Resist attacks on democracy: Biman Bose

Nov 3, 2017 0

Kolkata– Left Front chairman Biman Bose on Friday called upon the people to resist attacks on democracy and be prepared to lay down their lives in the struggles for life and livelihood.

Addressing a rally at the conclusion of the statewide jatha (march) brought out by the by ‘Bengal Platform of Mass Organisations’ (BPMO) pressing for a 17-point charter of demands, he said the Left workers should go to all the 40,000 villages and 126 municipalities in the state to reach their messages to the masses.

“When we started the march, we intended to reach out to all the 40,000 villages and the 126 municipalities. But it seems our work is unfinished as our message has not reached everywhere. So your responsibility has increased,” he said.

Targeting the ruling Trinamool Congress, he alleged that it has destroyed the state’s cultural ethos through its rowdyism.

“If there is an attack on democracy, you have to resist whenever any such incident happens… You have to be prepared to lay down your lives in the coming struggles for life and livelihood.”

Altogether 117 state based mass organisations including those of the Left Front, had come under the banner of BPMO which held big and numerous local level marches, culminating into rallies in the district headquarters, as also the state capital. The march started from October 22 and ended in Kolkata on Friday.

The 17-point charter of demands includes ensuring remunerative prices for farmers, digital ration cards for all, food for all, setting up of new factories to provide jobs, opening of closed factories, minimum guaranteed wages for workers in unorganised sectors, compensation to victims of ponzi scams, security for women and strenghening of ICDS and mid-day meal schemes. (IANS)

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Punjab unearths multi-crore scholarship scam

Nov 2, 2017 0

Chandigarh– A multi-crore scholarship scam involving various educational institutions has been unearthed in Punjab, a minister said here on Thursday.

Scheduled Castes, Backward Classes and Minority Welfare Minister Sadhu Singh Dharamsot disclosed that the scam came to light in the special audit of the ‘Post Matric Scholarship Scheme’ carried out by the department.

“Two departmental officers have been placed under suspension for scam in the academic welfare scheme, hobnobbing with the scamsters and gross negligence of duty,” he told media here.

Dharamsot said Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had, on June 16, ordered the special audit of all the educational institutions of the state with regard to the Post Matric Scholarship Scheme for SC or OBC from 2011-12 to 2016-17.

While the special audit was still going on and would be completed by December 31, the scam had been detected in the audit done so far.

“Under the scheme for OBC, the Universal College, Dera Bassi claimed Rs 1.18 crore from the Welfare Department in the name of 311 students belonging to the OBC category which was thoroughly probed by the department resulting in the college returning the amount to the tune of Rs 1,17,62,000 to the department,” the minister said.

He said that during the course of the probe, two officials were found guilty of collaborating in the scam and indulging in gross negligence.

The Minister also revealed that during this specialised audit, Devraj Group of Colleges from Ferozepur also tried to defraud the department of Rs 4.4 crore by showing bogus students.

“This institution had approached the Punjab and Haryana High Court regarding pendency of Rs 4.40 crore with the Welfare Department. When the special audit of this institution was conducted, the claim of Rs 4.40 crore pertaining to this institution was found to be fraudulent.”

The Minister added that he has ordered registration of FIRs against both the institutions.

He said that the Finance Department has conducted the audit of 249 institutions under the Post Matric Scholarship Scheme for SC leading to the audit parties claiming Rs 53.76 crore amount against these institutions.

“The audit parties has calculated this objectionable amount against various educational institutions who had wrongfully claimed scholarship under the Post Matric Scholarship Scheme for SCs on the grounds of without acknowledgement to renewed students, without income certificate, unsigned applications by the students and in the name of drop out students,” he stated.

Dharamsot said that the department has also decided that the audit of the amount released under the Aashirwad Scheme (Shagun Scheme) during the previous five years (when the Akali Dal-BJP government was in power) would be conducted. (IANS)

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Fishermen Congress to hold ‘protest week’ against GST

Nov 2, 2017 0

New Delhi– The All India Fishermen Congress on Thursday said it will observe a “protest week” from November 21 to 26 against “faulty” implementation of GST and to press for formation of a separate fisheries ministry at the Centre.

The decision to observe protest week was taken in the first meeting of state presidents of the Fishermen Congress here on Thursday.

“The GST (Goods and Services Tax) implemented by the central government has negatively impacted fisheries sector. The government is imposing higher tax slab for fishing equipment and various fish products under GST which has caused irreparable damage to the sector,” said T.N. Prathapan, Chairman of Fishermen Congress, in a statement.

This would destroy fishing sector across the country, he said.

“All India Fishermen Congress will hold countrywide protest against ill thought out implementation of GST. As part of this ‘protest week’, fishermen will sit in protest in front of central government offices in various states,” Prathapan said.

The Fishermen Congress also underlined the need for a separate ministry for fisheries.

“A separate fisheries ministry under an independent minister in central government is inevitable to ensure the overall socio-economic development of fishermen communities in the country,” said the statement.

“This is a long-pending demand of fishermen and allied workers in the country who comprise around 10 per cent of total population. Currently, fisheries is a separate department under Ministry of Agriculture and Farmer’s Welfare causing lack of special care and attention,” it said. (IANS)

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Private investment can help India reduce 35% greenhouse gas emissions: IFC

Nov 2, 2017 0

New Delhi– India is on track to meet its climate targets, including reducing the greenhouse gas emissions by up to 35 per cent by 2030, by channelling trillions of dollars in private investments through a combination of policy reforms and innovative business models, a report said on Thursday.

“Developing countries like India can meet climate targets promised in the landmark Paris Agreement by catalysing trillions of dollars in private investments through a combination of smart policy reforms and innovative business models,” according to the report by International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group.

“Already, more than $1 trillion in investments are flowing into climate-related projects in these areas. But trillions more could be triggered by creating the right business conditions in emerging markets,” the report found.

The report titled ‘Creating Markets for Climate Business: An IFC Climate Investment Opportunities’ identifies seven industry sectors that can make a crucial difference in catalysing private investment – renewable energy, off-grid solar and energy storage, agribusiness, green buildings, urban transportation, water, and urban waste management.

India’s target, submitted as part of the Paris Climate Agreement, envisages a reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions intensity by up to 35 per cent by 2030. This presents the country as an attractive, and emerging market for climate business and will accelerate the market for climate-friendly solutions, it said.

“The private sector holds the key to fighting climate change. The private sector has the innovation, the financing, and the tools. We can help unlock more private sector investment, but this also requires government reforms as well as innovative business models – which together will create new markets and attract the necessary investment. This can fulfill the promise of Paris,” IFC CEO Philippe Le Houerou said.

India’s success in creating markets for solar power, estimated at more than 13 GW in capacity in 2017, has led the government to expand its National Solar Mission. The new target of 175 GW of installed solar energy by 2022 is five times the original target.

Similarly, India has now become the world’s fourth largest wind power generator, with a target to install 60GW by 2022. The government also recently announced a commitment to end the sale of gasoline-powered cars by 2030.

Additionally, India is leading the market, along with China, in grid-tied renewables with nearly half of new capacity added. The country leads the off-grid solar market, with over 3 million systems sold in 2016. It is also anticipated that rooftop solar for residential and commercial consumers, is set to grow in key emerging markets including India.

In India, IFC has invested about $1.2 billion in climate-friendly projects through direct investments, in the last five years.

“India is in the midst of a climate change revolution. It is making significant accomplishments in achieving its pledge to the Paris Agreement. IFC will continue working closely with businesses, investors, and governments to further support the goals set by the country,” Jun Zhang, IFC Country Head for India, said. (IANS)

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World Food India event expected to fetch $10 bn investment: Minister

Nov 1, 2017 0

New Delhi– The World Food India event beginning this week is expected to fetch foreign investment of $10 billion and would help in the government’s mission of doubling farmers’ incomes by 2022, Union Minister for Food Processing Industries Harsimrat Kaur Badal said here on Wednesday.

“We are looking at the world collaborating with us. After the event, we expect investment of $10 billion. It will create over 10 lakh jobs. I say use foreign money for benefit of our country,” Badal said while briefing media about the November 3-5 global event.

“The government has taken several measures for welfare of farmers. However, in order to make the efforts to double farmers’ income, we need foreign investment.”

Citing the rise in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), Badal said it was the right time for the food processing sector to get benefitted.

The global event that is happening for the first time in the country is expected to see delegates from over 60 countries.

Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) CEO Pawan Agarwal said the authority was going to launch a ‘Food Regulatory Portal’ on Thursday, which would be a game changer for effective and transparent implementation of the food safety laws in the country.

Around 50 global CEOs are expected to attend the World Food India 2017 meet here from November 3-5.

The conference, being hosted by the Ministry of Food Processing in collaboration with Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), will also see the participation of over 200 international companies. (IANS)

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18 dead, 80 injured, many critical, in NTPC boiler blast in Rae Bareli

Nov 1, 2017 0

Lucknow– At least 18 people were killed and more than 80 injured in a boiler explosion at a unit of the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) in Uttar Pradesh’s Rae Bareli district, officials said.

Many of the injured are in critical condition with scalded body parts and serious burn injuries caused by hot ash and steam. They have been admitted to government medical facilities at Allahabad and at the Lucknow trauma centre.

The district administration confirmed 18 deaths late on Wednesday night.

Additional Director General of Police (ADG) Law and Order Anand Kumar said the death toll could climb up as many of the injured are in critical condition.

An NDRF team consisting of 32 persons has left Lucknow for Unchahar, the site of the accident. “The team is fully equipped,” Principal Secretary Home Arvind Kumar said.

Eight bodies were received at the district hospital, Chief Medical Officer K.K. Singh of Rae Bareli told IANS.

Of the injured, 22 with severe burn injuries have been referred to Lucknow, while 15 are in Rae Bareli hospital. Some of the injured have also been sent to Allahabad, NTPC officials said.

The number of casualties could go up once the blades of the boiler are cut and the team of experts is able to go inside, they said. NTPC has ordered a probe into the blast.

More than 50 fire tenders were pressed into service to douse the fire and 100 ambulances, private and government, helped ferry the injured to medical facilities.

Rae Bareli is the parliamentary constituency of Congress President Sonia Gandhi.

A massive fire broke out inside and a huge ball of dust and ash rose after the explosion, making rescue operations difficult, an official told IANS.

The unit was the sixth at NTPC and was commissioned on March 31 this year.

An alert was sounded at the community health centre (CHC), district hospital and at other medical centres, after the accident.

Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who is in Mauritius on a three-day visit, directed Principal Secretary (Home) Arvind Kumar to monitor the situation and brief him regularly.

The Chief Minister has announced ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh each to the families of those killed, Rs 50,000 each to those seriously injured, and Rs 25,000 each to those with less grave injuries.

Senior district officials and police officials including the Divisional Commissioner of Lucknow Anil Garg were at the site and overseeing rescue and relief operations.

Officials said the explosion took place in the boiler which is filled with water in tubes which are heated. This in turn creates steam which moves the turbines and generates electricity. The explosion was caused by the ash which got deposited on the furnace and triggered a massive blast.

Insiders at the plant, who refused to come on record, said that many labourers who were inside might have perished in the blast and their bodies would be buried under the very hot ash that has covered the entire area.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi expressed shock and horror at the tragedy and asked party workers to help in the relief operations. Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi also expressed sadness and condoled the deaths. (IANS)

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Delhi resident doctors withdraw proposed strike

Oct 31, 2017 0

New Delhi– The Delhi government on Tuesday reduced OPD registration timing at all its hospitals by 30 minutes, prompting the resident doctors to call off their proposed strike from November 1.

“As the demands have been accepted, we are calling off the strike keeping in mind the concerns of patients,” said Vivek Chouksey, President of Federation of Resident Doctors Association (FORDA) — an umbrella body of the resident doctors of the city’s government hospitals.

The decision was taken following a meeting between a delegation of the Association and senior officials of the Delhi Health Department.

The resident doctors had threatened to go on strike from Wednesday onwards after in its October 9 order the Delhi government extended OPD timing, saying facilities would remain functional from 8 a.m to 2 p.m.

The order had also said that registration counters would open at 7.30 a.m and close at 1 p.m.

The city administration’s move was aimed to avoid crowding and to give more time to patients. The timing earlier was 9 a.m to 1 p.m.

According to the new order issued by the Delhi government on Tuesday, while the OPDs will still remain functional from 8 a.m to 2 p.m, registration counters will be open only from 7.30 a.m to 12.30 noon — a reduction of 30 minutes from the previous order.

“OPD clinic will function from 8 a.m to 2 p.m, with a 45-minute lunch-break for attending doctors any time after 12.30 p.m,” said the order.

The precise timing of the lunch-break will be decided by medical superintendents in consultations with respective heads of departments as per the mutual convenience of the attending doctors.

“Registration for special clinics will be done between 1 p.m and 2 p.m.” said the order, adding that the timing would apply to both teaching and non-teaching hospitals.

Following the meeting, the resident doctors’ association said the government had also agreed that those coming at 8 a.m could leave the hospital at 3 p.m. (IANS)

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Government signs agreement with UrbanClap for job generation

Oct 31, 2017 0

New Delhi– The Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry on Tuesday roped in private online service aggregator UrbanClap to generate jobs with minimum assured monthly wages for the urban poor skilled under a national livelihood mission.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the Ministry and UrbanClap in the presence of Minister incharge Hardeep Singh Puri.

According to an official release, the UrbanClap will bring together demand for domestic services and the urban poor skilled under Deen Dayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Urban Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NULM) in Delhi, Gurgaon, Faridabad, Ghaziabad, Noida, Greater Mumbai, Thane, Navi Mumbai, Pune, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad, Secunderabad, Bengaluru, and Ahmedabad.

UrbanClap assured a minimum monthly earning of Rs 15,000 for plumbers, electricians, and carpenters and Rs 25,000 for appliance repair technicians, beauty therapists, and spa therapists.

The MoU will lead to enhancing employment opportunities for those skilled in high-demand services under DAY-NULM, Puri said.

At present over 35 per cent of those skilled under DAY-NULM have found employment, the release said.

“Under the MoU, the Ministry will share details of those imparted skill training under DAY-NULM with UrbanClap. During 2016-17, as many as 4,01,654 persons were given skill training while 1,39,970 have so far been skilled during this financial year,” the release added. (IANS)

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India set for another lunar expedition in early 2018

Oct 30, 2017 0

Bengaluru– India will undertake another lunar expedition in early 2018 by sending a lander and a rover to explore the Moon to unravel its origin and present conditions, a top space official said on Monday.

The second Moon mission — Chandrayaan-2 — comes nearly a decade after India’s maiden lunar odessey in November 8, 2008, through a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket, which was launched on October 22 that year.

For launching Chandrayaan-1, the ISRO used PSLV rocket as the spacecraft carried only an impact probe vehicle to crash land on the Moon surface from its orbit.

“We are working towards putting an orbiter, lander, and the whole system in the lunar orbit in the first quarter of 2018,” state-run Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Chairman A.S. Kiran Kumar told reporters here.

“The orbiter is getting ready and integrated,” he said.

“The lander and rover are undergoing tests. Some more tests are planned for December,” the ISRO chief said.

The lunar spacecraft will be launched onboard the space agency’s heavy rocket — Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) Mark II — from the second launch pad of the space port, located at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh.

As part of integration, the lander and rover would be configured for soft landing at a designated spot on the Moon and to conduct scientific experiments.

The rover will emerge from the lander to observe the lunar terrain and relay the data along with images through radio links. (IANS)

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Stubble burning down by 30%: Punjab

Oct 30, 2017 0

New Delhi– Stubble burning in Punjab has dropped by 30 per cent this year as compared to last year, the state government told the National Green Tribunal (NGT) here on Monday.

The Tribunal had earlier this month rapped the Punjab government for not incentivising the farmers or assisting them to manage the crop residue, estimated to be around 35 million tonne, which is consistently being set ablaze by farmers to make up for the short window between winter and summer crops.

“There were 14,432 cases of stubble burning this year, while in 2016 there were 22,269 cases,” the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) told the bench headed by Justice Swatanter Kumar.

The Tribunal has also sought clarity from the central government over incentivising the farmers against stubble burning.

Earlier this month, the Punjab government sought Rs 2,000 crore as financial help from the central government to support its farmers by removing paddy straw from the fields to avoid its burning.

The NGT had earlier fixed the environment penalty amount per incident of crop burning to be paid by small land owners having less than two acres of land at Rs 2,500, medium land owners holding over two acres and less than five acres at Rs 5,000 and those owning over five acres at Rs 15,000.

Stubble burning in neighbouring states has direct impact on Delhi’s air quality that continues deteriorating.

The NGT had in 2015 asked Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan to curb this practice and later asked them to incentivise small farmers to manage the stubble. (IANS)

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