Archive | April, 2017

Taliban announce spring offensive, vow to build institutions

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Taliban announce spring offensive, vow to build institutions

Posted on 28 April 2017 by GGS News

Islamabad : Afghanistan’s Taliban announced the start of their spring offensive today, promising to build their political base in the country while focusing military assaults on coalition and Afghan security forces.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid announced the launch of the offensive in an email statement that boasted Taliban control over more than half of the country, referencing a February report issued by Washington’s special inspector general for Afghan reconstruction.

That report said that the Afghan government had control or influence over only 52 per cent of Afghanistan’s 407 districts last year, down from 63.4 per cent previously.
The Taliban dubbed this year’s offensive “Operation Mansouri,” named for the Taliban leader killed last year in a US drone strike.

“Hence, keeping the evolving situation in mind, this year’s Mansouri Operations will differ from previous ones in nature and will be conducted with a twin-tracked political and military approach,” said Mujahid. He did not make any mention of peace talks with the government.

Attempts to find a peaceful end to Afghanistan’s protracted war have been relentlessly unsuccessful.

On the political side, Mujahid said the Taliban were going to begin building institutions in areas under their control, establishing what he called “social justice and development” mechanisms.

He didn’t offer specifics nor did he indicate whether this was an indication that the Taliban would step up their brand of justice that during their rule included the chopping off of hands for those convicted of theft and public executions.

While the Taliban may be officially announcing their spring offensive, recent attacks including one earlier this week on an army base in northern Afghanistan that killed more than 140 Afghan soldiers would seem to warn of a tough fighting season ahead.

In the latest attack, the Taliban disguised as Afghan army soldiers slipped into the compound of the 209 Corps in northern Afghanistan’s Balkh province. While two militants exploded their suicide vests, the others opened fire on scores of soldiers.

As well as the Taliban, Afghanistan is also battling an emerging local Islamic State affiliate known as Islamic State in Khorasan.

The Taliban announcement of the offensive coincides with the anniversary of Afghanistan’s so-called Saur Revolution against its pro-Russian rulers, which led to a 10-year uprising by US backed Islamic insurgents or mujahedeen against an invading Soviet army. The Soviets withdrew defeated in 1989.

PTI |

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Shah Rukh Khan becomes first Indian actor to speak at TED Talks

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Shah Rukh Khan becomes first Indian actor to speak at TED Talks

Posted on 28 April 2017 by GGS News

MUMBAI : Adding yet another first to his huge repertoire of firsts, Bollywood Superstar Shah Rukh Khan will be addressing the audience in a conference at TED Talks in Canada.

The actor will become the first Bollywood actor to grace the stage delivering TED talks (Technology, Entertainment and Design talks) to a large audience base.

The actor, who is known for his articulate speech, will be attending `Ted 2017 – The Future You` conference, an annual gathering of Ted Talks held in Canada on the evening of 27th April.Shah Rukh, who had earlier delivered motivational and inspirational speeches as he received the honorary doctorate at the University of Edinburg and Hyderabad`s Maulana Azad National Urdu University, will continue to charm the audience as he will be interacting with the audience for nearly 18 minutes about Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED).

TED talks is a prestigious platform which has been earlier graced by the likes of remarkable people like former U.S. President Bill Clinton, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, astronaut Mae Jemison, Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page to name a few.Known for his witty responses and visionary ideas, there is immense excitement and anticipation from the audience to witness one of Bollywood`s most renowned names.

Not just SRK but this edition will see the likes of Serena Williams and Elon Musk taking stage as motivational speakers this year.

On the professional front, the actor will make a comeback on Indian television with the show TED Talks India: Nayi Soch.

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Kolkata Knight Riders skipper Gautam Gambhir to bear education expenses of slain CRPF soldiers’ children

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Kolkata Knight Riders skipper Gautam Gambhir to bear education expenses of slain CRPF soldiers’ children

Posted on 28 April 2017 by GGS News

Delhi : Former India skipper Gautam Gambhir has pledged to bear the full expenses of the children of 25 CRPF personnel killed in an ambush by Maoists in Chhattisgarh’s south Sukma area on Monday.

Gambhir announced that he would extend the support through his Gautam Gambhir Foundation and that initial steps were already being taken in this regard.

The India opening batsman, who is currently leading Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League, said he was shaken by the massacre and two newspaper pictures of grieving daughters of two martyred CRPF officials left him feeling hollow.

“On Wednesday morning, I picked up newspapers and saw gut-wrenching pictures of the daughters of two CRPF men killed in the latest attacks. One was saluting her martyred father while in the other picture, the howling young woman was being consoled by her relative,” Gambhir wrote in his column for Hindustan Times.

READ | Gautam Gambhir’s Kolkata Knight Riders salute CRPF men killed in Sukma ambush
The Kolkata Knight Riders players wore black arm bands during Wednesday’s match against Rising Pune Supergiant in Pune as a mark of respect to the deceased CRPF men.

“The Gautam Gambhir Foundation will take care of the entire education expenses of the children of these martyrs. My team has already started work on this and I shall soon share the progress we have made,” he wrote.

Gambhir said it was tough to concentrate going into the match after the Chhattisgarh incident. He struck a match-winning half-century and shared in a century second-wicket partnership with Robin Uthappa.

Gambhir said the victory, which carried KKR to the top of the IPL points table, was due to teamwork and selflessness. He said: “It is for the same reasons I love armed forces too, although the quantum of losing a dear one while serving the country can never ever be compared to losing a cricket match.”

 

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German Parliament backs partial burqa ban

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German Parliament backs partial burqa ban

Posted on 28 April 2017 by GGS News

Berlin : Members of Germany`s lower house of Parliament have approved a law that partially bans the full-face Islamic veil or the burqa, the media reported on Friday.

The bill will prevent civil servants, judges and soldiers from wearing burqas at work, the BBC reported.

After the approval on Thursday, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said the move to ban the burqa showed how far tolerance towards other cultures would go in Germany.The bill will now go to the upper house.

Right-wing parties want Germany to emulate France where a total ban on wearing burqas in public places as has been in force since 2011.

Last December, Chancellor Angela Merkel called for a ban on full-face veils wherever legally possible, saying they were not appropriate in her country.

In February the state of Bavaria announced plans to ban the full-face veil in government workplaces, schools, universities and while driving, reports the BBC.

More than a million migrants. including many Middle Eastern Muslims, have entered Germany over the last 18 months.

The move follows several terror attacks, including one on a Berlin Christmas market that claimed 12 lives.

France, Austria, Belgium and Turkey have all imposed a ban in certain public spaces. Legislation supporting a ban is in progress in the Netherlands, while local bans apply in other nations including Denmark, Russia, Spain and Switzerland.

IANS |

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Donald Trump says he thought being president would be easier than his old life

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Donald Trump says he thought being president would be easier than his old life

Posted on 28 April 2017 by GGS News

Washington : He had copies for each of the three Reuters reporters in the room.Trump, who said he was accustomed to not having privacy in his “old life,” expressed surprise at how little he had now. And he made clear he was still getting used to having 24-hour Secret Service protection and its accompanying constraints.

“You’re really into your own little cocoon, because you have such massive protection that you really can’t go anywhere,” he said.

When the president leaves the White House, it is usually in a limousine or an SUV.

He said he missed being behind the wheel himself.

“I like to drive,” he said. “I can’t drive any more.”
Many things about Trump have not changed from the wheeler-dealer executive and former celebrity reality show host who ran his empire from the 26th floor of Trump Tower in New York and worked the phones incessantly.

He frequently turns to outside friends and former business colleagues for advice and positive reinforcement. Senior aides say they are resigned to it.

The president has been at loggerheads with many news organizations since his election campaign and decided not to attend the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in Washington on Saturday because he felt he had been treated unfairly by the media.

“I would come next year, absolutely,” Trump said when asked whether he would attend in the future.

The dinner is organized by the White House Correspondents’ Association. Reuters correspondent Jeff Mason is its president.

Reuters |

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7th Pay Commission allowances: Panel submits report to FM Jaitley; govt employees set to get HRA hike of up to 178%

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7th Pay Commission allowances: Panel submits report to FM Jaitley; govt employees set to get HRA hike of up to 178%

Posted on 28 April 2017 by GGS News

New Delhi : A high-level committee headed by Finance Secretary Ashok Lavasa, tasked with examining the Seventh Central Pay Commission’s (7th CPC) recommendations on allowances, submitted its report to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday.

The report will now be examined by an empowered group of secretaries after which it will be taken up by the Union Cabinet, said a senior government official. The outlay for allowances for the 4.7 million central government employees is expected to be around Rs 29,000 crore, as forecast by the pay panel.

In June last year, after implementing the CPC proposals on salary and pension, Jaitley had announced the Lavasa panel to examine the suggestions on allowances. The panel was to submit its report by October.
The decision on allowances was postponed because the CPC wanted a number of these to be abolished or subsumed, which employees’ unions opposed. A deferment on revising of allowances meant that as opposed to a burden of Rs 1.02 lakh crore as envisaged by the CPC, the government provisioned for Rs 84,933 crore in 2016-17 for pay and pension, including Rs 12,000 crore in arrears.

There are other recommendations on allowances which the Lavasa panel has examined. These include a change in the present system of accounting, wherein pay and allowances are clubbed and it is difficult to bifurcate them. The CPC recommended a separate object head for budgeting and accounting be used to record the expenditure.

Financial year change

A senior official said the Modi government was examining the benefits and drawbacks of changing the financial year from April-March to January-December. This comes after the Prime Minister, at the NITI Aayog’s governing council meeting last weekend, told chief ministers of the states that there had been suggestions to follow January-December as the financial year and the proposal should be considered.

“We will now do a cost-benefit analysis of (year ending) March 31 versus December 31,” said the official.

If a change was decided upon, the official added, it would be applicable to the Centre, states and the private sector.

A panel headed by former Chief Economic Advisor Shankar Acharya was entrusted with the task of recommending whether such a switch was feasible. The panel has submitted its report to the government but it was not made public. Jaitley said in Parliament during the last session that the government was studying the recommendations.

BT |

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Malegaon: Purohit moves SC against Bombay HC order rejecting bail

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Malegaon: Purohit moves SC against Bombay HC order rejecting bail

Posted on 28 April 2017 by GGS News

New Delhi : Malegaon blast accused Shrikant Purohit on Friday moved the Supreme Court against the Bombay High Court order rejecting his bail plea in the case.
A bench headed by Chief Justice JS Khehar said the petition would come up in regular course while rejecting the former lieutenant colonel’s plea for an urgent hearing.
The Bombay High Court had on April 25 granted bail to Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, accused of plotting the September 2008 Malegaon blast, but rejected the bail plea of co-accused Purohit saying the charges against him were of grave nature.
Six people were killed and nearly 100 others injured when a bomb strapped to a motorcycle had exploded in Malegaon town of Nashik district on September 29, 2008.
Sadhvi Pragya and 44-year-old Purohit were arrested in 2008.
While Pragya, 44, who is suffering from cancer, is undergoing treatment at a Madhya Pradesh hospital, Purohit is lodged in Taloja jail in Maharashtra.
The High Court had said that prima facie no case was made out against Pragya and asked her to furnish a cash surety of Rs 5 lakh and surrender her passport to the National Investigation Agency (NIA).
The NIA, which was handed over the probe from ATS, had given a clean chit to Pragya but had opposed Purohit’s bail plea noting that the charges levelled against Purohit were of serious nature.
Referring to the report filed by the NIA, the HC had said, “Purohit was the one who prepared a separate constitution for ‘Hindu Rashtra’ with a separate saffron-colour flag. He also discussed about taking revenge for the atrocities committed by the Muslims on Hindus.”
The HC had refused to accept Purohit’s contention that he had attended the meetings as part of a “covert military intelligence operation”.
The court pointed out the statements of the witnesses that it was Purohit who said their right-wing group Abhinav Bharat should not be just be a political party but work as an organisation of extremists, having the capacity to eliminate persons opposing the same.
According to the investigating agencies, the blast was allegedly carried out by right-wing group Abhinav Bharat.
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The NIA had opposed Purohit’s bail plea and argued that there was evidence in the form of audio and video recordings, call data records and the statements of the witnesses which proved his involvement in the case.
According to the NIA, Purohit had allegedly taken active part in the conspiracy meetings and even agreed to arrange explosives to be used in the blast.
Purohit had argued that the NIA was “selective” in exonerating some accused persons and that the agency made him a “scapegoat” in the case.

PTI |

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Think tank ranks Karnataka most corrupt state, Himachal least

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Think tank ranks Karnataka most corrupt state, Himachal least

Posted on 28 April 2017 by GGS News

New Delhi : Petty corruption in India has come down sharply, but the total estimated bribe paid by households in last one year for public services — including amounts of as low as Rs 10 — still stands high at Rs 6,350 crore, says a study.

According to CMS-Indian Corruption Study (CMS-ICS) 2017, around one-third of the households experienced corruption in public services at least once during the last one year, while in 2005, 53 percent households had reported so.

Only 43 percent of the households surveyed in 2017 opined that the level of corruption in public services has risen during the last one year, while 73 percent of respondents had perceived increase in corruption level in public services in 2005.The study said that the decline in corruption is significant in case of some public services such as police and judicial services, when compared to 2005 levels.

Total amount paid by households across 20 states and 10 public services as bribe, is estimated to be Rs 6,350 crore in 2017 as against Rs 20,500 crore in 2005.

In most of the states, the more often paid bribe amount ranges between Rs 100-500. However an amount of as low as Rs 10 and as high as Rs 50,000 was also paid by households in a year for availing one or the other public service.

Among public services, households reported experiencing corruption in police was at 34 percent, followed by land/housing (24 percent), judicial services (18 percent) and tax (15 percent) and PDS (12 percent).

The study, which covered more than 3,000 households from over 200 rural and urban clusters of 20 states, noted a definite decline in both perception and experience of citizens about corruption in public services between 2005 and 2017.

Besides, it said that key reasons for paying bribe in a public service continues to be similar in most of the states, between 2005 and 2017.

The reasons for corrupt practices could be broadly categorised as procedural; documentation related; payment evasion and dependency on service provider.

Out of 20 states, households experiencing corruption in public services during last one year was highest in Karnataka (77 percent) followed by Andhra Pradesh (74 percent), Tamil Nadu (68 per cent), Maharashtra (57 percent), J&K (44 percent) and Punjab (42 percent).

In 2005, the percentage of households experiencing corruption in public services were more in Bihar (74 percent), J&K (69 percent), Odisha (60 percent), Rajasthan (59 percent) and Tamil Nadu (59 percent).

According to the study, three less corrupt states in terms of households ‘experiencing corruption in public services’ are Himachal Pradesh (3 percent) followed by Kerala (4 percent) and Chhattisgarh (13 percent).

In 2005, Kerala (35 percent), Maharashtra (39 percent) and Gujarat (43 percent) were the less corrupt states.

PTI |

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Govt must do something or our sons will keep dying: Capt Ayush’s father

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Govt must do something or our sons will keep dying: Capt Ayush’s father

Posted on 28 April 2017 by GGS News

Kanpur : The news of Captain Ayush’s death in the terror attack on an Army camp in Kupwara on Thursday has left the family of 24-year-old officer devastated and bereft of all hope.
He was among the three Army personnel killed in the attack on Thursday. Trying to hold back tears while speaking to the media here, the slain officer’s father recalled how he sensed something was not right when he saw the news about the attack on Thursday morning.
“I was watching the news and doubts started creeping in my mind when I heard that an officer was also killed and that he was a captain from the artillery. Then I got a call from an officer informing me about Ayush and that was that,” he said.
Appearing to be in visible pain, he went on to say that his son’s time had come too soon, and that he was too young to die.He also recalled happy moments with his son, especially when they would talk about his marriage.
“I used to joke to him about his wedding and tell him that we should start looking for a girl for him. But he would push the matter away saying he was too young. Nevertheless I would push him saying I want to see him settle down before I retire from police,” his added.
Ayush was more close to his mother, his father said, adding that she had spoken to him the night before the attack, and that he did not pick up the phone when she again called him on Thursday.
“The government needs to do something about its policy or else our boys will keep dying like this. But honestly, I have nothing to say to the government, nor do I have any hope from them,” he said dejectedly.
Captain Ayush Yadav, Subedar Bhoop Singh Gujjar and Naik B Venkata Ramanna were killed in the attack on the Army camp on Thursday.
Condemning the Kupwara attack, Deputy Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Nirmal Singh assured that India would give a befitting reply to ‘desperate’ Pakistan for trying to ruin the atmosphere in the Valley.
“We condemn this strongly. We pay our tributes to the jawans. Pakistan is trying to mess up the situation, but that would not be possible. Our jawans are doing their best and will not let them be successful. Their actions will be answered,” Singh told ANI.
Dubbing it as a cowardly action, Singh said Pakistan is desperate to create problems in Kashmir and warned it of severe action.
“Pakistan is going to suffer. We are going to reply in the same way. The Union government is well-prepared,” he added.
Two terrorists were also neutralised in the attack.

ANI |

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GST to push Indian growth to over 8 per cent: IMF

GST to push Indian growth to over 8 per cent: IMF

Posted on 28 April 2017 by GGS News

Washington : The ambitious Goods and Services Tax to be implemented from July 1 would help raise India’s medium-term growth to above eight per cent, the International Monetary Fund has said adding that the reforms being done is expected to pay off in terms of higher growth in the future.
“The government has made significant progress on important economic reforms that will support strong and sustainable growth going forward,” Tao Zhang, Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, told PTI in an exclusive interview.
“We expect that the goods and services tax (GST), which is targeted to be applied starting in July, will help raise India’s medium-term growth to above 8 per cent, as it will enhance production and the movement of goods and services across Indian states,” the IMF official said.
“We are extremely impressed by the work that is being done and that we expect it will pay off in terms of higher growth in the future,” he said in response to a question on the reforms being undertaken by the Indian Government.
Observing that India is the “fastest growing emerging market economy” in a region that remains the strongest-growing in the world, Zhang said the IMF believes that India is going to continue to grow at a fast pace, with a projected 6.8 per cent rate for Financial Year 2016/17 and 7.2 per cent in 2017/18.
Lower global oil prices have boosted economic activity, and helped lower inflation.
In addition, fiscal and monetary policies have helped foster economic stability, he said. “The currency exchange initiative led to a slowdown in economic activity.
However, there are initial signs of recovery as the currency exchange has been progressing well,” said Zhang, who assumed the role of Deputy Managing Director at the IMF on August 22, 2016.
Zhang, who worked at the World Bank from 1995 to 1997 and at the Asian Development Bank from 1997 to 2004, said a key concern for the IMF in India is the health of the banking system, “which is still dealing with a large amount of bad loans”, as well as “heightened corporate vulnerabilities” in several key sectors of the economy.
“As India persists with its strong reform efforts, labour market reforms should take priority,” he noted.
These would facilitate greater and better quality jobs, raise female labour force participation, and enhance the impact of recent product market reforms, he observed.
“While there has been important progress generally, we see scope to pursue better targeting and greater efficiency of subsidy and social spending programs through greater use of the trio of Aadhaar unique beneficiary identification, direct benefit transfers, and information technology,” Zhao said.
“Finally, more could be done to raise agricultural productivity and enhance market efficiency. This would help increase the supply of high-value foods, enhance returns to farmers, and dampen food inflation pressures,” said the IMF official responding to a question.

PTI |

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