Kolkata: High levels of humidity has been causing discomfort for city dwellers for the past couple of days. The situation will continue till early next month, when Monsoon is expected to hit the state. There may be some temporary relief to the people on Sunday or Monday due to thundershower.Intense heat wave prevailed in most parts of South Bengal on Thursday, with several districts reeling under the intense hot and humid condition. The Regional Meteorological Centre in Alipore has already issued a heat wave warning in the Western districts. The Met office has advised people to avoid exposure to heat. Heat wave is prevailing in the districts like West Midnapore, Jhargram, Purulia, Bankura, Birbhum and West Burdwan. “The intense spell is likely to affect the health of infants and elderly people in the region. They should avoid stepping out in the heat,” the MeT office said. Also Read – City bids adieu to Goddess DurgaThe mercury in some of the Western districts touched 42 degree Celsius on Thursday. As the humidity level shot up as well, people were seen perspiring heavily, leading to dehydration. It may be mentioned here that the entire South Bengal has continued to burn under the scorching sun for the past one week, resulting in discomfort for the city dwellers. The weather office predicted that thunderstorm may bring some respite to the people in the city and South Bengal districts from the intense heat spell in a few days. Also Read – Centuries-old Durga Pujas continue to be hit among revellers”People in the city may get temporary relief from the heat spell on Sunday or Monday as a thunderstorm coupled with rains is expected to hit South Bengal. Monsoon is expected to enter the state next month,” a weather official said. In the meantime, the maximum humidity level in South Bengal districts will hover around 80-85 percent. Due to the high-humidity level, the temperature feel will be more than the real temperature. Many people coming out of their houses in the scorching sun were found to have covered their faces with scarves in the city on Thursday. A sizeable number of people preferred to stay indoors, particularly in the afternoon hours.
Kolkata: Two persons have been arrested for the murder of Trinamool leader Nirmal Kundu, who was shot dead in Nimta on Tuesday evening. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is set to visit his family on Thursday.On Tuesday night, police detained a person identified as Suman Kundu, who admitted that he hired a contract killer to murder Nirmal. After interrogating him, cops nabbed the contract killer Sujoy Das from Uttarpara. According to sources, Suman was a Trinamool worker in Nimta. He joined the BJP a few months ago before the Lok Sabha elections. Also Read – City bids adieu to Goddess DurgaThe police said Suman had some personal and political rivalry with Nirmal. On Wednesday, it found from a CCTV footage that Nirmal was having a chat with some local residents when two persons on a bike fired two shots at him and fled. After observing the footage, cops were sure that an expert shooter was involved in the crime as the youth in CCTV footage was seen using a small firearm and he shot the TMC leader on a speeding bike. During preliminary investigation, the police came to know about the rivalry between Nirmal and Suman. During questioning, Suman confessed to crime and said he had hired Sujoy, who belonged to Burwan in Murshidabad. Cops found his mobile number and tracked him down from Uttarpara by using his phone location. Police claimed that they were not sure about the motive behind the murder but Trinamool leadership claimed that he was being threatened and targeted by the BJP as he was an active Trinamool member. Also Read – Centuries-old Durga Pujas continue to be hit among revellersNirmal was actively involved in poll-related work in Birati and Nimta areas. He was known to all and confronted the BJP in his area. “We have arrested two persons in connection with Nirmal’s murder. A few more persons might be involved in the incident. A search is on to nab them. A single-shoter and three rounds of bullet have been seized from the contract killer. To ensure that the bullet was fired from the seized firearm, ballistic test will be done,” said Ananda Roy, Deputy Commissioner (DC), Zone II of Barracakpore Police. MP from Dum Dum constituency Saugata Roy, said: “The BJP was targeting Nirmal as he was an active worker of Trinamool.”
New Delhi: Delhiites woke up to a pleasant Wednesday morning with the minimum temperature settling at 24.2 degrees Celsius, four notches below the season’s average. Humidity was recorded at 58 per cent. The weatherman has forecast partly cloudy sky with the possibility of thundery developments towards the afternoon and evening. The maximum temperature is likely to settle at 38 degrees Celsius. The temperature is likely to rise over the next few days, a MeT Department official said. He said there is a possibility of thundery development on June 24 and rain on June 25. The national capital recorded a maximum temperature of 35 degrees Celsius and a minimum temperature of 20.6 degrees Celsius on Tuesday.
The government recently put out the draft for its New Education Policy (NEP). It is clearly ambitious but alarming as well. Considering the drastic changes that it is projecting for the existing system, it would seem that the current education system in India has completely broken down. Education in India has been a constant battle of resources and possibly of short-sightedness to keep abreast of the changing environment. It has been caught in a quagmire that is based on the inability to provide adequate infrastructure for an impossibly large population. Despite that, we have nurtured some of the best scholars, scientists, economists and thinkers in the world. The era of the ‘Brain drain’ where the best migrate to other countries for want of economic opportunities in India continues even today. Many Indians from the current education system are being mandated for the top positions of large global corporations. Justice Madan Lokur, who retired from the Supreme Court of India, been invited to join the Supreme Court of New Zealand is a recent example. Clearly, the education system in India has not entirely failed. Also Read – A special kind of bondYes, of course, our education needs to be improved because improvement is the essence of progress. Whether we like it or not, global realities are changing and technology is changing the way we function. We need an education policy that is realistic, understands the emerging needs of the industry and society, and fosters skills required to be more competitive in an economically deprived lifestyle that we are facing in India. The government has the responsibility to make decisions and policies that are based on practical realities and unbiased root cause analysis, not personal ideologies. NEP draft could well be the first indicator of how serious the government is in its root cause analysis and how the political mandate is going to shape the new India. Also Read – Insider threat managementThe NEP may be new but there is really little in it that is new. Most of the deliverables mentioned in the policy, including the moral values, scientific temper, and pride in heritage are ones that I have internalised during my own educational journey in life in the existing education system. However, what I find new and certainly very welcoming is the emphasis on pedagogy reforms for ‘Learning how to learn’ and the realisation that preschool plays a very critical role in creating a foundation for life-long learning, impacting the adult life of a child. Though it is native intelligence today, it is perhaps the first official acceptance in educational policies that early brain development starts happening during the preschool years. While the emphasis on preschool years and the emphasis to learn pedagogy are critical, they are the most difficult to handle. My own experience is that it will demand a mammoth effort, training, and reorientation of the faculty even while ensuring that the faculty itself stays abreast of global developments. I have been working with some of my colleagues on both these issues over the past few years; as a mentor to a preschool and as an academic advisor to established management schools. The effort has been to move away from rote learning and to experiment with reconstructing some of the existing courses so that we could help students focus on learning rather than just grasp knowledge. The emphasis is also on conducting training labs where we engage with students to help them understand how to learn. Though results have been outstanding, this process is very demanding and the faculty also had to work harder. The NEP is misleading. It sounds pragmatic and well-intentioned. But when you start going into the granular details of the thought process, contradictions in the educational policy start kicking-in. Let us look at the vision for the NEP which itself raises questions. “The NEP 2019 envisions an India centred education system that contributes directly to transforming our nation sustainably into an equitable and vibrant knowledge society, by providing high-quality education to all”. The fault lines that stand out immediately are in the emphasis on ‘India specific’ and ‘Equitable’. Education is an absolute and universal understanding of the world around us and the purpose should only be to create awareness, develop a scientific temper and the ability to question so that we can use our knowledge to better the existing. The emphasis on India centred is unnecessary and only creates interpretational issues and raises the red flag for possible ideological bias, which should not have any place in education. Further, education cannot be equitable though we could strive to make education accessible. The focus appears to be more social and political rather than developing capabilities that would foster economic growth and employment. It says education and schools are not ‘marketable products’ because that concentrates power in the hands of schools vis-à-vis users. Yet, when it starts talking about higher education and globalisation of education, the policy clearly states that a systematic brand-building campaign will be undertaken for attracting students from abroad which is marketing after all. The fact is that there is nothing wrong in allowing education to be a profit-making industry as long as the quality of education is ensured. The preamble to what the NEP is supposed to do is interesting to read, even though tiresome. It covers everything from how good and holistic India’s traditional education system was and the need to preserve that. It recognises India’s diverse culture and talks of the need to preserve that even as it accepts that the future is changing fast and we need to be prepared for that. Yet, it wants to make the knowledge economy equitable. We seem to forget that India has changed since ancient times. We are now a huge population with extreme disparity and the traditional gurukul system will require mammoth modifications before it can become effective. The more I read the preamble itself, the more concerned I become. NEP is relying majorly on the ability to create effective school infrastructure and ensuring the participation of local communities and volunteer involvement on an unpaid basis. From a situation today where we have inadequately trained teachers even on a paid basis, we are wanting to take unpaid and untrained volunteers as key pillars for success, especially on a mass scale. Are we even geared to overcome the gigantic problems that could be created when untrained people teach kids? India is a very diverse country where every region has deep-seated views, and many of them are actually archaic and negative. The proposed switch from 10+2 system to a 5+3+3+4 system has some progressive elements but is still highly debatable. While indicating some understanding of the educational journey, it needs to delve deeper. We are starting to micromanage the system. Preschool by its very terminology is the stage before you get into the schooling system and needs to be stress-free. If the objective is, and correctly so, to follow a play-based, activity-based and discovery-based learning in the preschool years, then the stipulation that all children from preschool must start learning three or more languages is counterproductive to the concept of the preschool. The moment we club it with the foundation years as ‘5’ or first stage of formal schooling, we are already putting the child and the parents into the schooling trap. Switching to a pedagogy that allows students in the ‘+4’ stage to make their life decisions is hasty. It is all very well to say that education must come hand in hand with student empowerment and choice. Students also need guidance, especially in Indian society. We need to acknowledge that most children in grade 9 today are still struggling with themselves and almost certainly do not know what they want in life. To expect them to go through fundamental courses across a wide multitude of subjects in 8 semesters is likely to be inadequate for them to identify their long term interests and could possibly end up being more stressful than the current educational system. The proposed NEP is taking holistic development to an extreme when it stipulates that there should be no extracurricular and co-curricular activities and that all activities should be treated as curricular. We need to stay clear on the core activities of the learning process and the support activities. The process of ‘Learning to learn’ needs to focus and as underscored in our traditional thinking, should remain concentrated on the eye of the fish. The role of the extracurricular activities is to make us capable in mind, body, and spirit to achieve that concentration and focus. It should not be a part of the curriculum or an end in itself in education. While there is some merit in the NEP document, it fails on the simple and well-researched premise that any document, especially a policy document should meet. When you put the vision, policy highlights and recommendations next to each other in one-page summary, only then will you see the clear logic and alignment with the vision. The NEP draft is over 450 pages and laborious to go through, perhaps deliberately. I am not a policymaker but only a professional who has studied and worked in India and watched with dismay how lightly we set out visions without much debate and create policies that are like straws in the wind. I believe that education policy should not be a dream of utopia. Instead, it needs to achieve specific objectives realistically, utilising the resources available and creating a framework to overcome challenges. It is good to see an emphasis on ethics and moral values but when the same document does not mention Nehru amongst the great Indians of history, the document undermines its own credibility. Nehru is a key architect of modern India, irrespective of whether you believe in his ideology or not. Such bias in educational policy is ominous. I really hope that this draft policy will go through careful deliberations. India is now too big to be following an education policy that is largely dependent for its success on society and unpaid volunteers. It needs a vision, a strategy and an accountability mechanism to accomplish the vision. The vision cannot be a dream that is floated in clouds. It needs to be sharper. My own vision for education in India is as follows: ” To create a vibrant knowledge society that embraces the best in scientific and traditional temper to create a sustainable economy and social structure, where the mind is liberated through education and encourages the ability to question, explore, innovate and accelerate emotional and material progress”. Our failure on the current academic front is primarily in the vacuum that exists today in the quality and purpose of education and the inability to relate it to jobs and economic prosperity–cause of dropouts and gross enrolment ratios for schools. Neither of these issues has been tackled or addressed in the real sense. The NEP is an all-inclusive utopian document that presumes extensive community support, without remuneration, and a proliferation of institutions and educational complexes when there is already a severe gap in teaching resources even for existing institutions. There is nothing innovative or out of the box about the policy that should make us sit up with excitement and say Eureka! (Himanshu Manglik is founder and mentor of WALNUT CAP Consulting LLP. The views expressed are strictly personal)
New Delhi: On orders from the National Green Tribunal, the SDMC has started work on developing a park at C-block in Mayapuri, which recently saw a sealing drive turn violent. The development work on the park was started after the clearing the area of encroachment over the weekend. During this drive, roadside jhuggis were removed and service lanes and footpaths were made encroachment-free. SDMC has taken the initiative to start by developing lawns and planting trees. The beautification will follow with installation of benches, dustbins, lights, and a fitness trail.
Lahore: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Maryam Nawaz Thursday released two more video clips to corroborate her claim that a judge met a PML-N supporter to confess that he was “blackmailed and forced” to convict former premier Nawaz Sharif in a corruption case. Sharif, 69, has been serving a seven-year prison term at the Kot Lakhpat Jail in Lahore since December 24, 2018 when Accountability Court Judge Arshad Malik convicted him in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills case – one of the three cases filed in the wake of the apex court’s July 28, 2017 order in Panama Papers case. Also Read – Imran Khan arrives in China, to meet Prez Xi JinpingUploading two video clips on Twitter on Judge Malik’s meeting with PML-N sympathiser Nasir Butt at the former’s residence, Maryam on Wednesday said: “Judge Malik’s official car with a green number plate comes to escort Nasir Butt who then follows the car to Judge’s residence. (It) belies all claims of Judge Malik that he mentioned in his press release.” Maryam tweeted a second video which she claimed shows Butt entering the judge’s residence. “Judge Malik comes in, greets Butt & switches the lights on,” she tweeted. Also Read – US blacklists 28 Chinese entities over abuses in XinjiangMaryam released a video clip on Saturday purportedly showing Judge Malik allegedly confessing that he was “blackmailed and forced” to convict Sharif in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills case. The following day Judge Malik termed the video “fabricated and false” and said it was made by twisting his conversations on different occasions. “The videos showed during the press conference were fake and based on lies and assumptions. Therefore, legal action should be taken against those individuals involved in this,” Malik said in press release. Maryam dismissed Malik’s rebuttal, saying like his verdict he issued clarification under pressure. “The judge sahib is helpless and a hostage. We rather sympathise with him,” she said. She also said that she will release more videos related to this saga. After the release of the first video Maryam was summoned by the accountability court (Islamabad) for a fake trust deed related to the properties in court. The notice asked Maryam or her counsel to appear before court on July 19 to respond to the application filed by the NAB seeking initiation of proceedings against her for presenting the fake’ trust deed before the investigation team and the judge of the accountability court. “I do not want to lose a chance to expose the misdeeds of the selected government before the people of Pakistan. I will present irrefutable facts before the court in this respect,” Maryam said, referring to the notice. “They want to either arrest or put me under house arrest at any cost. After failing to find anything against me they have reopened a case in which I had been handed down a sentence which the high court had suspended. This (case) is illegal. Therefore, it will not work,” she further said.
Every girl wears bras, all-day, every day. So naturally, there’s a lot of talk about what’s good and what’s bad with it, how to take care of your bra, which is the perfect bra for you (your size) and much more. Be it from ill-informed relatives or bragging friends at sleepovers, many people thrive on myths. Read this article to find the most popular bra myths get busted.Big boobs can’t help but spill over cups: Just because you have bigger boobs doesn’t mean you have to deal with boob spillage. It’s normal to have a little peek-a-boob on the side of your bra. However, you shouldn’t be spilling excessively over all sides of your cup. A lot of spillage is the result of wearing a cup size that’s too small. Also Read – An income drop can harm brain You don’t have to wash your bra that often: How come no one ever says that about underwear? To be honest, your bra needs to be washed after every wearing, just like with your panties, or the dirt and oils from the skin can break down the elasticity in the fabric. In any brand’s lingerie care rules, you will find more about how to take care of your delicates. White shirt? You can only wear a white bra with it: This is the most silliest myth at with almost every girl has stuck with since school! It’s actually the contrary. A white bra would probably stick out worse than a dark coloured one. You should stick with shades closer to your skin tone like nudes, pale pinks or light browns. Also Read – Shallu Jindal honoured with Mahatma Award The underwire can cause cancer: There is no scientific proof for the claim that a bra can cause cancer. Be it dark colours or underwires, there is no way that your bra can trigger breast cancer. So, ladies, feel free to wear your sexy bra every day (in every single colour of the spectrum). Your bra is the same size for every brand: Since it’s quite a task to figure the perfect bra size, we all take comfort in thinking that the same should work everywhere. However, different brands have different sizes for different bras. These sizes are determined on the basis of the model’s body type. And each brand has its own ‘fit model’. So, it’s always good to measure yourself and check. (Inputs by Lakshmi Subramaniam, Senior Product and Design Manager, Zivame.com)
Kolkata: Expressing shock at the ‘untimely’ demise of former External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar on Wednesday described it as a ‘personal loss’.”The nation lost a prolific orator, outstanding Parliamentarian, an acclaimed leader admired and revered across political and social spectrum. A lawyer of eminence who enriched all walks of public life,” Dhankhar said in a condolence message. He said Sushma Swaraj’s significant contributions in public life evoked admiration and has left an indelible imprint on global polity. Also Read – Bengal family worships Muslim girl as Goddess Durga in Kumari Puja”She was a politician who lived like a statesman. She epitomised dignity, courage, integrity in public life. I always noticed in her sublimity and humility. She will ever be remembered for her service to the people of India,” he said, conveying his condolences to the bereaved family, friends and her followers. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stalwart Sushma Swaraj, 67, passed away in Delhi on Tuesday night due to a cardiac arrest. Even the Bengali film fraternity mourned the death of Swaraj. Many of them poured their hearts out on social media for the leader’s rationality and warmth. “She was and she will always be a strong leader… her dignified personality always thought for the welfare of the people… it’s indeed shocking to know about her sudden demise… my condolences to the family… RIP Sushma Swaraj Ji,” Bengali superstar Prosenjit Chatterjee tweeted. Also Read – Bengal civic volunteer dies in road mishap on national highwayDev Adhikari, filmstar and Trinamool Congress MP, too expressed grief over her untimely demise. “This is a true loss. One of the finest leaders the country has seen, and an even better human being. You will be missed by many, beyond ideologies or barriers. You shall be remembered and celebrated forever. R.I.P. #sushmaswaraj,” he wrote. For National Award-winning actress Rituparna Sengupta the news came as a shock. “Really shocked to hear. Former Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj passes away at 67. My sincere prayers and condolences on her sudden demise. #sushmaswaraj #ironlady,” Sengupta wrote. Director Srijit Mukherji, known for films like Autograph and Chotushkone, appreciated the former BJP leader’s contribution for the people. “Have seldom seen such across the board (party lines, age groups) mourning for a politician even on the usual sugar coating and amnesia-inducing occasion of death. Goes to show how you can touch so many lives as a politician by actually working for the people and making a difference. RIP Sushma Swaraj,” he tweeted. Actor Parambrata Chatterjee wrote, “She symbolised sanity, rationality and warmth, in a political atmosphere that’s fast being taken over by imposed masculinity. #RIPSushmaSwaraj”. With agency inputs
Kolkata: Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee asserted on Sunday that people have the right to know what happened to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. It was the same day in 1945 when Netaji reportedly went missing.”On this day, in 1945, Netaji went on a flight from Taihoku Airport in Taiwan, only to disappear forever. We still do not know what happened to him. People have a right to know about the great son of the soil,” Banerjee tweeted. She added that the whereabouts of Netaji after he “disappeared” on August 18, 1945, are still not known. Also Read – Bengal family worships Muslim girl as Goddess Durga in Kumari PujaThe Mamata Banerjee led Trinamool Congress government had declassified 64 files on Netaji in 2015, which were with the state Home department. Several reports have claimed that Netaji had boarded a plane from Taihoku Airport in Taiwan, which crashed leading to the death of the great leader. However, experts from time to time have come up with different theories about his disappearance and there has been no confirmation of his death. Researcher and author Anuj Dhar has claimed that Japanese officers including Major-General Saburo Isoda, who headed the Hikari Kikan (Japanese liaison office responsible for Japanese relations with the Azad Hind Government), had discussed how to send Bose to Soviet Russia. The next day, Netaji reportedly died in the plane crash. “Was this a smokescreen for his escape?” he tweeted. Also Read – Bengal civic volunteer dies in road mishap on national highway”Was #NetajiSubhasChandraBose burnt to death after air crash? Was he tortured and killed in Russia? Or did he return home as Gumnami Baba?! When #Gumnaami is released this October, you will get closer to unraveling India’s most enduring mystery. #subhashchandrabose,” he posted. The Centre from time to time had constituted panels like the Shah Nawaz Committee in 1956, the Khosla Commission in 1970 and the Mukherjee Commission in 2005, to shed light on the mysteries surrounding the disappearance of Netaji, but none could render any answer. “There are many inconsistencies about Netaji’s death. It’s imperative for the Central government to disclose the truth to stop spreading untruth,” said Chandra Kumar Bose, a descendant of Netaji. Bose has also appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi through his Twitter handle to appeal to Abe Shinzo to release 3 critical files held by Japan to solve the mystery behind Netaji’s death. “This is essential to eliminate the false propaganda spread by various people projecting Netaji as Babas,” he tweeted. It may be mentioned that on September 2016, the Narendra Modi government had declassified investigative reports of the Japanese government which concluded that Bose had died in a plane crash in Taiwan.
New Delhi: The National Company Law Appellate (NCLAT) on Thursday gave Vikram Bakshi, estranged Indian partner of McDonald’s, a “last chance” to settle his dispute with state-run HUDCO, which is claiming Rs 195-crore dues from him. Bakshi has transferred his shares in Connaught Plaza Restaurants Pvt Ltd (CPRL), which operates McDonald’s chain in north and east India, to the US-based fast food major and both are seeking to withdraw cases filed against each other before the NCLAT after entering into an out-of-court settlement. Also Read – Thermal coal import may surpass 200 MT this fiscalHowever, the move was contested by the Housing and Urban Development Corporation (HUDCO). The NCLAT has also asked to cooperate with Bakshi and try to reach a final settlement. A two-member NCLAT bench headed by chairperson Justice S J Mukhopadhaya also said that failing to which, the appellate tribunal would start hearing the appeals and pass an order. “By way of last chance, Vikram Bakshi is given opportunity to settle the matter with HUDCO, failing which the appeals may be heard on merit,” said the NCLAT. It further said: “It is desirable that HUDCO also takes step in their interest, to settle the matter with Bakshi, instead of prolonging the litigation before any forum.” During the proceedings, the NCLAT chairman also suggested the parties to settle the matter and failing to which, he may pass an order directing the terms and condition for settlement.
Berlin: German police were investigating Sunday the assassination-style killing in a Berlin park of a Georgian former special forces commando and Chechnya war veteran. Police have arrested a 49-year-old suspect from Russia’s Chechnya republic over the shooting on Friday in the Kleiner Tiergarten park. The victim was identified as Zelimkhan Khangoshvili by Georgia’s Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center (EMC), and was aged 40, according to German prosecutors. Also Read – Saudi Crown Prince ‘snubbed’ Pak PM, recalled jet from USThe killer approached Khangoshvili from behind as he was on his way to a mosque, shot him twice and fled by bicycle in what one witness described as an “execution” style killing. “Khangoshvili died on the spot before an ambulance arrived,” the EMC said in a statement. Police divers later recovered a Glock handgun, a wig and bicycle from the nearby Spree river. A large sum of money was found in the home of the suspect, according to Tagesspiegel daily. Also Read – Record number of 35 candidates in fray for SL Presidential pollsThe victim was reportedly a veteran of the second Chechen War from 1999 to 2009, where he served as a field commander from 2001 to 2005, and later joined a Georgian counter-terrorist unit. In 2012, his Georgian special forces unit engaged in an operation against militants holding hostages in the remote Lopota gorge near the border with Russia’s Dagestan republic. German media said the murder was believed to be a revenge killing related to the victim’s military past. One of his sons said Khangoshvili, a father of five, had survived four previous attempts on his life. EMC said the last attack happened in May 2015 in Tbilisi when “unknown people shot him eight times while Khangoshvili was driving, but by chance he escaped death”. “The Khangoshvili family was forced to leave Georgia and seek refuge in another country.”
Pathankot: Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, the IAF pilot who became the face of a tense military confrontation between India and Pakistan in February, on Monday flew a sortie with Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa on a MiG 21 jet here. Photo-journalists and a video crew were taken inside the Pathankot air base to record the 30-minute sortie, seen as an attempt by the IAF to publicly acknowledge Varthaman’s bravery in shooting down a Pakistani F-16 jet during the February 27 aerial combat. Also Read – India gets first tranche of Swiss bank a/c details Both Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa and Varthaman, without his signature handlebar moustache, posed for photographs while standing on the cockpit of the twin-seater trainer aircraft. “It was an honour for me to fly with him,” the IAF chief, who is set to retire on September 30, said after the sortie which began at around 11.30 am. The IAF, in a tweet, said it was the last sortie flown by air chief in a fighter aircraft before his retirement. Also Read – Tourists to be allowed in J&K from ThursdayVarthaman, 36, was captured by the Pakistani Army after his MiG-21 Bison jet was shot down in the dogfight. Before his jet was hit, the IAF pilot downed an F-16 fighter of Pakistan. A number of foreign media reports doubted the assertion about downing the F-16 jet of Pakistan Air Force. The IAF strongly rejected the reports. Varthaman was released on the night of March 1 by Pakistan. He was taken off flying duties because of his injuries. The IAF chief said he, too, ejected from a combat jet in 1988 and had to wait for nine months to return to the fighter cockpit. “He (Varthaman) has got back his flying category in less than six months which is good,” said Dhanoa, adding it was his last sortie on a fighter jet before retirement. “Both of us ejected and both of us fought the Pakistanis,” he added. Varthaman returned to the fighter cockpit around two weeks ago after IAF’s Bengaluru-based Institute of Aerospace Medicine gave him the go-ahead to fly again following a thorough medical evaluation. As a young pilot, the Air Force chief flew the Mig 21 jet with Varthaman senior, Simhakutty Varthaman, who retired as air marshal. Air Marshal Simhakutty joined the IAF in 1973 and has around 4,000 hours of flying experience. Abhinandan Varthaman was conferred the Vir Chakra, the coveted wartime gallantry medal, for downing the F-16 jet of Pakistan during the aerial combat. The Vir Chakra is the third highest gallantry award after the Paramvir Chakra and the Mahavir Chakra. Days after he returned from Pakistan, Varthaman conveyed to the IAF brass his wish to return to fighter cockpit at the earliest. After he was captured, Varthaman came in for widespread praise from politicians, strategic affairs experts, celebrities and others for his courage and grace in handling the most difficult circumstances. The IAF pilot underwent a nearly two-week debriefing by security agencies following his return from Pakistan. IAF fighter jets bombed a Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist training camp in Balakot, deep inside Pakistan on February 26, nearly two weeks after the Pulwama strike. Pakistan retaliated on February 27 by attempting to target Indian military installations.
Los Angeles: Rescuers scrambled Monday to reach as many as 34 people trapped below the deck of a burning commercial scuba-dive boat off the coast of California, US Coast Guard officials said. Many were feared dead. Firefighters converged on the scene near Santa Cruz Island but the blaze and intense heat prevented them from breaching the hull of the 75-foot (23-meter) vessel to see if there were survivors, they said. “I’m unaware of any survivors at this time,” Coast Guard Petty Officer Aaron Bemis told CNN, adding that it was too early to confirm casualties. Also Read – Saudi Crown Prince ‘snubbed’ Pak PM, recalled jet from USBeamis said the fire broke out at around 3:15 am local time (1015 GMT) as passengers were below deck in a sleeping area. Five crew members who were in a cabin above deck made it off the boat, Beamis said. But those below deck, who he said were reported to number 34, had not been accounted for. “The fire was so intense that even after it was put out, we’re not able to actually embark the vessel and, you know, look for survivors at this point. It’s still ongoing,” he said.
New Delhi: The government on Tuesday rebuffed former prime minister Manmohan Singh’s criticism over handling of the economy, saying it does not subscribe to his analysis as India has now become the world’s fifth largest economy from 11th during his time.Earlier this week, Singh had said the state of economy was “deeply worrying” and urged the government to put aside “vendetta politics” and reach out to sane voices and thinking minds to steer the economy out of this “man-made crisis”. Also Read – Uddhav bats for ‘Sena CM'”We do not subscribe to what Manmohan Singh has analysed…India was 11th (largest) economy of the world. Now it is fifth and we are marching to be third,” I&B Minister Prakash Javadekar said here. He was responding a question regarding Singh’s comments regarding the economy. Amid the economic growth slowing to over six-year low of 5 per cent in the first quarter of the current fiscal, Javadekar further said the government was not looking at the economy in a piecemeal manner and has a comprehensive view. Also Read – Farooq demands unconditional release of all detainees in J&K”What we are doing is, being a responsive government, addressing the issues and we have seen this process in GST also. “The GST Council met every month and took relevant decisions and it is now fine-tuned. So that is the way how the people-friendly government works and that is how we are working,” he said. Last month, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced a slew of measures, including to boost liquidity in the NBFC sector, to push economic growth. The government has also announced to merge 10 public sector banks into four with an aim to catalyse credit, necessary for making India a USD 5 trillion economy in coming years.
LONDON: London’s High Court on Friday rejected a legal challenge against British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s suspension of parliament before Brexit, but said it could still be taken to the Supreme Court for a final appeal. Johnson announced at the end of August that he would suspend parliament from mid-September to mid-October, just before Britain is due to leave the European Union on Oct. 31, so the government could announce a new legislative programme. Also Read – Saudi Crown Prince ‘snubbed’ Pak PM, recalled jet from USThat prompted campaigner Gina Miller, who defeated the government over another Brexit issue two years ago, to bring a legal challenge. She was later joined in the process by former Prime Minister John Major and opposition political parties. Miller told reporters outside court that parliament should be sitting during such a crucial time for Britain’s democracy, and she would not give up the fight. “The Supreme Court has pencilled in Sept. 17 for the appeal hearing,” she said. “My legal team and I will not give up the fight for democracy.” Also Read – Record number of 35 candidates in fray for SL Presidential pollsMiller’s lawyer, David Pannick, argued on Thursday that comments from Johnson showed an important part of his reasoning for the prorogation, or suspension, was that parliament might say or do something that impeded the government’s Brexit plans. The legal challenge has lost some of its impact after lawmakers voted this week to force Johnson to seek a three-month delay to Brexit rather than leave without an agreement on Oct. 31, a move that is likely to lead to an election. Separate legal challenges to Johnson’s Brexit plans are also being heard in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Boris Johnson heads to Scotland on Friday in campaign mode despite failing to call an early election after MPs this week thwarted his hardline Brexit strategy. Johnson, who will make a fresh attempt next week to force the mid-October snap election, is set to visit a fish market and announce a post-Brexit funding boost for Scottish farmers during a visit to Aberdeenshire, his office said. He will then stay at Queen Elizabeth II’s Balmoral estate and dine with her, an annual weekend-long tradition for prime ministers but one that Johnson has been forced to cut short to a single night due to the political turmoil in Westminster. Opposition lawmakers and rebels in his ruling Conservative party on Wednesday left Johnson’s plans for a no-deal Brexit next month in tatters and then blocked a request for a snap election on October 15.
Kolkata: The 126th anniversary of Swami Vivekananda’s addresses at the World Parliament of Religions, which was held at Chicago in September 1893, was observed in the city with great enthusiasm.Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee tweeted on the occasion: “Today is the 126th anniversary of Swami Vivekananda’s epochal speech at the Parliament of Religions in Chicago. His message of universal brotherhood is relevant even today. My respectful homage to the great saint.” Also Read – Bengal family worships Muslim girl as Goddess Durga in Kumari PujaThe concluding programme of the 125th anniversary of Swami Vivekananda’s Chicago addresses was held at Belur Math. Swami Smarananandaji, president, Ramakrishna Math and Mission, blessed the gathering. Swami Suviranandaji, general secretary, Ramakrishna Math and Mission, spoke on the significance of Vivekananda’s speech. Swami Shivamayanandaji, vice president of Ramakrishna Math and Mission, Swami Balabhadranandaji, assistant general secretary Ramakrishna Math and Mission and Pinaki Chandra Ghosh, chairman, Lokpal, also spoke on the occasion. Also Read – Bengal civic volunteer dies in road mishap on national highwayThe day was observed in Udbodhan, a centre of RKM. RKM will observe a devotee conference and youth conference on September 27 at Nazrul Mancha. The Vivekananda Institute of Environment and Management (VIEM) also organised a seminar to discuss the relevance of Swamiji’s addresses. Prof Pradip Kumar Ghosh, pro vice-chancellor, Jadavpur University, spoke on how Swamiji had talked about the Theory of Relativity and wrote a letter to Nikola Tesla on the matter. Prof Raja Banerjee of MAKAUT and Prof Bhaskar Gupta, ETCE, Jadavpur University, spoke on the occasion and explained the importance of Swamiji’s views on education. A rally was taken out in South Kolkata by Vivekananda Bhab Samanvya Kendra to commemorate the occasion. School and college students and people from all walks of life took part in the procession that started from Chetla and ended at Adyapith.
REGINA – The family of one of the players killed in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash wants the Saskatchewan government to improve safety at highway intersections and to make the work a priority.Sixteen people have died and 13 others were injured on April 6 when the hockey team’s bus and a semi-truck collided at an intersection north of Tisdale.Adam Herold, who was 16, was the youngest person killed in the crash.Adam’s father, Russ Herold, sent a tweet to Premier Scott Moe Thursday calling for action.“PremierScottMoe please consider fixing all the dangerous intersections in the province over patching holes, make that a priority,” Herold wrote.“Intersections such as the one involving the Humboldt bus would never exist on the Trans-Canada so why do they exist in the rest of Sask. Reconsider.”The RCMP is investigating the cause of the crash and is expected to make safety recommendations once the work is complete.Moe said his government is awaiting those findings.“We will look at the recommendations that come from either the RCMP or the Ministry of Highways and they are looking very closely at this accident,” Moe said.“If those recommendations come, I think it’s fair to say that the government will consider them swiftly under the circumstances.”Opposition NDP leader Ryan Meili offered similar sentiments.“There is no question we need to seriously look at that accident and find out if there is any way that the design of the intersection could be different to prevent further accidents and look across the province in terms of policy,” Meili said.Herold is also questioning why trees are allowed to encroach on what appears to be the highway right-of-way at the intersection where the crash occurred.The trees may eventually be cut back, but the province says that is part of the evidence in the investigation. (CTV Regina)
OTTAWA – Justin Trudeau moved quickly Thursday to slam the lid on a constitutional can of worms opened by Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, who unveiled a plan to eventually secure recognition of his province’s distinctiveness in the Constitution.“You know my opinion on the Constitution,” the prime minister said as he arrived on Parliament Hill for a cabinet meeting.“We’re not reopening the Constitution.”That blunt, unequivocal response came even before Couillard formally launched an initiative aimed at encouraging dialogue about Quebec’s role in the federation, with the eventual goal of reopening the Constitution to meet the province’s long-standing conditions for formally signing on to the highest law of the land.The potential for such a move to mushroom into constitutional squabbling over a host of thorny issues that could threaten national unity was on display almost immediately.Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall issued a statement saying “there are certainly other constitutional issues” his province would like to discuss — a list topped by the “terribly flawed” equalization formula, which Wall said penalizes oil and gas producing provinces while benefiting hydro-producing provinces like Quebec.Equalization takes $500 million a year out of his province while providing $11 billion annually to Quebec, Wall asserted.NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said Couillard’s move provides an opportunity to revisit Senate abolition, which would require a constitutional amendment approved unanimously by all provinces. Couillard has in the past argued vehemently that doing away with the Senate is not in Quebec’s interests.And Couillard himself allowed Thursday that discussion of Quebec’s constitutional demands could evolve to include the demands of First Nations for constitutional recognition of their nationhood.The Bloc Quebecois, meanwhile, characterized Trudeau’s swift rejection of Couillard’s plan as “another slap” in Quebec’s face.Couillard urged Trudeau to read his 200-page plan before slamming the door on it. A spokesman for the prime minister said the federal government would indeed “take the time to carefully read the document” but simultaneously reiterated that it’s a non-starter.“As the prime minister said this morning, our government’s position with regard to the Constitution has not changed and has always been clear,” said Cameron Ahmad.“We are not reopening the constitutional debate.”Ahmad suggested Quebecers were well aware when they handed the Liberals 40 of the province’s 78 seats in 2015 that Trudeau had zero interest in constitutional wrangling and intended to focus on his priority: “growing the economy and creating good jobs for the middle class and those working hard to join it.”“That’s the mandate we received from Canadians and Quebecers in the last election.”However, Mulcair accused Trudeau of arrogantly giving the back of his hand to Quebec — just like his father, Pierre Trudeau, did when he patriated the Constitution in 1982 over the objections of Quebec’s then-separatist government.“Thirty-five years that Quebec’s been outside of the Constitution and I’m looking forward to an open, honest discussion about what we can do to change that,” Mulcair said, accusing Trudeau of rejecting the idea simply to score points in the rest of the country at Quebec’s expense.“Using Quebec as a whipping boy is a very old strategy and Trudeau son is trying to emulate Trudeau pere and frankly it’s unbecoming a prime minister of Canada, whose number one job is to always work to keep the country together.”However, opening the Constitution has not proven in the past to be a recipe for keeping the country together.Former Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney attempted to remedy Quebec’s so-called exclusion from the Constitution with the Meech Lake accord in 1987. It would have recognized Quebec as a distinct society, put limits on federal spending power, guaranteed Quebec representation on the Supreme Court, increased the province’s control over immigration and given it a veto over future constitutional changes — the same five conditions Couillard is resurrecting now.The accord exposed deep divisions between Quebec and the rest of the country and eventually failed, as did the subsequent Charlottetown accord. The failed negotiations triggered a national unity crisis that culminated in a near-death experience for the country in 1995, when Quebecers came within a hair of voting to separate from Canada.Since then, few political leaders have been willing to broach to subject of constitutional change. Trudeau himself has been crystal clear about his disinterest in the matter.In an interview with The Canadian Press shortly after taking power in 2015, Trudeau said there is no pressing problem facing the country that can only be resolved by reopening the Constitution. He said he’d rather focus on things that can make “a concrete difference in people’s lives” than waste time on constitutional wrangling.And he scoffed at a suggestion that Quebec’s continued refusal to formally sign onto the Constitution is a major problem.“Which articulates itself how?” he asked rhetorically, noting that the Constitution does apply to Quebec, whether or not its government ever signs on.On Thursday, Trudeau’s Quebec cabinet ministers echoed those sentiments, resolutely asserting that Quebecers want the federal government to stay focused on economic matters.“What they want the federal government to do is to focus on the economy and to focus on jobs and those are the kinds of things that we have been doing,” said Transport Minister Marc Garneau.International Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne argued that the federal and Quebec governments have been working well together to deliver on “the priorities of people from Quebec, which is growing the economy, working for the middle class.”With 40 MPs and five ministers from the province, Champagne added: “The voice of Quebec has never been that strong in Ottawa.”
OTTAWA – The military has quietly expanded its footprint in Ukraine, giving commanders free rein to send their troops anywhere — except where they might run into Russian forces or separatist rebels.Canada first deployed about 200 troops to Ukraine in the summer of 2015 to help train government forces in their fight against Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country.But the Canadians were required to stay in the western half of Ukraine, far from the conflict that has continued to rage over the intervening two years, leaving more than 10,000 people dead.Those restrictions were eased in March when the government extended the mission for another two years, the mission’s commander, Lt.-Col. Mark Lubiniecki, said in an interview Wednesday.While Canadian troops are still required to stay away from the border with Russia and the fighting in eastern Ukraine, he said, the rest of the country is now fair game.The change, Lubiniecki added, has given welcome flexibility to the Canadian mission, which has so far trained nearly 4,500 Ukrainian troops, many of whom have since been sent into the conflict zone.The number of Canadian soldiers in Ukraine remains the same.Lubiniecki would not reveal how far his troops have to stay from the Russian border, except to say that it is far enough away to keep them safe and prevent anyone from misinterpreting they they are in Ukraine.“We’re here to provide mentorship and training, we’re not here to be operating on the front line,” he said. “So making sure we maintain that buffer is extremely important for us.”The training mission is set to expire in 2019.The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights released a report this week on the conflict in eastern Ukraine, asserting that an end to the three-year-old war was nowhere to be seen.Fighting continues to erupt despite the existence of a ceasefire, while more than 1.6 million people have been forced to flee their homes and another 3 million are struggling to make ends meet.Canada’s presence in eastern Europe is actually set to expand over the next few months, as about 450 troops arrive in Latvia to lead a NATO force that will serve as a check on Russian aggression.One of the concerns trumpeted by both Canadian and Latvian officials is that Russia, or at least pro-Russian agitators, will attempt to spread lies and false information about the mission there.But Lubiniecki said his troops in Ukraine have so far been spared from any such information attacks, saying: “I’m just not seeing it (on the ground) right now.”That applies to cyberattacks, as well.Moscow and its separatist allies in eastern Ukraine aren’t the only threats that Kyiv is struggling to address: corruption is also one of several significant problems.The Ukrainian military and its defence sector have not been spared, as outlined in recent months by various media reports as well as investigations by NGOs such as Transparency International.Much of the concern has focused on whether Ukrainian government officials have been enriching themselves by skimming defence contracts or diverting equipment donated by countries like Canada.Transparency International released a report last month saying improvements have been made, but more needs to be done to ensure foreign donations get to the Ukrainian troops who actually need it.Canada has so far provided about $16 million in non-lethal equipment such as helmets, bulletproof vests and winter clothing to the Ukrainian military, and promised another $7.25 million by 2019.Lubiniecki said he has not seen any evidence of corruption during his time in the country, and that the Ukrainian soldiers his troops are training are well equipped and motivated.— Follow @leeberthiaume on Twitter
EDMONTON – The Alberta government is thinking about cleaning up a former wood-preserving site along one of the province’s biggest lakes by capping it off and turning the adjacent land into a park.The contaminated site contains toxins including arsenic, dioxins and PCP at levels above Alberta guidelines for natural areas.Government officials were to speak at a Big Lakes County meeting in Faust along the southern shore of Lesser Slave Lake on Tuesday night. They planned to explain how the site just east of the town could be returned to public use.“We support the proposal for source capping,” said Jamie Hanlon, a spokesman for Alberta Environment and Parks.The Osmose site covers about 16 hectares just south of the lake. A creek runs along its eastern boundary and homes sit further south.The plant operated on it from 1963 to 1973. The province removed about 300 cubic metres of soil in 1993, but it wasn’t enough.A 2015 engineering report done for the province found contamination remained, although it is declining with the years and has mostly been spread by dust from road traffic.Still, the report said, about 20,000 cubic metres of contaminated soil remained to an average depth of four metres.Hanlon said the same engineers said the best solution was to hold the chemicals in place with an impermeable clay cap. Part of that cap could be covered by a concrete parking lot.Interpretive trails and a day-use area, including a lakeside beach, would be built on the land to the immediate west of the site.“This is a proposed land-use change that is supported by the county,” said Hanlon.No decision has been made yet, he said. Costs for the plan haven’t been estimated.County officials declined to comment.Hanlon said the government has no information to suggest the dioxins are spreading. He said removing the contaminants could create more problems than it solves.“Given the current level of contamination on the site, it’s likely that any activity to remove contamination would cause greater environmental harm through spread of contaminants with dust than it would risk-managing the on-site contamination itself.”Area residents say the tests haven’t been nearly extensive enough to reach conclusions about where the toxins stop or whether they’re spreading.“To put a beach in there and a park does not make any sense without first establishing how far does this contamination go,” said Mike Wolff. “They are speculating that it’s not moving.”The report said testing has been conducted on less than five hectares of the Osmose site. Although the report describes groundwater contamination as “minimal,” it finds PCP and dioxins exceeded guidelines in three test wells.Wolff points out that when the creek is high, groundwater is likely to move more quickly. The creek also floods over the contaminated soil on the old plant site.He said previous engineering reports have all recommended the soil be removed.“Disturbing the site and contaminating the lake was never mentioned in a single report I have seen.”Hanlon said exceeding guidelines doesn’t mean the contamination is a human health threat.“Those are very conservative estimates. There’s no concerns at those levels of exceedances. Alberta Health has indicated there’s not a risk to human health in the area.”Wolff remains unconvinced.“We have a whole lot of questions.”— Follow Bob Weber on Twitter at @row1960Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version had Jamie Hanlon’s last name spelled incorrectly.