Varun Sharma a fan of Nitesh Tiwari’s personality

Varun Sharma a fan of Nitesh Tiwari's personality
New Delhi, May 25 (IANS) Actor Varun Sharma is happy to work with director Nitesh Tiwari in “Chhichhore”. He says he has become a fan of the filmmaker’s personality after having the “pleasure of knowing him”.

“‘Chhichhore’ is really close to all of our hearts. We had a great time while making the film. It is a blessing for any actor to be in a Nitesh Tiwari film. It is every actor’s dream to work with him. I am really happy that I got a chance to work with him in the initial stage of my career,” Varun told IANS in an email interview.

“Chhichhore” also stars Shraddha Kapoor and Sushant Singh Rajput. It is slated to hit the screens on August 30, 2020. The film will be produced by Sajid Nadiadwala and will be presented by Fox Star Hindi.

Varun described the shooting of the film as a “great great journey”.

“I have always been a great fan and admirer of Nitesh’s work – whether it was ‘Bhoothnath Returns’, ‘Chillar Party’ or ‘Dangal’. And with ‘Chhichhore’ while spending time with him, I have become a fan of him, for the person he is. He is one of the most humble and most amazing human beings that I have had the pleasure of knowing,” he said.

Varun said he learnt a lot about his craft through Tiwari.

“There are literally so many things that I have learned from him — within his working style, how he functions, how he works and I know that in my life those things are really going to help me and I am surely going to utilise those in future,” he said.

The 29-year-old actor also has two more films in his kitty — “Arjun Patiala” and “Rooh-Afza”.

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Kamal Nath absent from CWC meet to discuss LS poll rout

Kamal Nath absent from CWC meet to discuss LS poll rout
New Delhi, May 25 (IANS) Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath was conspicously missing from the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting held here on Saturday to discuss the reasons for the party’s abysmal performance in the 2019 general elections.

Most of the party’s senior leaders such as former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, party chief Rahul Gandhi, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Mallikarjun Kharge attended the meet.

Chief Ministers of Rajasthan Ashok Gehlot, Punjab Amarinder Singh and Chhattisgarh Bhupesh Baghel were also present at the meeting. Chief ministers of four Congress-ruled states and the Union Territory of Puducherry were asked to attend the CWC meet.

Foremost on the table is the challenge to keep the flock together in states like Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh, where efforts were on to destabilise the government.

The party is also likely to discuss upcoming Assembly elections in Haryana, Jharkhand and Maharashtra, a source said.

Out of the 23 CWC members, only four won in the just concluded elections — party chief Rahul Gandhi, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Gaurav Gogoi and A. Chella Kumar.

The 12 other CWC members, who lost the polls, include heavyweights like Mallikarjun Kharge, former Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat, former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, former Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Raghuveer Singh Meena, Jitin Prasada, Deepender Hooda, Sushmita Dev, K.H. Muniyappa and Arun Yadav.

Seven CWC members did not participate in the Lok Sabha elections this year.

Heads have already started rolling after the party managed to win only 52 seats in the lower house, only eight more than 2014. Congress Uttar Pradesh in-charge Raj Babbar resigned from the post on Friday, along with campaign committee chief H.K. Patil, Odisha party chief Niranjan Patnaik and Amethi District Congress President Yogendra Misra.

In Uttar Pradesh, the party failed to even retain the Gandhi bation of Amethi, where Rahul Gandhi lost to Union Minister and BJP candidate Smriti Irani by a margin of over 55,000 votes.

In Karnataka, the party won only one seat with senior party leader Mallikarjun Kharge losing by a huge margin.

According to sources, a few other senior leaders and party in-charges from states where the party drew a blank, are expected to offer to step down. The final call will be taken at the CWC, the party’s highest decision-making body.

Congress won only 3 seats in three states — Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh — where it formed governments in December 2018.

“The chief ministers and party in-charges from these three states will answer for the debacle and issues that needs to be prioritised in their respective states,” the source added.

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Conversations with Danny Boyle always insightful: Anil

Conversations with Danny Boyle always insightful: Anil
London, May 25 (IANS) Indian actor Anil Kapoor met British filmmaker Danny Boyle in London where they spoke about “family, friends and the future”.

“Catching up with Danny Boyle in London. We spoke about family, friends and the future… Conversations with him are always so insightful,” Anil tweeted on Saturday along with a photograph of the two.

“All the best for ‘Yesterday’. Danny, looking forward to watching it soon,” he wrote.

Anil had featured in Boyle’s Oscar-winning film “Slumdog Millionaire”.

In January, “Slumdog Millionaire” completed a decade since its release in 2009.

“It feels like only yesterday that we were shooting for ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, and what a journey it has been since then,” Anil had said in a statement.

“Many have called ‘Slumdog…’ a masterpiece, and I can honestly say that I’m honoured to have been a part of it,” he added.

The film recounts the travails of an 18-year-old orphan from the slums of Mumbai who goes on to win a staggering Rs 20 million on India’s “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” game show.

Anil was seen as show host Prem Kumar in the film, which traces the rags to riches tale of a slum boy, played by actor Dev Patel.

The film won eight Oscars at the 81st Academy Awards, including Best Direction and Motion Picture.

Indian music maestro A.R. Rahman brought home two Oscars for his “Jai ho” composition for the film in the same year. Veteran writer-lyricist-filmmaker Gulzar and sound engineer Resul Pookutty were also winners at the prestigious awards ceremony.

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Indian to head UN peacekeeping in South Sudan

Indian to head UN peacekeeping in South Sudan
By Arul Louis

United Nations, May 25 (IANS) The commandant of the Indian Army Infantry School, Lieutenant General Shailesh Tinaikar, has been appointed the commander of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), the second biggest peacekeeping operation.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced on Friday that Tinaikar will succeed Lieutenant General Frank Kamanzi of Rwanda who will complete his assignment on Sunday.

Tinaikar will command over 16,000 peacekeepers, about 2,400 from India, in UNMISS.

The mission was created in 2011 when South Sudan gained independence from Sudan. Sixty-seven peacekeepers have died while serving in the mission.

Tinaikar has previous experience in the area from the time he served in the peacekeeping mission in Sudan before the South’s independence. He has also served in the UN Angola Verification Mission III.

Tinairkar is the recipient of the Sena Medal and the Vishisht Seva Medal for Distinguished Service.

A 1983 graduate of the Indian Military Academy, he was the Additional Director General of Military Operations at Army Headquarters before taking charge of the Infantry School in Mhow.

He has also commanded a division, a recruit training centre and a brigade.

(Arul Louis can be reached at arul.l@ians.in and followed on Twitter @arulouis)

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Apple releases system updates for iPhones, MacBooks

Apple releases system updates for iPhones, MacBooks
San Francisco, May 25 (IANS) Just weeks after releasing the iOS 12.3 update globally, Apple is rolling out a minor iOS 12.3.1 update with bug fixes along with a supplemental update for macOS 10.14.5.

The iOS update addresses a bug that prevented the “report junk” option from appearing on applicable threads and another one that made unknown senders appear in your main inbox when they should not, web portal Ars Technica reported on Friday.

Additionally, it addresses an issue that affected connectivity in VoLTE calls.

For the macOS, the update focuses on fixing an issue related to the T2 chip in newer MacBook Pro computers, the report said.

A minority of members of various communities of MacBook Pro users have blamed the T2 chip for a few issues, most notably sound problems with certain pro audio devices, however, the exact issue remains unclear.

The iPhone-maker is expected to reveal details about much bigger changes coming in iOS 13 and macOS 10.15 at its World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) “special event” in San Jose on June 3, the report added.

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25 injured in container explosion in Thailand

25 injured in container explosion in Thailand
Bangkok, May 25 (IANS) An explosion and fire erupted in containers on board of a ship in Thailand’s Laem Chabang sea port on Saturday, injuring at least 25, reports said.

The explosion occurred on a container ship on Saturday morning and at least 25 workers were taken to hospital, Xinhua news agency reported. Local people were evacuated as some of the containers on fire were with hazardous chemicals.

No fatalities have been reported yet.

People were advised to wear masks in the area.

Chon Buri Province, where the explosion happened, has been declared red zone, reports said.

Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has instructed the Interior Ministry and relevant bodies to control the fire and help those affected.

An urgent investigation is underway to determine the content of the container and the cause of the explosion.

Situated in the country’s eastern seaboard, the Laem Chabang Port is a deep-sea port built for the transportation of international cargo.

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Incremental reforms a must do for the next government

Incremental reforms a must do for the next government
By Taponeel Mukherjee

As the new government takes office, it is time to reflect on some of the most critical areas that need attention to boost the investment and business climate in India. While structural reforms around land acquisition and labour laws remain on the top of the agenda, the new government would do well to focus on implementing incremental policy changes and addressing gaps in the various sectors that would significantly boost the investment climate.

Incremental reforms refer to a slew of smaller steps that help facilitate investment into the critical areas of financial services, energy, transportation and real estate amongst others.

In an economy of the size, diversity and complexity of India, facilitating change through incremental steps has a significant role to play. Smaller steps will allow the government to gauge the effect of policy changes through a feedback mechanism, which in turn will assist the government in improving and altering the policy, when required, in the right direction. Changes and tweaks to policy in India will have a significant multiplier effect in an economy of the size of India. True that comprehensive structural reforms have the advantage of being “big bang” events, but incremental policy changes can be game changers once their effect is viewed over an extended period. It is vital that incremental is not confused with “small”.

The government must continue on the path of improvement for strategies that have yielded positive results over the last few years, like the transparent auction mechanism for renewable energy, newly introduced Infrastructure Investment Trust (InvIT) mechanism for fundraising, and auctions to monetise infrastructure assets. These innovative and successful policy changes must continue, and more importantly, the learnings from these must be applied to other sectors.

For instance, can the government bring further clarity around auction rules, revenue sharing, and asset sales to help India boost energy exploration in India, especially in the light of India’s increasing dependence on Petroleum, Oil and Lubricant (POL) imports? Could the first Toll-Operate-Transfer (TOT) highway auction conducted by the NHAI lay a template to boost infrastructure fundraising in other sectors for the government? These are questions worth pondering over by the government.

The government needs to evaluate reasons that might be currently hindering the investment process. A slowdown in the investment process is not necessarily a problem if done for the right reasons. But, for instance, in sectors where a slowdown has been seen such as a series of auctions in renewable energy that did not find takers and the liquidity crisis that the NBFC sector is facing, there needs to be a reassessment of existing policy. But the aim must not be to just tide over the current issues but to create mechanisms that improve the system to reduce and eventually avoid the problem going forward.

In some cases, such as renewable energy, allowing market-pricing arrangements might be the solution, while in others such as lending markets, transparency might be the solution. Necessarily, adjustments in existing policies to eliminate bottlenecks must be a government objective to attract and boost investments.

Then, it is essential that as policy changes are implemented, the government has its eye on the “rear-view mirror”, primarily, for an understanding of the impact of the policy change on the ecosystem and the related supply chains which are vital. Most policy changes, if not all, have winners and losers. It is crucial that the overall impact is positive, with the downside reduced significantly, and more importantly, a strategy addresses the stakeholders facing the downside.

Having an eye on the “rear-view mirror” also implies the need for the government to be mindful of the ripple effects that policy changes cause to ensure policy consistency. For instance, whether it is access to credit for businesses and individuals or rapid infrastructure creation, policy changes must try to remain as consistent with the overall objective as possible. If the government considers renewable energy development as a vital area that needs focus, then duties on solar module imports probably need a relook. Primarily, with limited resources, it is challenging to boost all areas. The government, thus, needs to push for policy changes that help boost areas with the maximum multiplier effect.

While large-scale structural reforms can transform economies, in an Indian context, incremental policy changes in the right direction have the potential to yield significant results. While speed is of the essence, speed must not be at the cost of precision. Therefore, gradual but well thought-out policy moves are the need of the hour. In the tortoise-hare story, India would do well to be the patient tortoise even as it dynamically transforms its economy.

(The views expressed are personal. Taponeel Mukherjee heads Development Tracks, an infrastructure advisory firm. He is reachable at taponeel.mukherjee@development-tracks.com or @Taponeel on Twitter)

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Twitter accounts of anti-Trump activists suspended

Twitter accounts of anti-Trump activists suspended
San Francisco, May 25 (IANS) Micro-blogging site Twitter has permanently suspended accounts of two anti-Donald Trump political activists — Ed and Brian Krassenstein with 925,000 and 700,000 followers, respectively.

The Krassenstein brothers lost access to Twitter after they allegedly created and used multiple fake accounts to expand their reach.

“The Twitter Rules apply to everyone. Operating multiple fake accounts and purchasing account interactions are strictly prohibited. Engaging in these behaviours will result in permanent suspension from the service,” news website Deadline reported quoted the micro-blogging site as saying on Friday.

However, in a post on Facebook, the brothers denied all claims against them.

“If Twitter wants to ban us for having multiple accounts then that’s their right,” wrote Ed Krassenstein.

“Our multiple accounts did not break any of Twitter terms, but it’s their right to ban whoever they want. What they shouldn’t be doing is smearing our names over and over again by claiming that we ‘purchased account interactions’.”

For now, the Twitter ban on the activist brothers seem permanent but it remains unclear if their strong denial could convince the micro-blogging site to lift the suspension on their accounts.

In 2016, the Krassensteins’ Florida house was raided by federal agents suspecting their involvement in an international fraud ring. However, they claimed they had done nothing illegal and were not charged with any crime.

This is not the first instance where Twitter has been accused of banning prominent voices and earlier company CEO, Jack Dorsey, has also met with Trump to discuss his concerns, the report added.

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