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Showing posts from December 13, 2016

The challenge of automata (The Indian Express )

That the US president elect Donald Trump has spoken up against H-1B visas, which go mostly to Indian IT companies, is no surprise. Last week at a “thank-you rally” in Iowa, Trump promised to end the abuse of Washington’s visa policies by US firms that have replaced American engineers with cheaper foreign skilled workers. He was referring to an incident that involved Disney World in Orlando, Florida and a couple of Indian companies and IT professionals on H-1B visas. Trump did not name India or the companies, but the message was loud and clear. The US policy on H-1B visas has been under fire from many quarters of the US establishment — from the IT trade unions to the liberal New York Times, which ran a series of stories last year, on how the Indian companies had gamed the US visa policy to the detriment of American workers. As they come to terms with the new political reality shaping the insourcing and outsourcing of work in America, Delhi and Bengaluru must also look beyond Trump to …

Turkey’s derailed war on terror(thehindu)

IN Islamic State Turkey is facing a multi-dimensional security crisis. Its forces are deployed on two battlefronts — in the southeast, where most of the country’s 15 million Kurds live, to fight the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK); and in Syria to face off threats from the Islamic State (IS) as well as Kurdish rebels. But these operations have hardly helped the country secure its cities from terror attacks, as seen in Saturday’s blasts in Istanbul that killed 44 people, mostly police officers. The attack has been claimed by the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), a splinter group of the PKK, which said they were taking revenge for the ongoing military operation in the southeast and the continuing imprisonment of Abdullah Ocalan, the PKK leader. The unrelenting terror attacks over the past few years show that something is wrong with law enforcement and security arrangements in Turkey, a country otherwise known for functional institutions and a tough security regime, or a deep state. Even …

No restrictions on foreign interns(thehindu)

Anew ‘internship visa,’ approved by the Union Cabinet to help foreigners gain professional experience in India, does not include a “restricted category” to thwart applications from countries such as Pakistan and China. A senior official of the Home Ministry said India wanted to open its doors to talent from across the globe and let foreigners gain professional experience in the country. Young people welcome Explaining the reason for not having any restricted list for this category of visa, the official said: “We welcome young people from across the world. There is going to be a surge in demand for such visas when foreign companies start operating here. We will decide each application on a case-by-case basis.” Asked whether this meant there was no blanket ban on applicants from Pakistan and China, the official responded: “We have included a security clearance clause in this category of visa. A final decision would be taken by security agencies.” As reported by The Hindu , the NDA gover…

coastal Maharashtra on alert - Today's Paper (The Hindu )

A Cyclone Vardah likely to bring rain, strong winds to State After completing its run in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, Cyclone Vardah is expected to move westward and hit the Maharashtra coast by December 14 before merging into the Arabian Sea. The state disaster management cell has sounded a general alert in the coastal areas, including Mumbai, for the next 48 hours following a forecast of strong winds with speed of 80 km and “heavy rain” along the coast of Maharashtra and Gujarat. The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) has also issued a general warning to those living in the low-lying areas of Mumbai, and asked fishermen to not venture into the sea. “We have taken all precautionary measures and only a generic advisory has been issued. There is no need to panic,” said Suhas Divase, senior official of the disaster cell. The cyclone is likely to result in a low pressure area, create dark clouds and lightning in general while leading to “moderate” rainfall in several parts of Maha…

Vardah in Chennai: Through a storm, safely (The Hindu )

A year after the devastating deluge, Chennai’s resilience has been challenged by the severe cyclonic storm, Vardah. Equipped with survival lessons from the December 2015 floods and helped by an efficient flow of disaster warning messages, the city and neighbouring districts held together through several hours of fierce winds. Chennai’s trees bore the brunt, many uprooted or torn down irredeemably. The storm hobbled the city’s infrastructure by nightfall, downing power and communication cables, blocking roads, disrupting rail and air transport, and spreading a carpet of darkness. It is to the Tamil Nadu government’s credit that basic mobility was restored overnight, and fallen trees were removed to allow some traffic to ply. Vardah also demonstrated that in the time of social media and the Internet, speedy official and community messages can influence the outcome of a catastrophe. While economic damage was inevitable, cautionary advice put out on social platforms urging people to stay …

Free flow of wheat (The Hindu)

The Centre’s decision to waive import duty on wheat has predictably attracted flak. Opposition parties have questioned the move, which comes days after the government’s assertion that demonetisation of high-value currency notes did not impact the sowing of the rabi crop, with a greater area being cultivated compared to the same time a year ago. Assembly polls are due soon in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, both large wheat-producing States, making this a plausible rallying point for the Opposition. Farmer unions have warned of dumping of wheat stock in India at a time when the minimum support price (Rs.1,625 a quintal) is higher than international prices. This, they argue, could lead to distress sales when the current crop is harvested over March-April. The government, on its part, has noted concerns about the warmer winter forecast, which could affect wheat output and trigger inflation. This February, when prices of food articles that make up 46 per cent of the consumer price index were …

Rooting out graft ( The Indian Express )

If we go by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s televised announcement on November 8, the reason to implement demonetisation on such a massive scale was to fight corruption. The narrative has changed somewhat lately and the need to modernise the Indian economy and move towards a cashless society have been presented as additional factors. But the need to counter corruption clearly remains a priority. Modi’s electoral success in 2014 took place in the wake of a formidable anti-corruption mobilisation initiated in 2011 by Anna Hazare. At that time, thousands of people demanded the creation of a Lokpal. This was one of the most popular movements in post-independence India — it called to mind the movement Jayaprakash Narayan had spearheaded in the 1970s. As Gujarat CM, Modi supported the creation of Lokpal in an open letter to Hazare on April 11, 2011. The Lokpal Bill was passed in Parliament in December 2013 as the Lokpal and Lokayukta Act. A little less than six months later, a new government…

Vigilance probe red-flags fraud and corruption in Arunachal hydro project (the indian express)

Vigilance probe red-flags fraud and corruption in Arunachal hydro project On November 4, 2015, Kiren Rijiju wrote a letter to Piyush Goyal, MoS (IC) of the Ministries of Power, Coal and New and Renewable Energy. The letter made a reference to a petition from local people made to Rijiju on September 29 where it was alleged that the payment to PEL and, in effect, local contractors had been stopped at the behest of NEEPCO CVO Satish Verma and that Rijiju must intervene to provide relief.

Red faces in Agri Ministry as despite bumper crop, Govt allows duty-free import of wheat(theindianexpress)

Red faces in Agri Ministry as despite bumper crop, Govt allows duty-free import of wheat Decision, despite bumper crop, taken by other ministries, says top official. 63 SHARES FacebookTwitterGoogle+Email Written by Harish Damodaran | New Delhi | Updated: December 13, 2016 5:52 am Farmers, as on December 9, had planted 225.63 lakh hectares (lh) area under wheat, compared to 202.28 lh during the same period last year. (Representational image) The Centre’s decision to allow duty-free wheat imports, just when sowing of the new crop is on, has left red faces in the Union Agriculture Ministry. The Ministry has been consistently maintaining that India had produced a bumper wheat crop in 2015-16. In its last estimate, released on August 2, Krishi Bhawan had pegged the output at 93.50 million tonnes (mt), up from 86.53 mt in 2014-15. This was despite government agencies procuring only 22.96 mt of wheat in the last rabi marketing season (April-June), as against 28.08 mt from the previous year’s…

AgustaWestland case: (The Indian Express )

AgustaWestland case: CBI to knock on Vijay Singh, CAG Shashi Kant Sharma’s door In February 2010, India had signed a cThe govt cancelled the deal in January 2014. The CBI, which arrested former IAF chief S P Tyagi, his cousin Sanjeev alias Julie Tyagi and lawyer-businessman Gautam Khaitan last Friday in connection with the AgustaWestland VVIP helicopter deal case, is set to question former Defence Secretary Vijay Singh and current Comptroller and Auditor General Shashi Kant Sharma as part of its probe. Sharma too served as Defence Secretary during UPA rule. A source in the agency familiar with the investigation said Singh was “on the CBI radar”. The CBI, the source said, is also likely to question a few officers of the then PMO and SPG. Watch what else is in the news Police Seize Rs. 58 lakhs In New Denominations On Sunday, Singh denied ousted Tata Group chairman Cyrus Mistry’s allegation that he was involved in the award of the contract to AgustaWestland. An independent director on …