JAMMU AND KASHMIR, North India

33rd day of lockdown paralyzes life in Kashmir

33rd day of lockdown paralyzes life in Kashmir

Srinagar,(IANS) :

Authorities continued curfew and restrictions in Kashmir Valley on Wednesday for the 33rd consecutive day as separatists did not relent on shutdown and protests.

“Curfew will remain in force in Anantnag town while restrictions shall continue in Shopian, Kulgam and Pulwama towns,” a senior police official said here.

The official said restrictions shall also continue in old city and uptown Batmaloo area of Srinagar city.

“Similar restrictions shall remain in force in Sopore, Kupwara, Handwara and Baramulla towns.

“Prohibitory orders under section 144 CrPc (Criminal Procedure Code) are in place in Ganderbal, Bandipora and Badgam towns,” he said.

Separatists continue their shutdown call through weekly issuance of protest calendars.

Curfew and separatist shutdown began in the valley on July 9, a day after Hizbul commander, Burhan Wani, was killed in a gunfight with the security forces.

All educational institutions, shops, public transport and other business establishments have remained closed for the last 33 days in Kashmir, although interior markets in cities and towns have been functioning briefly in the evenings.

Police said except for stone pelting incidents at three places in Kupwara, Bandipora and Anantnag districts, the overall law and order situation had generally remained calm on Tuesday.

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North India

Security beefed up in Uttarakhand ahead of Independence Day

Security beefed up in Uttarakhand ahead of Independence Day

Dehradun,(IANS):

Security has been heightened at public places in Uttarakhand ahead of the Independence Day celebrations, a police official said on Wednesday.

While there were no immediate inputs from intelligence agencies of any terrorist movement in the state, the arrest of four Islamic State militant group sympathisers in Roorkie earlier this year had cautioned the security forces here, the official said.

The arrested persons had revealed to the National Investigative Agency that rekki for “a certain operation” was undertaken by them at Haridwar, Dehradun and Roorkie, an Intelligence official told IANS.

This has alerted the police, intelligence agencies and the security personnel in Uttarakhand and security was beefed up at malls, shopping arcades, bus and railway stations.

Security has also been spruced up at government offices and buildings as part of the precautionary measures.

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Business Economy Finance

Muted response seen for India’s ‘largest’ telecom spectrum auction

Muted response seen for India’s ‘largest’ telecom spectrum auction

By Aparajita Gupta

New Delhi:

The base price and the quantum of airwaves on offer make the next round of spectrum auctions the largest ever. But the high reserve price, notably for the 700 MHz band, and time still for the expiry of existing holdings could make the response muted, analysts warn.

The views of six top brokerages and consultancies is that service providers will cherry-pick the bands they need, putting a question mark over how much of the 2,354.55 MHz on offer across seven bands will be sought and what quantum of the $84 billion reserve price be realised.

“Since no spectrum is up for renewal for any of Bharti, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular, we do not expect aggressive bidding,” Goldman Sachs Global Investment Research said in its report, predicting no major surprises.

“The upcoming auction is crucial for Idea and Vodafone in our view, as they still have large amount of 3G and 4G gaps and will look to fill those. Bharti and (Reliance) Jio have very few circles without 3G and 4G, and will try to bolster their data spectrum holding,” it said.

The government has put on block 2,354.55 MHz of airwaves for sale in seven bands — 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1,800 MHz, 2,100 MHz, 2,300 MHz and 2,500 MHz — with a reserve price of $84 billion — against 470.75 MHz in the previous round that saw bids worth $17 billion.

“The September 2016 auction will be the first in the past three years without material ‘renewal’ spectrum on offer — not a ‘gun on the head’ auction for most operators, in our view,” Kotak Institutional Equities said.

“To this end, this auction is a critical test of the operators’ rationality; an auction where operators need to guard against getting swayed by competitive spirits and bid with long-term interests in mind; no self-goal, in other words,” the brokerage added.

“In our view, 1,800 MHz and 2,100 MHz spectrum bands will see most participation from telcos,” added the Goldman Sachs report, a view shared in the majority of six reports analysed by IANS.

“We believe the 1,800 MHz would see demand from Airtel, Idea, Vodafone and Jio; 2,100 MHz from Airtel, Idea, and Vodafone; and 800 MHz from Jio and Reliance Communications. We do not expect the 700 MHz auction to be a success,” said Morgan Stanley.

“The reserve price of the 700 MHz band is at 4x (four times higher than) the reserve price of 1,800 MHz. Thus, if an operator intends to bid for one block (5 MHz) of spectrum pan-India, it would need to spend Rs 574 billion or $8.5 billion.”

In the Delhi circle, the reserve price for 700 MHz is pegged at Rs 1,595 crore per MHz — which is the highest — and for pan-India, it is Rs 11,485 per MHz.

“We expect Vodafone and Idea to add more spectrum in the 1,800 MHz band to enhance their 4G spectrum holdings,” Edelweiss said, otherwise expecting the response to be lukewarm in the 700 MHz band on account of high reserve price for 700 MHz band.

The brokerage also expected some shakeout in the industry once Jio announces a full commercial launch. “We remain cautious on the sector due to sustained high capex and the anticipation of increased competitive intensity with the launch of Reliance Jio.”

Bank of America Merrill Lynch also cautioned about the 700 MHz pickup, citing reasons like high pricing, relatively immature handset and equipment eco-system and the already available 4G spectrum in other bands like 1,800 Mhz and 2,300 MHz.

The government said operators will have the choice of both upfront payments and instalment options. The service providers who win airwaves below 1 GHz bandwidth will have to pay 25 per cent upfront, and those winning above that the upfront payment will be 50 per cent.

“There are no surprises in the Notice Inviting Application apart from the 50 per cent upfront payment condition for spectrum above 1GHz. This will further burden the balance sheets of companies which are looking to acquire spectrum, especially in the 1,800 MHz band,” Edelweiss said.

Deutsche Bank Market Research cautioned that increased realism on the competitive landscape will reduce the number of bidders. “We estimate total proceeds at around Rs 70 to Rs 120 billion. Furthermore, the change in revenue-share framework for spectrum payments benefits Bharti and Jio.”

Bank of America Merrill Lynch also commented on the proposed move by the watchdog to scrap charges paid to carriers on whose networks calls are received. “Such a move in our view, will impact Bharti and Idea as they are net interconnect gainers and positively benefit smaller telcos and new entrant Jio.”

(Aparajita Gupta can be reached at aparajita.g@ians.in)

–IANS

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JAMMU AND KASHMIR, North India, Opinion

A month on, why Kashmir unrest continues after 56 deaths

A month on, why Kashmir unrest continues after 56 deaths

By Sarwar Kashani

Srinagar:

It has been a month since the current unrest began in the Kashmir Valley, shattering years of relative stability in a state ravaged by one of the longest-running armed conflicts in the world.

On July 8, when security forces gunned down Kashmir’s rebel commander Burhan Wani in a controversial gunfight, nobody imagined that the turmoil triggered by his killing would be so widespread and extend this long.

But exactly a month since, the valley remains on the edge. The pro-freedom demonstrations and clashes between protesters and security forces have become routine. Over 56 persons have died and more than 5,000 have been injured — many are still in hospitals.

The valley is seething with anger, with many terming it as a “new phase of freedom struggle” and a “now-or-never” situation.

The valley has suffered huge losses with businesses, schools and offices shut amid continuous curfew by the government and shutdown by separatists. India has blamed Pakistan for fomenting the unrest.

The protests erupted spontaneously after the killing of Wani — a 22-year-old social media-savvy Hizbul Mujahideen commander — who had a huge following among younger Kashmiris. Tens of thousands of mourners, who later turned violent with stone-throwing, rallied across the valley. They were met with bullets and pellets by security forces.

Wani was not the first militant commander killed by security forces in Kashmir. In fact, he is considered no match for early armed militants like Ishfaq Majid, the founder of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, and others, killed in the early years of militancy that began in the late 1980s.

Wani surely was not as popular as Afzal Guru — the 2001 parliament attack convict — who was hanged in Delhi’s Tihar Jail on February 9, 2013.

The killings of these militant leaders did trigger anger. But none of the unrest was as violent and as widespread as the latest one.

How did the death of this young militant bring the valley to such a violent standstill that refuses to fizzle out even after 31 days?

Political pundits say Wani’s death was just a trigger. The anger had been building up over many controversial issues dominating the political narrative in Kashmir.

Among them, a pro-India politician said, is the “unnatural ruling alliance” of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and regional Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Both fought the 2014 assembly elections against each other, promising to keep each other away from power in India’s only Muslim-majority state.

While the PDP wooed its voters with a soft-separatist plank of fighting for “self-rule”, the BJP promised to revoke Article 370 of the constitution that gives Jammu and Kashmir a special status in India.

In the end, electoral arithmetic forced both to join hands and forget their differences. But people may not have forgotten the PDP’s electoral plank.

“The PDP brought the BJP and RSS (Rashtriya Swamsevak Sangh) to rule a state where they could only dream of getting a foothold. Now they are ruling us,” said Rashid Ahmed Mir, a Kashmir University scholar.

“It was molten rock waiting to erupt. It has been building up since the hanging of Guru,” Mir told IANS, recalling how a common Kashmiri still feels that the Jaish-e-Mohammed activist didn’t receive a fair trial over his involvement in the December 13, 2001, attack on the Indian parliament.

Mushtaq Ahmed Malik, a former separatist leader, said one cannot also ignore the BJP’s rhetoric and proposal to build housing colonies in Kashmir for the families of retired soldiers and Hindus who fled the valley fearing for their lives at the start of the armed insurgency.

“All these proposals have been unpopular among Kashmiri Muslims. And then came the ban on selling beef in Kashmir. Kashmiris felt they were being pushed to the wall,” Malik said.

Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s PDP had also promised to initiate a dialogue between India, Pakistan and Kashmiris to resolve the 70-year-old territorial dispute stemming from the India-Pakistan partition in 1947.

But the BJP has been continuously ruling out any possibility of talking to Kashmiri separatist leaders or even to Pakistan.

“These broken electoral promises contributed to the anger and revived the separatist sentiments after years of relative peace,” said Malik. These issues, he said, have largely driven the current unrest in Kashmir.

(Sarwar Kashani can be contacted at sarwar.k@ians.in)

–IANS

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Sport

Boxer Vikas enters Olympics pre-quarterfinals

Boxer Vikas enters Olympics pre-quarterfinals

Rio de Janeiro:

Vikas Krishan Yadav gave India’s boxing campaign a winning start at the Rio Olympics with a dominant victory over Charles Conwell of the US at the Riocentrio Pavilion here.
The Indian outpunched the 18-year-old American by a unanimous decision in the Round of 32 bout with all three judges ruling 29-28, 29-28, 29-28 in favour of the Haryana boxer sending him to the pre-quarterfinals.

–IANS

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States

Gujarat gets new Rupani-led BJP government

Gujarat gets new Rupani-led BJP government

Gandhinagar:

Six days after Anandiben Patel suddenly quit, a new BJP team on Sunday took charge of Gujarat with Vijay Rupani sworn in as Chief Minister and senior leader Nitin Patel as his deputy.
Governor O.P. Kohli administered the oath of office and secrecy to a 25-member ministry at the Mahatma Mandir Complex here. There are nine cabinet ministers inclusive of Rupani and Nitin Patel and 16 ministers of state.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was Chief Minister of Gujarat from 2001 till he became Prime Minister in 2014, called up Rupani to congratulate him and his team.

As many as nine ministers of the previous government have been dropped by Rupani, who inducted 11 new faces representing the different regions of the state.

Sources in the Bharatiya Janata Party said the axing of the nine had the stamp of BJP President Amit Shah, who is known to have played a major role in ensuring that Rupani got the top job in the state, a party stronghold. Anandiben had clamoured for Nitin Patel.

Significant among those dropped are Finance, Energy and Industries Minister Saurabh Patel, who is the son-in-law of Ramnik Ambani, the elder brother of the late Dhirubhai Ambani.

The suave Saurabh Patel was the only English-speaking minister and also the government’s industry-friendly face. He has been widely credited for the former Modi government’s forays in solar energy in the state.

There was intense speculation that Saurabh Patel may get a national role to play.

Dalit face and Social Justice Minister Ramanlal Vora was also dropped, reportedly for non-performance.

Another minister who lost the job was Minister of State for Home Rajni Patel, reportedly for his inept handling of the 10-month Patel agitation. His own house and office in north Gujarat were attacked twice by Patels.

Vasumatiben Trivedi, the only woman minister in the government of Anandiben, Gujarat’s first woman chief minister, was also sacked. Nirmala Wadhwani from Ahmedabad has been included in her place.

Anandiben Patel had earlier resigned as Chief Minister citing her age, two months earlier than attaining the age of 75, in line with an unwritten code for ministers in the BJP.

But BJP sources maintained she was asked to quit in the wake of the Dalit unrest and the dragging street protests by the Patels – the traditional constituency of the party – demanding job quotas.

New Chief Minister Rupani avoided all questions about the priorities of the government and how he proposed to tackle the vexed issue of Patels and Dalits, which hit the BJP hard.

“The swearing-in has just been done. The government will start work tomorrow and together decide on all matters and the new policies,” Rupani told the media.

His deputy Nitin Patel, the senior most minister in the previous cabinet, said all the initiatives of the Anandiben government would continue and strategies would be made to address all the key issues facing Gujarat.

The exit of Anandiben Patel, who is known to have had strained relations with Amit Shah, and the incoming of the Rupani ministry comes ahead of assembly elections due in the state next year.

Amit Shah, veteran L.K. Advani, who represents Gandhinagar in the Lok Sabha, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Chief Ministers Manohar Lal Khattar of Haryana and Devendra Fadnavis of Maharashtra besides Anandiben Patel attended the ceremony.

–IANS

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World

Suicide bomber kills 70 in Pakistan, media says 93 dead

QUETTA
QUETTA
QUETTA, Aug. 8, 2016 (Xinhua) — People mourn over a dead body at the blast site in Quetta, southwest Pakistan, Aug. 8, 2016. At least 53 people were killed and 56 others injured when a bomb went off inside the emergency ward of a hospital in Pakistan’s southwest Quetta city on Monday morning, hospital sources said. (Xinhua/Asad/IANS)

Suicide bomber kills 70 in Pakistan, media says 93 dead

Quetta:

A suicide bomber blew himself up in a crowded hospital here on Monday killing 70 people and injuring over 100 in one of the worst terror attacks in Pakistan this year, authorities said. The Quetta media, however, put the death toll at 93.
The powerful blast ripped through the emergency ward of the Civil Hospital when nearly 100 lawyers had gathered to collect the body of a prominent lawyer shot dead hours earlier in the city.

The deafening explosion, heard clearly on video, instantly killed dozens, including two television cameramen. The hospital presented a ghastly scene with bloodied bodies and body parts strewn in a small area.

Samaa TV said bodies were strewn on the floor, some still smoking, “amid pools of blood and shattered glass”.

A bomb disposal squad said the suicide bomber had around 10 kg of explosives hidden in his vest, Xinhua news agency said. Police found the limbs of the bomber.

The Pakistan Taliban faction Jamaat ur Arhar claimed responsibility.

ARY News said the dead included at least 25 lawyers. As the explosion ripped through the hospital, Aaj TV cameraman Shehzad Khan could be heard on the camera reciting the “Kalma” in a groaning voice as he died.

The other cameraman to get killed was Mehmood Khan of DawnNews.

Quetta’s Urdu media — Daily Millat, Baaghi TV and Urdu Post — however, put the death toll at 93. In any case, doctors warned that the toll could rise because some of the injured were in a serious condition.

It was the worst terrorist attack in Pakistan this year since the March 27 bombing at Gulshan-e-Iqbal park in Lahore that left 75 people dead.

As Balochistan, Pakistan’s biggest province by area, declared three days of mourning, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif flew to Quetta. Army chief Raheel Sharif visited the injured in the Civil Hospital.

Gen Sharif ordered intelligence agencies to initiate “special combing operations to target those involved in terror attacks”, a spokesperson for the military said.

Balochistan Chief Minister Sanaullah Zehri blamed the Indian intelligence agency RAW, saying it was responsible for incidents of terror in Quetta.

His comments came even before the police could say who was responsible for the horrific attack.

The lawyers were at the hospital to take the body of Bilal Anwar Kasi, president of the Balochistan Bar Association who was killed earlier in the city, Dawn reported.

Gunfire erupted after the explosion.

A stampede too broke out, causing chaos at the hospital. Smoke filled the corridors of the emergency ward. Lawyers who survived the blast rushed out to fetch stretchers.

Shocked survivors wept and comforted one another. One journalist broke down after seeing the bloodbath. Many of the dead were in black suits and ties — the lawyers’ uniform.

Police and Frontier Corps surrounded the hospital. An emergency was declared in all Quetta hospitals. Many of the wounded were rushed to the Combined Military Hospital. Some were flown to Karachi.

“This was a security lapse and I am having this personally investigated,” Balochistan Home Minister Sarfaraz Bugti said.

Prime Minister Sharif expressed his “deep grief and anguish over the loss of precious humanNORTH INDIA KALEIDOSCOPE - Part 130 lives”.

Former Chief Minister Abdul Malik called it the “blackest day” in the history of Balochistan.

Lawyers across Pakistan denounced the killings in Quetta. Lawyers in Karachi boycotted the courts. The Bar Association of Pakistan called for a three-day mourning.

Lawyers have been frequently targeted in Balochistan.

One lawyer, Jahanzeb Alvi, was shot dead on August 3. Bilal Kasi, who himself was shot dead on Monday, had condemned Alvi’s murder and announced a two-day boycott of courtsNORTH INDIA KALEIDOSCOPE - Part 130.

The principal of University of Balochistan’s law college, Barrister Amanullah Achakzai, was also shot dead in June.

Balochistan has experienced violence and targeted killings for more than a decade.

Balochistan is home to a low-level insurgency by Baloch separatists. Al Qaeda-linked and sectarian militants also operate in the region. Islamabad routinely blames New Delhi for the unrest in Balochistan.

–IANS

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India

Parliament clears GST, PM says will empower states, end corruption

Parliament clears GST, PM says will empower states, end corruption

New Delhi:

Marking a major leap towards enforcing a unified tax regime in the country, Parliament on Monday gave its nod to the constitutional amendment bill on a Goods and Services Tax (GST) in what is seen as the most radical indirect tax reform since Independence.
The Lok Sabha voted for the second time on the measure in little over an year it had first cleared the enabling legislation in 2015.

The lower house of parliament had to take up the bill yet again after the Rajya Sabha, where the bill had been languishing since then as the government did not have a majority in the house, gave its nod with few vital amendments on August 3.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was present in the Lok Sabha when the bill was passed as were Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and other senior ministers Rajnath Singh, Nitin Gadkari, Sushma Swaraj and BJP patriarchs L.K. Advani and M.M. Joshi.

Making a departure, a jovial mood prevailed in the house even while the amendments and the bill was taken up for voting.

As it was a Constitutional amendment bill, division of votes was also mandatory.

“The motion is adopted by the majority of the house and not less than by the two-third of the majority of the house as required by the Constitution,” Speaker Sumitra Mahajan announced every time at the end of division voting.

After its passage and the chair announced adjournment of the house, treasury bench members and Union ministers were seen greeting each other.

Intervening during the nearly six-hour debate on the bill, Modi said the GST bill will go a long way in helping states, support small entrepreneurs and also curb the menace of corruption.

Expanding GST as “Great Step by Team India, Great Step towards Transformation and Great Steps towards Transparency”, he said that it will be an important step towards getting the country rid of “tax terrorism” and also make “consumers the king”.

He asked Jaitley to ensure that 16 states ratify the bill at the earliest and also that adequate steps are taken to ensure early passage of the draft legislation on integrated GST, the central GST and the state GST.

The government will be targeting April 1, 2017 (the next financial year) for the roll out.

Replying to the debate, Jaitley said that the uniform tax law will India make an “integrated market and once it is enforced, “doing business in this country will become easier”.

He also said demand for reducing indirect taxes and hiking direct taxes is not practical.

Jaitley hit out at the Congress, saying the 18 per cent cap on GST rate was suggested by the party only after the bill was passed in the Lok Sabha.

Leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge took a dig at Modi, saying he had opposed the bill as Gujarat Chief Minister.

“We were the creators of the GST. We were the first to bring the GST. We support it. Those who are passing the GST now, why were they opposing it when they were in the opposition?

“Had they agreed to our conditions on the GST earlier, the delay wouldn’t have happened,” he said.

The Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Second Amendment) Bill, 2014 and amendments (carried out by Rajya Sabha) were declared approved by a two-thirds majority with 443 members voting in its favour and none against.

Tamil Nadu’s ruling AIADMK, which had staged a walk out in the Rajya Sabha, did so in the Lok Sabha also.

The amendments to the government bill, as passed by the Rajya Sabha, moved by Revolutionary Socialist Party’s N.K Premchandran were also negated by voice vote, while six amendments including one on scrapping of additional tax moved by the government as amended by the Rajya Sabha were passed.

The government had moved amendments in the Rajya Sabha to the bill to accommodate concerns of opposition, notably the Congress, scrapping the proposed levy of 1 per cent additional duty to compensate states for at least two years and make the dispute resolution mechanism stronger, but the third demand – of specifying the GST rate in the bill itself – was not acceded to.

The new tax regime — the idea for which was mooted in 2003 — seeksNORTH INDIA KALEIDOSCOPE - Part 130 to subsume all central indirect levies like excise duty, countervailing duty and service tax, as also state taxes such as value added tax, entry tax and luxury tax, to create a singleNORTH INDIA KALEIDOSCOPE - Part 130, pan-India market.

It was however seven years later that a formal bill was first introduced, but this lapsed when the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) was voted out.

In 2014, a recast bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha on December 19, and was passed by it five months later on May 6, 2015. The bill was then referred to a Select Committee of the Rajya Sabha for examination which submitted its Report on July 22, 2015.

–IANS

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Sport

Shooters, hockey team disappoint at Olympics

Shooters, hockey team disappoint at Olympics

Rio de Janeiro:

Shooter Abhinav Bindra narrowly missed out on a medal in his Olympic swansong as the men’s hockey team suffered a late 1-2 defeat to Germany in their second match of the pool phase in a disappointing start to Monday’s campaign for India at the Rio Games here.
Adding to the disappointment was archer Laxmirani Majhi, who crashed out in the Round of 32 eliminators.

Bindra, India’s sole individual Olympic gold medallist, finished fourth in the final of the men’s 10 metre Air Rifle final at the Olympic Shooting Centre here on Monday.

Bindra started well, but a coupleNORTH INDIA KALEIDOSCOPE - Part 130 of wayward shots cost him dearly as he lost in the bronze medal play-off to finish fourth with a total score of 163.8.

Monday’s disappointment will see the curtains come down on the glittering career of the 2008 Beijing Olympics gold medallist as he had earlier announced that he will retire after the Rio Olympics.

“I think I did my best but a medal was not to be. It was a tough field. Somebody had to finish fourth and I did. Well I think thats the way it is. I gave it all. It was good day a hard day. Could have been better with a medal,” a dejected Bindra, who had finished seventh, said later.

Participating in his fifth Olympics, the 33-year-old got off to a good start with scores of 29.9 and 30.2 in the first two series placing him in the top three.

He fell to the fourth spot after a relatively poor 21.1 in the third series with a total score of 81.2. But luck favoured Bindra in the fourth series as he climbed to second with 21.5 as the other shooters in the top four also faltered.

However, Bindra seemed to let the pressure get to him as his performance started to go downhill from there. The former World Champion registered progressively poorer scores of 20.8, 20.2 in the next two series.

A brilliant series of high 10s saw him go up to second after 11 shots and third after 12.

He maintained the position till the 14th shot but a coupleNORTH INDIA KALEIDOSCOPE - Part 130 of poor shots saw him score 20.1 in what would eventually be his final series and tied at fourth with Ukranian Serhiy Kulish after the 16th shot.

In the shoot-off that followed, Bindra could manage only a 10.0 while the Ukranian shot a brilliant 10.5 to move ahead, thus relegating the Indian to the fourth place.

The same event witnessed a heartbreak for Gagan Narang who finished a lowly 23rd in the qualification round. He could only manage 621.7 and crashed out of the event which gave him a bronze medal in the London Games.

Trap shooters Manavjit Singh Sandhu and Kynan Chenai also brought bad news by failing to enter the semi-finals after finishing 16th and 19th.

Sandhu, in his fourth Olympics, lost out after scoring a cumulative total of 115 while Chenai scored one less to be out of the fray on the second day of qualifications.

However, from the shooting range, Bindra came agonisingly close to another medal

Archer Laxmirani bowed out of the women’s individual event, beaten 101-108 by Slovakian Alexandra Longova. The Indian trailed for the very beginning of the contest and lost three of the four rounds, eventually going down 25-27, 26-28, 26-26, 24-27.

In hockey, it was a familiar scene where India failed to remain in control in the final moments. Christopher Ruhr deflected the ball from close range in the 60th minute as Germany earned a crucial win in a Pool B match that India deserved a point.

Niklas Wellen scored in the 18th minute to give the two-time defending champions the lead before Rupinder Pal Singh (23rd) brought India level with his third goal in two matches.

There was more disappointment in store for Indian fans in the swimming pool as Shivani Kataria and Sajan Prakash were knocked out in the opening rounds of their respective categories, ending India’s campaign in the discipline.

Shivani finished a disappointing 41st to miss the race to the quarter-finals after clocking 2:09:30 minutes in the women’s 200m freestyle heats at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium.

The 18-year-old completed the first 50 metres in 29.28 seconds before taking 1:01.36 minutes to reach 100m. She then posted a time of 1:34.95 minutes to reach 150m and eventually completed it in 2:09:30 minutes to finish second in the heat.

Kathleen Ledecky of the US clocked 1:55:01 minutes to top the list followed by Australia’s Emma Mckeon at the second spot in 1:55:80 minutes and Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom ended third in 1:56:11 minutes.

Meanwhile, in the men’s 200m butterfly event, Prakash clocked 1:59:37 to finish fourth in his heat and 28th overall to bow out of the competition.

The Kerala swimmer got off to a poor start as he failed to feature in the top three even after the completion of the first 100 metres.

Hungarians Tamas Kenderesi and Laszlo Cseh topped the list clocking 1:54:73 and 1:55:14 minutes respectively while South African Chad Guy Bertrand Le Clos took 1:55:57 minutes to finish third.

–IANS

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Politics, States

Rupani stakes claim, to be sworn in Gujarat CM on Sunday

Vijay Rupani
Vijay Rupani
Gandhinagar : Chief Minister designate Vijay Rupani, Deputy Chief Minister designate Nitin Patel and Gujarat BJP in-charge Dinesh Sharma meet Gujarat Governor OP Kohli to stake claim to form the new government at Rajbhavan in Gandhinagar on Aug. 6, 2016. (Photo: IANS)

Rupani stakes claim, to be sworn in Gujarat CM on Sunday

Ahmedabad:

Vijay Rupani, the newly-elected leader of the Gujarat BJP legislature party, on Saturday called on Governor O.P. Kohli and staked his claim to form the government.
He was accompanied by new deputy leader Nitin Patel, BJP’s Gujarat affairs in-charge Dinesh Sharma and Union Minister of State for Agriculture Parsottam Rupala.

Rupani and Patel were decided as the new incumbents on Friday.

Earlier, Rupani submitted his resignation as the state BJP president to national party president Amit Shah following his election as the leader of the party’s legislative wing.

Sharma told reporters that Rupani and Nitin Patel would be sworn in as the Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister respectively at 12.45 p.m. at the Mahatma Mandir in state capital Gandhinagar.

Sharma said the party was yet to finalize the names of other ministers to be sworn in. Senior BJP leaders were holding discussions to decide the composition of the new government.

The first woman Chief Minister of Gujarat Anandiben Patel had on Monday announced her resignation through a Facepost, necessitating the change of guard in the state.

–IANS

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Sport

TT: Indian campaign ends at Olympics

TT: Indian campaign ends at Olympics

Rio de Janeiro:

India’s campaign in the table tennis competition at the Olympics ended following the first-round losses of Achanta Sharath Kamal, Soumyajit Ghosh, Mouma Das and debutant Manika Batra here.
The 34-year-old Sharath, competing in his third Olympic Games, lost to Romanian Adrian Crisan 1-4 (8-11, 12-14, 11-9, 6-11, 8-11).

World No.73 Sharath fought hard in all of the five games but the 36-year-old world No.90 of Romania was up to the challenge.

Bengal paddler Ghosh, playing in his second consecutive Games, lost 1-4 (8-11, 6-11, 14-12, 6-11, 11-13) to Tanviriyavechakul Padasak of Thailand.

World No.150 Mouma failed to put up a fight against World No.58 Romania’s Daniela Dodean Monteiro, as the Indian went down 2-11, 7-11, 7-11, 3-11 to bow out of the competition.

This was Mouma’s second Olympic appearance after her debut in Athens 12 years ago. As a veteran paddler, Mouma was pipped to put up a strong fight but all hopes were dashed after her first round exit at the hands of Daniela.

Olympic debutant Manika gave a good fight but went down 2-4 to a superior 60th-ranked Katarzyna Franc-Grzybowska of Poland.

Manika lost 12-10, 6-11, 12-14, 11-8, 4-11, 12-14 to her opponent but will leave the Games with head held high because of her performance as a debutant.

It was the first time that four Indian paddlers qualified for the Summer Olympic Games.

–IANS

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Sport

India beat Ireland 3-2 in men’s hockey

Rupinder Pal Singh
Rupinder Pal Singh
Rupinder Pal Singh  (Photo: IANS)

India beat Ireland 3-2 in men’s hockey

Rio de Janeiro:

Penalty corner specialist Rupinder Pal Singh scored a brace as India began their men’s hockey campaign in the Rio Olympics with a morale boosting 3-2 win against Ireland in their opening pool encounter here on Saturday.
Drag-flicker V.R. Raghunath scored India’s opener in the 15th minute, while Rupinder doubled the lead in the 27th minute in the Pool B match.

John Jermyn (45th) pulled one back for Ireland but Rupinder delighted the Indians with another successful penalty corner conversion.

Later, Conor Harte (55th) brought Ireland into contention but India saw off late nervous moments before winning 3-2.

The win must give relief to the Indians, who failed to win a single match in the London Olympics four years ago.

World No.5 India started the game on a positive note, making inroads from the right where vice-captain S.V. Sunil made his speedy runs. His couple of crosses were blocked by an agile Irish goalkeeper David Harte.

Ireland played an open game and it helped the Indian team in showing its counter-attacking prowess.

India’s midfield of Sardar Singh, Manpreet Singh and Danish Mujtaba overpowered the Irish midfield and India made successive penetrations late in the first quarter and it resulted in four penalty corners.

Raghunath and Rupinder failed to make the most of the first three chances. But Raghunath delivered in the 15th minute as he fired to the left low corner of the post and to the right of David Harte to give India a 1-0 lead.

In the second quarter, Ireland looked better in the playing structure and it reflected in their performance.

However, India still made incursions into the rival circle. Akashdeep Singh had only goalkeeper David Harte to beat but he hastily fired straight at him.

Ireland tested Indian goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh in the 21st minute when Peter Caruth’s hit from the left went just over the top as the European team showed its skills at making the best use of long passes.

Two minutes later, they bagged their first penalty corner but Jermyn’s variation strike from the left went wide. Conor Harte, brother of captain David, hit wide, much to the relief of the Indian camp.

In the turnover, India responded very strongly as Chinglensana provided a long aerial ball on the left flank for Nikkin Thimmiah, who received on the half-line and moved forward inside the Irish circle but Ramandeep failed to meet the cross on the right.

Later, India earned their fifth penalty corner but Rupinder’s flick was lethargic. However, the player from Faridkot in Punjab hit to the right top corner to make it 2-0 in the 27th minute.

Ireland further improved their game in the third quarter and in the 35th minute they earned another penalty corner which was strongly defended by the Indian side.

However, India conceded their opening goal in the 45th minute when Jermyn beat a diving Sreejesh on the low right to give a major boost to the Irishmen.

Four minutes later, India recovered to regain their two-goal advantage when Rupinder’s powerful flick kicked defender John Jackson’s knee before entering the goal.

After the goal, India made the mistake of going on the defensive and it helped a desperate Ireland. India came under pressure and they conceded as many as five penalty corners.

In one of the nervous moments, a free hit struck Raghunath on the foot, resulting in a penalty corner which was converted by Conor. Sreejesh rushed ahead to clear a push from a close range after a variation and the ball bounced in the goal-melee but Conor chipped the ball in to reduce the difference to one.

Later, India saw off some frenzied offence from Ireland but Roelant Oltmans’ wards held off the challenge to win 3-2.

In the other match in Pool B, the Netherlands and Argentina shared the spoils in a 3-3 draw. The Dutch team found its goals in Jeroen Hertzberger (18th), Mink van der Weerden (36th) and Seve van Ass (43rd), while Lucas Villa (28th and 49th) and captain Matias Paredes (54th) scored for the Argentines.

–IANS

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Sport

Security issues plague Rio Olympics

Security issues plague Rio Olympics

Rio de Janeiro:

The ongoing Rio Olympics has been hit by several violent incidents, including an atempted mugging which left two people dead here on Saturday.
According to reports by the local media, a 51-year-old woman was shot dead by three men when she tried to ward off their attempt to rob her.

One of the accused was later gunned down by police near the Maracana Stadium, which is the main venue of the Rio Olympics.

“The man was carrying out assaults when a military police officer shot him,” the local police department said in a statement.

“An officer, who arrived in Rio from another part of the country as security reinforcement, was involved in the incident,” the statement added.

Earlier on Saturday, the Rio 2016 organising committee confirmed that a suspicious package was detonated at the Olympic cycle road race venue.

“The security services found a suspicious package close the cycle road race finish line in Copacabana and as a precaution decided to perform a controlled explosion. There is no impact to the race which is ongoing,” an organsing committee spokesman was quoted as saying by Xinhua.

The official added that the item was a small bag and that the police bomb squad’s action was a precaution.

“A back pack, which likely belonged to a homeless man, was blown up, in accordance with protocol,” the official said.

Also on Saturday, a New Zealand team official narrowly escaped a stray bullet fired at the Olympic equestrian centre.

The bullet landed on the floor of the press room after tearing through a canvas roof in Deodoro, the second largest Rio 2016 venue cluster, officials said, reports Xinhua.

New Zealand communications manager Ashley Abbott said the team’s equestrian athletes were being contacted to inform them of the incident.

Press reports said New Zealand press attache Diana Dobson was left “visibly shaken”, but physically unharmed.

The Rio equestrian centre is located next to a military base.

Officials said an investigation had been launched into the incident.

On Friday, a man was gunned down outside the Maracana Stadium just hours after an 80,000-strong crowd attended the glittering Olympics opening ceremony.

Images showed the unnamed man lying next to his bike in the street after being gunned down late Friday night.

Police surrounded the body of the man found with bullet wounds after 9 p.m. local time.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the man has not yet been identified but local news outlets reported the Brazilian had committed robberies in the area and was killed when one of his victims reacted.

The killing so close to the Olympic venue is likely to raise concerns about safety during the two-week event in which nearly 11,000 athletes are to compete.

–IANS

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CRIME, World

Suspect of London stabbing rampage charged with murder

Suspect of London stabbing rampage charged with murder

London:

London Metropolitan Police announced on Friday that Zakaria Bulhan, the man suspected of killing US tourist Darlene Horton in a stabbing rampage in central London, has been charged with murder.
According to the police, the 19-year-old Norwegian citizen is of Somali descent and moved to Britain at the age of five.

He was also charged with five counts of attempted murder, in relation to the five other individuals who were injured, the police said in a statement.

He will appear in custody at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Saturday, it added.

Police raided his home in Tooting, south London, on Thursday after he was arrested on suspicion of murder.

The police said they received numerous calls starting at 10.30 p.m. on Wednesday describing a “man attacking people with a knife” between Russell Square, Montague Street, Bloomsbury Square and Great Russell Street.

Bulhan was arrested at the scene after police stunned him with a Taser following the attack, near the Imperial Hotel and the British Museum. The suspect was taken to a south London police station after receiving treatment in hospital.

Horton and her husband Richard Wagner were in London for a summer course and were due to return to the United States the day after the fatal attack.

Florida State University, where Wagner is a psychology scholar, issued a statement saying: “There are no words to express our heartache over this terrible tragedy.”

–IANS

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World

13 youths die in devastating bar fire in France

13 youths die in devastating bar fire in France

Paris:

At least 13 people have died after a fire ravaged and destroyed a bar in Rouen, the capital of the French region of Normandy, a local newspaper reports. Most of the victims were reportedly young people attending a birthday party.
The fire started around midnight at a bar where young people had been gathering to celebrate a private birthday party in the northern city of Rouen, the Paris-Normandie newspaper reports. Firefighters responded to the emergency, and have declared 13 people dead so far.

The fire was allegedly caused by an accidental explosion on site, the publication reports.

Authorities expect the death toll to rise, the newspaper added.

–IANS

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Sport

Rio Olympics gets underway with colourful ceremony, parade

RIO DE JANEIRO
 RIO DE JANEIRO
RIO DE JANEIRO, Aug. 5, 2016 (Xinhua) — Performers take part in the opening ceremony of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Aug. 5, 2016. (Xinhua/Cheng Min)(dh)

Rio Olympics gets underway with colourful ceremony, parade

Rio de Janeiro:

The 31st Olympics, the first to be held in South America, formally opened on Friday with a sparkling ceremony drawn from Brazil’s vibrantly diverse culture and dedicated to its history and the environment and followed by a colourful procession of the world’s leading athletes, many in traditional garb, at the Macarana stadium here.
The huge statue of Christ the Redeemer, that dominates the skyline of the Brazilian capital and where the Olympic torch was lit at dawn, was specially lit up ahead of the opening ceremony starting at 8 p.m. local time (4.30 a.m. IST). However, legendary footballer Pele, who was widely expected to light the Olympic cauldron, pulled out a few hours before due to ill-health.

The ceremony, which has famed Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles, known for crime drama “City of God”, Andrucha Washington and Daniela Thomas as creative directors, started with thousands of performers entering the arena with sheets of metallic paper, quickly transformed into a sort of “pillow” and struck hard to create a beat that resounded through the stadium.

The Brazilian national anthem “Hino Nacional Brasileiro” was then rendered by the gentled-voiced sambista Paulinho da Viola, accompanied by a string orchestra.

A panoramic depiction of Brazil’s history, including its slave trade past, followed before a unique homage to Alberto Santos-Dumont, who is, in Brazil, credited with inventing the first aeroplane and taking the first flight instead of the Wright Brothers, as a light plane flew inside the stadium before taking off into the night sky across a celebrating city.

But the high point was in rendition of the late Tom Jobim’s legendary “The Girl from Ipanema”, performed by his grandson Daniel as supermodel and national icon Gisele Bundchen, clad in a long sleeved, gold-sequin spangled dress, sashayed across on her most ambitious catwalk across the stadium. And her trail, formed into the contours of iconic works by Brazil’s greatest architect, Oscar Niemeyer.

Other star performers included the legendary samba singer Elza Soares, and hip-hop proponents Karol Conka and the 12-year-old M.C. Soffia (hip hop), all representing Brazil’s black community too. Also captivating was 21-year-old funk sensation Ludmilla, who rendered “Rap da Felicidade” (Happiness Rap) as the slick box set was rendered into the “favela” (slum), while 13-year-old Cristian do Passinho displayed nimble footwork of “Passinho” – the latest Rio dance craze.

The hour-long cultural fiesta, capped by a spectacular display of fireworks, led to the Parade of the Nations, or the march past of the participating contingents, comprising 207 including Kosovo and South Sudan who are making their debut. Also participating for the first time is the 10-member Refugee Olympic Team comprising refugees from Syria, South Sudan, Ethiopia and Congo.

Each team, preceded by a colourfully decorated rickshaw bearing their name instead of the traditional placard-holder, the flag-bearer accompanied by a child bearing a sapling, and trailed by a team of traditional musicians, entered the arena to applause, though the loudest cheers were reserved for teams from the neighbouring countries, as well as those making their debut and Palestine.

Special cheers were reserved for the Refugee Olympic Team led by athlete Rose Lokonyen Nathike, South Sudan led by athlete Guor Marial, Kosovo led by female judoka Majlinda Kalmendi, and Iran, led the wheelchair-bound archer Zahra Nemati, who is not only the first Iranian woman to win an international gold medal, but has made history by qualifying for both the Olympics and the Parlympics.

Entering last according to tradition, Brazil, marching in to the strains of “Brazil” and to sustained applause, was led by athlete Yane Marques.

For the first time, the athletes were handed tree seeds, which are intended to be sown in the Athletes’ Forest in the area of Deodoro, planned as Rio 2016’s enduring legacy.

The Indian contingent was led by Olympian medal-winning shooter Abhinav Bindra.

–IANS

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