Six die in gas leakage in Andhra steel plant

Six workers died and two others were taken ill in a gas leakage at a multinational steel company in Andhra Pradesh's Anantapur district on Thursday evening, police said.
The incident occurred in Gerdau Steel plant on the outskirts of Tadipatri town.
The gas leakage occurred in furnace wing of the plant. Eight of the workers collapsed after inhaling the gas while others managed to escape in time.
Eye witnesses said two workers died on the spot. Six others were shifted to nearby hospital, where four workers succumbed.
The deceased have been identified as B. Ranganath, 21, K. Manoj, 24, S.A. Wasim, 39, U. Gangadhar, 37, Guravaiah, 40, and K Siva Maddileti alias Lingaiah, 26.
Gerdau Steel, one of the largest steel companies worldwide, said it had suspended operations at the unit and will resume only after an extensive safety inspection.
"Gerdau sadly informs that an accident occurred at its Tadipatri steel plant, in India, this evening, resulting in six causalties. Gerdau immediately provided medical assistance and the workers were sent to the local hospital," the company said in a brief statement.
"The company is assisting the family of the victims and is working to determine the cause of the accident. The company is also extending all cooperation to local authorities," it added.
Gerdau is the leading producer of long steel in the Americas and one of the largest suppliers of special long steel in the world. It has more than 45,000 employees and industrial operations in 14 countries, according to the information on its website.
The plant in Andhra was Gerdau's first in Asia and it has capacity to produce 300,000 tons of special steel per year.
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Bodies of three Andhra students recovered from Krishna river

The bodies of three out of the four engineering students from Andhra Pradesh who were drowned in Krishna river near here on Saturday, were fished out on Sunday, police said.
Rescue workers found the bodies of three students while the search was still on for the fourth. The bodies of Praveen, 18, Chaitanya, 18, and Srinath, 19, were shifted to a government hospital in Vijayawada for autopsy.
Police said the rescue workers were still searching for Rajkumar, 19. The incident occurred at Pavitra Sangamam, the confluence points of Krishna and Godavari rivers at Ibrahimpatnam.
Five students of second year of a private engineering college had gone there for a picnic. When one of them was drowning while taking a bath, three others tried to save him but all of them were washed away in strong currents. The fifth student alerted the police.
National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) and divers joined the rescue operations. The rescue work was called off on late on Saturday and resumed early Sunday.
Police said one of the students crossed the safety railing, which led to the tragedy.
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Nine killed in road accident in Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh

Nine persons were killed and four others injured when a bus hit an auto-rickshaw in Andhra Pradesh's Kurnool district early on Sunday, police said.
The accident occurred near Somayajulapalle on the Kurnool-Nandyal highway.
The state-owned Road Transport Corporation bus hit the auto-rickshaw, which was carrying 13 people. While seven died on the spot, two others succumbed to their injuries in a nearby hospital. 
The injured were shifted to a government hospital in Kurnool.
According to the police, three auto-rickshaws were coming from wrong direction. While two vehicles passed safely, the third was hit by the bus.
A group of villagers from Penugondla and Kalapari villages had boarded the auto-rickshaws to go to Mahanandi village near Nandyal town for naturopathy treatment. Most of the deceased were old and ill.
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World Cup: Switzerland beat Serbia in Group E clash

A late goal by Xherdan Shaqiri earned Switzerland a 2-1 win over Serbia in a Group E clash of the FIFA World Cup at the Kaliningrad Stadium here.
Aleksandar Mitrovic handed Serbia the lead in the fifth minute during the match on Friday.
Switzerland equalised in the second half, thanks to a superb long range strike by Granit Xhaka (52nd).
Shaqiri (90th) found the winning goal in the final minute of regulation time.
Switzerland thus became the first team at this World Cup to clinch a come-from-behind victory after conceding first.
They now have four points from two matches, having held title contenders Brazil to a draw in their campaign opener.
They are at the same number of points as Brazil, but sit at the second place behind the South Americans due to an inferior goal difference.
Serbia are on three points from two games. They are currently third in the group.
Serbia enjoyed a promising start when Dusan Tadic won the ball near the corn er flag and sent in a cross which was headed in by Mitrovic.
The setback galvanised the Swiss who dominated possession for the rest of the game.
But despite being under considerable pressure, the Serbian defence prevented the Swiss from creating too many clear chances in the first half.
Switzerland finally made their domination count when Shaqiri's shot was bloc ked by the Serbian defence.
Xhaka pounced on the loose ball and unleashed a first time attempt from outside the penalty box which beat Serbia goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic with its pace and vicious swing before bulging the net.
Xhaka is the third Swiss player to score in more than one World Cup tournament.
He follows in the footsteps of former stars Jacques Fatton and Andre Abegglen.
Abegglen scored in the 1934 and 1938 World Cups while Fatton scored at the 1950 and 1954 editions.
Shaqiri hit the post soon after with a curling attempt from the right edge of the Serbia box.
Serbia did have their chances in the second half, not least a square pass across the face of goal by Aleksandar Kolarov which missed the extended leg of a Serbian player at the far post by mere inches.
Shaqiri found the winner in the closing stages off the counter.
He latched on to a pass out of defence, made a solo run from the half line with the Serbian defence caught off guard, before scoring with a calm finish.
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Girl dies as giant wheel crashes in Andhra

In a tragic incident, an eight-year-old girl died and six others were injured when a cabin of a giant wheel crashed in Andhra Pradesh's Anantapur town on Sunday night, police said.
The incident occurred during a fair when one of the cabins of the merry-go-round wheel came crashing after its bolt gave way.
The girl, identified as Amrutha, died on the spot while six others including three children suffered injuries and were admitted to a private hospital in the town.
The fun time for children during summer holidays turned into tragedy with the crash during the Robo Animals Exhibition on Exhibition Ground in the town.
The tragedy struck when Amrutha's parents and relatives of the others were recording the fun ride on their mobile phones. The video of the crash went viral on social media on Monday.
After the crash, visitors beat up the wheel operator. Police rescued and arrested him. 
Relatives of the deceased and injured alleged that the accident occurred due to the operator's negligence as he did not stop the wheel despite being alerted about the bolt being loose.
Police seized the giant wheel and registered a case against the wheel operator.
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Andhra launch capsize: 12 bodies recovered

Bodies of 12 persons including two children were retrieved from Godavari river in Andhra Pradesh on Wednesday as a search was on for others who went missing after a launch capsized the previous evening.
Rescue workers pulled out the launch by using boats and heavy cranes. Earlier, the Indian Navy personnel traced the launch reportedly at a depth of 60 feet.
Teams from the Navy, state disaster management department and the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) were engaged in the rescue operations with the help of Navy helicopters.
Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, who rushed to the scene to supervise rescue operations, told reporters that 10 more bodies were yet to be pulled out.
The incident occurred near Manturu in Devipatnam block of East Godavari district around 5 p.m.
The boat, which sailed from Kondamodalu, was on its way to Rajamahendravaram. It is believed to have capsized due to gusty winds.
Naidu announced Rs 10 lakh compensation for the next-of-kin of each of the deceased. He said the government would provide jobs to one member each from the families of the victims and would also make arrangements for free education for their children.
The Chief Minister said human error led to tragedy. He was informed by the officials that the launch was carrying cement bags and two-wheelers.
When the boat was caught in gusty winds and rains, those onboard closed the windows. This led to the capsize and also sealed the escape routes.
The incident came close on the heels of a boat with over 100 tourists catching fire in the Godavari river in the same district on May 11.
The passengers had a narrow escape as the driver wheeled the boat to the shore and they jumped off before the entire boat was completely destroyed.
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Andhra launch capsize: Search on for over 30 missing

Rescue operations continued on Wednesday in the Godavari river in Andhra Pradesh where over 30 people are feared drowned after a launch capsized last evening.
Personnel from the Indian Navy have traced the launch, which is said to be at a depth of 60 feet. Rescue workers were trying to break open the windows to pull out the bodies, an official said.
Teams from the Navy, state disaster management department and the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) personnel were engaged in the rescue operations. 
They were mobilising heavy cranes near the shores to retrieve the launch that capsized on Tuesday.
The rescue work, which was halted late on Tuesday due to bad weather, resumed early on Wednesday. A helicopter was also pressed into service as part of the rescue work.
The incident occurred near Manturu in Devipatnam block of East Godavari district around 5 p.m. There were about 50 people on the boat when it capsized and 10 of them including two women swam to safety.
The boat, which sailed from Kondamodalu, was on its way Rajamahendravaram. It is believed to have capsized due to gusty winds.
Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu directed the officials to undertake rescue operations on a war footing.
The incident came close on the heels of a boat with over 100 tourists catching fire in the Godavari River in the same district on May 11. The passengers had a narrow escape as the driver wheeled the boat to the shore and they jumped off before the entire boat was completely destroyed.
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Andhra CM to be guardian of 9-year-old rape victim

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu on Saturday announced that he will act as guardian of a nine-year-old rape victim and bear all expenses of her education.
After calling on the victim at government-run hospital in Guntur town, he said he would provide his personal money for her education till she achieves her goal in the life.
Naidu said while the girl's parents would do their duty, he would ensure best education for her with all facilities.
"I have already asked the District Collector to identify the best school in Guntur," he said.
The state government has already announced Rs 5 lakh compensation to the family of the victim. Naidu on Saturday announced that another Rs 5 lakh would be made fixed deposit in the girl's name.
He also assured two acres of land for the family for agriculture, a job to her father and house site.
The girl was raped by 50-year-old rickshaw puller on Wednesday in Dachepalli in Guntur district, causing public outrage. The accused later committed suicide by hanging near the village.
Calling for publicly hanging the rapists, Naidu said his government would be tough in dealing with such criminals.
The Chief Minister said there was a need to instil fear in rapists that the day they commit such heinous crime will be their last day on earth. "Only this fear could act as a deterrent," he added.
Naidu said there would be no place for such people in the state. "Man should live like man not like beast," he said.
He also announced that the government will set up special courts for early trial of rape cases. He appealed to lawyers not to defend the accused. "Lawyers are also part of the society. They too have children," he said.
He called for conducting rallies across the state on Monday with the slogan 'Let us save the daughters' and appealed to all people to participate.
Voicing concern over the misuse of technology and the menace of porn films on Internet also resulting in such incidents, Naidu said the government would work out how to deal with this problem.
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5-year-old Andhra girl raped by minor

In another shocking incident of rape of minor girls in Andhra Pradesh, a five-year-old was sexually assaulted by a 15-year-old boy with the help of three friends on Friday, police said.
The incident occurred in Tetali village near Tanuku in West Godavari district.
The boy lured the girl with the offer of chocolates and took her to a toilet of a local school and raped her. Three of his friends of the accused allegedly helped him by standing guard.
The incident came to light after the girl returned home and started bleeding. When questioned by her parents, she narrated the incident.
The victim's family lodged a complaint with police, which picked up the boys. However, no case was registered as the families of the accused were talking to the relatives of the victim for a "compromise".
This is the second incident of rape of a minor girl in the state in three days. In Dachepalle of Guntur district, a 50-year-old man had raped a nine-year-old girl on Wednesday. The incident triggered public outrage.
The accused, a rickshaw puller, was Friday found hanging from a tree in a village near Dachepalle. Police said he committed suicide.
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Chandrababu Naidu on day-long fast to protest injustice to Andhra

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, who turned 68 on Friday, began his day-long fast to protest what he calls the injustice being meted out to the state by the Central government.
Naidu launched the 'Dharma Porata Deeksha' hunger strike at Indira Gandhi Municipal Stadium in Vijayawada. The fast, which began at 7 a.m., will conclude at 7 p.m.
State ministers Kala Venkat Rao, D. Umamaheswara Rao, Nara Lokesh, Kollu Ravindra, MPs and state legislators and leaders of Telugu Desam Party (TDP) joined him in the fast at the massive programme organised by the state government.
Naidu garlanded statues of Mahatma Gandhi, B.R. Ambedkar, Jyotirao Phule and N.T. Rama Rao before reaching the stadium.
The TDP chief was blessed by Hindu, Muslim and Christian religious leaders before he began the fast. Prominent freedom fighters also called on Naidu to extend their support.
Naidu's fast is to demand the Centre to accord special category status to the state and fulfil all commitments made at the time of bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh to carve out Telangana state in 2014.
Last month, the TDP pulled out of BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) to protest its refusal to give special status to the state. Naidu alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has gone back on the promises he made in 2014 elections.
Naidu has appealed to people to observe the fast against the Central government's attitude, instead of celebrating his birthday. 
TDP leaders say this is the first time in the country's history that Chief Minister of a state is observing fast on his birthday.
Expressing solidarity with the Chief Minister, leaders and workers of TDP and various organisations are observing the fast across the state. State ministers were also on hunger strike in their respective districts.
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Disabled Dalit woman gang-raped in Andhra

In a shocking incident, a physically challenged Dalit woman was gang raped in Vijayanagaram district of Andhra Pradesh, police said on Monday.
An auto-rickshaw driver and his two accomplices allegedly raped the 21-year-old, in Phool Bagh area of Vijayanagaram town late on Sunday night.
According to police, the woman was on her way to her sister's house in the three-wheeler. The auto driver, who was accompanied by two other men, diverted the vehicle and took the victim to an isolated place, where the accused violated her.
A passer-by rushed to rescue her after hearing her cries. He dropped the victim at her relatives' house. She was later admitted to government-run hospital. 
Police registered a case of rape and also under the SC/ST Act against the auto driver and the two others. A police officer said they were on the lookout for the accused.
People condemned the inhuman act of the accused and demanded stringent punishment.
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BJP has let down Andhra Pradesh, TDP Ministers to quit Modi govt: Naidu

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu announced late on Wednesday night that his party's two Union Ministers would resign on Thursday, hours after Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the Centre could not offer special status to the state but would provide a package with equivalent funding.

Naidu says TDP Ministers at Centre will resign on Thursday
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) leader N. Chandrababu Naidu announced late tonight that his party's two Ministers in the Union Council of Ministers would resign on Thursday, hours after Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the Centre could not offer special status to the state but would provide a package with equivalent funding.
Amid increasing signs of the unease in ties between the TDP and the  BJP over the alleged neglect of Andhra Pradesh in the Union Budget presented last month, Mr. Naidu told a late night press conference that his party would take a decision on its ties with the ruling BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) at the Centre later. "This is the first step. We will go ahead with other actions later," he said.
The two TDP Ministers in the Union Council of Ministers are Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju and Minister of State for Science and Technology Y. S. Chowdary.
"The Centre has been taking one-sided decisions and our patience has run out now. When the purpose of joining the Union Cabinet hasn’t been fulfilled, it’s best to resign now," he said.
"I am not angry with anyone. This decision has been taken only to benefit the people of Andhra Pradesh. I tried reaching out to the Prime Minister to inform him about our decision. But sadly, he was unavailable," he said.
"It's a crucial time.  We have to stand, we have to fight, we have to get it done," he said.
Mr. Naidu said the TDP had cooperated with the Centre but the BJP had done injustice to his state, forcing him to withdraw his Ministers from the Union Council of Ministers.
He said the Centre was insulting the sentiments of the people of Andhra Pradesh by not keeping the promises made to the state in the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014, under which the erstwhile undivided Andhra Pradesh was bifurcated into two States -- Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
Mr. Naidu said Mr. Jaitley's statement was the proverbial last straw. "They have apparently pre-determined the issue. They don't appear to be  helping the  state," he said.
The announcement by the TDP chief came a few hours after Mr. Jaitley said at a press conference that the Centre could not offer "special status" to Andhra Pradesh but would offer a "special package with equivalent funding".
"We are committed to giving the monetary equivalent of special status to Andhra Pradesh," he said. Agreeing with the state government's assertion that Andhra Pradesh was suffering in financial terms after the bifurcation, he said the Centre would honour all commitments made by  it at the time of the division.
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NDMA organizes workshop on Preparedness, Mitigation and Management of Heat Wave

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) in collaboration with the Andhra Pradesh government is conducting a two-day national workshop here on Preparedness, Mitigation and Management of Heat Wave.
The workshop, which began yesterday, is aimed at sensitising the States to the need of preparing and implementing their Heat Wave Action Plans in line with NDMA’s ‘Guidelines for Preparation of Action Plan – Prevention and Management of Heat-Wave’, first prepared in 2016, updated in 2017 and shared with all heat wave-prone States and stakeholders for implementation.
Speaking on the occasion, Mr R K Jain, Member, NDMA, said with advance planning and preparedness, along with active participation of all stakeholders, heat-related deaths, as well as illnesses, could be brought down as was evident from the reduced number of casualties in 2016 and 2017.
“Our approach should be to have zero tolerance to heat wave deaths this year. We have ample time to revise our plan, launch awareness campaigns, and take preventive steps,” he added.
Giving a presentation on past experiences, achievement and lessons learnt in prevention and management of heat waves, Dr V Thiruppugazh, Joint Secretary, NDMA, emphasised the importance of local threshold determination and a granular database.
The first technical session on Heat Wave Action Plan and Risk Reduction focused on the development of Heat Action Plans for prevention and management of heat waves. It discussed the nuances of fine-tuning Action Plans to cater to localized needs and solutions.
This session also highlighted the features which need to be integrated into the built environment to mitigate the impact of the heat wave.
The session on Early Warning and Forecasting of Heat Wave was chaired by NDMA Member Kamal Kishore. It focused on the importance of area-specific short-range forecasting, extended forecasting along with operational issues of cooperation, coordination and dissemination of early warning.
During the third session, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Telangana, Odisha and Maharashtra shared their experiences and best practices to help other States prepare their Heat Wave Action Plans. These States, which are among the most vulnerable, have been able to largely mitigate the impact of heat waves with better preparedness and timely intervention, an official press release said.
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National Conference on PDS Reforms held at Vijayawada on December 4-5

A two-day National Conference on Public Distribution System (PDS) Reforms was held on December 4-5 here as part of the efforts to improve the functioning of the PDS through automation of Fair Price Shops and computerization of Supply Chain Management.
The conference was attended by the representatives from 20 States along with those from NIC, WFP and GIZ. 
Important aspects of PDS reforms which came up for discussion in the workshop included seamless working of the online systems, strategy for grievance redressal, enhancing the outreach of the system to the deprived segments of the society, effective safeguards for non-denial of entitled food grains to the beneficiaries and viability of fair price shops. The participating States shared their experiences and initiatives in these areas.
Enforcement of the provisions of National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013 regarding oversight and grievance redressal in partnership with States/UTs also figured in the discussions, an official press release said.
The participants also visited fair price shops, godowns and call centres for a first-hand exposure to the innovations like equipping ePoS devices with Best Finger Detection (BFD), Fusion Finger Detection (FFD) and Iris  features to minimize the instances of failure of biometric authentication.
They also were shown the integration of electronic weighing machines with ePoS devices, cashless transaction through ePoS, distribution of foodgrains for ICDS and MDM schemes through ePoS and management of the distribution of foodgrains without biometric authentication.
The participants saw the recent initiative of Village Mall Scheme aimed at improving the viability of fair price shops. In order to set up Village Malls in the FP Shops, the Andhra Pradesh Government has tied up with Reliance Group for ten districts and with Future Group for another three districts, the release added.

Death toll in Vijayawada boat mishap rises to 18

The death toll in Sunday evening's boat mishap in the Krishna river near Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh has risen to 18 with the recovery of two more bodies since last night, official sources said.

Krishna boat tragedy: Death toll rises to 18
The death toll in Sunday evening's boat mishap in the Krishna river near here in Andhra Pradesh has risen to 18 with the recovery of two more bodies since last night, official sources said.
The tragedy occurred when a boat carrying about 40 tourists from various parts of Andhra Pradesh capsized in the river around 5 pm yesterday.
As many as 15 people were rescued alive, Krishna district officials told NetIndian over the telephone from the scene of the tragedy. According to other sources, the victims included six women and four children.
There was no clarity on the number of people who were travelling in the boat and search and rescue efforts continued through the night to look for any possible survivors, the officials said.
Local fishermen and others jumped into the waters and managed to save 15 people, the sources said. Officials said 16 bodies were recovered from the river by late yesterday evening and two more since then, including one early this morning.
Teams from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), the fire service and other emergency services are involved in the search and rescue efforts and senior district officials are camping at the spot.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu was due to visit the scene of the tragedy today, while State Tourism Minister Bhuma Akhila Priya visited the spot last night and this morning.
She told journalists that the private company which owned the boat did not have the required permissions to ferry so many passengers and an inquiry would be held to establish it was allowed to carry so many people.
The company had received the ill-fated boat only yesterday morning and was carrying out a trial run when it capsized, sources said.
The boat was carrying the  passengers from Bhavani island to the Pavitra Sangamam to witness Pavitra Harati, a ritual which attracts a lot of tourists, when the mishap occurred.
Several of the passengers were said to be from Prakasam district and some others from Nellore, the sources added.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled the loss of lives in the mishap. "Capsizing of a boat in the Krishna River is anguishing. My thoughts are with the families of those who lost their lives in this tragedy. Andhra Pradesh Government and @NDRFHQ have been working on rescue operations," he said on micro-blogging site Twitter.

16 dead as boat carrying tourists capsizes in Krishna river near Vijayawada

At least 16 persons drowned when a boat carrying about 40 tourists capsized in the Krishna river near Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh on Sunday evening, official sources said.

16 dead as boat capsizes in Krishna river in Andhra Pradesh
At least 16 persons drowned when a boat carrying about 40 tourists capsized in the Krishna river near Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh this evening, official sources said.
As many as 15 people were rescued alive, Krishna district officials told NetIndian over the telephone from the scene of the tragedy. According to other sources, the victims included six women and four children.
There was no clarity on the number of people who were travelling in the boat and search and rescue efforts were continuing till late into the night to look for any possible survivors, the officials said.
Local fishermen and others jumped into the waters and managed to save 15 people, the sources said. Officials said 16 bodies were recovered from the river.
Teams from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), the fire service and other emergency services were involved in the search and rescue efforts and senior district officials were camping at the spot.
The boat, operated by a private company, was carrying the  passengers from Bhavani island for the Pavitra Sangamam to witness Pavitra Harati, a ritual at Ferry village near here, which attracts a lot of tourists, when the mishap occurred.
Several of the passengers were said to be from Prakasam district and some others from Nellore.

Naidu launches national highway, waterway projects in Andhra Pradesh

Vice-President M. Venkaiah Naidu inaugurated or laid the foundation stones  for several National Highway projects and a project for development of the Muktyala-Vijayawada stretch of Krishna River (National Waterway – 4) at a function here yesterday.
Union Minister for Shipping, Road Transport & Highways and Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation Nitin Gadkari, Andhra Pradesh Governor E. S. L. Narasimhan and Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu were amongst those present on the occasion.
Seven national highway (NH) projects were dedicated to the nation and foundation stones were laid for six NH projects in Andhra Pradesh, the total cost of all the projects being Rs. 4,193 crore, an official press release said.
Foundation stone for the Phase-I for development of Krishna River (National Waterway -4) was also laid. In the first phase of the project, the stretch between Muktayala and Vijayawada will be developed for transportation. The total project cost is Rs. 7,015 crore and the length of the waterway 315 km.
Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Naidu said interlinkingof rivers and protection of rivers was the sacred duty of everyone in the country.
He said that, in Andhra Pradesh till 2014, the total length of national highways was 4193 km and 3720 km of new highways have been declared since then. Total investment of Rs. 1 lakh crore is planned for development of national highways under various schemes in Andhra Pradesh, he said.
He said the Pattiseema Lift Irrigation Scheme, which linked Krishna and Godavari rivers, saved Krishna delta from a drought-like situation arising from water scarcity in river Krishna. He said that more and more interlinking of rivers will be beneficial for farmers who feed the nation. Everyone should take active part in this noble cause, he said.
Mr. Naidu congratulated the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister for making Telugu language mandatory in schools. He advised the state government to make knowledge of Telugu compulsory to get jobs in Andhra Pradesh and also to make it a mandatory subject for all students, irrespective of the medium of instruction school adopts, in the state. He said he was not against learning other languages but only wanted people to be proficient in their own mother tongue before pursuing other languages.
Mr. Gadkari said  that the Union Government would spend more than Rs. 1 lakh crore on improving national highways in Andhra Pradesh and it would give a tremendous boost to the development of the state. He said a six-lane access controlled greenfield Amaravathi Expressway will be built to connect the new capital city Amaravathi with Anantapur and also provide connectivity to Kurnool and Kadapa. The project has been approved  with a total length of 557 km and cost of about Rs. 25,000 crore. 
He added that the Andhra Pradesh Government is preparing the detailed project report (DPR) and it is in the process of acquiring land.
The Minister also said that under Sagaramala programme, several port-related projects would be taken up in the state. The capacity of the Visakhapatnam port would be expanded. Visakhapatnam-Chennai industrial corridor was another major project which would benefit the state enormously and it would be taken up expeditiously, he added.
Mr. Gadkari  gave assurance that the Polavaram irrigation project would  be completed before the next General Election in 2019 and the Union Government would render all necessary assistance to the State Government for the purpose.
The Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister thanked the Union Minister and said he was confident that Polavaram project would be completed on time, with the Centre's assistance.

Five people, including four Spaniards, die in road accident in Andhra Pradesh

Four Spaniards -- two men and two women -- and the driver of their mini-bus died when a container truck crashed into their vehicle in a head-on collision in Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh this morning.
Seven other Spaniards suffered injuries in the mishap and were taken to a private hospital in Bengaluru, where the condition of two of them -- a man and a woman -- was stated to be serious.
Chittoor District Superintendent of Police Rajasekhara Babu told NetIndian over the telephone that the 11 Spaniards had come to see development activities being carried out by the Rural Development Trust, run by a group from Spain, in villages of Anantapur district.
They were on their way from Anantapur to Puducherry in a Tempo Traveller mini-bus when the mishap occurred on a sharp curve on the Madanapalle-Punganuru Road. 
According to Mr. Babu, the driver of the truck appeared to have lost control over his vehicle on the curve and crossed over to the right hand side of the road and collided head-on with the oncoming bus. The truck was on its way from Chennai to Mumbai. All five victims died on the spot, he said.
The injured persons were initially treated at the area hospital in Madanapalle before being shifted to the Columbia-Asia Hospital in Bengaluru.
District Collector P S Pradyumna and Mr. Babu visited the scene of the accident, about two hours away from Chittoor district headquarters.

10 dead as bus falls into canal in Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh

Bus falls off bridge, 10 dead, several injured
At least 10 people died and several others suffered injuries when a private bus they were travelling in crashed off a bridge into a canal near Moolapadu village in Penuganchiprolu mandal of Krishna district in Andhra Pradesh early this morning.
District Collector A. Babu told NetIndian over the telephone from Vijayawada that the mishap occurred around 5 am today when the bus was on its way from Bhubaneswar to Hyderabad.
He said the bus jumped the median on the four-lane highway, a part of the Golden Quadrilateral, and fell into the canal through a gap in the two bridges on either side of the road.
Mr. Babu said some others suffered injuries and were rushed to hospitals in Vijayawada, about 50 km from the scene of the accident, where the condition of one of them was stated to be serious. 
The bus, belonging to Diwakar Travels, was carrying 44 passengers in all. The deceased included nine passengers and the driver of the bus, he said.
Local people were the first to rush to the spot and help extricate the passengers from the bus. Senior district administration and police officials also reached the scene shortly thereafter.

Rajnath lays foundation stone for NDRF campus in Andhra Pradesh

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh yesterday laid the foundation stone for the new National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) campus at Konda Pavuluru, Gannavaram, Krishna in Andhra Pradesh.
Union Minister for Urban Development, Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation and Information & Broadcasting M. Venkaiah Naidu, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu and senior officers were also present on the occasion.
The campus will come up on 50 acres of land provided by the Andhra Pradesh Government and the expenditure for construction will be borne by the Central government. The campus will be completed in two years. 
The 10th Battalion of NDRF is responsible for looking after the areas of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka for disaster response.
Speaking on the occasion, Mr Rajnath Singh applauded the NDRF for combating disasters within the country and beyond and committed himself to the modernisation of the force.
He said the NDRF today had the competence to handle radiological, nuclear and biological disasters. Its efforts have been appreciated not only in India but also in countries like Nepal and Japan where it has provided disaster relief. 
Recalling a conversation with the Mayor of a Japanese city, the Union Home Minister said that the mayor was particularly impressed by the way in which NDRF teams have not only rescued the survivors but also recovered the bodies of victims with full dignity.
Appreciating NDRF for being effective, efficient and responsive, the Minister said that people wanted more NDRF Centres and the Ministry was working on it. The personnel of this unique force will be provided with world class accommodation, he promised.
Referring to the request made earlier by Mr. Chandrababu Naidu, Mr Rajnath Singh said the issue of setting up of a Grey Hounds Battalion Centre and CRPF Battalion Centres in Andhra Pradesh is being seriously examined by the MHA.
Earlier, Mr Venkaiah Naidu in his speech said that the Union Government is fully aware of the needs of the people while fighting disasters, whether natural or manmade. The government has increased compensation for loss of life from Rs. 1.2 lakhs to Rs. 4 lakhs and the parameter of 50% crop loss for considering in giving relief has been reduced to 33% crop loss.
Mr Chandrababu Naidu also appreciated the NDRF for its prompt and effective response during disasters, specially Hudhud and Wardha cyclones. He announced that the new NDRF campus will be connected to Vijayawada bypass (4KM) with a metal road very soon and water supply for the campus will be provided form Pollavaram canal. He also requested the Union Home Minister to speed up the implementation of the provisions of Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act.

Govt. launches two new energy efficiency schemes

The Centre today launched two new energy efficiency schemes, National Energy Efficient Agriculture Pumps Programme and National Energy Efficient Fan Programme.
The programmes were launched by Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu during the inaugural session of the two-day international workshop on energy efficient lighting. 
These schemes will be implemented by Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL), a joint venture of public sector undertakings (PSUs) under the Ministry of Power.
Under the National Energy Efficient Agriculture Pumps Programme, farmers can replace their inefficient pumps free of cost with the new BEE star rated energy efficient agricultural pump-sets. These pumps will come enabled with smart control panel and a SIM card, giving farmers the flexibility to remotely control these pumps from their mobile phones and from the comfort of their homes, an official press release said.
EESL will distribute 200,000 BEE star rated pump-sets to the farmers under this programme, which will lead to 30% of energy savings by 2019. This translates into an annual savings of approximately Rs 20,000 crore on agricultural subsidies or a saving of 50 billion units of energy every year, it said.
The release said that, with the usage of the 50 Watts BEE 5 Star rated ceiling fans, to be distributed under the National Energy Efficient Fan Programme, it is estimated that consumer’s electricity bills will come down by about Rs. 700-730 per year. Thus, the cost recovery of purchasing these fans would be less than two years.
These fans are 30% more energy efficient as compared to conventional fans, which range from 75-80 watts. At present, two energy efficient fans will be provided to each consumer at Rs 60 a month per fan on EMI basis. The EMI amount will be added to the consumers’ electricity bills for two years. This scheme will be available to the consumer on providing a copy of latest electricity bill along with a copy of residence proof at the designated distribution centre. The consumer can also purchase the fan by paying Rs. 1250 upfront.
Speaking on the occasion, Mr Naidu called upon the people to feel responsibility of saving energy which is a big challenge the nation is facing. He said the State government is moving ahead with innovative ideas in saving energy. When Visakhapatnam was hit by Hudhud cyclone last year, the government replaced all the incandescent bulbs with LED which saved 21,000 mw of power and also saved money of the State exchequer, he added.
“Andhra Pradesh is the first state in India to adopt more than 1.8 crore LED bulbs under the UJALA scheme which has helped the state government to save Rs 2.6  crore daily. It has always been a pioneer in adopting energy efficiency programmes. To add to the success of UJALA in the state we will now implement energy efficient fan programme and the energy efficient agriculture pumps programme. This will help us to manage our peak demand and in-turn help the state become energy sufficient,” he said.
Earlier, the Chief Minister inaugurated the workshop on Energy Efficient Lighting by unveiling the Energy Efficient Fan and by switching on Energy Efficient Agriculture Pump installed in Rajamundry, 150 km from Vijayawada, through remote control. He also distributed the first lot of LED bulbs and fans to the consumers at the function.
Andhra Pradesh Principal Secretary, Energy, Ajay Jain, welcomed the gathering. Dr Ashok Sarkar, World Bank Group, Zhinguiang Xu, Deputy Director General, National Energy Conservation Cetre, China, TERI Director General Ajay Mathur, EESL Chairman Rajeev Sharma and EESL Managing Director Saurabh Kumar were among those present. In all, representatives of 15 countries across the globe and State governments are attending the conference.

NHAI okays substitution of concessionare in Vijayawada-Gundugolanu highway project

The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has approved the harmonious substitution of Gammon Infrastructure Private Limited by Brookfield India Holding Pvt. Ltd. for the Vijayawada-Gundugolanu highway project in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, which was stalled. 
An official press release said the substitution was possible due to the recent policy initiative of the Government wherein the concessionaires who are facing difficulties in implementing public private partnership (PPP) projects can be substituted in harmonious manner by a new investor. 
The project was approved at a total cost of Rs 1684 crore. Later, NHAI observed that the concessionaire was facing financial stress and was unable to meet its obligations under the Concession Agreement. 
"This initiative of NHAI and the Government will help in salvaging this prestigious project by bringing in fresh investment from M/s. Brookfield India Holding Pvt. Ltd. (a subsidiary of M/s Brookfield Infrastructure Partners LP, an international infrastructure fund), who will bring in $ 100 million as equity investment," the release added.

Rajnath to chair 26th Meeting of Southern Zonal Council in Vijayawada on Saturday

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh will chair the 26th meeting of the Southern Zonal Council to be held in Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh tomorrow. 
The Southern Zonal Council comprises the States of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Telangana and Puducherry. 
The Chief Ministers of all these states and senior officers from both Central and State Governments are expected to participate in this meeting, an official press release said.
The 8th meeting of the Standing Committee of the Southern Zonal Council was held at Hyderabad on November 19 to scrutinize the agenda for deliberation and resolution for this meeting. 
Issues of Inter-State and Centre-State cooperation and coordination have been flagged for this meeting, such as coastal security, peninsular region industrial corridor, introduction of peninsular tourism trains, finalization of inter-state reciprocal transport agreement, curbing the use of unacceptable levels of pesticides in fruits and vegetables, maintaining uniform standards of nursing courses, and so on.
Some other substantial issues of Centre State and Inter-State matters are also likely to be raised by Member States in the Council, the release said.
The Zonal Councils, created under the State Reorganization Act, 1956, are advisory bodies that discuss and advise the Central and State Governments on matters of common interest pertaining to a gamut of subjects such as infrastructures, health, security, social welfare, linguistic minorities and border disputes, and on the action to be taken on them.
There are five Councils, one for each Zone viz., Eastern, Western, Northern, Southern, and Central. The secretarial functions of the Zonal Councils have been transferred to the Inter State Council Secretariat with effect from 1 April, 2011. The North-East Council set up under a separate Act of 1971 is under the administrative ambit of the Ministry of Development of North-Eastern Region (DoNER). 
The meeting of each Zonal Council needs to be held once in a year to iron out the differences between the governments on issues of development concerning regional interest and national programmes. However, meetings of most of the zonal councils were quite infrequent during the past. 
"Given the great potential of these institutions in resolving regional and interstate issues through their consultative mechanism, the present Government immediately after coming to power decided to revive and further strengthen these fora. Inter State Council Secretariat, which looks after the work of Zonal Council since 2011, was instructed to take on the preparatory work to complete meetings of all Zonal Councils, pending for years, by the end of 2015," the release said.
"It was a challenging task as it mandatorily required holding of all the meetings of Standing Committees of these Zonal Councils prior to the Councils’ meetings. It called for immense coordination and networking to have all the states to meet on the table under the Chairmanship of Union Home Minister for each of these Zonal Councils. 
"State elections, natural calamities, law and order problems and such other pressing situations, more often than not, stymied the execution of this task but the government machinery rose to the occasion and pulled it off. With completion of this meeting of Southern Zonal Council which is last in the series of the Councils’ meetings this year, all the meetings of the Zonal Councils will be completed as committed by the Government," it added.

Andhra Pradesh proposes AMRUT Action Plan for 31 cities at cost of Rs 28,756 crore

The Andhra Pradesh government has proposed a comprehension action plan under the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) for 31 cities and towns of the state at an estimated cost of Rs 28,756.30 crore.
The plan is aimed at ensuring basic infrastructure relating to water supply, sewerage and septage management, drainage, urban transport and green spaces and parks during the next five years in these cities and towns.
An official press release said that, for the current financial year (2015-16), the State Government has sought approval of the Miistry of Urban Development for its State Level Annual Action Plan (SAAP) involving central assistance of Rs. 673.12 crore for water supply projects and development  of parks.
The State’s SAAP is based on city level plans formulated after assessing the gaps in basic infrastructure and investments to be made to meet the norms prescribed for urban areas.
The release said the extent of coverage of urban households with water supply connections in AMRUT cities and towns in Andhra Pradesh ranged from 7.50% in Tenali to 78.80% in Rajahmundry. On the whole, 50.22% of all urban households in the Mission cities have water connections at present.
Cities with  below 30% coverage include Tenali (7.50%), Madanapalle (20%), Chittor(21%) and Vizianagaram(30%).
Cities with coverage between 31% and 50% include Srikakulam (58%), Bhimavaram(43.60%), Kakinada(49.36%), Vijayawada(48.75%), Gudivada (48%), Machilipatnam(50%), Tirupati(45%), Ongole (49%), Nellore(45%), Proddatur(45%), Tadipatri(42.50%), Hindupur(37%), Guntakal (47%), Anantapur (45%), Kurnool (45.94%) and Adoni (43%).
Cities with coverage between 51% and 75% coverage include Visakhapatnam (61%), Tadepallegudem(57.37%), Eluru (66.31%), Chilakaluripeta (51%), Narsaraopeta (61.46%), Kadapa(52%), Dharmavaram(69%) and Nandyal (50.85%).
Rajahmundry has more 78% of households with water supply connections, the release said.
The per capita water supply rnaged from 20 litres per capita per day (lpcd) in Madanapalle to 145 lpcd in Vijayawada as against the norm for urban areas of 135 lpcd. On an average, water supply in AMRUT cities in Andhra Pradesh at present is 104 lpcd.
Cities with water supply of less than 50 lpcd include Madanapalle-20 lpcd, Chittor(48) and Tadipatri (49). Cities with water supply between 50 and 100 lpcd include Vizianagaram (70), Bhimavaram(88), Tadepallegudem(78), Gudivada (95), Machilipatnam (68), Chilakaluripeta(99), Guntur(100), Ongole (88), Proddatur(73), Hindupur(56), Nandyal(73) and Kurnool (80 lpcd).
Cities with water supply between 101 and 134 lpcd include Srikakulam(115 lpcd), Vizag(109), Kakinada (108), Narsaraopeta (126), Tirupati(114), Nellore(126), Kadapa (116), Guntakal(107), Dharmavaram(114), Adoni(104). 
Eluru, Rajahmundry, Tenali, Anantapur (135 lpcd each) and Vijayawada (145 lpcd) are among the cities with water supply of 135 lpcd and more, the release said.
The State Government reported that sewerage network services are available only in six Mission cities. These include : 10% in Guntur, 18% in Proddatur, 19.56% in Vizag, 49% in Kadapa, 70% in Vijayawada and 79% in Tadipatri. It has proposed to bridge the gaps in respect of these infrastructure areas progressively over the next five years.
The State Government projected a cost of Rs. 6,117.24 crore for ensuring universal coverage of urban households in Mission cities in respect of water supply and Rs.10,888 crore for providing sewerage networks and septage management over the next five years.
To provide adequate drainage facilities in the Mission cities in the state, the State Government has proposed construction of outfall drains, major and minor drains besides rejuvenation of existing drains covering a total length of 6,753 km at an estimated cost of Rs. 6,814.85 crore.
Regarding improving urban transport, the State Government has proposed development of 336.50 kms of pathways at a cost of Rs.178.10 crore, 232 km of cycle tracks at a cost of Rs.11.50 crore, 215 kms of BRTS (Bus Rapid Transport Systems) corridors at a cost of Rs.702 crore and procurement of 710 buses at a cost of Rs.376 crore. Total investments proposed in urban transport sector over the next five years is Rs.1998.88 crore.
Development of green spaces and parks will be undertaken at a cost of Rs. 120 crore under the Atal Mission.
Capacity building of urban local bodies will be taken up at a cost of Rs. 120 crore. Administrative and Other Expenses during the Mission period till 2019 is estimated to be Rs. 2,614 crore.
The State Government reported that as required under AMRUT Guidelines, Operation & Maintenance costs of infrastructure assets to be created will be included in the Detailed Project Reports and operation and maintenance (O&M) costs will be borne by the urban local bodies through user charges including tariff rationalization, reduction of quantum of water being supplied without any collection of charges, energy conservation and efficiency improvement and improvement of systems efficiency by adopting ICT.
The Andhra Pradesh Government has assured the Urban Development Ministry that the mandated 11 urban sector reforms will be implemented in 6 to 36 months. This includes e-governance, Municipal Tax and Fee improvement, improvement in levy and collection of user charges and credit rating of urban local bodies.
The Andhra Pradesh Urban Finance and Infrastructure Development Corporation (AUFIDC) has been designated as the financial intermediary for mobilization of required resources. The State Government has set up Andhra Pradesh Greening and Beautification Corporation for taking up greening projects.
Under Atal Mission, the Central Government provides assistance up to 50% of projects for cities with a population of up to 10 lakhs and one third of project cost for cities with population of above 10 lakhs. In Andhra Pradesh, only Visakhapatnam and Vijayawada have population of over 10 lakhs each, the release added.

Cabinet nod for creation of posts of Directors for four new NIDs

The Union Cabinet today approved the creation of four posts of Directors for four new National Institutes of Design (NIDs) at Kurukshetra (Haryana), Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh), Jorhat (Assam) and Vijayawada (Andhra Pradesh). 
The Cabinet had already approved financial implications including salaries, for setting up of these new NIDs in its meeting held in February, 2014. 
The National Design Policy was approved by the Cabinet in February, 2007. One of the components of the Action Plan for implementation of the policy is setting up of four more NIDs on the pattern of NID, Ahmedabad. This would help in spreading quality education in design to all regions of India, an official press release said.
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