CAG to submit reports on Namami Gange, railway bio-toilets in Parliament

Ganga, Varanasi

Apex auditor CAG is likely to submit around 11-12 reports, including on railway bio-toilets, Ganga rejuvenation and Kudankulam nuke plant, in Parliament this session, according to official sources.

“Around 11-12 reports are expected to be tabled in Parliament during the ongoing winter session of the Parliament. There will be audit reports on the Namami Gange project, status on bio-toilets usage in railways and Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant,” an official said.

Namami Gange is the government’s pet project for rejuvenation of river Ganga for which it had allocated Rs 20,000 crore in 2014.

The National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) has sanctioned projects worth about Rs 17,000 crore for sewerage management, effluents management, biodiversity conservation, solid waste management, afforestation, rural sanitation among other.

Besides, there will be around 4-5 compliance reports on the finance ministry, including on customs and excise, the official added.

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report on bio- toilets in railways is a actually a performance report, which is likely to be placed in Parliament next week, another official who worked closely in preparing the report told PTI.

“The report will present the status how the bio-toilets have been functioning in trains as well as recommendations,” the official added.



Indian Railways may soon shorten recruitment process from 2 yrs to 6 months

Colonia legacy: According to reports, 30,000 trackmen work in homes of senior officials as domestic help and after a recent decision, senior officials have lost this privilege. Photo: Reuters

The nearly two-year-long recruitment process for Railway jobs may soon be over in just six months, if things go according to plan.

Hit by a severe staff crunch, Railways is mulling shortening the process by introducing online tests among other steps.

In a meeting of general managers with Railway Board Chairman Ashwani Lohani soon after the derailment of the Vasco-Da-Gama-Patna Express on November 24, the zonal heads raised the issue of filling up of vacant posts in the Railways, according to the minutes of the meeting available with PTI.

“The process of recruitment takes too long, taking almost two years since submission of application. Many candidates get alternative jobs, leading to poor materialisation of indents (vacancy notice). With online tests, etc, the process should be speeded up,” general manager of Northeast Frontier Railway Chahatey Ram suggested in the meeting in the presence of 17 GMs.

In response, Lohani said that the Railway Recruitment Board (RRB) should review the process “with a target to complete it within six months”.

The board has instructed its departments to submit their proposals on the issue by December 20.

As of December 2016, Railways has a staff strength of more than 1.3 million, while it has 225,823 vacancies in Group ‘C’ and Group ‘D’ categories.

India to submit fresh request for red notice on Zakir Naik to Interpol

Zakir Naik (Photo credit: Wikipedia)After Interpol on Saturday refused to issue a red corner notice (RCN) against controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) said it will submit a fresh request for the same.

“NIA’s request for Red Notice against Zakir Naik was not accepted by Interpol as chargesheet had not been filed when the request was submitted to the Interpol headquarters. Now NIA will submit a fresh request to Interpol as chargesheet has already been filed in the NIA court concerned in Mumbai,” an NIA official said.
In a statement, Naik’s spokesperson said: “Interpol has cancelled red corner notice on Dr Naik and instructed its worldwide offices to delete all data from files on him, citing political and religious bias among other reasons.”
“The Interpol contended that there was a severe lack of evidentiary basis, a failure by Indian authorities to follow due process of law, political and religious bias that formed the basis of such a notice, and lack of international interest,” he added.
It also said: The Interpol’s Commission found after thorough examination that the request from the Indian NCB was not compliant with Interpol’s rules and thus decided the Indian government’s request for Red Corner notice should be cancelled.”
The Indian government had banned Naik and his organisation Islamic Research Foundation for five years and declaring it an unlawful organisation.
Naik is also accused of spreading hatred through his speeches, funding terror groups and laundering money. The NIA last year had registered a criminal case against him.

LeT men are patriotic, let them form a political party: Musharraf

Ajmal Kasab, Pervez Musharraf, Kulbhushan Jadhav

Former Pakistan president General (retd) Pervez Musharraf on Saturday said he was ready to enter into an alliance with Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) for Islamabad’s ‘safety and security’.

This statement has come almost a month after he claimed he was the biggest supporter of the two parties.

“They (LeT and JuD men) are patriotic people, they have laid their lives for Pakistan, who can object if they form a political party,” ARY News quoted Musharraf, as saying.

So far the two parties have not approached him but if they desire to enter into an alliance with his party, he has no objection, he added.

He further said, “I am a liberal and a moderate but that doesn’t mean that I detest religious elements, I am the biggest supporter of Lashkar-e-Taiba and I know that they too like me, the people from Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD).”

Musharraf, a month back, had said he liked the global terrorist, JuD chief Hafiz Saeed, and had met him.

The former president added he was always in favour of terrorist action in Kashmir, and the LeT and the JuD were the biggest forces to take on the Indian Army in the state.

The US had strongly condemned the release of LeT leader Hafiz Saeed from house arrest and called for his immediate re-arrest and prosecution.


‘Processing’ visa applications of Jadhav’s wife & mother, confirms Pakistan

kulbhushan, jadhav, Pak, spy

Pakistan on Sunday said the visa applications of Kulbhushan Jadhav‘s wife and mother had been received and were being “processed”, days after it again rejected India’s plea for consular access to the death row prisoner.

Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Faisal confirmed in a tweet that Jadhav’s family had applied for visas.

“Visa applications of mother and wife of Commander Jadhav received for their visit on humanitarian grounds,” Faisal tweeted.

He further said the applications were “being processed” but did not give any time line for approval of visas.

On Wednesday, Pakistan had rejected India’s plea for consular access to Jadhav at the ICJ, claiming that New Delhi wants the access to get the information gathered by its “spy”.

In its counter-memorial submitted to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), Pakistan said the provision of such an access under the Vienna Convention is only for legitimate visitors and not for spies, a media report said.

Pakistan said that Jadhav is not an ordinary person as he had entered the country with the intent of spying and carrying out sabotage activities.


UN Security Council weighs measure rejecting Trump’s Jerusalem decision

Israeli border police officers overlooking the Arab neighborhood of Issawiyah in Jerusalem

The UN Security Council is considering a draft resolution that would affirm that any change to the status of Jerusalem has no legal effect and must be rescinded, in response to the US decision to recognise the city as Israel’s capital.

Egypt circulated the draft text on Saturday and diplomats said the council could vote on the proposed measure as early as Monday.

Breaking with the international consensus, US President Donald Trump this month announced that he would recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US embassy there from Tel Aviv, sparking protests and strong condemnation.

The draft resolution obtained by AFP stresses that Jerusalem is an issue “to be resolved through negotiations” and expresses “deep regret at recent decisions concerning the status of Jerusalem”, without specifically mentioning Trump’s move.

It affirms that “any decisions and actions which purport to have altered the character, status or demographic composition” of Jerusalem “have no legal effect, are null and void and must be rescinded.”

Diplomats said they expected the United States to use its veto power to block the measure while most, if not all, of the 14 other council members were expected to back the draft resolution.


News digest: GST e-way Bill, Rahul Gandhi’s elevation, and more

News digest: e-way Bill, Rahul's elevation, and more

GST Council firm on e-way Bill despite traders’ concern

An electronic system to track movement of products under the goods and services tax (GST) system will be put in place across the country (inter-city as well as intra-city) by June 1, 2018. Read More…

More traders paying taxes on GSTN: Sushil Kumar Modi

The proportion of tax-paying traders has increased to 70 per cent of those registered on the Goods and Services Tax Network (GSTN) as the technology backbone built by Infosys has begun to stabilise and make it easier for them to file returns, said Bihar Finance Minister Sushil Kumar Modi on Saturday. Read More…

Rahul Gandhi takes charge of the grand old party

Rahul Gandhi on Saturday took charge as president of the Congress in the presence of the 132-year-old party’s brass and his family members. Read More…

UIDAI suspends Airtel, Airtel Payments Bank’s e-KYC licence

In its strongest action yet, the UIDAI has temporarily barred Bharti Airtel and Airtel Payments Bank from conducting Aadhaar-based SIM verification of mobile customers using the eKYC process as well as e-KYC of payments bank clients. Read More…

US may stop spouses of H1B visa holders from working

The Trump administration is considering revoking an Obama-era rule that extends work authorisation to the spouses of H1B visa holders, a move that could affect thousands of Indian workers and their families. Read More…


After cars, Saudi Arabia to allow women to drive motorcycles from June 2018

Driving ban lifted: I am my own guardian, say Saudi women on Twitter

Saudi Arabian women will be able to drive trucks and motorcycles, officials have said three months after the kingdom announced a historic decision to end a ban on women driving.

In September, King Salman issued a decree saying women will be able to drive from next June as part of an ambitious reform push in the conservative kingdom.

The Saudi General Directorate of Traffic gave details of the new regulations that will follow the lifting of the ban on the official Saudi Press Agency late on Friday.

“Yes, we will authorise women to drive motorcycles” as well as trucks, it said, adding that the royal decree stipulates that the law on driving will be “equal” for both men and women.

There will be no special licence plate numbers for female-driven cars, it said.

But women involved in road accidents or who commit traffic violations will be dealt with at special centres that will be established and run by women.

Saudi Arabia was the only country in the world to impose a ban on women driving and its maintenance was seen around the world as a symbol of repression in the Gulf kingdom.


Floods in Philippines: 3 dead, 77,000 flee as storm triggers landslides

floods, rains, rainfall

At least three people were killed and tens of thousands were driven from their homes by floods as Tropical Storm Kai-Tak pounded the eastern Philippines today, cutting off power and triggering landslides, officials said.

Kai-Tak, packing gusts of up to 110 kilometres an hour, hit the country’s third-largest island Samar in the afternoon and tore through a region devastated by Super Typhoon Haiyan four years ago, the state weather service said.

Local officials reported three deaths on neighbouring Leyte island — a two-year-old boy who drowned in the town of Mahaplag, a woman buried by a landslide and another person who fell into a flooded manhole in Ormoc city.

Samar and Leyte, with a combined population of about 4.5 million, had borne the brunt of Haiyan in 2013, which left more than 7,350 people dead or missing.

Bus driver Felix Villaseran, his wife and four children hunkered down in their two-storey house in the Leyte city of Tacloban along with 11 relatives whose homes were flooded from the incessant rain.

“We have yet to shake off our phobia. I hope to God we don’t have a repeat of that,” Villaseran, who lost 39 cousins in the Haiyan onslaught, told AFP by telephone.


Maharashtra farm loan waiver for the poor? Shiv Sena MLA a beneficiary too

agriculture, farmers

Shiv Sena MLA Prakash Abitkar has claimed he was named as a beneficiary of the farm loan waiver in the Kolhapur District Central Cooperative Bank, even though he had not applied for it. He has got a loan waiver of Rs 25,000 from the bank.

This has come just a day after Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis announced the scheme was being implemented smoothly. He told the state legislative assembly on Thursday that his government had committed some “mistakes” while implementing the Rs 34,022-crore farm loan waiver scheme, but has fixed all these issues.

Abitkar, an MLA from Radhanagari in Kolhapur district, has got the benefit of Maharashtra Government’s loan waiver scheme for drought affected farmers.

The Shiv Sena MLA has raised the issue citing faulty implementation of the loan waiver scheme and demanded an inquiry into this flawed inclusion as the rules bar any existing or former elected representative from getting benefit under the scheme.

He said, “I was stunned when I came to know that my name appeared in the green list of loan waiver beneficiaries. I was shocked again when I got more details about the list of my (Kolhapur) area. I had not even applied or registered my name anywhere to get the waiver.”

The Opposition is directly blaming Fadnavis for this as the Chief Minister Office (CMO) had been working on the data of the beneficiaries of this scheme through information and technology department of Maharashtra.