EC forms working groups to appraise poll operations
The Election Commission (EC) on Tuesday constituted eight working
groups to thoroughly appraise specific areas, based on its experience during
the conduct of the Lok Sabha polls. Among the issues to be examined are
timely action in cases of Model Code of Conduct (MCC) violations and the
legal aspects of enforcement of the code.
The groups, which have to submit their recommendations to the EC,
would be headed by senior Deputy Election Commissioners, Deputy Election
Commissioners and Director-Generals.
One of the working groups on “electoral roll and polling stations”
would study the health and fidelity of electoral rolls to make them error
free. It would also look into issues pertaining to uniqueness and
portability of Electoral Photo ID Card. Standardisation of addresses and
rationalisation of polling stations would also be examined, apart from legal
changes needed for improving electoral registrations.
Another group on “election planning and management” would review
matters related to simultaneous elections, scheduling of polls, deployment
of armed forces, mapping of vulnerable pockets and law and order concerns.
The issues pertaining to Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) and Voter
Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) would be looked into by another team,
in terms of inventory management and counting of paper slips.
A group on “Model Code of Conduct, Manifestos, Observers and
Political Parties” would explore various ways for standardisation of
protocol for timely and effective action in MCC matters and their database
management. It would also review its various provisions, including those
NGT gives directions to government regarding water purifiers
The National Green Tribunal, NGT, has directed the government to
ban water purifiers where total dissolved solids (TDS) in water are below
500 mg per litre. A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar
Goel passed the order after perusing a report of a committee formed by it,
and gave the directions to the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF
The tribunal also directed to sensitise public about the ill
effects of demineralised water and asked the government to make it mandatory
to recover more than 60 per cent water wherever RO is permitted across the
Reverse Osmosis (RO) is a water treatment process that removes
contaminants from water by using pressure to force molecules through a
It also ordered that directions be issued for enforcement of
Extended Producers Responsibility by the manufacturers for disposal of
cartridges and membranes and directing manufacturers to provide proper
labelling on the purifier specifying that the unit should be used if TDS is
more than 500 mg per litre.
The Tribunal was hearing a plea filed by an NGO seeking
conservation of potable water by preventing its wastage on account of
unnecessary use of Reverse Osmosis (RO) systems.
SEBI to tighten norms for listed debt securities
To further safeguard the interest of investors in listed debt
securities, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has tightened
the disclosure norms for entities that have issued such securities.
In a circular issued on Monday, the capital market watchdog made
it mandatory for such companies to disclose on their websites the schedule
of interest and redemption obligations for the complete financial year.
According to the SEBI, the enhanced disclosure norms have been
issued to “further secure the interests of investors in listed debt
securities, enhance transparency and to enable Debenture Trustees (DTs) to
perform their duties effectively and promptly.”
“DTs shall also update the status of payment against such issuers
not later than 1 day from the due date. In case the payment is made with a
delay by the issuer, DTs shall update the calendar specifying the date of
such payment, with a remark ‘delayed payment’,” said the circular.
For privately-placed debt securities, SEBI has made it mandatory
for the inclusion of a clause stating that at least 2% per annum interest
would be paid over the coupon rate in case of a default in meeting the
payment obligations. The additional interest would be payable by the company
for the tenure of the defaulting period.
Digital services to help Indian IT revenue grow by 7-8%
Indian IT revenue is expected to grow by 7-8% in dollar terms
during fiscal 2020, helped by double digit growth in digital services.
However, operating margin is forecast to decline 30-80 bps (basis points)
for the sector this year as local hires increase for onsite jobs, said
Local talent comes at an additional cost of 25 to 30% compared
with the salaries paid to H-1B holders deployed onsite. Traditionally, the
sector had relied on labour arbitrage for maintaining margins, but that gap
had been narrowing owing to various market forces — mainly, changing U.S.
policy stance towards H-1B visas.
Employee expenses, which account for nearly 60-65% of total
operating costs and cost per employee for tier 1 players, rose faster at
about 17% and about 9% on-year in fiscal 2019, respectively, compared with
about 6% and about 3% a year before. For mid-tier players, the increase in
employee expenses were about 13% on-year for nine months ended December of
fiscal 2019 as many are yet to declare fourth quarter results,” it said in a
Such a rise in staff costs can be attributed to tightening of visa
norms for Indian players, resulting in higher onsite costs for them.Ever
since the U.S. government tightened its H-1B visa norms in 2017, challenges
had mounted for the sector.
That year, Indian-origin employees were the largest consumers of
H-1B visas at 63% of initial employment, so the sudden change meant
fulfilling onsite client requirements became tough.
Vice president calls for renewed effort to gain UNSC membership
Vice President Venkaiah Naidu has called for renewed efforts by
India to gain permanent membership of the UN Security Council. Interacting
with the Officer Trainees of the 2018 batch of the Indian Foreign Service
and Bhutanese Diplomats in New Delhi today, the Vice President referred to
the growing prominence of India on the world stage.
He underscored the need for enhancing support from world nations
and building a sustained dialogue in favour of UNSC reforms.
The Vice President cautioned that the return of the unwelcome
tendency of protectionism would adversely impact the global effort for
collective advancement. He expressed his concern over the threat posed by
terrorism and observed that no country is immune to the consequences of
He also expressed his concern over the ease with which financial
fugitives find safe havens in other countries. He suggested the constant
updating and overhauling of Extradition Treaties and all bilateral and
multilateral agreements to defend and safeguard the integrated global
economic order for the collective good.
Describing the Indian diaspora as an asset, he said they play an
important role culturally as well as economically in the countries they live
Iran ready for talks with west Asian countries amid U.S sanctions
Iran is ready to engage in a dialogue with the Gulf countries,
including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), to address the
issue of escalating tensions with the United States in the Arabian Gulf,
authorities said yesterday.
Iran's deputy foreign minister Abbas Araqchi made the remarks
during his visit to Qatar where he met foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin
Abdulrahman Al Thani in Doha.
Qatar's foreign ministry, in a statement, said both sides
expressed their concern about escalations and problems in the
region.Tensions have risen between Iran, on one side, along with the US and
its Gulf allies, on the other.
Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump's National Security Adviser
John Bolton arrived in the UAE yesterday before talks scheduled for today.
::SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY::
Scientists claim world rivers polluted with antibiotics
Rivers worldwide are polluted with antibiotics that exceed
environmental safety thresholds by up to 300 times, according to research
unveiled at a conference on Monday.
Scientists found one or more common antibiotics in two-thirds of
711 samples taken from rivers in 72 countries, they told a meeting of
environmental toxicologists in Helsinki.
In dozens of locations, concentrations of the drugs — used to
fight off bacterial infection in people and livestock — exceeded safety
levels set by the AMR Industry Alliance, a grouping of more than 100 biotech
and pharmaceutical companies.
At one location in Bangladesh, concentrations of another widely
used antibiotic, metronidazole, were 300 times above the limit, the
The widespread presence of antibiotics not only impacts wildlife,
but likely contributes to the problem of antimicrobial resistance.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that the world is
running out of antibiotics that still work, and has called on industry and
governments to urgently develop a new generation of drugs.
Discovered in the 1920s, antibiotics have saved tens of millions
of lives from pneumonia, tuberculosis, meningitis and a host of deadly
bacteria.Overuse and misuse of the drugs are thought to be the main causes
of antimicrobial resistance.
Safety limits were most frequently exceeded in Asia and Africa,
but samples from Europe and the Americas showed that the problem is global
in scope.The countries with the highest levels of antibiotic river pollution
were Bangladesh, Kenya, Ghana, Pakistan and Nigeria.
World chess body to restore ratings of banned Indian players
The world chess body, FIDE, has decided to restore the Elo ratings
of dozens of Indian players, whose ratings were banned by the All-India
Chess Federation, AICF, nearly a decade ago.
FIDE president Arkady Dvorkovich in a statement posted on Twitter
said all those players whose name were expunged from the records, at the
behest of the AICF, will be back with immediate effect.
Former world number three and FIDE vice-president Nigel Short in a
tweet termed it a hugely positive statement by FIDE President. He said Chess
must be for the players & lovers of the game and not for the administrators.
The country's national chess body had banned several players for
taking part in tournaments conducted by rival chess association and in un-recognised
events. The banned players had challenged the AICF move with the Competition
Commission of India, which imposed a fine on the chess body for violating
provision of the Competition Act, 2002. A PTI report said AICF officials
could not be reached for comment.