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Uproar in RS over UPSC issue

NEW DELHI: Question Hour was again a casualty in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday as Opposition members created an uproar over the UPSC issue trooping into the well and forcing adjournament of the House for half-an-hour.

As soon as the House assembled for the day and the Chairman tried to take up Question Hour, members from Congress, SP, BSP, CPI-M, CPI, DMK and AIADMK were on their feet raising the UPSC matter.

Noisy scenes continued in the House even after Opposition members spoke on the issue demanding scrapping of the CSAT pattern of examination and seeking question papers of Preliminary Examination in all languges.

After his fervent appeals to allow Question Hour to take place did not have an impact, Chairman Hamid Ansari, apparently agitated, told the members that he will call a meeting of the Rajya Sabha Committee to decide whether the Question Hour is desired or not.

"If you do not want to have a Question Hour, I will have a committee meeting and you decide whether you want to have a Question Hour or not...Government has explained its position (on the issue).

"If you want a discussion, give a notice...You cannot raise extraneous matters in Question Hour," Ansari remarked.

AIADMK members trooped into the well seeking a response from the government and demanding that question papers of the UPSC exams should be in Tamil language.

Though the Congress has demanded scrapping of the CSAT pattern of exams alleging that it favours students from English background at the expense of those from Indian languages, party members B K Hariprasad and J D Seelam from Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh respectively struck a discordant note.

Noting that he hails from a region whose languages is not one among 22 Indian languages in the eighth schedule and wondering what will happen to them, Hariprasad demanded that "status quo should be maintained".

J D Seelam (Cong) felt "taking away English will be a disadvantage for all non-Hindi states".

As Seelam was in the aisles speaking loudly, a visibly upset Ansari said "You are no body here...you cannot talk from there". The remarks angered some members.

As the din continued, Ansari adjourned the House till noon. -PTIBack










Samson, Karn included in India's ODI side

MUMBAI: Kerala youngster Sanju Samson and Railways leg-spinner Karn Sharma today earned their maiden call-up while batman Cheteshwar Pujara was omitted from India's 17-member squad for the One-day series against England, beginning from August 25.

Mumbai paceman Dhawal Kularni was also included while paceman Mohit Sharma was recalled in the squad, which had no place for seasoned players such as Yuvraj Singh, Gautam Gambhir, Ishant Sharma and Harbhajan Singh.

Suresh Raina, who was left out of the Indian team for the Asia Cup in Bangladesh has been included in the squad, announced by BCCI Secretary Sanjay Patel after a meeting of the selection committee.

Pacer Umesh Yadav has also been recalled to the team, to be captained by Mahendra Singh Dhoni with Virat Kohli being his deputy.

The selectors also dropped paceman Ishwar Pandey, Varun Aaron and wicket-keeper batsman Dinesh Karthik.

"Considering the World Cup, the emphasis was laid on including the young players, that is why players such as Sanju Samson, Karn Sharma, Mohit Sharma and Stuart Binny are there in the team," Patel told reporters.

Patel also informed that spinner Amit Mishra was ruled out due to a back injury.

The 19-year-old Samson and 26-year-old Karn were rewarded for their consistent performance in the domestic circuit as well as India A engagements.

Samson was highest run-getter for India A in team's recent Quadrangular series victory in Australia. The diminutive batsman scored 244 runs at an average of 81.33 in seven matches. -PTI













Seven robbers arrested

CHANDIGARH: Punjab Police today claimed to have busted a gang of robbers with the arrest of its seven members from Dera Bassi on the outskirts of Chandigarh. The gang members were active in Chandigarh, Mohali and Panchkula, police claimed, adding that they are known as "Kala Kachcha gang".

The arrests were made during a raid at Sundran village close to Dera Bassi town, police said. Police have booked the accused under various sections of the IPC and the Arms Act.

Inspector General of Police (Patiala zone) P S Gill, in a statement here, said the gang members always resort to brutal ways of committing crime and use iron rods, handles of hand pumps, wooden logs and country made firearms.

Members of the gang first mercilessly beat the people and then commit crime, he said.

Police recovered a country made .12 bore pistol, along with two live cartridges, two handles of hand pumps, iron rods, three wooden logs and three motorcycles from the accused, he said. — PTI












UPSC aspirants continue protest, demand scrapping of CSAT

NEW DELHI: Scores of UPSC aspirants on Tuesday continued their protest demanding scrapping of CSAT, a day after the government announced that English marks in the test will not be included for gradation or merit in the civil services preliminary examination.

The aspirants, who had been protesting against the CSAT format in Mukherjee Nagar of north Delhi for the past 26 days, have now shifted their base to Jantar Mantar.

Protestors said they would continue their fight unless Centre doesn't scrap CSAT completely. AAP leader Yogendra Yadav was also present at the protest site.

"We are not satisfied with the government's announcement regarding UPSC exams. Government has not fulfilled its promise by proposing such changes. We want Modi-led government to scrap this test completely," Pawan, a protestor, said.

Buckling under pressure of street protests, government had on Monday announced that English marks in CSAT-II will not be included for gradation or merit in the civil services preliminary examination.

The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) had said that it will issue a notification to reflect the changes announced by the government which the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) will implement.

The civil services preliminary examination will be held as scheduled on August 24 with the changes announced by government including non-inclusion of English marks in gradation of candidates.

There are two compulsory papers of 200 marks each in the civil services preliminary examination. These papers are also known as CSAT I and CSAT II.

The CSAT-II paper carries questions on comprehension, interpersonal skills including communication skills, logical reasoning and analytical ability, decision-making and problem- solving, general mental ability, basic numeracy, and English language comprehension skills (of Class X level).

The CSAT pattern was implemented from 2011.

The civil services examination is conducted in three stages -- preliminary, main and interview -- to choose candidates for Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Foreign Service (IFS) and Indian Police Service (IPS) among others. –PTIBack


















Ceasefire takes effect to end Gaza war

GAZA CITY: A ceasefire between Israel and Hamas meant to last at least three days and end nearly a month of fighting went into effect in the Gaza Strip Tuesday morning.

The truce came ahead of talks in Cairo aimed at brokering a deal that would prevent future cross-border violence.

The temporary truce, agreed to by both sides, started at 8 a.m. (0500 GMT) and was to last for 72 hours during which Israel and Hamas are to hold indirect talks in the Egyptian capital.

The fighting has claimed nearly 1,900 Palestinian lives - most of them civilians. The war has also left 67 Israelis dead, all but three of them soldiers.

Previous international attempts to broker a temporary halt in the fighting failed.

The gaps between the sides are vast and the situation remains volatile - just minutes ahead of the start of the truce, shelling still echoed across Gaza.

Hamas wants Israel and Egypt to lift their seven-year-old Gaza border blockade. Israel wants Hamas to be disarmed.

Earlier today, the Israeli military announced that all its ground troops will have pulled out of Gaza by the start of the new ceasefire.

Military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said the withdrawal was going forward after Israel completed the destruction of 32 cross-border tunnels that were built for Islamic militant attacks inside Israel.

During the course of the fighting, Israeli forces killed some 900 Palestinian militants, Lerner said.

The war broke out on July 8 when Israel launched an air offensive in response to weeks of heavy rocket fire out of Hamas-controlled Gaza. It expanded the operation on July 17 by sending in ground forces in what it described as a mission to 
destroy a network of tunnels used to stage attacks. –APBack















RBI keeps rate unchanged as inflation remains concern

MUMBAI: Concerned over impact of weak monsoon on food price, RBI on Tuesday decided to keep the key policy rate unchanged but slashed statutory liquidity ratio (SLR) by 0.5 per cent to unlock about Rs 40,000 crore into the system.

RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan, who has for the third time in a row kept the rate unchanged, said there are upside risks to inflation in view of uncertain monsoon and its impact on food production as also volatile international oil prices.

"It is...appropriate to continue maintaining a vigilant monetary policy stance as in June, while leaving the policy rate unchanged," he said third bi-monthly review of the monetary policy here.

Accordingly, the repo rate will continue to stand at 8 per cent, the reverse repo at 7 per cent and the cash reserve ratio at 4 per cent. The bank rate would remain at 9 per cent.

In order to infuse additional liquidity, Rajan decreased SLR for banks by 0.50 per cent to 22 per cent with effect from the fortnight beginning August 9. A similar move in June had released an additional Rs 40,000 crore into the system.

Additionally, Rajan also said that RBI will continue to provide liquidity under overnight repos at 0.25 per cent and liquidity under the 7 and 14 day repos of up to 0.75 per cent of net demand and time liabilities.

On retail inflation, which cooled down to 7.31 per cent in June, Rajan said that while achievement of the 8 per cent target for January 2015 is not a worry, there are "upside risks" to its ambitious target of lowering it further to 6 per cent by 2016.

This warrants a "heightened state of policy preparedness," he said, adding that supply will increase with the government measures on food management and project completion.

Stock markets fell when the policy was announced at 1100 hrs, but showed upward movement thereafter. The BSE's 30-stock index, Sensex, was trading in the green, up 0.22 per cent from the previous close, at 1138 hrs. -PTIBack























44 Kerala nurses arrive from strife-torn Libya

KOCHI: In the first batch of evacuation of Indian nurses from strife-torn Libya, 44 Kerala nurses arrived here this morning from Dubai.

The nurses were brought by bus from Tunisia to Dubai where they boarded a scheduled Emirates flight to Kochi at 3.30 am, airport officials here said.

The nurses were working in various hospitals in Libya.

The 44 were among 58 nurses who had reached Tunisia from Tripoli two days ago. Another batch of 43 nurses had reached the Tunisian border on Monday.

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy had written to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on August 1 seeking the Centre's help in arranging flight for facilitating the return of the nurses.

Fighting between rival militias in Tripoli over the past three weeks and clashes between Islamists and army in the eastern city of Benghazi have prompted several countries to evacuate their nationals and diplomatic staff.

Last month, 46 nurses, who were held captive by ISIS militants in Iraq, returned home by a special Air India Flight here bringing an end to their about month-long trauma. –PTIBack

















After attack, Sikh man urges to create a world without hate

NEW YORK: A 29-year old Sikh man, critically injured after he was hit by a truck driver, who allegedly used racist slur against him, is demanding justice to ensure such crimes are not repeated and has urged for the need to "create a world without hate".

"My name is Sandeep Singh, I am in a great deal of pain, but I will survive. I was attacked because I am a Sikh and because I look like a Sikh. Justice should be served so no one else goes through what I have been through. We need to create a world without hate," Singh, the victim, said in a message posted by the Sikh Coalition, a US-based rights group.

The group will hold a rally today in Singh's support and to demand the attack against him, to be investigated as a "hate crime".

Singh, a married father of two, is demanding justice to ensure such crimes are not repeated and has urged for the need to "create a world without hate".

Singh is currently recovering from the serious injuries he sustained when he was hit by a pick-up truck last week and dragged nearly 30 feet on a public street in Queens, following an argument with the driver who used racist language against him and his friend.

The attack on Singh and the rally comes at a time when members of the Sikh community are remembering the Oak Creek Gurdwara shooting of August 5, 2012, when six Sikh persons were killed by 40-year-old Wade Michael Page in a rampage.

"As the nation remembers the Oak Creek Gurdwara massacre two years ago, the Sikh Coalition is working with law enforcement officials to ensure that the attack on Sandeep is investigated as a hate crime and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," the Sikh Coalition said.

Members of the community and of several other rights groups in the city have expressed solidarity with Singh and demanded immediate justice.

The New York chapter of the Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organisation, Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-New York), said, it will be joining the Sikh Coalition at the rally to show solidarity with the Sikh community.

The Sikh Cultural Society, Baba Makhan Shah Lobana Gurdwara and United Sikhs are also rallying support for Singh. –PTIBack

















HC seeks status report from HP on Beas tragedy

SHIMLA: The Himachal Pradesh High Court has directed the state government to file status report in the case relating to the drowning of 24 engineering students of Hyderabad in Beas River in Mandi district before August 11.

Posting the matter for August 11, a division bench comprising Chief Justice Mansoor Ahmad Mir and Justice Tarlok Singh Chauhan asked the amicus curiae in the case to examine the entire issue and make submissions within a week.

The college on Monday told the court that it has deposited their share of interim compensation amount as ordered by the bench and has also released the amount of insurance and tuition fee to the legal representatives of the deceased students.

Twenty four B Tech students and a co-tour leader drowned in flash floods in the Beas river near Thalot on Mandi-Kullu national highway on June 8 after the Larji hydropower project authorities suddenly released water from the dam.

Following massive search operations by rescue teams of NDRF, Army, police, Navy, ITBP and 50 expert divers for over a month, 24 bodies of students were recovered while the co-tour leader is still missing. –PTIBack



















Four brothers die in Jammu flash flood

JAMMU: Four brothers drowned Tuesday in flash flood in Jammu region's Rajouri district, a police official said.

"Four brothers were washed away in a flash flood in Manjakote village of Rajouri district on Tuesday morning," a senior police official told IANS.

"They had gone for a bath in the river when sudden flash flood washed them away.

"Two dead bodies have so far been recovered while efforts are on to recover the remaining two," the official said.

Flash floods in seasonal streams are a common feature especially in the mountainous areas of Jammu and Kashmir during the monsoon months.-IANS  Back
















15 hurt in clashes at Army recruitment rally in J-K

SRINAGAR: At least 15 persons, including eight security personnel, were injured in clashes which broke out on Tuesday during an Army recruitment rally at Tanghdar in Kupwara district of Jammu and Kashmir.

Trouble broke out in Chamkote village of Tanghdar region, close to Line of Control, after a group of aspirants for jobs in a Territorial Army unit started pelting stones at personnel conducting the physical tests, an army spokesman said.

He said the candidates who were rejected in the physical tests resorted to violence and even set ablaze the fencing of the arena where the tests were conducted.

"The army personnel, sensing danger to life and property, fired few blank rounds which do not cause any injuries. The injuries have been caused by stone pelting," he added.

The spokesperson said more than 4,000 candidates had turned up for the "few posts" which were to be filled up at the recruitment rally.

A police official said the agitating candidates alleged that the recruiting officials relaxed the rules to allow middle school pass candidates to appear in the physical test against the criterion of 'Matriculates and above' only.

The official said seven candidates, four policemen and equal number of army jawans were injured in the clashes.

"One of the candidates has suffered head injury and may need to be evacuated to a hospital in Srinagar for specialised treatment," he added.

Additional police personnel were rushed to the spot to bring the situation under control. -PTIBack















Adani to procure 30,000 tonnes of Himachal apple

SHIMLA: Adani Agrifresh plans to procure 30,000 tonnes of apples in Himachal Pradesh this year, an official of the agro-commodities trading house said Tuesday.

"This season, we are procuring more apples as our storage capacity in the state is going to increase from 18,000 to 20,400 tonnes," Deputy General Manager Sanjay Mahajan said.

Last year, the company had procured 25,000 tonnes apples with an average procurement price of Rs 38 to Rs 40 per kg.

The hill state is one of India's major apple-producing regions, with more than 90 percent of the produce going to the domestic market. The apple industry is worth over Rs 3,200 crore.

Horticulture department estimates show the state is expected to produce 25-30 percent less apples this season compared to last year's bumper production of over 32.2 million boxes.

Superior grades such as Royal Delicious, Red Chief, Super Chief, Oregon Spur and Scarlet Spur have started arriving, but the supply would only pick up by the middle of August.

Adani has three stores at Rampur, Sainj and Rohru, all in Shimla district, with a storage capacity of 6,000 tonnes each.

In the Rohru store, the capacity will be increased to 8,400 tonnes after its expansion.

"For the first time, we are going to procure apples from Kullu district too," Mahajan said. Earlier, the company was concentrating only on Shimla district.

Besides Adani, other prominent private trading houses eyeing procurement of apples are Concor's Fresh and Healthy, Mahindra and Mahindra, the first time entrant Mother Dairy and Dev Bhoomi.

To attract private investment in horticulture, the state government is providing land from this fiscal at a token lease money of Re 1 to those who intend to invest in controlled atmosphere stores in the rural areas.

Officials say Rs 1.25 lakh per tonne is the average cost for setting up a controlled atmosphere store with latest grading system.

To enforce standard cartons for marketing apples, the state has made it mandatory this year to use two sizes of cartons only -- 22.5 kg and 11 kg.

Himachal Pradesh's apple boom is credited to Satyanand (Samuel Evans Stokes Junior), an American missionary, who first introduced high quality apples in the Kothgarh-Thanedar belt in upper Shimla in the early 1920s.

His daughter-in-law, Horticulture Minister Vidya Stokes, now manages most of the family's orchards.-IANS Back













SC asks Centre to take quick decision on fate of Delhi Assembly

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court today asked the Centre to take a decision on dissolution of Delhi Assembly "one way or another" within five weeks, questioning it for continuing to keep the house in suspended animation when no party is coming forward to form the government.

"One party says it does not want to form government.

Other says it cannot. Third party has no strength. In a situation like this why should people suffer?" it asked.

A five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Justice H L Dattu also asked as why MLAs be paid from taxpayers' money for sitting idle due to assembly kept in suspended animation.

The apex court asked Additional Solicitor General P L Narasimha to convey the "feeling" of the court on the issue to appropriate authority.

"I think they(authorities) will take a decision," Justice Dattu said while adjourning the plea of Aam Aadmi Party for dissolution of assembly for five weeks.

"Why should tax payers money be paid to legislators who are not doing anything? Authority concerned should think and act," the bench also comprising justices J Chelameswar, A K Sikri, R K Agrawal and Arun Mishra said.

It asked the Centre what steps it has taken to explore the possibility of government formation during the last five months. President's rule was imposed on Delhi on February 17 with no party coming forward coming forward to stake claim for government formation after AAP government headed by leader Arvind Kejriwal resigned.

"We are not looking at political party before us. We are looking at the Delhi citizen's point of view...he may say he has elected a representative and he is drawing salary from taxpayers' money and sitting idle," the bench said.

It, however, turned down the plea of AAP which submitted that apex court should pass order so that elections in Delhi are held along with that of four other states later this year.

The apex court said it is for the appropriate authority to take a decision. 

The petition filed by AAP sought a direction to the Lt Governor to dissolve Delhi Assembly and hold fresh polls.

It has challenged the decision to impose President's rule in Delhi on the recommendation of LG Najeeb Jung alleging that it was done to protect Congress leaders and former Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit from corruption charges.

The petition has said the order to impose President's rule was "illegal, arbitrary and in violation" of Article 14 of the Constitution as after the resignation of Arvind Kejriwal government neither BJP nor Congress were in a position to form the government and they had already expressed their unwillingness in this regard.

It has further raised constitutional questions to keep the assembly under suspended animation by ignoring the categorical recommendation of the majority government of the NCT of Delhi for dissolving the House.

BJP had emerged the single largest party after the assembly polls in December last year with 32 seats including ally Akali Dal's one MLA in the 70-member House.

BJP fell four seats short of a simple majority and had refused to form government, saying it did not have the numbers and will not resort to any "unfair means" to take the reins.

AAP with 28 MLAs had later formed the government with support of eight Congress MLAs. AAP's strength has also come down to 27 after expulsion of party MLA Vinod Kumar Binny.

BJP's number came down to 28 in the House in May after three of its legislators Harsh Vardhan, Ramesh Bidhuri and Pervesh Verma were elected to Lok Sabha. With the resignation of three MLAs, the strength of the assembly also went down to 67. - PTI


















Pak violates ceasefire, Indian troops retaliate

JAMMU: In first ceasefire violation this month, Pakistani troops on Tuesday targeted Indian forward posts with small arms and automatic weapons along the Line of Control in Poonch district of Jammu and Kashmir, prompting Indian forces to retaliate.

"Pakistani troops opened unprovoked small arms firing at forward posts in Poonch district of Jammu and Kashmir around 1:30 hours today," PRO Defence Lt Col Manish Mehta said here.

The Indian army troops took positions and responded with equal caliber weapons to Pakistan's firing which resulted in intermittent exchanges of fire, he said.

"There was no loss of life or damage to property in the firing on this side of LoC," Lt Col Mehta said.

The firing, the first in the month of August, was done by Pakistan's 641 Mujahid Regiment on Indian Posts in Sher Shakti forward belt in Poonch sector.

General Officer Commanding (GOC) of Nagrota-based 16 Corps, Lieutenant General K H Singh had recently said that the Indian army has been directed to give a befitting reply to Pakistani troops over ceasefire violations, firing and infiltration attempts from across the border.

Eight ceasefire violations by Pakistan were witnessed in July. In June, it violated the ceasefire five times along the LoC and IB in Jammu region. There were 19 incidents of ceasefire violation along the LoC in April-May. –PTI
















49 Army personnel killed in counter-insurgency ops in J-K

NEW DELHI: Forty-nine Indian Army personnel were killed in counter-insurgency and counter-infiltration operations in Jammu and Kashmir in the last three years, Rajya Sabha was informed on Tuesday.

In a written reply to a query in the Upper House, Defence Minister Arun Jaitley said 49 Army personnel were martyred in Jammu and Kashmir during operations in the last three years.

The Minister said the force has evolved a counter-infiltration strategy which is executed in synergy with the state government.

Meanwhile, answering another query, Jaitley said the government has spent Rs 4.95 lakh crore to procure equipment for the Army in the last ten years.

The figures provided by the Minister suggest that the highest amount to be spent on procurements would be in 2014-15 as the Government has allocated Rs 75,148.03 crore for this purpose.

To a query on exercises with friendly foreign countries, Jaitley said in last three years, India has conducted 76 war games with nations including Russia, America, China, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Oman, Singapore and Seychelles. -PTI


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