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Jharkhand coal mine mishap: Five more bodies recovered, death toll climbs to 16

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>With the recovery of five more bodies on Saturday, the death toll climbed to 16 in the coal mine collapse at Lalmatia open cast coal mine of Eastern Coalfields Ltd (ECL), the worst such disaster in over a decade.R R Mishra, officiating CMD of ECL, a Coal India subsidiary told PTI, “We have recovered five more bodies today. We are carrying on the rescue operation in a systematic manner so that the situation does not aggravate as the debris is too much and it should not fall.”Danger zones have been declared around the place of incidents to restrict the entry of people there. Moreover, the district commissioner has also stationed police and CISF officials to restrict entry of people in the danger zone, Mishra said.”We have also called experts from outside to help us in the rescue operation. We have fully ensured that the rescue operations are done with proper safety measures. We have also come up with Standard Operating Procedures which would help us in proper operations so that there is no loss to lives,” Mishra added.Central Mine Planning and Design Institute (CMPDIL), the consultancy arm of Coal India Ltd, has deployed magneto meters along with imaging system for locating magnetic and conductive material up to a depth of 80 meters, the statement said.Mishra said the incident occurred at around 7.30 PM on Thursday when excavators were working there following which rescue operations was launched immediately.Senior officials of Director General of Mines Safety (DGMS) have arrived at the site and launched an inquiry.13 excavators and dump trucks which were swamped under the debris have been recovered.

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

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

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

Freedom 251. IBNLiveFreedom 251. IBNLive

Freedom 251. IBNLive

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tripura TMC launches movement to ‘restore democracy by ousting Left Front Government’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Tripura Trinamool Congress (TMC) has declared agitation against the ruling Left Front on various issues including investigation against chit funds, duped depositors, involvement of elected members including minister of the state in crime against women, unemployment, state government employees deprived from the Seventh Pay Commission and few other issues. President of the newly formed Tripura unit of the party, Asish Saha told the media that the Trinamool Congress announced that it would launch a continuous movement in the state to “restore democracy” by ousting the Left Front Government in the assembly elections scheduled for 2018.”In this state, 142 chit funds were active and the party in power had made all arrangements and provided them license to do business. The Chief Minister of the state along with various ministers, ruling CPI(M) party MLAs and leaders attended programmes organised by different chit funds which were active in this state and thus encouraged people to deposit money and brought credibility for these chit funds, which duped around 14 lack depositors of the state. Moreover, due to wrong decision of the cabinet these chit funds could flee from the state leading to economic breakdown but the state government did not take any step against them,” said Saha.”The people of the state faced huge monetary loss and there was a repeated demand to take measure against these chit funds but the government did not do anything so that those were duped could get back their money. So very soon the Trinamool Congress will organise state wide protest on behalf of all depositors who had lost their money to these chit funds,” he added.Saha alleged that neither the state nor the Central Government is serious in taking step against the chit fund or the corruption in various block offices by siphoning of fund from central schemes and so the TMC will organise protest against all these. “We have noticed that in all our neighbouring states investigations are taking place against the chit funds by the CBI, ED and the union government is also giving importance to the loss of the depositors in those states. But in our state, despite our repeated demand the centre or the state government is not declaring any investigation. Here the party in power had siphoned depositor’s money in connivance with the chit funds and so no steps are being taken against them. So on coming January 19 we shall organise rally for pressing various demands including investigation against the chit funds,” he said.He also alleged that the state is among those in crime against women and no legal step is taken against those who are involved in such crimes as they are leaders and elected members of the Left Front. Saha said, “Besides protesting against corruption, we shall also protest against the crime against women in the state. We shall also fight for the unemployed youths, the government employees who are deprived by the state government from their 7th Pay Commission scale. For these demands we shall also go for six hours state wide agitation on coming January 19.”He claimed that only TMC can oust the corrupt Marxist government from power like Mamata Banerjee ousted the Marxist government from power in West Bengal. The TMC has formed a 74-member Tripura Pradesh unit with Saha as its president.

The long road for Talgo

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>What exactly is the deal with the Talgo train from Spain that the railways tried on its tracks- with massive media hype- between May and September? The truth is that we are as far as buying a Talgo train now as we were when the trials had not even started. On December 2, replying to a query in Parliament, minister of state for railways Rajen Gohain said it in as many words. His exact words- ‘the trial was limited to assessment of timing and detailed technical assessment with regard to complete compatibility with Indian Railway’s fixed infrastructure and other requirements was outside the scope of the trial. No decision has been taken for the purchase of these coaches.’The Railways, after all the hype and hoopla, has tied itself in more than a few knots when it comes to the purchase of these Spanish trains.Parliament’s nod for aluminium trains:The Talgo rakes are made of aluminium, a completely new material to make rakes as far as India is concerned. We in India make rakes with corten steel- used in the older Integral Coach Factory Chennai coaches- or stainless steel, used in the new LHB coaches made mainly in the Rail Coach Factory Kapurthala.The usage of aluminium will require a fresh sanction from Parliament and also a detailed study of how the material would perform in Indian conditions, especially the varied climatic conditions in which our trains run. Both of these could take time, said officials in the know.The tender question:Moreover the purchase of these rakes would require the railways to call a tender as buying it from a single firm without giving others a chance might give rise to accusations the railways could do without, said officials. “Calling of tenders itself could take a lot of time because these would be tenders running into several hundred crores. They will have to be vetted by various departments and the criteria involved will have to be such that other train manufacturers also get a fair chance if they want to participate. There can be no custom-made tender for Talgo trains,” explained a retired top railway official. To get things into perspective, a contract won in Spain by Talgo on November 28 this year will see the first of its trainsets coming into service only 38 months later.The maintenance muddle:The other hitch is that it would be almost impossible for the railways to buy these Talgo rakes off-the-shelf because the Spanish firm generally sells rakes with a clause that it maintains the rake exclusively for the remainder of its life. This, according to railway officials, would almost certainly be rejected because the railways has so far been learning new technology by maintaining stock from manufacturers as diverse as Alstom, Bombardier, Siemens and EMD.However Subodh Jain, former Member Engineering said that currently the worldwide practice is that manufacturers provide scheduled maintenance. “Daily examination and cleaning is done by the operator (the railways). We maintain our stock because we manufacture it,” Jain added.The need for Indianisation:One of the biggest dilemmas the railways is facing in the purchase of these rakes pertains to the speed of operations. What is the point of buying a 200kmph rake when the track isn;t good enough for anything over 150kmph at best? As reported by DNA in its November 9 edition, the railway ministry has formed a three-member committee to study the modalities of buying rakes from Spanish train manufacturer Talgo. The three members of the committee would be Additional Members of the Civil, Mechanical and Budget stream of the Railway Board. Officials DNA spoke to maintained that the train which was tested was not conducive for running on Indian Railways under current conditions as the rake was slimmer and lower than what is ideal for platforms in India. “The width of long-distance trains in India are 3250mm and suburban trains running in Mumbai have a width of 3660mm,” said one official.High speed trains, low speed tracks:It is a question that railway officials are asking for the Talgo as well as the Rs 5000 crore plan to purchase high-speed trainsets to replace Rajdhanis and Shatabdis. As reported by DNA in its November 11 edition, the railway board is divided on the purchase of trainsets over speed.While a section of officials believe that buying expensive 200kmph trainsets now and running them at lower speeds till our tracks are upgraded to 200kmph would be a financial folly. These officials believe that by the time the tracks are upgraded- which might take anything between five to eight years- it would be possible to get better tachnology trainsets at the same cost or lesser. The railway ministry had earmarked Rs 2952 crores for the current fiscal to buy 15 such trainsets.”It applies for the Talgo as well. If you buy them now, they won’t be able to run at their full potential at least till another 5-10 years,” was the chorus from several officials. They said that this ‘back to the drawing board’ move for the trainsets was made after going through the trials of the Talgo.Despite having a top speed potential of 200kmph, the maximum speed the Talgo could achieve during the trials was 117.5 kmph when it made the trip between Delhi-Mumbai on September 11 in 11 hours and 48 minutes.”This was because our tracks, many of then having a top capacity of 160kmph, cannot support trains beyond a certain speed due to curves, age and other geological problems. So unless tracks are not upgraded, buying expensive trainsets or even the Talgo of 200kmph might not be a good idea,” said an official.Changing gauge: Advantage or disadvantage?One of the biggest advantages that the Talgo has over several of its bigger railway manufacturing competitors is a technology called the Automatic Variable Gauge System (AVGS). Tis system allows the Talgo to change gauge even in motion as it makes its way from tracks of a particular width to another. The alternative way is to use two different rakes and asking passengers to shift from one train to another, which in turn is a messy time-consuming affair. This is a huge advantage when the Talgo makes its way around Spain- which has 3 different gauges like India- or when it makes the cross-border routes like between Spain and the rest of Europe as well between the CIS countries and the rest of Europe.However, as officials pointed out, this advantage is nullified. “Though we have three different gauges- broad, metre and narrow- none of these stations intersect. Moreover narrow and metre gauge routes are now confined to small stations in rural areas and none of them are on high-end routes that the Talgo will ultimately be used for,” said the official.The tilting advantage:The construction of the Talgo is such that it allows the rake to tilt in such a way that it can make corners and curves on tracks at higher speed. While manufacturers like Alstom, Bombardier and Siemens also have these tilting mechanisms, officials said the Talgo mechanism is by far the better one. “However whether this tilting really plays a huge part in India will have to be seen as out track curves come with varying speed restrictions that have been place for years,” said the official.The Talgo RTI:A Right to Information plea filed by DNA on the Talgo came up with these answers:1) No Make in India as of now.2) Cost of trials was footed by the railways3) There was no agreement between railways and Talgo on testing the rake4) There is assured purchase agreement between railways and Talgo.Talgo wins in Spain:On November 28, the Spanish Ministry of Development announced that Talgo had been selected for a 786 million euro contract to supply 15 high-speed trainsets to government operator RENFE and maintain them for 30 years. Talgo is expected to put the first of its Avril trainsets in service as part of this contract in 38 to 42 months. These trains have a top speed of 330 kmph and are to have 416 standard and 105 business class seats. The company claimed that it had spent 50 million euros to develop the Avril high-speed train concept.

Lack of preparedness by Finance Ministry led to cash crisis: Subramanian Swamy

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>BJP leader and Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy on Sunday attributed the prevailing cash crunch to lack of preparedness by the Finance Ministry before demonetizing high value currencies.”The Finance Ministry should have taken precautionary measures before demonetizing Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes,” he told reporters here.”The government had decided to go for demonetization in 2014 itself and the Finance Ministry ought to have done contingency plans. They have not done any preparation and the Prime Minister had announced (demonetization), assuming that the things will be a smooth,” he said. Moreover, the size of new Rs 500 and Rs 2,000 currencies was small to accommodate in the ATMs, which was another reason for the problem, he pointed out.”Along with demonetization, the committee headed by me on the issue in 2014 had recommended abolition of income tax, so that the people get relief,” Swamy said. On stalling of Parliament proceedings, the BJP leader said, “We are not responsible for this, it is Congress which is responsible.”

Maha files 2,500-page affidavit in support of Maratha quota

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Maharashtra government on Monday filed a 2,500-page affidavit in the Bombay High Court supporting the demand for 16 per cent reservation for Maratha community in the state.The affidavit filed by government pleader, Abhinandan Vagyani, relies on several documents and records, speeches made by Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, references about the community in devotional and folk songs and religious texts by Saint poets such as Sant Tukaram, Bahinabai and Samarth Ramdas. The affidavit also has exhibits from Manusmriti, a highly controversial religious text about the “varna” system in Hindu religion. The affidavit names Shahu Maharaj, Mahatma Jyotiba Phule and Ambedkar in support of their claim that Maratha community is underprivileged and backward along with other Kshatriyas in other regions. The government says it has relied on several records and documents running over the centuries evincing the social, educational and economic backwardness of the Maratha community as a major segment of the Shudhra class in the state. The affidavit quotes recent reports of various commissions supporting the need for reservations for Marathas. Saying that Maratha community is 32% of the total population, the affidavit also says that most of the farmers who have been facing an agrarian crisis for years are Marathas. Moreover, 80% of them earn less than Rs one lakh per year and are not represented adequately in government jobs due to low literacy levels.Earlier, the government had sought six weeks’ time from the High Court to file an additional affidavit along with data in support of its stand on reserving a percentage of government jobs and seats in educational institutions in the state for the Maratha community. Senior counsels, V A Thorat and Ravi Kadam, appearing for the government in different matters sought additional time.The affidavit was filed while the court was hearing two PILs opposing the then Congress-NCP government’s 2014 decision to grant 16% reservation in government jobs and educational institutions, and also a bunch of applications in favour of the reservation. The plea is likely to come up for hearing on Wednesday.

Demonetisation: As banks run low on cash, mood in queues turns less charitable

“Why not? Surely, we can take a bit of discomfort if demonetisation is meant for the greater common good.”

This was the mood at the queues at banks and their cash-vending machines a fortnight ago, around seven days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi made the big announcement. Three weeks on, the mood appears less charitable. There’s more irritation on the faces of people and they are more prone to picking fights with others for reasons they would have ignored earlier with a friendly smile. “Man! How long is it going to last? What the hell is going on?’’

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

The signs of frustration are hard to miss.

The pay-day rush has worsened the collective feeling. There are not too many bad words about the prime minister and demonetisation yet, but acerbic questions have started trickling in. “Where are the rich people in the queues? They have fun with black money and we, the middle class people, have to suffer like this,” a gentleman, around 60, tells you. He is tired of running to his bank at IP Extension in Patparganj every few days and feels he cannot take it anymore if the shortage of cash continues.

“The Rs 2,000 notes that banks offer are as worthless as the Rs 1,000 notes rendered useless. No one accepts them; if they do it, it is on the condition that you buy goods worth the amount. Nobody is prepared to let go of the Rs 100 and Rs 50 notes even if they have a good stock of both,” says another.

This is a common complaint everywhere.

The freedom to spend stands severely curtailed; and it has begun hurting the everyday activities of people. The neighbourhood grocer says he cannot give away notes of those denominations because he is not sure how long the cash problem will continue. Moreover, he has to pay with such cash for certain items he stores.

Older people, particularly pensioners, are a worried lot. The banks won’t pay them the whole amount deposited in their zero-balance accounts. They have resorted to rationing to meet the cash shortage and make it available to as many people as possible. The pensioners thus have to come back again and again and suffer the long wait to get money. A gentleman, around 80 years old, does not look happy about the prospect of coming back to the bank repeatedly. “Beta, pension ke liye wait karte-karte jaan na nikal jaye (I hope I don’t die waiting for my pension).” Why can’t there be separate arrangements for old people like him, he asked. Two of his friends concur.

The jury is still out on whether demonetisation was such a great move, but there appears little disagreement among the public that its execution has been shoddy. The government may have its explanation for the delay in the arrival of fresh cash, but there are not many takers for it now. The mood might get worse in the coming days as routine payments are disturbed and services are hit everyday, as a result.

There’s a lesson for the government in this: It should be extremely careful about dramatic moves that have potential for causing distress to the public. If the benefits of the move don’t far exceed the loss due to the disruption to normalcy caused by it, then there’s little point in pursuing it. One wishes the government had gone ahead with the cashless transaction drive with some caution and a solid Plan B in place.

First Published On : Dec 2, 2016 13:39 IST

Delhi govt’s attempts at improving literacy are failing, but were expectations too unrealistic?

Despite the best efforts of the Delhi education department, there are thousands of students in government high schools who still struggle to read.

A project taken up by the government to improve literacy among the state’s children hasn’t had the desired effects. Education minister Manish Sisodia had urged all teachers in government schools to take a pledge as part of the ‘Every child can read’ campaign. The campaign, which ended on Teachers’ Day on 14 November, had come up after statistics suggested 74 percent of the state’s children couldn’t read. “The education minister appealed to all teachers, asking them to ensure students can read before 14 November,” one teacher said.

Delhi education minister Manish Sisodia. PTI file imageDelhi education minister Manish Sisodia. PTI file image

Delhi education minister Manish Sisodia. PTI file image

But not everybody was happy with the campaign; teachers said it was “whimsical” to expect children to start reading in just two-and-a-half months. “It’s impossible to teach reading in such a short period of time, especially to students who couldn’t acquire this basic skill until Class VI,” said a government school teacher on condition of anonymity, adding that students are usually expected to be fully well versed with reading and writing by Class VI, but many of the children in the capital city can’t even identify alphabets by this age.

As per a study conducted by the state government, nearly 50 percent of students who appear for their board exams from government schools fail every year on account of this condition. In June this year, the education department came up with a new policy to eliminate this malady. The scheme, titled ‘Chunauti 2018’, involved holding separate classes for students who lag behind. It was felt that doing so would improve pass percentage and decrease dropout rates.

It has had some positive impact, however. Shashi Kant Singh, principal of a co-ed school in Dwarka, said his school has achieved over 82 percent success when it comes to making its students read. “Of the 148 students who were selected for special classes, 124 can now read paragraphs,” Singh said.

However, sources in the education department said the figure is not representative of all government schools; at many other schools, students fared very badly in tests held after the drive. Only 39.43 percent of students in government schools passed the reading tests, the sources added. And considering there are more than 900 such schools, the number of students who’re still unable to read — despite the much publicised drive — would run into thousands.

Dr Sunita Kaushik, additional director with the state education department, and the person who looks after the drive, was away on leave and unable to comment.

Ashok Agarwal, an activist who has been fighting for the cause of Delhi school students, told Firstpost that the lack of infrastructure is another major problem afflicting government schools. Moreover, there were 26,031 vacant posts at the state-run schools in Delhi. “The Delhi High Court just granted four weeks more time to the Delhi government to file its affidavit in response to a contempt petition filed by a social jurist, highlighting non-recruitment of teachers in the past few years,” added Agarwal, who is also the advocate for the appealing party.

He further added that nearly 10 percent of teachers are always on leave, a benefit availed under service rules. He also noted that many government and municipal schools do not even have adequate space to facilitate education to all the students. “It’s unrealistic to expect students will read at such short notice, given the deplorable condition of educational infrastructure,” he contended.

Some teachers contend that though ‘Chunauti 2018’ is a scheme with a lofty goal of increasing pass percentage and decreasing dropout rates, expecting all students to read in just two-and-a-half months is uncalled for. “To achieve this goal, we need adequate educational infrastructure to back it up, and not just whims,” a teacher said.

First Published On : Nov 25, 2016 20:45 IST

Centre warns States on heist attempts for fresh currency

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Fearing a spike in the cases of heist, the union home ministry has issued an express advisory to all the states and UTs to provide full security to vans carrying fresh currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 denominations, banks, and ATMs.Based on intelligence inputs, there is a strong apprehension in the government that there could be organized attempts of robbery, including armed robbery of banks, ATMs and loot of cash carrying vans, especially by the Mafia cartels who have lost their black money because of sudden demonetisation.Similar apprehensions have also been expressed for Maoist-affected regions and insurgency prone areas of the Northeast, where heists are not uncommon. Moreover, with the introduction of Rs 2000 notes, the temptations of a heist has increased manifold.There are also fears that, affected big fishes, especially strongmen politicians, may incite restive crowds in trouble spots to create unrest and use the opportunity to loot. Sources in the government said, given the colossal task, it can take two weeks or even more to replace old currency with fresh ones in several regions of the country, especially the far flung areas of northeast, central India and hilly regions.”Complete pullout of old currency and its replacement with fresh one may take even more time since there are more than 2,300 crore pieces of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes in circulation, worth more than Rs 16 lakh crore, comprising 86.4 per cent of the total value. All this mammoth exchange exercise is fraught with dangers,” an official said.For speedy replenishment of money, the government is mulling relaxing the standard operating procedures (SOPs) for private cash vans that carry and replenish bulk cash everyday in ATMs and banks and even increase their numbers. At present, there are over 8,000 cash vans owned by private operators in the country that ferry close to Rs 15,000 crore cash per day and hold over Rs 5000 crore overnight on behalf of banks in them. The SOPs also spell out clearly secured cash handling and transportation by private security agencies, which sets an 8 pm deadline for replenishing ATMs in urban areas, 5 pm in rural areas and 3 pm in Maoist-infested zones.Officials conceded that seeing the problems faced by public which may lead to an outrage, the present equation cannot be the norm in the existing circumstances and there is a need to increase the number of vans and also relax the norms of timing for replenishing cash. “The present arrangement of replenishing Rs. 15000 crore a day cannot be continued as it would take 106 days. To bring it down we have already augmented the arrangements that will be further improved. The effort is to squeeze the whole exercise in half the time,” said the official.

We’ve been stressing on no discrimination, it should be done through law: RSS on UCC

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>RSS expressed hope on Tuesday that Muslim women who have moved the court seeking abolition of triple talaq would secure justice, even as it said it wants the community to give a serious thought to the issue. “The triple talaq issue is an internal problem of Muslims and in this context the Muslim community should seriously think over it. In the present era there should not be any kind of gender-based discrimination. On talaq issue, women have gone to court and we expect they get justice properly,” RSS All India General Secretary Bhayyaji Joshi told reporters here.”The Muslim community should also think and decide on it. We feel that there is a need that the court should also give (its) views on this matter through human perspective,” he said on the concluding day of the three-day All India Executive Council Meetings of RSS.On Uniform Civil Code, Joshi said, “We have been stressing that to stop any kind of discrimination in personal life it should be done through law without disturbing social fabric. Law Commission has sought opinion on UCC and the Commission should consider the viewpoints (of public) and based on it, the Commission has to spell out its opinion..that is what we feel.”Reacting to a query on surgical strikes, the senior RSS leader said, “In our country we are experts in politicising on any issue. Government has to take a decision which it took and the Army has to take action which it did.” “We need to appreciate the present (NDA) government for taking a decision for surgical strikes and at the same time the surgical strikes were conducted on Army’s might. Hence, the army and the government, both are commendable for the surgical strikes…that is what we feel,” he said.Asked about RSS’ stand on Pakistan artistes, Joshi said “Iske sandharb me sabhi ko udarta aur pramanikta se sochna chahiye.”If the Pakistani artistes say that they don’t want to work in Indian movies then why India is so eager on welcoming them,” he asked, adding, “Do we have scarcity of artistes in India?”.He said making movies with only Indian artistes is a welcome step. “Moreover, why we should be dependent on others for artistes. I think this dependency has to get over.” Reacting to another query, on call for boycott of Chinese goods on social media, Joshi said, “Our stand has been that we should buy only Indian goods. Why only Chinese? When the alternatives (of products) are available. But, there are certain products for which alternatives are not there and we don’t say.””We have been saying that not only Chinese products but people should purchase natural products made in India and that stand continues,” Joshi added.

Rlys now berths 44 cr passengers

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Railways, which is just days away from the Diwali passenger rush— among the densest anywhere in the world, has managed to keep some part of its promise of a confirmed ticket for every passenger by 2020. It has managed to increase the number of confirmed berths available annually on its trains from 37.1 crore in 2014 to 44.7 crore in 2016. This is a jump of over 20 per cent. To put matters into perspective, the 44.7 crore figure is bigger than the population of all countries in the world other than China and India.The huge jump in berths has come about because of the increase in number of trains run over the past couple of years. Statistics available with the railway ministry show that over the last two years, it ran a whopping 70,000 special trains. Moreover, during this period it introduced 308 new trains, extended 99 trains, increased the frequency per week (fpw) of 188 trains and permanently added 1,610 coaches to various trains. The Railways ran a little over 2.5 lakh extra coach trips in the past two years, ministry data shows.According to data from the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report of June this year, between 2010 to 2015, the total number of passengers carried by the Railways was 3,054 crore of which 829 crore were non-suburban passengers. This comes to around 165.8 crore per year, though a sizable part of this number would be travelling in unreserved coaches, said officials.Good intentions apart, it is not going to be a smooth ride for the ‘confirmed seat on demand’ mission, agreed officials, because as the economy grows and along with it income, newer passengers would want to travel in higher—sleeper and air-conditioned—classes. A study of the passengers carried over one kilometre (called PKM in railway operation terminology) shows that for every 100 passengers carried over a kilometre, 25 passengers travel by sleeper class, and 65 per cent by unreserved coaches. The rest travel by higher classes like First or Executive chair car.Moreover, the recently-announced Regional Air-Connectivity Scheme (RACS), announced by the Civil Aviation Ministry could take over a decade before it starts reducing railway passenger numbers for the better. “The number of seats available on a daily basis on the Railways to the ‘Y’ cities is so much higher than what any regional connectivity airline can match at least in the next few years,” explained a railway official.Under government classifications, Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru, Ahmedabad Hyderabad and Pune are ‘X’ cities, the rest divided into Y and smaller urban agglomerations into Z categories.

Maha govt to deploy ‘power managers’ in 23,000 villages to recover power dues

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In a major initiative to recover mounting agricultural losses which have now touched to Rs 13,000 crore, the Devendra Fadnavis government has decided to rope in 23,600 contract employees to handle the electricity matters of all villages in the state on ‘franchise’ basis. Each ‘village power manager’ as the fresh recruits will be called according to government nomenclature, will handle all crucial power issues pertaining to that village. Villages with the population of 3,000 or more will be covered under the scheme. The scheme ‘one village one power manager’ which got government’s nod on Thursday, will allow contract employees to disconnect the power supply of defaulters, enable new connections, maintain the streetlights, attend the breakdowns, meter reading and distribution of power bills. Until now, these works are done by linemen who usually manage 3-5 villages. “This scheme will provide employment to 23,600 youths through whom we seek to strengthen our own distribution system in the rural Maharashtra, go for last mile connectivity, finish the metering backlog, curb the power theft and recover the dues,” says Energy Minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule. Under the scheme, the ITI trained youngsters of the same village or other village within five kilometer radius will be given three months training before placement. Recruitment process will be completed within a month, claimed Bawankule. They will be given stipend based on Rs 9 per household. Gram panchayat will assess their performance. The energy department will spend over Rs 100 crore while rural development department will implement the scheme which is projected as ‘Diwali Bonanza’ for skilled youths by Bawankule and rural Development Minister Pankaja Munde. Interestingly, agricultural arrears of the state have crossed Rs13,000 cr this year. Over 20 lakh farm connections are still without meter. The MSECL which is under heavy losses for many years doesn’t have ₹2,000 cr to clear the backlog. Among 18 lakh Agri metered connections most are defunct making payment of bills cumbersome. Besides, the state discom MSEDCL’s distribution losses have gone up in last two years reaching to 18% in 2015-16. DNA was the first to report these two stories early this year. The government is seeking to bring it down to at least 15% and has now pinned its hope on franchises. Moreover, 18 lakh households in the state are still without power and over 20 lakh households are in the permanently disconnected category owing to pending bills. And to give power to all by 2020, as per the PM Narendra Modi’s dream, the state needs at least Rs 22,000 crore. “We won’t be able to complete the target unless we address the issues which have dented the MSEDCL which is the largest power distribution company in Asia,” says Bawankule. With the presence of the trained people, the energy department also hopes to save loss of lives due to power shocks. “Due to unavailability of linemen, often untrained people are roped in for electrical works in villages leading to several casualties. Many people lose life because of broken wire or faulty system. Unfortunately, most deaths remain unreported,” says Bawankule. On paper, over 600 people die every year in Maharashtra due to power shock, says MSEDCL record. Interestingly, the government has brought a similar scheme last year for feeder managers also. The scheme got skewed response. The only district out of 36 where youngsters applied for the scheme was Bawankule’s constituency in Nagpur. When asked about poor response of the previous scheme and possibility of similar outcome of the newly launched one also, Bawankule claimed, “The scheme was deliberately derailed by insiders whose name I can’t disclose. Though it is going well in my area which was taken as pilot. However, I’m pretty sure that aspirants will come forward for this scheme.”

Provide physical & visually disabled easier access, make buses differently-abled friendly: Govt

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>For the convenience of the differently-abled, the government has asked states to ensure that buses are adequately equipped with user-friendly features. “Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) has directed all states to have 10% of the total fleet of buses to be equipped with disabled friendly features to provide people with physical and visual disabilities easier access,” industry body Assocham said in a statement today quoting Joint Secretary, MoRTH Abhay Damle.Addressing a conference on ‘Safe road-safe Life’, Damle said majority of people with disabilities are mostly apprehensive of using public transport as presently state owned and private buses are not equipped and do not meet the requirement of people with special needs. “State transport authorities have been asked to acquire and equip buses designed to enable people with disabilities to board and disembark without having to be assisted,” the statement said quoting him.It said that Ministry has also issued advisory to State transport departments to issue driving licenses to the differently abled clearing all normal driving tests and formalities. “A person without both the hands has been issued a driving license in Indore recently. Moreover, the state transport and Motor Vehicle registration authorities in the country have been asked to immediately register vehicles modified by the disabled without and certificate from the vehicle manufacturer,” said Damle.Regarding motor vehicle safety, Indian cars presently being manufactured are quite safe, the official said and that more stress should be given on two wheeler safety by vehicle manufacturers as 80% of the vehicles in the country are two wheelers. India is signatory to UN Decade of Action for reducing fatal road accidents by 50% by the year 2020 , but road accident deaths are on the rise with about 1.5 lakh deaths in crashes every year.

The King’s Companions

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>With the death of the world’s longest serving monarch, the world has also lost a staunch crusade for the adoption of stray, handicapped and abandoned animals. Queen Elizabeth II of England has her Corgis, but King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand had Tongdaeng. He wrote a book about his adopted stray, put her on national postal stamps and even produced an animated film to commemorate him.Over the years, King Bhumibol had adopted many handicapped, stray and abandoned animals. Well known for his concern of animal welfare, he wrote a best-selling book of his beloved adopted street dog, Tongdaeng, proceeds of which helped to fund several royal animal welfare projects.In 1998, a stray Bangkok dog was taken in by a medical centre in Bangkok and had a litter of puppies. After the king visited the medical centre, he adopted a dog from the litter. She was named ‘Tongdaeng’ (‘Copper’), and became a favorite of the Thai monarch. Tongdaeng was praised by the king for her loyalty, manners and intelligence and he once said, ‘Tongdaeng is a common dog who is uncommon’.Such is Tongdaeng’s fame and fan following that when the king left hospital after a minor operation in 2002, he wore a t-shirt with the image of Tongdaeng and her puppies. This sparked a fashion craze in Thailand with the public buying up Tongdaeng T-shirts. Similar scenes followed when the Thai king published his book, ‘The Story of Tongdaeng’.Apparently, the fact that His Majesty adopted a humble stray puppy as the royal pet dog touched the hearts of the general public. This was followed up with an animated version of the book in 2004. A commemorative block of four postage stamps featuring Tongdaeng was issued by Thailand Post in 2006.”Most adopted stray dogs are usually humble and exceptionally faithful to their owners, as if they are grateful for the kindness they receive. Moreover, they are not inferior to imported dogs in intelligence. Some are attractive or have a distinctive smart look, like Tongdaeng,” he wrote.The King added that if the authorities helped, more people would be willing to adopt the numerous stray dogs. Tongdaeng passed away peacefully in Dec 2015, at the elderly age of 17. An animated film was released to commemorate her, entitled “Khun Tongdaeng: The Inspiration”, adapting from the King’s book.

Tamil Nadu: Rameswaram fishermen call off strike, resume work

Sat, 15 Oct 2016-10:40am , Rameswaram , ANI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In Tamil Nadu, fishermen from Rameswaram resumed fishing from early today after calling off their week- long strike. The fishermen had resorted to strike urging immediate release of fishing boats detained by Sri Lanka. The fishermen urged the government to secure 115 fishing boats detained by Sri Lanka and have asserted that their livelihood is badly affected as they are unable to continue fishing without their fishing boats. Moreover, the boats are getting damaged as they are kept unused for long time. However, the fishermen from Rameswaram decided to call off their strike as they are unable to sustain it. The fishermen also demanded that Sri Lanka release five fishermen from Pudukottai Jagadapattinam lodged in Lankan jail. They further seek to secure their rights to fish in traditional waters near Katchatheevu and Palk straits.

FTII takes series of new initiatives, students sceptical

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Students of the country’s premier film school – Film and Television Institute of India (FTII)–will no longer be eligible to use the hostel facilities of the campus in Pune post a maximum three years of their course duration, a document detailing a series of initiatives taken by the institute management states.The document also says that the film school will introduce a new syllabus for the timely completion of courses in the future.”A choice-based credit system, along with continuous evaluation and semester system has been introduced. The hostel facility will only be available for those who are doing courses, the duration of which is maximum three years,” the document states.A senior official of the Information and Broadcasting (I&B) ministry told DNA that the existing infrastructure of the institute will be augmented and more digital studios will be added so that students can complete their courses within a stipulated period of three years.”Earlier, students would continue their courses at the institute for years and were offered 100 per cent subsidy. Now, they will have to complete their course within three years. This would also bring about a discipline and accountability if students in FTII,” the official said.”As a result, there were zero years in 2014 and 2015 where new students couldn’t take admission due to a lack of seats. The new initiative attempts to change this,” the official added.As part of the new initiatives, FTII will be carrying out several short-term filmmaking courses across the country, starting with a 20-day course would be conducted in Guwahati this month.”For decades, film and television courses have stayed put in Pune and Kolkata. Why should there be such courses offered across the country that would serve as a prelude to the degree courses?” an official asked and added that it would be a huge skill development initiative, in sync with the requirement of the expanding TV and film industry.Other measures include opening FTII to the public once or twice a month, starting anti-ragging measures and steps to curb sexual harassment.”Moreover, there are frequent interactions held with the population residing around FTII, who earlier often complained about the students. The institute will also be putting floodlights and CCTVs in the dark areas of the campus,” a senior official said.Students, who have recently finished their courses at the institute, were sceptical and said even the new course is voluminous enough to be completed within just three years.Yashasvi Mishra, a former student of acting at FTII, said except a few courses, many courses can take an average of 4.5 years to five years to get completed and it is not usually the students’ fault.”There are numerous other factors at play here like the availability of studios and other resources. Nobody wants to continue studying at the institute for years,” Mishra said, adding that his own course started in 2011 after a delay of seven months.”For example, editing students can only start their work once the film is made,” Mishra explained.”The problem is that the FTII administration is more keen on the quantity than the quality of courses,” saidVikas Urs, another former FTII student, said he was part of the revising syllabus committee, but had walked out of it, since even the new syllabus cannot be completed within three years. “The first batch has already started the new syllabus and it’s been just a few months. It would be difficult for the students to complete this new syllabus within three years, but the institute administration will blame the students for it,” said Urs.

How India can use economic ties as tactical weapon to disturb China-Pakistan bonhomie

Why does Pakistan resort to asymmetric war against India?
It’s more cost-effective than conventional warfare.

Why would India be reluctant to launch headlong into a conventional war against Pakistan?
Again, it’s about costs.

File image of Chinese president Xi Jinping and Indian prime minister Narendra Modi. Reuters

File image of Chinese president Xi Jinping and Indian prime minister Narendra Modi. Reuters

The gains for India would not be worth the investment in such a war. In modern wars, the consideration of collateral damage is critical. This is particularly true of countries that are focussed on the well-being — economic and otherwise — of their people and nurture the vision of greatness. That is the reason India’s war against Pakistan, a rogue country by many descriptions, has to be war by other means; low-cost means, that is.

Diplomatic isolation and the international shaming of Pakistan is one way to go about it. But it is not likely to make much of a difference to a country that already has a poor reputation. Sanctions have not been of much consequence earlier. Perhaps a better option is to target its biggest source of strength — China, which has been Pakistan’s all-weather friend. This friendship gives the latter the delusion of strength, and invincibility when it comes to India. It would help us if we analyse the nature of the relationship between the two and leverage our economic equations with China to make Pakistan irrelevant.

China’s interest in Pakistan is as much about its geostrategic requirements as its economic objectives.

The control over the deep sea port in Gwadar in Balochistan will allow it a strategic presence in the world’s most important oil trade and shipping routes besides connecting it to West Asia and South and Central Asian countries. Moreover, it brings in close proximity to the world’s biggest oil reserve. The Xinjiang-Gwadar economic corridor through Pakistan is more critical to China’s economic interests than those of the former. That explains why it announced a massive investment of $46 billion in projects in Pakistan not long ago. The cost-benefit analysis works overwhelmingly in its favour.

China’s economic involvement with India is not small either. The latter is among India’s biggest bilateral trade partners, the volume of transactions being worth more than $70 billion. In the case of Pakistan, it is a meagre $12 billion or thereabouts. However, the balance of trade is massively against India. According to information provided in Parliament, it stood at close to $45 billion in 2015-16 with India’s exports amounting to only around $8 billion.

The unequal trade means India provides a healthy market for China to export its goods while the reciprocation from the latter’s side has not been healthy. With the Chinese economy already on slow growth mode, India can hurt it more by limiting the market for it by setting up barriers to its exports. In any case, India has a valid reason to do so. Cheap Chinese goods such as toys, mobile phones, other electronic gadgets and clothes, produced at very low labour costs in China, make it difficult for Indian companies to compete. The government’s ‘Make in India’ initiative won’t be a success in these commodities if there’s no restraint on Chinese goods.

Can India make it look like a punitive measure to China for its total support to Pakistan? It can. It can make it plain to China: “Don’t expect us to be charitable to your business if you keep hobnobbing with our enemy. Don’t take access to our markets for granted.” However, it’s difficult to gauge what the reaction would be like, given the ties between the two countries have been tenuous over the decades.

China’s interest in Pakistan is as much about its geostrategic requirements as its economic objectives

A better option for India would be to deepen economic engagement with China. A lot of Chinese firms have invested big in India over the last decade. The latter can invite investments from China for its projects. The more the country stays invested in us, the lesser the possibility of it extending blanket support to Pakistan in case of a situation of war. It’s more likely to play a neutral role to protect its interests in both countries. That would virtually mean Pakistan standing alone or on a much weaker footing than before vis-à-vis India.

In the final analysis, it’s the consideration of economy that could separate allies China and Pakistan just as it could bring them closer. Mature countries seek to maximise their economic self-interest, not get involved in wasteful engagements such as war.

India should give it a thought while dealing with China.

Bombay High Court refuses to stay price cap on anti-diabetic drugs

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Bombay High Court (HC) on Monday upheld the notifications issued by the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA), fixing the maximum retail price for anti-diabetic and cardiovascular drugs.A division bench of Justice S C Dharmadhikari and Justice B P Colabawala, while dismissing a challenge raised by the Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance, said: “Given the ever-increasing number of patients, these drugs, which have to be taken throughout life… we do not feel government was exceeding its power in regulating.” The court also refused to stay its order for six weeks for the petitioners to appeal in the apex court, and vacated the interim relief of no coercive action against pharmaceutical companies for overcharging.The alliance had said that internal guidelines are, ex-facie, contrary to the law. The government has given a complete go-by to what is called the “essentially criteria”. That criteria is applicable only to schedule formulations and by including non- scheduled products, the government has basically done away with the classification of drugs on the ‘essentially criteria’, it said.Further, it said that essential drugs are under price control and would be under a controlled regime and their prices would be fixed by market forces. The notifications of July 2014 are arbitrary and violative of the petitioners’ fundamental rights and are unreasonable and against the principle of natural justice, they argued. The plea thus prayed for directions to restrain the government from implementing or enforcing the internal guidelines.The Union government had strongly opposed the petition and also argued that it was in the larger public interest that the notification was issued. The bench noted: “Exploitative prices make medicines unaffordable. Moreover, member companies who are manufacturers have not filed individually. Some members have accepted the notification. Thus to make medicines available to all, prayer for staying or setting aside of guidelines/notifications, does not survive.”

Gau Raksha Dal force-feed beef smugglers cow dung and make them drink cow urine

Hours after a shocking video of the Gau Raksha Dal volunteers forcing two alleged beef smugglers to eat cow dung and drink cow urine went viral, Gau Raksha Dal chief Dharmendra Yadav on Tuesday not only admitted that his group had committed such an act, but also backed them by saying that ‘cow dung’ was holy and they had in fact ‘cleansed’ the beef traders of their sins. Speaking to ANI here, Yadav said that there was nothing wrong in taking the law in their hands when it came to protecting the cow and hinted that violators of laws against cow slaughter deserved such treatment.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>’In Haryana and several other states cow slaughter is banned, but these people violate laws. So, for such violators this is what suits. Moreover, in Hindu religion cow is like mother, if someone attacks my mother then I won’t wait for the police. That is why Gau Raksha Dal had to stand up,’ he said.’I agree what they did was wrong, but in our religious cow dung and urine are holy. It is good that they have cleansed them,” he added. In a bizarre remark, he said, ‘They eat an entire cow and no one says anything but raise a hue and cry over cow dung (being fed).’ Yadav also attempted to pin the blame on the locals by saying that they were so agitated, that the situation went out of hand.’These vehicles were caught from near Badarpur and Faridabad. We had prior information about three vehicles (carrying beef). We caught them and by that time locals were so agitated that nothing could be done,’ he added. According to reports, in the video, the two men can be seen sitting on the road, with the concoction of cow dung and urine before them, attempting to wash it down their throats with water.The volunteers are seen encouraging the duo to eat the concoction, giving them more water to make it easier. They were also reportedly forced to chant ‘Gau Mata ki Jai’ and ‘Jai Shri Ram’ as they swallowed the mixture.

‘You are trained to kill the enemy, not to die’: Parrikar tells security forces

In light of Saturday’s attack on a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) convoy in Pampore town of Jammu and Kashmir, Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Sunday said that he has instructed the security forces to reply with full force if threatened while advocating that they are trained to kill and not to die.Addressing a gathering at Sarala Bhawan as part of the BJP”s “Vikas Utsav”, Parrikar hailed the relentless endeavours of the security forces and said that over 70 percent of infiltrators have been gunned down in the past two months. “In the past two months we have killed over 70 percent terrorists, who were trying to infiltrate the Indian borders. And during these operations our men did not die because we had already told them that I respect martyrdom, but you are trained to kill the enemy, not to die,” said Parrikar.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Moreover, we have given them instructions that if anyone threatens you give them a reply with guns. What did I do” I just gave them the confidence,” he added. He wondered if there was any security lapse behind the Pampore terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir but Home Minister Rajnath Singh made it clear bullets will not be “counted” during India’s retaliation.As yesterday’s attack on a CRPF convoy, the deadliest one on security forces in recent years that left eight personnel of the force dead, triggered an outrage, Singh and Parrikar said the security forces have “standing orders” and “full freedom” to retaliate and forget the “count of bullets” if they are fired upon.With questions cropping up over a possible security lapse, Parrikar expressed doubt if the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) was followed properly by the bus-borne CRPF personnel at Pampore.He said he “doubted if the SOP was followed properly” while noting that the clear picture will emerge after the inquiry.”We will only get to know the exact reason after the inquiry,” Parrikar told reporters in Bhubaneswar. A three-member team of Home Ministry officials is visiting Kashmir on Tuesday to find out if there were any security lapses and the practices being followed during the movement of the attacked CRPF convoy. It will also look into the possible increase of cross border infiltration during the attack. “I have asked the Home Secretary to send a committee to Pampore to look into any lapses so that we can correct it in the future and our jawans do not face martyrdom in such incidents,” Singh said.

Maharashtra: Go green, and cut jail time too

Plant a tree, reduce jail time. That’s the Maharashtra government’s mantra to not just green the environment but also help reduce overcrowding in its jails by remitting as much as 30 days in a year from a prisoner’s sentence.The unique initiative, which kills the proverbial two birds with one stone, is a brainchild of the state’s home ministry. The scheme, limited to jails that have the space to plant trees, will offer remission in proportion to the number of trees inmates plant and maintain during their jail term. Mumbai’s Arthur Road and Byculla jails have been excluded because they don’t have the space.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Giving details, an official said each inmate would be given two plants to sow and maintain to earn a minimum of 10 days of remission. The remission eventually would be calculated considering the total number of the plants an inmate has sowed and on how he/she has maintained them. The maximum limit of the remission, however, cannot exceed 30 days in a year.The proposed scheme, however, is likely to exclude rape convicts from the benefit of the scheme. Also, inmates serving life term for murder would only be entitled to the benefit of the scheme on completion of 14 years in prison, an official disclosed.”The main purpose of the scheme is to contribute to the environment. Moreover, gardening is a stress buster and should help bring down stress levels among the prisoners. The hope of remission on the other hand will encourage them to do the task,” Dr Vijay Satbir Singh, principal secretary, home department, told dna.However, sources claim the move is aimed at shortening stay of inmates who have maintained discipline and improved their behaviour over time. “The Maharashtra prison manual has the most strict rules for remission in the country. This has led to overcrowding in jails,” said a senior jail official, adding that the department had long been contemplating ways of making remission easier.With an approximate 30,000 prisoners in 53 Maharashtra jails, the government is aiming at adding 1,00,000 new trees across the state every year through the proposed scheme. The extent of overcrowding is around 3,000 prisoners.As per government norms, each of Maharashtra’s nine central prisons has been constructed in an area of 75-100 acres.The state’s 31 district prisons are spread over 40-50 acres of land. Besides, there are 13 open prisons on huge plots that are already being used for cultivation purposes. The details of how much of this land would be used for planting trees have not yet been specified.Other movesIn April this year, the home department initiated the process of hiring a consultant for overall modernisation and upgradation of prisons. In the same month, the department also signed a three-year memorandum of understanding with the Tata Institute of Social Sciences to help more prisoners get medical and legal aid.Aiming to enhance security and surveillance of prisons, the department is also working in close collaboration with Israel based companies. Senior officials of Israel government and private companies have already visited Nagpur and the Arthur Road prison for a recce. The work would focus primarily on three fronts – installing jammers that are equipped with ‘selective jamming’, patrolling and fencing, and installation of either chips or bracelets for tracking inmates.

Don’t bring Smartphones in sensitive meetings – home ministry tells officials

Keep a close eye on your smartphone as it could be potentially dangerous to country’s security! Intelligence Bureau has warned to all the ministries and departments dealing with sensitive information.In a communication to the Union home ministry, central armed police forces (CAPFs) and state polices, the IB has asked the officials to use personal smartphones very sparingly — not to download extra Apps on it, get Apps that are security vetted and declared safe, not to connect smartphones with computers or laptops with Bluetooth or otherwise.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Acting on IB’s advisory, the union home ministry also issued a circular ‘Prudent Smart Phone Security Norms’ to paramilitary and other security organisations, warning personnel of inadvertent leaks by use of smart phone devices.The circular points out that smart phones should not be allowed during sensitive meetings and briefings as they could be virus infested and serve as carriers of some remote client.It also asks officers to avoid use of smartphones during sensitive telephone conversation and adopt Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to respond to unverified calls, by taking details of person asking for specific or sensitive information and calling back on landline.In a conference called specifically to discuss threats from smartphones and how to negate them, the elaborately dealt with attempts that are being made by Pakistan and China to hack into IT infrastructure and smartphones.IB suspects that a substantial number of smartphones used by military and central armed police forces personnel could be compromised as they often download unsuspecting Apps to connect socially and entertain. Moreover, all smartphones are Made in China and could have embedded viruses.The IB briefed the officials present on latest development in Malware attacks on computer and smart phones along with case studies and also about the vulnerability and dangers that popular social network sites pose.Recently, union home ministry informed parliament that Pakistan’s espionage agency ISI was spying upon its military and security personnel using smartphone malware that has been embedded into music and mobile gaming apps. These apps include Talking Frog, Top Gun, vdjunky, mpjunkie, etc. Many a times security personnel use these games to hone their skills.Minister of state for home Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary stated that the Indian security forces have been sensitised about Pakistan ISI using dubious applications on smartphones.

3 dance bars get licence, cops say they will follow new law

The Maharashtra government on Thursday clarified that the dance bar licences being issued to six of the eight cases as recommended by the Supreme Court are an “exception” and that the new stringent rules will be applicable for them as well. However, on Thursday, only three bars owners were able to pay the steep Rs 2 lakh permission fee and obtain the licence, while three others are expected to complete the formalities on Friday.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Principal secretary (home) Vijay Satbir Singh said the six who have been issued licences will have to abide by the new law to run the bars, else the licence will be revoked within 60 days.Meaning which, on reopening, these bars will neither be allowed to serve liquor in the performance area nor would smoking be permitted, besides other stringent conditions. Moreover, as soon as the owners get the bar dance licence they will have to surrender licences pertaining to discotheque or orchestra, if at all they hold any.”The SC has acknowledged our new law and we have complete freedom to impose it on the licence holders once the bars are opened,” said Singh.As for these eight setting a precedent for others to procure licences without abiding by the new law, Singh said, these cases have been examined by the SC itself and they have held licence in past as well. “But we are confident that they would not be taken as precedent by other dance owners.”In fact, the state government, in its hearing on Friday, would be requesting the apex court to now dispose of the matter as all the directions given by the SC are being followed by the government.”We have hired a battery of senior lawyers including Harish Salve and Pinky Anand who would now be moving for final disposal of the case,” he added.In a statement issued on Thursday evening, Association of Hotels and Restaurants (Ahar) said, “Out of 8 bars, 2 bar owners are out of town. While 6 bar owners were about to reach the (police) headquarters, they were informed to get a DD of Rs 2 lakh for licence. Out of 6 bar owners, three bar owners – Airo Punjab bar at Andheri, Sai prasad at Andheri and Indiana at Tardeo – were issued licence.”The statement further said, “According to the new law, the dance bar timings are from 6 to 11.30 pm. Also, if any kind of obscenity is found, owner will be fined Rs 5 lakh or five years of jail. We will be informing the court that these conditions are unacceptable.”The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed Maharashtra government to grant licence to eight dance bars within two days and asked them to give an undertaking that they would not engage employees with criminal antecedents near the dance area.In its April order the SC took strong note of non-compliance of its order asking Mumbai police to grant licence to dance bars.The court, while modifying certain pre-conditions framed by home department for granting licence to dance bars had said, “the modified conditions along with conditions on which there is no cavil shall be complied with within three days and the respondents (Maharashtra and its police) shall issue the licence within ten days therefrom.Meanwhile, the Maharashtra assembly had on April 12 unanimously passed the Dance Bar Regulation Bill, which has provisions for stringent actions against the violators. The new bill fixes accountability on the owner in case of violation of rules, exploitation of women employees, or in cases of obscenity. Owners or operators face up to up to five years in jail and fines of up to Rs 25,000 for violations. Separate rules are being formulated on this, based on the provisions of the Bill.

Teen starts online petition to get Bengaluru Metro to allow cycles on board

The metro rail in Benagluru is a boon to travellers in the city who want to beat the traffic. But the Bengaluru Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (BMRCL) does impose certain restrictions on those who love to cycle around in the city. The Corporation only allows commuters to take foldable bicycles on the metro and 14-year-old Sanjith Rao was irked by this. The ninth standard student of Shishu Griha Montessori and High School went and spoke to officials at the BMRCL but they stated they had some constraints in allowing this. So Sanjith thought it was best he start an online petition to bring about this change.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Sanjith started a petition on change.org and explained the reason behind it. He wrote “The metro is a convenient mode of transportation. But, once an individual gets off the metro, he/she needs to complete that last mile of transport. Getting an auto – rickshaw can be a hassle and walking might also not be convenient. What if they could cover the rest of the distance on their own private bicycle? While that sounds like a great idea, think about this: Are cycles even allowed on the metro? BMRCL only allows foldable cycles that fit through the baggage scanner. So, 99% of the people cannot take their cycles on the metro. Cycling enthusiasts and commuters using non – foldable cycles for their last mile transport and various other reasons will be benefited if these kind of cycles were allowed. In many foreign countries, commuters are allowed to carry their cycles on board. Thus, people can use public transport and greener methods of transportation for their commute and prevent the environment from further getting harmed.This system would also decrease the number of cars on the road, adversely reducing pollution. I feel that this is one of many steps that we can take to make the Earth a cleaner, greener one.”The BMRCL had told him that anything that is carried on the metro should be able to pass through the baggage scanner. Moreover, they did not want any inconvenience caused to other passengers. Sanjith has got nearly 485 signatures so far. You can see the petition here.

LS secretariat writes to Delhi government seeking MPs’ exemption from odd-even scheme

On popular demand from lawmakers in the Parliament, Lok Sabha secretary had written to the Delhi government seeking their exemption from the odd-even scheme for private cars.Cutting across party lines, several member(s) of parliament (MP) on Monday –the session’s first day –had univocally protested their inclusion in the odd-even scheme. Many lawmakers broke the rule by commuting in their even-numbered vehicle and there was a heated debate in the house on the matter.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Minister of state, parliamentary affairs, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi had assured the House that the matter would be taken up with the Delhi government.The scheme, that started on April 15 of this month, has three more days to conclude.The letter written by Lok Sabha secretary D Bhalla, seeks exemptions of MPs from the odd-even scheme, citing their commuting inconvenience.”The letter mentions that the MPs are performing a national service like doctors and lawyers and hence should be exempted from the odd-even scheme,” Bhalla said, adding that the letter has asked the Delhi government to judge the matter and take a decision on it.Bhalla said a second reminder letter has also been sent to the Delhi government, after the first letter did not get a response.”Buses arranged by the Delhi government were not serving any purpose, since they had to drop the MPs outside the gate, from where another vehicle had to ferry them. Moreover, Rs10,000 was being charged per bus which were provided by the Delhi government,” Bhalla said.An MP Special Bus Service, comprising six buses, were launched by the Delhi government, to drop lawmakers to Parliament on Monday morning were availed by just two lawmakers. The service has been withdrawn now.Meanwhile, the transport desk of the Parliament has arranged separate vehicles for ferrying the MPs to the Parliament during this period, aside its 25 vehicles.”We are receiving as many as 550 calls every day seeking details of vehicles arranged for ferrying MPs,” a transport desk staff said.Meanwhile, two BJP MPs, on Wednesday, once again protested against the odd-even scheme.MP Ram Prasad Sharma came to the Parliament riding a horse, labelling the animal a ‘pollution free vehicle’. He was, however, not allowed to enter the Parliament premises on the horse.Another BJP MP Vijay Goel came to the Parliament in a car pasted with news reports and slogans against the scheme.Last week, Goel was fined Rs 2,000 for violating the 15-day rule. He was also fined Rs 1,500 for driving without his driving licence and vehicle’s insurance papers.

India, Mauritius sign MoU for research in traditional medicine, homeopathy

New Delhi: India and Mauritius have signed an agreement for cooperation in the field of traditional medicine and homeopathy, a move which will help both the nations to conduct joint research and exchange experts in these fields.

The MoU, signed during the recent visit of Minister of State for AYUSH Shripad Yesso Naik to Mauritius, will promote cooperation in the field of traditional system of health and medicine between the two countries which already share these traditions due to their “unique historical and cultural ties”.

AYUSH Minister Shripad Yesso Naik

AYUSH Minister Shripad Yesso Naik

The agreement envisages exchange of experts, supply of traditional medicinal substances, joint research and development and recognition of the traditional systems of health and medicine in both countries, the ministry said in a statement.

“It also aims at promotion and popularisation of the various Indian traditional systems which fall under AYUSH,” it said.

Terming the agreement to be of “immense importance” to both countries, the ministry said that as a part of its mandate to propagate Indian systems of medicine globally, AYUSH has also entered into MoUs with China, Malaysia, Trinidad and Tobago, Hungary, Bangladesh and Nepal.

“The financial resources necessary to conduct research, training courses, meetings and deputations of experts will be met from the existing allocated budget and existing plan schemes of AYUSH.

“Both India and Mauritius share several cultural, historical, linguistic and literary similarities, traditional medicine including medicinal plants are promising areas which need to be further explored and can prove to be mutually beneficial to the people of the two countries,” the statement said.

It said that Mauritius also has a long history of traditional medicine and both countries share a common culture with respect to the ayurvedic system of medicine.

“Moreover, there are a large number of medicinal plants, particularly those found in the tropical region and are common to the two countries given similar geo-climatic factors,” it added.

AAP government’s odd-even scheme receives mixed reaction, real test on Monday

Fewer private cars were seen on Delhi roads on Friday as the second phase of the odd-even scheme was rolled out. Thousands of policemen and civil defence volunteers were deployed at various areas of the city to enforce the odd-even rule. The scheme will run for 15 days, till 30 April. However, the actual impact of phase two can be assessed only on Monday as offices and schools will open after a long weekend.

“Odd even starts today. Let’s all join hands and resolve to make it a success,” Kejriwal had tweeted in the morning.

The Delhi government, which has projected the second phase of the road-rationing policy as the “decisive” one, said that 2,000 traffic personnel, 580 enforcement officials and over 5,000 civil defence volunteers have been deployed for smooth implementation of the scheme.

Violators were fined Rs 2,000, as per the relevant section of the Motor Vehicles Act. The scheme, however, will not be implemented on Sunday. Under the scheme, odd-numbered cars are allowed to run on odd dates while even-numbered cars are allowed on even dates.

Akshaya Mishra from Firstpost reported that there was not much resistance this time from the people of Delhi. While round one faced a lot of opposition, however, for the second phase, the protests were certainly less.

The roads were less congested as Friday was a holiday due to Ram Navami. The first phase of the policy, that was in force between 1 and 15 January, did not have its intended affect as it could not lower pollution “as much as expected,” but it significantly helped reduce traffic congestion in the city, Kejriwal had said.

Gauri Das Chakrovarty, who works in Noida and has an even number car, told Firstpost that the scheme will not make a difference in the pollution levels as evident from the January experiment. “This is just harassment. I do not think much will change. My experience of last time tells me that it neither can improve traffic nor air quality,” Chakrovarty.

As the day progressed, traffic police, civil defence volunteers started pulling up violators of the odd-even rule and imposed a fine of Rs 2,000.

The Delhi government formed 120 teams comprising officials of the transport department to punish errant motorists. The traffic police had identified 200 intersections across the city where their personnel were deployed in teams.

The highest number of challans were reported from south Delhi, closely followed by the western part of the city, with 129 and 108 challans respectively issued till 1 pm today, a senior official said.

As many as 511 motorists were challaned between 8 am and 1 pm, the official said. Delhi Traffic Police has strategically chosen over 200 intersections in the city where 2,000 officials have been deployed in teams of three to 10 depending upon the volume of traffic there.

Also, a 20-member Special Task Force was set up to look into matters reported by the mobile teams.
Over 500 persons were challaned by Delhi Traffic Police for violating the odd-even norms in the first five hours of the second phase of the road-rationing formula implemented in the national capital today.

Roshni Sethi, Delhi Civil Defence personnel at Nehru Place told Firstpost: “The violators are giving flimsy excuses like they were unaware of the odd-even drive. Moreover, they are arguing to avoid paying fine. People are even saying that they took out their even numbered cars as they are moving within the local vicinity. Our job is to create awareness among people on the road and assist traffic police in enforcing the law.”

Rajesh Kalra, a trader at Lajpat Nagar, was found arguing with traffic cops. Despite Delhi Civil Defence members trying make him understand his mistake, he told Firstpost, “I was not going on the main road but just took a turn from the traffic signal to get inside Lajpat Nagar market from where I operate. I had been trying to convince police but they refused to listen to my plea. It’s very difficult to move in the local area without vehicle especially for traders like us.”

Many commuters had a tough time getting autorickshaws. A commuter who was planning to visit in relatives along with his family, told

Firstpost

: “Despite putting ‘On Duty’ board, 15 autorickshaw drivers refused to take us. Moreover, they they are acting pricey. Everyday, I pay Rs 30 from my house to the Metro station. But today, they asked for Rs 50 to 60. Odd-even drive is good, but the Delhi government must ensure proper functioning of autos.”

Despite the number of defaulters, many of the Delhi residents gave the scheme a thumbs up and insisted that it should be implemented permanently for 15 days every month.

“We want the scheme to be made permanent. We only know what we have to face while managing the traffic during office hours,” a traffic cop posted at Pragati Maidan told Firstpost.

Kejriwal has also stated that his government is seriously considering to enforce the measure for 15 days every month. Sources told PTI that any decision in this regard will be taken after analysing impact of the second phase of the odd-even scheme in reducing pollution.

The only change in the blueprint of the policy’s implementation from its first phase is the exemption given to cars carrying children in school uniform apart from those being driven by women, VIPs except Ministers in the AAP government and CNG vehicles with mandatory stickers.

The government has conceded that it has not been able to find a solution to the problem of cars going to pick up children after school hours during the scheme. Kejriwal has suggested car pooling to parents to avoid problems.

With inputs from PTI

Mehbooba Mufti asks Centre to modify militant repatriation policy

Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti demand to modify the militant repatriation policy by increasing the entry points and ensure rehabilitation of all Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) based militants wanting to return back and join the mainstream has put the Centre in a bind.Sources in the union home ministry said as there are security implications to Mehbooba’s demand it has been referred by union home minister Rajnath Singh to the security agencies, especially the Intelligence Bureau, for a comprehensive review.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Though formally the government recognises IGI international airport, Wagah-Attari border, Uri and Muzaffarabad as the four valid entry points for POK based militants, there is hardly any movement from these places for obvious difficulties from Pakistan side and most surrendering militants have returned via informal Nepal route.However, lately the Nepal route has also come under the scrutiny of Pakistan’s and its espionage agency ISI is keeping a close watch on it. Moreover, return of militants has also come to a trickle because of raw deal handed over to many surrendered militants, sources said.Flagging the issue of increasing attacks on women, allegedly by the security troops as well as the militants in the Valley, Mehbooba proposed to raise two all women police battalions in the state with full funding support from the Centre.She also apprised Rajnath Singh about the first decision she took was after becoming chief minister was to raise four all women police stations in the state and creation of 208 posts for the same.Presently two women police stations are functional in the state at Srinagar and Jammu besides four women cells at Anantnag, Baramulla, Rajouri and Udhampur.Rajnath Singh understood to have appreciated the proposal and promised to look into her demand of funds for raising the woman battalion in the state where the incidents of kidnapping, rape, assault or murder are not unheard of.During her first visit to Delhi, Mehbooba also held key meeting with external affairs Sushma Swaraj in which she discussed measures required for broadening the scope of cross-LoC trade and travel in J&K. Cross LoC trade that was scheduled to be increased between POK and J&K has suffered because of the ongoing frigid relations.Mehbooba has proposed opening of new routes across the LoC for better connectivity, which she said will take people-to-people contact beyond the ritual of meetings between divided families.

Karnataka: Transgenders in prison to be housed in women’s wing

Transgenders who under a prison term in Karnataka have come under focus in the state now. Chamaraja MLA, Vasu, has raised the issue housing of transgender convicts and undertrials in Karnataka’s prisons with the home ministry. An English daily reported that the home ministry has promised to now allocate space to the prisoners so that they can be housed in the women’s barracks. There has been no specific rules so far as to where to accommodate transgender convicts and undertrials. When Vasu raised the issue on Tuesday, Home Minister G Parameshwara wrote back stating that they will now take steps to house them separately. He was reported saying, “Currently, there are no separate facilities in any of the prisons to accommodate transgender inmates as very few of them go to prison. In case of a conviction, we will accommodate them in separate cells within women’s barracks at all prisons.”<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Home department sources have told the daily that till now there have been no major crimes committed by transgenders. Moreover, they have always been kept in separate cells.The officer did not comment on whether these prisoners would be housed in the men’s barracks or the women’s barracks. The LGBT community has been gaining more significance in India and there is more awareness today about their rights. A senior police officer has told the daily that when a transgender comes to prison, the person is referred to the jail doctor for a medical exam. If they are more feminine, they are sent to the women’s barracks and kept in separate cells. Else they are kept in separate cells in the men’s block he reportedly said. He added there was no discrimination against them in the cells. HNS Rao, director general of police, prisons, reportedly told the daily, “Considering the sensitivity of the issue, they will be accommodated in separate cells to address their requirements. As of now, in the rare case when they do end up here, they are kept in separate cells.”Transgenders are always housed in separate cells to prevent any harassment . Sources told the daily that only two central prisons — Viyyur prison in Kerala and Yerawada in Pune — have separate blocks to house transgender inmates.The decision taken by the government has been applauded by the LGBT community. LGBT activists have tld the daily that transgenders have been subjected to harassment at police stations and prisons. Officials have also been sensitive towards their rights, they added.Akkai Padmashali, LGBT activist and founder of Ondede, told the daily that in 2015, five transgenders were sent to ‘jail in Mysuru on false charges and forcibly lodged in the men’s barrack and that ‘all of them were sexually assaulted, harassed and raped in station and prison’. “Luckily, the judiciary came to our rescue,” he told the daily. .

Environmental conservation efforts also have to address the developmental needs in Arunachal Pradesh: Pul

Itanagar:  Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Kalikho Pul has stressed on the need for striking balance between conservation of environment and development interest.

“Conservation of environment is always our top priority but development interest should also be taken care of,” Pul
said during a meeting with top forest officials on Monday in Itanagar.

The forest officials met him to discuss on the growing conflict between the rights of the people and the conservation created through protected areas, a CMO release informed on Tuesday.

A file photo of Kalikho Pul. PTIA file photo of Kalikho Pul. PTI

A file photo of Kalikho Pul. PTI

The chief minister pointed out that many protected areas in the state were created through arbitrary demarcation of the forest reserve violating the Wildlife Protection Act.

“The inhabitants in the area were not consulted and their consent was not obtained. Boundaries were demarcated sitting on a table with the lines running across settled villages and towns,” he said.

“As a result many big towns, villages, agriculture and jhum areas have come under the protected areas limiting the scope for taking up development projects,” he said noting that the scope to find possible ways for co-existence between wildlife habitats and human settlement were limited.

“Moreover, many of the protected areas are now barren lands without forest cover and wildlife. It is neither serving the purpose of conservation or development. So these are the areas where we hope to find a middle ground,” said Pul.

On the need to find a middle path, the chief minister said the state has to first address the key issues of development with respect to conservation.

“Arunachal cannot be looked only through the lens of environment conservation. With growing population and modernisation, there is growing pressure for socio-economic growth. So conservation efforts also has to address the developmental needs, else it will lead to conflict,” said Pul.

He hoped that if a successful compromise could be made and a middle path chosen where development and conservation could go hand-in-hand, it can be used as a model to open up larger areas for conservation- conscious developments in the state.

“We have low revenue base and our scope for trade with outside countries or state is limited as all our boundaries
are sealed. If we think of setting up industries, we have limited raw materials, labours and market within the state.

The only viable option we can think of is opening up of investment sector,” the chief minister added.

PTI

Railways begins process to build fire exit doors for trains

The railway ministry for the first time has begun the process of having fire exit doors for train coaches to help passengers escape in case of a fire incident and also to allow train staff to evacuate passengers quickly. The railway ministry will be picking up 10 coaches for this pilot project and will be spending Rs 30 lakh on each of these coaches to build these fire exit doors.The thought of having fire exit doors in trains came up as part of a high-power study and research into train fires conducted last March by the railways’ Centre for Advanced Maintenance Technology (Camtech) headquartered in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh. It was one of the recommendations of the study apart from having bigger emergency windows for non-air conditioned coaches and also to have vestibules to connect general coaches so that people can move from one coach to another in case of a fire.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>According to officials, the fire exit door is a good progress in a railway system that for several years now has had nothing to show as part of its fire-fighting mechanism apart from red-grilled emergency windows in general coaches. In fact, it is just of late that the railways has been toying with the idea of having thermal insulating material for latches and handles of doors so that passengers can hold them and open doors to escape a fire. The latter is also one of the recommendations made to the railways by the Camtech study.”It is a good start because the railways safety record when it comes to fires is poor. Moreover, passengers also travel dangerously by sometimes smoking near the toilets and vestibules. There are also instances of people carrying liquor in trains. The railways should be severe on such passengers,” said Bhandup-resident Manish Chaturvedi.Why train fire is dangerous1) A train consists of long, narrow vehicles with limited exits coupled with each other2) High traveling speeds prevent quick escape and assist the rapid spread of fire3) Wide range of track conditions, including confined sections such as bridges, tunnels, ghats, etc., make it difficult for passengers to get off the vehicle easily in times of emergency4) Restriction in movement of passengers and fast spread of fire aggravates the situation5) A large number of passengers traveling on trains are attended to by a small team of train crewCamtech study recommendations1) Fire extinguishers should be provided in all coaches, i.e., also in general second class coaches, non-AC 3 tier coaches and non-AC chair cars etc.2) The size of emergency exit windows in General Coaches/3-tier sleeper coaches/non-AC chair car shall be of larger size as in case of AC coaches so that it can be identified easily and easy to exit as these coaches are highly occupied3) Vestibuling in the general coaches may be explored, this will help in evacuating passengers in case of any disaster/emergency5) Authority to be given to AC mechanic to ask passengers to not to smoke6) Overhead water tanks of toilets may be provided with fusible drain plug. In case of fire this fusible drain plug will melt due to high temperature and water will spill out in door way area which may reduce the intensity of fire

German Bakery blast case: Bombay HC sets aside Himayat Baig’s death penalty, confirms life imprisonment

In a major embarrassment to the anti-terrorism squad, the Bombay High Court on Thursday set aside the death penalty handed down to the sole German Bakery blast accused, Himayat Baig, and held him guilty only for possessing RDX at his house and confirmed the life imprisonment handed down to him. A division bench of Justice Naresh Patil and Justice SB Shukhre was hearing the case against Baig who has also appealed against the earlier judgement. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Special Public Prosecutor Raja Thakare had argued for confirming the death sentence by stating that the entire case was based on circumstantial evidence and everycircumstance had been proved by relevant records which are of sterling quality. Further he had argued in favour of the death penalty saying that the trial court reasoning was sound and thus death penalty should be upheld.However, advocate Mehmood Pracha and TW Pathan appearing for Baig argued that the prosecution evidence is of weak nature and fabricated. They said independent investigations carried out by other agencies like the National Investigation Agency and the Delhi Special Cell have indicated that other accused not before the court were involved in the case. Moreover, two other intervenors cited several instances of Baig’s innocence. A Pune court had awarded death penalty to Baig for his involvement in the 2010 German Bakery blast case, after the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) investigated and filed a charge sheet against him. Baig, an alleged member of Indian Mujahideen, was arrested in September 2010. The conviction was handed down in early 2013. The blast had caused the death of 17 people and inured 58 people, including foreign nationals.The court had found Baig guilty of taking part in the conspiracy and executing the blast.

Bihar govt to bring in bill to allow capital punishment for manufacturing hooch: Nitish Kumar

The Bihar government is bringing a bill to award capital punishment for manufacturing illicit liquor once prohibition comes into effect in the state from April one, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said on Wednesday.The government would bring a legislation in the ongoing budget session of the Assembly against liquor sale in which there would be a provision of capital punishment for those caught manufacturing illicit liquor, he said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Bihar government has decided to impose prohibition of country and spiced liquor in the state and restricted sale of Indian Made Foreign Liquor from April 1. For sustaining livelihood of those involved in the business of liquor, the government has offered them to sell products of Sudha Dairy from their counters.Steps taken by Bihar government”The officials have told me, so far they have received over 200 applications for opening Sudha Dairy outlets in place of those selling liquor from across the state,” Kumar told reporters in his Assembly chamber. The state-run Bihar State Milk Co-operative Federation Ltd markets its products under the brand name “Sudha Dairy”. Kumar expressed optimism that many more such proposals would pour in from different parts of the state.He said a comprehensive campaign was underway to convince boozers to give up drinking. “More than 40 lakh volunteers including members of self help groups are going from house to house to ask people to give up the habit of drinking,” he said. Moreover, students in 72,000 government schools in the state were given a declaration form which they have to get signed by their parent not to touch liquor.Kumar said officials were identifying habitual boozers for their treatment in a de-addiction centre, which every district would have at least one. Kumar asserted prohibition would bring a social revolution particularly in rural areas where many a household were ruined due to drinking habit of the earning member.”Encouraging results to this effect have started coming from hinterland where women have been organising campaign against alcohol,” he added.

Arunachal Pradesh crisis: Merger of 30 Congress MLAs with PPA is unconstitutional, says NabamTuki

Former Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Nabam Tuki on Thursday termed the switch over of 30 Congress MLAs led by Chief Minister Kalikho Pul to the Peoples’ Party of Arunachal (PPA) as “illegal” and “unconstitutional”.”How can they do this when a five-bench constitutional bench of the Supreme Court is hearing the case and the judgement is being reserved? They don’t have the required quorum for defection as the Speaker had disqualified 14 members and the case has been referred by the Apex court to the Gauhati High Court directing it to dispose it within two weeks time, which will end on March 6 next,” Tuki told PTI.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Moreover, the Arunachal Pradesh Congress Committee yesterday expelled two members Likha Saaya and Gojen Gadi… where is the quorum? All these activities are against the 10th schedule of the Constitution,” Tuki alleged.Unless the Supreme Court and the High Court decide the merit of the case, such a move is not possible, he said adding, “This is a subject for judicial review. Whatever verdict the court pronounces, we will abide by it.” He said the defected MLAs should respect the party and should respect the people of the state who voted them to power.Tuki said the party leadership had invited them for talk to resolve the issue, but they turned down and were now saying all doors were closed.”They have failed to abide by the Constitution and the judiciary,” Tuki alleged and appealed the people to stand together to fight such forces who were against the development of the state.Meanwhile, Congress MLA Bamang Felix, a close aide of Tuki, criticised the merger of the party’s MLAs with PPA and termed it unconstitutional and illegal.”We are expecting complete justice from the Supreme Court,” he added.

Shiv Sena wants word ‘Sindh’ removed from the national anthem

Shiv Sena member Arvind Sawant on Tuesday demanded that the word ‘Sindh’ in the national anthem be removed and replaced with an appropriate word, saying there was no state by that name in the country.Raising the issue during the Zero Hour in Lok Sabha, he said that as the national anthem was adopted by Parliament, it should initiate action to remove the word. Sawant said a correct word with appropriate pronunciation should replace the word ‘Sindh’.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>National anthem ‘Jana Gana Mana’, composed by Nobel laureate Rabindra Nath Tagore in 1911, was adopted by the Constituent Assembly in 1950. Raising other issues, NCP member Supriya Sule asked the government to ban ‘pan masala’ as it was carcinogenic and a public health hazard.A P Jithender Reddy (TRS) suggested that the fares of luxury train Maharajas’ Express should also be expressed in rupees for Indian citizens.Currently, the fare of Maharajas’ Express, which is operated by Indian Railways for tourists, is mentioned only in US dollars.BJP member Maheish Girri demanded that a helipad should be built in East Delhi, saying it would come handy in dealing with emergencies or natural calamities. Moreover, the helipad would also ensure easier movement of VIPs without disrupting normal traffic, he added.Congress member Shashi Tharoor suggested that a National Institute of Medicinal Plant should be set up in Thiruvananthapuram. He also wanted to government to immediately to release Rs 50 lakh for setting up of the institute.

Will uncover conspiracy behind attack on Sori: Police

Claiming there was a conspiracy behind the attack on AAP leader Soni Sori, Bastar police today said it has gathered strong leads in the case and the investigation will be completed soon.”Umar Khalid (a research scholar), who is in jail in Delhi for raising anti-India slogans, had mentioned Sori in his speech on the JNU campus. Moreover, CPI (Maoist) spokesperson Vikalp had condemned the attack on Sori in a press note issued by him.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”All these clearly show the incident of attack on Sori was part of a conspiracy,” Inspector General of Police (Bastar Range) SRP Kalluri said in a statement.”Police is very serious about the incident and probing the case scientifically. Very soon the criminal conspiracy behind the incident will be unearthed,” he claimed.Sori’s face was blackened with grease-like substance by three unidentified motorcycle-borne men while she was travelling on a bike with one of her associates from Jagdalpur, the headquarters of Bastar, to Geedam in Dantewada on the night of February 20. The attackers are yet to be nabbed.The 41-year-old tribal activist was taken to Geedam and shifted from there to Jagdalpur hospital, where she was kept under observation. On February 21, she was moved to New Delhi by her supporters and admitted in Apollo Hospital where she is currently recuperating.The IG said the seriousness of police in cracking the case is underlined by the fact that a three-member Special Investigation Team, two of them IPS officers, was immediately constituted and visited Delhi to record the statements Sori and Rinki Thakur — who was accompanying her that night.Kalluri announced a cash reward of Rs 30,000 to anyone providing clues leading to the arrest of the attackers.”The team met doctors who are treating Sori and found that she was never in a critical state as reported by the media.She is under treatment to prevent any infection on her face and does not require any plastic surgery,” Kalluri said.”She will be discharged in a few days as she is responding well to the treatment. The team will record her statement after that. The doctor had no objections in letting the team meet her,” the officer said.”The team has strong leads in the case and the investigation will be completed soon,” he said.”Rinki Thakur was also questioned by the team in the presence of her advocates. However, she was unable to recollect anything and expressed total inability to provide pointers for the identification of the attackers except that they wore trousers and shoes,” the IG said.

Punjab: BJP workers protest against Arvind Kejriwal in Batala, 80 detained

One person was injured after police resorted to a lathi charge to disperse BJP workers protesting against Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s visit here.Around 80 protestors were detained by police after they raised slogans and tried to gherao Kejriwal at Gandhi Chowk area where the AAP national convener was scheduled to address a rally. They were later freed after the Delhi CM addressed the gathering and left, police said. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>BJP district president Suresh Bhatia and Municipal Council president Naresh Mahajan led the protest by their party workers.Earlier in the day, Kejriwal visited the Golden Temple and Durgiana Mandir in Amritsar.Talking to media in Amritsar, Kejriwal said last night he met various associations of traders who were not “happy” with the ruling government in Punjab because of “rampant corruption” in government departments. Moreover the state government had failed to “support” traders, he alleged.

Jat quota row: Haryana BJP core group meets today, CM Manohar Lal Khattar likely to attend

With the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Haryana drawing flaks over the law-and-order failure due to the Jat agitation for job reservation, the core group of the party meets at Haryana Bhawan here on Friday. Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar is also likely to attend the meeting.Meanwhile, the Jat agitation has caused loss to public and private property, halting trade, industry and small business and transport. Moreover, the state has suffered a loss of around Rs 20,000 crore on account of burning and destroying of public and private property due to Jat stir.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Trade and industry loss is maximum in the worst affected areas of Rohtak, Jhajjar, Bahadurgarh, Hissar, Bhiwani, Jind, Gohana, Sonipat, Kaithal, Karnal and Panipat.Several industries that had come up in the past few years, including that of Suzuki on the Delhi-Rohtak highway, have stopped production at its Gurgaon and Maneswar plants. Business hubs like Gurgaon which houses top multi-national companies with back-office operations in IT and IT services has been affected.

Jat agitation: Sedition charge slapped on Hooda’s close aide over video clip

Haryana police on Wednesday booked former Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda’s close aide Virender on sedition charges over an audio clip of his conversation in which he allegedly incited violence during the Jat quota agitation.An FIR has been registered in Rohtak against Virender and Man Singh Dalal, who also allegedly figured in the taped conversation, under various sections of the IPC, including sections 124-A (sedition) and section 120-B (conspiracy), Haryana Police DGP Yashpal Malik told the media here. The have also been charged with IPC sections 153-A (promoting enmity between classes) and section 153-B (imputation, assertion prejudicial to national integration), he said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The FIR against the duo has been registered on a complaint of a Bhiwani resident Pankaj Kumar, DGP said. The DGP said that if other “conspirators” are found, they too will be booked and action will be taken against them as per law for attempts to disturb peace in the state.Virender, advisor to former chief minister and Congress leader Hooda, had earlier accepted that the voice in the clip was his but alleged that it had been “doctored”. He has maintained that nowhere had he talked about instigating Jats or anyone. “Moreover, the conversation is an old one, much before the current unrest started,” he had said earlier.Congress had served a show cause notice on the PCC delegate Virender after the audio clip came to light. Referring to the audio clip, Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar had told reporters in Rohtak yesterday it would be thoroughly investigated.Leader of Opposition in Haryana Assembly and senior INLD leader Abhay Singh Chautala had said the clip makes it clear how “attempt” was being made to “instigate” the protesters “sitting peacefully”.

Jayalalithaa urges PM Modi to announce AIIMS location in Tamil Nadu

The latest news on the establishment of AIIMS (All India Institute of Medical Sciences) in Tamil Nadu is that CM J Jayalithaa has written to Modi urging him to quickly announce the location.It was expected that Prime Minister Modi would make the announcement when he visited Coimbatore in early February. The Confederation of Indian Industry and Indian Medical Association has stated that it was keen that an AIIMS was established in Perundurai as that would help the workers in the Western area get treatment. Moreover, there is no large Central medical institution in the Western districts as well. As Perundurai was close to both Kerala and Karnataka as well, it would help those states too.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In 2014, Jayalalithaa had first written to Modi asking for an AIIMS to be established in the state in the same year. She said there were five suitable sites – Chengalpet in Kancheepuram district, Pudukottai town, Sengipatti in Thanjavur district, Perundurai in Erode district and Thoppur in Madurai district. In her letter then she had stated that establishing AIIMS in the state would significantly improve medical education and provide high-end tertiary level healthcare in the public sector which will benefit the poor and middle classes.

Government may address armed force’s hardship allowance concerns on 7th pay commission

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Sunday told reporters on the sidelines of the International Fleet review in Vishakapatnam that he had an interaction with the three service chiefs – of Army, Navy and the Air force- over the concerns on recommendations of the seventh pay commission. He said the ministry has sought a fresh analysis of those concerns raised by them.The prominent issues are of disparity in risk and hardship allowance recommended by the seventh pay commission and also the disability pension. Moreover, the death of 10 soldiers of the Indian Army at Siachen last week after their post was hit by an avalanche has brought the issue of armed force’s entitlement under the allowance to the fore.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Forces that find it discriminating to have lesser entitlements as against their civilian counterparts as recommended by the latest pay commission, have demanded re-evaluation of the prescribed ‘Hardship Matrix’ for deciding allowances.While Rs31,000 is the prescribed hardship allowance per month for officers and Rs 21,000 per month for jawans posted at Siachen, the pay commission recommended new salary slabs will work out the tough area allowance for IPS and IAS officers to be nearly Rs 55,000. The same for other civilian officer ranks will be Rs 30,000, even if their postings are in a lesser risky areas than Siachen.In a meeting with Parrikar last week, the service chiefs raised this issue besides the seventh pay commission’s report questioning the increase in the number of disability pension claims. A senior army official at the service’s headquarters here argued that no logic can justify lesser hardship allowances to armed forces posted at a glacier in comparison to a civilian officer posted in a place like Srinagar or Andaman Nicobar islands.

Central Railways, Western Railways choose different business models for medical rooms

While both Western and Central Railways have embarked on the process of setting up Emergency Medical Rooms (EMRs) at railway stations, as mandated by the Bombay High Court, the model chosen by the two has been different.While the CR wants hospitals to come forward and operate the EMRs in such a way that they become on-station clinics, where railway passengers can go for consultancy after paying a fee, the WR is clear that the firms running the EMRs will only be used to treat train accident victims.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>One of CR’s tender specifications for the EMRs is that “while medical practitioners are available and not attending to the injured passengers, they could extend consultancy to bonafide train commuters for a fee, if they wish to consult them while waiting at the station”. This, officials said, will make these rooms like clinics for the hospitals and give them a chance to increase their outpatient clientele.”Since the equipment at the EMRs will include automatic ECG machines, blood pressure instruments and the like, commuters can get themselves checked for a fee while waiting for a train,” said a CR official. CR officials are confident that the model can be successful and they expect several hospitals to come forward to run such clinics at more stations.WR’s tender is, however, a terse one, saying that those running the EMRs will use them to “provide emergency medical care to people injured due to untoward incidents on railway premises, like falling off/getting hit by trains”.”For the moment, it seems as if the WR is taking a risk. Chances of the EMRs remaining idle for long is high because the number of passengers injured at the station where the EMR is situated is likely to be a small one. Moreover, WR’s model of EMRs will see it pay a fixed charge per doctor, nurse and attendant. CR’s model is one where the hospital running the EMR pays to use the space while railways provides it electricity. The hospital can earn revenue by treating railway passengers for non-train-related ailments,” said a railway official.The EMR issueIn November 2014, the Bombay High Court ordered that both the railways set up EMRs to give railway accident victims quick treatment before they are taken to a nearby hospital. While the CR will have their EMRs at 12 stations, the WR will have it at 10 locations. The stations on CR are Thane, Mulund, Dadar, Panvel, Vashi, Dombivli, Kalyan, Diva, Ghatkopar, Kurla, Karjat and Wadala. The WR will have EMRs at Mumbai Central, Bandra, Goregaon, Churchgate, Borivli, Virar, Andheri, Kandivli, Vasai and Palghar.

GATE 2016 exam to allow use of virtual calculator

This news should come as a good one for those who are taking the GATE exam this year. Students taking the exam will be allowed to use an online calculator.A report in Deccan Chronicle quoted MV Reddy, president of T.I.M.E. a coaching institution, as saying that an online calculator has been provided on the GATE website so that students can practise using it before the actual exam. This year the exams are starting on January 30 and end on February 7.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>There have reportedly been changes to the syllabus of many streams this year. Students have been advised to go through the syllabus carefully. Moreover, a new stream Petroleum engineering has been introduced this year. The total number of papers this year stands at 23 with the addition of the new stream.There has been another facility added on. Students can challenge their answer keys after a paying a small fee. This will allow them to cross-check their answers. For more info on GATE exams, log on to: http://www.gate.iisc.ernet.in/

Pathankot attack: No reason to ‘mistrust’ Pakistan, says Home Minister Rajnath Singh

Taking a passive stand, the Indian government on Tuesday expressed confidence that Pakistan will come through in the investigations in the Pathankot attack and said that Islamabad should be given more time to take concrete action. “Pakistan government has assured that they will be taking swift action in the Pathankot attack probe. I think we should give them more time. Moreover, there is no reason to doubt Pakistan’s assurance,” Home Minister Rajnath Singh said.However, the Congress has slammed the Centre for not bringing Pakistan’s role in the Pathankot attack onto the international arena strongly enough. “I feel like we have not reacted enough…we should have reacted more seriously. What we should have done was bring Pakistan’s behaviour to the international community’s attention,” Congress leader PC Chacko said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Meanwhile, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi lashed out at the Congress for critiquing the Centre over India’s current policy with Pakistan and said that the government was quite capable of handling national security matter and added that the grand old party should refrain from becoming ‘experts’ on the issue. “Be it Congress or anyone, they don’t need to become an expert and international commentators when it comes to national security. Our hands which holds the responsibility of national security is firm and experienced. We know how to fight those who try to hurt the country,” Naqvi said.
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