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Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has ordered immediate release of pending old age pensions, with strict instructions to regularise payment to the beneficiaries.

The Chief Minister issued the directives during a meeting to review various schemes of the Department of Social Security and Women & Child Development here on Tuesday.

Expressing concern over the non-payment of old age pension in many places since April 2017, Captain Amarinder expressed the hope that the process of payment would be regularised by March, with directions to make December payment by January 31.  Pointing out that the government was burdened by a Rs 110 crore liability per month on account of pension arrears, the Chief Minister directed the Department to start releasing the arrears in a staggered manner.

The Chief Minister also directed the Department to sort out the cases of absentee beneficiaries at the earliest, so that all eligible persons are included in the list, which now stands at 16,24,269, against the earlier 19,87,196. The meeting was informed that 93,521 cases (4.71%) had been found to be ineligible, while another 1,96,478 were absentee cases.

The ineligible cases related to those who did not fulfill the eligibility criteria, an official spokesperson disclosed after the meeting. The meeting also discussed a proposal to implement the electronic benefit transfer scheme to ensure timely and smooth direct payment of pension to the beneficiaries, he added.

In another decision, Captain Amarinder ordered to get latest specifications including colour for the free bicycles being distributed to girls, with no photograph of the Chief Minister, in contrast to the existing practice of having the CM’s picture on these specially coloured blue and saffron bicycles.

The issue of vacant Group A, B, C and D posts for the disabled in all government departments was also discussed, and the Chief Minister was apprised that 287 of the 899 vacancies had so far been filled by the Department. Captain Amarinder has ordered the remaining vacancies to be filled by April 30.

The progress of the Accessible India Campaign (Sugamya Bharat Abhiyaan), launched by Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (Divyangjan), Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, GoI, was also discussed at the meeting. The campaign is aimed at achieving universal accessibility for Persons with Disabilities in Built environment, Transportation system and Information and communication system. Under Built environment accessibility, the city of Ludhiana has been selected, and 46 government public buildings have been identified to be made accessible to disabled persons. An estimate of Rs. 15.50 crores has been prepared and submitted to the Government of India, which has sanctioned the grant but has sought detailed estimates, which are currently being prepared, the Chief Minister was informed.

To implement the RPWD (Rights of Persons with Disability) Act, 2016, in letter and spirit, and to extend all benefits as per the provisions of this Act to all deserving/needy disabled persons, this Department has proposed to set up an independent department of disability, at an annual expenditure of Rs. 3.5 crores. The case has been sent to the Finance Department.

The Chief Minister was also updated on the work for the creation of various sports facilities, such as running tracks, cricket pitch, gymnasium etc, at the Blind School in Jamalpur, for which Rs 42 lakh has already been transferred. The department informed that land for the facilities had been earmarked and the process of planning was under way with the sports authority at district level.

With regard to the UDID (Unique Disability ID) project initiated by the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, the meeting was informed that a state level admin and district level admin had been created, including the Departments of Health, Revenue and Social Security. A state Coordinator has been appointed in this regard and the training of the admins is scheduled in the second week of February, after which the scheme will be launched in March.

On the Supplementary Nutrition Programme for the Anganwadi Centres, the Department informed the meeting that a proposal for full implementation of this Centre:State scheme had been sent to the Finance Department.

The meeting was also apprised about some of the new schemes being taken up by the department. Under the Mahila Shakti Kendra (funding pattern – 60:40), two districts, Moga and Ferozpur, will be covered in the first phase, while the remaining will be covered in the next financial year. For Bachpan Bachao Andolan, the Department is coordinating with NGO, Bachpan Bachao Andolan Foundation of Noble Award winner Kailash Satayarthi, for making Punjab a model State for Children.

As part of the 100% centrally sponsored One-Stop Centre scheme, in the first phase, six centres have been set up in Punjab (Bathinda, Jalandhar, Mukatsar, Patiala, SBS Nagar and Gurdaspur). In the second phase, eight new One Stop Centres have been sanctioned by GOI (Ferozpur, Fazilka, Sangrur, SAS Nagar, Roopnagar, Hoshiarpur, Ludhiana and Amritsar), while the remaining will be covered in the next financial year 2018-19 by the Government of India, according to department officials.

Prominent amongst others who attended the meeting included Social Security Minister Razia Sultana, Deputy Speaker Punjab Vidhan Sabha Ajaib Singh Bhatti, Media Advisor to CM Raveen Thukral, Chief Secretary Karan Avtar Singh, Special Chief Secretary KBS Sidhu, Principal Secretary to CM Tejveer Singh, Principal Secretary Finance Anirudh Tiwari and Director Social Security Kavita Mohan Singh.

SAD president Sukhbir Badal asks Haryana leadership to start recruitment drive and hold district level meetings           

The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) today appointed Observers for all districts in Haryana to mobilize its cadre for the forthcoming assembly elections which it has decided to contest on its symbol.

The Observers were appointed after a two hour meeting of the party’s Haryana leadership which was presided over by SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal. The meeting also witnessed S Sharanjit Singh Sahota being unanimously re-given the responsibility of heading the party’s Haryana unit. Rajya Sabha member Balwinder Singh Bhundur has been appointed party Incharge for Haryana.

Addressing the party’s Haryana leadership, Mr Sukhbir Badal said the SAD would contest the forthcoming assembly elections on the maximum number of seats on its own steam. “There are around 35 seats which have a sizeable Sikh presence. Sikhs are part of the population in many more seats. They need to be mobilized”, he said while asking the party rank and file to fan out in the countryside and undertake a recruitment drive. He said this should be followed up with district level meetings to strengthen the SAD in Haryana”.

Leaders from Haryana while welcoming the party’s decision to contest the assembly election said they would take up all issues facing Haryanvis in order to reflect the aspersions of the people of the State. Prominent among those who spoke on the occasion included S Raghujit Singh Virk, Avtar Singh Mangi, Tara Singh Assandh,Sukhbir Singh Mandi, Sant Singh Kandhari, Tejinderpal Dhillon and Ravinder Kaur Ajrana.

The SAD president also appointed Observers for Haryana. Lok Sabha mp Prem Singh Chandumajra has been given charge of Ambala and Yamunanagar districts. S Manjit Singh GK and S Avtar Singh Hit will look after Faridabad, Palwal, Panipat, Rohtak, Sonipat and Gurgaon districts. S Sikander Singh Maluka will look after Fatehabad and Sirsa districts. S Surjit Singh Rakhra will look after Jind and Kaithal districts. Bibi Jagir Kaur will look after Karnal and Kurukshetra districts. S Parminder Dhindsa will look after Hisar district and Shri N K Sharma will look after Panchkula.

Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has written to the Ministry of Defence to set up a Light Combat Vehicles (LCVs) manufacturing unit in Punjab, with the assurance that his government would extend all support, including land allocation, for such a project.

In a letter to Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Captain Amarinder said a LCVs unit would not only go a long way in promoting the establishment of ancillary units but also help provide jobs to the unemployed youth in the state. Further, the proposed project would help make LCVs readily available to the forces on the border, he said.

The Chief Minister drew Sitharaman’s attention to the "Industrial and Business Development Policy 2017", recently launched by the Punjab government, with many incentives for the industry. The policy, he said, was a holistic framework for the sustainable industrial growth of the State and was a part of the vision to put the state back on high trajectory of growth and prosperity.

Captain Amarinder further pointed out that in view of the potential for its growth and employment generation, the Aerospace and Defence sector had been given special emphasis in the policy by treating it as one of the thrust sectors.

Noting that Punjab had no major unit manufacturing items for defence or of the Ministry of Defence, Government of India, the Chief Minister urged the Defence Minister to consider his request for setting up a LCVs manufacturing unit in Punjab at the earliest possible.

India would be aiming to put behind the disappointment of a first-leg final loss when they open their campaign against hosts New Zealand in the second leg of the Four Nations Invitational Hockey Tournament.

In the first leg of the tournament, India got off to a good start with 6-0 win against Japan but lost 0-2 to Belgium in the following match.

Winning 3-1 against hosts New Zealand, who had beaten Belgium 5-4 in their first match, put the Manpreet Singh-led Indian team in the final.

India topped the pool table with a total of nine goals, having conceded only three in the pool stage while Belgium scored ten goals but conceded six.

“As a team we have made progress match after match. We had four young players make their debut and even scored in matches which is good,” said chief coach Sjoerd Marijne about the team’s performance in the first leg.

“We came close to beating Olympic Silver Medallist Belgium which gives us a lot of confidence going into an important calendar year for hockey,” he added.

Though his team lost a closely-contested final 1-2 to Belgium, Marijne feels the result was a positive.

“You must understand that Belgium is here with their complete squad and they are one of the best teams in the world. Competing with them with the team we have here is still a huge step forward,” he said.

“The fact that the youngsters have shown confidence in playing the world No.3 ranked side gives me more options as a coach and it is this competition within the team which will help us grow,” he added.

Though there are positives Marijne derives from the team’s outing in Tauranga, he pointed out that missed opportunities continue to dent his side’s chances.

“For me, most important is converting the chances into goals. We create enough opportunities but that’s not enough. We must score more goals,” he asserted on the eve of their opening match in Hamilton.

Skipper Manpreet Singh stated that the team is eager to put up an improved performance here.

“Doing well against a team like Belgium will no doubt give us the confidence for future matches but winning against them will be a big boost to young players.

“To be able to do that, there are areas that require improvement and we need to ensure we don’t repeat the mistakes we did in the previous matches,” he said.

“While doing well against a higher ranked team like Belgium, who we will play in upcoming major tournaments like FIH Champions Trophy and the Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup Bhubaneswar 2018, is a priority, winning against Japan and New Zealand has also been a plus point for this young squad,” he added.

Elina Svitolina revealed she battled a hip injury throughout the Australian Open tennis tournament after making a quarter-final exit on Tuesday.

The Ukrainian fourth seed suffered a surprise 6-4 6-0 loss to Elise Mertens in their last-eight clash in Melbourne.

Svitolina, who is now 0-3 in major quarters, said she had been troubled by a hip injury since her title win at the Brisbane International to begin the year.

“I started to feel it actually after the final in Brisbane. Then it was getting worse and then was up and down,” the 23-year-old said.

“I always had the tape, a heavy tape under the shorts. So, sometimes, it was fine, but today she’s playing a good level, so I had to push myself.

“She didn’t give me opportunities. All the credit to her, because she played really good tennis… I couldn’t really match it.”

Svitolina, whose run to the last eight was her best in Melbourne, said she was unsure if, or for how long, the injury would sideline her.

“I will see what I have to do. Speak with my team. I didn’t speak with them,” she said.

“Of course we tried to do our best to prepare for the grand slam. It’s not every day I’m playing a quarter-final so I had to give everything.”

India coach Ravi Shastri on Monday defended the team management’s decision to leave out Ajinkya Rahane from the first two Tests in South Africa, saying Rohit Sharma was the best option going by form.

One of the most successful Indian batsmen overseas in recent years, vice-captain Rahane was not picked for the Tests in Cape Town and Centurion, with the Indian team management preferring to go with limited-overs specialist Sharma on “current form”.

But Sharma’s failure to live up to the expectations and the Indian batting’s inability to stand up to the South African pace attack in the preceding matches attracted widespread criticism, forcing the management to rethink about Rahane.

“If Ajinkya (Rahane) had played the first Test and not done well, you would have asked me the same question about why Rohit hasn’t played. Rohit played, he didn’t do well, so you are asking me why Ajinkya didn’t play,” a defiant Shastri told reporters when queried about the selection policy.

“The same would have happened with the fast bowlers. So you have choices. The team management has discussed what is the best option. They stick by it and they go by it,” Shastri said.

“Overseas, you go on current form, you go on conditions. You see which player can adapt to certain conditions quicker than the other,” he added.

But if yesterday and today’s practice sessions at the Wanderers were any indication, there is a possibility of Rahane’s return to the playing XI for the inconsequential third Test starting here on Wednesday.

The India coach said on overseas tours, a team is forced to select their playing XI keeping conditions in mind.

“Chopping and changing overseas is easier. In India, you don’t need to chop and change because you know what the conditions are and for which bowler to play, as opposed to what kind of track you will get,” Shastri said.

“Whether you need a bowler with bounce or you need a bowler with swing, so that’s where the chopping and changing starts,” he added.

Shastri also refused to the criticism back home.

“Experts are meant to do a job. They can say what they want. It doesn’t affect us. They have a job to do, so they are entitled to what they say,” Shastri signed off.

Shastri’s dig at experts came following former India opener Virender Sehwag’s criticism of skipper Virat Kohli’s selection policy.

After suffering a 72-run defeat in the first Test in Cape Town, India made three changes to their playing XI with KL Rahul replacing Shikhar Dhawan and Ishant Sharma coming in for Bhuvneshwar Kumar, whose three-wicket burst in the first morning of the opening Test had rocked the hosts.

His involvement with Hindi films began when he assisted in the direction and production of films like Kal Ho Naa Ho, No Entry and Wanted, followed by an acting debut in 2012 with Ishaqzaade. Actor Arjun Kapoor says his journey so far has been a mix of highs which were amazing and lows that have been good learnings.

Arjun has celebrated success with films like Ishaqzaade and 2 States, and faced failures with duds like Aurangzeb and Tevar. With just six years’ experience and 10 film to his credit, is he happy with the way his career graph is headed?

“There is no reason to complain. The excitement is to do better and more. That’s the energy that keeps me going. You have a quest for more. Like I said, I can’t complain. The highs were amazing and the lows were a teaching phase. It’s been surreal to say the least, and I hope it continues this way,” Arjun said.

Arjun, son of producer Boney Kapoor and Mona Shourie, has a positive approach to competition in the Hindi film industry, which is attracting huge numbers of newcomers but continues to be ruled by veterans like Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan and Aamir Khan.

“I think that’s the beauty. If you are doing well, as in if you have the potential and talent, you will always get work. It’s what you do with the work that you get; you can’t always be looking over your shoulder. You can’t look ahead and behind,” Arjun said.

Believing in yourself is a must, he said. “Put your head down and work, because it’s a long race. People tend to make it seem it is like a 100 meter (dash), it’s actually a bloody marathon.”

The Finding Fanny actor has just wrapped up shooting for Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar, which is directed by Dibakar Banerjee and also features actress Parineeti Chopra, his co-star from Ishaqzaade.

Arjun says it was an “outstanding experience” working for the film, which has been extensively shot in Pithoragarh, Gurgaon and New Delhi.

“It’s my 10th film. Dibakar Banerjee is such an acclaimed filmmaker. He has tremendous clarity about what he wants. Some directors have this ability to articulate beautifully and he is one of those,” said the actor, who will be portraying a Haryanvi police officer in the film.

Arjun, who was in the capital to unveil the new Audi Q5 last week, feels really proud that he has managed to “come all this way and play these gamut of characters.”

What’s after Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar? “The only film I am doing next is Namastey Canada, which starts next month,” Arjun said.

Namastey Canada, directed by filmmaker Vipul Shah, will also star Parineeti. The film will be shot in the serene locations of Punjab and Canada.

Shah Rukh Khan, along with actor Cate Blanchett and singer-songwriter Elton John, received awards at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Monday for the work raising awareness about human rights issues. The 52-year-old Bollywood star received the award for showing an exemplary commitment to uphold human dignity through his non-profitable Meer Foundation.

Meer Foundation provides support to female victims of acid attacks and major burn injuries through medical treatment, legal aid, vocational training, rehabilitation and livelihood support. He has also been responsible for creating specialised children’s hospital wards and has supported childcare centres with free boarding for children undergoing cancer treatment.

It was his impassioned speech about women and child rights which had the world’s top policy makers and executives cheering for the actor. Here is SRK’s full speech from Davos…

I am genuinely and deeply grateful for this honour and it is a privilege to be in the company of two phenomenal and extraordinary human beings and talent, Cate Blanchett and Sir Elton John

She is of course a lady who commands the wind and you sir command the song of a billion hearts, including mine. I am really touched that I am chosen between these two. Just a special request, before you go, can I do a selfie? Now, there I have embarrassed my children.

Actors are renowned narcissists. No matter how much we pretend not to believe in external beauty, we tend to be obsessed by it one way or the other. And perhaps being surrounded by this obsession of beauty, a few years ago I came across a lady who had been brutalised by an acid attack. It kind of changed my life or my perspective of it, at least.

To disfigure a woman by throwing acid on her face, to me, is one of the basest, crudest acts of subjugation imaginable. At the source of it lies the view that a woman does not have the right to assert her choice, say no to the advances of a man or a group of people. And yet, each of the women I met, I found within them the courage to move on with their lives and reject the idea of victimhood. What struck me most about them was this -- what was done to them only made them braver, stronger and able to free themselves, to make the choices everyone around them was telling them they could not make or should not make. From them I have learnt how courage can catalyse victimhood into heroism, how solidarity -- rather than charity – enables the human will to overcome, how equality is not a concept but a truth that encompasses all living beings, how service of others is not a choice anymore for any of us but it is a duty that all of us must fulfill in the name of humankind.

When I journeyed through the life of these heroic women and children through the work of Meer Foundation, I experienced a complete reversal of perspective. I stumbled upon the truth that there are no benefactors and beneficiaries between living beings anymore. There is just a vast pool of resources – natural, spiritual, economic and technological – that everyone is equally entitled but some have gained by more access to it. Either by accident, as in my case, or by talent, design and hard work as in the case of all of you present here. Standing here before all of you who constitute perhaps the most powerful group of human beings in the world, I dare say power is one of these perspectives we like to maintain a certain way but power actually needs a complete reversal more than any other thing in the world today.

I was babysitting my five-year-old son before I came here today and suddenly he screamed, “Papa, papa my eye went into my hair. Can you get my eye out of my hair?” He didn’t say get my hair out of my eye, like we all believe we do. And it is a bit like that when you have power, you think things get in its way but it is actually power that is getting in the way.

It gets in the way of universal access to resources because it seeks to control and enclose them so we, the powerful, need to get out of the way, I think. To pick the barriers apart – the ones that give us names and colours and races and hierarchies. We need to get out of the way and into the work of breaking open access for each and every one with a true sense of ourselves but not as more powerful or less privileged, but genuinely as equals. That is what I have learned from my beautifully scarred women. I am thankful to these brave women and children who I work with for all they have done for me, to World Economic Forum and all of you present here for recognising the heroism by conferring this award upon me.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018 07:21

Sensex, Nifty at new peak

Stocks ended at record highs for the fourth session in a row today on sustained foreign fund inflows and persistent buying by domestic investors in bluechips led by Reliance Industries, ONGC and TCS.

The BSE Sensex surged 286.43 points to close at 35,798.01 while the broader NSE Nifty ended at 10,966.20 — all-time closing high for both the indices.

The NSE Nifty also hit a record intra-day high of 10,975.10, before finishing at 10,966.20, up 71.50 points, or 0.66 per cent. It bettered its previous closing high of 10,894.70 reached in Friday’s trade. TCS rose the most among Sensex components by surging 5.36% to close at new high of Rs 3,113.15.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Monday reaffirmed that the Indian economy is projected to grow by 7.4% in the next fiscal year, regaining the rank of the world’s fastest growing large economy.

The Fund’s World Economic Outlook Update released in Davos gave a rosier estimate for the current year than the Indian government’s. It estimated the Indian gross domestic product (GDP) growth at 6.7% 2017-18, compared to the 6.5% figure given by Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.

Saying it expected a “pick up in India”, the update stood by all the projections it made last October. It projected a growth of 7.8% in 2019-20.

China, which is 2017 growth champion with a growth rate of 6.8 per cent, is expected to slow down to 6.6% in this year and 6.4% next year.

The IMF estimates for India are slightly better than the World Bank’s estimate of 7.3% for the next fiscal year made earlier this month.

The IMF update saw an improvement in the global economy still working its way way out of the remnants of the financial crisis. “Global economic activity continues to firm up” and the overall “output is estimated to have grown by 3.7% in 2017, which is 0.1 percentage point faster than projected in the fall and 0.5% higher than in 2016”.

Global growth forecasts for 2018 and 2019 have been revised upward by 0.2 percentage point to 3.9%, the update said. It attributed the uptick to increased global growth momentum and the expected impact of the recent tax policy changes in the US.

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