ATLANTA, Mar 31- A bridge on Interstate 85 in Atlanta collapsed as a fire raged beneath it, authorities said, sending black smoke into the air and briefly causing a fireball before the structure fell in on itself. There were no immediate reports of casualties in the incident, which snarled traffic for miles (km). “We are trying to assess the damage and determine how quick we can repair it,” Republican Georgia Governor Nathan Deal told a news conference. Black smoke billowed so thickly from the bridge in the heart of Atlanta that area residents told local media they thought a storm was coming or that the sun had set early when the fire started at around 6 p.m. local time. Then flames rose several stories high from under the bridge before a section collapsed around 7:30 p.m., even as dozens of firefighters fought it, causing a brief fireball. Hours after the collapse, vehicles were still stuck trying to get off the highway. Deal declared a state of emergency for Fulton County, which encompasses much of the Atlanta area. Government offices in Atlanta were set to open at 10 a.m. on Friday to give people extra time to get to work. Deal said the fire that led to the highway collapse appeared to have been fueled by a large pile of PVC piping under the structure. Authorities did not know who owned the piping or who had put it under the bridge, Deal said. All lanes of the freeway were blocked, and authorities urged motorists to stay away from the interstate in all directions. “We cannot have any more traffic on the highway,” Atlanta Police Department Sergeant Warren Pickard told a news conference. “We need everyone to stay put and not travel at this time. We need the roads clear for emergency vehicles.” Local TV images showed bright orange flames and thick black smoke billowing into the sky above the freeway as a line of cars stood halted on either side. Traffic was jammed on nearby roads and freeways as well, according to online congestion maps. Television station WSB-TV showed what appeared to be barrels and coils under the bridge. The station reported that fire crews from nearby Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport were brought in to help and were spraying foam typically used for airplane crashes onto the flames.
India joining the IEA as an associate member will strengthen global energy administration, says its executive director Fatih Birol
* Oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan urges IEA to anchor global dialogue between crude buyers and sellers
* IEA associate membership gives India opportunity to be voice of the developing world in energy dialogue, says power minister Piyush Goyal
New Delhi: It was an unusual retirement for an unusual man. It all started with a gunfight in Manipur 23 years ago.
In 1994, Captain DPK Pillay, a young platoon commander of 8th Guards, was tasked with hunting down a group of hardcore NSCN (IM) insurgents who were planning to blow up a vital bridge and communication tower to hamper troop movement in Manipur.
After four days of searching through the jungles, the hideout was tracked to a remote and isolated village called Longdipabram in Tamenglong.
In the three-hour firefight that followed, a few militants were killed while a couple were apprehended.
As he lay grievously bleeding, waiting for a helicopter to evacuate him, Capt Pillay noticed two children, a boy and girl, who had been wounded in the crossfire.
“I had to make a choice in those few moments between taking responsibility for my own life and that of the people we were meant and sent to protect. I felt if anyone deserved to live in that moment it was those two children who did not know what the fight was about,” Pillay told CNN-News18.
Capt Pillay had a choice to make. And he made it without any hesitation. He commanded his troops to ensure that the two children were airlifted to medical help before him.
Lying in a pool of blood, barely conscious, Capt Pillay also extracted a promise from his platoon not to seek revenge from the village in case he died. In that one moment, the young captain who had come to raze the village to the ground became its saviour.
As he fell unconscious, he thought of his mother. He hoped his fauji father would be proud of him. The last sounds he heard were of village women wailing in gratitude for what he had done. He was 26.
Capt Pillay was evacuated an hour later. Miraculously, he lived to tell the tale. For displaying exemplary courage under fire, the young captain was conferred a Shaurya Chakra in 1995.
But Longdipabram didn’t know. They thought their hero was dead.
Long after the incident, as Pillay rose up the ranks in the Army, he often thought of the place that had taught him the real meaning of being a soldier. “The entire episode was etched my memory just as the battle wounds on my arms and chest. When I saw my own children, I often thought about the two kids in the village. Had they survived? I didn’t even know their names,” he said.
He got a chance to find out 14 years later. Capt Pillay, by then Colonel Pillay, chanced upon a friend commanding a brigade in Tamenglong who sent up a patrol to Longdipabram.
“That is how the village found out I was alive. The village head man told the patrol that I had saved them from calamity. Both the children had survived and the village wanted a reunion,” he told CNN-News18.
Col Pillay had never expected to see Longdipabram again. But there he was, a decade and a half later, at the very courtyard where he lay bleeding. This time, he didn’t have to break in. The grandmother of the house welcomed him with open arms, weeping between words of gratitude he didn’t understand. But he knew he was home.
The two children, who he had last seen with blood streaming down their skin, were now young adults — Masebiliu and Dingamang. As they were growing up, they had often wondered why a soldier from an “occupational force” was willing to die for them. The answer left them in tears.
“As a soldier, I knew I could lose my life defending the ideals of my country, and the values of our Constitution. But I could not transfer this liability to both of you. For me, and many other soldiers like me, you were worthy of any sacrifice, irrespective of our differences,” he told them.
There were more differences to melt in this emotional reunion. The insurgent who had lobbed a grenade at Col Pillay almost costing him his leg came out to hug him. They had both come close to killing each other all those years ago. But, that day, all was forgiven and forgotten. He told Col Pillay that his act of kindness had inspired him to surrender.
“For us, Col Pillay is god. Our village had many underground workers and active insurgents. We were number one on the hit list of security agencies. When the gun battle was on, we had heard clear instructions on the radio set that our village should be burnt down. But Col Pillai saved us that day. We are all alive because of him,” said Atanbou, the village head.
For Longdipabram, Col Pillay had done what only a family member would have. The only way to reciprocate was to make him family. In an unusual show of respect, Col Pillay and his children were adopted by the village and given land and voting rights. The villagers now call him Pillay Pamei. Pamei is the surname of the people of the Zeliangrong community who live in the village.
Since his return, Pillay Pamei has moved mountains to do whatever he can to give back to his new clan. Now, everyone in Longdipabram is looking forward to the new 100 km national highway from Manipur to Nagaland that will pass through their village and end their isolation. It took Pillay six years to get it sanctioned. It is something that will change the topography and politics of this strife hit region forever, he says.
“We have to make our institutions work for our people. All our people. I would like to see young people from my village feel and believe that they are as much part of this country as anyone else; that they have the right to work, study and travel without being attacked or labelled. We cannot have peace without development. We also cannot have any development without peace. It is where the road ends that insurgencies begin,” Pillay said.
On March 31, Col Pillay will hang his boots after 29 years in service. But before that, he is back in the village where he almost died, this time with the gift of light. He is carrying 500 solar lights, one for every home in the village along with 100 solar lanterns sponsored by the Assam Rifles.
For Col Pillay, it is a pilgrimage before he ends one journey and begins another. For Longdipabram, he continues to be god.
The power to impose indirect taxes on goods and services was divided between the Centre and states before the GST Constitution Amendment Bill.
This led to multiple taxes being levied on the same commodity making tax administration cumbersome. It also resulted in disputes about what classifies as goods, and what classifies as a service. The introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) proposes to do away with this multiplicity of taxes by subsuming approximately 15 indirect taxes, and allow for goods and services to be taxed at the same rate.
Under GST, the Centre will have the power to levy the Central GST (CGST), and state to levy the State GST (SGST) on the supply of goods and services within a state. An Integrated GST will be levied on inter-state supplies, and a part of the revenue will be given to the state where the good or service is consumed.
Four Bills which provide details related to the manner in which the GST will be implemented and compensation to states for revenue loss due to GST have been brought to Parliament. In addition to these Bills, each state assembly will have to pass their respective laws which will outline the manner of levying the SGST.
Under the Bill, GST rate has been capped at 40%. This means that the Centre and state cannot impose CGST and SGST at a rate higher than 20% each. Similarly, the IGST rate on inter-state sale has been capped at 40%. The central government will specify the tax slabs, and items to be taxed at each slab through a notification.
It seems that the GST Council has held deliberations on the rates, and suggested that a multiple GST framework with four tax rates should be adopted. This could lead to issues regarding the classification of goods and services across slabs. One may recall that recently the Delhi High Court had to intervene, and pass a ruling to define what qualifies as a chappal, and what qualifies as a slipper, since these two items attract different tax rates. There are multiple cases where disputes have come up related to whether a good should be taxed at the standard tax rate or a lower rate.
In addition, power of government to notify tax rates is a shift from the current practice where rates are specified in the principle law levying taxes such as service tax, customs, and excise duty. Under the Constitution, the power to levy taxes is vested in Parliament and state legislatures, and one may question whether it is appropriate to notify or change tax rates without prior parliamentary scrutiny and approval.
States will be compensated by the Centre for loss of revenue, due to the implementation of GST for a period of five years. Compensation will be calculated using tax revenue in 2015-16 as the base, and assuming a growth of 14% per annum over these collections. To generate resources for compensation, a GST Compensation Cess will be levied on certain goods and services. The cess will be capped at 15% for most goods and services, except tobacco, pan masala and a few others.
The Centre may set up an authority, or designate an existing authority to examine if reduction in tax rate has resulted in commensurate reduction in prices. The powers of the authority will be prescribed by the government. One may argue that the price of goods and services are dependent on various factors other than tax rates, such as input costs, technology used for production, and competition in the market. Since these costs keep fluctuating, it may be difficult to determine if a reduction in tax rates has reflected in a commensurate decrease in price of goods or services.
Following the passage of the four Bills in Parliament, each of the 29 states and two Union territories would be required to pass their respective SGST laws. There are various other steps that would have to be completed, if the government plans to roll-out GST by July 1, 2017.
ANKARA, Mar 30 – Turkey has ended the “Euphrates Shield” military operation it launched in Syria last August, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said, but suggested there might be more cross-border campaigns to come. Turkey sent troops, tanks and warplanes to support Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels, push Islamic State fighters away from its border and stop the advance of Kurdish militia fighters. “Operation Euphrates Shield has been successful and is finished. Any operation following this one will have a different name,” Yildirim said in an interview with broadcaster NTV. Under Euphrates Shield, Turkey took the border town of Jarablus on the Euphrates river, cleared Islamic State fighters from a roughly 100-km (60-mile) stretch of the border, then moved south to al-Bab, an Islamic State stronghold where Yildirim said “everything is under control”. Turkish troops are still stationed in the secured regions and along the border. The number of Turkish troops involved in Euphrates Shield has not been disclosed. One aim was to stop the Kurdish YPG militia from crossing the Euphrates westwards and linking up three mainly Kurdish cantons it holds in northern Syria. Turkey fears the Syrian Kurds carving out a self-governing territory analogous to Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, a move that might embolden Turkey’s own large Kurdish minority to try to forge a similar territory inside its borders. It views the YPG as the Syrian extension of the Kurdish PKK militant group, which has fought an insurgency in Turkey’s southeast since 1984 and is considered a terrorist group by both the United States and European Union. With the second largest army in NATO, Turkey is seeking a role for its military in a planned offensive on Raqqa, one of Islamic State’s two de facto capitals along with Mosul in Iraq -but the United States is veering towards enlisting the YPG. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has said Turkey is saddened by the U.S. and Russian readiness to work with the YPG in Syria.
Srinagar, Mar 30 : Train service resumed in the Kashmir valley this morning after remaining suspended for a day due to security reasons. Separatist organisations had yesterday called for a bandh to protest the death of three youths in security force firing in central Kashmir district of Badgam, where a militant was killed and a soldier injured in an encounter on March 28. All the trains service have been resumed today, a railway official said. He said train services between Srinagar-Badgam and Baramulla in north Kashmir have been resumed this morning. Similarly, the train services between Badgam-Srinagar-Anantnag-Qazigund in south Kashmir to Banihal in Jammu region were running as per schedule. He said the decision to suspend train service was taken after receiving advisory from the state police and administration as there was apprehension of trouble in the valley. In the past, railways suffered loss of property worth crores of rupees in violence in the valley, particularly during strike calls. However, during about six month-long summer unrest last year, the rail service remained suspended in the valley.
New Delhi/Mahoba, Mar 30 : As many as eight coaches of Jabalpur-Nizamuddin Mahakaushal Express derailed early today between Mahoba and Kulpahar in Uttar Pradesh.
According to Railway officials, eight passengers received minor injuries in the incident that took place at around 0207 hrs.
However, reports from Mahoba said that 22 people were injured.
Senior Railway officials, including DRM Jhansi and General Manager of North Central Railway M C Chauhan, have rushed to the accident site.
An accident relief medical van has reached the site and injured passengers given first aid.
New Delhi, Mar 29 :The Lok Sabha today began discussion on the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley piloting the four related draft legislation for passage in the Lower House. In his remarks, moving the Bills, Mr Jaitley said the new proposals seek to achieve a path-breaking purpose wherein federal structure of the Indian Constitution comes into play in more ways than one. Prime Minister Narendra Modi also attended the proceedings. ‘The law that we are dealing here is a unique experience…it gives the power to legislate laws for both the states and the Centre under Article 246 A,’ Mr Jaitley said, adding GST Council will go down in the history as the first federal institution created in the country. He said a GST Council was set up and in these 29 states and two Union Territories of Delhi and Puducherry were involved. The GST Council was given power to recommend to both the states and the Centre. “We held 12 meetings and every effort was made to ensure that the Council functions in consensus,” Mr Jaitley said. The Central GST Bill would make provisions for levy and collection of tax on intra-state supply of goods or services. While the Integrated GST deals in taxation of inter-state movement of goods and services while the Union Territory GST Bill covers taxation in Union Territories, the Minister said. ‘There is also a ‘compensation bill’ that would give a legislative backing to the Centre’s promise to compensate the states for five years for any revenue loss arising out of GST implementation,’ Mr Jaitley said. “Efforts have also been made so that consumers are not over taxed,” he said. A statement on reasons for the Central GST bill said, “it is expected to reduce cost of production and inflation in the economy, thereby making the Indian trade and commerce more competitive.” The CGST Bill also provides for e-commerce companies to collect tax at source at a rate not exceeding 1 per cent of net value of taxable supplies, out of payments to suppliers supplying goods or services through their portals. Once these Bills – pushed by the government as ‘money bills’ are cleared by Lok Sabha, they will go to the Rajya Sabha. After final nod of Parliament, the states will then take up the State GST Bill in their Assemblies.
New Delhi, Mar 29 :The government is sensitive to the sentiments of the people that the National Flag or any national icons are not disrespected anywhere especially in the e-shopping platform, Minister of State for External Affairs M J Akbar said today. The Minister told the Lok Sabha during Question Hour that once the issue of National Flag being abused came to light on January 11, the government took up the matter with earnest sincerity with Amazon and the e-shopping giant has also apologised. “A direct consequence of our active intervention is a written apology by Amazon. And Amazon has now also taken steps to implement software so that emblems are not misused,” Mr Akbar said answering to Supplementary questions from BJP Member Janak Ram. Mr Akbar also said, “Amazon India has conveyed that it is fully committed to respecting Indian laws and has strengthened in-house compliance units – which monitor products uploaded by third-party vendors on Amazon market platforms.’ He said the Indian missions in Canada and the United States took “immediate action” when the issue came to light. “There are no international laws on this. But there is the will of the Indian people and this House,” he said. The BJP Member also alleged that an official of a Chinese company showed disrespect to the Tricolour in Noida and there have been similar instances even in Jammu and Kashmir. On this, Mr Akbar said, while there are no international laws on these, there are Indian laws – first enacted in 1950 and also later in 2011. These laws apply to Indians living in India or abroad. “If there is any misuse, then actions ought to be taken and are being taken,” the Minister said
Srinagar, Mar 29 : Train services in the Kashmir valley will remain suspended today for security reasons. There was apprehension of trouble in the valley following the strike called by separatists to protest against the killing of three youths in security force firing in central Kashmir’s Badgam district, where a militant was killed and a soldier injured in an encounter yesterday. ‘We have suspended all train runs in the Kashmir valley for security reasons,’ a railway official told UNI. He said there will be no train services between Srinagar-Badgam and Baramulla in north Kashmir. Similarly, the train services between Badgam-Srinagar-Anantnag-Qazigund in south Kashmir to Banihal in Jammu region have been suspended. The decision to suspend train services was taken after receiving advisory from the state police and administration. In the past, railways suffered loss of property worth crores of rupees in violence in the valley, particularly during strike calls. During about six month-long summer unrest last year, the train services remained suspended in the valley.