Congress leaders visited Lalu Prasad to express their solidarity on Saturday, a day after the ten-hour-long CBI raid at 10 Circular Road, where the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief lives with his wife and two Minister sons. The Congress party is RJD’s alliance partner.But RJD’s bigger partner, the Janata Dal-United (JD-U), maintained its distance, with party chief and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar continuing to remain at Rajgir in Nalanda district, for rest. Party sources said the CM visited Ghorakatora to enjoy its natural beauty. After seeing off presidential nominee Meira Kumar, whose three-day Bihar visit ended on Sunday, State Congress chief and Education Minister Ashok Choudhary, accompanied by legislature party leader Sadanand Singh and ministerial colleagues Awadhesh Kumar Singh and Madan Mohan Jha, visited Mr. Lalu Prasad at his residence. Mr. Choudhary slammed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for the CBI raid at Mr. Prasad’s residence and other places, saying, “Since they [the BJP] have failed to defeat us [the Grand Alliance] through the people’s mandate, they are now misusing the government machinery to target us.” He also alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah were behind the CBI raid to browbeat their opponents like Lalu Prasad.The state BJP leaders have been continuously appealing to Mr Kumar to break his silence and take action against Mr. Prasad’s sons. “He always has been talking of zero tolerance of his government on the issue of corruption and, earlier, has sacked some of his ministerial colleagues like Jitan Ram Manjhi on the corruption issue…we’re hoping that Mr Kumar will not compromise with corruption this time,” said state BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi.
The police in western Assam’s Dhubri town have detained two special verification officers assigned the job of updating the National Register of Citizens (NRC) for demanding ‘service charge’ from people summoned to submit documents establishing their citizenship.The detention on Sunday evening follows reports of people offering bribes, submitting forged documents or borrowing legacy data of genuine citizens to be included in the second NRC draft that the Supreme Court wants updated by May.First draftThe first draft, recognising 1.9 crore of the 3.29 applicants who can prove they have been living in Assam before March 24, 1971, was published at the stroke of midnight on December 31.“Special verification officer Fardous Zaman, sectional assistant in PWD Roads, and his deputy Swapan Dutta, a gram panchayat secretary, were detained after a complaint that they had demanded ₹300 to get the documentation of a couple from Tamarhat done on April 19,” said Longnit Terang, Dhubri Superintendent of Police.The duo had allegedly demanded ₹100 from the couple but later increased it to ₹300. The resultant delay forced the couple to stay at the house of a relative who works at the Dhubri Deputy Commissioner’s office. His complaint to the district’s administrative head led to Zaman and Dutta’s detention.“Though the duo are accused of seeking gratification money in NSK2 (NRC Seva Kendra number 2, at the office of inspector of schools, Dhubri), the case is not of manipulation of documents,” Mr. Terang said.Officials handling the NRC exercise did not rule out the possibility of similar cases across the 1,093 verification centres in Assam.Last week, the police in Darrang district’s Sipajhar arrested two people of suspected nationality – San Khan and Nayan Khan – for offering to bribe ₹20,000 to the NRC officials for including their names in the second draft.Officials said at least half a dozen such cases have been reported from central Assam’s Nagaon and Morigaon districts with some offering up to ₹2 lakh to get their names included in the NRC.By the first week of April, the NRC authorities identified more than 4,000 people who submitted forged papers despite having been declared foreigners by 100 Foreigners’ Tribunals across the State. Apart from government employees, the probe revealed several village heads were issuing fake domicile certificates.One such village head, Moijan Ali of Soulmari village in Biswanath district, had been charging ₹500 for each fake document.The NRC authorities received a setback earlier this month when Ali Ahmed, who was declared a foreigner in 2011, filed a review petition in the Gauhati High Court saying he cannot be an illegal immigrant as his name figured in the first draft of the updated NRC. The NRC authorities blamed it on faulty data collection by the State’s border police.Borrowed legacy dataOfficials said there have been several cases of people using legacy data of others to establish their family trees. In Nagaon district, for instance, a person named Fakaruddin, son of Umed Ali, tried to pass off as Suresh Das by using one Robi Das’s legacy data. Verification officials caught Fakaruddin’s bluff when Robi Das – both were called to the NSK concerned – could not recognise him.In another case reported from Barpeta district, one Abdul Salam was caught trying to pass his second wife Kadbanu as his first wife Kanchan Nessa, who died a few years ago. The second wife could not submit papers to establish her citizenship, officials said.Meanwhile, 85 companies of Central armed forces have been deployed in Assam apprehending trouble in certain parts during the process. More than half of these companies were provided before the publication of the first draft on December 31. read more
Generally, trees are cut down for building roads. But in Arunachal Pradesh, a village is hoping that a flourishing tree will help spur the construction of a road. Residents of Kallek village in Siang district have developed a track to the State’s largest tree, standing almost 65 metres tall.The trekking track, the brainchild of 14 households in Kallek, was fuelled by the hope that the tree, called Atang Ane, and the variety of birds it attracts would popularise trekking enough for the local authorities to act on their 20-year-old promise to pave the road from the highway to the village. Kallek, inhabited by the Adi community, is 48 km from Pasighat, the Siang district headquarters. The last 10 km from the highway to the village, marked by a tough and hilly terrain, has been in the making for two decades now. “Atang Ane, which has grown into a huge tree today was once a fragile sapling, brought here from Myanmar. It was planted by a village elder,” said Tamang Tamuk, the head ‘gaonburah’ (village elder) of Kallek. Atang Ane (Ficus elastica) means ‘mother rubber tree’ in the Adi dialect. A three hour trek from Kallek, it stands as the largest multi-trunk tree in Arunachal Pradesh, spreading over an area of 59.8 m. “The trek from Kallek to Atang Ane is not just about gawking at a huge tree. It is also a birdwatchers’ paradise,” said Gandhi Darang, who runs Ane Siang Tours & Expeditions in Itanagar.Birds in the area include the great hornbill (the State bird), sunbird, white-tailed robin, barwing, collared treepie, parrotbill, and shrike babbler. In fact, 252 species were recorded in the Siang region during a six-year study that ended in 2016. Of these, 66, including six endangered ones, were reported for the first time. read more
In numbers: The NRC exercise Deadline extendedThe window for 40.07 lakh of the 3.29 crore applicants excluded from the complete draft was opened on September 25. It was to have closed on December 15, but the Supreme Court, which is monitoring the exercise, extended the last day to December 31 after the Assam government said the panchayat election, held on December 5 and 9, had robbed the people and officials of precious time.NRC officials said the pace of submission of claims had picked up in the last fortnight. “As of Sunday, 30 lakh of those excluded from the complete draft reapplied. With some more submitting their claims today [on Monday], the reapplication works out to 75%,” an official said.A.B. Khandakar, a Guwahati-based activist, said the number of applications increased after a clause was removed from the standard operating procedure issued by the Centre. That clause had made documents obtained after August 31, 2015, “inadmissible” for claims. “While this came as a relief for many, others hit the hurdle of not being allowed to use a fresh legacy. This meant applicants could not change the person from whom they had drawn their ancestry in the original application that was rejected at the time of the complete draft,” he said.There have been cases in which illiterate people, dependent on NRC Seva Kendras or cybercafe operators, used the same legacy person as others genealogically linked to someone else. While some cases were fraudulent, many were cases of the legacy person having the same name or belonging to the same area. A legacy person is one who figures in the NRC of 1951, which is being updated, the voters lists published up to March 24, 1971, and other documents, including refugee registration certificate.“What marked the claims round was lack of campaign or awareness drive. An overwhelming majority of the ground-level officials appeared ignorant of the court’s directives and many of those manning NRC service centres went beyond their brief to reject documents whimsically,” said Dharmananda Deb, an advocate and activist in Silchar.The deadline for completing the exercise after processing the claims and objections is June 2019. The service centres, officials said, would be open from January 2 to 31 for correction of the names published in the complete draft. About 30 lakh of the 40.07 lakh people left out of the final draft of the updated National Register of Citizens (NRC) published five months ago have applied again for inclusion during the claims and objections round that ended on Monday.During the phase, 600 objections also came in from those who doubted the citizenship of others included in the draft. read more
Most of Europe will still get its broadband delivered over copper phone lines, despite the rollout of fibre, according to research by broadband, IPTV and VoIP market intelligence firm Point Topic. The study claims that though at least 90% of homes in the European Union will have access to broadband speeds of 30 Mbps download speeds or better by 2020, “economics and technology will ensure that, for most people, the fibre will stop some way short of their doorstep.”“Copper-based broadband technology offers the best solution for providing superfast broadband across most of Europe, for both technical and financial reasons,” said Point Topic’s report, VDSL (Very-high-speed Digital Subscriber Line) in Europe’s Future.“Point Topic’s research shows that VDSL, also known as FTTC, for fibre-to-the-cabinet, or sometimes FTTC+VDSL, is fully capable of meeting the 30Mbps target. Current VDSL services only partially reach that level. Their offered speeds typically range from 25 to 40Mbps. But vectoring technology, which cuts down electronic interference on VDSL lines, will be soon be doubling VDSL speeds, starting in 2014.”VDSL is technology that introduces extra optical fibre into the telephone network from the exchange to street cabinets. From there on VDSL uses the existing copper telephone wires to carry the broadband signal the remaining distance to the customer’s home or business. read more
The Swiss Federal Council has approved proposed changes in the country’s Telecommunications Act (TCA) that will give Swisscom’s competitors access to its fibre network and mandate the opening up of shared access points in buildings to enable rival providers to compete.The Council that access to subscribers should be technology-neutral, and dominant providers will have to guarantee access not only to traditional copper wires but to other technologies including fibre.The proposed revision of the TCA will now go to the country’s parliament.Alternative network providers including the country’s leading cable operator, Liberty Global-backed UPC, immediately welcomed the move.UPC Switzerland, along with Suissedigital, Sunrise, Salt, Green, Init7, Swiss Fibre Net and Openaxs issued a joint statement welcoming the change and calling for a quick revision of the TCA to prevent a monopoly in fibre access. It called on the Federal Council to acquire the necessary regulatory authority to guarantee a minimum level of fair competition and ensure investment in network expansion, especially in rural areas.The operators said that the current TCA, which only regulates access to copper networks, had allowed Swisscom an unfair advantage in fibre.Suissedigital, UPC, Sunrise and Salt led the call for urgent revision fo the act, with support from Green, Init7 and VTX. The group also claimed support from Swiss Fibre Net AG, the cooperative of local and regional utility companies, which represents large cities and smaller municipalities with open fibre-optic networks, and Openaxs, the association of Swiss electricity supply companies for the promotion of open broadband networks.“Legislation to date has favoured Swisscom’s home protection, resulting in a distortion of the market at the expense of all other market players. We welcome the proposed revision as a first and important step from the Federal Council towards rectifying this imbalance,” said Eric Tveter, CEO of UPC.“Today customers in cities and metropolitan areas can choose from several broadband offers and attractive prices. From now on, this needs to be guaranteed in rural areas as well. To ensure continued investment from all providers, the Federal Council must be able to take corrective action if competition is prevented,” said Olaf Swantee, CEO of Sunrise.“Neither the economy nor the Swiss people should be subjected to yet another monopoly situation. And this includes rural areas. After the copper network monopoly, we must not have yet another high-broadband network monopoly. That is why the Telecommunications Act must be revised quickly, as proposed by the Federal Council,” said Andreas Schönenberger, Salt CEO. read more
ShareTweet SDLP Health Spokesperson Mark H Durkan said the response from Health Permanent Secretary, Richard Pengelly surrounding the implementation of FIT (Faecal Immunochemical Test) bowel screening in the North of Ireland is encouraging.The Foyle MLA said: “The correspondence from the Permanent Secretary for Health, Richard Pengelly, surrounding a FIT bowel screening programme for Northern Ireland has been encouraging.“I had written to Mr Pengelly as a matter of urgency last month, expressing my concerns which were also shared by Bowel Cancer UK CEO Deborah Alsina MBE, that the Department of Health had not yet committed to introducing this life-saving test in Northern Ireland. “I have received assurances from Mr Pengelly that the Department is considering the proposed switch to FIT and is aware of the benefits and increased accuracy of this test compared to the current FOB test. “He has assured me that the Public Health Agency are preparing their case for the implementation of FIT here.“This progress is promising and I would hope the department can now make an informed decision without further delay on this vitally important issue.”Durkan encouraged by progress in FIT bowel screening for North of Ireland was last modified: September 20th, 2018 by John2John2 Tags: DEPARTMENT OF HEALTHDurkan encouraged by progress in FIT bowel screening for North of IrelandFaecal Immunochemical TestFOYLE MLAMark H DurkanPERMANENT SECRETARYRICHARD PENGELLYSDLP read more