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Citizens fight pollution the eco-friendly way

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>It’s a heart warming tale. While Delhiites may be sitting huddled indoors complaining about the rising pollution levels, these group of people, an estimated 100 participants, are actually doing something about it.Flagged off from India Gate early Friday morning, these concerned citizens are taking part in a 300-km long cyclathon, in a bid not just to create awareness about pollution but to show how eco-friendly measures could be used to combat it. The cyclathon will end at Timber Trail, Himachal Pradesh.Organised by a Gurgaon-based group of cycling enthusiasts —Gurgaon Road Runners (GRR), the event entitled ‘Rolling Wheels to Timber Trail’ is being held for the second year in a row. Organisers of the event say that more such events are necessary to promote fitness and ensure a cleaner environment. “Cycling can do two things at a time — one is to save the environment and the other is to keep you fit. A cycle ride not just ensures an individual’s fitness but also helps to make the environment pollution free,” said Siddarth Choudhary, founder of GRR, ahead of the event.All the participants say that they have taken time out of their regular jobs to join the excursion. They add that they hope the event will serve as a message to others that they actively need to do their part if they are to save their city from being choked by pollutants.“I cannot think of a more creative way to publicise this pure message of conserving the environment,” said Anupam Tomar, 32. Sangeeta Shiledar, 41, a banker, and another participant, agreed. “This is my second expedition with GRR. I want to make the youth aware about the benefits of cycling and reviving the good old days when people would simply cycle to work,” she said.The message comes at a time when the Capital is simply gasping for air. Post-Diwali, air quality indexes have hovered around the ‘severe’ and ‘dangerous’ categories with doctors advising those with respiratory and heart-related problems to take special care. It’s not just pollution though; the fun element of the event is what has attracted people to the event. Devender Jain, another participant, says that the cyclathon came as a welcome break for him.“It’s an opportunity for me to take a break from my scheduled life to experience the fun of riding and to make people aware of the need to protect the environment,” he said.The participants who had been training for the last eight weeks to prepare for the event have now finally got a chance to show their cycling process. The event will conclude with a felicitation ceremony held in Delhi.

Tax tribunal rejects Virbhadra Singh’s appeal; HP CM alleges political vendetta

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> In a setback to Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT) has dismissed the appeal filed by him against the order of the Income Tax department, which had sought fresh assessment of his tax returns related to the financial year of 2009-10 to 2011-12.The veteran Congress leader termed the development as “politically motivated” and said that he would contest the orders and file an appeal in the High Court or in the Supreme court, if the need arose. “The Income tax Tribunal had been set up by Union Finance minister Arun Jaitley and in spite of four judges in the tribunal, two special judges were sent from Delhi to hear my case, thus the matter is politically motivated,” Singh alleged.The order was passed by the Chandigarh bench of ITAT chaired by Judicial Member I C Sudhir and Accountant Member R S Syal on December 8. “We fail to comprehend as to how the assessment order accepting the genuineness of carrying out the agricultural operations and earning a huge income in such circumstances can be considered as an order made after proper inquiry, as has been canvassed by the assessee.”It is a case of a patent non-application of mind by the assessing officer (AO) to the facts, which were loudly calling for in-depth investigation. In our considered opinion, the Commissioner of Income Tax (CIT) was fully justified in setting aside the assessment order and directing the AO to frame a fresh assessment,” said the order. “We have elaborately dealt with such issues in our order of Virbhadra Singh (HUF), which mutatis mutandis apply to the assessee also. In the result, all the appeals are dismissed,” it said.The Himachal Chief Minister and his LIC agent Anand Chauhan had filed appeal against the order of the Income Tax department for reopening his tax returns. As per the brief facts of the case, the assessee had filed original return of income on July 29, 2010 declaring total income of Rs 44,67,584 plus agricultural income of Rs 15 lakhs. The assessee filed revised return on March 2, 2012 declaring total income of Rs 44,67,584 plus agricultural income of Rs 2,80,92,500. Assessment in this case was completed on March 28, 2013.The CIT, on perusal of records, observed that the assessment was completed in a routine and casual manner without making any effective inquiry. After entertaining objections and replies from the assessee, the CIT came to hold that the assessing officer passed an erroneous order prejudicial to the interests of the revenue, inter alia, on the ground that the revision of return was wrongly accepted, accounting principles were wrongly considered and accepted in as much as the agricultural income was not declared on the basis of mercantile system of accounting.The income tax department had contended that assessee had invested Rs 3,84,92,500 in LIC policies, whereas additional income declared in the revised return was only Rs 2,65,92,500. So, AO had further failed to enquire from the assessee about the source of Rs 1.19 crores invested in LIC policies over and above the additional income declared in the revised return, the department had said. The CIT had then directed the assessing officer to frame a fresh assessment in accordance with the law and after making due inquiries.

India finally has PM who can speak, MMS’ voice only reached Rahul and Sonia: Amit Shah

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Defending Narendra Modi who has been drawing flak post the demonetization drive, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah on Sunday said the nation has finally got a Prime Minister who puts forth his views before the nation. Shah, who was addressing the ‘Tridev Sammelan’ here, also used the occasion to corner former prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh. ‘Rahul Gandhi asks what has been achieved in last two-and-a-half years. The first in that list is giving India a Prime Minister, who speaks,’ Shah said. ‘The country (earlier) got a Prime Minister whose voice could only reach the ears of Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi,’ he added while alleging that Dr Singh was only a mouth-piece of the Congress. The BJP president highlighted the scams, which took place in the last ten years during the Congress-led UPA regime. ‘The people have not forgotten that how many scams and cases of corruption surfaced during the 10-year regime of Sonia (Gandhi) and Manmohan Singh,’ he said. Shah also reached out to the voters ahead of next year’s assembly polls and urged them to vote for the right party and choose the right government in Himachal Pradesh. ‘If ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’ has to be achieved then the Congress will have to be defeated in Himachal as well,’ he said. The BJP president’s assertion comes a day after Prime Minister Modi countered the opposition’s charges of running away from a debate on the government’s move to ban high-value currency notes. ‘We are ready to debate on demonetization but I am not being allowed to speak in Lok Sabha so I am speaking in a jan sabha (public meeting),’ said Prime Minister Modi. ‘Parliament is not being allowed to function. What is happening in Parliament has even anguished our President, who has tremendous political experience,’ he added. The ongoing Winter Session of Parliament has witnessed repeated disruptions with a united opposition demanding a debate on the demonetization move.

Intruder shot dead by BSF in Pathankot

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>BSF has foiled a cross-border intrusion bid after its troopers shot down a suspect at Dhinda post in Pathankot district of Punjab.BSF personnel shot the intruder dead on Friday night after he came close to the border fencing in Bamiyal area, a police official posted in Pathankot said today.Meanwhile, a massive search operation was launched yesterday by Punjab police, Himachal Pradesh police and army in Pathankot after a local resident claimed to have spotted four to five armed men roaming around suspiciously.As many as 250 security personnel, including SWAT commandos, were deployed in the search operation in the hilly areas located on the border of Punjab and HP.Pathankot had seen a major terror attack in January this year when heavily-armed terrorists who had sneaked in from across the border attacked an air base.On July 27 last year, Dinanagar in Punjab’s Gurdaspur was also targeted by terrorists.

Earthquake of magnitude 5.2 hits Uttarakhand, no immediate report of casualties

Dehradun: A medium intensity earthquake, measuring 5.2 on the Richter scale, shook Uttarakhand late Thursday night.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Epicentered in Dharchula near the India-Nepal border in Uttarakhand, the quake hit Pithoragarh, Champawat, Almora, Nainital and Udham Singh Nagar districts of the state, the MeT department in Dehradun said.

The quake with a latitude of 29.8 degree north and a longitude of 80.6 degree east occurred at 10.23 pm, it said.

There was no immediate report of any casualty from anywhere.

Earlier in the day, an earthquake measuring 3.3 on the Richter scale had hit the Kullu region in Himachal Pradesh, according to the National Seismological Centre, a unit of Ministry of Earth Sciences.

The earthquake in Kullu had occurred at 4.12 am, they said.

First Published On : Dec 2, 2016 09:30 IST

Government approves inclusion of 15 new castes in Central OBC list

The National Commission of Backward Classes (NCBC) had recommended a total of 28 changes in respect of 8 states — Assam, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir and Uttarakhand. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Government on Wednesday approved inclusion of 15 new castes and modification in 13 other castes in the Central list of Other Backward Classes (OBCs).The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved the proposal. The National Commission of Backward Classes (NCBC) had recommended a total of 28 changes in respect of 8 states — Assam, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir and Uttarakhand.Out of these 28, 15 were new entries, 9 were synonyms or sub-castes of the castes which were already in the list and 4 were corrections. “The changes will enable the persons belonging to these castes/communities to avail the benefits of reservation in Government services and posts as well as in Central Educational Institutions as per the existing policy,” according to an official statement.They will also become eligible for benefit under the various welfare schemes, scholarships etc being administered by the Central Government, which are at present available to the persons belonging to the Other Backward Classes, it added. On the NCBC recommendation, a total of 2479 Entries for inclusion, including its synonyms, sub-castes, etc in the Central List of OBCs have been notified in 25 States and 6 Union Territories. The last such notification was issued till September, 2016.NCBC examines requests for inclusion of any class of citizens as a backward class in the lists and hear complaints of over-inclusion or under-inclusion of any backward class in such lists. Its advice is binding upon the Central Government. Meanwhile, the Centre is already considering to relax the creamy layer norms for the OBC and note in this regard was already under consideration.

Demonetisation: How ‘jugaad’ payment systems are helping grocers, small vendors to combat cash crunch

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement to demonetise the Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes has led to an economic upheaval across the country, crippling the common man because of the sudden cash crunch.

While the situation remains dire, many in the country have come up with innovative and out-of-the-box ideas to side-step the issue, by using something which is inherent to the Indian mentality, called jugaad (a colloquial Hindi-Urdu word meaning an innovative fix).

Take the case of Joginder, a 42-year-old resident of Himachal Pradesh who has been plying his trade as an auto driver in Delhi for the last 16 years. He is not bothered much by the demonetisation as he has set up a private ‘e-wallet’ on the popular payment platform Paytm.

Similarly, Rakesh Kumar, a tea-seller and cigarette vendor at Sector 16 in Noida, is equally at ease. “Three days ago, I got Paytm installed on my phone and many of my regulars as well as floating customers are paying through it. Immediately after the note ban, I got worried. I had to sell my products on credit, but now more than 50 percent of my transactions are electronic.”

Demonetisation has given a big boost to e-wallet businesses. ReutersDemonetisation has given a big boost to e-wallet businesses. Reuters

Demonetisation has given a big boost to e-wallet businesses as many small vendors are adopting e-payment. Reuters

This story is not just limited to Joginder, Rakesh Kumar or just using Paytm as a payment portal. They are the face of a digital payment revolution that represents thousands of petty vendors, next-door grocers, retail traders, cab drivers, autowallahs and even pan-wallahs, who have adopted innovative ways to accept hassle-free payments from their customers and keep their business rolling.

Many have even acquired PoS card swipe machines or RTGS (Real-Time Gross Settlement) facility to accommodate the cash restrictions.

“This has solved my payment problems as I don’t have to depend on handing people lines of credit anymore. I’m also looking into installing an online payment app. This will also solve the chillar (change, fraction money) issue faced, even before the note ban,” said Ajit Mondal, a vegetable and fruit vendor in south Delhi’s CR Park market, who has installed a PoS machine.

Pranoti Upasane, a homemaker from Vaishali (Ghaziabad) said, “I was taken by surprise when my three-decade old grocer told me not to worry about making a payment through cash, as I had none. He told me to pay either through credit/debit card or through RTGS facility.”

Immediately after the demonetisation move, local markets had witnessed panic and shock, and had seen a sudden plunge in business transactions. According to the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), an umbrella of trade and business associations, the trade in the markets across the country has reduced by up to 25 percent in comparison to normal days.

The small traders and vendors in the retail sector and local transport facility providers, however, have started to switch over to a cashless system. This can inadvertently also be seen as a step towards the Modi government’s Digital India initiative.

“Modiji has taken a big step against corruption, so instead of making a fuss about it I think it’ll be better for us to adopt the card or online payment system. It can go on along with cash transactions. Rather, I think that my customers are more comfortable as they don’t have to haggle over small denomination currency notes or coins,” Mondal said.

Here are some of the ‘jugaad’ ways being used to accept payments:

Several petty shopkeepers and vendors selling grocery items and cigarettes are accepting payments less than Rs 100 through e-wallets.

– E-wallets services like Paytm, MobiKwik, PayUMoney, FreeCharge are being used frequently.

– RTGS system – online transfer of money from one bank to other.

– Use of debit/credit card swipe machines.

– ‘No cash-on-delivery’ – the delivery boy comes with a tag having a QR (Quick Response) code system at the customer’s doorstep. The customer gets the product code scanned and automatically the payment is made.

– Instead of refunding the balance amount, shopkeepers are now offering the customer with a mobile recharge (top-up).

A big boost to e-wallets

Demonetisation has also given a big boost to the e-wallet businesses.

“After demonetisation, our daily transactions grew from 2.5 million to 5 million, overall traffic increased by 700 percent. The company has even waived off its one percent transaction fee for transferring money to the Bank for KYC-enabled merchants to facilitate this shift in merchant behaviour. If a shopkeeper gives a missed call to us, our team member will be there to install Paytm at his place,” said Sonia, Paytm’s corporate communication executive.

Similarly, another mobile payment and commerce platform, MobiKwik, said that it had registered 40 percent growth in app downloads within 18 hours of the note ban. “Our overall traffic increased 100 times, app downloads is up by 200 percent and there is 18-times surge in our overall transactions,” said Jagriti Motwani, general manager (PR), MobiKwik.

“After rolling out the ‘Zero Cost’ offer, we have received thousands of queries and missed calls. Since Tuesday, our team has been signing up a merchant every 30 seconds. We are committed to making the digital transition swift, seamless and easy for our merchant partners,” FreeCharge CEO Govind Rajan said in his statement.

Consumers’ benefit

Besides the jugaads at the sellers’ end, the consumers have also switched over to e-commerce in a big way – from grocery to school stationery. Several online service providers have come up with cashless delivery of products in retails sectors comprising vegetables, fruits, grocery, stationery, sports goods, ready-to-eat food items, etc.

“I got my daughter’s school bag and stationery items through the online store Schoolkart.com. I didn’t even have to step out of my home nor did I pay in cash,” said Malini Iyer, a mother of a 10-year old girl.

First Published On : Nov 18, 2016 20:14 IST

Water level in 91 reservoirs dips to 68%: Government

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Water level in 91 major reservoirs in the country has plunged to 68% of their total capacity from 70% last week, the government said on FridayAccording to Water Resources Ministry, 107.449 billion cubic metre (BCM) of water was available in these reservoirs for the week ending on November 17.The stock was 127% of the storage reported during the corresponding period last year, while it is 98% of the decadal average, the Ministry said in a statement. Last week, the stock available in these reservoirs was 110.097 BCM. The total capacity of the reservoirs is 157.799 BCM.The states which have recorded less storage vis-a-vis the corresponding period last year are Himachal Pradesh, Tripura, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, while the water levels in reservoirs in Karnataka are equivalent to those reported last year.Punjab, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have reported better stock compared to last year.

Rs 500, Rs 1,000 ban: Golden temple refuses demonitised note donations

Rs 500, Rs 1,000 ban: Golden temple refuses demonitised note donations

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Amritsar: The authorities at the Golden Temple Amritsar announced on Thursday that they would not accept demonetised currency notes from devotees.

Over 100,000 devotees visit the Golden Temple every day and the cash offerings run into lakhs of rupees.

“We have instructed our employees not to accept demonetised currency notes at the ‘prasad’ and offering counters,” a Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) official told IANS.

He said they cannot stop the devotees of offering the banned currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 at the ‘golak’ or chest.

He said all SGPC-run institutes in Punjab, Haryana and Himachal have been instructed to deposit old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes on priority with the respective banks.

After Himachal Pradesh and Sikkim, Kerala becomes open defection free state

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Kerala has become the third Open Defecation Free (ODF) state in the country. The announcement was made on the state’s foundation day on Tuesday. Earlier, Himachal Pradesh and Sikkim had declared themselves Open Defecation Free.”Kerala has become an ODF state today,” Drinking Water and Sanitation Secretary Parameswaran Iyer said. He said over 1 lakh villages across the country have become ODF.”Kerala becomes first high density populated state in the country to achieve Open Defecation Free status today on its formation day,” Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said in a tweet.Meanwhile, a source said three more states–Gujarat, Haryana and Uttarakhand–will be announcing themselves as ODF soon.

Narendra Modi spends third Diwali with soldiers

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Amidst the tension on the Indo-Pak border, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday used his monthly Mann ki Baat programme on All India Radio to dedicate Diwali to the Armed Forces.This didn’t deter the Opposition Congress from hurling accusations which the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) responded to. Each accused the other of lowering the morale of the Armed Forces.A day after Rahul Gandhi accused Modi of creating hurdles in the implementation of the One Rank, One Pension (OROP) scheme, the BJP asked the Congress Vice-President not to waste his time with something he is not concerned about.Retaliating the verbal fire, Congress Chief Spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjeewala said that, coupled with the OROP issue, settlement of anomalies in the Seventh Pay Commission and deliberate reduction of army ranks vis-a-vis their civilian counterparts continue to remain the reasons for dissatisfaction and outrage.Soon after his radio address, the Prime Minister left to celebrate Diwali with the Army and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) personnel in Sumdo, over 270 km from Shimla. “Spent time with our courageous @ITBP_official and Army jawans at Sumdo, Kinnaur district, Himachal Pradesh. Jai Jawan! Jai Hind!” he tweeted. He also declared that he has “fulfilled the promise”, by first paying the installment of nearly Rs 5,500 crore for implementing OROP.Five months after assuming office in 2014, Modi had celebrated Diwali with Army officers and jawans at the Siachen Base Camp at a height of over 12,000 feet. In 2015, he gave company to troops at the Dograi War Memorial in Khasa in Amritsar on Diwali day. The venue is known for one of the toughest battles fought and won by Indian forces during the 1965 India-Pakistan war.Without mentioning the current unrest in Kashmir, the PM, in his radio address, said: “Unity in diversity is India’s strength and call upon every citizen and all governments to forge unity and curb separatist tendencies to save the country.” A major part of his speech was dedicated to soldiers. The PM said he was overwhelmed at the response to his #Sandesh2Soldiers campaign (a campaign in which he invited citizens to pen their thoughts, feelings, and sense of gratitude, towards our soldiers on Diwali).”Our forces endure grave hardships. Someone is stationed in a desert, someone on the Himalayas, someone is guarding our industrial installations and someone is protecting our airports. Everyone is fulfilling a mighty responsibility. If we remember them while being in a festive mood, our remembrance will give them strength and renewed energy. I thank everyone for responding to Sandesh2Soldiers,” Modi said in the address.As Modi paid tributes to Sardar Vallabhai Patel, whose birth anniversary falls on Monday, he also remembered Indira Gandhi, whose death anniversary also falls on the same day. He said that on a day we celebrate the birth anniversary of Patel, thousands of Sikhs were killed in 1984 in the wake of the assassination of Gandhi.Reiterating his message of cleanliness, he credited Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Gujarat and Haryana for making the campaign a success by working overtime to make their states free from open defecation. Modi highlighted the efforts and contribution of many individuals in helping construct toilets.They included an ITBP jawan in Himachal’s Sirmour district, who donated Rs 57,000 from his salary to construct toilets in his village and make it free from open defecation, and engineering students in Kerala who helped construct a toilet in Edamalakul.

OROP: PM Modi celebrates Diwali with jawans, says have resolved ’40 year’ old issue

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Sunday Rs 5,500 crore has been paid for implementing the OROP scheme, an issue that has been hanging fire for the last 40 years, even as he lauded the valour and sacrifice of the armed forces amid tension on the border with Pakistan. Dedicating this Diwali to the armed forces personnel, he said he has “fulfilled the promise” he made to ex-servicemen on the one-rank-one-pension scheme.Modi said the issue had been pending for “40 years” as certain people in the previous governments “did not know” about OROP, and therefore “only Rs 500 crore was allocated” for the purpose. He also said many people thought that if the scheme was not implemented, a section of “ex-servicemen would turn against the government”.He made these remarks while celebrating Diwali with army and ITBP men in Sumdo in Himachal Pradesh’s Kinnaur district. “Spent time with our courageous @ITBP_official & Army Jawans at Sumdo, Kinnaur district, Himachal Pradesh. Jai Jawan! Jai Hind!,” he tweeted.Earlier, in his monthly “Mann ki Baat” programme on All India Radio, Modi asked the people and the state governments to find ways of forging unity across the country and work to defeat separatist tendencies and mentalities. He hailed the people including celebrities for sending overwhelming messages to his “Sandesh2Soldiers” campaign.In the wake of ongoing unrest in Kashmir Valley, he said, “Unity in diversity is our strength. It is the responsibility of every citizen and all governments to forge unity and curb separatist tendencies to save the country.” In an apparent reference to tension on the Indo-Pak border, Modi credited the soldiers for maintenance of peace and security in the country and called upon everyone to remember their gallantry while celebrating Diwali. “In the wake of recent events, our soldiers have been sacrificing their everything for the safety and security of the country. Their dedication and labour has overwhelmed me completely. Let us dedicate this Diwali to our armed forces.”I had invited everyone to participate in the Sandesh2Soldiers campaign and I have been humbled by the response. From students, villagers and traders to political leaders and sports persons, everyone has sent a Diwali message for our soldiers,” he said while referring to the jawans who are stationed in deserts and on the icy heights of the Himalayas and security personnel who are guarding our industries and airports.In a veiled reference to the unrest in Kashmir Valley, the Prime Minister also called for forces of unity to be strengthened and those of separatism to be defeated. “Unity in diversity is the strength of our country. Every citizen and every government must work to find ways of forging unity and defeating separatist mindset and tendencies,” he said as he remembered Sardar Patel who strived hard to forge unity in the country and bind it together.The Prime Minister, while on his way back from Sumdo, met civilians at Himachal’s Chango village, close to the Sino-Indian border. He exchanged greetings, interacted with the people there, and offered sweets to children.”Made unscheduled stop at Chango village, close to Somdu, to wish people on Diwali. Was deeply touched by the impromptu reception & their joy,” Modi tweeted.”The Prime Minister spent time with ITBP jawans and personnel of Dogra Scouts of army at Sumdo on border of Kinnaur and Spiti, and distributed sweets to them,” an official said.Modi also met personnel of the General Reserve Engineering Force (GREF), a branch of Border Roads Organisation (BRO), entrusted with construction and maintenance of border roads and also executing the Rohtang Tunnel project, the official said. After coming in power in 2014, the Prime Minister had celebrated his first Diwali with soldiers posted in Siachen, and in 2015, he celebrated it at the India-Pakistan border in Punjab.On the OROP issue Modi said, “The OROP was not about just Rs 200 crore or Rs 500 crore, but Rs 10,000 crore… After I became the PM, and decided that I had to do (implement) it, the entire government lost sleep over it… It was not possible for the government to pay in one go, so I requested the ex-servicemen to accept it in four instalments. The money will reach them in four installments. Nearly, Rs 5,500 crore has been paid as the first installment,” Modi said.He said implementation of OROP was his “dream”, which has been “fulfilled”. Rahul Gandhi had questioned the Modi government’s resolve to work for soldiers’ welfare on Saturday, asking the Prime Minister to first implement OROP in a meaningful way and redress their pay anomalies and other grievances.The Congress Vice President had written to Modi saying he was saddened at the decisions of the government taken in the last few weeks “which are far from reassuring the soldiers and has caused them pain instead”. Chief of Army Staff Gen. Dalbir Singh was present on the occasion.

PM Modi celebrates Diwali with jawans, says Rs 5,500 crore paid as first OROP istalment

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The first instalment of nearly Rs 5,500 crore has been paid for implementing the OROP scheme, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said while asserting that he has “fulfilled the promise” he made to ex-servicemen on the issue that has been hanging fire for the last 40 years.The Prime Minister, while celebrating Diwali with army and ITBP personnel in Sumdo here, over 270 km from state capital Shimla, also lauded the role of the security force personnel guarding and protecting the country. “Spent time with our courageous @ITBP_official & Army Jawans at Sumdo, Kinnaur district, Himachal Pradesh. Jai Jawan! Jai Hind!,” he tweeted. Earlier in his ‘Mann ki Baat’ programme on All India Radio, he saluted the valour of the armed forces and lauded their sacrifice while dedicating the festival of Diwali to them.”The OROP was not about just Rs 200 or Rs 500 crore, but Rs 10,000 crore… After I became the PM, and decided that I had to do (implement) it, the entire government lost sleep over it… It was not possible for the government to pay in one go, so I requested the ex-servicemen to accept it in four instalments. “The money will reach them in four instalments. Nearly, Rs 5,500 crore has been paid as the first instalment,” Modi said.He said the issue had been pending for “40 years” as certain people in the previous governments “did not know” about OROP (scheme), and therefore “only Rs 500 crore was allocated” for the purpose. Modi also said that many people thought that if the scheme was not implemented, a section of “ex-servicemen would turn against the government”. The Prime Minister, on his way to Sumdo, met civilians at Himachal’s Chango village, close to the Sino-Indian border.”Made unscheduled stop at Chango village, close to Somdu, to wish people on Diwali. Was deeply touched by the impromptu reception & their joy,” Modi tweeted. “The Prime Minister spent time with ITBP jawans and personnel of Dogra Scouts of army at Sumdo on border of Kinnaur and Spiti, and distributed sweets to them,” an official said. Modi also met personnel of the General Reserve Engineering Force (GREF), a branch of Border Roads Organisation (BRO), entrusted with construction and maintenance of border roads and also executing the Rohtang Tunnel project, the official said.After coming in power in 2014, the Prime Minister had celebrated his first Diwali with soldiers posted in Siachen, and in 2015, he celebrated it at the India-Pakistan border in Punjab. Modi also said that implementation of OROP was his “dream”, which has been “fulfilled”. Noting that everyone wants to celebrate Diwali with their loved ones and that is why he had come in Sumdo, he said after the Gujarat earthquake in 2001, he celebrated Diwali at that time with the quake victims.”So it is not that I am doing this after becoming the Prime Minister,” he said. Lauding the role of the personnel of various services, Modi said that while other people look for career, they (the services personnel) look for an opportunity to face the enemy. “When you (jawans) are awake, they (the people) sleep. If you do not keep awake, the people will not be able to sleep (peacefully),” he said, adding that the forces make the nation proud.

HP: PM Modi celebrates Diwali ITBP, Indian Army jawans in Kinnaur

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>PM Modi met jawans of the ITBP, Indian Army and Dogra Scouts on Sunday in Sumdo Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh. He also made an unscheduled stop at Chango village, close to Somdu, to wish people on Diwali. “Everyone wants to spend Diwali with their loved ones, hence I am with you all,” said PM Modi. “When the earthquake took place in Gujarat, I was celebrated Diwali with families of victims. So don’t think I am doing this only because I am the PM,” he said.”The nation can sleep peacefully only since you are up and on vigil. If weren’t for you, we wouldn’t be able to catch sleep reassuredly,” said the PM.”Crores have lit diyas for the jawans. Film superstars, sports personalities, politicians, businessmen,farmers etc all had sent #Sandesh2Soldiers,” he added. “Whenever the armed forces had an opportunity to achieve something, they have always made us proud,” he said praising the soldiers. “In my very first public meeting after I was declared PM candidate, I invited ex-servicemen in Rewari, I promised OROP. I promised OROP when I was PM candidate and unfortunately those in power at that time did not even know what exactly it was,” said PM Modi.PM Modi offers sweets to ITBP, Indian Army and Dogra Scouts personnel in Sumdo, Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh

Finally, a welfare index for gaushalas

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>On day two of the just-concluded India For Animals (IFA) – the country’s biggest, biennial event on animal welfare and rights, organised by Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO) – Dr Arvind Sharma announced his one-of-a-kind project.Formerly with the Himachal Pradesh state government animal husbandry department, the veterinarian, pursuing his PhD from the University of Queensland, will conduct Gaushalas in India: Contemporary Issues and Future Perspectives, the first-ever welfare assessment of Indian gaushalas (retirement homes for old, sick, infirm, and rescued cows).Welfare auditing of any animal shelter or establishment, be it poultry farms, equine homes or gaushalas is not undertaken in India. Assessment of gaushalas in particular is of prime importance in light of gaurakshak activism and the resultant overcrowding of shelters.Take Rajasthan’s Hingonia gaushala. Touted “the best of its kind in Asia”, a state government report showed that 8122 cows had succumbed to injuries and ill-health here between January and July 31 in 2016. In Uttar Pradesh, 30 cattle and their progeny are missing for over a month after being rescued from slaughterhouses and being sent to a gaushala in Noorpur – run by the Vrindavan Gaushala Uthhan Samiti – that did not exist.India has 30% of the world’s cattle but only 3% of the area to accommodate them, outlined Dr Sharma at his IFA session in Mumbai. With over 5.2 million stray cows – abandoned either for having exhausted their ‘dairy shelf life’ or due to rapid urbanisation and shrinking open spaces – the burden on gaushalas cannot be taken lightly.”As per statistics by the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), India has 1837 gaushalas. Official recognition comes when a gaushala receives AWBI funding. But as per my research, there are more than 5000 gaushalas in the country,” Dr Sharma says. “So two-thirds of gaushalas are not registered since they aren’t financially dependent on AWBI.”Some unregistered gaushalas are clandestinely operating as dairies, he adds. Another concern pertains to reported instances of gaushala animals being tested for the efficacy of vaccines, such as for tuberculosis.With Gaushalas in India: Contemporary Issues and Future Perspectives, Dr Sharma will use animal-based indicators (health, access to food, water, movement and medical care), environmental indicators (cleanliness, ventilation, natural light, flooring) and interviews with 800-900 people (excluding 54 gaushala managers) to gauge public perceptions. In a groundbreaking move, stress levels of cows will also be measured via analysis of their tail hairs for cortisone levels.Dr Sharma’s study will take an estimated three years to complete. Upon completion, a welfare index will be compiled, and gaushalas ranked on the aforementioned indicators.”With this study, we will set welfare benchmarks, ensure long-term sustainability, and find a balance between tradition and welfare science,” Dr Sharma concludes.

Rafale deal will prove to be Bofors for Modi govt: Prashant Bhushan

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Swaraj India founder Prashant Bhushan on Sunday said the ‘Rafale deal’ will prove to be another ‘Bofors’ for the Modi government.Accusing the Prime Minister of inaction into the Scorpion submarine leaks despite having received entire information from American whistle blower C Edmonds Allen he said the Modi government was lacking political will to fight corruption. Talking to media persons here, Bhushan said instead of blacklisting the Company, the government was entering into another deal with the same company, allegedly involved in the submarine leaks, for aircrafts, and that too at a “much higher cost.”The Bofors scandal broke in 1987 and several people, including former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, were accused of receiving kickbacks for the purchase of Bofors howitzer guns. The scandal contributed to the defeat of Gandhi-led Congress in 1989 general elections.Referring to BJP MP Varun Gandhi’s outburst on the ‘honey trapping allegations’ in the submarine leaks, the Supreme Court lawyer said the matter needs investigation. Bhushan was in Shimla for a meeting of Swaraj Campaign for chalking out the strategy for expanding the activities of his organisation in Himachal Pradesh.

‘There will be Kashmir but not Pakistan’: Meet the soldier behind patriotic poem which went viral

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A video of a patriotic poem penned and recited by a head constable of Himachal Pradesh police has gone viral on the social media. It was uploaded by Head Constable Manoj Kumar on ‘Kargil Day’ (July 26) but it went viral in the aftermath of the Uri terrorist attack yesterday.The video is being shared by thousands of people on Facebook, WhatsApp and other social networking websites and the family members of Manoj, who is currently posted at Kinnaur, came to know about it from others. The 130-second video with Manoj reciting the poem was shot on a bus carrying police personnel.The video sends a warning to Pakistan that any “misadventure” would “wipe it out from the world map”.It says, “abki yudh hua to Kashmir to rahega par Pakistan nahin hoga” (if there is another war, Kashmir will survive but Pakistan won’t) and “hum Pakistan ke bomb se nahin, Tashkent aur Shimla samjhauton se darte hain” (We are not scared of Pakistan’s bombs but of Tashkant and Shimla pacts) and reminds Pakistan of its defeats in the hands of the Indian army in 1965, 1971 and 1999.”Remember the 90,000 prisoners of the 1965 war and the favour of Indira (Gandhi),” the poem says and warns, “There would be India on both sides of the Indus river and the Indian flag would fly over Islamabad.”

Gujarat and Delhi investment-friendly; TN and AP most corrupt, says NCAER survey

Gujarat and Delhi are India’s most investment-friendly states. Bihar and Jharkhand are the worst. Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu are the most corrupt states for doing business. West Bengal is the most difficult for land acquisition, environmental clearances and approvals.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

These are the findings of a recent report, “The NCAER State Investment Potential Index”, released by the National Council for Applied Economic Research (NCAER), which evolved an index to grade states on five main issues: Labour, infrastructure, economic climate, political stability and governance, and perceptions of a good business climate.

The report contains two types of rankings: First, N-SIPI 21, an index that ranks 21 states on the issues above, including through industry surveys; second, N-SIPI 30 which includes all states–including nine not covered by industry surveys–and are based on four issues, excluding perception.

The data reveal that Gujarat tops the N-SIPI 21 index, followed by Delhi and Tamil Nadu, whereas the N-SIPI 30 index is topped by Delhi, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu respectively. Bihar and Jharkhand fall in the bottom five states in both rankings.

In May 2016, the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion listed how Delhi’s ruling Aam Aadmi Party was making it easier to do business, adding that the Centre was working with Delhi and Maharashtra to propel India’s rank into the Top 50 in global ease-of-doing-business rankings.

Source: State Investment Potential Index, National Council for Applied Economic Research

Source: State Investment Potential Index, National Council for Applied Economic Research

Corruption is the biggest issue faced by businesses, getting approvals comes second

As many as 79% of industry respondents said corruption was a major issue, followed by approvals before starting business (72.1%) and getting environmental clearances (66.7%).

Earlier this year, India was ranked 76 out of 168 countries in the Corruption Perception Index 2015 by Transparency International.

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In a recent editorial on crony capitalism, however, The Economist said: “Encouragingly, India seems to be cleaning up its act. In 2008 crony wealth reached 18% of GDP, putting it on a par with Russia. Today it stands at 3%, a level similar to Australia. The pin-ups of Indian capitalism are no longer the pampered scions of its business dynasties, but the hungry founders of Flipkart, an e-commerce firm.”

Source: State Investment Potential Index, National Council for Applied Economic Research

Bengal worst in land acquisition, environmental clearances and getting approvals

Up to 82% of respondents reported that they had problem in acquiring land in West Bengal (WB), whereas only 5% reported having any problem in Uttarakhand. More than half of respondents (54.3%) reported that environmental clearances were a “severe” problem in WB; 11.4% said it was not a problem. It was easiest to get such clearances in Himachal Pradesh, with no more than 2.5% of respondents reporting it as a “severe” problem, while 87.5% said it was not a problem at all.

Source: State Investment Potential Index, National Council for Applied Economic Research

In terms of getting approvals for business, WB was, again, the worst, with 68.6% reporting a “severe” problem; 5.7% said it was not a problem. Himachal Pradesh performed the best with no respondent (0%) reporting approval problems.

Source: State Investment Potential Index, National Council for Applied Economic Research

Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu report most corruption issues

Gujarat and Delhi investment-friendly; TN and AP most corrupt, says NCAER survey. In Andhra Pradesh, 74.3% of respondents reported corruption as a “severe” problem; no one (0%) in Himachal Pradesh reported corruption as a “severe” issue.

Source: State Investment Potential Index, National Council for Applied Economic Research

Anganwadi workers threaten to protest against meagre entitlements

The row between women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi and anganwadi workers around the country does not seem to cool off soon. Following a statement released by the ministry last week on the entitlements given to the workers, including an insurance scheme, clothes, scholarships, etc., anganwadi workers have issued a counter statement saying that they will hit the streets to protest against the meagre entitlements. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The government release is a continuation of the exchanges between the workers and the government, which has refused to identify them as workers. They are now identified as volunteers, and hence are paid a third of the minimum wage and are not entitled to any social security benefits. The workers are now going on a nationwide protest on July 11. “The government entitlements are practically nothing; they must respect the contribution of these workers. If nothing, the government must pay heed to the recommendation of the 45th Indian Labour Conference,” said Tapash Sen, general secretary of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU). The 45th ILC has unanimously recommended that anganwadis be recognised as workers, and not simply volunteers. With a continuous slashing of the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) budget in the last two years, the government claims that the states have to shoulder responsibility, says All India Federation of Anganwadi Workers and Helpers (AIFAWH) general secretary A R Sindhu. “Most states have not been able to shoulder it, say for instance, Maharashtra. There has been a deficit of Rs 1,500 crore in the budget this year alone,” says Sindhu. The release, says Sindhu, enlists schemes that have been existing as far as 1985. “The pension scheme and the bima yojana were introduced in 1994, and the promotion to supervisors scheme has been running since 1985. It was increased from the existing 25% to 50% last year by the union ministry, but in states like Punjab and Himachal, over 90% to 100% reservation already exists,” said Sindhu. Currently, anganwadi workers in the country are entitled to Rs 3,000 per month, while anganwadi helpers are given Rs 1,500 per month. State anganwadi centres are allowed to provide allowances over the base pay. West Bengal pays over Rs 1,500, and Karnataka Rs 1,000 over and above what is mandated. There are 24.58 lakh anganwadi employees currently, including 12.93 lakh anganwadi workers and 11.65 lakh anganwadi helpers, working in 13.42 lakh operational anganwadis in the country. Most anganwadi workers are engaged over six hours daily.

Under fire Congress Punjab in-charge Asha Kumari rejects quit demands, says has Sonia’s ‘full mandate’

At the centre of a controversy over her conviction in a land grab case, an unfazed Congress secretary in-charge of Punjab Asha Kumari on Monday rejected demands for her resignation, asserting she had party chief Sonia Gandhi’s “full mandate”.Amid reports that her appointment as secretary in-charge of Punjab has left the Congress embarrassed, Kumari met Sonia and accused BJP, AAP and Shiromani Akali Dal of unnecessarily making an issue out of a “non-issue”. “I am sorry, I cannot oblige them,” she told reporters, rejecting calls for her resignation. “I have been given full mandate by the Congress president and vice president to work for the party in Punjab,” she said after her meeting.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The appointment of Asha Kumari, a niece of Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh and four-term MLA from Dalhousie, on Sunday, had kicked up a storm after it emerged that she had been convicted in a land grab case in which she had allegedly transferred forest land to her husband. She was sentenced to a year in jail but it currently out on bail. The information, coming as it did close on the heels of senior Congress leader Kamal Nath relinquishing the post of general secretary in-charge of Punjab, days after being appointed, over allegations of his role in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, was reported to have caused embarrassment to the party.
ALSO READ Convicted in land-grabbing case, Asha Kumari appointed Congress in-charge of Punjab BJP, AAP and SAD were quick to assail the Congress leadership for appointing Kumari the secretary in-charge of the party in Punjab which will have assembly polls next year, saying the party was not serious about the state.”It is for parties to decide who is going to lead the party. If somebody is there in government, it is a different issue,” she said, adding AAP cannot decide who will lead the Congress in which state. AICC sources said Kumari will not continue as AICC secretary in-charge of Haryana, a responsibility she was handling for some. Kamal Nath continues to be AICC general secretary in-charge of Haryana even after relinquishing the charge of Punjab.Kumari said BJP and AAP were trying to make “an issue out of a non-issue” as they “fear” Congress. “We are very much geared up to form the government in Punjab and BJP and others are scared,” she said.Defending herself in the case in which she was convicted and sentenced to a year’s imprisonment, Asha Kumari said, “It has become fashionable to use the word ‘land grabbing’. How can I grab the land which belongs to my father-in-law.”Kumari said the case was related to a property which was owned by her father-in-law and the tenants had forged some papers to claim ownership, which was challenged in court. When asked if the controversy would have an adverse fallout for Congress in Punjab, she said, “Not at all”.

Over 31 lakh cases await the next date of hearing in courts, reveals data

New Delhi: Amid the debate on ways to check rising pendency in courts, new data says out of the over 2.20 crore cases awaiting disposal across the country, the next date of hearing has not been fixed for over 14 per cent of them.

Representational image. CNN-News18

Representational image. CNN-News18

This means that the courts have not yet decided on when these 31,45,059 cases will be taken up for the next hearing.

According to the data available on the National Judicial Data Grid, as on 24 June this year 2,20,75,329 cases are pending in various courts.

Out of these, 31,45,059 (or 14.25 per cent of the total pending cases) have been categorised as ‘undated cases’.

Any case for which the next date of hearing has not been assigned is called an undated case.

The data say that of the over 31 lakh undated cases, 21,75,750 are criminal cases, while 9,69,309 are civil in nature.

Gujarat, according to the data available on the Grid, leads with 20.46 per cent undated cases, followed by West Bengal with 14.96 per cent cases. Madhya Pradesh has 13.13 per cent undated cases and Delhi 3.22 per cent.

At a recent meeting of the Supreme Court eCommittee, the Himachal Pradesh High Court had suggested introduction of “some sort of incentive” for reducing the number of undated cases.

The eCommittee of the Supreme Court was set up in 2004 to assist the Chief Justice of India in formulating a national policy on computerisation of Indian judiciary and advise on technological, communication and management-related changes.

Of the over two crore cases pending, more than 10 per cent have remained unsettled for over 10 years.

Out of the total pendency, 83,00,462 or 41.38 per cent cases are pending for less than two years, while 21,72,411 or 10.83 per cent cases are pending for over 10 years.

Congress to oppose FDI in defence in Parliament: Anand Sharma

Senior Congress leader Anand Sharma on Wednesday denounced the Modi government’s decision to allow 100 per cent FDI in defence sector by easing norms, saying the Prime Minister was working under pressure from the US and his party would oppose it in Parliament.”The Congress government had allowed FDI in defence with a pre-condition that it would be for state-of-the-art-technology but the present government has eased the conditions. The Prime Minister is working under pressure from the United States. This is not in the country’s interest and Congress would oppose it in Parliament,” he told media persons here.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”The Reserve Bank of India would issue a notification under FEMA on easing FDI norms which would be ratified by Parliament and Congress would oppose it at that stage,” he said.Sharma questioned “on what basis BJP was celebrating its two years in office when over the last two years, FDI saw a decline, exports gone down, industrial production fell and the government miserably failed to generate employment”.He accused the Modi government of unleashing a “political vendetta” against Congress, trying to destabilise Congress’ governments in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand and toppling the party-led government in Arunachal Pradesh in a bid to accomplish its agenda of a ‘Congress-free India'”.”The NDA government is totally insensitive towards the agriculture sector. Farmers are committing suicides, but instead of visiting the affected villages, the Modi government is busy celebrating its achievements, which are nowhere visible on the ground,” he said.Asked about his party’s stand on GST, Sharma said: “Such issues should be resolved with the consent of all parties and not by vote.”Replying to another query, he said he was not in run for post of the Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh.

Monsoon advances in most parts of Himachal Pradesh, moderate rains in many

The southwest monsoon arrived in most parts of Himachal Pradesh except parts of Solan, Sirmaur and Una district today, a senior MeT official said on Monday.Widespread rains are expected in the region with heavy rains at some places tomorrow, Director of local MeT office Manmohan Singh said, adding that monsoon advanced into most parts of Uttarakhand and, entire Jammu and Kashmir, remaining parts of Madhya Maharashtra, east Madhya Pradesh and Bihar, and most parts of east Uttar Pradesh. The monsoon had arrived on June 24 last year and July 1 in 2014, and its arrival is normal this year. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Himachal Pradesh received 67 mm rains from June 1 to June 21 this year which is 29 per cent above the normal rainfall of 52 mm and all districts except tribal districts of Kinnaur and Lahaul. Spiti and Kullu district had excess rains. Solan district received 223 per cent excess rains while Una, Bilaspur, Sirmaur, Mandi and Hamirpur received 144, 111, 94, 82 and 67 per cent excess rains. Kangra and Shimla districts received 18 per cent and 16 per cent excess rains while Chamba district received normal rains. However, Kinnaur and Lahaul and Spiti districts had 96 and 89 per cent deficit rains.Nahan was wettest in the region with 49 mm rains while Gaggal and Shimla received 43 and 29.5 mm rains, followed by Dharamshala 21 mm, Naina Devi 19 mm, Dharampur 17 mm, Solan and Bhoranj 10 mm , Paonta sahib 7mm Bhawarna 6 mm and Sujanpur Tira 5 mm.Maximum temperature dropped by 3 to 4 degrees Celsius and stayed 2 to 3 degrees below normal. Una was hottest in the region with maximum temperature at 34.6 degrees Celsius, a drop of 3.5 degrees Celsius while Bhuntar recorded a high of 32.4 degrees Celsius, followed by Sundernagar 31.9 degrees Celsius, Dharamshala 29.6 degrees Celsius, Nahan 29.1 degrees Celsius, Solan 27 degrees Celsius, Kalpa 25 degrees Celsius, Manali 23.4 degrees Celsius and Shimla 23 degrees Celsius.However, minimum temperatures rose marginally and Kalpa and Keylong recorded a low 13.6 and 14.9 degrees Celsius, followed by Dharamsala 16 degrees Celsius, Shimla 17.1 degrees Celsius, Nahan 18.5 degrees Celsius, Bhuntar 19.5 degrees Celsius, Sundernagar 23.5 degrees Celsius and Una 27.8 degrees Celsius.The local MeT office has predicted rains and thundershowers at isolated places in lower, mid and higher hills from June 23 and heavy rains in some parts of the state tomorrow.

No plan to detain Himachal CM Virbhadra Singh’s children: CBI tells Delhi HC

CBI on Monday informed Delhi High Court that Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh’s two children have been called as witnesses for questioning in a disproportionate assets case and there was “no plan” to detain them.The CBI said this after Justice P S Teji asked the probe agency to clearly state whether they intended to detain Virbhadra’s son Vikramaditya Singh and daughter Aprajita Kumari during questioning.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The court was hearing a petition filed by Vikramaditya and Aprajita in which they were seeking protection from arrest, contending that they have been called by CBI for questioning as witnesses on Monday and Tuesday.Senior advocate Ashwani Kumar, who appeared for them, told the court that Virbhadra Singh and his wife have been named as accused in the FIR along with others, but neither Aprajita nor Vikramaditya have been named.”We will join but we apprehend that they (CBI) can detain us, so the court should protect them from arrest,” he said.To this, the court asked CBI, “are you intending to detain the petitioners. Be clear on it factually.”Responding to the court’s query, CBI’s counsel Sanjeev Bhandari said “they have been called as witnesses for certain clarifications (on issues) which have emerged during the investigation of the disproportionate assets case lodged against Virbhadra and others. There is no plan to detain them.”The court disposed of the plea in view of the statement made by CBI’s counsel. Virbhadra was recently questioned by CBI in connection with the case of disproportionate assets allegedly amassed during his stint as a Union Minister.CBI had claimed its inquiry showed that Singh, while serving as Union Minister during 2009-2012, had allegedly accumulated assets worth about Rs 6.03 crore in his name and in the name of his family members which were found to be disproportionate to his known sources of income. The allegations have been strongly refuted by Virbhadra.

Supreme Court refuses to put stay on killing of Nilgai, wild boar and monkey

The Supreme Court on Monday refused to put a stay on the killing of Nilgai, wild boar and monkey in the states of Bihar, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh as of now.The apex court asked the petitioners to give a representation to the respective state governments and the Centre about their objections.The Supreme Court recorded Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar’s statement that the killings are done outside the forest area where the animals come out to disturb human life.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Animal Welfare Board, which comes under the Ministry of Environment and Forests, supported the petitioners.The Animal Welfare Board and the petitioners argued that the permission to kill animals can be given only after a proper study, adding the respective governments have not done any study and are killing animals only on the basis of farmers complaints.The matter will be heard in detail on July 15.

Congress losing power as it did not listen to advice of Gandhiji: Rajnath Singh

Taking a dig at Congress for losing powers in many states, senior BJP leader and Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Sunday said it did not listen to the advice of Mahatma Gandhi to work for the development of villages and poor.Addressing a ‘Vikas Parv’ rally held to celebrate the completion of NDA government’s two years in office, Singh said Gandhiji had given a call for ‘gram swaraj’ for the development of rural areas and the underprivileged sections.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Congress was in power for 54 years and that is not a very short period of time to develop the country. But the Congress did not listen to the advice of Gandhiji which resulted it losing power gradually in most parts of the country,” he said.On the other hand, Singh said, the NDA government had dedicated itself to the welfare of rural areas and the poor, following Gandhi’s principle. Singh said the influence of Congress is now limited to only some hilly states like Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram besides Karnataka.Highlighting various development initiatives taken by the Narendra Modi government, the Home Minister said due to its farmer-friendly policies, farm income will double by 2022. He said Foreign Direct Investment has reached an all time high of more than USD 50 billion and India has now become the fastest growing economy in the world.Alleging that the previous UPA governments were steeped in corruption, Singh said malady has gone away from the high places and governance has become transparent now. The Home Minister said the central government is going to get Rs 2,00,000 crore revenue from the auction of coal mines through a very clean and transparent policy.

When Kejriwal joined politics, Hollywood lost a star who could’ve won multiple Oscar awards

Journalism, unlike most white collar jobs, is a 24×7 affair. That means unlike other professionals, scribes hardly get time to catch up with life, like watching a good theatrical performance, for instance.

Arvind Kejriwal on Wednesday showed great empathy and remarkable skill when he took it upon himself to deliver for the entertainment-starved patrakaars who went to cover his media conference an acting performance so accomplished that even the likes of Marlon Brando, Jack Nicholson, Naseeruddin Shah or Leonardo DiCaprio would find it difficult to match.

Kejriwal’s timing, magnetism and an indefinable star quality captivated the audience and he held centrestage with such ease and panache that even when he had stepped out of the room without taking a single question, the congregated media stood motionless as magic hung thick in Delhi’s polluted air.

“I want to request Modiji with folded hands,” said the Aam Admi Party supremo by putting his palms together, catching his audience unawares by transcending the role as Laurence Olivier, for instance, frequently did on Broadway.

Aap ki ladai mujse hai. Mujhe maarlo, mujhe pitlo, mujhe jo krna hai kr lo, meri Delhi ki logon ko pareshaan maat kro (Your fight is with me, so beat me if you wish, take revenge on me but don’t let the people of Delhi suffer… Don’t try to stop the good work being done in Delhi),” he said, prompting some among the media to fish out their handkerchiefs on the sly to wipe an errant tear while some were left gasping for breath.

The crux of Kejriwal’s monologue was to highlight the “selfless, passionate work” that his 21 MLAs are apparently doing which, he claimed, Narendra Modi wants to desperately stop. Why? Ostensibly because the Prime Minister is “scared” of him and insecure about the “good work” that Delhi government is doing.

These Parliamentary Secretaries put in a lot of effort behind all the development work we do. It is with their help that the Delhi government is functioning and they are not being paid for their work,” he claimed.

“They go to schools, hospitals, find out what necessities are required, they work very hard. They are our eyes, ears, hands and feet. They serve the people without remuneration,” thundered the Delhi Chief Minister, banging the table for maximum impact.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. PTIDelhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. PTI

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. PTI

Watching the drama unfold, one was reminded of William Blake’s immortal lines:  Tiger, tiger, burning bright/ In the forests of the night/ What immortal hand or eye/ Could frame thy fearful symmetry?/ In what distant deeps or skies/ Burnt the fire of thine eyes…?

Amid the unmitigated brilliance of the performer, one forgot to ask a simple question to the Delhi CM. Why would his selfless, altruistic, workaholic, hermit-like MLAs need the designation of ‘Parliamentary Secretaries’ to render their social work? Why can’t the work that Kejriwal claims that they do — scouting for mohalla clinic lands, for instance — be done without the sanction of a title?

The answer, as Kartikeya points out in an informative piece in Firstpost, lies in Article 239AA of the Indian Constitution.

It states that only 10 per cent of the total number of members in the Delhi Legislative Assembly could be appointed as ministers. Given that Delhi Assembly has 70 members, Kejriwal can at best appoint only six ministers (excluding him). This presented AAP chief with a problem. His party won 67 seats, yet only seven of them can be accommodated (including himself) in the Cabinet. To quell an internal rebellion and subsequent factionalisation which may even lead to breakaway or poaching by rival parties, Kejriwal circumvented the Constitutional mandate by appointing 21 MLAs as ‘Parliament Secretaries’ for a grand total of six ministers.

What was the legal tenability of Kejriwal’s move?

There is clear precedence of two High Courts (Bombay HC and Himachal Pradesh HC) quashing such appointments — in Goa and Himachal Pradesh — as violative of the Constitution on several grounds. The courts have ruled that these secretaries are de facto (as a matter of fact) ministers even if not ministers de jure (as a matter of law).

In addition, Kejriwal took further rick while appointing the MLAs because Delhi does not have any specific law to employ parliamentary secretaries unlike states such as Karnataka, Assam or West Bengal.

Sensing trouble, the AAP tried to sought an amendment to the Delhi Members of Legislative Assembly (Removal of Disqualification) Act, 1997. Through the Bill, the Delhi government wanted “retrospective” exemption for the parliamentary secretaries from disqualification provisions.

It is this amendment that the President refused to give assent to and the matter now lies with the Election Commission which will take a final decision.

Welsh poet Dylan Thomas wrote in 1947: “Do not go gentle into that good night/ Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light…”

As the light seemed to be dying on him, Kejriwal, sensing that his ingenuous move has been caught out for what it is, came into the media conference and blasted away at rivals, invoking the fury of a tornado.

“In 1952 there were three parliamentary secretaries. When BJP used to have parliamentary secretaries, then it was legal but when we do it, it’s illegal?”

In 1997, BJP CM in Delhi also appointed parliamentary secretary. Congress also did during Sheila ji’s time. Then it was right?”

If Kejriwal had flooded our eyes with all the pathos of a Greek tragedy when he beseeched Modi to “beat him” instead of making “Delhi suffer”, here he was at his vintage best, playing the character he was born to play — the victim.

Nobody plays victim as many times as Kejriwal did — be it during CBI raid on his principal secretary’s office, during the suicide of a farmer at an AAP rally or even when he expelled Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav from the party. During all of these times, Kejriwal made the humble ‘victim’ a legendary figure by playing the role to perfection, making us believe that the stars are aligning against his party and the entire world is involved in a mysterious conspiracy to unseat him.

When Kejriwal joined politics, Hollywood lost a star who could have won multiple Academy Awards. Instead of criticising, let us thank him for at least showing us flashes of his infinite genius.

Himachal Road Transport Corporation employees go on 48-hour strike

The Himachal Road and Transport Corporation (HRTC) went on a two-day strike starting Tuesday morning over several demands, including regularisation of contract staff and protection of pension benefits.Even as the Himachal Pradesh High Court called the strike as ‘illegal’ and directed the employees to refrain from participating in the demonstration, nearly 8,000 employees went on the strike that would keep over 2,800 HRTC buses off road.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>As many as 11 HRTC unions have formed a joint action committee, demanding roadways statues and many other demands.As per reports, transport employees have also threatened to stop the operations of chartered and other state roadways buses till Wednesday night.

Disproportionate assets case: CBI to quiz Virbhadra Singh’s wife

The Central Bureau of Investigation which is probing Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh in an alleged disproportionate assets case said that the senior Congress leader “had no explanation when confronted with evidences against him and his family members”.The probe agency also told dna that family members of the octogenarian leader, that includes his wife Pratibha Singh, will also be questioned soon. The agency claimed that its investigators were in possession of foolproof evidence against Virbhadra Singh, his associates and partners in criminal conspiracy regarding the assets acquired in the name of his wife and children.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A CBI source also told dna that the senior Congress leader, when asked about the involvement of his family members in the alleged case, responded by saying, “They are answerable for themselves.”Singh on Thursday reached the CBI headquarters around 11 am. His questioning lasted till 2 pm. This is the first time the senior Congress leader was questioned by the probe agency which had had carried out searches at his residences in Delhi and Shimla in September 26 last year.”Mr Singh during his questioning said that he had no idea on how to make assets or acquire the same in the name of his wife and children. Our investigators are likely to summon the other accused in the case which includes Mr Singh’s family members as well,” the source said.It is alleged that during his 2009-12 stint as a steel minister in the UPA II government, Singh accumulated assets worth Rs 6.03 crore in his name and in the name of his family members, which were disproportionate to his known sources of income.”The preliminary inquiry had revealed that Mr Virbhadra Singh, during 2009-2012, had allegedly accumulated assets worth Rs 6.03 crore in his name and in the name of his family members,” an official said. The case was registered in September last year under the Prevention of Corruption Act against the Himachal chief minister, his wife Pratibha, his associate Chunni Lal and Life Insurance Corporation agent Anand Chauhan.Chauhan, has been accused of showing the accumulated money as proceeds of agricultural income – not taxed in India – from Singh’s apple orchard ‘Shrikhand’, located in the state.

MoEF declares monkeys as vermin in Himachal, Maneka Gandhi slams decision

The Union ministry of environment and forest came under fire on Thursday over its decision to declare Rhesus Macaque monkeys as ‘vermin’ in ten districts of Himachal Pradesh, as it has caused loss to property and croplands. This will allow the state to kill them without special permissions. Leading the charge against minister for environment and forests Prakash Javadekar was his cabinet colleague Maneka Gandhi, who is also an animal rights activist.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>However, Himachal Pradesh will not be able to implement the order immediately as a matter on this issue is pending in the high court, said officials from the state’s forest department. The high court has stayed killing of monkeys.The ministry’s decision has drawn intense criticism from environmentalists for granting similar permissions in Bihar, Uttarakhand to kill nilgai and wild boar. Maneka came down heavily on Javadekar for permitting culling of animals and termed it “lust for killing”. She said the environment ministry waswriting to every state government, allowing them to provide a list of animals that can be killed so that the Centre can give permission.”This is happening for the first time. I don’t understand this lust for killing of animals,” she said.Maneka said that the ministry is giving permissions to kill animals such as monkeys in Himachal Pradesh and peacocks in Goa while wild boars are being killed in Chandrapur. Maneka also added that the environment ministry’s wildlife department is not in favour of killing animals.The ministry has also taken this decision at a time when they have sent a proposal to the agriculture ministry for insuring farmers against damages caused by elephant raids. In 2014-15, state and central agencies paid Rs34.5 crore compensation to farmers for crop damages caused by elephants.In response to the criticism against its decision, the environment and forest ministry issued a statement to defend the move and claimed that they have given permission for “scientific management” of the animals for a limited period of time in specific areas in Uttarakhand, Bihar and Himachal Pradesh. It said that blue bulls and wild boars were declared vermins after the ministry received complaints from members of Parliament, state governments and farmers on the crop damage they caused in certain parts of the country.”Nothing has been done beyond the procedure prescribed by law. As per the provision of law, if there are complaints about the wildlife conflict, thenthe state government has to submit the proposal. Till date, five states have submitted the proposal. Proposals of Maharashtra and Gujarat are still being examined,” said SK Khanduri, inspector general of wildlife, ministry of environment, forests and climate change.Officials of the Himachal Pradesh forest department told dna that it had sent a proposal to declare Rhesus Macaque as vermin in February this year. According to estimates, monkeys have caused damage to the tune of nearly Rs160 crore in the year 2013-14. Hamirpur, Kangra and Mandi are the districts most affected, forest officials said.—With agency inputs

Disproportionate wealth case: Virbhadra Singh failed to explain evidence, says CBI

New Delhi: Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh on Thursday reportedly “failed to explain the evidences” against him during questioning by the CBI here and he was summoned again on Friday for a second round of questioning in a case of alleged disproportionate wealth.

The 81-year-old senior Congress leader was questioned at the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) headquarters for around five hours and confronted with various “evidences” over Rs 6.03 crore worth of unaccounted assets.

Virbhadra Singh. CNN News18

Virbhadra Singh. CNN News18

“Virbhadra Singh was questioned over his different properties and assets. He had no explanations when confronted with the evidence against him,” an official told IANS.

The official said the CBI has “fool-proof evidence” against Singh. He, however, declined to share the evidences of confiscated property by the agency against Singh.

“CBI has a fool-proof case against Singh, his associates and partners in criminal conspiracy regarding the assets acquired in the name of his children and wife,” an official said.

The CBI has called the Chief Minister to appear before it for questioning on Friday.

The official claimed that Singh, during questioning, put the onus of explaining the assets of his wife and children on them. CBI sources said that his son, Vikramaditya, had claimed during CBI’s preliminary enquiry that some of his assets were from the money provided by his father.

The probe against the Chief Minister and his family members was initiated following graft allegations against him during his tenure as the Union Steel Minister from 2009 to 2011.

The octogenarian Congress leader, who was questioned for the first time on Thursday, reached the national capital on Wednesday.

A case was registered on 23 September last year under the Prevention of Corruption Act against the Chief Minister, his wife Pratibha Singh, Life Insurance Corporation agent Anand Chauhan and associate Chunni Lal.

It was registered after a preliminary inquiry allegedly found that Virbhadra Singh accumulated assets worth Rs 6.03 crore in his name and in the name of his family members, which were disproportionate to his known sources of income.

“The FIR was the outcome of a preliminary inquiry which revealed that Virbhadra Singh, while serving (as union minister) during 2009-2012, had allegedly accumulated assets worth Rs 6.03 crore in his name and in the name of his family members which were found to be disproportionate to his known sources of income,” a CBI official said last year.

“The other people named in the FIR had allegedly abetted the then union minister in committing the offence,” he had said.

Singh moved the Himachal Pradesh High Court following CBI searches at his residences in Delhi and Shimla on September 26 last year.

The Himachal Pradesh High Court had on October 1, 2015 restrained the CBI from arresting or interrogating Singh or filing a chargesheet against him.

In November last year, the Supreme Court transferred the case to the Delhi High Court from the Himachal Pradesh High Court, saying the transfer was necessary “to protect the institution from embarrassment” and to “avoid further controversy”.

However, the apex court did not pass any order to modify the Himachal Pradesh High Court order that restrained the CBI from arresting Singh.

The CBI urged the Delhi High Court to vacate the Himachal Pradesh High Court order, contending that the order was hampering investigation following which it on April 5 this year asked Singh why he did not join the investigation.

Virbhadra Singh DA case: CBI claims to have proof against Himachal CM

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Thursday said it has full proof against Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, his associates and partners in criminal conspiracy regarding the assets acquired in the name of his wife and children.According to sources, all named in the FIR will be soon examined by the investigating agency. Singh, who appeared before the CBI earlier today in connection with the alleged disproportionate assets case, during his interrogation said that he had no idea on how to make assets or acquire the same in the name of his wife and children.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The CBI had on September 26 last year searched the Chief Minister’s residence and 10 other places in connection with this case.Later, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) conducted raids and summoned the Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister for questioning in Delhi after the registration of the case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act. Singh had earlier approached the Delhi High Court seeking directions to the Enforcement Directorate to provide him with the reasons on the basis of which search and seizure was carried out at his premises.

After four years, Shimla to finally be connected by air from tomorrow

After nearly four years of suspension of air travel, Shimla will get back plane connectivity from Thursday with the launch of a daily service by a private carrier.”The IIC Technologies Ltd will commence its passenger service (Air Himalayas) between Shimla, Kullu, Chandigarh and Dharamsala from June 9,” a Himachal Pradesh government spokesperson said.State Urban Development Minister Sudhir Sharma said the company will operate daily flights between Chandigarh and Kullu, Chandigarh and Shimla, Shimla and Gaggal, Gaggal and Shimla and Shimla and Chandigarh. Air connectivity to Shimla was suspended after carriers claimed that the service was unviable.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Sharma, who will launch the service by flagging off a flight from Jubbar Hatti airport near Shimla, said the air connectivity will also help boost tourism. Air service to the Himachal capital was suspended 44 months back. Airports Authority of India has spent over Rs 30 crore to maintain the airport in the interregnum.Meanwhile, PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PHDCCI) National President Mahesh Gupta, who called on the Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh on Tuesday, said the body has been working closely with the state government to promote tourism, horticulture and help create an investor-friendly environment to boost economic growth. He said he requested Singh to support Goods and Services Tax (GST).

HC refuses to stay attachment proceedings agst Virbhadra Singh, wife

Delhi High Court on Monday refused to stay the ED’s attachment proceedings against Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh and his wife, but said the final order of the adjudicating authority would not be given effect to while their pleas challenging provisional attachment are pending. A bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Jayant Nath passed the order on Virbhadra and his wife Pratibha Singh’s application seeking stay on the provisional attachment order (PAO) of March 23 and the proceedings against them under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). The bench, which disposed of their application, however, said that any final order passed by the adjudicating authority in the attachment proceedings would not be given effect to till their petitions challenging the PAO and the proceedings are finally decided.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The court listed their petitions along with that of Virbhadra’s son and daughter, who have also challenged the provisional attachment of some of their assets.The high court had stayed further proceedings against Virbhadra’s son and daughter, but refused to pass the same order with regard to the Himachal Pradesh CM and his wife. It said it was “unable to agree” with the contention of the couple that a similar order ought to be passed in their case also, as Virbhadra’s son and daughter were not named in the FIR lodged under PMLA.The bench on May 27 had said it would pass order today on the couple’s application for interim relief. Singh and his wife have sought stay on the March 23 PAO of ED, besides quashing and setting aside of the same, on the ground that it has “exceeded its jurisdiction”. They have also sought quashing of the April 26 notice issued to them under PMLA.ED has attached assets worth nearly Rs 5.80 crore belonging to Pratibha Singh and Rs 1.34 crore of Virbhadra Singh, their joint petition said. They have, in their plea, urged the court to quash the Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) of October 27, 2015, lodged purportedly under PMLA.

After severe heat wave, IMD predicts drop in mercury, thunderstorms in several parts in next 48 hours

After a long spell of “severe heat wave”, India Meteorological Department has predicted maximum temperatures are likely to fall by 2-3 degrees Celsius over northwest and central India in the next 48 hours while forecasting thunderstorms in several parts of the country.However, the “heatwave” warning still persists for west Madhya Pradesh and Vidarbha for the next 48 hours.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Maximum temperatures are likely to fall by 2-3 degrees Celsius over northwest and adjoining central India during the next 48 hours.”Thunderstorm is also likely at isolated places over Delhi, Jammu division of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, West Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Sikkim, Assam and Meghalaya,” the IMD said in its forecast.However, in coming days, with the effect of cyclone Roanu receding, states like Andhra Pradesh, Odisha are likely to again come under the spell of heat wave.”The (heat) intensity is likely to reduce thereafter and gradually abate during May 27 to 31. The maximum day and minimum night temperatures are likely to remain markedly above normal over entire northwest, west and central India during May 17 to 27. They are likely to fall to their respective normal or below normal values between May 27 and June 1,” the IMD said.IMD has also predicted “heavy rainfall” in the Andaman and Nicobar which was hit by southwest Monsoon on May 18.

Money laundering case: Delhi HC to hear Himachal CM Virbhadra Singh’s plea

The Delhi High Court will on Monday hear the petition moved by Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, seeking directions to the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to provide him with the reasons on the basis of which, search and seizure was carried out at his premises in a money laundering case.The petition was moved on May 16 before Justice Manmohan who listed the matter for hearing today. In his petition, Singh has sought quashing of the April 19 order of the adjudicating authority and the May 12 decision of the appellate tribunal, which dismissed his pleas to provide him with the reasons to believe, which formed the basis for the search and seizure of documents.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In his plea, he has contended that reasons for initiating the search are ex-facie illegal, arbitrary and liable to be quashed. On September 26 last year, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had searched the Chief Minister’s residence and 10 other places in connection with the case.Later, the ED conducted raids and summoned Singh for questioning in Delhi after the registration of the case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.

30% surge in forest fires this year, 95% caused due to human negligence

By Chaitanya Mallapur

Forest fires over the first four months of 2016 surged 30% – 20,667 fires were reported as on 21 April, 2016 compared to 15,937 over 2015 – according to data tabled in the Lok Sabha (Lower House of Parliament) on 26 April, 2016.

Fires swept more than 4,500 hectares of forest in the northern state of Himachal Pradesh since 7 April, 2016. This is 40% more than the 3,185 hectares burnt in Uttarakhand since 2 February, 2016.

Similarly, a forest fire broke out in Bathuni in the Rajouri district of Jammu and Kashmir on 1 May, 2016.

While India faces a water shortage, it cost the Uttarakhand government Rs 85 per litre of water used to douse the fire using two Mi-17 helicopters.

Forests cover 701,673 square kilometres (sq km), or 21.34%, of India. Forested area increased by 9,646 sq. km over four years between 2011 and 2015, according to the India State of Forest report.

As many as 117,369 forest fires were reported since 2011. Forest fires are a nationwide phenomenon but they vary in intensity and nature; the season for forest fires is from February to June.

While 54% recorded forested area is prone to fire, only about 6% Indian forests are prone to severe fire damages annually.

Source: Lok Sabha 1, 2; Figures for 2016 as on 21.04.2016.

The north-eastern state of Mizoram reported 2,468 forest fires — the most in 2015. Assam (1,656) was second, followed by Odisha (1,467), Meghalaya (1,373) and Manipur (1,286).

Source: Lok Sabha 1, 2; Figures for 2016 as on 21.04.2016; Ranking based on 2015 figures.

The top five states accounted for 52% of all forest fires across the country in 2015.

The eastern state of Chhattisgarh reported the most forest fires — 2,422 — in 2016 (as on April 21, 2016), followed by Odisha (2,349) and Madhya Pradesh (2,238).

More than 95% forest fires are caused by the negligence of human beings. The remaining 5% fires are caused by natural reasons like lightning and extreme rise in temperature.

“These (fires) are not new but this time due to the heat, the moisture level has reduced, which at times leads to situation like the ones in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh,” environment and forest minister Prakash Javadekar said on 4 May, 2016.

Impact of forest fire

Forest fires in Uttarakhand could melt glaciers faster, black carbon from smog and ash is covering them, making them prone to melting, experts said.

Forest fires are major causes of degradation of environment as uncontrolled fires lead to burning of vegetation and surface organic matter, increasing the frequency of flooding and causing soil erosion.

Forest fires also lead to loss of valuable timber resources, disruption of wildlife patterns and habitat and climate change.

The economic loss of forest fire is estimated to be around Rs 90,000 per hectare per annum, according to the Forest Fire Disaster Management report.

Forest fires around the world

An average of more than one million hectares of forests are burnt annually due to fires in countries like Chad, Australia, United States of America, India and Canada.

Forest fires have been a seasonal phenomenon in Indonesia, caused due to the practice of slash-and-burn agriculture. More than 130,000 forest fires occurred last year, IndiaSpend reported earlier. It was also reported how Indonesian fires are affecting the global climate.

The Indonesian government estimates that 63% of its greenhouse gas emissions are the result of forest and peat-land fires.

(The author is an analyst with IndiaSpend)

Indiaspend.org is a data-driven, public-interest journalism non-profit

Himachal bus accident: Atleast 12 dead, CM announces Rs 5 lakh ex-gratia

After a Himachal Road Transport Corporation (HRTC) bus plunged into a deep gorge in Mandi district in the wee hours of Sunday morning, killing atleast 12 people and leaving 43 others injured, Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh has announced Rs 5 lakh as compensation for the kin of the deceased.

The bus which was ferrying over 55 persons was on its way to Rekong Peo, when the mishap took place near Jogindernagar in Mandi district.

Police officials reached on the spot to rescue the victims. The injured were then rushed to the nearby PGI Chandigarh, Government Medical College, Tanda (Kangra) and other hospitals.

Eight bodies have been retrieved from the wreckage of the bus by Sunday morning.

The condition of some of the injured persons was critical, according to the police.

The rescue operations are in progress with the deceased victims yet to identified. Further details are awaited.

With inputs from agencies

Himachal Pradesh: At least nine killed, 39 injured as bus plunges into deep gorge in Mandi

At least nine persons were killed on the spot and 39 others injured, when a Himachal Road Transport Corporation bus plunged into a deep gorge near Jogindernagar in Mandi district late on Saturday night, police said.The ill-fated bus, carrying over 55 persons was on its way to Rekong Peo, when the mishap took place about 210 km from Shimla. Out of the nine, eight bodies have been retrieved from the wreckage of the bus and more deaths are not ruled out as some of the injured persons were in critical condition, police said, adding 39 people have been injured.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The rescue operations are in progress and injured persons have been rushed to PGI Chandigarh, Government Medical College, Tanda (Kangra) and other hospitals. The deceased victims are yet to identified, they said. The rescue operations are still on and further details are awaited.

Dharamsala goes Hollywood? Himachal town to have a hillside sign

Dharamsala will have a sign on the lines of the famous ‘Hollywood’ sign in Los Angeles, on a hillock of Indru Nag.A 100-feet high national flag mast shall also be erected near it and the budget for the project will be Rs 25 lakh, Himachal Pradesh Urban Development Minister Sudhir Sharma has said.Dharamsala town will also have underground dustbins a deal for which was signed on Wednesday. It was signed between the Commissioner of Municipal Corporation, Vikas Labroo and a private firm.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Sharma said, “The company shall also create such dustbins in Sundernagar and Ponta Sahib after Dharamsala.” These dustbins will be monitored through GPS system, he said, adding that the cleaning will be done using hydraulic cranes.”A multi-crore rupee scheme is being developed with the help of Asian Development Bank to give the tourist places of Dharamsala a face-lift,” he said.Under the scheme, all the temples within the corporation limits will be developed in accordance with Himachal style of art and culture, Sharma added.

Uttarakhand: Govt to pay Rs 85 per litre for water dropped to douse raging forest fire, says report

The Uttarakhand government will have to pay Rs 85 per litre for water dropped by two air force Mi-17 helicopters to douse the raging forest fires that engulfed large parts of the hill state.According to Hindustan Times, the IAF choppers made 34 sorties till Monday and dropped nearly 1.75 lakh litres of water over burning forests. On Tuesday, the helicopters made 16 sorties in Nainital and Pauri.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The report quoting sources said that each sortie carrying 3,500 litres of water cost about Rs 3 lakh.
ALSO READ NGT raps green ministry on forest fires, sends show-cause notice to Uttarakhand, HimachalState Finance secretary Amit Negi said he is expecting a bill of Rs 50 lakh or may be a little more.Nearly 3466 hectares of forested land has been ravaged by fire in 1591 incidents since the start of the fire season in February this year. Eight people lost their lives in these incidents and more than 30 have been injured.
ALSO READ Uttarakhand: Experts say raging forest fires could cause glaciers to melt fasterMeanwhile, voicing concern over the forest fires, the National Green Tribunal said it was shocked that everybody was taking the issue ‘so casually’ and issued show cause notices to Uttarakhand as will as Himachal Pradesh government.The green panel also directed them to inform it about the preventive steps taken by them prior to the fire incident and also about the forest management plans. Experts have also have raised serious concerns about the adverse and long-lasting effects it could have on the glaciers in the region.

Forest fires: NGT issues show cause notices to Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh

New Delhi: Voicing concern over the forest fires raging in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, the National Green Tribunal on Tuesday said it was shocked that everybody was taking the issue “so casually” and issued show cause notices to both the states.

A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar asked the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) as to what they have done in the matter to control the situation.

Uttarakhand fire. PTIUttarakhand fire. PTI

Uttarakhand fire. PTI

“What have you (MoEF) done regarding the fire? It shocks us. Everybody is taking it so casually,” the bench said.

Responding to the query, the counsel appearing for MoEF said that entire team of officials concerned was working on the issues and choppers of Indian Air Force (IAF) have also been deployed in the ongoing firefighting operations.

To this, the bench asked Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh state governments, “What is your preparedness to prevent such incidents?”

The bench, however, asked the advocates for these states to take instructions on this issue.

“Issue notices to the states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh to show cause about the forest fires that have occurred in both the states,” the bench said, adding that the concerned secretaries would file their affidavits in this regard on the next date of hearing on 10 May.

The green panel also directed them to inform it about the preventive steps taken by them prior to the fire incident and also about the forest management plans.

“We want to know the cause of fire,” the bench said.

The observations came while the NGT was hearing arguments on the petition filed by an NGO against alleged “unregulated” operation of rafting camps in Rishikesh and other areas on the banks of river Ganga.

Massive forest fires have engulfed a large part of areas in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.

In Uttarakhand, two IAF choppers and over 10,000 personnel have been deployed in the firefighting operations. The Centre has claimed that situation in the state was “under control”.

Forest area of over 3000 hectares have been blighted in Uttarakhand due to the fire.

Terrorists, drug mafia, police and their shared love for Punjab’s drug Chitta

Soon after the 80-hour gunfight between Indian security forces and Jaish-e-Mohammad militants ended at Pathankot air force station in January third year, five kilometres away in Bhadroya , Himachal Pradesh police led a massive crackdown on local drug peddlers.Pick-up points for ‘Chitta’Adjacent to Chakki river that separates Himachal Pradesh and Punjab, Bhadroya housed dozens of one-room hutments, used as pick-up points for ‘Chitta’ a local drug that has, in the last decade, plagued the entire state of Punjab. The unpaved roads that lead into Channi valley of Bhadroya had over the years become a part of the important route used by notorious drug syndicates of Punjab. A route that originates from Pakistan.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Hence it was not far-fetched for HP authorities and Punjab police to think that the JeM militants might have used these drug routes to launch an attack that claimed lives of seven security personnel. Thus the crackdown.
ALSO READ Drug addiction is ‘very serious’ problem in Punjab: NHRCThe Chakki river that marks the border between Himachal and Punjab and has over the years has become a hub for drug activities (dna)
ALSO READ 2014: Drug menace reaches alarming proportions in PunjabIt looked like a ghost townBy the time dna visited Bhadroya, it looked like a ghost town. While the National Investigation Agency maintains its investigators had so far not found evidence of any insiders aiding the JeM attackers and have more or less not focused on the drug link to the attack, situation in areas close to the International Border point out the glaring infrastructure that made the Pathankot attack possible.The National Investigation Agency maintains its investigators had so far not found evidence of any insiders aiding the JeM attackers and have more or less not focused on the drug link to the attack, situation in areas close to the International Border point out the glaring infrastructure that made the Pathankot attack possible. dna travelled to some of the villages which lie close to the International border that is guarded by the Border Security Forces and found how the drug trade of Punjab has rendered the border porous and vulnerable to terror attacks.
ALSO READ #dnaEdit: Drug menace in Punjab must be combated on war footingModus operandi of drug racketeersSeveral officials of Punjab’s revenue department as well as the police force elaborated the modus operandi of drug racketeers and their network which spreads across political parties and the police force itself. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity fearing reprisals as they believe the tentacles of the drug syndicate run deep into state machinery and major political partiesPosing as a potential client, this correspondent also spoke to some of the persons involved in peddling of Chitta, a grainy Heroine extract . Interestingly the version of Punjab’s drug story put forward by drug dealers was not much different from the one presented by cops who were apparently trailing the same drug mafia.Villages of Narot Jaimal Singh, Tash, Pharwal, Bamiyal are some of the places which serve as bases where Chitta is transported and stored briefly before its subsequent distribution. How they are brought inside Indian territory is another story all together. The International Border (IB), which divides India and Pakistan, falls on massive tracts of farming land. There are patches of farming land owned by Indians which fall on both sides of IB. Technically the farming land on the other side of IB is Indian and farmers are even issued a special ID to work on the fields.”These farmers can grow crops which do not grow more than two feet in height. They are accompanied to other side of border by BSF jawans in the morning and in the evening they are brought back,” said a village sarpanch.This is where Punjab’s drug story startsWhen the drug trade was in its inception, Pakistani drug peddlers would use simple methods of transportation. An Indian drug peddler would wait for the arrival on this side of the border, the package would be thrown over the fence or the same would be handed over after cutting through the electric fencing. In some places where the border is completely porous, package would be simply handed over.But as trade grew, the methods of transportation of Chitta also became sophisticated.Using water pipes to move productDuring conversations with some of the residents of villages near the IB as well as some drug dealers, dna learnt of pipes that have been laid under the fence that divides India from Pakistan. These pipes, which are meant to water the farms, on both sides of IB, have long been used by drug dealers to transport their product.The border between India and Pakistan in Suchetgarh area (File Photo/Reuters)While the existence of these pipes are not uncommon knowledge in the rural parts of Punjab, a stringent watch over the same after the terror attack had many in the vicinity believe that the same pipes were used by the JeM militants to cross over. A Punjab police official of deputy superintendent rank confirmed the same to dna but refused to delve whether or not the pipes are still being used by drug mafia’s . The officer also did not elaborate on the size of these pipes when asked if they were large enough for people to travel.Close links to senior Punjab politiciansAn NIA official when asked about the same said their investigators knew about the pipes but refused to confirm if the same were used by the JeM militants to cross over. The story does not end with these pipes. In fact, there are many in the revenue department who claimed that hundreds of acres of land in and around the IB are owned by persons who serve as a front to drug kingpins some of whom have close links to senior Punjab politicians and officials of the police force.In fact back in 2002, a relative and one neighbour of Sucha Singh Langah, former Cabinet Minister of Punjab were arrested which was followed by his own arrest. In an alleged case of disproportionate assets, Langah was accused of purchasing benami land in the name of both accused. He was convicted in 2015.Benami (nameless) propeties along the Indo-pak borderMany here believe that buying benami properties is another strategy for drug syndicate to carry out business. dna managed to retrieve some of the land deeds undertaken in the recent years but was not able to contact the owners of the same. In one case a family of three sisters and a brother, were found to be at loggerheads with‘powerful politicians of the area’ but the same family could not be traced. The phone numbers went unanswered. A revenue official told dna The kingpins have become smarter. The land is given to farmers to maintain and if someone tries to trail these kingpins using these land deeds, they will reach a dead end.”The knowledge is quite common among those dealing with drugs. While speaking to a mid-level dealer in Damtal, dna found out that a female dealer, who goes by the name ‘Bhabhi’, is responsible for distribution in Pathankot and surrounding areas.When requested to meet Bhabhi, the dealer had taken this correspondent to a secluded spot near Chakki river but changed his mind after speaking to two bike borne youths who had arrived in the area. “I personally prefer marijuana because its less risky to be dealing with it. But Chitta is in demand not only in India but abroad and the money in it is huge,” said the dealer adding that it could cost this correspondent anywhere between 1000-12000 rupees to avail the drug. A gram of chitta can be sold for 1000 rupees depending on its quality.80 police officers allegedly involvedA secret document prepared by former Additional Director General of Police (intelligence) Shashi Kant had even listed the names of more than 80 police officers allegedly involved cross-border drug mafia.So when pictures of Gurdaspur SP Salwinder Singh photographed with Punjab politicians made rounds in the state, many here began to connect the dots. The NIA, however, has not spoken much on the alleged drug links to the Pathankot terror attack. A dealer said suggesting a compliance on part of law enforcement agencies, You can sell the same( Chitta) in Delhi. I am sure there will be many buyers. Transportation of the same is not a problem,”He added that after the Pathankot attack, police had become stricter but soon everything will be relaxed and it was the best time to invest in the drug trade.

10,000 men engaged in dousing Uttarakhand fires, as Himachal records 519 cases since April 20

Even as nearly 10,000 people and three IAF helicopters engaged in operations to douse forest fires in Uttarakhand, the neighbouring Himachal Pradesh disclosed on Monday that it had recorded more than 500 cases of forest blaze since April 20.A four-member central team of experts was constituted on Monday to monitor the incidents. The team, comprising officials from environment ministry, National Institute of Disaster Management, Centre for Fire Explosives, and Fire Services, Delhi, has been asked to submit its report to the ministry of home affairs within one week.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Earlier in the day, Union home minister Rajnath Singh spoke to Uttarakhand Governor K K Paul to take stock of forest fires and assured to continue assistance to the hill state for dousing the blaze.While the large manpower engaged was able to control fire in some parts of the state, officials indicated that the scale of operations will not be decreased. “Indian Air Force operations continued on Monday in Nainital and Pauri. We have lodged a total of 46 cases till now under the Indian Forest Act, and three persons have been arrested in Nainital,” said DP Gupta, chief conservator of forests.According to sources in the Indian Air Force, three helicopters, 1 ALH and 2 MI-17 with Bambi bucket were deployed and 30,000 litres of water was dropped to douse fires.Meanwhile, even Himachal Pradesh has recorded hundreds of forest fires since April 20, with the state experiencing one of the hottest summers on record. In places such as Anandpur Sahib and Bilaspur, temperatures have breached the 40 degree Celsius mark.”Till 5pm today, we have recorded 519 forest fires across 4,000 hectares but most of them have been extinguished. Like Uttarakhand, the chir pine is abundant in Himachal Pradesh spread across 1,215 square km and they are prone to forest fires. Around 700 personnel have been engaged to put out the fires,” said SP Vasudeva, principal chief conservator of forests, head of forestry force, Himachal Pradesh. Vasudeva added, “We had seen a high number of forest fires even in 2012-13 and this cycle is repeated every 3-4 years. This year, the summer, has been unusually harsh compounding the issue.”—(With inputs from Manan Kumar)

Uttarakhand forest fire reaches boarding school in Himachal Pradesh’s Kasauli

The Uttarakhand forest fire which was spread to the other states last night has reached a boarding school in Kasauli, a popular hill town in Himachal Pradesh, reports NDTV.
ALSO READ Uttarakhand forest fire: Four people arrested, situation under controlFire started at the Pinegrove school in the hill town. Evacuation of the children began soon. The fire which began in Uttarakhand has claimed seven lives and about 2,269 hectares of forest land have been destroyed. Over 6,000 personnel were deployed to combat the fire.

ED attachment order to continue against Himachal Pradesh CM Virbhadra Singh’s kin: HC

The Delhi High Court on Tuesday said ED’s provisional order of attaching some assets of Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh’s two children in a money laundering case would continue but all subsequent proceedings against them would remain stayed.”In the meantime, we consider it appropriate to stay all further proceedings pursuant to the impugned order (of ED) of provisional attachment so far as the petitioners herein are concerned. However, the impugned attachment shall continue,” a bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Jayant Nath said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The interim order came on a petition filed by Virbhadra’s daughter Aparajita Kumari and son Vikramaditya Singh against the March 23 provisional attachment order passed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED). They have also challenged the recently amended second proviso of section 5 (1) of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), claiming it should be declared unconstitutional as it was contradictory to the scheme of the Act and violated the Constitution.The second proviso of section 5 (1) of PMLA provides that any property of a person may be attached if the ED’s officer concerned has reasons to believe, on the basis of material in his possession, that if such property allegedly involved in money-laundering is not attached immediately, it is likely to frustrate any proceeding under the Act. On this issue, the bench said it requires consideration as it involves various questions of law. “It appears to us that the matter involves various questions of law which requires consideration in the main petition, in particular, the constitutional validity of the second proviso to section 5(1) of the PML Act,” it said and fixed the matter for July 18 for further proceedings. “We also make it clear that the period of stay pursuant to the present order shall not be taken into consideration for computing the period of 180 days stipulated for operation of the provisional attachment under section 5 (1) of PML Act,” it said.The petitioners have sought stay on the March 23 provisional attachment order of the ED, saying it has “exceeded its jurisdiction”.

Check hpbose.org, hpresults.nic.in for Himachal Pradesh class 12th Board exam result 2016 to be declared today

The Himachal Pradesh Board of School Education (HPBOSE) is likely to declare results of class 12th examinationThe HPBOSE class 12th board exam was held from March 4th to march 24.Those students who had appeared for the exam, can check their results on the official website – www.hpbose.org. Students can also check results on hpresults.nic.in<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Students can also take printout of their result for future reference.Candidates can follow the following steps to check the result1: Log onto the official website (hpbose.org)2: Click on the link provided that says ‘Result’3: Click on HPBOSE Class 12 result link4: Insert your roll number5: Your result sheet will be displayedAbout Himachal Pradesh BoardThe Himachal Pradesh Board of School Education, Dharamshala came into existence in 1969 as per Himachal Pradesh Act No. 14 of 1968 with its head-quarter at Shimla later shifted to Dharamshala in January 1983. The Board started with a staff of 34 officials which has subsequently increased to 438.The Education Board prescribes syllabus, courses of instructions and text books for school education in Himachal Pradesh besides conducting examinations based on courses listed. At present, the Board conducts examination for the following classes and courses: 10th, 10+2, J.B.T and T.T.C.

SC sets May 4 as deadline for decision on air connectivity to Shimla

Taking strong note of lack of air connectivity to Shimla, the Supreme Court on Thursday directed the competent authorities to tell it by May 4 whether air services to the Himachal Pradesh capital would be launched and warned of issuing an order if the answer is “no”.”If ‘no’ is the categorical answer, we will pass an order against those responsible for this,” a bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur said. The bench also directed the competent authorities, including the Civil Aviation Ministry, to place the copy of direction issued by them before the bench takes up the matter for next hearing on May 4.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>It said that its interim order, issued on December 16 last year, shall not prevent these authorities from enforcing the obligation of providing ten per cent of the capacity deployed on Category-I routes (trunk routes) to Category-II routes. Under the government’s Route Dispersal Guidelines, Category-I routes are the busy routes connecting major metros like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Chennai, while Category-II are those in remote and difficult parts of the country, including Jammu and Kashmir, Northeast and the island territories.Counsel representing various competent authorities like the Ministry and aviation regulator DGCA said all of them favoured launching of these services. To this, the bench said “we hope there is no political game in this.”The apex court had last week taken exception to the lack of air connectivity to places in the North East and Shimla’s Jubbarhatti airport and rapped the government and Air India for “promoting interests” of private operators. “Is it not part of your policy guidelines to provide services to far-flung places like North East and Shimla,” a bench comprising the Chief Justice and Justice R Banumathi had asked, charging the government with “only promoting interests of operators” and not thinking about connectivity. The bench, which had earlier sought a status report from Air India on feasibility of air service connecting Shimla with Chandigarh and Delhi, was unimpressed and said, “we do not want this dilly-dallying. We thought you will do something, but things remained as they were.”Additional Solicitor General PS Patwalia, appearing for the state-run carrier, sought time and said Air India would come out with a response. The court then posted the matter for further hearing on Thursday. Earlier, the apex court had wanted to know from the airline about its “ultimate plan” to connect Shimla with New Delhi and Chandigarh and had asked Air India CMD to place a report within six weeks.It had however ordered maintenance of status quo on the December 7, 2015 direction passed by the Himachal Pradesh High Court asking Air India, Airports Authority of India and others concerned to start scheduled flights on a trial basis from Jubbarhatti airport, 22 km from Shimla.Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar, who had appeared for Air India CMD, submitted that the airline is examining the suggestions to at least connect Shimla and Chandigarh with 40- seater aircraft as the runway at the Airport was very small. The Solicitor General had explained various constrains, including the non-availability of refuelling facility in Shimla and certain security hazards. He said the issue of economic viability was also there.He had also told the bench that two tourist towns — Kullu and Dharamsala — were already connected by air.Air India had challenged the Himachal Pradesh High Court order to start scheduled flights on trial basis. It had said that other objections and viability gap funding, if any, will be sorted out later. The high court had passed the order on a petition by a local resident on the possibility of resuming Delhi-Shimla flight service from Jubbar-Hatti airport, which remains non-operational for past three years.The government is in the process of finalising a draft civil aviation policy, which proposes changes in the route dispersal guidelines dealing with flying to remote destinations that could be socially important but not economically viable.

Jammu & Kashmir, West Bengal districts get PM excellence awards for implementing NDA govt initiatives

Jammu and Kashmir’s Anantnag and West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas districts, besides Chandigarh, were on Thursday presented awards by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for excellence in implementing the NDA government’s priority initiatives like Swachh Bharat Mission.Nagaon in Assam, Bikaner in Rajasthan, West Sikkim district, Ananthapuramu in Andhra Pradesh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Balrampur in Chhattisgarh and Hamirpur in Himachal Pradesh also received the awards. Anantnag administration has been awarded under ‘Swachh Vidyalaya’ category for ‘North East and Hill States’ for constructing toilets– separately for boys and girls– in over 1,500 schools of the district.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”It was a massive exercise to construct large number of toilets there. We overcome this through community mobilisation. We also got done a social audit, on the lines of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, to ensure quality is not compromised,” said Syed Abid Rasheed Shah, who received the award from Modi at a function. He said the construction of toilets has resulted in increase in attendance and checked drop outs rate of students.”The attendance of students has gone up and there is a feeling of belongingness in the community,” Shah said.There are 1,555 government schools– 45 higher secondary, 124 high school, 695 at the middle and 691 at primary levels– which catered to large number of marginalised and poor people living in the area.”It is because of previous Deputy Commissioners and hard work of all staff of education department,” said Shah, Deputy Commissioner of Anantnag.This is the first time that ‘Prime Minister’s Awards for excellence in implementation of priority programmes’ have been given on the civil services day. The awards were divided into four categories–Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY), Swachh Bharat Mission (Grameen), Swachh Vidyalaya and Soil health Card schemes.West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas has been given the award for effective implementation of PMJDY scheme in ‘Other States’ category. Nagaon in Assam and Chandigarh have also been awarded the PM’s award for excellence in implementing PMJDY. Bikaner in Rajasthan and Sikkim’s West Sikkim districts have been given Swachh Bharat Mission (Grameen) awards.The Swachh Vidyalaya awards were also given to Andhra Pradesh’s Ananthapuramu, and Dadra and Nagar Haveli administration for their efforts in construction of toilets. Chhattisgarh’s Balrampur and Himachal Pradesh’s Hamirpur have been adjudged best districts for implementing Soil Health Card scheme. These awards were given on the occasion of Civil Services Day function.

Paid same rent as others in the category: Priyanka Gandhi

Priyanka Gandhi on Saturday discounted claims that the monthly rent of her government bungalow in Lutyens’ Delhi was lowered on her request, asserting that the amount was determined by the then BJP government in 2002 and “was the same as for others” in the category.A statement issued by her office said that in December 1996, Priyanka, the daughter of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and an SPG protectee, had rented a private accommodation for her residence but was directed to occupy a government accommodation on security grounds.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”In pursuance of all rules and regulations of the then BJP Government, the market rate/special license fee of Directorate of Estates, has been punctually and regularly paid by her for the entire duration of her occupation of the government accommodation, including the period in question.” “The said rent that she paid was determined by the government and was the same as for others in her category,” the statement said, after a report claimed that she managed to convince the Vajpayee government to reduce the monthly rent of her 2,765.18 sqm house in Lutyens’ Delhi from Rs 53,421 to only Rs 8,888 as it was “beyond her paying capacity”.
ALSO READ Can’t pay Rs 53,421 for 2,765 sq meter bungalow, says Priyanka Gandhi VadraThe BJP on Saturday took a dig at Priyanka over the issue, saying it was “laughable” that she could afford building a bungalow in Himachal Pradesh and travelling abroad but found the rent money prohibitive.Asked about Priyanka’s statement that she paid the rent determined by the then government and same as others in her category, party’s National Secretary Shrikant Sharma said it might not be illegal but she sought “concessions” despite being capable of paying the rent.Without going into specifics as to how much rent she paid, Priyanka in the statement merely said that multiple protectees occupying government accommodation on security grounds brought to the notice of the then BJP Government that a 90 per cent increase, from one month to the next, in the year 2002 from “Market Rate/Special License Fee” to “Damages Rate” was “contrary to prevailing rules and regulations”.Insisting that none of the said persons were unauthorised occupants of the premises, and that they were, in fact, “authorised occupants”, Priyanka, an SPG protectee, maintained that the “Damages Rate” did not apply to them.”This error was subsequently corrected by the Cabinet Committee on Accommodation of the then BJP Government pursuant to a letter and a meeting between current BJP M P Ashwini Kumar (Minna) and the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee,” the statement added.The media report claimed that on May 7, 2002, Priyanka wrote to the government and said that Rs 53,421 was “too high” an amount and “beyond her paying capacity”.Currently, she pays Rs 31,300 for accommodation in Type VI government house at 35, Lodhi Estate. At the outset, Priyanka said that in December 1996, she had rented private accommodation for her residence and paid advance rent besides initiating renovation work in the said private rented accommodation.”The then Director of SPG subsequently informed her of the decision of the security agencies of the government denying her occupation of the rented private accommodation on the ground that it did not fulfil the security requirements,” the statement said, listing some other reasons.”Consequently, she was directed to occupy government accommodation on security grounds,” it said.According to the report, not only Priyanka but also former Punjab DGP KPS Gill and All India Anti-Terrorist Front chief MS Bitta were provided accommodation on security grounds and their rents were lowered.The BJP, meanwhile, also dragged her husband Robert Vadra into the row, saying while the controversial businessman “turned” land into gold, Priyanka found the official rent for their house “beyond her paying capacity”.”It says a lot about Priyanka Gandhi. She wants all government facilities but she won’t pay the rent she should be. She can build a bungalow in Himachal and travel abroad. The land which her husband turns into gold but they cannot pay then rent. It is ridiculous,” the party spokesperson said.

Bomb scare on Jalandhar-Pathankot train; passengers evacuated

An abandoned bag sparked a bomb scare on a Pathankot-bound train in Jalandhar following which it was halted at Kandrori station in Himachal Pradesh and passengers were swiftly evacuated. Government Railway Police (GRP) and bomb squad have been called in, a senior railway official said.”Around 12 PM, an abandoned bag was spotted by a passenger in the Jalandhar-Pathankot train. Two wires were coming out from a packet inside the bag which made the passengers suspicious and they informed the railway authorities,” Ferozpur Divisional Rail Manager Anuj Prakash said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The train was halted at Kandrori in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh, he said, adding the passengers were evacuated as a precautionary measure.”A passenger had thrown out the bag using a stick. GRP and railway security unit were informed. The train has not yet resumed its journey,” Prakash said.The packet also contained a battery and the sleuths are trying to find out if it contains any explosives, railway sources said.

Uber cab driver allegedly shot dead by juvenile passengers

New Delhi: A 51-year-old Uber cab driver was allegedly murdered by two juvenile passengers who dumped his body at an open field in West Delhi’s Mundka area, police said on Friday.

The incident took place Wednesday afternoon and came to light Thursday morning, when the local residents in Mundka spotted a cab parked on a road for hours and informed the police. Soon, the driver’s body with bullet wounds, was found in a field nearby.

ReutersReuters

Reuters

The victim was identified as Kuldeep Thakur who owned the car and had turned it into a cab affiliated to two aggregator services including Uber.

His family was informed about the incident immediately, a senior police official said.

Kuldeep’s family told police that he had left home on Wednesday for work but did not return.

The police approached the cab aggregator service and obtained details of the cab bookings.
During investigation, it emerged that Kuldeep’s cab was last booked by a youth from south-west Delhi’s Najafgarh for Hiran Kudna village, the official said.

The police soon zeroed in on one of the accused teenagers and during interrogation he confessed to his crime, also disclosing the name of his accomplice.
“Both accused juveniles have been apprehended,” DCP (West) Pushpendra Kumar said.

During interrogation, the accused said they had hired Kuldeep’s cab on Wednesday afternoon. During the journey they entered into a heated argument with him, when suddenly one of them pulled out a gun and shot at him.

The teenagers, both 17-year-old, then dumped his body in the open field and fled.

Kuldeep, a native of Himachal Pradesh, lived here with his wife and three children. He was the sole breadwinner of the family and his eldest daughter’s marriage is on the cards, Kuldeep’s nephew Jograj said.

He said, Kuldeep had worked as driver for years and purchased his own car earlier this year. His family left for Himachal Pradesh on Friday for the last rites.

The victim’s relatives have alleged that Uber showed no cooperation in the initial phase of the investigation and did not support the family at all, a charge denied by the latter.

The relatives also alleged that Uber had “deleted” Kuldeep’s name and other details from its database.

Uber in a statement said, “Our thoughts are with the family of our driver-partner, the victim of this mindless violence. We have pro- actively shared details with the police to assist them with their investigation.”

DA case: Himachal Pradesh CM Virbhadra’s son, daughter challenge ED order

Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh’s son and daughter on Tuesday challenged in the Delhi High Court, the Enforcement Directorate’s order to provisionally attach their properties in a money laundering case.”The Enforcement Directorate’s action is ‘pre-emptive, presumptuous and arbitrary’ and hence has no authority to initiate attachment proceeding against the petitioners”, the Chief Minister’s daughter Aparajita Kumari and son Vikramaditya Singh said in their petition.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>They sought the quashing of the ED’s order of March 23 issued under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).The Delhi High Court had earlier on Monday asked Singh to cooperate with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) so that the probe may conclude soon.The court also asked Singh to appear before the agency at the earliest.Earlier in the day, the CBI submitted in the court that the evidences against Singh are very crucial. Stating that the case is very serious, the CBI said the investigation is being hampered due to the stay granted by the Himachal Pradesh High Court.The Delhi High Court will resume the hearing in this case on Wednesday.The Himachal Pradesh High Court had earlier passed an interim order, saying the CBI cannot interrogate, arrest or chargesheet Singh without its permission. The CBI has filed a plea in the Delhi High Court against this order.The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has attached some of the assets of the Chief Minister worth Rs. eight crores in connection with the money laundering case.On March 16, the Delhi High Court had refused to grant a stay on the proceedings initiated by the ED against him.The ED had last year registered a money laundering case against Singh and others under provisions of Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) after taking cognizance of a criminal complaint filed by the CBI in this regard.

Twenty million cases still pending: In India’s district courts, a crisis is revealed

By Shobhit Mathur and Nomesh Bolia

As of today, there are more than 20 million cases pending in the Indian districts courts; two-thirds are criminal cases and one in 10 have been pending for more than 10 years, our analysis of National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG[1]) data has revealed. More revelations:

– There is one judge for every 73,000 people in India, seven times worse than the United States.

– On an average, 1,350 cases are pending with each judge, who clears 43 cases per month.

– At the rate cases are handled at the district courts, civil cases will never get cleared, and it will take more than 30 years to clear criminal cases.

This is a looming crisis, and understanding where the problem lies is key to finding a solution.

Delhi has India’s worst people-to-judge ratio, other small states twice better than national average

Delhi stands out for having the worst population-to-judge ratio. While the national average is 73,000 people to a judge, Delhi is almost seven times worse with about 500,000 people to a judge. At the other end, smaller states and union territories (UTs) such as Chandigarh, Goa, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Sikkim, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh have at least twice as many judges per person, compared to the national average.

representational image. CNN IBNrepresentational image. CNN IBN

representational image. CNN IBN

Let us next look at the case burden on judges in each state. As expected, smaller states which have a better population-per-judge ratio perform better and the bigger states are worse off.

Uttar Pradesh (UP) stands out as the state with the maximum case burden on each judge, with about 2,500 cases pending per judge. That is almost twice the national average of 1,350 cases per judge.

Sikkim and Mizoram are the best performing states with 71 and 118 pending cases per judge respectively.

States with fewer judges and higher burdens have most cases pending for more than a decade

Does the burden on judges translate to judicial delays?

We have mixed results. Smaller states and UTs such as Haryana, Sikkim, Chandigarh, Punjab, Mizoram and Himachal Pradesh have less than 1 per cent of cases pending more than 10 years. Among states with the worst ratio, Gujarat heads the list with about one in 4 cases delayed more than 10 years.

There is a correlation between the case burden on judges and population per judge. Uttar Pradesh, Orissa, Bihar and West Bengal, which have a higher burden and higher population per judge, also have a higher ratio of cases pending more than 10 years.

Screen-Shot-2016-04-04-at-6.59.54-PM 825Screen-Shot-2016-04-04-at-6.59.54-PM 825

Maharashtra builds a backlog of 100,000 cases every month; UP clears 44,500 per month

Next let us look at the rate at which states are able to dispose the cases each month. This is the number of cases disposed minus the cases filed in that month.

A positive number implies than more cases are disposed than filed each month. This will result in eventual clearance of pending cases. A negative number means that the state is adding to its pending cases each month.

Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh stand out at either extreme. Maharashtra builds a backlog of more than 100,000 cases each month, while UP clears more than 44,500 pending cases each month. Karnataka clears about 34,000 pending cases each month.

UP, which has 2,513 pending cases per judge and a total of 631,290 cases pending for more than 10 years, is clearing 44,571 cases each month, five times faster than the national average. Gujarat and Bihar, which have a high ratio of cases pending for more than 10 years, continue to pile on more cases each month.

Why some states will never be able to clear pending cases (at current disposal rates)

States that build a backlog will never be able to clear their pending cases at the current rate of clearance. The 10 states with the fastest-growing backlog: Maharashtra, Gujarat, Bihar, Delhi, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Chandigarh, Meghalaya, Sikkim and Orissa.

Among the states clearing the case backlog, the southern states of Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Tamil Nadu are the best. They will clear all pending cases within six years. UP, which has the highest number of pending cases per judge, will also clear pending cases within 10 years due to its high case-disposal rate.

Two pending criminal cases for each civil case

The NJDG allows us to see the criminal and civil cases pending in each state. This helps us understand the rate at which justice is delivered to criminal cases relative to civil cases.

The national average is two pending criminal cases for each pending civil case. Bihar, Uttarakhand and Jharkhand have almost five times as many pending criminal cases to civil cases. At the other extreme, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Manipur, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka and Punjab have a very low ratio.

The table above shows a summary of our analysis. The green and red scores are taken from the analysis of previous charts.

– Delhi and Orissa have the worst rating with four red and 0 green. Bihar, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal are next states with a poor rating. Of these, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh may get better in coming years because they are clearing pending cases faster.

– Himachal Pradesh and Sikkim score high (three green and one red). The district judicial systems of these states need to be studied and best practices replicated in other states. However, they are piling pending cases each month.

– We can predict the states that will soon face a crisis. For example, states like Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Goa and Maharashtra, which are accumulating pending cases each month, will soon be in the red on parameters of pending cases per judge and cases pending for more than 10 years.

– On the positive side, states such as Karnataka and Kerala, which are clearing pending cases every month, will soon reduce the number of pending cases per judge.

It is well known that India’s judicial infrastructure is crippled. This analysis helps us understand where the problems lie. Our analysis reveals where to invest on judicial infrastructure, fill vacancies for judges and provides the evidence needed for urgent reforms and target the reforms at the right areas.

(Mathur, an IIT-B alumnus and MBA from the Indian School of Business, is the Executive Director, Vision India Foundation, which focuses on policy research, training and engagement of young talent in public policy and governance. Bolia is an IIT-B alumnus and an associate professor at IIT Delhi. His research focuses on data- driven governance)

[1]The NJDG does not have data for the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Nagaland, so they have been left out from the analysis. NJDG considers Chandigarh as a state. The data snapshot from NJDG was taken on 18 February, 2016 and the trends have been analysed based on that. Since NJDG does not provide historical data, the analysis is limited by the data collected on the given date. The population statistics were taken from the Census 2011 and since the state of Telangana did not exist in 2011, the analysis for population per judge has not been done for Telangana.

India-Spend1India-Spend1

(IndiaSpend.com is a data-driven, public-interest journalism non-profit)

dna Morning Must Reads: From updates on Pakistan’s probe team in Pathankot to US cracking Apple’s iPhone

1. Pathankot attack: India gives evidence of Jaish-e-Mohammed’s hand, Pak doesn’t contradictPakistan’s joint investigative team (JIT) has not contradicted details of investigations shared by the national investigation team (NIA) that clearly pinpoints Jaish-e-Mohammed’s involvement in terror attack on Pathankot airbase. Read more here<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>2. Shaky pillars force Sonia Gandhi to step in; Congress now feels heat in Himachal, Manipur and MeghalayaWith the Congress now reduced to holding power in just seven states – a historic low – the party leadership is scrambling to quell dissidence by opening a communication with MLAs. Read more hereMLAs. Read more here3. Encryption case: US succeeds in cracking Apple’s iPhone, drops legal actionThe US Justice Department said on Monday it had succeeded in unlocking an encrypted iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters and dropped its legal case against Apple. Read more here4. Not just Tendulkaresque, Kohli is a beautiful blend of Fab FiveTendulkar’s sheer class and aura of invincibility? Check. Dravid’s unmistakable consistency and adaptability? Check. Ganguly’s in-your-face, infectious aggression? Check. Laxman’s God-gifted grace? Check. Sehwag’s ease of run-making? Check. Read more here5. Creative Outlier Review: Quality and convenience in a neat little packageTake one look at Creative’s latest headset, and it’s clearly meant for a younger crowd. Read more here

Avalanche warning issued in Jammu and Kashmir for next 48 hours

Chandigarh: An avalanche warning was on Sunday sounded for higher areas of Jammu and Kashmir, advising people not to venture in these areas over the next 48 hours.

Representational image. REUTERS

Representational image. REUTERS

An advisory was issued by Chandigarh-based Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment (SASE), which comes under the Ministry of Defence, here.

‘Medium danger’ avalanche warning exists for avalanche prone areas above 3,000 metres altitude of Kupwara, Baramula, Bandipur, Kargil and Gandarbal districts of Jammu and Kashmir, the advisory said.

Pharkian and Kanzalwan areas of Jammu and Kashmir received fresh snowfall of 18 cm and 8 cm, respectively during last 24 hours.

In Himachal Pradesh, Dhundi and Patsio experienced fresh snowfall of 13 cm and 3 cm, respectively, it said.

PTI

Here’s how you can watch Team India’s training sessions ahead of Pak game

Jolted by the shock loss to New Zealand in the opening game, India will be fighting a survival battle quite early in the tournament when they take on arch foes Pakistan in what is being seen as the marquee clash of the ICC World Twenty20 here tomorrow. The hosts, who started clear title-favourites, were in for a blow in the first match itself when New Zealand’s spinners bamboozled their famed batting line-up on a turning Nagpur track. As a result, the world No.1 side is staring at an early elimination should it lose to Pakistan in the high-voltage game tomorrow at the Eden Gardens. As is the case with most India-Pakistan contests, this game too has been preceded by its share of drama.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The match was originally scheduled to be held in Dharamsala but was shifted here after the Himachal Pradesh government expressed inability to provide security to the Pakistan team owing to protests by ex-servicemen and their families.

12 members retiring in April but that won’t change Rajya Sabha dynamics, BJP will remain in minority

New Delhi: The retirement of 12 elected Rajya Sabha members in April is unlikely to bring any significant change in complexion of the upper house of parliament with the government continuing to be in minority.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

Five nominated members will also be retiring this month and this is expected to increase the comfort zone of the government as nominated members tend to vote with the ruling side. Two nominated members had retired in November last year.

The Election Commission had last month announced biennial election to 13 seats for Rajya Sabha. A seat had fallen vacant in Nagaland in November following death of K. Zhimomi.

The term of seven of the 12 outgoing members ends on April 2 and of the others on April 9. Two of the retiring members are from Assam, one from Himachal Pradesh, three from Kerala, one from Tripura and five from Punjab.

Of the five seats in Punjab, the Congress and Shiromani Akali Dal have retained two seats each while the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has retained its lone seat. In Himachal Pradesh, the Congress has gained a seat as the outgoing member Bimla Kashyap Sood was from the BJP, while the Nagaland People’s Front-led alliance candidate has been elected unopposed in Nagaland.

In Kerala, a seat each has gone to the Congress, the Janata Dal-United and the Communist Party of India-Marxist.

In Assam, three candidates are in fray for two seats, both held by the Congress. The election will be held on March 21.

The BJP has 48 members in the upper house while the Congress has 66. A total of 74 Rajya Sabha members will be retiring in 2016.

IANS