5.1-magnitude earthquake jolts China's Sichuan province

5.1-magnitude earthquake jolts China's Sichuan province

Beijing: A 5.1-magnitude earthquake shook southwest China's Qingbaijiang district in Sichuan province on Monday, prompting the authorities to initiate emergency measures.

According to the China Earthquake Networks Centre (CENC), the epicentre was monitored at 30.74 degrees north latitude and 104.46 degrees east longitude, with a depth of 21 km. A total of 150 rescuers and 34 vehicles have been dispatched to the quake-hit area. So far, no casualties or damage to the property was reported, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

"The quake lasted for more than 10 seconds and my bed was shaking," Zhang Xun, a resident in Jintang County told Xinhua. Strong tremors were also felt in urban areas of Chengdu, the provincial capital, some 38 km away from the epicentre. "I shook all over when the quake hit. My first reaction was to pick up my baby," a Jintang resident surnamed Yi said. Many people stayed outside after the quake, wearing protective masks. Some took their quilts to spend the night in their cars, Yi said.


Chinese stocks crash amid coronavirus scare as markets opened after Lunar New Year holiday

Chinese stocks crash amid coronavirus scare as markets opened after Lunar New Year holiday

Chinese stocks crashed on Monday with some major shares quickly falling by the maximum daily limit as the country's investors got their first chance in more than a week to react to the spiralling coronavirus outbreak.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index dived 8.73 per cent, or 259.83 points, to open at 2,716.70.

The Shenzhen Composite Index, which tracks stocks on China's second exchange, sank 8.99 per cent, or 158.02 points, to 1,598.80.

The scale of the plunge was remarkable even by the standards of China's notoriously volatile share markets, indicating deep concern over the viral outbreak's economic impact.

The yuan also weakened by nearly 1.5 per cent to around 7.00 to the dollar.

But in Hong Kong, the benchmark Hang Seng Index edged up 0.17 percent, or 43.59 points, to 26,356.22 in the first few minutes.

Markets in the world's second-biggest economy had closed on January 24 for the annual Lunar New Year holiday, but since then the viral epidemic that started in Wuhan has spread around the world.

Global concern has dragged down stocks and major corporate names have frozen or scaled back their Chinese operations, threatening the global supply chain as so many of the world's products are manufactured in China.

China's central bank said Sunday it would pump 1.2 trillion yuan ($173 billion) into the economy on Monday to help limit market losses.

"Investors will release their emotions at first and then make further decisions based on the epidemic situation and the potential stimulus measures rolled out by the government," Zhang Qi, an analyst with Haitong Securities, said before the open.


"Whether the spread of the epidemic is effectively contained, and how much of a toll it takes on the economy are stressful for investors." Travel and tourism shares plummeted after China curbed domestic travel to slow the virus and a growing list of foreign countries and airlines halted or reduced travel links with China.

China International Travel Service quickly fell by the maximum 10 per cent allowed, to 73.80 yuan.

Individual Chinese stocks are limited to a 10 per cent daily move in either direction to limit volatility, after which trading in those shares is suspended.

Foxconn Industrial Internet, an arm of Taiwanese tech giant Foxconn, also fell by the daily limit to 18.00 yuan.

Foxconn had said last week it is keeping its Chinese factories closed until mid-February, potentially affecting global supply chains for tech companies that rely on it for everything from Apple's iPhones to flat-screen TVs and laptops.

Markets had been scheduled to re-open on Friday after the week-long Lunar New Year holiday, but that was extended by the government to buy time in the fight against the virus.

China Southern Airlines fell 2.99 percent to 4.22 yuan, and China Eastern Airlines lost 2.51 per cent to 3.49 yuan.

Consumer bellwether Kweichou Moutai, the world's largest distiller and whose fiery liquor is a favoured Lunar New Year gift, fell 4.26 per cent to 1,007.99 yuan.

The People's Bank of China (PBOC) said its market intervention was aimed at maintaining "reasonable and abundant liquidity" in the banking system, as well as a stable currency market, during the epidemic.

China's economy is expected to take a clear hit from the crisis, which has brought industrial regions grinding to a halt.

"The near-term impact on Chinese GDP growth is likely to be large," Oxford Economics said in a research note.

"Considering the affected areas account for just over 50 percent of total Chinese output, we think this could lead China's annual GDP growth to slow to just four percent in Q1," it added -- down from a previous forecast of six per cent growth.


UP bureaucracy at standstill amid ad-hoc appointments on top posts

UP bureaucracy at standstill amid ad-hoc appointments on top posts

It has been almost five months that Uttar Pradesh is managing governance with an ad-hoc chief secretary.

It was August 31, 2019 when the previous chief secretary Anup Chandra Pandey retired from the service. Instead of appointing a full-fledged chief secretary, the Yogi Adityanath government handed over the charge to the senior most IAS officer RK Tiwari.

Mr Tiwari, who has an impeccable career record and considered to be an honest officer, continues to be the acting chief secretary even now.

The way the most important administrative office has been functioning in India’s most populous state has not only perplexed the 600-strong IAS cadre in the state but has brought the bureaucracy at standstill. In the past, full time CS used to be appointed within a week.

“The Chief Secretary is the administrative head of the government and acts as the principal advisor to the CM on all matters of governance. He also serves as a link between the CM and other secretaries of the state government. Most importantly, it is the CM who has the authority to select the CS,” an IAS officer said requesting anonymity.


A senior official says, “The power to approve/deny leave of IAS officers rests with the CS. The CM office is dealing it now. "

Mr Tiwari continues to the Agriculture Production Commissioner (APC), considered as the number 2 post in the administration since the state is primarily an agriculture-based economy.

According to sources, it is not the first time that he was denied something which he deserved.

“Mr Tiwari wasn’t given the APC post for more than three months after superannuation of Prabhat Kumar of the same 1985-batch early last year. The then Chief secretary Anup Pandey was given additional charge of APC," say sources.

Amid uncertainty in the administration, a vacuum at the top police post has come to haunt the state further.

State’s police chief OP Singh retired on January 31. The 1985 batch officer Hitesh Chandra Awasthi, the Director General (Vigilance), has been handed over the charge as of now.

The full-time appointment for the post is stuck at the Union Public Service Commission. As per the rules, the state has to shortlist best officers with at least two years of the service left and send it to the UPSC. The UPSC then finalises three names, the state government then handpicks the one among three as DGP.

Amid the talks that Mr Singh could be given extension, the process to select new DGP was started as late as mid-January.

Days later, State’s Director General of Civil Defence, JL Tripathi, whose name is allegedly missing from the shortlisted candidates list approached the HC to seek relief. After being pulled up by the HC, a few more names including Mr Tripathi were allegedly sent to UPSC last Sunday.

This is likely to delay the process further and the uncertainty has led to an unease in the IPS cadre, say officials.

Hemant Tiwari, political analyst says, “Many UP-cadre officers are currently serving at top positions at the Central security agencies, such as Director General of Railway Protection Force (RPF) Arun Kumar and director general of CRPF-AP Maheshwari. UP-cadre IAS such as Union Housing and Urban Secretary DS Mishra and Union Agriculture secretary Sanjay Agrawal are handling ambitious schemes of the Modi government. But the officers in the parent state are demotivated due to messy politics.”


AAP should rename itself to Muslim League: BJP’s Kapil Mishra stirs row again

AAP should rename itself to Muslim League: BJP’s Kapil Mishra stirs row again

New Delhi: BJP leader Kapil Mishra on Monday said that Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is doing "Jinnah politics" and asked the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) to rename itself to Muslim League.

"I want to say that the Aam Aadmi Party should change its name to Muslim League. They are doing the same politics as that of the Muslim League. They are doing of politics of divide and Muslim vote bank. They are against Yogi's speech. Only those people will be afraid of Yogi who are standing by anti-nationals, terrorists, traitors, and rioters. Yogi has stopped rioters in Uttar Pradesh," Mishra told ANI.

"In Delhi, buses were burnt and policemen were beaten up. AAP and Congress are behind this. Arvind Kejriwal is doing Jinnah politics," he said. The AAP had urged the Election Commission of India to ban Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath from campaigning in Delhi over his remarks linking Kejriwal with Pakistan.


Speaking on the Shaheen Bagh protests against the new citizenship law, the BJP leader said: "Manish Sisodia said he is standing by people at Shaheen Bagh. I think it is all political drama to garner 20 per cent Muslim votes. But 80 per cent people are angry and they will give an answer through their vote."

The Election Commission had earlier placed a temporary ban on Kapil Mishra from campaigning for Delhi assembly elections for violating the Model Code of Conduct over his tweet where he termed the ensuing Assembly elections in the national capital as a contest between India and Pakistan.

Mishra, a former AAP minister, is contesting for the BJP from Model Town assembly constituency. The national capital will go to polls on February 8 for the 70-seat assembly with the counting of votes scheduled for February 11.


West Bengal: Teacher assaulted after defying land acquisition bid for road construction

West Bengal: Teacher assaulted after defying land acquisition bid for road construction

South Dinajpur (West Bengal): A primary school teacher has registered a police complaint against five people who allegedly assaulted her after she protested their bid to acquire her land forcibly for construction of a road in West Bengal's South Dinajpur district.

The teacher from Gangrampur of the district was tied with a rope, dragged and beaten up by a group of people, allegedly including a local TMC leader Amal Sarkar, after she protested against their bid.

An investigation into the matter is underway. The district TMC leadership has expelled Sarkar, who is accused of being a part of the group which assaulted the teacher.


Amid coronavirus outbreak in China, Indian man, Chinese woman tie knot in Madhya Pradesh

Amid coronavirus outbreak in China, Indian man, Chinese woman tie knot in Madhya Pradesh

Love knows no boundaries and flourishes regardless of nationality and religion. On Sunday, a Chinese woman and Indian man tied the knot in Madhya Pradesh's Mandsaur after coronavirus outbreak in China which claimed more than 360 lives.

According to Hindustan Times, as the couple tied the knot, Madhya Pradesh health department officials were on their toes since the bride and her family arrived in Mandsaur for it on Wednesday. Satyarth Mishra came across Zhihao Wang, the bride, a fellow student who is Chinese by birth when he was a student at Sheridon University in Canada, five years ago. Sparks flew and their friendship turned into love and couple decided to get hitched after persuading their respective parents.

The engagement ceremony took place the day before, for which the bride's parents flew in from China, reaching India on January 29. They were accompanied by three other close relatives.


Mandsaur district hospital’s civil surgeon, Dr AK Mishra told the Hindustan Times, "a team of five to six doctors and paramedical staff has been medically examining Zhihao’s family members since they arrived in the town. Though they do not have any symptoms of the coronavirus, we have been doing this as a precautionary measure. The moment we see any symptom, we will admit them to the hospital.”

India on Sunday temporarily suspended e-visa facility for Chinese travellers and foreigners residing in China in view of the coronavirus outbreak that has killed more than 300 people, infected over 14,000 others and spread to 25 countries.

"Due to certain current developments, travel to India on e-visas stands temporarily suspended with immediate effect," the Indian Embassy here announced. "This applies to holders of Chinese passports and applicants of other nationalities residing in the People's Republic of China. Holders of already issued e-visas may note that these are no longer valid," it said.


PM Modi, President Kovind, other leaders pay homage to Mahatma Gandhi at Rajghat

PM Modi, President Kovind, other leaders pay homage to Mahatma Gandhi at Rajghat

The nation on Thursday remembered Mahatma Gandhi on his 72th death anniversary with President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi leading the country in paying homage to the Father of Nation.

Kovind, Modi, Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh offered floral tributes at Gandhi's memorial Rajghat where an interfaith prayer was held.


Delhi: President Ram Nath Kovind pays tribute to at Raj Ghat on his death anniversary.

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Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Union Housing and Urban Affairs Minister Hardeep Singh Puri, Delhi Lt Governor Anil Baijal were among those who paid homage to the Mahatma at Rajghat.

Chief of Defence Staff Bipin Rawat and the three service chiefs - Admiral Sunil Lanba, Air Chief Marshal Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria and General Manoj Mukund Naravane were also present.


Earlier, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday paid tribute to Mahatma Gandhi on his death anniversary, saying the Father of the Nation will continue to inspire people to build a strong, capable and prosperous country.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the most renowned name in the history of India’s freedom struggle was shot by a right-wing fanatic, Nathuram Godse on January 30, 1948. During the days leading to the Mahatma’s death, he had been fasting in protest of the violence and massacre that had spread over the nation after the creation of Pakistan.

He was a strong supporter of maintaining India as a secular and a non-violent nation due to which he had been facing criticism. For Gandhi, democracy had to be based on the principles of equality for all irrespective of religion, caste and class.


Former Kerala minister and senior Congress leader M Kamalam passes away at 94

Former Kerala minister and senior Congress leader M Kamalam passes away at 94

Veteran Congress leader and former Kerala minister M Kamalam passed away following age related ailments here on Thursday.

She was 94 and leaves behind four sons and a daughter.

Her husband predeceased her, family sources said.

Kamalam, who was elected to the state assembly from Kalpetta in 1980 and 1982, had served as Cooperation Minister in the K Karunakaran cabinet from 1982-1987.

She had also served as AICC member, KPCC General Secretary and was also Chairperson of the Kerala Women's Commission.


Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Leader of the Opposition in the state assembly Ramesh Chennithala and KPCC President Mullapally Ramachandran were among those who condoled her death.

As a mark of respect, the Congress has postponed the anti-CAA protest scheduled in Kozhikode district on Thursday.


Madhya Pradesh BJP MLA Manohar Untwal passes away at 54

Madhya Pradesh BJP MLA Manohar Untwal passes away at 54

Bhopal: Former Madhya Pradesh minister and sitting BJP MLA from Agar Malwa assembly constituency, Manohar Untwal, died of a brain-related ailment on Thursday morning, his family sources said. He was 54.

Untwal died during treatment at Medanta Hospital in Gurugram in Haryana, they said.

According to the family sources, Untwal had been suffering from the brain-related ailment since the last few months and was shifted to the hospital in Gurugram recently.

He was elected as an MLA four times and once as an MP from Dewas Lok Sabha constituency in 2014.

He is survived by his wife, two sons and two daughters, they said.


Kerala MLAs physically blocks governor in state assembly

Kerala MLAs physically blocks governor in state assembly

The Kerala Assembly witnessed unprecedented scenes when the entire Opposition -- the United Democratic Front led by the Congress party MLAs -- physically blocked Governor Arif Mohammed Khan for over 20 minutes, after he entered the House to address the lawmakers.

The Governor stood patiently with folded hands, even as some of the Congress MLAs came too close for comfort, setting off alarm among the security staff.

Holding placards that read 'Go Back Governor' and ‘Call Back Governor’, the MLAs raised slogans, even as Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who accompanied Khan, watched the drama unfold.

As the stand-off continued, some of the MLAs moved menacingly close to the Governor raising their fists and

as the sloganeering grew louder, the Watch and Ward staff had to intervene and physically push the MLAs to make a path for Khan. In the process, there was a melee in which some MLAs and the Watch and Ward staff fell over each other. Some of the MLAs were physically lifted to make way for the Governor.

Escorted by watch and ward personnel, the Governor finally got to the podium. The national anthem was played. Once it ended, opposition MLAs gathered in the well of the House and started sloganeering.

They then boycotted Governor Khan's policy address, leaving the assembly to begin a sit-in at the gate.

The tricky part came next. The Governor had initially refused to read out the paragraph on the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) that the State Government had scripted for him.

Departing from the prepared text, the Governor said he was reading the controversial paragraph that criticised the CAA and added that he was doing so at the CM's request. “I differ from the views expressed in the paragraph, but since the Honourable Chief Minister had said that it was the view of the state government and to honour his wish I'm going to read this para.”

The CM sat smiling and obviously relieved that a confrontation had been avoided.

Later, addressing the media, the Governor dismissed the protests by the UDF lawmakers saying he had seen bigger drama and protests.