Police deny upsurge in crime

first_img… say Force recorded 19% decrease, raids intensify in Berbice By Devina SamarooCriminal raids three times a week, heightened Police patrols and greater presence in neighbourhoods, intensified training among Police ranks, and the resuscitation of social programmes, are all components of a crime prevention strategy that contributed to the overall 19 per cent reduction in serious crimes at the end of April, relative to the same period last year.Senior Police officials are staunchly dismissing the widespread perception that criminal elements are becoming emboldened and that crime is spiralling out of control.They are contending that the public perception on the crime situation is a sheer misrepresentation and that a simple glance at the statistics will prove this.The Guyana Police Force (GPF) reported that there was a nine per cent reduction in murder; a nine per cent decrease in gun related robberies; eight per cent decrease in armed robberies where other instruments other than a gun were used by perpetrators; 38 per cent decrease in robberies with violence; 38 per cent decrease in robberies with aggravation; 18 per cent decrease in rape and 22 per cent decrease in break and enter and larceny.According to the Police, this represents a 32 per cent decrease against those reported in March this year.Crime in BerbiceAssistant Commander of B Division (Berbice) Ian Amsterdam, during an interview with Guyana Times also dismissed concerns raised by the local business community about the increasing crime wave in the Ancient County.He reported that Berbice recorded 21 serious crimes, down from 34 in March, 33 in February and 41 in January.Amsterdam maintained the regional crime plan is “definitely working”, adding that the local Police will be doubling their efforts to continue to arrest the situation.These efforts, he said, includes working on more intelligence gathering, conducting raids in areas where criminal elements are suspected to be harbouring, and increasing patrols.Particularly, he said much focus is being placed on clamping down on the criminal safe havens located in Rose Hall, Rosignol, Corriverton and New Amsterdam.The Assistant Commander noted too that while the ranks are working with limited resources, they are doing the best they can to keep the crime situation under control.Wrong perceptionOverlooking the fact that over six families were terrorised, robbed and in some instances killed within a space of one week in Berbice, Amsterdam said persons are peddling the wrong perception about the crime rate in the country.Referring to the contentions made by the two leading Chambers of Commerce in Berbice, the Assistant Commander posited the bodies are spreading the wrong perception about crime.“The Chambers didn’t speak to me. If they had spoken to me, I would have said that this is the wrong time to say that crime is on the increase. Maybe a month or two ago, they could have said that, but the very month that they speak is the very month that crime went down,” he stated, noting that people will believe the misinformation and disregard the statistics.Social media users, commuters, vendors, and students alike have all raised their concerns about the noticeable upsurge in the crime situation in the country.From the daring casino robbery to the horrific death of the two rice stalwarts in Essequibo, persons are growing more and more fearful of the roaming criminal elements.The Berbice Chambers have criticised the Government, and in so doing received criticisms from the Government on the issue of crime in the nation.The Chambers lambasted Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan for not getting a handle on the crime situation and more particularly, for putting the golden jubilee celebrations as top priority on his agenda.“Government seems powerless, ineffectual, and out of their league in fighting crime. It is extremely disappointing as the coalition campaigned very strongly on this issue and we were all optimistic with all the military, ex-commissioners and other `experts’ at their disposal and now we have a situation in Berbice that is far worse than we have ever experienced. Everyone seems to be a sitting duck, as it seems every day a business is held up and residents beaten and robbed in their homes, this coupled with the depressed business environment, makes it exceedingly burdensome for businesses and ordinary citizens to cope. President Granger and the government has miserably failed the people of this country to provide protection and security”, the Chambers said in a joint statement.They noted, however, that the only exception is the Crime Chief Wendell Blanhum, who has to be commended for his efforts in tackling crime.Lashing back at the Chambers, the Police Association of the Guyana Police Force (GPF) declared that the organisations are ungrateful and irresponsible.TrainingMeanwhile, the GPF boasted of the continuous exposure of its ranks to training; both locally and internationally.There are currently 12 Assistant Superintendents of Police attached to the Dade County Police in Miami for a period of three weeks on training. This initiative will expose them to a First World approach on designing tactics and delivering on frontline functions.For the year alone, 33 members of the Force received training overseas in various aspects of law enforcement, inclusive of a three-month course in cybercrime in India, a three-month course in Advanced Fingerprint Technology in India, and an Advanced Crime Scene Investigation Course in Russia.Locally, 34 new entrants to the Crime Investigation Department completed a six-week training programme. This adds to 24 ranks who completed an Intelligence Gathering and Analysis Course, and 35 who attended a programme on National Protocols for Child Advocacy Centres.Additionally, the Police Divisional Detective Officers and their second in command as well as the Officers at the CID Headquarters were trained by trainers developed by the Justice Education Society of Canada in Major Crimes Case Management and Investigation.Furthermore, it noted that 60 new recruits have graduated from the Felix Austin Police College, adding to the 287 who graduated in February.last_img

DWP OT flows like water

first_imgLos Angeles Department of Water and Power workers racked up more than $51 million in overtime in the last six months of 2005, accounting for more than 30 percent of some divisions’ payroll, the Daily News has learned. Records show more than half of the public utility’s 8,100 workers took home a chunk of the lucrative pay, with nine out of 10 working overtime in some divisions. For some electrical and mechanical engineers, overtime added 50 percent or more to their base salaries of $74,000 to $100,000, according to records. And even as the utility has raised water rates sharply and sought an additional $23 million annual hike, overtime pay on the water-side alone is on pace to hit more than $20 million this fiscal year. Overall, overtime accounted for nearly 14 percent of DWP’s payroll during the last half of 2005. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORE‘Mame,’ ‘Hello, Dolly!’ composer Jerry Herman dies at 88 “There’s no doubt it’s a tremendous problem,” said DWP commission vice president David Nahai, part of the new board charged by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa with reforming the mammoth utility. “It’s very tempting for an employee to do things at overtime rates, rather than within the allocated work hours.” DWP officials defended the overtime as necessary in a complex organization that operates 24-7. “You have emergencies, people take time off … overtime is just a given in the business,” said Robert Rozanski, DWP chief administrative officer. Rozanski said he reviews every division in which overtime exceeds 10 percent of payroll – something that occurred in more than a dozen divisions during the six-month period – to see if it’s warranted and whether staffing is appropriate. He said efforts are under way to find ways to reduce OT – including looking at work shifts, deployment patterns and hot spots. But he said it’s often cheaper to pay existing employees overtime than to hire additional employees that would also need health care and other benefits. “Typically it’s cheaper to work OT than hire additional personnel … But if it’s a high level of overtime on a persistent basis, then you look at it differently to make sure there aren’t other ways to do it.” DWP commissioner Nick Patsaouras said the OT is a major concern. “Overtime is for an on-needed basis, and I appreciate it when the lights go out, but not on a chronic basis,” he said. Patsaouras said he’s particularly concerned about potential OT abuses in divisions already being audited in connection with complaints about discrimination, retaliation and cronyism. And he said he wants to see if there’s any connection between divisions that have high overtime pay and absenteeism and moonlighting rates. Rozanski said delays in filling vacancies in the work force, more power outages, and increased security requirements have added to OT costs. Records show the bulk of DWP overtime was in the aging power distribution system, where electrical trouble combined with a shortage of linemen – a national phenomena – resulted in more than $27 million in OT payments during the six months. “We’ve had a lot of outages, and there’s more overtime when that occurs,” Rozanski said. “In looking at reliability over the years it’s been fairly good, but when you look at the forward trend the reliability has gone down a little. The warning signs are there.” The DWP’s 424 power support services personnel, as well as employees responding to “electric trouble,” bumped up their pay by more than a quarter as the result of OT – over $8 million during the six months. Overtime for security drove about $3 million in overtime, including 225 DWP guards, and 118 under contract. DWP is hiring additional guards to fill a shortage, but in the short-term as current employees train them, the utility must rely on overtime to get the regular work done, Rozanski said. “Part of it is when (the department) goes on national alerts. Some guys work seven days a week, 12 hours a day. It may be a day or two, or until the alert goes away,” he said. “When there’s extreme concern, (DWP) may double our efforts.” Clerical and other employees in top administrative offices pulled down $118,778 in OT during the six months, including about $21,000 for three clerical employees in the office of General Manager Ron Deaton. Deaton, who is not paid for overtime, earns an annual salary of $316,000. Rozanski said most of the OT in those offices is the result of paperwork including putting out requests for proposals on projects and responding to California Public Records Act requests from lawyers and others. The Customer Service Business Unit, which handles customers’ billing and service calls, has been short as many as 40 employees, driving OT costs to more than $2.5 million for the six months. Many of those vacancies now are being filled. Rozanski said the high OT payments partly are the legacy of DWP downsizing from 11,600 employees in the early 1990s to as low as 6,700 near the end of the decade. “Because the program was unfocused and across-the-board, so many people left who were people we didn’t want to leave,” he said. “We had to backfill a lot of positions.” Beth Barrett, (818) 713-3731 beth.barrett@dailynews.com 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more

Changes to crop insurance continue in 2018

first_imgShare Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest Changes to the Federal crop insurance program initiated in 2017 will continue into 2018. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Risk Management Agency (RMA) continues to improve the program, increasing its availability and effectiveness as a risk management tool while safeguarding the integrity of the program.In 2017, RMA had a number of accomplishments in the areas of program integrity, program efficiency, expanded options, and customer service. These accomplishments include the way RMA develops new pilot programs, and makes policy changes based on stakeholder feedback.“RMA has a responsibility to producers to provide flexible and available crop insurance,” said Robert Johansson, USDA’s Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation. “We also have a responsibility to the American taxpayer to ensure the Federal crop insurance program is actuarially sound and uses their tax dollars in an efficient and effective manner.”Some highlights from 2017 are:Customer service — RMA worked with Approved Insurance Providers, agents, and stakeholder groups to respond to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, as well as a number of severe wildfires and other disasters throughout the year. For example, emergency procedures were implemented to streamline the claims process, allow for flexibility, and respond to specific commodity and regional issues. More than $3.4 billion in indemnities have been paid thus far for 2017.Expanded options — RMA provided increased flexibility to producers to customize their insurance coverage to best meet their risk management needs. This flexibility is especially important for producers having both irrigated and non-irrigated farming practices within the same operation.Program efficiency — RMA revised the conservation compliance provisions of the crop insurance policies to remove the certification deadline of June 1. This revision eliminates an unnecessary burden and provides greater flexibility to producers, agents, and Approved Insurance Providers to show compliance with the conservation requirements established in the Agricultural Act of 2014.Program integrity — RMA has worked diligently to reduce the improper payment rate for the Federal crop insurance program. RMA has reduced the improper payment rate from 5.58% in 2014 to 1.96% in 2017, a decline of 65%. As a result, RMA received the Office of Management and Budget’s approval to remove the program from the improper payment “high-priority” program list.last_img read more

German Innovation in Solar Water Heating

first_imgI was in Boston last week for the annual Building Energy conference, sponsored by the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association. Each year this conference provides an opportunity to connect with friends and colleagues, catch up on leading-edge building design, and learn about product innovations in energy conservation and renewable energy.I was amazed to see the large number of European companies represented in the conference trade show, with most of the leading innovation in windows, [no-glossary]biomass[/no-glossary] heating, and solar energy seeming to come from Germany. A drainback system with clever featuresThe Wagner SECUSOL system is the latter type of solar water heater, but with several significant distinctions:Drainback design without a separate tank. Most drainback systems have a separate tank that has to be plumbed into the system. In the SECUSOL system, an oversized heat-exchanger coil in the storage tank serves as the drainback tank — so one component serves two key functions.Elegant housing. A single housing contains the well-insulated 66-gallon or 92-gallon storage tank, the controls, and the circulation pump (situated beneath the tank and accessible through a hatch). This configuration means that the single unit, which is not much bigger than a standard water heater, contains everything except the collector(s) and a back-up heating element.Quick-mount fittings. The plumbing lines that circulate the glycol heat-transfer fluid through the collectors and heat exchanger coils in the tank are pre-insulated flexible copper, and they connect with compression fittings. This avoids the need for soldering, speeds installation, and reduces the risk of installer errors.Pre-programmed controls. The controls that tell the pump when to turn on and off come pre-programmed, speeding installation.High-efficiency collectors. The Wagner EURO C20 AR-M flat-plate copper collectors are among the highest efficiency collectors available. They feature extremely high light transmissivity (96%), a selective coating on the absorber plate, and nearly 2-1/2 inches of mineral wool insulation in the back of the collector. They can be installed flush to the roof or on a racking system, which is also made by Wagner.Back-up heating element. A second heat exchanger in the insulated tank allows a back-up electric heating element to be installed. In this way, the single tank can provide a family’s entire water-heating needs. When solar energy is adequate, the electric element isn’t needed, but when there isn’t enough solar, the family has hot water.Easy, rapid installation. The various innovations with Wagner’s SECUSOL solar water heating system enable it to be installed rapidly and efficiently. A skilled installer can install two complete systems per day, according to Wagner Solar, which is remarkable. This helps keep the total cost down. Tyler Plante of Wagner Solar, Inc., in Cambridge, told me that systems are typically installed for between $7,500 and $8,000. Alex is founder of BuildingGreen, Inc. and executive editor of Environmental Building News. To keep up with his latest articles and musings, you can sign up for his Twitter feed. Closed-loop and drainback equipmentMost solar water heaters include flat-plate collectors through which water or a water-glycol mixture is circulated. “Closed-loop” systems have the collector filled all the time, and a pump circulates the fluid from the collectors, where solar heat is absorbed, to the tank, where a heat-exchanger coil transfers that heat to the stored water.Other systems have an open “drainback” loop. When the sun is shining and the controller tells the pump to turn on, the water or water-glycol solution is pumped through the collectors, and when the sun goes down at night (or power is lost), the fluid in the collectors drains back to a drainback tank. This drainback configuration has the advantage of preventing the collector fluid from getting too hot if the electric pump fails or electricity is lost.center_img Solar hot water systems are often cost-effectiveThe product that I found most exciting this year was a unique, drainback solar water heating system, SECUSOL, from the German company Wagner & Company, which is one of Germany’s oldest, though not largest, manufacturers of solar water heating systems. Wagner products are represented in the U.S. by Wagner Solar, Inc., of Cambridge, Massachusetts.Before describing what makes the Wagner SECUSOL so exciting, a few words about solar thermal systems are warranted. Over the past few years, solar electricity (photovoltaics) has garnered most of the attention in the renewable energy world. But solar thermal systems, which can include both solar water heating and solar space heating, are often significantly more cost-effective. Solar thermal systems can also be used for space heatingWagner also produces some elegant solar space heating systems with packaged components and easy integration with conventional or pellet-fuel heating equipment; more about active solar space heating in a future blog.Wagner Solar introduced Wagner products to the U.S. market in late 2010 and has installed slightly over 100 systems to date through the East Coast, but mostly in Massachusetts, according to Plante. The company is currently expanding its dealer network.last_img read more

Lumber Liquidators Will Pay Millions in Fines

first_imgThe formaldehyde probe continuesThe announcement of the Lacey Act settlement helps the company in the short run, but the company still faces serious problems over claims that some laminate flooring made in China had formaldehyde levels far exceeding what’s permitted in California.A report at MarketWatch says that the company “is not out of the woods yet” and that a settlement on the formaldehyde issue still poses “substantial risk.”The company’s stock price jumped by 22% days after the settlement was announced, but it’s down 70% year to date.The Consumer Products Safety Commission says its that investigation is continuing and gave no timetable for having it completed. Its most recent public statement came in March, when Chairman Elliot Kaye said, “We are actively investigating laminate flooring products from Lumber Liquidators. The company has been cooperative to date in our investigation and has pledged to fully cooperate throughout. Our work will take some time and often the science does not provide the clarity we all wish it would.” Lumber Liquidators has agreed to pay a total of $10 million to settle claims by the U.S. Department of Justice of importing illegally harvested timber, and another $3.2 million in a civil forfeiture to resolve similar compliance concerns with some of its engineered flooring.The plea agreement, which still needs court approval, was announced on October 7. Under its terms, the retailer agrees to plead guilty to a felony charge of entry of goods by means of false statements and four misdemeanor violations of the Lacey Act, a conservation law designed to protect plants and wildlife that are harvested illegally.The announcement is unrelated to investigations into allegations that the company sold laminate flooring that contained dangerously high levels of formaldehyde to thousands of homeowners. Those claims were made in a March broadcast of 60 Minutes and are still under investigation by the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) and others. They’re also the subject of a number of civil lawsuits.Federal authorities raided the company’s headquarters two years ago looking for evidence that some of its wood imports came from forests in eastern Russia inhabited by endangered Siberian tigers, The Wall Street Journal said.The World Resources Institute said that the Lacey Act violations included declaring that imports of Mongolian oak came from Germany when the tree is in fact found only in Northeast Asia; false declarations that Myanmar timber originated in Indonesia; and the transport of illegal timber from Russia declared as European oak.According to Lumber Liquidators, the $3.2 million forfeiture stems from “Lacey Act compliance concerns” with some of its engineered hardwood flooring. The company subsequently suspended sales of roughly $4 million of the product pending an investigation and notified federal authorities.There were no compliance issues with $900,000 worth of flooring, and the deal allows the company to sell the remaining flooring in return for the $3.2 million payment. The company will adopt a compliance planLumber Liquidators also has agreed to adopt an Environmental Compliance Plan to ensure that it doesn’t violate the Lacey Act in the future.Jill Witter, the company’s chief compliance and legal officer, said in a statement posted at the company’s website, “The program is designed to ensure an unbroken and verified chain of custody and documentation of our products from the store all the way to the forest.”The company also said that it was not admitting it had acted with a “deliberate or willful intent” to violate the law.After authorities raided company headquarters in 2013, Lumber Liquidators said that it sourced flooring from some 110 domestic and foreign mills and that it had 60 employees assigned to monitor harvesting, manufacturing, and compliance with trade laws.last_img read more

Shifting matches will be a problem but working on it: Shukla

first_imgNew Delhi, Apr 13 (PTI) Left in a lurch after the Bombay High Court ordered shifting of 13 IPL matches from drought-hit Maharashtra, the leagues Chairman Rajeev Shukla today said moving the games at this stage will be a “problem” but the BCCI is working on an “alternative plan”. The Bombay High Court today asked the BCCI to shift all the IPL matches after April 30 from Maharashtra due to the acute water crisis in the state. Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur are the three venues in Maharashtra scheduled to hold the IPL matches. Maharashtra — home to Rising Pune Supergiants and Mumbai Indians — was to host 13 games after April 30, including the final in Mumbai. “Organising the IPL is a gigantic work. Its not easy. All preparations had been done, completed. Now shifting the matches will be a problem,” Shukla told India Today. “So far, we have not got the written order, after we get that, we will work out an alternative plan. We always respect the court. We need to talk to other franchises. Out of 19 matches in Maharashtra, 13 have to be moved out, we will have to work it out,” he added. The BCCI had offered to contribute to Chief Ministers drought relief fund besides supplying water to the drought-affected areas. Shukla said the Board could not have done anything more than that. “The key problem is water for farmers, which we are trying to find a solution to. We were willing to give water, contribute to the CMs fund. Now shifting matches will be a problem,” Shukla said. “If matches are to be shifted, where will they be moved, how will they be moved, all these issues are involved. And this comes after nobody raised an issue about the 24 World Twenty20 matches that were held recently,” he said. “Nobody raised these issues for six months. Whatever was required, we were willing to do. In fact, I would like to point out that a lot many other sports and cultural events are going on in Maharashtra, which also use water and they should also help,” he added. Shukla said even the sugar factories and golf courses should be pulled up for their water usage. “Not only sugar factories, construction should also be stopped. All golf courses, they require huge amount of water, nothing is being done against these golf courses,” he said. Kings XI Punjab co-owner Ness Wadia, who was among the first to advocate shifting of matches, said he is glad that sensitivities of the drought-affected people in Maharashtra are being respected. “Maharashtra has been under drought. It is a serious issue. I am very happy that we are looking after our fellow Maharashtrians. I am also from Mumbai,” he said. PTI PM MRM MRMadvertisementlast_img read more

India’s competitive parliamentary democracy needs a President, but pomp and Raj legacy worth it?

first_imgIn its 70th year of Independence, the government has chosen a Dalit candidate for its highest office of the head of the state for the second time. Ram Nath Kovind, former governor of Bihar, is the second Scheduled Caste presidential candidate after K.R. Narayanan became the country’s 10th, and the,In its 70th year of Independence, the government has chosen a Dalit candidate for its highest office of the head of the state for the second time. Ram Nath Kovind, former governor of Bihar, is the second Scheduled Caste presidential candidate after K.R. Narayanan became the country’s 10th, and the first Dalit, president in 1997. As democratic politics is first and foremost a symbolic contest for representation, the choice of a Dalit candidate was a move that was widely described as another “masterstroke” by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. So formidable was the first-mover advantage the NDA gained by selecting a Dalit candidate for the presidency that the Congress’s Meira Kumar, also a Dalit, became an obvious choice as candidate for the 17-party mahagathbandhan. However, paradoxically, while choosing candidates from Dalit backgrounds, the leadership across political parties has been silent on the enormous costs the country’s taxpayers bear to house and maintain the office of the Presidency.Consider the costs. For the next five years, Ram Nath Kovind, president-elect, along with his family, will be occupying two floors of a wing of the 340-roomed presidential palace, spread over 330 acres, on Raisina Hill. Larger than the Palace of Versailles in France, the grounds of the Rashtrapati Bhavan alone are worth an estimated Rs 16,000 crore. Formerly the Viceroy’s House, it has four wings, two each in the north and south, 37 fountains, 227 towering columns, an 18-hole golf course, tennis and squash courts, swimming pools, stables for the horses and camels of the bodyguards, a hospital and even a petrol pump.advertisementThe Central Durbar Hall, around which all official functions are held, features an exquisite two-tonne chandelier. The Banquet Hall, the walls of which sport portraits of former presidents, can comfortably host 104 guests. The Ashoka Hall, the ceiling of which is painted in the Persian style, is shaped like a gigantic jewel box 32 x 20 metres. The palace dome was inspired by the Pantheon of Rome, the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome. Designed by Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker, the entire structure used 700 million bricks and 3 million cubic feet of stone, and took 20 years to build during which time Lutyens made 20 trips to India from England.Besides, there are the magnificent presidential retreats in Mashobra (300 acres of forest), Shimla, and the 90-acre Rashtrapati Nilayam in Bolarum, Hyderabad, both annual vacation homes for the president. According to a June 2015 RTI, the Rashtrapati Bhavan has 754 employees, including nine private secretaries, eight telephone operators, 27 vehicle drivers and 64 multi-tasking staff, a majority of whom stay on the sprawling campus. About Rs 1.52 crore was spent on salaries alone for the month of May 2015. The telephone bills for March and April 2015 were Rs 4.25 lakh and Rs 5.06 lakh, respectively.A whopping Rs 66 crore will be spent on the staff, household and allowances of the president, according to budget estimates for 2017-18. This does not include the cost of security provided by the Delhi police and the army, and the presidential foreign jaunts.White House versus the Rashtrapati BhavanEven the White House at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the official residence and office of the US President, pales in comparison to the presidential palace on Raisina Hill. The White House has only 132 rooms, six of them underground (mainly for security reasons), across six storeys, compared to the 340 tastefully decorated rooms in the Rashtrapati Bhavan, besides hundreds of sundry outhouses for additional staff. The Rashtrapati Bhavan has a built-up area of 200,000 sq. ft, the White House, at 55,000 sq. ft, has only a fourth of the built-up area. Further, the White House is built on just 18 acres of land compared to the Bhavan’s 330. The magnificent Mughal Gardens at the presidential palace is spread over 13 acres, besides hundreds of acres of jungle, orchards, cultivated fields and open ground. The Rose Garden at the White House is a modest 7,500 sq. ft in comparison.A senior official at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, however, scoffs at any comparison. “The expenses of the American president are much more than the Indian president, if one includes the massive costs of operating Air Force One, the Blair House and US presidential retreats in Camp David and vacations in Martha’s Vineyard,” he says. But, as additional secretary to the President, Thomas Mathew, argues in his book, Abode Under the Dome, the Rashtrapati Bhavan has functioned as an official guesthouse for almost 700 visiting heads of states.Source: *AAVAAS.com; #Magicbricks; other data officialClick here to EnlargeComparing the two presidencies is also akin to comparing apples and oranges. While the US president is the most powerful executive of the world’s leading superpower, his Indian counterpart is just a constitutional figurehead, a role circumscribed in Article 74 of the Indian Constitution: ‘There shall be a Council of Ministers with the Prime Minister at the head to aid and advise the President who shall, in the exercise of his functions, act in accordance with such advice’ (the emphasised text was added by the 42nd amendment). Post the 42nd amendment, the president is legally bound by the council of ministers in the exercise of his functions, thereby curtailing his discretionary powers. Mathew disagrees yet again, saying the Indian president is no rubber stamp. “The president’s opinion is hugely respected. He can summon the PM and cabinet ministers for a meeting anytime.”advertisementGiven the titular role and the price of the presidency, should one hypothetically consider replacing the post with, say, the Supreme Court? “No, not really, the President protects the Constitution while the Supreme Court interprets it,” says constitutional expert, lawyer and MP, K.T.S. Tulsi. The Indian president serves a vital function, he adds, “He calms down the terribly competitive nerves of parliamentary democracy.” Tulsi points out how PM Modi referred to outgoing president Pranab Mukherjee as “playing the role of my father”. Mathew agrees. “The president is the last hope for the Opposition on ticklish issues,” he says.Political loyalist versus Non-political presidentWhy did Prime Minister Modi choose Ram Nath Kovind, a party loyalist and a man of enormous political experience while, in sharp contrast, former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee chose A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, a scientist and a non-political president? “One reason could be that Vajpayee headed a coalition government, whereas Modi commands an overwhelming majority in Parliament,” says BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra.Tulsi counters Patra’s reasoning. “Modi, a more strong-willed leader,” he claims, “is sceptical about any dissent or debate. He prefers a rubber-stamp president exactly like the Congress-led UPA selected Pratibha Patil.”Former additional solicitor-general Indira Jaising says, “Kovind was selected by the NDA with the 2019 Lok Sabha polls in mind. Since there is no predictability of voter behaviour, a loyalist president can favourably handle any political uncertainty in 2019 with his discretionary powers.”What are the challenges president-elect Ram Nath Kovind is likely to face in the next five years? He has two choices: either to be a rubber-stamp president like Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, who signed the proclamation of Emergency in 1975 even before the cabinet had discussed it, or else use his discretionary position to carve out an independent image for himself.Click here to EnlargeLessons from NarayananSince Kovind is the second Dalit presidential candidate after K.R. Narayanan, he could use the exemplary role the latter played as a template. Until 2019, Kovind has an easy role cut out for him, given the electoral hegemony of the BJP in each and every constitutional office. But should the 2019 Lok Sabha throw up an unexpected result, Kovind will be faced with his first big challenge.The President’s role may be largely ceremonial in a Westminster style parliamentary system as in India but as the custodian of the Constitution, the incumbent has played an important role in times of uncertainty, such as a hung Parliament, says Satya Narayana Sahu, officer on special duty to Narayanan.advertisementWhile the president is obliged to act under the aid and advice of the council of ministers, the office of the “head of state is one of great influence, as distinct from power”, says Sahu. He provides two instances when Narayanan declined to approve a recommendation made to him; once, in 1997, when the I.K. Gujral-led United Front government proposed President’s rule in Uttar Pradesh against the Kalyan Singh-led BJP government. The BJP, then in Opposition, hailed Narayanan as “a saviour of democracy”.Narayanan, however, revealed himself to be non-partisan a year later, in 1998, when the BJP was in office and sent a recommendation to him for President’s rule in Bihar. The then Bihar governor, S.S. Bhandari, had reported “a slide into chaos of Bihar”, then ruled by Rashtriya Janata Dal’s Rabri Devi government. In a memorable minute, Narayanan said a slide was a slow process and observed: “A pertinent point arises, viz., that over the period of the slide, remedial action in terms of constitutional obligation ought to have been taken to arrest the decline.”Some incumbents, such as outgoing Pranab Mukherjee, have tried to act as conscience-keepers, using their constitutional authority and their public pronouncements to defend India’s founding principles as a secular, diverse democracy. Kovind, therefore, will have stellar examples to follow.Statesman or Rubber StampIndia’s first president Rajendra Prasad had many constitutional run-ins with the country’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, particularly on the Hindu Code Bill. The clash between the two began even before the bill was formally introduced in Parliament. Taking cognisance of press reports, Prasad wrote to the prime minister on September 15, 1951: “My right to examine it (the bill) on its merits, when it is passed by the Parliament, before giving assent to it, is there. But if any action of mine at a later stage is likely to cause embarrassment to the Government, I may take such appropriate actions as I may be called upon to avoid such embarrassment consistently with the dictates of my own conscience.” Nehru disagreed with Prasad but was persuaded by the President’s insistence.President S. Radhakrishnan even succeeded in getting defence minister Krishna Menon sacked after India’s debacle at the hands of the Chinese. This, in the face of Nehru being disinclined to take any action despite criticism of Menon in Parliament. Radhakrishnan, biographer Sarvepalli Gopal says, even blamed the government for the defeat, terming it “a matter of sorrow, a shame and humiliation because of two blunders in policy-credulity and negligence on the government’s part”.V.V. Giri, a vocal trade unionist, elected as president with the help of Indira Gandhi as she battled the powerful syndicate within the Congress, often expressed his reservations over anti-labour legislation. He objected when the Indira-led Congress wanted to dismiss striking railway employees.Acting president B.D. Jatti, who succeeded Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, proved more assertive. When the Janata Party requested him to sign an ordinance dissolving nine assemblies in Congress (I)-ruled states, he pleaded that the federal government had no powers to dissolve duly elected assemblies without proper reason. The then prime minister Morarji Desai was forced to defer to his observations.Photo: Vikram SharmaClick here to EnlargeThe President-PM conflicts continued even after the Janata Party installed N. Sanjiva Reddy as president. Reddy and Morarji clashed and the latter prevented him from going abroad on ceremonial visits. A peeved Reddy created constitutional history when he invited Charan Singh to form government after Morarji lost majority in the Lok Sabha, ignoring claims of Dalit leader Jagjivan Ram who was numerically ahead of Singh. Reddy set yet another precedent when he dissolved the Lok Sabha on Singh’s advice, who ultimately couldn’t prove his majority.Of course, there is an alternative narrative of presidents who acted as mere rubber stamps. Zail Singh publicly claimed he would sweep the floor if Indira Gandhi asked him to do so. The same Zail Singh, however, asserted himself when Rajiv became PM and pushed the idea that the president can dismiss the PM.Which of these presidents will Kovind resemble? Will he follow the exemplary tradition set by Rajendra Prasad, Radhakrishnan and Narayanan or be a rubber stamp like Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed et al? Prasad had even decided to take only half his salary. Radhakrishnan voluntarily donated and converted the Viceroy’s Lodge in Shimla to the Advanced Institute for Higher Education. Men with feet of clay lead public institutions towards decline and decay while visionary leaders set exemplary traditions by creating dynamic institutional benchmarks. Kovind, according to Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, had been exemplary as governor of the state. Should he do the same at Rashtrapati Bhavan, he will go down in history as a visionary president.last_img read more

WWE star John Cena plays cricket with Shane Watson

first_imgWorld Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and Hollywood star John Cena is known to be an enthusiast and has always stated that he likes trying out new things.And this time he was seen at a place that is far from routine for him — the silver screen or the squared mat.The 16-time world champion was seen smashing a ball out of the park for the Sydney Thunders in Shane Watson’s company. (Triple H issues warning for Jinder Mahal ahead of WWE Supershow in Delhi)Cena, who is currently Down Under to promote his upcoming film ‘Ferdinand’, was seen holding the bat like a baseball player before missing the shot when a ball was bowled.@ShaneRWatson33 plays #Cricket with #WWE superstar @JohnCena pic.twitter.com/ATl5WvTo1I- PakiXah (@PakiXah) November 29, 2017Cena took to Twitter to share his experience in Australia and also the new sport he tried.Read some #Ferdinand, played some Cricket (poorly) and had a great time the past few days in Sydney until the teacher took attendance in class and I was marked absent… U??C?????? pic.twitter.com/stIOqDeKoW- John Cena (@JohnCena) November 29, 2017The 40-year-old had Watson by his side to teach him how to play cricket and he also tweeted about the good time they shared at Sydney.Watson’s feelings were echoed by the Sydney Thunder team, who tweeted saying that they feel Cena might as well hit some big sixes for them at the Big Bash League, that starts December 9. Sydney Thunder take on Melbourne Renegades at North Sydney Oval to open their campaign.advertisementWe’re pretty sure @JohnCena could hit a few sixes in the @BBL for the #ThunderNation pic.twitter.com/aC4wvfEldc- Sydney Thunder (@ThunderBBL) November 29, 2017However, Cena, who is currently promoting his new film is all likely to return to WWE ahead of the Royal Rumble early next year, which leads to Wrestlemania in April. He is expected to break Ric Flair’s record of most championships (16) and become the most successful champion ever.Cena’s new film Ferdinand releases on December 15 in the United States.last_img read more

The Unforgettables: Madhuri Dixit and Deepika Padukone tell you why a personal touch in work is important

first_imgIn the 1990s, Madhuri Dixit headlined films in which she eclipsed her male co-stars with her charismatic presence and stellar dancing prowess. One of the first few female superstars, she was an inspiration for many and so the phrase, Main Madhuri Dixit Banna Chahti Hoon. Like Madhuri, Deepika Padukone too,In the 1990s, Madhuri Dixit headlined films in which she eclipsed hermale co-stars with her charismatic presence and stellar dancing prowess. One of the first few female superstars, she was an inspiration for many and so the phrase, Main Madhuri Dixit Banna Chahti Hoon. Like Madhuri,Deepika Padukone too is an outsider who currently reigns supreme after a few initial hiccups in her cinematic journey. Today, she is the mostbankable actress both in advertising and Bollywood.Madhuri Dixit: I started doing movies at a time when we used to walk on set not knowing what dialogues we were going to say or what’s going to happen. There used to be a writer on set busy writing the lines and we mugged it up then and there. Everything was spontaneous. I think in today’s time the industry is more streamlined.Deepika Padukone: And it wasn’t just one film in a day. There were times when you jumped from one shoot to another in a single day.Madhuri: It was the norm at that time. I remember in one year I did 12 films. Today, it’s unimaginable.Deepika: I did four at a time and I thought that was a feat.Madhuri: “Dhak dhak karne laga” from Beta (1992) was shot from 7 pm-2 am. That used to be my third and last shift of the day. It was a ‘Chalo chalo jaldi karo’ kind of song.Deepika: When did you sleep?Madhuri: We hardly slept and yet we had to look good for the camera. I look back and wonder, how did we manage? It’s really the spirit of what you are doing. It’s the love of the job that keeps you going.advertisementDeepika: I can’t even begin to imagine what you must have gone through doing 12 films at a time, remembering your lines.Madhuri: And remembering who you are for that particular movie.Deepika: Do you forget who you are at some point?Madhuri: Very frankly, I didn’t have time to think. All I thought about was my characters. When I went home, I would sleep and catch up on what I had missed out on. I was not doing something extraordinary, everybody followed a similar routine. But, yes, I did come to a point when I said, ‘That’s it, I don’t want to work like this anymore’. I did Hum Aapke Hain Koun (1994) and it was the only film I concentrated on.Deepika: You were fully there.Madhuri: That’s when I decided I will do fewer films and that too only one film at a time.Deepika: Did the quality suffer because you were doing so much work?Madhuri: Whenever I am on set, I give it my all. I don’t sleepwalk through a role. I’d feel bad if I did that.Deepika: It’s like you have tasted blood and you can’t go back to working in that manner.Madhuri: How about you? When you did four films in 2013, did you feel like ‘Oh My God, what’s going on?’Deepika: I felt it took a toll on my health and my relationship with my family. I am not complaining about that period in my life at all. I am happy I went through that experience. I also feel that today I am in a position where I can choose to start a film when I want to.Madhuri: You work for yourself.Deepika: I can see that in the last four to five years. Ssuddenly from being threatened that ‘If you don’t make the dates available, we will have to drop you from the movie’, today I am in a position where I can be like ‘Then OK’. You have to physically and mentally enjoy the process.Madhuri: I like that today there’s a team working with you. The scripts and looks are planned. We just flowed earlier. Sometimes you would see that in the films too. Of course it was a bad time for fashion. You’d see continuity jerks here and there. I think it’s wonderful to have the whole set-up working for you.Deepika: It allows you to focus on what you really need to-performance. Today, you don’t see actors without the team-agent, manager, hair and make-up person, stylist, trainer. I remember being one of the first few actors to have an agent. It was completely unheard of.Madhuri: But there is so much pressure nowadays on appearance. Earlier there was no one lurking at the airport to click you. You could be in oiled hair and not be bothered.advertisementDeepika: For me, it is the cameras people have access to.Madhuri: The mobile phones.Deepika: Yes. The other day I slept on a flight from Bangalore to Mumbai. I had barely opened my eyes and the air hostess wanted to take a picture with me. You don’t want to say no but at the same time I’m thinking ‘Do you really want to take a picture like this?’ It was at night so it’s not like I am going to wear my sunglasses.Madhuri: Some people do that though and I think it’s quite clever. Once I was sleeping on a flight and somebody was trying to take my picture. My manager saved the day.Deepika: The fact is that there’s nothing that’s private anymore. Everybody has a different approach to the attention-some get wound up and some enjoy it. But it’s definitely tough.Madhuri: Deepika, tell me about how you came into your own? You had a great debut and then there was a phase.Deepika: Om Shanti Om (2007) was a dream debut for me. Every aspect of my performance was taken care of. I just assumed that’s the way it was always going to be. I made certain choices, again based on instinct. I didn’t realise that I have to take care of the way I was presented and the way I performed. These were films that didn’t do too much for my career.Madhuri: It was a good learning curve. I feel it was with Cocktail (2012) that you came into your own and created a space which was you. From there on, it has been beautiful.Deepika: I had got caught up with this perception of what heroines and heroes should be like. I didn’t know any better as I come from a sports family. Everything that I have learned and become today is through all the right and wrong things I have done. Cocktail gave me the opportunity to completely let go. I realised that eventually you have to be yourself; you can have people whose work you admire, but you have to get the best of all of them and simultaneously bring yourself to everything you do. Were you parents supportive of your decision to get into movies?Madhuri: Yes, they were. When I decided that I wanted to be in movies, we had a big meeting at home to ask my mother’s family, which is more orthodox, if it was okay. So we asked my great-grandmother and were flabbergasted when she said ‘Why not? If she has the talent, she will make it.’ It’s great to have your parents by your side. You asked how did I get through the years when I was just working all the time? It was because of them. They made sure I was sane and kept me grounded by reminding me that I may be a star outside but I have to still clean my room. One of my dreams was to have a family. So when people ask me how did it feel when I was in Denver? I tell them that I was living my dream. What about your parents?advertisementDeepika: They supported me wholeheartedly in my passion. I remember when I had to get my portfolio done, I borrowed Rs 10,000 from my mother and I promised her that I’d give it back. And I did. They didn’t have enough knowledge about the industry which is why they wanted me to have an agent who could help me. Even for my father (Prakash Padukone), to be a professional sportsman was completely unheard of. I have learned from him that if you are passionate about something, you will find a way to do what you want to do and achieve what you want to achieve. My father in fact has had the most massive crush on you.Madhuri: (Laughs)Deepika: The day the media announced that you had married, he locked himself up in the bathroom. He was the most heartbroken. He came out and had these bags under his eyes. It’s a running joke in the family till today. He has been your biggest fan.last_img read more