How to protect your kids from Blue Whale

How to protect your kids from Blue Whale – Amid rising danger from Blue Whale challenge that has spread its tentacles across the country, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has issued a detailed advisory, asking parents to monitor their children’s online and social media activity to ensure they do not engage themselves with the deadly game.

The Ministry has advised parents and guardians to install a good cyber/mobile parenting software which would help them monitor online activities of their children. It has also advised parents to seek immediate professional help if they fear their children were at risk.

Earlier, taking note of online Blue Whale Challenge game that has led to suicide among children, the Ministry had directed Facebook, Google India, WhatsApp, Yahoo India, Microsoft India, Instagram and other internet giants to remove the links of the “killer” online game.

Recently, a 19-year-old college student from Tamil Nadu’s Madurai district, who hung himself, wrote in her suicide note that once “you enter Blue Whale challenge you can’t exit.” According to the media reports, a girl in Mangalore recently contemplated suicide on being harassed via this app, but was saved after counselling.

The Ministry in its advisory also asked them not to talk about the game “unless there is reason to believe your child already knows of or has played the game” as discussing it may “increase the chance that your child will search for it on their own”.

The advisory issued by the Ministry said, “Blue Whale Challenge game is clearly abetment to suicide. It is understood through various online reports that it is shared among secretive groups on social media networks. The creators seek out their players/victims who are in depression and send them an invitation to join.

The basis of the challenge is that an anonymous group administrator, otherwise known as “the curator,” hands out 50 tasks to that must be completed, documented and posted during a 50-day period. Players of the challenge can’t stop playing once they’ve started; they are blackmailed and cyber bullied into completing the game. “

It has suggested that guardians be attentive if they notice unusually secretive behaviour, mostly related to their online activity of their child. “Check in with your child, ask how things are going. Ask if there have been things stressing them, or anything that has them worried. If your child is talking about any level of distress, do not hesitate to ask them about changes in mental health”.

“Unless there is reason to believe your child already knows of or has played the game, don’t discuss about the Blue Whale game. By doing so, you increase the chance that your child will search for it on their own. Monitor your children’s online and social media activity to ensure they are not engaging with this game”, the advisory said.

The Blue Whale Challenge game is a 50-day challenge which demands players to complete tasks given by an anonymous “handler”. The player is also asked to share photos after finishing the challenge. The “handler” instruct the players to cause self-harm, leading up to suicide. And it is because of this that there has been a growing demand to ban this game.

Expressing concern over the availability of such deadly game on the internet, Union Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi had earlier asked the Government to remove the Blue Whale Challenge game from the social media after some children are suspected to have killed themselves influenced by the game. Gandhi’s letter said the game is believed to have persuaded some 100 children and young adults to kill themselves in the US, China and other countries. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan also wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week asking the Centre to ban the online game.

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North Korea launches missile over Japan

North Korea on Friday fired a ballistic missile over the Japanese island of Hokkaido, a major show of defiance to the international community, the media reported.
The launch is the second to fly over Japan in less than a month, and the first since North Korea’s sixth nuclear test and new UN sanctions against the Kim Jong-un regime, reports CNN.
The missile was fired from Sunan district near Pyongyang, according to the South Korean military.
It flew about 3,700 km and reached an altitude of 770 km miles before landing in the Pacific Ocean.
Speaking to the media, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said: “The international community needs to unite and send clear message after North Korea’s dangerous provocation.
“We must let North Korea understand there is no bright future for North Korea if it continues in this way.”
The Japanese government issued a J-Alert and advised “people to stay away from anything that could be missile debris”.
Pyongyang on Wednesday threatened the “four islands of the (Japanese) archipelago should be sunken into the sea by the nuclear bomb of Juche”, referring to the ruling ideology of North Korea.
In response to North Korea’s launch, South Korea carried out a “live fire drill” that included a missile test-firing which the Joint Chiefs of Staff said was capable of striking Pyongyang’s Sunan launch site.
Seoul’s missile, which was launched from the country’s east coast while the North Korean missile was still in the air, was “a show of force in response to North Korea’s latest provocation”, a South Korean official told CNN.
A second missile that was fired at the same time failed and “sank into the sea off the east coast”, the official said.
Japan and the US have requested the UN Security Council hold “urgent consultations” at 3 p.m. on Friday.
North Korea has fired 21 missiles during 14 tests since February this year, further perfecting its technology with each launch.

Failure of an appraisal system

The 360-degree feedback system, a tool for elevation of officers, might have been successful in the corporate world, but it is bound to create chaos, anarchy and arbitrariness in Government machinery

The introduction of 360-degree appraisal system in the country has created widespread resentment among Government servants. This system, which was prevalent in the corporate world, was introduced in Government systems in April 2016, by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), under the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) for the appraisal and promotion of officers from joint secretary rank. The reason why the Government opted to bring this poor, cut and paste 360-degree appraisal system in Government mechanism, is an intriguing question because it already had a well-defined, legally valid  appraisal system, like the Annual Confidential Report (ACR), now known as the Annual Performance Appraisal Report (APAR).

Terming the newly inducted 360-degree appraisal system as opaque and non-transparent, a recent report by the Parliamentary Standing Committee said that this system, which is used for promotion of higher officials, lacks legal standing and results in manipulations. The report, recently tabled in the monsoon session of Parliament, observed that this system, used in the corporate world, is not at all suitable in a Government mechanism as inputs for appraisal of officers are collected in informal ways and are, therefore, subjective.

“The committee finds the present 360-degree appraisal system opaque, non-transparent and subjective. The concerns of the Second Administrative Reforms Commission have not been suitably addressed. Feedback in this process is obtained informally, making the process susceptible to being manipulated. Further, the feedback received from subordinates and stakeholders may be biased and lack objectivity, particularly if the officer had to discipline his subordinates or he was unable to meet the unjustified demands of stakeholders.”

Further, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personal, Public Grievances, Law and Justice in its 33-page report said, “Acting on feedbacks so received puts the concerned officer in a disadvantageous position as the remedies available to him in case his APAR/ACR has not been written objectively, are not available to him in this process. Acting on such feedback behind the back of the officer may not be legally tenable, particularly if it adversely affects his empanelment prospectus. Moreover, there is no statutory backing to the scheme and it is based on executive instructions only. The Committee, therefore, impresses upon the Government to take necessary steps to make the process of empanelment more objective, transparent and fair.”

The introduction of the 360-degree appraisal system has literally sidelined the current ACR/APAR system. Apart from APAR, the 360-degree appraisal, collected through informal ways, is seen as a huge problem in the bureaucracy. In the 360 system, information and appraisal of an officer is collected from juniors, retired senior officials and other stakeholders. Many associations of officials have raised their voices against this kind of system practiced in private companies.

The committee report, on several occasions, pointed out that the 360 degree appraisals system is not at all suitable for the Government machinery. The DoPT under the PMO implemented this new mechanism along with the mandatory APAR/ACR for the empanelment of joint secretaries and above level officers. This new mechanism was not at all appreciated by officers due to its informal way of collection of feedback about them from their juniors, retired officials and even from private persons. There were criticism on the part of officers that even anonymous complaints during their promotion time were considered as feedback.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee, headed by Congress leader and MP, Anand Sharma, pointed out that due to the informal and non-legal nature, officials have been deprived of remedies when feedbacks are found negative in the 360 degree appraisal system. It also said that the method of collecting feedback from stakeholders, like from private parties, about an official, is totally ambiguous and not suitable in a Government mechanism.

Since April 2016, this informal way of gathering information about officers is being used for appraisal and promotion of officers belonging to the All India Civil Services and Union Government’s Group A services.

But the reason why such an illegal way is being implemented in a Government machinery has not yet been answered. There have been only informal replies or justification from top echelons in the Government that this new 360 degree appraisal system is a success in the corporate world. However, the so-called success in the corporate world is a bogus claim. We are now witnessing the dark side of the corporate world. There have been murky battles in Tata and Infosys. These battles in private business houses have exposed the fact that merit is not the key, and that for the powerful man/woman, loyalty matters the most.

But the question is: Why did the Government adopt this non-transparent way for appraisal at all? Actually, the Government machinery uses the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and other vigilance reports for appraisal and promotion of senior officers. The reports of IB and vigilance are treated as informal ways and this system is not subject to legal scrutiny and is hence found to be very efficient.

Then what is the use of another new informal system called the 360 degree appraisal system which has no legal value and no sanctity? Another excuse cited by the Government for using this kind of system is that it is being used in countries like the UK, the European Union and also Australia. But these kind of excuses are not sufficient to practice a system which lacks legal validity.

The secrecy in the process of 360 degree appraisal is not at all justifiable. The officers must have the right to know how the appraisal mechanism works. The continuation of this system will ultimately open floodgates of litigations in Central Administrative Tribunals and various other courts.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee observed that “there is an element of subjectivity” in this process. “Also, there would be an element of fear as peer and subordinates will also be consulted under 360 degree evaluation. The 360 degree evaluation system, which overrides the assessment based on APAR system, needs to be transparent. Officers not recommended by the 360 degree evaluation panel should be told the reason and they should get a chance to represent before the empanelment decision is finalised,” said the panel report, urging for transparent guidelines and legal framework for 360 degree appraisal system.

After all, what is its relevance in collecting information from junior officers and retired officials? In this new system, information is expected to be collected from five to seven persons, including private persons. Seeking information from private parties named as stake holders, linked to the Government, about an officer is not at all a suitable method.

What is the meaning of a stakeholder? Private contractors associated with the Government or private persons engaged with Government offices? This will in-turn turn out to be a tool to settle scores in the end if information collected from private parties. At the end of the day the 360 degree appraisal system will create chaos, anarchy and arbitrariness in the Government machinery.

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Complete works before deadline: HP CM to PWD

Himachal Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh on Sunday directed the Public Works authorities to complete the major works within a stipulated time-period.

He said that the contractor, who has been awarded the job, must ensure to complete it in a given period and if there were delay for months, it would be ensured that he was blacklisted for five years.

Any delays could not be tolerated as it escalate the cost of the projects and directly lead to waste of the public money, said Virbhadra Singh while addressing a public meeting at Nirmand in district Kullu.

The Chief Minister listed the strides made by the state in field of education, adding that he was ready to accept the criticism of opposition of opening the schools and colleges. “I want to ensure that all the children of the state are well qualified and well educated so that they can contribute towards Nation building”, said Virbhadra Singh.

He refuted the allegations of BJP that the government was on foundation stone laying spree all over the state without adequate budget. Rubbishing these allegations, he said there was enough budget in the government coffers to complete the schemes and only after due consideration and ensuring funds available, the foundation stones were being laid for development of all areas and welfare of the people.

Virbhadra Singh said he was elected four times as elected president of District Congress Committee and was nominated once by the Congress high command just a month or two before elections. It seems that Congress has forgotten the ideals and party constitution, added he.

He said that right from block level upto All India Congress Working Committees, members were earlier elected but now the party was going in a different direction. Nowadays, even the Block Congress members were being nominated from PCC office, he said adding that the Congress party was not a party of businessmen but of those who gave sacrifices for the independence of the Nation .

The new blood should be given preference, he said, as the stagnant water emits foul smell and one bad fish can spoil the whole pond.

The Chief Minister said, his suggestion to All India Congress Committees (AICC) as well as to Pradesh Congress Committees (PCCs) was that there was a need of change in thinking and change in working, and if any member was to be given preference he should be elected on basis of his dedicated services for the party right from block level to district congress committees. The policy of pick and choose should be avoided as it has finished the great good culture of the party, added he.

He further said that two block Congress committees were created out of this Constituency, one was Nirmand and other Anni. This was against the norms, he said adding that this was not acceptable at any cost, as one fine day people will start demanding a district, the two or three panchayats together will start demanding a sub tehsil or tehsil status, which is not in interest of the state as well as the party.

The Chief Minister while addressing a gathering at Jagatkhana earlier announced up-gradation of government high schools Tunnan and Kushwa to senior secondary schools and a Primary Health Centre at Jagatkhana.

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Naidu takes oath as new Vice President

Naidu takes oath as new Vice President – M. Venkaiah Naidu on Friday took oath as the new Vice President at a simple ceremony in Rashtrapati Bhawan’s Durbar Hall here.

President Ram Nath Kovind administered the oath of office to the former Bharatiya Janata Party leader in Hindi.

Naidu, 68, who was hitherto part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet, succeeded M. Hamid Ansari who served two consecutive terms since August 2007.

Nominated by the ruling BJP-led National Democratic Alliance, Naidu won the August 5 poll defeating former West Bengal Governor and Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson Gopalkrishna Gandhi.

Naidu won 516 out of the 760 valid votes, winning the highest vote share in three decades in the vice presidential poll.

A two-time Union Minister and four-time Rajya Sabha member, Naidu earlier held the Parliamentary Affairs, Information and Broadcasting and Urban Development portfolios.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his predecessor Manmohan Singh and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh were among those present on the occasion.

Earlier, Naidu paid floral tribute to Mahatma Gandhi at Rajghat. He also paid tributes to Jan Sangh leader Deendayal Upadhyaya, besides Sardar Vallabhai Patel and Babasaheb B.R. Ambedkar.

Online buyers can sue sellers anywhere: SC

Online buyers can sue sellers anywhere – Online consumers can sue a company for deficiency in services at any consumer court of their choice. At times when e-commerce trading is growing rapidly, this ruling from the Supreme Court has brought a big relief for consumers going for online purchase of products through websites and e-commerce apps.

In over-the-counter purchases, a consumer can file a complaint in the consumer court only within the local limits where the company/ opposite party resides, carries on business or where the transaction takes place.

A Bench of Justices Adarsh K Goel and S Abdul Nazeer on Friday upheld a ruling of the National Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission (NCDRC) six months ago. The NCDRC had ordered budget carrier Spicejet to pay Rs 1.25 lakh compensation to a passenger for cancellation of flight. A Chandigarh-based woman, Rajni Aery, booked a ticket (Chandigarh to Delhi via Bagdodra and Kolkata) on on June 23, 2015 by paying Rs 70,900. The airline cancelled her return flight from Kolkata to Delhi without any reason and provided her no alternative. She approached the consumer court in Chandigarh and secured an order against Spicejet. In the appeal, the airline claimed that the Chandigarh court did not have jurisdiction to hear the case as the place of business of the company was at Gurugram.

Rejecting this argument, the NCDRC in its order of February 7, 2017 found the company guilty of cancelling the flight without reason when on that day 128 flights took off from Kolkata without delay. The NCDRC noted that the airline gave no explanation for cancellation and failed to make any alternative arrangements.

The consumer purchased a ticket at a cost of Rs 80,855 after borrowing money from her relatives at Kolkata.

Besides the compensation, the NCDRC directed the airline to refund the consumer Rs 80,855 with interest at nine per cent after deducting the airfare between Kolkata and Delhi. The company was also to compensate Rs 10,000 as litigation cost towards the consumer.

“We do not find any ground to interfere with the impugned order. The special leave petition (by the airline) is accordingly dismissed,” said the Supreme Court bench.

The airline relied on Section 11 of Consumer Protection Act which allows a complaint to be instituted by a consumer within the local limits of where the opposite party resides or carries on business or where cause of action arises.

The State Consumer Commission said that the Section required an expansive and rational interpretation as the objective of the Act is to provide a hassle free redressal mechanism to consumers. Moreover, the Commission said that if such an argument is accepted, consumers of online transactions will be put at peril. In its order of December 29, 2015, the State Commission observed, “In the present times, the availability of goods and services, through websites at a particular place, has virtually become the same thing, as a seller having shops, in that place, in the physical sense… As a result, territorial jurisdiction over a consumer complaint would lie with the consumer for a situated at any place, where any of the aforementioned causes of action arises.”

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Israel supports India hook, line and sinker on terror

Israel supports India “hook, line and sinker” on the issue of terrorism emanating from Pakistan and within the country, a top Israeli official has said while asserting that New Delhi has the right to defend itself against terrorists.

Noting that both India and Israel suffer from the “evil” forces of terrorism, deputy director general of Israel’s foreign ministry Mark Sofer said outfits like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hamas were no different from each other and both countries have the right to defend themselves.

Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s visit to Israel, the first by an Indian premier, Sofer said Israel has never hidden the fact that it supports India “hook, line and sinker on the subject of terrorism.”

“We are not asking for a quid pro quo. You have suffered from terrorism from inside India, and not just emanating from Pakistan, which has been seen in recent history,” he said.

Also Read: Modi’s historic touch to Israel ties

Condemning terrorism in all forms, the Israeli official said, “We feel that India has a right to defend itself against terrorists in the same way as Israel has a right to defend itself from terrorists.”

“We are both suffering from the same scourge. I really don’t see any difference between the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Hamas. I never did and I don’t today. A terrorist is a terrorist is a terrorist,” said Sofer, who has served as ambassador to India.

“Killing people for some sort of spurious or inexplicable ideological aim is terrorism, however you look at it. And that is what is happening from outside into India and coming from outside into Israel as well. We both clearly share the same struggle against the forces of evil,” he said.

Modi’s three-day visit beginning today is aimed at commemorating 25 years of establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries and will also see discussions between him and his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu to explore ways to enhance cooperation in key strategic areas.

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