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Dharamshala schools to stay open on PM Modi’s rally day: Administration

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Dharamshala | Facing the Opposition’s allegation that it has ordered closure of schools in Dharamshala to ferry children to Prime Minister’s Narendra Modi’s rally site on December 27, the state government Tuesday withdrew its earlier order to shut down all educational institutions in the hill town on the day.

The kangra district administration had earlier ordered closure of all schools and other educational institutions in Dharamshala on December 27, saying it was to ensure that school children do not get stuck up in possible traffic snarls on the rally day.

In a fresh order, issued Tuesday, Kangra district administration said all educational institutes under the Dharmshala education block, will stay open on Thursday. “Now all educational institutions of Dharamsala Education section will be open on December 27,” said Kangra Deputy Commissioner Sandeep Kumar.

The district administration has also asked the school principles to possibly change the school timings on the day to ensure that children do not face problem due to possible traffic jams.

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

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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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Supreme Court paves way for reopening of dance bars in Maharashtra

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New Delhi | Stating that there can be “regulations” but not “total prohibition”, 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.

Clearing the path for licences allowing dance bars to operate, an apex court bench headed by Justice A K Sikri permitted them to be located a kilometre away from religious places and educational institutions.

The court allowed tips to performers but disallowed showering of currency on them.

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.

“From 2005 till date, not a single person has been given licence (for dance bars). It cannot be done. There can be regulations but it cannot amount to a total prohibition,” the bench said while pronouncing the judgement.

The apex court said the provision which mandated that dance bars should be located one kilometre away from religious places and educations institutions is “unconstitutional”.

It also quashed the provision of the 2016 law which mandated that there must be a partition between barrooms and the dance floor.

In August last year, the court reserved its verdict on the pleas of hotel and restaurant owners challenging the 2016 Maharashtra law.

Earlier, the petitioners told the bench that the state government tried to circumvent a previous order of the apex court by bringing in the new 2016 law on conditions for operation of dance bars.

Hotel and restaurant owners argued that the state government adopted an attitude that it will not permit operations of dance bars irrespective of orders passed by the apex court.

On January 11, 2017, the apex court directed the Maharashtra government to expeditiously decide the pending applications for licences to open dance bars under the old rules and the directions issued by the court from time to time.

The Maharashtra government, in an affidavit filed before the court, defended the operation of a new law meant to regulate licensing and functioning of dance bars in the state.

“It was observed that such dances were derogatory to the dignity of women and were likely to deprave, corrupt or injure public morality,” the state government said.

“It was also brought to the notice of the state government that the places where such dances were staged were used as places for immoral activities and also as a place for solicitation for the purpose of prostitution,” it said.

The state government said the prevention of obscenity in public places is a part of public policy in India and was reflected in the provision of Indian Penal Code (IPC).

“Maharashtra Prohibition of Obscene Dance in Hotels, Restaurants and Bar Rooms and Protection of Dignity of Women (working therein) Act, 2016 gives effect to such Public Policy,” it said.

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