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With Pak visit, Modi’s foreign policy circle is complete

Ever since Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister, he has been insisting on Foreign Policy and it has been on the top agenda. He has already visited almost 55 States but was criticised for not having visited Pakistan. In fact, in the earlier Indian government between 1998 to 2003, Atal Bihari Vajpayee had visited Pakistan twice in 1999 and 2002, once before and after the Kargil war. He was the one who constituted the process of peace building with Pakistan. So it was expected that Modi would carry forward the same legacy.So Modi’s visit to Pakistan was not spontaneous, it was a well decided and pre-determined sort of move, but was obviously kept out of media glare as there was tremendous public pressure and in a way India had to break the ice.Another important reason we have to look at is that Modi first visited Russia followed by Afghanistan and then Pakistan. In the last six months, India has been growing close to the United States of America (US) and Russia is getting closer to Pakistan so that made India look at relations with Russia from a whole new perspective. India has a very crucial role to play in Afghanistan, which is being opposed by Pakistan and to avoid this, India has to normalise it’s relations with Pakistan. This will be necessary to maintain balance on regional and international issues.In the last one year, Modi may have realised that cutting off the peace process and breaking ties with Pakistan did not yield any result. On the contrary, it ultimately increased the importance of the military in Pakistan and not of the political executive.India’s policy to keep its neighbours in confidence cannot be completed until and unless it normalises its relations with Pakistan. The ultimate reality is that there is no alternative solution for resolving Kashmir, Siachen and Sir Creek issues which have been pending for decades. Initiating the talks is the only solution to find the remedy for all pending issues with Pakistan.Since Russia and China are getting closer to Pakistan the triangle that is emerging from their relations, if developed, can be disastrous to India. So it is important for India to neutralise that aspect also. Hence Modi’s visit was well-planned in the order it took place, that is, Russia, Afghanistan and Pakistan. With this the foreign policy circle is completed, which had been left incomplete by the UPA government.One more important aspect to be considered in the Kashmir issue is that just talking to the political executive is not enough, but the army, that is, the top military generals have to be involved in it. India-Pakistan policy is not being decided and dictated by the political executive but by the army. Army plays a very crucial role in framing Indian, Pakistani, American and Israeli policy. So it is important to involve the army in talks and also to take it into confidence.The ice between the countries has been broken, a very positive development and the hope is that it will continue.-As told to dnaThe author is a foreign policy analyst<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>

Eco-sensitive zones to sink by 60% of Western Ghats?

If the states have their way, nearly 60% of the eco-sensitive, protected area of the Western Ghats, also known as water tower of peninsular India, will be thrown open for development and commercial projects. Five states located along the Western Ghats – Maharashtra, Karnataka, Goa, Gujarat and Kerala – have recommended to retain only 20,000 sq km as eco-sensitive area (ESA) and release the rest 36,285 sq.km for development. Among the six Western Ghats states, Tamil Nadu is yet to submit its recommendations on ESA areas to the Centre.A Central government appointed committee led by K Kasturirangan had recommended 56,825 sq km as ESA, nearly three times more than what the states have stated. The Centre too had notified 56,825 sq.km area as ESA in a draft notification in September this year. Western Ghats is one of the eight biodiversity hotspots in the world and is also a UNESCO world heritage site.In their detailed reports on ESAs, the states have rejected most findings and recommendations of the Kasturirangan report, pushing for opening the Ghats to development and commercial activities. The state governments were unhappy with the Kasturirangan report and thus the Central government had allowed them to physically verify their ESAs.The Kasturirangan report had identified ESAs on the basis of natural landscape and cultural landscape. The natural landscape comprises of natural vegetation, forests, water bodies, hills and sacred groves while cultural landscape comprises of human dominated land use of settlements, agricultural land, horticulture and other plantations.For example, the report had identified 4,156 villages across six states as ESA, but the five state governments, in their recommendations, demarcated only 1,666 villages. Each state government has shot down prohibitions suggested in the Kasturirangan report on issues such as mining, township development and forest plantations.An analysis of the state reports by dna shows that broadly they have vouched for inclusion of only contiguous forests that are already notified along with non-forest private lands areas while excluding plantations, industrial zones and even non-cultivable agricultural land.Gujarat, however, is the only state to have increased its ESA area.The ground reality, the states’ reports claim, is that most villages across Ghats rejected the ESA tag, as they feared for loss of livelihood. The reports say that villagers were victims of misinformation campaigns. The villagers, reports said, termed the concept of ESAs as ‘government land grab’.Speaking on the state reports, veteran ecologist Madhav Gadgil, who headed the first Central panel to have given a road-map for conservation of the Ghats, said, “The process states have followed to demarcate ESAs is more important than the area they have retained. It is a flawed process from several angles and most crucially, there is little people’s participation.”He added, “So called ground-truthing exercises involved gathering only select few groups of influential locals across villages. Also, I got first-hand reports of misinformation campaigns that were spread against the concept of ESAs.”While analysing the state reports, dna found each state government has used different approaches for giving ESA tag to villages. As per the Kasturirangan report, villages having more than 20% natural landscape were to be counted as ecologically sensitive. Maharashtra, which has the second largest ESA area has reduced the number of ESA villages from 2,154 to 1,254, reducing the protected area of Ghats to 6,719.3 sq.km.In Maharashtra, the government excluded a total of 879 villages for being isolated, distant from the contiguous, elevated range of the Ghats and for having less than 20% natural landscape. ESA villages that are home to industrial zones have been excluded without studying their pollution load on water resources.In Karnataka, the government thought it more ‘practical’ and ‘rational’ to count only those villages with 50% or more natural landscape and that already fall in the buffer zone of sanctuaries and national parks as ESAs. Karnataka has whittled down ESA villages to 153 from 1,553, shrinking the protected area to 2,020.01 sq.km.Once Tamil Nadu submits its report, MoEF&CC will deliberate on recommendations of all states and map ESA villages using satellite maps. The ministry is likely to meet representatives and MPs from each state before it takes a final call on how much area of the Ghats should be kept as ecologically sensitive.dna contacted Union minister for environment, forests and climate change Prakash Javadekar, who said the matter of finalising Western Ghats’ ESA is under process.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>

Etihad Airways to provide assistance to Indian students deported from US

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The Middle Eastern airline, which is an investment partner in domestic private airline Jet Airways, further said that it “understands current concerns of such students who have booked travel on Etihad Airways’ flights to the United States”.

Gulf carrier Etihad on Wednesday said it would provide all assistance to Indian students, who travelled on its flight to the US and had to return home due to refusal for entry, particularly those belonging to two California schools. “Any student who does not meet the requirements of the US authorities, will be assisted by Etihad Airways with travel arrangements back to their point of origin,” Etihad said in a statement. National carrier Air India has already announced that it will not accept students bound for these two universities — Silicon Valley University at San Jose and Northwestern Polytechnic University, Fremont — till it gets a go-ahead from its US office.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The state-run carrier had on Sunday night stopped 19 Indian students heading to the two US universities from boarding a San Francisco-bound flight, citing a communication from US Customs and Border Protection agency. As many as 14 Indian students were last week deported as these institutions were “under scrutiny,” Air India had said. The Middle Eastern airline, which is an investment partner in domestic private airline Jet Airways, further said that it “understands current concerns of such students who have booked travel on Etihad Airways’ flights to the United States”.”In recent days a number of Indian nationals have been refused entry to the USA due to visa irregularities identified during checks carried out by the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP),” the airline said, adding affected students booked on Etihad Airways who choose not to travel from India to the US can get refunds on cancelled tickets as per the norms in this regard. Alternatively, they can rebook once at no extra charge in the original class of travel and same fare type subject to availability on flights up to January 31 to enable them to resolve their visa issues with the relevant authorities, it said.However, such students are advised to contact the US consulate at their point of origin to confirm that their documentation is in order, Etihad said.

Over 3.6 crore rural people at risk due to unsafe drinking water: Government

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The Union Minister also said there are 1,318 arsenic- affected rural habitations in the country which are yet to be provided with safe drinking water.

Ram Kripal Yadav
File Photo
PTI
Over 3.6 crore people living in more than 63,000 rural habitations are exposed to health hazards due to drinking water quality problems like excess arsenic, fluoride, iron, salinity or nitrate. Of this, 1,318 rural habitations are arsenic-affected, Minister of State for Drinking Water Ram Kripal Yadav told the Upper House in a written reply.”As reported by the state governments under the Online Integrated Management System (IMIS) of the Ministry as on December 15, there are 63,378 rural habitations affected by water quality problems like excess arsenic, fluoride, iron, salinity or nitrate in one or more rural drinking water sources. The total population at risk as on December 15 is 3.6 crore,” Yadav said.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Union Minister also said there are 1,318 arsenic- affected rural habitations in the country which are yet to be provided with safe drinking water. The permissible limit of arsenic in drinking water is 0.05 milligram per litre. “Due to prolonged consumption of excess arsenic in drinking water, dermal changes are characterised including in children by increased pigmentation and hardening of the skin that is combination of melanosis and keratosis. The most common sequence is the gradual development of sported or raindrop pigmentation followed by gradual emergence of a hyper-keratotic changes. If not detected and prevented in the early stages, these manifestations may lead to cancer,” he said in the reply.Yadav said the Ministry has advised all states to commission piped water supply schemes preferably from safe surface water sources as a long-term sustainable solution. “Since such projects take certain time, the ministry has suggested the states to install community water purification plants especially in arsenic and fluoride-affected habitations so as to provide 8-10 litres per capita per day of safe water for drinking and cooking purposes, quickly,” he said.Replying to another question, the Minister said there are “no habitations in the country without drinking water facilities” as per the IMIS. He said some of the rural population living in 63,000 houses are “not getting clean drinking water” as one or more of drinking water sources at these habitations are “contaminated by chemicals” like arsenic, fluoride, iron, nitrate and salinity.Yadav informed that the government has released Rs 2758.45 crore to states in the current fiscal for providing safe drinking water to rural areas.The Minister said the government has prepared a “strategic plan” to cover 90 per cent of the rural population through piped water supply schemes by 2022. “States have been advised to set up community water purification plants or provide safe drinking water through surface water-based piped supply schemes in all remaining arsenic and fluoride-affected habitations by March 2017,” he said.

First planeload of Syrian refugees headed to Canada

After months of promises and weeks of preparation, the first planeload of Syrian refugees was headed to Canada on Thursday, aboard a military plane to be met at Toronto’s airport by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Canadas Prime Minister Justin Trudeau poses with airport staff as they await Syrian refugees to arrive at the Toronto Pearson International Airport in Mississauga, Ontario, December 10, 2015.

After months of promises and weeks of preparation, the first planeload of Syrian refugees was headed to Canada on Thursday, aboard a military plane to be met at Toronto’s airport by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.Trudeau’s newly elected Liberal government scaled back the number of Syrian migrants it will accept by year end after the attacks in Paris sparked concern that the election promise to bring in 25,000 by Dec. 31 would not allow enough time for security checks.Some 300 Syrian refugees were expected to arrive on two military flights, the first arriving in Toronto late on Thursday and the second in Montreal on Saturday. Trudeau has said 10,000 will be resettled by the end of the year and a further 15,000 by the end of February.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>At the airport, privately sponsored refugees have already been arriving on commercial flights in recent days at a separate terminal from the military airlift. Those arriving on Thursday were met by sponsors and ordinary Canadians who had come to the airport to greet the much-anticipated newcomers.”They are very tired, but they are happy and hopeful,” said Soriya Dasir, a worker with Abraham Festival, a group that sponsored a single mother and three children who had been living in a camp in Jordan for two years, as she escorted them past waiting media.Nearby, Shai Reef, 20, held up a sign that read: “Welcome to Canada” in Arabic.”I’m here to show my solidarity for and support of the Syrian people going through genocide in Syria,” Reef said. “As Jews, we were also locked out, I know what it feels like.”Toronto’s mayor tweeted a welcome, while the Toronto Star, the country’s largest newspaper, covered its front page with a “Welcome to Canada” banner headline in English and Arabic, along with an article explaining Canadian weather, ice hockey and quirky local slang.The Syrians’ reception in Canada contrasted sharply with that of the neighboring United States, where fear of Syrian refugees following the deadly Nov 13 Paris attacks spurred opposition to allowing them entry. Some US governors said their states would not accept Syrian refugees.With security concerns, immigration paperwork and the flight’s late-night arrival, refugees on the military aircraft being met by the prime minister were to be put up at a nearby hotel for the night before meeting their sponsors and resettlement agencies on Friday.While one provincial premier and some opposition politicians initially said Trudeau was accepting too many refugees too quickly, his decision to push back the timeline by two months silenced much of the criticism.Trudeau was elected to a surprise majority in October promising to accept more refugees more quickly than the previous Conservative government.

Centre, States must work together for India’s progress, says PM Modi

“States have the most important role in India’s progress. India can move ahead only on the strong shoulders of the states and not from Delhi alone. If we walk together shoulder to shoulder then results will automatically come,” he said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said his government was taking states on board for development of the country, asserting that India can move ahead only on the “strong shoulders” of the states and not from Delhi alone.”India is not going to progress from Delhi,” Modi said while delivering the inaugural address at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit in Delhi.Citing various measures taken by his government like setting up special departments for states at the Centre in taking them along, Modi said the states have the most “important role” in India’s progress.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”States have the most important role in India’s progress. India can move ahead only on the strong shoulders of the states and not from Delhi alone. If we walk together shoulder to shoulder then results will automatically come,” he said.Modi said it is important that the world knows about our states and their strengths.During his 40-minute speech that was laced with humour, the prime minister also said that a decisive mandate given to his party in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections was crucial to the country’s progress.Having a stable Government is a very big thing and this can’t be ignored. Fractured mandates always have uncertainty,” he said, adding, there was “despondency” all over before his government took over office in May last year.

Rajiv Gandhi assassination case: SC says Tamil Nadu govt cannot release convicts without consent from Centre

“Tamil Nadu government cannot grant remission to convicts in Rajiv Gandhi assassination case without concurrence of Centre. States do not have suo motu power to grant remission to convicts under CrPC provisions,” said the court.

Former PM Rajiv Gandhi

The Supreme Court on Wednesday said the killers of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi cannot be released by the Tamil Nadu Government without the Centre’s consent.The apex court said the killers of the former prime minister will stay in the jails of Tamil Nadu, thus overruling the state government’s decision to release the convicts. “Tamil Nadu government cannot grant remission to convicts in Rajiv Gandhi assassination case without concurrence of Centre. States do not have suo motu power to grant remission to convicts under CrPC provisions,” said the court.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>It further added, “Centre will have primacy in granting remission to convicts in cases registered under central law and probed by central agencies like CBI.”The Supreme Court, however, refers to a three-judge bench the factual and legal aspects of grant of remission to convicts in Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.The Supreme Court was pronouncing its verdict on constitutional issues arising from Tamil Nadu government’s decision to set free the convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, including the power of states to remit sentences.The bench, also comprising justices FMI Kalifulla, Pinaki Chandra Ghosh, Abhay Manohar Sapre and UU Lalit, had reserved the judgement on August 12 after hearing for eleven days the arguments advanced by Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar, who appeared for the Centre, and others including senior advocates Ram Jethmalani and Rakesh Dwivedi, representing V Sriharan alias Murugan, one of the seven convicts, and Tamil Nadu government respectively. The court would be dealing with seven issues framed by the smaller bench on the scope of the Executive’s power of remission.It was also supposed to decide whether state governments also have power of remission in cases where central agencies like CBI are the prosecutor.”The issue of such a nature has been raised for the first time in this court which has wide ramification in determining the scope of application of power of remission by the Executives, both the Centre and the State.”Accordingly, we refer this matter to the Constitution Bench to decide the issue pertaining to whether once power of remission under Article 72 (by the President) or 161 (by Governor) or by this Court exercising Constitutional power under Article 32 is exercised, is there any scope for further consideration for remission by the Executive,” the apex court had said while referring the matter to the Constitution bench.It had said the Constitution bench would decide whether the sentence of a prisoner, whose death penalty has been commuted to life, can be remitted by the government. The bench would also decide whether life imprisonment meant jail term for rest of the life or a convict has a right to claim remission, it had said.Another issue for the constitution bench to decide is whether a special category of sentence could be provided for cases where death penalty might be substituted by imprisonment for life or imprisonment for a term in excess of 14 years and to put that category beyond application of remission.The bench is also supposed to decide whether the Union or the State has primacy over the subject matter enlisted in concurrent list of 7th Schedule of the Constitution for exercise of power of remission.During the hearing, Centre had said that repeated mercy pleas before the President and the Governor by convicts seeking remission or commutation of their sentences violated the principle of finality. It had also asserted that the killers of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi did nor deserve any mercy as the assassination was the result of a conspiracy involving foreign nationals.The Tamil Nadu government, on other had, had asserted the states have power to grant remission under the law and trashed accusations that its decision to release seven convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case was “political and arbitrary”.The state government had wanted to know as to why Congress governments at the centre delayed the decision on their mercy pleas that led to commutation of their death sentence in the first place.Jethmalani, appearing for one of the convicts, had sought dismissal of Centre’s plea, contending that the citizens could file writ petitions for enforcement of their fundamental rights and “Union of India is not a citizen but State under Article 12; it has no such rights vested in it”. The apex court had on February 20 last year stayed the state government’s decision to release three convicts – Murugan, Santhan and Arivu, whose death sentence had been commuted to life term by it two days before.It had later also stayed the release of four other convicts — Nalini, Robert Pious, Jayakumar and Ravichandran, saying there were procedural lapses on part of the state government.Santhan, Murugan and Arivu are currently lodged in the Central Prison, Vellore. The other four are also undergoing life sentence for their role in Gandhi’s assassination on May 21, 1991 in Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu.(With PTI and ANI inputs)

Sonia Gandhi in US for regular medical checkup: Congress

Congress President Sonia Gandhi has gone to the United States for a regular medical checkup and will return after a week, her party said on Monday.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi has gone to the United States for a regular medical checkup and will return after a week, her party said on Monday.”She has gone to the US for a regular, routine checkup.She will return after a week,” party’s chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said here.Party sources said the 68-year-old leader’s checkup was due for the past two months and got delayed due to Bihar Assembly polls.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>

Sonia Gandhi in US for routine medical check-up, says Congress spokesperson

New Delhi: Congress President Sonia Gandhi has gone to the United States for a regular medical checkup and will return after a week, her party said on Monday.

File photo. Image: Naresh Sharma/ FirstpostFile photo. Image: Naresh Sharma/ Firstpost

File photo. Image: Naresh Sharma/ Firstpost

“She has gone to the US for a regular, routine checkup. She will return after a week,” party’s chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said here.

Party sources said the 68-year-old leader’s checkup was due for the past two months and got delayed due to Bihar Assembly polls.

PTI

Indian drugmaker Biocon’s revenue could hit $1 bln in 4 years – MD | Reuters

ABU DHABI India’s biggest biotech firm Biocon Ltd expects revenue to double to $1 billion in four years as it expands in Europe and the United States with new products, its chairperson and managing director said on Saturday.

In a tie-up with U.S. generic drugmaker Mylan NV, the Bengaluru-based biopharmaceutical firm has five biosimilar products – almost identical copies of original drugs – entering global regulatory approval stage which is expected to take about 18-20 months.

“We forecast that by financial year 2019 our revenues will be $1 billion with 25 percent coming from research and 75 percent from rest of our business,” Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw told Reuters on a business visit to Abu Dhabi.

Biocon’s revenues were a little less than $500 million for fiscal 2014-15, she said.

Of the 70 percent of the products that it exports, the United States and Europe account for 50 percent.

Biocon has invested over $200 million in research and development to develop biosimilars at its Malaysia facility, currently in its commissioning phase, she said.

The firm has lost business in some Middle East markets due to turmoil in the region, particularly Syria where Biocon had high sales.

Sales in Lebanon, Egypt and Iran also fell but there were signs of recovery in Egypt, said Shaw, who started Biocon out of a garage in 1978 in Bangalore.

She declined to give specific sales figures for Syria or the other Middle East markets. The Middle East and north Africa markets account for about 6 percent of Biocon’s exports.

To offset those markets, Biocon has been focusing through aggressive marketing in north African markets such as Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia as well as markets in central and south-east Asia and Latin America.

Shaw also said Biocon could divest further in its research and manufacturing arm Syngene in 2016 once the latter reaches strong growth.

“It won’t happen this fiscal, we are looking at next year,” she said without giving details.

Biocon has a stake of 74 percent in Syngene after it divested 11 percent via an initial public offering.

(Reporting By Stanley Carvalho, editing by Susan Thomas)

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

India’s plan to cut emissions indicates ‘seriousness’: UN chief Ban Ki-moon

“I welcome India’s submission of its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC). I believe it indicates the seriousness with which India is confronting the challenges of climate change, and it will help the world ‘bend’ the temperature projections for the rest of this century,” Ban said.

PTI
India’s plan to slash greenhouse gas emissions indicates its “seriousness” in confronting climate change challenges and will help the world “bend” temperature projections for the rest of the century, UN chief Ban Ki-moon has said ahead of the crucial Paris summit.The UN Secretary General also took note of India’s concerns over the lack of climate ambition on display by developed countries on both fronts of mitigation and support, saying that there is “no question” that developed countries need to take the lead on climate action.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”I welcome India’s submission of its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC). I believe it indicates the seriousness with which India is confronting the challenges of climate change, and it will help the world ‘bend’ the temperature projections for the rest of this century,” Ban told PTI.In its INDCs, India has offered to slash its emissions per-unit of gross domestic product figures to 35 per cent by 2030.The United Nations Climate Change Conference, widely known as Conference of Parties (CoP 21), will take place from November 30 to December 11 in Paris and will aim to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2 C.More than 120 leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, will participate in the 21st Meeting of the States Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.India has expressed deep concern over the lack of climate ambition on display by developed countries on both fronts of mitigation and support. Ban said while there is no question that developed countries need to take the lead on climate action, nations however have to move forward.”Global emissions are continuing to rise. We have to look at the issue differently. We have to recognise that all countries have to do their part, to the extent they have the resources and capacity to take action,” Ban said.He stressed that countries understand that all nations need to be involved in the solutions, and all need to see that the benefits of low-carbon, climate-resilient growth are realised by all.”Developed countries need to lead but all countries need to contribute,” he said.India has stressed that developed countries cannot undermine the core principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities in arriving at a climate deal.Ban emphasised that the Paris conference has to result in an agreement that is “fair”. He said it needs to demonstrate solidarity with the poor and most vulnerable countries.”It has to recognise and respond to the circumstances and needs of the most vulnerable, who have not contributed to the problem of climate change yet have the most to lose due to its impacts,” he said.

Full text: Come, you will get wings of a new business environment in India, says PM at Asean meet

Prime minister Narendra Modi today invited the business community in the Asean region to see the winds of change in India and promised them the full cooperation.

“Now, it is India’s turn. And we know that our time has come. We are at a take-off stage,” he said at the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit in Kuala Lumpur.

In the speech he claimed his government has been striving hard to bring about reforms in order to transform the country.

Referring to the recent measures on the FDI fron he said the government has taken dynamic steps to further open up the economy.

“With this round of reforms, we are among the most open economies in the world,” he claimed.

Here’s the full text of his speech:

Tan Sri Dato Dr Mohd Munir Abdul Majid, Chairman of the ASEAN Business Advisory Council,

Dato Ramesh Koddamal, Co-Chair of the ASEAN-India Business Council,

Business Leaders of ASEAN,

Members of the ASEAN Business Community,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen.

I am very happy to be here with you. I feel honoured to address this privileged gathering of the leaders who have transformed South East Asia into one of the most dynamic regions of the world. I congratulate you for this achievement. I also congratulate you on the creation of One ASEAN Community which you are going to sign off tomorrow.

India and ASEAN are natural partners. Our ties date back to ancient times. They continue to serve as a bridge between our countries and regions.

Friends! I have been saying that the 21st century belongs to Asia. I say this because of the track record of the ASEAN countries. Together, ASEAN’s ten member countries form an economic powerhouse. ASEAN has emerged as one of the largest economic zones in the world. Last fifteen years have seen your rapid and yet stable growth. Your Macro-economic stability has been the main reason for growth and stability in South East Asia. With good governance, futuristic infrastructure and focus on new age technologies, you have created excellence.

In simple things like tourism, you have done miracles. Once again, I compliment the leadership and people of ASEAN countries for what they have achieved.

When I analyse the Asian miracle, I find that small countries of ASEAN and a big country like China, both have done well. This shows that growth depends more on the spirit of people rather than the size of population. I have had personal relations with many leaders of this region. I have also visited a number of places a number of times. Even as Prime Minister, my engagements with the Asian leadership started as soon as I took over. I met a number of ASEAN leaders in the last Summit too.

PM Modi at the Asean summitPM Modi at the Asean summit

PM Modi at the Asean summit

My government took office nearly 18 months ago. The Indian economy faced serious challenges. A high fiscal deficit, a high current account deficit, a large number of stalled infrastructure projects and persistent inflation were among them.

It was obvious that reforms were needed. We asked ourselves the question – Reforms for what? What is the aim of reform? Is it just to increase the measured rate of GDP growth? Or is it to bring about a transformation in society? My answer is clear: we must REFORM TO TRANSFORM.

In short, reform is not an end in itself. Reform for me is just a way station on the long journey to the destination. The destination is the transformation of India. We have to take the fruits of development to the margins of our geography and to the bottom of our demography. We have to touch lives, while reaching for the sky.

By almost every major economic indicator, India is doing better than when we took office 18 months ago.

• GDP growth is up and inflation is down

• Foreign investment is up and the Current Account Deficit is down.

• Tax revenues are up and interest rates are down.

• The fiscal deficit is down and the rupee is stable.

Obviously, this did not happen by accident. And the world economy is not exactly doing well. This success is the result of a series of concerted policies. We have embarked on a course of fiscal consolidation. We have entered, for the first time, into a monetary framework agreement with the Reserve Bank to curb inflation.

Even while cutting the fiscal deficit, we have substantially increased productive public investment. This has been made possible in two ways. Firstly, we have imposed carbon taxes on fossil fuels. We have taken the bold step of de-controlling diesel prices and thereby eliminated energy subsidies, and have in fact imposed taxes on fossil fuels. We have increased the cess on coal by 300%. Globally, there is much talk of carbon taxes. We have actually acted. Secondly, we have reduced wasteful expenditure through innovative methods including targeting subsidies to the deserving through technology.

PM Modi at the Asean summitPM Modi at the Asean summit

PM Modi at the Asean summit

Overall, there is increased confidence within and outside the country. The IMF and World Bank have expressed even better hope for our economy this year and after. The Economist magazine this week stated that “India is in healthier shape than any other big emerging economy.”

However, as I said, our aim is not mere reform, but “reform to transform”. Macro-economic stability is good. But to transform India, much more needs to be done. We have begun a series of concerted steps. These include structural and institutional reforms.

Agriculture remains India’s mainstay in terms of providing livelihood. We have introduced a series of simple but powerful structural reforms. There was a tendency to divert subsidised fertiliser for the production of chemicals. We have found a simple but very effective solution: by neem-coating the fertiliser, it becomes unsuitable for diversion. We are now moving towards universal neem-coating. This has already saved billions of rupees of diverted farm subsidies.

We have also introduced Soil Health Card. This tells every farmer the condition of his or her soil and then enables him to choose the right crop, best quantity and mix of inputs.

We have launched a housing for all program, one of the most ambitious in the world. It involves building 20 million urban houses and 29.5 million rural houses, totalling nearly 50 million. While the programme will make sure no Indian is houseless, it will also generate a large amount of employment – that too, mainly for the unskilled, the semi-skilled and the poor.

We have undertaken major improvements in the transport sector. Our major ports witnessed a 4.65% growth in traffic and an 11.2% increase in operating income, in 2014-15 despite a global contraction in trade volume.

The pace of award of new highway works has increased from 9 km/day in 2013-14 to 23 km/day currently. These will have large multiplier effects throughout the economy.

We were committed to restore credibility in the process of allocation of natural resources. My government has intervened with legislative and administrative measures to improve the supply of critical inputs and raw materials. They include Coal, other minerals and spectrum. The hallmark of this intervention is allocation through transparent auction.

We started the Jan Dhan Yojana. In less than a year, we opened 190 million new bank accounts. On Social security front, we have launched innovative and attractive schemes for insurance and pension. We have also set up MUDRA Bank to fund the small traders who were unfunded so far. More than six million small traders have already availed the loans.

While expanding the banking services, we are also taking steps to strengthen the Banking system. Credible and capable bankers have been appointed to head banks. For the first time since banks were nationalised 46 years ago, private sector professionals have been appointed in key positions. We have taken concerted action to revive stalled infrastructure projects – We have started a major revamp of the power sector. These measures will also benefit our banks.

Let me now turn to issues of investment, which may be of more direct relevance to you.

In a break with over 65 years of tradition, we have involved India’s States in foreign policy. The Ministry of External Affairs has been asked to work with the States. When I visited China, a state-to-state summit was also held. And states have been asked to create export promotion councils. Making the States think globally is yet another reform with potential to transform.

Our aim is to create jobs for more than a billion young hands. To provide this, the share of manufacturing must reach around 25% in our GDP. We have launched a campaign called ‘Make in India’ and aggressively worked on the front of Ease of doing business. Reducing complicated procedures, making them available at one platform- preferably online, simplifying the forms and formats has been taken up on war footing. That is how we have jumped up by 12 ranks in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report of 2016. Industry is realising the benefits of these changes. Index of Industrial Production in the current year shows a distinct improvement over the previous year. We are working in all ways to make India a global manufacturing hub.

World Class Infrastructure has remained a dream for India. Hence, our maximum focus is on building futuristic infrastructure. By exercising tight control over unproductive expenditure, we have greatly increased capital investment by the Public Sector. To further augment such investments, we are encouraging the PPP model. We are also setting up National Investment and Infrastructure Fund which will help us leverage public investments. We are also coming up with Tax Free Infrastructure Bonds with a view to broaden the corporate bond market and to provide long term finance for infrastructure. We are eager to work with Malaysia, Singapore and other ASEAN countries in this regard.

As a result of our initiatives,

PM Narendra ModiPM Narendra Modi

PM Narendra Modi

• The sentiments for private investment and inflow of foreign investment have turned positive. Foreign investment is up 40%.

• India has been consistently ranked as the most attractive investment destination by several global agencies and institutions.

• India has also improved its UNCTAD ranking of investment attractiveness. Against 15th so far, now we are at 9th place.

• India has also jumped 16 places on the World Economic Forum’s global competitive index after five years of decline in the list.

• MOODY’s have upgraded the outlook for India.

Campaigns like Digital India and Skill India are designed to prepare the people to take part in this process. We have witnessed exponential growth in the number of start-ups in the recent past. To tap this energy fully, we have launched the Start up India Campaign.

We are aware of the interest of the Global investor community in the potential that India has. In recent months, this interest has gone up. Therefore, to re-vitalize the flow of investments, we have launched the second wave of structural and financial reforms. We are trying to further open up the economy and introduce an element of predictability and stability in taxation system.

To give you some examples:

• We have allowed and enhanced FDI levels in key sectors including Insurance, Defence and Railways.

• Now, most of these FDI sectors have been put on automatic approval route.

• We have also rationalised FDI policies in many sectors, including construction, plantation and medical devices.

• We have now allowed composite caps for Foreign portfolio investors in all sectors where FDI is allowed. Earlier, portfolio investments had a separate cap.

• We have greatly liberalised the licensing regime; to give you one example – we have taken out almost 60% of Defence items out of the licensing process.

• We have ended retrospective taxation.

• We have notified the regulations for the Alternative Investment Funds.

• We have rationalized capital gains tax for Real Estate Investment Trusts.

• We have also decided to defer the implementation of General Anti Avoidance Rules.

• We have introduced the Goods & Services Tax Bill in Parliament. We are hopeful of rolling it out in 2016. This will create a unified system of taxation across the country.

• We have drafted a new bankruptcy code. Formation of the Company Law Tribunal to expedite cases is on the way.

These are just a few examples. Almost on a daily basis, we are trying to remove the bottlenecks that were affecting our growth process. Even early this month, we have taken very dynamic steps to further open up the economy for FDI. With this round of reforms, we are among the most open economies in the world.

Going further, I want to assure you that India is committed to protect Intellectual Property Rights of all innovators. We have taken several initiatives for transparency and online processing in IP administration. A comprehensive National IPR policy is expected by the end of the year. We are moving fast to make sure that our tax regime is transparent and predictable. We are also keen to see that genuine investors and honest tax payers get quick and fair decisions on tax matters.

Friends, India is a land of immense opportunities. To give you some examples: our fifty cities are ready for putting up Metro Rail Systems. We have to build 50 million affordable houses. The requirement of road, rail and waterways is enormous. We have decided to go for renewable energy in a big way – 175 GW. We have to do all this in a short span of time. Our democratic values and an alert judicial system ensure the safety of your investments. We have set the tone of Governance with a long term vision and an open mind. We are particularly working to make India the easiest place to do business.

Friends, Most of the ASEAN economies have done their bit for Asia’s resurgence. Now, it is India’s turn. And we know that our time has come. We are at a take-off stage. I invite you to come and see the winds of change in India. Winds do take time to cross the borders. That is why; I am personally here to invite you. When you come, you will get the wings of a new business environment. And once you are there, I assure you of my full co-operation.

Thank You.

India blocks visits by U.S. officials despite warmer ties | Reuters

WASHINGTON/NEW DELHI Despite a much-heralded fresh start in U.S.-India ties under Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a diplomatic source said on Friday the United States has run into problems arranging visits by two senior officials, recalling a diplomatic spat that soured relations two years ago.

Washington has been seeking to send Susan Coppedge, its newly appointed anti-people trafficking ambassador, and Randy Berry, its special envoy for LGBT rights, to New Delhi this month.

Human trafficking has caused friction between the United States and India. The countries also disagree on gay rights, which the Obama administration promotes, while homosexuality in India is illegal.

The source, who did not want to identified, said the visits had run into problems.

“These visits were planned, they were meant to be here around this time. But there were some issues,” the source said.

The State Department declined formal comment but a department official said the two sides were “working to coordinate the best timing.”

India’s Foreign Ministry did not respond to request for comment and Indian Ambassador Arun K. Singh did not offer clarification when asked on Thursday about Coppedge’s plan to visit, which was revealed at a Nov. 4 congressional hearing by Kari Johnstone, principal deputy director of the State Department’s trafficking office.

“We’ll see,” Singh told reporters. “When you ask a U.S. official when somebody will be given a visa, they always say ‘we will assess when visa is applied for.’ … I can do no better than to reiterate the U.S. position.”

The human trafficking issue blew up in 2013 over the arrest of an Indian diplomat, Devyani Khobragade, for visa fraud and underpaying a domestic worker who was later given a U.S. “T visa” issued to trafficking victims.

Khobragade’s arrest and strip search provoked an outcry in India and the issue has festered, although U.S.-India relations have strengthened since Modi came to power in May 2014, with both sides stressing shared strategic interests.

U.S. officials say Indian citizens who have been issued U.S. T visas have been subject to restrictions, including long delays in renewing passports at Indian consulates in the United States.

Between July 2014 and March 2015, the crackdown was harsher, with authorities at Indian airports confiscating at least 20 passports stamped with U.S. T visas confiscated. This prevented trafficking victims who went home to collect their families from returning to the United States.

Berry is Washington’s first gay-rights ambassador and a U.S. official said no trafficking czar had visited India for the past eight years.

The India ambassador played down the impact of the trafficking issue on U.S.-India relations, saying these were “at a very good stage now.” with two visits by Modi to the United States, and Obama becoming the first U.S. president to visit India twice while in office.

“These are all reflections of where the relationship is headed,” he said.

India was happy to work in an international framework to tackle the problem of trafficking, but rejected “unilateral assessments” of another country,” he said.

“We will never accept it,” he said.

(Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Jason Szep and David Gregorio)

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

Why was Paris targeted?

Terrorism has now become a global phenomenon and is no longer confined to the poor and developing countries in the East.

In the wake of the terrorist attack in France, India has to be wary and take conscious efforts to tackle the issue. However, it is almost impossible to fight the battle single-handed, and the Paris attack has laid the ground for an alliance with Europe and the USA.Terrorism has now become a global phenomenon and is no longer confined to the poor and developing countries in the East. It has spread to the European and other influential States as well. We can no longer avoid the Islamic State, as it is not just an organisation but has become a full fledged State that has occupied about 35% of Iraq and Syria.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>There are three immediate reasons for the attack in Paris, that I would like to put forth. The first being political and security reason: France is a part of the coalition against Islamic State, a member of the NATO force. This is the second attack on the country this year, after the attack on Charlie Hebdo. France is thus on the radar and hit list of the ISIS.Socio-economic factors too can be cited as an important reason for the attacks. France has taken a very generous stand as far as the immigrants from Gulf countries are concerned. As a result, a large portion of population in France comprises of the Muslims. However, France has failed to assimilate the immigrants in the mainstream socio-economic process of the country. The economic recession in France for the past three to four years has had devastating effect on the minority population. The immigrants, who are largely wage labourers, have lost their jobs and due to unemployment, have fallen prey to the Islamic State propaganda.Also, when we look at the demographic structure of Paris, the concentration of Muslims is in the ghettos, that have developed in the isolated outer parts of the city. Indoctrination spreads very fast in these areas and the population is polarised. There have been incidences of communal violence in the past as well.The third and a very important aspect is the literary aspect. An increasing number of books being published in French are creating an Islam phobia. For example, according to a book called ‘The Submission’, in 10 years, France will witness a Muslim President or a Prime Minister, if the trend of immigrant domination continues. Islam is thus being projected as a threat to France, and a suspicious attitude has been developed towards the Muslim population. Consequently, the minority feels alienated and neglected giving rise to a social polarisation.In spite of all this, Europe and the United States have not been able to identify their real enemies. They are in a dilemma about their security policies towards West Asia. They have been targeting the Syrian head instead of the Islamic State. Additionally, the United Nation has failed in establishing a common front on the issue. There is a lack of consensus on the issue of terrorism and collective action is needed against those nations who are aiding and abetting the ISIS. India has been voicing this concern for a long time now and it is high time that India’s voice be recognised, and the member-states work hand in glove to combat terrorism.—as told to dna correspondent The author is a foreign policy analyst

Government reviews Swachh Bharat Mission, one year later

The feedback gathered by the ministry so far suggests that lack of proper devices and vehicles in the open market has delayed the implementation of sanitation schemes.

One year after the launch of the Prime Minister’s pet project, Swachh Bharat Mission, the urban development ministry has initiated the process of relooking at the scheme and is exploring options of making it more viable, sustainable and user-friendly for states. The ministry has asked the states to submit their reports and feedback on the mission. It has also initiated the process of fine tuning its guidelines and is looking at ways to rope in corporate houses into the scheme. The feedback gathered by the ministry so far suggests that lack of proper devices and vehicles in the open market has delayed the implementation of sanitation schemes. The states have also suggested to the ministry to develop sustainable models for building toilets and that one design cannot be replicated throughout the country.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Currently every municipality has a different kind of vehicle for lifting garbage. “Under the mission, the states have suggested that the Centre should give the states options from vehicles available in the market so that procurement can be faster,” explained an officer of the ministry. The states have also written to the ministry for coming up with multiple toilet designs that can be adopted in different regions and can also be sustainable. For eliminating open defecation both the human resource development ministry and ministry of women and child development are involved in building toilet blocks. “States have written to us that while the toilets have been constructed, they are not sustainable designs. We are looking at options of creating multiple models that can cater to the different geographies of the country,” said the official. In the past one year, the government has failed to generate enough corporate support for the mission. The government had announced a fund of Rs1,700 crore for the Swachh Bharat Mission. The government was hoping to get corporate backing for the mission. But having failed to draw funds from the industry, the finance ministry has now imposed a 0.5 per cent cess on the service tax for the mission. The UD ministry is now of the view that by involving the industry in designing various models it will encourage their participation in the government scheme. “We are exploring the option of roping in vehicle manufacturers for designing vehicles to lift garbage. We will try to work out a mechanism, wherein the makers of the vehicles will also contribute to the scheme,” explained the officer. The UD ministry is yet to submit its report on the completion of one year and whether the mission has been a success or not. “We cannot call it a failure or a success. There are problems that that we have identified and are trying to iron out. We have to achieve our target by 2019,” said the officer.

US upgraded strategic-plus relationship with India: Congress

The United States values its alliance with Japan as a cornerstone of peace and security in the region.

Congress symbol

Noting that any long-term strategy for the Indo-Asia-Pacific region must include continued engagement with allies and partners in the region, the US has upgraded strategic-plus relationship with India. “The US has an upgraded strategic-plus relationship with India based on regional cooperation, space science cooperation and defence cooperation,” said a conference of the House and Senate the two chambers of the US Congress in a report on the National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA) 2016. Passed by both the House and the Senate, the conference report said the defence relationship between the US and India is strengthened by common commitment of both countries to liberal democracy should continue to expand.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> “Further, we welcome the role of the Republic of India in providing security and stability in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond, and we support the implementation of the US-India Defence Framework Agreement and the India Defence Trade and Technology Initiative,” said the report released by the armed services committees of both the House and Senate on Tuesday. The conference believed that “any long-term strategy for the Indo-Asia-Pacific region must include continued engagement with allies and partners in the region”. The United States values its alliance with Japan as a cornerstone of peace and security in the region. It also noted that the alliance between the United States and the South Korea has served as an anchor for stability, security, and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula, in the Asia-Pacific region, and around the world. As a result of the report, the House of Representatives withdrew from the NDAA-2016 its section on India. The House in its version of the NDAA-2016 bill had expressed the sense of Congress on the defense ties between the US and India based on both countries’ common interests and commitments to stability, security and democracy. The Senate amendment had no similar provision.

US to send special forces to Syria, truce sought after peace talks | Reuters

VIENNA/WASHINGTON The United States disclosed plans on Friday to station the first American boots on the ground in Syria in the war against Islamic State fighters, saying dozens of special forces troops would be sent as advisers to groups fighting against the jihadists.

Washington announced the small ground force shortly before 17 countries, the European Union and the United Nations called for a nationwide truce in Syria’s civil war at talks in Vienna, attended for the first time since the conflict began in 2011 by President Bashar al-Assad’s ally Iran.

The participants, including the United States and Russia, said “substantial differences remain” though they agreed it was “imperative to accelerate all diplomatic efforts to end the war” and the ministers will reconvene within two weeks.

In a rare hint of diplomatic progress, Tehran signalled it would back a six-month political transition period in Syria followed by elections to decide Assad’s fate, although his foes rejected the proposal as a trick to keep the president in power.

In addition to Assad’s fate, on which delegates said no breakthrough had been expected, sticking points have long included the question of which rebel groups should be considered terrorists and who should be involved in the political process.

In Washington, U.S. officials said the small special forces contingent in Syria would work with local “moderate rebel” groups to fight against Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, and that it should not be considered a combat mission.

“The president has been quite clear that there is no military solution to the problems that are plaguing Iraq and Syria. There is a diplomatic one,” White House spokesman

Josh Earnest said in Washington.

He said the special forces’ mission would be to “train, advise and assist” local groups.

Making clear they would number fewer than 50, he added: “I think if we were envisioning a combat operation, we probably would be contemplating more than 50 troops on the ground.”

The announcement marks a shift in policy by President Barack Obama.

Washington has targeted Islamic State with air strikes for over a year since fighters seized swathes of eastern Syria and northern Iraq and proclaimed a caliphate to rule all Muslims. But although it has acknowledged conducting special forces raids into Syria in the past, it has not stationed troops there.

The decision is part of a package of other steps to beef up the fight against Islamic State, including sending more warplanes to the region and discussing with Iraq the establishment of a special forces task force there.

For Syria, it is part of what U.S. officials call a two-pronged strategy of increasing aid to groups they describe as “moderate rebels” fighting against Islamic State, while also working on diplomacy to remove Assad from power.

TEHRAN MAY BE “READY TO MAKE A COMPROMISE”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in Vienna that the timing of the announcement, as talks were held in the Austrian capital, was a coincidence and that peace moves must continue.

“We can’t allow those differences to get in the way of the possibility of diplomacy,” he said.

Russia’s decision a month ago to join the conflict in Syria by bombing Assad’s enemies has upended the strategy of the United States and its allies, who say Assad must go, as his presence makes it harder to fight the jihadists.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in Vienna that the decision to deploy special forces would make cooperation between U.S. and Russian armed forces even more important.

Russia, which started bombing a month ago, says it is targeting only Islamic State. But the overwhelming majority of its strikes have been against other groups fighting against Assad, including some that are supported by U.S. allies.

For four years, Assad’s closest ally Iran had been excluded from international peace conferences because it rejected a U.N.-backed proposal for a transition of power in Damascus.

However, Tehran may be adjusting its stance in ways that could create more ground for compromise with Western countries.

“Iran does not insist on keeping Assad in power forever,” Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Amir Abdollahian, a member of Tehran’s delegation at the Syria talks, was quoted by Iranian media as saying.

He later told Iranian state television that calls for a timetable for Assad’s removal had been rejected at the talks and added: “The importance of the Syrian people deciding their country’s fate was underlined.”

A senior official from the Middle East familiar with the Iranian position suggested Iran might go as far as ending support for Assad after the transition period.

“Talks are all about compromises and Iran is ready to make a compromise by accepting Assad remaining for six months,” the official told Reuters. “Of course, it will be up to the Syrian people to decide about the country’s fate.”

SIGNIFICANT UNDERTAKING?

Assad’s foes said such a proposal amounted to no new concession from Tehran, because a new election could keep Assad in power. His government easily won an election last year.

Abu Ghaith al-Shami, a spokesman for the rebel Alwiyat Seif al-Sham group which is fighting in the south, said Assad’s participation in an election was unthinkable: “The fate of Assad and all criminals should be in court following the massacres committed by him and those with him, towards the Syrian people.”

Nevertheless, a commitment from Iran to a defined time limit for a transition could be viewed as a significant undertaking, potentially forming a basis for future diplomacy.

All previous efforts to find a diplomatic solution to Syria’s more than four-year-old civil war have collapsed over the insistence of the United States, European powers, Arab states and Turkey that Assad agree to leave power.

Russia’s participation in the conflict on Assad’s behalf creates a new incentive for a diplomatic push to end a war that has killed more than 250,000 people and driven more than 10 million people from their homes.

In the latest violence from the battlefield, a local rescue group operating in rebel-held areas said at least 57 people were killed by a government missile strike on a marketplace in a town near Damascus.

(Additional reporting by Louis Charbonneau, Francois Murphy, Matt Spetalnick, Sabine Siebold and Vladimir Soldatkin in Vienna, Tom Perry in Beirut, Michelle Nichols in New York and Doina Chiacu in Washington; Writing by Peter Graff, editing by Peter Millership and Tom Heneghan)

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

PM Modi hated as he doesn’t belong to privileged class: Chetan Bhagat

He said: “If Modi and Amit Shah had attended Doon school, spoke impeccable English and were spotted with their English girlfriends, they would not have been attacked so much.”

File Photo

Speaking at a literature festival, author Chetan Bhagat said that Narendra Modi is being attacked by historians, scientists and artists because he doesn’t belong to the ‘privileged classes’. He said that the privileged class of this country couldn’t handle the fact that the people in power were from the Hindi medium. According to a leading daily, Chetan Bhagat was quoted saying: “If Modi and Amit Shah had attended Doon school, spoke impeccable English and were spotted with their English girlfriends, they would not have been attacked so much.”<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>He also attacked the intelligentsia for returning their awards and said it was inappropriate to blame the government. He said: “These are not mere awards, but honours that are given to an individual for his or her individual achievement. How can you later return an honour that you had already accepted?” he said adding now foreign media has come into play and they are painting a sorry picture of India. They are portraying India as a country which is intolerant.” “There are certainly some problems in the country. But there is no crisis-like situation which may force people to return government awards. “I do not approve of this trend. There is complete freedom of speech and expression in India. Nobody has ever asked me to say or not say something. When someone returns an award this way, it gives an opportunity to foreign media to brand us as ‘intolerant’,” he said. The 41-year-old writer known for his novels like ‘Five Point Someone’ and ‘Two States’, said that an award is in fact not given by the government, but by a jury. People living in big cities enjoyed a privileged position until 30 years ago. But for the current generation, passion, hard work and talent matter and the privileged classes are not able to come to terms with this change, he claimed.Bhagat, who is quite active on social media, also said, “Even if these people return 500 awards, my five tweets are enough for them.” To a question from the audience, the writer said he would not join any political party as he did not want to lose his freedom of speech.(Read: Chetan Bhagat unaware of what historians do: Twitter reacts)

People in Kenya drink cow blood but don’t kill it: RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat

They insert a tube made of bamboo in the jugular vein of cows and suck blood. But in no way the animal is killed for consumption since there is a ban on cow killing in the African nation, said Bhagwat, a veterinary doctor by training.

Amid raging row over cow slaughter in India, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat on Sunday said in Kenya, people sometimes drink blood of cows to survive, but they don’t kill them or eat their meat.In certain situations like famine, people in Kenya drink blood of cows to survive but they don’t kill them or eat their flesh, he said while speaking at a function here.They insert a tube made of bamboo in the jugular vein of cows and suck blood. But in no way the animal is killed for consumption since there is a ban on cow killing in the African nation, said Bhagwat, a veterinary doctor by training.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>They also ensure that while blood is sucked, the cow does not die due to it, Bhagwat added.His remarks came in the wake of controversy over ban on beef consumption in some States, including Maharashtra, and the recent lynching of a man in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh, after rumours that he and his family ate beef.

Here’s what RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has to say about cow slaughter

In certain situations like famine, people in Kenya drink blood of cows to survive but they don’t kill them or eat their flesh, Bhagwat said while speaking at a function in Nagpur.
File Photo
PTI
Amid raging row over cow slaughter in India, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat on Saturday said in Kenya, people sometimes drink blood of cows to survive, but they don’t kill them or eat their meat.In certain situations like famine, people in Kenya drink blood of cows to survive but they don’t kill them or eat their flesh, he said while speaking at a function in Nagpur. They insert a tube made of bamboo in the jugular vein of cows and suck blood. But in no way the animal is killed for consumption since there is a ban on cow killing in the African nation, said Bhagwat, a veterinary doctor by training.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>They also ensure that while blood is sucked, the cow does not die due to it, Bhagwat added.His remarks came in the wake of controversy over ban on beef consumption in some States, including Maharashtra, and the recent lynching of a man in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh, after rumours that he and his family ate beef.Watch him here:

India open to peace talks, rules out third party role in Kashmir: MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup

India on Friday welcomed a joint pledge by the United States and Pakistan to fight militant groups it suspects of attacking Indian targets, but ruled out any third-party mediation to end a long-running dispute over Kashmir.

MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup

Twitter (MEA)
India on Friday welcomed a joint pledge by the United States and Pakistan to fight militant groups it suspects of attacking Indian targets, but ruled out any third-party mediation to end a long-running dispute over Kashmir.Although the Indian foreign ministry accused Pakistan of state-sponsored terrorism, New Delhi’s tough rhetoric did not preclude the possible resumption of peace talks that were derailed by recent tensions.”India has always desired resolution of all issues with Pakistan bilaterally through dialogue and peaceful means,” Vikas Swarup, spokesman for India’s Ministry of External Affairs, told a news briefing in New Delhi.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”It is Pakistan who has chosen to use terrorism as an instrument of state policy. And this visit shows that the international community is deeply concerned about its support to, and sponsorship of, terrorism.”Related Read: Obama-Sharif meet: US President urges Pakistan to avoid raising nuclear tensions with new weaponsAt talks in Washington on Thursday, US President Barack Obama and Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif pledged “to promote peace and stability throughout the region and to counter all forms of extremism and terrorism.”For the first time, Pakistan committed to take “effective action” against Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), an Islamic militant group based in Pakistan that India blames for an attack by suicide commandos on Mumbai in 2008 in which 166 people died.The joint statement also named, among other groups, the Haqqani Network that Indian and US intelligence believe was responsible for an attack on its embassy in the Afghan capital Kabul in the same year.”This is the first time that Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Haqqani Network have been specifically mentioned in a US-Pakistan joint statement,” said Swarup. “We would naturally hope that they deliver on these commitments.”An agreement to revive peace talks between the nuclear-armed neighbours – who have fought two of their three wars since independence over Kashmir – was reached between Sharif and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Russia in July.But escalating tensions over Kashmir, derailed plans for the national security advisers of both countries to hold talks on containing terrorism. Just before travelling to the United States, Sharif named a former general as his new national security adviser. Reacting, Swarup said that India “remains open” to holding talks between the two countries’ national security advisers.

India welcomes Pakistan pledge to fight militants, but still talks tough | Reuters

NEW DELHI India on Friday welcomed a joint pledge by the United States and Pakistan to fight militant groups it suspects of attacking Indian targets, but ruled out any third-party mediation to end a long-running dispute over Kashmir.

Although the Indian foreign ministry accused Pakistan of state-sponsored terrorism, New Delhi’s tough rhetoric did not preclude the possible resumption of peace talks that were derailed by recent tensions.

“India has always desired resolution of all issues with Pakistan bilaterally through dialogue and peaceful means,” Vikas Swarup, spokesman for India’s Ministry of External Affairs, told a news briefing in New Delhi.

“It is Pakistan who has chosen to use terrorism as an instrument of state policy. And this visit shows that the international community is deeply concerned about its support to, and sponsorship of, terrorism.”

At talks in Washington on Thursday, U.S. President Barack Obama and Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif pledged “to promote peace and stability throughout the region and to counter all forms of extremism and terrorism.”

For the first time, Pakistan committed to take “effective action” against Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), an Islamic militant group based in Pakistan that India blames for an attack by suicide commandos on Mumbai in 2008 in which 166 people died.

The joint statement also named, among other groups, the Haqqani Network that Indian and U.S. intelligence believe was responsible for an attack on its embassy in the Afghan capital Kabul in the same year.

“This is the first time that Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Haqqani Network have been specifically mentioned in a U.S-Pakistan joint statement,” said Swarup. “We would naturally hope that they deliver on these commitments.”An agreement to revive peace talks between the nuclear-armed neighbours – who have fought two of their three wars since independence over Kashmir – was reached between Sharif and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Russia in July.

But escalating tensions over Kashmir, which both countries claim in full but rule only in part, derailed plans for the national security advisers of both countries to hold talks on containing terrorism.

Just before travelling to the United States, Sharif named a former general as his new national security adviser. Reacting, Swarup said that India “remains open” to holding talks between the two countries’ national security advisers.

(Reporting by Douglas Busvine; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)

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Use of chemical weapons must be condemned: India

India completed the destruction of its chemical weapon stockpiles in 2009 within the stipulated time frame under the CWC.

UN council

India has called on the international community to be vigilant on non-state actors and terrorist groups seeking and using chemical weapons and said the use of such weapons anywhere and by anyone must be condemned. “The use of chemical weapons anywhere and by anyone must be condemned and the international norm against the use of chemical weapons must not be breached,” visiting Member of Parliament Abhishek Banerjee said at a debate on weapons of mass destruction at the First Committee of the General Assembly on Thursday. He said India contributed to international efforts under the UN and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) for the destruction of Syria’s declared chemical weapon stockpiles.”The international community should continue to be vigilant on non-state actors and terrorist groups seeking or using chemical weapons,” he added.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Given that disarmament is a primary goal of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), the remaining possessor States should fulfil their obligations within the shortest possible time. India completed the destruction of its chemical weapon stockpiles in 2009 within the stipulated time frame under the CWC. The provisions of the Convention should be implemented in a manner that does not hinder legitimate activities, especially in countries like India with a large and growing chemical industry, he said adding that universality is fundamental to the success of the Convention. He voiced India’s commitment to improving the effectiveness of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) and strengthening its implementation and its universalising. “We believe this is necessary in view of the new challenges to international peace and security emanating from proliferation trends, including the threat posed by terrorists or other non-state actors seeking access to biological agents or toxins for terrorist purposes,” he said. He also supported a robust consultation process among all States Parties leading to the Eighth Review Conference next year, so as to contribute to its success through preparations on substantive and procedural issues. He reiterated India’s commitment to maintaining the highest international standards with reference to control of nuclear, chemical, biological and toxin weapons and their means of delivery. “In this regard, India has made considerable progress in its engagement with the relevant multilateral export control regimes with a view to seeking full membership,” he said.

‘No US role in Indo-Pak peace process unless both jointly ask’

“President (Barack) Obama and his interlocutors discussed with the Prime Minister (Nawaz Sharif) and his team the situation in the LoC (Line of Control). Pakistan has often made a request for the United States to be engaged in it,” the Administration official told Indian reporters on Thursday.

The US has categorically ruled out any role for itself in Indo-Pak peace process unless both the countries jointly ask for it, according to a senior official who asserted that the best way to resolve issues is through direct dialogue between the two neighbours.”President (Barack) Obama and his interlocutors discussed with the Prime Minister (Nawaz Sharif) and his team the situation in the LoC (Line of Control). Pakistan has often made a request for the United States to be engaged in it,” the Administration official told Indian reporters on Thursday.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”(During the meeting) we affirmed the US commitment that we would be engaged only if this is something that India and Pakistan would like. This is not any change in any policy of the United States.”This has been a reiteration of the continued policy of the United states for both countries to work out these issues bilaterally and of course we and other countries would be willing to provide facilitating and other supporting role if India and Pakistan together ask for,” the official added.The official, requesting anonymity, did acknowledge that it has received set of dossiers from Pakistan on alleged Indian activities in parts of Pakistan.”In the meeting with Secretary of State, John Kerry (on Wednesday) Prime Minister did share, hand over written material relating to certain concerns that Pakistan has about security in the region,” the official said.”As we have long said, and as the Secretary underscored, the best way to resolve issues is through direct dialogue between the two neighbors. We stand ready to support such dialogue in any way we can. We have just received these dossiers. We have not reviewed them and we do not have any comment on the contents at this point,” the official said.”A dialogue between India and Pakistan, the parameters of which, it is for India and Pakistan to work out. It is not the policy of the US to try to influence or try to set terms or otherwise even make recommendations for how that dialogue should take place. This is our policy for many years. That policy of the US has not changed,” the official said.”We just hoped that India and Pakistan do have a dialogue, normalise relations and work together to move the peace in the region and prosperity of the respective countries,” the official said, adding that there is no US shift towards India or Pakistan.”There is no tilt towards any country. The US has very important relationship towards India and Pakistan. They stand on their own. They are not zero some. US has global interest and has interest in peace and stability in the region,” the official added.

Pakistan’s ties with India critical to its future: United States

The two leaders underlined that improvement in Pakistan- India bilateral relations would “greatly enhance” prospects for lasting peace, stability, and prosperity in the region.

US flag

Pakistan’s relationship with India is critical to Islamabad’s future, the US on Friday said as it emphasised on normalisation of ties between the two countries. “I think it’s clear that Pakistan’s relationship with India is critical to Pakistan’s future, and the normalisation of relations between the two countries is vital both to them and to the stability in the region,” the White House Deputy Press Secretary, Eric Schultz, told reporters soon after President Barack Obama held wide-ranging talks with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in his Oval Office.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> In the joint statement after the talks, Obama and Sharif called for a “sustained and resilient” Indo-Pak dialogue process to resolve all outstanding issues. The references to Indo-Pak ties and the need to resolve all outstanding disputes, including Kashmir, between the two countries were contained in the joint statement. The two leaders underlined that improvement in Pakistan- India bilateral relations would “greatly enhance” prospects for lasting peace, stability, and prosperity in the region. Responding to a question, Schultz said, “We talked earlier about economic linkages and a broader view of the US-Pakistan relationship beyond just counter-terrorism, and I think it is discussions like the one the President had on Friday that helps unlock opportunities for millions of people and leads to a more prosperous region which no doubt will go a long way towards counter-terrorism efforts.”On media reports that the US has decided to sell eight new F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan, Schultz said no such announcement is expected on Friday. “I am confident that in the Oval Office, the President did discuss with the Prime Minister how the United States and Pakistan can best continue their robust counter-terrorism cooperation,” he said. “I saw that report in the New York Times as well — I’m not sure if that came up. But I don’t anticipate having any largescale announcement like that on Friday,” Schultz said. “I can tell you that the President did discuss with the Prime Minister how the United States and Pakistan can best continue their robust counter-terrorism cooperation, but in terms of any defence deal like those that might have been referenced in the New York Times, I don’t believe any announcement like that is coming on Friday, but you should stay in touch with our friends at the Defence Department,” the Deputy Spokesman said. Earlier, a New York Times report said the Congress was notified about the proposed sale of F-16s just days ahead of the Sharif-Obama meeting though it is unclear if it will agree to the deal amid concerns whether the advanced aircraft would be used against India than for counter-terrorism.

YouTube unveils paid video service without ads | Reuters

LOS ANGELES Alphabet Inc’s YouTube will launch a $10-a-month subscription option in the United States on Oct. 28 that lets viewers watch videos from across the site without interruption from advertisements, the company said on Wednesday.

Starting early next year, the service called YouTube Red will add exclusive shows and movies from top YouTube creators including PewDiePie, Lilly Singh and The Fine Brothers.

“Consumers are embracing paid subscriptions of ad-free content at an incredible pace,” Robert Kyncl, YouTube’s chief business officer, said at an event at YouTube’s production space in Los Angeles.

The effort offers a new source of revenue for YouTube and its video creators. Rival streaming sites such as Vessel and Interactive Corp’s Vimeo are luring online stars to their paid offerings, which provide creators a larger cut of revenue than they typically receive from YouTube’s ad-supported videos. Facebook also is taking steps to boost video viewership on its site.

YouTube will continue to offer its free, ad-supported service, which has more than 1 billion viewers around the world.

(Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by David Gregorio)

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

YouTube offers U.S. subscribers paid option with no ads | Reuters

LOS ANGELES Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) YouTube will launch a $10-a-month subscription option in the United States on Oct. 28 that will allow viewers to watch videos from across the site without interruption from advertisements, the company said on Wednesday.

Starting early next year, the service called YouTube Red will add exclusive shows and movies from top YouTube creators including PewDiePie, Lilly Singh and The Fine Brothers.

“Consumers are embracing paid subscriptions of ad-free content at an incredible pace,” Robert Kyncl, YouTube’s chief business officer, said at an event at YouTube’s production space in Los Angeles.

The effort offers a new source of revenue for YouTube and its video creators. Rival streaming sites such as Vessel and Interactive Corp’s IAC.N Vimeo are luring online stars to their paid offerings, which provide creators a larger cut of revenue than they typically receive from YouTube’s ad-supported videos. Facebook (FB.O) also is taking steps to boost video viewership on its site.

YouTube will continue to offer its free, ad-supported service, which has more than 1 billion viewers around the world.

Creators of 99 percent of the content watched on YouTube have agreed to make their videos available on YouTube Red, Kyncl said. YouTube is still negotiating with a “few” media companies that he hopes to bring on board before the launch, he said. Walt Disney Co (DIS.N) was still talking with YouTube as of Tuesday, according to a source familiar with the discussions.

A Disney spokeswoman did not immediately respond for a request for comment.

The YouTube Red service will be available initially only in the United States. The company aims to expand it to major markets around the world over the next year. Users who sign up for YouTube Red through Apple Inc’s (AAPL.O) app store will pay $13 a month.

Officials said the majority of revenue from subscriptions will go to video creators, though they declined to provide details. For ad-supported videos, YouTube typically keeps 45 percent of revenue.

Kyncl said YouTube Red is targeted at the same audiences that make up the bulk of YouTube’s audience now, including gamers and young women.

YouTube also launched a new YouTube Music app that is free to watch with ads. Subscribers to YouTube Red can watch YouTube Music content without the ads.

(Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by David Gregorio and Diane Craft)

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

Nawaz Sharif calls Shiv Sena ‘anti-peace elements’, says attacks regretful

The Pakistan Prime Minister said that his visit to the US would help promote relations between the two countries.

These anti-peace elements should desist from their nefarious activities,” he said on his arrival in London from Islamabad.

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has condemned the recent attacks by Shiv Sena, saying it is unfortunate and regretful. “These were even condemned by Indian intellectuals and critics. These anti-peace elements should desist from their nefarious activities,” he said on his arrival in London from Islamabad. Sharif said that there would be no compromise on the country’s national interests during his talks with President Barack Obama and other senior US officials, The Nation reported.The Pakistan Prime Minister said that his visit to the US would help promote relations between the two countries. He also said that Pakistan is a responsible sovereign nuclear state whose strategic assets are secured, that is a deterrence against any kind of external aggression. Sharif stated that evidence of India’s alleged sponsoring of terrorism has been forwarded to relevant people and organisations. The US sees Pakistan as one of the few sources of influence over the extremists, and analysts say Washington will use Sharif’s trip to urge him to keep pushing for a new round of talks.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Pakistan Foreign Office had earlier clarified that no ‘deal’ is being discussed between Pakistan and the United States.

Maneka Gandhi hits out Narendra Modi’s budget, says it hurts India’s fight against malnutrition

Maneka Gandhi says Narendra Modi’s budget cuts will make it difficult to pay wages of millions of health workers and hurt India’s fight against child malnutrition.

Maneka Gandhi and Narendra Modi

India’s main program to fight child malnutrition has been hit by budget cuts that make it difficult to pay wages of millions of health workers, a cabinet minister said on Monday in a rare public criticism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s policies.Modi’s government in February slashed social sector budgets to boost infrastructure spending in a bid to fasten the pace of economic recovery. States were asked to fill the gap from the larger share of federal taxes they receive from New Delhi. But the cuts drew criticism for blunting India’s efforts to tackle one of the world’s highest rates of child malnutrition. Four of 10 stunted children in the world are Indian and about 1.5 million children die annually before turning five.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Maneka Gandhi, the women and child welfare minister who oversees a scheme to feed more than 100 million poor people, said the current budget was only enough to pay salaries of her 2.7 million health workers until January. “We still have problems because our cut has still not been restored. Literally, it’s a month-to-month suspense on whether we can meet wages,” said Gandhi in an interview. “It really calls for huge attention.”She said the February budget cut, which saw her ministry’s budget slashed by half to $1.6 billion, had hit her plans to strengthen the fight against malnutrition. Gandhi said that even before the cuts the food programme was in urgent need of modernisation, with lax supervision of health workers using training programmes not updated in the last four decades and the food on offer she described as “rubbish.” She said about half the food was lost due to mismanagement.Reuters reported in May, Gandhi had privately sought additional funds from the finance minister after the budget cut. She also warned him the reduced funding could backfire politically if focus on her programmes is reduced. The government in July approved an additional $618 million for her ministry. Gandhi indicated that was not enough. “It’s not a question of giving a little bit back … we actually need every little bit to pay workers and retrain them,” she said.Modi’s federal budget changes have affected several social sectors in recent months. They have delayed salaries to millions of health workers in the national health scheme and the AIDS control programme. The finance ministry says social budgets have not been squeezed and states will pitch in with the difference. But many states are cash-strapped and cite confusion about new the funding arrangement with New Delhi.An official at Gandhi’s ministry, who did not wish to be named, said states had cited fiscal strains and conveyed they were not willing to fund salaries. Gandhi, however, said she was hopeful the programme will revive. “It will come back,” Gandhi said, adding that finance ministry officials had assured her of more funds. “…Nobody can afford to let this programme go.”

Why is Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif cutting short his US Visit?

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has shortened his official US visit to three days from the initially planned five, the Foreign Office said.

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has shortened his official US visit to three days from the initially planned five, the Foreign Office said, amid reports that the change in his itinerary was made over fears of protests by Imran Khan’s Tehreek-i-Insaf party. “The Prime Minister will be paying an official visit to the United States on 20-23 October,” Foreign Office spokesman Qazi Khalilullah said.”The visit is taking place at the invitation of the President of the United States,” he told reporters. A media report yesterday had said that Sharif’s US visit was initially planned from October 19 to 24. However, Sharif had to cancel some of his engagements in the US apparently over fears that Khan’s party may hold protest against him in Islamabad, as it did during Finance Minister Ishaq Dhar’s visit to New York last month.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The report had said that Sharif’s October 19 visit to Chicago, where he was scheduled to address potential Pakistani-American investors, has been cancelled. During the media briefing today, the Foreign Office spokesman said Sharif will meet with President Barack Obama and have other engagements. Khalilullah said that the Prime Minister will brief the US leadership on Pakistan’s policies for the revival of the economy, fight against terrorism and the regional situation.”Discussions will also be held on bilateral cooperation in the fields of economy, trade, education, defence, counter- terrorism, health and climate change,” he said. Sharif will also meet Chairman House Foreign Affairs Committee, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Members and interact with Pakistan-US Business Council and US Chamber of Commerce and Industry. He will give a talk at the United States Institute of Peace and address the Pakistani community there.

CMs’ panel bats for fuel cess to fund Swachh Bharat

Getting money for this ambitious project has remained a challenge. The government had so far set its eyes on corporates and individuals for attracting funds for the campaign.

PM Narendra Modi receives the report from chief ministers’ panel

PTI
A sub-group of chief ministers assigned to look into various aspects of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, one of the pet projects of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has come out with a novel idea to fund the campaign that is estimated to cost Rs 62,000 crore.Getting money for this ambitious project has remained a challenge. The government had so far set its eyes on corporates and individuals for attracting funds for the campaign.But now, realising that funding from both these sources was highly vulnerable and not dependable, the sub-group, including chief ministers of Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, and Uttarakhand Chandrababu Naidu, Manohar Lal Khattar and Harish Rawat respectively, has recommended raising Swachh Bharat bonds and also levying a Swachh Bharat cess on petrol, diesel, telecom services and also on accumulated waste produced by plants generating mineral waste like coal, aluminium and iron ore.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>It has been recommended to reduce the subsidy on chemical fertiliser and increase the subsidy on compost to encourage its use. In order to improve the viability of waste management activities, the report proposes provision of tax exemptions by the Centre and the state government to the private sector.On the funding patterns, the group, which submitted its report on Wednesday to the Prime Minister has suggested funds should be shared by the Centre and states in the ratio of 75:25, while for hilly states it may be kept at 90:10.The sub-group of chief ministers on Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan was constituted on March 24, 2015 pursuant to the decision taken in the first Governing Council Meeting of the NITI Aayog held on February 8, 2015.The main recommendations of the report include bringing the behavior change and encouraging positive habits related to sanitation and cleanliness among the people. The report also talks about including sanitation and cleanliness in school curriculum and formation of a team of students to be called as ‘Swachhta Senani’ in schools and colleges.A National Technical Board has been recommended to handhold the States and Local Bodies in identification, evaluation, selection and procurement of technologies. The report recommends certain measures to attract private sector participation and public private partnership (PPP). It has been recommended that waste to energy plants may be set up on PPP mode in bigger municipalities and cluster of municipalities, whereas, composting method may be adopted for smaller towns and villages. The report proposes to enhance the assistance for construction of one unit of individual household toilet in both urban and rural areas to Rs 15,000. The report recommends integration of rag pickers into the waste management system so that their livelihood is not adversely affected.

Obama apologizes for Kunduz attack, MSF demands independent probe | Reuters

WASHINGTON/GENEVA U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday apologised to Medecins Sans Frontieres for the deadly bombing of its hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, while the medical charity pressed its demand for an international commission to investigate what it calls a war crime.

MSF said that an independent humanitarian commission created under the Geneva Conventions in 1991 should be activated for the first time to handle the inquiry. Three investigations have already begun into Saturday’s air strike that killed 22 people, including 12 MSF staff.

Obama telephoned MSF, or Doctors Without Borders, International President Joanne Liu to apologise and express his condolences, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. Asked whether Obama offered some explanation to Liu, Earnest said no.

“He merely offered his heartfelt apology” and a commitment to find out what went wrong, he said.

Earnest said Obama told Liu that a U.S. investigation would “provide a transparent, thorough and objective accounting of the facts and circumstances of the incident. And that, if necessary, the president would implement changes to make tragedies like this one less likely to occur in the future.”

MSF said that the commission’s inquiry would gather facts and evidence from the United States, NATO and Afghanistan, as well as testimony from MSF staff and patients who survived.

Only then would MSF consider whether to bring criminal charges for loss of life and partial destruction of its trauma hospital, which has left tens of thousands of Afghans without access to health care, it said.

“If we let this go, as if it was a non-event, we are basically giving a blank cheque to any countries who are at war,” Liu told a news briefing in Geneva. “If we don’t safeguard that medical space for us to do our activities, then it is impossible to work in other contexts like Syria, South Sudan, like Yemen.”

Neither the United States nor Afghanistan were signatories to the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission (IHFFC) but Jason Cone, executive director of MSF in the United States, called on Obama to consent to the commission.

“Doing so will send a powerful signal of the U.S. government’s commitment to and respect for international humanitarian law under rules of war,” Cone said at a news conference in New York.

The White House said Obama had also called Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to express his condolences. The United States military took responsibility on Tuesday for the air strike, calling it a mistake.

Earnest said “there is no evidence that … I’ve seen or that anybody else has presented that indicate that this was anything other than a terrible, tragic accident.”

U.S. Defence Secretary Ash Carter, speaking to reporters in Rome on Wednesday, said the investigation would “hold accountable anyone responsible for conduct that was improper.”

HOSPITAL CHAOS

Liu spoke of the chaos as the bombs fell for an hour.

“Our patients burned in their beds, MSF doctors nurses, and other staff were killed as they worked. Our colleagues had to operate on each other,” she said.

The Afghan Ministry of Defence said on Sunday Taliban fighters had attacked the hospital and were using the building “as a human shield”, which the medical group denied, while pointing out it would be a war crime not to treat the wounded.

Liu said an impartial commission, which can be set up at the request of a single state under the Geneva Conventions that establish international standards for conducting war, was needed due to “inconsistencies between the U.S. and Afghan accounts”.

The United Nations has condemned the attack but said it would wait for the results of U.S., NATO and Afghan investigations before deciding whether to support an independent probe.

MSF’s hospital in Kunduz had treated nearly 400 people, including some Taliban, wounded in heavy fighting in the days before the attack, MSF’s Bruno Jochum said.

Its GSP coordinates had been shared with all authorities.

“We had eight ICU (intensive care unit) beds with ventilators, this was high-tech medicine. This was not the little bush hospital. You could not miss it,” Liu said.

“Today we say enough, even war has rules.”

(Additional reporting Steve Scherer in Rome, Doina Chiacu and Lisa Lambert in Washington and Daniel Bases in New York; Editing by David Storey and Grant McCool)

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

Pentagon calls Afghan hospital strike a mistake, seeks accountability | Reuters

WASHINGTON The U.S. military took responsibility on Tuesday for a deadly air strike on a hospital in the Afghan city of Kunduz, calling it a mistake and vowing to hold people accountable.

Saturday’s strike on an Afghan hospital run by Doctors Without Borders, or Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), killed 22 people and deeply angered the medical charity. MSF officials have blamed the United States, demanding an independent investigation into an attack it called a war crime.

Defence Secretary Ash Carter said the Pentagon “deeply regrets” the loss of life. “The U.S. military takes the greatest care in our operations to prevent the loss of innocent life, and when we make mistakes, we own up to them. That’s exactly what we’re doing right now,” Carter, who was travelling in Europe, said in a statement.

“We will do everything we can to understand this tragic incident, learn from it, and hold people accountable as necessary,” he said.

Earlier in Washington, the American commander of international forces in Afghanistan, Army General John Campbell, called the strike a mistake made within the U.S. chain of command.

The comments by Carter and Campbell were the most direct acknowledgement yet by the U.S. government that the strike on the hospital was carried out by U.S. forces. On Monday, Campbell said only that U.S. forces had responded to a request for support from Afghan forces.

In testmimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Campbell also made clear he favoured a rethink of a plan to withdraw almost all U.S. troops by the end of next year. He said rising threats in Afghanistan from the Islamic State and al Qaeda were among factors informing his recommendations to the White House on future troop levels.

Campbell said U.S. forces had responded to a request from Afghan forces and provided close air support as they engaged in a fight with Taliban militants in Kunduz, a provincial capital that the Taliban captured late last month.

“To be clear, the decision to provide aerial fires was a U.S. decision made within the U.S. chain of command,” Campbell said. He added that U.S. special forces nearby were communicating with the aircraft that delivered the strikes.

“A hospital was mistakenly struck,” Campbell said. “We would never intentionally target a protected medical facility.”

President Barack Obama expected steps to be taken to prevent such an incident from recurring, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on Tuesday.

The government of President Ashraf Ghani, heavily dependent on Washington for military support and far less critical of the United States than his predecessor Hamid Karzai, has held back from directly criticizing the United States.

But an Afghan military officer took issue with the idea that Afghan forces had called for a strike against the hospital.

Abdullah Guard, commander of Afghan special forces in Kunduz, said his men had been under heavy fire in the area near the hospital, fighting a Taliban force estimated at around 500 men.

“It is possible our forces might have called for an air strike to hit the enemy position, but that doesn’t mean to go and bomb the hospital,” he told Reuters. He was speaking before Campbell’s testimony on Tuesday, in which the American general made clear the decision to conduct the strike was a U.S. one.

Campbell said on Tuesday he had directed forces under his command to undergo training to review operational authorities and rules of engagement to prevent further incidents like Kunduz.

RENEWED ATTENTION ON MISSION

The incident, along with the Taliban’s capture of Kunduz, has cast renewed attention on the 14-year U.S. mission in Afghanistan.

Many members of Congress are deeply concerned about Obama’s plans for a final withdrawal of U.S. forces. The president is reassessing the timetable for a drawdown that currently envisages removing all but about 1,000 U.S. soldiers by the end of 2016.

“The world walked away from Afghanistan once before and it descended into chaos that contributed to the worst terrorist attack ever against our homeland,” said Senator John McCain, the Republican chairman of the armed services committee, referring to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that were planned by al Qaeda militants sheltered by the then-ruling Taliban in Afghanistan.

“We cannot afford to repeat that mistake,” McCain said.

Campbell said counterterrorism missions would be less effective if the U.S. presence in Afghanistan was limited to a small force based in the capital. He said there were some 1,000-3,000 Islamic State members in Afghanistan, although many of them were disaffected Taliban members who were “rebranding” themselves.

He declined to provide specifics about recommendations he had made to the White House about force levels, but said they included an option for more troops than just a small embassy-based force. There are currently around 9,800 American troops in Afghanistan.

When asked by Senator Angus King whether his judgment was that conditions in Afghanistan would require revision of the withdrawal plan, Campbell responded: “Yes, sir.”

(Reporting by Yeganeh Torbati, Patricia Zengerle and Doina Chiacu, Additional reporting by Hamid Shalizi in Kabul; Editing by Frances Kerry)

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

India leads Asia’s dash for coal as emissions blow east

India is opening a mine a month as it races to double coal output by 2020, putting the world’s third-largest polluter at the forefront of a pan-Asian dash to burn more of the dirty fossil fuel that environmentalists fear will upend international efforts to contain global warming.

File photo.

Deep in the thickly forested hills in its east, India last month started production at what it hopes will in five years be Asia’s biggest coal mine.At the open-cast mine, which involves the clearing of more than 18,000 hectares (44,500 acres) of land, noisy excavators are busy digging for coal that will feed a huge power plant being built nearby to fuel India’s energy-hungry economy.India is opening a mine a month as it races to double coal output by 2020, putting the world’s third-largest polluter at the forefront of a pan-Asian dash to burn more of the dirty fossil fuel that environmentalists fear will upend international efforts to contain global warming.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Close to 200 nations are set to meet at a United Nations summit from Nov. 30-Dec. 11 to hammer out a deal to slow man-made climate change by weaning countries off fossil fuels.China has promised to restrict public funding for coal and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is trumpeting investment in renewable energy, but in Asia’s biggest economies the reality is that coal is still regarded as the easiest source of energy.”Environment is non-negotiable but we can’t live without coal. You can’t wish away coal,” said Anil Swarup, the top official in India’s coal ministry, who is leading the push to open new mines like Magadh, in poor but resource-rich Jharkhand state.”There is a temporary drop in demand, but no question of reducing coal output. We are well short of coal required in the country.”ASIA KEEPS DIGGINGChina, India and Indonesia now burn 71 % of the world’s newly mined coal according to the World Coal Association, with new European and North American consumption negligible as their countries turn to cleaner energy.Other Asian nations are increasingly looking to coal to power their economies too, with Pakistan, the Philippines and Vietnam opening new plants, pushing the Asia/Pacific region to 80 % of new coal plants.”Coal is still the most cost competitive power generation fuel, and in the end that’s what matters most for emerging markets,” said Frederic Neumann, Co-Head Of Asian Economic Research at HSBC in Hong Kong.Asia’s developed nations, too, are finding it hard to kick the coal habit.Japan’s use has reached a record after shrinking its nuclear industry and it plans to build another 41 new coal-fired units over the next decade.Australia’s exports of thermal coal rose 5 % to 205 million tonnes in the last financial year and are to increase by a further 1 million tonnes this year, driven by increased demand from Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.The rush to burn more coal comes as the world’s major economies, including leading emitters China and the United States, have agreed to start cutting greenhouse gases over the next 15 years ahead of the UN climate change summit in Paris.India has rejected any absolute cuts, arguing that its per capita emissions are far below the world average and that it needs to emit more as it grows to beat poverty.In a climate-change policy statement released last week, New Delhi promised to slow the rate at which its greenhouse gas emissions rise by a third by 2030.Coal will remain the dominant source of its energy for decades, India said, but it pledged to invest in cleaner coal technology, modernise old power stations and plant trees to absorb up to 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide.THE NEW CHINA?Magadh mine is the biggest of the many New Delhi will open to hit an annual coal target of 1.5 billion tonnes by 2020, raising its production above the United States but less than half the amount China currently burns.Some 20 km from Magadh, along a bumpy track through mud-hut villages, lies a second vast coal pit launched last year. By 2018 another two mines will open nearby – combined, the mines in this one district alone will at peak generate as much coal as Poland, the world’s ninth largest producer, delivered last year.The United Nations has agreed a goal of keeping warming below a ceiling of 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels to avoid the worst impact of climate change including more droughts, extinctions, floods and rising seas.Sticking to that goal would require world emissions to start falling now and India’s to peak within a few years, said Glen Peters at the Oslo-based Center for International Climate and Environmental Research, but India’s coal drive makes that near-impossible as its extra emissions outweigh any savings from more solar and wind power.Because of its low-quality, twice as much Indian coal is needed to produce the same amount of energy as the best Australian coal.If India burns as much coal by 2020 as planned, its emissions could as much as double to 5.2 billion tonnes per annum – about a sixth of all the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere last year – Peters said.That would see India follow a similar path to China whose emissions, after growing slowly at the turn of the century, jumped when dozens of new coal power plants came on line.”If these coal targets are met, there could be a turn (in India’s emissions), with a steep increase. China is starting to stumble; India could replace that,” said Peters.He said India could replace the United States as the world’s second largest emitter by 2025. “This is something no one would have expected.”

Arvind Kejriwal and Mamata Banerjee find common enemy in Centre at CM’s conclave

Both the CMs were speaking at the first-of-its-kind chief ministers’ conclave on Wednesday that was organised by the AAP government for a discussion on ‘cooperative federalism’.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his West Bengal counterpart Mamata Banerjee has found a common enemy in the Centre, who they alleged, has not only been curtailing the power of the states, but also been donning the hat of the judiciary.Both the CMs were speaking at the first-of-its-kind chief ministers’ conclave on Wednesday that was organised by the AAP government for a discussion on ‘cooperative federalism’.The ‘apolitical’ event, however, garnered a lukewarm response with most chief ministers opting out of it and political rivals Banerjee and Tripura CM Manik Sarkar making a concerted effort to avoid each other, with Bihar CM Nitish Kumar, Mizoram’s Lal Thanhawlal and Puducherry’s N Rangaswamy doing away by sending letters of support to the Delhi CM.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Taking a dig at the Centre and accusing the NDA regimeof snatching away powers of the elected state governments in the guise of the lieutenant governors, both the CMs demanded decentralization of power to the states, calling for the Central government to move beyond party politics.”It is not possible to control everything sitting here in Delhi. The Centre should empower states, which would help the Centre in turn,”said Kejriwal, addressing a crowd of nearly 100 people.He also blamed the Centre for meagre allocation of funds to the states as well as adopting arm-twisting methods to deal with the states using national agencies like CBI.”If we want to build schools and hospitals for the people of Delhi, but even for that we will have to buy land from DDA (Centre) at Rs4 crore per acre,”he said.Bringing his turf war with the LG Najeeb Jung to the fore, Kejriwal said nearly 30 AAP government orders “null and void” by the LG.”This has happened for the first time in the country’s history,” Kejriwal said.On the lines of Kejriwal, Banerjee, too, accused the Centre of running a parellel government through governors, fostering a communal environment and using party politics for governance.”When two people died in West Bengal, NIA was immediately sent there, but when 100 people died in Madhya Pradesh, the Centre chose to remain quiet because it is a BJP-ruled state,”Banerjee said.She alleged that the central government has cancelled 39 schemes of the WB government. “The Centre should not stop development work. Loktantra is taking people into confidence, not bulldozing them,”Banerjee told the crowd, adding that in a federal structure, it is important for all institutions to ensure that nobody crosses the Laxman Rekha between the Centre and the states as defined by the Constitution.

Modi in US 2015: Barack Obama and Narendra Modi hug as they meet for the fifth time in a year

After his whirlwind tour of Silicon Valley, Narendra Modi met his old friend Barack Obama and shared a warm embrace on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

Image Courtesy: Vikas Swarup (Twitter)
After his whirlwind tour of Silicon Valley, Narendra Modi met his old friend Barack Obama and shared a warm embrace on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. Vikas Swarup tweeted: “An embrace at the entrance. PM @narendramodi meets President @BarackObama for their 5th meeting in 1 year.”Speaking at the event, Barack Obama said: “The United States is prepared to work with any nation, including Russia and Iran, to resolve the conflict,” Obama told the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations. “But we must recognize that there cannot be, after so much bloodshed, so much carnage, a return to the pre-war status quo.””There is no room for accommodating an apocalyptic cult like ISIL (Islamic State) and the United States makes no apology for using our military as part of a broad coalition to go after it,” he said. He described Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as a tyrant. (Watch: The live United Nations General Assembly Debate)

Here’s how western media covered PM Modi’s emotional moment at Facebook Townhall meet

The western media covered and highlighted the emotional moment between the most influential people in the world.

Narendra Modi and Mark Zukerberg during the Townhall meet

Imgae credit: MEA Twitter
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is currently on his six-day long visit to the United States and he is trying to promote the Digital India initiative heavily among the top executives of the states.In a bid to do so, Modi met Facebook head Mark Zukerberg for a Townhall meet where he invited questions from people on Sunday, during the Q&A round he teared up while answering a question from the Facebook CEO. The western media covered and highlighted the emotional moment between the most influential people in the world. Here is how some of the top western news brands covered the event:<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The most amazing moment this morning was when Prime Minister Narendra Modi and I talked about our families, and he shared stories of his childhood and the impact his mother had on his life. His answer is deeply moving and inspiring, and it’s worth watching all the way through.
Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Sunday, 27 September 2015BBCIndia’s Narendra Modi tears up at Facebook Q&A sessionOn a visit to Facebook headquarters in California, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi appeared to cry as he talked about the sacrifices made by his mother during his childhood. Some 1,200 people attended the Q&A session, which was streamed live on Facebook, and moderated by company chief Mark Zuckerberg. Read more here.Los Angeles TimesHere’s the question Mark Zuckerberg asked that almost made the Indian prime minister cryFacebook’s Town Hall Q&As — where Facebook users around the world get to ask Mark Zuckerberg questions — aren’t typically emotional events. This changed Sunday during a special Q&A Zuckerberg held with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. During the 50-minute event held at the social network’s Menlo Park, Calif., campus, Modi fielded questions about government investments, the ease of doing business in India and what was being done to empower women. But it was a question from Zuckerberg himself, about family, that got an unexpectedly emotional response from the prime minister. Read more here.TimeModi Breaks Down in Tears Discussing Mother at Facebook EventIndian Prime Minister Narendra Modi broke down in tears Sunday discussing the role his mother played in allowing for his success with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. “When we were young, what we did to get by: we went to our neighbors’ houses nearby to clean dishes, fill water, do hard chores. So you can imagine what a mother had to do to raise her children. What she must have gone through,” said Modi in a broken voice. Read more here.While some news platforms preferred to focus on Prime Minister’s emotional moment, some highlighted potential of India’s economy and how reform in the technological space can further bolster it. New York TimesIndia Replaces China as Next Big Frontier for U.S. Tech Companies​Indians have long loved to connect with one another online, accounting for much of the growth of early social networks like Friendster. So it’s not surprising that Facebook already has 132 million Indian users, trailing only the United States. Red more here.Washington PostHow Modi’s visit to Silicon Valley can spark India’s tech economySilicon Valley often hosts world leaders, but rarely gives them the rock-star reception that it is planning for India prime minister Narendra Modi. Seats for an 18,500-person event where he will be speaking, at the SAP Center in San Jose, disappeared within days, and tens of thousands more could have sold. The Indian community is abuzz with more excitement than when Bollywood troupes visit. Companies such as Google, Facebook, and Tesla are rolling out the red carpe​t. Read more here.

PM Modi departs from Ireland, heads for second US visit

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday left for United States from Dublin, Ireland, for the second leg of his two-nation trip.

Narendra Modi

dna Research & Archives
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday left for United States from Dublin, Ireland, for the second leg of his two-nation trip. During his brief visit to Ireland, the Prime Minister held bilateral talks with his Irish counterpart Enda Kenny and addressed the Indian diaspora. He sought Ireland’s support for reforms in United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Prime Minister Modi also brought up the issue of India’s membership to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) during his discussions with the Irish Prime Minister.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Prime Minister Modi arrived in Ireland on Wednesday on the first leg of his two-nation trip to Ireland and United States. This is the first visit by an Indian Prime Minister to Ireland in 60 years.Related Read: PM Narendra Modi seeks Ireland’s support for India’s bid in UNSC, NSG​Modi in Ireland: PM addresses Indian diaspora, takes a dig at secularism​

India court protects US transgender man

A transgender man has alleged that his parents tricked him into coming to India on holiday and then took away his passport and green card.

PM Modi’s visit to lay new benchmarks in engagements with US: MEA

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the United States is aimed at getting more foreign direct investment and making the ‘Make in India’ program a huge success, adding that it expects the visit to lay new benchmarks in engagements with the United States.

File Picture

PTI
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the United States is aimed at getting more foreign direct investment and making the ‘Make in India’ program a huge success, adding that it expects the visit to lay new benchmarks in engagements with the United States.”Prime Minister Modi will be arriving later this evening and he has a very substantive program for the two days that he is here. Thereafter, he travels to San Jose in California to meet with the different set of people in that part of the world. In New York, he is going to meet a number of people connected with the financial sector, with the media and technology sector and, most importantly, with the manufacturing sector because one of the primary objectives of the Prime Minister’s visit to America is to get more foreign direct investment and make the ‘Make in India’ program a huge success,? MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup told ANI.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”American collaboration with that program in terms of skills, in terms of technology and in terms of investment, is very crucial and I expect the Prime Minister’s visit to lay new benchmarks in engagements with the United States,” he added. “A number of bilateral are going to happen because the Prime Minister will be in New York when a number of world leaders are also going to be in New York,” he further said.Prime Minister Modi will address founders of startups, entrepreneurs and technology leaders in the Silicon Valley on September 27. Earlier this morning, the Prime Minister left for his week-long official visit to Ireland and United States.”Leaving for Ireland, where I will hold delegation level talks with Mr. Enda Kenny, Taoiseach of Ireland and interact with Indian community. After Ireland, will travel to New York City,” the Prime Minister tweeted before his departure. He will meet President Obama on September 28 ahead of the UN General Assembly.

PM Modi to visit Ireland, USA; address UN Sustainable Development Summit and meet Mark Zuckerberg

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be visiting Ireland and the United States from from September 23, 2015 to September 29, 2015, says Zee News. In a series of Facebook posts, Modi said:

Prime Minister Narendra Modi

PTI photo
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be visiting Ireland and the United States from from September 23, 2015 to September 29, 2015, says Zee News. In a series of Facebook posts, Modi said:”On 23rd September 2015 I will visit Ireland. It is after almost 60 years that an Indian Prime Minister will visit Ireland. In Ireland I will hold talks with Mr Enda Kenny, the Taoiseach of Ireland. We hope to further develop strong people-to-people and economic ties with Ireland in the years to come. In Ireland I will also interact with the Indian community. <!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>On 24th September 2015, I will commence my visit to USA. This visit seeks to build on the substantial ground covered during my last visit to USA and President Obama’s visit to India early this year. I am going to USA at a historic moment when the United Nations is celebrating its 70th anniversary. India attaches great importance to the United Nations. In July, I had written a letter to heads of governments of 193 nations outlining India’s vision for UN agenda and reforms. I am glad that leaders of several nations wrote back appreciating our vision. In New York City, I will address the UN Sustainable Development Summit for formal adoption of post-2015 new sustainable development agenda. Coming from a culture that regards harmony as central to its ethos, I am glad to have an opportunity to address this forum. The new goals are closely aligned with India’s vision for sustainable development and our flagship programs for the same. I will also participate in a summit hosted by President Obama on peacekeeping. India has historically been one of the largest contributors to the UN peacekeeping forces. Over 180,000 Indian troops have participated in UN peacekeeping missions – more than from any other country. We are proud of our peacekeeping forces spread across the world, ensuring peace in difficult circumstances. I will pay homage to all those brave men and women who sacrificed their lives for peace. And I look forward to sharing my thoughts on how to make peacekeeping more effective. This year, India will host a summit of G-4 leaders in New York where the main agenda would be the UNSC reforms. The 70th anniversary of the UN is an apposite moment for reform discussions to be accelerated. Recently, the UN General Assembly finally adopted a document after over 20 years that would form the basis of formal discussions on this matter. I will be meeting several world leaders during the visit. Also, I will have interactions with leading investors and financial sector firms. There will be a working dinner where major Fortune-500 companies will be present to deliberate on investment opportunities in India. We have been interacting with several American business leaders over the last year and the outcomes have been encouraging. During my USA visit I will be visiting the West Coast on 26th and 27th September, where I will join several programmes. It would be after a gap of almost 33 years that an Indian PM would be visiting the west coast – the home of start-ups, innovation and technology. I will be part of a Townhall Q&A at the Facebook HQ along with Mr Mark Zuckerberg. We will discuss some global issues and issues relating to India, particularly on the economy and society. This is a Townhall you shouldn’t miss. I have already invited you all to share your questions through Facebook or the ‘Narendra Modi Mobile App.’ I will also see some recent technological innovations at the Google (Alphabet) campus and Tesla Motors. I will address a Renewable Energy Roundtable with USDOC and Stanford University. An event that I am enthusiastic about is the ‘India-US Start-up Konnect.’ India is emerging as a hub of start-ups in a wide range of areas and we aspire to take this further. We want the world to see our innovation capabilities in the start-up sector. At this event, a group of Indian start-ups will showcase their innovations and forge partnerships with the vibrant American start-up industry. In San Jose, I will interact with the Indian community on the 27th September. The Indian diaspora has left no stone unturned in strengthening India-USA ties. We are very proud of the accomplishments of our diaspora that has made immense contributions to both our societies. I am sure my US visit will be fruitful and further deepen the bond between the world’s oldest and largest democracies.”

Delhi has world’s deadliest air: Capital’s pollution is 10 times higher than WHO limits, finds survey

Washington:  A recent air quality monitoring survey — released on Monday by Greenpeace — has found that the deadly PM2.5 levels in the capital are 10 times higher than the safety limit prescribed by the World Health Organisation (WHO), and four times higher than even the Indian safety limit.

Delhi's air is the most polluted in the world.Delhi's air is the most polluted in the world.

Delhi’s air is the most polluted in the world.

Delhi’s air is the most toxic in the world due to high concentrations of PM2.5 — particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter — that is believed to pose the greatest health risk because it penetrates deeply into lungs.

The PM2.5 limit prescribed by WHO is 10 microgrammes per cubic metre, and the Indian limit is 40 microgrammes per cubic metre. PM2.5 are miniscule particles in the air that reduce visibility, cause the air to appear hazy, and affect respiratory tracts, reports the Daily Mail.

Air pollution is killing 3.3 million people a year worldwide, according to a new study that includes this surprise: Farming plays a large role in smog and soot deaths in industrial nations.

Scientists in Germany, Cyprus, and Saudi Arabia and at Harvard University calculated the most detailed estimates yet of the toll of air pollution, looking at what caused it. The study also projects that if trends don’t change, the yearly death toll will double to about 6.6 million a year by 2050.

The study, published on Wednesday in the journal Nature, used health statistics and computer models. About three-quarters of the deaths are from strokes and heart attacks, said lead author Jos Lelieveld, at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Germany.

The findings are similar to other, less-detailed pollution death estimates, outside experts said.

“About six percent of all global deaths each occur prematurely due to exposure to ambient air pollution. This number is higher than most experts would have expected, say, 10 years ago,” said Jason West, a University of North Carolina environmental sciences professor who wasn’t part of the study but praised it.

Air pollution kills more than HIV and malaria combined, Lelieveld said.

With nearly 1.4 million deaths a year, China has the most air pollution fatalities, followed by India with 645,000 and Pakistan with 110,000.

The United States, with 54,905 deaths in 2010 from soot and smog, ranks seventh highest for air pollution deaths. What’s unusual is that the study says that agriculture caused 16,221 of those deaths, second only to 16,929 deaths blamed on power plants.

In the northeastern United States, all of Europe, Russia, Japan, and South Korea, agriculture is the No. 1 cause of the soot and smog deaths, according to the study. Worldwide, agriculture is the No 2 cause with 664,100 deaths, behind the more than one million deaths from in-home heating and cooking done with wood and other biofuels in the developing world.

The problem with farms is ammonia from fertilizer and animal waste, Lelieveld said. That ammonia then combines with sulfates from coal-fired power plants and nitrates from car exhaust to form the soot particles that are the big air-pollution killers, he said.

In London, for example, the pollution from traffic takes time to be converted into soot, and then it is mixed with ammonia and transported downwind to the next city, he said.

“We were very surprised, but in the end it makes sense,” Lelieveld said. He said the scientists had assumed that traffic and power plants would be the biggest cause of deadly soot and smog.

Agricultural emissions are becoming increasingly important but are not regulated, said Allen Robinson, an engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University who wasn’t part of the study but praised it.

Ammonia air pollution from farms can be reduced “at relatively low costs,” Robinson said.

In the central United States, the main cause of deaths from soot and smog is power plants; in much of the West, it’s traffic emissions.

Jason West and other outside scientists did dispute the study’s projections that deaths would double by 2050. West and others said it’s likely that some places, such as China, will dramatically cut their air pollution by 2050.

With inputs from AP

India, US create joint challenge coin to mark partnership

The other side of this coin, which is golden in colour, has the maps of India and the United States and an aircraft carrier floating on blue water.

India and the US have created a “joint challenge coin” to symbolise their unique partnership in creating a next-generation aircraft carrier for the Indian Navy.One side of the coin reads “Forward Together We Go” and “Chale Chale Saath Saath” in Hindi; which is the vision statement of US President Barack Obama Prime Minister Narendra Modi, issued in their first meeting at the White House last September.The other side of this coin, which is golden in colour, has the maps of India and the United States and an aircraft carrier floating on blue water.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The “joint challenge coin” was created by the joint working group at their first meeting in US last month “to symbolise partnership”, Keith Webster, Director and International Cooperation Office of the Under Secretary of Defence for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics told PTI.During Obama’s visit to India in January, the two countries had announced the establishment of a working group for a next-generation aircraft carrier to bolster the Indian Navy’s blue-water capabilities, which held its first-ever meeting here last month.

Air pollution could kill 6.6 million people a year by 2050

In a study published in the journal Nature, they found that outdoor air pollution already kills about 3.3 million people a year worldwide.
Representational Image
dna Research & Archives
Air contaminated with pollutants such as ozone and tiny particles could cause the premature death of about 6.6 million people a year by 2050 if nothing is done to improve air quality, scientists warned on Wednesday.In a study published in the journal Nature, they found that outdoor air pollution already kills about 3.3 million people a year worldwide. The majority of those deaths are in Asia where residential energy emissions, such as those from heating and cooking, have a major impact. And that toll could double over the next 35 years, the researchers warned, unless clean-up measures are taken.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”This is an astounding number,” said Jos Lelieveld of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Germany, who led the research. “In some counties air pollution is actually a leading cause of death, and in many countries it is a major issue.”Air pollution deaths are most commonly from heart disease, strokes or a lung disease called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It is also linked to deaths from lung cancer and acute respiratory infections. Calculating the health and mortality effects of outdoor air pollution on a global scale is not easy, partly because air quality is not monitored in every region and the toxicity of particles varies depending on their source. So for this study, Lelieveld’s team combined a global atmospheric chemistry model with population data and health statistics to estimate the relative contribution of different kinds of outdoor air pollution, mainly from so-called fine particulate matter, to premature deaths.Their results show that in India and China, for example, emissions from heating and cooking, have the largest death toll, while in much of the United States and a few other countries, emissions from traffic and power generation are crucial.In the eastern United States and in Europe, Russia and East Asia, agricultural emissions are the biggest source of the kind of fine particulate matter that gets into people’s lungs, causing illness, disability and death. Oliver Wild, an atmospheric scientist at Britain’s Lancaster University, said the study “really brings home the need for air quality controls”, particularly in heavily populated parts of Asia.

What is the UN General Assembly negotiation on UNSC reform and why it is important for India?

In a significant development, the UN General Assembly on Monday unanimously adopted a negotiating text for the Security Council reforms, setting the stage for talks on the long pending process at the 70th session of the global body which commences tomorrow.

What is the UN Security Council?The UNSC is the body responsible for maintaining international peace and security. As per the UN charter’s direction, the body can take actions on its behalf with regards to global peace. During disputes and threats to international peace and security, the body can ask to probe into issues, ask members to apply economic sanctions and take military action on the aggressor.UN peacekeeping operations is one of its major responsibilityWho forms the UNSC?The UNSC has five permanent members and ten non-permanent members. China, France, Russia, United Kingdom and United States form the five permamnent members while the the non-permamnent members change every two years in order to provide representation to all continents in the world.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Why the need for reforms are imperative to India?While other organs of the UN can make recommendations, the UNSC body can alone make decisions which the members have to follow.However, while the the council can make a decision, the resolution that it passes for the same can be vetoed by the permanent members. However, this isolates the power in their hands. Often the permanent members are blamed for using the vetoes in operations related close to their allies.What are the reforms being proposed?One is to expand the council and include non-nuclear members in it. India has aspired to be a permanent member and hence the decision to adopt an irreversible negotiations draft is a small step towards it.However, there are also reformative suggestions to remove permanent membership all together.What is the current decision to use text-based negotiation?So, a negotiation text where the positions and proposals of all UN members were taken, which will be used for further discussions, has been unanimously accepted by them. However, Russia, US and China abstained from sending their position on reforms negotiation.

Father of Virginia TV reporter slain on air vows to fight for gun control | Reuters

WASHINGTON The father of a Virginia journalist killed in an on-air shooting said on Thursday he would become a crusader for gun control, but analysts said there was little likelihood of legislation on the federal level any time soon, despite changes in some states.

Two journalists, reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward of Roanoke CBS affiliate WDBJ7, were shot during a live interview on Wednesday by a disgruntled former station employee who later killed himself. The woman who was being interviewed was wounded and hospitalized.

Parker’s father, Andy Parker, urged state and federal lawmakers to take action on gun control, especially to keep firearms out of the hands of people who were mentally unstable.

“I’m not going to rest until I see something happen. We’ve got to have our legislators and congressmen step up to the plate and stop being cowards about this,” Parker told CNN, describing himself as a supporter of the constitutional right to keep and bear arms.

He said the National Rifle Association, the powerful U.S. gun lobby, likely would contend that his daughter and Ward would have been safe if they themselves had been armed.

“It wouldn’t have made any difference,” Parker said. “How many Alisons is this going to happen to before we stop it?”

The United States had about 34,000 firearms deaths in 2013, with almost two-thirds of them suicides, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

Sarah Trumble, a senior policy counsel for the Third Way, a Washington think tank, said prospects for gun control had little chance in the Republican-controlled Congress, despite intense media focus on the Virginia killings.

“There’s no playbook for what to do here,” she said, but added that changes were more likely in states than at a federal level. “The states are really where the action is.”

The last time there was a push at the federal level for tighter gun control was following the massacre of 26 people, mostly children, at the Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012.

President Barack Obama supported legislation that would have extended background checks for gun buyers and banned rapid-firing assault weapons. But despite national revulsion over the Newtown killings it was rejected in April 2013 by the U.S. Senate, including by some lawmakers in Obama’s Democratic Party.

After Wednesday’s shooting, Obama reiterated his frustration over the issue of gun violence, saying the United States needs to do “a better job of making sure that people who have problems, people who shouldn’t have guns, don’t have them.”

MEASURES GO AHEAD

Although the issue is stalled at a national level, gun control measures have gone ahead in the last two years in several U.S. states, with 18 now requiring background checks for the sale of handguns, said Colin Goddard, senior policy adviser for Everytown, a gun control advocacy group backed by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Among other gains for advocates of gun control are a 2014 referendum in Washington state for background checks on gun sales in which backers of the initiative outspent the NRA. Oregon’s governor in May signed legislation for background checks on almost all buyers.

Nevada voters will go to the polls in a similar referendum next year.

In Maine, Goddard said Everytown had started a campaign to get a background checks question on the ballot. But gun rights advocates notched a victory in the state last month when it became the fifth to allow gun owners to carry concealed weapons without a permit.

In Virginia, where the NRA is headquartered, Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe called for gun controls after Wednesday’s shooting.

But gun control legislation is unlikely to pass the Republican-dominated legislature, said Stephen Farnsworth, a pollster at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

“It’s a very gun-friendly legislature and the shootings this week will do little to change that,” Farnsworth said. He added that polls have shown more support for gun control among state residents than among politicians.

Wednesday’s shootings were particularly shocking because they happened on air, and because of social media posts about the attack by Vester Flanagan, 41, the man police said carried out the shooting.

His posts illustrated a trend of people wanting to commit murders and post images of the killings online to gain notoriety, Parker’s boyfriend, Chris Hurst, told NBC.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Frances Kerry)

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

HRD scraps LPG subsidy under mid day meal scheme

In a letter written to the principal secretaries and education departments of the states, the ministry has directed the states to bear the additional cost for procuring unsubsidised cylinder.

To contribute in bringing down the government’s subsidy bill, human resource development ministry has scrapped the LPG subsidy being extended to schools under the mid day meal scheme.HRD ministry contributes Rs350 crores every year on providing subsidy on LPG. The cost will now have to be borne either by the states or the schools themselves. While the ministry is of the view that states have ample resources at their disposal, the experts feel that it is going to hit the quality of food being served in the schools.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In a letter written to the principal secretaries and education departments of the states, the ministry has directed the states to bear the additional cost for procuring unsubsidised cylinder.The ministry is of the view that only 48 per cent of schools use LPG cylinder for cooking. Others depend on bio fuels. 11.58 lakh schools extend mid day meal facilities to 10.45 crores schools. But the ministry has no data to quantify the number of LPG cylinder used by schools. “We get a consolidated details from state governments. Ministry pays 75 per cent of the subsidy cost, 25 per cent is borne by the states,” said an officer of the ministry.The officer further added that the move has come after an order was issued by the ministry of finance on May 15. The HRD ministry has stopped the subsidy from April 1. “States have ample funds at their disposal in the 14th finance commission. They can utilise the money,” said the ministry. However curtaining the subsidy at a time when the budget allocations for the financial year has already been made, the move is likely to have a direct implication on the quality of food being served. Experts feel that not all states will be comfortable allocating the extra funds in the middle of the financial year. ” It is very unlikely for the states to put in the extra money. The quality of food servedto the children will have a great impact,” said Komal Ganotra, director policy advocacy and research with CRY.

US urges Maldives to release ex-president Nasheed to end trial

“The United States is disturbed by the government of Maldives’ recent late-night transfer of former President Nasheed back to prison,” State Department Spokesman, John Kirby, told reporters yesterday.

Former Maldives President Nasheed

Disturbed by the recent late- night transfer of former Maldivian President Mohd Nasheed back to prison, the US has urged the government of the island nation to release him and end “politically motivated” trials against him.”The United States is disturbed by the government of Maldives’ recent late-night transfer of former President Nasheed back to prison,” State Department Spokesman, John Kirby, told reporters yesterday.”(Former) President Nasheed is serving a sentence imposed after a trial that was conducted in a manner contrary to Maldivian law and Maldives international obligations to provide the minimum fair-trial guarantees and other protections under the international covenant on civil and political rights,” he claimed.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”We renew our call on the government of Maldives to release former President Nasheed, end politically motivated trials and take steps to restore confidence in its commitment to democracy and the rule of law, including judicial independence and to ensure fundamental rights are respected, including the freedom of speech, press and peaceful assembly,” Kirby said.Calling on the government to ensure former Nasheed’s safety and well-being in custody, Kirby urged the Maldivian government to make progress in all political cases pending, including against former Defense Minister Nazim, whose appeal process has been delayed, and against Adhaalath Party Sheik Imran, who has not been charged since his May arrest.

US rules out any role in reviving India- Pakistan dialogue

He was responding to questions on talks between the national security advisors of India and Pakistan that were called off by Islamabad at the last moment.

John Kirby

The US on Tuesday said there has not been any change in its position on Kashmir which remains a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan, as it ruled out any role for itself in the revival of Indo-Pak talks.”The tensions in the region are significant. We recognise that, and we believe it’s important for leaders of both countries to resume this dialogue and the discussion and to try to come to some resolution,” State Department Spokesman John Kirby told reporters at his daily news conference. “What we’ve said, particularly with the tension in Kashmir, is that our position has not changed, that this is an issue that India and Pakistan need to resolve,” Kirby said.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>He was responding to questions on talks between the national security advisors of India and Pakistan that were called off by Islamabad at the last moment. “We were encouraged by the constructive interaction. The early constructive interaction between the leaders of India and Pakistan earlier this year in Russia,” Kirby said.”We are disappointed that the talks didn’t happen. We just encourage India and Pakistan to resume a formal dialogue soon,” he said. Kirby reiterated that it is for the leaders of the two countries to decide on the pace and scope of the peace talks.”These are issues for the two to resolve together, and that’s what we continue to encourage is a resumption of dialogue between the leaders of both India and Pakistan,” he said. “We want both nations to sit down and hammer out the issues between them. Some of them have to do with violent extremism and some of them don’t. We understand that, but these are issues that the two parties have got to work out,” he added.Making it clear that US’ position about terrorism and the threat that it continues to pose around the world remains the same, Kirby said the United States will stay committed to countering violent extremism using all the elements of national power and international cooperation that it can.”When it comes to countering terrorism around the world, obviously the United States plays a role and we want everybody to play a role in that, but when you’re asking me about these particular tensions, we’re disappointed that the talks didn’t occur and we would like to see them resume,” Kirby said.

Disappointed US wants India, Pakistan to resume NSA talks soon

Washington: Expressing disappointment over the cancellation of NSA-level talks between India and Pakistan, the US has said it would just encourage the two countries to resume a formal dialogue soon.

“We were encouraged by the early constructive interaction between the leaders of India and Pakistan earlier this year,” in Russia, State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters Monday. “We’re disappointed that the talks didn’t happen,” he said. “We just encourage India and Pakistan to resume a formal dialogue soon.”

Scheduled talks between National Security Advisers Sartaj Aziz of Pakistan and Ajit Doval of India were called off over Islamabad’s insistence on raising Kashmir and meeting Pakistani separatist leaders instead of focusing on terrorism as India wanted.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

“As we’ve said, the issues are important; we recognize that. The tensions in the region are significant; we recognize that,” Kitby said.

“And we believe it’s important for leaders of both countries to resume this dialogue and discussion and to try to come to some resolution,” he said.

Asked about the possibility of talks between Secretary of State John Kerry and his Indian and Pakistani counterparts during the UN General Assembly session next month, Kirby declined to give a definitive answer.

“I think you can expect that his dance card will be pretty full,” he said. “He’ll have a very ambitious agenda of meetings and discussions.”

“And as to whether or not the leaders of India and Pakistan will use the opportunity to further discuss, I’d point you to them,” Kirby said.

“What we’ve said and I want to repeat is that these are issues for the two to resolve together,” he added. The US wants “both nations to sit down and hammer out the issues between them.”

“Some of them have to do with violent extremism and some of them don’t; we understand that,” Kirby said. “But these are issues that the two parties have got to work out.”

The US “position about terrorism and the threat that it continues to pose around the world remains the same,” Kirby said.

“And the United States will stay committed to countering violent extremism using all the elements of national power and international cooperation that we can.”

Asked if the US saw a role for itself in resolving issues between India and Pakistan, Kirby said the US position on tension in Kashmir “has not changed, that this is an issue that India and Pakistan need to resolve.”

“When it comes to countering terrorism around the world, obviously the United States plays a role and we want everybody to play a role in that.”

“But when you’re asking me about these particular tensions, we’re disappointed that the talks didn’t occur and we would like to see them resume.

Asked if the US would make any effort to restart the stalled talks, Kirby repeated: “This is an issue for India and Pakistan to come together and to resolve, and we’ve been very clear about that.”

IANS

Congress asks US to pressurise Pakistan over terror against India

Tewari also said that when the US was attacked on September 11, 2001, they went out for the terrorists based in Afghanistan and Pakistan and took out Osama bin laden from Abbottabad.

The Congress Party on Saturday asked the United States (US) Government to pressurise Pakistan on the export of terror from its soil against India”If US considers that it has outside balancing power in various regions then it must put pressure on Pakistan to ensure that the export of terror to India stops from Pakistan,” said Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari.Tewari also said that when the US was attacked on September 11, 2001, they went out for the terrorists based in Afghanistan and Pakistan and took out Osama bin laden from Abbottabad.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>But all in these years US Government has never put pressure on Pakistan to stop the export terror across its eastern border to India, it’s high time that the US also started being even-handed, he said.Pakistan called off the NSA-level talks with India late yesterday night.A statement issued by Pakistan Foreign Office said the proposed talks will not serve any purpose if conducted on the basis of what it called “preconditions” laid down by India.The US had earlier expressed its disappointment over the called off NSA talks between India and Pakistan.

Maneka Gandhi urges states to achieve target of 20,000 adoptions by 2016

Women and Child Development Ministry on Tuesday came down heavily on state governments for going slow on adoption cases and urged them to achieve a target of 20,000 adoptions by next year.

Maneka Gandhi

Women and Child Development Ministry on Tuesday came down heavily on state governments for going slow on adoption cases and urged them to achieve a target of 20,000 adoptions by next year.There were 4694, 3924 and 3988 in-country adoptions during 2012-13, 2013-14 and 2014-15 respectively and 308, 422 and 374 inter-country adoptions in the same period.The Ministry has issued a strict deadline to the states to comply with the new guidelines, which draw support from JJ Act. The act also includes the provision of de-recognising illegal adoption centers.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Addressing the National Familiarization Programme organised for states and union territories on the new adoption guidelines, Union Minister Maneka Gandhi said they will have to ensure that a proper system is put in place by September 15.”States will have to register all Child Care Institutions (CCI) under the JJ Act, recognise at least one State Adoption Agency in each district, ensure registering District Child Protection Unit (DCPU) on CARINGS (Central Adoption Resource Information Guidance System),” she said, adding, a check of all states will be conducted in December.Taking strong exception to illegal adoptions being carried out through hospitals and unauthorised CCIs across the country, Gandhi said states should take strict action against them as the JJ Act provides a provision for criminal action against such defaulters.”There should be board outside every hospital clearly stating that it is illegal to take children for adoption and please contact the nearest state adoption agency,” she said.

APJ Abdul Kalam’s inspirational message animated in web comic

Late former President APJ Abdul Kalam’s inspiring and motivational message and minimalistic lifestyle forms the basis for a new art based web comic.

Image Courtesy: Zen Pencils
A quote by the “Missile Man of India” from his 1999 autobiography “Wings of Fire” has been animated by Zen Pencils, online comic portal by Australia-based freelance artist Gavin Aung Than.The comic begins with a depiction of a young girl whose passion for swimming is frowned at by persons of authority presumably her parents.Then introduces Kalam’s words intended to equip at least a few young people to stand up to the authoritarianism in society.”A characteristic feature of the authoritarianism in our society is its insidious ability to addict people to the endless pursuit of external rewards, wealth, prestige, position, promotion, approval of one’s lifestyle by others, ceremonial honours and status symbols of all kinds,” Kalam wrote.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”To successfully pursue these goals they have to learn elaborate rules of etiquette and familiarize themselves with customs, traditions protocols and so on.”The youth of today must unlearn this self-defeating way of life,” said the country’s 11th President.In his autobiography Kalam recounts how he, a poor country boy from the small town of Rameswaram went on to study physics, work his way through the ranks of the Defence Research and Development Organisation and then the Indian Space Research Organisation. He visited NASA and the Goddard Space Flight Centre in the United States during the height of the space race.The scientist, aeronautical engineer and writer had during his 40 year scientific career pioneered India’s space missile and nuclear programmes. Read the full comic here.

Geeta’s mute testimony: An eloquent reminder to India and Pakistan to rethink their relations?

As India and Pakistan indulge in what has almost become a ‘rite of passage’ – exchange of fire on the LoC-between the two, a saga almost amounting to real life approximating reel life is unfolding. The reference here is to the differently-abled young girl, Geeta, who had strayed into Pakistan. Geeta, has been very well looked after in Pakistan: she has not been converted to Islam, she observes her dharmic duties in her foster home, has her own mandir ( temple) and even observes the fast. Now that Geeta’s ‘issue’ has become public, authorities in India are intervening and are making efforts to bring her back to India.

What do the cross LoC firing and the story of Geeta tell about India and Pakistan?

One answer is that a rather paradoxical relationship defines the two arch rivals. This relationship appears to be in the nature of a love-hate one. However, this reading, while there may be a wee bit of merit to it, is facile. The real picture appears to correspond to a dichotomous relationship where the respective states of the countries are locked in a hostile spiral which, in turn, is in the nature of a zero sum game. This is complemented by a non state dynamic where people reign supreme. Admittedly, while stereotypes that people of India hold about Pakistanis or vice versa are not salubrious, by and large, there’s an element of curiosity about each other as well. And there is a section across the divide that views each other as humans first and Pakistanis and Indians second. The reference here is not to the ‘liberals’ of Pakistan or India but ‘ordinary, lay folk’.

It is in the interstices of this that some sort of rapprochement between the hostile, arch rivals may be found. States are states: their defining feature is aggrandizement of power, security and suspicion of other states.

Image source: TwitterImage source: Twitter

Image source: Twitter

To expect the Indian and Pakistani state to defy the essential feature of states goes against the gravamen of Interstate and international relations. The implication here is not that the Indian and Pakistani states will always be locked into an almost apocalyptic conflict. Conflict between states always looms in the background regardless of the nature of particular issues they have with/ between each other but this conflict can be moderated or even sublimated( the case of the European Union may constitute a classic example of this). Prudent diplomacy can be a game changer here.

Diplomacy can be either ‘hard’ or ‘soft’. In the former variant, hard issues can be dealt with and a Modus Vivdendi arrived at to fructify a paradigm or relations that do not lend themselves to overt conflict or even war. In the softer variant, the name of the game is perceptual: altering perceptions amongst the constituents of the warring or conflicting states. This variant, I daresay, is the more difficult one but can potentially be more effective and salubrious. In terms of the rivalry between India and Pakistan, it is the softer variant that should be elevated to the status of a paradigm.

The grist to the mill of this softer variant of diplomacy can be provided by incidents and stories like that of Geeta. Here media and the respective governments of two countries should be on the same page and elevate the human and humanness residing in the hearts of the people of the two countries. If and when perceptions change, governments are bound to take notice not on account of moral grounds but on political and even real politik grounds. Bottoms up pressure can potentially catalyse a salubrious dynamic that has long term implications. This could redound positively to both India and Pakistan and relative peace may ensue.

States are abstract entities and violence is intrinsic and inherent to these. But states are comprised by nation(s). It is ultimately nations that can direct or rechannelize the violent tendencies of states and sublimate these. The same dynamic may apply to relations between India and Pakistan. All this may sound airy fairy and against the gravamen of this history of interstate relations and Indo Pak relations.

This may well be true but the theme identified in this essay is in the nature of an idea. And, in the final analysis, ideas are powerful- they may even constitute the motor of history. I am reminded of one of the statements of Ajmal Kasab– one of the perpetrators of the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

Kasab , famously, perhaps under the influence of drugs , said, ‘ yaar yeh bhee insaan hain’(these people are human too). If Kasab could say this, why can’t ‘normal’ people across the divide? While Kasab may have been under the influence of a drug which may have heightened his consciousness and altered his frame of mind, what we need are Ideas –powerful ideas that can alter our consciousness and mental framework that allows us to view each other as humans first. Let a fresh gale of ideas sweep us all and see through facile constructs and stereotypes and let the case of Geete be a bellwether for this.

High-level meeting held to discuss IS threat

It was decided in the meeting to expand the Maharashtra and Telangana models already in place for dealing with IS-related cases, to other states.

Rajnath Singh

Union home secretary LC Goyal chaired a high-level meeting of director generals of police and home secretaries of states that are seen as vulnerable catchment areas for terrorist organisations like Islamic State in an attempt to sensitise state governments and chalk out plans to tackle the threat. It was decided in the meeting to expand the Maharashtra and Telangana models already in place for dealing with IS-related cases, to other states. The two states’ model includes monitoring of social media, community outreach through religious leaders and eminent people of the society to counter the radicalization of youth. Efforts would also be made to gain the confidence of the Muslim community, said sources.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> The meeting was held to streamline the institutional mechanisms for sharing information and to adequately meet the threats from terrorism. It was decided to strengthen the capacity building of the police officers in States through training programmes, to be organized by central intelligence and security agencies. Instances of radicalisation of youth in some states were also discussed including counseling of such youth and their families. Appropriate measures on counter radicalisation were also discussed. 25 Indian youth have so far fallen prey to the IS fold raising alarm bells in the country’s security establishment. Saturday’s meeting that had been scheduled earlier factored the large assemblage at Yakub memon’s funeral in Mumbai on Thursday, sources said.

Yakub Memon hanged: Why India still needs capital punishment

The hanging of Yakub Memon gives us a good reason to start the debate over the death penalty. I would like to make out a case in favour of retaining the death penalty.

The main arguments trotted out in favour of the abolition of capital punishment are these. First, we should not be party to taking precious human life. Second, sentencing someone to death when facts may later prove him or her innocent means irreparable injustice will be done. Third, death is never a deterrent. And, a fourth, that retribution should never be the aim of capital punishment. It is primitive and barbaric to seek death even for the worst crimes.

Yakub Memon. PTI

Yakub Memon. PTI

Let me agree that none of these arguments are invalid in toto. But they are not as strong as they appear to be at first glance.

Let’s take the first argument. Every human life is precious, no doubt. The right to life is the most fundamental of rights. No state should be allowed to take it away easily.

But no fundamental right is without riders either. Free speech, property and faith, all these are rights subject to reasonable restrictions. Sure, the right to life is even more fundamental, but this only means that the right to take it away has to be foolproof and not amenable to subjective readings.

When someone is a terrorist, killing people at will, or a serial murderer or rapist, is this person’s right to life all that sacrosanct all the time?

Also, we need to evaluate the death sentence compared to the alternative: a life sentence. Is living life in a dingy cell somehow more humane than sending the killer to the hangman? When suicide bombers voluntarily kill themselves for psychic gains, why is the right to life somehow so sacrosanct? They want to die anyway – and they don’t believe in other people’s right to live.

Let me add two more elements to this argument. Why is only human life so valuable, and not that of animals or other fauna? Why is it so unethical to hang a human being, but perfectly all right to murder animals by the million when this causes global warming, makes our diets excessively fatty and cholesterol-laden, and also leads to needless suffering to creatures whom we dominate?

Moreover, what if keeping a person alive can cause even more deaths? Keeping Maqbool Butt alive led Kashmiri separatists to the kidnap and murder of an Indian diplomat in Birmingham in the early 1980s. Boko Haram, Al-Qaeda, Indian Mujahideen, Al Shabaab, and ISIS will do anything to get the release of their jailed comrades. Keeping Maulana Masood Azhar and Sheikh Omar in jail caused the Kandahar Indian Airlines hijack and may even have contributed to the 9/11 mass murders at the Twin Towers. When keeping deadly killers alive in jail can tempt their compatriots to indulge in more killings, how is this justified?

When it comes to demented people who kill or rape for pleasure and revenge, and when they do so out of mental sickness, is it better to keep them rotting in jail or end their suffering and potential threats to society – including other jailbirds?

Sometimes, the greater good is more important than the life of one individual. Hence the death penalty is not something we should reject out of sheer emotion.

Let’s take the next argument – that sending someone to the gallows when he may be innocent is the worst form of injustice. This is a reasonably good argument, but we need to examine it closely for its implications.

There are two kinds of states – malevolent ones, that are run by dictatorships and hence outside the rule of law, and democratic ones, which do give the accused a chance to prove their innocence. In the first case, there is no point arguing against the death sentence since that kind of regime is against any argument that is not in favour of it.

In democratic regimes, where the rule of law is reasonably expected to operate, the accused have a chance to prove their innocence. Let’s remember, Yakub Memon got 21 years to prove his innocence, and failed. However, the real issue here is whether he (and others on death row) got reasonable support from the law so that they don’t end up on the gallows for want of an adequate defence. In big cases, the courts themselves provide legal support; the real problem lies with the poor and weak in criminal cases that do not catch the public eye. It is a travesty that the bulk of the people languishing on death row are from these segments of society. This problem needs remedying by strengthening the law – a law which provides state legal support for the poor. Maybe, a group of concerned citizens can serve as watchdog to ensure that this gets done.

That still leaves the question of the non-guilty facing a death rap because of poor evidence gathering by the criminal investigation teams.

This is a valid argument, but not an overpowering one. Reason: the fact that mistakes will be made occasionally should not be used to kill the idea of death penalty in the rarest of rare cases. Once we create a basic list of crimes that fits this “rarest of rare” category, the rules for applying the death sentence can be tightened suitably so that convictions based on weak evidence should automatically attract nothing more than lifers. This is a reasonable safeguard to have – and it can be codified into law.

The third argument, that capital punishment is never a deterrent, is actually the weakest of them all. If death is no deterrence, is a jail term (even a lifer) a better deterrent? Ask yourself: if you intend to kill, not out of some degree of temporary insanity or driven by extreme emotion, nothing is a deterrent. If you kill after plotting assiduously for it, you are prepared for any consequences. So death or jail will be no deterrent anyway. I believe that punishment itself does not deter too many crimes involving the killing of people, but it is still needed to send out a message to society. Punishment is how we educate ourselves on what is acceptable or unacceptable to a society. This is the prime purpose of any punishment, death or jail, regardless of whether it deters or not.

The last argument, that death penalty cannot become a form of retribution, I personally disagree with. States punish crimes with punishment, including death, so that people don’t take law into their own hands and seek retribution directly. Punishment by the state is vital to keep ordinary citizens from taking the law into their own hands – some form of retribution is vital for closure, for righting wrongs. Of course, an occasional Gandhi or a Buddha may not want retribution, but most societies are held in place by the promise of retribution for wrongs inflicted, and not by the forgiving nature of the wronged. Retribution is a human emotion that needs to be acknowledged – just as love, anger and hate are – and punishment is vital if society is not to sink into wanton lawlessness.

These are some of the reasons why I think the death sentence should be retained. But it cannot be wayward and arbitrary. We need a specific set of crimes which are defined as rarest of rare and not leave it to the imagination of all-to-human judges to decide this. This is what the debate on capital punishment needs to focus on, not whether it should be abolished.

It may be possible to abolish death penalties in extremely advanced countries where people are normally law abiding and the state is strong enough and has enough resources to even attempt to correct the behaviour patterns of deadly criminals. But India is not anywhere near that stage. We need the death penalty for our own reasons at this stage in our development as a civilised society. Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that we must do what the Joneses do to their killers in Scandinavia or Europe. That way lies chaos and disaster.

Yakub Memon hanged: Here’s why India needs death penalty

The hanging of Yakub Memon gives us a good reason to start the debate over the death penalty. I would like to make out a case in favour of retaining the death penalty.

The main arguments trotted out in favour of the abolition of capital punishment are these. First, we should not be party to taking precious human life. Second, sentencing someone to death when facts may later prove him or her innocent means irreparable injustice will be done. Third, death is never a deterrent. And, a fourth, that retribution should never be the aim of capital punishment. It is primitive and barbaric to seek death even for the worst crimes.

Yakub Memon. PTI

Yakub Memon. PTI

Let me agree that none of these arguments are invalid in toto. But they are not as strong as they appear to be at first glance.

Let’s take the first argument. Every human life is precious, no doubt. The right to life is the most fundamental of rights. No state should be allowed to take it away easily.

But no fundamental right is without riders either. Free speech, property and faith, all these are rights subject to reasonable restrictions. Sure, the right to life is even more fundamental, but this only means that the right to take it away has to be foolproof and not amenable to subjective readings.

When someone is a terrorist, killing people at will, or a serial murderer or rapist, is this person’s right to life all that sacrosanct all the time?

Also, we need to evaluate the death sentence compared to the alternative: a life sentence. Is living life in a dingy cell somehow more humane than sending the killer to the hangman? When suicide bombers voluntarily kill themselves for psychic gains, why is the right to life somehow so sacrosanct? They want to die anyway – and they don’t believe in other people’s right to live.

Let me add two more elements to this argument. Why is only human life so valuable, and not that of animals or other fauna? Why is it so unethical to hang a human being, but perfectly all right to murder animals by the million when this causes global warming, makes our diets excessively fatty and cholesterol-laden, and also leads to needless suffering to creatures whom we dominate?

Moreover, what if keeping a person alive can cause even more deaths? Keeping Maqbool Butt alive led Kashmiri separatists to the kidnap and murder of an Indian diplomat in Birmingham in the early 1980s. Boko Haram, Al-Qaeda, Indian Mujahideen, Al Shabaab, and ISIS will do anything to get the release of their jailed comrades. Keeping Maulana Masood Azhar and Sheikh Omar in jail caused the Kandahar Indian Airlines hijack and may even have contributed to the 9/11 mass murders at the Twin Towers. When keeping deadly killers alive in jail can tempt their compatriots to indulge in more killings, how is this justified?

When it comes to demented people who kill or rape for pleasure and revenge, and when they do so out of mental sickness, is it better to keep them rotting in jail or end their suffering and potential threats to society – including other jailbirds?

Sometimes, the greater good is more important than the life of one individual. Hence the death penalty is not something we should reject out of sheer emotion.

Let’s take the next argument – that sending someone to the gallows when he may be innocent is the worst form of injustice. This is a reasonably good argument, but we need to examine it closely for its implications.

There are two kinds of states – malevolent ones, that are run by dictatorships and hence outside the rule of law, and democratic ones, which do give the accused a chance to prove their innocence. In the first case, there is no point arguing against the death sentence since that kind of regime is against any argument that is not in favour of it.

In democratic regimes, where the rule of law is reasonably expected to operate, the accused have a chance to prove their innocence. Let’s remember, Yakub Memon got 21 years to prove his innocence, and failed. However, the real issue here is whether he (and others on death row) got reasonable support from the law so that they don’t end up on the gallows for want of an adequate defence. In big cases, the courts themselves provide legal support; the real problem lies with the poor and weak in criminal cases that do not catch the public eye. It is a travesty that the bulk of the people languishing on death row are from these segments of society. This problem needs remedying by strengthening the law – a law which provides state legal support for the poor. Maybe, a group of concerned citizens can serve as watchdog to ensure that this gets done.

That still leaves the question of the non-guilty facing a death rap because of poor evidence gathering by the criminal investigation teams.

This is a valid argument, but not an overpowering one. Reason: the fact that mistakes will be made occasionally should not be used to kill the idea of death penalty in the rarest of rare cases. Once we create a basic list of crimes that fits this “rarest of rare” category, the rules for applying the death sentence can be tightened suitably so that convictions based on weak evidence should automatically attract nothing more than lifers. This is a reasonable safeguard to have – and it can be codified into law.

The third argument, that capital punishment is never a deterrent, is actually the weakest of them all. If death is no deterrence, is a jail term (even a lifer) a better deterrent? Ask yourself: if you intend to kill, not out of some degree of temporary insanity or driven by extreme emotion, nothing is a deterrent. If you kill after plotting assiduously for it, you are prepared for any consequences. So death or jail will be no deterrent anyway. I believe that punishment itself does not deter too many crimes involving the killing of people, but it is still needed to send out a message to society. Punishment is how we educate ourselves on what is acceptable or unacceptable to a society. This is the prime purpose of any punishment, death or jail, regardless of whether it deters or not.

The last argument, that death penalty cannot become a form of retribution, I personally disagree with. States punish crimes with punishment, including death, so that people don’t take law into their own hands and seek retribution directly. Punishment by the state is vital to keep ordinary citizens from taking the law into their own hands – some form of retribution is vital for closure, for righting wrongs. Of course, an occasional Gandhi or a Buddha may not want retribution, but most societies are held in place by the promise of retribution for wrongs inflicted, and not by the forgiving nature of the wronged. Retribution is a human emotion that needs to be acknowledged – just as love, anger and hate are – and punishment is vital if society is not to sink into wanton lawlessness.

These are some of the reasons why I think the death sentence should be retained. But it cannot be wayward and arbitrary. We need a specific set of crimes which are defined as rarest of rare and not leave it to the imagination of all-to-human judges to decide this. This is what the debate on capital punishment needs to focus on, not whether it should be abolished.

It may be possible to abolish death penalties in extremely advanced countries where people are normally law abiding and the state is strong enough and has enough resources to even attempt to correct the behaviour patterns of deadly criminals. But India is not anywhere near that stage. We need the death penalty for our own reasons at this stage in our development as a civilised society. Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that we must do what the Joneses do to their killers in Scandinavia or Europe. That way lies chaos and disaster.

After Yakub Memon’s hanging, here’s the case for retaining capital punishment

The hanging of Yakub Memon gives us a good reason to start the debate over the death penalty. I would like to make out a case in favour of retaining the death penalty.

The main arguments trotted out in favour of the abolition of capital punishment are these. First, we should not be party to taking precious human life. Second, sentencing someone to death when facts may later prove him or her innocent means irreparable injustice will be done. Third, death is never a deterrent. And, a fourth, that retribution should never be the aim of capital punishment. It is primitive and barbaric to seek death even for the worst crimes.

Yakub Memon. PTI

Yakub Memon. PTI

Let me agree that none of these arguments are invalid in toto. But they are not as strong as they appear to be at first glance.

Let’s take the first argument. Every human life is precious, no doubt. The right to life is the most fundamental of rights. No state should be allowed to take it away easily.

But no fundamental right is without riders either. Free speech, property and faith, all these are rights subject to reasonable restrictions. Sure, the right to life is even more fundamental, but this only means that the right to take it away has to be foolproof and not amenable to subjective readings.

When someone is a terrorist, killing people at will, or a serial murderer or rapist, is this person’s right to life all that sacrosanct all the time?

Also, we need to evaluate the death sentence compared to the alternative: a life sentence. Is living life in a dingy cell somehow more humane than sending the killer to the hangman? When suicide bombers voluntarily kill themselves for psychic gains, why is the right to life somehow so sacrosanct? They want to die anyway – and they don’t believe in other people’s right to live.

Let me add two more elements to this argument. Why is only human life so valuable, and not that of animals or other fauna? Why is it so unethical to hang a human being, but perfectly all right to murder animals by the million when this causes global warming, makes our diets excessively fatty and cholesterol-laden, and also leads to needless suffering to creatures whom we dominate?

Moreover, what if keeping a person alive can cause even more deaths? Keeping Maqbool Butt alive led Kashmiri separatists to the kidnap and murder of an Indian diplomat in Birmingham in the early 1980s. Boko Haram, Al-Qaeda, Indian Mujahideen, Al Shabaab, and ISIS will do anything to get the release of their jailed comrades. Keeping Maulana Masood Azhar and Sheikh Omar in jail caused the Kandahar Indian Airlines hijack and may even have contributed to the 9/11 mass murders at the Twin Towers. When keeping deadly killers alive in jail can tempt their compatriots to indulge in more killings, how is this justified?

When it comes to demented people who kill or rape for pleasure and revenge, and when they do so out of mental sickness, is it better to keep them rotting in jail or end their suffering and potential threats to society – including other jailbirds?

Sometimes, the greater good is more important than the life of one individual. Hence the death penalty is not something we should reject out of sheer emotion.

Let’s take the next argument – that sending someone to the gallows when he may be innocent is the worst form of injustice. This is a reasonably good argument, but we need to examine it closely for its implications.

There are two kinds of states – malevolent ones, that are run by dictatorships and hence outside the rule of law, and democratic ones, which do give the accused a chance to prove their innocence. In the first case, there is no point arguing against the death sentence since that kind of regime is against any argument that is not in favour of it.

In democratic regimes, where the rule of law is reasonably expected to operate, the accused have a chance to prove their innocence. Let’s remember, Yakub Memon got 21 years to prove his innocence, and failed. However, the real issue here is whether he (and others on death row) got reasonable support from the law so that they don’t end up on the gallows for want of an adequate defence. In big cases, the courts themselves provide legal support; the real problem lies with the poor and weak in criminal cases that do not catch the public eye. It is a travesty that the bulk of the people languishing on death row are from these segments of society. This problem needs remedying by strengthening the law – a law which provides state legal support for the poor. Maybe, a group of concerned citizens can serve as watchdog to ensure that this gets done.

That still leaves the question of the non-guilty facing a death rap because of poor evidence gathering by the criminal investigation teams.

This is a valid argument, but not an overpowering one. Reason: the fact that mistakes will be made occasionally should not be used to kill the idea of death penalty in the rarest of rare cases. Once we create a basic list of crimes that fits this “rarest of rare” category, the rules for applying the death sentence can be tightened suitably so that convictions based on weak evidence should automatically attract nothing more than lifers. This is a reasonable safeguard to have – and it can be codified into law.

The third argument, that capital punishment is never a deterrent, is actually the weakest of them all. If death is no deterrence, is a jail term (even a lifer) a better deterrent? Ask yourself: if you intend to kill, not out of some degree of temporary insanity or driven by extreme emotion, nothing is a deterrent. If you kill after plotting assiduously for it, you are prepared for any consequences. So death or jail will be no deterrent anyway. I believe that punishment itself does not deter too many crimes involving the killing of people, but it is still needed to send out a message to society. Punishment is how we educate ourselves on what is acceptable or unacceptable to a society. This is the prime purpose of any punishment, death or jail, regardless of whether it deters or not.

The last argument, that death penalty cannot become a form of retribution, I personally disagree with. States punish crimes with punishment, including death, so that people don’t take law into their own hands and seek retribution directly. Punishment by the state is vital to keep ordinary citizens from taking the law into their own hands – some form of retribution is vital for closure, for righting wrongs. Of course, an occasional Gandhi or a Buddha may not want retribution, but most societies are held in place by the promise of retribution for wrongs inflicted, and not by the forgiving nature of the wronged. Retribution is a human emotion that needs to be acknowledged – just as love, anger and hate are – and punishment is vital if society is not to sink into wanton lawlessness.

These are some of the reasons why I think the death sentence should be retained. But it cannot be wayward and arbitrary. We need a specific set of crimes which are defined as rarest of rare and not leave it to the imagination of all-to-human judges to decide this. This is what the debate on capital punishment needs to focus on, not whether it should be abolished.

It may be possible to abolish death penalties in extremely advanced countries where people are normally law abiding and the state is strong enough and has enough resources to even attempt to correct the behaviour patterns of deadly criminals. But India is not anywhere near that stage. We need the death penalty for our own reasons at this stage in our development as a civilised society. Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that we must do what the Joneses do to their killers in Scandinavia or Europe. That way lies chaos and disaster.

1.45 crore errors delays caste census data

Maharashtra has the maximum number, 69.1 lakhs, caste census errors that still needs to be rectified followed by Madhya Pradesh 13.9 lakh errors, West Bengal 11.6 lakhs, Rajasthan 7.2 lakhs, Uttar Pradesh 5.4 lakhs, Karnataka 2.9 lakhs, Bihar 1.7 lakhs and Tamil Nadu 1.4 lakhs.

Rebutting opposition’s charge that the government is not releasing caste census data to hide uncomfortable truths, the government on Tuesday said detection of 8.19 crore errors in caste census of which 1.45 crore still remain was the reason for the delay.Maharashtra has the maximum number, 69.1 lakhs, caste census errors that still needs to be rectified followed by Madhya Pradesh 13.9 lakh errors, West Bengal 11.6 lakhs, Rajasthan 7.2 lakhs, Uttar Pradesh 5.4 lakhs, Karnataka 2.9 lakhs, Bihar 1.7 lakhs and Tamil Nadu 1.4 lakhs.Union home ministry said that when it reviewed the status of the Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC) on July 16, 2015, it emerged that 46,73,034 distinct caste names have been returned in the SECC.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”These include Caste/sub-Caste names, synonyms, surnames, clan/gothra names, phonetic variations, sections, sub-groups etc. These will have to be classified by experts having domain knowledge on these issues,” said the ministry.After finding out 8,19,58,314 errors in the caste returns the Centre communicated to the States/UTs for rectification, the states could manage to rectify 6,73,81,119 errors leaving 1,45,77,195 errors still to be rectified.The government said it is fully committed to complete the SECC and requests the state governments for their full cooperation to complete the rectification of errors. In the meanwhile, the classification of the available Caste/Tribe data will be taken up by the Expert Group that will function under the NITI Aayog vice chairman Arvind Panagariya. The union home ministry had sought the approval of the Union Cabinet on May 9, 2011 for collecting the Caste Data along with the SECC. The ministry of rural development and the ministry of housing and urban poverty alleviation were designated as the nodal ministries while the Office of Registrar General of India (RGI) was directed to provide the technical and logistical support. It was decided that after completing the field data collection, the data relating to caste/ tribes would be handed over by the RGI to an expert group to be constituted by the Government at an appropriate time for classification.

APJ Abdul Kalam’s role in India’s nuclear programme highlighted by US media

United States media described the former president as one of the most “exuberant boosters” of India’s nuclear programme.

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Describing him as one of the most “exuberant boosters” of India’s nuclear capabilities, the US media on Tuesday highlighted the contribution of ‘missile man’ APJ Abdul Kalam to the country’s atomic and space programme.Kalam, who would have turned 84 in October died after suffering a massive cardiac arrest during a lecture at the IIM Shillong on Monday, plunging his country into overwhelming grief. “He was one of the most exuberant boosters of the country’s nuclear program,” The New York Times wrote in a rare obituary for Kalam. “He used the spotlight to urge India to build up its military strength and to free itself from the threat of domination by outside forces,” the daily said.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Times said that Kalam spent little time outside India. “For him, it was a point of pride that India had developed its bomb without much help from foreign powers. And he described himself as thoroughly Indian,” it said. Kalam has been credited with helping develop his country’s first space satellites. In the 1980s, he helped design the nuclear-capable ‘Prithvi’ and ‘Agni’ ballistic missiles, The Washington Post said. “He played a crucial role when India tested its nuclear weapons in 1998. The test resulted in sanctions against the country but helped elevate Mr Kalam to the status of folk hero in his country,” the Post said in its obituary.The Wall Street Journal reported that Kalam, who was born into a poor Muslim family in Tamil Nadu, was at the forefront of the country’s efforts to develop a space programme and a strong advocate for India’s self-reliance in defence technologies. “He encouraged the development of India’s first indigenous satellite launch vehicle that brought the country into an elite club of space-faring nations and guided India’s missile-development programme,” the daily said. “Dr. Kalam also played a key role in boosting India’s nuclear capabilities, leading to nuclear tests in 1998, a technological achievement seen as pivotal in asserting the country’s place in global politics,” the WSJ said. “He was the first scientist to hold the office, and was widely viewed as an apolitical figure,” the CNN said.

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