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Government unveils major changes in defence offset policy

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It has made amendments in the ‘offset’ policy to allow “flexibility to the vendors in offset contracts and reinstatement of services as an avenue for discharge of offset obligations and level playing field to Indian vendors in capital acquisitions”.

The ministry of defence (MoD) on Wednesday introduced significant policy measures that could help in promoting ease of doing business and in pushing the Make in India programme in the defence sector.It has made amendments in the ‘offset’ policy to allow “flexibility to the vendors in offset contracts and reinstatement of services as an avenue for discharge of offset obligations and level playing field to Indian vendors in capital acquisitions”.A 30 per cent offset in contracts valued above Rs 3 billion under “buy” and ‘buy and make” categories is mandatory.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Vendors had been expressing difficulty to upfront provide specific description of products and their work share, supporting documents to establish eligibility of Indian offset partners (IOPs) and yearly discharge schedule. This is primarily due to the time lag between submission of technical offset offers and finalisation and subsequent implementation of offset contracts. As a result there were frequent contract amendment requests from vendors.Accordingly, a two pronged approach for mitigating perceived bottlenecks during pre and post contract stage has been evolved through amendments to offset guidelines,” the ministry said in a statement.At pre-contract stage option has been given to the vendors to submit detailed offset proposals at a later stage. The vendor can finalise his IOPs and offset product details one year prior to the intended offset discharge, or can even undertake the offset activity and submit claims thereafter. This will facilitate vendors to finalise a more realistic offset offer.At the post contract stage, enabling provisions have been made in the offset guidelines for change in IOP or component and re-phasing of offset schedule. The Standard Operating Procedure will now make it possible to address requests from vendors to change their IOP or their offset component as per requirement during the period of the contract.Another major change has been with regards to bringing ‘Services’ back as an eligible Offset which was kept in abeyance since 23 May, 2013 in the light of scandal involving VVIP choppers. This has been done following a persistent demand from the industry (both domestic and foreign) for allowing services as a valid avenue for discharge of offset obligations. A business potential push of an estimated over 3 Million USD can be effected through this new clause. Indian vendors participating in ‘Buy Global’ cases were at a disadvantageous position in terms of fulfilling offset obligations. In order to promote ‘Make in India’, a level playing field has been provided and an Indian vendor has been brought at par with the foreign Original Equipment Manufacturers in terms of fulfilling offset obligations. Notably, on Tuesday, DIPP data showed dismal FDI equity flow in defence at just 0.08 Million USD between Oct 2014 – Sep 2015.

India’s malnutrition rates falling faster than before; Bihar, UP worst performers

The report, that details nutrition data from across 28 states and Delhi, shows that 38.7 per cent of children under 5 in India are stunted, which is a measure of chronic undernutrition.

India’s latest data on the state of nutrition came as a mixed bag, with malnutrition rates declining faster than before but not nearly fast enough for to meet global targets. The India Health Report: Nutrition 2015 was released on Thursday by union health minister JP Nadda and Union women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi. The report, and health experts from Public Foundation of India and the International Food Policy Research Institute, who jointly organised the launch, cautiously congratulated India for its progress, but stressed that a lot more needed to be done, and fast.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The report, that details nutrition data from across 28 states and Delhi, shows that 38.7 per cent of children under 5 in India are stunted, which is a measure of chronic undernutrition. Additionally 19.8 per cent are wasted, indicating acute undernutrition and 42.56 per cent are underweight which is a composite of the two conditions.India’s average annual rate of decline for under-five stunting, between 2006-2014 has been 2.3 percent per year, much better than the 1.2 percent per year rate that the country saw during 1992 and 2006. However, India still lags behind its neighbours and even some sub-Saharan countries. Nepal has an average annual decline rate of 3.3 percent per year, and Bangladesh matches that of India.This, as Professor Ramanan Laxminarayan from PHFI, co-author of the report, said, meant that child undernutrition weakly correlated with income, as despite India’s economic dominance in subcontinent ïn terms of per capita income”.This has been observed among states too, as different states with similar income levels performed differently. Tamil Nadu and Gujarat, for example have similar income levels, yet Gujarat had a much higher rate of prevalence of stunting. Kerala and Goa had similar rates of stunting prevalence when Goa has almost double of Kerala’s per capita net state domestic product.Bihar and Uttar Pradesh were the worst performers, with high levels of stunting, calling for immediate action to be taken in those areas.Additionally, there is the added burden of obesity and overweight populace leading to a possible epidemic of noncommunicable diseases such as cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, as Dr, Soumya Swaminathan, director general Indian Council of Medical Research pointed out. She also called for a relook at existing midday meal schemes, to reconstitute their carbohydrate content with proteins, and make sure micronutrients were sufficient,.Dr. Laurence Haddad, co-Chair of the Global Nutrition Report, also released today, and a senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute urged India to increase its commitment and its spending on countering malnutrition.Health minister Nadda, took note of all the points, especially Haddad’s argument of spending on nutrition being a great investment for the country — one rupee spent on a person would yielded Rs 34, a benefit cost ratio of 34 is to 1. He also spoke about the various interventions by his ministry, such as a mandatory 48 hour period to stay in hospitals during childbirth to provide counselling and initiate breastfeeding, establishing nutrition rehabilitation centres at district and sub-district levels, and the National Iron Plus Initiative to control anemia at all stages of life.Experts also called on the government to check other social determinants, such as mothers with less than ten years of education, underage mothers, adolescent girls with low Body Mass Index, open defecation, so as to save people from the irreversible effects of cognitive impairment and susceptibility to chronic disease, and the country from a disastrous economic burden.

PM Narendra Modi calls for targeted economic sanctions to disrupt terror fund flow

The Prime Minister also said the terror groups derive funding from criminal activities that include smuggling of narcotics, bank robbery, vehicle thefts, fake currency or from ‘state sponsored activities in failed states’.

PM Narendra Modi being presented a memento by CBI Director Anil Kumar Sinha at the 6th Global Focal Point Conference on Wednesday

dna
Stressing on the need to devise a strategy to disrupt fund flow to terror outfits, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday said that “targeted economic sanctions” was the key to constrain capabilities of terrorists to execute dastardly attacks as seen in Paris last week. The PM, who had recently returned from a trip to the United Kingdom, said that the Paris attacks were a grim reminder of how terror outfits are getting remarkably flexible in arranging finances.”The dastardly acts committed in Paris are a grim reminder of how terrorists have remarkable flexibility and adaptability in meeting their funding requirements. Disrupting fund flow constrains the capabilities of terrorists and reduces their ability to execute attacks. This involves putting in place both systemic safeguards, and targeted economic sanctions based on credible counter-terrorism intelligence,” he said addressing the sixth Global Focal Point Conference on Asset Recovery and 21st conference of CBI and state anti- corruption and vigilance bureaux.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The conference, which is being attended by investigators from more than 30 countries, is themed on issues including ‘illegal transaction of virtual currency and terror financing. The Prime Minister while addressing the gathering said that international cooperation was important for countries that are seeking to fight terrorism and other issues including corruption, drug trade and illicit financing.”Illicit funding promotes organised criminal activities like drug trafficking, arms trafficking, human trafficking and terrorism. Organised crime hampers both investment and economic growth and it can also infiltrate or control a large section of economy. It is thus imperative to focus our efforts to enhance international co-operation in the field of asset recovery for fighting crime, corruption and terrorism,” he said.The Prime Minister also said the terror groups derive funding from criminal activities that include smuggling of narcotics, bank robbery, vehicle thefts, fake currency or from ‘state sponsored activities in failed states’.This year’s conference, is also being attended by Interpol Secretary General, Jurgan Stock, who spoke at Wednesday’s event and took the moment to condemn the terror attacks in Beirut, Ankara and Paris.

AgustaWestland chopper deal: Open non-bailable warrant issued against UK national accused

The court’s order came on a plea filed by the ED seeking issuance of open NBW against James, who is presently in Dubai, claiming that Agusta Westland had allegedly paid a “kickback” of around 70 million Euro out of which around 30 million Euros was paid to James and his firm Global Services FZE, Dubai.
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dna Research & Archives
A Delhi court on Friday issued an open non-bailable warrant (NBW) against British national Christian Michel James, an alleged middleman in the Rs 3,600 crore VVIP chopper deal case, after Enforcement Directorate said that his questioning was needed to ascertain key aspects of the matter.”In view of the above submissions open-ended non-bailable warrant be issued against the accused Christian Michel James,” Special CBI Judge Ajay Kumar Jain said.The court’s order came on a plea filed by the ED seeking issuance of open NBW against James, who is presently in Dubai, claiming that Agusta Westland had allegedly paid a “kickback” of around 70 million Euro out of which around 30 million Euros was paid to James and his firm Global Services FZE, Dubai.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The agency claimed, “the investigations revealed that kick backs received by Christian Michel James in his company M/s Global Services, FZE, Dubai in the guise of two agreements from M/s Agusta Westland, were nothing other than that of the kickback which is thus a proceeds of crime.”ED’s prosecutor N K Matta told the court that sustained custodial examination of James was essential for furtherance of investigation in the case to know about the role played by him in the procurement of 12 VVIP helicopter deal and also to identify his accomplices and associates.Matta also informed the court that interrogation of James was necessary to know about the quantum of proceeds of crime he had received as commission for this deal from these firms, details of movable/immovable properties on which the proceeds of crime was invested and allegedly laundered by him and also for “decoding” the names of various persons figuring in the documents recovered during the probe.”It is also relevant to know that where he had parked the commission amount i.e. proceeds of crime, how he had secured the influence of various persons in India for the said procurement and how he was sending the progress report to officials and other private persons involved in the deal from M/s Agusta Westland etc,” the agency claimed.On September 24, the court had issued an open NBW against James on an application by CBI which is also running a parallel probe in the matter.During the hearing on ED’s plea, the agency told the court that based on the open NBW, Interpol India would be requested to issue a red corner notice against James. ED had in July 2014 lodged a case under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) against several persons who were named in the FIR registered earlier by the CBI.In November last year, ED had filed a charge sheet in the case against businessman Gautam Khaitan and others, including two Italian men Carlo Gerosa and Guido Haschke. CBI had named various persons in its FIR in the case which also includes former Indian Air Force chief S P Tyagi. Tyagi, and others, including European alleged middlemen Gerosa, Christian Michel James and Haschke are among the 13 individuals named as accused in CBI’s FIR. Six companies including Italy-based Finmeccanica, Agusta Westland, Mohali-based IDS Infotech, Aeromatrix, IDS Tunisia and IDS Mauritius have also been named by CBI in its FIR.CBI has alleged that during his tenure as IAF Chief, Tyagi and “with his approval”, the Air Force had “conceded to reduce the service ceiling for VVIP helicopters from 6000 metres to 4500 metres as mandatory” to which it was opposing vehemently on the grounds of security constraints and other related reasons.It had alleged reduction of service ceiling — maximum height at which a helicopter can perform normally — allowed UK-based AgustaWestland to get into the fray as, otherwise, its choppers were not qualified for submission of bids.CBI had also alleged Agusta Westland managed to introduce a comparative flight trial with non-functional engine and eventually succeeded in getting the contract for supply of 12 AW-101 VVIP helicopters from the Defence Ministry mainly due to softening of the IAF on service ceiling, after Tyagi took over as its chief.

Motorcyclists most vulnerable to road accidents: WHO

The most vulnerable lot are the motorcyclists, who make up for 23 per cent of all road traffic deaths.
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As per the latest World Health Organisation (WHO) report, as many as 16.6 people per lakh die in road accidents in India, resulting in a loss of 3 % of Gross Domestic Product for the country. In its Global Road Safety Report, the WHO has stated that more attention is required to protect the vulnerable road users and improve vehicle safety. The most vulnerable lot are the motorcyclists, who make up for 23 % of all road traffic deaths. “In many regions, the problem is increasing. In the region of the Americas, for example, the proportion of motorcycle deaths out of all road traffic fatalities rose from 15 % to 20 % between 2010 and 2013. In the South-East Asia and Western Pacific regions, a third of all road traffic deaths were among the motorcyclists,” read the WHO statement.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Globally, the next least protected are the pedestrians and cyclists, making up for 22 % and 4 % of global deaths respectively. In India, the death percentage of 2- or 3-wheeler users is the highest at 33.9 %, followed by four-wheeler users at 17.2 % and pedestrians at 9.1 %, while cyclists comprise 3.5 %. The data maintained by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways indicates that there is an almost 3 % increase in total deaths at 1,41,526 in 2014, since the previous year. Piyush Tewari, the founder of SaveLIFE Foundation, said, “The report should be an eye-opener for our law makers, as it categorically states that the Indian road safety laws do not meet the best practice requirements for four out of five risk factors: enforcing speed limits, prevention of drunk driving, safety of children and use of helmets. Even for seat-belts, where the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, is in consonance with the WHO standards, the enforcement is poor and India has a pathetic score of 4 out 10. With respect to vehicle safety, India meets only two out of the seven vehicle safety standards.”

India in talks to buy coking coal mines in South Africa | Reuters

NEW DELHI India is talking to South Africa to buy coal mines there to feed its expanding steel industry, Coal Secretary Anil Swarup said, adding that New Delhi also hopes to stop imports of coal used to generate power in three years as domestic output jumps.

After years of poor production crippling power supply, state-run Coal India is boosting output at a record pace to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s goal of connecting to the grid millions of Indians who still make do with kerosene lamps.

But India, which wants to triple its steel capacity to 300 million tonnes by 2025, does not have enough reserves of coking or steelmaking coal, prompting Coal India to look at assets abroad, Swarup told the Reuters Global Commodities Summit on Monday.

“They are presently in negotiations with people in South Africa,” Swarup said. “We imported around 80-90 million tonnes of coking coal last (fiscal) year and if that is the amount that can come through a mine owned by Coal India, it would consider it.”

Swarup declined to give any investment figure but said money was not an issue for Coal India, which had cash and bank balance of more than $8 billion for the year ended March 31.

Overall coal imports into India, the world’s third-largest buyer, fell for the third straight month in September in a country used to seeing shiploads coming in as new power plants started. Coal India’s output grew 32 million tonnes to 494.2 million tonnes in the fiscal year 2014/15, the biggest volume rise in its four-decade history.

“In three years we should be able to mine (all the power-generating) coal we require,” Swarup said. “The quality of coal that is not available will still be imported.”

India is looking to more than double its total coal output to 1.5 billion tonnes by the end of this decade, with 500 million coming from the private sector. Swarup said India is working out details to open up the nationalized sector and allow private companies to mine and sell coal.

The turnaround in India’s coal industry has been a highlight of Modi’s tenure in office since May last year, and the prime minister is keen that output grows further.

“We are reasonably satisfied (with the coal resurgence), though there is still a long way to go,” Swarup said.

But environmentalists are worried the world’s third-largest polluter is leading a pan-Asian dash to burn more of the dirty fossil fuel amid international efforts to contain global warming. (link.reuters.com/wup75w)

Global investment banks are under pressure from environmental groups to steer clear of India’s plan to raise as much as $3.3 billion from selling a 10 percent stake in Coal India.

Swarup said the environment was a non-negotiable issue. He said India was planning to plant more trees than it cuts during coal mining operations, wash coal to improve its quality, push renewable energy and promote other “clean-coal” technologies.

Follow Reuters Summits on Twitter @Reuters_Summits

(Reporting by Krishna N. Das; editing by William Hardy and David Clarke)

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

Strong support for gutka ban in 8 states, finds study

Changing habits: In Maharashtra, 88% respondents stopped consumption after the prohibition

Even as states across India have been banning gutka, one by one, over the past few years, a new study has revealed that the support for the ban is significantly high in at least eight states, including Maharashtra. A study undertaken during 2014 by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Institute of Global Tobacco Control, WHO country officer for India and Centre for Communication and Change-India (CCC-I), released on Friday stated that 92 per cent of people surveyed in Maharashtra, Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha, supported the ban.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Moreover, 99 per cent of respondents agreed that gutka ban was good for the health of Indian youth, important as the study also found that gutka consumption starts very early, especially among children who don’t go to school.Dr Pradeep Krishnatray, director of CCC-I, admitted that the sample size was small; two districts in each state, a total of 1,001 current and former gutka users, 458 tobacco product retailers surveyed, 450 retail environments observed and 54 government officials interviewed. It was especially difficult finding those who had quit, as they didn’t frequent these shops anymore, and the team had to go hunting from house to house. Women quitters, especially, he said, were the toughest to get talking.However, he added that the thrust of what people said across these states was quite similar, lending credence to the findings. The numbers this study reveals also lends strength to the arguments for bans, something Satyendra Jain, Delhi health minister, who launched the report on Friday, emphasised. “People don’t leave tobacco by themselves. They also think they personally won’t be affected by it, they won’t get cancer or any other illness,” he said.The Delhi government’s ban had lead to outrage among manufacturers of chewable tobacco and shopkeepers and pan walas who sold it. Manufacturers had then moved the Delhi High Court. Though the matter is sub-judice, Jain hopes the study’s findings will help the government’s case, as in Delhi alone 98 per cent of people surveyed supported the ban and 80 percent of current and dual users felt it would help people quit. Even though the actual number of those in Delhi who quit after the ban is small – about 40 per cent of those surveyed – a significant proportion of them said they did so because of the ban.Maharashtra did rather well, with 88 per cent of respondents quitting after the ban; Karnataka following closely with 84 per cent. The average of the eight states is 66 per cent.

IFR at Vizag not just show of prowess but to be a milestone in securing India’s and global trade

Talk about India alone and 70 per cent by value and 90 per cent by volume of country’s international trade moves by sea.

In February, 2016, as the much-talked-about International Fleet Review (IFR) takes off, more than 50 Navies from across the globe will enter Indian waters on the Eastern seabed at Vishakapatnam where they will join hands with the Indian Navy over a five-day long display of prowess and maritime capabilities.However, IFR-2016, a curtain raiser of which was showcased by host India here on Wednesday, has a large purely economics angle to it. Besides being one of the most pompous naval displays in the world, the economic utility of the event positively affects over Rs 23000 crores of global shipping business every year. This business is carried via waters adjoining India (right from Bay of Bengal to the Arabian Sea) and leading up to the Gulf of Aden via Maldives and Seychelles – an area heavily struck by pirates.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”The upcoming IFR would lead to a great confidence of mutual cooperation and interoperability among us and other navies. It will help keep the global commons safe and secure and thus, practially create an environment of increased maritime security. I see this closely related to India’s huge international trade carried out through sea as also the trade involving other nations that flows close to our maritime boundary in the Bay of Bengal, The Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea,” Navy chief Admiral RK Dhowan told dna on the sidelines of IFR-2016 curtain raiser event.Talk about India alone and 70 per cent by value and 90 per cent by volume of country’s international trade moves by sea.Dhowan said that “When all the important navies join hands and coordinate, the global commons that international waters are, can be secured. I look at IFR 2016 at Vishakapatnam as a milestone in that direction”.Notably, more than 50 warships of the Indian Navy took around four years beginning 2008 to ensure safety from pirates operating between African and Indian waters. For this very reason, until October 8, in fact, Indian waters were tagged High Risk Area (HRA), as close as up to 78 degrees East latitude leading to shooting of insurance and fuel costs apart from considerable money spent by merchant ships on private security. That HRA has now been pushed further west by the Indian Navy to 65 degrees East longitude, a fact officially accepted by the global community represented in this case by the European Union Chair of the Contact Group of Piracy off the Coast of Somalia.Seventeen neighboring navies, including that of China, Japan, Sri Lanka, Australia and Bangladesh will participate at 2016 IFR. Among others who have confirmed to come include the USA, Russia and Israel. Pakistan, however, hasn’t responded positively to the invitation so far.

Chinese media asks India to be vigilant about joining anti-China camp

The Global Times article said Indian officials stressed that New Delhi has been pursuing a “multi-vectored diplomacy”.

Flags of India and China

Asserting that the Sino-India relationship is on a sound track, the Chinese media on Wednesday asked India to be vigilant to the efforts to rope it into anti-China camp in the backdrop of Japan joining the Malabar naval exercises. “The China-India relationship is on a sound track, and healthy ties are beneficial to both countries. India should be vigilant to any intentions of roping it into an anti-China camp,” an article in the state-run Global Times said on Wednesday highlighting that the India-China joint drills and the Malabar exercises involving the navies of India, the US and Japan are being held concurrently.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> On Sunday, the 10-day India-China anti-terrorism joint military drill, code-named Hand-in-Hand 2015, commenced in the Chinese city of Kunming, Yunnan Province. The next day, a trilateral drill by India, the US and Japan was launched in the Bay of Bengal, the article titled ‘Concurrent India drills spark unnecessary speculation’. “Malabar, a bilateral navy exercise involving the US and India, includes Japan this year. Speculation has therefore mounted that Washington and New Delhi are considering turning Japan into a permanent partner.” “Rabble-rousers say that India is eyeing China by including Japan in the Malabar exercise and the trilateral drill is targeted at China,” it said. Reacting to the Malabar exercises, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Hua Chunying told media briefing two days ago that “everyday a lot of activities takes place around the world. We can not connect every activity with China”. The Global Times article said Indian officials stressed that New Delhi has been pursuing a “multi-vectored diplomacy”. “India’s policies and strategies are based on its national interests. It has been proved that over the past decades, India has stuck to independent foreign policies and never wants to be part of any coalition to contain China,” it said. “The efforts of China and India moving closer have been snubbed by the West, which tries to hype the contention of the two sides. Given the border disputes between China and India, and geopolitical rivalry as well, mutual distrust is slow to dissolve, and India is vigilant against China’s rise. This creates opportunities for other countries to drive a wedge between Beijing and New Delhi,” it said. “But China and India have reached a solid consensus that continued growth in bilateral relations should not be thwarted by divergences,” it said highlighting the consensus during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to China in May that two countries “have enough political wisdom to manage and control divergences.” “Both China and India are emerging countries and share more common interests than disagreements. Since both face an arduous task of development, neither side will prioritise geopolitical competition,” it said.

Prisons in Tamil Nadu generate the highest income in India

There are many products that the prisoners make ranging from bakery goods to leather items to handicrafts and clothing.

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The prisoners in Tamil Nadu generate the highest income among all prisons in India. National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data shows that in 2014, Tamil Nadu prisons generated Rs 36.97 crore in gross earnings – this was the highest in India among all prisons. Kerala stands second with Rs 21.43 crore and Bihar third with Rs 15.74 crore.All the items are sold under a brand name called ‘Freedom Bazaar’. The prisoners are also enrolled in vocational training programmes. In 2014, more than 3000 prisoners were part of programmes like weaving and agriculture. This also ensures that there is rehabilitation of prisoners in the long-term.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>There are many products that the prisoners make, ranging from bakery goods to leather items to handicrafts and clothing. During the recent Global Investors’ meet all these items were showcased.A report in Deccan Chronicle states that JK Tripathy, ADGP, Prisons, says that it’s because of the state government policies, dedicated inmates and a spirited team of officials, that this was made possible.

Chinese President Xi Jinping skirts G4 nations’ demand for UNSC expansion

On the 70th anniversary of the founding of the UN, the international community should reaffirm the commitment to multilateralism, defend principles and purposes of the UN Charter, safeguard authority and role of the UN, Xi said in his meeting with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the sidelines UN General Assembly.

Xi Jinping

Skirting the demand of G4 countries, including India, to speed up reforms in the UN Security Council by expanding its permanent members, Chinese President Xi Jinping on Sunday called for global efforts to defend authority and role of the UN.On the 70th anniversary of the founding of the UN, the international community should reaffirm the commitment to multilateralism, defend principles and purposes of the UN Charter, safeguard authority and role of the UN, Xi said in his meeting with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the sidelines UN General Assembly. The member states demonstrated their support and expectations for the UN to play a bigger role in world affairs with their leaders gathering in New York, Xi noted.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>He urged the global institution and its Security Council to draw useful experiences from how the Iran nuclear issue was handled. The Chinese leader expected the UN to play a leading role in addressing global issues, adding the world body is the most ideal platform for international anti-terrorism cooperation. The UN member states, Xi said, should earnestly implement relevant resolutions adopted by the Security Council as well as global anti-terrorist strategies approved by the General Assembly, so as to combat terrorism in multiple and coordinated efforts, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.In its elaborate report carried by Xinhua on Xi’s comments, there were no references to calls by India and several other countries for UNSC expansion, specially the veto wielding permanent membership currenty held by P5 countries — the US, Britain, Russia, France and China. Hours ahead of the Xi’s meetings at the UN, Prime Minister Narendra Modi along with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff held G4 leaders summit, making a strong case for their inclusion as permanent members of the UNSC.They declared themselves “legitimate” candidates for permanent membership of the UNSC as they pushed for its reform in a “fixed time-frame”. China has remained ambivalent on India’s demand for its inclusion in the UNSC saying that it appreciates New Delhi’s desire to play a bigger role in the UN.A recent article in state-run Global Times said India made a big mistake by aligning with Japan, Germany and Brazil. “In fact, India’s biggest mistake is to ally itself with Japan, Germany and Brazil. First of all, these three countries have opponents in the region. Japan’s bid for permanent membership will definitely invite strong opposition from China and South Korea,” it said.

Excited to announce that PM Modi will be visiting Facebook headquarters: Mark Zuckerberg

New York: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Sunday announced that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Facebook’s headquarters in California for a townhall question and answer session on 27 September.

Mark Zuckerberg (left) with PM Narendra Modi.

Mark Zuckerberg (left) with PM Narendra Modi.

During the visit, Modi and Zuckerberg will discuss how communities can work together to address social and economic challenges.

“I’m excited to announce that Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India will be visiting Facebook HQ later this month for a Townhall Q&A,” Zuckerberg wrote in a post on Facebook.

Zuckerberg asked Facebook users to send in their questions for the session and said, “Please ask them in the comments below (the post) and we’ll try to get to as many as possible.”

The live video of the session will be available on Zuckerberg’s Facebook page and also on PM Modi’s official page in the social media website.

Recalling his meeting with Prime Minister Modi in India last year, the Facebook CEO wrote, “…it’s an honor to have the chance to host him here at Facebook.”

India has the largest Facebook userbase outside the US. In June, the company had said 125 million users of its global base of 1.44 billion come from India.

Last year, Zuckerberg had made his maiden trip to India. The young billionaire had called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss digital expansion in the country.

PTi

Babus beware: Overstaying on foreign assignments could make you lose your job

There are 10 IAS officers who are at present on unauthorised leave and necessary action is being taken against them, a senior DoPT official said.

IAS and IPS officers may lose their job if they overstay on foreign assignments for more than a month without permission, as per the new rules being finalised by the government. The move comes after it came to the notice that some bureaucrats were not reporting back to India after completion of their foreign postings.Few of them were also proceeding on unauthorised leave soon after completing their tenure abroad. If an officer of all India service–Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Police Service (IPS) and Indian Forest Service (IFoS), remains unauthorisedly absent after the sanctioned period of leave, study leave or tenure of foreign assignment, there shall be a one month waiting period, as per the draft rules. After that, the state government concerned under whose cadre the officer hails from, shall issue a show cause notice, thereby giving him an opportunity to explain his case.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Thereafter, if the officer does not return to duty, the state government concerned shall initiate proceedings of deemed resignation and forward a proposal to the Centre for effecting it within next two months, it said.In case the state government fails to comply with these instructions, the central government shall initiate proceedings of deemed resignation on its own, the draft rules formed by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) said. As per existing rules, no officer of the three all India services shall be granted leave of any kind for a continuous period exceeding five years.Also, an officer shall be deemed to have resigned from service if he is absent without authorisation for a period exceeding one year from the date of expiry of sanctioned leave or continues on foreign assignment beyond the period approved by the central government.The DoPT has sent the new draft rules for comments to chief secretaries of state governments and union territories.There are 10 IAS officers who are at present on unauthorised leave and necessary action is being taken against them, a senior DoPT official said. Last month, senior IAS officer Shishir Priyadarshi has deemed to have resigned from the service for being on unauthorised leave for over nine years. Priyadarshi, a 1980-batch IAS officer of Uttar Pradesh cadre, is deemed to have resigned from the IAS with effect from June 1, 2006, an order issued by the DoPT on August 28 had said.In April this year, another IAS officer Prashant was deemed to have resigned from service. He was on August 18, 2009 appointed as Senior Disaster Risk Management Specialist at the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery under the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas in Washington. The action came after Prashant failed to return after completion of his tenure in 2010.

Government wants to develop Bodh Gaya as spiritual capital of Buddhist world: PM Modi

“We want to develop Bodh Gaya as a spiritual capital of the Buddhist world,” said Prime Minister Modi.

ANI
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said the government wants to develop Bodh Gaya as a spiritual capital of the Buddhist world.
“We want to develop Bodh Gaya as a spiritual capital of the Buddhist world,” said Prime Minister Modi. “I consider this Hindu Buddhist conference on conflict avoidance and environmental consciousness an important event,” he added. The Prime Minister’s visit to Bodh Gaya coincides with Day 3 of SAMVAD – the Global Hindu Buddhist Initiative on Conflict Avoidance and Environment Consciousness, during which the delegates for this event are present at Bodh Gaya.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Narendra Modi on Saturday termed India as ‘Buddhist India’, saying the country has imbibed the values of Lord Buddha. “I would personally call India as a ‘Buddhist India’, as it has imbibed the values and virtues of the teachings of Lord Buddha by the religious scholars incorporating them in their literature,” Modi said while addressing the delegates on SAMVAD – the Global Hindu Buddhist Initiative.
“After Pandit Nehru and Atal ji, I have the honour of coming here,” he added. Modi also pointed out that Lord Buddha was a great preacher of equality and the land of Bodh Gaya has distinctive place in history of mankind. “Hinduism after Buddha’s advent became Hindu Buddhism or Buddhist Hinduism,” the Prime Minister added.

184 districts identified for focussed healthcare: PM Modi

Listing out achievements and strides made by India especially in materal and child health, he exuded confidence that India would reach close to achieving the millennium development goal of reducing under-five mortality rate.

Promising to provide equitable healthcare that addresses intra-state disparities, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said 184 poorest performing districts have been identified where more resources would be infused and focussed programmes will be carried out.Listing out achievements and strides made by India especially in materal and child health, he exuded confidence that India would reach close to achieving the millennium development goal of reducing under-five mortality rate.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>He said the country needs to institutionalise a system where marginalised communities receive universal healthcare and financial protection as “unfortunate health espisodes” are making people financially weak.”One of our major concerns is equity. As a step towards ensuring equitable health services across regions that suffer from intra-state disparities, and to bring about sharper improvements in health outcomes, a total of 184 poorest performing districts all over the country have been identified.”Special efforts are being made to put in more resources and focussed programmes in these areas,” he said here while addressing the ‘Global Call to Action’ Summit 2015 being attended by representatives of 24 nations.The summit seeks to ensure cohesion among countries to end preventable maternal and child death.Talking about India’s achievement in eliminating maternal and neonatal tetanus much before the global target date of December 2015, Modi extended his government’s commitment to the global community with technology and programme intervention to combat disease.

Mumbai faces albumin shortage again

“I am running from pillar to post for the last seven days. I am ready to pay double the amount,” said Chavan’s son.

The family of a 52-year-old patient, Dinesh Chavan (name changed), suffering from liver cirrhosis, is literally living at the edge as they are making desperate attempts to procure albumin — a life-saving drug.Speaking to dna, Chavan’s son said that his father needs to be given two vials of albumin daily for the next seven days. He is currently admitted to the Dr LH Hirnandani hospital, Powai. “I am running from pillar to post for the last seven days. I am ready to pay double the amount,” said Chavan’s son.According to doctors, the injection has been in short supply for over a year. Dr Geeta Billa, hepatologist at Dr LH Hiranandani hospital, said: “We have been facing a shortage of albumin for over a year. No action has been taken by the government so far.” In June also, the city had faced an albumin shortage.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>She said that albumin shortage has hit the treatment of patients with kidney diseases, acute liver failure and burns.Dr Billa, who is also Chavan’s treating doctor, said: “This patient has come with acute kidney failure and has been suffering from liver cirrhosis. If we don’t administer him albumin injection, we won’t be able to reverse the kidney failure and perhaps will not be able to save him. There are many patients like him who are eagerly waiting for the injection.”Because of the shortage, doctors are using the drug judiciously. Dr Ravi Mohanka, head of liver transplantation in Global Hospital, said, “On and off, we face a shortage. Therefore, we are being selective. Not all liver failure patients require it.”Albumin, a component of human blood, is produced by the liver. Its function is to maintain levels of calcium in the body and to transport nutrients or drugs through the bloodstream. The body can suffer a shortage of albumin if a patient is affected by liver disease, kidney failure, burns or malnourishment. Also, after major surgeries such as a kidney and liver transplant, the body does not produce adequate albumin.Transfusion of human albumin is needed for proper healing or to reduce water retention and swelling caused in the body due to infection or disease. Only a few companies, three to four, say chemists, manufacture this medicine.Dr Harshdeep Kamble, Food and Drugs Commissioner, said: “I had directed pharma companies to increase the stock. If there is still a shortage, I will have to look into the matter. It is a serious issue.”

Gurdaspur attack: India approaches US for help to identify seized night vision goggles

Informally, the FBI has assured Indian investigators that all assistance will be provided in this regard and even indicated that the NVD could have been snatched from allied troops fighting war in Afghanistan, the sources said. For a closer cooperation on terror-related matters, India and the US have appointed personnel from their respective security agencies as part of the diplomatic staff at each other’s Embassies.

Gurdaspur attack

AFP
India has approached the US to help identify the Night Vision Device (NVD) used by the three terrorists who carried out the Gurdaspur attack even as investigators did not rule out the possibility of a reconnaissance of target areas being carried out.Besides the NVD, a request has also been routed through Union Home Ministry seeking details of Global Positioning System (GPS), used by terrorists in reaching the police station at Dina Nagar where they were engaged by Punjab Police. The manufacturer of the device is based in the US, official sources said on Tuesday. The NVD bearing a marking that it belongs to the US government was recovered from the terrorists, the sources said, adding it was used as a telescope with the assault rifle to help them in identifying the target in dead of the night.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Informally, the FBI has assured Indian investigators that all assistance will be provided in this regard and even indicated that the NVD could have been snatched from allied troops fighting war in Afghanistan, the sources said. For a closer cooperation on terror-related matters, India and the US have appointed personnel from their respective security agencies as part of the diplomatic staff at each other’s Embassies.The Indian investigators also sought details about the coordinates of GPS that was seized from the terrorists. It could help the probe agency to find out where the GPS was used initially or the country to where it was exported. The GPS is generally used by travellers on trekking or army personnel in unfamiliar terrain. It connects a customer to a satellite and helps the traveller know the way to the destination.Three terrorists, believed to be of Lashker-e-Taiba terror group, had sneaked in from Ravi river at the Punjab border on intervening night of July 26 and 27 and attacked a police station in Dina Nagar. Seven people including a Superintendent of Police were killed by the terrorists before they were neutralised by Punjab Police.In the meantime, security agencies were looking into a possibility that the terrorists had been briefed in advance about the targets and someone could have possibly infiltrated and carried out a reconnaissance, the sources said.The ‘way points’ marked in the GPS also showed Gurdaspur Civil Lines area as one of the targets of terrorists as it is a posh area with many senior officials staying there besides housing an office unit of the Army.This could be possible only because of pre-fed information from someone who may have been tasked to do so, the sources said and did not rule out the possibility of the flourishing drug mafia being involved in the process.

SEBI urged to step up efforts against ‘black money’ | Reuters

MUMBAI A Supreme Court-appointed special investigations team said regulators need to provide greater oversight of money laundering in stocks as well as “black money” being repatriated to the country through investments in equity derivative products.

The recommendations were part of a report detailing the need for greater oversight across a variety of activities that have long been suspected of being fronts to avoid taxes, including via shell companies, imports and exports, or even cricket bets.

India has long suffered from so-called black money, or funds illegally deposited in banks outside the country to avoid tax.

A report by Washington-based think-tank Global Financial Integrity estimated that India suffered $344 billion in illicit fund outflows between 2002 and 2011.

The special investigations team was set up last May to investigate black money, a key priority for Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s government, which this year unveiled tougher penalties against people convicted of illicitly stashing wealth abroad.

Among the proposals, the panel said the market regulator, Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), needed to ensure it can better identify owners behind overseas investments into participatory-notes (P-notes), or popular derivative products that track domestic equity markets.

Regulators have long suspected flows into P-notes are in reality domestic money being repatriated back into India because of looser registration standards for owners of these products.

For example, the panel noted that 850 billion rupees had flowed to P-notes from the Cayman Islands, a jurisdiction with a population of less than 55,000. About 2.75 trillion rupees worth of P-notes were outstanding as of the end of June.

“It does not appear possible for the final beneficial owner of ODIs (offshore derivative instruments) originating from Cayman Islands to be from that jurisdiction,” the panel wrote in the report.

The panel also recommended SEBI examine whether P-Notes should be allowed to be transferred, saying it made it harder to trace “the true beneficial owner” of these derivative products.

The report also asked for SEBI to investigate cases where shares of penny-stock companies are used in pump-and-dump schemes to launder money and evade taxes.

The panel also said the government needed to become more proactive about going after shell companies used to launder black money and take stronger action against the use of inflated imports and export bills to move illicit funds.

(Reporting by Himank Sharma; Editing by Rafael Nam and Toby Chopra)

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

Aakar Patel joins as new head of Amnesty International India

Amnesty International India is one of the movement’s three national offices, set up to increase our impact in countries with growing global influence which continue to face human rights challenges,” said Minar Pimple, Senior Director of Global Operations at Amnesty International.

Journalist and writer Aakar Patel has joined Amnesty International India as its new Executive Director from Thursday. Patel will head Amnesty International India’s operations. As the organisation’s chief political advisor, strategist and spokesperson, he will give direction to its goal of being an independent, effective and deep-rooted organisation in India, the London-based global rights body said in a statement. “We are delighted that Aakar Patel will be joining us.Amnesty International India is one of the movement’s three national offices, set up to increase our impact in countries with growing global influence which continue to face human rights challenges,” said Minar Pimple, Senior Director of Global Operations at Amnesty International. “Aakar’s commitment to human rights in his journalism and writing positions him perfectly to take on this important role,” said Pimple.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Amnesty International India has a terrific team that does vital work. I am proud and honoured to be working with them,” said Patel. With a background in the textile industry, Patel’s work includes ‘India: Low Trust Society’ (2015) and ‘Rights and Wrongs’, a report on the 2002 Gujarat riots which he co-authored.

India’s auto safety crisis: Why Janhavi Gadkar survived in the Audi and those in the taxi didn’t

It took yet another high-profile case — last week’s Mumbai accident involving an Audi and a taxi — to once again highlight that a large section of India-manufactured vehicles are far from safe.

A look at the two vehicles (pic below) involved in the accident shows the disparity in Indian car safety standards. The Audi, which is a luxury vehicle, ensured the injury to its passenger in the case of a head-on collision, was minimum; the crumple zone did its job. For the budget taxi vehicle (which was a Maruti Eeco), the only safety the passenger had was his seat-belt.

Image: GNCAPImage: GNCAP

Image: GNCAP

Both the cars could have had its occupants relatively safe if India had adhered to safety norms prescribed by various bodies including the United Nations. Unfortunately, for those travelling in the taxi, the car came with no air bags or a safe crumple zone that could have reduced the impact on at least its front-seat occupants.

It’s as simple as this — if you have the money in India, you can ensure your safety by buying a luxury car. The government isn’t interested in stepping in and tightening regulations to ensure car manufacturers adhere to basic safety measures which are implemented globally, irrespective of what model a consumer chooses to purchase – basic or high-end.

audi-tax-newaudi-tax-new

And manufacturers find an easy loophole to wriggle out of safety demands. While global safety agencies may question a car company’s safety measures, the standard response, until now, has been that the cars produced for the Indian market meet the country’s safety standards. This, despite India emerging as the fifth largest producer in the world of passenger cars.

Take the example of Nissan’s Datsun GO. When Global NCAP, a UK-based organisation that carries out consumer safety tests, conducted a crash test of the car that is sold in India, it failed to score on the safety chart and was heavily criticised for its sub-standard structure. The same model, was banned in North America and Europe.

Nissan’s response, according to MotorBeam, is that its car meets safety standards prescribed by the Indian government. “The Datsun GO meets Indian safety standards and was developed with an intention to meet the demands of local conditions.”

And it’s not as if Nissan engineers don’t know how to build safe cars. Three of their 2014 models sold in the US earned the 2014 IIHS top safety pick+ award and another is a top safety pick.

Simply put, it is the government and the automobile manufacturing bodies in the country that need to step up and rethink safety measures in vehicles.

But nothing has changed despite the high number of accidents in the country. The government’s own data reveals that a serious road accident occurs every minute, 16 deaths occur on Indian roads every hour, and over 20,000 deaths are due to drunk driving every year. For some reason, it appears that the government is hesitant to take the initial step of introducing tougher safety norms for manufacturers to comply with. Much like in the case of Maggi, where after one major expose the FSSAI decided to test all variants of instant noodles and put in place better testing norms, perhaps the government is waiting for a catastrophe to wake up and fix what could well be one of the main reasons behind India’s high road deaths.

Data released by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, reveals that over the last three years, Light Motor Vehicles have been accounting for about 20 percent of the accidents in India.

In 2011, cars/jeeps/taxis accounted for 21.3 percent of all road accidents in the country. In 2012, it was 21.6 percent. In 2013, the latest data that is available in the government domain, the percentage of accidents involving light motor vehicles accounted for 22.2 percent.

And the demand for better safety measures in India has seen a tremendous increase. According to KPMG’s Global Automotive Executive Survey 2015, safety innovation as a purchasing criteria for the next five years saw a rise among India and ASEAN consumers. From 42 percent in 2013 to 50 percent in 2014 to a massive 74 percent in 2015.

Globally, safety innovation as a priority stood at 52 percent in 2015, as opposed to 48 percent in 2014 and 46 percent in 2013.

Crash test failure

In early 2014, Global NCAP crash tested five of India’s popular cars — Maruti-Suzuki Alto 800, which is India’s best-selling car, Tata Nano, Ford Figo, Hyundai i10 and Volkswagen Polo.

The organisation chose the entry-level versions of each model, which form a fifth of the total passenger vehicle sales in India. Not surprisingly, all the cars failed in a frontal impact test at 64 kmph, and received zero-star adult protection rating. None of these models come fitted with airbags, a security feature that’s mandatory almost globally.

Furthermore, the test revealed that in the case of the Alto 800, the Tata Nano and the Hyundai i10, even if the car had been fitted with airbags, the extent of the structural weakness was such that even the airbags would not be effective in reducing the risk of serious injury. Soon after the test, Volkswagen Polo made front-seat airbags compulsory across its models following which it got a four-star rating for safety.

But here’s what matters: A consumer who has the budget to buy a Polo or any other high-end hatchback will not hesitate to throw in a few thousands and get airbags fitted in his vehicle. For a low-budget user, the aspiring middle class who wants to upgrade from a two-wheeler to a budget four-wheel vehicle, cost cutting is an important factor. The user is bound to think that moving from a bike to a car is a jump in terms of safety in itself, and therefore comprising on airbags would not matter much. And it is these cars that constitute most of the vehicles on Indian roads.

Proposed regulations for car safety

In 2014, the government, in its draft Road Transport and Safety Bill – proposed the setting up of the Bharat New Vehicle Safety Assessment Programme, under which cars will be tested for their safety through front-on and side-on crash tests and cars being sold in India will adhere to at least basic global safety measures.

Among other safety measures, cars will have to come with compulsory seat-belt alerts, anti-lock braking system and child lock.

However, the new safety norms, which will unfold in phases, will come into complete effect only five years from the date of notification, as manufacturers need time to redesign their assembly line and also develop new products that adhere to the new safety norms.

According to The Times of India, cars will also be allotted star rating in terms of their safety. “There will also be an administrative body of BNVSAP, which will have the authority to choose the new vehicle models to be taken up for assessment to verify compliance. In parallel to mandatory star rating for new models, the voluntary star rating for both new and old model shall also be allowed.”

Moreover, beyond setting-up its own New Car Assessment Programme, the government should also conform to the United Nation’s minimum crash tests standards. As of now, India doesn’t require vehicles to meet UN regulations for occupant protection in frontal crashes and side impacts. The UN frontal impact test is carried out at 56 km/h while NCAP carries out its test at a speed of 64 kmph.

Nepal wants Indian companies to set up shop, help rebuild country

New Delhi: Nepal on Friday called upon Indian businesses to set up units in the Himalayan nation and produce goods to be sold in China, which offers a huge market.

“There is a huge scope to invest in the services sector which accounts for over 50 per cent of Nepal’s gross domestic product (GDP) and generates maximum number of jobs.

A file image of Nepal earthquake.A file image of Nepal earthquake.

A file image of Nepal earthquake.

Indian companies can explore significant business opportunities in aviation, banking, communication, education, health, tourism, transportation and other such areas which are new wealth generators,” Nepal’s Finance Minister Dr Ram Sharan Mahat said at an ASSOCHAM event here.

He listed out factors like suitable agro-climatic conditions, an industry-friendly environment, 100 per cent foreign direct investment (FDI) in most sectors, a favourable fiscal policy coupled with various other incentives as key advantages being offered by Nepal in terms of doing business.

Besides, Mahat said Nepal is eyeing investments worth at least $6-7 billion at the upcoming Global Donors Conference in Kathmandu on June 25 to rebuild the Himalayan nation in the wake of the recent massive earthquake.

“We have to revive our economy. Though some resources are being mobilised internally, we need support from the entire international community as almost all the sectors are under stress,” he explained.
Over half a million homes, 10,000 schools, various government offices and commercial establishments were destroyed by the quake, which killed some 9,000 people and injured 30,000 across the country, the minister added.

PTI

India’s auto safety crisis: Why Janhavi Gadkar in the Audi survived and those in the taxi didn’t

It took yet another high-profile case – last week’s Mumbai accident involving an Audi and a taxi – to once again highlight that a large section of India-manufactured vehicles are from safe.

A look at the two vehicles (pic below) involved in the accident shows the disparity in Indian car safety standards. The Audi, which is a luxury vehicle, ensured the injury to its passenger in the case of a head-on collision, was minimum; the crumple zone did its job. For the budget taxi vehicle (which was a Maruti Eeco), the only safety the passenger had was his seat-belt.

Image: GNCAPImage: GNCAP

Image: GNCAP

Both the cars could have had its occupants relatively safe if India had adhered to safety norms prescribed by various bodies including the United Nations. Unfortunately, for those travelling in the taxi, the car came with no air bags or a safe crumple zone that could have reduced the impact on at least its front-seat occupants.

It’s as simple as this – if you have the money in India, you can ensure your safety by buying a luxury car. The government isn’t interested in stepping in and tightening regulations to ensure car manufacturers adhere to basic safety measures which are implemented globally, irrespective of what model a consumer chooses to purchase – basic or high-end.

audi-tax-newaudi-tax-new

And manufacturers find an easy loophole to wriggle out of safety demands. While global safety agencies may question a car company’s safety measures, the standard response, until now, has been that the cars produced for the Indian market meet the country’s safety standards. This, despite India emerging as the fifth largest producer in the world of passenger cars.

Take the example of Nissan’s Datsun GO. When Global NCAP, a UK-based organisation that carries out consumer safety tests, conducted a crash test of the car that is sold in India, it failed to score on the safety chart and was heavily criticised for its sub-standard structure. The same model, was banned in North America and Europe.

Nissan’s response, according to MotorBeam, is that its car meets safety standards prescribed by the Indian government. “The Datsun GO meets Indian safety standards and was developed with an intention to meet the demands of local conditions.”

And it’s not as if Nissan engineers don’t know how to build safe cars. Three of their 2014 models sold in the US earned the 2014 IIHS top safety pick+ award and another is a top safety pick.

Simply put, it is the government and the automobile manufacturing bodies in the country that need to step up and rethink safety measures in vehicles.

But nothing has changed despite the high number of accidents in the country. The government’s own data reveals that a serious road accident occurs every minute, 16 deaths occur on Indian roads every hour, and over 20,000 deaths are due to drunk driving every year. For some reason, it appears that the government is hesitant to take the initial step of introducing tougher safety norms for manufacturers to comply with. Much like in the case of Maggi, where after one major expose the FSSAI decided to test all variants of instant noodles and put in place better testing norms, perhaps the government is waiting for a catastrophe to wake up and fix what could well be one of the main reasons behind India’s high road deaths.

Data released by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, reveals that over the last three years, Light Motor Vehicles have been accounting for about 20 percent of the accidents in India.

In 2011, cars/jeeps/taxis accounted for 21.3 percent of all road accidents in the country. In 2012, it was 21.6 percent. In 2013, the latest data that is available in the government domain, the percentage of accidents involving light motor vehicles accounted for 22.2 percent.

And the demand for better safety measures in India has seen a tremendous increase. According to KPMG’s Global Automotive Executive Survey 2015, safety innovation as a purchasing criteria for the next five years saw a rise among India and ASEAN consumers. From 42 percent in 2013 to 50 percent in 2014 to a massive 74 percent in 2015.

Globally, safety innovation as a priority stood at 52 percent in 2015, as opposed to 48 percent in 2014 and 46 percent in 2013.

Crash test failure

In early 2014, Global NCAP crash tested five of India’s popular cars – Maruti-Suzuki Alto 800, which is India’s best-selling car, Tata Nano, Ford Figo, Hyundai i10 and Volkswagen Polo.

The organisation chose the entry-level versions of each model, which form a fifth of the total passenger vehicle sales in India. Not surprisingly, all the cars failed in a frontal impact test at 64 kmph, and received zero-star adult protection rating. None of these models come fitted with airbags, a security feature that’s mandatory almost globally.

Furthermore, the test revealed that in the case of the Alto 800, the Tata Nano and the Hyundai i10, even if the car had been fitted with airbags, the extent of the structural weakness was such that even the airbags would not be effective in reducing the risk of serious injury. Soon after the test, Volkswagen Polo made front-seat airbags compulsory across its models following which it got a four-star rating for safety.

But here’s what matters: A consumer who has the budget to buy a Polo or any other high-end hatchback will not hesitate to throw in a few thousands and get airbags fitted in his vehicle. For a low-budget user, the aspiring middle class who wants to upgrade from a two-wheeler to a budget four-wheel vehicle, cost cutting is an important factor. The user is bound to think that moving from a bike to a car is a jump in terms of safety in itself, and therefore comprising on airbags would not matter much. And it is these cars that constitute most of the vehicles on Indian roads.

Proposed regulations for car safety

In 2014, the government, in its draft Road Transport and Safety Bill – proposed the setting up of the Bharat New Vehicle Safety Assessment Programme, under which cars will be tested for their safety through front-on and side-on crash tests and cars being sold in India will adhere to at least basic global safety measures.

Among other safety measures, cars will have to come with compulsory seat-belt alerts, anti-lock braking system and child lock.

However, the new safety norms, which will unfold in phases, will come into complete effect only five years from the date of notification, as manufacturers need time to redesign their assembly line and also develop new products that adhere to the new safety norms.

According to The Times of India, cars will also be allotted star rating in terms of their safety. “There will also be an administrative body of BNVSAP, which will have the authority to choose the new vehicle models to be taken up for assessment to verify compliance. In parallel to mandatory star rating for new models, the voluntary star rating for both new and old model shall also be allowed.”

Moreover, beyond setting-up its own New Car Assessment Programme, the government should also conform to the United Nation’s minimum crash tests standards. As of now, India doesn’t require vehicles to meet UN regulations for occupant protection in frontal crashes and side impacts. The UN frontal impact test is carried out at 56 km/h while NCAP carries out its test at a speed of 64 kmph.

Maggi noodles are safe for consumption and follow same standards worldwide, says Nestle CEO Paul Bulcke

Global CEO of Nestle Paul Bulcke addresses the media on the Maggi controversy on Friday.

Image Courtesy: ANI Twitter
Amidst the raging controversy over Maggi noodles, the Global CEO of Nestle, Paul Bulcke addressed media on Friday. At the event he said that Maggi noodles are not harmful and are safe for consumption.At the press conference Bulcke said, “Maggi noodles have been trusted in India for over 30 years. Maggi is safe for consumption, we have same quality standards everywhere in world. This controversy has led to consumers losing trust in us.”He further added, “We do not put MSG in our products. With our consumers in mind, we shall work with the authorities to clear this situation out. Product quality and safety is of paramount priority to us. We don’t have data from any of the third party tests conducted on Maggi. I am very confident that we will be back as soon as possible. That is our prime objective.”<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>He also said, “No lead found in 1,000 Maggi batches that were tested internally.”The Head of Corporate Communications, Nestle India, Sanjay Khajuria said, “We want to speak with the regulators to know what tests they have done so that we can get a report. We are trying to learn why there’s difference in test results carried out in other labs and ours.”Five states – Delhi, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Jammu and Kashmir and Uttarakhand – have banned the sale of Maggi after concerns were raised over the presence of monosodium glutamate (MSG) and lead beyond permissible levels in the instant noodles.The Tamil Nadu and Uttarakhand governments banned the sale for three months, while in Gujarat and Jammu and Kashmir, the ban will be effective for one month. Telangana government too banned Maggi on Friday in the state even before the test results were out.The state governments also ordered Nestle India to immediately withdraw the stocks.Meanwhile, Delhi has banned the product for 15 days.Union Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Minister Ram Vilas Paswan on Wednesday had said that the government has decided to file a complaint regarding Maggi issue with the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) to further investigate the matter as the FSSAI reports might take some time to come.A case was lodged earlier against Nestle India by the UP food regulator FSDA in a local court at Bara banki in Uttar Pradesh over safety standards of its Maggi, while actors Amitabh Bachhan, Madhuri Dixit and Preity Zinta were also separately dragged to court for promoting the ‘two-minute’ noodles brand.

No dramatic reforms in PM Narendra Modi foreign policy in first year: Chinese media

Modi has largely inherited his two predecessors’ foreign policy legacies and no dramatic reform has so far been seen, said article in Global Times.

PM Narendra Modi

AFP
Terming Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s foreign policy security-driven with “no dramatic reforms”, an article in state-run media said his decision to provide e-visas for Chinese nationals is inadequate and it should be extended to business and work visas. “With only a vague foreign policy platform one year ago, it now becomes clearer that Modi has largely inherited his two predecessors’ foreign policy legacies and no dramatic reform has so far been seen,” the article by a researcher from Tsinghua University published in the Global Times yesterday said about Modi’s one year in power.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”This is especially evident in his (Modi’s) handling of major power politics. He tries to seek better relations with the US and Japan in general, and strike an optimal trade-off between guarding against China’s increasing influence and expanding the economic cooperation,” it said. Under Modi, India’s China policy is still “heavily security-driven”. As a result, “Modi’s foreign economic initiatives to work with China are jeopardised by security concerns, especially those from the security institutions and domestic hawks”, the article said.”In a successful piece of public diplomacy, Modi announced during his recent visit to China that e-visa facilities will be extended to Chinese nationals, a hard-won compromise after bargaining with security and intelligence wings over their security concerns.”But what gets in the way of bilateral exchanges are the conference, business and working visas, a situation that this announcement does nothing to improve because e-visas cover only tourists,” it said. Overt security concerns such as border dispute and China’s Pakistan policy drives India’s policy towards China, it said. “Thus there is a vicious circle preventing the improvement of bilateral relations: When China proposes expanding cooperation, India stresses there is no trust; China proposes to establish and enhance trust, while India mentions China’s relations with Pakistan; China hails mutual understanding, and India wants unilateral compromise on border disputes; when China wants to negotiate on border issues, India says there is no trust to base a solution on,” it said.Referring to China’s mega Silk Road projects, the article said there is “strong suspicion among Indians that China actually aims at penetrating the Indian sphere of influence, which in turn makes Modi and his government hesitate to respond or, even worse, to decide to counter Chinese initiative”.It said: “While India is seeking Chinese investment and manufacturing technology, it still links such cooperation with security issues. There is no logical reason behind the practice. Unlike India, China adopts an economy-oriented policy, which means that for a better economic cooperation, it is willing to shelf the disputes for larger mutual interests.”

Modi in China: Asia will see revolutionary changes if India, China join forces, says Chinese media

Beijing: Revolutionary changes could take place in Asia if China and India forge closer ties overcoming mistrust, the Chinese state media said on Thursday as Prime Minister Narendra Modi began his three-day visit to the country.

“Anyone with some geopolitical knowledge understands what revolutionary changes would happen to the political and economic landscape in Asia if China and India could join hands to forge ahead,” an article in the state-run Global Times said.

PM Modi greeted by Governor of Shaanxi Province Lou Qinjian. Image Courtesy: Twitter @PIB_IndiaPM Modi greeted by Governor of Shaanxi Province Lou Qinjian. Image Courtesy: Twitter @PIB_India

PM Modi greeted by Governor of Shaanxi Province Lou Qinjian. Image Courtesy: Twitter @PIB_India

“But people are also aware that there seems always to be a lack of mutual trust between the dragon and the elephant,” the article said.

Noting that China is the world’s largest textile exporter followed by India, it said the ranking implies where the Sino-Indian relationship stands and unveils one of the reasons for “the lack of trust: There is more competition than complementarity”.

“As the global supply chain has been largely formed today, the lack of economic complementarity between China and India directly leads to a zero-sum game. In other words, one side moving up on the supply chain will likely squeeze the domain of the other,” the article said.

It also talked about unsustainable factors in the trade structure of China and India.

“To tackle them, the two countries must devise and expand the complementarity of their industries,” it said.

After talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Xi’an, Modi will arrive in Beijing and meet Premier Li Keqiang on Friday.

On the third day of his visit, he would go to Shanghai where he would address the Chinese CEOs besides attending a business get-together and address the Indian community in China.

“Some scholars have said that complementarity can be enhanced if China invests more in India’s infrastructure. However, this may prove the reverse since better transportation by rail and road will cause more concerns for India about the flooding of Chinese commodities,” the article said.

“Besides, it will likely get Chinese enterprises tangled into India’s perplexing land system, which may produce unexpected troubles,” it said.

“The key lies in more industrial coordination. China can make well-planned and targeted industrial transfers in accordance with the development and investment ability of its enterprises and set up production bases in India to make use of its cheaper labour force,” it added.

PTI

Govt red-faced after Kiren Rijiju does U-turn, says Dawood Ibrahim is in Pakistan

New Delhi: After the government was left red-faced for its contradictory reply in Parliament on the whereabouts of Dawood Ibrahim, junior Home Minister Kiren Rijiju said the underworld don lives in Pakistan and the Centre would continue to pursue the case very seriously.

Underworld don Dawood Ibrahim.Underworld don Dawood Ibrahim.

Underworld don Dawood Ibrahim.

“Government’s consistent stand is that he (Dawood) is in Pakistan and government of India has been providing information to Pakistan about his whereabouts and Pakistani agencies are not cooperating with Indian government. That is well known to everyone,” he told reporters outside Parliament.

The minister said he could not say about the clarification to be given by the government in Parliament but requested everyone not to misconstrue a statement which is based on specific questions.

“So, if necessary, clarifications will be given but what I want to say is that please don’t question the intention of the government, the government is very clear and government’s job is well defined and it is pursuing the case very seriously,” he said.

The name of Dawood, who is wanted in connection with 1993 Mumbai serial blasts, figures in almost all the dossiers that have been handed over to Pakistan since the NDA rule in early 2000.

Dawood, who has been listed as as Specially Designated Global Terrorist by the United States for his alleged links with al Qaeda terror groups, vanished from Mumbai between 1992-93 and settled in a Gulf country.

The CBI has alleged that he conspired with ISI to carry out serial blasts in Mumbai in which 257 people were killed and property worth Rs 32 crore damaged.

PTI

Modi scored a big hit, says Chinese media on PM’s Weibo debut

Beijing: China’s official media on Tuesday welcomed Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s initiative to open an account on the popular Chinese social microblog Weibo, saying he scored a “big hit” ahead of his visit to China next week.

“Modi scores big hit with micro blog in run-up to visit,” read the headline in the state-run English language China Daily, while another official newspaper Global Times headline said ‘Modi debuts on Weibo ahead of state visit to China’.

A screengrab of PM Modi's Weibo profile. Image Courtesy: Twitter @narendramodiA screengrab of PM Modi's Weibo profile. Image Courtesy: Twitter @narendramodi

A screengrab of PM Modi’s Weibo profile. Image Courtesy: Twitter @narendramodi

The China Daily said Modi’s account on the Sina Weibo, akin to Twitter and Facebook, “attracted thousands of Internet users”.

Modi, who is scheduled to start his three-day visit to China from 14 May, posted his first post in Chinese, saying “Hello China! Looking forward to interacting with Chinese friends through Weibo.”

His post was immediately forwarded more than 4,700 times and attracted over 7,800 comments within three hours, it said.

Some welcomed Modi’s “positive gesture”, while many others raised issues that have posed obstacles to ties between the two countries for decades, it said.

One post read: “I suggest improving the social status of Indian women and protecting the safety of females! Or we foreign women will not dare travel to India.” The post attracted more than 700 “likes”, the report said.

It is not the first time that a foreign leader has opened a micro-blog account before making an official trip to China. In September 2013, Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro opened a micro-blog account before visiting China, it said.  Over 200 leaders of foreign countries and international organisations, including British Prime Minister David Cameron, had opened micro-blog accounts as of April last year, it said.

It quoted Le Yucheng, the Chinese ambassador to India, as saying that Modi will have the chance to communicate with China’s businesspeople, young students and the public during his visit.

The Global Times said Modi has been welcomed by Chinese internet users with his first post, getting more than 14,217 hits and 26,406 followers as of press time. More than 10,000 internet users commented on his first post as of press time, it said.

“Aside from expressing curiosity on who runs this account for Modi, some Net users made references to territorial disputes between the two countries,” it said.

PTI

Dawood surrender: Former top cop Neeraj Kumar denies making any claim

Kumar, in an interview to a national daily published on Saturday, was quoted as saying Dawood, labelled by the US as Specially Designated Global Terrorist, had got in touch with him and wanted to surrender but the plan was shelved by the government

Former Delhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar on Saturday denied reports attributed to him that fugitive terrorist Dawood Ibrahim had negotiated surrender with him months after the 1993 Mumbai blasts and that the government of the day scuttled the plans at the last moment.Kumar, in an interview to a national daily published on Saturday, was quoted as saying Dawood, labelled by the US as Specially Designated Global Terrorist, had got in touch with him and wanted to surrender but the plan was shelved by the government. Kumar, a 1976 batch IPS officer who retired as Delhi police chief in 2013, said he had not given the interview.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”It was an informal chat with the correspondent who is known to me for sometime. He has given the chat a slant which is both incorrect and unfortunate. “At no stage was D (Dawood) willing to surrender nor did anyone stop him from surrendering,” he said today. Kumar, who probed the 1993 Mumbai serial blast cases when he was a DIG with CBI, said, “He (Dawood) did speak with me but that was to give his defence in connection with Mumbai serial blast cases.”However, the denial flies in the face of his own comments at a book release function last month where he had made similar claims while referring to Dawood as a “certain gentleman” whom CBI had planned to “get at” with the help of “non-state actors” but the move was scuttled by his “political bosses”. On April 17, Kumar had backed Union Minister V K Singh when he said the Indian Army was capable of executing daring operations to avenge 26/11-like attacks by eliminating offshore criminals but certain “considerations” prevented it from doing so.The duo was speaking at the launch of journalist-author S Hussain Zaidi’s book “Mumbai Avengers”, a fictional account of a covert operation by a retired Indian Army officer to avenge the 26/11 attacks.”When I was in the CBI for nine years at one time we had conceived a plan to get at a certain gentleman in Pakistan.Everything was done. At the last day we thought we would inform the political bosses or shall I say the boss but he said no, we are not Pakistan, we are India,” he had said. Kumar went on to say that the agency had also planned using “non-state” actors for the mission. “All preparations went down the drain. Lot of money was invested. We had also planned the use of non-state actors as Pakistan has been doing continuously,” he had said.

Jaitley expresses grief over loss of lives due to quake

New Delhi: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today expressed grief over loss of life and property due to a major earthquake with epicentre in Nepal that also hit large parts of India.

Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. ReutersUnion Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. Reuters

Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. Reuters

“Today indeed is a challenging and solemn day because a significant part of our country, more particularly Nepal, has been very seriously affected by a natural calamity. Our hearts go out to all those who suffered both in terms of life, injury or property,” he said.

He was speaking at the valedictory function of the Global Exhibition on Services (GES) in New Delhi.

A strong earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale shook Nepal and several parts of India, including the national capital, leaving a trail of devastation in the Himalayan nation.

The quake, at 11:41 am IST, had its epicentre in Nepal and flattened houses, created huge craters and cracks on roads in Kathmandu, where people rushed out of their offices and homes.

Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the earthquake news is “distressing and worrying”.

“Our heart goes out to people of Nepal who seem to have bore the brunt because the epicentre was somewhere close to Kathmandu. However, several parts of India are also reportedly affected by this,” she said.

PTI

Rajendra Pachauri denied permission to attend water summit after harassment complaint | Reuters

NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The Delhi High Court on Thursday refused Rajendra Pachauri permission to attend an international water conference after the leading global voice on climate change was accused of sexual harassment by a female colleague.

Pachauri, 74, quit as chair of the United Nations panel of climate scientists in February after a 29-year-old researcher at his Delhi-based thinktank made the accusation against him. Pachauri has denied the allegation.

The scientist, who has been granted protection from arrest, had asked the Delhi High Court for permission to travel to Greece to attend the Global Water Summit on April 27-28.

The summit’s website had listed Pachauri as the keynote speaker at the opening of the conference.

“You (Pachauri) should have approached well within the time, as you have (had) information of the event since June 2014,” said Justice S. P. Garg, dismissing Pachauri’s request.

Indian police are investigating the complaint by the researcher at The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), who said Pachauri harassed her since 2013 by email, Whatsapp and text messaging, despite her requests that he stop.

Pachauri’s lawyers had previously said his computer and mobile phone were hacked and that vested interests were maligning him because of his stance on global warming.

(Reporting by Suchitra Mohanty; Editing by Nita Bhalla)

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

Court refuses to allow Teri chief Pachauri, accused in sexual assault case, to travel abroad

New Delhi: A Delhi court on Monday refused to hear the plea of TERI Director General R K Pachauri, who is facing sexual harassment allegations from a woman employee, to travel abroad for the Global Water Summit in Greece after the complainant questioned the maintainability of his plea.

Additional Sessions Judge Raj Kumar Tripathi granted liberty to Pachauri to withdraw his plea and move a fresh application before the metropolitan magistrate having territorial jurisdiction of the case.

RK Pachauri. IBN LiveRK Pachauri. IBN Live

RK Pachauri. IBN Live

“In view of objection raised on behalf of complainant as well as the prosecution, this application stands withdrawn with the liberty to the accused that fresh application may be filed before the concerned court,” the judge said.

During the hearing, advocate Shankh Sengupta, appearing for Pachauri, said his client is the face of India for environment protection and he has to attend the Global Water Summit in Athens, where he is the key note speaker.

He sought court’s permission to travel abroad from 26 April to 29 April and said if Pachauri skips the summit then the country’s image will be at stake.

Opposing the contention, Prashant Mendirata, counsel for the complainant, said Pachauri’s application is not maintainable before the sessions court as FIR has been lodged and statements recorded under section 164 of CrPC of the alleged victim is already before the court of metropolitan magistrate.

“This application at this stage is not maintainable before the sessions court. Under the laid provisions and rules only a Mahilla Court of metropolitan magistrate can provide any relief to the accused,” Mendirata said.

He contended that the sessions court does not have any jurisdiction to hear this plea and only application seeking modification or recall of the earlier order of anticipatory bail granted to the accused could be dealt by this court.

The court then asked Sengupta to satisfy it by citing provisions to deal with the maintainability of his application which he failed to do so and sought liberty to withdraw the plea and move it before the concerned metropolitan magistrate.

Public Prosecutor M Zafar Khan also opposed the plea of Pachauri and said that the invite for the Summit is for the head of TERI and if he has proceeded on leave then some other person can go in his place.

He said that the motive behind the conditions laid down by the court while granting Pachauri anticipatory bail will be defeated if he is allowed to travel abroad.

PTI

NDA restored India’s credibility, ended policy paralysis during UPA regime, says PM Modi

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday said his 10-month-old government had restored India’s global credibility in terms of its politics, governance and economy, replacing the “policy paralysis” during the UPA regime with “dynamism”.

PM Narendra Modi said that NDA replaced the policy paralysis during UPA regime with dynamism. Reuters

PM Narendra Modi said that NDA replaced the policy paralysis during UPA regime with dynamism. Reuters

Modi also said that the government has taken a series of measures which have restored faith in our capacity to deliver with transparency, efficiency and speed.

“Now, the faith has been restored – there is pace in governance, economic progress and global pride. You can see this,” he told Hindustan Times in an exclusive interview.

“Global institutions like the IMF, OECD and others are predicting even better growth potential in the coming months and years. India is, thus, back on the global radar.”

Modi said the government’s achievements have to be seen with reference to the past.

“In what situation did the people bring us to power? And what is the situation now? Is there a policy paralysis anymore? No. Is there a transparency issue? No. Is there stagnancy in governance? No. Instead, there is dynamism,” he said.

On issues relating to judiciary, Modi said there have been instances where its initiative has resulted in a “good outcome” and there have been instances when it has resulted in “pain”.

“I would not like to analyse the judiciary, the experts should look at it,” he said three days after he said that judiciary should guard against ‘five-star activists’ and it was not as fearless as it used to be were – remarks that kicked up a controversy.

“We have taken a series of measures which have restored faith in our capacity to deliver with transparency, efficiency and speed. We are looking at the interests of the poor of the country and their empowerment,” Modi said.

“Good governance with good intentions is the hallmark of our government. Implementation with integrity is our core passion.”

Modi said the conclusion of the coal and spectrum auctions established that transparency was possible if there was political will while the distribution of the LPG subsidy through direct bank transfers was an example of the government’s strategy to help the poor.

The direction of his government, the prime minister said, was reflected in this year’s budget, a futuristic plan for the railways and the pooling of gas for stranded power plants and for fertiliser plants, all of which underscored a “firm commitment towards a prosperous and powerful India.”

On Indo-Pak relations, Modi said India is open to dialogue with Pakistan on all outstanding issues but in an environment free from terrorism and violence.

Modi also said that peace can only thrive when the climate is right.

“We remain open to bilateral dialogue with Pakistan on all outstanding issues in an environment free from terrorism and violence,” he said.

“The Simla Agreement and Lahore Declaration have to be the basis for going forward,” he added.

PTI

Decoding a farmer’s suicide note: Agrarian crisis can put Modi in a tight spot

C Krishnankutty Nair, a rubber farmer in Kerala with three acres of plantation and an outstanding debt of Rs 8 lakh, committed suicide last week. He travelled 350 km from Kannur to Pala, the constituency of controversial state finance minister KM Mani, to hang himself on a rubber plant, leaving a suicide note that has a message for the government, both state and central.

“I had bought a rubber plantation after selling my home. Due to the fall in rubber prices, I could neither build nor buy a new home. I bought the plantation after taking loans from a bank and individuals. As I cannot clear my liabilities, I have come to the constituency of the finance minister to commit suicide,” he had reportedly written in the letter.

He has also urged Mani to fulfil his promise of giving Rs 150 per kg support price for natural rubber and save other farmers. Rubber farmers in the state are pinning hopes on the minister’s promise as the prices of their produce have been on a free fall over the last few years. A kilo of rubber now costs around Rs 25-130, a good 45 percent lower than the record high of Rs 240 it fetched four years ago.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

What has aggravated the decline in the prices is the more than 50 percent drop in curde oil prices since June. As the oil prices decline, prices of synthetic rubber, which is a petroleum product, also fall, affecting the demand for natural rubber.

Nair is just one among lakhs of rubber farmers in Kerala who saw their golden dream turn nightmare in about four years.

However, Nair’s suicide note has a larger significance. It may seem to be speaking for only rubber farmers but the plight of small and marginal farmers engaged in production of many other commodities is no different. Most of them are reeling under the burden of high supply that is putting downward pressure on the prices and indebtedness.

A research note by Emkay Global notes India’s agricultural sector economics is running into trouble due to various reasons, most importantly the fall in global commodity prices.

It notes that IMF food price index has declined 6.5% on year, extending the decline of over 23% since early 2011. The FAO Food Price Index in February stood at 179.4, down 14 percent on year.

“The softening global prices has been on the back of lower demand and favorable production for a number of crops in 2015. World cereal inventories is expected to rise to 630.5m tons (FAO), 8.6% above their opening levels and the largest in 15 years,” it notes.

While this is the global scenario, the Indian situation is scarier. The government support for the rural sector is waning in the face of a tight fiscal situation. The increase in minimum support price has been modest while the government procurement is also on the decline. On top of this is the weather tantrums. While the deficient monsoon this year has affected the kharif crops, the unseasonal summer rains are damaging the standing rabi crops too. Clearly, the rural income is falling.

“In the context of the latest NSS survey (2011-12) corroborating the decline in per capita/annum consumption of cereals (wheat, rice & coarse grains) to 128kg, record production, less aggressive procurement, drawdown of buffer and softening global prices it is likely that the terms of trade will decline for a substantial part of the farm economy,” says Emkay.

While an urban revival may help the corporate sector offset the impact of the rural demand decline, the situation has the potential to put the NDA government in a tight spot.

This is because a prolonged distress will only strengthen the resistance to any reform involving rural economy.

As Emkay says one of the immediate steps that will see heightened opposition is likely to be the Land Acquisition Bill Amendment.

The Bill is already facing the ire of farmers, including the affiliates of the Sangh Parivar.

A dramatic turnaround is possible only if the rural situation improves. For that, Modi has to act fast on evolving right support measures for farmers.

Data inputs from Kishor Kadam

Technology, innovation key to nation’s growth: Former President APJ Abdul Kalam

He gave them an eight point oath and called on them to be enlightened citizens towards building the future knowledge society with innovation.

File Photo

Former President APJ Abdul Kalam on Thursday called upon young engineers to develop new technologies for removing poverty and the overall development of the country.Kalam, 83, was delivering a speech during the 12th Convocation of National Institute of Technology here.He urged them to strive to be remembered for creating societal changes by removing poverty through new technologies.He gave them an eight point oath and called on them to be enlightened citizens towards building the future knowledge society with innovation.
The former President referred to the latest Global Competitiveness Report where India is ranked at 60.Kalam said if the country’s status is to be improved, we need to promote excellence in technology.”Excellence is not by accident. It is a process, where an individual or organisation or nation continuously strives to better oneself”, he said.During the speech he identified the technological breakthroughs in 2014 that contributed to the betterment of humanity.
He also discussed about breakthroughs in detail including the human embryonic stem cells technologies, convergence between space sciences, traction and rocketry technologies and internet of things (IOT).A total of 1174 degrees were conferred and 803 candidates were present during the ceremony.

Delhi govt orders installation of GPS in all taxis for women’s security

New Delhi: In order to ensure women safety, Delhi government has ordered all taxi operators to install GPS in their vehicles, failing which fitness certificate will not be issued to them.

Delhi government has ordered the installation of GPS in all taxis in the city. Reuters

Delhi government has ordered the installation of GPS in all taxis in the city. Reuters

According to a senior official, the government’s decision will be enforced on all types of taxis, including Radio taxis and black-and-yellow cabs, plying in different parts of the national capital.

The government has also made it clear that taxi operators will not be issued fitness certificates unless they get Global Positioning System (GPS) installed in their vehicles.

The decision comes months after a 25-year-old woman was allegedly raped by a driver enlisted with the US-based cab service, Uber, in December last year inside the taxi in which GPS was not installed.

“We want to ensure women safety in all public taxis due to which we have directed all operators, including of black-and-yellow cabs, to first install GPS in their vehicles,” the official said, adding, the transport department will issue the fitness certificate to taxi operators only after checking installation of GPS.

“GPS will not only ensure women safety in taxis but it also will help police in case of untoward incident,” he said.

There are more than 15,000 cabs, including black-and-yellow taxis and Delhi-NCR taxis, plying across the capital.

However, the Delhi Taxis’ Union has threatened to launch a series of protest if governmnet does not withdraw its decision immediately.

“GPS is not the only solution to ensure women safety…government should immediately withdraw this decision, else we will come out on the streets and protest against it,” Rajendra Soni, general secretary of Delhi Taxis’ Union, said.

PTI

Ensure resources to developing nations on climate change: India

United Nations: As the global community readies to adopt an ambitious post-2015 development agenda, India has highlighted the importance of ensuring enhanced resources to developing countries to combat climate change.

Getty Images

“It is important to ensure that the enhanced provision of resources to developing countries for climate change and environmental concerns is additional and not at the cost of traditional development finance.

“The present double counting of climate finance with Official Development Assistance (ODA) is a matter of concern,” counsellor in the Indian Mission to the UN Amit Narang said.

Even though ODA levels have regrettably declined, this does not diminish their relevance and ODA would remain relevant and important in the post-2015 period, he said, adding that much of the recent discourse has focused on the insufficiency and declining role of ODA.

“In fact the broader agenda envisaged under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)s would require ODA levels to be enhanced and scaled up,” Narang said in the General Assembly debate on ‘Means of Implementation for a Transformative Post-2015 Development Agenda’ yesterday.

He said the organisation of Financing for Development Conference in Addis Ababa in July this year is a welcome opportunity to enrich global efforts to forge an ambitious set of ‘means’ for implementing the agenda.

“The linkage between the Post-2015 and Financing for Development processes must be seen through the lens of ‘complementarity’. The objective of the Financing for Development Conference is not to replace the Means of Implementation segment under the Post-2015 Development Agenda, but to complement it,” Narang said.

He said the broader and integrated development template of the SDG will require an integrated and comprehensive financing strategy to ensure the provision of additional, predictable and stable flows of resources to developing countries.

Narang noted that the starting point for forging a revitalised global partnership must be to draw lessons from the implementation of Millenium Development Goals, where the keys failures included a lack of integration and synergy between the substantive goals and the Global Partnership framework.

An excessive reliance on donor-recipient framework to the detriment of systemic issues for boosting growth and a complete absence of monitoring and accountability of the global partnership against agreed targets and indicators.

For South-South cooperation to live up to its potential, it must be allowed to grow under its own impetus, he said.

“It can neither be expected to meet the shortfall in nor should it be straitjacketed in terms of rigid rules or policy prescriptions derived from North-South aid,” he said.

PTI

West Bengal gets Rs 93,600 crore investment pledge on first day of Summit

Companies including state-run SAIL on Wednesday committed to invest over Rs 93,000 crore in West Bengal, while Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said total commitments would exceed Rs one lakh crore during the ongoing two-day Global Business Summit. She, however, refused to draw any comparison with the Vibrant Gujarat summit, which typically gets huge investment pledges.Banerjee said that the two states were different and the Gujarat event had an advantage because Prime Minister Narendra Modi came from that state. On the first day of West Bengal Global Business Summit, investors committed Rs 41,600 crore in ports sector, while Rs 12,000 crore has been pledged for mining projects. Another Rs 40,000 crore worth investment pledge came today from SAIL, Banerjee said.”It will exceed Rs 1,00,000 crore,” Banerjee said on Wednesday on the first day of the two-day summit. Describing the summit as “positive and constructive throughout”, the chief minister said a lot companies have committed to invest in money into the state. SAIL’s investment announcement came a day after a 3900-acre land issue being resolved in the state.However, Banerjee refused to compare the Bengal summit with the Vibrant Gujarat event, which would start on January 11.”We can’t compare the two summits. The Prime Minister is from their state, so that is a big advantage for them. Gujarat is always developed. They don’t have to repay debts like we do. So, let Gujarat play their own role and let us Bengal play our own role. We want development for both,” she said.

West Bengal has to re-emerge as industrial center, says Arun Jaitley

Arun Jaitley
File Photo

Describing West Bengal as India’s gateway to South East Asia, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday said the greatest challenge that lies ahead for the state is to re-emerge as an industrial center. “West Bengal has several strengths. It’s strategically located, it’s one of the most important cities of India and perhaps the most important city of eastern India. It’s our gateway to Southeast Asia,” Jaitley said while speaking at the ‘Bengal Global Business Summit 2015’. “The state itself has a whole history of intellectual capital. The state is well equipped with water, it is conditionally strong in agriculture. It has produced some of the best minds. It has historically some of the largest industries of India. Unfortunately, many of them has been shift out and now our challenge is how to re-establish as an industrial center once again,” he added. Expressing his delight for being invited at the event, Jaitley said: “The strength of India’s democracy is that even though in a multi-party democracy, the governments of different shades will rule at the Centre and in the states yet there are larger national causes for which they all stand together.” “Economic development of India and economic development of the states is one such larger national cause for which we all have a shared vision. If the shared vision is to strengthen, I have not the least doubt that India’s growth as also West Bengal’s growth would be much larger,” he added. The Finance Minister further said that almost every state in India is realizing the importance of creating an investment friendly environment and encouraging investment in the state. “The basis of our growth has to be our ability to attract investment,” he added. Jaitley emphasized that there is a need to create an environment where we not merely attract investment but we also promise profitable return of that investment. “Industry will expect a return on investment and, therefore, our entire environment has to be such that it ensures that investment will lead to greater investment,” he added. The fourth edition of the two-day annual investment summit by the West Bengal Government began today. Around 500 delegations from India and aboard are expected to attend the investment extravaganza. The state government is attempting to use ‘Bengal Global Business Summit 2015’ platform to showcase West Bengal as an ideal investment destination. Also Read: Centre will support states in each rupee of their investments: Arun Jaitley

Centre will support states in each rupee of their investments: Arun Jaitley

The Finance Minister was speaking at the West Bengal Global Business Summit.

Asking West Bengal to broaden its manufacturing base to create more jobs, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today said the Centre will support states in each rupee of their investments and there is a need to stand together for ‘national causes’ despite political differences.Speaking at the West Bengal Global Business Summit, organised by Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress government here, the Union Finance Minister also said that India will grow if all states grow collectively.West Bengal will benefit from reform measures such as coal block auctions and GST implementation, initiated by the central government, he added. In an apparent reference to political differences between BJP and Trinamool, Jaitley said there are national causes to stand together, notwithstanding political differences. “I am here to assure you that central government strongly stands behind the state governments in order to support each one of the rupees and dollars that you invest in the state,” the Finance Minister said.He added that there is a need to give a spurt to investment, massive boost to infrastructure and concentrate on manufacturing. Jaitley also said that the newly formed NITI Aayog, in place of the erstwhile Planning Commission, will financially empower states. Besides, no state stands to lose a single rupee of revenue on GST implementation, he said, adding that West Bengal needs to broad-base its manufacturing base to create jobs.

West Bengal to host global business summit on December 7, Union Ministers including Arun Jaitley set to attend

The fourth edition of the two-day annual investment summit by West Bengal government beginning in Kolkata on December 7 is set to be a high-voltage event, to be attended by union ministers Arun Jaitley, Nitin Gadkari besides Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and a host of industrialists.Some 500-strong delegation from India and aboard are expected to join the investment extravaganza. The state government is attempting to use ‘Bengal Global Business Summit 2015′ platform to showcase West Bengal as an ideal investment destination. West Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra had stated last Friday that the state has attracted over Rs 83,000 crore investments, including from leading corporates, during the last three and a half years’ of Mamata Banerjee government.Mitra had said that the country’s big corporate houses will attend Bengal Global Business Summit. Delegations from Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, the UK, the US and Australia are also expected to participate.Both state government officials here and CII, the organising partner, are however keeping the participants’ details under close wrap. Mukesh Ambani had attended the Bengal government’s industry roadshow in Mumbai in 2014.Industrialists here expect announcement of some industry-friendly policies by the state government during the summit. “We expect state government to announce a new tourism policy at the summit,” a top city-based hotel chain executive told PTI.The contentious issues during the business summit could be land and Goods and Services Tax (GST). The Trinamool Congress government had opposed both Land Acquisition Act and introduction of GST unless it gets constitutional protection to revenue shortfall, if any.