FILE- In this June 19, 2017, file photo, Ram Nath Kovind, center, waves to media upon arrival at the airport in New Delhi, India. Kovind, 71, a Hindu nationalist leader has been elected India's new president, a largely ceremonial position. (AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal, file)
Ram Nath Kovind arriving at New Delhi airport on June 19,2017. Mr Kovind, a Dalit and Hindu nationalist was elected India's new president, a largely ceremonial position, on July 20, 2017. Tsering Topg

India elects Dalit as president



India’s legislators have elected Ram Nath Kovind, a member of Hinduism’s most oppressed caste, as the country’s 14th president—a triumph for the Bharatiya Janata Party, which nominated him.

A total of 4,895 legislators—4,119 members of state assemblies and 776 members of parliament—cast their votes in the presidential election on Monday. The votes were counted on Thursday, and Mr Kovind won 65.65 per cent of the votes.

His running-mate, M. Venkaiah Naidu, a long-time BJP member and until Tuesday prime minister Narendra Modi’s minister for information and broadcasting, will be the new vice president.

Mr Kovind, 71, rose from a modest background as a farmer’s son in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, His family belonged to  the Dalit group of sub-castes. He rose to become a lawyer and was recently ended a two-year stint as  governor of Bihar. On Tuesday he will be sworn in as president.

Crucially for the BJP, Mr Kovind also has close ties to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the Hindu right-wing organisation in which Mr Modi was once a full-time worker, and which is the ideological bulwark of the BJP’s politics.

Mr Kovind becomes the second Dalit to hold the president’s office, after K. R. Narayanan, who served as president from 1997 to 2002.

He was running against Meira Kumar, the former speaker of the Lok Sabha, the lower house of the Indian  parliament. Ms Kumar—also a Dalit—was nominated by a group of 17 opposition parties, led by the Congress.

India’s presidential elections, held once every five years, are ordinarily smooth and apolitical, with rival parties agreeing on a consensus candidate. This year, however, the deep divide between the BJP and the Congress, over the BJP’s allegiance to Hindu nationalism, imbued the contest with unusual friction.

“We have fought a principled fight,” Ms Kumar said on Thursday morning. “We are fighting for values that most people of the country believe in.”

The BJP’s dominance of central and state legislatures, however, made certain that Ms Kumar was running a race with a foregone conclusion.

The president’s office is, for the most part, ceremonial, but it is vulnerable to political influence. Upon the recommendation of the prime minister, the president can dissolve state assemblies—citing law-and-order problems or other constitutional breaches—and bring states directly under the rule of the central government.

The president also issues temporary laws known as ordinances, and is charged with ensuring that government business is being conducted in accordance with the constitution.

Even the nomination of a presidential candidate can function as a political signal—a bid to appeal to a constituency or a section of society.

In Mr Kovind’s case, that signal was intended for other members of his Dalit community, said D. Shyam Babu, a senior fellow at New Delhi’s Centre for Policy Research.

Mr Babu, who researches social and economic mobility in the Dalit community, pointed out that the choice of Mr Kovind “makes perfect sense” for the BJP’s electoral arithmetic. “The BJP’s vote bank now comprises the upper castes and the most backward castes,” he said.

Roughly 200 million Indians are classified as Dalits under the official definition of the term, so they represent a large and powerful constituency. Three-quarters of this population lives spread across rural India.

Apart from the Dalits’ sheer electoral weight, the BJP has particular reason to reach out to this community. The party passed a law in May banning the sale of cattle for slaughter, and its emphatic rhetoric around cow protection has emboldened vigilante gangs who target anyone suspected of transporting cows to abattoirs or carrying beef.

Although the Supreme Court suspended the law on July 11, the party’s opposition to cow slaughter still persists. It disproportionately affects Dalits and Muslims, who consume beef and also work in large numbers in the meat and leather industries.

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‘FSO Safer’ - a ticking bomb

The Safer has been moored off the Yemeni coast of Ras Issa since 1988.
The Houthis have been blockading UN efforts to inspect and maintain the vessel since 2015, when the war between the group and the Yemen government, backed by the Saudi-led coalition began.
Since then, a handful of people acting as a skeleton crew, have performed rudimentary maintenance work to keep the Safer intact.
The Safer is connected to a pipeline from the oil-rich city of Marib, and was once a hub for the storage and export of crude oil.

The Safer’s environmental and humanitarian impact may extend well beyond Yemen, experts believe, into the surrounding waters of Saudi Arabia, Djibouti and Eritrea, impacting marine-life and vital infrastructure like desalination plans and fishing ports. 

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Torque: 695Nm @ 2,000rpm; 760Nm @ 3,000rpm

Fuel economy, combined: 9.9L / 100km; 11.6L / 100km

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Most polluted cities in the Middle East

1. Baghdad, Iraq
2. Manama, Bahrain
3. Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
4. Kuwait City, Kuwait
5. Ras Al Khaimah, UAE
6. Ash Shihaniyah, Qatar
7. Abu Dhabi, UAE
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Source: 2022 World Air Quality Report

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$1,000 award for 1,000 days on madrasa portal

Daily cash awards of $1,000 dollars will sweeten the Madrasa e-learning project by tempting more pupils to an education portal to deepen their understanding of math and sciences.

School children are required to watch an educational video each day and answer a question related to it. They then enter into a raffle draw for the $1,000 prize.

“We are targeting everyone who wants to learn. This will be $1,000 for 1,000 days so there will be a winner every day for 1,000 days,” said Sara Al Nuaimi, project manager of the Madrasa e-learning platform that was launched on Tuesday by the Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, to reach Arab pupils from kindergarten to grade 12 with educational videos.  

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Started: 2019
Founders: Mohammad Raafi Hossain, Daniel Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech
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Investment stage: Pre-series B
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UN Panel of Experts found regime secretly sold a fifth of the country's gold reserves.

The panel’s 2017 report followed a trail to West Africa where large sums of cash and gold were hidden by Abdullah Al Senussi, Qaddafi’s former intelligence chief, in 2011.

Cases filled with cash that was said to amount to $560m in 100 dollar notes, that was kept by a group of Libyans in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

A second stash was said to have been held in Accra, Ghana, inside boxes at the local offices of an international human rights organisation based in France.

Our legal advisor

Ahmad El Sayed is Senior Associate at Charles Russell Speechlys, a law firm headquartered in London with offices in the UK, Europe, the Middle East and Hong Kong.

Experience: Commercial litigator who has assisted clients with overseas judgments before UAE courts. His specialties are cases related to banking, real estate, shareholder disputes, company liquidations and criminal matters as well as employment related litigation. 

Education: Sagesse University, Beirut, Lebanon, in 2005.

The specs: 2019 Mercedes-Benz GLE

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Engine 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder

Gearbox  Nine-speed automatic

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Pearls on a Branch: Oral Tales
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The biog

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Favourite quote: “My people and I will not settle for anything less than first place” – Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid.

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Company name: Klipit

Started: 2022

Founders: Venkat Reddy, Mohammed Al Bulooki, Bilal Merchant, Asif Ahmed, Ovais Merchant

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Digital receipts, finance, blockchain

Funding: $4 million

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Main camera: quad 200MP wide f/1.7 + 50MP periscope telephoto f/3.4 with 5x optical/10x optical quality zoom + 10MP telephoto 2.4 with 3x optical zoom + 12MP ultra-wide f/2.2; 100x Space Zoom; auto HDR, expert RAW

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