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Air Marshal C Hari Kumar to take charge of Western Air Command

Thu, 29 Dec 2016-03:00pm , New Delhi , ANI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Air Marshal C Hari Kumar, who is the present Commander in Chief of Eastern Air Command, will be the next Commander in Chief of the Western Air Command.Air Marshal SB Deo will be the next Vice Chief of the Air Staff. He is presently the Commander in Chief of the Western Air Command. Deo will take over from Air Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa, who is all set to be the new Indian Air Force (IAF) chief. He will hand over the charge of the Western Air Command to Hari Kumar. Deo was commissioned into the fighter stream in 1979.Prior to taking over as Air Officer Commanding in Chief of Western Air Command, Deo was the Director General Air Operations at Air Headquarters and Air Officer Commanding in Chief of Eastern Air Command.

Scale of child slavery shocking in India’s spinning mills – research | Reuters

By Anuradha Nagaraj

CHENNAI, India (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Various forms of slavery, including child labour, are present in more than 90 percent of south India’s spinning mills which produce yarn for Western brands, researchers said, calling for mapping of supply chains and tougher audits.The India Committee of the Netherlands (ICN), a human rights organisation, spoke to workers from almost half the mills in Tamil Nadu, the largest producer of cotton yarn in the country.Most female workers employed in the 734 mills involved in the research were aged between 14 and 18, it said, and up to 20 percent of the workers were younger than 14.It said employees were forced to work long hours by employers who often withheld their pay or locked them up in company-controlled hostels. Many also faced sexual harassment.”We have raised the issue for five years now, but even to us the scale of this problem came as a shock,” ICN Director Gerard Oonk said in a statement.K. Venkatachalam, chief advisor of the Tamil Nadu Spinning Mills Association, said he was not aware of the research.He said the state government had recently filed a report to the Madras High Court “clearly stating that these issues are no longer prevalent in the industry”.”The matter has been closed,” Venkatachalam told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

India is one of the world’s largest textile and garment manufacturers. The southern state of Tamil Nadu is home to some 1,600 mills, employing between 200,000 and 400,000 workers.Traditionally the dyeing units, spinning mills and apparel factories have drawn on cheap labour from villages across Tamil Nadu to turn cotton into yarn, fabric and clothes, most of it for Western high street shops.Most workers are young women from poor, illiterate and low-caste or “Dalit” communities, who often face intimidation, sexually offensive remarks and harassment.

ICN said in more than half of the mills it researched, workers were not allowed to leave company-controlled hostels after working hours.Only 39 mills paid the minimum wage and in half the mills, a standard working week involved 60 hours or more of work. “Supervisors torture girls to extract work beyond their capacity,” ICN quoted an 18-year-old former worker as saying.Another teenage girl, Kalaichelvi, who earned around 8,000 rupees ($118) a month, told researchers she was forced to work for 12 hours straight with no breaks for lunch or to use the bathroom.

She said she suffered from burning eyes, rashes, fever, aching legs and stomach problems due to the working conditions. About a third of the yarn produced by workers like Kalaichelvi is used in export factories in Tamil Nadu that produce garments for many global brands.Citing poor enforcement of labour laws and “superficial audits” by buying brands, the ICN called on the industry and government to map supply chains and publish sourcing details.It also called for factories that upheld standards to be rewarded.($1=67.8650 Indian rupees) (Reporting by Anuradha Nagaraj, Editing by Katie Nguyen. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking and climate change. Visit

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

First Published On : Dec 22, 2016 19:34 IST

Superseded Gen Bakshi meets Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar

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

Mumbai: Deadly stunt takes youth’s life as bike catches fire after accident

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A teenager died on Saturday night while performing daring motorcycle stunts near Bandra on Western Express Highway in Mumbai when one of the bikes involved in performing the stunts crashed and caught fire.The deceased, who has been identified as 22-year-old Abhijeet Gurav, died on the spot, while Aakash Rajput and Jafar Sheikh were seriously injured. They have been admitted to Babha hospital for treatment.According to a report, the group of bikers perform dangerous stunts at Bandra Reclamation, Nariman Point and Bandra Kurla Complex, every Saturday and Sunday night. The report also said that these bikers did not fear the police and would beat up any person who would attempt to stop them from performing stunts.

Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag visits Western Command for last time as Army chief

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Army Chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag on Sunday visited Chandimandir military station near Chandigarh on his farewell visit to Western Command.Lt Gen Surinder Singh, GOC-in-C Western Command, received the Army Chief, who was accompanied by his wife Namita Suhag, a defence spokesman said in Chandigarh.The Army Chief was accorded a warm farewell by all ranks of Western Command, he said.During the visit, Suhag addressed all officers of Western Command and applauded all ranks for their selfless commitment and fortitude in discharging their duties under trying circumstances. He exhorted all ranks to inculcate high standard of professionalism and to uphold the core values of Army.Later, the Army Chief whose term ends this month, called on Haryana Governor Kaptan Singh Solanki and Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, the spokesman said.

Rs 66 lakh in new notes seized in Hyderabad, Rs 18 lakh in Noida, 3 arrested

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Income Tax department has seized Rs 66 lakh cash, all in new Rs 2000 notes, as part of the anti-black money crackdown operations in Hyderabad, while Rs 18 lakh in new currency notes were seized in Delhi.The first incident, that occurred in Hyderabad on the night of December 16, was reported at the Telugu Academy in Himayatnagar when an I-T team intercepted few people who ran into a nearby apartment on seeing the team.”Search of the apartment led to recovery of Rs 36 lakh cash, all in Rs 2000 denomination. Sources of the cash are being probed into,” I-T sources said.In the second incident in the same city on December 17, department investigators along with police intercepted a speeding Honda Activa in the Tank Bund area.”Cash of Rs 30 lakh in Rs 2000 denomination was found with two persons.The case is being probed,” they said.The three accused in Noida case –Vinay Kumar from Jind, and Mahendra Kumar and Praveen Kumar from Hisar–were arrested on Saturday evening by a team of Uttar Pradesh Anti Terrorist Squad and Income Tax Department.”The arrests were made following a tip off that some people were carrying a huge amount of counterfeit currency in Bhishanpura village in Sector 57,” Deputy Superintendent of Police UP ATS (Western UP Wing) Anoop Singh said.The team searched the car of the accused following which Rs 18 lakh in new currency notes of Rs 2000 was found, he said.No counterfeit or old currency notes were found. The car has also been impounded, the DSP said.The team is interrogating the accused and more arrests and seizures are expected on basis of the information, he said.

Two killed,15 injured as INS Betwa tips over

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Two personnel were killed on Monday and 15 others injured when INS Betwa, a guided missile frigate, tipped over during undocking at Naval Dockyard in Mumbai. “There has been an incident in the cruiser grounding dock at Naval Dockyard in Mumbai involving INS Betwa. The incident occurred during undocking evolution wherein it is suspected that dock blocks mechanism failed,” navy spokesperson Capt D K Sharma said. Explaining the situation, he said the 3,850-tonne ship, having a length of 126 metres, tipped over while it was being undocked. The mast of the ship hit the dockyard ground, he said.It was docked for repairs and while being returned to the water — a process that involves tipping the ship — the system tripped and the entire ship fell sideways. The main mast of the frigate broke.While two naval personnel died, 15 others were injured with one of them in a serious condition, the spokesman said. INS Betwa, a Brahmaputra-class guided missile warship (F-39), slipped on the dock blocks during a refit at about 1350 hours.Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Sunil Lanba will take stock of the INS Betwa, a frigate of the Indian Navy, wherein two sailors succumbed to injuries post the incident. Lanba on Monday left for Mumbai to assess the situation.The ship had run aground in January 2014 and collided with an unidentified object which led to a crack in its sonar system, and had also seen salt water ingress into sensitive equipment.Named after the river Betwa, the frigate has been in service for over 12 years. It was indigenously designed and built with the capability to operate at extended ranges, with speeds up to 30 knots.It is one of the key warships of the Western Naval Command. It is armed with Uran anti-ship missiles, Barak 1 surface-to-air missiles and torpedoes.

Restocking Sahyadri for the tigers

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>To enhance the prey base for carnivores in the Sahyadri tiger reserve, state forest department officials are planning to restock the habitat located in the Western Ghats with deer. Senior state forest department officials said that they commissioned a study that would examine the relocation of ungulates from sites like Sagareshwar wildlife sanctuary, Katraj zoo in Pune and Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Mumbai which have sufficient population. The project is aimed at eventually enhancing tiger numbers in the Sahyadri tiger project. The reserve currently has around five to seven tigers, with no resident big cats. These numbers are low as the big cats do not breed there due to poor prey base in the Koyna wildlife sanctuary. A forest official told DNA that the herbivore restocking would see animals like sambar and chital being released into the habitat. “The two-year study will keep a track of the ungulate population and the feasibility of the relocation. Their landscape too will be mapped into grids,” he added. The area will have one male and two or three females released into each grid. “We will create water holes to attract herbivores and also undertake other habitat development works. This may lead to them migrating to the core area. If this does not increase the numbers, we may have to translocate and re-stock them,” the official said. A few deer were introduced in the reserve in 2014 from Katraj Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre and the Sagareshwar sanctuary to boost the prey base. The forest department is now planning to relocate tigers from the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Project, Vidarbha to repopulate the reserve in this first experiment in the wild in Maharashtra.

Seeking divine intervention amidst boardroom battle? Mistry visits Shirdi, Shani Shingnapur

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Amid his boardroom battle with Tata Sons, industrialist Cyrus Mistry said on Saturday “everything will be fine” as he visited the famous Saibaba and Shani Shingnapur temples to offer prayers. Accompanied by his wife, Mistry, who was ousted as Chairman of Tata Steel on Friday, arrived in Shirdi by a helicopter this morning and had ‘darshan’ of Shri Saibaba at the temple, where tight security arrangements were made in view of his visit.Mediapersons, including photographers, were not allowed near the shrine during the short visit of Mistry, who was last month ousted at the chairman of Tata Sons – the holding company of Tata Group firms. Temple spokesperson Mohan Yadav confirmed Mistry’s visit to the popular shrine dedicated to Saibaba, a 19th century saint revered by people across communities.From there, Mistry and his wife went to the renowned Shani Shingnapur Temple. The shrine, dedicated to Lord Shani, who personifies the planet Saturn in Hindu belief, is located at a short distance from Shirdi in this Western Maharashtra district.
ALSO READ Mistry ousted from Tata Steel, hits back saying ‘erosion of core Tata values damaging brand’Keeping with the tradition followed by devotees, Mistry and his wife poured oil on an idol of Lord Shani. They, however, did not go up to the ‘chabutra’, or the sanctum sanctorum, as it was closed on Saturday. When reporters asked him about the ongoing boardroom brawl over control of the Tata Group, Mistry said, “Everything thing will be fine (sab theek ho jaega).” The 50-year-old businessman was abruptly ousted on October 24 as Chairman of Tata Sons, the holding company of the diversified Group. He was later removed as Chairman of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS).

Man drives car onto Andheri station platform

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A day before the eighth anniversary of the 26/11 terror attack on Mumbai, the Railway Protection Force (RPF) unit of Western Railway was left red-faced after a man drove his car right onto the first platform of Andheri station, one of the country’s busiest stations. Rajesh Yadav, 36, drove from a ramp in the north-west end of the station and then came onto platform number 6 — used by CST-Andheri Harbour trains — causing panic and amusement among commuters in equal measure. The incident happened around 3.15pm and Yadav was apprehended by RPF at 3.30pm.RPF officers said that the car — a Toyota Innova numbered MH-06-AF-7469 — has been confiscated. Yadav was charged under sections 154 (Endangering safety of persons travelling by railway), 145 (nuisance) and 147 (trespassing into railway territory) of the Railway Act, 1989. Incidentally, the RPF admitted that the portion of the station where the incident happened is not covered by any CCTV camera.”He works for a company as a driver. According to his statement, he had not slept for the past two days and due to that he could not make out the entrance of the railway platform,” said Deepak Devraj, Deputy Commissioner of Railway Police, Western Railway.Speaking to DNA, Shailesh Gupta, Additional Divisional Railway Manager of Western Railway, said: “This is a worrisome incident. It happened because several ramps that lead into the stations do not have barricades because we need to allow wheel chairs inside. However, now we have decided to barricade these ramps in such a way that at least four-wheelers can’t access stations.”But the fact that it caught the RPF napping was undeniable. Several of the top RPF officers of both the division and zone were unaware of the details of the incident even as late as 6pm. A message sent to Railway Protection Force Director General SK Bhagat on whether this was a massive security goof-up did not elicit a response.About driver YadavRajesh Yadav is a resident of Salim Chawl in the Guzdar Bund area of Santa Cruz and is employed as a driver with Gammon India, a construction firm with its office at Prabhadevi. Yadav told the police that while returning from the airport after dropping a company official, he lost his way which finally landed him inside the station. He was taken to Cooper hospital for a medical test.

India-Pak relations cannot continue at cost of national security: Parrikar

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In the wake of the escalating tension at the border with Pakistan, Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Monday said that good relations with neighbouring nations are always welcomed but not at the cost of national security.”Prime Minister Narendra Modi made efforts to maintain the relations with the neighbouring country, the people criticised him for that too. We would welcome good relations with any neighbour. Two neighbours being friendly always helps, but at the same time not at the cost of national security,” said Parrikar said at the commissioning ceremony of INS Chennai.Commenting on the consistent ceasefire violation by Pakistan on the Line of Control (LoC), he said that the Indian Army does not initiate any action unless provoked from the other side of the border.Parrikar asserted that standard procedures are being followed to bring back Indian jawan Chandu Babulal Chauhan, who inadvertently crossed the LoC, and added the Pakistan Government has assured that he is alive and safe.Throwing light on his upcoming visit to Bangladesh, Parrikar said it is a planned trip, adding a Defence Minister should visit neighbouring nations to build good ties.Parrikar described the commissioning of INS Chennai as a historic day for the Indian Navy.Following the commissioning, INS Chennai will be placed under the operational and administrative control of the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Naval Command. On completion of some additional sea trials of ship-borne systems, it will be assigned to the Western Fleet and would be based at Mumbai.INS Chennai, manufactured by Mazagaon Dock Shipbuilders Limited, Mumbai, is among the largest destroyers constructed in India having a length of 164 meter and displacement of over 7,500 tonne. The ship is a potent platform capable of undertaking a variety of tasks and missions, spanning the full spectrum of maritime warfare.Armed with supersonic surface to surface ‘BrahMos’ missiles and ‘Barak-8’ long range surface to air missiles, the ship possesses formidable prowess of missile technology. The undersea warfare capable boasts of indigenously developed anti-submarine weapons and sensors, prominently the Hull Mounted Sonar ‘HUMSA-NG’, Heavyweight Torpedo Tube Launchers, Rocket Launchers and Towed Arrau sonar capability.

Indigenously designed guided missile destroyer ‘INS Chennai’ commissioned in Indian Navy

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Monday commissioned ‘INS Chennai’, the third indigenously designed guided missile destroyer in the Kolkata class, in Mumbai.Built at the Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Ltd in Mumbai, the ship’s construction also marks the end of the Project 15A to build Kolkata-class guided missile destroyers.Chief of the Naval Staff, Admiral Sunil Lanba, was also present on the occasion.With an overall length of 164 metres and displacement of over 7,500 tons, ‘INS Chennai’ is one of the largest destroyers in the Indian Navy’s fleet.The ship is armed with supersonic surface-to-surface BrahMos missiles and Barak-8 long range surface-to-air missiles.The ship is going to be assigned to the western fleet after completion of some additional trials of systems deployed on it. It is the final destroyer ship in this class.The first ship of the class, named ‘INS Kolkata’, was commissioned on August 16, 2014, followed by ‘INS Kochi’ which was commissioned on September 30, 2015.The third destroyer will be placed under the operational and administrative control of the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief Western Naval Command.

Mumbai, Delhi police crack down on rumours

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Mumbai police have formed a special team to trace rumour-mongers in the city, after their Twitter handle was swamped with messages from citizens informing them about rumours of price rise on essential commodities, and black marketing. “Our team is keeping close watch on the issue of rumour-mongering, and if we get concrete information about those indulging in this, then cases will be filed against them,” said Ashok Dudhe, Mumbai police Spokesperson, and Deputy Commissioner of Police.The Mumbai police tweeted, “Please do not believe in any rumours. There is no shortage of #salt or any other necessary commodity nor any price hike information. #RumourAlert, Strict action will be taken against all rumour mongers claiming shortage/price hike of #salt.”The state government too had termed the information of shortage in supply of edible salt as baseless. “There have been rumours of salt shortage since yesterday but situation in entire state is normal. There is no shortage of salt in any dist. CM @Dev_Fadnavis directs all the Collectors to take strict measures to ensure there’s no panic and act against those spreading rumours. Dept asked all dist supply officers to ensure there’s no hoarding of salt or any essential commodity & no inconvenience be caused to people,” Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had tweeted on November 12. (sic)Meanwhile, rumours of salt shortage across the country, along with whatsapp messages about truck drivers going on strike, were an attempt to create panic, Delhi Police informed the Centre on Saturday. Police sources told DNA that the salt shortage rumour has been tracked to Western UP and the local police there have been informed. A message on social media went viral stating that salt prices have shot up, and salt will be sold at Rs 300 per kg.It led to panic and unrest among the public in the national Capital some of whom took to the roads and turned violent. The Delhi Police cyber team who had been constantly monitoring social media to check the rumours, finally traced it to Western Uttar Pradesh. “The hashtag (#) on the twitter account of one person helped us to trace the location,” said a senior police officer.

Demonetization: High-and-might left high and dry, Parliament House ATMs too run dry

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Mirroring state of affairs across the country, ATMs in high security Parliament House complex as well as top government offices like North Block, that houses Ministries of Finance and Home, ran out of cash within hours, leaving the high-and-mighty high and dry. Cash crunch in many parts was quite severe as banks were closed in North and Western India. The situation, as far ATMs are concerned, is still grim even though a task force under the chairmanship of RBI Deputy Governor SS Mundra was set up to expedite the normal working of cash vending machine.Branches in the Southern India witnessed a huge rush of people for replacement and withdrawal of currency as weekly limit for withdrawal has been raised to Rs 24,000. The average waiting period in queue in the Southern and Eastern part of India was not less than 4 hours and people were seen queuing up with the day break at branches.Many branches also reported cash shortages compelling people to return empty handed after waiting in the queue for long. Faced with cash crunch for meeting daily needs are making people frustrated and falling prey to black marketeers. Getting cash-strapped with each passing day, people did not seem impressed with the government’s last night decision to increase the weekly and daily withdrawal limit from banks and ATMs. “This is becoming unbearable now. How long can we afford to be in the queue to get money which we toiled to earn. My family is on the verge of starvation,” said Damodar Kamble, who tried his luck at an ATM in suburban Mumbai.
ALSO READ FinMin begins daily review exercise to assess cash crunch problems, take actionThe rationing of valid currency notes through bank branches is taking toll on small businesses too in the semi-urban and rural area as supply is getting choked due to cash shortage. Taking cognisance of the hardship faced by small traders, the government has decided to increase the cash withdrawal limit to Rs 50,000 per week. “Considering the cash availability, (for) the business entity having current account for past three months, the limit has been increased to Rs 50,000 per week to pay wages and meet sundry expenses,” Economic Affairs Secretary Shaktikanta Das said.In order to ease cash situation, the government has formed a team of seven joint secretaries to monitor on regular basis the shortage of the currency. Each joint secretary has been assigned 3-4 states and banks for constant monitoring of currency supply situation and make action plan, Das said.

India will defend sovereignty with all its might: President Pranab Mukherjee

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>While India is committed to peace, it will use all its “might” to protect the sovereignty of the nation drawing strength from its armed forces, President Pranab Mukherjee said on Thursday. “India’s increasing eminence in the comity of nations also draws its strength from the ever increasing capabilities of our armed forces. Though we remain firmly committed to peace, we will use all our might to protect the sovereignty of our nation, and I am confident that our valiant men and women in uniform will rise to the occasion to meet the challenges triumphantly,” he said.Mukherjee, the supreme commander of the armed forces, was speaking after presenting the President’s Standards to the 501 Signals Unit, based in Barnala, and 30 Squadron, raised in Tezpur, Assam, at the Indian Air Force base here.The 30 Squadron operates the combat superior Sukhoi-30MKI fighter aircraft to secure Indian skies in times of peace and war. The President’s Standards are given to armed forces units which render exceptional and dedicated service over a period of time.The President said the country’s armed forces, exemplified by the air warriors, epitomise “grit and determination” in fulfilling their responsibilities by upholding the highest standards of service ethos. He praised the Indian Air Force for being at the “cutting edge” of county’s military might and for being at the forefront of disaster relief and humanitarian aid operations.The 30 Squadron of the IAF was raised on November 1, 1969 and at present the unit is located at Pune under the control of South Western Air Command. The 501 Signals Unit has been entrusted with the responsibility of defending the Punjab Sector against the western adversary. The unit is located at Barnala in Punjab under the functional control of HQ Western Air Command. The unit commenced operations right from its inception in 1966. In the 1971 Indo-Pak War, the unit proved its mettle by providing uninterrupted surveillance and tactical control over air defence weapons in the Punjab sector.The President asked both the IAF units decorated today to “uphold their rich traditions” and operate as a formidable fighting force in the years to come. A display by the famed helicopter-borne ‘Surya Kiran’ acrobatics team and other drills by IAF soldiers was conducted during the event. Haryana Governor Kaptan Singh Sonaki, Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, Health Minister Anil Vij, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha and Air Marshal SB Deo were among those present on the occasion.

State to count, map out bird species

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>For better wildlife management and conservation and to arrive at an estimate of various bird species in the ecologically sensitive Western Ghats landscape, the state forest department has launched an avifauna study in the Sahyadri Tiger Reserve (STR). While revealing details of endemic birds, it will also disclose species which were not recorded earlier.The study by researchers and experts from the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun, will map various species of birds found in the protected areas of the STR, namely the Koyna wildlife sanctuary and Chandoli national park and it’s buffer along with their distribution, density and habitat. This will help draw up a long-term conservation management and action plan.“This will help us arrive at a list of species, sub-species and new species of birds and diversity of hill birds in the Western Ghats” said V Clement Ben, Chief conservator of forests and project director of the STR, adding that the study would continue for 18 months. Ben noted that this would also improve wildlife management in the region. At present, the tiger project has recorded around 275 birds including endangered and threatened species. The various species of birds found in Chandoli and Koyna include hornbills, Indian river tern, long-billed vultures, woodpeckers and crested goshawks.Gopi G.V, scientist, WII, said that the study would reveal species richness and abundance in the landscape.”We are looking at land use and land cover categories in the landscape and the species components of birds and their estimated abundance,” he added, noting that based on the findings, a long-term conservation and management plan for the landscape could be developed. “Since the landscape is difficult and rugged, we are recording bird calls and trying to identify species,” said Gopi, adding that a sighting-based protocol based on observation was also being used. The study is being funded by the state forest department through the Sahyadri tiger reserve foundation. Researcher and project biologist Ashutosh Singh said the project, which was slated to end in early 2018, would record new species and even those which were sighted earlier but had withered away. “We will sight new species which had not been reported so far. We have to give total avifauna distribution in the STR,” he added.The STR is the only tiger reserve in Western Maharashtra and is spread over an 1165.56 sq km landscape. It is spread over the four districts of Satara, Sangli, Kolhapur and Ratnagiri.

Hotel Industry warns tourism will suffer at 18% GST on rooms

Mumbai: The Hotel and Restaurant Association of Western India (HRAWI) today said the government’s four-tier structure in Goods and Services Tax (GST), in which the service sector will be taxed at 18 percent, will cause the tourism sector a major setback.



In the recently concluded meet on GST, the government has declared a four tier structure of 5, 12, 18 and 28 percent of which the service sector will be taxed at 18 percent.

“It is estimated that the lower GST rate of 5 percent will contribute to a decrease in our Current Account Deficit, increase in the GDP, doubling up of both foreign and domestic travel and also doubling up of tourism induced employment, across each state and nationally,” HRAWI President Dilip Datwani said.

India’s tourism competitors in South East Asia (excluding Japan and China) earn among themselves over USD 150 billion in foreign exchange and attract almost 100 million tourists annually, he said.

According to estimates, a GST rate of 5 percent will more than double both foreign travel coming to India to 20 million tourists and domestic travel within India to 2.5 billion.

“We welcome the 5 percent tax slab on food, which is a positive outcome of subsumed taxes for hotels and restaurants. However, the 18 percent levy on services or room revenue in our case, compared to our neighbouring countries which charge a Tourism tax between 4 to 7 percent, rules out fair competition,” HRAWI former President Kamlesh Barot said. Overseas, he said, GST can have least slabs as they have minimum exclusions unlike ours.

“A foreign tourist planning a trip across Asia may entirely skip India or spend fewer days in our country on account of these perceived high room rates because we also
don’t refund taxes to foreigners like many countries do,” added Barot.

Junior Thackeray researches on crabs

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A member of the Shiv Sena’s ruling Thackeray clan has been given a nod by the state to conduct research on species of freshwater crabs in the Sahyadri landscape.On Wednesday, Tejas Thackeray, the younger son of Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray, was granted a green signal by the Maharashtra state wildlife board headed by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis for collecting live samples of crab species like Ghatiana, Gubernatoriana, Ingletelphusa and Barytelphua for conducting research on them. Tejas, whose is known for his love for animals and wildlife, had earlier this year discovered three new species of freshwater crabs endemic to the Western Ghats, one of which was named after his family’s surname. This included Ghatiana atropurpurea (Amboli), Ghatiana splendida (Chakul) and Gubernatoriana thackerayi (Raghuveer Ghat).Finance and Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said that the meeting had consented to Tejas’ application for collecting live samples from protected areas in the Western Ghats for scientific research and study on the species. These locations may include Koyna, Radhanagari, Bhimashanker, Kalsubai, Karnala and Tansa.Mungantiwar said that the samples will have to be collected under the supervision of the divisional forest officer (DFO). The proposal said the collection of live samples will not affect the animals in the protected areas or their habitat in any way.Under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, the consent of the chief wildlife warden is necessary for collecting samples of wildlife species and vegetation from protected areas like sanctuaries. The wildlife warden does not grant permission unless the state consults the board and takes its prior approval. The consent has been granted subject to these conditions.

Mumbai: 250 Kandivali residents spread awareness to divert traffic at WEH junction

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>if you find over a dozen people at Akurli Road, Kandivali standing with placards in their hands guiding you to not take a right turn towards Lokhandwala and Western Express Highway, know that it is a pilot project by Lokhandwala Residents Association (LRA) along with Mumbai Traffic Police.Now, from Sports Authority of India at Akurli road, one has to take a left and then take a ‘U’ turn from Thakur flyover towards Western Express Highway.After constant followups with the MTP, the LRA managed to get the traffic diverted from that route.For a fortnight, over 250 residents from 50 societies have joined hands to spread awareness of ‘No right turn towards Andheri and Malad’. People stand in different shifts and slots from morning 7.30am to 9.00 pm. People from all walks of lives and ages have booked their slots via a WhatsApp group stand there at any given point of time.Dr. Jayashree Gupte, a dentist who resides in the vicinity itself says, “Before I go to my clinic, my husband and I make it a point to stand there. I have lived here since 1993, and never seen so much change altogether. It feels much more peaceful now.”While Enisha Oberoi, an artist said, “I have a very young child, and I have been living in the vicinity for so many years. The traffic would make my child very cranky. Now, my whole family including my child, husband and brother-in-law stand there for hours. I go there twice in a day to lend my support.”Rajeev Kashyup, whose brainchild and efforts is this whole drive and LRA said, “We would often see so much traffic here, it was a constant threat to us. For the past fifteen years, we had tried and lost all hopes however, I thought if we unite together and make efforts, it would make a huge difference. Hence, we formed LRA and over six months did surveys, met with top authorities and have finally achieved our goal. The MTP was very supportive, and has assured us that if the traffic comes under control via this pilot project then it will be a permanent diversion.”“I can reach my workplace within seven minutes otherwise, I would have to spend atleast 20 minutes on just this junction.” Said Lopa Sharma who drives through this route daily to go to her office at Lokhandwala.MLA, Atul Bhatkhalkar of BJP said, “It is a brilliant initiaitive the residents have taken. We have lent complete support to them. It is extremely intriguing to see so many people who care for their vicinity. Our next aim will be to clear other bottle necks in the area too.”

Former CEC SY Quraishi set to tie knot with Nepalese poll commissioner Ila Sharma

A year after meeting each other at a conference in Mexico, former chief election commissioner of India, SY Quraishi (69) and current election commissioner of Nepal, Ila Sharma (49), are reportedly set to tie the knot.

Ila Sharma and SY Quraishi. Twitter

Ila Sharma and SY Quraishi. Twitter

Was it a love at first sight? We can’t say for sure, but according to a news report published in The Telegraph, it was nothing sort of a “boy-meets-girl” episode, one where a veteran election officer found more than just politics to share with an election commissioner from a neighbouring country.

An author of several articles and books, including the popular, Social Marketing for Social Change, Quraishi is a popular face in Delhi’s social circle. A 1971-batch IAS officer and alumnus of St Stephen’s College, Quraishi was earlier married to journalist and columnist Humra Quraishi.

Sharma, on the other hand, has been a champion of election reforms in Nepal for decades. According to her LinkedIn profile, the former journalist holds degrees in law, bio-science as well as Sanskrit. According to The Telegraph, Sharma’s husband “Nawaraj Poudel, a police inspector, was killed by Maoists in Western Nepal, 15 years ago, and has two daughters”.

“This is a personal bond between us,” Quraishi told The Telegraph. Though “reluctant” to speak on the subject, according to the Kolkata-based daily there may be the “possibility of a wedding this week”. The report also says that both the bride and groom had faced “mild resistance” from their families about their union.

Third Pakistani boat apprehended in a week

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Border Security Force on Wednesday morning apprehended a boat with nine Pakistani nationals in Chauhan Nala, Creek area of Bhuj. This is the third boat to be intercepted inside Indian borders in a week.BSF PRO, Shubhendu Bharadwaj said that a BSF speed boat patrolling in creel area noticed a wooden fishing boats in Indian waters near G-43 pillar. “The Pakistani nationals are being questioned. Other than fishing related equipment nothing objectionable was found,” he said.On Tuesday, the BSF had spotted an empty Pakistani boat which appeared to have drifted accidentally in the Ravi river in Amritsar, Punjab. No suspicious material was found.BSF DG K K Sharma during a press briefing had said that BSF troops are alert on the border areas to prevent any intrusion from Pakistan territory.Last week the Coast Guard apprehended a Pakistani boat with nine crew members last week during patrolling.Post Uri attack last month, the Center has issued high alert in the Western states bordering Pakistan. Gujarat which has a maritime boundary with Sindh in Pakistan has high number of cases where fishermen trespass waywardly in each other’s territory. Until investigation is completed fishermen who mostly belong from poor communities languish in jails in India and Pakistan.

After 14 years, I can finally take a breather: Neelam Katara

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>It has been a little over 14 years since that fateful night in February when Neelam Katara got the news that her son Nitish had gone missing. That late night call at 3 am informing of her son’s disappearance jolted her awake – literally and figuratively.”I can take a breather now,” Neelam said. It has been hours since the pronouncement of the Apex Court’s judgment, and the phone has not stopped ringing. Congratulatory messages are pouring in with a few odd ones in between from journalists who want to clarify a point or two. Neelam, wearing a white sari with a gold border, sitting on her couch in her bungalow allotted by the railways, took this all in bravely and stoically.Neelam led a quite life before her son’s death on February 17, 2002. “I lived a very sheltered and pampered existence. My sons Nitish and Nitin – the younger one, would often joke that my life experience was limited to my black board and the white soft board,” she said. All that changed overnight.”It is as though the bubble burst and I woke up to the real world where bad things can and do happen,” said the 64-year-old former school teacher. Thinking back, she said, “I did not let despondency overtake me. Siddharth Vashistha aka Manu Sharma had just been acquitted by the trial courts in the Jessica Lal murder case, and all I could think was, this should not happen to me.”Neelam’s fight for justice to prove her son’s death was an “honour killing” is well known. A lone woman’s fight against a political family with a strong criminal background can make anyone quiver to their knees. “I stayed strong. I wanted to fight for my son who always stood up for others,” she said. “He was her knight in shining armor,” Neelam said recalling her conversations with Nitish on his relationship with Bharti.”That family (Yadav’s) did everything in their power to intimidate me and delay trial indefinitely,” Neelam said recalling her ordeal. Neelam remembers trekking all the way to Ghaziabad, a city in Western UP, where the trial was originally began. “I remember the courtrooms were packed with almost 200 supporters and men dressed in black coats. It was difficult to get a prosecutor to try the case and no lawyer wanted to defend me.”The trial venue was eventually shifted to and tried in a Delhi Court.The mother however, fought alone. Her husband, a retired employee in the Indian Railways died of motor neuron disease in 2003. Neelam believes, his disease was exacerbated by the shock of their son’s death and the stress of the trial. “Chimpu (Nitish’s name at home) was a fool to go out with Vishal,” he had said shortly before he died.Neelam, who did not let her younger son be affected by the media trial, now plans to work towards getting a law against honour killing. She also wants to work spread awareness on Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) – the disease that took her husband’s life.There’s no doubt, with her steely determination, she will achieve this as well.

Mumbai: Railway stations to get colourful makeover

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Over eight tribal villagers from Dahanu will be travelling to Santa Cruz station every day this week. Reason? To paint the traditional Warli art at the station. Similarly, more people will be visiting various stations to put on display their creative skills while beautifying stations.The ‘Hamara Station, Hamari Shaan’ initiative will transform 36 railway stations in a week. The project is started by NGOs, Mumbai First and Making A Difference (MAD) Foundation, along with Western and Central Railways.Speaking about the initiative at Santa Cruz, Viren Shah, a resident, said: “We are thankful to the Roshni Foundation for getting the tribal artists to draw Warli paintings near the booking office. Commuters will be able to see paintings related to tribal art, nearby famous spots like Juhu, Kalina University, military camp, yoga centre and the famous Mario Miranda artwork.”Fifteen stations between CST and Thane on the Central line and 21 on the Western line – from Churchgate to Dahisar – will be beautified during this initiative, which will highlight the history of every station.Selfie points at every station will be an attraction for commuters. Besides selfie points, every station will have theme-based paintings.Talking about the painting which will be displayed in Andheri, Amit Narsana, team leader, said: “Andheri is one of the most crowded stations and the selfie point there will say ‘Andheri never sleeps’. We have a map wall which will not only spot the famous places in the area but also help commuters locate bus and auto-rickshaw spots. On the platform, artists will write safety messages for commuters. One of the bridges will be a walk-way to keep the art and music tradition alive.”Volunteers in Vile Parle have given a tagline for the artwork – Vile Parle, Jee le Parle. Talking about the artwork, Avinash Mishra, said: “We are focusing our theme on music, education and art. It will create awareness among commuters about traditional music and art.”Shishir Joshi CEO, Mumbai First, one of the organisers, said: “This has all the makings of the world’s most massive Public Private People Partnership initiative and which has truly unified Mumbai, creating a sense of ownership. In a way, I hope this will pave the way for a behavioural change for the better too. We are grateful to the railways and have expressed our solidarity by having station superintendents inaugurate the work at all stations.”

Railways fine train qawwals and beggars, collect Rs 13 lakh

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The urchin or the men who sing bhajans for a living on the Mumbai local train are part of the 1035 people booked for singing qawalis, bhajans to beg and for playing cards in local trains. The Central and Western Railways has managed to collect nearly Rs 13 lakh from them as fine in the last 5 years.Mansoor Darvesh, a city based RTI activist , who has been travelling in the local train for last 40 years claims he was forced to file a RTI when local authorities did not do much despite his repeated complaints. Darvesh’s RTI had sought details of total number of persons arrested for begging by singing bhajans,qawalis and for playing cards in local trains from January 1, 2011 to May 30, 2016. He also sought to know the amount collected from them as fine.In reply to the applicant’s query, Central Railways stated that a total of 7 persons have been arrested for singing and begging while 378 persons have been arrested for playing cards over a period of 5 years. It also stated that a total fine of Rs 1,10,985 was recovered from them. Western Railways in its response stated that 6 persons have been arrested for singing in local trains, while 644 persons have been arrested for playing cards.It added that a total fine of Rs 11,51,878 was recovered from them.Darvesh, who is not contended with the reply claims that a number of people performing these illegal acts have been overlooked by the Railway authorities.”I am travelling in local trains for the last 40 years and I have noticed a steady increase in people engaging in these illegal acts. Going by the number of people booked, the Railway police seems to have failed to notice them” he said.”The authorities need to take the issue seriously as such miscreants cause inconvenience to thousands of passengers,” Darvesh added.Central railwaysArrested for—Singing and begging: 7Playing cards: 378Fine recovered: Rs 1,10,985Western railwaysArrested for–Singing and begging: 6Playing cards: 644Fine recovered: Rs 11,51,878

Army Chief Dalbir Singh visits Northern Command in Udhampur after cross-LoC strike

Udhampur: Army Chief Dalbir Singh on Friday visited the Northern Command based here to take stock of India’s operational preparedness along the border in the wake of heightened tension in Indo-Pak ties following the surgical strike targeting terror camps across LoC.

“Gen Singh arrived at Northern Command headquarters this morning and chaired a high-level meeting to review the situation and operational preparedness in Jammu and Kashmir, including along the Line of Control,” a defence official said.

File image of General Dalbir Singh Suhag. News18.

File image of General Dalbir Singh Suhag. News18.

The surgical strike, seen as a reprisal for Uri terror attack, was planned and executed by the Northern Command.

Singh also personally complimented officers and men who “successfully” targeted seven terror launch pads located in Leepa, Tattapani, Kel and Bhimbar, the official said.

He is scheduled to visit army’s Western Command to review operational preparedness. Sources had said the decision on the surgical strike was taken soon after the attack on the Uri army base on 18 September. They said India was ready with contingency plans

They said India was ready with contingency plans considering the possibilities that Pakistan may retaliate in the wake of the surgical strike.

It has been estimated that number of casualties was at least 40 on Pakistani side but there was no official confirmation.

The Army has also trashed reports in Pakistan about Indian casualties during the operation, saying one member of the special forces received minor injury while returning but it was not due to any enemy or terrorist action.

Army chief Dalbir Singh visits Northern Command after surgical strikes across LoC

Udhampur: Army Chief Dalbir Singh on Saturday visited the Northern Command base here to take stock of India’s operational preparedness along the border in the wake of heightened tension in Indo-Pak ties following the surgical strike targeting terror camps across LoC.

“Gen Singh arrived at Northern Command headquarters this morning and chaired a high-level meeting to review the situation and operational preparedness in Jammu and Kashmir, including along the Line of Control,” a Defence official said.

Indian Army chief Dalbir Singh Suhag. AFPIndian Army chief Dalbir Singh Suhag. AFP

Indian Army chief Dalbir Singh Suhag. AFP

The surgical strike, seen as a reprisal for Uri terror attack, was planned and executed by the Northern Command.

Singh also personally complimented officers and men who “successfully” targeted seven terror launch pads located in Leepa, Tattapani, Kel and Bhimbar, the official said.

He is scheduled to visit army’s Western Command to review operational preparedness.

Sources had said the decision on the surgical strike was taken soon after the attack on the Uri army base on 18 September. They said India was ready with contingency plans considering the possibilities that Pakistan may retaliate in the wake of the surgical strike.

It has been estimated that number of casualties was at least 40 on Pakistani side but there was no official confirmation.

The Army has also trashed reports in Pakistan about Indian casualties during the operation, saying one member of the special forces received minor injury while returning but it was not due to any enemy or terrorist action.

Surgical strikes: Can this one well-executed operation cow Pakistan into submission?

So he has done it; done what he had said he would. The Prime Minister that is. Lived up to his pre-election pledges that an attack on India would not go unpunished, that he would teach Pakistan a lesson it would not forget in a hurry and do it in such a way that it wouldn’t be able to cry mummy and hide behind America’s protective skirts.

In a 2011 television interview, Narendra Damodardas Modi had said, “Pakistan should be given an answer in the language they understand,” and we must create “international pressure” to do so. The Indian Express reports that all Indians everywhere are convinced their leader has delivered. The video of this interview was retweeted on Friday over 3000 times.

I wonder. It’s not nice to be a party pooper I know, but from all accounts including those of revered former Indian Army generals, this is not the first time India has mounted a surgical strike along the Line of Control in Pakistan occupied Kashmir where terrorists in “significant” numbers seem to have been waiting to be mowed down by the Indian Army.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

In fact, so routine is this sort of skirmish, retaliation, exchange of fire power, lightning attacks, surgical strikes, call it what you will, along the Line of Control or LoC, which in any case is not an internationally-recognised border, that LoC deployments are termed “no war, no peace” postings by Indian Army officials.

Rather, such conflicts are seen as almost an inevitable outcome of the heightened troop mobilisations by both countries on either side of this unofficial border ever since the 1949 ceasefire that have reached dizzying heights since the 1999 Kargil conflict.

What is novel though is the public confession or admission and celebration of such an attack this time round. Of course, there is nothing wrong in owning up to one’s acts of commission or omission; rather it is the honourable thing to do, especially when it leads to loss of life and limb, whatever the colour of the passports of the dead and wounded.

Still, earlier governments did not crow about such acts of semi-war, maybe because some vestiges of Gandhian beliefs — an eye for an eye makes the world go blind — remained somewhere in the recesses of their minds. Or probably they just did not want to provoke a disproportionate reaction from an enemy that is armed with more than its fair share of the dirty bomb.

But the Narendra Modi government is not so easily deterred. And the way it went about its business is what Donald Trump would call “something beautiful” to behold.

First, the recourse to the more-than-willing media to mount a campaign to convince the nation (read opposition parties) that something truly horrendous and unforgiveable had happened. How well that worked is evident from the way the Congress was practically begging the government to go to war and was left with no choice but to sing paeans in its praise once it did, or almost did.

Alongside, an all-out diplomatic move to win regional neighbours over to one’s side and neutralise world opinion, even if the move to get Pakistan declared a pariah state could not fructify in the short time at its disposal.

Then the period of false truce, with the Prime Minister giving the impression that he was resigned to going down the same old diplomatic route and reposing faith in the people of Pakistan to do the needful on his behalf. For Modi bhakts that was the unkindest cut of all. They were either shattered at their hero’s feet of clay or left fuming with frustration that Pakistan was getting away with it again. Uri would not be avenged. If Modi can’t do it, who can.

And then, suddenly, like a thunderclap heard in those mountains often enough, there was a “successful” surgical strike against “terrorist launchpads” in PoK that the Army came on television to declare publicly! Overnight, the tried and tested strategy of “strategic restraint” was replaced with a loud and clear announcement of “strategic strikes”.

Overnight, the national mood changed from despondency to euphoria. So much so that a minor incursion was hailed as an enormous military victory that had put Pakistan in its place. It was, it is being said, an act of such courage and decisiveness that it has restored the nation’s flagging self-esteem and refurbished the prime minister’s strong-man image to its pristine state. Actor Paresh Rawal’s tweet echoed not just Bollywood’s but the sentiments of all loyalists that “Bhakts 2 saal se bhare baithe the… aaj jaakar unki aatma ko ‘thodi’ shaanti mili hogi”.

In short, an unquestionable, categorical, humongous public relations triumph for Narendra Modi and his government. A resounding political victory at home, a diplomatic tour de force abroad. And at not too high a cost at that. Not yet anyway.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTIPrime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

Fortune, it is said, favours the brave. The timing, certainly, couldn’t have been better for Modi. The international community, which basically means the United States, has less and less use for Pakistan these days. The same American campaign against the “evil empire” that had made it wage a proxy war in Afghanistan against the Russians and led to the rise of Osama bin Laden had also seen it nurture the Pakistan Army and its dirty tricks department, the ISI, in the delicate task of handling non-state actors such as the Taliban.

Tricks of trade Pakistan used not just in the service of its American masters but in its unremitting covert war against its neighbour too. India cried, no one cared. But now these terror groups are biting the hand that once fed them and Pakistan either won’t, or can’t, rein them in. No wonder it’s become the bad boy of the Western world and can’t find anyone to stand by it once India decided to bare its teeth.

So far so good. But will this, can this, one well-timed, well-executed, well-supported surgical strike cow Pakistan into submission and make it give up its despicable, lawless ways? It would be a miracle if it did.

Earlier, such attacks had also not seen any reduction in the innumerable “non-state” actors that have turned Pakistan into a “rogue state”. But because there were no drum rolls announcing them, they had not led to any loss of face of the government and people of Pakistan, and caused them to seethe in righteous indignation. They remained limited military exercises with no wider ramifications.

Hillary Clinton, no fan of Pakistan (she had chastised her hosts in no uncertain terms for failing to curb “extremists” within their borders during a 2011 visit to Islamabad as US Secretary of State), has expressed fears that “there’ll be a coup [in Pakistan], jihadists are going to take over the government, they’re going to get access to nuclear weapons, and you’ll have suicide nuclear bombers. So, this could not be a more threatening scenario”.

She did manage US foreign affairs for four whole years, has travelled to 112 countries by her own admission and could well become the next US President. She may know what she is talking about. If so, will India take credit for pushing Pakistan’s buttons beyond endurance?

Haryana: Railways to run special train for pilgrims to Mukam Dham Mela

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>To facilitate pilgrims planning to visit the Mukam Dham Mela in Rajasthan, the North-Western Railway is running a special train between Sirsa and Nokha on September 29.According to Traffic Incharge of Railway, Ajay Gautam, the special train will depart from Sirsa in Haryana on September 29 at 8:45 am to reach Nokha railway station in Rajasthan at 6:30 pm after covering the distance in about 10 hours.Similarly, the same train will depart from Nokha at 9:45 am on October 1 to reach Sirsa at 7:30 pm on the same day.The train will have stoppages at Ding, Bhattu, Adampur, Jakhod Khera, Hisar, Chirod, Siwani, Jhumpa, Sadalpur, Churu, Ratangarh, Bikaner and Nokha railway stations, he said on Tuesday.Mukam Dham is a place of worship for the Bishnoi community.

Uran alert: No clue on suspicious men yet but search operations still on, says Fadnavis

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said on Friday that in the last 36 hours, since the beginning of the massive manhunt, for four suspicious men, as claimed to be seen by two school students in Uran near Navi Mumbai has not yielded any positive result so far.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. PTIMaharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. PTI

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. PTI

“The search operations will continue and I appeal to the people to not to believe in rumors and maintain calm,” Fadnavis said in Pune.

Earlier, Maharashtra Minister of State for Home Affairs Deepak Kesarkar, said that the state won’t face a 26/11 type of situation as it is quite prepared to tackle any security situation that may arise due to the lookout for the suspicious men in and around Navi Mumbai.

“The cross-verification is still on. We are checking all CCTV footage gathered from different areas. We are also in touch with the fishing community for any information. The combing operations are still going on. Many state and Central agencies are involved in the process. There is complete coordination among all agencies be it the Force One, National Security Guard, Intelligence Bureau or the local police,” Kesarkar said.

On Thursday, the Western Naval Command in Mumbai had issued a high alert along the Mumbai coast after four men in military uniform were spotted moving suspiciously near a naval facility in Uran, about 47 kms from the state capital.

The Western Naval Command (WNC) issued “the highest state of alert” along the Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Thane and Raigad
coasts after suspicious movement of a group was reported in Uran.

According to initial information received by the authorities, four school students spotted a group of people dressed in uniform similar to that of Indian Army near Uran and Karanja area.

The DGP office immediately issued alerts to all police stations along the coast.

Security has been beefed up at sensitive locations along the coast, including the Gateway of India, Raj Bhawan, Bombay High (rig), Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and other major establishments near the sea.

With inputs from PTI

Scarlett Keeling case: Verdict on rape and murder of British schoolgirl likely today

Goa: Two Indian men charged with raping and causing the death of British schoolgirl Scarlett Keeling on a Goa beach in 2008 will finally hear the verdicts against them later on Friday.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Fifteen-year-old Keeling’s bruised and semi-nude body was found on the popular Anjuna beach in the north of the small Indian tourist state, popular with Western hippies, eight years ago.

Samson D’Souza and Placido Carvalho were charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder, using force with intent to outrage a woman’s modesty and of administering drugs with intent to harm.

“The culpable homicide charge is the most important charge because I believe that she was murdered,” Keeling’s mother Fiona MacKeown told AFP ahead of the verdict.

The teenager’s death became international news, shining a spotlight on the seedy side of the resort destination and also drawing attention to India’s sluggish justice system.

Police initially dismissed Keeling’s death as an accidental drowning but opened a murder investigation after MacKeown pushed for a second autopsy which proved she had been drugged and raped.

It showed that Keeling had suffered more than 50 injuries to her body.

The trial began in 2010 but has been dogged by numerous delays, including hearings of just one afternoon a month due to a backlog of cases and a public prosecutor withdrawing from proceedings.

A key witness, Briton Michael Mannion, known as “Masala Mike”, also refused to testify, dealing a huge blow to the prosecution’s case.

He had initially spoken of seeing D’Souza lying on top of Keeling on the beach shortly before she died.

MacKeown and her family were on a six-month holiday to India when she, Keeling and her other daughters went on an excursion to the southern state of Karnataka, but Keeling later returned alone to attend a party.

Her body was found on the morning of 18 February, 2008.

Police allege that D’Souza and Carvalho plied Keeling with a cocktail of drink and illegal drugs, including cocaine, before sexually assaulting her and leaving her to die by dumping her unconscious in shallow water where she drowned.

They deny all of the charges, claiming that the teenager died an accidental death after taking drugs of her own volition.

The verdict is due to be delivered at the children’s court in Goa’s state capital Panaji at 2.30 pm.

Uran alert: CM Devendra Fadnavis appeals to citizens to stay calm, says precautions are being taken

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis appealed to citizens on Thursday not to panic and said all precautions are being taken after a high alert was sounded along the Mumbai coast and adjoining areas on Thursday after a group of men were spotted moving suspiciously near a naval base at Uran in Raigad district.Fadnavis who is enroute to Mumbai from United States, spoke to the state Director General of Police Satish Mathur, Mumbai Police Commissioner Dattatray Padsalgikar and Intelligence Commissioner. “CM @Dev_Fadnavis spoke to DGP , @CPMumbaiPolice and Intel Comm. All precautions are being taken. Massive combing operations are on,” the CMO Maharashtra tweeted.”State &Central forces are working in close Cordination. CM @Dev_Fadnavis has appealed citizens not to panic. Situation under close vigil,” it said in another tweet.Security beefed up at JNPTCountry’s largest container port JNPT has beefed up security measures at the port and in the vicinity following a high alert on security issued by law enforcement agencies, a senior official said. “We have beefed up the security measures and alerted all our staff. The CISF, which takes care of our security is on high alert and there has been an increase in the number of personnel out on the field,” a senior port official said.The official said the standard of surveillance in the port spread over 1,500 acres, adjoining to the fishing town of Uran where the suspects were spotted, has been upped, the official said. The Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) handles over half of the country’s container traffic which contributes significantly to the export-import trade. The official said the port and CISF are coordinating very closely with the local police, Navy and other agencies.Navy’s response to the alertA multi-agency search operations was initiated amidst the alert. “As per the reports, five to six persons were sighted in Pathan suits and appeared to be carrying weapons and backpacks,” Naval spokesperson Cdr Rahul Sinha said in a statement. Some reports said they were in military uniform. The Navy pressed its choppers for aerial surveillance and heightened patrolling in the sea by its vessels and high-speed boats.The Western Naval Command (WNC) issued a “highest state of alert” along the Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Thane and Raigad coasts where several sensitive establishments and assets are located. Western India’s biggest naval base, the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, fertiliser plants, refineries, power plants and the country’s largest container port, JNPT are located in close vicinity of Uran.The base located close to the town also houses units of MARCOS, the Navy’s elite strike force. Indian Navy’s Chief PRO Capt DK Sharma said the search operation was launched along with Maharashtra police and other agencies.Security situations across MumbaiSecurity has been beefed up at sensitive spots along the coast, including the Gateway of India, Raj Bhavan, offshore oil assets Bombay High, JNPT, BARC and other major establishments near the sea. “Indian Navy’s Western Naval Command expeditiously reacted to the situation by first initiating an alert and informing all coastal security stakeholders… No person has been located or apprehended till now,” Sinha added.Navi Mumbai Commissioner of Police rushed to the spotNavi Mumbai Commissioner of Police, Hemant Nagarale, and senior officials rushed to Uran to review the security situation and gathered details from the children, who spotted the men moving suspiciously.The coastline is guarded by a three-tier network which starts with the local police (with its coastal police stations) closest to the land, followed by the Union Home Ministry-led Coast Guard while the Indian Navy patrols the high seas. NSG deployedTeams of elite anti-terror commando force NSG have been deployed in three locations in Mumbai and another team has been kept ready in Delhi to be flown if required. Teams of National Security Guard, drawn from its Mumbai hub, pre-positioned at three locations in Mumbai and another team is on alert at NSG base in IGI airport in Delhi, official sources said.Precautionary action taken in Mumbai to cut down reaction time in case of any emergency situation, sources said.BackgroundSome children from Uran Education Society’s school first spotted the suspects, and their teacher informed the police, the police said, adding none of them have been traced.The alert comes four days after the terror attack in Uri in which 18 soldiers were killed. Coastal security has been a top priority after the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai in which multiple locations in the city were targeted by Pakistani terrorists who landed using the sea route.The fishing town of Uran is located across the eastern water front of the financial capital.With PTI inputs

India set to sign Rafale deal on Friday further cementing Indo-French strategic ties

The decade-long saga will bear “some” fruits when India ultimately signs tomorrow a deal with France for 36 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) Dassault Rafale fighter jets. Note the deliberate use of the word “some”, as the original intention was to procure 126 of such aircraft to begin with and possibly 63 additional aircraft at a later date.

The deal that is to be signed will cost India about Rs 58,000 crore or so (7.8 billion Euros) for 36 off-the-shelf Dassault Rafale twin-engine fourth generation multi-role fighter aircraft, 15 percent of which will be paid in advance. The MBDA Missile Systems of France will supply the weapons package, and that country’s Thales Group will be responsible for the fighter jet’s avionics. It is also understood that the first Rafale warplanes are slated to be delivered roughly within 18 months of the signing of the final contract, during which suggestions of the Indian Air Force (IAF) for any customised version of the aircraft, including modifications and reconfigurations, to allow the installation of Indian-made and commercial off-the-shelf systems and weapons will be taken into account.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

The deal also envisages the conclusion of an accompanying offset clause, according to which France will invest 30 percent of the 7.8 billion Euros in India’s military aeronautics-related research programmes and 20 percent into local production of Rafale components. Besides, French defence contractors will supply radar and thrust vectoring for missiles technologies.

In addition, the French are believed to be willing to invest one billion Euros to revive the Kaveri engine project, according to media reports. They are also ready to share engine technology keeping in mind Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ mission. If true, this will help enormously our indigenous LCA (Light Combat Aircraft) Tejas project. Media reports also suggest that Dassault, the manufacturer of Rafale, has shown its willingness to partner with a private Indian company to manufacture structural parts for its Falcon executive jets.

The IAF has got every reason to be happy now. Given India’s geopolitical challenges, the IAF would love to have 45 squadrons (each squadron usually has 12 to 18 aircraft); at least 42 squadrons. Presently, the IAF has 35 squadrons (this is what Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha had told me not long ago), though, according to a latest Parliamentary Standing Committee news on defence, a tangible strength ( implying fighting conditions) might be down to 25 squadrons. As a result, the IAF has been heavily banking on the MMRCA deal, along with the indigenous production of Tejas – both Mark 1 and Mark 2 – in the Light Combat Category (LAC) and the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA), to be co-developed with Russia. The IAF, at the moment, is excessively dependent on Su-30 MKI (from Russia) for any exigencies.

It may be noted that the deal for 36 aircraft was initiated by Modi in France last year after the mega 126 MMRCA deal was scrapped, following complications in the negotiations between India and France over the tender and the procurement procedure.

The Rafale saga started in August 2007 when India floated its Request for Proposals (RFP) for the MMRCA. Over the next two years, six companies entered the race — the American Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and Lockheed Martin F-16IN Super Viper, the French Dassault Aviation Rafale, the Russian RSK MiGs MiG-35, the European Eurofighter Consortium’s Typhoon, and the Swedish Saab Gripen NG (Next Generation). In between 2009 and 2010, the IAF supervised trials and demonstrations in the home countries of these manufacturers as well as in Indian locations such as Bengaluru, Jaisalmer and Leh.

It is said that the IAF tested these aircraft on 660 technical benchmarks. It also took into account the RFP’s requirement that 60 percent of the aircraft’s technology be transferred to India in four phases. Of the 126 aircraft, the first 18 were to be delivered in a flyaway form by the original equipment manufacturer, with the remaining 108 to be assembled in India through a combination of kits supplied by the foreign seller and indigenous Indian production. The idea was to ensure that 50 percent of the foreign exchange component of the purchase costs was defrayed through direct of sets within the Indian aerospace sector.

On the basis of the IAF’s feedback, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) opted for Rafale in 2012 for about $10 billion, but the price subsequently was hiked by Dassult to $22 billion. Meanwhile, dirty campaigns were made by many, who had argued for other bidders that quality-wise Rafale was inferior to Eurofighter Typhoon, or for that matter to Boeing’s F-18 and Lockheed’s F-16. A Russian Ambassador to India claimed that Chinese Sukhoi Flankers (sold by Russia) “will swat the Rafale like mosquitoes”. A senior member of the ruling BJP has said that, but for the kickbacks received by senior functionaries of the then Congress-led government under Manmohan Singh, Typhoon, not Rafale, would have been the choice.

These charges against Rafale may not hold water. All told, the IAF was deeply impressed with it during the trials for the bid. The Rafale’s greatest strength, especially in the air combat arena, is its ability to acquire, process and fuse information from multiple sensors and present it to the pilot in a single tactical display. During its trials, the IAF pilots were said to be greatly impressed by the aircraft’s remarkable cockpit ergonomics and human-factors engineering as manifested in its sensors, controls, interfaces, and displays. In fact, Rafale performed, and this factor might have tilted the scale in its favour, much better than the Eurofighter during the Nato-operations in Libya and Afghanistan. The second great advantage that it had over its rival was that it could be very well mastered by the pilots of the French Mirage 2000, which India already has. A pilot of a Mirage can very easily be trained to fly a Rafale.

Another factor in favour of the Rafale is that it could be the best platform for India in near future for delivering nuclear weapons against its enemies. Of course, our nuclear doctrine (if at all there is one) is based on the concept of a triad – delivering weapons from air (aircraft), ground (missiles such as Prthivi and Agni) and water (submarines such as Arihant). Arihant, however, is not fully functional as yet. Our land-based launchers still need much more rigorous testing regimens to be 100 percent reliable. Therefore, it is an open secret that at the moment the best delivery platform for nuclear weapons happens to be the French Mirages, which were modified by the Dassault (also manufacturer of Mirage) in the 1990s at India’s request by keeping nuclear weapons in mind.

It is in this context that while choosing Rafale over other five contenders, the Indian government had taken in to account not only the factors of technology transfer, prices and performance but also the importance of France as India’s strategic partner. It is true of every major country that geopolitical factor plays an important role in big-ticket purchases. As it is, the IAF was a satisfied user of the long standing French fighters, going back to the 1950s. It was also particularly appreciative of the performance of French Mirages during the 1999 Kargil campaign against Pakistan, and of the support it then obtained from France. It is important to note that during that time India obtained French clearance – and possibly more – to urgently adapt Israeli and Russian-supplied laser-guided bombs to the Mirages, which were thus able to successfully engage high-altitude targets that Indian MiG-23s and MiG-27s had been unable to reach.

It is noteworthy that France’s steadfastness as a military ally contrasts strongly with that of the United States, which has not a good reputation of being a reliable supplier of military items and technologies. It vetoed or slowed components for the LCA that India is developing. It had imposed otherwise arms embargo on India following its nuclear tests in 1998. Similar geopolitical reasons went against the Eurofighter, jointly made by Germany, Italy, Britain and Spain. Not only these countries had reservations on the technology transfer, the fact also remained that their reliability during a war was a suspect. After all, if there is a war, German laws prohibit delivery of weapons and spares. Italian and Spanish laws are not clear on the issue. France, on the other hand, is the only major Western nation (other than Russia) not to impose sanctions on India.

When the Rafale deal is concluded tomorrow, it will further cement the growing Indo-French strategic relations. All told, France has been the first Western power to have supported India’s claim for a permanent membership of the UN Security Council. France, unlike its other partners in the Western Alliance, did not impose any sanctions on India after the latter went nuclear in 1998; in fact, it did not even “condemn” the nuclear tests. Besides, France was the first country with which India conducted a joint naval exercise called ‘Varun’ after the 1998 nuclear tests; this exercise has become quite frequent over years. Similarly, the IAF’s first bilateral exercise in 2003 with a foreign counterpart—’the Garuda I’— was again with the French Air Force.

India’s choice of Rafale has come at the top of three existing defence projects with France — the Rs 50,000-crore for six Scorpene submarines, nearly Rs 15,000-crore upgrade for 51 Mirage-2000s and about Rs 10000-crore acquisition of 490 MICA missile systems. Additionally, France is all set to provide nuclear reactors for power generation. In short, the going is pretty good as far as the Indo-French friendship is concerned.

India successfully test-fires two missiles developed with Israel

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In a major achievement aimed at galvanising its air defence capability, India on Tuesday successfully test-fired two long range surface-to-air missiles (LRSAM) jointly developed with Israel from a base off Odisha coast.The sophisticated missile, a product of joint venture between India and Israel, was first test launched from a mobile launcher in the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur at around 10.13 hrs, while the second LRSAM was test-fired at about 14.25 hrs, defence officials said.”Both the trials were successful as the missiles hit the target directly,” said a scientist associated with the project. In both the tests, the state-of-the-art missiles destroyed the aerial target, he said.Apart from the missile, the system includes a Multi Functional Surveillance and Threat Alert Radar (MF-STAR) for detection, tracking and guidance of the missile, officials said, adding the missile along with MF-STAR would provide the users the capability to neutralise any aerial threats.Earlier, between June 30 and July 1, 2016, three consecutive test firing of the medium range surface-to-air missile, jointly developed by India and Israel were conducted from the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) base at Chandipur. The missile guided by armoured seeker had successfully hit the last minute manoeuvring target.Indian Navy had also successfully test launched the long range surface-to-air missile (LR-SAM). The test was undertaken on the Western Seaboard by INS Kolkata on December 30, 2015.These missiles would be inducted into all three services after trials were completed.Many Indian companies like BEL, L&T, BDL and TATA group of companies besides other private industries have contributed to the development of a number of subsystems which have been put into use in this flight test.As a safety measure, Balasore district administration in consultation with defence officials had temporarily shifted 3,652 people residing within 2.5 km radius of the launch pad No 3 of ITR at Chandipur to nearby temporary shelter centres Tuesday morning to ensure a safe launch of the missile, a district revenue official said.Fishermen engaged in sea fishing along the Bay of Bengal in three Odisha coastal districts of Balasore, Bhadrak and Kendrapara were asked not to venture into the sea during the time of the test launch.

India test-fires new surface-to-air missile developed jointly with Israel

India today successfully test fired a new surface-to-air missile, developed jointly with Israel, from a defence base off Odisha coast.The medium range missile (MR-SAM), a product of joint venture between India and Israel, was successfully test launched from a mobile launcher in the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur at around 08.15 hours, a DRDO official said.”The test launch was a grand success and it met all the targets,” he said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The missile positioned at launch pad-3 of the ITR swung in to action after getting signal from the radars to intercept a moving aerial target supported by an unmanned air vehicle (UAV) ‘Banshee’ over the Bay of Bengal, officials said.Apart from the missile, the system includes a Multi Functional Surveillance and Threat Alert Radar (MF STAR) for detection, tracking and guidance of the missile, they said.”The missile along with MF-STAR will provide the users with the capability to neutralise any aerial threats,” said a Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) scientist.Indian Defence Research Development Laboratory (DRDL), a laboratory of DRDO based at Hyderabad, has jointly developed this missile in collaboration with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), he said.A new production facility to deliver 100 missiles a year has been established for such type of long rang and medium range surface-to-air missiles at M/s Bharat Dynamics Limited, India.The missile, which was initially proposed to be tested yesterday, was deferred in the last moment for today.Earlier, Indian Navy had successfully test launched the long range surface-to-air missile (LR-SAM). The test was undertaken on the Western Seaboard by INS Kolkata on December 30, 2015, officials said.Such type of medium range surface-to-air missiles (SR-SAM), having striking ranges from 50 to 70 km, can fill the gap of existing missiles that India has in its armory at present, they said.These missiles would be inducted in all three services after user’s trial is completed.As a safety measure, Balasore district administration in consultation with the defence officials had temporarily shifted 3652 civilians residing within 2.5 km radius of the launch pad No.3 of the ITR at Chandipur to nearby shelter centres this morning to ensure a safe launch of the missile, said a district revenue official.Fishermen engaged in sea fishing along the Bay of Bengal in three Odisha coastal districts namely Balasore, Bhadrakh and Kendrapada were asked not to venture into the sea during the test launch time.

Six Hindu Mahasabha activists held in Kairana

Six Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha activists were arrested for violating prohibitory orders in Kairana village in Shamli district.The incident occurred yesterday when six activists, including Hindu Mahasabha national general secretary Puja Shagun Pandey, state president Ghanendrapal, state vice-president Sachin Sharma and Aligarh divisional president Jaivir Singh, reached Kairana village to take stock of the alleged migration of Hindus from the western part of the town, Superintendent of Police Vijay Bhushan said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The activists were later released on personal bonds by the sub-divisional magistrate court here.National Human Rights Commission had issued a notice to the government of Uttar Pradesh on June 10 over several families leaving their homes in Kairana town in Western Uttar Pradesh due to alleged fear of criminals.While observing that the allegations made were serious in nature, the NHRC also directed the state’s DIG (Investigation) on June 13 to depute a team of officers for a spot enquiry in the matter covering all the allegations made in the complaint and submit a report within two weeks.

Mumbai: Western Railway’s protection force does better than last year to combat theft

The railway ministry’s recent emphasis on gradually building up the Railway Protection Force into the prime crime-fighting agency on the railway network seems to be paying off. Statistics, made available to dna by Western Railway’s RPF Mumbai division unit, show that for the first five months of the year, the number of cases detected as well as persons arrested reveal that the force is well on its way to better the performance it came up with in 2015. The cases pertain to theft of passenger belonging (TOPB), said RPF officials.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>While all of 2015, the RPF had detected 47 cases, this year between January and May, the RPF had already detected 44 cases. It arrested 54 people last year for stealing passenger belongings, while this year till May the number of arrests have already touched 48.In 2015, the RPF had managed to recover about 12 per cent of the value of things stolen from passengers. In comparison, the January to May period this year has been better with recovery of stolen items standing at 19 per cent. However, officials agreed that recovering stolen items continued to remain the toughest ask as far as railway crime-fighting was concerned.”It is almost certain that we will be making more cases, arresting more people and detecting more cases than previous years. The emphasis is to turn the force into a proper crime and policing unit so that one day the RPF can become the sole policing agency on the railways, something like the Federal Railway Police prevalent in many countries,” said a senior RPF officer.One of the major security changes that the railway ministry wants to make on the railway network is to turn the current three-tier police system into a two-tier one. Currently, the railways has the RPF (which is under the railway ministry), the government railway police (under respective state governments) and the district police (also under the state government).The railway ministry wants to have just the RPF for policing on the railway network while the district police will take care of all cases falling under various sections of the Indian Penal Code.Numbers game:Property stolen from passengers between Jan-May 2016: Rs1.7 croresProperty recovered during the same period: Rs32.47 lakhs (around 19 per cent of the total value)Property stolen from passengers during 2015: Rs6.87 croreProperty recovered during the same period- Rs83.31 lakh (around 12 per cent)

India’s private sector investment sought for Cote D’Ivoirie cocoa processing

Abidjan: Cote D’Ivoirie on Wednesday sought investment from India’s private sector particularly in cocoa processing to further strengthen its trade ties with India.

President of Cote D’Ivoirie Alassane Ouattara expressed interest in Indian private sector investment during his talks with President Pranab Mukherjee, who is on a two-day trip to the Western African country as part his three-nation African tour.

President Pranab Mukherjee with Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara. ReutersPresident Pranab Mukherjee with Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara. Reuters

President Pranab Mukherjee with Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara. Reuters

“Ivory Coast Government is very keen to get Indian private sector on board…Another sector he was proudly mentioning was that of Chocolates. They produce cocoa. He says that Indian private sector could be useful as they export everything,” Secretary (Economic Relations) Amar Sinha said while giving
details of the talks between the two leaders to reporters.

He also said as per figures by January this year, the trade between the two countries stood at around $841 million and would have touched $1 billion till 31 March.

In one of the important agreements signed, Exim Bank is going to re-open its office here. It was shifted in 1992 to Sudan because of political turmoil in the country.

Headquartered in Mumbai, the bank signed a ‘Headquarter Agreement’ which will give it some privileges.

Mukherjee also raised the issue of reforms in the United Nations security council and said change is must, Sinha said.

Ouattara told Mukherjee it was an honour that he took time away from his busy schedule to visit his country and expressed regret that he could not come to India during India-Africa Forum Summit last year because of elections.

Mukherjee extended invitation to Ouattara, asking him to visit India anytime.

This is the maiden visit of the Indian President to “home of hospitality” Cote D’Ivoirie and is seen as India’s outreach to Africa. Mukherjee’s visit comes close on the heels of Vice President Hamid Ansari’s trip to Morocco and Tunisia.

Cote D’Ivoirie, also known as Ivory Coast, a francophone country, is the biggest producer and exporter of cashew nuts to India which procures nearly 80 per cent of their total exports of cashew nuts.

The President’s arrival coincided with rains which is considered a good omen by the locales.

“When a guest comes with rain, it is the most auspicious occasion in our country. The second line of our national anthem says our country is a home of hospitality,” said Brice, a local.

The country had gone through a period of turmoil in the last decade due to civil war but its development can be seen from modern expressways crisscrossing the lush green countryside.

Jihadi elements responsible for exodus of Hindus from Kairana: VHP

VHP has held “jihadi elements” responsible for the alleged exodus of Hindus from Kairana in Uttar Pradesh and asked the Samajwadi Party government to “rein them in” and tighten law and order in the state.”Jihadis are being encouraged to carry out their activities… VHP calls upon the state government to rein in jihadi elements who are responsible for this exodus and tighten the law and order in the state,” VHP joint general secretary Surendra Jain said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>He hit out at SP leader and state minister Azam Khan over his statements on the Kairana issue and said it only proved the “anti-Hindu mindset” promoted by him.Jain said the migration of Hindus from Kairana is “unfortunate” and the township, which was Hindu majority 40 years ago, now has only eight per cent Hindus.”It is not only Kairana in Uttar Pradesh that is a mute testimony to the exodus of Hindus, there are many more places other than Kairana which are also witnessing this trend of mass out-migration of Hindus. Apart from Kandhla, Gangoh and Thanabhavan, there are many other places in Western UP where Hindus are resorting to mass out-migration,” he said.The VHP leader alleged this dismal state of affairs has not come about in one day and “unfortunately the parties that have been governing UP have concentrated more on vote bank politics rather than the interests of the nation and the state. Instead of taking action against the criminals, they provided political patronage to them.”

Need of the hour to make Punjab drug-free: Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Mohali: Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on Friday said the need of the hour was to make Punjab drug free and appealed to people to keep yoga above politics.

“It was important to make Punjab drug free. In the present situation in Punjab, everybody should come forward to make the state drug free and save the youths of Punjab,” he said during a meditation session at the Paraplegic Rehabilitation Centre (PRC).

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. AFPSri Sri Ravi Shankar. AFP

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. AFP

He also appealed to everyone to keep yoga above politics and participate in the event on International Yoga Day in Chandigarh in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi will also participate.

Ravi Shankar emphasized the importance of Yoga for every individual irrespective of cast, creed or social status and said people should not drag religion into yoga.

He said that yoga is not just asanas or physical exercise rather its a complete science which provides us techniques to lead a stress-free life.

During his brief stay at the centre, Ravi Shankar interacted with the inmates and gave them some tips to remain happy.

On the occasion of International Yoga Day, Lt Gen K J Singh, GoC-in-C of Western Command said an effort will be made to bring Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the PRC and interact with the bravehearts.

He said that a sports complex is going to be inaugurated shortly at the PRC complex for the fitness of its inmates.

Shiv Sena slams Railways for ‘late’ invites to party MPs

Shiv Sena MP Arvind Sawant on Wednesday criticised Railway officials for inviting his party MPs to railway-related events “at the eleventh hour” and warned of launching a “Shiv Sena-style” protest against this. Sawant also alleged that although he has brought this matter to the notice of Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu, no corrective step has been taken in this regard so far. The Shiv Sena leader attended the inauguration ceremony of a platform and booking office at the Bandra Terminus, inaugurated by Prabhu via video conference today. Sawant wore a black scarf to register his protest.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”I have noticed that whenever Railway administration organises such functions, the parliamentarians, especially from Shiv Sena, are invited at the eleventh hour. This is not acceptable…This is why I have donned a black scarf to register my protest,” Sawant told PTI after the function. The first-time MP said, “Nine times out of 10, we are invited at a very short notice. Railway officials have forgotten that we have other social and political commitments and we need to be informed well in advance.”Stating that he was not against any railway project per se, he said he was opposed to the way they are being launched with a “well-thought out plan of keeping Sena representatives away” from such functions. “I have informed Suresh Prabhu about this delay in sending out invites to Sena MPs, but as usual he has done nothing,” Sawant said, adding, “If Railway officials do not stop this practice soon, then we will handle it in Shiv Sena’s trademark style in the near future.” When contacted, a senior Railway official said the public representatives concerned are generally invited as and when the announcements about such events are made. “The announcement of today’s event was made at a very short notice and immediately after getting the nod from the Railways higher-ups, we got the invitation cards printed and dispatched to all the dignitaries concerned,” Mukul Jain, DRM of Mumbai Division of Western Railway, said.

Jat agitation resumes today; 48 companies of paramilitary forces deployed

Ahead of the proposed Jat quota agitation from Sunday, security arrangements in Haryana have been tightened with the deployment of 4,800 paramilitary personnel and the administration is on high alert.”Besides adequate deployment of police personnel, as many as 48 companies of paramilitary forces have been deployed at various places in the state keeping in view the call for a stir. We have asked for 15 more companies from the Centre,” Haryana Additional Chief Secretary (Home), Ram Niwas said. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>He said, “we are not taking any chance,” even though only one group was going ahead with the dharna. He also said that police and paramilitary forces have been deployed to guard the Western Yamuna Canal in Sonipat district.
ALSO READ Sonipat DM bans mobile internet service in the district ahead of Jat agitationProtesters had disrupted water supply to the national capital by damaging the Carrier-Lined Channel (CLC) of Munak Canal during the earlier Jat agitation in February.The administration has specified one spot in each district where people can peacefully hold dharna, officials said.
ALSO READ Jat reservation: Leaders assure government of peaceful protests on June 5However, officials said they were wary of the fact that protesters may attempt to block national highways and rail tracks, like in February, and therefore they have put maximum security to prevent a repeat of the situation.Haryana Police has cancelled leave of all personnel except in emergency cases till further orders. Prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the CrPc have already been imposed in seven sensitive districts of Haryana barring gathering of five or more persons and paramilitary forces have been conducting flag marches during the past few days.Police are keeping a close watch on anyone trying to spread rumours or make inflammatory statements through social media.”Adequate security measures have been taken. We are fully prepared to deal with the situation,” Additional Director General of Police Mohammad Akil said.”The police stations are stocked adequately equipped to deal with any kind of protest,” he said.While Khap Panchayats have opted out of the proposed agitation and dharnas from June 5, All India Jat Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti (AIJASS) has given a call for the protest.Jat community leaders, however, have assured Haryana government that they will maintain peace during the proposed pro-quota protest.The AIJASS Hisar district president Rambhagat Malik said, “We are committed to holding dharnas in a peaceful manner.” He also said that apart from quota for the Jat community, “We are demanding withdrawal of cases registered against our leaders and youths during the stir in February”.However, the head of Jat Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti, Nafe Singh Nain, yesterday said they will not participate in the protest slated for June 5.Meanwhile, Nafe Singh Nain, National President of Jat Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti, said they will not participate in the protest slated for June 5. He said, “The government has assured the community of providing reservation and compensation to the families of those killed in the February stir.” “We trust the government and there is no need for agitation now and if someone still protest, we are not with them,” the Jat leader said.

Jat stir: 4,800 paramilitary personnel deployed, administration on high alert

Chandigarh: Ahead of the proposed Jat quota agitation from Sunday, security arrangements in Haryana have been tightened with the deployment of 4,800 paramilitary personnel and the administration is on high alert.

“Besides adequate deployment of police personnel, as many as 48 companies of paramilitary forces have been deployed at various places in the state keeping in view the stir call from tomorrow. We have asked for 15 more companies from the Centre,” Haryana Additional Chief Secretary (Home), Ram Niwas said on Saturaday.

He said, “we are not taking any chance,” even though only one group was going ahead with the dharna.

He also said that police and paramilitary forces have been deployed to guard the Western Yamuna Canal in Sonipat district.

Protesters had disrupted water supply to the national capital by damaging the Carrier-Lined Channel (CLC) of Munak Canal during the earlier Jat agitation in February.

The administration has specified one spot in each district where people can peacefully hold dharna, officials said.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

However, officials said they were wary of the fact that protesters may attempt to block national highways and rail tracks, like in February, and therefore they have put maximum security to prevent a repeat of the situation.

Haryana Police has cancelled leave of all personnel except in emergency cases till further orders.

Prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the CrPc have already been imposed in seven sensitive districts of Haryana barring gathering of five or more persons and paramilitary forces have been conducting flag marches during the past few days .

Police are keeping a close watch on anyone trying to spread rumours or make inflammatory statements through social media.

“Adequate security measures have been taken. We are fully prepared to deal with the situation,” Additional Director General of Police Mohammad Akil said.

“The police stations are stocked adequately equipped to dead with any kind of protest,” he said.

While Khap Panchayats have opted out of the proposed agitation and dharnas from 5 June, All India Jat Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti (AIJASS) has given a call for the protest.

Jat community leaders, however, have assured Haryana government that they will maintain peace during the proposed pro-quota protest.

The AIJASS Hisar district president Rambhagat Malik said, “We are committed to holding dharnas in a peaceful manner.”

He also said that apart from quota for the Jat community, “We are demanding withdrawal of cases registered against our leaders and youths during the stir in February”.

However, the head of Jat Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti, Nafe Singh Nain, yesterday said they will not participate in the protest slated for 5 June.

Thirty people were killed and properties worth hundreds of crores of rupees were destroyed during the February quota agitation by Jats.

Torrid Tuesday for thousands as coach topples on Western Railway

Thousands of commuters had a torrid Tuesday after a coach that toppled between Lower Parel and Elphinstone stations blocked both the down and up slow lines all through the morning.With no slow locals available during morning peak hours on Western Railway till 11 am, fast trains were packed even more than usual, while arterial roads like the Western Express Highway and SV Road witnessed snail-paced bumper-to-bumper traffic.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>According to Western Railway (WR) officials, an empty coach being shunted from the Lower Parel workshop to the Lower Parel yard toppled on the down slow line (towards Dadar and beyond) around 2.11 am.The coach fell in such a manner that an edge of the coach was dangerously close to the up (towards Churchgate) slow line, which meant that due to safety concerns, even this line was closed for traffic. More than 100 suburban services were cancelled and several more ran late.While WR officials are inquiring into the incident, officials told dna that, prima facie, it looked as if the buffer of the coach on the western side hit some infringement close to the tracks. It was part of a 19-coach rake that was being taken back from the workshop after a round of maintenance.Commuter-speakWhat a nightmare!Arpita Vankani, finance professional, working at Lower Parel”I generally reach Kandivli station around 7.40 am and board a slow train around 7.45 am and reach Lower Parel in 45 minutes. Today was a nightmare. There was chaos all around. I caught a fast train around the same time and it halted every 2-3 minutes. It was very crowded, with many women on the footboard. The train reached Dadar around 10 am. From there, our office arranged a road drop for us. It is so unfortunate that a city like Mumbai has no alternative to the suburban system. If the system doesn’t work, the city just folds up.”The fall and the rise2.10 am: Coach derails and capsizes on down slow line at Lower Parel yard2.10 am: Self-Propelled Accident Relief Train (SPART) called in to start restoration2.40 am: Heavy-duty Virat rail-crane called in from Kurla4 am: Crane leaves Kurla5.30 am: Crane reaches Dadar and reach the site some time later9 am- Coach set upright (rerailed)10.27 am: Engineering department gives all-clear to up (south-bound) track10.50 am: First up line local passes11.10 am: Engineering department gives all-clear to down (north-bound) line11.22 am: First local, Churchgate-Bhayander, passes. Both lines restored

Admiral Sunil Lanba takes over as Navy chief; vows to safeguard country’s maritime domain

New Delhi: Admiral Sunil Lanba on Tuesday took over as the new Chief of Naval Staff and vowed to ensure that the maritime domain of the country is safe and secure.

58-year-old Lanba, a specialist in Navigation and Direction, will have the full three-year tenure as the Navy Chief. He succeeded Admiral RK Dhowan who has retired.

File image of Sunil Lanba. CNN-News18

File image of Sunil Lanba. CNN-News18

“It is indeed an honour and a privilege for me to take over the command of the Indian Navy, one of the finest in the world,” he said, adding that over the years, the Navy has turned into a modern and combat ready force capable of operating in all three dimensions.

“The men and women who man the Navy are professionally trained, committed and patriotic and are committed to ensuring that our national interest are safeguarded anywhere, anytime and everywhere,” he said.

An alumnus of Defence Services Staff College, Lanba is the 21st Indian to be the Navy Chief. The first two were British. Coming in with rich operational and staff experience in a career spanning more than three decades, Lanba has served as Navigating Officer of corvette INS Sindhudurg and frigate INS Dunagiri.

He has commanded four frontline warships — INS Kakinada (minesweeper), INS Himgiri (frigate), INS Ranvijay and INS Mumbai, both destroyers. He is also an alumnus of the College of Defence Management, Secunderabad, where he served as a faculty.

Lanba has also held key staff assignments such as Fleet Operations Officer of the Western Fleet and the Chief of Staff, Southern and Eastern Naval Commands. He was also the Flag Officer Sea Training, Flag Officer Commanding Maharashtra and Gujarat Naval Area and Commandant, National Defence College.

He was the Commander-in-Chief of the Southern Naval Command at Kochi, prior to being appointed to head the Western Naval Command. He took over as the Vice Chief on 2 June, 2014.

Admiral Lanba is a recipient of the Param Vishist Seva Medal and the Athi Vishist Seva Medal for distinguished service.

Light showers in Delhi bring much needed relief from heat

Light showers owing to a Western Disturbance brought much needed relief from sweltering heat in the city and adjoining areas today even as the national capital saw maximum temperature again crossing the 45 degrees Celsius mark.Temperature is expected to see a drop with the MeT department predicting light showers tomorrow.”The Palam observatory registered a maximum temperature of 45.6 degrees Celsius,” said a Met official.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Safdarjung observatory, whose reading is considered as the official figure for the city, recorded a maximum temperature of 42.7 degrees Celsius, three notches above the season’s average. On May 18, the Palam observatory registered a high of 46.4 degrees Celsius, which is the highest so far this season. Minimum temperature was recorded at 28.8 degree Celsius which was two notches above the season’s average, the official said.The humidity level oscillated between 68 per cent and 37 per cent. Several parts of central and north India, including Delhi, have been reeling under the intense heat wave like conditions.The MeT department has said that maximum temperatures is “very likely” to fall by 1-2 degrees Celsius over Delhi in next 48 hours.”The sky will be partly cloudy. Rain and thunder storm may occur in some areas towards evening and night tomorrow,” the Met forecast said.According to weather man, the maximum and minimum temperatures are likely to hover at 43 degree Celsius and 29 degree Celsius respectively.Yesterday, the maximum temperature was recorded at 41.6 degrees Celsius while the minimum had settled at 30.7 degrees Celsius.

H&M says working to improve labour conditions in India, Cambodia factories | Reuters

NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Swedish fashion retailer Hennes & Mauritz (H&M) said it was collaborating with trade unions, government as well as the U.N. to improve workers’ conditions after a study found violations in supplying garment factories in India and Cambodia.

The study by the Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA) found workers stitching clothes for H&M in factories in Delhi and Phnom Penh faced problems such as low wages, fixed-term contracts, forced overtime and loss of job if pregnant.

The AFWA, a coalition of trade unions and labour rights groups, accused the Western high street retailer of failing on its commitments to clean up its supply chain.

An official from H&M told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Saturday that the fashion firm has been working actively to improve the lives of textile workers for many years.

“The report raises important issues and we are dedicated to contribute to positive long-term development for the people working in the textile industry in our sourcing markets,” said Thérèse Sundberg from H&M’s press and communications department.

“The issues addressed in the report are industry wide problems. They are often difficult to address as an individual company and we firmly believe that collaboration is key.”

H&M has partnered with the International Labour Organization, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency as well as global and local trade unions to seek out solutions, she added in an emailed statement.

The fashion industry has come under increasing pressure to improve factory conditions and workers’ rights, particularly after the collapse of the Rana Plaza complex in Bangladesh three years ago, when 1,136 garment workers were killed.


The study, which surveyed 50 Indian workers from five factories and 201 Cambodians workers from 12 factories from August to October 2015.

It found that overtime in all the factories was expected by employers. Cambodian workers reported they had to do two hours of overtime daily, while Indian workers reported working at least 9 hours to 17 hours a day.

“Workers are routinely required to work until 2 a.m. in order to meet production targets — and then to report to work at 9 a.m.,” it said, referring to workers in Indian factories.

“The financial imperative of working overtime due to the persistence of minimum wage standards below living wage standards can be viewed as a form of economic coercion that leads to involuntary or forced overtime,” it added.

The study also found that fixed-term contracts were being used in 9 of the 12 Cambodian and all Indian factories surveyed.

These contracts facilitate arbitrary termination and deprive workers of job security, pension, healthcare, seniority benefits and gratuity, say activists.

Workers also reported discrimination in maternity benefits in both the Indian and Cambodian factories, said the study.

Cambodian workers from 11 of the 12 factories reported either witnessing or experiencing termination of employment during pregnancy, while Indians from all five factories said women were fired during their pregnancies, said the study.

“Permanent workers report being forced to take leave without pay for the period of their pregnancy,” it said.

“Contract, piece rate and casual workers reported that although most of the time they are reinstated in their jobs after pregnancy, they receive completely new contracts that cause them to lose seniority.”

H&M’s Sundberg said solving all these issues was a long-term process which continues “step-by-step” and that the Swedish retailer was committed to improving labour rights in its supplying factories.

“The continued presence of long-term, responsible buyers is vital to the future development of countries such as Cambodia and India, and we want to continue to contribute to increased improvements in these markets,” said Sundberg.

(Reporting by Nita Bhalla; Editing by Belinda Goldsmith.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit

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

ISC Results 2016: Board ISC Class 12th XII Result 2016 to be declared "in few hours time"

ISC (Class 12) Board Examination​Students of CISCE council are waiting with the baited breath for the results of Class 12 examinations. The ISC exams were conducted from February 26 to March 30 earlier this year. This is an important stepping stone in a student’s life. It will lead to building a desired career and in turn building a better future for themselves and the country.Over 1.6 lakh, students appeared for ISC exams and the ISC results 2016 will be declared for the same at 3 PM today.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>CISCE ISC (Class 12) Board Examination 2016These ISC exams are conducted by the Council For The Indian School Certificate Examination. The council came into existence in December 1967. It was registered as a Society under the Societies Registration Act, 1860. In 1973, the Council was listed in the Delhi School Education Act 1973, as a body conducting “public” examinations. CISCE ISC (Class 12) Result 2016In the year 2015, girls outshone boys in pass percentage. 97.49% girls cleared the ISC exam 2015 while pass percentage for boys was a 95.27.For ISC, 71,141 students had appeared for 2015 exam. The overall pass percentage went up by 1.01% for ISC Class 12 Exam. When considered regions, South region recorded 99.08 pass percentage which was the highest among them all. The Western region came second with 97. 47 pass percentage.How to check CISCE ISC (Class 12) Result 2016 1. Visit for your results.2. Log in to CAREERS portal of the Council website. Students will have to use the Principal’s login ID and password3. Under the ‘Examination System’ click on ISC 2016 for your CISCE examination results 2016.4. Click on ‘Reports’5. Click on ‘Result Tabulation’ to view the school’s result tabulation6. Check ‘Comparison Table’ to View/Print the sameThe students can also receive their ISC (Class 12) results via SMS:1. Type your seven-digit unique ID to check CISCE exam result in this manner:ISC XXXXXXX (seven-digit unique ID)2. Send the text message to 09248082883

Police, railways investigate whether IRCTC website was hacked

A six-member team comprising officials from the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation and the Centre for Railway Information System has begun an inquiry into whether an attempt was made to hack the IRCTC website.According to officials, the matter came to light after Inspector-General of police Maharashtra Cyber Cell informed the Chief Commercial Manager Western Railway about the site being hacked.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Speaking to dna, Sandip Dutta, spokesperson of IRCTC said, “We will be in a position to confirm if indeed there has been a hacking attempt after we get information about the hacked data from the police”.

Tamil Nadu Assembly polls: No freebies, greater focus on skill development, says BJP

Dindigul (TN): BJP on Friday expressed confidence of putting up a good show in the 16 May Assembly polls in Tamil Nadu and said it will not provide freebies if voted to power but instead would focus on skill development and employment generation.


Union Environment Minister and BJP’s in-charge for Tamil Nadu affairs, Prakash Javadekar.

Union Environment Minister and BJP’s in-charge for Tamil Nadu affairs, Prakash Javadekar also reiterated his charge that the state government had not given its opinion on the Kasturirangan report on Western Ghats.

The BJP, if voted to power, will not provide freebies, but strive for skill development and employment generation, he told reporters here, adding that the party was facing the polls confidently.

Reiterating his earlier charge, Javadekar said the AIADMK government had not responded to Centre seeking opinion of states concerned on the Kasturirangan Committee report on the Western Ghats.

The rest of the states – Kerala, Karnataka and Maharashtra, had already made their submissions, he said.

Killer heat wave: Death toll reaches 99 as condition intensifies in Odisha

Mercury continued to soar in major parts of the country on Monday taking the death toll to 99 as heat wave condition intensified in Odisha.Titlagarh has been experiencing extreme heat for the past several days. The city had on Sunday recorded its highest temperature for the month of April in the last 17 years.The temperature on Monday is likely to hover around 42 degrees Celsius in most places in the next few days.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In view of the condition, the state government has announced summer vacation for school students from Tuesday itself.There would be no classes but the schools can conduct the examinations in the morning and evening hours, the SRC said.The heat wave continued unabated with Titlagarh in Bolangir district becoming the hottest place in the country on Sunday by recording 48.5 degrees Celsius which was a record for this Western Odisha town in April.The mercury remained above 44 degrees Celsius in as many as eight places in the state, while in 17 towns it soared above 40 degrees Celsius on Sunday.

Sabarimala temple issue: Two Hindu bodies move SC, seek entry of women in temple

Two religious bodies have moved the Supreme Court supporting the PIL seeking entry of women in the historic Sabarimala temple in Kerala saying no ritual or custom can be used as grounds to discriminate against women in the matter of worship.Kerala-based bodies Hind Navotthana Pratishtan, through President Swami Bhoomananda Tirtha, and Narayanashrama Tapovanam, through its Managing Trustee Swami Bhoomananda Tirtha, have filed the plea seeking to intervene in the PIL being heard by a bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”No temple ritual, ceremony or custom can …be made any ground for discriminating against women in the matter of worshiping in any temple, including Sabarimala, as it is a clear violation of the constitutional equality and freedom guaranteed for men and women alike,” the plea, filed through lawyer Ravi P Mehrotra, said.Referring to some religious texts, it said “no defence or refuge to the practice of disallowing women devotees can thus be taken in the case of Sabarimala Temple and Deity, or any other public places of worship, on the ground of widespread/ long-standing belief and custom.”Just as customs can be good, noble and great, they can also be derogatory, destructive and retrograde, as has happened in the case of women, their religious status and equality…,” it said.No custom or practice can claim any credence or exemption on any ground and the Constitution is supreme, it said, adding that the temples come under Constitution and the laws enacted under it. The case would come up for further hearing on Friday.Earlier, the court had said that gender equality was a “constitutional message” and the ban on entry of women of a particular age group in the Sabarimala temple cannot be claimed as a right to manage religious affairs by its management.The court is hearing a PIL, filed by Indian Young Lawyers’ Association seeking entry of women in Sabarimala temple, located on a hill-top in the Western Ghat mountain ranges of Kerala’s Pathanamthitta District.

Sabarimala temple row: SC says gender equality is constitutional message; imposing ban not part of temple body’s right

Gender equality is a “constitutional message” and the ban on entry of women of a particular age group in the historic Sabarimala temple cannot be claimed as a right to manage religious affairs by its management, the Supreme Court said today.”Gender equality is a constitutional message and they (temple management) cannot say that this (banning women) comes under their right to manage religious affairs,” a bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The bench, also comprising Justices V Gopala Gowda and Kurian Joseph, reiterated that it would test the “so-called” customary practice under the provisions of the Constitution.
ALSO READ Sabarimala temple row: Will you stop women from climbing Everest? asks Supreme CourtAt the outset, senior advocate Indira Jaising, appearing for NGO ‘Happy to Bleed’ which is seeking women’s entry into the historic shrine in Kerala, said the law was meant for “removal of social ills” and constitutional principles would prevail over discriminatory customs and beliefs.”The ban on entry of women cannot be said to be part of the right to manage a public religious places like temple,” she said and referred to various judgements to buttress her arguments.The right to enter a public temple is available to all Hindus irrespective of gender, she said, adding that any custom, belief or even law could be termed “void” if they do not conform to the constitutional principles.During the hearing when Jaising started dealing with the aspect that the deity at Sabarimala is “celibate” and “brahmachari”, the bench asked her not to get into it.
ALSO READ Sabarimala issue: Why does temple discriminate against women when Vedas, Upanishads don’t? asks Supreme Court”They (Travancore Devaswom Board) rely on customs, tradition and philosophy and you rely on Constitution. Let us not get into the nature of deity…,” the court said, adding it would examine whether any custom is protected by any law.The court is hearing a PIL, filed by Indian Young Lawyers’ Association (IYLA) seeking entry of women in the Sabarimala temple, located on a hill-top in the Western Ghat mountain ranges of Kerala’s Pathanamthitta District.Senior advocate Raju Ramachandran, who is assisting the court as an amicus curiae, said “the practice, which keeps women away and prevents them from worshipping the deity of the shrine because of their biology, is derogatory and detrimental to their dignity”.During the hearing, the bench, referring to the belief that the deity at Sabarimala is celibate, asked, “If the deity says I don’t want to see you, why compel him? If he doesn’t want to be pleased, why compel him to be pleased?”.”The deity saying so is the belief of the persons who are managing the shrine,” Ramachandran said.The hearing in the case would resume on April 22.Earlier, the apex court had said that denying women the right to enter and pray in the historic temple cannot be justified on the basis of traditions which violated constitutional principle.

Mumbai: Harbour line likely to get first 12-coach service this week

Central Railway (CR) officials are hoping, as are commuters, that the first run of a 12-coach train on the Harbour line would be sometime this week. Speaking to dna, an official said the plan is to start at least a few services a day by the end of this week and then gradually increase the number of 12-coach trips. The railway budget has allotted Rs 80 crore for the financial year 2016-17 for the project of having 12-coach trains on Harbour line.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”It is possible as CR will be able to spare four to five rakes of 12-coaches each for the purpose. The entire CR machinery is gearing up for the feat,” said the official, adding that the work of converting all the 36 rakes of CR into 12-coach ones would take several months but that shouldn’t come in the way of running longer trains on Harbour line.Officials pointed out that for the past several years, Harbour line has been among the fastest-growing suburban segments in the country with a year-on-year growth of almost 9 per cent. The fact that it has just two lines has made matters worse. A 12-coach train means a straight increase in capacity by around 33 per cent, they reasoned.”Navi Mumbai has turned into a huge city with residential and office enclaves. Suburbs near the Mumbai Port like Wadala, Sewri and the like are seeing tremendous real estate developments, all of which is putting tremendous pressure on the Harbour line. Ideally, the conversion of Hrabour line trains from nine-coach to 12-coach ones should have happened a decade ago,” said one of the officials.While ad hoc measures like getting rakes from Western Railway or using the spare coaches might work on a short-term basis, officials said that in the long run, a generous dose of help from the Railway Board would be required. According to an estimate made by the railways in 2014, CR would require around Rs1,100 crore to buy new rakes and run all 590 Harbour services with 12-coach ones.

Why we should be worried about North India’s demographic time-bomb

North India is being literally turned on a skewer. Punjab had to be restrained by the Supreme Court as it sought to stop further construction of the Sutlej Yamuna Link (SYL) canal. Haryana went on a rampage earlier demanding minority status for the Jats. There are war cries surrounding the alleged gang rape at Murthal. Intemperate pronouncements by political and religious leaders in the North have increased in frequency and shrillness.

It was therefore appropriate for Ambit Capital to talk about North India becoming a ticking demographic time bomb (Sizing India’s demographic bomb, April 5, 2016).

Look closely at this region and you will understand why. The instances of violence, abuse and even sex-related crimes could just be for starters. The nightmare of the past few months could get worse. This is India’s badland. It accounts for the most votes in the country. It has a very young population. It is also, collectively, the most backward.

This territory has little education, and has fewer women and jobs than most other parts of the country. This collective absence is a sure recipe for violence, lawlessness and even anti-national activities.

Just examine the figures.

North-India-demographics LISTICLENorth-India-demographics LISTICLE

Watch how the all-India average of 933 females for every 1,000 males has climbed to 944 between 2001 to 2011 (when the last Census was taken). But the figures for some states are hardly flattering. Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) has dipped from 892 to 883. It could be a key factor for the violence that threatens to spiral out of control. The figures for Bihar are not very flattering either. They’ve fallen from 919 to 916.

But delve a bit deeper, and the signs become even more disturbing. It is then that you realise that things aren’t right with many other states. Take Uttarakhand. Or Delhi. Or Uttar Pradesh (UP). Or Chhatisgarh. Or Madhya Pradesh (MP). They are additions to the two states mentioned above. They are all ticking time bombs where the skewed sex ratio will mean more allegations (or actual instances) of rape and brutality.

Then take literacy levels. Here it is wise to begin with the precautionary warning. India’s average literacy levels are reported to be around 74 percent. But this figure can be quite misleading. India’s definition of literacy remains the same for the six decades or so — anyone who can read and write the letters of his or her name, in any language — is presumed to be literate. Thus, if a person’s name is “Ram” and he can write and read the three letters of his name, he is classified as being literate. It is the most convenient way to perform a statistical fudge, and could easily classify as one of the worst fudges in the world.

So where would you peg India’s literacy level? It is quite hard to tell, because each state has its own board examination. This is compounded by the fact that Kapil Sibal, the former Union home minister, had steered a legislation through Parliament, which compelled students to automatically and compulsorily promote students each year, up to the Class Seven level. Since around five percent of the students on an average are filtered out each year on grounds of non-performance on various counts, the automatic promotions policy ensures that, at the Class Eight level, each class would have around 40 percent of students who ought not to have been there.

As no school would like to face the combined onslaught of parents and society by detaining 40 percent of students at the Class Nine level, most managements of schools promoted them further (automatically). Some good schools that attempted to detain students at this stage were warned by education ministers (as in Maharashtra) not to detain them. Thus, almost all students who enrolled for Class One could be expected to appear for Class 10 exams.

Jat protestors in Panchukla in February. Image from AFPJat protestors in Panchukla in February. Image from AFP

Jat protesters in Panchukla in February. Image from AFP

At the board level too, state governments chicken out at the thought of detaining 50 percent (or more) of the students. Even otherwise, examination boards are known to give grace marks to students at each level (local, regional and state). Thus, a student securing 15 percent of marks could be expected to be ‘graced’ to 35 percent. The new automatic promotions policy only made things worse. That is why, the present HRD Minister’s decision to scrap the automatic promotions policy is perhaps a good move — finally.

Thus students who should not pass the Class 10 examinations also get promoted. Many of these students then knock at the doors of colleges in order to gain higher education. The poor quality of students seeking enrolment plays havoc with teaching standards. Coupled with the terrible salaries teachers get — when compared with their counterparts in manufacturing or in the financial sectors — the best talent stays away from teaching. The quality of graduates thus is also pathetic.

Organisations like McKinseys and Nasscom believe that only 20 percent of graduates are employable. Now go back to our chart, and you will discover that even in the face of such rotten benchmarks, students in J&K, Rajasthan, UP, Bihar, Chattisgarh and MP under-performed. Literacy levels in these states are lower than the propped up national average. Obviously, most graduates from these states will not even be considered for employment by most good organisations. Without good education, there can be little scope for growth.

Now comes the final rub. These are states that have not even been able to create the number of jobs (well paid or even otherwise) that the teeming millions aspire for.

With no jobs, little employability and fewer women, and a vibrant and youthful population, these states are at the brink of a social revolt. They are willing fodder for rent-a-mob possibilities that short-sighted and amoral politicians are always in search of. They can be exploited, abused, and even provoked into unbelievable acts of violence, loot and arson.

This is what the world realised when the Shah of Iran was forced to abdicate power, ushering in the Islamic Republic under the leadership of Ayatollah Khomeini. True, the Shah had big plans of modernising his people. But he forgot that his country had a large proportion of young people, which he loved to believe were capable of a demographic dividend for his country. But this population had little education, and fewer jobs. They were ready to be ignited. They just needed an excuse, and the revolution was unstoppable.

That explains why in spite of the Western world calling Iran fundamentalist, the new regime focused on good education, and job creation. Prime Minister Modi has been talking about creating jobs. But heads of North Indian states want to drag the country down further. One chief minister has called for extending reservations to the private sector as well.

Reservation makes sense only at the school level. Good education is the best leveler. Thereafter, jobs and promotions must be on merit. But when education is terrible, and most are unemployable, reservations begins to gain much support among unemployable masses. Reservation without merit is a surefire recipe for economic disaster.

Put these reasons together and the penny drops. North India is a demographic time-bomb.

Can it be defused? Yes, if there is good education. And strict enforcement of laws that are aimed at preventing female infanticide. Jobs can be created, but only if there is political peace. With unemployability and gender disparity, social stability will remain fragile.

Odd-even scheme: 2nd phase begins in Delhi; 500 cars fined in first few hours

Fewer private cars were seen on roads as the second phase of the odd-even scheme rolled out in Delhi on Friday to combat spiralling air pollution with Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal appealing to people to join hands to make the initiative a success.In the first few hours after the second phase of the scheme was rolled out in the morning, nearly 511 cars were penalised Rs 2,000 each for violating rules which will apply for the 15 days.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Nearly 129 violators were fined in the Southern range, 108 in Western range, 97 in Central range, 78 in Outer range, 57 in East range and 42 in Northern range.The Delhi government, which has projected the second phase of the road-rationing policy as the ‘decisive’ one, said that 2,000 traffic personnel, 580 enforcement officials and over 5,000 civil defence volunteers are being deployed by it for smooth implementation of the scheme, which will run for 15 days, till April 30.(An Indian traffic policeman checks with a driver as the latest round of odd-even car restrictions got underway in New Delhi on April 15, 2016. – AFP)The actual impact of the scheme will be known only on Monday, the first full working day after the second phase roll out. Today is a holiday because of Ram Navami followed by Saturday and Sunday.”Odd even starts today. Let’s all join hands and resolve to make it a success,” Kejriwal tweeted.Meanwhile, Asserting that the odd-even scheme by the Delhi government was doing nothing but causing inconvenience to the commuters, former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit accused her successor Arvind Kejriwal of heavily publicising the scheme in a blatant attempt to fool the public into believing that the formula was a raging success. “I really don’t see any benefit here. This is nothing but convenience. They should have gone ahead with the programme only if they honestly thought it was a success. They should also ensure adequate transportation to people, which is not there right now. Half the buses are broken down, how are people supposed to travel now,” Dikshit told ANI. Two hundred metro trains will make around 3,248 trips daily during the next fortnight, a rise of about 56 trips over the existing arrangements, DMRC has said. 15 additional feeder buses will also leave from stations across the city. (With PTI inputs)

IPL 2016: Bombay HC allows matches in drought hit-Maharashtra till April 30, remaining matches to be shifted outside

The Bombay High Court on Wednesday said that it will allow Indian Premier League (IPL) matches in Maharashtra until April 30 after which the rest of the matches must be be shifted out of the state.The hearing was in respect to the petition filed by an NGO asking that IPL matches be shifted out of the drought affected state.The BCCI on Wednesday in a reply to a plea in Bombay High Court asking the cricket body to shift IPL matches out of drought-hit Maharashtra said that the cricket body and three IPL franchise teams are willing to pay money for the CM’s Drought Relief Fund and supply over 40 lakh water to affected areas.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A division bench of justices V M Kanade and M S Karnik in the Bombay HC asked yesterday the BCCI to inform them if it was willing to donate to the chief minister’s drought relief fund and if it would provide around 40 lakh litres of water to areas where there is scarcity. It further asked the BCCI to consider shifting a few IPL matches, to be held in Pune, out of the state.The BCCI replied to it saying, “We are ready to supply more than 40 lakh litres of water to the drought hit areas, be it Latur or any place. We’re paying Rs five crores directly for the drought relief and the RWITC has given in undertaking that they will not back out.” The Mumbai and Pune team franchises are willing to give Rs five crore each towards CM drought relief fund, the BCCI told HC.BCCI also said that it will consult Vidarbha Cricket Association (VCA )to shift Nagpur matches somewhere else. It also reiterated that the RWITC has given undertaking about supply of required recycled sewage water for Mumbai and Pune stadiums.The HC ordered the government to monitor the promised water (by BCCI) and see that it has supplied it to affected areas. “We propose to monitor state water policy,” said HC.Hitting out at the state government, HC said, “The state Govt files affidavit, says they have no objection if the matches are shifted out of the state but on the other hand they are saying that shifting matches will not solve the problem, but the court can’t close eyes from the plight of millions.Bombay HC observes that Maharashtra Govt is passing bucks to municipal corporation”Tickets are sold, there are many other people involved who are benefited by IPL, so the IPL should be allowed,” says BCCI. The cricket body also said, “There are many ways to find long term solutions for water scarcity.”As far as BCCI or MCA is concerned, they just get the rent of the stadium, rest is franchise’s profit.”The Pune franchise lawyer bfore the hearing had opposed shifting of IPL matches outside Pune, saying “If the matches are shifted our local support benefit will go and we will suffer financial losses.” The Pune franchise’s lawyer also said that large part of what the court and the petitioner suggested is being done and that they were ready for something more as suggested by petitioners and court.The petitioner that asked whether money can be substituted for water, in response to the Pune franchise lawyer statement about facing losses over shifting of venue. “In 2009 also, IPL was shifted to South Africa,” the petitioner said. During the hearing, petitioner’s lawyer said, “We have report confirming that RWITC was penalised in past for illegal usage of water.”The Bombay High Court had on Tuesday asked the cash-rich Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) if it would compensate the state by donating money and providing water to drought-affected areas for holding the Indian Premier League (IPL) in Maharashtra, and using non-potable water for maintaining grounds and pitches. The state is facing a severe drought, and as many as nine IPL matches are to be played in Pune and eight in Mumbai.Petitioners also informed the court that Kings 11 Punjab and VCA have been served notice through email to be made party in the matterThe direction was given after BCCI informed the court that it would henceforth use treated sewage water, provided by the Royal Western Indian Turf Club (RWITC) in Mumbai and Pune, to maintain its grounds and pitches.The directions were given during the hearing of a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by NGO Loksatta Movement, seeking directions to the government to shift IPL matches outside Maharashtra. The petition claimed that around 40-60 lakh litres of water will be used to maintain pitches, which instead could be diverted to people facing severe shortage of water in Vidarbha and Marathwada.Royal Western Indian Turf Club (RWITC) to provide around 70,000-80,000 liters of treated sewage water to stadiums in Mumbai and Pune.BMC provides 22,000 liters of potable water to Wankhede stadium every dayWith agency inputs.

India’s 3 world heritage sites face threat from harmful activity: World Wildlife Fund

India’s three major natural World Heritage Sites – the Western Ghats, Sundarbans National Park and Manas Wildlife Sanctuary – are facing threats from harmful industrial activities like mining, according to a latest survey by World Wildlife Fund (WWF).Activities such as mining, illegal logging, oil and gas exploration threaten 114 out of 229 natural World Heritage sites, including Sundarbans known for iconic Royal Bengal tiger, Western Ghats, one of the top biodiversity hotspots in the world, and the Manas Sanctuary in Assam, home to many endangered species including Indian rhinoceros, it said. While ecology of Western Ghats covering six states – Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala – is threatened by mining and oil and gas exploration, Manas Wild Life Sanctuary faces threat from dams and unsustainable water use, the survey ‘Protecting People Through Nature’ said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Sundarbans in West Bengal and neighbouring Bangladesh have been hit by various activities including unsustainable water use, dams, wood harvesting, over-fishing and shipping lanes, WWF, a leading organisation in wildlife conservation and endangered species, said in the report. These sites are recognised as the world’s most important protected areas like India’s Great Himalayan National Park and Kaziranga National Park.The Western Ghats supports the single largest population of endangered Asian elephants and vulnerable Indian bison, the report said underlining the need for protecting the site. “These iconic places face a range of threats, including climate change. Removing pressure from harmful industrial activity is therefore critical to increase the sites’ resilience,” says Tim Badman, Director of IUCN’s World Heritage Programme, commenting on the WWF survey.According to International Union for Conservation of Nature, which helps the world find pragmatic solutions to most pressing environmental and developmental challenges, natural World Heritage sites are not just important environmentally, they also provide social and economic benefits.-thirds of natural sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List are crucial sources of water and about half help prevent natural disasters such as floods or landslides, according to IUCN’s 2014 report, ‘The Benefits of Natural World Heritage’.Reiterating these findings, WWF survey estimates that “11 million people more than the population of Portugal depend directly on World Heritage sites for food, water, shelter and medicine. Harmful industrial development poses a threat to these ecosystem services and communities that depend on them.” Noting that these sites have a crucial role in supporting human well-being and sustainable development, Tim Badman said, “By highlighting human dependency on these exceptional places, WWF’s report reinforces the need to boost our efforts to conserve them.”