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

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

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

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

Shivraj Singh Chouhan. PTI

Shivraj Singh Chouhan. PTI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Download UGC NET Admit Card for January 2017 examination from cbsenet.nic.in

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Admit cards for UGC NET examination to be held on January 22, 107 have been released by The Central Board of Secondary Education on their official website – cbsenet.nic.in. Candidates who have registered for CBSE UGC NET 2017 can now download their admit card from the site.The examination will be held in 84 subjects at 90 selected cities across the country.NET examination is conducted twice in a year to select candidates for assistant Professor/Lecturer and for Junior Research Fellowships (JRF) in colleges and universities across the country. UGC-Net has three papers. Candidate need to clear cut-off in each of the papers and additionally the cumulative cut-off to qualify.Here’s how you can download your NET admit card:1. Visit the official website- cbsenet.nic.in2. Click on – Click here for login for Admit Card.3. You will be directed to login page.4. Enter your application number and password.5. You will now get access to your admit card.Download your admit card and take a print out. Do not forget to carry your admit card to the examination centre, you won’t be allowed to appear for your examination without the admit card.About CBSE UGC NET:On behalf of UGC, the Central Board of Secondary Education conducts the National Eligibility Test (NET) for Indian nationals to determine the eligibility for Assistant Professor only or Junior Research Fellowship. NET in conducted in 84 subjects at selected NET Examination cities across the country.Best of luck!

Notice served on legal counsel of Zakir Naik’s NGO

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

Launch of Agni-5 a great technological, military achievement: DRDO

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Defence and Research Development Organisation (DRDO) on Monday said the launch of intercontinental surface-to-surface nuclear capable ballistic missile Agni-5 is a major achievement for India both in terms of technology and military might.Former DRDO spokesperson Ravi Gupta said that with this missile capabilities, current advisories will not dare to attack India with any nuclear weapon. “It is a bold statement of India strength for peace. We are a peaceful country and we want to work for establishing peace in the region. I believe peace is possible when you are strong. So, this a major quantum jam in the deterrent capability of India and with this missile capabilities I am sure that the current advisories will not dare to attack India with any nuclear weapon,” he said.He said missile that has been launched till now was to test India’s testing capabilities but the real equipped with nuclear will be launched if India is under attack. “India has a declared policy of no frosty use and I hope that we never have to use it. That is only possible if we have this kind of capabilities”. the accuracy of the missile is very high when we launched this for the first time on April 19, 2012 it was a dawn of a new era of technology,” he added.Unlike other missiles of Agni series, ‘Agni-5’ is the most advanced having some new technologies incorporated with it in terms of navigation and guidance, warhead and engine.The indigenously-developed surface-to-surface missile, Agni-5, is capable of striking a target more than 5,000 km. It is about 17-metre long, two-metre wide and has launch weight of around 50 tonnes.The missile can carry a nuclear warhead of more than one tonne. It is the fourth developmental and second canisterised trial of the long range missile.While the first test was conducted on April 19, 2012, the second test was carried out on September 15, 2013, and the third on January 31, 2015 from the same base.

Agni-V: India conducts successful missile test, President Pranab Mukherjee congratulates

Bhubaneswar: India on Monday successfully test-fired its indigenously developed intercontinental surface-to-surface nuclear capable ballistic missile Agni-V from the Abdul Kalam Island off the Odisha coast in Balasore district.

This is the fourth and final test of the missile.

It was launched around 11.05 a.m. from a mobile launcher complex-4 of the Integrated Test Range (ITR), defence sources said.

“We are analysing the test launch after collecting information from radars. The report suggests it is a successful launch,” said an official source.

Representational image. Image courtesy News18

Representational image. Image courtesy News18

President Pranab Mukherjee congratulated the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) for the successful launch.

“Congratulations DRDO for successfully test firing Agni-V. It will enhance our strategic and deterrence capabilities,” Mukherjee said in a tweet.

The missile is developed by the DRDO under the Integrated Guided Missile Development Program.

The Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) Agni-V has the capability to strike targets anywhere in all of Asia and parts of Africa and Europe.

Agni-V is one of the most advanced missiles, which is capable of striking a target more than 5,000 km. It is about 17 metres long, 2-metre wide and has launch weight of around 50 tonnes.

The missile can carry a nuclear warhead of more than one tonne.

Once the Agni-V is inducted in the Indian military, India will join the super exclusive club of countries with ICBMs alongside the US, Russia, China, France and Britain.

The first test of Agni-V was conducted on 19 April 2012, while the second test was launched on September 15, 2013 and the third was on 31 January 2015.

First Published On : Dec 26, 2016 13:28 IST

Agni-V: India’s first indigenously built ballistic missile to be tested today

Balasore (Odisha): India is set to test its indigenously developed intercontinental surface-to-surface nuclear capable ballistic missile ‘Agni-V’ from the Wheeler Island off Odisha coast on Monday.

Range co-ordination has reached its final stage for the fourth test of Agni-V missile, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) sources said.

If everything goes according to plan, the missile may be test launched on Monday, they said.

Representational image. CNN-News18

Representational image. CNN-News18

The three stage, solid propellant missile is to be test-fired from a mobile launcher from the launch complex-4 of the Integrated Test Range (ITR), the sources said.

It will be fourth developmental and second canisterised trial of the long range missile. While the first test was conducted on April 19, 2012, the second test was carried out on September 15, 2013 and the third on January 31, 2015 from
the same base.

The indigenously-developed surface-to-surface missile, Agni-V, is capable of striking a target more than 5,000 km. It is about 17-metre long, 2-metre wide and has launch weight of around 50 tonnes. The missile can carry a nuclear warhead of more than one tonne.

Unlike other missiles of Agni series, the latest one ‘Agni-V’ is the most advanced having some new technologies incorporated with it in terms of navigation and guidance, warhead and engine.

Lot of new technologies developed indigenously were successfully tested in the first Agni-5 trial. The redundant navigation systems, very high accuracy Ring Laser Gyro based Inertial Navigation System (RINS) and the most modern and accurate Micro Navigation System (MINS) had ensured the Missile reach the target point within few metres of accuracy.

The high-speed on board computer and fault tolerant software along with robust and reliable bus guided the missile flawlessly, an official said.

India has at present in its armoury of Agni series, Agni-I with 700 km range, Agni-II with 2,000 km range, Agni-III and Agni-IV with with 2,500 km to more than 3500 km range. After some few more trials, Agni-V will be inducted into the services, sources said.

First Published On : Dec 26, 2016 10:30 IST

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

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

India overtakes United Kingdom, economy ranks fifth in the world

India’s economy for the first time in more than a century has overtaken that of the United Kingdom, Forbes magazine reported.

Akshay Shah, a researcher at Tsinghua University, who wrote the article adds, “This dramatic shift has been driven by India’s rapid economic growth over the past 25 years as well as Britain’s recent woes, particularly with the Brexit.”

While India’s economy was expected to overtake the United Kingdom by 2020, the weakening of the Pound Sterling speeded up the process, the report said.

It is interesting to know that the UK-based policy group, Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), had predicted in December 2011, that India would become the fifth largest economy by 2020, but it has already crossed the landmark, The Times of India reported. 

According to Foreign Policy, the country’s economy now ranks fifth in the world. “India may have a large population base but this is a big leap,” Foreign Policy quoted Minister of State Kiren Rijiju as saying.

The Forbes report noted that the latest milestone implies the arrival of India on the world stage and might significantly change the power dynamics between New Delhi and the West.

First Published On : Dec 21, 2016 21:54 IST

India tests ‘Nirbhay’ cruise missile, outcome not known yet

Balasore (Odisha): India on Wednesday conducted the flight test of indigenously-designed and developed long range subsonic cruise missile ‘Nirbhay’ from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur in Odisha.

However, there was no official word immediately about the outcome of the test flight.

The sophisticated missile with a strike range of 1,000 km was test launched from a specially-designed launcher around noon from the launch complex-3 of the ITR near here, defence sources said.

Powered by a solid rocket motor booster, ‘Nirbhay’ missile with a turbo-fan engine is guided by a highly advanced inertial navigation system.

The DRDO logo. Image Credit: drdo.gov.in

The DRDO logo. Image Credit: drdo.gov.in

After the missile achieves designated altitude and velocity the booster motor is separated and the torfan engine automatically switches on taking over further propulsion, a Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) scientist associated with this project said.

He said that mid-way in its flight, missile’s wing opens up by the commands generated by the sophisticated on board computer for stabilising the flight path.

The missile was tracked with the help of ground based radars and it’s health parameters were monitored by indigenous telemetry stations by team of professionals from DRDO’s ITR and LRDE (Electronics & Radar Development Establishment).

The maiden test flight of Nirbhay held on 12 March 2013 had to be terminated mid way for safety reasons due to malfunction of a component, sources said.

However, the second launch on 17 October 2014 was successful.

The next trial conducted on 16 October 2015, had to be aborted after 700 seconds of its launch. All these trials were conducted from same defence base.

First Published On : Dec 21, 2016 20:27 IST

Are Hindus least educated? Pew study has its biases, but report is a necessary jolt

When we were young, we were taught to first confirm before saying something — whether it was kind, true or necessary. For some reason, this is the thought that came to mind when reading about a recent study by Pew Research Centre that is widely being quoted and circulated in newspaper and website write-ups, both within and outside India.

The finding by the Pew Research Centre is that Hindus are the least educated religious group in the world and that 41 percent Hindus have no formal education whatsoever. That these findings have been accepted eagerly and are being publicised verbatim is surprising. One would have thought that anyone with an innate sense of secular decency would refrain from being the cause of humiliation to an entire religion in this manner. Unless of course, the truth in this is established beyond doubt and can be used to improve the situation. Let us analyse the Pew Findings in this context.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

On the kindness parameter, the published articles are overtly and unapologetically unkind. They insinuate extreme backwardness in the religion, both in terms of absolute statistics and also highlighting gender gaps.

What about the “true” aspect? The Pew Study says it based its study on surveys in 151 countries. Surely they must have a reason to say so. One is not equipped to do a similar study to confirm the situation, but perhaps certain facts and statistics are in order here to reconcile the findings as well as to dispel the disillusionment and despair that they would have caused or reinforced.

Since the Survey states that most Hindus (94 percent) live in India, we restrict our analysis to India.

First, to say that Hindus are the least educated and that 41 percent of them have no formal education is a difficult conclusion to arrive at given that there are no exclusive Hindu schools. Admissions to schools in India is secular — with there being no segregation on the basis of religion — both in rural and urban areas. Data is also, thus, not available religion-wise. One wonders, therefore, about the nature of the sample in the survey and its size.

Next, a quick glance at some statistics available on the website of Indian Ministry of Human Resource Development’s reveal the following:
The gross enrolment ratio (the number of children enrolled in schools divided by the number of children of the corresponding school enrolment age) at the elementary level (6-13 years) stands at 96.9 in 2014-15, compared to 81.6 in 2000-01 and 67.5 in 1980-81.

The number of recognised educational institutions has doubled in the primary level, quadrupled in the upper primary level and tripled in the senior secondary level, compared with 1971. The number of females enrolled at the primary, upper primary and secondary levels are 93 percent, 95 percent and 91 percent in 2014-15, up from 78 percent, 69 percent and 63 percent respectively in 2000-01, and 63 percent and 49 percent (secondary level figures not available) in 1980-81. The average dropout rate in 2013-2014 stood at 4.3 percent in the primary level, 3.77 percent in upper primary level and 17.86 percent in secondary level.

One can juxtapose these figures against the religion-wise population figures from census 2011, according to which there are 79 percent Hindus, 14.2 percent Muslims and 6 percent people belonging to other religions like Christianity, Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainsim, etc.

Going by these parameters, the conclusion of 41 percent Hindus having no formal education does seem like a mistake.

The survey also claims that Hindus outside the Asia-Pacific region are more highly educated. The important fact to note here is that most of the Hindus outside the Asia-Pacific region went there after completing their higher education in India. This is based on a May 2015 report of Migration Policy Institute, a think-tank based in Washington DC. It says: “Indian immigrants tend to have much higher educational attainment compared to both the foreign- and native-born populations. In 2013, 76 percent of Indian immigrants (ages 25 and over) had a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 28 percent of all immigrants over 25 and 30 percent of native-born adults. Notably, among college-educated Indian immigrants, more than half had a graduate or professional degree.” Also the fact that India exports its engineers and doctors, but does not import any is indicative of its comparative educational adeptness rather than backwardness.

Finally, after statistics and common sense, we examine this at another level. Is there something within Hinduism that is inherently prohibitive of education in general, and particularly so for its women? A series of surveys carried out by officials of East India Company in the early 19th century revealed that education was, in fact, widespread in every village in India. Thomas Munro, governor of Madras Presidency, noted in 1826 that there were 12,498 schools with 1,88,650 students out of a total population of 1,28,00,000. In Bombay Presidency, Governor Elphinstone found 1,705 schools with 35,153 students out of a population of 46,81,735. William Adam reported from Bengal Presidency that there were 1 lakh schools in Bengal and Bihar for a population of roughly 4 crore. Typically, these were free schools, used slates and chalk, had no government control, and both boys and girls studied together. This is as far back as the 1800s.

Thus, the problem lies elsewhere not with the religion per se. That this gets reflected in religious segregation is a function of the fact that unlike Muslims and Christians who mostly belong to the rich countries with lower populations and money-backed developed education systems, Hindus mostly live in India.

That said, there is no doubt that the present day education system in India is lacking in quality and is discriminatory. Students have to choose between expensive private schools and ill-equipped government schools. Even if the numbers don’t exactly point to it, surely the lack of effective channelisation of planning and resources by the government into the Indian education system leads to an overall quality of education that begs improvement. It is in that spirit that the present government must look at the Pew Survey. Kind and true it might not be, but it has given the necessary jolt for introspection.

First Published On : Dec 20, 2016 16:06 IST

Govt to appoint new consulting firm to revitalise loss-making Doordarshan

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The government has planned to rope in a private consultancy firm to ‘revitalise’ lackluster public broadcaster Doordarshan (DD) and bring it at par with other private channels in terms of viewership and revenues. Tenders have been recently invited and three agencies have been shortlisted so far, of which one would be selected for the purpose.The agency will work on “Transformation of DD as a leading Public Service Broadcaster”, to ‘revitalise’ Doordarshan and even out its consistent losses. Doordarshan has incurred additional losses to the tune of Rs 309 crore this financial year as compared to the last year. “The consulting firm will analyse the current difficulties in DD and prepare a solution map for addressing them, by identifying areas for ‘quick wins’ for bringing up its revenues in the short term and also help the broadcaster to plan their implementation. It will also help DD to develop a long term, 3-5 years strategic roadmap and implementation plan.A senior official from DD’s parent body Prasar Bharati said that DD’s declining viewership and increasing losses had become a cause of concern.Various measures taken to improve DD, including the slot-sale policy to jack up DD’s falling revenues, met with a poor response. Even the Broadcasting Audience Research Council (BARC), covering only urban viewership, has stated that DD has only 1% of the total TV viewership. “In the last couple of decades, DD has significantly lost its viewership to private broadcasters and cable TV. DD has ceased to be preferred channel, especially for the younger and urban populations, who can access private TV channels as well as the internet,” an official said.As per the tender documents, the private agency appointed will first look into improved revenue models, content portfolio mix for DD National, DD Bharti, DD Urdu, DD India, DD Kashir, DD Sports, content procurement strategies and production, Movies procurement strategies, among other aspects, and recommend policy-level changes for their implementation. It also bring on-board Indian and International Media sector experts for their view on the other “potential” quick wins.In the second phase, the agency will identify channel vision (for national channels like DD national, DD Bharti, DD Urdu, DD India, DD Kashir, DD Sports), study reason for decline of viewership of DD and correlate with authentic data from BARC and analyse viewership loss on the basis of viewership segments (urban/ rural/ gender-wise/ age-group) and suggest ways to get them back.The agency will also have to study key Indian broadcasters – their strategy, operating model and performance, its brand and positioning, international public service broadcasters – their strategy, operating model and performance and overall media sector trends/ developments and implications, among others.

A miracle rice that saved India

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Today Indians are forcibly standing in queues as cash is rationed; 60 years ago Indians were also standing in queues as food was rationed.Staple food like rice and wheat was in short supply; people had to stand in serpentine queues to buy a few kilograms of food grains. Life indeed was tough.In fact most of Asia was on the brink of starvation in the 1950s, then came a miracle plant developed by scientists at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines that experts say “changed the world”.This small rice plant called IR-8 doubled the yields and it led to a farming revolution that saved millions of lives.After the World War II and the horrible great Bengal famine that killed nearly 2-3 million people, a miracle was required to save the lives of starving Indians. Then came this blade of new grass that helped slowly propel India into a new era of food self-sufficiency.Rice in the 1950s was a tall plant that gave few grains and was very prone to lodging or falling over and hence a lot of grain used to get spoilt. The need was to have a short robust plant that had many tillers or grain bearing stems.Scientists at IRRI married two strains of rice one from Indonesia and one from Taiwan and thus was born a plant that saved the world called ‘IR-8’.Gurdev Khush, a plant geneticist and till recently the chief rice breeder at IRRI, who played a huge role in making IR-8 the ‘miracle plant’ says usual plant breeding offered incremental small one to two per cent increases in yield but IR-8 offered an astronomical doubling of the yield.According to IRRI, “The IR8 was the first offspring of these intense breeding efforts. It was a semi-dwarf rice and was the result of a cross between Peta, a tall vigorous variety, and Dee-geo-woo-gen, a dwarf variety.”M S Swaminathan, dubbed as the father of the Indian green revolution and former director general of IRRI, says, “IR made global history as the yield ceiling was broken,” adding it is the Indian farmers who were the real saviour as they were always willing to learn and adapt to new technologies.This ‘miracle rice’ were widely distributed free of cost. The plant was immediately lapped up by the farmers in East Asia.PTI

Rajiv Jain appointed as new IB chief, Anil Dhasmana to head RAW

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Jharkhand cadre IPS officer Rajiv Jain was on Saturday appointed as the new chief of Intelligence Bureau (IB) while Anil Dhasmana will head external intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW).Both the officers will have a tenure of two years. Jain, who is at present serving as the Special Director in the IB, will take over on January 1 after the incumbent Dineshwar Sharma completes his two-year tenure on December 31. A recipient of President’s Police Medal, the 1980-batch officer has served in various departments of the IB including the sensitive Kashmir desk.He was advisor to the previous NDA government’s interlocutor on Kashmir K C Pant when talks were held with separatist leaders like Shabbir Shah. In another appointment, Anil Dhasmana will take over the reins of the Research and Analysis Wing, an organisation which looks after the external intelligence of the country. He succeeds Rajinder Khanna who completes his tenure this year end. Dhasmana, a 1981-batch officer of Madhya Pradesh cadre, has been with RAW for the last 23 years during which he has served on important desks including Pakistan.

India top country of origin of international migrants: Pew research

Washington: India is the top country of origin of international migrants, with 15.6 million Indians living abroad, according to a Pew research which said international migrants make up 3.3 percent of the world’s population.

Ahead of the International Migrants Day, Pew Research said as of 2015, nearly 3.5 million Indians lived in the UAE, the world’s second-largest migration corridor.

Unlike the Mexico-US corridor, the number of Indians living in the UAE and other Persian Gulf countries has increased substantially during the past decade, from 2 million in 1990 to more than eight million in 2015, Pew said.

“Most have migrated for economic opportunities in these oil-rich countries,” it added.

Representational image.  Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Authored by Philip Connor, the report said if all of the world’s international migrants (people living in a country that is different from their country or territory of birth) lived in a single country, it would be the world’s fifth largest, with around 244 million people.

“Overall, international migrants make up 3.3 percent of the world’s population today,” it said.

The top origins of international migrants are India (15.6 million), followed by Mexico (12.3 million), Russia (10.6 million), China (9.5 million) and Bangladesh (7.2 million).

Among destination countries, the US has more international migrants than any other country.

It is home to about one-in-five international migrants (46.6 million), it said.

Other top destinations of migrants include Germany (12.0 million), Russia (11.6 million), Saudi Arabia (10.2 million) and the United Kingdom (8.5 million), Pew said.

First Published On : Dec 16, 2016 12:28 IST

FCRA licences of seven NGOs cancelled

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

Hindus have ‘lowest level of education’ among major religions: Pew survey

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Hindus continue to have the lowest level of educational attainment among other major religions of the world despite having made substantial educational gains in recent decade, a latest Pew research said.”Hindus have made substantial educational gains in recent decades. Hindu adults (ages 25 and older) in the youngest generation analysed in the study, for example, have an average of 3.4 more years of schooling than those in the oldest generation,” Pew said.However, Hindus still have the lowest level of educational attainment of any major religious group in this study which is topped by Jews. Globally, the average 5.6 years of schooling, and 41 per cent of Hindus have no formal education of any kind. One-in-ten have post-secondary degrees, the report said.At the same time, despite large gains by Hindu women across generations, Hindus still have the largest educational gender gap of any religious group, said the report titled ‘Religion and Education Around the World Large’ released by Pew Research Center.In its report, running into 160 pages, Pew said Jews are more highly educated than any other major religious group around the world, while Muslims and Hindus tend to have the fewest years of formal schooling.Drawing on census and survey data from 151 countries, the study also finds large gender gaps in educational attainment within some major world religions.”For example, Muslim women around the globe have an average of 4.9 years of schooling, compared with 6.4 years among Muslim men. And formal education is especially low among Hindu women, who have 4.2 years of schooling on average, compared with 6.9 years among Hindu men,” the report said.”On average, Hindu men have 2.7 more years of schooling than Hindu women, and just over half of Hindu women (53 per cent) have no formal schooling, compared with 29 per cent of Hindu men,” the report said, adding that even in the youngest generation of adults in the study, Hindu women are considerably more likely than Hindu men to have received no formal education (38 per cent vs 20 per cent).The vast majority of the world’s Hindus live in India (94 per cent) or in the bordering countries of Nepal (2.3 per cent) and Bangladesh (1.2 per cent).”In these three countries, Hindus tend to have low levels of education; in India, Hindus average 5.5 years of schooling, while in Nepal and Bangladesh they average 3.9 and 4.6 years, respectively,” Pew said.”However, in countries outside the Asia-Pacific region, where Hindus are a small religious minority, they are much more highly educated and often are the most highly educated religious group in a particular country,” the report noted.For instance, Hindus in the US have 15.7 years of schooling, on average a full year more than the next most highly educated US religious group (Jews), and nearly three years more than the average American adult (12.9 years).Hindus in Europe also are highly educated, averaging 13.9 years of schooling, Pew said.

Make in India: Rajnath Singh’s suggestion to bring down corruption in defence deals

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh batted for promotion of defence production in the country, holding its absence under previous governments as the reason behind “spike” in corruption in defence deals. Pitching for incentives in defence manufacturing, Singh said foreign companies are not only interested in investing in India but also ready to transfer technologies.”Earlier, defence production was not promoted the way it should have been. Although governments may have had the intention to do so, they did not succeed. Due to this, instead of competitiveness, corruption spiked in defence orders. You may have come across allegations in the media. This government has taken many steps to increase competitiveness and transparency in this sector,” he said.Speaking at an ASSOCHAM event, Singh said “self reliance” was a must towards ensuring “foolproof” internal security of a country while underlining the need to reduce dependency on other countries, especially in the defence sector.”Israeli and Chinese companies seek to come to India and make investment for the purpose of defence production. They are not only ready to make investment and production, but also ready to even transfer technology to India if needed.”We should consider giving more incentives in manufacturing in defence sector,” Singh said at the event on ‘Defence Production’. “As far as the question of purchasing defence equipments is concerned, I can say that decisions to purchase defence equipment are now being taken fast as compared to past and their implementation is also ensured. If we can make ‘Mangalyaan’ in a fraction of cost, then why should we depend on import on other nations,” Singh said.He said that India was emerging as a global hub in Research and Development as well, especially in manufacturing and engineering R&D through ‘Make in India’ initiative.”Even in defence sector, indigenous defence production has been encouraged through ‘Make in India’ and the government wants to take it forward,” Singh said.”Securing internal and external security of a country cannot be imagined unless it becomes self-reliant. Even if a country is not fully self-reliant, it will have to make sure that its dependence on other nations should be less,” the minister said.

India set to test-launch Agni-V ballistic missile capable of reaching northern parts of China

India is preparing to test its Agni-V intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). Agni-V is capable of reaching the northern parts of China, reported The Times of IndiaAgni’s earlier versions, which have been inducted in the armed forces, can reach anywhere in Pakistan and parts of western China.

Reports suggest that testing of this missile is being done after a gap of few years. The missile was tested in 2012, 2013 and 2015 but was reported to have a technical glitch.

File photo. PTI

Representational image. PTI

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) had announced a glitch in the missile technology earlier this year. When asked about the much-delayed fourth test of Agni-V, DRDO chief S Christopher had earlier said in July, “The problem is solvable and the next test-firing of Agni-V is expected by the year-end.

About the delay, he had said, “It has been delayed because of a technical snag. There is a problem with the battery.”

There were also reports that the test was postponed due to Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s visit to the US. Christopher had denied the reports, stating:  “The reasons for delay are only technical” IANS had reported

About the timeframe for the next test, the DRDO chief had said: “Our colleagues have said the issue can be resolved. We will do a test before the end of this year.”

This missile is strategically important as it is expected to keep a watch on China, said the reports.

Reports say that India will be the fifth country to possess this missile after America, Russia, China, France and England.

“This will be the final test of the three-stage Agni-V, which will be tested for its full range, before the Strategic Forces Command (SFC) begins its user trials,” a source told The Times Of India.

The Agni-V is the most advanced version of the indigenously built Agni, or Fire, series, part of the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP) that started in the 1960s and was once overseen by APJ Abdul Kalam.

Agni-V is a three-stage missile designed to carry over one-tonne warhead. Its 5,000 km range gives it the farthest reach among all Indian missiles.

With inputs from IANS

First Published On : Dec 14, 2016 15:07 IST

Demonetisation impact: Will it help the economy and reverse jobless growth?

So what is demonetisation? Is it, as former finance minister P Chidambaram declared on Tuesday, “the biggest scam of the year”? Or is it, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been at pains to insist, a move that will curb black money, bring more into banking sector, widen the tax net and push us towards a more digitised economy? Does this, as the former finance minister claimed during a news conference, make poor people even poorer or will it, as Modi promised, create more jobs and diminish poverty?

In the heat and dust of a debate, often the larger points remain unnoticed while we squabble over perceptions. Demonetisation has unleashed a beast so strange and powerful that politicians, economists, media and every other stakeholder have since turned into blind men trying to describe an elephant.

S Gurumurthy. File photo. Reuters

S Gurumurthy. File photo. Reuters

While economists remain sharply divided over its impact (Amartya Sen and Larry Summers, for instance, have trashed it while Jagdish Bhagwati and Ken Rogoff see it as a bold, audacious move and a major reform), politicians bicker and commentators get tethered to their prejudicial divides, an interesting perspective has been offered by RSS ideologue S Gurumurthy.

A chartered accountant by profession and a commentator on matters economic and political in his own right, Gurumurthy, who is said to have the prime minister’s ear, has presented demonetisation as a much-needed remedy against “economic mismanagement” of the UPA years where sharp growth was accompanied by a rather strange fall in jobs.

His contention is that the economy under former prime minister Manmohan Singh, a noted economist and a former RBI governor, was fuelled by asset inflation that resulted in the creation of huge amount of black wealth. This unmonitored cash, according to him, drove up the real estate prices, stock market and gold that eventually pushed up the GDP but did little to create jobs and hence was not beneficial for the common man.

Speaking to CNN-News 18 during the sidelines of a seminar on Monday, Gurumurthy said that under Singh and Chidambaram, “the quantum jump in illicit cash in the economy fuelled an asset price bubble in gold, stocks and real estate, which reflected as high GDP growth in the UPA years and continuing till now. However, that growth couldn’t create jobs because it was black money spirited out of India and round-tripped back in the form of investment in assets,” he said.

In his column for Tuesday’s edition of The Hindu, the research professor of legal Anthropology at SASTRA University provided some figures to elaborate on his theory a little more, comparing the economies under NDA government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee and UPA 1 under Manmohan Singh.

“During the NDA rule (1999-2004), real GDP grew by 27.8 percent, annually 5.5 percentage points. Annual money supply, that fuels inflation, by 15.3 percent. Prices by 23 percent, annually 4.6 percent.” He then goes on to calculate the rise in various metrics: stocks 32 percent; gold 38 percent and a “phenomenal” rise in jobs by almost 60 million. Under Manmohan Singh‘s UPA, however, says Gurumurthy, “real GDP grew by 50.8 percent, annually 8.4 percentage points — one-and-a-half times that of NDA’s,” but only 27 lakhs jobs were generated as against 600 lakhs during NDA’s 5 year-term, he writes.

He explains this jobless growth arising out of “asset price inflation, not production,” and goes on to add that stock and gold prices recorded a three-fold jump whereas property prices “doubled every two-three years.”

In his critique of demonetisation in Friday’s column for The Hindu, Singh had admitted that India’s cash to GDP ratio “is very high vis-à-vis other nations.”

What explains this high circulation of cash? Gurumurthy puts it on a rise in high denomination notes (HDNs) which make it easier to generate black wealth. He writes that while in 1999 cash with the public was 9.4 percent of nominal GDP, by 2007-08 it had jumped to 13 percent. This is an unusually high figure because rising bank and digital payments should have made the figure come down. HDNs in the hands of public, he writes, shot up from 34 percent in 2004 to 79 percent in 2010 and touched 87 percent the day Modi announced the decommissioning of notes.

During the Nani Palkhivala Memorial Lecture in Chennai on 30 November, Gurumurthy had cited celebrated French economist Thomas Piketty to say that the economic growth during 2004-2014 did not improve the lives of the poor because of “Piketty effect” and the higher GDP failed to haul people out of poverty,” according to another report in The Hindu.

How accurate is the RSS ideologue’s contention that Indian economy during UPA years was awash with “unmonitored cash”? Is it true that these years actually saw a fall in jobs despite high growth?

The Institute of Applied Manpower Research (IAMR), a think-tank of the Planning Commission, in a research paper published in 2013, found that not only did India witness jobless growth during the UPA tenure, it also saw millions pushed to become casual labour with little social security.

The authors, according to The Times of India report, revealed through their research that despite a phenomenal 8.5 percent growth in GDP, “employment in total and in non-agricultural sectors” did not grow. “This jobless growth in recent years”, they found, “was accompanied by growth in casualisation and informalisation”.

According to the study, as cited by The Times of India report, manufacturing sector saw the loss of 5 million jobs between 2005-10. The services sector witnessed only 4 million additional jobs in 2005-2010 (as compared to a massive growth of 18 million jobs during 2000-2005). This, the report said, was odd considering the growth period is often called that of ‘service-led’ growth.

If this points to a crippling problem that falsified growth while making it jobless, by sucking out extra, unmonitored cash, demonetisation may help the economy do a much-needed course-correction.

So the choice before the Modi government was to either maintain status quo — a combination of illicit cash fuelled high GDP and joblessness — or to reboot the economy through demonetisation that would trigger initial hardships but eventually restore real growth and jobs. Gurumurthy feels the government did the right thing by choosing the latter option.

As Columbia University Professor of Economics and Law Jagdish Bhagwati pointed out in his article (co-authored by Pravin Krishna and Suresh Sundaresan) for The Times of India, “Although the process is inconvenient, and subjects many households to hardships, it forces the cash from the black economy to be deposited into the banking system, potentially increasing transparency and expanding the tax base and revenues to the government from taxes and surcharges.”

The jury is still out on perhaps India’s most disruptive reform. But just as it would be foolish to tout demonetisation as a magic bullet, it similarly makes little sense to call it India’s biggest scam.

First Published On : Dec 13, 2016 17:16 IST

Students of Zakir Naik’s Islamic International School are under mental stress: Abu Azmi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Alleging that the Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) run by controversial televangelist Dr Zakir Naik was banned on wrong grounds, Samajwadi Party legislator and Maharashtra unit chief Abu Asim Azmi demanded that the state must ensure that the students in the organisation’s school were not adversely affected. Last month, the Centre banned the IRF under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) for five years. Naik has been accused of allegedly making hate speeches aimed at other faiths and indulging in the propagation of terror. “For the last 25 years, he has held rallies attended by lakhs of people, not just in India but also abroad and enlightened people about religion and helped dispel wrong notions about Islam with evidence. These speeches were held in open grounds and on television. For the last 25 years, no reference to terrorism was seen in his speeches. Since this is an Islamic body, it was banned on wrong grounds,” said Azmi, who was speaking in the state legislative assembly on Thursday. The legislator from the Mankhurd- Shivajinagar constituency said that the Islamic International School run by the preacher had a staff of 100 and the NIA had sealed its bank accounts. This had led to staff members being deprived of salaries and students of their breakfast. “Parents and children are under mental stress,” said Azmi. “Their studies must continue… any organisation must be banned on the basis of evidence and not hatred,” said Azmi.

Pakistan lifts ban on Indian cotton imports

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

Jayalalithaa’s legacy could help Panneerselvam prevent an AIADMK meltdown

Do leaders matter in politics? This is a question that plagues the minds whenever a powerful leader, having his or her distinct personalised (autocratic) style of functioning, dies while in office. It is only natural then, that many are interested in knowing the fate of Tamil Nadu politics, economy and social equations in the wake of the demise of its celebrated chief minister Jayalalithaa.

Jayalalithaa was not an ordinary leader. She was governing a state where the cult of personality politics has been an accepted phenomenon. It may be a little harsh to describe her as autocratic, but not many will dispute the fact that her style of governance was a little imperious. In that regard, speculations on the future of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) regime in the aftermath of the death of its topmost leader is perfectly understandable.

Of course, there cannot be any satisfactory answer to a question on the degree of relevance of leaders in human history. In itself, this question has always been ‘unsettled’. On one hand, we have thinkers like Karl Marx, who argued that leaders can merely choose from options that are strictly limited by factors far beyond their control and philosophers like Tolstoy, for whom leaders are merely artefacts to “explain events completely beyond their influence.”

Thousands attended the funeral of former Tamil Nadu CM J Jayalalithaa's funeral on Tuesday. PTIThousands attended the funeral of former Tamil Nadu CM J Jayalalithaa's funeral on Tuesday. PTI

Thousands attended the funeral of former Tamil Nadu CM J Jayalalithaa’s funeral on Tuesday. PTI

Whatever be the case, in genuine democracies, leadership transition is not a big issue as executive influence is typically moderated by independent legislative and judicial powers. On the other hand, however, there are stories of how leaders like Lenin, Roosevelt, Gandhi, Churchill, Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Deng changed the history of mankind.

Be that as it may, there have been many scholarly works explaining what happens to a country when a strong leader dies. Of course, most of these studies deal with leaders who ruled a country; not a state or province as was the case with Jayalalithaa. However, lessons emerging from these studies are no less relevant in understanding the present scenario in Tamil Nadu in the aftermath of her death.

According to these studies, the consequences on the polity and economy depend on many related factors: The tenure of power of the departed leader and its stability (or lack of it); the manner of his or her coming to power (democratic elections, coup d’etat, or inherited position); the succession plan (or its absence); the resources (of the state or the country – rich or poor) and who controlled them (state-run interests, by oligarchs or by a small number of investors).

In their review of 79 authoritarian leaders (dictators) who have died in office from 1946 to 2014, Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Erica Frantiz found that a majority of the regimes persisted after the autocrats’ death. Research by Benjamin F Jones and Benjamin A Olken – spanning 1,108 different leaders from 130 countries, covering essentially every nation from 1945 to 2000 (Cancers, heart attacks, strokes, and deaths by other natural causes took sixty-five of those leaders while in office. Another twelve died in accidents fiery, watery, and even equestrian) – also led to the same conclusion. Some features of their findings are worth noting.

If an autocratic or strong leader had been in power for long, he or she leaves behind a group of trusted colleagues or inner circle elites who enjoyed power along with the leader. These old guards have vested interests, in the aftermath of the death of the leader, to coalesce around a new successor rather than engage in political bickering and infighting. Failure to do so endangers their privileged access to power. In fact, since they were long used to run the system during the rule of the departed leader, they know how to maintain the status quo and add to the resilience of the regime.

On the other hand, whoever emerges as the new leader would not like to provoke resistance from the “old guard”, because these elements know how to maintain control over the levers of power and carry on the status quo or the legacy of the departed leader by distributing benefits to citizens (populist subsidies) and promoting the party’s ideology. All told, many personalised regimes rule with the aid of a political party. The new leader, therefore, is invariably encouraged by the old guard to co-opt people from the rival parties or groups by incentivising them to participate in the system.

In more senses than one, these features are very much visible in Tamil Nadu today. Belying all sorts of apprehension, there has been a smooth succession of power. New Chief Minister O Panneerselvam was one of the prominent inner-circle elites of Jayalalithaa and he is unlikely to disturb the “old guard” or deprive them of sharing the power in a state which is quite unlike Bihar or Uttar Pradesh. Tamil Nadu’s reputation is that of a state where populism, autocratic administrations and widespread corruption (common to both the DMK and AIDMK governments) have coexisted with economic growth and human development.

All told, Tamil Nadu is one of India’s richer and better-governed states, along with Maharashtra and Gujarat. So sharing power and privilege (inequitably though) along with the leader has never been an issue. Ironically, Tamil Nadu’s economic growth and development has been greatly facilitated by its autocratic or imperious leadership (in this DMK supremo Karunanidhi is not far behind the late MG Ramachandranor or Jayalalithaa).

The ‘near-deity’ status of the leader in Tamil Nadu has resulted in a streamlined decision-making process, leading to political stability and economic progress. And as has been consistent with a body of research, a country or state with political stability and growing economy rarely finds any problem or discontent during a leadership transition. Besides, as a constituent of democratic India, Tamil Nadu’s executive head is also under some limitations imposed by an independent judiciary, let alone a vibrant media.

The moral of the story is thus clear. The risk posed by a sudden vacancy in the leadership in Tamil Nadu does not mean that it is guaranteed to see a period of instability or that it won’t improve under new leadership. Therefore, various speculations suggesting that the AIADMK will disintegrate; that the opposition DMK will form a new government with one of the breakaway factions of the ruling party; that Sasikala, the departed leader’s long-standing friend, will not allow Panneerselvam smooth functioning; and that Panneerselvam can only survive through the Central government’s support by becoming a ‘yes-man’ of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, may well prove to be premature.

First Published On : Dec 7, 2016 21:36 IST

NIA plea to conduct lie-detector test on IRF member rejected

Tue, 6 Dec 2016-11:50pm , Mumbai , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> A special court on Tuesday rejected the National Investigation Agency’s application seeking a lie- detector test on the guest relationship manager of Zakir Naik- led Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) who was arrested for allegedly indoctrinating youths into joining ISIS.The NIA, which had taken Arshi Qureshi into custody on November 30 along with two others, moved the court yesterday seeking its permission. However, Qureshi did not give his consent to the procedure. “The court has rejected the NIA application’s after Qureshi did not consent to it and as per the Supreme Court guidelines, no tests can be conducted without the permission of the accused,” said his lawyer Ishrat Khan.Qureshi was sent to NIA’s custody last week till December 7. He along with Rizwan Khan and Mohammed Haneef were booked based on a complaint made by Abdul Majid Abdul Kader – the father of Ashfaq, one of the 22 youths who had allegedly joined ISIS. Mumbai-based IRF was banned by Union government last month for a period of five years under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.

Bhopal gas leak victims to get new smart cards: Vishwas Sarang

The Bhopal gas tragedy is the worst industrial mishap in India. AFPThe Bhopal gas tragedy is the worst industrial mishap in India. AFP

The Bhopal gas tragedy is the worst industrial mishap in India. AFP

Bhopal: Thousands of Bhopal gas tragedy victims and their children will get new Smart Cards to ensure proper healthcare to them, a Madhya Pradesh Minister said on Saturday.

Till now, 30,000 Smart Cards have been made, Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief and Rehabilitation Minister (Independent Charge) Vishwas Sarang was quoted as saying in an official statement here.

The Smart Cards will ensure coordination between the Bhopal Memorial Hospital and Research Centre and Relief and Rehabilitation Department in extending healthcare to the gas victims and ensuring maintenance of details of their past treatment, the minister said.

Functioning of all six hospitals treating the victims are being computerised, for which Rs 11.43 crore have been spent so far, Sarang said.

The minister said a study is going on regarding the relief and rehabilitation and healthcare of the victims and their children so as to chalk out a comprehensive plan for their benefit.

Poisonous methyl isocynate gas leaked on 2 and 3 December night in 1984 from the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal, killing several thousands and adversely affecting the health of lakhs of others who continue to suffer ill-health till date.

First Published On : Dec 3, 2016 15:50 IST

Sonia Gandhi hospitalised for second time: Congress chief has viral fever, confirms party

Congress president Sonia Gandhi was hospitalised on Tuesday as reports said that she may be suffering from a viral fever. This is the second time this year the Congress president has been hospitalised.

According to ANI, Sonia has been admitted to Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in New Delhi. Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala confirmed and said that Sonia will be in hospital for two days.

Sources said that 69-year-old Gandhi was down with viral fever and doctors advised her to be under medical supervision.

She will also undergo some tests at Sir Gangaram hospital, they said.

On 3 August, the Congress chief had to cut her visit to Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s constituency Varanasi short, as she was unwell and had to be hospitalised. She had been taken to the Army’s Research and Referral Hospital at that time but was soon shifted to Sir Ganga Ram Hospital.

PTI had then reported that she had undergone a surgery on her left shoulder and doctors had said that she had recovered from the injury. She had been discharged from the hospital on 14 August after 11 days of hospitalisation.

With inputs from PTI

First Published On : Nov 29, 2016 14:51 IST

Ready to cooperate in any investigation, says Zakir Naik

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Asserting that he has repeatedly offered his cooperation to Central agencies in their investigations, Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) chief Zakir Naik has justified his decision to steer clear of India saying that he was an NRI and that his work kept him away mostly.”I’ve repeatedly offered my cooperation to governmental agencies in their investigations. Till a few days ago, no agency bothered to contact me, ask me questions, send me any notice or even lodge an FIR against me. Till date there’s been no contact and the only FIR lodged against me was done after the ban,” said Naik speaking about the current controversy over his NGO which has been banned by the Indian government.Rubbishing reports of him being granted Malaysian citizenship, the Islamic preacher said he has neither been banned in Malaysia nor does he have its citizenship.”The Indian media has repeated hundreds of times in the last four months that I was banned in Malaysia. Now it takes a somersault and says that I have been given the citizenship of Malaysia. How can a person, who is banned in a country, be given a passport of that country? Both these reports are absolutely false without any proof. I’m neither banned in Malaysia nor do I have its citizenship,” he said.Naik also dubbed the ban on his NGO as ‘unfortunate’ and alleged that this move of the ‘anti-Muslim’ BJP-led NDA Government is politically motivated.Naik said that the ban would be challenged as soon as possible, adding that his legal team in Delhi and Mumbai are considering all options possible.Responding to a poser as to why he blamed Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government for the ban and not British Prime Minister Theresa May, Naik said, “I am not banned in the U.K., I have been ‘excluded’, which means I cannot enter UK. A ban would have meant banning my speeches on television, my NGO as well as my books, audio and video CDs. None of that has happened. My organization and my published materials are very much in circulation in UK and doing some commendable work in spreading the message of peace in Islam.”

Dollar steadies after oil slip, global stocks remain groggy | Reuters

By Marc Jones

LONDON The dollar steadied after its biggest fall in almost a month on Monday, as doubts about a long-mooted OPEC output cut unsettled oil markets and “Trumpflation” trades that have gripped investors since the U.S. election.Crude prices stumbled into the red as Wall Street prepared for a lower opening after the post-Thanksgiving weekend and both European and Japanese shares had difficult starts to the week.Concerns about the fallout from Italy’s constitutional referendum this Sunday meant a 1.3 percent fall for its stocks, while oil’s struggles added to a 3.5 percent plunge on Friday, when it emerged that Saudi Arabia would not join talks with non-OPEC producers on potential supply cuts. With oil so central to global costs, the drop in crude prices was rapidly cooling bets on a near-term jump in inflation, and tempering growing expectations of multiple rises in U.S. interest rates.The dollar sank as much as 1.6 percent against the yen, going as low as 111.355 yen before recovering to 112.45 — still its biggest fall against the yen since the start of the month.. “There has been a little test of the market but dollar looks like it has survived the test and wants to rally again,” said Saxo Bank’s head of FX strategy, John Hardy.The greenback’s earlier retreat had hoisted the euro to an 11-day high of $1.0686 as it also got a lift from the election of Francois Fillon as the centre-right candidate in next year’s French presidential election.The former prime minister is now favourite to become president, with a flash opinion poll suggesting he would easily beat far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen in a second round run-off. Markets worry that Le Pen, who has promised a referendum on membership of the European Union if she wins, would threaten the future of the currency bloc.

In Italy, opinion polls predict defeat for the government on Sunday in what would be the third big anti-establishment revolt by voters this year in a major Western country, following Britons’ vote to leave the European Union and the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president. Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has promised to resign if he does not win.Having lost more than half their value over the last year, Italian banking stocks fell 3 percent to their lowest in almost two months, while Italian government bonds also underperformed the wider rally in fixed income. “Fears are that an Italian dissent and resulting market turmoil would dissuade already gutsy investors from daring to participate in desperately needed recapitalisations within a very troubled 4 trillion euro banking system,” said Mike van Dulken, Head of Research at Accendo Markets.U.S. stock futures slipped 0.2 percent ahead of U.S. trading. Wall Street’s four main indexes all hit record highs last week, a feat last achieved in 1999.

With the dollar still fragile, gold however bounced back to $1,192 per ounce from Friday’s low $1,171.5, which was its lowest level since early February.HOT METALS
Industrial metals also remained red hot on hopes of strong demand for property and infrastructure investment in China and the United States.Chinese steel futures jumped over 6 percent in Asia, while iron ore futures also gained about six percent and zinc, used to galvanise steel, powered to a nine-year high on the London Metal Exchange.[MET/L]

Asian shares rose 0.4 percent overnight, led by gains in Hong Kong and Taiwan though Japan’s Nikkei, which has been performing even better than Wall Street thanks to the yen’s fall, ended down 0.1 percent.Emerging markets enjoyed some relief from their recent dollar-related drubbing, with stocks up 0.7 percent and currencies led higher by a 2 percent surge from the rand as South African’s sovereign debt avoided a downgrade to junk rating.”It will be scary to think markets may fully reverse their moves since the elections, changing their mind that Trump’s policy may not be so good after all,” said Bart Wakabayashi, head of Hong Kong FX sales at State Street Global Markets.In the bond markets, the yield on 10-year U.S. Treasuries was just starting to nudge up again ahead of the Wall Street restart, having dropped off its 16-month high of 2.417 percent, touched last week, to 2.3411 percent.Investors still seemed to be playing the transatlantic divide. German Bunds, Europe’s benchmark, saw their 10-year yield drop 3 basis points, and two-year German yields hit a new record low of minus 0.76 percent. Traders sense that lower oil prices combined with Italy’s referendum on Sunday could all but end any chances of the European Central Bank scaling back its support any time soon. “If OPEC fails to give oil prices a boost this week, that will pour some cold water on the ‘Trumpflation’ trade that has continued to drive overall bond markets,” said Commerzbank rates strategist David Schnautz. (Additional reporting by Dhara Ranasinghe; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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

First Published On : Nov 28, 2016 19:18 IST

Zakir Naik’s YouTube videos a concern, says NIA

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The government might have blocked websites owned by the Islamic Research Foundation (IRF), but its founder Zakir Naik continues to thrive on YouTube, where thousands of his speeches remain.The National Investigation Agency (NIA), currently probing Naik on terror charges, maintains that it has written to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on the YouTube videos, but there seems to be little movement from the ministry.The NIA, during search operations on IRF premises, confiscated video tapes and DVDs of Naik’s public speeches. The NIA says that examining the speeches was a lengthy process as the quantity of videos were poor, but said that the YouTube speeches were a different ball game all together.A single YouTube channel named Dr Zakir Naik has close to 3 lakh subscriptions and has 1,615 videos. The latest was uploaded a week ago. Islamic Productions, which too regularly uploads the preacher’s speeches, has a total view of 2.3 crore, though the channel was started in January this year. Dr Zakir Naik – IRF, another channel, has 35,211 subscribers, with 7,081,194 views. Other channels like MIK Islamic Media and Voice of Zakir Naik also have heavy traffic.”We have written to the MHA to block YouTube videos. It is a time-consuming process, but, for now, we are focusing on the videos we confiscated from IRF premises,” said an official, adding that the videos will be examined by a team of experts with a good hold on comparative religion, something which Naik had mastered over the years.The NIA claims that the initial analysis of the videos of Naik’s speeches suggests that the preacher allegedly “crossed the line of legality” in some of his seminars.”Websites of IRF as well as of Islamic International School have already been blocked. IRF is also very active on Twitter and Facebook and the process of blocking the pages and IDs has been initiated. YouTube does remain a concern but we are sure the issue will be resolved in a few days,” said the official.Requests by investigating agencies, like blocking of IP addresses and websites, are generally forwarded by an MHA panel to the Ministry of Information Technology, and are implemented by the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeITY).Before the NIA had booked Naik under terror charges, an MHA official told DNA that no decision has been taken on whether the YouTube videos will be blocked. For now, the NIA is awaiting the ministry’s decision.The blocking of YouTube videos, however, will not be the end of the problem, according to NIA officials. While the agency has identified some YouTube channels run by IRF, monitoring individuals uploading videos of Naik will be a tough task.(With inputs from Amrita Nayak Dutta)

Note ban: I-T sleuths begin crackdown on Rs 21,000 cr deposited in Jan Dhan accounts

New Delhi: For the next month, Income Tax and economic intelligence sleuths will hit the streets looking for real beneficiaries of around 771 accounts that they fear were hired from small depositors on monthly rent to beat the anti-black money measures. Besides, top finance ministry sources also confirmed that Rs 21,000 crore was deposited in Jan Dhan accounts in West Bengal and Karnataka, which they suspect could be hired to park tainted money after the government decided to demonetise high value currency notes on 8 November.

Zero balance Jan Dhan accounts are meant for weaker sections and low-income groups to bring about comprehensive financial inclusion of all the households in the country.

Top sources said Cash Transaction Reports (CTRs) and Suspicious Transaction Reports (STRs) have thrown up sudden activities in 298 bank accounts from Uttar Pradesh, 137 from West Bengal and 121 from Bihar, besides some allegedly ‘rented accounts’ in at least 11 more states. And this brewing illicit activity to dodge demonetisation policy is just the tip of ‘rent an account’ scam. It is a far-reaching, organised scam, confided a senior official privy to the ongoing investigation, suspecting a deep conspiracy being hatched by a well-oiled network to pile huge unaccounted wealth in zero balance accounts and make it legitimate.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

The transactions, officials said, are in fact shocking and as per the details provided by the reporting entities — banks — definitely warrant additional scrutiny.

Since the announcement of the demonetisation policy a fortnight ago, the government has directed all public and private banks to detect and report potentially illegal and suspicious transactions that may flow through zero balance and Jan Dhan accounts that officials believe are the most favoured tools for black money hoarders to deposit large amounts of cash. A government source confirmed to Firstpost that the government has launched a manual transaction monitoring system, targeting specific types of transactions, conducted across the 371 District Central Cooperative Banks (DCCBs) and a letter was shot off on 15 November after reports emerged that some cooperative banks accepted large amounts of cash on 8 November — the day Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the game-changer move at 8 pm.

“We have asked for the two reports. One is specifically about deposits till midnight on 8 November and the second report is on cash deposited between 10 and 14 November. All the cooperative banks have been told to file a daily report on cash deposits from 15 November. The direction very clear states that farmers and genuine customers in rural areas are not to be harassed. The investigation will take up the cases only linked to hiring and misuse of someone’s account by black money hoarders,” he said, further adding that similar instructions have been issued to regional rural banks and state cooperative banks.

However, the government direction also points out that the whole exercise should not bring discomfiture to the farmers preparing for Rabi crop season.

The Income Tax directive on ‘hiring bank accounts’ to convert black money into white makes it harshly clear that both — the account holder and tenant — will be punished as per the new law introduced in the Prohibition of Benami Property Transaction Act, 1988. “The benamidar, beneficial owner and any other person who abets or induces the benami transactions shall be punishable with rigorous imprisonment from one year to seven years and shall be liable to fine.”

Rent an account: The Pakistani model of money-laundering

For seasoned spies in the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and the Intelligence Bureau (IB), the hiring of a bank account after demonetisation is a grim reminder of the ‘Pakistani model of money-laundering’. A recent secret communication reviewed by Firstpost shows that a Pakistani named Akram was involved in creating and running an India based elaborate network that was involved in hiring bank accounts from poor account holders to carry out money-laundering activities. Sources said the black money hoarders are perhaps using the similar pattern to give tax sleuths a slip, layering the money through bank accounts that hardly witness major financial transactions to slip under the radar of Central agencies.

The secret note gives out details of at least three cases unearthed by the agencies including one in July 2014 when Ranjit Kumar, a native of Rikhiya Village in Deoghar, Jharkhand was arrested for renting bank accounts from poor families in lieu of attractive returns. Similarly, in June 2014, three persons — Brajesh, Dharmedra Kumar Prajapati and Rajiv Patel — were picked up from Bhopal and at least 37 bank account details with ATM cards were seized from them. The biggest breakthrough to decode the ‘Pakistani model’ of hiring bank accounts was busted in Roorkee in February 2013, when Jai Prakash, a native of Shamli in Muzaffarnagar was caught with 132 bank account passbooks and ATM cards of various banks.

A majority of state-owned banks were targeted by the network that used to hire bank accounts and their ATM cards on rent from different individuals and subsequently provided the details to their Pakistani associates for laundering. But, since high-value currency has been reduced to scraps of paper by the government, the money being deposited by the black money hoarders in rented accounts, cannot escape the close scrutiny of bank and tax officials.

“We have already interrogated certain individuals, who allegedly allowed the use of their bank accounts by suspected black money hoarders. The notices under relevant sections have been issued for further probe,” senior government officials quoted above said.

First Published On : Nov 24, 2016 10:30 IST

MGK Menon: Administrator, institution builder; man who took IBM head on

Professor MGK Menon, who passed away at the age of 88 on Tuesday, was the last surviving architect of science and technology in independent India. He was perhaps the most powerful science administrator and institution builder the country ever had, occupying every single important post in science and technology administration including that of the Minister for Science and Technology during his career spanning half a century.

Mambillikalathil Govind Kumar Menon was the most prominent face of what is known as the “Bhabha school” or the “Atomic Energy School” in scientific circles. He was a protégé of Homi Jehangir Bhabha, the founder of atomic research in India. While he was conducting cosmic rays research at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Menon worked closely with Bhabha and had started handling affairs of the institute at the age of 33. Bhabha was preoccupied with the nuclear research programme while being the director of TIFR. When Bhabha was killed in an air crash in 1966, Menon emerged as the top choice for the post of the director even though he was just 37 years old.

A file image of MGK Menon. Courtesy: Dinesh C Sharma

A file image of MGK Menon. Courtesy: Dinesh C Sharma

His career as a science administrator began in 1971 when he was named the first secretary of the Department of Electronics (DoE), which was set up to make India self-reliant in electronics and computing. The backdrop of the DoE formation was the growing influence of International Business Machine (IBM) in the Indian market. Menon’s name was suggested to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by Vikram Sarabhai, who was the chairman of the Electronics Committee and also Indian National Committee on Space Research (a precursor to the Indian Space Research Organisation, ISRO). Incidentally, both Bhabha and Sarabhai used to address Menon as “Goku”.

In an interview he gave me in 2007, Menon revealed that he was reluctant to become a science administrator. He said he agreed to be the secretary of DoE on two conditions: first, he wanted to continue his position as the director of TIFR so that he could continue his research work; and second, he wanted the Electronics Commission (EC) to be located in Bombay so that he could divide time between Bombay and Delhi. Both the conditions were agreed to and the EC started operating from Air India building at Nariman Point.

Menon soon emerged as the czar of Indian science in the 1970s. Within two years of DoE coming into being, India had a vast infrastructure for electronics policy making, R&D, licensing and administrative control — all headed by him. All this while, Menon continued as Director of TIFR. In 1974, he was also appointed the scientific advisor to the defence minister.

After Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar (founder of CSIR), Menon became the most powerful science bureaucrat holding several key positions at the same time or in quick succession in the 1970s. He is also the only scientist to have headed all important scientific agencies during his career. After DoE, he became the secretary, Department of Science and Technology and director general of CSIR (holding a dual charge). After that he became the first secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, member of Planning Commission (Science), head of the Science Advisory Committee; and finally became Minister of State for Science and Technology in 1990. He was briefly chairman of ISRO and first chairman of the Commission for Additional Sources of Energy which subsequently became the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy.

The Menon era at DoE was full of turmoil, though. His tenure is much misunderstood, and often, he was criticised for obstructing the growth of electronics industry. Menon told me that the role of DoE was promotional, but it had to operate under existing licensing regime which was restrictive. “You must understand that we (DoE) were not the government, we were part of the government. We were not the Parliament. It is the Parliament that lays the route in which the country should go. One of the earliest things that we did was to bring to the notice of the Prime Minister that the Industrial Development and Regulations Act is not valid for electronics. It is too slow, electronics is too fast.” Because of restriction on foreign equity, he said, the government refused entry to Texas Instruments (TI) which first approached DoE in the mid-1970s.

When TI Chairman Patrick Haggerty came to India with a project for Integrated Circuit (IC) manufacturing, he wanted 100 percent ownership and no restrictions in the form of “export obligation”. When Menon conveyed this to India Gandhi, she said, “It is a wonderful idea, I accept it, but I will not be able to get it through the political system.” During the interview with me, Menon recalled: “She told me bluntly: forget it. There was no way I could have brought in Texas Instruments. I was not the boss of the country. I only operated as secretary under Gandhi who was the prime minister, who told me it is not possible.”
While Menon wanted TI and other foreign players like Burroughs to come to India, his stand with IBM was different. He said he did not want IBM to leave but only mend its ways. In Menon’s words, “IBM wanted to play a dominant role in India as a 100 percent foreign company, leasing computers, mainly low-grade systems. I had any number of discussions with them, trying to persuade them ‘Please manufacture in India, bring your latest systems here’. I said train people here because the system of leasing and maintenance meant we remained dependent on them. But they were not prepared to do any of these things. They were not prepared to go down in equity. This was against the government policy.” Still, while acting tough with IBM, Menon deputed one of his close aides, N Seshagiri, to hold secret talks with the company in the US to avoid IBM’s exit from India, but these talks failed.

DoE under Menon funded electronics research in strategic areas and founded key bodies like the National Centre for Software Development, National Informatics Centre (NIC) and Computer Maintenance Corporation (CMC) among several others. DoE also encouraged states to establish State Electronics Development Corporations to promote electronics manufacturing. All these institutions developed skills in design, development and software writing which helped a great deal in developing an indigenous base in electronics and software in the 1980s.

Dinesh C Sharma is the author of the award-winning book The Outsourcer: The Story of India’s IT Revolution, MIT Press, 2015.

First Published On : Nov 23, 2016 14:23 IST

Indore-Patna Express derailment: Railways suspends five officials, transfers Jhansi DRM

Kanpur: Railways today suspended five senior officials and transferred Jhansi Divisional Manager (DRM) as the probe into the Indore-Patna Express accident gained momentum, with blood samples of the two drivers sent for alcohol test.

The death toll in Sunday’s mishap rose to 150, making it the deadliest train accident in the last 17 years with four more persons, including a 12-year-old boy, succumbing to their injuries.

Senior Divisional Mechanical Engineer (Carriage and wagon) Navaid Talib, Divisional Engineer MK Mishra, Senior Section Engineer Ambika Ojha, Section Engineer Iswar Das and Senior Section Engineer Sushil Kumar Gupta were suspended for dereliction of duty while DRM of Jhansi Division SK Aggarwal was transferred.

Over 140 people were killed in the Patna-Indore Express tragedy. PTIOver 140 people were killed in the Patna-Indore Express tragedy. PTI

150 people were killed in the Patna-Indore Express tragedy, the deadliest in past 17 years. PTI

While Jhansi DRM was transferred to Ranchi, the five officials were suspended pending inquiry.

“It was very necessary to take action to fix responsibility. Suspension and transfer order was issued pending inquiry being conducted by the Commissioner Railway Safety (CRS),” said a senior Railway Ministry official.

Meanwhile, Railway Safety Commissioner PK Acharya said blood samples of the two drivers of the train have been sent to a lab to ascertain if they were in an inebriated condition that could have caused the deadly derailment.

“Blood samples of both the drivers have been sent to a laboratory for tests. I can make further comments once the laboratory sends the reports,” he said replying to questions on whether the drivers were under the influence of alcohol.

Acharya, who is probing the accident and had inspected the site yesterday, said it may take about two-three days to complete the inquiry and the report will be submitted to the government in a month’s time.

The statements of the driver, the assistant driver, a police inspector and a few other people have been recorded, he said, adding that this is first round of questioning and there will be more rounds.

He said samples of the broken railway track have been brought to Kanpur and are being sent for examination to the Research Designs and Standards Organisation’s (RDSO) laboratory.

A 12-member team of Government Railway Police (GRP) personnel has also been formed to investigate the derailment.

On being told that the GRP had registered FIRs against unknown people and is also investigating the matter, Acharya said he had nothing to do with the GRP’s probe.

First Published On : Nov 22, 2016 21:07 IST

India joins CERN as associate member

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Geneva-headquartered European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) has inked an agreement with India that confirms the latter as the latest associate member state of the organisation. CERN operates the largest particle physics laboratory in the world.An official release of the organisation said that India’s inclusion as an associate member state follows CERN Council’s adoption of the resolution to this effect on September 15, 2016. For India, Sekhar Basu, Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission and Secretary, Department of Atomic Energy signed the agreement, while Fabio Gianotti, Director General, signed it on behalf of CERN. The signing of the agreement took place in Mumbai on Monday.CERN is the world’s largest nuclear and particle physics laboratory, where scientists and engineers are probing the fundamental structure of the universe by using the most sophisticated scientific instruments and advanced computing systems.India has made significant contributions to the construction of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), in the areas of design, development and supply of hardware accelerator components/systems and its commissioning and software development and deployment in the machine, the CERN said in a statement.The CERN has 22 member states, four associate member states, four states and three international organisations with observer status.

NIA wraps up raids in 17 Zakir Naik’s IRF premises

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Monday said it had so far completed raids at 17 premises connected to controversial televangelist Zakir Naik’s NGO Islamic Research Foundation, while searches at two other premises were still underway. The raids began early on Saturday morning at IRF’s Dongri office. The agency has also blocked all social media content with Naik’s speeches, including IRF’s official website.”We have seized a large stash of data from Harmony Media, which used to produce and supply media content for Peace TV. We have seized incriminating documents and digital devices from the premises. We will start scrutinising all digital material and documents seized from Tuesday onwards,” an NIA source said.”As part of the investigation, all action that needs to be taken against a proscribed organisation, including banning of its online activities, are being undertaken,” an NIA officer said.An employee of Harmony Media, on the condition of anonymity, said, “We have been asked not to conduct any kind of activity, but have been told to cooperate with the agency in the investigation. All the offices, including IRF and Harmony Media, were rented premises. The owners have also removed the board from IRF’s office.”The NIA had on Saturday carried out searches at 12 IRF premises in Mumbai after registering a case against Naik and others under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. The agency had seized Rs 12 lakh cash and incriminating documents, during their raids on various premises, including IRF’s head office.Naik allegedly transferred IRF’s foreign funds to Peace TV to make objectionable programmes. Most of which “urged all Muslims to be terrorists” through Peace TV. “NIA has started the process for blocking the URLs of online platforms connected to IRF and Zakir Naik including but not restricted to websites, Facebook and YouTube. It is being done following the due process of the extant statutes,” NIA spokesperson said.

NIA seizes Rs 12 lakh cash in raids on 12 premises of Dr Zakir Naik’s IRF

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>National Investigation Agency (NIA) teams on Saturday seized Rs 12 lakh cash and incriminating documents, files as well as electronic storage devices, in raids on 12 premises including head office of the banned Islamic Research Foundation (IRF).NIA has registered an offence against IRF Founder-President and controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik and his associates for promoting enmity and hatred between religious groups through his public speeches and lectures on various platforms, the agency said in a release.As per the statement, Naik and his associates are responsible for inciting Muslim youths and terrorists in India and abroad to commit unlawful activities and terrorist acts.Centre had recently banned IRF for five years and its notification was served through Mumbai Police two days before.NIA teams raided 12 premises including its head office in Dongri on Saturday morning and conducted raids in which they seized documents related to Naik and IRF’s various financial transactions and property details.NIA has sent a team of IT experts from Delhi for further investigation. The searches are still going on and are likely to continue till late in the night, NIA said in a statement.

Zakir Naik case: Authorities freeze bank account of Islamic school run by controversial preacher

Authorities on Friday morning froze bank accounts of Mumbai-based Islamic International School (IIS), an institution set up and run by controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik, a person associated with Naik said.

Soon thereafter, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Saturday carried out searches at 10 places in a case registered against Naik’s NGO Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) in Mumbai.

A file image of controversial televangelist Zakir Naik. CNN-News18

A file image of controversial televangelist Zakir Naik. CNN-News18

The searches began on Saturday morning with the help of local police after a case was registered by the NIA’s Mumbai branch on Friday night under 153-A of IPC (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion…and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony) and various sections of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

Last week, the government had banned IRF for five years for its alleged links with terrorist activities.

“It was said that the government will ensure that the school’s students and functioning will not be affected. But the actions prove otherwise,” the person said.

“By freezing the school’s account, it isn’t able to meet the day-to-day expenses, that includes students meals, classroom expenses, petty cash, stationery and numerous other small but important activities any school undertakes on a daily basis. This is the school’s own bank account. Freezing it can only have one purpose,” the person said.

The school describes itself as an institution which was “conceived, planned and developed by Dr Zakir Naik… a visionary par excellence.” Naik is the chairman of the IRF Educational Trust and President of the Islamic Research Foundation in Mumbai.

The website of IIS says Naik has visited several ‘Islamic’ and ‘other’ educational institutions worldwide and interacted with many experts on school and university education to grasp their approach towards Islamic orientation, teaching methodology, curriculum implementation and management.

“The pragmatic insights gained from these meetings and latest research and learning on effective education strategies help in the continuous improvement and development of IIS, to be contemporary and Islamic… to fulfill the students’ educational needs for this ‘duniya‘ (world) and the ‘Aakhirah’ (hereafter).” The school also has a branch in Chennai.

Earlier, the state police had raised concerns about the running and curriculum of the school in a report submitted to the state government.

Youths from Malavani in western suburbs who had left their home to join Islamic State earlier this year were also allegedly inspired by the preaching of the televangelist.

Police had arrested some members of IRF for allegedly motivating and radicalising group youths from Kasargod in Kerala to join the Islamic State.

The speeches of Naik, who is currently out of the country apparently to evade arrest, are banned in the UK and Canada as well as in Malaysia.

With inputs from PTI

First Published On : Nov 19, 2016 15:02 IST

Police gives copy of Central notification to Zakir Naik’s IRF

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Police have handed over a copy of the Central notification banning Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) for five years to office-bearers of the city-based NGO, promoted by controversial preacher Zakir Naik.”After receiving the copy of notification from Ministry of Home Affairs yesterday, the Mumbai Police served it to IRF office-bearers (in their office at Dongri here),” Deputy Commissioner of Police, Ashok Dudhe told PTI today. The Union cabinet had approved a proposal to outlaw the IRF on Tuesday for its alleged terror activities. In a gazette notification, the Home Ministry had said the IRF and its members, particularly, the founder and its president Zakir Naik, has been encouraging and aiding its followers to promote or attempt to promote, on grounds of religion, disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious communities.IRF came on radar of investigative agencies after one of the terrorists in Dhaka attack had allegedly posted on social media that they had been inspired by Naik’s speeches. Youths from Malavani in western suburbs who had left their home to join Islamic State earlier this year were also allegedly inspired by the preaching of the televangelist.Police had arrested some members of IRF for allegedly motivating and radicalising group youths from Kasargod in Kerala to join ISIS. The case is under investigation of the National Investigation Agency (NIA).Naik is currently out of country apparently to evade arrest, sources said.

Zakir Naik case: Police hands over copy of Central notification to IRF

Mumbai: Police have handed over a copy of the Central notification banning Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) for five years to office-bearers of the city-based NGO, promoted by controversial preacher Zakir Naik.

File photo of Zakir Naik. Reuters

File photo of Zakir Naik. Reuters

“After receiving the copy of notification from Ministry of Home Affairs on Thursday, the Mumbai Police served it to IRF office-bearers (in their office at Dongri in Mumbai),” Deputy Commissioner of Police, Ashok Dudhe told PTI on Friday.

The Union cabinet had approved a proposal to outlaw the IRF on Tuesday for its alleged terror activities.

In a gazette notification, the Home Ministry had said the IRF and its members, particularly, the founder and its president Zakir Naik, has been encouraging and aiding its followers to promote or attempt to promote, on grounds of religion, disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious communities.

IRF came on radar of investigative agencies after one of the terrorists in Dhaka attack had allegedly posted on social media that they had been inspired by Naik’s speeches.

Youths from Malavani in western suburbs who had left their home to join Islamic State earlier this year were also allegedly inspired by the preaching of the televangelist.

Police had arrested some members of IRF for allegedly motivating and radicalising group youths from Kasargod in Kerala to join the Islamic State. The case is under investigation of the National Investigation Agency (NIA).

Naik is currently out of country apparently to evade arrest, sources said.

First Published On : Nov 18, 2016 17:32 IST

Puducherry CM V Narayanasamy meets fishermen injured in Sri Lankan Navy firing

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Puducherry Chief Minister V Narayanasamy on Tuesday called on the two Indian fishermen, who were injured in alleged firing by the Sri Lankan Navy, at the Indira Gandhi Government General Hospital and Research Institute here.He enquired about their health condition and wished them a speedy recovery. The chief minister was accompanied by Agriculture and Education Minister R Kamalakannan.R Balamurugan from Karaikal (Puducherry) and A Aravind from Tamil Nadu’s Nagapattinam sustained injuries when the Sri Lankan naval personnel allegedly opened fire at their fishing boat yesterday off the Kodiakarai coast, some 200 km from here. The fishermen were admitted to the government hospital here.Various political parties, including MDMK and PMK, in Tamil Nadu condemned the firing yesterday claiming that it happened in Indian waters and urged the Centre to take action to prevent recurrence of such incidents.

Google, an Obama ally, may face policy setbacks under Trump | Reuters

By David Shepardson, Malathi Nayak and Julia Love

WASHINGTON/SAN FRANCISCO Alphabet Inc’s Google faces a tougher regulatory landscape as U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s incoming administration looks poised to reverse Obama administration policies that often favored the internet giant in the company’s battles with telecoms and cable heavyweights, analysts say.Google had close ties with outgoing Democratic President Barack Obama’s administration, and its employees donated much more to defeated Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton than to the Republican Trump.In the most concrete sign yet that the tech policy balance may be tipping in favor of telecom firms ahead of Trump’s presidency, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday halted action on contentious regulatory reform measures opposed by companies such as AT&T Inc and CenturyLink Inc.In addition, the commission is now expected to reject FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s high-profile proposal to open up the $20 billion market for rented pay-TV set-top boxes, according to two people with knowledge of the matter. That measure would have dealt a big blow to cable companies and created an opening for firms such as Google and Apple Inc.Obama had thrown his support behind the initiative, a move AT&T decried as an improper intervention on behalf of what it called a “Google proposal.””Google has been much more actively involved in this than Apple has,” said Jan Dawson, analyst at Jackdaw Research. “I’m not sure it’s critical to Google’s business at all that it be allowed to provide these next generation set-top boxes, but there was a business opportunity there.”Cable companies have expressed concerns that rivals like Google or Apple could create devices or apps and insert their own content or advertising in cable content.The FCC’s moves came a day after Republican lawmakers urged Wheeler, a Democrat, to avoid any contested regulations in the waning days of the Obama administration, saying new rules would be subject to review by the incoming Republican-led Congress and Trump’s administration and “could create confusion if reversed.””The question is how far will the pendulum swing back” in favor of telecom companies, said Hal Singer, senior fellow at the George Washington Institute of Public Policy. “It has swung in Google’s direction under the FCC and Chairman Wheeler.” Among other regulations, Trump’s Nov. 8 election has increased the chances that Obama’s net neutrality rules, adopted by the FCC in early 2015, could be rolled back, analysts said.

Most Republicans strongly oppose net neutrality, which requires internet service providers to treat all data equally and bars them from obstructing or slowing down consumer access to web content. The rules were a victory for internet firms like Google and Netflix Inc that have advocated an open internet.Jimmy Schaeffler, telecom industry consultant at the Carmel Group, said that “the bottom line is that things will change and there will be less optimism among and fewer opportunities” for companies like Google that do not own the internet networks.”That’s going to impede their success and those that rely on what they do,” Schaeffler added.Republicans in Congress or at a Republican-controlled FCC under a Trump administration could also pare back new privacy rules adopted in October that subject internet service providers to stricter rules than those faced by Google and other websites.Since Trump’s victory, Alphabet shares have fallen 2.4 percent, Netflix shares have dropped 5.9 percent and Amazon shares are down 2 percent. AT&T Inc and Verizon Communications Inc shares have been relatively unchanged, while Comcast Corp shares have soared 7.7 percent.

Google did not respond to requests for comment.EXTENSIVE TIES
During Obama’s presidency, more than 250 people moved between jobs at Google or related firms and the federal government, national political campaigns and Congress, according to a report this year by the Campaign for Accountability watchdog group’s Google Transparency Project.Eric Schmidt, Alphabet’s executive chairman, was seen at Clinton’s Election Night party wearing a staff badge in a widely circulated photo.

In the stolen and leaked emails of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta disclosed by WikiLeaks, an adviser wrote a memo to Clinton in 2014 that said “working relationships with Google, Facebook, Apple, and other technology companies were important to us in 2012 and should be even more important to you in 2016, given their still-ascendent positions in the culture.””We have begun having discreet conversations with some of these companies to get a sense of their priorities for the coming cycle,” the adviser wrote.Telecoms and cable companies have accused Wheeler of favoring Google at the expense of cable companies. Responding to the criticism, Wheeler said in May: “I hear that allegation, and I scratch my head. I don’t get that charge.””Certainly the sort of cozy relationship that Google enjoyed with the Obama administration is not going to continue with Trump,” Jackdaw Research’s Dawson added.Some analysts and former Google lobbyists noted that the company similarly faced a set of challenging regulatory dynamics when it opened its Washington office in 2005, with Republicans controlling the White House and both houses of Congress and the young tech firm widely perceived to have a liberal bent.”They have a tailwind (in the Obama administration), and that does end now,” a former Google employee at the company’s Washington office said. “But I think in the long run Google is going to be just fine in Washington. In many ways, its whole operation was built just for moments like this.” (Reporting by David Shepardson and Malathi Nayak in Washington and Julia Love in San Francisco; Additional reporting by Diane Bartz, Editing by Soyoung Kim and Will Dunham)

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

First Published On : Nov 17, 2016 23:24 IST

DNA Evening Must Reads: RS debate on demonetization, Jaitley clarifies Mallya’s loan write off ‘only in books’ and more

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>1) Demonetization: Congress likens PM Modi to Hitler, Mussolini and Gaddafi; Naidu calls comparison ‘atrocious’With frustration over the cash crunch mounting, debate on the issue of demonetization began in Rajya Sabha, with Congress leader Anand Sharma demanding Modi’s apology for mocking people standing in queue to withdraw money and exchange old currency of Rs 500 and Rs 1000. Read more…2) Arun Jaitley clarifies Vijay Mallya’s SBI loan write off ‘only in books’Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has clarified in the Rajya Sabha that Vijay Mallya’s State Bank of India loan has been written off ‘only in books’ and the government will still pursue the case. A DNA Exclusive story titled ‘SBI writes off loans of 63 wilful defaulters’ said that a part of Mallya’s loan along with 62 others’ was written off or added to the Advance Under Collection Account (AUCA), meant for toxic loans. Read more…3) Dhaka cafe attack: 3 terrorists involved were admirers of Zakir Naik, says govtThree terrorists, involved in the July 1 terror attack in Dhaka, were admirers of Zakir Naik, founder of Islamic Research Foundation, which was banned by the government, Rajya Sabha was informed today. “The three terrorists involved in the attack were reportedly admirers of Zakir Naik,” Minister of State for Home Hansraj Ahir said in a written reply. The Minister said as per the available information, although the mandate of the Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) is educational and social, it is also involved in other activities. “Noticing certain violations of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, the IRF has been placed under the prior permission category”. Read more…4) PMLA court issues letter of request seeking Lalit Modi’s transfer from UKThe special Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) ​court on Wednesday issued a letter of request (LR) to the UK competent authority to execute a non bailable warrant issued against former IPL chairman Lalit Modi and bring him back to India. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Tuesday in its application had pleaded the court to issue the LR for the execution of non bailable warrant. The court presided over by judge PR Bhavke, said that it would pass the orders on the issue on Wednesday. Read more…5) Sushma Swaraj admitted to AIIMS, undergoing tests for kidney transplantExternal Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who is admitted at AIIMS, is undergoing treatment for kidney-related ailment and is likely to remain in the hospital for a few days. “I am in AIIMS because of kidney failure. Presently, I am on dialysis. I am undergoing tests for a kidney transplant,” she said on Twitter. Read more…

Dhaka cafe attack: 3 terrorists involved were admirers of Zakir Naik, says govt

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Three terrorists, involved in the July 1 terror attack in Dhaka, were admirers of Zakir Naik, founder of Islamic Research Foundation, which was banned by the government, Rajya Sabha was informed today.”The three terrorists involved in the attack were reportedly admirers of Zakir Naik,” Minister of State for Home Hansraj Ahir said in a written reply. The Minister said as per the available information, although the mandate of the Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) is educational and social, it is also involved in other activities. “Noticing certain violations of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, the IRF has been placed under the prior permission category”.The government on Tuesday decided to declare the IRF, an NGO promoted by the controversial Islamic preacher as an outlawed organisation under the anti-terror law for five years for its alleged terror activities. The decision has been taken at a meeting of the Union Cabinet presided over by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Cabinet approved a proposal to declare IRF as an ‘unlawful association’ under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act for five years.The move comes after investigation by the Home Ministry found that the NGO was allegedly having dubious links with Peace TV, an international Islamic channel, accused of propagating terrorism. According to the Home Ministry, Naik, who heads the IRF, has allegedly made many provocative speeches and engaged in terror propaganda. Naik came under the scanner of the security agencies after Bangladeshi newspaper ‘Daily Star’ reported that one of the perpetrators of the July 1 terror attack in Dhaka, Rohan Imtiaz, ran propaganda on Facebook last year quoting Naik.The Islamic orator is banned in the UK and Canada for his hate speech aimed against other religions. He is among 16 banned Islamic scholars in Malaysia. He is popular in Bangladesh through his Peace TV, although his preachings often demean other religions and even other Muslim sects. The Mumbai-based preacher who is abroad, has not returned to India ever since the controversy came to light.

Zakir Naik saga: IRF ban marks end of an eventful story for Dongri preacher

Not many people outside the Muslim community knew Zakir Naik before he came under the scanner of security agencies and the media in the wake of the 1 July attacks in Dhaka. It may be recalled that on that day, terrorists killed 22 civilians and two police officers before five of them were killed. Immediately after the attack, a report appeared in one of the Bangladesh dailies that some off the terrorists, who participated in the attack, were inspired by Naik’s preaching. The paper later backtracked from its statement, but the controversy it triggered did not die down.

This created waves in India.

The media took this case up in a major way. Naik began appearing in national headlines almost on a daily basis and mostly for the wrong reasons. Even religious leaders from the Muslim community stood up against Naik and asked their members to refrain from listening to his speeches, saying his talks encourage violence and hostility towards non-Muslims. Some supported him too. The media frenzy continued and has not died down since then. Fearing arrest, Naik refused to return to India even when his father passed away recently.

On Tuesday, when the Narendra Modi government banned his NGO, Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) for five years, Naik’s eventful story of the past two decades seemingly came to an end.

File image of Zakir Naik. Screen grab from YouTube

File image of Zakir Naik. Screen grab from YouTube

How did it all begin?

The son of a physician and educationalist, Abdul Karim Naik, Zakir Naik too is a qualified medical practitioner, who never really practiced medicine.

Instead, his interest was in religious preaching from the very beginning. Naik called himself a student and an expert of ‘comparative religion’ but most of his speeches advocated the supremacy of Islam over other religions. Naik loved to play with words by selectively picking and interpreting religious scriptures to establish how Islam is one true religion and the remaining set of beliefs aren’t pure.

During his several speeches in India and abroad, he justified war against Islam’s enemies and in one instance, even ‘suicide bombing’, saying if there is a need to defend the religion from its enemies, there is no harm in self-sacrifice. The preacher also used his television channel, Peace TV to air his speeches. Naik exhorted that Muslims love their country more than anyone and will follow the law of the land, as long as it doesn’t come in the way of the law of creator. Thus, he put the idea of religion above the idea of patriotism and constitutional responsibility of every citizen to his country.

A closer look at previous speeches by the 51-year old showed certain dangers to the religious harmony of the country.

Naik’s illogical arguments about the relation between religion and the idea of a secular nation are flawed but convincing enough to those who believe in Islam’s supremacy. In a February 2012 video, addressing a large crowd, Naik implored Muslims to ‘fight for Islam’ and ‘disobey the law of the land if it goes against the law of the creator’. Saying “Vante Mataram”, Naik said, is not desirable not just for Muslims, even Hindus. Why? Because, Hinduism, Naik says, speaks against the concept of idol worship and hence, it is wrong to bow to the land.

In another, Naik endorsed Osama Bin Laden and Taliban as fighters of Islam and argued why Taliban and Bin Laden were not necessarily damaging the Islam. In one his videos, Naik says:

If he (Osama Bin Laden) is fighting the enemies of Islam, I’m for him. I don’t now what he is doing. I’m not in touch with him. I don’t know him personally. I read newspapers. If he is terrorising America, the terrorist, biggest terrorist, I’m with him. Every Muslim should be a terrorist. The thing is that if he is terrorising the terrorist, he is following Islam. Whether he is or not, I don’t know. Now don’t go around outside saying Zakir Naik is for Osama Bin Laden. If he is terrorising the terrorist I’m with him. I don’t know what he is. I cannot base my judgment only on news. But, you as Muslims, without checking up laying allegations is also wrong. I’m with those people who are holding the Quran. Even the full world is against them, I’m with them (sic)”

In short, Naik has been clever in his speeches not to get trapped by investigators by playing with words. But, ultimately, he couldn’t convince the investigators as evidenced by the Modi government’s action.

To be sure, Naik has been preaching for more than two decades. The content of his speeches has been pretty much the same all along. But, there was no investigation against him till recently. As Firstpost has noted before, during UPA rule, in 2013, a communication had gone to the Ministry of Home Affairs from the then prime minister Manmohan Singh about the potential threat caused by Naik’s speeches. This was based on a complaint submitted to the PMO. But, the matter ended there.

It took the Dhaka attacks for the Indian government to wake up to the problem (possibly due to media pressure) and initiate action against the Islamic preacher.

The deeper problems

But, it weren’t just his speeches that got Naik into trouble. The alleged links between his organisation IRF and terrorist activities in the country intensified the scrutiny of investigators on Naik and his organisation’s activities. Naik’s name was linked to cases in Kerala in which youths have been brainwashed to join the Islamic State. The Kerala Police has claimed that Arshi Qureshi, guest relations officer of the Mumbai-based Islamic Research Foundation, has links with the Islamic State. This raised questions on the way Naik’s NGO has been using funds, especially money coming from abroad in the form of donations. Early this months, the government banned foreign funding for Naik’s organisations. Naik has so far refused to return to the country and has addressed the media only through web conferences and television interviews.

It is unlikely that he’ll return to the country in the near future since that could lead to his immediate arrest.

The story, however, isn’t quite over yet. Banning Naik’s IRF will not undo the messages he has preached to youth all these years. There is a need to keep continuous vigil. Following the government’s five-year ban, reports suggests that Naik’s lawyers will seek legal recourse against the government’s decision. But, this won’t be easy since government action against the NGO is under the under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. Naik might be planning his next moves sitting in Dubai, where he is currently believed to be.

But, the government’s action puts an end to the Naik episode, for now at least.

First Published On : Nov 16, 2016 14:02 IST

Government cracks down on Zakir Naik’s ‘unlawful’ NGO

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Televangelist Zakir Naik’s NGO Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) has been declared as an unlawful organisation. The decision was taken at meeting of the Union cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which took cognizance of the note sent by the Home ministry.Following the decision, Islamic Research Foundation can no more accept any foreign funds and will have close down all its activities immediately.The Home ministry note called for invoking Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act provisions against IRF and televangelist Naik on three counts – promoting enmity and hatred between different religions and motivating youth to commit terrorist acts; having dubious money dealings with Peace Television accused of propagating terrorism; and Naik being implicated in criminal cases for alleged involvement in radicalising youth.Naik and his organisation came under renewed scrutiny after July 1 terror strike in an upmarket café in Dhaka suburbs. The Mumbai-based preacher has not returned to India ever since the controversy came to light after Bangladeshi newspaper ‘Daily Star’ reported that one of the perpetrators of the July 1 terror attack in Dhaka, Rohan Imtiaz, ran Naik’s propaganda on the Facebook.The Home ministry used inputs, containing irrefutable evidence, from both Maharashtra police and the Intelligence Bureau to prepare the note.Action against Naik and IRF became pertinent after investigations revealed that Naik had also transferred IRF’s foreign funds to Peace TV for making “objectionable hate” programmes. Some of these programmes that were shot and made in India contained alleged hate speeches of Naik, who had reportedly “urged all Muslims to be terrorists” through Peace TV.

PM Modi to provide economic assistance to universities who aspire to be among top 100 globally

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Prime Minister Narendra Modi made an appeal to universities in the country on Sunday to aspire to be among the top 100 globally and promised special economic assistance. There is no Indian university among the world’s top 100 universities, Modi said, adding, we feel “ashamed”.”I invite 10 public and 10 private universities to come forward and take a pledge to make a place for themselves in the top 100 universities of the world. “Those who will come forward will get special economic assistance. They will be given relaxation from seeking various approvals. There will be an open field for them,” he said.The Prime Minister was speaking at the centenary celebrations of Karnataka Lingayat Education Society (KLES) at Belagavi. He also urged the students to actively participate in sports and aim for a Gold in Tokyo Olympics in 2020. “In 2020 during ToKyo Olympics there should be some gold medals from KLES,” he said. “Research and innovation are vital for us. In the 21st century, the youth will take India to new heights. For this, we need skilled youth,” he tweeted.In the Union Budget announced earlier this year, the government had promised enabling regulatory architecture for 10 public and 10 private institutions to help them emerge as world-class teaching institutions. Rs 1,000 crore was also set aside for higher education financing during the budget.Congratulating KLES for completing 100 years, the Prime Minister said, “Political organisations do not last for 100 years. Even families do not. Imagine an educational institution which has completed 100 years.”

Two years of Prabhu Rail, some hit, some fail

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Operationally yoursIt might be one of the areas where Prabhu has done well. In the last two years, the railways has managed to increase the number of confirmed berths annually on its trains from 37.1 crore in 2014 to 44.7 crore in 2016. This is a jump of over 20 percent. To put matters into perspective, the 44.7 crore berths are greater than the population of all countries in the world except China and India itself. Statistics available with the railway ministry show that over the last two years, it ran 70,000 special trains, introduced 308 new trains, extended 99 trains, increased the frequency per week (fpw) of 188 trains and permanently added 1610 coaches to various trains. The railways ran a little over 2.5 lakh extra coach trips in the past two years, ministry data shows. While the Ganesh Chaturthi rush in Maharashtra and Diwali rush nationwide were among the densest traveling cycles anywhere in the world, Prabhu’s two years at the helm have seen a dip in the usual stampede at the ticket counters and the sardine-like commute in general compartments. “The railways ran 200–odd Ganesh Chaturthi specials between Mumbai and Konkan which in terms of seats is almost 2 lakh seats. That is game-changing,” said an official.Industrial, manufacturing arms of the railwaysThis is a sector where the legacy of the past three decades trips Prabhu. The last three decades saw manufacturing of rakes, introduction of new designs or even research into newer rolling stock losing pace when compared to international trends. Countries like China, apart from usual suspects like Japan and Europe, hit India out of the park.”The real dawn for railway’s manufacturing units is when we will be good enough to export a substantial range of our products and bring in foreign exchange for the country. However, thanks to low emphasis on manufacturing, we are not even a player in the international market. Forget foreign countries, the railways wouldn’t be able to win a metro rolling stock (trains) contract within the country- save Kolkata which is owned by the railways- even if it tried its best,” explained a senior official.In July this year, the railway ministry asked all its production units (PU) to prepare a plan to market at least 10 percent of their products to firms or countries outside the ambit of the Indian Railways. It had asked these units to partner with agencies like the Research Design Standards Organisation (RDSO) to develop products for export to foreign countries. For the purpose of exports, the ministry clarified, that these units could make product in gauges generally not found on the Indian railway network, like Standard Gauge. It has also emphasized on building modern three-phase Metre-Gauge locomotives and diesel-electric multiple units (DEMU) as both these products have a high potential in certain foreign markets. The task is daunting. According to a senior railway official, all the production units put together earn about Rs300 crore from selling products to firms and countries apart from the Indian Railways, something the railways calls ‘non-fare revenue’. Currently one of the biggest export orders with the railways is the construction of 120 LHB coaches for Bangladesh Railways. These coaches are being built at Rail Coach Factory- Kapurthala in Punjab. The plan is to get all the production units under the Indian Railways to have an export target of at least Rs500 crore including coaches for metro railway systems in India. All the talk of new trains like Tejas, Humsafar, Uday and the like also have to be taken with a pinch of salt, agreed officials, several of whom have been associated with these moves in the past. “None of the design changes are out-of-the-box. They are something that you expect in every decade as part of natural progression for transport systems,” said the official. The money spent by the railways on researching on fresh designs in the past few years tells the story. “While no specific allocation is made for research on re-design of coaches, under Plan Head Railway Research, around Rs2.81 crore were allotted by Research Designs and Standards Organisation (RDSO) in the last three years, (2013-14 to 2015-16) for development of various design related projects,” minister of state for railways Manoj Sinha had told Parliament in reply to a query on May 4, 2016. The last major change the railways brought about in design was the introduction of the LHB coaches — the kind seen in the Rajdhani and Duronto rakes — under a Transfer of Technology (ToT) from Alstom-Germany, the first rake being introduced in 2002.It might be an inheritance but Prabhu, by allotting low sums to Make in India projects like the indigenous 200kmph LHB rake being built at Kapurthala, is not gaining him brownie points either.Construction and pace of projects”The pace has improved under Prabhu” is the consensus among officials DNA spoke to. Under the new mechanism, projects are being taken up after the completion of the Detailed Project Report (DPR) and detailed surveys are being carried out before approaching the Prime Minister-chaired Cabinet Committee of Economic Affairs (CCEA) to get approval. Powers for tenders are now with the general manager of railway zones in most cases and the time taken for project approval, the railway claims has come down from 2.5 years to nine months. The railway ministry said that of the more than 8,800km of doubling was included in Railway budget 2015-16, 7,425km projects have already been sanctioned by the government.Thanks to funds of Rs1.5 lakh crore expected to flow in over the next five years from the Life Insurance Corporation of India, the allocation for projects to states has also increased. For example, Maharashtra has got Rs4,767 crore for the year 2016-17, which is 206 per cent more than the average allocation during the UPA’s reign between 2009-14. Similarly Andhra Pradesh for this year has got 148 per cent more, Chattisgarh 275 per cent, Jharkhand 238 per cent, Madhya Pradesh 354 per cent, Odisha 292 per cent, and Uttar Pradesh 207 per cent.”The truth of these allocations will come out in a couple of years. Allocating money is one part but what is more important is to facilitate the work so that it can be completed in a particular time. That is still a grey area. Look at the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project. Its geo-technical preliminary works is expected to begin in December, which is a complete year after the MOU was signed between the railway ministry and Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA). In several other projects land acquisition and the like have played spoilsports. These have been bugbears that have not changed a bit from the times of the UPA government to the NDA government,” explained a retired Indian Railway Service of Engineers official.The railways claims to have commissioned 2,828 kilometres of tracks in 2015-16, the highest ever, against an average of 1,528kms in the UPA period between 2009-14. It completed electrification of 1,730 km of tracks in 2015-16 when compared to an average of 1,184km between 2009-14. However as an official cautioned, “These numbers can be misleading. Sometimes a slew of projects might get stalled during a particular period and then start getting completed in a particular period. That year would look very good in the books. However consistency is the key and if the railways can manage it for say another 3-4 years, then to say that the railways has picked up speed under the NDA would be justified,” said an official. The frontline, the face of the railwaysIf the number of tweets about cleanliness at stations is anything to go by, then possibly Prabhu’s is getting it right here. Some other out-of-the-box ideas like having young Indian Railway Traffic Service (IRTS) officials as station directors of the 75 A-1 stations – the biggest of the stations on the network- is a smart move. “The aim is to have one pointsman for everything at a railway station much like an airport. Inside trains, there will be similar posts called the product manager and train superintendents. It is a beginning so that credit must be given to Prabhu. The test would be to see if the incumbents can actually cut through the strict hierarchy as well as departmental silo mentality and increase passenger comfort,” said a top-ranking official.Getting the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation to partner with private firms to upgrade and manage retiring rooms- most of them rundown at the moment- at stations is another positive step. Thanks to the exploding app world,smartphones and better network coverage, the railways — through IRCTC — has managed to bring better branded and better catering right at your seat. “It will only get better as the e-catering process gets streamlined and more stations and trains come under its ambit,” is the chorus at IRCTC. In the past two years, 240 trains have on-board housekeeping services (OBHS) as well with the aim to bring all important mail and express trains under the OBHS scheme in the next few years.Upping the speedAnother feather in the cap is the Mission Raftaar which aims at increasing the average speed of trains on the all-important Mumbai-Delhi, Delhi-Howrah, Howrah-Chennai, Chennai-Mumbai, Delhi-Chennai and Howrah-Mumbai routes. These six routes carry 58 per cent of freight traffic and 52 of all passenger trains despite having a share of only 15 of the track network, railway statistics show. To increase speeds on these six routes, the railways plans to use 1,048 faster Mainline Electrical Multiple Units (MEMU) trains and 136 Diesel-Electrical Multiple Units (DEMU) trains and replace several slower conventional trains. To achieve this target in three years, action plan has been drawn out to ramp up the production of MEMU rakes to 400-500 per year in next three years as against the present level 190 per year at present. It would be one of Prabhu’s biggest challenges, but the start is a healthy one. The pilot project on the extremely congested Ghaziabad-Allahabad- Mughalsarai route has been successful. Nations like Japan, Spain, China, France, Germany Russia among others nations have been sounded for expertise. A new Directorate in the Railway Board to monitor shows minister’s intent, point out officials.Indian Railways is among the slowest in the world when it comes to major railway networks. While the maximum speed of passenger trains has increased up to 130kmph-160kmph, the average speed is hovering around 45kmph. While the maximum speed of freight trains has increased up to 75kmph-100kmph, but the average speed is hovering around 24kmph. In fact, the average coaching train speeds have declined by 1kmph in last five years and average freight train speeds have declined by 2kmph in last five years.The Talgo experiment, heavily backed by Prabhu, might have been good for the papers but it doesn’t mean much on the ground, say officials. “The Talgo is a rake that can run at speeds of upwards of 200kmph but managed only an average of 117.5 kilometres in its last trial on September 11. We have the LHB that can run at speeds of 160kmph. So there isn’t much there between the two. What counts is how many of our tracks are fit for semi-high speed and high-speed. What we require is capacity addition in terms of faster tracks and faster trains in the next five years,” explained an official.

Delhi: Air quality oscillates between ‘severe’ and ‘very poor’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The hazardous smog, worst in 17 years, which has kept the national capital shrouded since Diwali lingered on on Friday, as the overall air quality oscillated between ‘severe’ and ‘very poor’ categories. A senior IMD official said the pollutants are barely dispersing due to calm wind movement and foggy conditions. The situation might improve in the next three-four days, he said.The 24-hour-average (rolling) of PM 2.5 and PM 10 were 225 and 389 micrograms per cubic metre respectively as per SAFAR (System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research) at 6 PM. Six out of eight stations of SAFAR had air quality in the very poor category while two had an AQI of severe.However, the peak levels of pollution continued to violate the safe limits by over 10 times, even in densely populated areas like RK Puram and border areas like Anand Vihar. At 10.30 AM, RK Puram had PM 10 (coarse respirable particles) at over 1,000 micrograms per cubic metre, way above the 24-hour safe limit of 100.
ALSO READ Watch: 3 days after Diwali, Delhi remains shrouded in smog; air quality ‘severe’At Anand Vihar, PM 2.5 (finer and deadlier) peaked at 522 micrograms per cubic metre at 7.30 AM, as against its prescribed standard of 60 micrograms per cubic metre. “As per the model sensitivity simulations, it is predicted that even if winds becomes 3km/hr, pollution could go down to Very Poor in a daytime provided winds remain North-Easterly,” SAFAR had said.On Thursday, green body CSE had said that according to the Indian Meteorological Department, the city is experiencing the the worst smog with very poor visibility in the last 17 years. Prolonged exposure to severe category air may affect healthy people and seriously impact those with existing diseases while very poor category may cause respiratory illness. Children, elderly and the sick are considered most vulnerable to the harmful effects of hazardous air.

NGT to seek report on Delhi air pollution

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Friday will hear a case related to the deteriorating quality of air in Delhi which has been designated as being in the ‘severe’ category post Diwali. Taking suo motu cognisance of the matter, the tribunal on Thursday directed Delhi Chief Secretary KK Sharma to hold a meeting urgently with all the concerned authorities. The chief secretary was told to file a status report by today. NGT’s directive came while hearing a case related to the rising menace of Chikungunya and Dengue. During the hearing the Delhi government and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) had argued that the presence of mosquitoes declined drastically after Diwali. “Have you done anything to prevent children from going to school, did you give advisory to public. The people have the right to breathe fresh air,” the tribunal observed while reprimanding the Delhi Government over its lacklustre response towards tackling air pollution.For the past three days, Delhiites have been inhaling copious amounts of particulate matter (PM) – both 2.5 micrometers and 10 micrometers – composed of dust, dirt, smoke, chemicals, etc., a deadly combination which enters the blood stream through one’s lungs and causes cancer.As per System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), levels of Particulate Matter (PM) 10 levels reached a record 500 mark on Wednesday.The city witnessed low visibility and smog throughout Wednesday evening and night. The reasons for this are a drop in wind speed and rise in humidity in the atmosphere. Such severe pollution levels can cause breathing problems, lung and heart diseases among many other ailments.ANI

Cotton farmers suffer as India-Pakistan tensions rise

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The growing tension between India and Pakistan is having a big impact on cotton farmers. According to Indian traders, Pakistan has put an official ban on importing Indian cotton, ensuring that farmers all over the country are suffering, but especially those from Maharashtra, as the state is a major producer and exporter of cotton.Pradeep Jain, one of the major cotton traders from Maharashtra, explains the scenario. “Currently, there is no official ban by Pakistan on Indian cotton. But in the present scenario both Indian and Pakistani traders are reluctant to do business deals. Today, by border road, 99% of our exports have stopped. Sentiments are heightened now and our traders feel why we should do business with Pakistan if our soldiers are fighting them?” Statistics show the impact the unofficial ban is having on trade. According to data brought out by the Central Institute of Cotton Research, Pakistan had bought 27 lakh bales (one bale is 170 kg) out of the total Indian exports of 69 lakh cotton bales last season.This year though, Indian traders are worried that, thanks to the Pakistani boycott, this target will not be met. As a result, farmers are dropping prices with results that are hurting them.Sanjay Patil, a cotton growing farmer from Jalgaon said. “The current tensions between India and Pakistan have caused big financial losses to us. Two years ago, we sold the cotton almost Rs 7,000 per quintal. Today, we are selling cotton at the rate of Rs 4,500-5,000 per quintal. We respect the peoples’ sentiments but trade should not be hampered. If things do not improve, the government should buy our cotton at a minimum rate price of Rs 6,000 per quintal.”Ishwar Patil, another farmer from Dhule explains that the falling prices are also hurting farmers, as cotton traders are taking undue advantage of the situation. “We cannot keep the cotton at home for a long time due to many reasons. As a result, we are compelled to sell the cotton to cotton traders at a lower rate.” He adds, “Indian traders are also taking advantage of the current situation to decrease cotton prices and buy at a low rate from farmers.Once the situation normalises, these same traders who had stored the cotton will sell it at a higher rate, making a big profit, while the farmer suffers.”Clearly, the Indian farmer’s livelihood is under threat and until the situation normalises between the two countries — at least on the cotton front— he will continue to suffer. But according to Shahzad Ali Khan, chairman of the Pakistan Cotton Ginners Association, that is not likely to happen anytime soon.Speaking over the phone to DNA, Khan confirmed that at present business activities with India are quite low. “The Pakistan government has not made any official ban on importing cotton from India. However, we as traders have taken the conscious call not to buy cotton from India because of the current situation.”He said, “As a result, we have decided to buy raw cotton from local Pakistan cotton growers and pay them a reasonable rate as per world prices. Why should we pay higher prices to Indian farmers in such a scenario? Once the situation normalises, we may think of resuming trade with India,” Khan added.

Trading goods v/s trading secrets

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>India blamed Pakistan for risking the lives of Indian diplomats by putting out their pictures and details in the public domain, on Thursday. In a vindictive move in which Pakistan had to recall six of its staffs, who were tagged ‘undercover agents’ by another staff Mehmood Akhtar, Pakistan Foreign Office in Islamabad alleged that eight Indian ‘diplomats’ in Pakistan were members of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and Indian Intelligence Bureau (IB); they were even accused of being involved in terrorist and subversive activities. The allegations were completely rejected as “baseless and unsubstantiated” by the External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson, Vikas Swarup.Interestingly, it has been revealed that, commercial counsellors in both the missions, who were supposed to supervise promotion of trade relations between the two countries, are crooks. While Akhtar confessed that Pakistan’s commercial counsellor, Farooq Habib, was actually station chief of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), in retaliation, Pakistan blew cover of Rajesh Kumar Agnihottri, India’s commercial counsellor, who was a RAW station chief.Others working for India, who were declared by Pakistan FO Spokesman Nafees Zakaria as working for RAW are, Anurag Singh, First Commercial Secretary, Amerdeep Singh Bhatti, Attache Visa, Dharmendra Sodhi, staff, Vijay Kumar Verma, staff, and Madhavan Nanda Kumar, staff. Two more officials, Balbir Singh, First Secretary press and information, and Jayabalan Senthil, Assistant Personnel Welfare Officer, were accused of working for the Intelligence Bureau (IB). Asked whether they will be recalled, Swarup said it was a procedural matter, but admitted that their lives have been endangered by such allegations. It now seems to be a matter of time until they return, after their cover was blown up. He also said, since they were working in visa sections, Pakistani actions will impact people-to-people and trade and economic contacts and corresponding activities of the High Commission.He said the allegations against the Indian officials represent an “after-thought” and a “crude attempt” to target them after a Pakistan High Commission staff was caught red handed last week here, indulging in anti-India activities. Pakistan claimed Indian officials were involved in “espionage, subversion and supporting terrorist activities in Balochistan and Sindh, especially Karachi, sabotaging China Pakistan Economic Corridor, and fuelling instability in the two provinces”.Swarup also said that Pakistan was in complete denial of the problem and was deflecting its responsibility by resorting to “fanciful accusations”. On Pakistan’s allegations of ceasefire violations by India along the LoC, he said that, neither do Indian forces initiate ceasefire violation nor do they target civilians. The MEA spokesperson said, approximately two-thirds of the ceasefire violations by Pakistan this year, have taken place in the last five weeks. “In fact in several districts along the International Border and Line of Control, normal life has been affected, people have been displaced and over 100 schools have been closed,” he said.In Pakistan, the so called leak about Indian undercover agents is one of the most significant exposé relating to undercover agents since the US Central Intelligence Agency was forced to pull out its Station Chief Jonathan Banks, in December 2010, after his identity was revealed in a law suit by victims of drone attacks.

Three days after Diwali, air pollution level continues to be severe in Delhi

New Delhi: Delhi on Wednesday morning witnessed severe level of air quality, marked with low visibility, even three days after Diwali.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

According to a Firstpost report, air quality in Noida has plummeted to 1,100 AQI.

The reasons for this degradation have been attributed to smoke due to firecrackers and negligible wind speed to disperse the pollutants.

According to System of Air Quality Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), the air quality index in Delhi on Wednesday touched the 500 mark, marked severe.

To put the number in perspective, Mumbai showed a “Good to moderate” an air quality index, well under 200.

“The wind speed is zero, so is vertical wind speed. And the bursting of cracker, apart from vehicle pollution and that from power plants added to it,” Vivek Chattopadhyay a member of Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) told IANS

The next three days is forecast to be just as severe in the national capital, SAFAR added.

Double trouble for Naik’s NGOs

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>After initiating cabinet note to declare controversial televangelist Zakir Naik’s NGO Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) as an unlawful association, union home ministry on Tuesday also took the penultimate step to revoke its Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) license and put its sister concern IRF Educational Trust (IRF-ET) under prior permission category.The ministry has shot final show cause notice to IRF asking why its FCRA should not be cancelled and is about to issue a gazette notification to put IRF-ET under prior permission category to check the flow of funds through the Reserve Bank of India without the nod of the home ministry.Investigations have found IRF guilty of promoting enmity and hatred between different religions and motivating youth to commit terrorist acts through hate speeches and having dubious money dealings with Peace Television, an international Islamic channel, accused of propagating terrorism. Besides Naik is also an accused of radicalising youth in almost half a dozen criminal cases.The IRF-ET has been found receiving funds from its mother concern, the IRF, which is already under scanner for having dubious money dealings with the Peace Television, an international Islamic channel, accused of propagating terrorism that has been banned in several countries, highly placed sources in the government told DNA.The sources said that both IRF and IRF-ET have so far failed to satisfy ministry’s queries on all counts and revocation of FCRA license and putting the other one in prior permission category would be a logical corollary.Despite various ongoing investigations, the ministry had inadvertently renewed the registration of IRF under the FCRA in September leading to suspension of a Joint Secretary and four other officials in the FCRA division of the home ministry.

Day after Diwali, Delhi reels under blanket of smog

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A thick blanket of smog engulfed the national capital a day after Diwali festivities, leading to poor visibility conditions across the city. The weather office reported shallow to moderate levels of fog in many parts of the city. Safdarjung observatory recorded visibility at 200 metres. The formation of smog — the combination of smoke and fog — can be attributed to Sunday night’s incessant fireworks during the festivities. The minimum temperature was recorded at 15.5 degrees Celsius, normal for this time of the year, while the maximum is likely to be around 31 degrees Celsius. Air quality at 500 micrograms per cubic metre (severe) around Lodhi Road on Sunday morning. Earlier in the day, five vehicles collided due to the smog at DND flyover. No one was injured.Satyendra Jain, Delhi Health Minister, told ANI that pollution levels were high in several cities and said, “Thank you to the people of Delhi, who burst lesser crackers this time.”The sky will be clear in the later part of the day, an official said. Humidity was recorded on the higher end of the scale at 94% at 8:30 AM. On Sunday, the maximum and minimum temperatures were 31.7 and 15 degrees Celsius respectively. Air quality had plunged to ‘severe’ category, which carries the risk of affecting people’s respiratory system, on Sunday as smoke caused by fireworks, as part of Diwali festivities, blanketed the national capital.The Centre’s System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) recorded the level of respirable pollutants, PM 2.5 and PM 10, at 283 and 517 micrograms per cubic metre respectively around 8 PM, violating the safe limits by multiple times. The prescribed standards of PM 2.5 and PM 10 are 60 and 100 respectively, and anything beyond that can harm the respiratory system as the ultra fine particulates can embed deep into the lungs and also enter the bloodstream.

Islamic preacher Zakir Naik’s father passes away

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik”s father Abdul Karim Naik, a physician and educationist, passed away at his home here early this morning after suffering a cardiac arrest. He was 87. “He suffered a cardiac arrest at 3.30 AM at his home in Mazgaon and could not recover from that. Abdul had been keeping unwell from sometime. He was laid to rest at a graveyard in the same area,” an associate of Zakir Naik said.Born in Ratnagiri in coastal Maharashtra, Abdul Naik, a doctor, served as the president of the Bombay Psychiatric Society, a private organisation of mental health professionals, in 1994-95. He had also been active in the field of education. Zakir Naik, who extended his stay abroad after running into controversy following allegations that some of those involved in the July terror attack in Dhaka drew inspiration from his speeches, is likely to visit the city soon to pay respects to his father, the associate said.Asked about Zakir Naik skipping the funeral, his aide said, “He wasn’t able to attend. It was too short a time. He will soon be here to pay respects to his father.” Zakir Naik”s Islamic Research Foundation (IRF), too, is under the radar of security agencies and will be soon banned under the anti-terror law.According to an official source in the Union Home Ministry, IRF will be declared an ”unlawful association” under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act after investigations by the Home Ministry found it to be allegedly having dubious links with Peace TV, an international Islamic channel accused of propagating terrorism.

Banning Zakir Naik’s India for maligning IRF is right decision: Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Controversial Islamic-preacher Zakir Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) maligning India, and therefore, it is correct to ban it, said Union Minister of State for Parliamentary Affair Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi on Friday.”If any person tries to malign society, tries to divide it, create tension between the people and hamper peace in the country then the government and people always will take strict and sever action against them,” Naqvi told ANI.Naqvi said it has become important to restrict such kind of organisations or people and not provide them much freedom.The government is in the process of declaring the IRF unlawful under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 2011. Naik came under the scanner after the Bangladeshi newspaper ‘Daily Star’ revealed that one of the perpetrators of the July 1 terror attack in Dhaka, Rohan Imtiaz, ran propaganda on Facebook that said he was inspired by Naik to carry out the crime. Naik is banned in both the UK and Canada for his alleged hate speeches aimed against other religions.He is among the 16 banned Islamic scholars in Malaysia. He is also accused of radicalizing and attracting youth for terror acts and has come under the scanner of the security agencies.

Apple adds touch screen keys to new MacBook Pro, starts at $1799 | Reuters

By Deborah M. Todd

CUPERTINO, Calif. Apple Inc (AAPL.O) unveiled a revamped MacBook Pro on Thursday, adding a fingerprint reader, replacing function keys with a small touch screen and slimming down the workhorse of its computer notebook line.The first redesign in several years is a sign Apple still sees a role for the product that launched the company, even though its iPhones are now much more important in terms of sales. “What they really need to do is get people buying Macs again, instead of upgrading old ones. They haven’t had a new, powerful MacBook Pro in a while and the MacBook Air is getting old,” said Jan Dawson of Jackdaw Research, ahead of the event.The Mac line accounted for about 11 percent of Apple sales in the just-finished fiscal year, with the number of machines sold down by 10 percent to 18.5 million. Apple said that was in line with an overall market decline, but analysts want more.Shares of Apple were down about half a percent in afternoon trading in New York after the event.

Customers will be able to access the new machines with Touch ID, the fingerprint reader also used on iPhones, and use the touch screen bar of keys, called the Touch Bar, to control programs and apps being used on the main screen.The buttons, which change depending on what programs the user is running, effectively act as a second screen, showing older versions of a picture being edited, for example.The MacBook Pro with Touch ID, Touch Bar and a 13-inch screen will start at $1,799, compared with $1,299 for the previous 13-inch product. The 15-inch notebook will start at $2,399, compared with $1,999 for the previous version. Apple also will offer a 13-inch MacBook Pro without the Touch ID and Touch Bar for $1,499.

Other computer makers have chosen to use touch screens for the main display screen. For instance, Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) on Wednesday unveiled its first-ever desktop and a revamped Surface Book laptop, both of which allow touch input on the main screen.Bob O’Donnell, president of TECHnalysis Research LLC, said before the Mac announcement that the market believes focus on the iPhone means Apple has “almost given up on Macs,” which has led to losing market share to other personal computers.

“It’ll be good to have Apple keep themselves relevant” with new Macs, he said. “Though many had written the category off, it’s fascinating to see both Microsoft and Apple make big PC-related announcements this week. It clearly shows the relevance that computers still have.”Apple also announced a new TV App that would work on Apple TV, iPhone and iPad products, in an effort to make it easier to tune into programs across devices.The company also said that it would integrate Twitter (TWTR.N) feeds into live sports games on Apple TV, adding a social element to the product. (Reporting by Deborah M. Todd and Julia Love; Writing by Peter Henderson; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Bill Rigby)

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

Cyrus Mistry ouster: It looks Machiavellian but major impact on Tata brand unlikely

The news of the removal of Cyrus P Mistry as chairman of Tata Sons has left many confused and bewildered because the manner in which it was done is very unusual and unexpected of a group of the Tatas’ stature.

Ratan Tata. PTIRatan Tata. PTI

Ratan Tata. PTI

Will the sudden sacking without giving any reason affect the group’s brand? It is to be remembered that it has a highly respected image both locally and internationally. Or will it be seen as a minor aberration of the mostly transparent, honest and trustworthy image the group has cultivated painstakingly over a century?

Would a consumer worry about the image or go by the trust factor attached to the group before buying its products?

Harish Bijoor, chief executive officer of brand and business strategy firm Harish Bijoor Consults Inc, says that the consumer would not be unduly bothered about the rumblings at the Tata Sons board as the trust factor has been deeply associated and ingrained in his or her mind. “You would still buy the Titan watch or check into a Tata group hotel because of the trust factor. That won’t change,” he says.

However, ranking of the trust factor of the Tata Group has been steadily going down over the last few years. A report by brands insights company TRA Research, formerly Trust Research Advisory, found that the trust factor of the group stood at the second position among top 5 brands in the country in the year Mistry was offered the chairmanship of Tata Sons. It held on to that position in 2011, too. After Mistry took over, the ranking slipped to fifth position.

The ranking is done on 61 parameters of trust and includes 425 questions. 

TRA CEO N Chandramouli says, “The brand had a tumultuous ranking on account of the fact that Ratan Tata had left. He had taken the group to a new level from the time he took over till he retired. Mistry was seen as benign and not doing anything similar to what Tata did. Also, it was strange not to have any communication from the chair of India’s largest business conglomerate for a year and a half.”

The group’s ranking went up a notch at 3rd position in 2014 but slipped to 4th in 2015 and is at 5th position in 2016. Incidentally, it still remains the only Indian company in the top five rankings.

The current situation where the group is in the news for the sacking of Mistry will erode the brand image, says Chandramouli.

“Each one of us feel a sense of ownership about the brand. We associate truth and honesty and transparency with the Tata image and brand. Trust is a dynamic entity and unless you cajole and take care of it well, it will slip out,” he says.

According to him, the group does great things operationally. However, if there is one count on which it slips drastically it is in the area of communication.

“Whenever something major happens at the group – the Radia tapes, deaths and suicides of its key employees – the group’s communication on these fronts are poorly done and this is what causes apathy. People’s trust in the brand erodes when its communication is poor,” he says.

In the case of Mistry sacking too, there is speculation that it is orchestrated simply by Tata Sons only because the group is keeping quiet about the reason, he says.

“There might be very good reasons for taking that decision, but since communication is poor, the act of letting Mistry go seems Machiavellian at one point,” says Chandramouli. He feels the brand has been tarnished to some extent by the recent happenings at Bombay house.

However, there are other experts with differing views on the issue.

Alpana Parida, managing director, DY Works, a Mumbai-based brand strategy and brand design firm, feels that the current storm that is brewing at the Bombay House will go away without causing any damage to the brand.

She reasons that the Tata brand is too strong to be impacted. “It is like Raghuram Rajan and his not being given an extension as the head of the RBI. It has died down. Similarly, this too will die down,” she says.

The Tata brand image is one of solidity and honesty. It cannot be jolted by incidents like the change of guard, says Harish Bijoor.

“Brand Tata is very old and is respected not only in the country but also internationally. It is an image that has consumer trust vested in it. Tatas have always been seen doing the right thing by its employees, the Taj attack or the Singur incident, for instance. The feeling is when you are a Tata, you cannot do wrong. It is a company that is blessed with a benign brand umbrella which no other brand in India has. That is what insulates the brand from any negative impact about what happened on Monday when the management took a decision to bring back Ratan Tata.”

Chandramouli and Parida aver that the new incumbent at Tata Sons will be watched. “How that move pans out will be watched carefully and that can send out a strong message about the group,” says Parida.

Gujarat: Chopper ferrying President Mukherjee’s entourage makes emergency landing

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Members of President Pranab Mukherjee’s entourage, including Leader of Opposition in Gujarat Assembly Shankersinh Vaghela, on Sunday escaped unhurt when the helicopter ferrying them made an emergency landing at Vadodra after developing a technical problem.The incident was reported at about 4:00 PM after the three Mi-17 choppers took off from Ankleshwar to Ahmedabad after the President inaugurated a super-speciality hospital there.However, only the chopper carrying the President and another one landed here. Officials said the third chopper in the fleet developed a technical glitch mid-air and it made an emergency landing at Vadodara, about 90 kms from Ankleshwar. Vaghela and other members of the Presidential entourage were onboard the helicopter.”All the occupants of the chopper that made an emergency landing in Vadodara are safe. They will take a replacement chopper to reach Ahmedabad,” a senior official said. The last event of the day where the President was supposed to meet the students of ‘Bapu Gujarat Knowledge Village and Samarpan Education and Research Campus’ was also “rescheduled” and timed for an hour later due to this development.The President is on a two-day tour to Gujarat. He had arrived in Gandhinagar yesterday.

Microsoft adjusted revenue, profit beat Street; shares hit record level | Reuters

Microsoft adjusted revenue, profit beat Street; shares hit record level | Reuters

Updated: Oct 20, 2016 21:10 IST


Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) reported adjusted revenue and profit that blew past analysts’ estimates on Thursday, as soaring sales from its cloud business pushed the technology giant’s shares to an all-time high.Microsoft’s shares rose 5.8 percent to $60.59 in after-hours trading.The Redmond, Washington-based company said revenue from its flagship cloud product Azure, which businesses can use to host their websites, apps or data, rose 116 percent.”There’s a huge runway for them to show growth,” said Trip Chowdhry, managing director of Global Equities Research, noting the market for cloud services will be controlled almost entirely by Microsoft and larger rival Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O).Revenue from Microsoft’s overall “Intelligent Cloud” business, which sells computer services and storage to corporate customers, rose 8.3 percent to $6.38 billion.This beat analysts’ average estimate of $6.27 billion, according to research firm FactSet StreetAccount.

Cross Research analyst Shannon Cross said, “Microsoft is uniquely positioned for the hybrid cloud world… because they can move (from the) data centre all the way up into the public cloud with Azure.”Under Chief Executive Satya Nadella, Microsoft has been focusing on cloud services and mobile applications as growth slows in its traditional software business.Nadella orchestrated Microsoft’s biggest-ever deal, reaching an agreement in June to buy LinkedIn Corp (LNKD.N) for $26.2 billion.

Worldwide PC shipments fell 3.9 percent in the quarter ended Sept. 30, according to research firm IDC, although that was much less than the 7.1 percent it had previously estimated.Revenue in the unit that includes Windows software and the company’s struggling mobile business fell 1.8 percent to $9.29 billion.

Net income fell to $4.69 billion, or 60 cents per share, from $4.90 billion, or 61 cents per share, a year earlier. (bit.ly/2eW79l4)Excluding items, Microsoft earned 76 cents per share, beating analysts’ average estimate of 68 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.On an adjusted basis, Microsoft reported revenue of $22.33 billion, above the average estimate of $21.71 billion. (Reporting by Anya George Tharakan in Bengaluru and Jeffrey Dastin in New York; Editing by Don Sebastian, Bernard Orr)

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

Terrorism has become truly global challenge: Sushma Swaraj

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Amid criticism that India failed to obtain consensus on reference to cross-border terrorism in BRICS declaration, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday said threat of terror featured strongly in the narrative of the Summit and there was a growing recognition that it has become a truly global challenge. Two days after the BRICS Summit in Goa where India’s forcefully highlighted terror emanating from Pakistan, she said there was no bigger global challenge than “state- sponsored” and “state-protected terrorism, asserting those supporting terror networks must be made to pay the cost. In clear reference to Pakistan, Swaraj said there is a need to extract costs from those who sponsor and support terrorists and provide them sanctuary and continue to make the “false distinction” between “good and bad terrorists”. Swaraj was delivering an address at the BRICS media forum. In an obvious reference to Pakistan blocking several pacts on transport and connectivity, Swaraj referred to growing cooperation on these issues among BIMSTEC nations, noting “There cannot be a greater contrast with those who reject even trade and connectivity for political reasons.” On deliberations at the BRICS, Swaraj said while the economic engagement and political cooperation remained key factors, there was a sharp realisation that global development and prosperity was very much dependent on continued peace and security. “Terrorism was universally recognised as a key threat to stability, progress and development. Consequently, it featured strongly in the conference narrative and its eventual outcome. Indeed, what we saw was not just an understanding of the dangers posed by terrorism to the economic aspirations of the world but a growing recognition that this has now become a truly global challenge that the international community can only ignore at its peril,” she said. There was criticism of the government after consensus eluded on reference to cross-border terror in BRICS declaration. Without naming any country, Swaraj said there has always been an overarching political context for the BRICS meetings which essentially underlines that a serious global discourse cannot be the “preserve” of a few countries with a “narrow agenda”. “There is a developing consensus that it cannot be business as usual. We must be prepared to extract costs for those who sponsor and support terrorists, who provide them sanctuary, and who, despite their own claimed victimhood, continue to make the false distinction between good and bad terrorists. “BRICS has always been global in its approach and today, there is no bigger global challenge than state-sponsored and state-protected terrorism,” she said. Swaraj said members of BIMSTEC- Bhutan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand represented the “polar opposite” of a terrorism “promoting polity”. “They are focused on improving the quality of life of their people, on skills and employment, on education and health, and on the quality of governance and the deepening of democracy. “These are nations who are actively promoting connectivity, cooperation and contacts amongst themselves. Their interface with the BRICS has a message in itself. This is that a world changing in a positive direction as reflected by the BRICS has its regional expression in a community like BIMSTEC that is able to visualize a prosperous collective future,” Swaraj said. On India’s chairmanship of BRICS, Swaraj said “we took the BRICS outside the conference room and endeavoured to instill it in popular thinking.” Talking about major initiatives by BRICS, she said the Summit represented a further advancement in terms of the breadth and focus of its discussions, adding the grouping has transformed over the years. “Initially, its deliberations concentrated more on economic and financial issues. But over the years, it has broadened to cover larger global issues, even as it has promoted the creation of BRICS institutions and mechanisms. “Key initiatives like a BRICS Rating Agency that can complement the New Development Bank, or the Railways Research Network and an Agriculture Research Platform that will allow us to leverage our specific strengths for mutual benefit are tangible goals that we believe can take the group forward,” she said.Swaraj said a total of 115 events were organised in the nine months of India’s chairmanship of the block.

Pakistan hackers target websites of colleges in Mumbai, Gandhinagar

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Suspected Pakistani hackers managed to breach the websites of Government Law College (GLC) in Mumbai and a private college in Gandhinagar, Gujarat. In Mumbai, the GLC authorities lodged a complaint at the Marine Lines police station after hackers put up a message on the college website, saying “To all Indians out there…surgical strike…lolx…”, apparently referring to the army’s recent surgical strikes in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). Some students noticed it on Monday evening and alerted the authorities.”We are investigating the IP address from which the website was defaced,” said an officer of the Cyber Crime Cell of Mumbai police.The GLC website is hosted through a private server and the hackers may have taken advantage of the security loopholes in it, said the officer.In a similar case of cyber-attack, suspected Pakistani hackers, who identified themselves as ‘Death Adders Crew’, hacked the website of Gandhinagar-based LDRP Institute of Technology and Research (LDRP-ITR). They posted a photograph of Pakistan’s flag and the slogan, ‘Pakistan Zindabad’, on the homepage of the institute, www.ldrp.ac.in.The hackers also warned of more attacks, saying “Abhi toh party shuru hui hai” (the party has just started), borrowing a line from a popular Hindi film song. The college authorities noticed the incident on Monday night. LDRP-ITR is under Kadi Sarva Vishwavidyalaya (KSV), a private university.”We immediately deactivated the website. Only the homepage was hacked, while the data on the server is safe. Our technical team will put the website back online in due course after carrying out the required maintenance,” said Registrar of the university SK Mantrala.No police complaint had been lodged so far, he said.

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