Thursday, January 8, 2015

Starred Articles

NITI Aayog replaces Planning Commission
India > NITI Aayog > Jan 01
The socialist-era Planning Commission was today replaced by a new think-tank called the NITI Aayog (National Institution for Transforming India). The new body will be headed by the Prime Minister and will have all Chief Ministers as members in a broad-based Governing Council to involve states in contributing towards national development goals. The body will have a Vice Chairperson and a CEO in addition to five full-time members and two part-time members, while four union ministers would serve as ex-officio members. Noted economist Arvind Panagariya will be the first Vice-Chairman of NITI Aayog. Regional councils will be formed to address specific issues and contingencies impacting more than one state. The NITI Aayog will also have experts, specialists and practitioners with relevant domain knowledge as special invitees nominated by the Prime Minister. The body will serve as a ‘Think Tank’ of the government, as “a directional and policy dynamo” and would provide the central and state governments with strategic and technical advice on key policy matters including economic issues of national and international importance.

Two Pakistani vessels with terror designs intercepted in the Arabian Sea
India > Terrorism > Jan 04
In the early hours of Friday 1st January, 2015 two suspicious looking boats were intercepted by the Indian coast guard in the Arabian Sea. Wireless communication interception made Indian authorities believe the boats were being occupied by terrorists, as the handlers were trying to communicate with their contacts in Pakistan including Pakistan’s maritime authorities and the Pakistan army. One of the boats got away as it was travelling in internationals waters, but the second one after being followed by the coast guard, blew up as it was carrying explosives. India's security forces and the government claimed that it had averted a 26/11-style attack.
India’s defence minister Manohar Parikkar has confirmed that the boat indeed was being handled by terrorists and not smugglers as claimed by authorities in Pakistan. He further said everything will be confirmed after the complete analysis of the incident. The ruling BJP party further slammed the Congress for questioning the defence ministry’s claim that it had averted a terror attack. It accused the Congress of doing politics over terror and said that the Congress was trying to demoralize the security forces of the country. The BJP’s sharp reaction came after Congress raised doubts over the Pakistani boat incident and told the government to come clean and name the terrorist organization involved in the incident.

PIOs to get life-long visas as President signs Citizenship Ordinance
Politics & Government > Visa for PIOs > Jan 06
The government has passed an ordinance that aims at merging Person of Indian Origin (PIO) and Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) schemes, by which PIOs will also get life-long Indian visa. The Citizenship Ordinance has been signed by Pranab Mukherjee, the President of India.
The ordinance will give them benefits like life-long visa and exemption from appearing before the local police station on every visit. The government had received complaints from PIOs regarding stringent visa norms that debarred them from buying property in India, in comparison to those holding Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) card. PIO cardholders were eligible for only 15-year visas in comparison to lifelong visas given to those having OCI cards. The ordinance keeps Prime Minister Narendra Modi's promise to the crowd of Indian origins in New York of merging the two schemes.

US denies reports of disbursement of aid to Pakistan on the Kerry Lugar act
World > Pakistan > Jan 06
The US recently denied Pakistan’s reports that the U.S. Congress had cleared $532 million to Pakistan on the Kerry Lugar Act that needs certification on action against terror groups such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad. It was also suspected that under the Kerry-Lugar Bill, Washington is pumping in more civilian aid to Islamabad. The reports had triggered negative response from India. According to US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki, no aid has been disbursed to Pakistan since 2013. Psaki further said the Congress was neither notified of the request nor it approved of any request.
Mr. Kerry is going to attend the Vibrant Gujarat summit this weekend, and is expected to meet PM Modi separately as well.


Thousands flee border villages in J & K to escape Pakistani firing
India > Indo-Pak Border Firing > Jan 06
Fresh rounds of firing around the international border by Pakistani rangers have forced thousands of villagers to abandon their homes and flee to makeshift shelters set up by the government. Mortars and shells were raining down on the border villages of Galaad, Bain, Pahad Pur, Boiobian and Pansar and the police were trying to get as many people out to safer places as they could in their bullet proof cars. Reports said the number of people who have abandoned their homes in border villages has already crossed 10,000. India and Pakistan accuse each other of violating the 2003 ceasefire agreement which intensified after the BJP-led government at the Centre called off its foreign secretary-level talks with Pakistan.
Meanwhile, the Border Security Force (BSF) has foiled another attempt, fifth such attempt since New Year’s Eve, by Pakistan-based militants to infiltrate into Jammu and Kashmir, under the cover of dense fog and firing by the Pakistani army.

Jagtar Singh ‘Tara’, former Punjab CM Beant Singh’s assassin, arrested from Thailand
India > Jagtar Singh Tara > Jan 06
Jagtar Singh 'Tara', former Punjab CM Beant Singh's assassin, was arrested in Thailand on Monday. Tara was nabbed by Thai authorities on a tip-off about his movements by the Punjab Police. As per reports, he was arrested from the house of a man who was sheltering Tara at the behest of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency. Jagtar Singh 'Tara', who broke away from the Babbar Khalsa to form his own terror outfit 'Khalistan Tiger Force', was one of the masterminds in the brutal assassination of Beant Singh by a human bomb outside Punjab Secretariat in Chandigarh on August 31, 1995. Besides Beant Singh, 17 others had lost their lives in the blast. Tara and other assassins - Paramjit Singh Bheora and Jagtar Singh Hawara, along with their accomplice Dev Singh made a sensational escape from high-security Burail jail in Chandigarh in 2004. They reportedly dug a nearly 100 feet long tunnel with their bare hands from their barrack to a spot outside the jail. While Hawara and Bheora were later nabbed from Nepal, Tara and Dev Singh had slipped into Pakistan. Dev Singh is still believed to be in Pakistan.

Sunanda Pushkar's murder case gets a 'politically motivated' twist
India > Sunanda Pushkar > Jan 06
The New Delhi police have registered a case of murder against unknown persons in the death of Sunanda Pushkar, the wife of then minister of state for human resource development, Shashi Tharoor.
According to a medical report from AIIMS, she was poisoned and the poison was either administered to her by mouth or injection. A recent report from AIIMS states that the intake of acetaminophen (a paracetamol) with alcohol resulted in the death of Sunanda. The doctors claim that the administration of the drug can be suicidal as well as homicidal and it was up to the police to come out with the truth. As per the preliminary report by AIIMS, Sunanda's body had 15 injuries, all of them caused within 12 hours before her death. All the injuries were caused by blunt force.

BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj says every Hindu woman must produce four kids to protect Hindu religion
Politics & Government > BJP > Jan 06
The controversial statements made by some hardliners associated with BJP have overshadowed Modi's agenda to push through reforms to boost economic growth of India. BJP had to face considerable flak in both houses of Parliament for its alleged involvement with right-wing organisations like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh ( RSS) in the 'ghar wapsi' programme.
On a recent occasion, while addressing a gathering on the occasion of Sant Samaagam Mahotsava, BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj sparked a new controversy by saying that the concept of four wives and 40 children will not work in India and that all Hindu women must produce at least four children in order to protect Hindu religion. He further added that punishment of death must be given to those involved in conversion and a law will be passed in Parliament in which anyone indulging in cow slaughter and conversion will be punished with the death sentence.
He was previously condemned for supporting the killer of Mahatma Gandhi, Nathuram Godse. Sakshi Maharaj called Nathuram Godse a nationalist while mentioning at the same time that Gandhiji also did a lot for the nation. However, as a row emerged, Sakshi quietly backtracked and denied calling Nathuram a patriot.

Those born in Nagaland will not get Tatkal passport
India > Nagaland > Jan 06
Those born in Nagaland cannot apply for a Tatkal passport and if they already have a passport under general category, they will be called by the Nagaland police to sign some documents.
The FAQs section of the “Tatkal Passports” states that the Indian citizens of J&K and Nagaland will require additional processing time. Additionally, it says J&K residents who have lived outside the state for five years or more and who have valid migration certificates can apply under Tatkal. But "Naga origins residing outside Nagaland" can't get this facility. The chief passport officer and a senior official in the ministry of external affairs were not aware of the technical aspects of this rule, when asked for an explanation for the rule.

Punjab HC grants inmates the right to have sex with their partners
India > Others > Jan 07
In a landmark judgement, the Punjab and Haryana high court has granted jail inmates the right to have sex with their legal partners. According to the court, where in today's society issues such as gay rights and the recognition of a third gender are widely debated and held important, the issue of inmates having the right to indulge in conjugal visits for the sake of childbirth is also valid. The court however, has set certain conditions to such conjugal visits and ordered prison authorities to keep a check.

PM Modi calls for swift response and legal action against offenders to stop pollution of the Ganga
Politics and Government > Namaami Gange Project > Jan 07
Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired a high-level meeting to focus on the ‘Namaami Gange’ project, undertaken to conserve the Ganga, and called for strict legal action against industrial units polluting the river. The PM also stressed on time-bound and swift action to stop pollution of the river. The PM said that the project should focus primarily on two main areas - urban sewage and industrial effluents to control pollution at the source. A total of 764 grossly polluting industrial units have been identified along the stretch of the Ganga. Tanneries, pulp and paper and sugar industries comprise three-fourth of this number. Mr. Modi said that industries should be motivated to recycle industrial waste and stop pollution, failing which action should be initiated against them. The PM also mooted the idea of setting up modern, environment-friendly crematoria along the Ganga, through private initiative and enterprise. Steps were underway to operationalize the Ganga Vahini – a group of volunteers to help end pollution of the river. The NDA has submitted a three phase plan spanning for nearly 18 years at `51,000 crore to clean the river. The short-term plan is slated to take off in the next six months.

'Every child is born Muslim' says AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi
India > AIMIM Leader > Jan 07
AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi hit out at right-wing Hindu outfits, stirring the controversy over ‘ghar wapsi’ programme. Owaisi said that “Every child is born a Muslim. His parents and society convert him to other religions,” Owaisi’s statement is seen as a payback to Hindu organisations which have been claiming that ancestors of all Indians were Hindus. Some political parties reacted strongly to Owaisi's statement calling it a “stunt” to get votes. On receiving the criticism, he said that his comments are a part of his “belief system” and in a democratic system he was free to express his views.


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