10:51 Thick haze, smog continue in Delhi, air quality hazardous : The thick blanket of smog and fog have shrouded the national capital after the country celebrated the festival of light- Diwali. According to the autonomous meteorological body set up under the Union Ministry of Earth Sciences, SAFAR, the overall Air Quality Index of Delhi at 8:15 am was recorded at 428, which falls under the ‘hazardous’ category.
An AQI between 0-50 is considered good, 51-100 is satisfactory, 101-200 moderate, 201-300 poor, 301-400 very poor and 401-500 is marked as severe/hazardous.
At Dhirpur, the AQI was 724 at 8:30 am, while in Mathura Road area it dipped to ‘very poor’ category at 625. Furthermore, AQI near Pitampura, Airport, Terminal 3 and Delhi University stood at 679, 481 and 801 respectively. The haze and smog will continue to persist during the early morning and late evenings for the next couple of days.
According to a report published by a research group Urban Emissions, as much as 5 million kilograms of firecrackers were burnt in the region leading to an emission of 150,000 kilograms of Particulate Matter (PM) 2.5 despite the Supreme Court’s order stating that bursting of firecrackers will only be allowed from 8 pm to 10 pm on Diwali. Not only that, the judiciary only allowed the sale of ‘green crackers’ this festive season.
Experts believe that not only the burning of crackers has been responsible for the deteriorating air quality but replacement of moderate winds with light and calm winds, low temperatures, increased humidity levels are also contributing in increasing the toxicity in the air by a whopping figure.
If one looks closely, not only Delhi but many cities around the world such as Kampala, Bushehr, Narayangong, Rawalpindi, etc are gasping for breath owing to the increasing air pollution.It is believed that in order to combat air pollution New Delhi must follow Beijing’s footsteps steps. In a span of less than four years, Beijing has shown tremendous improvement in its air quality by strictly enforcing comprehensive regional action plan and setting up time-bound targets.
For instance, the Xi Jinping-led government in 2013 first identified the major pollution regions such as Hebei, Tianjin, and Beijing and set up specific pollution reduction targets and rolled out ten measures for the proper implementations of the regional action plans. — ANI
Image: Early morning walkers at Lodhi garden brave the smog. Doctors have advised people not to walk in the mornings when the air quality is at its worst. Pic: ANI
10:34 A day on, CBI director to meet CVC again : Central Bureau of Investigation Director Alok Verma reaches Central
Vigilance Commission for the second time in as many days. He was examined by the Commission yesterday.
Verma had met CVC commissioner KV Chowdary and denied corruption charges levelled against him by his deputy and special director in the probe agency Rakesh Asthana, officials said. Verma had come to the CVC office in the late afternoon and stayed there for about two hours, they said. He met Chowdary and Vigilance Commissioner Sharad Kumar, the officials said, without giving any other details.
The Supreme Court had on October 26 asked the Central Vigilance Commission to complete within two weeks its inquiry into allegations against Verma levelled by Asthana. Verma and Asthana have been sent on leave by the government. Officials said Asthana also met the CVC.
The Commission had recently examined some CBI officials probing crucial cases which figured in Asthanas complaint of corruption against the probe agencys chief Verma, they said.
The officials said CBI personnel from the rank of inspector up to superintendent of police were called and their versions recorded before a senior CVC official.
10:29 US vice president Pence to meet Modi next week: White House:
US vice president Mike Pence would meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his four-nation trip next week, during which he will also attend the US-ASEAN Summit and the East Asia Summit in Singapore, the White House has said.
Generally the summit is attended by US President.
However, this time Pence would be representing the country at the request of President Donald Trump.
Pence will travel to Japan, Singapore, Australia, and Papua New Guinea between November 11 and 18 to attend the US-ASEAN Summit and the East Asia Summit in Singapore as well as the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings in Papua New Guinea.
Pence will also participate in meetings with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Singapore premier Lee Hsien Loong, India’s Narendra Modi, Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, in addition to other bilateral meetings, the White House said.
National Security Advisor John Bolton will join Vice President Pence for the US-ASEAN Summit and East Asia Summit in Singapore and APEC meetings in Papua New Guinea.
“The Vice President is honoured to represent President Donald Trump at the US-ASEAN Summit and APEC next week, where he will highlight American leadership in the region and reaffirm our commitment to freedom, economic prosperity, and security in the Indo-Pacific,” Alyssa Farah, Press Secretary for the Vice President said.
This will be Pence’s third trip to the region as the Vice President and he will reaffirm President Trump’s commitment to the final, fully verified denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, she said.
“He will also deliver the message that authoritarianism, aggression, and the disregard for other nations’ sovereignty by any nation in the Indo-Pacific will not be tolerated by the United States,” Farah said. — PTI
10:15 ‘Dramatic increase’ in H1B visas being held up, claims US employers’ group:
Claiming that there has been a “dramatic increase” in the number of H-1B visas being held up, a coalition of American employers representing top IT companies like Google, Facebook and Microsoft has alleged that the US Citizenship and Immigration Services is acting outside of its own regulations.
The H1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. The technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China.
“We have observed three changes in H-1B adjudication practices under the current administration that seem to permeate most of the increased H-1B adjudication inconsistencies experienced by employers,” Compete America said in a letter to the Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen and Francis Cissna Director, USCIS.
Expressing concerns over legal issues regarding the recent changes in adjudication standards for H-1B non-immigrant visa petitions at USCIS, the coalition — Compete America — said the agency’s current approach to H-1B adjudications cannot be anticipated by either the statutory or regulatory text.
This leaves employers with a disruptive lack of clarity about the agency’s practices, procedures, and policies.
This lack of certainty and consistency wreaks havoc among the nation’s employers which are hiring high-skilled Americans and foreign-born professionals, it said in the letter dated November 1.
Compete America alleged that the agency appears to be acting “outside of its own regulations and the controlling statute” by requiring petitioners to comply with the agency’s current view that a comparatively entry-level job, and corresponding wage level, cannot be a specialty occupation.
The specific field of study requirement for a specialty occupation means the job must necessitate completion of a single major or qualifying degree, and the requirement for an occupation to usually carry a degree prerequisite means a degree must always be needed.
In its letter, Compete America said that its members have reported dramatic increases in the issuance of Requests for Evidence (RFEs) and denials regarding H-1B petitions for the last 18 months.
More recently they are experiencing a sharp increase in the issuance of Notices of Intent to Deny (NOIDs) and Notices of Intent to Revoke (NOIRs) concerning H-1B petitions.
“These reported shifts in agency action have been perplexing to our coalition’s members, especially because the agency’s changes in approach were unannounced and unexplained and are not previewed in the regulations governing a qualifying H-1B specialty occupation that have been in effect since 1991,” it said.
According to Compete America, USCIS has been denying H-1B petitions exclusively because an entry-level wage is applicable for the specific position, even though the occupation itself is clearly a specialty occupation.
“Nothing in the statute or regulations contemplates or suggests, much less states, that USCIS could ever take the position that it per se excludes or disfavours entry-level jobs in an occupation, or young professionals working in jobs in an occupation, as qualifying for H-1B specialty occupation approval,” it asserted.
Further, employers have reported repeated instances of USCIS denying an H-1B petition on the basis that the degree held by the sponsored foreign professional is not within a single field of acceptable study for an occupation.
Employers are also reporting repeated instances of USCIS denying H-1B petitions for occupations that may have some limited instances of jobs where a bachelor’s degree or higher is not required, even when those occupations normally do require that level of education for the majority of roles, as contemplated by the statute, Compete America said. — PTI
10:07 Rupee rises 35 paise to 72.65 against US dollar in early trade: The rupee appreciated 35 paise to 72.65 against the dollar in early trade Friday, following US mid-tem election results and easing crude oil prices. Forex traders said the rise was also supported by dollar-selling by exporters and banks and the US unit’s weakness against some currencies overseas.
They said the US mid-tem election results which showed Democrats wresting the House of Representatives from the ruling Republican party, also supported the rupee. The Democrats now have majority in the 435-member House, while Trump’s party has retained majority in the 100-member Senate. — PTI
10:00 Sensex down over 100 pts on weak global cues: Benchmark stock indices opened on a negative note Friday following weak global cues after the US Federal Reserve left key interest rates on hold last night, but hinted a rate hike next month. The BSE Sensex was trading 114.08 points, or 0.32 per cent, lower at 35,123.60. It had dropped 226.45 points in opening trade.
The 30-share index had surged 246 points in the special Muhurat session Wednesday to mark the beginning of Hindu Samvat year 2075.
The NSE Nifty saw similar movement, and was trading 31.05 points, or 0.29 per cent, lower at 10,567.35. The stock market was closed Thursday on account of Diwali Balipratipada.
Top losers in the morning session include Bharti Airtel, Wipro, Infosys, Tata Steel, ITC, ONGC, HDFC, NTPC and SBI, falling up to 1.65. per cent. Bucking the weak market trend, Yes Bank, Adani Ports, IndusInd Bank, PowerGrid, Asian Paints, Sun Pharma and Hero MotoCorp rose up to 2.36 per cent.
Shares of aviation companies gained due to softening of crude oil prices. InterGlobe Aviation, SpiceJet and Jet Airways were trading up to 2 per cent higher.
09:36 Bangladesh to go to polls on Dec 23; to use EVMs for the first time:
Bangladesh will hold its general election on December 23 and for the first time will use electronic voting machines on a limited scale, the electoral body announced on Thursday, amid an impasse between the government and the main opposition alliance over the timing of the polls.
“The 11th general election will be held across Bangladesh on December 23,” Chief Election Commissioner Nurul Huda said in a nationally televised address.
Huda made the announcement hours after his meeting with four election commissioners to finalise the poll date which came amid calls from the newly-floated National Unity Front (NUF) to defer the election schedule while the ruling Awami League urged the commission to stick to its plan.
The candidates have to submit their nomination papers between November 9 and November 19. The nomination papers will be scrutinised on November 22.
Nearly 104.2 million people, including a little more than 51.6 million women, are registered as voters. They will elect 300 representatives to Parliament through the balloting in about 40,199 polling stations.
Huda also announced the plan for the use of electronic voting machines, or EVMs on a limited scale.
He said, “The countdown of the national election has already begun and the works of buying polls materials and printing have been completed,” as he promised to ensure a “level playing field for all”.
“We believe that if EVMs are used, it will improve the quality of the voting process and save time, money and labour,” Huda said.
Earlier, EVMs were partially used in local government elections, BDNews24.com reported.
Despite objections from many political parties, the use of EVMs became possible through the amendments to the Representation of the People Order last month. — PTI
09:13 Entry of heavy and medium goods vehicles into Delhi banned for 3 days:
The entry of heavy and medium goods vehicles into the national capital has been banned for three days from 11 pm on Thursday night as Delhi’s air quality worsened to the “severe-plus emergency” category following cracker burning on Diwali.
The transport department of the Delhi government has issued a notification regarding the ban.
It has also appealed to private diesel vehicle owners to avoid using their vehicles during the period.
As per the notification, entry of heavy and medium goods vehicles into the national capital has been banned from 11 pm of November 8 till 11 pm of November 11, special commissioner of transport department K K Dahiya said.
“The notification has been issued to comply with the direction of the Environmental Pollution Control Agency and the Traffic Police and municipal corporations have been directed to enforce the ban,” he said.
Vehicles carrying vegetables, fruits, grains, milk, egg, ice etc., that is to be used as food items and tankers carrying petroleum products has been exempted, Dahiya said.
Joint Commissioner (Traffic) of Police Alok Kumar said adequate deployment of police personnel has been done at all border entry points to enforce the ban.
“Support from police of neighbouring districts of Delhi-NCR has also been sought to ensure smooth and hassle-free movement for other motorists during this period,” he said.
Vehicles which need to reach other destinations are being suggested to take the Eastern Peripheral Expressway instead of entering Delhi, Kumar said.
A senior official of the South Delhi Municipal Corporation said as per instructions issued by the EPCA, the ban on entry of trucks carrying non-essential commodities will be strictly enforced.
Over 50,000 goods carriers enter Delhi mostly through 13 toll points managed by the civic body. Besides, there are also several less-used entry points from neighbouring Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, he said. — PTI
08:42 Now, BJP MLA wants to rename Hyderabad as Bhagyanagar:
The Bharatiya Janata Party would “aim” to rename Hyderabad and other cities in the state after the names of great people if it is elected to power in Telangana in the December 7 poll, party leader Raja Singh said Thursday.
“Our aim is, when our Bharatiya Janata Party government comes to power in Telangana, our first (priority) is development, second is these names should be changed. They should be named after great people, those who worked for our nation, righteousness and Telangana,” he said.
Singh, who was a member of the recently-dissolved legislative assembly, said the Qutb Shahis, who ruled the region during the 16th century, had changed the name of the city, Bhagyanagar, to Hyderabad.
They had also changed the names of other places, he said, adding Secunderabad and Karimnagar were among them.
Singh also found fault with AIMIM president Asaduddin Owaisi’s comments earlier Thursday that BJP president Amit Shah wants a “Muslim-free” India.
He said Muslims should not believe Owaisi, who had often spoken against Telangana.
Owaisi is Lok Sabha member from Hyderabad.
Telangana goes to polls on December 7. — PTI
08:29 People not interested in names, they want jobs, income security: Congress:
The Congress on Thursday said that people were not interested in changing of names of places but they wanted other things such as jobs, income security, safety of women.
Congress spokesperson Anand Sharma, responding to questions on the Bharatiya Janata Party government in Uttar Pradesh announcing renaming of Allahabad and Faizabad as Prayagraj and Ayodhya, respectively, said: “When the mindset is to distort and rewrite history, then changing names is immaterial.”
Changing people’s life for the better is more important, he said.
“People have no interest in names, the youth of India wants jobs, the farmer wants income security, women and daughters need security, people are burdened with high prices and inflation…
“If these things are going to solve all the problems then the prime minister has the right to change our name also. Never heard of such a discourse,” Sharma said.
His remarks came after the Gujarat government said Thursday that it was considering renaming Ahmedabad as Karnavati. — PTI
08:07 Air India ground handling staff call off strike at Mumbai Airport:
A strike by a section of employees of Air India’s ground handling subsidiary, Air India Air Transport Services Ltd, over non-payment of Diwali bonus and other issues, was called off late Thursday, a senior official said.
The strike was called off after discussion with the management, a senior AIATSL official said.
All other issues have been sorted out and employees are back to work and flight operations are normal now, he added.
The employees of the AIATSL struck work at the Mumbai airport from the intervening night of Wednesday and Thursday, demanding payment of Diwali bonus and reinstatement of three of their colleagues whose contracts were not renewed by the company, he said.
The employees whose contracts were not renewed have not been taken back, the official said.
The AIATSL, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the national carrier, provides ground handling services to Air India across airports in the country. It has about 5,000 employees, including those on contract.
“Some AIATSL employees at the Mumbai airport are on strike since Wednesday-Thursday (intervening) night over non-payment of Diwali Bonus and reinstatement of the services of some of their former colleagues. This stand-off has resulted in flight operations getting hampered,” the official said.
He said around 37 flights, including international ones, were delayed by 2.5 hours-3 hours till 1500 hours Thursday.
However, no flight has been cancelled so far, the official added.
Air India has pressed into service its permanent employees to handle the ground handling operations at the Mumbai airport, he said.
“The company has already paid the bonus after negotiations but the employees are now insisting that the services of three of their colleagues, whose contracts were not renewed last month, be restored,” he said. — PTI
08:01 Mumbai: Fire breaks out in goods train wagon, 10 long-distance trains halted:
A fire broke out in two wagons of a goods train near Dahanu in Palghar district of Maharashtra late on Thursday night, as a result of which at least 10 long-distance trains were halted, police said.
According to an official, the incident took place around 11 pm between Dahanu Road and Vangaon Railway Stations.
The fire brigade, Railway Police Force and Government Railway Police were rushed to the spot, he said, adding the blaze was doused around 2 am on Friday.
The overhead electric wire melted due to the heat as a result of which at least 10 long-distance trains were halted, the official said.
Work is on to remove the burnt wagons from the tracks and to repair the overhead wires. A probe is underway to ascertain the exact cause of the fire, he said. — PTI
07:49 Trump to celebrate Diwali in Oval Office next Tuesday:
United States President Donald Trump would celebrate Diwali in his Oval Office next Tuesday, the White House has said.
“The president will be celebrating Diwali with a ceremonial lighting of the diya (lamp) in the Oval Office next Tuesday,” deputy assistant to the president Raj Shah said in a statement on Thursday.
A day earlier Trump had greeted people celebrating the festival of lights the world over and said it is a special opportunity to reflect on the bond of friendship between India and the United States.
Trump said First Lady Melania joins him in sending their best wishes for a very happy and memorable Diwali.
He also recognised the “extraordinary” contributions of Indian-Americans in the development of the United States.
“We recognize the extraordinary contributions of Indian-Americans to the strength and success of our nation. Their achievements in business and industry, public service, education, scientific research, and other fields continue to represent the very best of our American virtues and the spirit of the Diwali season,” said Trump, who had celebrated Diwali last year by lighting the ceremonial lamp in the Oval Office.
Asserting that Diwali is a joyous and spiritual time marked by Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists, Trump said lighting of lamps on the occasion symbolises the true meaning of Diwali, which is triumph of light over darkness and good over evil.
Earlier this week, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had said nearly a billion people from around the world will light the lamp “as a reminder that good ultimately overcomes evil, understanding over ignorance, and kindness over animosity”. — PTI