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Tag: sports

‘Who in the DDCA asked for favours from Virat Kohli’s father?’ AAP asks Jaitley

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Over the course of this century, here are 10 things that haven’t changed… at all

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Double Dutch for United, Chelsea in eerie showdown | Reuters

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DDCA spent crores on buying ‘free’ IPL tickets?

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Azad questioning Jaitley on ticketing mechanism, including that of international matches, revealed in documents accessed by dna

BJP MP Kirti Azad & Arun Jaitley

The day was April 21, 2013. Delhi Daredevils, playing on their home ground and chasing a target of 162 runs, had defeated Mumbai Indians by 9 wickets with 3 overs to spare, owing to a swashbuckling 95 runs off 55 balls by champion batsman Virender Sehwag. Sehwag, who had earlier lambasted the Delhi & District Cricket Association (DDCA) over its mismanagement and threatened to quit the state team, was however unaware of how the tickets for this match had been bought and sold by DDCA. Tickets for the match were purchased by DDCA from GMR Sports Pvt Ltd, the owners of the Delhi Daredevils franchise for double the price of what tickets for the same stands for other matches cost.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Documents, internal emails and audit reports in dna’s possession show that DDCA office-bearers, who stand accused of massive financial bunglings, were using the association’s funds to purchase tickets from GMR for various IPL matches held at Delhi despite being entitled to complimentary tickets. A tripartite agreement, a copy of which is with dna, states that DDCA was to be provided 15% of each category of tickets “free of charge” by GMR Sports Pvt Ltd. DDCA was entitled to 6,300 complimentary tickets from GMR for every match according to the contract. However, the functionaries of the association including its president Sneh Prakash Bansal, repeatedly asked GMR for tickets. The association’s funds were used to purchase the tickets. In an email on April 16, 2013, DDCA president SP Bansal wrote to P Phaneendra, the general manager of GMR Sports Pvt Ltd, “As per our telephonic talk, kindly give CK Bharadwaj all tickets on credit.” Bharadwaj was an employee of DDCA. Tickets were then sold by GMR to DDCA for three matches to be held at the Ferozeshah Kotla between April 18-23, 2013. On April 21, when Delhi Daredevils played Mumbai Indians, 1,560 tickets were sold to DDCA for a sum of Rs 20 lakh. A majority of these tickets were for the East Stand Second Floor and were sold for Rs 1,000 a piece. Around 60 tickets in the Old Clubhouse First Floor were sold for Rs 7,000 per ticket. Documents show that DDCA paid double the cost for the East Stand tickets for the Delhi-Mumbai match. The same ticket for the Delhi Daredevils and Chennai Super Kings match held a few days earlier on April 18 was purchased by DDCA from GMR at half the cost for Rs 500. On April 23, when Delhi played against Kings XI Punjab, the tickets were purchased for Rs 500. On May 7, 2013, TCA Jayant, a consultant with GMR Sports wrote to his colleagues asking for more tickets to be issued for the May 10 encounter between Delhi and Royal Challengers Bangalore. The email reads, “Please issue 10 Old Clubhouse tickets for Mr Bansal from DDCA.” A total of 2,200 tickets were sold to DDCA for the match for a sum of Rs 18 lakh. During the IPL 2013 season, the DDCA spent Rs 52 lakh for buying tickets for just four matches despite having also taken 25,000 complimentary tickets from GMR Sports. DDCA president SP Bansal did not respond to dna’s emails. HOW DDCA PAID GMR FOR THE TICKETS The trend of buying tickets by DDCA seemed to have continued for many years and this time the price paid by the association grew manifold. In an email on May 15, 2014 DDCA president Bansal wrote to GMR, “Äs discussed give instructions to deliver the following tickets on DDCA account on credit.” In the email, Bansal asked tickets for corporate boxes among other things. The tickets sought for by Bansal was for the match between Delhi and Kings XI Punjab held on May 19, 2014. Tickets were issued to Bansal with the West Side Corporate Box being sold at Rs 14,000 a ticket. DDCA also bought 10 tickets in the Super Hospitality Hill A box for Rs 21,000 a piece. For one match alone tickets worth Rs 20 lakh were bought on DDCA’s account by its president. While most of the tickets were being taken by BCCI functionaries on credit, GMR devised its own way billing DDCA for the same. In 2015, DDCA asked GMR Sports to pay Rs 1 crore as expenses for IPL 2014. In a letter dated July 21, 2015, Hemant Dua, the CEO of GMR Sports disputed DDCA’s claims. In the letter Dua told DDCA that GMR would be deducting Rs 22 lakh from the amount payable to DDCA for “tickets purchased for IPL 2014 authorised by the DDCA president.” Sunil Jain, a DDCA member says, “There was no need to buy tickets in the first place. Eventually, the money was deducted by GMR from DDCA’s dues. This caused loss of several crores over the years to the DDCA. No one knows what happened to the tickets that were bought.” GMR spokesperson defended the ticket sales, “Complimentary tickets given to DDCA were as per the contract. DDCA is also entitled to buy tickets whenever they have additional requirements over and above the complimentary tickets.” WHAT DID DDCA DO WITH THE TICKETS? Despite tickets worth several crores purchased by DDCA from GMR over many IPL seasons, no one knows what were the tickets used for. Sameer Bahadur of the NCT Cricket Association says, “Most of these tickets were sold in black by DDCA officials. Since none of them paid from it from their pockets, most ended up minting enormous money from its sale. Money was minted from tickets in every conceivable way.” In a letter to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on September 13, 2015, BJP MP Kirti Azad raised the prospect of a ticketing scam not just involving the IPL but international matches as well. Azad pointed out that DDCA was earmarking thousands of tickets to be doled out for free and under-pricing the most coveted stands in the stadium to evade entertainment tax. In a direct attack on Jaitley, Azad wrote, “Ünderpricing tickets just to save entertainment tax was a great ploy to keep everyone happy. Even if it meant cheating the exchequer, you did not deem it proper to do a fair analysis of the entire costing process.” Emails accessed by dna point to possible diversion of coveted IPL tickets to bureaucrats and politicians. In an email on May 13, 2014 Bansal had demanded corporate box tickets costing several lakhs for the match between Delhi and Hyderabad Sunrisers. Curiously in the same email to GMR, Bansal wrote, “Älso send 4 to 5 car park for government officials.” ANOTHER IPL SCAM IN THE MAKING? A Serious Frauds Investigation Office (SFIO) report that was flashed by AAP to target Jaitley had also flagged dealings during the IPL between GMR and DDCA. The report observed that DDCA was incurring expenses in the IPL which should have been borne by GMR and that there were proprietary issues with most expenses incurred by DDCA. The SFIO also pointed out that DDCA had incurred several lakhs in expenses relating to security, tents, printing and tickets for VIPs. The report notes, “Vouchers have been generated for purchase of IPL tickets for staff. Whereas as per clause 2 of the agreement, GMR will provide complimentary tickets/passes to DDCA for external agencies, departments and VIPs.” DDCA replied to the Investigating Officer’s allegations by saying that it had paid GMR for the free tickets to ” to promote the game of cricket and maintain healthy relations with all parties.”

Chennaiyin FC set up ISL final with Zico’s Goa | Reuters

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India’s IOC to cut diesel prices by 1 percent from Wednesday | Reuters

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Arsenal back on top as Villa capitulate again | Reuters

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Shah Rukh Khan plays it cool; says ‘nothing illegal’ in ED notice over IPL team

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Extreme babus! Central govt employees can now take part in adventure sports at taxpayers’ expense

To foster the spirit of risk-taking and team work, the Modi government has asked the 50 lakh central government employees to participate in adventure sports

Central government employees can now go skiing in the sylvan surroundings of Gulmarg or rock climbing in Manali, all while enjoying a special casual leave granted by the government which will also bear the expenses for their outing.To foster the spirit of risk-taking and team work, the Modi government has asked the 50 lakh central government employees to participate in adventure sports. The measure was also aimed at tackling “the alarming situation of stress and impact of sedentary life” on them. “It would create and foster spirit of risk taking, cooperative team work, capacity of readiness and vital response to challenging situations and endurance,” an order issued by Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) said.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>As per the scheme, the DoPT will sponsor programmes for five to seven days by six institutes–including Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports, Manali, Himachal Pradesh, Indian Institute of Skiing and Mountaineering, Gulmarg, Jammu and Kashmir, National Institute of Water Sports, Vasco da Gama, Goa and Nehru Institute of Mountaineering, Uttarkashi–for this purpose.The activities under the programme will include trekking, mountaineering, rock-climbing, cycling in a difficult terrain, skiing, surfing, boat sailing, snorkeling, rafting, parasailing, ballooning, paragliding, jungle safari, desert safari, beach trekking and environmental awareness camps.An expense of upto Rs 20,000 will be reimbursed by the government, besides grant of special casual leave to the employees to help them participate in these activities, an order issued by the Department of Personnel and Training on Friday said.Financial assistance of 100 per cent of programme fee would be provided in a calendar year to two officials of each ministry or department who have been awarded for excellence in service and nominated for the programme.

Rahane and Jadeja put India in box seat in Delhi test | Reuters

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BJP to provide viable alternative to Congress in Assam: Sarbananda? Sonowal

Sonowal was an MLA and MP in AGP before joining BJP in 2011.

Sarbananda Sonowal

Virtually anointed as the Chief Ministerial face in Assam, Union Minister Sarbananda Sonowal does not rule out a tie up with AGP in Assembly elections early next year in the state and hinted that BJP will try to rope in other small groups for an alliance.Appointed as BJP’s Assam unit Chief and head of the campaign committee, Sonowal does not want to focus on issues like who will be the chief minister and instead concentrate on ensuring victory for the party to rid “corrupt” Congress regime. “We are ready to talk to all political parties which believe in the ideology of BJP.Our main focus will be to formulate a voter friendly strategy, a viable alternative in which people get confidence and feel comfortable and BJP gets maximum votes,” he told PTI on Sunday in an interview, a day after the BJP announcement.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Sonowal, 53, was replying to a question on whether BJP will join hands with AGP to form an alliance to provide an alternative to Congress, which has been ruling the state for last 15 years. Sonowal was an MLA and MP in AGP before joining BJP in 2011. He had earlier served as BJP’s Assam unit chief in 2013-14 and under his stewardship BJP won seven out of 14 Lok Sabha seats in last Parliamentary polls.Asked whether he will be the BJP’s Chief Ministerial candidate for the coming polls, the Union Sports Minister said he was given the responsibility of state unit President and campaign committee head and he would discharge his duties with all sincerity and dedication and would not like to think about anything else. “My priority is now to take along all sections of society and BJP workers and leaders and win the election. Other issues will be decided by BJP Parliamentary Board,” he said.Sonowal, who was credited for successfully fighting in Supreme Court against a controversial central Act (IMDT), a major hurdle for detection and deportation of illegal migrants from Bangladesh, and delete it from statute book, said development through good governance and “rampant corruption” during 15 year Congress rule will be the two key poll planks in the coming assembly elections in the state. “Development of all sections of people through good governance, justice to everyone and promote value of democracy will be our main campaign theme,” he said over phone from Dibrugarh. Sonowal said young and old alike in Assam are fed up with the alleged rampant corruption of the Tarun Gogoi-led Congress government and BJP would expose how Congress leaders “looted public money” at the cost of common people. “During the 15 year of Gogoi rule, it was only Congress leaders — from ministers to Panchayat leaders — who got all the benefits while common people suffered.There is complete breakdown of administration,” he charged.The BJP leader said he would take all sections of people in both Brahmaputra and Barak valley, all leaders and workers of BJP into confidence and build a formidable team to fight the election to defeat the Congress. Election to the Assam’s 126-member assembly will be held in April-May 2016.”We will try to win heart of every citizen of Assam. We will provide a viable alternative which will be development oriented and totally corruption-free,” said Sonowal, a tribal from the Sonowal-Kachari community who was president of influential All Assam Students’ Union. He thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah for reposing faith in him and said that with the blessings of people of Assam he would try his best to bring a change in the state. Assam is the only one of the five states, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Tripura being the other four–going to the polls in 2016 where BJP is said to be in a good position to give a tough fight to ruling Congress.After winning Assembly elections in four states in 2014, the BJP has suffered massive defeats in Delhi and Bihar that has invigorated the opposition. The BJP decision appointing Sonowal state unit chief and head of campaign committee, is a break from its strategy in Bihar where it had not projected a chief ministerial candidate.It had also not formed any statewide election committee and instead put many outsiders as well as local leaders in charge of various zones. A massive loss in Bihar triggered a backlash from within the party over its campaign. Sonowal currently holds independent charge of Sports and Youths Affairs Ministry.

Delhi govt ready to host final Test but conditions apply

It has been learnt that there has been pressure from the top offices of Union government, that the match should not be shifted out of the Capital at any cost.

It appears that Delhi government under Arvind Kejriwal on Friday has come around to allow the staging of final Test between India and South Africa at the Feroz Shah Kotla ground here in the first week of December. The condition is that corrupt officials of Delhi & District Cricket Association (DDCA) should not be involved in the organisation of this match. dna reported on Thursday that the final Test of the Gandhi-Mandela Freedom Series is on the verge of being moved to Pune following the setting up of a three-member inquiry committee — comprising secretary sports Punya Salil Srivastava, principle secretary urban development Chetan Sanghi and leading Supreme Court lawyer Rahul Mehra — to investigate allegations of widespread corruption within the DDCA. The committee has been asked to submit its report within 48 hours i.e. Saturday.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>It has been learnt that there has been pressure from the top offices of Union government, that the match should not be shifted out of the Capital at any cost. Also, a meeting to thrash out the final details is being held on Saturday between the two top officials of Delhi government and Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) president Shashank Manohar in Nagpur. dna has learnt that two of the three members of the committee set up on Thursday reached Nagpur late on Friday to finalise the details of “how the match will be conducted without the involvement of DDCA’s corrupt officials”. Interestingly, Nagpur has been chosen carefully as meeting venue only to keep DDCA officials out of the scene.Delhi government has apparently has made up its mind that till the time a proper probe is held into DDCA wrongdoings, following the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the financial irregularities and the settlement of Delhi government notice of Rs 25 crore as entertainment tax, Delhi cricket administrators cannot be allowed to function. The CBI has already sent a questionnaire of 1,520 questions for clarification on some instances of money spent. Sports Bill in the offing?However, what is more worrying for the DDCA administrators is that Delhi’s ruling Aam Aadmi Party has made up its mind to bring in the “Sports Bill” in the coming winter session starting on November 18.This in order to bring in transparency in the running of sports associations.It has been learnt that Delhi government has made up its mind to bring in the Sports Bill, which is similar to the one in Rajasthan, after several rounds of consultation with administrators and former sportsmen, including the former India skipper Bishen Singh Bedi, who all were of the opinion there should be an end to increasing corruption in the selection matters in Delhi and urged the CM to somehow bring in the rule of law.A similar Sports Bill has also been passed by the neighbouring Himachal Pradesh government earlier this year (in May) and has been pending for Governor’s Acharya Devvrat assent for nearly six months. If passed, BCCI secretary Anurag Thakur could be in for serious trouble as Dharamshala Stadium land has already been under government’s scrutiny. On Friday, DDCA working president Chetan Chauhan along with several other officials again lobbied hard to try and get an audience with Kejriwal. But, instead, could only again meet the two secretaries appointed by Kejriwal.On Thursday, Delhi Ranji Trophy skipper and former India opening batsman Gautam Gambhir also expressed his frustration about leading a team without any support from the DDCA. It has been learnt that Gambhir brought out in the open his rift with the DDCA.

Bihar poll results ‘ominous’ for country: Haryana minister

The newly-formed JD(U)-RJD-Congress alliance secured 178 seats in the 243-member House. RJD made a resounding comeback on Bihar’s political stage and emerged the leader of the pack with 80 seats while JD(U) bagged 71. Congress also made impressive gains winning 27 seats out of 41.

Senior Haryana minister Anil Vij on Tuesday cautioned that the Bihar election outcome was ‘ashubh’ (ominous) for the country, claiming caste politics triumphed over India’s unity, integrity and development in the eastern state.”Bihar chunav mein jaatiwadi rajneeti jeet gayee aur ekta akhandta vikas haar gaya. Desh key liyee bahut ashubh hein! Savdhan! (In Bihar polls, caste politics won and unity, integrity and development got defeated… It’s very ominous for the country. Cauntion!),” Vij, Haryana Health Minister and five-time BJP MLA from Ambala Cantt, tweeted.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The ‘grand alliance’ of JD(U), RJD and Congress routed the BJP-led NDA to score a landslide two-thirds majority in the Bihar Assembly giving Chief Minister Nitish Kumar a third term in office in a battle in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi staked his all.The newly-formed JD(U)-RJD-Congress alliance secured 178 seats in the 243-member House. RJD made a resounding comeback on Bihar’s political stage and emerged the leader of the pack with 80 seats while JD(U) bagged 71. Congress also made impressive gains winning 27 seats out of 41.Vij, known for his bold tweets and outspoken nature, has even left his party, government and Chief Minister Khattar embarrassed on several occasions.Recently, Vij had asked the Centre to declare cow as national animal and even begun an online poll on whether the bovine should replace Royal Bengal Tiger as national animal.He has reasoned that the cow needs protection as the tiger can protect itself.In July, the minister took the Twitter route to express his displeasure over the state government bypassing him and appointing Bollywood actress Parineeti Chopra as the state’s brand ambassador for ‘Beti Bachao-Beti Padhao’ campaign.”I do not have any information of anybody appointed Brand Ambassador of my department for Beti Bachao programme,” he had then tweeted.In another tweet in February this year, Vij said: “Thank You Chief Minister For Taking Keen Interest into My Departments. I am Relaxed.” The minister was apparently upset with Khattar showing “interest” in departments handled by him.Vij is also the Sports and Youth Affairs Minister in the BJP government in Haryana, which was formed after the party came to power for the first time in state’s nearly five-decade history wresting power from the Congress in the polls in October last year.

Karnataka Minister K Abhayachandra Jain gets threat call

Jain, the Sports and Fisheries minister, in his complaint to police said a person identifying himself as gangster Ravi Poojary called him yesterday and alleged that he (the minister) was involved in the murder of Bajrang Dal worker Prashant Poojary and that he would kill him, police said.

Karnataka Minister K Abhayachandra Jain has received a threat call in connection with the recent murder of a Bajrang Dal activist who was involved in busting illegal slaughter houses, police said on Sunday.Jain, the Sports and Fisheries minister, in his complaint to police said a person identifying himself as gangster Ravi Poojary called him yesterday and alleged that he (the minister) was involved in the murder of Bajrang Dal worker Prashant Poojary and that he would kill him, police said.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>When Jain denied the charge, the caller alleged that the Minister and district-in-charge Minister Ramanath Rai were involved in the October 9 murder of Poojary. Jain told the police that the caller spoke in Hindi and English.Besides lodging a complaint, Jain said he also informed Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and Home Minister K J George.Police Commissioner S Murugan visited Jain’s house here and additional security had been posted there in view of the threat, police said.29-year-old Poojary, involved in busting illegal slaughter houses, was murdered by a six-member bike-borne gang at Moodibidri here, about two weeks after Mohammad Akhlaq was lynched by a mob at Dadri in Uttar Pradesh over beef eating rumours that led to a nation-wide outrage.BJP has accused the Congress government of negligence in unearthing the ‘conspiracy’ behind Poojary’s murder and demanded a CBI probe.Police have so far arrested nine persons in connection with the murder.

Joy for Wenger, gloom for Mourinho as Arsenal go top | Reuters

LONDON Bitter rivals Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho had wildly contrasting afternoons on Saturday as Arsenal went top of the Premier League and champions Chelsea lost again with their manager being sent off.

Wenger, once dubbed “a specialist in failure” by the Chelsea boss, punched the air in delight after Arsenal beat Everton 2-1 at a rain-lashed Emirates Stadium.

Mourinho, however, failed to show up at his post-match news conference after the Stamford Bridge club slumped to sixth from bottom following a 2-1 defeat at London rivals West Ham United.

On another bleak day for Chelsea they finished with 10 men after having Serbia midfielder Nemanja Matic sent off. The mood of the visitors was not helped at a wet Upton Park when Cesc Fabregas had a first-half goal harshly disallowed for offside.

Arsenal won their fourth successive league match after headers from Olivier Giroud and Laurent Koscielny in a three-minute spell in the first half helped them go top for the first time since February 2014.

They have 22 points from 10 games and will stay at the summit until at least Sunday when Manchester City, second on 21, play Manchester United, fourth on 19, at Old Trafford.

Chelsea’s fifth league defeat of the season meant West Ham finished the day in third place on 20 points after a venemous first-half shot into the bottom corner from Mauro Zarate and a late header from substitute Andy Carroll gave them victory.

Gary Cahill briefly drew Chelsea level with a close-range shot in the 56th minute after referee Jon Moss had ordered Mourinho to the stands when the outspoken Portuguese had approached him at halftime.

“The mood in the dressing room is not great, like you’d imagine when you lose games,” Cahill told the BBC. “The lads are devastated.

“You’re left scratching your head sometimes. In the first half the Fabregas goal could have been given and we had the goal that was nearly over the line. That sums up the way we’re going.”

Cahill was referring to a first-half header from Kurt Zouma that went within millimetres of a goal.

Chelsea’s defeat summed up Mourinho’s season.

CONTROVERSIAL INCIDENTS

Since falling out with former first team doctor Eva Carneiro on the opening day, he has been involved in several other controversial incidents.

Last week Mourinho was fined 50,000 pounds ($76,560) by the FA for comments he made about referees when Chelsea lost at home to Southampton on Oct. 3.

Mourinho, who sat in the directors’ box until eight minutes from time at Upton Park, is now facing another FA fine for not speaking to the media and a fresh punishment for being sent from the dugout.

While the Portuguese was a picture of abject misery, Wenger ended the day with a broad grin.

The Frenchman was delighted his team won again following their 2-0 victory over Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Tuesday.

“When you win such a big game like Tuesday night and you can win again straight after, it tells you a lot about the mentality of your team,” said Wenger.

Everton’s Romelu Lukaku hit the bar and former England midfielder Gareth Barry was shown a late red card but Arsenal were good value for their win.

Ross Barkley was on target for Everton in the 44th minute.

Elsewhere, Leicester City beat Crystal Palace 1-0 to stay fifth with England striker Jamie Vardy scoring for the seventh successive league match.

Swansea City won 2-1 at struggling Aston Villa with goals from Gylfi Sigurdsson and Andre Ayew while West Bromwich Albion triumphed 1-0 at Norwich City thanks to Salomon Rondon’s effort.

Troy Deeney and Almen Abdi struck in Watford’s 2-0 victory at Stoke City.

($1 = 0.6531 pounds)

(Editing by Tony Jimenezs)

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

‘Run for unity’ likely to be flagged off by PM Modi on October 31

Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Friday chaired a meeting and reviewed the preparation of the events along with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and senior officials of different government ministries and departments.
File Photo
AFP photo
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to flag off a ‘run for unity’ on October 31 as part of tribute to country’s first Home Minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel on his birth anniversary.The day, observed as ‘Ekta Divas’, will begin with paying tribute to the statute of Sardar at Patel Chowk, located on the Parliament Street in New Delhi, by the top leadership of the government. The function will be followed by the ‘run for unity’ that will start from Vijay Chowk to India gate. The Prime Minister is expected to flag off the run, a Home Ministry official said.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Friday chaired a meeting and reviewed the preparation of the events along with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and senior officials of different government ministries and departments.

Sachin on song: Tendulkar lends his voice to Swachh Bharat anthem

New Delhi: Cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar has lent his voice to Swachh Bharat anthem, created under a government initiative to make the “Clean India” campaign a public movement.

The anthem, composed by musical trio Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy and sung by Shankar Mahadevan and others, will be released on October 2, marking one year of the launch of Swachh Bharat campaign on Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary.

Celebrities have come together to create a Swachh Bharat anthem aimed at enthusing and inspiring citizens to join hands in realising the collective dream of a “clean India”, said a senior Urban Development Ministry official.

They have responded enthusiastically to the Prime Minister’s call for a “jan andolan” (public movement) to make the Swachh
Bharat Mission successful, he added.

The anthem song written by lyricist Prasoon Joshi will also feature a video being produced by Mukesh Bhatt.

Tendulkar has contributed to this endeavour by reciting a few lines that will feature in the anthem, as well as providing various musical suggestions for the recording.

The audio of the song is expected to be released on the eve of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary.

PTI

Mamma Mia! Pennetta wins U.S. Open, then retires | Reuters

NEW YORK Flavia Pennetta won her first grand slam singles title over Roberta Vinci in an improbable all-Italian U.S. Open final on Saturday then added one more shock to a stunning fortnight by announcing her retirement.

With the 7-6(4) 6-2 win, the 33-year-old Pennetta becomes the fourth oldest grand slam winner in the Open Era and joins 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone as the only Italian women to win a major singles title.

But as the celebrations kicked into high gear, Pennetta dropped a bombshell that provided a dramatic finish to the year’s final grand slam and her career.

After embracing childhood friend and Fed Cup team mate Vinci at the net a smiling Pennetta stood at center court during the trophy presentation and told a capacity crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium that included Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi that she would retire.

“This is the way I would like to say goodbye to tennis,” she said before hoisting the trophy and accepting the $3.3 million winner’s check. “I’m really happy. It’s what all the players seem to want to do, to go out with this big trophy.

“And so this one was my last match at the U.S. Open and I couldn’t think to finish a better way.”

Pennetta’s surprise announcement provided a jaw-dropping finish to a grand slam packed with surprises.

She said it was a decision she made a month ago when a grand slam triumph would have seemed improbable and suggested fate may have played a part in her grand slam goodbye.

“Maybe that is why I am here today,” Pennetta said while embracing the trophy. “I was trying to play every match like it was my last one. Trying to play best all the time.

“For me it is easy to practice and stay in this life but sometimes it is hard to compete.

“It will be a new life for me, I played tennis since I was young.”

BREATHTAKING UPSETS

The unlikely final was set up by breathtaking upsets as unseeded Vinci knocked off world number one Serena Williams in the semi-finals to end the 33-year-old American’s quest for a calendar year Grand Slam. [ID:nL4N11H59F]

Pennetta’s path to the final included two huge hurdles which she cleared with confidence, taking down Czech fifth seed Petra Kvitova in the quarter-finals and Romanian second seed Simona Halep in the semi-finals.

“Miracles can happen. Because I beat Serena, miracle,” said Vinci. “And then two Italians can reach the Grand Slam final, a miracle.”

While the all-Italian final was greeted by a big yawn in the Big Apple, Italy was gripped in tennis hysteria as the sport made front page headlines and convinced Renzi to drop his busy schedule and fly to New York.

Since Williams’s triumph at Wimbledon in July, the buildup to the U.S. Open had focused almost entirely on the American’s bid to become just the fourth woman and first since 1988 to complete the calendar slam.

Her surprise semi-final exit took much of the buzz out of the tournament and triggered an immediate collapse in ticket prices for the women’s final.

According to ticket aggregator SeatGeek, the median price for tickets to the final on the secondary market had risen to more than $1,500 when Williams reached the semi-final but plunged below $500 following her loss on Friday.

The match between best friends and former doubles partners who first played each other when they were nine years old got off to a predictably cautious start for two players competing in their first grand slam final.

Showing signs of nerves, Pennetta and Vinci seemed content to battle from the baseline, trading early breaks as the first set went to tiebreak.

After winning the tiebreak and sensing the title was within her grasp, Pennetta broke Vinci at the first opportunity en route to 4-0 lead before clinching the match with a final service break.

“We spent so much time together, we moved to Rome together when we were 13-, 14-years-old and stayed in the same room for four years,” said Pennetta. “It is like a sister, it is so magical you have one of your best friends with you in this moment.”

(Editing by Frank Pingue)

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

Controversy as Australia go 2-0 up in one-day series | Reuters

LONDON Australia thumped England by 64 runs to go 2-0 ahead in the five-match series of one-day internationals although victory came with a large slice of controversy at Lord’s on Saturday.

England were 141 for three, chasing a daunting 310 to win, when Ben Stokes was given out by the TV umpire for 10 ‘obstructing the field’ for stopping paceman Mitchell Starc’s shy at the stumps with his left glove while out of his crease.

It was harsh on Stokes as he appeared to be acting more in self-defence than trying to prevent being run out.

The all-rounder had joined captain Eoin Morgan in the middle after James Taylor’s promising innings of 43 ended when he nicked a Mitchell Marsh delivery to wicketkeeper Matthew Wade.

The Stokes decision, and another middle-order collapse that included a duck for Jos Buttler and Moeen Ali’s cheap dismissal, left England in trouble but a riled Morgan responded in dazzling fashion with a flurry of huge hits before holing for 85 to end the match.

Pat Cummins had the England skipper caught by Glenn Maxwell as the paceman finished with figures of four for 56.

Morgan was clearly angry, with the performance of his outplayed team and with opposing captain Steven Smith for not withdrawing the Stokes appeal.

“If the guy throws the ball in your direction from five yards then all you can do is flinch, you don’t have time to think,” said Morgan.

“The decision was made and I certainly feel it would have been different if we were fielding.”

After a rain-delayed start that reduced the match to 49 overs per side, Australia suffered an early blow when opener David Warner was struck on the thumb by a venemous Steven Finn ball in the opening over and was forced off.

Warner suffered a fracture and will miss the last three matches.

Finn bowled Joe Burns through the gate for 22 before George Bailey and Smith set about building a solid platform.

The pair had put on 99 for the second wicket when Bailey went for 54, bowled by a Moeen delivery that turned sharply.

Smith was out for 70 but his dismissal merely released Australia’s big hitters and Maxwell, Marsh and Shane Watson smashed England’s bowlers all round the ground as 96 runs came off the last 10 overs.

Marsh was particularly cavalier, belting seven fours and three sixes in a 31-ball 64 before being caught off the last delivery of the innings.

Stokes was the pick of England’s attack with three for 60.

(Reporting by Martyn Herman,; Editing by Tony Jimenez)

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

dna Must Reads: From ceasefire violation to Sania Mirza’s Khel Ratna- Here are top 5 stories at 9 am

Here is a list of top 5 curated stories at 9am. This will get you u with major happenings across the world in the last few hours.

Here is a list of top 5 curated stories at 9am. This will get you u with major happenings across the world in the last few hours. 1. US asks Pakistan to show ‘restraint’ in expanding nuclear powerThe US has asked Pakistan and all other nuclear-armed countries to exercise “restraint” in expanding their nuclear capabilities after two American think-tanks said Pakistan could have the third largest stockpile of atomic weapons in about a decade. Read More <!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>
2. Jammu and Kashmir: One civilian killed, eight others injured as Pakistan violates ceasefireA civilian was killed and eight others were injured in an overnight firing by Pakistani troops in RS Pura sector of Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistani troops used small arms and heavy mortar shelling to target several border ports in the RS Pura and Arnia sectors in Jammu. Read More
3. Sania Mirza will get Khel Ratna on August 29 as scheduled: officialThe Sports Ministry has decided to go ahead with it’s original decision to confer the prestigious Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award on Sania Mirza on August 29. This, despite the Karnataka High Court issuing notices to the government and tennis ace over the petition filed by Paralympian HN Girisha, who has challenged the recommendation of the awards selection panel. Read More 4. Australia beat feisty Ireland in rain-curtailed ODIWorld champions Australia beat Ireland by 23 runs under the Duckworth/Lewis method for rain-affected matches in their lone one-day international in Belfast on Thursday.David Warner top-scored with 84 and fellow opener Joe Burns made 69 on ODI debut in what was Steven Smith’s first match as full-time Australia captain following the retirement of Michael Clarke. Read More 5. Fake notes, counterfeits are on the rise, says RBI’s annual reportFake notes are on the rise in India. In fiscal 2014-15, counterfeit notes in circulation rose 22% to 5,94,446 pieces, according to the Reserve Bank of India’s annual reportThese are counterfeit notes that were detected in the banking system. While 95.6% of these notes were detected by commercial banks, 4.4% were detected at RBI offices. Read More

Now, Haryana minister questions word ‘adhinayak’ in national anthem

Rajasthan Governor Kalyan Singh had recently demanded removal of the word from the national anthem and suggested that it be replaced with ‘mangal’ (happiness)

Indian flag

PTI photo
Haryana Minister Anil Vij today questioned the presence of word ‘adhinayak’ in the national anthem and sought a debate on it, insisting it was like praising a dictator.”We have full respect for the national anthem, but which ‘adhinayaka’ are we praising in this, till date I have not been able to understand this,” the outspoken Health and Sports Minister said on microblogging website Twitter.Later, when contacted, Vij said, “I feel time has come that a national debate should take place on this”.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Adhinayaka ka matlab hota hein tanashah (the word adhinayak means a dictator). In democracy, there is no place for a dictator,” the five-time BJP MLA from Ambala Cantonment told PTI.”Jan-Gan-Man adhinayak jai hey… who is this ‘adhinayak’?,” he wanted to know and said a “healthy debate” on the issue was necessary.Rajasthan Governor Kalyan Singh had recently demanded removal of the word from the national anthem and suggested that it be replaced with ‘mangal’ (happiness). He had contended that the word ‘adhinayak’ in the anthem was meant to extol the then “Angreji Shashak”.

Non-bailable arrest warrant issued against former IPL chief Lalit Modi

Mumbai: A special court for Prevention of Money Laundering Act here today issued a non-bailable arrest warrant (NBW) against former IPL boss Lalit Modi in connection with a case of money laundering following a plea by the Enforcement Directorate.

“Your (ED’s) application is allowed,” said Special Judge P R Bhavake while issuing the NBW.

File picture of Lalit Modi. GettyFile picture of Lalit Modi. Getty

File picture of Lalit Modi. Getty

ED had moved the special court last week seeking NBW against Modi after he did not respond to summons sent to him.

According to ED sources, this warrant will be sent to the Ministry of External Affairs which in turn will be sending it to the United Kingdom. Lalit Modi left the country shortly after the ED began its probe against him in 2009.

However, getting the NBW order did not come easy for the probe agency as the judge first questioned ED’s delay in seeking the NBW and later raised the jurisdictional issue too.

The court also wanted to know why the agency was not arresting him and had sought the NBW, and whether a warrant can be issued during the investigation.

Last month, the court had issued Letters Rogatory (LR) to Singapore and Mauritius, seeking assistance in the case.

BCCI had registered an FIR in Chennai against Lalit Modi in 2010 under the IPC with regard to a deal between MSM Singapore (which owns the channel Sony) and WSG media, a sports marketing and event management company.

In 2008, BCCI awarded 10-year media rights to WSG for USD 918 million. WSG then entered into a deal with MSM to make Sony the official broadcaster. The contract was replaced later with a nine-year deal where MSM paid USD 1.63 billion.

In 2009, the ED started a probe under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) to investigate allegations that payment of Rs 425 crore facilitation fees by MSM Singapore to WSG Mauritius was made in an unauthorised manner.

On Tuesday, ED’s lawyer Hiten Venegoankar said that since Lalit Modi was not available in India, hence an NBW should be issued. Modi had not complied with the summonses issued to him since 2009, he had claimed.

The judge had asked if Lalit Modi was an accused before the court as ED had not filed a charge sheet against him. For issuance of NBW, the person should be an accused before the court, judge Bhavake had said.

The ED lawyer said the case was at the stage of pre-investigation and the Supreme Court had said in a previous ruling that NBW can be issued during investigation.

Last month, the court had issued letters rogatory (LR) to Singapore and Mauritius, seeking assistance from authorities there in the case.

PTI

Copy modified with latest updates

Mumbai court issues non-bailable warrant against former IPL boss Lalit Modi

Mumbai: Special court in Mumbai on Wednesday issued a non-bailable warrant against former IPL boss Lalit Modi in charges related to money laundering based on Enforcement Directorate’s plea. The warrant will now be sent to United Kingdom’s Ministry of Home Affairs, according to media reports.

The special court for Prevention of Money Laundering Act cases had on Tuesday reserved its order.

ED moved the court last week seeking an NBW after Modi did not respond to the summons sent to him.

File picture of Lalit Modi. GettyFile picture of Lalit Modi. Getty

File picture of Lalit Modi. Getty

Special judge P R Bhavake on Tuesday sought to know why the agency was not arresting him and had sought NBW and whether a warrant can be issued during the investigation.

ED’s lawyer Hiten Venegoankar said Lali Modi was not available in India, hence an NBW should be issued. Modi had not complied with the summonses issued to him since 2009, he claimed.

The judge asked if Modi was an accused before the court as ED had not filed a charge sheet against him. For issuance of NBW, the person should be an accused before the court, judge Bhavake remarked.

The ED lawyer said the case was at the stage of pre-investigation and the Supreme Court had said in a previous ruling that NBW can be issued during the investigation.

Last month, the court had issued letters rogatory (LR) to Singapore and Mauritius, seeking assistance from authorities there in the case.

BCCI registered an FIR in Chennai against Modi in 2010. In 2008, the cricket body had awarded 10-year media rights to WSG for USD 918 million. WSG then entered into a deal with MSM to make Sony the official broadcaster. The contract was replaced later with a nine-year deal where MSM paid WSG USD 1.63 billion.

In 2009, ED started a probe under Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) to investigate the allegation that payment of Rs 425 crore facilitation fee by MSM Singapore to WSG Mauritius had been made in an unauthorised manner.

With inputs from PTI

Kailash Satyarthi urges youth to join in campaign against child labour

Union Minister of State for Sports and Youth Welfare Sarbananda Sonowal said the country has a huge youth power that can put India as a force to be reckoned with.

AFP
Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi on Monday called upon the youth to join him in his “ambitious campaign of protecting 100 bilion left out children”.”Youths have the power to bring about changes in the world and to free bonded child labourers from the clutches of traffickers”, Satyarthi said while delivering the K K Handique Memorial lecture on ”Role of Youths in protecting world”s left out children”. He urged youths to make use of social media to fight for the rights of the bonded and left out children.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Your anger must be ventilated in a constructive and positive manner for the protection of bonded child labour and left out children,” he added. He further called upon universities to bring in innovations to maintain excellence in education. “Education must be qualitative, inclusive and ensure equity, besides bringing employability and entrepreneurship,” he added.Union Minister of State for Sports and Youth Welfare Sarbananda Sonowal said the country has a huge youth power that can put India as a force to be reckoned with. Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, who was the chief guest on the occasion, said education plays a pivotal role in resolving the problems of children and can bring about a turnaround in all spheres of life.

Not just Lalit Modi: BCCI, Srinivasan, Sundar Raman are ED targets too

The image currently being painted of Lalit Modi as a one-man violator of laws is a fake.

A basic reading of the Enforcement Directorate notices that Lalit has posted on his website prima facie indicts a whole host of people from within and without the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) for violating the Foreign Exchange Management Act (Fema).

One name that comes up repeatedly is former BCCI President N Srinivasan, who is Lalit’s bete noire. But while Lalit was banished from the board and fled to London, Srinivasan rose to become BCCI president before the Supreme Court stepped in last year and said he couldn’t be president and own an IPL team too due to conflicts of interest (which was obvious to everyone but Srinivasan and the BCCI).

Lalit Modi is being unfairly singled out. Getty SportsLalit Modi is being unfairly singled out. Getty Sports

Lalit Modi is being unfairly singled out. Getty Sports

Another name that pops up more than once is that of Sundar Raman, who was the IPL’s chief operating officer under Lalit, and continued to be so under Srinivasan. He still continues in that role.

The most strident charge against Lalit involves the BCCI, Multi-Screen Media (MSM), the World Sport Group (WSG) and the rights to the IPL. This is the case that features in the so-called facilitation fee of Rs 425 crore that MSM paid WSG to acquire the rights to IPL for the Indian subcontinent from 2009 to 2017.

Srinivasan claimed that Lalit hid the details of the deal from the board, but the ED found otherwise. It states clearly in its notice dated 19 January, 2015, that aside from Lalit, Srinivasan and Sundar Raman were acquainted with the details of the “Deed for provision of Facilitation Services”.

“Shri N Srinivasan, Lalit Kumar Modi, Paul Manning [of IMG] and Sundar Raman were in-charge of and responsible to the BCCI for the conduct of its business pertaining to the said transaction,” and thereby contravened the abovesaid provisions of Section 3(d) of FEMA, 1999 and rendered themselves liable to be proceeded under Section 13 of Fema, 1999”, the report states.

The list of names doesn’t end there either. Others the ED consider to be in violation of the act include NP Singh and Man Jit Singh, the current CEO and non-executive chairman of MSM respectively, as well as WSG CEO Andrew Georgiou and Venu Nair, their South Asia head.

Their organisations – the BCCI, The World Sport Group (Mauritius) and MSM Satellite (Singapore) – don’t escape censure either. They all “appear to have contravened the provisions of section 3(d) of Fema, 1999, and thereby rendered themselves liable to be proceeded under Section 13 of Fema, 1999,” says the report.

The issue is further complicated because MSM filed a case in the Bombay High Court against WSG in 2010 to recover the money paid to them (Rs 125 crore of Rs 425 crore), but the Indian Supreme Court ruled in January 2014 that the dispute should be handled by arbitration in Singapore, which is what the contract between the two parties calls for.

If the arbitrator rules that the fee was a legitimate business transaction, then the BCCI’s case against Lalit would collapse like a stack of matches in a blizzard.

Yet somehow nobody is talking about all this.

Another example is the charge that the BCCI transferred foreign exchange illegally to South Africa in 2009, when the IPL was moved out of India. The notice finds fault with the BCCI, then president Shashank Manohar, Srinivasan, Sundar Raman, then chief administrative officer Ratnakar Shetty, MP Pandove, the treasurer at the time, Prasanna Kannan, an India Cements employee who was working for Raman, and Nazeer Khan, the chief manager of the Jaipur Branch of the State Bank of Travancore, which conducted the transaction.

This is in addition to indicting the BCCI and the State Bank. That’s a whole lot of people who are going unnoticed for the same crimes that Lalit is supposed to have committed.

The BCCI may cry itself hoarse about how Lalit pulled the wool over its eyes but that is actually the BCCI trying to obfuscate the issue. The truth of the matter is probably that the BCCI was happy to endorse whatever Lalit was doing until the other power brokers in the board decided he was getting too big and had to fail.

If Lalit Modi is guilt of any of these violations, at the very least so is the BCCI, Srinivasan, Sundar Raman and a host of others. This witch hunt of one man ought to end. The only purpose it serves is disguise the real state of affairs.

Veteran Paes reaches century of doubles partners | Reuters

LONDON India’s Leander Paes says chemistry is the most important factor when choosing a doubles partner and he should know, having now experimented with 100 different players.

Teaming up with Spain’s Marcel Granollers at the Nottingham grasscourt tournament this week meant veteran Paes, a doubles specialist, reached the century milestone in men’s doubles.

Some might raise their eyebrows and suggest Paes just struggles to commit, but constant hopping about between different partners is actually not that unusual.

He is the 47th player to notch up 100 different partners but few can boast his success rate.

Eight grand slam men’s doubles titles and seven mixed doubles crowns have earned him a tidy fortune and the 42-year-old is still going strong, reaching the Nottingham quarter-finals as he warms up for Wimbledon.

“It means I’ve had a very long career,” Paes, who reached 700 match wins recently at the French Open, told ATPWorldTour.com on Wednesday.

“It’s quite intriguing in an individual sport like tennis to have actually had that many doubles partners.

“I always try to learn new tricks and keep reinventing myself. It’s been a very blessed journey to go through 25 years and 100 partners.”

Paes has completed the career grand slam in doubles and won the first two of his eight men’s doubles majors (the French Open and Wimbledon in 1999) with compatriot Mahesh Bhupathi.

He also played with Bhupathi to win the 2001 French Open but has since found Czech mates in the form of Martin Damm, Lukas Dlouhy and Radek Stepanek to win his other men’s doubles majors.

“I put a lot of homework into choosing a partner,” Paes, who had Martina Hingis by his side to win this year’s Australian Open mixed title, said. “I like to choose someone whose skill set is my weaknesses and my skill set is their weaknesses.

“I’ve been very good at understanding the strengths and weaknesses of a human being and what I focus on is adapting myself.”

If Paes is to match the 144 partners of record holder amongst active players Frank Moser, however, there will be no settling down any time soon, although when it comes to making relationships work he seems to have the key.

“The best partnerships are the ones where there is a lot of give and take, where there is good communication and chemistry other than the tennis skill set,” he said.

Granollers will be ditched after Nottingham when Paes reunites with Daniel Nestor.

(Reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by Toby Davis)

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

Wait, what? Tennis legend Steffi Graff is Kerala Ayurveda’s brand ambassador

Tennis legend Steffi Graf has been appointed as the Ayurveda brand ambassador of God’s Own Country Kerala.

A decision in this regard was taken by the cabinet on Wednesday, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said.

SteffiGraf380_AFPSteffiGraf380_AFPThe Kerala tourism department was given sanction to sign an agreement with Graf to become Ayurveda brand ambassador as part of the department’s ‘Visit Kerala Scheme’, Chandy said.

“The sanction has been given for the tourism department to see that talks are held with her agents to ensure she endorses Kerala Tourism and ayurveda,” he told reporters here after the weekly cabinet meeting.

The tourism department had already held discussions and reached an agreement with the German former World number one tennis player, who had bagged 22 Grand slam single titles.

Graf, a former World No.1, will be roped in for the ‘Visit Kerala’ Season of Surprises 2015-16.

The 46-year-old Graf, who retired in 1999, married former World No. 1 men’s tennis player Andre Agassi in October 2001.

Kerala’s Ayurveda, an ancient system of health care which is famous for its holistic effect on body and mind, attracts large number of people from the country and abroad every year.

Agencies

Vasundhara Raje took my wife to Portugal: Everything Lalit Modi said in his explosive interview

After his lawyer’s press conference, former IPL chief Lalit Modi for the first time spoke to India Today‘s Rajdeep Sardesai spoke about the entire controversy surrounding his travel documents that were approved by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

Here’s the major highlights:

A screengrab from the interviewA screengrab from the interview

A screengrab from the interview

About knowing the Swaraj-s and asking Sushma for help

The former IPL chief admitted that he had asked for the External Affairs Minister’s assistance in getting travel documents.

“I did ask her(Swaraj) help,” Modi said, adding that he would have made a similar plea to any other External Affairs Minister in office.

“It was a family, a legal whatever you may call it. We were very close. But the point is not that. I am very close to a lot of politicians, not only Mrs Swaraj,” Modi said.

He also said that he had known the family for years.

“I know Swaraj Kaushal (Sushma’s husband) for 20 years. He has been my advocate for 20 years. His daughter Bansuri had been my advocate for four years,” he said.

He also pointed out that Swaraj’s husband and daughter had provided legal services free of cost.

“Raje and Sushma supported me when my wife was sick,” he said.

About Vasundhara Raje being closer to him than Sushma Swaraj

After releasing documents to show that his travel documents were backed by Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, he said as much during the interview as well.

“My wife was being taken to Portugal by whom, by Mrs Vasundhara Raje. Nobody knows that, I am putting that on record now,” Modi said, adding she accompanied his wife Minal in 2012 and 2013.

“My relationship with Vasundhara Raje goes back 30 years. That relationship is known to everybody. She is a close friend of the family and my wife for a long time…She openly agreed to be (to be a witness), but unfortunately by the time the case went to trial, she was already chief Minister, so she did not come to become a witness. The statements she gave is all on records in the courts.”

The document had a confidentiality clause in which Raje purportedly supported Modi’s case but did not want it to be revealed to Indian authorities. And expectedly, Raje had no intention of verifying Modi’s claims.

“Of course I know the family. I have always known them…(But) I do not know what documents they are talking about,” she told reporters in Jaipur.

About knowing other politicians

Lalit Modi told India Today he was also helped by NCP leaders Sharad Pawar and Praful Patel and Congress leader Rajiv Shukla.

Shukla said he had not talked to Modi for three years while Pawar said he tried to convince the former IPL chief to return to India and face investigations.

However, Modi maintained that he hadn’t travelled to India because of security concerns.

About holidaying in Ibiza after cancer treatment

Asked about his holiday in the famous Ibiza resort three days after the surgery of his wife, Modi said the family decided to celebrate because the “revolutionary treatment” received at the Portugal medical centre helped her because the liver cancer she was suffering from was in the final stage.

How Rupert Murdoch’s behind the present controversy

Modi said that media baron Rupert Murdoch was behind the entire controversy. The Sunday Times reported the emails between Swaraj and UK MP Keith Vaz, and according to Modi, it was done because of the involvement in the Champions Twenty20 League.

According to Modi, Murdoch wanted to get out of the broadcasting rights of the loss-making league and was afraid that the former IPL chief would reveal that he was “going to tell about the no-exit clause.”

About ‘living life Kingsize’ in the face of controversy

“You know the slogan ‘live life kingsize’ was coined by Four Square which is one of my brands. So I am living life Kingsize and why not? At the end I have done nothing wrong. At the end, I have gone by the book, I have paid my dues.”

The former IPL chief said that he had been taken to task by the Indian government for no reason at all.

About staying cool despite possibly costing ministers their jobs

“I am not cool and calm about someone doing an honest day’s job and losing their job. Mr Shashi Tharoor who lost his job, lost his job because he lied,” Modi said.

Tharoor was proven to be guilty and that’s why he lost his job, Modi said.

“If they have supported me as someone who has gone through tremendous wrong by different people. All I did, my wife was very sick, and I appealed to them for their help to ensure that I could go and be with her.

On P Chidambaram hounding him

The former IPL chairman claimed that he had been paid damages because of the Indian government’s actions against him and claimed that it was Finance Minister P Chidambaram who was targeting him.

It’s P. Chidambaram…Mr. P. Chidambaram was the person who tried to deport me to India,” Modi claimed, adding that he had done it as vendetta.

“He could not do it because there were no legal grounds to do it. Mr. Chidambaram only tried to do it because he sat there as a minister. Because I took Mr. Shashi Tharoor out. It was a political vendetta and only a political vendetta. There is not a single show cause notice against me,” he said.

About getting travel documents

The former IPL chief denied that he had ever fled from the Indian justice system and said that his bid for residency in the UK had been scotched by the UPA government which had intervened.

“I went through the court systems of India. I could have got a passport of any country in the world. There were many jurisdictions available to me then as they are now to get a passport…I could have easily given up right as an Indian citizen and taken another passport and I did not do that for one reason and one reason alone. I wanted to prove to everybody that I am going to fight this because my passport was wrongly taken,” he said.

with inputs from PTI

FIFA shelves bidding for 2026 World Cup, seeks Blatter replacement | Reuters

SAMARA, Russia Scandal-plagued FIFA postponed the bidding for the right to host the 2026 World Cup on Wednesday and embarked on the search to find a replacement for outgoing President Sepp Blatter.

FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke said during an event in Russia that it would be “nonsense” to start the bidding process for the tournament for the time being.

Meanwhile, FIFA said its executive committee would hold an extraordinary meeting in July to discuss “various dates options” for the Congress which will elect Blatter‘s replacement.

The FBI are investigating bribery and corruption at FIFA, including scrutiny of how soccer’s governing body awarded World Cup hosting rights to Russia, which won the bidding for 2018, and Qatar, which is due to host the finals in 2022.

The extent of the turmoil engulfing FIFA was apparent in an emotional outburst by the usually composed Valcke, who said he was being destroyed by the media in his native France and gave a theatrical defence of his decision to sign off on a $10 million payment at the centre of the U.S. bribery investigation.

Waving his pen in front of journalists, a visibly impatient Valcke asked: “You want me to take this pen and to hit my head and say ‘Hey! I have been stupid, I should have asked many more questions?”

“You have decided that after Blatter I have to be next head to be cut?” Valcke said at a news conference in the Russian city of Samara, one of the 2018 host venues.

Blatter tendered his resignation on June 2, four days after having been re-elected for a fifth term.

He wants to remain in office until his successor is elected in order to carry out reforms at FIFA. But there have been widespread calls for him to step down at once given the gravity of the crisis facing the 111-year-old organisation.

His announcement came less than a week after Swiss police staged a dawn raid on a luxury hotel in Zurich and arrested several officials on corruption charges filed by U.S. prosecutors in New York.

On the 2026 World Cup, Valcke said: “Due to the situation, I think it’s nonsense to start any bidding process for the time being. It will be postponed.”

The decision on who hosts the 2026 finals had been due to be made in Kuala Lumpur in 2017.

RUSSIA SEES NO THREAT

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said he saw no threat to Russia hosting the cup in 2018 and its bid was in line with the law.

Valcke, Blatter’s right-hand man, said Russia’s plans were on track and there had been nothing in its bid to suggest it was not in line with the regulations.

In Paris, UEFA president Michel Platini, holding his first news conference since Blatter’s resignation, welcomed the decision to postpone the bidding for 2026.

“It’s normal. There was a process that was launched for a vote in 2017,” said Platini, who has become a leading critic of Blatter and FIFA. “There is no leadership at the moment, so it’s normal that it’s suspended. It’s good.”

The German Football Association meanwhile came up with a radical plan for reform of FIFA that is likely to be resisted by many of FIFA’s members outside Europe.

Its president, Wolfgang Niersbach, said Blatter was not doing himself or football any favours by staying on.

Niersbach demanded a clean-up at FIFA, with an end to corruption and greater transparency. He also said FIFA’s voting structure should be based on the “size and sporting relevance” of its member federations.

At present, each of FIFA’s 209 members has a vote, giving soccer powerhouses Germany and Brazil the same influence as tiny Pacific islands.

On Blatter’s replacement, FIFA would not confirm a report by the BBC that the election would take place on Dec. 16 in Zurich.

Last week, Domenico Scala, head of FIFA’s audit and compliance committee and the man responsible for overseeing the election, said it could take place any time between December and March. Four months’ notice are needed for a presidential election to be held.

“It requires an extraordinary Executive Committee that needs to confirm a date and agenda for the extraordinary elective Congress,” a FIFA spokesperson said in a statement to Reuters.

“This extraordinary Executive Committee will convene in July, the precise date to be confirmed within this week. For this extraordinary elective Congress (to elect Blatter’s successor) there are currently various date options for discussion.”

Jordan’s Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, who lost to Blatter in the election, is tipped as a possible candidate while Chung Mong-joon, the billionaire scion of South Korea’s Hyundai conglomerate, is also weighing up a bid.

In an early indication that the FIFA scandal is likely to have wider legal repercussions, the Dutch city of Eindhoven said it was considering suing FIFA to recover 1.5 million euros spent on the Dutch/Belgian bid for the 2018 cup.

A lawsuit could follow if the campaign is found to have been tainted by corruption, said spokeswoman Corine van der Putten.

(additional reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi, John Irish and Mark John in Paris; writing by Brian Homewood in Lausanne; editing by Giles Elgood)

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SAI athlete attempts suicide, runs away from hospital after treatment

Thiruvananthapuram: A teenaged SAI athlete tried to commit suicide early Wednesday in Thiruvananthapuram by slashing his wrist. He was taken to hospital from where he slipped away, police said.

Sports Authority of India. Screengrab from SAI website.

Sports Authority of India. Screengrab from SAI website.

According to the police, the 18-year old athlete was brought to the casualty of the state-run Medical College hospital around 6.15 a.m.

The doctors, after putting three stitches, referred the athlete to the psychiatry wing. But the police is looking for the athlete, who according to them, has ran away from the hospital.

The athlete is reported to be out of danger.

The athlete went away without waiting for further medical advice from the psychiatry department.

Sources said the immediate provocation for the young athlete, who is training to be a short distance runner, could be a theft that was reported in their hostel and a few inmates were questioned by authorities.

Lately, Sports Authority of India (SAI) was in the news in the state after four women athletes consumed a poisonous fruit last month at the SAI Water Sports centre in Alappuzha. While one athlete died the next day, the lives of the three others were saved.

IANS

Apple muscles into streaming music market | Reuters

SAN FRANCISCO Apple launched Apple Music on Monday, a $9.99-a-month streaming music service that may not differ dramatically from competitors but comes with Apple’s deep music roots, global brand and hundreds of millions of iTunes customers.

Apple’s push into the streaming business will likely alter the dynamics of how consumers listen to music as the music industry grapples with declines in downloaded songs and tries to figure out new ways to get people to pay for music.

“The Apple brand speaks for itself and it will have an earthquake-like impact on the industry,” said Daniel Ives, an analyst with FBR Markets. “Given the gold standard brand, given Apple’s breadth and awareness, it’s more important what Apple is doing strategically than moving the needle financially.”

Offering few surprises to what had been expected, Apple Inc (AAPL.O) shares did not react strongly, closing down less than 1 percent at $127.80.

“The only thing that is going to move Apple stock is iPhone sales and there wasn’t enough news to be a mover in profitability,” said Michael Yoshikami, the chief executive officer of Destination Wealth Management in Walnut Creek, California.

The unveiling of the service, the kick-off to the week-long Worldwide Developers Conference, also included the announcement of an upgraded operating system for Apple’s watch that will let developers create speedier “native” apps that rely less on the iPhone. Apple said that “El Capitan” will be the name of the next version of OS X for its Macs.

It disclosed that the next version of the software that powers iPhones and iPads, called iOS 9, will come out this fall and detailed the continued expansion of Apple Pay, which will launch in the United Kingdom next month.

But the music service was the star of the show. Apple introduced it with clips and live appearances by stars like Drake and up-and-comer The Weeknd. Legendary music industry figure Jimmy Iovine, who came to the company as part of its acquisition of Beats, took the stage to unveil details of the new service.

Apple’s music service will enable artists to share songs directly with fans, include a global 24/7 radio station named Beats 1 and stream music from the entire iTunes catalogue. Apple Music follows similar streaming services from Spotify, which streams music from record labels and media companies, Pandora, a self-described personalized radio station and others.

Apple Music’s $9.99-a-month price takes effect after a three-month free subscription period. The company is also offering what it calls a “family plan” for $14.99 a month for up to six family members.

The success of Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook’s first new product, the Watch, will likely hinge on a compelling collection of apps. But early apps for the timepiece have been tied to the iPhone, placing limits on what developers could do.

“This will be a big deal in creating a much more useful set of apps for the Watch,” said Jan Dawson, an analyst with Jackdaw Research, explaining that apps did not always run smoothly when tethered to the iPhone. “Watch apps could feel slow and unresponsive at times.”

The company also unveiled new details about its Apple Pay service, saying it was already supported by more than 2,500 banks and will surpass 1 million locations accepting it next month.

In a related move, Apple said it would rename Passbook, its app for credit and debit cards and boarding passes, to Wallet.

(Additional reporting by Mari Saito; Writing by Stephen R. Trousdale; Editing by Bernard Orr)

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Delhi government clarifies ban on two-finger test after outcry | Reuters

NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Authorities in New Delhi said on Monday they would ban doctors from conducting an archaic and degrading test during the forensic examinations of rape victims, after campaigners criticised a memo which suggested it would be allowed.

The controversial “two-finger test” – which involves a doctor inserting fingers into a rape victim’s vagina to determine if she is sexually active – is seen as outdated medical jurisprudence in many countries, including India.

But a May 31 circular sent to Delhi hospitals had said the test could be conducted on a rape victim provided she gave her consent. It said a complete ban on the test may prove detrimental to the victim’s health and result in injustices.

Delhi’s Health Minister Satyendar Jain said the circular had been “misinterpreted” and the government wanted to clarify that victims of sexual violence would not undergo the test.

“It is advised that medical professionals should not perform the finger test, unless it is medically indicated that it is for only treatment purposes,” Jain told a news conference.

A panel set up to look at ways to tackle violence against women, following the infamous gang rape and murder of a young woman on a Delhi bus, called for the banning of the two-finger test in January 2013.

Four months later, the country’s top court said the test violated a woman’s right to privacy, and ordered the government to provide better medical procedures to confirm sexual assault.

The test was then banned by the Department of Health Research and the Indian Council of Medical Research which issued in a new set of guidelines in 2014.

Yet in parts of India the test continues. It is not only traumatising for victims, say activists, but the results have been used by defence lawyers to reinforce stereotypes of rape victims being promiscuous which can adversely impact their case.

The test includes providing details about the hymen, including whether it is intact or torn, the size of the vagina, and the number of fingers that can be admitted to determine if the victim is “habituated to sex”.

According to government figures, the number of rapes in the country rose by 35.2 percent to 33,707 in 2013 from the previous year – with Delhi reporting 1,441 rapes in 2013, making it the Indian city with the highest number of rapes.

(Reporting by Nita Bhalla, Editing by Ros Russell)

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India’s first transgender college principal overcomes taunts and abuse | Reuters

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Data hacked from U.S. government dates back to 1985 – official | Reuters

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Blatter quits as FIFA chief after corruption scandal | Reuters

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Holder Sharapova frozen out by Czech Safarova | Reuters

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How Sachin Tendulkar’s driving gave wife Anjali a headache

New Delhi: Sachin Tendulkar’s love for mean machines is a well known fact but there was one such instance when his passion for speed ended up giving him and his wife Anjali “a headache” that lasted one whole day.

“It was some years back in England. The BMW guys gave me one of their limited edition cars to check out. They told me to give them a feedback and said ‘Check out the brakes’.

sachin-pti_msachin-pti_m

Sachin Tendulkar. PTI

“So I convinced Anjali to come with me for a drive and I really pressed it hard. I won’t tell you what speed I was driving. Since they told me to check the brakes, I applied it and it came to halt. Such was the G-force, me and Anjali both felt it and we both had a headache for the entire day. It was an experience I remember,” Tendulkar narrated the incident today at the inauguration of the Gurgaon centre of ‘Smaaash’ at premium urban gaming centre.

In fact such is his love for speed, that he along with some of his friends have redesigned a go-karting track in Mumbai, which according to him “gives a chance to overtake each other”.

Tendulkar’s fascination for speed has made him actively involved in this virtual gaming project, where one can drive a F1 car, stop a penalty kick by Cristiano Ronaldo or face inswing yorkers from Brett Lee or Muttiah Muralitharan’s doosra.

One of Tendulkar’s favourite games at the sports hub is walking on a virtual plan from one High-Rise building to another.

“Once you wear those specially designed glasses and try out the game, you will feel that same level of excitement. Walking on a mere plank between two high-rise buildings. I tried a leap of about six or seven feet and nearly tumbled. Once I played the game, I felt the same kind of headache. So those who want thrill should try this game out,” insisted Tendulkar.

PTI

Vettel fastest in final Monaco practice | Reuters

MONACO Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel broke the Mercedes stranglehold on the Monaco timesheets with the fastest lap in Saturday’s final practice for the showcase race.

The German, four times a world champion with Red Bull and Monaco winner in 2011, lapped the metal-fenced streets with a best time of one minute 16.143 seconds in a session red-flagged after team mate Kimi Raikkonen hit the barriers.

Mercedes duo Nico Rosberg, winner of the last two Monaco races from pole position, and world champion Lewis Hamilton were close behind with qualifying to follow later.

A Ferrari has not been on pole position in Formula One since July 2012.

Rosberg was 0.218 slower than his compatriot while Hamilton, fastest in both of Thursday’s sessions but unhappy with the handling of his on Saturday, was 0.562 off the pace.

Australian Daniel Ricciardo was fourth quickest for Red Bull, ahead of Spanish rookie Carlos Sainz in a Toro Rosso and Raikkonen, who crashed at Sainte Devote just after setting his best lap.

Dutch teenager Max Verstappen, who was second fastest behind Hamilton in Thursday’s opening practice, was ninth on the timesheets after spinning and clouting the barriers, damaging the rear wing, at the last corner.

Hamilton leads Rosberg by 20 points in the championship after five races.

(Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

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Hamilton takes his first Monaco F1 pole | Reuters

MONACO Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton took the first Monaco Grand Prix pole position of his career on Saturday as Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg blew his own hopes of a qualifying hat-trick.

Rosberg, winner from pole for the past two years on the twisty metal-fenced streets where passing is almost impossible, qualified second in an overcast final session with rain threatening.

“It’s been a long time,” said an elated Hamilton, whose only win in Monaco came in his 2008 championship year with McLaren from third place on the grid.

“It wasn’t an easy session…I didn’t have the rhythm until the last two laps.

“This is incredibly special for me,” added the Monaco resident, well aware the race has been won from pole for the last six years, of his 14th successive front row start and fifth pole in six races.

Rosberg’s hopes disappeared when he locked up the front wheels at the Sainte Devote corner at the start of his abandoned final quick lap to leave Hamilton 0.342 seconds faster.

“I just lost touch a little bit there towards the end. Of course you are going for it because you have to…it didn’t work out, that’s it,” said Rosberg.

Sebastian Vettel will start third for Ferrari on Sunday, after struggling to get heat into his tyres, with his former Red Bull team mate Daniel Ricciardo alongside him on the second row.

“Overall it was a good session and our aim now is to have a good race tomorrow and try to split the Mercedes,” said Vettel, whose grid place was Ferrari’s best in Monaco since 2009.

Dutch 17-year-old Max Verstappen qualified an impressive 10th for his first Monaco Grand Prix with Toro Rosso, and will start ninth after his Spanish rookie team mate Carlos Sainz was ordered to start from the pit lane.

Sainz, who had qualified in eighth place, paid the price for failing to stop for weighing during the first stage of qualifying.

Russian Daniil Kvyat qualified fifth for Red Bull, ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and Mexican Sergio Perez in a Force India.

McLaren’s 2009 champion Jenson Button qualified 12th but will move up to 10th thanks to Sainz’s penalty and also a five place demotion for Frenchman Romain Grosjean who had an unscheduled gearbox change.

Button’s team mate Fernando Alonso, who predicted earlier in the week that McLaren could score their first points of the season on Sunday, qualified 15th but will also move up two places.

There was disappointment for Mercedes-powered Williams and Finland’s Valtteri Bottas, who qualified only 17th with Brazilian team mate Felipe Massa 14th.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ken Ferris and Toby Davis)

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BlackBerry cuts jobs worldwide as it consolidates businesses | Reuters

Canadian smartphone maker BlackBerry Ltd (BB.TO)(BBRY.O) is cutting jobs across the world, the company said on Friday, as it consolidates its software, hardware and applications business.

The company did not specify how many employees would be affected.

BlackBerry, which reported a 16.8 percent fall in quarterly revenue in March, had about 6,225 full-time employees as of Feb. 2015, according to its website.

The company is reallocating resources to capitalise on growth opportunities and achieve profitability across all its business segments, a company spokeswoman said in an e-mailed statement.

The Waterloo, Ontario-based company last month said it was considering closing its offices in Sweden, a move that would result in the loss of up to 100 jobs.

Up to Friday’s close, the company’s Toronto-listed stock had risen more than 62 percent in the last 12 months, whereas the U.S.-listed stock had risen nearly 44 percent during the same period.

(Reporting by Euan Rocha in Toronto and Anannya Pramanick in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Wills)

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Myanmar’s Rakhine state denies persecution at root of migrant crisis | Reuters

SITTWE, Myanmar/YANGON The head of the Myanmar state from which thousands of Rohingya Muslims are fleeing denied that persecution had prompted the exodus after the United States called on the country to deal with its root causes.

Many Rohingya have become prey to human traffickers on the journey south to Thailand, Malaysia and beyond as they flee what U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Friday were “the desperate conditions they face in Rakhine State”.

Rakhine Chief Minister Maung Maung Ohn told Reuters after meeting United Nations officials on Friday: “I am disappointed by, and completely disagree and reject such unfounded allegations by the United States.”

“This (migration) is human trafficking, not (due to) political or religious discrimination at all.”

Blinken, who was visiting Myanmar on Thursday and Friday, told Myanmar’s leaders they needed to address discrimination and violence against the minority Rohingya.

The majority of the more than 3,000 migrants who have landed on Malaysian and Indonesian shores this month were Rohingya Muslims, Blinken had told reporters.

The crisis flared in Southeast Asia after a Thai crackdown on human trafficking led criminals to abandon overloaded boats in the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea rather than risk trying to smuggle or traffic them through preferred routes in Thailand.

The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR estimated on Friday that some 3,500 migrants are still stranded on boats with dwindling supplies, and repeated its appeal for the region’s governments to rescue them.

Myanmar’s navy discovered two Thai trafficking boats off the coast of Rakhine on Thursday, one carrying migrants and the other empty, the state government said in a statement on Friday.

“One is loaded with around 200 Bengali people,” it said, using the government term for illegal migrants from Bangladesh.

“The people on the boat were all from Bangladesh,” said Rakhine State government executive secretary Tin Maung Swe. “We will deport them.”

Maung Maung Ohn said he would take a U.N. group to meet the migrants to show they were victims of trafficking, not persecution.

Myanmar has faced international criticism for not doing enough to help those at sea or stem the flow of migrants.

Migrant boats are often a mix of people from Bangladesh seeking to escape poverty at home as well as Rohingya.

STATELESS MINORITY

Most of Myanmar’s 1.1 million Rohingya are stateless and live in apartheid-like conditions in the state. Almost 140,000 were displaced in deadly clashes with majority Buddhists in Rakhine in 2012. They are denied citizenship and have long complained of state-sanctioned discrimination.

Myanmar denies discriminating against the group and has said it is not the source of the problem. It does not recognise the Rohingya as an ethnic minority, and instead classifies the group as Bengalis. Most Rohingya reject the term and many have lived in Rakhine for generations.

Myanmar military chief General Min Aung Hlaing cast doubt on the origin of many of the refugees in comments carried in Myanmar’s state media on Friday.

He “hinted that most victims are expected to assume themselves to be Rohingya from Myanmar in the hope of receiving assistance from UNHCR” at a meeting with Blinken on Thursday, the state-backed Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported.

“He stressed the need to investigate their country of origin rather than to accuse a country,” the newspaper said.

Scores of Rohingya are paying off people smugglers and returning to the squalid camps they used to live in after being held for months on overcrowded ships off the coast of Myanmar.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak on Thursday pledged assistance and ordered the navy to rescue thousands adrift at sea, and a Thai official said Myanmar had agreed to attend an emergency conference on the crisis on May 29.

Malaysia and Indonesia have said they would allow the thousands still at sea to come ashore temporarily, but Thailand has said it would not follow suit.

(Additional reporting by Aung Hla Tun and Hnin Yadana Zaw in YANGON and Stephanie Ulmer-Nebehay in GENEVA; Writing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Simon Webb; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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In China, firms flash green credentials as regulators loom | Reuters

SHANGHAI Apple Inc (AAPL.O) is planting trees, Mars may move to ‘zero carbon’ and Foxconn Technology Co Ltd (2354.TW) is spending millions of dollars to give its factories a ‘green’ makeover, as companies operating in China face tighter rules on pollution.

Beijing introduced tougher regulations this year to combat pollution, keen to overhaul China’s unwanted image of smog-choked cities, fouled waterways and heavy-metal tainted soil.

This won’t come cheap; the country’s central bank estimates China will need to spend 2 trillion yuan ($322 billion) a year over the next five years on reducing pollution, and government coffers will only cover about a tenth of that – leaving local and international firms to pick up the rest of the tab.

“For companies and factories which need to seriously cut levels of pollutants, it’s going to be extremely costly – we’re talking millions of dollars,” said Philip Cheng, Shanghai-based partner at law firm Hogan Lovells.

Harsher penalties were also introduced this year, and local governments – with tougher targets of their own – have been putting more pressure on businesses making anything from chocolate to clothing, China-based executives said.

A Beijing regulator last month fined a leading supplier of fries to McDonald’s Corp (MCD.N) for water pollution, while the cost of meeting pollution targets for China’s mostly state-owned steel firms has jumped 50 percent on average since last year.

“China’s environmental law is becoming one of the strongest in the world,” said Manuel Baigorri, senior director of sustainability at Levi Strauss & Co [LEVST.UL], which is working on a project to use less water and power at its China mills.

RISING COSTS

Apple, which makes the majority of its iPhones in China, said this month it would help plant and protect up to 1 million acres of new forest land in China, and has launched a solar project in southwestern Sichuan province.

U.S. chocolate maker Mars said it was in talks with local governments about sustainability, and planned to replicate something similar to a $345 million U.S. wind power project to help makes its operations “carbon neutral”.

“There’s a lot of interest and attention in greening the grid and getting more renewables going in China, so it feels like a good time to be working in that direction,” said Mars’ global sustainability director Kevin Rabinovitch.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N) said it is using energy efficient equipment in its stores, while McDonald’s is “accelerating” work on sustainability in China in line with “government expectations”, a China spokeswoman said.

Executives in China noted the new regulations were already driving up costs, especially in high polluting sectors such as energy, natural resources, chemicals, metals and apparel.

“We’re definitely seeing the costs related to environmental compliance going up,” said a Shanghai-based executive at a large international chemicals firm.

Others added that costs were rising, but were worth paying to stay on the right side of regulators and local governments, often the gatekeepers to business in the world’s second-largest economy. “This can be a competitive advantage for multinational companies, leading the market where the government has quite firmly said it would like it to go,” said David Frey, China-based partner at KPMG.

REAL IMPACT

A major question, though, is whether China has the resources to enforce the new rules, especially with local governments torn between growth and environmental protection.

Company executives focused on sustainability said directives were coming down from central government, but local authorities often didn’t have the muscle, or the will, to enforce them.

“We’re seeing Beijing issue policies pushing factories to reduce water and energy use, but local regulators often don’t have the systems in place to properly implement them,” said a Shanghai-based executive at a global consumer goods firm.

The new rules have, though, created business opportunities for firms helping industries reduce waste, and auditor firms are bulking up their Chinese environmental compliance teams to meet demand.

Major manufacturing firms such as Apple supplier Foxconn invested around $33.5 million on green projects last year, and said it is looking to improve energy efficiency further in 2015.

“Government policies are highly influencing companies to switch to renewables,” said Rosie Pidcock, a Beijing-based business development manager at renewable energy project developer UGE, noting her firm has seen an increase in new business since the tougher rules were announced last year.

(Editing by Ian Geoghegan)

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Exclusive: Help us fight fakes, Alibaba’s security chief tells global brands | Reuters

ICC not to send match officials to Pakistan | Reuters

CAPE TOWN The International Cricket Council (ICC) will not be sending match officials to Pakistan for the tour of Zimbabwe should the limited overs series go ahead, the governing body said on Sunday.

The ICC said a security consultant had advised against sending officials to Pakistan, who will instead use their own umpires for the matches if Zimbabwe decide to tour the trouble-torn nation.

The appointment of local match officials will not affect the official status of the games, the ICC said in a statement.

“The ICC today advised the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) that it will not be appointing its match officials for the upcoming series between Pakistan and Zimbabwe,” the statement read.

“The ICC Board, during its April meeting, had decided that the playing conditions relating to the appointment of match officials could be waived to allow the PCB to appoint local match officials for this series should the ICC decide not to send its umpires and referee due to the current security situation in Pakistan.

“If this was to occur, the matches would still be considered ‘official cricket’, even though they will not be played strictly in accordance with the ICC standard playing conditions.”

Although the PCB claimed on Friday they had received an assurance from ZC that the tour was on, Zimbabwe continue to say only that discussions are ongoing.

Zimbabwe coach Dav Whatmore, who coached Pakistan in the past, took to Twitter on Sunday to suggest the team would travel.

“Looking fwd to returning to Pakistan as opposition coach and reacquainting with friends. Team zim are & will be working hard for a win!” he said from his official account.

A ZC delegation which visited Lahore, the venue for all matches on the tour, approved security measures put in place by local authorities last week.

But the terror attack on a bus in Karachi that killed at least 45 people this week led Zimbabwe’s supreme sports regulatory authority, the Sports and Recreation Commission, to advise that the tour be cancelled.

Zimbabwe were due to be the first test-playing nation to tour Pakistan since a 2009 attack on Sri Lanka’s team bus in Lahore left six Pakistani policemen and a van driver dead. Some players and a local umpire were injured.

Zimbabwe are scheduled to play two Twenty20 internationals, starting on May 22, and a three-match one-day series.

(Reporting by Nick Said; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

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

India learns to ‘fail fast’ as tech start-up culture takes root | Reuters

BENGALURU, India After ping pong tables, motivational posters and casual dress codes, India’s tech start-ups are following Silicon Valley’s lead and embracing the “fail fast” culture credited with fuelling creativity and success in the United States.

Taking failure as a norm is a major cultural shift in India, where high-achieving children are typically expected to take steady jobs at recognised firms. A failed venture hurts family status and even marriage prospects.

But that nascent acceptance, fuelled by returning engineers and billions of dollars in venture fund investment, is for many observers a sign that India’s $150 billion tech industry is coming of age, moving from a back office powerhouse to a creative force.

“There is obviously increased acceptance,” said Raghunandan G, co-founder of TaxiForSure, which was sold to rival Ola this year. He is now investing in others’ early stage ventures.

“My co-founder Aprameya (Radhakrishna) used to have lines of prospective brides to meet … the moment we started our own company, all those prospective alliances disappeared. No one wanted their daughters to marry a start-up guy.”

Srikanth Chunduri returned to India after studying at Duke University in the United States, and is now working on his second venture. “I think what’s encouraging is that acceptance of failure is increasing despite the very deep-rooted Asian culture where failure is a big no,” he said.

“IT’S OK TO FAIL”

The shift has come about, executives say, as engineers began returning from Silicon Valley to cash in on India’s own boom, as hundreds of millions of Indians go online.

“Investors too want to find the next Flipkart, and most of them come from Silicon Valley backgrounds, so they bring that culture,” said Stewart Noakes, co-founder of TechHub, a global community and workspace for tech entrepreneurs. “That’s changing the Indian norms. It’s becoming ok to fail and try again.”

Big names like Flipkart can also mean the prospect of a lucrative exit for investors, covering a multitude of failures.

To be sure, the pace of change is slow in altering a culture that has produced top software engineers for decades, but – as yet – no Google (GOOGL.O), Apple (AAPL.O) or Twitter (TWTR.N).

Cheap engineering talent keeps start-ups afloat far longer than in Silicon Valley, where companies last less than two years on average. And the freedom to fail remains restricted to a small portion of India’s corporate fabric, booming tech cities like Bengaluru or Gurgaon outside New Delhi.

There is also still no revolving door with big corporates, whom one senior Bengaluru headhunter described as beating down salaries of executives who dared to risk – but then came back.

ROLE MODELS

But big homegrown successes like e-tailers Flipkart and Snapdeal or mobile advertising firm InMobi, as well as the multi-billion dollar firms set up by former executives from the likes of Amazon.com (AMZN.O), Microsoft (MSFT.O) and Google, have created role models, encouraging graduates to take risks.

“With success stories, people accept it as a legitimate exercise,” said Ryan Valles, former CEO of coupon site DealsandYou and a former executive at Accel Partners, now working on a new project.

Meanwhile, billions in investor funding have fed the sector.

External cash – as opposed to more traditional bank loans tied to individuals, or family savings – makes a difference. Failing there can involve walking away Silicon Valley-style, not years of court proceedings in a country with no formal bankruptcy law.

There has also been, to date, no major collapse.

“What’s happening is healthy: people recognising that some things will fail, that it’s largely a failure-based industry, in the same way that movies, music or pharmaceuticals are,” said Shikhar Ghosh, senior lecturer at Harvard Business School.

An estimated 70-90 percent of start-ups fail.

But the biggest test may be the first bust after the boom.

“That will be the test: whether people come back into the market and how they treat the people who lost their money,” said Ghosh.

(Editing by Ian Geoghegan)

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

Gunmen storm Afghan guest house, at least one American dead | Reuters

KABUL Gunmen stormed a guest house popular with foreigners in the Afghan capital Kabul on Wednesday evening, police said, with at least one American killed and dozens others trapped by fighting between the attackers and rescuers.

Authorities cordoned off the area around the Park Palace guest house in Kabul’s Kolola Pushta area immediately after the attack began around 8:30 p.m. local time (1600 GMT).

The attack ended about five hours later as ambulances raced out of the area. Kabul’s police chief was due to speak to reporters soon, police said.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy confirmed that one American was killed in the attack but gave no other details.

Qadam Shah Shaheem, commander of the Afghan National Army’s 111th Corps, said police, army and special forces had rescued at least 16 people, but police cited witnesses as saying as many as 100 people were still inside.

“Today, there was going to be a music concert there. Fortunately, most guests had not arrived yet,” Shaheem said.

“The rescue operation is still on … It is a big, two-storey building with several rooms, so it will take some time to clear it.”

Kolola Pushta is home to several international guest houses and hotels and is near both the Ministry of Interior and the Indian embassy. India’s ambassador to Afghanistan tweeted that all Indian nationals were reported safe.

Earlier on Wednesday, gunmen opened fire at a meeting of prominent Muslim clerics in the southern province of Helmand, killing at least seven people, police official Jan Aqa said.

The Ulemma Council, the highest religious authority in a deeply conservative country, had repeatedly announced its support for security forces fighting the hardline Islamist Taliban insurgents.

The Taliban have stepped up attacks since they announced their “spring offensive” last month, after most foreign forces pulled out at the end of last year, and claimed responsibility for the Helmand assault.

Ousted from power in 2001, the Taliban have been fighting to bring down the U.S.-backed government in Kabul.

Earlier this month, insurgent suicide bombers twice attacked buses carrying staff belonging to the attorney general’s office in Kabul, killing at least four people.

(Reporting by Kay Johnson, editing by Kevin Liffey and Christian Plumb)

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

After Nepal quakes, monsoon poses risk of more landslides, floods | Reuters

JURE, Nepal Areas of Nepal remain perilously unstable following last month’s devastating earthquake, and, as Tuesday’s tremor showed, landslides pose an ongoing menace that will only increase when seasonal monsoon rains begin to fall in the coming weeks.

Geologists are rushing to identify the valleys, villages and towns most at risk from rock and mud falls, but resources are stretched as the country recovers from an April 25 quake that killed 8,000 people and left hundreds of thousands homeless.

Diwakar Koirala, deputy administrator in Sindhupalchowk district, which reported the most deaths in last month’s disaster, said Tuesday’s quake caused three more big landslides.

The risk of more prevented the authorities from heading to affected villages to help.

Beyond the immediate emergency, some families will have to move to safer areas, a slow, costly process which Nepal can ill afford.

“There are some areas where it is very difficult to stay on a long-term basis, so we are looking at resettlement,” said Iman Gurung, a home ministry adviser, declining to specify which areas.

“We hope it’s not a big number,” Gurung said. “These villages have thousands of years of history. But we don’t want to put their lives at risk.”

“NOT SAFE”

One of those moving may be Ram Tamang.

During the monsoon last August, he was out on a job driving when a wall of dirt and boulders crashed down a mountain at 2 a.m. onto the village of Jure, burying his wife, three of his children and his mother in their home.

Like many survivors, Tamang left the ruins of the village, and moved to a hamlet down the road. After last month’s earthquake sent rocks spilling down the mountain once again, he wonders where to go.

“It’s not safe here,” the 42-year-old said last week, before Tuesday’s tremor. “Last night, it was raining hard the whole night and I couldn’t sleep. I’m always worried another landslide will come.”

Among the areas worrying scientists most are those where landslides have fallen into rivers, potentially flooding nearby communities once the monsoon starts in earnest, probably in early June, scientists said.

In a report to the government last week, the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in Kathmandu identified six critical landslides that blocked rivers after the April 25 earthquake. Five are in Nepal and one in Tibet.

“This can easily happen in the mountains,” David Molden, ICIMOD’s director general, told Reuters. “Now we have several of them all at the same time, which is quite a big deal. Hopefully, the water will find its way through.”

The water did not find its way through in Jure last year. After the landslide that killed most of Tamang’s family blocked the Sun Koshi River at the bottom of the mountain, a large lake formed that submerged village homes.

After the April earthquake, scientists at ICIMOD started to monitor landslides using satellite images sent from agencies in Japan, the United States, China and India.

The group will keep watch on the six danger spots, including one in Langtang, where hundreds of people died in a huge landslide triggered by the quake.

In addition to thinking about whether, and where, to move people, officials said they were rushing to excavate blocked roads and deliver extra food to far-flung communities that will soon be cut off by the rains.

CALCULATED RISK

People living in Nepal’s mountains have long accepted the risk of landslides and floods.

Even before the latest earthquakes, those were on the rise as shifting weather patterns increased the chances of flooding from melting glaciers, more intense monsoon rains and the bursting of glacial lakes when their banks collapsed.

Retreating glaciers can also leave unsupported debris, increasing the risk of landslides, said Jeffrey S. Kargel, a researcher at the department of hydrology and water resources at the University of Arizona.

“These materials are highly unstable, and it doesn’t take much to knock them down and make a debris avalanche or landslide,” said Kargel.

Despite years of preparation for the next big earthquake, the government has been slow to map landslide-prone areas, said Bishal Nath Upreti, a retired geology professor and chairman of the Disaster Preparedness Network Nepal.

“It’s very hard to convince the government. They didn’t think it was so important,” Upreti said. “It’s urgent to start now.”

Even if danger areas are identified, people may not be able to move.

In Jure, several survivors, including Tamang, want to leave but don’t know where to go. They said the local government promised last year to help them relocate, but many still live under tarpaulins upon the landslide that destroyed their homes.

“Last year it was just one spot, now it’s the entire country,” said Bhim Bahadur Tamang, 40, who lost 11 family members in the landslide and one in last month’s earthquake.

“How are they going to (move us)?” he asked. “We don’t expect anything.”

(Additional reporting by Tommy Wilkes in New Delhi; Editing by Mike Collett-White and Douglas Busvine)

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

Parliament Live: Opposition parties oppose introduction of Land Bill in Lok Sabha

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IPL betting case: ED conducts searches at multiple locations in Delhi, Gurgaon

New Delhi: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Sunday conducted searches at multiple locations in and around Delhi in connection with its hawala and money laundering probe against some betting syndicates related to the latest IPL T-20 cricket matches.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Sources said about four locations in Delhi and neighbouring Gurgaon were covered during the searches which are being conducted by the Ahmedabad office of the agency in coordination with their counterparts in New Delhi.

“The sleuths seized over hundred cell phones, hard drives, laptops, other computer peripherals and documents during the operation,” the sources said, adding two suspects were also questioned.

They added the searches were “conducted on some suspects who acted as bookies during the recent Indian Premier League matches” held in the county.

“The probe is being handled by the ED Ahmedabad office which is investigating the case for hawala and money laundering charges,” the sources said.

Some locations in Mumbai and Bangalore were also searched as part of today’s operation, they said, adding the action was largely centralised in the national capital and its adjoining areas.

On 19 March this year, the Ahmedabad office of the agency had claimed to have busted the alleged betting racket and arrested some bookies from a farmhouse on the outskirts of Vadodara city in Gujarat.

Later, the probe agency arrested 13 others in connection with this illegal activity.

On 26 March, the same office registered a money laundering case against two prime suspects and a few others in the Rs 4,000 crore alleged IPL betting racket.

The accused had been charged under Section 418 (cheating), Section 419 (punishment for cheating), Section 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property), Section 467 (forgery of valuable security), Section 471 (using forged document as genuine) along with Section 120 (b) (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code by the agency.

Locations in Delhi’s Karol Bagh, Shastri Nagar and Gurgaon were searched in the day-long action, they said.

PTI

Formula One – Rosberg fastest in final Spanish practice | Reuters

BARCELONA Nico Rosberg led final practice for the Spanish Grand Prix on Saturday after championship-leading Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton spun at the corner where Fernando Alonso crashed in pre-season testing.

Rosberg lapped with a best time of one minute 26.021 seconds, 0.156 faster than Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel with Hamilton third and 0.201 off the pace after his turn three incident.

Hamilton went sideways at the exit to the corner and spun, coming to a halt before returning to the track on damaged tyres.

The Briton is 27 points clear of Rosberg in the standings after winning three of the four races so far. He won from pole in Spain last year.

Alonso, whose crash in February ruled him out of the Australian season-opener, was 14th for McLaren.

Finland’s Valtteri Bottas was fourth fastest for Williams, ahead of compatriot Raikkonen in the second Ferrari, with his Italian team telling him apologetically over the radio that they had a wrong setting after working on the front brakes.

“Excellent, how can we be in wrong settings?,” the driver replied sarcastically.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

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SAI athletes stable now, Ministry sets up medical board

“We have constituted a medical board (for the inquiry into the incident) and our priority is to save the lives of those athletes (girls),” Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal said on the sidelines of a conference in Delhi.

Police inspecting Sports Authority of India centre in Alappuzha, where a student died on Thursday, after she took poison along with three other students

The three young female athletes, who survived an attempted suicide bid after alleged harassment by seniors at the SAI Centre in Kerala, are stable now even as a medical board was constituted by the Sports Ministry to investigate the incident.”We have constituted a medical board (for the inquiry into the incident) and our priority is to save the lives of those athletes (girls),” Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal said on the sidelines of a conference in Delhi.In a tragic turn of events, a young athlete Aparna Ramabhadran died and three of her colleagues were battling for life after they ate a poison fruit under an apparent suicide pact following alleged harassment by seniors at the Sports Authority of India centre in Kerala.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>All the four were undergoing training at the Water Sports Centre of the SAI in Alapuzha.A stunned Sports Ministry swung into action by ordering an inquiry and directing SAI Director General Injeti Srinivas to rush to Kerala for an on the spot assessment.The condition of the three athletes, who survived the attempt, is said to be stable. Kerala Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala, who visited the girls at the hospital, promised an unbiased probe.Alapuzha Medical college Hospital superintendent Santosh Raghavan told PTI that the three girls continue to be critical, but their condition had stabilised. However, there is no specific antidote for the poison they consumed.”We are trying to treat the main target organ, the heart.Teleconference with medical experts of the AIIMS, Delhi, was being held,” he said.Aparna, the girl who lost her life, had been undergoing training at the water sports training centre of Sports Authority of India for the past five years.Her mother Geeta said her daughter continued in the hostel despite the harassment because of the family’s circumstances.Aparna wanted to get a job to provide a better life to her younger brother, an eighth standard student at a local school. While her father is a worker in a house boat, her mother is an anganwadi worker. All the family’s hopes rested on the rowing champion, who had brought laurels to the state.She had apologised to her mother for taking the extreme step.Geeta said Aparna had told her about the “mental and physical harassment” meted out to them by seniors at the SAI hostel while fighting for life at the hospital.”Mother please forgive me. I did this due to harassment of senior ‘chechis’ (elder sisters). Will I not survive?,” Aparna was quoted as saying by her mother hours before she breathed her last.Geeta also said her daughter had no intention of committing suicide, but took the extreme step as there was no other option before her following the continuous harassment.”My daughter had come home for ‘Vishu’ festival on April 15 and had told me it was difficult to share a room with the seniors. When the hostel warden was informed, she had promised to shift her to another room within three months”.But Geeta said her daughter later gave the impression that all was well at the hostel as she did not want to cause any worry to her parents.”But in the hospital bed, while battling for her life, my child told me the truth about the seniors. Two seniors used to constantly harass Aparna and the other girls, due to which they consumed the poisonous fruit,” Geeta said.

Congress demands SAI chief’s resignation over suicide attempt by four athletes in Kerala

New Delhi: A demand for sacking of Sports Authority of India (SAI) chief and setting up of an inquiry into the death of a woman athlete and suicide attempt by three others was raised in the Rajya Sabha on Friday.

Pramod Tiwari of Congress raised the issue during Zero Hour saying one of one of the athletes had died and three others were critical and on ventilator. The suicide smacks of corruption and nepotism in Sports Ministry, he alleged.

His party colleague Rajeev Shukla alleged that sportspersons were kept in pathetic conditions at SAI camps and demanded an inquiry against the authority and removal of its director general.

Sports Minister Sonowal. Image courtesy: IBNLiveSports Minister Sonowal. Image courtesy: IBNLive

Sports Minister Sonowal. Image courtesy: IBNLive

Deputy Chairman P J Kurien said though he was disallowing Tiwari’s notice under rule 267 that seeks suspension of business to discuss the issue, he personally felt it was a very important issue.

“It is important that the government come back with a statement (on the suicide). After the statement, we may further discuss,” he said.

A K Antony of Congress said “the government should inquire into the issue with all seriousness and take very very strong action.”

Associating himself with the sentiments expressed, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the feelings of the House will be conveyed to the concerned minister.

Sukhendu Sekhar Roy of Trinamool Congress raised the issue of the 23 July, 2014 notification by the Home Ministry restricting the scope of investigation by Delhi’s Anti-Corruption Branch.

The notification has limited the scope of the agency only to officers and employees of the Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi, he said.

This, Roy said, notification limiting the powers of an elected government in Delhi and was highly unconstitutional and principals of federalism and demanded its withdrawal.

Salim Ansari of BSP raised the issue of acquittal of all those accused in the 1987 killing of 42 Muslims in Hashimpura area of Meerut in Uttar Pradesh.

He said the “massacre”, according to a report of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, was similar to massacre of Jews by Nazis.

PTI

Congress demands sacking of SAI chief over suicide attempt by four athletes

Associating himself with the sentiments expressed, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the feelings of the House will be conveyed to the concerned minister.

A demand for sacking of Sports Authority of India (SAI) chief and setting up of an inquiry into the death of a woman athlete and suicide attempt by three others was raised in the Rajya Sabha on Friday.Pramod Tiwari (Cong) raised the issue during Zero Hour saying one of one of the athletes had died and three others were critical and on ventilator. The suicide smacks of corruption and nepotism in Sports Ministry, he alleged.His party colleague Rajeev Shukla alleged that sportspersons were kept in pathetic conditions at SAI camps and demanded an inquiry against the authority and removal of its director general.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Deputy Chairman PJ Kurien said though he was disallowing Tiwari’s notice under rule 267 that seeks suspension of business to discuss the issue, he personally felt it was a very important issue.”It is important that the government come back with a statement (on the suicide). After the statement, we may further discuss,” he said. AK Antony (Cong) said “the government should inquire into the issue with all seriousness and take very very strong action.”Associating himself with the sentiments expressed, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the feelings of the House will be conveyed to the concerned minister.Sukhendu Sekhar Roy (TMC) raised the issue of the July 23, 2014 notification by the Home Ministry restricting the scope of investigation by Delhi’s Anti-Corruption Branch.The notification has limited the scope of the agency only to officers and employees of the Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi, he said.This, Roy said, notification limiting the powers of an elected government in Delhi and was highly unconstitutional and principals of federalism and demanded its withdrawal.Salim Ansari (BSP) raised the issue of acquittal of all those accused in the 1987 killing of 42 Muslims in Hashimpura area of Meerut in Uttar Pradesh.He said the “massacre”, according to a report of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, was similar to massacre of Jews by Nazis. Related read: SAI Athlete’s Suicide: ‘I am sorry, Amma,’ Aparna told mother hours before death

Small mistakes blown up by seniors: SAI athletes write in suicide note

Alapuzha: Police have recovered a suicide note signed by the four teenaged SAI athletes, who attempted to end their lives, in which they have written that “small mistakes” committed by them had been blown up by seniors of the Water Sports Training Centre at the nearby Punnamada.

Police sources told PTI that they have recovered a suicide note jointly signed by the four girls, who consumed a poisonous fruit on Wednesday.

SAI Director General Injeti Srinivas. IBNLiveSAI Director General Injeti Srinivas. IBNLive

SAI Director General Injeti Srinivas. IBNLive

One of the girls died early on Thursday while others are undergoing treatment at the Alapuzha Medical College hospital. The students were residents of the SAI hostel.

Police said the note mentions that “small mistakes have been blown up by them”.

This was the only sentence that can be attributed to the horrific suicide pact. Even though certain other issues have been mentioned in the note, they cannot be construed as harassment, police said, adding, this was only a preliminary assumption.

The incident came a day after the young athletes of the SAI centre were found to have consumed beer and were reportedly questioned by seniors. This apparently had upset them.

The water training centre at Punnamada is located in an island in the Vembanad lake.

PTI

One female athlete dead, three others critical after suicide attempt at SAI hostel in Kerala

New Delhi/Alapuzha: In a horrific incident, four young female athletes attempted suicide at the Sports Authority of India centre in Kerala, prompting a rattled Sports Ministry to launch an inquiry and promise the strictest possible action against any SAI official found guilty.

One of the athletes, a 15-year-old, died on Thursday and three others, all undergoing training at Water Sports Centre of SAI in Alapuzha, were hospitalised after they ate a poisonous fruit in an apparent suicide pact following alleged harassment by seniors.

Image courtesy: IBNLiveImage courtesy: IBNLive

Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal. Image courtesy: IBNLive

The Sports Ministry swung into action by ordering an inquiry and directing SAI Director General Injeti Srinivas to rush to Kerala for an on the spot assessment.

“I am deeply aggrieved by the incident that has happened in Kerala. The young girl who has died was a very promising sportsperson. It is a big loss to the country in general and Sports Authority of India and sports fraternity in particular. I convey my condolences to the bereaved family. We will give all possible help to the bereaved family,” Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal said in a statement.

“Three girls are still undergoing treatment. I pray for their speedy recovery. To provide them the best possible treatment is our top priority. Local police is investigating the matter. I have also directed the Director General of SAI to rush to the spot and give me a factual report. I have specifically directed him to ensure that the best possible treatment is made available to the three girls who are undergoing treatment.

“While law will take its own course, at this stage I would only like to say that if anyone from Sports Authority of India is found guilty in connection with this tragic incident, strictest possible action will be taken against him or her,” he added.

The girls are suspected to have consumed the fruit, locally called ‘Othalanga’, at 3pm on Wednesday inside the SAI women’s hostel. They were rushed to a hospital around 7pm after they fainted and were later taken to Alapuzha Medical College, where one of them died, the police said.

The girls were undergoing training at the Water Sports Centre of the SAI at nearby Punnamada. Relatives of the athletes alleged that the girls were being physically and mentally tortured by some seniors.

However, the hostel warden denied the charges and said they came to know about the condition of the girls only when they fainted.

“Noone tortured them in the hostel,” she said. Police have registered a case of ‘unnatural death’.

Meanwhile, Srinivas said survivors are being provided with the best possible medical care. “I convey my condolences to the bereaved families. At this juncture, our priority is to save lives. What prompted these young girls to do this will be investigated. Unfortunately there is no antidote to the poison they have consumed but best possible medical care is being provided to them,” Srinivas told reporters in Delhi.

“It is difficult to say what is their current medical condition but it is an emergency we are dealing with. SAI is a very responsible body but when an incident like this happens, it is a matter of concern,” he added.

“On behalf of the Sports Minister, I can assure that if anything is found wanting or if anybody is at fault, the strictest of action will be taken,” he asserted.

Alapuzha District Collector N Padmakumar, who visited the athletes undergoing treatment at the medical college hospital, said a detailed enquiry would be conducted into the incident.

A relative of the girl (Aparna) who died alleged that the athletes of the SAI hostel were being physically tortured.

“The girl was hit by her coach two days ago with an oar due to which she could not neither sit nor stand”, he alleged.

Meanwhile, protesting against the incident, activists of the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI), the youth wing of CPI(M), took out a march.

PTI

India athlete dies in ‘suicide pact’

A 15-year-old Indian athlete has died and three others are in hospital after allegedly consuming poisonous fruit in what is suspected to be a suicide pact.

Climate change sparks tension in India’s tea gardens | Reuters

JORHAT, India (Reuters) – Usha Ghatowar smiles wryly when asked about the pay she earns picking leaves at a colonial-era tea garden in Assam.

“Do you think 3,000 rupees are enough when your monthly expenses can be double that?” she mumbles, as she puts on her “jaapi” hat of woven bamboo and palm leaves and takes a sip of tea from a steel mug.

As the women workers around Ghatowar nod in agreement the heavens open – it has started raining heavily in recent days after three largely dry months.

Unrest is brewing among Assam’s so-called Tea Tribes, whose forefathers were brought here by British planters from neighbouring Bihar and Odisha more than a century ago, as changing weather patterns upset the economics of the industry.

Scientists say climate change is to blame for uneven rainfall that is cutting yields and lifting costs for tea firms such as McLeod Russel (MCLE.NS), Tata Global Beverages (TAGL.NS) and Jay Shree Tea (JYST.NS).

While rainfall has declined and become concentrated, temperatures have risen – ideal conditions for pests like looper caterpillar and tea mosquito to infest the light green tea shoots just before they are ready to be plucked for processing.

Use of pesticides and fertilisers has nearly doubled as a result in Assam’s 800 big tea plantations, known as gardens, and the rising costs are making Indian tea less competitive.

As a result, firms in Assam are resisting calls from activists and student leaders to lift the daily wage of tea workers from about $2 agreed to recently, blaming weak prices and the doubling of crop expenses over the past 10 years.

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, whose Congress party was routed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the 2014 general election, has sided with the workers ahead of state polls due early next year.

COURTING THE TEA VOTE

State elections have national significance in India – Modi needs to win most of the state assembly contests in the next four years if he is to take control of the upper house of the federal parliament and ease the passage of his reform agenda.

Tea tribe votes can swing results in about a quarter of the seats in Assam, the country’s main growing area, and the BJP has been making inroads.

In an interview to Reuters, Gogoi denied an opportunistic motive behind his call for the wage to be raised to about $3 a day.

“I had warned the tea planters about climate change but they did not take care for a long time,” Gogoi said. “They thought it would be easy money. I can’t allow injustice for tea labourers.”

Assam Tea Planters Association (ATPA) Chairman Raj Barooah said they would examine Gogoi’s demand but “there has to be a fair wage that can sustain the industry”.

The average temperature in Assam has risen by 1.4 degrees Celsius in the past century and rainfall is down by 200 mm (8 ins) a year, said R.M. Bhagat, chief scientist at the Tea Research Association in Assam’s tea hub of Jorhat.

“In the last 30 years we have seen that the magnitude of the effect of climate change is pretty high,” he said. “Rainfall has gone topsy-turvy. There is either too much or too little water, forcing planters to use sprinklers on what is a rain-fed crop.”

Several tea garden labourers and planters Reuters spoke with said tea factories in Assam now only run for about six months compared with round-the-year operations earlier.

Less rainfall resulted in an 8 percent fall in tea exports last year, according to the Indian Tea Association (ITA).

India is the world’s No.2 tea producer but is less export-oriented than other producers thanks to its big home market, and Sri Lanka has been extending its lead as the world’s third largest exporter behind China and Kenya.

LEARNING TO ADAPT

Labour accounts for 60 percent of the total costs for tea firms in Assam, whose prices last year were higher than those auctioned in Mombasa in Kenya, Chittagong in Bangladesh, Limbe in Malawi and Indonesian capital Jakarta.

Profit margins at Kolkata-based McLeod Russel, the world’s largest tea producer, are estimated to have fallen to their lowest in six years in the year ended March 31, according to Thomson Reuters data.

To cut labour costs, tea companies like Aideobarie Tea Estates, owned by ATPA’s Barooah, are exploring greater use of machines to harvest and spray nutrients or pesticides.

Barooah, whose company employs 48-year-old leaf plucker Ghatowar, her husband and now her eldest son, is also thinking of expanding into high-margin white tea made from tea buds.

Other tea gardens have moved to cultivating black pepper, turmeric, ginger, vegetables and fruit alongside tea, while Indian scientists are testing tea varieties that can adapt and survive in hotter and drier conditions.

But in the face of long-term climate change, that may not be enough.

“With rain so scarce, a day may come when Assam will not grow tea any more,” said tea scientist Subhash Chandra Barua. “Planting a crop is fine but economic cultivation may not be feasible”.

(Editing by Douglas Busvine and Alex Richardson)

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

New British princess named Charlotte Elizabeth Diana | Reuters

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s new princess has been named Charlotte Elizabeth Diana, Kensington Palace said on its Twitter account on Monday, a choice of names that honours the baby’s late grandmother Princess Diana and her great-grandmother Queen Elizabeth.

The daughter of Prince William and his wife Kate will be known as Her Royal Highness Princess Charlotte of Cambridge, the palace said.

Princess Charlotte, born at St. Mary’s Hospital in west London on Saturday, is fourth in line to the British throne, after her grandfather Prince Charles, her father William and elder brother Prince George.

Charlotte, Diana and Elizabeth were all among the names most favoured by bookmakers for the princess, who is the fifth great-grandchild of Britain’s 89-year-old Queen Elizabeth.

The birth has provided a welcome distraction for many Britons from campaigning by political parties for Thursday’s knife-edge general election.

(Writing by Robin Pomeroy and Gareth Jones)

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

Illegal betting has taken a toll on China, India – Eaton | Reuters

DEAD SEA, Jordan (Reuters) – Betting fraud and match-fixing are part of the reason why China and India have achieved little in soccer despite their huge populations, anti-corruption expert Chris Eaton said on Sunday.

Eaton, the executive director of the non-profit-making International Centre for Sports Security, urged governments to take more control of the problem and said the sport was a victim and not the cause of widespread betting fraud.

Speaking at the Soccerex Asian Forum, he said countries should follow the United States in moving towards “transparent, legalised, regulated and supervised sport betting, so there will be far less money to fix football or any other sports matches.”

Eaton said that more than 80 countries in the world had suffered from match-fixing in the last five years, but the two Asian giants had suffered more than most.

“The innovations being led by Adam Silver of the National Basketball Association (NBA) are important to sport,” he told delegates at the King Hussein convention centre on the shores of the Dead Sea, 60km from Amman.

“China must follow. The core crime here is not the match-fix but betting fraud, (betting on the fixed match).

“The frauds are mostly taking place out of money from China. The amount of money gambled in China on sport or by other Chinese in south-east Asia is probably around $800 billion a year.

“They are betting on up to 5,000 sporting contests a week and these criminals are changing their tactics,” added Eaton.

“They are now corrupting the sport betting monitors. Law enforcement is so far behind — its got a long way to catch up globally and governments must take more responsibility and act together.”

A huge corruption scandal rocked China earlier in the decade with 33 people banned for life, and a total of 60 punished in a purge that affected 12 clubs.

“After the scandals in China attendances went down to 30 percent of the norm. China should be one of the powerhouses of world football but is not,” said Eaton.

“India should also be a powerhouse in world football but it is not, because of match-fixing in cricket for goodness sake.

“The spectators in India have now become very cynical about their sport because they’ve seen what has happened in their most popular sport and they apply it to other sports.”

(Reporting by Mike Collett, editing by Alan Baldwin)

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

SurveyMonkey CEO, husband of Facebook’s Sandberg, dies | Reuters

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Dave Goldberg, Chief Executive Officer of SurveyMonkey and husband of Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, died unexpectedly on Friday night, his brother wrote in a Facebook post on Saturday.

“It’s with incredible shock and sadness that I’m letting our friends and family know that my amazing brother, Dave Goldberg, beloved husband of Sheryl Sandberg, father of two wonderful children, and son of Paula Goldberg, passed away suddenly last night,” Robert Goldberg wrote.

Goldberg was known for his low-key demeanor and the grace and good humor with which he handled being married to one of the nation’s most recognizable executives.

In her book “Lean In,” Sandberg attributed much of her own success to her marriage to Goldberg, who she said supported her career decisions and shared equally in the work of raising their young children. The two married in 2004.

Tributes to Goldberg poured in over social media from friends and other executives, including Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg, who called Goldberg “an amazing person.”

“Kindest, most generous, loving father, loyal husband, great ceo, & sweetest friend,” tweeted Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff. “May his memory be a blessing.”

Television and movie writer John Quaintance said on Facebook that Goldberg was the first person to encourage him to write professionally, changing the course of his career.

Goldberg was also the first person Quaintance met who owned a Blackberry device. “I rolled my eyes at the idea that people were ever going to need to read their emails away from the office,” he wrote.

Goldberg, 47, joined SurveyMonkey, which helps organizations conduct surveys, in 2009. Valued at $2 billion, SurveyMonkey is backed by Bain Capital Ventures, Google Capital, Tiger Global and others.

“Dave’s genius, courage and leadership were overshadowed only by his compassion, friendship and heart,” the company said in a statement. “His greatest love was for his family. Our sympathy goes out to them and to all who were touched by this extraordinary man.”

The family did not disclose the cause of death.

(Reporting by Sarah McBride; contributions from Joe Menn; Editing by Matthew Lewis and Alan Crosby)

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