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Elections 2015: Victory – Defeat – Gain – Loss

With Assam state elections scheduled for 2016, Congress faced a major setback as Tarun Gogoi had to step down after BJP won 340 wards in the aftermath of Delhi elections and Congress was left with 232 wards.

Yesha Kotak

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RSS pracharaks as BJP’s state unit chiefs – exceptions or new trend?

A party leader said earlier RSS pracharaks came to the BJP generally as organisational secretaries. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was one of the first pracharaks to hold a government post as chief minister and Kushabhau Thakre, also a pracharak, was party president. From 2004, more pracharaks entered the party fold. Once a pracharak joins the party, he has to give up the “veya patra” or statement of expenditure, as advance money is given to pracharaks for monthly expenditures.

Amita Shah

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Also ReadIndiaAmritsar: Nine killed, 15 injured in accident as bus hits motorised cartIndiaNarrow escape for 171 passengers of AI flight as dog strays on runwayIndiaNoida jinx will keep Akhilesh Yadav away from meeting PMIndiaMaharashtra: Sales tax on kidney-related medicines waived offIndiaDelhi govt suspends two officers; 200 colleagues threaten to go on mass leaveIndiaUP girl students barred from hockey, cricket, football <!– /.block –>

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Heroin trade strained India-UK relations in 1980s: UK files

India’s reluctance to allow Britain to position British officers in New Delhi and Mumbai to monitor illegal heroin trade in the 1980s strained India-UK relations, according to newly-released UK cabinet files.Then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s government believed that “illicit heroin movement from India” was at an “all-time peak” and wanted her Indian counterpart Rajiv Gandhi to agree to two British Drug Liaison Officers (DLOs) to be appointed in India.However, Gandhi resisted until India had received information of its own on offenders seeking refuge in the UK, according to newly declassified documents in the National Archives. In contrast, Pakistan under President Zia-ul-Haq seemed more receptive to Britain’s requests with DLOs placed in Karachi and Islamabad happy with “effective steps to tackle the problem of heroin production”.”The evidence was that Pakistan was getting on top of the drug production problem,” a letter to Downing Street dated December 4, 1985, noted following a visit by then UK health minister David Mellor to Pakistan.It went on to warn of the problem shifting to India, saying “Mr Mellor believed that, as drug controls were increased in Pakistan, and particularly at Karachi Airport, much of the traffic was now taking the land route to India”.”This would inevitably have an impact on the extent of heroin used and production in India itself. India might replace Afghanistan and Pakistan as the major world supplier,” it said. Mellor was concerned about delays in securing India’s agreement to the secondment of two Customs officers. Following a telegram from Thatcher questioning the reason for the delay, Gandhi responded “I feel that there is a communication gap somewhere. We are determined to combat the drug menace with every resource at our command. We had readily agreed, in principle, to British drug liaison presence in India.”We have an equally pressing problem in relation to economic and commercial offenders, who operate from or seek foreign sanctuaries. Our Parliament and people continue to be exercised on what is perceived to be lack of adequate action against such offenders,” Gandhi wrote.Britain finally got its way and Hartley Booth, an adviser to Thatcher, confirmed the success in a memo dated November 28, 1986, “After 31 approaches from officials and FCO (Foreign & Commonwealth Office) ministers during the last 15 months, India relented on November 20 and accepted the appointment of two drugs liaison officers from the United Kingdom to India”.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>

PM Narendra Modi personally touched by Nawaz Sharif’s welcome

“Nawaz sahab’s birthday & granddaughter’s marriage made it a double celebration,” he added.

dna Correspondent

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Also ReadIndia6.2 magnitude quake rocks northeast Afghanistan; tremor felt in Delhi, parts of North IndiaIndiaNo takers among doctors for paramilitary forcesIndiaDelhi emerging as global transit hub for drugsIndiaTwo major defence deals that couldn’t fructify during Narendra Modi’s visit to RussiaIndiaNow for the real talks: India, Pakistan Foreign Secretaries to meet on January 15IndiaAll you need to know about PM Modi’s sudden Pakistan visit <!– /.block –>

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Except Left, Opposition parties decry PM’s move BJP says it’s pleasant surprise

In Jammu and Kashmir, while both chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and former CM and opposition National Conference working president Omar Abdullah welcomed talks. But Omar called for sustainability in the talks, which should address skewed issues like Kashmir and other disputes once for all. In a statement here, Mufti who is recuperating after a health issue, , Mufti said he was delighted by Modi’s visit. “This is an evolutionary process and step in the right direction. It indicates Prime Minister’s resolve to enter into a long-term strategic partnership with Pakistan,” he stated. His aides recall October 15, meeting with the PM, where Mufti had conveyed that a peace with Pakistan was linked to development and progress in his state. “This initiative, besides being a great step towards improvement of bilateral relations, will also give impetus to the concept of SAARC,” he added.Congress, however, attacked the PM, alleging his endavour was not for promoting India’s national interest or to take forward the roadmap to engage with it on tackling terror but to promote private business interests. In a hurriedly convened press conference, Congress spokesperson Anand Sharma asked what assurances he got on bringing back or punishing perpetrators of 26/11 Mumbai attacks, especially Zakiu Rehman Lakhvi, and on dismantling terror syndicates in Pakistan acting against India.”Questioning the intent behind his visit, Congress rejected claims of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj that the Prime Minister’s move was ‘statesman-like’ and said it was “pre-arranged” by a businessman.”We are very clear that the Prime Minister is there to promote only private business interests and not India’s national interest which should be supreme.”Diplomacy is serious, it must have gravitas and predictability. It cannot be frivolous, otherwise it will implode on Shri Narendra Modi’s face,” he told reporters. “This unannounced visit cannot be termed ‘statesman-like. Diplomacy must have seriousness and gravitas,” he said.The Congress leader questioned how many Prime Ministers or heads of states make such detours to wish birthdays, asking if any Indian Prime Minister has landed in another country in this manner in the last 67 years. He also slammed Modi and BJP for adopting a “hawkish approach” during the UPA government and termed any meeting by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with his Pakistani counterpart as “anti-national”. The JD (U) leader K C Tiyagi said the “friendship and betrayal cannot go hand in hand” “I am stunned and shocked. At this moment, I can think of beheaded Hemraj,” said Tyagi.Describing it a “pleasant surprise”, BJP leader Tarun Vijay called it a best Christmas gift. “PM’s move will help isolate anti-India and anti-peace forces in Pakistan. It will work like a miracle. It has clearly shown, who wants peace in the region and has put onus on other side to reciprocate, ” he said. Another spokesperson Sidharath Nag Singh said the PM’s move was one of out of box diplomatic venture, as he had invited the leaders of South Asia nations to his oath taking ceremony.

dna Correspondent

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Atal Bihari Vajpayee approach revisited, says moderate Hurriyat

“This is an evolutionary process and a step in the right direction. It indicates Prime Minister’s resolve to enter into a long-term strategic partnership with Pakistan. Hope that the meeting between the two leaders will provide the much-needed momentum to the Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue for peaceful resolution of all issues,” Mufti, who is convalescing in a Delhi hospital, said in a statement.

Ishfaq-ul-Hassan
Info

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Also ReadIndia6.2 magnitude quake rocks northeast Afghanistan; tremor felt in Delhi, parts of North IndiaIndiaNo takers among doctors for paramilitary forcesIndiaDelhi emerging as global transit hub for drugsIndiaTwo major defence deals that couldn’t fructify during Narendra Modi’s visit to RussiaIndiaNow for the real talks: India, Pakistan Foreign Secretaries to meet on January 15IndiaAll you need to know about PM Modi’s sudden Pakistan visit <!– /.block –>

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Thousands soak in Christmas celebrations in Kolkata

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Around 500 police personnel were deployed in the Park Street area only, the nerve-centre of Christmas revelry with officers of Deputy Commissioner rank overseeing the situation.

Park Street Christmas decorations (Image credit – Mamata Banerjee’s Twitter account)

Thousands of revellers in the city celebrated Christmas with most churches holding the traditional midnight mass tonight.Kolkata was all decked up with lights, balloons, Christmas trees and other decorations to welcome the occasion and witnessed a huge number of people taking to the streets to soak in the revelry.Starting from Park Street, Allen Park, Bow Barracks, St Paul’s Cathedral and other famous churches in and around the city to other major landmarks, revellers poured out in thousands with the evening slipping into midnight.Kolkata Police have tightened the security measures in the city and till midnight have arrested 50 persons for disorderly conduct, a senior officer of the force told PTI.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Around 500 police personnel were deployed in the Park Street area only, the nerve-centre of Christmas revelry with officers of Deputy Commissioner rank overseeing the situation.

Amidst Darbhanga MP Azad’s suspension, BJP veterans’ meet creates flutter

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Express concern over DDCA, National Herald controversies eclipsing other pressing issues

Kirti Azad
File Photo

A day after the BJP suspended its Darbhanga MP Kirti Azad, party veterans — LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Yashwant Sinha and Shanta Kumar — went into a huddle creating a flutter, the second time in less than two months. The meeting held at Joshi’s residence, like last time, was not pre-planned, according to sources. While Kirti Azad’s suspension was not the primary purpose of the meeting, the leaders expressed concern over issues like DDCA row and the National Herald case eclipsing “major issues” like the Paris climate pact, the Nairobi WTO ministerial meeting and farmers’ problems in the Winter Session which ended on Wednesday.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> They noted that this was the second session in a row which was a washout, in the face of a government-opposition standoff, the sources said. The leaders were also worried that the DDCA row could spill over into the budget session, which begins around February 20. The defamation cases filed by finance minister Arun Jaitley against Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and other AAP leaders over their DDCA allegations are likely to stretch into February. A leader said “all issues” were discussed. The meeting hogged the limelight as it came a day after Kirti Azad, who had responded saying he was suspended for fighting corruption, said the Marg Darshak Mandal should take cognisance of the issue. Two of the leaders — Advani and Joshi — belong to the BJP’s Marg DarshakMandal, which has never met or held consultations ever since it was set up in August last year. The other members of the Marg Darshak Mandal are Prime Minister Narendra Modi, former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and home minister Rajnath Singh. Meanwhile, a BJP leader Subramanian Swamy has offered to help Azad in drafting his reply to the party, further bringing out the fault lines in the party. This time the mood of the four party elders appeared to be more of resignation than rebellion. Unlike last time the senior leaders did not come out with any statement. A leader said the party leadership was yet to react or address the concerns expressed in its statement issued on the eve of Diwali, in the aftermath of the Bihar debacle. The four leaders had said the party has been ’emasculated’ in the past year and that to say everyone was responsible for the defeat in Bihar was to ensure that no one was held responsible. The BJP hit back saying the party’s senior leaders had set the precedent of “collective responsibility”. Sources said the party elders appeared resigned to their ‘helplessness’ given their limited role. It was also not clear if they would raise their concerns at some party forum. According to sources, all four leaders were together only for half-an-hour as Advani reached at noon and Sinha had to leave by around 12.30 pm.

Maharashtra farmers junk ‘subsidised’ solar pumps policy

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The scheme was rolled out mainly in the perennially dry Vidarbha districts from where highest farmers’ suicide is being reported for last few years.

Representational Image
File Photo

Drought-hit farmers of Maharashtra have virtually rejected the “subsidised” solar pump policy brought by state and centre jointly in June this year. As per the information obtained from the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (MSEDCL), only 3,000 farmers have expressed their interest in taking the solar water pump as against 10,000 pumps allocated for the pilot phase. The scheme was rolled out mainly in the perennially dry Vidarbha districts from where highest farmers’ suicide is being reported for last few years. Investment of Rs25,000, which each farmer has to shell-out in order to get the subsidized pump — which otherwise costs Rs3.5-4Lakh — is believed to be the major reason behind the lukewarm response.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> “Around 85% cultivators in the state are marginal and dry-land farmers who are unable to pay for the pumps”, said sources. And government doesn’t intend to give the pumps for free. As per the provision, 60% of the pump’s cost is borne by MSEDCL (Mahavitaran), 30% by the government of India and 5% each by the state and end-user. Lack of confidence in the solar technology, apprehensions over its maintenance and repair have emerged as other major deterrents, said MSEDCL official adding that “farmers, who have electric pumps and are not paying power bills, are naturally against investing money for new technology”. Over 8,000 pumps have been allocated for Wardha, Washim, Yavatmal, Amravati, Buldhana and Akola districts, while 2,000 pumps are for Nagpur, Bhandara, Gondia, Beed and Gad Chiroli districts. Maharashtra-based Jain Irrigations and Gurgaon-based Claro Energy have been selected for the supply of pumps in June that too after changing the tender specifications thrice. Applications from farmers are being invited since September. Under pressure, energy department is now mulling over a different strategy to lure the farmers. District collectors and agriculture department have been directed to run awareness programs to make farmers aware about the benefits and efficiency of the pumps. An MSEDCL official said: “Considering the sensitivity of the drought-hit farmers, we have taken utmost care about this scheme so that it doesn’t flop because of inefficiency pumps. Field trials were held, stringent provisions have been incorporated in the contract with the suppliers including five year maintenance, attending complaints within 48 hours or else Rs500 fine per day for three days which would be Rs1,000 after three days. However, we now feel that a lot needs to be done on awareness side.” The poor response also raises doubt over the Devendra Fadnavis government’s ambitious programme to replace 5 lakh electric power pumps in the state with the solar pumps within a year and intends to replace all in due course of time. At present, the state has nearly 36 lakh agriculture electric pumps in use. The decisions to replace electric power pumps with solar power pumps is part of the endeavour to reduce the cross-subsidy burden of nearly Rs8,000 crore and thus lowering the power tariff for domestic, industrial and commercial sector users. Users from the agriculture sector, those below the poverty line are charged lower tariffs and this is compensated by higher tariffs imposed on other sectors which is called cross-subsidisation. “If electric pumps are replaced with solar-powered pumps, they will reduce this subsidy burden both on industry as well as state government. Since agricultural pumps are located in remote locations, they add to its distribution losses also, and if replaced by solar pumps, they will reduce our distribution losses, too,” said the official.

Car rationing to curb Delhi pollution

The local government in the Indian capital announces major restrictions on private cars to curb “alarming levels” of pollution.

Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence, Russian firm to make four frigates for India

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PM Modi is currently on a visit to Russia, where he will hold talks and sign pacts with President Vladimir Putin.

INS Sahyadri

AFP photo
Reliance Defence is set to enter into an agreement with Russian United Shipbuilding Company (USC) to build four frigates for the Indian Navy, according to a report in Hindustan Times. It will be the first time that a major warship will be built at a private sector shipyard in India.This could be a major boost to the Make in India initiative. PM Modi is currently on a visit to Russia, where he will hold talks and sign pacts with President Vladimir Putin. The agreement to build frigates might be signed during this visit.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>These four front-line warships will be built at a cost of nearly Rs 30,000 crore at the Pipavav shipyard in Gujarat, says the report. Currently India has 35 Russian warships.All Indian Navy surface ships of Russian and USSR origin shall be refitted and modernised as well, according to an agreement between Reliance Defence and USC.If the agreement is signed, it will be the first of its kind between a Russian defence OEM (original equipment manufacturer) and an Indian private sector company. The total value of the agreements could exceed Rs 66,000 crores.

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.

PM Modi bats for unity; says India is garden with many flowers

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Modi spoke to Russian news agency Itar-Taas before leaving for Moscow on a two-day official visit

Narendra Modi

Amid a debate on intolerance, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that India has an ancient tradition of “openness, respect for diversity of beliefs and cultures”.”India is one of the oldest civilisations in the world, which believes that the world is one family; and, that humanity is an integral part of Nature, not superior or distinct from it,” he told Russian news agency Itar-Taas before leaving for Moscow on a two-day official visit. “This has created an ancient tradition of openness, respect for diversity of beliefs and cultures, and a timeless tradition of living in harmony with nature,” he added.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>There has been a raging controversy in India over incidents of intolerance ever since a man was lynched in Dadri on suspicions of having eaten beef. Noting that India is home to people from all major faiths of the world, 22 official languages and diverse cultures and ethnicity, the Prime Minister said, “Yet, there is a strong sense of unity across our diversity.””India is a garden with many flowers; and, a tapestry of many colours. And, when we are tested the most, we have spoken most strongly in one voice and as one people. Our Constitution both guarantees and nurtures the diversities of our country,” he said in response to a question on how he manages to support and develop ethnic cultures and traditions. Stating that India observes public holidays for important festivals of all major religions such as Holi, Diwali, Id, Christmas, Baisaki and Buddha Purnima, he said that these festivals remind people of the unity of mankind.”It gives people from different faiths in India to come together in celebration. It inculcates in our society a respect for tradition and culture,” he added.

In Russia, Narendra Modi will regale 3,000 ‘friends of India’

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi will embark on a two-day visit to Russia on Wednesday for annual summit talks aimed at further expanding the defence ties by signing $1 billion agreement to produce military helicopters in India and focus on nuclear energy, hydrocarbons and trade.

Determined to unveil mystery of the disappearance of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is set to seek cooperation of Russian President Vladimir Putin to request access to secret Russian files to probe the missing link. Many authors have alleged that under the instructions of India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Russian dictator Jospeh Stalin had confined Bose in Siberia’s Yakutsk city, some 6,000km away from Moscow and he could have been buried there.Prime Minister Narendra Modi will embark on a two-day visit to Russia on Wednesday for annual summit talks aimed at further expanding the defence ties by signing $1 billion agreement to produce military helicopters in India and focus on nuclear energy, hydrocarbons and trade.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The two events, Modi has specifically included in his itinerary, are a detailed briefing at Emercom, Russia’s emergency response agency during disasters, to get an overview of tackling natural catastrophe, so frequent in India over past few years.The Emercom is world famous dynamic force, known in the field of humanitarian response and emergency relief operations. Further, while there is no significant Indian community in Moscow, to recreate the aura of New York’s Madison Square Garden, UK’s Wembly or Dubai’s cricket stadium buzz, ministry of external affairs has identified 3,000 Russians, whom they describe, ‘friends of India’ to listen to the Prime Minister at the Moscow exhibition ground. Weary about Russia warming up and even having agreed to supply military equipment to Pakistan, officials said the summit will provide an opportunity to both countries to look at regional and global issues. Russian ambassador in India few months ago had publicly expressed concern at India’s growing closeness with the United States and switching to alternative defence markets. But the foreign secretary S. Jaishankar said the envoy’s comments were in a context. “If the Russian ambassador does not promote Russian aircraft, whose aircraft he will promote? He is doing his job,” he said. Major challenge between the two countries is that despite being all-weather friends, trade has remained limited. Foreign Secretary said expanding economic ties would be a ‘very big priority’ Energy-starved India, the third largest oil importer after the United States and China, has been pushing for greater involvement in major gas and oil exploration projects in Russia. India is also likely to push for a Free Trade Agreement with the Eurasian Economic Zone and is sharing details of the study it conducted in this regard.Last week, the defence ministry’s top acquisition council had cleared the purchase of Russian S-400 Triumf air defence missile systems at an estimated cost of Rs 40,000 crore. It will be Modi’s second summit with Putin who was in India last year for the 15th India Russia Summit.On Wednesday, Putin will host a private dinner for the prime minister and the two leaders will interact with a group of Indian and Russian chief executive officers in Kremlin on Thursday.After the summit talks last year, it was announced that Russia will build at least 12 nuclear reactors besides manufacturing advanced dual-use helicopters. The two countries had signed 20 agreements in oil, gas, defence, investment and other key sectors.

Act to check plastic waste menace, CPCB tells civic bodies

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In Maharashtra, the estimated plastic waste generation is 10950 tonnes/annum.

With the quantum of plastic waste mounting across urban India and civic bodies showing sluggishness to manage the menace, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has issued fresh directions asking civic bodies to make action plans within six months to plug environmental damage due to plastic waste. Stopping production of plastic bags less than 40 microns thickness, using biodegradable material in plastic bags and cracking down on illegal plastic bag producers were some of the recommendations CPCB issued in its fresh directions.Currently, The Plastic Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011, is the guiding regulation on management of plastic waste, but its implementation has been ineffective. The Union ministry of environment, forests and climate change has brought out a new Plastic Waste Rules this year but they are yet to come into effect. According to CPCB, most of plastic waste generated across urban India remains recycled and ends up in landfills. At landfills and in cities, open burning of plastic waste generates toxic emissions, such as; Carbon Monoxide, Chlorine, Hydrochloric Acid, Dioxin &Furans, Amines, Nitrides, Styrene, Benzene, and Acetaldehyde and pollute the environment.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Besides, open burning, plastic also leaches into ground contaminating ground water and chokes rivers, streams along with marine ecosystems such as mangroves and estuaries. To address this issue, CPCB has urged urbaan local bodies and municipal corporations to establish within six months systems to collect, segregate and process plastic waste through recycling. CPCB’s latest assessment of plastic waste shows that 3,501 tonnes of plastic waste is generated per day across 60 major cities. In India, approximately 12 million tonnes plastic products are consumed every year , which is expected to rise further. It is also known that about 50-60% of its consumption is converted into waste.In Maharashtra, the estimated plastic waste generation is 10950 tonnes/annum.Main usage of plastics is in the form of carry bags, packaging films, wrapping materials, fluid containers, clothing, toys, household applications, industrial products, engineering applications and building materials.In other directions, CPCB has asked state pollution control boards to crack down on illegal factories producing sub-standard plastic bags which are less than 40 microns in thickness. “Secretaries-in-charge of municipal bodies in each state shall ensure that all municipal bodies ban stocking, selling and use of any carry bag (having handle or non-handle) having less than 40 micron thickness plastic material. Those found stocking/selling such carry bags shall be penalised by imposing a fine of Rs1 lakh,” the CPCB said.

Lalu Prasad Yadav slams bullet train project; asks PM Modi to explain rationale

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Strongly disapproving of the project, former rail minister Prasad charged that farmers and the poor were being ignored at the cost of the bullet train project as the Centre had reduced budgetary allocations for major sectors like agriculture, health and education.

Lalu Yadav

Amidst the Centre’s thrust on the ambitious bullet train project, RJD chief Lalu Prasad on Tuesday asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to explain the rationale behind pursuing an initiative that would cost close to Rs 1 lakh crore in a poor country like India.”The PM should explain the rationale behind investing approximately Rs 1 lakh crore in a single project like bullet train in a nation where millions of people die due to poverty, illness and malnutrition and defecate in open,” he asked in a two-page open letter. Strongly disapproving of the project, former rail minister Prasad charged that farmers and the poor were being ignored at the cost of the bullet train project as the Centre had reduced budgetary allocations for major sectors like agriculture, health and education.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”What percentage of India’s population will benefit from this costly project running for such a small distance?” the RJD supremo asked, adding that the Centre’s priorities appeared to be misdirected and amounted to an advocacy of lopsided development. Pointing to the US, Prasad said that “the richest country in the world doesn’t have a bullet train as, in the fiercely competitive market, they get beaten down by low cost airlines”.He also spoke of the non-viability of the bullet train project on the grounds that the railways is facing a grim battle for survival due to ever-increasing operating ratio and decline in income from freight and passenger segments.The RJD leader suggested that the budget for the bullet train project could be invested for developing railway infrastructure so as to benefit millions of commuters.The Rs 98,000-crore project to lay India’s first bullet train network between the commercial nerve centre of Mumbai and Ahmedabad was finalised earlier this month at annual summit talks between Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe.The bullet train between the two cities will cut travel time on the 505-kilometre route from eight hours to around three. Hailing the agreement for the project, Modi had said, “No less historic is our decision to introduce High Speed Rail on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad sector through Japan’s Shinkansen, known for its speed, reliability and safety.”

PM Modi set to visit Russia for Annual Summit talks; major deals expected in defence, nuclear sectors

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He said expanding economic ties would be a “very big priority” as the two countries were aiming at enhancing annual bilateral trade to US $30 billion over the next 10 years from current US $10 billion.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will embark on a two-day visit to Russia on Wednesday for annual summit talks with President Vladimir Putin that is aimed at further expanding the special and privileged strategic ties with a particular focus on nuclear energy, hydrocarbons, defence and trade.After the talks on Thursday, the two “time-tested” partners are likely to ink a number of pacts in a range of sectors including nuclear energy and defence. The talks between the two countries at the highest level have been taking place alternately in Moscow and New Delhi since 2000.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”We expect to sign a number of agreements covering a very broad range of fields. Final touches are being given on some of them,” Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar told reporters.He said expanding economic ties would be a “very big priority” as the two countries were aiming at enhancing annual bilateral trade to US $30 billion over the next 10 years from current US $10 billion.Besides bilateral issues, Modi and Putin are likely to deliberate on a number of global issues having political dimensions including sthe ituation in Syria and ways to tackle terrorism.”This would be definitely one of the most important engagements for us,” Jaishankar said.The Foreign Secretary said India was looking at deeper engagement in Russia’s oil and coal sector besides stepping up cooperation in some other areas like diamond trade and agro business.Energy-starved India, the third largest oil importer after the US and China, has been pushing for greater involvement in major gas and oil exploration projects in Russia. Russia is one of the top oil producers globally and has huge reserves of natural gas.India is also likely to push for a Free Trade Agreement with the Eurasian Economic Zone and is sharing details of study it conducted in this regard.Without giving specific details, Jaishankar said both Modi and Putin will deliberate on enhancing cooperation in defence and nuclear energy speheres.”Russia has been a very major military and strategic partner of India. There will be a lot of discussions on that,” he said.Last week, Defence Ministry’s top acquisition council had cleared the purchase of Russian S-400 Triumf air defence missile systems at an estimated cost of Rs 40,000 crore.Asked whether Russia will strongly back India’s bid for a seat at the UN Security Council, he said “Two countries have great confidence and trust in each other. We do not at all doubt Russia’s commitment to see India as a permanent member of the UNSC.”On whether India will request Russia to share details on Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, he said the issue had figured during External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s recent visit to Moscow. “Let’s wait and see what happens.I do not prejudge the Russian response till we get it,” he said.

India air crash kills 10 in Delhi

A light aircraft crashes on take-off near the airport in the Indian capital, Delhi, killing 10 people.

Movies are making a quiet splash in the land of no cinemas

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happy ending: The organisers have received 400 entries from 50 countries in 60 different languages from around the world

The festival is being organised by the Experimental Moving Images and Theatre Association
dna photo

In the entertainment-starved paradise, the films are making a quiet debut. Thanks to the fifth edition of International Film Festival of Kashmir (IFFK), the no-cinema valley is on a high after one of the biggest cinematic extravaganza kicked off to the packed house on Monday.Organised by the Experimental Moving Images and Theatre Association (XMITA), the three-day festival will showcase 40 films from the renowned filmmakers of the country and abroad. Iranian short-fiction Waskat and Gilgit-Baltistan short fiction ‘Stunning’ were screened on the opening day of the festival on Monday.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Over the next two days, 40 movies in over 10 international languages will be screened at a festival expected to attract some 2000 viewers. The selected films belong to seventeen countries including Iran, Russia, UK, USA, Phillipines, Turkey, Mexico and India,” said Ali Emran, the IFFK Curator.Such was the enthusiasm among the filmmakers that the organisers received 400 entries from 50 countries in 60 different languages from around the world.IFFK has major sections that include International competition, Indian panorama and J&K Select.”We have selected five films in the best of Indian panorama category. Similarly we have five films –one feature and four short—in J&K select. Thirty others are the international films. Plus there will be a Spanish package of six short films”, said Emran.Interestingly the film festival is being organised in a place where no cinema halls, 70mm halls or multiplexes are operational. Allah Tigers, now a defunct militant outfit, had banned the cinema halls and sale and consumption of liquor in 1989. Led by self styled ‘Air Marshal’ Noor Khan, the outfit had ransacked and looted the liquor shops and threatened to set ablaze cinema halls prompting them to shut instantly.There were eight single screen theatres in summer capital city of Srinagar. Of which four were in sensitive old city which had become the citadel of separatist movement in early nineties. In 1999 Farooq Abdullah led government tried to reopen Regal cinema in Srinagar. But on the inaugural show, militants attacked the cinema with grenades killing one person and injuring 12 others. Later two cinema halls –Neelam and Broadway—tried to reopen amid tight security but they were unable to attract the cine-goers owing to security reasons. With the result Broadway closed some months later. Neelam Cinema crutched along but finally closed down in 2010. Cine goers had a narrow escape when militants attacked Neelam on September 7, 2005. Two militants and a policeman were killed in the attack. History is made Cinemas or no Cinemas, Kashmir has made history once again by hosting another edition of the international film festival.”XMITA will continue to host some events for the festival in the lines of workshops through different national and international organizations”, said a spokesman of XMITA

Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal writes to PM Modi, seeks support for ‘odd-even’ measure

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Kejriwal, who has cycled on designated stretches during the past car-free days in the city, said if the experiment meets success then “we may repeat it in the future”.

Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal
File Photo
dna Research & Archives
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Monday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking his cooperation on the ‘odd-even’ initiative, and said directives or a public appeal by him in this regard would have a “major impact”.In a letter, Kejriwal apprised the Prime Minister that he, along with his colleagues, would carpool to office during the January 1-15 period when the vehicle rationing scheme will kick in and urged Modi to request Union ministers and secretaries to do the same. Kejriwal said the AAP government had to resort to the “unexpected and disagreeable decision” in order to mitigate air pollution in Delhi, which has assumed “dreadful proportions”.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”People will surely have to face some difficulties in the wake of its implementation… We are all answerable for this problem and we can find out a solution together only,” Kejriwal wrote in the letter.”The Delhi government is taking a lot of steps in this regard and has decided to implement the odd-even measures on an experimental basis. The blueprint is being worked out but it has already been decided that autos, cabs, public transport, ambulances, and emergency vehicles will be out of its ambit,” he added.Kejriwal, who has cycled on designated stretches during the past car-free days in the city, said if the experiment meets success then “we may repeat it in the future”.”I want to request you through this letter to inspire your ministers and secretaries to observe the same. This will send out a good message to the residents of Delhi and our efforts will get support. I believe that if there is a directive or appeal from your side to follow or comply with these rules than it will have a major impact,” Kejriwal wrote.In a radical step to curb air pollution, the Kejriwal government had announced earlier this month that private vehicles bearing odd and even registration numbers will be allowed to ply only on alternate days starting January 1.

MoEF gives forest clearance for expansion of country’s largest open cast mine in Singrauli

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The block has 483 million tonnes of mineable reserves and with a 15 million tonnes/annum capacity, the life of the project will be about 22 years.

An expert panel of the Union ministry of environment, forests and climate change (MoEF&CC) has recommended forest clearance for expansion of India’s largest open cast mine located at Nigahi in Singrauli, Madhya Pradesh, with certain conditions. The expansion of the mine, under the control of Northern Coalfields Limited, is a part of the Singrauli coalfied and is located on a hilly pleateau with an elevation of about 400-450mts above mean sea level.The block has 483 million tonnes of mineable reserves and with a 15 million tonnes/annum capacity, the life of the project will be about 22 years.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The coal from the Nigahi extension block will feed the Vindhyachal Thermal Power Station which is the country’s largest power station with an installed capacity of 4,760MW.The project had come up for appraisal before the forest advisory committee (FAC) of the MoEFCC as it requires clearing of forest areas. Singrauli district, where the project is located, is known as the coal and energy capital of the country is home to dense, rich Sal forests. The Nigahi extension block will spread across 596.11 hectares and out of this the project needs to clear 424.5 hectares of forest comprising of 13,201 trees.During the appraisal of the project, the FAC noted the report of MoEFCC’s regional office at Bhopal that detailed the quality of forests. According to the report, a sizeable part of the extension block is covered by dense forests. Using satellite imagery the FAC confirmed that three major patches of very dense forests are present on the western end of the mine. Of this, two grids are classified as inviolate or out of bound for mining.Thus, even as they recommended forest clearance for the project the FAC has asked Northern Coalfields to not utilise the dense forests for mining owing to their richness. It also asked the company to provide details of the dense forest patches such as its area.The Nigahi coal block is located in the same region as the Mahan forests, where local villagers and Greenpeace India ran a campaign against a proposed coal mine of Essar that was eventually cancelled by the Centre. In fact, the MoEF&CC classified the forests around Mahan coal block as inviolate or out of bound for mining.

HIV cases on decline, but MSM group poses a threat

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Authorities blame it to fast-paced social networking within the MSM group, which they have failed to tap for outreach programmes.

Believe it or not, unprotected sex, especially among MSM (men having sex with men), is one of the main reasons behind the spread of HIV/AIDS. The data, released by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on Friday, also shows a decline in trend of HIV infections across the country. According to the figures, among the causes behind new infections, as high as 95% is attributed to MSM category. It points out that the risk-factor and vulnarabily were found to be high among this group. Experts and health officials, whom dna spoke to, also attested to the fact that MSM high-risk group is a cause of worry.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Authorities blame it to fast-paced social networking within the MSM group, which they have failed to tap for outreach programmes. Dr Shobhana Tehra, joint director, Maharashtra State AIDS control Society (MSACS) said, “We are concerned about creating awareness on safe sex in the targeted groups like MSMs as technology is overriding the outreach programmes. A number of websites and android applications have cropped up over the last one year, making networking among homosexuals rapid and quick. It is of utmost importance that MSM groups indulge in safe sex to prevent HIV transmission.” She further said, “Every man registered in this target intervention (TI) group has up to four to five male partners. If even one male strays to unsafe sex, the chances of transmitting HIV to the other partners increase by upto five times.” Agrees Dr Shrikala Acharya, the additional project director in Mumbai Districts AIDS Control Society. Stating that Mumbai scenario is the same, she said: “This high-risk group do not come out in open due to various reasons, including social stigma. With advancement in technology, it has become even more difficult to reach out to this high-risk group. ” Recently, World Health Organisation, to create awareness about HIV/AIDS observed December 1 as World Aids Day, where this year’s theme was ‘Getting to zero-zero new infection, zero discrimination and zero AIDS related death’. But experts feel that to achieve zero infection, we need to concentrate on MSM category living with HIV to prevent new infection cases. Officials say they are facing the same issues in reaching out to trans-gender (TG) category for awareness. “Both TGs and MSMs are rebellious in nature. While TGs on daily basis have 13 to 15 clients and refuse to use condoms, MSMs remain hidden and are difficult to tap,” said another official from MSACS. Kaur said the transgender population remains a major part of this segment. “TGs are mostly illiterate and don’t have any other occupation. No one hires them. Most take to begging and commercial sex to earn a livelihood. We need to look into the basic factors too,” said Kaur. The following major factors/reasons have been identified with respect to HIV/AIDS transmission: Unprotected sexual intercourse including Men who have sex with Men (95%). HIV infected pregnant women to her foetus or infant before, during or after birth (3%). Use of improperly sterilized needles and syringes that have been in contact with infected blood can transmit HIV (0.9%). Transfusion of infected blood, blood products & transplantation of HIV infected organs or tissues (0.1%). Non-specified factors (1%).

India building secret nuclear city in Karnataka, says Foreign Policy journal

The city when completed in 2017 would be “the subcontinent’s largest military-run complex of nuclear centrifuges, atomic-research laboratories, and weapons- and aircraft-testing facilities”, the report said.

Representational Image of a nuclear plant

India is building a top-secret nuclear city to produce thermonuclear weapons and when completed in 2017 the facility would be the subcontinent’s “largest military-run” complex of nuclear centrifuges, a leading American foreign policy journal has claimed.The secret city in Challakere in Karnataka could “upgrade” the country as a nuclear power and unsettle its two major neighbours – Pakistan and China, Foreign Policy magazine said in an investigative report.”But another, more controversial ambition, according to retired Indian government officials and independent experts in London and Washington, is to give India an extra stockpile of enriched uranium fuel that could be used in new hydrogen bombs, also known as thermonuclear weapons, substantially increasing the explosive force of those in its existing nuclear arsenal,” the report said.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Related Read: Obama-Sharif meet: US President urges Pakistan to avoid raising nuclear tensions with new weaponsThe city when completed in 2017 would be “the subcontinent’s largest military-run complex of nuclear centrifuges, atomic-research laboratories, and weapons- and aircraft-testing facilities”, the report said.”India’s close neighbours, China and Pakistan, would see this move as a provocation: Experts say they might respond by ratcheting up their own nuclear firepower,” the report said.The independent Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) estimates that India already possesses between 90 and 110 nuclear weapons, as compared to Pakistan’s estimated stockpile of up to 120. China, which borders India to the north, has approximately 260 warheads.The report does not contain any official response from either the Indian or the US Government, but has quoted several unnamed officials and retired government officials for the story.”Mysore is being constantly monitored, and we are constantly monitoring progress in Challakere,” a former White House official has been quoted as saying by the report. Challakere is nearly 260 km from Mysore.

India clears Rs 40,000 crore air defence system purchase from Russia ahead of PM Modi’s meeting with Putin

Defence minister Manohar Parrikar chaired Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) meeting held on Thursday cleared an another estimated Rs 25,000 crore proposal for defence acquisitions under ‘Make in India.

Days before Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets Russian President Vladimir Putin during the former’s Russia visit later this month, India’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) gave an approval for purchase of nearly Rs 40,000 crore Russian S-400 Triumf air defence missile systems, government sources said.Defence minister Manohar Parrikar chaired Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) meeting held on Thursday cleared an another estimated Rs 25,000 crore proposal for defence acquisitions under ‘Make in India.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The deal of S-400 air defence systems that come with mobile launchers , will entail buying close to 6,000 missiles that can detect and destroy incoming missiles and aircraft up to a range of 400 kilometres.Besides, this, DAC also cleared a demand by the Army for six regiments of the DRDO developed Pinaka Multi Barrel Rocket Launcher Systems at Rs 14,600 cr. Indian defence manufacturing Tata Power SED, BEML and Larsen & Toubro will manufacture these systems.Other major approvals under Make in India include a Rs 425 crore electronic warfare system, for the Indian Army. This system , to be developed by DRDO and manufactured by state-run Bharat Electronics Limited, are meant for use in mountain regions along the borders with China and Pakistan, said an official source.Further, at an expense of close to Rs 450 crore, 120 trawls for T-72 and T-90 tanks were also approved, the source added. These will also be made indigenously.MoD also appointed state-run Hindustan Shipyard Limited to build fleet support ships for Navy worth Rs 9000 crore , a proposal for which was sanctioned last year by DAC.Over all, close to Rs 65000 crore acquisition were approved that included nearly Rs 25000 crore under Make in India.

ISRO’s experiment to re-start PSLV stage-IV a success, says official

Veteran nuclear scientist Anil Kakodkar, who inaugurated the conference, hailed ISRO for the successful PSLV-C29 mission.

Indian Space Research Organisation has successfully reignited the fourth stage of its workhorse Polar rocket during the PSLV-C29 mission after putting in orbit six Singapore satellites, agency officials said on Thursday.The engine in the upper stage of the PSLV was shut off and re-started after placing the satellites in orbit yesterday, ISRO’s Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC) Director S Somanath said. “We tried it for the first time and it was a success,” Somnath said, adding that the technique would be useful when launching multiple satellites in different orbits. The LSPC director was was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the inauguration of the 23rd national and first international Heat and Mass Transfer Conference (IHMTC 2015), organised by (LPSC). The PS4 is the uppermost stage of PSLV, comprising two ‘Earth storable’ liquid engines.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Veteran nuclear scientist Anil Kakodkar, who inaugurated the conference, hailed ISRO for the successful PSLV-C29 mission. “It’s a fantastic technological achievement that so many foreign clients are vying for taking their satellites on board PSLV. It is a great recognition,” he said. The PSLV-C29 injected the six Singapore satellites in orbit completing the exercise in about 21 minutes after it blasted off from the spaceport of Sriharikota, about 110 km from Chennai last evening.Speaking soon after the launch, an ISRO official had said in Sriharikota that the agency was carrying out the experiment to re-ignite stage four of the rocket for four seconds from 67.25 minutes (after the lift-off). “After injecting all the satellites we are carrying out a major experiment to ignite once again PS4. This aspect is going to be a major mission flexibility to plan different orbital missions in a single launch,” he had said.

Supreme Court bars registration of diesel SUVs, cars of 2000 cc above in Delhi

The bench was hearing the pleas of auto dealers and the Centre not to ban diesel vehicles as the same will affect the supply of essential commodities.

Taking a tough stand against rich people using luxury SUVs and ensuring that the common man should not suffer due to pollution, the Supreme Court on Wednesday banned registration of diesel vehicles of 2000 cc and above till March 31 next year in Delhi and National Capital Region (NCR). The bench was hearing the pleas of auto dealers and the Centre not to ban diesel vehicles as the same will affect the supply of essential commodities. Issuing a slew of measures to check the pollution level in the city, the apex court directed that commercial vehicles registered before 2005 will not be allowed to enter the city and the cabs, including Ola and Uber, will have to convert to CNG. The court set the March 31deadline for it.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Passing a detailed order, a bench headed by Chief Justice of India T S Thakur said, “It is noteworthy that diesel vehicles of 2000 cc and above and SUVs are generally used by more affluent sections of our society and because of the higher engine capacity are more prone to cause higher levels of pollution.”The court said, “A ban on registration of such vehicles will not, therefore, affect the common man or the average citizen in the city of Delhi. We accordingly, direct that registration of SUVs and private cars of the capacity of 2000 CC and above using diesel as fuel shall stand banned in the NCR up to 31st March, 2016.”It also ordered for the diversion of commercial vehicles which are not bound for Delhi, specially trucks, which pass through the national capital on way to other destinations after finding them the major source of vehicular emissions in the city.”No Vehicle which is not bound for Delhi will be allowed to enter from NH-8 which connects Jaipur to Delhi and NH-1 that connects the states of Punjab, Haryana and other northern states to Delhi… the largest number of vehicles that are entering Delhi are from these two entry points,” the court said. Additionally, the court also doubled the environment compensation charge (ECC) by saying the light duty vehicles will have to pay Rs 1,400 and three-axle vehicles Rs 2,600 as ECC for entering DelhiThis very court had on October 12 ordered the light duty vehicles to pay Rs 700 and three-axle vehicles Rs 1,300 for entering Delhi in addition to the toll tax from November 1 as ECC.Further the court directed the authorities, including the local bodies and institutions within the National Capital Region (NCR), to refrain from disposing of solid waste by burning such waste and to take steps for proper management in a scientific manner as per the norms and the relevant rules.Accepting the suggestions placed by senior advocate Harish Salve, who is assisting the court in this matter, the bench directed the Delhi government to take “immediate steps for repair of pavements and make pavements wherever the same are missing and also to take immediate steps for procurement of the requisite vacuum cleaning vehicles for use on Delhi roads expeditiously” and fixed the deadline of March 31, 2016.The bench was hearing various pleas including the 1984 PIL filed by environmentalist M C Mehta.

Viewpoint: Does India need bullet trains?

Does it make sense for India to have bullet trains?

Ban registration of diesel-run vehicles in neighbouring states too: Delhi Govt

The plan was finalised in a meeting, which was attended among others by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, his deputy Manish Sisodia and PWD Minister Satyendar Jain who is the nodal Minister to implement the government’s action plan on air pollution reduction, held on Sunday.
Representational Image

The ban on registration of diesel-run vehicles in the national capital can be “successfully tackled” if the measure is implemented in neighbouring states too, Delhi Government has said in its action plan submitted to the Supreme Court on air pollution reduction. In its submission to the apex court, the government contended that diesel vehicles get registered by agencies in neighbouring states and hence, it was required the ban is extended there too.”The issue of diesel vehicles can be successfully tackled if registration of all diesel vehicles is banned by all neighbouring states too in addition to Delhi, otherwise, the problem will not be resolved as diesel vehicles get registered by these other state agencies,” the government told the SC, according to a statement issued by it.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>As part of its measures to bring down the air pollution level, the government also expressed its readiness to take over Environment Compensation Charge (ECC) collection from its Concessionaire, SMYR Consortium LLP, with effect from April 1, 2016 “on the same terms and conditions” between the said Concessionaire and MCD.”It is also proposed that committee of representatives of the Government of India, Delhi Government, other stakeholders and experts be constituted and the constitution of EPCA be reviewed and reconstituted,” the government said.The plan was finalised in a meeting, which was attended among others by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, his deputy Manish Sisodia and PWD Minister Satyendar Jain who is the nodal Minister to implement the government’s action plan on air pollution reduction, held on Sunday.Among other measures, the government informed to have taken decisions like implementing odd-even vehicles number formula for curbing pollution between January 1 and January 15, 2016 and based on the experience, further decisions will be taken. The scheme will be implemented from 8 AM to 8 PM every day. However, Sundays will be exempted. In the existing nine clusters, 1000 new cluster buses will be added in three months, it said. The government also informed to carry out vacuum cleaning of all PWD roads in the national capital beginning next fiscal at regular intervals.To avoid dust rising from unpaved footpaths and central verges, the process of putting grass/ plantation on them will start from next month onwards, it added. The government has also closed proposed to close down coal-based Rajghat and Badarpur power stations. It will also make appeal to NGT to close down Dadri power plant “which is very old and a major source of pollution” for Delhi, the Government has said.The Kejriwal dispensation has also proposed to increase suitably the timings of Delhi Metro both in morning and at night.

India ready for operation against ISIS if UN adopts resolution

Asked specifically if India will operate against the ISIS under the UN flag, Parrikar said, “that depends on whether UN takes a resolution”.

India on Wednesday said it can undertake operations against the ISIS terror group under a UN flag if the global body adopts a resolution in this regard.Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, who has returned after a crucial meeting with his US counterpart Ashton Carter in Washington, also said that India has been sharing intelligence on the ISIS and it will be enhanced.”We have made it clear that if there is a UN resolution and if there is UN flag and a UN mission, then as per India’s policy to operate under UN flag, we will participate,” Parrikar told reporters at India Gate after laying wreath at the Amar Jawan Jyoti on Vijay Diwas.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>He was replying to questions on the possibility of India’s participation in operations against the ISIS.Asked specifically if India will operate against the ISIS under the UN flag, he said, “that depends on whether UN takes a resolution”.India had earlier this month, along with major world economies, participated in the first-ever global meeting held in Paris to discuss and evolve mechanisms to combat the clandestine and largely undetected terrorist financing network of the Islamic State terror group.Indian security establishment suggests that around 20 Indians are currently fighting for ISIS in Iraq-Syria. They include two youths from Kalyan in the outskirts of Mumbai, an Australia-based Kashmiri, one youth from Telangana, one from Karnataka, one Oman-based Indian and another Singapore-based Indian.Last year, a youth from Kalyan had returned home after spending about six-months with ISIS. He was arrested upon arrival in Mumbai.Among the six Indians, who fought alongside ISIS and got killed were three Indian Mujahideen terrorists, including Sultan Ajmer Shah and Bada Sajid, who had joined its ranks after being in Pakistan, two from Maharashtra and one from Telangana.On September 15, the UAE deported four Indians suspected to have links with ISIS.The UAE had also sent back in September a 37-year-old woman, Afsha Jabeen alias Nicky Joseph, who was allegedly involving in recruiting youths for ISIS.In January, Salman Mohiuddin of Hyderabad was arrested at Hyderabad airport when he was preparing to board a flight to Dubai on way to Syria via Turkey.So far, 17 young men, mostly from Telangana, have been prevented from travelling to Syria, ostensibly to join ISIS.

PM Modi visits Sivagiri mutt in Kerala; pays tribute to Sree Narayana Guru

Accompanied by a group of sanyasins of the mutt, Modi spent about a few minutes at the Sivagiri hillock, located around 50 kms away from Thiruvananthapuram, and offered obeisance at the ‘maha samadhi mandapam’, the final resting place of the legendary Guru.

PM Narendra Modi at Sree Narayana Guru Mahasamadhi in Sivagiri

Image courtesy: ANI Twitter handle
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday visited the Sivagiri Mutt, a revered spiritual centre established here by the renowned 20th century saint- social reformer Sree Narayana Guru, and paid respects at his samadhi.Accompanied by a group of sanyasins of the mutt, Modi spent about a few minutes at the Sivagiri hillock, located around 50 kms away from Thiruvananthapuram, and offered obeisance at the ‘maha samadhi mandapam’, the final resting place of the legendary Guru.The Prime minister also touched the feet and took the blessings of swami Prakashananda, Sree Narayana Dharma Sangham Trust President and the senior most swami of the mutt. In a brief speech at the Mutt, the Modi said he was happy to get the blessings of this ‘Pavithra sthal’ (holy place) and that of saints here which has given him strength to work for the Dalits, backward and marginalised sections of the society.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A quality of the Hindu religion was that whenever there is lot of evil prevailing, great people are born to save the society. Narayana guru had awakened and united the people to fight against untouchability and other ills in the society, he said. Modi also remembered the contributions of Adi Sankara, the early eighth century philosopher, who consolidated the doctrine of ‘Advaita’ philosphy.Established by Narayana Guru who propagated the message of ‘One Caste, One Religion and One God for Mankind’, the Sivagiri Mutt is a major spiritual-cum-pilgrim centre of the backward Ezhava community in Kerala.Modi, on his maiden visit to the Mutt after becoming Prime Minister, planted a sapling at the campus. He also unveiled a bilingual plaque of ‘Daiva Dasakam’, a universal prayer song penned by Guru, to mark the centenary of its composition.The Prime Minister went round the ‘Vaidika Mutt’ in the Sivagiri campus, a more than 100-year-old building where Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore had met the Guru. He also offered prayers at nearby Sarada Mutt, a temple, dedicated to Goddess Sree Sarada (the Goddess of Knowledge), which had been consecrated by Guru. Modi had earlier visited Sivagiri in April, 2013 when he was Chief Minister of Gujarat.AICC chief Sonia Gandhi is scheduled to visit the Mutt later this month as part of the annual Sivagiri pilgrimage.

Swacch Bharat: Cleanliness and the muck in our minds

It is the height of centralisation where New Delhi grabs extra money from your pocket, ostensibly to clean your locality, but who will clean the muck in New Delhi’s mind that treats the states as irritants at best and revenue plunder zones at worst?

PM Modi promoting the Swacch Bharat campaign
File Photo

Those of us who do not live in Delhi and live far away from the inner-chambers of power, some aspects of the new Union government’s initial pronouncements were indeed exciting.Firstly, in consonance with the tone set by its leader in the 2014 Lok Sabha election campaign, the central government wanted to be an enabler and not a micro-manager in people’s lives and aspirations. Secondly, it talked about co-operative federalism, by which, real federalism would be ushered in, in a spirit of co-operation between the constituent states of the Indian Union. Right now, these feel like promises from a different planet.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>It is true that the government of India increased the percentage of tax money that would be given by the Centre to the states. But that came with a serious catch, the Union government at Delhi was simultaneously either severely cutting back or completely discontinuing their funding of many schemes run in the states where the money used to come primarily from the Centre. Hence, if the schemes were to be continued, the increased allocation for tax money to states would simply be used to continue earlier existing schemes.Many states have protested this because this is no real financial devolution at all. What is important here is how the Union government, that is the so-called Centre, constantly talks about federalism and decentralisation, and in practise has been continuing the centralising policies of the previous government. If the Union government was actually interested in federalism by empowering the states, why has it not given up the revenue collection rights from even a single revenue source in favour of the states? What is the point or meaning of decentralisation when the revenue is collected as before by the Union government only and the states are completely dependent on Delhi’s whims.After all, if states became revenue owners and collectors, they could plan projects and outlays completely, without the Union government as a meaning-less middle-man, which apparently collects the money with the intent of giving most of it up to the states. Then why collect it in the first place and why not let the states collect the revenues and also retain the money? We need to understand why Delhi retains these rights and does not give up any revenue collection rights to the states. Without that, it would not be able to allocate more money to a bullet-train project compared to the whole of a typical annual Indian Railways budget. If the amount of revenue available to Delhi decreased drastically, it would be able to announce financial “packages” for those states from whom the government party tries to gain power. This is precisely why there would be fat financial “packages” announced for Jammu and Kashmir or Bihar but never for West Bengal or Telengana or any other state where the party in power in Lok Sabha has no chance of gaining in the near future. With all its high talk of decentralisation and cooperative federalism, can New Delhi care or dare to give any revenue source back to state, not as alms from babus of finance commission but as an inalienable constitutional right? No, sir.Those constitutional changes are only meant for taking away taxation powers from the state. The feverish enthusiasm to pass the GST is a case in point. The GST takes away several taxation powers from the states. And yes, the Congress will also support it. It is a matter of time. When it comes to imposing the ideology and power of Delhi over the states, the Congress and the BJP are two sides of the same coin.But wait, it is not as if the Union government is content with having less money and less financial obligations. After having gotten out of major funding of various schemes, its has been slapping certain kinds of taxes called “cess”, which are cunningly outside the purview of its sharing-with-states “generosity”. What it means is that the Union government is actually extracting more money from the people, with the new extractions being called “cess”, that is, of the type that won’t be shared with the states. A cess is essentially a tax whose collections are ear-marked for a particular purpose. Among this extra money that the so-called Centre is extracting from us, the people, is the ‘Swachh Bharat’ cess. The money collected from this cess will apparently go in “cleaning up” this land. Given the vagueness of what “cleaning up” entails, this money can be used to pursue any number of pet projects conjured up by Delhi. One thing is for sure – such projects would often involve contractors and thekedars. This is all rather predictable and sad. The party that had come to power by promising decentralisation and being an enabler of people has now officially decided that cleaning your neighbourhood drain is its job, whether you like it or not, and you have to pay for it. The thing is, the real cleanliness issues lie elsewhere and inside the Indian Union itself, there are success stories of communities taking charge of their destiny in cleanliness and hygiene, even before the present bunch of decentralisers in Delhi decided to centralise even the job of cleaning your neighbourhood, or at least collect immense amounts of money under that ruse.It is the height of centralisation where New Delhi grabs extra money from your pocket, ostensibly to clean your locality, but who will clean the muck in New Delhi’s mind that treats the states as irritants at best and revenue plunder zones at worst? While photo-ops of broom-stick wielding khadi-wearers have been a hit, open defecation is something for which photo-ops are a rarity. And while a lot of money is to be made and is being made by building made-to-order government latrines by contractors big and small, communities in many parts of the Indian Union are leading by a very different set of examples. In the canal irrigated zones of the Thar in Rajasthan, IAS officer Arti Dogra, as District Magistrate of Bikaner, took the challenge of open defecation in these zones very seriously. Incidentally, the Indian Union is the top defecator in the world, with nearly half of its population defecating in the open, as per the 2014 Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation report. Ms Dogra empowered local communities through community-led total sanitation approach, a people-centric awareness triggering method that has had astounding success in the much more swachh and nearly open-defecation free People’s Republic of Bangladesh.Local elected representatives were taken into confidence, public meetings were held where women’s concerns were specifically highlighted. The results have been impressive which huge swathes in nearly desolate desert land having humble hutments with newly erected toilets – not sarkari public toilets but private ones built largely with people’s own funds. More than money, it is earnestness, community-centric empowerment and decentralisation of decision-making that matters, when it comes to solving most problems. If the government of India is at all seriously interested in what it calls the Swachh Bharat campaign, these are the examples it needs to look at seriously. It also might want to learn from Bangladesh – there is no shame in learning from areas where best practises have achieved success, especially in cash-poor zones such as the subcontinent.In Haryana, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh and Gujarat, the presence of a latrine at home has been made a mandatory condition for qualifying as a candidate for local-body or panchayat elections. Such rules, made from above, only reflect non-engagement with reality and a deep contempt for communities. Such rules are biased against those who are usually excluded from their rightful share of money and power – the poor and the so-called backward castes. Communities do not need apathetic and criminal rulers from above. What lies behind such election qualifications is a mentality of prejudice and bias which in turn requires cleaning. Empowered communities can take care of themselves.

TMC not engaged in politics of religion, says West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee

Expressing “shock” at CBI raid at the office and residence of Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s Principal Secretary, Mamata Banerjee said the agency’s move was beyond her understanding.
File Photo
PTI
In a veiled attack on the BJP, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday said that unlike “some parties” TMC was not engaged in religion-based politics.”Trinamool Congress is not like some parties which love to use religion for petty politics. I believe ‘Saare Jahaan Se Achha, Hindustan Humara’. The soil of Bengal belongs to the legacy of Rabindranath, Nazrul, Dwijendralal Roy. We believe in unity not hatred,” she said.Further, expressing “shock” at CBI raid at the office and residence of Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s Principal Secretary, Banerjee said the agency’s move was beyond her understanding.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Today they have send the CBI to raid the office of Delhi CM. I am shocked! Why are they doing this?” she said.Addressing a rally at the Gajole college ground, 35 kms off Malda, Banerjee claimed that despite the Centre taking away a major chunk of its revenue as interest on loans, the state’s assets have increased by 600 per cent in the last four years.”Growth in Bengal’s asset has increased by 600 per cent in the last four years. Let them stop taking our taxes. We do not need their funds. We are asking for our right. The state revenue has increased from Rs 21,000 crore to Rs 40,000 crore,” Banerjee said, adding that if there was not a huge outgo of the state’s revenue, lakhs of people could have been provided jobs.”We are paying for the sins of the CPI-M. They imposed a debt burden on the youth. Neither the Congress nor the BJP helped us,” she told the meeting.Banerjee said during her visit to Delhi she had also raised the issue of bad condition of national highways in the state. She also said that West Bengal was self-sufficient in power, claiming, “we are developing ‘power bank’. We will export power to other states in future.”

2017 UP Assembly Elections: BJP will form next govt in the state on its own

Popularity of the BJP due to its leader and Prime Minister Narendra Modi is rising sharply, and Congress has lost its ground in UP, he said in Jaipur at a programme where Ashok Parnami was re-elected party’s Rajasthan chief.
File Photo
PTI
BJP vice president and Central observer Dr Dinesh Kumar Sharma on Tuesday claimed his party would form the next government in Uttar Pradesh on its own. Not only ruling Samajwadi Party in UP, but all other parties are forging alliance to contest against BJP because his party is united and has formed government on its its own in the past, Sharma, observer in party’s Rajasthan and Gujarat organisational polls, told a press conference here.Popularity of the BJP due to its leader and Prime Minister Narendra Modi is rising sharply, and Congress has lost its ground in UP, he said in Jaipur at a programme where Ashok Parnami was re-elected party’s Rajasthan chief.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>On a question whether Varun Gandhi could be a chief ministerial candidate in UP, as speculated by a section of media, Sharma said, the party takes unanimous decision on such major issues with opinions of its workers and leaders. Reminded of BJP’s performance in Bihar polls, he said the percentage of votes share has increased and his party either wins or learns but never loses in polls.Speaking on the disruptions in Parliament he said Congress was indulging in vote bank politics and not allowing the Houses to run as it is frustrated over losing grounds in state and Centre’s polls. Amit Shah, the party president, was to attend the programme at Jaipur on Tuesday, could not come due to other engagements, he said, adding training programme of the state unit would be planned later on in consulation the Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje.

Double murder: Man arrested from Varanasi confesses to crime

Sadhu Rajbhar confesses to killing celebrated artist Hema Upadhyay, lawyer Bhambani; Cops on the lookout for 4 more suspects

Hema Upadhyay

In a major breakthrough, the Mumbai police have arrested one of the suspects, Shivkumar alias Sadhu Rajbhar, allegedly involved in the sensational murder of renowned artist Hema Upadhyay and her lawyer Harish Bhambani.Dna had on Monday reported about the alleged involvement of Rajbhar.The arrest was made in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, on Monday. The police have also recovered 11 ATM cards of Upadhyay and Bhambhani from the suspect.The police have now launched a manhunt for one Vidyadhar Rajbhar, another suspect. The police have learnt that the double murder was committed in a metal fabrication workshop at Kandivli on Friday night.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>UP Special Task Force (STF) chief Sujit Pande told reporters in Lucknow that Shivkumar had confessed to his crime. Shivkumar has told the police that he and four others were involved in the murder. The UP police have also recovered the visiting card of celebrated artist Chintan Upadhyay, Hema’s estranged husband, with whom she has been fighting a divorce case.According to Shivkumar’s confession, a dispute over Rs 5 lakh was the main motive. However, the police do not believe this as the only reason.Police officials said Shivkumar’s father Vidya Rajbhar alias ‘Gotu’ was in charge of a godown in Charkop, Mumbai, where Hema used to store her works. Rajbhar had taken a loan of Rs 5 lakh from Hema, who had been persistent in demanding it back. Shivkumar told the police that he had called Hema on Friday evening, telling her that he had crucial information regarding her estranged husband Chintan.The Mumbai police, on receipt of specific information that Shivkumar was hiding in Bada Gaon in Varanasi, sent a team to UP. They then roped in the STF and picked him up.”We have handed over the custody of Shivkumar to the Mumbai police and they will be taking him for further investigation”, additional director general of police (law and order) Daljit S Chowdhary of UP police told dna.Shivkumar has reportedly told the police that men from UP and Mumbai were involved in the murder.

National Herald Case: Allegations against Sonia, Rahul are ‘deliberately orchestrated’, alleges Congress

Senior party leaders and legal luminaries P Chidambaram and Ashwani Kumar insisted that all transactions in question are legal and expressed confidence that both Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi will be “fully vindicated” through the judicial process.
File picture
PTI
Amid the raging row over National Herald case, Congress on Sunday asserted that the allegations and “insinuations” against party leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi are “deliberately orchestrated”, “patently false” and “defamatory” as they have “not received a rupee”.Senior party leaders and legal luminaries P Chidambaram and Ashwani Kumar insisted that all transactions in question are legal and expressed confidence that both Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi will be “fully vindicated” through the judicial process. “(There is) nothing wrong in this transaction. In fact, by putting a non-profit company as the dominant shareholder, we have ensured that not one rupee from the assets can go to any private beneficiary,” said Chidambaram said defending the move to transfer the shares of Associate Journalst Limited (AJL) to Young India, a company of which Sonia and Rahul are major shareholders.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Sonia and Rahul have nothing to worry because “they have not received a rupee benefit”, the former Finance Minister said, while raising questions over Modi government’s role saying it had acted hastily on a “private complaint” to reopen a shut case. He claimed that the assets of AJL are now “doubly secure” as a non-profit company is the dominant shareholder.Kumar, in a statement here, said there are “incontrovertible facts” which make it obvious that “allegations and insinuations against the Congress leadership and others are deliberately orchestrated, are patently false and defamatory. All transactions in question are entirely legal.” In this context, he listed some details of the case as well as Delhi High Court’s judgement of December 7 which, according to him, “held that no question of criminality, even upon a prima facie basis arises at this stage”.He reproduced Para 36 of the judgement as saying: ‘ It needs no reiteration that this is not the stage to even prima facie opine that the ingredients of any of the alleged offences exist to justify putting petitioners on trial or not.Any observation made in this regard by the trial court or this court shall have no bearing when the case of the petitioners is considered at the charge state.’ Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi have been summoned by a Delhi court in connection with the case on December 19 after the High Court refused to agree to their plea for personal exemption. This issue led to stalling of Parliament for most of the last week with the Congress creating uproar, alleging “political vendetta”. “Congress respects the integrity of the judicial process and is confident that its leaders will be fully vindicated through the judicial process,” Kumar said. Chidambaram told CNN-IBN that Young India is a non-profit company, which means not one rupee from AJL can be given to any one or can be received by the non profit company. “Infact the AJL’s assets have been doubly secured today,” he said, adding there was “no illegality” as there was a need to secure the properties of AJL.When it was pointed out to him that in the Young India company majority of the shares are held by Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, he said “it is again reflection of Congress party structure…. Congress party was lender, now it is a Congress party organisation is a lender. It is the same. The lender is a non-profit company. Much better.” Ashwani Kumar said the transaction in question dates back to November 2010 and was declared by the management of AJL and YI itself in the requisite filings before the competent authorities.”The fact of full public disclosure of the transaction itself demolishes any suggestion of criminality against Directors and shareholders of AGL and YI,” he insisted. The Congress leader said “in the current holding structure YI – a non profit Section 25 company is a major shareholder of AJL which further enhances the safeguards with regard to the use etc. of the properties of AJL. The Directors and shareholders of a non-profit Section 25 company are legally prohibited from deriving any financial benefit in any form whatsoever for themselves. Not a single paisa has been received by YI, its Directors or its shareholders.” He said the properties that belong to AJL continue to remain with AJL.”YI does not own a single real estate asset or immovable property. The majority of AJL properties are in the nature of government leases and according to the terms of the lease(s) the sale of the land under lease is prohibited. For this reason properties of AJL could not be liquidated or sold to clear its outstanding loans,” Kumar added. Insisting that “There is no restriction in law on political parties against advancing loans,” he said, “This was confirmed even by the Election Commission” in its order of November 2012 on a petition for de-recognition of the Congress moved by Subramanium Swamy.”It is a fundamental legal principle that acts lawfully done, as in the present case, cannot give rise to any criminality whatsoever,” the former Law Minister said. He said AJL has been closely associated with the Congress party since 1937 and has espoused its ideology throughout. “It was only natural for the Congress to financially support AJL over the last several decades. The loans advanced by the party to AJL were used to pay unpaid salaries, VRS, taxes, dues to civic agencies and to discharge statutory and other liabilities of AJL.” About the uproar created by Congress over the National Herald issue, Chidambaram said, “We are not criticising the judge but we are entitled to criticise the judgement and that’s what we are doing.” He said there is a summon and the Gandhis will appear “but that doesn’t mean they have lost their right to question the judgement.” The Congress leader criticised the Delhi High court judgement which rejected the plea of Rahul, Sonia and others against summons.”I am criticising the judgement on its own merits. The judgement says, somethings smack of criminality but (says)…. its no part of the exercise to even allude to which section is attracted. Now that’s incomprehensible judgement according to me,” he added. Chidambaram emphasised that the logjam in Parliament has nothing to do with the National Herald case but said the conduct of the government in the matter raised suspicions as “it allowed a closed enquiry to be re-opened at the instance of a private complainant” after sacking the Enforcement Director.”The private complainant’s letter is acted, haste poste haste, the ED is sacked and the enquiry is opened,” he said, adding “Doesn’t that raise suspicions in the minds of the people?”With regard to GST bill, he said Congress considers it a progressive measure provided its “legitimate concerns” are met by the government. He said the government is yet to respond to the concerns raised by Congress at the Prime Minister’s tea meeting.”The last I heard about the GST is that the Prime Minister called a meeting. We have given our concerns in very precise terms,” he said. The government, he said, had promised to come back with revised formulations which it has not done yet and the Congress is waiting for the response.”GST was our idea.. Gujarat and MP opposed it,” the former Finance Minister said, adding he is “happy that those who had held this Bill are now supporting it.” Chidambaram was asked about charges of vendetta levelled by Congress leaders like Ghulam Nabi Azad in Parliament. To this, he said if there has to be criticism of the government, then Parliament is the place

India meets global economic powers in Paris to discuss ISIS terror funding

India is a full-member of the FATF along with 33 other nations like the US, France, Germany and the United Kingdom.

ISIS fighters

India along with major world economies is participating in the first-ever global meeting being held here to discuss and evolve mechanisms to combat the clandestine and largely undetected terrorist financing network of the Islamic State terror group.The dreaded terror group, in recent times, has been held responsible for perpetrating violence and killing at least 129 people here in the French capital.The meeting at the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Secretariat office is being held between December 12-14 and is being attended by a inter-ministerial team led by senior Finance Ministry officials dealing in subjects of money laundering and combating financing of terror.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The FATF Secretariat confirmed to PTI that Indian authorities will be part in the deliberations aimed to secure the economic and banking channels of the member countries from the influence of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), also called the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).”The Indian delegation will be led by the Ministry of Finance with participation from other relevant ministries and agencies,” the FATF said. Senior officials in Delhi said authorities from the elite Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) will be leading the India delegation for the talks.”There are some instances under the scanner of various investigative agencies that indicate there may be links to ISIS funds being routed from India, if not generated. The talks are expected to formalise a resolution to jointly combat the menace which is increasingly affecting jurisdictions across the globe,” they said.The FATF is an inter-governmental body established in 1989 and is mandated to set global protocols and standards to combat money laundering and other financial crimes with direct ramifications to terrorist acts across the globe.India is a full-member of this reputed global body along with 33 other nations like the US, France, Germany and the United Kingdom. The three-day meeting has been called “to discuss actions jurisdictions are taking and need to take to combat the financing of the ISIL and broader opportunities to strengthen global efforts to combat the financing of terrorism,” the FATF said.”These three days of meetings will bring together delegates representing the FATF global network, which today extends to some 200 jurisdictions, and operational experts involved in detecting, preventing and disrupting terrorism and terrorist financing.”In the wake of the increased activities of terrorist groups around the globe, including ISIS, India had recently reported to the FATF that it has frozen assets worth Euro 3 lakh (over Rs 2.12 core) of over three dozen entities on charges of terrorist financing and money laundering of illicit funds. However, India, in this report, did not mention that the action involved ISIS operatives.An exhaustive report prepared by the world body early this year had underlined the “complicated” pattern of funding being deployed to mobilise ISIS terrorists and in secretly moving their deadly weapons and ammunition.”ISIL financing is a constantly changing picture and a very difficult and complicated area to address given the operational situation on the ground…ISIL represents a new form of terrorist organisation where funding is central and critical to its activities,” the report had said. The report did not mention about any instance of ISIS terror financing in India.The report had said its preliminary investigations found that the group was generating terror funds by using illicit proceeds from occupation of territory, such as bank looting, extortion, control of oil fields and refineries, kidnapping for ransom, donations including by or through non-profit organisations, fund raising through modern communication networks.”Still, further consideration will have to be given to determine how best the international community can prevent ISIL from using or benefiting from the financial and commercial sectors under its control,” the FATF said.”The latest meeting is the obvious outcome for the latest round of talks being held here between member countries,” the officials in Delhi said. The FATF found “revenue streams (of ISIS) are inconsistent and shift based on the availability of economic resources and the progress of coalition military efforts against ISIL.”

Jawaharlal Nehru’s equations with Sheikh Abdullah, Hari Singh complicated J&K issue: Gujarat Governor

Speaking about Article 370, the Gujarat Governor said while some people say that it is no longer an issue as many central laws are applicable to the state, but added that its various aspects should also be examined.

Jawaharlal Nehru

Former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had a “tilt towards ” Sheikh Abduah and a “tilt against” Raja Hari Singh, which played a big role in “complicating” the Jammu and Kashmir issue, Gujarat Governor O P Kohli on Saturday claimed.Kohli said this at the launch of a book ‘Dr Syama Prasad Mookherjee aur Kashmir Samasya’ authored by his daughter, Ritu Kohli. “He tilted very much towards Sheikh Abdullah, while he tilted against Maharaja Hari Singh, which played a big role in complicating the Jammu and Kashmir episode,” he claimed.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Kohli added that there is need to place the right narration of events before the country, even as he lauded the role played by Syama Prasad Mookherjee. Jammu and Kashmir Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh also said that major decisions were taken at that time because of Nehru’s personal inclinations and the “impact is being faced even today”.Kohli further claimed Congress, even after Independence, continued on its policies of “minority appeasement” or “softness towards Pakistan”, and the establishment of a national alternative to Congress, is one of aspects which needs an in-depth examination.Speaking about Article 370, the Gujarat Governor said while some people say that it is no longer an issue as many central laws are applicable to the state, but added that its various aspects should also be examined.Later when asked by reporters to comment on Kohli’s remarks, Deputy Chief Minister Singh said there are certain aspects related to the state’s history on which clarity is needed and some misconceptions are also present.Singh claimed that at the time when country became free from the British rule, all princely states were dealt with by Sardar Patel, while Nehru “only took care of Kashmir”, because of which “questions arise”.It is a big question, why we went to UN and internationalised the Kashmir issue, Singh asked.

Japan to assist Indian Railways in strengthening safety measures

The agreement establishes areas for comprehensive technological cooperation, facilitating the participation of other institutions, organisations and ministries; conducting joint research and studies.

Japan PM Shinzo Abe and PM Modi at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on Saturday.

PTI
The partnership agreement with Japan on rail sector will also address many issues including safety and research confronting Indian Railways for years.Besides, providing active cooperation in the bullet train project, Japan will also assist railways’ research and design capabilities to address future challenges, according to a senior Railway Ministry official. He said there are many crucial issues such as safety, cleanliness and research which will be addressed with Japan’s cooperation now.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Safety is a major issue for the public transporter with accidents happening on regular basis which can be tackled with the induction of advanced technology in train operation. There will be comprehensive technological cooperation including sharing of information and best practices; exchanges of officials and technicians; facilitating the participation of other institutions, organisations and ministries; conducting joint research and studies, as per the tie-up with Japan.Also read- Shinzo Abe in India: Japan’s 1.5-trillion yen ‘Make in India’ fund to push investmentsThe agreement establishes areas for comprehensive technological cooperation, facilitating the participation of other institutions, organisations and ministries; conducting joint research and studies. It also envisages cooperation in the areas of safety in train operation; advanced techniques of maintenance; use of environment friendly technologies.

If India goes for nuclear test, we will review cooperation: Japan

However, Japan asserted that it does not see India moving in that direction.

Modi-Abe

PTI
As both countries “in principle” agreed for cooperation in civil nuclear energy, Japan on Saturday cautioned India that it will be “quite natural” for it to review its cooperation if New Delhi goes for a nuclear test.However, Japan asserted that it does not see India moving in that direction. If sealed, the nuclear pact with India will be Japan’s first with a country which has not joined the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. “What do you think will happen,” asked Yasuhisa Kawamura, Press Secretary, Director General for Press and Public Diplomacy of the Japanese government when asked how Japan will react if India goes in for a nuclear test.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>He said that Japan does not see India moving away from its self imposed moratorium on nuclear tests and international commitments. “If India does a test and recedes from its commitment, it will be quite natural for Japan to review its cooperation with India. But again, as I said, we do not expect or see such a movement,” he said. Japan is a major player in the nuclear energy market and an atomic deal with it will also make it easier for US-based nuclear plant makers Westinghouse Electric Corporation and GE Energy Inc to set up atomic plants in India as both these conglomerates have Japanese investments.The agreement, featuring broad contours of cooperation in the nuclear field, was signed after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe held the ninth annual Indo-Japan summit talks here.”The significance of today’s agreement is that the two countries have reached an agreement that will provide the basis for a cooperation in nuclear technology for peaceful purpose,” he said adding both the sides have “in principle” agreed to cooperate on nuclear technology.Kawamura said this agreement will guarantee India will take responsible actions for the peaceful use of nuclear energy. The fundamental structure of the this agreement is solid, he asserted. Briefing the reporters here on Abe’s visit, Kawamura said that the the meeting between the two leaders was “historic”.He said the bilateral meeting lasted for nearly an hour and today was the beginning of the new year for both countries. Both countries were entering in a new era of bilateral ties. Kawamura asserted that the “in principle’ nuclear agreement could not have been achieved by any other leader from both countries.

Pollution Control Board’s new draft plan proposes segment-wise approach for cleaning up river Ganga

Even as a host of plans to clean river Ganga exist on paper, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has prepared a new draft plan for cleaning up the river in four segments based on geography, eco-flow of the river and pollution load. The National Mission for Clean Ganga, (NMCG), in-charge of implementing Ganga cleaning plans took a year and half to decide that setting up sewage treatment facilities for towns located on banks of Ganga will be the focus of conserving the river’s water quality. But the CPCB’s new draft has now proposed to shift the focus towards segment wise, in situ treatment of polluted water under the direct control of state governments. Dna has a copy of the draft plan.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>CPCB has said that there is an “immediate need to commission in-site treatment of the 144 drains joining river Ganga or any other actions without waiting for full-fledged sewage treatment plants as it may be a time taking process.” The pollution watchdog has proposed that the Centre invite private players to demonstrate, on a pilot basis, in-situ treatment which it thinks is more cost-effective and will be economical. In another major recommendation it has said that Ghats on river Ganga should be hand over to religious and private institutes for their up-keep.”Ghats are primarily used for religious and spiritual activities and local shrines are actively involved so they can be roped in”, said a top official from the union environment and forest ministry. CPCB’s plan has also noted that in the upper segments such as Narora, there is immense abstraction of water for irrigation and human consumption and that it should be reduced for increasing river’s flow.Under the segment wise approach, CPCB has proposed to divide river cleaning into four-segments, each having their own action plan based on the pollution load coming from domestic sewage and industries and flow of the river. According to sources, CPCB’s draft plan was presented to union environment minister Prakash Javadekar and the ministry has approved it prima-facie. It was also discussed with union minister for water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation Uma Bharti and her ministry too has given an in-principle nod.The first segment has been demarcated between the river’s origin and Haridwar, the second segment between Haridwar and Narora. According to CPCB’s draft plan, these segments are the least polluted and fewer grossly polluting industries are situated on the banks of Ganga along this stretch.The third segment is divided into three sub-sections being the most polluted stretch. This segment stretches begins from Narora passing through Kanpur, Allahabad and ends at Varanasi. Segment four is spread across two sub-sections between Varanasi up to Diamond Harbour in Kolkata. “Each of the river’s stretch has a varying pollution load and one size for all approach won’t work to clean the river. A segment-wise approach would see a reduction in time taken for implementing project,” said a top-ranking CPCB official on the condition of anonymity. Mammoth taskRiver Ganga runs a course of 2,525 km before joining the Bay of BengalThere are 66 districts located along the Ganga’s main stem118 priority towns have been identified along the banks of Ganga144 drains discharge industrial and domestic waste into the Ganga and there are 764 grossly polluting industries on the river’s main stem that generate 501 million litres per day of waste water

Sushma Swaraj to explain government turn around on Pakistan in Parliament

Officials here have refused to disclose the specifics of what was discussed in either Bangkok or at Islamabad – and also why the Modi government retracted from a hard posture. Their single reply is that Swaraj will explain everything in Parliament.

Parliamentarians and diplomats are awaiting external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj to explain, the rationale behind the sudden turn of government stand vis-a-vis resumption of dialogue with Pakistan. Though, she has returned to Delhi, she will be making a statement in the Lok Sabha on Friday. Officials here have refused to disclose the specifics of what was discussed in either Bangkok or at Islamabad – and also why the Modi government retracted from a hard posture. Their single reply is that Swaraj will explain everything in Parliament. Amidst rucks created by Congress MPs in Rajya Sabha, she was seen confabulating with the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, possibly briefing him about her visit. Sources here said, Swaraj has expressed willingness to take queries in the House after her statement, though that is not the practice in the Lok Sabha.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Days after telling Lok Sabha, that government was invoking the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), to punish Pakistan for war crimes, the latest overtures and secret meeting between the two National Security Advisors (NSAs) in Bangkok has left many puzzled. India also for the first time dropped even oblique references to Pakistan-sourced terrorism in Afghanistan in a speech by Swaraj at the Heart of Asia conference in Islamabad. Earlier since 2011, Indian delegates representing the conference, had been consistently blaming Pakistan for the instability and violence in Afghanistan .Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar believes that the outcome underscores that Pakistan has got exactly what it wanted, but many experts point out, India has achieved a milestone, by dropping word “composite” from the dialogue process. What India has agreed is a “Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue” that does not link progress of issues with each other. Prof. Sajad Padder, scholar at the Heidelberg on South Asian and Comparative Politics, recalls that the roots of India-Pakistan Composite Dialogue Process dated back to May 1997, when at Male, the capital of Maldives, the then Indian Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral and his Pakistani counter part Nawaz Sharif mooted the idea of a structured dialogue or the Composite Dialogue Process. Based on a compromise approach, the peace process enabled the two countries to discuss all issues including Jammu and Kashmir, simultaneously. “It was a compromise in the sense that while India agreed to include Kashmir in the agenda for talks, Pakistan relented to include terrorism, the two major irritants in bilateral relations,” he said. The stage for both the NSA and the foreign minister’s meetings was set, when the Prime Ministers of the two nations had met on November 30 in Paris. Further, Pakistan appointing a recently retired military man Lieutenant General Naseer Khan Janjua, as national security advisor replacing Sartaj Aziz did also address to India’s long standing issue of not having any credible interlocutor in Islamabad who can exercise effective control. Senior Fellow at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis (IDSA) Sushant Sareen, who has been batting for opening a channel with Pakistan Army like Americans and other Western nations, rather depending on civilian government or civil society, says the latest arrangement could help to convey concerns directly to those who matter in Islamabad power structure

Number of buses in Delhi to be doubled from Jan 1, to meet vehicle shortages

According to officials, separate bus lanes across all arterial roads in the city will be marked by December 25 and those obstructing movement of buses in these lanes will be penalised.

In further development on its ambitious odd-even car rule, the AAP government on Thursday said an additional 6,000 buses will be deployed to enhance public transport from January 1. That aside, frequency of metro trains will be increased more autos will be allowed to ply on the roads, the government said. According to officials, separate bus lanes across all arterial roads in the city will be marked by December 25 and those obstructing movement of buses in these lanes will be penalised.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> PWD Minister Satyendar Jain said the Delhi government has decided to slap fine of Rs 5,000 against officials concerned including park in-charges if leaves and garbage are burned in their areas –a major source of air pollution– as per the National Green Tribunal’s order. The Delhi government is also in talks with the Railways for improving frequency of trains running between Delhi and nearby cities of NCR, Jain said.The decisions were taken after a meeting was attended by all Delhi ministers, top officials of Traffic Police and representatives of all departments and agencies concerned. “We will run 6,000 buses as per cluster system. The drivers will be hired by the bus owners. DTC will arrange for conductors and decide the route,” Delhi Transport Minister Gopal Rai, said. Rai said rules are being relaxed to allow more autos on the road. He added that an auto driver can give his vehicle to someone else for driving under the new rules. As per existing rules, only permit holder of a specific auto can ply the vehicle. “We will launch the first stage of Puchho app tomorrow which will help people hire autos for commuting in case they are covered under the odd-even scheme,” he said He also said that after the launch of the app, commuters will be able to book autorickshaws using their smartphones. Delhiites should also check their pollution control certificates before January 1, the minister said. According to the government, there are 100 major construction projects being carried out across the national capital, also a contributor to pollution.Contractors will have to install boards indicating construction site as per rules.

Sun sets on solar thermal plant projects in Rajasthan

3,404 acres of land remains unused for intended purpose in Rajasthan, according to CAG report

Pic for representation purpose only

According to a CAG report that was tabled in the parliament on December 8, five years since the Ashok Gehlot-led Congress government leased almost 3,404 acres of land – mostly in Jaisalmer, at preferential rates to various developers for solar thermal plants remain unused for its intended purpose.According to the audit, in September 2008, the Rajasthan government also granted M/S Par Solar 375 acres of land at preferential rates under the Development Programme to build a 5 MW solar photovoltaic (SPV) power plant. For this entire project since a mere six acres would have sufficed, almost 345 acres of land were leased in excess of requirement.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In January 2010, under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM), four companies M/S Rajasthan Sun Technique Energy Pvt Ltd., M/S Corporate Ispat Alloys Ltd., M/S Diwakar Solar Projects Pvt. Ltd. and M/S KVK Energy Ventures Pvt Ltd. were granted land rights under preferential treatment. The land allotted was leased for a period of 30 years at 10% of the Collector Rate while two more companies – M/S Entegra Ltd. And M/S Dalmia Solar Power Ltd. were allotted land under the Migration scheme in October 2010.Rajasthan has high potential to contribute towards the nation’s climate change programme by developing and harnessing solar energy. The energy developed here could account up to 59% of the estimated national solar energy potential. The state has an estimated potential of 1,42,310 MW, though it has installed only 730.10 MW, merely 0.51% of its potential.When Rajasthan Sun Technique Energy Pvt. Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Reliance Power, was awarded the concentrated solar project (CSP) in December 2010, it was the largest investment of its kind undertaken by any private sector entity in the country. The project, financed through debt by various multilateral agencies that included the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Export Import Bank of the United States, Financerings Maatschappu Voor Ontwikkelingslanden N.V. (FMO), the Netherlands, and Axis Bank, was expected to generate about 250 million kilowatt hours of green energy that was capable of supporting around 2.50 lakh households.This could potentially be a huge contribution towards India’s clean energy programme and reduce carbon emissions by 2.40 lakh tonnes a year. Since, India is a major participant in the Paris Climate talks and has emphasized the need to convert to alternate energy, this would prove to be a crucial thrust towards the programme.While the reasons for the six projects for taking off remain unknown, according to a reliable source at Diwakar Solar Projects Pvt. Ltd, the project, that has already seen an investment of Rs. 500 crores, needs to be reworked since they received wrong solar radiation date by the government agencies. “The data reading was 20% higher than the actual readings done by us because of which additional land is required,” sources said. The company which was initially allotted 978 acres requires 15-20% more land. “We have petitioned the concerned ministry for the same and await their response,” they added. High potential to produce solar energyRajasthan has high potential to contribute towards the nation’s climate change programme by developing and harnessing solar energy. The energy developed here could account up to 59% of the estimated national solar energy potential. The state has an estimated potential of 1,42,310 MW, though it has installed only 730.10 MW, merely 0.51% of its potential.

Jammu and Kashmir: Law catches up with senior army officer after 14 years

Brigadier Kishore Malhotra, who was a young Major when he allegedly picked up Manzoor Ahmad Dar in January 2002, has been indicted by the special investigation team of police in the 14-year-old case.

Law seems to have finally caught up with a top army officer for alleged custodial disappearance of a chemist after Jammu and Kashmir government submitted its report in the state high court indicting the officer for alleged abduction and murder.Brigadier Kishore Malhotra, who was a young Major when he allegedly picked up Manzoor Ahmad Dar in January 2002, has been indicted by the special investigation team of police in the 14-year-old case.”Station house officer, police station Saddar, Srinagar present in person states that the investigation in case FIR No. 33/2002 under section 364, 302 RPC stands proved against Brigadier Kishore Malhotra and papers have been submitted for record of sanction for prosecution of the accused,” said Justice Hasnain Masoodi of the Jammu and Kashmir high court, in his one page order.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The case dates back to 2002, when Dar was picked up allegedly by the troops of 35 Rashtriya Rifles (RR) from his home in Rawalpora Srinagar. During the course of investigation, Brigadier Kishore Malhotra, who was then a major and company commander in 35 RR, was questioned by the special investigation team for his alleged role.”Since the time offence under section 364 was established against the accused Kishore Malhotra and efforts were put to trace out the abducted person but no clue could be struck out. The custodial disappearance has occurred nearly 14 years ago which clearly indicates that the disappeared person could have died in custody (of 35 RR) and according Section 302 RPC is invoked,” said the status report submitted by additional advocate general of Jammu and Kashmir government in the high court.The status report maintained that the accused during sustained questioning has denied any involvement in the custodial disappearance case.”Upon the direction of honourable apex court and J&K high court the accused Major Kishore Malhotra now brigadier appeared before SIT on 6, 7,8,9 October 2015 who was interrogated. During custodial questioning the accused did not admit the custody of victim and nor lead to recovery of the body which clearly indicates that the accused could have disposed off the body and also offense 201 RPC is invoked (sic),” said the report.

‘Heart of Asia’ summit ends with pledge to tackle menace of terrorism

Leaders and ministers from 14 member countries, including External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, 17 supporting nations and officials of 12 organisations attended the two-day meet

AFP
The fifth Heart of Asia conference on Afghanistan ended on Thursday with a commitment from member states to address the menace of terrorism and to foster close economic cooperation to stabilise the war-torn country.Leaders and ministers from 14 member countries, including External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, 17 supporting nations and officials of 12 organisations attended the two-day meet here that adopted the Islamabad Declaration which also called on all Afghan Taliban groups to enter into peace talks. Pakistan’s advisor on foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz and Afghan foreign minister Salahauddin Rabbani announced the declaration at the joint press conference.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Aziz said that the conference was a major success as the participants agreed on close cooperation in stabilising Afghanistan. Rabbani shared the major points of the declaration in which the participants affirmed to respect each other’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and political independence and follow the principles of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other states. He said that it was decided that militancy was major threat for Afghanistan and the region and joint efforts were needed to address it.
Picture courtesy by AFP”We recognise that terrorism and violent extremism are constant and serious threats to regional and international peace, security, stability and economic growth,” according to the declaration. It reiterated that terrorism, extremism and separatism, and linkages among them, pose a serious challenge to many of the countries, as well as the region and beyond, which can only be addressed through concerted efforts. “We resolve to eradicate the menace of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. While recognising the importance of international cooperation and coordination, any measure taken by states to prevent and combat terrorism must comply fully with our obligations under international law and the United Nations Charter,” it said.The countries also agreed to put into practice specific measures and steps necessary for countering and eliminating the menace of terrorism, all terrorist organisations, in particular al-Qaeda, IS and their affiliates. The participants also decided to take necessary actions to deny terrorists access to financial and material resources, to dismantle their sanctuaries and training facilities, and to curtail their ability to recruit and train new terrorists.The members agreed to resolve conflicts through peaceful negotiations and supported “Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace and reconciliation initiatives”. “We urge all Afghan Taliban groups and all other armed opposition groups to enter into peace talks with the Afghan government,” it said. They also agreed to take measures for increasing cooperation and tasked the regional technical groups to come up with proposals for CBMs within three months to promote peace and stability.They also welcomed willingness of India to host the next ministerial conference of the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process in 2016. The Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process was launched in 2011 and includes Pakistan, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and the UAE. The conference began yesterday with the meeting of senior officials of the participating nations.

Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan total failure: CAG

Strap: Rs 10,000 crore spent in the last five years has not shown adequate results, CAG report finds

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, the successor to Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan, is an even more ambitious project

The Comptroller and Audit General of India (CAG) announced the tabling of 12 reports (of the promised 25) in the parliament on Tuesday. One of the tabled reports that focused on the Total Sanitation Campaign or Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan found alarming discrepancies in fund allocation and its misuse and also a clear failure in the implementation of the sanitation programme.According to the report, almost 60.69% Indians defecate in public – the highest in the world. At a time where India is being touted as one of the fastest growing economies, we are still struggling with basic sanitation. According to the report “Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation: 2012” submitted by UNICEF and WHO, Pakistan and Bangladesh feature higher on the list of improved sanitation with 34% and 58% respectively. Among the Asian countries, Sri Lanka topped the list with 94%.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Sanitation was one of the Millennium Goals adopted by India which culminates at the end of this year. The Central Rural Sanitation Programme – the first structured programme for rural sanitation, was started in 1986 and has been remodified in many avatars since. The latest avatar now known as The Swachh Bharat Mission, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pet project. Though, whether the declaration and goal for 100% eradication of defecation in India by 2019 will be achieved is yet to be seen.According to the CAG report, a few of the major reasons for the failure in our sanitation programme can be attributed to the lack of intent on the implementation level, effective monitoring and periodic evaluation of the programme. There was a lack of date integrity submitted by the ministries concerned forcing the auditors to deal with and interpret four different sets of data with conflicting numbers.Among the major findings in the report, it was stated that against an objective of constructing 426.32 lakh and 469.76 lakh Individual Household Latrines (IHHL) for Below Poverty Line (BPL) and Above Poverty Line (APL) project districts could construct only 52.15% and 44.18% respectively. In 53 districts that were audited for this purpose, it was found that 33% of the toilets were defunct due to poor quality of construction, incomplete structure, non-maintenance etc.Another disturbing find was that in the past five years, almost Rs. 10,000 crores has been spent on rural sanitation with not much to show for results. There have also been cases of financial irregularities, improper disbursement of funds, diversion of funds for other unrelated activities and even misappropriation of the allocated funds. Almost Rs 2.28 crore was misappropriated in six states (Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Gujarat, Karnataka and Maharashtra) while cases of suspected misappropriation to the tune of Rs 25.33 was found in four states namely: Andhra Pradesh, Jharkand and Manipur.Where funds were allocated, it was found in that in the case of nine states, an amount of Rs 212.14 crore remained parked and unutilized at the implementation level for periods ranging from four months to 29 months. It was also noted that the accrued interest of Rs 5.58 crore accrued on the scheme fund was not accounted for.To get a wholesome view of the matter dna spoke to Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak, an Indian sociologist and founder of Sulabh International, who said that for the Prime Minister to achieve 100% sanitation by 2019, he must allocate Rs 3.60 lakh crore. “To build a decent toilet, one needs Rs 25,000-Rs 30,000, anything cheaper will be shoddy and of no use.”Pathak, who has won various accolades on the national and international level including a Padma Bhushan for his work on hygiene and sanitation also states that with proper motivation and will, the government is capable of providing a toilet in every household should they assign at the very minimum one labourer per village who will build at a rate of 20 toilers per month.In it’s conclusion, CAG report number 28 strongly urges the ministry to step up its drive for Information, Education and Communication that will result in a rise in demand for toilets and basic sanitation. It also advises on the need to rope in various corporate houses and tie-up with their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives to spread the word. Effective monitoring and periodic evaluation of the programme which was found missing is now of paramount concern. If India our country must compete with the world, the report finds that it must step up intensify its efforts by realistic planning and implementation, large scale information, behavioral changes in the target population and overall governance at the grassroot level. While the current prime minister does seem active on this front, auditors feel these initiatives though welcome are far to late in coming.

Are militants trying to reinforce agenda of global jihad in Jammu & Kashmir?

Attacks in the first week of December have led the intelligence agencies based in Jammu and Kashmir to suspect that the banned outfits — Jaish-e-Mohamad and Harkut-ul-Mujahideen – might be attempting to re-establish a space for militant groups with a ‘global agenda’ instead of a Kashmir-centric one.

Army and special operation group personnel take positions during an encounter with militants in J&K’s Handwara district on Friday

PTI
Attacks in the first week of December have led the intelligence agencies based in Jammu and Kashmir to suspect that the banned outfits — Jaish-e-Mohamad and Harkut-ul-Mujahideen – might be attempting to re-establish a space for militant groups with a ‘global agenda’ instead of a Kashmir-centric one.While JeM claimed responsibility for an attack on Gorkha Rifles Camp in Tangdhar area, which resulted in the killing of a military contractor and three militants, HuM spokesperson Hassan Askaree, in a tele-statement to local news agency, paid ‘tributes’ to the militants slain in the Handwara and Poonch attacks.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Even though senior intelligence officials said that “it is too soon to say that JeM and HuM are trying to regroup,” they did not deny the possibility of the latest attacks being carried out to reclaim lost ground in the valley. While JeM’s presence was last witnessed in 2013, when the group engaged security forces on multiple occasions, resulting in the killing of several of its top commanders, HuM was involved in a major Fidayeen attacks carried out in Lal Chowk area of Srinagar in January, 2010.”Both the groups were very close to each other and, in fact, they worked in close co-ordination till 2007. However, HuM fighters in Sopore and Handwara area maintained their independence from JeM and carried out attacks till 2010,” said an official source.Counter-insurgency officials told dna that while one can see similarities in modus operandi of various Kashmir-based militant groups, the major differences lie in their goals.”Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen have confined their goals to Kashmir. Most of its fighters advocate either Kashmir’s independence or a merger with Pakistan. However, the same cannot be said of JeM or HuM,” a senior counter-insurgency official said.”Groups with global jihad waned over a period of time. It is unlikely that global jihadists will gain territory in future. The reason LeT and HM are still operational is because of their focus on Kashmir,” the official added.JeM was established by Maulana Masood Azhar in the year 2000, after he was freed by the Indian government in exchange for passengers on the hijacked Indian Airlines Flight 814. The group’s history is, however, not as elaborate as HuM which makes the December 4 Handwara attack quite significant.”JeM does not have more than 10-12 terrorists on ground. HuM is a different ball game altogether. The global network Hum possesses, gives it an edge over groups like Hizb and Lashkar whose primary goal continues to be Kashmir,” said a senior police official in J&K.”The recent attacks can also be seen as a reaction to advances of ISIS which is a sectarian terrorist force. In the past, we have seen several valley-based militant groups releasing anti-ISIS statements. Point in case is LeT’s statement against ISIS’s anti-Shia agenda,” the official added.HuM was originally formed in 1985 after breaking out from Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami (HUJI) in 1985.Towards the end of Soviet-Afghan war, the group entered Kashmiri politics, and in 1993 the group merged with HUJI to form Harkat-ul-Ansar under the leadership of Abdelkader Mokhtari, an Algerian commander who later came to be known for his participation in the Bosnian war. The group was banned in mid-90s after which it renamed itself as HuM. It was banned once again following the 9/11 twin tower attacks.

North eastern states have lost 628 sq kms of forest: State of forest report

North eastern states constitute only 7.9 percent of geographical area of the country but accounts for nearly one-fourth of the country’s forest cover, the report said. It is one of the 18 biodiversity hotspots of the world due to these rich forests.

Uttarakhand has mostly lost moderately dense forests

Even as the Indian State of Forest Report 2015 recorded an increase of 3,775 sqkm in the country’s forest cover compared to the last survey in 2013, the hill states of north east and Uttarakhand, regions with some of the country’s best forests, have witnessed a setback. According to the report’s data north eastern states there has been a net decline of 628 sq km in the forest cover since 2013. The loss is more than the total area of Mumbai city.North eastern states constitute only 7.9 percent of geographical area of the country but accounts for nearly one-fourth of the country’s forest cover, the report said. It is one of the 18 biodiversity hotspots of the world due to these rich forests.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The top-five states who have recorded a negative changes in forest cover are Mizoram, Uttarakhand, Telangana, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh. Mizoram’s 88.9% area is covered by forests and the state has lost 306 sq kms of it while Uttarakhand whose 45.3% area is forests lost 268 sq km of it.The State of Forest Report survey, during its ground truthing, tried to ascertain reasons for the increase and decrease in forests. It states that Mizoram has lost forests cover due to shifting cultivation patterns and other ‘biotic’ pressure on forest lands. On the other hand, Uttarakhand has lost forest cover due to rotational felling and diversion of forest land for developmental activities.Incidentally states such as Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, that have both recorded loss of forest cover, are planning to build over a hundred hydro power projects each to harness major rivers. Several of these projects fall in dense to moderately dense forests and have faced opposition owing to the large forest cutting it will cause. The 2,880MW Dibang Multipurpose Project (DMP) in Lower Dibang Valley in Arunachal Pradesh will alone cut down 45.77 sq km of forest.As part of the survey, forest cover across states is categorised into Very Dense Forests, Moderately Dense Forests and Open Forests. An analysis of the report’s data shows that Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Manipur and Uttarakhand have all mostly lost moderately dense forests. Categories of forest based on density Very dense forest are lands with tree canopy density of 70 %and above, moderately dense forests have a tree canopy density of 40 percent and more but less than 70 % while open forests have a canopy density of less than 10 percent.

NMMC opts out of Smart City race as politics weighs over development

The NCP-controlled Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) on Tuesday opted out of the race for Smart City after the general body of the Ganesh Naik-led corporation rejected the proposal on the basis of numerical strength as politics weighed heavily over core development issues.”Navi Mumbai is already a developed and smart city because of the vision of NCP leader Ganesh Naik,” was the common opinion expressed by party corporators during the special general body meeting held to discuss future course of Smart City at the civic head office.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Opposition Shiv Sena and BJP have trained guns on the ruling party and are planning to approach chief minister Devendra Fadnavis in this regard.”The ruling party has no interest in Smart City project because there is no percentage (bribes) that they will get here. NCP leaders in NMMC are only interested in percentage politics and are least bothered about development. Since there is no money riding on this project, they have no interest and thus have rejected the proposal. We will approach chief minister Fadnavis in this regard,” said leader of opposition Vijay Chaughuley.Earlier, during the day, while discussing the subject, standing committee chairman Netra Shirke, drew parallels between Centre’s Smart City project and the idea of One Time Planning model floated by Naik in his capacity as Thane guardian minister. “There is nothing new in this project. It is similar to One Time Planning model which was once floated by Naik. Navi Mumbai is already a developed city thanks of the vision of Naik,” said Shirke.Municipal commissioner DT Waghmare, said, “The consent of general body was one of the important requirements for entry into Smart City project. Now that general body has rejected the proposal, the civic body is out of the race.”Recently, NMMC had inked an agreement with European Business and Technology Centre for Smart City project. Administration had entered into agreement with this European organisation without consulting the mayor and other elected representatives.According to sources, “This is what had disturbed the ruling party in Navi Mumbai and might be one of the reasons for opting out of the Smart City race.”Meanwhile, Belapur MLA Manda Mhatre who had played a major role in Smart City project, said, “Navi Mumbai will be part of the Smart City project and there is no doubt about it. There is no one who will come in between Navi Mumbai becoming a Smart City. By rejecting the proposal Navi Mumbai NCP leaders have shown the people of the city their real colours. I am meeting chief minister Fadnavis tomorrow and will ensure that Navi Mumbai is in the Smart City race.”

India scores major diplomatic victory after China invites northern army commander for talks

The invitation comes five years after China refused to host the then Northern Army Commander Lieutenant General BS Jaswal on the grounds that he was posted in Jammu and Kashmir, which is a ‘disputed’ territory.

Lt Gen DS Hooda

Far from the euphoria over Bangkok handshake, India is quietly basking under a major diplomatic victory after China invited Northern Army Commander Lieutenant General DS Hooda for discussions on the border management and boundary issues.The invitation comes five years after China refused to host the then Northern Army Commander Lieutenant General BS Jaswal on the grounds that he was posted in Jammu and Kashmir, which is a ‘disputed’ territory.Lt Gen Hooda, general officer commanding in chief (GoC-in-C) of Udhampur- based Northern Command, along with other army commanders are scheduled to travel to China in mid-December to hold discussions with Chinese counterparts on varied issues relating to the boundary issues.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”He (Lt Gen Hooda) is likely to visit China in mid-December. Exact dates will be intimated later,” Colonel SD Goswami, defence spokesman at Northern Command, told dna.The four-day-long talks between Indian and Chinese military delegation will focus on a host of issues relating to the boundary disputes, border management and maintaining peace and tranquility on the line of actual control in Ladakh and other parts of the country that shares border with China.India shares a 3,488-km border with China while Jammu and Kashmir shares 646 Km of line of actual control (LAC) with China. Jammu and Kashmir is the only state in the country which shares its borders with both Pakistan and China.The incursions and transgressions by People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has been a cause of worry for the people in Ladakh division, though the number has decreased for the last one year.In September, two armies were engaged in a bitter standoff after Indian troops dismantled the watch tower constructed by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) at Burste in Depsang Plains on the LAC.In April 2013 Indian and PLA were engaged in a major face-off when the Chinese troops had come 19 kilometres deep inside the Indian Territory at Daulat Beg Oldi sector on LAC and set up tented posts. The 20-day standoff ended on May 5 2013 when troops from both sides withdrew to the pre-incursion positions on the LAC.”We hope that there will be a movement forward in the meeting between the military leaderships of the two countries. There is a major policy shift in China and a lot of goodwill towards India. We hope to carry forward the mission of friendship with China,” said an army officer.

Lokayukta to Mehta: What about babus?

ML Tahaliyani and Ajoy Mehta

You acted against the contractors, but what about your own officials? BMC chief Ajoy Mehta could hardly have missed the message when Maharashtra Lokayukta Justice MG Tahaliyani on Tuesday issued a notice to him and launched its own probe into the Rs150 crore ‘desilting scam’. Tahaliyani has sought a report from Mehta seeking details of the action taken against errant civic officials and engineers involved in the scam. A dna report dated September 27, 2015 on the desilting scam is also part of the Lokayukta’s notice. Mehta is expected to reply to the notice issued under section 10 of the Lokayukta and Upa Lokayukta Act 1971 on Wednesday.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> “We have issued a notice to the municipal commissioner taking suo moto cognizance of the desilting scam. We have called for a preliminary report from him. Criminal action has been taken against contractors and FIRs have been registered too. However, we want to know what action has been taken against errant officials. If we are not satisfied with the municipal commissioner’s reply, we will launch a thorough investigation,” Tahaliyani told dna. Officials said this was the first such move in recent times where the Lokayukta had launched an inquiry into a major civic issue. After the BMC’s high-level probe into the scam nailed shoddy work by its contractors, the BMC ordered blacklisting of all contractors involved in desilting work. Mehta also asked the BMC to register FIRs against all 24 contractors and start departmental enquiries against errant officials. Following an interim report, Mehta had suspended 14 officials and registered FIRs against three contractors in connection with the scam. While 10 engineers from the Storm Water Drain (SWD) department were suspended, the civic body also suspended Chief Engineer (Vigilance) Uday Murudkar, six sub-engineers, four assistant engineers and three supervisors from the SWD department. However, FIRs were not registered against any officials. “The scam could not have been executed without involvement of civic officials. If needed, we will conduct a probe and recommend action against those found guilty to the municipal commissioner. We are awaiting the BMC chief’s reply to decide on further course of action,” Tahaliyani added. The BMC’s probe report had stated that not only did contractors do sub-standard work, but openly cheated the BMC by inflating desilting claims when in reality, no work had taken place. According to officials, almost all contractors involved in desilting work duped the BMC. The BMC probe panel led by additional municipal commissioner Sanjay Deshmukh examined records of trips that the contractors’ trucks made from various drains in the city to the designated dumping grounds. The final report, which took over three months to be completed, was submitted to Mehta last week. BMC’s claims of being rain-ready were washed away with a heavy downpour on June 18 and 19. The civic body had reportedly spent Rs150 crore on the preparations, but not just the low-lying areas, several other localities were water-logged. Following the floods, Mehta ordered a probe into the desilting operations. The report claimed that there were irregularities in 65 to 70% of the work. The report also nails 20 civic officials from the SWD and Vigilance department. Mehta could not be reached for comment.

Manohar Parrikar becomes first Indian defence minister to visit PACOM

Harris encouraged senior Indian military leadership to participate in next year’s Chief of Defence Conference.

Manohar Parrikar has visited the US Pacific Command headquarters in Hawaii, becoming the the first-ever Indian Defence Minister to visit the key facility in a sign of deepening of military ties between the two strategic partners. The US Pacific Command in a statement described Parrikar’s visit as a “milestone” event during which he held meetings with the PACOM Commander Admiral Harry B Harris. Harris and Parrikar discussed the growth of the strategic partnership between the two nations and how routine, regular and predictable engagements strengthen that partnership, PACOM spokesman US Army Major Dave Eastburn said. The two also emphasised the importance of expanded maritime security cooperation within the context of broader military-to-military ties, especially in the Indo-Asia- Pacific, he said.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Harris encouraged senior Indian military leadership to participate in next year’s Chief of Defence Conference. He underscored that the conference is important venue to build the relationships that will underpin security and stability throughout the region. Parrikar and Harris discussed the continuance of the maritime security cooperation, the potential for joint US India maritime patrols, and the value of foundational agreements such as a logistics support agreement and a communications and information security memorandum of agreement, Eastburn said.They also discussed Exercises Malabar, Yudh Abhyas, Red Flag, Vajra Prahar, and RIMPAC, re-emphasising that the United States is still India’s partner of choice for exercises and military-to-military engagements, he said.Parrikar is scheduled to meet US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter at the Pentagon on December 10. This is his first visit to the US as the Indian Defence Minister.

Chennai Floods: The worst might be over, but keep diseases at bay with these health tips

People have been wading through water over several days, so the number of water-borne, vector-borne, person-to-person communicable diseases are those that the state government, NGOs and volunteers working in the field need to worry about.

People wading through waterlogged areas during the flood

Throughout history, disasters, both natural and man-made, have a strong relationship with disease outbreaks. This is often related to the displacement of people and has been known since the age of Pericles and the plague of Athens in Ancient Greece during the Peloponnesian wars. This has played out again and again since then, including in major wars, but this association is now seen commonly after natural disasters like floods, tsunami, volcanic eruptions, drought and earthquakes.The disaster in Tamil Nadu due to the recent rains and floods is already seeing an outbreak of various diseases. The risk and magnitude of any outbreak can be assessed based on the diseases that are pre-existent in the community, the existing infrastructure, nutrition and health status, ability to restore safe water and drainage and availability of health care. Given that Chennai and other parts have seen tremendous waterlogging and people have been wading through water over several days, the number of water-borne, vector-borne, person-to-person communicable diseases and those related to the disaster, are those that the state government, NGOs and volunteers working in the field need to worry about.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Types of diseases likely to surfaceFirstly, water-borne diseases that are likely to surface in Chennai now include viral gastro enteritis, cholera, typhoid, hepatitis A and E, leptospirosis among others. If people remember, there was a spike in cases of leptospirosis in Mumbai after the 2005 floods. Waterborne diseases can be mitigated here by ensuring that the water is drained out as quickly as possible in the city and safe drinking water is provided on a war footing.Secondly, vector-borne diseases that are likely to emerge include dengue and malaria. Others like West Nile virus are also possible. These are primarily mosquito-borne, so stagnant water is a perfect breeding ground. Draining inundated areas in Chennai is key to control and moving people out of such areas is also helpful.Lastly, person-to-person communicable diseases are usually related to overcrowding in close quarters. Diseases like influenza and upper respiratory infections tend to spread faster this way. This was, in fact, the leading cause of death in those displaced by the 2004 tsunami in Aceh and the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan. Measles outbreaks have also been documented in these conditions. In Chennai, there are reports of chicken pox outbreak in a relief camp. This also needs to be addressed quickly.Other diseases are related to the disaster itself, and this includes tetanus, skin problems, including allergies and fungal infections. There have been rumours about dead bodies and the risk of transmission of diseases – these are overhyped, and there is yet to be any documented outbreak in the setting of the floods.Prevention and tips on health safetyPrevention and mitigation of these diseases, in Chennai, Cuddalore and other areas, needs a multi-pronged strategy. Obviously, drainage of the water and establishment of safe water and food services is key. People should not remain marooned, but staying too long in relief camps puts them at risk for other problems. The earlier the situation improves and the earlier that people can return home, the safer it is from the infection point of view. People should avoid wading in water, if feasible.Safe water can be achieved by boiling water for a full minute. If there is visible contamination, bleach (1/4 to 1/8 teaspoon to a gallon or 16 cups of water) can be useful. Reverse osmosis systems are also an option. Food safety is key, and the role of food handlers in the propagation of diseases is often forgotten. Aid workers should stay away if sick, and should wear gloves when handling food. Vaccination against tetanus, typhoid and influenza seems prudent. Mosquito prevention measures are useful, but these need to be used through the day.Don’t medicate unnecessarilyAt this point, abuse of medications, especially antibiotics, is a problem. Most patients do not need any. Establishment of appropriate primary care system with doctors trained in disaster-related disease management will go a long way in containing the situation. Studies have suggested that a single dose of doxycycline may be an option in reducing the risk of leptospirosis in those wading through water. It is only required for those with infections like typhoid. In general, the alarm symptoms that require immediate medical attention include:1. Diarrhoea/vomiting and not passing urine2. Fever with shaking chills3. Jaundice4. Fever lasting more than 3 days5. Breathing difficulty and shortness of breath6. Illness in people whose immune system is not normal- like kidney failure, transplantDr Subramanian Swaminathan is MD AB Infectious Diseases, Consultant, Global Hospital

Sachin Tendulkar opens questions innings in RS, four more this week

After three years of being nominated as a member in the House of Elders, cricketer Sachin Tendulkar has opened his innings of asking questions. While on Monday he gave a written query, the second so far, on changes in issuance driving licences, he has four more questions listed out for the week on Human Resource Development and Railways ministries.Tendulkar asked his first question on Friday on criteria for declaring suburban railway services as a separate zone. “Will the Minister of Railways be pleased to state the rationale behind creating a new zone for Kolkata Metro and whether it can be replicated in other cities such as Mumbai, Chennai and Delhi that also have similar suburban rail services; the criteria that a suburban railway system must fulfil to enable it to be notified as a separate zone; and whether the above three cities fulfil that criteria and are eligible for being notified as separate zones?”<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>With just a seven per cent attendance in Rajya Sabha since 2012 (as per PRS legislative research), this was his first major participation in the House, where he has not participated in any debate. The absence of nominated members came up in Rajya Sabha on Monday morning when a lawmaker sought exemption from attending the House. When the Chair sought permission of the House for it, JD-U MP KC Tyagi objected to members who have been continuously absent from being nominated.Besides Tendulkar, Bollywood actress Rekha and Mithun Chakravarty, who are also nominated members, have a low attendance of five per cent and ten per cent, according to PRS figures. None of them have participated in debates so far. A member runs the risk of disqualification for being absent for 60 consecutive days.”Sachin Tendulkar is the biggest cricketer. Rekha is a big star. They are nominated to share their life’s experiences with the House. But, the House is denied of that. I request that in future such people are not nominated,”Tyagi later told dna.About Tendulkar asking written questions, he said “he has made his maiden run in Parliament.”On Monday, Tendulkar asked whether under the proposed new Motor Vehicles Act, the government proposed to make driving licence procedure more transparent and stringent in order to curb fake licences; whether it is also proposed to implement strict guidelines to test and train the driving licence applicants; and what steps are being taken in the new Act to safeguard the rights of pedestrians, drivers, physically challenged persons and to curb the incidents of road rage.Minister of State for Road Transport and Highways P Radhakrishnan said the ministry was working on a proposal to replace the Motor Vehicles Act with ‘The Road Transport and Safety Bill, 2015’. He gave a detailed response listing the proposals in the bill.

India is second most ignorant nation of the world: Survey

“Mexico and India receive the dubious honour of being the most inaccurate in their perceptions on these issues, while South Koreans are the most accurate, followed by the Irish,” the survey said.

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India has the “dubious honour” of being the second most ignorant nation in the world after Mexico, according to a survey which posed questions on issues like inequality, non-religious population, female employment and internet access.The survey conducted by Ipsos MORI, a London-based market research firm, polled 25,000 people from 33 countries and found that while people “over-estimate what we worry about”, a lot of major issues are underestimated.”Mexico and India receive the dubious honour of being the most inaccurate in their perceptions on these issues, while South Koreans are the most accurate, followed by the Irish,” the survey said.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The rankings of the nations were based on the “Index of Ignorance” which was determined by questions about wealth that the top 1 % own, obesity, non-religious population, immigration, living with parents, female employment, rural living and internet access.Most Indians “underestimate” how much of their country’s wealth is concentrated in the hands of the top 1%, the survey said, adding that the top 1% actually own an “incredible” 70 % of all wealth.The survey also found that most Indians “hugely overestimate” the proportions of non-religious people in the country to be 33% when the true figure is under 1 %.While Israel significantly underestimates the proportion of female employment (by 29 % points), people in countries like India, Mexico, South Africa and Chile all think of more women in work than really are, it said.India fell in the list of nations which overestimate representation by women in politics.Countries like Columbia, Russia, India and Brazil all think there is better female representation than there really is, the survey said.However, the Indian population seriously underestimates the rural population of the country and thinks more people have internet access than in reality.In India the average guess among online respondents for internet access is 60 per cent – an overestimation of the true picture of 41 percentage points, the survey added.

Nepal’s Madhesi leaders meet Sushma Swaraj

“EAM @SushmaSwaraj called for broad based ownership of Constitution & encouraged speedy political solution and return to normalcy on that basis,” External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup later tweeted.

Leaders of Nepal s Indian-origin Madhesi community, whose protest against the country s new Constitution has crippled supplies from India, today met External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj who called for a “speedy” political solution to the crisis. The leaders who arrived here to hold talks with top Indian leadership including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, apprised Swaraj of their position on various contentious issues.Swaraj, on her part, said India supports an “inclusive Nepal”.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”EAM @SushmaSwaraj called for broad based ownership of Constitution & encouraged speedy political solution and return to normalcy on that basis,” External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup later tweeted. The agitation by Madhesi leaders in Terai region bordering India has crippled services in Nepal as the protesters have blocked all border trade points between the two countries, triggering shortage of supplies including fuel and medicines. The Madhesi community is opposed to splitting the country into seven provinces under the new Constitution and has been demanding adequate protection of their rights.Three major demands of the Madhesi community include re-demarcation of the boundary, inclusion of proportionate representation and allocation of Parliament seats on the basis of population. The senior leaders of Joint Madhesi Morcha who have come here for talks include Mahantha Thakur, president of Terai Madhes Democratic Party, Upendra Yadav, president of Madhesi Peoples Rights Forum-Nepal, Rajendra Mahato, president of Sadbhawana Party, and Mahendra Yadav, president of Terai Madhes Sadbhawana Party.On Saturday, these leaders had a crucial meeting with Nepal s major political parties including main opposition Nepali Congress and ruling alliance members CPN-UML and Unified CPN-Maoist to discuss ways to resolve the ongoing crisis.

Is it so bad? Survey says India is second most ignorant nation of the world!

The survey conducted by Ipsos MORI, a London-based market research firm, polled 25,000 people from 33 countries and found that while people “over-estimate what we worry about”, a lot of major issues are underestimated

India-population

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India has the “dubious honour” of being the second most ignorant nation in the world after Mexico, according to a survey which posed questions on issues like inequality, non-religious population, female employment and internet access.The survey conducted by Ipsos MORI, a London-based market research firm, polled 25,000 people from 33 countries and found that while people “over-estimate what we worry about”, a lot of major issues are underestimated. “Mexico and India receive the dubious honour of being the most inaccurate in their perceptions on these issues, while South Koreans are the most accurate, followed by the Irish,” the survey said.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The rankings of the nations were based on the “Index of Ignorance” which was determined by questions about wealth that the top one per cent own, obesity, non-religious population, immigration, living with parents, female employment, rural living and internet access. Most Indians “underestimate” how much of their country’s wealth is concentrated in the hands of the top 1 per cent, the survey said, adding that the top 1 per cent actually own an “incredible” 70 per cent of all wealth.The survey also found that most Indians “hugely overestimate” the proportions of non-religious people in the country to be 33 per cent when the true figure is under 1 per cent. While Israel significantly underestimates the proportion of female employment (by 29 percentage points), people in countries like India, Mexico, South Africa and Chile all think of more women in work than really are, it said.India fell in the list of nations which overestimate representation by women in politics.Countries like Columbia, Russia, India and Brazil all think there is better female representation than there really is, the survey said. However, the Indian population seriously underestimates the rural population of the country and thinks more people have internet access than in reality. In India the average guess among online respondents for internet access is 60 per cent – an overestimation of the true picture of 41 percentage points, the survey added.

No tug of war between court and government over cleaning of Ganga: CJI Thakur

Justice Thakur’s fresh comments assume significance as, during the hearings on a 1984 PIL on cleaning of Ganga, he had observed that the river would not be restored to its pristine glory even in 200 years.

Justice TS Thakur

Chief Justice TS Thakur on Sunday dispelled impressions about his hard-hitting remarks during the judicial proceedings on the government’s ambitious Clean Ganga project, saying the judicial process was “not an impediment” and “intervention” was needed for its honest implementation.”There is no adversarial element in it. Ganga ki safai ko lekar court aur sarkar ke beech koi kheenchtan nahi hai (There is no tug of war between the court and the government over the cleaning of Ganga),” the Chief Justice said in an interaction with mediapersons here. “We will intervene. Judicial process is not an impediment, it can be helpful,” he said, adding that cleaning of the river was an “ambitious plan”, but “it has to be seen how honestly the project is implemented.” Justice Thakur’s fresh comments assume significance as, during the hearings on a 1984 PIL on cleaning of Ganga, he had observed that the river would not be restored to its pristine glory even in 200 years.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Emphasising people’s participation in the Rs 20,000 crore Clean Ganga project covering 50 small and big cities, Justice Thakur said there was a need for an awareness campaign and the venture, which has to implemented in various stages, cannot be completed overnight. “We all are linked to Ganga. A civilisation is linked to it and the river is linked to the civilisation of Hindustan.The river is linked to everyone, be they rich or poor. Faith is also attached to it,” he said. However, he said the condition of the river “is not right today, but it is not so that the situation cannot be rectified. The government is serious …. It has allocated Rs 20,000 crore. The government has also given a representation on the various phases of work it will carry out on this project. Cleaning of the Ganga cannot be done overnight.”The CJI pointed out that free flow of untreated industrial waste into the river was one of the major causes of pollution in it, and added that the sewage treatment plants on its banks were not working properly. “It will be a long-drawn battle to cleanse the river,” Justice Thakur said.

Toxic air, desperate measures: Even and odd number cars to ply on alternate days in Delhi; Naqvi says proposal should be practical

From January 1, 2016, cars with even and odd number plates will ply on alternate days according to the plan mooted by the state government.

In a move to curb increasing pollution in the national capital, Delhi government has come up with a radical proposal, according to reports. From January 1, 2016, cars with even and odd number plates will ply on alternate days according to the plan mooted by the state government. Delhi in recent times have received lots of flak for degrading air quality and this move can be seen as a reaction to it. Delhi High Court on Wednesday had compared the situation in Delhi to “living in a gas chamber”. The court asked the state and central government to come up with a comprehensive plan. <!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The central government has reacted cautiously to the decision. Observing that the current air pollution levels in the national capital have reached “alarming” proportions and it was akin to “living in a gas chamber”, the Delhi High Court on Wednesday directed the Centre and city government to present comprehensive action plans to combat it.A bench of justices Badar Durrez Ahmed and Sanjeev Sachdeva termed the action plans filed by the environment ministry and Delhi government as “not comprehensive” as they did not contain specific responsibilities of each authority and the timeline for carrying them out.It directed them to file comprehensive action plans, which are the need of the hour, by the next date of hearing on December 21. The court also said two major causes of air pollution in Delhi were dust particles and vehicular emissions and directed the Centre and city governments to ensure no construction of building or roads takes place without first ensuring that generation of dust was minimised.It also directed the Delhi government to ensure that garbage and leaves are not burned by people in the open, as was directed by the National Green Tribunal, and directed the city administration to publicise in print, audio and visual media that such practices are prohibited.The court directed the city government to seek action taken reports from sub-divisional magistrates and tehsildars who have been tasked with carrying out surprise inspections with regard to dust generation from construction sites and burning of leaves and garbage. On emissions from idling vehicles and traffic congestion, police told the court it has identified 14 areas which were seriously congested and decongested them significantly by deploying more personnel and putting up plastic bollards to segregate carriageways and regulate flow of traffic.With regard to yellow line violations, the court directed traffic police to ensure there was zero tolerance for such incidents and to ensure proper lane driving in Delhi.”Publicise there would be strict action and fines for violations,” it said while hearing a PIL initiated by it on the issue of increasing air pollution in Delhi. The court also suggested putting in place, in some areas of the city, automatic synchronised traffic light changing system instead of manually operating them to see whether it could reduce idling traffic.The traffic police, meanwhile, assured the court that meters would be put in place to quantify the flow of vehicles and to see whether the measures being put in place are effective.The court also directed the traffic police to provide proper protective gear, including masks, to its personnel regulating traffic after an application was moved in this regard.The plea said that the health of traffic police was being adversely affected due to vehicular emissions.Another plea was moved seeking directions to the government to curb use of fireworks at weddings and other celebrations as they too cause air pollution.The court, thereafter, directed the Delhi government to “try and dissuade people from excessive use of fireworks”. With regard to the poor air quality inside the high court building, the bench directed the registry to ensure that air purifiers are put up within two weeks in each court room as well as public access areas.With agency inputs

After poll debacle, Gujarat government announces land bonanza

Sources said the BJP’s poor performance in the district and taluka panchayat polls too was discussed at the meeting

In a major pro-farmer decision following the loss in Panchayat elections, the BJP government in Gujarat on Thursday said it would allot 6,000 acres of land to co-operative societies and agricultural produce committees at concessional rates for infrastructure.The decision to allot the government-owned land worth Rs 5,667 crore was taken at today’s cabinet meeting chaired by the Chief Minister Anandiben Patel at Gandhinagar. These societies and committees will get 10 to 30 acres of land each at 10 to 35 per cent of ‘Jantri rates (rates specified by the state government), an official release said. Godowns to store agricultural produce, pesticides, seeds and fertilisers etc., offices for milk co-operative societies, dairies and bulk milk coolers can be constructed on these lands.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Sources said the BJP’s poor performance in the district and taluka panchayat polls too was discussed at the meeting. Of the 31 district panchayats, Congress won 21 while BJP won only six. In 2010, BJP had won 30 district panchayats. Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Panchayat and Rural development minister Jayanti Kavadia admitted that results, announced yesterday, were disappointing.”The results of district and taluka panchayats were not as per our expectations….we will do introspection about how that happened. We will double our efforts to make sure that everyone gets benefits of development,” Kavadia said. Asked what was his own analysis, he said panchayat elections are “more or less” individual-centric. “Candidates become more important than party’s image or work done in the area. Issues are different in each village. Perhaps we might have failed to communicate the true picture to the rural voters,” Kavadia said.

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