terms of aircraft handling.On an average, the city airport handles over 800 flights a day. Against this the Delhi airport, with three runways handles around 78 flights during peak hours.”The runways–09-27 main and 14-32–will remain closed between 1200 hrs and 1700 hrs on Mondays and Thursdays till November 28, to conduct ‘preventive runway surface work’, a technology to fill in gaps on the runway,” MIAL had said in an earlier statement last month wherein it advised airlines to reschedule their operations.To avert delays and inconvenience to passengers, most of the airlines have started alternative plan of action.Low-cost carrier Indigo has said it would waive cancellation and rescheduling charges for flights affected by the closure.Jet Airways said in a statement today, “in light of the forthcoming closure of the Mumbai Airport runway from October 18 to end-November, we have revised our flight schedules for some of its flights arriving into/departing from Mumbai.””We are taking proactive steps to keep guests updated of revised timings and re-accommodation on alternate flights wherever necessary. Guests are also advised to check the revised schedules and updates on our website,” it said.Similarly, the largest carrier Indigo too said since the airport will not be available for operations between October 31 and November 28 on Mondays and Thursdays between 1200 and 1700 hrs, it is rescheduling flights to and fro Mumbai and passengers are requested to check the new timings with the airline.Vistara is also coming up with a plan to adjust its operations according to the runway changes.Incidentally, Air India, which has the largest number of operations from the airport, is yet to announce its alternate arrangements.

P Chidambaram’s brainchild counter-terror body may still see the light of day

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Former Home Minister P Chidambaram’s controversial brainchild, the National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC), an overarching body to counter all kinds of terror threats in the country, is not out of favour yet and may still be revived by the Modi-led government.Incidentally, the BJP-ruled states, led by the then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, had strongly opposed the constitution of NCTC during the Congress-led UPA-II government’s tenure. Sources said the Centre has not buried the NCTC yet and is trying to find out how it could be revived by making small changes, and how to bring the states on board.”The NCTC still exists on paper as it was passed by an executive order in February 2012 by the then home minister P Chidambaram. That order still exists as it has not been rescinded and can be put to use again,” sources said.They added that though no timeline has been fixed to revive the NCTC, the Centre is thinking about approaching the states on the issue again and is confident that they can be assured that the body will not be misused politically against their governments.In his speech at the Conference of Chief Ministers on NCTC, held on May 5, 2012, the then Gujarat CM Modi had termed the body a grievous assault on federalism. Hitting out at the executive order to create NCTC, Modi had said, “…the assertions and assumptions on which the NCTC order has been crafted casts the Central government in the role of the omnipresent, omniscient ruler, with the states portrayed as dependant vassals…”Sources in the security establishment, however, said that now in the chair of the Prime Minister, Modi seems to have understood the NCTC’s importance and role in preventing possible terror attacks with the help of analytics.Sources said the work on national intelligence grid (NatGrid), the other brainchild of Chidambaram, is going on as per the decision taken by the cabinet committee on security and it would complete its horizon 1 and 2 stage by September 2012.This means that NatGrid would start sharing seamless flow of information between 11 inquiring agencies, including IB, RAW, CBI, NTRO and so on, and 22 service provider agencies, such as banks, telephone services, airlines, railways, license issuing authorities etc.In its final stage named Horizon 4, the NatGrid is expected to connect with all possible sources having digital human interface that run close to 2,000 organisations, collate and analyse all the data and give the emerging threat scenarios to the NCTC.The subject of NCTC and other security-related issues, such as NatGrid, security of islands and coastal security was discussed in the parliamentary standing committee on home affairs on Friday. Chidambaram, who heads the committee, wanted to know whether there was any progress on NCTC or the government was planning to junk it.

Centre’s preparedness towards Zika ‘very satisfactory’, to formulate action plan within 10 days

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In the wake of recent WHO warning that Zika infections are “highly likely” to spread in Asia, the Centre has said its preparedness is “very satisfactory” even as it asked its officials to formulate a response framework and action plan within 10 days to effectively tackle the virus.Health Minister JP Nadda held a high-level meeting in this regard on Thursday which was attended by senior ministry officials, representatives from National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and those from hospitals of central government.Nadda said, “In terms of the action taken and various activities being carried they are very satisfactory. Our prevention mechanism too is in place.” Earlier this week, the WHO had warned Zika infections are “highly likely” to keep spreading in Asia.Nadda enumerated various measures being undertaken by the government as per guidelines issued in February this year. “Surveillance is being carried out at airports to monitor inbound passengers. All international airports and ports have displayed signage providing information for travellers on Zika virus and asking them to report if they are returning from affected countries,” Nadda said.ICMR has tested nearly 15,000 human samples and 6,000 aedes mosquitoes for presence of Zika virus and found them to be negative, the Minister said. A travel advisory was issued last month recommending people to defer their non-essential travel to affected countries and also asking pregnant women to refrain from visiting these countries.The minister also said that apart from existing 14 laboratories equipped to test the virus, 11 more are being strengthened. NCDC has been made the nodal agency for investigation of outbreak in any part of the country. Meanwhile, with the onset of winters, the Centre is also gearing up for tackling H1N1 virus which causes swine flu.Nadda assured that adequate quantity of Oseltamivir drug recommended by WHO is available across all states. According to the government, there is sufficient stock of personal protective equipment and N-95 masks.The minister has instructed that a group of technical experts examine ways and means to increase the availability of diagnostic tests and the drug Oseltamivir at peripheral levels including with chemists in private sector. Isolation facilities will also be put in place across hospitals from November.The Centre has offered help to the states to train health workers to deal with cases of swine flu and will also assist them provide effective ventilatory management.

Pampore encounter: 56-hour gunbattle comes to an end, two militants killed

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The 56-hour gunbattle between security forces and militants holed up in a government building at Pampore on the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway ended this afternoon with both the ultras hiding there shot dead.As there were reports of two to three militants present in the Entrepreneurship Development Institute (EDI) complex, the security forces had to search all the 50 rooms of the building before calling off the operation, an army official said. “We have recovered bodies of two militants and the search operation at the EDI building in Pampore has been almost completed,” the army official said.While one militant was killed on Tuesday evening, the other militant was shot dead by the security forces on Wednesday, the official said. The official said details about the slain militants were being ascertained but prima facie there were indications that they belonged to Lashkar-e-Toiba.Security forces pounded the EDI building since Monday after the militants barged inside the complex with the aim of engaging the law enforcing agencies. The operation, which lasted more than 56 hours, has reduced the multi-storey building to a skeleton after many of its walls were blown up.Elite Para commandos of the army have were also called in to neutralise the militants, the official said. The militants had stormed into the EDI complex in the wee hours of Monday and took positions inside one of the buildings. The ultras could have entered the complex from the riverside but that is yet to be ascertained, the official said. After getting inside the complex, the militants set on fire few mattresses inside a hostel room to attract the attention of the police and other security forces, which arrived within minutes of the smoke emanating from the building.The official said the aim of the militants was to cause casualties among the security forces and prolong the stand off as long as they could. In the initial exchange of firing, one army soldier was injured, the official said.Militants had targeted the EDI building in February this year as well. Five security force personnel including two young army officers and a civilian employee of the Institute and three militants were killed in that operation which lasted 48 hours.

Pampore attack: Two militants neutralised as gunbattle enters third day

Security forces believe they have killed the second militant hiding in the government building at Pampore on the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway today but officials said a confirmation can be made only after the bodies are recovered.

Security forces have been pounding the building of Entrepreneurship Development Institute (EDI) since Monday after three militants barged inside the complex with the aim of engaging the law enforicing agencies. The operation to flush out holed up militants entered the third day as security forces continued shelling the multi-storey structure with mortars and rockets to bring it down.

Fire and smoke rises from the government building where suspected militants have taken refuge during a gun battle in Pampore, 16 kms from Srinagar on Tuesday. A group of ultras took shelter inside EDI building on Monday morning. PTIFire and smoke rises from the government building where suspected militants have taken refuge during a gun battle in Pampore, 16 kms from Srinagar on Tuesday. A group of ultras took shelter inside EDI building on Monday morning. PTI

Fire and smoke rises from the government building where suspected militants have taken refuge during a gun battle in Pampore, 16 kms from Srinagar on Tuesday. A group of ultras took shelter inside EDI building on Monday morning. PTI

An army official said on Wednesday, “We believe that another militant has been killed in the fresh assault on the EDI building at Pampore but a confirmation will be made only after the body is recovered”. He said the security forces have not recovered the body of the militant who was believed to have been killed last evening.

The security forces have managed to enter one portion of the building but are proceeding cautiously as one more militant might be hiding inside.

“The operation at Pampore is still going on but it is definitely now in final stages,” the official said.

The operation has been now going on for 52 hours as most parts of the concrete building have been reduced to a skeleton after many of its walls were blown up.

Elite Para commandos of the army have also been called in to neutralise the militants but the security personnel are not rushing in to the building to avoid casualties, the officials said.

The area around the EDI premises has been cordoned off to prevent the militants from escaping, the official said. Two to three militants stormed into the EDI complex in the wee hours of Monday and took positions inside one of the buildings.

The ultras could have entered the complex from the riverside but that can only be ascertained once the operation is over, the officials said.

After getting inside the complex, the militants set on fire few mattresses inside a hostel room to attract the attention of the police and other security forces, which arrived within minutes of the smoke emanating from the building.

In the initial exchange of firing, one army soldier was injured, the officials said. Militants had targeted the EDI building in February this year as well.

Five security force personnel including two young army officers and a civilian employee of the Institute and three militants were killed in that operation which lasted 48 hours.

With inputs from PTI

J&K: Operation to flush out militants holed up inside a govt building in Pampore enters second day

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The operation to flush-out militants holed up inside a government building in Pampore area on the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway entered the second day on Tuesday, even as security forces launched a fresh offensive against the ultras. An army official said the area around the Entrepreneurship Development Institute (EDI) premises has been cordoned off and exchange of fire was going on. “Security forces have launched a fresh offensive this morning to flush-out the militants,” the official said. Two to three militants stormed into the EDI complexes in the wee hours yesterday and took positions inside one of the buildings. The ultras could have entered the complex from the riverside but that can only be ascertained once the operation is over. After getting inside the complex, the militants set on fire few mattresses inside a hostel room to attract the attention of the police and other security forces, which arrived within minutes of the smoke emanating from the building.In the initial exchange of fire, one army soldier was injured, the official said.The security forces yesterday used mortar shells, Light Machine Guns and other small arms to flush out the militants but so far have not been successful, the official said. Militants had targeted the EDI building in February this year as well.Five security force personnel including two young army officers and a civilian employee of the Institute and three militants were killed in that operation that lasted 48 hours.

JNU professor abused and attacked inside campus

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A Jawaharlal University (JNU) Professor, Amita Singh, was allegedly abused and attacked inside the university campus by a group of students while she stepped out of the university’s academic council meeting late night on October 7.Claiming to have been abused and called a ‘Sanghi’, the professor has lodged a complaint naming three faculty members on Sunday evening and blamed the JNU teachers’ union (JNUTA) for instigating students to engage in the attacks. The teachers claimed to have no knowledge about the incident, and the students named in the complaint said they ‘only raised slogans’.”I stepped out of the academic council meeting late Saturday evening, and was immediately surrounded by around 20 students. They started calling me out, abusing me, calling me “sanghi” and didn’t even let me move. When I, along with the JNU registrar and proctor tried to get into our car, we were stopped and surrounded by the students who started banging on the car. Some of them even laid down in front of the car,” Professor Amita Singh, who is the Dean of School of Law and Governance, told DNA.As per Singh, the proposal to introduce a new programme in transdisciplinary research was what earned her the students’ ire. “I had presented the proposal for introducing a disaster research programme in the University for a transdisciplinary programme, the talks of which have been going on since 2011, and that has already been passed by five standing committees. But the JNUSU thinks that any new innovation is ‘bhagwakaran’ and I was attacked as soon as I stepped out.,” she added, blaming JNUTA for instigating the students.In her complaint, Singh has named three professors from the University – JNUTA President Professor Ajay Patnaik from School for Russian and central Asian studies, Professor Ayesha Kidwai and Ajith Kanna from School of Language, Literature and Culture studies – as those who instigated the students. While Professor Patnaik said he had no idea about an attack and had left the meeting premises 45 minutes ago, Professor Ayesha Kidwai said the allegations were unfounded.”JNU teachers don’t attack each other, or instigate students to attack fellow teachers. I am not even an academic council member,” said Kidwai. Professor Kanna claimed that he did not know Singh.The Professor has also named some students as being involved in the act.Manikanta, one of the students told DNA, ” We did raise slogans and surround the professor, but there was no violence involved at any point of time.”JNUSU President, Mohit Pandey, also claimed to have no knowledge of any incident “We were inside the meeting where we are supposed to sit as observers. I have no idea about any such occurrence,” he said.University teachers had also met the Vice Chancellor (VC) on Monday, demanding that immediate enquiry be held into the incident and show cause notices be issued to all. The teachers have also asked the VC to ensure that no students are allowed around the location of the meeting.Since the February 13 incident, when Delhi Police had arrested the then JNUSU President, Kanhaiya Kumar, following protests in the university campus against the hanging of the 2001 Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, the university has been on a boil with small skirmishes between groups acquiring ideological colours.

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