11.50am, June 2
Mr Modi at the Buddha
Tooth Relic Temple.
Indian PM attends multiple meetings and
events during recent trip to Singapore
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India improves ranking in
childhood global index
INDIA has improved its ranking in the
world childhood index but stays at a
poor 113th position – up from 116th
last year – in the list of 175 countries
indexed by global child rights group
Save the Children.
The report commends India’s
achievements in reducing the rate of
child marriages which it said was a
major factor contributing to an
improved score in the index.
However, it said nutrition, infant
mortality and child labour remained
issues of grave concern in the country.
No Iftar party at Rashtrapati
Bhavan this year
AFTER nearly a decade, the Rashtrapati
Bhavan (official home of the President)
will not host an Iftar party this year with
President Ram Nath Kovind saying that
there should no religious observances at
the expense of taxpayers.
“After the President took office in
July last year, he said there would be no
religious observances at taxpayers’
expense. This is in keeping with the
principles of a secular state and it
applies to all festivities, irrespective of
religion,” said Mr Ashok Tandon, press
secretary to the President, in a tweet.
Officials said that Iftar parties have
been traditionally hosted at the
Rashtrapati Bhavan except during the
term of President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam
from 2002 to 2007.
Now Shimla is just 20 minutes
away from Chandigarh
THE travel distance between Shimla
and Chandigarh has been reduced to
just 20 minutes with the launch of a
heli-taxi service on June 4.
The state government in association
with helicopter service operator Pawan
Hans launched a heli-taxi service on the
Chandigarh-Shimla route, cutting down
the four-hour travel time by road.
The heli-taxi can carry 19 people and
a ticket costs Rs2,999 ($59). The service
is available on Monday and Friday
Union government rolls out
guidelines on adventure tourism
IN A bid to make adventure sports
safer in India, the tourism ministry
has announced elaborate safety
Tourism Minister K.J. Alphons
emphasised that, for India to be a
well-sought-after adventure sports
destination, the facilities and support
staff should be developed according
to global standards.
Prepared by a team of experts ,
these basic minimum safety
standards cover 18 land-based, seven
air-based and six water-based
Foreign Minister’s plane ‘goes
missing’ for 14 minutes
AN INDIAN Air Force plane carrying
External Affairs Minister Sushma
Swaraj lost contact with air traffic
control for almost 14 minutes on June 2,
according to the Airports Authority of
Ms Swaraj, who was travelling to
Mauritius while on her way to attend a
BRICS (acronym for an association of
five major emerging national
economies: Brazil, Russia, India,
China and South Africa) meeting in
South Africa, departed from
Thiruvananthapuram at 2.08pm.
The aircraft established contact with
the Male air traffic control (ATC) at
4.44pm but it could not contact the
Mauritius ATC after entering the
After the Mauritius ATC activated
the uncertainty code, the aircraft was
able to establish contact with it at
4.58pm and landed later. The
uncertainty code is initiated when a
flight is out of contact for 10 minutes.
Tripura raises compensation for
women victims of crimes
TRIPURA’S Bharatiya Janata Party-led
coalition government has raised
compensation to Rs3 lakhs ($300,000)
for women victims of various crimes.
“The minimum compensation would
be Rs50,000 ($992) and the maximum
Rs3 lakhs, considering the nature of the
crime,” said the state’s Education and
Law Minister Ratan Lal Nath.
Mumbai airport handled record
1,003 flights on June 5
THE Mumbai international airport,
among the busiest single-runway
airports in the world, set a new record of
handling 1,003 landings and take-offs
on June 5.
It broke its own previous record of
handling 988 flights in a day.
“This is the highest traffic handled in
a single day by any airport in India till
date,” said an airport spokesperson.
Kohli’s statue unveiled at Madame Tussauds in Delhi
INDIAN cricket captain Virat Kohli’s wax figure was unveiled at Madame
Tussauds in Delhi on June 6. The wax figure has been crafted from over 200
measurements and photographs taken during sessions with Kohli. The cricketer
joins other sports sensations in his signature batting pose in the interactive zone.
At the unveiling of his figure, Kohli said: “I sincerely appreciate the efforts and
incredible work undertaken in making my figure... I am grateful to my fans for
their love and support.”
PLANNED 10-day protest by
farmers demanding better
prices for their produce and loan
waivers is a sign of the growing agrarian
unrest in India that poses a challenge for
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is
seeking re-election next year.
Since June 1, thousands of farmers,
especially in the northern and central
parts of India, have refused to take their
produce, including cereals, vegetables
and pulses, to market. This has led to
shortages in many places, and price
hikes of 10 per cent to 20 per cent.
In Lasalgaon wholesale market in Ma-
harashtra, the supply of onions has
fallen by over 95 per cent.
In the latest protests, in which 130
farmers’ organisations are taking part,
farmers are demanding their loans be
waived and higher prices for their pro-
duce. This comes despite government in-
tervention at the beginning of each sow-
ing season to set a minimum price for ce-
reals and pulses, and thus prevent any
steep fall in prices. The government has
invited the farmers for talks.
For years, India’s agriculture has
been beset by multiple problems, from
dependence on the rains for water to
poor irrigation facilities. But farmers say
a large part of the problem is that they
are being held to ransom by middlemen.
Mr Abhimanyu Kohar, coordinator
and spokesman for the Rashtriya Kisan
Mahasangh, a nationwide farmers’
union, said farmers were in distress, but
were not on the government’s agenda.
“They are forced to sell their crops at
lower prices, with traders and middle-
men making money. They are spending
more to grow vegetables and are not
able to recover it,” said Mr Kohar. He
said more than 500,000 farmers sup-
ported the protests.
A crop failure or lower produce price
sends farmers, weighed down by loans,
into financial crisis.More than 12,000
kill themselves each year, according to
government estimates. Farming in-
comes have grown very slowly, by a mea-
gre 0.44 per cent over the last five years.
With farmers making up almost a
third of India’s total rural population of
83 million, the mounting agrarian stress
would be a problem for Mr Modi, who
has been trying to woo farmers ahead of
next year’s general election, said politi-
In this year’s budget, the Bharatiya
Janata Party-led government allocated
14.34 trillion rupees for rural infrastruc-
ture and agriculture, 24 per cent higher
than the previous year.
“If there is anything that really chal-
lenges this government, one is farmers’
distress and the other unhappiness
among younger people about employ-
ment opportunities,” said Dr Sandeep
Shastri, a political analyst and pro-vice-
chancellor of Jain University. “As a re-
sult, farmers are growing closer to state
parties. This would be a cause for alarm,
especially for the party in power.”
The BJP is already feeling the fallout
from the unhappiness among rural citi-
zens. It fared poorly in rural areas in the
December elections in Gujarat and,
more recently, in elections for the parlia-
mentary seat of Kairana, a sugarcane
growing region in Uttar Pradesh.
Farmers’ protests big worry
Ganesan keeps the referees fighting fit
YOU may not see him on television when
you watch the World Cup matches in
Russia. But a Singaporean will be
working behind the scenes, training the
Ganesan Maniam (right) has secured a
spot in the world’s biggest football
extravaganza as a Fifa fitness instructor.
He follows four other Singaporeans
who have officiated at a football World
Cup: The late George Suppiah, who was
the first from South-east Asia to referee at
a World Cup (1974 in West Germany),
Shamsul Maidin (1998 in Germany) and
assistant referees K. Visvanathan (2002 in
South Korea/Japan) and Jeffrey Goh
(2010 in South Africa).
“It’s a dream come true to be
Singapore’s first Fifa fitness instructor. I’m
honoured to be at the world’s top football
stage,” said the 53-year-old Ganesan. “It
wasn’t easy in the beginning, when I
turned pro, to cope with the job demands.
But slowly I garnered confidence and
encouragement to make the grade.”
He also did duty at the Under-17
World Cup in India last October.
A Singapore Armed Forces Physical
Training Instructor for a decade, he
worked at the United World College’s
physical education department before
joining Fifa as a fitness instructor.
Over the past five years, he has
travelled to more than 30 countries to
preach the values of refereeing fitness.
“There are no short cuts in refereeing.
Referees must be spot on during
match-play situations,” said Ganesan,
whose daughter Dalreena Poonam Gill
Ganesan, 24, is a budding referee.
“The critical rule is to always position
perfectly close to play in order to identify
the fouls correctly and sanction them
“This entails the highest levels of fitness
and referees need to show maturity in their
job. This can be achieved only through
rigorous technical and physical sessions.”
Brazil can break 60-year hoodoo
awaits in ex-
ipation for the
kick-off of the foot-
ball World Cup
2018 in Russia on
Although some nations with strong
World Cup pedigree will be missing –
four-time champions Italy being the
most notable – I expect a good showing
and some great football from the peren-
nial favourites and outsiders.
A strong team ethic is the key to success
in competitions of this nature.
In an era where players command
huge salaries and bonuses and have
huge followings due to the impact of so-
cial media, it is easy for them to think
they are above the team. And teams
have suffered the consequences.
France’s experience in South Africa
2010 comes to mind.
Captain Patrice Evra had an argu-
ment with a member of the coaching
staff and walked out of training. Mem-
bers of the playing staff decided to sup-
port their captain and refused to train.
The poor dynamics in the team was a
disaster waiting to happen. Unfortu-
nately, it was not nipped in the bud.
That brings me to the positive group
dynamics that appears to be evident in
some of the teams. Germany, Brazil,
France and, in particular, England.
Germany coach Joachim Loew’s re-
cent comments when he excluded
Leroy Sane from the final squad is a case
The Manchester City winger had a
fantastic season in the club’s demolition
of all pretenders on the way to the Eng-
lish Premier League title and many pre-
dicted he would be a shoo-in for Ger-
many. Loew made all the politically cor-
rect statements on the reasons for
“(It was) a very close decision be-
tween him and Julian Brandt, which was
made in favour of Brandt,” Loew ex-
“Leroy is a huge talent. He will be
back again from September. He has not
arrived in international matches yet.
“It was a very close decision. If it was
a 100-metre race, it would have been a
What caught my eye, though, was a
comment that a number of German play-
ers were unhappy with Sane’s “big-time
attitude” and would have been upset if
he had made the squad.
It would be frivolous of me to suggest
that Loew’s decision was based on his
players’ sentiments. He would have lis-
tened to his team members but his deci-
sion would have been based on his own
observations. This may put pressure on
Brandt, but then the Germans are well
known for their strong mentality.
The Brazilian team, on the other
hand, appear to appreciate the fact that
Neymar is a proven match winner.
Despite his individualism and the
adulation he receives, which sometimes
makes him behave like a prima donna,
the team appear to accept his some-
times outlandish behaviour – especially
as they know he is a match winner.
With Neymar in red-hot form Brazil
know they have a great chance for the ti-
tle. I am sure the senior players led by
captain Thiago Silva is always in Ney-
mar’s ear to get him on the right path
where team togetherness is concerned.
England under Gareth Southgate
also have shown tremendous team spirit
and great respect within the group.
This, coupled with the exciting at-
tacking talent at Southgate’s disposal,
could see England having one of their
best runs in the competition.
Players expected to shine
Neymar obviously. What a talent! His
skill and awareness with the ball is a joy
to watch. It is interesting to note that the
star attraction’s romance with the 2014
World Cup at home ended in tears and
disappointment, particularly when he
picked up an injury against Colombia in
And, in February this year, he was in-
jured playing for his club Paris Saint-
Germain and there were doubts if he
would recover in time for the extrava-
ganza in Russia. Recover he did and his
performance in his first match back – in
the friendly versus Croatia last week –
confirmed that he is back to almost his
Lionel Messi may be preparing for
his swansong, but the Argentinian will
still have a big impact in this tourna-
England’s Harry Kane will have a
strong tournament too. This England
team has loads of talent and ability go-
ing forward and some of their play in the
attacking third is breath-taking. Kane
could benefit from this.
Spain’s Diego Costa is another one to
watch. His marauding runs will cause a
lot of problems to static defences and he
will benefit tremendously from the ser-
vice provided by the two midfield mae-
stros David Silva and Andres Iniesta.
Teams expected to shine
The usual suspects – Germany, Brazil,
France and Spain – are strong con-
tenders for the semi-finals.These teams
have always kept renewing their line-
ups while retaining their key players.
The competition for starting positions
can only keep the players on their toes.
Germany have been tapping talent
from its production factory – the Bun-
Similarly, Spaniards’ talents are ex-
posed regularly in La Liga.
On the other hand, France’s best play-
ers, such as Antoine Griezmann, Paul
Pogba and Raphael Varane, play in the
stronger leagues in Europe as their own
national league is not as competitive.
England will do better than they did
in the last few editions.
If the draw is favourable, they have
the talent to make it to the last four.
There appears to be a strong sense of
group identity and class in the attacking
third with a lot of vibrancy provided by
the likes of Raheem Sterling, Dele Alli,
Jesse Lingard and Kane.
They seem to be enjoying the game
and appear to have managed the expec-
tations of a success-starved nation.
And Southgate, although a rookie
when compared to France’s Didier De-
schamps and Loew, has shown a lot of
composure and tactical acumen since
coming on board. He appears to have
very good support staff.
Belgium too have the talent to win
the Cup. When Kevin de Bruyne, Eden
Hazard and Romelu Lukaku, among
others, are on song, Belgium are almost
impossible to stop.
Brazil won the World Cup in Sweden
in 1958. Since then there has not been a
South American champion when the
World Cup has been played in Europe. I
have the feeling that this might change
this year and Brazil will take the Cup.
A former coach and technical director
of the Singapore national team, Sivaji
is currently a Fifa coaching instructor
and coach-mentor at Myanmar’s
vying for the
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