Archive | June, 2017

Nearly half a million displaced Syrians return home: UN

Posted on 30 June 2017 by admin

AIHRA News Saturday 01 July 2017

Geneva, Jun 30 (AFP) Nearly half a million displaced Syrians have returned to their homes since the beginning of the year, mainly to find family members and check on property, the UN refugee agency said today.

The agency said it had seen “a notable trend of spontaneous returns to and within Syria in 2017.”

Since January, about 440,000 people who had been displaced within the war-ravaged country had returned to their homes, mainly in Aleppo, Hama, Homs and Damascus, Andrej Mahecic, a spokesman for the agency, known as the UNHCR, told reporters in Geneva.

In addition, around 31,000 refugees in neighbouring countries had also returned, he said, bringing to 260,000 the number of refugees who have returned to the country since 2015.

But Mahecic said this is a mere “fraction” of the five million Syrian refugees hosted in the region.

He said the main factors prompting the displaced to return home were “seeking out family members, checking on property, and, in some cases, a real or perceived improvement in security conditions in parts of the country.”

He said it was too early to say if the returns might be directly linked to a palpable drop in violence since Turkey agreed at talks in Astana in May with Russia and Iran, allies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, to establish four safe zones across Syria to ban flights and ensure aid drops.

But this week, the UN’s special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, told the Security Council that since the May 4 deal, “violence is clearly down. Hundreds of Syrian lives continue to be spared every week, and many towns have returned to some degree of normalcy.”

Mahecic nonetheless cautioned that “while there is overall increased hope linked to the recent Astana and Geneva peace talks, UNHCR believes conditions for refugees to return in safety and dignity are not yet in place in Syria.”

“The sustainability of security improvements in many return areas is uncertain, and there remain significant risks of protection thresholds for voluntary, safe and dignified returns not being met in parts of the country,” he said.

“Access to displaced population inside Syria remains a key challenge,” he added.

But “given the returns witnessed so far this year and in light of a progressively increased number of returns”, the agency had begun scaling up its operations inside Syria to better be able address the needs of the returnees, he said.

Syria’s war has killed more than 320,000 people and forced millions from their homes since it began in March 2011.

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Pak violates ceasefire for 3rd consecutive day along LoC in JK

Posted on 30 June 2017 by admin

AIHRA News Saturday 01 July 2017

Jammu, Jun 30 (PTI) The Pakistan Army violated ceasefire for the third consecutive day today by targeting Indian posts and civilian areas with mortar bombs, small and automatic weapons along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir’s Rajouri district.

This is the 23rd incident of ceasefire violation in June.

“The Pakistan Army initiated unprovoked and indiscriminate firing from small arms, automatic weapons and mortars from 0415 hours today on the Indian Army posts along the LoC in Bhimbher Gali (BG) sector,” a Defence spokesman said.

The Indian troops returned the fire strongly and effectively, he said.

Yesterday, two Indian Army jawans were injured when Pakistani troops fired from small arms and shelled mortars on forward posts and civilian areas along the LoC in Poonch district.

On June 27 (Wednesday), the Pakistani army violated ceasefire by unprovoked and indiscriminate firing and shelling along the LoC in Bhimbher Gali (BG) sector in Rajouri district from 1445 hours till late that night.

In this month, there have been 23 ceasefire violations by the Pakistani Army in Poonch and Rajouri districts besides a cross-LoC attack and two infiltration bids in which four people, including three jawans, have been killed.

On June 26, the occasion of Eid-ul Fitr, the Pakistani Army fired small arms and automatic weapons and shelled mortars along the LoC in Bhimbher Gali sector of Rajouri.

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India’s latest communication satellite GSAT-17 launched

Posted on 29 June 2017 by admin

AIHRA News Friday 30th June 2017

Bengaluru, Jun 29 (PTI) India’s latest communication satellite GSAT-17 was today successfully launched by a heavy duty rocket of Arianespace from Kourou in French Guiana, adding teeth to its current fleet of 17 working communication satellites.

The GSAT series of geosynchronous satellites is a system developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation(ISRO) with an objective to make the country self-reliant in broadcasting services.

The European launcher Arianespace Flight VA238 blasted off from Ariane Launch Complex No 3 (ELA 3) at Kourou, a French territory located in northeastern coast of South America at 2:45 am IST, a few minutes behind the scheduled time of 2:29 am.

The 3,477-kg GSAT-17 was injected shortly after orbiting co-passenger Hellas Sat 3-Inmarsat S EAN in a flawless flight lasting about 39 minutes.

“GSAT-17 successfully launched by Ariane-5 VA-238 from Kourou, French Guiana,” the city-headquartered ISRO announced after the mission. The designed in-orbit operational life of GSAT-17 is about 15 years, it said.

ISRO’s Master Control Facility (MCF) at Hassan in Karnataka took over the command and control of GSAT-17 immediately after its separation from the launch vehicle, and the preliminary health checks of the satellite revealed its normal functioning.

Configured around I-3K extended bus, GSAT-17 with a lift-off mass of about 3,477 kg carries payloads in Normal C- band, Extended C-band and S-band to provide various communication services.

It also carries equipment for meteorological data relay and satellite based search and rescue services being provided by earlier INSAT satellites.

GSAT-17 that will strengthen ISRO s current fleet of 17 telecommunications satellites was launched into a Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO).

This was the third satellite launch mission by ISRO this month, the other two being first developmental flight of GSLV MkIII and PSLV C-38 missions–both from Sriharikota spaceport in Andhra Pradesh.

GSLV MkIII successfully launched GSAT-19 satellite on June 5 while PSLV-C38 orbited Cartosat-2 Series satellite along with 30 co-passenger satellites on June 23 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre.

GSAT-17 is also ISRO’s third communication satellite to successfully reach orbit in the past two months.

ISRO, which has been dependent on Ariane-5 rocket for carrying its heavier satellites, is developing GSLV Mk III for this purpose.

Announcing the successful launch of the satellite, Arianespace CEO Stephane Israel tweeted: “Confirmed: GSAT-17 has successfully separated from its #Ariane5 launcher #VA238 @ISRO.”

Thanking Arianespace, Director, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre Dr K Sivan, who watched the launch from the mission control centre called it a “text book mission”.

Describing the launch as a special mission for ISRO, he said, “GSAT-17 is a need of the hour for ISRO and India as it provides the continuity in services of ageing two satellites, as well as augmenting our transponder capability, and widening our horizon to mobile satellite services as well as to Antarctica areas.”

GSAT-17 was the 21st satellite from ISRO to be launched by Arianespace.

In the coming days, orbit raising manoeuvres will be performed to place GSAT-17 satellite in the Geostationary Orbit (36,000 km above the equator) by using the satellite s propulsion system in steps, the space agency has said.

During the final stages of its orbit raising operations, the two solar arrays and both the antenna reflectors of GSAT- 17 will be deployed and following this, the satellite will be put in its final orbital configuration.

It said GSAT-17 will be positioned at its designated orbital slot in the geostationary orbit and will be co-located with some of the Indian operational geostationary satellites, and later it is planned to turn on the communication payloads of the satellite.

After the successful completion of all the in-orbit tests, GSAT-17 will be ready for operational use.

GSAT-17 s co-passenger Hellas Sat 3-Inmarsat S EAN is a two-payload “condosat” produced by Thales Alenia Space for Hellas Sat and Inmarsat.

Once in orbit, the Hellas Sat 3 component will deliver direct-to-home and telecom services to maintain and expand Hellas Sat s business reach, while the Inmarsat S EAN component provides the satellite portion of Inmarsat s new European Aviation Network.

Hellas Sat (member of the Arabsat Group) is a premium satellite operator, offering services in Europe, the Middle East and South Africa from the orbital position of 39 East.

Inmarsat is the leading provider of global mobile satellite communications services. The total payload carried on Flight VA238 is approximately 10,177 kg.

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Killing people in name of cow protection not acceptable: PM

Posted on 29 June 2017 by admin

AIHRA News Friday 30th June 2017

Ahmedabad, Jun 29 (PTI) Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said killing of people in the name of cow protection is not acceptable, remarks that come amid a spurt of attacks by cow vigilantes and a wave of protests.

Delivering a speech to mark the centenary of the Sabarmati ashram here and 150th birth anniversary of Shrimad Rajchandraji, a guru to Mahatma Gandhi, Modi said unleashing violence against others went against the ideals of the Father of the Nation.

“Killing people in the name of ‘gau bhakti’ is not acceptable. This is not something Mahatma Gandhi would approve,” he said.

“Let’s all work together. Let’s create the India of Mahatma Gandhi’s dreams. Let’s create an India our freedom fighters would be proud of,” the prime minister said.

“No person in this nation has the right to take the law in his or her own hands,” he said.

The Prime Minister’s remarks come against the backdrop of growing incidents of cow vigilantism. A Muslim youth was last week killed on board a Mathura-bound train by people who taunted his family and repeatedly called them “anti-nationals” and “beef eaters”.

“Violence never has and never will solve any problem.

As a society, there is no place for violence,” Modi said.

Thousands of people across the country had yesterday taken to the streets in a citizens’ protest named ‘Not in My Name’ against the recent incidents of mob killings.

Holding placards that read: “Break the Silence”, “No Place for Islamophobia” and “Shed Hate not Blood” among others, the protesters had said they had gathered to send out a message that there is a need to unite for a cause.

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Prez poll is battle of ideology and principles: Sonia Gandhi

Posted on 28 June 2017 by admin

AIHRA News Thursday 29th June 2017

New Delhi, Jun 28 (PTI) Congress president Sonia Gandhi today described the presidential election as a battle of ideologies and principles and said the opposition was determined to fight it.

“For us, it is a battle of ideologies, principles and truth and we will fight it,” she said after the opposition’s presidential candidate Meira Kumar filed her nomination in Parliament.

The Congress president led the 17 opposition parties in accompanying the former Lok Sabha speaker as she filed her nomination on the last day today.

Gandhi is one of Kumar’s proposers in one set of nomination papers, sources said.

Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, who is abroad on a vacation, said Kumar represents the values that bind the country and its people.

“Against the ideology of divisiveness she represents the values that bind us as a nation and people. Proud to have Meira Kumar ji as our candidate,” he tweeted.

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Chidambaram questions Modi govt for US remarks on JK

Posted on 28 June 2017 by admin

AIHRA News Thursday 29th June 2017

New Delhi, Jun 28 (PTI) Former home minister P Chidambaram today questioned the Narendra Modi government over the US describing Jammu and Kashmir as “Indian administered” in an official statement and asked how New Delhi accepted it.

The US State Department’s statement had come just hours before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first meeting with President Donald Trump in Washington.

“US’ official statement used the phrase ‘Indian- administered Jammu and Kashmir’. How did India accept this?” the Congress leader asked in a tweet.

On Monday, while designating Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, the US State Department said the militant group had claimed responsibility for several attacks, including the April 2014 explosives attack in “Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir”, which injured 17 people.

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SC refuses interim order agst Centre’s notification on Aadhaar

Posted on 27 June 2017 by admin

AIHRA News Wednesday 28th June 2017

New Delhi, Jun 27 (PTI) The Supreme Court today refused to pass any interim order against the Centre’s notification making Aadhaar mandatory for availing benefits of various social welfare schemes.

A vacation bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar and Navin Sinha said that no interim order can be passed at this stage on the “mere apprehension” of petitioners that government may deprive people from availing benefits of various social welfare schemes due to lack of Aadhaar.

The bench referred to the June 9 judgement passed by the apex court in which it had upheld the validity of an Income Tax Act provision making Aadhaar mandatory for allotment of PAN cards and filing of tax returns, but had put a partial stay on its implementation till a Constitution bench addressed the issue of right to privacy.

The bench said, “In view of the observations made in the judgement in Para 90 of the case… decided on June 9, no further observation is required.”

During the hearing, Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the bench that the Centre has extended the June 30 deadline to September 30 for those who do not have Aadhaar and are availing the benefits of various social welfare schemes.

Senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for petitioners, told the court that the Centre should be directed not to deprive any person of the benefits of social welfare schemes which he/she is enjoying now due to lack of Aadhaar.

“No interim order can be passed in mandamus on mere apprehensions. You have to wait for one week. If somebody is deprived (of the benefits) you can point out the same to this court,” the bench told Divan and posted the matter for further hearing on July 7.

The apex court was hearing three separate petitions challenging government’s notification making Aadhaar mandatory for availing benefits of various social welfare schemes.

The Centre had on June 9 told the apex court that around 95.10 per cent of the entire population has voluntarily registered for Aadhaar and apprehension of “large-scale exclusion” of citizens from government benefits due to lack of unique number was “misplaced” and “unfounded”.

The government, in its counter affidavit filed in response to several petitions opposing the scheme, had quoted a World Bank 2016 report, which said if Aadhaar was applied to all social programmes and welfare distribution, it would save the government USD 11 billion annually.

The Centre had said that in 2014-16, the government’s savings through Direct Benefit Transfer Scheme on account of Aadhaar was Rs 49,560 crore.

It had said though the notification requires people to enroll for Aadhaar by June 30, those who are unable to get themselves enrolled due to lack of facilities, can give their contact details and would be registered later.

The UIDAI had said when Aadhaar has been adopted by several authorities in pursuant to directions by the apex court and as per legislative amendments by the Parliament, the court ought not to entertain applications seeking interim stay of notifications passed in pursuance to the Aadhaar Act 2016, as it would stall and interfere with the governance.

The Centre had on May 19, refused to extend the June 30 deadline for making Aadhaar mandatory for availing social scheme benefits.

Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi had said “there is no question” of extending it and added that the idea behind making Aadhaar mandatory for welfare schemes was that the benefit should not go to “ghosts” as was noticed in schemes like the public distribution system (PDS).

Earlier, the apex court had passed a slew of orders asking the government and its agencies not to make Aadhaar mandatory for extending benefits of their welfare schemes.

The apex court, however, had allowed the Centre to seek Aadhaar card voluntarily from citizens fro extending benefits of schemes like LPG subsidy, Jan Dhan scheme and Public Distribution System etc.

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Will contest on plank of democratic values: Meira Kumar

Posted on 27 June 2017 by admin

AIHRA News Wednesday 28th June 2017

New Delhi, Jun 27 (PTI) Opposition presidential candidate Meira Kumar today said she would contest the polls on the plank of democratic values, inclusiveness, social justice and destruction of caste structure.

Kumar, the daughter of iconic Dalit leader Jagjivan Ram, rued that the polls were being seen as a “Dalit versus Dalit” contest. The caste system, she told reporters, should be “buried deep down” in the earth.

Asked about alleged attacks on Dalits in the recent past, she said, “It is quite shameful.”

The former Lok Sabha speaker, chosen as the opposition’s candidate to contest against BJP’s nominee Ram Nath Kovind in the presidential election next month, said she had not decided whether or not to appeal to JD(U) chief Nitish Kumar to support her nomination.

Kumar also said she would launch her poll campaign from Sabarmati Ashram in Gujarat.

“All MPs appreciated my style of functioning when I was Lok Sabha speaker… none alleged I was biased,” she said.

Hinting at bias, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had posted a video of her Lok Sabha speech in 2013 in which then speaker Kumar is seemingly not extending protection against disruptions in the house.

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On pan-India tour, Kovind seeks lawmakers’ support in U’khand

Posted on 27 June 2017 by admin

AIHRA News Tuesday 27th June 2017

Dehradun, June 26 (PTI) The NDA’s presidential nominee Ram Nath Kovind today held a meeting with MPs and MLAs of the ruling BJP in Uttarakhand at Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat’s official residence here to canvass support for himself.

The closed-door meeting, chaired by the chief minister, lasted for two hours, official sources here said.

All 57 party legislators and two out of the five party MPs from the state and one Independent MLA, Pritam Singh Panwar, were present at the meeting, they said.

BJP MPs and former chief ministers Bhagat Singh Koshiyari, Bhuwan Chandra Khanduri and Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank could not attend the meeting due to their personal engagements.

Earlier in the day, Kovind was received at the Jolly Grant airport by the chief minister who took him to his official residence. The NDA’s presidential pick was gifted a shawl, an urn filled with water from the Ganga river and a book on the history of Uttarakhand.

Kovind had yesterday embarked on a nationwide tour from his home state Uttar Pradesh to garner support of various political parties for him in the July 17 presidential election.

Sources in the BJP had said a Union minister, a senior party leader and two MPs would accompany Kovind on his nationwide tour to reach out to all the members of the electoral college.

Though he would be meeting only with the MPs and MLAs who have pledged their loyalty with him, the NDA’s presidential pick would appeal to all the members of the electoral college to support his candidature, they had said.

With over 62 per cent of the votes firmly behind him, Kovind’s election as the next president is almost certain.

Besides the BJP and its NDA allies, the TRS, YSRCP, AIADMK, BJD and the JD(U) have also announced their support to him.

The presidential election is scheduled for July 17 and the counting of votes will take place on July 20.

Kovind filed his nomination in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on June 23, while opposition candidate Kumar is yet to file hers.

If elected, Kovind will be the second Dalit president after K R Narayanan.

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US clears sale of Guardian drones to India

Posted on 27 June 2017 by admin

AIHRA News Tuesday 27th June 2017

Washington, Jun 27 (PTI) The US has cleared the sale of predator Guardian drones to India, as President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged today to deepen their defence and security cooperation.

The US and India look forward to working together on advanced defence equipment and technology at a level commensurate with that of America’s closest allies and partners, said a joint statement issued after the India US Summit at the White House.

“President Trump and Prime Minister Modi pledged to deepen defence and security cooperation, building on the United States’ recognition of India as a Major Defence Partner.

“Reflecting the partnership, the US has offered for India’s consideration the sale of Sea Guardian Unmanned Aerial Systems, which would enhance India’s capabilities and promote shared security interests,” the joint statement said.

Resolving to expand their maritime security cooperation, they announced their intention to build on the implementation of their “White Shipping” data sharing arrangement, which enhances collaboration on the maritime domain awareness.

Trump welcomed Modi’s strong support for the US to join as an Observer in the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium.

Noting the importance of the upcoming MALABAR naval exercise (involving the US, Japan and India), the leaders determined to expand their engagements on shared maritime objectives and to explore new exercises.

Earlier in his remarks to the press, Modi said there is increasing possibilities for enhancing cooperation in order to protect “our strategic interests (that) will continue to determine the dimensions of our partnership”.

“With regard to security-related challenges, our enhanced and growing defence in security cooperation is extremely important. We have spoken at length on this subject as well.

“The strengthening of India’s defence capabilities with the help of USA is something that we truly appreciate. We have also decided to enhance maritime security cooperation between the two nations,” the prime minister said.

“President Trump and I have also spoken about strengthening bilateral defence technology and our trade and manufacturing partnership, which we believe will be mutually beneficial to us. We also discussed international issues and our common strategic interests in this country,” he said.

Trump said the security partnership between the US and India is incredibly important.

“Our militaries are working every day to enhance cooperation between our military forces, and next month they will join together with the Japanese navy to take part in the largest maritime exercise ever conducted in the vast Indian Ocean, Trump said.

On June 22, media reports here said that ahead of Modi’s visit, the US has cleared the sale of 22 predator Guardian drones, a force multiplier that will boost the Indian Navy’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.

The deal was estimated to be worth USD two to three billion, the reports said, adding that the decision was communicated to the Indian government and the manufacturer by the State Department.

“On defence cooperation, there was a sense that combination of convergence and regular exchanges on policy, the fact that today we are major partners in exercises with each other, all these underline the fact that India and the US recognise each other key defence partners,” Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar told reporters at a news conference.

“This was really an occasion for us to send a message that India was a reliable dependable partner, that was fully reciprocated on the American side,” he said.

In a late night statement, the White House said completion of these sales would increase bilateral defence trade to nearly USD 19 billion, supporting thousands of US jobs.

“If selected, United State offer to sell F-16 and F/A-18 fighter aircraft to India would represent the most significant defence cooperation between the US and India to date,” the White House said.

According to the White House, the United States remains a reliable provider of advanced defence articles in support of India’s military modernisation efforts.

United States-sourced defence articles, including the Sea Guardian Unmanned Aerial System, Apache attack helicopters, and C-17 aircraft will further enhance the capabilities of the Indian Armed Forces and provide additional opportunities for interoperability.

The US-India Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) remains the premier forum for deepening collaboration on defence co-development and co-production, it said.

The seven DTTI Joint Working Groups continue to discuss a range of technologies and platforms for potential co- development, including India’s participation in the Future Vertical Lift program, it added.

DTTI representatives met most recently in April.

Key military and civilian defence leaders continue to meet via reciprocal counterpart visits and strategic and policy dialogues, promoting closer service ties and improving interoperability among our forces, the White House said.

The annual MALABAR naval exercise, occurring in July in the Indian Ocean, will be the most complex to date, including participants from the US Navy, Indian Navy, and the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force.

The United States and India also participate in the VAJRA PRAHAR Special Forces exercise, the RED FLAG air force exercise, and YUDH ABHYAS army exercise, it added.

According to General Atomics, the Predator Guardian UAV, a variant of the Predator B, can be used for wide-area, long- endurance maritime intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions.

It can stay in the air for up to 27 hours and can fly at maximum altitude of 50,000 feet.

The Indian Navy made the request for this intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) platform last year.

This maritime capability will be a force multiplier for the Indian Navy who has procured other advance technologies including Boeing P-8 aircraft.

The Guardian has cutting edge technologies that do not exist in the current Indian Navy arsenal.

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