Tom Fennario APTN National NewsThe United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) celebrated its 10th anniversary Tuesday in New York.The document sets out the rights of Indigenous peoples around the world including Canada, that for years fought against endorsing it.And some say Canada has some catching up to firstname.lastname@example.org
Brittany Hobson APTN National NewsOne Métis dancer and choreographer is returning to Winnipeg for the world premiere of his latest piece.Jera Wolfe’s newest creation will be performed on the big stage by students from the Royal Winnipeg Ballet.
Kent Driscoll APTN NewsA major polar bear region says it is looking to increase the polar bear hunting quota for 2018.This despite a video that was released in December showing a starving polar bear that garnered international attention as the animal struggled to find food at an old campsite.It was held up as an example of the negative effects of climate change.But Nunavut and Greenland say the polar population isn’t just fine – it’s email@example.comFollow @kentdriscoll
It seems to happen earlier and earlier every year.It’s still technically summer, but places like Costco and Dollarama have already rolled out holiday decor.While many on social media are expressing their horror, the stores have a strategy.Lynne Ricker, Instructor at the University of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business, said stores wouldn’t be doing it if there wasn’t a market for garland and Christmas trees in September.“People do start thinking about it and many people do start their Christmas shopping long before the last minute, last week before Christmas, sort of December rush,” she said.“Retailers have to create an in store experience. They have to have something in there that’s going to look different and exciting and that’s one of the things that they try to do.”Ricker said stores want to get your attention before the competition does.“One of the things that retailers have to think about is having that in store experience and think about pre-empting online buying,” she said.And, she added even tweets complaining about all the red and green could be considered good publicity.
NORTH BATTLEFORD, Sask. – The Canadian wing of Carillion PLC says the financial collapse of the British construction giant will not affect the work or any jobs at a new mental health facility being built in Saskatchewan.Carillion went into compulsory liquidation on Monday after weekend talks with creditors failed to get the short-term financing it needed to continue operating.Cody Johnstone, a spokesman for Carillion Canada, says the subsidiary is not in liquidation and its 6,000 employees across Canada continue to be paid, along with its subcontractors and suppliers.Carillion Canada is part of a public-private partnership under contract to construct Saskatchewan Hospital North Battleford, after which the subsidiary will maintain it for 30 years.The provincial government committed $407 million to the project.SaskBuilds, the Crown corporation managing the project for the Saskatchewan government, says all risks and costs fall on the partners, and any failure to complete the work on time and on budget would mean significant financial penalties.A statement from SaskBuilds said if Carillion is not able to fulfil its commitment, the private consortium, known as Access Prairie Partners, would have to find a replacement without increasing the government’s cost.The project is contracted through PP and SaskBuilds said the consortium has committed to keeping the government informed as it works through “Carillion’s situation.”The Opposition NDP has criticized the province’s decision to involve the private sector and a foreign company in building and maintaining the hospital.“The government’s priority seems to be defending their PST and covering up for their mismanagement, scandal and waste,” said NDP health critic Danielle Char tier in a statement.The new facility will include a 188-bed mental health hospital and a 96-cell correctional centre designed for inmates with mental health issues. It will replace the century-old Saskatchewan Hospital. (CTV Saskatoon, The Canadian Press)
LOS ANGELES, Calif. – MoviePass, the discount service for movie tickets, is raising prices by 50 per cent and barring viewings of most major releases during the first two weeks.The new $15-a-month rate for up to one movie each day still won’t make MoviePass profitable. Because it typically pays theatres the full cost of tickets — which can be $15 or more in big cities — a movie or two can put the service in the red. The old monthly rate was $10.MoviePass has shown that many moviegoers will make time to hit theatres when movies are affordable, despite more convenient options such as Netflix and video on demand. At some theatres, it is common to see long lines with people holding red MoviePass cards, which subscribers can use to charge a movie to the service.MoviePass has grown to 3 million subscribers, from about 20,000, since it slashed monthly rates nearly a year ago to $10, from as high as $50. The company claims that its subscribers accounted for 6 per cent of U.S. box office revenue in the first half of the year.But its financial sustainability has come into question. Last week, its parent company took out a $5 million emergency loan to pay its payment processors after missed payments resulted in service outages.MoviePass said the rate hike will go into effect within the next 30 days. Tuesday’s announcement comes just days after the company, in a note to subscribers, justified surcharges for popular movies and show times as a way to keep rates low.To curtail expenses, subscribers won’t be able to watch most blockbusters until the third week of release. MoviePass already did that with the new “Mission Impossible” movie, which opened this past weekend. MoviePass said a movie distributor could allow earlier viewings through the service by reaching revenue-sharing or other arrangements with MoviePass. With “Mission Impossible,” MoviePass also exempted theatres with which it has deals.In recent months, MoviePass also stopped letting subscribers view the same movie multiple times and began requiring moviegoers to send photographs of ticket stubs as proof.“These changes are meant to protect the longevity of our company and prevent abuse of the service,” MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe said in a statement. “While no one likes change, these are essential steps to continue providing the most attractive subscription service in the industry.”One major theatre chain, AMC, recently came up with its own subscription service after complaining that MoviePass was changing moviegoers’ expectations.AMC said Tuesday that in just five weeks, its Stubs A-List service enrolled more than 175,000 subscribers, ahead of its own projections. The service costs $20 a month for three movies a week, though it allows 3D, Imax and other premium screenings, something MoviePass currently does not.
NANAIMO, B.C. – Canadian marijuana producer Tilray Inc. says it has received approval from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agency to export a medical cannabis product south of the border for use in a clinical trial.The company and a researcher at the University of California San Diego believe this is the first export of a cannabis product from a Canadian company to the U.S., where marijuana is still illegal at the federal level.Tilray will be exporting capsules containing a formulation with two active ingredients extracted from the cannabis plant for a clinical trial examining the drug as a potential treatment for adults with essential tremor, a neurological disorder.The formulation will contain cannabidiol and tetrahydrocannabinol, better known as CBD and THC, and will be used in a trial scheduled to begin in early 2019.The company’s shares closed up 28.95 per cent or US$34.79 at US$154.98 on the Nasdaq.UC San Diego’s Dr. Fatta Nahab said he believes this product has not been imported from Canada into the U.S. before.While several states have legalized cannabis for medical or recreational use, marijuana remains illegal under U.S. federal law.
MADISON, Wis. – A Wisconsin software worker who opened fire on his fellow employees in their suburban Madison office had worked for the company for almost 18 months and had no criminal history in the state, authorities said Thursday.Police killed the gunman in a shoot-out Wednesday morning inside WTS Paradigm’s Middleton offices while responding to reports of an active shooter. The Dane County medical examiner identified the shooter Thursday as 43-year-old Anthony Tong.Police said three people were seriously wounded in the attack and remained hospitalized Thursday. A fourth person was grazed but a bullet.Middleton Police Chief Chuck Foulke said the gunman had worked at WTS Paradigm since April 2017. Foulke said he had no criminal history in Wisconsin and lived alone. Officers searched Tong’s house in nearby Verona Wednesday evening, but Foulke didn’t say what they found.The chief said investigators still don’t know what prompted the attack .“I’m dying to know the motive also,” Foulke said during a Thursday news conference. “We just have not found one yet.”One victim was critically wounded but had been upgraded to serious condition by Thursday morning, while the two other victims remained in serious condition at University Hospital, according to a spokeswoman.Foulke said investigators had interviewed two of those victims. He did not say what they divulged but called the conversations “really important interviews.” The victims’ names haven’t been released.WTS Paradigm officials issued a statement Wednesday saying the incident was shocking and heartbreaking, but the company provided no information about the shooting. A company spokesman didn’t reply to emails Thursday.Officers were called to WTS Paradigm in Middleton, a Madison suburb of about 17,440 people, just before 10:30 Wednesday. Foulke said officers arrived within 8 minutes of receiving emergency calls and found a man wielding a semiautomatic pistol. Foulke said the man was carrying extra magazines as well.Two Middleton officers and two Dane County sheriff’s deputies exchanged gunfire with Tong, killing him. The officers and deputies were not hurt, Foulke said.The police chief said he didn’t know if the victims were targeted or shot at random. He added that federal authorities are tracing the history of the pistol to determine how the gunman’s acquired it.WTS Paradigm makes software for the building products industry. A Wisconsin State Journal profile from 2014 listed company employment at about 145 workers and noted the company was looking to move to a larger location at the time.The company has posted You Tube videos depicting a loose atmosphere in an upscale office marked by a breakroom that resembles a bar, a ping-pong table and a shuffleboard table, and workers in jeans and sweatshirts.One video depicts an office Olympics in which workers compete by pedaling themselves around in their chairs and toss garbage in wastebaskets. Another video touts the company’s charity contributions, including donations to the Madison Children’s Museum, the American Diabetes Association and Habitat for Humanity.___Associated Press writer Gretchen Ehlke in Milwaukee contributed to this report.
NEW YORK — The latest on developments in financial markets (all times local):9:35 a.m.Stocks are opening sharply lower on Wall Street as a rout in major technology companies continued.Apple sank another 3.8 per cent in early trading Tuesday and Microsoft gave up 2.5 per cent.The early drops put major indexes back into the red for the year.Tech stocks were among the biggest decliners in Europe, too. Nokia, a big supplier of telecom networks, fell 4 per cent, while its Swedish rival Ericsson lost 3.5 per cent.The only stocks that rose were utilities and other safe-play companies.The S&P 500 fell 36 points, or 1.3 per cent, to 2,654.The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 421 points, or 1.7 per cent, to 24,598. The Nasdaq lost 133 points, or 1.9 per cent, to 6,893.Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 3.05 per cent.The Associated Press
NEW YORK — Stocks that moved substantially or traded heavily Tuesday:Boeing Co., up $11.93 to $328.06The aerospace company raised its dividend and said it will buy back $20 billion in stock.Darden Restaurants Inc., up $4.96 to $103.85The parent company of Olive Garden raised its annual profit and sales forecasts.Hess Corp., down $2.45 to $47.31Energy company stocks fell as oil prices continued to drop.Navistar International Corp., up $3.73 to $27.57The maker of trucks and engines beat Wall Street’s expectations with its fiscal fourth-quarter results.Sprint Corp., up 9 cents to $5.91The communications company said national security regulators approved its combination with T-Mobile USA.Rent-A-Center Inc., down $1.42 to $13.03The company said its agreement to be acquired by Vintage Capital is off, but will get a $126.5 million payment.Lennar Corp., up 99 cents to $41.01The Commerce Department said U.S. home construction rose in November as builders broke ground on more apartments.Honeywell International Inc., up 80 cents to $135.18Industrial companies recovered a sliver of their recent losses on Tuesday.The Associated Press
BUCHAREST, Romania — The European Union and Britain’s prime minister are seeking new ways to avoid a no-deal departure of the U.K. from the bloc but the EU Commission president insists there cannot be a renegotiation of the draft Brexit deal.Jean-Claude Juncker said Friday that despite the difficulties of British Prime Minister Theresa May to get the deal through parliament, he continues to hope she can pull it off next Tuesday.To help her get the deal through, “We are checking with Downing Street what the clarifications could amount to,” he said, adding: “They should not be confused with a renegotiation.”“I don’t like the prospect of a no deal. It would be a catastrophe,” he said on a visit to Romania, which has taken over the rotating EU presidency.The Associated Press
SHIMLA: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday unveiled the Foundation Stone of 1320 MW Buxar Thermal Power Project being constructed in Bihar, at a function held at Greater Noida. The Project based on Green Field Super Critical technology is being implemented by SJVN Thermal Private Limited a wholly owned subsidiary of SJVN Limited. The estimated cost of super critical 1320-Megawatt Buxar Thermal Power Project is Rs. 10,439 crores at January 2018 price levels. The foundation stone laying ceremony at Chausa, Buxar, Bihar was graced by Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Power & NRE, Raj Kumar Singh, Union Minister of State for Health & Family Welfare, Ashwini Kumar Choubey, Energy Minister of Bihar, Bijender Prasad Yadav, and Member of Legislative Assembly from Buxar, Sanjay Kumar Tiwari. Chairman & Managing Director, SJVN, Nand Lal Sharma, along with Director (Electrical), Rakesh Kumar Bansal, CEO, SJVN Thermal Private Limited S.C Agarwal and other senior officers from SJVN also attended the function. Nand Lal Sharma Chairman & Managing Director, SJVN informed that the Project located at Chausa in Buxar district of Bihar, will result in direct and indirect employment to around 2400 persons. The Project is very crucial for the industrial development of the area, which would also act as a multiplier for employment generation and overall growth of the entire region. The project is planned to be commissioned during the year 2023-24. Nand Lal Sharma further informed that, the project will have two units of 660 MW each and generate 9828 million units of electricity annually. He asserted his resolve that SJVN will be completing this project within stipulated time frame and this project will be a major milestone for SJVN to become 5000 MW company by 2023.The project has been planned with special features to perform as per the latest environmental norms. The project is based on Super Critical technology, closed cycle water re-circulation system for zero discharge concepts. The coal requirement for the project has been tied-up and it will be supplied by Central Coal Limited (CCL), a subsidiary of Coal India Limited (CIL) while the State Transmission Utility, Bihar has already approved power evacuation system for this project. Nand Lal Sharma further stated that in terms of the Power Purchase Agreement entered into with the Government of Bihar the project will provide at-least 85% of power generated to the state which will not only reduce demand supply deficit of Bihar in terms of current power scenario but will also boost industrial activity in the state. SJVN’s present installed capacity is 2003 MW and projects of 4798 MW are under various stages of development. SJVN has presence in various sectors of energy generation which includes Hydro, Wind & Solar. The company has also presence in the field of Energy Transmission.
Mumbai: Celebrated filmmaker Karan Johar says actores Madhuri Dixit Nene, Sonakshi Sinha and Alia Bhatt are all playing pivotal roles in his multi-starrer production Kalank. At the teaser launch of the film recently, Karan was asked about the thought behind introducing the female characters first. Karan explained: “We are brought into this world by women. I am raised by strong women and I would say that these three women characters are the heart, soul and spine of Kalank. So, their strength, beauty and intellect (is something) men could never match up.” According to Alia, the film, which also stars male actors like Sanjay Dutt, Aditya Roy Kapur, among others, is a true ensemble film as “every character is primary”. Directed by Abhishek Verman, Kalank is releasing on April 17.
Addis Ababa: Ethiopian Airlines said Thursday that the black box flight recorders from the Boeing 737 MAX 8 that crashed with 157 people,including four Indians, on board have been flown to Paris for analysis. “An Ethiopian delegation led by Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) has flown the Flight Data Recorder (FDR) and Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) to Paris, France for investigation,” the airline wrote on Twitter. Urgency is mounting to determine the causes of Sunday’s crash as Boeing finds its entire fleet of the model grounded after it emerged the plane experienced similar difficulties to an Indonesian Lion Air flight in October, which also crashed minutes after takeoff. Also Read – Squadrons which participated in Balakot air strike awarded citations on IAF Day Ethiopia said it does not have the equipment to process the data and Germany said it would not analyse the boxes as it was unable to read the software used by Boeing. US Federal Aviation Administration acting chief Daniel Elwell said the black box flight data recorders had been damaged. In Kenya, which lost 32 citizens in the crash, a minute of silence was observed Thursday morning at the One Planet Summit on climate change attended by French President Emmanuel Macron.
New Delhi: People this time will vote for Delhi’s full statehood as not having the status is directly linked with concrete issues such as unemployment, women’s safety and lack of opportunities in higher education, AAP leader Atishi has said. Atishi is one of the seven candidates fielded by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) for the Lok Sabha elections in Delhi. The AAP is contesting the elections with the slogan ‘Poorna Rajya Banao Jhadu ka Button Dabao’, telling people that Delhi will get full statehood if they vote for the party. Also Read – After eight years, businessman arrested for kidnap & murder In an interview to PTI, the Aam Aadmi Party’s Lok Sabha candidate for the East Delhi constituency said the party is “talking of concrete issues of lack of safety and security, cleanliness and employment that is linked to Delhi not having full statehood”. “People in Delhi this election are going to vote on these factors,” Atishi said. Noting that there is “no narrative” this election and people would vote based on local issues affecting them, she said, “Like in 2014, there was ‘Abki Baar Modi Sarkar’, in 2015, there was narrative to make Kejriwal as the chief minister but if you see in this election there is no narrative across the nation either in favour of anyone or against anyone”. Also Read – Two brothers held for snatchings She added that a lot of people who voted for the BJP in 2014 were “not natural BJP voters” but the ones hoping for change in favour of development. “When they voted for the BJP (in 2014), they thought it is on the agenda of development. They were also the elections that had mega narratives,” she said. “I think people would say we have seen consequences of voting for Modi, nothing changed in our lives. Our children still don’t have education, they don’t have jobs, women are still not safe. Now they will vote based on seeing the work that we (AAP) have done after coming to power,” the 37-year-old Oxford graduate said. On reforms in government school education in Delhi, Atishi said when the AAP came to power, there were multiple gaps that had to be dealt with. “One was that of the basic infrastructure, whatever infrastructure was there was poorly maintained. There were some schools in east Delhi having over 150 students in one class and with such infrastructure deficiency there is no way you can provide high quality education,” she said. “I think all this shortage of infrastructure gave this message to the children that you are second class citizens and you don’t matter in this world and you are not going to make it anywhere,” Atishi said. The second major challenge was “lack of accountability” which, she claimed, is a “hallmark of a government system”. “I think changing that mindset was the biggest challenge. Everyone in this system used to believe that this system couldn’t work,” she said. “Teachers are same, schools are same, children are same but the fact that you have a government in power that is willing to improve, an intent to improve and that changed things,” she said. But she noted that Delhi’s higher education is still facing a crisis. “You have 2.5 lakh students passing out of class 12 every year in Delhi and that number is increasing. There are only one lakh seats in higher educational institutes for which children from across the country are seeking admission. So there is definitely a crisis,” she said. “Most of the children passing out of Delhi government schools do their undergraduation through correspondence and there are 28 colleges that are funded by the city government so at least 85 per cent seats should be reserved for children in Delhi as it is being run by their tax payers’ money,” she said. She lamented that the Centre opposes such a reservation in the universities in Delhi for local students but at the same time prohibits opening of new universities according to the Delhi University Act. “So where will the children of Delhi go,” she asked. “Once Delhi gets full statehood, this is a very big issue that would be solved. We would be able to give 85 per cent reservation to Delhiites in these colleges,” she said. She exuded confidence that the status, once granted to Delhi, will help expand higher education under the AAP dispensation. Atishi said women’s safety in the national capital is also one of the biggest agenda for this election. “We have shown that we can make government systems work. With full statehood, a transformation can also happen in the police system where there is a lack of accountability and complete statehood would bring that accountability,” she said.
Analysis, critique, and birth of potential public policies in cradles of higher education ought to be a norm and not a threat. The Central University of Kerala’s proposition to streamline research in the favour of ‘national priority’ is at the cost of innovation coming from free thinking. Arguably, this runs counter to national interest of any constructive consequence. If Ph.D. scholars are not free to choose their area of study when that also is decided by the government, whose interest does this national agenda serve? Selecting from a shelf of topics prepared by each department, the purpose of undertaking a study at an individual level is rather manipulative on a larger level and exploitative in essence. Why is a student’s capacity for selecting a relevant area of study doubted? Not only is this censoring free intellectual pursuit, it also reeks of malicious intentions considering where this is coming from – a Central university in a place where the Central government had hardly any say. It appears more like a desperate attempt of the Centre to mark its influence in any manner whatsoever. The alleged saffronisation of education is, conversely, a matter of national concern. A direct bearing of this will be the marginalised communities: the circular regarding research topics potentially muffles the voices of several marginalised communities. Any research undertaken in the areas of LGBTQ or Dalit or Tribal, for instance, will require explicit expression, elaborate discussion, and unhindered pursuit. These counter-Right wing occupations are what make many in positions of authority uncomfortable. When students (and people) are aware and informed about a lot of things, they can easily rise to challenge the government. Also Read – A compounding difficultyTo concern oneself with matters of national priorities is explained to be areas pertaining to the economy, technology, food security, and social issues. Let us scrutinise this: are technology, food, security, economic well-being only the prerogative of some? If all Indians are equally entitled to these, then the marginalised communities are either cut-off altogether, or integrated in the mainstream – which is most unlikely. Further, there is a dire need to understand that studies and research in social sciences are what add value to progress in areas of natural sciences and economy. Without a robust social system, a technologically advanced country with a well-to-do economy will only widen the gap between the haves and the have-nots. The freedom to express must not be curtailed. The freedom of expression of artists and academia should be held sacrosanct. With respect to the national context, the Constitution encourages the inculcation of a scientific temper. Streamlining education is a most unscientific thing to do.
Washington DC: NASA’s Mars Helicopter, designed to fly in thin atmosphere and low gravity, has successfully completed flight tests and is prepared for its journey to the Red Planet scheduled to take off in 2020, the US space agency said. Weighing in at no more than 1.8 kilograms, the helicopter is a technology demonstration project currently going through the rigorous verification process certifying it for Mars. The majority of the testing the flight model is going through had to do with demonstrating how it can operate on Mars, including how it performs at Mars-like temperatures, NASA said in a statement. Also Read – Saudi Crown Prince ‘snubbed’ Pak PM, recalled jet from USThe helicopter has to function in extremely cold temperatures, including nights with temperatures as low as minus 90 degrees Celsius. The helicopter is scheduled to reach the surface of the Red Planet in February 2021, when the firmly nestled under the belly of the Mars 2020 rover. A few months later, it will be deployed and test flights will begin — the first from the surface of another world, NASA said. “Gearing up for that first flight on Mars, we have logged over 75 minutes of flying time with an engineering model, which was a close approximation of our helicopter,” said MiMi Aung, project manager for the Mars Helicopter at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the US. Also Read – Record number of 35 candidates in fray for SL Presidential polls”But this recent test of the flight model was the real deal. This is our helicopter bound for Mars. We needed to see that it worked as advertised,” said Aung. While flying helicopters is commonplace here on Earth, flying hundreds of millions of kilometers away in the thin Martian atmosphere is something else entirely. Creating the right conditions for testing here on Earth presents its own set of challenges. “The Martian atmosphere is only about one per cent the density of Earth’s,” said Aung. “Our test flights could have similar atmospheric density here on Earth — if you put your airfield 30,480 meters up. So you can’t go somewhere and find that. You have to make it,” she said. The team created a vacuum that sucks out all the nitrogen, oxygen and other gases from the air inside the mammoth cylinder. In their place the team injected carbon dioxide, the chief ingredient of Mars’ atmosphere. “Getting our helicopter into an extremely thin atmosphere is only part of the challenge,” said Teddy Tzanetos, test conductor for the Mars Helicopter at JPL. “To truly simulate flying on Mars we have to take away two-thirds of Earth’s gravity, because Mars’ gravity is that much weaker,” said Tzanetos. The team accomplished this with a gravity offload system — a motorised lanyard attached to the top of the helicopter to provide an uninterrupted tug equivalent to two-thirds of Earth’s gravity. The Mars Helicopter’s first flight was followed up by a second in the vacuum chamber the following day. Logging a total of one minute of flight time at an altitude of five centimeters, more than 1,500 individual pieces of carbon fiber, flight-grade aluminum, silicon, copper, foil and foam have proven that they can work together as a cohesive unit.”The next time we fly, we fly on Mars,” said Aung. The Mars Helicopter will launch as a technology demonstrator with the Mars 2020 rover on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket in July 2020 from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. It is expected to reach Mars in February 2021.
New Delhi: After a lengthy suspense, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leadership finalised 2008 Malegaon blast accused Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur as the party’s face from the Bhopal constituency of Madhya Pradesh. The Central Election Committee released its 22nd candidate list for the ongoing Lok Sabha elections on Wednesday.The Hindu Sanyasini joined BJP on the same day morning and will take on Congress veteran and former MP chief minister Digvijay Singh from its 30 years-bastion. On the other hand, Bhopal has a sizeable Muslim population and to woo the multi-layered demography, Digvijaya Singh was asked by his party top leadership and even by Chief Minister Kamal Nath to contest from tough seat, where the Congress hasn’t won in years. Challenge accepted, was Digvijaya Singh’s response, and he was named for Bhopal. Sadhvi Pragya is out on bail in the case, in which she was cleared under the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) on 27 December, 2017, but faces other charges. Reportedly, the former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, Shivraj Singh Chauhan and BJP veteran and Union Minister, Uma Bharti declined to contest the general elections from the constituency. Chouhan, party general secretary Ramlal, and senior leader Prabhat Jha also held a meeting in the party headquarters in Bhopal. “I have formally joined the BJP, I will contest elections and will definitely win. It won’t be difficult for me,” Sadhvi Pragya told the media persons. She also added, “We all will fight together with all those who are conspiring against the nation and defeat them.” The BJP power corridor further refused to affirm the criminal charges against her and claimed her ‘innocence’ and said that “a woman has been harassed and no charges have been proved against her.” Six persons were killed and 101 were injured when an improvised explosive device strapped on a motorcycle went off at Malegaon on September 29, 2008. The incident also promulgated the term “saffron terror”- widely used by the erstwhile Congress-led- UPA government. Sadhvi Pragya has always been known for her mooted comments and provocative speeches. She had been associated with the right-wing all India student organisation affiliated to the Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh- Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and ‘Durga Vahini’ or women’s wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). Meanwhile, Digvijaya Singh welcomed Sadhvi to Bhopal, tweeting – he hopes she likes the calm, educated and sophisticated ambience of the city. Alok Sanjar of BJP is the incumbent Lok Sabha MP from Bhopal. The party also preferred a secured seat Vidisha for a new candidate Ramakant Bhargava. Union Minister Sushma Swaraj is the incumbent Lok Sabha MP from the constituency. But she refused to contest this election due to her health problem. Bhargava is also a Brahmin face and has a big vote bank. In this seat, Brahmin plays a decisive role. He is also known for his clean image. He is in the state leadership for a decade now. To woo the Yadav voter of Guna Parliamentary seat, BJP also put K P Yadav as its nominee from Guna to take on Jyotiraditya Scindia. Raj Bahadur Singh is going to contest from Sagar constituency. However, the BJP is still delaying in the announcement of its Indore candidate, which is only left in 29 Lok Sabha constituencies in the state.
Raebareli (UP): Hitting out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his strident criticism of the Congress, party president Rahul Gandhi Saturday said in the last 70 years, the “foolishness of demonetisation and Gabbar Singh Tax” was not done by anybody.He was addressing an election meeting in Unchahar in Rabeareli from where UPA chairperson and his mother Sonia Gandhi is seeking re-election to the Lok Sabha. “In the past 70 years, the foolishness of demonetisation and Gabbar Singh Tax (Gandhi’s coinage for the Goods and Services Tax or GST) was not done by anyone,” Gandhi said. Also Read – Ajay Lamba takes oath as chief justice of Gauhati HCHis remarks come against the backdrop of repeated attacks by the prime minister on the Congress, holding it responsible for all ills since the country got Independence. “Chowkidar (watchman) has done ‘chori’ (theft) of factories and employment of people of Raebareli and Amethi (the Lok Sabha seat represented by the Congress chief),” he said. Rahul Gandhi also accused Modi of not wanting to fill 22 lakh vacant posts in the government. “Some 22 lakh jobs are vacant in the government. Modi did not want to fill these vacant posts and only wants to help his friends. We will give these 22 lakh jobs in one year and 10 lakh jobs in panchyats,” he said. Also Read – HC directs Centre to place Bihar IAS officer’s inter-cadre transfer plea before authoritiesThe Congress president asked the gathering, “Where are Anil Ambani, Nirav Modi, Vijay Mallya, Lalit Modi – in jail or outside? “If a farmer of Raebareli takes loan of Rs 20,000 and is unable to repay, he is sent to jail. From 2019, when our government will come to power no farmer will got to jail in such cases. We will bring a separate farmers’ budget in which they will get to know MSP, storm losses compensation, insurance details and what they will get when they suffer losses,” he said. Charging the prime minister of taking away money from “our pocket, your pocket”, he promised that the Congress will ensure that the people get back their money. “Modi has taken away money from your house, lied and fooled you and made you stand in queues telling you that it is fight against corruption and blackmoney. He fooled the country and took money from your pocket for a ‘chor’ (thief) like Anil Ambani,” Gandhi said. “Have you seen ‘Hindustan ke chor’ Anil Ambani, Nirav Modi, Vijay Mallya standing in a line,” he asked the gathering. Promising that Congress will “put back money in your pocket”, Gandhi said when people get money, they will start making purchases. “After demonetisation you stopped purchasing and factories stopped manufacturing giving rise to unemployment. Our ‘Nyay’ will give jobs.” Nyuntam Aay Yojana (Nyay) is the party’s ambitious minimum income guarantee scheme, which assures up to Rs 72,000 a year or Rs 6,000 a month income to 20 per cent of India’s poorest families. “Whatever we do is well thought. It’s impossible to give Rs 15 lakh in every bank account as economy will collapse. But giving Rs 3.60 lakh individually is possible in five years with Rs 72,000 per year,” he said. Stating that in the present regime, crop insurance money was not given to farmers, Gandhi said, “Entire work of insurance has been given to people like Anil Ambani. You give money for insurance but when you face loss you are not compensated. Rs 10,000 crore have been taken from farmers and given to people like Anil Ambani…”
Given the size of the Indian economy and expectations of future growth, infrastructure remains a crucial area of focus for both financial and strategic investors alike. As capital flow gradually picks up in the sector over the last five years and operational assets are bought out, the obvious question is: What next in terms of infrastructure projects? The last few years have seen a significant focus from a plethora of global infrastructure investors in India, especially in the transportation and energy sectors. The primary strategy has been buying out companies or a portfolio of operational brownfield projects. Sellers of such projects have been motivated by the need to reduce their debt and in some cases carve out non-core assets. Buyers of brownfield assets have been motivated by getting access to assets that are operational, thereby giving them a foothold in the Indian market. Also Read – A special kind of bondHowever, as brownfield assets see more capital pursuing them, we see two trends emerging. Firstly, high-quality brownfield assets for sale are fewer now, given the capital inflow over the last few years. Secondly, given the increased competition, from an investor’s perspective, due to the yield compression in brownfield assets, the returns available may not be in proportion to the underlying risk. Therefore, the need for investors to move beyond brownfield assets is one that needs attention. Also Read – Insider threat managementFor India, focused investors such as pension funds and private equity funds, the requirement to look beyond brownfield infrastructure assets were in the works for a while. Mainly, extending further out on the risk curve is required to deploy more capital to work. Beyond brownfield assets, investors must now consider assets that aren’t necessarily purely greenfield but are under-construction and close to completion. The move towards under-construction projects will allow investors access to a larger pool of assets to choose from. Given the still strained balance sheets in the infrastructure sector, opportunities exist that need to be tapped. The move towards assets that aren’t operational or a portfolio of such assets is a natural progression in the market. The vital question is the valuation of such assets. Fundamentally, for distressed projects and under-construction projects, there is a potential for unlocking value by investors accessing such projects. Acquiring projects suffering from either time and cost overruns, or both for that matter, at attractive valuations is the key. The seller of such assets can unlock much-needed capital, and the users of such assets can hope to access the much-needed infrastructure sooner. In effect, investors will have to be more “hands-on” in approaching under-construction projects. The need for a more operationally intensive plan will require financial investors to team up with operator companies. Such partnerships will take a variety of forms ranging from joint ventures to the utilisation of financial vehicles that allow for partnerships between operators and capital providers. For operational industry players such as integrated energy businesses, an opportunity exists wherein they can potentially utilise their operational expertise to get an edge in the infrastructure market. The recent deal in which Hindustan Construction Company (HCC) monetised a pool of arbitration awards is a variant of this strategy, and a deal that displays how investors can unlock value through moving higher on the risk curve. In this particular case, HCC gets access to much-needed liquidity and the investors, the Blackrock-led consortium, get an opportunity to utilise their long-term capital to generate investment returns. Over the past few years, the investor interest in accessing high-quality brownfield assets to deploy capital has been a natural first step taken by both large and small players entering Indian markets. Given the constrained balance sheets of many Indian businesses especially infrastructure companies has meant that carving out and monetisation of assets to reduce debt was a natural progression in the market. However, in a multi-decade time horizon, given India’s vast infrastructure needs, a move higher on the risk curve towards under-construction projects to be able to deploy more significant amounts of capital is only natural. From an investor perspective, accessing non-brownfield projects implies dealing with three primary issues around land acquisition, construction risk, and an effective infrastructure-linked ecosystem. The immediate investment focus must shift towards projects or portfolios of projects where risk linked to the latter two must be undertaken, while land acquisition issues have primarily been resolved. The capacity of investors and the strategies adopted to deal with non-brownfield projects will lead to increased infrastructure investments and will expedite infrastructure creation. Investors and the government will have to keep a keen eye on any policy changes that might be needed as the market evolves with increasing amounts of capital looking towards incomplete and yet attractive infrastructure assets. (The author heads Development Tracks, an infrastructure advisory firm. Views expressed are strictly personal)