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PM Modi Meets Deadline For Disclosing Assets, Top Ministers Don't Terrorist Dawood Ibrahim 'In Talks' With Centre For His Return, Alleges Raj Thackeray Dawood's Brother Was Watching KBC, Eating Biryani When Cops Picked Him Up Amit Shah Testifies In Riots Case In Which Maya Kodnani Is Accused Of Murder Prime Minister Modi On Bullet Train Critics Then And Now Can't Let Cat Out Of Bag': On Dawood Ibrahim, Minister VK Singh's Hint Cabinet Nod Soon For Rs. 75,000 Scholarship For Bright Students: HRD Minister Javadekar Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Objects To UGC Letter On Viewing PM's Speech Gauri Lankesh Dealt With Naxals, Why Did She Not Have Security, Asks BJP Hotels-for-land scam: Lalu Yadav to appear before CBI on Sept 11, Tejashwi on Sep 12 India Signs 11 Agreements With Myanmar To Bolster Ties PM Modi To Pick New Team In Cabinet Rejig Tomorrow: 10 Points 'Rabba (God), What's My Fault?' Ram Rahim Kept Saying In Jail Gurmeet Ram Rahim sentencing LIVE: Dera chief gets 10-year jail term for rape, two vehicles set on fire in Sirsa High Court Slams Haryana CM For Alleged 'Political Patronage' To Dera Chief DMK Urges Tamil Nadu Governor To Ask Chief Minister Palaniswami To Prove Majority Triple Talaq Verdict: Muslim Personal Law Board AIMPLB To Plan Future Action At Bhopal Mee Lt Col Purohit, first Army officer arrested for terrorism, claims innocence Nitish Kumar-led JD(U) passes resolution to join NDA Not Seeking Power, Positions For Children: Narayana Murthy Responds Uttar Pradesh Police Detain Akhilesh Yadav On Way To Attend Protest Rally Supreme Court stays HC order that put on hold lookout circular against Karti Chidambaram Parliament Live: Rajya Sabha resumes after adjourning again over MPs protesting BJP ‘Sultanate gone, but we behave like sultans’: Jairam Ramesh admits Congress in deep crisis Dialogue and debate, Asia’s oldest traditions, needed to resolve conflicts: Modi Bihar game of thrones: Nitish Kumar’s journey from Modi-baiter to BJP ally PM Modi’s ‘largesse’ for Gujarat floods outrages ‘ignored’ Assam Iraq says has ‘no substantial information’ on whether 39 Indians abducted in Mosul are dead or alive Railways food unfit for eating: 5 things CAG said about edibles served on trains President-elect Ram Nath Kovind’s vote share lowest since 1974: EC data Presidential election results: Ram Nath Kovind’s village all prepared for celebrations

PM Modi Meets Deadline For Disclosing Assets, Top Ministers Don't
NEW DELHI:MMNN:22 September 2017
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has disclosed that he has assets worth Rs. 1,00,13,403. He has shared details on a government website in keeping with a rule he introduced after taking office. The PM ordered that all his ministers must, by August 31 ever year, share their assets and liabilities to illustrate transparency and a commitment to fighting systemic corruption. Out of the 92 ministers in PM Modi's cabinet, only 15 have met the August 31 deadline for disclosure. But this year, only 15 of 92 union ministers have met with the deadline. Among those who have defaulted for this year are Piyush Goyal, Smriti Irani, Maneka Gandhi and Ravi Shankar Prasad. So have Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Junior Home Minister Kiren Rijiju. It was, in fact, the Home Ministry that was tasked with coordinating with different ministers to collate the statements of their finances. Ministers are required to provide financial details of their immediate family members as well



Terrorist Dawood Ibrahim 'In Talks' With Centre For His Return, Alleges Raj Thackeray
NEW DELHI:MMNN:21 September 2017
Raj Thackeray dropped a bombshell today as he claimed that India's most wanted terrorist Dawood Ibrahim is trying to negotiate his return with the central government as "he wants to spend his last days" in his home country. The Maharashtra politician claimed that the ruling BJP wants to bring the don back to score in elections. Dawood is "very sick and crippled", said the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief at a function to mark his Facebook debut. "He is currently in talks for a 'setting' with the government for this and this could happen," he said, commenting that the BJP government would try to take credit for the gangster's return even though he wants to return to India. "It is he (Dawood) who is keen to return... But, the BJP will claim credit for this to win the next elections," Mr Thackeray predicted. Last week, reacting to reporters' questions on the news that Dawood Ibrahim's properties in the UK have been seized, union minister VK Singh had commented that "things are happening". "We will not talk about Dawood at all. Certain things are happening. We can't let the cat be let out of the bag," Mr Singh, the Minister of State for External Affairs, had told reporters in Kerala. Dawood Ibrahim is the mastermind of the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts in which 257 were killed. India says there is proof he has been living in Pakistan's Karachi for decades, which has been confirmed by the UN. In more validation of New Delhi's stand that the man it has hunted for over two decades has been sheltered by Pakistan, Britain's list of Financial Sanctions Targets refers to the gangster's three recorded addresses in Karachi.



Dawood's Brother Was Watching KBC, Eating Biryani When Cops Picked Him Up
NEW DELHI:MMNN:19 September 2017
THANE, MAHARASHTRA: When Iqbal Ibrahim Kaskar, the brother of underworld don Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar, was picked up from his home in south Mumbai late on Monday, he was busy watching the "Kaun Banega Crorepati" show and eating biryani, Thane Police Commissioner Parambir Singh said today. Kaskar was picked up from the home of his sister, Haseena Parker, late on Monday by a crack team of the Thane Anti-Extortion Cell (AEC) and later placed under arrest. He will be produced before a court later today. "Iqbal Kaskar demanded four flats and Rs. 30 lakh as ransom from a builder. The names of some other builders and politicians have also emerged during the investigation," Mr Singh told reporters. The police are now examining whether the dreaded Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) can be applied to Iqbal Kaskar and his brother Dawood, believed to be in Pakistan. Mr Singh said that Iqbal Kaskar has been running the extortion racket for quite some time and on Monday night the AEC finally arrested him. The police chief said he has threatened and made extortion calls to several builders in Thane, Mumbai and Navi Mumbai.



Amit Shah Testifies In Riots Case In Which Maya Kodnani Is Accused Of Murder
NEW DELHI:MMNN:18 September 2017
BJP president Amit Shah told a Gujarat court today that he had seen Maya Kodnani, a leader of his party, in the state assembly and then at Ahmedabad's Sola Civil Hospital on the morning of February 28, 2002. Mr Shah appeared as a defence witness in a riot case in which Kodnani is accused of murdering 11 Muslims on that day in Naroda Gam, an Ahmedabad suburb. Ms Kodnani, who is a gynaecologist and was a legislator at that time, has pleaded in court that she was not in Naroda Gam when the rioting happened. She has claimed that she was in the state assembly that day and then went straight to the Sola Civil Hospital, where Amit Shah was present. She had sought that Mr Shah, who was a Gujarat legislator too then, testify to help prove her alibi. "Maya Kodnani was inside the state assembly at 8.30 am," Mr Shah told the court today, adding that he had then left the assembly and reached the hospital at about 9:30 or 9:45 am. He said he met Kodnani while leaving the hospital between 11 and 11.15 am and that they were escorted out together, after which they went their separate ways. Asked by lawyers whether he knew where Maya Kodnani was between the time that he saw her at the assembly and in the hospital, Mr Shah said he did not know. He also said he did not know where she went from the hospital. Witnesses have alleged in court that Maya Kodnani led the rioters who attacked Naroda Gam on February 28, 2002. They have said they saw her in the area between 9.30 and 10 am on that day. The judge had said last week that Amit Shah must appear today either in person or assign a lawyer to respond to Kodnani's claim that she was not present when 11 Muslims were killed during the riots in Naroda Gam. Kodnani had complained that she was unable to reach Mr Shah. Maya Kodnani is one of 79 people facing trial in the case. The Supreme Court had last month asked the Ahmedabad court to conclude trial within four months. Naroda Gam is one of nine major 2002 riots cases investigated by a Special Investigation Team appointed by the Supreme Court. In another case, Maya Kodnani was found guilty of the massacre of nearly 100 Muslims in a neighbourhood called Naroda Patiya, about 10 km from Naroda Gam, on the same day in 2002. She was sentenced to 28 years in jail, but was granted bail in 2014 after pleading that she is very unwell. Kodnani became Gujarat's Minister for Women and Child Development in 2007 and served in that post till her arrest in 2009.



Prime Minister Modi On Bullet Train Critics Then And Now
NEW DELHI:MMNN:14 September 2017
AHMEDABAD: Critics who earlier dismissed the bullet train as "big talk" are now asking what use it is, said Prime Minister Narendra Modi today after inaugurating work on India's first bullet train in collaboration with Japan, whose Prime Minister Shinzo Abe jointly launched the project in Gujarat's Ahmedabad. "When I was in Gujarat and used to speak about the bullet train, they said Modi only talks of bullet trains in India... They kept asking when will he get it. Now that they see I have actually got the Bullet Train to India, they ask why are you getting a Bullet Train?" the Prime Minister said. "It's a new India which has to fly high," PM Modi said. He said the ambitious project would bring pace to development in the country and that no country can grow if they don't dream big. "To grow one needs to expand his dreams and decide his strength to achieve that," the Prime Minister said. The bullet train is not India's priority," said Congress leader Anand Sharma, adding that the strategic partnership between Japan and India is very important and there are more crucial issues to be discussed. "Our prime minister should not limit it to the photo opportunity and theatrics. There are serious issues on the agenda. Prime Minister Modi has misplaced the priority," Mr Sharma said. Sharp criticism also came from the BJP's Maharashtra ally Shiv Sena, which described the new bullet train project as PM Modi's "expensive dream" alleging that it will "loot the nation of Rs. 1,08,000 crore". Among the problems that the Shiv Sena listed in an article in its magazine the Saamna, is that the bullet train will have eight stops in Gujarat and only four in Maharsahtra. And that Maharashtra will "have to shell out Rs. 30,000 crore" for it. It compared the project to those launched by former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru of the Congress, like the Bhakra-Nangal Dam, the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and other schemes, saying, "All those projects were needed by the country. Is the bullet train a project of national importance for which such a huge amount is being spent to cover the 508-km distance at 350-kmph speed?" The bullet train, which is expected to halve the travel time between Ahmedabad and Mumbai, would be a ride for the rich, the Sena alleged, arguing that the money could've been spent to write off loans to distressed farmers. It has also asked why the bullet train project has been speeded up while existing infrastructure for the Railways is yet to be upgraded. The ally has also questioned the timing of the launch, alleging that the bullet train is aimed at giving "something new to the industrialists of Gujarat where elections are coming up shortly." The Congress has asked why Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is being hosted by the Prime Minister in Gujarat and not in national capital Delhi. "We do not want to transgress propriety by commenting on a state visit but it is rather quixotic that the Prime Minister of a country as important as Japan, who is almost India's strategic partner in many respects, is strangely not even being hosted in Delhi," aid Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari, and added that he hoped the visit is not being used for "political purposes" in view of the elections in Gujarat.



Can't Let Cat Out Of Bag': On Dawood Ibrahim, Minister VK Singh's Hint
NEW DELHI:MMNN:13 September 2017
NEW DELHI: Amid reports that the properties of India's most wanted Dawood Ibrahim have been seized by the UK government, union minister VK Singh commented today that "things are happening" but added: "We can't let the cat out of the bag". Reports say Dawood's properties worth nearly seven billion dollars have been seized by the British government. "We will not talk about Dawood at all. Certain things are happening. We can't let the cat be let out of the bag," Mr Singh told reporters in Kerala. Dawood, the mastermind of the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts in which nearly 260 were killed, appears on UK's latest list of Financial Sanctions Targets. He has been based in Pakistan's Karachi for years. He is listed as a global terrorist by the UN Security Council's ISIS and al-Qaida Sanctions Committee. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his visit to the UK in 2015, had reportedly handed over a dossier on the terrorist and gangster to his then British counterpart David Cameron. According to the British media, Dawood owns a hotel and other residential properties in the country. Known to be one of the richest gangsters in the world, Dawood allegedly has business interests in more than a dozen countries spread over Europe, Africa and South Asia.



Cabinet Nod Soon For Rs. 75,000 Scholarship For Bright Students: HRD Minister Javadekar
NEW DELHI:MMNN:12 September 2017
NEW DELHI: The Union Cabinet will soon give its nod to Rs. 75,000 monthly scholarship scheme for bright students in higher education institutes to arrest brain drain and encourage innovation, Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar today said. The scholarship, the minister said, is meant for bright sparks at institutes like IITs and universities where required infrastructure is being provided under the Vishwajeet project and Uchchatar Avishkar Yojana. "We are also starting PM Scholarship. I have already signed the Cabinet note. That is under circulations. It will come to the Cabinet very soon," Mr Javadekar said after inaugurating 'Sumant Sinha ReNew Centre of Excellence (CoE) for Energy and Environment' at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) here. The minister further said the scholarship will be for the best of the best brains who innovate. "It will be Rs. 75,000 per month scholarship, which would be given to 1,000 students (in higher education institutes and universities). Rs. 75,000 per month (per head) is not a small thing. This is happening first time in India. I want to stop the brain drain," Mr Javadekar asserted. The minister expressed hope that this will further push Make in India and help retain talent in the country. He expressed confidence that the proportion of girl students in IITs will increase to 20 per cent by 2022, from the current 8 per cent. About other initiatives, he said: "We have already started three major things on the Vishwajeet project through other agencies. The Higher Education Financing Agency is already operational. With Rs. 2,000 crore budget support, we are leveraging.... can improve debt market creating Rs. 20,000 crore or USD 3 billion. We want to push research in the higher education system." The rationale behind the CoE is to establish a world-class research and development facility to develop cutting-edge renewable energy solutions. It is expected to foster exchange of ideas among the industry, the academia and policy makers from across the world to promote faster adoption of renewable energy. Besides, it looks to offer research and internship opportunities for undergraduate, postgraduate and Ph.D students in the industry. Developing research reports on renewable energy policy also forms part of the mandate. The CoE is carrying out research in three broad fields - integration of large scale solar rooftop capacity with the electricity distribution network using battery storage technology, strengthening of the transmission grid to accommodate flow of renewable energy and development of charging infrastructure for electric vehicles. Chairman and CEO, ReNew Power, Sumant Sinha told reporters that the CoE would also take up more research projects in addition to the three in-hand projects. Professor V Ramagopal Rao, Director, IIT Delhi, said: "The CoE will bring together knowledge and research on clean energy, facilitate clean energy investments, and help deploy clean energy technology solutions to establish India as a rising leader in the world of renewable energy."



Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Objects To UGC Letter On Viewing PM's Speech
NEW DELHI:MMNN:9 September 2017
KOLKATA: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will deliver a special address to the nation on Monday to mark the centenary celebration of Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya and 125 years of Swami Vivekananda's address at the Chicago World Parliament of Religions. The theme of the event is Young India, New India - A Resurgent Nation: From Sankalp to Siddhi. The speech will be broadcast from the Vigyan Bhavan in Delhi at 10:30 am, and the University Grants Commission or UGC, the apex body for hundreds of varsities across the country, wants all students to listen to the address. The UGC has written to all vice chancellors saying they must "provide an opportunity and facility to teachers and students to view the PM's address", which UGC chairman VS Kaushal says, "could be life changing." But the Mamata Banerjee government in West Bengal is not amused. "This is a clear attempt to saffronise education. They are taking decisions on their own without consulting us," West Bengal Education Minister Partha Chatterjee said, hours after he was made aware of the letter Friday. Mr Chatterjee also objected to the clubbing together of Deen Dayal Upadhyay, a politician and head of BJP's fountainhead - Bharatiya Jan Sangh - and Swami Vivekananda, a Hindu monk and philosopher seeking to raise interfaith awareness. Just last month, ahead of August 15, the Mamata Banerjee government had attacked PM Modi for sending out instructions on how to observe Independence Day in schools



Gauri Lankesh Dealt With Naxals, Why Did She Not Have Security, Asks BJP
NEW DELHI:MMNN:8 September 2017
NEW DELHI: Did the Karnataka government know of Gauri Lankesh's work to rehabilitate Naxals, and if it did, why was she not provided adequate security, union minister and senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad asked today, also attacking Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi for declaring RSS ideology guilty without an investigation having even begun into the journalist's murder. Mr Prasad said the BJP condemned Gauri Lankesh's "dastardly killing", but also attacked what he called the "hypocrisy" of liberals. "Why is it that all my liberal friends who speak so eloquently and so strongly against the killing of a journalist, perfectly so entitled to, or even maoists and naxalites, maintain a conspicuous silence when so many RSS workers are killed in Karnataka or BJP workers in Kerala?" the minister said. He asked the Congress government in Karnataka to "honestly investigate, without politics" the murders of BJP and RSS workers in the state. Rahul Gandhi, he said, had made "prejudiced and malafide" comments soon after Gauri Lankesh was shot dead at her Bengaluru home. "Even before the I of investigation could start, great leader Rahul Gandhi who always speaks without any homework, publicly alleged that the RSS and the right wing ideology is responsible... In the light of this unilateral, malafide comment, should we expect a fair investigation by the SIT of a Congress-led government (sic)? Rahul Gandhi had tweeted after Gauri Lankesh was murdered, "Anybody who speaks against the RSS/BJP is attacked & even killed. They want to impose only one ideology which is against the nature of India." Ms Lankesh, a fierce advocate of secularism and a frequent critic of right-wing ideology, was shot dead at pointblank range as she was entering her home after returning from work on Tuesday night. She worked extensively to rehabilitate Maoists as part of her Communal Harmony Forum Her family has said they believe there was no personal motive behind Ms Lankesh's murder and that she was "killed for her views." A day after her death her brother Indrajit Lankesh said Gauri Lankesh had got hate messages from Naxals. Asked yesterday if he suspected that Naxals could be behind her sister's death, he told NDTV, "It might be, it might not be. It might be the right wing extremists or it might be the Maoists because of the background." But Gauri Lankeshs sister Kavitha said she did not see a Naxal link. "I think basically...I would like to say right-wing activism because her own ideology was dead against them. I don't know, I don't know, it is not personal I know. It is basically killing a thought. They wanted to kill a thought, kill a movement. I don't want to pinpoint right now,"



Hotels-for-land scam: Lalu Yadav to appear before CBI on Sept 11, Tejashwi on Sep 12
NEW DELHI:MMNN:7 September 2017
The CBI on Thursday issued fresh summons to Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Lalu Prasad and his son Tejashwi in connection with irregularities in awarding the maintenance contract for two IRCTC hotels to a private firm during the former’s tenure as the railway minister. The RJD leader has been asked to appear for questioning at the agency headquarter on September 11 and Tejashwi the next day, agency officials said It is alleged that Yadav as railway minister had handed over the maintenance of two Railways hotels-- BNR Ranchi and BNR Puri-- to Sujata Hotel, a company owned by Vinay and Vijay Kochhar, after receiving a bribe in the form of three acres of prime plot of land through a benami company. The FIR alleged that Yadav, as a railway minister, abused his official position for extending undue favours to Kochhars and acquired the “high-value premium land” through a benami company Delight. It alleged that Yadav, “dishonestly and fraudulently”, managed the award of leasing out BNRs at Ranchi and Puri to the company of Kochhars in quid pro quo transactions. Reacting to the CBI summon, RJD spokesperson Shakti Singh Yadav that the government was adopting different yardstick in dealing with Prasad and those guilty of swindling public money in the Rs 1,300 crore Srijan government fund transfer scandal in Bihar. He questioned why the Central government did not show the same alacrity in acting against the accused in the Srijan scam. He said there was no point raising brouhaha over a CBI notice to Prasad. The CBI has registered the case against Lalu Yadav, wife Rabri Devi, son Tejashwi, and Sarla Gupta, the wife of former union minister Prem Chand Gupta. Others named as accused in the FIR include Vijay Kochhar, Vinay Kochhar, both directors of Sujata Hotels and owner of Chanakya Hotel; Delight marketing company, now known as Lara Projects and the then Managing Director P K Goel.



India Signs 11 Agreements With Myanmar To Bolster Ties
NEW DELHI:MMNN:6 September 2017
NAYPYIDAW: India and Myanmar today signed 11 agreements in a range of sectors, including one on maritime security cooperation, to further strengthen their multifaceted partnership. The MoUs were signed after Prime Minister Narendra Modi held wide-ranging talks with Myanmar's State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi. India and Myanmar signed an MoU to strengthen maritime security cooperation. The two sides also signed an agreement for sharing white shipping information to improve data sharing on non-classified merchant navy ships or cargo ships. The 11 MoUs also include one between the Election Commission and Union Election of Myanmar, the national level electoral commission of Myanmar. An MoU was also signed to organise cultural exchange programme for the period 2017-2020, according to a statement issued by Ministry of External Affairs. The two countries also signed agreements on cooperation between Myanmar Press Council and Press Council of India, extension of agreement on the establishment of India-Myanmar Centre for Enhancement of IT skill. They also signed agreements to cooperate in 'Medical Products Regulation' and in the field of health and medicine. An MoU on enhancing the cooperation on upgradation of the women's police training centre at Yamethin in Myanmar was also inked. Prime Minister Modi arrived in Myanmar on the second leg of his two-nation trip during which he travelled to southeastern Chinese city Xiamen where he attended the annual BRICS summit and held talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin and other world leaders. This is PM Modi's first bilateral visit to Myanmar. He had visited the country in 2014 to attend the ASEAN-India Summit. Myanmar is one of India's strategic neighbours and shares a 1,640-km-long border with a number of northeastern states.


PM Modi To Pick New Team In Cabinet Rejig Tomorrow: 10 Points
NEW DELHI:MMNN:2 September 2017
NEW DELHI: More than 10 new ministers will be inducted into Prime Minister Narendra Modi's council of ministers will be sworn in tomorrow morning at 10 am in a big cabinet revamp. Sources says in short while from now the new minsters will start receiving phone calls and they have to be in Delhi by this evening. Since late Thursday night, at least eight ministers, including Uma Bharti, Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Sanjeev Balyan, Faggan Singh Kulaste, Kalraj Mishra and Bandaru Dattareya have resigned and sources say that more resignations are expected to make way for new faces.
Here are 10 updates in the story:
1- A new Defence Minister is expected to be appointed as Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who took on the extra job after Manohar Parrikar shifted to Goa as Chief Minister, will retain the Finance Ministry and shed off defence portfolio, sources said; he currently handles both key departments.
2- Rail minister Suresh Prabhu is expected to get a new assignment, possibly defence, while his junior minister Manoj Sinha could be elevated in the ministry. Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad too could get a new ministry.
3- The new team will also have at least two members from the BJP's new partner in Bihar, Nitish Kumar's the Janata Dal United. Ram Chandra Prasad Singh and Santosh Kushwaha are tipped to be ministers.
4- The cabinet reshaping - the third in as many years - has been due for months now, especially in the scenario of vacancies and shifting alliances. Evictions from the cabinet are based only on performance after a review, the sources said, with PM Modi clear he wants ministers who perform and work hard.
5- A performance review of ministers and their rating was reportedly submitted to PM Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah, and it was the reference point when decisions were taken on changes to the cabinet.
6- Sadananda Gowda, who was demoted from Law to Statistics and Programme Implementation in the last reshuffle, and who has not been among the best performers, is unlikely to lose his place in the cabinet because of elections in his state Karnataka next year. Two more BJP leaders from Karnataka could become ministers as the BJP tries to wrest the state back from the Congress. Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh could be asked to go, sources said, though he denied any knowledge of an imminent exit.
7- Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti did not deny that she has quit when asked, only saying, "I haven't heard that question, will not hear it and will not answer." Sources said though her ministry's performance on the gigantic Clean Ganga project, was found sub-par but she is likely to be retained in the cabinet.
8- The move is expected to fill key cabinet vacancies and also bring into the council of ministers, leaders from states where elections will be held soon. Bhupendra Yadav, who is the BJP's man in-charge of Gujarat, is among those likely to be made a minister. BJP chief Amit Shah has set a target of winning 150 of the 182 seats in assembly elections due in the state by the end of the year and an A-list central team led by Mr Jaitley will shape election strategy.
9- Prahlad Singh Patel, who is from Madhya Pradesh, another state where elections will be held next year, could also be made a minister. The name of BJP Rajya Sabha member from Maharashtra Vinay Sahasrabuddhe who is a party idealogue is doing the rounds as a possible new minister. As is that of Satyapal Singh, former police commissioner of Mumbai who defeated Uttar Pradesh politician Ajit Singh in his bastion Baghpat in the 2014 national election.
10-



'Rabba (God), What's My Fault?' Ram Rahim Kept Saying In Jail
NEW DELHI:MMNN:1 September 2017
NEW DELHI: When he was taken to a jail in Haryana's Rohtak following his conviction for rape, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, the self-appointed spiritual leader, kept muttering - "Rabba (God), mera kya kasoor hai (what is my fault)?" Another prisoner, who is now out on bail, has also said that the Dera Sacha Sauda chief refused to eat proper meals and couldn't sleep the entire night on the first day. "The five days I was in the jail, he didn't eat anything. We just had milk, tea, biscuits," said Swadesh Kirad, who was also at the Sunaria jail. Swadesh Kirad said when two days later, a judge sentenced him to 20 years in prison for raping two followers, Ram Rahim kneeled down and shouted - "Hang me, I don't want to live anymore." He also sat on the floor and wept loudly, refusing to leave the courtroom until he was led out by commandos. Swadesh Kiran said the flashy and controversial Baba would have been attacked by fellow prisoners had he not been kept separately. "Prisoners were angry due to the violence that caused so many deaths. Had he not been kept separately, they would've attacked him." Over 30 people died and nearly 200 wounded in violence by Dera followers after Ram Rahim was declared guilty by a court in Panchkula. He was later flown by a special government chopper to the Rohtak jail. His "adopted daughter" Honeypreet Insan accompanied him. "He couldn't sleep the entire night. Also, there was no VIP treatment to #RamRahimSingh in jail, treated like every prisoner," Swadesh Kirad insisted



Gurmeet Ram Rahim sentencing LIVE: Dera chief gets 10-year jail term for rape, two vehicles set on fire in Sirsa
NEW DELHI:MMNN:28 Aug 2017
Self-styled godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was on Monday sentenced to 10 years in jail in a rape case. The court slapped a fine of Rs 65,000 on the Dera Sacha Sauda chief. Authorities are on high alert in Punjab and Haryana, as his followers went on the rampage that left 38 dead after his conviction of Friday. Ahead of the Monday’s court proceedings, the two states ordered schools and colleges shut, suspended mobile services, stepped up security and threw a five-tier cordon around a Rohtak jail, where a judge handed out punishment to the Dera chief for raping two disciples 15 years ago. This (sentence) must be accepted by the people and peace must prevail, ANI quotes Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh as saying. “There is total normalcy, our forces are on their toes. Will not let any untoward incident happen Meanwhile, Dera chairperson Vipassana Insaan appealed for peace amid reports that two vehicles have been set on fire in Sirsa, the headquarters of the sect. The 50-year-old Dera Sacha Sauda leader was on Friday found guilty in the 15-year-old case. Within minutes of the verdict, his followers ran riot and clashed with security forces, leaving 38 people dead and 250 injured. While 32 people were killed in Panchkula, where the case was heard, six died in Sirsa, the headquarters of the sect. The medical examination of Ram Rahim Singh is being done. After this, he will be given a jail uniform and will be allotted a cell in jail. Three ambulances are seen entering the jail premises. Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh sentenced to 10 years in jail for rape. Reports of arson from Sirsa’s Phulkan village, located within 1 km radius of Dera headquarters, say sources. Two vehicles reportedly set on fire by dera followers Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh holds security review meeting with DGP, chief secretary and other senior officials Back in Delhi, an official said there were no Metro rail diversions or restrictions. “...these are just rumors to propagate false stories,” ANI quoted Delhi Police PRO Madhur Verma saying. “Delhi Police have made proper arrangements and deployment. Additional forces have been mobilised.” The deployment of undercover policemen to guard sensitive locations across the national capital is among a slew of measures devised at a high-level police meeting to protect the city on Monday. Miscreants had set on fire two train coaches at Anand Vihar railway terminal, torched a few buses in parts of west and east Delhi and pelted stones at least in 12 locations across the city after Gurmeet Ram Rahim’s conviction
Tough talk and assurance
Ahead of the sentencing, the deputy commissioner of Rohtak has said that those creating trouble should expect bullets if they defy warnings. “We will not allow anyone to create any sort of trouble in Rohtak. Anyone breaking law or indulging in acts of violence or arson will himself be responsible for his fate. Anyone creating trouble will be given a warning first and if he still pays no heed, then he will have to face the bullet,” Atul Kumar told reporters in Rohtak, where the army has been kept on standby. Kumar also said people do not have any reason to be afraid as stringent security measures have been taken and the situation in the district was “completely under control”.
Lockdown and high alert
Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) special court judge Jagdeep Singh, who had on Friday held the Dera chief guilty of rape and criminal intimidation of two female disciples in 2002, will be flown to Rohtak for announcing the sentence. The district jail premises, about 10 km from Rohtak town, has been completely cordoned off by security forces, including para-military forces and Haryana Police. The Army has been kept on stand-by. No movement of people, other than those authorised, will be allowed within a distance of 10km from the prison premises. “We are fully prepared for any situation. The army has been kept on stand-by,” Haryana director general of police (DGP) BS Sandhu said. Rohtak range Inspector General (IG) Navdeep Singh Virk said that 28 companies of para-military forces, along with Haryana Police, have been deployed in Rohtak. Security forces were on high alert again on Monday in Haryana and Punjab as both states braced for the sentencing. Curfew was reimposed in Haryana’s Sirsa town, where the sect’s headquarters are located, on Sunday. The curfew will continue on Monday. The sect has lakhs of followers mainly in Punjab and Haryana



High Court Slams Haryana CM For Alleged 'Political Patronage' To Dera Chief
NEW DELHI:MMNN:26 Aug 2017
CHANDIGARH: Criticising Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar for allegedly "protecting and extending political patronage" to self-styled godman and rape convict Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, the Punjab and Haryana High Court today told the state government to file a case against those who instigated the large-scale violence in parts of Haryana, Punjab and New Delhi. The high court told the state to verify a newspaper report on alleged instigation by leaders of the Dera Sacha Sauda sect, and file a police complaint against the instigators "if the reporter stood by his report". A high court bench of Justices SS Saron, Surya Kant and Avneesh Jhingan, in its resumed hearing, asked the state about its plans to sanitise the Dera Sacha Sauda at Sirsa town, some 260 kilometres from Chandigarh, where hundreds of followers are reportedly still inside. Getting tough, the judges criticised Haryana Education Minister Ram Bilas Sharma for recently granting Rs. 51 lakh to the sect. The judges told the Deputy Commissioners of Punjab and Haryana to provide a list of the sect's properties and not to sell or transfer the assets, besides seeking a report on the violence. A Central Bureau of Investigation court in Haryana's Panchkula town, adjoining Chandigarh, yesterday held Ram Rahim guilty of raping two women followers in 2002, sparking violent protest by his followers. The security forces opened fire to control the mob. Thirty-one people, 29 of them in Panchkula, died while 250 others were injured.



DMK Urges Tamil Nadu Governor To Ask Chief Minister Palaniswami To Prove Majority
NEW DELHI:MMNN:25 Aug 2017
CHENNAI: The DMK today urged Tamil Nadu Governor C Vidyasagar Rao to immediately direct Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami to prove his majority in the Assembly in the wake of revolt by 19 AIADMK MLAs, saying any delay could lead to "horse trading". DMK working president and leader of the opposition in assembly MK Stalin, who had earlier this week written to the Governor seeking a floor test, dubbed the Palaniswami regime as a "minority government". In a statement released in Chennai, he also questioned assembly Speaker P Dhanapal's action in issuing notices to the 19 MLAs yesterday on a memorandum by the Government Chief Whip seeking their disqualification for alleged anti-party activities. Mr Stalin said had earlier written to the Governor urging him to immediately ask Mr Palaniswami to prove majority in the assembly. Mr Rao should have immediately convened the assembly to ascertain the government's present strength after the MLAs loyal to sidelined AIADMK deputy general secretary TTV Dhinakaran met him and sought Palaniswami's removal on Tuesday, he said. Mr Stalin said the Governor should ensure that Mr Palaniswami does not continue in power by "creating a constitutional crisis and misusing anti-defection law Referring to the Speaker's action, Mr Stalin said the notices had been issued in connection with an episode that did not happen in the assembly. While the Speaker had not acted against present Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerslvam-led faction for voting against the government in the February 18 trust vote as the then rebel faction, he had issued notices to the 19 MLAs from Dhinakaran camp now, the DMK leader said. "It is clear the Speaker has done so to save Palaniswami's minority government. During such times, every day's delay by the Governor in directing a confidence vote will pave the way for horse trading and other political manoeuvres," he alleged. Mr Stalin's remarks come even as the 19 MLAs remained in a resort in Puducherry and have dismissed the disqualification demand as a "planned drama" and "intimidation" tactics. The Dhinakaran camp MLAs raised the banner of revolt a day after the AIADMK factions led by Mr Palaniswami and former chief minister O Panneerselvam merged on August 21.



Triple Talaq Verdict: Muslim Personal Law Board AIMPLB To Plan Future Action At Bhopal Mee
NEW DELHI:MMNN:22 Aug 2017
LUCKNOW: The All India Muslim Personal Law Board or AIMPLB will chalk out its future course of action with regard to the Supreme Court's verdict on triple talaq in its working committee meeting slated on September 10 in Bhopal, an official of the body said. The meeting was convened earlier and its agenda was issued yesterday, member of the Board's working committee Zafaryab Jilani said. "The working committee meeting in Bhopal on September 10 will take a decision on the future course of action on today's Supreme Court verdict after studying it in detail," he said. Besides, other issues will also be taken up in the meeting with the verdict being the most prominent one, said Mr Jilani, who is also a senior counsel. He said that the hearing on the Babri mosque case is also on the agenda of the Bhopal meeting. When asked to comment on today's verdict on Triple Talaq, Mr Jilani said it will not be appropriate to comment on the Supreme Court's decision without studying it in detail



Lt Col Purohit, first Army officer arrested for terrorism, claims innocence
NEW DELHI:MMNN:21 Aug 2017
When Lt Col Prasad Shrikant Purohit was arrested in late 2008, it shocked the country. He was the first Army officer to be arrested on charges of terrorism, accused of being a conspirator in the Malegaon blast. Here are key facts about Purohit, who was given bail on Monday. At around 9.30 pm on September 29, 2008, a bomb kept on a motorcycle exploded near Hamidia Masjid in Malegaon, a communally sensitive textile town in Nasik district of north Maharashtra. Six persons were killed and 101 injured in the blast that was probed initially by the Maharashtra Police’s Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) and then, taken over by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in 2011. Purohit, 45, was a member of Abhinav Bharat, a trust formed to promote Hindu values but allegedly was a front to carry out attacks against Muslims. He collected funds to buy arms and explosives for the trust and organised meetings where the Malegaon attack was planned, investigators allege. “Purohit was also accused of floating an organisation by the name of Abhinav Bharat in year 2007 with the intention to propagate a separate Hindu Rashtra with their own constitution with the intent to threaten unity, ­integrity and security of India,” says the NIA’s chargesheet in the Malegaon case . The NIA says Purohit hid his association with Abhinav Bharat, but he claims he was gathering intelligence and his senior officers were aware of his work. “I have said everything before the (Army’s) court of inquiry. I have infiltrated Abhinav Bharat. I can only say that I have done my job properly and kept my bosses in the loop. Everything is in the Army records,” Purohit told Outlook magazine in an interview in July 2012. “Having a particular ideology does not make me a terrorist or anti-national,” said Purohit when he was asked in the interview about allegations that Abhinav Bharat was involved in the Malegaon blast. According to the NIA, Purohit held meetings in Faridabad on January 25 and 26, 2008, where the formation of a Hindu Rashtra was discussed. Purohit allegedly read the constitution of Abhinav Bharat and discussed the formation of a “Central Hindu government in exile in Israel and Thailand. An NDTV profileof Purohit in March 2011 notes Purohit was commissioned into the Maratha Light Infantry after passing out of the Officers’ Training Academy at Chennai. He was serving in Jammu and Kashmir when he fell ill and was medically downgraded. He was then shifted to Military Intelligence. The same NDTV report says Purohit was posted at Deolali in Maharashtra when he allegedly came in contact with Ramesh Upadhyay, a retired Major, and a founder of Abhinav Bharat. Upadhyay too is accused in the Malegaon case.



Nitish Kumar-led JD(U) passes resolution to join NDA
NEW DELHI:MMNN:19 Aug 2017
The Janata Dal (United) on Saturday passed a resolution to join the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) during the party’s national executive meeting chaired by leader and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar. The political move that makes the ruling party in Bihar officially an ally of the NDA at the Centre comes weeks after Nitish broke ties with the Grand Alliance parties - Congress and the Rashtriya Janata Dal - in the state and re-formed the government in alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Earlier in the day, JD(U) leader KC Tyagi said that senior leader Sharad Yadav has every right to put forward his points of disagreement with the alliance, but he shouldn’t attend Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad Yadav’s programme as it will break their trust. “Sharad Yadav is invited for the JD(U) national executive meet and he can sort out differences, but he shouldn’t attend Lalu Yadav’s programme. We will lose our faith in him, if he does so. He is one of the founders of the party, therefore, he can put forward his views in the meeting,” Tyagi told the media here. He added that although Sharad Yadav does not agree with party’s decisions, there is no rift in the party. Meanwhile, ahead of the national executive committee meeting of the JD(U), the two factions of the party - one led by Nitish Kumar and the other by former party president Sharad Yadav - put up striking publicity material in Patna, leading up to a poster war in the city. Incidentally, both factions claim to be the “real JD(U)”. The poster put up by Sharad Yadav’s faction showcased him with “Jan Adalat ka Faisla - Mahagathbandhan jari hai (decision of the people’s court - the grand alliance continues)” written on it. The other has Nitish with party leaders - state JD(U) chief Basistha Narayan Singh, RCP Singh and others. “Nitish Kumar hi zindabad (hail only Nitish Kumar),” said the poster. Sharad Yadav was sacked as JD(U)’s Rajya Sabha leader when he made his chagrin against Nitish Kumar snapping ties with the Lalu Yadav-led RJD and forging an alliance with the BJP, to form the next government in Bihar, quite evident. Yadav also asserted that Nitish’s flip-flop, as far as his views on the BJP were concerned, was an insult to the 2015 mandate of the people given to the “Mahagathbandhan” and that he was still a part of the grand alliance in the state. In the aftermath, the Nitish-led JD(U) even suspended 21 party leaders for participating in Yadav’s recent three-day Jan Samwad Yatra, wherein he interacted with the people of the state, indicative of a widening rift in the party. Lalu Yadav had also come out in support of Sharad Yadav, leading up to the Nitish faction, reportedly, warning the latter that if he attended the August 27 “Desh Bachao, BJP Bhagao” rally of the former, he would be sacked from the party. Sharad Yadav will hold a parallel convention in the state under the title ‘Jan Adalat’ later on Saturday.



Not Seeking Power, Positions For Children: Narayana Murthy Responds
NEW DELHI:MMNN:18 Aug 2017
NEW DELHI: Infosys founder Narayana Murthy, singled out by the board of the software giant for the abrupt resignation of CEO Vishal Sikka, today said he is "anguished" by the allegations and is not seeking money, position for children or power." The 70-year-old reiterated that his chief concern has been "the deteriorating standard of corporate governance". Mr Sikka quit Infosys three years after he became the first non-founder to be named the CEO of Infosys. His resignation comes after a protracted clash with Mr Murthy and other founders over his own pay as well as severance packages provided to top executives. The board has promoted Chief Operating Officer U.B. Pravin Rao as the interim CEO till a replacement is named. A recent letter by Mr Murthy which allegedly attacked the integrity of the board was named by the company in its statement on Mr Sikka's exit. "Murthy's continuous assault, including his latest letter, is the primary reason for the resignation of Sikka despite strong Board support," said the IT major in a statement after it accepted Mr Sikka's resignation and appointed him as Vice-Chairman till the new Chief Executive is appointed by March 31, 2018. "Murthy's letter contains factual inaccuracies, already disproved rumours, and statements extracted out of context from his conversations with Board members," asserted the company. Mr Sikka has blamed "unrelenting, baseless/malicious and increasingly personal attacks" for his decision.



Uttar Pradesh Police Detain Akhilesh Yadav On Way To Attend Protest Rally
NEW DELHI:MMNN:17 Aug 2017
UNNAO: Akhilesh Yadav was today detained by the police in Uttar Pradesh's Unnao district when he was on his way to Auraiya to attend a protest rally. The Samajwadi Party or SP president, who was later released and allowed to go to Lucknow, attacked the Yogi Adityanath government in the state alleging that it was misusing state machinery. The former chief minister was stopped near an under-construction toll plaza in the Hasanganj police station area on the Lucknow-Agra expressway and taken to the agriculture research centre in Dhaurhara from where he was allowed to return to Lucknow, Circle Officer Dhirendra Kumar Singh said. "I was going to Auriaya to meet my party workers who were subjected to barbaric police action. The state government wants to win the zila panchayat post by misusing official machinery. My workers did not do anything wrong in Auraiya," Mr Yadav said. "This dictatorial attitude with the help of police will not be tolerated. The BJP is only doing politics over cow," he added. On a question about the tragic death of several children in a state-run hospital in Gorakhpur, he said it was a result of the government's failure. Yesterday, the police had detained some senior SP leaders after workers allegedly turned violent at not being allowed to accompany their candidate for the zila panchayat chairperson's post to the nomination room in the Auraiya collectorate.



Supreme Court stays HC order that put on hold lookout circular against Karti Chidambaram
NEW DELHI:MMNN:14 Aug 2017
The Supreme Court stayed on Monday the Madras high court order that had put on hold the lookout circular issued by the Centre against Karti Chidambaram, son of former minister P Chidambaram, and others in connection with an alleged corruption case. A bench comprising Chief Justice J S Khehar and D Y Chandrachud also issued notice to Karti Chidambaram and others on an appeal filed by the Centre challenging the high court’s order staying the look out circular. The bench, during the hearing, repeatedly observed that Karti had not joined the investigation in the case and, moreover, he has not sought grant of anticipatory bail in the matter. The bench, meanwhile, asked the high court to decide the petition seeking quashing of the FIR lodged by the CBI. The case is related to alleged irregularities in the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance to INX Media for receiving overseas funds when Karti’s father was the Union finance minister in 2007. The CBI had claimed that the FDI proposal of the media house was “fallacious”, but Chidambaram had cleared it. The FIR dated May 15 was registered before the special CBI judge in Delhi. It was followed by searches at the residences and offices of Karti and his friends on May 16.



Parliament Live: Rajya Sabha resumes after adjourning again over MPs protesting BJP
NEW DELHI:MMNN:9 Aug 2017
Parliament began its Wednesday session with a commemorative discussion on the 75th anniversary of the Quit India Movement in Lok Sabha. Prime Minister Narendra Modi echoed Mahatma Gandhi’s “Karenge ya marenge” (do or die) slogan, saying India needs to tackle its challenges of poverty, lack of education and malnutrition. Congress president Sonia Gandhi recalled the Quit India Movement struggle and added that secularism and free speech are in danger today. The lower house was expected to introduce the National Sports University Bill, while it will also consider the Requisitioning and Acquisition of Immovable Property (Amendment) Bill, the State Banks (Repeal and Amendment) Bill and the Central Road Fund (Amendment) Bill. The Rajya Sabha is expected to take up for consideration the Indian Institutes of Management Bill. MPs still argue about which to take first – opposition’s currency issue or the NDA’s Banking Ordinance. Few MPs ask to not pass the Banking Ordinance without discussion



‘Sultanate gone, but we behave like sultans’: Jairam Ramesh admits Congress in deep crisis
NEW DELHI:MMNN:8 Aug 2017
Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said it was wrong for the Congress party to think that anti-incumbency will work automatically against the Modi-led government in the states being ruled by the BJP in the elections The Congress is facing an “existential crisis”, senior party leader Jairam Ramesh on Monday said, pitching for “a collective effort” by party leaders to “overcome” the challenges it faced from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah. Ramesh also said that business as usual approach will not work against Modi and Shah and advocated for a flexibility in approach to make Congress relevant. “Yes, the Congress party is facing a very serious crisis,” Ramesh told PTI in an interview. He said the Congress had faced “electoral crisis” from 1996 to 2004 when it was out of power. The party had also faced “electoral crisis” in 1977 when it lost the elections held soon after the emergency. “But today, I would say that the Congress is facing an existential crisis. It is not an electoral crisis. The party really is in deep crisis,” he said, when asked whether the threat of “poaching” of MLAs posed by the BJP in Gujarat had forced the party to transport its MLAs to Karnataka to ensure party leader Ahmed Patel’s victory in the Rajya Sabha polls. He, however, justified the Gujarat Congress’s decision to send 44 of its MLAs to a resort in party-ruled Karnataka on July 29 to fend off the alleged “poaching” attempts by BJP, saying the saffron party had also “transported” MLAs in the past. He said it was wrong for the Congress party to think that anti-incumbency will work automatically against the Modi-led government in the states being ruled by the BJP in the elections. “We have to understand we are up against Mr Modi, Mr Shah. And they think differently, they act differently, and if we are not flexible in our approach, we will become irrelevant, frankly,” the Congress leader said. He said the Congress party must also recognise that India has changed. “Old slogans don’t work, old formulas don’t work, old mantras don’t work. India has changed, the Congress party has to change,” he said. The former union minister hoped that party vice-president Rahul Gandhi would end the uncertainty over his taking over as the Congress president to make the party ready for crucial electoral battles in key states in 2018 and the Lok Sabha polls scheduled a year later. “I think in all probability, Rahul Gandhi will take charge (as Congress president) before the end of 2017,” he said. The senior leader lamented that he had been proved wrong in the past about his prediction about Rahul’s assuming charge of the top party job. “I thought it will happen in 2015, it didn’t happen. I thought it will happen in 2016, it didn’t happen. So I am the wrong person to ask this question. I feel that it may happen before the end of 2017,” Ramesh said. He said he had “no” indication about appointment of Rahul Gandhi as Congress president. “I have only expectation. That’s all. In 2018 and 2019 you will be busy with elections. State elections, national elections...and this type of thing ...uncertainty is not good,” and urged the Gandhi scion to “finish it off.” Asked if there is anyone in the Congress party to give a strong challenge to Modi in 2019 elections, Ramesh said, “I have always maintained that it is the collective strength of the Congress that will overcome Mr Modi not some individual magic wand”. “It has to be a collective effort,” he said. Ramesh took a potshots at party leaders who still behave as if the party is still in power. “The sultanate has gone, but we behave as if we are sultans still. We have to completely redo the way of thinking, the way of acting, the way of projecting, the way of communicating. “I think there is a lot of goodwill for the Congress, a lot of support for the Congress but people want to see a new Congress. They don’t want to see old mantras, old slogans. We must recognise this is a big challenge. Huge challenge for us,” he said. He said Nitish Kumar’s return to the Indian fold was a big setback for anti-BJP coalition in the country, describing it as a “completely betrayal of the mandate” given to the Mahagathbandhan by the people of Bihar. Ramesh, who shares a personal rapport with Kumar, said, “personally, I was aghast, astonished, deeply disappointed, but we have to move on and we don’t have time.” Ramesh, representing Karnataka in the Rajya Sabha, expressed hope that the “revival” of Congress will happen in Karnataka next year as it had happened 40 years ago in 1978 in Chikmagalur Lok Sabha seat in the state which gave political rebirth to Indira Gandhi who faced defeat in Rae Bareli in the elections held after the Emergency.



Dialogue and debate, Asia’s oldest traditions, needed to resolve conflicts: Modi
NEW DELHI:MMNN:5 Aug 2017
PM Narendra Modi said the ancient Indian concept of “Tarka Shastra” (debate) is founded on dialogue and debate as the model for exchange of views and avoidance of conflict Dialogue is the only way to cut through deep-rooted religious stereotypes and prejudices that divide communities across the world and sow seeds of conflict between nations and societies, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Saturday. “As the inter-connected and inter-dependent world of 21st century battles a number of global challenges, from terrorism to climate change, I am confident that the solutions will be found through Asia’s oldest traditions of dialogue and debate,” he said. Modi said he is a “product of the ancient Indian tradition that firmly believes in dialogue on difficult issues.” He stated this in a video message to the 2nd edition of ‘Samvad- Global Initiative on Conflict Avoidance and Environment Consciousness’ being held in Yangon. The prime minister said the ancient Indian concept of “Tarka Shastra” (debate) is founded on dialogue and debate as the model for exchange of views and avoidance of conflict It is only natural that the search for answers be led by the humanity’s longest traditions of thought, rooted in various religions, civilizations, and multiple streams of spirituality, he said. Giving examples of Lord Rama, Lord Krishna, Lord Buddha and Bhakta Prahlada, he said the purpose of each of their actions was to uphold ‘dharma’ (duty), which has sustained Indians from ancient to modern times. Talking about the environment, he said man must relate to nature and revere it and not merely consider it a resource to be exploited. If man does not nurture nature, then nature reacts in the form of climate change, he said. Environmental laws and regulations, while essential in any modern society, afford only an inferior protection to nature, he added, calling for “harmonious environmental consciousness.



Bihar game of thrones: Nitish Kumar’s journey from Modi-baiter to BJP ally
NEW DELHI:MMNN:27 July 2017
Nitish Kumar has been a pivotal figure in Bihar politics even before he became the chief minister for the first time in 2000, a short term that lasted merely barely a week in a hung assembly. Since then, he has been in charge for many years, growing in stature and even being seen as the opposition’s challenger to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2019. But four years after challenging Modi, political compulsions forced Nitish to take the support of the same BJP to stay in power. A timeline of Nitish Kumar’s political journey... 1994 February: Internal revolt in ruling Janata Dal in Bihar. Nitish Kumar joins the faction opposed to then chief minister Lalu Prasad. “We seek our rightful share, not charity, a government that ignores our interests cannot be allowed to remain in power,” he says. June: Nitish quits Janata Dal and floats Samta Party with George Fernandes. 2000 March 3: Nitish becomes chief minister for the first time after assembly elections throw up a hung house. But he lasts only till March 10, barely a week 2003 October 30: Janata Dal, led by Sharad Yadav, merges with Samta Party, forming Janata Dal (United). 2005 November 24: CM Nitish’s begins second term that lasts till November 24, 2010. Ahead of taking charge, Nitish says: “People are anxious for a change and would throw Lalu out forever…” 2010 November 26: Returns to power for third term. 2013 June 16: Breaks alliance with BJP after BJP names Narendra Modi as the NDA’s prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. He says defiantly, “We decided not to compromise on our basic principles and whatever happens I am not worried about the consequences.” 2014 May 17: Resigns as CM a day after the Modi-led NDA wins a landslide victory in the Lok Sabha elections. The NDA bags 31 of the 40 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar and Nitish’s JD (U) manages just two. “I take moral responsibility for the defeat…I should,” he says. May 20: Nitish annoints colleague Jitan Ram Manjhi as Bihar CM. Nitish and Manjhi fall apart after 276 days. 2015 June 5: Nitish Kumar named CM candidate of the JD (U)-led grand alliance (GA) that includes RJD and Congress November 8: Nitish-led alliance wins 178 out of 243 assembly seats, forms government. 2016 January 21: First signs of trouble in GA with RJD national vice-president Raghuvansh Prasad Singh blaming Nitish for law and order situation in Bihar September 10: Former Siwan MP and controversial RJD politician Shahabuddin released from jail. He praises Lalu Prasad and terms Nitish a “chief minister of circumstances”. September 11: Nitish hits back at Shahabuddin, saying people of Bihar know whom they have pledged support to. “Everybody knows what (the) mandate of the people of Bihar is. Should I go by the people’s mandate or pay attention to what someone is saying?” September 29: Nitish praises surgical strike by army across LoC November 9: A day after demonetisation, Nitish and Lalu differ on Modi’s step. Nitish calls it as a move to wipe out black money, while the RJD chief calls it a “fraud” 2017 January 5: Prime minister Narendra Modi shares stage with Nitish Kumar in Patna. Modi praises Nitish on total prohibition and says it will inspire others May 26: Nitish skips lunch hosted by Congress president Sonia Gandhi to discuss joint Opposition candidate for presidential post May 27: Nitish attends lunch hosted by Modi in honour of visiting Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth. Nitish also holds private meeting with PM. June 21: Nitish pledges support to former Bihar governor, Ram Nath Kovind, NDA’s candidate for president’s poll. July 7: CBI raids 12 locations related to Lalu Prasad in connection with the alleged land-for-hotel scam. His son and deputy chief minister Tejashwi Yadav, wife Rabri Devi and business associates named in FIR. July 8: Residence and properties of Lalu’s daughter Misa Bharti in New Delhi raided. July 10: RJD rules out Tejashwi’s resignation July 11: Nitish breaks silence, tells Tejashwi to reply “fact-wise” in public. He says : “I shall not compromise with my principles. I am firm on my resolve of zero tolerance against corruption.” July 15: Tejashwi skips an official function in Patna chaired by Nitish. His nameplate on the dias is first covered with a cloth and later removed. July 18: Tejashwi meets Nitish after Cabinet meeting to explain his stand on the CBI charges. July 26: Lalu reiterates Tejashwi will not resign, says Nitish has not asked him to quit. Nitish meets governor after JD(U) legislature party meeting, submits resignation. BJP extends support to Nitish for forming next government. July 27: Nitish sworn in as chief minister. “Whatever decision we have taken will be in the interest of Bihar and of its people. It will ensure development and justice. It will also ensure progress. This is a collective decision. I ensure that our commitment is towards the people of Bihar,” he says after taking oath.



PM Modi’s ‘largesse’ for Gujarat floods outrages ‘ignored’ Assam
NEW DELHI:MMNN:26 July 2017
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s aerial survey of flood-affected areas in his home state Gujarat on Tuesday and the announcement of Rs 500 crore as relief haven’t gone down well in Assam. Many in Assam, where floods wreaked havoc in 29 of the state’s 32 districts this month and claimed 77 lives till date, have vented ire on social media accusing the Centre of neglect. The state government has estimated that the total damage caused by the recent floods is nearly Rs 2,939 crore. The Centre is yet to announce any interim flood-relief package for Assam. “Over 70 died in Assam flood. Modi sends junior minister (Kiren) Rijiju. Flood in Gujarat. Modi flies himself. Why two separate standards?” questioned journalist Atanu Bhuyan on Twitter. While Modi conducted an aerial survey of two flood-ravaged districts in Gujarat, a seven-member central team led by Union home ministry joint secretary VS Sekhar arrived in Guwahati to assess the situation. “Forget the announcement of an aid package, the PM didn’t even consider visiting Assam himself or sending a senior minister. It clearly shows Centre’s biased attitude to our state,” farmers activist Akhil Gogoi told media on Wednesday. Nearly 1.32 lakh people were displaced by the floods and had to seek shelter in 363 relief camps. Over 15,700 flood affected people were evacuated by rescue teams in 21 districts. Flood waters have receded in many areas due to clear skies in the past week, but 9 districts still remained inundated and 4,716 people continue to take shelter in relief camps in five districts. While the state government claims adequate relief was provided to all flood affected, there are accusations of laxity in rescue and relief efforts. Ministers of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition government were heckled by affected residents at several places for their late response. The so-called step-motherly attitude of Centre towards Assam has given fodder to opposition parties in the state as well. “Assam floods claimed 76 lives, Narendra Modi never visited and his government has not released adequate funds,” former Congress chief minister Tarun Gogoi tweeted on Tuesday President of the opposition All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) Badruddin Ajmal also requested the PM to “spare some time for the people of Assam” and visit the state. Many on social media connected Modi’s decision to visit Gujarat instead of Assam with the upcoming assembly polls in the western state. “Floods killed many in BJP ruled Gujarat and Assam. Where will Modi go, announce relief for? The state going to elections, where else,” Rajnath Kashmiri tweeted.



Iraq says has ‘no substantial information’ on whether 39 Indians abducted in Mosul are dead or alive
NEW DELHI:MMNN:24 July 2017
Iraqi foreign minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari has said his government has “no substantial information” on the 39 Indians kidnapped by the Islamic State in Mosul in June 2014. The Iraqi government has “no substantial information” on the fate of the 39 Indians who were taken hostage by the Islamic State terror group in Mosul in 2014, foreign minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said on Monday. “We have no substantial evidence that they (the Indians) were killed or they are still alive, so we cannot give anything in that regard,” al-Jaafari, who is an official visit to India, told reporters here. The Iraqi government, he said while speaking through an interpreter, was as concerned about the fate of the 39 Indians as the Indian government and their families. Al-Jaafari said the Iraq government will continue with its efforts to trace the men, all construction workers, who were kidnapped by militants more than three years ago. Ahead of al-Jaafari’s arrival in New Delhi, the Iraqi embassy had said “search operations are on and there is high-level coordination between Iraqi and Indian authorities to locate” the Indian nationals. The matter of the kidnapped Indians is believed to have figured in al-Jaafari’s talks with his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj. On July 16, Swaraj had told reporters that information gathered by minister of state VK Singh during a recent visit to Iraq suggested the 39 Indians were possibly being held in Badush prison, located a short distance from Mosul. She said she was hopeful of getting more information when al-Jaafari visited New Delhi. However, the Hindustan Times reported on Saturday that the Badush prison is a desolate and abandoned structure that has been unoccupied for weeks, if not months. Harjit Masih, the sole Indian who managed to escape from the group of 40 men kidnapped in Mosul, has told several media outlets the others were gunned down in the desert near Badush on June 15, 2014. His account has been rejected by the government.



Railways food unfit for eating: 5 things CAG said about edibles served on trains
NEW DELHI:MMNN:22 July 2017
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has hit out at Indian Railways for serving food “unfit for human consumption” such as recycled, contaminated and expired items and unauthorised water brands. In a joint inspection conducted in collaboration with officials of Indian Railways at 74 stations and 80 trains between July and October 2016, the country’s top audit body observed grave deficiencies in the food hygiene standards.
Here are five things the CAG said about the substandard food served to train passengers:,
1. An iron nail was found in a plate of cutlets offered to a passenger on the Lucknow- Anand Vihar double decker in 2016. 2.Fungal growth was found around petha (sweets) served to passengers. 3.Cockroaches, rats, insects and dust was noticed in pantry cars of the premier Duronto trains. 4.Around 100 unsold parathas were found in the base kitchen of the North Central Railways for reuse and recycling, while uncovered food items were found on the floor at the Chapra station in Bihar 5.Buckets of drinking water and beverages were found in the vestibule near the toilet area in the Paschim Express.



President-elect Ram Nath Kovind’s vote share lowest since 1974: EC data
NEW DELHI:MMNN:21 July 2017
Ram Nath Kovind, the ruling NDA coalition’s candidate, may have won the presidential election comfortably, but his vote share is the lowest since 1974, figures reveal. Kovind received 2,930 votes with a value of 7,02,044, while his rival Meira Kumar, the joint opposition candidate, secured 1,844 votes with a value of 3,67,314. This comes to a vote share of 65.65% for the President-elect. However, the victory margin is the lowest since the 1974 presidential poll. According to Election Commission data, Kovind’s immediate predecessor Pranab Mukherjee (2012) secured 69.31% votes while Pratibha Patil (2007) got 65.82% of the total votes, marginally higher than the share secured by Kovind. KR Narayanan (1997) and APJ Abdul Kalam (2002) bagged 94.97% and 89.57% respectively, the highest victory percentages since 1974. Only Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy, in 1977, was elected unopposed to the top constitutional post. Gyani Zail Singh (1982) got 72.73% votes, while R Venkatraman (1987) bagged 72.28%. Shankar Dayal Sharma (1992) got 65.87%. Besides Narayanan, only two presidents -- Rajendra Prasad (98.99%) in 1957, and Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan (98.24%) in 1962 -- secured over 90% of the votes.



Presidential election results: Ram Nath Kovind’s village all prepared for celebrations
NEW DELHI:MMNN:20 July 2017
Villagers are glued to TV sets and radios so that they begin celebrations the moment news flashes the NDA presidential candidate’s victory Paraunkh and Jhinjhak in Kanpur Dehat district are all set to celebrate as the village and the town are confident that Ram Nath Kovind will become the next President of India shortly. Villagers are glued to TV sets and radios so that they begin celebrations the moment news flashes the NDA presidential candidate’s victory. (Live result updates) Paraunk, Kovind’s village, comes under Derapur tehsil, 110 kms from Kanpur. Paraunkh has a population of nearly 9,000. Jhinjhak is a very small town (a kasbah) where Kovind’s brother Pyarelal lives. Kovind’s another brother, late Shivbalak, also lived there. Shivbalak was the one who educated Kovind. Shivbalak’s widow, Vidyawati, is fasting in Jhinjhak since Wednesday wishing Kovind’s victory. People will play ‘Holi’ during the day and celebrate ‘Diwali’ at night. In Paraunkh, villagers have called a ‘Bhangra band’ with dhols (percussion instrument) for the Holi and dance that they would do once Kovind is declared President. There’s a Pathri Devi temple in Paraunkh, where puja and rituals have been going on since the day Kovind’s candidature was announced. At the Jhinjhak house of Pyarelal (Kovind’s brother), a marquee has been put up to host all those who will come in to congratulate. Sweets will be distributed among them. Kovind had visited Paraunkh village in July 2016, when he became the governor of Bihar. He had converted his village house into ‘community hall’ for his village people. Late Maikulal, the father of Kovind, ran a small general store in the village and was known as a religious person. It is through his religious bent of mind that he first came in touch with RSS, in which Kovind later became a member.



165 people arrested in sedition cases in last 3 years: govt
NEW DELHI:MMNN:19 July 2017
The data for 2016 excludes Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal because figures were not available from these two states. As many as 165 people were arrested on the charge of sedition in the last three years across the country, the Rajya Sabha was informed on Wednesday. Citing data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), Minister of State for Home Gangaram Ahir said that 58 people were arrested in 47 such cases registered in 2014. “73 people were arrested in 30 cases registered in 2015 and 34 people arrested in 28 cases registered in 2016 under the offence of Sedition (Section 124A of IPC),” he said. The 2016 figure excludes Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal as data from the two states were not available. Ahir said the names those arrested and the current status of cases were not recorded in the NCRB data. The data related to 2017 are being collected by the NCRB



CBI raids 23 premises in Bengal, Jharkhand in graft case against Income Tax commissioner
NEW DELHI:MMNN:12 July 2017
The CBI on Wednesday conducted raids at 23 locations in West Bengal and Jharkhand in connection with a corruption case registered against the principal commissioner of Income Tax and others, an official said. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) took the step against principal commissioner Tapas Kumar Dutta, posted in Ranchi, and three of his colleagues following allegations of criminal conspiracy. They were accused of favouring private persons and companies in the matter of taxes and for taking illegal gratification. “It is alleged that Dutta and three other Income Tax officials conspired with six private persons, including a chartered accountant, and some unidentified persons,” the official added. The CBI raids took place at 18 residential and office premises of the accused in Kolkata and five places in Ranchi in Jharkhand, a CBI official said. The CBI officers questioned Dutta at the IT office in Ranchi. Sources in the know of things said the raids were related to hawala transactions.



‘The firing did not last for more than 20 seconds’: Amarnath Yatra survivors recount deadly attack
:MMNN:11 July 2017
It didn’t take much time for the terrorists to create the mayhem in south Kashmir’s Anantnag on Monday night when seven pilgrims were killed and several others injured while returning from the Amarnath cave shrine. Survivors of the terrorist attack said had it not been for the driver of the bus they were travelling in, many more would have lost their lives. Recounting the attack, the survivors said they did not realise what was happening as many were sleeping and the gunmen fired indiscriminately in the dark. “The firing did not last for more than 20 seconds. And, we could not see who was firing as it was dark outside,” said Amit Kumar, a Rajasthan resident who works as a cook for the pilgrims from Gujarat. “People just rolled on the bus floor one over another,” he said. The bus carrying over 50 pilgrims mostly from Gujarat and Maharashtra was attacked around 8.20pm near Batengoo area on Monday. Police said the terrorists initially attacked a bullet proof bunker in the area and later a check post near Khanabal. “Phataphat marne lage goli, andhere mein kuch samaj nahi aaya (They started firing indiscriminately. We could not fathom anything in the dark),’’ Baghimani Thakur, another traveller from Palgad Maharastra, added. Kumar said he survived the attack as he was sitting in the back seat. “The people sitting near the driver’s cabin bore the brunt but the driver survived,” he said. He added the bus driver Saleem’s presence of mind saved many lives as he did not stop the vehicle even amid the hail of bullets. “Malik (the owner of the bus) told the driver Saleem: ‘Bhai, just rush the bus. Don’t stop’. And the driver just drove the bus at full speed and only stopped when we reached an army camp,” he said. A policeman from Anantnag, who was keeping a watch over two of the injured at the Sher-I-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences in Srinagar, also corroborated Kumar’s account. He said the bus stopped in Khanabal Chowk and the injured were immediately taken to the army hospital. “After basic treatment at the army hospital, the injured were taken to the district hospital in Anantnag after which the seriously wounded were rushed to Srinagar hospitals,” he said. Prakash Wadani, another survivor, said that the pilgrims had planned to visit Vaishno Devi Shrine in Katra the next day. Kumar said that they left their hotel in Srinagar at 5:30pm and as fate would have it, the bus had a flat tyre. “It took an hour for us to replace the tyre and that caused the delay,” he said. Daksha, a pilgrim from Dahnu in Maharashtra, said the passengers spent the time chatting on the roadside while the tyre was being changed “unaware of what lay in store for them minutes later’’. All the survivors and injured were airlifted to Delhi on Tuesday morning. Only two of the injured - Pushpa and Lalita – are being treated at the state’s tertiary care hospital Sher-I-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences in Srinagar. Kumar is looking after them at the hospital. Pushpa was hit on her right hip and is recuperating in the emergency ward and Lalita, doctors said, was in the intensive care unit. Police have blamed Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba of the attack, however, the militant outfit denied the charges and its spokesperson Abdullah Ghaznavi called it a “highly reprehensible act’’ and blamed “Indian agencies’’ for the attack. “Islam doesn’t allow violence against any faith. We strongly condemn such acts,’’ a LeT statement said. Police insisted that the bus came under fire and was not the “actual target of the militants’’. A senior police officer, who did not want to be named, refused to call the incident a security lapse saying “the bus had flouted all norms’’. “The Amarnath yatris escorted by security cross the Banihal tunnel around 2pm, on Monday the yatris had crossed the area by 1pm. The highway is secured but high security can’t be 24 hours. We don’t allow any movement of yatris or tourists in the area after 5pm,’’ he added. “Technically, they were tourists and not yatris so we could not stop them,’’ the officer said. Police have said the bus was a private vehicle and not registered with the Amarnath Shrine Board. The passengers had completed the darshan on July 8 and stayed back in Srinagar for sight seeing. Over 2.20 lakh pilgrims paid obeisance at the Amarnath cave shrine - situated at a height of 3,880 metres in south Kashmir Himalayas - during an unrest in 2016 after Hizbul Mujahideen Burhan Wani’s killing in July last year. The number was lowest since 2003. This year the numbers have already crossed 1.5 lakh. The state government has not stopped the pilgrimage and a fresh batch of more than 3000 pilgrims left Jammu for base camps in Kashmir on Tuesday.



Narendra Modi and Xi Jinping ‘did not have a bilateral meeting’ at G20 summit in Germany: China
NEW DELHI:MMNN:10 July 2017
Technically, China is correct but the fact is the Indian side didn’t claim the two leaders held a bilateral meeting, which is usually a structured and previously agreed engagement. China on Monday appeared to play down a brief conversation Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping had on the sidelines of the recent G20 summit, saying the two “did not have a bilateral meeting”. Technically, China is correct but the fact is the Indian side didn’t claim the two leaders held a bilateral meeting, which is usually a structured and previously agreed engagement. “I can tell you there was no bilateral meet between President Xi and PM Modi in Germany,” foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said at a regular media briefing when asked about the meeting. The brief conversation the two leaders had during an informal gathering of BRICS leaders on the margins of the G20 summit in Hamburg on July 7 made headlines. It came at a time when the two countries were locked in a tense standoff along India’s northeastern frontier. China’s denial of something that didn’t happen is being seen as yet another attempt by Beijing to make its displeasure over the Doklam row known. “According to my information, the two leaders did not hold any bilateral meeting (on the sidelines of the G20 summit),” Geng said, adding Xi presided over the informal meeting of the BRICS leaders that was attended by Modi and others. While repeatedly denying the bilateral meeting, Geng also didn’t mention the conversation the two leaders had. External affairs ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay had on July 7 tweeted a photo of the two leaders smiling and shaking hands. He said Modi and Xi had a “conversation on a range of issues”. The border standoff link was not hard to draw, as Geng again said the withdrawal of Indian troops from the Donglang, as Chinese refer to the region, was the precondition for a resolution of the military impasse. To a question about Indian media reports that the soldiers were prepared for the long haul in Doklam, Geng said if those were true, it revealed India’s true intentions. “If they (the reports) are true, they are only prove that the Indian trespass was organised and elaborate….and the intention was to damage the status quo at the (Sikkim) boundary,” Geng said. “So, how can diplomatic solutions happen under such circumstances? We have said that the Indian troops withdrawal is the pre-condition (for a resolution),” he said. China has accused Indian soldiers of trespass and preventing its soldiers from building a road in Doklam, which is close to the Sikkim border on India’s northeast, and is claimed by Bhutan. The Doklam region is located at the narrow but strategically important tri-junction of India, China and Bhutan, with the three countries barely separated by mountains and passes. Chinese-state media has also said that India planned the trespass to coincide with Modi’s meeting with US President Donald Trump to convey to the US that New Delhi was ready to check China’s rise. Modi met Trump on June 26, 10 days after the standoff started.



Govt, BJP have no role in CBI raids on Lalu Prasad Yadav and family: Venkaiah Naidu
NEW DELHI:MMNN:7 Jul 2017
The government and the BJP have no role in the CBI raids against Lalu Prasad Yadav and his family, Union minister M Venkaiah Naidu said on Friday. The information and broadcasting minister said the Central Bureau of Investigation was doing its duty and acting in accordance with the mandate given to it by law. “What is political vendetta? Where is BJP in this? I am not able to understand. Do you mean to say that anybody against whom any charge is there, it should not be inquired into at all?” Naidu asked. “CBI is doing its duty and it is allowed to do so. Earlier it was not allowed... after our government came there is no interference and that is why CBI is free and acting as per the mandate given to it...,” he told reporters. The raids against the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader and his family started at 7 am today and were conducted at 12 locations in Patna, Ranchi, Bhubaneswar and Gurugram after the investigating agency registered a corruption case. It is alleged that Yadav as railway minister handed over the maintenance of two railway hotels to a company after receiving a bribe in the form of prime land of three acres through a benami company.



After Amit Shah meet row, Goa Cong leader seeks nod to host his wedding at airport
NEW DELHI:MMNN:6 Jul 2017
Goa Congress general secretary Janardhan Bhandari has written to AAI for permission to host his wedding reception on Dabolim airport premises in September. Barely days after Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah's meeting at Goa's Dabolim international airport triggered a row, a state Congress leader has written to the Airports Authority of India to be allowed to use the premises as his wedding venue. In his letter, also marked to Dabolim airport director BC Negi, on Thursday, Goa Congress general secretary Janardhan Bhandari said he should be granted permission to host the wedding at the airport on the lines of Shah’s meeting on July 1, which was attended by more than 2,000 people. Bhandari wrote he would adhere to all rules and regulations, including ban on photography, during his wedding and not allow guests to bring cars to airport premises. His letter states, “I am very pleased to inform you that I have been engaged recently and planning to get married soon. Since my guests will be coming from various states and landing at Dabolim airport and as such I cannot afford to make arrangements for the stay and travel of so many guests. “It would be nice if you could permit me to use your airport for my wedding reception in September 2017. I will fix the date as per the availability of the airport as per your convenience.” Shah’s meeting at the airport, which is operated from an Indian naval base, triggered allegations of violation of rules and regulations by the BJP, including putting a defence ministry installation at risk. While the airport director claimed no permission was given for the meeting, the BJP said it was an unplanned event and people came on their own to greet Shah. Congress national secretary Girish Chodankar said Shah’s meeting was illegal and demanded an FIR be registered. City based lawyer-activist Aires Rodrigues has complained in writing against Shah’s meeting to secretary of Civil Aviation, Goa Chief Secretary, and Director General of Police. No action has been initiated so far.



PM Modi’s Israeli flag-themed attire catches attention
NEW DELHI:MMNN:5 Jul 2017
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent choice of apparel that grabbed eyeballs was what he wore on the first day of his three-day visit in Israel. The Prime Minister alighted from Air India One at Tel Aviv, in an immaculate white bandhgala. Also quite noticeable was the blue pocket square. Significantly, blue and white are the colours of the Israeli flag; and white is PM Modi’s preferred colour for solemn occasions, such as the visit to Yad Vashem on Tuesday, where he added to his look a traditional Himachali cap. He is the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Israel. Terming it to be a historic visit, PM Modi tweeted, “Hello Israel! Today I begin a special & historic visit with the aim of further strengthening the relations between India and Israel.” His Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu donned a blue-and-white suit with a red tie, as he welcomed PM Modi at Tel Aviv airport.



UP govt to ‘probe’ welfare grant sanctioned to NGO run by Akhilesh Yadav’s sister-in-law
NEW DELHI:MMNN:4 Jul 2017
Aparna Yadav’s NGO Jeev Ashraya reportedly received 86% of the funds sanctioned by the previous government for organisations working for cow welfare in the state Yogi Adityanath-led BJP government in Uttar Pradesh is planning to initiate a probe into the grant sanctioned by the previous Samajwadi Party-led dispensation to an NGO run by former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav’s sister-in-law Aparna Yadav. An indication to this regard was given by state’s dairy development minister Lakshmi Narayan Chaudhary while addressing a programme at Sahibabad industrial area on Monday. Nearly 86% of the grant sanctioned by the previous government for organisations working for cow welfare in the state went to Aparna Yadav’s Jeev Ashraya, an RTI reply has revealed recently. Aparna is the wife of Prateek Yadav, the step-brother of Akhilesh Yadav. Her NGO runs a gaushala, Kanha Upvan, at Amausi on the outskirt of Lucknow, which Adityanath visited in March, days after taking over as chief minister. He also lauded the facilities provided to bovines there. To a query by activist Nutan Thakur, the UP Gau Sewa Aayog replied that during the tenure of the previous government, it sanctioned Rs 9.66 crore, of which Rs 8.35 crore (86.4%) went to Jeev Ashraya. During 2017-18, till now, Rs1.05 crore has been given to various gaushalas. But Jeev Ashraya was not one of the recipients. “During the Samajwadi Party regime, criminals and mafias were given political protection. In this case, the former CM sanctioned 86% funds meant for organisations working for cow welfare to only one NGO being run by his sister-in-law,” Chaudhary said. “The issue cannot be taken lightly as it indicates an organised loot of public money,” he said, hinting the government is contemplating to probe the charges of nepotism. The development comes at a time when several projects launched by the Akhilesh government are under scanner. “There have been reports of misappropriation of Waqf properties. We have referred the probe to the CBI,” Chaudhary said. Talking to a news agency, Aparna Yadav denied getting any undue favour, there was nothing wrong if works of an active NGO were recognised by the government. “If an organisation is doing good work, it should get 100 per cent funds,” she said. “There are approximately 462 ‘gau shalas’ (cow shelters) in UP and of them Jeev Ashray is the most active. Anyone can go there and check,” she said. Stating that the RTI should not be used to “terrorise” people, Aparna said she would give a befitting reply to the people who were trying to malign her image.



EC can extend voting rights to NRIs in 3 months if govt gives go-ahead
NEW DELHI:MMNN:3 Jul 2017
The decision to allow over 10 million NRIs — of whom 24,348 are registered with the EC — to vote through a postal ballot will offer expatriates a chance to participate in the country’s electoral process without having to be physically present. The Election Commission has informed the Centre that it can pull off the process of introducing voting rights for non-resident Indians (NRI) within three months of the law being introduced. The decision to allow over 10 million NRIs — of whom 24,348 are registered with the EC — to vote through a postal ballot will offer expatriates a chance to participate in the country’s electoral process without having to be physically present at the polling stations. If it comes to fruition, NRIs from states such as Kerala, Punjab and Telangana -- which have large populations of NRIs -- will stand to be benefit. Chief election commissioner (CEC) Nasim Zaidi, who demits office on July 5, told HT that the poll panel is ready to implement the one-way postal ballot system for allowing NRIs to vote, if the government gives the go-ahead. The one-way postal ballot system involves sending e-ballot papers to the voters, which are retuned by post after the voters have marked their choice. The system was introduced for armed forces personnel and service voters in October last year. “Voting rights to NRIs is a long term vision and is under evaluation,” Zaidi told HT. He said the commission has proposed a one-way e-postal ballot system for NRIs, but is awaiting for word from the law ministry. “We have written to the Law ministry, we are ready and have been saying it, we only need a law. It will be on the similar lines as the one-way postal ballot that was started for the service personnel. The moment we have the law we will be ready to implement it within three-months” he said. The Centre has told the Supreme Court, where petitions have been filed to allow NRI voters to participate in the electoral exercise, that it is willing to accept the poll panel’s recommendation to allow NRIs to vote through e-postal ballots or proxy voting. “We have proved that the technology works,” Zaidi said. The proposal can only be implemented after Parliament amends the Representation of the People Act and the Conduct of Election Rules. The CEC said the proposal to allow voting rights for domestic migrants, is also pending. “A committee report (on the issue) has also been given, the government has to take a call,” the CEC said. After amendments were made to the RP Act to make provisions for NRIs, the EC undertook an awareness campaign last year to familiarise expatriates with their voting rights.



Patna GPO completes 100 years, special stamp likely
NEW DELHI:MMNN:1 Jul 2017
Though officials have planned to commemorate the centenary year of the GPO on July 1, the celebration will continue for a whole year with a number of events and activities The General Post Office (GPO), Patna, completed 100 years of its existence on July 1. The Patna GPO, which earlier housed Bankipore post office, is built in the British Gothic architectural style. It is among the four buildings that came up during the pre-Independence era in the state around the same time. The other three are Patna high court, Patna museum and the old secretariat. Though officials have planned to commemorate the centenary year of the GPO on July 1, coinciding with the launch of first day cover on the Goods and Services Tax (GST), the celebration will continue for a whole year with a number of events and activities, which might include release of a special postal stamp as well. Post master general, Bihar circle, Anil Kumar, said Bihar had showed the way in terms of development of postal services in the country. Besides the grand structure with 1.93 lakh square feet built-up area, Patna happens to be the first postal unit in the world to have evolved a prepaid system for postal services,” he said. In 1774, Patna had come out with a copper ticket with a face value of one anna and half anna. “Copper tickets are now rare and available barely at four or five locations in the world, including the National Museum, New Delhi, Postal Museum, London, and in a private collection of a Jabalpur resident,” said Kumar. The Department of Posts (DoP) had issued a commemorative stamp on copper tickets in 1980. The ticket had ‘Azimabad Ekanni’ imprinted on the obverse and ‘Patna Post One Anna’ on the reverse. In those days, Patna was known as Azimabad. Some of the noted philatelists claimed that the ticket was introduced as a prepaid arrangement to do away with the growing loss of revenue due to the return of undelivered letters, as the persons addressed refused to accept them. “Charges for delivery were decided by the distance, known as stages, at that time,” added Kumar. The work on the GPO building, on sprawling 22 acres, began after Bihar was carved out of Bengal. The construction cost was around Rs 2.69 lakh and it was formally opened in 1917. It used to handle both postal and telecom operations then. The building underwent renovation in 2000 at the cost Rs 1.25 crore, which saw five gardens, including one having medicinal herbs, being added to its landscape. At a time when information technology services underwent a sea change, the GPO is still delivering around 25,000-30,000 accountable articles, including those of speed post, parcels, registered and insured letters, every day with 96 postmen. Daily transaction of ordinary letters is estimated to be around 30,000-40,000. Besides, the GPO operates more than 12 lakh accounts of its savings bank equipped with core banking solutions (CBS).



Pilgrim dies as landslide hits Vaishno Devi track
NEW DELHI:MMNN:30 Jun 2017
One pilgrim died and five others were injured after a landslide hit between Himkoti and Adhkuwari enroute the cave shrine on Friday morning. “A woman has died and five others have been injured. One of them is critical,” SSP (Reasi) Tahir Sajjad Bhat told Hindustan Times. He said the landslide hit at about 11.30am. Bhat said the identities of the victims, who are being brought down to Katra, are yet to be ascertained.



Minister Radha Mohan Singh caught urinating in public, says there was no urinal nearby
NEW DELHI:MMNN:29 Jun 2017
Union agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh draws criticism with many trolling him saying his act shows Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Swachch Bharat programme in poor light. An undated picture of Union agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh urinating in public has put the BJP in a spot as the picture went viral on social media on Thursday. The minister, however, defended himself, saying there was no urinal for long distances on National Highway 28 near Pipara when he wanted to relieve himself. Stating that his intention was not wrong, he said the photograph was of a dhaba (roadside eatery) on the NH. The photograph showed the minister urinating on a wall, believed to be in his home constituency Purvi Champaran (East Champaran), as two security personnel stood guard. Netizens trolled the minister for his act, saying it showed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Swachch Bharat programme in poor light. The photograph was also shared on RJD’s Twitter handle, with a sarcastic comment, “Amid tight security, the Union minister of agriculture gives the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan a boost, as he inaugurates an irrigation project in a drought-affected state.” State BJP spokesperson, Rajib Ranjan, however, found nothing wrong in the minister’s act. “One cannot suppress nature’s call for long. What do you do if you are travelling long distances and there are no public urinals on the way?” he asked HT, adding “There is absolutely nothing wrong in what the minister did.” He further said the photograph was “six months to one year old” as the minister’s SUV had a red beacon, which the government had banned from May 1. Ranjan came down heavily against the ruling coalition in Bihar for deriving vicarious pleasure in sharing the minister’s photograph. “They are part of the corrupt combination in state,” he said. The party, however, believed that the photograph was taken by an insider who was part of the minister’s cavalcade and subsequently leaked.



Presidential poll: Sonia, Yechury, Pawar accompany Meira Kumar as she files nomination
NEW DELHI:MMNN:28 Jun 2017
New Delhi: Opposition candidate Meira Kumar filed her nomination for the Presidential election on Wednesday, the last date for submitting the papers. Congress President Sonia Gandhi, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, NCP chief Sharad Pawar and other senior Opposition leaders were present when Kumar handed over the papers to Anoop Mishra, Secretary General of the Lok Sabha, who is the returning officer of this prestigious election. Kumar’s competitor, NDA’s Ram Nath Kovind had filed his nomination last week before Prime Minister Narendra Modi left for his foreign tour.



3 activists of Yogi Adityanath’s Hindu Yuva Vahini arrested on rape charge
NEW DELHI:MMNN:27 Jun 2017
Three activists of the Hindu Yuva Vahini (HYV), an organisation floated by Yogi Adityanath, were arrested in Bareilly on charges of gangrape and thrashing a police officer. The incident took place on Monday night following a dispute between one Deepak and Avinash over playing of loud music in Ganeshnagar locality, Superintendent of Police (City), Rohit Singh Sajwan said on Tuesday. Avinash called his friends, who were HYV workers, and barged into Deepak’s house and allegedly misbehaved with the women. Deepak, who later reached with his brother Gaurav, allegedly beat up Avinash and handed him over to the police. When the news spread, HYV regional President Jitendra Sharma and city unit President Pankaj and a number of other HYV activists reached the police station to protest the arrest. BJP city unit chief Umesh Katharia also reached the police station and in presence of police, HVY activists allegedly misbehaved with the BJP leader and allegedly beat up sub-inspector Mayank Arora. The city SP said that two FIRs have been lodged in this connection. One FIR was lodged by Arora against Avinash, Jitendra and Pankaj for allegedly beating him and the other by a woman against the three and another person Anil Saxena for allegedly gangraping her. Avinash, Jitendra and Pankaj have been arrested, police said, adding that a probe is on in the matter.



Five STF jawans wounded in gunbattle with Maoists in Sukma
NEW DELHI:MMNN:24 Jun 2017
The gunfight is underway between a joint team of security forces and Maoists in Chhattisgarh. Five special task force (STF) personnel were on Saturday injured in a fierce gunbattle with Maoists in the dense forests of Chhattisgarh’s Sukma district, the police said. The encounter is still going on, they added. The exchange of fire is underway between a joint team of security forces and ultras in the interior forests of Chintagufa police station area, deputy inspector general of police (Dantewada range) Sundarraj P told PTI. “As per the preliminary information, five STF jawans have sustained injuries in the encounter,” he said. The joint team, comprising personnel from STF, district reserve guard (DRG) and CoBRA (Commando Battalion for Resolute Action), was carrying out anti-Maoist operation in Chintagufa area, around 500 km from Raipur, he said. The team members were cordoning off a forest patch in southern part of Chintagufa when they came under fire from a group of Maoists, the IPS officer said. The security forces retaliated, triggering an exchange of fire, he said. The DIG said on getting information about the gunbattle, reinforcement was rushed to the spot and efforts were on to evacuate the injured jawans. Further details were awaited, he added. On April 24, 25 CRPF personnel were killed in a rebel ambush in Burkapal area under Chintagufa police station of limits of Sukma, the worst Maoist-affected district in the state.



Muslim man arrested in Jharkhand for allegedly making anti-Modi remarks in video
NEW DELHI:MMNN:23 Jun 2017
In the video clip Sameer Ansari is seen allegedly heard backing Pakistan cricket team and also voicing his desire to see India humiliated Police arrested a 20-year-old Muslim man on Thursday night in Jharkhand for a viral video clip where he is allegedly heard making derogatory remarks against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and India. The clip was shared widely in the state’s Sahibganj region before India’s shock loss to Pakistan in the final of the ICC Champions Trophy last Sunday. In the video clip -- HT has a copy of it -- Sameer Ansari is allegedly heard backing Pakistan but also voicing his desire to see India humiliated. “The video was circulated in many WhatsApp groups. His statements were provocative and against the country, so, we had to arrest him, “said Sahibganj superintendent of police P Murugan. Local residents said Ansari was a student but police refused to confirm.



RJD to question Nitish Kumar’s support for NDA presidential nominee Kovinda
NEW DELHI:MMNN:22 Jun 2017
Nitish Kumar took initiative to form a united opposition, but sidelined them to supported the NDA nominee, RJD leader Raghuvansh Prasad said. Questioning Nitish Kumar’s extension of support to Centre’s nominee for President, its ally Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) on Thursday said that it was a very good opportunity for the secular front to counter the saffron party but the Bihar Chief Minister’s change of side has put the united opposition’s future in jeopardy. Asserting that it was Nitish who had initiated the whole idea of an united opposition and grand alliance to oppose the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at national level, RJD leader Raghuvansh Prasad said that his party will be questioning the JD(U) in this regard. “It was an opportunity for the secular parties to stand united in at the time of Presidential elections. We will be questioning JD(U) for the stand Nitish ji has taken. We would like to ask JD(U) what is their take on the secular party group which was formed to counter the BJP,” Prasad told ANI. “We were very happy when Nitish ji had taken the initiative to form a secular front of united opposition on the national level, but now he sidelined us and supported the BJP’s candidate. Now the ball is in his court, he will have to think that now how will we oppose the BJP?,” he added.



Police knew about Karnan’s hiding place for 3 days before arresting him
NEW DELHI:MMNN:21 Jun 2017
CS Karnan, who was sentenced to six months imprisonment by the Supreme Court for contempt but was untraceable, was arrested near Coimbatore. A police team searching for Calcutta high court’s former judge CS Karnan knew about his hiding place in Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu for three days before moving in to arrest him, the West Bengal police chief said on Wednesday. “We knew about his (Karnan’s) whereabouts three days back. We were tracking phone calls of people close to him and we also have our own sources,” director general of police Raj Kanojia told IANS in Chennai. Kanojia spoke at the Chennai airport before boarding a flight to Kolkata. According to him, this was a unique case he handled in his entire service and “maybe no other police officer will be handling such a case in a long time to come”. “Tracking Karnan was difficult. It was a difficult case,” Kanojia said. Karnan, who was sentenced to six months imprisonment by the Supreme Court for contempt but was untraceable, was arrested on Tuesday near Coimbatore, around 500 km from Chennai. Karnan was eluding arrest for more than a month.



Tripura girl, whose head swelled to over three times its normal size, dies
NEW DELHI:MMNN:20 Jun 2017
Her condition caused her head to swell to a circumference of 94 centimetres (37 inches), putting pressure on her brain and making it impossible for her to sit upright An girl who made international headlines when a rare condition caused her head to swell to more than twice the normal size has died, days before she was to undergo corrective surgery. Roona Begum’s family said she died Sunday at her home in a village in the remote northeast after complaining of breathlessness. “She was otherwise fit and fine. But on Sunday she started having breathing problems and I rang up my husband asking him to come back home,” said Fatima Begum. “He rushed home and gave her water but before we could take her to the hospital she died,” she told AFP. The five-year-old was born with hydrocephalus, a potentially fatal condition that causes cerebrospinal fluid to build up on the brain. Publication of pictures taken by an AFP photographer in the remote state of Tripura prompted a New Delhi hospital to treat her for free in 2013. Her condition caused her head to swell to a circumference of 94 centimetres (37 inches), putting pressure on her brain and making it impossible for her to sit upright. After several round of surgery at the Fortis Hospital, her head circumference shrank to 58 centimetres. Pictures showed the distraught parents sitting next to her body, wrapped in a cream towel as her younger brother looked on.



Ahead of PM Modi’s visit, US lawmakers ask India to rethink price cap on stents
NEW DELHI:MMNN:19 Jun 2017
The Narendra Modi government has in recent years capped prices of hundreds of life-saving drugs to make them more affordable. A group of US lawmakers has backed medical device makers by urging India to reconsider its decision to cap prices of heart stents, raising the issue ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the United States later this week. In a letter sent to the Indian ambassador to Washington last month, and seen by Reuters, 18 members of Congress said they were “troubled” by the price cap, warning that it could deter firms from launching new medical products in India. Modi’s government has in recent years capped prices of hundreds of life-saving drugs to make them more affordable. And in February, it imposed a 75% price cut for certain heart stents - wire mesh tubes used to treat blocked arteries. The government justified its action by citing “huge unethical markups”. But global medical device makers have protested the new cap, with some saying it would force them to sell below cost. The US lawmakers warned that people would be denied access to the latest medical advances if companies backed away from India’s $5 billion medical-technology market. “The sudden and unprecedented nature of the decision threatens citizens’ access to the newest and most innovative medical technologies and raises strong concerns about the business environment in India,” they said in the May 22 letter, which has not previously been made public. The Indian embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment. The US Department of Commerce is likely to raise the issue with Modi during his visit on June 25-26, according to an industry source aware of the plans. “It’s one of the biggest pain points,” the source said.



Soldier killed, another wounded in Pakistani shelling in Nowshera
NEW DELHI:MMNN:16 Jun 2017
Pakistan has been continuously violating the 2003 ceasefire agreement with India, and the firing and shelling has left the hapless villagers in a precarious situation A soldier was killed and another injured in Pakistani shelling along the Line of Control (LoC) in Nowshera sector of Jammu and Kashmir’s Rajouri district on Friday morning, officials said. The dead soldier was identified as Naik Bakhtawar Singh of 8 Sikh Light Infantry, and a resident of Hajipur village in Punjab’s Hoshiyarpur district. “Pakistan Army opened heavy fire around 4am and the exchange lasted for around 20 minutes. During brief exchanges, two Indian soldiers were injured at Kalsian. One of them died around 5am,” an intelligence official said. Nowshera sub-divisional magistrate Harbans Lal Sharma and Nowshera police station head Kuldip Krishan confirmed that the soldier died around 5am when he was hit by a mortar shell at a forward post in Kalsian area of Nowshera sector. However, the army was yet to issue a statement on it. The identity of the injured soldier has not been ascertained yet.



Another farmer commits suicide in Madhya Pradesh, seventh in 7 days
NEW DELHI:MMNN:15 Jun 2017
Seven deaths have been reported from Madhya Pradesh in seven days as angry farmers have torched vehicles and ransacked property demanding loan waiver and fair price. A farmer killed himself in Madhya Pradesh’s Hoshangabad district on Thursday morning, news agency ANI reported, the seventh such suicide in seven days in a region rocked by violent farmer protests over plummeting crop prices. Narmada Prasad was a resident of Hoshangabad’s Babai village and was being pressurized by local moneylenders, ANI added. The details of his death couldn’t be immediately ascertained.



Opposition’s choice of president likely today; Meira Kumar, Gopal Gandhi in focus
NEW DELHI:MMNN:14 Jun 2017
The move to pick the Opposition’s candidate comes two days after the ruling BJP announced its committee to talk to all parties in an effort to build consensus for a candidate to succeed President Pranab Mukherjee. The opposition will likely name its candidate for the next President of India on Wednesday, with Congress leader Meira Kumar and Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson Gopal Krishna Gandhi among the possible nominees. The meeting of the Opposition’s 10-member selection panel is slated for 4pm. The move to pick the Opposition’s candidate comes two days after the ruling BJP announced its committee to talk to all parties in an effort to build consensus for a candidate to succeed President Pranab Mukherjee, who demits office on July 24. The Opposition panel comprises Ghulam Nabi Azad and Mallikarjun Kharge from the Congress, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, JD(U) veteran Sharad Yadav, NCP leader Praful Patel, Trinamool Congress’ Rajya Sabha floor leader Derek o’Brien, SP leader Akhilesh Yadav, BSP’s Satish Chandra Mishra, RJD leader Lalu Prasad and DMK’s RS Bharathi.



Monsoon session of Parliament likely to begin on July 12, say sources
NEW DELHI:MMNN:13 Jun 2017
The monsoon session of Parliament will begin from July 12 and conclude on August 11. The month-long monsoon session of Parliament is likely to commence from July 12. According to one of the proposals before the Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs (CCPA), the session will begin from July 12 and conclude on August 11, according to government sources. The final call on the dates will be taken by the committee, headed by Union home minister Rajnath Singh, after June 20, the sources said. Sources told IANS the session was being convened earlier due to the presidential election in which MPs and MLAs are voters. A session at that time will ensure that all the MPs are in Delhi for the polling. An MP can also vote in his home state where MLAs generally vote.



Doyen of Telugu literature C Narayana Reddy dies in Hyderabad
NEW DELHI:MMNN:12 Jun 2017
Doyen of Telugu literature and Jnanpith awardee Dr C Narayana Reddy passed away in Hyderabad on Monday following a brief illness. Doyen of Telugu literature and Jnanpith awardee Dr C Narayana Reddy died of brief illness in Hyderabad on Monday morning. He was 86. He is survived by four daughters. Reddy complained of chest pain in the morning and was rushed to a private hospital where he breathed his last. Popularly known as Cinare, the noted litterateur was born at Hanumajipet village of Rajanna Sircilla district (which was part of Karimnagar district till recently) of Telangana on July 29, 1931. Though he studied in Urdu medium school, Reddy mastered Telugu literature and joined Osmania University as a Telugu professor. He also served as vice-chancellor of the Telugu University. Known for his excellent rhyming skills, Reddy wrote several books, including composition of poems like Karpoora Vasantha Rayalu and Nagarjuna Saagaramu. His magnum opus Vishwambhara, which was translated into several other Indian languages, fetched him Jnanpith award in 1988. He was honoured with several literary awards like Kala Prapoorna and doctorates by various universities. In 1992, he was honoured with India’s third highest civilian award Padma Bhushan. He was nominated to Rajya Sabha in August 1997. Reddy became more popular among the common people with his lyrics in Telugu films. He had penned more than 3,000 songs for various Telugu films, and all of them were big hits. Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu, his Telangana counterpart K Chandrasekhar Rao and several literary personalities and lyricists from Telugu film industry condoled Reddy’s death.



MP CM Shivraj on indefinite fast, says pained to see violence in state
NEW DELHI:MMNN:10 Jun 2017
Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s decision to observe a fast comes in the wake of violence in several parts of the state during the agitation by farmers and the killing of five farmers in Mandsaur in police firing. Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on Saturday announced the setting up of commission which would assess the input cost of agriculture produce, and said he was pained to see the violence in the state during the farmers’ agitation. Chouhan, who began an indefinite fast on Saturday in his bid to restore peace in the violence-hit state, appealed to the farmers for peace, saying when his door was always open for talks, where was the need for violence. A pandal was erected at BHEL, Dussehra Maidan in state capital Bhopal from where Chouhan will run his government. Chouhan’s decision to observe a fast comes in the wake of violence in several parts of the state during the agitation by farmers and the killing of five farmers in Mandsaur in police firing a few days back. He announced his decision at a press conference on Friday evening. Chouhan was flanked by his ministerial colleagues and BJP leaders. Many party workers too gathered to listen to the chief minister on the occasion. A number of farmers were brought by the party for interacting with the chief minister. Government officials were also present on the occasion. Leader of Opposition in the state assembly Ajay Singh termed the fast as a “Kejriwal drama”, which, he alleged, would involve an expenditure of crores of rupees. He was referring to Delhi chief minister and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal who had gone on an indefinite fast, promising 24-hour power at half the existing rate and up to 20 kilolitres of free water for all when his party comes to power in the national capital. Congress workers in Indore sat on a dharna and prayed for “wisdom” for the chief minister. Without taking the name of the Congress, Chouhan said he was pained when he heard words like “Thaane me aag laga do” (Set the police station on fire) or “Patthar maro” (Pelt stones). “The Mandsaur incident is the most unfortunate. I was deeply pained. I will get this inquired into as to who were behind the violence and what was their motive. Those who spread violence during the agitation will not be spared,” he warned. Chouhan said it was “unfortunate that children are being given stones in their hands. This is painful. Where do they want to the push the state? Where will the state go with such attitude of people?” he asked. He said that during the violence, more than 100 police personnel sustained injuries. Of them, six were seriously injured. As many as 197 buses and 127 government vehicles were damaged. Chouhan said that since he assumed his office 11 and a half years back, his first and foremost priority has been welfare of farmers. The irrigation area has been increased from 7.5 lakh hectares in 2003 to 40 lakh hectares now, he said. The rate of interest on loan to farmers has been reduced from 18% to zero percent. Further, it was minus 10% because if a farmer took a loan of Rs 1 lakh, he was supposed to return Rs 90,000 only. Chouhan said if facilities to farmers had grown manifold, the bumper crop led to sharp fall in prices. That was why a Rs 1,000-crore price stabilisation fund was created to allow farmers to get adequate return on their produce. Thousands of tonners of onion has been purchased at Rs 8 per kg by the government. From June 10, tur daal would be purchased at Rs 5,500 per quintal whereas the market rate was Rs 3,400-3,500 per quintal. Similarly, moong and urad would be purchased at Rs 5,225 per quintal across the state, he said.



In new Rajasthan textbooks, Veer Savarkar overshadows Gandhi and Nehru
NEW DELHI:MMNN:9 Jun 2017 2017
The class 10 textbook reduces Mahatma Gandhi’s historical significance during India’s freedom struggle to a passing mention while the country’s first prime minister Jawahar Lal Nehru is missing from class 8 textbooks. New textbooks for Rajasthan state board schools being taught from this year have an extra dose of nationalism, with Hindutva ideologue Veer Savarkar pushing to the margins the role of Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi. One of the textbooks introduced in the BJP-ruled state even describes the first crop of Congress leaders as mostly moderates who were prosperous, middle-class intellectuals hailing from big cities and having no connection with the masses. The revised textbooks for classes 10, 11 and 12 also bring students up to speed on current “hot topics” such as the Uniform Civil Code, Hindi as the country’s contact language and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s foreign policies, especially with reference to Pakistan. But what is bound to raise more eyebrows is Savarkar getting a big chuck of space, even edging out Jawahar Lal Nehru from the social science textbook of Class 10 and decimating Mahatma Gandhi to a passing reference. Education experts are calling these history “revisions” as Hinduisation of the country’s freedom struggle. Last year, India’s first Prime Minister Nehru was erased from the Class 8 textbook. The government, however, defends the revisions saying that Nehru has been given ample space in the Class 9 textbook. “Every hero can’t be included in every book,” says Vasudev Devnani, state education minister.



Army foils infiltration bid in J-K’s Nowgam, soldier and 3 militants dead
NEW DELHI:MMNN:8 Jun 2017 2017
The infiltration bid took place along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir’s Nowgam sector. A soldier was killed as the army foiled an infiltration bid on Thursday along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir’s Nowgam sector, a spokesperson said. Three militants were also killed during the infiltration bid, the spokesperson said, adding that operations are on in the area. Weapons and warlike stores were recovered from the slain militants. On Wednesday, three militants were gunned down in Machhil sector near the LoC in north Kashmir. Three weapons were recovered from them.



Team India Players Attend Virat Kohli’s Charity Ball And Once Again Absconding Businessman Vijay Mallya Spotted At The Event
NEW DELHI:MMNN:6 Jun 2017 2017
Ahead of Team India’s next encounter against Sri Lanka in Champions Trophy, cricketers took part in Virat Kohli’s charity ball on Monday. Along with the Indian players in attendance was absconding businessman Vijay Mallya. Mallya made his presence felt once again after he was spotted enjoying the India’s match against Pakistan from the VIP stand in Edgbaston on Sunday.



Five Pakistani nationals detained in Rajasthan; being interrogated by intelligence agencies
NEW DELHI:MMNN:5 Jun 2017
Jaipur: Five Pakistani nationals were detained in Barmer district of Rajasthan for violating visa norms.
Khojo Bhil (60), Chandu Bhil (75), his wife Dhai Bai Bhil (70), and two minors — Naresh Bhil (10) and Dharmi Bai (12) — had a visa for Jodhpur but travelled to Barmer. They were detained from Gadra road railway station in the district when they were waiting for a train to Jodhpur on Sunday. Khojo and Naresh came to Jodhpur two years ago and the other three entered India around 20 days back, Station House Officer (SHO) of Gadra road police station Karan Singh said. They were staying at their relatives' house in Barmer for two days. The place where they stayed is restricted for foreigners, the SHO said. They are being interrogated by intelligence agencies. Barmer is among four districts in western Rajasthan which lies along the border with Pakistan.



Infiltration down 45% since surgical strike, Kashmiri youth the future: Rajnath
NEW DELHI:MMNN:3 Jun 2017 2017
Rajnath Singh reaffirmed the Narendra Modi government’s commitment to bringing peace in Kashmir and how the administration had thwarted Islamic State
"There is no dispute within the family. There is no reason for dispute. Whatever, problems are there, they are due to sycophancy and backbiting. Our first priority will be to unite the family", Shivpal said. "If family is united everything will be well. I ask everyone to sit with Netaji (Mulayam Singh Yadav), who is head of the family. I want him to get due respect and honour as he is the one who made Samajwadi Party. Whatever we are is due to him", he said. On his decision to form the 'Samajwadi Secular Front', which will be headed by Mulayam, Shivpal said that it will bring the party on the "right track". Maintaining that he is still in the party and will only try to strengthen it, Shivpal said, "if Mulayam gets due respect in the party, I am ready for any placement". Shivpal, who has been at odds with nephew and SP chief Akhilesh Yadav, however had made it clear that he was forming just a "front" and not a political party. "We will constitute the Samajwadi Secular Front on July 6 to bring the SP on the right track. We will formally announce it at a meeting in Lucknow", Shivpal had said.



Indian cricket team upset before Champions Trophy tie vs Pakistan - This is why
NEW DELHI:MMNN:2 Jun 2017
Indian cricket team captain Virat Kohli and coach Anil Kumble had reservations as the practice arena was small in size. The main issue was the run-up for fast bowlers. India will begin their ICC Champions Trophy 2017 campaign against Pakistan in Birmingham on Sunday.
The Indian cricket team was unhappy with the practice facilities at Edgbaston with captain Virat Kohli and coach Anil Kumble making their displeasure known, according to a report on PTI. (ICC CHAMPIONS TROPHY FULL COVERAGE) The report added that both Kohli and Kumble had reservations as the arena was small in size. The main issue was the run-up for fast bowlers.


Backbiting, sycophancy responsible for SP woes: Shivpal Yadav
NEW DELHI:MMNN:1 Jun 2017
LUCKNOW: Sidelined Samajwadi Party leader Shivpal Yadav on Thursday said he was ready for any "placement" in the party provided Mulayam Singh Yadav got "due respect" even as he held "sycophancy" and "backbiting" responsible for the party's woes. Mulayam's brother insisted that all will be well if the family is united.
"There is no dispute within the family. There is no reason for dispute. Whatever, problems are there, they are due to sycophancy and backbiting. Our first priority will be to unite the family", Shivpal said. "If family is united everything will be well. I ask everyone to sit with Netaji (Mulayam Singh Yadav), who is head of the family. I want him to get due respect and honour as he is the one who made Samajwadi Party. Whatever we are is due to him", he said. On his decision to form the 'Samajwadi Secular Front', which will be headed by Mulayam, Shivpal said that it will bring the party on the "right track". Maintaining that he is still in the party and will only try to strengthen it, Shivpal said, "if Mulayam gets due respect in the party, I am ready for any placement". Shivpal, who has been at odds with nephew and SP chief Akhilesh Yadav, however had made it clear that he was forming just a "front" and not a political party. "We will constitute the Samajwadi Secular Front on July 6 to bring the SP on the right track. We will formally announce it at a meeting in Lucknow", Shivpal had said.


Narendra Modi four-nation tour Live: PM meets President of Spain Mariano Rajoy
NEW DELHI:MMNN:31 May 2017
Narendra Modi will hold discussions with his Spanish counterpart Mariano Rajoy on ways to deepen bilateral engagement, including in the high-tech sector
Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Madrid in the Spanish capital on Wednesday on the second leg of his six-day, four-nation tour aimed at boosting bilateral economic engagement with them and inviting more investment for India’s transformation. Modi’s visit to Spain is the first visit by an Indian prime minister since 1988. “Hola Espana! Prime Minister Modi arrives in Madrid, first visit by an Indian Prime Minister in nearly three decades, is received by Spanish FM in a special gesture,” said Gopal Baglay, spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs in a tweet.



President, Union ministers may soon have to give speeches only in Hindi
NEW DELHI:MMNN:18 April 2017
All dignitaries, including the President and Union ministers, may soon start giving speeches in Hindi if a parliamentary panel's recommendations accepted by President Pranab Mukherjee are implemented.
Mukherjee has accepted most of the recommendations made in the ninth report of the Committee of Parliament on Official Language. The report was submitted in 2011.
The panel's recommendation that all dignitaries including the President and ministers, especially those who can read and speak Hindi, may be requested to give their speech/statement in Hindi only, has been accepted, as per an official order.
The President has accepted many other recommendations, including making announcements on civilian flights in Hindi followed by English.
On flights, half the reading material should consist of Hindi newspapers and magazines as "Hindi is grossly neglected by airlines", as per the panel's recommendation, was accepted by the President.
The ministry of civil aviation has been asked to ensure implementation of these recommendations.
Mukherjee has accepted another recommendation of the committee that maximum usage of Hindi should be ensured on all tickets of Air India and Pawan Hans helicopters.
The recommendation favouring 100% availability of training material in bilingual at the Mussoorie-based Lal Bahadur Shashtri National Administrative Academy, the premier institute to train civil servants including those in Indian Administrative Service (IAS), has also been accepted.
The panel had asked the ministry of human resource development to make serious efforts to make Hindi language compulsory in curriculum. "As a first step, Hindi should be made a compulsory subject up to tenth standard in all schools of CBSE and Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan," it had recommended.
"This recommendation is accepted in principle. The Union government should form a policy in consultation with state governments," the order said.
Another recommendation accepted by the President is that universities and higher educational institutes situated in non-Hindi speaking states, where the students are not given an option for Hindi to appear in exams/interviews, must be given an option to answer in Hindi.
In Guwahati on Tuesday, Union minister Venkaiah Naidu urged people to use Hindi daily along with regional languages.
"The Centre is using more and more Hindi in government programmes and policies and we have to make the habit of using the Rashtrabhasha in our day-to-day life, along with the regional languages," Naidu said while presiding over a meeting of the Joint Hindi Advisory Committee.



Average monsoons: Analysts see farm GDP clipping at 3-4 per cent
New Delhi :MMNN:18 April 2017
A normal monsoon season, as projected by the Met department (IMD) could help the agricultural GDP grow by 3-4 per cent this year, a tad lower than last year's, says a report. The IMD today said there would be good distribution of rainfall across the country and it will receive 96 per cent of the long period average. "We believe that the agricultural GDP is most likely to be in range of 3-4 per cent, a tad low compared to 2016-17, if rainfall remains normal," an SBI Research said. It said even in case of deficit rainfalls there are instances where agri-GDP has in fact expanded and smartly grew in slightly more than normal rainfall in 2010 and 2011.
In 2009, despite a 22 per cent decline in rainfalls, agri-GDP expanded by 0.8 per cent. The report said the current year's forecast is majorly important for the farm sector with initial reports pointing fingers at the El Nino which may happen during the later part of the year.
The IMD, however, says weak EL Nino and positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) are currently combining to give a positive monsoon scenario in 2017. The report said an analysis of monsoon forecast (1st and 2nd stage) since 2008 indicates that IMD has only once increased its 2nd stage forecast (in 2014), else the forecast remained same or slightly less than the first.
"With a 38 per cent probability of normal rainfalls, we believe rainfall is most likely to be higher than 96 per cent of LPA," the report said.
Meanwhile, Icra in a report said the timing of rainfall will be crucial as higher rainfall in the early part of the monsoon may support sowing while adequate rainfalls in the second half is important for yields. Its principal economist Aditi Nayar said if rainfall is around 96 per cent, our baseline expectation is that growth of agricultural GVA will moderate from above 4 per cent in fiscal 2017 to 3.6 per cent in fiscal 2018.
Partly due to unfavourable rainfalls and reservoir levels, the GVA for crops contracted by 2.2 per cent in 2016, she pointed out.


Kulbhushan Jadhav's death sentence: Sushma Swaraj warns Pak, Parliament speaks in one voice; top 10 developments
NEW DELHI:MMNN:11 April 2017
A united parliament stood in protest on Tuesday against the death sentence to former Indian Navy officer Kulbhushan Jadhav in Pakistan. Jadhav was sentenced on charges of espionage and destabilising peace in Pakistan. Pakistan's Inter-services public relations office issued a statement confirming the news on Monday. Here is how things unfolded since his sentencing:
1. Kulbhushan Jadhav was tried though Field General Court Martial (FGCM) under section 59 of Pakistan Army Act (PAA) 1952 and Section 3 of official Secret Act of 1923 and awarded death sentence. The charges levelled against him included destabilising peace in Pakistan's Balochistan region and Karachi in Sindh. He was also charged with waging war against Pakistan. The trial was conducted secretly.
2. Pakistan's Inter-Services Public Relations office issued a press statement announcing his death sentence. The statement named him as Commander Kulbhushan Jadhav of the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW)India's external intelligence agency.
3. Hours after the announcement of Jadhav's death sentence, India summoned Pakistan's High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit and a demarche was issued terming the sentence as farcical.
A warning was also issued by the Indian government that if the execution was carried out by the Pakistani government, India would consider it as a premeditated murder.
4. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj spoke in Parliament on Jadhav's sentencing. Swaraj issued a stern warning to Pakistan threatening if they go ahead with the death sentence of Jadhav, it will have consequences. The minister cautioned Pakistan that the execution will have a serious impact on bilateral relations between the two neighbours.
5. Swaraj assured that the government will make sure Jadhav gets the best legal support to fight his case. The minister, replying to a question in Rajya Sabha, said: "Our position is very clear, there is no evidence of wrongdoing by Kulbhushan Jadhav," Swaraj also said that the government would raise the matter at different levels indicating that it may resort to applying diplomatic pressure by raising the matter in the United Nations.
6. Earlier, Congress leaders Mallikarjun Kharge, Shashi Tharoor and AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi had raised the issue in parliament demanding a reaction and response from the government. Kharge said: ""If we fail to save Kulbhushan Jadhav, then it will be government's weakness." While Owaisi added that the Pakistani military court was a banana court and the Indian government should use all its clout and influence to bring back Kulbhushan Jadhav. The parliament spoke in a united voice against Pakistani action backing the government to take the sternest measures.
7. Support came from all quarters of the government machinery. Home Minister Rajnath Singh expressed his ministry's support to Kulbhushan Jadhav in his address to Lok Sabha on Tuesday. Rajnath said that the government of India will do all it takes to save the life of Kulbhushan Jadhav.
8. Pakistan Defence Minister Khawaja Asif came out in defence of the military court's decision to grant Kulbhushan a death sentence. He said that all laws of the land were followed and that the sentencing was done only after a three-month trial. In November, Pakistani Prime Minister's advisor on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz had said that there was insufficient evidence on Jadhav. However, he recently retracted his statement and thereafter his trial resulted in a death sentence.
9. Jadhav was charged with carrying out counter-intelligence and subversive operations in Pakistan. Asif also said in his statement that this sentencing should serve as a warning to all those who were "plotting" against Pakistan. "Those plotting against Pakistan will not be spared," he said.
10. Kulbhushan Jadhav was arrested in March 2016 from Mashkel, Balochistan region in Pakistan. After an interrogation of three weeks, a video was released by ISPR where Jadhav was seen giving a confession of being an agent of the R&AW. Indian government denied the validity of the video alleging coercion, tutoring and doctoring of video. According to Indian government, Kulbhushan, 46, is not a serving Navy officer and he left service in 2002. The government states he is a businessman and was in no way related to any government activities.



Work like Hanuman, PM Modi tells BJP MPs for govt achievements
New Delhi :MMNN:11 April 2017
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday expressed satisfaction on a successful budget session, which he said had been "very meaningful and useful", and advised BJP MPs to work like Lord Hanuman to publicise the government's achievements. Addressing Bharatiya Janata Party MPs here, Modi told them not to wait for his instructions before carrying out government work among the people.
"When Lakshman went into coma, Hanumanji went to find a cure without any prodding. Similarly, MPs must go ahead without waiting for instructions.
They need to carry forward the government's work among the masses," a BJP MP who attended the meeting quoted Modi as saying.
Modi's remarks came after he greeted people and MPs on the occasion of Hanuman Jayanti. Modi urged the MPs to get inspiration from Hanuman.
"Take inspiration from Hanuman. He never took anything from anyone but he kept giving. You also need to give to people like him," Modi said.
Asking MPs to go their parliamentary constituencies, Modi they too needed to establish their own identity despite banking on him (Modi). Later, talking to reporters, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Ananth Kumar said the Prime Minister dubbed the budget session as 'Vijay Prapti Satra' (Winner Session) for the government.
"Modiji said the budget session was very meaningful and useful. It was a 'Vijay Prapti Satra'," Kumar quoted the Prime Minister as saying.
BJP sources said Modi also spoke about the positive mood among people reflected in the sweeping win for the BJP in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand in the just held assembly elections.
"This is a golden opportunity for us to lift the lives of the poor, the deprived. This is the time for doing more development and reforms," Modi said.
He congratulated the MPs for the passage of 21 bills in the Lok Sabha and 14 in the Rajya Sabha including the Goods and Services Tax Bill (GST). The Prime Minister said there was an environment in the country in favour of the BJP and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) it leads.
"This is a golden opportunity to move on the path of development."
Information and Broadcasting Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu also addressed the MPs and hailed Modi for providing the country a tranformative leadership.
Naidu said in just three years, Modi had emerged as the messiah of the poor. Naidu also gave tasks to MPs for the third anniversary celebration of the Modi government. This was the last BJP parliamentary party meeting of the budget session which ends on Wednesday.


Arunachal Pradesh climber Anshu Jamsenpa to scale Mount Everest again
NEW DELHI:MMNN:4 April 2017
After seeking blessings from the 14th Dalai Lama here on Sunday, Anshu Jamsenpa, the woman climber from Arunachal Pradesh who had already summited the Mt Everest thrice, has left for Kathmandu in Nepal to scale the world highest peak again. She reached Kathmandu on Monday and is expected to reach the base camp on Tuesday.
This time, with the blessing and good wishes from the Tibetan spiritual on her side, Anshu during her expedition will attempt to summit the Everest twice-the feat she did within 10 days in May 2011. The mother of two children, Anshu again scaled the Everest on May 18, 2013. If she is successful with her double ascend this time, Anshu will add to her record of climbing Everest five times.
Anshu's public relation manager, Nanda Kirati Dewan said the Dalai Lama blessed the mountaineer and flagged off her double ascend expedition for Mt
Everest during a special audience with the Tibetan spiritual leader here. Dewan quoted Dalai Lama saying to Anshu, "your achievement is the testimony of your hard work, firm determination and a strong belief in yourself" .
Anshu said, "His Holiness is the Living Buddha and getting his blessings in person is one of the most treasured and blessed day of my life. I shall cherish it life long especially the warm hug I got. It will always motivate me and infuse strength to overcome all my struggles of life."
Arunachal Mountaineering and Adventure Sports Association president and Anshu's husband, Tsering Wange offered the Indian tricolor flag to the Dalai Lama, who in turn handed over to Anshu to be unfurled at the summit of Mt Everest.
Dewan said that the entire expedition might take 45 to 60 days, depending upon weather condition.
"As she has left for the base camp on Tuesday, the process of her expedition has already started," Dewan added.



Arvind Kejriwal has failed the test of probity in public life, Ram Jethmalani's offer of help notwithstanding
New Delhi :MMNN:4 April 2017
On the auspicious day of Ram Navami, one nonagenarian Ram has vowed to fight for free for a 'poor' chief minister. It could have been a good Bollywood script. Sadly for Arvind Kejriwal, whose entire career is built around high-octane political theatrics, the reel world is dissolving into real.
Ram Jethmalani's belated offer to represent his 'poor client' Kejriwal pro bono in a 'dharm yudh' against Arun Jaitley could be a post facto attempt at damage control after dirt hit the roof. The move doesn't pass the basic smell test though.
The ace lawyer's personal animosity against Jaitley is well known. He may even make good on his promise and not charge Kejriwal a penny for his services.
However, that doesn't absolve the Delhi chief minister of his moral failings. His robe of rectitude in tatters, Emperor Kejriwal now stands in full frontal glory clothed in garbs of trickery and hypocrisy.
After trying every trick in book to force Delhi taxpayers into picking up the tab for his personal legal bill, attempting to bypass the lieutenant governor in doing so, Kejriwal has now relegated AAP into claiming that Jaitley's defamation case was not against 'Kejriwal the individual' but against an 'idea'.
One hopes Delhi citizens will find it reassuring that they voted for an 'idea' instead of an individual as a chief minister. This at least may explain why AAP felt the need to create a deputy chief minister for a Union territory and put him in chair while the original 'idea' went searching for greener pastures. After stinging electoral reverses in Goa and Punjab, the 'idea' is now back in Delhi, dipping into public funds either to spread his awesomeness through media advertisements or to meet Jethmalani's steep legal fees.


Fishermen protest over killing of colleague, Edappadi Palaniswami writes to PM Modi
NEW DELHI:MMNN:7 March 2017
Hundreds of fishermen on Tuesday staged a demonstration in Rameswaram island to protest the killing of an Indian fisherman allegedly by the Sri Lankan Navy, as Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami dashed off a letter seeking the Centre’s intervention. Tamil Nadu opposition parties also condemned the killing and sought action from the Centre.
The 22-year-old Indian fisherman was shot dead yesterday allegedly by Lankan Navy personnel while he was fishing in a mechanised boat at a short distance off Katchatheevu islet.
The protesting fishermen at Thangachimadam in Rameswaram and the bereaved family have refused to accept the body of the fisherman unless a Central Minister visits the island and gives them an assurance that such incidents would not happen again, Rameswaram Fishermen Association President S Emiret said.
Police said during the autopsy, an AK-47 bullet was found lodged in the neck of the deceased.
In a letter to the Centre, Palaniswami said the Sri Lankan High Commissioner to India should be summoned forthwith and “the strong feelings of the Government of India and government of Tamil Nadu about the unprovoked firing on fishermen and non-adherence to earlier agreements on this issue should be conveyed in no uncertain terms.”
Lanka resorting to “such inhuman and barbaric tactics” completely belies all the diplomatic efforts that have been undertaken including the understanding reached in several meetings between the two countries, including the recent one at Colombo, Palaniswami said in the letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
He said at the ministerial level meeting in Colombo in January, “it was clearly agreed not to use force against bona fide fishermen at sea.”
While the fishermen were fishing in their traditional waters of Palk Bay, at about 9.30 pm (yesterday), “a fleet of four Sri Lankan Naval vessels surrounded the fishing boat and opened unprovoked and indiscriminate fire on the unarmed fishermen,” he said.
“Two fishermen received bullet injuries and while Bridgo died while being brought to the shore, Saran has been admitted in hospital,” he added.
“Even as action is taken on longer term issues like retrieval of Katchatheevu (islet) and on diversification to deep sea fishing, under no circumstances can the present escalation of actions by the Sri Lankan side be ignored or tolerated,” the Chief Minister said.
He urged Modi to intervene “personally in this sensitive livelihood issue of our fishermen and use all means at the command of the government of India to curb the unacceptable aggressive actions of the Sri Lankan Navy in the Palk Bay, and to protect the life, limb and liberty of our innocent fishermen”.
In another statement, Palaniswami condemned the killing and announced a compensation of Rs five lakh for the victim’s family. He also announced Rs one lakh to the other fisherman, who was injured in the attack, and directed that the best medical treatment be offered to him. DMK Working President and Leader of Opposition in state Assembly, M K Stalin, called for diplomatic action by New Delhi on the issue.
“Centre should convey to Sri Lanka, either through consular channels or by summoning its envoy to India, that killing of Indian fishermen cannot be tolerated and that it would face the consequences if such incidents recur,” Stalin said.
Stalin said Lankan Navy’s gunning down of the fisherman Bridgo was in contravention to assurances made in a meeting of fishermen of India and Sri Lanka last year that no force will be used on the Indians and criticised the “inhumane” incident.
“One gets a feeling if there is any meaning in calling Sri Lanka a friendly nation even after this incident,” he said in a statement.
The killing has given rise to apprehension among fishermen of returning alive after venturing into the sea, he added. The DMK leader also demanded that the next of kin of the victim be paid a relief of Rs 25 lakh.


4000 medical PG seats added to streamline medical education: PM Modi
New Delhi :MMNN:7 March 2017
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday said the government has streamlined the medical education field and created 4,000 new post-graduate seats in medical colleges which would resolve the problem of lack of doctors.
"In our country, in the field of health there has always been a complaint that we do not have enough doctors. This is because we do not have a robust system to produce doctors," Modi told a gathering which included medical students at the Surat airport after his arrival.
"If we go to the base of the problem, less number of students can get admission into post-graduate (courses in medical field) due to lack of seats, so only few become professors," he said.
"As there are less (number of) professors, it has become difficult to open new medical colleges. The entire system is entangled in these circles," Modi said.
"But we have streamlined it. We have increased 4,000 post graduate seats in one year. This is a big step in the country," he said.
"Every year 4,000 new post-graduate students (apart from the number of seats already existing) will pass out now who can also become professors. This means they can impart medical education to thousands of students across the country which will solve the issue of shortage of doctors," he said.
"With this we are confident that medical services will be available at village level as well," he added. Modi is on a two-day visit to the state during which he will attend a number of events and meetings.
He will inaugurate a national convention of women sarpanch in Gandhinagar, address an industry meet of OPAL project of ONGC in Dahej and inaugurate a four-lane bridge over Narmada river in Bharuch.


BMC Election 2017: 'Ringmaster' Fadnavis, Uddhav's gamble and how the media interpreted results
NEW DELHI:MMNN:24 Feb. 2017
Results to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) election were announced on Thursday, and while Shiv Sena emerged the single largest party with 84 seats, it was the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that surprised everybody, winning 82 seats, a 164 percent increase from its tally of 31 in the 2012 BMC election. And unsurprisingly, newspapers on Friday chose to focus on BJP's resurgence, paying glowing tributes to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, crediting him with the fine showing.
'Behind BJP’s art of winning, there’s craft too', wrote: "This election offered a perfect timing for the BJP to test its mettle in the megalopolis. The gamble worked to an extent that BJP has shown a nearly 300 percent growth. It had three distinct advantages over the Sena. One, the people of Mumbai were tired of the Sena’s childish politics; two, the city has witnessed a huge influx of north Indians which are not sympathetic to Sena and the last is chief minister’s Devendra Fadnavis’s own image."
Fadnavis, calling him the "ringmaster" who tamed the tiger, referring to the Shiv Sena, the self-proclaimed Tiger. "He plunged into the campaign, and pegged it to transparency. In rally after rally, he explained to the people of Mumbai the corruption in BMC in allotment of contracts for roads, garbage transport, and de-silting. Fadnavis seemed to have succeeded in convincing the people of Mumbai that there was a lack of transparency in policy decisions taken by Shiv Sena and all decisions were taken only for the benefit of a few chosen contractors," the report said.
However, the most intriguing sidelight in the entire political over Uddhav Thackeray's future. The Indian Express carried a report analysing the Shiv Sena executive president's future in light of the recent setback. "While Uddhav left no stone unturned in terms of effort — having addressed over 30 rallies in a fortnight — questions have been raised about his political acumen. There had been rumblings in the party over the decision to snap the alliance with the BJP, and many agree that Uddhav has a lot of work to do before he joins the ranks of satraps who dominate in their states," it said.
The election were also the latest in a long list of successive failures the Congress party has had across the country. In the BMC, it went from 52 to 31 seats, a drop of 21 constituencies, making it even more evident that things will only worsen before they get better for a party that ruled the state until two years ago.


US Embassy condemns Indian-origin engineer's killing in Kansas City bar shooting
New Delhi :MMNN:24 Feb. 2017
After an Indian-origin engineer was killed and two others injured in shooting in a bar in Kansas City in the United States on Wednesday night, the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi has strongly condemned the tragic incident.
Srinivas Kuchibhotla, who worked at the Garmin headquarters in Olathe area of Kansas, was killed in the shooting on Wednesday night, while another Indian and his colleague Alok Madasani was injured and has been discharged from the local hospital where he was undergoing treatment. Srinivas was a resident of Hyderabad. The other person injured in the shooting has been identified as Ian Grillot.
The gunman -- 51-year-old Adam Purinton -- was arrested on Thursday morning, 5 hours after the incident, and has been charged with murder and attempted murder.
US EMBASSY CONDEMNS ATTACK
The U.S. Embassy in New Delhi has strongly condemned the tragic shooting in Olathe area of Kansas. A release from the embassy said, "We extend our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Mr. Kuchibhotla. We share their grief, and wish those injured a speedy recovery. We have reached out to Indian consular officials and promise them full support as they assist the victims. We understand that the alleged shooter is in custody and is expected to be prosecuted for the crime. U.S. Federal authorities are also investigating the case. We have full faith that U.S. legal authorities will bring the case to justice."
MaryKay Carlson, a member of the Senior Foreign Service, said, "We are deeply saddened by this tragic and senseless act. Our deepest sympathies are with the victims and their families. The United States is a nation of immigrants and welcomes people from across the world to visit, work, study and live here. U.S. authorities will investigate the case thoroughly even though we recognise that justice is a small consolation to the families in grief."
ALL ABOUT SRINIVAS
Srinivas, 32, was working as an engineer at Garmin International in Olathe area of Kansas since January 2014. Srinivas graduated in Electrical and Electronics engineering from Jawaharlal Nehru Technical University in Hyderabad during 2001-2005. After completing his B.Tech, Srinivas went to the US for his Masters degree.
Srinivas completed his Masters in Electrical and Electronics engineering from The University Of Texas at El Paso from 2005-2007.
After completing his studies, he stated working as a software engineer with Rockwell Collins and later in January 2014 he joined Garmin International in Olathe as an aviation program engineer and manager. Srinivas' family is inconsolable after learning about his death.
According to a bartender at Austins Bar and Grill in Olathe in Kansas, Adam Purinton used "racial slurs" before he started shooting on Wednesday night as patrons were watching the University of Kansas-TCU basketball game on television.
GoFundMe CAMPAIGN
A GoFundMe campaign (https://www.gofundme.com/srinus-familyrecovery-support) to collect money for Kuchibhotla's family has already raised $250,000, crossing its target of $150,000 in 12 hours.
The donations came from more than 7,000 people, including Americans with a sum total of $$259,807 being raised for Kuchibhotla's family.
The campaign was started by Kuchibhotla's friend Kavipriya Muthuramalingam.
While setting up the campaign, Kavipriya wrote, "Srini was the kindest person you would meet, full of love, care and compassion for everyone. He never uttered a word of hatred, a simple gossip, or a careless comment. He was brilliant, well mannered and simply an outstanding human being. His wife Sunayana and his family are now faced with incredible grief and a multitude of expenses." The donations range from $5 to $100.
INCIDENT A POSSIBLE HATE CRIME: POLICE
Purinton opened fire after allegedly yelling "get out of my country" at the Indians. The local police has called the incident a "possible hate crime".
"It was a tragic and senseless act of violence," Olathe Police Chief Steven Menke told reporters. FBI special agent Eric Jackson said, "We will make sure that the individual involved in this is held accountable for his actions."
Purinton was taken into custody just after midnight on Thursday morning at an Applebee's about 70 miles to the southeast of Olathe in Clinton, Missouri, authorities said. A navy veteran, Purinton later reportedly told a bartender in Clinton, Missouri, where he was hiding that he killed two people from the Middle East.
INDIAN EMBASSY SWINGS INTO ACTION
Meanwhile, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has condoled the death of Srinivas Kuchibhotla.
The Indian Embassy has swung into action and two senior officials of the Indian Consulate in Houston have been sent to Kansas to assist the victims' families.
"Consul Ravindra Joshi and Vice Consul Harpal Singh rushed to Kansas to assist the kin of shooting victims. They are on their way and will reach by evening," the consulate said in a tweet.
The accused has been charged with premeditated first-degree murder and his bond has been set at USD 2 million.
According to Garmin, Kuchibhotla and Madasani worked in the company's aviation systems. "We are saddened that two Garmin associates were involved in last night's (Wednesday night) incident, and we express our condolences to the family and friends of our co-workers involved. Garmin will have grievance counsellors on-site and available for its associates today and tomorrow," Garmin said in a statement.


India's envoy to the UN Syed Akbaruddin warns Pakistan: What you sow will bear fruit, so plant only peace
NEW DELHI:MMNN:20 Dec. 2016
India has renewed its demand for international action against Pakistan-based terrorist groups Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and "their shadowy supporters," and Syed Akbaruddin, India's envoy to the United Nations, today cited a quote from poet Rumi to send to warn Pakistan.
"Every leaf that grows will tell you: What you sow will bear fruit. So, if you have any sense my friend, don't plant anything but peace," Akbaruddin said, quoting the great Persian poet in a Security Council session on the situation in Afghanistan.
The UN envoy's remark was an apparent reference to terrorist groups operating with support from Pakistan in neighbouring Afghanistan. He said that to bring sustainable peace to Afghanistan, groups perpetrating violence in the country must be denied safe havens in its "neighbourhood."
"We need to address, as an imperative, the support that terrorist organisations like the Taliban, Haqqani Network, Daesh, al-Qaeda and its designated affiliates such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammed which operate entirely outside the fabric of international law draw from their shadowy supporters outside Afghanistan," Akbaruddin said.
"Experience, as well as academic research, provides ample support for the assertion that conflicts in which foreign assistance is available to shadowy entities that fight legitimate state authorities tend to be more severe and last longer than other types of conflict," he explained.
Akbaruddin pointed out to the Security Council that it's apparent that efforts by nations for rebuilding institutions, infrastructure and networks in Afghanistan are being "undermined, schools are being destroyed, mosques bombarded and religious gatherings targeted".
"It is also evident that those who perpetrate these heinous crimes have survived and thrived only with support and sanctuaries on the outside," he said, in a veiled but strong reference to Pakistan.
Akbaruddin noted with concern that while the international community recommits to standing by the Afghan people each time the UN members discuss the situation in the war-torn country, the number of Afghan civilian and security forces casualties keeps rising.
"While the Taliban sanctions regime remains split for more than five years, the designated terrorist group makes concerted effort to capture and hold territory. Therefore, for numerous Afghan women, men and children there is no respite from the plague of terrorism," he said.
This reference to a "split" could be interpreted as a criticism of China, which has blocked India's efforts to have international sanctions imposed on Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Muhammad chief Masood Azhar by a committee that takes action against al-Qaida and its affiliates. Azhar was behind the attack on the Pathankot air force base this year.
As a member of the Security Council, China has also provided cover for Pakistan releasing on bail Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, the LeT commander who masterminded the 2008 attack on Mumbai which killed more than 160 people. He was already on the UN list of those facing sanctions as terrorists.
Akbaruddin today emphasised that the international community must introspect about the way it's approaching the situation in Afghanistan and whether there's a need for course correction.
Akbaruddin's comments come just days after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said, in a message addressed directly to Pakistan foreign affairs chief Sartaj Aziz, that while Pakistan's pledge to contribute $500 million for the reconstruction of his war-torn country was "generous," that money could be used to contain extremism.
Ghani went on to say that "without peace, any amount of assistance will not meet the needs of our people."


Income Tax Department Seizes 10 Crores, 6 kg Gold Jewellery In Chennai
New Delhi :MMNN:20 Dec. 2016
The Income Tax department has seized Rs. 10 crore cash and 6 kg gold jewellery as part of its anti-black money crackdown operations in the city.
Officials said the seizure, all in demonetised notes of Rs. 1,000 and Rs. 500, was made after searches were conducted against a trader dealing in imitation jewellery located in Periamet area of the city.
They said that the department sleuths acted against him based on a tip off about stashing of huge currency in scrapped high value notes and the trader was now being questioned about the source of the huge cash haul.
The interception was made in the city as part of taxman's anti-black money probe post demonetisation of the old currencies on November 8.


For Congress, party is above nation but for us the country is supreme: PM Modi tells BJP lawmakers
NEW DELHI:MMNN:16 Dec. 2016
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed BJP MPs at the party’s parliamentary meeting earlier Friday. He spoke in defence of the government’s steps to curb black money in light of the move to demonetise old Rs 500 and Rs 1000 currency notes. “Earlier, the opposition would unite against the government over 2G and Coalgate scams, but now it is up against government’s steps to curb black money and corruption,” the prime minister told the BJP MPs in a clear jibe at the Congress. “For Congress, party is above the country but for the BJP the country’s interests are supreme,” the PM conveyed to the lawmakers. “Wanchoo Committee had recommended the demonetisation move in 1971. The country has suffered for its late implementation,” he said.
“I want to thank Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik, Bihar CM Nitish Kumar for supporting us in the demonetisation decision and all others who have welcomed the decision,” the prime minister said. “Iss ladai mein jo bhi saath de rahe hain, unhe saath leke humein aage badhna hai (We have to move forward in this struggle with whoever supports us).” He also told the lawmakers that a digital economy should be a ‘way of life’ and that such an economy would be transparent and effective. The Centre has been pushing hard for a ‘cashless’ economy exhorting people to engage in digital transactions.
The Prime Minister’s silence in Parliament in the aftermath of demonetisation has earned him excessive criticism of the opposition. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi also claimed having ‘information’ which would prove PM Modi’s involvement in “personal corruption.” Gandhi also alleged that he was not being allowed to speak in the Lok Sabha as the government feared revelation of the ‘information.’
Leaders of opposition political parties too demanded a discussion on the demonetisation issue and had also asked for a voting clause in the discussion– which was denied by the ruling government. They also met on Friday to discuss the current deadlock in the Parliament. On Thursday, the opposition leaders had also sought a meeting with President Pranab Mukherjee.
The winter session of Parliament is headed for a near-washout amid parliamentary logjam caused by the opposition and treasury benches. While multiple bills had been placed in the Houses for discussion, only two — Income Tax Bill and the Disabilities Bill — were passed.


Lessons from Nirbhaya gang rape continue to elude lawmakers?
New Delhi :MMNN:16 Dec. 2016
On the fourth anniversary of the gang rape of a young woman on a moving bus on December 16, 2012, another case of sexual assault in Delhi came to light on Friday morning.
A 20-year-old woman was raped, allegedly by a car driver who picked her up as she waited near the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences in South Delhi on Wednesday night. She was on her way back home in Noida when the incident occurred. While the Delhi Police arrested the man on Thursday, the case once again sparked off a debate – have we learned any lessons since the Nirbhaya gang rape case that pushed for stricter laws for crimes against women?
According to activists who led the protests in 2012, women in the Capital face the same risks today.
“We are still talking about incidents, not the overall climate for women, which is dangerous. There is an attack on women’s autonomy and there is not one elected representative or Chief Minister who has stood up and defended that autonomy,” said Kavita Krishnan, secretary of the All-India Progressive Women’s Association.
The inadequacies in public transportation that were exposed by the December 16 case are yet to be addressed properly, she said.
“Political will lacking”
Also highlighting a lack of “political will”, Ranjana Kumari, director of the Centre for Social Research, said the laws had failed to act as deterrents.
“The story repeats itself, the comments repeat. We are stuck in a cycle, which will only be broken with strong political will,” said Dr. Kumari.
The “feeling of impunity persists”, with perpetrators remaining under the impression that they would “get away” with crimes against women, she noted.
Jagmati Sangwan, national general secretary of the All-India Democratic Women’s Association, said not only have crimes against women not gone down since 2012, but the “vulnerability of the deprived sections of society has increased”.
“Through statements made by members of the government and political parties, a message has been sent down to the administrative machinery and law enforcement. The ‘blame the victim’ approach is still there. There is no accountability,” she said.
Terming the Wednesday night incident “unfortunate”, she said much was left to be done to make public transport and public spaces safe.
That being said, the activists all agreed that the movement for social change that the December 16 case sparked is still on today. From protests against sexist rules in university hostels to women reclaiming public spaces at night, efforts to make Delhi safer are on.
“If one thing has changed it is women’s willingness to complain and fight back. Women are increasingly choosing not to be silent. The one positive outcome is that the movement is continuing,” said Ms. Krishnan.


India,Indonesia provide bulwark against radicalism intolerance: President Mukherjee
NEW DELHI:MMNN:13 Dec. 2016
President Pranab Mukherjee has said that India and Indonesia provide a bulwark against radicalism and intolerance.
Welcoming the President of Indonesia to India, the President said India and Indonesia have has age-old bilateral ties. The two countries share a common experience of struggle for freedom from colonial rule.
President Mukherjee yesterday received Indonesian President Joko Widodo and his wife Madame Iriana Widodo at Rashtrapati Bhavan. He also hosted a banquet in their honour.
The President said India welcomes Indonesia's emergence as a vibrant democracy.
"India attaches high importance to Indonesia's success as a pluralistic democracy with an open society based on the shared values of syncretism, tolerance and respect for diversity. India values its cooperation with Indonesia to address these common security concerns and transnational threats. Our proximity as close maritime neighbours indicates that this is a key area where we must work together as partners to achieve for strategic stability and security in the Indo-Pacific and safety and security of sea lanes," he added.
The President said Indonesia is the largest economy in ASEAN and India's number one trade partner in the region.
"Our bilateral trade was about US$16 billion last year. We can try to realise the actual potential of our trade by diversifying our trade basket. India would value Indonesia's active support for strengthening India-ASEAN relations during 2017 when we will be celebrating 15 years of Summit level interaction," he added.
Subsequently, in his banquet speech, President Mukherjee said Indonesia and India helped to write the closing chapters of colonialism and started the Non-Aligned Movement.
"India looks forward to work with Indonesia to achieve the full potential of economic co-operation, maritime and air links and in increasing reciprocal investments. India would be happy to contribute to Indonesia's 'maritime fulcrum vision' of Indonesia Nusantaraand,thereby, also to the security of the Indo-Pacific region. In the multilateral and global context of facing the common challenges of the 21st Century, India and Indonesia, together, are factors of stability for the world," he added.


Indian defence forces to be under 'US scrutiny': CPI(M)
New Delhi :MMNN:13 Dec. 2016
Indian defence forces and defence production would be "open to scrutiny" and "control" by the United States which will make India its "junior ally" following finalisation of the 'Major Defense Partner' designation, CPI(M) has alleged.
Noting that the US has placed the details of 'Major Defense Partner' designation for Senate approval as part of FY 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the party said the Narendra Modi government "has not even made a statement in Parliament about such a significant deal." "The country can see the US side of the deal by reading the 2017 NDAA, but remains ignorant of the Indian commitment as a 'Major Defense Partner' of the United States," CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury said.
In a letter to the Prime Minister, he referred to Paragraph (E) of Section 1292 of 2017 NDAA, "which talks of 'mechanisms to verify the security of defense articles, defense services, and related technology, such as appropriate cyber security and end user monitoring agreements' for items and technologies sold to India. "Paragraph (F) thereafter states that India will align its 'export control and procurement regimes with those of the United States'."
Yechury further said, "Paragraph(I) of Section 1292, 2017 NDAA makes the facts amply clear. It explicitly highlights enhanced 'defense and security cooperation with India in order to advance United States interests in South Asia and greater Indo-Asia-Pacific regions'." "This is, sadly, a commitment by your government to become a junior ally of the US in our own neighbourhood. This represents the final nail in the coffin of India's independent foreign policy," Yechury said in his letter to Modi.
He said, "These are significant concessions made by your government which will make Indian defence forces open to American scrutiny, and Indian defence production under the control of the United States of America." "Serious apprehensions arise about your government compromising India's sovereignty and strategic autonomy," the CPI(M) leader said, quoting the US statement as saying that the 'Major Defense Partner' designation was a status unique to India" and brings "India to a level at par with that of the United States' closest allies and partners".
"This is a significant departure from India's long- standing policy on defence relations and it has been done without taking Parliament into confidence," Yechury said.


First 2014, Then TIME Poll, No Vote On Notes Ban Needed, Says Government: 10 Points
NEW DELHI:MMNN:9 Dec. 2016
Parliament remains gridlocked over how a debate on the government's notes ban should be conducted. This winter session of parliament ends on Friday. The opposition says that Prime Minister Narendra Modi must apologise for and explain his sudden demonetization drive which has left India without cash and villages, cut off from formal banking, struggling to transact. The government, on the other hand, says it is the opposition which must apologise for its serial disruptions, which have left parliament unable to get down to work.
Here are the 10 latest developments in this big story:
The government has reiterated that it will not acquiesce to a debate followed by a vote, as demanded by the opposition. Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's huge win in 2014, recent victories in civic and state elections, and his emerging earlier this week as Time Person of the Year in an online poll establishes the extent of public support for his policies.

"First, you don't let parliament function, then you ask for voting ... It will be embarrassing for you if there is voting. Voting was done in 2014... people have already given their mandate," said Mr Naidu.

Congress leader Vice President Rahul Gandhi offered the opinion that if the government allows a debate on its controversial move, his speech will trigger "an earthquake". Mr Naidu's thoughts: "ket us hope we are not in parliament when the earthquake happens."

The opposition appeared this morning to create some room for a compromise by offering the option of a "no rules debate", with free-wheeling discussion and a less structured format than what is usually employed, with Speaker Sumitra Mahajan empowered to decide on whether a vote is merited.

But once parliament began, the usual angry exchanges between government and opposition members on the demonetisation drive led to disruptions and then the day being declared done or adjourned early.

The government reminded the opposition of President Pranab Mukherjee's rebuke yesterday. "For God's sake, just do your jobs," he said, stressing that protests should be held "in the streets and not parliament."

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley says he is ready to present the government's stand, but the opposition dodges a discussion by resorting to calls for an apology by the PM and a vote.

"The centre is not just sitting around doing nothing," said its top lawyer to the Supreme Court today, assuring that the current shortage of cash would be resolved "in 10-15 days' time".

But a month after the sudden cancellation of 86% of the notes in circulation, banks are still short of new bills to give to customers desperate for cash.

This session of parliament has seen important legislation stalled because of the stand-off over demonetisation. The national Goods and Services Tax or GST appears at risk. The government is keen on introducing GST in April. For that to happen, key proposals have to be cleared now. But the government's sudden move to cancel 500- and 1,000-rupee notes has alienated the opposition, with some parties saying they are rethinking support to India's biggest-ever tax reform.


Manmohan Singh’s warning to Narendra Modi: Is demonetisation already a ‘mammoth tragedy’?
MMNN:9 Dec. 2016
The choice of words of Manmohan Singh, former prime minister and an economist, for his column in The Hindu on demonetisation impact on India’s economy, beginning with the title, Making of a mammoth tragedy, should worry the average Indian. Even if one tend to discount the politics of Singh’s article, the former RBI governor’s warning on an impending economic crisis, that according to him, will mainly hit the poor, is worth paying a great deal of attention by his successor in PMO, Narendra Modi.
Singh begins the piece by lauding Modi’s intention—addressing black money, fake currency problems—but later goes on to say that what he has done to achieve this task will not only work but its ‘unintended consequence’ will harm the poor greatly. Singh said. “All black money is not in cash, only a tiny fraction is. Against this backdrop, the decision by the Prime Minister is bound to have obverse implications by causing grievous injury to the honest Indian who earns his/her wages in cash and a mere rap on the knuckles to the dishonest black money hoarder.” Singh, who had just recently warned about a 2 percent GDP decline following demonetisation, ends his article saying “It is my humble opinion that we as a nation should brace ourselves for a tough period over the coming months, needlessly so.”
Is the former PM overstating the short-term pain caused by the demonetisation calling it ‘a mammoth tragedy’, launching a political attack intended to bulldoze a massive economic reform shouldered by his political rival--something and a missed opportunity for his government? Or is it an important caution from an economist-cum former central banker that should be an eye-opener even to his political enemies and the finance ministry?
It is too early to talk about the actual impact on the economy and its various stakeholders from the artificial cash crunch that is a consequence to PM Modi’s massive currency crackdown that has parallels in India only to the 1978 currency ban by Morarji Desai Government. But, some indications have begun to flow in, which indeed shows things have taken a bad turn for the economy though no one is sure how things will pan out from this point.
Let’s look at the available data so far and try understanding Singh’s caution.
Services/manufacturing
The demonetisation announcement happened on 8 November. The only real numbers that gauge the economic activity in the month of November that is out is the Nikkei India Services Business Activity Index for manufacturing and services sectors. This is an important index economists and central bank track to fathom the trends in these key areas. The services sector PMI sharply fell to 46.7 in November from 54.5 in October—that is the biggest monthly drop since November 2008, just two months after the global financial crisis hit the economy following the US investment bank Lehman Brothers going bust in September. A reading of PMI above 50 typically shows economic growth, while a figure below 50 indicates contraction. "The latest set of gloomy PMI figures for the Indian service sector shows that companies were heavily impacted by the 500 and 1,000 rupee notes ban. Cash shortages resulted in fewer new business intakes, which in turn caused a fall in activity and ended a 16-month sequence of expansion ," said Pollyanna De Lima, Economist at Markit and author of the report.
A decline, though not to this extent, was seen in the manufacturing PMI as well with the index shrinking to 52.3 in November from October’s 22-month high of 54.4. But, the PMI numbers do indicate both manufacturing and services have taken a major hit in November. One needs to wait and watch how things will pan out from here on when more data comes.
November auto sales
Then we have the auto sales numbers, which is a good indicator to know what is happening on the ground. According to PTI report, the vehicle sales across categories registered a decline of 5.48 per cent at 15,63,665 units, from 16,54,407 in November 2015. It is the steepest decline in 43 months when total sales had declined by 7.75 per cent in March 2013.
Two wheelers and commercial vehicles are the segments that are hit most. According to Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), passenger vehicle sales last month were at 2,40,979 units, as against 2,36,664 in November last year. Domestic car sales ticked up to 1,73,606 units as against 1,73,111 in November last year while that of commercial vehicles (CVs) was down 11.58 per cent at 45,773 units in November, SIAM said. According to this report, total two-wheeler market sales dropped by five per cent, with market leaders like Hero MotoCorp and Bajaj Auto witnessing major fall. Hero MotoCorp sold 4,79,856 units of two-wheelers in November, marking a fall of around 12.9 percent year-on-year, while Bajaj Auto saw sales dropping by 12 percent in November, and others reported a flat growth.
The RBI cues
The RBI’s approach to the demonetisation impact on the economy is bit perplexing, but the obtrusive caution is hard to ignore. In its latest bi-monthly policy review, the central bank has already cut the FY17 growth forecast to 7.1 percent from 7.6 percent, but not taking into account the full impact of demonetisation shock. “The withdrawal of SBNs could transiently interrupt some part of industrial activity in November-December due to delays in payments of wages and purchases of inputs, although a fuller assessment is awaited,” the RBI said.
The RBI indeed acknowledges that there’ll be ‘short-run disruptions in economic activity in cash-intensive sectors such as retail trade, hotels & restaurants and transportation, and in the unorganised sector’. But the RBI’s larger assumption seems to be that there will be a recovery beyond short –term pain of cash-crunch. “ If the impact is transient as widely expected, growth should rebound strongly.”
But the central bank too only ‘expects’ that the demonetisation effect is ‘transient’ but it is not fully sure on the actual impact. “The outlook for GVA growth for 2016-17 has turned uncertain after the unexpected loss of momentum by 50 basis points in Q2 and the effects of the withdrawal of SBNs (specified bank notes) which are still playing out.” In short, the RBI has no clue at this stage what the demonetisation will do to the economic growth. It primarily attributes the loss of growth momentum in second quarter to the downward revision and to the as yet unclear effects of note ban. This means, if things turn bad, the 7.1 percent growth projection could be revised downwards even further to 6-6.5 percent.
Job loss
There are indications of severe hit to the employments in the informal sector post after the government announced Rs 500, Rs 1,000 notes as illegal tender on 8 November. As Singh points out in his Op-ed, “more than 90 per cent of India’s workforce still earn their wages in cash. These consist of hundreds of millions of agriculture workers, construction workers and so on”. The pain and suffering of these segments, which constitute the majority is not quantifiable, but no government can shun the responsibility of massive losses in the country that is a consequence of a “well thought-out”, conscious policy action, which according to RBI governor Urjit Patel, “wasn’t done in haste”. We don’t have reliable figures on job data. But, according to a report in Financial Express, which quotes unnamed industry officials, “As many as 4 lakh people, mostly daily wagers, may have either lost their jobs or shunned work temporarily due to the lack of payment so far, and the number is only going to grow if the cash crunch persists.”
Even the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, the labour wing of BJP’s ideological parent, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh has raised an alarm about the huge hit on job losses. “"Under the new government, 1 lakh and 35 thousand job opportunities have been created so far but 20 lakh people have lost their jobs," Baij Nath Rai, president of the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, told The Telegraph. This is a serious situation indeed in a country where job creation is already a massive challenge. The onus, yet again, falls on the Modi-government here. The big question is how long the pain will last. There is no clarity on this either from the government and the central bank. PM Modi talks about 50-days, his finance minister, Arun Jaitley speaks of two or three quarters and the RBI doesn’t seem to have an answer except assuring the public that there is enough cash out there and things are under “constant review”.
There are no two thoughts on the intentions behind the demonetisation exercise but when ultimately a cost-benefit analysis is done, and if the government finds little luck on recovery on unaccounted cash, the cost of this whole exercise will be enormous, far outweighing the gains that may include more people moving to non-cash transactions. PM Modi’s big task now is to ensure demonetisation doesn’t end up as a tragedy.


Jayalalithaa demise: Three deaths, two suicide attempts in Coimbatore
Coimbatore:MMNN:6 Dec. 2016
Three persons died apparently due to shock and two cases of suicide attempts were reported from the district after the news of Jayalalithaa’s deteriorating health spread last evening, police said today.
In Singanallur, a 65-year-old painter complained of chest pain while watching television news on Jayalalithaa’s health in his house yesterday. However, he died before being taken to the hospital, police said. In another incident, Palaniammal (62) of Thudiyalur, died of shock after watching the TV news in her house yesterday afternoon, they said.
Similarly, a 38-year-old load worker, Raja of Erode, collapsed on the chair, while watching the news channel.
Though his wife called for assistance, the 108 crew of emergency service declared him dead on their arrival, police said.
Meanwhile, one Loganathan attempted suicide by jumping down from a 50-foot tall mobile tower in Kuniamuthur in the early hours.
However, police reached the spot and managed to bring him down, before letting him off with a stern warning.
In second such incident, a 45-year-old AIADMK worker, Ramachandran attempted self-imolation near Annur last night.
With 60 per cent burns, he is being treated at the Government Hospital here, police added.
Jayalalithaa passed away at the Apollo Hospitals in Chennai last night after waging a grim battle for life since her hospitalisation on September 22.


Tributes paid to BR Ambedkar on 60th death anniversary
MMNN:6 Dec. 2016
Rich tributes were on Tuesday paid to the architect of Constitution, B R Ambedkar on his 60th death anniversary, observed as 'Mahaparinirvan Din' by thousands of followers from all over the state who converged at his memorial 'Chaityabhoomi' near Shivaji Park in Dadar.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Education Minister Vinod Tawde were among the leaders who paid homage to Ambedkar at the 'Chaityabhoomi'.
At Mantralaya, the state Secretariat, floral tributes were offered to the late leader. At Vidhan Bhawan, Legislature staff paid tributes to Ambedkar.
The city's public transport wing, BEST undertaking, ran special buses between Dadar and Shivaji Park, an official said, adding food stalls were also being put up to provide free snacks.
The BMC has installed temporary sheds, mobile toilets and six medical stalls at Shivaji Park, Dadar Station, at Rajgriha (Ambedkar's residence) and Kurla Terminus.
Drinking water arrangements were also made at Shivaji Park, the official said.


India hopes to work closely to expand ties with UAE: President Pranab Mukherjee
NEW DELHI:MMNN:2 Dec. 2016
India looks forward to working closely with United Arab Emirates (UAE) to further expand and deepen bilateral ties, President Pranab Mukherjee said today.
Mukherjee stated this while extending his greetings to the government and people of the UAE on the occasion of their National Day.
In a message to Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the President said India deeply values its close, friendly and warm relations with the United Arab Emirates, "which are firmly rooted in our age-old trade and cultural links, nourished by people-to-people contacts and regular exchange of high-level visits".
"I look forward to working closely with Your Highness to further expand and deepen our bilateral relations," Mukherjee said.
He said the recent contacts and exchanges at the highest political level have provided a fresh impetus to mutually beneficial ties and elevated them to a comprehensive strategic partnership.
"We are delighted that His Highness the crown prince of Abu Dhabi has agreed to be our chief guest at the Republic Day 2017 celebrations," the President said.


BSF jawan injured in ceasefire violation by Pakistani troops
JAMMU:MMNN:2 Dec. 2016
Pakistani troops on Friday violated the ceasefire by firing on forward posts along the LoC in Rajouri district, leaving a BSF jawan injured.
"At 10am, a BSF constable deployed at a forward location at LoC in Bhimbher Gali sector of Rajouri district sustained an injury due to single round fire (sniper fire) from Pakistan Forward Defence location", a senior BSF officer said on Friday.
The condition of the jawan is stable.
The fresh ceasefire violation by Pakistani troops has taken place after a lull of over one week along the LoC.
Eleven persons including six Army personnel, four BSF jawans and a civilian porter working with Army were injured in Pakistan shelling and firing in Nowshera, Manjakote, Balakote, Mendhar and Gurez sectors on November 23.
A total of 26 people, including 14 security personnel and 12 civilians, have been killed and more than 83 suffered injured in Pakistani shelling and firing along IB and LoC in Jammu after surgical strikes.


Demonetisation: By repeated flip-flops, PM Modi is proving Manmohan Singh right
MMNN:25 Nov. 2016
On Thursday, few hours after former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called demonetisation a ‘monumental mismanagement’ by the Narendra Modi-government, the government came out with an announcement that yet again proved why Singh, a well-known economist, is indeed right.
The Finance Ministry announced on Thursday (November 24) that beginning midnight, the exchange of old Rs 500, Rs 1,000 currency notes at bank counters will be stopped. People can still deposit these funds into their accounts though, it said.
Late evening Finance Ministry notification stopping the over-the-counter (OTC) exchange of old bills directly contradicts what PM Modi and Reserve Bank of India (RBI) promised the public just a few days back when the RBI said in its statement after demonetisation: The scheme closes on 30th December 2016. The specified banknotes can be exchanged at branches of commercial banks, Regional Rural Banks, Urban Cooperative banks, State Cooperative Banks and RBI till 30th December 2016.
On 8 November, when the PM announced the demonetisation in his televised address, he had said: “From 10th November till 24th November the limit for such exchange will be 4,000 rupees. From 25th November till 30th December, the limit will be increased.”
Now, take a look at the 11 November press release of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). It said, “The facility for exchanging the withdrawn denominations of 500 and 1000 is available for nearly 50 days. The Reserve Bank appeals to members of public to be patient and urges them to exchange their old notes at their convenience, any time before December 30, 2016."
In effect, both PM Modi and the RBI assured the public that the facility to exchange the old Rs 500, Rs 1,000 notes will stay till at least 30 December. People do not have to rush to the bank counters to get their notes exchanged. What about those people who waited instead of going to banks immediately like senior citizens, housewives, students and patients, among others, who trusted these assurances from the government and the RBI and did not exchange their old notes? Isn’t it a breach of a gentleman’s agreement?
Here is the inference from this whole mess: By abruptly withdrawing the exchange facility and sharply contradicting the PM’s speech and RBI's statement, the Finance Ministry just proved that there is a serious disconnect and lack of understanding between the finance ministry, the PMO and the RBI on the implementation of the demonetisation process.
Secondly, between the government and the RBI, there is an even more serious disconnect, it appears. The Reserve Bank’s appeal ‘to members of public to be patient’ and the institution’s guidance to them to 'exchange their old notes at their convenience, any time before December 30, 2016’ has been rendered meaningless and ridiculed by the Finance Ministry's decision to abruptly stop the exchange of notes, more than one month before the date promised what RBI has promised. On a subject that predominantly falls in its domain, the central bank will now fight a major trust deficit with the public. Next time, there is an RBI advisory, people may take it with skepticism.
How has the government made a decision or come to the conclusion that every needy person has exchanged old notes for their immediate needs? As per the RBI data, from 10-18 November, of the total Rs 5,44,571 crore received at bank counters, exchange of notes amounted to only Rs 33,006 crore, while deposits constituted the majority of Rs 5,11,565 crore. True, this is also because of the tight limit set for exchange over the counter. But the other reason can be that some people haven't approached their banks yet and are waiting for the rush to get over before 30 December.
It is not clear what prompted the Finance Ministry to prematurely stop the exchange facility at banks. In its notification last evening, the Ministry said, “it has been observed that over the counter exchange of the old currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denomination has shown a declining trend”. But, the counter question here is how the government would know if someone is waiting to exchange his notes within the promised period of 30 December.
“It has further been felt that people may be encouraged and facilitated to deposit their old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes in their bank accounts,” the Ministry release said. Here, if the idea is to encourage people to deposit money and later let them withdraw from branches or ATMs for immediate needs, it could have waited till the time ATMs and bank branches have enough cash supply, especially in rural India, so that those who would want to deposit funds and later withdraw can do so in a hassle-free manner.
But, that’s not the case now for sure.
Though there is a slight improvement in the situation in ATMs (even in metros), people are still standing in queues to withdraw money. Many ATMs are still out of cash and even the most optimistic estimates indicate that it might still take a few months before things will get back to normal. Given this scenario, the question arises on what basis did the government stop the exchange facility abruptly and ask people to deposit funds. Clearly, the decision hasn’t come out of a thorough thought, but more likely it looks like an impulsive action by the bureaucracy of the Finance Ministry.
If the idea is to discourage black money being exchanged at the counter, again the Ministry has got it wrong. The over-the-counter exchange facility was offered to meet the immediate cash needs of the common man with a very small limit of Rs 4,000. It should have continued at least till December-end to make the transition process smooth. Those with unaccounted wealth can still deposit their funds in small deposits in branches. Hence, the entire rationale behind the move makes little sense.
Ever since the demonetisation announcement on 8 November, there has been a series of flip-flops on rules by the government. In the case of exchange, the daily limit was first set at Rs 4,000, then increased to Rs 4,500 and later the limit was reduced to Rs 2,000. Then the government introduced a new method -- of marking people who come to exchange notes with indelible ink. Its latest move is to stop the exchange facility itself one month ahead of the promised time. To top it all, the RBI issued on Friday another statement: The
Reserve Bank of India advises members of public that exchange of banknotes in Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denominations, whose legal tender status has been withdrawn, will continue to be available at the counters of the Reserve Bank upto the current limits per person as hitherto. (However such exchange facility is no longer available at other banks' counters).
Once again, the comment of the former PM and former RBI governor merit a mention. “It is no good that everyday the banking system comes with modification of the rules, the conditions under which the people can withdraw money. That reflects very poorly on the Prime Minister’s office, on the Finance Minister’s office and on the Reserve Bank of India.
I am very sorry that the Reserve Bank of India has been exposed to this sort of criticism which I think is fully justified.”
By repeated flip-flops, Modi government is proving Manmohan Singh right.


Note ban: SC fixes hearing on all pleas challenging demonetisation on 2 December
NEW DELHI:MMNN:25 Nov. 2016
The Supreme Court has fixed the hearing on a batch of pleas challenging demonetisation for 2 December, saying it will examine both the inconvenience aspect and constitutional validity of the 8 November notification in one go.
A bench of Chief Justice TS Thakur and Justice DY Chandrachud initially said it would first hold a hearing on the inconvenience faced by the public and steps taken to address them and that the hearing on the validity of the note ban could take place later. But the apex court later agreed to hold hearing on both the aspects simultaneously.
The Centre, represented by Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, had requested a stay on the proceedings against its 8 November decision to demonetise high denomination currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000, before various high courts and other courts apart from the apex court, saying it will create a lot of confusion. The Supreme Court agreed to hear the plea on 17 November, after initially refusing to stay the government's demonetisation notification on 15 November.
The apex court had on 18 November dubbed as a "serious issue" the long queues outside banks and post offices and expressed its reservation on the Centre's plea, even warning the Centre of the possibility of riots, according to a Hindustan Times report.
However, the Supreme Court on Wednesday, 23 November, sought the response of all the petitioners, who challenged the demonetisation move in different high courts and a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur refused the Centre's request to stay the proceedings, saying people may get "immediate relief" from them.
"We don't want to stay it. There are various issues. People may get immediate relief from the high courts," the bench also comprising Justices DY Chandrachud and L Nageswara Rao told Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi.
The AG on Thursday informed the bench that the situation is "much better" and more than Rs 6 lakh crore has been deposited so far in the banks since the demonetisation move, and that there is a big surge in digital use of money transaction.
He had also said the demonetisation move was aimed at removing the 70 years of "slush money" and the government is monitoring the situation day-by-day and hour-by-hour.
And that the government has set up a committee which will take stock of the ground situation across the country on demonetisation move, after saying that the general rule is that the cash transactions in the market should not be more than four percent of the GDP but it is 12 percent in India.
The bench had questioned the relief measures undertaken by the Centre and asked why it had squeezed the exchange limit to Rs 2,000, to which the AG said that after printing, the currency has to be moved to thousands of centres across the country and ATMs have to be re-calibrated to issue new currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 2,000 adding that Rs 100 notes are in circulation.
A day before this crucial hearing, the Centre, had filed an affidavit on demonetisation, and said the decision on which a total secrecy was maintained, would now help in proper implementation of the ambitious 'Jan Dhan Yojana' under which around 22 crore bank accounts for poor people have been opened as reports of unscrupulous elements using these accounts to convert their black money into white surfaced.
Further, demonetisation is seen as a check on the real estate sector where prices get pushed up artificially, reducing the availability of affordable housing for the poor and the middle class. Elaborating on several measures including the "thrust" given for increasing digital payments in the economy through credit and debit cards, internet banking, mobile apps and e-wallets, it said their use has seen a jump of nearly 300 percent in the last 10 days.
In its affidavit, the Centre also gave reasons for maintaining secrecy about the move which was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi just after 8 pm on 8 November and came into force from the midnight, saying "If elaborate prior arrangement for distribution of new currency notes were made prior to the announcement of the scheme, the very objective of the scheme would have been defeated. Further, the scheme impacts several sectors in the short-term but promises large benefits in the economy in the medium-term."
Petitions have been filed by a number of people including Sitaram Yechury of the CPI-M, seeking to know what the government was doing to ensure that there was adequate supply of currency notes according to a News 18 report.
The bench, meanwhile, asked Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Centre, to file additional affidavit, if any, explaining the "schemes and steps" taken to ease the situation that has arisen due to demonetisation.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for one of the petitioners who has challenged the Centre's 8 November decision on demonetisation, said the court should start hearing the matter from Tuesday itself. Rohatgi, however, opposed the contention and said let all the petitioners, who have approached various high courts on the issue, come to the apex court which would take a call on 2 December as to whether the Supreme Court or the Delhi High Court would hear them all.


Terrorists Killed In Kashmir's Bandipora Had New Rs. 2,000 Notes, Say Police
BANDIPORA:MMNN:22 Nov. 2016
New notes of Rs. 2,000 were found on two terrorists killed in an encounter in Bandipora in Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday.
The police say the terrorists had Rs. 15,000 in cash, including two notes of the new Rs. 2,000, and 160 Rs. 100 notes.
The terrorists were killed in a gunfight with security forces that went on for hours. Both are suspected to be from the Pakistan-based terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba, the police say.
Images after army searches showed the 2000-rupee notes along with two AK 47 guns.
Banks started dispensing new Rs. 2,000 notes two weeks ago, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi banned 500 and 1,000-rupee notes on November 8 in an attempt to check tax evasion and terror funding. PM Modi said terror attacks, including those facilitated by Pakistan, often involve counterfeit Rs. 500 notes.
Yesterday, four masked and armed men burst into a bank in Kashmir and left with Rs. 13 lakh, largely in the old Rs. 500 and 1,000 notes.
The robbery took place at a branch of the state-run Jammu and Kashmir Bank in Malpora, 100 km from Srinagar.


Patna-Indore Express tragedy: Parliamentary Standing Committee’s red flag ignored
NEW DELHI:MMNN:22 Nov. 2016
The deteriorating quality of food on the Rajdhani and the rail fare across trains seem to be two of the biggest discussion points each time the Railway Budget is presented.
But it's time we set aside the Rajdhani food for a bit and focus on what should be at the core of everybody's concern — whether or not passengers will reach their destinations safely, irrespective of budgetary allocations for various expenditure heads. Unfortunately, passenger safety seems to have been the least concern for the political class that sits over the financial fortunes of the Railways each year. And the recent Patna-Indore Express tragedy has once again highlighted this serious issue.
After the accident on Sunday, the government has initiated a probe to find out the possible cause of derailment. The accident site has been videographed, railway engineers and technical staff members were questioned and samples were collected from the debris to ascertain the factors that led to the derailment of 14 coaches of the Patna-Indore Express due to suspected rail fracture.
With as many as 146 deaths, it has become one of the worst rail disasters of recent times. And for once, the issue has united the railway employees’ unions across the political spectrum.
But, what after that?
The same old story of recommendations, promises and near-zero implementation is likely to repeat itself.
However, more than a decade ago in 2004, the Parliamentary Standing Committee in its report submitted to the 14th Lok Sabha had made radical observations on safety and the security of the Indian Railways. “We had recommended several measures for the safety and security of passengers in the Standing Committee report from the renewal of tracks to addressing the acute shortage of staff especially in the safety segment. But, barring a few, implementation of major recommendations was never done. So many passengers died in this accident. Had the new LHB-design coaches been used, as recommended, casualties could have been averted,” Basudeb Acharia, former chairman, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Indian Railways and a seven-time Lok Sabha MP from Bengal told Firstpost.

A few Standing Committee observations:

- Resource crunch has been the basic cause for not proceeding with identified safety items like track-circuiting or renewal of the over-aged assets in the past three or four decades.
- Due to an acute shortage of staff at times, even the station masters have to perform commercial duties like the sale of tickets, booking of parcels/goods, attending public queries etc. In the process, there could be a lapse in train operations. Due to a shortfall in staff (that comes under the safety category), the safety of trains/operations has to be compromised.
- Against the 10 hours of duty from 'rolling on' to 'rolling off' and 12 hours of duty from signing on to sign off, the operational staff, especially gangmen and drivers, in actual practice have to work for even 22 to 24 hours at a stretch. At times, drivers have been found to be working for five consecutive days. Due to work stress and stifling conditions, the life of thousands of commuters is at risk and it certainly affects the safety of train operations.
- In order to earn more revenue, new trains have been introduced and many express trains were converted into super-fast ones and efforts are now being made to provide for commensurate safety safeguards and maintenance facilities. While doing so, proper care is not being taken to replace the over-aged rolling stock. The process of modernisation and renewal of track and maintenance lacks the desired attention.
- While the traffic has increased, the commensurate increase in assets for capacity-generation has not been there. The system is over-stretched, over-stressed and has a direct impact on the safety of the operations in running trains. Renewal and replacement of over-aged assets need to be expedited.
“Consecutive Rail Budgets have been ignoring the safety and security part and allocation in this segment is low in comparison to others. In a decade, the staff shortage has reached three lakh and due to this, time-bound renewal and maintenance of tracks is not happening,” added Acharia, who is also president of West Bengal Railway Contractor Labour Union.
The employees’ unions — whether Left or Right, are vocal against the current state of affairs in the Railways.
The RSS-affiliated Bharatiya Railway Mazdoor Sangh’s secretary-general, Ashok Shukla pointed out, “Every Rail Budget is politically-aimed. The number of trains is increased, populist announcements are made to keep the electorate happy, but ultimately the key concerns like passenger safety, track maintenance, renewal of tracks etc are compromised. The irony here is that Railways has set its standards in every category of operation, but fails to match it. Ultimately, the passengers have to pay the price.”
“There has been no real change in the mindset of Indian Railways since Independence. The political leadership has no control over bureaucracy even today. In the past decade, due to the government’s policy, there has been a massive curtailment in ground level staff, including loco drivers, whereas at the Rail Board-level, the number of members and officials has remained the same. The posts with permanent jobs have been filled by contractual workers, and the cascading effect is glaring,” Shukla added.
“There’s an acute staff crunch in the Railways and in the safety category, the shortfall is one lakh. Several staff members in sensitive positions including signal operators and drivers have to work beyond their capacity and working hours.
It has been affecting the performance and safety is compromised. The Railway’s Depreciation Reserve Fund and Development Fund are getting depleted, and whatever is available is mere peanuts. Despite the Parliamentary Standing Committee and Kakodkar Committee’s recommendations, the government has shown a deaf ear to it and train accidents are continuing. We’re taking up this issue with the government,” a member of the Left-affiliated All-India Railwaymen’s Federation (AIRF) remarked.


PM Narendra Modi very confident of good relation with US President elect Donald Trump
New Delhi :MMNN:15 Nov. 2016
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is confident that Donald Trump, the US President elect, will be favourably inclined towards India. According to a report in ToI, PM Modi is believed to have said this in an informal discussion on Trump’s win during the dinner hosted by Lok Sabha speaker Sumitra Mahajan. Modi has reportedly said that he enjoys a good relation with Trump and that Republicans have on a whole been been more favourable towards India, than Democrats.
Modi even said that Democrats have been more inward looking, though recent governments have been more friendly. Modi does not expect much change in US approach in terms of bilateral ties with India.
PM Modi was one of the first leaders to congratulate US President elect Donald Trump after the latter won the election in a shocking result. PM Modi had tweeted, “Congratulations @realDonaldTrump on being elected as the 45th US President. We appreciate the friendship you have articulated towards India during your campaign, @realDonaldTrump.
We look forward to working with you closely to take India-US bilateral ties to a new height. @realDonaldTrump.” Modi also spoke to Trump to convey his best wishes and hoped the two nations would continue to build on the “bedrock of strong Indo-US ties”.
Trump’s opinion on India has largely been positive. He recently attended an event organised by a Hindu group in the US, and proclaimed his love for India, saying, “I love Hindus”.
There is little doubt that India may very well stand to gain from Donald Trump’s presidency, especially in the context of Pakistan. Trump has indicated zero tolerance to terrorism and terrorists and with that in mind, India should look to drive home the important point that Pakistan-sponsored terrorism cannot be taken lightly.
Pakistan media it seems is well aware of this threat, and has thus chosen to warn of its possible implications. It is already wary of what Donald Trump as US President means for the country.
It is worried that Trump would likely view Pakistan through the “prism” of India’s policies towards the neighbouring country. An editorial in the Dawn has cautioned that the Modi government may move “very quickly” to project Pakistan as the common rival of the US and India.


Supreme Court refuses to stay Govt's demonetisation notification
NEW DELHI:MMNN:15 Nov. 2016
Supreme Court today refused to stay the government's notification demonetising Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes but asked it to spell out the steps taken to minimise public inconvenience.
"We will not be granting any stay," a bench comprising Chief Justice T S Thakur and D Y Chandrachud said.
The remarks were made after some advocates insisted on a stay.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for one of the petitioners, however, said he was not asking for a stay on the notification but seeking answers from the government about the steps taken to remove public inconvenience.
The bench asked Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi to file an affidavit about the measures already undertaken by the government and the RBI to minimise public inconvenience and also the steps likely to be undertaken in future.
Without issuing any notice to the Centre or the RBI, the bench posted the matter for further hearing on November 25.
During the hearing, the Chief Justice said the objective seems to be laudable "but there is some inconvenience also to the public at large."
The bench also said "You (Centre) can have surgical strike against black money but you cannot have surgical strike against people of the country."
At the outset, the Centre which had filed a caveat in the matter, sought dismissal of the petitions challenging demonetisation on several grounds including that they were "misconceived". Attorney General (AG) Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Centre, outlined the idea behind demonetisation and said large number of fake currency has been used to finance terrorism in various parts of the country including in Jammu and Kashmir and northeastern states.
He, however, agreed with the bench that some inconvenience to common citizens occurs as this kind of "surgical strike" is bound to have "some kind of collateral damage".
He also said there were as many as 24 crore bank accounts including 22 crore opened under the 'Jan Dhan Scheme' and the Centre was hopeful to "ramp up" the outflow of the cash to banks, post offices and two lakh ATMs across the country. "Two lakh ATM machines could not have been deliberated in advance to be in tune with new notes as the cash would have been out of the banks," Rohatgi said, adding that "secrecy is the key to such actions".
Rohatgi said there were approximately one lakh branches of various banks and two lakh ATMs besides the post offices across the country to dispense cash to common people and the restriction on withdrawal is there to ensure that the money be paid to maximum number of people.
He summed up the submission contending that there was no legal basis for opposing the Centre's move to demonetise the higher denomination currency notes aimed at "catching big fish" which the previous governments failed to do in last 50 years.
He said the Centre has complied with section 26(2) of the RBI Act and the present "surgical strike has to be seen in the context of safety and security of the nation, its border, and financial terrorism unleashed through fake currency."
"The attack is on those who have stashed huge amount of currency," he said, adding that the surgical strike of this nature has to be carried out in complete secrecy and it was not possible to come out with Rs 10 lakh crore of currency in one go as there was a need for recalibration of ATM machines across the country.
The AG was assisted by a team of lawyers, including two Additional Solicitors General, and a senior official from the Finance Ministry. Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for one of the petitioners Adil Alvi, said the petition has also challenged the constitutional validity of the notification as the provision of the Reserve Bank of India Act has not been complied with.
He referred to section 26(2) of the Act and said the government was not authorised to demonetise all series of currency notes of high denominations in one go.
There has to be a legislation if the government wants to demonetise the entire series of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes, Sibal said, adding that in 1978, a law was brought to demonetise the currency notes of particular denominations.
Sibal then highlighted the inconvenience faced by the common people in getting their own money from banks and ATMs and said it was a "surgical strike against the common man."
The apex court, on November 10, had agreed to hear pleas against the November 8 decison of the Narendra Modi government that these notes are no longer a legal tender.
Out of the four PILs on the demonetisation issue, two were filed by Delhi-based lawyers Vivek Narayan Sharma and Sangam Lal Pandey, while two others were filed by individuals, S Muthukumar and Adil Alvi.
The petitioners had alleged that the sudden decision has created chaos and harassment to public at large and the notification of the Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance be either quashed or deferred for some time.
Sharma, in his plea, had termed the notification of DEA as "dictatorial", claiming that it did not grant reasonable time to citizens for exchanging the specified bank notes to legitimate notes to avoid "large scale mayhem, life threatening difficulties".
The plea also sought either quashing of the notification or a direction to the Centre for grant of "reasonable time frame" to citizens to exchange the demonetised currency notes to avoid difficulties being faced by the people.
The Prime Minister, in a televised address to the nation, had declared that high denomination notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 will no longer be legal tender from November 8-9 midnight. He had said the Government has declared a "decisive war" against black money and corruption.


India-US relations to be among top priorities of Trump administration
New Delhi :MMNN:11 Nov. 2016
India-US relations across trade, defence and social ties will be among the priorities of the newly elected US President Donald Trump's administration.
While priorities of Trump administration will emerge in the months following the elected Republican leader's taking charge of the White House in January, relations between India and the United States of America are sure to figure in them, United States ambassador Richard Verma said on Friday.
Trade transactions between the two countries are worth more than $110 billion at present with the value of merchadise trade being over $63 billion. Of this, India's exports to US, accounting for over $40 billion, constitutes the largest offshore market for Indian goods.
India also conducts $15 billion worth trade transactions in the defence sector with the US, Verma said. He added that the current level has been reached in a period of 10 years when significant deals have been inked in the defence sector.
Although the push by the US to cap the release of H1B and L1 visas continues to face opposition from India, Verma said Indians could continue to figure prominently in the list of recipient nations.


Kohinoor diamond row: SC seeks Centre's reply in four weeks
MMNN:11 Nov. 2016
The Supreme Court on Friday issued a notice to the Centre on the Kohinoor diamond matter seeking a reply in four weeks.
Senior Advocate Sommo Chkravarthy said that an impression has been created that the gem was gifted by Maharaja Dilip Singh to the Britishers, but documents produced prove that it was actually stolen. "There must be proper diplomatic parley between the Central government and the government of United Kingdom , that must be supervised by the Supreme Court. Second, is that the impression is created that the gem was gifted by Maharaja Dilip Singh to the Britishers but we have produced all the documents that it was actually stolen," he said.
"Britishers had acquired it illegally and forcefully. The archaeological survey of India has also directed to file the affidavit. Supreme Court has directed it to come up within four week. They have been directed to file an appropriate counter affidavit," he added.
Earlier, after UK Minister of Asia and Pacific affairs Alok Sharma's assertion on the restitution of 'Kohinoor' diamond, Advocate Nafis Siddiqui, the petitioner of the case, said that he will file a new application and if Britain doesn't return the gem still, he will then appeal in the UNESCO and in the UN. "New application will be filled in the Supreme Court to send the advocated commissioner to Britain and request the British government to return the property of India and to get a stay on the selling or auctioning of the diamond. We will get it back, if not, we will appeal through the UNESCO or through UNO," said Siddiqui.
Earlier, in the Supreme Court Centre said that Britain did not steal the 'Kohinoor' but rather it was gifted to them.
Referring to UNESCO declaration of 1970 and 1978, he added that UNESCO has mentioned to return everything that has been looted from the colonial ruled country back to them. France, America and even Australia did so, Britain must also.
After the subjugation of Punjab in 1849 by the British forces, the properties of the Sikh Empire were confiscated and the Kohinoor was also transferred to the treasury of the British East India Company in Lahore.
Later, the diamond was shipped to Britain and was handed to Queen Victoria in July 1850. It was cut to improve its brilliance and was mounted into Queen Victoria's crown. The diamond now sits in the tower of London along with the Crown Jewels. The people of India have been demanding the return of the 105-carat diamond, which the British Government rejected in 2013.


Pakistan-trained LeT militant surrenders in native north Kashmir
Srinagar:MMNN:4 Nov. 2016
A suspected Lashkar-e-Taiba militant surrendered in his native north Kashmir village to where he returned from Pakistan after arms training this year, police said on Friday.
Umar Khaliq Mir alias Sameer dropped his arms and appeared before a police team that cornered him in a house not far from the 24-year-old’s residence in Baramulla district on Thursday evening, superintendent of police Harmeet Singh said.
Mir, who lives in Tujjar area off Sopore town, had crossed the Line of Control over to Pakistan this May to get arms training, according to the police.
There was no case against him, the Sopore SSP said, prompting the police to give the militant a chance to surrender. “We sent him a message through the house-owner, asking him to come out of hiding,” he added. The mission failed.
Subsequently, the SSP called him on phone and said there will be no gunfight if he laid his arms inside and came out.
After this, the militant wanted his father, who lives in the same village, to be called. “We brought the father and sent him in. Mir then came out with his father,” Singh said.
Not every time do such efforts succeed for the police. There have been several instances where militants refused to surrender despite police suggesting it.
The SSP said it was with a group of foreign militants that Mir came back from Pakistan. “We are interrogating him to get to his fellow militants,” he added.
The officer requested all local militants to surrender. “We will welcome them,” he said.


‘Surround, finish them all’: Cops’ alleged conversation on SIMI ‘encounter’
Bhopal:MMNN:4 Nov. 2016
An audio clip allegedly featuring walkie-talkie conversations of police officials handling their “encounter” with SIMI operatives early this week has surfaced, fuelling further suspicion that cops were keen to kill — not capture alive — the eight men who “jumped” jail.
The tape doing the rounds on social media — its authenticity was yet to be confirmed — indicates the SIMI men were carrying arms.
The new clip comes after a few video visuals of the alleged Monday morning “police encounter” with the eight activists of the banned Islamic organisation went viral. The men, who were said to have jumped Bhopal Central Jail on Diwali night, were killed near Malikheda on the outskirts of the state capital. Speaking to HT on the authenticity of the audio clip, IG Bhopal, Yogesh Choudhary said that the whole incident is under investigation.
“It is a matter of investigation. CID is already probing the incident, I cannot comment on that,” Choudhary said.
According to sources, the audio conversation involves a senior police official, the personnel at police control room (PCR) and the police officials present at the encounter site at Khijradev village under Gunga police station.
The senior police official asks on the walkie-talkie whether all the five (of the eight) men were fleeing together. “Kya paanchon saath me bhaag rahe hain”, (Are all the five escaping together?) goes the question. To this, one of the police officials at the encounter site responds in the positive: “Haan, paanhcon saath me bhaag rahe hain.”(Yes, the five are together”)
The senior police official then tells them not to back off and kill them after rounding them up: “Bilkul piche nahi hatna hai. Gherke poora kardo kaam tamaam” (Don’t back off...Surround them and finish them).
One of the police officials then says the SIMI men were firing at them.
To this, the senior official commands to “do retaliatory firing after taking a proper position”. He further asks his colleagues not to spare the men if they have fired—and further informs the cops that another police party was reaching the spot. “Proper position lekar fire karo, jisse crossfire na ho,” ( Take proper position and then fire to avoid crossfiring) he adds.
After a few seconds, a police official at the site says they have killed five of the SIMI men. The senior official congratulates the cops, and says that they were about to reach the location.
One of the police officials at the site says that they have rounded the remaining ones at the top of the hillock where they were standing.
A police official at the PCR seeks confirmation on whether the five were dead. Yes, says a police official at the site. The senior official again congratulates them: “Shabash. Bache huye teeno ko bhi nahi chodna hai, maar dalo”(Well done. Dont’ spare the other three, kill them).
A police official at the site then demands two or three ambulances at the site to which the police personnel at PCR say that they have already sent them. The senior police official then again says that kill them all. “Bas unhe maar daalo. Yadi ye ghayal hote hain to hume unka aspatal me dhyaan rakhna padega. Agar nahi mar rahe hai to maar daalo saalon ko. (Just kill them. If they only get injured, we’ll have to take them to hospital and take care of them. If they aren’t dead, just kill the chaps.”)
A police official at the site then says: “Sir is saying ‘kill all of them’.”
‘Paanch mar chuke hain, sabhi ko maar daalo (five are dead, kill all)” says the senior police official.
One of the officials at the site then asks to leave one of the men alive, adding what will happen if they kill all of them.
Replies the senior official: “Nahi nahi nahi, wo bhi fire kar rahe hain na. Hum keh sakte hain ki hume hathiyar mile hain (No no, they are firing too. We can say we got weapons (from them).”
Then one of the officials at the site says they have killed all the eight men: “Sir humne sabhi aathon ko maar daala”.
All the police officers on the walkie-talkie rejoice. Sounds of cheers can be heard.
A police official at the spot says “humne unhe gher lia hai, wo yahan beech me pade huye hain” (we have rounded them up; they were lying in between). The reinforcements need not to come to the top of the hillock, he adds.
“Jo baaki force pahunch rahi hai, unhe upar aane ki zarurat nahi hai, bata do kuch aur farzi operation karna pade to,” (There is no need to send the force at the top of the hillock...tell them in case we need to do another fake encounter) says the same official at the site.
The senior official then says not to worry and they were coming: “Hum pahuch rahe hain. Hum pahuch rahe hain. Chinta mat karo. (We are reaching there, don’t worry)”
He then asks the police officials at the site to stop shooting. At this, a police personnel at the PCR asks all the police officials on the hillock to stand in their positions and stop shooting ahead of verification of the dead SIMI men.


Good money, honeytrap, WhatsApp calls: How Pak spy ring operated in India
New Delhi:MMNN:28 Oct. 2016
India on Thursday declared Pakistan high commission staffer Mehmood Akhtar 'persona non-grata' for spying and asked him to leave the country within 48 hours after he was caught by Delhi Police with sensitive defence documents, including those about deployment details of BSF along the India-Pak border.
Mehmood Akhtar, described as the kingpin of an ISI spy ring, belongs to the Baloch regiment of Pakistani Army and was on deputation to the spy agency since 2013.
Investigators probing the case suspect more people from the Pakistani mission may be involved in the espionage ring.
Sources in Delhi Police also did not rule out possible involvement of some BSF personnel in the racket as they believe the staffer Mehmood Akhtar and his accomplices could not have got hold of deployment details unless somebody in BSF was leaking them.
Akhtar, who worked in the visa section of the Pakistani high commission, had procured sensitive defence documents and deployment details of BSF along the India-Pak border and shared them with the ISI. Three of Akhtar's accomplices were already arrested.
Akhtar was detained but released after prolonged questioning on Wednesday as he enjoys diplomatic immunity.
He said that he is on deputation to ISI since January 2013 and is a serving Hawaldar of 40 Baloch Regiment of Pakistan army and native of village Kahuta of Rawalpindi district, said Ravindra Yadav, joint commissioner of police(Crime).
During interrogation, Akhtar said that he was posted in Pakistan high commission for last two-and-a-half years, according to police.
It is also suspected that he lured many people into the spying ring by offering them good money and that there was a honeytrap at play to lure people, said another officer in the probe team.
Sources said more people in the Pakistani high commission may be involved in the case.
On possible involvement of BSF personnel, they said, "The documents that were recovered from them couldn't have been procured without the help of someone privy to such sensitive information. We are suspecting that they were aided by some BSF personnel who leaked the information and documents to them.
"We are investigating that aspect. We have identified some of the officers involved and we will be conducting a raid soon."
The Delhi Police had been tracking the module for the last six months and received information on October 25 that Akhtar will be meeting Subhash Jangir and Maulana Ramzan at the Delhi Zoo on October 26 around 10am, said the officer.
A team of officers of crime branch led by ACP Sanjay Sherawat under the supervision of DCP crime (south) Bhisham Singh laid a trap and caught the trio while they were in the process of exchanging documents.
Akhtar initially showed an Aadhar card in the name of Mehboob Rajput.
"He claimed to be a resident of Chandni Chowk but after sustained interrogation, he revealed his real name Mehmood Akhtar," said Yadav.
He was carrying a forged Aadhar card to assume an Indian identity. "He is serving with Pakistan ISI and has got diplomatic immunity since he is posted in the Pakistan high commission (PHC) of Delhi. This was verified through MEA and after confirmation and as per the due procedures, he was handed over to the PHC diplomats in presence of MEA representative," Yadav said.
Since Akhtar was working in the visa department, it gave easy access to him to identify people who could work for him as spies.
"He would chat up with people about their family background and then start laying his trap. People who were financially weak would be lured by promise of getting big money," said a senior police officer.
The officer said the honeytrap angle was also being explored. "From initial investigation, it has been revealed that some girls were exploited after being promised good money and were used to lure men into the module. We are investigating this aspect," he added.
Police have also recovered the mobile phones of Maulana and Jangir, who were sharing information and documents with Akhtar.
"It has been found that they used to mostly communicate through WhatsApp calls as they are not recorded. We cannot procure the call detail records of calls made through WhatsApp.
"On normal phone calls, their conversations would mostly happen through codewords and we were studying the pattern in the last six months," said a senior police officer.
Akhtar would meet Maulana and Jangir once every month in Delhi where they would give documents to him and he would pay them a high amount in return.
During interrogation, they didn't reveal the amount for leaking information but it is suspected to be in the range of Rs 30,000-Rs 50,000, said a senior police officer.
Akhtar had come in contact with Maulana and Jangir through a Jodhpur-based passport and visa agent, identified as Shoaib.
Maulana and Jangir are residents of Nagaur in Rajasthan. Maulana has been working as an Islamic preacher at a local mosque Qureshiyon ki Masjid there and Subhash had a small kirana shop near the mosque.
Maulana Ramzan was in contact with Shoaib, who was arrested from Jodhpur.


15 Pakistani Rangers killed in retaliatory firing along International Border: BSF
JAMMU:MMNN:28 Oct. 2016
The BSF on Friday said it had killed 15 Pakistani paramilitary personnel while retaliating to cross-border shelling and firing in which two Indian civilians were killed and two injured in Jammu region.
Firing mortar shells and using automatic weapons, Pakistani troops targeted civilian areas and forward security posts along the International Border and Line of Control in Jammu, Kathua, Poonch and Rajouri districts of Jammu and Kashmir.
BSF said that as per the ammunition used in firing and shelling, it appeared that Pakistani Army is supporting its paramilitary Rangers along the IB.
In retaliatory firing, 15 Pakistani rangers have been killed so far, BSF said.
"At 1720 hour yesterday, Pakistan Rangers started unprovoked heavy firing and shelling in Kathua Sector of Jammu which further spread to Hiranagar and Samba. It continued till 0500 hours today in the area of 24 BSF posts," a senior BSF officer said.
BSF Additional Director General Arun Kumar told reporters here that a befitting reply was being given to the Pakistani shelling and firing.
"Fifteen Pakistani soliders have been killed in retaliatory firing and shelling by BSF. We have destroyed their OP (outposts) and damaged a few," Kumar said. As per the ammunition (120 mm mortars) used, it appears that Pakistani army is supporting the Rangers, he said after laying wreath at the mortal remains of BSF martyr Jitendra Kumar.
"In the Pakistani shelling, one civilian died in Khour belt of Pallanwala sector today," Jammu Deputy Commissioner Simrandeep Singh said, adding another civilian was injured in R S Pura sector. Similarly, one woman Usma Bi, aged 50 years, was killed in shelling by Pakistan on Gohlad village in Mendhar tehsil of Poonch district today, Defence spokesman said.
Another civilian was injured in area, the reports said.


Lashkar-e-Taiba claims responsibility for Uri terror attack
New Delhi:MMNN:25 Oct. 2016
Pakistan based terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba has claimed responsibility for the Uri terror attack that killed 20 Indian soldiers last month in Kashmir.
Funeral prayers in absentia for one of the Uri attackers, organized by LeT's parent organization Jamaat-ud-Dawa, are to be held in Gujranwala of Punjab, Pakistan, according to posters widely circulated on social media. A special address by JuD chief Hafiz Saeed will be held after the prayers, the poster said.
The poster brags that LeT's Muhammad Anas, code named Abu-Saraqa attained "martyrdom" while carrying out the attack on the Indian Army camp in Uri, Kashmir. Written in Urdu, the poster, however also made an outlandish claim that LeT terrorists had killed 177 Indian soldiers.
"Funeral prayers in absentia for Mujahid Bhai Abu Siraqa Muhammad Anas martyr for having killed 177 Hindu soldiers in Kashmir," the poster said. The funeral is at Sadabahar Nursery near Bada Nala Nawab Chowk Girjakh Gujranwala.
The claim assumes significance since the Pakistan government has consistently denied the role of its Kashmir-centric terror groups in the Uri attack.
Muhammad Aamir Hussaini, a staff reporter with the Frontier Post in Pakistan told the TOI, "After such posters and such events organized by JUD, what will be authenticity of claims made by Pakistani Foreign Office in front of International community." This poster shows that Hafiz Saeed is working in Punjab with the consent of the civilian government and in this case the military establishment, he added.
After the poster was widely circulated online, JuD claimed that it was a hoax, Pakistani Reuters correspondent Asad Hashim tweeted. However former editor Dawn, Abbas Nasir in a tweet response confirmed the veracity of the poster and said that the funeral prayers have now been postponed.


PM Narendra Modi invites suggestions for 25th 'Mann ki Baat' edition on Oct 30
New Delhi:MMNN:25 Oct. 2016
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address the nation through his monthly radio programme 'Mann Ki Baat' on All India Radio on October 30.
Calling on the people to contribute for the 23rd edition of the programme, the Prime Minister tweeted asking people to share their thoughts and inputs for the forthcoming programme on the Narendra Modi App and MyGov Open Forum.
"You can also dial 1800-11-7800 and record your message as well as write on the MyGov Open Forum," PM Modi tweeted.
According to a note on the website mygov.in, toll free calls can also be on 1800 11 7800 between 23 and 29 October to record the suggestions in Hindi or English. Suggestions can also be made by clicking on ‘”Submit your suggestion” on the same website.
The statement said, "The 25th episode of Mann ki Baat would be on 30th October, 2016. Prime Minister Narendra Modi looks forward to sharing his thoughts on a number of themes and issues. As always, the Prime Minister invites you to share your ideas on topics he should address. So what are the themes, issues or topics that you want the Prime Minister to speak about?
Share your views in this Open Forum or alternatively you can also dial the toll free number 1800-11-7800 and record your message for the Prime Minister in either Hindi or English. Some of the recorded messages may become part of the broadcast.
You can also give a missed call on 1922 and directly give your suggestions to the Prime Minister.
And stay tuned to Mann Ki Baat at 11:00 AM on 30th October, 2016."


Two Indian troops injured in gunbattle, ceasefire violation by Pakistan
New Delhi:MMNN:21 Oct. 2016
An army soldier was injured in fierce gun battle with a group of infiltrating terrorists from across the Line of Control in Gali Maidan area of Sawjian sector, while a BSF jawan was injured in unprovoked firing by Pakistani rangers in Hiranagar sector along the international border in Kathua district on Friday.
Identifying the injured army soldier as Launce Naik Vinod Kumar and the BSF jawan as Gurnam Singh, sources said that former got injured during an encounter with a group of terrorists who sneaked into Sawjian sector on the Indian side from the Pakistan occupied Kashmir during wee hours of Friday. The encounter was in progress, sources added.
Significantly, the infiltration attempt from across the LoC in Sawjian sector of Poonch district came nearly 24 hours after half a dozen heavily armed terrorists attacked a BSF naka along the international border in Kathua district with small arms fire and rocket propelled grenades so as to cross over to the Indian side. The infiltration attempt was foiled by alert BSF personnel who retaliated killing one of them as during illumation of the area with the help of tracer bomb, terrorists fleeing back to Pakistan side were seen carrying a body with them, sources added.
Meanwhile, a BSF jawan was injured as Pakistani Rangers continued resorting to mortar shelling and small arms fire on two forward Indian positions at Bobiyan in Hiranagar sector of Kathua district. Sources said that the fire from across the international border first came around 9.35 am and it continued for nearly 40 minutes.
Thereafter, the Pakistani Rangers again resumed firing on Indian side around 12.15 noon, sources said, adding that it was continuing till reports last came in. The Indian side was also retaliating.
Ever since, India carried out surgical strikes across the Line of Control causing sufficient damage to terrorists and those shielding them last month, Pakistan has been resorting to mortar shelling and small arms fire at one or the other place along the borders in Jammu region. It continued lobbing mortar shells, besides resorting to automatics and small arms fire along the LoC in Rajouri district’s Manjakote area of Bhimber Gali sector throughout Wednesday night.
The Indian troops retaliated appropriately. There had been no casualty or damage on the Indian side. Pakistani troops have resorted to firing in Rajouri sector also this afternoon.


Rajnath Singh pays tribute on National Police Commemoration Day
New Delhi:MMNN:21 Oct. 2016
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Friday paid homage to the police personnel who laid down their lives in the line of duty as the nation marked the National Police Commemoration Day.
Singh laid a wreath at the National Police Memorial in Chanakyapuri here along with National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, Director of the Intelligence Bureau Dineshwar Sharma and other senior police and paramilitary officers.
The National Police Commemoration Day is observed on October 21 to remember the martyrdom of security personnel. “On the occasion of Police Commemoration Day today, I salute all those brave police personnel who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty,” Singh said.
The Director of the Intelligence Bureau said that 473 policemen were killed in the line of duty in various parts of the country between September 2015 and August 2016.
The day is observed in the memory of the policemen who were killed while taking on Chinese forces at a place called ‘Hot Springs’ in Ladakh in 1959 when they were guarding the Indian border.
Other paramilitary forces like CISF, CRPF, ITBP, SSB and NSG will hold events at their respective locations to mark the say.


Army Says Ready For Any 'Misadventure' From Across Line Of Control
New Delhi:MMNN:18 Oct. 2016
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi said "the world is talking about our army", a top commander in Kashmir said that "the Indian army is ready to deal with any misadventure from across the LoC " or Line of Control, the de facto border between India and Pakistan.
PM Modi did not directly mention the cross-border raids carried out last month, but said, "Israel used to be known for this sort of action. Our army has proved it is no less."
On September 29, soldiers trekked into Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir to target seven gathering areas for terrorists. Neither the government nor the armed forces have commented on how many terrorists were killed. The army has spoken of "significant casualties" inflicted on the other side of the Line of Control, while stating that all Indian soldiers returned safely.
Pakistan says India is misrepresenting firing along the Line of Control, which is not unusual, as unprecedented military strikes in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir. Intel and security agencies have warned of retaliatory action, including possible terror strikes. There are nearly 100 terrorists waiting to infiltrate India from Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir, the government has been advised.
"Along the LoC, our preparedness is of the highest degree. The Indian Army is ready to deal with any misadventure from across the LoC, whether it is by regulars or otherwise," said Lt General Satish Dua today, the commanding officer of the Srinagar-based 15 Corps.
India's military action came days after an army base in Uri in Kashmir was attacked, leaving 19 soldiers dead. PM Modi is fronting a campaign to also have Pakistan diplomatically isolated.


Modi likens Army’s surgical strikes to Israel’s exploits
New Delhi:MMNN:18 Oct. 2016
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday likened the Army’s recent surgical strikes across the LoC to Israel’s exploits and stressed that the Indian forces had shown they were no less than anybody.
“Our Army’s valour is being discussed across the country these days. We used to hear earlier that Israel has done this. The nation has seen that the Indian Army is no less than anybody,” he said.
Israel is known for its targeted military strikes against enemy countries and militant outfits.
Mr. Modi was speaking at a rally in Himachal Pradesh, where he inaugurated three hydro-power projects.
The issue of surgical strikes had snowballed into a political row, with the Opposition accusing the BJP and its government of “milking” it for political benefits. The charge has been rejected by the BJP, which has insisted that it is taking the issue to the masses to boost the Army’s morale and highlight the strong political will of the Prime Minister.
Underscoring his commitment to the welfare of armed forces, Modi on Tuesday said his government had fulfilled its promise of ‘One-Rank, One-Pension’ for ex-servicemen, an issue which, he said, was hanging fire for over 40 years.
The previous governments, he said, duped the people by making tall claims and some of them even allocated Rs. 200 crore-500 crore in this regard but never did an analysis of the cost burden and how it could be executed.
“I did it and was puzzled to find that the economic burden kept rising. It worked to be more than Rs. 10,000 crore,” he said, adding that it was difficult for any government to make such a big allocation in one go.
Mr. Modi said he spoke to the armed forces and offered to release the money in four installments to which they agreed.
“Over Rs. 5,500 crore in first installment has been given. The rest will be given too. A promise hanging fire for the last 40 years has been fulfilled,” he said.
At the ‘Parivartan Rally’, Mr. Modi also targeted Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, saying BJP chief ministers dedicated themselves to causes like drinking water and roads while the Congress leader was concerned about his own welfare.
“Do I need to explain what the current Chief Minister is known for?” he said and then added, “When the BJP gave chief ministers, somebody dedicated himself to water, somebody to roads but when others came they dedicated so many things for their personal welfare,” he said.
The BJP has accused Mr. Singh of being involved in corruption but the Congress leader has rejected the charges and claimed that he was a victim of “political vendetta”.
Elections are due late next year in the State.


PM Modi to inaugurate war memorial in Bhopal, likely to rake up surgical strikes
New Delhi:MMNN:14 Oct. 2016
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be inaugurating the newly built war memorial — Shaurya Samarak — and address a meeting of former servicemen at Lal Pared ground, in Bhopal during his three-hour visit, ahead of the Brics meet in Goa.
According to a report, this visit comes after his Dussehra speech in Lucknow, where he was quoted as saying "sometimes war is inevitable" in the wake of the surgical strikes by the Indian Army.
The state BJP vice-president, Vijesh Lunawat said, “It is a matter of pride for Madhya Pradesh people that the Shaurya Smarak came up with the state government’s efforts and the PM is going to inaugurate it. This will give a boost to the morale of not only the armed forces but also the citizens of the country”.
In report it is said that the Samarak covers 13 acres of ground and cost Rs 41 crore. It symbolises the various stages of life, war, death and victory. The bravery and glory of soldiers is celebrated in the Shaurya gallery display and India's gratitude is represented by the Shaurya Stambh. Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar will be present as well.
A report by The Times of India speculated that PM Modi is likely to speak about the surgical strikes on this occasion, and meet the former soldiers and war widows. The Shivraj Singh Chouhan government have sent invitations to General Dalbir Singh Suhag, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha and Chief of Navy Staff Admiral Sunil Lanba.
Security has been ramped up in the state capital in view of Modi's visit. Railway stations, airports, bus terminals, important markets and localities in the city were secured ahead of the high profile visit. Vehicles were screened at different check points to ensure no untoward incident occur. The administration also issued a circular asking all government and semi government offices to suspended work post 3 pm.
Bhopal Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) Raman Singh Sikarwar said 5,000 policemen have been deployed at the airport, route and the venue of the three events
Modi will meet the Jain saint Acharya Vidhyasagarji Maharaj at a Jain temple first and then will inaugurate the Shourya Smarak.
He will remain in Bhopal for nearly three hours before leaving for his onward destination, said an official.
At 7:05 pm Modi will leave for Panaji.


Pakistan confirms it has Indian soldier in its custody
New Delhi:MMNN:14 Oct. 2016
TWO WEEKS after Sepoy Chandu Babulal Chavan, posted with 37 Rashtriya Rifles at Mendhar along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir, was reported to have “inadvertently crossed over” the LoC, the Pakistan army has accepted that the 22-year-old is in their custody.
The first official confirmation of the whereabouts of Chavan was conveyed on Thursday by officials of the Pakistan army’s military operations directorate to their Indian counterparts over the official hotline, Army sources told The Indian Express.
Chavan crossed over to the Pakistani side with his rifle around noon on September 29, hours after DGMO Lt General Ranbir Singh had announced the surgical strikes by Indian special forces on terrorist launch pads across the LoC.
By 2.30 pm that day, Lt General Singh had informed the Pakistan army on the hotline about Chavan, said sources. The Indian Army had clarified at the time that Chavan’s disappearance was not connected to the strikes.
Thursday’s acknowledgement by Pakistan has now raised hopes that Chavan will be returned to India through existing mechanisms.
At Chavan’s village in Maharashtra’s Dhule district, family and friends started gathering at his grandparents’ residence as soon as they came to know about the latest development.
“We have great faith in the government’s assurance that Chandu will be brought home safe,” said a friend of the family.
Two weeks ago, soon after Chavan’s family had been informed that he may been captured by the Pakistan army, his grandmother Lilabai suffered a cardiac arrest and died in Jamnagar, Gujarat, where she was visiting her other grandson, Bhushan Chavan, who is with the Maratha Light Infantry.
Lilabai, 65, and her husband Chinda Dhondu Patil Sonawane had brought up the two boys in Borvihir village after the brothers lost their parents at a young age.


India to seal border with Pakistan by 2018: Rajnath Singh after security review meet
New Delhi:MMNN:7 Oct. 2016
In the wake of the repeated ceasefire violations by Pakistan and heightened tension along the border, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Friday said that the government has decided to seal the entire stretch of 3,323-km-long Indo-Pak border by December 2018.
Briefing the press after chairing a security review meeting in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, Rajnath said that the implementation of the government decision to seal the international border will be carried out in a time-bound manner. The home minister also said that the development of the procedure will be done in a planned way, with a monitoring framework set up to review the the progress, monthly, quarterly, bi-annually and annually.
The decision comes in the wake of rising India-Pakistan tension after the 18 September attack on a military base in Jammu and Kashmir and the later surgical strikes on terror launch pads across the Line of Control.
On the question of securing the riverine belts, and areas where it is geographically unfeasible to put physical barrier along the border, Rajnath said that the government will look into technological solutions to ensure every inch of our land is guarded. According to The Indian Express, the technical solutions may include deployment of cameras, sensors, radars, lasers, etc.
The Home Minister also sought to assure that the nation's security will never be compromised with ample security arrangements made at the borders. Praising the armed forces, Rajnath also said that the way a farmer guards his farms, Indian soldiers are vigilant and guarding the borders.
Rajnath also said that a Border Security Grid will be formed, wherein suggestions will be sought from all stakeholders in the border areas. He said that in the security review meeting, suggestions were sought from the chief ministers, home secretaries, and DGPs of the four border states, based on which the basic framework of the Border security Grid will be prepared.
The home minister however stayed vary of commenting on issues apart from the proceedings of the meeting. When asked if he would like to comment on Rahul Gandhi's Khoon Ki Dalaali remark, Rajnath refused to comment. However, he later added that all citizens should unite and support the armed forces when the nation faces tough times. "I won’t comment, I will just say that in the face of tough times all the citizens should unite and be on the same page, irrespective of whichever line of profession they belong to," Rajnath said.
He also refused to comment on the rising demands of putting in public the proof of army surgical strike carried out in Pakistan occupied Kashmir. Rajnath merely repeated that the entire nation trusts the armed forces and people should be patient and have faith in the army. " Tension between India and Pakistan has increased, so we should be united & believe in our army," he said.
The home minister is on a two-day visit to Rajasthan where he headed a security review meeting in Jaisalmer with home ministers, home secretaries, and deputy generals of police of four states whose boundaries touch Pakistan along with top BSF officials. Union Minister of State for Home Affairs, Kiren Rijiju was also present at the meeting. for amid repeated incidents of skirmishes along the Indo-Pak international border.
"It is a meeting of the Union Home Minister with the Home Ministers of the four states. Since the Chief Ministers and the Deputy Chief Minister (of Punjab) are holding the Home portfolio, they are participating in the meeting," a Home Ministry official said.
During the two-day visit, Singh will also hold meetings with top BSF officials and chair a meeting with Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, Gujarat Chief Minister
Vijay Rupani, Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, officials said.
During the two-day trip, the Home Minister will tour border areas of Rajasthan and will visit Munabao, border outposts in Barmer and interact with BSF personnel.
Singh will also visit Murar, BoP in Jaisalmer and asses the situation along the Indo-Pak border. The meeting is being called to bring a synergy among the state police forces and Border Security Force, which guards the Indo-Pak border. Issues concerning the states are also expected to be discussed in the two-day deliberations, the officials said.
There have been many incidents of infiltration of terrorists through the border in Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir and trans-border smuggling of goods, narcotics and fake Indian currency notes in Rajasthan and Gujarat, they said.
Of the 3,323-km-long Indo-Pak border, 1,225 km falls in Jammu and Kashmir (including Line of Control), 553 km in Punjab, 1,037 km in Rajasthan and 508 km in Gujarat.
After the security review meet in Jaisalmer, Rajnath will hold a meeting with BSF officials in Barmer on 8 October, according to the Barmer Collector Sudhir Sharma. Elaborate arrangements are being made for the visit, he said.


SC extends stay on Bombay HC order, delays women’s entry inside Haji Ali
New Delhi:MMNN:7 Oct. 2016
Supreme Court on Friday extended the stay granted by Bombay high court to facilitate an appeal against its decision to lift the ban on entry of women near the sanctum sanctorum of the famous Haji Ali Dargah, till October 17 when it will hear the matter.
However, during the brief hearing, a bench comprising Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justice A M Khanwilkar expressed hope that the Haji Ali Dargah Trust, which has challenged the high court judgement, “will take a stand which is progressive”.
The court adjourned the matter at the request of senior advocate Gopal Subramaniam who appeared for the trust.
“The order of the high court granting stay on operation of its judgement to continue till the next date of hearing on October 17,” the bench said.
Subramaniam assured the bench that he was on a “progressive mission” and said all holy books and scriptures promoted equality and nothing which is regressive in character should be suggested.
The bench also remarked that “if you are not allowing both men and women to go beyond a point, there is no problem. But if you are allowing some to go beyond a point while others are not, it is a problem.”
The bench, which recorded that an identical issue has been raised and was pending before the Supreme Court relating to the Sabarimala Temple in Kerala, said “the problem is not only among Muslims, but among the Hindus also”.
The counsel, appearing for a women’s group which has challenged the practice of the Trust not to allow women near the sanctum sanctorum, submitted that the position was different before 2011 than what it is today.
The Trust moved the apex court challenging the Bombay High Court order lifting the ban on women from entering the sanctum sanctorum of the renowned Muslim shrine in South Bombay.
The high court on August 26 had held that the ban imposed by the Trust on women from entering the sanctum sanctorum of the Haji Ali Dargah, contravened Articles 14, 15 and 25 of the Constitution and said women should be permitted to enter the sanctum sanctorum like men.
The high court had allowed a PIL filed by two women Zakia Soman and Noorjehan Niaz, from NGO Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, challenging the ban on women’s entry into the sanctum sanctorum of the dargah from 2012.
It had granted a six-week stay on the order on a request by the Dargah Trust to enable it to appeal before the Supreme Court.
The high court had held that the Trust had no power to alter or modify the mode or manner of religious practices of any individual or any group.
The high court in its 56-page judgement had also noted that the “right to manage the Trust cannot override the right to practice religion itself”.
It had said the trust has not been able to justify the ban legally or otherwise. Hence it cannot be said that the prohibition was an essential and integral part of Islam and whether taking away that part of the practice would result in a fundamental change in the character of the religion or belief.
It had also refused to accept the justification of the Trust that the ban was imposed for safety and security of women, in particular, to prevent sexual harassment at places of worship.
The Trust had claimed that the ban was in keeping with an order of the Supreme Court wherein stringent directions have been issued to ensure that there is no sexual harassment to women at places of worship.
The court had noted that the aims, objectives and activities of the Haji Ali Dargah Trust were not governed by any custom or tradition and held that it was a public charitable trust and hence, open to people all over the world, irrespective of their caste, creed or gender.
The Maharashtra government had earlier told the court that women should be barred from entering the inner sanctorum of Haji Ali Dargah only if it is so enshrined in the Quran.


Cross-border terrorism, radicalisation grave challenges: Modi
New Delhi:MMNN:4 Oct. 2016
With terror attacks continuing to emanate from Pakistan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday described cross-border terrorism and radicalisation as "grave challenges to our security".
"Rising tide of terrorism, especially cross-border terrorism, and the rise of radicalisation are grave challenges to our security," Modi said in a joint press statement with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong following delegation-level talks between the two sides here.
"They threaten the very fabric of our societies," Modi said.
"It is my firm belief that those who believe in peace and humanity need to stand and act together against this menace."
The Prime Minister's remarks came following the September 18 cross-border terror attack on an army unit at Uri in Jammu and Kashmir that claimed the lives of 19 Indian soldiers and the attack on an army camp at Baramulla on Sunday in which a BSF trooper was killed.
Following the Uri attack, India pulled out of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) Summit that was scheduled to be held in Islamabad in November citing Pakistan's sponsorship of terrorism as the reason.
The Indian Army also carried out surgical strikes on terror launch pads across the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir in which "significant casualties have been caused to the terrorists and those who are trying to support them".
In Tuesday's joint press statement, Singapore's Lee, while condemning terrorism in all its forms, extended his condolences to the families of the victims of the Uri attack.
Modi said that India and Singapore have agreed "to enhance our cooperation to counter these threats, including in the domain of cyber security".
"Our defence and security cooperation is a key pillar of our strategic partnership," he stated.
"As two maritime nations, keeping the sea lanes of communication open, and respect for international legal order of seas and oceans is a shared priority.
"Our cooperation in the framework of Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), East Asia Summit and the Asean Regional Framework is aimed at building an open and inclusive architecture for regional cooperation, in an atmosphere of trust and confidence."
Modi said that trade and investment ties formed the bedrock of the India-Singapore bilateral relationship.
Stating that the two sides enjoyed a strong network of business to business partnerships, he said: "In this context, Prime Minister Lee and I have agreed to expedite the second review of our Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement."
Following Tuesday's delegation-level talks, India and Singapore signed three memorandums of understanding (MoU), including two on skill development and one on industrial property cooperation.
"Prime Minister Lee and I also welcome the issuance of corporate rupee bonds in Singapore," Modi said.
"It is a step forward in our efforts to mobilise capital for India's large infrastructure development needs."
Recalling his visit to Singapore in November last year, the Indian Prime Minister said that the bilateral relationship was upgraded to the level of a Strategic Partnership with "renewed spirit, new energy".
"To deliver benefits to both our people, our partnership aims to combine the strengths of Singapore with the scale of India; and dynamism of Singapore with vibrancy of our states," Modi said.
Affirming the importance of the bilateral ties, Prime Minister Lee said that Singapore was a firm believer in India and would contribute where it can.
Earlier on Tuesday, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj called on Lee here.
The Singapore Prime Minister, accompanied by a high-level delegation, arrived here on Monday on a five-day bilateral visit to India.
Lee will call on President Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday before leaving for Udaipur where agreements are expected to be signed between Singapore and the Rajasthan government.


Why China's move to block Brahmaputra tributary is actually linked to Balochistan
New Delhi:MMNN:4 Oct. 2016
In the wake of India's newly re-imagined policy towards Pakistan — conducting precision strikes across the Line of Control (LoC), reviewing the 'Most Favoured Nation' status tag, and organising high-level meets to discuss withdrawal from the Indus Waters Treaty — China has played its latest card by blocking a tributary of Brahmaputra to facilitate work on of its expensive hydropower projects in Tibet. Power has a lot to do with perception politics and perhaps China intends for this to just be a warning to India, the timing of such a move from China implies that it’s trying to corner India and showing its support for Pakistan.
On Friday, 30 September, Xinhua reported that Tibet blocked a tributary of the Yarlung Zangbo River as part of its most expensive hydro project. The 4.95-billion-yuan project ($740 million) can store up to 295 million cubic meters of water.
This is not too far-fetched a theory, considering that China is known to displays of aggression across the border when it is unhappy. An earlier Firstpost editorial also points out that such aggression is a part of the Chinese “blow-hot, blow cold” routine. In June this year, the Chinese termed it a "temporary transgression" when about 250 China's Peoples Liberation Army soldiers entered Arunachal Pradesh's east district of Kameng. These incursions are not new and in fact the trend has been rising over the last few years. According to the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs, in 2010, there were 228 incursions, 213 in 2011, 426 in 2012.
So how is blocking a tributary of the river in its own legal territory one such show of aggression?
The Brahamaputra originates in China (Yarlung Tsangpo) and flows through India and Bangladesh; a part of the river’s basin is also in Bhutan. The river basin covers close to 5,80,000 square kilometres through the four countries. The basin, most certainly poses a security concern for India, since both countries have fought over territories in which the river flows. Dam building activities, water diversion plans — with no bilateral or multilateral treaty on these waters — all actors in the issue have their own set of concerns.
In the Centre for Naval Analyses 2016 report titled Water Resource Competition in the Brahmaputra River Basin: China, India, and Bangladesh, authors Nilanthi Samaranayake, Satu Limaye, and Joel Wuthnow explain that China’s concerns stem from a fear Indian government’s “actual control” over Arunachal Pradesh (a state it has considered part of China and referred to as ‘Southern Tibet’) can be strengthened through dam-building activities. China’s interests can be inferred as political. However, India’s concerns with any activity upstream (ie in China) is both political and physical. While there is worry over Beijing’s claim to Arunachal Pradesh, probable water diversion or dam building activities in the upper riparian areas of the river could have large scale implications on the physical level
In 2013, India complained to China about its expensive hydropower projects announced in the Brahmaputra region citing 'irreparable damage' to the Indian basin and also the impact it would have on the physical land and surrounding regions. China didn’t budge, only assured that it wouldn’t have a negative impact.
In the ongoing scuffle between India and Pakistan — when both sides are unencumbered in their ways to smear the other as the enemy, China is at an advantage to pick a side.
China has in the recent past also unequivocally expressed its support to Pakistan — “In case of any (foreign) aggression, our country will extend its full support to Pakistan,” consul-general of China in Lahore, Yu Boren is quoted as saying in a report published in Dawn. While it may look like China is just being a kind neighbour to Pakistan and supporting it in standing up to a bully like India, but if you look closer there is much more at play here — the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, for instance. H Jacob writes in a paper for the European Council on Foreign Relations, China, India, Pakistan and a Stable Regional Order, that China is “steadily increasing its influence in the region with its innovative ‘New Silk Road’ strategy, and by offering economic and development assistance to Pakistan.”
When the Prime Minister Narendra Modi raked up the Balochistan cause in his Independence Day speech, he also loosened the screws on any plans for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. China is looking to gain something — by using Gwadar as another naval base (despite Pakistan and China assuring that it will be used only for economic reasons), China will have fresh access to the Indian Ocean (making it a two ocean power) and if the controversy surrounding South China Sea is anything to go by, India is right in being wary of
China’s agenda. And China involves itself in the international arguments to further its own cause. So China’s reaction of closing the taps on the Brahmaputra shouldn’t be construed as its big-brotherly act towards Pakistan, considering that India threatened to abrogate the Indus Waters Treaty.
China is uniquely aware of Brahmaputra’s importance to lower riparian States like India and Bangladesh and as Brahma Chellaney writes in Coming Water Wars (in The Magazine of International Economic Policy):
“Upstream dams, barrages, canals, and irrigation systems can help fashion water into a political weapon that can be wielded overtly in a war, or subtly in peacetime to signal dissatisfaction with a co-riparian state.”
China is applying subtle pressure to let India know that the India-Pakistan equation is subject to the complex geopolitics of the South Asian region. The two nations should perhaps engage in cooperation and dialogue, like they did in the early 2000s after a major flood hit the North East of India. Sure, talking about a river that flows through contested territory is not easy, but better than escalation that neither country should attempt.