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No sign of ship with 22 Indians that vanished from West Africa

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MUMBAI: A Panama-flag merchant ship with 22 Indian crew members, including two from Kerala, went missing from Benin Coast of West Africa on Thursday. The owners of tanker ship MT Marine Express, which was loaded with gas oil, have sought the help of the directorate general of shipping in Mumbai to get in touch with their counterparts in Nigeria and Benin to carry out search operations for the merchant ship.

B R Shekar, chief surveyor who holds additional charge as director general of shipping, Mumbai, told TOI: “The owners of the ship lost contact with their tanker, MT Marine Express, on February 1 when it was in Cotonou anchorage at Benin. We have informed Nigerian authorities and the coast guard there to carry out search for the missing ship. Till Saturday, there was no trace of the ship. The owners and the manning agent from Mumbai had alerted us about the missing ship,” said Shekar.

A DG shipping official said the fate of the crew members and the ship is not known.

Pirates

The ship vanished from West Africa and a possibility of hijack is high. Meanwhile, Nigerian authorities have alerted all boats to look out for the missing tanker ship and if sighted to report to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) Anti-Piracy Reporting Centre immediately in London.

Rajesh C, welfare officer of Mumbai-based manning agent of the ship crew, Anglo-Eastern Ship Management, told TOI from his Andheri office to contact the company’s media manager in the UK.

On Friday, the company had tweeted: “We regret that contact has been lost with the AE-managed MT Marine Express while at Cotonou, Benin. Last contact was at 03:30 UTC, Feb 1. Authorities have been alerted and are responding. Our top priority is the safety of the crew, whose families have been contacted.”

Foreign news agencies published a statement released from the ship management company saying that the 45,989 dwt oil products tanker Marine Express has not been heard of since the early hours of Thursday and that authorities in the Gulf of Guinea region have been notified. “The vessel was last contacted at 0330 UTC on February 1. The first priority is the safety of the 22 crew members on board whose families have been contacted and informed of the situation,” the statement read.

Pat Adamson, the shipping company spokesman in the UK, told foreign news agencies that the Panama-registered Marine Express was part-laden with a cargo of 13,500 tonnes of gasoline.

According to DG shipping, the Indian crew hailed from different parts of India. One of the sailors on board is Sree Unni (25), son of Perilavallap Ashokan of Udma in Kasargod district, Kerala. Another crew member, also from Kerala hails from Kozhikode.

Anglo-Eastern has informed the families that it had lost contact with Marine Express.

The high commission of India at Abuja told foreign agencies that satellite tracking found the ship missing from anchorage. “Without getting in touch with the crew, the official said it was not possible to make a guess on what happened to the vessel.”



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With 7 more, UP sees 1 encounter every 3.5 hours

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| TNN | Feb 4, 2018, 05:39 IST

LUCKNOW: With seven more encounters leading to the arrest of 10 wanted criminals in the past 24 hours on Saturday evening, the UP police hit a strike rate of one ambush every three-and-a-half hours in the last three days.

UP cops had carried out 15 encounters in the preceding 48 hours. Cops arrested 34 criminals, most of them with gunshot wounds, and shot two in last 72 hours.

DGP OP Singh said the encounters are part of aggressive policing that is needed to keep law and order under control. He said a dozen policemen suffered injuries in these encounters.

Among the 34 criminals arrested and two killed, 14 carried cash rewards on their heads ranging from Rs 10,000 to Rs 50,000.

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    CBI arrests GST commissioner, 8 others for bribery racket

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    NEW DELHI: The CBI has arrested a commissioner of goods and services tax (GST) department from Kanpur and eight others, including three officials, busting an alleged bribery racket in the department.

    They collected regular bribes from the businessmen of Kanpur for providing them relief from tax-related issues and notices of the department, sources said.

    The accused persons reportedly collected bribes on a monthly or weekly basis as part of the racket. The illegal gratification was collected either in form of cash or costly gadgets like refrigerators, televisions, and mobile phones which were delivered to the commissioner’s residence in New Delhi.

    CBI arrested 1986-batch Indian Revenue Service officer posted as commissioner, Sansar Chand, two superintendents of the department, Ajay Shrivastav and R S Chandel; one personal staff, Saurabh Pandey and five private persons, including the owner of a firm called Shishu Soaps.

    The agency has named wife of Sansar Chand Avinash Kaur and Aman Shah, superintendent, GST and central excise, Kanpur in its FIR but they have not been arrested yet, the sources said.

    Officials say the bribes in cash were routed through hawala channels to Delhi and were accepted on case-to-case basis. “Sansar Chand was in the habit of taking periodic updates from his superintendents… receipt of illegal gratification from various parties,” the FIR alleged.



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    NE is heart of ‘Act East’ policy, invest here: PM Modi to Asean

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    GUWAHATI: PM Narendra Modi on Saturday appealed to Asean member states as well as Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan to invest in the northeast, which, he said, was at the heart of India’s ‘Act East’ policy.

    Inaugurating the ‘Advantage Assam: Global Investors’ Summit’ in Guwahati, Modi added, “The Act East policy envisions increased people-to-people contact, trade ties and other relations with Asean countries.”

    “Assam has been ranked first in ‘Ease of Doing Business’ and is the most soughtafter state for investment at present,” he said, adding that “balanced and fast-paced growth of the northeastern region will further energize India’s growth story”.

    The summit was attended by government and business delegates from India and 13 other countries. Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal called upon all investors taking part in the summit to explore investment possibilities in the state.

    On the first day, the summit generated investment commitments of nearly Rs 70,000 crore. The biggest investment promises came from two giant PSUs — Rs 13,000 crore from ONGC and Rs 10,000 crore by Oil India Ltd.



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    ‘Just chill’: Master Modi pens exam guide, lists mantras to ace them

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    NEW DELHI: With stressful days round the corner for those appearing for their Class X and XII board exams, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has penned a book detailing ’25 mantras’ to help students treat examinations as a cause for celebration and not despair.

    In a book, ‘Exam Warriors’, the PM has urged students to see exams as a way “to compete with self “. He has also asked youngsters to “embrace technology”, which Modi describes as “great teacher”, while ensuring adequate rest since “sleep is a great weapon”.

    The book was launched by external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, who elaborated on the 25 mantras.

    Union human resource development minister Prakash Javadekar said the “book will find space in each household as it connects with millions of students, teachers, parents and grandparents in a non-political way”. The 193-page book, published by Penguin, has been presented in an interactive mode with activities, tearaways as well as a pledge not to cheat.

    Stating that the book was an attempt to “add to the debate and discourse around the importance of stress-free examinations…” Modi, in his ‘note from the author’, writes, “It is our collective duty to ensure that their (students’) childhood is not overshadowed by the burden of exams and the constant anxiety of ‘what do I do next?'” It also has two letters, to parents and teachers. In one, the PM writes, “You (parents) are your child’s best mentor. You know your child better than anyone else, having seen him or her grow up in front of your eyes. Thus, I would request you: always accept rather than expect.” He also advised parents against trying to realise their unfulfilled desires through their children.

    The PM called for teachers to teach their students how to appear for an exam in a “tension-free manner”, and that they should pursue knowledge and not marks. The book starts with the first mantra, “exams are like festivals — celebrate them”.

    Here, he says exams, like festivals, bring the best out in a person. In a style that will easily connect with the young generation, the second mantra — “Exams test your current preparation, not you. Chill!” — tries to bring forth the fact that exams are not about “life and death”.

    The best way to deal with exams is to have a balanced life is what the book advocates as mantras 10, 11 and 12. The book also asks youngsters to discover themselves by stepping out of their comfort zone, getting involved in community service and travelling across India.



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    BJP dumps NPF for NDPP in Nagaland

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    GUWAHATI: BJP ended its 15-year alliance between the Naga People’s Front (NPF) in Nagaland on Saturday, breaking away from the senior ally in the ruling Democratic Alliance of Nagaland (DAN) and entered into a new partnership with the National Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP).

    JD (U), the third partner in the alliance, has also pulled out of the DAN. This marks the total collapse of the partnership forged in 2003 under the initiative of Neiphiu Rio, the current leader of BJP’s new partner NDPP, and the then-NDA chairman George Fernandes.

    Announcing the new political arrangement with Rio by his side, Union minister of state for home and BJP’s observer for Nagaland Kiren Rijiju said, “Earlier, BJP was not a major force.

    Now, we need a seat-sharing agreement. Hence this departure from past practice.” BJP will once again be the junior partner in this electoral understanding as well, with NDPP contesting 40 of the 60 seats, leaving the remaining 20 for BJP.

    Rio, who himself left NPF to join NDPP after months of speculation that he was the brainchild behind the new party’s formation, said, “We will form the next government. We appeal to the people to join us and take part in the election.” NDPP was one the 11 signatories to the joint declaration to boycott polls until a “resolution” to the Naga peace process, a decision which fell through later. NPF said it is “relieved”. “It seems like a big load has been taken off our shoulders. We talk our minds freely,” party spokesperson Sebastian Zumvu said.

    Cracks between NPF and BJP first appeared in July. Following intra-party dissension within NPF in July last year, the Shurhozelie-led faction had severed ties with the saffron party, believing it was behind the disruption.



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    Irked with BJP, Chandrababu Naidu calls up Uddhav Thackeray

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    In a move which may have wider political ramifications, Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu called up Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray on Saturday and discussed BJP’s ties with its NDA allies, said Sena sources

    | Feb 4, 2018, 01:42 IST

    Highlights

    • Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu called up Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray on Saturday and discussed BJP’s ties with its NDA allies, said Sena sources.
    • Naidu told Thackeray that the mood in TDP was that it should sever ties with BJP and go it alone in 2019 elections.

    Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu NaiduAndhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu

    NEW DELHI: In a move which may have wider political ramifications, Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu called up Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray on Saturday and discussed BJP’s ties with its NDA allies, said Sena sources.

    While TDP is unhappy with the “raw deal” Andhra received in the Union Budget, Sena has been railing against BJP for quite some time now.

    Naidu told Thackeray that the mood in TDP was that it should sever ties with BJP and go alone in 2019, Sena sources claimed, adding that West Bengal CM Mamata Bannerjee was also in touch with Thackeray.

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    Ship with 22 Indians goes missing off West Africa

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    Feb 4, 2018, 00:48 IST

    A Panama-flag merchant ship with 22 Indian crew members has gone missing from Benin coast in West Africa. The owners of the MT Marine Express, which is loaded with gas oil, lost contact with the vessel on Thursday.

    They have sought the help of the directorate general of shipping in Mumbai to get in touch with their counterparts in Nigeria and Benin to carry out search operations.

    Given that pirates had hijacked a British vessel on January 9 and held the crew hostage, another hijack is not ruled out.

    Nigerian authorities have alerted all boats to be on the lookout for the ship and to report any sighting to the International Maritime Bureau‘s Anti-Piracy Reporting Centre immediately in London.

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    Maldives crisis deepens; Yameen under fire for dragging feet on court ruling

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    NEW DELHI: The strategically located Maldives in the Indian Ocean remained in the throes of the worst political crisis to have hit the archipelago in the past few years with President Abdulla Yameen showing no sign of implementing the Supreme Court ruling which ordered the release of all political prisoners, including former President Mohamed Nasheed.

    “This will be sorted out soon…I’ll deal with the Supreme Court,” Yameen, according to sources in Male, told a gathering of his supporters on Saturday.

    Senior MDP (the main opposition party) leader and former foreign minister Ahmed Naseem told TOI that Yameen was working to appoint his “cronies” to the Supreme Court bench. ”We believe Yameen might threaten the sitting bench with arrest if they don’t revert the decision,” said Naseem.

    “There is absolutely no indication that Yameen is going to abide by the court ruling. We will welcome any action by India which can help change that,” he added.

    It is significant that while countries like the US, Britain, Canada and India have weighed in with the assertion that implementing the ruling was important for restoring democracy in the country, China has so far remained quiet on the issue. It is no secret that Yameen has a powerful backer in Beijing and that he has skilfully played India and China against each other despite his stated India First policy.

    After the court ruling, Nasheed has declared that he can and will contest the elections which should take place this year. In an interaction with TOI in February last year, Nasheen had said that India had a moral obligation to facilitate“ inclusive, free and fair elections in the Maldives” in 2018.

    Yameen’s government Saturday announced postponement of the functioning of Maldives’ Parliament due to “security reasons” further fuelling the perception that he was not going to follow the court order. An agency report late evening quoted him as saying that he was willing to hold early elections and that he was also looking to ensure that the court ruling is implemented in a manner that it doesn’t cause “any difficulties to people” .

    The joint Maldivian opposition, led by Nasheed’s MDP, again appealed to the international community, including India, to do everything “in their power to impress upon the Government of Maldives, security services and institutions to respect the Supreme Court ruling, and to uphold the Constitution and abide by Maldives commitments under international law to protect civil and political rights of its citizens”.

    The apex court order has, according to the opposition, also cancelled an earlier anti-defection ruling of 2017, thus reinstating 12 opposition MPs. This has given the opposition a clear majority in Parliament and that’s the reason the opposition believes Yameen can no longer remain in power.

    The ruling said all political prisoners must be released as the trials against them violated the Maldives’ Constitution and international law. The ruling also stated that political pressure was applied on the prosecutors and the courts during these trials.

    In late January, as Naseem said, the opposition petitioned the apex court to temporarily remove President Yameen Abdulla from office in order to investigate unprecedented “grand corruption and increasing authoritarianism”.

    “Instead of ruling on the matter, the Supreme Court reinstated parliamentarians that were removed from their seats for mounting an impeachment motion against the Speaker of Majlis, Abdulla Maseeh, a key ally of the president. The verdict also declared that all political prisoners were imprisoned after severely flawed trials, and therefore must be immediately released and granted re-trials,” said Naseem.

    Naseem said that Yameen had also removed police oommissioner Ahmed Areef after he refused to delay the enforcement of the verdict. The opposition also alleged that many employees of government-affiliated companies were forced to come out on the streets on Saturday in support of Yameen for their “fear of unemployment”.

    “At the rally he said that the government is enforcing the decision, however, commented that his Attorney General Mohamed Anil is “negotiating” with the Supreme Court,” said Naseem.

    The joint opposition also said in its statement issued Saturday that the government had resorted to using undue force against demonstrators celebrating the apex court’s ruling.



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    Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman visits forward posts along Sino-India border

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    Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Saturday visited forward posts along the Sino-India border in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir and interacted with the jawans deployed there, officials said today.

    | Feb 3, 2018, 22:39 IST

    This was the first ever visit of the defence minister to the DBO sector and to one of the highest posts in Eastern Ladakh.This was the first ever visit of the defence minister to the DBO sector and to one of the highest posts in Eastern Ladakh.

    SRINAGAR: Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Saturday visited forward posts along the Sino-India border in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir and interacted with the jawans deployed there, officials said today.

    “The Raksha Mantri arrived at Thoise today and was briefed on the operational preparedness of the forward areas,” a defence spokesperson said.

    She then visited the highest post in the Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO) sector and Chushul along the Sino-India border in Eastern Ladakh and interacted with troops, he said.

    This was the first ever visit of the defence minister to the DBO sector and to one of the highest posts in Eastern Ladakh.

    “She was flown in an Army Aviation ALH helicopter. Lt Gen D Anbu, Army Commander Northern Command and Corps Commander of the Ladakh Corps, accompanied her during the visit,” the spokesperson said.

    Sitharaman complimented troops for their steadfastness and dedication despite the harsh climate and terrain.

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