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Day after Modi jibe, Rawat orders probe into misappropriation of Uttarakhand disaster fund

Dehradun: Uttarakhand government on Wednesday instituted a judicial probe into the alleged misappropriation of disaster relief funds in the state after the 2013 natural calamity which claimed thousands of lives, a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi raised the issue to lash out at the Harish Rawat dispensation for corruption.

Announcing the probe, Rawat also took a jibe at his predecessor Vijay Bahuguna, who is now with the BJP and was at the helm when disaster relief operations were carried out in the state. He said the saffron party should have conducted an in-house inquiry into the irregularities as the “entire family of executors of the alleged scam are now with them”.

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat. PTIUttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat. PTI

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat. PTI

The Prime Minister had on Tuesday said at a rally in Dehradun that he was going to drag Uttarakhand out of the “bottomless pit of corruption in which it was languishing under the present regime”.

Rawat also took strong exception to Modi’s remarks that even a scooter with a capacity of five liters of oil could drink 35 liters of it, a reference to the alleged scam in relief funds.

The chief minister said though the alleged irregularities in the distribution of relief after 2013 tragedy had already been probed by a panel constituted by the state government, a judicial probe has been ordered into it after the Prime Minister’s remarks.

“Though a probe committee headed by the then chief secretary had found no veracity in the allegations and given a
clean chit to everyone involved in the massive relief operations, now that the PM has reiterated the charge we have asked retired justice MS Chauhan of Chandigarh High Court to conduct a probe into the alleged irregularities and find out if there was any negligence on part of officials or any misappropriation of disaster relief funds,” Rawat told reporters at a press conference.

Asked why he was not recommending a CBI probe into the allegations, Rawat said he had more faith in the judiciary and it was in his hands to order a judicial probe.

“It is now a general impression all over the country that the CBI is a tool in the hands of the Centre to settle scores with political adversaries. I have therefore more faith in our judicial institutions. Moreover ordering a judicial probe was in my hands whereas I would have had to look to central authorities for a CBI probe,” he said.

Rawat said calamities strike all of a sudden and quick decisions have to be taken to deal with the situation,
sometimes even at the cost of relaxing the rules and norms.

“However, we are ready for a judicial probe into any negligence on part of officials or misuse of funds,”  he said.

The chief minister also accused the BJP of trying to grab credit for the all-weather Chardham roads project inaugurated by the Prime Minister in Dehradun on Tuesday, saying the state government was very much part of the process of its launch.

“It is not BJP’s brainchild as the party is trying to make it appear. We had conceived the project and consistently worked towards its early launch,” he said.

However, he said he welcomed the launch of the project as the state stood to benefit from it in a big way “provided it is implemented in the manner promised”.

First Published On : Dec 28, 2016 16:15 IST

Harish Rawat seeks fresh date from CBI for appearance in CD case

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat on Monday did not appear before the CBI in connection with a probe into the purported sting operation involving him and has sought a fresh date for it.The matter pertains to CBI’s ongoing probe into the alleged sting operation purportedly showing Rawat negotiating a deal to buy support of disgruntled Congress MLAs to save his government earlier this year.Rawat has written to the apex investigating agency expressing his inability to appear before it and sought a fresh date for the purpose, his media advisor and spokesman Surendra Kumar said.He had been served summons by the CBI on Friday last, asking him to appear before it today.After the CBI summons were issued to him, Rawat had questioned its timing and accused the Centre of using the investigating agency as a tool to frame him as Assembly elections were round the corner in Uttarakhand.This is the second time that Rawat has been summoned by the CBI on a Preliminary Enquiry (PE) registered by it in last seven months. He had earlier appeared before the agency on May 24 during which he was questioned for nearly five hours.

Bribery case: Uttarakhand CM Harish Rawat not to appear before CBI today

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat who was summoned by the CBI on Monday in the alleged sting CD case will not appear before the investigation agency.The Uttarakhand High Court had set aside the Chief Minister’s plea seeking a stay on his appearance before the CBI.Rawat had made an oral plea before the bench to allow him for the time being, not to make an appearance before the CBI as a petition challenging the justification of the CBI probe into the alleged sting CD is already pending before the court.Setting aside the plea, the court decided that the next date of hearing would be January 7 as fixed earlier.The CBI had summoned Rawat earlier on December 23.It had registered the preliminary inquiry on April 29 to probe the video purportedly showing Rawat offering bribes to rebel Congress MLAs in exchange for their support in the assembly floor test.Rawat had dismissed the video as being faked after it was released by rebel Congress MLAs but later admitted that he was in the clip.The CBI had earlier summoned the chief minister on May 9, 2016 but he had sought more time.After Rawat’s victory in the floor test, the state cabinet on May 15 withdrew the notification recommending a CBI probe and decided to set up a special investigation team to go into the case.

Leh safest route on Kaliash Manasarovar yatra

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Focus has shifted to the Centre after Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti favoured starting the Kaliash Manasarovar yatra from Leh.“I am in favour of opening of more routes. I strongly favour starting of Kailash Manasarovar Yatra through Leh so that the area gets a tourist and economic boost,” said Mufti.Situated at the altitude of 22,028 feet, Mount Kailash is the abode of Lord Shiva in Tibet. Pilgrims perform parikrama at Mount Kailash after the arduous trek. En route is the Manasarovar lake in which a dip is considered holy.So far, yatris took two routes—Lipulekh Pass in Uttarakhand and Nathu La in Sikkim. This involves trekking at altitudes of up to 19,500 feet in inhospitable conditions. An easier route is via Damchok, in the Leh district. However, the Chinese government is reluctant to open this as it falls on the Line of Actual Control (LAC).Leh-Damchok-Mansorvar is the shortest and safest route. In fact, the Ladakhi people have been demanding the opening of this route for economic prosperity as well. A memorandum presented to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014 by former Chief Executive Councilor of Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) Leh, said, “From here, pilgrims can make the trek in two days. This would also give a much-needed fillip to the local economy.”Nawang Rigzin Jora, who represents Leh constituency in Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly, said India has taken up the matter with China from time to time, but they are reluctant.“They may have their own reasons. There have been incursions off and on (from China) on the Indo China border. Another reason could be Ladakhis are big followers of the Dalai Lama,” Jora said.Jora said there is a road up to the Kailash Mansrovar right from Leh. “Safest route is through Leh. You can fly to Leh, take one or two days to acclimatize and then drive up to Kailash Mansarovar.”

Fauna_E-surveillance system in Maha tiger reserve to be solar powered

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The first electronic surveillance system in Maharashtra to prevent poaching and track faunal movement for minimising man- animal conflict will be powered through non-conventional energy.The project, which will cover the Tadoba- Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) and the neighbouring Chandrapur forest division, which has the highest concentration of tigers in the state, will help monitor animal movement in an unobtrusive manner. It will prevent activities like tree felling, encroachment and animal grazing, which can increase biotic pressures. The surveillance system, which officials said would be the most advanced in the country, will ensure forest staff are on their guard and alert them in case of emergencies.”Each camera will be powered by hybrid power systems,” Pravin Srivastava, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (APCCF- Information Technology and Policy) told DNA, noting that this was done in tough areas by security agencies like the Army.He added that the e-surveillance project would be energised using wind and solar energy and equipped with power backup. This will do away with need for forest clearances which would have been necessitated if electric lines were laid in forest areas.”If conventional electrical transmission lines are laid, it will attract the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980,” explained Srivastava, adding that wind velocity in the monsoons would help energise the system when sunlight may be scarce.The feed will also be relayed using wireless systems from the high-resolution PTZ cameras mounted on about 52 towers to the command and control room for a real-time response. The system will be designed to capture both sound and video footage.Srivastava said that the number of towers and cameras would be decided based on a final survey and the cameras will have 30X zoom function.The forest department has chosen PTZ cameras instead of thermal cameras as the later work on the differential temperature between the human body and the atmosphere. The high temperatures in Chandrapur mean that that the difference between the two is low, explained Srivastava.Work on the Rs 20 crore project is expected to be launched by March 2017 and is likely to be completed in a year.”The command and control room staff will know tiger movement in a particular area and can forewarn people if they are close (to)… where tigers are roaming. This will minimise possible conflicts,” explained Srivastava. This will be done using hooters fitted on towers which can warn both people and even officials in case of illegal intrusions or suspicious movements.Similar e-Eye systems have be executed at the Corbett Tiger Reserve (Uttarakhand), Ratapani Wildlife Sanctuary (Madhya Pradesh) and the Kaziranga Tiger Reserve (Assam), but officials said the one in Maharashtra would be more state-of-art. Officials admit that implementation of the project, which will cover areas with the highest tiger density and man- animal conflict, will be a challenging task.The Tadoba tiger reserve is spread over a 625.40 sq km core area, and 1,101.77 sq km buffer and is estimated to have about 72 tigers. The adjoining Chandrapur territorial has about 50 tigers.

CBI summons Uttarakhand CM Rawat in sting CD case

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has summoned Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat in connection to its probe into a sting operation that purportedly showed the senior leader offering bribes to rebel Congress MLAs. The sting allegedly showed Rawat asking the rebel Congress MLAs to support him during the floor test that took place in May this year.The CBI on Friday said that its investigators had summoned Rawat to appear at the agency headquarters at the national capital on December 26. Confirming the development, a senior CBI official told DNA, “Investigators wanted to examine Mr Rawat in connection to the allegations of bribery made against him in April, 2016.” Rawat had been questioned by the CBI on one previous occasion on on May 9, 2016. Sources told DNA that during the previous session of questioning, Rawat had asked for more time to respond to queries made by the CBI.The case relates to an alleged sting operation carried out in April 2016 wherein Rawat is purportedly heard offering bribes to rebel Congress MLAs in exchange for their support in the assembly floor test.Rawat had dismissed the video as being fake after it was released by rebel Congress MLAs but later admitted that he was in the clip. The probe agency however filed a preliminary enquiry during which the CBI verifies the facts in the complaint received by it.The agency usually only ‘requests’ a person ‘to join the probe’ and does not summon him, carry out searches or make any arrests. If verification of facts shows need of further probe, it may register an FIR or else close the PE.The state cabinet, after Rawat’s victory in the floor test, withheld the notification recommending the CBI probe. Responding to the recommendation the probe agency had said that there was no ground for its withdrawal and it was ‘not legally tenable’ and rejected the state cabinets decision.

CBI asks Uttarakhand CM Harish Rawat to appear for preliminary enquiry to probe sting operations

New Delhi: CBI has asked Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat to appear before it on 26 December in connection with a probe into the purported sting operation involving him.

This is the second time that Rawat has been summoned by the CBI on a Preliminary Enquiry (PE) registered by it in last seven months. He had earlier appeared before the agency on 24 May during which he was questioned for nearly five hours.

The agency had registered a preliminary enquiry in connection with the alleged sting operation on April 29 purportedly showing Rawat offering bribes to rebel Congress lawmakers to support him during a floor test in the Uttarakhand Assembly.

This may be a unique case where a sitting Chief Minister has been summoned by the CBI during its probe of a PE.

The PE is the first step during which the agency verifies the facts in the complaint received by it. During a PE, the agency usually only “requests” a person “to join the probe” and does not summon him, carry out searches or make any arrests.

File photo of Harish Rawat. PTI

File photo of Harish Rawat. PTI

If verification of facts shows need of further probe, it may register an FIR or else close the PE.

The CBI probe focuses on Rawat’s relations with the owner of a news channel, alleged bribe proposal made to one dissident MLA by him and a minister in his previous cabinet, besides his claims on the purported sting video.

The reason for summoning him against, according to the sources, was because Rawat had not furnished full and complete details on many issues.

The case was registered on the reference received from the state government (during President’s rule) and subsequent notification from BJP-led central government.

Rawat has denied the allegation and called the video fake after it was released by the rebel Congress legislators but later admitted that he was on camera in the sting operation.

After Rawat’s victory in the floor test, the state cabinet had met on 15 May and withdrawn the notification recommending a CBI probe into the sting operation involving him.

Instead, the state cabinet decided to constitute a Special Investigating Team to probe the case as it was a state subject.

CBI had said the notification was rejected after taking legal opinion, which said there was no ground for its withdrawal and it was “not legally tenable”.

The chief minister had failed to get a reprieve from Uttarakhand High Court also which had refused to quash the ongoing CBI probe into the sting operation.

First Published On : Dec 23, 2016 21:29 IST

Iron out your differences first: Tribunal to ministries

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Wednesday directed the Union ministries of environment and water resources to sit down and resolve their differences on the issue of Zonal Master Plan for the Bhagirathi eco-sensitive zone. The three-member principal bench, headed by Justice Swatanter Kumar, refused to listen to the reservations of water resources ministry, and instead directed them to come back only when the issue between the two ministries was resolved.“On Monday, the ministry of water resources will be meeting with the ministry of environment and the Uttarakhand Government to clarify objections and deficiencies of the Zonal Master Plan, submitted by the state,” said justice Kumar. “In the next meeting, the matter should be finalised and the ministry of water resources should specify the way forward. The applicant will also be present in the meeting.”The directions of the bench came after counsel for water resources ministry said that they had certain objections regarding the Zonal Master Plan that need to be addressed.As per ministry sources, the revised Zonal Master Plan on Bhagirathi eco-sensitive zone is simply a compilation of activities of all departments of the Uttarakhand Government rather than scientific studies.Meanwhile, Colin Gonsalves, counsel for the petitioner said to the bench that the Zonal Master Plan is actually a plan for commercial activity. Gonsalves also pointed that the secretary, union water resources ministry Shashi Shekhar has made scathing remarks regarding the Zonal Master Plan and the plans of the environment ministry to permit 10 hydropower projects in the Bhagirathi eco-sensitive zone.A letter written by Shekhar to his counterpart in the environment ministry, questioned the plans to consider approving 10 hydropower projects and river-bed mining up to two metres depth in the eco-sensitive zone.The projects, the secretary said, signal the impending environment disaster in the eco-sensitive zone. The Bhagirathi eco-sensitive area was notified in 2012 to protect the 100kms Gaumukh to Uttar Kashi stretch of Bhagirathi, spread across 4,179 sq kms.

Demonetisation: Narendra Modi govt makes cashless salary mandatory, amends 80-year-old law

In a further push to cashless economy, the Central cabinet has approved the ordinance for paying wages via electronic means — which means that the government has given its nod for cashless salary. Accordingly, the government approved to amend Section 6 of the Payment Of Wages Act. The new ordinance will be applicable to public sector, with the private sector coming under the purview of the new move later, CNN News 18 reported.

“The Union Cabinet today approved the ordinance route to amend the Payment of Wages Act, 1936, to allow employers of certain industries to make payment through the electronic mode and cheques,” a source said. Employers will also have the option to pay wages in cash, the source added.

As per practice, the government introduces ordinance to amend laws for immediate implementation of new rules. An ordinance is valid for six months only. The government is required to get it passed in Parliament within that period.

According to CNN-News18, companies can pay their employees only through cheque or through electronic means. All wage workers, who earn less than Rs 18,000 will be come under the new ordinance. However, the specific sectors where the rule will be applicable will be notified later.

The state government will additionally have the discretion whether to pay employees via cheques or electronic transfer. According to reports, the government aims to check under-reporting of salaries, bring transparency in transactions and end exploitation of wage workers.

However, the Opposition lashed out at the government for the ordinance. “Nothing can distract people from the fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government have failed. Government should trust people and they cannot move without proper infrastructure”, the Congress party said.

“It will create a problem for the employees as withdrawal from the banks is difficult. Cashless society is not possible. We will move amendment in the Parliament,” Gurudas Dasgupta, CPM leader told CNN-News 18.

Wages, as opposed to salaries, have traditionally tended to be cash payments. The Payment of Wages Act covers employees whose wage does not exceed Rs 18,000 per month. The new procedure will serve the objective of “digital and less-cash economy”, the Bill stated. Introduced by Bandaru Dattatreya in the Winter Session of Parliament, the passage of the Bill was disrupted as the government and opposition clashed over demonetisation.

It will also allow state governments to specify industrial or other establishments that adopt cashless modes for salary payments. The new procedure will serve the objective of “digital and less cash economy”, the bill states. Andhra Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Kerala and Haryana have already made provisions for payment of wages through cheque and electronic transfers after making state-level amendments to the Act.

The original Act had come into force on 23 April 1936, providing for payment of wages in coin or currency notes, or in both. At present, with the written authorisation of an employee, wages can be given through cheque or transferred to his or her bank account.

With inputs from agencies

First Published On : Dec 21, 2016 12:59 IST

BJP hits right electoral notes

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Those who were surprised that despite long queues, there had been no popular backlash against demonetization may have received some answers from the results of the recent civic body elections. Held in Maharashtra and Chandigarh, the comfortable victories acquired by the BJP in these two places, and the hostile reception accorded to UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav by spectators, who had come to cheer the junior hockey team in Lucknow on Friday, summed up the positive mood amidst the public for the saffron party.The civic body elections are a shot in the arm for the BJP in the run up to the crucial assembly elections in UP and Punjab. Across the country, as DNA reporters have been finding out, despite inconveniences, people still believed PM Modi’s act would spark magic and rid the country of corruption.Speaking after the victory, BJP MP from Chandigarh and actor Kirron Kher, said demonetization was a “vote winner for her party and expected this perception to continue during the UP and Punjab polls.”These victories come at a welcome time as BJP MPs as well as its allies were getting apprehensive about the note ban. On Tuesday, Rajya Sabha BJP MP Swapan Dasgupta had criticised his own government for changing its stance yet again on the depositing of old notes. Dasgupta was not alone. BJP ally and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, an early supporter of the move, expressed worry, saying there was no end in sight to the crisis brought about by the massive cash crunch.With Chandigarh having no assembly, the council elections are indicative of the urban mood. There were a total of 26 wards out of which BJP won 20 seats and its ally the Shrimoni Akali Dal (SAD) winning one seat. Congress’s presence was reduced to only four wards even as three former Congress mayors faced defeat. The BSP failed to make a mark and one seat was won by a BJP rebel who contested independently.Post the result, Prime Minister Modi tweeted to thank the people of Chandigarh for supporting the SAD-BJP alliance. “This shows the importance people attach to good governance,” he tweeted.Local issues had taken a back-seat in these polls, as demonetization had become the key poll plank for the parties. Congress tried to cash in on demonetization woes being faced by the people and called these elections a “litmus test for the BJP”, while the BJP highlighted how the move would help the common man by weeding out corruption.Setting the tone for these polls, BJP president Amit Shah had addressed a mega rally in Chandigarh in November where he had urged people “to vote in the name of Modi.” Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, Hamirpur MP Anurag Thakur, BJP National Spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain also addressed several rallies in different wards.The aggressive campaign executed by the BJP worked in its favour and the party upped the ante by inviting star campaigners including Bhojpuri singer-actor and North-East Delhi MP Manoj Tiwari and Bhagat Singh Koshyari, singer Hans Raj Hans and former Uttarakhand CM to woo voters from all communities.In contrast, the Congress had registered its second poorest performance in the civic polls after 1996 when it won only one seat. Infighting in the party was also to blame as some leaders alleged that they had been sidelined. The rift came out in the open when Congress leader Manish Tiwari openly criticized former Chandigarh MP from Congress, Pawan Kumar Bansal. The manifesto was also released only a day before the election.Some 700 kms away in the ‘city of nawabs’, UP CM Akhelesh Singh, while presiding the award ceremony at the the most successful men’s Junior World Cup Hockey tournament, faced hostile crowds chanting “Modi, Modi”. It was a big embarrassment for Yadav who had spent as much as Rs 100 crore on building two world class hockey turfs.Earlier, the UP CM had decided to devote more than two hours to witness the final match between India and Belgium on Sunday evening. And his presence seemed to have boosted the morale of Indian colts, who went on to create history by reclaiming the trophy after a gap of 15 years.But what followed afterwards was a complete shocker to not only the organisers but also to the entire government machinery present there. As Akhilesh begun to speak, the 18,000-plus crowd started chanting “Modi, Modi”. Yadav got embarrassed for a moment but like a true politician, he didn’t let this affect his speech.The atmosphere did improve once Yadav distributed the prizes and the same crowd did appreciate his government’s successful organisation of the tournament with huge applause in between the announcements. But there was no denying that apart from the players, Modi was the star here too.

No construction in 10 km area around the Corbett National Park: Uttarakhand HC

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>To check devastating forest fires, Uttarakhand High Court has issued a slew guidelines including ban on construction in 10 km area around the Corbett National Park and other protected areas, even as it directed the Centre to formulate National Forest Policy within next three months.A division bench of justices Rajeev Sharma and Alok Singh, which was hearing a PIL on forest fires in the hill state, ordered employing 10,000 fire watchers in the coming year to curb incidents of forest fires. The court directed that an area of 10 km around Corbett National Park and such other parks be declared as eco-sensitive zone and no construction be allowed there.It directed the Gujjar people staying in the forest areas to vacate the land. “The state government is directed to formulate a policy to compensate the farmers who suffered loss due to forest fires,” the court said in its order on Monday.It also ordered erection of a stone wall around Corbett Park, provision of fire proof dress to fire fighter forest employees, and stern action against DFO, Conservator and other officials in case fire is not controlled within stipulated time. In addition, the court also gave various directions to preserve wildlife in Uttarakhand.The bench said that in the year 2016 itself 922 forest fires were reported which ruined flora and fauna across 1890.75 hectares of land. It was argued that not only do these fires threaten human life but are also a threat to wildlife as well as the environment.To combat the problem, the court directed the Union of India to formulate National Forest Policy within the next three months. Such policy must be directed towards forest management, conservation and increase in forest cover, it said.The court directed that no animal, be it tiger, leopard or panther, can be declared man eater within the state of Uttarakhand. The decision to whether an animal is a threat to human life will be taken by a high powered committee comprising Principal Secretary and Principal Chief Conservator of forest. “Even then no pictures of the body of the animal will be released to the media. Nor must a local hunter be engaged to kill any animal,” the court said.If an animal is captured, it must be returned to its natural habitat, it said. The Railway has been directed to dig up trenches around electric poles and insulate the same so as to prevent animals from being electrocuted.

Four RSS men in poll-bound Punjab get VIP security cover from Centre

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Four RSS functionaries in poll- bound Punjab have been accorded a VIP security cover of paramilitary commandos by the Union government.Officials said the decision to accord an ‘X’ category security cover of CISF personnel was taken after central security agencies assessed that there was a threat to these leaders in view of an attack on Jalandhar-based Sangh leader Jagdish Gagneja early this year.The four Rashtriya Sawayamsevak Sangh leaders are Rameshwar Dass (Ludhiana), Pramod Ji (Amritsar), Ramgopal Ji (Jalandhar) and Kuldeep Ji Bhagat (Jalandhar).Sources said four separate Central Industrial Security Force teams will soon take over the task and a squad will be dispatched to Punjab.Under the ‘X’ category, about 5-6 armed commandos are deployed with each VIP, they said.A similar cover was recently accorded to a senior journalist of a TV news channel.The CISF has over 70 VIPs, including the new protectees, under it.RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval are among prominent VIPs protected by the CISF, tasked primarily to secure major civil airports and vital installations in the country.Elections to Punjab assembly are expected to be held in February-March next year along with four other states of Uttar Pradesh, Goa, Uttarakhand and Manipur.

BJP slams Uttarakhand govt for declaring special 90-minute Friday break for Muslim employees

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>BJP on Monday slammed the Uttarakhand government for declaring a special 90-minute Friday break for Muslim employees, saying it will set a wrong precedent and accused the Congress of “communalising” the state’s politics ahead of the assembly polls.Accusing the Congress of pursuing a divisive agenda in its greed for power, the party said few people will be left working in the government offices if Hindus, who observe different forms of pujas across the month, are also given a similar concession. BJP National Secretary Shrikant Sharma told reporters here that Congress has a history of “dividing” people on communal lines in its greed for power and what it has done in Uttarakhand is an attempt to hide the Harish Rawat government’s failures.”There is no issue with people of different faiths offering prayers of their choice. But this decision will set a wrong precedent on the matter of principle. From Monday to Saturday, faithfuls in our culture worship different Gods and offer prayers. “If everybody is to be given a favour like this, then who will work in government offices. It is an attempt to communalise the state’s politics ahead of the polls as the government has failed on all fronts. It has nothing to show to people for its work and is attempting to hide its failures under its communal agenda,” he said.Congress has given communal colour to terrorism in its greed for power, Sharma alleged, claiming that the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had gone on to say that minorities have the first right to the nation’s resources. For BJP, the poor have the first right, he claimed. The Uttarakhand government has announced a special 90- minute break will be given to the government employees from the Muslim community in the state for Friday prayers.

Jammu and Kashmir: Moderate quake jolts Doda, no damage reported

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A moderate intensity earthquake shook Bhaderwah valley and parts of Doda and Bhalessa in Jammu and Kashmir’s Doda district this morning, triggering panic among people on Monday.The quake measuring 3.7 on the Richter scale struck at 6:31 AM, and was the second such tremor in over a fortnight, Met officials said. The epicentre of the quake was 7 km south east of Bhadarwah, the officials said.The tremor was also felt in adjoining areas of Bhaderwah valley, including parts of Doda, Bhalessa and Matmat. Panic-stricken people rushed out of their homes in some areas of the picturesque valley in the early morning cold.”We have been collecting information from all our police posts and also from local sources since morning, but as of now, there is no immediate report of any casualty or damage to property,” said Bhadarwah SP Sargun Shukla.People of Chenab valley have been apprehensive of tremors after a study by a group of US scientists published last year predicted that there is a possibility of major earthquake in J&K. “We are apprehending big trouble as tremors of moderate and low intensity have become routine in Bhaderwah Valley for some time now. But surprisingly nobody from administration or any seismic expert seems to be remotely bothered to locate the exact cause of these local earthquakes,” said a social worker, Imtiaz-Ur-Rehman Butt from Mohalla Sarafan, Bhaderwah.A tremor measuring 4.3 on the Richter scale had hit the area on December 3. Earthquake tremors measuring 3.4 on the Richter scale were felt in the Uttarkashi region of Uttarakhand yoo. The earthquake hit the region at around 10 a.m. Earlier, a medium intensity earthquake measuring 5.2 on the Richter scale had struck the Indo-Nepal border in Uttarakhand.Tremors were felt in parts of Uttarakhand, including Champawat, Srinagar, Garhwal and Almora.

Russian woman who sacrificed freedom for faith gets ‘moksha’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>For 41-year-old Russian Bonetekia Zoia, it is freedom at last. Zoia had embarked on a spiritual journey to the abode of Lord Shiva at the Holy Amarnath cave in search of Zoia and world peace. Zoia, a mother of two, has been deported to Russia after serving one-year sentence for illegally entering the Valley.Faith transcended all boundaries for Zoia when she embarked on the spiritual journey from St Petersburg to the Amarnath cave in August last year. Luck, however, was not on her side. She was arrested by the police near Domeal Sonamarg last year and charged under Section 14 of the Foreigners Act. Four months later, Zoia, a practising Hindu, was sentenced to one-year jail by a trial court.Though there was a bail provision, she could not get it as nobody in Kashmir was ready to stand surety for her.“I could have bailed her out during the course of trial. But nobody stood surety. Later, we confessed, and, on that basis, she was convicted. Her sentence expired on August 24. But she was released only on November 23. It was a lapse on the part of the government. They bought time to make arrangements for her deportation,” Umar Rashid Wani, Zoia’s counsel, told DNA.Superintendent of Kot Bhalwal Jail, Jammu, Dinesh Sharma, told DNA that she was lodged under the Public Safety Act (from August 24 to November 23) to make arrangements for her deportation. “Later, she got clearance and she was handed over to the Russian embassy,” he said. Zoia converted to Hinduism a few years ago and started her spiritual journey from Pushupatinath temple in Nepal to Kedarnath in Uttarakhand. Amarnath shrine was the next destination. But before she could visit the cave shrine to take a darshan of the Holy Lingam, police arrested her near Sonamarg. “Her entire journey was for moksha and world peace,” said Umar. Zoia, according to her counsel, lost her passport in Nepal and entered India on an ID card. Later, she visited Kedarnath temple and took the Manali-Leh-Sonamarg route for Amarnath yatra.“However, she was not allowed in the cave. She protested and there was a tussle, in the melee, she lost her ID card. She could not prove her identity and the police were trying to arrest her but she ran away and spent a night at Domeal. A day later, she was arrested,” said Umar.

Parties rush for alliance in Uttar Pradesh

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>With elections to the Uttar Pradesh (UP) Assembly set for February, political parties are now scrambling for alliances and selection of candidates. On Saturday, the Election Commission had shot down the Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav’s game plan to force the Assembly elections in April by hurriedly getting declared the school examinations in February and March.While the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has given a cold shoulder to any proposal for a tie-up, the Congress and the Samajwadi Party (SP) are in the final stages for finalising nitty-gritty of an alliance. Sources in both the parties said that despite a lengthy meeting between Congress poll strategist Prashant Kishor and SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav early this week, the number and choice of seats leaving for potential partners was still an issue. They said that Bihar Chief Minister and Janata Dal (United) chief Nitish Kumar was brokering a deal between the two parties, after he successfully sailed the Grand Alliance in Bihar to victory last year.Earlier talks between the Congress and the SP had failed as the Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi didn’t want to contest less than 100-120 seats out of the total of 403. But the SP was not willing to part more than 50 seats. In the SP, Akhilesh has been a strong votary of an alliance, but he was also keen to push elections to April, in order to delink polls in his state with other poll bound states like Punjab, Goa, Manipur and Uttarakhand and also to negotiate an alliance threadbare. But the EC exercising its powers cancelled the Class X and XII Board exams fixed by the UP Secondary Education Board from February 16 and directed it to declare the new schedule only after a prior approval of the state’s chief electoral officer (CEO). The EC’s decision, therefore, indicates that it is all set to hold the Assembly elections in February in all five states.

Do not announce exam dates without consulting us: Election Commission to 5 states

Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa were asked not to announce examination schedules without consulting Election Commission. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>With Assembly elections due early next year in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa, the Election Commission on Thursday asked the poll-bound states not to announce examination schedules without consulting it. “The Commission is aware that the annual examination at various levels of educational institutions in the states are generally due in the first half of the next year.”The Commission wants that there is no clash between the programme of the elections…and the examination schedule that may be framed by various state education boards,” the Commission told the states.The poll body pointed out that it is a Constitutional mandate to hold the elections well before the expiry of the term of the Legislative Assembly and it is in the “advance stages” of considering a schedule for holding the elections. While, the term of the Legislative Assemblies of Goa, Manipur and Punjab are coming to an end on March 18, that of Uttarakhand will expire on March 26. The term of the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly will expire on May 27. The EC is likely to announce the poll schedule for these states sometime later this month or early January.

Uttarakhand’s Ramnagar a true delight for migratory birds

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>India, blessed with geographical diversity, is home to diverse wildlife, which sets it apart from other countries.Being a home to multitude of animals and impressive number of birds gracing its skies, India also acts as a temporary shelter for a whole host of migratory birds. Bird watchers and adventure lovers get a treat due to the numerous bird sanctuaries found across the country.India has a lot to offer to those who want to come out of their concrete surroundings and spent some leisure time in the lap of nature. Being home to more than 1000 bird species, out of which 100 found exclusively in India, the country has a lot to offer.Ramnagar in Uttarakhand is a place where you can enjoy the beautiful sight of seeing a variety of migratory birds. Now is the season when migratory birds flock to warmer areas to avert the extreme cold of the Arctic region. It is the entrance to the world famous Jim Corbett National Park, the oldest national park and one of the most famous destinations in northern India.The migratory birds have already started arriving here, and the first stoppage point for these birds in their journey is the Kosi barrage. Migratory birds, especially from Siberia and Ladakh flew here. In the last few years, more than 100 wetland birds have been reported to migrate here.Ramnagar serves as the place for temporary nests of non-native birds such as mallards, graylag geese, gadwells, teals, shovelers, pochards and coots.Narrating his beautiful experience of bird-watching, a bird watcher Amitabh said, ‘Generally the birds sighted here are water cormorant and grand cormorant. The one which I was clicking a photograph of is known as Surkhab (golden pheasant). You must have heard a saying in Hindi which translates to – ‘Are you as valuable as a Surkhab bird?’ So this is that duck. I’m an ardent bird watcher so I am enjoying watching birds here and if I manage to click a good photo, then even better.’The journey of the migratory birds starts right from Siberia and travel through Afghanistan and Central Asia before coming to a halt in India. The arrival of the birds is witnessed November onwards and continuing till December and their return is marked by the spring season.Siberian cranes, Rosy Pelican, Ruff, Bluethroat, Eurasian Golden Oriole and Asian Koel are some of the popular varieties of migratory birds.To make it merrier for the bird-watchers, ponds and wetlands of South Gujarat, including Surat have already turned into shelter for many migratory birds. One can easily spot Lesser Flamingo, Dermoisel Crane, Spot Billed Duck, Brahminy Duck, Common Coot, Mallard, Shoveller, Crested Pochard, Comb Duck, Cotton Teal, Lesser Whistling Teal Brown-headed gulls flying over the Tapi River.Since Surat has ample water, the migratory birds come and stay here. Many of the birds migrate to the coastal areas and marshlands in Gujarat, due to the abundance of water in these places. The wetlands are used as transitory camps by the birds from Siberia and Central Asia.

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

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

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

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

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

There was no immediate report of any casualty from anywhere.

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

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

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

Uma Bharti says govt to come up with a model act to conserve ground, rain water

New Delhi: The government will soon come out with a draft model law to conserve ground, surface and rain water and increase use of treated water for non-potable purposes, Union Minister Uma Bharti said on Tuesday.

Water being a state subject, the act will, however, not be binding on states for implementation.

Addressing the inaugural session of ‘Bhujal Manthan – 2’ in New Delhi, Bharti said a committee will also be formed to suggest ways to conserve fast depleting groundwater levels through aquifer recharge, particularly in drought-hit areas such as Marathwada and Bundelkhand.

Secretaries of Water Resources, Rural Development, Environment and Agriculture will be part of the committee, which is expected to submit its report in a month, she said.

File photo of Uma Bharti. PTI

File photo of Uma Bharti. PTI

“We are going to come out with the draft model act aimed at conserving ground, surface and rain water and one which stresses on using treated water optimally. 62 percent of water used by Israel is treated water. Why can’t we too do that? We too can do it,” Water Resources Minister Bharti said.

The Minister said the act will focus on using waste water for infrastructural and industrial activities, while recycled sewage water will be used for irrigation purpose.

Special secretary in the Water Resources Ministry, Amarjit Singh, seconded the Minister and stated that 80 percent to 85 percent drinking water is sourced from underground across the country.

Around 60 percent to 65 percent of water used for irrigation is fetched from underground, he added.

“Countries like China use less ground water than us, only to the extent of 30 percent of what can be recharged in that country annually. So, we need to make sure the withdrawal is sustainable (through the proposed act),” he said.

Bharti said the government also plans to complete aquifer mapping across the country over the next three years.

At the same time, she said, the government plans to recharge groundwater on priority basis across 1066 blocks (which could either be a district/taluka/mandals) where groundwater is “hugely exploited.”

“The Marathwada, Bundelkhand, Rajasthan, Gujarat and now even the Uttarakhand…the trees atop mountains in Uttarkhand which used to hold water have been cut. Hence, we will have to give priorities to these areas and recharge ground water,” she said.

Rural Development Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, who too addressed the event, said his ministry will contribute to the purpose by creating recharge structures through Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.

“The purpose is to see village water is stopped in the village itself,” he added.

Secretaries of Ministries of Water Resources and Drinking Water and Sanitation, Shashi Shekhar and Parameswaran Iyer respectively, also addressed the event.

First Published On : Nov 29, 2016 16:26 IST

Punjab jailbreak: Khalistani terrorist escapes, high alert in Northern states

Sun, 27 Nov 2016-11:27pm , New Delhi , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>High alert has been sounded in Northern states after a top Khalistani terrorist along with five others escaped from a Punjab jail, arousing suspicion that the militant might have pre-decided his hideouts. Central security agencies have told the governments of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi Police to remain on high alert as chief of Khalistan Liberation Front Harminder Mintoo could be hiding in their territory to escape from Punjab Police dragnet.Sources said Mintoo is unlikely to escape to Pakistan as there has been heightened security along the border in the last few months due to tension between India and Pakistan and continuing cross-border firing along International Border and Line of Control.Suspicion has arisen that the Khalistani terrorist might have been hiding in pre-decided locations as per the conspiracy hatched to free him from the high-security Nabha prison. In a sensational jailbreak, Mintoo along with five other prisoners escaped on Sunday after armed men in police uniform stormed the high-security Nabha prison in Punjab.

Rajnath Singh warns of violence during Assembly polls, urges police to stay vigilant

Hyderabad: Ahead of Assembly polls in five states, Home Minister Rajnath Singh asked security forces to guard against attempts to disturb peace through “vicious” political campaign or by external extremist forces during the election process.

Inaugurating the three-day annual DGPs/IGPs conference here, Singh said elections will be held in some states soon and it is the responsibility of police chiefs to ensure peaceful completion of the poll process.

Rajnath Singh. Reuters file imageRajnath Singh. Reuters file image

Rajnath Singh. Reuters file image

“We have to keep strict vigil against external extremist elements who may try to create disturbance in Punjab. There have been increased activities by Sikh terrorists in recent months. Similarly, in Manipur, we have to ensure peace keeping in mind the ethnic divide. In Uttar Pradesh too, there may be attempts to disturb law and order through vicious political campaigning. We have to keep strict vigil and take proper steps to ensure peace during elections,” he said.

Assembly elections are due in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa early next year.

Around 100 directors generals of police and inspectors generals of police from several states and Union Territories and heads of central police organisations are attending the conference, taking place at the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Police Academy here.

Maintaining that threats of self-radicalisation and lone wolf attacks have been increasing, the home minister said there was no let up in Pakistan’s support to terror and anti-India activities.

“We all know that a neighbouring country has been trying to instigate people in northern parts of the country to indulge in anti-India activities, providing training to terrorists and sending them to India to carry out in terror attacks. Despite all these efforts, the credit for maintaining peace in the country goes to security and intelligence agencies,” he said.

Referring to the threat of ISIS, Singh said due to close coordination between state and central forces, the youths, who were influenced by the terror group, have not been able to successfully carry out any strike in the country yet. “So far, 67 youths, who were influenced by the ISIS, have been arrested while planning to carry out terror attack. We have to be fully alert against any such design. The whole world is worried about the terror activities of the ISIS. This is a big challenge for our country. I am confident that in the we will be able to face the challenge posed by the ISIS together,” he said.

First Published On : Nov 25, 2016 22:54 IST

68 supporters of ISIS arrested in India: Government

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The NIA and state security agencies have so far arrested 68 supporters of dreaded terror outfit ISIS in various parts of the country, Lok Sabha was informed on Tuesday.”The National Investigation Agency and state security agencies have so far arrested 68 ISIS supporters/sympathisers,” Minister of State for Home Hansraj Ahir said replying to a written question.The Minister said a total of 50 people have been arrested by security agencies during current year of whom 11 belonged to Maharashtra, 11 belonged to Telangana, 7 belonged to Karnataka, 4 from Uttarakhand, 6 from Kerala, 1 from Delhi, 2 from West Bengal, 1 from Rajasthan, 2 from Uttar Pradesh, 1 from Madhya Pradesh, 1 from Jammu and Kashmir, 1 from Bihar and 2 from Tamil Nadu.Ahir said ISIS is using various platforms to propagate its ideology and to attract recruits from across the world.”The intelligence and security agencies maintain a close watch to identify those engaged in such anti-national activities and persons or preachers misguiding the youth and action is initiated against such persons under the relevant laws,” he said.

NFSW bats for rural single women

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Neetu was working in the fields one day when her husband and his family gathered together and began to physically assault her. She reached out to the village panchayat for help and they said, “You need to accept these small things. Women suffer more than this.” Neetu decided to leave her husband, and asked for his help to take care of their daughters.“He refused to accept them as his own children, threatening to cut off my ears,” she says. She now lives with her parents and hopes to become a teacher. Neetu is in a better position than most women in rural areas because she is qualified to teach. Marriages in India are sacrosanct, because socially and economically, marriages are a construct that not only define women, but also protect them. When marriages break down, or when a woman chooses to not marry, especially in the rural areas, it is not surprising that state schemes do not come to their aid. Like in the case of Seeta Devi from Almora, who returned to her maternal home, within a year of her marriage because her husband was a drunk who’d physically abuse her. He also suffered from a mental condition which was hidden from Seeta and her family before marriage. Seeta’s then two month old son is now in Class IX. Seeta works as a daily wage labourer and takes care of her parents and son.The Uttarakhand Chapter of the National Forum advised her to seek help under the state pension scheme. She applied six months ago, but nothing has happened yet.Over 130 members of the National Forum of Single Women (NFSW)from 14 different states in India met in the Capital last week to demand changes which included a desirable pension for women who have been abandoned by their husbands with children to fend for; or women who have never been married. “There’s the concept of pati-tyag, in rural areas where women are increasingly being abandoned by husbands for younger wives,” says Parul Chaudhary of the National Forum. “These women, don’t receive social benefits or schemes and usually raise children without a steady income. Our demand for a pension scheme to be drawn up for them.” In Uttarakhand, if a woman’s husband remains absconding for over a year, she can approach local authorities to sign an affidavit that will allow her to draw over Rs1000 every month. In Rajasthan, women can approach local authorities if their husbands have been away for over three years and avail Rs500 per month. The scheme also allows them to withdraw a yearly bonus of Rs3000 for school supplies per child, for up to three children. “Marriages are also dissolved in the presence of village elders who dictate the terms of the separation,” says Parul. The forum also demands women be made legal heir in any land or property the husband owns. “Only a woman with a roof over her head has dignity,” says Nirmala Chandel, president of the forum.THEIR DEMANDSThe National Forum for Single Women’s Rights was launched in 2009 and has over 1,23,000 members. a. The Women’s Reservation Bill be passed so that there is 33% reservation for women in all the bodies of the government. b. A monthly pension of Rs 2000 for every woman either separated from her husband, widowed, or who never married. c. A system single women can access all developmental government schemes in one place. d. Investigation into the rising cases of men abandoning their wives and refusing to take care of their families. TALKING NUMBERSAs per the 2011 census, there are over 5,05,09,941 single women — widows, separated, divorced and those who never married — in the country. The Census data also reveals that while only 13.2% of all households in the country are headed by women, among single people households, the percentage goes up to over 57.6%.Which means that 59,36,636 women live alone, and many are senior citizens. Literacy rates for women over age 35 are dismal, which means that they lack formal education and marketable skills, thereby making single women a large but extremely vulnerable group open to violence, abuse, discrimination and exploitation.

Babus to visit states to assess demonetization drive

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Senior bureaucrats working in central departments have been asked to visit states for on-the-spot assessment of demonetization drive and to provide their feedback.A total of 32 teams of nearly 70 senior officers–of the level of Additional Secretary and Joint Secretary– and those working as Director or Deputy Secretary have been formed by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT).”The officers have been deputed to undertake field visits in various states for making on-the-spot assessment of the situation and to provide feedback thereon,” an order said. The officers have been drawn from various central government departments.Teams of three officers each would visit Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab, it said. Two-member teams would visit Telangana, Kerala, Haryana, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Goa and Assam. Whereas, teams of one official each would visit Nagaland, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura, Meghalaya, Manipur, Andaman and Nicobar, Lakshadweep, Puducherry and Sikkim. “Department of Economic Affairs will decide the dates/ duration of the field visits as well as the terms of the reference for the same,” the DoPT said.The Centre had on November 8 demonetized Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes in order to check black money, corruption, money laundering, terror financing as well as counterfeiting of currency notes.Large number of people are queuing up at banks since then to exchange old notes and withdrawing money as ATMs are also being calibrated by the government to dispense newly-introduced Rs 500 and Rs 2,000 denomination notes.

Land conflict: 32 lakh face severe hardship

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Land conflicts, largely related to infrastructure projects, have impacted an estimated 32 lakh people in the country and land disputes have stalled 5,780 projects as of October 2016, two new reports on land related disputes revealed on Wednesday. One report related to land conflicts and the other one related to land disputes and stalled investments, analysed 289 ongoing land conflicts and found that it covered an area of 12 lakh hectares and were spread across 185 districts of the country.The 5,780 projects stalled are those that were ones announced after 2000. The proportion of stalled projects where the investment is greater than Rs 100 crores is 17 per cent. The reports were prepared by Rights and Resources Initiative, Tata Institute of Social Sciences and Bharti Institute of Public Policy. Ground research, government records and the Center for Monitoring Indian Economy were the major sources for the report.As per the report, several districts across Gujarat, Maharashtra, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Rajasthan, Haryana, Punjab and Uttarakhand have more than 10 stalled projects whose worth is Rs 10,000 crore.

Impact of human activity on extreme weather events on rise

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Anthropogenic climate change had an increased impact on the occurrence of several extreme weather events recorded between 2011-2015, especially those involving extreme high temperatures, a scientific assessment by World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has revealed. According to WMO, the impact of human induced climate change on such events has increased by a factor of 10. Though not all extreme events bear a stamp of anthropogenic climate change, several of them have a direct relation to it while some have an indirect relation, which manifest in increasing its risks.”The influence of climate change on the daily lives of people has been clear due to the multiplication and intensification of extreme events, including heatwaves to record rainfall and damaging floods,” said P.Taalas, Secretary-General, WMO.In India, the 2013 Uttarakhand flood disaster and the 2015 heat wave were the two biggest extreme weather events which killed over 8,000 people, the WMO noted. While the report does not attribute a direct relation between anthropogenic climate change and the Uttarakhand disaster, it has said that the largest human impact has been on rising occurrences of extreme heat, as seen during the 2015 heat wave.The 2015 Indian sub-continent heat wave that killed over 4,000 in India and Pakistan was the worst heat wave globally in the past five years, the report said. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, US, assessed 2015, a strong El Niño year, as the world’s driest year over land since 1993″The most consistent influence of anthropogenic climate change has been on the rising occureence of extreme heat varying from a duration of few days to a full year. In some studies, the probability of the observed event has increased 10 times or more as a result of human induced climate change.”The 2015 heatwave, though shorter in duration than previous ones, was more intense and saw temperatures rise to nearly 50 degree Celsius. Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Odisha were the worst hit states. The WMO noted that, “although temperatures near or above 45°C are not uncommon at the that time of year (summer) in many parts of interior India, such temperatures during the 2015 pre-monsoon region in extended to near coastal regions that do not normally experience such extreme heat, including Andhra Pradesh in Eastern India, where the heat was also accompanied by very high humidity.”In terms of casualties, the worst single short-period event of the 2011-2015 period was Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) in the Philippines in November 2013. The death toll for Haiyan (Yolanda) was estimated at over 7,800 people, with 4.1 million people displaced.

After demonetization, BJP plans to sing all the way to the bank

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Tara Singh Mehta, a farmer in a remote hilly Uttarakhand town, has to walk 25 kms to reach his bank. Yet, the demonitisation announcement has not upset him, nor has he forgotten the pre-election “Rs 15 lakh promise” on return of black money. He is the quintessential common man whom the BJP has set its eyes on.As the Opposition sharpens its tirade against the government, BJP is all set to cash in on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement on demonetization of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes in poll-bound states, particularly Uttar Pradesh. From every platform, the party plans to resonate his message, the honest will not face any problem.According to sources, the message has been conveyed to BJP leaders, including MPs, to reach out to people through all campaign modes including posters, hoardings, slogans, songs, jingles, and social media, explaining the government’s intention behind the move and underlining that the Prime Minister was “keeping his promises” of zero tolerance towards corruption and his pro-poor approach.”Whoever feels strongly about the demonetization move, can put up hoardings,” said state BJP chief Keshav Prasad Maurya, when asked if party leaders had been asked to campaign on the theme. Another party leader said, if the opposition made an issue of it in the elections, BJP would capitalise on it. BJP leaders will hold meetings of small groups like youth, women and intellectuals to explain its move. Party leaders maintained that the move went beyond politics. “Its a historic decision taken in the long-term interest of the country. It was above politics,” said party General Secretary Bhupendra Yadav.”It is being appreciated by people. Modi is being seen as a socialist leader. In one stroke, he has brought down money power and extravaganza in elections, stunned political parties and shown that every action is in the interests of the poor,” said BJP leader R Balashankar.After the surgical strikes, BJP is now hoping to get a political edge from the war against black money. They have planned a new campaign mantra, “ab aur nahi sahenge (we will not tolerate anymore)” in UP on the themes of law and order, corruption, and unemployment.Though the long queues at banks and ATMs are a cause for concern, party leaders are of the view that this was a temporary inconvenience and with over three months to go for elections, things would settle down by then. “It is an example of good governance. A large section of people will be happy. A large section of voters in UP are from backward and scheduled caste sections and it gives them confidence that the government is acting against the corrupt and is pro-poor,” said BJP spokesperson Bijay Sonkar Shastri.The opposition, however, has been unrelenting, saying the government’s move was targeting the common man. The BJP has retaliated to the Congress, BSP, SP and AAP, asking why they were castigating the centre’s decision. BJP chief Amit Shah has reiterated this on Saturday at a program in Lucknow saying the Prime Minister has brought the fight against black money to a decisive moment.

Not 100, NREGA gives only 49 days of employment

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The ambitious National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) which seeks to guarantee 100 days of jobs to every rural household in India offered an average of 48.8 days of employment in 2015-16.In fact, this was the best deal which an average rural household in the country got from the government since 2012. Last year, the average was merely 40 days, while in the preceding two years it touched 46 days, reveals an analysis of the scheme introduced in 2005 to provide livelihood to rural unskilled population.Some states offered even less than 48 days. For instance, Uttar Pradesh could give only 33 days of average work in last fiscal. Over 12.69 crore households are registered under NREGA at present. However, active households are less than half that means approximately 7.13 crore.Of them, less than 49 lakh households (7%) got 100 days of wage employment in the year ending March 2016 which explains the scarcity of the work and livelihood opportunities in the country.In Gujarat, Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir and Uttarakhand, merely 3-5 per cent households have got 100 days of work. The average number of work days may decline further this year as the wage budget this year has seen a 10% cut from previous year of Rs 30,800 crore. Total annual allocation for the scheme by the Centre, including expenses on resource generation, is Rs 43,000 crore.The job days could have been on much higher side, had the states spent the full amount at their disposal. Statistics say, not a single state in the country utilizes full labor budget. The average unspent amount ranges from 30 per cent to 50 per cent, apparently due to poorly conceived schemes and misplaced targets.Kerala is exception as it spent 95 per cent of the budget in the last fiscal, highest in the country. Still it could provide an average 48 days of work to needy households indicating need for higher allocation.Maharashtra though offered highest average days of work (58) in the country but it merely spent two-third of the amount even as drought continued to haunt the farmers driving 3,200 of them to commit suicide in 2015 alone, highest in 14 years. Considering the unspent amount of the states, it is estimated that the country needs at least 75 per cent more allocation in the wages budget to offer 100 days of job to every aspirant, say sector experts.When asked about skewed job availability under the scheme, Aparajita Sarangi, Joint Secretary, Department of Rural Development (NREGA), in an email response told DNA, “MGNREGA is a demand driven programme. All 12.69 crore households do not come for work for 100 days each. On an average, over five crore households come for the job. We work very closely with the states to implement the ACT in the best possible manner.”The daily wage of NREGA ranges from Rs 150 – Rs 175 a day. The wages differ from state to state and are revised time to time as per the Consumer Price Index for Agricultural Labour.Under the scheme, 14 types of jobs are carried out including water conservation and harvesting, drought-proofing among many others.

Standoff between Indian and Chinese troops in Ladakh

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Latent tension between India and China came to the fore on Thursday with Chinese troops blocking construction work of an irrigation canal in vulnerable Demchok area of Ladakh leading to a major stand off with their counterpart Indo-Tibetan Police Force (ITBP).The incident took place on Wednesday in the Demchok sector, located 250km east of Leh, where a MNREGA project is underway to link a village with a hot spring through a canal.The sudden increase in tension comes a day before National Security Advisor Ajit Doval is to meet senior Chinese officials and a days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi celebrated Diwali with ITBP troops in forward Mana region of Uttarakhand.The Chinese troops, sources said, demanded work be stopped as either side needs to take permission before undertaking any construction, a claim disputed by India which says that information about projects needs to be shared only if it is meant for defence purposes.Nearly 55 People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers forcibly stopped construction work of an irrigation canal being built under MNREGA scheme, said sources adding that the stand off is still continuing.Demchok sits at south eastern tip of Ladakh and is very close to the Line of Actual Control (LAC). This was also the location of a major incursion by China two years ago which resulted in a spike in tension between the two countries.The Chinese intrusion led 70 ITBP jawans to fortify the area to prevent their further march into India.These are routine objections which either party seek clarification to whenever there is a construction related activity. The issue is being resolved through established mechanisms, sources said.

Explain rationale behind imposition of President’s rule: Harish Rawat to BJP

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Chief Minister Harish Rawat on Tuesday said BJP owes an explanation to the people of Uttarakhand for causing defections in the ruling Congress and imposing President’s Rule in the state before it goes to them seeking votes.Taking a dig at BJP for its proposed ‘Parivartan Yatra’ in the state from November 12, he said “Before it embarks on any yatra, BJP should offer an explanation to people why it brought the state under president’s rule and why it withheld the state’s annual budget passed by the state assembly.” Advising the party to “atone for its sins” before embarking on any yatra, the CM said BJP should also explain to people why it caused defections in the ruling Congress in a premeditated manner.”It (defections) was a pre-planned move by the BJP to destabilise a democratically elected government and the party will have to explain to people if it goes to them seeking their votes,” Rawat told reporters here.President’s Rule was imposed in Uttarakhand in March this year after momentous political developments saw nine party MLAs rebel against Rawat and join hands with the BJP. Their membership of the state assembly was later revoked by the Speaker under the anti-defection law.However, President’s rule was withdrawn in May and Harish Rawat put back in the saddle after he won a court monitored floor test in the state assembly. Gearing up for next year’s assembly elections, BJP will launch a ‘Parivartan Yatra’ in Uttarakhand on November 12 with party chief Amit Shah scheduled to address three rallies across the state in the course of the yatra one each in Dehradun, Almora and Haldwani.

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

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

Bhopal jailbreak: 8 SIMI activists who escaped killed in encounter with ATS team

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The eight SIMI activists who fled from Bhopal Central Jail on Sunday night have been killed in an encounter with a special Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) in Eintkhedi village on the outskirts of Bhopal, ANI reported.The eight activists of the banned SIMI had escaped by killing a security guard and scaling the prison wall with the help of bed sheets, following which some officials responsible for jail security have been suspended. “Eight SIMI or Students Islamic Movement of India activists escaped at around 2-3 AM by killing a jail security guard,” DIG Bhopal Raman Singh told PTI.Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Bhupendra Singh said alert has been sounded across the state, while jail officials concerned looking after the security have been suspended. State government has also announced a reward of Rs 5 lakh each on the heads of the activists. They were identified as — Amzad, Zakir Hussain Sadiq, Mohammad Salik, Mujeeb Shaikh, Mehbood Guddu, Mohammad Kalid Ahmed, Aqeel and Majid, an official said.The activists after killing the guard scaled the prison walls with the help of bed sheets, the DIG said.The Union Home Ministry sought a report from the Madhya Pradesh government about the jail break.This was the second major jail break by operatives of banned SIMI in three years after the sensational escape by seven members of the group from a jail in Khandwa in Madhya Pradesh in 2013.A nationwide alert has been sounded for the hunt of the eight SIMI men, who escaped from Bhopal jail after killing a jail security guard, official sources said. All states neighbouring Madhya Pradesh have been specifically told to remain alert and keep special vigil along their borders with Madhya Pradesh, sources said.Central security officials were in regular touch with the state police officials and providing inputs to help nab the escapes.The Home Ministry also asked the Madhya Pradesh government to send a detailed report about the jail break, whether there was any lapse on the part of the jail administration and the steps taken to check such incidents.The central security agencies were particularly anxious as four of the seven SIMI activities, who escaped from a jail in Khandwa October 1, 2013, could be arrested only after three years and during the period of their hiding, the militants were involved in multiple incidents of terror and a bank robbery. While in hiding, the SIMI men were allegedly involved in terror activities in several states including Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh.SIMI was banned by the government in 2001.

PM Modi’s Diwali plan: Celebrations with ITBP personnel along China border

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Keeping with his practice, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will celebrate this Diwali with the Indo Tibetan Border Police Force (ITBP) personnel at one of the remotest border posts in Uttarakhand.Modi, who as Prime Minister had celebrated his first Diwali in 2014 with the army in Siachen and second one last year on the Punjab border with Pakistan, will spend time on the border with China on the upcoming festival of lights on Sunday.He will celebrate the festival with ITBP personnel at Mana, the last village on Indian territory along the border with China, official sources said here on Friday.National Security Advisor Ajit Doval will accompany the Prime Minister on his trip to Mana, located at an altitude of about 10,000 feet, the sources said.Modi is also expected to visit Badrinath, one of the holiest temples of Hindus, which is located nearby, they said.In run up to Diwali, the Prime Minister had urged people to send their good wishes to security forces personnel on Diwali, saying such messages will boost their morale.A campaign in social media with the tagline – #Sandesh2Soldiers – through which people can send their Diwali greetings and messages to soldiers guarding the nation’s frontiers is already underway.People are sending messages under the #Sandesh2Soldiers campaign on the Narendra Modi App, through, and also through All India Radio.According to the PMO, over 10 lakh messages have come — 7 lakh on Facebook, Twitter and MyGov and about 3 lakh on Narendra Modi App.Prominent people who have sent their wishes include Chief Ministers, Union Ministers, film stars, cricketers and other sportspersons.They include Salman Khan, Aamir Khan, Akshay Kumar, Anupam Kher, Virat Kohli, Virendra Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh, Yuvraj Singh, Sakshi Malik.The initiative comes against the backdrop of surgical strikes carried out by the Indian Army on terror launch pads in the PoK on September 29 and the heightened tension along the Indo-Pak border.

Uttarakhand body opposes states being kept out of tax adminstration process under IGST

Dehradun: On Tuesday Uttarakhand Commercial Tax Service Association opposed the GST council’s decision to keep the states out of the tax administration process under IGST, saying it went against the principle of fiscal federalism by narrowing down the role of states and their dealer base.

Criticising GST Council’s handing over the complete administration of ‘services’ to the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) at its very first meeting on 24 September, the Association’s president Yashpal Singh said it was unfair on part of the council to take away the tax administration domain from state agencies citing their “lack of experience”.

“Not only that but the Council also negated the right of state’s absolute control of administration of such dealers which had an annual turnover of up to one and half crores, which was the result of prolonged debates,” he said.

According to the proposed changes after GST, the Centre would levy and collect the Integrated Goods and Services Tax (IGST) on all inter-State supplies of goods and services in case of inter-State transactions.

On CBEC’s charge that the states are against GST roll out, and their struggle for “more work” and opposition makes their intentions dubious in nature, Singh said the allegation was totally baseless and false.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

“In reality the states are completely in favour of GST and the enthusiasm shown by them in ratifying the constitutional amendment proves the falsity of this bogus charge,” he said.

States are opposed only to the idea of being kept out of the administration of “services” and there are primarily two reasons for this, he said.

“First the argument cited by GST council that state tax authorities are ‘inexperienced’ to divest them of administration of services is demeaning to them. And secondly, the Model GST Law has included many transactions under the definition of ‘services’ like work contract, transfer of the right to use, and transactions done by hotels and restaurants etc, which were hitherto covered under the category of ‘goods’,” Singh said.

In consequence, approximately about one third of the current tax base of states will shift from the control of states, which would be detrimental to the future prospect of state’s service cadres, the Association president

As far as the question of struggling for ‘greater work’ is considered, then at present CBEC administers only around 11 lakh dealers and all the states together administer around 63 lakh dealers registered for indirect taxation, Singh said.

All such formulae that are proposed by the GST Council and even by states for administering this tax base, suggest that there would be fall in the dealer base that is hitherto being administered by the states, he said.

“It could be part of a long term strategy of permanently disfranchising states from the administration of indirect tax administration after bidding adieu to the principle of fiscal federalism,” he said.

ITBP deploys women personnel at Sino-India border for the first time

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>At least 100 women ITBP personnel have been deployed at 15 border posts along the arduous Sino-India frontier, making it the first such posting of ‘mahila’ combatants in a forward area. The force has recently completed the full processes for deployment of the women personnel at select forward posts, ITBP Director General Krishna Chaudhary said.The women contingent, trained in war craft and and weapon firing, have been posted after the Border out Posts (BoPs) were made “gender neutral” and other facilities were created for them, he said.Officials said while the maximum of these women have been sent to Indo-Tibetan Border Police BoPs in the Ladakh frontier of Jammu and Kashmir, few have been posted at other locations in Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.The total numbers of the women personnel, who have been posted at BoPs, is about 100, they said, adding few more BoPs will have women personnel in the coming days. The force earlier this year commissioned 500 women troops for deployment at India-China border in its constabulary ranks after training them for 44-weeks in in battle craft and mountain survival. The posts where these women have been deployed are situated at heights of between 8,000 and 14,000 feet, including the ‘Mana pass’ border post, the last village on the Indian side in Uttarakhand.The force plans to have women personnel make up at least 40 per cent of its strength at these forward posts. This is the first time India has deployed women troops right at the front, at least on the one which is considered to be the most arduous and tricky given the harsh climatic conditions and extreme mountainous terrain along the India-China border.ITBP, which marks its 55th Raising Day today, was raised in the aftermath of the 1962 Chinese aggression. These women, who were recruited in the force in February last year, hail from various states with 97 of them, the highest, coming from the hill state of Uttarakhand.Women constables were first inducted in this 80,000 personnel strong force in 2008, but they were until now only deployed for rendering law and order duties in troubled areas and in a few instances at the Nathu La pass to facilitate traders and for frisking women.ITBP has a total of 1,661 women personnel in its various ranks and branches of work with the maximum number of 1,033 being in the constabulary ranks.

Infrastructure along India-China border being enhanced at “galloping pace”: ITBP DG

Greater Noida: Asserting that enhancement of border infrastructure along China is a “thrust area”, the ITBP chief said on Monday that it is being done at a “galloping pace” by having new border posts, vehicles, weaponry and surveillance gadgets.

Giving this information at a press conference to mark the 55th Raising Day of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), its Director General Krishna Chaudhary also said transgressions by Chinese PLA forces at the border is going down steadily. ITBP is tasked with guarding the 3,488-km long Sino-India border.

He, however, declined to give the exact number of such incidents in the past.

Official figures said while in 2015 about 500 transgressions were reported along the border, it went down to 350 last year and this year about 200 such violations have taken place till now.

“All I can say is that these incidents of transgressions take place due to the difference of perception. This is a perceptional difference of the Line of Actual Control (LAC).”

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Asked about the developments being witnessed on the other side of the border, Chaudhary said, “infrastructure on that side has grown tremendously.”

“We were a little slow to start in the growth of infrastructure but now we are doing it at a galloping pace. We are getting new border posts, vehicles, weaponry and surveillance gadgets. We are very fast catching up,” he said after reviewing the ceremonial parade of the paramilitary force at its base.

The DG added that enhancement of border infrastructure along China is a “thrust area” for the government and the force even as troop levels have been enhanced by the ITBP at 116 BoPs in the recent past.

Chaudhary said a total of 172 new Border out Posts (BoPs), out of the total 176, have been raised on this border while work has been “fast paced” to build border roads in the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, that share their borders with China.

“We had started work on 27 roads and I can tell you that on eight of these, work has been completed,” he said.

The ITBP chief said government sanctions have also been received for converting/creating 50 high-altitude BoPs on this icy border as “composite” ones which will have a central heating and 24X7 supply of liquid water for troops manning this arduous frontier which is marred by vagaries of sub-zero temperatures and blizzards.

Rita Bahuguna Joshi joins BJP; setback to Rahul’s plans to turn party’s fortunes in UP

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In a major setback to Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi’s plans to turn his party’s fortunes in the crucial state of Uttar Pradesh, Rita Bahuguna Joshi (67), former state unit president and a prominent Brahmin face, joined the rival BJP in the presence of its party chief Amit Shah here on Thursday.The Congress UP state chief Raj Babbar conceded that Rahul was hurt most by her betrayal, as he trusted her the most.Joshi’s differences with Rahul had become apparent immediately after the party nominated another Brahmin face Sheila Dikshit as its chief ministerial candidate.Joshi blamed Rahul’s ‘Khoon ki Dalali’ remark, referring to Prime Minister Modi highlighting the Army’s surgical strikes as the trigger for her to switch the sides. “I did not see any myopic agenda in the BJP,” she said in a brief statement after joining the party. But to repeated questions, Joshi, who had taken on the BJP strenuously all these years said: “I have not changed my ideology. I remain secular.”Joshi shift to the BJP was in the air since Monday after she was not seen in public and as such the Congress was prepared for the shock.A visibly upset party general secretary Ghulam Nabi Azad called her a habitual defector as earlier she had also jumped on the Samajwadi Party’s bandwagon. He said she may have switched sides, as it was becoming difficult for her to win her assembly seat. She was supposed to contest from Lucknow Cantt constituency. Another veteran leader at Congress headquarters said she, in fact, has traits of being a traitor. Her late father, Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna, though a towering leader slighted the Congress despite being made the chief minister and Union minister three times, he said.What had surprised many in Congress is that Joshi was one of the most favourite members of Rahul’s team. But since her brother Vijay Bahuguna, a former Uttarakhand chief minister, joined the BJP after attempting to topple the Congress government, she was being sidelined. Her close confidants allege that she was not kept informed about the party’s programmes despite being a part of the state campaign committee. The Congress sources admit her exit would harm the party’s outreach to the Brahmins who constitute around 10% of the state’s population. By nominating Dikshit as chief ministerial candidate, the party hoped to make a dent in upper caste vote bank. The state hasn’t had a Brahmin chief minister from the time ND Tiwari demitted office in December 1989.Bahuguna admitted that she felt isolated in the Congress, more so after strategist Prashant Kishor was roped in by Rahul to engineer the party strategies in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.Insiders in the party also said Prashant had warned that Rita may leak the party strategies to the BJP through her brother. Joshi acknowledged that Sonia Gandhi had the ability but Rahul has none and that is why the people have rejected his leadership. A former professor in the Allahabad University, she spent 24 years in the Congress. She was the Allahabad mayor for five years from 1995 and the PCC chief from 2007 to 2012.SidelinedWhat had surprised many in Congress is that Rita Bahuguna Joshi was one of the most favourite members of Rahul’s team. But since her brother Vijay Bahuguna, a former Uttarakhand chief minister, joined the BJP after attempting to topple the Congress government, she was being sidelined. Her close confidants allege that she was not kept informed about the party’s programmes despite being a part of the state campaign committee. The Congress sources admit her exit would harm the party’s outreach to the Brahmins who constitute around 10% of the state’s population

EC to announce poll schedule in 5 states based on inputs by security forces: Nasim Zaidi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Election Commission will take a call on the dates of Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Goa, Manipur and Uttarakhand, due early next year, based on the inputs provided by security forces and state law and order machinery, Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi said on He said the schedule will be finalised keeping in mind the weather and examination schedule. “We are trying to assess the requirement of security forces, climate and exam schedule — all these inputs are being taken into consideration. Only then we will be able to say whether they will be staggered or multi-phase,” the CEC told reporters on the sidelines of an event. To another question on the subject, he said, “As far as the schedule is concerned, the Commission has not given a thought as yet.”While the term of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly ends in May next, the terms of assemblies of Punjab, Goa, Manipur and Uttarakhand will end in March, 2017.Against the backdrop of Ram temple issue hogging the limelight in Uttar Pradesh again, he was asked whether he thinks the Commission should be given powers to prevent political parties from making statements in poll-bound states where elections have not yet been announced.Skirting the issue, Zaidi said once the polls are announced and the model code comes enforce, the EC will ensure its compliance in letter and spirit. “EC has in the past ensured strict compliance of the model code and will ensure the same in future too,” he said. Terming use of money power a “matter of concern”, the CEC said in the last elections, it was a matter of concern and in the coming polls too there is feedback that there is possibility of misuse of money power.”We have a strategy and we are making it more robust,” he said, adding that the poll watchdog has already written to the government to make bribery an electoral offence.

Indian Air Force’s Mi-17 crash-lands in Uttarakhand, all passengers reported safe

Indian Air Force’s Mi-17 crash-lands in Uttarakhand, all passengers reported safe

Updated: Oct 19, 2016 17:05 IST

#Badrinath #IndianAirForce #Mi-17 #NewsTracker #Uttarakhand


Dehradun: An Mi-17 helicopter of Indian Air Force carrying officers and men of the 12 Grenadiers on Wednesday crash-landed while on a practice drill near Mana village in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district.

Representational image. CNN-News18

Representational image. CNN-News18

All on board are safe with some of them receiving only minor injuries in the incident which took place at 9:25 am at Ghastoli helipad between Badrinath and Mana Pass, police sources said.

The Mi-17 with officers and men of 12 Grenadiers was practising inter valley movement at Ghastoli helipad between Badrinath and Mana Pass when the incident took place, the sources said.

Prima facie it appears the helicopter crashlanded after developing some technical snag, the sources said. IAF is looking into the matter.

EC team to visit Punjab next week to review poll preparations

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> An Election Commission team will visit Punjab next week and later on Uttarakhand and Goa to undertake ground level review of preparations ahead of Assembly elections due early next year in these states, Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi said on Tuesday.Elections are due next year in Uttar Pradesh and Manipur. Zaidi was speaking to reporters after inaugurating an ‘Election Museum’ in the office premises of the Chief Electoral Officer of Delhi at Kashmere Gate.”EC had begun the preparations about six months in advance. And the Commission is working according to a very tight calendar of activities. There are more than 140 activities which we have to plan before we schedule the elections. And those activities are proceeding satisfactorily,” he said.”We (EC team) have visited Manipur and UP. And next week we are visiting Punjab, followed by Uttarakhand and sometime later Goa,” the CEC said. AAP is making its electoral debut in Punjab making the polls a triangular contest with Congress and BJP-SAD alliance already locked in a tight battle for political supremacy. The Punjab State Election Commission recently had asked political parties in the poll-bound state to comply with the directions of the Election Commission on not using public funds and machinery to carry out any activity that amounts to advertisement for the party.”We are now undertaking ground level review of our preparations,” Zaidi said. On a question over the proposed Ramayan Museum in Ayodhya, he said, “We are not in election period, so it will not be appropriate for me to comment.” Union Culture and Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma today visited Ayodhya to inspect the proposed site for setting up the museum, a move seen as an attempt to woo pro-Hindutva elements ahead of assembly election in Uttar Pradesh.Sharma said Ayodhya’s development will get a big push from the Rs 150 crore allotted for developing the museum, which is to be located 15 km from the site where the Babri Masjid was demolished in 1992, triggering communal riots across the country. The Election Commission had earlier said it will keep an eye on the role of police in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections slated next year, besides focusing on the use of money and muscle power.

Dammed or Damned? Before reviewing Indus River Treaty, India needs to learn from the past

Based on reports in the media, the Indus River Treaty between India and Pakistan is under scrutiny by the Indian government. While there may be a geo‐strategic case for scrutiny of the treaty, there are serious geographical, geological and ecological issues that a relook of the treaty raises.

If a relook at the Treaty involves new dams, as suggested by some commentators, planning should take note of lessons from earlier dam construction in the Himalayas. The key issue is that the Himalayas are a ‘hot spot’ for environmental hazards – particularly great earthquakes, landslides and floods.

It is also home to very high biodiversity, both on land and in the rivers and lakes. Building large dams to gain a geostrategic advantage over Pakistan may not be the best approach for the rivers governed by the Treaty or for the people living near those rivers. If criteria other than geo-strategy are taken into account then these rivers may not be easy candidates for big dams.

Although the whole Himalayan range is earthquake‐prone, some areas have experienced earthquakes with magnitudes greater than eight on the Richter scale, referred to as great earthquakes, while others experience much lower levels of seismicity.

Before reveiwing the Indus River Treaty, India should take notes from earlier dam construction in the Himalayas. ReutersBefore reveiwing the Indus River Treaty, India should take notes from earlier dam construction in the Himalayas. Reuters

Before reviewing the Indus River Treaty, India should take notes from earlier dam construction in the Himalayas. Reuters

It is one of the ironies of the Himalaya that those areas that experience low seismicity are also places where river flows are relatively small. So rivers that flow from the Indian territory into Pakistan may be eligible for only small dams, which may be safe but the reservoirs would be small and thereby not achieve the purposes imagined by those re‐examining the Treaty.

In locations prone to great earthquakes, the design of dams will have to be stringent and therefore the construction will be very costly. For example, in 1997, geologist KS Valdiya commented unfavourably on the location and design of the Tehri Dam – one of the world’s tallest dams situated on the Bhagirathi River in the earthquake‐prone state of Uttarakhand.

Landslides are also a major hazard in the Himalayas. Dangerous landslides can be caused by filling of reservoirs where adjacent hill slopes are destabilised. An extremely well documented case occurred in 1963 in Italy when about 30 million cubic metres of water was displaced from the Vaiont Reservoir by a landslide, sending a wall of water over the wall and killing 2000 people downstream.

Landslides from other causes can create waves that destabilise dams and overtop dam walls and spillways, like dropping a brick into a bath. Landslides also add sediment to reservoirs and shorten their useful lives. The Himalaya is home to great landslides, proof that the phenomenon of giant waves in reservoirs is not a figment of scientists’ fevered imaginations. In fact the Himalaya is not just a ‘hot spot’ of environmental hazards, is one the world’s ‘great hot spots’.

And of course there are great floods. The most recent was the 2013 Kedarnath/Mandakini flood in Uttarakhand. This was not just ‘great’ but also a ‘perfect storm’. The monsoon reached into the high mountains earlier than usual, and when it met cold and dry air from the Arctic it generated one of the most severe rainfall events in living memory.

The analysis of this event by the renowned Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) has made clear what happened. Floods of the magnitude of the 2013 event recur in the Alaknanda river on average every 40 years. Before the 2013 event, the largest flood was in 1970, which was one of the factors that spurred the ‘Chipko Andolan’.

We know the average frequency of extreme floods from studying flood sediments from which it has been possible to reconstruct a flood history for the past 1500 years. However, the future may be bleaker than the past. The confluence of climatic phenomena that caused the 2013 flood will recur and possibly with greater frequency. As the Arctic warms, it will send out bursts of cold air more often.

It is particularly sobering to have found that most if not all of the large floods in the Alaknanda River over the past 1500 years have occurred when the Arctic was sending out such bursts into the Himalayas. Large floods can topple dams if the design is not sufficiently stringent. Floods also carry large amounts of sediment that reduce the lifespan of reservoirs.

Even more dangerous for people and dams are floods that are generated by the bursting of lakes made by landslides and glaciers.  These are common in the Himalayas, another reason to see these mountains as a ‘great hot spot of hazards’.

Most of the Alaknanda floods were probably the result of landslide lake bursts, but glacial lake bursts also pose an increasing threat as glaciers are reduced by rising air temperatures that create lakes which eventually burst leading to a flood.

India clearly needs electricity for the good of its people. Hydroelectricity is more greenhouse gas friendly than thermal power stations, although not to the extent claimed by its proponents. Given the problems, actual and potential, of large dams it would be best to build small run‐of‐river dams for the generation of electricity; so‐called “hydels”.

Many are already built and a lot more are planned. However, once again the 2013 flood in Uttarakhand has lessons for the future. Many of the hydel dams were damaged and some destroyed. The hydels in the Himalayas are built too close together to provide for the aquatic ecosystem’s needs.

More dams in the Himalayas should be planned while honouring the safety of people and the ecology of the area. Learning from historical disasters, landslides, floods and earthquakes, the government should also adopt a ‘disaster risk reduction’ approach. A new Indus River Treaty can have long term impacts on the Himalayan mountain range. The impacts will be positive only if it is well planned in advance.

Dr Robert J Wasson is a Senior Research Fellow at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore

Shivani Ratra is a Research Associate at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore

Not responsible for remains still being found: Uttarakhand CM Harish Rawat

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat on Monday sought to absolve himself of responsibility for human remains being found in the Kedar Valley three years after the 2013 disaster, putting the blame squarely on his predecessor Vijay Bahuguna on whose orders search operations had been winded up. “Those shouting from rooftops about the state government’s failure to carry out a proper search operation should pose this question to the then CM who stopped the combing and not me who resumed it,” Rawat told reporters here without taking names. The first round of combing operations was launched and concluded during the tenure of Rawat’s predecessor Bahuguna, who is now in the BJP. Rawat said it was strange that combing operations meant to look for bodies in the wake of the massive tragedy were winded up without giving much thought to the possibility of skeletal remains still lying underneath lakhs of tonnes of debris brought about by the flash floods. The Chief Minister also took credit for the latest recovery of human skeletal remains from a forest adjoining a trek route between Triyuginarayan and Kedarnath, saying they were first sighted by a team of trekkers who had undertaken the expedition as part of a programme called ‘Hito Pahad’ conceived by the state government. He said a team constituted under the leadership of Garhwal IG Sanjay Gunjyal has so far recovered 31 skeletons from the area which are being consigned to flames amid necessary Hindu rituals after formalities like DNA sampling. He said the ongoing combing operation will be carried out at Triyuginarayn and areas close to it for the next ten days. However, the Chief Minister made it clear that considering the massive scale of the tragedy it would never be possible for any government to confidently say that this was the last human skeleton recovered”I had said even earlier that there may be skeletons still lying under lakhs of tonnes of debris lying in the area. The possibility can never be ruled out. Even when the ongoing combing operation concludes we cannot say with full confidence that we have found the last human remains,” Rawat said. The Chief Minister said that when he took over in February 2014, he was faced with the twin challenges of either scouring the jungles of Kedar valley to recover more bodies or take up the task of infrastructural reconstruction in the Chardham area to put the state’s economy back on track. “I chose the latter and took a risk. However, I am happy to say this with satisfaction today that my efforts have paid off and we have been able to give the message of a safe Uttarakhand and Chardham Yatra to the outside world – a fact corroborated by the ever rising number of visitors to the four Himalayan shrines located in the state. We have set ourselves the target of taking this number to 30-40 lakh by 2018,” he said. He also claimed that the state government had single handedly carried out all the reconstruction work in the Kedar Valley and other affected areas out of its own limited resources as the Centre had never given a helping hand. “We haven’t received even one fourth of the relief package of Rs 8,000 crore approved by the Centre so far. Still we took on the massive challenge of reconstruction out of our own meagre resources and achieved a fair amount of success,” Rawat said.

‘Recovery of human remains in Kedar no reason for surprise’, says DM

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Amid hue and cry over skeletal remains still being found in Kedar valley, Rudraprayag District Magistrate Raghav Langar on Sunday said considering the magnitude of the 2013 disaster, it would not be surprising even if human remains are found in the valley quarter of a century later. He, however, said that the ruckus being raised by political parties over skeletal remains still being found in the valley will only harm tourism in Uttarakhand, the mainstay of its economy, “I can’t understand the logic behind hue and cry over human remains being found in the valley even three years after the tragedy. Just look at the magnitude of the calamity. From Kedar valley alone 3985 people went missing who were later declared dead. Out of this skeletal remains of only 827 were found and disposed of. “That brings us to the conclusion that the rest are still untraced and lying somewhere buried under tonnes of debris.In the light of this fact I would not be surprised if human skeletal remains are found in Kedar valley even 25 years from now,” Langar told PTI. The topography of the valley has undergone imperceptible changes after the 2013 deluge and when it regains it original shape through a geological process 25 years hence, it would not be surprising if skeletal remains of people killed in the tragedy come back to the surface,” Langar said. Praising different agencies for carrying out a prolonged operation at those heights to recover human remains, Langar said they deserved a big pat on the back for the humongous effort they had put in to trace the remains of even 827 humans at a height of over 12000 feet in sub zero temperatures and amid all sorts of other odds like short supply of rations. “Over the last couple of years the state government has succeeded in giving the message of a safe Uttarakhand.People have started visiting the chardham circuit in large numbers coming in large numbers.The hue and cry being raised over the issue will only instill fear in the minds of potential visitors and deal a blow to tourism,” he said.Pradesh BJP president Ajay Bhatt had recently said that he had always been saying that there are still bodies lying in Kedarnath area but his claims were dismissed as a lie by the state government. On the latest recovery of skeletal remains from a thickly forested trek route between Triyuginarayn and Kedarnath on Thursday, he said an operation is underway in the region to verify and ascertain the facts but nothing definitive can be said at this stage.However, he said it was most likely that the remains found along the route were those of pilgrims killed in the disaster as the distance between the last human habitation at Toshi village in that area and the place where the remains have been spotted is at least 15 kms uphill.”Who will go to that distance except people faced with an unprecedented crisis and running in all directions to save their lives.It is obvious that people landed unknowingly in far removed deeply forested pockets in confusion and perished,” Langer said

India records spike in recent leprosy cases

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In 2005, India had proudly declared itself free from leprosy. Yet, current figures show that this is far from the truth. According to figures accessed by DNA by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) cases of the dreaded diseases have been increasing year by year.In 2015-16, India recorded 1, 27, 326 cases of leprosy, an increase of 1.22% from last year where 1, 25, 785 cases of leprosy was detected. In fact since 2005 cases of Grade II or permanent disabilities due to leprosy have constantly been rising over the past decade. In 2007- 08, 3477 cases of disability were recorded. This has now risen to 5,857 cases in 2015-16 — an alarming 68 percent.“The rise in cases of disability is a bad sign. This disability occurs when an active case of leprosy infection goes unreported for a long time and is untreated for over two years of active infection,” said Dr Anil Kumar, deputy director general (Leprosy), MoHFW.Leprosy is an air borne infection which attacks persons with low immunity. It may lead to permanent disability if not detected and treated in time.Doctors say that a case of leprosy will start showing signs of disability like loss of fingers and toes in two years since the setting in of the infection. If symptoms like discolouration, oily patches or nodules on the skin are reported early, disability can be avoided by starting timely treatment.The spike in cases has raised alarm bells in the Indian government. Even as leprosy stood eliminated from India, which means less than one case was recorded in a population of 10,000 or one lakh, the MoHFW is now launching a massive screening campaign to pick up cases of infection in 19 high risk states.Starting September 5, the MoHFW launched a campaign to screen 32 crore persons in Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Nagaland, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Chandigarh, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Delhi and Lakshadweep.For a country as diverse and populous as India, elimination of Leprosy at ‘national’ level can be misleading. In the recent most mass screening, MoHFW notes that it intends to cover all districts in high-burden states that have a prevalence rate of more than one Leprosy case in a population of 10,000 in the past three years. Health officials admit that certain pockets in such districts record a prevalence of as high as eight cases of leprosy in a population of 10,000.‘Elimination’ means recording less than one case of prevalence of a disease in a population of 10,000. On the other hand, ‘Eradication,’ means reducing the incidence of the disease to zero and not recording any more cases of that disease. According to available data, three in every 10,000 persons in Chattisgarh are actively infected with Leprosy, while in Odisha 2 in every 10,000 persons are infected. In Delhi, Chandigarh and Gujarat, the prevalence is more than one case in a population of 10,000.

dna Morning Must Reads: PM says those who support terror can’t go unpunished; NSG commandos deployed at Red Fort over alert; and more

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>1. War necessary at times, those supporting terror cannot go unpunished: PM ModiDrawing parallels between Ravana and modern-day terrorists, PM says those who support terror cannot go unpunished. Read more.2. Uddhav Thackeray warns BJP of ‘surgical strikes’; says ‘if you have guts, break the alliance now'”If you have the guts, break the alliance now and take us head-on, our men are ready,” said Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray warning BJP of “surgical strikes” if they snapped ties with it. Read more.3. NSG commandos deployed at Red Fort amid intelligence inputs about possible terror strikeTop Delhi Police officers told DNA that this was not a usual exercise and this was the first instance when the NSG will be camping at the Red Fort, which was attacked in 2000. Read more.4. Modi’s dream project of electrifying dark villages set to miss December dateThe deadline to achieve 100% rural electrification has been advanced twice. But several states have been severely lagging. West Bengal didn’t electrify a single village in six months, Uttarakhand and J&K did only two each. Read more.5. Not just a drag act: Why men dressed in a woman’s garb are so popular on TVHere’s taking a look at why men dressed in a woman’s garb are so popular on TV. Also, we have to ask… is it a trick tried too often now? Read more.

Govt keen 2017-18 budget should not clash with polls: Jaitley

New Delhi: Having decided to advance the budget presentation, the government is keen that it is not presented in the middle of Assembly elections in five states, said Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.

Assembly polls are due early next year in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur.

Arun Jaitley. File photo. APArun Jaitley. File photo. AP

Arun Jaitley. File photo. AP

“In principle, we have decided that we would like to… advance the date (of budget presentation),” he said.

The Cabinet on 21 September had in-principle decided to end the colonial-era tradition of presenting the Union budget on last day of February and advance it by about a month to help complete the legislative approval for the annual spending plans and tax proposals before beginning of the new financial year on 1 April.

“The reason we wanted to advance the date was that we want the entire budgetary exercise to be over and the Finance Bill to be passed and implemented from 1 April onwards rather than June because then the monsoons set in and, effectively, the expenditures start in October,” he told CNBC TV18.

Stating that the government wants expenditure to start in April itself, he said there are five state Assembly elections lined up in 2017.

“So, we are just trying to co-ordinate that you do not have to announce the Budget bang in the middle of an election date. So, it should be reasonably before that or after that,” he said.

The finance ministry had previously proposed that the Budget presentation be fixed for February 1and the entire exercise be completed by 24 March.

It wanted the Budget Session of Parliament to begin before 25 January and go in for a three-week break between 10 February and 15 before reconvening between March 10 and 15 to complete the legislative exercise.

But with Assembly elections in five states likely to be held in phases, there is a probability that this budget schedule may clash with the campaigning and the polling.

While tenure of Punjab, Manipur and Goa Assemblies is due to end on 18 March, 2017, that of Uttarakhand is till 26 March, 2017. Uttar Pradesh Assembly tenure expires on 27 May.

The Cabinet had last month also decided to scrap the 92-year old practice of having a separate railway budget and merge it with the general budget.

As things stand, the budget approval process happens in two parts spilling over the second or third week of May, hampering early implementation of schemes and spending programmes.

To facilitate early presentation of the budget, the finance ministry had proposed that the Budget Session be convened sometime before 25 January, a month ahead of the current practice.

Consequently, preparation for the Budget would start this month and GDP estimates would be made available on 7 January instead of 7 February.

Muslims should not waste votes on SP, Congress, cautions Mayawati

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Alleging that minorities were facing bias under Modi government, BSP Chief Mayawati on Sunday cautioned Muslims that voting for Samajwadi Party or Congress will only help BJP and sought their support “to stop” the saffron party.Muslims should not waste their vote as there is infighting in Samajwadi Party and Congress lacks a voter base in Uttar Pradesh, Mayawati said while addressing a rally in Lucknow on the occasion of party founder Kanshi Ram’s 10th death anniversary.”Ever since the BJP government has come at the Centre, Muslims and other minorities are being subjected to bias. The minority status of Aligarh Muslim University and Jamia Millia Islamia is being snatched away. Communal forces are becoming stronger and Muslims are being targeted in the name of love jihad, ‘gau raksha’ (cow protection) and religious conversion,” the BSP supremo alleged launching a scathing attack on the Modi government.Mayawati also made it clear that her party will go alone in the three states going to polls early next year– Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Punjab, and cautioned the people against any canard that BSP might enter into an understanding for forming as government with the BJP in case it fell short of majority. She said there was no truth in these rumours which were being spread to divide Muslim votes and asserted that such a situation will not arise.Coming down heavily on the ruling Samajwadi Party, Mayawati said because of “rampant crime and anarchy” incidents such as Muzaffarnagar, Dadri, Mathura and Bulandshahr have occurred and promised to restore rule of law in Uttar Pradesh. There is a tussle for supremacy going on in the SP between Mulayam Singh Yadav’s son Akhilesh Yadav and brother Shivpal Singh Yadav and its result will be that the Yadav vote will split as each will try to ensure the defeat of candidates owing allegiance to the other,” Mayawati said.”In such circumstances Muslims should not waste their ballot by voting for them or else it will help the BJP. Similarly Congress does not have a vote base and voting for it will also benefit BJP,” Mayawati said.”To stop the BJP, the vote should not go to either the Samajwadi Party or the Congress as with every Assembly seat having 22 to 23% Dalit votes, BSP can sail through with the help of Muslim votes or else the same scenario can emerge that was seen in 2014,” she stressed.Mayawati, who had faced criticism for spending hundreds of crores of rupees in setting up memorials of herself, Kanshi Ram and B R Ambedkar, said her party will not construct any more memorials.

Atrocities committed by BJP in name of Goraksha and religious conversion, says Mayawati at Lucknow rally

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>BSP will not forge any pre-poll alliance in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Punjab, party supremo Mayawati said at a rally held in Lucknow on the tenth death anniversary of party founder Kanshi Ram on Sunday.At the rally, Mayawati asserted that the BJP-rule was biased against minorities and said, “Atrocities have been committed in the name of Goraksha and religious conversion.”Mayawati told Muslim voters to not waste their votes on Samajwadi Party as it will benefit BJP.She also called out the BJP for politicising the surgical strikes and said, “Natakbazi on surgical strikes by BJP is to divert attention of people from failure to perform on the promises made by it during the run-up to 2014 polls.”In the wake of the recent defections from the party, some 13 sitting MLAs planned to showcase the BSP’s strength through the event.According to a Northern Railway release, an advisory had been issued to passengers travelling on October 9 to avoid the rush. A minimum of 10,000 supporters were expected to attend the rally.The BSP leaders have been holding meetings in all the areas of the state to mobilise their supporters.

35-year-old Dalit man beheaded in Uttarakhand for using flour mill; accused arrested

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A 35-year-old Dalit man was beheaded allegedly by a primary school teacher who accused him of rendering “impure” a flour mill by using it before the upper caste villagers in Uttarakhand’s Bageshwar district, a senior police officer said on Friday.Sohan Ram died when he was assaulted with a sickle by Lalit Karnatak after he protested an insulting remark against his caste, Bageshwar SP Sukhbir Singh told PTI on phone.The accused was arrested on Thursday and sent to Almora jail this morning, the SP said, adding that he was charged with murder and under provisions of the SC and ST (Prevention Of Atrocities) Act.The incident occurred on Tuesday evening in Kadaria village of Bageshwar bordering Pithoragarh. The victim Sohan had gone to a flour mill owned by Kundan Kumar Singh to take back his wheat flour, the SP said.When Lalit, who teaches at a primary school in a neighbouring village, saw Sohan at the flour mill, he made an insulting remark on his caste, saying the flour mill had been “rendered impure” by him.As Sohan protested, Lalit attacked him with a sickle on the neck in a fit of rage, beheading him.According to villagers, both Dalits and upper castes had been using the mill. But in view of the ongoing Navratri festival the upper castes had issued a diktat to the Dalit families to use the mill only after flour has been prepared for offering to deities.

Uttarakhand BJP leader Rautela joins Congress ahead of assembly polls

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In what is being seen as a shot in the arm for ruling Congress ahead of the Assembly polls in Uttarakhand, influential Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader from Ranikhet, Narendra Rautela, has joined the party along with his supporters.Rautela who joined the party at Congress office in Dehradun on Wednesday, in the presence of Police Clearance Certificate (PCC) president Kishore Upadhyay was welcomed into the party fold by Chief Minister Harish Rawat, saying it will strengthen the party.Political observers in Dehradun feel that Congress has made a dent into the BJP citadel of Ranikhet represented in the state assembly currently by Uttarkhand BJP president Ajay Bhatt.However, BJP described Rautela’s defection to Congress as “good riddance” for the party.”Rautela’s departure will make no difference to BJP. Even while he was with us, he worked for Congress. It is good riddance for BJP ,” state BJP spokesman Munna Singh Chauhan said.Countering the perception that Rautela’s defection to Congress was a shot in the arm for the party in power ahead of assembly polls in the state, the BJP spokesman said Rautela seldom visits his area and has lost his support base.Assembly polls in Uttarakhand are due next year.

President Pranab Mukherjee visits Kedarnath temple for the first time since assuming office

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>President Pranab Mukherjee paid obeisance at the Kedarnath shrine in Uttarakhand on Wednesday, it is his second day of his three-day visit to the hill state.Accompanied by Governor KK Paul and Chief Minister Harish Rawat, the President spent about an hour at the temple offering prayers and taking a round of it, Sri Badrinath-Sri Kedarnath Mandir Samiti CEO VD Singh said. The President also took stock of the reconstruction work carried out at Kedarnath which bore the brunt of the June 2013 calamity.It was the President’s first visit to the centuries-old shrine after assuming office. Two of his proposed visits to the temple in the past were cancelled due to bad weather conditions.Mandir Samiti chairman Ganesh Godiyal welcomed the President by offering him eleven Brahmakamals (a variety of lotus) and a replica of the idol of Kedarnath, the mandir Samiti official said. Godiyal led the President into the sanctum sanctorum of the temple where he offered prayers.The Governor, the Chief Minister and Mandir Samiti officials showed the President around to give him an idea of the reconstruction work carried out at the temple and nearby areas. Mukherjee returned to Dehradun at around 10.30 AM and headed straight to Ashiana, the President’s retreat in the city where he will stay for the duration of his visit, which is scheduled to conclude on Thursday after he witnesses a Ganga Aarti on the banks of the Ganga at Har Ki Pauri in Haridwar.

Swachh mission turns 2, Centre plans ‘chai pe charcha’ to customize sanitation programme

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Two years after coming to power, Modi government plans to revive its popular ‘chai par charcha’ campaign. As the Union government celebrates the second Swachh Bharat Mission anniversary, it plans to hold a nationwide ‘chai par charcha’ with urban local bodies and village panchayats to discuss, fine tune and customize the sanitation programme.Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his address to the nation through ‘Mann ki Baat’ on Sunday, highlighted the swachh mission’s achievements and spoke about making sanitation a sustainable model, which can generate employment and help earn revenue.A week-long programme that begins from Monday, will enlist the participation of local bodies, students, sanitation workers and railway employees. Flagging off the programme, the government plans to launch an audio visual message on Swachh Bharat, with actor Amitabh Bachchan and cricketer Sachin Tendulkar as its brand ambassadors. “We will also be releasing five short films that have been produced by BBC India. As part of a pilot project, these films will be aired in digital cinemas in Delhi and Mumbai,” said Akshay Rawat, OSD for Swacch Bharat Mission in the drinking water and sanitation ministry.”Chai par charcha will be held at the village level, where village heads and other prominent citizens will discuss sanitation issues and work on a solution to make their villages open defecation free (ODF),” said a senior panchayati raj ministry official. The ministry will be monitoring the meetings and looking into suggestions proposed by the villages.Over the week, about one lakh villages across the country will be declared ODF. Porbandar, Narmada and Mehsana of Gujarat will take the lead, followed by villages from Andhra Pradesh and Kerala. “We have identified 19 districts from six states that have attained the ODF target. These districts will be announced over the week,” added Rawat.The villages identified under the Namami Ganga project in Uttarakhand will also be declared ODF.Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday also highlighted the BJP’s accomplishments in relation to Swachh Bharat. “We have increased cleanliness awareness. We have had a good start and are moving in the right direction,” said Modi in his ‘Mann Ki Baat’ address. The PM also announced that 2.48 crore toilets were built in rural areas, with 1.5 crore additional toilets to be constructed next year.Modi has announced making the Swachh Bharat Mission a sustainable model. “We want to make sanitation a revenue-generating sustainable model to create employment and convert waste into energy,” added Modi.

All eyes on PM Modi in Kozhikode as he makes first public speech since Uri attack

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Over 3,000 kms from Uri, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be making his first public speech after the terror attack, on the Kozhikode beach on Saturday. Uri has cast a shadow over the BJP national council meet in this coastal city, which has an unfamiliar saffron hue lined with posters of senior party leaders and ideologue Deendayal Upadhyay.The national council meeting, which is generally held over two days, will be held only on Sunday and end with Modi launching the birth centenary celebrations of Upadhyay, from a dais which has been decorated with Kerala architecture in the backdrop and snake boats on either side in front. The party has made some last minute changes and there will be no national executive meeting. Sources said there was still uncertainty over the Prime Minister’s exact schedule, as it would depend on the tension on the border.Amidst a growing clamour within the party for a muscular response to Pakistan, BJP leaders are poring over the wording of the political resolution, which is expected to seek a tough stand against Pakistan. However, the BJP’s line will be in sync with that of the government’s approach in the aftermath of Uri, sources said.The party is treading cautiously as there is acknowledgment that there was no scope for overt action. At the same time, it is banking on the government to carry out some covert operations that will leave India’s stamp. The party leadership has already received views of various state units on the issue, the sources said.For a party, which came to power on the promise of zero tolerance to terrorism, pressure has mounted after the Uri attack. The resolution, which will also focus on Upadhyay’s philosophy of integral humanism and antyodaya, has to be approved by the national council.The BJP has included an evening devoted to nationalism after the Prime Minister’s rally with a musical play directed by Malayalam film director Ali Akbar on the theme of patriotism. The Party has already located around 500 people who were present at that 1967 session to invite them for a “smriti sandhya”, to go on a nostalgic journey.The focus of the BJP conclave was to pay tributes to Upadhyay, nearly five decades after he was elected Jan Sangh president here.Around 1700 party leaders will gather here for the meet, in which the BJP has planned to highlight pro-poor schemes of the Modi government.With UP, Punjab and Uttarakhand elections coming up early next year, the party leadership is expected to hold discussions with the state leaders on the sidelines.

PM Modi promises full support to 5 flood-hit states

Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand are affected with incessant rains; Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that Home Minister Rajnath Singh was closely monitoring the situation and had spoken to CMs of all the five states. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday expressed concern over the worsening flood situation in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand and promised total support from the Centre in rescue and relief operations. He spoke to UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, official sources said.Modi said Home Minister Rajnath Singh was closely monitoring the situation and had spoken to Chief Ministers of the five states to take stock of rescue and relief operations.In Madhya Pradesh, torrential rains have lashed western parts disrupting normal life. The Ganga had crossed the danger mark in West Bengal, Bihar and neighbouring districts of Uttar Pradesh on Sunday where Yamuna river is also in spate, while heavy rainfall has created a flood-like situation in some parts of Rajasthan where six persons have died so far.

Over 26,000 people rescued from 5 flood-hit states: NDRF

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>More than 26,400 people have so far been rescued by the NDRF from the flood-ravaged areas in Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and other states.The National Disaster Response Force has fanned out 56 rescue and relief teams to help people hit by heavy rains in various states and tasked two Deputy Inspector General-rank officers in Bihar and UP with monitoring the situation.”So far, the NDRF teams have evacuated more than 26,400 people from various flood-prone areas in the country this monsoon season. Besides the rescue work, these teams have provided medical care to the more than 9,100 people in these states,” the force said.The rescue operations are underway in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh.In Bihar, NDRF teams evacuated 3,400 people from Didarganj, 580 from Bakhtiyarpur, 545 from Danapur, 380 from Chhapra, 355 from Vaishali and 15 from Maner in Patna.The force said 11 flood rescue teams rescued 275 people from Ballia, 275 from Varanasi and 325 from Chitrakoot in Uttar Pradesh on Sunday.147 marooned people were shifted to safer places from Rewa district in Madhya Pradesh.”An NDRF team pre-positioned in Sikkim conducted similar operations in Tingbung and Lingdang villages and evacuated more than 450 people,” it said.Prime Minister Narendra Modi has promised total support to these flood-hit states in conduct of rescue and relief operations.He said Home Minister Rajnath Singh is closely monitoring the situation and has spoken to chief ministers of of these states.Singh had a telephonic conversation with chief ministers Akhilesh Yadav (UP), Harish Rawat (Uttarakhand), Nitish Kumar (Bihar) and Vasundhara Raje (Raje) this morning and took stock of the flood situation in their respective states.

Over 26,000 people rescued so far from five flood-hit states: NDRF

New Delhi: More than 26,400 people have so far been rescued by the NDRF from the flood-ravaged areas in Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and other states.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

The National Disaster Response Force has fanned out 56 rescue and relief teams to help people hit by heavy rains in various states and tasked two Deputy Inspector General-rank officers in Bihar and UP with monitoring the situation.

“So far, the NDRF teams have evacuated more than 26,400 people from various flood-prone areas in the country this monsoon season. Besides the rescue work, these teams have provided medical care to the more than 9,100 people in these states,” the force said.

The rescue operations are underway in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh.

In Bihar on Sunday, NDRF teams evacuated 3,400 people from Didarganj, 580 from Bakhtiyarpur, 545 from Danapur, 380 from Chhapra, 355 from Vaishali and 15 from Maner in Patna.

The force said 11 flood rescue teams rescued 275 people from Ballia, 275 from Varanasi and 325 from Chitrakoot in Uttar Pradesh on Sunday.

147 marooned people were shifted to safer places from Rewa district in Madhya Pradesh on Sunday.

“An NDRF team pre-positioned in Sikkim conducted similar operations in Tingbung and Lingdang villages and evacuated more than 450 people yesterday,” it said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday promised total support to these flood-hit states in conduct of rescue and relief operations.

He said Home Minister Rajnath Singh is closely monitoring the situation and has spoken to chief ministers of of these states.

Singh had a telephonic conversation with chief ministers Akhilesh Yadav (UP), Harish Rawat (Uttarakhand), Nitish Kumar (Bihar) and Vasundhara Raje (Raje) this morning and took stock of the flood situation in their respective states.

Floods in Bihar and Rajasthan: Situation remains critical, PM Modi assures Centre’s support

As the flood situation in Bihar remains critical, the Army and the Air Force have been requested to stay on alert in case of any fatalities, reported India Today.

Two lakh people have reportedly lost their homes in flood ravaged Bihar, as waters from Sone and Ganga rivers breached embankments, reported NDTV.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh, on Monday, spoke to chief ministers of four flood-hit states — Bihar, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand — and assured Centre’s help in dealing with the disaster.

“I assured the chief ministers of full cooperation from the Centre in the flood mitigation drive launched by the states,” an official statement said.

Modi too expressed his concern over the situation in flood-hit areas and assured complete support from the Centre in rescue and relief operations.

The rising water level of Ganga has affected all the districts situated along the banks of the river in Bihar.

Ganga and five other rivers have been flowing above the danger mark in Patna, Bhagalpur, Khagaria, Katihar, Siwan, Bhojpurand Buxar districts, prompting officials to keep a close watch over the situation.

Villagers navigate through flooded waters in Patna. PTI.Villagers navigate through flooded waters in Patna. PTI.

Villagers navigate through flooded waters in Patna. PTI.

The Ganga river has been flowing at maximum level (above danger mark) of the season at six places in various parts of three districts- Digha ghat, Gandhi ghat, Hathidah in Patna, Bhagalpur and Kahalgaon in Bhagalpur district and Buxar district, a Disaster Management Department statement said.

Other rivers flowing above danger mark are — River Sone at Koilwar (Bhojpur) River Punpun at Sripalpur (in Patna), while Ghaghra remained in spate at Gangpur-Siswan in Siwan district, Kosi at Baltara and Kursela in Katihar district and Burhi Gandak in Khagaria, it said.

Five teams of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) had been deployed in Patna on Sunday, while two teams in Vaishali district to step up the relief and rescue operation in their flood-affected riverine areas, the department said.

It was also decided to take the flood-affected people residing in riverine areas to safer places in relief camps where they would be provided food, water, medical facilities.

The Air Force at Gorakhpur has also been asked to be on alert so that it can be used to drop food packets to the affected areas, if needed.

The Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said that holidays of all the officers have been cancelled in order to facilitate their deployment in flood affected areas.

All the DMs and SPs of flood affected districts would keep moving in order to assess the ground realities, he said adding that DMs would carry out aerial survey of their respective districts.

Nitish Kumar has also demanded that a team of experts look into the problem of silt in rivers, reported NDTV. 

With inputs from agencies.