Pilgrims ascend Mount Arafat in high point of Hajj

News Network
July 19, 2021

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Makkah, July 19: Muslim pilgrims ascended Saudi Arabia's Mount Arafat on Monday in the high point of this year's Hajj, being held in downsized form and under coronavirus restrictions for the second year running.

Just 60,000 people, all citizens or residents of Saudi Arabia, have been selected to take part in this year's Hajj, with foreign pilgrims again barred.

The mask-clad faithful, who had spent the night in camps in the Valley of Mina, converged on Mount Arafat where it is believed the Prophet Mohammed delivered his final sermon, for the most important of the Hajj rituals.

Worshippers will assemble on the 70-metre (230-foot) high hill and its surrounding plain for hours of prayers and Quran recitals to atone for their sins, staying there until the evening.

After sunset, they head to Muzdalifah, halfway between Arafat and Mina, where they will sleep under the stars before performing the symbolic "stoning of the devil".

The scene was dramatically different to past pilgrimages, which have drawn up to 2.5 million people, and this year the mountain was free of the huge crowds that descend on it in normal years.

Privileged few

Being one of the lucky few "gives you a feeling that our God is forgiving and has chosen us to be in this place," said Selma Mohamed Hegazi, a 45-year-old Egyptian. "God willing, our prayers will be accepted."

"My whole body is shivering," she said as she stood among the other emotional pilgrims, wearing the ihram, the traditional seamless white garment worn during the Haj.

Worshippers described a sense of tranquillity descending on the mountain, also known as the "Mount of Mercy".

"To be one of only 60,000 doing haj ....I feel like I am part of a (privileged) group that was able to reach this place," said Baref Siraj, a 58-year-old Saudi national.
The Haj, one of the five pillars of Islam and a must for able-bodied Muslims with the means to travel at least once in their lifetime, is usually one of the world's largest religious gatherings.

Participants were chosen from more than 558,000 applicants through an online vetting system, with the event confined to fully vaccinated adults aged 18-65 with no chronic illnesses.

Safety first

Authorities are seeking to repeat last year's successful event, which took place on the smallest scale in modern history with just 10,000 participants, but which saw no virus outbreak.
Saudi health authorities said Sunday that not a single Covid case had been reported amongst the pilgrims this year.

The kingdom has so far recorded more than 509,000 coronavirus infections, including over 8,000 deaths. Some 20 million vaccine doses have been administered in the country of over 34 million people.

The Haj, which typically packs large crowds into congested religious sites, could have been a super-spreader event for the virus.

But Saudi Arabia has said it is deploying the "highest levels of health precautions" in light of the pandemic and the emergence of new variants.

Pilgrims are being divided into groups of just 20 to restrict potential exposure, and a "smart Haj card" has been introduced to allow contact-free access to camps, hotels and the buses to ferry pilgrims around religious sites.

Black-and-white robots have been deployed to dispense bottles of sacred water from the Zamzam spring in Makkah's Grand Mosque, built around the Kaaba, the black cubic structure towards which Muslims around the world pray.

Ibrahim Siam, a 64-year-old Egyptian pilgrim who comes from Dammam in the east of the country, said that high-tech procedures introduced to manage the Haj "have made things a lot easier."

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News Network
February 3,2023

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Mumbai, Feb 3: The brutal stock rout in Gautam Adani’s companies continued Friday, an indication that the billionaire needs to do more to restore confidence in his conglomerate’s financial health after accusations of fraud by Hindenburg Research.

The group’s 10 stocks all fell in early Mumbai trading, with $120 billion, or more than half of their combined value, erased since the US-based short seller last week claimed that offshore shell entities were used to inflate Adani group’s revenues and manipulate stock prices. Flagship Adani Enterprises Ltd. sank as much as 25%, taking its decline to 66% in seven trading sessions.

The continued slump reflects worries about Adani’s access to funding after the tycoon scrapped a key stock offering this week, and as long-held concerns about the group’s debt load were propelled onto the global stage by Hindenburg. The embattled tycoon is in talks with creditors to prepay some loans backed by pledged shares, as some banks stopped accepting the securities of the group that spans from ports to energy as collateral in client trades.

“Clearing of pledges may not help. Now the only point is investors are not just interested in clearing pledges, they want concrete plans and actions,” said Sameer Kalra, founder of Target Investing in Mumbai. “The use of every rupee on balance sheet is critical now. There are a lot of stakeholders.”

The crisis of confidence in Adani has become a national issue with opposition lawmakers disrupting parliament on Thursday to demand answers from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, given how closely his interests are intertwined with the nation’s growth plans. Government officials have sought to downplay the impact.

Hindenburg Research last week accused the Adani group of “brazen” market manipulation and accounting fraud, claiming that a web of Adani-family controlled offshore shell entities in tax havens were used to facilitate corruption, money laundering and taxpayer theft.

The conglomerate has repeatedly denied the allegations, called the report “bogus,” and threatened legal action. Adani gave a video speech on Thursday stating that the group’s balance sheet is healthy.

The conglomerate has repeatedly denied the allegations, called the report “bogus,” and threatened legal action. Adani gave a video speech on Thursday stating that the group’s balance sheet is healthy.

In a reprieve for Adani, who has seen his personal fortune drop by $58 billion since the allegations, the group’s bonds rallied Friday after Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. told some clients that the debt can offer value due to the strength of certain assets. All 15 dollar debt securities advanced, partly helped by news that Adani Ports & Special Economic Zone Ltd. has made a coupon payment on schedule.

Meanwhile, banks have been tightening scruty on Adani companies’ securities. Units of Credit Suisse Group AG and Citigroup Inc. earlier this week stopped accepting some securities issued by Adani’s companies as collateral for margin loans to wealthy clients.

Separately, Lord Jo Johnson, the former Conservative minister and brother of former UK prime minister Boris Johnson, has resigned as a director of Elara Capital, a London-based firm embroiled in the controversy at the Adani empire, the Financial Times reported. The firm was one of the 10 bookrunners on the record share sale that Adani Enterprises abruptly abandoned earlier this week.

Adani’s proposed loan prepayment would see lenders release some of the stock in the group’s companies that was pledged as collateral, Bloomberg News reported, citing a person with knowledge of the matter. The Indian group hasn’t faced margin calls on these pledges and is seeking the prepayment proactively, the person added.

“Markets are looking for clarity on allegations and are likely not calmed via clearing of pledges,” said Nitin Chanduka, a strategist with Bloomberg Intelligence.

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News Network
January 30,2023

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Bengaluru, Jan 30: BJP leader Ramesh Jarkiholi, who had resigned as Karnataka minister about two years ago owing to a sex scandal, on Monday accused Congress state president D K Shivakumar of being involved in the conspiracy to discredit him, and demanded an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation against the "racket" behind it.

Jarkiholi, a powerful minister holding the Water Resources portfolio, had resigned from his post in 2021 owing to the sex scandal, which had embarrassed the state government just ahead of a few states going to polls including West Bengal. The woman, who was at the centre of the controversy, had alleged that the minister allegedly exploited her with the assurance of securing her a government job, a charge denied by Jarkiholi.

On Monday, the BJP Gokak MLA said the woman and her accomplices including two people from Mandya should be arrested to bring out the truth in the case. "I demand that the state government should hand over the case to the CBI. The girl should be arrested along with her accomplices, including two people from Mandya, whose names I will disclose before the CBI," Jarkiholi said in a hurriedly-convened press meet at a private hotel here.

The former minister alleged that Congress leader Shivakumar tried to spoil his personal Ife.

"D K Shivakumar is unfit to be a politician. No one should spoil someone's personal life. I never made personal attacks," the BJP leader charged.

The former minister claimed he has evidence to prove that Shivakumar was behind it. According to him, there are several sleaze videos of many politicians, including Congress leaders and top bureaucrats of the state, which are used for blackmailing.

"This is a very serious matter because many people have been honey-trapped including Congress leaders and top officers who are being blackmailed. I urge the state government to hand over the case to the CBI," Jarkiholi said.

The BJP MLA also said he would hand over the audio/video files and documentary evidence of illegal money transactions to the CBI if the state government handed over the case to the central agency. Shivakumar was not available for comments. The Congress has also not reacted to the BJP leader's allegations.

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News Network
January 28,2023

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Mangaluru, Jan 28: Karnataka Lokayukta has served a notice to city police commissioner N Shashi Kumar to examine the allegations of corruption at Ullal police station and submit a report.

The Lokayukta ordered that the investigation report and other documents should be produced by February 14. The notice is served based on the complaint lodged by social worker Mohammed Kabeer, a resident of Ullal.

The complaint alleged that the Ullal station inspector Sandeep and sub inspector (SI) Pradeep have nominated a broker to take bribe from ganja mafia, sand mafia and hotel owners. The two police officers demand money from every citizen and Ullal residents are fed up with their actions, he claimed.

Though a complaint through email was sent to heads of various departments, chief secretary, DGP, Anti-Corruption Bureau, ADGP and Dakshina Kannada deputy commissioner, no action had been taken so far, the complaint to the Lokayukta said. 

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