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Kota MP Om Birla named as NDA’s choice for Speaker’s post

He will assume office today after being elected by Lok Sabha members

A happy lot: Om Birla being greeted by his wife, second from right, and family in New Delhi on Tuesday. Sandeep SaxenaThe Hindu

Two-term BJP MP from Rajasthan Om Birla will be the new Speaker of the Lok Sabha, after he was nominated by the ruling NDA for the post.

Mr. Birla has been a three-term MLA in the Rajasthan Assembly, and represents the Kota constituency in the Lok Sabha. He will assume office on Wednesday after being elected by the MPs.

Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Pralhad Joshi said that apart from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Home Minister Amit Shah, and Roads and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari were the proposers of Mr. Birla.

“The Biju Janata Dal (BJD), the Shiv Sena, the National People’s Party, the Mizo National Front, the Akali Dal, the Lok Janshakti Party, the YSRCP, the Janata Dal (United), the AIADMK and the Apna Dal have signed the proposal,” said Mr. Joshi.

Congress to back him

The BJP also reached out to the Congress during the day, and by evening, the newly appointed leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha, Adhir Ranjan Choudhary, said his party too would support Mr. Birla’s candidature. While it is the norm for experienced MPs to be considered for the position, it will not be the first time that a second-term MP will be appointed.

Before this, Balram Jakhar was Speaker between 1980 and 1989 in his first and second terms respectively. Manohar Joshi of the Shiv Sena was appointed Speaker in his first term in the Lok Sabha, while the late G.M.C. Balayogi of the TDP got the position in his second term.

The choice of Mr. Birla, although disclosed at the last moment, is not surprising, with the BJP sending out several signals with one appointment.

A man with an RSS background, Mr. Birla is also an influential member of the Agarwal community, a bedrock of the BJP’s support.

A BJP man from the beginning, he has also been parliamentary secretary with the rank of Minister of State in the Vasundhara Raje government between 2003 and 2008.

In State politics, he is not considered very close to the Raje camp, but enjoys the confidence of Mr. Modi. He has been popular among partymen for much generosity, lending out his official bungalow to indigent party workers and helping out those in need of medical assistance.

Delhi goes looking for giraffes in Thailand zoos

Zoo director asks for the animal in exchange programme

Ankit (left), the last giraffe at Delhi zoo, died in 2015. File photo

The National Zoological Park, better known as Delhi zoo, has not had a single giraffe for the last four years. The zoo authorities have now written to three zoos in Thailand for the animal through an exchange programme.

Thailand has 24 giraffes in seven of its zoos and the NZP has asked for five of them, an official privy to the development said.

In 2015, Delhi zoo’s last giraffe, eight-year-old Ankit, died after suffering a heart attack and kidney failure.

Since then multiple attempts have been made for the zoo to acquire a giraffe. “In the past two years since I took charge, we have written to several other zoos for giraffes in exchange programmes,” NZP director Renu Singh told The Hindu. Earlier this month, they wrote to zoos in Mysuru and Patna for giraffes and are still awaiting their response.

“To maintain the animal collection and fulfil the objective of imparting education, I hereby propose an animal exchange programme with your esteemed institute,” read Ms. Singh’s letters sent to the three zoos in Thailand on Tuesday. The letters have been sent along with a list of Delhi zoo’s surplus animals, including blackbucks and spotted deer.

“We have an enclosure ready for the giraffes. It has been cleaned and prepared,” the zoo director said.

Uptick for India on sanitation in UN report

Major drop seen in open defecation

Inequalities remain in piped water supply between rural and urban areas.

India has made great gains in providing basic sanitation facilities since the start of the millennium, accounting for almost two-thirds of the 650 million people globally who stopped practising open defecation between 2000 and 2017.

However, a monitoring report by UN organisations released on Tuesday shows that there has been absolutely no growth in the population with access to piped water facilities over that period, while large inequalities remain between rural and urban areas.

As for drinking water, the Joint Monitoring Programme report by UNICEF and WHO shows India has increased the percentage of its population with access to a protected drinking water source less than 30 minutes away, from 79% in 2000 to 93% in 2017.

However, the percentage of households getting piped water has remained stagnant at 44% over the 17-year period.

A Pakistani fan video that tickles all

23-year-old Lahore man, who is based in London, trolls the fitness levels of the team

Comic relief: Momin Saqib‘s meme on the Pakistani cricket team has gone viral.

One of the biggest takeaways of the India-Pakistan CWC 2019 match on Sunday was the show of self-deprecating humour by Pakistani fans, manifesting most prominently in their sporting tweets in the face of defeat.

The blockbuster of the day, however, was 23-year-old London-based Lahore man Momin Saqib’s “burger-pizzzey-Hico ice cream” gig about a Pakistani fan’s pain at the abominable fitness levels of the team.

The hyper melodramatic-comic tone and the relatable “Punjabiness” of the act made it go viral on social media in India as well, and it is still regaling many online. “People are happily sharing the video and editing clips into other relevant memes as well,” Mr. Saqib told The Hindu in an email exchange.

Shot outside Old Trafford, Manchester, the meltdown of the fa​_​_n is set up like a spontaneous interview. While Momin vents his feelings on the ‘betrayal’ by captain Sarfaraz Ahmed and how the world came crashing down at the score of 119, his elder brother, Bilal bin Saqib, wipes his simulated tears with the country’s flag. “Everything that happened [in the video] was spur-of-the-moment and totally impromptu,” he said.

Mr. Saqib’s cricket videos have been popular in Pakistan for a while but this one worked in both sides of the border. People in Pakistan have been able to relate to it due to the shared disappointment and displeasure that he expressed whereas in India it is the humour that has attracted the audience.

Part of the game

The fun has come as a refreshing relief in the “war zones” that India-Pakistan cricket matches seem to have become of late. Mr. Saqib thinks that cricketing rivalry is equally prevalent in India and Pakistan and both the nations know that winning and losing is part of the game. “Since the emergence of social media’s meme trend, we have been able to handle defeat with humour for quite a long time now and that beautifies the game itself,” he says.

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