West Indies Fight Back After Aiden Markram Century For South Africa | Cricket News

Aiden Markram hit a century on his return to Test cricket but the West Indies mounted a strong fightback on the first day of the first Test against South Africa at SuperSport Park on Tuesday. Markram made 115 in a South Africa total of 314 for eight. Fast bowler Alzarri Joseph spearheaded the West Indian bowling attack, taking three for 60. South Africa looked set to take full control when they reached 221 for one after new captain Temba Bavuma won the toss and decided to bat.

But they lost seven more wickets before the close while adding another 93 runs, with the West Indian bowlers finding swing, lateral movement and more consistency with the old ball.

An opening partnership of 141 between Markram and former captain Dean Elgar (71) was followed by a stand of 80 between Markram and new cap Tony de Zorzi. The left-handed De Zorzi was looking comfortable before he was run out for 28.

De Zorzi punched a ball from Joseph through the covers and completed a confortable two runs.

Tagenarine Chanderpaul made a good sliding stop and De Zorzi was sent back after setting off for an unlikely third.

Chanderpaul’s throw was off target but wicketkeeper Joshua Da Silva cleverly flicked the ball into the stumps.

Bavuma, on his first appearance as South Africa’s first Black African captain, was leg before wicket for nought to a full ball from Joseph two balls later and Joseph struck again when he yorked Markram.

Markram was dropped last year after a poor run of form in which he went 15 innings without a half-century, with only two scores above 30. He had not made a hundred since scoring 108 against Pakistan in Rawalpindi in February 2021.

After a watchful start, he was soon into his stride, hitting 18 fours in a 174-ball innings, studded by his trademark cover drives and powerful pull shots.

Elgar, who was stripped of the captaincy after South Africa were heavily beaten on tours of England and Australia, made 71 off 118 balls.

Two of Elgar’s 11 fours were ramp shots over the slips but in trying to hit a third boundary in that fashion he fell to a leaping catch by Jermaine Blackwood at third man off Joseph.

Blackwood earlier put down a sharp chance at third slip off Kyle Mayers when he was on 10.

The South African team showed five changes from the side that played in the third Test of a losing series in Australia in January with De Zorzi and fast bowler Gerald Coetzee both handed their first caps.

The West Indies made one change from the side that beat Zimbabwe by an innings and four runs in Bulawayo earlier this month.

Left-arm spinner Gudakesh Motie, who took 13 wickets in the win in Bulawayo, had a back injury and was replaced by fast bowler Kemar Roach.

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Neeraj Kumar: COA Were Not Interested In Tackling Corruption

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New book envisions future of AI

A book, ‘The Power of Future Machines’, was launched in the Hindu College’s Sushila Devi Auditorium in Delhi on Tuesday by Infinity Foundation of India and Bharat Book Club.

At the event, the co-editors of the book, Rajiv Malhotra, TN Sudarshan, and Manogna Sastry were present along with guests and several authors including Lt Gen PJS Pannu, Major General (Retd) Lav Bikram Chand, Raj Kumar Sharma, as well as Col Manik Anand, PO (AS), Ministry of Defence.

The book includes nine chapters with topics like “The Winner of the Fourth Industrial Revolution Takes It All: India’s Role in the Battle for World Dominion”,  “The Impact of AI on Freedom of Speech: Examining the Problem of Bias in Content Moderation”, “Artificial Intelligence for National Security” and “AI-MING for a Theory of Everything.”

The Book

It is a collection of expert essays that talks about the future impact of Artificial Intelligence (Al) in various fields. The experts engage and discuss the potential effects of Al in this book while sharing their unique perspectives with the readers.

The Power of Future Machines. (Image: rajivmalhotra.com)

Additionally, the essays talk about how Al will influence policymaking, both in specific fields of expertise and its impact on mankind as a whole.

Sastry, who is currently the Team Leader, Research, at Infinity Foundation India, told News18 that it took more than 2 years to complete this book, which is now available on Amazon. Meanwhile, Sudarshan, who is a computer scientist and specialised in AI, as well as related technologies, stated that about 100 authors, from India as well as abroad, shared their views through the essays included in the book.

On the back cover, Lt Gen PJS Pannu, PVSM, AVSM, VSM (Retd), Former Deputy Chief of Indian Integrated Defence Staff (Operations), who was present at the launch event, wrote: “Threats devoid of emotions in hu-machine (a combination of human and machine) would need careful responses and regulating mechanisms.”

“Those who do not care to adapt shall be first recipients of such intimidation … the greed for speed will encounter a pushback by nature. Humans need new definitions of … hope, compassion, and happiness to program machines of the future,” he added.

Focus Points

Authors and guests at book launch of The Power of Future Machines. (Pic/News18)

During the launch, several key guests shared their views on the usage of AI. While talking about the book, Major General (Retd) Lav Bikram Chand highlighted that if AI is not used responsibly, it can destroy any individual or even a nation. He said: “Even though it is enlightening, at the same time it is also very scary.”

Malhotra, who is a researcher and computer scientist specialising in AI, dived deep into the concerning factors of such technological advancement.

One of those concerns highlighted by the tech expert wa the “Digital Caste System”.

He said: “You should stop thinking about the traditional caste system as a whole new caste system is coming which is based on new criteria of who controls the algorithms, who has privacy, who is being manipulated without even being conscious that they are being manipulated and who is being denied rights to access various things.”

According to him, only a few people at the top of some companies control these algorithms. They set the criteria of what is true and false and what type of ideology to support.

While talking about military and defence, he said that not taking the AI weaponry strategic advantage seriously can be very costly at a time when India is “10 years behind China”.

“There are a few things that are related to AI such as quantum computing which allows breaking all the security codes. So there is a race between the US and China to see who can do it for having an advantage even for a short window in which they can do a lot of mischiefs,” he highlighted.

One particular concern has been raised during this event which is the bias of AI. Malhotra specifically talked about ChatGPT being biased and when he spoke to the people behind OpenAI, they said that “your culture can help it in training to make it ok”.

While stating his argument, Malhotra said: “If you don’t train it, it will continue to have that bias, and if you train it, you are doing the free service of training their algorithm, making it smarter to know you and the more it knows you, the more it will know how to manipulate you.”

The problem according to the tech expert is that India doesn’t have its own platforms such as an operating system, language model, search engine, and social media. So these gaps actually show that while Indians are more dependent on some other companies’ services, there is a risk of compromising the data of the citizens.

“The issues are very large and complex. So to take it forward we need more people talking about the risks and we will continue doing more work highlighting these issues,” he noted.

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Joseph leads West Indies fightback after Markram century

South Africa 314 for 8 (Markram 115, Elgar 71, Joseph 3-60) vs West Indies

Aiden Markram celebrated his return to Test cricket in style notching up his sixth century but Alzarri Joseph‘s pacy three-wicket burst helped West Indies storm back into the contest late in the day. South Africa ended day one of the first Test on 314 for 8.

On a surface that had something in for the bowlers all day, Markram, playing his first Test since August 2022, put on a cover drive masterclass en route to 115. But West Indies restored some parity by inducing a collapse, picking seven wickets for 79 runs in the final session.

Temba Bavuma won the toss in his first assignment as full-time Test captain and elected to bat first with the hosts getting in two debutants – top order batter Tony de Zorzi and fast bowler Gerald Coetzee. Kemar Roach came in for West Indies in place of Gutakesh Motie, who was out due to a back injury.

Dean Elgar and Markram held their own in a near-perfect morning session for the hosts adding 99 runs in 28 overs. West Indies did have a chance to get that early wicket, with Elgar edging a straightforward catch to Jermaine Blackwood at third slip off Kyle Mayers, but the fielder made a mess of it.

Shannon Gabriel troubled Elgar with the short ball, including a shoulder-high delivery that drew a top edge over the wicketkeeper’s head. There was also a leg-side trap in place for him, but the former captain survived all that and brought up his 23rd Test fifty off 84 balls.

Markram, at the other end, back with renewed confidence after recently leading Sunrisers Eastern Cape at the SA20, played a couple of stunning cover drives to signal his intentions early. He was largely untroubled with whatever the West Indies bowlers threw at him as the duo went into the break unscathed.

Markram started the second session from where he left off in the first driving Jason Holder in the gap through covers, which also brought up the hundred for South Africa in the 29th over. Gabriel continued with the short-ball ploy but Elgar, now more confident, brought out the ramp over the slip fielders.

Then it was Markram’s turn to bring up his half-century, his tenth in Test cricket, with a push through covers. Elgar ramped Joseph over slips again but the very shot brought about his downfall two balls later. Joseph moved the fielder to deep third and went for another bouncer, closer to Elgar’s body. He arched back, trying to ramp him again, but ended up hitting it straight to Blackwood who took a stunning catch after a bit of misjudgment.

With de Zorzi in at No.3, West Indies would have harboured hopes of some sort of a comeback. The debutant, however, quickly put those thoughts to bed, adding 78 runs for the second wicket off 127 balls. South Africa went into tea 206 for 1 and eyeing a big first-innings with Markram unbeaten on 97 and de Zorzi largely comfortable on 22.

Things, however, unravelled rather quickly in the final session. Markram had a scare on 99 when a caught-behind decision was sent upstairs but the on-field decision of not out was upheld. He did not waste much time, crashing Joseph’s short-of-a-length ball past point to bring up his first Test century since February 2021.

However, a combination of an excellent piece of fielding and lazy running brought about de Zorzi’s wicket and opened the floodgates. De Zorzi’s cut was intercepted well at deep point by Tagenarine Chanderpaul. The duo ran two but for some reason, de Zorzi came back searching for a third only to be sent back. Chanderpaul fired in a wide throw that Joshua Da Silva palmed back onto the stumps, catching de Zorzi by surprise, who was found to be inches short.

Two balls later Joseph pinned Bavuma bang in front of the stumps for a duck before a pinpoint yorker on the base of off stump left Markram’s stumps in a mess. From 206 for 1, the hosts had slipped to 236 for 5.

Heinrich Klassen came out with an attacking intent even as Keegan Peterson, back after an injury, struggled for timing. Klaasen’s cameo did not last long, though, with Gabriel sending him back for 20 via a short ball that he pulled to Joseph at mid-on.

The West Indies bowlers then stuck to a plan and got the ball to hoop around. Senuran Muthusamy was caught in front shouldering arms to a full-length Roach delivery, while Mayers ended Peterson’s struggle on 14.

Coetzee struck two fours off his first two balls in Test cricket before bad light brought about an early close of play with only 82 overs possible on the opening day.

Ashish Pant is a sub-editor with ESPNcricinfo

2 New Ministers to Be Appointed Soon: AAP Leader Following Sisodia, Jain’s Resignation

Last Updated: February 28, 2023, 23:56 IST

Delhi ministers Manish Sisodia (L) and Satyendar Jain on Tuesday resigned from the Cabinet, amid corruption allegations against them. (File photo/News18)

Delhi ministers Manish Sisodia (L) and Satyendar Jain on Tuesday resigned from the Cabinet, amid corruption allegations against them. (File photo/News18)

AAP national spokesperson Saurabh Bhardwaj said two new ministers will be appointed “very soon”

Hours after Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal accepted the resignation of Manish Sisodia and Satyendar Jain on Tuesday, AAP national spokesperson Saurabh Bhardwaj said two new ministers will be appointed “very soon”.

Sisodia and Jain resigned from the Cabinet amid corruption allegations against them. “The cabinet in Delhi is quite small and most of the important departments were handled by Satyendar Jain and Manish Sisodia. To avoid being behind in terms of work, two new ministers will be appointed very soon,” Bhardwaj said.  He further alleged that the Centre is “targeting” the state governments which is “working relentlessly for development”.

“It is very unfortunate for the entire country that leaders who were known and popular for their work, have been trapped. The Centre is targeting state governments which work hard and relentlessly for development,” he said.  Sisodia was arrested by the CBI on Sunday evening in connection with alleged corruption in the formulation and implementation of the now-scrapped liquor policy for 2021-22.

Jain is currently lodged in Tihar Jail in an alleged money laundering case.

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(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed)

Kashmiri Pandit: Kashmiri Pandit assassin among 2 terrorists, one soldier killed in Pulwama shootout | India News – Times of India

SRINAGAR: The killer of a Kashmiri Pandit man was among two terrorists shot dead around 1am Tuesday in an operation lasting several hours at a village mosque in Awantipora of south Kashmir’s Pulwama district that also left a soldier of 55 Rashtriya Rifles killed and one of his colleagues wounded, J&K police said.
According to a military statement, Sepoy Pawan Kumar died of multiple bullet wounds following a “hand-to-hand combat” with one of the terrorists whom he overpowered and killed.
He is survived by his mother Bhajun Dassi. His last rites will be done at his native Pithyt village in Shimla district of Himachal Pradesh with full military honours.
Additional DGP Vijay Kumar said the slain terrorists were Aqib Mushtaq of Pulwama, who was responsible for bank guard Sharma’s murder this Sunday, and his associate Ajaz Ahmad Bhat of Tral in south Kashmir. “Killer of late Sanjay Sharma neutralised,” J&K police claimed in a tweet.
Naik Hemraj was wounded in the gunfight at Padgampora village of Awantipora, 20km north of Achan in the same district where Sharma was killed when he was out buying groceries. He was quickly shifted to 92 Base Hospital, Srinagar, for treatment.
The gunfight broke out after a combined team of Army, CRPF and J&K police surrounded the mosque late Monday following information that terrorists were holed up there.
“Security forces exercised extreme caution and limited firepower was used to ensure there was no damage to the mosque. Civilians were evacuated beforehand to prevent collateral damage,” Kumar said. Photos from the site later showed no substantial harm caused to the shrine, other than bullet-riddled window panes.
The officer said the other terrorist had escaped to an adjacent building and hid in a bathroom. “Fourteen civilians were safely removed from the place before he was shot dead,” he said.
Two AK-series rifles, a pistol, two grenades, seven magazines, and two Aadhaar cards were found on the two terrorists.
Aqib was believed to be with Hizbul Mujahideen since 2021 before he shifted to The Resistance Force, an offshoot of the Pakistan-backed Lashkar-e-Taiba. Ajaz became an active member of Jaish-e-Mohammed last year and was working for Hizbul and LeT as well, police claimed.

Injured Rafael Nadal Out Of Indian Wells And Miami Masters | Tennis News

Rafael Nadal will miss the ATP 1000 events at Indian Wells and Miami, the 22-time Grand Slam champion confirmed on social media on Tuesday. “I am sad that I won’t be able to compete at Indian Wells nor Miami,” Nadal said in a tweet which came after Indian Wells officials announced he had withdrawn from the tournament in the California desert that starts next week.

“Very sad not to be there. I’ll miss all my US fans but I hope to see them later this year during the summer swing.”

The news comes after the Spaniard said in late January he expected to miss six to eight weeks with the hip flexor injury he sustained at the Australian Open. “We wish Rafa continued healing, and hope to see him back at the BNP Paribas Open next year,” Indian Wells tournament director Tommy Haas said in a statement.

Nadal, who said on January 26 that tests had confirmed a moderate muscle tear in his left hip, posted video on Twitter showing him training in the gym. “Took my time off, started rehab, gym and physiotherapy as instructed by the doctors,” he said. “Getting ready to come back the in the best conditions.”

That likely means for the clay-court season that starts in mid-April and leads into Roland Garros, where he would be chasing a 15th French Open title in May.

Nadal, who made history as the first man to win 21 Grand Slam singles titles at the 2022 Australian Open, hobbled out of this year’s edition in January after just two matches.

He said in Melbourne he had had the problem for “a couple of days” but at that point had not received a diagnosis. Nadal, whose stellar career has been marked by injuries, was adamant that he would continue playing.

Last year Nadal was undefeated heading into Indian Wells, having posted victories in an Australian Open tune-up in Melbourne before rallying from two sets down to beat Daniil Medvedev in the Australian Open final.

He won the ATP tournament in Acapulco and reached the final at Indian Wells, where he was stunned by American Taylor Fritz in the final as he battled a rib injury. He returned to win his 22nd Grand Slam title at Roland Garros, a record that Novak Djokovic has since matched.

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More CBI heat likely for Sisodia, Gahlot too in focus

Edited By: Pathikrit Sen Gupta

Last Updated: March 01, 2023, 01:25 IST

Manish Sisodia being taken to Rouse Avenue court by CBI officials in the excise policy case, in New Delhi, on February 27. (Photo/PTI)

Manish Sisodia being taken to Rouse Avenue court by CBI officials in the excise policy case, in New Delhi, on February 27. (Photo/PTI)

Kailash Gahlot was also part of the Group of Ministers (GoM) that approved the new excise policy

Aam Aadmi Party leader Manish Sisodia resigned as deputy chief minister of Delhi on Tuesday after the Supreme Court refused to intervene in his plea challenging his arrest by the Central Bureau of Investigation in the liquor scam case. Now CNN-News18 has learnt that the former education, excise, and home minister of Delhi could face a second FIR by the CBI in the “snooping case” in the next few days. “We are waiting for the communication from L-G Delhi giving us the go-ahead. The FIR can be registered as soon as the official papers in the matter are received,” a senior CBI official told CNN-News 18.

The union home ministry last week approved the CBI request to investigate the “feedback unit” case. The CBI after its preliminary inquiry has alleged that public money was misused by the Delhi government to run an “extra constitutional, extra judicial intelligence agency”. Officials said that a case is made out against Manish Sisodia since he headed the vigilance department which empowered the feedback unit to allegedly spy on central government functionaries.

Agency officials indicated that the FIR in this case could be registered in the next few days. “This seems to be a watertight case. A secret service fund was created misusing public money. Retired intelligence and security officials were hired to snoop when the power to allow this kind of spying doesn’t rest with the vigilance department,” a source said. Officials said statements of at least 17 contractual employees and equipment purchased for alleged snooping would be crucial evidence against Sisodia and other AAP-associated suspects.

Meanwhile, Sisodia’s successor in the Delhi government, Kailash Gahlot, may also soon face CBI heat, say officials.

Gahlot was part of the Group of Ministers (GoM) that approved the new excise policy. The CBI has alleged that the entire policy was framed to cause pecuniary benefits to businessmen who were granted the L1 licence. The agency has also alleged that the note that was put up by Sisodia for consideration of the GoM could have been influenced by the “South Lobby”, or the businessmen from southern India who benefited because of the policy. Satyendar Jain, who is also behind bars and resigned as minister on Tuesday, and Gahlot were part of the GoM.

CBI officials say that the file, which had the deliberations of the GoM and the minutes of the meeting is missing. Even as Sisodia is being questioned about the missing file, the agency could also question the GoM members regarding it.

While Jain and Sisodia are in jail, a probe is on against Gahlot by the CBI in the DTC bus scam case.

The agency is probing allegations of irregularities in the purchase of buses for the DTC when Gahlot was the transport minister.

Read all the Latest India News here

Mitchell Starc, Harmanpreet Kaur among registrations for the Hundred draft

The eight teams announced which players they had retained ahead of the draft earlier this month. Their squads for this summer’s 100-ball tournament – which runs from August 1-27 – will be fleshed out at the draft next month, which will be televised live on Sky Sports for the first time since 2019.

In the women’s competition, each team could only retain four players, though will be able to use one Right-To-Match (RTM) card at the draft in order to keep hold of one extra player: Danni Wyatt (Southern Brave), Kate Cross (Manchester Originals) and Sophie Devine (Birmingham Phoenix) are all expected to return to their 2022 teams.

Harmanpreet, Rodrigues set top reserve price

As ESPNcricinfo revealed, several leading Australian women’s player are skipping the Hundred this year to give themselves a break after the Ashes. Forty-three Australian women have entered the draft including Megan Schutt, Amanda-Jade Wellington and Grace Harris, but Meg Lanning, Tahlia McGrath, Ash Gardner and Beth Mooney have opted out.

Six Indian women have registered, with Harmanpreet and Rodrigues setting themselves the top reserve price of £31,250 (INR 31 lakh approx). Shikha Pandey, Deepti Sharma, Disha Kasat and Kiran Navgire have entered the draft without a reserve price.

Laura Wolvaardt, Diana Baig, Lizelle Lee and Dane van Nierkerk have also entered. In total, 148 overseas players are competing for 15 spots, including players from Brazil, Papua New Guinea, Sweden, Afghanistan, Kuwait, France, Bhutan and Vanuatu.

Each women’s team will pick four players at the draft, except Welsh Fire who will sign five after opting to retain only three players. After the draft, each team will have filled their eight best-paid slots, three of which will go to overseas players; an open-market window will follow for teams to complete their squads.

Starc leading Australian entrant

Most of Australia’s multi-format players have opted out of the men’s Hundred, with Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Marnus Labuschagne, Steven Smith and David Warner’s names all absent from the longlist. The Hundred starts the day after the scheduled fifth day of the fifth men’s Ashes Test.

But Starc has opted to put himself forward, and could appear in the competition for the first time if selected in one of the five vacant £125,000 slots that is available for an overseas player. His availability may depend on the dates for Australia’s white-ball tour to South Africa, which is due to start in the last week of August.

ESPNcricinfo understands he considered playing in the competition last year and had been lined up as a top draft pick by Northern Superchargers – where his wife Alyssa Healy plays – only to withdraw shortly before the registration deadline.

Superchargers are unable to sign him this year, since they do not have a vacant £125,000 slot. His most likely destinations are Mike Hussey’s Welsh Fire – who signed him in the 2019 draft, before he opted to withdraw – and Trevor Bayliss’ London Spirit.

Adam Zampa and Marcus Stoinis have also set £125,000 reserves. Other notable Australian registrations include Mitchell Marsh, Jhye Richardson (both £100,000), Aaron Finch and Usman Khawaja (both £60,000). Tim David (£75,000) is expected to return to Southern Brave while Ashton Turner (no reserve) could be a contender for the Northern Superchargers captaincy.

Availability rules the roost

A number of leading Pakistan players have signed up for the draft including Babar Azam, Mohammad Rizwan and Shaheen Shah Afridi. But their availability will depend on the dates for a three-match ODI series against Afghanistan, due to be played in the third week of August according to the Future Tours Programme.

Pakistan are also due to play a two-Test series in Sri Lanka towards the end of July which could run into August and further limit availability. Shadab Khan (Birmingham Phoenix) was the only Pakistan player retained.

New Zealand’s players are expected to be in high demand at the draft, with a clear window in their schedule in August ahead of a white-ball tour to England in September. Trent Boult and Lockie Ferguson have both registered with £100,000 reserves, while Southern Brave are understood to be lining up Devon Conway (£50,000) with an early pick.

A number of West Indian players including Andre Russell, Kieron Pollard, Shimron Hetmyer and Jason Holder have registered but are unlikely to be signed due to a clash with the Caribbean Premier League. Sunil Narine was retained by Oval Invincibles, but they are expected to replace him after four or five games.

Uthappa signs up

Uthappa could become the first Indian man to appear in the Hundred, though seems unlikely to be picked up at the draft. The BCCI does not permit active Indian men’s players to appear in overseas short-form leagues, but Uthappa retired from international cricket and the IPL in September.

He has entered the draft with a reserve price of £40,000. Harbhajan Singh is the only previous Indian player to register for the Hundred draft, but he withdrew from the longlist after ESPNcricinfo revealed his interest in 2019, fearing his involvement could jeopardise his IPL contract.

No reserve for Duckett, Topley

Only seven domestic players have entered the men’s draft with a reserve price – including Lancashire’s Tom Bailey, who has demanded £125,000 for his services. David Willey, who was not offered a deal by Northern Superchargers, has a reserve price of £60,000.

Tom Abell, who has been lined up as a potential captain by Welsh Fire, has a £40,000 reserve, along with Chris Dent, Graeme van Buuren, and England seamers Ollie Robinson and Olly Stone.

Ben Duckett, Tom Kohler-Cadmore, Reece Topley and Tom Banton, who are expected to be among the most lucrative England-qualified signings have all entered without a reserve price.

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98

Imran: Pakistan court grants ex-PM Imran interim bail in Toshakhana case – Times of India

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Islamabad high court granted interim bail to former prime minister and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan on Tuesday, hours after a sessions court issued a non-bailable arrest warrant against him for skipping hearings in the Toshakhana case pertaining to purchase of gifts from the state depository.
Imran was required to appear in person in four cases, including one for attempted murder, that were scheduled to be heard in different courts in Islamabad during the course of the day.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) lawmaker Moshin Nawaz Ranjha had filed the attempted murder case against Imran last October after being attacked outside the Election Commission’s office in Islamabad, where PTI workers and supporters were protesting against the disqualification of their party chief from parliament over the Toshakhana case.
A terrorism case was also filed against him over a violent protest by PTI supporters outside the electoral body’s office against its decision to disqualify him.
The civilian Federal Investigation Agency had booked Imran and other PTI leaders weeks earlier in connection with their party allegedly receiving prohibited funding. The case was filed by the state through the agency’s corporate banking circle in Islamabad.
Imran travelled from Lahore, where he has been recuperating from a gunshot injury, to reach Islamabad’s judicial complex, which houses the banking court as well as the anti-terrorism court.
While he got bail in three cases, the sessions court issued a non-bailable arrest warrant in the Toshakhana case and adjourned the hearing till March 7. Soon after this setback, Imran reached the Islamabad HC, which granted him pre-arrest bail until March 9 against a surety of Rs 1 lakh ($480).

ED files chargesheet in Chinese loan app case

Chinese loan apps took advantage of the Covid crisis in India and cheated millions of gullible people who were in a financial mess. During the pandemic, a large number of people lost their jobs and poor people were under heavy financial stress. Taking advantage of the situation, these Chinese apps offered short-term loans at exorbitant interest rates. This ultimately led to a situation where borrowers were subjected to harassment, blackmailing, extortion, abuse, etc. These are the findings of an Enforcement Directorate (ED) investigation.

The central investigating agency has highlighted how the Chinese apps took advantage of a weak regulatory framework in India to make mind-boggling profits. The ED investigation has found that these apps were charging up to 2,300 per cent interest on loans. The apps specifically targeted vulnerable strata of society. On non-repayment, they would start threatening women of sexual harassment/portraying them as call girls on adult websites.

At the time of disbursement of loans, these apps got access to contacts and other features of the phone of a borrower. Subsequently, on defaulting, messages like “Chor” were circulated to friends and relatives of the person. The loan apps also ensure that borrowers fall into a vicious cycle. To escape the harassment and mental torture, they were prompted to get a loan from another app, and so on.

During the investigation, it was found that apps like My Bank, Money Box, Loan Gram, Coco Cash, Panda Rupee, Cash Pot, Need Rupee, etc, were directly installed, accessed, used, and monitored from cloud-based servers in China. Local Indian companies did not have any control over these apps.

Interestingly, Chinese individuals (Qu Yang Peng and Mr Lai) who came to India and crafted the entire scam have already escaped. Sources reveal that there is already a lookout circular in force against these individuals.

Companies that have come under the scanner include:

1. Mad Elephant Technologies — Qu Yang Peng

2. Ruming Tech — Mr Lai

3. Baryonyx Technologies — Mr Lai

4. Honfu Information Technologies — Mr Lai

In one of the cases identified during the investigation, it was found that Indian companies having NBFC licences were misused by Chinese apps. A company named Jamnadas Morarjee Finance Company did not even know that illegal business was being conducted in its name. Scamsters used payment aggregator Razorpay to orchestrate the scam, said officials.

What left the investigators surprised is the fact that Razorpay did not even check if representatives from Jamnadas Morarjee Finance were genuine or not. It continued to give its services to the scamsters despite the penny test failing, said officials. The company even did not bother to check if the cheque given by the scamsters was genuine or fake, they added.

The list of these loan apps seems to be unending. Though the Indian government has managed to block a few of them, many continue in new avatars. Indian investigating agencies are keeping an eye on loan apps like Money View, Kissht, Krazy Rupee, Rupee Bear, Lend Now, Paisa Loan, Rupee Key, Palm Cash, Small Wallet, Flip Cash, Cash Train, Angel Wallet, etc.

Effective interest rate more than 2,000 per cent

If a loan of Rs 5,000 is taken for 7 to 14 days, platform fees of Rs 1,500 is charged. Though interest rate is 36 per cent and the amount to be returned is around Rs 5,800, the effective rate becomes more than 2,000 per cent due to platform charges, said officials.

Here are the methods of recovery used by the apps:

  • 100 to 200 telecallers operate out of call centres.
  • First of all, a phone call is made on the 6th/7th day and the borrower given 20 to 25 minutes to repay.
  • Further messages to block Aadhaar and PAN are sent on WhatsApp or through calls.
  • After some time, they call relatives of borrowers and use abusive language.
  • The persons whose numbers are stored in the phone are told that they are guarantors and they have to repay the loan.
  • WhatsApp groups were made by using contact lists and abusive messages were sent.
  • Women contacts stored in phones were specifically targeted and sent obscene messages.
  • They created fake legal notices and broadcasted them to the contact lists of the borrowers.

Weak regulator, no cap on interest charged

Though the Reserve Bank of India regulates the working of NBFC in India, it has not prescribed any cap on the interest rate to be charged by these companies from borrowers. However, through clause 37 of the Master Direction – Non-Banking Financial Company – Systemically Important Non-Deposit taking Company and Deposit taking Company (Reserve Bank) Directions, 2016 dated 1.9.2016, the RBI has stipulated that the NBFCs shall lay out appropriate internal principles and procedures in determining interest rates and processing and other charges and directed to follow Fair Practices Code in this regard. The effective interest rate of more than 2,000% per annum cannot be said to come under fair practices.

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