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India to host 3rd Annual Meeting of Board of Governors of Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank

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India will host the 3rd Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors of Asian  Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in Mumbai on June 25-26, 2018.
 
The theme of the meeting will be “Mobilizing Finance for Infrastructure: Innovation and Collaboration”. 
 
The Government of India and AIIB Secretariat signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) here yesterday to delineate the duties and responsibilities of major stakeholders who would be involved in organizing the meeting, an official press release said.
 
The MoU was signed on behalf of the Government of India by Mr. Sameer Kumar Khare, Joint Secretary (Multilateral Institutions Division), Department of Economic Affairs (DEA), Ministry  of Finance and by Mr. Danny Alexander, AIIB’s Vice-President and Corporate Secretary on behalf of AIIB. 
 
The signing ceremony took place at the Ministry of Finance in North Block in New Delhi in the august presence of Mr. Subhash Chandra Garg, Secretary (Economic Affairs) and Dr. M.M. Kutty, Additional Secretary (Economic Affairs) and other senior officers of the Government of India and AIIB.
 
Mr. Garg noted that India is not only one of the founding members of AIIB but also the second largest shareholder in AIIB.  He said the event would provide an opportunity to showcase the strengths of the Indian economy and introduce AIIB members to potential infrastructure investment opportunities in India and Asia.
 
Mr. Alexander said India was central to delivering on the bank’s mandate to support sustainable economic development of Asia through investment in infrastructure. “It is but appropriate that the Annual Meeting is being held in Mumbai, the financial capital of India. We are hoping that discussions in Mumbai will help AIIB to deepen our cooperation with India and to develop our approach for mobilizing more private sector capital for infrastructure in Asia. AIIB will continue to develop the bank according to 'Lean, Clean and Green' core values," he said.
 
He also said that AIIB looked forward to continuing to work with the Indian Government and India’s business community to further develop solutions to fund vital sustainable infrastructure projects across the country.
 
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Ahead of the AIIB annual meeting, the Attendant Meeting of the Board of Directors will take place on June 23-24 and preparatory work and ancillary events will take place from June 22 to June 27.
 
The Annual Meeting will bring to Mumbai the delegates from all 80 AIIB member countries, business leaders, members of civil society organizations and media among others.
 
Annual Meeting related seminars will also be organized in some Indian cities like Delhi, Kolkata, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Chennai, Bangalore and Vishakhapatnam  prior to the main Annual Meeting. 
 
A Special Committee at the level of Secretary, DEA has been constituted for coordinating the matters relating to organizing the 2018 Annual Meeting, with representatives from various Ministries concerned of the Government of India and the Government of Maharashtra. 
 
The Government of Maharashtra has nominated Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) as the nodal agency for organising the Annual Meeting, the release added.
 
AIIB is a multilateral development bank with a mission to improve social and economic outcomes in Asia and beyond. Headquartered in Beijing, China, AIIB commenced operations in January 2016.
 
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A new diagnostic test on cards for prostate cancer

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A group of Indian scientists has identified a sensitive and specific diagnostic marker for prostate cancer that may differentiate between cancerous and non-cancerous prostate enlargement.
 
Prostate cancer is the second most frequently diagnosed cancer in men worldwide. The commonly used diagnostic test is to check the level of Prostate-Specific Antigen, PSA, in serum. Though it is a reliable marker it is not confined to prostate canceronly. PSA levels increase in benign prostatic hyperplasia as well which is a non-cancerous increase in the size of the prostate gland.
 
A team of researchers from King George’s Medical University, Centre of Biomedical Research, Lucknow University and Sanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences, Lucknow has evaluated the usefulness of Macrophage Inhibitory Cytokine-1 (Mic-1) protein in the diagnosis of prostate cancer. Dr. Ashish Gupta and his team have identified a potential biomarker for prostate cancer.
 
Researchers propose that MIC-1 is better in terms of specificity than the commonly used Prostate-Specific Antigen. They evaluated the levels of MIC-1 in prostate cancer and benign prostate enlargement patients as well as healthy persons. Each group had about 80 persons.
 
It was found that MIC-1 levels were significantly different in prostate cancer patients as compared to those with benign growth or healthy individuals. MIC-1 levels in the serum correlated with the grade of cancer. Higher levels in advanced cancers as compared to low-grade cancer. The study results have been published in journal Scientific Reports.
 
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Although further validation needs to be done on larger datasets, scientists believe MIC-1 could be a potential marker that might be routinely used in the laboratory for prostate cancer diagnosiswith or without PSA. With further analyses, MIC-1 screening might be clinically useful in distinguishing between grades of prostate cancer too.
 
"Detection of prostate enlargement, which may or may not lead to prostate cancer, is largely based on serum PSA levels. But PSA level is not a definitive marker and could sometimes be misleading. Therefore, additional and more definitive markers are still under investigation. The finding that MIC-1 is consistently over expressed in prostate cancer patients could serve as a valuable marker, additional to serum PSA, and a correlation between the two could in future act as a valuable diagnostic tool,” commented Prof. Urmi Chatterji of Cancer Research Laboratory at University of Calcutta, who was not connected with the study. “However, level of expression of MIC-1 in terms of a range of values in healthy individuals versus those with benign enlargement and cancer patients need to be ascertained for more specific diagnostic purpose," she said.
 
The research included Navneeta Bansal, Deepak Kumar, Ashish Gupta, Deepak Chandra, Satya Narain Sankhwar and Anil Mandhani. The study was funded by DBT, UGC and CSIR. 
 
(India Science Wire)
 
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India seeks sustainable development while preserving nature, cultural heritage: Sharma

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Minister of State for Culture (Independent Charge) and Environment, Forest & Climate Change Mahesh Sharma has stated that India was seeking sustainable development while preserving its nature and cultural heritage.
 
Dr Sharma was speaking at the 2nd UN World Tourism Organization/UNESCO World Conference on Tourism and Culture, with focus on sustainable development in  Muscat, Omann.
 
He had led the Indian delegation to the conference on December 11-12.
 
The conference had on its agenda themes such as culture and tourism as a factor of peace and prosperity; tourism development and protection of cultural heritage; culture and tourism and urban development and creativity; and exploring cultural land escapes in tourism. The conference also finalized the 2030 Agenda.
 
During his visit to Muscat, Dr Sharma also held bilateral discussions on cooperation between India and Oman in the fields of culture and tourism. He met Minister of Tourism of Oman, Ahmed Bin Naseer Bin Hamad al-Mehrzi and discussed cooperation in the field of tourism, including the early conclusion of the MoU on cooperation in tourism between the two countries.
 
There is a huge potential for expanding tourism exchange between the two countries. People of Oman, due to their familiarity with India, visit India, including for medical treatment, he said.
 
The Minister met with Minister of Heritage and Culture of Oman Sayyid Haitham bin Tariq Al Said and discussed with him the ways for expanding cultural exchanges between the two countries.
 
He also had a brief interaction with Deputy Prime Minister for Council of Ministers of Oman, Sayyid Fahd Bin Mahmoud Al Said with focus on expanding the strategic partnership between the two countries.
 
On the sidelines of the conference, he held a bilateral meeting with Minister for Culture and Tourism of Turkey, wherein the two sides agreed to institute a joint committee to explore areas for mutual cooperation in fields of culture and tourism between India and Turkey.
 
There is a large Indian community in Oman, numbering around 0.8 million. The Minister addressed a gathering of Indian community at a reception hosted on  December 12 at the Embassy in Muscat in his honour by Indian Ambassador Indra Mani Pandey.
 
He invited them to utilize the opportunities offered by the fast-growing economy of India for investments and participate wholeheartedly in flagship projects of the Government like ‘Make in India’, Clean India, Digital India and Skill India.
 
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Ministry cautions against misleading advertisement for appointment of petrol dealers

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The Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas has warned that some unscrupulous persons were misleading people by using its Ministry to advertise for the appointment of petrol dealers under a non-existing scheme “Jawahar Rojgar Yojana” and collecting substantial amount from the applicants.
 
“It is clarified that Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas has not issued any advertisement for allotment of petrol pump under a scheme by name Jawahar Rojgar Yojana,” the Ministry said in a release.
 
“It is informed that Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas has no role in the appointment of dealers. Three Oil Marketing Companies i.e. Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. (IOCL), Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd. (BPCL) and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation (HPCL) based on their feasibility study, identify the location and issue advertisements for the appointment of dealers as per existing selection guidelines.
 
“It is further clarified that neither Government of India nor OMCs have advertised for the appointment of dealer under Jawahar Rojgar Yojana. Prima facie, it appears that some unscrupulous elements are misusing the name of Government of India. The general public is accordingly advised not to respond to any such advertisement/scheme,” it added.
 
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NHAI makes all-out efforts to speed up award and construction of highways

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The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has invited bids for projects of 4,900 km till November this year with bids for another 3,500 km likely to be invited by December end, taking the total up to 8400 km.
 
An official press release said that this was part of NHAI's all-out efforts to speed up award and construction of highways by constituting project appraisal committees and delegation of powers for quicker decision making.
 
Further projects for bidding during January-March, 2018 will be identified around the fourth week of December. Projects costing Rs. 22,100 crore and covering 1170 km have already been awarded so far and the bids for many other projects are under evaluation.
 
Some of the projects that were bid out this year include Dwarka Expressway in Delhi; Varanasi Ring Road Phase-II in Uttar Pradesh; Khambataki Ghat 6-lane Tunnel on Pune – Satara Section in Maharashtra; Jodhpur Ring Road in Rajasthan; Bridge at Manihari Ghat (near Sahibganj) in Bihar; 6-laning of Chordaha – Gorhar – Barwa Adda in Jharkhand; 4-laning of Ghoshpukur – Salsalabari in West Bengal; and 4-laning of Bhopal  - Biaora in Madhya Pradesh;  
 
Others are the 4-laning of Cuttack – Angul Section in Odisha; 6-laning of Bengaluru – Mysore Section in Karnataka; and the Fully Access Controlled Expressway (Anandapuram-Pendurthi-Anakapalli) with connectivity to Visakhapatnam Port in Andhra Pradesh.
 
In FY 2017-18, NHAI has completed 1566 km length of the projects under implementation till November 2017 (5,060 lane km).  The average in last five years of length constructed by NHAI is 2,175 km with 2,628 km constructed in FY 2016-17. This year NHAI is targeting to construct 3,500 km.
 
The work on 12 new projects (covering 597 km) has commenced and will start soon on another 38 projects (covering 1969 km).  The banks/ financial institutions are now showing a keen interest in Hybrid Annuity Mode (HAM) and financial closure of HAM projects are now happening smoothly.
 
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NHAI is making all-out efforts to achieve its target of awarding 10,000 km during 2017-18, as set by Nitin Gadkari, Minister of Road Transport & Highways, the release said.
The Authority is also gearing up to meet its target of completing Phase I of the recently approved “Bharatmala Pariyojana” within the next five years, that is  up to 2021-22.
 
During the last five years, NHAI’s average award has been 2,860 km, with 4,335 km awarded in FY 2016-17.
 
While approving the Bharatmala Pariyojana, the Government had authorized NHAI Board to appraise and approve projects on Engineering, Procurement & Construction (EPC) mode, which constitute 30% of the Pariyojana. 
 
Accordingly, the NHAI Board constituted two appraisal committees for appraising projects costing more than Rs 500 crore and internal appraisal committees for appraising projects up to Rs 500 crore, besides delegating power to Chairman to approve projects up to Rs 500 crore and to the Executive Committee of NHAI for projects costing Rs 500-1,000 crore.
 
The Appraisal Committees have cleared several projects already, which has led to expediting the invitation and acceptance of bids. Chairman NHAI is reviewing the targets on weekly basis.
 
Regional Officers have been instructed to engage retired revenue officials of the rank of ADM for each project so as to expedite the land acquisition. The delays in starting the projects like disbursement of compensation, tree cutting permissions, and so on, are also constantly monitored.
 
The site officers of NHAI have been instructed to meet and sit with the concerned officials of State Governments till the clearances are received. Issues are escalated to the Chief Secretaries of State Governments, if not resolved at local level, an official release said.
 
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Warburg Pincus to acquire 20% stake in Airtel's DTH arm for $ 350 million

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Telecom services provider Bharti Airtel and global private equity firm Warburg Pincus today announced that an affiliate of Warburg Pincus will acquire up to a 20% equity stake in Bharti Telemedia Limited, the DTH arm of Airtel, for approximately  $ 350 million. 
 
Of this, 15% stake will be sold by Bharti Airtel and the balance by another Bharti entity which holds 5% stake, a press release from Airtel said.
 
Bharti Telemedia is one of the largest Direct-To-Home (DTH) paid TV service providers in India and offers services under the Airtel TV brand. It had approximately 14 million subscribers and approximately $ 550 million in revenues during the 12-month period ended September 30, 2017.
 
"Airtel TV, which was launched in 2008, has grown to become a top three in-home entertainment player with industry leading profitability.  The company has a strong distribution infrastructure, with over 1,500 partners and over 158,000 recharge outlets in approximately 630 districts of the country.  It is led by Sunil Taldar, who joined as CEO in 2016 and brings over 28 years of experience in the fast-moving consumer goods industry across Asia," the release said.
 
Upon closing of the transaction, Airtel will own an 80% equity stake in Bharti Telemedia Limited.
 
Gopal Vittal, MD & CEO (India & South Asia), Bharti Airtel, said, “Airtel has enjoyed a very successful partnership with Warburg Pincus in the past and we are excited to partner with them once again in an attractive and fast growing space. Airtel TV is very well positioned in the DTH space, and we are committed to grow our share of the market through a combination of innovation, value engineering, customer service and distribution initiatives. We look forward to working with Warburg Pincus towards achieving our vision of making Airtel TV India’s leading DTH platform.”
 
Vishal Mahadevia, Managing Director and Co-Head, Warburg Pincus India, said, “The Indian Digital TV market is expanding rapidly and we believe that Airtel DTH is well positioned to capitalize on incremental growth in digitization and new TV penetration in Tier 3 and 4 towns and rural areas.  We are pleased to be working alongside Sunil Bharti Mittal and the Bharti group again following our successful partnership many years ago, and we look forward to supporting the management team during the next phase of the Company’s growth.”
 
The Airtel board has approved the transaction, which is subject to regulatory approvals.  As part of the transaction, Viraj Sawhney, Managing Director, Warburg Pincus India, will join the board of Bharti Telemedia Limited, the release added.
 
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Former Indian football captain Gurdev Singh Gill felicitated

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Gurdev Singh Gill, former captain of the Indian football team, was felicitated here today for his outstanding contribution to the sport.
 
Minister of State for Youth Affairs & Sports Rajyavardhan Rathore presented him a shawl, a memento and a cheque for Rs five lakh on the occasion.
 
The felicitation ceremony was organised as Gill was away in Canada when Prime Minister Narendra Modi felicitated the captains of Indian football teams that played in the Asian Games.
 
Felicitation of Indian captains by the Prime Minister was organised during the FIFA U-17 World Cup on October 6.
 
Speaking after the felicitation ceremony, Gurdev Singh said he was happy with the promotion of football in the country as FIFA U 17 World Cup had attracted a lot of attention throughout the country especially among youth and school students.
 
A winner of Arjuna Award, 67-year-old Gurdev Singh captained the Indian football team at 1978 Bangkok Asian Games.
 
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Second India-Myanmar-Thailand Motor Rally completes first leg

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The 2nd India-Myanmar-Thailand Friendship Motor Rally–IMT 2 successfully completed its first leg from Guwahati to Bangkok on  December 3.
 
The rally was flagged off from Guwahati on November 25 with a total of 50 participants, including five women, in 20 SUV vehicles. It made night halts in Kohima and Imphal before being flagged off by Mr Tharadol Thongruang, Minister Counsellor (Commercial) of Thailand, for the border town of Moreh. 
 
After a hassle free and smooth facilitation at the Land Border Crossing on the Indian side of the Moreh Tamu border, the rally proceeded towards Myanmar.
 
In Myanmar, the rally passed through Kalay, Bagan, Mandalay, Yangon and Mawlamyine, an official press release said here today.
 
It then crossed over to Thailand at the Mae Sot Border on 2nd December and reached Bangkok on December 3 via the old capital Sukhothai.
 
The IMT-2 motor rally has been organised by Kalinga Motor Sports Club in collaboration with the team Mahindra Adventure.
 
The Embassies of Myanmar and Thailand in India and the Indian Embassy in Myanmar and Thailand facilitated the event while the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways, Ministry of External Affairs and Land Customs Department, offered full support, the release added.
 
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Govt. increases reward amount for seizures of drugs, psychotropic substances

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The Government has issued new reward guidelines and increased the amount to be paid to the officers, informers and other persons for the seizure of narcotics drugs, psychotropic substances and the like.
 
According to guidelines announced on October 10, an officer will be eligible for a Rs 20,00,000 reward during his entire career and Rs 50,000 at a time, an official press release said.
 
However, a maximum reward of Rs 2,00,000 may also be given to an individual in exceptional cases by the Apex Central Rewards Committee.
 
Up to 50% of the total admissible reward amount can be given at pre-trial stage if the test report from chemical lab turns positive, it said.
 
The reward sanctioning authority should also consider the factors while granting reward to informers, like the accuracy of the information, degree of risk involved, extent and nature of the help rendered by the informer and whether the information also gave clues of the person involved in the drug trafficking racket, the release said.
 
The Narcotics Control Bureau has been made the coordinating agency to process the reward proposal of other Central and State agencies working in the field of drug interdiction.
 
While formulating the Reward Guidelines, 2017, the Government has also laid down that the reward should not be granted as a matter of routine. The criteria for grant of reward to informers have also been prescribed.
 
Provision has been made for special efforts made by the government officials in developing the information, effecting the seizure and post-seizure investigation.
 
It also excludes any work done by an individual officer in his normal course of duties.
 
As per the new guidelines, the reward scheme will be made applicable to informers whose tip-off leads to seizures of Narcotic Drugs, Psychotropic Substances, Controlled substances, forfeiture of illegally acquired property under chapter V A of NDPS Act and contravention of rules made thereunder, which is booked by any Central and State agencies.
 
It is also applicable to officers of Central/State/UTs Government empowered under the provisions of the NDPS Act, 1985 who make seizures, successful investigation/prosecution and conduct post investigation work in respect of a contravention of provisions of NDPS Act, 1985.
 
Officials of other Central/State/UTs Government who assisted in detecting the contravention of the provisions of the NDPS Act, 1985, Rules or order made thereunder will also be eligible.
 
The new reward guideline has not only included new drugs/ psychotropic substances in the revised reward policy but also increased the rate of the reward of the seized drug.
 
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India’s retail inflation rate rises to 15-month high of 4.88% in November 2017

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India’s annual retail inflation rate, as tracked through the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose to a 15-month high of 4.88 percent in November 2017 from 3.58 percent in October.
 
An official press release said the inflation rates based on the CPI in November 2017 were 4.79% in rural areas and 4.9% in urban areas, making for a combined rate of 4.88% as compared to 3.63% in the same month of the previous year.
 
The inflation rates based on the Consumer Food Price Index (CFPI) were 4.11% in rural areas and 4.9 percent in urban areas, adding upto to a combined rate of 4.42% in November 2017 as compared to 2.03% in the corresponding month of 2016.
 
The rise in inflation was attributed to the rising food prices, especially in the prices of vegetables, fruits, eggs, sugar and confectionery and prepared meals, snacks and sweets.
 
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India's industrial output growth slows down to 2.2% in October

 
India's industrial output growth slowed down to 2.2 percent in October 2017, as compared to the level in the same month of the previous year, from 3.8 percent in September, an official statement said here today.
 
The Quick Estimates of Index of Industrial Production and Use-Based Index for October 2017 (Base 2011-12=100), released here today by the Central Statistics Office of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, said the General Index for the month stood at 123.0.
 
The cumulative growth for the period April-October 2017 over the corresponding period of the previous year stood at 2.5%.
 
The statement said the Indices of Industrial Production for the Mining, Manufacturing and Electricity sectors for October 2017 stood at 101.2, 124.3 and 149.8, respectively, with the corresponding growth rates of 0.2%, 2.5% and 3.2% as compared to October 2016.
 
The cumulative growth in these three sectors during April-October 2017 over the corresponding period of 2016 was 3.4%, 2.1% and 5.3%, respectively, it said.
 
The statement said 10 of the 23 industry groups in the manufacturing sector showed positive growth during October 2017 as compared to the corresponding during the same month of the previous year.
 
The industry group ‘Manufacture of pharmaceuticals, medicinal chemical and botanical products’ showed the highest growth  of 23.0%, followed by 12.8% in ‘Manufacture of motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers’ and 9.7% in ‘Manufacture of computer, electronic and optical products’.
 
On the other hand, the industry group ‘Other manufacturing’ showed the highest negative growth of (-) 36.4% followed by (-) 20.9% in ‘Manufacture of tobacco products’ and (-) 16.1% in ‘Manufacture of rubber and plastic products’.
 
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The statement said the growth rates in October 2017 over October 2016 were 2.5% in Primary goods, 6.8% in Capital goods, 0.2% in Intermediate goods and 5.2% in Infrastructure/ Construction Goods. Consumer durables and Consumer non-durables recorded growth of    (-) 6.9% and 7.7%, respectively.
 
Some important item groups showing high growth during October 2017 over the same month in previous year include ‘Bodies of trucks, lorries and trailers’ (199.0%), ‘Meters (electric and non-electric)’ (64.2%), ‘Separators including decanter centrifuge’ (60.6%), ‘Digestive enzymes and antacids (incl. PPI drugs)’ (53.9%),  ‘Bars and Rods of Alloy and Stainless Steel’ (52.0%), ‘Flat products of Stainless Steel’ (50.9%), ‘Axle’ (50.3%), ‘Full-cream/ Toned/ Skimmed milk, whether or not chilled’ (21.5%) and ‘Tea’ (20.1%).
 
Important item groups that have registered high negative growth include ‘Jewellery of gold (studded with stones or not)’ [(-) 76.9%], ‘Plastic jars, bottles and containers’ [(-) 52.1%], ‘Electric heaters’ [(-) 39.9%], ‘Bags/ pouches of HDPE/ LDPE (plastic)’ [(-)38.2%], ‘Other tobacco products’ [(-) 38.1%], ‘Printing Machinery’ [(-) 37.5%], ‘Tooth Paste’ [(-) 32.4%], ‘Electrical apparatus for switching or protecting electrical circuits (e.g switchgear, circuit breakers/switches, control/ meter panel)’ [(-) 31.6%], ‘Plastic components of packing/ closing/ bottling articles & of electrical fittings’ [(-) 30.9%], ‘Palm Oil refined (including Palmolein)’ [(-) 28.6%], ‘T. V. set’ [(-) 25.5%] and ‘Copper bars, rods & wire rods’ [(-) 23.4%].
 
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Lalji Singh, father of Indian DNA fingerprinting passes away

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The world of science has lost an icon with the passing away of Dr. Lalji Singh, who died in Varanasi on Sunday at the age of 70 following a heart attack.
 
Reports said Dr. Singh suffered the heart attack while waiting to board a flight for Delhi at the Varanasi airport late on Sunday night. He was rushed to the BHU Hospital, but could not be revived.
 
Fondly called Father of Indian DNA Fingerprinting, Dr Singh was an outstanding personality: an excellent scientist, an able administrator, an institution builder and a social worker all rolled into one persona.
 
He was one of the leading lights in taking DNA fingerprinting to the mainstream in India, both in terms of research and for forensic applications. Enthused by his work, the Government of India entrusted him with the task of establishing a Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics at Hyderabad in late 1990s, which has since grown into a major institution with global standing.
 
His contributions to science including the setting up of a slew of laboratories dedicated to work on the different aspects of genetics such as population biology, structural biology and transgenic research.
 
His life journey makes for interesting reading. He was born on July 5, 1947, just one month before India attained independence, in a poor farmer’s family in a village near Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. A brilliant student right from the beginning, he got admission to the venerable Banaras Hindu University in Varanasi after he completed his intermediate (class 12).
 
His break came when he went and asked his teacher to suggest the topic for a special paper when he was doing his M.Sc. His teacher was none other than G.P.Roy Chowdhury, a big name in Genetics. Without batting an eyelid, he suggested that he work on the chromosome of snakes.
 
Narrating the turning point in his career in an interview a few years ago to Eureka, a television programme of Vigyan Prasar and Rajya Sabha Television, Singh recalled that was petrified as he was frightened of snakes. But, he had to do it as he had been instructed by his teacher. He had meekly asked Dr. Chowdhury as to why he had to do the work on snakes and he was told he had to do it since none had done it so far. That was it. No more questions. No more answers.
 
The ball started rolling and soon he came up with a startling result: the chromosome analysis revealed evolution of sex chromosomes according to the evolutionary status of various families of snakes, being homomorphic in the primitive families and highly differentiated between Z and W chromosomes in highly evolved and poisonous species of snakes. As Dr. Singh put it, "molecular basis of sex determination on which I did a lot of work later actually began from snakes."
 
He came up with a hypothesis that the W sex chromosome of female snakes have specific satellite DNA, which is not present in the male. It had to be confirmed. But, facilities for such studies were not available in India those days. Attempts to enlist the support of scientists abroad also proved futile as none was convinced that such a thing was possible. He finally managed to get a Commonwealth Fellowship on his own.
 
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He then went on to successfully isolate a high molecular weight DNA from a sample for the Indian Banded Krait and from that a sex specific minor satellite DNA. This led to the now famous DNA fingerprinting probe.
 
The probe was developed at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology at Hyderabad where he joined at the invitation of its then Director, late P.M.Bharagava. It came as an alternative to a probe already developed abroad with human DNA. The imported probe was expensive as the technology was patented.
 
Dr. Singh’s probe has been used in several high profile cases including former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, Beant Singh murder case in Punjab, and Swami Premanand case of Pudukottai in Tamil Nadu and Swami Shraddhanand case of Bengaluru.
 
He is also known for his DNA study of Indian population. The path breaking work was conducted on the tribes of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The study found that the tribes were perhaps the first escendants of the people who moved out of Africa to India about 60,000 to 70,000 years ago and proposed a theory of a southern route of migration via India through coastal route.
 
Dr. Singh, who started his education from BHU, went on to become its Vice-Chancellor. He remained the head of his alma mater from August 2011 to 2014.
 
Among other things, he was till recently active in a no-profit organisation called Genome Foundation that aims to help diagnose and treat genetic disorders affecting the underprivileged especially from rural areas.
 
(India Science Wire)
 
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INSV Tarini leaves Lyttelton for Port Stanley as part of global circumnavigation bid

Indian Naval Sailing Vessel (INSV) Tarini, with an all-women crew, left Lyttelton port in New Zealand this morning for Port Stanley in  the Falklands as part of its maiden voyage to circumnavigate the globe.
 
The vessel had reached Lyttelton on November 29 from Fremantle port in Australia at the end of the second leg of its journey.
 
 The historic circumnavigation attempt by an all-women crew is being led by Lieutenant Commander Vartika Joshi, and the crew comprises Lieutenant Commanders Pratibha Jamwal, P Swathi, and Lieutenants S Vijaya Devi, B Aishwarya and Payal Gupta. 
 
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had flagged-off INSV Tarini from Goa on September 10. It has covered 7800 nautical miles from Goa, crossing the Equator on September 25 and Cape Leeuwin on November 9.
 
The crew of INSV Tarini was officially welcomed to Lyttelton by Mr Andrew Turner, Deputy Mayor of Christchurch on November 29. They wre also welcomed in the traditional Maori culture by members of the community.
 
Mr. Duncan Webb, the Member of Parliament from Christchurch Central, also visited the vessel to welcome the crew. The crew had several engagements during its stay in Lyttelton, including a call on the Mayor of City of Christchurch, Ms Lianne Dalziel. 
 
The National Council of Women of New Zealand also hosted the crew for an interaction.
 
INSV Tarini crew had an opportunity to interact with a wide range of stakeholders during a reception hosted by the Indian High Commission on November 30, which was attended by about 100 distinguished guests, including members of Parliament, state officials, businessmen, academicians, leaders from Indian community and mediapersons.
 
 INSV Tarini was open to visitors at Lyttelton Port of Christchurch (LPC) on December 3. Nearly 200 visitors, from all walks of life, visited the vessel and interacted with the crew. 
 
The crew was also welcomed by the city of Christchurch during the traditional festive march, known as the 'Santa Parade'. More than 200 school children attended a presentation and interaction session with the crew at Prebbleton School on December 5.
 
The crew also visited the Naval Point Yacht Club, Canterbury and Ara Institute, NZ where a presentation on 'Navika Sagar Parikrama' was given to the audience. The crew visited the traditional Maori cultural centre, 'Rehua Marae' during the port stay. The crew also had a trip to a few tourist places near Christchurch, including Hanmer hot springs and the French harbour, Akaroa.
 
The visit of INSV Tarini to Lyttelton was covered widely in New Zealand print and electronic media, and ethnic media.
 
The indigenously-built INSV Tarini is a 56-foot sailing vessel, which was inducted in the Indian Navy earlier this year. It showcases the ‘Make in India’ initiative on the International forum.
 
The vessel will return to Goa in April 2018, on completion of the voyage. The expedition is being covered in five legs, with stop-overs at four ports: Fremantle (Australia), Lyttleton (New Zealand), Port Stanley (Falklands), and Cape Town (South Africa). 
 
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BHEL commissions coal-fired Power Project in Indonesia

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The public sector Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) today said it had achieved yet another milestone in the South East Asian region with the successful commissioning of a 54 MW coal-fired captive power project in Indonesia.
 
The 3x18 MW power project located at Sangatta, East Kalimantan, Indonesia has been set up by BHEL for PT Citra Kusuma Perdana (PT CKP) for their coal-mining operations.
 
For the project, BHEL designed, engineered, manufactured and supplied the Boiler, Turbine & Generator (BTG) island and associated auxiliaries along with supervisory services during erection & commissioning, a press release from the company said.
 
The release said BHEL has executed several projects in the region including projects in Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. In Indonesia, the company has earlier successfully executed a 2x30 MW boiler project for PT Makmur Sejahtera Wisesa (PT MSW); and 2x11 MW & 1x15 MW captive power projects for PT Indo Bharat Rayon (PT IBR).
 
An integrated power plant equipment manufacturer with over 50 years of experience, BHEL today has a presence in 82 countries in all the six continents across the globe and has installed nearly 180 GW globally.
 
BHEL is currently engaged in the execution of all types/ range of power equipment; Thermal, Gas, Nuclear, Hydro and Solar, in addition to supplying products and systems to other major infrastructure sectors of the economy such as Transmission, Transportation, Oil & Gas, Defence & Aerospace and Water.
 
In the overseas market, BHEL is presently executing various types of Hydro, Thermal and Gas based power projects, including the prestigious 2x660 MW Maitree Super Thermal Power Project, Bangladesh.
 
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Pradeep Singh Kharola assumes charge as CMD of Air India

Pradeep Singh Kharola
Pradeep Singh Kharola
Mr. Pradeep Singh Kharola, an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer of the 1985 batch (Karnataka cadre), assumed charge yesterday as the Chairman and Managing Director of national carrier Air India.
 
Mr. Kharola had earlier served as the Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister of Karnataka from 2012-2013. He also led Karnataka Urban Infrastructure Development and Finance Corporation (KUIDFC), which was involved in raising funds from international institutions to build infrastructure across cities. 
 
As Joint Secretary of National Administrative Reforms Commission he aided in the formulation of governance reforms in public administration. 
 
A press release from Air India said Mr. Kharola brings with him an extensive and rich career-experience of 30 years, having held key positions in areas such as Urban Governance, Urban Public Transport and Policy making. He has also won the National Award for e-Governanace in 2012 and the Prime Minister’s Award for Excellence in Public Administration in 2013.
 
Mr. Kharola graduated in mechanical engineering from University of Indore in 1982 and did his post-graduated in industrial engineering at IIT Delhi in 1984 with top honors. He has a Diploma in Management from All India Management Association, New Delhi and a Masters in  Development Management from Asian Institute of Management, Manila, Philippines. He also holds a PhD in Public Transport systems from IIT Delhi.
 
Mr. Kharola has the distinction of turning around a public transport undertaking to become profitable. He revived Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC), the city bus service from a loss making entity to be profitable in 2000, the first in the country. As Managing Director of Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation of India he has played a key role in kick starting Bengaluru Metro, the release added.
 
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New chemical sensor in offing for explosives detection

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Researchers at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Roorkee, have synthesised a new compound that can be used to develop sensors for detecting picric acid, which is a major component of explosives.
 
The new compound, called beta-dicyanovinyl substituted porphyrinogen, has been found to be capable of detecting picric acid at even as low a level as 1.12 parts per million. The colour of the substance changed from reddish-pink to purple as per concentration of picric acid.
 
The substance can be reused any number of times, according to Dr Muniappan Sankar, leader of the research team.
 
The same substance can also be used to detect cyanide and fluoride ions even when they are hidden within a mixture of other anions by unique colour changes. The simultaneous and independent ‘naked-eye’ detection of picric acid, cyanide and fluoride ions is the added advantage of the new chemo sensor.
 
Like picric acid, cyanide and fluoride ions can also be detected at very low concentrations – at micromolar or ppm levels. The minimum dose for fluoride is 13 micromolar and for cyanide 8.4 micromolar. Here also the detection is through change in colour.
 
Though cyanides are highly toxic, they also find use in a wide range of industrial processes from electroplating, metallurgy and heap leaching of gold ore to steel manufacturing and as raw material for synthetic fibers, resins and herbicides. “Release of cyanide ions into the environment due to its increased usage in industrial applications raises the risk for accidental or intentional release as a toxic contaminant. Both biological and environmental aspects necessitate development of selective cyanide-receptors,” explained Dr Sankar.
 
Similarly, fluoride-containing compounds such as sodium fluoride or sodium monofluorophosphate are used in topical and systemic fluoride therapy for preventing tooth decay, besides various products associated with oral hygiene. But soluble fluoride salts, of which sodium fluoride is the most common, are toxic, and have resulted in both accidental and self-inflicted deaths from acute poisoning.
 
Dr. Sankar conducted the study in collaboration with colleague, Mandeep K. Chahal. They have published a report of their work in Royal Society of Chemistry’s journal Dalton Transactions.
 
(India Science Wire)
 
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Logo and tagline contest for National Nutrition Mission with Rs 1 lakh prize money

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The Ministry of Women & Child Development has launched a contest inviting creative minds to design a logo and suggest a tagline for its National Nutrition Mission.
 
"It is an opportunity for citizens who aspire to see their design displayed on a National platform," an official press release said.
 
The Government had approved the National Nutrition Mission to ensure holistic development and adequate nutrition for pregnant women, mothers and children. The programme aims to reduce the level of stunting, under-nutrition, anaemia and low birth rate. Accordingly, it was felt pertinent to launch an appropriate logo and tagline to generate awareness among the masses, the release said.
 
Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Sanjay Gandhi said that, in keeping with the overwhelming response received in similar contests run on the Ministry’s social media platform, it is proposed to award a prize money of Rs. 1 lakh to the winner.
 
Participants could send either a logo or a tagline or both. In case the logo and tagline selected by the jury are from separate participants, then the prize money would be split, the release added.
 
Details of the contest are available on the Facebook and Twitter accounts of Ministry WCD (@MinistryWCD). The last date to submit entries on nnm.mwcd@gmail.com is December 17.
 
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Nadda launches new initiatives on Universal Health Coverage Day, 2017

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Reiterating the Government’s commitment to advancing the agenda of Universal Health Coverage, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare J P Nadda today said various initiatives have been rolled out to achieve this goal.
 
Speaking at a function on the occasion of Universal Health Coverage Day, 2017, Mr Nadda said this year was significant as the National Health Policy 2017 has been approved which envisages the attainment of the highest possible level of health without anyone having to face financial hardship as a consequence.
 
The Government has taken concrete steps to reduce the Out Of Pocket Expenditure (OOPE), he said.
 
Mission Indradhanush, one of the largest global public health initiatives, was launched in 2014. In its four phases till date, MI has successfully reached over 25 million children in over 528 districts, he said.
 
“We are also focused on increasing the basket of vaccines. Since 2014, we have launched Rotavirus vaccine, Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV), the Measles-Rubella (MR) vaccine, and also the JE vaccine for adults," he added.
 
“The Pradhan Mantri Dialysis Program has also been launched where 143,000 patients have availed free services from 1,069 Dialysis Units and under Free Drugs and Diagnostics Program; AMRIT outlets nearly 4.7 million patients have benefitted from AMRIT Pharmacies through the purchase of subsidized medicines,” Mr Nadda said.
 
With a view to providing comprehensive primary care, the Government has announced transforming 150,000 sub-health centres into Health and Wellness centres, he said.
 
“The Ministry is now moving towards the provision of comprehensive primary care through the Health and Wellness Centres. In a step towards the provision of comprehensive primary care, the Government has initiated universal screening of common NCDs such as diabetes, hypertension and common cancers at the sub-centre and Primary Health Centre.
 
“This will enable the strengthening of preventive and promotive health, improve patient referral and access to secondary care services, Mr Nadda added.
 
The government has been at the forefront to strengthen the tertiary care and as such six new AIIMS are functioning and six will come up in due course.
 
Minister of State for Finance SP Shukla was also present at the function. The Ministers also launched “LaQshya” - Labour Room Quality Improvement Initiative, a Safe Delivery Mobile Application for health workers who manage normal and complicated deliveries in the peripheral areas.
 
The Operational Guidelines for Obstetric High Dependency Units (HDUs) and Intensive Care Units (ICUs) were also released.
 
Reiterating the commitment of the Government towards Universal Health Coverage, Mr Shukla said the Government has increased the budget of the Health Ministry for 2017-18 by 27.7%.
 
Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, SEARO, Dr B D Athani, Special DGHS, Dr VK Paul, Member, NITI Aayog, Mri Manoj Jhalani, AS&MD (NHM), Dr Henk Bekedam, WHO Representative India and Ms Vandana Gurnani, Joint Secretary, along with the Health Secretaries and Mission Directors from the States, attended the event.
 
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Ministry reviews progress of India-Nepal road connectivity projects

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The Ministry of Road Transport & Highways has reviewed the progress of the India-Nepal road connectivity projects, an official press release said today.
 
The meeting took place last week. Giving details of the discussions, the release said the Mechi River Bridge project to be implemented at the Indo-Nepal border was on track. The Letter of Intent (LOI) is likely to be issued to the contractor shortly.
 
The NHAI has received bids for restoration of Piprakothi-Raxaul Road (NH57A).  Award of contract for repair is likely to be done by the end of this month.
 
Regarding the Mirganj Bridge (NH 57A), the NHAI has completed a survey of this bridge and a proposal for the strengthening of a temporary bridge will be formulated in January 2018.
 
The meeting was attended by officials from the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways including NHIDCL and NHAI, Ministry of External Affairs and Ministry of Commerce.
 
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Virat Kohli, Anushka Sharma get married at ceremony in Italy

Cricketer Virat Kohli and film actress Anushka Sharma at their wedding in Tuscany, Italy on December 11, 2017.
Cricketer Virat Kohli and film actress Anushka Sharma at their wedding in Tuscany, Italy on December 11, 2017.
India's cricket captain Virat Kohli married popular Bollywood actress Anushka Sharma at a ceremony in Italy today, an announcement by the couple said.
 
"Today we have promised each other to be bound in love forever. We are truly blessed to share the news with you," Kohli and Sharma said in brief and identical posts on their Twitter pages.
 
"This beautiful day will be made more special with the love and support of our family of fans & well wishers. Thank you for being such an important part of our journey," they said.
 
The wedding, at a private ceremony at a luxury resort in Tuscany, Italy, came after months of speculation about their plans.
 
The ceremony was attended only by close family and friends of the couple, sources close to them were quoted as saying in media reports.
 
The couple is expected to host receptions in Delhi and Mumbai for their friends later this month.
 
Kohli and Sharma, both 28, were dating each other since 2013 after meeting during the making of an advertisement film and more or less made their relationship public when they appeared together at a football match.
 
Speculation about their wedding plans heightened after Kohli pulled out of India's limited overs matches against Sri Lanka recently.
 
 
Cricketer Virat Kohli and film actress Anushka Sharma at their wedding in Milan, Italy on December 11, 2017.
Cricketer Virat Kohli and film actress Anushka Sharma at their wedding in Milan, Italy on December 11, 2017.
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NIC-CERT to predict and prevent cyber attacks on govt. utilities launched

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Law & Justice and Electronics & IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad today inaugurated NIC-CERT, set up by the National Informatics Centre (NIC) to predict and prevent cyber attacks on government utilities.
 
Speaking at the launch, Mr. Prasad said as part of the Digital India initiatives, a lot of government services are now available online. Although this has made services very accessible to the citizens, it has also exposed them to the threats and vulnerabilities which are an inherent part of cyberspace.
 
In the recent past, there has been an exponential growth in cyber attacks leading to concerns of data theft which led to the Government drafting the Data Protection Act.
 
As Internet with its ever expanding canvas of opportunities is touching the life of the people, it necessitates the requirement to upscale the existing security infrastructure.
 
He stated that NIC has been doing a remarkable job of securing the Government cyberspace for a long time and by setting up this centre they have taken their experience and expertise to the next level.
 
The Minister emphasised that for responding to the cyber attacks of today, the Government needs an agile and responsive eco-system. NIC-CERT has been set up with the objective of creating a comprehensive framework that integrates world class security components and inbuilt threat intelligence for detection, prevention and incident response.
 
Using the tools the team will correlate events that would help in generating a canvas of the attack surface and identify the vulnerabilities and possible exploits. The gathered intelligence assimilated with the knowledge of the open web would give the CERT the ability prevent and predict attacks, he said.
 
NIC’s PAN-India connectivity and reach is one of its key strengths and this coupled with its enhanced ability to detect and prevent attacks would collectively upscale the Government’s ability to protect its data, he added.
 
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Air Chief Dhanoa on Sri Lanka visit from December 11-14

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Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa, Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), is on an official visit to Sri Lanka from December 11-14 to deliberate on matters of mutual interest related to regional security.
 
During the visit, CAS would also review the Commissioning, Award of Wings and the Passing Out Parade of the Sri Lankan Air Force Academy which is scheduled to be held on December 14.
 
It is the first occasion in the history of the Sri Lankan Air Force where an Air Chief of a foreign Air Force has been invited to review the prestigious passing out parade, an official press release said.
 
"This visit of the Indian Air Chief would provide impetus towards increasing defence cooperation between the two Air Forces and pave the way for greater interaction in the future," it said.
 
"This would also strengthen relationships, enable engagement in productive exchanges and promote understanding of joint issues and challenges," the release added.
 
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Swaraj hosts Wang Yi, Sergey Lavrov at 15th RIC Foreign Ministers' Dialogue

 
India pitches for firm policy against terrorism
India today said that the significant rise in acts of terrorism by organizations such as Taliban, Daesh (ISIS), Al-Qaeda, and LeT directly undermine international peace and security and endanger ongoing efforts to strengthen the global economy and ensure sustainable growth and development. 
 
"India strongly recommends a comprehensive policy for dealing with global terrorism," External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said at a media interaction here after the 15th Russia-India-China (RIC) Foreign Ministers' Meeting.
 
Apart from Ms. Swaraj, the host, the meeting was attended by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
 
Ms. Swaraj said the policy should include dealing with extremism, countering religious fanaticism, preventing recruitment of terrorists, disrupting terrorist movements, stopping all sources for financing of terrorism, stopping flow of FTFs (Foreign Terrorist Fighters), dismantling terrorist infrastructure, and countering terrorist propaganda through the internet, but should not be limited to these only.
 
She said Mr. Wang, Mr. Lavrov and she had had discussions on global and regional issues of common concern. These included issues like the challenges of the global economy, increasing terrorism, transnational organized crime, smuggling of drugs, natural and man-made disasters, climate change, and the changing political scenario in Middle East and North Africa.
 
Ms. Swaraj said the annual talks provided an opportunity to the three countries to exchange views and identify their contributions to international peace, security and development.
 
"Our discussions today were focused on four broad cluster of areas, namely, Economic and Developmental issues; Fight against terrorism; Global / Multilateral issues; and, Regional issues," she said.
 
She said that, in the recently released Ease of Doing Business report by World Bank, India had improved its position from 142nd in 2014 to 100th place this year. She invited China and Russia for a more intensive trade and economic partnership so that they could take advantage of the economic opportunities available in this country.
 
She pointed out that the Sustainable Developmental Goals (SDGs) mirror India’s own vision of development. The UN Summit on Sustainable Development held on 25 September 2015 in New York has 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets with poverty eradication as its overarching focus.
 
"Government of India’s initiatives such as Smart Cities, Make in India, Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, Swachh Bharat, Jan Dhan Yojana, Digital India, Skill India, Startup India etc., closely relate to several targets under the SDGs," she said.
 
To combat climate change, she argued that they should ensure a fair implementation of the Paris Agreement based on the principles laid down in the Convention (UNFCCC), especially equity and Common but Differentiated Responsibility.
 
She said the three Ministers also had detailed discussions on a range of regional issues.
 
Ms. Swaraj proposed that the next RIC Ministerial Meeting be held in New Delhi in 2018, which was accepted.
 
She also proposed that the dialogue between RIC young diplomats organized by China in January 2017 should be carried forward. "Next year we will welcome young diplomats from China and Russia to India," she said.
 
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Ms. Swaraj also held separate bilateral meetings with Mr. Lavrov and Mr. Wang. "We had a frank and forward-looking exchange on a wide-range of issues," she said.
 
"Foreign Minister Wang Yi and I agreed that we should further strengthen our mutual trust to develop a better understanding between the two parties. And it will be better to meet again and without agenda, which will help us to expand our mutual understanding.
 
"Foreign Minister Lavrov and I reviewed our bilateral relations and both of us were satisfied that this is the 70th year of establishing diplomatic relations between us and more than 100 programs were organized in the two countries to commemorate the 70th anniversary. It is well-known that relations between India and Russia are very close and friendly.
 
"In the end, I would unabashedly say that this trilateral forum RIC, which was established in 2002, is working very effectively. Its meetings are being conducted regularly and it provides us with a platform where the three major countries of the world, Russia, China and India, can openly have discussion on issues among themselves as well as other international and regional issues. Today's meeting also took place in a very cordial atmosphere and was very meaningful," she added.
 
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Manmohan Singh, Congress hit back at Modi on Pakistan allegations, demand apology

File photo of Dr.  Manmohan Singh
File photo of Dr. Manmohan Singh
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Congress party today hit back at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his allegations linking them with Pakistan in his campaign in the elections to the Gujarat Legislative Assembly and demanded that he apologise to the nation for spreading lies on such a sensitive issue.
 
Mr. Modi had, while addressing election meetings in Gujarat, his home state, attacked the Congress for various events which he said gave rise to "suspicion" and "worry" for the nation's sovereignty.
 
He said a former "Pakistan Army Director General Arshad Rafiq" had called for Mr. Ahmed Patel, Political Secretary to Congress President Sonia Gandhi, to be named as the party's chief ministerial candidate in Gujarat and accused the neighbouring country of showing "undue" interest in the election.
 
Mr. Modi also spoke of a "secret meeting" hosted by former Union Minister and diplomat Mani Shankar Aiyar and attended by former Pakistan Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri recently, at which several Indian dignitaries were present. Former Vice-President Mohammad Hamid Ansari and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh were among those who attended the dinner at Mr. Aiyar's residence.
 
The Congress suspended Mr. Aiyar from the primary  membership of the party a few days ago for remarks in which he referred to Mr. Modi as a "neech kism ka aadmi" (a low-level person) in reaction to comments made by the Prime Minister against the Congress party during the inauguration of the Dr. Ambedkar International Centre in Delhi.
 
Congress Vice-President has repeatedly said that his party would not make any insulting remarks about the Prime Minister of the country and that it respected the position.
 
At the election meeting yesterday, Mr. Modi, referring to the alleged call for making Mr. Patel the chief ministerial candidate of the Congress, wondered why Pakistan was taking such an interest in the state elections.
 
He went on to speak about the "secret meeting" at Mr. Aiyar's residence. “A Pakistan delegation meets at Mani Shankar’s house and the next day he disrespects Gujarat’s society, its pachat (backward) society, its poor and Modi. Don’t all these things raise questions and concern?" he asked.
 
“…(Aiyar) held a meeting for three hours, and then the next day, Mani Shankar calls Modi ‘neech’. This is a serious and sensitive issue. Also, what is the reason for such a secret meeting amidst Gujarat elections?” he said.
 
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In a strongly-worded statement, Dr. Singh said he was deeply pained and anguished by the "falsehood and canards" being spread by Mr. Modi "to score political points in a lost cause."
 
"Fearing imminent defeat in Gujarat, desperation of Prime Minister to hurl every abuse and latch on to every straw is palpable. Sadly and regrettably, Mr. Modi is setting a dangerous precedent by his insatiable desire to tarnish every constitutional office, including that of a former Prime Minister and Army Chief," he said.
 
Dr. Singh said the Congress party needed no sermons on "nationalism" from a party and Prime Minister, "whose compromised track record on fighting terrorism is well known."
 
"Let me remind Mr. Narendra Modi that he had gone to Pakistan uninvited after the terrorist attacks in Udhampur and Gurdaspur. Let him also tell the country the reason for inviting the infamous ISI of Pakistan to our strategic Air Base in Pathankot to investigate a terror attack that emanated from Pakistan.
 
"My track record of public service to the country over last five decades is known to everyone. No one, including Mr. Modi, can lamely question it to gain lost political ground.
 
"I reject the innuendos and falsehoods as I did not discuss Gujarat elections with nyone else at the dinner hosted by Mr. Mani Shankar Aiyar as alleged by Mr. Modi. Nor was the Gujarat issue raised by anyone else present at the dinner. The discussion was confined to India-Pakistan relations," he said.
 
Dr. Singh also released the names of "distinguished Indian public servants and journalists" present at the dinner and stressed that none of them could be accused of indulging in any anti-national activities.
 
"I sincerely hope that Prime Minister will show the maturity and gravitas expected of the high office he holds instead of concentrating his energy solely on erroneously conceived brownie points. I sincerely hope that he will apologize to the nation for his ill-thought transgression to restore the dignity of the office he occupies," he said.
 
According to various accounts, Mr. Aiyar, who had served as Consul-General in Karachi during his career as a diplomat, had sent out invitations a month ago for the December 6 gathering at this residence. Mr. Kasuri and he have been for long been involved in the Track II process between the two countries.
 
Those who attended the dinner included former External Affairs Minister K. Natwar Singh, former Army Chief Gen. Deepak Kapoor, former Indian diplomats, including some who had served in Pakistan, such as Salman Haider, K. Shankar Bajpai, T C A Raghavan, Sharat Sabharwal and Chinmay Gharekhan, and journalists such as Prem Shankar Jha.
 
Mr. Kasuri, who was Pakistan's Foreign Minister during Gen. Pervez Musharraf's tenure as that country's President, was on a private visit to India.
 
Media reports quoted some of those who participated in the meeting as saying that only India-Pakistan relations were discussed and domestic issues did not figure in any way at all. They made it clear that there was no discussion at all on India's domestic issues or Gujarat elections.
 
At a press briefing at Congress headquarters, senior party leader and former Union Minister Anand Sharma said Mr. Modi's allegations were "absurd".
 
"It is expected of the Prime Minister of India, to be dignified in his discourse, to always remember that he holds a high office and he should not level accusations, cast aspersions on those who have held high Constitutional offices and served India with dedication and commitment," he said.
 
"His statement yesterday, by insinuation, accusing the former Vice-President of India and the former Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, of doing something which was improper, is highly irresponsible, unwarranted and condemnable. The Prime Minister must remember that mere attending a social function in which high dignitaries were present and it was not a secret meeting in which the former Chief of the Indian Army, India’s former High Commissioners to Pakistan, distinguished diplomats of this country, who are respected globally, eminent journalists - they all were present and the Prime Minister is giving it a sinister and sensational twist. 
 
"The Prime Minister should restore the dignity of the political discourse, withdraw what he has said and apologize to the former Prime Minister and the former Vice-President of India. It is clear that he has done so with the intent to confuse and mislead the people of Gujarat for the second phase of the election, to whip emotions and to polarize. There cannot be any other explanation and there cannot be anything more reprehensible than what he has done. The Prime Minister has also said that the Congress Party is colluding and conspiring with Pakistan for Gujarat Elections. It is outrageous," Mr. Sharma added.
 
 
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Rahul Gandhi declared elected as new Congress president, to take over on December 16

Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi was on Monday declared elected as the new President of the party, succeeding his mother Sonia Gandhi and ushering in a generational shift in the 132-year-old organisation that spearheaded the country's freedom struggle.

File photo of Rahul Gandhi
File photo of Rahul Gandhi
Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi was today declared elected unopposed as the new President of the party, succeeding his mother Sonia Gandhi and ushering in a generational shift in the 132-year-old organisation that spearheaded the country's freedom struggle.
 
He will formally assume charge of the position on December 16,  the party announced today.
 
Mr. Mullapally Ramachandran, chairman of the party's Central Election Authority, told newspersons that, at the end of the deadline for withdrawal of candidatures at 3 pm today, Mr. Gandhi was the only candiddate in the election for the post.
 
Mr. Ramachandran said that a total of 89 nominations were filed proposing Mr. Gandhi for the post of President of the Congress between December 1 and 4, and all nominations were found valid. No other candidate had filed nomination for the position.
 
"I hereby declare Mr. Rahul Gandhi elected as the President of the Indian National Congress," he said.
 
"The handing over of the election certificate will take place on !6 December, 2017 at 11 am on the lawns of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) office," he added.
 
The Election Commission had set a deadline of December 31 for the Congress to complete its organisational elections, after giving it an extension.
 
Mr. Gandhi, 47, will be the sixth person from the Nehru-Gandhi family to hold the position after Motilal Nehru, Jawaharlal Nehu, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi.
 
Mrs. Gandhi is the longest serving president of the Congress, having been elected to the position first in 1998.
 
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Mr. Gandhi was campaigning on behalf of the party in Gujarat, where the second phase of polling in the crucial elections to the State Legislative Assembly will be held on December 14, when the announcement was made.
 
His elevation as President of the party comes at a time when it is making a spirited bid under his leadership to wrest power back in Gujarat from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has been ruling the state for 22 years. For the first time in a long time, the Congress sees a chance for itself in Gujarat -- the home state of both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah -- and Mr. Gandhi has travelled extensively throughout the state, addressing several meetings.
 
Counting of votes in Gujarat as well as Himachal Pradesh, where polling was held on November 9, will be taken up on December 18 and all results are expected by that evening.
 
Mr. Gandhi was elevated as Vice-President and, therefore, the number two in the party  on January 19, 2013, ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, at the Chintan Shivir of the party in Jaipur. He has been virtually leading the party in recent times because Mrs. Gandhi has been unwell and has cut back on her public engagements.
 
Born on June 19, 1970, Mr. Gandhi is the son of late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Mrs Sonia Gandhi. He represents Amethi constituency in Uttar Pradesh in the Lok Sabha. He was elected to the Lok Sabha for the first time in 2004 from Amethi and re-elected in 2009 and 2014.
 
He attended St. Stephen's College, Delhi, Harvard College and Rollins College, Florida, from where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts. He went on to receive an M. Phil. in Development Studies from Trinity College, Cambridge University in the United Kingdom.
 
Thereafter, he joined the Monitor Group, a strategy consulting group, in London, and worked there for three years.
 
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