Morning briefing: 14 Indians among 717 dead in Haj stampede in Saudi Arabia

GN Staff | September 25, 2015


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At least 717 people, including fourteen Indians, were killed and over 860 injured in a stampede on Thursday during Haj here, in the second worst ever tragedy to hit the annual pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia. Of the 14 killed in Mina stampede yesterday , 9 are  from Gujarat, 2 each from Jharkhand & Tamil Nadu and 1 from Maharashtra. The Saudi civil defence authority said 717 pilgrims from different nationalities were killed and 863 others were injured in the stampede that took place due to a sudden surge in the number of pilgrims heading to Jamarat for symbolic stoning of the devil by throwing pebbles against three stone walls resulted in the stampede at 9 AM local time (1130 IST).

Air fares for long weekends 47% cheaper this year
Booking last-minute tickets for flights for two consecutive long weekends won't burn a hole in your pocket. Flight tickets booked a week in advance of the first long weekend are as much as 47% cheaper than last year due to lower fuel prices and higher domestic capacity on airlines. While jet fuel is about 41% cheaper than a year earlier, domestic carriers have added more seats.

Yasin Malik, Umar Farooq put under house arrest in Srinagar

Internet services have also been shut down in view of apprehension of misuse of data services by anti-national elements and Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chairman Yasin Malik and Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq were put under house arrest here on Thursday to avoid trouble during Eid today (Friday). Top separatist leaders, including Hurriyat (G) chairman Syed Ali Geelani, Shabir Shah and Nayeem Ahmad Khan, have also been kept under house arrest to prevent them from leading rallies on Eid day.

Cities sign climate pledge in boost to global deal
Leading cities and regions on Thursday in New York promised ambitious cuts to emissions blamed for climate change, hoping to boost efforts for a global deal. The commitment was the latest in a series of pledges during a week of climate events in New York aimed at building momentum for a year-end conference in Paris that seeks to draft a landmark UN agreement. Mexico City, New York, San Francisco, Vancouver and the regions around Kathmandu and Manchester, England, were among the new signatories to the "Under 2 MOU" agreement launched last year, whose existing participants include Los Angeles.

Gujarat government announces package to douse fire of Patel agitation

Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel has announced Mukhyamantri Yuva Swavalamban Yojana to extend benefits to all communities cutting across caste lines, a move seemingly aimed at quelling the fire of the ongoing agitation by the Patel or Patidar community for inclusion in the Other Backward Classes to enjoy reservation in education and government jobs. AThe scheme which will cost the state exchequer about Rs 1,000 crore per year, will provide half the course fee to a maximum limit of Rs 2 lakh per year to study in any medical college, while for students pursuing professional courses in engineering, homeopathy, pharmacy, etc will be provided assistance up to the limit of Rs 50,000 per year. The scheme, which will be implemented from this year itself, will provide relief to meritorious students who score more than 90 percentile in their Class 12 exams and hail from families with annual income of less than Rs 4.5 lakh.

Facebook renames Internet.org app as Free Basics
Facebook has renamed its controversial Internet.org app and launched it as Free Basics, a mobile app and website through which users can access certain services free of data charges. The Free Basics app and mobile website went live in India with over 60 partnerships including services like English Dost, MeraDoctor and M-Kisan on Thursday. The company is also experimenting with Express Wi-Fi, a program to provide wi-fi in rural areas in India. Free Basics, targeted at countries like India, will now be one of the several initiatives under the Internet.org program which has a mission of connecting the unconnected population to the Internet.

US to help provide skills training to 400 million Indians
In a boost to India’s ambitious skill development programme, the US will collaborate with it on a number of education-related projects to help the country achieve its goal of providing such training to 400 million people in the next decade.“We recognise that higher education and vocational training are essential to economic development, and we remain committed to strengthening our exchanges of students, scholars, and technical knowledge,” the State Department has said. The new six-week Community College Administrator Program, sponsored by the Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, started on September 20 this year, the US said. Through this programme, Indian administrators from post-secondary vocational and technical institutions and Indian officials with higher education planning responsibilities intend to complete a program of professional development with Florida State University and Santa Fe College.

PSB heads can now go on foreign trips without finance ministry's permission
Heads of state-run banks will no longer require permission from the finance ministry to go on official foreign trips. In its endeavour to give more operational freedom to banks, the ministry has empowered the bank boards to approve such trips.The ministry said in a circular to all state-run financial institutions that whole-time directors of public sector banks and financial institutions can proceed on foreign trips without prior approval from the government. At present, heads of state-run financial institutions need to take a board approval and then apprise the ministry about their foreign trips at least 10 working days before the commencement of the visit.

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