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Simian attacks on tourists create panic in UP

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Taj Mahal

Agra, Sep 29 (IANS) A scare has been sounded in this Uttar Pradesh city after a series of simian attacks on unsuspecting tourists visiting the iconic Taj Mahal that draws close to eight million visitors annually.

A group of tourists from Australia, said on Saturday they had been warned to be alert against simian, canine and bovine attacks in and around the Taj Mahal complex.

Tourists have been advised by guides to avoid lonely romantic walks along narrow pathways lined with trees. They have been asked to stay in groups to avoid simian attacks.

The Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) personnel and the staffers of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), have no idea how to deal with the growing menace.

“Cats, dogs, monkeys, bees, are proving to be big safety menace in the Taj premises,” said tourist guide Ved Gautam.

Alarmed by reports of a series of attacks on tourists, the Yogi Adityanath government is mulling a slew of measures to insulate the 17th century Mughal complex from marauding monkeys, that attack and snatch valuables from visitors. But when and how, no one knows.

“The number of stray animals, including cows has increased 10-fold in the city, thanks to cow vigilante groups,” says Shravan Kumar Singh, a social activist.

In August, a group of visitors from Indore was attacked by monkeys near the museum inside the Taj premises.

In April, a tourist from Chennai suffered a nasty dog bite, while an Israeli tourist was thrown down by a rampaging bull outside the eastern gate of the Taj.

Several French tourists were attacked by monkeys in June and July, some had to be dispatched to hospitals for treatment. In July, an Austrian tourist, Christina, was attacked by monkeys and had to be given treatment.

Plans in the past to contain the simian nuisance have fallen flat for want of implementation or a resources crunch.

Former Divisional Commissioner Pradip Bhatnagar had engaged an NGO, Wildlife SOS, to round up 10,000 monkeys, but the plan did not materialise due to lack of permission from appropriate authorities.

“But now the situation is really alarming. Monkeys are seen in armies marching from one area to the other. The city has more than 50,000 monkeys.

“Due to the provisions of the Wildlife Act, the monkeys can not be attacked or rounded up without adequate safeguards and precautions. Plans to shift the monkeys to other areas have failed, as no district wants to shelter them,” senior hotelier Surendra Sharma said.

Indeed, the state faces the biggest threat to peace in the form of exploding simian population in Agra and neighbouring religious shrines in Mathura district and Vrindavan.

Pilgrims are almost daily attacked in Vrindavan. “Usually the monkeys target spectacles or purses which are returned only when some eatables or cold drinks are offered to the monkeys.”

Civic authorities seem helpless in tackling the menace. “We have written so many times to the municipal corporation, but there has been no action from their side,” an ASI official told IANS.

When former President Pranab Mukherjee visited Vrindavan in November 2016, langurs had to be hired to shoo away the monkeys, recalled Jagan Nath Poddar, convener of Friends of Vrindavan.

“Every shrine has dozens and dozens of the primates. For the pilgrims — especially women and children — negotiating their way through the lanes have always been difficult with cows and stray dogs everywhere. Now the simian menace has compounded it,” Poddar said.

Nandan Das, another Vrindavan resident, said: “Its a strange world, monkeys can attack humans, but we cannot kill or shoot them.”

An animal rights activist said: “The monkeys should be taken out of the list of protected species in the Wild Life Act.

“Since the primates cannot be killed, they should be captured and released in the jungles. Birth control is an answer. The monkeys have to be sterilised. But who will foot the bill?”

(Brij Khandelwal can be contacted at [email protected])

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Aboard Train 18: A promise that could not be kept

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Vande Bharat Express Train 18,

Chamraula (UP), Feb 16 (IANS) It was an offer one couldn’t resist — a journey back home in Delhi, quicker by at least six hours, by the high-speed Train 18, rechristened Vande Bharat Express.

But as it turned out, the much-hyped train, suffered a breakdown early Saturday morning and could not deliver on the promise of reaching home early.

The train, empty on its return from the inaugural run from Varanasi on Friday, was ultimately late by more than six hours due to a mechanical fault and reached the destination –New Delhi — by 1 pm on Saturday.

Dozens of journalists, Railway brass, several other officials, some political leaders and a few others were on the train in its inaugural run from New Delhi accompanying Railway Minister Piyush Goyal on Friday morning. The train was flagged off by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a subdued ceremony, clouded by the dastardly terror attack near Srinagar on Friday that killed over 45 CRPF personnnel.

With functions en route in Kanpur, Allahabad and finally a valedictory event in Varanasi, Vande Bharat had already overshot the scheduled travel time of eight hours to cover a distance of 775 km, which was understandable because of the inaugural run.

All the media persons, including from several regional television channels and railway officials and others were slated to come by a special train on the return journey, which would start around midnight to reach Delhi around midday.

However, a last-minute bait was thrown for those wanting to return to Delhi non-stop by the Vande Bharat Express which was travelling empty with a promise that it would touch the capital a little after 6 a.m.

Many did not fall for it because of the thought of a comfortable sleeping berth in the special train and chose to stick to their original schedule.

But there was a score of print and television journalists with news cameramen who jumped at the option to return by the high-speed Train 18. It left Varanasi a little after 10.15 pm. Having enjoyed the speed in the morning, the few of the privileged passengers began their return journey by Vande Bharat Express.

The majority of the journalists, who travelled in the Chair Car coach in the morning, chose to take the Executive Class for a feel of the luxury there–plump, spacious and well upholstered seats that could take an 180-degree turn keeping with the direction of the travel.

A few who travelled by the Executive Class in the morning chose the Chair Car coach so that they can lie down
across the three seats after lifting the arm rest.

However, the top brass of the Railway Board chose to return by the Howrah-New Delhi Rajdhani to reach Delhi.

Everything was smooth but for the loud midnight announcements being made on the empty train about the stops in Allahabad and Kanpur for the railway staff to deboard. The sleep was often disturbed as the announcements were a little too frequent, considering the number of passengers to get down mid-day.

But as the passengers were hoping for an early arrival in Delhi, they could sense trouble because the fastest train on Indian tracks was running slow occasionally. And then came the complete halt at Chamraula, 194 km from New Delhi and still 2 hours 50 minutes to travel as the display on the LED panel for onboard entertainment showed. It was already 5.30 a.m.

After a couple of hours and a snooze, the journalists realised they were still at the same spot. Then came the offer from officials to switch to a Delhi-bound train. Came in the Vikramshila Express and those wanting to go — there were many — were shifted to the Delhi-bound train in a mid-track transfer. The train from Bhagalpur in Bihar was stopped for a “technical halt”.

While Vikramshila Express reached Anand Vihar Terminal on the outskirts of Delhi around 10.45 a.m., Vande Bharat reached capital at 1 p.m. The other special train carrying the majority of officials and journalists arrived around 3 p.m.

Officially, Railway spokespersons have said the trouble for the train came from a cattle being run over and a “communication and electrical failure”.

Even inside the coaches, mobile phone signals were weak often curtailing the talk while wi-fi was not available because, as one official put it, due to “electro magnetic interference”. Officials hope to set it right before Sunday.

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88 smartphone brands fight for mere 0.3% market share in India – Tech Trend

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smartphone blue light

New Delhi, Feb 16 (IANS) While the top five smartphone brands currently enjoy a market share exceeding 75 per cent in India, whatever is left is now being shared by over 88 smartphone brands — leaving a mere 0.3 per cent market share for each player.

Players like Panasonic and Videocon are among those 88 smartphone brands sharing the revenue of nearly Rs 43,560 crore — or Rs 475 crore revenue per brand (on average).

On the other hand, Samsung alone posted sales of over Rs 37,000 crore for its mobile phone business in India in the financial year 2018, followed by arch rival Xiaomi at nearly Rs 23,000 crore.

Oppo Mobiles registered nearly Rs 12,000 crore in revenue while Vivo crossed Rs 11,000 crore in the FY 2018.

The big question is: How many of these 88 brands will be able to survive the hyper-competitive and highly price-conscious Indian market?

“As a result of the increased consolidation among the top five smartphone brands, the available potential sphere of play for other smartphone players has significantly decreased,” said Prabhu Ram, Head-Industry Intelligence Group (IIG) at the market research firm CyberMedia Research (CMR).

Over the past two years, feature phone to smartphones upgrade has not picked up as anticipated.

“This was primarily due to the spike in refurbished phones/second hand phone market, along with the rapid uptake of 4G feature phones. Coupled with this, the lack of smartphone offerings providing optimal experience under sub-Rs 6,000, is also affecting the upgrades,” Ram told IANS.

Amid massive investment in retail stores, hiring more staff and increasing ad spends as users are spoilt for choices, the pinch would soon affect many of those 88 vendors sooner than later, and most will either shut shops or enter newer businesses.

However, for Chinese brands with deep pockets and a stagnating market back home, India would continue to remain a attractive bet.

“They can afford to bleed, and any profit would be welcome. We believe they would continue to fight in the market,” said Swati Kalia, an analyst at IIG, CMR.

The smartphone market in India grew 14.5 per cent in 2018 with the highest-ever shipments of 142.3 million units, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC).

Xiaomi with 28.9 market share shipped 41.1 million units while Samsung with 22.4 per cent market share shipped 31.9 million in FY 2018.

Vivo shipped 14.2 million units with 10 per cent market share while OPPO shipped 10.2 million units and captured 7.2 per cent market share.

In such a scenario, the road ahead only gets tougher for the rest of the players.

“For large consumer-durable conglomerates, including the likes of Panasonic and Videocon, it makes more sense to look at broader synergies available from new blue sky opportunities such as Internet of Things (IoT) and the connected home,” noted Amit Sharma, another Analyst at IIG, CMR.

(Nishant Arora can be reached at [email protected])

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Kashmir insurgency: Need to win hearts and minds

From Syria to Afghanistan/Pakistan to Kashmir, the jehadi mindset is primed among the youth by the mythical Islamic Caliphate’s war against the kafirs (infidels).

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kashmir situation

One of the most disturbing aspects of the February 14 terror attack in Pulwama was that the suicide bomber was a local, Adil Ahmad Dar, who lived in a village near the Jammu-Srinagar highway where the attack took place.

Although indoctrinated as a fidayeen by the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad, Dar’s act as a jehadi underlines the vulnerability of impressionable Kashmiri youths to insidious anti-India propaganda by Pakistani terror groups nurtured by the Deep State comprising the country’s army and an espionage agency.

In this particular instance, Dar was apparently “inspired” to kill himself by the Taliban’s “victory” signified by American withdrawal from Afghanistan. If anything, the tragedy emphasises the inter-linked international dimensions of Islamic terrorism.

From Syria to Afghanistan/Pakistan to Kashmir, the jehadi mindset is primed among the youth by the mythical Islamic Caliphate’s war against the kafirs (infidels).

Unlike West Asia and even in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, Indian democracy provides a safeguard against a Messianic struggle, which is why an overwhelming majority of Indian Muslims, including those in Kashmir, remain committed to the democratic system.

As much is evident from the recent panchayat and municipal elections in the state even if the polling percentages in the Valley were low.

However, it is undeniable that a section of Muslims in the valley continue to remain alienated notwithstanding the government’s attempts to reach out to them via the negotiations carried out by the Centre’s representative, Dineshwar Sharma.

But if his efforts have failed to defuse the situation, the reason perhaps is the government’s reluctance to implement some of the recommendations to improve the conditions made by the Dileep Padgaonkar Committee.

These included reducing the army’s visibility, addressing human rights violations, reviewing the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and lifting the Disturbed Areas Act.

In essence, what these initiatives were expected to do was to reach out to the hearts and minds of the ordinary people whose commitment to the Indian state cannot be doubted as the continuing relevance of the mainstream parties like the National Conference and the Peoples Democratic Party show.

What is required to defang the terrorists and wean away the misguided youth from their self-destructive path is a gesture which will have a major impact.

One of them is to consider freezing the AFSPA (former Congress minister P. Chidambaram wanted it to be scrapped altogether) and to give a cast-iron guarantee that neither Article 370 nor Article 35A will be touched. The former confers a special status on Kashmir and the latter relates to citizenship rights.

It is only such “big ticket” reforms which can end the sense of alienation among the youths who are cynically exploited by Pakistan’s Deep State.

An outreach of this nature will confirm that the government does not regard Kashmir merely as a law and order problem, where all that is needed is a harsh crackdown on the malcontents.

Arguably, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) may not find it easy to change its longstanding stance favouring dispensing with Article 370. But it has to be remembered that Atal Behari Vajpayee did put Article 370 in cold storage in 1996 along with his party’s demand for building a Ram temple and introducing a uniform civil code when he was looking for allies to form a government.

Vajpayee had also called for looking at the Kashmir issue within the parameters of insaniyat (humanity) rather than of the Constitution.

Such broadmindedness is the need of the hour to dissuade deluded young men like Dar from the path of nihilism. Otherwise, more and more of such brainwashed youths will leave their kith and kin to court untimely death.

Equally, scores of security personnel will be in danger of losing their lives because official policies have failed to assure the discontented people of a state with a distinct cultural ambience that they are the nation’s cherished citizens.

It is only when the Kashmiris are visibly mollified that Pakistan’s “isolation”, which the Centre is currently seeking, will be complete, for a fully integrated Kashmir will negate Pakistan’s hope of avenging its Bangladesh defeat and recovering the “K” in the country’s name.

India has dealt with rebellious outbreaks in different parts of the country from the Northeast to the Maoist belts in central and western areas with a fair amount of success. There is no reason why it cannot achieve the same in Kashmir with a patient understanding of the grievances affecting the state, especially when it has national-level leaders like Farooq and Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti with their political and administrative experience.

True, the jehadi factor makes it difficult for a government to adopt a sane attitude because of the irrational pseudo-religious fervour of the militants. But an overt demonstration of being sensitive can enable the government to enlist the overall support of Kashmiri society and enable the elders to rein in the rebels.

(Amulya Ganguli is a political analyst. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached at [email protected])

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