Current Affairs June 2015 - Vikalp Education

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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Current Affairs - 30 June 2015

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Hindu religion has solution to all problems in world: Amit Shah
  • Hindu religion has solution to all problems in world: Amit ShahAHMEDABAD: BJP president Amit Shah on Sunday said Hindu religion has solution for all the problems in the world. 

    "Hindu religion has solutions for all the problems of the world... I am not saying this because I am born Hindu," Shah said at Gujarat University convention centre, while unveiling former President A P J Abdul Kalam's book 'Transcendence: My Spiritual Experiences with Pramukh Swamiji'. 

    "When I faced difficulty for two years, I visited each and every religious centre in India. In that period, I sought blessings from all the 'jyotirlings' and 'shaktipeeths' of India, except Somnath temple (in Gujarat)," Shah said referring to the two years that he was barred from entering Gujarat due to legal proceedings in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case. 

    In December last year, Shah was acquitted in the Sohrabuddin encounter case. 

    "That was the time when I was not able to do my activities... Perhaps God made me seek his blessings in my youth," the BJP chief said. 

    He added that the religious leader of Swaminarayan sect, Pramukh Swami, has given a new lease of life to Hindu tradition with the powers of saints like Shankaracharya had done with the tradition of 'akhadas'. 

    Speaking on the event, governor of Karnataka Vajubhai Vala said that religion was more important than the state. 

    "'Dharma danda' is much more important than 'Raj danda' and it can make people happy," said Vala. 

    Recounting an incident when he was the Mayor of Rajkot in 1980s, Vala said he chose to felicitate religious leader Pramukh Swami by going against the local administration. "This is in my blood and this is in the 'sanskaras' of RSS that could lead me to even vacate the post of a Mayor," Vala added. 

    On the book written by Kalam, Vala said he feels that one saint is giving his opinions for the other saint. 

    Praising Kalam, Gujarat governor O P Kohli said his personality is unique, as the scientist has saintly qualities. 

    The event was attended by Gujarat ministers Saurabh Patel and Bhupendrasinh Chudasma and other senior BJP leaders.

Jayalalithaa launches Chennai Metro Rail, Chennaiites flock to enjoy first day first ride
  • Jayalalithaa launches Chennai Metro Rail, Chennaiites flock to enjoy first day first rideCHENNAI: Chennai on Monday joined the league of cities like Delhi, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Mumbai and Jaipur which have metro rail systems.

    Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa inaugurated Chennai Metro Rail Limited's passenger services between Alandur and Koyambedu. She flagged of a train through video conferencing from the secretariat. After that, a train left Alalndur station at 12.14pm and reached Koyambedu at 12.35pm.

    The facilities launched through video conferencing included seven stations on the first stretch -- Koyambedu, Chennai Mofussil Bus Terminus, Arumbakkam, Vadapalani, Ashok Nagar, Ekkattuthangal and Alandur -- and CMRL's depot at Koyambedu.

    The ten kilometre elevated stretch falls on the second corridor that runs for about 22km connecting Chennai Central with St Thomas Mount.

    In keeping with the spirit of Chennai, where a movie should be watched on the first day first show without fail, a large number of people gathered at the Alandur station by 11am on Monday to buy tickets for the first passenger train which will leave at 1.30pm.

    J Lakshminarayana, an engineering student who was in the queue to buy a ticket, said, "I will not be a regular commuter on the metro. But I wanted to experience it on the first day. In fact, I wanted to travel on the first train on the first day."

    The Rs 14,600-crore project was approved by the previous Congress-led UPA regime in 2009 and the work began later that year.

    The metro rail is expected to cover 32 stations in the coming years. In a bid to provide a seamless travel, the metro rail has been designed to connect Chennai Airport, Chennai Central railway station, Egmore Station, CMBT and MRTS.

Now, police verification must for journalists at the time of renewal of their PIB cards every year
  • Now, police verification must for journalists at the time of renewal of their PIB cards every yearNEW DELHI: Journalists accredited with the Press Information Bureau (PIB), a status that allows them easy access to many government offices, will need to get their police verification done every year. There is a rule to this effect in place but it wasn't being followed in the case of renewals, especially when there was no change in the home address. 

    But with nearly 2,500 journalists getting accreditation cards this year without any home ministry approval, the latter has insisted that the rule needs to be observed without exception in a note to PIB on Friday. 

    The bureau has to provide the list of renewals to the home ministry, which said this wasn't done for 2015. 

    Despite this, the cards were issued with the digitally scanned signature of the chief security officer, which grants the holder entry into restricted areas. Journalists apply for PIB card renewal at the end of every year. 

    The home ministry's alarm is on the grounds of the card holder getting free access to government buildings and in light of the recent document theft case that has seen several people, including former journalists, being taken into custody. 

    In this context, some see the move as weeding out those who are not journalists. Some senior journalists were critical of the move, given that police verification is time consuming. The move demonstrates the government's lack of faith in the media, said one editor. 

    "It is Orwellian because it seeks to keep tabs on journalists even after they have been police-verified for their accreditation (when they first applied)," said Krishna Prasad, editor-in-chief of Outlook magazine and associate member of the working committee of Editors Guild of India. 

    Delhi Police have raised concerns over the security aspect. The unit concerned with the security of the Prime Minister has begun insisting on a special Delhi Police pass for media persons. It's also asking for an advance list of journalists likely to be present at any functions that Prime Minister Narendra Modi attends. 

    PIB is meanwhile looking to issue RFID/smart cards for enhanced security. 

    The bureau is expected to tell the home ministry on Monday that annual police checks of 2,500 or so journalists would mean renewals taking longer. It may suggest that veterans be excused and newly accredited journalists are subjected to police verification every three years, said officials aware of the proposal. 

    PIB will henceforth make sure the list is always sent to the home ministry before renewal, said director general Frank Naronha. The annual police verification issue was being discussed, he said. An alternative would be for journalists to get a verification certificate signed at the local police station. 

    "This would be faster than a policeman going to each journalist's house for yearly checks," a PIB official told ET.

    LG vs Delhi govt: HC refuses to restrain ACB chief
    • NEW DELHI: The Delhi high court on Monday refused to stay anti-corruption branch (ACB) chief Mukesh Kumar Meena from discharging his duties. 

      LG vs Delhi govt: HC refuses to restrain ACB chiefThe court said that no interim relief can be granted to the state government.

      However, the HC issued notice to LG Najeeb Jung and the Centre on Delhi government's allegation that the LG imposed it's choice on the ACB and is interfering in its functioning. 

      Meanwhile, the Delhi government withdrew its second plea to make Meena personally a party to the petition after the HC indicated it's disapproval. 

      The court sought a response from the central government by August 11 and asked Meena to "act in accordance with law". 

      Meena was appointed the ACB chief by LG Najeeb Jung on June 8, superseding ACB chief SS Yadav. 

      Delhi's Aam Aadmi Party government had objected to Menna's appointment.

    Greece orders banks closed for a week, worried citizens empty ATMs; Indian markets spooked
    • ATHENS: Greece announced early on Monday it will shut banks for a week and impose capital controls, pleading for calm after anxious citizens emptied cash machines in a dramatic escalation of the country's debt crisis.

      Banks will be closed until July 6 - the day after a referendum on bailout proposals - with a 60-euro ($65) limit on ATM withdrawals, but foreign tourists, a vital engine of the Greek economy, will be exempt from the restrictions, a decree published in the official government gazette said.

      In the first market reaction to the growing risk of a Greek euro exit, the single currency tumbled in Asia on Monday morning.

      Stock markets also fell sharply, with Tokyo, Sydney, Shanghai and Hong Kong each sinking more than 2 percent by Monday afternoon.

      In India, the benchmark BSE sensex tanked over 535 points and the NSE nifty slid below the 8,300 mark in opening trade today on across-the-board selling by participants, PTI reported. Brokers said widespread selling by investors as well as funds, in line with a global sell-off on fears that Greece may default on a debt repayment and crash out of the euro zone, soured the mood.

      The drastic measures to protect Greece's banking system against the threat of mass panic came after the European Central Bank said it would not increase its financial support to Greek lenders, despite early signs of a chaotic bank run.

      It capped a weekend of high drama that began with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras's unexpected call for a July 5 referendum on creditors' latest reform proposals after bailout talks in Brussels collapsed.

      In response, angry EU and IMF creditors rejected a request to extend the nation's bailout beyond its June 30 expiry date, sparking fears Greece could default on a key debt payment to the IMF due the same day and possibly crash out of the eurozone.

      Uncertainty over how events will unfold in coming days prompted crowds to form long queues outside some ATMs in Greece, leaving many cash machines dry.

      Keen to stave off panic, Tsipras assured Greeks their deposits were "totally safe".

      "Any difficulties that may arise must be dealt with calmness. The more calm we are, the sooner we will get over this situation," he said, adding that Athens had again requested a "prolongation of the (bailout) programme".

      With the Athens stock exchange closed on Monday, other global markets were expected to follow Asia's lead in what is set to be a highly volatile day of trade as investors return to their desks to find Greece hurtling towards default.

      "We have had a slow bank jog in Greece and most thought that there would be an agreement eventually, at the last minute. That is no longer true," said Emma Lawson, a senior currency strategist at National Australia Bank.

      'Open to proposals'

      The Frankfurt-based ECB's governing council earlier Sunday held a crisis telephone conference and pledged to maintain emergency liquidity assistance - keeping open its life support for Greek banks and, by extension, the Greek state.

      But it pledged no extra cash for banks.

      The move further raised the stakes in Greece's festering debt crisis after five months of tough bailout talks culminated on Friday night with Tsipras's shock call for a referendum on creditors' latest cash-for-reforms offer.

      Unless creditors heed Tsipras's renewed request for a bailout extension, Greece's rescue plan will formally expire on Tuesday. This will almost certainly mean Greece will default on more than 1.5 billion euros ($1.7 billion) due to the IMF that same day.

      Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis said there was still time for a compromise, urging creditors to show some "goodwill" and come up with an improved proposal ahead of the plebiscite.

      "We remain open to new proposals by the (creditor) institutions," he told the German daily Bild.

      The weekend's rapid-fire events in the Greek saga set off a flurry of diplomatic activity for Monday.

      In a tweet, an EU spokesman said European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker would hold a press conference at 1045 GMT to discuss the latest developments on Greece.

      In Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called an emergency meeting with the heads of parliamentary groups and party leaders, while French President Francois Hollande will chair crisis talks with key ministers in Paris.

      In Japan, top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said G7 finance ministers had held consultations over the weekend, calling the breakdown of talks "extremely regrettable."

      "We appreciate that eurozone finance ministers on June 27 announced they, together with the ECB, will do everything they can for the stability of the eurozone," he told a press conference on Monday.

      'There is no more money'

      A banking source in Greece said only 40 percent of cash machines now had money in them.

      In Athens, teacher Yiannis Grivas told AFP he had withdrawn his entire 940-euro salary on Friday so "I have enough to live on for a few weeks."

      He added: "I am not afraid of capital controls, I never take out more than 50 euros a day anyway."

      In the capital's upscale Kolonaki area, 32-year-old Anna tried in vain to find a working cash machine.

      "There is no more money," she said, adding that she hoped her countrymen would vote in the referendum "to stay in the eurozone and the European Union" and that "the nightmare will finally end".

      Since Friday night alone, 1.3 billion euros ($1.45 billion) have been withdrawn from the Greek banking system, according to the head of the bank workers' union Stavros Koukos.

      French Prime Minister Manuel Valls warned of a "real risk" of Greece leaving the eurozone if Greeks vote against the EU's bailout proposals in the planned referendum.

      But Tsipras, whose Syriza party came to power in January on an anti-austerity platform, has advised voters against backing a deal he said spelled further "humiliation" for a country that has endured five years of recession, turmoil and skyrocketing unemployment.

    China and India stay quiet as refugee crisis worsens
    • China and India stay quiet as refugee crisis worsensHONG KONG:When a deadly earthquake rocked Nepal in April, China and India rushed to send relief supplies and search-and-rescue teams. But when another humanitarian crisis - boats bearing thousands of migrants - appeared off Southeast Asian shores a month later, Asia's two most populous countries said and did little. Instead, offers to resettle the migrants came from Gambia and the United States.

      The wealthiest nations in the Asia-Pacific region stood back as well. Australia declared it would not resettle the migrants, mostly Rohingya Muslims fleeing religious persecution in Myanmar or poor Bangladeshis seeking jobs. Japan pledged $3.5 million in emergency assistance but also refrained from offering to take in any displaced people.

      More than a month after Malaysia and Indonesia agreed to provide temporary shelter for up to 7,000 of the migrants stranded at sea, there has been no sign of progress in finding them a permanent home, nor any hint that Myanmar would address the conditions driving the Rohingya exodus. And Asia's most powerful nations are essentially sitting out the crisis.

      Their passivity is all the more striking because, halfway around the world, European leaders have been actively debating a response to their own migrant crisis, in which more than 1,700 people from Africa and the Middle East have died trying to cross the Mediterranean this year.

      President Xi Jinping of China and Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India often present their nations as emerging global powers, promoting regional cooperation. Both countries also share a border with Myanmar and enjoy economic leverage as major trading partners, and in China's case, as a top source of foreign investment.

      But neither has pressured the government on its treatment of the Rohingya or played a significant role in efforts to resettle them. During a meeting of the UN Security Council last month, China insisted that the matter was an internal one for Myanmar to resolve.

      "The Rohingya issue is a complex multilateral issue," said Zachary Abuza, an analyst with the consultancy firm Southeast Asia Analytics. The governments in Southeast Asia "want it to go away, but they are unwilling to solve it. China and India could play leadership roles but see it as a losing issue that would diminish their clout and bilateral interests.

      "No country has more leverage over Myanmar than China, even if it's diminished in the past four years," he added. But China sees the Rohingya problem "as such a toxic one in Southeast Asia that it is unwilling to make a deal of the issue. There is no political upside."

      India has helped absorb past waves of refugees fleeing border wars and political repression in Myanmar, providing sanctuary to Burmese pro-democracy activists through decades of military rule, for example. It also hosts more than 10,000 Rohingya who fled earlier spates of violence against them.

      But India has refrained from criticizing Myanmar and adopted a policy of grudging tolerance toward Rohingya arrivals rather than engagement, analysts and refugee advocates said. Some government officials have expressed fear that Rohingya Muslims in India might be infiltrated by jihadists.

      "India sort of stayed away from this whole thing, and that is disappointing," said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director of Human Rights Watch, referring to the most recent crisis. "India wants to be more careful in maintaining its strategic and economic influence" over neighbors rather than criticize them over human rights issues, she said.

      Michel Gabaudan, president of the advocacy group Refugees International, based in Washington, said India was distrustful of the international refugee process in part because it had received little recognition for taking in refugees, including more than 100,000 Tibetans from China and another 100,000 Tamils from Sri Lanka. "India has taken refugees when it made political sense, but not out of a sense of international obligation," he said.

      Many in India and elsewhere in the region consider the problem of refugees to be a legacy of western imperialism and colonial-era borders. The origins of the current crisis, for example, can be traced to 1974, when the Burmese military government asserted that the Rohingya were economic migrants who had traveled to Myanmar during British rule and stripped them of citizenship.

      As a result, Gabaudan said, there is a sense that responsibility for refugees rests with the West and institutions such as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Only a handful of nations in Asia are among the 148 countries that are parties to the main international conventions that protect refugees.

      "Generally speaking, there is a lack of state responsibility for refugee protection in Asia," said Brian Barbour, director of external relations at the Japan Association for Refugees. "Most countries in the region believe that they should be praised for hosting such large numbers of refugees, not criticized for refusing to grant asylum or allow refugees to locally integrate."

      During the last major refugee crisis in Asia, which began in the mid-1970s, more than 3 million people fled war in Indochina - Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos - and arrived in destinations across Southeast Asia that grew increasingly unwilling to accept them, including Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. At an international conference in 1979, governments in the region agreed to admit the refugees temporarily only after the rest of the world promised to assume most of the costs and to resettle them elsewhere.

      More than 1 million people were resettled in the United States, with large populations going to Australia and Canada as well. Much smaller populations were resettled in Japan, Malaysia and the Philippines.

      China resettled 260,000 ethnic Chinese who fled Vietnam at the time. In the preceding decades, it also took in hundreds of thousands of ethnic Chinese fleeing discrimination and violence in Indonesia and Malaysia, and earlier this year, it offered temporary refuge for ethnic Chinese known as the Kokang who fled fighting in their home state in northeastern Myanmar.

      But the Rohingya and other refugee populations that are not of Chinese ethnicity are less of a concern to Beijing, said Yun Sun, a scholar at the Brookings Institution in Washington who has studied China and refugee issues. She said Beijing helped ethnic Chinese refugees out of a sense of "amity," but only if such assistance was not politically costly. "Beijing doesn't want to be seen as interfering with other countries' internal affairs," she said.

      Unlike India, China ratified the 1951 Refugee Convention. But it limits registration of refugees and restricts access by the United Nations' refugee agency to populations in China. The government has also refused to protect North Koreans who cross the border as refugees, treating them instead as economic migrants subject to forced repatriation.

      "The domestic priority is internal stability," said Alistair D B Cook, a research fellow with the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

      Cook said an emphasis on noninterference in Asia has meant that the only countries in the region that have responded to the migration crisis are those that had migrants leave or come ashore. "Essentially what we see now, we see going as far back as the Indochinese exodus," he said. "How states responded then and how they respond now, there hasn't been too much change."

      What has changed, however, is the economic strength of the region, which has enjoyed several decades of rapid growth since the Vietnam War. Many countries in Asia are much richer than they were 40 years ago, suggesting at least greater financial capacity to assist refugees.

      While countries such as Thailand and the Philippines provide temporary sanctuary for migrants fleeing persecution, Japan is the only nation in Asia that has accepted refugees for resettlement through the United Nations' refugee agency. Since beginning the program in 2010, though, Japan has resettled only 18 refugee families, according to the ministry of foreign affairs.

      Even Australia, long a destination for migrants seeking safety and a better life, has taken a tougher stance against asylum seekers. After as many as 880 people drowned trying to reach the continent in 2012, the government adopted a policy of intercepting migrants at sea and turning them back, or holding them indefinitely at offshore detention centers and, most recently, flying them to countries willing to take them for a fee.

      Earlier this month, an Indonesian smuggler said the Australian authorities had given him and his crew more than $30,000 in cash to take their cargo of 65 migrants to Indonesia, possibly in violation of international and local laws. The allegation, which the government has neither denied nor admitted, was the latest sign of a further hardening under Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

      "It's just a political choice," said Paul Power, chief executive of the Refugee Council of Australia, an umbrella group of nonprofits that work with asylum seekers. "It's all about presenting to a small element of the Australian population that they are tough. What's discussed is actually just being tough on persecuted people."

    Zimbabwe tour: Ajinkya Rahane to lead India; Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni rested
    • Zimbabwe tour: Ajinkya Rahane to lead India; Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni restedNEW DELHI: Middle order batsman Ajinkya Rahane has been appointed captain of the Indian team for the upcoming tour of Zimbabwe.

      The All-India Senior Selection Committee of the BCCI met here on Monday and decided to rest the senior members including MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Umesh Yadav for the Zimbabwe series next month.

      Offspinner Harbhajan Singh has made a comeback to the ODI side after being included for the one-off Test against Bangladesh. Top order batsman Robin Uthappa has also been recalled.

      Harbhajan last played an ODI in June 2011 and was subsequently dropped from the side.

      Earlier in June, India toured Bangladesh for a one-off Test and three ODIs. The Test in Fatullah ended in a draw while Bangladesh clinched their maiden bilateral series win over India 2-1.

      "The Indian team did not do well in Bangladesh, we felt the same. (But) we have to move forward and considering the domestic cricket to be played, we have picked this side, looking at the 2016 T20 World Cup," Chairman of selectors Sandeep Patil told reporters. 

      "We had picked the best possible team that played at the World Cup and keeping the future series in mind, whether it is Sri Lanka, or South Africa home series, Twenty20 World Cup or the Australia series, we have decided to rest a few players, who need urgent rest," he said. 

      India will tour Zimbabwe for three ODIs and two T20 Internationals starting from July 10. The India 'A' squad was also picked for the tri-series against Australia 'A' and South Africa 'A' and Cheteshwar Pujara has been named captain.

      The BCCI working committee will meet again in July to discuss the appointment of a new coach.

      Squad for the Zimbabwe tour: Ajinkya Rahane (capt), Murali Vijay, Ambati Rayudu, Kedar Jadhav, Manish Pandey, Harbhajan Singh, Karn Sharma, Axar Patel, Dhawal Kulkarni, Mohit Sharma, Sandeep Sharma, Stuart Binny, Robin Uthappa

      India A squad: Cheteshwar Pujara (capt), KL Rahul, Abhinav Mukund, Karun Nair, Shreyas Iyer, Naman Ojha, Vijay Shanker, Amit Mishra, Pragyan Ojha, Shardul Thakur, Varun Aaron, Abhimanyu Mithun, Umesh Yadav, Shreyas Gopal, Baba Aparajith


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    Monday, June 29, 2015

    Current Affairs - 29 June 2015

    by , in

    Rajan did not imply world economy slipping into new Great Depression, RBI clarifies
    • RAjan-newMUMBAI: With Raghuram Rajan's comments on 1930s-like problems resurfacing having created a flutter, the RBI on Sunday said the governor did not imply there being an imminent risk of the world economy slipping again into the Great Depressio as that was caused by "many factors". 

      The Reserve Bank, however, added Rajan indeed said that "the policies followed by major central banks around the world were in danger of slipping into the kind of beggar-thy-neighbour strategies that were followed in the 1930s".

      "The Great Depression was a period of great turmoil, caused by many factors and not just beggar-thy-neighbour policies. Governor Rajan did not imply or suggest that there was any risk of the world economy, which is in steady recovery notwithstanding uncertainties like those in the Euro area, slipping into a new Great Depression." 
      This strategy involves 'making a beggar out of neighbouring nations' and is typically aimed at increasing the demand for one's exports while reducing the reliance on imports. This is generally done by devaluing the nation's currency to make the exports to other countries cheaper. 

      Delivering a lecture at London Business School on Thursday, Rajan had asked central banks from across the world to revisit the "rules of the game" to find a solution, as he warned of problems similar to the Great Depression of 1930s emerging again.

      "I am not going to venture a guess as to how we establish new rules of the game. It has to be international discussion, international consensus built over time after much research and much action," the Reserve Bank of India governor had said. 

      "... But I do worry that we are slowly slipping into the kind of problems that we had in the thirties in attempts to activate growth ... I think it's a problem for the world. It's not just a problem for the industrial countries or emerging markets, it is a problem for all of us ... Now, it is a broader game," he had said. 

      Clarifying these remarks, the RBI on Sunday said in a statement that a section has "mis-characterised governor Raghuram Rajan's remarks at the AQR conference at London Business School on June 25, as saying -- the world is at risk of a Great Depression". 

      The RBI further said, "What Governor Rajan did say, in his remarks made off the attached written text, was that the policies followed by major central banks around the world were in danger of slipping into the kind of beggar-thy-neighbour strategies that were followed in the 1930s. 

      "He then called for new rules of the game in the international monetary system, a call that he has made before, and is gaining some traction. 

      The Great Depression refers to a period of severe global economic downturn in the 1930s, which had affected almost all countries across the world. It started in 1929 and continued till late 1930s and still remains the longest and most widespread period of the global economic depression. 

      Rajan, who is among the few to have predicted the 2008 financial crisis and has also been Chief Economist at IMF, had said the problem was a "broader" one and for the entire world -- not just for industrial countries or emerging markets.

      The former IMF Chief Economist, who has earlier warned against competitive monetary policy easing by central banks globally, had also said the situation is different in India on this front and the RBI remains more focussed on bringing down the lending rates to spur investments. 

      "We need rules of the game in order to effect a better solution. I think it is time to start debating what should the global rules of the game be on what is allowed in terms of central bank action," he said.

    Advani talks of 'probity in public life', opposition sees context in remarks
    • NEW DELHI: In what is being perceived as a message to the Narendra Modi-led government in the wake of controversy over Sushma Swaraj and Vasundhara Raje, BJP patriarch LK Advani has said there is a need to maintain probity in public life and recalled how he resigned soon after his name cropped up in the Hawala scam.

      The senior BJP leader though did not want to comment on the controversy over Sushma Swaraj and Vasunadhara Raje's alleged help to former IPL boss Lalit Modi.

      "I am far away from all this today. So I don't have anything to comment. I am not in the decision making and so I have no comments to offer in the matter," Advani was quoted as saying by the Bengali daily Anandabazar Patrika.

      Asked whether resignation should be the norm, Advani said, "I can tell about myself. What others will do, what's their issues, what their problems are I don't know. And I don't want to comment on these."

      However, the Bengali daily's website did carry Advani's comments were he recalled how he had resigned when the Hawala scam broke out.

      "The day allegations were raised against me based on Jain diaries that evening itself sitting in my house in Pandara road I took the decision to resign(as MP). It was no one else's decision, it was mine. Soon after I called up (Atal Bihari) Vajapyee to inform my decision. He asked me not to resign but I did not listen to anyone," he said.

      "For a politician, to command people's trust is the biggest responsibility. What morality demands is 'rajdharma' and need to maintain probity in public life," Advani added.

      Advani resigned as an MP in 1996 following allegations of his involvement in the infamous Hawala scam and he was consequently re-elected in 1998 after his name had been cleared. Entries found in the diaries of Hawala broker SK Jain were presented as crucial evidences against top politicians including Advani in the court by CBI.

      His comments assume significance at a time when senior BJP leaders are embroiled in the Lalit Modi controversy over extending help to the former IPL boss in connection with his travel documents in the UK triggering demands by the Congress for their resignation.

      On former Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa, who resigned following corruption charges, he said, "Since Jan Sangh era... even before that in RSS shakhas, we were taught honesty is the best virtue. There should be no compromise on corruption."

      "People vote for us in elections. So commitment to the people is most important," Advani emphasized.

      Advani's comments gave opposition parties led by Congress fresh ammunition to attack the BJP.

      Reacting to Advani's remarks, Congress leader Rashid Alvi said he is showing the way to the BJP as well as the Prime Minister that those people who are "tainted" should be made to resign whether it is Raje or Swaraj or anyone else.

      Senior Congress leader PC Chacko said it is time the BJP should own up the responsibility. "The Prime Minister should come out with a clear explanation. Nothing is happening. It is in this context that he (Advani) has given this opinion. So, I think that Advaniji's opinion is the reflection of thinking in general of the people," Chacko said.

      However, the Prime Minister chose to maintain his earlier stand of not speaking on the issue. Prime Minister spoke on number of social issues in his monthly radio address but chose to avoid any reference to the political storm that has been generated by Lalit Modi issue.

    Another Vyapam scam accused, Narendra Singh Tomar dies in Indore jail
    • BHOPAL: Narendra Singh Tomar, an accused in the high-profile MPPEB scam, has died under mysterious circumstances in an Indore jai, adding another murky chapter to the scandal in which 24 accused and witnesses have died so far. 

      29-year-old Tomar, a veterinarian, complained of chest pain last night and was rushed to Maharaja Yashwant Rao Hospital where he was declared brought dead, official sources said on Sunday.

      City superintendent of police Ajay Jain said a magisterial inquiry has been ordered into the death of Tomar, who was posted as assistant veterinary officer at Raisen before being embroiled in the Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board (MPPEB) scam, also known as Vyapam scam. 

      He was an accused in the pre-medical test conducted by MPPEB in 2009. Tomar was said to have arranged for imposters who had written the papers in place of genuine aspirants. 

      Tomar's is the 24 death of those named as accused or witnesses in connection with a plethora of criminal cases registered in connection with the scam. 

      The special investigating team (SIT) probing the scandal had recently submitted a list of 23 deceased to the Madhya Pradesh high court who had died an "unnatural death". Some reports have claimed 40 such deaths.

      The most high-profile death was that of Shailesh Yadav, son of Madhya Pradesh governor Ram Naresh Yadav. Shailesh, 50, was found dead at his father's residence in Mall Avenue area of Uttar Pradesh capital Lucknow on March 25 this year. 

      Ram Naresh Yadav, also a former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, was himself made an accused in the MPPEB scam before getting relief from the court. 

      Shailesh's name had cropped up in the multi-crore scam for allegedly fixing the recruitment of 10 candidates as Grade III teachers. 

      An FIR was registered against Ram Naresh Yadav, 88, by the SIT for his alleged complicity in irregularities in recruitment of forest guards by MPPEB.

      However, the high court later quashed it, holding he enjoyed immunity while in office. 

      Vyapam scam is a massive admission and recruitment scandal involving politicians, bureaucrats and middlemen. Several politicians including former education minister Laxmikant Sharma, a host of officials and scores of aspirants have been arrested in the case. 

      Congress has even accused chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan of complicity in the scam.

      UK, Canadian, US students feared to have left Sudan to join Islamic State
      • UK, Canadian, US students feared to have left Sudan to join Islamic State
        KHARTOUM: Twelve students including British, Canadian, Sudanese and US citizens are feared to have left Khartoum for Turkey to try to join the Islamic State group, their university said on Sunday.

        Another group of British students of Sudanese origin from the same private University of Medical Sciences and Technology travelled to Turkey in March and it is believed they crossed into Syria.

        "We confirmed reports from multiple parties that 12 medical students at the university left for Turkey on Friday," the dean for students Dr Ahmed Babikir told AFP.

        Khartoum airport authorities confirmed the group had flown to Turkey and the students' families said they had not seen them since Friday and were unable to find their passports, Babikir added.

        It was likely they were trying to reach Syria to join IS because they were still sitting their final exams and had not warned relatives they were leaving, he said.

        "Logic says that they travelled to join the Daesh organisation," Babikir said, using the Arabic acronym for IS. Seven of the missing students are British, two Canadian, one American and two are Sudanese nationals, he said, although all are understood to be of Sudanese origin.

        Three of the 12 are women, Babikir added, declining to provide any names. The British embassy in Khartoum confirmed that "seven British nationals have travelled to Turkey from Sudan".

        "We are providing consular assistance and are working closely with Turkish authorities to establish their whereabouts," said embassy press officer Ishtiaq Ghafoor, without giving further details about the students.

        The American and Canadian missions in Khartoum did not immediately comment on the report.

        The University of Medical Sciences and Technology is a private university in central Khartoum.

        The students who went missing on Friday were all in their final year at medical school, a university source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

        "These students were recruited to the Islamic State organisation by some individuals inside the university through conversations they had with them," the source added.

        Many students at the university are foreign nationals of Sudanese origin.

        Nine British students from the University of Medical Sciences and Technology were reported to have flown from Khartoum to Turkey to join the IS group in March.

        Their families travelled to the Turkey-Syria border to try to trace them, but there has been no confirmation of the whereabouts of the nine since then.

      External affairs ministry refuses to answer RTI query on Lalit Modi's passport issue
      • External affairs ministry refuses to answer RTI query on Lalit Modi's passport issueNEW DELHI: At a time when Sushma Swaraj is under fierce opposition attack for "helping" Lalit Modi obtain UK travel documents, her external affairs ministry has refused to provide any information about the passport issue involving the scandal-tainted former IPL boss. 

        The ministry has refused to answer an RTI application containing seven questions including who had taken a decision not appeal in the Supreme Court the Delhi High Court's decision restoring Modi's passport. 

        "Kindly note that the office of External Affairs Minister (EAM) has informed that the questions in Serial 1 to 3 of your RTI does not seem to fall under the purview of the RTI act, 2005. As regards to queries Sl No 4 to 7, no information is available with EAM's office," the MEA said in its reply dated June 26.

        The MEA, however, said the application has been "transferred" to its consular, Passport and Visa Division as well as to the ministry of finance, ministry of home. 

        The RTI query, filed by one Rayo from Haryana, was received by the ministry on June 19 when the opposition was piling up pressure on Swaraj on the 'Lalitgate' row. 

        The first three questions included why Swaraj did not advise Modi to apply for a temporary travel document to the Indian high commission in London instead if she intended to help him on humanitarian grounds to travel to Portugal. It also asked why the external affairs minister did not insist on Modi's return to India as a condition for issuing a temporary Indian travel document. 

        The questions from Sl no 4 to 7 included a query on whether the government has lodged any objections to UK for granting residency permit to Modi, who has refused to appear before the Enforcement Directorate, and what steps the government has taken since the issuance of fresh passport to the former IPL boss to enforce the ED summons. 

        It also included a query on who took the decision not to file an appeal in the Supreme Court against Delhi High Court's ruling setting aside cancellation of Modi's passport. It asked whether the ED, at whose instance the passport was cancelled, was consulted on the issue. 

        The RTI application also asked about government's response to Modi's "wild charge that his life will be in danger if he returned to India."

      43 officials in Indian diplomatic missions to face action
      • 43 officials in Indian diplomatic missions to face action
        NEW DELHI: Government is taking action with regard to complaints against 43 officials of Indian diplomatic missions in 17 countries facing a variety of charge including corruption and dereliction of duty, top external affairs ministry sources said on Sunday. 

        "Action is being taken in all 43 cases as per established procedure," spokesman of the ministry of external affairs Vikas Swarup said.

        Some of the complaints are against low-ranking officials and locally-hired staff and the cases are being dealt with as per laid down procedures, he said. 

        "The Ministry takes seriously any complaint that it receives about the performance of its missions and posts abroad. Complaints are dealt with as per established and prescribed procedures," Swarup told PTI from Bangkok where he is accompanying external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj. 

        The recall of India's high commissioner to New Zealand Ravi Thapar following accusations of his wife assaulting a domestic help has brought the focus back on the conduct of the country's diplomats posted abroad.

        As per official figures, six complaints against officials in Indian missions were received in 2012, 10 in 2013 and 27 in 2014. 

        A maximum of eight complaints each have been received from the missions in UK and Madagascar in the last three years. 

        Complaints have also been received against Indian embassy staff in Afghanistan, Austria, Canada, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Kazakhstan, Botswana, Thailand, Zambia, Mauritius, Morocco, Netherlands, South Africa and Mali. 

        Two complaints were received from UK in 2012, one in 2013 and five last year. 

        A chef at the Indian high commission in New Zealand had last month alleged he was kept in slavery and was assaulted by Sharmila Thapar, wife of Ravi Thapar, following which the external affairs ministry sent a team to conduct an inquiry. 

        The high commissioner was recalled here based on the inquiry report. 

        Further inquiries will be conducted in the matter, Swarup said. 

        Thapar, however, denied that the staff member had been assaulted by his wife and said he was returning to India to take care of his mother. 

        "Though no charges were pressed by the service staff member, the ministry will investigate the matter further. The high commissioner has been posted back to headquarters," Swarup said on Saturday.

      ICC confirms receiving Lalit Modi's email in 2013
      • DUBAI: The ICC on Sunday confirmed that it had received a letter from Lalit Modi in 2013 in which the former IPL Commissioner alleged that three players were bribed by a business tycoon.

        London-based Modi on Saturday tweeted a letter, which he claims to have written to ICC CEO Dave Richardson in June 2013, passing on "some information" regarding the alleged involvement of two leading Indian cricketers and a West Indian player received cash and kind from the businessman.

        The International Cricket Council (ICC) on Sunday posted a statement on its website regarding the email and clarified that it acted as per standard procedure.

        "The ICC confirms that Mr Modi's confidential email, which was received in June 2013, and which has recently been published on Twitter, was provided to the ACSU at the time. The ACSU handled that information in accordance with its standard operating procedures, which included sharing it with the BCCI's anti-corruption unit," said the ICC statement.

      Govt. nod for revised cost estimate of freight corridor

      • The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) approved the revised cost estimate of Rs. 81,459 crore for the Eastern and Western Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC) Project. The Cabinet had in February 2008 approved the construction of the freight corridor.
        The revised estimate includes Rs. 73,392 crore of construction costs and Rs. 8,067 crore of acquisition costs.
        This cost does not include the cost of the 534 km Sonnagar-Dankuni section (in Eastern DFC), which is to be implemented through a Public Private Partnership (PPP).
        Status: Already 75 per cent of the 4,807 hectares of land needed for the Eastern DFC has been acquired, and 85 per cent of the 5,860 hectares needed for the Western DFC has been acquired so far. Adesh Sharma, managing director of DFCCIL(Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India) recently said that he was confident of starting phased commissioning of the DFCs from 2018. Of the total 3,350 km of the DFC project, work is in progress in 360 km in EDFC and 650 km in WDFC.
        What are DFCs?
        With the present railway network in India becoming very congested, transportation of freight has been facing inefficiencies because of delays. To ease the overburdened network, government has envisaged dedicated freight corridors (DFCs). Of these the Eastern and Western DFCs are being implemented. They are expected to become the backbone of manufacturing sector in the country. They would be broad gauge corridors and fully electrified.
        Western DFC:
        • The Western DFC starts from JNPT Mumbai and passes through Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana, and terminates at Dadri in Uttar Pradesh.
        • The total length will be about 1,483 km.
        • The Western DFC is projected to carry 161 million tonnes by 2021 and 284 million tonnes by 2036.
        • The Western DFC has secured a loan of 645.173 billion yen (around Rs.45,434 crore) from the Japan International Cooperation Agency
        Eastern DFC:
        • The Eastern DFC starts from Sahnewal near Ludhiana in Punjab and passes through Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand and terminates at Dankuni in West Bengal.
        • The total length is about 1,856 km.
        • The Eastern DFC is expected to carry around 153 million tonnes of cargo by 2021-22. This is set to increase to 251 million tonnes by 2036-37.
        • The Eastern DFC has secured a loan of $2.725 billion (around Rs.17,327 crore) from the World Bank
        The corridors will be connected at Khurja junction in UP, near to Delhi.
        • For the speedy delivery of goods across the country by having a dedicated corridor exclusively for freight. A freight consignment today takes two to three to move between Delhi and Mumbai. After completion of DFC, the time will be reduced to less than 24 hours.
        • The average speed of trains will increase to 70 km per hour against 25 km per hour now. The unit cost of transport is also expected to reduce 40 per cent making DFC more economical than other modes of transport.
        • WDFC will involve movement of double-stack containers with electric traction for the first time in the world.
        • This will also help in improvement of railways’ share in transport from 36 per cent.
        • These Projects will significantly reduce transportation cost and benefit power plants, mines, ports, and boost trade and industry.

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