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Bank strike on Wednesday, services to be affected

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New Delhi | Services of state-owned banks are expected to be impacted Wednesday due to a nation-wide strike call given by unions to protest against the proposed amalgamation of Vijaya Bank and Dena Bank with Bank of Baroda. This will be the second bank strike in less than a week.

Last Friday (December 21), an officers’ union of state-run banks observed a day-long strike to protest against the merger and also demanded immediate settlement of wage negotiations. Most of the banks have already informed customers about the strike. Private sector banks will continue to function as usual.

The strike is being organised by the United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU), an umbrella organisation of nine unions, including the All India Bank Officers Confederation (AIBOC), the All India Bank Employees’ Association (AIBEA), National Confederation of Bank Employees (NCBE) and the National Organisation of Bank Workers (NOBW). The UFBU claims membership of 10 lakh officers and staffers.

According to AIBEA General Secretary C H Vekatachalam, the conciliation meeting called by Additional Chief Labour Commissioner did not lead to any assurance and so the unions are going ahead with the strike.

During the meeting, neither the government nor the concerned banks came forward to assure that they will not go ahead with the merger, he added. The unions claim that the government wants banks to grow in size by such mergers but even if all public sector banks are bundled into one, the merged entity will not find a place among the top 10 globally.

The government in September approved the amalgamation of Bank of Baroda (BoB), Vijaya Bank and Dena Bank — the first three-way merger in the public sector banking space.

The move follows top lender State Bank of India last year merging five of its subsidiary banks with itself and taking over Bharatiya Mahila Bank, catapulting it to among the top 50 global lenders.

On wage revision, NOBW Vice President Ashwani Rana it is due since November 2017. So far, Indian Banks’ Association (IBA) has offered 8 per cent wage hike which is not acceptable to UFBU, he said.

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Government presented weak side on dance bars in Suprme Court due to nexus: NCP

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Mumbai | The NCP on Thursday accused the Maharashtra government of presenting a weak side before the Supreme Court on the dance bar ban due to its alleged nexus with the association of bar owners.

It also demanded that Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis takes immediate legal steps to ensure that dance bars do not start operating in the state once again. “The government presented a weak side before the Supreme Court in the case due to the nexus between the government and association of dance bar owners. Because of
this nexus, the present situation has emerged,” NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik said.

Leader of the Opposition in the State Legislative Council Dhananjay Munde seconded Malik. “The government has once again fallen short in presenting its side on dance bar ban before the court. Concerned about effects of the decision in future. The government should immediately take legal steps to see dance bars do not start operating again,” Munde said on Twitter, tagging the Chief Minister’s office in the post.

The Supreme Court on Thursday paved the way for the reopening of dance bars in Maharashtra by setting aside some provisions of a 2016 law imposing restrictions on their licensing and functioning.

The apex court quashed the provisions of the Maharashtra Prohibition of Obscene Dance in Hotels, Restaurants and Bar Rooms and Protection of Dignity of Women
(Working therein) Act, 2016, like the mandatory installations of CCTV cameras in the dance bars saying they violated privacy.

The bench, however, upheld the provision restricting the timing of operation of dance bars from 6 pm to 11.30 pm.

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IITs, IISERs to mentor nearby schools in science & maths: Prakash Javadekar

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Prakash Javadekar

Ahmedabad | Union HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar on Thursday said the IITs, IISERs and universities in the country will mentor schools located close their campuses to ensure that students do not lag behind in mathematics and science subjects.

Highlighting the importance of subjects like science, mathematics, engineering and technology in the 21st century, he said it is vital to foster research tendency among students right from the primary schools.

“Maths can be taught in an entertaining way. For the students to study and understand maths and science properly, not very big equipment, but simple ideas are required. Hence, primary school teachers play a big role,” Javadekar told reporters here.

“We have decided today- the Modi government has also decided- that IITs, IISERs (Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research), large and good universities will mentor 10-15 nearby schools and ensure that students in those schools are given proper training in science and maths so they do not lag behind (in these subjects),” he said.

Javadekar was speaking on the sidelines of inauguration of exhibitions- one on futuristic technology and another by the American Museum of Natural History on the future of space exploration, at the Science City as part of the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit.

The minister said right pedagogy is required to cultivate the interest of primary school students in these two subjects. “Study shows that once students lag behind in maths or science, the gap increases and they fall behind further. Therefore, it is important how you explain science and mathematics to them,” he said.

According to him, the Modi government has taken many steps to promote the culture of innovation in the country by setting up innovation and incubation centres, allowing start-ups to run even from hostel rooms, launching IMPRINT India initiative, offering Rs 1 lakh per month to the PM Research Fellows, among others.

He said over 100 research projects are currently going on in Indian institutes and universities, and the government has so far set up 2,000 Atal Tinkering Labs and will establish another 3,000 such facilities across the country. He said participation in Smart India Hackathon has grown from 40,000 to 1.5 lakh in three years.

“On the basis of all this, I am sure our investment in research will grow, and an environment of science, engineering, technology, mathematics, research and attitude of innovation will start in schools…We are encouraging the tendency (among students) to explore solutions to the society’s problems,” he said.

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NGT slams Volkswagen for not depositing Rs 100 crore as per its 2018 order

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New Delhi | The National Green Tribunal (NGT) Thursday slammed German auto major Volkswagen for not depositing Rs 100 crore in accordance with its November 16, 2018 order and directed it to submit the amount within 24 hours.

A bench headed by NGT chairperson Adarsh Kumar Goel took strong exception to the non-compliance of its order by the automobile giant and asked it to give an undertaking that it will submit the amount by 5 PM Friday.

“Why have you not complied with our order when there is no stay. We will not give you any further time,” the bench, also comprising Justice S P Wangdi, said while asking Volkswagen to submit an affidavit of compliance after depositing the amount.

The apex tribunal also said that in case the amount is not deposited by Friday, the directors of the company will be sent to jail. The tribunal deferred the matter for hearing after it was informed that the Supreme Court is also seized of the issue.

A spokesperson of Volkswagen Group India said that all cars of the company are complying with the emission norms in India. “The Volkswagen Group reiterates that all cars from the group are compliant with the emission norms in India. The order of the NGT is already under challenge before the Supreme Court. However, the Volkswagen Group India will comply with the order of NGT and deposit the money, as directed,” Volkswagen Group India spokesperson said.

On November 16 last year, the tribunal had said that the use of ‘cheat device’ by Volkswagen in diesel cars in India leads to inference of environmental damage and had asked the German auto major to deposit an interim amount of Rs 100 crore with the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).

The NGT had said that even though the standards may be stricter in other countries, “the very fact of deceit devices being installed by the manufacturers calls for an inference of prima-facie violation of environment”.

The tribunal had constituted a joint team of representatives of the CPCB, Ministry of Heavy Industries, Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) and National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, to give its expert opinion on whether the manufacturer has exceeded the prescribed environmental norms and fair estimate of the damage caused to the environment.

The tribunal was hearing pleas filed by a school teacher, Saloni Ailawadi, and a few others seeking ban on sale of Volkswagen vehicles for alleged violation of emission norms. The tribunal had said ARAI found Nitrogen oxide emissions to be five to nine times higher than the laboratory test limits. The tribunal said that even if there is 100 per cent recall, for the past violation of norms, the auto manufacturer cannot avoid its responsibility.

A ‘cheat’ or ‘defeat device’ is a software in diesel engines to manipulate emission tests by changing the performance of the cars globally.Volkswagen India had in December 2015 announced the recall of 3,23,700 lakh vehicles in India to fix the emission software after ARAI conducted tests on some models and found that their on-road emissions were 1.1 times to 2.6 times higher than the applicable BS-IV norms.

The automobile giant had admitted to the use of ‘defeat device’ in 11 million diesel engine cars sold in the US, Europe and other global markets to manipulate emission test results.

After the tests by ARAI, Volkswagen India had undertaken to rejig the software by recalling around 3.23 lakh vehicles fitted with EA 189 diesel engines which were in alleged violation of emission norms.

The company, however, had said that the recall in India was purely voluntary in nature as it did not face any charges regarding violating emission norms in India unlike in the US.

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