QBullet: Batla House Accused Held; PNB Flags Rs 11,000 Crore Fraud
Here are the top stories of the day.
1. Main Bomber in 2008 Delhi Blasts Nabbed in Nepal
Indian intelligence agencies have nabbed Mohammad Ariz Khan, aka Junaid, a prominent Indian Mujahideen member and the alleged main executioner of the 2008 serial blasts in Delhi, Jaipur and Ahmedabad that killed 165 people and left over 535 injured.
Ariz had managed to escape from the Batla House flat during the 2008 police encounter in which inspector Mohan Chand Sharma was shot dead. Intelligence agencies caught up with Ariz in Nepal, where he was held along with an aide, Abdul Subhan Qureshi, aka Tauqeer.
2. Punjab National Bank Admits Fraud Over Rs 11,000 Crore in South Mumbai Branch
State-owned Punjab National Bank (PNB), in a regulatory filing to the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) Wednesday, said it had detected fraudulent transactions worth USD 1,771.7 million (over Rs 11,000 crore) in its mid corporate branch in south Mumbai. Sources said the Enforcement Directorate (ED) registered a case under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) to probe the alleged fraudulent transactions.
The alleged Rs 11,000 crore fraud at PNB assumes significance since the money in question is nearly one-third of its total market capitalisation of Rs 35,365 crore and 2.55 percent of the total loan book of Rs 4.5 lakh crore as of December 2017.
3. Florida Shooting: Ex-Student Kills 17 in Shooting Spree at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School
A 19-year-old gunman opened fire on Wednesday at a Florida high school he had previously been expelled from, killing 17 people before he was arrested by police, authorities said. The violence erupted shortly before dismissal at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, about 45 miles (72 km) north of Miami. Live television footage showed students streaming out of the building as dozens of police and emergency services personnel swarmed the area.
The gunman was identified as Nikolas Cruz, who previously attended the school and was expelled for unspecified disciplinary reasons, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said at a news briefing hours later.
4. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani Set to Begin 3-Day Visit to India From 15 Feb
India and Iran will discuss regional and international issues of "mutual interest" during a three-day visit of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani starting on Thursday.
Announcing the state visit by the Iranian president, the external affairs ministry said Rouhani and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will review the progress achieved in bilateral relations.
Official sources in Hyderabad said Rouhani will arrive at Begumpet Airport on the afternoon of 15 February and will later address Muslim intellectuals, scholars and clerics. This will be the first visit to India by Rouhani after taking charge as the Iranian president in August 2013.
"During the forthcoming visit of the president of Iran, both sides would review the progress achieved in bilateral relations and also exchange views on regional and international issues of mutual interest," the ministry said in a release.
5. Jacob Zuma Quits as President of South Africa
Jacob Zuma resigned as President of South Africa on Wednesday, heeding orders by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) to bring an end to his nine scandal-plagued years in power.
In a 30-minute farewell address to the nation, 75-year-old Zuma said he disagreed with the way the ANC had shoved him towards an early exit after the election of Cyril Ramaphosa as party president in December, but would accept its orders.
"I have therefore come to the decision to resign as president of the republic with immediate effect," Zuma said.
6. Visva Bharati V-C Appointment: HRD Ministry Asks President to Withdraw His Assent, Scrap Panel of Names
In an unprecedented move, the Human Resource Development Ministry is said to have asked President Ram Nath Kovind to reconsider his assent to a key appointment.
Late last year, The Indian Express has learnt, Rashtrapati Bhavan had received a panel of three names from the HRD Ministry for the post of new Vice-Chancellor (V-C) of Visva Bharati University in Santiniketan – the President is its Visitor and the Prime Minister its Chancellor.
The panel suggested the following names: Swapan Kumar Dutta, then the Acting V-C of the university and an agricultural scientist; PN Mishra of the Institute of Management Studies at Devi Ahilya Vishwavidyalaya (DAVV) in Indore; and Sankar Kumar Nath of the geophysics and geology department at IIT Kharagpur.
7. PM Panel Chief Bibek Debroy Red-Flags Indian Railways Electrification Plan: Rethink
Economist Bibek Debroy, chairman of the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council, has struck a note of caution on government plans for electrification of the entire network of Indian Railways and replacement of its diesel fleet. He has said it requires “strategic rethink”, and that there is limited clarity on returns on an estimated capital investment of Rs 1 lakh crore in the exercise.
“Hence it is strongly suggested that the government take a step back at this stage and get this issue examined by expert group in a comprehensive manner,” Debroy has said in a detailed analysis ‘Mission 100% Railway Electrification: Need for a strategic re-think?’ which has reached Rail Bhavan from the Prime Minister’s Office for examination.
8. Trump Slams India over Harley-Davidson Import Tariffs, Threatens ‘Reciprocal Tax’
US President Donald Trump has again cited the tariff imposed by India on Harley-Davidson motorcycles as an example of “unfair” trade practices that the United States must fight with “reciprocal taxes”, since America does not have a levy on Indian motorcycle imports.
Trump has long contended that the Indian tariff on Harley-Davidson is prohibitively high and severely disadvantages the firm against the competition. He first mentioned it in his maiden address to a joint sitting of the US Congress in February 2017, just weeks after taking office, although he didn’t name India at the time.
“We pay a tremendous tax to get into their countries – motorcycles, Harley-Davidson, it goes into a certain country. I won’t mention the fact that it happens to be India, in this case,” Trump said amid laughter during a discussion on trade with US lawmakers at the White House on Tuesday.
(Source: Hindustan Times)
9. UGC Paves Way for Autonomy to Top Colleges
The University Grants Commission has paved the way for top colleges in the country to get autonomous status that will empower them to start their own courses, award degrees, conduct examinations and make appointments, among other things. The commission notified the regulations to this effect on Tuesday.
It says colleges with a ranking of 3.51 and above in the National Assessment and Accreditation Council’s 4-point scale will be considered for grant of autonomous status for 10 years without an on-site visit by an expert committee.
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