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Jharkhand mine collapse: Seven workers dead, several feared trapped in Lalmatia colliery

Seven workers have died and several more are feared trapped in a coal mine that collapsed late evening on Thursday in the Lal Matia colliery of Godda district in Jharkhand, reports said.

While initial reports put the number of trapped at around 10, a CISF official told ANI that around 40-50 workers are suspected to be trapped inside the debris along with 40 vehicles of a private company operating at the site.

IANS said that a heap of mud caved-in at the entry point of the colliery. Rescue operation could not begin due to night fog, the police said.

The incident, a government of India release said, took place at 7.30 pm on Thursday and that a control room has been set up at project office of Rajmahal Open Cast Expansion Project.

However, the exact number of people and vehicle trapped inside is not known. “This could only become clear after the rescue operation starts,” said Harilal Chauhan, Godda Superintendent of Police, earlier.

The locals said that there was a crack in the heap of mud which collapsed and blocked the entry point of the mine.

Mining operations were taking place about 200 feet beneath the ground. Though the cause of the accident is not known, the Ministry of Coal said that “prima facie…it could have been caused by a failure of the bench edge along the hidden fault line/slip”.

Police said that rescue operation is underway and that an NDRF team from Patna is already on its way to the site of the accident. It is expected to reach by noon, IANS said.

Meanwhile, according to The Indian Express, Jharkhand chief minister Raghubar Das directed the DGP and chief secretary to initiate relief and rescue operations at the earliest. “As of now, there are different versions of how many machines, vehicles and people are trapped. Relief and rescue operations are being initiated,” a police official told the newspaper.

Prime Minister Naredra Modi reportedly spoke with Das who announced ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakhs to the dead and Rs 25,000 to those injured in the accident. Das also tweeted saying:

Meanwhile, Ministry of Coal said that an Inquiry has been ordered in the incident by the director general of mines safety and CIL has constituted a high-level committee of experts to investigate into the causes of the accident. THE ECL also announced an ex-gratia compensation of Rs 5 lakhs each to the family of the deceased.

Some of the injured are being treated in a nearby hospital, ANI tweeted.

Mine roof collapses in Dhanbad

In another incident, four workers suffered injuries, two of them seriously, when the roof of a mine partially collapsed at Putki Balihari area in Dhanbad district on Friday, PTI reported. The mine falls under Bharat Coking Coal Limited (BCCL), a subsidiary of Coal India Limited.

A senior district official said the four contractual workers were taking cable to a shaft of the hydro mines in lift when a part of the roof suddenly caved in trapping them.

The four were rescued and taken to a hospital where the condition of two of them was stated to be serious, the official said.

While the cause of the collapse in the Dhanbad mine is being looked into, more details are awaited of the mine collapse in Godda district.

With inputs from agencies

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 13:28 IST

Demonetisation: People, bankers in spot after RBI’s flip-flop adds to confusion

New Delhi: It is being called Reverse Bank of India, Rozana Bungling of India or even Rollback Bank of India and customers as well as bankers were in a spot on Wednesday after the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) partially withdrew its earlier order that restricted deposits of over Rs 5,000 in spiked currency notes.

The partial rollback came after massive public anger over the central bank’s December 19 order allowing the deposit of over Rs 5,000 in now spiked Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes in bank accounts only once.

This too was possible only after a “satisfactory” explanation to at least two bank officials on why this was not done earlier since 8 November when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced demonetisation ostensibly to curb corruption and black money in India.

ReutersReuters

Reuters

But on Wednesday, the central bank made an exception for (Know Your Customer) KYC-compliant customers — meaning those who aren’t compliant with KYC norms will still be grilled.

The RBI order created an uproar because the government had earlier asked people to go easy because money in old denominations could be deposited till December 30 and there was no need to stand in long queues outside banks.

Bank employees and customers IANS spoke to said it has been a sea of confusion for them with the government’s and RBI’s ad hocism that has shaken the country’s faith in its banking system.

“I really don’t believe an institution like RBI, which is the trustee of our money, can do this,” Naresh Kumar Aggarwal, a chemist in south Delhi, told IANS.

Aggarwal had come to a State Bank of India (SBI) branch to deposit money in old currency notes. He said he was allowed to deposit but was still “interrogated by bank officials”.

“It is not about if I was able to satisfy them with my explanation. Of course, I did that. But why question me about my own money,” the chemist wondered.

An HDFC Bank employee in south Delhi, who didn’t wish to be named, said his office has dedicated one person for keeping check on RBI’s website to see if any order has been withdrawn or changed.

“I am not joking. There is so much confusion regarding what to do and what not do. We are under stress,” he said.

“Till Wednesday afternoon, we were doing what we were asked to do on Monday. People who came to deposit more than Rs 5,000 knew it was revoked and we were still waiting for a formal order. Arguments with angry customers was but natural,” Kumar said.

For many, anger gave way to sarcasm.

Vikas Sharma, a junior lawyer in Delhi High Court, said the central bank “needs an immediate name change”.

“Something that fits what it has been doing in the past six weeks. Call it the Reverse Bank of India. Afterall, it has been reversing its own decisions,” Sharma said standing in a queue outside an ATM outlet in Noida near Delhi.

Another man from the queue shouted: “Why not the Rollback Bank of India or even Rozana (daily) Bungling of India?”

Social media was also awash with criticism .

“Within two short months, the RBI has lost credibility and legitimacy built carefully over decades. Will take a long time to restore,” tweeted Sidharth Bhatia, a journalist.

Comedian Zakir Khan wrote about “59 new rules” in 43 days since demonetisation. “Bhai tum RBI ho ya boys’ hostel ke warden? (Are you the RBI or the warden of a boys hostel)”

First Published On : Dec 21, 2016 18:57 IST

Andaman: Situation at Havelock Island normal now; LG Mukhi tells hotels not to charge tourists for stay, food

New Delhi/Port Blair: Rescue operations of around 1,400 stranded tourists in two islands of Andamans due to cyclonic weather began this morning as the Navy, Coast Guard and Union Territory administration jointly undertook a major evacuation drive.

 Six ships of the Indian Navy and two Indian Coast Guard ships sailed on Friday morning to evacuate around 1400 tourists from Havelock Island in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, a statement said. According to ANI, the Indian Navy has rescued 17 people in the first shuttle. The Indian Coast Guard is also continuing its rescue efforts.

“Six Indian Navy ships and two Indian Coast Guard ships sailed out at 9.30 a.m. from Port Blair for rescue operations. Three Indian Air Force helicopters also taking part in IN, ICG, Army, State administration joint operation for evacuation of stranded tourists in the Havelock Island,” Indian Navy said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Lt Governor Jagdish Mukhi assured that there has been no loss of life and that the tourists are safe.

The sudden evacuation mission was initiated at the request of the Andaman and Nicobar disaster management which speculates that a “cyclonic storm” might struck Havelock, an island about 36 km from capital Port Blair. Havelock and Neil islands are the most popular tourist attractions of Andamans, and the worst affected.

“A decision has been taken that hotels, where tourists are stranded, will not take room rent from them, besides giving them food and water for free,” Deputy Commissioner of South Andamans Udit Prakash Rai had said on Thursday.

The Navy on Wednesday made its first attempt to rescue the tourists stranded in Havelock. However, due to extreme weather conditions, the tourists could not reach the jetty to board the ships.

Four navy ships had to return in a failed rescue attempt, the officials from Andaman and Nicobar Disaster Management informed.

“Now the weather conditions have improved. It’s only moderate rain and winds. We hope the tourists will be able to reach the jetty. Ships have already left from Port Blair,” an official from Andaman and Nicobar Disaster Management told IANS.

The official said the sudden evacuation was called for as they did not want to take any risk given a deep depression (in the sea) developed about 310 km from Port Blair.

With inputs from IANS and PTI

First Published On : Dec 9, 2016 12:38 IST

Jayalalithaa’s health: Pakistan media erroneously declares Tamil Nadu CM dead

Jayalalithaa was erroneously declared dead, by two of Pakistan’s largest Urdu papers on Monday morning, according to a report by DNA.

In a fresh statement, Apollo hospital and London specialist said that Jayalalithaa’s condition is indeed “very grave” and the best possible measures were being taken to aid her in this situation.

File photo of Jayalalithaa. PTI

File photo of Jayalalithaa. PTI

According to an IANS report, AIADMK MLAs trooped to the hospital apparently to pick a successor. In quick succession, Apollo hospital released two statements saying Jayalalithaa, who suffered a cardiac arrest on Sunday evening, was on life support systems.

The first of the statement came just after union Health Minister JP Nadda claimed that the actor-turned-politician, who has been in the hospital since September, was out of danger. The brief hospital statement said Jayalalithaa “continues to be very critical and is on ECMO and other life support systems”. And hours later, Apollo tweeted: “Despite our best efforts, our beloved CM remains in a grave situation.”

ECMO or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation is a life support system used for patients with life-threatening heart or lung problems.

Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa was on Monday said to be critical after she suffered a cardiac arrest in the hospital where she was admitted over two months ago. Apollo Hospitals, in a tweet late on Sunday night, said doctors were closely monitoring Jayalalithaa’s condition and trying their “very best”.

A large number of AIADMK cadres, including women, anxiously stayed put outside the hospital, which has been covered in a thick blanket of security. Worried party supporters continued to pray for her recovery.

While an IANS report claimed that normal life was not affected in Tamil Nadu, security has been beefed up across the state with the Tamil Nadu DGP ordering all police officers and personnel to report for duty by 7 am for deployment. Union Minister Kiren Rijiju even said the state may require extra forces, which the Home Ministry will be ready to put on standby “whenever” they are required.

Union Minister Pon Radhakrishnan, who arrived at the airport in Chennai on Monday morning, said all BJP leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, wished for a complete recovery of Jayalalithaa and they were praying for her. He expressed confidence that Jayalalithaa will soon recover and resume official duties.

With inputs from agencies

First Published On : Dec 5, 2016 18:04 IST

Pay day cash crunch: Painful queues, chaos return and it’s just the beginning

Queues returned to banks and ATMs on Wednesday as people rushed to withdraw cash after monthly salaries got credited in their bank accounts — the first since the high value currency was scrapped — signalling more pain as the crowd is likely to get bigger in from today (1 December).

A PTI report said queues at most of the ATMs and banks across the city on Wednesday were shorter than expected though there were complaints that cash dispensing machines were either dry or shut and customers could not draw the maximum permissible amount.

Most private companies in India credit salaries to their employees on the last day of a month even as labour laws allow wages to be disbursed on any day before the 10th of the next month.

PTIPTI

PTI

As soon as the salaries were credited, millions of employees began queuing up outside banks and ATMs across the country to withdraw cash to meet their monthly needs and pay their domestic helps, drivers and clear their monthly grocery and other bills.

Since the supply of notes from currency chests has failed to keep pace with the demand for cash after 86 percent of currency in circulation was declared illegal on 8 November, the chaos worsened on the payday as more households needed cash than earlier.

People were seen in bigger numbers waiting to withdraw money. Many were annoyed by the rush and the arbitrary withdrawal limits set by banks. And the situation could get worse in the coming days as more number of people will receive salaries.

What are the customers saying?

“I have to pay my maid and grocery bills in cash. I somehow managed to convince my landlord to accept the rent in cheque but I am bound to visit the bank for other payments,” said Vishakha Sharma from west Delhi.

The 27-year-old waited outside a bank for two hours. “It is so humiliating that we have to stand in long queues and beg for our own money.”

An MNC employee, Yogesh Yadav, said he had come to withdraw Rs 24,000 from his bank account but was given only Rs 10,000. “It’s the end of the month and I am supposed to pay bills. How will I manage?” Yadav asked.

A resident of Krishna Nagar in Delhi, Rahul Chauhan got his salary credited on Tuesday but could not withdraw even after standing in a queue at 3 a.m. on Wednesday.

“By the time my chance to enter the bank came, it ran out of cash.”

The case was not different in other parts of the country.

In Kolkata, in apprehension of a mad rush, people started queuing up outside banks and ATMs since morning.

“I am in the queue since 8.30 a.m.,” said Sougata Mitra, an employee of a private firm outside a Bank of India branch in central Kolkata.

It was 10.45 a.m. when IANS caught up with Mitra, and already 50-60 customers had lined up.

The first salary day after demonetization proved haranguing for the maximum city Mumbai where most ATMs ran dry. Desperate men and women drove from one place to another, halting wherever they saw an ATM alive, albeit with long queues.

Though many Mumbaikars have shifted to making certain payments online or by debit/credit cards, there are many bills which need to be paid in cash. Many feared that the situation could worsen on Thursday.

“Everything has come to a standstill. Worse, many online payments systems are jammed due to the sudden heavy traffic and payments are pending,” fumed a pharmaceutical consultant P. Venkataraman from Kandivali, a Mumbai suburb.

“I managed to get only Rs 4,000 this morning against the withdrawl limit of Rs 24,000 as I was told that there was hardly any cash supply to the banks in the last few days. I will have to wait and try my luck later in the day,” a South Mumbai resident has been quoted in a PTI report.

What are the banks saying?

Several banks ran out of cash within hours of opening on Wednesday. Some bank officials complained that they were getting cash much below what they need.

Various media reports put the cash situation at banks at about one-fifth of the demand. A report in The Times of India cites a bank official as saying that his branch received 15-20 percent of the required amount. Due to this, bankers were rationing withdrawals so that more customers were catered to.

“RBI is currently supplying cash based on a variety of calculations including how much a bank branch got the previous day. That will continue. We will continue to ration cash,” one banker has been quoted as saying in a report in The Economic Times.

However, bankers are not ready to be quoted and remain unnamed in the reports, probably for the fear of attracting the government’s wrath. Those who were named said the situation is all fine.

When asked about the cash crunch situation, Central Bank Executive Director R C Lodha told PTI, “We have made adequate arrangements to meet the higher demand for cash as salaries would be credited into customers account (as the month turns). In our bank there would be no shortage of cash.”

“At SBI we have enough currency supply. At some pockets there was shortage, but there also funds are being made available,” State Bank of India’s deputy managing director Manju Agarwal has also been quoted as saying in another PTI report.

It is to be noted that Indian Banks’ Association, the body of the bank management, has not come out with any statement regarding the demonetisation yet.

However, unnamed bank managers are painting a grim picture of the situation. They say the bank branches are not getting enough Rs 500 and Rs 100 notes to cater to the customers. Since these smaller denominations are in short supply, Rs 2,000 that are available now is not in demand since customers find it difficult get change.

A PTI report said nearly 70 percent of ATMs are now recalibrated, but they do not have cash. While people are struggling with the problem of change as the operational ones dispense mostly high denomination Rs 2,000 notes.

The rationing and short supply of smaller denomination notes are adding to the distress of the customers who are waiting in the queues for long time.

Many banks have made ‘SOS calls’ to the Reserve Bank for additional cash for the first few days of December to meet the initial rush of people, already fatigued standing in unending queues.

According to reports, they have started seeking security deployment at branches to manage the angry crowd.

Many banks are contemplating to set up additional counters for withdrawal to meet the rush.

What is the RBI and government saying?

Reports say they are taking steps to improve the situation. A report in The Times of India citing sources said the four printing presses that produce currency notes are now working in three shifts against the earlier two shifts. The aim to is increase the supply of Rs 500 and Rs 100 notes.

It further says citing sources that the RBI has increased the cash supply to banks by four times and the situation will be better today (Thursday).

However, there has not been any official update on the evolving situation from neither the RBI nor the finance ministry in the last two-three days.

Given the lack of information from the authorities, customers are likely to hoard cash anticipating further tightening. And if they do it will just put further pressure on the cash situation. The blame squarely rests on the government and the RBI.

What lies ahead?

As of now, expect more uncertainty and chaos. Even if the government and the RBI have put pressure to produce more Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, this is unlikely to ease the crunch easily. A government official has told the PTI that that there is a lag of 21 days for printed notes to reach markets.

The PTI report notes that 1 December, today, is the pay day and banks are gearing up to face a huge rush as people. The queues at branches across the country are likely to get lengthier.

What has made matter worse is the fact that a large number of ATMs are still dry even 23 days after the government scrapped Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes.

And with pay day just dawning, it seems to be the beginning of the pain.

With IANS and PTI

First Published On : Dec 1, 2016 08:46 IST

Nagrota attack: Militants strike at army camp in Jammu and Kashmir, injure two jawans

Jammu: Militants attacked an army camp in Nagrota in Jammu and Kashmir early morning on Tuesday, officials said. According to reports, the attack started around 4 am with militants firing at a military location near White Knight Corps in Nagrota.

According to reports, two-three suicide attackers are holed up in the area.

The security forces have cordoned off the area and ordered to shut down all schools in nearby areas, IANS reported, adding that a heavy exchange of fire is going on between the militants and security forces.

The ongoing firing has injured to jawans, one of them being a junior commissioned officer, CNN-News18 reported.

“A group of heavily armed militants, believed to be four-to-five in number, attacked the 166 field regiment camp in Nagrota area of Jammu today (Tuesday) morning,” the police said.

The field regiment camp is located in the garrison town of Nagrota near the headquarters of army’s 16 corps in the state.

— With inputs from IANS

First Published On : Nov 29, 2016 08:47 IST

Patna-Indore Express tragedy: Death toll rises to 146, rescue operations called off

Kanpur/New Delhi: The death toll in Sunday’s train derailment tragedy rose to 146 on Monday as 25 more bodies were pulled out of the mangled coaches, officials said.

“The death toll of the Indore-Patna Express has gone up to 146,” North Central Railways spokesperson Vijay Kumar told IANS.

“While 25 more bodies were taken out the mangled coaches, another person died at Regency hospital in Kanpur,” Kumar added.

Rescue work in progress at the accident spot. PTI

Rescue work in progress at the accident spot. PTI

The Railways official said that of the 179 injured many were discharged after first aid, while those seriously injured were still admitted in hospital.

The tragedy occurred when 14 coaches of the train went off the rails near Pukhrayan station, about 60 km from Kanpur city.

Rescue operations conducted by the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) as well as the local police and the Army was called off by the Railways.

“The rescue operations were called off around 2 pm (Monday),” Railways spokesperson Anil Kumar Saxena told IANS in Delhi.

He also said that the rail tracks were also cleared. “The damaged coaches have been removed from the railway tracks,” Saxena added.

Earlier in the day, Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu said in the Lok Sabha that the Railways has ordered a forensic probe to find the exact reasons of the rail accident.

“There shall be separate comprehensive investigation aided by latest technical and forensic analysis by an appropriate agency to look into all possible angles,” Prabhu said.

On Sunday, Prabhu ordered a high-level probe. He also said that the Railway Ministry has collaborated with the Uttar Pradesh government to provide all necessary help.

Prabhu and Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha on Sunday visited the hospitals where the injured were being treated, as well as the accident site.

While the cause of the derailment is yet to be ascertained, Sinha had earlier said the accident could have been caused due to “fracture” of the tracks.

The worst hit were the sleeper coaches S1, S2, S3 and S4.

This was the worst train accident in the country after the May 2010 disaster in West Bengal involving Gyaneshwari Express in which some 170 people were killed.

First Published On : Nov 21, 2016 19:26 IST

Demonetisation: Many skip work to stand in queues for cash

New Delhi: The chaotic situation and long queues outside banks and ATMs in Delhi and adjoining Noida and Gurugram continued on Thursday with people frantically attempting to withdraw cash for their basic needs after the government scrapped large currency notes last week.

People outside a bank in Gurugram. File photo. PTI

People outside a bank in Gurugram. File photo. PTI

On Thursday, many skipped their offices, for a second day in a row, as their previous attempts to withdraw cash proved futile despite standing in queues for hours.

Dozens of people IANS spoke to complained that banks and ATMs ran dry of cash by the time their turn came on Wednesday.

Asim Malik, a private professional, standing in queue at the Bank of Baroda in New Friends Colony, said: “I had taken a day’s leave yesterday (Tuesday) so I could withdraw cash from the bank. However, the bank ran out of cash. So I have taken one more leave today to try my luck again.”

A college student, Sunny Agarwal, said she had been missing her lectures from the last two days. “The unavailability of cash has made our lives very difficult. I skipped my lectures as I have to stand in queue for several hours to get some cash for daily expenses.”

Many of the banks in the region had not received indelible ink till Thursday morning to mark those who exchange spiked Rs 500 and 1,000 notes with new or lesser denominations.

First Published On : Nov 17, 2016 15:08 IST

Demonetised notes can’t be exchanged in Indian banks in China, says embassy

Beijing: Indians living in China cannot deposit the scrapped currency notes of Rs 500 and 1,000 at Indian bank branches in Beijing.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The Indian embassy in an advisory said the demonetised bank notes “cannot be deposited at branches of Indian banks located in China or Hong Kong”.

One will have to authorise in writing enabling another person in India to deposit the notes into his or her bank account.

“The person so authorised has to go to the bank branch with the specified bank notes, the authority letter given by you and a valid identity proof,” the embassy said.

Thousands of Indians live in China, mostly in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.

Of the seven India banks in Beijing, two are from the private sector.

“I couldn’t be more grateful,” Isha Luthra, who works in Beijing, reacted sarcastically. “I am glad I have a trip back home before 30 December,” Luthra told IANS.

30 December is the last date to deposit or exchange the spiked currency.

India on 8 November announced the scrapping of Rs 500 and 1,000 rupee notes to battle corruption and black money.

First Published On : Nov 17, 2016 12:20 IST

Kashmir unrest: Local policeman killed in gunfight in Baramulla district

Srinagar: A local policeman was killed on Wednesday in a gunfight between the security forces and militants in Baramulla district of north Kashmir, police said.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

“Following specific information, about a group of militants hiding in the forest area of Zaloora near Sopore town, security forces launched an operation,” a senior police officer told IANS.

“As the security forces, including troops of 20 Rashtriya Rifles and Special Operations Group (SOG), closed in on the hiding militants, the insurgents opened indiscriminate fire killing a police constable,” he said.

The victim was identified as Muhammad Shafi.

The officer said the operation against the militants was still on.

First Published On : Nov 16, 2016 11:25 IST

Earthquake with 5.0 magnitude hits northeastern states

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>An earthquake measuring 5.0 on the Richter scale on Tuesday morning rocked the northeastern states.There were no reports of any casualties or damage.The tremor was felt at 7.40 a.m. with an epicentre located in Assam’s Karimganj district bordering Bangladesh, reported IANS quoting an official of the Regional Seismological Centre.Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Tripura, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur – are considered by seismologists as the sixth major earthquake-prone belt in the world.

Demonetisation: As ATM queues get 2 km long, kuch karo hamara, say angry customers

Chaos rule as people scramble for cash across the country’s ATMs and banks that have inadequate cash supply.

According to a report in IANS, tens of thousands of people massed outside banks and ATMs in New Delhi on Saturday to deposit or exchange their spiked currency or take out cash. At some places, queues were even 2 km long, according customers quoted in the report.

There was anxiety and a sullen sense of anger among people in the winding queues.

Although second Saturday is a holiday for most banks, the government has ordered all banks across the country to function both on Saturday and Sunday.

Almost all banks are witnessing rush and there is anger among people waiting, many from the lower income group, over the time wasted.

In Delhi, the long queues spilled on to the roads, creating traffic bottlenecks, says the IANS report.

“This is a complete mess,” Shankar, a Saket resident, was quoted as saying in the report. “At this rate how will any of us even get into the bank and when?”

All ATMs in the city seemed non-functional, with printed notices saying they had no cash.

Autorickshaw driver Babuddin said this situation was no different in all the areas neighbouring Saket.

“Some queues are two kilometres long,” he said. “I can’t imagine when the people at the end of the queue will be able to enter the bank.”

Saturday is the third day after banks opened across the country following a day’s closure after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on Tuesday night that Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes would no more be legal tender.

Taken aback by the mass crisis, the government have extended until 14 November midnight the original 72-hour deadline to deposit or exchange the spiked currency.

Watch below a video of the frustrated customers in Mumbai:

With IANS

First Published On : Nov 12, 2016 14:24 IST

Pakistan welcomes Donald Trump’s offer to mediate Kashmir issue

Pakistan welcomes Donald Trump’s offer to mediate Kashmir issue

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Islamabad: Pakistan on Thursday said it “welcomed” the US President-elect Donald Trump’s offer to mediate between Pakistan and India on the Kashmir dispute.

During a weekly press briefing in Islamabad, while responding to queries about the victory of Republican Donald Trump in the US presidential election, Foreign Office spokesman Nafees Zakaria said the President-elect had earlier offered mediation between Pakistan and India on Kashmir dispute and “we had welcomed that offer”.

Zakaria said Pakistan desires a close relationship with the US, and wishes to further strengthen it.

The US President-elect last month said that if elected, he would be willing to play a mediatory role in addressing the “very, very hot tinderbox” of Kashmir between India and Pakistan.

“If it was necessary, I would do that. If we could get India and Pakistan getting along, I would be honoured to do that. That would be a tremendous achievement… I think if they wanted me to, I would love to be the mediator or arbitrator,” Trump said in the interview.

Rs 500, Rs 1,000 banned: Burnt remnants of notes found in Uttar Pradesh

Rs 500, Rs 1,000 banned: Burnt remnants of notes found in Uttar Pradesh

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Lucknow: The burnt remnants of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes were found at a place in Bareilly on Wednesday, police said.

Informed sources said the burnt currency notes were reportedly brought in sacks and then dumped by workers of a company on Parsa Kheda road at CB Ganj in Bareilly.

Police officials said prima facie, the currency notes appeared to have been cut, damaged and then burnt.

The police has since taken over the remains of the currency notes and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) officials have been informed of the incident.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday evening announced demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denomination currency notes.

Delhi Pollution: Suprme Court agrees to hear plea on Tuesday

Delhi Pollution: Suprme Court agrees to hear plea on Tuesday

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New Delhi, Nov 7 (IANS) The Supreme Court will hear on Tuesday a plea on the alarming state of air pollution in Delhi as it was told that it had, in the past, issued several directions but their effective implementation and enforcement was lacking.

Vehicles ply on smog covered street in New Delhi on Saturday. PTIVehicles ply on smog covered street in New Delhi on Saturday. PTI

Vehicles ply on smog covered street in New Delhi on Saturday. PTI

A bench of Chief Justice TS Thakur, Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice L Nageswara Rao agreed to hear the matter on Tuesday after Sunita Narayan of Centre for Science and Environment told the court that there was no effective implementation of the directions issued by the apex court last year.

She told the court that as of now the direction issued in the past were sufficient but if the need arose they would urge the court to issue further directions.

She sought from the court monitoring of the implementation of its directions.

The apex court was also given the report by the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority for NCR on the state of air pollution in the national capital territory.

Narayan also told the court that Uttar Pradesh and Haryana were diverting the heavy vehicles and other traffic so that they don’t pass through the national capital but because of shortage of manpower the diversion of traffic was not upto the desired levels.

Delhi pollution: City remains engulfed in thick smog, residents complain of respiratory problems

New Delhi: Residents continued to complain of respiratory problems and burning eyes as entire Delhi and NCR area remained covered in a shroud of smog the entire Saturday, while experts ruled out any respite with the situation expected to continue for a couple of days.

The air quality continued to remain alarming in Delhi-NCR because of calm winds.

The average level of particulate matter 2.5 (PM 2.5) was above 400 micrograms per cubic metre or the “severe” category at all the pollution measuring centres including at Anand Vihar in east Delhi, Punjabi Bagh and Dwarka in the west, RK Puram in the south, Mandir Marg in central Delhia.

The maximum level — 500 microgrammes per cubic metre — was at Anand Vihar, Punjabi Bagh, Mandir Marg and R.K. Puram whereas it was marginally lower at 493 in Dwarka.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Private weather forecaster, Skymet Director, Mahesh Palawat said that entire Delhi-NCR was engulfed in a thick layer of smog due to calm winds which stopped the pollutants for dispersing.

He said that the passing of ‘Western Disturbances’ over Himalayas made the conditions worst in north India including Delhi.

“Whenever western disturbance passes over Himalayas, it increases the level of humidity which enhances the capacity of air to bear the pollutants for a long time. This results in thick layer of smog over the cities,” Palawat told IANS.

“The situation is expected to remain same tomorrow (Sunday) and the day after. The smog will start dispersing after 7 November (Monday) as dry north-westerly winds with speed 10-15 km/hr are expected to sweep through the region,” he said.

Palawat also held the burning of paddy stubble in Punjab and Haryana responsible for sad state of affair in Delhi.

People living in Delhi-NCR complained about respiratory problems and itching in the eyes due to smog all over the region.

“It was difficult for me to breath properly and my eyes were itching because of high level of air pollution today (Saturday). I did not go for morning walk due to smog. Due to smog the gaze was also turning hazy,” Devi Das, a resident of R.K. Puram area, told IANS.

Similarly Kartik Kumar, who works with a marketing firm, said that his eyes were itching and were turning watery because of high level of air pollution.

“This is the worst level of pollution I have ever seen in Delhi. Entire city is engulfed in smog. The authorities have to take some very serious steps to deal with the situation,” he said.

Vivek Chatopadhyay, a senior researcher with NGO Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), said that burning of crop residue in Punjab and Haryana was not the only source of the smog in Delhi but pollutants emitted from diesel cars and truck were also major contributors.

“Such situation is usually witnessed a day after Diwali but now this is happening on a normal day. This indicates that the condition has become very very serious. Now the air quality in Delhi is constantly under highest alarming level,” Chatopadhyay told IANS.

He said that the present level of smog has proved that the current system of air pollution is a complete failure.

“There is a need to curtail down the pollutants and the government will have to take some very serious measures to deal with the crisis,” he added.

Aurangabad: Firecrackers market blaze guts 40 vehicles destroys, 200 big and small shops

Aurangabad: Firecrackers market blaze guts 40 vehicles destroys, 200 big and small shops

Updated: Oct 29, 2016 13:57 IST

#Aurangabad #Firecrackers #Maharashtra #NewsTracker

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Aurangabad (Maharashtra): A major fire broke out in a temporary firecrackers market and destroyed over 200 big and small shops on Saturday morning, officials said.

There were no human casualties as all the shopkeepers and customers managed to escape to safety.

However, at least a dozen four-wheelers and more than two dozen two-wheelers parked in the vicinity were engulfed in the blaze and destroyed.

The blaze, the cause of which is not known, was brought under control in an hour.

Bird flu scare in Kerala: Dead ducks burnt, decision to cull to be taken on Thursday

Bird flu scare in Kerala: Dead ducks burnt, decision to cull to be taken on Thursday

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Alappuzha: With four villages in Alappuzha district reporting ducks dropping dead, authorities have called a meeting on Thursday to decide if ducks in a one-kilometer radius, covering these villages, need to be culled.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

District officials on Wednesday burnt the dead ducks in the affected four villages, with Thakazhi reporting the maximum.

Around 500 dead ducks in Thakazhi village were burnt and the district authorities have decided to hold a final meeting of all stakeholders on Thursday to decide if culling needs to be undertaken in these four villages.

Two years ago, thousands of ducks and hens were culled in Alappuzha, Kottayam and Pathanamthitta districts following the outbreak of avian flu, which was then confirmed as H5N1 virus.

Keeping that in mind, state’s Animal Husbandry Minister K Raju earlier this week asked the district administration to investigate and warned the farmers to immediately report if poultry birds drop dead in significant numbers.

Bihar liquor ban: CM Nitish Kumar renews alcohol sale in defence canteens in ‘interest of soliders’

The Bihar Government on Tuesday decided to renew liquor licences of canteens in cantonment areas, military and air force stations for 2016-2017 in the “interest of soldiers”, The Telegraph reported on 25 October. 

Impositions such as mandatory holograms on liquor bottles (for sale in the canteen), and vehicles used for the transport of liquor to be strictly fitted with digital locks and GPS, have also been relaxed on the request of defence establishments, on the condition that it is consumed within the premises.

This comes after the historic move by the Nitish Kumar government in imposing a complete ban on sale of any kind of liquor in Bihar, making it the fourth dry state of the country after Nagaland, Manipur and Gujarat, in April, through a notification, reports IANS.

“Liquor will not be sold in any bar, pub or hotel from now onwards,” Chief Minister Nitish Kumar told reporters in Patna, adding, “We are placing a complete ban on its sale in the state. Women and kids have created an environment in favour of this ban.”

File photo of Nitish Kumar. Reuters

File photo of Nitish Kumar. Reuters

The Bihar legislative assembly then formally passed the Bihar Excise and Prohibition Bill with voice vote amidst an opposition boycott. It was approved by Governor Ram Nath Kovind on 7 September. The law was touted as “draconian” by opposing parties, with stringent provisions such as arrest of all adult members of a family if liquor was found stored in any household.

However, ruling that section 19(4) of the Bihar Excise (Amendment) Act, 2016 was “ultra vires and unenforceable”, the Patna High Court had quashed Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s pet initiative as “unreasonable and draconian” which “cannot be justified in a civilised society”.

Senior advocate Ramesh Gupta IANS: “As the notification has been struck down by the court, all the cases against persons will go now.” As many as 13,839 people were arrested for violating the liquor law between April and August, 2016.

Although even before the HC order came, the Bihar government had announced that it would enforce a new stringent law from 2 October, only to stay adamant on it after the order. The government had drafted a new law to keep from withdrawing the ban. “A special state cabinet meeting chaired by the chief minister on Sunday formally approved the implementation of the new act in the state,” an official in CM’s Office said. According to the state’s Additional Advocate General, Lalit Kishore, the high court order did not impact the new act since it was passed by both houses of the Bihar legislature and formally approved by Governor Ram Nath Kovind, whereas the court order was related to an old rule.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and other members of his Cabinet took a pledge that the government would continue with prohibition which is “ushering positive social change” in the state.

As per the new liquor law, those found indulging in unlawful import, export, transport, manufacture, possession, sale, intoxicant or liquor could attract a minimum 10 years of jail term which may extend to imprisonment for life besides a minimum fine of Rs 1 lakh which may extend to Rs 10 lakh, says a report by PTI.

Later, on 7 October the Supreme Court stayed the Patna High Court order quashing the ban and directed the hearing of the matter after 10 weeks.

However, the government continues its arrests and around 1,000 cartons of India made foreign liquor (IMFL) were seized by excise department officials and six persons were arrested from a container truck in Fatuha Industrial Area of Patna district on 22 October, marking it one of the biggest seizures since the new Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act 2016 was enforced on 2 October.

With inputs from agencies

Bihar police saves Delhi businessman’s sons, arrests four for abduction

Bihar police saves Delhi businessman’s sons, arrests four for abduction

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Patna: Bihar Police on Wednesday rescued two sons of a Delhi businessman who were kidnapped from Patna airport on Friday. They also arrested four persons connected to the crime, police said.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

“Police rescued both sons of a Delhi-based businessman — Suresh Sharma and Kapil Sharma. They were rescued from a village under Karja police station of Lakhisarai on Tuesday night,” senior Superintendent of Police (SP) Manu Maharaj said.

The father, Babulal Sharma, deals in marble.

Majharaj said that the brothers, had arrived in Patna on business. They were kidnapped by Ranjit Don, alias Ranjit Mandal’s gang. The kidnappers had demanded Rs 4 crore as ransom.

According to the police, Suresh and Kapil were allegedly invited to Bihar by Mandal for a business deal.

Mandal had earlier kidnapped a Haryana-based businessman for ransom but the police had managed to rescue him, also.

Pakistan summons Indian Deputy High Commissioner to protest against ceasefire violations

Pakistan summons Indian Deputy High Commissioner to protest against ceasefire violations

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Islamabad: Pakistan on Tuesday summoned Indian Deputy High Commissioner JP Singh to protest Indian ceasefire violations along the International Border (IB), the Foreign Office said.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

An infant and an elderly man were killed and seven people were injured in heavy mortar shelling by the Indian Border Security Force (BSF) in villages along the Sialkot IB on Monday, Dawn online reported.

The attack came at night when residents of villages in Bajwat, Chaprar, Harpal, Sucheet­garh, Merajkey and Charwah sectors were asleep, the daily quoted senior officials of the Punjab Rangers as saying.

A strong protest was also lodged with the UN Military Observer Group (UNMOGIP) “regarding unprovoked firing by Indians across the IB”, Inter-Services Public Relations said.

Foreign Office Spokesperson Nafees Zakaria last week alleged that India has committed more than 90 ceasefire violations in 2016.

He claimed that Pakistan has “never violated the ceasefire agreement” signed between the two countries in 2003 to maintain peace at the border and the Line of Control.

CBI arrests Homeopathy Council chief Ramjee Singh in bribery case

CBI arrests Homeopathy Council chief Ramjee Singh in bribery case

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New Delhi: The CBI on Saturday arrested Central Council of Homeopathy President Ramjee Singh and another person on charges of accepting Rs 20 lakh in bribe to give a favourable inspection report for setting up of a homeopathy college.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Singh, who was elected the council chief in 2009, was arrested along with Harishankar Jha during a raid by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) after a complaint.

Singh has served both as president and secretary of the Homeoopathic Association of India.

The Central Council of Homoeopathy, a statutory body under the Health and Family Welfare Ministry, is a regulatory authority for homoeopathy system of medicine.

It is entrusted with the work of maintaining the register of practitioners and the standards in homeopathic education.

RSS demands removal of English as medium of instruction, ahead of new education policy formulation

The RSS education wing, on Friday, demanded that the use of English language as the medium of instruction should be eliminated and emphasis instead should be on the mother tongue, from the HRD ministry, ahead of the constitution of the new education policy, as reported by The Indian Express.

File photo of Prakash Javadekar. ReutersFile photo of Prakash Javadekar. Reuters

File photo of Prakash Javadekar. Reuters

The RSS-affiliated Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas (SSUN) made a number of suggestions such as that foreign languages be removed completely from the curriculum — even as an alternative; that all research should be connected to “national requirements” and those projects that do not fulfill this criteria should be taken off UGC scholarships, and that references that insult Indian culture and offer incorrect explanations should also be removed, says The Indian Express.

According to India TV, the RSS wing has also recommended that the ministry must attempt to gradually remove English at all levels of education, both in private and government schools, colleges and universities, in a meeting between Atul Kothari, leader of the SSUN and HRD minister Prakash Javadekar. Allegedly the government was asked to “immediately provide facilities to introduce education in Indian languages in English-medium institutions like IIT, IIM and NIT”, by the SSUN. An email response by the ministry on 14 October read that his list of recommendations is noted and shall be discussed.

The Deccan Chronicle alleges that the RSS affiliate has even asked for legal action against schools that do not let students speak in their mother tongue, as many schools have existing punishment systems, including remarks and fines, for students speaking in their native tongue. Kothari was reported as saying that many of his suggestions were appreciated.

‘Saffronisation of education’ has been a popular phrase associated with Dinanath Batra, another RSS veteran of Shiksha Bachao Andolan, and leader of the SSUN. Times Of India reports that Batra and the Shiksha Bachao Andolan have been heading a movement to change UPA era textbooks. According to The Indian Express article, the Haryana government was looking to introduce six of his books in the state syllabus last year, all of which preached moral Indian values and culture.

However, Javadekar had earlier announced the government role must be of a facilitator and not a controller, for which it proposes to give more autonomy to premier institutions of higher learning, based on their performance during a review meeting, that he chaired, with directors of five Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research located at Pune, Kolkata, Mohali, Bhopal and Thiruvananthapuram and the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru in September, accordimg to an IANS report.

A Livemint report claims that the new education policy is aimed at encouraging innovation over rote learning, making education both the emancipator as well as the enabler. The drafting process is open to suggestions by district level and block-level consultation to make the policy more relevant and inclusive. Where gross enrollment was the earlier focus in schemes like Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Right to Education and National Literacy Mission, the poor quality of education is the problem tackled by the new policy. Several national-level surveys, third party assessments and consultation is directed to making it a participatory process, to avoid further high-handedness in the education sector.

An article in the Asian Age says that Javadekar hopes to evoke a consensus on a range of issues including the no-detention policy till class 8 and provisional Class 10 Board exams and so on. A detailed discussion is due to take place on 25 October between the HRD minister and the education ministers at the Central Advisory Board of Education.

With inputs from IANS

Stepmother targeting Akhilesh Yadav with black magic, says SP MLC

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Udayveer Singh, who is said to be close to UP CM Akhilesh Yadav has accused Mulayam Singh’s second wife Sadhna of having ill will against her stepson Akhilesh Yadav and targeting him, reports IANS. He also said that black magic was used to harm him.He also said that Sadhna and Shivpal Yadav were in cahoots to bring down Akhilesh. He added that Yadav was jealous of CM’s popularity.The first-time MLC also said that Mulayam Singh should step down and let Akhilesh take charge. Singh wrote all this in a private letter addressed to Mulayam Singh, but it was leaked.Udayveer Singh said that he was expressing his views which he believed many in the party also agreed with it.SP leader Ashu Malik said that Singh’s letter was not “even worth 500 votes” and that “any attempt to humiliate Netaji (Mulayam Singh) will not be tolerated.”

JNU VC remains under siege over missing student, says officials slept on floor

New Delhi: JNU students angry over a student who went missing six days ago on Thursday continued their siege of Vice Chancellor M. Jagadesh Kumar, who has refrained from calling the police.

Hundreds of students belonging to almost all student groups barring the ABVP laid siege to the administrative block at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), accusing Kumar of taking a negative attitude.

Kumar, the Proctor, the Registrar and some other officials were forced to spend the night inside the building, student activists told IANS.

JNU VC M Jagdeesh Kumar. News18JNU VC M Jagdeesh Kumar. News18

JNU VC M Jagdeesh Kumar. News18

“We are continuing the protest but have allowed other junior employees to move freely and carry on with their work,” Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students Association (BAPSA) President Bhupali Magare told IANS.

The JNU has been in ferment ever since an undergraduate science student, Najeeb Ahmed, went missing on the night of 14 October, reportedly after a brawl with a few members of the ABVP.

Police have been told that Ahmed may have been kidnapped or may be in illegal confinement.

The students deny they have gheraoed the Vice Chancellor but he insists that he and other officials have been confined to the building. Reporters, however, have access to Kumar.

Magare said the Vice Chancellor was not responding to their demands and had displayed a negative attitude.

She said a few students from the JNU Students Union (JNUSU) went to meet Kumar around midnight on Wednesday but he immediately asked the security to video the discussion.

“We walked out after that. He is dealing with the issue in a very negative manner,” she said.

The Vice Chancellor appealed to the students on Wednesday night to end the siege and discuss their concerns.

On Thursday, Kumar again appealed to the students to end the siege and let him and other officials function freely. He said the university had already met with their demands.

“They asked for a police complaint, which has been filed. Moreover, a proctorial inquiry has been initiated by the varsity,” he said.

He rubbished claims that the students had offered him and the other officials food during confinement. “We were not sent any food. We slept on the floor.”

RSS to introduce its own Nobel awards ‘Naimishya Samman’ after cultural ministry’s nod

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s cultural unit – Sanskar Bharti – will now introduce its own ‘Nobel awards’ in the fields of Peace, Human Rights, Literature, Visual and Performing Arts, Science, Education, and others after the Union Culture Ministry gave its go-ahead on Tuesday. Sources in the ministry told IANS that the ministry has approved to institute ‘Naimishya Samman’.

The first edition of awards on the lines of Nobel will be given in ‘Rashtriya Sanskriti Mahotsava’, likely to be held in Varanasi in November. The awards will be presented annually.

A file image of RSS cadres during a Dussehra rally. PTI

A file image of RSS cadres during a Dussehra rally. PTI

The jury would comprise of prominent Indian and international figures from diverse fields.

According to the sources, the budget for the Sanskriti Mahotsav has been set at Rs 220 crore, out of which around Rs 70 crore have been kept for the awards and the rest for the event.

According to The Indian Express, about eleven “international awards” and the ‘Naimishya Samman’ will be conferred on the people working in various fields. The Naimisheya Samman would be “comparable to any other global award in authority and prize money”, Sanskar Bharti said.

The newspaper quoted an RSS pracharak as saying, “There are enough people with nationalistic thoughts who are taking the lead in creative and academic fields. However, the Congress rule of 60 years has pushed nationalism on the margins. An atmosphere of nationalism has recently been created in the country, Indian thoughts have gained prominence on the global stage. The Naimisheya will be a platform to celebrate the richness of Indian thoughts.”

The Rashtriya Sanskriti Mahotsava, the brainchild of the RSS, is an initiative of the Ministry of Culture and was conceived in the year 2015 with an intent to showcase the rich cultural heritage of the country in all its rich and varied dimensions, viz. handicrafts, cuisine, painting, sculpture, photography, documentation and performing arts – folk, tribal, classical and contemporary.

DNA quoted theatre and cultural coordinator for Sanskar Bharti, Shailesh Shrivastava, as saying: “The idea was proposed to the Ministry of Culture by us. We thought that Indians working in the field of arts, culture and literature should also get their due. Why should the great Indian writers wait to win a Nobel Prize, we should honour them with our own award that is equally respectable.”

With inputs from IANS

Cauvery issue: SC directs Karnataka to continue giving 2,000 cusecs water to Tamil Nadu

Cauvery issue: SC directs Karnataka to continue giving 2,000 cusecs water to Tamil Nadu

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked Karnataka to continue supplying 2,000 cusecs of Cauvery river water to Tamil Nadu everyday till further orders.

While continuing with its 4 October order, the bench of Justice Dipak Misra, Justice Amitava Roy and Justice AM Khanwilkar said it would be incumbent upon the governments of both states to maintain peace and harmony.

People should not become law unto themselves, the bench said.

Varanasi stampede: Death toll rises to 25, five officials suspended

Varanasi: The death toll in Saturday’s stampede Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh has risen to 25, with one of the injured succumbing to his injuries overnight, police said on Sunday.

Authorities meanwhile said that 20 of the dead had been identified. And seven of the injured were still in critical condition in hospital.

Police officials said they were trying to ascertain the identity of the remaining five dead. More than 50 people were being treated at various medical facilities in the temple town.

A scene after the stampede in Varanasi on Saturday. PTI

A scene after the stampede in Varanasi on Saturday. PTI

The stampede occurred at the 130-year-old Raj Ghat bridge on the banks of river Ganga where a religious congregation was to be presided by Acharya Pankaj Baba, disciple of late Jai Gurudev, a religious and spiritual leader from Mathura.

The dead include 20 women and five men, police officer Anil Kumar Singh told IANS.

On the second day of the congregation on Sunday, Pankaj Baba paid tributes to those who perished in the tragedy and they were ‘Satsangi Shaheed’ (Spiritual Matryrs).

The dead have been identified as Naval Kishore Mishra, Savitri Mishra, Rajwati, Ramwati, Sumitra and Vimla Devi from Delhi, Rampatti Devi, Dashtarth Singh, Prithvipal Singh, Israti Devi, Susheela Devi and Mallu Devi from Rajasthan, as well as Prithvipal, Ashok Kumar, Kamlesh Devi, Kamini, Sarla Devi, Sohanlal, Indu and Keshwati from Madhya Pradesh.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has announced an ex-gratia of Rs 10 lakh to the dependants of those killed and Rs 50,000 each to those injured.

He has also suspended five senior district officials, including the superintendent of police (City) of Varanasi and the traffic in-charge.

The divisional commissioner of Varanasi has been asked to get a magisterial probe conducted into the reasons behind the tragedy.

The Prime Minister’s Office is monitoring the treatment of the injured, an official told IANS.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi represents Varanasi in the Lok Sabha.

The stampede occurred at around 1.30 pm as thousands of people took out a procession.

Police attributed the stampede to the “impatience” among the participants due to the prevailing heat and humidity.

Varanasi district magistrate Vijay Kiran Anand blamed Acharya Pankaj, the successor of Jai Gurudev and the organiser of the two-day congregation in Domri village.

“The organisers had told us that 3,000 people would come but over 300,000 turned up,” he said.

Pankaj Das in turn blamed the administration for failing to take proper measures.

Pampore encounter: Gunfight continues near Kashmir’s Pulwama district; 2-3 militants trapped

Pampore encounter: Gunfight continues near Kashmir’s Pulwama district; 2-3 militants trapped

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Srinagar: Police said on Monday a group of two to three militants were trapped in a building of the Jammu and Kashmir Entrepreneurship Development Institute (JKEDI) complex near Pampore town of Pulwama district.

“The militants were trapped inside a building in the JKEDI complex near Pampore town,” a senior police officer said.

“Security forces surrounded the building and all escape routes of the militants were sealed,” he said.

The officer said that intermittent gunshots were heard inside the complex as the security forces were moving in cautiously to flush out the militants.

A 48-hour long fierce gunfight took place in the same complex in February in which seven people including a civilian, three paramilitary commandos of the Army and three militants were killed.

The JKEDI complex is situated on the Srinagar-Jammu national highway, about 10 kilometres from Srinagar.

Traffic on the strategic highway was also suspended.

Pampore attack: Gunfight continues near Kashmir’s Pulwama district; 2-3 militants trapped

Pampore attack: Gunfight continues near Kashmir’s Pulwama district; 2-3 militants trapped

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The police said on Monday a group of two to three militants were trapped in a building of the Jammu and Kashmir Entrepreneurship Development Institute (JKEDI) complex near Pampore.

“The militants were trapped inside a building in the JKEDI complex near Pampore town,” a senior police officer said.

“Security forces surrounded the building and all escape routes of the militants were sealed,” he said.

The officer said that intermittent gunshots were heard inside the complex as the security forces were moving in cautiously to flush out the militants.

A 48-hour long fierce gunfight took place in the same complex in February in which seven people including a civilian, three paramilitary commandos of the Army and three militants were killed.

The JKEDI complex is situated on the Srinagar-Jammu national highway, about 10 kilometres from Srinagar.

Traffic on the strategic highway was also suspended.

Pakistan authorities to suspend licenses of channels airing Indian content

Pakistan authorities to suspend licenses of channels airing Indian content

Updated: Oct 5, 2016 09:54 IST

#channels #India #NewsTracker #Pakistan #PEMRA #Television

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Islamabad: Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) has announced it will suspend the licences of media outlets airing Indian content without issuing prior notice.

The media regulator has granted the authority to its Chairman Absar Alam to revoke or suspend the licenses of companies airing Indian content without any prior notice, a statement said on Tuesday.

The announcement came only a day after the top electronic media regulator requested the federal government on Monday to bring the level of Indian content on Pakistani channels at par with Pakistani media in the hostile South Asian neighbour’s broadcasts.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Previously, Pakistani channels were allowed to air six percent content during 24-hour transmission cycle. Until the decision by the government, Pemra said, television channels and FM radio stations and cable operators were advised to strictly follow the current policy in this regard.

Pemra recommended that permission to air Indian content in Pakistan should be linked with the Indian government’s decision to allow Pakistani content on Indian channels. Pakistan is taking this decision in the backdrop of recent hateful acts committed by India against Pakistani artists, where they were threatened, harassed and unceremoniously asked to leave the country.

Last month, the media regulator had decided to crackdown on illegal satellite dishes and Indian content being aired across Pakistani television channels and cable networks.

Ink attack on Kejriwal in Bikaner; police detains two accused

Ink attack on Kejriwal in Bikaner; police detains two accused

Updated: Oct 5, 2016 08:23 IST

#ABVP #Bikaner #Ink attack #Kejriwal #NewsTracker

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Jaipur: Two young men on Tuesday threw ink on Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in the state’s Bikaner city, police said, adding both have been detained.

“This incident happened late in the evening at a residential complex when Kejriwal was coming out after meeting his acquaintance. We have detained two persons in this regard,” a police official told IANS.

A file photo of Arvind Kejriwal. PTIA file photo of Arvind Kejriwal. PTI

A file photo of Arvind Kejriwal. PTI

Kejriwal was in Bikaner, 350 km from Jaipur, to attend a condolence meeting at the home of a local leader of his Aam Aadmi Party.

Questioning of both the persons is going on, said the police officer, noting that the political affiliations of these men who are students are not known as of now.

Sources said that Kejriwal was attacked apparently by students affiliated with RSS’s student wing Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) for his remarks on Indian Army’s surgical strike.

Kejriwal in his tweet on ink attack said, ” Hmmm… God bless those who threw ink at me. I wish them well.”

India’s PM Modi and Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong sign three agreements in Delhi

India’s PM Modi and Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong sign three agreements in Delhi

Updated: Oct 4, 2016 14:46 IST

#India #Narendra Modi #NewsTracker #Singapore

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New Delhi: India and Singapore on Tuesday signed three agreements, including two in the area of skill development, following delegation-level talks headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Singapore Premier Lee Hsien Loong, now on visit to Delhi.

“Strengthening a Strategic Partnership. The two leaders witness the signing of 3 agreements in skill development and industrial property,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup tweeted.

A file photo of Narendra Modi and Lee Hsien Loong.A file photo of Narendra Modi and Lee Hsien Loong.

A file photo of Narendra Modi and Lee Hsien Loong.

One memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between Singapore’s Institute of Technical Education (ITE) Education Services (ITEES) and India’s National Skill Development Corporation on collaboration in technical and vocational education and training.

Another MoU was signed between the Assam government and ITEES Singapore also on collaboration in technical and vocational education and training.

A third MoU was signed in the field of industrial property cooperation.

The Singapore Prime Minister, accompanied by a high-level delegation, arrived in Delhi on Monday on a five-day bilateral visit to India.

Cyber attackers hack National Green Tribunal’s website, call it an act of revenge

Cyber attackers hack National Green Tribunal’s website, call it an act of revenge

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New Delhi: The National Green Tribunal’s website was hacked on Monday with the cyber attackers calling it an act of “revenge” against India’s surgical strikes across the Line of Control.

“We are unbeatable. You…kill innocent people in Kashmir and call your self defenders of your country. You…violate the ceasefire on border and call it surgical strikes. Now kiss the burn of Cyber War,” the hackers said in the post which also used abusive words.

Indian security forces carried out surgical strikes on terror launch pads across the Line of Control (LoC) on 29 September after a terror attack on an army camp in Jammu and Kashmir’s Uri on 18 September.

Post surgical strikes, Indian Army, IAF and BSF on high alert in Punjab

There has been no gunfire, no alert sirens and no fighter jets dropping bombs. It is not wartime yet, but tens of thousands of villagers in lying in the border belt with Pakistan are already experiencing a war-like situation.

As the relations between India-Pakistan — the nuclear armed neighbours — sizzle up, especially after India’s retaliatory surgical strikes on the terror launch pads across LoC, the Indian Army is bracing up for a possible escalation in the situation. Thousands of villagers in the border states of Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir, Gujarat and Rajasthan are being relocated while a state of high alert was issued across Uttar Pradesh fearing retaliation from Pakistan. The Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) also stepped-up up vigil along the Indo-Nepal border.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Punjab border villages evacuated

Following constant reports of ceasefire violation along LoC and amid apprehensions of situation escalating across the border, over 4,00,000 people in Punjab’s border belt, comprising Amritsar, Tarn Taran, Ferozepur, Gurdaspur, Pathankot and Fazilka districts, have been evacuated from their homes to “safer areas”.

Residents in nearly 1,000 villages in these districts have been ordered by the authorities to evacuate following escalation of tension between India and Pakistan as the Army beefed up security across the length of Indian border.

“We loaded a lot of our belongings and household articles on our tractor-trolley. We have not yet decided where we will go. But we have to move out. The standing crop in our fields has to be harvested within the next 10 days. We hope this situation eases out soon,” farmer Sardul Singh of Amritsar district told IANS.

Punjab shares a 553-km international border with Pakistan. The entire border is marked by an electrified barbed wire fence.

The Sikh holy city of Amritsar, which lies only 30 km from the international border, too seemed to be prepared for any eventuality, including war.

Hospitals in the border districts have been asked to keep some beds in the emergency wards vacant for any contingency. The leave of police personnel, medical staff and others maintaining emergency services have been cancelled. Electricity of border villages and towns will also be cut-off, according to CNN-News18. 

In some of the border villages, which are located across the rivers in the border belt, Border Security Force (BSF) and Indian Army personnel could be seen ferrying people, including children and the elderly, and their belongings to safer areas on Thursday and Friday.

“There is nothing to panic about. The evacuation is being done as a preventive measure. Arrangements are being made to accommodate the evacuated people,” Isha Kalia, Deputy Commissioner of Fazilka district in southwest Punjab, said. Kalia visited various evacuation centres in her district and talked to people accommodated there.

But villagers said that there was some panic and anxiety among them. According to CNN-News18, some villagers have refused to move stating that they have nowhere else to go. “Punjabis have faced wars before and we will see whatever happens again… Yaha se uthenge to jayenge kaha ji (where will we go from here),” a resident told CNN-News18. 

“Old timers have been through the 1965 and 1971 wars with Pakistan. Those days were bad. But Punjabis have always faced wars valiantly. For the newer generation, who have not seen wars, the evacuation is a new thing. Many youngsters are worried about what will happen,” Waryam Singh of Ferozepur district, who is 70-plus and lived through the 1965 and 1971 wars, told IANS.

The villagers who have been evacuated were headed either to the homes of relatives and friends in “safer zones” or opted for camps organised by the district authorities.

With arrangements to accommodate hundreds of people at each of the 45 relief camps having to be made within a few hours, the evacuated people complained of mismanagement and chaos.

Local gurudwaras and social organisations also chipped in, within the past 12 hours, to arrange food and water for the displaced people.

Along all roads and paths in the border belt, any mode of transport available was being used by the people to move out with their belongings. The authorities also arranged buses at some places to ferry people. Army convoys, with artillery, moved towards the border with Pakistan on Thursday and Friday.

Army on high alert in Punjab

The Indian Army, the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Border Security Force (BSF) were put on high alert in Punjab and neighbouring states to counter any escalation that may follow under the current stand-off between the two nations.

Army convoys, carrying artillery guns, could be seen moving towards the border belt in Punjab on Thursday and Friday in preparation of thwarting any move from Pakistan to retaliate the LoC strike. Leaves of Army personnel deployed on the Western front have also been cancelled with immediate effect, according to CNN-News18.

The IAF has been put on high alert with forward air bases on the western front in full preparedness. The IAF bases in the region include Halwara and Adampur (both in Punjab), Ambala (in Haryana) and Hindon (near Delhi).

Air Force fighter jets carried out sorties over some parts of Punjab as a preventive measure.

The International Border (IB) in the Punjab frontier is manned by the BSF which is on maximum alert following the latest developments at the LoC.

Army units were also on high alert in Punjab. The army presence in Punjab is substantial, spread in Mamoon cantonment near Pathankot, the 11 Corps based in Jalandhar, the 10 Corps in Bathinda in southwest Punjab and army units in Ferozepur, Amritsar and other places.

The Western Command, headquartered at Chandimandir near Chandigarh, is monitoring the situation along the border with Pakistan in Punjab sector, a senior Army officer said.

The Ambala-based 2 Corps, a strike corps, has also been put on high alert along with the Hisar-based 33 Armoured Division, sources said.

UP on high alert, increased vigil along Indo-Nepal border

Security was heightened in all districts in Uttar Pradesh, fearing retaliation from Pakistan while the SSB was also asked to step up vigil along the Indo-Nepal border.

Special focus was on security of historical monuments, tourist destinations, public places like railway and bus stations, malls, shopping complexes and film theatres, an official told IANS.

Additional police force was deployed in the peripheral parameters of cantonments in Lucknow, Agra, Kanpur and Meerut, and military installations and airports were put under close watch.

Special checking operations were initiated to screen vehicles on border and other sensitive areas like Maharajganj, Bahraich, Gonda and Gorakhpur.  “Other than scaling up the visible security, we have also sensitised the intelligence system and are keeping an eye on every activity,” an official said.

India carried out surgical strikes on seven terror launch pads inflicting “significant casualties”across the LoC on the 28 and 29 September, seen as a reprisal for the Uri attack. The Uri Army base was attacked by heavily-armed Pakistani terrorists on September 18 in which 18 soldiers were killed. India has maintained that the Pakistan-based terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed was behind the attack.

With inputs from IANS

Germany, Japan condemn Uri attack, express solidarity with India

Germany, Japan condemn Uri attack, express solidarity with India

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New Delhi: Japan and Germany on Tuesday joined the international community in condemning Sunday’s cross-border terror attack from Pakistan on an army base at Uri in Jammu and Kashmir that claimed the lives of 18 Indian soldiers.

“The government of Japan strongly condemns the terrorist attack on the Indian base in Uri, Jammu and Kashmir, and extends its sincere condolences,” Tokyo said in a statement,according to a tweet by External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup.

Army soldiers rush to the attack site in Uri. PTI

Army soldiers rush to the attack site in Uri. PTI

“Japan condemns terrorism in all forms regardless of its purposes and strongly reiterates that no act of terrorism can be justified,” it said.

“Japan expresses its solidarity with India in its fight against terrorism.”

In its statement, Germany said that it stood “firmly on the side of India in the fight against terrorism”.

“Every country has the responsibility to take decisive action against terrorism, which emanates from its own territory,” it stated.

SC issues notice to Shahabuddin on plea challenging his bail

SC issues notice to Shahabuddin on plea challenging his bail

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice to criminal-turned-politician Mohammad Shahabuddin on a plea challenging grant of bail to him in a murder case.

File image of Mohammad Shahabuddin. CNN-News18

File image of Mohammad Shahabuddin. CNN-News18

The bench of Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose and Justice Amitava Roy also issued notice on a plea seeking stay of the Patna High Court order granting bail to Shahabuddin.

While asking the Bihar government to serve notice on him, the bench directed the next hearing on the matter for the coming Monday (26 September).

The court order came on a plea by Chandrakeshwar Prasad, whose three sons were allegedly killed by a henchman Shahabuddin, and the Bihar government challenging the High Court order granting bail.

The Bihar government had also sought issuance of non-bailable warrant against Shahabuddin.

Air India aircraft suffers tyre bursts while landing in Srinagar, passengers safe

Srinagar: Troopers of central para-military forces aboard an Air India chartered flight on Thursday had a providential escape as two tyres of the aircraft burst during landing at the international airport in Srinagar, a police officer said.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

The incident occurred around 2 pm. There was no immediate information on the number of troopers or crew aboard the aircraft.

“The aircraft was chartered by the central paramilitary forces on the Jammu-Srinagar sector. All troopers aboard have since been moved out safely from the aircraft,” the police officer told IANS.

“The runway is being cleared by towing away the aircraft stranded there,” the official said.

Uttarakhand roads blocked after heavy rains, landslides

Dehradun: Heavy rains and landslides have blocked many roads in the hill state of Uttarakhand, an official said on Wednesday.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

The roads include the Kedarnath highway and the Badrinath highway at Nandprayag.

Efforts were on to clear the roads and bring the disrupted traffic back to track, the official said.

“The Border Road Organisation is trying its best to clear these roads as many pilgrims of the Chaar Dhaam Yatra have been stranded at various places due to the block” an official told IANS.

Meanwhile, the state’s Met department has sounded a 72-hour alert for heavy rains beginning 30 June.

The districts where the alert has been sounded include Almora, Pauri, Uttarkashi, Dehradun, Udhamsinghnagar, Champawat and Nainital.

So far, most parts of the state have received moderate rainfall.

Jammu & Kashmir: Militants break into BJP leader’s home, snatch AK-47 from security guard

Srinagar: Four militants reportedly broke into BJP leader Ghulam Mohammad Chopan’s house and snatched an AK-47 rifle from a security guard posted with the leader in Jammu and Kashmir’s Badgam district on Tuesday and fled from the spot.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

According to DNA, initial reports stated that the incident happened in the morning around 9am when Chopan was at his home in Chandoora, Budgam district. It is around 17 kilometers from Srinagar.

Police said the militants overpowered Constable Bashir Ahmad, snatched his rifle and ran away. The entire area has been alerted and all entry points to the village have been sealed, reported DNA.

“The snatching of the weapon has been reportedly done by militants who overpowered the guard. A search has been launched to trace the militants,” a senior police officer told IANS in Srinagar.

The incident comes just days after militants opened fire on security personnel and a nearby CRPF camp in Pampore. Eight CRPF personnels and two militants were killed in the attack.

With inputs from IANS.

Jammu and Kashmir: Infiltration bid foiled along LoC, two militants killed

Army troops on Saturday gunned down two militants as it foiled an infiltration bid on the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir’s Baramulla district, an official said.

A senior police officer said troops detected a group of militants trying to infiltrate into Indian territory in the Lachipora area in Uri sector of Baramulla.

“The group of militants was intercepted. The militants opened fire at the troops setting off a gunfight. Two militants have been killed so far,” the officer told IANS.

He said the gunfight was still on in the area.

In the adjoining Kupwara district, the army gunned down seven militants in three separate gun battles in the past two days.

ANI further reported that security forces busted a terror hideout in Kalkote area of Rajouri and recovered a cache of arms and ammunition.

(With inputs from IANS)

Stolen battery box brings Mumbai’s Western Railway to grinding halt: Trains delayed for 90 minutes

It was not because of the heavy rainfall.

It was not because of broken overhead wires or signal failure.

It was not because someone tried to commit suicide.

It took one thief, who stole the battery box fom Mahim substation, to halt the all-time-busy Western suburban railway services to come to a grinding halt on Monday morning. Millions of peak hour commuters were stranded following a theft of a battery box on Monday morning, an official said.

According to the Western Railway PRO, the problem began when the battery was reportedly stolen from the Mahim substation. In a series of tweets, Western Railway’s public relation officer kept everyone in loop and also updated them on the latest development.

— Western Railway (@WesternRly) June 20, 2016

The railways announced at various stations that all train services on the fast and slow corridors in both directions had been stopped due to a technical snag at Dadar. “It is found that the problem has occurred due to theft of battery box at Mahim electric sub stationa. Efforts on for early restoration,” the Western Railway tweeted.

The theft resulted in the snapping of power supply between Andheri and Churchgate, affecting the entire Western Railway lifeline which is used by over four million commuters daily. However, services delayed by over one and half hour were operated on the Andheri-Virar section. BEST deployed extra buses to clear commuters rush in different directions.

With inputs from IANS

Mathura violence destroys thousands of trees

Mathura: Thousands of trees were destroyed, many charred, in the violence that erupted last week following exchange of fire between police and squatters at Jawahar Bagh in Mathura.

Mathura: A scene during clashes between the police and the encroachers who were being evicted from Jawaharbagh in Mathura on Thursday. PTI Photo (PTI6_2_2016_000253B)Mathura: A scene during clashes between the police and the encroachers who were being evicted from Jawaharbagh in Mathura on Thursday. PTI Photo (PTI6_2_2016_000253B)

A scene during clashes between the police and the encroachers who were being evicted from Jawahar Bagh in Mathura. PTI

Uttar Pradesh horticulture department officials said the number of trees burnt or destroyed could be more than 5,000, mostly fruit-bearing varieties.

Environmentalists in Mathura have demanded firm action against the culprits responsible for loss of the green cover.

Braj Bachao Samiti members said the state horticulture department that owns the 260-acre bagh should have acted against the encroachers but chose to ignore damage to the ecology.

However, the officials of the department said they had lodged many complaints with the police and informed the senior district officials repeatedly.

The trees lost were full grown and years of hard work had greened the whole Jawahar Bagh, an official said. “Clearly the loss is irreparable and will take years to restore the green cover.”

At a time when the whole Braj area is being denuded of green cover due to urbanisation, loss of thousands of trees is a huge ecological threat, environment activist Shravan Kumar Singh said.

In May, Bharatiya Janata Party MP Hema Malini had publicly admonished a gram pradhan for felling of trees at Banshi Vat and in Maant area.

However, the pradhan hit back blaming the actor-politician for using foul words leading to his hospitalisation.

“The loss of greenery all over the state and river Yamuna are matters of serious concern and government agencies should wake up to remedy the imbalance,” Hema Malini told IANS.

Hema Malini slams critics for trolling her over Mathura clashes

Agra: Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Hema Malini on Monday morning hit back at her critics questioning their morality and political judgement in the aftermath of Mathura mayhem.

“Without checking facts they including the media, are targeting me and doubting my sincerity. The moment I got the information I rushed to Mathura and met officials as well as the victims,” the Lok Sabha member from Mathura, told IANS.

Hema MaliniHema Malini

Hema Malini. AFP

“Two months ago I had asked the district magistrate of Mathura Rajesh Kumar to act against the squatters. Obviously the failure of the administration and political leaders of the state resulted in the tragedy,” the popular Bollywood actress said.

She said that instead of reporting the violence and exposing the people responsible for the unfortunate incidents, “they have begun targeting me and discussing my work in the constituency.”

She said the media do not realise what is more important. “They need to identify the elements behind these grim incidents.”

Hema Malini claimed that she has done a lot of work in Mathura and Vrindavan and spent much more time in her constituency than others.

Ola driver assault: Five African suspects evade Delhi police

New Delhi: Two days after an Ola cab driver accused a group of Africans of assaulting him for refusing to allow more than four passengers in his vehicle, the Delhi police on Wednesday said it had identified the five accused but had no clue yet to their hideouts.

“We have identified all the five Africans. There are some problems but they will surely be caught very soon,” Deputy Commissioner of Police Ishwar Singh told IANS.

The DCP, however, refused to reveal their names and nationality.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Singh said an African woman Kefa, arrested on Monday morning soon after the incident, was not cooperating in the investigation and was very evasive.

“Kefa knows all of them very well and their whereabouts but is giving wrong information….”

Kefa, a 26-year-old from Rwanda, was caught from the spot in Mehrauli in south Delhi, while her five African friends fled after attacking taxi driver Nooruddin Ali, 51, early on Monday morning.

She is said to be staying illegally in India as her visa expired a few months ago.

Adding a personal ‘touch’: Lalu Prasad Yadav endorses Ramdev’s Patanjali cream

As regular people, we have all added a personal touch to the things we do. Well, yoga guru and human rubberband, Baba Ramdev isn’t that far behind.

Although Ramdev visited Lalu Prasad Yadav’s house to invite the latter to attend International Yoga Day celebrations, there was a lot more going on behind the scenes. According to The Statesman, the guru was at Lalu’s house to demonstrate the aforementioned ‘personal touch’ — he was massaging the RJD chief ‘s face with a ‘special’ Patanjali cream, as the latter beamed, “I am a permanent brand ambassador of Ramdev’s Patanjali products.” If you’re interested in seeing how it went down, there’s even a video of it.

Ramdev even tweeted after:

This is a steady turnaround from Lalu’s vitriol attacks, which are usually aimed at “high-profile saints” that include the Patanjali founder and Nobel Peace Prize refuser Sri Sri Ravishankar. Even as recent as last month, at a function to mark 125th anniversary of BR Ambedkar, the Bihar politician described Baba Ramdev as a “capitalist and industrialist of the country”, and that he along with other saints/babas are making fools out of people, in the guise of religion.

So what could be the reason for this impressive backflip and the start of a fruitful bromance?

Back in 2015, it seemed like Lalu had a few defensive words for the baba when the latter was caught using animal bones in his medicines. Business Standard reported that Lalu was fine with the use of animal bones as long as it treated the disease. Perhaps things have been blowing hot and cold between them and it took a ‘cosmetic’ aligning of the stars for the duo to patch up? It’s also important to note that Lalu has a thing for well-maintained skin — remember his remarks about Hema Malini’s skin? His claim that he’d make Bihar’s roads as smooth as Hema Malini’s cheeks.

Never mind the background, the two leaders’ too-close-for-comfort-politics is surely entertaining. Who knows, maybe Lalu might be drafted as a model for Patanjali.

(With inputs from IANS)

The vulnerable watchdog: On World Press Freedom Day, here’s a look at media independence

There are several challenges to the freedom of the media in India, including threats of violence from vested interests and pressure from political parties, experts have said. They have called for greater involvement of civil society in cases pertaining to journalists. The World Press Freedom Day celebrates the fundamental principles of press freedom, and is an occasion to assess the state of press freedom throughout the world. It is observed on the anniversary of Declaration of Windhoek — a statement of free press principles put together by newspaper journalists in Africa during a Unesco seminar held in the Namibian city in 1991.

Vulnerable journalists 

Sevanti Ninan, Editor, The Hoot, a website which undertakes research pertaining to the media to strengthen its independence, said there has been a decline in press freedom in the last few years.

“The greater vulnerability is for journalists in districts and small towns. One reason for this that many of them are now using RTI to investigate local scams and they pose a threat to the powerful in government and in politics,” Ninan told IANS.

The pen is mightier than the sword. ReutersThe pen is mightier than the sword. Reuters

The pen is mightier than the sword. Reuters

She cited instances of death of three journalists covering investigative stories over the last year and said there should be a law guaranteeing press freedom, which is different from free speech.

She said committees comprising journalists and civil society members should be kept informed of police action against journalists.

Ninan said the media community in India has been remiss in protecting its counterparts in the regional press. “There is no pressure group at the national level which maintains pressure on the central and state governments in cases regarding journalists. The Editors Guild and other bodies are not really proactive in this regard. The Press Council publishes reports, but they have no impact,” she said.

Ninan said that it states like Chhattisgarh, where the state is battling Maoists, journalists who try to report on incidents involving the ultras were becoming victims of state oppression.

“There have been four arrests of journalists in Chhattisgarh since July 2015,” Ninan said.

Defamation and lawsuits 

Ninan said the other issue is defamation. “The state government of Tamil Nadu is very active in filing defamation cases against journalists. There have been several already this year,” she said.

Ninan said threats to editorial independence “come from proprietors and advertisers among others” while physical threats come from a variety of sources including the state police.

Senior journalist and political commentator S Nihal Singh said the political atmosphere was not very conducive to freedom of press.

“There are the usual suspects in terms of the bureaucracy being overzealous on occasions. That is one danger and the other is that the whole climate is not really conducive to press freedom. Because, if you narrow down the national ideal to things like ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ and other things in a similar vein, you are constricting the room for free opinion,” he said.

Nihal Singh said “There is a greater amount of self-censorship in India today than before the BJP came to power.”

“In the current instance, it is not so much what you do but what you imply. So in overall terms I think, the outlook is not so bright,” he said.

Nihal Singh also said that media was not writing as forthrightly as it normally does or it can do. “Because if you feel these are vindictive characters in power, you would want to be on the safe side. (There is) that impulse,” he said, adding that journalists themselves have “to pull up their socks because there is no substitute for journalists standing up.”

Senior journalist and political commentator Kuldip Nayar said the terms of employment of journalists have changed and this “does not allow journalists to be free”. The “sword of the contract system hangs over the head of journalists,” he said.

Nayar said there were attempts to politicise the news and evils such as “paid news” had cropped up. He said journalists should make use of tools of such as RTI and face the challenges boldly.

AS Narang, who taught political science at IGNOU, said civil society should be more vocal in taking up cases of journalists who face any form of state pressure.

Oligarchs, Press freedom index 

A leading journalism advocacy group says media freedom experienced a sharp decline around the world over the past year, citing increasing government restrictions in places like Turkey, Poland, Tajikistan, and Egypt.

In its 2016 World Press Freedom Index released on 20 April, Reporters Without Borders said that there had been a “deep and disturbing” decline in freedom of information in many places around the world. The organisation, also known as Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF), said independent media was also increasingly at risk from “religious ideologies” as well as “large-scale propaganda machines”. “Throughout the world, ‘oligarchs’ are buying up media outlets and are exercising pressure that compounds the pressure already coming from governments,” the Paris-based group said.

The media in India continues to be under stress as the country figures low at 133 out of 180 nations in the latest press freedom index, an international watchdog said on Wednesday, accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi of being “indifferent” to threats against scribes.

The damning report also painted a sad picture of the world media freedom that has suffered a “deep and disturbing decline” due to pressure from “governments, ideologies and private-sector interests”.

About India, the 2016 report said that journalists and bloggers are attacked and “anathematised by various religious groups that are quick to take offence”, referring to growing right wing extremism in the country. “At the same time, it is hard for journalists to cover regions such as Kashmir that are regarded as sensitive by the government.” The report alleged that “Modi seems indifferent to these threats and problems, and there is no mechanism for protecting journalists”. “Instead, in a desire to increase control of media coverage, Modi envisages opening a journalism university run by former propaganda ministry officials,” the report said.

with inputs from IANS

After launch of seventh navigation satellite, India a step away from ‘GPS club’

Sriharikota: India on Thursday afternoon successfully put into orbit its seventh and final navigation satellite — IRNSS-1G — with its own rocket in copy-book style.

With this, India successfully completed putting into orbit all the seven navigation satellites to complete the system in the sky.

Exactly at 12.50 pm, the PSLV rocket standing 44.4 metres tall and weighing 320 tonnes tore into the afternoon skies with fierce orange flames at its tail.

At the rocket mission control room, scientists were glued to their computer screens watching the rocket escaping the earth’s gravitational pull.

Just over 20 minutes into the flight, the PSLV rocket ejected its sole passenger — IRNSS-1F — at an altitude of 488.9 km.

Soon after this, the satellite’s solar panels were deployed.

IRNSS-1G spacecraft integrated with PSLV-C33 with two halves of the heat shields. Photo courtesy: Isro

IRNSS-1G spacecraft integrated with PSLV-C33 with two halves of the heat shields. Photo courtesy: Isro

The satellite’s control was then taken over by the Mission Control Facility (MCF) at Hassan in Karnataka.

The MCF will manage the satellite’s orbit raising operations firing the on-board motors till it is placed in its slotted orbit.

Simply put, the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) is similar to the GPS (global positioning system) of the US, Glonass of Russia and Galileo of Europe as well as China’s Beidou.

While GPS and Glonass are fully functional global systems, the Chinese and the Japanese systems offer regional coverage and Europe’s Galileo is yet to be operational.

India will formally join the select group of nations owing such system once IRNSS is declared operational after checking the systems – space (satellites), ground (ground stations) and the user-end signal receivers.

Only after the system is declared operational, will user-end signal receiver makers seriously get into the manufacture of equipment for use at the retail end, industry officials told IANS.

According to Indian space agency, the applications of IRNSS are: terrestrial, aerial and marine navigation, vehicle tracking and fleet management, terrestrial navigation for hikers and travellers, disaster management, integration with mobile phones, mapping and geodetic data capture and visual and voice navigation for drivers.

In other words, IRNSS could be said to be the “Indian GPS”.

Apart from the civilian applications, the IRNSS will be used for defence purposes as well.

Immediately after the 1,425 kg IRNSS-1G satellite was ejected by the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C33) rocket, scientists at the mission control centre clapped their hands happily.

“The launch was successful,” Isro chairman A S Kiran Kumar said soon after. The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) will raise the satellite to its home slot over the next couple of days.

The satellite, with a life-span of 12 years, has two payloads for navigation and ranging.

The navigation payload of IRNSS-1G will transmit signals to the users on the L5-band and S-band. A highly accurate rubidium atomic clock is part of the navigation payload.

The ranging payload consists of a C-band transponder (automatic receivers and transmitters of radio signals) which facilitates accurate determination of the range of the satellite.

An Indian-owned satellite navigation system is crucial to get positional accuracy during war or a war-like situation as the country may be denied such information by countries owing similar systems during such times.

The system will provide accurate position information service to users across the country and the region, extending up to an area of 1,500 km. The full system comprises of nine satellites — seven in orbit and two on the ground as standby.

Each satellite costs about Rs 150 crore, while the PSLV-XL version rocket costs about Rs 130 crore. The seven rockets would entail an outlay of about Rs 910 crore.

The total project cost including other facilities is around Rs 1,420 crore, said Isro officials.

“The Indian system provides positional accuracy of 10 metres. For civilian usage to bloom and costs to come down, more manufacturers have to start making the navigation signal receivers. That will happen once the IRNSS is formally declared operational,” AS Ganeshan, retired programme director of Isro’s Satellite Navigation Progamme, told IANS.

Ganeshan said once the IRNSS is ready then there will be more development of application software that would be useful for different segments.

“The Indian government should mandate the use of indigenous satellite navigation systems by various government agencies and the emergency service providers so that the signal receiver makers are enthused to get into accelerated production mode,” Ganeshan added.

He said once the mandatory usage is there, more software applications could be developed, thereby widening the usage.

Agreeing with him, S Purushotham, director, Accord Software & Systems Pvt Ltd told IANS: “If there is a mandate then it will give a big fillip for the receiver makers’ Make in India efforts.”

“The IRNSS is a new system. We will wait and see how the market evolves so that we can decide on getting into manufacture of the receivers,” S Rangarajan, CEO of Chennai-based Data Patterns (India) Pvt Ltd, told IANS.

An ISRO official told IANS that it may take three to four months for the space agency to check and cross-check all the systems before IRNSS could be d eclared operational

The first satellite IRNSS-1A was launched in July 2013, the second IRNSS-1B in April 2014, the third on October 2014, the fourth in March 2015, and the fifth, sixth and seventh on 20 January, 10 March, and 28 April, 2016.

Once IRNSS passes all the tests, India need not be dependent on other platforms.

According to Isro, even with the operationalisation of six IRNSS satellites, the proof of concept of an independent regional navigation satellite system over India has been demonstrated for the targeted position accuracy of better than 20 metres over 24 hours of the day.

With the operationalisation of the full system, far better positional accuracy will be provided, Isro said.

Indian space agency officials said IRNSS system is unique as it consist only seven satellites while other systems in the world have more than 20 satellites.

However, while most other systems are global, the Indian system is regional in nature.

The IRNSS will provide two types of services — standard positioning service and restricted service. The former is provided to all users and the later is an encrypted service for authorised users.

Class 11 student killed, four others injured in firing by security forces in Kashmir

Another civilian, a Class 11 student, was killed and four others were injured on Friday in an alleged firing by security forces on an agitated mob as protesters tried to storm an army camp in a tense but curfew-bound Kashmir Valley, police said.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

The four were taken to the nearby hospital, following which Arif Hussain, the Class 11 student, was declared dead on arrival, said a report in NDTV.

A police officer told IANS that the protesters were demonstrating outside an army camp in Natnusa village of border district Kupwara when soldiers opened fire to stop them from marching in.

The NDTV report further said that the police claimed protestres started throwing stones at the camp where security forces were staying, following which the forces opened fire.

Bullets hit five protesters and one of the injured later died in a hospital, the officer said.

The demonstrators were protesting against deaths of four civilians in firing and tear gas shelling by security forces since Tuesday.

Strict restrictions were imposed across the valley amid protests and shut-down call by separatist groups against the civilian killings, triggering fresh unrest in Kashmir.

With inputs from IANS

Hyderabad: Man slits wife’s throat in court premises; victim in critical condition

In a shocking incident, a man on Monday, slit the throat of his wife in the court premises in Hyderabad.According to IANS, the incident took place in Rajendernagar, when the couple had come to the court in connection with a case filed by the wife against her husband.The report said that Narendra Babu attacked his wife Soujanya with a knife and fled from the location. The wife was rushed to the hospital, but her condition is said to be critical.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Soujanya had approached police seeking court’s directions to her husband to pay maintenance, the report said.

Now, 59 Indian fishermen get caught in Pakistani net

Pakistan has arrested at least 59 Indian fishermen on Thursday for entering the country’s waters and poaching, according to a report by IANS. A senior official in the report was quoted saying that the Indian fishermen were arrested by the Maritime Security Agency (MSA) on Thursday while they were fishing in the Pakistani limits of the Arabian Sea.The official further said that most of the arrested fishermen belonged to the state of Gujarat.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>These arrests come just days after the two countries released imprisoned fishermen. Pakistan released some 87 Indian fishermen on March 6 and two weeks later on March 20 freed 86 more.
ALSO READ Pakistan releases 86 Indian fishermen for trespassingThese fishermen left for Lahore by train in the afternoon where they were handed over to Indian authorities at the Wagah border, said the report.The fishermen were released after they completed their sentences of one year. Some 377 more Indian prisoners are languishing in the Malir jail out of whom 116 have to complete their sentences while the remaining 261 are undertrials. All the fishermen hail from Gujarat.
ALSO READ 362 Indian fishermen still in Pakistan jail: Gujarat governmentIndia in the other hand had freed 9 Pakistani fishermen on March 17. This is after they had spent some 17 months in the Jamnagar jail in Gujarat.

Hyderabad University row: All 27 accused get bail, no opposition from public prosecutor

Hyderabad: A court on Monday was set to pronounce orders on bail petitions of 25 students and two faculty members of University of Hyderabad as the public prosecutor did not file a counter to the bail plea.

Students protest after the death of Rohith Vemula in a file photo. PTIStudents protest after the death of Rohith Vemula in a file photo. PTI

Students protest after the death of Rohith Vemula in a file photo. PTI

A lawyer said the government had not opposed the bail, creating hopes that the students might get early bail.

The students and faculty members were arrested on March 22 during a police crackdown on those protesting the return of P Appa Rao as the vice chancellor after a two-month leave.

A section of students want the sacking and arrest of Appa Rao, holding him responsible for the suicide of Dalit research scholar Rohith Vemula.

IANS

Congress woos those itching to break away from BJP-RSS ideology

New Delhi: The Congress on Friday urged unity among all the voices which differ from the BJP-RSS ideology in opposing the brutality unleashed by the central government to suppress the voices of dissent.

“It is disturbing to see when a central university is being used as a platform to teach those people a lesson whose voices are not in concurrence to that of BJP or central leadership of its government,” Congress spokesperson Sachin Pilot said in reference to the incidents of violence occurring in Hyderabad University.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

“All should stand by those individuals and ideologies which may differ from the BJP and RSS,” he said.

“The attempt of the incumbent government is, if anybody is anti-BJP; he or she is shown as anti-India. That ties into their new definition of nation-hood, patriotism and nationalism,” Pilot added.

“What we have now seen is calibrated and deliberated attempt to suppress any voice that is in contradiction to the ideology of the incumbent government. The kind of brutality we are seeing being unleashed on faculty and students in campuses across the country is unbecoming on the democratic setup where all voices are heard,” Pilot said.

“It doesn’t matter what opinions are expressed whether they are left right or center, we now have situation where we are not allowed to speak,” he said, asking the BJP leadership to introspect on “who were the people and what were the powers which compelled Rohith Vemulla to commit suicide.”

Pilot also alleged the central government of creating a situation of confrontation in parliament by avoiding a dialogue with the opposition on crucial issues.

“Even in parliament, where there should be a dialogue with all the political parties, the BJP has created a situation of confrontation by not having it deliberately. BJP practices a politics of brutality and politics of force,” Pilot said.

The Congress leader was reacting to the police action on the Hyderabad Central University students who were protesting against the Vice Chancellor Appa Rao.

Thirty of the protesting students were reportedly injured and one off them was admitted to the intensive care unit on Wednesday.

IANS

Modi remained firm on J&K equation, made all the difference in keeping PDP-BJP alliance intact

By Sheikh Qayoom

As the PDP and BJP prepare to take power again as allies in Jammu and Kashmir, credit is being given to Prime Minister Minister Narendra Modi for the rapprochement.

Despite what looked like PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti’s delaying tactics, Modi remained firm on the BJP’s commitment to the agenda of alliance signed with her late father, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTIPrime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

Modi did not want any theatrics over the alliance as he was firm that it had been formed in the larger interests of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, an informed source in New Delhi told IANS.

“It was the prime minister who believed that continuing the alliance with the PDP was for peace in the state and for continuing the larger agenda of improving relations with (India’s) neighbours,” the source said.

Echoing Modi’s message, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told the Rajya Sabha that the BJP-PDP alliance agenda would be implemented in letter and spirit and there was no turning back on that commitment.

Jaitley later said in a talk show: “We lost Mufti Sahib when we needed him the most. Mehbooba must now take the call and continue her father’s vision.”

Modi then conveyed to Mehbooba through emissaries that he was ready to meet her to allay whatever fears she may have vis-a-vis heading a coalition government in the state.

“That did the final trick. Although she met the prime minister just for half hour she was assured all possible support and advised to carry forward her father’s vision as stated in the agenda of alliance,” a high level BJP source said.

Jammu and Kashmir had a Peoples Democratic Party-Bharatiya Janata Party coalition government for about 10 months when then chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed died on January 7.

The state came under Governor’s Rule the next day.

But instead of taking charge as chief minister at the head of the coalition, Mehbooba kept dragging the issue, at one time leading to speculation that she was planning to jettison the alliance.

The BJP made it clear that no new demands by the PDP leader would be met, and that the alliance would be based on the agenda agreed to earlier.

At the same time, BJP president Amit Shah and national general secretary Ram Madhav, who is in charge of Jammu and Kashmir affairs, stated that the alliance between the PDP and BJP was intact.

Mehbooba, the PDP president, sought fresh assurances on the agenda of alliance. The PDP wavered but the BJP stood firm.

“There is no turning back on the agenda signed with Mufti Sahib. It is final and will be implemented,” the BJP kept saying, at times embarrassing state BJP leaders who did not want to look as if they were taking orders from the PDP.

The BJP source said Modi’s address to the international Sufi conference in New Delhi this month was an effort to reach out to everybody and affirm his faith in the pluralism of India.

As Mehbooba remained entrenched in her stated position that she was not hungry for power, the BJP deputed Ram Madhav to speak to her twice. One of these visits was planned to be secret.

“She came to Delhi. Met Amit Shah and all seemed to have been lost,” the source told IANS. “Everybody said it was all over between the two parties. She rushed back to Srinagar.”

On Thursday, in her address to PDP legislators and senior leaders, Mehbooba thanked the BJP for its steadfast commitment to the agenda of alliance.

She also thanked the BJP and the central government for not trying to poach on her flock by engineering defections.

“The BJP has definitely behaved differently,” she told her party. She was alluding to the traditional horse-trading undertaken in Jammu and Kashmir by the Congress in the past.

The source explained why: “Creating a larger constituency where Jammu and Kashmir becomes a bridge and not a roadblock in India-Pakistan relations (was important).

“This is what Prime Minister Modi envisages. What further assurance did she want?” asked the source.

Mehbooba has finally agreed to start her political career’s first governance innings by trusting Modi — as her father did.

It is highly unlikely the two have reached an agreement without understanding each other. In the process, Jammu and Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state, will get its first woman chief minister.

IANS

Decks cleared for Mehbooba to head new J&K govt

Srinagar: Mehbooba Mufti was on Thursday unanimously elected as the leader of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lawmakers, paving the way for her to become the first woman chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir and head a government in India’s only Muslim majority state after months of tension with the ruling partner, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Mehbooba Mufti becomes the first woman Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir. AFPMehbooba Mufti becomes the first woman Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir. AFP

Mehbooba Mufti becomes the first woman Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir. AFP

“Mehbooba Mufti has been nominated as the chief ministerial candidate of the PDP,” party spokesman and former minister Naeem Akhtar told reporters outside the Fairview residence of the Muftis on the high security Gupkar Road in Srinagar.

PDP lawmakers had gathered at the Muftis to discuss government formation with the BJP. Akhtar said the decision was unanimous and every legislator and senior PDP leader was on board.

Mehbooba is meeting Governor N.N. Vohra on Friday and is most likely to stake claim to power. BJP state president Sat Pal Sharma is also meeting the governor on the same day at the state Raj Bhawan in winter capital Jammu.

Senior BJP leaders, Jitendra Singh, minister of state in PMO, and Ram Madhav, party national general secretary, are expected to be Jammu on Friday to hold a meeting with the state BJP legislators and senior leaders to discuss the government formation with the PDP.

The swearing-in date is also expected to be announced after Mehbooba and Sharma meet Vohra, separately though. Top sources told IANS that the oath taking ceremony of the Mehbooba-led new government would take place in Jammu early next month.

Mehbooba, 56, will now succeed her father, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, who died on January 7, as the chief minister. Jammu and Kashmir has been without an elected government since.

Mehbooba was tipped to take over the reins but she dragged her feet on continuing to ally with the BJP and wanted it to redraw the alliance terms that her father had authored. However, the BJP refused any fresh concessions and said it will only give assurances on the agenda, finalized last year when the two parties came together to form the state government.

After remaining entrenched in their respective positions for more than two months, the two sides warmed up to each other following Mehbooba’s meeting with Prime Minister Modi on Tuesday in Delhi.

Senior PDP leader and Lok Sabha member Muzaffar Hussain Beigh denied that there has been any give and take with the BJP. “There is no addition or subtraction from the agenda of alliance agreed upon by the two parties. The agenda will be implemented in letter and spirit.”

PDP leader and Lok Sabha member Tariq Hameed Karra, a vocal opponent of his party’s continuation of alliance with the BJP, was also present in Thursday’s meeting.

Before chairing the PDP meeting, Mehbooba went to her father’s grave in south Kashmir Bijbehara town along with one of her daughters to pray there and apparently seek blessings for the governance innings she would be playing for the first time in her political career.

She presently represents south Kashmir’s Anantnag constituency in the Lok Sabha. She will now have to get elected to either house of the state’s bicameral legislature and also resign her Lok Sabha seat.

IANS

I will resort to murder, promises JD-U leader Gopal Mandal

Controversial Bihar legislator Gopal Mandal of the ruling Janata Dal-United said on Tuesday that he would now resort to the politics of murder. He said he would again begin killing just like he used to do.

Representational imageRepresentational image

Representational image

“Main ab hatya ki rajniti hi karunga aur hatya karwaunga” (I will do politics of murder and order murders),” the from Gopalpur in Bihar’s Bhagalpur district said at a function. “Pahle bhi hatya karta tha, ab bhi karoonga (I used to commit murders in the past, now I will murder again).”

Ruing “false” allegations levelled by his rivals in opposition parties, Mandal said he would take the gun in his hands again and would kill. Mandal told the people at the function that he would provide security to all including those who had not voted for him. “I have plenty of arms and ammunition,” he boasted.

Also, questioning Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar’s decision to ban country-made liquor in the state from 1 April, he said, “It is a wrong decision. If liquor is banned, there is ganja and bhang for the people to enjoy.”

Meanwhile, JD-U spokesperson Ajay Alok distanced the party from Mandal’s remarks, saying such remarks were condemnable and should be avoided by Mandal.

Last month, Mandal had said he would “chop off the tongues” of people trying to threaten his supporters. He also said his “one leg remains in jail and the other outside”. Already facing various criminal charges, Mandal is known as a ‘Dabang’ or ‘Bahubali’ (local muscleman).

IANS

IPS Association of UP rejects Sahay Commission report on Muzaffarnagar riots

Lucknow: The Indian Police Service (IPS) Association of Uttar Pradesh has rejected Justic Vishnu Sahay’s report on the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots that have blamed former SSP Subhash Dubey for the violence that killed 63 people and rendered over 55,000 homeless.

Representational image. AP

Representational image. AP

Secretary of the Association, Inspector General Prakash D has confirmed that they did not agree with the Sahay Commission report as Dubey was in charge of the district for just 12 days and while he had given a 27-page testimony, not a single line was included in the final report.

Senior police officials also alleged the state government was trying to “find a scapegoat” in Dubey and hence he has been picked up while three other district police chiefs were spared where the riots had also taken place.

Office bearers of the association told IANS that targeting a selected official for such large scale violence was not justified.

The IPS Association has also defended the then Local Intelligence Unit (LIU) inspector Prabal Pratap Singh who was indicted for lapses that allegedly led to the riots. This is the second time in the past few days that police officials have resented some action of the state government.

Recently, they pressurised the government for revoking the suspension of Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Lucknow DK Chowdhary.

The state unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said that this was a clear case of Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav‘s government trying to deflect its responsibility in the riots and trying to make an official a scapegoat.

“Could such large scale violence be due to the failure of one person?” questioned BJP spokesman Vijay Bahadur Pathak, adding that every attempt of the ruling Samajwadi Party government to shirk its role in the 2013 riots would not succeed.

IANS

Avalanche hits army post in Kargil, one soldier missing

Udhampur: A soldier went missing when an avalanche hit an army post in Kargil district of Jammu and Kashmir.

The avalanche, triggered by a mild earthquake, hit an army post located at an altitude of 17,500 feet in Kargil sector at about 2245 hours on 17 March, an army officer said on Saturday.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Two soldiers, who were on surveillance duty, were swept away in the avalanche, officer said.

Immediate rescue operations were launched and one soldier was rescued, he said, adding, the second soldier is still missing.

The rescued soldier is medically stable and recovering.

Operations to rescue the missing soldier are underway in spite of the adverse weather conditions, he said.

IANS

TMC indecisive over legal recourse on sting video controversy

New Delhi: The sting operation in West Bengal, which allegedly showed some TMC MPs taking bribe, has led to complications for Trinamool Congress(TMC) as party leaders are now in “two minds” about taking legal course against the news portal responsible for it.

After posturing initially that the video footage in circulation showing party leaders and sitting MPs receiving currency notes as “manufactured”, a section of leaders has briefed party supremo Mamata Banerjee in Kolkata that to “prove the charges as malicious and motivated in a court of law will be a herculean task”.

Representative image.  ReutersRepresentative image.  Reuters

Representative image. Reuter

“A section of party leaders are in two minds. There is a growing sentiment that the legal course can only add to the agony of the party,” a Trinamool Congress leader told IANS here requesting anonymity.

“Things may turn difficult once court takes cognizance of the charges and order either a judicial probe or an investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI),” the leader added.

The legal course was earlier considered seriously by the party leadership. Former railway minister Mukul Roy, a close confidant of Mamata, had said that the video footage that went viral on TV news channels and social networking were “manufactured”.

Roy had even threatened to move court.

“But once the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress moved Calcutta High Court separately seeking a CBI probe, the party’s think tank has developed cold feet about going to court,” party sources said.

“Even the Saradha scam earlier that hit Trinamool credibility went out of control once the court ordered CBI investigation,” they added.

A number of party MPs including two former ministers have taken objection to the manner their colleague Saugata Roy reacted to the sting operation charges in the Lok Sabha.

“Protesting and questioning Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan’s ruling when she ordered a probe by the Ethics Committee was unnecessary. Saugata, himself shown receiving currency, should have either kept mum in the house or taken a high moral ground and said our party is not scared of any probe,” said another leader adding that it would have been politically more sound a decision.

Two party leaders Dinesh Trivedi and Sugata Bose have already expressed their reservation on how the party has reacted initially to the sting operation charges.

The 15-member ethics panel of Lok Sabha headed by Bharatiya Janata Party veteran L.K. Advani has been asked to conduct its “examination, investigation and report” into the issue by Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan.

Five Trinamool members from the Lok Sabha — Saugata Roy, Sultan Ahmad, Suvendu Adhikari, Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar and Prasun Banerjee — and one from the Rajya Sabha, Mukul Roy, are shown allegedly accepting bribes in the sting operation.

Incidentally, Saugata Roy is the younger brother of a key BJP leader from West Bengal Tatagatha Roy, who is now Tripura governor.

“Saugata Roy is a senior party parliamentarian and knows the parliamentary decorum well. He should have instead supported a probe by the house panel itself. On the contrary he questioned on the first day under which rule Congress, Communist Party of India, Marxist (CPI-M) and BJP MPs were raising the issue in Lok Sabha,” the party source said.

The party leaders also remained divided on the stance taken by their Rajya Sabha floor leader Deren O’Brien when he said foreign money was pumped in from Dubai for the sting operation.

“Even in such a case, we should have preferred if not order a probe at the state government level itself,” the party source added.

IANS

Rajinikanth, Akshay Kumar to shoot football sequence at JLN stadium for ‘Enthiran’ sequel ‘2.0’

New Delhi: The stage is set – at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium here – for the ‘Thalaiva’ of southern cinema Rajnikanth and Bollywood’s ‘Khiladi’ Akshay Kumar to shoot a football sequence for the upcoming Tamil movie “2.0” and the theme is Chennai versus Mumbai at IFL (Indian Football League).

Directed by Shankar, the film is a sequel to the blockbuster “Enthiran”.

Actor Rajinikanth. Image: FirstpostActor Rajinikanth. Image: Firstpost

Actor Rajinikanth. Image: Firstpost

With a section of the stadium adorned with inflated balloons with imprint of the IFL logo and inflated football tied to ribbons all round the stadium, the part of the area seemed to be ready for a gripping football match. Some corners of the stadium’s area had posters that read “Chennai versus Mumbai” match hanging on the edges of the seating arrangements.

The whole set-up of the shoot of the film was kept very confidential and it was obvious from the fact that when some of the enthusiastic fans who entered the venue to take some photographs were stopped with “Please don’t. It is a secret and we want to keep it that way. Preparation for the shoot are going on.”

In fact, there was a practice match going on in the stadium, though it was not clear that it was a part of the sequence or not. The shooting went underway here on Thursday, and will continue for the next 40 days.

Fans had come in large numbers to catch a glimpse of their favourite stars but were in for a disappointment as the actors didn’t come for the scene. Some guards and crew members told IANS that both Akshay and Rajnikanth will be coming to shoot on Monday.

The director was seen engrossed in a discussion about shooting plans, while assistant directors and other crew members were busy checking out the location.

Many people thronged at the gates of the stadium with a hope to catch a glimpse of their stars.

A guard told IANS: ” Akshay and Rajnikanth are not here. The people are waiting for them since morning. They might come tomorrow.”

A large number of junior artists had also come to shoot for the sequence. When IANS tried to get into the depth of it, it was revealed that they shot for the sequence of cheering with no script or dialogue perhaps spectators of the match in the film.

One of the junior artist who did spoke on the condition of anonymity told IANS: “I had shot with Aishwarya Rai Bachchan for ‘Sarbjit’ and now this movie. Many of us are waiting for the counting to be done as the shot is over”.

He also claimed that megastar Amitabh Bachchan along with his son Abhishek will add more star power to the shoot and become part of the film for a scene or two.

IANS