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Rahul Gandhi alleges Modi took money from Sahara; why is PM afraid of probe, asks Congress

In response to the BJP’s defence of the corruption charges leveled by Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala questioned as to why Modi is hesitant to come clean and issue a clarification.

Earlier in the day, Rahul had raked up the Sahara and Birla papers that reportedly have entries of some payments made to Modi when he was the chief minister of Gujarat.

A file photo of Randeep Surjewala. CNN News 18

A file photo of Randeep Surjewala. CNN News 18

The Income Tax Department had raided Sahara Company on 22 November, 2014. Rahul said as per the records, Rs 2.5 crore was given to Modi on 30 October, 2013; Rs 5 crore on 12 November, 2013; Rs 2.5 crore on 27 November, 2013; Rs 5 crore on 29 November, 2013. He added that entries showed Rs 5 crore given to the prime minister on 6 December, 2013; Rs 5 crore on 19 December, 2013; Rs 5 crore on 13 January, 2014; Rs 5 crore on 28 January, 2014, and Rs 5 crore 22 February, 2014.

To this, Surjewala added another entree recovered by the I-T department in a raid at the Birla office, where he claimed that a note was added that said, “Rs 25 crore paid to Guajarat CM, rest??.”

Basing his case against the ruling disposition on these reported pieces of evidence, Surjewala wondered why the BJP was rattled and hurling abuses at the Opposition when all that it had to do was to order an independent probe.

Surjewala said that Rahul and the Congress party respect Modi and the office he holds, and they too want him to come out unscathed of these allegation. He added that the prime minister’s credibility and integrity are at stake.

Surjewala asked that why, between 2014 and 2016, has the CBI or I-T department not once summoned Modi and interrogated him.

“If such allegations were leveled against ordinary citizens, wouldn’t the investigating agencies at least question them,” Surjewala asked.

He said that nine incriminating entries have been found in a computer in the Sahara raids, whether they are true or not is the only question that the Opposition asks.

Surjewala also invoked an incident pertaining to BJP veteran Lal Krishna Advani in order to corner Modi. He said that only a mere dairy entree had cropped up incriminating Advani in graft charges and Advani had at the time offered to leave politics and resign from the Lok Sabha if the charges were proved. “So what is Modi ji afraid of?,” Surjewala asked.

Surjewala further added, “Vipaksh ka kaam hai rajneeti ki Ganga ki safai ka. and Vipaksh k taur pe hum sarthak sawaal puch rahe hain. isliye na khije na tilmilayein aur saaf saaf bataein (It is the responsibility of the Opposition to cleanse the Ganga of politics and that is what the Congress party was doing. We are asking pertinent questions. It is not something that should perturb them.)”

“We want an unbiased probe by an agency that the nation trusts. Credibility and honesty of the prime minister is at stake… Modi ji should come clean and not hide behind his cronies and clarify whether these proofs are true or not,” he said.

Invoking Modi’s popular election time slogan, which he also used to justify his demonetisation move, “Na Khaunga, Na Khane Dunga,” Surjewala said that it had become all the more important that the prime minister goes through this “test.”

“These allegations are not based on hearsay or political mudslinging but two pieces of evidences with the investigation agencies. Modi ji has been sitting on it for months. He should come clean about it. Why is he not ordering an independent probe,” Surjewala said.

First Published On : Dec 21, 2016 19:16 IST

Uma Bharti’s ministry damns Ministry of Environment and Forests’s Ganga projects

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The differences between the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and the Ministry of Water Resources was revealed in a letter sent by Water Resources Secretary Shashi Shekhar to his environment ministry counterpart.Dated October 13, the letter, which has been accessed by DNA, has Shekhar pointedly questioning his MoEF counterpart on why had his ministry permitted 10 hydro projects and mining to come up in the Bhagirathi valley. These projects, he said, would dilute the Bhagirathi Eco Sensitive Zone, located in the upper reaches of the Ganga. The Bhagirathi eco-sensitive area was notified in 2012 to protect the 100 km Gaumukh to Uttar Kashi stretch of Bhagirathi, spread across 4,179 sq.kms.In his letter, Shekhar said, “Permitting large scale activities like hydro power projects, construction works, mining etc. will severely compromise the environmental concerns and its sensitivity and will have far reaching environmental consequences in the days to come.”Shekhar added that throwing open this eco-sensitive area for hydro power projects would signal, “impending environment disaster in the ecologically sensitive area.”It is not the first time the Ministry of Water Resources have taken up this issue. Sources say that that following Shekhar’s letter, Water and Ganga Minister Uma Bharti, too, spoke to her counterpart Anil Dave and expressed her concern on plans to allow dams in the eco-sensitive area. These sources added that despite repeated reminders to the MoEF but so far nothing has been resolved.Speaking to DNA, Shekhar said, “You cannot shove in anything through the back door, this is a fundamental mistake and it is illegal. They need to realize that this is the last pristine and free-flowing stretch of the Ganga.”The letter comes in the wake of the MoEF’s meeting on the Bhagirathi eco-sensitive zone in August. In that meeting, the Uttarakhand state government had sought relaxations in activities allowed in the 4,179 sq km eco sensitive area. The state government argued that since 10 hydropower projects with a cumulative capacity of 82MW were approved before the Bhagirathi eco-sensitive zone was notified in 2012, they should be approved for construction.In the minutes of the meeting, it was stated that the “MoEF & CC could consider inserting a transitional clause to permit the 10 HEP’s (hydro power projects) which were approved prior to the date of notification.” Along with plans to permit hydro power projects, the MoEF said that river-bed mining up to 2m depth could be allowed in the eco-sensitive area.The MoEF is defending its decisions on grounds that the projects will be approved only after a carrying capacity study is done by scientists. “The Uttarakhand government presented the Zonal Master Plan, but it has defects and requires a lot of changes. We will look into all aspects before approving hydro power projects in the eco-sensitive area,” said Amita Prasad, additional secretary, MoEF.Meanwhile, the water ministry has panned the Zonal Master Plan. “It is (Zonal Master Plan) is fundamentally wrong because it is not prepared by experts. We have prepared a draft joint affidavit to be submitted in the NGT that has been sent to the environment ministry. We should have experts visit the ESZ,” said Shekhar.Currently, the NGT is hearing an ongoing matter on the issue pertaining to Zonal Master Plan of the Bhagirathi eco-sensitive zone.

The toxic waters of religion

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Even as numerous steps are being taken towards cleaning the Ganga, Yamuna, and other rivers, researchers continue to suggest that various religious practices are responsible for polluting the holy waters on a much larger scale than toxic industrial waste.While yagnas (fire rituals), days of fasting, and walking barefoot to the shrine make up most Hindu activities, taking a ‘dip’ in ‘holy water’ to wash away the sins of mortals is a ritual often followed during various festivals. Even the immersion of deities after keeping them for days at home is another ritual causing damage to rivers.Every time a pilgrim takes a ‘holy’ dip in those river, they swallow copious amounts of toxic material flushed from power plants or the waste thrown in the river.In the latest trend, Chath puja in Delhi was observed by taking a dip in the pond at India Gate or at the already polluted Yamuna where huge idols of Lord Ganesha and Goddess Kali are also immersed every year. During the month of September, devotees flock to the beaches of Mumbai with thousands of Ganesh idols for immersion, days after which the idols often wash up on shore.Also, cremated remains are floated in the river, believing the dead will not attain salvation if the last remains are not immersed. This practice is adding to the woes of the rising problem of water pollution. According to a Rishikesh based NGO, Ganga Action Parivar, “When the river in Har Ki Pauri, Haridwar is cleaned for two months we collect a large quantity of wastes like matki, plastic bags, garlands, coins, etc. Not only this, Hindu’s mostly cremate ashes here. But these don’t harm the river as much as the idols made of cement, plastic, and other non-eco friendly things does which are dumped in the river. It resists the flow of water and makes it stagnant. The only way to prevent this is to use eco-friendly idols.”Poor Hindu pilgrims stand at their makeshift campsite. Devotees believe that taking a holy dip in the Ganges washes away their sins and paves the path to salvation. —Getty Images There are some religions which follow the practice of floating the dead bodies in the river which are then eaten by crocodiles. But with the increasing pollution even the habitat of crocodiles has been disturbed hugely. As a result, bodies now get stuck in the river plants or float to the banks adding to the degradation.“The bodies that are floated in the water to make sure it gains eternity, actually get stuck on the banks and infect the river and creates an imbalance to the ecosystem of the river,” said Vineet of Ganga Action Parivar.The Ganga was known to have self-cleansing effect but with the continuous abuse the losing its charm. According to Rakesh, a taxi driver from Uttar Pradesh residing in Mumbai, there is nothing wrong with the Ganga. “It is always needed and is done for good. Ganga can never be dirty, it is holy. Ganga water is used to cure all types of diseases and wash away sins,” he said.Water pollution experts estimate that around 32k human corpses are cremated each year in the Ganges river, Varanasi — GETTY IMAGESExpressing dismay over the deteriorating condition of Ganga, Saurav Tiwari a student of Benaras Hindu University said, “The Ganga river is not in a good shape. Along with industries, various religious practices have also joined hands in slowly poisoning the river.”Not only Ganga but the Yamuna in Delhi and the Mula Mutha in Pune get religiously polluted in the months of September and October.India’s chief sources of water are becoming increasingly unsafe for drinking and for aquatic life. The idea of implementing artificial ponds for devotees to take a dip and other alternatives have never seen the light of the day.

A nation of believers: Nilanjan Ray captures several facets of faith in Indian society

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Three years after he picked up his camera and set off across India to capture ‘Faith’ in all its dimensions, award winning photographer Nilanjan Ray took a break to exhibit his work in Delhi. The black-and-white photographs he has shot are confirmation that India, for all its modernity, remains fundamentally a society anchored firmly to faith.Ray travelled through his native West Bengal, Assam, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar to bring to life a telling narrative of people and communities held together in body and soul by their faith in beliefs that may even border on superstition.In Hajipur in Bihar, Ray came across a group of men brutally beating a woman. “I stopped by to wonder what was happening. The kind of assault she was subjected to would have killed me. I was scared but I went closer. This was their way of dealing with a ‘possessed’ woman. When she lost consciousness, a priest came forward, put his feet on her head, and commanded the evil spirit to leave the woman’s body. Then she was dragged to a nearby river and given a bath. The men went home believing the spirit had fled the woman’s body,” says Ray. “Even more incredible was the fact that none of them were aware of my presence or me photographing them. They were all so engrossed in exorcising the so called possessed woman.” The photograph of the priest commanding the spirit to leave accompanied by the beating of drums has made it to the exhibition currently on at the India International Centre in Delhi.But not all the photographs evoke fear like this one. There are also poignant frames of men and women involved in the intensely personal and communal aspect of prayer. Ray’s keen eye for detail and contrast also reveals the vast social and cultural mosaic that India is. From Agra, with the Taj Mahal as the backdrop, a woman shrouded in a white cloth is about to immerse herself in the waters of the Yamuna on Chhath Puja.In an adjacent frame, three women, all with their heads covered in immaculate white, are about to immerse themselves in the holy, but polluted, waters of the Ganga at Varanasi. The visual effect of the darkness of the water into which the women will momentarily immerse themselves and the white covering their bodies is evocative of the river’s present pitiable state and the fervor of the devotee who cannot be deterred by such considerations.One of the most intriguing moments captured by Ray is one of two babies laid on a wet stone floor with a leg moving over them. For an instant it would evoke horror but like many of Ray’s photographs it essentially captures the idiosyncratic practices that mark faith in India.“It is from a temple in Kolkata on the banks of the Ganga. A woman who has taken a dip in the river is treated as a devi. The belief is that if the devi stretches over an infant, the child will be blessed,” says Ray. During Muharram, Ray came across two men flogging themselves in the back with sharp knives tied at the end of a rope. “The lacerations were deep and I was also splattered with their blood while getting close to them,” Ray says. After the exhibition closes on December 6, Ray will travel to Punjab and then Kerala to take forward his photographic project.

Hypocrisy of demonetisation: Patriotism is the last refuge of the corrupt and crooked

Moonh mein desh bhakti, bagal mein black money. O Darling! This is the real India.

Since the day Prime Minister Narendra Modi discontinued use of Rs 1,000 and 500 notes, the social media and public space has been resonating with chants of patriotism and support for the strike on black money, epitomised by JVR Arun, a secretary of the BJP’s youth wing in Tamil Nadu.

Swept away by the spirit of pop patriotism, the kind popularised by kambhakts who think shouting and screaming on social media is tantamount to deshbhakti, Arun declared he is willing to stand in the queue for the nation for the “progress of the country” and actively campaigned for note-bandi.

Hypocrisy is the art of denouncing in public exactly what you do in private. Arun proved it.

On Saturday, he was caught with numerous bundles of new currency notes amounting to more than 20.55 lakh, The Indian Express reported. “One of the police officers spoke to IE and said that they had intercepted his car and found a bag with 926 pieces of Rs 2,000, 1,530 pieces of Rs 100 and Rs 1,000 and Rs 50 notes,” the newspaper reported.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Obviously, these notes worth Rs 20.55 lakh were not withdrawn by queuing up for India.

Behold, ladies and gentlemen, the ”patriotic” Indian. The prime minister’s campaign against black money may not have revealed illegally stored cash, but it has certainly revealed the real character of the corrupt in India: By day they hunt with the black money hounds, by night they run with hoarders.

Various figures and calculations have now revealed that Modi’s Indians have found a way to repel the PM’s strike against black money. Out of the nearly Rs 15 lakh crore of the demonetised money that was in circulation on November 8 has now found its way back into the banking system.

According to CNBC-News 18, more than Rs 11 lakh crore has already been deposited with almost a month still left for tendering cash in bank accounts. Other analysts put the figure between 12 and 13 crore after making adjustments for money held in RBI vaults as CRR and in currency chests and ATMs of various banks.

What does this mean? It means, either:

a) there was very little black money in the system (unlikely); or b) in spite of Modi’s ‘shock and awe’ tactics, Indians found a system to beat the government and get money deposited in accounts.

The government can of course track down unaccounted deposits in these accounts and slap Income Tax notices. However, as argued by Firstpost earlier, this will take a long time as tax disputes drag on for years. So, while all that deshbhakti was pouring out on streets, social media and in TV studios, people were busy laundering money, converting it into legal cash. Ironically, by night they were busy defeating the very army they were supporting during the day, sabotaging the very war they were publicly rooting for.

As Indians sniggered in the days of Rajiv Gandhi, 100 mein 90 be-imaan, phir bhi Mera Bharat Mahaan!

This hypocrisy, demonetisation has revealed, is not the exclusive domain of India’s pseudo-elites and the rich and the powerful. Everyone has taken a dip in the Ganga of black money. Some of the biggest deposits, you would have noticed, accrued in Jan Dhan accounts, maintained by its poor and, presumably, honest workers. Within the first fortnight of demonetisation, Rs 64,000 crore came into accounts where, till recently, banks were making minimum deposits from their own resources to keep them active. This amount, though just a fraction of the currency in circulation, shows how the laundering game was played in India right down to the lowest economic strata of the society.

The rich and the resourceful, of course, had their own means. There was a huge spike is sale of gold, cash was rotated by cooking up accounts, adjusting cash-in-hand that existed on paper by soaking up unaccounted liquidity against it (that’s a separate story). Large sums were adjusted through distribution in accounts of friends and family. Some learnt from the BJP’s reported land-buying spree in Bihar before the prime minister’s decision: They invested in real estate to adjust the spare cash. A thorough investigation could throw up shocking details of an organised racket comprising middlemen, bank staff and hoarders that laundered huge amounts of unaccounted cash.

Ironically, after adjusting their accounts, hoarders, racketeers, corrupt traders and cheerleaders — the J V R Arun’s of India — are back in the queue of slogan shouters, screaming their support for Modi’s plan, asking others to suffer in silence for the country, to stand in queues because soldiers are doing the same on the border.

Hypocrisy, unfortunately, feasts on gullibility of people. A country that has a history of being swept-away by empty slogans from the day’s of Garibi Hatao, fake messiahs, babas like Asaram, Radhey Ma, Ramdev and believes in the culture of blind bhakti; in a culture where critical analysis is denounced as sedition; where contrarian voices are sought by drowned in an orgy of abuses and irrationality, patriotism becomes the last refuge of the corrupt and the crooked.

It turns into a laughable slogan mouthed by those with patriotism on lips and laundered money in pockets. A poignant anthem of black Jan Dhan in every Mann.

First Published On : Dec 2, 2016 17:31 IST

Congress President Sonia Gandhi discharged from Sir Ganga Ram Hospital

Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who was on Tuesday admitted to Sir Ganga Ram Hospital following viral fever, has been discharged. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Congress President Sonia Gandhi was discharged from a private hospital in Delhi on Wednesday, two days after she was admitted to the facility following viral fever.”Gandhi has recovered from fever and has been discharged in stable condition,” said Dr Arun Kumar Basu, senior consultant, Department of Chest and Pulmonology Medicine at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital.69-year-old Gandhi was discharged around 11.30 AM.She was admitted to the hospital around 8 PM on November 28.Gandhi had been hospitalised for 12 days in August after she had fallen ill during a roadshow in Varanasi. She was operated upon for a shoulder injury also.

Sonia Gandhi admitted to Sir Ganga Ram Hospital

Tue, 29 Nov 2016-11:12pm , New Delhi , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Congress President Sonia Gandhi was admitted to a city hospital on Monday evening following viral fever and was recovering. 69-year-old Gandhi was brought to Sir Ganga Ram Hospital around 8 PM on Monday and doctors treating her said she was feeling much better on Tuesday. “Sonia Gandhi has been admitted under the care of Dr Arun Kumar Basu, senior consultant in Department of Chest and Pulmonology Medicine and his team of consultants. Gandhi’s routine tests are being conducted and is better today. She is likely to be discharged in a day or two,” Chairman of the hospital’s Board of Management DS Rana said.Gandhi’s daughter Priyanka has been with her while son Rahul visited her on Tuesday. Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said there was no cause for worry and the party president will resume Parliament duty soon. “The Congress President has been admitted to a hospital following viral fever. She will be discharged within two days. She will resume her Parliament duty soon. There is no cause for worry,” he said.Gandhi had to stay at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital for 12 days in August after she had fallen ill during a roadshow in Varanasi. She was operated upon for a shoulder injury also.

NGT orders ban on noise, solid waste pollution in Sundarbans

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The National Green Tribunal has ordered a ban on noise and solid waste pollution in the Sundarbans area in a bid to protect the wildlife during the coming tourist season.The Kolkata bench of NGT, comprising Justice (retd) SP Wangdi and Dr PC Mishra, taking up the matter suo motu, prohibited the use of mikes or loudspeakers blaring music, fancy decorative lights, release of solid waste and other material in river water. The bench, in an order passed this week, directed the principal secretaries of four departments, Tourism, Environment, Home and Panchayat to ensure compliance of the order to maintain the ecology of the forests.”Hundreds of motor launch, steamers and cruises take tourists to the Sundarbans during the winter for excursions and picnics leading to a lot of sound, air and solid waste pollution in the rivers and canals crisscrossing the largest mangrove forest in the world,” environmentalist Subhas Dutta, who has been appointed amicus curiae in the matter by the NGT bench said.Home of the Royal Bengal Tiger, apart from a large number of other wildlife including alligators, dolphins, deer, wild boars, etc, the Sundarbans on the Ganga delta is already facing a threat to its ecological balance owing to deforestation and increasing human habitats and population.Air and sound pollution are also on the rise in the Sundarban National Park and Tiger Reserve and its fringe areas owing to modern facilities being extended to these areas, which are not so remote now as compared to a decade ago, with better road communication and other modern facilities being available. “The NGT has also directed the Pollution Control Board (PCB) to visit all 174 hotels, resorts, lodges and homestays operating in the Sundarbans area and review their pollution control systems and whether these are conforming to rules and guidelines,” Dutta said.The state PCB officials would check the year of establishment of these places, whether these have consent to establish and consent to operate by the PCB as also the Coastal Regulatory Zone (CRZ) permission, he said.

Tanneries in Unnao violating pollution norms, UP tells green tribunal

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Industrial effluents, containing high concentration of chromium, from tanneries in Unnao is polluting the Ganga, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board (UPPCB) informed the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Thursday. The NGT’s principal bench is currently hearing the case regarding industrial pollution in the Ganga on a daily basis.The five-member bench, headed by justice Swatanter Kumar, was examining the deficiencies in the functioning of effluent treatment plants, especially those in tannery clusters. The counsel for UPPCB informed the bench that there are 400 tanneries in Kanpur that discharged their effluents into the Jajmau drain, one of the most polluted drains along the Ganga. When the bench asked the counsel for tanning industries about the functioning of the Common Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP), he replied that it is largely functioning well.However, UPPCB informed the bench that a joint inspection of the CETP done with the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, had revealed that the effluents discharged contained pollutants above permissible limits. “Learned counsel for UPPCB said that special committee that included IIT-Kanpur and CPCB analyzed trade effluents from CETP’s (in Unnao). They violated BOD, COD, total chromium and TDS norms. Both CETP’s are not performing to desirable levels, and are a major source of passing pollutants into drains,” the bench said.BOD (biochemical oxygen demand) levels indicated the health of water. Lower levels are indications of a healthy water body while higher levels indicate that the water body is polluted.

In bridge over Ganga, Modi to fulfil plea pending from Nehru’s time

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Over five decades after a proposal for making a bridge to link Tarighat in Uttar Pradesh to the north bank of the Ganga was placed before Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is all set to turn it into reality. The date chosen for this is November 14, the birth anniversary of the country’s first Prime Minister.Modi will be laying the foundation stone for the Tarighat-Mau railway line and bridge when he goes to Ghazipur. Besides, he will also address a rally, participating in BJP’s ‘parivartan yatra’ launched on November 5. Besides this, the Prime Minister is expected to address rallies in Kushinagar, Bahraich, Kanpur, Agra, Bareilly and Moradabad.The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA), headed by Modi, had cleared the rail project in June. The proposal to build a bridge from Tarighat had come up first in the 1960s after Lok Sabha member Vishwanath Singh Gahmari gave a grim picture of poverty in the eastern UP region. This had touched Nehru and the government set up the Patel Commission, which recommended linking Tarighat to the north bank of the Ganga, to give a boost to economic activity. Sources said the proposal which had been put on the backburner for years was now revived by the BJP government.Ghazipur is also adjacent to Varanasi, the Prime Minister’s Lok Sabha constituency. The BJP is trying to revive the mood of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, when it swept the state on the development plank. The BJP has been focusing on the politically crucial Poorvanchal belt, from where five union ministers– Rajnath Singh, Kalraj Mishra, Manoj Sinha, Anupriya Patel and Mahendra Pandey–belong. The party’s state chief Keshav Prasad Maurya, an MP from Phoolpur, is from Kaushambi near Allahabad, where the BJP held its national executive earlier this year.The SP was hoping to win Ghazipur in the general elections, but BJP’s Manoj Sinha, who is now minister of state for railways, defeated the party’s Shivkanya Kushwaha in Ghazipur. The region has a high concentration of backward classes like Patels and Mauryas besides Brahmins, Yadavs, Muslims and Thakurs. The BJP is trying to reach out to the non-Yadav backward classes in the assembly elections due early next year.While launching the yatra from Jhansi, in the economically backward Bundelkhand region, BJP chief Amit Shah has promised to turn UP into the richest state if the party came to power. The party’s four parivartan yatras will culminate in Lucknow on December 24, the eve of the birthday of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who was an MP from the state capital.Target audienceThe SP was hoping to win Ghazipur in the general elections, but BJP’s Manoj Sinha, who is now minister of state for railways, defeated the party’s Shivkanya Kushwaha in Ghazipur. The region has a high concentration of backward classes like Patels and Mauryas besides Brahmins, Yadavs, Muslims and Thakurs. The BJP is trying to reach out to the non-Yadav backward classes in the assembly elections due early next year.

‘Pakistan army with China have been oppressing us for 70 yrs’: Baloch leader thanks PM Modi for highlighting problem

Varanasi: Baloch nationalist leader Naela Quadri on Sunday hailed Prime Minister Narendra Modi for highlighting the plight of people in Balochistan, where she alleged that Pakistan army was involved in “genocide” for the past 70 years with the help of China.

“Balochistan is fighting for its freedom but Pakistan army with support of China is committing genocide on innocent people to suppress our freedom movement,” Quadri said.

“We have been facing the atrocities from the past 70 years but the world came to know when Prime Minister Narendra Modi raised the issue,” she said.

She praised Modi for highlighting the plight of people of Balochistan.

“He has become our hero, the hero of Balochistan, because it is for the first time that the issue has received such attention,” she said.

“Pakistan army has crossed all the limits. They rape our women and girls and even take the organs after killing the people,” she said, adding “for even small matter, there is bombardment in our region.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. AFP

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. AFP

She said, the freedom struggle in Balochistan has intensified after getting the moral support from India.

During the two-day ‘Sanskritik Sansad’ organised by Ganga Mahasabha, another Baloch leader Mazdak Dilshad said, “this freedom struggle has been continuing for the past 70 years. After getting moral support from India, the struggle for the freedom of Balochistan movement has been intensified.”

The event deliberated on several issues including atrocities in Balochistan, Triple talaq, challenges of national security, free flow of Ganga among others.

Senior RRS functionary Indresh Kumar, noted Islamic Scholar Moulana Sadiq Kalbe, Swami Shankaracharya Vasudevanand Saraswati and Varanasi based Ganga Mahasabha’s National General Secretary Swami Jitendranand Saraswati among others were present on the occasion.

The President of World Baloch Women’s Forum Quadri also said that if Balochistan achieves freedom, it will allow the entry of people from India without visa.

“If Balochistan achieves independence, we would install a statue of PM Modi in the region,” she said.

Lakhs of people throng ghats to celebrate Chhath Puja

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Lakhs of devotees on Sunday offered prayers to the Sun on the ghats of the Ganga and other rivers and water bodies across Bihar on the occasion of Chhath.In Patna, fasting men and women thronged the ghats of the Ganga and stood in waist-deep water to offer prayers to the setting Sun. The state government made tight security arrangement for a smooth Chhath Puja on the third day of the four-day festival which began on Friday.Family members and relatives were seen assisting the ‘Vratis’- those offering ‘arghya’ (obeisance) to the deity with home-made ‘thekua’, fruits, sugarcane and coconuts.Devotees worship the Sun god in the waters of the Arabian Sea during Chhath Puja in Mumbai. (Photo courtesy – Reuters)Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, accompanied by ministers and senior officials, inspected the ghats and rode a motorboat in the Ganga from Nasriganj to Gaighat and sought blessings of the ‘Vratis’ for the well-being of the state, an official statement said.Chief Minister Nitish Kumar perform rituals at his residence on the occasion of the Chhath Puja festival in Patna. (Photo courtesy – PTI)Chhath Puja was held at 1, Aney Marg, official residence of the Chief Minister, where Nitish Kumar’s sister-in-law did the puja, which was more or less a private affair.In a departure, the family of Kumar’s ally and RJD leader Lalu Prasad is not celebrating ‘Chhath’ at his 10 Circular Road residence, which used to be the centre of media attention every year.A huge rush of devotees were seen on the banks of the Ganga during evening ‘Arghya’ in Patna. Similar scenes were witnessed in the districts, reports said.After completion of evening ‘arghya’, devotees would return tomorrow morning before sunrise to offer ‘arghya’.Elaborate arrangements were made by the municipal authorities to spruce up ghats across the city and roads leading to them. The ghats were barricaded to enable the worshippers and their families offer prayers in an orderly manner, official sources said.Out of the capital’s 101 ghats, 20 ghats have been declared ‘dangerous’ as various watch towers and CCTVs have been installed to keep a close vigil.A devotee worships the Sun god amidst heavy smog at a pond during Chhath Puja. (Photo courtesy – Reuters)”I am very happy to see the arrangement. Ghats are cleaned and have proper lighting. Temporary changing rooms have been made for devotees. Regular announcements are being made to remain alert,” said Abhishek Kumar, who came from Mumbai to his sister’s house in Patna to participate in the festival.National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams have been posted at the ghats with boats and other equipment for rescue and relief operations, if needed, NDRF official sources said.Devotees prostrate themselves in the sands near the Arabian Sea as they worship the Sun god during Chhath Puja. (Photo courtesy – Reuters)Patna city has been decorated with lights for the occasion, especially the roads leading to ghats. Patna Electric Supply Undertaking has made special preparation for providing unhindered power supply.

PM Modi to arrive at own constituency in Varanasi to inaugurate Urja Ganga project

Varanasi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit his parliamentary constituency Varanasi on 24 October and lay foundation stone for the ‘Urja Ganga’ project, aimed at providing piped natural gas (PNG) to all the households in the city.

File photo of Narendra Modi. PTI

File photo of Narendra Modi. PTI

He is also scheduled to lay the foundation stone for the doubling of Varanasi-Allahabad rail track and electrification of the Varanasi-Allahabad rail section and will dedicate to the nation a dual rail engine that runs on both electricity as well as diesel. The special engine has been manufactured in Diesel Locomotives Works (DLW), Varanasi, BJP functionaries said in Varanasi.

Meanwhile, BJP workers have launched a cleanliness drive in the city ahead of Modi’s visit even as Union Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, Union Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha and Union Minister of State for Human Resource and Development Mahendra Nath Pandey have set camp here to oversee preparations for the PM’s visit.

Officials of Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL), who flanked Pradhan, said Uttar Pradesh Governor Ram Naik and Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav have been invited for the foundation laying ceremony of ‘Urja Ganga’ project.

Modi may also release a special stamp, dedicated to this ancient city of Varanasi during his visit.

According to ADM (Protocol), Vidya Sagar Singh, Prime Minister Modi will fly from Mahoba by a special Indian Army helicopter on 24 October, which will land at the Dereka helipad around 3:55 pm. From there he will head straightway to the main venue at Dereka Inter college ground to lay the foundation stone for the various projects.

High security has been put in place ahead of the PM’s visit, he said.

After attending the function, Modi will leave for the airport by road the same day from the venue at around 5:20 pm after spending nearly over two hours in the city.

He will leave for Delhi by a special aircraft from the Lal Bahadur Shastri International airport at Babatpur in Varanasi.

BJP workers have launched a cleanliness drive in the city ahead of the PM’s visit and special arrangements have been made at the venue, where a large number of party workers along with local public will participate in the function, said Sanjay Bhardwaj, BJP’s Varanasi as well as eastern UP Media in charge.

Submit list of hospitals and waste generated: NGT to Delhi govt

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Asking medical bodies to ensure proper collection, segregation and disposal of bio-medical waste in the national capital, the National Green Tribunal has directed the Delhi government to submit the quantum of waste generated by city hospitals, nursing homes and labs.A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar directed the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) to file a detailed affidavit on the issue and asked it to point out whether any hospital, nursing home and laboratory has its own facility to deal with the bio-medical waste.”The counsel appearing for DPCC is directed to file a comprehensive affidavit only by the Member Secretary giving total number of hospital, nursing homes, laboratories and other allied medical facilities in NCT, Delhi.”Out of these, what is the extent of generation of bio-medical waste per category. Further, the quantum of generated bio-medical waste facilities that reach to them…The NCT, Delhi (government) is directed to furnish complete details to the DPCC and file a copy,” the bench said.It also issued notice to all these medical “facilities” in the city and asked them to be present before it on October 19, the next date of hearing.The tribunal had in July directed hospitals in Uttarakhand to properly manage bio-medical and solid waste in the state and said any violation would lead to imposition of environmental compensation of Rs 50,000 on them.The NGT had earlier said that there should be no throwing of any medical, bio medical or any other waste into Ganga and if any hospital was found doing so anywhere, the authorities would recover Rs 20,000 per violation from them.It had directed Uttarakhand government to construct at least two more bio-medical waste and hazardous waste plants to meet the requirement of hospitals in the state.

Varanasi stampede: A timeline of disasters at religious places across India

Twenty three people were killed and over 60 others injured in a stampede at Rajghat bridge between Varanasi and Chandauli. People had gathered in large number for a religious event on Saturday afternoon.

Visuals of the area near Rajghat bridge between Varanasi and Chandauli. CNN-News18

Visuals of the area CNN-News18

The incident took place when thousands of followers of religious leader Jai Gurudev were on their way to Domri village on the banks of Ganga to take part in the two-day camp, police said.

Here is a list of some of the worst such disasters in India in recent years:


5 May: Seven people were killed and around 90 others injured when heavy rains accompanied by lightning and squall flattened and uprooted makeshift tents of pilgrims in and around the site of Simhastha Kumbh Mela. The Simhastha Kumbh Mela takes place once every twelve years and attracts millions of devotees.

10 April: A massive fire swept through a temple in Kerala, killing more than 100 people and injuring at least 280 after thousands gathered to watch a fireworks display.


14 July: A stampede on the banks of Godavari in Andhra Pradesh crushed 27 pilgrims to death and injured dozens as they had gathered to take a dip in the river at the beginning of the Maha Pushkaralu festival.


18 January: At least 18 people were killed and over 40 injured in a stampede in Mumbai when a large crowd gathered to pay their last respects to a Bohra Muslim spiritual leader Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin went out of control.

An aerial view of the crowd gathered during the Dussehra celebrations at Gandhi maidan in Patna where the stampede occured in 2014. PTI

An aerial view of the crowd gathered during the Dussehra celebrations at Gandhi maidan in Patna where the stampede occured in 2014. PTI

3 October: Around 32 people were killed in a stampede at a popular Hindu festival in eastern India after panic erupts following rumours of an electrical fire.


10 February: At least 36 people were trampled to death as pilgrims headed home from the Kumbh Mela religious festival on the banks of the river Ganges.

13 October: A stampede near a temple killed around 115 in Madhya Pradesh, where up to 4,00,000 devotees had gathered. Twenty-one people, including all 17 police from a local station, were suspended after the tragedy. Ratangarh town where the disaster occurred was the scene of a similar stampede seven years ago when 50 people were crushed to death.


19 November: Eighteen women and children were crushed to death in a stampede when a rope bridge collapses at a Hindu festival of Dussehra in Bihar’s Patna.


Around 64 people died and scores were injured in a stampede that in Kerala triggered by a vehicle crashing into a crowd. (Photo: AFP)

Around 64 people died and scores were injured in a stampede that in Kerala triggered by a vehicle crashing into a crowd. (Photo: AFP)

14 January: Around 102 Hindu devotees were killed in a stampede which broke out when thousands of pilgrims made their way home after an annual pilgrimage in Kerala state.

8 November: Sixteen people, including 14 women, died in a stampede at a religious ceremony near the holy Hindu city of Haridwar.


4 March: Sixty-three people, mostly women and children, were killed in a stampede at a temple where free clothes are being doled out in Uttar Pradesh.


3 August: About 150 Hindu worshippers were killed in a temple stampede sparked by rumours of a landslide in northern Himachal Pradesh.

30 September: Some 224 pilgrims died in a stampede when worshippers rush to reach a hilltop temple in the northern city of Jodhpur.

With inputs from agencies

Varanasi stampede: 19 killed, 4 injured; PM Modi announces Rs 2 lakh ex-gratia to kin of deceased

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>19 people were killed and 4 were injured in a stampede at Rajghat bridge between Varanasi and Chandauli where a large number of people had gathered for a religious event on Saturday afternoon. The incident took place when thousands of followers of religious leader Jai Gurudev were on their way to Domri village on the banks of Ganga to take part in the two-day camp, police said.Out of the 19, 15 were women and 4 were men, said the doctor. “Two injured women are being treated in hospital,” said UP IG (Law and Order) Hari Ram Sharma. “It will be probed as to who is responsible, arrangements for crowd control and the lapses,” he added.Prime Minister Narendra Modi announces ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh each to next of kin of those killed in Varanasi stampede, Rs 50,000 compensation to those injured in the stampede. Uttar Pradesh CM Akhilesh Yadav announced Rs 2 lakh each for the family of the deceased and Rs 50,000 each for the critically injured.Meanwhile, a government spokesman in Lucknow said that the situation in Chandauli is being monitored and all necessary measures were being taken.(With agency inputs)

Allahabad: Police arrest VHP activist who wore burqa and molested women

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A VHP activist, along with his business associate, was thrashed and handed over to the police for allegedly donning a burqa and sneaking into a gathering of women at a place of worship, a charge denied by the brother of the accused who claimed that it was a fabricated case. The incident took place at Umarpur village in Mauaima police station area of the district’s trans-Ganga region, about 40 kms from the city, yesterday. Abhishek Yadav and his business partner Atif had visited an Imambara where a function in the run up to Moharram was being held, police station in-charge Satinder Singh said. He said Yadav, whose wife is a member of the Zila Panchayat, had reached the venue allegedly wearing a burqa which enabled him to sit close to the women. An outcry ensued when some people caught a glimpse of his jeans and sports shoes underneath the burqa, following which the men present at the Imambara ripped off his burqa and beat him up besides thrashing Atif who had tried to intervene. According to Singh, Yadav, who was an active member of the VHP, has been booked in the past for rioting and creating communal disturbances. A case was registered against him yesterday and IPC sections for similar offences yesterday. Meanwhile, a cross-complaint has been lodged by Yadav’s brother Veersen who has alleged that “Abhishek and Atif were waylaid close to the Imambara by a group of marauders who brutally assaulted the duo and snatched away their valuables before dragging them to the police station and fabricating a story”.”Those who attacked Abhishek nursed a grouse against him because of his association with the VHP and a thriving business of ready made garments and sports goods,” he said “They made him wear a burqa after beating him up, clicked his photographs and posted the same on social media to create the false impression that he was trying to create communal disturbances at a place of worship,” Yadav’s brother alleged. Police is investigating allegations made by both sides. Yadav and Atif have been admitted to a hospital for treatment, and adequate deployment of forces have been made in the village as a precautionary measure, the police station in charge said.

Acquisition of 36 Rafale aircrafts could greatly enhance operational ability in near term: Arup Raha

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha on Saturday said that the terror attack in Pathankot and Uri are a stark reminder of the times we live in, and added, that the Indian Air Force is ready to counter such attacks in the future. “The terrorist attack on Pathankot airbase and Uri Army base are a stark reminder of the times we live in. To counter any sub-covenantal threat to our bases, we have instituted various new security measures,” said Air Chief Marshal Raha said on the occasion of 84th anniversary of the founding of the Indian Air Force. He said various courses are being conducted, that have increased security training, consciousness, physical fitness and combat efficiency of air warriors to handle such situations more efficiently. The Indian Air Force celebrated its 84th anniversary at the Hindon Air Base in Ghaziabad with a large parade and an air display. The air display commenced with flag bearing sky divers of famous AKASH GANGA Team dropping out of AN-32 aircraft in their colourful canopies. The flypast included the vintage aircraft, modern transport aircraft and frontline fighter aircraft. The ceremony concluded with a scintillating aerobatic display. President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi also greeted the Indian Air Force. He further said that the IAF has achieved distinction in defending.

Varanasi wakes up to smart city mission

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Two-and-a-half years after Prime Minister Narendra Modi was declared winner from Varanasi, the city languishing in its past glory is waking up to a smart plan, as announced by the Urban Development Ministry here on Wednesday.The new Rs. 2,500 crore plan will cover the old city around River Ganga, which was not included in the earlier heritage city plan, invoking severe criticism, that the government was targeting only VIP areas, and to make new VVIP localities. “As per the plan, Rs 1,659 crore will be spent on area development and Rs 618 crore on pan-city solutions. The rest will include technical and administrative expenses and other contingencies,” said a ministry official.Since 31% of Varanasi’s population resides in the old city, accounting for 7% of the city’s geographical area and 38% of city’s GDP, the new plan focuses on developing the old city with Ganga as its pivot and areas around the Kashi Vishwanath Temple. The administration claims to have sought suggestions from four lakh residents before finalizing its plan.Under the new scheme, the centre plans to convert the ancient city also known as Kashi into Suramya (appealing), Samunnat (socio economic growth), Sanyojit (allowing hassle free movement) and Nirmal (clean).With 65 lakh tourists visiting the city each year, “The idea is to make Varanasi a tourist friendly city, providing easy and safe access, safety, cleanliness and hassle free traffic movement,” said the official.Under the Heritage City Development Scheme, the centre has been funding roads, sewage and other infrastructure projects in Varanasi. Restoration of façade and buildings along the ghat are a part of the Heritage scheme.For a total repackaging, smart city mission will ensure, rejuvenation of ghats and temples, ensuring supply of power and water, waste management, improvement of waterways, developing of 11 parks, smart multi-level parking spaces, cultural-cum-convention centre, Kahsi Kala Dham, Town Hall, Silpi Haat, Centre of Excellence with Hall of Fame, light and sound show, night bazar, rejuvenation of water bodies, pedestrian pathways, non-motorised transport, energy efficient streets, lighting, underground cabling, and improved sign boards.Offering Sanyojit solution, Varanasi Municipal Corporation will be providing optic fibre connectivity across the city, online payment of utility bills and service delivery, intelligent traffic management systems including GPS on buses, e-booking of boats, guides and taxis. CCTV based monitoring and surveillance, e-Suvidha centres, information delivery on Mobile Apps are also part of the smart Varanasi solution.While the Centre and states have been pooling in funds for Varanasi, a part of funding is also to come from the Public Private Partnership Model (PPP). In addition to the support from central and state government, costs of Varanasi’s smart city proposal are to be met with resources of Rs1,290 crore through convergence of various schemes, Rs505 crore from the Corporation’s own resources and Rs.140 crore from PPP.

Rajnath Singh speaks to CMs of UP, Uttarakhand, Bihar, Rajasthan on floods

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>As floods ravaged some parts of the country, Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Monday spoke to chief ministers of four flood-hit states — Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar and Rajasthan — and assured all central help in dealing with the disaster.Singh had a telephonic conversation with chief ministers Akhilesh Yadav ((UP), Harish Rawat (Uttarakhand), Nitish Kumar (Bihar) and Vasundhara Raje (Raje) this morning and took stock of the flood situation in their respective state.The Chief Ministers briefed the Home Minister and the flood situation and the steps taken for rescue and relief of marooned people.The Chief Ministers also told Singh about the operations carried out by the National Disaster Response Force and State Disaster Response Forces in affected areas. “I assured the Chief Ministers of full cooperation from the Centre in the flood mitigation drive launched by the states,” an official statement said.The Ganga yesterday crossed the danger mark in West Bengal, Bihar and neighbouring districts of Uttar Pradesh where Yamuna river is also in spate, while heavy rainfall has created a flood-like situation in some parts of Rajasthan where six persons have died so far.

Shivraj over troubled waters: When MP CM Chouhan gave ‘aerial survey’ of flood-hit zones a new meaning

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Shivraj Singh Chouhan, one of the few CMs who is known for being a down to earth leader, became the talk of town when pictures emerged of cops carrying him while he went to survey flood-hit areas in Madhya Pradesh. Maybe it was because he was wearing white, or that he had new shoes on, but it’s probably a bad idea to let other people carry you when you go do ‘surveys’ of flood-hit regions.The picture showed Chouhan being carried by two policemen in ankle-deep water. ANI reported that the incident took place in MP’s Panna district. This isn’t the first time something like this has happened, and even the media has ended up in the same plight like the time a news reporter thought the best way to do the story would be sit on top a person’s shoulder. Here’s how Twitter mocked Chouhan: On Sunday, Chauhan visited Rewa and Satna districts, where it’s believe around 100 villages were devastated by floods. The CM also met relatives of Babloo Martin, a sportsman who died while saving a four-year-old’s life. As many as 5,100 people have been evacuated from 87 villages. Around 9,050 houses have been damaged,’ he told the media.Talking about the states of Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh affected by floods, National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) Director General O.P. Singh said that the worst-hit districts in Madhya Pradesh are Pannah, Damoh, Vidisha, adding the situation in Rewa is slightly critical.Asserting that although River Ganga is flowing above the danger mark, Singh, however, said the water is gradually receding.‘From our own precautionary point of view, we are going to deploy those teams in areas like Vaishali, Bhajipur, Raghopur, Khageria, Munger’all these places may get flooded,’ he added.Singh said Banda, Jalaun, Varanasi, Ghaziabad, Ballia and Allahabad districts in Uttar Pradesh are slightly affected due to heavy rains in the catchment areas.‘We have deployed ten teams in Uttar Pradesh alone. These teams are located at various places like Mahoba, Ballia, Chitrakoot, Gorakhpur,’ he added.Singh told ANI in New Delhi that the NDRF is in close touch with the three state governments, adding that it would make efforts to not only to evacuate the people to safer locations, but would also ensure that minimum damage is done to the lives and properties.While in Bihar, the government has asked those living in low-lying areas to move to safer places as river Ganga is rising at a speed of two centimetres per hour.According to the Central Water Commission, River Ganga is flowing two metres above the danger mark at the Gandhi Ghat in Patna.Besides Ganga, Sone, Gandak and Saryu rivers are also flowing above danger mark. Flood waters have engulfed new areas in Patna, Baksar, Saran, Munger and Bhagalpur districts.In Uttar Pradesh, over a dozen districts are reeling under flood as main rivers including Ganga and Yamuna are flowing above the danger mark at different places.Heavy rain and flood in neighboring states have worsened the situation in eastern districts and Bundelkhand region. Ganga River is still flowing above the danger mark in Allahabad and Varanasi and Yamuna is also above the danger mark in Allahabad.Rising Ganga water entered in some more areas in the city and also made about 20 more villages as flood affected during last 24 hours.Allahabad district administration said that 135 villages of different areas are facing grim flood situation due to current spate in rivers.About 7,000 people have been shifted in different relief camps. In Banda, Ken River is on spate and flowing nearly five meter above the anger mark. Several areas are submerged under flood water in the district.

Flood situation grim in Bihar as water level in Ganga rises, CM Nitish Kumar expresses concern

Patna: With the rise in level of the Ganga, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Sunday expressed apprehension of further rise in water level by Monday in view of release of water from Bansagar dam as flood-like situation prevailed in state.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

Kumar, who held a high level meeting to assess the situation, later went on an aerial survey of Patna, Bhojpur, Saran, Vaishali, Begusarai and Khagaria.

He told reporters there is at the moment no possibility of flood waters entering into Patna city.

Meanwhile, the rising water level of Ganga has more or less created flood-like situation in all the districts situated along the banks of the river in Bihar.

Ganga and six other rivers were flowing above danger mark in Patna, Bhagalpur, Khagaria, Katihar, Siwan, Bhojpur, Buxar and Hajipur districts, a disaster management department statement said.

Ganga was flowing above danger mark at six places in various parts of three districts – Digha ghat, Gandhi ghat, Hathidah in Patna, Bhagalpur and Kahalgaon in Bhagalpur district, Munger district and Buxar district.

The districts which are witnessing flood-like situation included – Patna, Vaishali, Buxar, Bhojpur, Saran, Begusarai, Samastipur, Lakhisarai, Khagaria, Munger, Bhagalpur and Katihar, the department statement said.

Around 15,000 people are sheltered in 82 relief camps after being evacuated from flood affected areas, it said adding that all camps have the facilities of medical team with medicines.

Stating that several districts of Bihar have been facing the threat of inundation, Kumar said that “The water level of Ganga has increased due to release of water from Indrapuri barrage and other rivers merging into Ganga.

“Besides, a huge volume of water has been released from Bansagar dam and it is expected that water level, which has reduced, will once again rise by tonight or tomorrow morning,” Kumar said.

The chief minister held Farakka dam responsible for slow discharge of water from Ganga which has become shallow due to heavy siltation. This causes flood water to spread to other areas.

He appealed to people to vacate the rivebank areas and come to relief camps which would provide them proper food and shelter.

Centre may bring in legislation to clean Ganga in consultation with states

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Asserting that there was a need to follow a policy of “zero discharge of effluents” to clean the Ganga, the Centre on Saturday said that it was considering bringing in a legislation in this regards in consultation with the states through which the river flows.”The Narendra Modi government has always maintained that it was committed to cleaning the river Ganga. To achieve this goal, it is important to ensure that there was zero discharge of effluents in the river.”We are working in the direction of bringing in a legislation to ensure that no effluents, be it sewage or industrial waste, is discharged into the Ganga.”The legislation will be brought in after due consultation with all the states through which the Ganga passes,” Union Minister for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation Uma Bharti said.She was addressing a conclave, on the outskirts of the city, attended by collectors and other administrative officials of more than 50 districts spread across five states where gram pradhans of more than 1000 villages situated along the Ganga were also present.Among others who were present on the occasion included Union Minister for Rural Development, Panchayati Raj and Drinking Water and Sanitation Narendra Singh Tomar.Tomar said the government was working to ensure that the country was rid of open defecation “within a year” and that the Swachchh Bharat Abhiyan was a big step in that direction.In the morning, the ministers also paid floral tributes to revolutionary freedom fighter Chandrashekhar Azad.Bharti also congratulated badmintion player PV Sindhu, who won silver medal at the Rio Olympics, saying “her achievement has brought glory to the women of the entire country.”

Ganga basin authority clears projects worth Rs580 crore

In its fourth meeting this year, the empowered steering committee (ESC) of the National Ganga River Basin authority has cleared projects worth Rs580 crore, chiefly relating to the development of bathing ghats and to modernise crematoriums that run on electricity. Along with these projects, the ESC also took up a couple of sewerage projects for appraisal that will be executed by Uttar Pradesh Jal Nigam in Ramana and Mathura-Vrindavan.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The ESC is a nodal body that clears Ganga cleaning projects and comprises of secretaries of water ministry, environment ministry, power ministry, urban development ministry and chief secretaries of Ganga basin states. The projects are also assessed by the consortium of seven Indian Institute of Technology’s that acts as an independent advisor in the clean Ganga mission. According to official documents, the ESC has cleared projects for development of 71 bathing ghats and 40 crematoriums situated on the banks of Ganga. Spread across the Ganga basin states of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal, the projects were cleared for particular stretches along the river.In Uttarakhand, projects were cleared on the Uttarkashi to Maneri and Devprayag to Uttarkashi stretch, in UP, the stretches that will see development of Ghats and crematoriums are Balawali to Bakhtayarpur, Bhaktayarpur to Anupsahar, Anupsahar to Kachla and Mathura. In Bihar, the ESC has approved projects in Barauni, Munger, Bhagalpur, Sultanganj and at Garulia in West Bengal.The development and renovation of bathing ghats and modernisation of crematoriums is one of these vital components of Clean Ganga project. Currently, most crematoriums use wood and emit more smoke and even bodies are also found floating near the banks of the holy river. Under Namami Gange, through 100 per cent Central funding, Ganga ministry aims to convert old crematoriums to ones run on electricity.”The development of ghats and crematoriums is being taken up on a priority basis as there is larger public interface and usage at these places. Public sector units have prepared the detailed project reports for these works and approvals have been granted based on these reports,” said Vinod Tare, professor, Indian Institute of Kanpur.As part of their forestry targets along Ganga, the ESC also approved afforestation projects on 1580 hectares in Uttarakhand, 72.35 hectares in Uttar Pradesh, 698 hectares in Bihar and 354 hectares in Jharkhand.

Barricades on Ganga barrage after 7 drown while clicking selfie

Barricades will be constructed on the Ganga barrage after Wednesday’s unfortunate accident in which seven young men drowned in the river, reported NDTV.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Officials told NDTV that they have sought assistance from the Irrigation Department to build barricades. Police teams will be deployed on the barrage and anyone trying to go beyond its slopes will be arrested. The number of divers at the barrage will also be increased, the officials added.

The Wednesday’s  incident happened when six youths from Juhi area and one Shivam from Colonelganj area of the district had gone to take a bath in the river after rainfall, reported PTI.

Shivam was clicking a selfie while bathing following which he lost his balance and started drowning in the river.

Maqsood tried to save Shivam but he too lost his balance due to the high water level and high current following heavy rainfall, SP (West) Sachindra Patel said.

All the other friends jumped one after another to save the others but drowned in the attempt, the SP said.

A team of divers was deployed to save the youths and their bodies were recovered after two hours, Patel said, adding, all of them were sent to Medical College Hospital where they were declared dead by the doctors.

The deceased have been identified as Sachin Gupta (21), Bholu Tiwari (20), Rohit (20), Shivam (19), Maqsood (31), Bhola (16) and Satyam (24).

The matter will be investigated, SSP Mathur said.

Bihar toppers scam: Ex-BSEB Chairman Lalkeshwar Prasad Singh, wife Usha Sinha arrested by SIT

Former Bihar School Examination Board (BSEB) Chairman Lalkeshwar Prasad Singh and his former MLC wife and ex-Principal of Ganga Devi College, Usha Sinha were on Monday arrested by Special Investigation Team​.Last week, a court in Patna had issued arrest warrants against them in connection with +2 toppers scandal in the state.”Prima facie there are ample evidences against Lalkeshwar Prasad Singh. Proof of tampering in the exam copies and evaluation have been found which was in the knowledge of the ex-BSEB chairman (Lalkeshwar Prasad Singh),” senior superintendent of police Manu Maharaj, who heads the SIT to probe the scam, had said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Police had on June 11 arrested Bacha Rai, the kingpin of the toppers scandal, from Bhagwanpur police station in Vaishali district. Rai is the secretary-cum principal of controversial Bishun Rai College.Usha Sinha, who did not contest the 2015 Assembly elections as her seat Hilsa in Nalanda district had gone to RJD quota, had joined the college. She was made the Principal of the constituent college located in Kankarbagh locality here.Investigation in the merit muddle in Intermediate examination highlighted her role and the police made her a co-accused in the case.The scandal was brought to the fore by media by conducting interviews of arts and science toppers Ruby Rai and Saurabh Shreshta for their answers to simple questions.(With agency inputs)

Patna court issues arrest warrants against ex-BSEB chief, former JD(U) MLA Usha Sinha

A court in Patna on Wednesday issued arrest warrants against former Bihar School Examination Board (BSEB) chairman Lalkeshwar Prasad Singh and his wife, former JD(U) MLA Usha Sinha, in connection with +2 toppers scandal in the state.Patna Chief Judicial Magistrate Om Prakash issued the arrest warrants against the couple on a plea by police. Sinha was replaced on Tuesday as principal of Ganga Devi College here by senior professor of the institution Kanchan Chakhaiyar.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Sinha had appointed junior professor Dilip Kumar Verma as principal of the college before proceeding on leave after her name cropped up in the +2 examination scandal in which her husband and ex-board chairman was a prime player. Investigation in the scam had highlighted her role and the police made her a co-accused in the case.Smelling trouble, Sinha went underground last week and appointed Verma as principal of the college. Sinha, who did not contest the 2015 Assembly elections as her seat Hilsa in Nalanda district had gone to RJD quota, had joined the college and was made the principal.”Prima facie there are ample evidences against Lalkeshwar Prasad Singh. Proof of tampering in the exam copies and evaluation have been found which was in the knowledge of the ex-BSEB chairman (Lalkeshwar Prasad Singh),” senior superintendent of police Manu Maharaj, who heads the SIT to probe the scam, had said.Police had on June 11 arrested Bacha Rai, the kingpin of the toppers scandal, from Bhagwanpur police station in Vaishali district. Rai is the secretary-cum principal of controversial Bishun Rai College. The scandal was brought to the fore by media by conducting interviews of arts and science toppers Ruby Rai and Saurabh Shreshta for their answers to simple questions.

Maharashtra: Tankers used to fill up dry Ramkund in Nashik

After a long debate on the matter of a dry Ramkund, the corporation has released water into the holy pond in river Godavari.The drought spell has affected Godavari too with the river running dry for the first time in ages. There has been a lot of debate on this issue with the main contention of the river bed being lined with concerte flooring which has closed the source of the natural springs in the river.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The water in river Godavari comes through the Gangapur dam which has only 4% water of its total capacity left now. The dam also provides drinking water to Nashik city which is already under the pressure of water cuts. With the monsoon not in sight yet, the water situation is still dear. Therefore, water was not being released from Gangapur dam into the river and that made Ramkund go dry.Purohit Sangh, the group of priests who conduct religious rituals for people on the banks of river Godavari, has been consistently demanding that water be released into Ramkund. On the other hand, environmentalist have been against release of filtered water reserved for drinking purposes into the river. Instead, they have suggested using water from the logged area or rejuvenating of old wells by the side of the river. The Nashik Municipal Corporation (NMC) had even thought of digging a bore well, a move opposed by the river activists.After a lot of debate, it was on Thursday night that the direct pipeline from the overhead tank of the NMC that supplies water to the Panchavati area was opened and water was released from Dhanushkund into Ramkund. Then, on Saturday afternoon, the lost water was refilled by tankers.”One can understand that there has to be water in Ramkund for religious purposes, but using drinking water that is reserved for public in a situation of acute water scarcity is not understood,” objects Devang Jani, who has filed a PIL in the court demanding removal of the concrete on the river bed.Jani adds that instead of using filtered water, the wells by the river, one old well near Laxamankund and three other near Datta mandir by the Gandhi talav which has been closed years ago, should have been rejuvenated and water from these wells poured into Ramkund. Jani’s insistence, however, remains on removal of the concrete so that the natural springs in the river bed could be opened and work as natural source of water for the river.The priests, who have been at the receiving end of unhappiness of the devouts coming to Godavari to perform rituals, now express satisfaction. “With water in Ramkund, it is a better sight. The Simhastha Kumbhmela in Nashik is still going on. Many people still come to take the holy bath. There are many who come to perform the last rituals after the death of their kin. These people would go back unhappy with the Ramkund being dry. Now, the situation is better,” states Satish Shukla, president of Ganga Godavari Purohit Sangh. According to Shukla, there are important days like the ongoing Ganga Dashehara festival conducted for the river, Nirjala ekadashi on June 16, and many more such important days when people take bath in the river.The executive engineer of NMC stated that the step to fill up Ramkund was necessary. “Initially, about 5 lakh litres of water has been released and now the refill of the losses due to use and evaporation will be done on daily basis with the help of tankers. These tankers fetch water from Indrakund which has a natural source of water,” he said.

Poster blitzkrieg paints Allahabad saffron

In this city famous for the confluence of the Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati, temperatures are soaring — politically and otherwise. The signs are evident right from outside the Bamrauli airport, where a massive banner shows the BJP’s Sultanpur MP Varun Gandhi alongside prime minister Narendra Modi and party chief Amit Shah.It is Gandhi who is the protagonist in the poster blitzkrieg that has taken over the city, especially its central area, where the BJP’s national executive begins on Sunday. Party leaders, however, played down Gandhi’s dominance. There is a concern in the party that the poster onslaught was eclipsing the conclave. According to party leaders, the posters may have been put up by supporters at a time when there was speculation over the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate in UP. However, Gandhi’s aggressive poster campaign could boomerang on him, party sources said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Posters don’t make anyone a leader. Chief ministers Manohar Lal Khattar, Devendra Fadnavis and Raghubar Das were not seen on posters,” said party general secretary Arun Singh.He said the BJP’s official posters have the prime minister, party chief, parliamentary board members, BJP chief ministers and members of the marg darshak mandal.Sources said that putting up posters with images as big as those of senior leaders, breaking hierarchy, was not acceptable to the party.Posters in which Gandhi was the central figure also has images of other leaders, including Rajnath Singh, LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Maneka Gandhi and Mumbai Northwest MP Poonam Mahajan.While one poster says “na goondgardi, na bhrashtachar, ab ki baar BJP sarkar”, another says “UP ki karun pukar, BJP ko lao”.Among the posters fighting for space in the city are also of Modi’s bête noire Sanjay Joshi and Shatrughan Sinha, who has often rubbed the party the wrong way.There are also posters showing Union minister Smriti Irani and Gorakhpur MP Yogi Adityanath, both of whom are also among names being speculated to be in the race for a chief ministerial face in UP.However, 2 km from the confluence of the Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati, where the party is holding its meet at the Kayastha Pathshala, a parade ground, there are only posters of Modi, Shah, Atal Bihari Vapayee and LK Advani on the dais. Incidentally, Advani had held a rally from this ground in 2009, when he was the PM candidate.On the other side of the sprawling hall is the image of a mendicant blowing a conch on the banks of the confluence, with a quote from the Ram Charitra Manas. An image of the Buddha and that of Swami Vivekananda is in another hall.It is from Allahabad — where the BJP does not have a single MLA in the district’s 12 assembly seats — that the party plans to sound the war bugle for UP.The national executive, which could come out with a resolution on the future roadmap for the organisation, has called some leaders who have quit the Congress and joined the BJP as special invitees, including Vijay Bahuguna, Giridhar Gaman, Himanta Biswa Sarma and Chauba Singh.

Clean Ganga mission: Behind schedule, Ganga ministry invites bids for surface cleaning

Even as it is fallen behind schedule to award contracts for setting up sewage treatment plants that will treat raw sewage flowing into river Ganga, the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) has invited bids from across the globe to award projects for cleaning up solid waste from the river’s surface. NMCG is the implementing agency of National Ganga River Basin Authority, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. NMCG has finally opened the bids for river surface cleaning works after long drawn consultations and industry conferences.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>As part of this leg of Ganga cleaning, contractors will have to use machinery as well as manpower to collect floating solid waste such as flowers, coconuts, plastic bottles, food packets, dead bodies of humans and animals, wood, water hyacinth that dot the country’s national river. The river surface cleaning works will be divided across the five Ganga basin states of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal.In fact, last year, NMCG had run river surface cleaning pilots across Varanasi, Kanpur, Allahabad, Patna, Sahibganj, Mathura, Ganga Sagar and Haridwar, wherein trash skimmer boats were used.”We want to begin the river surface cleaning by June end and thus we are speeding up the tendering process to bring the project back on schedule. A lot of time was lost in the planning stages,” said RajatBhargava, mission director, National Mission for Clean Ganga. Bhargava added, “Although river surface cleaning is supplementary to the main work on treating polluted water we want trash skimmers to collect 6-10 tonnes of waste per day. Around 15 companies have show interest in the pre-bid meeting.”As per NMCG’s bid document, the project will be awarded for three years and the contractors will have to coordinate with local municipalities and even state governments to dispose off the solid waste collected from the river surface.Even though sewage is the biggest contributor to pollution in Ganga, it also receives a vast amount of solid waste. Cremation on the banks of the river is an age-old practice and under the river surface cleaning works, contractors will have to take care of human and animal dead bodies too. While cleaning, if human bodies are found, the contractor will have inform the local police and follow comply with procedures.

Ganga will become one of the cleanest river by 2018: Uma Bharti

Ganga, considered one of the 10 most polluted rivers in the world, will become one of the cleanest by 2018, Union minister Uma Bharti said on Saturday.Lamenting that the river has often been used as a gateway to disposing affluents, Bharti exuded confidence that it would be transformed into the “10 most cleanest rivers in the world by 2018.”Participating at an event to mark two years in office of the NDA government here, Bharti said unfortunately, Ganga is considered one of the ten most polluted rivers in the world. She said the government is seriously working for Ganga rejuvenation and what could not be achieved in the past 29 years after spending Rs 4000 crore, was taking place now. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Union minister said funds are not an issue and the Centre is contributing sufficient funds to ensure that the target of 2018 is not missed. Bharti had earlier assured the Lok Sabha that she would announce on the floor of the House in 2018 that the river has been rejuvenated. Union Rural Development Minister Birender Singh spoke on the need to change the mindset of the people on the issue of sanitation. He said construction of toilets, clean villages and a mindset where sanitation is considered a basic “need” is what is required for a healthier country. Singh also said of 60 lakh toilets planned, far more have been constructed across India.

BJP to don battle gear for UP from land of seven PMs, Gandhis, Kumbh and academia

In 2013, Narendra Modi, then the Gujarat chief minister, wanted to take his mother to Allahabad for a holy dip in the Ganga at the Maha Kumbh Mela. However, he had to drop his plans after the story about his visit got leaked.Modi was then tipped to be the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate. Three years later, the Prime Minister is all set for another trip to Allahabad, this time when his party gets ready for the 2017 Uttar Pradesh polls.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>It was Modi’s idea to hold the party national executive meet in Allahabad, the political nerve center of the state, according to sources. In his scheme of things, Allahabad, one of the 13 smart cities identified in UP, has held a significant place. At one point it was even considered that Modi may fight the UP election from Allahabad, they said.This is the first time that the party’s national executive is being held in the city, which falls in the politically critical Purvanchal region, dominated by the backward Patel and Maurya castes. Surrounded by Pratapgarh, Varanasi, Phulpur and Mirzapur, Allahabad is seen as the epicenter of Purvanchal, a crucial region in the party’s strategy of targeting the non-Yadav OBC and upper caste votes. BJP chief Keshav Prasad Maurya, an MP from Phulpur, is from Kaushambi adjoining Allahabad. The BSP too is trying to reach out to the non-Yadav OBCs and Brahmins besides the dalits and mahadalits in the region.”Allahabad has a history of being a prestigious academic centre not just for UP but the entire country,”said BJP general secretary Arun Singh.Unlike the state capital Lucknow, the city of nawabs, and the Prime Minister’s constituency Varanasi, the spiritual center, Allahabad is seen as the intellectual hub of the state. Sources said that the BJP conclave being held in the city at a time when the party was preparing for the state assembly elections, would send the message that it was promising a different kind of UP, rid of “goonda raj”.Besides, Allahabad or Prayag, where there is a triveni sangam (confluence of three rivers– Ganga, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati) also has a religious significance being the only place in the state where a Kumbh is held.The BJP’s electoral battle could be launched with Modi’s public rally, a ritual at the end of most party meets. The Prime Minister had held a rally on completion of one year in power in Mathura and addressed one in Saharanpur in Western UP on Thursday on completion of two years of his government.”Allahabad is a politically important place and influences Purvanchal’s politics. In 2014, the BJP regained some ground and focusing on the region will help in consolidating the support base,” said BJP leader Siddharth Nath Singh, the grandson of Lal Bahadur Shastri, former Prime Minister and Congress leader who belonged to the region.The city, with which seven of the country’s 15 Prime Ministers have links, is also one of the state’s largest centres for education with several writers, poets, IAS officers, advocates and other intellectuals associated with it.Incidentally, the Congress is planning to launch a year-long nationwide campaign invoking the Nehru-Gandhi family’s association with Allahabad. The Congress is referring to the place as the “janma bhoomi”of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

Uma Bharti confident of BJP’s victory in Uttar Pradesh elections

Ecstatic with the historic win in the recent assembly polls in Assam, Union Minister for Water Resources Uma Bharti on Thursday expressed confidence that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) would form the next government in Uttar Pradesh (UP) as the nation out rightly rejected the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in the 2014 general election.Bharti, who was commenting on the NDA Government completing two years in office, said the recent victories in the assembly polls of Assam and Haryana have posed a challenge for the BJP to stand on the expectations of the people.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Prime Minister Narendra Modi has told me that there should be no politics on issues related to the poor. We have to work like Team India. And prior to six months of elections, we would start campaigning. We have always accepted our opponents as opposition and not as enemy,” Bharti said.
ALSO READ First-ever BJP govt assumes office in north-east with Sarbananda Sonowal as Assam CM”We will make the government in Uttar Pradesh. We got 72 seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Mayawati did not get any seat in the general elections. Samajwadi Party got six or seven seats. The people had rejected both the parties. So, I guess BJP is the only suitable option available for the people of Uttar Pradesh,” she added.The Union Minister also said that her ministry did full planning for cleanliness of the holy river Ganga in the last two years. “We made various schemes and got them approved from the Cabinet. And as I have promised earlier, the results of phase one for the cleanliness of Ganga will be completed by October this year. 99 projects, which were left pending by the previous government, would be completed by us by 2019,” she said.

Release of sewage into river Ganga major issue: NEERI

The action plan launched to clean the Ganga is moving in the right direction but the discharge of sewage into the river by big towns and cities is a major issue, NEERI said on Tuesday.In absence of sewage treatment plants (STP), the cleaning (of the river) was a difficult task and there were some logistics and managerial problems faced by the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), its newly appointed director Rakesh Kumar told reporters here.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Ganga action plan initiated by the Centre was in the right direction but the major problem facing it was discharge of sewage into the river by big towns and cities, it said. Major cities like Allahabad, Kanpur, Varanasi and Patna are on NEERI’s priority to get rid of the sewage, he said, adding industrial pollution was also adding woes to the project.Kumar admitted that there were some initial problems with the funds, but NEERI was capable of generating resources to carry out the project. Solid waste management was a primary concern for NEERI, he added.To a question, Kumar admitted that the air pollution level in Delhi has gone down after the introduction of odd and even scheme. “The Delhi government should ensure that the number of vehicles do not increase,” he added.Meanwhile, according to him, ten cities in Maharashtra have been selected by the NEERI to study the pollution levels. The cities include Mumbai, Pune, Solapur and Nagpur, he added. Before taking over this assignment, Kumar was NEERI’s chief scientist and head of Mumbai zonal laboratory.

Sewage in Ganga: NGT issues show cause notices to five municipal bodies in UP

New Delhi: The National Green Tribunal on Friday issued notices to the Chief Executive Officers of five municipal councils in Uttar Pradesh to show cause why environmental compensation be not imposed on them for their failure to comply with “statutory obligations” on discharge of untreated sewage water in Ganga.

NGT slammed the municipal bodies of Mirzapur, Chunar, Bhadohi, Fatehpur and Hastinapur in Uttar Pradesh for not complying with environment rules. AFP

NGT slammed the municipal bodies of Mirzapur, Chunar, Bhadohi, Fatehpur and Hastinapur in Uttar Pradesh for not complying with environment rules. AFP

A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar slammed the municipal bodies of Mirzapur, Chunar, Bhadohi, Fatehpur and Hastinapur in Uttar Pradesh for not complying with environment rules.

“We direct the said authorities to show cause as to why environmental compensation in term Section 15 and 17 of National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 be not imposed upon them de-horse relief prayed for in this application.

“The reply shall also contain show cause notice which is primarily issued for their failure to comply with statutory and public law obligations and the directions issued by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB),” the green panel said.

Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand, appearing for CPCB, said cleaning up of the Ganga is a priority for the government and if there would be non-cooperation then it would be difficult for it to meet the deadline on rejuvenation of the river.

The matter is now listed for next hearing on 11 July.

The tribunal was hearing a plea by CPCB seeking directions to UPPCB and the CEOs of these five municipal councils to “prepare a plan of action to clean river Ganga and water bodies, ground water and soil in a time-bound manner and recover the cost of preparation and execution of such plan of action from the polluters.”

CPCB said it had earlier also issued direction to UPPCB for treatment of sewage and restoration of water quality and had also asked it to submit a time-bound action plan for proper collection, treatment and disposal of sewage.

It had alleged that despite reminders no such action plan was formulated by these five municipal councils.

“The respondents (UPPCB and five municipal councils) have failed to provide adequate sewage network and also failed to install sewage treatment plants for effective treatment of sewage discharged into the river,” the petition had claimed.

“Their failure to act is causing irreparable environmental damage to Ganga and has massive ramifications for the people at large in Uttar Pradesh,” it had said.

CPCB had also said that it has identified one of the longest polluted stretches in river Ganga from Kannauj to Varanasi and the main cause of pollution in the river was discharge of untreated or partially treated sewage.

Head constable posted at Uma Bharti’s residence attempts suicide

A Delhi Police Head constable deployed at Union Minister Uma Bharti’s residence in New Delhi allegedly attempted suicide by shooting himself with his service gun on Sunday night.The incident took place around 10.30 PM, following which police teams were rushed to the residence of Uma Bharti, the Union Minister for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation in New Delhi’s Ashoka Road.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The official, identified as Head Constable Brijpal of Delhi Police’s security unit, was still breathing while being rushed to the nearest hospital, a senior police official said adding that the reason why he took the extreme step could not be ascertained yet. The head constable allegedly shot himself with his official gun which has been recovered from the spot.”His condition is critical,” DCP (New Delhi) Jatin Narwal said.Prima facie the official shot himself sitting inside his personal car parked inside the premises of Bharti’s bungalow.

RSS is against westernization, not modernization, says Nitin Gadkari

Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari has said the RSS is not against modernization, but against westernization.”There is difference between modernization and westernization. The RSS is not against modernization. It’s against westernization. Second is innovation, entrepreneurship, technology and research comes under head Knowledge. Our vision is conversion of knowledge into wealth,” he told ETV News Network head Jagdeesh Chandra in a recent interview when asked about his relation with the RSS.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”We are also making Car Scrapping policy. We are working on conversion of waste into wealth. Garbage can be a creation of five lakh crore economy. The waste water of Jaipur can be recycled and used to water the garden. We are working on 15 projects with Uma Bharti on Ganga River. We are working on to recycle the waste water of industries and reuse that,” he added.

Elaborate security arrangements ahead of PM Modi’s Varanasi visit

Elaborate security arrangements are in place in Varanasi for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tour of his Lok Sabha constituency on Sunday, his seventh visit to the ancient temple town after assuming office nearly two years ago. The personnel of Special Protection Group (SPG), which looks after the PM’s security, have been camping in the city for the past few days.The Uttar Pradesh (UP) police has also deployed 15 SPs, 23 ASPs, 58 DSPs and hundreds of lower-rank police personnel, in addition to companies of Rapid Action Force, Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) and Home Guards, to ensure his safety and smooth traffic flow.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Divers of the Navy, National Disaster Response Force and PAC have been stationed at a ghat on the banks of the Ganga, which Modi is scheduled to visit later in the day.
ALSO READ PM Modi to visit his constituency tomorrowEarlier, on Sunday morning, the Prime Minister reached the Babatpur airport here by his special aircraft. He was received, among others, by Governor Ram Naik and state minister Brahma Shankar Tripathi. From the airport, Modi took off in a helicopter for Ballia. He is expected to return to Varanasi in the afternoon and spend close to six hours in the city during which he will preside over a function where e-rickshaws will be distributed among hundreds of beneficiaries.At the Diesel Locomotive Works (DLW) premises, where the function will be held, Modi is also likely to interact with distinguished persons hailing from the city, including artists, educationists, jurists and those running self-help groups. The Prime Minister will thereafter pay a visit to ‘Jnana Pravah’ – a centre for cultural studies – where he is to meet city-girl Soni Chaurasia who recently set a world record by giving a non-stop 126-hour Kathak dance performance.The Prime Minister will then leave for the Assi Ghat, where he will launch 11 solar-powered boats. Modi has been calling for cleaning up the Ganga ever since he got elected from Varanasi in May, 2014 general elections.The solar-powered boats, which are also referred to as e-boats or eco-boats, are aimed at reducing the alarming pollution levels in the holy river.

Ganga to be cleaned by July 2018, says Uma Bharti

Government on Thursday exuded confidence in Lok Sabha that Ganga would be cleaned by July 2018 and said the return of aqua life in the river would be the biggest benchmark to prove that it has been rejuvenated and efforts towards its cleansing have succeeded.Responding to a series of supplementaries during Question Hour, Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti said she would announce in the House in July 2018 that the river has been cleaned and rejuvenated. She said the return of river dolphins, turtles and gold fish in the Ganga aqua life system would be the biggest benchmark to prove that the river has rejuvenated.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Bharti said the cleanliness of a river cannot be established in a lab where quality of packaged drinking water is established.Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav suggested that the drainage system of cities should be reworked to ensure that the waste goes to the fields and not rivers. He said it would provide farmers with fertiliser and save rivers from pollution.At this, the Water Resources Minister asked the SP leader to ask his son and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister to issue no- objection certificates to two of her ministry’s projects in Mathura and Vrindavan. She said she has not been able to get an appointment with Akhilesh Yadav and the SP chief should ensure that she gets one on Friday.Bharti rejected suggestions that the government was not serious about Ganga rejuvenation and said what could not be achieved in the past 29 years after spending Rs 4000 crore, was taking place now.

India should talk to Pakistan from position of ‘strength’: Congress

New Delhi: Congress on Thursday raised the Pathankot terror attack issue in the Lok Sabha and advised the Narendra Modi government to negotiate with Pakistan from a position of “strength” and not “emotions”.

Just before the House was to take up Question Hour, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan allowed Jyotiraditya Scindia (Congress) to raise the issue with a rider that it would not be politicised.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Amid opposition by treasury benches, Scindia recalled that the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) from Pakistan had a member from the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

Quoting a Pakistani media report, he said the JIT told the government there that “a drama was staged” to malign Pakistan and the Indian authorities did not cooperate with the team.

Referring to the remarks of Pakistan High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit that the investigation into the attack does not include reciprocity, he said the government should negotiate with Pakistan from a position of “strength” and not “emotions”.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu urged the Speaker to expunge Scindia’s remarks against the government.

When Scindia kept on speaking even after the House took up Question Hour, Speaker quipped that “you never listen… that is why I don’t allow you.”

Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti, who was responding to a question on Ganga rejuvenation, said it is sad that more than Ganga, the Congress thinks of Pakistan.

Ouch! Nirmohi Akhara seers ‘purify’ Asaram’s ashram, say he isn’t fit to be called ‘saint’

Ujjain (MP): Seers of Nirmohi Akhara on Wednesday “purified” the ashram of self-styled godman Asaram, who is in jail on rape charges, by sprinkling Ganga water as they took possession of the place for their stay during Simhastha Kumbh festival beginning Friday.

The sadhus claimed Asaram is “not fit to call himself as a saint for his acts”.

The ashram, situated in the Mangalnath has been temporarily allotted to Nirmohi Akhara, officials said.

The district administration has taken temporary possession of private land located close to the area where the religious congregation is scheduled, and allotted these plots to Akharas for the festival.

Asaram Bapu. File photo. PTIAsaram Bapu. File photo. PTI

Asaram Bapu. File photo. PTI

“In view of the (Kumbh) Mela, the district administration has temporarily allotted the land having Asaram’s ashram to Nirmohi Akhara some days back,” the Akhara pontiff Suresh Das Ji Maharaj said.

He claimed Asaram’s disciples stayed put in the ashram.

“It is the land that has been given to us by the government for our stay during the festival. Today, we entered the ashram and removed photos of Asaram who is not fit to be called a saint because of his deeds for which he is in jail…We purified the place with Ganga water and by performing other rituals. Now we are going to stay put there for Kumbh,” Maharaj added.

When contacted, Asaram’s ashram manager Ramji Mitr said the seers of the Akhara have taken control of their place of worship. “As of now, we don’t have plans to petition police against seers of Nirmohi Akhara,” Mitr said when asked about their future course of action.

Asaram has been lodged in Jodhpur jail facing a case for allegedly raping a minor girl. The self-styled spiritual guru is also accused of raping a woman in Surat.

Kashmir needs political dialogue, govt should reach out to the people of the Valley

A statement widely attributed to former US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld is that ‘India will never give up its claim on Kashmir’. The Indian State will pump in more military and financial resources, if required, to keep the Tricolour flying in Srinagar. Similarly, it is given that Pakistan, come what way, will never give up its claim on Kashmir and will never stop providing assistance to Kashmir and foment trouble for the Indian military.

What is unknown is what the future holds for the people of Kashmir. And, this uncertainty that continued for nearly a decade under UPA government, in spite of the hopes raised by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on starting a political dialogue with the people of the state, and has unfortunately continued in the last two years since BJP came to power at the Centre.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

The Narendra Modi-led NDA government must start a conversation with the people. In a state with over 60 percent youth population, there is a need for them to be engaged and a dialogue initiated, and the people must be made to believe that Delhi is keen to listen to them. Any interest or initiative from the Government of India to talk to the people is however missing. Having decided to sideline and ignore leaders of Hurriyat Conference and separatists, the Modi government must make a connection with the people.

Srinagar district has over 98 percent urban population and this has been the centre of protests and demonstrations. Wonder why young Kashmiris are always on streets and seemingly protesting?

Over 3,50,000 Kashmiri youth are unemployed

According to 2015 figures of J&K Planning and Development Department, around three lakh fifty thousand (350,000) Kashmiris are unemployed. Of these, 30,000 are unemployed graduates. Over 2,30,000 Kashmiris have registered in employment exchanges (2014 September figure) and waiting for the elusive jobs.

Given the security situation, corporates stay away from the Valley. Government jobs, too, are difficult to get. Late Chief Minister Mufti Sayeed conceded that government recruitment process was very slow. There were 4,000 vacancies for which 1.75 lakh people took different recruitment exams and tests.

In a state where agriculture is the main occupation that has around 70 percent of population dependent for survival, this year the farm sector is expected to see negative growth. Economic Survey of 2014-15 by J&K State shows that agriculture to decelerate to negative 16 percent.

The PDP, after aligning with the BJP has been unsuccessful it addressing the problem of compensation to flood-affected people even two years later. In last three months, when the state was under President’s Rule, Governor NN Vohra actively sought administrative help to provide relief and also to expedite dredging of Jhelum River to clear accumulated silt.

What are the Government of India and the state government doing? Kashmir is not UP, Gujarat, Haryana or Tamil Nadu. It is a region which has faced turmoil for decades and where Pakistani Army is involved in keeping militancy alive. And, the people of Kashmir Valley are not particularly fond of India. In fact, as recent months protests have shown, the youth have become active opponents of the Indian State and many of them are not aligned to any separatist faction or militant group. Problems need to be addressed and not ignored. How can flood relief not be distributed for months? How can Centre be slow in releasing money for compensation?

In 1993 as a young journalist with The Economic Times, I was in western Uttar Pradesh covering a crucial Assembly election, months after the demolition of Babri Masjid which had led the Narasimha Rao government to dismiss governments led by BJP in the states of UP, MP and Himachal Pradesh. It was then that the militants in Jammu & Kashmir burnt the much revered Charar-e-Sharif shrine leading to serious law and order problem.

I was asked to digress from covering UP politics for a day and instead get a sense from the Muslims of western UP as to their reaction to events in Kashmir. What I discovered was an interesting facet about how Hindus and in particular, Muslims outside the state perceive Kashmir and its people. Most people I spoke to, across a couple of districts with sizable Muslim population, showed little interest or concern for the people of Kashmir. A common response was, “They are different. We have no connection with them”.

Absence of any kind of “connection” between people living in rest of India with Kashmiris is largely responsible for the lack of empathy, sympathy or interest in events of the Valley which are mostly confined to the inside pages of newspapers, where protests, killings and clashes with police and army are seen as routine.

So are the events of last one week where young men have died in police firing leading to shut down in Kupwara and Handwara. Different versions of events and its varied interpretation will continue for days to come and again it will be forgotten. Until the next big clash or killings grab headlines.

NIT developments have also now receded in the background as the PDP-BJP governments tries to take hold of the situation. Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, once seen as a political leader willing to take up cudgels on behalf of the majority, has now ended up like other political leaders, into issuing “strongly worded” statements that express regret at “unprovoked firing on protestors”.

In this background, author Chetan Bhagat’s piece in The Times of India calling on Kashmiris to embrace India has touched a raw nerve among mainland Indians who believe that Kashmiri people need to accept India as their country. Frankly, it is India that also needs to accept Kashmir as part of their country where people are not agents of Pakistan, but are deeply unhappy and angry with the way India’s political elite and governments treat them.

Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has lost her credibility among many in Kashmir due to the manner in which she delayed and then succumbed to taking over as CM after three months of dilly-dallying

Protest for jobs by villagers affected by Kishen Ganga Project

A protest that has been on for months, but has not caught the attention of Delhi media is related to compensation and jobs for people whose land was acquired by National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) in 2009 for building the Kishen Ganga Hydro Electric Project in Bandipora district of North Kashmir.

Last week, residents of Kralpora village entered inside the powerhouse and other operative units and forcibly stopped the work. Local news media reports state that “as per agreement, which was approved by the then DC Bandipora, Mohammad Maqsood Zargar, 163 persons of affected families were to be employed in the corporation, but only 38 were employed,” said Ghulam Mohi-ud-din.

He said that those 38 persons employed in the corporation were later disengaged from their duties and the corporation engages non-locals in their place. He said locals have been either appointed as helpers or labourers in the company, while the non-locals have been appointed for prime positions.”

They have appealed to the chief minister for help but she is too busy trying to settle down in her new job. Kishen Ganga protest is small compared to bigger protests in Srinagar district but it needs to be addressed and a mutually acceptable solution found. Else, it won’t be long before these people also join the disenchanted in other parts of Kashmir.

Government of India needs to engage the people of Kashmir in a political dialogue. It cannot leave the task to PDP-BJP government. When Prime Minister Modi visits Jammu later in the week, he might want to use the opportunity to reach out to the people of the Valley.

Clean Ganga Mission: Lessons we can learn from Europe’s Rhine river cleaning

Thirty-years ago, a huge blast at the Sandoz chemical plant in Basel, Switzerland, leaked tonnes of toxic chemicals in the Rhine, Europe’s longest river. Polluted for long with depleting aquatic life, the industrial accident became a turning point in the river’s history and six countries came together to roll out an action plan to clean the mighty river. Through the late 1980’s and most of 1990’s the International Commission for the Protection of the Rhine (ICPR) rigorously implemented the Rhine Action Programme to revive the river, especially fishes.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Three years before schedule, the river was back to life as the Salmon returned to the Rhine and in the new century the river has once again become pristine with water clean enough to drink and swim.Although Rhine is a 1,233 km long transboundary river that passes through Switzerland, Leichtenstein, Austria, Germany, France and Holland, Germany’s contribution in cleaning up the river and controlling industrial pollution was lauded worldwide. Now, nearly two decades since the river began thriving again, Germany is using lessons learnt while cleaning Rhine to help India rejuvenate Ganga.Europe’s industrial powerhouse has taken a lead over other countries in offering their technical know-how and earlier this week, India and Germany signed an implementation agreement for Ganga Rejuvenation under the flagship Namami Gange Programme which also included financial assistance of Rs 22.5 crore. As per the Union ministry of water resources, river development and Ganga Rejuvenation Germany will extend technical support, help in river basin management and also urban waste management.While Germany had shown keen interest to participate in Ganga cleaning back soon after NDA came to power, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during the Hannover Messe gave it the push it required, sources said. Merkel was environment minister in the German government between 1994 and 1998 and was a key negotiator during the Kyoto climate talk and has plenty of experience in environmental leadership.Speaking to dna, Susanne Dorasil, head of economic cooperation and development, German embassy, said that Germany is happy to support the Indian government on the Ganga cleaning especially because there is strong Indian ownership. Drawing parallels between the two rivers she said that like Ganga, Rhine is the subject of many songs, folk tales, and there is a lot of public sentiment attached to the river. Dorassil also added that the process of cleaning the Ganga will take time, as it did with the Rhine.In the initial stages of cooperation with India Germany even roped in Fritz Holzwarth, former president of the International Commission for the Protection of the Rhine between 2004-2007 to advise in the scoping and feasibility studies for Holzwarth, former president of the International Commission for the Protection of the Rhine between 2004-2007 to advise in the scoping and feasibility studies for Ganga rejuvenation, sources said.But, on ground, the collaboration has moved only in the state of Uttarakhand. The German International Cooperation (GIZ), an implementing agency, is a key partner in the Ganga rejuvenation project and it has begun work upstream in the hill state. According to sources, they have carried out assessment studies of ten wastewater treatment plants in Uttarakhand to study their functioning capacities. GIZ’s focus in Uttarakhand will be on urban sewage management.The union government said that though things were slow to begin with, the implementation agreement is likely to give pace to the cooperation. “The experts from Germany will carry out assessment studies based on their experiences, know-how and will suggest the appropriate structure required to take ahead the Ganga basin rejuvenation. We will soon visit the Rhine and Danube rivers to study their model and plug gaps in our approach and plug gaps,” said Shashi Shekhar, secretary, union ministry of water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation.Progress of Namami Gange cleaning project so farThe union cabinet had cleared the flagship Namami Gange river cleaning project in May 2015 with a budget of Rs20,000 crore for five years. Currently, a condition assessment’ of 30 major towns across Uttar Pradesh is being carried out by Engineers India Limited. This includes assessing condition of drains, ghats and crematoriums along 1100 kms of Uttar Pradesh. Based on their assessment the ministry is likely to restart the process of inviting bids for river cleaning projects in the coming months. The Centre has also taken a new approach to award contracts for river cleaning after realising that existing sewage treatment plants were functioning below capacity. A public-private partnership hybrid annuity based model has been adopted.Europe’s longest riverThe Rhine rises in Switzerland and passes through Liechtenstein, Austria, Germany, France and Holland before emptying into North Sea. It is Europe’s longest river and had turned into a sewer due to heavy industrial pollution downstream in Germany.

Rectify ‘historical blunders’, alleviate sense of fear among Muslims: Sufi outfit

An outfit representing Sufis asked the government to alleviate the “sense of fear” among Muslims over riots on Sunday, even as it urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to rectify “historical blunders” in India that brought in extremist ideologies threatening the community.The All India Ulama and Mashaikh Board (AIUMB) also urged governments across the world including the Modi government to “revive” Sufism in their bid to combat terrorism.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”There is a sense of fear among Muslims due to riots. Government should alleviate this fear and Union Home Ministry should spell out what steps have been taken with regard to all the small or big communal incidents and riots that have taken place so far in different parts of the country,” the AIUMB said in a 25-point declaration released at a mass congregation at Ram Lila Maidan to mark the conclusion of the first World Sufi Forum here.Addressing the congregation, AIUMB president Syed Mohammad Ashraf asked Prime Minister Modi to “rectify historic blunders” and pay heed to the community’s demands including initiation of measures to tackle the trend of replacing Sufism by extremist ideologies.Ashraf expressed concern that there have been “concerted efforts” to weaken Sufism in India and to replace it with “extremist and radical” ideologies and sought the government’s intervention in arresting the trend.”In the past few decades, there have been concerted efforts to weaken Sufism in India and replace it with extremist and radical ideology… The phenomenon is dangerous, not just for the Muslim community but also for the country. We request the Prime Minister to rectify these historical blunders,” he said.He also said there has been a lack of representation for majority of the Muslim populace on “key positions” and urged the government to look into it.The outfit denounced “every course” of sectarianism and described it as “threat to India’s solidarity”.”We request all governments of the world, especially the Government of India, to extend full cooperation for the revival of Sufism,” it added.Asked about the alleged “atmosphere of intolerance”, Ashraf said, “We cannot determine the picture based on a few incidents. We should treat these as causes for alarm. We should try and ensure that our Ganga-Yamuna culture is not affected since there are signs that it is being weakened. Then we should try and strengthen it.”The four-day World Sufi Forum, inaugurated by the Prime Minister and attended by delegates from 22 countries, concluded on Sunday with the declaration of the 25-point agenda by AIUMB.

Sense of fear among Muslims due to riots: World Sufi Forum to Modi govt

Noting there is a “sense of fear” among Muslims due to riots, an outfit representing Sufis on Sunday urged the government to alleviate this. It also urged the Ministry of Home Affairs to spell out steps taken with regard to small or big communal incidents and riots that have taken place “so far” across the country.All India Ulama and Mashaikh Board (AIUMB) president Syed Mohammad Ashraf asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to “rectify historic blunders” and pay heed to the community’s demands including initiation of measures to tackle the trend of replacing Sufism by extremist ideologies. Speaking at a mass congregation marking the conclusion of the first World Sufi Forum here, Ashraf said there has been a lack of representation for majority of the Muslim populace on “key positions” and urged the government to look into it.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>At the gathering at Ram Lila Maidan, AIUMB also released a 25-point declaration, in which it urged governments across the world including the Modi dispensation to “revive” Sufism in their bid to combat terrorism. “There is a sense of fear among Muslims due to riots. Government should alleviate this fear and Union Home Ministry should spell out what steps have been taken with regard to all the small or big communal incidents and riots that have taken place so far in different parts of the country,” the declaration reads.The outfit denounced “every course” of sectarianism and described it as “threat to India’s solidarity”. “We request all governments of the world, especially the Government of India, to extend full cooperation for the revival of Sufism,” it added.Ashraf expressed concern that there have been “concerted efforts” to weaken Sufism in India and to replace it with “extremist and radical” ideologies and sought the government’s intervention in arresting the trend. “In the past few decades, there have been concerted efforts to weaken Sufism in India and replace it with extremist and radical ideology… The phenomenon is dangerous, not just for the Muslim community but also for the country. We request the Prime Minister to rectify these historical blunders,” he said.Asked about the alleged “atmosphere of intolerance”, Ashraf said, “We cannot determine the picture based on a few incidents. We should treat these as causes for alarm. We should try and ensure that our Ganga-Yamuna culture is not affected since there are signs that it is being weakened. Then we should try and strengthen it.”The four-day World Sufi Forum, inaugurated by the Prime Minister and being attended by delegates from 22 countries, concluded today with the declaration of the 25-point agenda by AIUMB.

Varanasi: Part of 500-year-old Ratneshwar mahadev temple collapses due to lightning

A part of ancient Rataneshvar Mahadev temple, situated on the banks of river Ganga in Varanasi, was damaged due to heavy lightning on Saturday night.Stones weighing nearly 50 kg from the peak fell on the ground after lightning struck, damaging part of the 500-year-old temple.Fortunately, no person has been injured in the incident. The people who were around the temple, escaped as they ran when the incident took place.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>According to media reports, the temple stays submerged at least for six months. During the floods, the water reaches its top most part. The temple leans on the right side, giving the appearance of sinking slowly. It has been in the same position for hundreds of year.

Nation celebrates Maha Shivratri, PM Modi greets devotees

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday greeted the nation on the auspicious occasion of Maha Shivratri which is being celebrated with devotion and religious fervour.”Maha Shivratri greetings to everyone,” Prime Minister Modi said on twitter.Devotees in large numbers are reaching Shiva temples since early morning.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A large number of people are expected to offer jalabhishek’ of holy water and special prayers at the Kashi Vishwanath temple.In Ayodhya, devotees thronged Nageshwarnath temple to offer their prayers after taking holy dip in Saryu River. In Allahabad people in large numbers took holy dip at the confluence of Ganga and Yamunaat sangam and offering holy waters to various Shiva temples.Maha Shivratri is celebrated on the 6th night of the dark Phalgun (February or March) every year. It is believed that Lord Shiva was married to Parvati on this day.Shivratri fast is considered to be the most important fast for the devotees of Lord Shiva.Shiva Purana states that if a devotee observes Shivaratri Vrata with sincerity, pure devotion and love he is blessed with the divine grace of Lord Shiva.

Narendra Modi gives senior ministers larger role in policy review

Twenty months after moving into 7, Race Course Road, the “outsider” is opening his doors wider. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was seen to have made the PMO the hub of crucial decision-making, is now involving senior ministers to play a larger role in review of policies and projects. Expanding the ambit of secretary-level review meetings on government initiatives, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked six senior ministers to be present for the exercise to exchange ideas. Initially it was just the Prime Minister and the minister concerned who met the various groups of secretaries, a practice that Modi started last month, but recently six ministers — Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj, Venkaiah Naidu, Nitin Gadkari and Manohar Parrikar — have started participating. Modi wants them to be present for the interactions if they are in the Capital, sources said. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Modi had set up eight groups of secretaries on good governance, education and health, innovative budgeting, employment generation, farmer-centric initiatives, Swachh Bharat, Ganga and effective implementation to propose innovative ideas, how to incorporate them into the policy matrix and make presentations for implementation. The six ministers are also part of an eight-member committee of ministers headed by external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj on the Presidential Address, which is delivered on the first day of the Budget session. At the first meeting of group of secretaries attended by the six ministers, when Gadkari made a couple of suggestions, the Prime Minister proposed that the secretaries could meet the minister separately. So, two groups of secretaries, in all 23 of them, met Gadkari for two hours each on a single day at his residence, a government functionary recalled. The Prime Minister has also asked Gadkari to help water resources minister Uma Bharti with the Ganga project, signifying the importance Modi attached to it. Gadkari has held four rounds of meetings with with Bharti and the Principal Secretary. Sources said that it has been a continuous process to invite innovative ideas as Modi has brought in ways of keeping all engaged and on their toes, while he himself sticks to a grueling five am to after midnight schedule. Modi has put in a mechanism to meet the Council of Ministers once a month to discuss status of projects of various ministries. In the Modi regime, there has been a perception that only a handful were taken into confidence, the sources said adding, that he always listened to all. What is of major concern at the end of the day is the policies and programmes of the government reflecting on the ground, they said. After the Bihar election, BJP veterans — LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Yashwant Sinha and Shanta Kumar– had castigated the BJP leadership’s style of functioning. Though the leaders refrained from naming anyone, they said the party was being “forced to kow-tow to a handful” and that its “consensual character has been destroyed”.

Clean Ganga: NGT appoints panel to look into grossly polluting units

The National Green Tribunal has set up a committee to look into the grossly polluting industries located along the banks of Ganga and inform it about the quantum of sewage discharged by them in the river.A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar constituted the panel comprising member secretary of Central Pollution Control Board, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand Pollution Control Board, CEO of UP Jal Nigam, Director of Environment Ministry and a professor from IIT-Roorkee.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”The committee shall submit report on actual effluent discharge from each drain that joins Ganga and measure load on points where Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) are sought to be constructed under Phase-I B of the judgement (Haridwar to Kanpur),” the bench said while warning that if the directions are not complied with, it would impose heavy costs.The green panel also asked the UP pollution control board to inform it about the industrial units of tannery, paper and pulp, textile, located along the banks of Ganga, to submit their stand before it. It asked the committee to look into the issue of dead bodies of humans and animals being dumped into the river and submit its report within three weeks.The green panel has divided the work of cleaning the river into different segments — Gomukh to Haridwar, Haridwar to Kanpur, Kanpur to border of Uttar Pradesh, border of Uttar Pradesh to border of Jharkhand and border of Jharkhand to Bay of Bengal.On December 11, last year, the tribunal had imposed a complete ban on use of plastic of any kind from Gomukh to Haridwar along the river from February 1 and decided to slap a penalty of Rs 5,000 per day on erring hotels, dharamshalas and ashrams spewing waste into the river.

Modi government will spread India’s spiritual message, says Amit Shah

BJP chief Amit Shah on Monday said the Modi government had taken measures to preserve and promote ‘Sanatan dharma’, while politics in the country had earlier got “detatched” from religion.The BJP government will not only make India a prosperous nation, but also spread its spiritual message worldwide, he said at the inauguration of the 125 feet high ‘Priyantakju’ dedicated to ‘Radha-Krishna’ in this holy town.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”We have a government in this country which will not only take it forward on the path to prosperity but will also spread its spiritual message worldwide,” he said, adding it has taken steps to preserve Indian culture and symbols of Sanathan dharma (Hinduism).”We saw how in the past our politics had got detatched from religion, but Modiji is one Prime Minister who went to Kashi to perform ‘Ganga Aarti’ after being nominated the party’s prime ministerial candidate,” he said. “Not only Ganga, he is taking initiatives to clean all our rivers. It was due to Modi’s efforts that the UN announced International Yoga day and now the whole world is celebrating it. We do not ask for any patent. Whatever is there in Hindu culture and Sanathan dharma, it is for everyone. They can come and learn it in India,” he said.During the visit to this temple town, he said Lord Krishna established an “unbreakable” link between Gujarat and Vrindavan. “I live in Delhi but I belong to Gujarat. There is an unbreakable link between Gujarat and Vrindavan due to Lord Krishna. I get energy to work more whenever I come here,” said Shah. The new temple will help spread our culture, he added.Addressing a gathering on this occasion, Deviki Nandan Thakur Maharaj, the president of Vishva Shanti Charitable Trust which constructed the temple, urged him to take initiatives to bring river Yamuna to Vrindavan, ban cow slaughter and end the “English medium culture” in education. “I share your feelings. BJP governments have walked the same path and will continue to do so. The greater the blessings of people, the faster will be the progress,” he said.Union Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said only Hindu culture and Sanathan Dharma can take humanity on the path to peace. Kaptan Singh Solanki, Haryana Governor, Madhya Pradesh government minister Maya Singh, Chhatisgarh minister Brij Mohan Agrawal, MPs Meenakshi Lekhi and Hema Malini and senior RSS leader Indresh Kumar were also present.Vishwa Shanti Seva Charitable Trust also said it was adopting 125 underprivileged girls to support the Centre’s ‘Beti bachao beti padhao’ initiative. Shah distributed cycles and cheques to some of these girls.

Bengal’s poppy-growing epidemic spreads to Jharkhand as states play pass-the-buck game

By Sanjay Pandey

West Bengal’s poppy-cultivation epidemic seems to have spread to the neighbouring state of Jharkhand. The forbidden crop, which has earned Bengal’s Malda district the moniker of ‘India’s Afghanistan’, is being grown across 80 acres (200 bighas) in Sahebganj district with impunity.

A thin stream of the Ganga divides Malda’s Mothabari block where poppy is grown as commonly as paddy and Sahebganj’s Udhwa block in Jharkhand.

The poppy field epidemic is spreading from Bengal to Jharkhand. Image courtesy: Nav Kumar Mishra

The poppy field epidemic is spreading from Bengal to Jharkhand. Image courtesy: Nav Kumar Mishra

The island in question is Hamidpur Panchayat, which was part of Jharkhand till 2014 when Ganga changed its track and tossed the piece of land technically into Bengal’s territory.

As per the Bengal Alluvion and Diluvion Regulation, 1825, the islands or sand bars falling on the left bank of Ganga’s main stream would by default come under the territory of Bengal.

Before the river changed its track in 2014, Hamedpur Panchayat fell in the Udhwa block of Sahebganj. “Though the island is uninhabited, people from the neighbouring villages of Banutola and Kaimurtola grow poppy in the disputed land,” said Nav Kumar Mishra, a local resident.

Last year too, there were reports of farmers in Jharkhand growing poppy in the disputed land but the state government failed to take any action.

Now with Malda making national headlines, Sahebganj district administration is trying hard to make all the right noises.

Sahebganj SP Sunil Bhaskar claimed to have offered help to his Malda counterpart Prasun Banerjee in tackling the problem.

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“We have assured West Bengal administration that we will provide them manpower to take action against poppy growers. But they are yet to get back to us,” he said.

In 2007-08, police found scattered poppy cultivation along the riverine islands in Sahebganj district. “Since then, there hasn’t been any report of poppy cultivation inside Jharkhand territory but people from its villages use these disputed sand bars to grow the banned crop,” said Mishra, a journalist and activist from Rajmahal town.

Banerjee, the Malda SP, didn’t return calls or replied to messages, maintaining his stand that “I won’t talk to the media on poppy farming or Kaliachak riots on record.”

Bengal minister Krishnendu Narayan Choudhury of the ruling Trinamool Congress Party told Firstpost: “Since there is a dispute over the ownership of the char (sand bar), the home ministry should step in and ensure that the forbidden crop is destroyed.”

Echoing the TMC minister, Rajmahal MLA Anant Kumar Ojha said: “The riverine border between Bengal and Jharkhand has become a hub of crime and anti-national activities. Both Jharkhand and Bengal governments should carry out joint action against these illegal activities.

“Besides, home ministry should step in and ensure that the parts of Malda and Sahebganj that form the National Crime Corridor 6 don’t become a safe haven for criminals and terrorists’ sleeper cells.”

Bihar: BJP resents Lalu Prasad’s ‘interference’ in govt work

BJP on Tuesday refused to accept Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s view that RJD president Lalu Prasad being ex-CM and leader of ruling coalition could telephone directly to District Magistrates and Superintendents of Police and direct them for work.”We also telephone DMs and SPs and request them to redress grievance of a needy person. But in the case of Lalu Prasad, it’s not the case. He is interfering in the running of the coalition government and directing officials whom to arrest and whom to release,” senior BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Lalu is called “Super Chief Minister” because of this interference, Modi told reporters after his Janata Darbar. By defending Prasad’s activities, “Kumar has given a message to officials not to take telephonic instruction from the RJD chief lightly.”Kumar had said that being an ex-CM and leader of ruling coalition, Prasad could instruct officials over phone and mentioned that BJP leaders too instruct officials in the same way.Prasad had been invited to on Sunday to commence the construction work of a six-lane bridge over the Ganga from Kachchi Dargarh to Bidupur in Raghopur Assembly constituency of his son Tejaswi Yadav.On this, Modi said, besides this function of starting work of a bridge, Prasad had visited Indira Gandhi Medical College and Hospital and instructed doctors and attended a function of Homoeopathy doctors in place of his Health Minister son Tej Pratap Yadav.”Whatever Nitish Kumar says, its a well known fact that there are two power centres in Bihar – one is CM and the other is Lalu Prasad,” Modi, the Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Council, said.”More people assemble in Lalu Prasad’s darbar for work than CM Nitish Kumar,” he said seeking to drive a wedge in the ruling alliance.Modi, who was Deputy CM during NDA rule, said Prasad has the experience of running a government by proxy during rule of his wife Rabri Devi from 1997 to 2005. This is like the UPA government at the Centre where Manmohan Singh was the Prime Minister but power was vested with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, Modi said.He said Kumar should declare Lalu Prasad as chairman of coordination committee of the ruling alliance to give an official status to Prasad akin to that given to Prashant Kishor as advisor to CM.

Critically polluting Kanpur tanneries to soon get a new CETP

The Jajmau area of Kanpur that is touted as one of most critically polluted industrial area along river Ganga may soon see reduction in pollution as the Centre plans to open bids for a common effluent treatment plant (CETP) in the tannery cluster by April, secretary of union water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation Shashi Shekhar said on Friday.Currently, the Ganga ministry is tackling the herculean task of cleaning Ganga through a multidimensional approach that involves curbing industrial pollution, urban sewage pollution and even pollution from villages along the holy river.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Shashi Shekhar said that the Ganga ministry has delayed the tender process for sewage treatment plants (STP’s) as a few state governments said that they will be unable to fund the upkeep of the STP’s for a long time.The Centre also recently announced that it will use the hybrid annuity model to bid for sewage treatment plants across 118 urban local bodies. Under this model, up to 40% capital cost will be paid by government through construction linked milestones and the balance through an annuity over the contract duration up to 20 years.As part of this process, the Centre will fund the CETP for the Jajmau area too that is home to several tanneries and is located on the Kanpur-Varanasi stretch of river Ganga, a grossly polluting stretch. “We will fund the new CETP at Jajmau and the tender process is likely to begin in April. The industry will have to bear operation and maintenance costs,” Shekhar said.He added that the new CETP will need to have a capacity of 18-20 million litres per day (MLD) to handle the load from the tannery cluster in Jajmau. The Jajmau area of Kanpur has four major drains and they carry storm water as well as industrial effluents into river Ganga. Tanneries are the biggest source of pollution in Kanpur and 400 of them are present in the Jajmau cluster, discharging 22 million litres MLD of effluents.During a visit to the Jajmau cluster last year, a Central Pollution Control Board team recorded that pieces of flesh, hides and other tannery waste was observed at the existing sewage treatment plants.

Centre will ensure e-flow of all rivers: Uma Bharti

The Centre will strictly ensure e-flow of rivers and not allow any dam construction or other such activity if a river’s flow is less than 1,000 cusec, Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti on Friday said.Rivers were endangered in the name of creation of irrigation dams and power projects, but now no such construction would be allowed if a river’s flow is less than 1000 cusec, the Union Minister for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation said after inaugurating a Deendayal Upadhyay Gramin Kaushal Yojna (DDU-GKY) centre at Pratap University here, 50km away from Jaipur.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A pond, if it is ruined during some construction work, may be restored, but a rivers cannot be revived if its flow was obstructed, she said.”Recently, there was some project in Uttarakhand and there was danger to the flow of the river. I told them that river basin is my subject and comes under the ministry, so I will not approve if the water flow is less than 1,000 cusec,” she said.”The river’s flowing season and site of construction of any dam or project would be followed under e-flow of rivers,” she said.On the clean-up of rivers, including the Ganga, the minister said the Centre has earmarked Rs 20,000 crore for sewage and effluent treatment plants.”Industries should use recycled and treated water for consumption and not the water directly from rivers,” she said.

NGT slams Centre over pollution in river Ganga; says slogans are contrary to actions

The National Green Tribunal on Monday slammed the Centre and UP government over pollution in river Ganga in Varanasi and said their slogans are contrary to actions.”It is really very unfortunate that such things are going on. Why don’t you do something about this? Your slogans are very contrary to your actions,” a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Swatanter Kumar said.The green panel pulled up the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Ministry of Water Resources and UP government while asking them to look into the matter and deal with it expeditiously.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The observation came after advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal mentioned before the bench that bodies of humans and animals were being dumped in river Ganga and the authorities were allegedly not taking any action on the same.On January 15, the bench had directed Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand government to identify seriously polluting industries located on the banks of Ganga and apprise it about “quantity and quality” of discharge generated by them in the river.The green panel had also ordered a joint inspection by a team comprising officials from Central Pollution Control Board, UPPCB, UPCB and a representative from Environment Ministry at points where tributaries of river Ganga from Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh meet the Ganga.Earlier, the Tribunal had directed the Centre not to release funds for cleaning the river from Gomukh to Kanpur without its nod, chiding the two states for failing to identify the seriously polluting locations.

Thousands take holy dip in Sangam on Makar Sankranti

Thousands converged at the confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati to take holy dip on the occasion of Makar Sankranti that also marked the beginning of the annual month-long religious congregation ‘Magh Mela’.The people reached the holy ‘Sangam’ braving cold weather and walking several miles on foot in view of traffic restrictions and tight security arrangements that were in place.After taking holy dip, people were seen visiting temples and offering prayers before treating themselves to a feast of ‘khichri’. Elaborate security arrangements are in place for the ‘Magh Mela’ which attracts more pilgrims on festivals like Makar Sankranti, Mauni Amavasya and Basant Panchmi.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>As many as 12 temporary police stations, 34 outposts and 11 fire stations have been set up in the Mela area by the district administration.Personnel of Anti Terrorism Squad and Special Task Force of Uttar Pradesh police and teams of bomb disposal squad have also been pressed into service to thwart any terrorist activity. A number of pontoon bridges have been erected on Ganga river. A total of 30 boats, carrying professional divers, have been deployed along the ghats for the safety of people.

Who is Swami Vivekananda? All you need to know about the saint who introduced Hinduism to the world

Born on Jan 12, 1863 in a Bengali family, Narendra Natha Datta was a precocious child who was what we call nowadays, an all-rounder, excelling in music, studies and athletics. His father Vishwanatha Datta was a well-known attorney. As a youngster, Narendra suffered a crisis of faith and met Sri Ramkrishna in Dakshineshwar near Kolkata. He became his disciple and nursed him when he was unwell, even though his own father had passed away and his family was forced into poverty. Upon Sri Ramkrishna’s death, along with other disciples, Narendra took the sannyasa. Following this, Narendra went on a long journey across India, where he was shocked to see first-hand the appalling poverty of the masses. To fight the malaise of poverty, he chose the to bring in effect a ‘machinery’ which would come to be known as the Ramkrishna foundation, which included educational, economic and religious betterment.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>World’s Parliament of ReligionIt was 1893 that would be defined as his annus mirabilis when he addressed the World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago where he presented his Master’s message to the world. His welcoming address there earned him a standing ovation. Here’s the starting of the speech:Sisters and Brothers of America,It fills my heart with joy unspeakable to rise in response to the warm and cordial welcome which you have given us. I thank you in the name of the most ancient order of monks in the world; I thank you in the name of the mother of religions, and I thank you in the name of millions and millions of Hindu people of all classes and sects.My thanks, also, to some of the speakers on this platform who, referring to the delegates from the Orient, have told you that these men from far-off nations may well claim the honor of bearing to different lands the idea of toleration. I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance. Read full speech…His speech was so well-received that he spent the next three and a half years in USA and London in UK spreading Sri Ramakrishna’s message of Vedanta.He finally returned to India in 1897 and delivered a series of lectures here as well which sought to increase religious awareness as instil pride in Indian culture. He also looked to help increase awareness about practical Vedanta. Later that same year, he opened the Ramakrishna Mission, which provided various forms of social service, including running hospitals, schools, colleges, rural developments centres and hostels and also do relief work. A year later, he acquired land on the Western bank of the Ganga where he built his monastic order that started earlier at Baranagar. Among his disciples were Margaret Noble (Sister Nivedita), Josephine McLeod and Sara Ole Bull. His health deteriorated and he passed away in 1902 but not before changing how the world viewed Hinduism.