India launches first bullet train

Prime Minister Narendra Modi along with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe laid the foundation stone for India’s first bullet train project in Ahmedabad on Thursday.

Mr. Abe who is on a two-day visit to India said,” My good friend Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a far-sighted leader. He took a decision two years ago to bring high-speed train in India and to create a new India”. As a close ally to India, Japan has given a loan of $17 billion for the project.

The 750-seat train scheduled to run between Ahmedabad city and Mumbai will have 12 stations on the route. It is expected to cover the 500 km journey, in 3hrs as opposed to 8hrs taken by a normal train. It can run as fast as 350km/h which is more than twice the maximum speed offered by the fastest trains in India. Though most of the route is elevated, a part of it will run through a 7 km long undersea tunnel.

Linking major cities through high-speed trains is one of the main ambitions of the government and Mr. Modi has promised to make significant improvements in the network.

Sources

BBC, Hindustan Times

20,000 Aadhaar card numbers leaked on Punjab Govt Website

The Aadhaar card numbers of over 20,000 individuals were published on a website of Punjab government, becoming the latest among a series of privacy breaches by government organisations in relation to Aadhaar card.

Greater Ludhiana Area Development Authority (GLADA) had earlier invited applications for low-cost housing from the economically weaker sections in Ludhiana and Jagraon under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) programme. Following this, the names of the applicants, their Aadhaar card numbers and that of their fathers’ were then put up on their website. The GLADA officials, however, seemed unsure as to how these details ended up online. Although the links were removed from the website by Monday evening, the list remained accessible to anyone who had the direct link on Tuesday as well.

The Aadhaar card number is a twelve digit identity number linked to a person’s biometric details that have become increasingly mandatory for citizens to avail any kind of government service. As per Section 29 (4) of the Aadhaar Act, no Aadhaar number or core biometric information can be published, displayed or posted publicly, except for specified purposes and violation of the same is punishable by up to three years of imprisonment.

The Supreme Court is currently determining whether the Aadhaar program is a violation of an individual’s right to privacy.

News Source: Hindustan Times, OneIndia

Image Source: Hindustan Times

Karti Chidambaram moves court after CBI issued a lookout notice for him

per which he is required to inform the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate prior to leaving the country. He has appealed to the Madras High Court to withdraw the circular and his plea will be taken up by the court on 7th August.

A business man as well as a Congress leader, Karti, is being probed for corruption and foreign exchange violation in the INX Media case. The company, which was at the time run by Peter Mukerjea and his wife Indrani Mukerjea, had raised around Rs 350 Crores while it had a license for foreign investment worth Rs 4.62 only. The CBI has alleged that Karti Chidambaram had used his father’s influence in the finance ministry to get the approvals. It further claimed that he has received payments amounting to Rs 3.5 Crores in exchange for facilitating the breaking of foreign investment laws.

As reported by NDTV, P. Chidambaram, as well as Karti, has denied all these allegations and said that they were politically motivated.

News Sources- NDTV, Times of India

Supreme Court Awards Two Years of Imprisonment to former UP Chief Secretary Neera Yadav in Corruption Case

The Supreme Court (SC) upheld the conviction of former UP Chief Secretary Neera Yadav in the Noida land-allotment scam case and sentenced her to two years of imprisonment. A former IAS officer Rajiv Kumar was also awarded a two year jail term in the case.

Noida Entrepreneurs Association had filed a writ petition against New Okhla Industrial Development Authority (NOIDA) in 1997 claiming large scale discrepancies in the allotment of land in various sectors during the tenure of Yadav and Kumar as the CEO and Deputy CEO of the Authority respectively.

The Supreme Court ordered the CBI to carry out a probe into the case, following which they were each sentenced to three years of imprisonment on November 20,2012.

The CBI had alleged that Yadav, a 1971 batch IAS officer, had violated the norms in allotment of a land in Noida to a company, Flex Industries, owned by the industrialist Ashok Chaturvedi.

She is accused of having used her power as a public servant to alter the criteria for eligibility of land to benefit Chaturvedi. As per the chargesheet filed by CBI this resulted in the government suffering losses of over a crore.

It was also alleged that she had got land allotted in her name as well in the names of her two daughters, in violation of the rule that permits only one plot of land per family in Noida.

Yadav had joined the BJP, ahead of the 2009 parliamentary polls, during the tenure of Rajnath Singh as the national president.

SOURCES: HINDUSTAN TIMES, THE INDIAN EXPRESS

IMAGE SOURCE: ANI

MPs’ absenteeism from Rajya Sabha embarrasses government

The government was left red faced due to absence of many BJP MPs in Rajya Sabha for passing the bill granting constitutional status to the Other Backward Caste (OBC) Commission, a bill close to the heart of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The bill would give the Commission the authority to investigate complaints, making it as powerful as the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and the National Commission for Schedule Tribes.

The bill was already cleared by Lok Sabha and passed in Rajya Sabha without Clause- III which talks about the composition of the committee. On Monday, Congress MP Digvijaya Singh moved an amendment to Clause-III, demanding the inclusion of a woman and a member from minority community in the Commission, following which the bill was put to vote.

The Opposition succeeded with 75 MPs voting for the amendment while 54 voted against it. They slammed the government for failing to mobilise the members, as out of a total strength of 245 members only 126 were present of which majority were from the Opposition Benches.

The prominent ministers who were missing included Nirmala Sitharaman, Smriti Irani, Dharmendra Pradhan,Ravi Shankar Prasad, Suresh Prabhu and Vijay Goel.

The BJP and Congress MPs accused each other of stalling the bill and acting against the interest of the backward classes.As reported by the The Hindu, P. Chidambaram of the Congress said that the amendment doesn’t “destroy the Bill” but “strengthens it.”

Since the bill as passed by the Rajya Sabha does not correspond to what the government wants, it will be sent back to the Lok Sabha.

SOURCES: The Hindu, DNA

IMAGE SOURCE: OneIndia

Islamic State claims responsibility for attack on Iraqi Embassy in Kabul

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for an attack on the Iraqi embassy in Kabul on Monday.

A suicide bomber blew himself up at the main gate of the embassy allowing three gunmen to enter the compound. This was followed by gunfire that lasted for several hours until about mid-afternoon when the Interior ministry announced that the Afghan security forces had killed all the assailants.

There were conflicting reports regarding the casualties of the assault with the Islamic State in their claim stating that seven guards were killed, whereas according to the official statement of the spokesman of the Interior ministry, Najib Danish, only one guard was injured and there were no fatalities among the security forces or the civilians. However, as reported by Hindustan Times, a witness at the spot claims to have seen the bodies of at least two dead policemen outside the embassy soon after the attack.

According to Iraqi Foreign ministry, during the gunfight, its top diplomat in Kabul was taken to the Egyptian embassy and eventually, all the embassy diplomats and employees were evacuated to safety.

This attack comes two weeks after a press conference was held at the embassy, where the concern was raised that the local IS affiliate might plan large scale attacks elsewhere to draw away attention from their defeat in the Iraqi city of Mosul.

Sources – HT, BBC

  Yulin Dog Meat Fest begins despite rumours of Ban

Despite rumours of being banned by the authorities, the highly controversial dog meat festival in China began on June 21, 2017. Animal rights groups claimed that the festival which took place during the summer solstice was banned and later went on to claim that a limit of two dogs per stay was imposed.According to reports by BBC, vendors  deny having received any such communication from the authorities and according to reports, in Dongkou market, the biggest in the city, hundreds of dogs were butchered and cooked in broad daylight.

Although the festival is only ten years old , the tradition of dog meat consumption is over 400 years old and is believed to aid in beating the summer heat.

The Dogs are allegedly transported in crammed cages from all over China ahead of the festival and are often subjected to acts of extreme cruelty as it is believed that fear enhances the taste of the meat. Animal welfare activists also argue that many of the dogs that are butchered are stolen pets. Activists have however noted that there is a significant decrease in the number of animals that lose their lives to this cruel practice. People’s stand on the consumption of dog meat has changed with a substantial increase in the number of pet dogs with as many as 62 million registered dog companions.

In a report to the Times of India, Liu, a Yulin resident in his 40s and an owner of seven dogs said, “They just won’t sell it to people they don’t know well. It’s just a bit more under wraps”.

The Yulin government’s response to the matter was that since the festival was not officially organised by them and also since the consumption of dog meat was not illegal in China, they could not prohibit it.

image1-Dog carcasses on display in the market

image2-Dog meat stew being served at the fest

image courtesy-AFP/getty images

Sources-The Times of India, BBC