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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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Sindhu stands out in a big week for Indian sport

After beating Tai Tzu, Sindhu said she was prepared to play her again in the final, but that did not happen as the world’s top shuttler failed to make it.

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PV Sindhu

Indian sports fans had plenty to cheer for over a week as Pusarla Venkata Sindhu, Indian cricket and hockey teams were out-performing to be world beaters.

Sindhu got over her self-doubts to win a major title by beating all those who have been harassing her for long to win the season-ending World Badminton Tour Finals.

The cricket team could not consolidate the 1-0 lead in the four-Test series against Australia by losing the second Test at Perth while the hockey team was left with the consolation of drawing their pool match 2-2 with eventual winners Belgium and losing 1-2 to the other finalists the Netherlands in the quarter-finals.

For over a year Sindhu had not won a championship and she was out of the top five in the rankings. She was also dogged by the mental block of having not beaten World No. 1 Tai Tzu Ying after her victory over the Chine Taipei girl at the Rio Olympics two years ago.

During this period, she was beaten by her six times. Finally, she showed amazing court craft to go with her determination in overcoming Tai Tzu in the Group of Death where she also had to deal with the doggedly defensive Japanese Akane Yamaguchi who had beaten the Indian in the last year’s final.

Once she was through with the top two players of the world, Sindhu looked more comfortable in beating another sticky customer, Ratanchok Intanon of Thailand, in the semis before settling a score with another Japanese Nozomi Okuhara who had beaten her in the World Championships final last year.

Sindhu also avenged her loss against Tai Tzu at the Jakarta Asian Games final. She was also the beaten finalist to Spaniard Carlina Marin at the world championships. These defeats raised doubts about her temperament.

To add to her woes, she found it difficult to cope with the smart play of Saina Nehwal, losing to her twice, at the nationals and at the Commonwealth Games.

One big difference in her clashes with the top players is she could sort out Yamaguchi, beating her five times since her last loss whereas she had no clue as to what to do with Tai Tzu for such a long time.

After beating Tai Tzu, Sindhu said she was prepared to play her again in the final, but that did not happen as the world’s top shuttler failed to make it.

Whether it was just to psyche herself up or to announce a change in her game plan, Sindhu did say before the event in Guangzhou that she was well-drilled to win the championship this time.

This long-awaited victory should be the turning point in Sindhu’s run-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, beginning with the 2019 calendar. Both Sindhu and her coach Gopichand may have chased away all apprehensions about her ability to win big.

The Indian cricket team may have lost the second Test at the brand new Perth Stadium, but it was the Australians who thought of declaring their second innings to protect their bowlers from the fiery Indian pacers, something Bishan Bedi did in 1976 at Kingston, Jamaica, when he declared the Indian innings at 97 for five with Anshuman Gaekwad, Brijesh Patel and Gundappa Viswanath already hurt badly while batting and he and Bhagwat Chandrasekhar were injured in the field.

By all accounts, it was the usual Perth pitch, but what prompted coach Justin Langer to say after the match that he seriously thought of declaring Australia’s second innings to save his bowlers from injury, never mind the last-wicket pair Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood added 30 priceless runs to psychologically knock the Indians out of the match after Australia lost four wickets in 15 balls for three runs.

Mohammad Shami looked so ferocious, taking six wickets. Luckily he did not have to face a ball as Umesh Sood, Ishant Sharma and Jaspirt Bumrah perished backing off to short-pitched stuff while the formalities were being gone through in the closing stages of the Test.

Suddenly, the Indians were unable to figure out road ahead, though skipper Virat Kohli sounded confident of fighting back. He is one batsman who looked the most competent to bat on the Perth pitch, scoring a hundred in the first innings. What tilted the Test in Australia’s favour was the century opening stand in the first innings between Marcus Harris and Aaron Finch.

They have a problem with the team selection for the Boxing Day Test. The openers are in a mess and Mayank Agarwal will come in for either Murali Vijay, Lokesh Rahul. Hardik Pandya will also join the squad to make it 19-strong. Already, there is a talk of asking Hanuma Vihari to open, seeing his technique to deal with pace, and whether to bring in Pandya in place of Umesh Yadav in preference to Rohit Sharma at No 6 to accommodate a spinner.

Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri are never short of ideas. Like they did in Perth by playing four fast bowlers instead of playing Ravindra Jadeja of Kuldeep Yadav, they could come up with another surprise at Melbourne. They might even ask Rohit to open with Mayank. Plenty to ponder about, Merry Christmas!

Playing the Hockey World Cup at home proved to be as miserable for the Indians as playing anywhere else. They played tough matches with both Belgium and the Dutch and naturally felt they could have gone further than the quarter-finals.

Like some of his predecessors, a despondent coach Harendra Singh blamed the umpiring for the defeat against the Dutch and was rightly reprimanded. These days the review system corrects umpiring goof-ups, but Harendra was unhappy with India playing with 10 men in the last quarter when Rohit Das was benched for 10 minutes, but when the Indians were unfairly tackled there was no reaction.

Belgium deserves to be the champions after their steady rise over a decade. They clearly looked the team to beat. Two powerhouses Australia and Germany also had an unforgettable World Cup.

The question is: Will Harendra be replaced by a foreign coach? No, he should not be, he deserves an extension as many of the players have come along with him from his days as junior India coach.

(Veturi Srivatsa is a senior journalist. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached at [email protected])

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BJP in Uttar Pradesh: The year the lotus started to wilt – 2018 In Retrospect

A year-and-a-half later, in 2018, the lotus has begun to wilt as evident from several developments over the year.

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Yogi Adityanth

Lucknow, Dec 18 : The lotus was in full bloom in 2017 as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) emerged out of its 14-year political exile and stormed to power in India’s most populous and politically crucial state of Uttar Pradesh.

A year-and-a-half later, in 2018, the lotus has begun to wilt as evident from several developments over the year.

On the one hand, there is tremendous resentment in the party cadres, who slogged to keep the party flag flying for 14-years under successive and very hostile Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) governments. On the other, the very people who voted it to power are seemingly feeling betrayed as the BJP government under monk-turned-politician Yogi Adityanath is engaged in acts that are not only unwarranted but also least people-oriented.

A spree of police shoot-outs in the beginning of the BJP regime had sent chills down the spines of criminals across the state. The government strongly defended its police on the issue as human right watch dogs called them staged killings, specially in western Uttar Pradesh. Many people openly patted the BJP government for their action against criminals and the mafias, but in 2018 the picture changed.

There was the shock killing of a dreaded mafia don, Munna Bajrangi, inside a high-security prison, the shooting down of an Apple executive going back home from a product launch party by trigger-happy cops in the heart of the state and a ruling party legislator thrown into jail for the gang-rape of a minor girl — who then conspiring with his brother and henchmen to kill victim’s father.

The father had been crying out for justice by knocking on the doors of the police. His killing sent shockwaves across the state as many, even BJP supporters, felt that the “jungleraaj” the party inherited had not gone. The inept handling of the situation by the police and the state government worsened the crisis until the media launched a campaign and the judiciary was forced to sit up and take notice.

“I am terribly upset and disturbed by these incidents. I feel betrayed because we voted for the BJP so that the criminals are hounded out and peace returns to the state and its people feel secure” said Preeti Nigam, a teacher, adding that incidents of mob lynching and cow vigilantism have picked up in the past one year.

The last nail seems to be the killing of police Inspector Subodh Kumar Singh in Bulandshahr earlier this month, apparently at the hands of right-wing affiliate group cadres of the ruling establishment. Instead of the Chief Minister condemning the killing and asking the police to crack down on such fringe elements, who now threaten to disrupt the mainstream, he chose to maintain a stony silence.

The disconnect with the people and disenchantment of its voters can be clearly seen as the BJP lost the Gorakhpur, Phulpur and Kairana parliamentary by polls. Phulpur was held by incumbent Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya while Gorakhpur had elected Adityanath as its MP for five straight terms.

The coming together of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Samajwadi Party (SP) has changed the electoral equations in the state and political pundits feel that if this arrangement continues till the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP might be in for a major shocker in terms of its numbers. At present, with ally Apna Dal, it has 73 of the state’s 80 Lok Sabha seats.

On Monday, Om Prakash Rajbhar, a leader of an alliance partner who is a cabinet minister, predicted “decimation” of the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls if the proposed SP-BSP alliance goes through.

Adityanath’s utterances, behaviour and choice of words have shocked even his own party members. On the floor of the state assembly, the saffron-robed chief minister called the SP a “party of terrorists”, threatened them with violence.

He then, calling Lord Hanuman, the monkey God, a Dalit infuriating Hindus in large numbers. It is being felt that a large cross-section of the Hindu community prefers the Congress’s new-found ‘soft-Hindutva’ than the hardcore being served to them by the BJP. To top it all, the Ram Mandir followers are also disgruntled.

The state’s fledgling bureaucracy, after initial days of control, seems to have returned to to its uncontrolled ways. There are many instances when ministers and allies have openly charged babudom of not paying heed to them. Insiders in the government admit that “things are not too rosy now”. The outings of Adityanath to Gorakhnath Peeth and his many meetings with seers and saints, some feel, has “made him look casual towards governance and in continuity with his Hindutva image”.

While some good things — creation of the One District one Product (ODOP) campaign, farm loan waiver, electrification of the villages, investors meet — too have happened, they have had little impact on the ground.

With just a few months to go for the general elections, many find the ruling BJP on shaky ground while some are hopeful that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s appeal would see them through this time too, albeit with a lower margin.

(Mohit Dubey can be contacted at [email protected])

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GST on recycled construction waste products to be reduced to 5 per cent

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GST

New Delhi, Dec 18 (IANS) In a bid to promote reuse of debris generated by the construction industry, the government will soon reduce the Goods and Services Tax (GST) on products made from recycled demolition waste to five per cent.

Currently, the recycled products — such as concrete blocks or bricks for masonry made from construction and demolition (C&D) waste — attracts GST of 18 per cent.

“There is a need for maximum utilisation of recycled material in new construction activities to save scarce natural resources and to address the issue of disposal of construction and demolition waste,” a senior Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry official told IANS.

C&D waste is the major contributor to pollution and a threat to the environment in the national capital, which generates 6,000-7,000 tonnes of debris per day.

The CPWD, the ministry’s construction wing, of the ministry, has undertaken a drive to use the recycled waste products in architectural applications like landscaping, paving and laying roads, solar reflective terracing, sculptures, garden furniture and art works.

Concrete blocks of recycled C&D waste possess adequate strength hence can be used as an alternative to bricks, CPWD Director General Prabhakar Singh said.

Solid waste in the country constitutes about one-third of C&D waste, hence the objective of solid waste management cannot be achieved without managing C&D waste.

C&D waste comprises building material, debris and rubble resulting from construction, renovation, repair and demolition of any civil engineering structure.

“We have approached the Finance Ministry to lower the GST rate on recycled products and it has been agreed on,” the official said, adding that a notification on this is expected shortly.

At present, GST on traditional bricks is five per cent while concrete blocks prepared from waste material attracts 18 per cent, which make them costlier. The reduction of GST is expected to boost the demand of these products in construction industry.

Use of recycled waste products in construction will solve many problems, including saving of scarce natural resources like river sand, stone and soil — besides saving on the space required for landfills.

“Since natural resources are depleting fast, it is the need of the hour to reuse waste product and byproducts for sustainability,” the official said.

Rubble sent to landfill sites has led to the creation of mountains of such waste. Incidents of fire and landslides have occurred at such sites, leading to accidents, some of them fatal.

(Arun Kumar Das can be contacted at [email protected])

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