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When even Sushma Swaraj couldn’t help an individual

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Saturday expressed inability in helping a British woman charity worker of Iranian origin who has been sentenced to one year imprisonment by a court in Odisha on charges of causing death of a tribal child due to negligence.Swaraj had sought a report from Odisha government on the case involving 28-year-old Narges K Ashtari.She said she cannot help the woman due to the court order. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif earlier this week has said that Iran will use all its capacity to secure Ashtari’s release. “I have received the report from Government of Odisha. The trial court has convicted Narges K Ashtari to one year imprisonment and Rs 3,00,000/- fine.”She has filed an appeal before Sessions Court which is pending. The appellate court has released her on bail pending appeal. This is a judicial order and the matter is sub judice.Therefore, I am unable to help in this case @BorisJohnson @JZarif,” Swaraj said in a series of tweets. She also tagged Zarif as well as British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson in her tweets. Ashtari, who runs an orphanage through her NGO Prishan Foundation in Rayagada district of Odisha, was found guilty by a court in the case relating to causing death to a child due to negligence. She faced the charges after the disappearance of the child in 2014, who is feared drowned.An online petition by social activists has recently sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intervention in seeking justice for Ashtari saying she has dedicated her life in serving orphan and abandoned children around the world. Earlier this week, the Iranian Foreign Minister had said “The Foreign Ministry considers it its duty to protect Iranian nationals residing abroad, including students, elites and businessmen… and will use all its capacity to support them and restore their rights.”He said the Iranian Foreign Ministry and Iran’s embassy in New Delhi are following up on her case though diplomatic, consular and legal channels. Born in Isfahan, central Iran, Ashtari’s parents moved to the UK when she was four years old.

Centre shelves plan to set up world biggest solar power project in Leh

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Centre has dropped the plan to set up the world’s biggest solar power project in Leh owing to the huge transmission system cost.Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) had planned to set up 5,000 Mega Watt (MW) solar power project in Leh and 2,500 MW project in Kargil in 2013.The Leh administration had also identified the land for the project. But owing to the huge costs on the transmission system, the government decided to drop the project as of now.”The land too was identified where this project was to be established. But the transmission cost of the project was huge. So MNRE decided to drop it as of now,” T Gyalson, assistant director planning, Leh, told DNA.The solar power project was to be set up in the Leh district which is at the altitude of 11,562 feet and known as roof of the world. The project required at least 20,000 acre of the land in the cold desert. “We had identified the land at Chang Tha side for the project. But it did not take off because of the huge transmission cost”, said Gyalson.The ambitious project was supposed to not only meet the local energy demand but to make the restive Jammu and Kashmir a power surplus state.”India has 5,000 megawatt hydro power projects. It would have been the first solar power project with 5,000 megawatt capacity. It would have been world’s biggest in harnessing solar power,” said an officer.Cold desert of Ladakh has a huge potential in tapping the solar energy. Vast patches of barren land surrounded by gigantic mountains makes Leh a suitable place for setting up the solar power projects.However, the cold desert was left out from the scheme of things till 2013. It was after the experts realised the potential of Ladakh that the planners put their heads together and decided to harness the solar energy potential in a bid to make Jammu and Kashmir a power surplus state.”The evacuation for the transmission line is a big problem for executing the mega project. It is a very costly exercise. Therefore as of now, this project will not take off. However, we are working on smaller projects. There is a proposal for setting up small solar power plants. We are in the process of identifying the land for smaller projects,” said an official of MNRE.

Absurd even by their standards: India slams Pakistan for calling RSS, Shiv Sena ‘terrorist organizations’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>India slammed Pakistan for labelling certain Indian political parties and social organisations as terror outfits, calling it a “desperate attempt” at deflecting international focus from Islamabad’s complicity in “spawning” terrorist groups like LeT, JuD and JeM. External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said Pakistan Foreign Ministry’s statement yesterday linking political parties and social organisations to terror was “absurd even by Pakistan’s standards”. “Labelling bonafide Indian political parties and social and cultural organisations as terrorist organisations seems a desperate attempt to deflect international focus from Pakistan’s own complicity in spawning internationally proscribed organisations like LeT, JuD and JeM, which continue to target Pakistan’s neighbours from territory under Pakistan’s control,” he said. Swarup was responding to a query on Pakistan’s comments ysterday on Jammu and Kashmir and allegations against certain political parties and organisations.The official spokesperson of Pakistan Foreign Ministry had yesterday said, “Terrorist organisations such as RSS, Vishwa Hindu Prasad, Shiv Sena, Bajrang Dal and other terrorist elements” are engaged in the drive to change demography of Kashmir.

ED registers criminal case against Zakir Naik, his foundation for money laundering

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Enforcement Directorate has registered a criminal case against controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik and his organisation IRF under money laundering laws.Officials said the agency’s zonal office in Mumbai has registered an FIR, called Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) in ED’s parlance, against Naik and others after taking cognisance of a similar complaint booked by the NIA under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act against them.The ED, they said, will specifically look into the charges of alleged illegal funds laundered by the accused and the proceeds of crime in its probe.The agency has already scanned some banking transaction documents and other details against Naik and IRF and is soon expected to issue summons to take the probe forward.The National Investigation Agency had last month registered a case against 51-year-old Naik under anti-terror laws for allegedly promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion and race.After registering the case against Naik, IRF and others, NIA along with Mumbai police had carried out searches at 10 places in the megapolis, including residential premises of some of the office bearers of the foundation, which was earlier put on restricted list by the Union Home Ministry for receiving funds from abroad.Naik, who has been staying in Saudi Arabia to evade arrest after his name surfaced during a probe into the Bangladesh terror strike earlier this year, has been booked along with unnamed IRF officials under section 153-A of IPC (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony) beside various sections of UAPA.The charges, in the FIR registered by the NIA’s branch in Mumbai, were also slapped under sections 10 (being member of an unlawful organisation), 13 (punishment for being member of illegal organisation) and 18 of UAPA (punishment for being involved in a conspiracy for committing any terror act).IRF came under the scanner of security agencies after one of the terrorists involved in the Dhaka cafe attack had allegedly posted on social media that they had been inspired by Naik’s speeches. Some of the youths from Mumbai suburbs, who had left their home to join Islamic State earlier this year, were also allegedly inspired by the preacher. Naik’s speeches are banned in the UK, Canada and Malaysia.The Home Ministry has alleged that the NGO had “dubious” links to Peace TV, an international Islamic channel, accused of propagating terrorism.According to the Home Ministry, Naik, who heads the IRF, had allegedly made many provocative speeches and engaged in terror propaganda.Maharashtra Police has also registered criminal cases against Naik for his alleged involvement in radicalising Muslim youth and luring them into terror activities. Naik was alleged to have transferred IRF’s funds received from abroad to Peace TV for making “objectionable” programmes.

Rohit Tandon, Paras Lodha sent to 4-day ED custody by Delhi court in money laundering case

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A Delhi court on Thursday sent city- based lawyer Rohit Tandon and businessman Paras Mal Lodha, arrested in connection with a money laundering case, to four- day custody of the Enforcement Directorate.The duo were produced before Metropolitan Magistrate Ashok Kumar, who allowed their custodial interrogation till January 2.The ED had arrested Tandon in New Delhi Thursday morning in connection with a money laundering probe in a case of seizure of Rs 13.6 crore post demonetization after the police raided his law firm premises as part of an anti-black money operation. Lodha was arrested on December 21 and later the court had sent him to seven-day ED custody on December 22. Advocate Vikas Garg, appearing for the ED, moved two applications before the court seeking 14-day custodial interrogation of Tandon and seven days extension of custody Lodha. However, the court only allowed four days of custodial interrogation for both of them.The ED submitted that as per the FIR, Tandon knew about the details of persons involved in the alleged money laundering racket. “The accused is needed to trail the proceeds of crime and to co-relate the collected information and identify the beneficiaries,” he said.Senior advocate Mohit Mathur, appearing for Tandon, denied the allegations, saying “what they (ED) are saying is the proceeds of crime, I am saying it is my money”.”The Ministry of Finance does not say violating Centre’s November 8 demonetization notification will make it an offence. Any amount of money can be deposited in accounts till December 30,” he said.Seeking extension of Lodha’s ED custody, Garg said “in this matter, an amount of around Rs 20 crore is involved.Search was conducted in Delhi and Kolkata where five locker keys and computer data were collected. In the raid at his Delhi apartment, 10,000 incriminating documents were collected. Lodha is needed in order to correlate the collected data.”Lodha’s counsel Sushil Bajaj said there was no ground to extend the custody of his client who is entitled to be released on bail. “When ED says it has already probed and recovered things, then why is his custody needed? Nothing has been recovered from his possession,” he claimed and added that in case of custodial interrogation, Lodha’s lawyer should be permitted to be present.The counsel also sought medical attention for him as he was suffering from ailments like mouth cancer and also had brain tumour which was removed and has two stents in his arteries.The agency suspected that Tandon was allegedly instrumental in the illegal conversion of demonetized currency worth about Rs 60 crore in purported connivance with Lodha and arrested Kotak Mahindra Bank manager in Delhi, Ashish Kumar.With Tandon’s arrest, the investigative agencies have now nabbed some of the major players of the two high-profile black money rackets unearthed after the note ban.Tandon’s case pertains to an operation of Delhi Police’s Crime Branch and the Income Tax department earlier this month when they had seized Rs 13.6 crore, of which Rs 2.6 crore was in new currency, allegedly from a law firm that he is associated with.The ED had booked a PMLA case against him based on the police FIR. The lawyer was earlier separately searched by the tax department where it was said that he had declared undisclosed income worth over Rs 125 crore to the taxman.

From setback in Kashmir to finalising Rafale deal: Mixed year for armed forces in 2016

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Signing of long-pending deals including one for Rafale fighters, a logistics agreement with the US, new blacklisting and defence procurement policies besides induction of indigenous nuclear submarine were some of the achievements of the defence ministry in 2016, which was a mixed year for the armed forces.The high point for the military was the daring surgical strike carried out by the special forces on terror launch pads across the LoC it lost a number of soldiers during the year. Jammu and Kashmir alone saw over 80 security personnel being killed while countering Pakistan’s proxy war. The army managed to eliminate about 160 militants in the state including the poster boy of militancy Burhan Wani.Many security personnel were also killed fighting armed insurgency. Deadly attacks on the Pathankot air base, and army camps in Uri and Nagrota were a setback that led to the loss of several lives.The armed forces also had a mixed year when it came to administration and compensation issues. While the government drastically increased the ex-gratia for the armed forces, the 7th Pay Commission recommendations and a controversial letter on parity with their civilian counterparts for administrative duties left a bad taste.The decision of the government to bypass the long-followed principle of seniority when it came to selecting an army also led to lot of heartburns in the military especially the Armoured Corps. But one thing that the armed forces seemed to be most happy with was Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s push for modernisation. Even as the government brought in a new defence procurement policy emphasising on ‘Make in India’ and a blacklisting policy offering a mixture of heavy fines and graded punishment rather than blanket blacklisting, the Ministry moved fast on procurements.A lot many deals pending for years were cleared by the Defence Ministry besides giving nod to many other proposals. The biggest deal to be struck during 2016 was the one for 36 Rafale fighter jets for 7.8 billion Euros. The file for a medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) was first moved in 2000. The Narendra Modi-led government had in 2015 agreed to go in for 36 Rafales in a direct deal with France while terminating the original tender for 126 MMRCA. The aircraft, equipped with latest weapons including the 150 KM range beyond visual range missile ‘Meteor’, can even carry nuclear bombs, will add to the strategic assets of the country. Another big move was the induction of the indigenously developed nuclear submarine Arihant. The government has still not officially announced the induction.The understanding between India and Russia to lease a second nuclear submarine was another important strategic move. The terms and conditions are still being worked out. The Inter-Governmental Agreement on the purchase of S400 Triumf air defence system is also a big development even though the nitty gritty are yet to be worked out. The decision to finally induct the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft Tejas was also a big move. India and Russia restarted talks on the fifth generation fighter aircraft programme after a hiatus of about a year.The contract for the purchase of M777 light weight howitzers was also welcomed by the army which will deploy most of them along the borders with China. The M777 was the first artillery deal cleared by the Indian government since the Bofors scandal of late 1980s. To ensure better deployment of these guns, the ministry also struck a deal for 15 heavy lift Chinook helicopters.Giving the IAF yet another fillip to its strength, 2016 saw signing of a deal with the US for 22 Apache attack helicopters. The signing of the much-debated logistics agreement with the US was also an important development. The UPA government had refused to sign it but Parrikar went along after the US rewrote the agreement as per India’s conditions. Even though the Defence Ministry was not directly involved, investigating agencies carried out raids against a number of defence middlemen while cases were registered against some staying abroad in connection with alleged corruption.Another big development that came towards the end of 2016 was the successful fourth test of the indigenously developed inter-continental nuclear capable missile Agni V that has a range to cover entire China. The missile is now ready for user trials and eventual induction into the Strategic Forces Command.

No more ‘Jung’ as Anil Baijal becomes Delhi’s L-G

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Former IAS official, Anil Baijal on Wednesday replaced Najeeb Jung as Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor. Jung resigned from the post last week.Sources in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said that the decision was taken by President Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday after he accepted Jung’s resignation.External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj took to Twitter to congratulate Baijal. “I welcome Shri #AnilBaijal as the Lt.Governor of Delhi, (SIC)” Swaraj tweeted.Baijal, a 1969 batch IAS officer, had previously served as Union Home Secretary under the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government and has held the several key positions in other ministries.Officials said that while Baijal’s name was recommended by the MHA, the papers reached the President’s office on Tuesday evening.Baijal had retired from service in 2006 as Secretary, Urban Development Ministry and has served as the former Vice-Chairman of Delhi Development Authority.He is also credited with the designing and roll-out of the Rs 60,000 crore Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) which was launched by the UPA government.Jung’s sudden resignation had come as a surprise to many including Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. “I spoke to Najeeb Jung over the phone and he said that he has resigned for personal reasons. We wish him all the best for future and look forward to working with the new L-G,” media reports quoted Kejriwal as saying.Delhi Home Minister Satyendar Jain, who was at loggerheads with Jung over a host of issues — including the foreign visits by AAP ministers, also met the outgoing LG on Wednesday.Jung became Delhi LG in July 2013, replacing Tajender Khanna, another IAS officer. A former IAS official of 1973 batch, he was initially posted in Madhya Pradesh and was last associated with Jamia Millia Islamia, where he was the vice-chancellor from 2009-2013.The former L-G had constantly been in the news for the past two years for his confrontation with the AAP’s Delhi Government and Chief Minister Kejriwal. He had also formed the committee chaired by VK Shunglu on August 30, to examine 400 files on decisions taken by the Kejriwal regime.

Search panel reconstituted on orders of PMO for AIIMS director job

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The search-cum-selection committee, tasked with shortlisting names for the AIIMS director’s post, has been reconstituted following orders from the Prime Minister’s Office and it would be headed by the Health Secretary instead of the Union Health Minister.The new five-member panel will be led by Health Secretary C K Mishra as the chairman. The committee will include Principal Scientific Adviser to PM R Chidambaram, Secretary in Department of Health Research Soumya Swaminathan, Director General of Health Services (DGHS) Jagdish Prasad and Vice Chancellor of the Delhi University Yogesh Tyagi.The PMO last week had ordered reconstitution of the search panel based on DoPT guidelines amid allegations of nepotism against some members of the panel. “We had recommended the names for the search-cum- selection committee which has been approved by the DoPT and the order has come today,” a senior official in the Health Ministry said.Also, antecedents of applicants will be verified thoroughly before finalisation of names, sources in the Union Health Ministry said.As per rules, the search-cum-selection committee selects a name from the list of candidates which is then sent to the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) headed by the Prime Minister for final approval.It is learnt the move came after some applicants for the AIIMS top job accused some members of the panel of conflict of interest as they have close relationship with a particular candidate. They have also raised the issue of eligibility of promotee professors for the director’s post.Earlier, a search-cum-selection panel under the chairmanship of Health Minister J P Nadda was constituted to select the new Director of AIIMS. “The PMO had ordered the reconstitution of the committee after certain issues concerning members of the panel were raised. Also, DoPT had sought opinion of the PMO regarding AIIMS president J P Nadda chairing the panel,” a source said.According to sources, 53 eminent doctors, including 35 candidates from outside AIIMS, have applied for the post and the screening of applications is complete.The main contenders for the top post include V K Paul, Head of the Department (HOD) of Paediatrics, Randeep Guleria, HOD of Pulmonary Medicine and Sleep Disorders and Alka Kriplani, HOD of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.Current AIIMS director M C Mishra is set to retire on January 31 next year.

Former Union Home Secretary Anil Baijal becomes new LG of Delhi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Career bureaucrat Anil Baijal was on Wednesday appointed as the new Lt Governor of Delhi, a post which has fallen vacant after sudden resignation of Najeeb Jung.70-year-old Baijal, a 1969 batch IAS officer, had served as Union Home Secretary under the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government besides holding key positions in other ministries. The President accepted the resignation of Jung and also ordered for appointment of Baijal, who will be the 21st Lt Governor of the national capital. Baijal had retired from service in 2006 as Secretary, Urban Development Ministry. He is a former vice chairman of Delhi Development Authority Baijal was actively associated with the designing and roll-out of Rs 60,000 crore Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) launched by the Manmohan Singh government. The former bureaucrat was also on the executive council of the think-tank Vivekananda International Foundation, several of whose former members have been appointed to senior positions by the Modi government including National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. Jung had submitted his resignation on December 22, ending a nearly three-and-half-year-long eventful tenure, mostly marked by bitter confrontation with AAP government.

DNA Evening Must Reads: Anil Baijal likely to be new Delhi LG, Mulayam rules out alliance with any party; and more

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Former Union Home Secretary Anil Baijal likely to be new Delhi LGCareer bureaucrat Anil Baijal looks set to become the next Lt Governor of Delhi, a post which has fallen vacant after sudden resignation of Najeeb Jung. Read more here. Uttar Pradesh assembly elections: SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav rules out alliance with any partyAmid speculations, Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav on Wednesday ruled out the possibility of an alliance with any political party for the upcoming Uttar Pradesh assembly elections. Read more here. Kalmadi defers Life President post of IOA, Sports Ministry issues showcause noticeFaced with a barrage of criticism, scam-tainted Suresh Kalmadi declined the position of the Indian Olympic Association’s Life President even as the Sports Ministry issued a showcause notice to the IOA for its controversial decision. Read more here. Cabinet clears ordinance: Face jail time, Rs 50,000 penalty for holding old notesThe Cabinet on Wednesday approved promulgation of an ordinance to impose a penalty, including a jail term, for possession of the scrapped 500 and 1,000 rupee notes beyond a cut-off. Read more here. Scrap cash withdrawal limit, reveal how much black money recovered post demonetization: Rahul to ModiUpping the ante on the government’s demonetization drive, Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday said Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sacrificed the common man in ‘yagna’ against black money. Read more here. Shocking: Ram Gopal Verma SLAMS Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan!Ram Gopal Verma took to Twitter to post a series of tweets, giving a thumbs up to Aamir’s brilliant performance. But while doing so, he took a serious jibe at the other Khans- Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan. Read more here.

CEA’s electricity plan for 2027: Four key hurdles will prove achieving targets is a huge task

As the year 2016 comes to a close, the Central Electricity Authority of India (CEA), the apex planning body for the power sector in India, has created a buzz with its draft National Electricity Plan, 2016 (NEP). This document primarily highlights the demand side projections, and presents a perspective on electricity supply sources till 2027. A key highlight of this draft plan is – no coal-based capacity addition is required to meet the country’s power demand by 2027 as 50,025 MW of coal capacity (presently under construction) will suffice for the overall demand. It is also expected that the share of non-fossil (hydro, nuclear, and renewable energy sources) based capacity will reach 46.8 percent by 2021-22, and will further increase to 56.5 percent by the end of 2026-27; as compared to 30 percent at present.

However, all of the ambitious projections come on the back of heavyweight assumptions that a committed capacity addition of 115,326 MW from renewable energy sources (RES), 4,340 MW from natural gas-fired stations, 15,330 MW from hydro, and, 2800 MW from nuclear; will materialise by the end of 2022.



From a climate change perspective, it resonates with India’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) targets pledged at the UN Climate Change Conference held in Paris (COP 21, December 2015). We need to be ambitious to foresee a low-carbon future, but we should also understand the complexity associated with such aggressive planning with regards to deployment of RES. The existing 46.7 GW (as of November 2016) of renewable-based capacity is still far away from the mammoth target of achieving 175 GW by 2022. Practically, to achieve this target within a time frame of five years is a herculean task for any government. By bringing all the four portfolios i.e. power, coal, new and renewable energy, and mines under the control of one minister, there has been a clear intent for swift planning and quick decision making. Yet, the implementation of this plan will come across the following challenges, and there is a need to set out effective plans for the same:

Availability of finance for renewable energy
Reaching 175 GW RE by 2022 would require an investment of more than $200 billion. Council on Energy, Environment, and Water (CEEW) estimates suggest that if we include the costs associated with grid integration and energy balancing, achieving 100 GW of solar alone would require investments ranging between $120 billion to $147 billion. Despite gaining a big jump of 22 percent from the previous year, India’s total RE investments adds up to only $10.2 billion for 2015. Achieving targets in another five years call for massive inflow of money considering all the perceived risks (honouring the contracts, financial health of distribution company, construction and clearance risk, delays and challenges in land acquisition, etc.) in this sector.

Availability/Acquisition of land for solar projects
One of the major constraints behind rapid expansion of renewable energy projects is availability of land and associated delays. Considering solar projects alone, as per the Ministry of New and Renewable energy (MNRE), 60 GW is likely to come in the form of utility-scale solar projects, while grid-connected rooftop is expected to constitute the remaining 40 GW share. As a simple rule of thumb, each MW of solar requires 4 acres of land. Such a massive scale of land acquisition within a short time frame, especially in India’s development context, could pose significant problems. We have some examples demonstrating novel ways to minimise the use of land, such as canal-top projects, hybrid solar-wind farms, co-locating solar installations and agriculture, etc. But, such ideas also have specific challenges and limited viability.

Intermittency with renewables and grid integration
Solar and wind does not generate electricity round the clock, and hence are intermittent in nature. To integrate an intermittent source of power with the grid is a challenging task. It requires lots of planning, such as a day ahead time scheduling. Assimilation of a humongous amount of renewable power (175 GW) will require at least 53.56 mmscmd of natural gas to meet the grid balancing requirements (as per the draft plan). Alternatively, grid storage is another option. In any case, resultant tariff after balancing adjustment could be uncompetitive with prevailing coal prices. This could prove to be a major deterrent. Anyhow, a significant boost to the 24 GW of natural gas fired power generation capacity is essentially required. This shall be driven either by cheaper imported gas prices, or through subsidy/incentive linked mechanisms. From a long-term perspective, focus on R&D in storage technologies could be a game changer for India.

Low PLF of thermal power plants
Implementation of NEP means a drastic fall in capacity utilisation of coal based thermal power plants, which can go to as low as 48 percent. That said many of them could turn into non-performing assets due to technical unviability.

While, all three scenarios presented in the draft NEP are highly aggressive in terms of meeting RE targets, a business-as-usual scenario would also be useful to make clear the kind of efforts required by all the stakeholders. The draft NEP reaffirms India’s climate commitments and aggressive renewable energy goals. However, it requires a strategic road map and strict implementation of policies to drive India’s low carbon growth.

(The writer is a Programme Lead at the Council on Energy, Environment and Water – a policy research organisation based in New Delhi. He can be reached at [email protected])

First Published On : Dec 28, 2016 15:12 IST

Railways doubles compensation ?of? accident victims

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>​The ​Ministry of Railways has decided to revise the amounts of compensation payable in respect of Death & Injuries to the passengers involved in Accidents and Untoward Incidents. In the revised compensation rules the amount in all the categories have been doubled with respect to the existing amounts. This has been done by amending “The Railway Accidents and Untoward Incidents (Compensation) Rules, 1990”. The new amended rules are being now referred to as “The Railway Accidents and Untoward Incidents (Compensation) Rules, 2016”.As per the revised Compensation Rules, compensation in case of death has been doubled from Rs. 4 lakh to Rs. 8 lakh. The new rules will come into effect from 1st January 2017. The schedule giving the amounts of both existing and revised rates are given below.COMPENSATION PAYABLE FOR DEATH AND INJURIES

Agni V test firing: India’s nuke capabilities not targeted against any nation, says MEA

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Maintaining that its strategic capabilities were not targeted against any particular country, India on Tuesday said it abides by all applicable international obligations and expects others do the same, while responding to Chinese reaction to its test-firing of Agni V missile.”India’s strategic capabilities are not targeted against any particular country. India abides by all the applicable international obligations and hopes that all other do the same. “India’s strategic autonomy and growing engagement contributes to strategic stability,” External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said.The Spokesperson’s remarks came after Chinese Foreign Ministry hoped that India’s test-firing of the nuclear-capable Agni-V intercontinental ballistic missile that could cover all of China complied with UN Security Council rules and safeguarded South Asia’s strategic balance. Even as Beijing maintained that the two nations are “not rivals for competition but partners for cooperation”, it took exception to media reports that the successful test of Agni-V was meant to target China.Foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying in Beijing said,” We have noted reports on India’s test fire of Agni-5 ballistic missile. The UN Security Council has explicit regulations on whether India can develop ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons”. “China always maintains that preserving the strategic balance and stability in South Asia is conducive to peace and prosperity of regional countries and beyond.” India had yesterday successfully test-fired Agni-V, the country’s most lethal nuclear-capable inter-continental ballistic missile with a range of over 5,000 kms that covers entire China which may also pave the way for user trial of the weapons system and its eventual induction into the Strategic Forces Command (SFC).

Home Ministry cancels FCRA license of 20,000 NGOs

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> FCRA licences of around 20,000 of 33,000 NGOs have been cancelled by the government after they were found to be allegedly violating various provisions of the FCRA, thus barring them from receiving foreign funds. This was conveyed to Home Minister Rajnath Singh during a review of the Foreigners Division of the Home Ministry in New Delhi on Tuesday.Giving a detailed presentation, Home Ministry officials said after cancellation of FCRA licences of around 20,000 NGOs, only 13,000 NGOs in the country are legally valid now to receive foreign funds. “The exercise of reviewing the working of the NGOs was started about a year ago and the process is still continuing. The cancellation of the FCRA licences of the NGOs done over a period of one year,” a Home Ministry spokesperson said.Among the 13,000 valid NGOs, around 3,000 have submitted applications for renewal while Home Ministry received 2,000 new applications for registration under the FCRA for the first time. An additional 300 NGOs are currently under prior permission category but not registered under the FCRA. However, FCRA licences of around 16 NGOs were renewed by the Home Ministry under the “automatic” route and all the cases were reviewed thoroughly and except in two cases, 14 NGOs have been put under the prior permission category while papers of the two NGOs are under examination.As per FCRA, if an NGO is put under prior permission category, it is barred to receive foreign funding from abroad without taking permission from the Home Ministry. A Home Ministry official tonight said of the around 33,000 NGOs registered under the FCRA, 27,000 were due for renewal this year. Of these 27,000 NGOs, around 19,000 NGOs have submitted applications for renewal under the FCRA.And of the 19,000 NGOs, FCRA licences of 15,500 NGOs were renewed. Among the total 27,000 NGOs, 8,000 have time till February for renewal of their licences under FCRA. The official said just FCRA licences of just 222 NGOs were cancelled in recent past

Mamata vs Centre: WB Police asked not to send report directly to Home Ministry

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The West Bengal government has instructed the police not to send any report directly to the Union Home Ministry on the law-and-order situation in the state without getting it vetted by the state secretariat.”This is a practise where the Home Ministry sends a letter to the state police headquarters seeking a report on the law-and-order situation every year and replies are sent directly to it without seeking the opinion of the secretariat,” a highly-placed source at the state secretariat told PTI. But this year, the report from the police headquarters requires a nod from the secretariat, before being sent to the Centre, he added. The source said the letter from the Centre, which was sent recently to the state police headquarters (Bhawani Bhawan), sought information on law-and-order in the backdrop of the arrest of several persons having links with terror outfits such as the JMB and IS, unearthing of an international child-trafficking racket and seizure of fake currency notes.He said an “internal circular” was issued from the top echelons of the state police that “no statistics would be sent to the Home Ministry without the consent of the state secretariat”. The circular stated that henceforth such queries from the Home Ministry, seeking any report on law-and-order, should be forwarded to the state Director General of Police. From now on, no official at the police directorate will be allowed to send any report to the Home Ministry directly. The DGP will go through the Centre’s queries following which top officials of the administration will meet to decide whether to answer them or not. In certain cases, the chief minister’s opinion could also be sought, the source said.In 2013, the state had not sent any statistics to the National Crime Bureau (NCB). The decision of the state government came in the wake of deterioration in the Centre-state ties over a number of issues such as the deployment of army at toll plazas “without taking the state’s permission” and CRPF personnel accompanying income tax officers during a search operation in the state. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had described the two developments as a move against the spirit of the federal structure.

Ensure victims of sexual harassment at workplace are not subjected to vendetta: Government

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> To prevent aggrieved women from being victimised in cases of sexual harassment at work places, the Centre has asked all ministries and departments to ensure that they are not posted under the accused or any other person where she may be subjected to harassment.The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) also said in proven cases of sexual harassment, for a period of five years, a watch should be kept to ensure that the victim is not subjected to vendetta.”It should be ensured that the aggrieved women are not victimised in connection with the complaints filed by them… In case of any victimisation, the complainant may submit a representation to the Secretary in the case of Ministries or Departments and Head of the Organisation in other cases,” the DoPT order said.These representations should be dealt with sensitivity, in consultation with the complaints committees, ministries or departments and heads of the departments. And a decision should be taken within 15 days of the submission. The order came following a meeting of Minister of Women and Child Development with the DoPT where concerns were raised over the undue delay in completion of inquiries in such cases.”Any inquiry in cases of sexual harassment of women at the work place should be completed within one month and no probe should take more than 90 days, the permissible time limit prescribed under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013″ it said.The Ministries and Departments have been directed to include information related to the number of such cases and their disposal in their annual reports.They have also been directed to furnish the details of number of complaints received, disposed and action taken in a monthly report to the Ministry of Women and Child Development.

Norway authorities should return Indian child Aryan to natural parents: Sushma Swaraj

New Delhi: Ahead of its Ambassador’s meeting with authorities in Norway involving the custody of a child of a Indo-Norwegian family, on Tuesday India made it clear that it wants the five-and-a-half year boy united with his natural parents.

Taking a hard stance, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said she refuses to accept that foster parents can take better care of the child than natural parents.

In a series of tweets, Swaraj said, “Our Ambassador in Norway is meeting the Norwegian authorities today regarding Aryan. I refuse to accept that foster parents can take better care of the child than the natural parents.

“The foster parents are totally ignorant of the Indian culture and our food habits. We want restoration of Aryan to his natural parents.”

Sushma Swaraj. PTISushma Swaraj. PTI

Sushma Swaraj. PTI

Indian national Gurvinderjit Kaur and her husband, who is a Norwegian national, have alleged that authorities in that country have taken away their son, also a Norwegian national, on a frivolous complaint of abuse.

Kaur had also written to the Ministry seeking help in getting back her son, who has been taken away by the Norway Child Welfare Services.

This is the third case since 2011 when children have been taken away from their Indian-origin parents by the authorities in Norway on the grounds of abuse.

In 2011, a three-year-old and a one-year-old were separated from their parents, prompting the then UPA government to take up the issue with Norway.

The Norwegian court later allowed the children to be reunited with their parents.

In December 2012, an Indian couple was jailed on charges of ill treatment of their children, 7 and 2 years. Later, they were sent to their grandparents in Hyderabad.

First Published On : Dec 27, 2016 11:07 IST

Centre launches anti-cancer crusade

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Criticising the Delhi Government for its inability to implement laws on tobacco ban, Faggan Singh Kulaste, Minister of Health and Family Welfare on Monday said that the capital needed to step up its actions for tobacco control.“Sale of tobacco has been banned in the states of Gujarat and Maharashtra. In Delhi though, the ban on tobacco reflects only on papers,” he said at an event on Monday, where he launched, ‘Cancel Cancer’, a cancer awareness campaign.According to the latest data available with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, between April 2012 to September 2015, at least 13 states, including Delhi, didn’t issue any challan or fine for smoking in public.Speaking at the event held at the Lady Hardinge Medical College, he said, “Tobacco products are easily available at every nook and corner of our country and are being consumed mainly by the youth, specially school-going kids of the middle and poor class.” As part of the campaign on cancer, they aim to raise awareness on the lethal effects of tobacco, how it causes cancer and measures to control it. “Among other things, the campaign aims at educating people against the hazards of tobacco that is the root cause of cancer. The government supports this cause,” Kulaste said.According to a report released in 2013 by the Central Government one in every five person under 21 years of age is addicted to tobacco. The report also mentions that out of 2 crore homeless children in India, 40-70 per cent come in contact with some or the other form of intoxication.The Centre recently issued a complete ban on sale of food products containing tobacco and nicotine across India. These would include Gutka, Paan Masala, Zarda and tobacco-based flavoured mouth fresheners. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has directed all states to issue strict directions for banning the production, promotion and sale of these food products.

India says it is in touch with Yemen, Saudi Arabia authorities for Father Tom’s release

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>India on Monday said it was in regular touch with Yemeni authorities and Saudi Arabia regarding the safe release of Father Tom Uzhunnalil, who was abducted nearly nine months ago from war-torn Yemen, after a video of the priest pleading for help became viral.”You are aware of the circumstances currently prevailing in Yemen where fighting is going on with no central authority in that country.”With regard to the safe release of Father Tom who was abducted some months ago, we have been in regular touch with countries in the region, especially Saudi Arabia as also the local Yemeni authorities. Efforts continue in this regard,” External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said.In the video, also uploaded on Facebook, Tom was seen as pleading for help from Indian government and fellow Christians including Pope Francis. However, the veracity of the video could not be ascertained.He also said “several months have gone by and my captors have made many contacts with the government of India to get me released. Honourable President and Prime Minister of India, I am very sad nothing has been done seriously in my regard. Reports have been in news that everything is being done to get me released quickly but in reality nothing seems to have happened.”He further said had he been “a European priest, I would have been taken more seriously by authorities and people and (they) would have got me released. I am from India and therefore, I perhaps am not considered as of much value”.Uzhunnalil was abducted from the port city of Aden on March 4 by militant group ISIS.

Naxal-hit areas to get 11 new Kendriya Vidyalaya, 5 Navodaya Vidyalaya

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Eleven Kendriya Vidyalaya (KV) and five Navodaya Vidyalaya (NV) will be set up in Naxal-hit areas by the Centre in its efforts to reach out to the people living there.The central government-run schools will be set up by the HRD Ministry at the initiative of the Home Ministry which has identified the areas where basic education was lacking.Those districts where the KVs will be set up include Nawada (Bihar), Sukma, Kondagaon, Bijapur (all Chhattisgarh), Khunti, Giridhi, Chatra, Dumka, Palamu (all Jharkhand) and Gadchiroli (Maharashtra), official sources said.There are 35 worst Naxal-hit districts among the ten Maoist affected states in the country. Out of these districts, 24 districts presently have 52 KVs.The five new NVs to be set up in Ramgarh, Khunti (both in Jharkhand), Narayanpur, Bijapur, Kondagaon (all in Chhattisgarh) districts. At present there are 33 NVs in 30 Naxal-hit districts.

Kerala: Opposition demands resignation of LDF minister MM Mani charged in murder case

Kochi: Stepping up its attack against Electricity Minister MM Mani after he rejected Opposition’s demand to quit following a court’s refusal of discharging him from a 34-year-old murder case, Congress on Monday alleged that his presence in the CPM-led LDF government would weaken the trial into the charges against him.

“Mani is an accused in a murder case. He must quit. It is necessary to ensure proper justice in the case,” KPCC Chief V M Sudheeran told reporters here.

He alleged that Mani’s presence in the government would help him “pressurise” witnesses and Investigating Officers.

“We strongly believe that there will be efforts to influence the witnesses,” Sudheeran said.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Mani has rejected opposition Congress and BJP’s demand that he quit after a court in Thodupuzha refused to discharge him as an accused in the 34-year-old murder case, saying he would fight the case both “legally and politically”.

Noting that Mani is the second accused in the case related to the murder of Youth Congress leader Anchery Baby in November 1982, Sudheeran said that his continuation in the Ministry raises “moral, ethical and legal” questions.

“So the chief minister should seek his resignation from the Ministry or he should be sacked,” the KPCC president said.

Sudheeran also asked the CPM central leadership to explain their stand on the issue.

The state unit of CPI(M) heading the LDF regime, has rallied behind Mani, saying the demand for his resignation was “politically motivated”.

“The demand is politically motivated. The case existed when Mani contested the state Assembly elections. There is nothing new in the court verdict. The demand for his resignation has no basis and he can continue as Minister,” CPM State Secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan had said, soon after the verdict on Saturday.

First Published On : Dec 26, 2016 15:54 IST

Sri Lanka to soon release 20 Indian fishermen

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Sri Lankan Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Minister Mahinda Amaraweera has said that the detained Indian fishermen will be released soon.In this regard, the Ministry has recommended to the Attorney General department to release 20 Indian fishermen in Sri Lankan custody at present, reports Colombo Page. However, the fishing vessels of the Indian fishermen will be returned upon their release.Amaraweera said that the Indian Government has already submitted a request for the release of the fishermen in Sri Lankan custody. “Once the recommendations reach the Attorney General, he will inform the court that there is no objection,” the Minister added.He added that the Indian Fisheries Minister is scheduled to visit Sri Lanka on January 2 for ministerial level talks on fishermen issue.”So this is essentially a sign of goodwill. Very quickly the fishermen will be released,” he said.

Kirti Azad terms Arun Jaitley ‘inefficient’, seeks his resignation

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Continuing his tirade against Arun Jaitley, suspended BJP leader and MP Kirti Azad on Sunday termed the Finance Minister as an “inefficient” person and sought his resignation holding him responsible for the hardships faced by the common man post-demonetisation.”It is Arun Jaitley who is bringing disrepute to the government… It is he who is responsbile for the hardships faced by the common people post-demonetization. The Finance Minister is an inefficient person and is also not an economist. He should resign,” he told reporters here.”Our Prime Minister has taken a decision (of demonetizing high value notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1000) and banks are indulged in converting crores of black money into white.In whose jurisdiction these banks come? These bank come under the ambit of the Finance Ministry,” said Azad, who represents Darbhanga in Lok Sabha.The former cricketer was suspended by party chief Amit Shah on December 23 last year for publicly targeting the Finance Minister for “irregularities” in DDCA, of which Jaitley was the President for 13 years till 2013.He had also criticised Jaitley two months back saying that those “rejected” by the electorate have not only been made ministers but have become “all in all” in the government and the party.Azad attacked the government, saying it would have made sufficient arrangements and preparations to deal with the situation post-demonetisation “had its intentions been clear”.”The government’s policymakers do not have practical knowledge. Their all assessments are based on far from reality,” he alleged.While frequent raids are being conducted across the country to catch people having black money, why such raids were not conducted earlier by the Finance Ministry, Azad wondered.Cashless transaction system, which is being aggressively promoted and popularised by the government, seems to be difficult to succeed in a country like India, Azad said and added that e-payment is not cent per cent safe and secure.Demonetization has its adverse impact on farmers, labourers, workers, small traders, jewellers, he said adding that even vegetable growers are not getting fair price of their produce.”There are people (in the party), who have been rejected by the people in the elections, have not only been made ministers (in the Union government) but have actually become ‘sarve-sarva’ (all in all) both in the government and in the organisation,” Azad had told a press meet at his residence on October 23, 2016 in his Lok Sabha constituency Darbhanga.He was apparently referring to Jaitley who had lost in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls but was made Union minister.

Sports ministry does U-turn as yoga no longer a sport

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>After prime minister Narendra Modi first proposed to observe June 21 as Yoga Day in the future during his September 27, 2014 speech in the United Nations General Assembly, the sports ministry swung into action and immediately decided to included yoga in the list of sport. However, it the decision has been reversed now.Around 14 months ago, when yoga was included as a ‘sport’ and taken away from the ‘performing art’ category, it was expected to create millions of jobs around the country. Backed by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), the sports ministry was even contemplating to include different age-group yoga competitions held at the future National Games apart from recognising the Yoga Federation of India soon.But all that proved to be short-lived joy for those yoga practitioners as the sports ministry has now decided to change its decision, which means that yoga can’t be termed as a sport any more.The decision was taken after a review meeting of the sports ministry on yoga was held earlier this month that was attended by sports minister Vijay Goel. In a communique sent to Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), the Sports Authority of India (SAI) and other related departments on Wednesday, it has been said that the “de-recognition” had the approval of the sports minister and would come into force with immediate effect.”Yoga will continue to be handled by Ministry of AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy),” the letter said.What were the reasons that such a drastic change in decision was taken in merely 15 months?”It is the ministry’s lack of vision and its inability to hold national championships that forced it to drop yoga as a sport,” a senior source in the sports ministry said. “We failed to realise before including yoga as a sport that there was no way we could have held a national championship with so many aasnas involved.”It has been learnt that ministry did discuss the issue with a number of yoga experts before concluding that “it would be nearly impossible to hold Nationals in yoga”.Moreover, there were not many genuine people coming forward to form a federation and to add to that, whoever was showing interest was only looking for government funding.Modi, on the other hand, has been leading the charge in spreading awareness on yoga for the last two years.

Children of single mothers can finally get passports made, but what took this long?

By Ila Ananya

“Madam, you haven’t filled in the father’s name in your daughter’s form.”

“We are not together, she doesn’t need it.”

“Oh. You must just add his name and get his permission then.”

“She has never seen him; there’s no reason for his name to be on her passport.”

“Madam, naam hi toh hai. Father ke naam aur permission ke bina kya hoga? Kuch nahin. (Madam, it’s just a name. What can happen without the father’s name and permission? Nothing.)”

My aunt’s friend had this conversation with the man at the passport office in Bangalore 10 years ago. She got married when she was 20, and now she’s 33. When her daughter turned three, they decided to go to London. But the trip never happened because passport officers demanded that her daughter have her father’s name on her passport — after they got his permission to issue it to her in the first place — a man she had never seen or heard from.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

My aunt’s friend hadn’t known the man very well when married him. Everyone told her parents he was a nice guy — good business, so he will be a good husband, they said — and the first few times they met, he seemed alright. But when she got pregnant a year into the marriage, he told her he was in love with another woman and left. He never returned.

Now, 10 years after she tried to get her daughter a passport without her father’s name (she still doesn’t have one), the Ministry of External Affairs has finally passed new rules meant to ease the application process. The new rules state that the name of only one parent is enough, especially if the applicant requests that only one name be used. When I told her about it, my aunt’s friend only mumbled, “That took a while.”

These new passport rules come a few months after the Delhi High Court had ruled that single mothers can apply for passports for their children without the father’s signature. There’s no such demand regarding the mother’s signature from single fathers — it’s only for the ladies.

Ever since the court’s ruling, I’ve received two petition emails from — both from single mothers trying to get their children’s passports without their father’s name on it. Priyanka Gupta’s petition came in October: Her ex-husband had abandoned them when she had a baby girl. The second petition came earlier this month: Juveria Patni said she is the single mother of a 10-year-old boy. She’d been married to an abusive man whom she managed to leave three months into her pregnancy — the same man who then filed for custody of the son in a long-drawn court case that lasted six years. When she applied for a passport for her son, the officers demanded that she first get permission from the father.

In each of these cases, there has been no standard demand from the passport offices. Some women are asked to get permission from their ex-husbands, others are simply asked to fill in names even when they don’t want to. Some have been told that the system just won’t accept forms without the father’s name. Either way, they are all expected to establish contact with men who have abused them, men who have disappeared, or just men they have divorced — to get “permission” — as though, so far, they haven’t been responsible for themselves or their children.

This isn’t even as surprising as it is ridiculous. When I was headed to Hong Kong last year, I was asked by the officer at Bangalore Airport Immigration about travelling alone. “Akeli ladki? (A girl alone?)” he asked me. In my head I saw Kareena Kapoor’s face from Jab We Met when the station officer tells her, “Akeli ladki khuli tijori ki tarah hoti hai (A girl alone is like an open vault)” — and this was followed by a statement that I didn’t pay much attention to then, “Father ko toh pata hai na? (You father knows about this, right?)”

My colleague told me about a woman she knew who didn’t get a visa to Chile because she needed a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from her husband. Of course, this isn’t an official demand and isn’t written on any website, but travel agents ask for NOCs because, apparently, men are responsible for their wives just like my father must know exactly where I, even as an adult, am travelling to. “No, it’s only for the ladies,” the women say they are told when they question this.

It isn’t only visas and passports. In Asghar Farhadi’s Iranian film A Separation, Razieh comes to work at Nader’s house, telling him that her husband, who has just lost his job and is in a lot of debt, doesn’t know she is working there. I thought of this moment when I read an extremely disturbing piece of news: An unnamed app that helps provide domestic workers with jobs and sends a text message to their husbands every time they go to work in another house, so that they know where they are at every moment. It’s like brothers, fathers, boyfriends always want to know where the women they know are. Because “Safety ke liye important hota hai (It’s important for safety),” as my friend’s boyfriend tells her. How hard is that to understand?

The passport officer had told my aunt’s friend, “What can happen without the father’s name and permission? Nothing.”

What, then, does it mean that single mothers can now easily apply for passports for their children without being forced to bring permission letters? Women are constantly told that they need permission to do things, to go someplace, to work somewhere — never mind that they’ve been raising a child on their own or that they’re earning their own money (a thought that’s just so unbelievable for visa agents, apparently).

It wasn’t enough when women said they should make these decisions, it wasn’t even enough when the Delhi high court ruled in their favour. Now, after all this time, perhaps this will be enough.

First Published On : Dec 24, 2016 21:14 IST

FCRA cancellation forces NGO to lay off its 80-odd staff

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Facing cash crunch after the cancellation of FCRA licence, Gujarat-based NGO Navsarjan Trust, which was working for Dalit rights for the last 27 years, has sought resignation of its 80-odd employees and said that the three schools run by it shall be closed.Managing Trustee of Navsarjan Trust, Martin Macwan said the NGO was unable to pay for the salaries of its staff after the Centre revoked its licence to get foreign funds under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA).”It is impossible for us to pay salaries of our employees after the Centre cancelled our FCRA licence. We are facing acute cash crunch due to that move. Thus, we have asked all our 80-odd employees to tender their resignations,” Macwan told PTI.Macwan founded this NGO in 1989 to fight for the rights of Dalits and to take up issues concerning them, such as manual scavenging and social boycott.According to him, the NGO needs around Rs 2.75 crore annually to meet various expenses.”We are largely dependent on the funds from foreign sources to meet our expenses, which runs into Rs 2.75 crore per annum. About 85% of that comes from foreign countries. Now, as our FCRA licence has been cancelled, it is impossible to run our operations or to pay salaries from what we get from local sources,” said Macwan.Apart from running various awareness programs for the upliftment of Dalits across the state, the NGO also runs three schools, one each in Ahmedabad, Surendranagar and Patan district. Now, these schools, where 102 students of 5th standard to 9th standard, are enrolled, are on the verge of closure, said Macwan.”These three schools, which impart education to 102 students of extremely poor Dalit and tribal communities, are having 12 teachers. Now, we have to shut these schools too, as we are unable to pay their salaries and meet other operational expenses. These teachers will be asked to leave only after the completion of this academic session,” said Macwan.A week back, seven NGOs, including Navsarjan Trust, were barred by the Centre government from receiving foreign funds after their FCRA licences were cancelled following alleged adverse intelligence reports against them.The decision has been taken after the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) conducted an inquiry into the functioning of the NGOs whose FCRA licences were renewed in the recent past.

Infantry combat vehicles to be fitted with sensors to detect nuclear, biological, chemical attacks

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In a first, the infantry combat vehicles of the Indian army used for carrying troops into battle zones providing direct fire support will be fitted with automated sensors to detect a nuclear, biological or a chemical attack (NBC).The army plans to procure 1500 indigenously designed modern systems that can be installed on these vehicles. The decision has been taken in view of rising NBC warfare threats. The estimated cost of the project is Rs 1,265 crore.“It will be an automatic mechanism that can detect a threat and act accordingly, controlling air temperature, sealing the vehicle completely and shutting down the systems in the vehicle,” said an army officer.Currently, there is a manual system in case of a threat which is not very effective.Infantry fighting vehicles are armour installed and also allow personnel to fire from within making them distinct from armoured personnel carriers (APCs), which are transport vehicles armed only for self-defense and not specifically engineered to fight on their own.The decision to develop and design a system to combat such threats was taken by the Ministry of Defence on Friday as the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) headed by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar gave the go ahead.Other than this, the DAC cleared the procurement of 55 low-level light weight radars at an estimated cost of Rs. 419 crore for the army and the Air Force that will give 3D images also to be designed indigenously by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).The government also gave clearance to the IAF to purchase one more C17 heavy transport aircraft and also gave the nod to the Coast Guard’s proposal to acquire six multi-mission maritime aircraft for Rs 5,500 crore.Two “classified” proposals for the acquisition of arms and ammunition for the Special Forces and another related to the Airborne Warning And Control System (AWACS) is also understood to have been cleared.The aircraft likely to be shortlisted for the Coast Guard is the C295, which is already been negotiated as a replacement for the Avro transport fleet of the air force.

Mamata writes to Centre on deploying CRPF, calls action unconstitutional

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee shot off a letter on Friday to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, following the deployment of central forces to assist Income-Tax (I-T) officials during their raids in the city.In the letter, Mamata said that the state was kept in the dark about the deployment of 15 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel. “The state government objects strongly to this decision, which is blatantly unconstitutional, illegal and against all principles of cooperative federalism,” the letter read.It said that the deployment of any central police force to any state could only be done at the request of the state government. “The decision must be immediately revoked,” she demanded. Mamata assured that the state would provide all necessary help, if requested by any central government agency.The letter by Mamata had been forwarded to all chief ministers as well.The West Bengal Chief Minister’s letter comes after a letter dated December 20, where the Department of Revenue and the Ministry of Finance requested the Ministry of Home Affairs to provide 15 armed personnel to I-T officials for assistance in their seizure operations in Kolkata.Sources at the I-T department said that during search operations at several places in the city, they had been outnumbered even while being accompanied by state police personnel. Thus they had requested for central forces, which would be used only if there was any lack of cooperation from the part of the state police.”It is, by no means, a step to demean or insult the efforts of the state police. They have been kept as an additional means of precaution. Besides it is not unprecedented. Central forces have been used during recent operations in Tamil Nadu as well,” an investigating official said.Earlier this month, Mamata had protested against the deployment of army personnel at toll plazas calling it a “political vendetta.”

Rumours of dead bodies of Indians piling up in Saudi mortuaries is false: Vikas Swarup

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>External Affairs Ministry described as “completely factually misleading” reports that more than 150 bodies of people from Telangana and Andhra Pradesh were lying in various hospitals and mortuaries in Saudi Arabia. External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup also asserted that there are only about 10 cases that pertain to Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.”This report is completely factually misleading. The report refers to 150 bodies from Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.In reality, there are only about 10 cases that pertain to Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. And the total number of bodies is nowhere near that number,” he said.He was reacting to a report which said at least 150 bodies of residents of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh are piling up at mortuaries in Saudi Arabia for nearly a year with families unable to bring them back to Hyderabad for last rites and the Indian embassy in Riyadh has been of little help.Noting that there are more than 2 million Indians living and working in Saudi Arabia, Swarup said on average, there are 3-4 death cases registered every day on account of natural reasons.Most cases are ‘clear’ cases in which, as per the local norms, it takes around three weeks to send mortal remains even if the documents are in order, the spokesperson added.”In cases of unnatural death, like suicide, murder and industrial accident, and also in those cases wherein the families doubt the circumstances of death, the investigation procedure is very lengthy, causing delay in completion of documentation/transportation of mortal remains,” he said.Swarup further said in some cases, the families demand release of compensation first, before the dispatch of the mortal remains, whereas compensation is a legal process and takes a year.In other cases of delay, DNA samples from the families back home are needed to identify the body and complete the local procedures, he observed.”So at any given time there would be a number of cases, of all categories, being processed. The Embassy proactively follows all death cases on top priority. In fact, NOCs are issued by the Embassy on 24×7 basis.”In the Kafala system (sponsorship) being followed in Saudi Arabia, it is the responsibility of the sponsor to complete the paper-work and dispatch the mortal remains to India. Despite this legal position, the Embassy steps in wherever there are delays in the transportation of mortal remains,” Swarup said.

Sanskari passport: Now sadhus can mention names of spiritual gurus instead of biological parents

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Sadhus and sanyasis can now mention names of their spiritual gurus instead of biological parents under new passport rules announced which also eliminate the mandatory requirement of the birth certificate as the proof of date of birth (DOB).The rules, which were announced by Minister of State for External Affairs V K Singh, also provides a provision for government servants, who are not able to get “no objection certificate” from their respective ministries/departments.In order to streamline, liberalise and ease the process of issue of passport, the ministry has taken a number of steps in the realm of passport policy which is expected to benefit the citizens of India applying for a passport, Singh noted.In case of proof of DOB while filing application, it has now been decided that all applicants of passports can submit any one of the documents –transfer/School leaving/ Matriculation Certificate, PAN card, Aadhaar Card/E-Aadhaar having the DOB of applicant, copy of the extract of the service record of the applicant, driving licence, Election Photo Identity Card (EPIC) or LIC policy bond.Birth Certificate issued by the Registrar of Births & Deaths or the Municipal Corporation or any other prescribed authority whosoever has been empowered under the Registration of Birth & Deaths Act, 1969 to register the birth of a child born in India can also be given as DOB proof.As per the extant statutory provisions of the Passport Rules, 1980, all the applicants born on or after January 26, 1989, had to mandatory submit the birth certificate as the DOB proof to get a passport.The government has also accepted the demand by the sadhus/sanyasis that they should be allowed to write names of their gurus instead of names of their parents, Singh said, adding but they have to provide at least one public document such as EPIC, PAN card, Adhaar Card, etc wherein the name of the guru has been recorded against the column(s) for parent(s) name(s).In case of government servants, who are not able to obtain the Identity Certificate/ No-Objection Certificate from their employer concerned and intend to get the passport on urgent basis can now get the passport by submitting a self- declaration that he/she has given prior Intimation letter to his/her employer informing that he/she was applying for an ordinary passport.A report of a inter-ministerial committee with members from MEA and Women and Child Development ministry to examine issues pertaining to applications where mother/child has insisted that the name of the father should not be mentioned in the passport and also relating to children with single parent and to adopted children has also been accepted.Based on the report, policy changes have been made which include no mandatory requirement of a marriage certificate for married applicants as also provide name of the only one parent and not both. This would enable single parents to apply for passports for their children and to also issue passports where the name of either the father or the mother is not required to be printed at the request of the applicant. Under the new rules, total number of Annexes prescribed in the Passport Rule, 1980, has been brought down to 9 from the present 15 and all the annexes that are required to be given by the applicants would be self-declaration on plain paper. “No attestation/swearing by/before any Notary/Executive Magistrate/First Class Judicial Magistrate would be henceforth necessary,” as per the new rules, which also do not require the applicant to provide the name of her/his spouse in case of separated or divorced persons. Such applicants would not be required to provide even the Divorce Decree. Orphaned children who do not have any proof of DOB such as Birth Certificate or the Matriculation Certificate or the declaratory court order, may now submit a declaration given by the Head of the Orphanage/Child Care Home on official letter head of the organisation confirming the DOB of the applicant.For children not born out of wedlock, the applicant should submit only self-declaration form while submitting the application and in case of issue of passport to in-country domestically-adopted children, submission of the registered adoption deed would no longer be required. Asked about the rules applicable to get a passport for a child born through surrogacy, Chief Passport Officer Arun K Chatterjee said there was a specific list of documents required as per the Indian Council For Medical Research regulations.Since the bill dealing with surrogacy is still pending before the Lok Sabha, changes can only be carried out after it is passed, he added.Singh also said the necessary notifications would soon be published in the Official Gazette to give effect to these changes. Instructions are also being issued to the Passport Issuing Authorities in India and abroad on these revised regulations.”MEA expects that the changes in the Passport Rules would further ease the process for passport applicants in getting their Passport.”At the same time, it would enable this Ministry to continue to deliver passport related services to the citizens in a timely, transparent, more accessible, reliable manner and in a comfortable environment through streamlined processes and committed, trained and motivated workforce,” Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said.Singh also said the ministry was examining a pilot project under which the head post offices could be used to provide passport services. On when will the passport services like ‘Tatkal’ can become cashless, Chatterjee said they have done a tie-up with SBI and were getting machines to make the service totally cashless and expressed hope it will start functioning in next fortnight or so. He also mentioned that currently there were 89 passport seva kendras apart from 38 passport offices and seven passport centres in the country. Responding to a separate query on demonetization and the update on the recomendations of the inter-ministerial task force, Swarup said it was still under the preview of the Department of Economic Affairs.”We continue to pursue with them and we hope that very soon we will have some recommendations…Government will take a considered view in the matter,” he added.

Demonetisation deadline: Does govt has no plan to get back crores of NRI ‘white money’?

Despite all the love sprayed on NRIs and those multiple Pravasi Divas conventions held in various parts of the country for various ministers to iterate their love for Indians abroad the week of good cheer is a bit soured.

With good reason. As airlines hike up the cost of tickets by nearly 250 percent (from the Gulf for sure) and families largely opt to stay home there is also a tangible sense of loss from the enormous vat of Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes lying around the diaspora.

Awash in cash? PTIAwash in cash? PTI

Awash in cash? PTI

Assessed officially at 30 million people but probably higher by another five million with about Rs 5,000 being taken as the modest average lying with each person it comes to a sizeable Rs 15,000 crore and running.

Most of us keep a reasonable amount in high denomination notes with Rs 25,000 being the outer limit as per law to avoid delays at Indian airports in making foreign exchange and simply pull out the wads that have been lying under shirts and saris or used biscuit and chocolate tins to take a cab home and, in case banks are closed, have enough for Day One and Two.

The stories of long queues and no money and cards not working have made for a change in touching the base.

Relatives in the home country already stretched to breaking point are also not too keen to having us descend upon them en masse.

Rumours and half-truths that the government is listening to last moment pleas from community representatives for a delay in the 30 December deadline for these notes to be vacuumed in don’t seem to have much grounds and the odds are the Not Required Indian will stay not required. Perhaps in the grand scheme of things the sum from NRIs is not astronomical but why lose it.

The Customs form allows us to bring in Rs 25,000 though most of us carry less on each visit. And we do not take back much, just the leftover financial debris of the holiday.

This year the stress level has a different texture to it. For one, there is this fear that carrying banned notes might cause hassles at points of entry. No one wants to be taken aside because they are carrying six or seven crumpled notes. There is no logic in the fear but it exists anyway…there have been enough scare stories on the social platforms to make everyone a little concerned…and hugely confused.

And it does not make sense spending Rs 30,000 per passenger and more for a Y class ticket to make the end of the year deadline when such a low cast carrier ticket usually goes for Rs 10,000 or thereabouts. The situation as it stands is that these Rs 150 billion will be consumed by the clock. Come to think of it, the total is probably much more.

That these crores are going to be largely lost to the exchequer seems to be of no concern to the authorities. Even blue-collar labour has a note or two, often placed in their wallets for good luck by tearful parents sending their sons and daughters to foreign shores when they leave home…a kind of ‘shagun’ that has now lost its meaning.

You would think that one of the mandarins in the Ministry of Overseas Affairs would say, uh oh, that is a lot of money let’s create a blueprint for getting it back and instruct all banks to allow these monies to be sent by courier to the accounts up to Rs 25,000 and let it be accepted.

After all, look at the delicious irony. It is not black money. it is bright, shiny, pristine white money that people want to return.

Allowed to be in our possession by law. So why are NRIs being penalised indirectly for not breaking the law. Echo answers who?

First Published On : Dec 23, 2016 19:37 IST

Find out how India’s vastly unexplored 7,500 km coastline can generate millions of jobs

In many ways, India looked a gift-horse in the mouth. And the gift was water.

For centuries, India ignored the seas. It has a 7,500 km long coastline which it did not bother about very much. True, the government built 12 ports (government owned ports are called major ports). But it forgot to promote coastal development and coastal tourism. As a result India has a coastline that is largely uninhabited, leaving it open to incursions by smugglers and terrorists. India forgot the old adage that the best type of security is eyes on the ground.

The typical answer was that security concerns prevented the Indian Navy from allowing boats to ply along certain areas, or for boats to land in some other areas. Someone should have pointed naval officers to Portsmouth and Glasgow, where leisure and fishing boats bob around naval frigates.

For security, the Navy depends on excellent eaves dropping equipment, and guards who stand near the prow and watch the waters. Activity keeps them alert and awake. Had there been no boats around, they could not really be faulted for dozing off.



And Britain with its limited coastline earns over GNP 450 billion annually. India could have earned a lot more and even created employment for millions.

India forgot that a 7,500 km coastline is like a 7,500 km 40 lane highway that the country would not have to finance, build or even maintain. It was god’s gift to promote coastal tourism and coastal transport.

Ditto with India’s rivers. Like elsewhere in the world, the biggest cities India had were those on the shores of rivers or seas. But then came the railway network. The British wanted this to become viable and hence promoted rail travel. Riverine cities went into decline and so did India’s rivers. With a majority of population forsakes river travel, it is bound to go into disuse. And abetted by the collusive role that politicians and executives have played all along, it was not surprising that even rivers became polluted. They became repugnant, and traversed only by those who could not afford the rail network.

All this is about to change – and with a clear focus on both development and in creating jobs. Many of the changes India will witness will be on the coastal front, the river front and the connectivity of roads and rails to such spots. In an exclusive half-an-hour interview with R.N.Bhaskar of Firstpost, Rajive Kumar, Secretary, Shipping, outlined some of the key areas where such changes can be expected (click here for the full interview).


Kumar talks about the relevance of port-led development and what the Sagarmala scheme promoted by this government really means. He points out how this will lead to employment generation which is so crucial for a youthful population that India has. He expects such port-led development to generate around 40 lakh jobs, in addition to generating indirect employment for another 60 lakh people. He expects these targets to be achieved within the next five years. But port development – in itself – will continue for a longer period, and could generate many more jobs. The investment outlays planned for this entire exercise is expected to be in the region of Rs 4 lakh crore (4 trillion). The first phase is expected to be completed by 2020 and the second phase by 2025.

Kumar goes on to speak about the Sagarmala project which has four components. The first three of these will involve ensuring adequate port capacity. This is expected to double the existing port capacity of 1,550 million tones to around 3,000 million tones

The second phase will ensure fuller utilisation of existing ports. The ministry has already received 116 recommendations of which 60 have been completed. The adoption of these recommendations alone has allowed for an increase in port capacity by 80 million tonnes at zero cost. Turnaround time has been reduced from 5 days to 3.5 and the plan is to further reduce it to 3 days.

The third aspect is hinterland connectivity. The government has identified 82 road projects and 28 railway projects that need to be implemented. As many as 50 of the road projects will be taken by the NHAI (national Highways Authority of India) and the balance by state governments through their various bodies including the PWDs. Many of these would be taken up under the road ministry’s Bharatmala programme. The road projects also include 10 expressways.

Of the 28 railway projects, the railways will pick up 21. Kumar expects to invest Rs 1.5 lakh crore of the Rs 4 lakh crore of investments in such rail connectivity projects.

The problem will be with small projects that are crucial for the last mile connectivity. It is for this that the government has formed a new company called the Indian Port Rail Company. Then there is the Sagarmala Development Company (SDC) which has been mandated to take up equity participation in partnership with private players who could take up these projects.

In order to ensure that all these projects get taken up and get implemented properly, the government has set up an institutional mechanism. This will enable better cooperation between states and the ministry for implementing road, rail, and port and river projects in partnership with the states.

CEZs and community development

But the centerpiece of all these plans is to usher in what Kumar calls “port-led industrialization and the development of CEZs or coastal economic zones. Each coastal economic development zone will be attached to one port — either private or public. The government has identified 14 CEZs, and the process of working on land acquisition has already commenced.

But the most important part will be community development without which all the other plans might just crumble. This includes (a) fishery development and (b) skill development. The ministry has got studies done of 23 (of the total of 78) coastal districts and the rest of the studies should get completed by the end of this year.

Almost simultaneously, the government plans to promote coastal tourism along India’s coastline and also along its rivers. This includes promoting ocean cruises as well as river cruises. Development of beaches is also being explored with the tourism ministry. In order to give this a big thrust, suitable sections of the existing legal framework relating to cabotage are also being modified for specialised vessels like cruise boats, ro-ro (roll on roll off boats on which vehicles can just roll on and then roll off) and ro-pax vessels that allow passengers to be transported along with vehicles (22:57 to 26:00). In order to provide a greater thrust to commercial autonomy, the government wants to redefine the role of TAMP (Tariff Authority for Major Ports).

But the shipping ministry’s plans go beyond the domestic arena. It wants to look at the development of ports overseas as well for which Indian Ports Global (IPG) was formed a few years ago. The ministry hopes to rope in the private sector too for the development of ports overseas. India has already helped Myanmar develop the Sitwe port, and now India will be developing ports in Iran, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh as well. This will be in addition to the development of the Chabahar port in Iran which holds out enormous commercial and strategic significance for India.

Significantly, the vision for development includes the development of waterways. The government has already identified 111 waterways for navigation and of these 30 are being taken up for development during the next 3 years. As many as 8 of these are to be developed during this year itself. The government is also developing a design for building a 2500 tonne barge that can operate in rivers with a draft of just 2.5 meters. 2,500 tonnes would be equivalent to an entire freight train. Currently, there are barges that ferry as much as 2,000 tonnes per barge.

If all goes well, expect India to see a more vibrant coastline, and the emergence of many more jobs. All this is bound to translate into better economic well-being for most Indians. Not surprisingly, these plans are being called “harnessing the waters of life”.

First Published On : Dec 23, 2016 16:08 IST

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

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

NRI couple in Norway lose custody of child, seeks Sushma Swaraj’s help: All you need to know

A five-and-a-half-year-old boy was taken away from his NRI parents by Norwegian authorities on Wednesday, reports said. The officials accused the parents of beating the child. This is the third such incident in the past five years where a child was taken away by the Child Welfare Department of Norway. Speaking to The Indian Express, the father of the boy, Anil Kumar said that the authorities did not even give them prior information. The child, Aryan, was taken into custody on 13 December from his kindergarten school at 9.30 am. “They did not give us prior information. At 10 am, the same day, four policemen came to my house, took my wife into custody, and interrogated her from 11.15 am to 2.45 pm,” said Kumar

Kumar, who is a citizen of Norway, moved to Oslo 26 years ago from Punjab and is a owner of an Indian restaurant. Speaking to CNN-News18, Aryan’s father said that the authorities had absolutely no evidence against them and that the authorities did not have summons to take Aryan.

“Aryan cannot sleep. He cries all the time and he misses us. Aryan’s mother (Gurvinderjit Kaur) hasn’t stopped crying. We have never hit him, there is no evidence against us,” Kumar told the channel.

Kumar, who also is the vice-president of the Overseas Friends of the BJP in Oslo, said that Aryan was sent to a children’s welfare home in Hamar, about 150 kilometres away from Oslo. Kumar is a Norwegian citizen and his wife holds an Indian passport. They have appealed to the Indian government for help alleging that their son was taken away without any evidence and is suffering at a children’s home under the custody of child welfare department. External Affair Minister Sushma Swaraj, on Thursday stepped in to help family.

Sushma sought a report from Indian Ambassador in Norway on the allegations made by the Indian couple that the Norwegian authorities had taken away their five-year-old child on frivolous complaint of abuse. BJP leader Vijay Jolly had written to her and the Indian Ambassador in Norway after the couple sought his help in getting back the custody of their child. The parents also alleged that the authorities asked leading questions to the child. “How will a small kid know? The questions were leading. We have never hit our child,” Kumar told News18.

Meanwhile, MEA officials said, “Our Embassy officials in Oslo have spoken to the boy’s father Anil Kumar Sharma and extended full support. However, Sharma informed the mission that he has hired a lawyer to represent him in the case.” When contacted, Norwegian Embassy spokesperson said, “The Embassy became aware of this case yesterday evening. We have asked relevant authorities in Norway to provide us with further information, and are awaiting their response.”

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

“We met the child welfare officials twice, on 14 and 16 December, and they haven’t been able to produce any evidence. They said they received a complaint from a person. We are not sure who registered this baseless complaint against us… By doing this, he or she has ruined our family life,” Kumar was quoted as saying by The Indian Express.

In his letter to Indian Ambassador Debraj Pradhan, Jolly had raised concern on “forcible custody” of the boy Aryan by Child Welfare Department of Norway on “baseless and fabricated complaint” in Oslo on 13 December. Jolly said he has received a call from a senior MEA official saying that help will be given to the Indian couple.

The Indian embassy in Norway confirmed to News18 that Indian ambassador Debraj Pradhan has already spoken to the child’s father. Quoting sources, the channel reported that Kumar has hired a lawyer to defend his family in court and “the ambassador will be meeting him again.”

Norway’s child welfare department was tight-lipped on the exact facts of the case. News18 reported:

“When the channel (CNN-News18) emailed them to ascertain the status of the case and the charges against the parents they responded saying, “The Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion is responsible for the general child welfare policy. However, the government does not have the authority to comment on or intervene in individual cases.”

It is still not clear when the child would be returned to his parents. Government sources have indicated that the legal processes may take time.

This is the third case since 2011 when children have been taken away from their Indian-origin parents by the authorities in Norway on the grounds of abuse. In 2011, a three-year-old and a one-year-old were separated from their parents, prompting the then UPA government to take up the issue with Norway. The Norwegian court later allowed the children to be reunited with their parents. In December 2012, an Indian couple was jailed on charges of ill treatment of their children aged seven and two years old. Later, they were were sent to their grandparents in Hyderabad.

What does the Child Protection Laws in Norway specify?

The Norway child act places great importance on family ties and child’s upbringing in a healthy atmosphere with their parents. According to the  Norwegian Child Welfare Act is applicable to all children and their parents living in Norway, regardless of their residential status, religion and nationality. The general child welfare policy is mainly comes under the Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion in Norway. The child welfare cases are handled by the local child welfare services and their job is to conduct family investigations in case of child abuse.

The Child Welfare Service in Nowray is also known as Barnevernet. Barnevernet is an independent body and no ministers can instruct the board in decisions related to the welfare of child. Reports cite many cases where the Barnevernet has been criticised by social workers and child psychologists who argued that they need to reform their methods. Every year nearly 53,000 such cases were handled by the child welfare service in Norway.

How common is the practice of separating children?

The Indian Express reported that over 80 percent of cases where the Child Welfare Services concludes that some kind of intervention is needed, they offer various kinds of assistance to the parents. In 2014, at least 43,000 families got assistance and were let of, while 9,611 children were removed — temporarily or permanently — from the custody of the parents.

First Published On : Dec 23, 2016 15:02 IST

Home Secretary met Najeeb Jung two days ago, was unaware of his resignation

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The sudden resignation of Delhi Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung seems to have caught the Home Ministry unaware with Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi saying Jung had given no indication two days ago when he had a meeting with him. “The LG met me day before yesterday but he did not give any indication of submitting his resignation. Another meeting of mine with the LG is scheduled for tomorrow (Friday)… I have come to know about his resignation only from the media,” Mehrishi told reporters as soon as the news flashed in TV channels.Delhi being a Union Territory, the LG looks after the Delhi Police and he reports to the Union Home Ministry. Jung regularly meets senior Home Ministry officials for various official works and in his recent interactions he had given no clue about his impending resignation from the post. Official sources said whenever the political leadership of the Central government wants to remove a Governor or LG, the onus of conveying the message, asking the incumbents to put in their papers, usually rests with the Union Home Secretary.In the case of Jung, Mehrishi had not conveyed any such message, sources said. It came as a surprise for the Home Ministry officials that Jung has decided to put in his papers without giving any hint in advance. In fact, sources said the LG had intimated the Home Secretary that from December 25 to January 1 he will be visiting Goa on a private tour.
ALSO READ Despite bitter-sweet experiences, we did a good job in Delhi with Najeeb Jung: Manish Sisodia Sources said there is no fixed tenure for a LG of any of the Union Territories even though a Governor is normally appointed for a period of five year or till further order “whichever is earlier”. The LG is appointed without specifying any tenure, sources said.

Delhi Lt Governor Najeeb Jung submits his resignation, Kejriwal ‘surprised’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Najeeb Jung, the 20th Lieutenant Governor of the National Capital Territory of Delhi, stepped down from his position on Thursday. He was appointed to the post of Lt. Governor in 2013, replacing Tajender Khanna, another IAS officer. He was the Vice chancellor of Jamia Milia Islamia University from 2009-2013. The Lt Governor’s officer has confirmed that after demitting​ office he will return to his first love “academics”.Taking to Twitter on Jung’s resignation, CM Kejriwal said, “Sh Jung’s resignation is a surprise to me. My best wishes in all his future endeavours.”Jung, in an official statement issued, thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his cooperation during his tenure as the LG of Delhi. The exact reason behind his reasons, however, behind his resignation is yet to be known. Jung had been constantly in news for the past two years for his confrontation with the AAP’s Delhi Government and CM Arvind Kejriwal. According to India Today report, Kejriwal spoke to Jung to enquire about his resignation and Jung cited personal reasons. Speaking to the channel, Jung said, “I believe I have served Delhi & have done my job, want to spend more time with my family. I have a house in Goa also where I intend to move.”He also added that he wasn’t in the race for next Vice President. “I also intend to spend time in academic works & writing. I’m looking at universities in both America & Singapore,” he added.Union Home Secretary said that he had met Jung day before and there was no inkling of it, he said he was not aware of his resignation.Jung also thanked the people of Delhi for their support and affection, especially during the one year’s President Rule in Delhi, when received unstinted support from the people of the national capital, which in turn helped run the administration in Delhi smoothly and effortlessly. He has thanked Arvind Kejriwal “for his association in the last two years”. He had joined Indian Administrative Service in Madhya Pradesh cadre in 1973. He later served as the Joint Secretary to Government of India in the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas from 1994 onwards, and resigned in 1999.This is a developing story.(With inputs from Mohit Sharma)

Superseded Gen Bakshi meets Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Ministry of Defence on Wednesday described Lt General Praveen Bakshi’s meeting with defence minister Manohar Parrikar on Wednesday as a “courtesy call”, but sources in army headquarters claimed it was the minster who sought a meeting with the Eastern Army Commander. Following the seniority principle Bakshi should have been appointed army chief, but the government selected Lt Gen Bipin Rawat, currently the vice chief.It was not just Lt Gen Bakshi but Southern Army commander Lt Gen PM Hariz was also superseded.The contrary claims led to speculation about the fate of Lt Gen Bakshi. While there was talk of his offering in his resignation, there was also buzz about the possibility of the officer being accommodated.”A top rated army commander cannot be wasted like this,” said an army officer in South Block.Sources said one of the options was to appoint him as the Permanent Chairman of the Chief of Staff Committee. Currently, the senior most among the service chiefs holds the post and there is no provision for a permanent chairman.There is also talk of Lt Gen Bakshi being sent as Ambassador. The proposed Chief of Defence Staff is also an option, but sources say there is little time for creating the position.Lt Gen Bakshi was Lt Gen Rawat’s immediate boss until recently in the Eastern Command. The decision has triggered a controversy among officers, fearing this could set a new trend of politicising the forces.Justifying the decision, the government came out with an explanation that Rawat was chosen over the other two, keeping in mind his experience in operations in Jammu and Kashmir. Analysing the volatile situation in Kashmir after a series of terror strikes, a candidate with sound knowledge of operations there was thought to be the right choice, sources said.Lt General Bakshi has commanded the 9 Corps in Yol, Himachal Pradesh, commanded an armoured brigade in the Western sector, a division in the deserts, and a corps in the plains sector of Punjab, and Jammu and Kashmir.

Prakash Javadekar backs CBSE Class X board exams, says partial implementation unfair

New Delhi: Supporting the CBSE governing body’s move to make the Class X Board exams compulsory from 2018, HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar on Wednesday said it was discriminatory to allow seven lakh students to opt out of the board exams when nearly two crore others were taking them.

Interacting with journalists in Delhi, he said the HRD Ministry will take forward the recommendations made by the CBSE governing body.

He said there are around two crore students across the country who complete their Class X education every year. Out of these, 1.93 crore students take the exams conducted by different boards, whereas seven lakhs opt out of it. This kind of discrimination is not proper, Javadekar said.

File image of Union Minister Prakash Javadekar. ReutersFile image of Union Minister Prakash Javadekar. Reuters

File image of Union Minister Prakash Javadekar. Reuters

He said that there had been popular demand from many schools, parents and education bodies to have a system where there is board exams for all.

CBSE students at present have the option to choose between Board exams and school-based exams in Class X, but on Tuesday the CBSE governing body decided to make the Board exams compulsory for all students from academic session 2017-18.

“We will duly consider it and pass it so that from March, 2018 we will have Board examination for all. Because it was an anomaly in a way. You cannot have discrimination like that,” Javadekar said.

He also said that the HRD Ministry had circulated a Cabinet note for inter-ministerial consultations to various ministries on the proposed changes in ‘No Detention’ policy under the Right to Education (RTE) Act.

He said that while it has been decided to introduce exams from Class VI, the HRD Ministry wants a system where the students do not have to waste their entire year.

According to sources, the ministry has proposed that there should be a provision for re-examination in case a student cannot clear the exam in the first attempt so that he or she can be promoted.

Responding to questions on the CBSE’s decision to recommend to the HRD ministry that the three language formula should be extended to Classes IX and X from the current VI to VIII, Javadekar dismissed as baseless apprehensions that the government intends to force students to study any particular language.

The HRD Minister said the ‘Vittiya Saksharta Abhiyan’ of his ministry was getting “a very emphatic response” and that nearly one-and-a-half lakhs volunteers had joined the move to promote digital transactions.

Responding to a question on allegations levelled by Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Javadekar said there is no need to responded to “false and baseless statements made by frustrated leaders”.

Taking a jibe at Rahul, he claimed the rug has actually got pulled off the feet of those leaders who wanted to bring an earthquake.

Javadekar also honoured a team of his ministry officials after his ministry’s website was adjudged as one of the best among government departments

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

Amid row over new Army chief appointment, Lt Gen Bakshi meets Manohar Parrikar

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Lieutenant General Praveen Bakshi met Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar at the South Block in New Delhi on Wednesday in the wake of ongoing controversy surrounding the appointment of Lieutenant General Bipin Rawat as the new Army Chief.The meeting between the two came days after Lieutenant General Bakshi, who headed the Eastern Command, was superseded by Lieutenant General Rawat for the top post.The opposition has questioned the government’s decision and demanded an explanation regarding the appointment.
ALSO READ Army chief Bipin Rawat appointment: Opposition corners govt, BJP says don’t politicise The government has, however, clarified that Lieutenant General Rawat was found best suited to deal with emerging challenges including a reorganised and restructured military force in the north, continuing terrorism and proxy war from the west, and the situation in the North-East.According to Ministry of Defence (MoD) sources, Lt Gen Rawat has tremendous hands on experience of serving in combat areas and at various functional levels in the Indian Army over the last three decades. Lieutenant General Rawat is also known for his balanced approach towards soldiering, compassion and connect with the civil society.
ALSO READ Lt Gen Bipin Rawat is next Army chief, Air Marshal Birender Dhanoa to head Air ForceHe has handled various operational responsibilities in many areas including along the LoC with Pakistan, the LAC with China and in the North-East.

RBI takes a U-turn, now withdraws restriction on KYC accounts with deposits above Rs 5,000

In a fresh twist to the government’s previous announcement on cash deposits in the banks, the Reserve Bank of India has issued a fresh notification, withdrawing restriction on Rs 5,000 deposits for KYC compliant account holders.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The fresh notification by the RBI, following a massive public backlash, comes just two days after the central bank had said individuals can deposit over Rs 5,000 in old currency bills only once until December 30 and that too after explaining why it had not been done so far.

The central bank said that on reviewing its notification of December 19, it is advising banks to withdraw the two conditions for fully KYC-compliant accounts.

After banning old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes on 8 November, the government had allowed all of the cash holdings with any person to be deposited in bank accounts till December 30.

There was no limit on the quantity or value of the junked notes that could be deposited. However, the government on 17 December issued a gazette notification putting restrictions on deposits henceforth.

On 19 December, the central bank had said that now-defunct notes in excess of Rs 5,000 shall be credited to only KYC-compliant accounts and if the accounts are not KYC-compliant, credits may be restricted up to Rs 50,000 subject to the conditions governing the conduct of such accounts.

The equivalent value of specified bank notes tendered may be credited to an account maintained by the tenderer at any bank in accordance with standard banking procedure and on production of valid proof of identity, the RBI had said.”The equivalent value of specified bank notes tendered may be credited to a third party account, provided specific authorisation therefore accorded by the third party is presented to the bank, following standard banking procedure and on production of valid proof of identity of the person actually tendering,” it added.

The above restrictions shall not apply to tenders of SBNs for the purpose of deposits under the Taxation and Investment Regime for the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana, 2016.

Meanwhile, in a notification, the Finance Ministry had said: “There shall not be any limit on the quantity or value of the specified bank notes that are tendered for payment and deposit made under the Taxation and Investment Regime for the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana, 2016”.

With PTI inputs

First Published On : Dec 21, 2016 13:29 IST

NGT slaps fine of Rs 50,000 on airlines dumping human waste from airplanes…no, really

New Delhi: Human waste being splattered on houses from airplanes while landing, on Monday led the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to slap a fine of Rs 50,000 on the airline whose aircraft empties toilet tanks on air.

The NGT directed aviation regulator DGCA to issue a circular to all airlines, whose planes are involved, to pay Rs 50,000 as environmental compensation.

A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Swatanter Kumar passed a slew of directions while disposing of a plea of a retired army officer alleging dumping of human excreta by aircraft over residential areas near the IGI Airport here.

Normally, the waste in the aircraft tanks is disposed of by ground handling personnel once the plane lands. However, there are cases where lavatory leaks occur in the air.

The tribunal asked the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to issue circular to all ground handling services and airlines to ensure that they do not release waste from human waste tanks while landing or anywhere near the terminals of the IGI Airport.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

“DGCA shall also issue directions that aircraft on landing shall be subjected to surprise inspection to see that human waste tanks are not empty. If any aircraft is found to be violating such circular or (their) tanks are found empty on landing, they shall be subjected to environment compensation of Rs 50,000 per default,” the bench said.

The direction came on the plea of Lt Gen (Retd) Satwant Singh Dahiya who has sought action against the airlines and levy of hefty fines on them for endangering the health of residents, terming their act as a violation of the ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’.

While issuing directions, the green panel also said it was “surprised” to note the stand taken by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) that on analysing the samples taken from the petitioner’s house, it could be ascertained that it was excreta but its source could not be known.

“We are surprised to note the stand of CPCB to the extent of coliform and the kind of splashes created on the houses of the petitioner as well as others clearly demonstrate that it was human excreta,” the bench said.

It added that the amount collected shall be deposited with CPCB for using it for environment protection and a quarterly report shall also be submitted by DGCA before it.

DGCA was also asked by the tribunal to set up a helpline so that similar complaints can be addressed and the helpline number, as well as email address, be kept in public domain.

During the hearing, DGCA told the bench it has issued a circular to constitute a committee to investigate the matter.

The NGT had earlier slapped a cost of Rs 5,000 on the Environment Ministry and the Ministry of Civil Aviation for their failure to file inspection report on the plea.

It had also directed CPCB to depute a senior environmental engineer to inspect the petitioner’s house and check the existence of human excreta on its walls and if excreta was found, samples should be collected for analysis and the report placed before the tribunal.

In his petition, Vasant Enclave resident Dahiya had sought the creation of a 24-hour helpline for immediate reporting of such incidents and a monitoring mechanism to check that no aircraft drops “human soil or excreta” while landing.

The Ministry had opposed the argument and said plane toilets stored the waste in special tanks which are normally disposed of by ground crews once the plane lands. However, aviation officials acknowledge that lavatory leaks can occur in the air at times.

First Published On : Dec 21, 2016 11:03 IST

Centre seeks info on violence outside banks

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Facing mounting pressure from opposition parties, who continue to blame demonetization measures for the prevailing chaos at banks and ATM facilities, police departments in states and Union Territories have been asked to urgently send comprehensive details of ‘violent incidents’ that have occurred since November 8.The development comes days after the Winter Session of Parliament was washed out amidst protests by opposition parties which accused the Central Government of creating a chaotic situation resulting from demonetization measures announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.A communication to the effect was sent by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to Directors General of Police (DGPs) and Commissioners of Police (CPs) on December 19. It asks the police chiefs to treat the matter most urgently. The communication, accessed by DNA, says, “Personal attention to DGPs and CPs from Special Secretary. Please intimate the number of violent incidents along with details occurred since November 8, 2016, ie after demonetization at ATMs and banks or any cash outlets (.) Kindly send the details by return fax to MHA control room.” The development comes more than a month after the PM announced demonetization measures under which old notes of 500 and 1000 denomination were taken out of circulation. The move subsequently resulted in a shortage of currency as 500 and 1000 rupee notes formed close to 86 per cent of the total currency in circulation.As a result, banks – both private and government – as well as ATM facilities had seen massive number of people queuing up to either exchange old 500 and 1000 notes in their possession or to simply withdraw money for daily expenses. The deadline to exchange the old currency notes , as per the guidelines issued by Reserve Bank of India, was set to December 30.Official government sources told DNA on Tuesday that the move to ask for details of violent incidents was due to reports emerging from multiple states that indicated a breakdown of law and order.There have been a number of violent incidents reported from outside banks that includes pelting of stones by bank customers, lathi-charge by police forces. Last month, more than a hundred people were booked for pelting stones and clashing with the employees of a bank in Sujru village in Uttar Pradesh over exchanging of old currency notes. While violent incidents outside banks have grabbed the news headline, opposition leaders had forged a union during the Winter Session of the Parliament attacking Modi government for the move.

Uma Bharti’s ministry damns Ministry of Environment and Forests’s Ganga projects

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The differences between the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and the Ministry of Water Resources was revealed in a letter sent by Water Resources Secretary Shashi Shekhar to his environment ministry counterpart.Dated October 13, the letter, which has been accessed by DNA, has Shekhar pointedly questioning his MoEF counterpart on why had his ministry permitted 10 hydro projects and mining to come up in the Bhagirathi valley. These projects, he said, would dilute the Bhagirathi Eco Sensitive Zone, located in the upper reaches of the Ganga. The Bhagirathi eco-sensitive area was notified in 2012 to protect the 100 km Gaumukh to Uttar Kashi stretch of Bhagirathi, spread across 4,179 sq.kms.In his letter, Shekhar said, “Permitting large scale activities like hydro power projects, construction works, mining etc. will severely compromise the environmental concerns and its sensitivity and will have far reaching environmental consequences in the days to come.”Shekhar added that throwing open this eco-sensitive area for hydro power projects would signal, “impending environment disaster in the ecologically sensitive area.”It is not the first time the Ministry of Water Resources have taken up this issue. Sources say that that following Shekhar’s letter, Water and Ganga Minister Uma Bharti, too, spoke to her counterpart Anil Dave and expressed her concern on plans to allow dams in the eco-sensitive area. These sources added that despite repeated reminders to the MoEF but so far nothing has been resolved.Speaking to DNA, Shekhar said, “You cannot shove in anything through the back door, this is a fundamental mistake and it is illegal. They need to realize that this is the last pristine and free-flowing stretch of the Ganga.”The letter comes in the wake of the MoEF’s meeting on the Bhagirathi eco-sensitive zone in August. In that meeting, the Uttarakhand state government had sought relaxations in activities allowed in the 4,179 sq km eco sensitive area. The state government argued that since 10 hydropower projects with a cumulative capacity of 82MW were approved before the Bhagirathi eco-sensitive zone was notified in 2012, they should be approved for construction.In the minutes of the meeting, it was stated that the “MoEF & CC could consider inserting a transitional clause to permit the 10 HEP’s (hydro power projects) which were approved prior to the date of notification.” Along with plans to permit hydro power projects, the MoEF said that river-bed mining up to 2m depth could be allowed in the eco-sensitive area.The MoEF is defending its decisions on grounds that the projects will be approved only after a carrying capacity study is done by scientists. “The Uttarakhand government presented the Zonal Master Plan, but it has defects and requires a lot of changes. We will look into all aspects before approving hydro power projects in the eco-sensitive area,” said Amita Prasad, additional secretary, MoEF.Meanwhile, the water ministry has panned the Zonal Master Plan. “It is (Zonal Master Plan) is fundamentally wrong because it is not prepared by experts. We have prepared a draft joint affidavit to be submitted in the NGT that has been sent to the environment ministry. We should have experts visit the ESZ,” said Shekhar.Currently, the NGT is hearing an ongoing matter on the issue pertaining to Zonal Master Plan of the Bhagirathi eco-sensitive zone.

Restore India’s sovereignty on Katchatheevu to aid fishermen: Tamil Nadu CM to PM Modi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam on Tuesday asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to send a “firm message” to Sri Lanka over continued apprehension of the state’s fishermen and said a permanent solution would be in restoring India’s sovereignty over Katchatheevu islet.Citing reports of arrest of seven fishermen and seizure of their two mechanised fishing boats, Panneerselvam in a letter to the PM said the boats and fishermen were reportedly taken to Karainagar in Sri Lanka and were remanded in custody.The apprehension of fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy continues “unabated” despite Indo-Sri Lankan fishermen level talks and Inter-Ministerial talks being held from time to time, he said. “It is the consistent stand of the government of Tamil Nadu that a permanent solution to this vexatious problem faced by our fishermen will be possible only by restoring India’s sovereignty over Katchatheevu by securing the right to fish in traditional waters,” he said.
ALSO READ Seven Tamil Nadu fishermen arrested by Sri Lankan NavyThe right of the fishermen is continuously infringed upon by the Sri Lankan’s Navy “recurrent” actions of apprehension, the Chief minister said.Demanding that the Centre send a firm message to Sri Lanka on the issue, he said 109 boats, including the two boats apprehended on Tuesday, should be released by the island nation. “The Sri Lankan strategy of not releasing boats of our fishermen is causing great frustration among the fishermen of Tamil Nadu. Without their livelihood base, fishermen are in a state of despondency,” he said.Panneerselvam requested Modi to direct the External Affairs Ministry to take up the matter with Sri Lankan authorities to ensure immediate release of 22 fishermen and 109 boats.The Chief Minister’s letter comes a day after he met PM Modi in New Delhi seeking Rs 22,573 crore for relief and restoration works in Chennai and neighbouring districts following the devastation caused by cyclone Vardah.

Killings in Indian police custody go unpunished, says rights group | Reuters

By Anuradha Nagaraj

CHENNAI, India (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Senthil Kumar’s mother saw him being dragged off by policemen on charges of extortion. Standing outside the Vadamadurai police station in Tamil Nadu, she heard him scream for mercy. The next day she was told her son was dead.”He didn’t die, he was killed,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, recalling the events of April 2010.”And I know the name of every policeman who did it.”Kumar is one of the 591 people who have died in police custody in India since 2010, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Monday, calling for the strict implementation of existing laws on arrest and detention.Citing government data, the report said 97 people died in police custody in 2015 alone, and there was not a single known case in the past five years in which a police official had been convicted for a custodial death.”In almost all cases, the police passes off these deaths as suicide or a heart attack,” said Jayshree Bajoria, author of HRW’s report.”And the brotherhood kicks in to shield the guilty, who are their own colleagues. The entire system collaborates to protect the guilty policemen instead of taking action against them.”

K S Dhatwalia, spokesman for the Ministry of Home Affairs in New Delhi, the government department responsible for police, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Monday the ministry would “look into the report and take necessary action”. The report examines investigations into 17 deaths in custody between 2009 and 2015. In each case, the police did not follow proper arrest procedures, making the suspect more vulnerable to abuse, Bajoria said.Leonard Valdaris trusted the policemen who wanted to talk to his son about a theft in the neighbourhood in April 2014.But when he walked into the Wadala railway police station in Mumbai the next day, the report said, his son was “crying bitterly” and told him the police had beaten him all night and would kill him.

Three days later, Agnelo Valdaris, 25, died, HRW said.”When I saw my son in the hospital, there everything changed,” Valdaris was quoted as saying in the report. “There I saw the reality. He had been beaten black and blue with a belt.”Forms of torture recorded in the report include severe beatings with boots and belts and sometimes suspending people from their wrists. Autopsy reports examined by HRW show injuries consistent with blunt force trauma.

India has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and signed the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.According to the Indian Code of Criminal Procedure policemen are expected to prepare a memo of arrest with the date and time of arrest, ensure a medical examination is carried out on the accused, inform the family of the arrest and present the suspect before a magistrate within 24 hours.According to government records, in 67 of the 97 deaths in custody in 2015, police failed to present the suspect before a magistrate or the suspect died within 24 hours of arrest.”If police follow the rules designed to deter torture and mistreatment, deaths in custody could be prevented,” said Meenakshi Ganguly of Human Rights Watch.”India can only boast of rule of law when those charged with enforcing it are held accountable.” (Reporting by Anuradha Nagaraj, Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking and climate change. Visit

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

First Published On : Dec 19, 2016 19:44 IST

Army chief appointment: Govt cites Rawat’s track record to blunt opposition’s attack

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Facing attack from opposition parties, Government on Sunday justified the appointment of Lt Gen Bipin Rawat as army chief superseding two commanders, insisting that his operational experience and “general dynamism” tipped the scales in the officer’s favour.The Defence Ministry sources also asserted that selection of Army chief is the sole prerogative of the government and it is based purely on merit, irrespective of the Corps to which the officer originally belonged. The “outstanding” track record of Lt Gen Rawat, an Infantry officer, as Commanding Officer of 19 Division in J&K and his familiarity with the functioning of the Army Headquarters and MoD were cited by the Ministry as the reasons for his selection for the top position. The Ministry sources said all officers in the panel of officers in the rank of army commanders are competent and the most suitable is selected”However, it must be emphasised that the prerogative of selecting the most eligible from the panel is that of the government,” sources said.The government of the day takes the final decision choosing the most suitable officer based on various aspects of the security situation in the country and the future scenario, they said, adding in the current environment, counter terrorism and counter insurgency are key issues.”Therefore the background and operational experience of the officers on the panel were considered in depth while selecting the next COAS. “Lt Gen Bipin Rawat fulfills this criteria by virtue of his operational assignments as Commanding Officer of 19 Division in J&K and his outstanding track record, his familiarity with the functioning of the Army HQ & MoD in his capacity as Vice Chief and his general dynamism has also played a role in tipping the scales in his favour,” the sources said.A political slugfest today broke out over the new army chief’s appointment with Congress and the Left asking Prime Minister Narendra Modi to spell out the “compelling reasons” for superseding the senior officers even as BJP hit back saying they should not politicise an issue related to defence forces. The Ministry maintained “that the selection is based purely on merit, irrespective of the Corps to which the officer originally belonged”.While Lt Gen Rawat is from the Infantry, Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi, the senior most army commander who was superseded, is from the Armoured Corps.

EC recommends govt to amend laws on IT exemption, anonymous donations for political parties

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Seeking to check the use of black money and money laundering in politics, the Election Commission has recommended that the government amend laws to allow exemption from tax only to parties that win seats in elections and ban anonymous contributions of Rs 2000 and above to parties.Section 13A of the Income-tax Act, 1961 confers tax exemption to political parties for income from house property, income by way of voluntary contributions, income from capital gains and income from other sources.Only income under the head ‘salaries and income from business or profession’ are chargeable to tax in the hands of political parties in India. The Commission has now proposed that exemption of Income Tax should only be extended to political parties that contest elections and win seats in Lok Sabha or assembly polls.The Commission said, “There could be cases where political parties could be formed merely for availing of provisions of income tax exemption if the facility, that are at the expense of the public exchequer, is provided to all political parties.” There is also no constitutional or statutory prohibition on receipt of anonymous donations by political parties. But there is an “indirect partial ban” on anonymous donations through the requirement of declaration of donations under section 29C of The Representation of the People Act, 1951. But, such declarations are mandated only for contributions above Rs 20,000.As per the proposed amendment, sent by the Commission to the government, and made part of its compendium on proposed electoral reforms, “anonymous contributions above or equal to the amount of Rs two thousand should be prohibited”. Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia clarified that political parties cannot accept old 500 and 1,000 rupee notes as donations as both these bills have ceased to be legal tenders.”All reports on the alleged privilege to political parties are false & misleading. Political parties have not been granted any exemption or privilege, post demonetization & introduction of Taxation Amendment Act, 2016,” he said in a series of tweets.”Post demonetization, no political party can accept donations in Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes since they were rendered illegal tenders. If there is any discrepancy, political parties are as liable to be questioned by IT authorities as is anyone else. They enjoy no immunity,” Adhia added.In yet another recommendation to check black money, the EC has asked the Law Ministry to ensure that political parties are made to register details of donors for coupons of all amounts on the basis of a Supreme Court order of 1996. Coupons are one of the ways devised by the political parties for collecting donations and hence are printed by the party itself. There is no cap or limit as to how many coupons can be printed or its total quantum. Currently, the details of donors is not required for coupons with small amounts such as for Rs 10 or 20. “These smaller sums aggregate into a bigger amount and hence, they need to be accounted for, to ensure transparency,” the Commission said.

PM Modi to launch ‘Kaushal Kendras’ tomorrow

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Prime Minister Narendra Modi will unveil a clutch of skill development initiatives on Monday aimed at skilling unemployed youth and also lay the foundation stone of the Indian Institute of Skills in Kanpur. “Apart from launching 31 Kaushal Kendras which will serve as skilling centres and target mainly unemployed youth for training purposes, the Prime Minister will also inaugurate an exhibition named Kaushal Mahotsav,” a senior official in the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship said.”The PM will also lay the foundation stone for the Indian Institute of Skills in Kanpur which will focus on providing industrial training,” the official added.The Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship is also set to enter into a strategic partnership with the leather and textiles industry in Kanpur to place one lakh youth under the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana. Moreover, the National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme will also be launched formally, the official said.The Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Kendras are state-of-the-art Model Training Centres (MTCs) which the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship intends to establish in every district of the country. The model training centres envisage to create benchmark institutions that demonstrate aspirational value for competency based skill development training.They would focus on elements of quality, sustainability and connect with stakeholders in skills delivery process. The centres will transform from a mandate driven footloose model to a sustainable institutional model.

Govt toughens guidelines for social media use in CAPFs, stipulates legal action on violations

New Delhi: With smart phones making huge proliferation in ranks of security forces, the government has issued fresh guidelines for regulating sharing of secret operational and service data on such platforms involving troops and officers of central paramilitary forces, violation of which will invite “strict legal action”.

The three-page guidelines, issued by the Home Ministry recently and notified to Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) headquarters in New Delhi, speak specifically of instances where force personnel have used personal cell phones to click pictures of an ongoing or concluded ambush or operation which later finds it way on media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube, LinkedIn, Instagram and others.

The directives state that these are a reiteration and enhancement of the existing directives in this regard, but address some specific issues.

Representational image. Reuters.Representational image. Reuters.

Representational image. Reuters.

The latest order by the Union Home Ministry said there was a “strong need” to issue the do’s and dont’s afresh as it “has come to the notice of government that there have been instances where mobile phones and cameras of force personnel have been used for operational coverage and sensitive material was uploaded on social media without official permission.”

The fresh directives stipulate legal action against defaulting personnel.

“Any such photo, video, among others are meant strictly for official use only and any unauthorised disclosure of confidential operations related information by uploading operational material onto social media sites is a serious breach of rules and may lead to charges being laid against offending force employees,” the guidelines, accessed by PTI, said.

However, senior officials in these forces pointed out a loophole in this directive, saying in a number of operations multiple agencies like state police and army are involved and as these guidelines are not applicable on them, there could still be chances and instances of an information breach and subsequent sharing of multimedia on Internet-based social media platforms.

The guidelines add that “divulging” of such information on social media without permission of competent authority is “against National Information Security Policy and guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs and government”.

The brief guidelines do not make it amply clear what is to be released and what is to be held back during operations and even what construes to be an operational activity, officials said, citing an instance mentioned in the new directives which state that videos of training drills of these men and women “discloses methodology” of forces which “directly compromise safety of officers and men in operations.”

The guidelines have also mandated that the respective chiefs (Directors General) of these forces like the Central Reserve Police Force, Border Security Force, Indo-Tibetan Border Police, Central Industrial Security Force, Sashastra Seema Bal and the National Security Guard (NSG) will be the authorities mandated to clear release of pictures, videos, text and other information on “operations and other service matters” on social media either via the official handles of these forces or directly to the media (journalists).

The guidelines, framed after a number of meetings were held between senior officials of these forces and the Union Home Ministry in the last few months, stipulate that only official force cameras and recorders should be used to capture any picture or video of a captured or neutralised terrorist/militant and seizures of arms and ammunition made by them.

It adds that in case when official cameras or recorders are not available at the encounter spot and private cameras or cellphones are used in the aftermath of an operation it”should immediately be surrendered to the appropriate authority for official use with clearances of appropriate levels and then thereafter ensured that the same has been deleted from the private camera/smartphone among others.”

The new guidelines conclude that any violations of these points or any other standing order in this regard will invite “strict action against defaulters under the existing laws and rules.”

All the CAPFs, except NSG, now have their Twitter and Facebook handles and they post general information about the activities in their respective domains after obtaining clearances from the top command.

Officials estimate that over 75 percent of troops in these forces now have smartphones which can capture pictures and videos with good clarity.

First Published On : Dec 18, 2016 16:17 IST

Cyclone Vardah: Central team to visit Tamil Nadu to assess cyclone damage

Residents looking at uprooted trees in an area in Chennai. PTIResidents looking at uprooted trees in an area in Chennai. PTI

Residents looking at uprooted trees in an area in Chennai. PTI

New Delhi: An inter-ministerial team, headed by a Joint Secretary in the Home Ministry, will visit Tamil Nadu next week to assess the damage caused by the massive 12 December cyclone. The team, headed Praveen Vashistha, Joint Secretary (LWE), in the Home Ministry, will be accompanied by senior officials of Ministries of Finance, Agriculture, Rural Development, Industries, HRD etc., and visit different cyclone-hit districts of the state, official sources said.

The delegation will assess the damage caused by the cyclone to agriculture, industries, infrastructure and other sectors and submit its report to the central government. On the basis of the report, the central government will fix the compensation amount and provide financial assistance to the state concerned, sources said. At least 18 people were killed when cyclone Vardah hit Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh on 12 December.

The cyclone, that triggered strong winds of nearly 100 kmph, uprooted hundreds of trees and disrupted power supply lines besides land and air transport, throwing normal life out of gear. Around 13,000 people had to take shelter in 100 different locations to escape the fury of the massive cyclone.

First Published On : Dec 18, 2016 15:47 IST

Army a public institution, nation needs answers on ‘supersession’: Congress on new Chief of Staff

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>With the Centre announcing the name of Lieutenant General Bipin Rawat as the new Chief of the Army Staff superseding two seniors for the coveted post, the Congress on Sunday demanded an answer from the government over the decision, while asserting that the Army is a public institution and the nation deserves an answer.Lieutenant General Rawat, who took over as the Army vice-chief in September 2016, bypassed Eastern Command chief Lieutenant General Praveen Bakshi (armoured corps) and Southern Army Command chief Lieutenant General PM Hariz (mechanised infantry).After taking to Twitter to voice his annoyance with the decision, Congress leader Manish Tewari assured that this was not a personal attack on the new Chief of Staff but a legitimate question.
ALSO READ Lt Gen Bipin Rawat is next Army chief, Air Marshal Birender Dhanoa to head Air Force”With all due respect to General Rawat’s professionalism and brilliance as a soldier and no personal animosity to anybody, there is a legitimate question as to why has this supersession taken place. After all, Lt. Gen Praveen Bakshi who commands the Eastern Command, the Southern Army Commander Lt. Gen Mohammed Ali and the Central Army Commander are all senior to the gentleman who is being designated,” Tewari said.Reiterating his demand for an answer to the legitimate question as to why this supersession has taken place, the Congress leader added that the government?s defence saying the grand old party superseded in the 80s and therefore the ruling dispensation has the right to do so is complete ‘non sequitur’. Expressing disappointment over the controversy surrounding all high-level appointments during the NDA regime, the Communist Party of India (CPI) said that transparency should go along with integrity in the appointment of new Army Chief Lt. General. Bipin Rawat, adding the decision is not in the interest of democracy.Rawat was found the best suited among current batch of candidates of Lt. Generals, to deal with emerging challenges, including a reorganised and restructured military force in the north, continuing terrorism and proxy war from the west, and the situation in the North-East.According to Ministry of Defence (MoD) sources, Lt. Gen Rawat has tremendous hands on experience of serving in combat areas, and at various functional levels in the Indian Army over the last three decades. This is very unfortunate that the appointments in Army have become controversial. All the top-level appointments are becoming controversial. Transparency should go along with integrity and nobody should raise question. Now, questions are being raised and it is not new,” said CPI leader D. Raja.The CPI leader demanded a justification from the Centre and Defence Ministry over the new appointment of new Army Chief.”It is very unfortunate. This is not in the interest of our democracy, our country and of course there should be transparency. It is a question about the Army and not about any political party. Army belongs to the whole country and the nation should be convinced,” he said.Lieutenant General Rawat has remarkable experience of serving in combat areas and at various functional levels in the Indian Army over the last three decades.He has handled various operational responsibilities in many areas, including along the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan, the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China and in the North-East.He is known for his balanced approach towards soldiering, compassion, and his connect with the civil society.

Panel report on forest fire in Uttarakhand raps govt

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>More than six months after Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh witnessed massive forest fires, neither the Union Environment Ministry nor the two state governments have estimated the loss of wildlife due to the fires, a report by the parliamentary panel on environment and forests has said. The report also said that the state governments have grossly underestimated the monetary loss due to the fires. It also recommends that the environment ministry devise a national policy to prevent and mitigate forest fires.Earlier this year in Uttarakhand, fires affected 4,000 hectares of forest land across 13 districts, killing nine and injuring 17. April and May saw some of the worst instances of these fires as needles of Chir Pine, that are prone to fires, aggravated the situation.While examining the subject, the parliamentary panel was informed that the state forest departments are still assessing loss to wildlife and their habitat. The panel said, “committee is at loss to understand why Zoological Survey of India and Botanical Survey of India, which are also arms of the MoEF did not take up any studies on loss of biodiversity of the forest fire affected areas. Even the MoEF&CC (Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change) did not take any initiative in this regard.”Forest fires in India are mainly ground fires and affect the understory plants and shrubs that provide food and forage. This loss often results in wildlife moving away to areas where food, water and shelter are available. Fire can cause temporary loss of food and shelter and animal populations may shift to adjacent unburned areas, the report added.The panel also noted that both hill states recorded a significant rise in forest fires. Compared to 672 fires in 2015, Himachal recorded 1545 instances of fires this summer that affected 13,000 hectares causing an estimated loss of Rs 1.53 crore. In Uttarakhand, 2074 instances of fires were recorded as opposed to 412 in 2015. These fires affected 4433 hectares with an estimated loss of Rs 46.5 lakh.

This winter, severe anti-cyclone situation might escalate Delhi pollution, says CSE executive director

Public health emergencies of the previous century, such as cholera, malaria and TB have all been tackled with antibiotics and vaccines. But what about the biggest public health emergency of contemporary times? That’s the pollution in the air we breathe which has reached unprecedented life-threatening levels — recall Delhi’s situation post-Diwali — yet we are not prepared to deal with it. It may worsen with the advancing winter.

However, things may change with the notification that the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) is soon going to issue to Delhi-NCR, and subsequently to other states, on implementation of Graded Response Action Plan. That is a system based on the Air Quality Index (AQI), designed to take effective steps to combat public health emergencies due to pollution.

To decode the plan and understand its efficacy, Debobrat Ghose of Firstpost speaks to Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director (Research and Advocacy) and head, air pollution and clean transportation programme at Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), one of the stakeholders in the planning process.

Firstpost: What’s the Graded Response Action Plan all about?

Answer: Last week, the Supreme Court directed the MoEF to notify the graded response action plan for Delhi-NCR and once it’s notified, the government has to implement it at the earliest. The plan prepared jointly by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), CSE and others, charts a detailed strategy on what kind of action is needed for a certain level of pollution defined by the AQI. There are various categories of pollution — moderate, poor, very poor, severe and above that, the emergency level. The actions listed in the poor category need to be implemented throughout the year. But during months when weather conditions turn more adverse, there is need for greater scrutiny of enforcement. It’s the first-of-its-kind measure to be implemented in India. This will slow down the peaking up of the pollution level.

It’ll also catalyse long-term action because the kind of measures they have listed as per the levels of pollution would help us to get better results. Besides, it’ll also help us put in place more systemic solutions urgently needed to give benefits of sustained quality air throughout the year.

FP: What kind of actions has been recommended in the plan vis-à-vis the levels of pollution?

A: Based on AQI that shows air pollution levels — from moderate to severe — various measures have been recommended like shutting down of brick kilns and coal-based power plants; maximizing generation of power from existing natural gas based plants; mechanized cleaning of roads and sprinkling of water; stopping the use of diesel and kerosene generator sets; stopping construction activities, and entry of truck traffic into Delhi (except essential goods); removing polluting vehicles from the road; putting an end to burning of wastes and garbage, etc.

Anumita Roy Chowdhury. Photo courtesy: Naresh SharmaAnumita Roy Chowdhury. Photo courtesy: Naresh Sharma

Anumita Roychowdhury. Photo courtesy: Naresh Sharma

FP: Immediately after Diwali, Delhi witnessed an emergency like situation due to high-level of air pollution. But, again with the advent of winter, the air quality has begun to deteriorate.

A: During winter due to calm and cool weather condition, air gets trapped close to ground level and along with it pollution already present in the city also gets trapped. This winter too, we are witnessing this situation of rapid building up of pollution. We are going to see several episodes of smog and this condition will prevail till mid-February. This happens due to this severe anti-cyclone situation. There will be ups and downs, with the pollution level hitting the severe level continuously.

FP: What steps need to be taken to prevent this onslaught of pollution?

A: We should have the winter plan in place where emergency measures should be implemented with absolute stringency. The implementation of graded response action plan will ensure that if weather condition is adverse, pollution in air doesn’t get worse. The measures mentioned in each category need to be strictly followed.

FP: What factors aggravate the pollution level in Delhi-NCR?

A: Vehicular pollution, burning of waste and garbage, construction debris, emissions from coal-based power plants, dust, burning of crop stubble, etc are the major culprits. However, stubble burning is a temporary phenomenon, because it takes place during October and November, before the new crop.

FP: Where have we faulted and what needs to be done?

A: In the area of public transport system, we’ve really slipped a lot, because except Metro rail, no investment has been made in this sector. Now, the priority should be to have an integrated public transport system, where Metro system and highly improved bus system are integrated physically and through a common ticketing system. Simultaneously, a well organized para-transit system needs to be in place, supported by a good walking and cycling infrastructure. Odd-even scheme is an emergency measure and can’t be a permanent solution.

Besides Delhi-NCR, other states too have to follow the same template of the action plan with absolute stringency, because things aren’t happening in a systematic manner. When a plan gets delayed, we lose momentum. We have to be extremely careful – even post-winter — to keep momentum going by adopting all measures—short term, medium term and long term.

FP: Delhi children are being deprived of a carefree childhood due to this pollution…

Very true! There is one death per hour due to air pollution; lungs of every third child are impaired. They are being recommended indoor activity and are discouraged from outdoor activities when pollution is severe.

FP: Delhi’s pollution can’t be seen in isolation. To contain it, active cooperation from states and central agencies is needed. Is there any common authority to deal with inter-state issues and enforcement related to pollution control?

A: No, there is not. Rather it’s not required as MoEF and CPCB are already there as central agencies to supervise the whole process and then the state governments should implement measures. The CPCB has to take the lead as the most legitimate body.

First Published On : Dec 17, 2016 13:25 IST

Nirbhaya anniversary: Four years later, Delhi girl raped in car

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>It has been four years since the brutal gang-rape of 23-year-old paramedical student, now known to the nation, as Nirbhaya. The brutal gang rape caused mass protests in the capital and promises of change. All of these seem empty words now.On the day of the fourth anniversary of Nirbhaya on Friday, another brutal rape of a 19-year-old girl—allegedly by the taxi driver inside the cab in which she was travelling—showed that as far as women’s safety is concerned, nothing has changed.Police officials said that the girl was found in the intervening night on Friday. The victim claimed that her hands were tied and her mouth covered before she was raped. What is even worse is that the car had a parking sticker ‘Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Government of India, Krishi Bhawan’.The victim, a resident of Noida, was in Green Park for a job interview. She had to visit a friend there and around 5pm on Friday when she reached her friend’s house, she found it locked. The victim then took an auto-rickshaw and left for home.”I got down at Prithiviraj bus stop and I kept waiting there in search of a transport back home but some boys started troubling me and then a cab driver approached me. He asked me where I wanted to go and I told him I wanted to reach Noida. He offered to drop me and I sat in the cab,” said the victim in her complaint.According to the police, it was around 9 pm that the victim sat in the cab and because she was unaware about the route, she did not know where the cab driver was taking her.”He parked the car on the side in one of the by-lanes and tied my hands. He covered my mouth and adjusted the back seat of the car. He then raped me and despite me trying to raise an alarm, I could not be heard. He then got down from the car and I managed to open the window and free myself,” she said.Police officials said that around 1:30 am, the victim reached a roundabout where a police party was patrolling. She approached them and narrated her ordeal. The victim took the police officials to the location in one of the lanes behind the Basrukar market in Moti Bagh Phase-I.Officials added that the car was found at the spot but the accused had fled. The car also had a parking sticker of the MHA, and the police have started investigations on how it was procured.Medical examination confirmed that the girl was raped. She is now being counselled. The police traced the owner of the car to a house in Kotla Mubarakpur.”We were informed by the owner that he had given the car to the driver and tried to reach the accused, Avneesh, on his mobile phone. But it was switched off. Later, with the help of technical surveillance and people whom he had contacted after the crime, he was traced to one of the jhuggis, where he was drinking with his friends,” said DCP, South, Ishwar Singh. A forensic examination of the car was also conducted.Avneesh has been living in Delhi for four years and was earlier a school-van driver. He is married and has two children and hails from Ittawa.A case has been registered. Further investigations are under way.

Triple talaq denies equality of law to Muslim women in India: Kerala High Court

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Kerala High Court said equality before law has been denied to Muslim women in India in the matter of triple talaq. Disposing of three cases involving divorced Muslim women including change of name in spouse in passport for a person who had ended his marriage by triple talaq, the high court urged the need for codified law with regard to divorce.In its 60-page judgement, the court said entire exercise is to alert the state that justice has become elusive to Muslim women and remedy lies in codification of law of divorce.Delivering the judgement, Justice A Muhamed Mustaque observed that it is for the lawmakers to formulate the law relating to divorce through the process of legislation.The court asked the registry to forward the copy of judgement to the Law Ministry and Law Commission of India. The state is committed to respect the promise of dignity before law and it cannot shirk its responsibility by remaining mute spectator of malady suffered by Muslim women in the name of religion, the court said. The court also urged the need for a state legislation to regulate triple talaq.The court added that the Quran nowhere approves triple talaq in one utterance and on the other hand promotes conciliation as best method to resolve marital discord. Even Islamic countries like Egypt, Iraq and UAE have totally derecognised the concept of triple talaq. One has to wonder how equality before law has been denied to Muslim women in India, the court said.State, as a measure, must strive to achieve meaningful action to sustain equilibrium towards national oneness in character of society while giving freedom to remain as one group, the court said.The need for common civil code, though it is debated at different levels, still remains as mirage for want of agreement among different groups, it said.It is possible to have a common code at least for marriage laws in India, the court said.The judgement concluded quoting verses from the Quran. “It is for the state to consider formulation of codified law to govern the matter. Therefore, I conclude drawing attention of those who resist any form of reform of the divorce law of Muslim community in India to the following verses of Holy Quran (Chapter 47:2);”And those who believe and do good works and believe in that which is revealed unto Muhammed- and it is the truth from their Lord-He riddeth them of their ill deeds and improveth their state”;”Thus we display the revelations for people who have sense” (Chapter 30:28).”

DigiDhan Mela: IT Min to run digital payment fair on 17-18 Dec , open bank a/c

New Delhi: Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology will organise two-day event in Delhi to create awareness about digital payments and also help people open bank accounts and enroll for Aadhaar.

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


“DigiDhan Mela is being organized by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) at Major Dhyanchand National Stadium, Delhi to create awareness about the benefits of Digital Payment option,” an official statement said.

During the two-day event (17-18 Dec, 2016), MEITY will handhold users in downloading, installing and using various digital payment systems for carrying out digital transactions. The initiative plans to enable citizens and merchants to undertake real time digital transactions through the DigiDhan Bazaar.

“…help will also be extended to citizens for opening their bank accounts, to enrol them into Aadhaar and to enable their existing accounts into AEPS (Aadhaar enabled payment system) accounts,” the statement said.

The event will witness participation from banks, telecom companies, mobile wallet operators, transportation network companies, Department of Post, merchants (through marketing associations), co-operatives like Kendriya Bhandar and organised retail fruits and vegetable chains like Safal, milk booths, agricultural produce marketing committees etc.

Citizens who wish to be enrolled in Aadhaar will need to carry a proof of identity with name and photo, proof of address, proof of date of birth.

Besides, citizens should carry their bank account details to enable the apps and merchants will need to carry the company proof, pan card of the propreitor and the company, address and identity proof, bank account details.

The fair will provide free WiFi to enable citizens to download and install mobile apps for aiding on the spot digital payments, the statement said.

First Published On : Dec 16, 2016 12:17 IST

2012 Delhi gangrape: Has women’s safety improved since Jyoti Singh incident?

Come December and chances are that most of us Indians will mentally relive a suppressed impression of pain, horror and regret — even if in passing. The gangrape of Jyoti Singh on 16 December, 2012 that shook the country’s conscience and triggered massive outrage, is something that has been imprinted on our collective memory forever. The unfortunate event became a landmark for the issue of women’s safety, witnessing an unprecedented public outcry, countless debates, and the death sentence for the perpetrators. Government and other civil bodies were stunned and propelled into action immediately.

The Central government amended the Criminal Law Act in 2013 and also set up the Nirbhaya Fund to be utilised for safety and empowerment of women. In 2015, Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) was made the nodal agency for utilisation of the fund, with guidelines by the Central government for the process of appraising, reviewing and monitoring schemes given by ministries. Three Union Budgets later, the fund corpus stands at Rs 3,000 crore, of which a paltry Rs 200 crore has been utilised. The Ministry of WCD’s Rs 244-crore proposal to set up crisis centres was downsized by the PMO to Rs 18 crore, thereby allowing only one centre in each state, instead of in each district as originally planned.

As per a press release by Ministry of WCD in May 2016, one scheme called Universalisation of Women Helpline has been approved, and also another one called Emergency Response System. A total of nine proposals from the Ministries of Home Affairs and Railways, Delhi Police and Delhi Transport department have been appraised and recommended but further progress remains unknown. With things moving at this pace, which includes a scheme for compensation to victims, the Supreme Court in May 2016 rapped the Centre for its lack of clarity on disbursal of funds saying that this amounted to the fund itself becoming mere “lip sympathy”.

File image of protests in Delhi following the rape of Jyoti Singh in 2012. PTI

File image of protests in Delhi following the rape of Jyoti Singh in 2012. PTI

The long appraisal-approval process along with the usual hurdles of inter-ministerial coordination, combined with the already existing problems of insufficient police personnel and slow delivery of the criminal justice system — the conviction rate for rape in 2011 stood at a dismal 26.4 percent — make for low deterrence. It is no surprise that there’s been little difference in the rape figures that have on the other hand begun to increase.

On another front, the gruesome episode brought us under severe, unforgiving media glare, and India came to acquire blemish as one of the major countries leading the world in rape culture. Story after story emerged in the media and circulated in civil organisations, academia and NGOs about “India’s hatred of women”, patriarchy, misogyny and the resultant violence and abuse; many went so far as to link the depravity to India’s caste system and its history of communalism. The result was a blanket tarnishing of our national character: Indians were rapists, and therefore, tourists needed to be wary if making India travel plans; industry needed to reconsider setting shop in India, Indian students were to be denied admission.

True, we could counter the allegations by arguments backed by statistics: that rape is equally prevalent in the developed world; that India in fact, has among the lowest percentage of rapes; and that studies have shown that underreporting of sexual crimes is the norm across the world. Looked at another way, in India, our women go out to work, pursue hobbies and sports, shop, go to restaurants, work in farms and other places, are seen on the roads, even at late hours in the night. This should be evidence enough that ours is far from being a demonised society, where everyone lives in utter dread.

Further, one’s personal experience in travelling to the interiors of the country does not betray that perversion is the norm; on the other hand, one has always come back with a pleasant feeling, seeing the rural peoples’ authenticity, chattiness and helpfulness. To careful watchers, the people’s own interactions among themselves are straight-forward, with women speaking up clearly and being heard — no trace of fear. Patriarchy, yes, and maybe violence, but does that automatically translate to rape culture? This is purely talking about the feel of the country’s towns and villages. Also, the fact that women by and large have not stopped working or changed their dressing styles should normally go a long way to remove doubts about sexual abuse being India’s outstanding — or differentiating — quality.

One, therefore, would be more inclined to put the blame on a general increase in perversion, craziness and violence, which is on the rise everywhere, and has also seized Indian society. It has nothing to do with the so-called “Indian culture of misogyny and intolerance”. A clue to this lies in the fact that sexual crimes against young boys are equally on the rise, and cut across caste lines.
That said, it does not matter where we stand relatively. For a society known to venerate the feminine aspect as a goddess, or even one that claims to be based on a system of eternal humanitarian values, the figures that emerge are a matter of highest national shame — 35,000 rapes in 2015.

Apart from the harm it causes to our prospects for tourism, industrial investment, education and other potential advantages from a globalised world, karmically, we as a people and land incur the curse of the helpless, whether woman or child, each time they are violated.

Countering this violence has been on the agenda for even state governments, most of which have made piecemeal efforts. In fact, some of them are worth replicating — like the anti-harassment SHE Teams in Telangana since 2014, and the Women’s Power Line — 1090 in Uttar Pradesh, launched by Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav in 2013

The latter, in particular, developed in conjunction with IIM-Lucknow, already accounts for the potential weak links and incorporates features like confidentiality, determined pursuance and feedback. Additionally, it views crime from the lens of conditioning, not criminality, and hence, counselling is an important ingredient. Police functioning is bolstered by ‘Power Angels’ — schoolgirls who are special police officers and act as police messengers, thus effectively countering the problem of insufficient police personnel.

Certainly, cues can be taken from the above and other states can follow suit. However, factors such as paucity of funds and lack of political will are often hard to overcome at the states’ level. For the country as a whole to benefit, it will need to be taken up as a concerted and integrated exercise at the Central level.

The simplest place to begin is with our strengths, or what we already have. A pointer in this direction is the near-equal participation by men in protests against rape. “In India, the (Jyoti Singh) case has triggered a lively honest, sustained and very healthy public debate — a public debate of a quality that wouldn’t be possible in many other countries… Yesterday, we celebrated International Women’s Day at the German Embassy here in Delhi with many local activists including many men… women and men ardently committed to furthering women empowerment in India,” said the German Ambassador to India last year, in the context of an Indian student being denied admission to a German university. Wholehearted public participation can, thus, be one possible indigenous solution.

File image of protests following the December 2012 gangrape in Delhi. Firstpost/Naresh Sharma

File image of protests following the December 2012 gangrape in Delhi. Firstpost/Naresh Sharma

Apart from activists and civil organisations, a workable and sizable volunteer strength already exists in the form of the National Service Scheme (NSS), which could be harnessed to tackle this national emergency. Jawaharlal Nehru had mooted the idea of NSS in 1958, based on the international concept of service by students, and the organization was formed in 1969. Currently, this works through the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, and has 3.2 million students, participating in activities such as blood donation camps, tree plantation, disaster management, etc across the country. If adequately trained and sensitised, these students could become the interface between police and public, in both urban and rural areas. Crucial aspects of women’s safety could be tackled by engaging NSS volunteers in: one, keeping vigil and patrolling in shifts, to supplement police manpower; and two, they could be engaged for crime victimisation surveys, to supplement data of the National Crime Records Bureau, which is gathered from police stations, so that a more accurate estimate of the number of cases is reached.

NSS activity could be made compulsory in schools or credits could be given for participation, as an incentive. The National Policy on Education, 1986 had suggested giving NSS volunteers credit for social work and also extra credit for rural areas. This kind of training would not only add value to the personality of students, lending the dimension of sensitivity, responsibility and active citizenship, but also help develop good citizens in the country.

Extended further, and if we are to address this issue in a comprehensive manner, social and religious organisations such as the RSS, Madrassas, Mutts, village panchayats could all be approached and asked for help, suggestions and volunteers. This would have a major advantage of being able to bring everyone close together to work towards a national cause, from which their kith and kin stand to gain, immediately and in the coming generations. Additionally, corporates could help by increasing their CSR allocations to include women’s safety, and industry associations like Ficci and CII can contribute to the funds regularly. Premier institutes of education in management and technology could also be roped in for their expertise.

There will of course, need to be coordination between the Ministries of Youth Affairs, Education and Women and Child Development, and then with the state and local governments. For this, a supra-ministerial authority could also be considered and created to act as the nodal agency, which would tie all ends and coordinate with all participants and stakeholders in the process.

Together, these would be able to take care of some of the constraints that prevent our governments from taking adequate measures and moving ahead. Police reforms to increase manpower and speedy delivery in the criminal justice system would be the two things that would complete the process, on the execution front. Deep reforms through social transformation would still have to be carried out simultaneously, through other means.

First Published On : Dec 16, 2016 10:13 IST

Girl raped in moving car in Delhi’s Moti Bagh area; accused arrested

Exactly four years since the gruesome 2012 Delhi gangrape, a girl was raped in a moving car in Delhi’s Moti Bagh are on Thursday night, reports said.

According to India Today, the girl was raped in a moving car bearing a Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) sticker. “The car is owned by a CISF head constable. The incident took place around 9 pm last night,” it said.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

A NewsX report stated that the police have arrested the accused and seized the vehicle. The authorities are conducting further investigations.

The victim, India Today said, was reportedly waiting for a bus for Aiims. “She reportedly asked for a lift as this car passed by,” it said.

Incidentally, just a week ago, another rape case was reported from the Moti Bagh area, in which a doctor at a South Delhi municipal hospital and his assistants were accused of gang raping a female intern on the pretext of a job offer.

Women’s safety have been a concern in the capital, and the fact that the incident took place exactly four years after the Jyoti Singh rape case, where a working girl was raped in a moving bus, highlights how things don’t seem to have changed much in the capital.

More details are awaited.

First Published On : Dec 16, 2016 09:29 IST

FCRA licences of seven NGOs cancelled

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Seven NGOs, including one run by activist Shabnam Hashmi, were barred by the government from receiving foreign funds after their FCRA licences were cancelled following alleged adverse intelligence reports against them. Registration under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) of Act Now for Harmony and Democracy (ANHAD), run by Hashmi, Marwar Muslim Education and Welfare Society, Gujarat-based Navsarjan Trust, Rural Development Research Centre, Ahmedabad, and three others were cancelled by the Home Ministry, official sources said.The decision has been taken after the Home Ministry conducted an inquiry into the functioning of the NGOs whose FCRA licences were renewed in the recent past. There were adverse intelligence inputs against the seven NGOs ranging from allegedly working against public interest by using foreign funds, painting the government as “anti- Dalit” abroad, besides others.FCRA licences of these seven NGOs were claimed to have been renewed “inadvertently” despite alleged unfavourable intelligence reports. When it was detected during the emergency audit, their registration were cancelled with immediate effect, sources said.Home Ministry has already initiated a security audit of its website to ascertain the possibility hacking and subsequent leak of data. A red-faced Home Ministry has seen a series of faux pas in the matter of NGOs. Only on Wednesday, it cancelled renewal of FCRA licence of Greenpeace India and two NGOs run by activist Teesta Setalvad – Sabrang Trust and Citizens for Justice and Peace – two months after “inadvertently” allowing their registration for five more years.The Ministry has also ordered a review of recent renewal of FCRA registration of 13,000 NGOs to look into the possible violation of existing rules. While licence of Greenpeace India and Sabrang Trust were cancelled by the government in the past, Citizens for Justice and Peace was put in prior permission category, thus preventing it from accepting foreign funds without government permission.Similar embarrassing moments were witnessed two months ago when there was a lapse in “automatic renewal” of the licence of Zakir Naik’s NGO — Islamic Research Foundation– leading to suspension of four officials including a Joint Secretary. The FCRA licence of IRF was later cancelled by the government permanently after declaring it as a terror outfit.

IAF officers can’t grow beard on religious grounds: SC dismisses two Muslim men’s pleas

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday held that personnel working in the Indian Air Force cannot sport a beard based on religious grounds.

A bench headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur said that the Centre’s decision to prohibit personnel of a particular community from sporting beard does not infringe upon the fundamental rights.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

The bench also comprising Justices DY Chandrachud and L Nageswara Rao dismissed the pleas filed by two Muslim personnel of IAF who had challenged the dismissal of their pleas by the Delhi High Court.

The apex court verdict came on two petitions filed separately by two personnel, Mohammed Zubair and Ansari Aaftab Ahmed, challenging the IAF authorities’ “confidential” order dated 24 February, 2003, prohibiting Muslim personnel from sporting a beard.

Zubair in his petition had contended that the order was in contravention of fundamental fights of the citizen and also a government letter issued through the Ministry of Home Affairs on 18 July,1990.

The said letter of the home minister permitted the uniformed Muslim/Sikh personnel to sport beard on religious grounds, provided prior permission was sought from the authorities, he said.

The Centre had said that the IAF order was in the interest of cohesiveness in a combat force and it also has security implications.

It had said that these policies are secular in character and have not been framed to govern the conduct of air force personnel of any particular religion.

The Centre has earlier told the court that IAF is undoubtedly a secular force having due regard for all religions and it is imperative that its personnel are guided by a sense of brotherhood without any distinction of caste, creed, colour or religion.

The petitioners had challenged the IAF order by way of a writ petition before the Delhi High Court and a single judge, citing certain Muslim religious texts, took the view that sporting beard was not compulsory and hence dismissed the plea.

They then approached a division bench which had also concurred with the order of the single judge and dismissed the plea following which the appeals were filed in the apex court.

First Published On : Dec 15, 2016 15:31 IST